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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A U T O |

L U X U R Y

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Feisty Fiesta

Ford’s new trump card Page 8

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Samsung Galaxy S II Top fitness apps


WHAT’S HOT this week Elegantly strong

Team Smartbuy

Alfred Dunhill Solar Charger

Editorial Anushya Mamtora anushya@thehindu.co.in

Ketaki Bhojnagarwala

This classy solar charger is crafted with aerospace-grade aluminium with a brushed silver finish. The device’s Power Halo indicates the power levels sourced from either solar panels or an USB connection. The charger can deliver 70 hours of phone standby time or 5,000 page turns of an e-Book. The Alfred Dunhill Solar Charger comes in a carbon fibre effect Chassis Leather carry case. $195

ketaki@thehindu.co.in

Mahananda Bohidar mahananda@thehindu.co.in

S.Muralidhar muraliswami@thehindu.co.in

Design Bryan Gaughan aqua@thehindu.co.in

Balakrishnan designkbala@thehindu.co.in

Advertising Contact R.Diwakar ramdiwakar@thehindu.co.in

Web Advertising Contact N. Amarnath amarnath@thehindu.co.in

www.blsmartbuy.com Become a fan of our Facebook page: BL Smartbuy Follow us on Twitter

Cover photo: S. Muralidhar

For the photobug

ASUS PA246Q If you’re a photography enthusiast, you’ll love the new ProArt series monitor from ASUS. With a native resolution of 1920x1200 (16:10 aspect ratio), 178° wide viewing angle and 98 per cent of Adobe colour space reproduction, this is the perfect display for editing or viewing your latest shots. Featuring a DisplayPort, HDMI, USB and 7-in-1 card reader, you can connect multiple devices. Rs 31,000

Tuned up!

Sony NWZ E363 The latest Walkman from Sony features a 2.0 TFT LED backlit display and 4GB of storage. A new addition is the alarm/sleep timer which lets you wake up or drift off to your favourite tunes. For radio lovers, there’s a built-in FM tuner. Other features include voice recording, mini USB, Karaoke function and 30 hours of audio playback. The easy drag and drop transfer system lets you pick files straight from your computer and add them directly to the player. Rs 4,990

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Changing colours

Dell Inspiron R Packed with the second-gen Intel Core technology, the Inspiron 14R and 15R sport sleek form factors with swappable covers to match your mood. Inspired by ethnic prints and designs, you can choose from ten ‘SWITCH’ covers available. The laptops come with Windows 7 Home Premium and USB 3.0 technology that make transferring photos, videos, music, other graphics and rich files faster. Rs 34,300 onwards

Spicy smartie

HTC Salsa The latest smartphone from HTC runs on Android 2.4, and also comes with HTC’s proprietary Sense software. It features a 5-meg rear camera and VGA front camera for video chats. The large 3.4-inch screen is of 480x320 resolution. The USP of the handset is of course its dedicated Facebook button, which allows you to upload photos with a simple touch. Rs 22,000

Standing tall!

Samsung HT-D5550 The latest 5.1-channel home theatre system by Samsung includes four stylish ‘tallboy’ speakers. With Samsung’s improved Crystal Amplifier Plus technology, the HT-D5550 minimises sound distortion and works with 3D Sound Plus to deliver a truly 3D immersive experience. Other features include hi-def upscaling of videos, Samsung Smart Hub, AllShare and Built-in Wireless LAN and a built-in Karaoke.

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SMARTPHONE review

Photos: S.S. Kumar

THE BIG BANG!

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Mahananda Bohidar hink thin. Think dual-core. Think better

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than Super AMOLED. No wonder then that Samsung has tagged the Galaxy S II its flagship product. Rivals had already launched handsets that were primed to give the Samsung Galaxy S II some serious competition before its launch – Sony Xperia Arc, an attractive rival with a sexy, slim form factor, LG Optimus 2X with its dual-core processor and the Apple iPhone 4 with its Retina Display. Will the Galaxy S II beat ‘em all to the top with all its much-promising specs packed inside?

