23 April, 2013

Book Review: Look Stunning At Any Size by Parimita Chakravorty

(review by Deepashree D'Mello, ex-radio jockey from Goa)

They say never judge a book by its cover, but it’s easy to fall in love with this lovely new book by Parimita Chakravorty "Look stunning at any size." Lovely glossy pages, good images,easy to read font makes this book a breezy, light ,feel good kind of read. The back of the book says that this book has been written keeping in mind the contemporary Indian woman, her need ,her lifestyle and the demands of her personal and professional life. It is an essentially a style guide to help us women look good in any circumstances.

This book is decked out in color - Beautiful images all around. It reads just like a good magazine, short spurts of great info with no long boring paragraphs to be found. I especially like the technique of highlighting the numerous tips in a different color and font.There are 15 chapters , each concentrating on a different facet of fashion. The first rightly starts with the premise that each woman should know herself and her body type and explains exactly how to discover that. ( PSST I fall in the heavy boned category). What is the shape of one’s face and knowing your skin tone . Chap II guides you on the must haves in your wardrobe and what you wear according to the shape of your body.

I have seen many ladies going in for such sober drab wear, that I feel like gifting them some colorful dresses. The 3rd chapter tells you to wear your clothes as per skin tone. I particularly liked that yardstick the author gives for knowing whats right for you. If it makes your skin tone appear radiant and glowing, if your eyes glow and if your hair reflects the highlights, then you know that the color is just right for you.

An interesting chapter is on the style SINS or fashion faux pas one can commit. Though, I don’t agree with some of them. I love Anarkalis and love the way some women carry it off. I also like long dupattas. So I guess I really am guilty of committing some bloopers. But I do agree with that showing those transparent bra straps is really a NO NO.

A great chapter is the one on underwear. Andar se khush tabi Baahar se khush , right Ladies ?

The author writes in detail on which underwear is the best. Chapter 7 and 8 is all about haircut and styles. A very interesting part is on the hair extensions. Usually Indian women don’t think higher than a bun maybe, as far as hair extensions are concerned. But Parimita devotes quite a bit to this rather new topic.(AND one I always wanted to know about ). In fact the author speaks quite a bit on hair in her book. But I do wish she had given actual photos of hairstyles being done step by step. Same goes for makeup. Lovely chapter but again I wish she had demonstrated with photographs on how actually make up is to be applied. (I really do need to know that Airbrush Make up trick on an urgent basis.)

A very interesting Chapter is on beauty care and noninvasive face lifts. Chemical peels , Botox ,Pearl and caviar facials . Everything one always wanted to know.

The last 2 chaps are on accessorizing where jewelry, shoes, bags are discussed.

All in all a very informative read, priced reasonably.

All my friends who like to dress well liked it a lot.

Some suggestions

Inner beauty is equally important so a chapter on correct and healthy eating could have been added to make it more rounded.

Also, a chapter on exercise and tips to lose that hard to lose weight could have been added.

Lastly, as I said earlier some more illustrations , step by step applying of makeup and hairstyles could have been added.

19 April, 2013

In pursuit of Royal Bengal Tiger: Sunderbans

Sunderbans - Royal Bengal Tiger’s haven! Many come in the hope of shooting the Bengal tiger with their cameras and capturing the jungle king in their memories. But one glance of the jungle royalty is as rare as it can get. Only a lucky few witness the glory of the Royal Bengal tiger. Royal Bengal Tiger are so special since they are the epitome of wilderness, supremacy, beauty and grace. Born and raised in the most challenging environments. In the marshy land surrounded by water and limited open area, these tigers grow into very powerful and mean animals facing everyday difficulties of survival. Around 500 of their species habituate the entire Sunderban area which is spread across 2410 Sq kms (land area in India approximately) and has 54 small islands which are gradually disappearing due to global warming.

The entire forest covers 10,000 sq km, of which about 6,000 sq km is in Bangladesh. It became registered as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997. The Sundarbans is estimated to be about 4,110 sq km, of which about 1,700 sq km is occupied by water bodies in the form of river, canals and creeks of width varying from a few meters to several kilometers. The Sundarbans is intersected by a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests. The interconnected network of waterways makes almost every corner of the forest accessible by boat. The visit to Sunderbans is not at all fancy. It is full of heat, humidity, adventure and a bit of danger. Don’t get discouraged by this statement if you really want the true taste of rustic life of Bengal as well as closely observe the wildlife at one place. The wilderness will grasp your attention and so will the innocence of village life. You will feel anxious as well as serene to be in the dangerous beauty of swampy and humid forest of Sunderbans. It will certainly overwhelm your senses.

