Monday, October 31, 2011

You have come a long way baby

With the excitement of fast cars in the air, it’s the right time to remember a pioneering woman in the automobile industry.

 Karl Benz gets all the applause for inventing the world’s first motor car, he may well have faltered without the tremendous efforts of a sterling woman called Bertha who was the first person in the world to drive a car long distance. (Men, who scoff at women drivers, eat her dust!)

Bertha was a pioneer in another way too, she realised that products need the sunshine of publicity to bloom and she devised a brilliant strategy that generated worldwide attention and helped create Brand Benz.

Bertha Benz (née Ringer) was born on May 3, 1849 in Germany. In course of time, she grew up and was engaged to Karl Benz. In 1871, she invested in his business, enabling him to work on the long and costly process of developing the world’s first patented automobile, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen.

Bertha Benz - Pioneering woman driver and brand builder
 As an unmarried woman she was able to make such an investment. When she married him in 1872, the law of the time took away her juridical power to act. Luckily for the world, Bertha did not lose her will to think and act independently.

At dawn on August 5, 1888, she loaded up two of her five children, her sons Richard and Eugen, thirteen and fifteen years old, in one of the newly constructed Patent Motorwagen automobiles. Without a word to either Karl or permission from the authorities, Bertha drove 106 km (60 miles) one-way from Mannheim to Pforzheim, telegraphing Karl of her progress. She returned along the same route the next day.

She was the first person in the world to drive an automobile over a long distance. Motorised drives had merely covered a few km until then.

While her professed purpose was to visit her mother, Bertha’s real motives were far more crucial. Both Bertha and Karl had invested heavily in the automobile, but Karl suffered from a lack of confidence in the success of the car and would not consider marketing his invention. Bertha was sure that the invention would become a financial success if only the world knew about it sufficiently. She wanted to demonstrate the car’s usefulness to the people and also give her husband’s flagging confidence a much-needed boost.

Her journey was pioneering not only because it was the first long distance drive; it ended up as a test drive that showed the prototype car’s problems. She came up with ingenious solutions to the problems that she encountered.

She got a blacksmith to mend a broken chain, she had to get a shoemaker to repair the brake shoe and in doing so, she invented brake lining. She cleaned a fuel pipe with a hairpin, insulated a wire with her garter and had to refuel at a pharmacy. The car used ligroin (refined saturated hydrocarbon petroleum fraction similar to petroleum ether used mainly as a laboratory solvent) for fuel which was only available with apothecaries. Her experience led Benz to add an additional gear for climbing hills and other improvements.

Her trip created a sensation, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen got worldwide attention and the company got its first sales order.

- Sandhya Mendonca (Sandhya Mendonca writes a weekly column for the Herald Goa)

Read the story on the Goa Herald on the link below:

India fades to black

Metalheads across India are rejoicing as one of the world's biggest bands steps onto our shores to unleash their award winning , in your face music onto Indian audiences. Meet the four horsemen - Metallica!

As Gurgaon finds its place in Metal heaven, Bangalore is impatiently awaiting its turn be a page in heavy metal history.

Winners of nine Grammys and three Billboard Music Awards, Metallica, who performed at the F1 Rocks concert in Gurgaon, two days before the debut Formula 1 Indian GP, will find delirious fans from Goa, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Cochin and beyond who look set to outnumber the locals at the Palace Grounds in Bangalore.

Who would have imagined that the biggest thrash metal band in the history of noise would decide on a concert in India? Those who grew up listening to the band as it took over the metal world in the 80s until crossing over to the mainstream music world a decade later, are thrilled beyond belief at the opportunity to be at the live gig.

As part of the Sonisphere Festival, the monarchs of metal will take the stage before a crowd that's been in a feverish state of excitement ever since word filtered through the grapevine that they'll be doing their first-ever gig on Indian soil.

Their concerts are the stuff of legend - high-octane musical affairs that combine musical madness with brute force to provide an experience that lasts a lifetime.

“We have been planning this event for the last 10 months,” says Venkat Vardhan, managing director, DNA Networks, the event management agency that has brought Metallica down to play at the concert. “Logistically, organising a Metallica concert takes at least that much time because the band has extremely high standards.”

“Metallica insisted that every aspect of their uncompromisingly high standards be met to the last detail,” explains Vardhan. “They have flown in 36 tonnes of sound and light equipment for the show.”

There’s good reason for it too, because of the 19 million metal-hungry diehards who follow the band on Facebook, one million are from India.

After waiting for years, it’s time for all metal fans in India, to get together in a Mosh Pit and do some real head-banging. This will be the biggest concert in Indian Metal music history after the Iron Maiden shows.

Says the band, “At this stage in the game, there are very few places in the world that we have not dragged our gear and crew to , so that makes this show announcement extra special…..for the first time ever we will be visting India for two shows ! It’s about time, what do you say?”

Yes, Metallica, we can’t wait for the gods of metal to be here on our side of the world.

By Aditya Mendonca/ Raintree Media Features/
Read the story on the Goa Herald on the link below -

Friday, October 28, 2011

The sunny side of life

Bringing cheer to concrete-ised Bangaloreans in shades of green and vibrant hues is MySunnyBalcony

Fancy a lush green rainforest, a Spanish floral fiesta or perhaps an oriental Zen space? So what if all you have is an unexciting strip of balcony? Dial MySunnyBalcony (MSB) and sit back, for coming soon to a balcony near you is their pro-green team. Armed with ideas and gorgeous garden accessories like water features and customised pots, they will transform a dreary balcony or a spacious porch into the garden of your dreams.