At a glance We loved flaunting the super-slim body of the Galaxy S II - one which houses a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 processor - as well as the Super AMOLED Plus display. What is undoubtedly one of the most stunning displays adorning a smartphone today, is laid out across a 4.3-inch screen. High-res photographs and HD videos apart, even Angry Birds has never looked quite so gorgeous on any other handset we’ve used recently. We have to add the fact that the Galaxy S II outdid the Nexus S with its glass display that feels like Samsung spread a thin layer of butter between the screen and your thumb. For all the while that we were addicted to the handset, the matte, textured back panel provided a comfortable grip.

Brains and brawns To test its mettle, we ran the Quandrant Standard test on the Galaxy S II. The smartphone scored a whopping ‘3420’ on the Full Benchmark Test, its performance parameters shooting way ahead of the Nexus One and scoring more than four times the original Samsung Galaxy S’ mark. Throughout the span of our review, there wasn’t a single occasion where the smartphone looked like it was anywhere close to slowing down or being overpowered by multiple apps running simultaneously. The processor seemed ultra-responsive while surfing the web, downloading apps and playing games on the handset.

User experience The Galaxy S II comes with Android 2.3 and the proprietary TouchWiz 4.0 from Samsung. The TouchWiz does lend itself to a sleeker-looking user interface. You could glide from one home screen to another by sliding on to the respective numbers at

the bottom of the screen. It also allows for a brand new zoom-in method where you place your thumbs on two sides of the screen and move the handset away or close to yourself to zoom in and out. Pretty impressive, but we wonder why we’d use that when we can just pinch-to-zoom on websites, photographs and the like, although the feature would be really useful if Android/Samsung had games that would recognise that gesture. Another novel gesture working on the handset is a pan. While rearranging or adding a new widget or app, you can just move the handset to the left or right and place it on any homescreen you want to.

Playing paparzzi The perfect time to try out the 8-megger was at a garden party over the weekend. We started out with taking night shots with the LED Flash on. The flash came off too strong at times, along with the inevitable red-eye in many snaps. Colours were reproduced well when we took a couple of shots in a fairly well-lit ambience. During the day, with the Flash turned off, the camera tends to underplay the lighting resulting in pictures that look a tad bit under-exposed. The in-built Photo Editor is rather uninspiring and you’d be better off working with PicSay or FxCamera. You also have an in-built Video Maker app that gives you the option of stitching together a home video, a party video, a video travelogue, a movie and the like. The only difference between the options is the background template and making the video remains a simple drag-and-drop affair. The app is something anyone could have fun with but at the same time it lacks options for those who’d like to try something even slightly more engaging.

Stay connected The Kies Air app enables the Galaxy S II to be connected to your PC over the same Wi-Fi network. When you log in to the app, it displays the URL of the network that you can connect to from the handset. Once the connection is established, you have access to all files loaded on your smartphone, right on your desktop. You have a list of all your media, and you can either download your stuff from the Galaxy S II on to your PC or upload stuff from your desktop on to the handset. And the same applies to AllShare where you can stream content – videos, music and photographs – on to your DLNAcertified telly. Pretty convenient if you tend to forget where the USB cable is! Some of the models of the Galaxy S II (in select countries) are slated to be endowed with NFC capabilities. The units available in India do not have NFC capabilities as of now but with this technology we can have credit card transactions, ticket reservations, use the handset as a transit pass or even for electronic door entry and the like. It even allows you to scan ‘smart tags’ on posters or billboards to download the details to your phone. However, NFC-enabled units will end up being slightly thicker in order to house the NFC-chip.

App addiction The new bunch of Samsung apps available on the Gal-

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axy S II target different interests and activities. The Game Hub lets you download high quality games, providing over 20 social network games and premium games. But even with the free games one has to log-in once to download the game and then again to start playing it. It just seemed so much easier to download games from Market and play them on the device. The Readers Hub integrates several websites from where we can access, read and download eBooks, newspapers and magazines. But instead of being showcased in the main collection, every time we downloaded an app we had to go back to our ‘Account’ to access the eBook. Virtual socialisers have the Social Hub that integrates Twitter and Facebook into the app. Samsung has already introduced the Music Hub but the service is yet to be launched in India. The default Video Player on the handset doesn’t support a host of formats, so we stick to the usual RockPlayer Lite to test out some fast-action videos and a couple of high-def videos from the Web. Both played brilliantly on the Super AMOLED Plus screen without any stutter.

