Where the Night Owls Hang Out in Mumbai

Mumbai is known as the “Maximum City”, and rightly so! The financial capital of India is like no other Indian city for it stays awake until the wee hours of the morning. What does the average Mumbaikar do so late in the night? Well… when the college crowd is not studying and the working class is not doing overtime, they like to PARTY!!! And these youngsters party at various discotheques in Mumbai. The city’s party-goers throng the discs in Juhu, Bandra and South Bombay. There are plenty of great places in the suburbs too. Nightclubs in Mumbai are known not only for the glamour quotient, but also for the delectable spread they have on offer. The dance-floor is just one attraction. What gets most people to party is the avante garde music and the best DJs that perform in Mumbai!

The culture of clubbing

The culture of clubbing

You will perhaps find the country’s finest night club in Mumbai. There’s a place for every kind of reveller – from those who love to sit back with their friends or colleagues and spend the evening drinking and laughing… to those enthusiastic dancers who just can’t stop tapping their feet and grooving to the tunes of the DJ. There are nightclubs where you will be fortunate enough to rub shoulders with the who’s who of Bollywood and Page 3 fashionistas. There are party-places for the rich where you cannot get in unless you have an invite or know the secret code. On the other side of the spectrum, there are affordable places for the perpetually broke college-goers. There are also clubs where the environment is so formal that you won’t notice any guest flouting the dress code!

Coming to the topic of dressing for a night out in Mumbai, the city is pretty liberal. The ladies can get away with just about anything! 😉 But a good practice is to style yourself according to the culture of the club. For an upscale discotheque in Mumbai, dress in your finest party-wear. Bring out the shimmer and body-glitter! Invest in some designer apparel. Feel free to show off your skimpy tunics and make your legs look longer in fishnet stockings. For the men, buy some satin-based dark shirts that look wonderful in the dim lights. Blazers, if worn to a nightclub, must be shiny and well-fitted. As for a tie, go for slim ties and do the pret-knot!

That said, don’t fret too much about your outfit, for Mumbai only cares about having a good time! Don’t be surprised when you find couples in their seventies dancing amorously in their stylish garments! 😉 The best nightclubs in Mumbai are the ideal dens for night owls!

This post has been written in association with askme.com.

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Must Go to Melbourne!

It is still 2014, and I’m already dreaming about the places I want to visit in 2015. I made dozens of wishlists of things I want to try and food I want to gorge on. But I threw those lists out of the window when somebody told me I could do it all in one place! Last month, my friend from Melbourne flew down to Mumbai and he couldn’t stop telling me about all the lovely things one can find in Victoria. He flew back to Australia but left me dreaming about that city down under…

Breathtaking Drive on the Great Ocean Road

That magnificent stretch of silver is surrounded by pure gold – the golden sun above, the golden reflection of the sunny skies on the Pacific Ocean, and the Twelve Apostles jutting out of the waters from a golden era! What wouldn’t I give to go on a long, long drive with my best buddies (a la ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’! 😉 )

Top Secret: The 12 Apostles change colours at sunrise and sunset! Those rock statues sure know how to rock! 😀

Squeal at the Seals or Point at the Penguins

Source: visitmelbourne.com/Regions/Phillip-Island

Source: visitmelbourne.com/Regions/Phillip-Island

Now, there are some birds and animals you don’t get to see everywhere. When in Victoria, make the best use of the opportunity and head to Phillip Island! If you go on a boat cruise, you’ll get to wave your hands at the slippery seals barking from the rocks. And once you’re on the Island, you’ll witness the wondrous sight of thousands of little penguins wading across the sand to head to their burrows on Summerland Beach! (Yes, you don’t always need snow to spot penguins! 😉 ) While we’re on the topic of wildlife, let’s not forget koalas! These cuddly furballs are only found on this continent. You can take a peek at their joeys in their pouches at koala conservation centres or treetop boardwalks that let you watch the playful marsupials scurry along trees and bushes.

Slurp some Chocolate or Swirl some Wine

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Phillip-Island/Things-to-do/Food-and-wine/Local-produce/Pannys-Phillip-Island-Chocolate-Factory.aspx

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Phillip-Island/Things-to-do/Food-and-wine/Local-produce/Pannys-Phillip-Island-Chocolate-Factory.aspx

If you are on Phillip Island, you might as well drop in at Panny’s Chocolate Factory and feel like Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If the brown elixir is not your cup of tea, head to The Coffee Collective for your shot of caffeine in this coffee capital of Australia! For wine lovers like me, Melbourne has acres and acres of lush vineyards and a whopping 850 wineries! The cool climate and fertile lands of Victoria make it one of the best places to produce fine quality wines. Take a tour of a winery and indulge in some wine tasting with a sommelier.

