Indian Real Estate Has A Toxic Problem | Gulf News

The cardinal constituent in realty is location and it has been dictating the price index and value of developments, with unmatched absoluteness. But that seems to be going up in the air now, quite literally, in India. The hazardous concentrations of particulate pollution that engulfed Mumbai in November this year, measured a PM 2.5 of 320. But Delhi witnessed a PM 2.5 of above 900, that was way beyond the maximum of 500 and went into “extreme mode” terrain, compelling the government to declare a public health emergency in the capital.

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Red Fort in New Delhi | Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images

When inhaled, PM 2.5 affects the human body’s natural defence, going deep into the lungs and even the bloodstream, causing serious health disorders like asthma and increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Clean air and water is a constitutional human right, but that right seems to have been drowned out by the drilling drone of the innumerable developments and their construction dust, vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions that make up the toxicity in the air. State governments ignoring the Supreme Court’s orders to limit agricultural burning isn’t helping either, endangering human lives even further.

Air quality is the new “prime location” and health is the new “amenity” that people are starting to look at when it comes to real estate today, not just an exclusive address or city. It is their lives at stake after all. ‘What good is buying a home in an elite neighbourhood in a metropolis that will leave you breathless’ is the common refrain in India since. The address people choose to buy in, or rent in, needs to be healthy and fit for human living, and conducive to their mental health and overall well-being, not herald a life ahead with disease and hospital bills. Sustainable is the word of 2019 – forget the fashion industry being the biggest pollutant globally – it has come down to sustaining human life in India in 2020 with fresh air and water and taking measures to rein it in. Instead of developers selling spaces highlighting the ‘heart’ of a city, it’s time they advertised the ‘lungs’ of a city to get people to buy.

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Peddar Road in Mumbai | Photo by Rubina A. Khan/ Getty Images

Newer realty developments are definitely hit with the unprecedented pollution levels in Delhi, and it will be a detriment going forward in 2020 for buys in the capital. Mumbai is not far behind either. Unless of course, the deals are lucratively priced to lure people in, with the promise of fresh air and improved Air Quality Index by the government. Non-Resident-Indians have a choice to wait it out and not invest in India till the air clears up, especially the ones living in the United States, that has some of the cleanest air in the world, but do resident Indians have a choice? Not really, barring buying homes in Goa and Rishikesh and that is quite indicative of the buying trend in 2020 for resident Indians.

Indian realty is obviously unprepared for the AQI factor that will very soon be a dominant determiner for property buys and sells in the country. After all the regulatory laws that shook up the business since 2016, this is another deterrent for the sector, especially with the large unsold inventories in the country. A war on pollution needs to commence in India now to accord  its taxpaying citizens a basic human right to breathe clean air and stay healthy.

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Lonavla | Photo by Rubina A. Khan/ Getty Images

2019 saw the introduction of the Model Tenancy Act 2019 as part of the first budget of the second term of the Narendra Modi government. Like its earlier reformist counterpart, RERA, introduced in 2016, the Model Tenancy Act 2019 too reads great on paper, but has yet to step up on accelerating the implementation of the same. I see an Air Quality Act being passed in 2020 but then again, it’s the implementation of it that looks hazy, just like the Mumbai and Delhi skies right now.  

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on December 13, 2019

Thank you AD Kilachand, Bina Ramani & Tarun Tahiliani for your time and thoughts. 

©Rubina A Khan 2019

MANDARIN ORIENTAL DOHA, QATAR – A CULTURALLY COHERENT REGNANT OF QATARI DESIGN & HERITAGE

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DOHA, QATAR: The main entrance of the Mandarin Oriental, Doha in Qatar.

The Mandarin Oriental, Doha opened in March 2019 in Msheireb Downtown Doha, a planned, smart-city district in Qatar, and the world’s first sustainable downtown regeneration project. The sand-hued hotel overlooks the enchanting Barahat Msheireb Town Square, the largest open-air covered town square in the Middle East, encompassing 7000 sqm with the biggest retractable, climate-controlled cooling roof in the region. The design concept of the golden square references the welcoming and luxurious sitting rooms of traditional Qatari homes, and the backlit onyx cladding at night in translucent honey tones, echoes the inherent spirit of the desert. Msheireb Downtown Doha, developed by Msheireb Properties, whose Chairwoman is HRH Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, adheres to the highest standards in green building in re-creating a way of indigenous Qatari living and culture, in the centre of the capital city. Qatar is not just kicking ball by hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, it’s venerating its history and heritage through artistic avant-garde advancement in every sphere. This 11,000 km desert kingdom is on its way to becoming a nonpareil cultural capital of the world.

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DOHA, QATAR: The Mandarin Oriental, Doha overlooks the Barahat Msheireb Town Square in Msheireb Downtown Doha, Qatar.

