Monday, 27 April 2015

Celebrating Life

Life, for me, has always been a journey.  I set out, at the first dawn of consciousness, to ensure mine is a journey - uniquely mine - and not a guided tour anointed by others, no matter how well intentioned (or not).

For any of us who have relished traveling, we know what's most important in the journey is - not the destination per se - but the quality of the journey. 

Similarly, I reckon, life is a collection of moments strung together.  Moments big & small - but moments nevertheless - not months or years, not even days, for that matter, but the unit of time here is, 'a moment' or 'moments'.  Those rather inconspicuous nuggets of time many people disregard to later discover they usurped almost all if not a major part of their life!

Which brings us to the question: what augments the quality of a journey and therefore of life? It is precisely those factors that help celebrate life.  Here is my list:

1.  A Well Ventilated Home that nourishes body & soul:

Home is where it all begins.  Home is where the heart is.  A home is what anchors us. 

I would love a well ventilated home (all four sides please, like an apartment to a floor or an individual home/villa, purely for the quality of natural light & ventilation).  

Natural light & breeze are by far the best conditioners & healers I know.  Deprive people of those & substitute with artificial lighting & air - slowly but surely, people wilt as much as plants do with inorganic reinforcements.

2.  A Garden:

I love flora.  Flowering plants - especially hibiscus, plumeria - have been a part of my life since I was very young, thanks to my maternal grandfather & mother.  A garden adds not just to quality of air in & around the home, its a great way to unwind & undo stress.  Nothing, on a daily basis, connects me to nature - driving home the fact that nature is oh so supreme & why we need to live in harmony with it - not contravening it - more than a garden does.

 

I would therefore love a garden teeming with flowering plants - full of flowers of various hues.  It doesn't matter how small or how big the garden is.  Ideally, I would like a medium sized garden, preferably some plants on all four sides of the home. 

3.  An Outdoor Walking Track:

Surprised? is that the first ever time you have heard of that phrase? a walking track? yeah. I have always been disappointed that all advertisements (for real estate) mention 'jogging track'.  Hardly any mention a 'walking track' or a 'walking course'. 



I am a born, natural walker.  Love walking miles and miles (of course, with no burden or luggage, just a sling bag, if you will).  BUT (and I deliberately type that in capital letters), living in today's megalopolises gives so little safe leeway to walk.  There are no pavements, the beach is all littered & taken up & I am not talking treadmill walking.  I am talking walking along natural roads / paths, safe enough for walking from a traffic point of view.  Walking is said to do wonders to health.  I would love a dedicated walking path / track / trail closer home.  That would be bliss.

4.  A Tennis Court:

Tennis was & has always been my first love.  Though I stopped playing quite a while ago, have kept in touch through volunteering & as a spectator.  Merely hanging around a tennis court, often seeing young kids put racquet to a tennis ball - that sound of a tennis ball being pinged - is healing, to say the least.  



I would love a well appointed tennis court - preferably lawn :) I love lawn tennis courts, blame it on growing up in Delhi.  Nothing like the romance of lawn tennis, move over artificial turfs.

5.  A Shopping Mall:

Well, once a fashionista, always a fashionista.  Shopping is therapy.  I would love a well stocked mall that caters to pretty much everything from grocery to fashion apparel & accessories.  And, of course, if it can cater to the other love of my life - jewelry - we are all set :)



These are the things at the very top of my list that I need to lead a happy, nourishing, enriched life & celebrate every moment.  What are yours?

#CelebrateLifeAtIvy by owning a dream home at Ivy estate, an 85 acre estate with 34 acres of greenery and open spaces. Join the 1600 happy families already living here. Check out this walkthrough video and decide for yourself.

Cheers :)

The Asus Zenfone 2 - The best endowed phone of 2015

I had already blogged about the Asus Zenfone in my earlier post.

As sequels go, the awesomeness only gets better.  The #AsusZenfone2 is testament to this.


