Category Archives: Destinations

From “Made-in-China” to “Make-in-India”

From “Made-in-China” to “Make-in-India”

The Journey may be arduous but achievable as we Indians have it in us!

All these talks about “Chinese goods” rather ‘Ban Chinese Goods” in our country took me several years back when I had first brush with China and its industry. Probably the year was 2003, so nearly 17 years down the line…

I couldn’t resist sharing the experience with you considering the current scenario. I was part of the “International Journalist Delegation” representing “Indian Textile industry” for a summit in Hong Kong. This was probably the third time I was on a trip to HK, I loved going back to HK for some obvious reasons. It is truly a world city, very developed, very modern, very friendly, connected by a canal, metros, transit and unlimited shopping options. I visited ladies market Mong – Kong sometimes twice a day to shop to my heart’s content. I shopped, till I dropped…literally!

But this trip was different, as I had to take along very pertinent and important stories back home responsibly and not just the shopped stuff for the family. The change was too much to handle but writing & shopping are my equal passions. There were journalists (read Editors, I was Executive Editor for Apparel / Textile Magazine) from the U.S. U.K. Europe, Germany, Taiwan, Korea etc. and it was an experience of its kind amidst so many gems. It was during this trip that we were taken to Guangzhou, in China for some textile factory visit. It was very enlightening and interesting trip. We were briefed about the place and we set out for the journey after having meals in the floating restaurant. Though it was not that I had not seen textile hubs in India but this was certainly going to be different, much, much different.

Guangzhou appeared to be very neat, clean, green and developed, it set me thinking, I wish we had a place like this in India. The expression ran on my face, but we had to move on with our job. The roads, the flyovers, the shopping malls, commercial complexes were too much, whereas I thought it would be somewhere close to our humble Surat or at best Coimbatore…but I was like Alice in Wonderland.

Besides, being a major textile manufacturing hub, which supplies textile to the world, Guangzhou is a well-known wholesale market too. I came to know that most of the Indian companies shop from here especially fabrics and accessories. The place has many fabulous varieties to boot and you can find a phenomenal range of designs and patterns of fabrics like cotton, polyester, velvet, and microfibers fabrics. The stunning selection of fabrics is being used to produce magnificent apparel and garments by major brands of the world. Except for this, the market consists of home textile things as well.

My objective is not to glorify this, but that time my mind was synching for a variety of stories which I am going to share in India. The manufacturing plants are stupendously big, beyond comprehension and look-through not achievable in a single day. The workers on the shop floor didn’t even flutter their eye even when a strong team of nearly 20 foreigners walked in. I noticed this! Their scale of operation is quite big, the plant was spic and span, huge work-force, surrounded by greenery, indoor plants what to say of machinery, plant and products that were being churned out. Every aspect was worthy of praise and story…

Years later, when I visited Walmart in Toronto, Canada what I noticed was astonishing. Every second shelf was full of Chinese goods, the impression of China was rampant. This was the year 2004. After having some great time in Walmart, I came out and told my husband, “China will take over every country, everybody, all over the world, it would be all things Chinese if we don’t give up the lure of Chinese goods,” Was it a prophecy? Can’t say but my words turned out so true. Every country on the planet has exposure in China, which makes China, CHINA!  which it is thriving.

But on the back of mind was trip to Hong Kong and Guangzhou, I had all the reasons to support my argument.

It’s very pleasant to hear that we are talking about “Atm Nirbhar Bharat” but we have a long way to travel to achieve that.

Believe me, it would be worth it!




JLF, DAY 2: Impressive line up of literary events, stimulating talks!

Day two of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 kept up the momentum set so effectively on the eventful first day. There was tremendous diversity in sessions, speakers, and themes in the programming of the day. “Morning Music” on the 2nd day of the Festival was performed by acclaimed classical Carnatic veena artist Vidushi Saraswati Rajagopalan. She began her set with Raga Saraswati – an ode to Goddess Saraswati, the patron deity of music, art and literature, which was an appropriate beginning to the second day of one of the world’s grandest literature festivals.


In conversation with editor Sudha Sadanand, the acclaimed vocalist Shubha Mudgal read from and spoke about her debut collection of short stories, Looking for Miss Sargam, and the traditions, realities and contradictions that a musician typically straddles and set them against the realities of her own narratives.

Francesca Cartier Brickell, a direct descendant of the Cartier family, has recently published a book titled The Cartiers: The Untold Story of the Family Behind the Jewellery Empire. Her book launch was conducted at the NEXA Front Lawn of the Diggi Palace at the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 and the session was anchored by Editor-in-Chief of Literary Publishing of Penguin Random House India, Meru Gokhale. The book was launched by Diya Kumari, Member of Parliament.