The Mandarin Oriental, Doha is not a glass and glimmer skyscraper tearing into the blue skies, as one is wont to think of luxury hotels in the Middle East, blazoning the apodictic wealth of the country. It confutes the very notion the second your car rolls up the narrow, stone-cobbled alleyways, especially designed thus to give you a feel of old Qatari residential neighbourhoods, but not without a distinct, contemporary finesse befitting of a luxury hotel. Brick, mortar, wood, metal and a whole lot of soul make up the architectural and design language of the Mandarin Oriental, Doha that is culturally coherent with Qatari living and the heritage of the desert nation. The ferej, an intrinsic part of Qatari homes, built to provide shade from the desert sun and for air circulation (a natural air-conditioner so to speak) for respite from the heat, makes its modern-day presence felt in the hotel’s corridors and landings.

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DOHA, QATAR: A street view of the main entrance of the Mandarin Oriental, Doha, Qatar.

The shifting shapes of sand dunes inspired the key design element for the interiors of the property. Right from the imposing entrance pillars to the walls, marble floors and ceiling reliefs, an artistic representation of sand dunes runs through the hotel consummately. The design is as conspicuous and as unobtrusive as you want it to be. If you want to see it, you can see it everywhere and if you don’t, well, then you don’t. But the sand dunes of Qatar are there, hearkening the travelling bedouin origins of Qatar to the current day on your calendar.

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DOHA, QATAR: A general view from the Mandarin Oriental, Doha of the ferej or narrow alleyway sstreets in Doha, Qatar

The fretwork sand dune panels, with a painted eggshell finish on the ceiling, with a brass veil, influenced by the awnings and canopies of Arab dhows and ocean waves, designed by the David Collins Studio and Alexander Lamont’s straw marquetry adorn the lobby of the hotel. The brass veil, alongside the straw marquetry, is a breathtaking design genius.  Lamont used dried straw stems, spliced open and flattened, inlaying them individually on wood, creating a sustainable quintessence of his own. The straw fibres reflect light, changing with the time of day in the lobby and the Baraha Lounge, lending a natural sheen to each panel.

Apart from the fretwork sand dune panels that run through the entire hotel, the rooms and bathrooms resonate with elements from the rich seafaring, maritime history of Qatar, albeit subtly. The metal studs on the walls are a contemporary interpretation of the old wooden beams that extended horizontally from the walls of Qatari homes called danshal, procured with great difficulty by the bedouins due to the lack of natural vegetation in the region, to build sturdy roofs for their clay homes. The beautiful lamp shades are asymmetrically shaped, inspired by Arab dhows and the mirrors in the bathroom hang from ropes that were used at sea for fishing and pearl-diving. The black and white tile work wall behind the bathtub and jacuzzi honours the weaving traditions of Qatari women. I love the heady fragrance the Atelier Cologne Rose Anonyme bath line, a Rose Oud, that’s congruous to the landscape’s Desert Rose crystal formations, used by Qataris as talismans for protection and spirit guidance.

A serene sense of calm envelops you, once you’re inside the pristine and quiet (I loved that!) of your room, and the plush bed is meant for sleeping, especially after an exquisite Oriental Essence treatment at the Spa with its very own indoor swimming pool. Flight fatigue what? Though I worked through most nights on my bed, and that was snug and restful too. Imagine discovering a yoga mat, a jaanamaz and a hair straightener (not just a hairdryer) in your room, not to mention the mini-bar snacks packaged in exclusively designed tin boxes bearing palm trees – this is artistic design commingling with human desires and essentials in a manner most natural and decorous.

The location of the Mandarin Oriental, Doha is enviable, given it’s a short 20-minute drive from Hamad International Airport and is adjacent to the Amiri Diwan, Qatar’s seat of government and the Emir of Qatar, HRH Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s palace. It is a five-minute walk to the Msheireb Museum and the redeveloped and very lively (not noisy) and alive Souk Waqif, with its Falcon Souks, a Camel Pen and of course, the Gold Souk. The Museum of Islamic Art, designed by the late I.M. Pei and the National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel to look like the natural Desert Rose crystal formations that are found in Qatar, with inward-curving disks, intersections and cantilevered elements, with 1.5 kilometers of gallery space, giving voice to the unique story of Qatar and its people in an immersive and experiential manner in three chapters — Beginnings, Life in Qatar and The Modern History of Qatar are a short drive away and stand testament to the invested vision of the country’s love and liberal furtherance of the arts. The recherché National Museum of Qatar is a must visit. To give you perspective, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York’s annual budget for new acquisitions is USD 30 million and the Qatar Museums’ is USD 1 billion, chaired by HRH Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
gettyimages-1188450522-2048x2048The food is exemplary at all the four restaurants in the hotel, and at the Mandarin and Baraha Lounges. My first meal was an Angus Beef Burger at Aqua, the alfresco rooftop restaurant and bar that serves up easy-sharing dishes like Arabic mezze, sliders and pide.  Mosaic, the specialty nine-kitchen restaurant on the eighth floor is where the vibe is relaxed and the sun filters in through the metal grills inspired by traditional windows with intricate lattice panels called mashrabiya. Even the lifts bear a prominent pearl motif on the metal grills in honour of the pearling history of the country. Volcanic Torched Tuna Sushi, the Thai Beef Salad with a Lucha Libre cocktail here are to live for! I had a Turkish Pide (flat bread made of wheat flour) with Beef Pepperoni and Olive with Oregano and Parmesan for the fist time, and it was great. Mosaic is also where the elegant Qatari ladies breakfast and that says a lot about the food. I loved the Malika Honey, a delicious Qatari honey that’s harvested from the Busaif Apiary, of which 15 beehives are owned by the Mandarin Oriental, Doha as part of their sustainability program. It’s something that should really be sold to the guests at the hotel, it’s that good. The cream-filled Pistachio and Red Velvet Croissants, the Apple Detox Water, the Beef Cecina and all things beef honestly made me extremely happy to breakfast at Mosaic everyday.

