12 Reasons Why I Love Visiting Pakistan (Apply For a Visa ASAP!)

Should we, shouldn’t we, is this a good time to go? Any agents who can get a visa? Damn, you have to go to Delhi personally to apply? Whoa!! That doesn’t make sense – It takes as long to fly to Delhi as it does to fly to Karachi! What?? You don’t need 50,000 documents for your visa application? Huh – no online application?

Forms are available only outside the embassy and typed out for you by a distinguished elderly gentleman, clad in a salwar-kurta and skull cap. Sitting in his ‘office’, comprising of two metal stools – one on which he sits and the other on which he’s set up his old school typewriter, he types out your form with one finger under the shade of a tree on the wide pavement outside the High Commission! Really?? The visa interview is less interrogation, more friendly chat about why it’s taken you so long to make this trip?

But once in Karachi, I am floored. It is so similar yet so different! There’s no them and us. You look like you fit in. And they do everything possible to make you feel welcome.

Khush Aamdeed, indeed!

1. The Hospitality

Your Pakistani hosts will go out of their way, and then some, to take you to the most fab places to eat, host the most lavish dinners for you and manage your shopping agendas. They’ll pre-book your appointments, organise your transport and gladly indulge in any of your silly fancies. They open up their homes and their hearts for you. And the minute they introduce you to someone saying you are from India, expect a warm, hearty welcome hug!

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2. The Language

There is nothing as lyrical and romantic as Urdu spoken well! Sheer poetry even if its just someone asking for something as mundane as directions or a recipe.

3. The Homes

And the Mumbaikars think the Delhi-ites are lucky?!?! You’ve got to see these homes to believe it! Behind secure, high walls, these homes are usually built from ground up, allowing you to customise every single thing in your space. Imagine a movie theatre in the basement, a lap pool, barbecue pits, ponds, all sorts of flora… It truly is (and this the ONLY time I’ll allow myself to use this word) – Amazeballs!

house

4. The Tehzeeb

Super efficient and remarkably polite house staff, this is a whole new world for me. Kanta bai gives me attitude every time I chide her for being late. Raju takes off to gaon at the drop off a hat. Here the drivers will get out of the always-immaculate-cars and open the door for you, always respectful and well spoken. A big change from our hired help, no?

helper

5. The Food

Warning to vegetarians -skip to point 6  or take on the risk of being seriously tempted to try the local non vegetarian dishes while in Pakistan. The quality of meat is at another level. Succulent, tender, melt-in-your-mouth. I simply cannot rave enough about the food. From the local Karachi old city haunts like Cafe Lazeez on Burns Road (must try the gola kebab fried in butter) to the fancy Kolachi on the beach front in Karachi, to barbeques in backyards, you will find a variety of price points and levels of sophistication, but one thing that’s always constant is the incredible meat dishes. It did leave me wondering though, when these guys ever ate their veggies! I once ordered a salad for lunch and got the oddest looks ever!

http-::guycodeblog.mtv.com:2013:11:11:dario-cecchini-panzano-steak:

6. The Currency Exchange Rate

The Pakistani rupee is about half that of its Indian counterpart. Which is amazing because shopping just got a 100% more fun!! While the malls have price points similar to what you get in India, it is the markets and the ladies who have small boutiques in the outhouses of their sprawling bungalow gardens (WTF? outhouses, gardens, bungalows?) that you should shopping at! Ask really nicely, and we’ll give you a list!

Expert tip, get a local/your host to call ahead of time and book your appointments. Stand-alone boutiques in Zam Zama, Mehran Heights and Uzma Shopping Centre have the most incredible unstitched fabrics. I have to admit, I went slightly nuts. But really, who wouldn’t?