Speaking at the session Diya Kumari said, “It is an absolute pleasure and an honour to be here at the launch of the book The Cartiers. The family name is synonymous with outstanding craftsmanship, creativity and a long history with numerous royal families, including mine. And I’d like to thank everyone associated with the book to have invited me here. I am looking forward to reading what I am sure is a fascinating story of the family. And all my very best for the success of the book. Thank you!

Anay Saxena wrote his first book, Time Adventures: The Jackson Menace, when he was seven. His most recent work is a collection of three short stories titled What a Mysterious World We Live In. Today, Anay Saxena was in conversation with much loved children’s author Deepa Agarwal discussing his work.

Bestselling-author Howard Jacobson talked about his new book Live a Little, which is the love story of a 90-year-old woman. Age, according to Jacobson, is not an impediment to love, though literature has been “very unforgiving” of old age. Jacobson went on to say, “The most intelligent people I know are in their 90s” and explained “…if you can allow your body to decay, you can concentrate on your mind!”  The eroticism in this love story is only suggested. This is because Jacobson thinks that “the body is overrated”, and therefore he wants to start a movement against people writing about sex. “Sex makes words look foolish, words make sex look absurd,” he said. Jacobson felt that the shame and humiliation a novelist experiences can be an asset.  “Embrace your shame and write about it,” was his advice to the audience.

A session on memoirs opened up a treasure trove of backstories. Nicholas Coleridge, former editorial director of Condé Nast Britain, had the audience in splits when he recalled Princess Diana asking him at a lunch, “Nicholas, please be frank, I want to know your real view. Are my breasts too small, do you think?”  “Your Royal Highness,” he responded, “they seem, umm, perfect to me.”   He drew a crucial distinction – “A memoir is what you remember, otherwise it is an autobiography!”

Talking more about memoirs, the English broadcaster and author of My Name Is Why, Lemn Sissay, spoke with emotion about his life as a foster child, the meaning of his name and the sources he used to write his own memoir.  He said his book recounted the trauma that his mother went through.  “It’s really not my story,” he said. A journalist known for her accounts of life in war-zones, Åsne Seierstad, said that to work on American history of the last 100 years, she had had to look at the changes the US faced and wished for her source to be personal and family stories.  So, she began to look at her personal letters, the letters of her grandfather. Avi Shlaim talked about his book Three Worlds: Memoir of an Arab Jew and spoke with intensity about his identity as an Arab-Jew and his life-experiences in Baghdad, Israel and London. His main source of information was his 96-year-old mother.

Lisa Ray, India’s first supermodel, actor, mother of twins through surrogacy and a cancer survivor, spoke to ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival producer and Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, Sanjoy K. Roy about her riveting life story and memoir, Close to the Bone, a deeply moving account of her healing and spiritual quest. She spoke about how identity to her was tectonic and rooted in movement, embodied by her own peripatetic life.

In the session “Winners Take it All” Anand Giridharadas said “rich people are making a killing in a way that is strangulating democracy”, and this rendered their claims of benevolence invalid.  Giridharadas went on to say said that “they do just enough good to preserve a system that does harm on a much larger scale”. This system, he said is “the old trickle-down economics with whipped cream and a cherry on top”. Thus, according to him, we are looking at a systematic problem and we need to ask ourselves, “Should we even have billionaires?” He claimed that “every billionaire is a policy failure”. Their wealth could finance a lot of services that people in democratic countries are entitled to, but are not getting.

The day ended with the announcement of the prestigious Oxford Bookstore Book Cover Prize, a first of its kind award for brilliance in book design and an attempt by the iconic bookstore to recognise and encourage the work of gifted illustrators, designers and publishers throughout India. The winner of the fifth edition of the award announced at Jaipur BookMark was well-known graphic designer Sneha Pamneja who was felicitated with a trophy and a cash prize of Rs. 1 lakh by jurors Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Namita Gokhale and Shobhaa De, amidst a gathering of designers, publishers and book-lovers. The announcement was followed by a cocktail reception hosted by Oxford Bookstore honouring the winner.


ZEE Jaipur Literary Fest 2020 – & I was part of Grandest Literary Show on Earth!

The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 took place from 23rd – 27th January 2020 at the Diggi Palace Hotel, Jaipur, Rajasthan.

No words are enough to describe the magic of JLF, as it is popularly known, which is a sort of mecca for literary buffs. I was surprised to find such a huge congregation of literature lovers from all over the world, yes world, not India alone! The colours, the vibrancy, the aura, the aroma and enigmatic atmosphere of the place – Heritage structure – Diggi Palace were truly splendid.

Inaugural Ceremony JLF

No wonder, JLF is hailed as one of grandest literary worldwide, the ‘greatest literary show on Earth’, the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2020, which is held at iconic abode, the Diggi Palace lawns and aptly lives up to its tradition of providing access to a gamut of ‘stories’ – fearless, funny, tender, fantastical, true-to-life, fiery, equivocal, atypical and every day – to all.

