Category: Lifestyle


The silver lining

 

The sterling metal can be your style statement for every occasion. For young and old alike, it’s the new gold

 

Supreeta Singh

 

 
Like every woman, actress Koneenica Banerjee loves to dress up in traditional wear and resplendent silver jewellery is her favourite pick. Wrapped in a classic black saree, her delicate bangles and earrings generate lilting melody as she shares her fashion mantra. “I love authentic silver ornaments. I used to have a huge bag of jewellery worth `12,000 which I would carry to the set every day. Since I have many friends in Delhi and Jaipur, I prefer getting it from there since the designes are exquisite,” says Koneenica.
Silver jewellery is fast gaining popularity among women and men alike as more functional and practical piece of ornament that can give gold diggers a run for their money. “Affordable and fashionable, silver has been in fashion for quite some time now. But more and more designers are experimenting with the metal in the way it is crafted in terms of designs and polish. And customers are more than eager to try different looks,” says Anargha Chowdhury of Anjali Jewellers.
At present, jewellery designers are captivated by floral and geometric designs. Green is the colour of the season and the use of precious and semi-precious stones embedded in silver is the latest trend. Globally, the demand is more for light-weight and delicate pieces that can be worn at both informal and formal occasions. Designer Manas Ghorai says, “Gold and platinum are expensive. So silver could be a good substitute. Currently, silver jewellery is combined with materials like wood, beads and glass to make it more contemporary. I also use enamels and stones like agate which has a remarkable variety of colours and texture.”
Unlike gold, which is shiny and bright, silver is known for its subtle charm. Its beauty lies in its simplicity. In a bid to enhance or combine that subdued elegance with art, Manas has recently launched a collection based on Pat paintings. Manas has done a course from Gemology Institute of America. “I was always fascinated by Orissa’s folk art. Because silver is enriched with tribal connotations, I decided to use Patachitra encasing them in silver pendants and earrings,” informs Manas. His workshop at Howrah employs 10 craftsmen from the surrounding areas. Priced between `500 and `15,000, each piece is handcrafted and exclusive.
Silver is also popular because of its affinity with the Indian skin tone. Jewellery designer Nilaanjana Chakraborty says, “Indian women look gorgeous in silver. I get orders for both light-weight and heavy jewellery. But most often, women want a single chunky piece, like a statement necklace or chandelier earrings or a chunky bracelet. Abstract shapes in brushed silver that look neither golden nor silvery are in vogue.” The designer has her craftsmen in Jaipur who chisel out the designs sent by her.
According to Nilanjana, the enthusiasm for silver began to gain momentum when socialites and celebrities flaunted the chic metal. She reflects, “I have experienced that the demand for silver increased when it became more visible in the media. Whenever a celebrity sports a certain piece of jewellery which is nice and exciting, people flock to the shops and it becomes a trend.” For example, in a recently concluded television series called Gaaner Opare, the protagonist only wore silver jewellery supplied by Anjali Jewellers.
Earlier, silver didn’t have as much re-sale value as gold, but now buying siver has become a good investment policy. “The price has increased from `56 to `65 per gram in the last few days. So hoarding silver accessories isn’t a bad idea after all,” says Manas.
Manas adds that most of his clients are high-profile. The age bracket hovers somewhere between 16 and 60 years, reveals Anargha. This means that silver can go beyond age factor and make anyone look attractive, trendy and stylish. No wonder, women are donning silver jewellery with Western wear like dresses and trousers too.

 

Supreeta Singh
After a parachuting accident, that almost broke his back, Bear Grylls went on to win the Guinness Book of World Records (1998) at the age of 23 for climbing Mount Everest.  Almost paralysed, it took him 18 long, difficult months to recuperate. It was then he realised that when life gives you a second chance, one should just grab it without thinking twice. Putting behind the stuff that nightmares were made of, Grylls is back in the game as the action-driven host of Discovery Channel’s extreme adventure series, Man Vs Wild.
The new season sees him travelling to remotest places on the globe, including Australia’s northern territory, the Republic of Georgia’s Caucasus Mountains, a deserted island south of Papua New Guinea, the snowfields of the Canadian Rockies, sharing invaluable survival strategies along the way. Grylls loves adventure. “These places are unforgiving and you have to keep your enthusiasm intact. There’s no alternative.  Adventure sports make the world a hard place,” he says.
For a man who lives life in the extreme, survival strategies are a must. Grylls says that it’s important to let people know the route you are planning. Then comes water, a knife, a map, flint and a compass. “I always have a little laminated picture of my family that I tuck in the sole of my shoe. Carry whatever gives you hope. That’s a big part of staying alive,” adds Grylls.
After endless close-shaves with near-death experiences, Grylls now defines his work by the times he gets it right, not the times he gets lucky. However, he does have several funny moments too. “I remember once I was filming in the black swamps in Sumatra. It’s a place where the Tsunami had hit and all these crocodiles had been feeding off 65,000 human corpses and it was just a desolate, dead, stinking, infested area full of snakes, mosquitoes and leeches. I remember getting out and thinking never again back there.”
Since adventure-sport is often touted as counter-culture by many, Grylls has come across parents afraid of letting their children be part of such extra-curricular activities. He says, “My agenda is to encourage young people to follow their dreams and live their adventures. I get responses from parents saying their kids who only wanted to play computer games before are now wanting to climb mountains. Isn’t it great?”
After traversing almost all adventure sports destinations, Grylls believes he would need 10 lifetimes to tick off all the activities on his list. He hopes to visit India soon. “I have been to the Himalayas for hiking. There are so many wild places, great jungles, huge mountains and amazing deserts. I’d love to film in India,” he chuckles.

