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Day 26: Mumbai diary-Shooting the moon


Bombay is a city. Mumbai is countless emotions, tall buildings, frenetic pace! How cliche! Cliche is beauty like pigeons flock swarming above the sea edge, beaches and people wading in and out, hymning a new tune, happiness, anger and struggle!

The gentle and silent night, burst of breeze and wind skirting past the sea, heat belching to cake the face,  running a sensation of thickness past the Arabian Sea juxtaposed between the monuments and buildings splayed, horns ok of black and yellow cabs, red buses ambling as slums stares with silent eyes, wide and open.

Rattling of trains and whistles purrs like the fat cat whining, conmuters scampering in the hustle and bustle. Chaos has a name, Mumbai local. A city of the impossible. Every step taken is worth money.  Grabbing a Vada Pav and cutting chai quenches thirst and hunger, counters the cornucopia of wealth flicked on the face.

Silent nights compensate for the day’s struggle as one sits on the cusp chasing flies and watching the water slowing unlike life in Maximum City. Lighting a smoke and the company of cheap rum soothes the spirit, watching revelers hanging out at the parapet. A long journey may never end nor the night provides closure for a restless mind wandering to make the moolah. Living on the edge and constant worry of homelessness, uninvited monsoon washes not just our deep worries but an entire city riding against the tide of uncertainty, running aimlessly and shooting the moon. Struggle is another name for Mumbai.

When pressure cooker whistle disappears like the train whistle, the difference about two worlds, slums and high rises fade away. A cab driver heckled out and slapped for daring to enter the city as saffron flags threaten an eco system, of inclusive Bombay vs fast Mumbai.

Yet, another day triumphs when the sun rises for the commoners. United the people are and we call it the resilience residing in the world of extremities. A beggar child at the traffic signal and a scarred, wrinkled young woman decked in a cheap saree squatting on the floor begging for milk to feed the urchin, yowling for small mercies reminds us that as ruthless as Mumbai may be, hope hanging on a thread can never be wiped off.

A random child singing nasal in the local, wiping the train’s floor and selling handkerchief to commuters hoping for a single coin as a bridge collapses right under the face, blood-smeared like paan stains and lives lost in the chaotic, flesh twirls into a spin. Every second matter.

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#SaveRegal and the movie memories


Respected film critic and consultant Meenakshi Shedde writes in Sunday Midday on the threat of Regal cinema in Colaba closing and calling on a coalition to save Regal.  An iconic monument who stood up to the wave of multiplex culture, Regal cinema and as its name implies, the building belongs to our national heritage in Mumbai, read South Bombay, towering as we wheedle past Colaba.

Image credit: https://www.facebook.com/mnxishedde

There is not one soul who has been born and brought up in the city or made it their homes who dare feign ignorance to Regal cinema, particularly if we belong to this breed of regular townie, SoBo crowd. I stayed in the city for a couple of years at Churchgate and naturally made it my home before leaving India. Colaba was a regular affair if not an everyday date, going for cheap beef fry dinner at Baghdadi, sitting for coffee at Barista, pastry at Olympia, whining time at Gateway, shopping for books or cheap Kurtas at the Causeway or booze at Gokul or Sports Express Bar. This gem of a place, Colaba boasts of a certain alluring charm and walking at the Causeway in itself is a festival strutting past the hippie crowd buying stuff and this sight describes the vibrant city mood. Quite naturally, as one walks past Regal Cinema, looking at the posters of new releases and even walking inside the huge corridor is in itself a favorite pastime. That happened between 20005-08.

We all have our Regal story and I ain’t different. The first time I discovered Regal was probably in 2005 when as a Second Year student in Pune and came to Mumbai during college holidays to meet someone at the airport. I stayed in the city for a week at Metro Residency forking out 100 or 200 bucks, believe it or not, and guzzling beer at Leopold. I was at that time planning to shift to Mumbai, the city of dreams giving wings to the paper boat aspirations and one such evening, walked past Regal for a solo beer evening. The real deal was the posters of the upcoming, Bunty Aur Babli, starring the Bachchans, Amitabh and Abhishek with Rani Mukherjee piqued my interest. I was dying to watch the movie and stepped inside the sprawling lounge, the fascinating and aesthetic mirrors, gazing at the glossy and attractive posters was nothing less than an adult fantasy.

Fast forward to the years 2007-8 where I watched a couple of Hindi movies at Regal, the underlying charm of sitting in the theater, the comfortable old-fashioned but cushioned seats and munching samosas with coffee, tea or Pepsi that beats the so-called Multiplexes any day. The memories are still fresh about sitting in Regal where I may have been on the couch four to five times, once with two friends on a drunken evening and while nursing a break up as we watched the Ranbir starrer Bachna Ae Haseena. We munched piping samoosa post interval and my friend Shaheen smiled sheepishly seeing me getting all mushy about love loss crap and whining of never being able to love again.

I don’t remember the first film I watched at Regal but the Emraan Hashmi starrer Jannat could have been the one and first outing of the kissing sensation alone. Why alone? Simple because we were on the verge of break up and getting together all over when she promised we would be watching it saath but didn’t return my calls. I booked the ticket in frustration and sat alone, drooling over Sonal Chauhan.

We did watch Thoda Pyar Thoda Magic together in what real would imitate reel in our changing equation about thoda heart break, thoda frustration and thoda love where the ex was battling some issues at home. Both sat inside the theater and busy figuring what will happen to us. I shall skip this sob love story buried under the ruins but Regal witnessed our luv shuv and break up where I cheated with….yes I did…Amisha Patel imagining to romancing her in the swimming pool. Remember lazy lamhe! I couldn’t keep my away from the Gujju babe in the full glare of my girlfriend.

Of course, Regal bore our secret mushy conversation. A moment of sadness surfaced on her face. I prodded her to smile. She grinned. I coaxed her to flash a wide smile. I get another grin and a sarcastic jibe that she would smile forever, at anything and for everybody asking. A wide green flashed her white tooth as if doing a toothpaste ad. I shut my mouth. Nopes we didn’t make out inside the dark hall but contented to caress her hand and the shining black jet hair.

We all have some Regal memories with romance, love brewing, a silly kiss, friendship, stalked and a lone movie watching trip. In India, we breathe cinema and particularly in a bustling city like Mumbai in what is called theater or single screen offering us dollops of joy, the exquisite art decoration, box office, movie ticket in smaller shape than the Best bus receipt accompanying us in the gift-wrapped moments. High time we put a stop to the death of theatres in dwindling numbers that we can count on our fingers yet they are the joy weavers, offering an exhilarating and multifold experience.

I join Meenakshi Shedde and time for all of us Bombay wallah, Indiawallah falling in love with the movies over the years to pool efforts to save #SaveRegal for there will come a day when our cinema heritage will disappear. We owe it to the iconic theaters in the city.