The magnitude of programming remained as astonishing as every year with over 500 speakers and performers representing around 15 Indian and 35 international languages and over 30 nationalities as well as major literary awards ranging from the Nobel, the Man Booker, the Pulitzer, the Sahitya Akademi, DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and Commonwealth Book Prize.

After a lot of deliberations, discussions and apprehensions, I boarded the flight to Jaipur and believe me I couldn’t have been happier with my decision. Aarti and Mohit were there to receive me at the airport for the early morning flight and there was not a single dull moment in their company. They were my constant companion for the next five days, which I will always cherish!

After reaching Jaipur and gorging on hot breakfast and tea made by Aarti and her loving mother-in-law, we set out for Diggi Palace, Jaipur and my brush with real intellectuals on this planet began. My first session was with humble and unassuming Mr Prasoon Joshi who was in a very vibrant conversation with Ms Vani Tripathi Tikkoo. After that what all followed, you will get to read in the following posts.

The venue was brimming with activities of culturally inclined people who were dressed in their traditional best, giving a different vibe to the whole place. Indigo Kurtas, Ikat Sarees, Bandhnis, Bandhej, Pashmina Shawls, Jaipuri Stoles, Handloom sarees, Kalamkari dresses, jackets…whatnot. Their sense of dressing was really impressive and I must say that they had put a lot of thought to their dressing by teaming up with traditional silver and metal jewellery like chandelier earrings, multi-layered neckpieces, bangles, anklets and what to say of nose rings.

One notable thing amidst all this was that not even in a single panel discussion it was announced that “Please keep your mobile phone in silent mode” as it was given and to my utter surprise, not even a single mobile rang. This is the discipline followed by the intelligentsia in Jaipur.

The venue boasted Art Zone where artists were painting and most loved (by me at least) was Pool Bazaar which displayed stalls of jewellery, bags, shawls, mojris, handmade notebooks, handicrafts, sarees, dupatta, kurta, Kurtis…where I shopped to my heart’s content…but it was like Yeh Dil Maange More! Then there was book bazar selling books by authors whose launch was happening at the fest along with many others. I wish I could buy some more…

Only thing which was restrictive that many sessions were happening simultaneously at different venues so we had to skip one in favour of others. I wanted to be at both the sessions sometimes but that was not the possibility. Listening to speakers of the stature of Shashi Tharoor, Prasoon Joshi, Lisa Ray, Shobha De, Margaret Alwa, William Dalrymple, Sanjay K Roy, Ashwin Sanghi, Namita Gokhale and many more, nonstop amidst pin-drop silence followed by crowds swelling to over thousand, was an experience in itself.

Mikes, Venue, Press-gallery, volunteers help and overall management was top notch. There was no disturbance from any side, you were guided well all through by an over-enthusiastic team of Team Works, ample food stalls and hot tea was available round the clock. Yes, you could shop only through your debit/ credit cards as dealing in cash was not permitted. Please make a note of it.

Such huge crowds were managed so well, kudos!

Few highlights:

  • Inauguration by CM of Rajasthan, Mr Ashok Gehlot
  • Jaipur Music Stage runs parallel to the Festival from 23rd – 25th January at Clarke’s Amer featuring headliners including Gavin James, Ricky Kej, Lisa Marie Simmons, Aabha Hanjura, Parvaaz, amongst others.
  • 7th edition of the B2B arm of the Festival, Jaipur BookMark (JBM), began on 22nd January with a keynote address from writer and publisher Jo Lendle as he went through the first 20 pages of the publishing manual for the new decade
  • The Festival’s ongoing Youth Outreach programme with Yuva Ekta Foundation and School Outreach programme with Pratham Books continues to engage a large number of children and young people.

The Festival began on Thursday, January 23rd with the inaugural keynote address by renowned author Marcus du Sautoy and acclaimed Hindustani vocalist Shubha Mudgal on ‘The Art, Sciences and Creativity’.

Inaugural Address by CM Ashok Gehlot.

Present were some of the world’s best thinkers and writers: Nobel laureate Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Man-Booker-winner Howard Jacobson, author of over sixteen novels including his most recent, Live a Little, that has been described by The Guardian as ‘wonderful’ and by The Sunday Times as ‘joyous’; Forrest Gander, eminent translator and author of the Pulitzer-winning collection of poems Be With; Paul Muldoon, author of Moy Sand and Gravel, for which he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize; Pulitzer winner Stephen Greenblatt, author of 14 books including Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern and Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare; Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Ravish Kumar, India’s well-known and intrepid TV anchor, journalist and writer; Ruchira Gupta, Emmy-winning journalist and activist.

