Backwater ragattas

Backwater ragattas

We neared the Punnamada Lake, our eyes got a visual treat with numerous beautiful and artistic houseboats lined up for their journey. Our journey guide took us to the houseboat we had booked. The guide told us that a night cruise on the backwaters is one of the most popular cruises offered. A round trip from Alleppey in the backwaters, after having spent the day and night in the tranquility of the backwaters leaves you spellbound. The cruise takes you through the clear waters of the prominent Punnamada Lake – the venue of the legendary Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race. You can visit the 400-year-old Champakkulam church, one of the 7 churches established by St. Thomas. The Chavara Bhavan, located at 6 km distance, is another interesting place that one can’t afford to miss. The ancestral home of the Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara, the Chavara Bhavan houses the legendary 250-year-old beacon of light – preserved intact in its original and primitive form.

Excited on hearing the account of this exotic location, we moved towards our ship – our houseboat. We were amazed the moment we saw a houseboat. Bedecked with world-class facilities, a houseboat is not less than an architectural marvel created on a smallboat. With absolutely no interface with the outside world, apart from few stoppages on the nearby shores, we gave in to the journey. Cruising along the Punnamada Lake, we got a slice of true Kerala lifestyle. The view of villages along the banks, green paddy fields and coconut groves captivated our mind body and soul.

Cruising down the backwaters on the houseboat, locally called kettuvallam, for some quiet moments reflected solitude. While I relished the traditional Keralite breakfast – kappa (tapioca) and fish curry, my friend connected his laptop with some nice music and whole new experience in water came striking back to us. The water lilies when seen in the night dazzle like the twinkling stars in a dark sky. Fishing women and men add to the magic with their imaginative ways of fishing. The cruise tantalised us with its breathtaking serenity to remain as the most beautiful reminiscences of our lives. As the boat covered kilometres in water, we were left with rich experience of watching coconut trees leaning to the water and touching the blue sky. The thought reinstated in my mind why Kerala is God’s own Country.

Guide told us that Alleppey just 63 km from Kochi. A visit to Kochi is rendered incomplete without visiting Alleppey, land of amazing backwaters and snake boat races. The word snake boat races rang alarms in our heads, and we wanted to know more about these. We were informed that the world famous ‘Nehru Trophy Boat Race’ is held on second Saturday of August every year at the Punnamada, the lake we were cruising in. The main highlight of the race is ‘Chundan Vallam’, the 130 feet long snake boat that requires 100 people to row. Thousands of spectators from all over the world watch this event avidly from the banks. On tourist demand, the race is now repeated during the tourist season also – in mid Jan – and is called ‘Tourism Snakeboat Race’.

Having struck a good rapport with the crewmembers, we were served excellent lunch that had traditional Kerala dishes like fried fish delicacy called Karemeen fry. Post lunch we tried a bit of fishing, but had no luck! In some time the boat came to a permanent halt for the day. We celebrated the birthday of one of our friends and hit the bed by late night. Savour traditional Kerala cuisine, witness the spectacular backwater regatta, lounge at pristine beaches or buy coir products, Alleppey has it all.

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Sundarban, the land of mangroves

 Sundarban, the land of mangroves

The east of India is truly incredible! Sundarbans, the land of mangroves and tigers finds a beautiful mention in Amitav Ghosh’s novel ‘The Hungry Tide’. Sundarbans, literally meaning beautiful forest is the largest single block of tidal mangrove forest in the world. The forest reserve gets its name from the Sundari trees that are found here in large numbers. Lying in the vast delta on the Bay of Bengal, which is formed by the confluence of Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers, Sundarbans received the status of being a World Heritage Site in 1997. Sundarbans is considered a haven for photographers, who come here to capture the seasonally flooded freshwater swamp mangroves that lie on the coastal fringe.

Covering an area of 10,000 square kilometer (our of which 6,000 sq km are in Bangladesh), Sundarbans boast of a complex network of tidal waterways, small islands of salt tolerant mangrove forests, mudflats, and abundance of fauna. In Sundarbans, wherever the sight goes, you can see meandering rivers, springs, creeks and beautiful estuaries. The beautiful land is also is known for its wide range of fauna. The place is home to over 260 species of birds, the Bengal tiger and other endangered species like the Gangetic Dolphin, estuarine crocodile and the Indian python. For nature lovers, Sundarbans is a pure blessing. Pollution free environment, ecological process in its full bloom, animals in their natural habitat, humming of birds are some of the offerings that rule in this land of natural beauty. Sundarbans is also the land of the mighty Royal Bengal Tiger. It is the natural habitat of many other famous wild life animals like jungle fowl, giant lizards, spotted deer, wild boar, crocodiles and many more and the nature lovers would get a very good chance to have a close look. Migratory group of Siberian ducks is an attraction in some seasons, a beautiful scene of these ducks flying over sail boats fully loaded with many items like timber, fuel wood, honey, fish and shell adding to the serene natural attractiveness of the Sundarban. A visit to Sundarbans will refresh you mind and feast your eyes with the rich beauty of nature.