 

With love

V

 

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Fiction: The lover (s) of Harivarsha


I stared at the decayed planked wall inside the decrepit room. The wooden door creaked open and yanked, propelled by the dusty ceiling fan. The pigeons flocked at the edge of the sill and the throaty coos irritated me to death. I feel suffocated speaking to the wall every day and desperately wanted to run away from the boisterous life of old Bombay, the sight of blue-and-yellow cabs, trucks and buses screeching to life, the blaringly loud horns.

The rudderless life, aimless existence and stench of tobacco crushed on the floor felt like a half-dead orgasmic climax. I wanted to puke at the sight of everything. Relentless city noise has deprived me of tranquillity and sleep. The only solace is the alcohol and cheap whisky for 20 bucks. We are in the 90s. My life is cheap. Cheap packet of gold flake cigarette, cheap sex every day and cheap food. The polluted air is free, so is the sea gentle at times and stormy the next. The spangle of light stretched out, coalescing with the dappled sun that made me snigger at everything human and nature. I lumbered, to and fro, between the sofa and the door, inching to slouch on the same space.

Hunched shoulders, tingled skin and unwavering eyes gazing at the midnight’s dotted lights forming a shadow. She left her coat hanging the night before when we were making mad mad love and biting into each other, scratching skins to play silly games like termites crawling into each other’s flesh. I thought she wouldn’t come tonight. Weltering in the high heels and short skirts, she walked straight to flounce her designer bag on the bed. I pretended to ignore her.  My senses are incapacitated with the ego riding high like the cheap whisky I drink at every nightfall, admiring the coconut trees lingering the sea. She left in the middle of the act yesterday. I hate her. Bitch! I wanted to yell.

The sullen look wore thin on my face and hastily pulled the short on my underwear before she started to kiss me sloppily and assaulting my skinny body.  She winked at me. “So much trouble you took, na. What’s the point of wearing the short when I gonna pull it down.” I cannot bear to see her seducing effortlessly written all over the face, the edge she always commands without trying too hard.  The smirk on her face, the look and roving eyes killed me every second.  I wanna talk tough. “The door is open,” I tut-tutted.

She lit a cigarette. The smoke blew on my face.  “Haan! Toh! The door is always open and let fresh air and breeze curl inside this small room like the foggy cigarette. Do you want me to leave? she japed at me. The wickedness, effortless gaze, simpering and cackle sent me in a stew. If I was chicken gravy, she would gobble me at one instant. “Your choice,” I blabbered.

I faked the act of looking unfazed for we are addicted to each other. She may have different lovers and a filthy rich husband but comes to me every night which gives an instant and adrenaline high.  The fear of seeing her going away and the eyes furtively squinted at her moves, the steps towards the door. She stopped abruptly and pulled off the blouse to show the perfected sculpted bareback.  She wanted to say, ‘Fuck off.’ I was pretty sure of that. She slowly turned around in her curvy shapes like an artist and trotted on the heels of a cat mewing behind the door, grabbed the poor thing, ruffling furs and kissed it. The poor animal shrieked and slipped away from her.

Slouching on the torn off sofa that bore our violence for shaking and jumping several nights, I was amused to watch an object flung towards me. I avoided it in time through twists and turns. Her stilettos almost kissed my face. She threw herself at me.

I don’t even know her name. We have been doing it every night for several months. She’s an egoistic and maniacal woman hell-bent to see me lose control and doesn’t flinch in saying. The large wry smile on her face is the triumph of seeing me growing weak at the idea and name of sex.

She never played the victim card. I did. She is an enigma and doesn’t flinch in asking for intimacy but claimed it as if a birthright. I loathed it for getting monotonous like morning brunch. She is nonchalant. “Roughen me, man. You are sexy. Caress my body and skin. I am not feeling anything. Let your hair down. You know the best thing about us is how when we kiss and your mind wanders. No complaint. I love to take the lead. You are easy-going unlike my husband and the lovers I meet during the day. I want more.” It’s a piece of cake for her.

I am panting. Words are flowing and dunno from where. Must be the effect of the imported scotch she brought from US. “I want you, only you,” I pressed harder on her. She flailed her hands and long legs slithering my lip and pressed my stomach. “Baby…” I breathed. She almost kicked me in the groin. “Stop calling me that. I am a free bird. I cannot be possessed by males like you. Set yourself free. Feel it.”

“I hate your husband, the money bag, expensive cars and hotel suites,” I doggedly say.

“You cannot…a dimwit you are. You don’t even know him and I am fucking you right now. Stop eyeing my boobs and hating my husband. It’s like asking for coins when you got the notes. Time to get out of this poor and dirty room for you are caught in this virus cheap mentality of poor vs rich, envying the rich. Such a fuck all mental ejaculation with this envy thing.”

“Come on! Fuck me harder, “she moaned.

I nodded. “It’s not like some fucking competition going on,” I almost told her.

I was tired of playing this game with a rich woman who got nothing else to do but dragged me on top of her every night. This routine ailed me. We fucked and smoke up. There is nothing between us. I loathed it. No meaningful conversation, no cuddling and laughing together.

She called me a train boggy but gelatinous. I termed her as the biggest earth-shattering mystery and a nymph wearing the chameleon colors. She freaked out and became violent when I stubbornly insisted on hearing her name. She doesn’t want to know mine, either. Names are our dirty secret, not the sex.

A dominant woman who flaunts the most expensive clothes, bangles and jewelry, she took pride in overpowering me with a kooky smile drawn on paper.  Every dog has its day, I whispered into her ears. “You bet,” she faked a coquettish smile. I galumphed at the small victory. She spent the entire night in my kholi, the rat-infested dingy square room and I got a sadistic high way bigger than the climax admiring the flies and insects hovering above her head and the sleepless sleep broken by the ear-splitting pigeons cooing near the lobe. I tasted victory and sipped my alcohol that filled the nostril and swirled on the tongue.  Sweet revenge has never tasted so good and lingered in the mouth for months and years. Harivarsha disappeared like a mystery was never seen again.

PS: This fiction has been inspired by one of the short stories in Adwaita Das’s novel Colors of Shadow. Click to buy the marvellous book about human lives and relationships on Amazon.

 

Love

V

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The Enchantress: Ramona Arena


Woman of substance: Ramona Arena is an aesthetic combo of style, tune & words

Ramona chic

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Ramona Arena

The nonchalant demeanour with which she struts around and sashays into her creative space makes a delightful canvas. Meet Ramona Arena. After all, she is no stranger to the world of glitz, music and vee-jaying. The scintillating persona is on a travel spree, globe-trotting and scorching the scene across the world, be it India or London.

The diva with a boho-chic sense of style and the magnetic persona eponymous to hippie and a rebel dabbles in the paraphernalia of show biz with equal ease: music, social media, hosting and yes, poetry. You heard it, right. Ramona Arena weaves effortless words as a poetess. The hidden talent for words is unfurled on her personal space, RA-flowing with a pen. You shouldn’t be surprised.

