When a Traveller Comes Home…

As travellers, we pack our bags and set out to explore places far and wide. But most of us come back to a place we call “home”… a place where we bring back our memories… recharge the batteries of our system… and plot our next quest! It is with the aim of reflecting on our own spaces, our homes, our green-rooms (that help us prepare for our performances in the world), that I write this post today.

Where do you dream?

Where do you dream?

A globe by my night table – to help me dream of unseen places

Pictures of my hosts strung on a wall – to remind me of their faces

Soft cushions to rest my tired limbs that’ll hike up a hundred hills

Fluffy blankets to dig my fingers into before they play again with quills

My bedroom is where I dream after I’m done with my dose of reality for the day. It is very important for a travel blogger to dream if she wants to bring her dreams to life the next morning. Last Saturday, I met one such dreamer who had succeeded in making his dreams come true. I was in the company of Sonu Sood, the Bollywood heartthrob, whose aspirations took him from Chandigarh to Mumbai.

Sonu has recently gotten his home in Punjab transformed by Godrej Interio. He was at the Interio showroom to share his experience with the world (before he agreed for some private time with your favourite travel blogger 🙂 ).

Sonu Sood talks about the transformation of his home

Sonu Sood talks about the transformation of his home

He took us through the video of the transformation process. He has a beautiful, spacious home in Chandigarh where his father lives. After Sonu lost his mother, he decided to give their home a makeover because his mum had always wanted one. The Godrej Interio team of interior decorators had several meetings with Sonu and his family to understand their personalities and choices before they worked on a plan to transform the house.

Sonu prefers simplicity. He likes minimalism, straight lines and light colours. The entire project took about 25 days when the Interio team redid every room, brought in new furniture (some shipped all the way from Mumbai) and painted the walls in soothing colours. Sonu’s room was given a tint of green to match his lively character. Their living room is where Sonu spends most of his time – relaxing and reading a book. The transformation gave this Bollywood star a much needed break and brought his family together – even his sister flew down from the States.

You too can be lucky and have your home transformed by interior decor specialists! All you have to do is enter Godrej Interio’s Upload & Transform Season 3 contest. Here’s what you could win:-

Living Room

Your drawing room is what your guests see first thing when they enter your abode. Is it not wise then to ensure this room reflects your personality accurately? Your taste in sofa, wall unit or even rug can reveal whether you prefer the good life or crave simplicity. The size and organization of your seating space can tell if you love company or like to be on your own.

Kitchen

If you have managed to “draw” people into your “drawing” room, you must share your dining and cooking space next. A modular kitchen tells visitors that you love fine dining and exquisite cuisines. If you have a small bar table in your living room with bar-stools to match, you project that you like to pour some drinks and have a good time every so often.

Bedroom

Bedrooms are not for everyone to see. Only a close friend or somebody who will stay over is privy to your most intimate living-space. And this is why your deepest thoughts should emanate from this room. A comfortable bed helps you sleep and dream better. That translates to better executed plans. Your bedroom is your private place where you let all our thoughts loose and think about deep questions (like the meaning of life, perhaps?). This is why the furniture should keep you in your element.

Does your room "sport" your character?

Does your room “sport” your character?

If you are an active person like I, your room will show that. Many have their gyms (or at least treadmills) built into their bedrooms. Does your room betray your loyalty to your favourite football club? Do you have bedsheets and pillowcases screaming who you support? Your space tells people if you wish to be a painter or a cricketer! Use your furniture with care – it reveals more about your soul than you’d imagine.

Kid’s Room

For those of us who have or live with little children, we must be considerate towards their tastes and preferences. Most kids love vibrant colours and elements that have a theme or tell a story. Make sure your kid’s furniture is safe and easy for her/him to use. Their rooms are where your kids will grow and spend their “me” time.

Safe to keep your stuff safe

Safe to keep your stuff safe

Safe

All the furniture ideas I presented here are thanks to the creativity of the Godrej Interio team. They design one other gadget that every home must install – a safe. Travellers like us are often away from home. Most of us don’t have an extra pair of eyes to watch over our precious things. This is where a safe comes in to put your minds to rest – so you can enjoy your vacation without having to think about thieves partying at your place. 😉

Goodies to mark this good day

Goodies to mark this good day

I’d like to thank the Godrej team for inviting me to cover their meet-and-greet event and gifting me this beautiful goodie-basket (full of my favourite things from Godrej Nature’s Basket 🙂 ).

This post is part of the Godrej Interio activity at Blogadda.com.

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Sonu Sood’s Travel Secrets

Dear readers, because you have been such wonderful followers of my travel blog, I have a surprise for you! After a bit of lobbying, I finally got hold of one of the hunkiest men in Bollywood – Sonu Sood!!! 🙂

Sonu Sood agrees to share his secrets with me

Sonu Sood agrees to share his secrets with me

Despite his fame and prosperity, Sonu has kept his feet firmly on the ground. His disarming, warm demeanor told me I was going to have a great afternoon with him. Before I give you details of our tete-a-tete, let me tell how far he has come from his peaceful existence in Chandigarh to the big city life of Mumbai.