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Perfect whisky: The Chivas Brothers’ Blend

Perfect whisky: The Chivas Brothers’ Blend

Rich amber, bursting with ripe soft fruit flavours and smooth creamy texture will greet you as you gulp the beautiful Chivas Regal down. New in the Chivas Regal bouquet is The Chivas Brothers’ Blend. Recently Chivas Regal launched this new ultimate whisky exclusively to the global travel retail channel. This perfect expression of the smooth Chivas style will be a permanent part of the Chivas portfolio and will be available only to shoppers in travel retail. This is the first product launch for the brand since Chivas Regal 25 Year Old was re-launched in 2007. This unique 12-year-old blend uses a carefully selected range of malt whiskies, including high proportions of Strathisla and Longmorn Speyside malts in order to recreate the extra smooth taste that made Chivas Regal’s whiskies famous. The brand will roll out in India in Delhi & Mumbai and available across all airport duty free stores by December 12. The 12 years old blend will be priced at USD 45.

Speaking at the launch, James Slack, Global Brand Director, Chivas Regal, said, “We are delighted to launch The Chivas Brothers’ Blend exclusively in Travel Retail and offer a new Chivas Regal product which focuses on our heritage of craftsmanship blended with a modern twist. The result is an ultra-smooth whisky for today’s travellers who are looking not only for brand innovation but also an experience. The Chivas Brothers’ Blend is the ultimate whisky to share.”

The inspiration for The Chivas Brothers’ Blend came from founding brothers, John and James Chivas. Paying a contemporary tribute to this rich history, the brothers and their legendary blending skills is The Chivas Brothers’ Blend – a thoroughly modern whisky that is ultra smooth, perfect for sharing.

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Toons rule retail

Toons rule retail

From television to retail, cartoon characters are now sharing our space at home and life.

“Hello”, coaxes the salesman to a nine year old who retorts with a sigh. Semi-shocked, father intervenes and escorts the child inside the mall saying, “Ninja Hattori invites you in to the shop, will you come?” The little one strikes a deal with dad and says, “I hate Ninja Hattori, I want a Chota Bheem T-shirt and bag.” Today, the responsibility of saving the world from alien attacks; ugly asuras and zombies lie in the tender hands of laddoo gorging Chota Bheem, cute Bal Ganesh, Krishna and even Ben 10. Indian kids are totally in awe of these most famous cartoon characters that appear on the television throughout the day, much to the misery of mothers.

