FDCI’S INDIA MEN’S WEEKEND 2023 COMMENCED WITH A RUNWAY ON THE RIVER MANDOVI IN GOA

The first edition of the India Men’s Weekend 2023 curated by the Fashion Design Council of India was held on January 14th in Goa at a location most unwonted, yet astoundingly beautiful – the state’s former largest prison, Aguada Central Jail. The India Men’s Weekend showcased the works of eleven Indian designers with six ensembles each – Rajesh Pratap Singh, Abraham and Thakore, Varun Bahl, Abhishek Gupta, Arjun Khanna, Ashish N Soni, J J Valaya, Manoviraj Khosla, Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna and Shantnu and Nikhil and Rohit Bal’s Alexander jeans for men.

The jetty of the Aguad Port and Jail Complex in Sinquerim turned into a runway on the river Mandovi’s calm, turquoise waters, with a ball of fire setting the blue skies ablaze with its molten glory, making the India Men’s Weekend show the first of its kind to held in a jail in India. Talk about a crime of fashion that no one could be imprisoned for! Some of the clothes on the runway maybe, and their respective designers!

The Aguada Jail made for a fashionably bewitching scene for the show, and was supported by the Aguad Port and Jail Complex in Sinquerim. The Aguada Central Jail, the largest prison in Goa till 2015, is a part of the famed and impregnable Fort Aguada built by the Portuguese from 1609 CE to 1612 CE. The 17th-century Portuguese structure has been renovated and repurposed since by the Goa Tourism Development Corporation at a cost of approximately Rs 22 crore and is open to the public. It is now a heritage site, that pays homage to the freedom fighters of India, and houses a museum and viewing galleries since the redevelopment. Interestingly, água means water in Portuguese.

The India Men’s Weekend will be an annual event on the FDCI calendar in Goa, and possibly other cities in India December 2023 onwards.

©Rubina A Khan 2023

Business Princess Paris Hilton In Mumbai On October 19 | Hindustan Times

The most famous American platinum blonde in the world, after Marilyn Monroe of course, is hotel heiress, beauty entrepreneur, DJ and singer, Paris Hilton, who is coming to Mumbai on October 19th, her fourth trip to India so far. Fresh off closing Donatella Versace’s Spring Summer ’23 runway show in Milan as Bridal Barbie, in her favourite shade of pink (which should really be called Paris pink by now) replete with a fantasy veil, the original influencer and reality TV star of the Noughties, will be flying in to Mumbai via Dubai, to promote her latest 2022 fragrance, Ruby Rush, at a launch event to be held in the city on Thursday, October 20th. The rush for selfies with her on the night of the launch might just eclipse the fragrance for a haute second though.

The fashion forward Hilton has been in the beauty industry since 2004 when she launched her first fragrance called Paris Hilton, the success of which led to a fragrance empire of over 25 perfumes that brought in $3billion in revenues.

Hilton first came to India in September 2011 to launch her accessories and handbag line, with another trip soon after in December 2012 when she turned tables in Goa as a DJ, and December 2014. During these past trips, her itinerary wasn’t only about work. She made time to go to the Siddhivinayak temple in Prabhadevi to pray, visited Ashray, a children’s orphanage in Bandra, and partied with Bollywood stars like Salman Khan and jewellery designer and beauty entrepreneur, Queenie Singh, who’d hosted a party for Hilton on her maiden trip in 2011. “Paris is a very affectionate person. She loves people, music and fashion. She’s a star. I meet her once in a while at Cannes and she’s always very cordial,” says Queenie Singh from London.

The business princess of all things pink, glam, haute and blonde loves Indian fashion and Indian food, but regrets not being able to visit New Delhi or the Taj Mahal in Agra on her past trips as she always stayed for about three days each time. Perhaps, a visit to the monument of love is on her itinerary this time around, eight years since her last visit to India in 2014. And more so if her husband, venture capitalist Carter Reum, who she wed on November 11, 2021, in Bel Air, wearing an ethereal Oscar de la Renta wedding gown, accompanies her, given their first year anniversary is just around the corner. And, if they do make it to the Taj in Agra, it’ll be on the ‘gram.

Like she’d say, ‘That’s hot, India’s hot!’ 

This feature first appeared in Hindustan Times on October 9th, 2022

©Rubina A Khan 2022

India Tourism: How ‘Revenge Travel’ Saved The Industry | BBC

More than two years after the Covid pandemic halted travel, India’s tourism and hospitality industry is now cautiously hopeful. Independent journalist Rubina A Khan writes for the BBC on what’s driving the optimism. 

Tourism constituted almost 3% of India’s GDP and generated around 100 million jobs in 2019. But the sector was severely hit in India – like in other countries – when the pandemic struck. Only 2.74 million foreign tourists visited India in 2020 compared with 10.93 million the year before, official data shows. While the number of foreign visitors is still nowhere close to pre-pandemic levels, travel company operators and hotel industry executives say an upsurge in domestic tourists is making them more upbeat. 

After two years of being cooped up inside, Indians are now travelling with a vengeance – ‘revenge travel’, as the phenomenon is called. And many, experts say, now prefer to travel within the country instead of flying to more expensive destinations abroad. The industry is also benefiting from new trends borne of the pandemic, such as micro-holidays and workcations. Deep Kalra, founder and chairman of travel website Make My Trip, says the sector started seeing an upturn in the last quarter of 2020, and has been consistently recovering ever since. “In fact, the last three fiscal quarters have operationally been the most profitable ones for our company,” he says.

