In A Goa Glam State Of Mind…

Rubina A Khan reviews the North and South of Goa and the beaches in between “in a glam state of mind…”

It’s the last few days of 2016 and everyone’s talking about New Year’s Eve parties and where they’ll be ushering in the first sunrise of 2017. But it’s Goa with its warm sun, salty sea and shaken and stirred patterns in the sand, where the beach-erati are at this holiday season, bidding 2016 adieu with a beachy bang. Goa fulfills the three most sought–after F’s of life – fun, food and fashion in a manner most susegad (living and enjoying life to the fullest with a relaxed attitude). And there’s no celebratory time quite like Christmas and New Year’s to be in Goa to make it a fiesta to remember. Here are the top five reasons to hit Goa, apart from its innumerable beach parties and music scene, from the North to its South to the beaches in between, making it an unrivaled party destination in India, every year, all year round:

GLAMOUROUS FUN: The opening of the first W hotel in India earlier this month, the W Goa in Vagator in North Goa, has flipped the olde Goan susegad mood board into a glamorously sassy one. W Goa is spread across 25 acres of luxuriant greens along the Arabian Sea, with unparalleled views of swaying coconut palms and the idyllic Vagator Beach shore from its elevated Rock Pool. The Goan red laterite stone is dominant in the hotel’s contemporary architectural style with installation artist, Subodh Kerkar’s art works from his Indigo and Chilli series occupying places of pride in the hotel’s design métier.

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Installation artist, Subdoh Kerkar’s art from his Indigo series

But it’s the W that shines bright like a gleaming diamond, at the entrance of the hotel, embodying its edgy and fashionable spirit that sets the tone of the heady times ahead.

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The glamorous entrance of the W Goa

The Kitchen Table, an all-day diner overlooking the pool, serves the best Goan thali ever! The Bamboo Charcoal Prawn Tempura with Mango and Wasabi, a signature dish of Chef Tanveer Kwatra, Director of Cuisine, W Goa at Spice Traders, the hotel’s Pan-Asian restaurant is just exquisite, as is the Baked Singapore Chilli Crab and the Tuna Truffle Tostadas with Caviar.

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Baked Singapore Chilli Crab at Spice Traders

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Bamboo Charcoal Prawn Tempura with Mango and Wasabi

The food at W Goa is exemplary in its distinctive tastes, flavours, finesse and technique and is poised to become a culinary haute spot in Goa very soon. The neon-hued WeeKids, a kids club, a first for the W globally, is immensely popular, almost as much as the music and DJ line-up at the Rock Pool bar. And what’s a little glamour without some Bollywood thrown in? Bollywood superstar, Salman Khan and his family, were one of the very first guests’ in residence during the W Goa’s inaugural run in India. So, if you ever wanted to sleep in the same bed as Khan (without him in it, of course!) well, now you can in the W villa!

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Amit Bhosale, owner W Goa and Salman Khan

EPICUREAN TRAILS: The culinary scene in Goa is as incredibly diverse as its people, not to mention addictive. There’s no dearth of restaurants and bars in Goa, with world cuisine available right from a beach shack to a luxury hotel. The coolest places to hang out and actually eat in, rather than just be seen in, are undeniably Thalassa Greek Taverna (Greek / Mediterranean) on Small Vagator and Gunpowder The Peninsular Kitchen (South Indian) in Assagao. Eating here is akin to a food pilgrimage in Goa. Thalassa is always bustling with people, enjoying their Lamb Gyros, Feta Moussakas and Risotto Prawns, taking in the spectacular views from the restaurant, at any given time of the day or night. The blue and white Greek village environs add to the charm of Thalassa that entices you to eat (a lot!), laugh and shop without a care in the world. Gunpowder’s cuisine ranges from flavours from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa and even some parts of Maharashtra. From Syrian Christian Beef, Kerala Mutton Curry and Andhra Prawns to their famous fluffy Egg Appams to a South Indian must, a steaming plate of idlis with gunpowder, it’s like a little bit of India on a very big, rotating plate. You might just run into Twinkle Khanna riding in on her yellow scooter here as it is one of her favourite restaurants in Goa.

FASHION: Fashion in Goa is refreshingly personal. It’s you and your vibe, but a new outfit on New Years Eve is de rigeur, wherever you might be in the world. Fashion designer Malini Ramani’s vibrant store in Calangute can help you get your Goa glam on with everything resort – from shimmering off shoulder dresses to feather flirt tops to sundresses to sequined shorts and bikinis. So whether you’re going to a sundowner at the W Goa or a fireworks and bonfire NYE party on the beach, or just taking a selfie with a cow on the streets, you’ll find something that works, and dazzles on you. Bold-hued outfits line the racks in Ramani’s store, with a large black and white embellished artwork by her on the wall, that balances the color play, reflective of the designer’s definitive sense of style, that is loved and worn by Bollywood beauty Deepika Padukone, who makes her Hollywood debut in XXX: Return of Xander Cage with Vin Diesel in the new year.

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Malini Ramani’s store in Calangute | Photo: Rubina A Khan

RELAX: What’s a holiday without a round of golf ala Rory Mcllroy on the Double T 9-hole golf course on the beautiful greens of the Lalit Golf and Spa Resort in South Goa or some good old soccer on the beach? Spread over 85 acres, the Baroque-Portuguese styled resort has an imposing hand-painted tile mosaic of Sao Rafael, the first Portuguese ship that landed in Goa, steered by Vasco De Gama to add to its cultural charm. With sweeping views of the Sahyadri mountain range, along the confluence of the Talpone river, the Lalit’s manicured grounds are ideal to commune with yourself. If sport is your idea of a relaxing holiday with the family with your kids running wild, then the Lalit has everything from Lawn Tennis to Table Tennis, Squash, Volley Ball, Badminton, Cycling, Zorbing, Parasailing, Archery, Air Rifle Shooting to fuel your athletic side. And if you love spas, then Rejuve at the Lalit is an added must to your itinerary!

