Ideamarked Oct2011: Public Transport, Blogger Events & Watching What You Say

October has been a better month than the couple of months preceding it. For one, the rains have finally stopped!! Even if they did give way to scorching, melting, burning sunshine, for me, that means the shorts, summer dresses & flip-flops can finally replace easy-dry clothes & plastic footwear!

I’ve been traveling a bit, first to Bangalore and then to Bordi (posts coming up, of course!). There’s also been a fair bit of socializing with two back-to-back blogger meets by Indiblogger – the first, a blogger preview of MasterChef India2 (photos) and the second, the launch of Dove’s Damage Therapy range via a mini-spa for bloggers. Both were delightful, fun and had some great giveaways (now come on, bloggers are human too – we like freebies just like everybody else!).

The club badge (also the logo of Cadbury's)

Image via Wikipedia

One of the highlights (lowlights?) of the month was when Cadbury’s-Sula asked me to host a Dark Duet Party and botched it up, then topped it with a bad rescue attempt. Incidentally another friend reported another fiasco at her Dark Duet Party, the following weekend.

And finally, Marvin’s World back! After a bit of acting up, my Android has been taken care of with a SD card format and is app-browsing again! Onto some link-love:

  • Social Networks Defined Through Peeing‘: Oh ewww! And hahahaha! (via Reface.me)
  • A new reason to watch your words: Barring a witty retort, the other person might say “That’s what she said!”. And here’s more TWSS! (link courtesy GautamGhosh)
  • Steve Jobs shows off iPhone 4 at the 2010 Worl...

    Image via Wikipedia

    Apple founder, Steve Jobs passed away a few hours ago. The products he pioneered have touched many of our lives in different ways, whether it was the iPod that was the first thing you saved up for & bought with your own money or, like me, if you were lucky enough to have a Mac for your first computer. Fans, detractors aside, here’s what stays with me – Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address. (via Youtube)

  • Tomato Bruschetta

    Image via Wikipedia

    If you ever wondered about the correct way to say ‘bruschetta’ or ‘panini’, here’s an easy guide: ‘How To Order At An Italian Restaurant Without Sounding Dumb (Or Pretentious)‘ (via HowAboutWe.com).

  • Hope for public transport-tortured Mumbaikers may be around the corner in the form of a 24-hr dial-in autorickshaw service. Login to Rickshawale.com or check their Facebook Page. And here are some early impressions (link courtesy SharinBhatti, )
  • An auto rickshaw in Bangalore, India

    Image via Wikipedia

    Schedules and timely updates on the Mumbai train lines (via MumbaiLocalTrains, spotted at the Indiblogger-Dove meet).

  • Annie Zaidi & Smriti Ravindra’s latest book ‘A Bad Boy’s Guide To The Good Indian Girl’ explores the relationships women have with men, with each other and themselves. The promotional video features me (!) and a number of other women talking about The Good Indian Girl. (via Youtube).
  • Always a good read or listen: ‘Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen‘ (via Youtube, link courtesy Sanjita)

Food Musings

MasterChef_HotFlameRGB

Image by rtppt via Flickr

I finally managed to catch MasterChef India 2 yesterday night. Does it seem like the judges talk down to the contestants, a wee bit? In that sense, it feels closer to MasterChef USA (minus horrible Gordon Ramsay) and less like MasterChef Australia’s cheerful, encouraging Gary, George & Matt.

The boy commented that the contestants are primarily housewives. I guess that reflects India’s approach to food as compared to Australia and the US. Looks like there still is a very strong feeling that the kitchen is a woman’s place of pride. The few men that I do know who cook well, are part of the small, urban elite that’s really more Western than Indian. Food and its creation are associated with archetypal ‘family values’ and ‘maa ke haath ka khana‘. We don’t really see it as a creative field in itself, with all the experimentation, newness and edginess of other arts.