7. The Fabrics

As a self-confessed fabric junkie, I had to include one point here dedicated to the lawn suits! The quality of the light, soft oh- so-gorgeous cotton is unbeatable. In India we’re only exposed to some designers like Sana Safinaz, but there’s a plethora of equally amazing designers that do some great work. Why why why isn’t lawn available locally in India?? The colours and prints (though some prints were a bit OTT for me) range from traditional and ethnic to modern and graphic. Just a word of caution though, always dry clean these fabrics!

khaadi

8. Khaadi

No, no, not another fabric rant again. This is the name of a truly awesome store! From home decor to unstitched suits, to ready made kurtas, embroidered stretch churidars, the most adorable kids range, handbags and the premium Khaadi Khaas range, this store is a must visit. Non negotiable!

9. The Sea

Moonlight Crabbing in Karachi is an experience you must not miss. Ditch ideas of a fancy yacht and a suave captain taking you out to sea to fish and then cook the catch. Think old school fishing boats, no loos (ladies, be warned!), but melt-in-your-mouth fresh crabs and chilled beer. Ask nicely and they will play some local music for you to enjoy the moonlit night even more.

10. The Buses

Kitsch at it best, this mode of public transport sure brightens up the roads! Always overcrowded, with people literally hanging off. While I cannot personally vouch for safety, I can attest to the fact that these make Mumbai local trains at rush hour look like child’s play!

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11. The Stunningly Beautiful Women

So maybe I don’t really love this about Pakistan. Their beautifully made up, always stylishly turned out women make me want to hide myself away. But for those willing to watch and learn, there’s so much to take away from these graceful, elegant ladies.

12. The Plays

I have distinct childhood memories of being asked to ‘sshh’ while grand mum and mum focused intently on Haseena Moin’s classics Dhoop Kinaray and Tanhaiyan on our temperamental VCD player in the late 80’s. Still popular, these made for television dramas now get passed around on shiny DVD’s but are no less precious to those living outside Pakistan who are lucky enough to get their hands on a copy.

This post was published on POPxo.com on Wed, 25 June, 2014

Look Fashionable In The Rains: Umbrellas That Make a Statement!

Monsoon has arrived, and we’re ecstatic! While we sit by the window enjoying the cool breeze and breathing in the smell of wet earth, we allow ourselves to drift away into a little fantasy of lush greenery, the flaming colours of the neighbourhood gulmohar, walks in the rain, splashing in puddles like a carefree child and snuggles in bed with a cozy blanket and a good book. It’s time to start prepping for the monsoons! The first rains are here and we’re glad to be rid of the sweltering heat! Lets dust off those umbrellas, or better yet, buy some super cool, funky new ones!

Soon after we snapped out of that little reverie, we trudged through a zillion websites to bring you the most comprehensive shopping list of umbrellas EVER! And if you are anything like us, buy about five, you’ll lose about one every few weeks, though a word of caution- some of these, you really don’t want to part with… And what’s more? The umbrella is the new clutch this season, you gotta carry the right one to make a statement!

1. New Look Aztec Giraffe Umbrella

1. asos

Black with white giraffes printed to look like an aztec print and a pop of colour via the fuchsia knob and handle, this ones on our lust list!

Buy it here

2. The Bombay Store Urban Turban Umbrella

2. bombay storeKitsch is cool! And you can’t fault the quality of products from The Bombay Store. Kuddos of the creative team for  consistently coming up with cool designs year after year.

Buy it here

3. Its Our Studio Colour Changing Umbrella

4. Colour changingHow cool is this?!! We’re suckers for any of these silly gimmicks! Totally worth it when you watch the auntie walking across the road from you do a double take when your umbrella suddenly starts changing colour!

Buy it here

4. Chic Factor I (Heart) Rains Umbrella

3. chicfactorstore.comRoasted butta on the streets, steaming hot cutting chai, crispy onion pakodas, aaaah, we’re in love too!

Buy it here

5. Bosky’s Madhubani Umbrella

5. boskyMadhubani art makes this umbrella so unique! No chance of picking up the wrong umbrella off the rack at the bank, though no guarantees that this one won’t get nicked!

Buy it here

6. Lanvin Face-Print Umbrella

8. lanvinUber chic, and a definite head turner, this Lanvin beauty is your go-to accessory this monsoon. The strut in your step will more than make up for the hole this baby will burn in your pocket.

