Notes from the heart
In the city to support Kisan Swaraj Yatra, Punjabi singer Rabbi Shergill comes across as a man of few words
Jasmine Singh

You mind if we say that Punjabis are plain lucky? We squeeze the statement and apply it to the music industry. To begin with, first with the Punjabi music industry—we all know about the zillion singers and their mushrooming growth. Now, cut to Bollywood music industry, Punjabi music has made a successful entry into it as well. Think about a Hindi movie that doesn't entertain the audiences with a peppy Punjabi track?

Amidst all this aahun aahun, we caught up with Rabbi Shergill, the singer, philosopher who is not, certainly not in a hurry to touch Bollywood milestone. In the city to support Kisan Swaraj Yatra, the singer has no fancy projects to boast about, just a few things that keep him going.

"You will be hearing me in some flicks. Other than this my album is ready," says the singer, who we feel believes in the 'lesser the better' funda when it comes to talking about himself.

Hindi flicks, the pit stop for every Punjabi singer! "We shouldn't be judgmental about these things, I feel Punjabis are plain lucky to have their culture noticed in every nook and corner of the world. Moreso, Punjabi music in Hindi films is an old phenomenon. However, things have changed in Hindi cinema with the new kind of work people are coming up with,'' adds Rabbi. "My music and I find resonance in this scenario".

Bulla Ki Jaana Main Kaun, Rabbi's music soared the music charts with indepth lyrics and fine treatment of the video. So, which is next Sufi saint he would want to explore. "There are many poets that I like. I come across interesting poetry, which necessarily is not translated into music, but some words do find mention in my songs. I don't feel like spoiling it with singing. Besides, with poetry I like it and then move on."

Back to what brings the singer to the city —the Kisan Swaraj Yatra. It is pretty simple for Rabbi to explain this. "I am a Punjabi, which says quite a bit. I connect with the farmers. The subject interests me because I find them as the most neglected lot, so I am just supporting the cause."

A man of fewer words and more thoughts, Rabbi has had people calling him a bit different—in terms of singing as well as attitude. "Aren't all intellectuals boring," he shoots back, of course not slotting himself into any category. This is the way he is. After all, this singer is on a constant journey of self-discovery. And he asks Bullah to help him out. Bullah Ki Jaana Main Kaun!

Music knows no language
Traditional musical instruments dominated Day 1 of SAARC Folklore and Heritage Festival

We take so much pride in our Punjabi heritage; it's so much a part and parcel of our lives. But students of Shivalik Public School, Mohali, were in for a surprise on Friday as Algozas Orchestra presented Punjabi folk music during the ongoing SAARC Folklore and Heritage Festival. Quite different from 'Bollywood Punjabi', this troupe from Mansa, performed on traditional instruments, including sarangi, sapp, ghara, kaato and dhol.

Named after algoza, a Punjabi woodwind instrument that resembles a pair of wooden flutes, this orchestra delighted the audience with the beautiful sounds of traditional instruments.

In addition, students also got a glimpse of the culture of Manipur, Tripura, Nepal and Afghanistan. Dhol Cholum, a traditional Manipuri dance for the festival of Holi, was a huge hit. Dressed in green traditional dress (that they wear for the festival), these folk artistes presented their dance in praise of God. Done on the beats of dhol, pung and dru, this dance of drummers charmed the onlookers with a variety of composition and movements.

Students from Tripura presented Hoza Giri—a traditional dance for the occasion of Lakshmi puja. A troupe of four boys and seven girls, dressed in traditional attires presented this song that praises women. The girls' deft movements on kalsi charmed the viewers.

Dressed in dazzling red saris and bulky silver jewellery, women from Nepal, along with their male counterparts, presented Jhangad, a Nepali folk dance. "The song is addressed to Lord Krishna by women whose men have left for work leaving them alone," shared a dancer. This troupe proudly displayed their special dholak made of clay.