Food

Speaking of which, I have something to say about the so-called foodie. I never claimed to be one myself. I have very marked tastes as well as a few health concerns about certain foods (corn allergies, mutton disagreeing with me etc). But I’ve always been enthusiastic about trying out something that I haven’t tried before. Perhaps because of the size of my portions (small), I get branded as somebody who isn’t really a foodie. That’s really funny, considering I’ve had no qualms putting a cooked octopus arm into my mouth but a lot of my ‘foodie’ friends would shy away from that.

What’s more, my vegetarian preferences make me a bit of an unfashionable standout in the crowd that says it loves food (translate that to liberally masala’ed, hefty meat portions). But isn’t enjoying something about how much pleasure you derive from it, not how much of it you consume? And what’s with the meat snobbery? I think a real foodie finds a way to appreciate anything that’s tasty, whether it is a steamed idli or a baked tandoori chicken.

I guess I’ll revise my declaration from ‘I am not a foodie’ to ‘I am not a food-snob’.

Indiblogger Dove Women Bloggers’ Meet – I Feel Pampered!

This post comes up really late. It’s not easy to write about an event, considering the number of details that there are to take in and if one wants to be sure to get everything into a nice, readable post and not just list out the schedule. The last weekend went by in a blur of Indiblogger meets. The first was the incredible MasterChef India 2 meet, which I’ve already written about. The next day, I got spiffed up to go to the Four Seasons hotel for the Dove Indiblogger Women Bloggers’ meet.

A week earlier, I had received an email from Indiblogger, asking if I’d like to try out Dove’s new Damage Therapy range. 2 days later, I received an exciting large box which yielded the following:

  • Dove Damage Therapy Shampoo
  • Dove Damage Therapy striped Conditioner
  • Dove Damage Therapy Hair Serum
  • Dove Damage Therapy Hair Mask

The whole lot was packaged in a big make-up travel kit and filled with gold confetti. Say what you might, but there is something about attractive packaging that a woman just can’t resist. It really adds to the pamper experience of cosmetics & beauty products.

I hesitated for all of a few seconds before taking them to the bathroom. I don’t really have damaged hair (*fingers crossed*). But what woman can resist a brand new set of beauty products, especially when they’re nicely packaged? :-D

I tried all four products that day. By evening, I was astonished at my hair. Now I have naturally straightish hair, that’s quite reasonably supple and smooth. It also tends to get oily very quickly so I actually wash it everyday and use a very mild conditioner to take care of scalp itch. I’d tried the regular Dove shampoo and conditioner earlier but gave them up because they made my hair too greasy and limp. But the evening I tried this new range, left my hair actually swishing and rustling like the models’ hair in the ads! I really haven’t gone back to the Wella shampoo & conditioner I used to use before, even though they’re almost full to the brim, my having bought them a scant week before. I just can’t resist how the Dove range makes my hair feel.

On Sunday, I went for the actual event that launched the new range, its communication and interacted with women bloggers. As with the MasterChef India 2 event, this one also had a definite agenda and structure for the day. I got there at around 11:30, when the event had already been set up. The stage was empty but already people were milling around. At the back of the hall, behind curtains, a makeshift salon had been set up, complete with hairdressers washing & styling hair already. In another curtained-off corner, a mini-spa was already under way with women getting foot massages, manicures and pedicures. True to Indiblogger meets, there was a display screen right at the stage that ran a live track of tweets about the events and listed who had just walked in.

The event began with introductions of each blogger, an Indiblogger staple. This was followed by a short talk by the Dove team. The striking contrast in a formal, business presentation within an informal, unstructured environment like a blogger meet was, I’m afraid to say, almost funny. I realise that this talk was necessary, considering the whole point of the meet was to promote the brand. So it’s a good thing that the presentation didn’t go on for too long. I am guessing the aim was also to provide the bloggers with some message cues to write about in their posts. For future such events, it might be useful to include handouts, press kits or even just printouts of the presentations, for bloggers to take back.

