Hey! Welcome back!

Can you believe we’re in December already? I’ve been in Goa for the last 10 days or so, and I hoped to catch up on my posts, but as usual, there’s so much to do here, in my home-state, that I have EVEN MORE to fill you in on!

In case you missed it, check out the highlight of my November – the World Fair Trade Week in New Delhi, where I spent 7 days learning about the fair trade movement.

No, it’s not one of those boring history-economics type of ‘movements.’ It has something to do with how we live every day, the products we use and the clothes we wear. It’s hard to fathom that if everyone made a conscious decision to support poverty-stricken farmers, weavers and artisans rather than already-rich MNCs, the world would be so much richer in terms or art, and fairer, by providing a decent living to everyone.

While the World Fair Trade Conference fed me all the info, it was the Fair Utsav and Fashion Show that drove the point home.

fair utsav dlf place

indian handicrafts

The Fair Utsav was held in the courtyard of DLF Place, a mall in Saket. Over 100 stalls saw craftsmen from around the country sell their wares – accessories, clothes, trinkets, jams, pickles, cloth, shoes, and artifacts made of cane. These items were made by hand through trade secrets passed down from generation to generation and many were symbolic of the area from where these craftsmen came.

indian artisan

artisan fron india

The sheer variety was outstanding and in many cases, you would never have guessed it was handmade at all! The attention to detail and perfection in many items could fool someone into thinking it was bought at a luxury market. And in fact, many ARE sold in luxury markets at quadruple the price, while these artists struggle for their next meal. They don’t have the means or knowledge to open an e-store and as their reach is limited, NGOs step in to help them sell to a wider audience.

handicraft shoes delhi

DLF Place fair utsav

I could think of a dozen friends who’d love bags and accessories like these, and I’m sure you do, too. Sadly, as is our nature and habit, the next time a birthday is around the corner, we’ll all rush to the mall to pick out a gift instead. That’s probably why we need to turn into fair trade consumers – the items are gorgeous and unique, the cause is worth it and all it takes is a little extra effort and will to support local craftsmen by buying local.

artisan jewelry

artisan bags

fair utsav delhi

The Fair Trade Fashion show was probably the highlight of the event! I always thought sustainable, fair fashion was restricted to khadi items. You know – those loose dresses and kurtas! I first got a real glimpse into it when I checked out Ninoshka’s workshop. But nothing could have prepared me for all this fair-trade glam! <3

The Fashion show conducted in collaboration with the  Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region, North East. It was held at NIFT in Delhi and 7 brands showcased their collections and amazed the crowd with the ingenuity of their designs coupled with social responsibility.

Upasana from Auroville focuses on ‘design for change,’ and the brand showcased its Indigo Collection made using khadi (handspun cloth), organic cotton grown by local farmers and Khadi Jamdani, a traditional weaving technique.

upasana artisans

The brand Sasha from Kolkata is engaged with over 5000 artisans, 100 craft enterprises and 16 craft lines, connecting craftsmen to new audiences. The collection showcased ensembles primarily for women in woven textiles and Kantha embroidery.

sasha fair trade

Mahila Umang was next, a collective of women farmer-producer members and is located in Uttarakhand. Through a consolidated network of 1500 members involved in various viable business activities, small, yet significant income is made and every business activity is directly controlled by the producer group. All the garments were hand knitted by the women of Uttarakhand.

mahila umang

Rangsutra, the next brand is a community owned craft company comprising of artisans from remote regions of India. Rangsutra ensures sustainable livelihoods for farmers and artisans by creating top quality handmade products celebrating India’s rich craft heritage.

rangsutra

rangsutra fair trade

GoCoop, an award winning company for hand loom marketing owns a brand, The Good Loom, the designs of which were also showcased. Like all their collections, this menswear line symbolized a thoughtful approach to retail, the environment and Indian arts and crafts.

the good loom

Eco Tasar Silk Pvt Ltd runs a sustainable and commercially competitive textile business to help generate wage opportunity for rural based producers like yarn makers, weavers, dyers etc. Through these activities, small artisans and producers do not need to migrate in search of work.

eco tasar

Lastly, the AagorWeavers from Assam showcased a vibrant collection and even had a weaver walk the ramp, much to the delight of the audience.

