If you’re a man who understands and respects the value of time, wearing a watch is an inherent part of your daily routine. Just like the rest of your outfit, your watch is a great way to leave a lasting first impression. A sophisticated timepiece holds the power to narrate your life story, ironically, without uttering a word. Of all types of watches and what they say about you, chronograph watches are undoubtedly one of the most sought-after timekeeping devices of today’s day and age; safely positioning you in the category of men who are sure of where they are and where they want to be.

Luxury watches for men, that can be found at Ethos Watch Boutiques, come in various shapes and sizes, boasting of multiple functionalities – be it date, seconds hand, chronometer, tachymeter and the like. Of all these, the chronograph functionality has found a loyal base amongst influential men across generations. Literally translating to ‘time writer’, the chronograph coupled with date functionality makes your wristwatch the most important accessory in your wardrobe – one you wouldn’t be willing to step out of the house without. It is more than just a fancy aesthetic addition to your watch. With its ability to accurately record time with precision, your watch is made all the more powerful and indispensable. Going beyond their traditional use for timing races, contemporary chronograph watches have found practical use in the modern man’s everyday life – you can track your evening run, fitness routine, cooking time and the list goes on.

Owning a luxurious timepiece with the functionality of a chronograph is an invaluable addition to your trunk of accessories, one that’ll successfully stand the test of time. Here’s looking at 3 Chronograph Must-Have Watches this season:

Rado – Diamaster Collection

cat_diamaster_650_0076_3_410

No matter your personal definition of style, you’ll find your match in the . Popular for its easily legible dial, the range of timepieces boasts of a chronograph, small seconds totalizer and a date display. The collection is a flawless amalgamation of durability, class, elegance and functionality; an ideal fit for any man willing to go the extra mile to leave a lasting first impression. For a practical yet ultra polished look, go for a clean white dial strapped in with a perforated leather strap (fascinatingly inspired by driving gloves).

  1. Longines – Watchmaking Tradition Collection

longines-saint-imier-collection-l2-669-4-78-6-large

The Longines Watchmaking Tradition Collection of timepieces is an exemplification of immaculate craftsmanship, premium technology and elegant aesthetics. Living up to the high standards set by Longines in the world of time keeping, the collection is proof why the brand name is used synonymously with trust, credibility and timeless style. Keeping durability as a top priority, every model from the collection is encased with sapphire crystal glass to ensure scratch resistance and endurance. In terms of shape, the cases range from timeless tonneau to classic circular designs, made from materials such as 18k gold and polished stainless steel. The collection is made extra special with its advanced chronographic models, boasting of secondary tracks and varied sub-dials.

  1. TAG Heuer – Carrera Collection

tag-heuer-carrera-car2b11-fc6235-large

If you enjoy the thrill of high speed, the Carrera collection by Tag Heuer is bound to be a favorite. Initially designed exclusively for drivers and racers, today the collection has evolved to find mass appeal in the world of timekeeping. With cutting edge technology and awe-inspiring design – characteristic to five decades of its existence – the Carrera collection truly serves as an inspiration for other watchmakers. It has emerged as a flag bearer of chronograph watches, setting high standards in terms of aesthetics, practicality and precision. The Carrera dial is known for its easy readability, complimented by noteworthy features such as waterproof, shockproof and anti-magnetic qualities.

https://www.ethoswatches.com/brands/tag-heuer/carrera.html

For a man who realizes the value of design, practicality and luxury packed in one strong piece of timekeeping machinery, any of the above mentioned chronograph watches are a must-have this season. Find yourself a watch that perfectly encapsulates your unique sense of style and fashion.

In a very short span of time, India has taken leaps in terms of development and adoption of online payment systems. For a country that always relied on hard cash to make payments, digital means have not only caught up, but is on-par, and will soon overtake cash dealings. It could be the whole #DigitalIndia movement to drive India into becoming a cashless society, or maybe the horror of having to stand in bank lines for days when one fine morning, the money you hold is no longer legal tender (courtesy PM dearest).

Reasons aside, have you ever wondered what takes place when you make an instant online payment to shop for apparel online? What happens in those few seconds between entering your card details and receiving the “Transaction Successful” SMS on your phone? What happens when you walk into an Axis Bank ATM with your SBI Card and withdraw money? How do these two different communicate internally and give you the cash you need? Or when you enter your CVV number and pay for a ride through your Uber app?

NPCI

An organization you’ve probably never heard of, the National Payments Corporation of India touches every one of these transactions. The NPCI is an umbrella organization for operating retail payments and settlement systems in India. The world of finance is intriguing and vast and I jumped at the chance to get a first-hand interaction with the company that provides the infrastructure for the entire banking system in India – physical as well as electronic.

National Payments Corp of India

The National Payment Corporation of India has launched a host of digital services since its inception in 2010. Each of these services are aimed at furthering the electronic payment system to make India a financial inclusive economy.

A few of these services include

UPI (United Payment Interface which merges multiple bank accounts of any bank into seamless fund routing and merchant payment through an app)

USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data is an app that works without the internet, enabling transactions to be made by Indians all over the country by dialling a common number, *99#)

IMPS (Immediate Payment Service enabling money transfers through banks around the clock through one’s account number and IFSC, Mobile Number or Aadhar Card.)

Bhim Aadhaar – An app that allows merchants to accept payment for goods and services by authenticating a customer’s biometrics

Aadhar Enabled Payment System – A bank account linked with Aadhaar information lets you turn your Aadhar card into an ATM Card, allowing users holding an account in one bank to transact through another bank.

Bharat QR – Login to your bank’s app, scan the Bharat QR code at an outlet and pay for goods!

…. And a host of others!

kunal kalawatia NPCI

I got an in-depth understanding of two of NPCI’s most popular instruments – RuPay and BHIM

Many of you probably have a RuPay card already. RuPay cards are issued by banks and increase the efficiency of small ticket payments electronically. This is a standardized scheme for all banks in India and currently Rupay accounts for 30% of ATM transactions plus 22% of all shopping transactions. The figures are rising due to some lucrative offers RuPay Card holders can avail of such as deals at dining outlets, shopping, jewellery, lounge access and more.

