Jab we met on the net


March 25, 2012. That’s when he finally met her. Like a scene sliced out from Bollywood, they stood on either side of the railway platform in Pune, looking at each other. A friendship moulded by a million online chats over a span of five years, finally seemed real.

“I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t look at her face. I just kept smiling like a fool,” says Arun Sakthinarayanan (23), an IT employee from Chennai who deems his friendship with Fatma Tanveer(27), IT employee from Pune, to be a miracle. “I just became too busy associating each of our conversations with the expressions on her face,” he says, beaming.

It was during his second year in college, in 2008, that Arun first got a scrap from Fatma in Orkut. It was a comment enquiring about a Robotic project that he had posted online. From academic discussions, they say, the conversations became more personal with every session of chat.

“I never had to think twice before saying anything to him. He was a stranger then, and his judgement wouldn’t affect me, anyway!” says Fatma, who believes that it’s the distance which has worked the magic. For both of them, who were going through a rough patch in their life then, the conversations were a respite from their immediate surrounding world. But, how much can one trust a stranger?

Yes, online friendship is seen with a lot of speculation, Fatma agrees. However, she says that it’s the gradual growth which cemented the trust. “He respected my messages and never nagged me for my number,” she says. For the first one and a half years, neither the telephone numbers were exchanged, nor the photographs. There was only a slight hop from Orkut to Gchat, from Gchat to Facebook. “Today, both mine and his family know about our friendship. Sometimes, I find my brother chatting with him,” she adds.

Unlike with friends from within the city, misunderstandings cannot be solved with a treat or hug. So when there was a sudden retreat in 2011 from her side, Arun recalls suffering the pangs of loneliness. “No messages or calls. I was horrified if I had done anything wrong,” he says.

It took a long conversation to analyse the issue and sort it out. The incident taught them to break the filters and speak, as that was the only medium for them to share their emotions.

“Since then I have never kept any of my feelings bottled up. It’s better talking to him about it,” she confesses. Be it a new crush, ego clashes with parents or a bad day at work, Arun talks about it to Fatma, whom he considers his personal diary.

While Arun plans to leave to the US this month for higher studies, the ‘bestest buddies’ have come to accept online as their abode for friendship. “We started off like this. Though the distance does seem enormous, we are at our best online,” says Fatma. No farewell hug?

“Whenever you feel lonely, just look behind

For a friend whom distances don’t bind,” quotes Fatma, from one of her poems she wrote for him.

The article was previously published in The New Indian Express. Check out -http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/1441638


Captaining the Friend ‘ship’

The atmosphere defines comfort.  Basking in the eveniing sun, Durga and Revathi, housewives in their mid-thirties, sit reclined in the sofa sipping a cup of coffee. Their dialogues have intermittent laughs, slight nudges and sudden loud claps. A small distance away, their toddlers follow the trail of a toy car into the kitchen.

“It has been more than 30 years,” sighed Durga. “And am still bearing with you,” she adds with a tinge of naughty smile. Revathi knows more than just to give a direct answer, and retorts, “So, what now? We break up?”  Both of them break into fits of laughter. It’s the same laughter which they had shared after pulling pranks at friends in school, bunking classes without their parent’s knowledge or after coming up with a funny name for their teachers.

The duo was an unlikely combination though. While Durga was more of the extrovert types, the brainchild behind any ruckus at school and gang leader of sorts, Revathi was on the subtle side, counting her academic cards and making sure her name was never blotted. “We were ‘outstanding’ in our own ways,” Durga says with a laugh.

“She used to nag me to talk with her while the teacher was inside the class,” says Revathi, widening her eyes to convey the magnitude of risk she had taken passing small scraps of paper, in reply to Durga’s silly questions. This happened during one of those instances when Durga was asked to stand outside the class for dedicating a famous Tamil song, yaro yarodi to one of their teachers, who had recently been engaged then. “Atrocious!” quips Revathi, while Durga blushes acknowledging her action. “What was I thinking!” she cups her face in her palm.

After their school days, they parted ways. The college indulged them with new friends. The calls became scarce. Meet-ups, none. Neither of their marriage invitations reached the other. But life is surprisingly kind at times. This time it came in Facebook avatar. “All it took is a friend request to reinvent the wheel of friendship,” says Durga, passionately recollecting the day when she tracked down Revathi’s profile.

