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:

Sonu in Dabangg (Pic courtesy:

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:

Sonu in Happy New Year (Pic courtesy:

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


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

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 (Photo Credit:

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:

A still from “Devdas” (Photo Credit:

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:

Dog trying a headstand? (Photo credit:

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?

Oindrila on the Road

9 Oct, 2:30 PM


I locked my office computer, grabbed my backpack and oversized handbag, and rushed out of office. The boring life of an IT professional in a posh Mumbai suburb was not for me. I undid my corporate bun and let my hair down at the Bandra Terminus railway station. Things would change now… at least for the extended weekend.


9 Oct, 8:30 PM


I enjoyed breathtaking panoramic views of the Western Ghats all evening while the coffee on my side table grew cold. The drab cream colored walls of my workplace had made me forget how green the meadows could be. The carpeted floors kept from me the wonders of the humongous mountains. The cityscape I stared at from the French windows was nothing like the vast fields of paddy that lay beyond the rail tracks. ‘Why have I been wasting my life in a 9-to-5’, I asked myself. The taste of the deep fried samosas were still fresh in my mouth when the train steward offered me dinner.


I couldn’t remember the last time I had relished wheat-puris (fluffy Indian bread) and aloo bhaji (spicy potato dish) with the sun setting at my window. While I was daydreaming of the new land I would reach next morning, sleep spread its arms wide open and engulfed me for the rest of the night.


10 Oct, 10 AM


I was wide awake at the cold Nizamuddin railway station in Delhi, planning my next stop. I was chilled to the bone and they told me winter had only just begun. Minutes later, I stopped by at a café and said hi to another backpacker like me. Delhi is friendly. Not the monster of a place the newspapers tell me it is. I washed down the waffles with a mug of mochaccino and set off for Lodhi Gardens.


I noticed as I walked along the way… Delhi is so different from Mumbai. Two cities, both cosmopolitan and capitals in their own rights, yet poles apart in their culture and organization. Delhi isn’t chaotic. Empty, wide roads replace the crowded by lanes of Tinseltown. I had many more places to see in the capital city of India, but my heart knew I enjoyed the roads more than the tourist spots.


The roads, for me, are the best place to be. They hold the promise of a destination, the suspense of a thriller. They give me a reason to wake up and go on… not in search of a new place, but on a quest to rediscover myself… every single day.

Reigniting Indo-Russo Friendship

Russia and India have shown cultural interest in each other since the time of Nicholas Roerich. If we look at our recent past, we will recall ‘Days of Russian/Indian Culture’, ‘Days of Delhi in Moscow’ and ‘Year of Russia/India in India/Russia’- some fine examples of bi-lateral exchange of thoughts and culture. The initiatives, albeit promising in their intent, struggle to increase penetration among the Russian and Indian people. Events like film-screening and lectures stay confined within the embassies/consulates, RCSC and language-schools. To truly reach out to the masses, we’ll need to improvise and adopt novel measures.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Russian, as a language, can be introduced in Indian middle schools as an elective subject. A similar approach can be taken for Hindi (and other Indian languages) in Russia. Exposing young students to the Cyrillic script will ensure better retention and acceptance of the many Slavic tongues.

The silver screen and the television can also play a major role in forging stronger cultural ties between the two countries. India and Russia need to put concerted efforts to make movies, short-films and documentaries from either country readily available in the other (preferably with subtitles and/or translations). New films are frequently sought by today’s multiplex-generation in India, and this initiative will reach a wider audience. Soaps, sitcoms and talk-shows featuring Russia and India can be aired on popular TV-channels and can be used effectively to dispel myths about each other’s culture. A dedicated channel for Russian-language-shows in India (and likewise for Hindi in Russia) is another option the two countries can look at.

With both Russia and India having multifarious cuisines to their credit, there’s plenty to be explored in the culinary sphere. Indo-Russian food festivals can be organized in collaboration with master-chefs (who specialize in the said cuisines) and star-hotels. India is yet to see any Russian restaurant of note, despite the abundance of well-heeled diners whose palates are opening up to (and wholeheartedly embracing) world cuisine. Foodies in India will only be delighted to sample the treasure-trove of foods and drinks that Russia has to offer – from teas, soups and mains to pirozhki, desserts and alcohol. Awareness of Russo beverages in India is mostly limited to vodka, with very few being informed of Medovukha, kvass and other delicious thirst-quenchers. Contrariwise, the plethora of India dishes, desserts and drinks could do with some popularizing amidst Russians.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Sports is another arena where India has much to learn from its counterpart. Collaboration, especially in the fields of tennis, ice-skating, hockey and track-sports, will benefit both the countries. This will also open up avenues for sportsmen and coaches to travel to each other’s cities and exchange knowledge and networks. Russia can also take advantage of the unique climatic conditions in India that allow us to play many sports which may not be possible in the Russian climes. Cricket – a favourite with Indians can gain traction in Russia and help erase the negative connotations that were associated with the game during the Communist Revolution. Similarly, Indian sports-enthusiasts can profit from the exposure to winter sports that Indian weather cannot afford.

India and Russia are both lands of many dances and genres of music. Dance and music conclaves will not only entertain public but also showcase the art forms that each country prides itself for. Circle-dances and partner dances also forge a sense of community and kinship among dancers. Both the countries have a rich heritage of folk and classical music, and have now welcomed and adapted to contemporary pop and rock styles. Dialogue and exchange in this space will prove rewarding for performers, instructors and students alike.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

One cannot ignore literature when one talks of cultural exchange between Russia and India. Pushkin and Tagore took their local writing styles to the world, and then followed a slew of writers and poets who satiated their countrymen’s hunger for literary works. Their legacy must continue with Indian and Russian books being translated and made available in both the countries. Yearly literature-festivals that bring together writers, poets, critics, media and readers from Russia and India, will establish strong cultural ties amongst bibliophiles.

Tourism is a magical platform that can unite all the aforementioned domains and foster goodwill and warmth between India and Russia. Experiential sight-seeing which encompasses volunteer-tourism, social-work, student-exchange programs and also medical tourism can enable tourists, patients, students and volunteers to learn, heal, help and contribute at the same time. Travel-blogger conclaves, trade and technology fairs, and the introduction of a special Indo-Russian-cultural train (on the lines of Science Express and Sanskriti Express) can function as effective catalysts in brokering cultural cooperation between Russia and India.

“Our long-standing friendship needs just a little bit of spice

(and maybe some vodka) to take it to newer heights!”