My first solo trip – A firsthand account by a self-confessed Shy Girl

For my 28th birthday, I took my first solo trip. Nothing too fancy; a nearby locale, a hostel, and one-way airfare paid with miles. I paid next to nothing to go on this fated “solo trip”. Saying it was full paisa vasool would be an understatement.

There was no four-poster bed, air-conditioned hallway, gilded elevator or picturesque pool. No bathtub filled with bubbles, no breakfast buffet, and definitely no flatscreen TV installed in the room. None of it.

It’s not that I am a fan of ‘simple living’ or anything, I’m no Gandhi. I love humongous breakfast spreads and springy-white mattresses, and ask anyone who has ever lived with me, how anal (bordering on control-freakishness) I am about cleanliness. To the point of clinical, hospital-like starchiness!

So, in addition to travelling solo, the fact that I was choosing to live in a backpackers’ hostel, was also a BIG deal for me.

I reached early – 7:30 in the morning, when the hostel was dead AF. They were partying all night, said the host. I nodded, looking around at the minimal arrangements. “Have I made a mistake?”, I asked myself. The pathways were mucky and slushy after a bout of heavy downpour, and the hostel was barely stirring, its inhabitants passed out.

I took my bags to the assigned dorm. Empty. I was the first and only occupant in the girls’ dorm for the day. Relieved, I dumped my bags, and inspected the loo. Not bad, I thought to myself – an attached bathroom was more than what I’d hoped for.

I settled down for a nap, a hundred thoughts racing through my head. My family was panicking – their daughter was travelling alone, that too to a place that’s been in-the-news-for-all-the-wrong-reasons. My friends were curious. And their incessant calls and messages were, to be honest, making me anxious. I decided to ignore all that, and get some sleep – the anticipation (read the pukey, restless feeling in the gut) had not let me sleep a wink the night before. And having a 5:25 a.m. flight hadn’t helped either.

A short nap later, I woke up, attacked by a severe bout of FOMO – I was on vacation, and here I was, holed up alone in a dark, dorm – I needed to go out and explore.

I walked around the hostel premises, inspecting the immediate surroundings, and then stepped out, retracing my steps through the slushy, mucky pathway that had lead me to the hostel that morning. I found my way to the beach, barely 5 minutes away. An old woman tried to sell me cigarettes. An Indian couple on a scooter asked me for directions. A few passerbys’ stared, curious.

It was a bright sunny day, and the sea didn’t disappoint. A friendly bluish-green, it lapped around playfully, laying at least some of my apprehensions to rest.

I attached myself to the Indian couple, and followed them to the only open shack – they were sweet enough to let me tag along. I found myself a separate table there, and pulled out the Murakami book I was reading, and ordered a beer to go with it. It was beautiful. The yellow sun, the noisy sea, the chilled beer, and the book. I looked at the view, calm and happy. Yes, this was worth it.

That afternoon, on my way back from the beach, appropriately lightheaded, I ran into the now awake fellow hostellers. Being the awkward, shy person that I was, obviously it was they who called out to me, introducing themselves enthusiastically.

After exchanging pleasantries, and discovering that at least 3 of us were from Bombay, different parts though – Bandra, Andheri and Borivli (+ cracking Borivli jokes – obviously), I decided to retreat once again to my room for a leisurely afternoon nap.

I woke up refreshed, showered, and wore a long, gathered skirt and a crop top – suitably boho. I stepped out in search of chai (my favourite) – there was none, and then decided to swap it for beer instead – there was plenty – Bira White even (surprisingly). We sat, talking, drinking, and that evening a bunch of us went to Anand for seafood. Which was so delicious that I came straight back and passed out before the clock struck 12.

So, there was no “bringing in my birthday” – 2 cans of beer, tons of rice and pomfret in coconut gravy had made sure of that.