The programme was rounded off by Salam Logary Group from Afganistan. These four artistes presented songs in Farsi and Pashto on their old, traditional saaz. "Theses instruments are the basics of our culture," shared Abdul Wahid, who wanted to give the message of peace through their performance. "Things are getting normal in our homeland. We immensely value the chance to be in India. We really appreciate Indian music," he shared.

The students, which formed a major part of the audience, did not understand many languages but there was this general bonhomie in the air!

Number game

The TRPs for the first week weren't very encouraging. They remained constant for the next couple of months as well, until people started relating to the storyline. Now after completing 200 episodes, the statistics of Sasuraal Gandaphul have taken a 180-degree turn. "We began with the TRP of 0.5 and have now soared to 5.1. The reasons behind success are the usual ones-hardwork, dedication, storyline and improvisation," says Sooraj Thapar, who was in the city on Friday on a personal visit.

He adds that the soap is doing well for it hasn't followed the beaten track, "We don't have a villain or vampire. The storyline is similar to our everyday life, in which we fight with our family members and then forgive, crack jokes and live happily together. The show without the essential spice of conspiracies is doing immensely well because it's projecting the life of masses."

Besides the soap, what has kept Sooraj busy is The Genius of Beauty, a crossover film. "I am playing role of female lead's father. It's a comedy flick on two different cultures." But he feels that there's still time before the crossover films will be accepted by people. "People in India love to watch Hollywood films but when it comes to crossover cinema, they aren't able to make sense of merging cultures." The film was successfully screened at the Cannes Film Festival and is ready for the premiers at other international events. "I am travelling to promote the film but Saasural Gandaphul will still be a priority," he signs off. — Ashima Sehajpal

Agony & ecstasy
Aradhika Sharma, an agony aunt of a popular website, has come up with her latest venture Dear Agony Aunt
Nonika Singh

“I am always in agony.” Such words from an agony aunt might sound like euphemism. But Aradhika Sharma, an agony aunt of a popular website, whose book Dear Agony Aunt was launched at Lajpat Rai Bhawan on Friday, as part of ongoing Rupa book fair, shares that it is precisely because she herself agonises over small little things of life that makes her understand the predicament of her subjects whom she in a tongue-in-cheek manner calls “inagonies.” But for this aside, she is more than earnest in offering advice to those who seek it. Even when her knee-jerk reaction is “get lost”, she takes a long breath and then goes about proffering advice with empathy and detachment, both.

So is the book too long a piece of advisory information, a kind of referral guide for lost and bewildered souls? First things first, she doesn’t think that agony aunt is a helpline. So how can the book be? Of course, the book is no novel, albeit divided into eight chapters, it deals with six serious issues including domestic abuse. However, it is not written in a prosaic or sermonising manner. An engaging story telling style is what defines the unusual treatment that dovetails the query, her response and most significantly the reasons that triggered her answer.

So is it tell-all tale of an agony aunt privy to intimate details of people’s private lives? Mind you, this is no sizzling steamy recapturing. Her book is not meant to scintillate or shock readers. Actually what prompted the book was the fact that she found a story in each of the agonies. As she dwelt over it further she realised that indeed there was a cohesive story to tell. Since large majority of queries she receives are about relationships one could say relationship is a recurring leitmotif in chapters like ‘Online, offline’ and ‘Let’s see’ that is about arranged marriages. Yes, there is a whole chapter on extramarital liaisons as well. And wonder of all wonders, Aradhika is sympathetic to the protagonists.