aagor weavers assam

I’d also like to give a special mention to the brand  Ethic Attic by Fairkonnect, who help their clients source ethically produced, sustainable and Fair trade products. All the ambassadors and hosts were presented with an Ethic Attic stole during the course of the conference.

ethic attic

Models walked the ramp to the mesmerizing voice of Sunita Bhuyan, a leading violinist and singer who blew the crowd away with her breathtaking performance. Finally, the event was brought to a close by Fashion designer Jay Ramrakiani who created some gorgeous designs especially for the occasion.

jai ramrakhiani

Hope you enjoyed reading about my experience at the World Fair Trade Conference, organized by World Fair Trade Organization and Fair Trade Forum – India. Do try and visit one of these exhibitions and buy fair trade products when you can. We’re in dire need of protecting age old crafts in this age of technology, and a little support goes a long way.

Next up, all the adventures here in Goa! See you soon!

As most of you know from my barrage of posts on social media, I recently attended the World Fair Trade Conference at Crowne Plaza, Delhi from 9-14th November 2017. It took me until now to actually sit down and write about it, because over the course of that one week, I was exposed to so many new things, met delegates from all over the world and was bombarded with information. I needed to sort out my thoughts before actually blogging about it in order to do justice to the experience.

A lot of you asked me how I landed up at a fair trade conference, when it has little to do with my areas of interest – food and travel. Well, opportunities like these don’t come along everyday and I was privileged to the only blogger invited by Escape To. Secondly, a lot of us, including me, are experts in our own field of work but there’s a mind-boggling amount of things we don’t know and may never know.

So I decided that even if my experiences and learning is just the tip of the iceberg in the field of Fair Trade, it’s better than knowing nothing at all.

Until I visited the Fair Trade Week organized by WFTO and FTFI, the terms ‘fair trade,’ ‘sustainable fashion,’ and ‘marginalized artisans’ were just words I read on labels. It was eye-opening to witness how many NGOs and organizations around the world work to uplift farmers, weavers and craftsmen, helping them to prevent being exploited by the middleman.

While a lot of these artisans live in poverty, practicing age-old crafts and keeping tradition alive, their wares are sold in luxury markets around the world. Yet, due to poverty, they’re forced to abandon their craft which slowly dies out. Fair trade helps them get fair wages for their labour, have a decent lifestyle and carry on their legacy by connecting them to fair trade consumers.

delegates wfto

The experience was intense, with a good mix of fun, networking, workshops and talks. Delegates would assemble at the Crowne Plaza at 9 am everyday for a keynote address by renowned name in the Fair Trade industry, followed by workshops, lunch-break, workshops again and then dinner. There was a Fair Utsav at DLF Saket and Fair Fashion Show at NIFT Delhi, followed by an outdoor dinner at a restaurant called Junction. A day would typically start at 9 am and end at around 9 pm or later.

On Day 1, Rudy Dalvai, the very charismatic President of WFTO aptly said, “As we’re in the peak of global economic changes, farmers struggle to survive, shops close and new sales channels emerge. It is a responsibility to ensure that these changes are positive and don’t create new poverty, Fair trade needs to be discovered in small things and needs to be rediscovered every day.”

rudi dalvai president wfto

Panchaksharam, member of the the Fair Trade Forum India who co-organized the event gave participants glimpses of the WFTO conferences through the past 14 years in all parts of the world, also sharing fun anecdotes. This was followed by Mallikarjuna Iytha, President of Fair Trade Forum India thanking participants for choosing India as the venue for the event as it will build credibility among policy circles. He expressed that fair trade can eliminate poverty and each case strengthens his belief that inclusion is possible and is the means to sustainable development.

keynote speaker wfto

Tomasz Kozlowski, European Union Ambassador to India also delivered an enlightening speech, stressing that Fair Trade is high on the EU agenda and there is a need to make manufacturers aware that Fair Trade is not a burden but an opportunity. “There is a need for clear governance in favour of Fair Trade,” he said.

keynote speakers wfto

While all the keynote speakers were brilliant, Devinder Sharma and Vandana Shiva had the most impact on me, personally.