Animating lifestyles
Parents may forever struggle to understand their children, but retailers today are busy cashing in children’s love for their favourite cartoon character. All major designer brands like Versace, Gucci, Ed Hardy, Burberry etc have their kids’ collection present in the Indian market for quite sometime now. Global lifestyle brand Nautica has Nautica Kids, International brand Zapp tied up with Raymond to foray into kids’ apparel. Local Indian brands like Catmoss, Lilliput, Mom n me apart and various retail chains like Westside, Shopper’s Stop, Lifestyle etc are actively selling kids apparel, utility items and stationery with cartoon branding. Disney also launched its exclusive retail chain by the name of Disney Story, which stocks Disney character-based stationery and is a favourite among kids.
Understandably the apparel business is leading the kids’ retail revolution, which accounts for almost 80 per cent of the revenue, with kids’ clothing in India following international fashion trends. According to researches, the branded segment comprises Rs 3,000 crore of the total kids’ apparel market-size of over Rs 13,000 crore. Undoubtedly, the kids’ retailing is growing as fast as kids do. If industry experts are to be believed, the sector will see an annual growth of 30-35 per cent.
Toys, stationary, sportswear, outerwear, tailored clothing, eyewear, watches, fragrance, footwear, the segment is growing at a rapid pace. Margins for dealers are lucrative as well. Why only apparel, the kids theme is permeating other markets too. The next in line is FMCG. Welcome to the world of kid food products. With tailor-made edible products, brands are now exploring this untapped territory that promises great return. Go Cheese, the brain behind convenient cheese like shredded and nacho liquid cheese, recently introduced a new product that stars legendary cartoon superstars Tom & Jerry. Go Cheezoos squeeze tube is a novel concept, launched for the first time in India and greater Asia for which Parag Milk Food Pvt. Ltd. entered into a licensing agreement with Warner Bros. Consumer Products. Speaking at the launch, Bianca Lee, Managing Director, Greater China, SE Asia and India, Warner Bros. Consumer Products said, “We are very excited to be working with Parag Milk Food Pvt. Ltd. to bring Tom & Jerry to the homes of our fans in India, through this healthy and innovative product, Go Cheezoos.”
Celebrating with style
Even famous cake brand Monginis launched 3D cakes with toon characters like Chota Bheem and friends, Angry birds on its delectable variety of birthday cakes. If you don’t want to irritate your child on his birthday better bring the cake adorned with his favourite toon character because today the kids are in no mood to settle for a simple pineapple or a black forest cake. And with cake, you would also need paper cups, paper plates, balloons, decorations and a matching cake cutting knife – everything with your child’s favourite cartoon. That’s the minimum children want today. No kidding, India is home to almost 20 per cent of the world’s child-population. Cartoon branding for sure has a great market to explore and satiate the demand.
Face it the little Indian is now the most promising member of the largest market in the world. No wonder brand-savvy Indian kids are being pampered—and how! No more colouring with crayons, kids today rather check out different stuff available at the mall, where retailers are offering their favourite cartoon merchandise – angry birds water bottle, Winnie the pooh sippers, Popeye notebooks, Ben 10 wristwatch, Barbie hair clips, Chota Bheem bags, Rapunzel erasers, Cars pencil boxes or even a Superman rakhi.
Recently when Rakhabandhan was celebrated across the country with much excitement, markets were filled with all types of rakhis with branding of cartoon characters – Ben 10, Krishna, Bal Ganesh, Bal Hanuman, Batman, Cars and the list goes on. With 30 per cent of the Indian population below the age of 15, and the awareness about animated characters is increasing exponentially among children, there are stores and shopping websites for kids already. Talking about the trend, Vijay Jumani, co founder and CEO, says, “Kids are attracted to cartoons and character merchandise because they identify with the character or aspire to be like the character. Character merchandise is also fun, colourful and exciting and that appeals to children. Girls and boys at different age groups relate to different characters, viz., a 3 yr old girl to Barbie while a 8 year old girl to Hannah Montana or a 4 year old boy to Ben10 and a 10 year old boy to Batman or Superman. The Indian Superhero Character Chhota Bheem has found a great place in the Indian market and appeals to both boys and girls from the age group of 2-9 yrs. At we carry an extensive range of cartoon merchandise that is genuine and officially available in India. These include Barbie, Dora, Batman, Ben10, Spider man, Chhota Bheem, and many more across categories like Apparel, Footwear, Stationery, Mugs, Room decor, Bags and lots more.”
There are shopping websites, which exclusively sell everything needed by a child in his growth years. There are:,,,,, which sell products ranging from furniture to toys, apparel to birthday gifts. boasts of over 300 brands, including well established Indian and international brands like Chicco, Funskool, Disney and Fisher Price with service delivery across 3500 pin codes in India. Our message to parents: grow up to the retail reality. For companies and children alike, the future is a fairy tale, wherein one lives happily ever after.

Famous cartoon merchandise

Angry Birds T shirts, pouches
Winnie the Pooh piggibanks
Ben 10 school bags
Chota Bheem pencil cases
Barbie pencils

photo courtesy:

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Disney’s new Halloween experience

Disney’s new Halloween experience

This October, get set to enjoy Disney’s brand new haunted experience Haunted Halloween 2012. At Hong Kong Disneyland, watch how the to vampire clans clash against each other to determine the ultimate winner. The event will begin from October 4 and will continue till October 31, every Thursday to Sunday. A brand new and unexpected frightful fun is awaiting you at Disney’s Haunted Halloween.
Ominous surprises would permeate every corner of the park, including the chance to virtually meet and interact with the recruitment leaders of the evil forces. The Halloween fun can be found throughout Hong Kong Disneyland. You can enroll at “Graves Academy,” a once prestigious learning academy where Master Graves is breeding the evil of the future. Guests can also join forces to support their team when the Vampires and Werewolves meet for the ultimate showdown at “Main Street, U.S.A. – Clash of Evil.” The Park will also take this struggle for power to new heights with a smartphone app. You can enjoy the Halloween fun with a single ticket for the duration of Disney’s Haunted Halloween.