Buy it here

7. Hulkat Umbrella

7. hulkatPurely for its ability to make us giggle, we vote for this funny umbrella as our top pick!

Buy it here

8. Nappa Dori Double Tone Umbrella

10. NAPPA DORINappa Dori – our fav home grown brand of bags and trunks now makes these gorgeous two toned umbrellas too! What’s way cooler than the umbrellas though, are the covers!

Buy it here

9. UCB Multi-hued Umbrella

9. limeroadAvailable at United Colours of Benetton, you have your very own rainbow right here in your hands. That pot of gold can’t be too far, can it?? Though UCB does not retail online, just make sure you get one at the store.

 Buy It Here

10. Sun Umbrellas Fanbrella

11. umbrella fanWe’ve already placed our orders for this one! Innovative and practical, from the industry expert Sun Umbrellas, this ones super cool. Literally! Fitted with a mini fan and a safety net, no more muggy weather for you this monsoon!

Buy it here

11. Umbrella Heavens Red Heart

12. umbrellaheavnWe’re firm believers in wearing your heart on your sleeve. Or in this case, in your hand, above your head! Only for those with a strong sense of romance though!

Buy it here

12. Marc Jacobs Dynamite Logo Umbrella

13. marc jacobsSomething for the brand junkies! Usually not big on logos, this Marc Jacobs brolly is cute and sexy!

Buy it here

13. Kate Spade City Lights Umbrella

kate spadeAptly named, watch the twinkling street lights as the rain comes down in sheets, while you stay nice and dry under the shade of this umbrella.

Buy it here

14. India Circus Riding Along Umbrella

15. IndiacircusOur favourite online store India Circus by Krishna Mehta brings us a striking collection of umbrellas, with motifs ranging from peacocks to cycle rickshaws that channel a modern Indian ethnic ethos.

Buy it here

15. The Brolly Shop Lulu Guinness Birdcage Umbrella

17. thebrolleyshop

Birdcages are not just the rage in home decor, but have made it to accessories too! We’re not complaining! How adorable is this one??

Buy it here

16. Moschino 30th Anniversary Umbrella

18. moschinoOk so maybe not breaking the bank, but we’re definitely making a substantial withdrawal for this Moschino special addition umbrella! Does this count as an investment?

Buy it here

This post was published on POPxo.com on Tue, 17 June, 2014

#FatGirl at Fashion Week Rejoices: Spoilt for Choice at Last!

Fat Girl is still fat. Not ‘pleasantly plump’ (what about plump is EVER pleasant?) And its not like I didn’t try! My trainer stole money from the gym and got fired. And my nutritionist fired me. Well, what to do? Here’s what… rant and cheat! Wear clothes designed to make you look slimmer while u still sneak in that midnight chocolate bar and make promises to workout out starting Monday. God swear. 

The trauma of any night out, lunch date or best friends shaadi starts with the ‘what the f*** am I going to wear?’ stress. If you are anything like me, all you have in your wardrobe is umpteen black kurta variations and a few white ones thrown in for the days when you are feeling marginally less fat. I’d like to support the Indian design fraternity, I really would, but how?? No one makes or stocks my size! With every fashion week, Fat Girl dies a little inside. I’d need to trim about 8 inches off my waist and shave off about 2/3rd of my thigh to be able to just about fit into most of the designs on the ramp. Oooh and I will also need the staple 9-inch heels on my feet. Arrrggggh! 

Rant over.  Phew. 

It does however look like the tide is (finally!) turning! From what I am seeing at Lakmé Fashion Week Summer Resort ’14 and Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week Autumn Winter ’14, there’s a bunch of things to head to the stores for! Aaaah! At last! Shop on, my chubby pals!

I’ve done the hard work for you. Looked through pretty much everything and selected your wardrobe for the rest of the year! Here’s a bunch of stuff that I am definitely placing orders for (errm, already placed orders for). Very Fat Girl friendly! My shopping list this season is slightly out of hand. I am after all spoilt for choice! For once!!