MSB, started in 2009, by friends Sriram Aravamudan, Reena Chengappa, Athreya Chidambi and Shailesh Deshpande, is a one-stop shop for garden enthusiasts. Like all good things in Bangalore, MSB blossomed over caffeine and nostalgia. Despite coming from different backgrounds like IT and web designing, a common yearning to put the garden back in ‘Garden City’ spurred the four on. With backyards, a norm in old Bangalore, making way for high rises, Aravamudan (also a writer and music composer) sealed the deal with, “It is time to take the garden up the elevator.”

(L to R) Sriram Aravamudan, Shailesh Deshpande, Reena Chengappa and Athreya Chidambi
Before long, Chengappa and Deshpande dug deeper by studying a course in gardening. Aravamudan is an avid gardener and quite the pro, while Chidambi, a web designer, pitched in to set up the company website and collaterals. When they started off, Aravamudan’s balcony was a guinea pig of sorts for the project and now looks all the better for it!

“We first identified a set of reliable and relevant local vendors to stabilise our supply-chain and logistics. We also identified the do's and dont's for the company. For example, we wanted to minimise our carbon footprint as a company and as individuals as much as possible and use local vendors only. We treated the first six months as a pilot period, studying our target audience and market readiness for our concept,” said the team.

The MSB team waves their sunny wand in three steps: a site visit and consultation, garden design and execution. The team says, “Any space that receives even the tiniest bit of sunlight is a potential MySunnyBalcony space: a tiny unusable patch outside your front door, an ugly terrace on your roof, or even a back balcony in your high rise apartment. It doesn’t matter how high up or small your space is, we’ll work with it. We’ll also tell you what you can do and what you can’t. You’ll be surprised at the immense number of green possibilities that even a tiny space can hold!”

With many takers in the city, the gardens have spilled over from the balconies and branched out to cover corporate spaces and regular home gardens. They also have ‘Gift a Garden’ packages, customised potted plants and garden accessories for sale. Their mission extends beyond prettifying gardens and they can help you set up organic vegetable gardens in today’s space-challenged urban homes. Those who are up for DIY projects can learn the ropes at one of their Urban Gardening workshops. MSB currently offers online consultation for outstation clients and plan to expand their services in other cities too.

By Anuradha Prasad/ Raintree Media Features/

Read the story on the Goa Herald on the link below:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Where have all the letters gone?

“Pyaari Asha” begins, what else, but a love letter that set me off on a rambling walk down nostalgia lane.

Picturised on the beauteous Rakhee and Dharmendra, “Pal pal dil ke paas tum rehti ho” is a sweet song with a lilting melody composed by Kalyanji Anandji and sung by Kishore Kumar. I am particular about ensuring that due credit is given to the lyricist and I call my musician friend Ram Nagaraj to confirm that it was penned by Rajendra Krishan; Ram insists that the director should also get kudos for the picturisation and I am happy to include the name of Vijay Anand.

I came upon this song on TV and while watching Rakhee blushingly pick up the letter to read it over and over again, I was struck by the notion that letters written by hand, with ink on paper, seem more romantic.

It’s not the medium but the message, you might counter. After all, won’t the same words have the same significance whether you read it on paper or on a gadget?

We preserve emails and text messages too, don’t we? Hoard the nice ones, the funny ones, the naughty ones and especially the romantic lines to re-read? But honestly, when was the last time you scrolled down your messages to retrieve a feel-good message? The only time that I search through the folders is to locate a business mail.

We have all gone the e-way with wishes and condolences. I appreciate the ability to connect with friends and acquaintances across the world who send me good wishes. Emails and text messages seem a tad cold in comparison. They are brilliant for work, I could not think of going back to the days before instant communications.

My smartphone gives me inexpensive and constant access to people. Somehow, I feel that it has deprived us of the ability to truly connect. We spend so much time chatting on social networks and phones, that when we do meet people, we are unable to talk. Instant access is fun but not deeply meaningful.

Once in a while, while rummaging for something, I come across a hand-written note and I sink into the wonder of the moment. How vividly and warmly the memories come back!

And while I’m writing about letters, I have to add that my friend Prathibha Prahlad, the bold and beautiful danseuse, was recently honoured with the release of a Rs.5 stamp with her face on it.

Prathibha Prahlad's stamp

Winner of the Sangeet Natak Akademi for Bharatanatyam, she was pleasantly surprised when as a guest at a philately exhibition organised by Indian Postal Department in New Delhi, she was asked to release her own stamp. Prathibha is busy organising the Delhi International Arts Festival but more about that another day.

“The stamps are going to sell out now”, I teased my friend even as it struck me that I have not written a letter for ever so long. I must confess that I can’t recall when I last visited a post office or even the location of the nearest postbox.

I would love to know your views, so feel free to write to me; I would not mind an email either.

- Sandhya Mendonca (Sandhya Mendonca writes a weekly column for the Herald Goa)

Read the story on the Goa Herald on the link below: 

Drum Maaro Drum

Bringing a smile on everyone’s face to the rhythmic beat of drums gives Vasundhara Das and Roberto Narain, partners at Drumjam, an inexplicable high

Singer and actor Vasundhara Das and percussionist and drummer Roberto Narain who started Drumjam in 2006 find that the magic they weave with their music is drawing people from far and wide.