Deep Sood RuPay NPCI

800+ banks are currently participating with 380 million cards issued already. Within the existing debit card space, Rupay offers different products for different segments and offers payment options across channels – ATMs, POS, E-commerce and Aadhar based transactions on micro ATMS. The switching fees are almost 1/3rd that of International Card Schemes (ICS). RuPay has a strategic tie up with Discover Financial Services and Japan Credit Beaureau to offer international acceptance globally.

BHIM allows you to go cashless anywhere, at any time yet have a simple, secure way to pay. This 24×7 instant money transfer service app allows you to scan and pay, collect and receive oney with a click, instantly. A direct bank to bank transfer is possible using a mobile number/aadhar card/account number and IFSC code. Users can also generate and share a personal QR code and receive instant notifications for every transaction. No more running to ATMs and rendering exact change!

Anubhav Sharma NPCI

The informative session I had with Mr. Kunal Kalawatia (SVP Marketing and Branding), Deep Sood (AVP – Product Development- RuPay) and Anubhav Sharma (AVP – Product Development – BHIM) was intense. I’ve tried to cover the salient points in this blog post, but if you have any questions, comment below and I’ll try my best to answer them.

Hope you enjoyed this change of pace on That Goan Girl. See you next time!

Goa-based fashion designer Ninoshka Alvares-Delaney is one to watch! This fashion pioneer from Saligao is in the organic fashion space and was recently honored by the Union Minister of State for textile, Smriti Irani from over 1660 designers across the country for her unique use of eco-friendly products, handloom fabrics and dyes. In a state that’s always equated fashion with Wendell Rodricks, quiet, graceful Ninoshka is slowly but surely getting the attention she deserves.

ninoshka fashion designer

Apart from the fact that she stays a few minutes away from my home in Saligao, we also have two people in common – her sister, my classmate – Kim and a professor we both admired in our respective colleges – Rajesh Nambiar who taught Ninoshka during her NIFT days and years later, taught me in a subject in MBA. Strangely, the two of us had never met long enough to have a conversation until my trip to Goa last week when I visited her workshop.

I walked around the Delaney’s house to the back and through their garage till I found myself at their little office in the backyard that was buzzing with activity. A few minutes later, she led me upstairs to a much quieter, spacious room that had two tailors at work on sewing machines and another making necklaces out of fabric that anyone else would have discarded without a second thought.

upcycle ninoshka

We’re both reluctant conversation starters, but it wasn’t long before I’m poring over fabric that’s been printed with… of all things… onion peels!! The fabric and print looks so delicate that it feels as if touching it would wipe the patterns away like powder, but Ninoshka tells me that the fabric is just like any other – can be washed, dried, and worn like normal. How cool is that!

onion peel fabric

Ninoshka explains to me the whole process of how she managed to accomplish something so oddly brilliant and then opens out rolls of fabric that have been dyed with pomegranate, marigold, rose, indigo and pigments given out by beetles!

The label crafts elegantly tailored business, evening and casual fashion made of high quality, sustainable and certified materials. In fact, the brand uses a label that’s trademarked to the India Handloom Brand, meaning the quality of the materials she uses have been tested for a period of 6 months before being trademarked. Why is this important? Because handmade fabric is prone to human error and Ninoshka finds that having her fabrics certified beforehand saves a lot of hassles later on.

I didn’t ask her about what sparked her interest in fashion, her philosophy and all the accolades she’s won, because it’s all available on the internet. Here’s what our neighbourly conversation was like:

What is your personal style?

When it comes to my personal clothing preference, I’ve always opted for organic clothing. Synthetic fabric never appealed to me and I never felt comfortable in them. For me, comfort is paramount and what I others think of my attire comes second. Even when it comes to my hair, I don’t colour it or attempt to hide my greys. I let it be as it is – natural. It may be greying, but that’s something that everyone goes through. Why hide it?

What’s it like running a business like yours with a child?

It’s very tough managing a business with a child. Before Daniel was born, the business was slow and I was happy at the pace it was going. For a year after he was born, it was stagnant and slowed. It’s now that he’s started going to school that I’ve decided to buck up and achieve what I want to. I have a few hours while he’s at school to do the bulk of my work. I won a couple of awards this year that quickened my growth, so that helped too!

How do you manage creativity with commerce?

I don’t like getting involved in money and sales. It stifles my creativity and takes up too much of my time. If I think about sales and price tags, my mind is occupied with thinking about what designs will sell and what won’t. So I’ve left the marketing and sales up to my husband so that all my thoughts and energy go into creating the best designs possible.

ninoshka collection

I’ve read that artisans are your biggest inspiration. Why is that?

Artisans are so content with what they have. If we have a mobile phone, we always want a better one. We want a car. We want more luxury. But I’ve worked with these people and I see how content they are with their lives. They think like children and aren’t influenced by the outside world. At one point, I worked with artisans in Gujarat and we had the theme ‘sky, water and earth.’ One lady embroidered a circle with fish inside, and when asked what it was, she said it was the well outside her home with fish swimming inside. Another person created something and I couldn’t quite fathom what it was. He later told me that it was a constellation in the sky.

All these things exist around us, but we don’t notice and aren’t inspired by them. Our thoughts are so complex and influenced by so many things. That’s why I aspire to be like those artisans.

Goans love to dress up in their finest gowns for feasts and weddings. Since you only wear organic clothes, do you find it odd to wear simple, understated clothes on such occasions?

Not really. For occasions that need formal or showy attire, I pick linen or silk garments instead of cotton. I once wore a linen skirt and organic white shirt for someone’s 50th wedding anniversary – and you know what huge occasions those are! Golden jubilees are even grander than the wedding itself! Everyone was in their beaded, shimmery clothing and I was the complete opposite. I was surprised to have got a lot of compliments that night – and even 3 orders for the skirt I was wearing!

