They work out at nights
Health is the latest on the city’s nightlife menu as young professionals decide to keep their date with the gym after work hours, reports Anandita Gupta

Guess what’s the latest buzz in the city’s nightlife circuit? “The city hardly has any nightlife,” many among you would whimper, for sure. But wait, before you dismiss your city as a lifeless limb at night, think again. No, there’s 24x7 café (with sleek Italian sofas, soft leather chairs and low-slung coffee tables), that’s coming up in town. Nor is there any chic late night bar, headily arriving in the City Beautiful. It’s rather the rising pulse rates, bubbling endorphins and pulsating heartbeats — thudding amidst the city’s air every night!

Making the city burst into life every night are the city denizens, pounding away endlessly (or so, it seems!) at those treadmills and cardio machines. Not the overweight community, mind you, but the svelte and trim, health-conscious professionals and business executives. The sugar-free freaks and the low-cal-food-lovers, who won’t let anything come in the way of fitness, not even work.

Little wonder then that the city gyms, that used to sleepwalk during the nights, and pulsate with life just after sunrise, are being buffeted by the winds of change. Reasons a smiling Priya Kumar, wife of Bobby Garg —Director, Planet Fitness, Chandigarh, “An year back, the gym would open just till 8.30 pm. But now, we open it till ten and that too, seems too early a closing time. For, most of our customers want to visit us during late evenings. Perhaps that’s one reason why our gym is found jam packed even at 10pm.”

Adds Vicky Suri, General Guest Representative at Ozone, Sector 9, Chandigarh, “Most of our late-evening clients have been men — robust young men, working for well-sculpted bodies, teenagers looking for that firmness in their bodies and yes, businessmen and executives, who’ve slogged the whole day in their office cubicles. But of late, women are also not shying away from late-night gymming.

“Why should they, when gender lines are fast blurring, with women doing everything from driving to late night shifts at offices,” Aneet Kaur, Slimming Manager at Personal Point, Chandigarh, is quick to add. But what about the men folk? Why are they sweating it out, when it’s time to get safely tucked in those snug blankets at home, in these chilly evenings? Reasons Kumar, “People today have hectic lives, moving at jet-propelled speeds. And so, if work consumes their day, can’t they exercise at night?”

Muses a reflective Suri,“ The need to look good is paramount, thanks to media and social conditioning. And this need is no longer confined to those in glamorous professions. Rather, in every profession, as one climbs the corporate ladder, one has to socialize all the more. But such jobs consume the entire day.

The only option such people are left with is work out at night. Seems like city people are re-setting their body clocks, breaking the conventional routines (early to bed, early to rise and then exercise), rediscovering health and fitness. Not bad at all, until of course, that works best for their fitness and bodies. 

Fashion blues
Think twice before disposing of that T-shirt. Labour, pesticides and gallons of water go into it, says Saurabh Malik

Pollutants in your tee

From the use of pesticides and fertilisers for growing cotton to dyeing the top you wear, each step involves pollutants. To begin with, the process of spinning involves noise and dust. Effluents from bleaching operations contain the residue of oxidising agents, along with alkalis and acids. Residual colour is another pollutant. Dust and noise is raised in the cutting and sewing operations. In fact, the noise for the sewing machine is considered quite high, especially when 40 to 50 machines are operating in close proximity. 

Logging on to fashion, you picked up a cool street-wear T-shirt with nice floral prints to go along with that hot satin skirt gorgeously. After three parties, networking in a discotheque, you had enough of it. And now you have decided to remove the top from your wardrobe and relegate it to the trashcan of your memory.

But think twice before stuffing your out-of-vogue tee into the recycle bin. You may find it incredible, but as many as 257 gallons of water have gone into growing the cotton required for manufacturing it.

Fellows, this is just the end of the beginning. Stressing on the need to adopt alternative technologies and products for creating magic out of garments, city-based environment consultant Reena Chadha says 25 per cent of the insecticides used globally are for cotton cultivation.

Associated with Mohali-based Business School of Fashion, Reena is attending “Second Fashion Knowledge Forum 2006”. The event is organised by the Fashion Technology Park, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and her own institute. The Tribune is the media partner in sponsoring the event.

She says bleaching and use of dyeing agents result in the flow of toxics, adversely affecting the eco-system. To make matters worse, one million tonnes of textile are thrown every year. It makes 3 per cent of the household rubbish, of which 50 per cent is recyclable.

Suggesting alternatives, she says the Punjab Government has taken a step in the right direction by introducing Bt cotton in the state. But this is not the last part of it. Measures can be adopted to make hemp, wool and organic cotton popular as these are grown without using pesticides. The other alternatives include soy silk, ingeo corn fiber, bamboo linen like sasawashi made from a Japanese leaf, and wood pulp.