Devinder Sharma is a food trade policy analyst and was once a leading Indian Express journalist. He said that the problem with mainline economics was that it covers how damaging unfair trade is through fancy words. With over 3,30,000 farmer suicides in 20 years due to income insecurity, globalization has destroyed livelihoods. India boasts of 8% rise in growth but there aren’t enough jobs,” he says. “If a tree is standing, GDP doesn’t change. If the tree is cut down, money changes hands and GDP increases. Don’t believe growth is the path to development. Believe in sustainable development.” Devinder Sharma also stated, “Importing food is importing unemployment. China has reduced its grain prices for the first time in 10 years. Fair trade can bring change to those who never dreamt of it and these changes have to move towards ecological stabilization.”

devinder sharma wfto delhi

Dr. Vandana Shiva, an activist for peace, sustainability and social justice had a message for small fair organizations fighting against giants – “We need to promote skilled entrepreneurship without migration.” Her words were backed by decades of experience and she shared snippets of the work she’s been a part of in various parts of the world. Vandana said that while coffee producers incomes dropped from 9 billion dollars to 5 billion, the profits on coffee jumped from 40% to 70%. Trade by ‘MNC dinosaurs’ is designed to transfer wealth not where it is produced, but where it is stolen, she said. She also educated the crowd about National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme and said that Fairness should take into account ecological sustainability, what is happening to the soil and climate.”

vandana shiva wfto

Other prominent keynote speakers included Nicolette Naumann, VP of Ambiente and Tendence at Messe Frankfurt and Geoff White, CEO of Trade Aid Importers Ltd, New Zealand and Vice President of WFTO, who said ” Fair Trade doesn’t connect with consumers well enough. We can’t be a passive retailers anymore. We need to be an active organisation.” True words, I realized, when I thought about how many fair trade organizations I was even aware of. Negligible!

wfto conference india

Workshops filled the rest of the day, again, held by notable dignitaries to educate and share experience in various countries and organizations. Gender policy, Go coop, Fair Trade Towns, Ethical design and trend forecasting, inclusion of refugees in fair trade, steps to attract new customers, using social media to reach new markets – these were one of many, many topics discussed. While I’d have loved to attend all of them (nerd alert!), there were 5 held at the same time in various conference rooms and I was darting from one room to the other to be a part of them all.

wfto workshops

world fair trade week workhops

The breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets and coffee breaks provided ample time for networking, but still didn’t seem like enough! And of course, like every organization meeting, new members were elected to the board, changes in the constitution were made, and it felt pretty great to be a silent observer in the gathering, watching it all unfold. Over time, just like in a new college, faces became familiar and everyone started talking to each other much more freely.

fair trade forum india

The Fair Trade Week 2017 had activities outside the confines of the conference room, too, like I mentioned – the Fair Utsav at DLF Saket and Fair Trade Fashion Show at NIFT Delhi. But I’ll leave that for another blog post.

rudi dalvai wfto

Catch you on the other side!

xx

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!

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!!

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

Coming on the heels of the Tiago hatchback launch last year, Tata Motors is now introducing a similar sounding vehicle in the compact segment called the Tigor. The launch of the car, thus far, codenamed ‘Kite’ is all set to be launched this week. I had the privilege of being a part of the exclusive media drive offered by Tata Motors a few days ago.

40 bloggers from across India converged in Delhi’s Hyatt Andaz at Aerocity to find out if the Tata Tigor has as much substance as it has style. Tata isn’t a company that’s popularly known for its style quotient, but as we found out later, there’s more than what meets the eye when it comes to the Tigor.

As our various flights landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport, we were whisked to the StyleBack studio in chauffeur driven cars in Delhi’s Qutub Institutional Area. The venue was 1AQ, an open lawn and art gallery where we first laid eyes on the Tata Tiago!

After a long flight and the drive from the airport in Delhi’s hot afternoon sun, the StyleBack studio was a breath of fresh air. We replenished our energy by lounging on couches and under umbrellas and sampled food from the many food carts around the lawn.

A shot of coffee and some graffiti-painting later, we ambled around the grounds and slowly, groups of us headed indoors where a specially curated range of experiences awaited. We started off with an ace perfumer from the famous perfume brand, Ajmat, giving us a glimpse into the world of perfumes and personalities. After asking us a little about our lives and likes, he handed us a perfume he felt would match each individual. I got a perfume called ‘rebel.’ How apt!

With fragrances taken care of, the spotlight turned to attire and we were given a retro-makeover! Large sun-hats, sunglasses, big loop earrings, polka dotted scarves, bow hairbands and statement bags were selected and donned on us. Men had their choice of suspenders, bow ties, top hats and belts. Given the vintage-style curly hair I already have, I was given a hairband, bag and glares to enhance my look. That was fun!