Talking and texting We had no qualms about the call quality on the handset. We could scroll through our contacts on the semitransparent alphabets on the right. Once you end a call, the handset gives you the option of texting or calling the person back immediately after. The virtual keyboard was also quite a breeze to use. The Galaxy S II comes with a 1,650 mAh battery under the hood so it wasn’t surprising that it gave us enough juice for more than a working day, with a handful of calls and texts, app-addictive behaviour and the Wi-Fi turned on.

And the verdict is… “Vivid. Fast. Slim” Samsung couldn’t have defined its latest smartphone more accurately. In an unimaginably fragmented market of smartphones around the world, the Samsung Galaxy S II is packed with potential to beat them all. And when it’s being offered with a rather reasonable price tag, there’s no reason why you can’t get your hands on what might reign the ‘smartest smartphone’ throne for some time to come! Love: Excellent display, powerful processor, thin yet sturdy design Hate: Mixed results with camera Rs 32,890 mahananda@thehindu.co.in


GAME mania

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t’s quite difficult to find a person who hasn’t played or at least heard about Angry Birds. Here are some fun facts about the game that has captured the imagination of millions worldwide. Pigs may seem like an odd choice of adversary for birds, and you’ve probably wondered why pigs would steal birds’ eggs in the first place. The addition of pigs was apparently inspired by the swine flu epidemic that was rampant at the time when the original Angry Birds game was in development. Rovio has released over five episodes of Angry Birds, introducing new levels as well as new birds. Apart from this, there are special Angry Birds Seasons editions for Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day and Easter. Recently, we saw the release of Angry Birds Rio, a standalone release, which was launched as a promotion for the animated film Rio.

What drives a game developer to come up with a concept that involves killing pigs using birds flung out of a slingshot? The story goes that Jaakko Iisalo, a games designer at Rovio, while thinking of concepts for the team’s next project, had an idea and sketched a character of an angry bird. When he shared the sketch with his directors, they liked the character and then a gameplan was developed. Trying to cash in on the craze of Angry Birds, several other game developers have launched games inspired by Angry Birds. These include Cannon Cadets, Bullistic, Trucks and Skulls, Pandas vs Ninjas, Chicks ’n’ Vixens, Boss Launch 2, and Angry Farm just to name a few. On YouTube, you will find several videos on Angry Birds. While most of them teach you tricks and help you pass a level, one particular video particularly stands out. Search for ‘Playable Angry Birds birthday cake’ posted by Electricpigtv. The Angry Bird cake created by Mike Cooper for his

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son’s sixth birthday didn’t just look like the Angry Bird playfield, but you could actually play it. Since its release for Apple’s iOS in December 2009, Angry Birds has been downloaded more than 10 million times from the Apple App Store itself. After its version for the Android and Symbian platforms was released, the game has been downloaded more than 50 million times. It’s so popular that it was hailed as the most downloaded app in most countries across the globe by the recently released 2011 Games Edition of the Guinness World Records. Angry Birds has quite a celebrity fan following as well. Its celeb fans include David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and prolific writer Salman Rushdie. Angry Birds has also been the talking point on several TV shows, and it was even featured on an Israeli comedy show that depicted the angry birds in peace negotiations with the pigs! CHIP