When Narain started Drumjam, it was often mistaken for a jam making company, a far cry from the exhilarating drum circles that Narain facilitates. He says, “With 300 drums then to 20,000 drums now, it’s been a gratifying journey. We have performed across India, from Ladakh to Kerala. We hold events for corporates helping them in icebreaking, celebrating, communicating, unifying, healing or just having fun over drumbeats.”

Narain facilitates a DrumJam session
“Vasundhara is objective about things and has an analytical mind. She works on backend monitoring, coordinating the logistics at office and revamping our website. Though there is no fixed or defined role for either of us, we both know that one will fill in for the other whenever required. It’s a relief to know if I fall sick or want to take a break, the show will go on,” avers the Italian-born, Bangalore boy about his partner.

Narain adds, “She gives a different perspective on how I look at things by bringing valuable inputs to the table. In terms of visibility, Vasundhara is more of a people’s person. I'm the frontrunner when it comes to drumming, and she helps in coordinating with the marketing and administration, but each of us is involved at every step.”

Vasundhara Das
Das shares, “I partnered with Roberto to share my love for music with more people, no matter what age, language, religion, demographics they are from. Drumming together is a way to share our gift of music.

Five years back when he started the company we took some equipment on hire. The event turned out beautiful and we decided to make it bigger. A common refrain post every Drumjam session is the jaw-breaking smile on everyone’s face.”

“This was a path that no one had trodden before, so there wasn’t something that we could learn from. People have done it overseas, but not here. Roberto was initially confident of acquiring a lot of drums and I wanted to give it more time. I wanted to maximise and build on what we already had. But he had visions of growth,” said Das.

“At any concert I spend two hours on sound check and ironing out the technical issues. I look at logistics and handle paper work, making sure the right equipment goes to the right place, handle event coordination, check if all the teams are in place and talk to them at all levels. We do everything it takes to make a Drumjam event successful,” says Das who has acted in movies like ‘Hey Ram’ and ‘Monsoon Wedding’.

Narain and Das at a DrumJam event
Back after a facilitation training in Hawaii, with the godfather of drumming, Arthur Hill, a first for Das and the second for Narain, the drumming duo are elated and energised from their stress-free sessions. “I went to Hawaii for my facilitation in August this year and it was a very deep experience. We learnt about ourselves through a lot of drumming and singing. We also took out time for snorkelling and surfing,” gushes Das in her soft and fluid voice.

It is not an easy job, so what keeps them going? Das explains, “At the end of the day when we see hundreds of smiling faces after every event, we know everything was worth it. The most common feeling is instant gratification. And that’s why we plan to take Drumjam to as many people as possible,” says Das.

Agrees Narain, “We are now expanding to form community drumming which is therapeutic. We will soon take drumming to schools and colleges.”

By Namita Gupta/ Raintree Media Features/

Read the story on Goa Herald on the link below: 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Clash of the Titans

Rohini Nilekani’s ‘Uncommon Ground: Dialogues with Business and Social Leaders’ roots for more discourses within civil society on critical issues in the country

No, there was no explosive action with guns or swords but an intense exchange of ideas and perspectives that an audience of over 200 listened to in rapt attention in the sublime setting of the Taj West End dripping with chandeliers that hosted the launch of Rohini Nilekani’s new book, ‘Uncommon Ground: Dialogues with Business and Social Leaders.’

Nilekani wears many hats. She is a noted philanthropist, journalist, author and social activist. She founded and chairs Pratham Books which strives to cultivate the habit of reading in children. She also chairs Arghyam which has been set up to improve access to water and to ensure that the process is environmentally sustainable. Married to Nandan Nilekani, Chairman of Unique Identification Authority of India and the former CEO of Infosys, her exposure to the corporate world and its workings combined with her own experience as a journalist and social activist, have given her valuable insights that paved the way for ‘Uncommon Ground’. 

Rohini Nilekani's Uncommon Ground book launch

Her show Uncommon Ground was aired on NDTV back in 2008 in eight episodes and the groundbreaking conversations between eminent industrialists and social activists like Mukesh Ambani, Sunita Narain, Sunil Mittal, Medha Patkar, Suman Sahai from the TV show has now culminated in a book published by Penguin Books India. Each of the thought-provoking discussions is preceded by an insightful introduction penned by Nilekani.

Nilekani says about her motivation to initiate these dialogues, “Uncommon Ground has emerged from my experience as a journalist, from my knowledge of the corporate sector as Nandan’s wife and also from the direct work in the social sector that I have been involved in over the years. It seemed to me that there were too many elements in our society that simply did not interact.”

At the launch of the book on October 13 at the Taj West End, Nilekani moderated a discussion between Jayant Sinha, Managing Director of Omidyar Network and Harish Hande, the Managing Director of Selco India and winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award 2011 for his work in solar technology. The discussion debated a range of issues such as philanthropy and whether it is distorting the market for the poor.

Jayant Sinha (L), Rohini Nilekani (C), Harish Hande (R)

Nilekani spoke about the need for people to distinguish between being citizens and being consumers; she stressed the need for people to be more of a citizen than a consumer who merely demands and ask ourselves what we do and how does it impact others.