Like a Queen of Heart, Ramona Arena is a powerhouse of talent who believes in not only striding ahead but making her mark in such a manner that you can’t get enough of her. Put simply, Ramona is an enchantress.

She is daring, simple, exudes confidence and hotness yet believes in making a difference to lives. Ramona comes with a flick of light and like a lush of gentle breeze, spreading her vibes wafting through our surrounding. She is a real combo of re-defined hotness, being unabashedly sexy with a whiff of intelligence.

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The Diva!! She got the attitude and call what you may! Who says an eye for an eye makes the world blind?!

It was during the early 2000s when Ramona sashayed inside your living room, a time where pop music wore a thin veil and as time whizzed, the scene became ablaze. It was the MTV days, when we grew up, feasted and lapped on pop culture.

You may call her sexy with an attitude. Think again! She is not all of that but eyes brimmed with dreams to conquer her world. A great believer in humanity, Ramona refuses to be confined to genres when I ask what one makes of her as a rebel, dreamer, and hippie.

It was on the blog that I met her, ensnarled by the effortless and sensual words that the poetess composes. Ra, as she is affectionately called, readily agrees to play along and accepts to feature on the blog. There is no starry air and she flits with ease into her own skin. There is no pretension.

It’s been a long journey for Ramona, whether as the lovely MTV host or being Sonia in Karan Johar’s star-studded family saga K3G which happened much before her music television days and host to various labels. Since then, there has been no looking back as Ramona flings her charm be it on the music scene, hosting shows and poetess to the great delight of her bevy of admirers.

She doesn’t flinch once when she says, “You can make of me whatever you like! You have an opinion you’re entitled to.” Spot on!
She is the stuff dreams are made of. Ramona could have been a princess but her in-your-face attitude and honesty take you on a unique ride. Mesmerizing by her uncanny talent, I explore the mystery behind the lady who dabble into so many things at one time. I flouted the question after reading the description on her website, ‘I sang before I spoke……I got a free meal …Life has been full of exciting adventures.’

The star simply says, “I just get very uncomfortable when people try to give me a label and put me in a box. I don’t see why human beings in general, feel the need to define me or themselves. Or, anything else for that matter.”

Ramona Arena can be clouded and shrouded in mystery. After all, who wouldn’t love to decode her in the current avatar? Her life seems to take a lot of twists and turns in her ever-changing career, constantly defining and pushing herself to the edge as an artist. After all, wasn’t Ramona the same girl who sent tizzy of excitement when she scorched the scene on MTV to steal our hearts!

Ramona Arena could well be a rock star and rightly so in experimenting and wearing various hats. She doesn’t hide under a comforting label and is shorn of labels. “Who said you have to be only X or Y or Z? Why can’t I be everything or just different things at different times without restrictions and limitations of labels and expectations?”

Ramona moods
‘Life is a constant flow’ The lady with an attitude

The nonconformist’s winged words are spelled with aplomb, “You are in a constant state of flow as you live life, you are never ‘really’ in control of most things – change can happen at anytime, in fact it’s the only constant thing in life, so trying to make something of me is pretty pointless!

“And, that Top 10 was called World Chart Express .” She corrects me with the charm of a bird spreading its wings above the rainbow. Guilty as charged, I defined the most loved show on MTV as Top 10.

RA in swiss

The diva with eclectic facet spells the story of her life that unspools, harking back to her growing days in Bombay, an alumni of the hip and happening Jai Hind College where she studied literature. No wonder she has a knack for words.

One thing led to the other and Ramona explored her hidden talent be it singing, poetry, hosting and films. Her true calling, she attributes to, “The growing up years definitely contributed to who I am today. But my calling came the day I took my first breath.”

She got the wild look and can be coy one imagines. Gotta revise my copy for Ramona Arena is not spittle-flecked when our conversation verges towards MTV that was huge for my generation in an era where pop culture was lacking in India but exploded like baby boomers. Music runs in her blood like an adrenaline rush and it’s only natural to ask her on the shift in music channels veering towards lurid content and the bevy of reality shows mushrooming nowadays.

Ramona avers, “It’s heartbreaking. Entertainment is fine and music channels should have it in doses, like it used to be. Vh1 is amazing – it’s stayed true to itself, full props. Music Television used to be about music, creativity, art, fun and that it’s none of these things anymore – just about feeding rubbish to brain dead people and making them believe they want it.” A sharp and incisive observation on the sorry, shoddy state of television and music channel, from the horse’s mouth.

Ramona singing
‘I gotta show you the comb’ tune’

Her love for music is no secret. Ramona effortlessly slips her soul into V-Jing, music video and theatre with her magnetic presence and prose. Getting into movies was a natural choice when she forayed and strode into flicks like K3G, Kal Ho Na Ho and Aetbaar.

Remember Sonia, Kareena Kapoor’s, friend in an ensemble cast composed of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol and Rani Mukherjee. For sure, it must be a magnificent experience to brush shoulders with the biggies and working under Karan Johar.

She says, “Yes, it’s always fun to be on set, though sometimes the long waits between shots can be very boring. I was very lucky to have made a few good friends (some I’m close to even today). Karan is great fun as everyone knows and is extremely hard working. My best K3G memories, though, were with Yash uncle, a gem of a human being.”

The star was always fascinated by acting and reminisces, “I always acted through school and college-I love being on stage. I love films…I just wish there were interesting and challenging roles for me. I’d act for free – it’s not about the money – if I found someone that had a great script – an actual story, that he was passionate about, knew what he wanted from me as an actor and how to bring it out from me, I’d do it in a heart-beat. I love it but Music will always be no.1.”

She infuses life in what she does, be it her constant presence on social media connecting with followers and fans, striking the high note in music, acting, hosting and writing. I am in awe. I ask how on earth she juggles so many things and finds time to get everything rolled like the dice. Her confidence and passion are echoed in her choice of words, “You make the time for the things you love. All these things are me.”

Touche! The girl in tinsel town is crisp and hit the cudgel, “People often advised me to stick to one thing – don’t be the jack of all and queen of none. I have a different perspective.” Being someone who knows her mind and an unflinching belief in the positive side of life, she affirms, “This planet has so much to offer – countries, cultures, colours, food, clothing, fabrics, landscapes, etc… I’d be a fool not to do it all, see it all, taste it all!!! Why would I ever limit my experience to one thing when God has given us so much variety?”

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The sari pose embodies the woman in all her forms. Ramona Arena is truly a woman of substance.

Why not?! After all, the more the merrier for someone as exuberant as Ramona who can bring the house down with her personified charm, poise and easy demeanour. The sky has always been the limit for her, be it her refusal to be stuck in a specific genre and never shy to make her real self, comes alive with spark.