EXPLORING INDIA

Experts say the pandemic offered Indians an opportunity to explore their own country. India has always been a popular tourist destination. From historic forts and stunning palaces to dense jungles, there’s no shortage of options for visitors. But with international travel disrupted for months, more and more Indians became open to the idea of vacationing within the country, says Vishal Suri, the managing director of travel company SOTC. “The pandemic has given Indians a new-found appreciation for the outdoors,” Mr Suri says. He adds that there has been an uptick in demand for unexplored destinations – people are seeking ways to combine pilgrimages and spiritual trips with experiencing local food, cultural trails and adventure.

The pandemic also generated new trends such as staycations and workcations – combining remote working with vacations. “Travellers are now extremely comfortable with booking homestays that offer exclusivity, privacy, and the comfort of a home away from home,” says Pradeep Shetty, a senior official at the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations Of India (FHRAI). Mr Kalra from Make My Trip agrees – he says that people have warmed up to the idea of travelling within India whenever possible. “Even the travel frequency has changed and become more regular. The annual break has now turned into micro-holidays with people increasingly taking more breaks in the form of multiple weekend getaways and seasonal holiday breaks,” he says.

IMPACT ON HOSPITALITY SECTOR

This shift has turned out to be a revenue-spinner for hotels in India, as people are now willing to use the money they would normally reserve for their international vacations on better facilities domestically. Some luxury hotels dropped their prices at intervals in the pandemic, leading to a spike in bookings and short-term revenues. Puneet Chhatwal, the managing director and CEO of The Indian Hotels Company Ltd (IHCL) – India’s largest hospitality company which operates the Taj chain of luxury hotels – says that after each successive Covid wave, the recovery was “stronger and quicker”. “The IHCL’s occupancy figures today exceed the pre-pandemic levels – a resurgence that is primarily fuelled by domestic tourism,” he adds.

Raffles Udaipur – run by international hotel chain Raffles – is situated on a private island and opened in August 2021, just months after the devastating second wave of the pandemic in India. But the hotel has seen a “healthy rate of occupancy” every month throughout its first year of operations in India, says Puneet Dhawan, the hotel’s senior vice-president for India and South Asia. “While we have no pre-pandemic metric to compare to, we have observed a steady rise in the response to our property,” he adds. Mr Dhawan says the hotel is gearing up for an even busier year ahead – starting with the tourist rush in winter and the upcoming wedding season. Mr Kalra says there are other positive signs too, such as the resumption of corporate travel – a trend that is likely to increase in the coming quarters, aiding overall recovery for the travel industry. 

CHALLENGES

But despite the optimism, people in the industry say that domestic tourism alone cannot take the sector back to the pre-pandemic-level of growth. In September, India’s tourism minister said that the government was working towards the all-round revival of the tourism sector. But foreign arrivals continue to be dismal – data shows they dipped by 44.5% in 2021 compared with the year before. “India has not released a single campaign inviting the world to us. What we need is a stellar marketing strategy that excites travellers enough to choose us, especially the 60 million people that used to travel to China and aren’t today,” says Dipak Deva, managing director of the Travel Corporation of India, one of India’s best-known travel agencies. He adds that the government also needs to restore its e-visa facility – especially for countries such as the UK from where a large number of tourists visit India – as the current procedure is too cumbersome.

However, Mr Kalra feels that both domestic and international travel are “here to grow together, and not against each other”. “With international travel now returning to the fore, we are confident that in a few quarters, international travel will also be able to recover completely.”

This feature first appeared on BBC on October 7th, 2022

©Rubina A Khan 2022

RUBINA’S REVIEW | MANDARIN ORIENTAL BANGKOK’S AUTHORS’ LOUNGE AFTERNOON TEA IS DELICIOUSLY ROYAL

In the mid-nineteeth century, when Thailand was still known as Siam, a rest house established for travelling foreigners on the banks of the Menam River (Chao Praya River), became one of the greatest hotels in the world – The Oriental. The Oriental, now Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, was the first luxury hotel in the Kingdom of Siam. In 1865 the hotel’s original structure was destroyed in a fire and was replaced by the current structure in 1876. It was a Danish-born sailor, H.N. Andersen, who gave the Siamese capital a new hotel, a modern, luxurious Oriental Hotel. On 17 December 1890, His Majesty King Chulalongkorn paid a private visit to The Oriental to assess the ability of the hotel to host royal guests. The King was so impressed that he decided to accommodate the Crown Prince Nicholas of Russia, who became Tsar in 1894, at The Oriental in April 1891. It was the beginning of a long lasting relationship between the legendary hotel and Thailand’s Royal Palace. Today, 146 years later, the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is a proud landmark in Bangkok, a beautiful building that links the glorious years past, present and those to come in Thailand.

The Authors’ Lounge, on the ground floor of the original Oriental Hotel, lends an old world charm, reminiscent of the early 1900s, with turn-of-the-century style wicker furniture and hand-painted fabrics, alongside framed photographs of the famous writers who have stayed at the hotel since the late nineteenth century. Apart from the telling literary history of yesteryear Siam and its people, The Authors’ Lounge is renowned for its traditional afternoon tea, and is also one of the most photographed locations in Bangkok, if not Thailand. It was a beautiful rainy afternoon, with the sun playing hide and seek, that I sat down to experience the Summer Afternoon Tea Set at the Authors’ Lounge. A beautiful hostess, Parichat, led the way and I chose a table overlooking the garden and the Chao Praya river. The distinguished jewel jade and white tones of the lounge add serenity to the regal elegance of this historic lounge.