A week later, I’m still a little hazy on the details of the day’s schedule but I don’t remember being bored even once. The spa and salon went on, in parallel, with women getting their turn according to order of registration. Along the way, the Indiblogger team conducted mini-contests (longest hair etc) and handed out prizes. The live feed also served to connect various bloggers & groups to each other. Lunch happened somewhere along the way, an exotic Thai spread with standard 5-star additions of Indian cuisine. I managed to get my feet massaged but because I turned up late, had to wait to the end of the day for the hair pampering.


Post-lunch, I had a chance to host a short discussion on blogging among the bloggers. We touched on things such as embarassing blogging moments, SEO, being taken seriously as bloggers and popular blogging themes. I really enjoyed this segment and if anything, I only wish it could have gone on a wee bit little longer. It takes awhile to draw an audience out, especially bloggers who may not be used to talking about their writing when they’re not hidden behind the comfort of a computer screen. A blogger meet’s prime value, at least right now, is to be able to connect with other bloggers, swap experiences and share insights. Still, it gave everyone a taste of what a blogger meet could be and went on long enough to unearth a few jewels (SEO tips, theme-blogger groups etc).

This was followed by a Q-and-A with the Dove brand person, herself a remarkable endorsement to the brand, considering her beautiful hairstyle. A few tips from that session:

  • Use the conditioner after every shampoo. Rinse off excess after use.
  • Use serum after conditioning on towel-dried hair for best results. Do not wash off.
  • Use hair mask once a week, after a shampoo. Do not use conditioner and serum on these occasions.
  • Smaller pack sizes of the products may soon be available. The hair serum could be used as a travel pack item for quick styling.


The last item on the day’s agenda was a treasure hunt, which really perked up any flagging spirits that may have been left, after a packed day. We ended with the chartboard-as-comment space, another Indiblogger staple.

In sum, I had a lovely weekend, courtesy Indiblogger. It’s always delightful to meet other bloggers and if there is good food, fun things to do and freebies (hehe!), that’s bonus!

The photographs in this post and more of the event can be seen on Facebook, Google Plus and Flickr (starting here). The tweets of this event can be seen at #dovespa.

I Wear: The Tee-shirt Dress

Move over shirt-dress! The teeshirt-dress is here! Nothing matches the comfort of a tee-shirt for the hot weather. But I often find denims too heavy for the heat. Shorts and skirts require a certain fit of the tee-shirt they’re worn with, so as not to look too sloppy. The tee-shirt dress is a perfect alternative. It’s easily thrown on, best worn loose & comfortable and can be teamed up with anything from sneakers to floaters to strappy sandals. It’s a great wardrobe option for a girl who wants to look good without being too girly. Tee-shirt dresses were made for the tomboy girl who grew up.

Presenting exhibit A: A salmon-pink one by AND. Remember when Lacoste brought out a range of women’s tee-shirts? Well, this is the same material as our favorite alligator-logo’ed tee-shirts. Take the sleeves off, let down the hem a bit and snip-&-sew it into a snug shape and voila! This particular one has a very tennis-player feel to it, which is why I usually pair it up with my orange-and-silver Catwalk shoes (see also in I Wear:Coffee & Sunshine). The bag, of course is my favorite red Baggit tote (see also in I Wear:Flourishing Feathers).

The second was actually marked as ‘Long top’ on the label. I was window-shopping in Mega Mall, Oshiwara when I spotted this hanging with the dresses in Max on the ground floor (thank you, @lyricalmutiny for reminding me of the name!). I was struck with an idea the minute I saw it. Curiously enough, my vision involved buying an extra-large size and XL was the only one that they had in stock! I got home and pulled out a top I’ve had for over a decade but never used – a grey tube top with thin elastic shoulder straps. It came as part of a set with a similar coloured full-sleeved jacket. I never liked that look much but this top has finally found its soulmate after 10 years! The grey perfectly matches the stripes of the ‘Long top’ whose sleeves actually sort of drift off near the edges of the shoulders. It falls to about an inch over my knees, making it a perfect summer dress. I wear it with grey-green gladiators.

