Divali Dali

The Divali gifts basket is overflowing with goodies and the city has a fine share in corporate gift market that has crossed the 1000-crore mark nationwide, says Nirupama Dutt

This is to formally announce that I have started accepting Divali gifts in cash, cheques and credit cards. Avoid last day rush. Send now. (No flowers please.) So states an SMS doing the rounds of the city mobiles while taking a dig at the whole business of ‘gifting’ designed to reinforce business contacts.

In the days of the British Raj, the Christmas dali was well known. It went by the name of dastoor and native contractors and businessmen sent baskets full of fine and savouries for the sahibs on the occasion of Badha Din. A vanity case or some silk would be added for the mem-sahibs and toys for the baballog. I have seen these dalis coming to the homes of my brothers in the tea gardens of Assam. But even these were a modest affair compared to that what is now exchanging hands now.

Lakshmi smiles

Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity in her silver, stone and fibre incarnation, is smiling from the shelves in city stores and gift shops that are piled high. It is big spending time and no matter which shop one goes to there is a rush of people buying like never before.

Visit The Home Store in city’s Sector 26 and the multitude of colours strikes the eye with accessories of all kinds that would meant to give a gleam to the home. time. At the Buyer’s Den nearby, there is a large variety of gifts and some interesting insights too.


The friendly manager at Buyer’s Den shows us the wide array of gifts and newly added ones include handmade porcelain figurines from Spain some fibre Bonsai plants and a lot of horses. “One doesn’t know why but horses seem to be a favourite with people buying gifts but the elephants are not selling much,” he says.

Well, one doesn’t have to wonder much for the answer lies in the mood of the times. I recently had some well-meaning friends push a rather finely crafted papier mache elephant, gifted long ago by an artist from Madhubani from the pride of place in the living room to one faraway corner of a verandah. “Elephants should not be kept in the living room. They are slow-moving.” And the mood of the times is fast forward and so the preferred horse.

Swarovski special

With such prejudices and Feng Shui ruling the roost, one wonders how the tusker launched recently by Swarovski and costing almost a couple of lakhs doing? Not to badly for the slow-moving label can be discarded when it has a big brand name tag. Shiv Kumar, Swarovski's country manager, consumer goods, “Roughly 60 per cent of our annual sales takes place during the Divali season. But since people are tired of receiving the regular gifts, a lot more thought goes into it these days.”

Swarovski has launched a new range of martini, champagne and cocktail glasses this month, that cost between Rs 1,800 and Rs 2,000 for a pair. Clearly, players in the corporate gift market will have a sparkling Divali.

Different ideas

At Ebony store in Chandigarh’s Sector 9, there is a big boom of gifts and there is a lot to choose from. Smaller gift shops in the city are full of Chinese goods from figurines of gods and goddesses to bowls and containers and cheap crystal and porcelain. Jewellery and silverware shops have so many customers that one has to wait rather long for one’s turn. And Tanishq has proudly unveiled its collection of ethnic and polki, fashion earrings, solitaires and of course the royal collection.

FabIndia is offering its packets of organic food, hand spun linen and scented soaps as gifts with a difference amidst the razzle-dazzle of the festivity.

Then and now

This is the mood in our city now that it is rearing itself to take the shape of a mini-metro. Mountains of sweets, dry fruit and chocolates accompany these wealthy gifts and I try to recall Divali as it was when I was but a child in this city in the Sixties.

It was by and large a family affair and neighbours sent sweets in quarter plates and we kept those and filled them with ours. Relatives came with small paper bags of sweets and there was Lakshmi poojan at home and of course diyas and new clothes. I do not even recall big dabbas of the Divali delicacies. Basically each household rotated its two kilos of mithai. We all wore new clothes that my mother stitched and a grand zafrani pulao, cooked my mother and was the feast. We did not send costly gifts to anyone and no one sent them to us. Yet, we had so much of fun.

— Photos by Manoj Mahajan

Where there is smoke…

Hookah or sheesha parties with good Arabian ambience and music are nowadays raising a smoke of excitement among blazing with excitement youngsters in the city, says Saurabh Malik

Photo by Manoj MahajanDine and dance “bubble” bashes in nightclubs and discotheques may soon go up in smoke in the city of beautiful. For, burning with excitement, the youngsters across the city are actually smouldering to raise the fumes of exhilaration during the hookah parties.

Fellows, you have guessed it right! Sheesha or hookah bash concept — so far limited to the metropolitans — is fast catching up with the blazing younglings puffing away their lives on the varsity and college campuses, excitedly.

