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

 

 

 

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Humans stress me. Clothes de-stress me. 

 

 

Unless ‘clothes’ refers to a short sequinned (read ugly) number. Or worse, a my pure-white shirt has a spot of mustard. That’s when humans become a breeze.

I remember when I bought my first pair of boots. I was 21, in London for the first time. And my father bought me these really chic knee-high black boots. From Aldo. And oh, I was in love.

And, like all kinds of love, with it came a new set of anxieties.

What if, I leave my shopping bag somewhere. What if my baggage gets lost in transit? And with it go my boots? What if somebody steps on it – when I am wearing it? What if, it gets fungus? What if it breaks? What if a pigeon shits on it? 

And I realised, I share a weird relationship with fashion.

Inanimate, material fashion.

A ‘spontaneous anti-depressant’ in the words of Eugene Hutz, an instant excitement kick or a happiness machine – call it what you may, just the act of putting together fresh combinations from my closet is enough to bring on that sense of achievement. “Oh, why I didn’t I ever put those two together?”

 

And, the sheer joy on seeing a movie where the star dresses just like you do!  Keira Knightley in Begin Again, anyone? Or Emilia Clarke in Me Before you?

Clothes.

 

So, I wrote a silly poem about clothes.

Here it goes.

 

Clothes.

They won’t throw a fit if you don’t call them.

They won’t taunt you when you crib.

They won’t leave you for another country.

And they won’t make you feel like you’re shit.

They’ll be there for you when you’re happy.

And they’ll be there for you when you’re low.

They’ll make you feel fabulous,

even when you shed half a kilo.

They’ll bring out your best features

And they’ll notice your new haircut.

They’ll cover-up the extra inches – oh you dark-dark chocolate sundae!

And they’ll show-off all those curves!

 

Well, folks, that’s all for today. Drink lots of tea, wear lots of dresses, and laugh a lot.

Cheers.

Shivani

What would Shivani buy? 8 things to shop right away.

Hello people,

I know I’ve been away for quite sometime. Been  busy with stuff. Something really exciting is underway. (Shhh. Tell you about that later.)

For now, here’s a Chai High guide to WHAT TO SHOP this week. Here’s a quick look at everything that’s caught my eye in the affordable fashion market.

 

What: White cotton sleep shirt

Where: Buy in online here.

How much: Rs. 1790

White Nightshirt by The Label Life | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan

 

What: Cotton off-shoulder dress

Where: Buy in online here. 

How much: Rs. 2140

Pinstripe off shoulder dress by The Label Life | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan

 

What: Basic black tee

Where: Buy it in the H&M store

How much: Rs. 699

Tip: It looks blah, but trust me, it will go a long way. Wear it tucked-in with all your skirts.

Basic black tee by H&M | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan

 

What: Organic Cotton Box Shirt

Where: Buy it online here.

How much: Rs. 1600

A box shirt in a subdued lilac hue and wispy organic cotton by The Summer House | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan

 

What: Organic Cotton Pleated Midi Dress

Where: Buy it online here.

How much: Rs. 2600

A cloudy blue, organic cotton pleated midi dress by The Summer House | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan

 

What: Organic Cotton Night Shirt

Where: Buy it online here.

How much: Rs. 2800

An organic cotton nightshirt by The Summer House | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan

 

What: Off-shoulder cotton top

Where: Buy it online here.

How much: Rs. 750

Off-shoulder top from Spring Break | Chai High is an Indian fashion blog started by Shivani Krishan

 

What: Backless maxi dress

Where: Buy it online here.

How much: Rs. 1490

A backless maxi dress by The Spring Break | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan

Well, that’s all for today.

Happy Shopping. 🙂

 

 

One Week Of Style

Hello generous-followers-who-actually (hopefully)-read-my-blog,

I’ve started this thing on Instagram. You know, one of those hashtag contest/activity like things. Thanks to everybody’s suggestions to do something meaningful, something with an “idea” otherwise, I’ll drown in the sea of packed-like-sardines hashtags with no real engagement.

Anyway, so I came up with this BRILLIANT idea (right!) to post a picture of what I wore for a week and (yes, so smart isn’t it) I encouraged others to share their outfits too, for the gigantic reward on being featured on MY blog. Yes, you heard me. MY blog.