Considering a budget Android? Ketaki Bhojnagarwala here’s been a lot of talk nowadays about not spending a bomb on a full-fledged smartphone, and buying a budget Android instead. There have been a stream of many such budget smarties in the market recently, and the Huawei Ideos U8300 landed on our test bench just in time to give us an answer. In terms of looks, the Ideos U8300 is more like a squashed BlackBerry, with an awkward cut between the screen and keyboard. The grey plastic casing feels tacky and cheap – definitely not something you’d want to show off. It’s alright in the connectivity department, with a 3.5mm headphone jack, mini USB port, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The screen is of a really low-resolution – just 320x240 pixels. There’s a constant grid that shows up on it, which disrupts view. Huawei tries to get it right feature wise, with a touch screenkeyboard combo, but unfortunately it’s chosen a resistive touch screen, a technology that’s way to obsolete for smartphones right now. Even though there is a trackball on the keypad for navigation,

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Photo: S.S. Kumar

you do require the touchscreen for many functions, and it’s unresponsive to the point of being frustrating. The Nokia X3-02 also had a resistive screen, but way more efficient. The keyboard itself feels cheap and flimsy, with no dedicated apostrophe key and an inconveniently spaced-out layout. Operating system wise, you’ll have to settle for Android 2.1, which is, by now, outdated as far as smartphones go. You can set up Facebook and Google accounts easily, as well as download apps from the Market. The phone does support mp4 playback, but because of the screen’s quality you’d be better off watching a shorter video rather than a full fledged movie. The mono speaker was loud and clear, so it’s a plus for music lovers. The 2-meg camera produced pictures with very poor image quality, with blurred images even in bright lighting. The Ideos U8300 gives you about a day of battery charge, with a couple of hours of talktime and browsing using Wi-Fi. Call quality was good on the phone, and we were able to have conversations even while travelling. The screen has an accelerometer, but it’s really not required considering there’s only a physical keyboard. There’s a proximity sensor and an accelerometer which worked fine. Even though the pricing is attractive, there’s no point in getting an Android if you’re going to compromise on phone quality. You’d be much better off opting for a Nokia or Samsung phone in the same price range. Love: Good call quality Hate: Resistive screen, flimsy keyboard Rs 8,199 ketaki@thehindu.co.in

Fast track to fitness

You don’t need a personal trainer to get fit, just download these fitness apps which cover a variety of exercises and help you get in shape. Now there’s no excuse for being a couch potato!


AUTO focus

Fiesta-ing in the town of boiled beans S. Muralidhar ord India has had a dream run of sorts during the last one year with its hatch Figo taking on established models with its funkiness and value-formoney package. The model next in line and waiting in the wings to be launched is the new Fiesta. What’s due in is the real deal in a manner of speaking. Unlike, many of Ford India’s previous cars, this one will be a truly global car, developed entirely for a global audience and it will be here with its build, design and moniker unchanged for the Indian avatar. And that is why the new Fiesta will have a two-way task to complete – work past its predecessor’s already strong reputation in the performance department; and in terms of affordability and cost of maintenance, live up to the image that the Ford Figo has managed to give to the Blue Oval.

F Design

The new Fiesta joins Ford’s other refreshed models like the Focus and Mondeo in its aggressive new design philosophy. Ford calls it ‘Kinetic Design’ and the character elements flow through in the boldness of the new Fiesta’s design. I surely won’t argue with the claim, since the Ford identity is evident in the new Fiesta, as is the attempt at being a bold departure from the unadventurous design of the past.

Photos: S. Muralidhar

The cab-forward design of the new Fiesta and the tall stance does tend to give away a bit of the original intention of building a hatch on the platform. But, at least you don’t get the vibes of the car being a hash of a sedan job, with the boot being fairly well integrated into the overall design. The most impressive angle of the new Fiesta is surely the front and the weakest is the rather puny rear. The more distinctive parts of the car are the characteristic airdam, the peeled-back, dual-barrelled headlamps and the stalked door mirrors. The high waistline that gradually rises towards the rear of the car, the clamshell bonnet, and the more prominent front wheel arches (compared to the rear) make the new Fiesta look very much like a hatch when viewed from the front. At the rear, the new Fiesta features a short, stumpy boot with a tight lid design. A slightly small and underwhelming taillamp design makes the rear look weak. The spoiler integrated to the lip of the boot lid gives some redemption to the design. The oversized rear bumper may be a positive for buyers who are picky about cost of maintenance and repairs. The curvy roofline of the car is another feature that manages to lend the design more character

and also smartly addresses the issue of space inside the new Fiesta. The roofline also leads on to a nicely sized rear glass and a fairly thin C-pillar, both of which contribute to better rear visibility. On the other hand, the roofline also manages to liberate a lot of head room inside the cabin, easily accommodating even a six-footer at the rear seat.