Izu, the Mediterranean cuisine restaurant facing the Barahat Msheireb town square, with three seating areas – an indoor ground and mezzanine level and the popular outdoor terrace is where the culinary artistry is at, led by Nigerian chef, Izu Ani. Chef Izu is beyond gifted – Fried Organic Eggs with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce, the Wagyu burger, Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs with Padron Peppers, the Burrata with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil, Watermelon and Feta Salad, the Mandarin Gelato, the Le Verger drink made with fresh basil leaves, lemon and apple juice – there’s a discernible Izu addition to the simple classics, that takes his creations to a whole new level of delectable, and memorable flavours. He’d Izu’d everything I ate and drank, and loved, from the very first bite and swill to the very last! You have to be Izu’d at Izu people.

The English afternoon tea service at the Baraha Lounge, overlooking the Barahat Msheireb town square, and at the Mandarin Lounge from 2-6PM everyday, is immensely popular with the Qataris and locals. Gilded cakes, pink rose madelines and savouries with bespoke blends anyone? Gelato, the frozen dessert and gelato restaurant, also overlooking the Barahat Msheireb town square hits everyone’s sweet spot with its vast array of flavours, from vegan chocolate to Arabic coffee to anything your heart desires. If The Secret Bar at Izu is rather rad whilst Ambar is its sophisticated equal to quaff in at the hotel.

Newer luxury hotels, unlike the Mandarin Oriental, Doha, aim to make you feel like you could be anywhere in the world once you’re inside, and that just does not cut it for me. I have my own bed at home where I can imagine such inanities in my pyjamas on my own time, thanks, but no thanks! I don’t need to take a flight to Doha to imagine that I am in the Seychelles! Every morning, when I woke up and had my morning Nespresso, I knew I was in Doha and not in a ‘home away from home’. I so despise that sell! Everything in the room, and outside my window overlooking the modern ferej, told me so and this is what I loved the most about staying at the Mandarin Oriental, Doha. I felt like I was invited into the luxe confines of a Qatari home that’s most certainly not mine, or like mine, and I am a treasured guest of theirs for the weekend. And that’s how you feel like you ‘belong’ innately to a new place. The Mandarin Doha team is ebullient and professional, led ably by their General Manager, Martin Schnider.

No evening at the Mandarin Oriental, Doha felt complete without looking out at the molten glow of the Barahat Msheireb town square or a ‘cool’ walk around it, literally. Doha will always be ManDOHArin for me!

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

 

 

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)

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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.

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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

India Gets An Updated Model Tenancy Act 2019 | Gulf News

India’s rental housing market, trammelled by archaic laws and ambiguity, is adapting to the pragmatic ameliorations outlined by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her inaugural Union Budget 2019 speech. Sitharaman’s proposed regulations in the Indian realty market have since made way for the Model Tenancy Act 2019, drafted by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, that addresses the relationship between the lessor and lessee realistically and fairly.

The new tenancy law limits the security deposit to two months’ rent and lists heavy penalties for tenants overstaying and not adhering to the contractual terms of their rental agreements. An overstay will cost a tenant twice the rent for the first two months, that quadruples in the subsequent months. However, during such a period, the landlords are not allowed to cut off essential utilities like water and electricity. The Act also talks about creating special courts to deal with disputes between tenants and landlords and puts the obligation of carrying out repairs, maintenance and upkeep of the property like painting on the owner. While the landlord can’t increase the rent during the middle of the tenancy contract, the tenant can’t sublet the premises without prior consent of the owner. The Act aims to increase accountability in alignment with the government’s equitable development plans in the housing sector. The Centre has left it to the states to implement the Act or to amend it in accordance with their existing rental laws.