Mush ado about nothing

 

 

 

 

 

Men aren’t supposed to like reading romance. That’s the theory anyway… In reality, they do read Mills & Boon novels, but secretly, writes JAYA BISWAS

 

 

It was in a café at the Mumbai airport that I happened to witness this ‘rare’ sight. A tall, plump, middle-aged man engrossed in a Mills & Boon paperback novel titled, Take On Me. The book cover bore a picture of a scantily-clad woman on a beach about to be seduced by a man in swimming trunks. The man reading seemed to relish each and every page, completely oblivious of the fact that he was receiving quite a few odd stares from fellow passengers who were whiling away their time before the announcement for departure. He didn’t care. Perhaps, he was aware of the hypocrisy of other men, who read the same books, but publicly condemn them as ‘rubbish for women’.
Take them or leave them, but you certainly can’t ignore these romantic novels, which have been a part of most peoples’ lives. Hundreds of them stacked in libraries, heaped at roadside book stalls, laid out for second-hand sale on pavements, borrowed time and time again — especially in hostels, where the trick is for one girl to borrow the book and ten girls to finish it in the same night — Mills and Boon books are everywhere. Come on, we’ve all ogled the alluring covers depicting coy, docile heroines with tall, handsome men aching with desperation, anguish or lust, at some point or the other.
But is it only women who read these so-called mushy Mills & Boon (popularly M&B) love sagas? Or are men just as hooked? It is difficult to establish their popularity among men as most will never admit to reading M&Bs. Afsha Khan, a 26-year-old freelance writer from Mumbai, says, “Men are just too proud to admit that they don’t have the patience for descriptive text. They’re more into pictures. They would rather watch a Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or a Pretty Woman than use their imagination. Maybe if M&B came up with a graphic novel with really good illustrations, chances are that they would fall for them.”
However Malay Desai, a college student has a reverse take on men reading mush. He says, “I’m yet to meet a man who owns up to reading M&Bs. Men claim it’s only women who read them because women have no qualms flaunting them. Comparing M&B to well-made films isn’t fair. Rather parallels can be drawn with Indian television’s great afternoon soap factory. Many men watch TVs soaps, but will never admit that they like them. Same with M&Bs. Maybe more men would come out in the open on this sensitive mental orientation if women gave them the assurance that reading mush isn’t ‘uncool’.”
Most men are still not confident of being in touch with their softer, feminine side. And certainly if they are of a more sensitive nature they would never admit it in front of their friends (particularly other men) afraid of being considered “girlie”.
Manish Singh, country manager, Harlequin Mills & Boon India Pvt Ltd, claims that the number of men who buy M&Bs compared to women is very low, “Though concrete data is not available, our research says that the percentage of male buyers is very small, and they normally buy it for others.”
Mr Gautam Jatia, CEO of Starmark echoes this, “Our male customers rarely ‘read’ M&Bs. Around 10 per cent of the total count buying M&Bs are men. However, we have noticed that men usually buy M&Bs as gift items.” 
 The Pregnancy Shock, The Sheikh’s Convenient Mistress, Taken by the Bad Boy, The Billionaire’s Bride of Vengeance, The Millionaire’s Ultimate Catch are some of the most sought-after M&B titles that women lap up till this day, even if it means masking them in brown covers or hiding them inside their study material.
 It is not just men who lie about their liking for M&Bs. There are even some women who claim they don’t read this basic form of chicklit as it is considered low-brow. Suranjana Nandi, a journalist working with a fashion magazine in Mumbai exclaims, “Women of all age groups read M&Bs. They may not admit it but they do. And this holds true for both single women as well as those with partners. The stories are single women’s dream, while those with partners want to know all that ‘could have been’. Therein lies the charm of reading these novels.”
 Interestingly, the reasons behind the popularity of M&B novels are astoundingly mottled. Bonny Ghose (Kolkata), a librarian by profession, cites an example, “Not only do I find young college-goers asking for M&Bs, my mother too is an avid reader and has always been so. However, she avoids the sexually-explicit ones. Mom would rather go for an easy-read formula story after a hard day’s work.”
Mr Jatia couldn’t agree more. He says, “M&Bs are a hit with readers for so many years because they make for quick read, easy connect and the
language is simple, making it convenient for occasional readers as well.”
 Recalls Afsha, “I read my first M&B when I was 13, in the dead of the night when everyone had fallen asleep.  As for why it is such a hit, I think these novels ‘immensely’ improve the vocabulary (pun intended!). My ability to describe things pictorially became increasingly better after my fifth title. Plus, it’s interesting to note how smartly they skirt around certain words. In this case, I’d say ‘reading is believing’.”
 It is no wonder that Harlequin Mills and Boon have grown to become one of the leading publishers of adult romantic fiction around the world for more than a century. There has been a remarkable change in reading habits too, especially in the last five years. Mr Singh reveals, “The readership has risen over the years. The books are available for various moods and cater to all age groups (from 16 to 60 years). The market for English language books has witnessed 10 per cent of yearly growth. Alternative format like e-books has also contributed to increase and change in the readership pattern. The data from other international markets where e-books are a rage, shows that readers are comfortable in downloading the titles and reading them either on PCs or hand-held devices.”
 Anuttama Banerjee, psychologist and consultant at Eastern Zonal Psychological Association (Kolkata), sums up the situation. She explains, “We are all victims of ‘labelling’ by the society. We grow up with certain notions, for example men are associated with qualities like assertiveness, machismo and fearlessness. They are considered to have a practical bent of mind, while women are generally expected to be submissive, docile, romantic and dreamy eyed. And there lies the dilemma. Moreover, it has been observed that men receive a lot of flak and get teased by their peer groups if they happen to exhibit soft emotions.”
Anuttama further adds, “Men have to try hard to match up to the standards set by the society. They prefer to keep it discreet, oblivious from public eye. On the other hand, women have the freedom to express their penchant for romance and no one objects. However, the fact that men read mush cannot be ruled out completely. If they can read women’s magazines, chances are that they read M&Bs too, maybe when their partners are done with them.”
 Girls, all you need to do is keep your eyes open!