“The onus always comes back to us,” she added.

Platforms such as Uncommon Ground are catalysts in the process of national development, provoking questions and ideas that when transformed into action leads to a better way of life. And as to how Nilekani plans to keep the dialogues going, one has to wait and watch.

By Anuradha Prasad/ Raintree Media Features/

Read the story on the Goa Herald on the link below -

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Flavours of Fava

Popular fine dining hotspot Fava invites Bangaloreans to sample its Mediterranean Diet Lunch Buffet that promises to leave them asking for more

UB City Mall, a regular haunt for Bangalore’s young and hip crowd, is choc-a-bloc with open air eateries styled after European street cafés. Among the popular ones is Fava which attracts foodies not just for its delicious spreads but also for its warm and inviting ambience. Climb up the steps leading to this Mediterranean themed restaurant and you have a feast of delectable food to dig into!

Winner of the ‘Best New Restaurant Award, Lovers Food Guide, 2011’, Fava was established in January 2010 by the Avant Garde Hospitality Pvt Ltd (AGH), which kickstarted in 2008 in Bangalore with Abhijit Saha and Shruti Shibulal at the helm. AGH’s core business interests lie in Restaurants, Catering and F&B Consulting. A handpicked team of well-trained and highly skilled food and beverage professionals at AGH are responsible for the delivery of world class products and services. The menu at the ‘The Mediterranean Diet’ Lunch Buffet, that captures the exquisite Mediterranean flavours, is an instance of their expertise and discerning taste.

The buffet is inspired by the eating habits in the Mediterranean region which is known to be one of the healthiest ways of eating in the world. Mediterranean cuisine relies heavily on natural, unprocessed food. It stresses on the consumption of olive oil (which is their primary source of dietary fat), fresh produce, seafood and nuts, and bread and pasta while limiting meat intake. And just eating the right food is not enough, you also need to know what to avoid. These include artificial products, processed food and foods containing trans-fat. But what-not-to-eat is far from your mind, as you eye the healthy yet tempting spread before you.

The mouth-watering lunch at Fava incorporates these principles and offers healthy salads, dressings, fresh fruits, vegetables and a variety of mezzes. Cold cuts, cheese platter, assorted baked breads and soups further make up the spread. The meal ends with a selection of scrumptious desserts.

Vegetarian options for the main course include tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil panini, six-inch spinach, gorgonzola, haloumi, mozzarella and parmesan pizza, and vegetable tagine with steamed rice, while non-vegetarian offerings include chermoula grilled white basa with ratatouille, and capers and pesto. Vegetarians can also help themselves to a plate of grilled cottage cheese steak with picada marinade and grilled vegetables. If meat makes you drool, try the the six-inch chicken, shallots, garlic and pistachio pizza. If this doesn’t convince you, there is also a 1+1 offer on all Four Seasons wines.

Chef Saha
Chef Saha says, “The diet in the Mediterranean regions is healthy and light. They use fresh and healthy ingredients like olive oil and herbs, making it ideal for a working lunch. Our lunch buffet leaves you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.”

By Aditya Mendonca/ Raintree Media Features/

You can read the story on Goa Herald on the link below:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pedalling Onward!

Bangalore cyclists get a double shot of adrenaline – a ride with biking legend Hans Rey and India’s first bike store-cum-café

On a nippy October morning, a bunch of cyclists in Bangalore roused themselves with an itch to pedal. The occasion was a Hans Rey ride, courtesy Track & Trail.

A legend among mountain biking enthusiasts, the German-born Rey led motley groups of cyclists in three cities, including Pune and Delhi, throwing in enough tricks to wow the crowd and kept them, err, ‘hopping’ long after, as one participant Aman Puri put it, after learning the bunny hop. Another participant, Dhawal Patil says, “I rode the unridable (sic) with Hans Rey. It was truly biking and beyond.”

Han Rey in the lead
Rey closed the rides with a workshop and let the crew in on the tricks of his trade, his experiences as a professional cyclist and how he came to be one. “This was my first visit to India and I had a wonderful time in Roopkund doing downhill mountain biking. My rides with Track & Trail across Delhi, Pune and Bangalore gave me an interesting flavour of India and the evolution of cycling in the country. I was amazed to see the number of serious cyclists, and the kind of cycle stores here - some of the best in the world, including the newly opened café in Bangalore. India has huge potential for cycling, even mountain biking. In Bangalore, I found a perfect granite slab to show some of my skills,” said Rey on his India visit.

Cyclists with Hans Rey (in the centre)
In Bangalore, Rey also unveiled the first concept store of its kind in India, ‘Coffee & Cycles’ by Track & Trail. Track & Trail, owned by TI Cycles (part of the Murugappa Group), showcases performance bikes, sleek and built to thrill. Rajesh Mani, GM – Marketing, TI Cycles of India says, “We are proud to be the first Indian company to launch a brand concept store like Coffee & Cycles in India which will provide a meeting point for cycling enthusiasts and veterans to come together and share their experiences, expertise and explorations over a hot cuppa.”

