Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Beating another round of haze..

The haze is (almost) back. It’s another helpless situation. I thought we got enough empathy to keep us good till next year. Benevolent Singapore needs to take serious actions if all this sums up to a regular, prescribed environmental dose of attacks that the other side is only too aware of.

You get a cold, you openly blow your nose and we get the residue. It’s not funny. Think of the ones with respiratory problems. It may not be life threatening but it certainly escalates the condition. And needless to say, it spoils a perfectly planned summer of swimming, garden picnics or just a simple evening walk.

Last month was a terror. But thanks to it, this time, we are sufficiently ready to lessen the effect of the haze. My top tips for a safe haze are...
  1. Keeping doors and windows shut. You can always air your house whenever you get a safe Pollutant Standards Index or PSI.
  2. People with respiratory issues should avoid outdoors and do not forget your orange puffs as preventive measures.
  3.  If you should go out, make sure you cover your mouth and nose with a mask. The N95 masks are most ideal.
  4.  Make honey a part of your before bed rituals. It’s one of the most powerful natural remedies for cough and cold. If you’re Indian add a little jaggery to the ritual.
  5. This one is really good for kids. Heat a little sesame or mustard oil and rub it with Vicks and   apply it on your child’s neck, chest and back. It really helps.
  6.   Make soups and steamed food your staple. Water, green tea are major redeemers.
  7.   Keep calm. This is the best way to contribute positively to the situation.

I’m praying the cloud seeding and water bombing goes well and we get no haze. But if we do, keep safe and enjoy being indoors. You never know,you may just be able to catch Starhub at its best!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Welcoming Ramadan 2013..

If there's any such thing as happy fasting, it is the Ramadan. All my Muslim friends look forward to this once in a year occasion. Fasting or sawn refrains Muslim not only from  eating during daylight but any ill deeds of gossiping, backbiting and best of all they can make peace with those who have wronged them (or those whom they have wronged) and strengthen ties .  They celebrate this sacred month which is observed with immense spiritual joy of getting closer to God. I'm not Muslim, but I have to admit I'm heavily influenced by this holy month.  

Last afternoon, I met this Malay elderly who works in our condo and he puts it best,” Besides everything else, fasting makes us realise how lucky we are. There are millions who starve every day. In a way, Ramadan gives an opportunity to celebrate their spirit.” With a mop in hand, his happy face showed no hint that he last ate at 5:30 in the morning. 

Here's the most beautiful picture I came across in the morning.:-)

Lots of love to all you, fasting or not. Love your God, don’t fear Him.

To all my Muslim friends who are fasting, have a blessed one.


Monday, 8 July 2013

Confession of a budding e-shopaholic

The new cool in my life is online shopping. I know I’m late on this one. But what the heck, I finally get the point of effortless shopping from the comfort of my bed and coffee table.

I've always been a big fan of cheap shopping. From chunky heels to cool accessories and casual apparels, they make every day dressing up sensible and yet versatile and confident. I always thought Forever 21 was cheap and good till I stumbled upon Dress and Such, an online site for everything that’s cool on me and my pockets.  You can get anything from $ 7 to anything under $ 30.I especially like their shoes and bags. In the next few posts, I’m going to share with you the stuff I got from this local site. Hopefully you may just find it useful.

To start with, I’m posting pics of this lovely orange clutch item that I got for only $ 11.10. But I have to warn you about the shipping time. Bags and shoes are back ordered  so they take time, between 10-14 days. And yes, Dress and Such delivers to India too. The shipping cost equals to the two way taxi fare to Atria mall from your suburbs, exclusive of the cost of gastronomic indulgence that  accompanies shopping.

You can only imagine how happy my wardrobe looks with this dash of orange!

So ladies, grab your cuppa of Starbucks and get browsing.Don't be surprised if you stumble upon something that you'll absolutely love and doesn't cost more  than that cuppa of coffee!

Cheers !

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Blogger Part 2....