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German National Tourist Board launches new travel mobile app

German National Tourist Board launches new travel mobile app

Germany is a picturesque destination. But while you travel to this auto hub and home to beautiful tourist friendly places, there are chances you might be confused where to go and what to do. Solving the problem faced by hundreds of tourists visiting Germany, the German National Tourist Board launched ‘Top 100’ a new smartphone app, which is aimed at providing the incoming tourists and visitors a glimpse of the country’s top 100 tourist sights.

This move comes after a well worked out research. At the beginning of the year, the GNTB conducted a survey among travellers in ‘Destination Germany’ to find out what they considered to be their personal highlights. Tourist attractions in all 16 federal states are included in the Top 100. Overall, survey respondents selected a wide spectrum of cultural and natural highlights throughout Germany. Top 100 is the GNTB’s first mobile app for Android and iOS devices. It provides specific and extensive information on the particular attractions and enables quick and easy sharing with friends via Facebook. Users can also access up-to-the-minute news on Destination Germany, and they can get money off at various sights thanks to the mobile discount vouchers.

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Rann of Kutch: Desert comes to life

Rann of Kutch: Desert comes to life

A vast tract of land at the western fringe of India, Rann of Kutch is quintessentially a getaway to timeless existence. The region of Kutch is also described as a cradle of craftsmanship, with natives involved weaving, block-printing, bandhini tie-and dye and various styles of embroidery, pottery, wood carving, metal-crafts, shell-work and other handicrafts. The region is clearly defined by the extremes of nature, nomads and tribes clinging onto their traditions, and Rann allows everyone to take a deep breath before you embark your journey to this land of colour and history.

Literally meaning salt marsh, the Rann was originally an extension of the Arabian Sea that was closed for centuries due to silting process. The spectacular sight of the desert could truly be referred as the god’s canvas. Different shades of colour come alive on the white sand background. And myriad shades of blues, greens and reds worn by local people compensate for the drabness of this parched landscape. Those who are keen on knowing about the natural history, the region has enough for everyone. As the habitat of the endangered and interesting wildlife species like the Indian wild ass, Kutch is also a bird watching paradise with waterside birds, migratory birds making the region their home. Taking up travel to the desert is never a tempting proposition except for hardcore wildlife enthusiasts.

Kutch also remains one of the richest pits for folk embroidery in the world. Local communities in Kutch boast of accomplished craftsmen who master in making ethnic leather bags, wallets, lamps, complex stitches and intricate mirror work. Kutch is indeed a great place to find unusual items and here you would find yourself swimming in resplendent textile collection or discovering the various textiles and crafts flourishing in the crannies of Kutch. We are sure that all the aforementioned words would have made you interested in taking a holiday in Kutch.
And Rann Utsav is round the corner – perfect occasion for you to visit Rann of Kutch and soak in the rich heritage and cultures of this parched land. For the ubiquitous tourists, visiting locals with parched barren land is certainly no pleasure trip. But today, the scene has changed with the successful staging of desert festivals across the world as a part of cultural and heritage tourism promotion campaigns. Desert festivals today are encouraging smarms of travellers to visit desert festival venues and savour good music, dance and food in chilly stillness of the desert nights. The Rann of Kutch sizzles in summer months. Come winter and the salty marsh land transforms into a mesmerizing phenomenon. The mass of land turns into a glistening silver sheet of white as if by some mystical magic. With icy-cool winds blowing through the vast barren landscape becomes a visual delight.

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Vivanta by Taj – Whitefield, Bangalore wins the ‘Best commercial building’ at the LEAF awards 2012

Vivanta by Taj - Whitefield, Bangalore wins the ‘Best commercial building’ at the LEAF awards 2012

Vivanta by Taj – Whitefield, Bangalore has won multiple awards in the design area. This time of the year and the most admired edifice has bagged the “Best commercial building’ award by the prestigious Emirates Glass LEAF awards 2012. The hotel has been designed by WOW Architects | Warner Wong Design. The Directors of WOW attended the ceremony in London where they were presented with the prestigious award.

LEAF awards recognize the architects designing the buildings and solutions that are setting the benchmark for the international architectural community. It is an international competition in its 9th year and the previous winners include Zaha Hadid, David Chipperfield, SOM, and Steven Holl.