I think Saligao is still more open-minded and accepting of organic clothing. When it comes to the south and the coastal belt, you will find that for formal occasions, everyone looks identical. All the women wear the same, tailor made suit-skirt set or a top and skirt made from the same fabric. It will have some small differences like beads or embroidery but other than that, it all looks mass produced.

ninoshka studio goa

Tell me more about your attempts to revive the Adivasi weave in Goa

My husband and I are working on marketing the Adivasi weave in Goa. We are helping Dr Rohit, a historian to market the weave which is presently being made in Karnataka, as there are no weavers left in Goa. however our aim is to get the weaving industry started in Goa again with the support of the textile ministry.

The Kunbis are aboriginals of Goa and wore the Adivasi Sari, also called ‘kaapad.’ Their way of draping the sari was basic, called ‘Detli’ and involved wrapping the sari around the waist and typing it over the right shoulder in a knot. This style of draping facilitated fieldwork. The sari ended just above the ankle and did not need a blouse or petticoat, although younger women did use blouses with puff sleeves. A white shawl called ‘voll’ was thrown over the shoulder and the pallu was tucked in at the back to form a pocket of sorts.

This weave was compact and made in Goa on handlooms but with the decline of handlooms, the weave stopped in 1985. It is one of our endeavors to get the original Adivasi weave revived here in Goa.

Which celebrity’s personal style do you admire?

I love the way Kiran Rao dresses. She’s always comfortable in sarees and kurtas. In Hollywood, they’re all well dressed, but I like Emma Watson’s style the most.

Where can one buy from the Ninoshka label?

We’re available online on sites like Jaypore, Bunosilo and Peacock Colours along with a handful of retail stores..

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It’s always a pleasure meeting people who enjoy doing what they love and whose benefit to society is their biggest satisfaction. Ninoshka’s philosophy of ‘fashion with a conscience’ is refreshing, to say the least and just goes to show that the future is definitely hand-made!

That wrapped up my chat with Ninoshka Alvares- Delaney! If you enjoyed this one, don’t forget to subscribe!!

Let me know what you think and keep in touch on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Bye!

I’ve always believed that India’s real riches are the diversity of food it offers – food that’s as multi-flavoured as the country itself.

Outsiders may generalize Indian food to be just about curry, whereas even in India itself, we write off North Indian food as butter-chicken-naan and south Indian food as dosa-idli-sambar. But food in India is more than a means to satiate hunger, it is the way to an Indian’s heart. Any Indian!

At the Marriott Goa, the kitchens are abuzz everyday from the 14th till the 20th of August 2017 to bring these different flavours, tastes and associated emotions to life! With one day dedicated to the cuisine of one region, they’re dishing up the most elaborate spread of regional cuisine under one roof! It helps that the team of chefs hails from all parts of the country, and on the day I visited, I had the richest, most decadent cuisine of all – Punjabi!!

Head Chef Pawan Chennam greeted me and introduced me to Chef Gurneet – the man behind the dinner for the day. Punjabi food is luxury, in every sense of the word and the spread of food from salads to mains and even desserts was jaw-dropping! They even went so far as to bring the vibrant madness of Punjab’s streets to the hotel, with carts selling chaat, corn on the cob, golas and chole kulchas!

AMBIANCE

Until now, I had only visited JW Marriott properties. JW Marriott is a tier higher than the regular Marriott brand that recently took over Starwood Hotels. The difference in ambiance was apparent right away. The quiet, luxurious interiors in earthy and gold tones I was used to in Mumbai’s JW properties was absent and in it’s place, loud coloured furniture in red and green. There was a lot of red and blue neon lighting which was a bit jarring at first.

marriott interiors restaurant

The decor had a ‘Punjabi dhaba’ theme that was carried through in the truck/cart styled set up and huuuge utensils of biryanis that I’ve only seen before in videos of the langar (communal meal) at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. On the other hand, the desserts were daintily placed on hanging swings.

marriott interiors

culinary journey of india marriott goa

Given the fact that the theme of the restaurant would be changed every single day in keeping with the region, the level of attention given to decor was impressive! Overall, the ambiance was super casual and noisy, more like a pub on a Saturday night, minus the music.

marriott food festival interiors

marriott punjab food

SERVICE

This was one place where I felt that everyone, from the staff to the chefs, were genuinely happy to be there, doing their jobs and giving more to it than was expected of them. The service was extremely warm and welcoming! They kept checking up on us, suggesting and bringing the next course from the buffet which was a few feet away – right to the table. I was quite surprised to find out that most of them already follow me on Instagram!

FOOD

Like I mentioned earlier, I was glad to have made it for the Punjabi feast! I’m sure the cuisines of other states would have been equally fantastic, but Punjab is a state you can eat your way through. Dollops of ghee, cream and butter, soft, tender meat, rich spices, deep flavours and indulgent sweets – all of it makes for a hearty meal!

Here’s a fraction of the spread during the Culinary Journey of India food festival at Marriott, Goa

buffet marriott goa

gurneet dhaba marriott goa

Never seen a spread of pickles like this before!

pickles marriot goa

salads marriott goa

Coming to the food I actually sampled, Marriott once again leaves me torn when it comes to choosing my favouirte dish. Every time I thought I had found it, the next dish outdid the last.

We started off with Chole Kulcha, a quintessential street food item that I’ve never tried before, simply because I always run straight towards the Chole Bhature. It was a meal in itself! Masaledaar chickpeas mounted on a soft, flour bread called kulcha, garnished with onions, tomatoes and a squeeze of lime. For those who love spicy food, this is as good as it gets!

chole kulcha marriott goa

Melt-in-your-mouth galouti kebabs from the Awadhi table followed! What distinguishes this one among other kebabs is that the tenderized minced meat and mild spices are formed into patties and roasted on the tava. My favourite kebabs are Malai chicken – so heavenly!!

galouti kebab

Mahi Amritsari followed. You can tell how crispy that batter is by just looking at it, right? Inside was still piping hot and flaky Mahi fish. Love these bite-sized snacks!

atter fried fish marriott goa

What is a Punjabi meal without Dal Makhani and Naan! Rich, satisfying and so creamy, this delicious mixed lentil dal left me floored and I couldn’t get enough of that naan either!