Ramona never plays the safe card and says with unabashed honesty, “ It feels like the stupid troll logic one often finds on social media – if one is a singer or actor etc, they apparently should only stick to doing that and not have an opinion about anything else – especially political issues. That is so daft. You’ll never live or experience the diversity of life if you do.”

And, the girl who wears her heart on the sleeve is never short of intelligent humour. “And-do I really want to be a Queen?”, she jests.
She is so full of surprises. It was the time I discovered the effortless power of her ink, crafting inspiring and soulful poetry that makes you stop and reflect on life. It’s the real deal and icing on cake. The inspiration behind her powerful words must come from somewhere. May be an inner voice sensually stroking her mind!

She belts it out, “I started writing when I was a frustrated 13-year-old because I didn’t know how acceptable it would be to say the things I wanted to, without a filter or conscience and anyway, there was no one around I could say them to.”
“Inspiration is all around – sometimes nature, sometimes people’s stories, sometimes travel – mostly life…it has so much it is constantly teaching you,” she muses.Red Hot Ramona

Ramona Arena

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The many moods of Ramona.

Imbibed with the gift for impeccable writing and counting the fact that every celebrity in town is coming with a book, hasn’t the bug hit her yet? She laughs, “Ha! I have been asked many times to write a book. I don’t think I’m ready to do a work of fiction just yet. If anyone is interested in publishing my poems or my travel writing like The Rajput Diaries I’d be happy to start with that.”

Her poems and music are all about celebrating life in style and being face to face with one’s inner side. How much of Ramona, the rebel in town, do we see in her work? She reflects, “Of course – creativity is always personal. Deeply personal. But not everything I write is about me or what I’m going through. There’s a lot that influences me, my thoughts, my moods and therefore my writing. As a reader, you’ll never know which piece is about me, how much is inspired by something or someone else, and what actually is true about ‘me’.”

She’s as flabbergasted as I am when I quiz her on her collaboration with Pentagram which turns out to be flying rumours. She shrugs it off: “Don’t know if I’m more shocked at this news or if the boys will be. I have never collaborated with Pentagram or Indus Creed. The Penta boys are all dear friends – Vishal being one of my closest.”

Now, I am quite shocked at the shocking revelation since I read about the news somewhere. Ahem!! But, no one can deny her scintillating voice in ‘Wanna be your Only Love’ and ‘Hello World’ that blew our mind. Get her on music that continues to wow us, raving about her performance and there is no stopping her to spur the tale. “I’ve written the songs and lyrics & sung for WBYOL, Hello World wt Anish Sood producing both, have done the same for Feel with Mexican Dj/Producer Rickber Serrano, In Time wt Lost Stories and Peeya wt the Swiss/Irish duo Blumenkraft.”

Ramona style
I’m watching…Don’t move and get out of the box!

Ramona never shies away from experimented with music where she made her first outing with a Hindi movie. An exhilarating experience, Ramona says, I also composed 3 tracks for the film Roar as per the film director and producers requests – that was an interesting experience. Never really done stuff in Hindi.

An incredible and true artist, Ramona Arena’s fans are in for a treat for there are more on the silver plate and innings. “You’ll be hearing a lot of different sounds from me very soon. I am always open to collaborating with musicians – unknown, known doesn’t matter – it’s always about the music.”

A soul who nudges friends but also creatively inclined artists who lack the moolah to make the world hear and applaud them. Her mind is brimming with ideas and it was on social media that she flouted an idea of collaboration to give fillip to voices, dreaming of making it big. She calls it, ‘The idea of creative barter never left.’ Ramona shares an anecdote, ‘It came back even stronger when I saw a kid at The Coalition in Delhi, so heart-broken about having to give up on his passion, his dream career for lack of support.

 

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All images copyrighted@Ramona Arena and may not be reproduced without her permission.

Spirited, intellectual and filled with passion for her plethora of creative pursuit, Ramona Arena doesn’t wear blinkers and is on a spree. Her effortless charm echoes the persona with zing and the girl wins your heart through her powerful reflections. You gotta stay in tune for Ramona balances her act with verve and will never cease to surprise the world with projects bearing her mark for she is a great believer in creativity as a unifying platform. Till we meet next time, I can say Ramona Arena knows how to win hearts and minds.

 

That’s Ramona Arena, a go-getter in life, spunky to the core, free-spirited, bohemian or put simply, a woman of substance.

With Love

V

Post-script: I met Ra on her blog early this year and became hooked to her words. I am a self-confessed fan during her MTV days and she is more than I knew about her in terms of artistic creative. We exchanged e-mails and the interview was sent one month back. I got a bit late and it’s fresh from the oven.

Have a nice trip with Ramona. Connect with her on FB and Twitter.

 

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Your Bombay, My Mumbai our Bombaiya!!


Marine Drive
Marine Drive

Mera Mumbai! Your Bombay! Our Mumbai. The city is an addiction, an emotion speaking limitless words in one voice echoing our belonging to the place that welcomed us with arms wide open like Shah Rukh Khan’s signature style embrace. It’s an obsession the moment you step your feet in the city that offers unadulterated love. It is the greatest devotion on earth, like the bells at Siddhivinayak Mandir and moments of solace at Haji Ali Dargah.

All Images are copy righted@Vishal Bheeroo
All Images are copyrighted@Vishal Bheeroo

The deep connect that I have with the city, surrounded by the Arabian Sea, chime a bell with the language of the heart that knows no barrier. It only knows one language: love. Mumbai just grows on you and you never gets enough of it. It’s the celebration of life in zest, vigor and passion. The year was 2002 when Mumbai called to embrace me and it’s tough to survive in one of the world’s fastest cities. Dejected, I left! Destiny had other plans. Don’t they say, when love gonna happen, it will. One year later, I visited the city and fell in love.

The Deccan Queen train ambled slowly at Chembur where I sat by the window seat,gazing at few yellow-and-black cabs and buses on the highway. The scene is so vivid in my mind and my eyes focused on the city as the train sped past the road. I wouldn’t lose sight of the city’s vivid infrastructure. Every now and then, I would pack my bags to Mumbai and it was sense of what was coming for me. Every time, I visited Mumbai, I stayed more days that I initially planned to. The city is like magnet that just draws you into its belly and I looved watching the busy road from my cheap hotel at Colaba Causeway during the night. The honking of buses and cars, the Queen’s necklace shining bright and light flowing at different directions in our very own SoBo (South Mumbai). Mumbai gets very flirty and playful during the night. Sitting at Marine Drive in the evening and watching the crazy traffic, it makes the city comes to life. I love walking on the boulders, sipping cutting chai and walking till Nariman Point where I would climb as high as I could on the stones, sensing flowing water beneath and sitting atop watching the waves.