Talking cycles over coffee
 The store, located in Koramangala, has a range of international brands like GT, Bianchi, Cannondale, Schwinn as well their own brand, Montra, which are hybrid road focussed bikes. You can take your pick from All Terrain Bikes, Mountain Terrain Bikes, Road Bikes and Hybrids, and take them out for a test ride if you please. Hybrids are ideal for commuting on city roads. The spacious store also services bikes, sells accessories, has a bike rental option for corporates and organises cycling rallies. There is coffee and snacks and biking magazines to flip through. “It’s a wonderful environment to wait in while my bike is fixed,” Dinesh Kumar from Chennai said of the place.

Coffee & Cycles
The timing for Coffee & Cycles store could not have been better. Cyclists, once thought to be a dying breed, have made a tentative comeback and are slowly multiplying in numbers. Environmentally aware, or simply for the sheer pleasure of working up a sweat, people are opting for the eco-friendly cycles. In fact, Bangalore can soon look forward to dedicated tracks for cyclists. Elsewhere in the world, specifically in Amsterdam, where cycles outnumber the population, cycle chic is all the rage.

Rey sums it up, “Track & Trail epitomises the cycling lifestyle, unwinding and pursuing the thrills of a ride on some of the world’s best machines and there’s nothing quite like a blend of bicycles, coffee and conversation to rev up and enjoy the ride.” Amen to that!

By Anuradha Prasad/ Raintree Media Features/

Read the story on the Goa Herald on the link below - 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Of people and places

We have been criss-crossing the country for a publishing project; from Chennai and Puducherry to Ahmedabad with quick dashes to Goa and Mumbai. With more visits on the anvil, we keep our bags ready to go at short notice.

After a day of meetings, I like to walk around whichever city we are in, taking in the pulse of the place. People-watching is fascinating, not so much at airports or coffee shops – such places have a tendency to impose a homogeneity on their users. Observing a variety of people as they bustle about their business can tell us much about the nature of a city.

So it is that Chennai immediately gives a visitor the impression that it means business. Never mind the merciless glare of the sun, Chennaites are up and about, clear and confident about their work. In Ahmedabad, my colleague who hails from Sikkim, made a telling observation: she turned the tap on in the bathroom and the rush of water gave her the feeling that we were in a prosperous place.

We are a hospitable country but degrees of hospitality vary; in restaurants in Gujarat, the waiters exude friendly service without servility; in the southern states, there’s a take-it-or-leave -it attitude, in Delhi it verges from unctuousness to hauteur.

The experience of setting-up meetings reveals a lot about a business and its culture. It’s not as much the size of the company but the attitude of the people that makes a difference. If people respect their own work and time, they respect that of others. We sometimes find executives of big companies in cities like Mumbai displaying arrogance and aggression. Perhaps these are valuable traits and precisely what their bosses want from them to build their business. But when it is completely at variance with the carefully cultivated brand image of the company, it is a rude jolt. Fortunately such experiences are few and we have mostly good experiences with businesses run by people who are as interesting as the businesses they own or manage.

Beach Road, Puducherry
The attitude of the governments in various states comes across not just in the grand and expensive projects but also in small measures. Simply by banning movement of traffic in the evenings along the beachfront boulevard of the Beach Road, the government of Puducherry has won the hearts of locals and tourists. Now if only the tourists can keep their voices down, it would be a wonderful gesture of respect to the locals and to the magnificent Bay of Bengal.

I am writing this column from the patio of the wonderful Windflower resort in Puducherry; the beach is about a kilometre away but I can see it from where I am. There’s a stretch of backwater and the resort plans to take visitors across to the beach in modern catamarans but for now I trek alongside a fishing village to the sea and a stretch of clean, soft sand.

Fishermen casting their net in Puducherry
This is a rarity in itself as most beaches in Pondicherry are hard and rocky. There are a few fishermen, waiting patiently to cast their nets at the outcrop where the waves break. Tirelessly, they repeat their actions and I am caught up in the unhurried pace and absolute peace of the moment.

What impresses me most is the cleanliness of the place. There are no leftovers from picnics, no residue of fuel washing up to the shore from water scooters or ATVs. I say a fervent prayer for this place to stay as it is.

- Sandhya Mendonca (Sandhya Mendonca writes a weekly column for the Herald Goa)
View the story on the Goa Herald on the link below: 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Amber glows from a wanderlust duo

Amber Artefacts is more than just a curio gift shop; this cosy little store, tucked just off the quiet Haudin Road in Ulsoor, is also a repository of cherished memories, experiences and anecdotes of the owners’ extensive globetrotting – from the West to the Far East – over the years.

Jeanne Saldanha and Lalita Shahani 
Be it the colourful puppets from Thailand and Cambodia or the wooden figurines from Shantiniketan or the handcrafted leather-and-beadwork sandal from Africa, every corner of Amber exudes the romance of far-off shores.

Lalita Shahani and Jeanne Saldanha started Amber nine years ago at the Galleria of the Leela Palace Hotel – a location which saw it become a major hit with foreign visitors. It shifted recently to a central location “to be more accessible to everybody,” Lalita explains.

Lara Jewellery
A wide array of exquisite hand-crafted jewellery designed by Lalita, is literally the jewel in Amber’s crown. Delicately crafted from semi-precious stones, silver and gold, the necklaces, chokers, earrings, bracelets and rings are sold under the brand name ‘Lara’ and have customers swooning over their fabulous designs and careful detailing.

“I have been designing jewellery for the last thirty years. It’s my passion. I would buy the beads and put them together and every week, I’d break it and mix-and-match to come up with something different. Lara began as a hobby, then I started making it for friends and now it has grown into a business. Apart from Amber, I also supply to stores in North India,” says Lalita.

