Sunday, December 06, 2015

t has been quite a few days. What started as a "I will pick up those stranded in the rain in my car and drop them off" , 6 days ago when the rains were pelting Chennai and "I will recharge people's phone numbers" became a huge WE, a bigger movement. And I realize what a wonderful city Chennai is. What lovely people we have. And that in the face of adversity we all become the better humans and are happy to help.
Because it is top of mind, I would like to thank Yeskay Durai on Twitter, who I have known only as someone who followed my songs. The past couple of days, he got together volunteers from Bangalore, loaded 20 huge trucks, sent 10 to Cuddalore and 10 to Chennai as of today the 5th December, 2015.
Chennai, the past few days has been about thousands and thousands of people who have silently helped each other. So many from here. So many from outside. Sometimes individually, sometimes in groups. Being a volunteer has been an experience I have loved and would do it again any day, just like the thousands others.
Gitanjali Selva / her dad Mr Bharat Raman lent her Innova to me and this helped our friends go around everywhere from Villivakkam to Saidapet. This car has been a revelation. I have always made fun of this car, but I have newfound love and respect for this vehicle as it continues to run superbly after 3-4 days of driving in anywhere between 1ft-3.5 ft water. I have thanked the car and also prayed for the car when we thought the water on the roads was too high and that it should pull through and she did smile emoticon I louue this car now. And the makers.
Chennai wasn't prepared for such a disaster. I wonder if any city in India is. It city has been truly battered, as are Cuddalore and Pondichery.
Twitter has been a boon. Though the networks were all down, as were power and fuel (for a short while) it was a huge tool to spread, receive and broadcast information. When network was patchy, it was fastest to load tweets. People verifying if claims were correct, calling numbers and posting "Verified" so that volunteers dont waste time.
Social media is not so bad after all. We can use this tool for some incredible work.
Media operating out of Mumbai / Delhi were a disappointment. They were debating a disaster as an issue, until people here made noise. Finally they did realize what was going on and gave airtime to their sleepless, overworked journalists here who finally got some attention for the work they were doing from Chennai.
Workers of the Electricity Board, Police and Sewage - many haven't eaten or had a drink of water, something I realized today when we went to Kotturpuram. The NDRF - What heroes they are. Only boats could ply in areas that were once roads.
I have learned several life lessons. And have an incredible amount of silence within me. I have also been humbled by the amount of trust so many unknown people have in me. I am grateful and am glad that a clean reputation, character does hold one in good stead. I have seriously fought with God in my mind several times that none of these have helped me as to me, those who seemed to have taken short cuts are better off (not that I could be any other way) but yes it makes me feel good.
Finally, I think all of us should have a bag at home with emergency supplies that will keep us in good stead for at least a week in case of an emergency. Another lesson - our vehicles must always be at least 3/4th full with fuel. Several lessons actually. Maybe that would be a separate blog post.
Tomorrow is yet another day and am truly grateful for the graces the Universe has given me and us all.

This tweet by RJ Balaji sums it all up - Cldnt see my city drown,And all
I did was spontaneous n emotional.Bt never expected ths unbelievable trust n love.Thank u.Am truly blessed."
Be kind. And trust in human beings. We are all good. Still smile emoticon

Monday, November 30, 2015

What I have bought and from where

Vitamin C Serum is the first in the line of actives that I have bought and this is what I decided to purchase based on reviews
I read that concentration of Vitamin C must be at least more than 15% for it to have an effect on the skin. Vitamin C must be stored away from direct sunlight and in a reasonably dark place. Some users are known to store it in the refrigerator. Maybe this would make sense in India.

What I have bought is the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA ++++
due to several glowing reviews it has got from K-beauty blogging veterans. 

PA++++ is the highest range of UV protection according to some skincare industries. Japanese if I read right, though right now, I cant remember which blog I read this nugget of information. 

Read here about what to look for in sunscreen 

Mizon All In One Snail Repair Cream

Mizon Snail All in one repair cream. One of my first Korean Skincare purchases. Comes in a sturdy glass bottle. 
Snail mucus, the slimy stuff that snails feet leave on a surface when they slide along is apparently a wonder skin-repair thing. Did my research to find no snails are killed or ill treated in the process. 
According the makers' advice Snail AIO repair cream should be used in place of an essence, i.e., Oil Cleanse, foam cleanse, tone, essence. Started using this today. Will figure out changes in 2 weeks I presume. This contains about 92% snail filtrate and claims to brighten skin and work on fading scars ideal for oily/acne prone skin. May also work on dry / normal skin if used under other products as the brand claims. But I did read that some bloggers with oily skin gave this one amazing reviews. You may google for the reviews yourself. Based on how this goes, I am thinking of getting the Ampoule from this range. 