And, the hashtag I came up with for this exciting, new idea *roll-eye-emoticon* was #OneWeekOfStyle.

So original.

The interesting thing in this entire story is probably the fact that every one of these pictures will be taken in the exact same spot (Don’t ask me where. Shhh…my office loo), and hence it will lead in to a fun GIF at the end.

Anyway, so since I started this thing on Tuesday, I have just put up 3 pictures on Insta right now. Here they are.

You too, can participate in this humble (but fun) initiative and after a week, won’t it be exciting to see what you wore?

You can even compare looks, hairstyles and see your varying styles. I think, it’s fun.

Day 1:

Plaid Dress: Forever 21 | Sandals: Charles and Keith

I wore my plaid school girl forever 21 dress with Charles and Keith Sandals | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
Once in a while, it’s fun to work school girl chic. Hello quarter-life crisis.

 

Day 2:

Black basic vest: Forever 21 | Black handloom skirt: Designed by mom

I wear basics from high street labels with indigenous, handcrafted fabrics | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
How I wore high-street with Indian handicraft. *feeling cool*

Day 3:

Midi Dress: Cotton-on | Kolhapuri Slip-ons: Linking Road, Bandra

I wore my black midi dress with slits with Gold kolhapuri slip-ons and a statement pendant | Chai High is an Indian Fashion blog started by Shivani Krishan
Does it really look like I forgot to wear pants? Because, people often think I did. Also I wouldn’t admit it, but in my head I agree with those who called it a kurta without salwar. 

In one shot, here are my 3 looks.

 

To participate, all you have to do is upload your pictures on Instagram using the hashtag #OneWeekOfStyle.

Chalo, I got to go and work.

tata.

What Kate Middleton wore in India and Bhutan. Till now.

So Kata Middleton’s in India and all journalists, magazines, blogs, websites, fashionistas, wannabe fashionistas, critics and Shobha De, who is considered “an authority on popular culture” are going berserk about her clothes.

Including me. Yeah. That woman!

So, let me follow the norm, and take you through the Duchess’s wardrobe. Personally, I love how she’s carried off dresses with full sleeves and modest necklines so gracefully. And I think, all of us who love wearing dresses but are unsure of the “area” we are travelling to or the “crowd”, can borrow from Kate’s delightful take on the quintessential frock.

A red Alexander McQueen creation worn by Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge at her first appearance in her India trip with the Duke.
Day 1 | Mumbai | For her first appearance in India, Kate chose an Alexander McQueen creation.

 

Kate Middleton beautifully pulls off this gorgeous peach and pale green midi dress by Anita Dongre.
Day 1 | Mumbai | Kata chose an Anita Dongre creation to play cricket with street children at the Oval Maidan. Even Sachin Tendulkar was there. Wow.
Kate Middleton's outfit for the gala at Taj Palace. Aishwarya was there. Shahrukh was there. Madhuri was there. But Kate, of course stole the show. She is a duchess after all.
Day 1 | Mumbai | Kate wore a royal blue Jenny Packham gown, embellished in India for a Bollywoood charity gala, on her first evening here.
This white Emilia Wickstead midi was worn by Kate Middleton on Day 2 of her trip to India. Love the collar and pocket details.
Day 2 | New Delhi |  This white Emilia Wickstead wool crepe midi is the dress-version of a formal white shirt. Actually, no. It’s way cooler. Kate wore this to a meeting with young entrepreneurs, India Gate and the Gandhi Smriti Museum.

Check out more from Emilia Wickstead here

Kate Middleton chose an off-white and black gown to a party honouring the Queen's 90th birthday.
Day 2 | New Delhi | For a party honouring the Queen’s 90th birthday, Kate chose an off-white and black skirt and top by Alice Temperley.
Kate Middleton wore a red and navy maxi dress on Day 3. The dress had full sleeves, a modest neckline and a front tie-up. I would love to wear this. Doesn't it look so comfy?
Day 3 |  New Delhi | Kate Middleton wore a red and navy maxi dress to visit the Salaam Balak Trust and a shelter that benefits from it. This NGO works to help vulnerable children from the streets of Delhi.

