As Dazzling As It Gets — the world of 3D printed gold jewelry by Zinarya!

Riya was just another hard-working corporate woman who was had developed a sudden liking for chic jewelry designs and was looking to buy some unique pieces in gold.

She felt investing in good gold jewelry was better than going for cheap imitation ones that lose their sheen within months. She visited all the swanky jewelry outlets but not one had designs that would stand out — every design had the potential of finding a doppleganger at a wedding party in some aunty’s necklace or at the office party in another woman’s ears!

The option of going to her family jeweler and expecting his kaarigars to create an urbane piece of jewelry was out of question.

There’s a Riya round the corner everywhere — even you have been this Riya in search of dazzling jewelry with a design that would blow everyone’s mind.

Your eternal quest ends today at Zinarya

Jewelry pieces by Zinarya are soon going to change the way urban women select their ornaments. Zinarya has revolutionalized the way gold jewelry is made and conceptualized which is sure to appeal to the modern women who wants to explore designs beyond the ones that are traditionally worn in India.

All Zinarya gold jewelry designs are unique and take an artist’s imagination to a whole different level using technology that was never before used for making ornaments.

Zinarya’s core manufacturing technology is 3D printing — till now unheard of in which math and algorithm-based designs are put to good use.

Every piece derives inspiration from mathematical and geometrical concepts that have been recreated into fabulous jewelry pieces. 3D printing used for jewelry is a fascinating process, many Youtube videos will give you insights on how the final product is achieved.

While the making process is dominated by machines, it’s the human skill that comes up with stunning designs.

To truly understand what Zinarya’s 3D printed jewelry looks like, have a look at this earring ‘Zoria’ from three different angles.

Notice the way every angle presents a different design, which is intricately assembled as an earring. There are no joints in this design, which makes it a durable piece and a testimony of unprecedented craftsmanship.

Have a look at this delicate yet sturdy pendant design in white gold. Ask yourself, can this design and finish be achieved through manual skills?

Here are some reasons why shopping for jewelry at Zinarya is a smooth ride: 

1. Jewelry designs are categorized in various collections. Look for the one that suits your taste and occasion the best!

2. You can check out 360-degree view of each and every piece to see how the 3D printed piece looks from various angles.

3. Easy EMI options are available for every jewelry — displayed on the very same page.

Customization – Zinarya’s USP

Every design can be customized according to what you want! For instance, the ring design below can be customized in 18k White Gold and 18k Yellow Gold, while many other designs have the option of being made in Rose Gold as well. The choice of stones is also given to the lady — she can choose which stone and what kind of finish should be given to the ring.

And here are some of the options that Zinarya gives it’s buyers for customisation. Every design has different options.

With an array of scintillating and unique designs to chose from, women can rest assured that the piece adorning their neck, ears or fingers is one of a kind!

Special message for men — you now know how to floor your lady with a gift that reflects her personality to the core! Happy shopping at Zinarya

Book Review: Story of a Brief Marriage

Author: Anuk Arudpragasam
Publisher: Fourth Estate (imprint of Harper Collins)
Pages: 193
Price: Rs 499

Dinesh is a young man who has survived the civil war in Sri Lanka and escaped the eyes of the establishment that has sent every fit and healthy man to fight the war. He has also survived the daily shelling that kills and maims many. While living in a temporary camp near a clinic, he is approached by a man with a strange request — strange for such turbulent times.
bookThe man asks him to marry his daughter Ganga. The young girl, who lost her mother and brother to the war, also lives in the camp and volunteers at the clinic to tend to the wounded and help the staff, just like Dinesh. And so begins The Story of a Brief Marriage.

The author, Anuk Arudpragasam, gives away the tone of book with the title — ‘brief marriage’. It is a very unlikely term for an upbeat story. However, the word ‘brief’ translates into a day in the book and is explained in great detail. Every incident, every act  — something as basic as a scene of a man taking a bath — runs over many pages. For an impatient reader, it might seem like a never-ending description. For a reader who loves to explore every detail of an act, the surrounding, the past and the present, this novel is a piece worth treasuring. There are times when the detailing overtakes the storyline and it’s difficult to reconnect if you are not reading this book in one sitting.