Named after the rare Sundari trees which are found in plenty in this area, this forest has a lot to offer. Wildlife plays peekaboo with you, including snakes, giant lizards, wild boars, deer and the jungle king. Needless to say, you can spot various species of birds too.

Sunderbans is divided into the Core zone and the buffer zone. The Core zone is meant for animal breeding and is a proctected area. Only forest rangers with special approvals and ministers ;) can travel. As a tourist you can only enter into the Buffer zone.

Our journey

Anyway let us begin with our journey to Sunderban National Park.

Day 1:
Our journey started from Kolkata on the morning of 5th October. It was Navami and Kolkata was still in a slumber after the hectic celebrations of Ashtami the day before. We started at 7:30 from Kolkata to Sonakhali where we were supposed to board our boat for the entire tour. From Kolkata we took State Highway 3 (SF 3) via Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, Narendrapur, Baruipur, Canning and reached our boarding point at around 11:30 am.

It was hot and humid even in October. A basic boat, with minimum facilities of an Indian and English toilet was ready to take us to the deep jungles of Sunderbans. Our boat included Bishnu Ghosh (our tour coordinator), boat men (it was motorised boat), a cook, a porter and 5 of us.

We had a quick breakfast on the boat and then started cruising on the Matla river towards our destination. Saw a lot of village banks. Villagers were busy in their daily chores of feeding cattle, building hay stacks or preening boats at the shore. Their bright clothing against mud walls was such a contrast. You suddenly felt mesmerized with their simple life and basic needs. Saw a village school where students from far off villages and various islands come to get education. The only developed area was Gosaba which looked better off than other villages. We reached Sajnekhali Tiger Reserve at 2 pm. Had lunch on the boat and then went inside to see the watch tower and the Tiger museum and get the boat pass. (It is a permission for the boat to stay in those waters). Museum detailed all the species of flora, fauna found inside the jungle. We went to the watch tower to quietly witness deer grazing in the vicinity.Watched a fight between a snake and a mongoose, where the mongoose emerged the winner.

Sajnekhali has a government resort, where you can stay very close to the jungle life. The entire jungle area is barricaded with net so that wild animals do not come anywhere near human habitat. Although many a times, the net has been found cut by the villagers and used for various purposes like making a baby’s swing. It’s from where the Tigers get into human habitat. We took the boat around in the adjoining waterways and in the evening reached Pakhiralay, the shore across Sajnekhali where our hotel was located.

Day 1 highlights: Sajnekhali tiger museum, watch tower and Pakhiralay

Day 2:
Next day at 6:30 am we reported at the small river jetty to board our boat. As a boat is allowed to cruise only from sunrise to sunset, it became imperative for us to maximize on the opportunity to explore the depth of these narrow canals. First we went to Sajnekhali where we were supposed to get our guide for the trip inside the jungle. The forest office allocated Manoranjan Raptan as our guide on our demand. As soon as he boarded the boat we set off cruising through the water bodies in the delta area. He kept us entertained with his poetry and stories about the area.

The fable

A fable, prevalent in the area about 'Banabibi' was told by Manoranjan, our guide. The goddess ‘Banabibi’ is the deity who is revered and worshipped is this area. She is believed to save honey collectors, fishermen and wood cutters going inside the jungle from all the dangers. She is one of the few deity’s who is worshipped by both the Hindus as well as the Muslims.

