Vayu

 

 

A few days back, an over-estimation of my driving time for a meeting and the resultant spare time at hand, bestowed upon me a princely 30 minutes of bliss amidst a beautiful space called VAYU, albeit, housed within another exalted one: Bikaner House.

Post India’s independence and the subsequent disposal of the Indian royal era, Bikaner House lost its noble residents and instead was bequeathed with government offices and alas, even a bus depot. It suffered its unfortunate fate until Vasundhara Raje, the artistically inclined first woman chief minister of Rajasthan petitioned the courts to move such agencies elsewhere. Furthermore, my dear friend, Malvika ‘Mala’ Singh (publisher of the legendary Seminar magazine), decided to get involved in putting together the ‘ new’ Bikaner House, now considered Delhi’s ‘it’ place for interesting experiences… be it Art, Fashion, Cuisine or just about any discipline which exudes a degree of pedigree. Priya Pall, who is the curatorial Director there ensures that quality is maintained over quantity and I am confident that this incredible bunch of women will continue to positively redefine Delhi’s style quotient to its maximum.

Coming back to VAYU… there’s a fair amount of reading that you can do on it because its had its paeans sung quite impressively across print and pixels…. the coveted New York Times & edgy blogs such as the Brown paper Bag will tell you all and more, so what can I add to a space which has already been accepted and appreciated?

To me, what matters most is the energy of a space… and the love and detail that has been put in to ensure that the energy never stagnates. Between owners Vivek Sahni and Dave Chang, an inherent sense of style and evolved aesthetics is almost a given, yet what this quaint shop has working in its favour (besides the environs) is the fact that its not quite a shop at all. Instead, its a leisurely set of rooms, with a warm and chic ‘air’ about it (wish they’d popped in a cafe though; what I’d give for that perfect cup of latte!) where one can amble, relax, take in a beautifully curated India and never want to leave. You’ll rarely be jostling for space, or feeling cramped (the high ceilings…sigh…) because VAYU simply seems to understand the joy of experiential shopping. The attention to detail is admirable as is the team; the manager Jimmy Golmei is a sartorial delight and VAYU amicably, and sophisticatedly, drives home the point that for any space to be special, all things (animate and inanimate) need to come together holistically to define its ethos.

But then again, don’t take my word for it… As always, I’ll let the images speak and as always, I’ll insist that you visit it yourself for self interpretation and perhaps, for that overwhelming sense of gratitude that one often feels when surrounded by good taste.

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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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 Royal Nomad.1.

I consider myself so incredibly privileged to be able to create the kind of grandeur that I can… and India is the sole reason for it. For this beautiful country of mine provides me both, the craftspersons to create and the connoisseur to consume these elaborate and elegant interpretations of my sense of timeless style!

I’ve always believed in opposites when it comes to inspirations year after year… imbibing the crafts and culture from one exotic part of the world and then infusing it with the unrelenting mystique of my own country eventually gives birth to what i call the look of Valaya for that season and to my constant, The Royal Nomad. There is great magic in both, the Royal and the Nomad, and yet, no greater contradiction exists…and it is this difference that i revel and give shape to my dreams in real time.

At present, I am working on my couture collection for the 25th year of JJ VALAYA which happens to be this year; till the drama unfurls in a few months, I thought I’d share these images that I made very recently featuring two of my favourite creative expressions in a singular frame….. My Couture and my Home lines.

Oh Glorious India… I love you so….

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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Pa Pa Yah!

One of the perks of being “socially relevant” is that you end up knowing most of the other “socially relevant” in the city, country or planet, depending, but obviously, on the degree of  illustriousness that you have acquired. I am in no way blowing my own trumpet (though it sneakily may seem so), but am merely acknowledging my good fortune of having access to some the finest creators and their art in a slightly more direct way as opposed to, say, my access to them had I become an accountant (and a miserable one to top it all) if destiny had not played her hand in my life 30 years back.