Hello everyone!:-)! It's been one long break from the blog.Here I am, after four months of traveling and sorting out domestic chores in the background with some serious time spent in trying out some new stuff in the Lion city.

Trying out new stuff happened as result of my just-turned-four daughter’s recent packed school schedule. I realised that she will only get busier.  So, I decided to expand my comfort zone which is essentially made up of my family, my books and writing of course.. Online diggings led to workshops. Workshops for jobs, courses, volunteer work and meet ups. I attended most of them, one by one.  I was already enjoying my afternoons. Though I’m yet to decide what to do, I know that I've found ways to engage my afternoons in more productive ways than just scrutinising my plants and listening to KISS 92.

Domestic chores. They will never end. Fortunately there’s help and I will still do my part of washing my daughter’s and my own clothes and cleaning my own room. The occasionally cooking will happen. But most of my day, without my daughter and husband, I plan to fill it with purpose and make sure it ends with a good sense of achievement.

My new beginning seems to be a little daunting, with only my natural PR skills to boast about and that too overshadowed by 5 years of no employment. But I face the world with guiltless confidence. Confidence defined by the time I spent with my daughter, a happy family I so lovingly nurture. I can also declare a great sense of local awareness I got from my Singaporean friends, the little corners with local flavours and stories and of course reading the Straits times every morning. Almost every morning.

I’m trying to get my foot back on things I know best. As much as I would love to get on a part time telemarketing job as an excuse to hone my PR skills, I know very well I’m not fast enough to make a few hundred calls in 6 hours and feed them with all the feedback and complaints in an excel sheet, that too in a jiffy. I was never good at selling anything else but stories, features and articles. I may also not allow myself to get bashed up by someone at the other end of the line without bashing him or her back. I don't know how these guys do it.Seeing myself sacked within a few days of work, I restrain myself, but with hope that one day I will triumph and get through this haze of afternoon un-settlements.

For all my friends who are in the same plight. Yes, we do look like silly expats, jumping from breakfast to lunch to make sure we did well before picking up our kids from school. Let us console ourselves that we pale in comparison to the ones who start from River Valley for coffee and head off to Taka to not just check on LV and Prada. And then get back to their cafĂ© in the Valley with shopping bags and looks that said, “we just don’t know  where the money came from” We, the more sensible wives of our husbands go back to check our mails to see if someone, at least one of those 15 jobs we wrote to in the morning has reverted.

I’m guessing we will all be eventually doing what we love. We just have to keep trying to find opportunities and possibilities that fit our capabilities.  It’s only then that we can excel and not only engage our afternoons but enjoy them. Almost like when we had our kids around. Till then, let’s keep reading and writing, talk to our plants, feed our fish, change the interiors of our room and listen to KISS 92.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Infinity Pool, Marina Bay Sands.

The Infinity Pool at Marina Bay  Sands is probably the most photographed pool in Asia. Opened in 2010, it roofs the three 55 storey-ed Marina Bay Sands. I was lucky enough to get a view of the pool before the public pool visits were banned last year. Theses days, you need to be a guest of the really posh hotel to get this near to the pool at random timings.

I can only imagine the thrill the gentleman on the pool edge experienced ! And the spectacular view  he got of Singapore from there. 

The straddle is where the Infinity Pool is.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Ri Kynjai...My trip to Serenity.

Our long pending experience of the much heard about Ri Kynjai finally happened in November last year. About 20 km from Shillong, Ri Kynjai is located at almost the end of a left car turn along the highway to Guwahati. Or looking at it differently, from a point of view of someone coming from Guwahati, the end of a right turn away just before the bridge to Shillong. The road turn gives way to an uneven path paving through little thatched huts (flaunting Dish TV connection!) with kitchen gardens, fish lakes and - at the time when we went - laughing children practicing their Diwali stunts. After much plodding in a jerking car, we finally were at the gates of Ri Kynjai.

Nestled in beautiful seclusion in the heart of green, with an obviously experienced execution of an excellent sense and taste of architecture, this token of serenity stood out on first impression.Even the bell boy’s ordinary facial welcome note and his unenthusiastic lugging behaviour didn't spoil our excitement.