The afternoon started off with the most delicious Earl Grey infused peach sorbet and Champagne foam, followed by the setting down of the Somerset book on the table by the elegant Pansamon – an event in itself – sliding out the most decadent pastries and savouries from the mock book, with theatrical precision and sophistication. The Prawn roll brioche bun, Spicy tuna salad wafer, Charcoal choux with smoked salmon and sunflower seed crème and Egg salad with Avruga caviar sandwich and the selection of pastries – Blackberry flower cake and coconut cloud, Green coffee bean tiramisu, tangerine marmalade and cardamom, Charlotte cake apricot, pistachio and thyme, Raspberries and yuzu New York cheesecake, Hazelnut and milk chocolate textures, Brioche feuillette, strawberries and vanilla custard – they all looked too pretty to eat, but eat I did. You could measure each sandwich and pastry and they’d be the exact same size and dimension, just like they came out of a royal kitchen for high tea. Then came the warm traditional scones with a selection of home-made jams, Devonshire clotted cream, mascarpone and butter. Everything tastes divine and it’s hard to pick a favourite from the tea set. I went with an iced coffee, instead of tea and it was just as fine, watching the rain come down, from the warm confines of the Authors’ Lounge, thinking of all those writers and travellers who stayed here before, and created literary legacies.

You need to reserve a table on Mandarin Oriental Bangkok for the Afternoon Tea and the team very graciously accommodates your food specifications. They also have an Oriental Afternoon Tea Set as well as a Vegan and Gluten-Free Afternoon Tea Set.

Through its 146 years of existence, The Oriental’s grandiose façade has greeted travellers, dignitaries and literary figures from around the world like The Prince and Princess of Wales, The Queen of Sweden, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando. British spy novelist John le Carré, wrote The Honourable Schoolboy at the hotel and Barbara Cartland named one of the heroines in Sapphires in Siam after an Oriental employee. Others, like Noël Coward, simply admired the riverine views, declaring: “It is a lovely place and I am fonder of it than ever.” Joseph Conrad, the sea captain and writer, was a frequent visitor to the bar of The Oriental and Vaslav Nijinsky danced in the ballroom in 1916. Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok’s affinity with the literary world is best exemplified in the Authors’ Wing, which houses the Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham, Noël Coward and James Michener Lounges. In these specially created salons, images of these literary greats are juxtaposed with scenes from The Oriental during those eras, as well as quotations from the authors’ books. Khun Ankana’s Study, also situated of The Authors’ Lounge, pays a pictorial tribute to the inimitable Ankana Kalantananda, The Oriental’s longest-serving employee who joined the hotel in 1947 and worked there for over 60 years.

The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok’s staff, right from Jed at the entrance to the hostesses, servers and spa staff are all marvellous and wonderful, and exemplary in their service. It’s a beautiful world they have all created inside this grand dame of a hotel in Bangkok.

Like W. Somerset Maugham said in The Mixture of Before, “Now it is a funny thing about life, if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.

Rubina’s Rating: 10/10

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2022

Mumbai’s Money Is Moving In Realty, Despite The Calamitous Second Wave In India

Mumbai’s got money and it’s moving in realty, despite the Maharashtra government not extending the stamp duty waiver on property registrations in March earlier this year. INR 420 CR was collected in stamp duties in June 2021 as 7,850 properties were registered in the month compared to 5,640 units registered in June 2019, indicating a growth of 39 percent. However, in May 2021, INR 268 CR was collected in stamp duties due to the calamitous second wave across India – which was roughly half of the INR 534 CR collected in May 2019. Evidently, people have been buying property in Mumbai, albeit in an undefined, heterogeneous pattern. 

In fact, prices have increased too, if you can call a slash in prices from a sharp 30% in 2020 to a 20% in 2021. Actor Ajay Devgan bought a bungalow in June spread over 5000 square feet in Juhu, Mumbai for INR 47.5 crore (which would have sold for over INR 60 CR easy, pre-Covid) and he paid a stamp duty of INR 2.37 crore on the purchase. A South Mumbai apartment that was priced at 15 CR went on to sell at 9 CR in the first phase of the pandemic in 2020 with the stamp duty waiver, but commands a selling price of 11 CR now. The reason for the upswing in the most expensive, not to mention glamorous city in India, is that builders and developers have smaller inventories now and they are trying to make some cash whilst the demand is still on the rise, given the pandemic has made forecasts and predictability highly unreliable and inaccurate during these times. Who would’ve thought there’d be 7,850 property buys in a strained and stretched economy, right? Even though it is not a seller’s market, the seller is making some kind of profit. 

But property sells in North Mumbai are taking place in a very contrasting pattern to the realty index in South Mumbai. No, it has nothing to do with Bollywood’s residential dominance in the ‘burbs. In Bandra West, a two-bedroom apartment, measuring a 1000 square feet, that lists for INR 4.5 CR, sells at INR 4CR. Clearly the 20% drop in listing prices in South Mumbai are not at play in North Mumbai as there is a paucity of developments in the suburbs and the supply does not match the extensive demand, yet. So, the seller is more rigid with the pricing and gets whatever he/she asks for without having to conform to the South Mumbai pricing index. 