Return of the native

 

 

Pritish Nandy comes to the city which was once home, to rediscover the poet in him

 

Sayandeb Chowdhury


It was an evening that the city would relish for some time to come. Be it the lush spread at the Tollygunge Club, or the tony crowd that arrived in their finery, or the chirpiness of the birds that gave a more than fitting setting for reading of poetry, it is clear that such evenings do not come often. Those who matter in Calcutta seemed to be there. It was just a book launch session. But then it was just not another book that was being launched. On the dais, to talk about the book, the poetry, about writing and cinema were a galaxy of stars who had just descended. There was Anupam Kher, a friend of the author whose book was being released. There was Javed Akhtar, as poet and lover of letters. There was Prasoon Joshi, yet another man of words. There was Farrukh Dhondy, novelist and screenwriter and there was APJ Abdul Kalam, a man for all seasons and a poet at heart. But the chief attraction was the man whose book Again was being released along with the launch of  Nandy’s republished book Tonight the Savage Rite, co-authored by Kamala Das .  And he, in a white short-sleeved shirt coupled with a black waist jacket and Ray Ban shades looked as far from a poet as one can be. But that is what Pritish Nandy is all about: dandy and delectably cerebral at the same time, and it was he who had made sure that Calcutta gathered at the Tolly lawns on an early February evening.
The proceedings were no less interesting. Tapan Chaki, Nandy’s old friend, talked about the itinerant traveller, lover and performer in Nandy, the man who has more firsts to his name than most others before others took turns to talk about the man, his poetry and poetry in general. The poems were vintage Nandy. And they attained power when the beautiful and effervescent Vidya Balan , who called herself a wannabe Bengali, read out poems from Again along with Nandy, the latter’s voice reverberating across the foyer and lashing on to the great greens nearby. Surely poetry, even though Calcutta is a steady supplier of many of its famous practitioners, hardly finds itself at the centre of such bonhomie and sophisticated affection, that too in such salubrious settings. But one thing is for sure. Nandy who has been there and done that and has never looked back, seemed to have returned to poetry when he is riping inside and may be outside. This was his return to the comfort and warmth of letters. And the city which gave him words.

In splitting image

 

 

Fashion designer Kiran Uttam Ghosh launched her new collection Multiplicity that underlines her evolution 

 

 

