Lalala…

Yes, I’m a late bloomer but so what… and whilst I have no desire to ‘moonlight’ as a film critic, this just had to be shared…

Lalaland is an intriguingly sensitive story about dreams, passion, love, defeat, heartbreak, fate and so many other yarns beautifully and indeed, masterfully woven together using the thread of music and more specifically, jazz. I’ve always believed that brilliant cinema, like Art, should never be actually be reviewed … because that would mean the passing (and also possible mass acceptance) of a judgement based on the opinion of a solitary individual, one that may or may not reflect the soul of the masterpiece as understood and embraced by another. Art demands individual interpretation by all, each taking away something special from it… each understanding its fabric through their own will… each reminiscing about its mysterious impact on their very spirit.

Damien Chazelle, the 32 year old genius director first gave us ‘Whiplash’ and now this! No prizes for guessing who’s going back in time to discover more of his work…

Emma Stone… her performance almost warrants the creation of a new word in the dictionary as a new descriptive … an ubiquitous ‘outstanding’ and other such obvious parlance would perhaps be grossly inadequate to describe her brilliance.

Lalaland is a modern day classic … I’m sure many would have watched it by now, but for those who still haven’t, do so now… The film (and specially these words from an audition scene) will make you rethink about your own life, and, if indeed, the morning after has not obstinately pushed you back into the rigorous imprisonment of your routine existence, you may just have found yourself (and your purpose of existence) all over again… Enjoy!

Here’s to the ones who dream

Foolish as they may seem

Here’s to the hearts that ache

Here’s to the mess we make…
She captured a feeling

Sky with no ceiling
The sunset inside a frame
She lived in her liquor

And died with a flicker

I’ll always remember the flame
Here’s to the ones who dream

Foolish as they may seem

Here’s to the hearts that ache

Here’s to the mess we make…
She told me:

“A bit of madness is key

To give us new colors to see

Who knows where it will lead us?

And that’s why they need us”
So bring on the rebels

The ripples from pebbles

The painters, and poets, and plays
And here’s to the fools who dream

Crazy as they may seem

Here’s to the hearts that break

Here’s to the mess we make…

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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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Italy

 

I’ve always been biased towards Europe…. the fact that this delicious pie is made up of so many parts, each slice with its own delightful and distinct spirit…the fact that the old and the new coexist within the same geographical boundaries with such ease … the fact that history romances modernity is near perfect proportions… and the reality that one can literally hire a car and drive from one experience to another on the most scenic routes known to man are perhaps amongst the few ingredients that enrich my penchant for Europe. And yet, there is much I have to see there… there is much to be absorbed…much to be shared… and these are the journeys I much look forward to.

Italy! A country I have visited several times and yet, it fascinates me more each and every time. I do however believe, that I still have to take in the true soul of this country… yet, i must admit that it remains one of my most favourite destinations in the world… for within (and besides) the usual suspects i.e. its Architecture, Art, Style and History lie several of its hidden secrets. You need to simply walk in its cobblestoned alleys, manoeuvre its mysterious canals, drive through its usually gratifying countryside and feast on the multitude of all that satisfies one’s senses, (and never in the garb of a tourist.)

Much more to be said and shared when i actually visit Italy next and soak myself in its magic once again, but till then, thought of sharing a few images made in Florence (Firenze) and Milan (Milano).

Have a Pizza today ! Celebrare!!

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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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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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Sky ~ II

Take away the colours of the Sky (and its inhabitants) and the monochromes heave a collective and triumphant sigh before proceeding to create grayscale magic in Whites and Greys albeit with an occasional dalliance with Noir.

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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Weight or Watch. #WOW

WOW

Okay then…this is going to be a first, but I suppose it just needs to be done! Perhaps the most difficult obstacle that I’ve ever faced in my life has been my weight issue. All that excess has been a constant companion of mine since many decades, and though I’ve managed to get rid of some of it several times, the kilograms lost seemed to (like the proverbial bad pennies) possess a magical ability of coming right back! I think I’ve tried every possible diet in the world and can now write a thesis on how diets can never work unless there’s a radical shift in one’s own mindset for initiating and sustaining change. Not doing it for lack of motivation is an age old excuse… Worse, and God forbid, the onset of a medical condition where you just have to lose weight is avoidable… reaching out for seemingly easy and effective means such as Bariatric surgery are both un-natural and unsafe…so then where lies the answer?

As i said, it all begins with a shift in one’s mind-space first, and eventually, that positive shift needs to regulate what goes into one’s mouth…essentially, its all about the number of calories consumed. Typically, diets push fatties onto radical paths…. eat steamed vegetables, don’t eat ice-cream, eat an apple, don’t eat fries, eat wheat, don’t eat rice…i think you understand what i mean. But this is exactly what does not work for most people who’ve lived their life seemingly only to eat and have never really eaten to live. Deprive yourself the goodies and failure is imminent! A couple of years back, I think I cracked the formula wherein, you could eat whatever you wanted and whenever you wanted with just 2 caveats: (a) You halve the portions and (b) you enter everything you eat into the nifty little app called ‘My fitness pal’. What this app literally does is ask you some direct and basic questions and then works out the exact number of calories you should consume to reach your target. Thereafter, you simply have to record everything you eat or drink, and it keeps deducting the calories consumed and keeps showing you how many you have left to feast on. There are many other things it does but I’m going to let you discover those for yourself. Anyways, what you eventually end up with is a virtual dietician who lets you eat or drink anything under the planet without fear as along as you are honest about the quantities. I’ve tried this in the past and successfully managed to knock off 14 big ones (but gained back 10) so the art is in going on and on till you reach your goal…just don’t give up!

Every person with a weight issue has one favourite word: TOMORROW. This, in actuality is the tomorrow that never arrives. So I’ve decided that my word is going to be TODAY. Which also means that today is when it all begins for me and I decided that perhaps the best way for me to start this journey of honesty with myself is to put it out there in this public domain. Also, since putting their weight down can be downright embarrassing for most, I’m going to keep my tracker in percentages e.g. If today’s weight is a 100%, the posts that follow would be about how much % have I reduced it to, eventually reaching my target of weighing 70% of what I do today i.e. a drop of 30% of my body weight. Its not going to be easy, but if i’m disciplined enough and hang in there, i envisage between 14-16 months to achieve this healthily.

Lastly, you may be wondering as to why you should be subjected to this at all? Selfishly to be able to finally do something about my weight but also, this one is really for all those who have battled and lost to weight… I’m going to try and visually also show food art, which is delicious, healthy (not always) and looks pretty as well, and yet, helps you knock of the excess (a calorie count will be shared as well). I’ve always believed that Art exists everywhere, and this time around, I’m going to speak to you about my journey through visually appealing gourmet experiences (along with the % drop in my weight) which eventually and with time, i am hopeful may also inspire some others to join me in conquering their handicap and simply living a better and healthier life.

Wish me luck!

(BTW* Starting today also makes it really tough because I’ve just about sat down as the  host for an intimate dinner at this lovely new place in Delhi called PAPAYA and I’ve already consumed 50% of my calories allowed…Start tomorrow? Nah!)

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