The next morning was spent answering calls and birthday wishes, explaining to my friends that yes, I was in Goa, and yes, I was alone, and no, I was NOT joking, and yeah, it’s been great – if a little slow. And as I talked with all my friends, once again I began to doubt my decision – was being on my own, surrounded with strangers on my birthday a wise decision? I pondered over it in between calls that morning. Plus being low on cash in a card-agnostic place didn’t help. By afternoon, I was food-deprived (no cash), friend-deprived (most others had taken a cab to the beach), and was chanting to myself “What the hell was I thinking?”

However, as luck would have it, around 5 that evening, I heard a hostel-volunteer mention he was going to the supermarket. Wasn’t that where the ATM was? 

And so, I sat awkwardly behind him on the scooter, sideways, because I was wearing a long straight skirt that did not let me sit normally (I tried), holding onto his backpack with one hand, clutching a handle-like thing below my seat with the other. I had the ATM cards of two other people in my wallet, who also were low on cash – I wasn’t the only unprepared fool.

The scooter spluttered over speed breakers and narrow roads, the sky drizzled tiny raindrops on us, the hills rolled to one side, the green of the trees made more intense with the intermittent rain, pedestrians turned to look at us, other scooters with other people scuttled past us. It was beautiful.

The trip to the ATM was the defining moment of my trip; everything before was shrouded in doubt, and everything after – pure joy.

I got back to the hostel, a spring in my step, a smile on my face – I never knew a few thousands in cash in my wallet could make such a difference. I got myself a Bira and joined the backpackers’ in the common area.

That night we went Salsa dancing – I didn’t dance, the next morning we went out for breakfast and lunch. That evening I went, once again, to the beach. And that late evening, we simply spent sitting in the common area, chatting till the wee hours of the morning.

The conversations I had in those 3 days, if inspected in itself, were nothing groundbreaking, but together they made me feel painfully aware of how large the world is, and yet how small – we all have similar battles, fears, apprehensions, hopes and dreams. We may be from different countries, but we’re connected by NETFLIX (we all watch NARCOS). We could look different, and talk different, and dress different, but we are connected by our love for CHAI and Cheese Garlic Naan. And, there’s nothing quite as fun as getting together and teasing a young couple on the brink of romance – yeah, you heard me – the methods of pulling somebody’s leg remain same across geographies.

I don’t know, how, from doubting my decision, I went on to have such an enlightening experience. Maybe it was because I had spent the first day and a half adapting and understanding what living in a backpackers’ hostel meant. By the time I left, though, I was ready to take another trip solo.

When I left the hostel, it was with a heavy heart. I was consumed by feelings no words can describe. Let’s just say they were different from happy, sad, romantic or nostalgic. It felt like my heart was being squashed and torn and pulled apart from all sides – travelling solo aroused something in me, something akin to a hunger I didn’t know existed. It felt crazy.

And I? I felt alive.


Have any questions on travelling solo? E-mail me at schivany@gmail.com

 

 

 

Illustrations that attempt to normalise body hair in women

I think I was about 9 when I first realised I was hairy. Hairy meaning hairier than the average Indian girl my age. Up till then, I’d never internalised the fact that body hair could be a real problem. I mean, I knew I had the hair – but somehow it didn’t strike me as something I should be ashamed off. Rather it made me feel superior and strong. Like my tall father whose dark hair stood out proudly when he wore his shorts. (Being a tea planter, it was the norm to wear shorts and sneakers as one rode around the Tea Plantations supervising the plucking.) And to the little me, he was the hero of all heroes. And my legs seemed to me a carbon copy of his – and how could that be bad?

However, boarding school and meeting other girls my age soon made me realise that hair on a girl was not something to be proud of. And thus at age 12, I waxed my legs for the first time. And since we lived on campus where stepping out wasn’t allowed, I began maintaining the hairlessness by swiping on a razor every few days.