And that is where the author has shown some bravery, because not everyone can take a risk like that. Arudpragasam’s ability to portray human emotions and behaviour has brought the two characters to life in a very natural way. You would think you know Dinesh and Ganga for ages, the way they would react or what they would say next.

Overall, this book is that kind of a novel that l
eaves you with an after-taste of the character’s life — secretly wishing there was more to this ‘brief marriage’ and in happier shades.

This book review has also appeared in Sakal Times, February 12, 2017’s edition. Click here to go to that page on their website. 

Book Review: Solo in Singapore by Tanushree Podder

Solo IN SingaporeWhat is the first thing you feel like doing after a break-up? Party like there’s no tomorrow or go a dramatic haircut? Well, Munmun Menon, a journalist, takes it one step further. She hops on a plane to be ‘Solo in Singapore’.

And that’s how the journey of a 30-something woman unfolds in a foreign land who tries to bring her life back on track. Munmun realises the horror of relying on google when she enters a dingy hotel, only to check out the very next day and bump into a breezy Australian girl who becomes her friend.

They explore Singapore on a budget, end up renting a part of an apartment from a local old woman and that’s how a journey of a confused woman coping with heartbreak and trying desperately to “not be” penniless grabs our attention for the next 200-odd pages.

Even if the first few pages remind us of Kangana Ranaut in Queen, the resemblance quickly vanishes as Mummun not only sets out to find a job, but also her father, who had disappeared from her childhood many years ago.

The amazing travelogue-cum-chick lit is authored by city-based seasoned traveller and author Tanushree Podder.
12992052_10154196497574198_1015663538_o (1)
She refuses to label her work as a travelogue, but there are clearly some generous glimpses that she offers of the different culture of Singapore. The credit for it goes to Podder’s daughter, who lived in the country for several years and also for the extensive travelling that the author undertook, not just in Singapore, but also in other countries.

“Being an intrepid and passionate traveller, I feel that travelling has amazing healing powers. It widens your horizon, gives you confidence, opens up new windows and helps you find your feet, especially if you are travelling solo. I, for one, feel that nursing grudges or heartbreaks is difficult when you are travelling,” Poddar confesses.

It seems the idea of travelling has also helped the protagonist of the book. What sets apart Solo in from other chick lits is that there isn’t too much emphasis on finding “the one,” until the end.

Grab Solo in Singapore for that popcorn break when you need something light and witty to lift your mood. It can be your weekend buddy this month!

Book Review: House Spirit by Palash Krishna Mehrotra

OUT OF THE BOTTLE…and, into our homes. Palash Krishna Mehrotra talks about our drinking habits through his anthology — House Spirits, Drinking in India. Hic on…

“Our attitude to drinking is the same as it is to sex. We do it all the time. And some States, it seems, do it more than others.” Palash Krishna Mehrotra opens House Spirit, Drinking in India with this preface. And, it’s clear that this delightful cocktail of stories, poems and essays is not going to beat around the bush, or specifically the bottle! House-Spirit_Front-websitejpg-480x698

Brought out by Speaking Tiger and edited by Mehrotra, the thrust of the anthology would be on drinking in India — snazzy upper class bars, thelas and in theatres etc. So seasoned and new writers have come together in the book — with their shots; some are super smooth, some are hard-hitting and some leave that burning sensation in your throat, once you reach the rock bottom. The stories are on drinking, and not about the drinks and where you can find them. They reveal the fun side as well as the dark shadows lurking beneath your glass.

A couple of pages into the book, and you go up. But soon enough, you come crashing down to harsh reality.  Reading House Spirits… is like a sine curve. “I wanted to cover both sides — the merry part and the not so merry part of drinking,” explains Mehrotra, who has a reputation for liking the bottle. That and the experience of editing an anthology in the past, set the ball rolling for this book.

“I decided to focus on drinking in India, which has not been written about. We think of it as something transgressive, something naughty.

Indians drink outside their homes because it’s not acceptable to our families. So I was looking for people who write entertainingly, rather than just cover ground. They could write personalised copies or about the places to drink like thelas which offer local booze or the gay bars,” tells Mehrotra from his Dehradun residence.

So the anthology has stories from Haridwar, Kerala, Delhi, Kolkata, Dehradun, Bengaluru and Gujarat (yes, you read it right), revealing a tantalising tip of the iceberg.

