Monday, August 30, 2010

Friendly Neighbourhoods

Neighbourhood, as the word implies, has a lot to do with neighbours. And one of the best ways to interact with our neighbours, is by having public gardens in our neighbourhood. A garden where children can run around freely, with other children their age. A garden where senior citizens can relax, with newspapers or without, and just take in some fresh air. A garden where fitness conscious youth can go for a daily run. These kind of places provide an opportunity for neighbours to interact, for them to know more about each other, for them to be able to implement the age old saying “Love thy neighbour”. It makes the neighbourhood a friendly, familiar place to stay – a place where everyone knows everyone at least by face, rather than the cold, concrete, impersonal place that everyone today has become accustomed to. Unfamiliarity has made its way into everyone’s daily lives; maybe it is time to send it back where it’s come from.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The pains of moving.

It is time to move out of your house and neighbourhood, into a completely different one on the other end of town, or maybe in a new town altogether. It is a heart wrenching thing, to move houses, especially a house that you may have spent many years in, forming many more memories than the years that have been spent in it. It doesn’t matter if the new house that you have picked out with such love and care is the closest thing to perfection you have seen. Moving out of a familiar zone, wrecks havoc with your emotions. While this affects children and adolescents the most, nobody – no matter how old and mature – can escape the moving blues. There is security in familiarity, as much as there is excitement in the unknown.

Moving is not always a choice, sometimes it is a necessity. It could be a better job offer, it could be a death in the family. Either way, voluntarily or not, moving houses is an emotional time. It is the time when you feel a sense of loss, at having to leave behind the comfort of routine and be placed in a completely new environment. It is a sadness that you feel, at leaving your friendly neighbours behind. Other than that, it is a sense of chaos you feel, trying to fit your entire life into a number of boxes – boxes that are never big enough or sturdy enough to hold all that your life is. It is the confusion you feel when the time comes to remove things from the boxes in order to make everything fit – what do you keep, what do you remove? That is a question that can never be answered.

Moving is not easy, and it never will be. But having a house, which is as close to your dreamhouse as possible, to move into makes the transition a lot more tolerable. It gives you something to look forward to, it gives you the chance to create new memories in a new place, it gives you an opportunity to use the unblemished canvas of blank walls to create your own space – a space that can be made as much your own as the one that you left behind.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Speaking House

If walls were to speak they would have numerous stories to tell of people who lived within their confines and all their joys sufferings the births the deaths and everything that came in between. In short all that happened within could be told movingly, passionately, lovingly and sorrowfully.

What about windows ? They look out at the world outside from within. If every window had a panorama outside with the ever changing colours of the sky, the clouds and the sunshine the meadows and its grass the daisies and the daffodils and every living thing that moved and sang its song of joy. We would be transported to another world and another era.

In today’s world where buildings stand cheek by jowl these panoramic views outside the windows are only available in magazines photographs movies or in places far from the maddening crowd which is our urban world. Houses do not speak either of the tales in bygone era nor of the outside world. We live in pads, condomiums and flats. There is no history because everybody moves on. Let alone grandchildren, the children will move away soon enough. The world is only in cyberspace and of course the make believe world of the electronic media.

Let us look for places where one wants to settle down where a child’s joy a youths passion an adults dreams and an old persons memories all co exist happily and then there is a panaroma outside which is enchanting made up of hills lush green countryside flora and fauna all to make up a symphony of everlasting beauty.

- Ravi Kulkarni

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Global city: Gift of the Raj?" by Christopher Charles Benninger, Architect.

Pune Mirror. Sunday, 8th August 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Age Desks

A very essential part of the décor of a room, that most people tend to ignore nowadays, is a writing desk. In this age of technology, the poor desk is ignored. But for a person like me, desks play a really important part. I’m an old school girl who, in spite of the advancing technology, prefers the use of paper, pens and the likes. I like knowing that the basics that I had as a kid have not completely disappeared from my life. And growing up, a study/writing desk was one of those basics. The basic desk rarely exists anymore, so keeping up with changing times, it is time to keep up with evolving desk designs.

• Space saving desk by MisoSoup

• Completely Cardboard Office Interior by Nothing Agency

• All-in-One Inverted Cubicle by 04i

• Liquid cooled Computer and Desk combo by Popular Mechanics

• Ultramodern Desk Chair Design Set by Atomare

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Unblemished exhilaration

Imagine a blank canvas lying in front of you. It’s clean, with no blemish. You can use it however you want, you can paint or draw. You can choose your medium, oils or water colours. Imagine a blank page. You can write whatever you want, there are no rules. You can use a pen or a pencil. The only thing is, when you start you can’t do it over. This makes you stop to think, doesn’t it? What if you don’t, what if you just start doing whatever your heart tells you and learn along the way? It’s exhilarating, isn’t it? Just the thought of being able to use it in whatever way you want.