Well then, the first feature that attracted me to the Asus #Zenfone2 is its 4GB RAM.  The first in its category to have it.  The Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML comes with 4GB RAM along with a host of other appreciable features for its relatively competitive pricing.

Yes, the Asus Zenfone 2's India pricing has been announced recently and three variants that have been launched are available for pre-order from Flipkart as well.

The next big draw for me was that all three models of the Zenfone 2 support 4G LTE bands in India - FDD-LTE Band 3 and TDD-LTE Band 40.  Now, that's current a gadget's gotta be.

All the variants come with & run on the company's new ZenUI based on Google's Android 5.0 Lollipop, and feature Intel Atom quad core processor.

Add to this, a 13-megapixel rear PixelMaster autofocus camera with an f/2.0 aperture and a 5-element lens, also offering a 52-megapixel Super Resolution mode on the rear camera. There is a 5-megapixel front-facing fixed-focus camera and a dual-tone flash.  Selfies are now going to be super awesome!

WOW is the word!

No, the awesomeness doesn't end here .. read on ..

Additional features include dual-SIM (Micro-SIM cards) with dual active support, Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection, and GloveTouch support in all the variants.

Storage can be expanded up to 64GB via microSD card.

A cool 5.5 inch HD display (full HD in the 4GB model) is the icing on the cake.

All variants come with a 3000mAh non-removable battery. All three models also feature ZenMotion touch and gesture control support, with a "double tap to wake" feature.

I was pleasantly surprised with the pricing, announced recently: The Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML (4GB of RAM, 64GB storage) has been priced at Rs. 22,999,  the ZenFone 2 ZE551ML (4GB of RAM, 32GB storage) at Rs. 19,999, the ZenFone 2 ZE551ML (2GB of RAM, 16GB storage) at Rs. 14,999, and the ZenFone 2 ZE550ML at Rs. 12,999.

In my view, that is very competitive pricing for a smartphone loaded with all the aforesaid features.

Makes me think that no wonder, the Zenfone has 10 million units shipped worldwide and an India single day sales record of 35,000 units!




Enough said, I reckon.  Time to go grab the Asus Zenfone 2 before others do.

Cheers :)

Sunday, 26 April 2015

#CrashThePepsiIPL Advertisements - My Take - 2

For someone who's been a self-appointed Ad(vertisement) Critic from time immemorial, #CrashThePepsiIPL campaign by Pepsi - wherein anyone can make an ad, upload it onto Pepsi and try to Crash the Pepsi IPL with their ad being played on prime time television  - has been happy hunting ground.

Here is a very special ad that caught my attention and special appreciation, so much so that I am devoting an entire blog post articulating about & around it:

Ahead of Time



What, for me, makes great advertising is when ad films - a powerful social medium - power a social cause - without even claiming to.  This, in my opinion, is one advertisement video that does it - no revolutions, no placards, no microphones, no sermons; just through its powerful cinematography & execution of the idea - it serves a social cause more powerfully than money or mobilization ever can - such is the power of the audio-visual medium, be it television or movies or YouTube.

Almost all the #CrashThePepsiIPL advertisements revolve around Cricket and Pepsi, naturally.  Many ads also have a twelfth man, if you will - that is, food, which again, is obvious - given that food & drink are bedfellows.

This is one of my most favorite #CrashThePepsiIPL advertisement videos because it serves a social cause when India needs that the most - perception & portrayal of women in the audio-visual medium.

I have been amongst those vociferously expressing disapproval (no, please, I don't even qualify as a feminist - I am just an opinioned, educated Indian woman) about the way India's audio-visual medium (television, movies, advertising et al) portray women.  These portrayals, in my opinion, are steeped in & further an already deeply entrenched patriarchy.  Even worse, most only have women for objectifying women's bodies.  Repulsive for me.  Dangerous for society, I think. I dread to think of four and five year olds growing up on this audio-visual staple.  What image reinforcements about our women are we sowing in their thoughts?  Young four year old boys might very well grow up to expect exactly what the audio visual medium serves up today - from women twenty years from now!  And, even worse, young four year old girls might very well grow up to think 'that' is how they ought to be - to be accepted! 

