My friend – Cheelu Chandran

Cheelu Chandran. Resilient. We have all heard of that person who gets knocked down by life a million times and then gets up a million and one times… Cheelu is that person. This is going to be a short personal introduction because I am genuinely at a loss for words.  She had a huge impact on me for very personal reasons. Made me realize that there is nothing that one cannot over come. One just has to want to! Read on and you will know at least a little bit of why I say this.

I met Cheelu at the Beach House Project in march last month at an idyllic week long residency in Fort Kochi. You can read about that trip here. One week together can get a bunch of people quite close quite fast. And that is exactly what happened. Cheelu is a huge follower of the  Ketogenic diet and I got to re-learn a few principals of how to treat my body. She is next in my series of Effortless Friendships. Read on to find out more about her.

What did you study in college?

I majored in Psychology, Journalism and Literature. I later did my P.G diploma in Psychotherapy and Counseling

What made you choose therapy?

One of the reasons I chose to major in the subjects that I did because I liked the combination and there was only one college that gave this option. Apart from that, I was interested in all three. In my later years, I came across far too many life challenges which made me re think a lot of things and reassess my life. I began to research as a part of my own soul’s journey, the nature of human behavior. The more I researched, the more I delved into my own pain to make sense of all the things that had happened and were happening in my life. As I dug deeper and got more intimate with my feelings, a whole new world started to unravel and I wanted to reach out and help as many people as I could to tell them that there was a way out and there was someone here to reach out to and someone who understands. This was something that I didn’t have in my own life. All my learning was through intense self-discovery. I learnt that often in our lives, we are at what I call a V junction. One goes down to the Victim road and the other, the Victor road. There is no right or wrong road. It is just what we choose. I often say to my clients, “since we are still alive, why not give joy and triumph a try. If it doesn’t work there is always our
default mechanism to fall back on”

What is DeBox?

DeBox is a philosophy, a concept I created to break the boxes of conditioning that we all live with. The rules of black Vs white, right Vs wrong, good Vs bad can Vs cannot, must not, should not have left us rooted in fear and limitations of what we are capable of. In other words, DeBox helps you dig in, break boundaries and puts you on the road to optimum holistic wellness and harmony. This is done through workshops, one on one counselling, healing through sound and a proper food plan The three-pronged strategy is Think out of the box; Live out of the box; Destroy the box. DeBox. It was conceived in one corner of my bed in 2014 when I was recovering from a sudden paralytic attack I had in 2013.

DeBox is about holistic wellness to take you from a space of merely existing to living a full life. To take you from a fearful existence to a love filled life; from limited thinking to an abundance mind-set. This is done through using very simple and easy to do process. Every process contained in the DeBox program has evolved from within me from doing 20 years of research and soul searching on emotions and behavior and something I have personally tried and tested on me. That’s how I know for sure that it works.

Why a Ketogenic Diet?

After my paralytic attack in 2013, I was under heavy medication, from steroids to sleeping pills and everything between. Add to it the enormous insecurity that I faced because of loss of balance as only my left side was working. Everything suddenly became unfamiliar and most of what and who I knew, disintegrated into unfamiliarity. As a result, I turned heavily to food as a source of comfort mostly because the medications made me extremely hungry. I gained enormous amounts of weight. It took me three years to gauge the amount of weight gain and more than that to accept it and still love myself because being fit is of prime importance to me. Even though my wardrobe had shrunk to a few clothes that fit, I was in denial up until December 2016. That changed when I went in to hospital for a dental surgery and I stood on the weighing scale. The reality hit me like a bolt of lightning. Up until then I had tried almost every diet under the sun and I had imagined that they were working. Keto was almost like a Divine message that I received. I was angry and desperate when it came like a flash from a conversation I had had with someone in the recent past. That was it. I did my research and it made a lot of sense. I have been on it since January 2017 and the results are starting to show, slowly but surely. Most importantly I am feeling healthy and haven’t fallen ill since I started. I used to be down with a fever almost every month since 2013. Whenever someone asks me how I am, this is the first time I am saying that I am very well.

Could you share a typical work day with us?

My single workday involves multiple things. It is an amalgamation of clients for one on one counseling and/or sound healing, creating keto recipes, researching on how to use sound as a powerful healing modality. I am also doing my Shamanic and Angel therapy studies.

What is your process/thinking/philosophy?

My process: if I can a make a difference to one person I am one step closer to my life mission.
My thinking: each one of us is already infinitely wise and immensely capable of achieving whatever we set our minds to. Everything is just buried under piles of conditioning and boxes.
My philosophy: each one of us is born to thrive, not just survive. Our default mechanism ought to be joy, peace and love.
My motto: at least one of them: If I can so can you

What sets your work apart from another?

All the life skills I impart in my workshops and one on ones are something that I have developed during my twenty years of life challenges and research. In that sense, they are original ideas. What further sets me apart is that I have tried and tested all my processes on myself. I have lived and continue to live with what I teach. I also take the emotional roller coaster ride along with my clients and feel their pain. Thus, it makes me more empathetic. I do not dish out advice and I do not quote from psychology books. I help you build bridges, based on your unique life experience and inculcate self-love. Therefore, there are different processes for different people.

What are some of the hurdles you face as a business?