Fly Over the Yarra Valley

Source: visitmelbourne.com/Regions/Yarra-Valley-and-Dandenong-Ranges

Source: visitmelbourne.com/Regions/Yarra-Valley-and-Dandenong-Ranges

Touring this beautiful wine region shouldn’t all be about walking. One can zip through the estates on a Segway, or even better – float in the air on a hot air balloon! The best thing about the ballooning experience is that you get to test your own balloon and watch how the hydrogen-filled giant is propped up. Yarra Valley has an ideal terroir. The harvests produce the country’s best wines with fruity notes. And, there’s always grape-stomping for the teetotallers! 😉

Pick Your Own Strawberries and Relish them with Cheese

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Gippsland/Things-to-do/Food-and-wine/Local-produce/Prom-Country-Cheese.aspx

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Gippsland/Things-to-do/Food-and-wine/Local-produce/Prom-Country-Cheese.aspx

For the ultimate “farm-to-plate” experience, spend a day at the Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm which is open from November to April. They’ll let you pick strawberries straight off the ground! You can either eat them on their own or try some exotic strawberry liqueurs and jams. Melbourne also produces some interesting artisanal cheeses. You might want to try the deliciously creamy sheep-cheese varieties! However, if your are on a budget and wish to try everything under the Victorian sun, catch a tram to the Queen Victoria Market. It is the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere and sees footfalls of over 10 million a year!

Melbourne is not called cosmopolitan for nothing! You will find almost every cuisine you crave for. Cafes and restaurants dot this megacity where fresh organic produces are in demand. You cannot visit Australia and not try barbecued dishes or craft beers! Microbreweries and streetfood are insanely popular with the local crowd here. And the variety you can have is mindblowing! There’s Greek souvlaki and Indian samosas in the same block sometimes! 😀

Relax in a Thermal Pool

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Mornington-Peninsula/Things-to-do/Spa-and-wellbeing/Peninsula-Hot-Springs.aspx

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Mornington-Peninsula/Things-to-do/Spa-and-wellbeing/Peninsula-Hot-Springs.aspx

Too much travel can tire me out. This is why I shall pre-book a session at the Peninsula Hot Springs and let my body and soul unwind with a mud wrap and hot stone treatment. The natural spas in this region have therapeutic properties in their minerals. After I’m rejuvenated, I shall get back to more activities in Melbourne! 🙂

Gawk at Artsy Streets

Melbourne is very progressive when it comes to street art. This is so liberating for budding artists and expressionists! Hosier Lane and a few others are dedicated to creative and edgy street art. One can lose oneself in this maze-like place full of messages displayed through spray-paintings. Even the street-name is a work of graffiti!

And Do A Million Other Things…

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Melbourne/Things-to-do/Tours/Sports-tours/Melbourne-Cricket-Ground.aspx

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Melbourne/Things-to-do/Tours/Sports-tours/Melbourne-Cricket-Ground.aspx

Melbourne cannot be seen in a day. Not even in a week. And no, even a month won’t suffice! This multicultural city has SO MANY SURPRISES that you will want to move here permanently for a couple of years to truly enjoy the spirit of this place. There’s something for every kind of traveller. The budget tourist can take the hop-on-hop-off City Circle tram which is free! The well heeled can book a helicopter ride over the Southern Ocean to watch the 12 apostles from the sky. The sports enthusiast will find the Aussie Open, the ICC World Cup and many other matches to keep her busy. The History buff can take the Gold Mine Tour at Sovereign Hill, and the architecture-phile can awe in wonder at the sweeping arches and towering skyscrapers. Even little kids can let their feet hang out of a window on the Puffing Billy! 🙂 It’s hardly a surprise then that Melbourne has been titled the “most livable city in the world”! You wouldn’t just live here, you would THRIVE!!!

When I woke up from my daydream, I was so amazed with the variety of activities I could take part in that I decided to pull my friends into this dream too. Without re-creating any scenes from Inception (the movie), I simply asked them a few questions:-

I set the ball rolling on Twitter

I set the ball rolling on Twitter

My tweet got my followers dreaming on Twitterland! 😉 And I picked out some replies for you to see:-

Picture5 Picture3 Picture10

Surfing was something even I did not think of! And even though I’m not a big fan of cricket, I love stadium tours. This virtual interaction taught me I could dream better if I spread the dream to more spheres. So I threw the same questions to my fans on my Facebook page:-

The excitement spread to Facebook! :-)

The excitement spread to Facebook! 🙂

The number of replies I received did not even fit into a screenshot! 😀 See how community dreaming is better than fantasizing on your own? I don’t want to leave my WordPress followers out of the excitement, so I have a special New Year Contest for all of you!!! 🙂

All you have to do is answer the following question and send in your replies as comments to this post:-

Which of these places would you want to visit in Melbourne and why?

(Psst… You can reread this article to make a decision. 😉 ) The most creative reply will win a shopping voucher worth Rs.500! (Yay!! 😀 ) Send in your entries by 5th Jan, 2015.

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?

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: http://www.commoditytrademantra.com/india/russia-india-begin-negotiations-to-use-national-currencies-bypassing-dollar/

Photo Credit: commoditytrademantra.com

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: http://www.moscowtopnews.com/?area=postView&id=1469

Photo Credit: moscowtopnews.com

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: http://www.wanderinglizard.com/Alaska/sitka/russiandance.html

Photo Credit: wanderinglizard.com

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!”