By the time, I’d graduated, the razor and waxing had wrecked havoc on my legs – ingrowth spouted and with it came the boils.The reason? Years of shaving coupled with shoddy cold wax jobs. I entered college unable to wear skirts, shorts – even the modest mid-length variety. My legs were dotted with marks which apart from the obvious cosmetic reasons, was unhealthy too. Every few days, there’d be a boil that would hurt and finally burst leaving a nasty scar. Needless to say, I tried everything – doctors, dermatologists, gave up hair removal for a bit – everything. But nothing worked. A good amount of reading on the web told me that laser was the only solution. So when I started working, I saved up and got my legs lasered. It worked! My new dermatologist was a dream. She had done the impossible. My legs were smoother, shinier and healthier than ever before. And thus, I decided to limit the number of times I swiped the razor – even though my dermat assured me it was safe. (In case you’re confused, laser doesn’t get rid of body hair completely – it’s more like a 85%-ish removal. So you will still get fine hair that you can shave off, waxing being a huge no-no).

Note: In case you want my dermatologist’s contact, do mail me at schivany@gmail.com

After laser, I ditched my tighter jeans for good – especially as form-fitting clothes are known to speed up ingrowths – and I didn’t want a relapse. But, I also started embracing my hair – the hair that grew on healthy skin. I moved from tights and pants to free-flowing skirts, and flouncy dresses; polyesters to pure cottons. I started embracing the healthy hair that now grew on my skin, and wore shorter lengths proudly.

Ironically, it took a “permanent” hair removal treatment for me to understand just how much havoc women wreck on their own bodies to get the much-coveted smooth skin.  I had been abusing my skin for years – waxing, shaving, veet-ing, and so one day, out of the blue my skin had decided to give up. It took Laser, another treatment to ‘restore’ my skin, which is an irony in itself. Therefore, today, I try and limit the use of a blade to once every 3-4 months, irrespective of hair length, and I wear skirts and dresses literally every day – irrespective of the hair-removal cycle.

While I still wax my arms, I do so more occasionally than I would at college. I might not be a role-model in practicing “hair-embrace-ness”, but I do try in my own silly “social experimental” ways – like going a whole 6 months without doing my brows. And wearing strappy dresses even when my arms have a lush growth.

So, as an endeavour to slowly normalise female body hair, I have done a mini-series of 3 art illustrations that showcase fashion figures proudly sporting hair.

Hairlessness shouldn’t be the norm, it should be a choice.

An illustration of a plus sized woman with body hair to normalise body hair in women in fashion | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan

A fashion illustration made using pen and ink | a nude woman with body hair | a display of strength | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan

Mixed media illustration of a woman's face | An attempt to normalise body and facial hair in women in fashion | Collage and Pen and Ink drawing | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog created by Shivani Krishan

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One hostel room please.

When you’ve been in hostel a lot, without realising it, you begin to get inspired by it. So much so, that even your aesthetics assume a boarding school vibe.

Actually, what am I saying ‘you’ for? It’s me whose sensibility has been taken over by a hostelesque vibe. 1 single bed, 1 cupboard and 1 study table, please. Yes, leave those shelves bare. Yes, I know they’re ‘shelves’ but please do not stuff them with your belongings. Leave the counterpane on. And yeah, do pick up your shoes. (Joote-chappal-uthao-joote-chappal-uthao).

_ _ _

I recently moved into a new house. A new room in a new house, to be precise. I wanted my space. I am almost 27. And I have been living with girls for far too long ( 18 years) to be excited by late-night-gossip and girlish banter. So, April this year, I decided to move to a place where I’d get my own room, my own privacy, so that after years of sharing room-space, finding wet towels on my bed and dealing with aesthetics that didn’t match my own (read piles of laundry fighting for space on the bed and cigarette ash competing for attention on the floor), I would finally be able to keep my room the way I always wanted to.

Turns out, my aesthetics (contrary to what I believed) are nowhere near that of interior decorators and people with supposedly “good taste” in high society. It’s more of a clinically clean, orderly aesthetic, with books stashed so neatly in their shelves that I hesitate before reaching out to read one. In the fear that I might upset the entire beauty of it.

