Articles

ISLAND OF CONTRASTS

The Telegraph

I explored Sardinia with a girl friend. We had to fall upon the services of a tour guide, Enza. Neither my girlfriend nor I drove. And Sardinia is remote. What happy coincidence then that Enza, who always arrived at our hotel door with her cousin Giampaola, turned out to be a vivacious, rather unique person. Sardinia stands out in all my travels as an unforgettable getaway in which I slipped into a different order of time.


IN BYRON’S FOOTSTEPS

The Telegraph

How dreamy Sintra is! An old Portuguese town chock full of romantic and eccentric architecture that straddles a hilly forested region. I was beguiled by Sintra, enough to see it twice over. On a day when it was shrouded in thick fog, on another when the sun smiled upon it. Don’t ask which I liked more.


A WALLED TOWN IN LOMBARDY

The Telegraph

In Milan, my husband was on an extended project. From this city that was home for us for a while, I took the train one early morning to a medieval walled town. There was drama on the way to Bergamo. I shared the compartment with an Italian girl travelling to Lake Garda, for a reunion with her family at her grandma’s villa. I immediately pictured it all in my head. A rambling house near the lake, the nonna, the jolly parents, the effusive siblings…As we sat chatting, the ticket collector turned up. He checked our tickets and right after hauled up a young black man sat opposite us. The man was travelling without a ticket. My friendly neighbour stopped the ticket collector short in his tracks. She bought a ticket for the man. I could not write about it in my article because you can only fit in that much. Yet I did not want to forget the train ride to Bergamo for this one act of kindness.


HIKING IN LIGURIA

The Telegraph

My first visit to the cluster of five fishing villages that make up the Cinque Terre, strung along the Italian riviera, involved a solo hike. If you attempt to complete the hike within a day, you must be certifiably mad. I went back to the Cinque Terre with the husband and tried the same trick all over again. Even if we were beat by the end of it, we both cherished the experience. Adi had the same expression on his face that I had when I did the hike alone. He was lost for words. But I will leave that for another day. This particular piece is on my solo Ligurian adventure.


ROME

The Telegraph

Ah Roma! Europe could not have done without her. Adi and mine common love for the city has taken us back into her historic lanes and bylanes almost every other year. There are so many memories entwined with Rome that I run the risk of being garrulous. So I will leave you with a small bite of my first rendezvous with Rome.


MIDWINTER IN GERMANY

The Telegraph

Hamburg, Bremen and Lübeck. Three very atmospheric cities have been cobbled together in this one. All seen on my own and mostly on foot. Each place is filled with rich history and personal memories of many conversations with locals that I must not have done justice to them all in one article. Trying to fit the entirety of one’s experiences in one measly article was never an easy task.


BERLIN

The Telegraph

Berlin was a city I conquered on foot. I did not take any modes of conveyance to see the city, except the one time that Adi and I opted for a bus tour because it was intensely muggy. Every day that I was out pounding the pavement in Berlin, I was forever on the lookout for cool cafés to nip into. Despite the dreadful humidity, I was entranced by the eccentric quarters tucked away in unlikely corners. There are so many different layers to Berlin that even though I lived there for a good few weeks, I felt I could have stayed on for more.


TO POTSDAM AND BRANDENBURG

The Telegraph

On weekends during our stay in Berlin, when Adi got off work, we would hop onto trains for towns on the outskirts of the city. This is how we saw Brandenburg together. A charming little town. As for Potsdam, it was a solo day trip for me and I fell head over heels in love with the beauty of the city.


THE NORDIC BREAK

The Telegraph

In early November, we customarily take a trip somewhere to celebrate my birthday. Wintering in Europe was and is our common love because it involves off-peak travel and crowd-free holidays. Plus, there is something to be said about seeing a place when mostly locals mill around you. Copenhagen was a special holiday of long cold walks and hot cocoa, piping hot churros, and chilled beer along the Nyhavn. We experienced an alternate universe like Christiania and we crossed the Øresund Bridge, the 10-mile long road and rail link between Sweden and Denmark. In Sweden, I could not have enough of the tradition of fika, conducted within the warm interiors of swoon-worthy coffee shops. The wonderful holiday was wound up with a terrible fight in Copenhagen. Adi headed to the airport, while I stomped off to take a train to see The Little Mermaid on my own on a dark, awfully cold evening. I did not miss the flight, no. We made peace at the airport over deliciously zesty curly fries.


HIKING TO PULPIT ROCK

The Telegraph

THRILLS AT PULPIT ROCK

The Hindu Business Line

A couple of travel pieces on an iconic hike in Norway.