The fable goes that a rich Muslim merchant didn’t have any child. Allah came in his dreams and asked him to get a second wife who will bear his children. The merchant dearly loved his first wife Phoolobibi and wanted her permission for second marriage. Phoolobibi agreed to the marriage, with the condition that would be revealed in the future and her husband had to honor it. The merchant agreed. He married Gulabbibi and finally she got pregnant after a few months. When she was carrying her child in 8th month, Phoolobibi asked her husband to send pregnant Gulabbibi into the jungle as a condition of marriage. The merchant was in a fix. But as he promised his first wife about accepting any condition he tricked Gulabbibi into the jungle and left her there at the peak of her pregnancy. He told her that he will be taking her to her maternal place and instead took her into the jungle. He left her while she was sleeping. He spilt ‘aalta’ (red colour liquid which Bengali brides wear in their feet after marriage) around her so that she assumes that he has been killed by a tiger. When Gulabbibi woke up, she realised that her husband was not around and she was all alone in the jungle. She started praying to Allah for her safety. 5 men appeared from nowhere and started helping her with food and shelter. They took care of her till her babies were born. She had twins – a girl and a boy and immediately after the child birth, those men disappeared. Gulabbibi was left stranded with no help. She thought that she could not survive in the jungle if she has two newborns to look after. Therefore, she abandoned the girl child and moved to another island with her boy child to look for food. The new born girl child was left alone crying. She had no one to look after. Just then a deer passed by the infant girl child and fed her with its milk. The girl child grew up to be Banabibi among the wild animals. Sounds like a Bollywood flick. But this is the fable which is prevalent in the area with many small temples made out of wood and hay where people offer prayers to her before entering the jungle. Even today poeple seek Banabibi’s blessings.

As the stories continued, we were served breakfast and lunch on the boat. Needless to say we enjoyed the delicious sea food and the local catches. We saw the islands from far off which are a part of Bangladesh. We went to Dobanki deer park and kept on cruising in the hope of spotting a tiger. We managed to spot deer, crocodile, wild boar, snakes, giant lizards, crabs in diverse colours as well as various species of birds. But our watchful eyes couldn’t manage to get a glimpse of the jungle lord. Tired and dejected we returned back to our hotel in the evening. The local shops were selling honey collected from the jungle. It is the most organic form of honey which has a very liquid like consistency. Our friends haggled but couldn’t bring it to a point of sale. Finally, we retired to our respective rooms. Local performers were called who sang the folk songs popular in that area. But the entire day’s exhaustion had caught up with us. We retired early after dinner.

Day 2 highlights: Do-Banki Canopy Walk, Netidhopani, Bonbibi Bharani Canal, Peerkhali Canl, Gazikhali Canal, Choragazikhali Canal, Panchamukhani (5 rivers adjoining center) & Sundarkhali canal

Day 3:
It was time to go back to the main land. We pretty much started the same time as the previous day. We went to Sudhanakhali watch tower to try our luck again. Unfortunately after 2009 Aila tornado, many part of the Sunderban islands have been destroyed, which is still being rebuilt. Manoranjan told us his own horrific experience where he had survived for two days by climbing a tree during Aila.

While going back we got down at Gosaba. Gosaba boasts of having the Hamilton's bungalow. We went inside the market area which is narrow and overcrowded. We finally saw the bungalow which is opened for public only once a year. We saw another bungalow where Rabindra Nath Tagore once visited. A quaint little bungalow located next to the market. Nothing fancy or celestially beautiful, but it definitely reflected simplicity and an aura of creativity around it.

We again got on the boat. The weather was getting a bit rough. Saw dangerously grey clouds all over the sky and the river started looking a bit unpleasant too; As if it could topple us over anytime. The water is infested with sharks and other species of fish which devour human flesh. Right then, the owner of the boat started telling us horrifying stories of accidents where the sharks chomped off someone’s leg or a crocodile suddenly appeared from nowhere and pulled a man inside the water. Spooky! Finally we got back to Sonakhali at 2 pm.

Day 3 highlights: Sudhanyakhali Tiger Reserve, Sarakhali and Gosaba Hamilton Bungalow.

End of our journey!

We drove back to Kolkata via Kolkata-Malancha road. I thought the road via Baruipur was better. Reached Kolkata by 5 pm, which ended our eventful journey in search of the jungle king.

Parimita Chakravorty

16 April, 2013

Bonding with new colleagues:

You have moved jobs. Just started with your professional life or may be joined back after a sabbatical. Apart from adjusting to the new environment, work culture and assignment, you also want to get along with the new set of colleagues. Good colleagues can at times graduate into good friends. They guide you, encourage you and at times watch your back when you falter at work. So, it becomes important to foster a cordial work relationship with the people who spend half the day with you.

For some, bonding happens in a blink of an eye. It comes naturally to them. For others, it takes time and effort. Let us list a few ice-breakers for you that can help you bond well with your colleagues.