My own room | Orange curtains from http://www.ebay.in/ and Fabindia bedcover from Snapdeal | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan

In anticipation of this shift, I got 4 paintings of mine framed. One of which you can see in the picture. As for the other? Well… well, turns out my landlady is so particular about her interiors that we aren’t allowed to hammer nails! *sniff* And to think that hanging my priced paintings up was one of the reasons to shift home…

Anyway, not to be deterred (since I had already moved in and there was no other option), I looked for ways to hang stuff without hammering nails and after reading one of those listicle-thingys (1o ways to…), I decided to ignore everything I read and just placed my drawings on a cardboard box masked as a table by putting a cloth over it (yes, as boarding school people, we do have a trick or two up our sleeves. “Jugaad” as they call it here), and lo and behold, I was satisfied.

My framed sketches placed against a wall on a makeshift table of cardboard boxes and cloth | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan

Yes. Even I don’t like the floors. It gives the room a hospital-hostel-bathroom feel and inspite of my acquired hostel aesthetic,  I am still a diehard fan of wooden floors, but yes, like I mentioned in a previous post, my salary wasn’t getting any higher, so I just told myself “beggars can’t be choosers”, packed my bags and moved in.

My very orange room with a messy bed and scattered books | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan

 

The first thing I did, was buy those orange curtains. I wanted my room to feel really bright, and welcoming and I read somewhere (I think it was one of those colour therapy articles) that orange stands for vitality and energy and people suffering from depression must wear orange underwear or something like that; and even though I neither own orange underwear (the only one I did got flicked in boarding school when I was in 10th std and irritated I was one entire semester as I really loved that one), and neither am I suffering from depression (even though there are days when I am convinced that I am), I still chose to go ahead and envelope my room in vivid splashes of oranges, yellows and reds.

But before I changed my sheets to orange, I had a blue and white check cover on it.

Weird, as it is, I only recently realised that my hostel room at MICA (the first image) is strikingly similar to my new room (the second image). So much so, that even the bedcover used is the same, not to mention the large window on the opposite wall and the bed on the left and the white tiled floors.

That’s why I changed my covers. Get it? Get it?

 

It’s almost subconscious I’d say, that I gravitate towards smaller rooms with single beds and large windows. Maybe it’s a desperate means to grasp my younger, freer days. Or maybe it’s a subconscious preference for clean, clinical spaces, thanks to 10 years of boarding school life. I really don’t have an answer.

However, it only came to light when I showed my friends the picture of my new room, and all they said was that it reminded them of their hostel rooms.

So then I went and dug around for old college pictures. And, man was I surprised at the uncanny resemblance?

Which comes to prove that hostel life has indeed left a deeper mark on my subconscious than I have realised. From choosing a room that takes me back in time, to probably eating food that reminds me of school (Maggi), I am drenched in nostalgia so deep that I can barely even notice it.

And the fact that my new room’s scrubbed clean, single-bed, no-air-conditioning, clinical vibe is in fact inspired from my years living in different parts of the country, in no way should be taken lightly. It’s definitely worth a study, I’d say?

It’s weird, and I hope to discover other aspects of my personality that have been shaped by hostel life. And yes, I will definitely blog about them too (provided, it’s nothing embarrassing). 😉

_ _ _

Anyway, it’s getting late. In case you don’t follow me on Instagram, do click here. You’ll find me putting up pictures of well-dressed people interspersed with some random out-of-blog shit like today’s post.

“Shit” you’ll like. (hopefully, at least).

Chalo, I’m going to read my book. Bye.

(Yes, guess I got the abruptness from boarding school too. We would just pop into another dorm and pop out saying,”Chalo, I’m going to read my book. Bye”.)

 

 

 

Behind the scenes of fashion.

Hello People,

It’s been a while since I have posted anything here and I have been feeling so so so guilty. Been caught up in packing my house, working at work (yes. FINALLY), and watching Game of Thrones. Woohoo!