If you haven’t seen them exhaling the vapours of thrill during the smoke and sweet perfume parties, just drive down to Antidote in Sector 26 this Saturday afternoon for “Fire and Ice Sheesha Party” organised by Anti-Gravity and Fanaa!

Just in case you know little about the concept, sheesha or “hubby bubby” originated in Turkey some 400 years ago. It reached the middle-east to become the favourite pastime of the Arab Sheiks and their wives. The hookah produces a “cool smoke in fruity aroma” and has the remarkable ability to send you on a “soothing journey” all the way into the bygone era.

At the parties, the organisers place up to five double-duct sheeshas or hookahs for a group of revelers. As the in-house and the guest disc jockeys (DJs) spin tracks to produce some cool funky music in sync with the psychedelic lights, the dancing couples smoke and sway till they reach the level of euphoria.

To a discerning ear, it may appear to be nothing else than an injurious-to-health party at a smoker’s den. After all, guys and gals do not have to blow up in smoke all fitness concerns and that also for a few hours of fun. There are other ways of enjoying a party called life.

Removing all concerns about sheesha party’s health, Nitesh Sharma of event management group Anti-Gravity asserts: “As it is smokeless smoke, the entire puffing and huffing activity is absolutely safe. Right, even for the damsels!”

Clearing the fog around the term “smokeless-smoke”, he says: “There is no tobacco in the hookahs. Flavoured smoke rising from the charcoals passes through water before filling the lives of the revelers with the aroma of pleasure and stimulation.”

Screaming over the din of music, he says, “To top it all, the smoke from the sheeshas just does not suffocate the active, or even the passive smokers. In any case special arrangements are made at the party venues to let off the smoke, but not the steam.” Swell, isn’t it! 

Scissoring Dreams
Parbina Rashid

Arup Chandra
Arup Chandra

Interviewing Prabal Pramanik always is a double treat. For, he is one of the very few artists, who has the ability to please the eyes and ears at the same time. One can easily drift along with his eloquent dreams while watching his deft fingers snipping and cutting a fine profile of the man standing next to him with his ever-permanent companion – his scissors.

This time Pramanik’s visit to the city holds a new promise —to invite us to a cultural festival of arts at Bhamlada, Bhatwan.

As we hurriedly glances at the map of Punjab to locate where it is, Prabanik proves helpful, “Bhamlada is about 39 kms from Pathankot on the way to Dalhousie”, says Pramanik, who has made this tiny village his home for about 23 years now.

Why Bhamlada? “Art is not for the elite. And art has little value unless it reaches the grassroots and trust me the people, including the underprivileged class, has the capacity to appreciate art,” says Pramanik.

Hence is the cultural festival, which will showcase all types of paintings, photography, and documentary, based on preservation of art works, book releases and of course Indian paper cutting art, for which Pramanik is known for. Helping him out in this venture, which is starts on October 28 and concludes on November 8, is Arup Chandra, the computer engineer from Kolkata who left a lucrative job in the metropolis to join Prabal Pramaik’s Academy of Arts in this obscure village.

While introvert Arup answers are monosyllabic about his experience in Bhamlada, Prabal’s eloquence and his zest for art makes it more than up for any listener. “Art should be made a part of life, not just drawing room walls because art channelises restless energy to creativity and thus can be used as a tool for promoting peace,” says Pramanik, narrating how a simple village buy, whom he had taught art, gave him this deep insight. “I was teaching this boy painting and when I asked him how art is going to help him in life his answer was ‘it has given a new meaning to my life’. That was overwhelming,” recalls Pramanik.

Considered a reincarnation of his grandfather by his family members, who was a master paper-cutting artist and used to do free work for the temple in his area in Kolkata, Pramanik’s only dream is to carry it forward, only in a more intensive manner. “My resources are limited but I set to achieve my dream (at Pramanik’s academy gives lessons come free of cost).” Getting a bit philosophical, Pramanik adds —“When I face the immense task before me and think of my limited resources I repeat in my mind ‘you have rights over your karma but not about the results’ and I have the strength to go on.” We nod in total agreement. After all you cannot question faith!

Sultana of style
Anandita Gupta

Malaika Arora
Mesmerising: Malaika Arora

Think ultra feminity pouring out of sheer tops, fitted dresses, shimmer, shine and lots of leg. Think a J Lo-esque figure draped in clothes that are red hot, barely off Indian runaways. And if you’ve still not guessed who it is, then recall the guru of amour on Loveline, or the sensual village belle in the Chaiyan Chaiyan…..and the fashion maven who pops out of your memory closet is none but the queen of style de jour-Malaika Arora Khan.