The trip to Norway happened on a whim while my husband, Adi, and I lived in the English town of Northampton. It was spurred by Adi’s childhood memory of a coffee table book in which he had come across a photograph of Pulpit Rock and found himself fascinated by the prospect of both the climb and the landscape. For a bank holiday weekend, we lucked out with tickets to Stavanger, the town in which you may base yourself for the Pulpit Rock hike. We were footloose and seats were booked on BA. The evening before the flight we checked on the weather forecast for Stavanger. Our faces fell. It predicted heavy rain for the entire time we would be there. “Should we go or not?” asked Adi. We mulled and mulled, then called the hotel we were booked into. The woman, who answered the call, remarked: “If you went by the weather in Norway, you would do nothing. We have a saying here. There’s nothing called bad weather, only bad clothes.” Off we went despite the dictates of the weather bureau. And well, we struck lucky. Not a drop of rain. Also, it turned to be one of the most thrilling hikes we have done since — and will ever do.


THE POLISH ADVENTURES

The Telegraph

I do not think I learnt as much from history books as I did from my travels through Poland. I read a whole lot of literature on it as we spent weeks there, Adi working furiously on a project alongside. I emerged from Poland with a renewed love for cooking with mushrooms. I have it on my list to return to Poland during autumn and go foraging for mushrooms.


LOITERING IN LOOE

The Hindu Business Line

SMUGGLER’S DEN

Blink

What a splendid place Looe is! It is right on top of my list of favourite places and memories from Cornwall, of which I have enough to write a book on. More on Looe in my book that is releasing soon!


TO A PLACE FAR AWAY

Shubh Yatra

ISLE OF SKYE

The Telegraph

The journey to Skye by road is an epic one, especially if you undertake it from the Midlands to the Inner Hebrides. It is bonkers to even attempt the journey within a matter of a day. Skye is the place that broke my yen for long drives. And I did not even drive. It was all on my poor husband. But ask us about it, and we will say that it is one of the most magical place in the entire world.


THE CUMBRIAN EXPERIENCE

The Telegraph

The Lake District in England is a special love. It is the first English holiday we took together in 2011 when Adi and I were still dating. I think every bit of that holiday sticks fresh in our minds all these years later. The crazy yearning to stay in a country house hotel like Holbeck Ghyll and finding it way beyond our budget; instead landing up at the ubiquitous George & Dragon inn in Penwith; a hair-raising drive up Scafell Pike, with plenty of crisps to keep us going; the disappointment of witnessing Hadrian’s Wall in person. This was the beginning of a long love affair with Cumbria.


WHERE OUR TONGUES TANGLED

The Telegraph

At The Old Rectory on the Lake, a hideaway at the foothills of the beauteous mountainous region in Wales called Snowdonia, we had our first taste of the boutique bed & breakfast experience. The owner, John, along with his partner had renovated an old rectory by a lake. The result was a property that exuded charm and character. What’s more, we were thrilled when John informed us that we were placed in the room that was formerly the vicar’s study. It set the tone for a holiday, which was all about brooding castles, haunted lighthouses, historic old towns, unpronounceable place names and the starting point of a future obsession with the Welsh landscape.


IN STARBUCKS COUNTRY

The Telegraph

My first experience of the US was in 2015, when Adi took me to Seattle to visit his sister and her family. Life across the pond was so different to ours in Blighty that I was constantly taking notes mentally. By the time I returned home to Northampton, my senses were sated by Seattle’s vast reserves of natural beauty.


IN THE RAINFORESTS OF SABAH

The Telegraph

Adi and mine honeymoon was in the rainforests of Malaysia where we stayed on stilt huts in the ocean, played beach football and spent time staring at orangutans, who combatted this rudeness of ours by hurling broken branches at us. It was a week of il dolce far niente in the Southeast of Asia, much required to recover from the excitement of our wedding.


RAJAJI NATIONAL PARK

The Telegraph

I believe I would have appreciated the tented resort called The Forrest, spread as it is over 10 acres in the Uttarakhand region in India, more today than I did in 2011 when I visited it. For one, I observe nature more keenly now. If I could I would redo this one all over again.


MORE THAN SUN AND SAND IN MAURITIUS

The Telegraph

Mauritius was a press junket. It threw me in the company of a few journalists, some of whom became good friends. There was so much on the itinerary every day, the entire time we were there, that I felt like a busy bee buzzing along from flower to flower. That’s the thing about junkets. You are shown the best of a place within a short time. By the time you get back home, you have lived in an alternate universe of make-believe. My most precious memories from the trip included gorging on crazy hot, fried chicken sold by a young Creole woman on the beach at a fiesta; setting my eyes on the coloured earth of Chamarel and some giant old tortoises; walking underwater; meeting Bwana the leopard and walking with lions. Let’s not forget that I almost bumped off a newly-married couple when I was out quad biking on the mountains of the island nation.