She quips. “The key to being a good agony aunt is you can’t be judgmental. You can’t be seen as someone living on a high pedestal delivering sermons. And even though you might be tempted to, you have to control the feeling of outrage and lend a sympathetic ear.” Often she confesses it is difficult, especially when you are flooded with sexually explicit queries. But she is categorical, “I am not here to feed people’s fantasies.” Nor to endorse socially unacceptable and forbidden things like incest or suicide. So what does she do? “When the query becomes rather hot to handle, I press the delete button.” Interestingly, she deleted a good 15,000 words of her book as well for she didn’t quite like it and began rewriting. A freelance journalist and co-author of Sunita Williams: Astronaut Extraordinaire, she does feel that one is the best critic of oneself and the first objective reader of one’s copy. “While journalism doesn’t allow you the luxury of starting from scratch, a book does.” Do journalists make better writers? “Yes provided you can cross the word count hurdle. From 1,500 words to 40,000 words, it’s a long journey.” And the transformation from a scribe to an agony aunt…. is it natural? “Yes, if you are a woman for that makes you a better listener.” The key to helping others she feels lies in just being a patient listener for “Ultimately we all solve our own problems.” With similar priceless nuggets dotting her book, you know what you are getting from this dear agony aunt who hands out practical wisdom and refrains from patronising you or your emotions.

Spicy beat
Combining beats of bhangra with cardiovascular exercises, fitness guru Sarina Jain’s Masala Bhangra is a workout that is suitable for all ages

She is the Jane Fonda of India, has followers all over the world and has one of the top five workouts regimens in the US. Dressed in jeans and black Masala Bhangra hoodie, this tall, toned up, beauty greets with a sweet Sat Sri Akal at a Sector 35 bistro.

Her energy and enthusiasm is inspiring. Combining beats of bhangra with cardiovascular exercises, her Masala Bhangra is a workout that is suitable for participants of all age. And the woman behind this Desi craze, Sarina Jain, a Rajasthani Marwari born and brought up in the US, recently paid a visit to our city in search of inspiration.

Enjoying the 10th year of her famous workout, backed up by various fitness boards, Sarina shares, “I am closely connected to our heritage. My father, just like many other Indians, left for the US in search of greener pastures. But he made sure that even in a foreign land, me and my sister remained Indian to the core, which I think he successfully achieved.”

Trained in various fitness regimens, how Masala Bhangra was born is rather personal. “I lost my father to a cardiac arrest when he was just 47. Our world came crashing down. When I did get over the initial jolt, I wanted to create a fitness programme targeted towards Indians. And what better than a mix of Bhangra steps on Bollywood beats,” she shares.

With her base in New York and studios all over the world (Japan is the latest to join), Sarina is constantly evolving her style. The latest being Bar Bhangra.

“It’s a full body strength training workout that effectively tones and builds muscle strength, burns fats and calories. All the while you dance to the Bar Bhangra beats,” shares Sarina.

This total body-conditioning workout utilises one-pound bars (just like Dandiya sticks) and is suitable for all. Infectious bhangra dhol beats sets the scene, leaving one energised, invigorated, and stronger.

As for the trip to the city, “Though I am not born in Punjab, but due to some unique reason I totally belong to Punjab,” shares Sarina. And it’s a regular ritual for this global fitness icon, to come to this land for inspiration. “There is something magical about this land. The colour, the culture; everything is so infectious,” she says. Her favourites? “Well, that’s difficult to choose. I would say colourful bangles and handsome Sardars supporting colourful turbans. It’s not everywhere that a man can wear pink and be proud of it,” says Sarina, who is also the new face for the Nestle Fitness ‘Flat Belly’” campaign, which is featuring copies of The Masala Bhangra Workout®…Bollywood Style on 2.6 million cereal boxes for Latin America.

Give me some Mo(o)re
Hollywood actor Julianne Moore features as a Greek goddess in the latest Pirelli calendar

The actor, Julianne Moore, who celebrated her 50th birthday Friday, features as Hera, the Greek goddess of marriage in the black and white limited edition calendar based on the theme of mythology. It features men too this time. Moore is joined by other models as well in the Pirelli calendar, which is printed annually since past 40 years and is a limited edition publication given to special VIPs only. In the past, supermodel Kate Moss also posed for it, and four years ago screen legend Sophie Loren posed for the calendar at the age of 72. The latest calendar was unveiled in Moscow and was put together by designer Karl Lagerfeld.