Silk Shawls and Stoles
Teaming up with Jeanne, an interior designer, made perfect sense. Friends for the last 20 years, the women went on to become business partners as well with this venture. Says Jeanne, “Amber is our fun thing. We both love travelling and we pack our bags at least twice a year – for business and pleasure.”

Lalita agrees: “Every place has something interesting to offer and we are always looking for different things. So we make sure that we visit a new place each time. If we find something we like, we bring it back. If not, then we just have a good holiday and come back!”

Puppets from the Far East 
“Each time we travel, we introduce a new product to Amber. So for the regular customer, there is always something new to look forward to,” adds Jeanne.

Most of the products here are hand-made – such as the leather-and-beadwork sandals which are hand-crafted by tribes in Africa, along with incense, candles, stationary, leather goods, puppets, wind chimes and hangings and wooden figurines.

Amber also retails apparels and accessories from the house of ‘Christina’, a Mumbai-based design label. In fact, Amber is the only store in Bangalore which stocks ‘Christina’ – from cotton and silk shirts and kurtis to shawls, stoles, handbags, evening bags, travel bags and wallets.

Amber is also the exclusive retail outlet for English designer, Emily Shoehorn’s handbags in Bangalore.

By Remuna Rai/ Raintree Media Features/

Read the story on the Goa Herald on the link below -

Monday, October 10, 2011

Silk gazing

Have you ever wondered if you are buying genuine silk? Thanks to the government’s Silk Mark initiative, you may now no longer need to raise an eyebrow when you go shopping this festive season

The six-yard saga of the multifaceted wonder fabric is deep rooted in our Indian tradition and has evolved with every generation. When the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India received numerous petitions from consumers and traders for a mechanism to control malpractices that marred the industry, the ministry thought it appropriate to introduce Silk Mark which was subsequently launched in 2004.

Like gold, the purity of silk cannot be identified by the common man and this is used by unscrupulous traders to fleece unsuspecting consumers. Artificial silk mainly comprises of man-made fibres like viscose, polyester or nylon, and is several times cheaper than natural silk. Often these cheaper materials are passed on to consumers as pure silk, depriving the consumer of the real value for money.

The quality assurance of Silk Mark promises to ensure and protect the interest of silk consumers and genuine silk traders, and also promotes silk.

However, its progress and implementation, as with many government initiatives, has been slow yet steady nonetheless. “In 2004-05, Silk Mark was able to register 131 members, whereas in 2010-11, we had 302 members. The Silk Mark label distribution went up from 5.62 lakh in 2004-05 to 27.64 lakh in 2010-11. Since its introduction till March 2011, around 1775 members have been registered and 118.73 lakh labels have been distributed all over India,” affirms Sivakumar T, Executive, Silk Mark Organisation of India.

He adds, “Silk Mark has also diversified its activities. We organise expos across the country, assist in the branding of Indian silk internationally, and help manufacturers on a technical level to improve and innovate products and designs.”

Besides the series of expos every year, it also offers The Great Indian Silk Mark Festival 2011 which is at present drawing in shoppers. Highlights of the shopping festival are gifts for consumers through a lucky draw and fashion shows for married women.
Are you sure it’s silk?
So how does Silk Mark work? “The authorised users at the time of registration enter into an agreement with Silk Mark - this ensures that they adhere to the conditions laid out and are trained to identify silk before registration. The officials make periodic visits to ensure that they use the labels in the right manner. There is a strict surveillance by reputed third parties to spot erring users and take appropriate actions. Consumers are also encouraged to bring the silk fabric for testing to verify if it is pure. During the festival season, mobile vans with testing facilities visit various shopping clusters and consumers can use these facilities easily. All Silk Mark Expos will have a testing lab set up for consumers’ convenience where they can even test their old sarees and dresses to ensure their purity. The testing is done free of cost to encourage consumers to utilise these facilities in large numbers,” explains Sivakumar.

He adds, “More than 200 authorised users are registered in Bangalore alone, of which, about 150 authorised users are retailers who own showrooms. The rest are exporters, manufacturers and wholesale traders. They procure the Silk Mark Labels from us, priced at Rs 2, but which does not reflect in the selling price of the product.”

With an array of exotic varieties to choose from, silk remains one of the most sought-after fabrics and Silk Mark comes as a bright ray of hope for consumers who can now be confident of buying the real deal.

Happy Shopping!

- Namita Gupta/Raintree Media Features/

Read the story on the Goa Herald on the link below - 

Friday, October 07, 2011

BEST OF INDIA: Celebrating success & sustainability

Global Village Publications India announces the first edition of BEST OF INDIA, an elegant coffee table book which showcases the economic and cultural dynamism of India.
An international business atlas in a coffee table format, the BEST OF series of books are published by the GVP network in 35 countries. The books celebrate the success of renowned companies and are distributed across our global network.

The BEST OF INDIA is one of the most prestigious publishing projects ever undertaken in the country. It highlights the best in business and lifestyle and will map the remarkable success stories of brands through beautiful visuals and insightful articles.
BEST OF INDIA is a definitive guide to the region’s finest in tourism, leisure, hospitality, lifestyle, luxury and commerce. A business atlas as much as a vital coffee table presence, the book reaches top companies and opinion makers across the international network.
This elegant book is an ideal corporate gift and resourceful marketing collateral that showcases the major businesses and institutions of this region in their best light.