LFW 2Long and lean is the silhouette to flaunt and the number of kurta ideas that jumped at us here are enough to take us through till next season. We love how the slim fits can instantly lean you up and the feminine and flirty feel is just the right amount of sensuous!

lfw 1Pairing your kurtas with slim-fit pants is really the way forward. While the flowy kurt a does a good job of hiding your chub, the slim-fit pants give you a streamlined, slimmer look!

WIFW 2Layering might be dangerous territory for a bigger girl, but we love the effortless layering tips spotted at fashion week. The key is to keep it flowy if paired with fitted inners or fitted when paired with flowy inners.

wifw 1When it comes to colours, black is really is the best but isn’t it a tad bit boring? Pick darker hues or candy colours filled with embellishments. Be wary when opting for prints, but anything that is vertical is fair game!

This post was published on POPxo.com on Fri, 04 April, 2014

About Me

Self confessed shopaholic. Mum to a hyper-genius toddler. Unexplainable obsession with shiny shoes. Currently overweight. Intense love for accessories. Crappy movie watcher. Once upon a time fashion photographer.  Compulsive workaholic. Current Creative Director at POPxo.com. Wife to sports addict – beef loving husband. Sometimes writer. Lazy bugger. Forgetful. Corny romance fiction books reader. Afflicted with verbal diarrhea. Wannabe beauty product reviewer. Lover of Indian new age fashion.
Looking desperately for a little piece of the internet to home my rantings. Samjhaa?

I have a confession to make. I’ve not lost my post-baby fat. Or the fat which mysteriously appeared  pre-baby and post wedding. Or those extra inches of flab which stubbornly stayed put after my holiday in 2009.

I work in the fashion industry, where being thin is almost a religion. My job as Creative Director of POPxo.com really leaves me no time to hit the gym. Feeble excuse? Yes. But, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Also, I’m not curtailing my love affair with chocolate anytime in the foreseeable future, nor am I being granted my wish of  sprouting a few more inches to be 5’4″ tall  (see, I’m realistic, I could have dreamt of being a model-esque 5’10″!).

So keeping all this in mind,  it’s fair to say that my chances of spotting something at Fashion Week that I can actually imagine myself wearing are pretty grim, slim and next to none. While I am most definately not massive, I am certainly not the size zero that most designers make clothes for.

But I do love fashion. Thankfully, there is one designer who does not just design for the skinny, salad eating, living-in-the-gym female. Nupur Kanoi’s last season saw me drool. On Day 3 at Lakme Fashion Week, I spotted not one, but four pieces I’d like to order once my Diwali bonus comes in. I loved the colours – stunning saturated reds and deep indigos. But for me, the surprise was in her creative use of deep browns – a colour I previously thought drab and dull.

Here are the four Nupur Kanoi outfits that caught my fancy:

1This ribbon applique square neck kurta with high slits is paired with wide leg cropped trousers. Elegant and forgiving at the same time.  It adds much-needed height and will be wearing mine with sky-high heels.

2

This Kutch embroidered ‘biker’ zippered sleeveless kurta-dress with sheer churidar is perfect. It references the biker jacket with an Indian sensibility and I am in love.

3Another ‘biker’ look, this time it’s a ‘kurta-trenchcoat’ with zipper detail; kurta with a zippered placket worn with salwar trousers. Edgy, yet fun. Fabulous!

4This chiffon kurta with a high-low hem and zipper detailing is worn with pinstripe. thread embroidered waistcoat and  salwar trousers. Indo-rock-chic!

cropped topFor those of you who’ve been following POPxo‘s expert fitness tips: a.k.a. religiously doing the Tabata and drinking green smoothies every morning – Congratulations! You are not only toned and buffed but also have the fashion know-how to admire AND more importantly fit into this gorgeous creation.

As for me, I will do my best to follow all the fitness advice, attempt to lay off the chocolate (no promises there).

But thankfully, till I too join the ranks of the toned and buffed, I have the soon-to-be-mine Nupur Kanoi creations to look forward to.

This piece was published on POPxo.com on Tue, 27 August, 2013.