Four men, who also feature in the calendar, wear codpieces to protect their modesty.


Make-up man
Tom Cruise is stealing his wife’s cosmetics

Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise is reportedly stealing cosmetics from wife Katie Holmes make-up supplies in a bid to look young. The 48-year-old actor is so worried about his appearance these days that he is taking help of his actor wife's cosmetics.

"Tom is in major midlife crisis mode. He is freaking out over the new lines on his face, the grey hairs on his head and on his face when he shaves.

"He has started applying Katie's high-priced facial creams, cleansers and even her make-up—and he loves the results!" said a source. The Top Gun star also does up his face and eyes before making a public appearance. "He even slathers on Katie's foundation before public events and lightly applies her mascara to make his eyelashes look fuller.

"Tom is incredibly vain, and he's willing to go to great lengths to look good next to his younger co stars. Katie is horrified that Tom has resorted to raiding her beauty supplies," the source added. — PTI

Simple life
Nicole Kidman has lost interest in fashion
Actors Nicole Kidman (L) and Sandra Oh attend the premiere of Rabbit Hole at the Paris Theatre on Thursday in New York
Actors Nicole Kidman (L) and Sandra Oh attend the premiere of Rabbit Hole at the Paris Theatre on Thursday in New York. PTI photo

Hollywood star Nicole Kidman has become ‘less interested’ in fashion after becoming a mother and describes her style as ‘simple’.

The 'Australia' star - who has two-year-old daughter Sunday Rose with country music star Keith Urban, as well as two adopted children, Bella, 18, and Connor, 15, with ex-husband Tom Cruise—was into style more when she was younger and believes having a kid has made her fashion-sense simpler.

"Because I have a child now, I dress much simpler these days. When I was in my 20s the thing I loved was fashion. I loved to get really dressed up," said Kidman.

"I think I'm less interested in fashion now and more interested in simple chic. I still think it's important to have some sense of 'not letting yourself go' though. You've got to make an effort, even after you have a child and even after you're married." The 43-year-old actor thinks her initial interest in fashion came as a child when her mother would dress her up.

"When I was a little girl my mum would dress me up like a doll, put bows in my hair and take me to flea markets where she'd find beautiful things. She was also a seamstress so she would make me a lot of clothes. That's probably when I fell in love with clothes and the idea of dressing up."— PTI

Vegetables for vitality

You may as well see the writing on the wall. Our body needs veggies like flowers need sunshine. Even meat-khorrs like me will find it hard to argue about the health benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables. They are the ultimate health food and have significant nutritional value, including vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Look for colour when picking veggies at the mandi or from the rehriwaala down the street, like the red lycopene in tomatoes, the orange beta carotene in carrots and lutein in green vegetables.

"Phyt"-ochemicals are literally believed to possess specific cancer "fight"-ing properties. The entire basket of veggies put together lowers blood pressure, reduces risk of heart disease, stroke and probably cancer. They lower the risk of eye and digestive problems and have a mellowing effect on blood sugar levels. We should aim for at least nine servings of vegetables and fruits a day. That would be 4½ cups (but remember, potatoes don't count!) If you are non-vegetarians, its difficult to make veggies take centre-stage at the dining table but turning out a stir fry or a colourful salad as a side dish can help nudge the family towards good health and vitality!

Spiced broccoli with red bell peppers

  • 450-500 gm broccoli
  • 2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp crushed dried chili flakes
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat edge of a knife, skins removed, and sliced thinly
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar or the juice of a large lemon


Cut up the head of broccoli into medium sized florets. Peel off the tough skin from the thick stalks, then slice them into batons. Core the red bell pepper, remove the seeds and slice into long juliennes. Peel the garlic and slice thinly. Boil a sufficient amount of water in a deep pan and first add the tougher broccoli stalks into it. Cook for two minutes followed by the florets. Give it a quick rolling boil for a minute, drain and refresh briefly in cold water. Drain again. Heat a heavy wok of karhai, add the oil and heat until really hot. Add the chili flakes, red pepper, and sliced garlic. Stir-fry over medium-high heat for two minutes. The red pepper should be slightly tender but not mushy. Add the broccoli, toss lightly, then add the balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice) and salt. Mix and taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary. Turn out into a bowl and serve.