Mumbai | Rubina A Khan

Bandra-Worli Sea Link | Photo: Rubina A Khan

The Maharashtra government has decided to enact it for new constructions and introduce an amendment that protects properties governed by the Maharashtra Rent Control Act 1999. Landlords have domineered the rental business in India, and how, for far too long, especially in Mumbai, the only Indian city to feature in a top 20 list of expensive prime residential markets in the world recorded in Knight Frank’s Wealth Report 2019. In Mumbai, a real estate agent’s opening and closing has always been about what the owner wants, demands rather, barely skimming the surface of what a tenant wants, barring the monthly rent and astronomical security deposits. The broker is almost always submissive to an owner’s preferences, despite the tenant being as much a paying customer as the landlord. This parti pris dynamic needs to change along with the Act towards a balanced equation between tenants and landlords. Tenants need to rent and owners need their money – it’s a simple business deal and it’s about time it’s conducted like one.

The realty business in India is inescapably going to change with the Act, giving impetus to luxury rentals at the expense of buys. The biggest incentive in the rental sector is the security deposit being restricted to two months’ rent, allowing a tenant to utilise and invest the money for herself/himself, rather than blocking it with a landlord that earns interest off it. The Mumbai rental market stands to gain the most from the new Act.

Luxury rentals are far more fiscally appealing and viable with the new Act coming into play than ever before. The Act increases the confidence and security for both, landlords and tenants, getting into rental agreements aligned with the new norms, leaving minimum room for legal discord. Landlords will have to desist from imposing delusional demands on a tenant like sky-high security deposits and maintenance of the property and tenants will be legally bound to pay the weighty fines for overstay and misuse of a rented property.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on August 3, 2019

©Rubina A Khan 2019

India’s Property Market Rides Election Wave | Gulf News

The triumphant win of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of the Indian subcontinent for a second term, in the world’s largest election, has lent maximal credence to the country’s realty business in a manner most exceptional. The ruling government’s first term, contentiously driven by infrastructural development and financial realignments like Demonetization, RERA (Real Estate Regulation and Development Act) and GST (Goods & Service Tax) hit the cash-rich realty business particularly hard. Predictably, it was met with uproarious dissent. But, luxury realty seems to have taken a real turn since the legalized reorientations in the business, with antagonism giving way to smarts.

The luxe life is an addiction like no other. As long as there is human desire to live like royalty and be an in-your-face show-off, luxury real estate in India is headed forward. It stands at a profitable vantage point today, espousing all three acts, advantageous to both, builders and buyers. Indian realty expects investments to double to $10 billion in 2019. The paper trail and financial transparency accorded to the business is dominant, making it a streamlined, and somewhat trustworthy experience today. But there’s no denying that the business is devoid of the robustness and speed it once basked in, languishing ever so often in protracted sales.
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RERA seems to have had the most impact so far, not so much on newer developers as it has on the bigger players with large, unsold inventories, given it is now mandatory for 70 percent of the money to be deposited in bank accounts through cheques, restricting unaccounted money being flushed into the realty business. Aside from its financial transparency, a RERA requisite that’s very conducive to prospective buyers, is that builders are obliged to quote prices based on carpet area (inclusive of usable spaces like the kitchen and bathrooms) and not super built-up area. Having said that, RERA needs to hasten the pace, and frequency, in providing aggrieved buyers who need long overdue compensations from unscrupulous developers across India. The clean-up in the business has only just begun. It is anything but cleaned up, as far as realty racketeers are concerned, despite the new regulations and progressive revamps of archaic Indian property laws like Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code and the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act being in place. For the business to regain the implicit trust of consumers and hit immediate sale highs, compensating buyers for their losses is vital, and it should become a regular occurrence as compared to the rarity it is today.

Luxury residences and serviced luxury residences make for accelerated buys and sells in India, and rightly so, as time is a luxury the wealthy can’t afford to indulge in. Newer developers in Mumbai like Aditya Kilachand, Partner at Innovation Estates LLP, seem to be on the right beach of luxury realty, building villas by the sea in Alibag, a mere three-hour drive from Mumbai. Tapping into Alibag’s infrastructure, the improved connectivity and proximity to Mumbai, its existing community and fairly undervalued land prices is just realty forethought and judiciousness. Seven luxury serviced villas called L’Hermitage, custom-designed by Sussanne Khan of The Charcoal Project, will be ready for some serious selling upwards of 10CR by Sotheby’s International Realty India, come July 2019.
villWith all the luxury constructions and developments, there is a new shift in the market of late, that of “aspirational luxury” residences that aren’t remotely luxurious, barring their price points. Priced at 7CR upwards for a 3BHK in the business suburb of the Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai, these residences allude to a luxurious lifestyle with cleverly scripted and assertive marketing hype. The insides of these residential towers are at most basic, with a garden path, a swimming pool and some semblance of a gym thrown in, with views of the city’s under-construction skyline off a balcony, masquerading as luxury amenities. Needless to add, it’s a “white elephant” investment for owners as resale inventory is at its lowest and unrealistic rentals dictated by the builder’s team, with few takers, stand testimony to the “mimic luxe” gimmick it’s established on. These kind of constructions need to be reined in, as these will lead to a catastrophically high, over-priced, unsold inventory in the country that will affect consumers far more than the builders.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on June 9, 2019

©Rubina A Khan 2019

Unmasking Sustainable Food At Masque, Mumbai

Rubina A Khan reviews the Chef’s Tasting Menu at Masque, Mumbai: “an indulgent and wondrous night of sustainable culinary artistry, Indian style.”