Little surprised that Goa does not feature much in the book, we asked Mehrotra about it. He calmly explains that one story does brush over Pune’s favourite booze destination, but after all, an anthology is about “Commission and Omission”.

With such variety of topics — hilarious poems, bone-chilling rehab stories, family secrets and strained relationships — the language and tone of the anthology is earthy and refreshing. None of those glass-clinking and air kissing, alcohol drinking janata makes an appearance in this anthology. It’s about aam aadmi. And aurat about whom Kanika Gahlaut talks through her essay, ‘When Nights Turn Into Decades’.

Then there is a generous tadka of Bollywood with ‘Booze, Bollywood, Bombay and I’ by Mayank Shekhar and ‘Permit Room: Drinking In Hindi Cinema’ by Sidharth Bhatia.

“We didn’t want the articles to be a very upper class thing, as drinking in India can be a very expensive affair. We have included many personal essays. For instance, Pawan Kumar Jain writes about coming from a family where alcohol is a taboo. Or Amit Chaudhari talks about being a non-drinker. Samanth Subramanium talks about his love for toddy, while Mayank Tewari writes about the Brahmin from Haridwar who drank too much for his own good,” says Mehrotra. DSC_0016

The USP of the book is its down to earth, sometimes dirt-covered approach to a sensitive issue. “Some of the pieces are very honest and confessional. The ‘Rehab Diary’ is brutally honest. We are in a society where we sweep things under the carpet. We don’t talk about it much. It’s not very easy to write either. In that sense, the writers of House Spirit have not held back anything,” he adds.

Definitely, a one of its kind anthology, House Spirit would make an excellent addition to your friend-who-loves-to-drink’s collection. It would be a welcome change from that bottle of French wine you keep gifting him thrice a year!

Out of the bottle

This book review was first published in Sakal Times, Pune, Sunday June 19, 2016. 

Storyteller Ashwin Sanghi talks about his latest – The Sialkot Saga

Ashwin Sanghi

# Tell us about The Sialkot Saga and what inspired you to write this book.

The Sailkot Saga is a business story about two businessmen, one is a guy called Arvind who grew up in Calcutta in a Marwari family, and the other one is Arbaaz, who is brought up in the chawls of Dongri in Mumbai. Both led exceedingly different lives but one thing they have in common is their love for money. This book actually traces their life from 1947 to 2010, good 60 odd years. While these gentlemen are carrying on with their usual business shenanigans, what they don’t understand is that there is deeper secret that units them. That is revealed at the end of the story. It was my quest to examine the issue of man’s insatiable lust for gold.

# How much of The Sialkot Saga is inspired from real life and people?

Most of books, the plot is generally not inspired from real life but more of a theme. The theme of Sialkot, Business rivalry as a theme has been seen in the Bollywood movie Deewar or the Immigrant, there are multiple people who have explored the idea of a business rivalry.But many of the incidents that happen to these characters and the situation that they go through is inspired by real life — what I might have experienced or stuff that I’ve heard about. I give credit to the newspaper walas for the amount of inspiration I get from them too!

#You were planning to write this one long time ago, but other things and books kept coming in between. Is that why you are calling this book a slow cooked dum biriyani?

Sialkot SagaWhen you have a project that is a little too wide in scope, when I conceived it, it was a massive project by my yardstick. There is a parallel story that is set in the ancient times that covers emperor Ashoka whereas 90 per cent of this book is about the life of these two gentlemen. Now the problem is that. The period between 1947 and 2010 is the time which most of us had lived through. As a result of that, one can’t afford to say something that is wrong. I feel the need for accuracy goes up the moment you write about a period that is closer to the present one. As one moves backward into the ancient times, the need for accuracy declines. Mapping every incident to each year and figuring out what each of the character would have been doing during those times, to mapping it with what would have been happening in India at that time, what was the political backdrop, the historical backdrop and the cultural backdrop. Man who wanted to have Puchka Pani in Calcutta, I should know what was the cost of a plate of Puchka Pani in that year! That required a lot of work. That process of reading, interviewing people and plotting, that took about 18 months. While all that was going on, the crime thriller I did with James Patterson happened. It breaks the continuity, but it is possible to do that at the research stage, not in the writing stage. What should have gotten over earlier, stretched to about three years.

#Writers often go away, cut themselves off from the world to complete a project. What is your style?

