Chic Reads: Books we love

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Among the hype and hoopla over Earth Day, we forgot there’s a window of opportunity for bookworms worldwide—World Book Day celebrated April 23.

As a celebration of this day, the Speaking Chic team drew up a list of books that we find stylish. FYI, by stylish we mean: 

  • Books that we love, that make us laugh or cry, that take us by surprise or anger us.
  • Fun reads
  • Fresh styles of writing
  • Creative/ cool works of literature

Here’s our list—a mix of international and Indian writers (in random order):

  1. Cervantes’ Don Quixote—The book that everyone wanted to read, but didn’t because of its size!
  2. William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar— “Friends, fans and followers, lend me your eyeballs.”  Classic. (Also: Hamlet, Macbeth and A Merchant of Venice)
  3. Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover: Late 19th century, early 20th century. Married women having affairs. Ooooh.
  4. Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone—Yeah yeah, it’s a total time pass yaar, but Chetan’s voice struck a chord with young urban Indians.
  5. J R R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy—The imagery, the imagination, incredibly irresistible for all fantasy lovers.
  6. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude—My introduction to magical realism. After the second reading, I was sure it’s of epic proportions.
  7. Amitav Ghosh’s A Glass Palace—Excellent historical fiction.
  8. Amartya Sen’s The Argumentative Indian—Gave me a new perspective on what it is to be an Indian.
  9. Philip Kotler’s Principles of Marketing Management—Perhaps one of the most “mugged”  books ever?

And here’s a sampling of what people thought was stylish:

1. Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point

“It was my first non-fiction and it made me look at things bit differently. Things that appear obvious on the surface might have some other phenomenon lying beneath.”

— Prakash, tech student at Austin, Texas

2. Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead

“It’s its the best book I’ve ever read, because it teaches a very important fundamental of life–
every man is capable of living a self sufficient life, instead of living like parasites dependent on others.”

— Rahul, working in outsourcing industry, Delhi

3. The Goddess Dairies

“It’s a treasure trove of stylish info on everything from being a domestic goddess, to sex goddess, to style goddess. It had great tips; from how to remove stains on silk to dressing up stylishly.”

Chelna, writer, Mumbai

4. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged

“Just one thought: life-changing!”

— Sia, copy writer, Mumbai

What’s the most stylish book you’ve read? If we missed out on some super stylish books, let us know! Happy reading.

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Myths about bitches

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Love or hate Shashi Tharoor, he is not one to mince words. In the midst of the recent controversy, Mr Tharoor became the unexpected champion of Indian women professionals. Here’s what he said (emphasis mine):

“Our media cannot accept an attractive woman as a serious business professional.”

Woah, harsh words, though they do ring true in India and all over the world. In the US, even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s been called a b****, as are successful and supposedly aggressive women around the world.

Now that Su-Shi (cutely dubbed so by Shobhaa De) have got the ball rolling, we’re taking this a step or two forward, and bursting myths about us women professionals in India and around the world.

Bitch on Board

Myth: We are b****es

Fact: No, we’re not. We like being good (except for a few handful who spoil our name), but come along and spoil our happy party with your superiority airs, and we gotta play the b**** card.

Myth:  We’ll do anything to climb the corporate ladder.

Fact: Hell, no! We have our value system, and we like to stick to it.

Myth: We don’t care about our family and friends.

Fact: That’s so not true! Our family and friends are our support system, and we love them, enjoy spending quality time with them, and just talking. Notice the crazy hours we spend chatting on the phone with our friends? That’s coz we love them!

Myth: Since we work together and we’re friendly, it’s okay to flirt with us.

Fact: Oh puhleeze. It’s not okay! Office sleazeballs  can GTH.

Myth: We gossip about our female colleagues.

Fact: Yep sure, but not as much as the men do! (Admit it, men love to gossip!)

Myth: We don’t deserve praise/ appreciation for our work.

Fact: Why not? If we did it, we’re going to take credit for it.

Myth: We are not serious about our work/ we work for fun and pocket money.

Fact: Any idea what a kilo of tomatoes costs these days? Mangoes? Rice? And BTW, even if we do work for fun, what is anyone else’s problem?