The ‘it’ word right now, worldwide, is sustainable, making it lit to use it in any parlance. Sustainable and sustainability is used rather loosely by most fashion and food companies to sound evolved, aware and green-conscious, making the veracity of their sustainable credo rather questionable, but not at Masque, a wilderness-to-table restaurant in the erstwhile mill lands of central Mumbai. Masque’s ingredient-driven sustainable food experience is real, and how! Together, as owners of Masque, Chef Prateek Sadhu and entrepreneur Aditi Dugar have created an indigenously Indian culinary experience that is inimitably theirs, since September 2016, incomparable to any in the country.

Fern Mallis, creator of New York Fashion Week and the host of Fashion Icons With Fern Mallis at the 92Y, believes “sustainable is the new black”. A well-travelled, food enthusiast like Fern, not to mention fashion legend, made for the best company, unmasking sustainable food at Masque, starting the night off with a round of cocktails. She went with The Calabura, from their Wind series, made with Grey Goose Vodka, Aperol, Lemon, Panama Berries and Sweet Lime and I had the heavenly Aquacollins cocktail, from their Earth line, also made with Grey Goose Vodka, Rose, Fennel Seeds and Saffron Soda, which took me back to my time in Kashmir, watching my grandfather see off dinner guests at home with a box of the elusive saffron strands.

Masque’s 10-course chef’s tasting menu, a first for an Indian restaurant, comprises of seasonal dishes made from ingredients sourced locally and sustainably in India. The restaurant’s first course is always served on their pristine white kitchen counter, which is very conducive for the ‘gram. We chose to have all our courses atop their bar stools, amidst the harmonious and seamless action in the kitchen with a Harvey Specter (Suits) quote of the day courting us through the night. No screaming or flying pots and pans here – just a very decorous and synergised team alongside Sous Chefs, Kamlesh Negi and Rahul Sharma, creating art on our plates, taking us through the finest dining experience in Mumbai.

The first course kicked off with a sweet and savoury explosion of flavours with Kanji, made from seasonal black carrots usually found in Northern India, but are being grown on a land patch outside of Pune, especially for the restaurant. Next up was fresh Barramundi fish, not flown in from Australian waters, but from our very own Andaman Islands, with Raw Mango and Cucumber, followed by Masque’s version of a Caesar salad on a bed of ice – Romaine Lettuce with Garlic, Shrimp and Cured Egg Yolk which was beyond delectable. I had the the Eggplant Gujiya – twisted on its sweet ‘Holi’ head into a savoury creation akin to a Latin American Empanada, with Beetroot Yogurt and Fern had the Carbonara Gujiya. The Pani Puri was accompanied by a Cherry Tomato Tart after which the fresh Mackerel on Buckwheat Toast just blew me away! I have never had mackerel that didn’t come out of a tin, and definitely not one as delicious as this. By the time the Lobster Tzir Czot (Kashmiri style) with Gooseberry, the Katlam with Buffalo Tongue, Brain Butter, Salsify (a root vegetable I’d never heard of, let alone ever eaten) with Garlic Chive Butter, another round of Barramundi in a Curry Leaf and Coconut Broth and the Duck Liver with Gutti Aloo, Morels and Seaweed Butter came up, we were both overwhelmed by the culinary artistry of the chefs at Masque. “I could be anywhere in the world right now – it does not feel like Mumbai at all. This food is just unbelievable!” said Fern and I couldn’t agree more. The night ended only after four rounds of desserts (yes, four!) were washed down with the most deliciously warm Kashmiri Kahva (tea) with almond slivers.

Masque aims to use ingredients and produce that is locally grown and sourced, with exceptions like the duck, that doesn’t fly in from a freezer in China, but fresh off Gayatri Farms in Gurugram, Haryana or the Barramundi fish from the Andamans. The owners travelled across India to bring back the country’s forgotten ingredients, specifically from the Himalayan belt and it shows. There is no hard-selling of the food at Masque – it is all about the food you want to experience, with every dish telling it’s own flavourful story – from the roots it was made of to the salt sprinkled on it. The mountainous berry, Kaafal, a favourite, found in the Tehri Garhwal region, is what the chefs are working on to make desserts from, for their summer menu. The menu does not have any pretentious names for the dishes – just the ingredients, with the chefs expanding on how, and why, way they came to be. Informed chefs leading an engaged team is what makes for a memorable culinary experience at Masque. Occasionally, the restaurant hosts pop-ups with Michelin-star chefs, the next one coming up in May with Chef Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery in the Philippines.

In a world afflicted, and unfortunately accepting of mediocrity, Masque is unparalleled in India in every aspect of hospitality – right from the reservations team, to its owners, bartenders, mixologists, management team, chefs and the star of the restaurant – its incredible food! Masque was an indulgent and wondrous night of sustainable culinary artistry, Indian style.