More recognition of what I am doing, more collaborations for where I want to take this. Right now, I am single-handedly managing everything. I have had team members who joined of their own volition and left of their own accord.

What is the next step you see for your business? Expansion plans?

Forming collaborations and teams to look after various areas of the business. A chef, a musician and a work space.
Step 1: to open a sound healing center and a keto café preferably in Goa.
Step 2: to make DeBox global as a premier holistic wellness center
Step 3: to be the next Louise Hay, from India to the world

Favourite drink/ movie/book/go to place?

Favorite drink: coffee with cream
Favorite movie: I cannot name one. I love horror, true stories and court room drama
Favorite book: again, I have several that I love, apart from the ones that I will and am writing
Favorite go to place: Starbucks, my home and kitchen

Cheelu Chandran

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My friend – Vanshaj Kapur

Vanshaj Kapur. Film Maker. Creative director. The Bold Creative. I met Vanshaj in 2013 on a trip to Sydney. He was working on a project for my husband. My first thought on meeting him was that he is always hungry. And somewhat scattered. Till he got into work mode… Driven.

Over the years Vanshaj has continually surprised me. With his focus and his meticulous attention to detail. With the vision for what he sees his company The Bold Creative grow into.  For walking the fine balance of running a business/agency with out compromising creativity. For building an office environment that big companies would aspire to…

It was at the Beach House Project in march last month at an idyllic week long residency in Fort Kochi that I got to spend some quality time with him. And I find that I like him!  You can read about that trip here. The next in the series of Effortless Friendships is my friend Vanshaj. Read on to find out more about him.

What did you study in college?

I went to Symbiosis Institute of Design, and did a course on Communication Design with a major in film and video design. That is what I studied as a pupil, however what I learnt was that to truly communicate with anyone, you need to read people not books.

What made you pick film making?

As a child I was always driven by creation, and was constantly looking for ways to express myself. I danced back in school, and performed at international competitions. I tried to sing, and failed miserably. I acted in theater too, and continued doing so till college.
The realization that film had so many multiple layers to express emotions and tell stories really intrigued me. While I watched a Shahrukh Khan film, “Kal ho na ho” I was draining tears and realized how they could so easily manipulate my emotions. I knew then that this was a skill I wanted to learn in order to tell better stories. The rest is then history.

What was the Big Film about?

The Big Film  was named so because I personally have always loved making productions massive, and earning a lot of attention via them. During the first few years of college, I would often tell my friends, “I want to make a big film man. These short stories are just not cutting it. I want to do a feature.” The same thought carried with me till my graduation project and I put all my eggs in this basket. We crowdfunded the film successfully, and had a crew of over 40 people making the film. This was the biggest production college had seen till date.

Now, with all these hopes and dreams of making a massive production while in college. My story had to be personal. The Big Film, or how we later named it ‘He Who Chased the Train’ is a story about how society conditions you in a manner that you cannot tell your morals from right or wrong. All the characters in the film are inspired from my own experiences and I can easily say that I know each of them from under their skin. The film does have a lot of narrative flaws, but I think the film is also a major mark of achievement for me in not only story telling, but also making a BIG film.

What led to the shift to Bangalore?

After having realized that I wanted to work for myself, I’d first approached an old friend Sankhalina to co-found this new venture with me. She was in Bangalore then, and it would’ve been a lot harder for her to move to Mumbai then for me to shift.
Bangalore also happened to be a lot cheaper and economical for starting something on my own. It didn’t take much thought before I’d packed and moved.

How did the idea of The Bold Creative come about?

At first when I’d shifted to Bangalore, the idea was to just do work that we liked doing. We didn’t know if we would be a design studio, a production house or an advertising agency. But as our hair grew white, and we realized the kind of work we had been doing. The agency model seemed to fit just right, and then the vision of being a large agency came about. That was really how it started, and was rather organic.

Could you share a typical work day with us?

A typical work day starts with me waking up and squinting to check my emails and messages on my phone. I then spend my morning at home making a list of ‘to do’s’ for the day, and then heading down to office.

Our help at The Bold, Kamrul starts my day with his amazing coffee, and I get to sending off emails first thing. I then break into either brainstorms with the team, or meetings, or shoots. Depending on what the day has in store. The major chunk of my day is never typical really. There is always a new schedule. So I guess the coffee and the ‘to do’ is what always remains constant.

My work day usually ends very late, and I head back home only by about 11pm or later. That’s something I’m trying to work on, but the thought of leaving office kinda freaks me out. Probably cause I wouldn’t know what else to do if I did leave office early.

What is your process/thinking/philosophy?

As far as process goes, it varies from medium to medium and project to project. Considering we do branding, advertising, UI/UX, films and so on. There is a unique process for each of them.
My personal thinking for any project always starts with an insight. Which could be a dialogue that I’ve heard someone say, a behavior, an emotion or anything that a human being really expresses. I’ve always felt that design or communication needs to hit the spot. Hence it’s very important for me to be able to relate to the work I do, else it just feels like making plastic.

What sets your work apart from another agency?

Not really sure how to answer that question, because I do look up to a lot of agencies and their work. But if there was a unique thing that sets us apart it is our confidence in our team. We have an average age of 22 in the company and these youngsters make a killing on big projects too. Being a young leader, I know the importance of giving young thoughts and ideas a chance. So we try not to rely on traditional work or templates that have worked in the industry so far, but give everyone regardless of their years in the industry a confident chance to bring new things to the table. That for me is truly unique, cause most young designers lack confidence in their ideas and their approach. Finding a way to tap that potential is what we do best, and hence are able to make a mark for ourselves.