AN EARLY CHRISTMAS IN HONG KONG

The Telegraph

Another press junket and one that was magical because it was the first and only time I have been to Disney World. It was also the only time in my life I had seen giant pandas in person, eating bamboo shoots and ignoring the world of us gawping humans at large. As in Mauritius, I had a surfeit of experiences in Hong Kong. The food was interesting. I fell in love with egg tarts, tried mock meats for the first time and chowed down Cantonese food as it is made in the region, devoid of the spices that the Indian Chinese favour in their style of cooking. Another experience worth mentioning was the nightlife in the rooftop bars of Lan Kwai Fong; it was wicked.


OF ARTISANAL CHEESE

The Telegraph

During the process of working on the story, I was convinced that my calling was to be a cheesemaker. The fact that a person crafting cheese slaves hours within the confines of an extremely humid room, did little to deter my new-found zeal for cheesemaking. The obsession, however, must have died away as easily as it had taken root in my head.


THE NAKED TRUTH

The Telegraph

A story on cakes divested of layers of icing. Inspired by these bakers, I have baked many a naked cake after.


THE SWEDISH FORAGER

The Telegraph

I met chef Magnus Nilsson on a bracing winter’s day at The Tramshed, a restaurant by Mark Hix in London. I remember the interview for all the gorgeous food I stuffed down, the foraging stories of the young chef, the big beautiful book I was given to add to my collection of cookbooks. But mostly, I remember it for a couple of British PRs, who talked non-stop about a show called ‘Downton Abbey’. I went back home and told Adi, “We have got to watch this show. Apparently, it is the show that has brought people back to the telly in Britain.”


DISHOOM

The Telegraph

When we left Blighty for the land across the pond, I was gutted for more reasons than one. Of these, I did rue the fact that we would have no Dishoom in the US. It is one of our favourite places to eat at in London.


AN ODE TO ICECREAM

The Telegraph

Interviews with artisanal ice cream makers.

I love ice cream. As I suppose do most of you, unless you are one of those odd birds who cannot abide by it and decries its very existence. I know of such people (would you believe it?). During the course of pursuing a career in freelance writing, I struck upon the idea of writing an article on full-fat ice creams. For the sole reason, that I could go on an ice cream chase all around England. The editor of the magazine I was writing for, was all for it. I got cracking with it before he could have another think on the wisdom of writing an entire story on the subject. This is an example of how one may shamelessly finagle assignments on matters close to the heart and spend time in pretty English villages questing for the perfect ice cream.


MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY

Bringing the lab into the kitchen.

The Telegraph

Chefs in India changed the culinary scene in India a while ago with bold experiments in the kitchen. Trying out the results of these experiments was a gobsmacking experience and I will not turn my nose up at innovations of any kind. Why not break textures and thought barriers down?


CURRY QUEENS OF BRITAIN

The Telegraph

A piece on the women who have deconstructed Indian cooking for the British.


OUT OF THE BENTO BOX

The Telegraph

On the trail of the bento craze, I hopped across kitchens in Delhi meeting chefs who were catering to the trend at the time. The payoff as always great food.


SHOESTRING TRAVEL

On couchsurfing. Why pay when you can stay for free, even with a stranger?

The Telegraph

I have not couchsurfed yet, but I have been intrigued by this concept ever since I chatted with adventurous travellers for the story. It is fun, young and works for some.


ENCROACHED UPON HISTORIC MANSIONS

FRESH LEASE OF LIFE FOR A HISTORIC DISPENSARY

A couple of stories on a historic property and a dispensary in the bylanes of Old Delhi.

The Times of India

In my effort to cover neglected heritage properties in Delhi, I reached a mansion with wooden arched windows and winding stairs in the cramped quarters of Old Delhi one noon. There I met Masroor Ahmed Khan,a a descendant of Hakim Ajmal Khan, one of the founders of the Jamia Millia Islamia University who had pioneered the concept of Unani medicine in the country. Ajmal Khan belonged to a long, feted line of physicians or hakims, who served in the courts of the Mughals. Masroor Ahmed Khan was a man mired in nostalgia. And as a person who has a weakness for history, for things that belong in the past, I was listened with rapt attention to stories of British lords and freedom fighters (Hakim Ajmal Khan had participated alongside Gandhi in the struggle for India’s freedom) and whatnot. But the part that got me took place towards the end of our conversation when the man produced his own collection of Unani medicines and offered me pearl to consume. No one has since upped the ante on that.