“Just in case you do not know it, fashion brands across the globe are also realising the magnitude of the problem,” says Reena before flashing a broad smile. “They are actually growing environment friendly”.

Giving an example, she says Levi’s is all set to launch a new line of environmentally friendly range of denims. It will be made from 100 per cent organic cotton. The external packing will be done with the help of recycled paper, printed with soy-based ink.

The new line is all set to carry a few subtle hints towards the green image. Along with Levi’s, American Apparel has launched an organic line of T-shirts. In the process, it recycles millions of pounds of scrap annually.

“No wonder the organic or the chemical-free industry is the fastest growing industry segment worldwide. It is growing at the whooping rate of 25 per cent annually. This is largely because the consumers, too, have become eco-warriors and consider social conscience as the latest must-have accessory,” she asserts. Now folks, get ready to wear that eco-friendly attitude. 

A bit of everything
Gayatri Rajwade

Shweta Nair
PRET & PRETTY: Shweta Nair. — Photo by Pradeep Tiwari

These Earth women sure know how to lead their lives and zesty would be an understatement! Right now Miss India Earth 2003—Shweta Nair—is on a swinging grassy roll and how. Here today, there today, films in the kitty, ramps by the side, fabulous dresses galore and funky projects to boot, she is beaming from ear to ear with the thrill of it all.

As brand ambassador and spokesperson for the Fashion Technology Park, for which she signed up six months ago, she is here to be part of the 2nd Fashion Knowledge Forum. “So much has happened here, so much action. Some of my model friends were really surprised to see how big this project really is and I told them that this concept would change the way fashion was perceived in this city,” she exclaims.

Not just the city, Shweta is going all out to change the world’s perspective too. She has just come back from China and is already talking of collaborations between Indian and Chinese designers and models.

But it is not just fashion that is keeping her busy. She is also the face of a prominent jewellery brand in the country. Couple this with her films down South (she stars opposite southern sensation Venkatesh in an upcoming film), a Bollywood project that is due to be announced shortly and even a Hollwood film on the verge of release (this one goes by the unlikely title of Good Sharma and features Joan Allen, Bill Connolly and Pankaj Kapoor) and, of course, the catwalk for select designers and you know life rocks.

Looking gorgeous in a startling blue outfit designed by the Business School of Fashion, we ask her what her style statement is all about.

For the young, fresh stuff, it is Dellhi-based designers Gauri and Nainika Karan clothes, for that “exquisite Indian wear” Neeta Lulla scorches, Tarun Tahiliani for his perfect fits and Sunit Verma for being Sunit Verma!

Having said this, at home you will find her, with “no bling-bling” but “plenty of class, elegance and simplicity.”

As for her glowing skin, it is the “no parties, no drinking, no smoking” mode that works and for that extra zing, put it on her religiosity. “It was my birthday yesterday and I decided I wanted to celebrate it by visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar,” she says happily. In fact, she attributes her sanity in a mad-rush existence to her spirituality.

So far so good, the girl is emerging really sweet, so finally in desperation we ask about fetishes and here we strike it real. “Shoes and handbags,” comes the delighted response and right now occupying pride of place is a Christian Dior handbag, “a treat for me from Paris.” So any mojris from here? Alas none for she is ‘miss big-feet’ herself, she rues.

Finally anything she still dreams of doing? “I want to design. I have a few sketches and hopefully FTP will give me the opportunity to show-case them.” And pray what is her designing mantra? “Ghetto—classy yet street wear stuff,” she laughs. And oh yes with lots of “bling-bling”!

This girl is full of surprises!

It is a fairy-tale existence right now and this lovely young lady is enjoying every moment of it—the rush, the buzz, the thrill and the constant melee around her.

Miss India Earth 2003 Shweta Nair is on a roll and how! 

Jadu Guru
Saurabh Malik

Samrat Shankar
Samrat Shankar

His looks leave you spell-bound. He comes across so magically different off-stage without his characteristic turban and red achkan. In fact, Samrat Shankar’s deep intelligent eyes, complimenting a philosophical smile, leave you charmed. It’s only when he converts a piece of paper into a Rs 500 note before converting it further into more than a few crisp currency notes that you realise that his charm does not lie in his appearance, but hands. 

For youngsters eager to cast a “magic spell” like him on the audience, Samrat Shankar is all set to launch an academy in this part of the region to teach magic. The academy, perhaps the first of its kind in the country, is expected to come into existence within a year or so.

In the city on a short break after leaving the audience spellbound in Jind and Narwana, Samrat Shankar says at present he is working out the modalities of setting up the academy. Clad in a sunny red achkan, the magician asserts, “We will open the academy somewhere near Delhi, preferably in Haryana.”

Reposing on a comfy sofa in a Sector 35 hotel, he says, “We are currently in touch with the Haryana and the Delhi Governments for the allocation of land. Our requirement is not much. Five acres would be enough. In any case, we have been asked by the authorities concerned to form a society for the purpose.”