What are some of the hurdles you face as a young business?

Most hurdles we face are common to people in our business, like money, team, taxes, administration etc. But I think what we’ve combated a lot is a pure perception issue, being a young agency that was once lead by a 22 year old was a bit difficult to sell to clients. We were perceived as a bunch of kids, and changing that perception of being a serious and relevant agency has been the toughest. We still face that, but maybe only with bigger clients.

What is the next step you see for your business? Expansion plans?

We’ve been thinking of starting another branch in Mumbai for a while now. Given that the film industry is there, our films department could work a lot faster if we situated ourselves in Mumbai. Our revenues are doubling year on year, so we are trying to keep that constant, and hopefully set bigger targets in order to achieve the new branch expansion.
However, my ultimate vision of the agency is to be a worldwide agency, which has its office at NYC. TBC NYC as we casually joke about it in office.

Favorite drink/ movie/book/go-to place?

This is the hardest question of them all. I can’t figure between coffee or beer as my favorite drink, I also really love whisky.
A movie that has moved me a lot, and I look up to for brilliant storytelling and characters is Monsoon Wedding by Mira Nair. I think I’ve probably seem it over a hundred times.
My favourite place to visit in Bangalore is a bar called Toit. I’m usually there every weekend drinking a brew, and cribbing about my week.
But if I have to find a place that I truly love visiting, it is Dili Haat in New Delhi. As children my father used to take us there for chicken momos and fruit beer. That place always brings back tonnes of nostalgia and emotion.
As an adult I’ve read plenty of books ranging with various subjects. But my favorite has to be ‘The Room on the Roof’ by Ruskin Bond. He as a writer just knows where to tickle me, and my film ‘He Who Chased the Train’ takes its protagonist’s name from the book ‘Rusty’.

Vanshaj Kapur

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My friend – Ishaan Prakash

Ishaan Prakash. Truly one man up. Stoic. Brooding. With a quiet sense of purpose… till he opens up! And then he is just a whole lot of fun. A barrel of laughs and yes! He’s got a few moves for the ladies but I am going to let the single ladies discover those for themselves 😉
For the young men out there he has just the tricks for you too to be One ManUP. And lucky for you, he is happy to share!

I met Ishaan at the Beach House Project in march last month at an idyllic week long residency in Fort Kochi. You can read about that trip here. One week together can get a bunch of people quite close quite fast. And that is exactly what happened. The next in the series of Effortless Friendships is my friend Ishaan. Read on to find out more about him.

What did you study in college?

I studied Architecture at the University of Liverpool in the UK.

What made you pick architecture?

Architecture struck me like lightning post reading Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead. I was always inclined towards the creative arts since childhood – be it sketching, painting or constructing make-believe structures out of lego.

What made you give up architecture?

The amount of creative liberty we were predisposed to in the UK brought along with it quite a work culture shock when I decided to work in India. Sitting for 12 hours in an office, in front of a computer and taking orders from someone I didn’t know, was most definitely something I wasn’t built for.

What led to ‘One ManUP’?

Post quitting jobs at two of the best firms in India, Chapman Taylor and Archohm I realized something obviously wasn’t right. I resigned myself to a month of introspection (amidst all the chaos of fulfilling my “ supposed “ duties, I never got the time to stop and think). I decided to play on my strengths, which were  not contrived and something I would happily do 24/7/365 days of the year. Those were – writing and speaking – essentially communicating.

I started writing a manuscript with an idea that had been tossing around in my head for a while – I completed the book in 1 month and 18 days. I named it ‘One ManUP’. It was a fictional piece about the evolution of a male protagonist over the course of 30 years. Next thing I know I had built my own website for Men’s Styling, and I was operating it like a machine with new content day in and day out. Before I knew it, ‘One ManUP’ very organically turned into India’s first Men’s Styling Service.

How did you come up with the company name – One ManUP?

As controversial as it may sound along with the immense scope it carries to be misused, the idea behind One ManUP was pretty straight forward. It stood for men wanting to level their game up in any area of their lives. When they had done the needful and put in their due diligence to level up, they had evolved into a Man higher than their former self. Hence, One ManUP.

What is the objective of One ManUP?

The primary objective of One ManUP is to make fashion, looking good, and self care accessible to the average man. By average I don’t mean bad. I’m average. But the endeavor to want more is something that makes us extraordinary. Fashion & Self care as an industry is still very much considered for the elitist. I am going to change that. You don’t have to break your wallet or give up 2 months of your life to improve yourself – but you do have to put in the work to see what life has to offer you – so much more than you see right now.

What is the main issue facing young men you think?

Lack of awareness. I would love to be proved wrong, but men are either too careless when it comes to themselves or too cautious of it. One ManUP doesn’t strive to just improve you aesthetically, it challenges your core beliefs and way of operating.

What services does your company provide?

We’re a Men’s Styling Service. Depending on your need, we make over your wardrobe accordingly, tailoring it to your fit, needs and budget. We also specialize in Fitness, Grooming and Lifestyle for Men – each segment is led by their respective experts. They deal with a range of issues – right from obesity, endurance training and bodybuilding; to functioning and making an impression on everyone you meet in a social setting and to overcoming anxiety.