Performance Ford has chosen a number of features to bolster the Indiaspec Fiesta’s list. Before I can pick out highlights from that list, I thought the most targeted and impressive choices were the two powertrains – one each of petrol and diesel. In the past, the diesel powertrains of Ford have been more popular than the petrol, but I think with the new 1.5-litre Duratec Ti-VCT engine, the new Fiesta could see a more distinctly balanced preference. The petrol engine features a new twin independent variable camshaft timing technology. This Ti-VCT tech simply ensures better combustion and helps reduce emissions and improve efficiencies. By ensuring precise and variable control of valve overlap – the time during which both the intake and the exhaust vales are simultaneously open – the system ensures that wastages are minimised. The technology ensures that at any given time, the engine can perform in either economy or high performance mode depending on driver demand. The Ti-VCT system can help deliver instant power and quick acceleration by advancing the intake valve or during high or cruising speeds, the intake can be pulled back to increase air-


flow and lower fuel consumption. Driving the new Fiesta around Bangalore’s crowded city roads and on the highway leading up to Mysore, I felt the best part about the new petrol engine is its tractability. Offering a flat torque characteristic that allows impressive acceleration from low engine rpm ranges the Ti-VCT engine scores both in slow moving conditions and in highways situations. The engine’s 140 Nm of torque can be fully exploited at 4,500 rpm and a total of 110 horses are available at about 6,000 rpm. The light, but sturdy engine is responsive, very refined and torquey enough to keep your shoulder and feet happy. The India-spec Fiesta is said to be first to get this new engine and it definitely was my favourite compared to the similarly sized diesel unit. That doesn’t take away the 1,498cc Duratorq diesel engine’s appeal in other departments. Intercooled and turbocharged, the diesel engine is clearly meant to be one of the most fuel-efficient in the class. With a peak power of 91 PS and a strong peak torque of 204 Nm available between 2,000 rpm to 2,750 rpm, the diesel engine seems like an ideal package. There is not much of a turbolag, but I thought that the engine could have offered a bit more of torque at low rpm levels. In really slow moving traffic or while going over speed breakers is when you miss a bit more torque. Both the engines get a lot of help from the new five-speed manual gearbox that Ford engineers have chosen to pair them with. Featuring tall ratios, the gearbox manages to effectively get the best out of the mills. Shift quality is smooth and close to the segment benchmark – the Honda City. Ford claims an ARAI rated fuel-efficiency of 17 kmpl and 23.5 kmpl for the petrol and diesel engine variants of the Fiesta respectively.

Interiors Talk about other India-specific features and some of the novelty that has been built into the interior of the new Fiesta comes to mind. For example, there is the voice activated controls that the new Fiesta has been endowed with. Press a button on the additional stalk sticking out of the steering column and you can voice activate changes to the airconditioning, music system and your mobile phone. But apart from the novel trim in the new Fiesta, the interior is by itself quite a departure from what we have seen in Ford vehicles of the past. For one, the entire cabin is fresh and young in terms of design and layout, and there has been no dipping into the parts bin of previous models. There are funky cuts and layers and of course, the mobile phone keypad style layout of the various in-dash controls. Automatic aircon, steering controls, telescopic dials, USB connectivity and cruise control are all part of the new Fiesta’s interior. The cabin is also comfy, with nicely bolstered seats, easy reach controls, spacious legroom for rear seat passen-

gers and lots of storage options. The cabin is also quiet thanks to a number of noise reduction measures such as the use of acoustic-laminated windshield glass, new door seals and wind-noise optimised grills. Overall, the new Fiesta’s interior feels young and plush. Fit and finish quality is good, though I felt quality of plastic used could have been better.

