Chapter Open.

I’ve never read a single book in my life (other than my school text books) and yet, I house a significant library, both at my home and in my office. I’ve also published 2 books of my own plus I write my own blog and sometimes, also for leading publications as a guest writer. Never ever have I felt the temptation to read (other than Rumi’s quotes) simply because my world in purely visual, the books in my library are coffee table books full of wonderful images and my own books are also based on photography. What this essentially implies is that I am more than content in my world of visual nirvana where words are merely used to express thoughts connected with strong imagery.  Yet, I have scores of friends who are avid book readers; some almost go weak in their knees when they get their hands on a paperback or hardback they’ve been (im)patiently waiting for; so whilst I’ve never understood the euphoric moments of such beings, I’ve always respected the literary types for their passion and knowledge. Recently however, I almost secretly wished, perhaps for the very first time, that I had the interest of reading in me and what triggered this rare desire was a simple book shop!

Chapter 101, a bookshop located in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon (now dismally renamed as Guru Gram) is pure romance! It is owned by my friend, Raju Singh (a fact that i was not aware of when someone suggested that i visit the store), a book-crazy banker and entrepreneur to fulfil his lifelong dream of owning such a bookstore. In their own words: “A den, a private retreat, the charms of a classic understated era… Chapter 101 is a bookstore intended to build a quiet literary atmosphere with carefully curated books beyond the bestsellers. It draws on the quiet to create a space where people are encouraged to spend time with the books and browse at leisure – a safe space for revisiting the time-cherished classics and also to find a new favourite among contemporary authors.” To drive home the point that there is pure passion behind the concept, the store is also managed by Rohan Dahiya, a young author, blogger and visual artist whose love for books drew him to the store.

As always, I find it unfair to give away too much in a blog (the images will speak as much as they can) as it is my belief that spaces created with such love are meant to be experienced to be able to assimilate the romance that they permeate.

Whilst i may still never get down to reading a book, I do see myself visiting C101 several times… to listen to the great background music, to enjoy the (free) coffee (and hopefully some interesting company), and to witness several enlightened individuals select, from the multitude of options available, a place to rest their derrière on, to browse through an inspiring and rare collection of published treasures whilst simultaneously experiencing what i am sure would only qualify as induced literary orgasms.

PS* Raju Singh, whose baby this wonderful store is can be spotted in shorts matching his hair in one of the images.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

 

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The Sky below us…

 

Whenever I fly (not metaphorically), one of the most difficult choices I’m faced with each and every time is deciding between the window seat or the aisle seat. The aisle seat enjoys the advantage of easier (and quicker) access to the loo and to frequent walks on long hauls (hate jumping over someone napping in the adjoining flatbed!)…the window seat on the other hand offers an uninterrupted view of a forever evolving canvas through the small rectangular transparent gap right beside it. I eventually take the decision based on how full the flight is, praying silently that its not, so that I can enjoy what I call “Glimpses of God” for at least the duration of the flight.

The sky above, as we see it every single day, is a fairly mundane experience when compared to the dramatic vistas one is treated to if one were to peek into the sky from above. That, my friends, is sheer poetry in motion… it is God’s domain, and man’s opportunity to actually experience what it must feel like if the “Gods were actually looking down upon us”. The sheer volume of it, the colours, the textures, the rays of the sun and several other elements come together to create the perfect awe-inspiring visual; one only needs to look, and take in the wonders that lie before us, to imbibe the magic of nature and feel deep gratitude to be able to behold an intense canvas that no artist in the world can ever create!

I thought I’d share some of the images that I have made from this vantage point; though spread across a few flights, do remember that these images are a mere mortal’s attempt to capture momentary, yet privileged flashes of God’s magic. For when has it ever been possible to cage a spirit?… and specially one that incubates life itself.

PS* Please excuse any marks/scratches on the images as the images are made through the double glass of the aircraft using a smartphone. I have also added a grain to the images to bind them into a cohesive story.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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Factory Findings.

Moving to a new factory and all the shifting can throw up some interesting montages. An isolated staircase, rolls of butter paper of hand traces for embroidery, an army of mannequins (some rather well endowed) and a lonesome one on her own.

Art exists everywhere 🙂

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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Macchiato.