Finding each other after years is exciting indeed, but imagine finding each other pregnant at the same time. “It was mind whacking!” admits Durga, who was in South Africa then. “The green status beside her name was the green signal for my day,” jests Revathi, recalling those days when they used to survive on food, water and online chats. “I knew even the exact count of kicks which she would have experienced,” giggles Durga. There have been days when Durga’s husband has sung lullaby for both of them to sleep, admits the duo.

Baby boys for both, the happy news had been conveyed. But when did they meet? “It was a Sunday morning, when my door bell rang,” recounts Revathi, now embracing Durga’s son. “It was Durga with her 5-month-old son! I swear I could have dropped dead with happiness,” she says almost tearing up.

It’s been two years since then and till date, Durga says, not a day goes without hearing her voice. The conversation then diverts to finding the best way to explain the mounting phone bills to their husbands. Their hushed tones and animated actions remind one, of the four-year-olds they were – sitting beside each other in a group photo that now stays framed in the hall.

The article was previously published in The New Indian Express. Check out – http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/1441638




The cult invades the web


Along with the books came the sites. While the books let the imagination rolling, the sites let one virtually delve into this woven imagination. The interactive platform garnered an alternative universe, where there was no Leavesdon studio, it was just Hogwarts castle and where destruction of any bridge was no result of careless construction, but the wrath of death eaters.

The websites were those threads that connected the harry potter fans globally to form a pretty chain. “Once the chapters of the book are done, a new chapter is opened – that of discussions,” says Nikitaa Rao, who confesses to have meddled with the broomstick to check if she can fly. “It was fun to read about Harry grabbing the snitch and the next minute log on to the site try it myself,” she says.

“Once a Harry Potter fan, forever a harry potter fan,” says Sandhya Ravikrishnan, who still finds it refreshing to read any of the Harry potter books during an off from work. “There are a few websites, which keep their data updated even now,” she says. “I visit them often, for old times sake,” she adds.

With more kids having an affinity to the clicks of mouse, rather than turn of pages, the websites seem to have become a predecessor to the books in a few cases. Sheeja, a mother of a ten-year-old says that though her child hasn’t read any book, he plays quidditch in the HP website. “He also has a username for himself and says he belongs to Slytherin,” she says with a confused look.

Take a look at the websites which had been a rage when the books came out, but continue to gain visitors in a dwindling number now.

Ode from the past


The big daddy of all Harry Potter websites would be the site created by Warner Bros themselves – The Harry potter official website. It is filled with a magical aura and sincerely depicts what the series stands for  – the venture into the unknown.  The page is your ticket to the wizarding world.

At one corner you have Sirius Black staring at you and on the other you have the Marauder’s map waiting for you to unfold it. You get conscious about your identity.You are a muggle and you are trespassing the wizard’s vineyard. Is it legal to click the icons? Are you being tracked? The mysterious cloud gains weight with the jazzy tone in the background.

The Marauder’s map is your key tip toe into the various classrooms, find out about the teacher, and involve yourself in the activities specific to the class. So you click your way to Divination class and find to your amaze, find that you get to tryout the tea leaf reading and crystal ball reading all by yourself. While in the tea leaf reading, you get to prophecise the future of any of your friends by filling in few questions about them, the crystal ball reading has you repeating the caressing moves done by Professor Trelawney. One wrong move and the frizzy hair maniacal professor pops out of the screen with a message – ‘Successs still lies in your future id you keep practicing and try again.’ No wonder, Hermoine was skeptical about her grim predictions.

The hallmark of the site are the set of games, which let you help Weasleys arrange their dining table, assist Hagrid with the hippogriff or take your time out and practise in the quidditch pitch – Chaser, beater, seeker or keeper – your call.

Oh and before your leave, do not forget to leave in a message in the message board. It would make a wonderful archive down the years.  It can be a snippet about how you fell for Harry, how you loathe Malfoy or even about you sobbed your eyes off on Dobby’s death.

High – The games and the Marauder’s map let you believe you are one with the wizards

Low – Slightly dormant, it doesn’t let you update yourself with the present muggle wizard clashes and doesn’t let you shop for the wand and books. No Daily prophet. No wizard shop. Boo.

Into the author’s mind


Here is a family that awaits you. Get wizardened by a new name and let the hat sort your group. Enter your house rooms and join the discussions with your house mates. Let the slytherin in you conspire against Gryffindor and let the Ravenclaw in you engage in combined studies. It’s the facebook of the wizards.