Fellows, you may not know, but the “world’s swiftest magician” has been running a counselling centre at Sri Ganganagar for drug addicts and for those inclined to commit suicide. Seventyfive per cent of his earnings go into welfare funds. So far he has donated over Rs 1.50 crore for different causes.

Even now he is touring Haryana for the cause of Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. The Haryana and the Rajasthan Governments have recommended his name several times for Padamshree, yet he has not been honoured with the award. 

With a wave of his hand to convert a cent into scent, he says, students, who have cleared their Plus Two examination will be eligible for admission to the courses. The beginner’s course will be of one-year duration. For the advanced course, one will have to spend another year. “Candidates in the age group of 15 to 30 are the best learners,” he insists.

The admission criterion will be simple. “There will be no entrance tests or screening to spot talent. Decency will be the only criterion for judging the candidates,” he says, adding, “We will simply ensure that the candidates, enrolling for the courses, do not believe in misusing their magical powers to play a hoax on gullible residents for robbing them of their precious belongings in the name of religion and superstition.”

If nothing is done the art will soon fade into oblivion”. Guys, his talks leave you charmed!

Dining in style 
Tamarind, Indian restaurant in New York City, has set new standards in cuisine. It is elegant and stylish with impeccable service, writes Rabia Tewari

 Avtar and Gurpreet Walia
Avtar and Gurpreet Walia

Indian cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines in North America. It is distinguished by its sophisticated use of spices and its many regional styles. In New York City itself there are over 300 Indian restaurants. When Avtar Walia decided to open his new Indian restaurant, Tamarind, he wanted it to harmonise superior food, service and ambience.

The sprawling 4,500 square foot restaurant opened for business in January 2001. Located on 22nd street between Park Avenue and Broadway, the space was previously a warehouse. It was indeed a challenge to transform it into the elegant and stylish setting that Tamarind is known for. Designed by Wid Chapman, it looks and feels fresh with exquisite ivory and white colour scheme. Aesthetically positioned at the entrance is a floor-to-ceiling wrought iron wall hanging lined with votive candles. The seating is comfortable and spacious. The skylight generously lights the main dinning area. Along the perimeter of the dining room, set into raised niches, are framed booths. Each booth separated from the other by elegant ivory screens. The use of Indian artifacts is very subtle and tasteful, much to the relief of many customers tired of seeing bright coloured sarees, paintings and masks hanging on the walls of majority Indian restaurants in NYC.

The food is exceptional both in taste and presentation. The late chef Raji Jallepalli-Reiss, known for her fusion cooking at the renowned Raji’s in Memphis, helped create Tamarind’s menu. The flavours are creative and inspired. The menu offers a variety that has power enough to change the way Indian food is perceived. It’s thoughtfully created to satisfy both the Indian and non-Indian palate. The glass-enclosed tandoor offers a view of all the action. The menu is predominantly North Indian, but also offers few South Indian dishes. From palak paneer, to the daal, the shrimp dishes, to the lamb with apricots, everything just melts in your mouth. The adjacent Tea Room offers a variety of hot flavoured teas with scrumptious classic Indian cookies and amazing sandwiches. The service is impeccable.

From my first visit to Tamarind in February 2001 till today, the restaurant continues to amaze and impress. Avtar Walia has been in the business for 30 years. He used to be a partner in New York’s celebrated Dawat restaurant. Hailing from Ludhiana, he moved to the US in 1974. At Tamarind, the team of Avtar Walia and his nephew Gurpreet Walia, the restaurant manager, ensures each guest has a perfect experience. When Tamarind first opened, they even conducted a demonstration to convince a puzzled food inspector that Indians have long mastered the art of making yogurt in-house! Passionately dedicated, both men are present at Tamarind everyday, welcoming each guest with the warmth that reflects the essence of Indian hospitality.

It’s no surprise then that the Clintons frequently dine at Tamarind. Many Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities are also easily sighted there—Richard Gere, Julia Roberts, Cindy Crawford, Uma Thurman, Britney Spears, the Bachchans, and other political figures visit Tamarind often.

When it comes to Indian cuisine in NYC, Tamarind is the pioneer in setting new standards.

Something fishy
Veryam Kaur

Since the dawn of humanity, human beings consume fish in various varieties for their own survival. In some countries including China and Japan fishes are even eaten raw. Picket meat of whales in large jars is a delicacy in the shopping malls of Japan and Hongkong. Normally, the following varieties of fish are preferred in world wide homes:-

Oily fish: These include Tuna, Sardines and Mackrel. Their skins are very smooth and oily.

Smoked fish: In this variety Salmon is the most prominent. First these are smoked under closely controlled conditions and then special edible creams are applied on their skins.