I would never ever regret my decision of moving to Mumbai for two and a half years in 2006 and it was one of the best decision where I lived and breathed the air in the city, making every single moment of life worthwhile. It made life time memories. Mumbai gave me an identity, sense of purpose and a connect where my heart truly belong to. Our life lines-local train-was a daily love story, struggling the tiny body inside and battling the crowd, listening the child singing Himesh Reshamiya song in a coarse voice breaking at every second in exchange for few coins, sipping cutting chai on the street and gorging Pani Puri at Bandra Bandstand, which lingers houses of celebrities. Running to catch the BEST Buses moving and walking in the scorching sun from Churchgate to Chowpatthy Beach. Yet! I would stay refreshed.

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It’s been my favorite thing to do, watching the city from atop a building, vehicles moving at fleeting speed, people walking and it gives a peek what Mumbai stands for. It’s independence, freedom, breaking free, dreams, aspirations and our infrastructure-large streets and sky risers. It’s all about longing and craving for more at maximum speed. Mumbai can be a hard life but if we got the pace, nothing shall stop us. The city just pulls us in.

Today, I feel like showering love on the city and Mumbai is present in each tiny cell of my nerves. Even after leaving the city, I am longing for home coming and cannot imagine my life without Mumbai. It’s my identity. I experience the kindness of fellas on 9/11, the day I took the bus to pursue my dreams. How the people came together!! It’s the Spirit of Mumbai. Perhaps, Mumbai Calling! Hope this time when I come back to create new memories and weave new dreams, I will drive a small and cool TATA car. It’s been more than three years I met my muse and perhaps, some magical feeling must sparkle for us to unite.

Note:

I didn’t plan to do a post on Mumbai but after reading Archana post, it brought tears to the eyes and little I realize that I am missing the city. One thing led to the other, watching countless Mumbai videos and Lancelot post added to the urge to write on Mumbai. An ode to my Mumbai, Our Bombay, Amchi Mumbai cannot be separated from our lives. Once a Mumbaikar, always a Mumbaikar.

Love

V

 

 

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Rewinding Time with Mehroo Turel: Miss India & Asia Pacific, Blogger and ‘Bombay Girl from Dadar Parsi Colony


 Today, I welcome on the blog Mehroo Turel, former Miss India contest not once but twice and who represented India at the Miss Asia Pacific in the 90s. An accomplished woman, Mehroo is now settled in Hong Kong with her husband and children. Hope you enjoy our conversation that was done via e-mail.

Miss India contest 1994
Miss India contest 1994

It was in 1992 that a young, 17-year-old girl, hailing from the Dadar Parsi Colony, not only walked the ramp but was ranked among the Top 10 finalists. Meet Mehroo Mistry now Mehroo Turel, who was ranked fourth in the Miss India contest in 1992, the year that saw Madhu Sapre crowned with glory and she repeated her feat in 1994, where she participated in the competition with the likes of Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita Sen in the competition. The girl from Dadar represented India for the Miss Asia Pacific in 1992.

Former Miss India and Miss Asia Pacific, celebrated blogger and entrepreneur, how does one introduce Mehroo Turel? A tough one as this interview tries to decipher the person behind this image.

Modelling for Ponds
Modelling for Ponds

Today, Mehroo Turel is nestled with her husband in Hong Kong along with her two kids and as she speaks to me about those days in the fashion industry, the now entrepreneur reminisces about her days as a model in the era which I call, ‘the best for the modelling industry’, how it was like to live in what was known as ‘Bombay’, blogging and of course, her community the Parsis, who contributed immensely to India’s advancement.

The top finalist, ranked at No.4 in Miss India contest in 1992 and No.6 in 1994, Mehroo is first quizzed on whether she doesn’t miss the arc light and glitz of the modelling industry. This is what she has to say, “Surprising but no I don’t miss it. I believe that every stage in life has its own purpose and priorities. It was fun doing the contest all those years ago, gave me instant fame and popularity, but for the present I am very happy doing what I am.”

Modelling for Times Matrimonial
Modelling for Times Matrimonial

It’s wishful thinking for her bevy of admirers, including me, on one day grabbing an offer to walk the ramp as a show stopper. Mehroo says: “yes! It would be fun, wouldn’t it? Specially to show off in front of my boys!”

Her precious pictures and portfolio from the days of modelling and Miss India is something that would make any child proud of their mother. She gives an insight, “ I remember when I first showed my old file where I have kept a small collection of my past ads, shoots and magazine articles to my elder son, he couldn’t believe it. “Are you serious Mummy? Is that you? Were you really Miss India No. 6?”

It’s something that made her children proud and excited, at the same time. How did Miss India happen for Mehroo and what’s the story, I am curious to know. The former Miss India candidly says, “It didn’t happen, as in no one approached me for it. I applied to an ad in Femina and got shortlisted. Simple!” As good as she gets.

Mehroo leads us briefly into the preparation of Miss India and Miss Asia Pacific, a brief peek into what went behind the scenes during the 90s. She says: “I wish I had more to talk about the ‘preparation’ or the ‘grooming’ but unfortunately there wasn’t much done in those days. I do remember getting some tips from established models like Lubna Adams (if I am not mistaken) on walking the ramp, poise and posture.”

She harks back to the past which I am sure seems only yesterday to her as she narrates the episode in her life. Mehroo recollects, “And I think one round – Western casual, was sponsored by some boutique who lent us clothes for that evening. We had to prepare and organise for everything else ourselves – our gowns for the Western formal and Indian rounds, our jewellery, accessories, make-up, shoes, everything. My parents had to spend quite a bit for the same but they were happy to support me.”

Posing for the shutterbugs.
Posing for the shutterbugs.

The Miss Asia Pacific pageant happened to her much before the Miss India contest in 1994, two years back. She remembers her tryst with destiny in 1992, “Asia-Pacific happened two years before the Miss India 1994. I remember being called to Mrs. Vimla Patil’s office in Times of India and was asked if I was ok to go Philippines by myself. I said yes and then that’s about it. Every single thing from the visa to the costumes to getting there was a headache for me.”

You can check out the whole Miss Asia Pacific contest to get a detailed peak on Mehroo’s blog: http://frommissindiatomotherhood.blogspot.hk/2012/08/miss-asia-pacific-1992-part-1.html

For a 17-year-old whose claim to fame must have not been a child’s play at all, ushering into adulthood, straight from teens. The school mates and people in her locality must have serenaded her. Mehroo humbly terms it as, “Yes must be luck, I never took “You are so beautiful” as a compliment but when people would say “You are great example of beauty with brains” I loved it! I think it’s this combination plus support from my parents which helped me achieved success in a short time.”

In 1994, Mehroo brushed shoulders with faces like Aishwarya Rai, Miss World 1994 and the latter’s arch rival, Miss Universe Sushmita Sen who went on to carve their niche in the Hindi film industry. She was ranked just after Shweta Menon at No.6 in that year’s Miss India contest. There was also Madhu Sapre in the beauty pageant.