Over the food: Believe me or not, it works! Even if your colleague is a perennial diet control freak, she will succumb to the sweet whiff of a warm vanilla muffin or a spicy pulao at the lunch table. Offer snacks and start with a conversation. Tell her that your uncle delivered cupcakes at your doorstep this morning as it was his dog’s birthday and you thought of bringing it to office and sharing it with everyone. All cultures, across borders, this works. If abroad, take your native food (ensure, it’s not very spicy or smelly) and offer it to your unsuspecting colleagues. I am sure; it will warm-up the relationship between you two.

Over bit**in session: Usually, people do not like whiners. But if there are any common grounds to bitch about, do indulge. Be it in-laws, canteen food, celebrities, boss’s dressing sense; participate in the session and come out as a comrade in arms. Be careful that you aren’t biting the bait for office politics. Ensure that the upsurge of this negative discussion is genuine. This brings out the empathy in co-workers and they become BFFs (Best Friends Forever) till job change does them apart.

Over gaga session: Na –ah! This isn’t about Lady Gaga. This is about going gaga over your colleague’s choice of music, perfume, dress, ornaments, looks (beware, you can be framed for sexual harassment), etc. You can praise them for their new car, new house, and new pet or just plain handwriting. Just make sure that you sound genuinely happy for their choices. This is a sure shot ice-breaker.

Over the wheels: Be it public transport or a car-pool; try to use the opportunity to strike a cordial note with your colleagues. Give a lift to people travelling your way. At times, you can go out of the way (if you please). But travelling together, makes miracles happen. People tend to befriend you very easily if you happen to own a car or a two-wheeler. If you use public transport like taxi or autos, try to share it with others travelling in your direction. This type of bonding goes a long way.

Over a game: If you are a cricket fan (especially in India), you have already won half the battle. On a Friday, wear team India t-shirt (with Tendulkar or Dhoni written on it) to office. And within minutes, you will have people flocking you asking for the latest scores in IPL. Cricket, Hockey, Football, Tennis and Boxing (thanks to Mary Kom for bringing this sport to limelight), discuss any sport with a bit of enthusiasm and people will be willing to participate in that conversation. All the sports bars are not running in vain. This is where long-time corporate relationships are formed.

Can you list anymore instances to build a rapport with your new colleagues? I am listening.

Parimita Chakravorty

28 March, 2013

There is nothing happy about Good Friday
A jovial friend was recently embarrassed when she wished a catholic client, Happy Good Friday. The client retorted sarcastically, what is so happy about this Friday? Anyways, it is good enough. Our friend just made a fool of herself, as if she wished someone happy birthday when it was not their birthday. She was amused at this sudden reaction. She thought that what did she do to offend the client? She just wished her on Good Friday, a Christian festival, celebrated all over the world. And then she tried to understand the real meaning behind Good Friday.

Good Friday is when Jesus died! His death can never be a happy occasion for any Christian, isn’t it? Many Christians spend this day in fasting, prayer, repentance, and meditation on the agony and suffering of Christ on the cross. Good Friday is a day of sadness, in which churches are empty and dark. The term ‘Good Friday’ is confusing to many. Usually people relate that anything good, must be a happy occasion. But it is to commemorate the goodness that was bestowed upon humanity by Christ’s sacrifice. The feasting and fun is reserved for Easter.

In future, our dear friend has vowed to always understand the culture and story behind every festivity before wishing anyone on an occasion. She has vowed to never hurt someone’s religious sentiments. Smart girl!

Which all confusing festivals can you list which have left you in a similar situation like our friend?

Parimita Chakravorty

21 March, 2013

Work-from-home options for new mums

Please do not regret your decision to stay home after your baby was born. It is a personal choice and is purely based on the need to experience motherhood in its entirety and to give love to the most beautiful and delicate being you will ever see in your life. It doesn’t mean that full time working moms love their little ones any less.

Recently, a friend of mine asked me what can she do while being a stay-at-home mom to a toddler. I am reproducing the piece as it is. For others, the basic thought process is the same. Look into your strengths, past experiences and interests and then accordingly plan a career move.

SK: What do I do? Kuch samajh nahin aata?

Me: Can you please tell me your niche areas. What is your qualification, past experiences and interests?

SK: I did B Com (H) and have worked as a recruitment consultant for 7 years before I got pregnant. I like reading books and making greeting cards. Have been trying to get freelance job for a while but no success. What are my options?