Having made countless hearts flutter with tantalizing togs (remember Bicchoo and Kaante), the fashionista is now back on screen, but as a judge in celebrity dance show Nach Balliye. What does this transition mean to her? The fashion staring shrugs off her mantle and spills the beans as we chat with her.

An evident fan of stilettos, how does she feel to see other ladies tiptoe? Malaika flashes a smile, “The day Star One approached me with the idea of judging Nach Balliye again, I said yes instantly. And believe me, there's not been a minute when I've felt bored and wondered why I'm here. What I love about the show are the surprises... It's full of them. Take for instance the show will be running for 13 weeks instead of 10!”

But how about the judging part? Does it give her a greater high than performing? “What enticed me to become a judge in Nach Balliye was the uniqueness of getting 10 celebrities on one platform to judge them for their dance and not their histrionic skills. While judging, I try putting myself into the shoes of the other dancers and see how difficult it is, and therefore I try to be empathetic even in my criticisms. Also, it is imperative that I notice every detail when they dance!

And coming to the technical part, how crucial is it to get formal training in dance? “Personally, I feel that dance being an art form, is more acquired than learned. This acquisition can also happen informally, through observation and practice. Like, I am not a trained dancer but have been dancing from as long as I can remember. In fact, dance is something I thoroughly love and enjoy. It's the best form of unwinding and relaxation,” muses the dance diva who loves exercising.

Her style statement? “Anything that’s a mix of street chic and sexy attitude. I don’t restrict myself to a specific outfit, though a sari can make any Indian woman look sultry and sophisticated at the same time.” Wonder not, this scorpion fits perfectly in the slot of sensuality personified.

Oceanic ripples

Indian Ocean is causing ripples in the city again. The four-member all-boy band is back in Chandigarh for setting the pace for Friday evening after roaring across the country with their brand of pulsating fusion music.

And this time the boys are adjusting the guitar strings to play some heart-throbbing music for a cause. Rather, they are all set to push the crowd on its feet during a live concert being organised for saving the hearts of not-so-affluent children suffering from cardiac disorders.

Organised by Spice Telecom, Rotary Club and Rotaract Club, the group, along with another band Parikrama, is performing at Leisure Valley. The proceeds will go to the Rotary Club Service Trust for the Rotary Heartline Project.

Well, call their music fusion, or just amalgamation, the fact remains that their stuff hits you with the intensity of tsunami. For, it’s different, actually. “Our music cannot be categorised to fit slots created by fixed mindsets. And even if it can be classified into an all-new category, it has not been done so far,” assert the band members.

As drummer Asheem Chakravarty, Susmit Sen and another group member talk about their music, you realise that the beats and the notes flowing out of their instruments overlaps with each other in complete harmony likes ocean waves to give you real rock breaking numbers that draw attention.

For, unlike most groups flooding the market with music videos and cassettes, they just do not add basic beats to the existing numbers before labeling the stuff as remix versions. Their stuff is `original’.

Talk to them and you realise that the band is actually against aping others. “We add our own perception and personality to the music for coming out with a new form,” says drummer Asheem Chakravarty. Sounds cool, indeed!

— Saurabh Malik

What’s cooking
Deepika Pundir

‘And the award for the ‘Best Cookery Show’ goes to Khana Khazana-these are the lines echoed every year at the various award shows hosted by big names such as the Indian Television Academy (ITA) and Indian Telly Awards. So if one were to say, ‘…and the credit goes to, (in unison stating the obvious), Sanjeev Kapoor!’

Yes the man or rather the ‘Master Chef’, as he was proudly termed by the team of ‘The Yellow Chilli’, Panchkula, on the afternoon of their 2nd anniversary celebrations today was here to launch his new book titled “No Oil Cooking”.

One of the most sought after names in the Indian cuisine market, Sanjeev Kapoor has now become the Big B or the SRK of the cooking world with several accolades to his name in the related field. From being a Tv host for the past 13 years, author of best selling cook books, restaurateur, restaurant consultant and a popular face in television (with the jhalak dikhla jaa dance competition under his belt, off late), Sanjeev Kapooor was in town to realise his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one cuisine in the world.

His book is a classy collection of special recipes ranging from a variety of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options for the very indulgent Indian palette. But not to get disheartened, as the very thoughtful Kapoor has something to suit all taste buds-Indian and international.

The recipes ranging from burgers to Thai curries, pastas to grill gravies are comprised of low fat ingredients, skimmed milk-to name one. The recipes are easy and manageable and require ‘no rocket science”(remarks the chef).

The book has been written keeping in mind the health conscious times and the people. No oil cooking stresses that it is better to follow a diet that is low in fat but healthy in essential proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. As the name suggests, the recipes have been prepared without using visible oil.