Not me. This is my Karma Bhumi. Your Karma Bhumi is where ever you are. I feel even if you are focused on what you want to either research, or read or write, you will find the ability to do it. I have never found the need to go away to some other place to work. For me the way it works, in a  normal day, I take out four hours for my writing and three hours reading and researching. It changes depending on whether I am in the midst of writing a book or whether in the middle of researching for a book. My writing hours between 5am to 9am, and my reading hours are between 5pm and 9pm.

# Why have your book series been called Bharat series?

My reader should know what category of book they are picking up. So Bharat Series is the ones that deals with the history, mythology, the political climate and business, and very much focused on India. I am working on a ’13 step’ series and “Private series” with James Patterson.

# Writing trends in India have lately been falling into some set categories. Which genre has a lot of potential?

One category that has not developed in our country is science fiction. According to me, there is a huge scope for that. In the west, crime thrillers take up the first five position in any bestseller list, but in India, you will rarely find that. Here, it will either be the mythology book, or romance books. I feel that we have only scratched the surface when it comes to thrillers. This is a specific section where I feel there is a dearth of books in our country.

# How do you react when compared with Dan Brown and Jeffery Archer?

Ashwin Sanghi1First reaction is one of being absolutely flattered. Brown and Archer are master storytellers, I have loved each one of their books. It gives a great sense of satisfaction when my work is compared with theirs. The Dan Brown comparison happened with me when my first book Rozabel Line was published, which was in set in Kashmir. The story involved Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, everyone said this is a desi Da Vinci Code and Ashwin Sanghi is a desi Dan Brown. Similarly, Jeffery Archer is a storyteller that I don’t think the world has ever seen. He is at a completely different level and it’s a childish comparison to make. I can write another 20 books and I will still not be Jeffery Archer. There is one part of me that wants be happy about these comparisons, another part cautions me to not get taken in by these compliments. Sometimes I wonder why these comparisons are being made? Are foreign authors called American Amish Tripathi, English Ravi Subramanium or the French Ashwin Sanghi?

# Fact that sounds like fiction and fiction that sounds like fact? Is that what is behind every book of yours?

Yes, I always try to bring a factual element and weave them into the story. For example, in The Sialkot Saga, one of the characters that makes an appearance is Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in addition to PV Narsimha Rao. There is a scene of a person traveling from Bombay to Hyderabad and he just drops in to meet the pilot in the cockpit — who turns out to be Rajiv Gandhi. Similarly, historical and cultural events of that time also form a part of that story. So even though, you are just enjoying the story, it sounds that much more real because the backdrop has changed to the time when that character was alive. I would say Sialkot Saga is a lot like my previous book Chanakya’s Chant — which was a story of conflict in the world of politics — so this is a story of conflict but in the world of business.

# Next book that you are working on?

2015 was the most strenuous year as I was not only completing The Sialkot Saga, but was also finishing up a crime thriller, which is likely to come out before the end of this year. I suddenly I feel like I have a lot of time on my hands this year!

Excerpts from this interview first published in Pune’s Sakal Times Sunday Plus 4 on May 22, 2016. Ashwin Sanghi photographs provided by publishers Westland . “All that glitters is gold” screengrab from Sakal Times epaper.

Book Review: Thicker Than Blood by Munmun Ghosh

Thicker than blood

Book: Thicker Than Blood

Author: Munmun Ghosh

Publisher: Jaico Publishing House

Price: Rs299

Thicker than Blood is essentially a book about a typical Indian housewife’s struggle to experience the joys of motherhood. When everyone in cities is acutely aware of how many working women are intentionally delaying marriage and motherhood, this book comes as a whiff of fresh air. So women whose ultimate goal in life is to become a mother — a successful mother — still exist.

Munmun Ghosh’s story is about one such young woman, Mayuri Mehta, who feels her true calling is in being a doting mother. She is in her mid-20s and coaxes her reluctant husband into starting a family. However, nature is not so benevolent to Mayuri, who has to struggle through multiple doctor visits and tests because she cannot conceive naturally.

It just makes her life less difficult when she finds out that she and her husband both have minor biological shortcomings that are adding up to this problem. Women in India are aware of the torture they undergo when people blindly pin the blame on them alone — the bitter truth remains that they are considered baby-making machines.