Can any festival be grander than that?

  • Special thanks to Aarti & Mohit Mathur

  • First-hand account of the fest by Bienu Verma Vaghela 

JaipurLitFest 2020 presents a convergence of cultures, languages and literatures

The ‘greatest literary show on Earth’, the Jaipur Literature Festival, returns with its 13th edition. Scheduled from 23rd – 27th January, the Festival this year promises an unmatched programme featuring over 300 speakers from over 20 countries and 35 languages.

Authors from nations such as the Czech Republic, Mauritius, Netherlands, Sweden and Nigeria will see representation at the Festival. As each year, several Indian, American, British, French and German authors, will round up the Festival programme.

Prominent speakers from across the world include Anita Aujayeb, a long-standing educator, a lecturer and also the Chairperson of the President’s Fund for Creative Writing at the Ministry of Arts and Cultural Heritage in Mauritius; Annick Schrammei, Academic Director for the Creative Industries at the Antwerp Management School, expert- advisor for cultural policy and an evaluator for the European Commission and also a member of the Flemish UNESCO Commission; poet, essayist, editor, photographer and founder of Ireland’s premier literary journal Irish Pages: A Journal of

Contemporary Writing Chris Agee; author of books on Burmese and Asian History, past fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, founder and chairman of the Yangon Heritage Trust, Chairman of U Thant House and Padma Shri recipient Thant Myint- U.

The Festival will also see 20 international and 15 Indian languages such as Khasi, Assamese and Nagamese being highlighted.

Namita Gokhale, the writer, publisher and Co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival said, “Every year, we have various authors from different parts of the world, representing different nationalities and languages in attendance at the Festival. This year, once again, we have endeavoured to get as many speakers from varying genres and languages to attend. I believe we have succeeded in our efforts as stalwarts from over 20 countries and as many as 20 international and almost 15 Indian languages will be in attendance at the 13th edition of the Festival. We are eagerly looking forward to welcoming them and to the literary revelations they will bring with them.”

The much-awaited Festival is set to take place at its customary picturesque home, the Diggi Palace Hotel at Jaipur. In the past decade, the Festival has evolved into a global phenomenon and has hosted nearly 2000 speakers and over a million book-lovers till date. Every year, it brings together authors, thinkers and bibliophiles from across the world to champion the freedom to dream, express and debate.


Celebrate the authentic Gujarati Food & Everything else Gujarati!!

Most keenly awaited Festival is here, which has excited everyone associated with Gujarati food and festivities. I love the ideology of Gujjus, who are the happiest lot on this planet – खावानु, पीवणो, जलसा करवा नु!

With this biggest Gujarati Food Festival, the idea of the food festival is primarily to re-integrate value back into Food Culture & to Communicate Gastronomic knowledge about GUJARATI FOOD. Gujarati Food Festival will fill your stomach as well as your Heart & Mind.

The festival is all set to happen on 10-11-12 January at Kora Kendra Ground No 3 RM Bhattad Rd, Haridas Nagar, Borivali West, Mumbai 400092. Its time to serve the unexplored flavours of Gujarat and triumph the extraordinary culture with the tastiest delicacies.

My association with Gujarati Food started with my marriage in a Gujarati family some 25 years ago. Till then while living in Delhi and Lucknow, I knew nothing about Gujarati food and culture except that Gandhiji and Sardar Patel were Gujaratis. I am born in a Varma – Kayasth family and self – admittedly I am a true-blue Kayasth.

My eyes opened to the fact that Gujaratis and Kayasths are poles apart in their culture, cuisines, lifestyle and thought process, immediately after marriage. Rest of things later – cuisine part first. A typical Gujju family’s day starts with a discussion on food for nasta, lunch, nasta and dinner…means discussion on food, nothing beyond…particularly ladies amongst the house. Whereas our day started with news, the book we will read, the place we would visit, studies and food remained in the periphery. Though Kayasth’s love for food is part of folklore, about that sometime later…

My vocabulary about food enriched in no time with my mother-in-law churning out some interesting and delicious stuff like Thepla, Khakra, Phaphda, Khaman, Dhokla, Chora Phari, Magaj, Batata-nu-shak, pharsi poori, Undhiyo, Khandwo and believe me, I loved these beyond measure, though these were not part of my vocabulary till then. My sister-in-law, Hemlata didi needs a special mention here who is an expert cook of Gujarati delicacies and helped me in developing taste and understanding Gujarati culture.

But I was stuck in one place, in North-India, I had never heard about meethi daal and gur in every second subzi as North Indian food is all about spices and tadka. I don’t know how to relish that…I would simply refuse to eat. Then there were certain strange combinations like sweet lapsi (cooked porridge) to be eaten with theekhi daal. I simply revolted!

