Thursday, November 30, 2017

Where Passion and Talent Intersect: Meet Shikha Vincent

I first met Shikha last year. I was still relatively new at being back to Kenya, and she'd seen some of my Facebook posts about my blog posts. She reached out, we hit it off, and have remained friends to date!

Not only is Shikha a wonderful person to be around - seriously, spending time with her is like a much needed recharge, she has GREAT energy - but she's also passionate about wildlife conservation. Coupled with an artistic talent, she's found a great way to channel her energy in her jewellery line. Let's find out more!

Elephant pendant with banana box (SHIKHAZURI line)

Shikha's professional background is in law. She did her undergraduate and masters in Law in the UK, and developed a particular interest in environmental law. When she returned to Kenya, she worked on a community based wildlife and conservation project bordering Tsavo West National Park for four and a half years.

She started making jewellery in 2008 following the onset of the global financial crisis. Tourist bookings at the boutique lodge she was managing had dropped drastically, which is what spurred the decision to try her hand at making jewellery as a means to generate funds to assist with raising the animal orphans she helped to raise.  Initially, this started with a couple of trips to various local markets to source beads and materials to make jewellery. However, after a few weeks of learning basic techniques, she was hooked, and managed to sell her pieces to visitors and friends. That’s where her jewellery making journey began.

After working on the wildlife and conservation project in Kenya, Shikha returned to the UK to undertake the Legal Practice Course to give her the option to practice law, and provide her with a solid career fall back option. She then went on to work in legislative affairs for an international animal welfare organisation based in London, and following that, moved to Dubai and spent three years working as a legal contracts manager. Although it was a great experience, she realised that life in the corporate world wasn’t for her, and so, along with her husband, decided to move back to Africa. As she says, "That’s when the I decided to focus my full attention to making my jewellery business a reality."

Her brand name, SHIKHAZURI, is intended to capture the cross cultural influence that is central to her designs. SHIKHAZURI is the amalgam of her name “Shikha”, which means 'tip of the flame' in Hindi, and 'to hold or embrace' in Swahili. The word “zuri” means beautiful in Swahili. Collectively, it represents timeless beauty that goes beyond adornment.

When asked what the main inspiration behind the brand is, Shikha says:
To promote cultural awareness through adornment. We’re exposed to so many cultural influences on a daily basis, from the food we eat, music we listen to, clothes we wear, people we interact with, etc. I wanted my brand to be both a reflection and celebration of this reality. Therefore, my one-of-a-kind range of jewellery combines beads and artefacts from around the world into a single piece of adornment to reflect this melting pot, while also telling the story behind each element: where it came from and what it symbolised to the cultures from which it originated. Similarly, SHIKHAZURI’s sister brand, Simply Zuri, also focuses its attention on story telling and sharing the cultural significance and symbolism behind each piece I create. 
As an avid conservationist, and having worked in the field for several years, Shikha is very passionate about African wildlife. Having witnessed poaching first hand and the effects of human-animal conflict, she's committed to supporting initiatives that work directly with communities and operate at grassroots level to promote wildlife conservation. So, not only does she create fantastic pieces, but she currently supports the Mara Lion Project and donates 5% of profits from sales towards the cause.

Currently, Shikha is working on introducing her products into the overseas market, and depending on the response, she'll make the decision to either refine or develop certain lines. For example, if the current Simply Zuri range is well received, she may add a new collection next year. If the market demands a more African aesthetic, she will introduce more local raw materials into my pieces.

When asked where she sees her brand in 5 years, Shikha responded:
I’d love the brand to have a stronghold in the overseas market and be in a position where SHIKHAZURI can employ a small team of people. It’s my ambition that people who encounter the brand will automatically relate it to “jewellery with a story”. 
If you want to  buy some of Shikha's pieces, you can shop from her online shops on www.shikhazuri.com or www.simplyzuri.com, or you can check out her list of stockists to physically shop her products. (And I'd highly encourage you to do so!) I'm a huge fan, as you can already tell, and I love getting her pieces as friends for others.

Let's hear from Shikha about some of the questions I asked her:

What are some challenges you've faced as a female entrepreneur?

Initially I felt people would not take me seriously and viewed what I was doing as “just a hobby”. I think especially with creative business, until you start getting some runs on the board, whether it be securing a decent amount of business or generating PR, it can be a challenging to earn respect, and if you let it get to you, it can be demoralising.

How have you overcome these challenges?

Having a supportive network around me, particularly fellow female entrepreneurs has been really helpful. I’ve done this through Facebook groups and networking events such as the ones arranged by YWSE. Whenever I feel down, I ask myself, “why am I doing this?”, and then I focus on the end goal and force myself to block out negative influences and move forward.

Any advice to female entrepreneurs who may be embarking on similar journeys?