Mayuri takes the help of technology, and baba, tantric, homeopath, alternative medicine, and almost everything under the sun that is suggested by her friends and relatives. Years pass on, and a now 30-year-old Mayuri seems to have accepted the fact that it will take a super human effort to get pregnant. Needless to say, it takes a toll on the husband-wife relationship as well.

The author has touched a subject that is increasingly becoming common among urban women. The complexities of life in a joint family, the predicament every bahu faces, the battle of sexes in which the wife is blamed for everything that goes wrong and the male ego refusing to acknowledge the fault in their stars has been beautifully brought out by Ghosh.

Full credit to her for writing a book about this turbulent phase in a woman’s life. It was long due. We can tell you the story in 25 minutes, but it would be rather enriching to read the 250 pages of this book filled with pure human emotions and love of motherhood.

A little more effort into the cover page would have helped. Overall, a good read to sensitise men and women about this issue.

The review was first published in Sakal Times, Pune edition, dated April 24, 2016.



One egg in the fridge = A beautiful dish on my plate

Took this one right off Pinterest. I’ve hours on it, about time I actually learned something right? So I had this one egg sitting in my fridge. Couldn’t really make anda bhurji with just one egg, and the omelette would have been too too thin.

So I used a capsicum and tomato to fashion this amazingly trendy omelette loaded with cheese.

I am gonna do the photos all the talking here.

Cool eh! I think you can simply mix and match the veggies. Maybe add onions, mushrooms and carrots. Unintentionally looks like the Indian flag here!
I’ve cut a thin horizontal slice off the capsicum here and placed it on an oiled pan.
I broke the egg in the middle and tried to keep it within the capsicum boundaries. If it’s a small capsicum, then you might have trouble keeping the egg within the green lines. Season with salt and pepper, and add tomatoes and chilies.
Flip it over.
Grate or just cut up some cheese on it and enjoy.

Saree Sensation! #100SareePact completes one year!

That’s Anju Kadam (right) with her gal pals.

So here I am, with my colleague Ambika Shaligram, tracking the 100 Saree Pact that came into being last March and the way ahead for the ubiquitous Indian drape.

Last year in March, two Bengaluru ladies, Ally Matthan, an entrepreneur, and Anju Kadam, who is into video production, decided to bring out their forgotten sarees from the closet and make it a part of their daily life instead of restricting them to special occasions.

They made a pact, to wear sarees at least 100 times in 365 days. They posted their photos with the saree number on Twitter, and were soon joined by hundreds of women, who loved the six yard but never really got around to draping it regularly. The 100 Saree Pact became a mini revolution embraced by not only women in India, but those who lived abroad too. Facebook groups, Saree Dates (like kitty parties) and with the celebration of the First World Saree Day on December 21, the pact has come a long way. We chat up with the founders, the Pune pacters, and a Ukrainian lady who is in love with the saree.

Over to Ally Matthan and Anju Kadam-

Ally Matthan in her 100th saree of the pact.
Ally Matthan in her 100th saree of the pact.

The highlight of the 100 Saree Pact was that every pacter got to share the “story” behind the saree she was wearing. “I don’t expect my favourite pair of trousers or a shirt to have a story, but, yes every saree has a story behind it and it’s amazing to listen to it,” says Kadam, adding that saree lovers and pacters in different cities and states participated in Saree Dates to share their stories.

In the year ahead, Kadam and Matthan now want the saree weavers to share their stories. “The hard work the saree-makers put into the weaving, especially handloom sarees, never translates into money. That’s how the concept of pop-ups was born. I am working with some weavers and NGOs to encourage women to hold pop-ups in their homes, so that sarees can be bought directly from the weavers,” explains Matthan about their new 100 Saree Project.

The charm never fades-

Savani Laddha first heard of the pact from her school friend in Mumbai, Priya Kadappa Shah. She was tagged by Shah on FB posts, but didn’t take the pact seriously till July. “I was intimidated by the number and thought it was an impossible task. In July, there was Eid celebration in office, so I decided to wear a saree. That started off. I took pictures and then started tagging friends and later Anju Kadam and Ally Matthan. And, by December I had completed the pact,” grins Laddha, a CA by profession.