Anyway, one such artist at work in India, and certainly one who’s painting a great montage on the culinary canvas of India is my friend, Zorawar Kalra. Now Zorawar is an interesting guy…I used to know his father, Jiggs Kalra, rather well years back, as we were the two turbaned guys who got featured in newspapers and television quite often; him, as the seasoned maestro of Indian cuisine and me, as the new kid of Indian fashion. I recall often seeing a young shy Zorawar in a ‘patka’ (an alternate headgear worn by members of the Sikh faith) with Jiggs then. Years later, with both of us having ditched our respective headgears, I bumped into him again recently as a strapping young man who had chosen to use his legacy and take it to a completely different level! His company today runs several restaurants, the best known amongst them being Farzi Cafe, Masala Library and Pa Pa Ya amongst others, and needless to say, they run them exceptionally well. (Trivia: incidentally, he could easily dub for Farhan Akhtar; its uncanny how similar they sound)

A few weeks back, my friends and I enjoyed an intimate evening of bonding and revelry in Pa Pa Ya in New Delhi; we were elated by the quality of the food (obviously the first pre-requisite for any good restaurant) as also by the energy abound in the space. A couple of days back, I visited Pa Pa Ya again, with family this time, and was delighted with the consistency that I experienced in both, the food and the service all over again (huge credit here also to Karanbir Singh Gulati, the GM)… the same flavours, the same warmth…to me, these two are the backbone of any good restaurant, and all those who’ve managed to maintain these well are bound only to succeed. The other thing that surprised me were the number of people in the restaurant (besides the ones waiting for a table); it is my belief that a fine dining restaurant that achieves this kind of patronage has a sure fire winner on its hands (though i wish they had some private dining areas for some of us who like a bit of privacy; the last time, we created one of our own in their sumptuous wine cellar). Pa Pa Ya also boasts of an architectural edge, one that only it enjoys, that of having the highest ceiling in India for a restaurant, and that sense of vertical scale indeed does add a unique dimension to the overall experience. Also, pay heed to the unique serving dishes and the presentation itself.

Finally, to me, what really matters most and in this case, certainly does manage to blow me away each time is the food! Its fresh, the flavours are exquisite and the fusion is unique without trying too hard.

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I would highly recommend a visit to all those who have already not sampled Pa Pa Ya, and since I’m not a ‘paid to sing paeans’ blog, I’m going to leave it to you to decide whether all that I’ve said holds true or not.

Zorawar, my dear friend, kudos to you for living the dream…both your father’s and your own… and do enjoy the ride, its only just started!

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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Leela Raas

If you happen to travel to Udaipur, chances are you’ll be staying in or around the Pichola Lake (which is really the key reason you’d be there in the first place). There are several hotels, ranging from authentic Royal fare to India Modern. And then there’s the Leela.

The Leela Group is India’s creator of modern royal experiences in hospitality, and though, this aspect of India is celebrated in different forms ranging from elegant to trying-too-hard by a few of the other leading hotel chains of India, none has managed to present the grandeur, detail and luxury levels that the Leela has achieved. Interestingly enough though, I’ve often heard two opinions about the Leela properties, some consider it a bit nouveau and loud…and others swear by its exquisite detailing and the luxurious  experiences. Personally, I believe that the Leela lays it out like none other… and my stay there was a joyous testimony to all that I’ve believed in about the ethos of the brand. Sure it can seem overwhelming to some, but were not our palaces the most intimidating of all? It may also seem busy to some, but we must not forget that India is intrinsically a land of maximalists: Look at everything around us…Our food; Complex flavours and a multitude of spices….Our temples: years spent in carving the toughest rocks into masterpieces… Our miniatures: Painstakingly worked on with even the finest detail not escaping the artist’s fine brush…. Our festivals: veering between loud and colourful and celebrated with a manic frenzy… Our clothes: exotic weaves, rich embroideries and lush silks!… I could go on and on… What part of India is minimalist? I feel that what the Leela essentially (and very generously) manages is do is celebrate the real India, albeit in a new, modern  and unapologetic way, whilst also respectfully honouring its craftspersons, its artists, its colours and its very spirit (you won’t find cheap knock-offs of any Indian craft here!).