But over a period of time, as time passed, I integrated with the cuisine and everything else Gujarati read: Garba and Dandiya nights which was quite a revelation. I was star-struck with the performance of Falguni Pathak where thousands of Gujjus grooved to her dandiya beats. I refused to come home from that night and I danced my heart out that day. I had never seen anything like this before.

I want to revisit those days when I wanted to explore everything Gujarati and every single day I came to know about a new thing about Gujaratis. My love for Gujarati food took a new dimension when I visited Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat, Bhuj and many other interiors of Gujarat. As a self-confessed foodie, I can Gujarati’s love for food is phenomenal. If a Gujarati is accompanying you for travel, you need not worry about food – my husband, Mukund Vaghela tops the chart.

I must mention: I am the winner of Gujarati Food Festival contest, what more I could have asked for being a non-Gujarati!

See you all there!!


PM Modi features in Man Vs Wild on Discovery Channel, one of its kind adventure travails!

A few days ago, a video suddenly caught my fancy, especially as a travel – blogger and the one who watches Modiji’s activities closely, where he was shown with Bear Grylls, do I know about him?  I thought he was the one who shot one such documentary with the U.S. President Barack Obama, and all of us thought to wish we had such a cool head of state. Indeed, today we have one!  He is the one who thinks innovatively to serve the cause of the nation be it of environment conservation or education of girl child. He has his plate full. I noticed PM Modi in a never seen before avatar in this highly viral documentary. Like you all, my curiosity also grew and tried to find more on this!

So for the first time, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to be featured on the popular TV show Man vs Wild with Bear Grylls, the show’s host.

He posted a teaser clip and wrote, “People across 180 countries will get to see the unknown side of PM @narendramodi as he ventures into Indian wilderness to create awareness about animal conservation & environmental change.

Mark your calendar to Catch Man Vs Wild with PM Modi @DiscoveryIN on August 12 @ 9 PM. 

Modiji is known for being media savvy and using new avenues to reach out to the younger generation. This video can be seen as his latest gesture in this regard. The video shows dark forests, unexplored flora and fauna and tigers in all its wilderness!

As per a statement released by the makers of the show, Modi said, “For years, I have lived among nature, in the mountains and the forests. These years have a lasting impact on my life. So when I was asked about a special programme focussing on life beyond politics and that too in the midst of nature I was both intrigued and inclined to take part in it.”

He added, “For me, this show presents a great opportunity to showcase to the world India’s rich environmental heritage and stress on the importance of environment conservation and living in harmony with nature. It was a great experience spending time in the jungle once again, this time with Bear, who is blessed with indefatigable energy and quest to experience nature at its purest.”

Bear Grylls also talked about the episode and said, “It is such a privilege to be taking Prime Minister Modi on an adventure into the Indian wilderness and I feel truly honoured to get to spend time with this remarkable world leader. The wild reminds us that we need each other and that together we are stronger. I am so excited to spend time with the PM and to get to know the man who leads this great nation.”

The show is known for its host Bear Grylls’ survival techniques in extreme conditions and his love for flora and fauna. In the 45-second teaser video, a voiceover introduces Modi as the head of the largest democracy in the world.

It further shows Modi welcoming Grylls in India, and then taking a trip to the interiors of India together. At one point in the video, Grylls gives Modi a jacket to keep him safe.

The video promises a fun ride into the diverse wildlife of India and how to reach there through different means.

Who is Bear Grylls?

Edward Michael Grylls OBE (born 7 June 1974), better known as Bear Grylls, is a British former SAS serviceman, survival instructor, and honorary lieutenant-colonel, and, outside his military career, an adventurer, writer, television presenter and businessman. He is widely known for his television series Man vs. Wild (2006–2011), originally titled Born Survivor: Bear Grylls for the United Kingdom release. Grylls is also involved in a number of wilderness survival television series in the UK and US. In July 2009, Grylls was appointed the youngest-ever Chief Scout of the United Kingdom and Overseas Territories at age 35, a post he has held for a second term since 2015.

Do I need to write anything about Modiji? Not at all! He is the world’s most talked about, written about and most followed leader on social media & he is our Prime Minister.

Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Park: Green Lung of Lucknow

Now, I will take you from where I had left, Janeshwar Mishra Park, Lucknow. After having some great time in the morning, we moved on to Lucknow’s Lohia Park in Gomti Nagar, which looked to me nearly 20 minutes’ drive. Indeed, Lucknow’s greenery and cleanliness are talking points. Janeshwar Mishra Park is very well-structured, equipped with modern amenities, you name it and have it, overall made by planning and design (by LDA) offering a variety of experiences for one and all.