Masque is open Tuesday-Sunday, with 7:30-8:00PM and 9:00-9:30PM seatings for dinner. Closed on Mondays.
Sunday Brunch: 12:30PM onwards.
Masque Restaurant
Unit G3, Laxmi Woollen Mills, Off Dr E Moses Road,
Mahalaxmi, Mumbai 400011 India
+91 22 4973 7431/32 | 98 190 69222

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

RUBINA’S RADAR | CHIVAS 18 ALCHEMY 2019 IN NEW DELHI

A touchdown in New Delhi fires up all five senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste in a human, instanter, sensus communis (common sense) be damned. And the night of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16 was no different. Chivas 18 Alchemy’s majestic third edition traversed the sixth sense at The Pavilion, DLF Emporio, belying Aristotle’s postulations of the non-existence of it with inimitable ardour. The five virtuosos playing host to a splendorous evening of the undefined and the very refined, were actor Malaika Arora, fashion designer Manish Malhotra, artist Sudarshan Shetty, fashion designer Rahul Mishra and jewellery designer Siddharth Kasliwal. They interpreted the senses of Fantasy, Intuition, Love, Memory and Déjà vu, with their muse being the award-winning Chivas 18 whisky blend.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designers Ashish N Soni, Rahul Mishra and Manish Malhotra and Malaika Arora, jewelry designer Siddharth Kasliwal, artist Sudarshan Shetty and Chivas India’s Pulkith Modi attend the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Malaika Arora sets off flames of fantasy wherever she goes, so turning into an illusionist of fantasy, alongside fashion designer and curator of the night, Ashish N Soni, came naturally to her. She created an immersive and polychromatic world of the real and imagined, using the Chivas whisky drop, brimful of 85 notes. Arora (soon to be Kapoor) looked stunning in a white ensemble by Soni, accessorised with an emerald and diamond necklace from Siddharth Kasliwal’s Gem Palace, as she took guests on a tour of her fantasia wonderland.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Malaika Arora at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Malaika Arora and her installation are seen at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Malaika Arora attends the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Ashish N Soni at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Manish Malhotra created an amber-toned Chivas 18 bar, in what is now recognised as the Chivas Alchemy blue, to instantiate his sense of intuition. It was a glimmering mirage of mirrors, with glamorous people all around it, drinking to the night, and into the night.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: A general view of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Manish Malhotra attends the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: A view of the bar at Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Sudarshan Shetty interpreted the sense of love, by juxtaposing a shattered chandelier on a dining table against a celluloid version of the same table and chandelier, set to Indian ragas. The eight-minute odd film spoke of love in different languages, expressed by diverse people. It was as evocatively beautiful as it was unnerving.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Artist Sudarshan Shetty attends the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Artist Sudarshan Shetty’s interpretation of love with an immersive celluloid experience at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Siddharth Kasliwal designed an arresting Chivas 18 bottle in gold with precious stones, over period of three months. Just looking at it in all its golden glory was enough to tempt a heist among the women, ala Oceans 8. The bejewelled masterpiece was an ode to the lost art of Indian craftsmanship through generations – a revival of lost legacies so to speak. Needless to add, but it was the most photographed installation of the night.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: A bejewelled Chivas 18 bottle designed by jeweller Siddharth Kasliwal for three months to evoke the sense of deja vu, at an estimated value of $50,000 at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Parag Gupta with jewelry designer Siddharth Kasliwal and his mother Kalpana Kasliwal and brother Samarth Kasliwal attend the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: A view of the bejeweled Chivas 18 bottle designed by jewelry designer Siddharth Kasliwal at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Rahul Mishra’s installation for the sense of memory saw tambour frame hoops, creating a chandelier of memories in a play of light and shadows, blending layers of time with the ingredients found in Chivas 18. The unfinished embroideries on the ivory organza fabric was intentional to elicit one to add an element of one’s own memory to the pattern. To elucidate something as intimate and fleeting as memory, not to mention intangible, with something as simple as embroidery hoops was astounding.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Rahul Mishra’s embroidery patterns on organza are seen at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Rahul Mishra’s embroidery patterns on organza are seen at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Rahul Mishra poses with his work at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Rahul Mishra’s embroidery patterns on organza are seen at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Pulkith Modi – Chivas India with wife Teena, Samarth Kasliwal, Kalpana Kasliwal, Parag Gupta, Guillaume Girard-Redyet – CEO Pernod-Ricard India MD South Asia and his wife Cecille, Schulen Fernandes, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Nida Mahmood, Rajiv Makhni and Ruchi Malhotra and Vikram Baidyanath were just some of the fashionable guests in attendance at Chivas Alchemy 2019.  “This is undoubtedly the most sophisticated and refined luxury event in India with the most genteel guests,” said Schulen Fernandes, Creative Director of the fashion label Wendell Rodricks. Touché!