Recently, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had set off a dampener with its proposal to increase property tax by at least 14 percent based on ready reckoner rates as on April 1, 2021. Property tax rates are calculated based on the ready reckoner rates of 2015 in Mumbai and the BMC wanted to revise the rates following the current ready reckoner rate. But on June 18th, the Maharashtra government announced that there would be no change in property tax till the pandemic continued, as it did not seem fair to burden people with an increase in the tax. The announcement didn’t just come as a huge relief to home-owners and stakeholders, but assuaged buyer sentiments, leading to a spike in buys in June. It remains to be seen what the next 6 months of 2021 will bring to the realty table, and at what cost, and more importantly, will a structured buying and selling pattern emerge from it all? 

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on July 20th, 2021

©Rubina A Khan 2021

Mumbai’s Realty Buys On A High | Gulf News

One of the world’s most desirable real estate markets, Mumbai, is open for business in the new world. But, is anyone really interested in buying anything aside from essentials, groceries, masks and maybe some peace of mind under clear blue skies and warm, aureate sunshine right now? Yes, they are – and they’re buying real estate, not Chanel! Well, Chanel masks to be honest, not couture.

Mumbai’s realty buys are on a momentous high, never mind all the financial despondency that’s engulfing the world. Who are these cash-on-deck people with the flux of money that are buying in such an indeterminable financial climate? Not whimsical buyers for sure, as the realty business is no place for fiscal braggadocio or investment buys right now. People who have been on the market for a buy are closing deals swiftly, as are the indecisive fencers. And why ever would they not, given apartments in Worli in South Mumbai are selling at INR 6.2 CR today versus the initial asking price of INR 9.5 CR, and a 10 CR apartment is available for a negotiable INR 8.5 CR and new developments are being offered, and purchased, at INR 9.5 CR from the original price of INR 15CR in midtown Mumbai? Incredulous, but true.

“Buy land, they’re not making it anymore,” said author and humourist Mark Twain and that holds true for Mumbai’s realty buyers of high-rises built on land, and reclaimed land. During Covid19, buyers are seeking balconies and private terraces that are the new amenities today, instead of gyms and swimming pools, and if a luxe apartment has either, it’s a singing deal straight to the bank. Photographs, virtual tours and a final show-around – when everything is almost set in stone between the realtor and the buyer – but not without seriously vetting of the buyer prior – is the new order of the realty business in Mumbai.

One of the primary reasons for the astounding spike in buys is the sharp reduction in the stamp duty levied on the sales of apartments from 5% to 2% from September 1 to December 31, 2020 and 3% from January 1 to March 31, 2021 by the Maharashtra state government, as a relief measure for the real estate, commercial transport, agriculture and fisheries sector, that have been hard-hit by the lockdown over the past six months, and counting. Otherwise, the stamp duty in the state is 5% and 4% in urban and rural areas respectively, apart from the 1% surcharge in urban areas and 1% zila parishad cess in rural areas. Investors offloading their inventories in developments that they had bought high in, is also adding to the dramatic depreciation in prices across Mumbai as they’re being compelled to sell low, strengthening the buyer’s position furthermore. Mumbai’s realty business is no longer a simple or a compound process, but a variable, with only one constant that it is a buyer’s market, and has been for a while now. 

Luxury rentals too, both residential and commercial, have seen a stark downswing of 20-30% reductions in the city. Residential properties going for INR 2,50,000 per month pre-Covid19 are available for INR 1,60,000 per month and a 2000 square feet commercial space on Marine Drive that commanded INR 6,50,000 per month will in all likelihood find it difficult to get even INR 4,00,000 today given the negligible human footfall in the largely residential sea-facing block.

The Kala Ghoda area in downtown Mumbai commanded fashionably high commercial rents pre Covid19 for the last decade ever since fashion designer Sabyasachi opened his flagship store in 2010. Up until then, Kala Ghoda was an arts and museum nucleus, but Sabyasachi’s arrival inadvertently turned it into Mumbai’s fashion precinct with every fashion label in India opening shop here. Despite the high rents, some adjusted, some not, designers are still holding on to their stores because of the business of Indian weddings and in a bid to stay relevant on the fashion marquee, all the while keeping the rental business in the area brisk and sharp. A 1500 square feet store here, at the end of Rampart Row towards Lion Gate, was upwards of INR 3,50,000 and is now available for INR 2,00,000 and a INR 10,00,000 per month commercial space can be rented for INR 7,00,000. Rental deposits that were upwards of six months or more are now at a flexible three months odd and the lock-in period too has gone from a standard three years to a variable one or two.

Realtors in Mumbai have struck gold during the last six months of the lockdown as compared to the past financial year because of the collapsing prices and the reduced stamp duty that is acting as an incentive, enabling and accelerating the buys. The demand for ready homes versus under-development / under-construction properties is predominant. The recent demolition of actress Kangana Ranaut’s property in Mumbai on the grounds of illegal construction within 24 hours of giving her notice of the same (the case is in the Bombay High Court) has further deterred under-construction sales. No one is willing to risk the bulldozers of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation for any irregularities in their homes and prefer MahaRERA and BMC compliant properties with all the legalities in place.

With the grand realty depreciations, temptation to buy low and rent lower is rife in the city where there’s more sea than land. To quote Shakespeare, “I would give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground.”