Me: You have done accountancy honors. And have 7 years’ experience as recruitment consultant. You love reading books. In that scenario, these work-from-home options will be best for you: (Everyday invest 3-4 hours)

1. Recruitment consultant from home:

Either start on your own or speak to all the recruitment firms in Kolkata and nearby places like Durgapur, etc. Make a few calls and tell them that you would like to freelance with them for a certain % of the fees. Initially, it will be a bit cumbersome to register at various portals as a recruiter and going through CVs and contacting prospective candidates. But once you are at it, it will gradually start paying off. Moreover, it will add on to your previous experience and if you ever decide to get back to full time work, then it will actually help you.

Also, you can scout for various companies who advertise for freelance recruiters. (Register in naukri.com, monster, Linkedin and other job portals as a freelance recruitment consultant and many might give you a call.) They need not be in Kolkata. They can be reputed names in other cities who might get into a contract with you and when you will provide them with a suitable candidate, they will pay you a certain commission.

For this you should start building your resource pool. Leverage on your past contacts as well as try and get new ones on Branchout, Linkedin, Glassdoor etc. Speak to your school/college alumni, register in online portals. Online presence and portfolio is a must.

2. Freelance accounting work:
You have done accountancy honors but if you haven’t pursued it after college then no point trying to get freelance accounting work. Any freelance work demands some sort of reference of previous work or recruiter. For e.g. content writers have to maintain a blog and show work samples. Similarly, you will get credibility in the freelance market, only if you have done some substantial work in the past. But if you have done something of this nature in the past, then this is another option. There are many online portals where you have jobs listed. You bid for it and once you get that work then you have to submit it in stipulated period of time. For eg., www.freelancer.com. www.peopleperhour.com. www.freelancejobopenings.com

You can also register at various online portals like on Facebook, Orkut, Pininterest, etc.

3. Freelance content writing:

You mentioned that you like reading. If you are an avid reader, then I am sure that you can write as well. If your writing has originality, fluidity and style then you can go for article writing. Many people want ghost writers for their blogs and websites. Many magazines look for freelance writers to contribute. First of all, identify your niche area. Are you interested to write about beauty, academics, cars, real-estate, spirituality, etc. what do you like and what can you write about? Then approach the related companies. Like, local magazines who print about beauty might get back to you to write an article for them. You will have to search for online quotes or approach experts to get their quotes. Any piece of writing is good only when it has a few references. Read a few newspaper articles to understand what I mean. But you need to have a blog to justify that you can write on that subject as well as it will be a sample of your style of writing. So, start working on a blog. Eventually, approach these magazines, website builders, etc. You can also do academic research writing on Rearcheden.com and writers.ph, etc. who pay you per assignment.

4. Sell online- ebay, OLX, Sulekha, etc.

Start your own business. Do you have a unique gift? As you mentioned you like making greeting cards, is there something exclusive about it? - like greeting cards made from handmade paper with sandalwood perfume and authentic tribal designs. Take inspiration from our vast culture. Try and see if you can make or create unique stuff. Then sell it online. It will take some time to establish your business. Some investment will be required to produce bulk material and advertisement but in the end it will give you creative satisfaction and some good pocket money. The best part is, you will have buyers from all over the world. You can start some other online business as well. My friend sells jute bags in London. Organic jute bags to save environment. ;) This is how you have to market things to get attention of customers abroad.

5. Voice over artist – freelance

If you have a good voice, which I am sure, you do. And if you can animate and modulate your voice, then you can become a freelance voice artist. eLearning companies, advertising companies, jingle singing, business presentations, corporate movies, they all want a fresh voice with crystal clear speech and enunciations. You can approach advertising companies, multimedia companies, casting directors, etc. with your voice sample.

6. Give tuitions:

If accounting has been your strong subject then go for teaching accounts. Start with school students and gradually take college kids. Brush up your own knowledge about the current curriculum. Advertise in your local and nearby area through newspaper pamphlets. Get in touch with your local newspaper distributor. Ask him to distribute the pamphlets for a nominal fee. When students start coming in, you can devote your afternoon till late evenings for tuitions. Believe me, it’s the best and the most rewarding self-employment source.

I hope these are enough options. If you have any specific questions, you can write to me.

All the best!

Parimita Chakravorty

13 March, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Grand in a fashionista’s hand: a phone review

(Please do not expect detailed specs review and a comparison with Micromax A116 HD. For that you have various other gadget portals.)