BEST OF INDIA is the ideal calling card for investors, tourists and the media, and is designed to create interest in any forum - trade fairs, road shows and international events.

In addition to the print edition, featured companies and institutions get enhanced Epresence via the ebook and gvpedia’s global directory of BEST companies in the world. (

Trade organisations like the WTC which are very active in Europe and Africa have partnered with GVP in the BEST OF books in their regions. GVP in South Africa is gearing up for the upcoming WTC sponsored Future Trade Africa Expo (please see link below).

GVPI is pursuing similar partnerships in India with prominent industry bodies.

GVPI invites you to join the elite list of companies who feature in the BEST OF INDIA and be the best among the best.

About Global Village Publications India

Global Village Publications India publishes the BEST OF books in India under license from Global Village Partnerships, Dubai. The company develops international business networks by celebrating the success of companies in 30 territories across the world.
GVPI has published three books in the series in India: BEST OF BANGALORE, BEST OF GOA and BEST OF CHENNAI. These books have been duly recognised as the perfect representation of the cities’ best names.
The BEST OF series in India

Praise for the BEST OF Series:


“Bangalore is about human capital. This book focuses attention on this very special city”, Ms. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairperson & MD, Biocon

“BEST OF BANGALORE is an excellent book and captures very accurately what makes Bangalore unique - young, aspirational, meritocratic and truly the Intellectual Capital of India. This is an outstanding book”, Mr. Nandan Nilekani, Chairperson, Aadhar (Unique Identification Authority of India)

“The book’s a brand ambassador for the city”, India Today


“BEST OF GOA is enlightening and just what Goa needs”, Mr. Nick H Israel, GM, Taj Fort Aguada

“BEST OF GOA covers the nuances that give the state its exceptional quality”, Navhind Times

“Here we have a high-end book by a sensitive group of persons….it not only transmits the flavour of Goa to the reader but also eloquently expresses the richness of its culture and its society….” , The Herald


“BEST OF CHENNAI - Vol 1 captures the essence of the city through articles and photographs” , The Hindu

“This is something I would be happy to buy and distribute among my friends, especially when I travel overseas. It would be a nice way for my friends from overseas to get to know about my city Chennai.” Ramesh Krishnan, legendary tennis champion.

“The book looks very unique and shows some of the best pictures of Chennai all put together in one book”, Mr. Andrew Simkin, Consul General, US Consulate.

Nandan Nilekani, technocrat
Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat
Margaret Alva (L), Governor of Uttarakhand
Dr HR Bhardwaj, Governor of Karnataka

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

A Foreign Affair with Sandeep Chowta

I am in Ahmedabad – a tad tired after a day of meetings at IIMA and with Chief Minister Narendra Modi- when an old friend calls with interesting news from afar. Coming from Bangalore where we have had a spate of power outages, Ahmedabad with its 24-hour power supply, seems like a foreign land indeed. Its clean and good roads are enough to get me to wax lyrical after the potholed ridden nightmarish traffic we endure back home.
Right now though the foreign affair that I’m referring to is the album that my friend Sandeep Chowta has co-produced with the legendary American jazz fusion band Spyro Gyra. A foreign affair has debuted at number two on the Billboard Jazz world charts, which is probably a first for any Indian musician. It is currently charting eighth on the world’s premier music publication.
Sandeep Chowta

Originally from Bangalore, Mumbai-based Sandeep is better known for the dozens of background scores he has composed for Bollywood films including Om Shanti Om, Satya and the more recent Not a love story. He’s also scored the music for umpteen Telugu films, for films featuring leading men like Nagarajuna.
A self-taught musician, this son of a rich family found it hard to get anyone to take him seriously at first. But he persevered. Having watched at close quarters his early efforts at composing, I have come to admire the single-minded dedication he displays to his career. Much like the successful Gujaratis from here.
Sandeep Chowta with Spyro Gyra leader, Jay Beckenstein
Spyro Gyra’s founding leader, alto saxophonist and songwriter Jay Beckenstein  says, “Tom Schuman (keyboardist) had worked with Sandeep Chowta long distance over the net and then I did some work for Sandeep. We were very impressed with what he was doing, so when we decided to take the record in this direction, Sandeep was a perfect gateway into Indian music for us. It was natural to ask Sandeep to contribute to A Foreign Affair.”

Here is what the band says about Sandeep’s song Khuda which is part of the album,  “Khudaannounces itself immediately as the most obvious departure on the record with its intro. It’s probably the first time a Western group has released a song with lyrics entirely in Hindi”.
Sandeep spent seven months in Toronto for the recordings and the album takes us on a journey across the world; from the reggae beat of Caribe, to the sounds of Trinidad in Sweet Ole Thang which is a Calypso flavored, steel pan band party rave-up. Next is a piece of world music funk with Middle Eastern scales. Shinjuku offers a taste of modern Tokyo while Samba For Two and Canção de Ninar, take us to Brazil familiar in Spyro Gyra’s music. South Africa is present with Dancing On Table Mountain and the Last Call is sung by Grammy winning blues great Keb Mo’.
Collaborating with legendary jazz musicians is not something new for Sandeep; he’s earlier produced Matters of the Heart, featuring modern jazz icons like Dave Grusin, Lee Ritenour, Scott Henderson, Bunny Brunel, Virgil Donati, Dave Weckl, as well as members of Spyro Gyra, The Yellowjackets and Fourplay. He’s organised gigs in India such as the Bunny Brunel All Stars in 2006, with Virgil Donati, Frank Gambale and Mitch Forman.
As the strains of the garba music play out around me on the streets, Sandeep and I reminisce about the long way path he’s travelled from his first album Pulse. He reminds me that I was the first journalist to write about him all those years ago!
- Sandhya Mendonca (Sandhya Mendonca writes a weekly column for the Herald Goa)
View the story in the Hearld on the link below:

Monday, October 03, 2011

Rev, Burn Out and Vroom ….