Supreeta Singh

 
Just before leaving home, she broke her fingernail and arrived 45 minutes late to the launch of her own collection. By that time, 85 Lansdowne was a flurry of activities with Kiran Uttam Ghosh’s dedicated line of clientele immersed in trying the designer’s latest offering called ‘Multiplicity’.
Touted as a pop-up store, the exhibit was an ordinary showcasing of clothes and accessories. While the garments consisted of ethnic wear and western drapes, leather bags in yellow, red, peach, blue, black and white fitted into the accessories section.
 Talking about her motivation, Kiran explained, “I have evolved as a person and as a fashion designer. My collection represents that spirit in multiple techniques, ideas and thoughts.”  She further added, “All designers do the same thing but the world has forgotten simplicity and that’s me. The idea is to tell the story with elegance and not shout from the rooftop.” Translating this into fashion sensibility, Kiran’s collection is divided into layered drapes in metallic coral, gold and camel shades in fabrics like satin, brocade and chiffon. The styles and silhouettes vary with detachable neck-pieces that add to the ornamentation. On a different note, there are voluminous anarkali kameez in blazing red, emerald green and smooth white coupled with trailing dupattas and a golden metallic texture on the border. Jersey sarees for the young bride and crushed drapes in purple, green, black and red also feature in the collection.
 Apart from being a designer, Kiran also played the part of a flawless salesperson, answering every query of her young and old clients, explaining the convenience of a particular drape and fabric, recommending colour and cuts, and advising on style and comfort. “I think I am the worst salesman but when I see someone making a wrong choice for themselves I always speak up,” she said.
 Since most of her clients were looking for wedding apparel, Kiran doled out wisdom on how to look fetching on such an occasion. “Wearing a saree is not outdated. If you wear a chic blouse or choli with a saree then you won’t have to look like a behenji. I always say that be an aunty but not an aunty ji!”
 To Kiran, simple things make a long-lasting impression. “When you dress up, people should notice it and remember you. Just by adding a little drama to the way you drape a saree, a boat neck choli, a clutch in a vibrant shade and classy jewellery can lift your look. Today, the Indian client is ready to accept metallic colours in gold and coral that goes very well during pre or post-wedding events,” said Kiran. 
 After reaching a milestone with her accessory line, what’s next for the designer? “I want to make more beautiful clothes and reach out to more people. The next 100 ideas are ready in my mind,” she smiled.

Drift in the clouds

 

 

Mountain sights and sounds in winter will make you forget and forgo more than you wish for, says Supreeta Singh

We didn’t expect the things that happened on this trip. My two girl friends, Sammy and Debolina and I have travelled together many times before, but Lava and Rishop caught us off guard. It made us laugh, cry, fight, lose patience, forget things, meet wonderful people, spend sleepless nights and have an incredibly good time.
It was Sammy’s idea to visit a cold place during winter. We decided to spend Christmas at the small hill towns of Lava and Rishop in North Bengal. We were warned that the temperature could dip as low as zero degrees but we ignored it. Little did we know that the experience would leave us in cold sweat!
 
Day 1 – December 23

We boarded the 8 pm Kanchan Kanya Express from Sealdah on December 23 straddled with eight bags — thanks to our woolens. Our RAC tickets split the three of us. After dinner I went to stretch myself on the upper berth but got stuck midway. With one foot on the upper wrung of the ladder, one foot scrambling to touch the floor and one hand desperately clutching the seat, I hung on to the iron support with all eyes glued on me. A young man sitting on the opposite berth came to my rescue. Originally from Rajasthan, he now lives in Bhutan, he said and had come to Kolkata on a business trip. Debolina eyed him with suspicion while he chattered on about Bhutan and its beauty, showed us his shopping bonanza from Burrabazar and even handed me three one rupee notes of Bhutan as a souvenir! It was soon time to call it a night.

Day 2 – December 24

The morning began with our first disaster. In the bathroom, Debolina sent her mobile down the hole. We could not do anything but sit sadly. The mobile must have gone to the permanent lost and never found bucket of Indian Railways. Around 9 am, we reached New Mal Junction. We waved goodbye to our helpful neighbour, collected our luggage and disembarked from the train. As the train began to move, the young man called us back. Debolina had forgotten her bag that contained our money, tickets, hotel reservations, my wallet and phone among other things. Debolina ran and grabbed it. A few seconds late and we would have been stranded at New Mal forever! We could not believe our luck. That guy neither took our numbers nor asked our names, but saved us twice.
Our car was waiting outside. As we went up the hills, the tension melted away as we soaked in the natural beauty. When we reached Lava, our cabbie asked us to take another car and head to Hotel Paradise. We were perplexed. Lava was a small town. How much further are we going? Nonetheless, we followed his advice. We took a cab. Few minutes later, we saw the first cabbie following us. Why? Because we had forgotten our food bag in the cab. The third disaster.
We were already tired and famished, and there was more waiting! Half-way through the journey, we realised our fourth disaster. Paradise was cheap here, so there was a Hotel Paradise in both Lava and Rishop. Our first cabbie had thought that we were going to Paradise in Rishop. So he had put us in another cabbie for Rishop. But we were headed for Paradise Lava. As we did a U turn, we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! As we charted our course back, the driver politely asked us to pay Rs 200 instead of the usual fair of Rs 450. He wasted his time and it was he who was sorry that he had to take money from us.
On reaching our hotel, we changed, had lunch and went out. Our first and only stop was the nearby Lava monastery. We had emptied our bags and wore everything we were carrying and yet felt bitterly cold. We were shaking, shivering and turning blue. Walking slowly and braving a biting cold wind, we went around the monastery. Not a single monk was visible. They must have attained a spiritual elevation to evade the the chill. A few tourists loitered around. As evening fell, we were engulfed by fog that drifted from the hills and in a few seconds everything was enveloped in a misty embrace.
By the time we came back to the hotel, we shivered uncontrollably. We carried three small bottles of whisky. It was Christmas Eve. Out came our candles and cakes. Sammy turned on the laptop to play music. I poured the drinks. In the next hour, we danced and made merry and at 8 pm, three pegs down I fell asleep thinking that I can pass the night oblivious of the all-pervading chill. I was wide awake at 8.45 pm, cold and trembling. At dinner, we met a couple from Kolkata who told us that only brandy can keep us alive! At midnight, two of us knocked on their doors and begged for brandy, because death, we realised, is worse than losing your dignity.
 