In fact, this red dress can  even be pre-ordered. Just click here. 😉

Kate Middleton in India | Green Alice Temperly Dress | Day 3 | New Delhi | Meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi | Alice Temperly
Day 3 | New Delhi | Kate then changed into a powder green Alice Temperly Midi for a meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The royal couple then met with Women’s Rights advocates. You can read more about that here.
Kate Middleton in India | Kaziranga | Day 3 | Anna Sui | Blue Green Maxi Dress | Bihu | Assamese Festival
Day 3 | Kaziranga | The royal couple flew to Guwahati and then travelled to Kaziranga. In the evening, Kate changed into an Anna Sui maxi dress to celebrate Bihu around a campfire with local Assamese villagers.

 

Kate Middleton in India | Kaziranga National Park
Day 4 | Kaziranga National Park | The royal couple visited the national park to learn about the challenges the park is facing. And then they met with the rangers who are protecting the park’s wildlife and natural habitat.
Kate Middleton in India | Kaziranga | Topshop dress | Panbari village
Day 4 | Kaziranga | Kate changes into a Topshop dress for a visit to the neighbouring Panbari village and the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation & Conservation.
Kate Middleton in Bhutan | Pale Gold Dress | Paro
Day 5 | Bhutan | What Kate Middleton wore as she touched down in Paro – A pale gold Emilia Wickstead dress.
Kate Middleton in Bhutan | Traditional Bhutanese outfit | Kelzang Wangmo | Kira
Day 5 | Bhutan | On reaching Thimphu, Kate changed into a traditional Bhutanese dress for a meeting with the King and Queen of Bhutan and an archery event among other things.

The skirt is called ‘Kira’ and the jacket ‘Tego’. The fabric of the skirt was handwoven by Mrs. Kelzang Wangmo, also believed to have created the wedding outfits for the King and Queen of Bhutan. The embroidered woollen cape is by Paul an Joe.

Kate Middleton | Tony Burch Dress | Royal Dinner | Bhutan | Thimphu
Day 5 | In the evening, Kate changes into a Tory Burch dress for dinner with the King and Queen of Bhutan.

 

Phew. That’s all for now.

So many outfits. So many events. It’s difficult to keep up.

Let’s see what she’s going to wear today.

Stay tuned for more. Because soon I’m going to be featuring a designer who creates contemporary skirts from traditional Bhutanese material. Yes. She’s even got mini skirts. Don’t go anywhere.

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Images have been sourced from harpersbazaar.com, http://www.vanityfair.com, dailymail.co.uk, and http://fashion.hellomagazine.com/

Read the Harpers Bazaar article here, Vanity Fair article here and Hello Fashion article here.

Content sourced from @KensingtonRoyal. Follow to be up-to-date with what the royal couple’s doing.

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We need better clothes

I am going to burn my jeans, my bra and every pokey, itchy article of clothing I find. It’s hot. It’s so hot in Bombay that you feel like you’re about to explode. In fact, yesterday I had a breakdown. It was so hot that I died at least once. I went home early because my stomach was queasy, my head was wheezy and my legs were like jelly. But going home didn’t make it any better.

I had no book to read, no show to watch (smartly, I’d left my macbook at work) and no drawing to sketch (again left it at work). So I became a ticking time-bomb. I lay down, sat up, walked around and repeated the process for a good two hours. As the air-conditioning tried its best to keep up, panting and fainting and ultimately giving up. Which lead to the fans having a field day, running round and round, rustling the curtains and anything that would fly.

And me, a jittery mess, fluctuated between restlessness and tiredness.

It was so damn hot both outside and inside. My stomach was burning, my cheeks were flushing and the air was thick with the smell of fish, open drains and frustrated humans on their way home from work. The sound of incessantly honking auto-rickshaws and cars didn’t make it any better.

The phone rang. Ooh I have a date. What do I wear? I hopped, skipped and jumped to my cupboard in the balcony, and the evening babble greeted me. Honk, Honk, Peep Peep… Argh, I was so excited to dress up. So many new clothes to wear. But damn the weather!

So I rummaged through my balcony-cupboard inhaling hot air, the internal bomb just a few seconds from detonation. And my sweaty fingers grasped a pair of cut-offs and a thin white tee in urgent need for ironing, pulled it from under more layers of clothes and toppled everything in the process. And it was so hot, and the clothes were on me, and I was already burning from within, so i stuffed the falling piles of clothing back into the cupboard and shut the door angrily on it and rushed indoors to change. I was breathing fast, my face and organs were steaming and I changed into my date outfit. Darn, the ends of the bra were poking and turning the hot, sweaty me even hotter and sweatier. And the denim in the shorts was feeling alien. Man! Since when do you feel hot even in shorts?