But, if you are a true nature lover, love your morning walk and jog, yoga and meditation or just love to sit and look around, and if you love to blog and write (like me), Lohia Park is the place to be in. The park is lush green, which made Me Mumbaikar green with envy. We don’t have anything anywhere close to this park. Amidst sky-scrapers, highways, metros, flyovers, commercial offices, schools, hospitals…we have forgotten that what a good park is like.

Me, Ritu & Kamalji, after buying tickets at the park’s entrance started walking on the jogging track which was covered by huge trees. These trees provide dense shade to joggers and walkers like us, I am sure temperature would have been 1-2 degrees less than the city. On both sides, there are green belts, some rare flora and fauna, unique variety of plants, trees, some very old trees, flower beds, water bodies and an imposing statue of Lohia ji. No wonder, Lucknow is known for its statues…more on statues later!

…While we were walking, I spotted a swing and I did not miss the opportunity of being on the swing. I don’t remember how many years ago I sat on a swing, real swing not the ones we have in Essel World, Imagica, Singapore’s Sentosa Island or Hong Kong’s Disney. Who would know the pleasure of swinging on a simple swing except for our generation! Gen Y doesn’t even know what they have missed!!

I was told that park is developed by Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) and I must say there are doing the commendable job by keeping Lucknow Green and Lucknowites Pink. Made in the memory of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia ji, the park is spread in 76 acres. It has four courtyards and all have ticket windows with ample parking space.

Starting from the South-East corner of the park, the Main Navigation Path goes through the centre and ends at the North-East corner, measuring around 1 kilometre in length and 4.50 metres in width. The Main Navigation Path which is made up of Kota stones flooring also has a strip in the middle of the path where seasonal flowers are grown. Special architectural lights on designer polls can be seen all around the navigation path.

Right from the entrance, there are pathways in various directions of the park along with natural mounds, flower nursery and other areas. It looks like a light spreading in various directions. The total length of these light beam path is 2.7 kilometres and it is made up of vitrified tile along with white sandstone strips in the middle.

The semi-circular path situated near the main memorial area is almost 500 metres long, also six memory columns and walls are situated along the semi-circular path.

Just near the main memorial area, a flower garden is located in the area of 2 acres. This garden is always blooming with seasonal flowers, also there is a baradari located in the middle of the garden.

A unique system for Rain Water Harvesting has been installed in the park.

Indeed, I loved being there, more than anywhere else in Lucknow. Can’t thank Ritu and Kamalji enough. They are just wonderful hosts…




Hussain Sagar Lake & Hyderabad Blues!

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We planned to visit iconic Hussain Sagar Lake of Hyderabad while returning from Chilkur Balaji Temple, it was afternoon time, dark and cloudy, even drizzling. In such a weather, any site could not have been more fascinating than Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad. The lake is situated in the midst of twin cities: Hyderabad & Secunderabad. The lake is so huge that it almost looked like a seashore, in the middle of the lake, there is a huge statue of standing Lord Buddha which has a height of 16 m and weighs almost 350 tonnes. Made up of white granite, the statue is on the ‘Rock of Gibraltar’. The lighting show at the statue is something that is worth watching.

The stroll on the sides of the lake was quite pleasant and soothing. Had I been living in Hyderabad; I would have visited this place quite often. It was a pleasant site to see the cleanliness around the lake. In fact, all places which we visited were quite clean, rather spic and span, which made a rather unusual sight for #MeMumbaikar. Probably this is the impact of Modiji’s Swachchta Abhiyan for which we are paying 2% Cess. At least in some state, it is properly utilised.

Having been bordered by Indira Park in the east, Sanjeevaiah Park in the north and Lumbini Park in the south, the lake presents a setting quite rare to find in the middle of any city. There is also a bund on its banks, which was built to control the flow of water. This artificial lake now beautifies the city gracefully. Not just for beauty, it is also known for its historical connection. On the banks of this Hussain Sagar Lake, the treaty between Mughals and Golconda was signed.

This trip took us around the city which boasts of huge commercial buildings, shopping malls and shopping arcades and general shops. Roads are wide and well maintained, traffic moderate and everything easily accessible. There is an impressive network of Metros which must be helping office goers in a big way. There are many flyovers also, which boasts of vertical gardens beneath. Yea, the striking feature would be that though the city has the tag of tech city with a lot of development taking place all over, lots of residential complexes and commercial complexes coming up all over, the city boasts of its fair share of greenery all over.

My cousin Vandana shared that ladies love to work here that way it is quite safe for them. It is very well lit and some areas are quite impressive with their lighting. If you are in Hyderabad, Hyderabadi Biryani is must, we could see Biryani joints all over along with some attractive pan boutiques. Paradise Biryani, being most famous and biggest, has a junction in its name called Paradise junction. Vandana hosted us most delicious biryani I could think of made by her expert cook Shabana, under the guidance of Vandana. One more memorable experience!