Fresh water fish: In India a majority of inland fisheaters prefer and relish fresh water or river fish. These include Hilsa, Singhara and trout. These are served grilled or baked as required.

Shellfish, Shrimps, Prawns and Lobsters. These are considered to be the most delicious of species for family tables, hotels banqueting halls, tourist resorts and cruises. These are mostly served with creamy sauce or boiling butter.

Molluscs: Certain people like Oysters and Scallops and seashell varieties. These are mostly cooked in butter.

Sea-or Salt Water Fishes: In this variety most popular in India are pomfret and sardines etc. These are also popular work wide alongwith Sharks, Whales, Haddock and Cod. Salt water fishes are mostly deep friend with lemon juice for better taste.

Caviar Fish Eggs: These are one universally acclaimed delicacy and is generally most costly amongst all seafoods. In Indian departmental stores it is being sold not less than Rs 1500/- per kg. Caviar from the Caspian Sea is considered to be most delicious. These tasty eggs are of size of rai seeds. These eggs are also mixed with cheese and mushroom in the form of paste. Such pastes are marked in squeeze tubes which are handy in preparing sandwiches.

Care of Fresh Stocks

All varieties of fish are best consumed fresh. Fresh fish provides good taste and is recommended as the most suitable for ideal health. Atmospheric heat results in fish deteriorating and emitting foul smell. Therefore fish must remain refrigerated. But it must not be frozen. Frozen fish loses tastes. Fish rooms are cold enough to sustain layers of pounded ice covering fish stock. Even in transit from one place to another.

Besides fish, fish oil from shark and whales is medicinally recommended for health and is marketed worldwide.

Back from bhabi-dom

Rubina. — Photo by Malkiat Singh

Bhabi-dom is all set for a new entrant but when this tenderfoot happens to a gal from your own city, it certainly makes you rush down the stairs helter-skelter to take a good dekko. After all, what made her heartthrob Akshay Kumar’s bhabi (sister-in-law) and not me!

Don’t get me wrong, I know Akshay has no brother so when the initial disappointment melts away in the face of happy reality, you realise bhabi-dom in moviedom is all about that spark. And 22 year-old, fresh-out-of-college Rubina has plenty of that!

Right now she comes off a shooting schedule of Vipul Shah’s cultural melange extravaganza Namaste London (starring Rishi Kapoor, Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif) in the midst of Kharar’s green fields. And it all happened quite by chance.

She was spotted and asked to come for auditions, “but my first reaction was oh no will I really have to drag myself out and go,” she laughs. At he audition she uttered some dialogues out of a play she was performing in at the time expecting that to be the end of it. But lo and behold she got a call the very next day to land up at the hotel where the crew was staying, “in a Patiala Salwar and bangles,” she smiles.

And despite being the most over-dressed young lady there, our Rubina snagged the part of an honest-to-goodness Punjabi bhabi!

“I first thought this was some useless film. The crew was putting everyone together, making families out of the people they had chosen. I was initially made someone’s sister and then suddenly they thrust a child in my direction and said no that fellow is your husband not your brother and this is your child,” she laughs uproariously at the memory.

Her big scene, though, is with a glass of lassi and Katrina Kaif and she has whole one and a half lines to speak! This apart, song sequences, sundry appearances and even drying papad in one scene has her elated with the memory of it all.

Not only did she teach Katrina what to do with a vital pleat on the actor’s Patiala Salwar so that is looked like the real thing, she is also tickled pink at the memory of how her unruly crop of curly hair was straightened so that in one particular song sequence when she pranced around Akshay, it fell on her face, just so!

“I remember a scene where I had to cut gobi and in a bid to look busy constantly, I ended up cutting the whole thing before the shot was canned,” she laughs. But Vipul was so impressed with her chopping skills that the cook was called and asked to use the gobi in the food being cooked for the crew that day!

But Rubina has her feet firmly on the ground despite this brush with stardom she says she will never go so far in pursuit of fame that she has to compromise on her ethics. “Of course I would love to be in films, who would not. But only if it happens. I will not run after it,” she declares.

With theatre as her first love—and she seems to have done plenty including playing a blind woman, a trodden housewife, a conniving ‘keep’ and even a eunuch—it is what keeps her ticking. “I live theatre. I feel most confident on stage and I really believe there is not a single role I have not done justice to. Or maybe that is how my friends make me feel,” she smiles shyly.

Well, even in her miniscule role Shah found her performance praise-worthy and mentioned it to his crew—the all-knowing spot boys told her so. So do we have an upcoming star in our midst?

Sweet surrender
Anandita Gupta

Forgotten the last time when eating seemed a heavenly experience? Or the time when digging your mouth into something made you heady with its delicious taste? Well, a little more deep thinking would help you recall—wasn’t it indeed the time you’d been on a strict diet and then, suddenly, you had bid adieu to your diet charts and surrendered to your salivating mouth. And whether or not you’ve been through such an experience in the past, the future definitively has one in store for you!