The festive season — Shravan, Bhadarapad, Navratra and Diwali — provided the necessary impetus to Laddha, who was soon joined by her neighbours in the housing society.

Her friend, Anu Pazhayannur, who completed the pact in January, says, “I am a teacher, so I would wear a saree to school. But it was not a regular affair. After I joined the pact, I increased the frequency to two or three times a week. We kept encouraging each other.

Sujata Mane
Sujata Mane

Our friends and colleagues would often ask, ‘So, at which number are you on?’  At every milestone, we partied or celebrated with friends. For instance, we all dressed in Kasavu sarees (known as Kerala sarees), wore gajras and then dined at a South Indian restaurant when I reached the target.” But why did saree-wearing take a backseat?

“I won’t say it’s a cumbersome affair. But sari is an elegant garment, so everything else — your hairdo, make-up has to be perfect! It’s not like pairing a t-shirt with denims,” says Laddha. “A lipstick is a must when you are wearing a saree!” chimes in  Pazhayannur. In the course of the pact, the duo reaffirmed their love for silk sarees.

“My mum was from Belgaum, so I have a deep and abiding love for South silk, especially Kanjeevaram. I wore sarees borrowed from my mum and granny. For my 100th saree, I wore my granny’s Navwari (nine yard),” adds Laddha, who shared her story and  nuggets associated with every saree that she wore on FB.

Pazhayannur too wore silks bought from Chennai. “I discovered that I have less sarees in shades of orange. And, I think I need one Banarasi saree,” she adds.  Even after the pact ended, they have been wearing sarees, but not posting pictures.

Sujata Mane, who hosted Pune’s first Saree Date, enjoyed the meet. She says, “Obviously, we were all wearing sarees, some in Navwari style, some in Gujarati style, some in Kerala sarees… inspite of the diversity, we all clicked on a personal level and the common bond.”

World Saree Day celebrations (December 21, 2015).
World Saree Day celebrations (December 21, 2015).

The 52-year-old also attended the World Saree Day celebration held by Kadam in Bengaluru in December. “It was fun socialising with women who are crazy about the six yard,” she concludes.

Sanjana Jog, an army wife who has lived in many parts of India thanks to the postings of her husband, she was able to buy sarees from all parts of India. She also found numerous occasions to wear, since women generally wear sarees in all formal functions in the Army.

Lyuba Johnson

Across the seas-

Lyuba Johnson, who grew up in Ukraine watching Bollywood movies, has always been fascinated with this Indian drape.

“The first time I tried it on, the result was ‘scary’. I went though numerous YouTube videos — they went too fast — and finally decided that the best way would be to just drape it,” says Johnson, who can now drape a saree as flawlessly as any Indian woman.

Earlier, Johnson’s biggest reservation about wearing a saree was if it meant disrespecting the Indian culture. But soon she realised that there was no better way of winning an Indian’s heart than flaunting a saree!

Johnson, who now lives in US, buys her sarees online, and has now found an Indian store to get her blouses custom-made.

This article first appeared in Sakal Times Pune edition dated March 17, 2015. All photos have been sourced from the Pact members. 

100 Saree Pact

Baby food in trains! Is it safe?

I remember whenever my sister travels in train with her two kids — one aged 11 and the other 2 — she carries with her a big bag of food supplies with her. It includes bread, thepla, biscuits, chikki, chocolates, some fruits, ceralac, milk, milk powder (just in case), juice, thermos and an electric kettle.

I won’t give my kids train food, she would say. She would carry one fresh meal like puri-sabji, and then use something from the above mentioned supplies till the time they reached their destination.

My mother-in-law once told me about the time their train got super-delayed and the small station where it was stuck at had no shops at all. Not expecting this 12-hour delay, she was not carrying any food with her, but my husband, then just a toddler, had to be fed! Kind co-passengers helped her with milk and bananas, and after that, she never leaves the house without food and water in her purse.

Rly Budget
Photo courtesy Railway Ministry’s twitter account.

So in Railway Budget 2016, it was annouced that trains will serve baby food and will have children’s food on regular menu. Also, baby boards will be there in the toilets. And I felt really happy that the Railway Minister, Suresh Prabhu, thought of the hardships that traveling mothers go through. But when I spoke to some mothers, it turned out the Railways still has a long way to go…

Mothers, who travel with their babies, have welcomed the Railway Minister’s move to provide facilities like baby food and baby boards in trains, but expressed apprehensions about the quality of food.