How do you handle issues of privacy?

We have a confidentiality clause when clients sign up for a service. Their privacy is of utmost importance to us. For the purposes of a Client Testimonial, we only use clients who want their examples to be used.

What is the next step you see for your business?

Lots actually ! We are in the middle of tie ups with brands ranging from retail to designer. We’re working with MNC’s and Study Abroad Consultants on providing Styling and Grooming Seminars for their employees and students respectively, to minimize the culture shock and maximize their capabilities.

What about expansion plans?

Like I said, my endeavor is to make sure not a single strata of man are left behind. Be it a boy studying to give his engineering entrance in Tamil Nadu, or a graduate adjusting to a new job in New Delhi, a working professional looking to improve his dating life in Mumbai, or a grandfather celebrating his golden anniversary in Gujarat. Now it’s all about whatever it takes to getting there – and doing it.

You favorite drink/ movie/book/go to place?

Favorite Drink – Black Coffee
Favorite Movie – Too many to name – Home Alone, Rocky series, Dil Se, Swades, Lootera, Karan Arjun, Cast Away, The Terminal, You’ve Got Mail. List can go on and on.. I’m a proper Cinephile.
Favorite Book – Currently I’m reading the Immortals of Meluha – GEM of a book !
Apart from that I read Jackie Chan’s Autobiography a few years back. It’s a must read even if you aren’t a fan.
Favorite Go To Place – Perch , a Wine and Coffee Bar in Khan Market, with really good music.

Ishaan Prakash


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My friend – Vrinda Mathur

Vrinda Mathur. Tiny/Petite. Delicate. Fun. Feisty. In a nut shell – Bloody Dynamite! In every way and I mean that in a good way. She is ultra feminine but don’t let that tiny bird like grace fool you – she is tough as nails and is not afraid to tell it like it is. The first thing I noticed about her was her delicate grace. And then she started talking about her work…

I met Vrinda at the Beach House Project in march last month at an idyllic week long residency in Fort Kochi. You can read about that trip here. One week together can get a bunch of people quite close quite fast. And that is exactly what happened. She is next in my series of Effortless Friendships. Read on to find out more about her.

What did you study in college?

I studied Lifestyle Accessory Design at National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi, India

What made you pick product design?

Growing up, I had the fortune to be involved with crafts and crafts folk in general, owing to my parents furniture manufacturing business. My interest in the arts was nurtured both at home and throughout school which finally manifested in college through a course in lifestyle product design. I always enjoyed working on larger products such as lighting and furniture over smaller home decor products. With time and good fortune, I was able to take my learnings onto a bigger platform through my business.

What made you expand from furniture design to include space design along with architecture?

Studio Wood came into being as a collaborative project between varied design enthusiasts, ranging from an architect, to a spatial expert and myself. As co-founders of the company, we learnt from each other and contributed to different fields, out of our academic qualifications to promote a more conducive process and atmosphere at the studio. As our time at the grew, our services grew as well. 3 years down and we design everything from furniture to homes to offices, restaurants and even food trucks!

What is your company called and why?

Since we started primarily as a furniture design studio, the name is self-explanatory: A studio that works with wood. ☺

Could you share a typical work day with us?

A typical day at work is always bright and happy, I recently built a brand new studio with all things Studio Wood, white brick, bright pastel blues and lots of plants and art all around. Mornings usually start with emails, follow ups and a round up of social media from the day before and could delve into possibly anything; sitting at my desk or site visits, sourcing trips, workshop visits, vendor coordination and so on. If I am at the studio the entire day then I love to spend time doing cleaning chores and tidying each spot from time to time.

What is your design process/thinking/philosophy?

I try to follow a process because I feel that keeps the motivation up at all times and when you work for yourself it’s good to make it strict for yourself at times. Whether it’s a piece of furniture or a new space, I like to put down my thoughts on paper through key words, mind maps, doodles, highlights. Once I think a design clicks, I brainstorm with the team for feedback and suggestions. The design may even travel from me to another member of the team so they can work on it from a completely new approach. Once the designs are finalized we work on the design detailing, 3D modeling and finally execution.

Tell us about the wall you guys are painting outside your office?

Our studio is located in Kishangarh, an urban village near Vasant Kunj which is a fairly posh locality in New Delhi. The village hosts a dynamic population of locals, foreign nationals and individuals from across the country as well due to low rents and connectivity with the rest of the city. On a ravaged road, about 200 meters from the main road that connects to the International Airport, what more? We have a dumping ground right opposite our studio so one can only imagine the view we have. However, this is not how the space was intended to be and as young and restless designers, we thought of bringing a change in the space we spend over 8 hours in a day. In order to do so we started a campaign called “YOUFORUS”

Where the village is the ‘US’ and we are the ‘YOU’. Under this campaign we will be working on a couple of activities in and around the village such as cleanliness drives, educating the population about their surroundings and so on. Our first step was to stir a conversation amongst the locals and from there came the idea of mapping the village down on our studio facade.

After weeks of research, conceptualization and extensive google earth-ing, we charted out all the blocks and buildings, galis, small-time vendors and shops of Kishangarh and started chalking down the map on our wall spanning across 400 Sq.ft area

With lime green building blocks painted in an isometric fashion, streets in a charcoal grey, the project is now nearing completion after 3 long months.