For, the approaching Christmas would let you savor a mouthful of crunchy chocolates—an experience that is simply succulent, sinful. But then, sometimes, it pays to be sinful and the festival season is definitely one such time. Come celebrations and it’s indeed time to bid adieu to your dietician’s rules and get your just desserts. And especially, with Christmas and New Year round the corner, could anything be more irresistible than melt-in-the-mouth chocolates? We entice your palettes with some of the chocolate options available in town.

Of late, chocolates just got a fashionably cutting edge. Far from being the Cadbury Five-Stars and Nestle Munches, its chocolates of a different kind that are hot in town. These are the custom-made creations that adorn your table on special occasions—weddings, formal dinners, birthdays, New Year and of course Christmas.

Informs Navpreet of Kreative Food Solutions, “Custom-made chocolates are the most in demand. They are gifted along with wedding cards, decorated in ‘shagan-thalis,’ slung on Christmas trees and draped around birthday gifts.”

So, for those of you willing to circulate their wedding cards in style, no more accompanying ‘mithai’ and almonds to make a style statement. Go for the crunchy-munchy chocolates instead.

And you won’t miss the traditional Indian feel. For, each of these are flavoured with nuts—these chocolates ranging from almond and kish-mish flavour, to Kaju, coconut and mint flavour. “We suggest a set of 24 or 30 pieces to go along with one card, each piece costing around Rs 4 to 5. We also sell these wedding-special chocolates for Rs 500/kg.”

And well, if you’re looking just for those chocolates to gift on Christmas, worry not. Chocolate Zone at Fun Republic has 250 different brands of imported chocolates (mostly Malasian, Swiss and Chinese) sitting pretty on its shelves. Mars, Scickers bounty, Skittels, Twix, Ferero rocher, Tobleron and Tango—the names are as diverse as the tastes. Ranging from Rs. 5 a piece to Rs 250 a piece, many of these are shaped as toys—cars, carts, and bikes, for the ‘Dhoom’-crazy bike-generation of course!

And for all those for whom these chocolates are not heady enough, Neeta Sukhija has put a heady dose of zest (read liquor) in her hand-crafted chocolate-concoctions. The dessert queen specialising in crunchy, mouth-watering cakes is into making deliciously flavoured chocolates too. “My liquor chocolates include Rum and Raisins, Bacardi, Champagne, Whisky and Tia Maria, all ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 800 kg. Besides, I have flavours like Toasted almonds, Honey almonds, Mint, Orange, Butterscotch and milk chocolates and so on,” beams Sukhija, who’s learnt the intricacies of cake-mixing by trial and error.

So city people, stop counting your calories, succumb to your cravings and please your palates with them….Was surrender ever so complete?

Wholesome pleasure 
With the chemical content in food on the rise, people are getting wary of what they eat. Saurabh Malik looks at a healthy alternative.

Chandigarh is going the organic way. And its not just pesticide-free vegetables the residents are savouring, even health cookies, rusks and popadums are giving them a taste of well-being. Little wonders then, that the concept of health stores is growing strong in the city like never before.

The tremendous response to health food has inspired the Bhatias to get on the fast track to expansion. For over two years now, Bhatia Health Foods has been offering fitness in spices and pulses, among other stuff, from their Sector 22 outlet. Looking to expand their clientele to include the residents of the posh northern sectors, they have now opened another store in Sector 8.

Run by mother-son duo — Neeru Bhatia and Sahil Bhatia — the stores have almost everything a health-conscious resident can ask for. Just go to the shop in the Sector 8 market and you will find complete health solutions sitting on the shelves.

You can pick up breads, health cookies, organic pulses, spices, brown sugar, flours, pastas and even edible cold pressed oils. The category includes flaxseed oil with zero cholesterol and full nutrients.

You can also go in for diet supplements, herbal organic teas, soymilk, sugar-free sweets and drinks, other health drinks and juices, even low fat snacks, cakes and muffins, along with whole-grain flours, oil free home-made pickles. And with winters almost here, there is a section exclusively devoted to season specialties. You can actually pick up “chikkis” and “jaggery” coated walnuts.

“Treading on the path of diet-consciousness, the residents are fast going in for stuff that’s guaranteed to be pure,” says Neeru. “That’s why the store, one of its kind in Northern India, is actively involved in the revival of the, till-recently-forgotten, concept of consuming food in its whole, natural and unrefined form. The range is assured to be organic, chemical-free and adulteration-free. Every product here is prepared using pure and nutritious ingredients”.

For the parents, the outlet provides a solution to the gnawing problem posed by the consumption of junk food. “In fact, a rich variety of health bars like fig nut bars, fruit and seed bars are available. So parents can provide their little ones with nutritious food without changing their eating habits,” asserts Sahil. Sounds healthy, indeed!