What a pity that a powerful, potent tool like none other, the audio-visual medium - far from being effectively utilized - is sowing potentially dangerous social seeds.

It is in this background that ads like these need to be rewarded, celebrated and I would say, glorified.

A group of girls playing street cricket - such a welcome sign.  In times when even cricket commentary still is men's preserve - oh, if at all you see women in there, you will find them wearing off-shoulder red gowns & other finery - as mere objects! I cry hoarse "folks, there are so many girls & women who love this game and so many other sports and can articulate effectively - so, let's stop propping up women's bodies in sports broadcasts".  Someday, I hope to make a contribution towards sports broadcasting - drawing from my deep interests in multiple sports & of course, growing up idolizing Dr. Narottam Puri & the very special West Indian woman commentator Donna Symonds, who commentates despite being a woman - not because she is a woman. 

Cut back to this ad.  Its such a welcome sign, as I said, to see an all girls game of street cricket - with the two teams, ironically as well as cheekily, named "Virat's Xi" and "Ranbir's Xi".  And, as every Indian girl will tell you, detractors thrown in as accompaniment.  Talk of realistic advertising.

The batswoman just calmly takes in the detraction - from the two guys on the balcony - the ad doesn't quite zoom in on her taking any special notice of that Pepsi can on the balcony sill - which is another win for this ad - it reserves the surprise for the end.

A very realistically executed ad - the bowler and the field going thru their motions so genuinely as the ball is bowled.  Textbook cricket that.

The ball is bowled.  Then comes the twist - the batswoman, alas, does not attempt any textbook cricket shot.  She lofts the ball high up in the air, aimed to successfully knock down that Pepsi can - if you think this is brilliant, what follows is, to me, quirky & delightful - that act of knocking that Pepsi can now successfully accomplished - the batswoman sets off - no, not for a cricket run - but for that Pepsi can on its way down.  Oh wait, it doesn't end here.  So does the bowler!

Lovely ad.  Breaks stereotypes.  Has refreshing thought & execution.  Is mighty believable (yeah, gone are those days when audio-visual medium used to have that 'suspension of belief' licence, we live in times when its got to be realistic to make an impact). Has all the right production values - casting, location, pace, editing et al.  Most of all, serves a social cause without even overtly seeking or claiming to.  Kudos.

Dear advertising agencies, this is how you can make a winning ad with women in it.  This video ad is incidentally called 'Ahead of Time' but its really 'high time' that India's audio-visual medium took note of this!

This ad might have added a new shot to Cricket folklore - very similar to Dhoni's 'Helicopter Shot' - this ought to be the 'Pepsi shot'.  I won't be surprised if batting and fielding coaches start employing this soon :)

Hope you liked my take on #CrashThePepsiIPL advertisements.

Check out the #CrashThePepsiIPL videos & participate in the activity at BlogAdda.

Cheers :)

#CrashThePepsiIPL Advertisements - My Take - 1

For someone who's been a self-appointed Ad(vertisement) Critic from time immemorial, #CrashThePepsiIPL campaign by Pepsi - wherein anyone can make an ad, upload it onto Pepsi and try to Crash the Pepsi IPL with their ad being played on prime time television - has been happy hunting ground.

Here are some ads that caught my attention & in deserving cases, appreciation as well:

Served!


In an age & time when advertisements, spanning all of a few seconds, require mega directors, ensemble blockbuster cast, exotic shooting locales, mighty budgets, renowned music directors, famed cinematographers & big media agencies - this ad is my favorite rejoinder.  It reminds us that the most important part of a creative is, still (mega money and star power notwithstanding) THE IDEA.  And, that idea can be executed effectively to convey the message to the target audience - without the trappings of mega advertising kingdoms!

Effectively executed ads often also are an indicator of another important aspect - the clarity of thought that goes into the making of the ad. 