 

Any more myths to burst, ladies? Would love to know!

PS- Please share this with every guy in your office. Or at least some male friends.

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The Bronze and the Beautiful

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“Eeeeeks! How can you come to that big party next week with such a horrible tan?”

That was someone’s reaction when she met me  just after my week-long super awesome Rajasthan trip. And then, the tips started pouring out— besan, malai, turmeric and even tomatoes made it to the “Quick Ways to Get Fairer” list.

It turns out we’re a nation still obsessed with fairness.  And it’s not just with the fairness creams for both women and men (think John Abraham and Shahid Kapoor). It’s in the attitude.

Like when I took up swimming as a regular well-balanced exercise, I got replies like, “Woah! What about the awful tan?” and “My mom will kill me if I get any darker.”

Yep, swimming often does darken your skin, and despite the copious amount of sunblock I applied, the tan came. But guess what? I love it and I grab every opportunity to show it off.

So when I saw the April cover of Vogue India, hailing the country’s dusky women, I couldn’t but stop and think—this is just what we need. Some of the photos are gorgeous and they show India’s lovely “dark” skin like never before. It may be just another cover shoot for the magazine, though there’s obviously some thought gone into it.  Could this be the step that can change the perception of Indians and the fashion industry? I certainly hope so.

Meanwhile, check out what Vogue stylist Anaita Shroff Adajania and the models have to say about the idea of a bronzed-beauties shoot:

 

PS—I’m not the only one who’s loving it. Check out Vogue UK’s coverage of the path-breaking(?) cover and the Feminista’s perspective on the cover and the colour issue.

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5 things that ruined the IPL experience

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Cricketainment (noun): A combination of cricket and entertainment.

Example: The IPL is to cricketainment what Burberry is to trench coats.

As a culture blog, we just had to know what the most overused concept this summer was. So we ventured out for a Mumbai Indians match to get a first-hand experience of cricketainment and the IPL.

And oh, what a pleasant surprise it was! It was organised well (we guess it’s to do with the foreign management), there was food aplenty, and the fans were cooperative. Sadly, there were a few things that threatened to ruin our IPL experience (and these need to disappear ASAP):

  1. Too much music: Team song played after every four or six, and between overs. How on earth do the players stay focussed? (No wonder some of the good players are out of form in the IPL!). And there was also some recent trashy hits that made us cringe.
  2. A very irritating emcee talked before and during the match. Between overs, he’d shout out, “Mummmmbaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiii!” And the shrill “horn” that suddenly rings out—URGHH!
  3. EVERYTHING is sponsored—from the timeout to a sixer.  Not so sure about the match results though (ahem).
  4. Cheerleaders were boring (and looked bored).
  5. Parties and after parties? Sorry, is this cricket season or Oscars season?

Nevertheless, we came home a happy bunch, and not just because our team won. It wasn’t the loud music, the cheerleaders or even the thrill of being part of the crowd. It was a good game of cricket. And that’s what we want. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Street Chic: Simple style with LV

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Speaking Chic kicks off a new feature: Street Chic! In this feature, we’re going to hunt for great looks and outfits worn by people we spot at restaurants, theatres, malls and the streets, of course.

We bumped into Kanika at a hotel and were immediately taken in by her little LV! She chose her brand-new bag to be the centrepiece of her look and keep it muted with her knotted blouse and skinny Esprit jeans.

Street Chic-1

Besides the eye-catching bag (colour not so great in the photo), we liked her other accessory– her criss-cross strappy high heels. They’re a great take on the gladiator style that’s so popular these days.

What do you think of Kanika’s understated chic look? Tell us!

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Celebs: The Sari’s State

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Indian women love the sari, and we love it even more when a famous international celebrity dons the traditional drape at a fancy party. But the shocking appearance of Liz Hurley in a sari sans blouse (aka choli) didn’t go down too well with quite a few women (such as my mom and your mom and most other moms).

But our homegrown Bollywood beauties came to the rescue, and showed us how graceful and non-bosom baring the sari can be. Kajol, Sridevi, Rekha and even Urmila Matondkar rocked the sari at the recent Filmfare awards ceremony. But the lady who can carry off the sari the best is Vidya Balan. Dressed in her favourite Sabyasachi (we would like to see her experiment with designers), the young lady seemed to be saying: “So what if I’ve lost oodles of weight? I like the sari and I’m gonna wear it, gowns be damned.”