dal makhani marriott

We tried capturing the steam on camera as we opened the flour casing over this Mutton Dum Biryani and some of you may have caught it on my Instagram stories too! Set in deep silver cauldrons, the mildly cooked mutton is added to the fragrant rice and thereafter fused together. This biryani was low on spice, light on the stomach and makes you want to keep eating it!

dum biryani mutton

My favourite dish was the Rara Ghost! If you ever go to Marriott Goa, ask them to make it for you! It tastes like ROYALTY.. seriously!! It was so good that I tried ordering Rara Ghost at 4 other places during my visit to Goa but none of them came remotely close to this one. The lighter curry in the picture is Dhaba-kukkad or to translate literally, chicken from a restaurant/stall by the highway. Pair it with that flaky Lacchha paratha, and you’ll be on Cloud 9!

rara ghost dhaba kukkad

I’m not a huge fan of kadhi (yoghurt based curry with besan doughballs) so I just nibbled this dish. While the ever-popular rajma-chawal was good, I was too star-struck with the previous courses to pay much attention to it.

kadhi pakoda

*clears throat and points below*

gajar ka halwa

How amaaaazing does that Gajar Ka Halwa look! It had a divine taste and texture of milk, carrots and nuts cooked for hours, and wasn’t dripping with ghee. The dessert spread was actually pretty vast and featured all kinds of cakes (even a gajar ka halwa cake), but I took the traditional route and tried some pinni laddo too! Pinni Laddoo is a traditional sweet eaten during winter and is made of flour, khoya, sugar and nuts. Those who don’t like very sweet desserts would enjoy this one!
pirni laddoo

Last up, Chef Gurneet got me a gola!! Wheee!

Look at that happy face after all that decadent food! Little things like these make my day!

gola

That brings me to the end of ‘Punjabi Food Day’ at the Culinary Journey of India Food Festival! One of the chefs generously asked me to visit everyday to sample every cuisine – and as much as I’d have loved to, I got to keep the waistline in check 😛

I however LOVED the concept of the food festival and it is one that will open your mind along with your taste buds. You will experience a burst of taste as you travel from one corner of the country to another with Marriott Goa. There are 2 days to go, so make your way down to Bambolim soon!

Let me know your fave Punjabi dishes in the comments below and keep in touch on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Bye!

P.S. I know the pictures aren’t the best, but I did what I could given the lighting situation. <3

P.S. My meal was sponsored, however, views, as always, are my own

The Rajasthani Food Festival is underway at Grand Hyatt, Goa and ends on the 16th of August. It was my first time visiting the property, which is funny, considering I’m sampling the fare at Grand Hyatt Mumbai every second weekend! I was lucky to have made it to the bloggers table during this visit home and not only sample some decadent Rajasthani food, but also catch up for the first time with some other Goan food bloggers I’ve been interacting with in cyberspace.

grand hyatt goa rajasthani food festival

The Indian restaurant, Chulha was decorated keeping in mind the Rajasthani theme, with standing umbrellas and decorative fans made of colourful fabric. Little dolls dressed in bandhini + mirrorwork sarees hung everywhere and there were dozens of flower streamers for added ethnicity.

We sampled on some vegetarian and non-vegetarian starters. I loved both the chicken starters, with a slight bias towards the Banjara Murgh Tikka, having a rich cashew base with a little crunch.

banjara murgh tikka

Although, how delicious does this one look!

chicken tikka hyatt

Bikaneri wadi aur subz ke seekh were looked cute and I couldn’t help but notice how consistent they all appeared. They were melt-in-the-mouth goooood!

shammi kebab

As we relished the starters, the mixologist gave us a live demo as he prepared our cocktails, explaining to us why he paired ingredients together and the inspiration behind them. Since the upper class folks of the Mewar region of Rajasthan enjoyed their whiskey, the Royal Mewar cocktail was made keeping that in mind. It was strange to see cardamom paired with whiskey in this cocktail, but those who tried it, absolutely loved it!

grand hyatt goa cocktails

I was torn between ordering lassi and a ramgarh milkshake and ultimately chose the Rose Milkshake. I’m glad I did because the Hing and Chilli Paneer Tikka proved too fiery for my tastebuds and a fragrant milkshake was the perfect antidote!

hing aur mirch ke paneer tikka

pithod ke tikka

All the Rajasthani classics featured in the main course of the menu and it was indeed fit for a Maharaja! In order to let us sample everything on the menu in small portions, the chef smartly presented it to us in the traditional thali.

We learned that though 75% of Rajasthais are vegetarian, the non-veg food is so legendary that those who eat it, devour it!

One such crowd favourite is Laal Maas (or red meat) – bright red hot gravy made with red chillies and mutton pieces. It was no-doubt, one of my favourites on the menu.

Another dish that had everyone singing its praises was the Maans ka Soweta – lamb chunks cooked in Indian spices, corn kernals, capsicum, red chillies and spices. The meat was so tender and well flavoured that we could tell it had been marinated for a long time! The gravy was amazing and thick too!

rajasthan food festival hyatt goa

What Chole Bhature is to Punjab, Dal Bati Churma is to Rajasthan – a classic with a history that’s as extraordinary as its taste. I loved this quintessential three-in-one-treat with baked bhaati/little dough balls in a spoonful of ghee, spiced dal and sweet, crumbly churma – it’s as fun to eat as it is to mix up!

Other things on the menu that featured in our thali included Ker Sangria (wild beans and local berries in mustard oil), Papad Methi Aloo Mangodi (potato, papad, fenugreek, dry lentil dumplings), Rajasthani Dal Dhokli (mixed lentils, chickpea flour and hing) and jodhpuri kabuli (saffron basmati rice with spices).

Desserts – the section to which my eyes are instantly drawn held only two items, to my disappointment. The Malpua, a deep fried pancake made of khoya and soaked in sugar syrup, served with rabdi, a condensed milk based dish is too delicious for words! I love mine slightly crispy, like the ones they have at Bhindi Bazaar and Mohammad Ali Road in Mumbai.

malpua and rabdi hyatt goa

We were also given a serving of badam ka sheera (a semolina based sticky dish with almonds) that was literally swimming in ghee! While ghee is an essential part of Rajasthani food, it was too rich for me to handle and I couldn’t eat more than a spoonful. I’d have loved to see some more desserts on the menu though – perhaps jalebi, dilkushar or rabri ghevar? Ooooh!!