 Day 3 – December 25

Our first stop of the day was Rachela Peak. Together with another couple, a guide and bottles of water, we walked up the mountain. It was hard, to say the least. I gasped and panted and after twenty minutes reached the top. The view was breathtaking. It was a foggy day. I stood at more than 7,000 feet above sea-level with mountains rolling on all sides, a forest inhabited by bears behind me and the naked, azure sky above. The silence was golden.
For breakfast, we went to Orchid restaurant at the city centre. The place was crammed with Bengali tourists, even during this off-season. In contrast to the quiet nature of the hill people, the noise of the tourists from the plains, was severely disagreeable. Even in Lava, they were stuffing themselves with bread, banana and eggs! Were they at a picnic at the Victoria memorial?
Stuffed with a breakfast of momo, soup, bread and coffee, we headed off to Chhangey Falls. The guide informed us about the films that have been shot here. On the way back, our guide suggested we take a detour. It was a scary experience. A vertigo victim, I almost swooned as I trudged along the narrow and steep path holding on to Sammy.
By early afternoon, it was time to say goodbye to Lava and head to Rishop, a hamlet situated at 8,000 feet. We reached Neora Valley Resort — a beautiful property scattered with cottages amidst a sumptuous spread of greenery. We were told that this is the place where Kanchenjunga can be viewed the best. I waited for it to be morning.
 
Day 4
December 26

It was 6 am when we were woken up by tourists shouting (or may be crying) Kanchenjunga! Kanchenjunga! We gathered at a view point called Jhoola Wala and before we could rub our yes and pray ‘look at me Sir’, The Lord of Mountains was gone. Since this was our last full day at Rishop, we decided to make the most of it. Along with a local guide, a one-hour trek took us to Tiffindara, another view point. The surrounding was magnificent. We stood at one of the highest points in Rishop and all around us we could see mountains covered in thick forests. It was another cloudy day and the cold was almost intolerable. But no complaints! We walked back through a forest, just the four of us, our guide included. There was no need for small talk. We were awed by tall trees, the deep gorges and the sheer remoteness of the place.
The day drew to a close with a campfire in the evening. We were joined by a family of three – husband, wife and their daughter. Swathed in five layers of clothing, we were almost hugging the fire. The night sky was clear and glittering with millions of stars. Sight to behold, not to tell.

Day 5 – December 27

Our trip had come to a close but not without the last, grandest surprise! Very early in the morning we saw that the fog had cleared. We tiptoed to Jhoola Wala, as if our footsteps may disturb His Majesty! And there it was! It shone in the sun, a large white mass of snow, floating in the sky, a mass that grew with the Sun above. Kanchenjunga in all its glory! We had got our Christmas
present!
All was forgiven! We were game to go back and plan our next trip!

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Receding hairline and baldness, particularly in men, are universal causes of concern. There are treatments available now, thanks to advanced technology, which can bail you out. Trichologist Dr Apoorva Shah, the official hair care expert for Femina Miss India gives answers to some commonly asked questions about baldness and offers solutions.

 

Why do men go bald?
Baldness is actually a disease. The scientific name for it is androgenetic alopecia. The causitive factor for the disease is dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Two per cent of testosterone is converted to DHT which gets attached to the root of the hair and causes diminiaturisation. Diminiaturisation makes the roots of the hair shrink, making the hair thinner. A stage finally comes when the roots become so short it fails to produce a new hair. The root becomes a dead one, there is no regrowth. If baldness has reached an advanced stage, then the patient can opt for hair weaving or transplant.

Can baldness be cured?
No, it cannot be cured, but the process can be slowed down considerably with regular treatment. Patients should go to trichilogists as soon as their hairline starts receding or a bald patch appears.

What is hair weaving?
Hair weaving is like wearing a hair piece. An exogenous hair is tied to the root of the existing hair to give a voluminous look.