Shopping in Hyderabad is quite a delightful experience for its inimitable pearls, south silk Mangalgiri cotton, Gadhwal silks and Kanjeeverams and other assortment of beautiful and reasonably priced sarees. I freaked out on them…shop keepers and staff are very cordial; they show you any number of pieces without any expectations and are very well – equipped with interiors, lighting, display and staff. They speak very good Hindi besides Telugu and English and understand the consumer’s pulse.

I noticed two Kendriya Vidyalayas and many other schools in the vicinity. Hyderabad is famous Education Centre and boasts of ISB, Administrative Staff College of India, IPS Police academy and ICFAI.

Indeed, we loved being in Hyderabad and spending some very quality time with my cousin Vandana, who I believe equally cherished my company. Hyderabad Blues persist

Charminar, Hyderabad: Yeh Dil Maange More!!

June 28: Day 3 in Hyderabad

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After enjoying two-days stay in lush – green Aalankrita Resort, now was the time to move on to my cousin Vandana’s place in Jeedimetla, Hyderabad. They (Vandana & Jijaji) keenly awaited our arrival in their beautiful apartment and loving hearts. This was the first time I was visiting them with husband Mukund. Our meeting was like a house on fire!

After the initial meeting, greeting and eating, sisters set out for the day outing. Though the day was not that well-planned, it turned out to be the most exciting day of the entire trip. We set out for iconic Charminar where her friend Shahla with her daughter Laiba joined us. I had never visited Charminar earlier, so I was quite excited to view it even from a distance.

An identifying feature of the city, Charminar is the most prominent landmark located right in the heart of Hyderabad. The monument was erected by Quli Qutub Shah to signify the founding of Hyderabad. As is evident from the structure, it was so named as it consists of four minarets. Although it lies right in the centre of the city with traffic and crowds milling all about it, Charminar certainly manages to hold the gaze. It is also famous for the market that sprawls around it and is called ‘Laad’ or ‘Chudi’ Bazaar.

The market was not open yet, so we had to make up with the whatever shops were open. If it is a Friday, then visit Charminar market only after 3 PM before that market doesn’t open that much. After scouting for some bedspreads, we moved on for some marriage shopping, which Shahla wanted to do. Initially, I got slightly nervous as I found the market quite strange, with no women present in the market. We were the only bunch of women in the market. But I must admit that shop keepers were really respectful and cordial, who showed us many pieces. She picked up some beautiful suits, dress material for shararas, kurtas and dupattas. Though the market is very big around Charminar, there are no eating joints, so we had to catch whatever was available from a streetside joint. Snacks were really delicious.

It was not just shopping time, but bonding time too! Though I met Shahla and her daughter Laiba for the first time, we bonded well. There were discussions on choices, selections, occasions, children, family, engagement and Shahla shared some fine details about Nikaah ceremony.

I and Vandana clicked a lot of pictures, she was very generous with that. We recollected those good old days when we were studying and strutted around the Rajouri Garden market for the nitty-gritty. For the first time, I saw some beautiful Khada Dupatta outfits worn by Muslim brides. I must admit that the outfits were really creative and reasonably priced.

Now was the time to visit Bangle Bazaar, actual name Laad Bazaar in the vicinity of Charminar, you can’t call them Bangle shops, they are fit to be called Bangle Boutiques which sold some outstanding collections. Shopkeepers stand outside and lovingly address you as Baaji (Sister) for inviting you to their shops. The self-confessed, bangles obsessed that I am, it was a mecca for bangle shoppers like me. I did not know what to pick, what to leave. I had a great time looking at such beautiful, intricately worked bangles, finally, Vandana helped me with picking some. Now some clarity came, and I freaked out on bangles, jhumkas, chokers, sets etc. I have returned several hundred bangles richer.

While in Laad Bazaar, use your bargaining skills to the T.

Shahla did that for me, I had laddoos in both hands, Shahla bargained and Vandana paid…

Couldn’t have asked for more!!

But I was like, “Yeh Dil Maange More!!

#Aniwedssoumya – Taking a leaf from Chetan Bhagat’s Two States – North-South Marriage

It took me quite a while to convince myself to travel to Hyderabad for Aniruddh’s wedding. How much so ever, I wanted to travel, the circumstances were just not favouring my wish… 

… I was plain lucky, my wish was granted! 

Aniruddh happens to be the dear son of Aparna & Praveen Chaturvediji, and our friendship dates back to some 25 years odd while I was with PICUP, Lucknow. It was very gracious of her to have maintained the same relation as ever. I always wanted to attend the wedding but as it was in Hyderabad, I was not very sure of attending it. But Aparna ji literally helped me make up my mind and the program. I don’t have a sister, so she is like my elder sister, whom I fondly address as Di always, keeping official relation aside.