Inspired by Khasi heritage, we noticed pretty, little thatched cottages planted around the resort . We went down an interesting flight of varnished stairs landing us at the reception.

A traditional thatched cottage  at the resort
Pic taken from ri Kynjai
The main resort
Our room was simple and spacious, very much to our "baby-in-tow-guest" satisfaction. The balcony facing the calm Umiam Lake gave us a slight but sharp nip of the on-going season. We stepped back into our room, concluding that the balcony’s true calling was probably during monsoons and the faintly summer affected season that the region is blessed with.

This was how  our room looked like, sans the striped cloth on the bed!
Pic taken from Outlook (travel)
If hotels were judged by their restrooms, Ri Kynjai would have scored a 5/5. I particularly love the sprawling bath area with the local wooden stool or lyngknot that inspired some good exfoliating deeds the next morning.

The lunch-less trip from Shillong had left us famished. As we ordered and waited for the food, we gazed at the sensible minimal warm interiors and the thoughtful fire place (an amazing piece to which I dedicated a complete blog ) in the room. All this and that closed 'French window' hint of the Umiam Lake, in symbiosis with the placid hills gave us a celebrated sense of serenity and we felt like a thousand miles away from noisy paced Shillong.

The food came in just on time and beat our "gorgeous-places-always-serve-sad-food" experience. The guy who served was equally efficient, friendly and well-mannered. I’m sure he was not good friends with the bell boy.

In the evening, we got a speck of the 45 acre experience of the resort. Typical to any hotel of its kind, Ri Kynjai has its local version of a spa, a souvenir shop and a lovely coffee and dining area. With local shopping done in Shillong and spa being a ridiculous idea in that season, we headed to the restaurant for some tea to beat the cold. As we were sipping lovely masala chai, the lake facing us was a lovely misty, evening shade of green, giving the place a sense of unusual peace. The aptness of naming the place "Serenity by the lake" must have been inspired by such a moment.

Balcony view of the Umiam Lake

My favorite : The electrical fire place

As we discovered, the place in the night looks a beautiful illustration of a Khasi fairy tale. It was the perfect marriage of blessed nature and architectural elegance.

 The resort looking like a posh Khasi village
Pic taken from Ri Kynjai

The next morning, we woke up early enough to see some dew left on the grass, just below our balcony, where tea leaves were swaying in soft morning breeze. And tuning in to the pleasant sound of breakfast coming up from the restaurant, we planned our morning adventure.

The off and cold season justified the clever prepare-to-order, with not much spread complementary breakfast. Fresh from the pan puri sabji-cutlets made such a deadly breakfast duo and it was all that we had, accompanied by cups and cups (and more cups) of hot masala chai.

After that happy, lovely morning sun basked breakfast, we set off for our scenic trek down the village surrounding the resort. Crystal clear water gushing from road pipes (so clear that it seemed to be sourced directly from the lake rather than via the government water tanks), the seasonal marigold blossom, downy chicken trundling, the sound of crickets and those happy kids, full of exuberance, oblivious of the cold, running with minimum body cover, made one prosperous picture of the humble dwellings.

We got back along the winding trail of hanging flowers and tea leaves, with traces of interesting stone and wood work.

By noon, with our short resort holiday coming to our end, we proceeded to complete the check out formalities. Far happier souls this time at every step up the polished flight of stairs -  bell boy included. 


As we drove towards the gates, I had one last look at the resort, locking away like one beautiful secret of the woods. It was a short holiday but a memorable one. A not-so-hospitable but a very palatable one.

And yes....A busy but a serene one.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

A Thoughtful Hearth


Electrical fireplace@Ri Kynjai Resort Shillong - Skipping the normal room heaters, I thought this one made such a cozy arrangement to beat a cold resort day!:). And it goes so well with with the wood based interiors.Wonder if they make such stuff in Shillong. The next time I'm home, I'll browse the market for this one item. I just hope it doesn't consume as much electricity as it saves the massive use of coal  and wood!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

CNY Delights!