Thus, all in all, for a total good health and swadisht mantra for all those foodies out there is here….So whenever u want to hog, u know what to cook n where to look.

Bon Appetit
Food festival of India
Kandla Nijhowhne

All over India, we call it the festival of lights. But Star TV, over the years, like a record stuck in a groove doesn’t tire of wishing us viewers a Happy Divaully! In my dictionary, it is the festival of hogging, more hogging, and still more hogging! Throw out the diet sheets of Atkins and Dr. Makhija string up the lights and lay on the LARD on your torsos! Be it mithai or fried cashews, it all adds up to a bulkier, merrier you at this time of merrymaking. I bring you two sweetmeats, which are easy to prepare, well in advance, for your family and guests.

Marrow Firdaus

1 large marrow (Lauki), scraped and grated
1 kg full-cream milk
250-300 gms khoya
8 tbsp ghee
500 gms sugar
200 gm dairy cream (optional)
5-8 cardamom pods
A pinch of saffron
½ cup chopped almonds and pistachios


Boil the grated lauki and milk together till the former loses its identity and is tender.  In a karhai or wide pan, add the ghee and fry the milk-lauki mixture along with the sugar, crumbled khoya and powdered cardamom seeds. Soak the saffron strands in a quarter cup of warm milk for 20 minutes and stir into a karhai. Continue cooking on low heat till you have a thick, pale green coloured mass. Pour out on to an oiled thaali and spread evenly. When this cools slightly, spread a layer of cream over the surface and sprinkle with nuts. Cut into diamond shapes when quite cool.

Pista Kulfi

2 litres full-cream milk
10 cardamom pods, split and seeds removed
300-400 gm sugar
3 tbsp corn flour
150 gm khoya or 1 ½ cup cream
50-60 gm blanched, chopped pistachios


An essential pre-requisite for this job is a heavy pot with an even heat distribution for boiling down the milk. The good old pressure-cooker does a great job, or, use a thick-bottomed karhai. Bring the milk to a boil, lower the heat and let it simmer till it reduces to two-thirds of its original volume. Add the cornflour dissolved in a little cold milk and tip in the sugar (400 gm, if you like your kulfi quite sweet). Add crumbled khoya or cream and stir till the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add the pistachios. Fill kulfi moulds with the cooled mixture and place in the freezer compartment of the fridge till firm. A novel idea is to pour the mix into ice trays and serve the ‘cubes’ of kulfi in small glass bowls. For a five-star effect, sprinkle over some rose water before passing around, or Rooh-Afzah, for those with a really sweet tooth!

Tussar Magic

Had enough of East-West fusion? Get ready for a North-South fusion wear this festive season. Astitva — a designer outfit is bringing a collection suits and sarees in tussar silk. Handpicked and designed by Priya Singh and Rupa Chandel of Astitva, these unstitched suit pieces in tussor silk, tussor paschmina and cotton tussor with Kalamkari works by craftmens from Andhra Pradesh makes the right kind of attire for Divali. The Punjabi touch comes from little embellishments with zari and mirror works on the alluring geometrical stripes and lines. The range starts with Rs 950 and goes up to Rs 4,000, both for sarees and suits.

The exhibition is on till Sept 15 at Hotel Aroma in Sector 22.

An exhibition of Kalamkari on tussar silk at Aroma Hotel in Chandigarh
SILKY WAY: An exhibition of Kalamkari on tussar silk at Aroma Hotel in Chandigarh. — Photo by Pradeep Tewari

World postal week celebrations

As part of the World Postal Week celebrations the Department of Posts celebrated the philately day by way of conducting a painting competition on the theme of ‘Festivals of India’ and philatelic quiz for school students. Sapna Dhiman of DAV bagged the first position in the painting competition followed by Hamrmeet Kaur from Government Model Senior Secondary School and Alisha Sandhu of DAV at the second and third place respectively. The philatelic quiz contest winner was DAV school team of Ajachi Chakraborth and Akash Bansal and the second prize went to Guru Nanak Public School team comprising Anup Tuli and Karmandeep S Jawanda and DAV school team of Yatharth Sharma and Abhishek Sharma won the third prize.
Students from local schools who won prizes at the World Postal Week celebrations with Quiz Master Rakesh Walia
PROUD WINNERS: Students from local schools who won prizes at the World Postal Week celebrations with
Quiz Master Rakesh Walia.

Health tip of the day

While typing, writing, reading etc. it is advisable to keep the arms vertical with the elbow behind the plane of the chest and not projected forward. Armrest of suitable height should support the elbow.

— Dr. Ravinder Chadha

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