Ideamarked Nov2011: Window Gardens, Bookstores, PS3 & Kolaveri Di

I’ve always loved November. Diwali festivities, vacations to look forward to…as I’ve gotten older, I find the end of the year packing up. The weather is crisper, even in hot & humid Mumbai. Everyone starts to let their hair down and spends more time thinking about parties, picnics & get-togethers than work. The world takes a break next month & November is all about the planning and anticipation of just that.

It’s been a packed and enjoyable November for me. I attended the NH7 festival in Pune, in its second year. A story on women bloggers featured me in a prominent way. For the few of you who remember my long-winded adventure with NovelRace, I finally managed to complete it! Whether this ever comes out or not, I can now die happy knowing that I did write a full novel. :-)

On that cheery note, here’s this month’s links. As you can see, there was a lot of link-love going around too!

  • DewarsIndia’s channel features music travelogues across India. (on Youtube, link courtesy Sangita Bhargavi)
  • Simi’s new show: India’s most botoxed, banal & brainless‘: Of course, I agree. (via FirstPost, link courtesy Lakshmi Shesadri)
  • MasterChef India: Guaranteed to cure you of any desire to cook‘: Sadly, I’m having to agree. MasterChef India has a long way to go before it can be in the same league as MasterChef Australia. (via FirstPost)
  • Window gardening for the urban-dweller longing for a touch of green – ‘Growing Organic Fruits & Vegetables at Home‘ (via Earthoholics, link courtesy Vishal Gadkari)
  • ‘Worklish’ is a way to cover up how much one doesn’t know. They why is it that we who don’t speak it, are left out in the cold?: ‘Buzzwords at office driving you crazy? 6 ways to cope‘ (via Huffington Post)
  • If your interest in astrology, tarot, dream interpretation & the predictive arts extends beyond mere curiosity, you should definitely visit Magick. The store  is currently looking for fulltime apprentices to initiate into the Wicca tradition. (via Swati Prakash)
  • If you ever wondered why the people you follow, don’t follow you back, here are some possible answers: ‘The Top 10 Reasons I Will Not Follow You On Twitter‘ (via Mashable)
  • Reviews, recipes and workshops, you have to stop by Tulleeho if you have a love of the drink.
  • India as the Indians see it – non PC humour (on Facebook, link courtesy Shweta Madan)
  • ’5 Tips To Help You Decide How Much Of You Should Show Up On The Blog‘ (via SharingWithWriters)
  • Hail the motherland of idlis, software dreams & kitschy Kollywood songs! This month’s music craze – Kolaveri Di (via Youtube)
  • A 5-yr old post that’ll still interest Mumbai’s booklovers: ‘A Bibliophile’s Guide To Mumbai‘ (via The Idea-smithy)
  • A lovely gift from blogger to blogger – ‘It’s Not Just A Car‘ 55 word story by Manuscrypts!
  • Kitab Khana, a bookstore recommendation courtesy Anuradha Shankar.
  • A little thought on liking and love (via Slices of Time, link courtesy Rehab Chougle)
  • MICHEAL: PS3 Long Live Play‘: A fun advertisement for gamers (via Youtube, link courtesy Ashwini Mishra)

* Catch these links as they happen on The Idea-smithy Facebook Page. You can also post an interesting link of your own to the page and get featured on the Ideamarked post at the end of the month!

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.

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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