I have been perfectly happy with a phone which has basic functions (like calling, messaging and sometimes clicking pictures with a 5mp camera) till now. What else does a girl need? A frenzy of games and apps is not for me. Touchpad screen or QWERT buttons are all the same to me. Typing messages with my fingers is more about another bout of admiration for my new nail paint than anything else; a sign of a true fashionista. (Please excuse fat fingers, they need a stylus!) I am the kinds who are happy with a phone that looks good in their perfectly manicured hands.

Till the time the phone was about establishing contacts, creating conversations and capturing a few memories, my old phone seemed perfect. And then came, the great social networking revolution where everybody wanted to stay connected with everybody 24 by 7 through Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Pininterest, etc. People started blogging, posting comments, writing reviews, uploading images and so on. People started downloading books, games, music, applications and various other things from the net. Browsing the net for latest news and updates became a norm. Even a fashionista couldn’t ignore the sudden need to read reviews about the latest makeup launch or the designer wear on sale. On top of it, online shopping portals made shopping (both window shopping and the real ones) and getting deals, a cake walk. That’s when I thought, that my basic phone was not enough. It was not gelling with the changing times and it was time for an upgrade.

Before I zeroed down on Samsung Galaxy Grand, I had a few things in my mind. I wanted to ascertain if the new phone will be enough for my requirements, will it be value for money, will it be easy to use, etc.; and of course, how much should I spend to get a new phone.

My personal belief about investing in gadgets:

Every electronic gadget gets an upgrade within 6 months approximately from its own manufacturer and from the competitors, within a few months.

Technology is changing with a lightning speed. Whatever is new today, will be old tomorrow. Whatever you consider cool today, may seem outdated tomorrow. Whatever you find advanced today will be superseded by a much advanced successor.

Life of every electronic gadget is approximately 2 years. Beyond that is bonus. You should be really lucky to not encounter any glitches and repairs after that period.

So, invest wisely.

More so, when I am not a gadget freak, investing a freaky amount of 35k-50k on a phone felt foolish to me. So, I started scouting for mid-range phones which would solve my purpose. Quite a few suggested Micromax Canvas HD A116, some UMI X2, other HTC Desire X or SV with decently large screens. All this sounded Greek to me.

So, I started jotting down my requirements?

I required a phone, which would help me to make voice and video calls, message, browse internet, listen to some music, watch videos, etc. I wanted a decent camera to click pictures which could be posted in my blogs, would help me record videos to capture my daughter’s regular antics.

Gaming? Well sometimes, may be! Like Jewel Quest! Or Treasure Island! Ha!

And on top of it, read books, magazines, blogs, news, articles, etc. Fashion and makeup blogs are full of illustrations and images and without a decently large screen, the experience is not noteworthy. Therefore, I started looking for 5 inch screen size in smart phones. I didn’t want a very large screen like 7 inch or 10 inch screens of tablets because while making calls, those look like bricks next to a person’s ears. So, uncool for a fashionista!

After some research, I realized, I needed a PHABLET (Pronounced with an F, a hybrid between phone and a tablet). Sounds fabulous, isn’t it? Fabulous Phablet!

I have always been fond of things which can multi-task (like me), are multi-faceted (like me) and are packed with qualities in a reasonable price range. Please excuse my self-bragging. That is when I started evaluating phablets in the range of Rs 15 – 20K.

Options were:

UMI-X2 – A very popular brand abroad; this phablet is from a Chinese company who are yet to foray into Indian market. But these days all the spare parts of most of the companies are china made. Isn’t it? So, it was not the reason to turn down a product. It was costing Rs 14000 with 13mp camera and better specs than Micromax Canvas HD. But, I thought, better MP doesn’t translate into good camera. Micromax A116 camera is 8mp with flash, same as Samsung Galaxy Grand but lags way behind in colour reproduction, sharpness and image quality. HD screen colours look washed out with too much whiteness. So, not necessary UMI will get me a better product with better specs than Micromax. Moreover, after sales of a new company in India would be a problem. So, I dropped the idea of buying X2.