So I went back to my fiery cupboard in the balcony and pulled out a thin, low cut cotton dress and wore it, removing my bra. And oh my God! It felt better, but was it too revealing?

My phone started vibrating, and I got even more hyper. Shit, he’s here! And I am still not ready. I ran, back into the balcony and looked at the tumbling bits of clothing in my cupboard and the weather, in the mood for vengeance, threw balls of fire in my face, as it grinned cheekily at my state.

I looked at myself in the mirror and sighed. I checked out my hair. Disobedient hair. Refuses to curl. Refuses to straighten. Hangs haughtily around my shoulder every strand in a different direction silently revolting. And my face had little dots, threatening to burst into full-bodied zits, in the heat. Argh. I was definitely losing it.

I rushed back in and picked up the phone. “Hey! Oh, you’re here. Coming Coming!”

And then changed back into the white tee and shorts, picked up a sweatshirt (In case we’re watching a movie) and a dupatta (I don’t know why) and stumbled downstairs, clad in an unfortunate combination.

I cursed the weather for a good 15 minutes and I would have cursed it for the next 5 hours, but I got myself some yummy frozen yoghurt with strawberries on my date, and that changed it all.

Anyway, the whole point of this story was, gah, we need more designers making white, cotton flowing, loose dresses, thin enough to feel cool and thick enough to let us go bra-less.

Signing off now. Need to get myself a cool glass of water.

Happy Summer, folks. (yea, right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Indian trenchcoat by Shoulder Lab

When you think of a trenchcoat, chances are you imagine Burberry models huddled up looking at the camera straight in the eye, one among them the “latest face”  with dark natural-looking eyebrows.

Cara Delevingne. Emma Watson. Remember?

But how many of us have ever really worn a trenchcoat? And I mean the Burberry way. Bare legs, commando… get the drift?

Hmm… Not so many, huh?

The trenchcoat, at least the way I see it, is exciting. It’s covered. Yet there is a world of possibility concealed in its simple tie-up. One pull, and it’s a heap on the floor! 😉

So, don’t we deserve this garment?

Which brings me to the Indian trenchcoat.

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Designed by Aditi Holani of Shoulder Lab,  this trenchcoat is cotton-based and ornamented to suit different occasions in an Indian social circle.

 

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Most of these trenchcoats are reversible.  Some fall under holidaywear. And some can even be worn during weddings. You can choose to wear it with sarees, or as a light cover-up for strappy dresses.

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In fact, I think it would look good layered with a midi-skirt too. That is, if you want to stay up-to-date with the fashion weeks and trends of the world.

For the more classic among you, throw on the trench over a pair of black tights for an instant style upgrade.

And if you’re bold, you know what to do. 😉

We love how Shoulder Lab has brought the trenchcoat into India and made it look so indigenous!

I especially love the tie and dye ones. They’d look great with loafers and oxfords.

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In fact, here’s something really cool about this brand. Shoulder Lab follows a strict zero-waste policy. Which means they believe in sustainable fashion. And that they up-cycle excess cloth by crafting accessories and fanciful neckpieces out of it. Isn’t that amazing?

Also, they’re mad about experimenting. They have a separate sampling department where they try and create new surface techniques, and experiment using new materials.

Every. Single. Day.

In fact, if you see, even gota is used in the most unusual way in their collections.

 

 

All in all, if you’re looking for something different to wear in this mass produced, cluttered universe of ours, look at Shoulder Lab.

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Here’s a little something about the designer.

Aditi Holani is an alumni of NIFT, Kolkata and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London. She has trained under Alexander McQueen and Sophia Kokosalaki among others, going on to debut at the Lakme Fashion Week as a Gen Next designer in 2013.

Her label ‘Shoulder Lab‘ experiments with cutting styles, surface textures, patterns and embroideries to articulate free-flowing individuality.

She is based in Mumbai.

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To get in touch, email her at: shoulder.lab@gmail.com

Or connect through Facebook here

Tata,

and Happy Monday 😉