Sonu had  a simple upbringing and was very close to his mother. He studied Engineering, but realized early on that his real passion lay in acting. He was a successful model for a few years before he turned into an actor. His journey was not easy. He did not have a godfather in the film industry. He made his way through the labyrinthine paths of Bollywood solely through his hard work and perseverance.

When he first told his mum that he wanted to leave his home city of Chandigarh to build his acting career in Mumbai, he was pleased to have her support. She told him to keep trying and have patience as he went along. For an entire year that he was in Mumbai, he got no work, and Bollywood seemed like a distant dream. But he did not lose his spirit. He went down South and acted in several Tamil and Telugu movies before breaking into Bollywood.

Sonu in Dabangg (Pic courtesy: movies.ndtv.com)

Sonu in Dabangg (Pic courtesy: movies.ndtv.com)

Fascinated by his journey, I asked Sonu if he likes to travel. And he does! Unfortunately, he does not get much time for sightseeing, but he thoroughly enjoys shooting for his movies in new locales. As he spoke, my eyes drifted to his impressive biceps. I couldn’t stop myself from asking how he keeps fit during his travels and with his busy schedules.

Sonu revealed his top fitness secret to me – he keeps aside 2 hours every day for workouts. His normal day consists of 22 hours. He does not let anything eat into those 2 precious fitness-hours. He keeps all excuses at bay and even after a hectic day, trains at 2:00 or 3:00 in the night! His trainer, who had accompanied him, nodded when I looked at his direction.

I was curious to know when Sonu started building his body. He told me that he was into six-packs right from his college days. He would exercise regularly while juggling with his strenuous Engineering curriculum. He also revealed that he does not make muscles only for special movie sequences. Fitness is part of his lifestyle. This means, you will never catch him in bad shape!

The Bollywood heartthrob opens up to me

The Bollywood heartthrob opens up to me

They say, the quickest way to judge a man is by his shoes. Sonu’s shoes speak volumes of his active way of living and love for travel. Only a man who loves the outdoors would wear tough shoes with good grip!

New places take you closer to new cuisines… We got talking about food. Sonu’s favourite dish is the Punjabi aloo-paratha. He was born in Ludhiana, brought up in Chandigarh, and has been living in Mumbai ever since. But the Punjabi taste has remained with him. He confided in me how in his younger days he would eat loaves of bread and a brick of butter! Nobody told him back then that fats and carbs cannot be eaten beyond a certain percentage if you wish to have washboard abs.

Interestingly, Sonu is vegetarian. And he gets brownie points from me for being one! 🙂 He has never tasted non-veg in his entire life. He is not against eating meat though. He agrees that non-veg is a great source of proteins. But veg food is no less of a protein-provider! Sonu Sood’s awe-inspiring body is enough to silence all naysayers.

Sonu in Happy New Year (Pic courtesy: bollywoodhaberleri.com)

Sonu in Happy New Year (Pic courtesy: bollywoodhaberleri.com)

Sonu plays another attractive character – Jag in Happy New Year. He did a lot of travelling across the world to shoot for this movie. He does his own packing for his trips and kind of hates it. But he loves the excitement of going to a new place. I asked him how he sticks to his diet when he’s up in the air. Because of his stature, he has access to food exclusively prepared for him. He always asks the airhostesses to get him salads. But there are times when he cannot be strict with his food-intake.

Especially when you have co-stars like Shah Rukh and Deepika egging you to eat more! Both Deepika and Shah Rukh love to eat, and when you’re travelling with them, you are bound to be mollycoddled into stuffing yourself! Sonu gives in to rich food once in a while, but he makes sure he never eats junk food.

‘Only dieting and working out can’t give you energy’, I wondered. I asked Sonu how he relaxed so he could give his best performance every day. He has to have some trick for resting if he gyms in the dead of the night! I was in for a surprise. This active actor gets barely 4 to 6 hours of sleep a day! He unwinds by taking some time off from work to talk to people like me. 🙂

The beautiful afternoon comes to an end

The beautiful afternoon comes to an end

I had the best afternoon all month yesterday. Sonu was very generous with his time and words, and even told me I have a beautiful smile. (I gripped my armrest to stop myself from fainting at the compliment.) I wish Sonu a lovely career and life ahead. May he visit newer shores and entertain more people!

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If you are a celebrity (or PR Manager for one) who likes to travel, get in touch with me for an exclusive interview and full-post feature on my blog.

The “India” Outside of India

When my teammate in London asked me, “Isn’t Diwali the festival in which you make those coloured patterns?” (she was referring to rangolis), she got me thinking how Indian culture and customs are generating a lot of curiosity the world over. It’s interesting to see how as we embrace foreign cultures, clothes and cuisines, the world is embracing the idea of “India”. Today, I present to you 10 Indian things that have taken the world by storm:-

10. Chicken Tikka Masala Biryani

Biryani

When in India (and abroad, apparently) eat biryani!