We Indians are indeed a strange bunch. We look down upon our own if they cannot converse in English OR even if they speak Hindi fluently. We look people up and down in disdain if we see them wearing a kurta-pyjama or dhoti in public (signature Indian garments). I don’t really know what it is… Is it a British hangover that we’ve still not been able to get rid of entirely?… or is it that we choose to interpret the lack of one’s fluency in the English language as being uneducated… or whether we consider wearing clothes native to one’s own land as backward! I don’t see this happening anywhere else …Go to China and you’ll tear your hair out trying to communicate with the locals… The Japanese flaunt their beautiful Kimonos with pride and are thus revered by all and sundry.

Yet, perhaps what surprises me the most is the fact that we propagate (quite unabashedly) a heady dose of fairness creams in a country which is largely, well, brown skinned. I find it utterly disturbing that girls who are dusky or dark have to struggle their entire life fending off a social stigma, which makes no sense in the first place!

We’re children of Nature…of God… and how we look is exactly how we’re meant to be accepted. I’ve never quite understood why the colour of one’s skin is such a big issue anyways…Black, Brown, White, Yellow (!!??), what difference does it make? If at all, it makes us all unique…beautiful in our own signature way… comfortable in our own skin. As a matter of fact, I find dusky and dark incredibly sexy (stated purely because the visual seems to affect so many) and is in no way, a handicap. It might be wise for many to remember that eventually what matters is the inside of a person… the heart…the intellect…the spirit.

The last I heard, no colour (except maybe orange?) was ever the reason for any individual to be singularly causing any form of catastrophic distress in any form whatsoever.

But I guess I should speak for myself and for me, Dusky is incredibly exotic! From Maidens (unfair) to Macchiatos, Brown most certainly gets the Crown!

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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Transported!

It happens often… that one keeps seeking treasures elsewhere even whilst they exist right under our noses OR more commonly, the ironical belief that if something is in the vicinity of your home, city or even in your country, it’s simply not as special as something which is hard to reach, often even impossible. Its human psychology; we covet what is distant and seemingly hard to get and in turn don’t even realise what we’re missing in the easily accessible.

Last weekend was a testimony to this reality for me.

For some years, my dear friend, Hotelier Tarun Thakral, had been insisting that i come by and see what he’s done with his collection of vintage cars. Partially due my schedule but mostly out of sheer laziness, I kept my visit pending but finally succumbed to the guilt of not supporting a friend’s initiative and more importantly, not celebrating his dream with him. It just had to be done! After a short drive with my family (40 minutes out of Delhi on the road to Jaipur), I finally arrive at a large modern building, but nothing quite prepared me for what lay inside. Never had I seen such an amazing private effort made for the good of many….. never had i imagined that one individual could create such a beautiful space for his passion and then throw it open for others to savour. Curiosity and the passion to collect homogenous objects, the search for the rare, unique and often elusive is what impassions all collectors. Over two decades of research about the evolution of the modes of transportation forms the plinth of the collection in possession of the Trust run by Tarun, making the Heritage Transport Museum India’s first comprehensive transport museum.

The museum showcases the evolution of transportation in India and sets a benchmark in interpretation, exhibition and in communication and also houses Art and Art Objects inspired by Automobiles. As the first private museum of its scale in India, it is conceived as a didactive space that engages visitor participation in learning while remaining a family experience. A built up area of over 90,000 square feet of air conditioned space spread over four floors houses the exhibition galleries, library and reference centre, conference rooms, mini auditorium, the museum shop, and a restaurant facility.

Facts aside, whilst the museum enjoys a significant patronage of many, I can assure you that most in Delhi and India would still not be aware of this incredible space and the passionate spirit that resonates in its every square foot. My photographs could express my sentiments more accurately, but a strong word of advise, don’t lose any more time to transport yourself to this beautiful labour of love. And if you plan weekends, you’ll meet the man himself there and his lovely wife Mandeep, who will (literally) have you eating out of her hands!

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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The Sixth Sense

Let’s talk about food.

Traditionally Taste is classified as one of the 5 senses, but for me personally, it takes on the mantle of the Sixth sense…The sixth sense is essentially another term for extra-sensory perception; and food for me is one of the best barometers of what to expect from the rest of the experience, be it in a restaurant, a cafe, an airline….you get the drift?