Make your way down to Grand Hyatt Goa for a taste of Rajasthani Cuisine! We don’t really have restaurants in Goa that serve up authentic regional fare, and if you don’t plan on travelling to Rajasthan anytime soon, it’s the perfect opportunity to take a culinary trip there instead.

There’s a lot more of my Goa adventures to share with you guys! And God, so much food!

I love interacting with you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – so come over and say ‘hi!’

xoxo

P.S. My meal was sponsored, however, views, as always, are my own

Welcome back!

I was recently invited to attend the launch of Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance’s New Product – Future Wealth Gain. I told you a little about it during my post on the importance of Long Term Investments. I’ll tell you all about the new product right here!

But before the plan was revealed to us, an interesting game was conducted. We were divided into teams of 5 and given a sheet of paper on which there were 10 items listed that we had to buy within 10 years. The amount we had in hand was Rs. 10,000/- The items included things like a recliner for old age, a health check-up, gym membership, a trip to Goa and the like. We were also given market rumours – the price of so-and-so item would increase in 2 years or fall in 6; and we were given tips – You are 50 years old now. Buy the recliner before you hit 55.

Like the stock market, the year wise prices of these items flashed on screen for 30 seconds and we had to take our pick of what we wanted to buy. Should we save a fun trip for next year and buy a mobile this year? What if the mobile phone prices increase next year? Should we just get a gym membership instead?

bajaj allianz event

The goal of the game was to purchase all the items from the list. The team that saved the most money at the end of the decade would win the game! It was an interesting game – showing us how the money we had in hand could get us less of a product in future or maybe even more! It also showed us how to spend wisely, curtail expenses and save! My team of girls won, by the way! Woot!

Coming to the launch of Bajaj Allianz Life’s New Product:

About The Plan:

Bajaj Allianz Life is one of India’s leading private life insurers. Their latest offering, Bajaj Allianz Life Future Wealth Gain is a unit-linked investment plan that gives you a choice of two variants – Wealth Plus and Wealth Plus Care. Besides protecting your loved ones and yourself, the plan aims at maximizing wealth by investing in capital markets to help you achieve your financial goals in future.

future wealth gain

How does it work?

This non-participating, individual, unit linked, regular/limited premium payment plan offers the dual benefit of protection and growth. The most important advantages I can see are the high insurance cover, choice of 2 investment portfolio strategies, loyalty additions at each interval of 5 years from the 10th policy year onward, fund booster to enhance fund value at maturity, option to take maturity benefit in installments and the option to choose from multiple policy terms.

bajaj allianz future wealth gain

So how it works out is pretty simple to understand:

  1. Once you choose between Wealth Plus and Wealth Plus Care, you choose the premium you want to pay as well as the sum assured multiplier to decide your life cover.
  2. Next, choose your policy term and premium payment term.
  3. Choose the premium payment frequency
  4. Choose between two portfolio strategies
  5. Choose the riders (optional and with rider charges applicable)

At maturity, a person will receive the Fund Value plus top up premium fund value, if any including loyalty additions that help you get better returns as it provides up to 90% of one year’s premium for a policy term of 25 years. Loyalty additions are payable at the end of every 5 years starting from the 10th policy year.

That’s not all! To enhance one’s fund value, Future Wealth Gain offers Fund Boosters – amounts added to the regular premiums Fund Value at Maturity, when all premiums have been paid up to date and the policy is in force. This can be as high as 90% of one’s premium if the policy term and premium payment term is more than 15 years.

The death benefit under the ‘Wealth Plus’ variant includes the higher of the sum assured and fund value as on the date of receipt of intimation of death.

Under the Wealth Plus Care Variant, in addition to the death benefit, a customer also receives an income benefit that’s payable on death or first diagnosis of cancer of the Life Insured. The benefit payable will be the sum assured plus top up sum assured if any OR fund value as on date of receipt of intimation of death plus income benefit, whichever is higher.  The minimum premium for Future Wealth Gain is capped at Rs. 50,000 annually. The maximum policy term is 25 years and the minimum premium payment term is 5 years.

bajaj allianz insurance

What’s interesting to note is that the company has introduced a NEW FUND-PURE STOCK FUND II. Earlier, an investor could select his portfolio strategy from from among 7 fund choices in the ‘Investor Selectable Portfolio Strategy.’ Now, with a new addition of ‘Wheel of Life,’ regular premium fund value and top up premium fund value if any will be reallocated among various funds in the pre-defined ratio based on years to maturity.

For more information on how to #InvestBefikar to #JiyoBefikar, head to the Bajaj Allianz Website or the Future Wealth Gain product page

Got questions or opinions? Let me know by commenting below!

Bye!!

During the last half decade or so in Mumbai, I’ve travelled to a number of places around the city for short weekend breaks. And ever so often, one friend or another will want to make their maiden visit to one of these places and ask me to come along. Every time I find myself in such a situation, I “uhmm” and “ahhh” about it, trying to squeeze my way out of their persuasive efforts to get me to go, before finally committing.

My reasons are simple. I don’t want to spend precious time and travel budget to go somewhere I’ve been, when I can see some place new. There’s so much more to see out there!!

Strangely enough though, whenever I have gone along, I’ve never regretted making that second trip and it actually turns out to be even more enjoyable than the first.  I posed this question to my followers on Instagram and their response was unanimous, although with different reasoning behind it.

Here’s why you should visit a place you’ve already travelled to:

It is impossible to see everything in one trip (Ashfina Charania/@thewickedsoul) – Whether you’re visiting over a 2 day weekend or taking a month-long holiday, there will always be so much more to explore.

Places change (Martin Smith /@shirtman99)– Ever visited the city you grew up in? You wouldn’t even recognize it. Cities change over the years. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but you’ll have new experiences, that’s for sure. When I visited Canada two year ago, I learnt that the government keeps innovating and creating new things to do to attract tourists and locals alike.