Ride The ride quality in the new Fiesta is probably going to be the one that manages to get on par with the segment benchmark – the Honda City. There is little doubt that the Fiesta should be positioned as an owner-driven car. A rigid frame made of high strength steel and a suspension setup that has been specially tuned for Indian road conditions has clearly worked in its favour. Straight line stability is a breeze, but the new Fiesta also managed to maintain its cool when thrown into corners. The other cars in the segment tend to grapple with understeer issues when put through similar conditions. One of the features helping the Ford Fiesta maintain its

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line and poise is its new EPAS system (Electric Power Assist Steering) with pull-drift compensation. The system based on a proprietary algorithm constantly measures the driver’s steering input and adapts to changing road conditions. The pull-drift system compensates for slight directional shifts caused by heavy crosswinds or poor road conditions. The system effectively corrects steering input errors that may be unwittingly caused by external conditions.

Bottomline The Fiesta is due to be launched next month and despite the good overall package that the new Fiesta represents, there will be a lot riding on the pricing strategy that Ford will adopt for the car. I think a price range of Rs 7.5 lakh to Rs 10.5 lakh will be the ideal. Ford can pull it off with so much of the new Fiesta already localised. That is probably also why the competition (read Honda City) has already started reacting by cutting prices ahead of the Fiesta’s official roll out. muraliswami@thehindu.co.in


CLOCKWISE (from top left): Dual barrel dial design Funky centre console sure to be a hit amongst younger buyers Small taillamps gives the Fiesta a weak rear side Stalked door mirrors tested in the wind tunnel reduce wind noise Peppy 1.5-litre petrol engine is neatly packed Centrally mounted info-display may feature sat-nav system in other markets


MELANGE luxury redefined

The 500 spirit

For the hiker da d

A descendant of the legendary ‘O fficer’s Knives’ of 1897 , Victorinox’s Sp artan Swiss Army pock et for the adventur knife is an ideal gift e loving dad. Ava ilable at select outlets. Rs 840

Misty fragrances

Under wraps Blemish problems? Hide’em under Lord & Berry’s two new additions to your make-up kit – a Conceal It pencil and stick – to make those fine lines, dark circles and scars vanish in a jiffy. Available at select stores. Rs 950 (pencil) and Rs 1,100 (stick)

The 500 by Guc ci collection gets inspiration from the Fiat 500 sp ecial edition and give s the brand lovi ng man a delish range of ba gs, hats, small le ather goods, sunglass es, watches and more. Available at its stores across N ew Delhi and Mumbai. Price on request

Bath time gets a whiff of floral, natural scent with Forest Essentials latest range of body mists hitting the shelves. Pick one or all from rosecardamom, sandalwoodvetiver or jasminesaffron at its outlets. Rs 995 (100ml)

My eco foot! r able footwea It’s Biodegrad r fo Woodland this week from ade of crepe art. M the green he table tanned rubber, vege d tton thread an leather and co are s al oes and sand laces, the sh . es s select stor available at it ards Rs 3,000 onw Back page: DKNY Be Delicious EDT 50ml: Rs 2,420; 100ml: Rs 3,320 Smartbuy

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PREMIUM interiors

Grow a green BHK

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aving the environment is the need of the day. With more architects, product/ interior designers and companies becoming aware of this, the variety of sustainable options available in the market is increasing. Before you make your choice, it is important to understand the materials that contribute to a green lifestyle.