While you continue your gossips, also get to know behind-the-scenes story from Rowling herself at pottermore.com.  The site lets you look at Harry’s life through a magnifying glass, moment by moment.

The chapters are recreated as interactive illustrated moments accompanied by the ambience sound. The chapters are within the locked icons which appear at the top of the screen waiting for you to unlock them. The only way you can do that is by exploring the chapters one by one, which is an experience unlike any other.

In one of the first chapters where we are introduced to the Dursleys and Harry Potter’s place of stay, the screen shows Dumbledore marching towards the Little Whinging during the night. The links on the side of the screen are a boon to both the first timers, who want to know more about the charcaters and to the curious souls who would love to excavate the thought process behind christening the names of the street to what it is. Ask why the street was called the Little whinging ? You have an answer. Ask why Dursleys door number is four? You have an answer for that as well. J K Rowling says that’s she found number hour as ‘hard and unforgiving’ for some reason, which is why she slapped it on the Dursleys door.  Enlightening much?

This interactive approach is a tantalising starter to the collection of books(ebooks and digital audio books) that are advertised in the Pottermore shop. Apart form the series, the collection includes Hogwarts Library books. Fancied reading Fantastic Beasts and where to find them, Quidditch through the ages or Tales of Beedle and the Bard? Pick them and you might just give Hermoine a tough competition!

However, you just can’t wriggle your head inside pottermore without registration, which the site says is to check whether one is magical. The funniest part about the registration process is that it asks for your guardian’s email address, just to give the Harry Potter feel to it. Kudos there.

And the next moment, you find yourself listed among the magical folks, right above Harry potter’s name. A jump of joy and few tears then are natural.

High – The interactive approach – be it with the other wizards or with the images on screen.

Low – The fuss about proving yourself magical. The username generated looks like one of Einstien’s equation.

Also check out HOL Virtual Hogwarts and Hogwarts medieval to get closest to experiencing Hogwarts.

Fetching Hogwarts to your home


If J K Rowling flips her hair, mugglenet would report it. When they say that they are the number #1 Harry Potter site, they mean it.

A myriad of options, the site seeps you into the wizarding world with the first click. With the recent updates about the Harry potter team, the discussions among fans and the contests for the muggles, the site is a quenching ground for all those Harry potter fans out there. With every click, it brings in a high-brow moment. While at one moment you find yourself ogling at the Hogwards castle at Leavesdon studio, the next moment you are rollicking at the parodies put up by the fans.

It’s mind boggling to note that there are around 6,239 people taking up OWL examinations as mentioned in the Mugglenet’s daily progress report. All you need to do is register as a candidate and give in the number to attend the examination before July 28. You will have to answer one difficult question, from what they call a test bank, each day over a course of two weeks. The questions might not necessarily be from the seven books, so it’s a test of real fanatism as the scope widens to Rowling’s interviews as well.

Sample this question from divinition – What type of wand wood has a reputation for performing best for seers and those skilled in Legilimency? Oh, don’t forget the anti-cheating spells.

The discussion forum is an avalanche of information and views. The members of the various groups which include named – The Quibbler, The three broomsticks, Alohomora forums – have the books analysed, critiqued and associated with the present world scenarios. So there are essays that talk about the resurrection of Harry Potter, compare the cult of Harry Potter with Lord of the Rings and podcasts which discuss Harry’s first kiss !

Let the discussion keep its pace, but why not fuel it with a butter beer and Treacle fudge, the recipes of which you can find in the site under ‘Fans’.

High – All you need to know about Harry in one platter

Low – The invasion of ads

Also, Check out the Leaky Cauldron.org for news and features.

The information in the article was previously published in The New Indian Express. Check outhttp://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/1441635





Crafting the crowning glory

Najeeb Ur Rehman, whose hands have created magic with the locks of hair – be it the 89 models in the Miss world contest – 1996 held in Bangalore,  the cast of Monsoon wedding or the likes of Sonakshi Sinha, is a walking wikipedia when is comes to one’s coiffure.

He comes with a goldmine of experience, working with stylists all around the globe like Anthony Whitaker, Robert Seah, Tyler Jhonston and Tracey Hayes among others. A recipient of the Queen’s cup, one of the biggest hairdressing awards worldwide, in two categories – ‘ Best hairdressing’ and ‘ Best evening hairstyle’, Najeeb hides his achievements behind a veil of modesty, as he expains about the trends and texture that vary across India.

How do you trail the hair trend as we go from South to North?