I have 3 wonderful stories to share, which perhaps will ably also elaborate my point…

Story 1: If one is to fly Business Class within India, you have 3 choices: Jet airways, Air India and Vistara. The first has been around for a while, has good connectivity but sad planes, the second is the oldest (besides being the national carrier), but unfortunately is not too good with punctuality and the third, the newest, has limited connectivity as of now (plus the uniforms suck!)… I personally refuse to fly Air India (too many comedies of error), I was a regular with Jet (still a platinum card member, I think) but have now gravitated towards Vistara. What made me switch? Proximity of the boarding gates to the baggage belts at Mumbai airport was one reason, but more importantly, and you may not believe it, the reason was…A Kulfi (an Indian ice cream) that they serve in flight! Surprisingly, on subsequent social evenings, I discovered that I was not the only one who fancied their delicacy and that indeed, this was one of the factors that many had connected with when it came to Vistara. Sometimes, no highly paid consultant will tell you about the little things that make a difference and listening to the customer can be a great alternative. Net result: I now fly only Vistara in India.

Story 2: This one was a journey of self discovery! I love good coffee, and though I’ve had several moments of coffee coups in my life, I ended up discovering the best coffee ever, existing right in my own backyard..literally! A butler at my flagship store in Delhi somehow figured out the perfect recipe for the perfect coffee! Don’t take my word for it… just visit our space in Delhi.. don’t buy anything if you don’t want to but try the coffee! Net result: I’m visiting my own store more often now.

Story 3: The Oberoi Gurgaon is a lovely hotel and one of my favourite haunts when I need to chill a bit in ‘Gurugram’. At 361, their coffee shop, they serve a particular kind of bread called the Flaky bread which is an absolute treat. I can assure you it’s a definite contributor to the girth but its worth every millimeter that you add on! Net result: The ambience and superb service aside, this lone bread has become one of my core reasons to make the hotel one of my favourite meeting spots.

Finally, while still on the Oberoi, I must make a personal recommendation. A few nights back, I had a chance to sample visiting Michelin star Chef Mario Paecke’s seven course tasting menu and what a treat it was! I’ve always been a bit of both, a hearty Punjabi (a posh one?) and a connoisseur of fine gourmet experiences (though slightly conservative in my approach to what goes into my mouth)… I’ve oscillated between the draw of the generous calorie-laden portions of desi food and the art of the elegant droppings of fine cuisine… I’ve debated constantly within myself about the simplicity of the classic Dal-Roti vs. the complexity of mysterious sauces and garnishes. Frankly, there’s magic in both, but on this particular night, the Oberoi with its ambience, its wines and Chef Mario’s talent and his artistic presentation had a fan in me. Many thanks Amitabh Rai for the experience.

If in Delhi, do visit and give yourself a treat!

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Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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The Zen Monk

 

Spending time with artist Satish Gupta in his beautiful zen like studio is in itself a gratifying experience… to indulge oneself in such intense levels of character, culture, creativity and conversation justifies every single moment dedicated to the company of this modern day monk. Satish has always been special…he started dabbling in art at age 4, trained himself to excel in his chosen skills, has since created a large number of works spread across Canvas, Sculpture and Poetry with myriad inspirations involving portraiture, seascapes, Gods and his current passion, Buddha. Years back, his kindness and generosity gave me my very own Satish Gupta portrait, unarguably one of my favourite possessions till date…Years later, I had the chance of photographing him and presenting him with his portrait, unarguably one of the favourite portraits done by me!

Such is the magic of energies, specifically, positive energies and Satish’s work studio, ZAZEN is where his energy finds its peace (the images should support my belief). I spent a day with him yesterday, photographing my Spring-Summer fashion collection (another post coming your way soon) in this very beautiful environment and I realised that each and every time I visit him, I come back with a beautiful sense of calm and awe, emanating not respectively but together, both from the space and the man.

I deeply cherish my friendship with Satish and his wife Amita. Our many associations have only made our relationship deeper… from dressing him up for his wedding with Amita, to putting their son Ananda on the cover of my first ever book on fine art photography. Today, as he heads out to Venice to feature his work, MANDALA at the Arsenal of Venice amongst some of the best artists from across the planet, I’d like to thank him… for all the creativity that he’s brought into the world and specially, for bestowing upon me such a valuable friendship.

Create…my monk…Create! The world celebrates your gift!

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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