How have you all been? Anyone else planning to shift house? Any packing tips you’d like to give me? Cause I am going positively insane trying to wrap things up, stealing and begging for cardboard boxes from anyone who’d listen, and washing my face a zillion times. Thanks to the year-long layers of collected dust on my bags. *sigh*

Last to last weekend, I attended (or rather volunteered) at an exhibition. Both Saturday and Sunday. My friend Pallavi Dhyani is the founder of THREE, a darling label of anti-fits, innovative cuts, cottons, linens, whites and stripes, and she needed someone to mind the stall with her. Now this exhibition was quite an interesting one. Firstly, the venue was unlike the usual hall or ground. It was held in the backyard of a colonial style bungalow; an area in Bandra, Mumbai called The Vintage Garden.

You can follow The Vintage Garden here.
Vintage Garden, Patkar Bungalow, 34D, Turner Road, Bandra (West)
Patkar Bungalow, 34D, Turner Road, Bandra (West)

Doesn’t this bungalow look cool?

So on the 23rd and 24th of April, I walked into the Vintage Garden for the first time. A sweltering hot day, with just some half-hearted floor fans for respite, I began helping Pallavi sell her gorgeous clothes.

Here’s a glimpse.

THREE clothing by Pallavi Dhyani at The Vintage Garden, Bandra West, Mumbai

A muted palette  of light greys, whites, off-whites and stripes met soft cottons, linens and cotton-linens, in a collection that instantly brought your temperature down by a couple of degrees. One look, and you’d feel easy-breezy, summery and happy, even as the sun scorched its angry rays, trying to get you to furrow your brow.

Pallavi Dhyani wearing her own creation from THREE at the Vintage Garden. Her collection is fabricated from cotton and linen and has plenty of stripes. She wears her THREE shirt dress with a striped under-slip and white sneakers. At the Vintage Garden, Bandra, Mumbai.

That’s Pallavi, the mastermind behind THREE. She’s wearing a light grey semi-sheer shirt layered over a navy and white stripes slip dress – an outfit from her creation. In fact, everyone who passed by our stall, wanted to wear what Pallavi was wearing.

I mean, what better brand ambassador than the designer, herself, right?

Her clothes are a delightful mix of wrap jackets, thin-enough-to-be-sheer cotton shirts, long dresses with slits,  button-down skirts with attached pants and more.

Pallavi Dhyani wearing her own creation from THREE at the Vintage Garden. Her collection is fabricated from cotton and linen and has plenty of stripes. She wears her THREE jumpsuit with white sneakers.

Pallavi wears a comfy overall on the second day of the exhibition. Once again, everybody wanted to wear what she was wearing.

Ratna Gupta and Pallavi Dhyani pose in front of the RESTORIES stall. RESTORIES is Artist Ratna Gupta's pet project. As the name RESTORIES suggests, she upcycles ordinary everyday objects and converts them into stylish extraordinary designs for your home.

Neighbouring stall owner and artist Ratna Gupta wore a THREE playsuit. It wasn’t long before the jailer stripes-meets-daddy’s shirt vibe had engulfed everybody present.

Mansi Kadne wears a long slit dress from THREE and geometric jewellery from her own label, at the Vintage Garden, Mumbai.

Manasi Kadne, a jewellery designer wore this THREE slit-dress with her self-designed geometric jewellery. You can follow her super-fun jewellery brand  here.

Mansi Kadne wears a long slit dress from THREE and geometric jewellery from her own label, at the Vintage Garden, Bandra, Mumbai.

The fabrics are so comfortable to wear and so loose and flowing, that the sweltering Mumbai weather doesn’t just ask for THREE, it DEMANDS it.

I mean, look how actor, TV host and anchor, Kubra Sait pulls of her THREE creation. This slip dress can be wore with shorts underneath (like Kubra) or even layered under THREE‘s semi-sheer button-downs.

Actor, TV Host and Anchor, Kubra Sait wearing Three at the Vintage Garden. Three is a label by Fashion Designer, LFW regular and Pearl Academy graduate Pallavi Dhyani.