And finally, here’s a piece I picked up last week and still haven’t worn. It has a T-back (or a racer back, if you will) and falls in one straight line to an inch above the knees. There ought to be a number of ways to wear this. Firstly, there’s obviously the sailor-girl theme, given the navy-and-white stripes. A pair of white tennis shoes should work well for that. For a more fashionasta look, it could be teamed up with navy blue jeans and ballerina flats in a colour pop (I’m thinking majenta). But I think the one I’m really going to go in for is to wear it on its own with a long chain, loads of pendants, colourful sandals and maybe a floppy hat or a hair accessory (Spotted something called a ‘fascinator’ on High Heel Confidential. I wonder if it’s available in a more junta brand a.k.a. affordable prices).

Interestingly this piece was labelled XSmall. I did try on the larger sizes but they looked closer to maternity gowns than tee-shirts or dresses on me so I stuck to my usual size. It is priced at Rs.740 and available at Cotton World, Palladium.

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

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Long Distance Is A Bitch

*Sigh* Ever have those days when you’re just hit by a gargantuan wave of emotion? Today, that emotion for me is missing people.

I’m really missing a certain set of people. These are the ones that I’ve had conversations with, the ones with whom conversations pick up from exactly where they left off, even if it was years ago. My life’s most fundamental truths, some of my biggest decisions and the real heart of all my stories come from my conversations with these people. Books have come out of those conversations as have ideas, inspiration, laughs and a few tears. A lot of me, a lot of growing up too.

Remember that speech that was circulated on the internet, oh, about a decade ago? ‘Tips from a speech never given’ or ‘Wear sunscreen’ as it was more popularly known after Baz Luhrmann created a song from it. There was a bit in it that went,

‘Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.’

At this very moment, not a single one of them is in the same place as me. The closest is across the country, everybody else on a different timezone even. When I get over the awesomeness of technology that lets you speak across time zones, it occurs to me that distance calling and email are like paneer substitutes for meat – inadequate. Long distance is a bitch.

I am a gigantic bowl of soppy soup right now. I know nostalgia is so, well, old. But I also think that you can never tell the people who matter to you, that they do, too many times. No such thing at all. So here for the zillionth time, drowning you in my maudlin, soppy, clingy attachment, Lakshmi, Sensorcaine, Adi, E Vestigio & P – I miss you.

P.S. – Even before I finished this post, I received a call from Ajay (based on a similar status update), which made me glow. Then he said, “So what’s wrong?”. ARRRGGGH! Can’t I just miss my friends without anything being wrong? What’s wrong, indeed! Everything is. Because you aren’t here and I miss you.

Ballsy

Ballsiness is a minute-to-minute discipline.

1% is taking a stand.
4% is risking being wrong.
95% is being willing to face disapproval.

Where’s Coca-Cola Going With ‘Do Diye Zyada Jalao‘?

I get that Coca-Cola’s ‘Do diye jyaada jalao‘ advertisement is cashing in on the festive season sentiment. Except that anybody who has grown up in a Diwali-celebrating culture knows that this is a with-family festival, not a go-out-celebrate-with-others one. That’s Christmas, Holi perhaps (minus the hooliganism & harassment) and yes, even Ganesh Chaturti & Pujo. But Diwali? That’s for diyas & rangolis inside the house, sweets with family.

Diya - The First Diwali light

I’m not being a religious fanatic here, just a purist on social customs.Yes, yes, I hear the voiceover suggest that we do something different this Diwali. But let’s bring it down to the basics, shall we, before suggesting change? The festival of lights essentially welcomes the Goddess of wealth into the house (in addition to other celebratory things, of course). Prosperity, beautiful concept as it is, is something that you wish for and celebrate with your closest family. It’s completely different from forgiveness or freedom or new beginnings, which are concepts you might want to go out and spread. Prosperity isn’t what you’re going to wish on the college principle who punishes you often or the girls’ hostel watchman. Incidentally, religious lights are not supposed to be blown out, by tradition so what’s that saree-clad lady doing foofing out the diya before dropping it into the youngsters’ baskets?