 

filmfare-awards-2010 balan

While we like the sari, what doesn’t seem to go too well are the oversized rosary-type beads that Ms Balan might have taken from a sadhu at the Pushkar mela. And why tie back your lovely hair? Maybe she was just having a bad hair day, who knows?

Image courtesy: Santabanta.com

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Cotton Cottage: almost as good as Fab India?

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I came across a little store Cotton Cottage tucked in among a row of shops at Kala Ghoda, Mumbai. At first glance, it seemed like any other store, but a second look made me go inside. And guess what? I wasn’t disappointed at all, even as much to tell my friend that I was glad I didn’t buy anything from the Fab India store down the road.

As the name suggests, the store has a range of cotton kurta, kurtis, churidars and dupattas. That sounds awfully similar to what Fab India stocks, and it really is. But what makes the difference is the quaint experience I had at CC. A visit to Fab India a couple of hours ago had felt like déjà vu, I’d seen this kurta and that print before. And the store’s floor plan and stacking of garments had left me confused as well.

Cotton Cottage, on the other hand, had clothes with the familiar Indian cotton feel, but with a fresh look. Their prints were mostly not-seen-before, there was staff at hand to help, and the kurtas et al were neatly piled up. What I liked the most were the colours—there were bright blues, greens and yellows!  I tried on a couple of kurtas, but finally opted for a brown kurti with a gold block print on it.

While I don’t see Cotton Cottage sweeping away Fab India yet, their stores (they’re around the country) are worth a visit or more.

So when are we heading to Cotton Cottage, girls?

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Chic News: Good Times are here!

My late night TV viewing is usually limited to the 5764th rerun of Friends, unless an episode of I’m too Sexy for my Shoes is playing on NDTV Good Times. The designer challenges, the latest style and fashion recommendations and fashion explorations are too much fun to watch. And the charismatic and leggy Ambika Anand is the perfect host, teamed up with the stylish Mohan Neelakantan.

Turns out that the new season of the show kicks off February 12 and with it a series of on-ground events that complement the channel’s brand. The first event, themed “Sexy Shoes”, is a grand party to be held in Delhi. Other than the great food and dance and other standard fare, the party’s style quotient will get a fashionable boost with Salvatore Ferragamo, Just Cavalli, and Canali showcasing their Spring Summer 2010 look.

For all fans of the channel (including me), this new initiative seems to be a great way to enjoy our passion for food, fashion, gadgets and luxury. When, where and how of the events have not been revealed yet, but my ears are close to the ground already.

Now if only we could get an invite to the Sexy Shoes party!

UPDATE: Turns out I can get an invite after all, so can you! Participate in the Sexy Shoes contest and you could win an invite for the party!

Geeky Chic: Mouse rugs!

Who said gadgets have to be boring and umm, well, unstylish? I recently stumbled across this very cool accessory, guaranteed to lighten up the drabbest of office cubicles and workstations. Here it is.

Ta-da!

DSC01063   

Believe it or faint, this miniature Turkish carpet is actually a mouse pad! Called a mouse rug, there are hundreds of colours and designs available (check out their website).

The cool design’s not the only reason I love this geeky accessory. For starters, my optical mouse rolls smoothly across its surface, made with yarn-dyed nylon. And the bonus: the rug is hand washable, ideal for a rough and messy user like me!

So now my four-month-new sleek-n-silver laptop gets a dash of old world charm and plenty of style. I can’t help but glance at my mouse rug ever so often despite my busy-ness, and it never fails to make me feel happy. 🙂

I’m now tempted to try out their book rugs and coaster rugs, which are smaller, but otherwise identical.

Before you rush to the mouse rug website, be warned—they don’t deliver in India! All you need to do is ask your spiteful aunt/ long-lost friend/ sworn enemy (or my sweet cousin) in Dubai or USA for it. And remember to say please!

Transformed: Vintage to Ultramodern!