I can’t forget this beat-boxer! He had some MAD skills!

Amidst the style, music and food was the Tata Tigor, looking as sleek as ever! Needless to say, it was the star of every photograph taken as bloggers and journalists’ cameras flashed by the dozen.

We were then driven to Hyatt Andaz, a luxury lifestyle hotel just minutes away from the airport – and our home for the weekend. After hurriedly checking in to our rooms, my roommate-for-the-day, Shalini from Baketitude and I had half an hour to freshen up and head downstairs for a product briefing as well as the download on what to expect for our test drive the next day.

It was here that we learned about what went behind the designing and making of Tata Tigor. The car is the result of the new “impact” design philosophy, which means that it is a compact sedan with a touch of sportiness. Unlike its sibling, the Tiago which is a regular three-box sedan with its boot lid, the Styleback has a coupé like profile and its tail-gate is hinged at the roof.

The face of the car however, is quite similar to the Tiago, with the mesh grill in front and stretched headlights. From the side as well, it looks quite similar, with its sloping front windscreen and doors. Its slanted rear roof almost hides the fact that it’s a sedan.

The team explained that although the focus is heavily laid on style, it hasn’t impacted the functionality of the car. In fact, it has been enhanced. On the unveiling of the car, we got to see that from any angle, the Tata Tiago looks stunning. Its stance itself is lively and youthful, but features like its striking chrome design line that runs through the length of the car gives it that extra dose of style.

We would finally get a chance to ride in it the following day and experience the interiors as well!

Day 2! After waking up at the crack of dawn and indulging in a pre-drive buffet breakfast, we headed outside where a row of cars were parked, gleaming in the morning sun. We got into our allotted cars, and one by one, our drives to Gurgaon’s Heritage Transport Museum were flagged off by none other than Pratap Bose, head of product design at Tata Motors. Our car for the journey was the Diesel version of the Tata Tiago.

The black and white checkered flag, our very own navigator car behind us and camera crew in another car alongside made the drive super exciting! Of course, my road-trip buddies, Sanjay and Zainab made time fly with their chatter as we glided along the 12 lane highway. 12 lanes! That’s 6 times wider than the widest road here in choc-a-bloc Mumbai! Let’s not talk about the roads in Goa.

Inside, there’s no shortage of space, be it in the front or the back. I sink into the patterned seats with bolsters and Sanjay takes the wheel as we zip through Delhi’s almost-deserted streets at 6:30 on a Sunday morning. I notice the elongated air vents add a very upmarket feel to the car.

The GPS on the touchscreen panel guided us along and we fiddled with the music buttons throughout the drive. As we left the city behind us, Sanjay expertly scaled the slopes and glided over bumpy terrain. The view slowly changed from buildings and shops to huts and haystacks. One of the most interesting things I saw along the drive was rural women making huts out of cowdung and making intricate patterns on the surface. Art really has no boundaries, does it?

 

As someone who always carries an armful of things to the car and also loves road trips, I was delighted to find that the car has 24 utility spaces, ideal for a woman! From the usual glove compartment and spacious boot, to grooves in the doors and pockets for trinkets, food, toll tickets and a pull-out dual cup holder/arm-rest in the back seat

We pull into the parking lot of our pit-stop, the Heritage Transport Museum in Gurgaon and meander around the four storeyed building with vintage cars in immaculate condition. I’ll admit, I don’t know the first thing about vintage cars, I did take a lot of pictures and will probably upload them in a separate blog post for you to check out. But here’s a glimpse!

Breakfast followed in the sunny front yard of the museum and we headed out of the parking lot to our second car – the Petrol version of the Tata Tigor.

Unlike the Deisel’s 1047 cc engine, the Petrol car has the revotrun 1199 cc engine and produces a maximum power of 84 bhp with a torque of 114Nm, as compared to 140Nm in the diesel car. Sanjay pointed out that the driving the petrol car felt smoother than the diesel counterpart, the pick-up was better and the engine was quieter. However, when he pressed the accelerator of the diesel car, he didn’t feel the lack of power.

Zainab and I, explored the infotainment system on the five inch touchscreen enabled with power back, voice command recognition, SMS readout and display for rear-parking assist. We couldn’t help but notice the amazing radio sound quality during the comfortable drive.