What sets your work apart from another designer?

My work with Studio Wood has been one of a kind on a personal and professional level. I try to approach each new project/product with a fresh thought process in order to keep it more challenging from a vision and work point of view.

Each piece is an amalgamation of inspirations of different times, thoughts, ideas or even people I meet which automatically makes the starting point of my process unique. Adding to that, the product is built block by block on paper through numerous brainstorming sessions with the team, prototyping on the software generating forms, mixing materials and color palettes.

What are some of the hurdles you face as a young business?

As young entrepreneurs in the creative industry I have faced lots of challenges, big and small. Everything about owning a business and running one was completely alien to me. As we started we faced challenges regarding contracts, project execution, timelines and fees of course. I learnt on the job and found solutions to most of the aforementioned problems. Now, three years down the line, I think I have matured as a business owner and am slowly learning the tricks of the trade. Most important lesson is to know when to say yes and also when to say no!

What is the next step you see for your business? Expansion plans?

Oh! I have big dreams for 2017, I am working towards taking our furniture business online and seeing it in more homes across India and may be even across the globe. The idea is to keep dreaming, keep doing and enjoy the little successes and failures on the way.

Fav drink/ movie/book/go to place?

I love my elaichi tea by day and rum and coke by night 😉
Movie – I love watching all movies, filled with love, romance and lots of cheese. Don’t ask me names please!
Book – One book I enjoyed reading was the ‘Mafia Queens of Mumbai’ by Hussain Zaidi and also short stories by ‘Sadat Hassan Manto’ which I am currently reading.

Vrinda Mathur

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The Beach House Project – March 2017

What do you get when you put 14 creative entrepreneurs under one roof for seven days, sharing space and doubling up in one bed room? –  As the next few posts roll out you are going to find out!

I don’t go out a lot. I am a home body by nature and it takes an effort for me to get out.  It was not always like that but it has become so. When my friend Vanshaj Kapur of The Bold Creative, shared the application form with me for this years week long residency for The Beach House, I was filled with trepidation and lacked inertia to really get into it. Besides my life is a carefully choreographed dance at best or utter chaos at worst with so many moving parts.

But somethings are meant to be. And so it was…

The idea was to get us all under one roof and get us to think and engage. Engage with each other and with ourselves. Honestly and openly. We all introduced ourselves and shared our challenges. We shared our perspectives and the hacks that have allowed us to get to the level we are in our individual lives. We received unbiased opinions and helpful tips to circumvent the road blocks that we face in extending our businesses to the next logical step.

The pièce de résistance of the entire experience was the opportunity to meet and interactive with Sudarshan Shetty (the curator for 2016) and the team at the Kochi Muziris Biennale. The idea was to put our heads together and come up with options and solutions to the myriad challenges that the Biennale faces. To brain storm on matters of engagement, interaction, extension of audience, possible funding avenues.

I arrived in Kochi at about 10 am to sweltering heat and a strange calm. I left Bangalore with zero expectations for the week to come. At the very least I thought it would be a good holiday. Was I wrong! As the week unfolded I made a set of friends for life, learnt hacks to better navigate life and business and took home new approaches to face my challenges. Seems to good to be true, na? But it is true. True to the last bowl of creme I polished off! I met a fellow follower- Chellu Chandran, of the Ketogenic diet and re-learnt a few principals of how to treat my body. That is where the bowl full of creme comes in! But that story is for another time.

Let me introduce you to my fellow inmates in an ‘insane asylum’ of the very best kind. Besides with the amount of cream I was eating the guys at the hotel definitely thoughts I was nuts 🙂 The asylum in question was the Neemrana hotels property  – a 17th century light house in Fort Kochi facing the Chinese fishing nets now converted into a beach front villa hotel. They had a few other guests but those guests knew to stay out of our way and the hotel staff was un-believeablely co-operative and over extended themselves where ever they could.

The entire experience was crafted by Jay Ahya and his team at the Beach House Project. The residents included – Jay’s team of helpers –  Kritika, Tanya and Charan. And our team of participants included Vrinda, Nitisha, Savera, Cheelu, Vallery, Vanshaj, Rishi, Manas, Ashish, Amit, Ishaan and Rohan. Subba and Shreyans joined us for a day each. 

The connection with everyone was so strong that I can quite truthfully say that these were all effortless friendships. I have always said that I am the sum of all the people who come into my life. It really is about connections and communication. I had both by the bucket load. And I hope to have collaborative experiences with at least some of my fellow inmates. I want to take the time to introduce each of my new friends to you all one by one in a series of posts to follow. For one paragraph alone would not do them justice.

Please take the time to follow the links in this post and learn about The Beach House Project and it’s sister concern The Road Trip Experience. Should you get a chance to go for either, just GO! They will enrich your life.

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The Economic Times – March 2017

Sustainability is the buzz word for everyone today and so it should be. We are consuming our planet at a frightfully stupendous pace!

To be asked to give a sound bit on the subject was a no-brainer.