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

RUBINA’S RADAR | THEATRE & FASHION ROYALE

India’s finest talent, Shabana Azmi is celebrating her late father, Kaifi Azmi’s birth centenary with an ongoing series of events across India, from mushairas to plays to live musical evenings at Janki Kutir. Raag Shayari is an artistic, theatrical collaboration between Azmi, tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, singer and composer Shankar Mahadevan and lyricist Javed Akhtar, interpreting the works of the accomplished late poet in a contemporary, musical manner. “Raag Shayari’s an evening of archival value because Shankar Mahadevan sings a selection of Kaifi Azmi’s poems, Javed Akhtar recites them in Urdu and I recite the English translations with Ustad Zakir Hussain interpreting the same on the tabla,” says Azmi. The debut show of Raag Shayari was on January 13 at NCPA, Nariman Point. The second show was held the following evening at the St. Andrew’s auditorium in Bandra, Mumbai with Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Rekha, Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan, Vidya Balan, Farhan Akhtar, Divya Dutta and Madhu Chopra in attendance.

Shabana Azmi during rehearsals for Raag Shayari. Photo: Rubina A Khan
Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi and Zakir Hussain during rehearsals for Raag Shayari. Photo: Rubina A Khan

Forts are Indian fashion’s new runways du jour in 2019. Earlier this month, the Red Fort in New Delhi made for an enchanting setting for a fashion show held on its heritage grounds, organised by the Ministry of Textiles. It was a historic first for Indian fashion and a commendable one at that. After showing at the Red Fort, master couturier Rohit Bal enthralled Mumbai with Guldastah, a collection inspired by Renaissance artists and botanical paintings, at the Blender’s Pride Fashion Tour held at the Bandra Fort on Wednesday evening. 

Models walked down the bedecked steps of the fort in luxurious Bal raiments in hues of ivory, black, gold and red to the dulcet sounds of Shubha Mudgal’s live classical performance. This was the best fashion show I have ever seen in Mumbai. Guldastah was an immersive experience and you could almost smell the roses of forgotten romances with the ethereal floral dominance in Bal’s impassioned collection.

Actor Sidharth Malhotra was Bal’s showstopper, but a resident dog of Bandra Fort beat him to it, wagging its tail happily on to the runway, ahead of him, much to the delight of everyone present. Malhotra seemed to have studied Amitabh Bachchan’s walk and stance thoroughly and mirrored the same quite well on the runway. But then again, mirroring is not quite like owning it! Anju Bhavnani, now more popular as Deepika Padukone’s mother-in-law versus Ranveer Singh’s mother, was all praises for her beautiful bahu when I spoke to her for a lightning Mumbai minute. “We are very happy and blessed, hashtag blessed,” she said. A family that hashtags together stays together? Insta guess so!

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

RUBINA’S RADAR | MAKING FASHION HISTORY IN OLD DELHI AND CALCUTTA IN THE NEW YEAR 2019

The first week of 2019 kicked off with Indian fashion making historical moves on, and off, the runway on heritage sites. The formidable collaboration of the Ministry Of Textiles Government Of India, the Archaeological Survey Of India, the Ministry Of Culture and the Fashion Design Council Of India, created fashion history with Artisan Speak, a show that celebrated India’s majestic textile legacy at the Red Fort in New Delhi on January 5. The Red Fort grounds as a fashion runway was unimaginable, till it was the past Saturday. And, what a progressive first it was!

Headlined by designers Anita Dongre, Rohit Bal, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Gaurang Shah, Rahul Mishra and Anju Modi, the ivory Sawan and Bhadon Pavilions, and the red sandstone Zafar Mahal made for a dramatic backdrop for the show. Artisan Speak turned a page in India’s history, transcendentally juxtaposing the regal era of yore with the immediate now. The show honoured six Padma Shri and seven Sant Kabir award winning master craftsmen, wherein the Union Minister Of Textiles, Smriti Irani, gave away Special Recognition Awards to the indomitable contributors to India’s textile sector. 

On January 7, Anamika Khanna showed her collection at the Artisan Speak show organised by the Fashion Design Council Of India for the Ministry Of Textiles Government Of India at the legendary Currency Building founded in 1833 in Kolkata. It was a felicitous venue for Khanna’s show. Whilst most heritage buildings in Kolkata, the first seat of power of the British Empire, reflect Gothic styles of architecture, the Currency Building stood out in the city with its Italian style, particularly its Venetian windows. The building went through many hands and years of neglect and demolishment till the Archaeological Survey Of India took over and restored it to its distinct Italian architectural style recently. Archaeologists have found evidence of an underground canal from the building to the river Hooghly to cool freshly minted coins in its original avatar as a currency house.

Artisan Speak in Kolkata was yet another historical step forward for Indian fashion by showing in a protected building, creating awareness for India’s textile industry, the second largest employment sector in the country, after the agricultural industry. After the momentous fashion show, the Currency Building turned into an exhibition space, open to the public, for jute, silk and handloom crafts the following day. “India has seen a growth of 24 percent in the export of jute products in the last five years,” said Smriti Irani, Union Minister Of Textiles, a pivotal voice of Artisan Speak.