THROUGH THE ANCIENT DOORS OF DELHI

The Times of India


SECRETS OF THE THIRD CITY 

The Times of India

As a history buff, I was interested in seeing the fort that sprawls across a rocky terrain in what was formerly known as the third city of Delhi. The fort was built by the first of the Tughlaq kings, Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, during the 14th century. It was daunting to visit on my own. The fort was beautiful, yet an intimidating structure, falling apart in places. Squatters occupied parts of it, and on the whole, it was not the kind of place you went pottering about on your own. I wandered around the ruins under a blazing sun, thinking of sultans and misplaced ambitions. Of Ghiyasuddin’s son, Mohammad bin Tughlaq, who famously moved his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad (present-day Maharashtra) because he wanted to rule the Indian subcontinent from the Deccan. And then as whimsically moved the capital back to Delhi, making a stop at Tughlaqabad Fort at some point in time.


QUTAB MINAR

The Times of India

A piece on the Delhi state department of archaeology’s project to uncover the layers of history buried beneath the iconic minaret called the Qutab Minar.


CRUMBLING STEPWELLS

The Times of India

This story goes back to a time when I used to travel everywhere by public transport (mainly buses) in Delhi and walk miles in my effort to locate old monuments and report on the condition I found them in. It is how I stumbled upon 800-year-old stepwells such as the Gandak-ki-baoli in Mehrauli, one of the seven ancient cities that made up Delhi. I met a fakir there, a man revered by locals. Pocket Baba, as he introduced himself, was sat near the entrance to the stepwell, wearing a pair of jam-jar specs. He was a dodgy fella that one, sinister enough that I could not feel at ease till I had done my recce of the stepwell and gotten out of the area speedily. In those days, we had to file stories that were crammed into small columns in the newspaper. As a result, the heritage stories are more succinct than is to my taste, but the memories are special, maybe because it reminds me of the strange lot I have encountered while out on the street pursuing stories.


Calendar Talk

The Telegraph

I liked attending calendar launch events. Mostly because it meant endless flutes of Champers and hor d’oeuvres, especially when you went for calendars launched by Vijay Mallya, the now fugitive liquor tycoon.


Training at Home

The Telegraph

When I wrote this story in 2010, DVDs were still a thing and fitness DVDS were making the waves. But one thing has not changed to this day. When a celebrity picks up a cause, any cause, it takes on a life of its own. In this case, it involved fitness routines practised by Indian actresses and actors.


DESTINATION DETOX

The Telegraph

THE D-WORD

I wanted to include the story I rewrote on an erstwhile blog (in the link directly above) about the detox retreats I got to experience while working on the subject. Of all the people I met, Dr. Soorya Kaur fascinated me. Also, it was the first time that I tried raw food and thought the world of it.


The Jingle Makers

The Telegraph

This story puts you in mind of the fisherman’s shanty and why jingles work.


WEDDING VOW RENEWALS

The Telegraph

A feature piece on do-over weddings, if you will.


MINIMALIST INDUSTRIALIST

The Telegraph

An article on interior design. For which we walk into the house of Indian industrialist Peter Punj, whose house in a posh enclave in Delhi, is a statement in minimalism.


MUGDHA GODSE

The Telegraph

A story that follows the arc of an Indian supermodel’s rise to fame.


PRAKASH JHA

The Telegraph

Profile on a charismatic Indian filmmaker. My interview with Jha took place at his office in Bombay for over an hour. He was bloody brilliant and the time flew while he talked. One of those people you enjoyed interviewing because they did not cough up quotes bland enough to send you to sleep for a thousand years.


VIJAY AMRITRAJ

The Telegraph

The former tennis ace from India was a sharp personality. I met Amritraj in my initial days of writing up profiles and my interview skills were raw. So raw. I dropped a few clangers during the course of it. (For some reason, double quotes have been replaced by interrogation points in the story. If that does not jar on your nerves, do give it a go). 


BOBBY CHINN

The Telegraph

A piece on celebrity chef Bobby Chinn, who was all the talk of town since he was hosting a popular show on the Discovery channel.


ANTHONY BOURDAIN

The Telegraph

Bourdain, in my mind, was a Beat poet. I have cherished this piece ever since my interview with the man.


DIA MIRZA

The Telegraph

A piece on a former Miss Asia Pacific and actress, Dia Mirza.


GAYATRI

The Telegraph

On the Indian actress Gayatri, who shot into fame and glory with just the one film, Swades. (Again, the story is haunted by the odd dilemma of why interrogation points crop up in place of double quotes).


DHANUSH

The Telegraph

I took a flight to the southern Indian city of Chennai to meet Dhanush, an actor and playback singer who was popular in the Tamil film industry at the time. He had released a single called Kolaveri di and upon this my story was hinged. This was the only time I was in Chennai and I must confess that I did not care much for it.