The past month of pre Chinese New Year celebration has been really fun for me. As I go solo gallivanting around, I'm sinking in simple joys of ways and things that celebrate this auspicious time of the year.I can safely say I've got some really interesting steals from the fares that are going all round town. With souvenirs that promise long life and prosperity to healthy traditional food items, it's been one good loot.  

Bracelets for long life

Even with a rusted head, this dragon makes a gorgeous neck piece!

Indian but cheaper than Fab India

For the family-Flavoured Cashew nuts 

Honey for my Honey : My daughter's favourite!

Got this gorgeous Tibetan doll for some workplace inspiration

Sunday, 27 January 2013

In Anticipation of CNY

 The heart of Vivocity in anticipation of Chinese New Year 2013. A Fair full of delightful fares!

Abundance of Yummies 

Sackfuls of Ingredients

Need 1?, Buy 3!

Wahopping (Walking and Window shopping!)

Take us home, Wall us up!

I am rooting for these vendors!

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Suspicion vs. Enamor in all things shopping!

Mouth Watering Treats!

The Buddha in various Avatars!

Convincing Mao style?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Girl Power, Family Name and all that...

A Khasi man sharing responsibilities
Up until eight standard, I was the only one in my class with a Khasi mother and a non Khasi family name. No one, including my mom really cared about it. She was a busy woman, with a demanding but happy life made of four kids, a great job and a travelling husband. Somehow, that Khasi element in her never even prompted, at any instant a family name battle with my dad. I still wonder.

In high school, I was reminded by well-wishers, mom excluded, of the advantages that came along with a Khasi family name. I eventually succumbed, and what followed was simple paper work that promised great returns in my educational and professional life. Of course, a side benefit was that, I became more “accepted” and people stopped teasing me about my Dad’s family name being the same as a leading Bollywood actor of that time.

Today, I have both my parents’ names tailing in my passport, marriage certificate and other important documents. I’m no feminist and I’m not scared of tedious paper work. With mom, dad and husband all from different communities, I just don’t believe that family names are important anymore. Family is!

Nevertheless, some years ago, when I moved to Mumbai, I understood the power of my mother’s name. It didn't change my fortune. It was only one strong reminder of the massive feminine power, back home in North East India. I lived in Mumbai for several years and my observed difference in ordinary women’s lives in Bollywood city and the modest hills is shocking.

I jerked one morning, when my housekeeper informed of her daughter’s death caused by burns, as a result of her husband’s drunken wrath. She gave me the news in the most normal tone. The same woman had amazed me earlier when she boasted on her facts about terrorists and rhinos eating together (and each other and everyone else) in people’s backyards in far Assam.

Women power in the hills has become a strong social security, and this in turn has brought about an updated positive identity, that is being contrasted with other societies, where the birth of women is regarded as bad luck, and burning brides is a trend. 

Far from being disadvantages, NE women, in particular, Khasi women, enjoy  an enviable position in the society. It is interesting to note that,like the Khasis, it the indigenous peoples of the world, including Africa, South America and Asia who are tinted as backward, but have such progressive mind-sets where the women lead! And it is also interesting that countries on these continents like India, Brazil, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Bangladesh have had a woman head of state . But that has not yet happened in some so called "developed" and "advanced" countries like the US.