Zucchini fritters

  • 3 medium-to-large zucchini
  • ½ cup combination of atta and maida
  • 1 large egg (or 2 small)
  • 120 gm cheese
  • ¾ cup walnuts, finely crushed
  • 200 gm spring onions
  • 1 tbsp ginger, grated
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • oil for frying
  • salt and pepper


Grate the unskinned zucchini and sprinkle with a little salt. Let sit for 10 minutes, then squeeze out the excess water by wrapping it up in a square muslin cloth. Shred the cheese and stir it in along with the flour, walnuts, egg, green onions, ginger and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remembering that you have already salted the zucchini. Sprinkle a little more flour if mixture is too wet. Use a wide fry pan with sufficient oil for shallow frying. Drop the thick mixture into pan, using a medium sized spoon. Flatten the zucchini mix gently when it is slightly firm and fry on both sides over medium high heat. Serve with a tangy tomato chutney or a yogurt dip. You can add another dimension to the the fritters by adding chopped dill(suey) or cooked corn to the mixture. Don't use both because a riot of flavours only causes confusion for the taste buds!

Mom, no junk please!

Be it junk or healthy food -- what you eat during pregnancy affects your child's food preferences as it helps to form their sense of smell, says a new study.

A research team from the University of Colorado said a pregnant mother's diet sensitises her foetus to those particular smells and flavours and even shapes their brain development.

This makes the mother's diet more attractive to the child when they are older.

Study author Josephine Todrank, now at the University of Haifa in Israel, said: "If the mother drinks alcohol, her child may be more attracted to alcohol because the developing foetus 'expects' that whatever comes from the mother must be safe."

"If she eats healthy food, the child will prefer healthy food," added Todrank, according to the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Researchers studying mice found that the pups' sense of smell was changed by what their mothers ate, teaching them to like the flavours in her diet.

At the same time, they found significant changes in the structure of the brain's olfactory glomeruli, which processes smells, because odours in the amniotic fluid affect how this system develops.

Study sponsor Diego Restrepo, said: "This is the first study to address the changes in the brain that occur upon steady exposure to flavours in utero and early in postnatal life when the newborn is receiving milk from the mother." — IANS

Green cause
NGO Saplings—Care, We Share is spreading the message of cleaner and greener environment
Deepali Sagar

Saplings - Care, We Share is a group of people who are trying to contribute a part of their time, energy and ideas to the cause of environment. A brainchild of Neenu Vij and Pooja Nagrath, the NGO was conceived in August 2004, by a team of enthusiastic volunteers from diverse backgrounds. "We always hear about big policies, but what we can do as individuals was our main concern when we thought of Saplings," says Neenu Vij, the chairperson.

This organisation holds various events in schools, colleges, slums, public places and corporate set-ups in a bid to generate awareness about the environment. "Till now we have done around 80 events," says Vandana, a member. These events are in form of awareness campaigns, competitions, festivals and plantation drives et al. The NGO is also coming up with an event in St Stephens School, Sector 45, on December 4. "Environment is a blazing issue and it's not a single person effort. So, we try to make the public participate with us," says Pooja, another member. However, Neenu feels, "Individual effort will collectively influence societal reaction towards this issue."

So does time act as a constraint? "We all have other commitments, but we have never neglected our duties towards the NGO because of our passion," says Vandana. "Saplings has made us much more enthusiastic about every challenge we face in life," explains Pooja. On the changes that Saplings has brought about, Neenu shares, "I have started switching off the lights when they are not in use and I make it a point that no one in my family litters the surroundings."