Micromax Canvas HD A116 – No doubt a drool worthy product in a price range of Rs 15000. But is it for me? May be not! I am not much into gaming so a faster processor may not be of much value over others for net browsing, reading books, etc. Bright screens feel harsh to my eyes so HD is not much of value to me either. Look and feel doesn’t compare to Samsung Galaxy Grand. And, a good looking product is a must for a fashionista. I did mention about the perfectly manicured hands before. And on top of it, Micromax has a history of bad customer service. So, I wasn’t convinced to buy it. There was no consistency in the prices quoted. At few places it was available for Rs 13999 and in other places as high as Rs 16500. It was not available in the shops, and online stores were quoting a delivery time of more than 15-20 days; again, a deterrent in the purchase decision. A fashionista will never wait for so long, either you meet her demands immediately or she moves on to the next best thing available. So, I realized that I would not like to invest in Micromax either.

HTC Desire SV – It doesn’t have a front camera at a price range of approximately Rs. 19000. Damn! What about my Skype sessions with my fashion sisters abroad? Huh! Video conferencing and calling is the present requirement and will be deemed as a compulsory feature in the future. HTC should have included a front camera.

Finally, Samsung Galaxy Grand – It has 5 inch screen to read large fonts, view images better and browse internet seamlessly. It comes with good music earphones which help you to change tracks, accept or reject calls and speak into the microphone while taking calls hands-free. Screen is not HD but is decent enough; camera is good which produces near to life colours and sharp images. Even after zooming in, images do not lose their sharpness. The interface is user friendly. It is perfect for my blogging and listening to TED talk videos. The sound quality of calls is fine. Other than this, there is a lineup of Samsung apps such as Smart Stay (the display won't go to sleep if it knows that you are reading), All Share, S Voice (give voice command) etc. Fashionistas love people and things who take there command seriously. Google Now is also exciting.

People are complaining that only 4 GB is available to customers for usage against 8 GB as mentioned for this model. Samsung has loaded its own features and apps in rest of the 4 GB. First of all, for me 4 GB is a good enough space. If I need more, then I can put an SD card for up to 64 GB. Again few are unhappy that this phone doesn’t allow them to save apps on the SD card. For few, yes it is a problem. But it can be sorted by the company by giving a software upgrade in future. For me, it doesn’t matter as long as I can save music, songs, videos, drafts, etc. on the SD card.

Moreover, it comes with freebies. I received an original Samsung flipcover which costs around Rs 1800, got a corporate discount of Rs 2100, Vodafone 3G connection with 2GB usage for 2 months free worth Rs 900 and music downloads worth Rs 8000. Apart from this 50GB Dropbox storage free for 2 years. Even if I let go off the Dropbox and music download giveaway, the cost discount equals to Rs 21500 – 2100 -1800 -900 = 16700, which is near about Micromax HD price. Samsung is an established brand with decent after sales service, so it made more sense to invest in the tried and tested company. I would love to support Indian brands like Micromax but they have to buck up their supply chain management and quality as per the standards established by International brands like Samsung, Apple, etc.

Verdict: Buy a phone, as per your requirements. Samsung Galaxy Grand fits my bill.

(This is not a paid review, I think Samsung should pay me for this…)

Parimita Chakravorty

15 January, 2013

Romantic hangouts in Mumbai

Apart from Mumbai’s hustle-bustle, the city promises a heartwarming experience with its innumerable vintage cafes, monuments, bazaars and landmark places. Many tourists come here to make it their permanent destination. The city thrives on the pulse of its inhabitants and the warmth of many cultures cohabitating in harmony for centuries. Mumbai is also the most romantic of the destinations in the country. It is a land of dreams. Bollywood weaves the magical dreams in cinema but Mumbai gives it shape in real-life. Mumbai, as you know it today, was not a single stretch of land . It was made by joining 7 islands and reclaiming the rest of the land to give it a peninsula shape. The city boasts of a rich legacy from the British era. Monuments, buildings, old bungalows and other architecture reflect the glory it experienced in the past.


