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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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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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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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 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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