Now imagine an empty, unfurnished room. The walls aren’t painted; there are no curtains, no colour scheme. The room is calling out to you, just begging you to give it some character. The only difference between the page/canvas and this room is that you can redo the room. It will be expensive, and probably not that immediate, but it is possible. Your mind works in overdrive, planning and imagining. The walls could be purple, yellow, pink, or white. The curtains could match, or contrast. Who is to say they can’t? Sigh. You don’t need to be a professional to create a room with character; you just need to be willing and able to explore all possibilities.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Death and life of a great Indian city" by Christopher Charles Benninger, Architect

Pune Mirror. Sunday, 26th July 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Getting away.

Most of the time, people take on too much in their lives – professionally and personally, but mostly professionally. They want to do everything, they want to be everywhere. Taking things slowly is never on the agenda. Partly because of how competitive the world is, partly because how caught up we are in keeping ourselves busy. But what can be done to keep us sane? And who are we kidding; we need some external source of sane-keeping, because if left to our own devices, we’ll overwork our lives away. And become what the world will eventually make us – overworked robots.

The only answer I can think of, that can even remotely keep us above the surface is one word – GETAWAY. John Mayer got it right when he sang “Nothing to do, nowhere to be/A simple little kind of free”. He sings that line in a completely different context, but that line on its own, is exactly what we need to do. I know of people who take holidays on quite a regular basis, and work continuously, nonstop, inclusive of Sundays for all the time in between two holidays. But then their holidays are just what holidays are meant to be – complete and utter relaxation of body, mind and soul. No pressure, no deadlines, no cell phones, nothing. A couple of days just with yourself, and/or your family. It could be in a city or country far away, or it could be the pleasure of staying home. Whatever the getaway destination, the point is to GET AWAY. And it’ll be fairly evident when life goes back to normal, how much that getaway was needed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Making it big, no matter how small.

Small bedrooms often end up looking overcrowded, because they lack basic floor space. But with proper lighting, furniture, etc even a small bedroom can be made to look elegant and spacious.

• Walls and ceilings
For small bedrooms, light colours should be used for the walls. The advantage of using light colours is that the light colour reflects the light falling on it, thereby creating an illusion of space. It is important to not use more than one colour for the walls, making the room appear less crowded. It is better to use ONE colour for the walls and the ceiling. This makes the ceiling appear higher than it actually is.

• Lighting
Small bedrooms should ideally have soft and gentle lighting. Instead of lamps that are on stands, mount lamps on the walls.

• Beds
Folding beds are commonly used to save space. The ones that fold into the wall. However, another option is platform beds, which are low in height. Futon beds too, make a room appear more spacious. Futons are sofas in the day and can be extended to make a bed.

• Storage space
Under-the-bed storage is the best way to avoid storage problems in small bedrooms. When you buy your bed, you should get one that has cabinets under it. Most platform beds come along with storage drawers as well. However, make sure you have enough space to pull the drawers out. For wardrobe space, it is best to buy floor to ceiling ones, so that all the space is utilized.

• Furniture
While getting the closets done, make sure to get sliding doors so that they don’t come in the way. Avoid furniture that takes up too much space and try to mount as much as possible on the walls.

• Mirrors
Mirrors are an excellent way of providing the illusion of space. When they’re placed in front of light sources, they reflect the limited space that is available; making it look like the room is double the size of what it is.

In some cases, size doesn’t matter. Even if your room is the smallest ever, with just the right tactics, it can be decorated to look like it isn’t. It’s just about using the right things in the right places.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Working it.

A workstation at one’s office is their personal space during the 8-9 hours spent in the office. But often, it isn’t used as that. Who says that workstations have to be drab and dull, just because they are “work”stations? They can be spruced up subtly to make work a little more fun to be around! Here are a few tips on how you can make your workplace the island of joy in the chaotic world of deadlines.