Hamilton burns rubber in Bangalore, ahead of the Indian Grand Prix next month 

Mclaren F1 British champion, Lewis Hamilton left Bangalore fans in awe, as he burnt rubber on the outskirts of Bangalore’s NICE (Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise) road. 
Hamilton in his F1 Mclaren on Bangalore's NICE Road
Driving his 2008 winning Formula 1 Mclaren car on a curved, almost quarter-mile track and performing doughnuts and high speed burnouts, he got the 60,000-plus crowd up on their feet instantly. The venue proved too small for the hundreds of fans bursting onto the barricades. 

The action lasted not more than an hour in the Formula 1 car - MP4-23, and then onto an AMG C-Class and an SL-63 AMG, Hamilton also treated a couple of sponsor Vodafone contest winners and select celebrities on the fast lane for a few hot laps, demonstrating his extraordinary racing skill and expertise behind the wheel with ease. 
On the hot, humid Tuesday morning, within seconds of leaving the pit garage, Hamilton was cheered on by the crowd, accelerating and racing the car to the other end, leaving the crowd stunned by the F1 car’s engine and sound. Bangalore got an appetiser of what’s to come at the end of October at Noida’s F1 circuit. 

As thousands of fans missed his first F1 demo due to an incredible traffic pile up, rush and chaos outside the venue, a very sporty, enthusiastic Lewis agreed to do another round of showing his skills, adrenaline and the pure brute power of his car for the ever-growing crowd that had broken barriers to cause a mini stampede outside. 
The fans who turned out in hordes
On his maiden visit to Bangalore, Hamilton who is currently fifth in the F1 driver’s standings is here on a promotional event ahead of the Indian Grand Prix. He is no stranger to India though, having previously visited New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. This is his fourth visit to the country. 
Hamilton greets the surging crowd
With the first ever Indian Grand Prix all set to be held next month, on October 28-30 at Greater Noida near New Delhi, F1 excitement gripped the die-hard motor sports fans of all ages, who came to the venue in droves for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness a racing superstar and an F1 car. 
The next team to visit India will be the Red Bull Racing on October 1 at Delhi’s Rajpath. 

So India, be ready for some adrenaline-pumping, high–speed car racing entertainment. 

- Aditya Mendonca/Raintree Media Features /

Howzzat! Cricket goes hip-hopping

CL T20 Opening Ceremony kicked off with a bang last week.

A day prior to the big-ticket event, Bangalore rapped, not just with the big stars of Champions league, but to the tunes of modern hip hop giants, Jay Sean, Ludacris and Flo Rida. The men behind mega hits like “Get Back”, “Right Round” and “Down” brought an assault of brilliant rhymes and beats to the Bangalore Palace on September 22. 
Flo Rida and Ludacris perform at the event
While Flo Rida and Jay Sean have toured India in the past (Jay Sean recently completed a four-city tour), it was the first gig for Ludacris and his DJs in the country - also a reassuring reminder that he’s not all about drifting these days.

As the sun went down, the evening came alive to the sounds of the three new-age artists with the crowd swinging to all the best hits that they had to offer. 
Jay Sean
Jay Sean got the crowd going with his amazing voice and beat box skills; he sang all his hits, from “Down” and “Soniye” to “2012 (It Ain’t the End)”.

Grammy winning Ludacris’ performance was action-packed with hits like “Splash Waterfalls”, “How Low”, “My Chick Bad”, “Hit ’em” and “What Them Girls Like”.

Flo Rida ended the concert with all his top hits like “Right Round”, “Low”, “Elevator”, “Sugar in the Ayer”, and his latest single “Good Feeling”.

The cricketing touch to the proceedings were provided by the captains of the ten participating teams, who walked up on stage and signed the ‘Spirit of Cricket Declaration’, signaling the start to the tournament. While the RCB boys got a loud cheer from the home crowd, MS Dhoni’s presence on stage got the crowd into an electric pace.

It was a mix crowd of over 4000, including cricket fans and music lovers that attended the concert. Here’s what some of the fans had to say:

Akshita Luthria, student, “The concert was brilliant and Jay Sean and Flo Rida were just amazing”.

Sahil Wahid, travel entrepreneur, “It had a different vibe, pretty good for an opening ceremony, perfect for Bangalore”.

Shazeen Javed, “I am glad that we got to hear the tunes of some of hip-hop’s biggest names”.
- Aditya Mendonca/ Raintree Media Features/ 

A high five from Innovate Publishers

If you needed to meet the most brilliant minds in Bengaluru, well, you had to be at the Innovate Bengaluru Festival on 11/4/19, at WeWor...