Disarming Taslima
Indu Singh

Taslima Nasreen
Taslima Nasreen

Taslima Nasreen, Bangladeshi writer was visiting South India from Kolkata after she was granted permission to stay on in India for six more months. She visited Kamla Suraiya, alias Kamla Das, at her home in Kochi. A lovely blown-up photograph of the meeting of the two controversial writers, each defiant in their own way, appeared in The Hindu of August 24, 2006. Both are strong women who have defied the male preserve. The photograph exuded warmth and radiance that they must felt for each other.

Little did I imagine that I would meet Taslima the very next day on the shores of Trivandrum with high-tide waves rising and falling and the sunset as a backdrop. A stroll along the Kovalam beach in Trivandrum with a handycam in hand and a newly developed passion for filming all that I could behold made me look out for a good view of the sunset.

So it was merely by chance that I spotted this attractive woman sitting under the shade of an umbrella. She sat surrounded by some men in dark clothes and from that distance I could not make out who she was. However, after filming a lovely sunset with my hubby’s help, I just happened to glance back in the direction of this fascinating woman. I felt the figure was familiar. And as I got closer, I could not believe my eyes. The attractive woman in black and white churidar kameez was no other than Taslima Nasreen.

Dark and beautiful, she looked stunning sitting there with a devil-may-care attitude. Other visitors to the beach may or may not have recognised her but I thought I did. Yet I had to be sure. I could not help walking up to her and asking her point blank whether she was Taslima Nasreen. I have never seen such an open, friendly and disarmingly honest smile as she said “yes”. This gladdened me. To be in the company of Taslima itself was an exhilarating feeling.

Almost a decade ago, I had read her book Lajja and had been impressed by her honest expression of thought. I found the same expression in her behaviour as she flashed at me her bewitching and enigmatic smile. I could not help gushing as to what a pleasant surprise it was meeting her. A flood of questions followed.

With a cool and composed demeanour, she expressed her thoughts and told me that she was on her way to Kanyakumari and was enjoying sightseeing and enjoying Indian hospitality. The men in black were actually SPG commandos who had formed a protective ring around her. When I sought her permission to film her on my handycam, she agreed readily.

Taslima sounded so natural and frank and spoke without any pretentions.. After about half an hour or so, when we were parting, I handed her my visiting card and asked her to visit Chandigarh. I said InshaAllah we would meet again and she could be my guest. She smiled and said perhaps it could be so but no InshaAllah as she was not a believer. Perhaps it was on account of such disarming honesty that the mullahs back home in her country hounded her.

She said she did not fear for her life and would never seek forgiveness for her utterances or writings—unlike Salman Rushdie who had a fatwa issued against him some years ago. The Bangladesh Government was apprehensive about giving her security when she visited her motherland as it realised that it may not be able to protect her life. However, she was calm about it and was happy to get on with life wherever she was and made the most of it.

The Perfect Cake
When does a cake remind you of a famous poet? When it is Browning —Anonymous

Kandla Nijhowne
Kandla Nijhowne

As a new bride, my first attempt at cake baking left much to be desired. Ever since that fiasco, my husband has derived fiendish delight in describing that cake to friends and foes alike! The cake (I quote him here), was pock-marked, heavy, sunken like a well in the centre, had the texture of clay, the top looked scorched but the core was pale and pasty’’. In short, the perfect weapon in hand, to hurl, if a burglar broke into the house. The list of derogatory adjectives grew longer each time he related the story. Were he to write a book on it, it would be the size of a Telephone Directory!! No wonder I took matters into my own hands (along with eggs, sugar and flour) and seriously got down to the task of baking the perfect cake, and consequently repairing my sinking, burnt ego!

Coconut Tea Cake

1 cup butter

1 cups powdered sugar

4 eggs

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp lemon rind

2 tsp lemon juice

1 cup dessicated coconut

1 cup milk


In a deep bowl, beat the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy. Add eggs one by one while whipping. Add vanilla, rind and juice to the mixture. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Now gently fold in the sieved ingredients and the coconut into the bowl, drizzling in the milk at the end. Pour the batter into a greased and lined cake tin and bake at 170 C for about 25 minutes. Sprinkle a little dessicated coconut on the top before serving.

Spicy Carrot Cake

1 cups refined oil

2 cups powdered sugar

4 eggs

2 cups flour (maida)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1 tsp ground cloves

1 cups grated carrots

1 cup chopped walnuts


Beat the oil, sugar and eggs together until well blended. Gradually add 8 tbsp of hot water while beating. Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, salt and the spices, and add to the prior mixture. Stir in the carrots and walnuts. Pour into a greased and lined cake tin and bake at 180 degree C for about 25 minutes. Dust with icing sugar when cool.