The 'What-I-Bought' list is longer. But additional information requires independent posts on the why-s hows and some skincare gyaan :p 


My current skincare routine based on the K-Beauty regimen

My routine as of 2 weeks is this.

1. Oil cleanse
Coconut Oil or Gingelly Oil
2. Foam cleanser - L'occitane Precious foam cleanser. Something I have been using for a long time now. At least 2 years. K-Beauty-bloghopping helped me find that this product has a PH level of 5.
3. Toner / Toning mist - Forest Essentials Rose water / Jasmine and Aloe Vera facial toning mist
4. Vitamin C serum - After waiting 15 minutes for skin to return to normal PH post cleansing (can be eschewed once you use an AHA/BHA toner that I ordered from the brand Mizon, due to its glowing reviews. This helps the skin to return to normal PH so that the actives like Vitamin C can work on the skin rather than battling on bringing it back to normal PH. I got this information from Snow White and Asian Pear's blog. She has a lovely post on building your skincare routine and how to put things in order.) I ordered the Serumtologie Vitamin C, from the US and requested someone to bring it for me. Vitamin C is one of the best things that you can incorporate into your routine is there is only one thing that you will add. You could consult a dermatologist you trust for a Vitamin C Serum and see if your skin agrees to it after requesting for samples. Some formulations may / may not work for several skins. 
5. First Essence - 15-20 minutes after Vitamin C, so that it has time to work on the skin. L'occitane Brightening essence (A gift and didn't purchase this.)
6. Serum - L'occitane Reine Blanche serum
7. Serum 2 - L'occitane Divine Extract
8. Eye cream - L'occitane Divine eyes
9. Oil - Kama Ayurveda Kumkumadi oil (always mixed with a few drops of rosewater as applying the oil directly on the skin will cause break-outs. This aids better absorption and doesn't leave your skin feeling at all.
10. Night cream - L'occitane Divine Cream


1. Foam Cleanse
2. Toning mist 

Exfoliation 2/3 times - Kama Ayurveda Kumkumadi scrub
Clarisonic Smart Profile (Something my mom bought for herself but I hijacked albeit temporarily. Really love this one)
Clay Mask - Multani Mitti or Bentonite clay mask from EcoNut an organic store at Besant Nagar.
L'Occitane Aromachologie Rebalancing Face Mask

Only thing, most of the L'occitane stuff have been gifts from Dipika or my mom. Dipika in an attempt to somehow try and convert me into taking care of my skin. Now however, she says she is very proud of me, because for the first time, she actually learned something new from me :p. I however have regularly bought their face wash and their Almond shower oil, absolute favourites that I have indulged in.

I have also been a huge fan of Forest Essentials as a brand ever since they launched, way before they opened their store in Chennai. Maybe one of the reasons that I am drawn to K Beauty is their focus on all-natural/fermented products.

Now one would think this is an overdose of stuff on the skin. So did I. Strangely after all this, my skin looked like it was glowing a bit. Slightly shiny, if one may say. 

I'd like to say that my skin is normal with a slightly oily T Zone. No acne or problematic skin other than perhaps sun-damage from years of never using Sunscreen. 

As stated earlier the Vitamin C was my first purchase. And I started using my sunscreen regularly. 

If nothing else this regimen makes me remember to use my sunscreen. :)

Korean skincare - Where to buy

The US is seeing a surge of K-beauty entrepreneurs and I hear Sephora has an entire aisle dedicated to brands from Korea.

If you live in the US here are some websites you could try

Some sell pre-made sets, according to specific skin concerns. They also have dedicated pages that will take you through Korean Skincare.

Living in India and having a new interest like this is no good. This is a lot like my baking obsession from 5 years ago when I didn't find a decent counter-top OTG, forget other exotic ingredients like sprinkles or even whipping cream.

Amazon (US) is a great place to check for a lot of the popular K-beauty products and for other sellers that ship directly from Korea where you can buy samples to see what will work for your skin

The only thing here is the insane shipping time. Plus the shipping cost itself. If you and your friend(s) can team up you could save significantly on shipping costs.