Stay tuned for the launch on March 29th when the official price of the Tata Tigor will be revealed. If you’re looking to upgrade your family car, this one proves that it’s not about style, but also substance.

Hope you enjoyed this blog post!

See you soon.

-Jade

Post – My trip was sponsored by Tata Motors and Indiblogger, however, views as always are my own.

Image Courtesy – Tata Motors

Whisper, India’s leading Feminine Care brand has always endeavoured to push women to be unstoppable.  Being in the advertising industry, I’ve paid close attention to the campaigns the brand has undertaken to realize this mission. From their iconic ‘Like a Girl’ advertisement to taboo-defying ‘Touch the Pickle’ that changed the paradigm of conversations and boosted confidence when women needed it the most, the brand continues to break barriers time after time.

This year, Whisper has gone yet a step further and launched ‘Whisper Ultra Soft,’ a product that offers superior comfort and feels 2x softer on the skin. Take a look at the commercial, which focuses on something so simple, yet uncomfortable during that time of the month – sitting. Take a look:

8th March 2017 – Women’s Day – was the day chosen by Whisper to launch of the New Whisper Ultra Soft in a pink-themed set up at Mahalaxmi Race Course, Mumbai. The theme for the event was “be bold for change,” and celebrated not only womens’ achievements, but also encouraged them to be comfortable in their skin in order to be truly unstoppable.

TV Actress Radhika Apte, who was present at the launch said, “It is important for women to create a sense of self-worth in everything we choose to do in our lives. We need to be unstoppable and realize our full potential. This is only possible when we feel comfortable in our skin on regular days as well as during those five days of the month. It is necessary to make our needs priorities, which includes choosing the best sanitary solutions.” She also concisely stated that those five days equals 1/6th of a month, in turn being 1/6th of the year and 1/6th of woman’s entire life. Feeling uneasy and uncomfortable for 1/6th of one’s life is unthinkable and everyday should just be another day on which women go out and achieve.

Dr. Nandita Palshektar, noted gynaecologist spoke about the do’s and don’ts that every woman should incorporate in her monthly routine and educated all about the importance of menstrual hygiene. An R&D expert from Whisper’s parent company, Proctor and Gamble in Germany then took the stage and gave us a product demo while explaining the features of the Whisper Ultra Soft. She highlighted the softness and stronger absorption capacity of the product and the amount of testing that went into developing it. She also stated that it is longer and wider than Whisper Ultra, giving women the extra comfort needed during sleep.

As the evening progressed, I got to mingle with other bloggers present at the event as we clicked pictures riding cycles that lit up the word ‘Ultrasoft’ when pedaled long enough. And with a wall full of pink-shaped heart balloons stuck on it, it was the perfect setting to take a selfie or 20! A delicious high tea with an array of desserts followed – a fun way to end the launch event.

If I had to describe New Whisper Ultra Soft to you, two words come to mind – soft and comfortable! It is super slim and feels like there’s nothing there at all. Unlike other products, I found this one’s outer wrapper to be tissue-like soft which means it doesn’t make those annoying crinkly noises that you get when you tear it open. Not to mention, it’s high absorption capacity and cottony texture helps maintain that dry-feel and it is set at an attractive price point of Rs. 64/-

Having tried the product a couple of times, I can vouch that it delivers on its promises!

Alright then, I’ll see you next time! Till then, let’s stay in touch on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

-Jade

This post is sponsored by Whisper. However, views, as always, are my own.

Did you know that there are more than 50,000 cooperative societies in the Mumbai Metropolitan Area out of which not even 10% undergo an audit and 600 are declared dilapidated every year? I’m not surprised! When I go apartment hunting for myself or friends, it’s difficult to ignore the state the majority of building’s interiors and exteriors. Cracks, seepage, water damage, peeling paint and discoloured walls are just a few visible signs of damage that are immediately visible before one even enters a building. If it was not for the “location” benefit that many of them share here in Mumbai, I’m sure they would have been deserted.

It’s quite strange when I think about it – I don’t remember my house in Goa, or any house I’ve been to there having water damage on the walls. Then again, the width of walls of old Portuguese houses are probably triple in width than those of buildings in Mumbai. We would at max have a drip or two from the tiled roofs during the monsoons – clay tiles are bound to crack during hot summers and due to age.