You change! – Visiting a city as a 20 year old back-packer and as a 35 year old with funds to spare make a huge difference in how you experience the city. As you age, you’d choose a swankier neighbourhood to stay in over a dorm room and spend more money on the arts, the culture and food as opposed to mere sightseeing.

You’d experience different seasons (@sunflower_seeds_) – Take Goa, for example! Those who’ve visited during the monsoons will tell you how picturesque the state is, with its lush green fields, looming clouds and raging waves! Visiting in the winter (if I may call it that) will give you a taste of parties, water sports, street shopping and meals by the pool. Similarly, visiting Himachal Pradesh in the winter is a completely different experience, that too, without the tourist influx!

You get to live like a local the second time (Karan Bhatija / @karansbathija) – … and not like someone with a checklist of places to tick off. Re-visiting a place takes the pressure off what to see, eat and do, giving you a more authentic experience. Once you’ve accomplished those major things on your first trip, you can then experience the place more slowly and deeply. You have more time to interact with the locals, too!

You know what to expect and it makes you nostalgic ( Tharun Bangera / @bangeratharun) – The first time all of us travel to a new place, we build up expectations that are not based on reality. These expectations can leave you overly impressed or disappointed, depending on how high you set them. The second time, you know what you’re getting into!

You start uncovering secret spots and noticing details (Marissa Fernandes / @marissa_fernandes) – Little bookstores, vintage cafes, beautiful by-lanes, the strange windows that houses have… you begin noticing details and exciting spots the second time around. You can taste more of the cuisine or go back to that restaurant you loved. Another experience you can probably relate to is the fact that the first time you see something new, you’re probably looking at it through your camera, trying to get the perfect shot. The second time, you can actually appreciate it!

Time with your friends who live in the city – Thinking back to all the places I’ve visited, I realize that I spend a mere half an hour with the friends I have who live there. I was so busy with the sights I had to see that I had a rushed coffee with them! Alternatively, when travelling with friends, discussions were all about planning the next hour, lunch, things to do… and not enough aimless banter. Revisiting means having time to chill with friends when you travel

Because the place calls you back (Gautam Shah / @an_indian_abroad) – There are certain places that just make you happy and you feel the need to return. You loved the time you spent there, enjoy the vibes and just can’t get enough.

How do you feel about revisiting a city you’ve been to? Let me know in the comments below!

Catch you later!

xoxo

If you know a little about me, you’d know I’m a goal freak!

I’m attracted to people who have goals and dreams too! When you have a roadmap of where you want to go and how you’re going to get there, the destination is easier to envision. So are the little steps to getting there.

The only time I don’t know where I plan to be is when an interviewer asks “where do you see yourself 5 years from now?” and when it comes to finances.

I know – money is SO important. Everyone wants it. I want it.

But ‘long-term financial goals?’ I never had time for that and still put it off.

I’m slowly starting to realize that short-term goals aren’t as effective in personal finance as they are in day to day life. Long Term Goals are where it’s at. These overarching goals help set the direction for your whole life. They help organize our decisions on spending, saving and investing. Identifying these goals is what takes us ahead in our personal finance journey.

money-investments

The good news is Bajaj Allianz, one of the leading private life insurance companies in India is going to launch an investment product on 22nd June 2017 which can help people like you and I realize our long term financial goals. This product provides dual benefits of protection and growth and help chart our financial planning in a worry free manner.

Here’s why it’s important to do so:

  1. You can plan for an early retirement – Planning for an early retirement isn’t on everybody’s list, especially if you love what you do for a living. However, it is one of the top rated financial goals, and who knows? Maybe in 25-30 years, you may change your mind!
  2. To have a sufficiently large emergency fund – Most of us have saved enough to tide us over a minor medical emergency. But having a large fund can take away a lot of worries and can cushion the blow in the event of a sudden loss of job or large expenditure.
  3. Another source of income – This one doesn’t need much explaining! It is a form of income insurance that could help fund your retirement savings or even a holiday!
  4. To improve your standard of living – The amount you save through a good financial plan can prove beneficial during difficult times.
  5. Family Security – Providing for your family’s financial security so your family and you have peace of mind.
  6. … The reasons are innumerable!

Perhaps it is the fear of the unknown, the feeling that we have enough time or simply not knowing where to start that holds us back.

Have you planned your long-term finances and goals yet? Whether you want to pay off the loan on your home, save up to 6 months of salary, travel more or quit your job at 60 and volunteer, you’ll need to have a goal mapped out, regardless. Stay tuned until I tell you more about the new product launch by Bajaj Allianz that will let you #JiyoBefikar and #InvestBefikar

Stay tuned to the Bajaj Allianz Twitter handle @BajajAllianzLIC and follow them on Facebook for more updates about the product.

Facebook for more updates about the event.

Reality TV shows excite me more than sitcoms and soap operas!

They’re far more thrilling, have real people (not actors) on set and the tension is palpable. I love the fact that they’ve all put in blood, sweat and tears to be chosen among the best of the best – and will be battling it out to top each other. The little mistakes that contestants make have me apprehensively biting my nails, the stone-faced judges have me wondering what’s going on in their heads and when a contestant I’m rooting for gets through to the next round, I feel the joy!

Yeah… SO much better than ordinary TV!

And guess what! I just got the chance to witness it all first-hand at the Diageo Reserve World Class India finals!

World Class is an internationally recognized competition by Diageo, the British MNC alcohol beverage company. The contest elevates the craft of the bartending industry and builds careers as well as transforms the cocktail culture around the world. World Class India, now in its 9th season picked 12 of India’s best mixologists from a batch of 303! The Top 12 were picked after a gruelling 6 months of written tests, practical rounds and mini competitions.

world class in finalists

At the St. Regis Hotel, Mumbai on 6th of June 2017, these 12 were put through three rounds and were judged by Donald Colville (Diageo Global Scotch Ambassador), Nicholas Ord (Diageo Reserve Brand Ambassador) and Nikhil Agarwal (Sommelier and CEO, All Things Nice). The mixologists were challenged through three rounds – Blind Tasting, the Speed Round and the Mystery Box Challenge.