Checking these sites will also give you an idea of some insane discounts that happen every once in a while. Plus, there are fake Korean skincare stuff that abound. The sites that I have listed right now (I am sure there are more) are used by other bloggers regularly to purchase their hauls and ship legit stuff. 

Dabbling in K-Beauty

Here I am talking of something I have never talked of, I think, in my 10 years or so of blogging here. 
Skincare and tapping into myself to see if I have a vain side. I definitely went through the nailpolish, lipstick etc thing as a teenager but was successfully insulted out of it :p

Dipika Lal, a girl I first knew as a fantastic designer/stylist based out of Mumbai who is now more a sister than anything else, has tried through time and in vain to make me do something about my skin except the need-based-before-a-concert/event-visit to the salon.

I am the loyal kind. I usually stick to something once I have taken to it. 

One of my go to people for the past 8 (maybe more) years, in Chennai has been Sulakshana at Studio Profile in Chennai. I have never really let my brows be touched by anyone else in all these years. She also is the go-to person for some of the prettiest faces in the industry and outside of it. She was never the salesperson type, suggesting a ton of treatments/products just to jack up sales for entity she works for. I would say that for everyone in Studio Profile, which is what makes me trust them a lot. By default I can hazard to say I have good skin, never really had acne and the like. But the Korean Skincare thing is fascinating.

Since most of us in Chennai were holed up inside our homes thanks to the rains I had enough time in my hand to do some research and discovered the huge Asian Beauty Reddit and some other blogs I have started haunting. 

I however don't seem to have come across anyone (yet) who reviews and tries out K-Beauty lines on Indian skin. That would have really helped me. In case you are new to this, K(orean)-Beauty talks about the extensive multi-step daily/twice a day regimen that Korean and Japanese women are said to follow which is supposed to be the reason that contributes to their porcelain-like skin. 

Blog-hopping unearthed a lot of women belonging to different skin-types/tones/ethnicities and the result of following a Korean skincare regimen. 

Korean Skincare talks of a 2 step cleansing, everyday. One is the oil-cleansing method and the second, using a cleanser that is on the low PH range, making sure that the acid mantle of the skin is not disrupted allowing it to take actives like Vitamin C or some other treatment products. 

As Indians, oil baths are actually prescribed as a ritualistic step in our festivals and finding that the multi-step K Beauty skincare involved massaging the grime off each day with an oil was not surprising to me. 

I have always worn minimal makeup during my events and go bare-skinned (no sunscreen either!!) on other days. 

So to get started, if you are with me, and are still interested have a look at the multi step regimen which looks like this. There is a day-time and a night time routine.

Night Time

1. Spot cleansing - i.e. if you wear make up you need to take care to remove eye make up 
2. Oil cleansing - use of an oil to remove make-up or the grime from each day
3. The second cleanse (making step 2 &3 the famous Korean Double cleanse method) - A foam cleanser with a low Ph under 5.5 
4. Exfoliate (2/3 times a week) - to slough off dead skin
5. Toner - Not the kind thats filled with alcohol. More the typical rosewater or 'fermented' lines that K-skincare giants have released. What I like a lot of K skincare is that there are complete lines which are cruelty free, organic and plant based. 
6. First (and second) Essence - Touted to me the most important thing in a K-Skincare routine. This is said to prep the skin for the serums or other treatments that may come in later. A lot of essences increase elasticity or brightness or hydration. Depends on what you choose. 
7. Serum / Ampoule - A step in which you can tackle concerns specific to your skin, say Hyper pigmentation or famous in blog-speak as PIH (Post Inflammatory Hyper pigmentation)
8. Sheet Masks (2/3 times a week) - An additional boost to tackle hydration, brightening, or firming
9. Eye cream 
10. Face oil - Concentrated oils that are used as occlusives (For example a kunkumadi Tailam that we get here in India could he used)
10. Night /sleeping pack - the last step to seal in everything. 

Yes, looks like a mighty list. But doesn't take as much time as one may fear. 

Stuff I learned after all the reading 

1. Korea is one of the biggest destinations for plastic surgery. 
2. Skincare is said to be one of their biggest exports and their Government actively supports and funds research in skincare. I also remember reading that some business are also exempt from paying taxes if their sales outside of Korea. 
3.  Said to be at least 10 years ahead of the West in their research and innovations in Skincare. 
4. Korea gave us the now famous BB and CC Creams. 