Like in all modern, adapting societies, the girl power phenomenon in my part of the world is gracefully aging towards a more tolerant version, in favour of the younger generation where love, more than the urge to dominate, rules. This means that women are happy to share their power and men reciprocate, by their willingness to take responsibilities. At least, this is what I conclude from my friends’ updates and otherwise.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Unity in Diversity : Jan 13-14 festivals of India

Festivals that were celebrated in India last weekend ....
Bhogali Bihu, native to Assam, marks the end of the harvesting season. In modern times and big cities where agriculture means the life and world in our kitchen garden, it is significantly defined as the biggest feast or Bhog season. I, myself, with no one to judge, shamelessly gobble through the festival like the hungry caterpillar. 
The last time I was home for Bihu, I was amazed by the plentiful presence of food carnivals. They endorsed celebration delicacies made by women (sometimes men) from villages from all over Assam. Most times, these fares are such rob-offs, as if knowing well the effect of global warmed winters that make browsing through varieties of sweets easier than making them at home.  In this modern twist of celebration, there are still those who prefer to have their laroos (sweets made of coconut) and pithas (sweets made of grounded rice,sesame or coconut and jaggery) and other bihu sweetmeats made in their own kitchens.

Laroos and pithas
Photo by Manas Barooah

As a child, my favourite part of Magh Bihu was Uruka. I still wonder how the tall Meji, made of just straws and fire wood, managed to stand,with no firm support, on the damn ground .I miss those innocent Uruka nights,feasting and singing round the tall straw man with my cousins.That whole sacred ritual of bathing first thing the next very cold Bihu morning, burning the meji and feeding it with rice grains and betel nuts, always gave me a good sense of revival for the New Year.

A community Meji ritual
Photo by Anuwar Haza
Lohri, eve of Punjab's Makar Sankrati, has similar meji rituals.The Fire God is worshiped during this festival. Bonfires are lit in the evenings and families and communities make merry round them. Puffed rice, popcorn, sesame seed are ceremoniously thrown into the fire. They sing and dance till the fire dies out. The occasion can’t do without Makki Di Roti (corn bread) and Sarson Da Saag (grounded mustard leaves). Til (sesame) and jaggery  are also essential food items.Too bad, lassi doesn’t go well with the cold season. Vibrant colors, get-togethers, indigenous food culture and good old bhangra make Lohri one annual bash all Punjabis look forward to.

Feeding the burning fire 
Photo from Hindustan Times
Southern India celebrates the harvest season as  Pongal. It is observed with  much zest and enthusiasm as the indigenous New Year. On this occasion people religiously clean their homes and decorate them with kolam (rangoli). The cattle is worshiped during the festival and fed with a rice and jaggery dish, Pongal. This symbolizes thanksgiving and the dish is dedicated to Lord Surya.

The cow adorned and worshipped
Photo by Dev Gogoi

Thanking Lord Surya
Photo by Dev Gogoi
In western India,  Makar Sankranti marks the end of winter is celebrated with flying kites and kite flying competitions. Interestingly, the Marathis who observe the festival wear black  as the black sesame  is believed to be an auspicious ingredient of the season. Tilgul, a simple sweetmeat made of sesame and jaggery is prepared and exchanged on the occasion.


Photo by Journey Mart
Festivals  from different regions - and one could wonder how they could be so similar. The fire is common to most, the sesame and jaggery are essential ingredients in all the cebrations. These little flavours in our festivals make us unique as communities and unite us as a country.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Big Christmas in Li'l Singapore

Christmas Eve at Orchard Road was a busy affair. The street was thronged beyond pavement capacity and people were happily spilling over the main road because all is forgiven on this holy occasion. Through the crowd, I managed a liitle peep at the Christmas tree at Takashimaya and whoa, it looked gorgeous and seemed bigger than petite Singapore!

Takashimaya: Posing round the Christmas tree 

Though like most people, I thought the lights this year were least impressive. They were far too subtle for Orchard Road's massive, swank architecture. The rest was as usual, super best and very well done, given the fact that Singapore's Christmas is all man-made with no natural season or culture for it.

A crush of Christmas fans

Paul at Takashimaya made the most of it with their signature cakes and cosy Christmas home shaped cakes that me feel like it was really cold and snowing outside.

 Paul's sumptious Christmas cakes

Christmas, with all its man-made, commercial personality is an unavoidable event in Singapore that has its share of pleasant revelations every year. With blue and red done, I only hope the lights next year don’t go green! That said, Singapore definitely makes other countries go green with envy when it comes to its grand Christmas schemes!