Of course, there is change in the texture and tone, but when it comes to people accepting fashion, I find they are all similar. I have observed that when it comes to medium to lengthy hair, women mostly go for straightening. Most opt for shades of brown for colouring, but talk about darker shades, then there is a lot of inhibition – be it South or North.

Is there any peculiar trend that you noted in Chennai that sets it apart from the rest?

In Chennai, women mostly plate their hair or use bands. It is understandable because of the high humidity.  The wavy hair frizzes out by the end of the day.

Any solutions?

Yes, there are solutions to leave it open. It requires a change in the regime. A change in the usual shampoo and conditioner that they use. I would personally suggest Bonacure smooth and shine shampoo that works for coarse, unmanageable and dull hair. The styling products such as the Shwartzkoff’s Osis magic anti-frizz serum also would suit the Chennai hair.

How do you decide on which hairstyle suits each individual?

There are five kinds of shapes when it comes to a face. The hairstyle must complement this shape and profile of the person. For example, for those who have high cheek bones, wispy bangs in the front can help hide it. For those who have broad foreheads, I would recommend fringes and those with small foreheads, a puffed up hairdo would suit.

All this also depends on the comfort of the person of course. The customer’s suggestion is also taken into consideration.

So did you do the looks for Sonakshi Sinha in Lootera?

No, but I have worked with her for a launch. She has a broad forehead, so I went for something loose, with a few strands falling forward.

Have you worked with anyone from Kollywood?

Unfortunately, not. But I did meet many in the Bangalore fashion week recently.  I met Vijay and Rajinikanth and many others, whose names I forget now. Very nice people, I must say. I would to do hairstyles for them for some project in future.

The article was previously published in The New Indian Express. Check out – http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/1441634



Whip your hair back and forth!

Get to touch, feel and experience the hairdos, which were exhibited at the ramps of Milan, Paris, London and New York, right here in Chennai.

Bewitching. The display of magnetic hairdos at Schwarzkopf essential looks’ 13 , has the audience stuck to their seats like iron chips. With each new look displayed at the launch of its new colour range – Igora Royal, there is an arousal of consciousness among women as they tousle and stroke their locks, only to feel the lack of something – the colours.

Crisp reds, stunning chocolates and vivid blonds give that elvish touch to the hair that falls obediently, forming a neat curtain before the eyes. You are almost tempted to part it along the radiant highlights, but restrain yourself in the fear of destroying that beautiful symmetry that could give an inferiority complex to geometry in itself.

“Monomodes!” – the first hair design in the Colour buzz collection is on display at the Leela Palace. The crowd isn’t prepared for this. Their seats rattle and soon they are teleported into the sixties, shaking hands with the groundbreaking designers such as Pierre Cardin and Marrie Quaint.  The clean cuts, the smooth tranistion of colours and the neat tapering at the back is almost like an ode to the 60s vibe. The copper pastel colours alternating with shades of brown and bronze make one’s hair a perpetual ‘crowning glory’, as top model, Lisa Hayden, present among the crowd, puts it.

A silent mutiny to the symmetry of monomodes, is the next – White angles. Like the pleats in a Kimono and the precision folds done in Origami, the cuts look sculptured – straight and neat. A triangular A shaped pattern at the back, red longer locks in the front, violet shorter locks in the right – disorientated yet organised, it seems like a puzzle yet to be fixed.

Forget the 60’s, forget the Japanese. Let’s talk about the modern luxe. Glam chic lets you loose your eccentricity, lets you blend in and still stand out. The strong red highlights are hidden and the urban with an interplay of urban and beige colours that darkens at the top and lightens a bit to form the curls at the end, like the winding threads of a gold yarn.

‘If my mama likes the look, it’s not the look I want’ – this defines electric youth. Disheveled and rebellious, the cuts are tailored by chaotic chopping, with no rules what-so-ever. Not glamorous or shiny, the pastel colours on bold fringes and randomly taken sections is a conscious effort in creating a devil maker look. Well, a hair cut is not like a helmet, anyways.

The four new trends have their own set of crowds. If you had your hair-fetish voice within you raising to get one on yourself, let it dominate your heart voice for once.

The article was previoulsy published in The New Indian Express. Check out – http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/1441627

Let designs do the talking

Oozing class and grandeur. The etched glassware by Aarthi Sanghi, the quirky footwear by Plum Tree and the  handcrafted jewellery by Maya line, being exhibited at the Amethyst, have people turning into a shopaholic overnight.