Let us start with Colaba. It has an old world charm. Colaba was known as Candil during 16th century under Portuguese rule and Colio under British rule. Colaba has a list of places which scream history, beauty and elegance. Be it the Gateway of India or the lavish Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. You will find a trace back in the history. Taj Mahal Palace has marvelous architecture and houses restaurants catering to world palate. It is near to the harbor line where Gateway of India stands firm since ages. You can see yachts, boats and jetties speeding through the rough waters or tied at the shoreline. Around Taj Mahal Palace, you will also find deco style Regal Theatre and old cafes (Mondegar, Royal and Leopold). You can order sumptuous English breakfast at Café Mondegar and spend hours discussing the city and its beauty. Or you can go to nearby Ballard Estate and order for mouth-watering authentic Parsi (Persian) food at Café Brittania. Their Sali Boti and Berry Pulao are to die for. You can also visit the Causeway market for a good bargain in artificial jewelry, perfumes and cotton garments. Need I mention any more gifting ideas other than diamonds? A walk through the streets near Asiatic Society of Mumbai will make you feel as if you are in Europe. Antiquated roofs, old-style huge bungalows, are all strewn across this area. Hold her hand and walk around, or take a bicycle trip around the place. You can also take a ride on a horse-driven carriage and enjoy togetherness in a vintage style.

Marine Drive:

Marine Drive is also known as Queen’s necklace because of the lights which appear like string of beads from an elevated position at night. (You can gift her diamond necklace and make her feel like a queen). You will find romance in every step of this place. The entire stretch of marine drive has art deco style buildings similar to Miami Beach. Sunset looks stunning from this end of the city. Couples and other people throng the place during weekends and late evenings. Even at 12 am, the place is as lively as it can be. You can feel the ocean water break against the boulders kept alongside the wall. Listen to the sound of waves and sit by the promenade. Take a stroll along the promenade which hosts posh 5 star hotels at one end and Girgaun chowpatty on the other. Chowpatty, might be a bit crowded but here you can try the authentic Pav Bhaji (bread and savoury minced vegetable), chaats, and other local delicacies. The National School of Performing Arts also hosts plays and cultural programs by eminent artists. You can invest your time in the cultural bonanza as well. For quick bites and drinks you can try Pizza By the Bay a restro-bar which is right on the promenade and if you want to enjoy a quiet romantic candle light dinner then go to Dome Intercontinental, an open air restro-bar where you can feel complete bliss with fresh sea-side air, sound of splashing waves and delicious food. You can also visit ‘Pearl of the Orient – Hotel Ambassador’, a revolving restaurant, which is located in the vicinity and feel your love glow with excitement.


Bandra houses whos who like movie stars Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan. Not only that, it has several places to explore by both young and old. While going to Bandra from Western Express highway, you will find a stretch towards Bandra-Worli sealink. It is a beautiful spot as you can witness the Mumbai skyline seamlessly with little boats speckled across the water body. The sealink itself looks very beautiful especially during the sunset and the area is a popular stop-by for people who want to spend some quiet time with their loved ones. Bandra also has the Taj-Lands End, another location where you can get a beautiful view of the seaside. It is located at Band-stand. Band-stand has several coffee shops and fast-food joints and the promenade is always brimming with young lovers and couples. Bandra is the heart of the city. It is full of coffee shops, restaurants and hangout joints. You will find restaurants which cater to different tastes and pockets. It also houses, clubs, hookah-bars and discotheques and is popular among the young. Not only that, Bandra has several vintage properties, churches, schools, colleges and monuments which tell a tale about its forgotten splendor. You can find a bargain for shoes, purse, bags, artificial jewelry, etc. on Linking road and Hill road. Again, a great place to impress the love of your life.


Juhu chowpatty has much more vigor than Girgaun chowpatty. It is bustling with crowd even on weekdays. You may not find a quiet place to relax with your love interest but you can indulge in a lot of activities together. You can take part in some horse riding, para-sailing, water-scooter riding or simply sit by the side of the Arabian Sea and savor street food like Pani Puri, Vada Pav, Gola, etc. It also has many 5 star hotels and excellent restaurants. Bollywood celebrities and many famous people call Juhu, their home as its busy-yet-peaceful surroundings make it a great place to live. Amitabh Bachchan, Hritik Roshan, Vidya Balan, Aishwarya Rai, Rani Mukherjee among many others, reside in this part of the city. It is also home to a significant portion of Mumbai's business elite. Hence, Juhu is referred to as 'The Beverly Hills of Bollywood'. You can also go around the East Indian colonies or villages within this area to experience a mini Goa. Old style Portuguese construction, palm trees, Mother Mary and Christ podiums in the porch, and other hints to their ancestral connection with Portuguese and British era, is very evident.

Mumbai has an endless list of romantic and interesting places to explore. Go and visit these places with your sweetheart and we can assure you that you will fall in love all over again.

Parimita Chakravorty