A visit to all their properties is highly recomended, and the Leela Udaipur, whilst being another wonderful example of the levels of luxury one can dare to venture into amidst the minimalist (pun intended) laments of the modern times we live in, is also a veritable tribute to a great city and its mystical & rich past.

I do hope you enjoy the images that I have made and someday, the property itself.

Indulge!

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 Vilas on the Lake

Yes, it has been a hiatus of sorts… 2 weeks actually. And its not because i ceased to find beauty in the world or was not inspired enough by anything; it was simply because i was partially lazy and somewhat also busy in travel and other matters. Excuses aside, on a recent visit to magical Udaipur in Rajasthan, I happened to encounter two jewels… the first, The Leela Hotel where i stayed and the second, The Oberoi Udaivilas which I visited. Both are modern poetry in motion… both reflect a new Indian luxury… yet both are different. I’m going to start with sharing my visual journey of the latter, the beautiful Udaivilas and keep my next post reserved for the Leela.

Before I begin, I’d like to get something out of the way. All my travel photography is generally the end result of what i call ‘Phoneography’, broadly implying that the images were made on a smartphone. For my fine art Shows, I use a high end DSLR, so between the two mediums, I pretty much find my angst of creating images ably addressed. On seeing my smartphone imagery, I’ve almost always been asked by everyone about which ‘App’ i use. So time to set the record straight…’Apps’ don’t make images…. individuals do! If a large number of people were made to stand in a group and asked to look at something together from the same spot, they would all obviously see exactly the same view, and if they all then took a photo, they could all well be, not surprisingly and deceptively similar, with some exceptions. Therefore, creating images is not about what is seen at all, it’s about what is assimilated … it’s about what is absorbed…it’s about shunning the seen to be able to discover the unseen, its about having what is commonly known as ‘having an eye’, and herein lies the core difference. A good camera is a boon…A good App is a tool,  but both are not absolute essentials for great images. To create enduring images, we must learn to look beyond the obvious and allow the spirit, not the eyes, to sense the extraordinary. And then, eventually, it all comes down to composing that perfect frame. And yes, ‘Apps’ are modern photography aids that are meant to be used to make pictures come alive… they are the garnish that is often required to give that perfect recipe that one extra flourish… but always be aware that there is a thin line that divides effective imagery and gimmickry. Personally, for my smartphone photography (and as some of you know, I publish travel books based on such photography), I make and edit the images on the phone itself; they are then moved to a computer for layout and packed off straight to the printer for immortalisation in the guise of books.

Back to Udaipur and Udaivilas. I’m convinced that Udaipur, as a city, is Rajasthan’s finest destination. Pichola lake is the jewel in the crown and most of Udaipur’s luxuries are found either in this lake or around it. Add that to the basic topography of the city itself with its undulating hills and several ‘jheels’ and we have a sumptuous city retreat to scamper off to.

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Udaivilas, from what I could gather from my few hours there, is your typical Oberoi fare which essentially means that it is brilliant. The Oberoi chain has undoubtedly set several benchmarks of stylish perfection in the hospitality industry in India (and overseas) and this hotel seemed no different. I suppose, I’ll have more to write about this when and if i do stay there in the near future, but till then, i hope you get a sampler of that elegance from the images that I have posted above.

PS* If anyone from the Oberoi is reading this: Can anyone please explain the rationale behind the ‘NO PORCH’ approach being adopted across your hotels since the last few years? I somewhat understand the charm of a liveried gentleman escorting a guest to the lobby holding an umbrella over him/her, but i suspect that India’s climatic conditions (Heat, Dust, Rain) and your posh guest’s rather immodest expectations of a pampered reception may not essentially be in sync.

Just saying…

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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