“Mothers, who travel with their infants or babies, often have to carry a lot of food items for them, specially if the journey is long,” said homemaker Priya Mohan Kumar, who often travels to Kerala with her 3-year-old daughter. “However, I would not trust it, given the overall hygiene conditions of our trains and stations.”

Almost every mother whom I spoke to had the same apprehensions about the quality of baby food, something they would not want to compromise on.

“I think twice before eating the food meant for adults and purchase it only if there is absolutely no other option. How can I feed it to my baby?” was 27-year-old Rahi Gupte’s concern, who travels from Pune to Jammu at least thrice in a year with her two-year-old daughter.

However, recalling Railway Minister’s gesture of providing milk to a passenger who tweeted about there being no food for his child in the train, she lauded the minister for keeping parents travelling with babies in mind.

Rakhi Parsai, a public relations professional working in the city, said mothers are very particular about the quality and hygiene standards of the food provided. “The pantry of a train is not exactly clean. Even if the food is packaged, I would be doubtful about the quality unless it is a very branded company. I don’t even trust boiled water from the pantry,” she said.

Rachana Jain, mother of a four-year-old, said she would prefer to carry her own home-cooked food or baby food powders along with thermos and electric kettles. She, however, felt introduction of baby boards in the toilets will help mothers while changing a baby’s diaper or clothes, as it will give privacy from other passengers.

This story first appeared as a report in Sakal Times, Pune, and was later scaled down on the ‘seriousness level’ to make it blog-worthy! 😀 

Is it a saree? Is it a jewelry set? Nope, it’s a cake!

12512451_10153901677161763_1170285241375712135_nRecently, various groups on social media in Maharashtra, especially Pune, were abuzz with photos of a folded magenta Paithani silk saree, with Kolhapuri jewellery kept on top of it. At first glance, you may not find anything unusual about it. A closer look will reveal that it is actually a cake!

A quick check on Facebook told me that the creator is well within reach! Tanvi Palshikar, a home baker based Kothrud, is the creator of this intricate cake, that is being widely circulated on social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp. Palshikar revealed that she had made this cake for one of her trusted clients Ketki Kulkarni Puranik, who wanted a customised cake for her mother-in-law’s birthday.

“A couple of days earlier, we had discussed about her mother-in-law’s fondness for Paithani sarees and we decided to make this cake. She shared some photographs of the saree and some jewelry she likes to wear on it,” said 27-year-old Palshikar, whose home baking venture Cakilicious turned three this month.

12745995_10153901677216763_7129048600936232312_nThis unique 1.75 kg cake shows a saree neatly folded, with a pallu of golden zari with colourful peacock motifs on the folds. On top of it, a pearl-studded Kolhapuri choker necklace set with a Maharashtrian nose pin (nath) is kept — and it’s all edible and handmade!

“It’s a vanilla chocolate chip cake and it was eggless. It took me three hours to bake it and 8 hours to decorate. This type of decoration is called ‘Sugar Craft’. The saree pallu or padar as we call in Marathi, is all hand painted with edible golden paint,” Palshikar said. She has not even used any molds for it.

Palshikar is an interior designer by profession but took to baking after she got married. I can tell from personal experience that it takes a couple of weeks in the kitchen for you to realise the immense potential that awaits many in this business — baking and cooking. I have myself made things I had earlier thought were impossible. So I can totally relate with what Tanvi must have gone through at that time.

With the support of her husband Onil and other family members, she started her own venture. Isn’t that cool… when the family supports you, nothing is impossible.

IMG_5563 (1)She gets 50 customised cake orders in a month, where her endeavour each time is to ‘Bake your imagination’.  She admitted that she did not expect it to go viral on Facebook, and is ‘amazed and flattered’.

“I had no idea this was happening until I checked my phone two days ago and saw the photo. I have no words to express my happiness! It feels great,” she said.

10922515_10153298602636763_4466188045723052874_nI know where my next cake is coming from! You can hunt for Tanvi’s (that’s her in the pic) Cakilicious on the Facebook as she has a dedicated page. The photo gallery will give you a peek into the kind of cakes she has made in the past.

The above story first appeared in Sakal Times newspaper in Pune.