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on October 2nd, 2020

©Rubina A Khan 2020

RUBINA’S RADAR: PPE FUNDRAISER FOR MUMBAI’S MEDIA PERSONNEL ON THE CORONAVIRUS FRONT LINES

A conversation with a photographer friend of mine on Coronavirus news duty every single day since March 2020, impelled me into thinking about the health risks our Indian media was being exposed to, whilst I stayed safely at home, in quarantine and the lockdown, on government orders. I often wondered how they’d power through the weeks, and now months of the reportage on the pandemic everyday, which seemed endless then, and continues unabated with its relentless savagery on humans. Everyone’s lauding the first responders and medical teams, the police, the hygienists and the cleaners, and very rightly so, but nobody seems to be taking cognisance of the indispensable and crucial work photographers, videographers and journalists are doing on the ground, outside. They’re the people bringing in the news and visuals of the virus every day, and the heart-wrenching devastation and strife it’s inflicting on humans across the world. By going out and reporting from containment and red zones, they’re risking their own lives, and livelihoods, in an extremely uncertain and broken economy and that is saying something. Everything we know about the virus, right from the whats and the hows to the vaccine developments and trials, is through the eyes and lenses of the media as everyone’s in lockdown and quarantined at home. Even as some parts of the world are opening up ever so cautiously after months of isolation and physical distancing of late, their work carries on. It is their photographs and stories that tell us what the new world looks like, how human behaviour has changed and will continue to evolve in the years to come.

On April 20th, 2020, when I heard that 53 press personnel in Mumbai had tested positive for the Coronavirus, and were incapacitated and hospitalised, I just knew I had to do something about protecting them on duty as staying safe at home or working from home wasn’t an option for them. I couldn’t bear the thought of people I know and have worked with going out to work, risking their all for their jobs, without any protection from the virus.

On April 23rd, 2020, I spearheaded a fundraiser by reaching out to my network for contributions as a collective, humane responsibility to purchase Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) as a preventive measure for Mumbai’s news photographers and media personnel covering the Corona crisis on the front lines, to shield them. I am ever so thankful to the people – from all walks of life in India – that responded promptly and empathetically towards the fundraiser with their fiscal largesse like industrialist Ness Wadia, businesswoman Natasha Poonawalla (Executive Director, Serum Institute of India, Pune), filmmaker Karan Johar (Dharma Productions), actor Amrita Arora, film costumer Ana Singh, businesswoman Eesha Sukhi and jeweller Siddharth Kasliwal (Director, The Gem Palace, Jaipur). Since then, the fundraiser has received contributions from jeweller Queenie SinghShalini Passi and filmmaker Gaurav Chawla, enabling the purchase of safety eyewear too for the media.

It is because of the financial support of these very people that the PPE’s reached Mumbai on May 5th, 2020 and were distributed to the media personnel from May 6th onwards. These PPE’s are certified by SITRA – South India Textile Research Association, Coimbatore for fabric and garment – and are for one-wear only. I feel the kindness of all the contributors needs to be highlighted and celebrated, and not go unnoticed as anonymous benefactors, because talking about them will go on to inspire many others to come forward in this crisis to help each other in our country. Every contributor has stepped up as a humanitarian to help our media community, and that is reason enough to laud any helping hand. All of them have made this little fundraiser of mine a bigger success that I ever envisaged it to be and the media community are ever so grateful for their kindness. The PPE’s and safety eyewear bought with the funds raised so far have been distributed to the Mumbai media personnel and I am in the midst of ordering more PPE’s from the second round of funding that has come around. I intend to keep raising funds to provide the PPE’s for as long as they are needed during the Corona crisis.

The PPE fundraiser has been chronicled in the Mumbai Mirror (07.05.2020 edition) and the kindness of the contributors has been sincerely appreciated. The PPE initiative was featured in the Urdu press and online, and I am grateful for people supporting the fundraiser. Encouraging words and tall praise from people I love and admire across the world has raised me up, gladdened my heart (which is rather dire nowadays!) and fuelled me to strive and do even more!

SHOBHAA DE: Rubina’ s spontaneous gesture to mobilise support and order the best quality PPE suits for media colleagues risking their lives to cover the pandemic, must be acknowledged as a gesture that led to many others following her example.

JACKIE SHROFF: The media has always been there on the forefront, come what may. The fourth estate are a brave lot and will have my respect, always. And, you keep shining Rubina!

FERN MALLIS: Rubina Khan is a Covid19 hero… as a photojournalist, she watched her colleagues out in the streets and in the trenches covering the story of this ungodly pandemic and no one had their backs… they put themselves in danger to keep us all informed. Her initiative to secure funds and thereby supply this vital press corp with all the necessary PPE’s was so smart, compassionate and right on. It’s now in its second round of providing more. Thank you Rubina from the epicenter of Coronavirus in New York City.

ANA SINGH: The press has always celebrated my work and my milestones and in this particularly grave time, I feel God chose me to give back to them and I feel grateful for the opportunity. When Rubina spoke to me about the PPE fundraiser, being a journalist and photographer herself, I got a sense of what the media personnel on the field were possibly going through and what it must feel like for them, and their families at home to work outdoors. Rubina’s empathy and concern for her colleagues made this fundraiser a success and she’s leading by example of how to get things done, even when you’re not out there on the field, without being self-serving.

ELEANOR COOKSEY: I am very proud to count Rubina as a long standing family friend. Her recent PPE fundraiser activity is testament to her diverse and unique skills; her thoughtfulness (it is too easy to forget about all those affected in different ways), her resourcefulness and her determination. Here in the UK, there have been endless discussions about how to secure adequate PPE’s with endless delays and excuses. This initiative was conceived and achieved so quickly – the funds raised and the PPE’s reaching the people who needed it in two weeks. A rare positive story amid all this fear and uncertainty.