Liz learns to ride elephant


With her wedding to beau Arun Nayar fast approaching, British beauty Elizabeth Hurley is determined that no matter what, she’s going to be the epitome of elegance, and has thus started taking elephant riding lessons. The Bedazzled star, who is set to arrive on the back of an elephant for the couple’s Indian wedding ceremony, is apparently nervous that she won’t know how to sit atop the giant mammal on her big day. A source revealed that Hurley has now started taking elephant riding lessons to make sure that she looks elegant and regal. “She’s worried about looking inelegant,” Contactmusic quoted the source, as saying. Groom Arun Nayar will arrive on a white horse at the Devi Garh, an 18th century palace and fort in Rajasthan, flanked by family members on lavishly caparisoned camels and elephants. The couple will exchange vows at a ‘house of flowers’ before retiring to a presidential suite complete with black marble swimming pool.

Kylie a ‘different person’

Aussie singer Kylie Minogue has revealed that her battle with breast cancer has made her a “different person”. The singer, who made an emotional comeback last weekend with a sell out concert in Sydney, said she “can’t do the same things as before” and had needed to make significant changes to her stage routine. Kylie had to cancel her ‘Showgirl’ tour last year to undergo a gruelling series of treatments for her illness, which included a partial mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The dance sequences have been toned down but she still manages to spend up to six hours a day rehearsing. Kylie also told Hello! magazine that she had ordered an overhaul to much of the wardrobe from the postponed tour. “I actually can’t do the same things as before. I can’t wear the same costumes. How can I do that a year-and-a-half later and feel that I was replicating what that was, when I’m not the same person?” she was quoted by the Daily Mail, as saying.

Kate on a shopping spree

George Clooney
George Clooney 

Tom Cruise’s fiancie Kate Holmes is all set to please her hubby-to-be with her sexy set of lingerie, for she recently went on a shopping spree for sensual underwear. According to the ‘Scoop’, Katie spent over $3,000 on a recent visit to Le Bra Lingerie, a store in West Hollywood. “They weren’t all white - and they certainly weren’t virginal.But she’s a mom, so I guess that’s appropriate,” a shopper was quoted by the as saying. The gossip column reports that a good third of the money that Katie spent went towards a “Chantilly lace bridal collection.”

Clooney as President?

George Clooney might dismiss rumours linking him with a White House campaign, but his pals still consider him ‘perfect’ for the job. The political-minded movie star is being urged by his close friend, British filmmaker Stephen Frears to run for the US President. The Queen director is convinced his Oscar winner friend “would make a great President”. “He’d make a great president. George is straightforward and in touch with the people,” Contactmusic quoted Frears, as saying. But Clooney thinks otherwise, as he remarked: “I’d be a terrible candidate. I have absolutely no patience for compromise. The job I have now is the best in the world.” —ANI 

Dhoom in Jeans

You can or will never get this close to Bollywood! Imagine yourself in exactly the same sexy jeans like the one worn by Hrithik Roshan or the sizzling short skirt of Aishwarya Rai or the cool biker jacket of Abhishek Bachan. The biggest international jeans and casual wear brand in the country, Pepe Jeans London ties up with the biggest blockbuster of the year Dhoom 2! This is Pepe Jeans first ever sign up with Bollywood as the company unveil “D: 2 Collection” in association with Yash Raj Films as the sole merchandising brand partner for all fashion apparel and accessories for the movie Dhoom 2. Pepe a young, sexy, fashionable and international brand includes, worked upon t-shirts and shirts, jeans with unique wash finishes, rip-offs and embellishments, short and sexy skirts, stylish cargoes, amazing biker jackets in leather and otherwise, bandanas and other accessories in the collection.

Album release

After a six-year hiatus Raageshwari is set to launch her new album in association with Music. The album featuring 10 songs has been shot extensively in the vast majestic sand dunes of the Sultanate of Oman, creating an engaging  & exotic look. Directed by Rishabh Loomba, the video took over 6 months in pre-production involving extensive location recce to elaborate costume designing and dance choreography. The song and the video have great family appeal, where very clean yet striking visuals have been created. The video will be the first to be released in theatre screens across the country. The video is set to premiere simultaneously on channels in the coming weeks.

Let the color stay

Does your nail color wear off in just days of application? Well, there is no need to worry anymore as Modi Revlon presents a revolutionary Color Stay Top Coat, which restores your nail color for up to 9 days and retains its shine. The patented Polymer Complex of the Revlon Color Stay Top Coat ensures a unique sealing system for the nail color with its special lustre-lock silicones that smoothens imperfections and locks in high shine. With such wondrous results, the Revlon ColorStay Top Coat is a blessing for all women balancing multiple responsibilities of office, home, personal grooming etc. priced at Rs125 for 8 ml.