• Keep it simple. Adding too many items does nothing to make the workstation any nicer. Just choose one or two key pieces to keep on the desk.
• To create a warm, strong work environment, add a touch of leather to your desk. This could be in any form – leather pen and pencil holders, organizing units, etc.
• Well placed photo boxes can brighten up the work area. Plus, they give you the added storage options for paper, pens, etc.
• To make a bold statement in your workplace, colour is the best choice, as is light. They not only brighten up your office, but also add a touch of style.
• Place a vase full of fresh cut flowers on your desk and you’ll notice the colour as well as the scent it brings.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Took all the trees, put 'em in a tree museum.

A few days ago, I walked into a friend’s house to find his mother out in the garden in old raggedy clothes, upto her elbows in mud and dirt, singing away on the top of her lungs. And she looked… happy. Now for a person like me, to be in a situation that requires me to be rolling in dirt, is not a happy thing. But for a lot of people, gardening is therapeutic. And caring for their gardens is something they do with much passion and fervour. For those people, garden design is an important aspect of gardening. It all begins with garden design, and then moves forward from there.

Literally, a garden is defined as “a planned space, usually outdoors, set aside for the display, cultivation and enjoyment of plants and other forms of nature”. Gardens may exhibit structural enhancements, known as follies, including things like fountains, ponds, waterfalls and more. Some gardens are for ornamental purposes only, while some cultivate food crops. Sometimes in separate areas, sometimes intermixed with the ornamental plants.

Garden design is the creation of plans for the layout and planting of gardens and landscape. Elements of garden design include the layout of hard landscape such as paths, rockeries, walls, etc, as well as the plants themselves, with consideration for their horticultural requirements, their season-to-season appearance, lifespan, etc. The most important consideration in any garden design is, how the garden will be used, followed closely by the desired stylistic genres, and the way the garden space will connect to the home or other structures in the surrounding areas.

After the garden design is in place, gardening enthusiasts and homemakers can do what they love doing. Maintain and manicure their lawns the way they like!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

This world is little mad, and a little tricky. And it has all the potential to drive you a little mad as well. There are certain dos and don’ts of society that need to be followed and certain ways in which to behave. There are certain acceptable like and dislikes, and everyone is supposed to follow these unwritten rules. But everybody, no matter which field they’re from and what social strata they belong to, has a guilty pleasure. Something about them, that nobody knows. By guilty pleasure, I mean something that one enjoys doing and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it. And by guilt, I mean simply the fear of others discovering one’s apparent embarrassing tastes, rather than actual moral guilt. Rightly so too, because everyone should have a guilty pleasure that no one else is aware of. Guilty pleasures come in a variety of forms. It could be a need to hoard things and never throw them away; it could be buying that ridiculously expensive piece of clothing. It could be a Starbucks caramel macchiato, or a long bubbly bath. It could be the music of the boy band that everyone makes fun of; it could be the daily soap that makes sense to noone but you.

Guilty pleasures are alright; in fact sometimes they’re necessary. If we spend all our time doing the things that are acceptable, we’ll never be truly happy. Guilty pleasures are our well guarded secrets, and our way of standing up to the rules of this mad world.

“I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles, it’s a very very
Mad world, mad world.”

- Gary Jules

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Nostalgic reminders.

Today, I woke up singing the teapot song. It was a random thing stuck in my head, one of those that take very long to get out of your head once they get in. Anyway, for those of you who don’t know/can’t remember what the teapot song is, here it is:

“I'm a little teapot, short and stout
Here is my handle, here is my spout
When I get all steamed up, hear me shout
Tip me over and pour me out!”

Did that ring a bell? Yes, I’m sure it did. And I’m sure along with that bell, it even rang up some precious memories of your childhood. It did, didn’t it? This is just one of those things. Wondering what “those things” are? Well, let’s see. It’s like word association, where one word instantly reminds you of another. Similarly, there are some things that instantly remind you of a phase in your life. It could be a song that reminds you of your teenage years, it could be a nursery rhyme (such as this one) that reminds you of your childhood, a movie to remind you of your first love, an eatery that reminds you of your best friend. It could be the clothes that you wear, the books that you read. Nostalgia is an old friend, that lingers in everything that we possess.

Monday, August 9, 2010

This is for the chocolate ones, all around the world.

A slab of chocolate cake, oozing with chocolate frosting. Hot chocolate syrup on it, topped with chocolate shavings and a helping of chocolate icecream on the side.