Also, what does a fizzy, sugary drink have to do with Diwali? Try as I might, I can’t think of Diwali as anything but ghee-filled sweets and rich, Indian food. Oh some alcohol as well, perhaps, with the card-playing, a tradition adopted from my northern friends. But cola? That’s for washing down pav-bhaji or at best, softening rum.

This advertisement bothers both, the social observer as well as the marketer in me.

Indiblogger-MasterChef India2 Blogger Meet – Hot & Appetising!

I’ve been following MasterChef Australia with great enthusiasm, both last year and this one. I also managed to catch MasterChef UK (though Gordon Ramsay failed to charm me the way George & Matt Preston do). So the Indiblogger-MasterChef India 2 meet on Saturday sounded really promising.

As it was, they earned a big plus by having an air-conditioned bus ferry us to and from the event. The venue was RK Studios (where MasterChef India 2 will be filmed). This has to be a landmark of sorts for this city, given that it was home to some of Bollywood’s most iconic films. I am no expert on television sets but even to the rookie eye, the MasterChef India 2 set stands out for its quiet elegance, neat lines & bright, airy feel. Every setting that MasterChef viewers would be familiar with – from the contestant tables to the dining room to the pantry, the cutlery/crockery stocks to the stage where the results of each round are announced to the ubiquitous ‘M’ – are comfortably contained within the space.

The main area was furnished with tables for the blogger meet, that day but will hold the contestant tables during the show. Beyond the stage, cordoned off behind glass bead curtains lies the main dining area. Lining the main area on either side are the pantries, the cutlery/crockery shelves and the cooking implements. Upstairs on either side, replicating the MasterChef format are the galleries from where safe contestants view the proceedings.

The blogger meet started around 2:30 p.m. This gave us enough time to walk around and get in some photographs, which turned out to be a good thing since it got really busy later. The event started off with the Indiblogger staple of blogger introductions. I love the fact that Indiblogger meets include a display screen with a live-tracker of who has just entered and tweets about the event. It lets bloggers/tweeters identify each other. It also makes conversing from across the room great fun!

Once the introductions were complete, the three judges Vikas Khanna, Ajay Chopra and Kunal Kapoor took the floor to talk about the show and address questions. The obvious question of why there was so much coverage of contestants’ personal lives (and the ensuing politics) instead of focusing on the cooking, came up. The replies were slick, if not scripted but this was deftly deflected by turning the discussion over to the bloggers. Who likes sharing stories better than a bunch of bloggers? Soon the group was swapping food memories, from the sweetly nostalgic to downright touching. Among other things, there was a minute’s silence to honour the recently deceased mother of one of the bloggers, after she talked about how much she loved the show.

Post high tea (very befitting of the most popular food show of our times), we got a sneak preview/taste of what it’s like to be a MasterChef contestant through a set of short competitions. The first was what the judges said had been their first cookery lesson – dicing apples. Chef Ajay Chopra demonstrated the right way to do it and then conducted a competition among some of the bloggers. Chopped apples and one cut finger followed.

This was followed by a ginger julienne mini-Masterclass by Chef Kunal Kapoor and a competition. I participated in this one but my ginger strips just weren’t good enough to make the cut (yes, that’s a pun!). The third class-cum-contest was on chopping potatoes to prep for french fries (or finger chips, as we like to call them). The final competition was a mystery box challenge (whoo, whoo, whoo, MasterChef fans!). Under the box, we found a bunch of ingredients that had to be correctly identified and then all used to put together a recipe.

The event concluded with another Indiblogger staple – the chart-as-comment-box. Every blogger was given a chart with a string to hang over their backs. Then we were let loose to share notes, leave Twitter handles or email addresses, ‘I love your blog!’ comments and other little nothings that bloggers like saying to each other. :-) This is another great idea to keep track of all the great people you meet at an event but are just not able to connect with later. The giveaways, yet another Indiblogger staple included Masterchef aprons and a special thermal mug that lights up when it is filled with hot liquid! Good, no?