I still remember the moment I first spotted it. It was late evening and I was in my PJs, rummaging through mom’s cupboard. The beige fabric had perhaps lost some its shimmer, but a good dry clean could restore some of its erstwhile glory. I dug deep for more information on this six-yard fabric, a sari I didn’t remember seeing earlier. The sari was her wedding gift from an American family friend, Mom explained. Unfortunately, she had no idea who the designer was.

Vintage sari

My surprised reaction was, “I didn’t know you had such a lovely sari!” The netted fabric had flowers woven into it, giving it the appearance of lace. Best of all—it was vintage!

Vintage definition It was to be my first family appearance in a sari (a cousin’s wedding reception) and I wanted it to be memorable (for them and for me). Now that I had discovered the perfect sari, I had to face a formidable challenge. Being a vintage garment, my look had to preserve the essence of the sari, but I didn’t want to look an auntie either. I concluded that I needed to drape the sari the traditional way, wear classic jewellery, while creating a look that stated modern, elegant and “quarter-life-crisis-has-just-struck-me” simultaneously.

Blouse hunt

It’s only in the past few seasons that the sari blouse suddenly rose to prominence on and off the ramp. The plain, self-colour blouse was boring; variety in colours, fabrics and embroidery were à la mode. Blouse-hunting turned out to be harrowing process, going from store to store, looking for the right match, comparing materials. The brocades were in the wrong colour, the velvets were too plain. We emerged from a trifle disappointed from all the stores we visited.

At the last store on the list, I pulled out a swathe of orange, sequins-laden georgette. I held it up against the sari, took it out in the sun, and voila! The rows of the little gold embellishments did not just spice up the sari, but also made it super stylish, with a dash of colour and bling.

Vintage is forever, so are diamonds

It was the ultimate fashion conundrum— what do you pair with a vintage outfit? How do you give it your personal signature while paying tribute to the original creator who laboured over it decades ago?

For starters, the accessories had to be timeless. And there’s nothing more timeless than diamonds. I opted for a dangling pair that ensured I looked my age, and teamed it with a simple ring and matching gold-and-diamond cuff.

Plum it up

It was an image of Dita von Teese on a beauty portal that inspired my makeup. Her bright red lips were too hot to handle for me, but I stole her idea of drawing attention to my lips. I followed the natural-looking layer of foundation with muted lilac eyeshadow and pink blush from MAC, but jazzed up the lips much as I could with an intense purple Lancôme lipstick that would stay through the event.

I already had a great haircut, so I just blow dried it the right way—a sideswept fringe across the forehead that had people asking for my stylist’s number!

Hey there, gorgeous!

The compliments that evening ranged from “So who did your makeup?” to “You’re looking sexy!” to “That’s a lovely sari! Which designer?”

But that all didn’t matter. The best compliment came from the original owner of the sari, my mom, who said, “The sari is perfect for you. It’s yours now!”

Wearing an invaluable vintage garment albeit with a contemporary touch is a sartorial experience I’d advise all young women to try. Why? Because it made me feel good, it made me appreciate the real artisans, and because it was one of my biggest style moments. I left the reception as radiant as the bride.

This post is the official entry to Star World Betty of Elle Contest- http://www.starworld.in. Being an ardent fashion follower and blogger (feel free to explore the Speaking Chic blog and the Twitter feed) as well as a word lover, getting a chance to work at Elle would fuel my passion for fashion, style and writing. Elle India’s approach of balancing high-end fashion and spot-on trends with engrossing features and cutting-edge photo shoots is the perfect launchpad for a career in fashion writing and blogging. I hope to make this kind of writing be taken seriously in India, and developing an online Indian fashion destination. With the great insights into the fashion and publishing industry that I get from the internship, I would improve my fashion knowledge and eye for fashion, style, aesthetics and trends. I’d learn about the fashion business, how to identify trends and ideate, the ropes of styling, magazine design and photography, and even what it takes to produce a 200+ page magazine month after month with great content. At the end of the two months, I would be in a better position to combine my journalism and content development background with fashion to develop a distinctive writing style that would make me a better fashion blogger and writer (I aspire to be India’s answer to Cathy Horyn and Suzy Menkes :-)). Above all, the internship will be the experience of a lifetime, and I will emerge enriched in every way possible.