It was a mix of models, Mehroo says. In her own words:I think we were a good mix of professional models, city and small town girls. Aishwarya Rai was already popular as a model and hence a familiar name and face to everyone. Even the judges knew her! We were sure that she was going to win the contest. Sushmita Sen was quite aloof but very determined to win.

There were some girls who were really serious about the contest and some like me who wanted to have a good time. While I did interact with some girls, I never had a chance to interact personally with Aishwarya or Sushmita. I did know Aishwarya briefly before the contest as we had done some modelling assignments together.”

Mehroo as a young model.
Mehroo as a young model.

Mehroo harks back to the precious days not shying to give me a peek into the competition. She recalls, “But I wonder if anyone remembers the girl who stood third in the contest – Francesca Hart? Despite standing third, she was completely invisible under the Aishwarya Rai-Sushmita Sen limelight. I later heard that her conservative parents refused to send her to the Asia-Pacific contest which was why Shweta Menon who was No. 5 was sent.”

It was a moment of pride for India to make its presence felt at the global contests with Aishwarya and Sushmita taking the pie. Mehroo says in a very honest manner, “It was nice to see both the winners go and win the International pageants. Shocking actually as we won both the contests in the same year! Yes I did feel a pang of jealously wishing I had put in more effort, but I am never the one who hold regrets for too long and I moved on with my life.”

Not one to live with regrets, that’s the mark of Mehroo Turel, who is a winner in her own way. The humility, candidness of thought and the fact that she is a grounded ‘Bombay Girl’ is echoed through this interview.

She believes that her stint as a model and ‘Miss India’ played an important role in her life and defines who she is today. Mehroo believes, “Modelling and the contest built a lot of confidence in the self, improved my poise, posture and style, exposed me to the real world quite early in life besides giving me financial independence. I think these qualities helped me as I started building my career after my MBA. Interviews, role plays, group discussions became easier and even people management came naturally to me. I guess some of these traits would have passed on to this motherhood phase too, though I think the skills required in this job are very different.”

It was during the contest in Manilla that a young Mehroo shared the room with Miss USA and became friends with Miss Canada. It was both fun and exciting times for a 17-year-old, far away from the family cocoon and parents, to be on her own and exploring a whole new world.

modelling2

She wilfully gives an inside view, “To start with, Miss USA was a whole foot taller than me so I never liked walking close to her! We never really had anything in common so didn’t gel. I actually befriended Ms. Canada.”

It’s something interesting coming from Mehroo, sharing the moments to be cherished with her ‘friend’ Miss Canada. She recalls, “Once we were chatting and giggling so much at a restaurant that she fell off her chair! We also got close when we went on an island trip together in a privately chartered helicopter. I felt like a VIP! I don’t think either of us was competitive.”

An obvious question one is tempted to ask to the former Miss India contestant what does she speaks to her contemporaries now, reminiscing on the glory days. This is what Mehroo has to tell, “No I am not in touch with anyone, but it would be nice if we had been.”

Mehroo Mistry as Miss India 1994
Mehroo Mistry as Miss India 1994

Much before the pageant, Mehroo has modelled for a number of brands and commercials. She says modelling was hard work before the contest happened. As one would imagine and keen to know, how the model scene evolved during those days, the ‘former beauty queen’ gets into flash back moments and takes us to those lanes of struggle in Maximum City. She narrates, “Modelling before the contest was hard work. I had portfolios made and did rounds of various ad agencies and professional photographers handing out my photo prints. No ‘e-mailing’ in those days so everything had to be done using leg work. I must have covered almost all agencies in South Bombay up to Dadar and a few in North Mumbai. My mum was my official chauffeur! She used to wait under the building in the car and I used to run up and around the building handing out photos. Each print cost me money, so I did not like giving more than 3-4 photos per agency! Those were the days! After the contest it was a lot easier.”

Mehroo Mistry at the Miss Asia Pacific.
Mehroo Mistry at the Miss Asia Pacific.

As one would imagine that it was an era where e-mailing was alien, one has to struggle and almost depleting the energy to make things happen. Determination can be a big energy boost, unlike Red Bull. Ranked at No.4 in 1992, I ask whether it was a tough call to leave the world of fashion and modelling. Mehroo says “My modelling career peaked from 1991-1996. “After I started doing my MBA, I couldn’t cope up with the assignments and started refusing them. Slowly the offers started dwindling. I didn’t mind actually as I was quite tired of ‘posing’ by then and wanted to do something more intellectual,” she says with a twinge of honesty and intellect.

What would be the view of the former Miss India on the fashion industry today as one saw the kind of poise and charm displayed way back in the 90s? Mehroo says, “I really can’t comment much on this as I am not in touch with that world at all.”

She doesn’t bat an eyelid and flinch for a second telling, “Even as a model, it wasn’t something that I really enjoyed. Yes it was fun and gave good money for not so much work, but it was a brainless job.”

Modelling Days.
Modelling Days.

Mehroo gets candid when she shares with us, “Sometimes I wanted to shout out and tell my photographer to do a frame differently; sometimes I wanted to change the script of the ad. I felt like a mannequin being asked to do different things by different people and never allowed to think. Maybe that has changed today. I hope models have more ‘say’ in their work now.” It’s a priceless advice that newbies in towns must learn, one would say, from Mehroo.

It’s only natural to ask Mehroo if ever the thought crossed her mind to start a modelling school, if not now, may be in the distant future. In her ubiquitous style, she replies, “Nah! Not my thing. Kindergarten YES!”

modelling

For someone who was born, bred and brought up in the city of dreams, ‘Bombay’, it must be bliss living in the city that reverberates with cosmopolitan culture, wide roads, her abode ‘Dadar Parsi Colony’ and historic buildings. She takes us back to the innocent days in the city that never sleeps that saw her growing up from a child to a teen and adult. The Bombay Girl terms those days as ‘wonderful.’

Mehroo reminisces, “The colony was heaven. It was the only place where I could get away with wearing anything I liked and doing crazy things like riding my motorbike! I used to love cycling and practiced hard before any school or inter-school competition within the colony. Later, I started riding a bike at the age of 14. I learnt quickly from my father and uncle. Dad bought me my own Kawasaki Bajaj when I was 15 and I was the rage in the colony, zipping up and down the quiet lanes with my friends as pillion riders! I have had a couple of falls but that did not deter me from riding and once I had a licence, I rode all over the city.”

It couldn’t get bigger and better than that with the adrenaline rush. Imagine Mehroo riding high on her Kawasaki with full power and she says, “I felt so powerful and independent, not the same feeling you get when you drive a car. The colony was a haven where I always felt safe. I had my school there and my college wasn’t too far either so I was quite spoilt never having to travel and enjoying the lush green and the fresh air. Five Gardens is an icon in the colony and as a child, I played on its really tall but rusty slides and creaky swings, then that gave way to endless evenings walking my dogs or having nonsensical conversations with friends sitting on the railings, eating pani-puri and ragda-chaat. Even today, I use that area for my walks whenever I head back home for holidays. I think the colony really grew on me ‘cause’ I got married there too!”