This ad works for me because its idea is at the heart of the tournament (IPL) - teams from different parts of the Country - serving up a sumptuous cricket feast.  India is a cuisine treasure hunt.  This ad brings that into play - presenting delectable representatives from the cuisines of each of the IPL teams' home cities, with an interesting audio clipping of actual cricket match commentary for that team playing in the background (slick editing that) and serves it all up with Pepsi. 

No human casting in the ad,  yet a message so effectively conveyed.  There must have been very little video editing to do - given that the table is well laid out with all the food items arranged sequentially  - but audio editing more than makes up for it.

A simple ad with a clear message!


Rajma - Upma


If the aforesaid ad drew from India's cuisine treasure hunt, this one picks that exactly up as well.  After all, food & drink is how India celebrates - to accompany cricket and movies, of course.

This ad adds a further dimension - of India's prized 'Unity in Diversity'.

Two couples - one each from the North & South of India - on a travel break - embark on a refreshment break.

Trademark cuisine then plays out with each side displaying their crown jewels, so to speak - until both of them - unaware of what is next in the other's repository - pull out a bottle of Pepsi - to recognize how we unite even though we are diverse. 

I quite like that human touch.  This ad of course has meticulous casting, apt background locale & all the other elements. 

Hope you liked my take on #CrashThePepsiIPL advertisements.

Check out the #CrashThePepsiIPL videos & participate in the activity at BlogAdda.

Cheers :)

Holiday Look with Zovi

Its that time of the year - Summer Holidays, I mean.


Time to chill, time to unwind, time to relax.

So, I thought its just about time to blog about holidays & fashion.  Trust me, there is nothing lazy about it!

Clothing for holidays have to be comfortable and suitable.  After all, one doesn't want clothing to spoil all the fun. 

In keeping with the reigning 'florals' trend (I should call it a rage, I guess), I chose a very floral Zovi Holiday Look for myself:





Zovi Off White Floral Printed Top




This top is made of two different fabrics - georgette (yes, one of my favorite fabrics, chiffon being the other) for the front & viscose for the back!

Has lovely pastel floral print that gives it a muted, laid back look.

Love the wide peter pan neck.






Zovi Bordeaux Coated Stretch Skinny Jeggings

Cotton, Polyester & Spandex go on to make this Bordeaux coated jeggings skinny fit as well as stretchable.  Love the hue & comfort. 



I toyed between peep toes & flats to go with this ensemble & in true sweltering summer affiliation, went for breezy flats - in, well, pastel pink :)

Zovi Pink Strapped Sandals

This combines style & super comfort for those miles of holiday strolling, be it for brunch or shopping!



Well, as always, we don't want the gentlemen to feel left out, do we?

So, here is a Zovi Men's Holiday Look I put together:



In this Men's Look:

Zovi Modern Art Graphic Sublimation T-shirt

Zovi Slim Stretch Dark Blue Denim Jeans

Zovi Blue Casual Lace Up Shoes

Like it?

Hope you enjoy my #BlogForZovi Holiday Looks!  Happy Holidays, folks!

Cheers :)

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Review: Casual Dining at its Best - New Restaurant Launch in Chennai - Annalaya, Jagannathan Street, Nungambakkam

Chennai's casual dining just got a shot in the arm.  Annalaya - tamil for 'Temple of Food' - launches today (Tuesday, April 21st, 2015) on the auspicious occasion of Akshaya Tritiya - a day that signifies plenty much cultural & spiritual significance.  It is widely believed that it is on this day that Yudhishtir (in Mahabharata) received the 'Akshaya Patram' (the serving bowl that will never run out of foodgrains and food).  As such, any good cultivated today is believed to abound in multitudes.

Here is a sneak preview and review of Annalaya, for the readers of this blog:

Annalaya is, to begin with, comfortably located right in the heart of the city, in Nungambakkam, Jagannathan Street, right next to Vijay TV's office.  Easy approach from Village road and Nungambakkam High road as well.