Chicken Tikka Masala (CTM) remained a synonym for Indian cuisine last decade, with Hollywood celebrities flying in personal chefs who specialized in (perhaps a less spicy?) CTM. But biryani seems to be the new favourite this time around. I know this for sure! The other day, I was on a video call with my manager from UK and we were making small talk on food and what we eat for lunch. And that’s when he told me how he just loves biryani! He proudly declared how they get many varieties of this Awadhi/Hyderabadi rice dish right outside their office, and how it’s loved by all.

9. Saree

I too am guilty of joining the sari-brigade ;-)

I too am guilty of joining the saree-brigade 😉

“The nine yards” have been making women appear slimmer and prettier since time immemorial! Saree is regarded as the national costume of India by most tourists. When my friend from Catalonia vacationed in Jodhpur a few years back, she too got herself draped in a traditional bandhani saree. I’m guessing, this sartorial wonder figures on every woman’s list of “top 10 things to do in India”.

8. “Namaste”

How to greet the Indian way

How to greet the Indian way

From greetings to small-talk to full-fledged conversations, citizens of the world want to say it all in Hindi which is fast becoming the second-language of choice! I remember from my days of interning in Lleida how my HR manager would use Google Translate to say “suprabhat” (good morning) and “dhanyavad” (thank you) to me. Even we Indians don’t speak 100% Hindi on a daily basis!

7. Hindu Gods

The controversial Saraswati-swimsuit (Photo Credit: here http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2011/05/10/hindu-goddess-swimsuit-sparks-outrage/)

The controversial Saraswati-swimsuit (Photo Credit:WSJ)

The ill-fated Australian fashion designer who showcased her latest line of swimwear with Hindu Gods painted on them faced flak for blasphemy. But that doesn’t mean every country is scared of the Indian deities! Ganesh is quite popular in the West, thanks to the Ganesh Chaturthi festivities. Last time I asked a Thai friend if he knew anything about Ganesh, he replied, “Oh, yeah! The elephant, right?”

6. The Big Fat Indian Wedding

All that glitters at Indian weddings is gold

All that glitters at Indian weddings is gold

Everyone from Liz Hurley to Katy Perry have had their dream wedding – Indian style! After all, no other culture celebrates the union of two humans with such pomp and gaiety. At the last Bengali-Punjabi wedding I attended, I noticed how elaborate the decoration was – every inch of the walls was adorned with flowers. The bride and the groom looked ravishing in their silk wedding trousseau and gold ornaments. I had never seen a Bengali topor alongside Punjabi choora before.

5. Bhangra

Bhangra

Bhangra (Photo Credit: indonri.com)

It’s what everyone’s dancing these days. This high energy Punjabi dance form burns calories along with the dance floor. If you’ve missed your morning circuit-training you can make up for it with a round of “balle balle“! 😉 You can do the bhangra even if you have two left feet! My Belgian friend will tell you I’m not lying.

4. Desi Music

Now that we are on the topic of dance, let’s not forget the music that accompanies it. Punjabi rap originated in America, thanks to the NRI population, and travelled all the way to India, influencing most countries en route! I remember hearing Hindi songs at a Spanish supermarket, where they never once played English!

3. Bollywood – Movies and the Stars

A still from "Devdas" (Photo Credit: chandrakantha.com)

A still from “Devdas” (Photo Credit: chandrakantha.com)

You must’ve guessed number 3 on the list! When song and dance are discussed, you can’t forget Bollywood. Most of my overseas friends wonder why all Indian movies are musicals. Nevertheless, they lap up the local translations of Hindi movies and recognize most actors I wouldn’t!

2. Yoga 

Dog trying a headstand? (Photo credit: wellandgood.com)

Dog trying a headstand? (Photo credit: wellandgood.com)

The age old practice of yoga is so popular abroad that they’ve created their own forms now. There are so many to choose from – “power yoga”, “hot yoga” (done in humid conditions) and even “doga” (yoga with dogs)! Every other celebrity and non-celebrity out there is going to some or the other yoga class to find inner peace and outer flexibility. I remember a Spanish friend telling me she did pranayam everyday!

1. Modi

Modi @ Madison

Modi @ Madison (Photo Credit: ndtv)

Finally, how can I discount the Indian that everyone is cheering for! The recently elected Prime Minister of India – Narendra Modi! His determination and strong leadership saw him transition from being a tea-seller to the most important person in the country. His magnetism attracted  hundreds of listeners at Madison Square Garden and he charmed them all just the way he won over most Indians.

All of my examples show that as India gets increasingly globalized, the world is getting increasingly Indianized! Here’s another proof – from the sky:-

Perhaps the world is going more Indian than I think?