What is hair transplant?
In hair transplant, the patient’s own hair is used. Generally, baldness appears as a patch in the middle of the scalp which increases in size gradually or the hairline recedes. But baldness never appears at the back of the head (this is due to the lack of male hormone receptors here). Hair is surgically removed from the back of the head and planted in the balding area. Hair removal from the back of the head is virtually undetectable. The transplanted hair continues to grow like normal hair.

Are these procedures time consuming?
Not at all. Both treatments are over within a day. The sessions are usually over in three-four hours at the most. In case of hair transplant, it takes three to four months for the hair to grow back normally.

Which treatment is more cost effective?
The treatments are of different types. Hair weaving is not a permanent solution. Depending on the number of hair woven, the costs can go up `15,000 to `20, 000. It generally lasts one to two years but the wear and tear can be major factor in decreasing the longivity. Hair transplant is a permanent solution and the costs can go up to ` 1-2 lakh.

Is it painful and are their any side effects?
Patients can feel mild discomfort but there won’t be any pain. There are no side effects. It is advisable that the patients share their medical history with the doctors in case of hair transplant, for instance if you have had hair replacement surgery before, smoking and drinking habits, drugs taken, if any. Risks are almost none if the surgery is performed by a qualified doctor.

Can diet and lifestyle trigger baldness?
Not exactly. Baldness is hereditary and genes are the primary determinants. Male hormones becomes hyperactive under stress. Red meat, red wine also have the same effect. People, who have a family history of baldness, should lessen their intake of such food and drinks. Green tea is a natural DHT blocker. A cup of green tea daily is also helpful. 
So, don’t feel down and out if you spot that menancing, nightmarish bald patch. With some help and proper treatment, you can atleast keep that hair, if not sport a shiny mane.

—As told to Ananya Majumdar

 

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In today’s corporate world, one shouldn’t feel trapped in a basic-black-and-pearls dress code. There are too  many options now. Power dressing at work is emerging as a key factor in climbing the ladder of success

 

 

Supreeta Singh
Corporate culture in India is fast evolving. There is increasing demand for competent professionals triggering competition between the many deserving candidates. It’s important to set yourself apart from the crowd and you have to dress sharply to make your presence felt in office. While intelligence and efficiency are essential, what really clinches the deal is power dressing. If clothes communicate your aura, then you can imagine what a sloppily dressed person declares to the world. A well-groomed man or woman sends a subtle message that he or she means business.
Moushumi B Ghosh, a senior marketing professional, agrees, “Power dressing conveys that you are serious about your work and careful about details.”
Possible clients and employers are as impressed by an extraordinary CV as a neat outfit. In boardroom politics, a well-turned out person can dominate  proceedings. Ranju Alex, general manager, Courtyard by Marriott, Pune Hinjewadi observes, “We need to portray professionalism and yet be comfortable enough to be in those clothes for the entire day.”
When it comes to choosing what to wear, care must be taken of the occasion, because an employee represents his company and its image. Vipin Bhatia, marketing executive, McCain Foods India Pvt Ltd says, “On some occasions like formal functions or meetings, formal dressing is required, otherwise smart casuals or business casuals work.”
While Ranju loves to drape sarees at work, Moushumi is comfortable in dresses and salwar kameez.
Pushpesh Baid, managing director, Baid Group, reflects more sartorial styling. “My clothes range from formal to semi-formal, according to the day and the occasion. You have to look your best so that your employees and co-workers take you seriously. With split-second decisions in vogue, your appearance is critical,” he says.
Fashion designer Nida Mahmood has a few suggestions about power dressing. Sharp silhouettes, deep sombre colours, the right kind of footwear, matching accessories can do the trick. She recommends, “Bold and strong are the key words. Look for checks or solid colors for suits. For women it is a good idea to throw in colour with a scarf. Androgyny works well for women in terms of sporting jackets with pants. It is a good idea to team it with coloured blouses to bring in the strong and yet feminine feel. Men can play with ties. Slim fit jackets and trousers, button down shirts and the perfectly suited ties make a striking combination.”

Live and let love

In a world torn by violence, does the credo of baul philosophy show a flicker of hope?

 

 

Supreeta Singh

 