However in Mumbai, almost every building I’ve been to has varying amounts of water damage –peeling paint, discolouration, cracks and more. Each time I hear of a building collapse, I wonder if it could be caused due to walls that have been weakened by these factors. While many Goan houses are over a century old and still going strong, buildings in Mumbai look aged and weak in a decade or two, in spite of having a committee to take care of it. The buildings suffer the brunt of nearby construction, an excess of rainfall, poor maintenance and structural problems.

It could be possible that the committee responsible for a buildings upkeep could be busy with more pressing matters – residence complaints, dealing with defaulters, and making stringent rules to ensure that bachelors/single people don’t occupy flats (it happens more often than you think!) While everyday problems like these take time to solve, building damage can be temporarily covered with a fresh new coat of paint. It’s sad that timely diagnosis and expert help isn’t sought immediately and that people are more conscious of the upkeep of their own flats than the health of the overall building society.

What does a ‘healthy’ building mean? It is one that doesn’t have structural damage, water leakages, over-enthusiastic renovations that cause problems or sub-standard construction. In Mumbai, the rapidly growing population allows sub-standard buildings to live on, long past their lifespan without proper care. A healthy building is protected from leakages and water damage – even minor capillary water can severely damage the structure of a building and affect its longevity. The percolation of water on horizontal surfaces, chajjas and balconies need to be checked to prevent collation.

Another important factor is to ensure you hire a responsible interior designer – one who takes into account the constructional health of a building and designs in such a way as to ensure your house incorporates the latest in interior trends while being mindful about the alterations in respect to the health of the building.

Lastly, keep an eye out for tell-tale signs and avert major disasters by addressing these symptoms promptly. Notice cracks in the walls and fix them using the right products so that sealing and adhesion lasts a long time. You can hire the help of a knowledgeable structural engineer or waterproofing company like Dr. Fixit who, with the help of the correct tools and technology, can find out the exact cause and solution to your problem. You can also use their Tech Chat you can get to the root of the problem in no time.

Building healthier societies with Dr. Fixit

I recently attended an event conducted by Dr. Fixit on building healthier societies that featured a panel discussion by renowned personalities, namely:

  • Ramesh Prabhu – Chairman of the Maharashtra Society Welfare Association
  • Pankaj Shah – Repair and Structural Consultant
  • Prakash Mathur – Director, Dr. Fixit Institute
  • Kanika Bawa – Celebrity Architect and Installation Artist.

They all agree that just like we see a cold being manifested, but we don’t see the virus, we see cracks and discoloration in the floor and walls, but the causes for these may be any one of several things. A society needs to be aware that buildings need maintenance and it is necessary to address the early signs of deterioration to the structures before they weaken further. After all, buying a home eats up your lifetime’s worth of savings, hence, don’t scrape to save when it comes to maintaining the façade and legacy of your investment.

That’s all, folks! Catch ya next time!

P.S. This post is sponsored by Pidilite. Views, as always, are my own.

Among the plethora of famous festivals of Aamchi Mumbai, the Kala Ghoda Art Festival needs no introductionLike in every February, this year too, it has taken over the most culturally vibrant part of the city.  It is spread over several location including the Cross Maidan Garden, the steps of the Asiatic Library, Rampat Row and Gallery, David Sassoon Library Garden, CSMVS Lawns, Gallery 7 and more.

While I’ve been living in Mumbai for over half a decade, I’ve never managed to make it to the much-talked about festival that runs for 9 days, until now. It brings together hundreds of music, dance and art lovers from across the world as well as those from the entertainment and performing arts industries. The aim of the festival is to let people soak up the many shades that make up India’s past and present. It is a kalaeidoscope of music, theatre, dance, literature, street stalls, films and workshops for adults and kids.

Huge crowds turn out to watch the vibrant festival, especially on weekends and the entire area is packed with people clicking selfies, admiring art installations and having a jolly time. There are over 40 stalls selling handicrafts, apparel, quirky gifts and books and even a foot spa being run by the visually impaired.

Here’s a glimpse of the Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2017

It’s not too late to make a visit! Today is the last day (and the weekend), so if you do decide to go, be prepared to face the crowd!

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for live updates!

I’m sure you’ll love reading this post I wrote about Phoebe’s Farm, Mumbai.

Bye!