Owned by Mrs. Jayashree A Thilak & Mr. Thilak, Annalaya has both air-conditioned as well as 'on the go' non-air-conditioned dining areas. Jayashree thoughtfully added when I conversed with her, "for those in a hurry, they could just quickly pick up their choice from the non-air-conditioned area".

The Thilaks started out with restaurants over ten years ago, as a natural progression from their pulses & spices processing business in Gummidipoondi, near Chennai in Tamil Nadu.  They first set up a small coffee shop in Gummidipoondi, near the Siruvapur Murugan Temple, on their factory's frontage.  They lay emphasis and concentrated on quality on three fronts - food, service & hygiene.

They already run six restaurants and have now embarked on 'Annalaya' as a brand to build.  "This is a fresh thought on the menu & we did extensive research, including gourmet tours", informs Jayashree.  Born out of these gourmet tours was their meeting with experienced homemakers in their forties & fifties, some trademark recipes and sourcing ingredients from the original belt.  For example, they serve a rasam called "Thangachi Rasam" (translation: "Sister Rasam") which is a special rasam prepared by sisters fondly for brothers visiting them, in southern parts of Tamil Nadu (I understood it has extra servings of tomato & spices which renders it a special taste).

Annalaya predominantly showcases good food covering the four southern states - Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh & of course, throws in some global influences as well.

The motto clearly is - "Authenticity over twist or fusion".  Kudos to that, I thought, after my experience - they truly lived up to it.  For example, Jayashree informed me Annalaya's house speciality 'masal' is red not yellow.

Some of the highlights:

The mocktails are a complete delight and set the tone for the experience.  Served predominantly in large flute glasses, the mocktails are so aptly named.  My favorites are the "After 9" & the "Cleopatra Marvel" (grape based mocktail).

Blossom Delight:



Pina Colada, Cleopatra Marvel & After 9:




Rose Orchid (along with, of course, Pina Colada):



Balanced "Elai (Banana Leaf) Sapadu (meals)", also called "Vazhai Elai Virundhu Sapadu" (Banana Leaf Hospitality Meals) from 11.30 am to 3.30 pm.  While Annalaya opens at 7.30 am & closes at 11 pm, lunch service begins at 11.30 am.  The meals are sumptuous, home food material.



I particularly loved the keerai masiyal (spinach preparation) & the 'pachchadis'.  The 'sweet poli' was soft & a dessert lover's delight.



The Elai Sapadu (banana leaf meals) serves 23 items with choice between Rice & Millet.  I say, please try the Millet Biriyani.

The Millet Biriyani is one dish I have never tasted before and it was delicious (neither too spicy nor mild, just right & very delectable). Not to be missed.

Kambu (Pearl Millet) Curd Rice, Thinai (Foxtail Millet) Sadham & Millet Biriyani: these are a MUST TRY & a do NOT miss! My favorite: the Millet Biriyani!



A fraction of the other culinary delights on offer (I could only manage to click & taste these many out of the 300 items on offer):

Anarkali Aloo Anaras:


Paneer Tikka:



Ribbon Paneer Pakoda:



Ghee Paper Roast:



Rava Idli:


Karabath:


Dry Fruit Rava Dosai:


Thate (Flat) Idli:


Palkatti (Cottage Cheese) Dosai:



I know - regular readers know that desserts are my main course - so, here is an one of a kind dessert Annalaya serves - its called 'Gold Kavana' and is made of black sticky rice (Kavuni Arisi) with an authentic 'gold dust' dressing served with a scoop of coconut ice cream! The 'Kavuni Arisi' is a Chettinad speciality. The ardent foodie I am, I have never seen it fused so brilliantly with gold dust & coconut ice cream.  Guess what, forget buying gold for Akshaya Tritiya, you can now actually ingest gold, taking a cue from former film stars & chief ministers of this State who were cited by media as doing so :)

Gold Kavana Dessert:



The next dessert to lure me was the 'Butterscotch-Paan flavored Ice Cream':


For someone like me who never consumes Paan, I loved the fusing of flavors in this dessert.  The paan flavor comes thru so well that you have to balance your portion size with butterscotch (so the paan flavor doesn't overwhelm you).