PARRIS FOTIAS: During these surreal times where we are being constantly bombarded with fake news stories, we are more reliant than ever on responsible journalism bringing us the real facts. Yet no one really thought about the media and their fate during this pandemic. I commend Rubina for her foresight and determination to help protect her colleagues out on the front lines in Mumbai. We are all in this together so much thanks to you Rubina and your PPE fundraising efforts from Australia.

UPDATE: JUNE 2020
Ness Wadia has contributed generously towards the second round of funding end May and fashion designer Manish Malhotra and Delna Poonawalla in early June.

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2020

RUBINA’S RADAR | REEL IS WHAT’S REAL TODAY

We humans thought we lived in an adamantine world controlled by us, until an invisible contagion microbe – the Coronavirus – showed us all we obviously don’t. The virus is killing humans harder and faster than any missile across the planet, halting an extremely self-serving, consumerist world, dead in its Earth-abusive tracks. The Earth seems to have quit us, albeit temporarily, leaving us to quarantine in our designated spaces and countries for a while – a while that feels more like an infinite uncertainty than a finite timeline with each passing day.

For those of us who are fortunate enough to have a home to quarantine in, and socially distance ourselves from our families in separate rooms, with running water, food and the familiar warmth of our beds – it is an ineffable bespoke luxury, one that is incomparable to any in the world. Millions of our fellow humans across are homeless, with no roof over their heads, jobless with no money for food or clean running water to drink, let alone to sanitize and wash their hands with, multiple times a day.

gettyimages-1209766531-2048x2048

Opera singer Andrea Bocelli looks on before his Easter concert at the Duomo on April 12, 2020 in Milan, Italy. Members of the public were not allowed in Milan’s Duomo Cathedral due to the ongoing lockdown to control the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Luca Rossetti, Courtesy Sugar SRL, DECCA Records via Getty Images)

I think the Coronavirus outbreak is the biggest performance art show of all time, where all human beings are a live act, me included, going about our lives in our tangible spaces and our paces. And, the world – a large canvas of pristine natural beauty and sounds stands still, watching us – the performative art on display. The lockdown takes me back to the first ever performance art exhibit I attended in the Hamptons in New York in 2013. It was Robert Wilson’s 20th Annual Watermill Center Summer Benefit called Devil’s Heaven. This was held at his performance lab for arts and humanities at the Watermill Center in Long Island. Devil’s Heaven was an unimaginable reality for me, with Lady Gaga, who I think is the quintessence of performance art herself and Marina Abramović, the most lasting of all performance art legends, in attendance.

Watching the various intense acts of stillness and exertion across the eight acre grounds, especially Trina Merry’s Magnolias and her Enchanted Forest silent performers slithering seductively around tree trunks, left me awe-struck, and wide-eyed. At the entrance of the event, two naked figures, stood statuesquely on a pedestal, embracing each other in silence, in glorious consonance, their male and female bodies painted with an almost Avatar-esque shade of teal with a pink floral design akin to the Indian lotus. This was Merry’s Magnolias that explored the clash between culture and nature – exactly what we are experiencing in the real world today.

63014_10151499107001356_2104350534_n

Trina Merry’s Magnolias at Robert Wilson’s Devil’s Heaven at the Watermill Centre, Long Island, New York. (Photo by ©Rubina A Khan 2013)

The Earth’s revolt – a silent warzone of microbial and economic devastation – has the human race feeling endangered for the very first time since its existence. Some of the models’ bodies, painted on to look like furniture, further conflated with material objects on the performer’s naked bodies, was Merry’s way of questioning human self-identities in relation to objects and the things humans own. Consumerist attitudes and human identities based on material things was almost entirely how the world ran before the Coronavirus outbreak. Merry seems to have latently manifested today’s unthinkable reality when it was anything but, seven odd years ago, when she created the series in New York, where she is based. Her artistic expression is a dominant, painful reality today and she flipped Oscar Wilde’s ancient notion from Life Imitates Art more than Art Imitates Life into Art Forsees Life perhaps! Never did I think, ever, that I would be living out my own performance act of a lifetime in these times. And, I am a non-conformist.

Art has always provoked us into a reactive state – be it shock, rage, bewilderment, exultation, agony, poignancy, exhilaration or just good ol’ gladdening. The Earth seems to have taken a break from us humans, to catch its own breath, whilst we are coming to terms with a new world – one that is brought to us by the eyes and the lenses of photographers across the world. Photography is art, frozen in time – almost like an entr’acte between the time when the photograph was taken to the current time of its viewing. Except today, all the photographs that we see are in real time of a very unreal, very unknown world that has fallen deafeningly silent and empty. In due course, these pictures will make for a historical archive for centuries to come.

The ability of a photograph to let one’s mind go back and forth, with meandering thoughts and shifting perspectives, never once losing the original, intrinsic essence of its frame is incredulous – it can be as active and as passive as you want it to be. Reel life is what’s real today. Apart from our first responders being doctors and health care workers who are on the front lines saving lives, it is the photographers who are risking their lives to bring the world to us, every single day. Images of empty streets and subways, empty places of worship, planes parked like Lego blocks in airport hangars, images of the heroic, live-saving first responders across the world from Wuhan to Italy to India to the US… are a reality thanks to the photographers out there, doing their job relentlessly, and serving humanity.

gettyimages-1209777595-2048x2048

An aerial view of the illuminated statue of Christ the Redeemer that reads “Thank you” as Archbishop of the city of Rio de Janeiro Dom Orani Tempesta performs a mass in honor of Act of Consecration of Brazil and tribute to medical workers amidst the Coronavirus pandemic on April 12, 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Mumbai-based photographer, Satyajit Desai’s imagery of the Janta Curfew in India on March 22nd to the stark containment zones in Worli after Mumbai’s lockdown from March 25th to the make-shift quarantine shelters in bus stands tells you the story of my city, and how the virus is affecting our lives, and our livelihoods, wherever you might be in the world.