‘Bombay’ is now Mumbai and a city that never ceases to move in jet speed like the super fast trains and doesn’t shy away in its transformation. Who better than someone who lived in the city and crossed the seas? For sure, there are certain aspects that she misses a lot in the city. Her words  shows the love that she has for her city. For Mehroo, ‘Bombay has had a massive transformation, one that is visible every time I visit. I think it is much more noticeable because I don’t live there so that when I visit I stand back for a minute and say “Whoa, when and how did that happen?” It has become much more crowded and polluted and unfortunately the same has happened to my colony too.’

It’s something that gnaws her,  “I feel sad to see a new building or a new construction every time I visit. Once I could have crossed the colony roads shutting my eyes as we barely had any traffic, now one has to watch every step, even the footpaths are missing in some places! Once I am home in Dadar, I do not like to move out, as the city outside the colony is even worse. Terrible traffic jams, noise and people’s rage is visible everywhere.”

The sunshine lady.
The sunshine lady.

One’s roots matters the most and Mehroo is not saying the contrary in our conversation. She affirms: “The only reason I come home every year, maybe even twice a year, is to visit my family and to show and teach my children their family and culture. It is difficult to teach a child about one’s religion and culture when one is away from it. That’s one and then I do like to go to my favourite haunts like the colony library, the agiary (fire temple) Dadar TT circle, Matunga market, Udipi joints to eat dosas. Fortunately, I have managed to stay in touch with my school friends with whom I have spent more than 10 years of my school life and together, we re-live memories when we meet.”

A crazy city that doesn’t limit itself to limits and local trains, Horns OK Taxis and fast life defines Mumbai. There was Bombay and now there is Mumbai.

Mehroo is a great fan of ‘South Bombay and loves the ‘historical British buildings’ which is a preserved identity and rich heritage as well as ‘the openness of space interspersed with gardens – something that North Bombay lacks. Nariman Point sitting by the rocks, Worli sea face having vegetable toast sandwich, Marine Drive and even Shivaji park beach where mum used to take us as kids for a bit of swim and sand castle building! Street foods are what I miss, especially the chaats –bhel, sev puri, the makkai-butta (corn), chutney-cheese sandwich, dabeli (lots of somethings put inside a bread roll), chana-sing, kala-khatta ice lollies and all the unhealthy cheap roadside snacks one can think of!’

In this e-mail conversation about the city, one would say that destiny played a part in her life between professing a love for Taj Mahal Hotel and where she found herself working at a later stage. She exclaims, “Oh and before I forget I used to love going to the Taj (Taj Mahal hotel) for random reasons. I needed to use the loo or visit the bookshop, I was using any random reason to confidently give my car to the valet and then walk in with a sense of purpose. There was nowhere to go obviously but I enjoyed the cool, plush interiors, all the important looking people dressed in suits and sarees floating around and I just sat in the lobby area for some time lost in my thoughts. Who knew that I would be working for this hotel one day! As a TAS (Tata Administrative Service Officer), I used to be in Sales and Marketing when I started off and loved showing off the property to potential clients. The old wing of Taj – The Heritage Wing fascinated me the most, with every room different from the other. It has character that no other hotel can match. In fact I was working at the Taj when I quit my job (or rather took a sabbatical) in 2006 when my son was 2 years old.”

Like they say, a place that we love is window to the soul where we get a sense of comfort and peace. Mumbai is one place where I share a bond, if I may call it so, with Mehroo. For someone who experienced the city in its unique charm during the earlier days-I am much a late comer here-Mehroo shares some unique moments and what it felt like to stay in the city as a localite.

“I used to drive almost everywhere in the city and during my modelling days felt safe coming back home by myself. Bombay has a vast network of roads and ‘gullies’ and I was proud of knowing most of them, the short-cuts, the high traffic lanes, the dockyard road, everything! Nowadays, it is all flyovers everywhere. Our politicians seem to think that that is the answer to our ever increasing traffic. To an extent yes if you take them, but if one has to go under them to reach a destination one is doomed to an hour of sitting in mid-traffic without moving a muscle!,” she places her argument in the right place.”

Mehroo at the Navjote ceremony with parents.
Mehroo at the Navjote ceremony with parents.

One couldn’t agree more with Mehroo who confesses, “I still haven’t used the famous Worli-Bandra sea link yet.” Travelling in local trains is something everyone be it a new entrant in the city or locals, should indulge to experience the real ‘Bombay’ or ‘Mumbai for that matter.

She was one of your fellow commuters in the life line in the city and that’s what she has to say. “Oh and yes I did travel by local trains too when parking used to be a problem. That was quite an experience when I first started. I always used ladies compartment and second class too. It was fun being lifted in and out of the coach even before the train halted, with a sea of determined working ladies crushing you to death or nauseating you to their varied smells! I didn’t mind though and soon became one of them. My above average height compared to Indian standard always helped! ” she quips.

From Miss India to Motherhood, Mehroo today is brand name and celebrated blogger who always put humongous effort in her writing space. Veering between dollops of humor and humility, she muses, “Brand name and celebrated blogger’ – WOW that’s a bit too much I would say, but thank you! For starters, I am now just ‘Mehroo Turel’. I used to be Mehroo Mistry Turel in my corporate working life. The ‘Mistry’ or ‘mystery’ went away when I got my son’s passport done and that meant changing my surname officially in mine too.”

Mehroo's first birthday with parents in Bombay.
Mehroo’s first birthday with parents in Bombay.

The Mistry’ or ‘mystery’ remains, one would think but love how she plays with words, injecting fun in our entertaining conversation. She continues, “Within 3 months of me quitting my job, we moved to Hong Kong where I had my second child. I wish I had started blogging then, as I had so much to say and so much to ask, which I did using mommy forums. Since I was staying away from home, I started writing lengthy emails to my immediately family letting them know what we were up to, our life, the kids, just talk in general.”

Her writings earned her accolades and praise from the family. She lets us in the secret, “My mum-in-law once complimented me saying that “Mehroo, you write so well, I feel like I am there with you.”  I was too busy, though, to think of anything else. From Hong Kong we moved to UK and then luck brought us back here. In early 2012, my boys were 8 and 4 years old and were well-settled into their routine and I felt like I was ready to do something more. Going back to work was out of question and I was just so happy doing what I did.”

Mehroo striking a pose.
Mehroo striking a pose.