 
Against the backdrop of environmental hazards, physical threats and emotional depletion, the quest for spiritual freedom stands tall. If a man’s ultimate aim is self-realisation, then the need to find meaning in life becomes monumental. Unfortunately, today the concepts of peace, liberty and equality have been stripped of their essence and reduced to a mere lip service at best or buzzwords at worst.
 However, a small sect in West Bengal has a different tale to tell. They are above any organised religion, caste and creed or gender discrimination and completely shun orthodox rituals.
Spread across Murshidabad, Nadia and Birbhum districts in Bengal, Sylhet, Bikrampur and Kushtia in Bangladesh, Baul singers and poets practice an egalitarian philosophy preached by ‘exponents’ of world peace and love. 
Thanks to Gautam Ghose’s film Moner Manush, there has been a reawakening of interest in one of the prominent baul exponents, the iconic figure Lalon Fakir. A Hindu-turned-Muslim fakir, who flouted all established norms of society in his exploration of self, Ghose’s film pertinently makes Lalon’s philosophy embedded in his lyrics seem relevant. 
Gautam Ghose says, “Lalon is contemporary. Bauls are not just performers; for them it’s a way of life. Today, not everyone is a performer but they practice devotion nonetheless.”
 For young folk singer Anusheh Anadil of Bangladesh, bauls uphold a philosophy that is eternal. An ardent fan of Lalon songs, she claims that songs give her a glimpse of reality. “The need for self-realisation does not disappear with time. I am in love with the bauls and fakirs specially because here there is no duality of ideas. It is about learning to be empty and embodying that love which is making creation possible. For me, it’s always been about the message these songs convey. I try to pass it on to my audience in whichever way they may listen.”
 The growing popularity of baul songs and tunes in popular culture also stand as a testimony to its revival among the youth. The lyrics, strains and compositions touch a chord infusing a listener with a sense of unbridled joy. Percussionist Tanmoy Bose whose projects Taal Tantra and Baul and Beyond, where Anusheh is one of the contributors, says that baul philosophy is the best example of unity, brotherhood and friendship. According to him, youngsters must go through the lines of poems crafted by bauls to understand their import. He adds, “Baul does not just mean smoking weeds and singing songs. It’s a way of life that needs total devotion. For me, the most heartwarming and urgent message of bauls is the principle of guru-shishya (disciple) parampara or tradition that it upholds. Every day we read about student and teacher conflicts. The basic foundation of the baul philosophy lies in total surrender to your guru, who will lead you through the tumultuous hurdles of life. It says that you have to know your guru to complete yourself. This is opposite to the language of aggression youths display. In any situation of dispute and disagreement, baul philosophy can teach you to cooperate.”
 In the same vein, Bangladeshi singer Latif Shah says, “When the desire rises in you to merge with the ‘Supreme Soul’, no matter what your age is, you will be drawn to it like bee to a flower. My disciples are as young as 12 years. That’s an impressionable age and therefore they understand all about bauls with ease.” 
Bose is amazed by the fact that our own indigenous baul philosophy finds resonance in African-American blues and jazz entrenched in socio-political revolutions. “I have been to so many countries and everywhere I have found that the native form of music has sprung out of some kind of protest. Both music and baul philosophy are universal. They are deeply rooted in selflessness. Hence, there is much to learn from them.”
 One of the strongest elements of Baul is the way it embraces everyone irrespective of religion, community, class, economic background and gender. At a time when world leaders at large fail to do more than initiating peace-talks between warring nations, bauls talk about forging ties. “Baul is a secular philosophy. Although fundamentalists attack them in many pockets of Bengal and Bangladesh, yet they promote love and compassion. Men and women, who have been ostracised by society, find solace and acceptance in the company of bauls. Many of them come from poor families and have nowhere to go. Earlier, the urban and rural divide was not as marked as it is today. Now, bauls flock to cities to participate in fairs and festivals giving city slickers an opportunity to learn from them.”
 Interestingly, Baul songs are engaged in a conversation with the body. For them, human body is the most intricate and elaborate vehicle where universal truth lies hidden. The body is a means to an end – the final reunion with the ‘Supreme Being’ who resides in all of us. Human body is sacrosanct, a symbol of divinity. From novice to advanced baul singers, meditation and yoga are a must every day – exactly what health experts urge people to do.  
 “Physical exercise or shadhon-bhajon is as crucial to bauls as singing. All baul songs are centered on the body, which is a metaphor for leading to higher states of existence. A good guru will always decode the songs and explain its meaning to his disciple,” says 30-something Sanjay of Baul band Brahmakhyapa.
 Bauls believe in the principle of ‘here and now’. There is no concept of reincarnation or idol worship. Free of dogmas, it stresses on body and mind to find all answers. “What attracts me to baul philosophy is it’s scientific nature. To develop the inner psyche, you must reach a level of control that is achieved only when you are physically, mentally and emotionally fit. There is neither any sudden anger nor any sudden joy. Isn’t this what any spiritual guru would advise? Today, people earn bushels of money, but are they really happy?” asks Sanjay. 
 The prominent place of women in baul communities is another stellar aspect. While conservative religions put women on the pedestal and worship them, domestic violence continues unabated. Bauls are routinely dismissed for their apparent sexual proclivities, their lifestyle often dubbed as ‘free sex in a free society. Yet rising statistics of divorce and separation speak about the lack of respect and love in urban couples. Tanmoy Bose is aggrieved by such misinterpretations. “It’s an injustice. You have to look beyond the physical intercourse and discover the epitome of love in your partner. And it’s not as if bauls indulge in indiscriminate sexual orgies. They too have fixed mates,” he fumes.
 Echoes Sanjay, “My partner Malobika and I live together. We have a daughter too. As in tantra, baul philosophy too believes in the union of male and female and only the union of the two can lead to creation. There are so many married couples in the society who are miserable. Does the ‘married’ tag stop them from abusing each other? So, how is it different for the bauls?”
 Kartik Das Baul of Santiniketan, who is married with a son, says, “Bauls are not separate entities outside the purview of society. Lalon advises us through his songs to be free of restrictions. In India and abroad, we have finally got our due recognition and things look brighter for the future. As long as I can connect with myself, nothing can dampen my spirit.” 
 Golam Fakir, a noted baul from Nadia, observes that bauls as a sect will always remain a little mysterious and unfathomable to laymen. “Only those who come with a sincere heart and thirst for knowledge are able to apprehend the true essence of bauls. Yet for a world whose heart is bleeding, he shares a snippet from Gita  — Whatever has happened in the past, happened for the best. Whatever will happen will happen for the best too.”