I try and re-cycle, re-use where ever I can. If I can value add or up-cycle then I will always take that route. But I don’t start with that premise. I would like to believe that has something to do with the quality of the end product that goes out of my studio. What separates a ‘finished product’ from a craft piece or DIY done for fun is the thought behind the product and the degree of finesse involved. I think of the end product, it’s form, function etc and then decide where I can re-use, up-cycle etc.  60-80% of the finished product that goes out of my studio is made as sustainable as possible. But sadly due to a lack of marketing budgets, only about 40% of my clients know and appreciate that the bag they buy is not only good quality, made with attention to detail and hands on craftsman ship but is also sustainable. But I live in hope that over time all my customers will get to know the value of what they buy when they buy handmade from us at ArtByAarohi.

Thank you Divya J Shekhar for that sound bite reaching Economic Times…

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My friend – Meghna Vakada

Meghna Vakada. Entrepreneur. Restaurateur. Music programmer. And most importantly my voice of reason.

She epitomizes ‘good things come in small packages‘. And boy does she pack a punch. We met many years ago while sitting outside our kids classrooms for orientation when they were in kindergarten together. Since then we have met, talked, shared chai often and done many school pick ups and drops. Somewhere along the way she became so much more than a friend. Calling her ‘my bff’ or ‘like a sister’ would be cliched. And neither of us do cliches! So I am just going to say – what we share is a class apart 🙂

My journey of the last few years can not really be told with any credibility without Meghna being a huge part of it. Her very methodical and logical reasoning has often given me focus and direction with not just business matters related to ArtByAarohi but also to personal conundrums.
My first exhibition of The Poonchh Collection happened at her restaurant. My sounding board for every idea, creative or otherwise happens with her. She is my harshest critic and absolutely generous with her love and respect.
So without much ado let me introduce you to Meghna!

What did you study at college?

I did my bachelors degree in Biotechnology followed by Computer Science.

Bacchus in full swing

How did you get into music curation?

Fate & timing is what I would say …
After my 4year corporate stint as a software analyst at Motorola I took a break when I had my first baby.
It was at this time that I got interested in my husbands line of work. That was my 1st step into the world of restaurants. The more I learnt about the inner  workings of the business the more I got drawn to it. By now we were blessed with our second child. At this time I took a conscious decision to quit work and stay home to be a hands on mom.
Once both the kids were a little older I had sometime on hand but not enough to get back to a full time gig.
That’s when I started actively helping my husband Sridhar Vakada (a hotelier and a restaurateur) in his new project F&B. F&B had a this little bar space in it called BACCHUS. Sridhar is in many ways my mentor and partner in crime  🙂
The idea behind the concept of the space Bacchus was a small warm space that invited like minded people. An invitation with open arms and an open mind where there was no discrimination or bias in any form or shape. A place where people connected with each other based on their mutual appreciation of a particular kind of music, performance art showcase or a stand up comedy gig over some drinks and good laughter.
The most heartwarming thing that I have personally heard and heard often at that from guests was – ” …you can walk into Bacchus any day alone but you never once felt alone after you came in” 🙂
Soon I was curating events along with some of the loveliest people in the scene.
Krunk (Sohail Arora) & me curated BLIVE!  A event series where I had the privilege of hosting some of the most awesome gigs with genuine artists in the circuit from across the globe. Artists who once came into our space became a part of the family and helped push the scene further… It was like we were all in it together !!
– Comedian Sandeep Rao and Sanjay Mantaklata started the 1st ever regular and dedicated comedy show in the city with us called SNAP NIGHT. 9yrs ago we were showcasing artists and comedian who are now big names in the circuit.
Brinda Jacob Janvir (Studio of movement arts & therapy) and I collaborated using the space of the venue in various ways having complete creative freedom just to explore how far an idea can be seen through and this resulted in some very interesting performance art pieces.
– And last but not the least we started the legendary Wednesday DNB nights with Vachan Chinnappa .
Even today when I meet people we sigh over what crazy nights we had pulled off back in the day. Nights we started with only a handful people on the floor to nights when we had to shut the gate as the place could not take in anymore people !!! 🙂 The biggest takeaway from the BACCHUS experience was the camaraderie. We made this amazing connection and we were all in it together -be it the guest, the staff or even me. Everyone wanted the space to genuinely do well and that is really something rare ! 🙂
That’s how I got into the world of alternative music and events 🙂

Quiet evenings as well at Bacchus

What was it like to shift from music to restaurants?

It was a huge mental shift for sure. I had to get over the unfortunate heartbreaking closure of Bacchus and then to get back to a whole new environment of running a restaurant. BARLEY & GRAPES CAFE actually came as a blessing in disguise and  with its own challenges.
It was here that I truly got my hands dirty so to speak. I learnt the end to end of the business from supply chain, vendors to the end consumer and that was an extremely gratifying experience! That followed our new venture which a just a few months old venture ANDHRA KAFE.  I discovered I LOVE doing what I do now just as much. I guess because I constantly feel I am a work in progress every day. Learning something new & trying out something different is what keeps me going … And makes me tick And I absolutely LOVE IT  !!!

Barley and Grapes

Barley and Grapes

Would you call your self an entrepreneur or a restaurateur

Let’s just say I would like to believe I think like an entrepreneur but am a Restaurateur at heart  !! 🙂

What does it take to run a restaurant?
Passion. A lot of it … 🙂 and patience. It’s a very human oriented business. I would say the key is to be a people person not only for your guest but more so with your team. You have to be able to lead by example and empower, harness and grow a persons ability to run a restaurant successfully.