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

 

I Don’t Play Games: Ajay Devgn #Bollywood #Throwback

Back in 1991 when a tall, dark, and not really conventionally handsome man stand-riding two bikes (a foot on each) made an entry on screen with Phool Aur Kaante, India sat up and took notice. And we’ve been noticing ever since as Ajay Devgn morphed effortlessly from mean action hero to the intense, brooding loverboy to the comic caper king. In an industry dominated by camps, he’s managed to hold his own against the Khans and Bachchans and Kapoors and Roshans. On the eve of his big Diwali release, the much-married Mr Kajol Devgn tells Rubina A Khan how much he dislikes the ‘I-me-myself brigade’, making omelettes with daughter Nysa and the intriguing spelling change in his surname.

Ajay Devgn

All The Best releases this week, your first film in almost a year. Why did you choose to produce this film? 
I loved the script of All The Best and felt it was a sure bet at the box office, which is why I decided to produce it. It’s releasing now as planned, but due to the theatre strikes and the congestion of films ready for release, I have London Dreams with Salman Khan also coming out on 30 October, though it was scheduled to release much earlier. Not an ideal scenario, though, but it’s all good. Salman and I worked in London Dreams after Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam in 1999, a decade ago.

You changed your name from Vishal to Ajay when you debuted in Phool Aur Kaante in 1991. Recently, you changed your surname from Devgan to Devgn. Why?  
Back then, when I was being launched, there were three other Vishals debuting at the same time and I had no choice but to change my name to Ajay so I wasn’t lost in the crowd. My old friends still call me VD (yeah, I know it sounds weird) and I changed the spelling of my surname at the behest of my mother, Veena, who has asked me to do it for many years. It makes her happy.

Despite Golmaal Returns being a top grosser last year and you being one of the highest-paid actors in the business, you keep a very low profile and prefer to not club yourself in the Top 5 or Top 10 categories like your contemporaries… 
I’ve been accused many a time of not promoting myself enough, but it’s not my style to scream and shout about my achievements. Even though I want to change from my reticent nature and be more ‘out there’, I find it cumbersome. The media knows my worth and what business which film of mine did, but even then, they choose to ignore that and write what they want. I am doing my job as an actor and I expect them to do theirs in all fairness. I don’t want to learn how to play these games and schemes just to get noticed, or be bestowed with some fancy title. It’s too late, anyway. I have no desire or inclination to waste my time over self-proclamations of greatness. I look down upon those who do and I feel far superior to most actors. I am very satisfied and extremely proud of the work that I do and the success that I’ve achieved subsequently. I live by own code of conduct that deters me from singing my own hosannas and I would hate myself if I did and I’d much rather not get into that space.

Your cold war with Shah Rukh Khan—fact or fiction?  
It is not fact at all. But just because Shah Rukh and I are not the best of friends doesn’t mean we are enemies either. Both of us are fed up of answering this question time and again. My wife, Kajol, is friends with him and Karan Johar for a very long time, and I respect them as her friends as she does mine. I am not a very social person and stick to home and work largely.

Do you and Kajol influence each other’s film choices? 
We always talk about our projects and seek each other’s advice, but we do what we individually want in the end. There is absolute freedom for both of us. We don’t take each other for granted and understand each other completely. 

You are very traditional and conservative when it comes to family… 
My sense of family is very strong and if that means I’m traditional, then I am. We all live in one house, and despite it being a four-storey bungalow, which we moved into about two years ago, my parents, Kajol, Nysa and I live on one floor. All our bedrooms and family rooms are on this floor and it stems from the fact that I feel everyone should try and keep the family together, if they can.

You have been married for a decade now and have a daughter, six-and-a half-year-old Nysa. Are you planning another child? 
I have balanced my life between work and family perfectly, but I still feel I am losing time since Nysa is growing up so fast. I want to spend as much time with her before she gets too busy with her friends to hang out with her father. Kajol wants another child, but I am still thinking about it.

You are a closet chef of sorts too… 
How did you hear about that? I only cook for my family and Nysa loves everything I make. I like to experiment with world cuisine. My daughter actually makes the best omelettes in the world, albeit under supervision, for her parents. And the best part is Kajol can barely boil water. So, Nysa takes after me in this regard.

Your looks don’t exactly constitute a stereotypical ‘sex god’ tag for you, but your reputation as a great lover, has been resoundingly endorsed by women over the years… What do you have to say about the latter? 
What can I say except the obvious, that it is every man’s dream to have such a ‘sexy’ reputation among women. I’m flattered.

There haven’t been any romantic link-ups with your heroines of late… And boy, am I glad. And that’s because I am not having any affairs. Earlier, when such reports would do the rounds, Kajol never reacted to them because she trusts me implicitly. My life is work, office and home, no detours on the way.

This feature first appeared in OPEN on October 17, 2009 and is a part of my #Bollywood #Throwback series 

©Rubina A Khan 2018