WOOD Wildernest, an eco-resort that’s literally carved out of a jungle on the Goa-KarnatakaMaharashtra border, has employed acacia wood (from a certified wood plantation) in the construction of its beautiful cottages. The flooring has been crafted out of old railway sleeper wood. It is interesting to know that the state governments of Goa, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have set up certified wood plantations where you can buy acacia wood. It is eco-friendly because the tree, Mimosoideae, from which the wood is obtained, grows rapidly, uses less water and is commonly found. In fact, many forward-thinking architects are looking at sustainable, reclaimed wood options. Used for flooring and furniture, the wood comes from managed forests which, unlike regular ones, are never destroyed in one clear sweep. Only select trees are removed. Each area then is maintained and replanted, allowing the trees to regenerate. A few companies like FunderMax India buy untreated wood waste from sawmills across the country, which is then used to fashion organic fibre panels that avoid using synthetic resin. A new collection of wooden floors called Eco Core, from European company Kährs Impex, essentially has a middle layer of post-industrial wood waste that ensures a low carbon footprint.

jute. A bamboo grove releases 35 per cent more oxygen into the air than a similar-sized strand of other trees. It matures and can be replanted within seven years (as compared to 30 to 50 years for species like teak, sal, oak, etc). It also helps improve soil conditions and prevents erosion along the way. Bamboo grows so fast that it can yield 20 times more timber than trees in the same area. In Tripura, young designers have come up with simple bamboo and jute products that minimise the use of hardware. Rhizome, a social design firm, which works with the Kotwalia community of Gujarat and runs Bamboo Canopy in Ahmedabad, has a raft of products — from new-age bookshelves to quirky stools. Pondicherry-based architect Fabian Chirou has innovated with Bamboo Mat Corrugated Sheets (BMCS) as a roofing material. To manufacture BMCS, bamboo is converted into mats that are hand-woven by artisans. A commercial plant at Burnihat, Meghalaya, then processes these mats into BMCS. The roof is thick, keeps the home cool and is durable, unlike a tiled roof which tends to crack and break with time.

COCONUT SHELL Kirei Coco Tiles (from American company Kirei) are largely imported, but easily available to designers and architects. It is fashioned from reclaimed coconut shells, low volatile organic compound (VOC) resin and sustainably harvested wood. This eco-friendly product can be used as decorative tiles or panels, placed horizontally or vertically. It features several colour options. Coconut shells are also being crafted into sustainable bowls, lamps and the like. Such merchandise is easily available at stores like Tribal Route (Mumbai) and Mother Earth (Bangalore and Mumbai).

BAMBOO

RATTAN

Internationally, designers are talking about India’s stunning success with bamboo and

Rattan is a thin climbing plant that grows very similarly to vines in tropical regions such as

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Indonesia. Rattan furniture is either made by hand or machines by weaving the material around a cane framework. It is considered to be one of the world’s most eco-friendly furnishing options. Nowadays, this material is used for both indoor and outdoor furniture.

Besides furniture, architects like Goa-based Dean D’cruz and Gerard da Cunha are using stone to construct houses. Liberal use of locally-available laterite is evident in their residential projects within the state. In Rajasthan, too, yellow and green kota stone are being used in the construction of havelis and villas, a centuries-old practice. In fact, in areas like Bikaner, stone was extensively employed in homes, a tradition that is seeing a revival.

CORK Rapidly renewable cork is employed as floor tiles. The material comes from the bark of the cork oak tree which can be harvested every 10 years. It is rot-and fire-resistant, transmits little sound, and low on VOCs. Its manufacturing process produces almost no material waste. Another option is linoleum, which is made from dried and milled flax seeds mixed with other plant materials such as pine resin, wood flour and ground cork. More importantly, it is 100 per cent biodegradable.

RECYCLED GLASS Made by melding sand, soda ash and lime, recycled glass is considered a better alternative to the traditional variety. Sometimes, industrial waste is also used to fashion this green-tinted glass. It finds application in flooring, worktops, partition walls, panels, lampshades and even dinnerware! Interestingly, it is resistant to heat, acid and staining.

ECO PAINTS STONE Locally available stone, like granite, slate and limestone, used largely in construction, is now finding application even in furniture, especially outdoor furniture. Designer Rimzim Abha often uses natural stone to fashion products like tables, benches, washbasins, etc, as they season well, look stunning and are eco-friendly. In Rajasthan, designers like Jaipur-based Raghav Behl, are trying out blue and brown kota stone to make outdoor furniture.