All of a sudden, I was all set to travel to Hyderabad to Anriruddh and Soumya’s wedding. Moreover, I had never attended any South Indian marriage as far as my memory goes, so I was particularly excited.  When Aparna di told me that Soumya is from Andhra Pradesh, my mind went back to the movie written by Chetan Bhagat – Two States. It was going to be North-South marriage. This was the only similarity, there was no opposition from any side, as was shown in the movie. Chaturvedis were most happy to have Soumya as their daughter-in-law. Aparna di would be most loving, friendly and cooperative saasu ma…Soumya would be lucky to have her in her life!

…we landed in Hyderabad on June 26, excitedly reached the beautiful marriage venue – Aalankrita Resort, Thumkunta Village, Hyderabad. It is a breathtakingly beautiful, spacious, aesthetically done, green 4-star resort which was a dream for a destination wedding. The rooms were spacious and well – equipped, presenting a lovely view with very cordial staff to boot. They were smilingly at our service always…

On reaching Aalankrita, we had breakfast at Aashna restaurant, which served sumptuous American breakfast with an assortment of some interesting South-Indian fare. Chaturvedi’s were most welcoming hosts, including Anirudh and her sister Tanya. These children have grown before us so excitement was even more to see them married and Tanya strutting around with her cute toddlers – Son & Daughter. The excitement was palpable on her face as the groom’s sister.

After enjoying breakfast, we moved to the room to get ready for Mehndi in the afternoon at lovely venue Tapasya, which was very aesthetically decorated for the occasion – The Mehendiwalis, the churiwalas, the chunri walas and the dholak walis. Dholak ki Thaap, Churiyon ki jhankar, Mehendi ka Rang and piping hot tea, made the perfect setting. I could not resist dancing to old Hindi songs and all loved it. I picked up some nice assortment of bangles, which beautifully complimented my sarees.

Now, the evening was a time of some real action and fun, the time for seherabandi, safabandi and baraat. Anirudhji dulha ban chuke the

Dancing to some thumping Bollywood numbers, big, fat, Chaturvedi baraat joined by family, relatives and friends reached bride’s place…where all baratis were accorded traditional welcome. This was followed by Sangeet ceremony where few performances are worth mentioning, Bride & groom’s medley of retro songs, Tanya and her husband Sanjay’s – Swag se karenge sabka swagat, Cheena didi and her husband’s nostalgic dance to – Ik pyaar ka nagma hai, Cheena’s didi’s ( Aparna di’s charming elder sister) inimitable Ghoomer dance. Her energy and spirit were matchless. Another one by two sisters – Radha Kaise na jale! As Cheena didi entered in her beautiful Padmavat style – Marwari Style lehenga chunri and rakhdi, I knew there is a Ghoomar dance in the offing.

It was almost mid-night and none of us wanted to sleep…

…Another action-packed day awaited us!

June 27, was the day of Panigrahan Sanskar – the marriage ceremony!

The marriage was performed in South Indian and North Indian ways, both with equal detailing, mantra and pheras. Soumya looked beautiful South Indian bride in her Red Kanjiveram and intricately embroidered blouse, complimenting traditional temple jewellery. The mandap was strikingly beautiful done up with Mogra flowers which were spreading the unique aroma. As in all the ceremonies, Aparnaji and Tanya looked resplendent in their beautiful sarees and lehengas.

Now was the time for cocktails & dinner which was in the open lawns, everybody decked up to the hilt and in some real classic, jewellery and finery, the evening started with cake cutting and Champaign opening. A video played in the backdrop with Anirudh and Soumya’s childhood photos, their friends and relatives wishing them from the U.S. and some other places.

To make the occasion memorable, I chose to wear sarees from Triveni Sarees, who made this selection for me, which earned me a lot of compliments. I wore magenta and blue temple border raw silk saree from Triveni for morning marriage function and in the evening, I wore Kanjiveram weave (from Tamil Nadu) saree in pink -orange and sea green gold pallu in traditional Gujarati way, thus ending the occasion with Two States. This was from their newly launched collection – Shakunt Weaves. My temple jewellery and Laxmi necklace complimented the sarees beautifully! For the first time, for any marriage, I shopped to my heart’s content, I enjoyed it and everyone loved it!

Thanks, Triveni for helping in the selection and making the occasion truly memorable!

I made a cute & pretty friend Asmita Sahoo, who gave me some valuable styling tips for all occasions.

A chance meeting with old friend & colleague Deepika Kumar.

Special mention of Aparnadi’s Mausaji, retired I.A.S. from Hindu College ( my college) who passed out the year I was born. Great interaction with very charming senior couple!

No saree experience is complete without mention of Bhagyashree who revived my interest in wearing saree after many many years!