I may continue to blog a bit since this is my current obsession. 

Here is a list of blogs that you may love reading, just like I did

Snow White and the Asian Pear

I love how she goes into ingredient lists and the science behind it all. Reviews and descriptions are lovely and so well researched. Plus one of the things I like about the bloggers I am listing here are these guys have paid for their own stuff unless otherwise stated and they post a review after at least 2-3 weeks of using the product.

Crazy Snail Lady
Also goes into ingredient lists, which ingredient may trigger what and is very interested in the science behind it all.

Holy Snails

So good at DIY that she has now launched her own skincare concoctions that are selling out faster than the time it takes to finish typing this line

In this section of Recommended Reading on Snow White and Asian Pear's blog, you'll find a list of bloggers that you could follow, based on skin type and concerns. 

If you are crazy about skincare and etc., you'll love reading this stuff. And your wallet may not thank me.

P.S.: This is not a sponsored post. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Attempting dialogue

on Women's rights almost always leads to whataboutery. "What about women who file false dowry harassment cases, false rape cases", etc. etc. etc.
While I sympathise with the family and the persons involved in such false cases, the harassment when someone is wrongly legally victimized, in my opinion, should not be gender sensitive. 

There aren't enough women in politics. Not enough girls in schools. Still not enough girls remain in wombs. Those who survive are malnourished. Not many women in the boards of huge corporates. The average woman still makes 60% less for the same job, qualification, experience than a man. (I can send the data if you like. I got the data during the mentorship program). Women owning lands, property are still a minuscule minority.  The numbers are scary even in 2015. Rape cases, I am inclined to believe has thankfully found more reportage though the crime itself is nothing to be proud of. I wonder if there is a sudden surge in incidents or if there have always been as many cases but the women and their families come out to lodge complaints only now. However, the number of rape cases in countries like the US far outnumber India's. 

I often receive this advice about not to tweet about 'serious' issues being someone involved in the film industry. It will affect my 'image' they'd say. I was told, I should be tweeting about make-up (which sadly horde and not use), cute puppies (I do tweet about) and other 'fluff'. More fluff, less serious. More girl, less feminist, I am advised. 

Though it is difficult for me to be this 'fluffy' person on social media or otherwise, I got a tweet the other day advising I must put an end to this "over feminism". I fail to understand what "over feminism" is.

So many of us don't read much, don't listen enough to others PoV, have a frail idea about history (which also involves reading conflicting accounts, coz as someone remarked, history is what some historians agree upon) and a lack of curiosity / inquisitiveness on various things. Weren't we all curious as children? When did latent curiosity die to lame acceptance of what is shoved down our ears and packed into our grey cells?

Today, the average man reacts negatively to a woman who tweets her opinion on an issue that is assumed to be in the man's domain. He reacts negatively to a woman's tweet on getting unwanted attention with "Oh, she is doing this for more attention". However this is not just a man's problem. I have seen women react similarly. "She is asking for it" is used way too often. 

Why is feminism a bad word? Why do so many react negatively to it? Men like Jyotirao Phule and Mahakavi Bharathiyar were examples of early feminists but sadly, not many men chose to follow their footsteps. If they had, perhaps India today would have been an example on the equal society many believe is utopian. Someday perhaps. Someday.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


brings some memories from not too long ago flooding into my head. To put things mildly, there have been Deepavalis when the perfect festival was but a dream, a faraway one it seemed at that time. But now, those days seem like yesterday. Time is a strange thing. The passage of time, even more so. 

There was one Deepavali when, for the first time, mom could finally get me the crackers that we wished I could buy. And I went crazy bursting a small bucketful of those. I later gave up bursting them due to a campaign in school. 

Paatti had a way of wrapping some money in a paper->rubberband->plastic cover-> rubberband-> purse-yellow bag-> which would be knotted to the handlebar of my cycle. I would cycle back home with it. 

I sometimes wonder what it would have been like for thatha who, I am told, lead a pretty luxurious life until he lost his lands, to seeing his daughter/s go through pretty tough times. One lost her husband to cancer. The other to divorce. He was most worried about my mom coz she didn't have a job, that gave her a salary each month; or one that he understood.. They were supportive. 