Imagine a drinking glassware that has a zip running down its body.  Though set for visual appeal, the temptation to try and pull the zip down is over powering. While you are delighted unzipping the glass, yet another design catches your fancy – the dancing figures of guys and girls on the bowl that can kick-start a party even before ‘drinking up’!

With hand etched designs on tumblers, long –stemmed glasses, shot glasses, decanters, bowls, beer mugs and coffee mugs, Aarthi Sanghi portrays her strong sense of design through works, so fragile and delicate.

This delicacy extends to the silk threads, uncut stones and cotton yarn that are brought together to weave out a stunning necklace. The Maya line of jewellery is nothing like the conventional string with monotonous beads. Instead it includes layers of alternating bright and faded gold, with sharp lines of coloured cloth that shout out eccentricity. What makes this rare design unseen is the sudden burst of kundan like stones in the middle and vegetable-dyed silk threads forming a corona.

Like scales of fish, the gold pieces seem intricately woven, with an unlikely combo of translucent stones at the contours. Funky, traditional and eclectic, the necklaces are sure to add a refreshing element to ones wardrobe.

But no wardrobe is complete without a complimenting footwear. A hit at the aesthetic front and handicraft designs, the plum tree footwear smudges the boundaries of tradition and modernity. Hence, one can see the subtly simple lines, the quirky combo of colours and flashy flowery patterns on a neat comfortable base of leather.

A one stop shop – Mix the sophistication of glasses, the boldness of necklaces and the sassiness of sandals in your shopping palette to get that hue that defines you.

The works are proced from Rs 1000 onwards.

The article was previously published in The New Indian Express. Check out http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/1441616

The lot that was bewitched!


It’s no castle. There is no any fat lady moving across the pictures in the wall. Nor is there a moaning myrtle in the bathroom.  But, Divya Sreedhar’s home comes as a memoir to the Harry Potter movies. There are used up tickets that rest safely inside the cupboard and worn out wallpapers that now appear starched under a low light.

A Harry Potter fanatic dressed as Professor Trelawney in a HP-themed party

A Harry Potter fanatic dressed as Professor Trelawney in a HP-themed party

Dressed in a robe and thick glasses, she makes an orchestral move with her home-made wand. It is directed to the golden snitch that rests on a table. Vengardium Leviosa.. she chants. For a brief moment there is anxiety. Will the snitch fly? The next moment, she snaps off her possessed look and explains, “So the wand is a chopstick wrapped in paper. And this..,” she takes the snitch in her hand, “is the mounting ball on the prize that I won from college,” she giggles.

The Goblet of fire - Can it get any more closer to the real one :p

The Goblet of fire – Can it get any more closer to the real one :p

For Divya and her group of friends, the addiction to Harry Potter is an ‘honest, sincere and good liking.’ It is not about following the cult blindly. It is about giving the release of Harry Potter book more importance than one’s own Maths exam or remembering Harry’s bank account number at Gringotts with the same clarity as one remembers one’s own name.


The home-made golden snitch

The home-made golden snitch

“Last year, on Harry’s birthday , we had a party themed ‘Find the seven  horcruxes’,” says the host, Divya. The party pulled in characters from the book and brought them home. So there was Harry with a visible scar and round glasses passing hateful glares at Malfoy, waiting to create a ruckus. And there was the caretaker Filch, a role taken by Divya’s sister, who roamed around carrying their pet cat.

The Harry centric quiz was of the likes which only Hermoine could crack and the treasure hunt was like an eligibility test to triwizard tournament. Like the remnants after a quake, she recalls, there lay a bunch of wands, quills, Harry potter magnets, posters, score cards, along with the pieces of left out chocolate truffle cake that had the words ‘Born as the 7th month dies’ written on it.

The delicious cake for the chosen boy

The delicious cake for the chosen boy

But that’s not it. “This is the Tom Riddle’s diary which we hid in our bathroom. Chamber of secrets, you see,” she says with a laugh, flipping the curled up pages of a weary old diary. But hey, where is nagini? Raven Claw’s Diadem, Slytherin’s locket, Hufflepuff’s cup…? The thought process snaps as one sees the twilight poster on her bedroom door.

Written below the vampire Robert Pattinson are the words – ‘Oh poor Cedric!’

The bewitched lot

The bewitched lot

The article was previously published in The New Indian Express. Check out   http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/1441595