SATYA

A bus stand in Versova, Mumbai, is converted into a temporary shelter for the homeless to quarantine and social distance in on April 5th, 2020. (Photo by Satyajit Desai / Mumbai Mirror)

SL Shanth Kumar’s shots Mumbai’s pride, the Queen’s Necklace, our Marine Drive – the most beautiful stretch of concrete, that languidly hugs 3.6kms of the Arabian Sea’s shoreline are breath taking. Gary Hershorn’s pictures of an empty Times Square and a lone Brooklyn Bridge in New York seem like the people have been photo-shopped out of it. Ollie Millington’s shots of the Shard skyscraper in London, lit up in blue in thanks and support of the National Health Service of the UK on March 28th as well as images of all landmarks in the US lighting up in blue from Boston to Vegas to thank their healthcare workers speak volumes of the intense work being done to contain the catastrophic virus everywhere.

gettyimages-1217917673-2048x2048

TD Garden is lit in blue on April 09, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts, to show support for health care workers and first responders on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Right from the handout photo provided by Buckingham Palace of Queen Elizabeth II addressing the nation from Windsor Castle on April 5th in a special broadcast to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth nations pertaining to the virus outbreak to Abdel Ghani Bashir’s sombre image of the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, devoid of any human life and movement, on March 5th is very telling of the Earth and the Universe calling time on humans.

gettyimages-1209189643-2048x2048

Queen Elizabeth II addresses the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth in a special broadcast in relation to the Coronavirus outbreak at Windsor Castle on April 5, 2020 in Windsor, England.(Photo by Buckingham Palace via Getty Images)

gettyimages-1205319440-2048x2048

The white-tiled area surrounding the Kaaba, inside Mecca’s Grand Mosque, empty of worshippers on March 5th, 2020. Saudi Arabia emptied Islam’s holiest site for sterilisation over fears of the new coronavirus, an unprecedented move after the kingdom suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage. (Photo by Abdel Ghani Bashir/AFP via Getty Images)

Lillian Suwanrumpha’s pictures of new-born babies in Bangkok, Thailand wearing mini face shields are as endearing as they are frightening of a new world, of a new reality upon us. The heart-wrenching photos taken by every news photographer, of India’s migrant workers, rendered jobless due to the lockdown, walking miles from cities to reach their homes in their villages tell you the story of India’s divided landscape of the haves and the have-nots – the have-nots that make up for the largest portion of our 1.3 billion people. Unsettling, but devastatingly true.

gettyimages-1209538253-2048x2048

A newborn baby wearing a face shield at Praram 9 Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand on April 9, 2020. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP via Getty Images)

Before Corona, advertisers paid top dollar to creative photography for digitally altered images of an empty Times Square or the Eiffel Tower for a fashion model to strike a pose against, but editorial news photography could never ever imagine shooting any architectural or historical landmark in the world, without people milling about in hundreds and thousands. I remember trying to take a frame in Beijing, China, of the Forbidden City without any people in it, and it was exhausting, and next to impossible! I cannot imagine not seeing the world with my own eyes, and I’m ever so grateful to my global community of photographers for bringing the evolving new world to us, at a personal cost to them that’s immeasurably invaluable, and very appreciated. This is art in motion, that’s unfolding every minute and every hour of every new day.

gettyimages-1218357598-2048x2048

Hagia Sophia and its surrounds are empty during a two-day lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on April 11, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

Once there is some semblance of the familiar to our new world that none of us have any inkling of right now, there are some things that will have changed forever, that we will be seeing through the eyes of photographers and their cameras yet again. For instance, a picture of two people shaking hands or kissing in public will be a coveted, unusual image as will that of aeroplanes taking to the open skies again. We might just feel like one of the Wright brothers when they sent up their first plane into the sky! Public spaces with people jammed in or huddled closely will make for unusual imagery too as will sport stars greeting each other without backslaps and hugs on a playing field when the games come back on. Bollywood’s come hither song and dance routines and Hollywood’s sex sequences will smack of sanitized physicality at its creative best, or worst, we don’t know. Personal space will be big on behavioural social etiquette amongst the human race, and it will be a prized priority that will dictate relationships at home, and at work.

gettyimages-1214681576-2048x2048

Grounded British Airways planes at Cardiff Airport on March 25, 2020 in Cardiff, United Kingdom due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

We stand stripped of our acquired behavioural nuances, our excessive indulgences, our obsessions with power and control and in the adorning of our external selves, in our raw, bare skin – bereft of any mask, in our private spaces. This reaffirms that we are all the same, never mind if you’re black, white or brown – if you are human, then you’re a locked target for the virus. We need to stop saying that we are stuck at home, and wonder when life will go back to normal because firstly, how can you feel stuck or bored in your chosen space that you call home, that you have nurtured over the years to make it a home, and secondly, life is never going back to what is was – it’s like wishing we could go back to our babyhood and giggle and gurgle at inanities with our parents. The world pre Corona has ended as we knew it, and we will all emerge as one human race, altered forever in world that will have evolved since the first outbreak, whenever that might be.