In the first challenge, the bartenders had to create two cocktails, one with the theme ‘Al Fresco’ and the second themed ‘After Dark.’ Kevin Diaz, mixologist at Hakkasan Mumbai stood out with a presence that filled the room and a booming voice that grabbed everyone’s attention. Jitender Singh Rana from Perch in Delhi, was also a crowd favourite, especially since he was the winner of World Class India 2016 and represented India in the World Class Global Championship in Miami, putting India on the map by securing a spot as the runner up!

kevin diaz hakkasan

jitender singh rana perch

world class india regis

Niked KR from the Leela Palace Delhi unfortunately had his nerves come in the way and one could see him sweat throughout the round. The youngest mixologist of the lot, Vedant Mehra from the Bootlegger in Bangalore was impressive as well! In case you haven’t seen my video of Dilbar Singh Rawat from Taj Palace Delhi shake his cocktail up to perfection, check out my Instagram page!

dilbar

worldclass india judges

To tell you the truth, I was rooting for Devi Singh Bhati! The sole Goan lad at the competition is the mixologist at Swing in Goa and stood out with his fun mix of creativity, colour and charm. We Goans have to stick together, right?

devi singh bhatti

worldclass india judges

The Top 6 were chosen and moved on to Round 2 – the Speed Round where they had to create the most number of cocktails in 5 minutes! While Devi made it through, he faltered here with only 5 cocktails where mixologists like Arnold Hou from St. Regis Mumbai and a couple of others managed 8. What was interesting about Arnold was that he found out he had made it to the Top 12 when he was on a trip to Africa. He then curated ingredients from the subcontinent to mix into his drinks, setting him apart in a whole new way!

arnold hou

arnold hou (2)

Everyone from the Top 6 displayed incredible mastery and had us hooked to the swiftness of their hands and smooth talking throughout, even under high pressure and an insanely tight timeline. If you’re wondering what sets cocktails apart when they all have the same alcohol at their disposal, it is the fact that they’re always on the lookout for new ingredients. In fact, most of them had a homemade concoction of their own added into their drinks.

world class bartending competition

world class india finals

jitender singh rana world class in

It was here in Round 2 that Rohan Rege from JW Marriott Pune edged forward, and what surprised me was that even though he forgot to add a crucial ingredient, in front of a hundred pairs of eyes, he opened his shaker, added it and got on with his cocktail. What a bold move, since his drink surpassed 3 contestants and he made it to the Top 3!

rohan rege worldclass in

Next, the mystery box! Contestants were given a box of ingredients and had to create two cocktails from the ingredients given, plus one of their own with whatever ingredients they wished to use. They had 12 minutes to complete the task and again, Rohan Rege leapt forward with unparalleled skill and unmatched passion, stirring up cocktails that blew the judges away! He was conferred the title of the India Bartender of the Year 2017 and will now represent India in Mexico for the Grand Finale!

world class india mystery box

The level of skill was consistent across all competitors and each one had exceptional technique, creativity, hosting skills, brand and industry knowledge and presentation. It was amazing to watch them push the boundaries of their knowledge and raise the bar higher.

world class india finalists 2017

rohan rege

I’m sure I speak for everyone who was present at the event when I say that I can’t wait to see what Rohan brings to the biggest and most prestigious bartending competition finale in August!

world class india trophy

Hope you enjoyed this post! Cya soon!

xoxo

Fireflies, or lightning bugs were a memorable part of my childhood. With the onset of monsoons in Goa, evening power cuts were a daily affair. There was no generator or inverter installed at our old Portuguese home back then. No cell phones to while away the dark hours texting on.

So we’d light a candle in each room of the house, sit outside in the balcao (balcony) and listen to the wind whistle through the leaves, bringing with it that cool, uplifting smell of a storm approaching. It was then that we’d unfailingly see a twinkle in the darkness, and then another… and another. As kids, we’d try to count how many fireflies there were in the garden that night and if one happened to be crawling on our old wooden gate or painted balcony grills, we’d watch it up close, eyes wide with awe.

Mumbai has made me forget these memories. We don’t even have time to look up at the stars anymore. If we did, we wouldn’t see them anyway.

I first heard about the Firefly Festival organized by Grassroutes, a community based initiative that focuses on creating a conscientious society through promoting rural tourism. You could choose to go on the firefly expedition through Grassroutes where they will put you up in tents, arrange your meals and the whole experience in general at Purushwadi, another popular spot to watch fireflies. I preferred finding my own way.

On doing some research, I found that the fireflies mating season occurs during the last weeks of May and first weeks of June, just before the onset of the monsoons. Once the monsoon sets in, the droplets falling on their wings make it difficult for them to fly, causing their already short lifespan to end even faster.

The moment I got the news that the rains had started lashing Goa, I knew they’d be in Maharashtra in a couple of days, so I packed a bag and was road-trip ready for the opportune moment I found out that I had no commitments the next day.

The trip to Bhandardara was SPECTACULAR to say the least, and I’ll tell you all about it in a different post, along with the review on MTDC, the Maharashtra Tourism Guest House I stayed at. If you’re a biker or someone who loves long drives, forget planning a trip to Leh Ladakh! Head three hours north for the most breath-taking views of the Sahyadri ranges and valleys.

Anyway, I left Mumbai at around 10 am and reached Bhandardara by 4 pm. The last half an hour got us drenched in the downpour and the drizzle continued for hours. The entire evening, I wondered whether my trip was in vain, since the rain could have washed away the fireflies and my hope of getting to see them light up the forest.

At 7:30, as darkness began to creep in, we headed out again, and just like Goa, there was a power cut, thanks to the rain. It was pitch dark, except for the headlights of cars driving down the narrow lane and halting to spot some fireflies among the trees on both sides of the road. Even in the day, there were plains and valleys for as far as the eye could see, with a few or no houses at all.

It drizzled incessantly throughout but we saw these magical lightning bugs instantly. The forest came alive with bright flashes all around, pulsating with a natural rhythm – thousands and thousands of fireflies looking for mates. It was like a natural disco party, but the only music was the sound of rain on the leaves and dozens of frogs croaking, breaking through the silence.