Smartbuy

Unlike conventional paints, which might be toxic, eco-paints have low emission levels. Paints with low VOC/ no VOC are finding a place in the portfolio of paint manufacturers. Furthermore, they are odourless as they don’t contain injurious chemicals. Though it isn’t possible to create 100 per cent non-toxic and non-allergenic paints, these have a lower concentration of the harmful elements. Now that you know which materials will help conserve our planet, do your part and incorporate these eco-friendly materials in your home. Deepali Nandwani (Better Interiors)

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GOURMET encounters

Oriental hotpot Spices, JW Marriott

Michael Swamy midst food drama and billows of steam, ‘Spices’, the restaurant at JW Marriott, Mumbai, is bustling with action. The open kitchen is a treat to watch, with chefs opening and closing pots and plating food. The interior isn’t exactly understated, but the décor is luxurious with high ceilings and comforting silence. And what makes the experience better is savouring the specialities of the restaurant’s new expat chefs from Japan and China. The pan Asian restaurant now boasts a new menu thanks to the introduction of four new chefs within its kitchen fold. Being one of the best fine dining restaurants serving Hakka Chinese and Japanese food, the management’s penchant for flying down the finest of Asian chefs is evident in this exclusive gourmet rendezvous.

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The spread There’s only one word to describe the Peking duck with plum sauce, and scallions wrapped in a small crepe… sublime! Peking duck takes 45 minutes to cook, and its preparation is a long drawn-out affair. The duck is marinated in spices then dried in a hot oven to leave the skin crisp and the meat tender. The duck is then further cooked to perfection, using several techniques to produce different versions. The best way to enjoy this delicacy is to watch it being carved, right in front of you. Another dish we tried is a Japanese specialty with dried fish and abalone, cooked in pleasant broth with Chinese mushrooms, which seem to have disappeared off the menus of other restaurants. The smooth, silky feel of dried mushrooms is complemented by the thick Japanese Udong noodles it is served with. A slice of black cod looks ever so enticing. In all simplicity, placed on a white plate and topped with pickled vegetables, each mouthful is exotic. One can also opt for the tea smoked chicken; the crisp skin is offset by soft flesh, the mild flavour of soya and scallions and stir fried wild mushrooms.

Sushi flavours Sushi has taken India by storm, and the sushi at Spices is full of freshness and flavour. Each sushi maker unfolds his own style of making it, a technique that takes years to perfect. Sushi making was a means of preserving raw fish, where cleaned fish was pressed between salt and rice and covered with seaweed till the fish underwent stages of fermentation. It wasn’t until the 18th century that a chef left out the fermentation process and created the basis of sushi as we now know it. The Edo style and the Tokyo style are different. Now we also have California rolls which were created in the USA. This includes many vegetarian styles and the use of exotic ingredients like avocado and asparagus. The Japanese chef at Spices has created some lovely vegetarian versions. The one with finely sliced eggplant over a ball of rice is a mouthful of flavours when dipped in a light sauce with a small hint of wasabi. There was also smoked salmon in sushi, wrapped in rice and encrusted with golden roe, and even a fried sushi option.

Tripping over Teppanyaki

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The restaurant boasts of a Teppanyaki station, a concept that originated in Teppan, Japan in 1945. Here one can sit around the hot plate and food is cooked right in front of you on a large iron griddle, heated with gas and not to be confused with a Hibachi grill, where food is cooked over a coal fire. It is in Teppanyaki cuisine that one witnesses true Japanese cooking in full flair and skill. The chefs at Spices have created a whole range of dishes one can experiment with. The combination of the two cuisines, Chinese and Japanese, makes it a popular restaurant among those who love Asian flavours. The price feels right too. At about Rs 1,500 plus taxes per person for a meal, it’s an ideal mix of quality ingredients, honest ambience and a gourmet experience. Where: Spices, JW Marriott, Mumbai What: Pan Asian cuisine How much: Rs 1,500 approximately (plus taxes) per person (The author is a Cordon Bleu Chef, food stylist and writer)



Smartbuy issue dated June 22, 2011