Her blog took shape when someone prodded to translate her thoughts into words. She lets the cat out of the bag, “It was when a friend happened to mention about writing a blog. He was quite fascinated about the whole Miss India story and said that others would like to know too. I started researching, wrote a few things when I could. If you see my first couple of posts – they are quite short and precise. I wasn’t sure how much to say, how much not too, it being a public forum. I read about blogging, followed some bloggers with similar purpose, learnt the software to be used and then finally one fine day I launched my blog! Well, nothing happened instantly ‘cause’ no one knew about the blog. For a while, I only ran it through family members. Soon, the compliments came pouring in – after all they were family J Then gaining confidence I put it up on my facebook page and that started it all!” I kinda agree and I am sure, all of you will, how her blog made our day.

Hailing from a Parsi family, the rich culture reverberates in Maximum City where the community contributed a lot. From Dadabhai Naoroji to Madame Bhikaiji Cama and Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, Parsis are known to be close-knit and I narrate to Mehroo an anecdote at the Parsi colony where I witnessed the unique community life. She takes pride, “Honestly, I love being a Parsi. My upbringing has been in a traditional Parsi home following rituals and traditions that have been passing down over generations. I studied in a Parsi school- The J.B. Vachha school, which for a very long time, gave admission to Parsis only but then opened its doors to all communities. We had some lovely Parsi teachers whom we remember with a lot of affection and respect and who were passionate about imbibing the right values and education to students. We even had Parsi prayers recited on special occasions on the school loudspeaker. Living in a Parsi colony gives one a sense of connection to the roots and culture that one often doesn’t experience living outside it.”

Mehroo shares the common linkage between Parsis and Gujrati as a language. “We speak in Gujarati which is our acquired language after we fled persecution in Iran and landed in Gujarat. We have a beautiful fire temple within the colony and I get a lot of peace and solace going there. When we were in school, I used to describe the interiors to my non-Parsi friends who couldn’t go inside. When we learnt history in school, I was proud of the fact that I belonged to the same community that had given birth to such philanthropists and with more existing in the society that trend continues. In fact, I pride myself on working with the Tata group and was in awe of Mr. Ratan Tata on the few occasions when we met,” she says.

Everyone be it in the media, political lounge or conversation been debating on the community which is dwindling. Who better than a Parsi, proud of her roots and rightly so, to air her views! Mehroo reflects, “There are lots of opinions about this sensitive question regarding increasing our tribe. Yes, our community is dwindling due to a lot of inter-caste marriages, unmarried youngsters and childless couples. I don’t think we can enforce a rule nor do we have any magic power to increase our tribe. I have married within the community and I try my best to inculcate the same culture and tradition in my children, who I hope would continue the tradition over the next generations. I am not sure how many years we are going to last but I believe that till we do, we should retain our ‘uniqueness’. After all, what’s the point in retaining a community if you have to dilute it any way,” she brings a fresh element to the fore.

The Parsi culture is vibrant in the city through its food, history, culture and café, of course the Nowroze celebration in the household. Mehroo gives us a first-hand account of celebration in her home which is delightful. The vibrant lady on what I feel is the finest community in India, “We have certain rituals and customs that we follow at home. Like lighting an oil diya at all times in our prayer area, doing chawk or rangoli outside our homes every day and wearing our sacred ‘sudreh’ (muslin vest) and ‘kusti’ (sacred woollen thread) at all times after our Navjote (Initiation into the Zoroastrian religion) is done.”

The unique Parsi dishes which many of us-I am one of them-are fortunate to taste in the home of our Parsis friends is a delightful story that Mehroo spells about her rich culture and tradition. “Besides, we have our own customary food that we prepare on certain occasions. While most are an infusion of Indian culture after having lived for so many years on this soil, they still have a typical flavour that one can only find in Parsi cuisine. ‘Dhansak’, for instance, is a brown rice and lentils dish that is probably the most popular outside the community too. Normally, one would have this every Sunday as it is quite filling and it’s customary to get a good afternoon’s nap post this! Others include ‘dhan dal’ which is white rice and yellow dal with ‘patio’ which could be fish or prawn curry, eaten on happy occasions like birthdays and New Year, etc. There are several others dishes like ‘khichri sauce’, ‘mutton pulao’, ‘patra ni machhi’ and one loves going for Parsi weddings or Navjotes to savour these delicacies without going through the effort of making them!,” she tells.

Mehroo has kept the tradition alive at home, “I try and replicate these dishes at home, too, though I learnt cooking at a much later stage in life and I think I can dish out a decent meal. Parsis are also very fond of sweets and ‘lagan nu custard’ and ‘caramel custard’ are the common favourites. These, I avoid making at home as I strive to promote healthy eating habits for my family.”

Nowroze-the Festival of Spring is considered to be one of the most important in the Parsi calendar on March 21. “It has significance for me personally as well as I had accepted my then boyfriend-now husband’s marriage proposal on that day!” she fondly remembers.

“We also have our Parsi New Year in the month of August. Typically, I like to make ‘sev’ (vermicelli) or ‘ravo’ (semolina) in the morning, followed by a thorough cleaning of the house, wearing new clothes and visiting the fire temple,” Mehroo says.

It makes for family time for Mehroo who says, “Evenings are generally entertaining with, either a dinner plan or a community event. These are the days that I most miss living in my home town, as it is just not the same when one is celebrating outside. When I was in school, we used to get the day or the whole week off and there would be a general feeling of happiness and cheer in the whole colony as fresh flowers were bought and homes decorated in traditional ways. We do have an active Zoroastrian community in Hong Kong and try to take our children there if the day falls on a public holiday.”

Mehroo Turel has carved her own niche, balancing career and family life, keeping the tradition by staying connected to her roots. Today, she is busy with her creative venture, Summer and you can check it on Facebook. A woman of substance and rooted, who has chartered her own course in life, be it as Miss India, entrepreneur, mother and wife. A winner in her own way, that’s Mehroo Turel.

Post script: I stumbled on Mehroo’s blog in 2013 and was hooked to her writings. She became a blog friend and absolutely love her posts on Miss India contest. Check it here and it’s in three parts. It’s been a long time that I wanted to feature her in the blog interviews. We were in touch via e-mail and dropping a line on her blog. It took me a long time and I reverted back with the questions after a couple of months. At that time, Mehroo was in holiday and when she sent the answers, it was totally worth it. I am grateful to her for giving me her time, sending the super awesome answers. It was a delight reading the incredible answers and as we spoke, I agree on that, it would have been great for a one-to-one with lot more details. Superb answers by Mehroo. She has also given me some fabulous pictures which I am glad to put here. The pictures belongs to Mehroo and it can’t be reproduced without her permission. It is a long interview but totally worth it. At the end, you will love reading it.

Initially, I was planning to do a Q& A format but it would have been an injustice to Mehroo for making such a superb effort in sharing her experience and taking the time. I discussed with her and must say that I appreciate how she respects my craft, giving me the freedom to present her. A thorough professional she is.

You can follow Mehroo Turel on her blog, Twitter handle and of course, Facebook, click on the links.

With Love

V