What is work life balance to you?
For me I guess it is organic transitions – life and work must not be in opposite side of ring. Its an intricate weave that makes life work for an individual. So I guess it’s living each moment being aware, to get inspirations from day to day life, to never loose curiosity and to constantly keep learning a lesson from what work or life throws at you – that empowers you to create a work life balance. You have to be innovate constantly, ready to solve a roadblock and not get bogged down trying to balance a particular situation. I guess once you have that mindset balance comes naturally as a byproduct 🙂

Andhra Kafe

Could you draw parallels between business and life as you see it?

Like I mentioned before, for me I guess work, life and business all in totality make me well …Me!
To live life figuring out what values you grew up with and what you inculcate over a period of time from your own journey. To making mistakes and being brutally honest about those, to take total ownership of them so that you can move ahead. That is learning a valuable life lesson.
And most of all living with integrity, an abundance of empathy and patience. An effort to try to truly understand people, to not being judgmental and accept shortcomings. But to  never ever accept cutting corners. To strive to be the best version of you for you. These are some of the fundamental parallels I draw between business and life.

Which begs the questions -Favorite drink, Book and Movie?

Beer, Bridges of Madison County and Schindler’s list

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My friend – Shibu Arakkal

Shibu Arakkal. Photographic Artist. Tells it like it is. Without mincing ANY words!
I met Shibu at a Group Exhibition in October 2013. My work was a late entrant into the mix. But that’s another story.

Shibu’s first words to me were ‘so you are the one who has painted this work… hmm‘ And then we made polite conversation and exchanged pleasantries. After about an hour of mingling around at the art opening Shibu called me over and asked -“How do you feel about bartering?” And I was like “Sure. What do you want to barter?” His answer- “Your painted chair for one of my prints.” Of course I said “YES” 🙂

‘Lorenzo il Magnifico Gold Prize for Digital Art’ – Florence Biennale 2013

The ‘Bartered’ Chair

But it was more than getting a print from the award winning Florence Biennale artist. It showed me the person he is. This was the honest best compliment I could have got for my work. An award winning artist wanted to barter with me. There was no monetary value attached to his barter. It was a one on one – honest appreciation. And I thank Shibu for it. That was the start of an effortless friendship.

The next in the series of effortless friendships is with the one and only Shibu Arakkal. We meet rarely. As he says “You are always too busy!!” Though I did make the time to meet him to discuss a project. More on that in the weeks to come but till then I leave you with a glimpse into what I think makes Shibu an artist who feels …

What did you study in college?

Economics, Political Science & Sociology. So glad someone finally asked me this question.

What was your childhood like?

My happiest memories of my childhood were the years I grew up with my grandparents, being mostly outdoors when not in school, playing different sports, climbing trees, inadvertently learning to use tools by making things I could play with, fiddling around with my bicycle and doing lots of things parents today would consider to be dangerous.

My move to live with my parents later on involved a lot of escape from and into serious phases of loneliness and very seriously battling that through my teenage years.

Who influences you the most?

My earliest and most profound influence and I realized this much later in life, was my maternal grandfather who was a metallurgist in HAL. Though he passed away when I was in my early teenage years, I think I learnt my early lessons in creative out-of-the-box thinking from him, apart from many other things that made him the extraordinary man he was. After his death, he became my conscience keeper and a silent guide. I begin every month by visiting his grave and talking to him.

What are your plans for your daughter?

I don’t believe that I have the right to make plans for my daughter as she must follow her own purpose and destiny. To answer this question from a conventional stand point, I wish for her to be most of all, her own self because her real self is extraordinary by any standards. I only and diligently so, strive to give her a solid foundation made up of values such as honesty, responsibility, hard work and conscientiousness, amongst a few other things.

Do you see any influence from your father – Yusuf Arakkal ?

I certainly do. For a man who was all consumed by his work, his art, the time that he took to be a father to me, he taught me many things. I am known to be a perfectionist to a fault, though it’s strange but things like that and the sanctity towards one’s work are things I learnt from both my dad and my grandad.

How tough is it to make a name in photography?

Speaking of photography as an art form, even with its rich albeit brief history in the context of art, it is never the less, today’s artistic medium. Even though photographically, we live in a world of digital, analogue and every kind of cross pollinated possibilities, the recognition for and the reality of creating work that is truly unique is very hard to come by. To do that and to compete with photographic artists from the western world who are supported technically, in terms of infrastructure, not to mention monetarily and are recognized, is a challenge that one has to have a stomach for.

What is artistic or fine art photography?

That’s like asking what is artistic or fine art painting. We can’t assume that just because the medium is painting it has to necessarily be artistic or fall into the fine art genre.

I choose to define any art, regardless of medium, as two equal halves of an unique artistic expression and a high caliber of technical skill. This definition, I believe, is more critical with photographic art as the acquired-over-time technical skill graph is always on a more steeper climb due to technological innovations. And so the ability to articulate one’s artistic expression equally is ever demanding and ever evolving.

What advice would you give to upcoming artists?

I think that practicing art is like having children. If you don’t do it for the right reasons, the amount of struggle and rejection will in all probability either break you or worse, make you compromise. Even with instances to the contrary, the practice of art isn’t sustainable at the highest levels, if it isn’t supported by a unique viewpoint, skill and integrity. It is true at least for artists who create for time and not for markets or people.