Khus Khus Milk:



Annalaya serves a menu that has almost 300 items & all segments are comfortably & affordably priced. Being a strict vegetarian, I was delighted to find the awesome spread & number of genres on offer :)  I was regaled by Annalaya's naming convention - for example, there is a dosa called "MLA Dosai" & I wonder if its because it rarely shows up (as most MLAs or Members of Legislative Assembly, as in popular rhetoric, show up only during polls in their constituencies)! Or, may be, its patronized by the elected representatives down south!

Last but not the least, the 'Beeda' or 'Paan' that culminates the dining experience: [no, I didn't taste it, but appreciated the zip lock seal]:



Service is fantastic & I must make an affectionate mention about Annalaya's appreciable diversity quotient: Jayashree has ensured that women are well represented in the restaurant's staff. I particularly noticed it (almost naturally) because I am so used to (and bored) of being the only woman in the pack - almost always (from Board Room to Blogger Events).

The gentlemen sported this attire:

 
 
And, the ladies sported this attire:




Interior d├ęcor is compact & largely wood themed, with functional seating:



Thank you Jayashree for being such a gracious host:



Welcome Annalaya & thanks for infusing class in Chennai's casual dining landscape.  You sure make Chennai & Tamil Nadu proud. Here's hoping you will keep up the good work.

Connect with Annalaya through:
Website
Twitter

Hope you enjoy this review & sneak preview! Happy Casual Dining Folks!

Cheers :)

Friday, 17 April 2015

College Look with Zovi

Everything about college is easy, peppy, full of cheer & of course, nostalgic.

Just a bit ahead of a fresh college year in India, I did these 'College Looks' with Zovi:

Look 1: Deconstructed Striped Top:

Well, nautical has been reigning the trend list long enough now.  But, what I love about this top is its unusual construction, or, rather, deconstruction.


Stripes are usually vertical or horizontal; some offbeat apparel have diagonal.  This one is quite unique in that, it deconstructs to juxtapose vertical with horizontal.  Right away making it a collectible.



Made from cotton jersey, its super soft, smooth and very light to carry.  Needless to say, its a styling delight for it can be teamed up with a plethora of trousers / skirts & footwear - both hues as well as styles.


I have paired this Zovi Deconstructed Striped Top with slim fit black denim & Zovi Black Peep Toes:



You can find similar black denim as well as a range of other bottom wear options with Zovi here.


Look 2: Grey Printed Comfort Fit Trousers:

Like all things in this universe, I reckon, monochrome doesn't have to be black & white.  There's space enough for grey :)



Making a style statement in a rather understated way comes packed with this Zovi Grey Printed Comfort Fit Trousers.

I quite like its side zipper & comfort fit to coast through the humid summers.


I have teamed up the trousers with a layered, sheer black top from my collection & the aforesaid Zovi Black Peep Toes.

Take your pick of sheer & / or layered, ruffled black & other tops from Zovi here.



I have grown quite fond of the bow with silver accents the peep toes sport. Neat & stylish.

Like them?

Ah, gentlemen, don't feel left out - there's plenty much options for you as well.  Sample a look I put together for you (of course, assuming your college allows casual wear - should they play spoil sport, use this for the 'TGIF' Fridays and head to the sumptuous Zovi 'Formals' section for other weekdays ):




I am quite envious of the Zovi sports shoes range available for men.  You don't want to miss it fellas.

In this Men's College Look:

Zovi Slim Fit Casual Cotton White And Green Checkered Shirt

Zovi Slim Stretch Fit Light Blue Denim Jeans

Zovi Black Premium Sports Shoes With Neon Green Accents

Hope you enjoy my collection of #BlogForZovi 'College Looks'.

Cheers :)