NOTE: The photograph of the Versova quarantine shelter for the homeless in Mumbai shot by Satyajit Desai (Mumbai Mirror) have been used only after procuring rightful editorial consent and permissions.  

©Rubina A Khan 2020

India’s Real Estate Adjusts To COVID19 Reality | Gulf News

The COVID-19 pandemic has irreversibly changed the world order as we know it, and the economy, forever. We thought we lived in an adamantine world controlled by humans, until a contagion microbe – that’s killing harder and faster than any missile – showed us we obviously don’t. Every human and business is hurting, held hostage in quarantine in the absence of a vaccine or cure, at least not yet. Real estate too, is an altered reality.

Indian realty witnessed an unequivocal shift in perspective, long before the virus struck. The enforcement of the Citizen Amendment Act beleaguered India, leaving a trail of bloodbaths and mayhem in New Delhi in its wake, with non-violent protests across the country since December 2019 being the norm. Unsure of the future of their inherent national identities and citizenship, the unrest and uncertainty propelled some Indians and NRI’s to re-evaluate their assets in the country, in particular real estate. Sale listings went up in Mumbai, in many cases because the of very concerns related to the CAA enforcement. These listings didn’t strictly adhere to the market’s competitive and demanding numbers, but veered more towards liquidating the assets at flexible, albeit profitable prices.

IMG_0035

Gateway of India Mumbai | Photo: Rubina A Khan

Virtual tours, an unheard of thing in Mumbai, have slowly started via FaceTime and WhatsApp, but it’s hard to say if that will become the norm. Virtual show-arounds will suffice for a preliminary showing, but to make a final decision, a physical tour is a must, particularly as the amenities are a big part of the tours. The innumerable fake listings for Mumbai properties that lure in susceptible renters and buyers, will cease to exist soon enough as the health clearance of a broker will become as vital as that of a prospective ROB (renter-owner-buyer).

gettyimages-545207718-2048x2048

Bandra-Worli Sea Link Mumbai | Photo: Rubina A Khan / Getty Images

Brokers will by default have to become photographers and videographers, health screeners and learn how to disinfect their listed properties themselves. It will become standard practice for them to call a prospective buyer or a renter before a showing to make sure that he or she is feeling fine and has no cough or sore throat, and has not been out of the country recently – even after COVID-19 is contained. A short-term effect is that buyers will be less inclined to purchase or rent if they have no idea when they will actually get to visit the properties. The long-term effects are yet to unfold, but the virus will cripple sales despite lowered prices. There is no guarantee of buyers if self-isolation, travel bans and border closures continue indefinitely or intermittently.

I don’t see a likely upswing for the next two years at least. The economic uncertainty has sparked off a growing sense of unease and doomsday panic, and is likely to cost the global economy $1 trillion in 2020, according to the UN’s Trade and Development Agency (UNCTAD).

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on March 27, 2020

©Rubina A Khan 2020

RUBINA’S RADAR | FASHION DESIGN COUNCIL OF INDIA’S QUATERNITY FINALE AT LMIFW SS 2020

The Spring Summer 2020 edition of India Fashion Week, presented by the Fashion Design Council of India, culminated with a grand finale on the 12th of October, 2019 at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi. Rajesh Pratap Singh, Manish Arora, Schulen Fernandes for Wendell Rodricks and Anamika Khanna made up the finale quaternity that was as disparate a show as it was a rousing one.

All four designers showcased lines that were quintessentially reflective of their unequivocal fashion nucleus. Actor Kangana Ranaut broke Rodricks’ tribal whites and blues, Khanna’s embroidered conglomerations, Singh’s effervescent fluoro pops and Arora’s pink-dominant psychedelic synchronisation, in a black and white number, with leather accessories. Ranaut’s runway strut in the crisp ensemble lent the very coveted Bollywood sheen to the inherent shimmer of the polki diamonds around her neck.

Getting them to close an inclusive week (four days actually!) of fashion together, was spearheaded by Sunil Sethi, President of the FDCI. “I feel it worked out well. It is difficult to please everyone but LMIFW SS 20 was definitely a success. I am very happy,” said an obviously elated Sethi from Bhutan, where he’s keeping royal company with the ruling family of the mountain kingdom.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – OCTOBER 12: Schulen Fernandes, Anamika Khanna, Wendell Rodricks, Kangana Ranaut, Sunil Sethi, Nitin Passi, Manish Arora, Rajesh Pratap Singh and Dipin Passi at the Lotus Make-Up India Fashion Week Spring Summer 2020 Finale presented by the FDCI on October 12, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

gettyimages-1180684442-2048x2048

NEW DELHI, INDIA – OCTOBER 12: Kangana Ranaut at the Lotus Make-Up India Fashion Week Spring Summer 2020 Finale presented by the FDCI on October 12, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Inclusivity, with the hashtag MyFashionMyTribe sent out an assured energy to everyone that fashion is really about you exercising your power to express yourself just the way you are, and want to, without any fear or inhibitions. Every kind of person was celebrated by the designers on the runway in their collections – acid burn victims, curves, transgender… and that is really what the world is rightfully leaning in towards, steadily.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here is the FDCI presented Lotus MakeUp India Fashion Week Spring Summer 2020 finale in pictures:

SCHULEN FERNANDES FOR WENDELL RODRICKS

RAJESH PRATAP SINGH

ANAMIKA KHANNA

MANISH ARORA

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2019