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DETOX: The pursuit of a vibrant and energized spirit is on everyone’s mind for the new year and the Detox Detour at the Alila Diwa Goa set amidst luxuriant rice plantations and mango, banyan and peepul trees, along Gonsua Beach in Majorda, South Goa offers just that. Just the idea of a detox detour is so appealing that it does not take any persuasion to check right in, straight into the serene and soothing environs of Spa Alila. Specially designed as 3,5,7,10 and 14 night packages right from a body composition analysis to holistic and ayurvedic treatments to nutritionally balanced meals, the Detox Detour at the Alila works at correcting imbalances and health deteriorations due to the stresses of modern living and enhancing your optimal wellness. After all the hedonistic partying and food indulgences during the holidays, Spa Alila’s bespoke treatments infuse elements of Ayurveda, yoga, massage, fitness, hypnotherapy, pranic healing and nutrition to nourish and cleanse your mind, body and soul so you can take on 2017’s exciting new adventures with renewed fervor.

There’s a little bit of Goa for everyone, and in everyone’s heart, and the glamorous new Goa is where it is all really at!

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on December 29, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

Twinkle Khanna Launches Her Second Book, The Legend Of Lakshmi Prasad

Rubina A Khan interviews the multifaceted author Twinkle Khanna for Gulf News:

Twinkle Khanna’s first book, Mrs Funnybones went into reprint over 25 times, and her second book, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, published by Juggernaut Books has already gone into its second print run of another 50,000 copies in the first month of its launch! The book was released on Tuesday evening at the JW Marriott Juhu in Mumbai and had Shabana Azmi, Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt reading excerpts from the same, with Karan Johar in conversation with the author. Khanna has evidently got the business of funny right, not just in her bones, but also in the literary world, with her distinct voice being read and heard, and most importantly, loved. The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, currently at the number two spot on the Amazon India bestseller list, is a collection of stories that stem from inspired experiences in her life.

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Twinkle Khanna at the launch of her second book, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad

“I was doing some research for a column when I chanced upon Arunachalam Muruganantham’s life, and his incredible work of making low-cost sanitary napkins for women. His story gripped me and that’s when I sat down, wrote the first few pages and sent them off to my editor to take a look. Then I began chasing Muruga and after innumerable, lengthy interviews, he agreed to let me fictionalize his story and that is how this book came into being. The other stories then followed, as they were all topics I had briefly touched upon through my columns and now, I could weave substantial tales around them,” says Khanna of the book’s existence.

The elemental difference in the narrative style between Mrs Funnybones and Lakshmi Prasad is that Khanna wrote the former in first person, in a “laugh-a-minute sort of narrative” and the latter in third person, “touching upon social issues in a light-hearted manner.” Khanna expands on her choice of publisher for Lakshmi Prasad, with a whimsy that is quintessentially her. “Chiki Sarkar was my editor and publisher at Penguin when I wrote Mrs Funnybones and so when she left to establish her own publishing house, Juggernaut Books, I just followed her like Mary’s little lamb.” She plays down her irreverent sense of wit, with a real, grounded sense of self. “My family is filled with oddballs and we all indulge in playful banter and pull each other’s legs. It’s not as much as them enjoying my company, as much it is for all us to just be together, making each other laugh. It has been a gratifying couple of years now since I wrote my first book. I bump into readers everywhere I go and I think the greatest compliment is that people have stopped asking me about anything else except my writing and I love that.”

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Karan Johar in conversation with Twinkle Khanna at the launch

A strong black coffee in the morning, followed by endless cups of green and peppermint tea throughout the day fuel the mother, wife, daughter, interior designer and writer in her. But it’s the coffee she had recently with Karan Johar on his show, Koffee With Karan Season 5, alongside her husband Akshay Kumar that’s got everyone talking. From her husband’s size (shoe-size!) to Johar’s preference of keeping his mike in a part of his anatomy that’s best left unseen and unwritten, gave viewers an almost uncensored version of her unabashedly humorous and mocking self. If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind that she was not the brain behind her writings, KWK dispelled it all with one clean and hilarious swipe on the show that left even Johar and the viewers stumped for words. “I don’t think a brain has been established inside my head; everyone has a brain and I just looked after mine pretty well by feeding it lots of books. I am really not concerned with how people, men as well as women, perceive me, whether I am sexier now that I seem to have a brain or otherwise.”

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Akshay Kumar and Ranbir Kapoor

Now that she’s a bestselling author, her words are platinum, especially to an aspiring writer. “I would tell anyone who wants to get published to read everything they can get their hands on and that they establish a routine of writing every single day. Literary agents look for something they call a ‘voice’ that’s distinctive, remarkable and defining and the best writers have one, and you can hear it echoing in your head when you read their work. A writer needs to have a distinctive style as well in order to make it easier for them to find a publisher for their works.”

When she’s not busy observing the world and writing on it, Khanna loves reading to her four-year-old daughter Nitara. “I read every single day to her. Nitara shares my love for reading and also has a curious mind like mine. She is fascinated by Julia Donaldson’s books at the moment,” says the glamorous mother of two.

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Ranbir Kapoor read an excerpt from the book

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on November 17, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016