What really worked for this event was that there was a very definite value provided for the bloggers who got out of home on a Saturday and made the journey. Visiting the MasterChef set was spectacular. Being able to interact with the judges was great too but the real clincher was simulating an actual MasterChef episode with the contests and class. Food is very cool right now, in pop culture and nothing can be more exciting for a foodie than being able to talk about it to other like-minded people and with acknowledged experts in the field. The afternoon was well worth it.

I was looking forward to catching MasterChef India 2 anyway, having missed the first season. Now, after having actually been on the set and talking to the judges, I’m going to be extra hooked to the show. I think this event acted as a real appetiser for the show to follow. Great idea, Star Plus and fab work, Indiblogger putting up a wonderful event!

See more pictures of the event on Facebook and Flickr (starting here). The tweets of the event were tagged #MasterChefIndia2.

* Cross posted to Plain Salted.

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Marvin’s World: Couple Toolkit1-iKamasutra Lite

A phone is a personal device. But a relationship makes two people’s lives mesh together in different ways. There is much that the Android Market has to offer to the tech-savvy, connected couple. Here’s the first for the best thing that a couple can do together:

iKamasutra: As the name suggests, this one is for heating up things in the bedroom. Based on the ancient Indian text on the art of love-making, iKamasutra Lite details 30 positions for sex. There are 9 categories. Each position has directions accompanied by an illustration. Bearing in mind the activity that this app aids, there are shortcuts such as ‘Shake to show random position.’ Each position can be marked as ‘Tried’, ‘Star’ and ‘To do’. Navigation across this list is made really easy by the home screen showing the following: Categories, All, Favorites (Starred), To Do, Untried, Tried, By Desire, Recent & Random. By Desire is a categorization based on Intimacy, Complexity & Strength and uses sliding rulers to measure each. The Lite version doesn’t have enough options for this search but the complete Kamasutra does so the paid version of the app should be interesting for this feature.

I like the idea of a discreet little app, that could replace a potentially embarassing tome sitting on a bookshelf, open to all eyes. My concern is that this app is a little too sticky. What could have set this one apart from the vast repertoire of Kamasutra-based information surrounding us, would have been attention to discretion & privacy. Here’s why I don’t think it meets those criteria:

  1. A number of intimate apps like menstrual cycle trackers have password protection. iKamasutra Lite does not.
  2. The background music (low-pitched veena strumming) might not be everybody’s idea of mood music but there are no volume or mute options. Hitting the main button to exit to main screen, shuts a lot of apps but not this one. While your home window comes back, the music still continues.
  3. A ‘shy’ app like this would need easy exits but iKamasutra Lite doesn’t provide one. What’s more, the exit route is not intuitive. To leave, you’ve got to hit the Back button, upon which you’re asked if you’re sure you want to leave and have to select ‘Okay’.
  4. There is also an option to share on Facebook and Twitter, which I think is just bizarre. It’s too scary, the thought that such an intimate bit of information could be inadvertently broadcast to the world by a wrong touch (highly likely given the circumstances, wouldn’t you think?).

All in all, I think this app looks very slick and is easy to navigate but much caution is recommended. iKamasutra Lite is developed by NBITE Inc and available for free download in the Android market. The app is also available for iPhone, iPad and Windows7.

Drive Away From This Movie, FAST!!

Ryan Gosling

Image by gdcgraphics via Flickr

A day ago, I’d have laughed at this. Funnily enough, I can almost relate to this lady.

A packed and very tiring weekend ended on a thoroughly unsatisfactory note with the movie Drive. I don’t remember where I saw Ryan Gosling last but now all I can think is that a tree has more range of expressions than him. And what is with that minute-long lag before he answers any question? I mean even questions like,

“Do you want some water?”

If the first half made me want to blacklist any reviews that called this movie great (“a slick, highly romanticized pastel look calculated to win friends and influence people“….really??!), the second one made me think it should have had a different name. (Yes, it was THAT boring…I had to find ways to while away time till time till I could leave). Drive, or at least its second half should have been called, ‘10 Gory Ways To Kill – A Tribute To Trashy 80s Slashers.’

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