The vibe of the place was so happy. There was music, jokes and a lot of mutual admiration with people buying each other’s creations.

Here’s an example. Pallavi of THREE wears a Manasi Kadne nose stud. And Manasi wears a THREE dress. 😀

Pallavi Dhyani of THREE poses with Mansi Kadne. While Pallavi wears jewellery by Mansi Kadne, Mansi wears a dress from THREE clothing. At the Vintage Garden, Bandra, Mumbai.

Well, well, it was indeed a lot of fun. So many well-dressed people in one enclosed space! Wow. 😉

Here’s a glimpse of artist Ratna Gupta‘s brand – Restories.

The Vintage Garden | Bandra | Exhibition | 2016 | Ratna Gupta | Restories | Upcycling the ordinary into the extraordinary | Recycle | Product Design | Creative | Mumbai | People

She creates these extraordinary products by upcycling the ordinary and the everyday, into gorgeous, innovative designs.

Artist and Designer Ratna Gupta poses in front of her stall - RESTORIES, at the Vintage Garden, Bandra, Mumbai. She is wearing a playsuit designed by Pallavi Dhyani of Three.

Well, with this, I come to the end of this blog post. Hope you enjoyed going through it. 🙂

P.S: I managed to shift my luggage today. Yes. I started this a while back. :/

Have fun. Tomorrow is Friday. So yayiiiee. 😀 😀

Great Design at wholesale price? That’s Thieve.

We all know buying straight from wholesalers is cheap.

But isn’t it too much effort in real? And too dubious online?

So what if someone swooped out of nowhere and applied a couple of filters to the process?

What if, someone went to AliExpress.com (China’s largest direct buying portal) and put the awesome-est, most reliable products in one neatly designed space?

That is exactly what Tim Scullin’s Thieve is doing.

Curated by bloggers, photographers, designers and other creative people around the world, Thieve brings you designer products at ridiculously low prices. Plus only those products with really good reviews have been selected. Which means zero fakes.

And FREE or low shipping costs on these already low-priced designer products, makes these cool products even cooler.

So you can get yourself a delightfully designed product that is genuine and cheap, easily!

Thanks to  Tim Scullin’s Thieve.

Here are some of my favourites.

(Once you go to the link, click ‘VIEW ON ALI EXPRESS’ to buy)

  1. Colourful Pendant Light Socket | Know more here.

colourful pendant light socket

2. Men’s Quilted Duffle Bag | Know more here

Mens Quilted Duffle Bag

3. Genuine Leather Macbook Sleeve | Know more here

Macbook Leather Sleeve

4. Bamboo Handle Toothbrush | Know more here

Bamboo Handle Toothbrush

5. Wood Leather Watch | Know more here

Wood Leather Watch

6. Bamboo Wooden Sunglasses | Know more here

Bamboo Wooden Sunglasses

7. Canvas Hanging Hammock Chair | Know more here

Canvas Hanging Hammock Chair

8. Gold Antler Ring | Know more here

Gold Antler Ring

9. Moscow Mule Copper Mugs | Know more here

Moscow Mule Copper Mugs

10. Youth Embroidered Baseball Cap | Know more here

Youth Embroidered Baseball Cap

 

I love all of these products. And more. Especially as these are indeed one-of-a-kind.

So I suggest you go to Thieve and shop for your favourite products. There are games, clothes, lamps and a zillion other things, all handpicked by creative people. So, yes, it’s all in good taste. 😉

Moreover, the website’s neat design makes shopping and scrolling a joy. It indeed feels like a walk into a designer’s personal website. Think bright popping objects on white background and all. Truly, love at first sight.

In fact, now each time I have to find a gift for someone, I’m going to go to Thieve. It’s got stuff everybody would like to receive.

If you want to read more about Thieve, click here.

You can make collections, swipe left or right like Tinder, and get directed to shop some really cool designer stuff.

I hope you love Thieve, as much as I do. 🙂

If you want to know what else I like apart from the above, click here