What advice would you give to upcoming photographers?

  1. Although photography is as technical a medium as any, one would be wise to not forget that it is ultimately a creative medium.
  2. Just as everyone with a fountain pen can’t become a Shakespeare, everyone with an expensive camera won’t become a photographer.
  3. If you cannot or are too lazy to achieve what can be achieved through photography and rely on post-production for it, you will in all probability lose ground in terms of the price you command or be eventually surpassed by someone younger and better.
First place | 'Ventipertrenta 2011' - International Jury, International festival of digital art | Italy

First place | ‘Ventipertrenta 2011’ – International Jury, International festival of digital art | Italy

What is your quiet ‘go to’ place?

It is primarily my balcony but my quiet place is my own head when I’m traveling or riding motorcycles.

What beverage makes you feel comfortable?

GTL (Gin, Tonic & lime)

What movie touches you?

Lawrence of Arabia

With hindsight what do you think you would do differently?

I would firstly go full throttle in my twenties and early thirties but most importantly, I would follow every gut instinct I have and not be so analytical as I have been.

Your one favorite piece?

I truly don’t have one.

What do you think of ‘completion’?

I tend to think the Italian way about this. It will take as long as it takes and it is done when it is done.

What do you think of artist residencies?

I absolutely love the idea of artist residencies and I have done a few over the past four or five years years in different countries.

The idea of a certain sense of seclusion to have the luxury of being able to think about life and everything that is important to an artist and carry that train of thought through to your work, without being interrupted by responsibilities and such, is as close to an artistic utopia as on can find in this world.

What is art?

I am philosophical about art. Art to me is interpreting and articulating the secrets and the language of the universe into physical and in this day, virtual art-forms. Hence, our understanding of reality, specially in art, is greatly subjective. It is possibly why life imitates art.

What is design?

To me, design is creating an efficient aesthetic that is born out of function. And not the other way around.

What are the basics of photography?

What I have learnt of photography is the ability to get into a meditative state of mind and respond to your chosen subject, which also happens instinctually. But that happens when you hone and perfect your technical craft for years, where it enables you to use light, space and form to piece together a photographic puzzle created out of YOUR subjective and artistic soul.

What are the first steps to take?

Study, study, study!

Would you lend your name to limited edition or mass produced?

If done right, surely.

What do you think of the art scene in India and abroad?

In India, the artists who have made a name for themselves in the last ten or fifteen years seem to dissociate and ignore the foundation that was laid by a whole lot of landmark artists, for what is today called Indian art. I find that disrespectful to what is inherently your own artistic roots. A tree without roots isn’t alive.

This I believe happened because our “new age artists” thought that to be truly international they need to adopt international roots and hence, the rampant dominance of installations, video art and everything that falls into the genre of new media. Although, most artists I know practicing new media have studied painting, sculpture, printmaking etc. and not their current medium of choice. I don’t wish to be misunderstood. I don’t have an issue with any medium but with the lack of a unique and artistic proficiency in it.

It is an arguable fact that internationally, the last great movement in art was Abstract Expressionism or at best, Postmodernism. Which means that the world hasn’t seen a truly landmark art movement or artists of truly great caliber for the past thirty odd years.

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Flat 20% off on Label ArtByAarohi

Yes. You read that right.
Announcing our first ever sale! – its a flat 20% off on all ArtByAarohi Label products on

Why? and Why Now?

Let me give you the simple answer first.
Just because.

And now a little more detail – Just because it seemed a good way to start the new year and as they say what goes around come around. Last year was all about ‘production’. And while I love sewing, making bags and skirts and dupattas, just thinking of new ways to extend myself; I lost myself. I found myself focusing on something that was never supposed to be my core. I love painting and I want to go back to it.

I want this ‘merchandise’ kind of creativity to remain something that I do in my spare time to recharge and try new things. Not as something that becomes central to my creativity. And in an effort to do that I find I need to de-clutter my mind and my work space. I need to de-clutter my studio.

And what better way to do that than to have a sale. Instead of passing on a commission to someone in the middle I thought I would share it with you first – my customers. You get the first right of refusal and benefit. And then later I may decide to put it up on some other online store or just keep it on my own e-store. But I would do that knowing I was true and loyal to you my readers and customers first 🙂
And I am hoping this sale allows a whole lot of new people to own their very first ArtByAarohi product!

For now it is back to the drawing board (literally!!) for me. Wish me a productive painting year my friends…

Will share the production bit from time to time as well 🙂

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Give Away Alert! – With ‘Barley and Grapes’ and Chateau Auzias

I am thrilled to start this new year with a give away.  And it’s not just one but SIX !! Yes, there are six slings to be won from the signature ArtByAarohi Collection.

The rules are very simple. If you are in Phoenix Market City in namma bengaluru (Bangalore), head on over to ‘Barley and Grapes Cafe’ and order a bottle of Chateau Auzias wine. That purchase gives you the chance to fill in a lucky draw coupon and at the end of every week – there is one sling to be won. That is it. You get to have your wine and keep it too!

And the give away happens in my favourite watering hole – “Barley and Grapes Cafe” which just turned three with my best friend Meghana Vakada.  My voice of reason in all things that require err.. reason!



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