Today, I wish I could bring my grandparents back together, for one day. Take them out on a drive. Maybe take them abroad. My thatha wouldn't really fall in the category of being a good looking man at all. But he had such 'gethu' in my opinion. Suave, had a splendid way of speaking English and a tremendous bearing. My grandma was the exact opposite. '3aam claas padicha Alamu' as she used to call herself. Knew zero English. And had not much clue about things like finesse and the like also didn't bother learning about them :)

But she was my mom when my own was absent working to put food on the plate. 

When I met my grandma a couple of years before she died, she told me that rarely, on our way to my school in Bombay she'd often wonder what it'd be like to fall in the wayside well and end the misery that was her life, but would be reminded of my hand holding on to hers and that she could do no such thing. Plus the usual 'Perumaal othukka maattaar' etc etc. Must have been very tough for her. They never really see me or mom do well, at least according to their definition. 

And today, I wish they could see us. Wish I could take them out. Wish I could get her, her favourite aaranji mittai. Wish I could take thatha on a lovely walk, in London perhaps. He walked at a pace and gait that would put a 20 year old to shame, even well into his late 80-s. Until one day he fell down the stairs and it rendered him immobile. His insistence on not letting anyone watch anything on the TV until his news was over. Something we all cribbed about. He'd have a field day today with all the news channels screaming for attention, this would have been his 'kid in the candy store' moment. Would have loved to hear his account of his involvement in the freedom struggle and how he produced a movie that never released and who the actors were. 

Someday, on the other side, I hope I ll get to know that they were watching us.. From somewhere. 

Miss them terribly. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

American Express India (Credit Card) and they perhaps hire trained rowdies for bill collection :)

So here is an experience with American Express India that I need to talk about. 

Several months ago I had made a high value transaction *and* made the full payment into the card through NEFT. For some random reason that both my bank and AMEX haven't been able to explain, that payment had returned into my bank account and I didn't realize that my payment has returned, thinking one of the cheques I had deposited, has been credited. (Who ever heard of a payment made into a credit card returning into one's own account?)  

In addition, my AMEX card showed a zero balance for months and have received bills to that effect that there was a zero balance. I primarily use my card to make payments to translators. (AMEX is a card that doesn't get accepted by several merchants in Chennai either because their fee is too high or some vendors, like a local grocery store that is famous for serving expats, have not had their claims settled for several months)

After about 5 months from this said incident AMEX calls to say I need to make they I need to make the payment again and after several rounds of verifying with the bank and AMEX we sorted this out.

Now, there are times that my travel keeps my away from Chennai and I had told these guys that they need to give me an extended period by when I can make they payment into the card and where I am happy to pay the late fee. Simply because by the time the OTP arrives on the phone while you are roaming the prescribed 180 seconds are over. Sometimes overseas concert schedules last over 2 months away from India. I had explained my circumstances to the man dealing with us from AMEX when he was selling us the card. Plus my mother travels with me and no one other than her or I handles my financial transactions. 

It is unfortunate (in this context) that I developed a sort of a soft corner for the company, even though this card has insanely high fees plus doesn't get accepted at most merchants (even online) because I got mentored by AMEX for my US State Dept / Fortune program in NYC a few years ago and 

It just so happened that AMEX sent a typical rowdy type guy home to because my credit card bill was overdue. Not to mention he had an amazing style of using expletives to ask us to pay the bill. 

I hear there is a court order that credit card companies cannot hire people like this but since this is India, who cares about court orders?

Now that I am on terra firma, I cannot wait to end the relationship with AMEX. Severely disappointed and hassled, to say the least. So yes, stay away if you could, from AMEX cards (India).

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Shanthi Panchakam

Here is my rendition of Shanti Pancakam.

There were a few tracks I wanted to release and the Shanti Pancakam is the first of the few.

Credit due to Mr Hari Tirumalai who very kindly corrected the Sanskrit pronunciations.

Recorded at Seed Studios, Chennai
Sound Engineer - Hafeez
Music Produced by Prashanth Techno
Mixed and Mastered by Navneeth Balachanderan of TheRedPencilCompany
If you wish to buy, it is available on this link

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Association with House of Talent

Things have been great on the work front lately and this blog is an announcement to announce my association with House of Talent. 

I have heard a lot of people in the recent past complain that they are unable to reach me when it comes to work, especially with regard to concerts. It also came to our notice that there are touts of sorts who charge insane amounts of money, without any authorization from our part to just share contact details for professional purposes.

Hoping this would put an end to all that.