Reading the above description, readers will be divided into two groups. One who, like my mother, will shudder at the first mentions of chocolate and very unwillingly continue reading. The other who, like me, will sigh in longing and go out of their way to satisfy their sudden craving. The first lot, I shake my head at in disbelief. The second lot, I high five. And to both the lots, I address this post to. Everyone knows the basic facts about chocolate. That it makes you feel good, that it’s made from the fruit of the Cacao tree, that it functions as an aphrodisiac. But today, we list fun facts about chocolate for you.

• The word chocolate originates from the Aztec word “xocolatl” which means “bitter water”
• 50 M&Ms have the same amount of caffeine as 1 cup of decaffeinated coffee.
• The first bar of chocolate was produced in 1842 by Cadbury’s in England.
• The Swiss consume the most amount of chocolate in the world, followed by the English.
• In the famous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Psycho”, chocolate was used to represent blood.
• Most women prefer receiving chocolates over flowers on Valentine’s Day.
• “Giri choco” is a Japanese custom which means “duty chocolate”. It calls for employees to give chocolates to their managers as a token of their loyalty.

Friday, August 6, 2010

57 Channels (and nothin' on)

TV shows are integral parts of everyone’s lives. As busy as they are, everyone removes that half an hour or so that is required to watch their favourite TV show. Heck, I know of people who plan their schedules around their favourite shows. Whether it is Scrubs, or Grey’s Anatomy, How I Met your Mother or Gossip Girl, TV has taken over everyone’s lives. It is not uncommon to overhear people talking like their favourite characters, or discussing the loves and lives of their favourite characters, almost like they were real people. And when you come to think of it, this is not some sort of fad that people grow out of. This sort of behaviour has been around for decades, ever since the invention of the television. It is all pervasive, and spares no one, not even the male species. As much as they try to deny it. But has anyone else noticed how nothing worthwhile seems to be on when you’re free to watch TV? Pay attention next time, all the best shows will be on only when life is a busy mess, and when free time nears POOF! All the shows disappear. True story*.

Yes, I watch way too much How I Met your Mother and I love Barney! Just another example of the aforementioned point about TV shows influencing the way we talk.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Look at this photograph, every time I do it makes me laugh.

What better way to decorate a house, than to tell a story while doing it? A photograph is worth a thousand words, and each one tells a story of its own. When photographs are part of the décor in a house, they tell the story of the lives of the people who occupy it. They lend a feeling of belonging to a house and help make it a home, by getting you acquainted with the lives of the inhabitants. But it is important that they be arranged in a way so as to avoid them looking out of place. Too many photographs arranged inappropriately can result in a cold, commercial vibe, as opposed to the warm vibe that is the aim. And instead of a homely feel, the house can get a museum feel. So yes, keeping this in mind, go crazy with the photographs. They make for excellent conversation starters too.


Closet space is something that everyone struggles with, because it is so scarce. If you thought only Rebecca Bloomwood had to struggle with it, you have something else coming your way. She was not alone. Many houses nowadays come with limited closet space and even someone who does not have a shopping addiction like Ms. Bloomwood did, needs adequate closet space for storage. The following are a few tips that can help maximize closet space.

• Declutter. Remove the entire contents of the closet and go through them item-by-item to decide whether or not you need it.
• Add more shelves. Additional shelves help more things to fit into closets, especiall top shelves.
• Use shelf dividers. They prevent sweaters and other bulky items of clothing from toppling.
• Hang hooks. Hanging hooks on the inside of your closet door for belts, scarves, etc saves on space.
• Use suitcase storage. For anything seasonal, keep it in an old suitcase and store it out of the way to leave room for the things you use on a daily basis.
• Get rolling drawers or bins. These are generally inexpensive and can easily make quick use out of the floors of your closet, which are often just a dumping ground for shoes and other household items.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"Gleaning Pune's future from its past" by Christopher Charles Benninger, Architect.

Pune Mirror. Sunday, 13th June 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Moody foods and foody moods.

What is the one thing that makes or breaks every person’s mood, no matter how different they are? It’s universal and almost all pervasive. I know it works for me, and I’m pretty sure it works for everyone. It’s food, and how good or bad it is. Think about it. When you’re really tired and hungry, and a fantastically prepared meal is placed in front of you, what happens to your mood? It elevates drastically. And imagine that you’re in a phenomenally good mood, but are welcomed with a boring drab meal. Think about the faces you pull and gestures you make. Food is critical in the way anyone’s day is made, just as critical as other factors. So think about the butter chicken and the paneer tikka masala and the pizzas and the pastas the next time your mood needs elevation, and if possible, consume it too. Because thinking about it too much and not being able to acquire it, might end up having an adverse effect on your mood!