Saplings is now looking out for more and more people to spread their message. Says Neenu, "We just want to make people more aware about the environment."

Warming up

Winter is here and if you are looking for some traditional woolies, Kashmiri sale at Panchayat Bhavan-18 (hall number-506) has brought shawls, stoles, suits and jackets for you.

Stylish ponchos for all ages are available here and so is pure pashmina. One can pick up jackets, short and long, in aari work. Leather coats, traditional crewal bedcovers, running material for curtain and paper mashie knick-knacks are also on sale.

The suits range starts from Rs 450, shawls in aari, needle and kani work start from Rs 550.

Chic look

ZOD! Club Wear takes eveningwear for men to a new level. With two-fold, 100 per cent Egyptian cotton fabrics and international-standard styling and intricate detailing on every shirt, this winter 2010 line is specially designed for the socially active male who wants a chic and sophisticated look.

The lead shirt in the ZOD! Club Wear Winter 2010 line Helio is worn by model Asif Azim. The fabric used is 100 per cent premium cotton and styled with a white contrast pin-tuck on the body with white sateen lining inside the collar band and cuff.

The Helio shirt is priced at Rs 1,495 and is also available in body fabric of white.


POP art
Deepali Sagar

What are popcorns for? Simple answer, eating. But, if someone tells you that every popcorn has a picture hidden in it, will you believe it? Well, this has been proved by Tej Pal Singh, a retired teacher. "People eat popcorns, but they never try to see them closely. But if they do, they will come across images that will surprise them," he says.

"I was eating popcorns one day when I realised that they present such interesting pictures. My first reaction was to click the photograph with my cell phone," he recalls. And by now, Tej Pal has as many as 200 different photographs stored on his phone.

So does he save the popcorns? He smiles, "It's very difficult to save them for a long time because of their salt content. So after clicking the photograph, I end up eating them." He uses his mobile camera for capturing these distinct features rather than relying on some high definition camera. "These images are taken the moment I recognise something different in them. I use no artificial lights." His is next approaching Jaspal Bhatti's Mad Art, to make a DVD of his pictures, which would later be displayed in an exhibition. "I want to make the common man aware about new horizons, which haven't been explored by anyone before."

Apart from this, Tej Pal also does 3-D paper folding. For all the budding artists, he has a message, "Never lose hope and continue doing what you are doing. Success will come for sure, sooner or later."

Collector's delight
The Northeast bazaar in Sector 34 has a host of unique items to suit different tastes

We love exhibitions. And this was amply clear as craftsmen from Northeast opened their wares at the Northeast Bazaar, opposite the Sector 34 gurdwara. People immediately walked in and enquired about stuff they were interested in, even as young craftsmen settled their stalls.

This exhibition has brought to the city a variety of wares from Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Sikkim. The highlight - most of these products are organic.

"We have invited as many as 150 artisans and a good number of them are already here with their crafts," says PK Gogoi, regional manager, Northeastern Handicraft and Handlooms Development Corporation Ltd.

A wide range of bamboo furniture, muga silk, jute bags, bamboo knick-knacks are available at this exhibition. Stoneware from Manipur is the special attraction. These utensils can be used in the microwave as well. Colourful flowers made of corn leaves are another attraction.

Not only Northeast, the exhibition also has handicrafts and handlooms from other states of India as well. Colourful beadwork, Gujarati lengha choli, shawls from Srinagar, mirror work from Jodhpur et al.

But the highlight was a range of bamboo products. "The beauty of this exhibition is how these craftsmen have geared their crafts towards the urban lifestyle. That's the only way they can survive and also their craft, which has the advantage of being natural and organic," shares Pranab Kishore Das, mission director, National Rural Health Mission, who inaugurated the exhibition. — Mona

On till December 13 

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The exceptional textures of moisturisers make this range absolutely unique. The Aqua Essence (a translucent gel for normal to combination skin) and Aqua Cream (a rich gel-crème texture) for normal to dry skin magically melt on contact.

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