We stayed out in the rain to watch them until 10 pm, climbing over hillocks in the dark to see if there was an even more surreal view on the other side and riding up and down the 5 km stretch. At times, the fireflies blinked in sync, lighting up whole trees in a flash – and at other times, they were like fairy lights, twinkling to their own tune.

Fireflies

Try as we might, we couldn’t get any pictures of them using an iPhone. I tinkered with every possible setting but it failed to capture a firefly’s blinking in the dark even when it was a few feet away. Clicking an entire tree light up was impossible and one would need a DSLR for sure.

We left to get back to the guesthouse drenched but with memories that only the eyes can capture. The pitch darkness, twinkles of millions of fireflies, the occasional bright flash of lightning that defiantly showed these creatures who can light up the sky better and the smell of rain! Nature indeed puts on the best shows if you have the time to stop and watch.

The next day, the weather was perfect. Crisp, cool air, gentle breeze and not a cloud in sight. We decided to stay on to see if the fireflies would be more in number when the weather was pleasant, as they were supposed to be. It was a Monday, which meant that people had gone back to the city and there would be an absence of that steady flow of traffic and headlights that kept interrupting our lightning-bug gazing experience the previous day.

Was it?

lightning bugs

Not really! While there was a huge drop in cars on the road, there was no power cut. So a few houses had their lights on, the streetlights glowed, the full moon shone in the cloudless sky and in general, the fireflies seemed a little less in number.  Either way, I’m blessed to have witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime experience TWICE!

xoxo

For those staying in South Mumbai, or even Andheri for that matter, Gorai seems like another planet altogether. Maybe we’re so used to everything being a stone’s throw away – entertainment, restaurants, malls…

gorai

But since I’ve shifted houses last month, I’ve started exploring the other side of Mumbai. The side with charming leafy lanes, little creeks and frequent power cuts. It was on such exploration ride that I stumbled upon a dreamy, surreal gold Pagoda rising up like a mirage.

global vipasana pagoda

Global Vipassana Pagoda

This monument turns out to be the Global Vipassana Centre and it’s tall spire made of real gold can be seen from quite a distance, since it is surrounded by undulating hills and grassy flat lands. From the first time you spot it, it takes another 40 minutes or so to actually reach the main entrance, driving along roads as they snake through villages and along the coastline.

global vipasana entry

On the way, don’t be surprised to find a bunch of cops or two, looking for a reason to fine you. If, after reading this blog post, you decide to visit, here’s a tip – carry your helmet, vehicle papers and if your vehicle doesn’t have side mirrors, get those too!

Coming back to the Global Vipassana Pagoda, it was built in the year 2000 and consists of three sub domes. The first and largest one contains the bone relics of Gautam Buddha. The second and third sit atop the first, making it the world’s largest stone dome built without any supporting pillars. The 96 meter high stupa is modelled after the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar and is built using the ancient technique of interlocking stones.

gorai pagoda exit

gorai pagoda interiors

There is no entry fee to enter the pagoda and if you love experiences, participate in the free 20 minute Vipassana training in the 8000 seater hall below the pagoda! It is believed that the powerful vibrations emanating from Buddha’s relics provides a serene environment for meditation and it is for this reason that the pagoda attracts thousands of devotees every year. You can even sign up for the 10 day Vipassana course, and having known people who’ve completed it, the reviews are fabulous! Get more information about Vipassana here.

gong pagoda gorai

vipasana pagoda vasai

As you enter through vibrant red and gold sculpted pillars and pass the giant statue of a lion-dog, you’ll find yourself face to face with a huge gong tower. To the right is a beautiful statue of Buddha in a golden robe sitting on an ornate throne which seems to be the centre of attraction here. With several tourists pointing cameras and taking selfies in front of the statue, you may have to wait a while to get a shot sans photobombing.

buddha gorai pagoda

Security at the pagoda is strict, unlike the one at Gateway of India and the many malls we have in Mumbai. I couldn’t help but notice how well maintained the pagoda is even in terms of the vegetarian food court and provision of drinking water facilities.

gorai pagoda lion dog

gorai pagoda pillars

Sadly, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time at the pagoda since I arrived just 10 minutes before visitors were turned away (thanks to the police on the way wasting good 20 minutes looking for a reason to fine us.) If you have your own transport, wait until it gets dark to witness the gleaming pagoda lit up!

gorai pagoda

The pagoda features on the list of “the Seven Wonders of Maharashtra” and is definitely a must-visit if you’re from Mumbai. If you’re just visiting for a couple of days, you may want to give this a miss since the travel itself will take a good chunk of your time.

GETTING THERE:

  1. If you’re travelling by public transport, make your way to Borivali Station on Mumbai’s Western Railway Line. Exit on the Western side and take a bus (number 294 or 247) or an autorickshaw to Gorai Creek, about 4 kms from Borivali Station. You can get either board the Esselworld Ferry and get off at Esselworld Jetty or the regular ferry which is at a fraction of the cost.
  2. If you’re travelling from Thane/Nasik/Igatpuri/Pune/Navi Mumbai, travel on Ghodbunder Road until you reach NH8 – Mumbai Ahmedabad Highway and turn left towards Mumbai. At the Mira-Bhayandar Crossing take a right towards Mira-Bhayandar and go straight until you reach the Golden Nest Circle. Then take a left and stay on the main road until you cross Maxus Mall, after which you need to take a right turn at the end of the road and then a left at the T-junction. From here, simply follow the directions to Esselworld of Global Vipassana Pagoda that you will see before you. When you reach Esselworld, take a right turn and head straight until you reach a Helipad. At the helipad, take another right to the Global Pagoda through the Sanchi Arch.
  3. If you’re travelling from Mumbai City/Airport – Get on Western Express Highway and go North towards Borivali/ Dahisar. Cross the Dahisar toll booth and go straight. When you reach the Mira-Bhayandar crossing, turn right. From here, follow the instructions given above in point 2.

TGG global vipasana pagoda

Hope you manage to take the time out to visit the Global Vipassana Pagoda! Let me know if you come across any new discoveries in your city!

Here’s another fun discovery I’m sure you’ll enjoy – Phoebe’s Farm!

xoxo