New mobile

India – i-mate™ the specialist in Microsoft Windows Mobile® devices and software applications, announced the launch of first Touch Screen Messaging PDA Phone ‘i-mate JAQ’. This new device will appeal to a wider audience and maximize the work-life balance by providing professionals on the go, all the benefits of Microsoft® Windows Mobile® powered devices in their pockets. A revolution in the mobile phone parlance, i-mate™ JAQ is the world’s first messaging quad-band device operates on Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 with a touch screen and offers total communication solutions with a full QWERTY keyboard, 128 MB ROM/64MB RAM, 64k 2.8” color LCD screen, Mini SD memory card expansion, integrated antenna, Bluetooth compatibility. The price is Rs 25,000.

Baby care cream

Sparsh, the baby care brand from leading FMCG major Marico Limited, has launched Sparsh Baby Cream. Endowed with the goodness of turmeric oil, saffron and milk proteins – the cream leaves your baby’s skin soft, supple and glowing. The Sparsh portfolio already comprises of baby massage oil and India’s first ‘no tears’ baby bar.

French foot

HOMME, French footwear segment of leather shoes for men is now available in India to provide the best of French sophistication, style, comfort, and elegance to the discerning Indian male. Extremely pro-fashion the range provides fashionable comfort casuals, classy semi formals or high-end sophisticated formals in unique range of broke, oxford and corporate selection of welted shoes range presented in a range of shades like Black, Chocolate Brown, Reddish Brown, Tan, Camel, Beige etc. the range starts from Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 and is designed for youthful elite class.

Spot KFC

Measuring a record-breaking 87,500 square feet, KFC unveiled its icon, the new face for Colonel Sanders, to mark the debut of a massive global re-image campaign that will update 14,000-plus restaurants in over 80 countries over the next five years. KFC’s new look contemporises one of the most recognised and cherished brand icons in the world and spans all visual elements from logo to restaurant design, advertising, packaging, uniforms and more. The Colonel is truly a global icon and we want everyone in the universe to see KFC’s new look of the future”, said Graham Allan, President of Yum Restaurants International. The new logo depicts Colonel Sanders with his signature string tie, and replaces his classic white, button-down suit with a red apron.

Business tips

Cosmetic company L’Oréal, is giving higher education students worldwide a reason to leap out of their bed and get online and register themselves to run their own international cosmetics business 7 th annual L’Oréal E-Strat Challenge. Since its inception in 2000, the L’Oréal E-Strat Challenge has attracted over 130,000 students, reaching out to more than 2190 schools in 125 countries, while recruiting more than 230 players from across the world. Until November 28 th , 2006, students from all four corners of the globe will have the opportunity, to apply online for a place in what has fast become one of the most sought-after accolades in the Business School and University community, worldwide.

Great contours

OSIM, the leader in healthy lifestyle products has now added another revolutionary product – iGALLOP to give you a great figure or physique, the fun way. The company introduced the revolutionary horse-riding exerciser that will give you the shape that you desire, effortlessly and with a lot of fun right in the comfortable environment of your home. This therapy is based on the centuries old belief that the rhythmic movements of riding a horse improve the cognitive skills, balance, posture and strength of the rider. By strengthening the muscles of the lower back and increasing the rate of metabolism, the iGallop gives you fat burn, slimmer waist and shapelier hips. Priced at Rs. 36,500, the product is available at Godrej Lifespace.

Pet show

An all species pet show was organized by Pumpkins kindergarten and Vets for Pets veterinary clinic in Sarabha Nagar at the Pumpkin premesis. The show was enjoyed by over a 100 students and their parents. On display were puppies, kittens, hamsters, guinea pigs, turkeys, fishes and rabbits.  

According to Dr Amandeep Kaur having a pet can be a wonderful, rewarding experience. Pets make loyal, lovable friends. They  teach you how to take care of others . Pets teach you about responsibility. Having a pet can keep you from feeling lonely or depressed . Pets are good for your health . Your whole family can share the benefits of having a pet in your lives

According to Ms Balli Kaler of Pumpkins the idea that permanent life lessons—of compassion or violence—begin at a young age.  Often, a lack of positive experiences with people and animals, contribute to future acts of violence.  Importantly, these violent acts typically begin with animals.  

Engaging children in positive, educational experiences with animals in an effort to promote positive life skills that will persist through adulthood.  This is an essential step to combating society’s current struggle with increasing violence and crime.

Childhood violence toward animals, and pets in particular, has been proven to be a precursor to future acts of violence

Through organising such shows we are committed to teaching positive life skills to children through their relationships with animals. — TNS

Health tip of the day

The patient with back pain has difficulty going upstairs while facing the steps because of the tendency to lean forward. The pain can be avoided by turning the entire body at an angle of about 45 degrees with the steps, to face toward one side. — Dr Ravinder Chadha

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