Stars shine down on Shahapur

Jaya Biswas

After a lengthy week of sheer monotony at office, one couldn’t even think of staying at home doing nothing, especially when you were staying alone in a city like Mumbai. Thankfully, my weekend trip to Shahapur turned out to be an entertaining jaunt. We still had a sliver of twilight left as I set out with two friends to this less-frequented village en route Nasik. Having wrapped up work early, on a Saturday evening, we headed for the Big Red Tent, a camping ground in Shahapur. The Mahauli mountain range made a splendid appearance on the left. But we had more interesting view on the right as ‘the three idiots on the run’ giggled at any handsome guy who passed by on his bike. We sang tacky Bollywood numbers and clicked pictures much to the delight of our driver, a smart aleck, who was so amused by our antics that he had conveniently switched off the radio. Realization hit when he requested if we could also take a picture of him driving. Though irritated, we obliged. And it did the trick. Our cabbie turned out to be the best possible entertainer-cum-guide taking us to the best possible dhabas and chai stalls during our three-hour-long drive. The milestone indicating Shaha­pur brought us to reality. There was a stunning change in the view around with welcoming lush green trees of unknown varieties. The mud road meandered through brinjal, corn, potato and tomato fields. The orchid garden with freshly made flower beds and pollution-free air breathed in an added energy. We screamed in delight as we alighted from the car. Having paid the driver who would have rather stayed and was keen on taking us back the next day, we had to bribe him with extra tip and send him packing. To our surprise, a young woman in her late twenties came forward and introduced herself as the co-owner of the vast acres of land that assembled the camps. She took us around the campground flanked by a plant nursery on the serene banks of the Bhatsa River. The highlight of course was the private, zipped-up tent well-equipped showers and loos, complete with toilets, washbasins and every typical bathroom appointment, right down to the toilet paper. The next steps were learning how to build our own tents and light a campfire. We were taught how to make our little habitat complete by hanging sheets. To prevent the sheets from flapping, we had weighed them down with our hunter shoes filled with stones. Oh yes, we were supposed to prepare our dinner on a small clay oven provided to us by our hosts. Our barbequed potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms and cottage cheese, with generous dollops of butter and salt and pepper sprinkled over, the food turned out to be edible, probably because of all our hard work that went into handling the mini clay oven. Post dinner we resumed our chat session. As it was late October, the cool night breeze was bothering us. But we were certainly not in a mood to waste our time inside our tent. We bumped into a wildlife photographer on a shooting spree, an ad man looking for solitude and a bunch of interns on their first camping trip. As we strolled further we saw two more groups camping on the ground. A big telescope camera placed exactly in the middle of the lawn caught our attention. When probed, our hostess informed that camp next to us belonged to a group of students studying astronomy. They had come to capture the meteor showers predicted by the meteorological department late in the night. We were thrilled at the prospect. However, I couldn’t shake off the feeling of vulnerability sitting on the lawn surrounded by tall stalks of grass and black silhouettes of hills around. Was anyone watching? Would some creepy-crawlies dare to come out of the grass to investigate us? I was scared. We waited with baited breath; it was like being privy to a secret world that most people don’t get to experience. Tired after our night walk, I lay on the ground admiring the green grass and blue sky; I burst out singing the Hutch song. Suddenly, I saw a flash in the sky. I had never seen another shooting star of such brilliance and magnitude, which kept getting brighter as it crossed from one corner to the other. We were in awe of what we had just witnessed. I had never seen anything like that before. What I felt was inexplicable. The streak lasted less than a second, bright and dramatic like nature’s Roman candle. The meteor shower continued for hours and by the end of it, we lost count of how many each of us had spotted. The night was all about contemplating things we so rarely see and how we had been lucky to be at the right place at the right time. Perhaps it was the overwhelming episode that kept steaming through my subconscious as I sat there, trying to relax and enjoy the night sky. By then, the temperature was freezing outside … so we decided to retreat into the cosy comforts of our sleeping bags.

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