On the occasion, Maahesh Aiyar, General Manager, Vivanta by Taj – Whitefield, Bangalore said, “We are delighted to win the ‘Best Commercial Building’ title at the prestigious 2012 Leaf awards. It recognizes the distinction that is found in exceptional creativity in design and architecture. The unique project of Vivanta by Taj – Whitefield, Bangalore has set a mark for innovation for architects around the globe. It will stand as a beacon of innovation in this technology driven city.”

The Taj team worked with Warner Wong Design, Singapore to address the needs of the discerning business traveller, whilst redefining the hotel as a social and contemporary cultural hub for both the IT Park and the local population. Nature and technology is central to the design concept of Vivanta by Taj – Whitefield, Bangalore, with designers using digital imagery of the surrounding landscape as a basis for its plan. The hotel now resembles a digitized version of its surroundings. The pleasant climate of Bangalore, as well as low height restrictions, was pivotal to the design. The end result is a playful mix of transparency and layering within the interiors and exteriors.

The podium of the hotel forms a mobius strip, with its twists and folds extending the perception of space and blurring the distinction between building and ground, architecture and landscape. The hotel’s three stories hover above the ground level with the 199 rooms flexing their way around the site. Public and private spaces twist and flow in an endless promenade of spatial experiences, drawing references to traditional Indian dance forms.

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Oktoberfest celebrations @ The Lalit, New Delhi

Oktoberfest celebrations @ The Lalit, New Delhi

Delhiites are experiencing Germany’s most popular and one of world’s most famous food and beverage festival Oktoberfest 2012 . The Lalit Delhi played host to a fun filled Oktoberfest – fun frolic celebrations with best of brews, brands and breads.

The three-day event highlighted some of the best of Bavarian food, games and culture followed by diverse performances by renowned bands. The 3 day long session of beer drinking and authentic German cuisine and savouries to complemented everyone. Not only that, but people also got to participate in a number of exciting beer games, while swinging to the tunes of some of the best and biggest bands of our times at the Plaza Terrace Gardens of the hotel.

Cord Meier-Klodt, Deputy Chief of Mission & Head of Economic and Global Affairs and Acting Ambassador declared The Lalit Oktoberfest open following the age old German custom of ‘Tapping the beer barrel’, where a tap needs to be hammered into a huge beer barrel and then opened to let the beer flow freely from it. Raising a toast to the occasion and the gathering along with Ms Divya Suri Singh, Executive Director, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, Mr. Klodt maintained that it was an experience that made him feel much closer to home in Hamburg, Germany.

Oktoberfest is the best place to be with good friends, enjoy good music and food with a slice of Bavaria in backyard with an Indian twist. You still have time till October 7, so drink, revel and enjoy!!

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Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2012 winners with BMW

Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2012 winners with BMW

National Capital of the country witnessed swarms of runners on the Delhi roads. Runners from all walks of life greeted the roads at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. Some participated to enjoy while others motivated their friends. The mood, the frenzy was electrifying.

The Indian winners of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2012 – Mr. Rahul Kumar Pal and Ms. Sudha Singh – are here seen with the gorgeous BMW 6 Series Convertible. What a show it was!

Photo courtesy: BMW India

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Booker shortlisted Jeet Thayil shines at Kovalam Literary Festival Delhi 2012

Booker shortlisted Jeet Thayil shines at Kovalam Literary Festival Delhi 2012

The main speaker Jeet Thayil, who has been shortlisted for Man Booker Prize to be announced in London on October 16 is the star attraction. The Kerala-born poet-musician will read from his first novel Narcopolis that narrates his own experiences veering around the drug dens of Mumbai.
Narcopolis is Jeet Thayil’s luminous debut novel that delves about drugs, sex, death, perversion, addiction, love, and god, and has more in common in its subject matter with the work of William S. Burroughs or Baudelaire than with the subcontinent’s familiar literary lights.

Narcopolis opens in Bombay in the late 1970s, as its narrator first arrives from New York to find himself entranced with the city’s underworld, in particular an opium den and attached brothel. A cast of unforgettably degenerate and magnetic characters works and patronizes the venue, including Dimple, the eunuch who makes pipes in the den; Rumi, the salaryman and husband whose addiction is violence; Newton Xavier, the celebrated painter who both rejects and craves adulation; Mr. Lee, the Chinese refugee and businessman; and a cast of poets, prostitutes, pimps, and gangsters.

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