Don’t overthink it – just do it. Challenges are a natural part of any entrepreneurial journey, but you’ve got to persevere. Find an experienced mentor within your industry who can guide you on your journey. Having the support of family and friends is great, but they’ll usually tell you what you want to hear, and may not be able to give you the honest advice you need.

What is your personal favourite piece, and why?

Shaman Flair necklace

The Shaman Flair Necklace. It’s been one of the most challenging pieces to create, but it’s probably one of the most dramatic and is a real conversation starter statement piece. It’s most striking feature are the recycled camel bone spears which were supposedly used by tribal medicine men to tie off their herb bags. These are suspended from a mixture of trade beads which have distinctive orbicular markings, translucent Ghanaian glass beads and midnight blue lapis lazuli beads.

If you could dress any 3 celebrities in pieces from your lines, who would those celebrities be, and what would you dress them in?

Michelle Obama – she’s a beautiful woman and her dress style is very classy, but she’s not afraid to be bold, so I’d choose something like the Abrihet or Fana Necklace.

Abrihet necklace

Rihanna – she’s got an adventurous sense of style and can pull of almost any look. I dress her with something edgy, like one of the shoulder pieces I created for Africa Fashion Week London.

Angelina Jolie – she holds a chic and confident poise and I think the emerald green and rich bronze-gold tones of the Fana Necklace would complement her eyes and dark hair beautifully.
Fana necklace

If you could sum up your brand in 3 words, they'd be...

Meaningful, Exotic, Captivating.

What is the best feedback you've received about your brand and your work?

The stories that I share about each ethnographic element are what makes my jewellery extra special and captivating. This is the biggest compliment for me because it shows that what I set out to create, “jewellery with a story”, is having the desired impact.

What is the toughest feedback you've received about your brand and your work?

I often have people telling me that while my one-of-a-kind pieces are striking, they could never wear them because they’re too bold. I realise that my design aesthetic means that my market is limited to a certain type of woman who does feel confident enough to be able to carry off this bold style, but over time that’s actually helped me to focus my energy even more to discovering and learning about my niche market, and reaching the women who do adore wearing my jewellery.

Who has been your biggest supporter along the journey?

I’m blessed to have such a supportive family who have stood by me throughout the last couple of years, but I’m also lucky to have found an incredible business mentor who has been instrumental to my success thus far.

Are there any books you recommend to fellow female entrepreneurs?

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris – this huge book may look daunting but it’s broken up into easily digestible parts and highlights the tactics, routines and habits of billionaires, icons and world-class performers.

If you could go back and give yourself some advice as you were starting out, what would it be?

Have a solid roadmap that can guide the direction you want your business to go in. However, recognise that things may not always go according to your initial plan, and that’s ok – if things change and you need to pivot, then do so. Life happens, and things change in business – be flexible and work around it.

In sourcing materials for your jewellery, you have travelled extensively. What's your favourite destination, and why?

I loved Marrakech – everything from spending days trawling the bustling and colourful souks to the fragrant and delicious tagines and of course the drool worthy jewellery from across the region.

If your brand were an animal, which would it be and why?

It would have to be a big cat – I’ve had the privilege of raising various species and they’re my favourite animals. Because of its characteristics, my brand resembles the leopard: they’re astute, brave and beautiful. And I’d like to put a positive spin on the saying “a leopard never changes its spots”, in that I believe the brand has upheld its core values since conceptualisation, and it’s my intention that it continues to stay true to its very essence: emblematic of classic beauty inspired by cultural influences from around the world. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Quotes to Live By (1 of 2)

For someone who's such a word lover, it should hardly come as a surprise that I'm a quote lover. I believe that words carry a lot of power, and sharing and repeating these words only amplifies that power. Here are a few of my favourites (a living list, if you will) - what are some of yours?



To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.
Bessie Anderson Stanley (frequently misattributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson)

If you don’t fight for what you want, then don’t cry for what you lost. Nothing depends on luck - everything depends on work, because even luck has to work.
The Bhagavad Gita

Are you being the best you can be or the worst that has happened to you?
Brian Vaszily

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
Buckminster Fuller

What if I should discover that the poorest of the beggars and the most impudent of offenders are all within me, and that I stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved- what then? 
Carl Jung 

That’s the best revenge of all: happiness. Nothing drives people crazier than seeing someone have a good fucking life. 
Chuck Palahniuk

When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.
Eloise Ristad

Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself; I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it. 
Groucho Marx

Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
Howard Thurman

My heart is at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me, and that what misses me was never meant for me.
Imam Al-Shafi’i 

Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. 
Jack Kerouac

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.
Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Cherish your visions; cherish your ideals; cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your finest thoughts, for out of them will grow all delightful conditions, all heavenly environment; of these, if you remain true to them, your world will at last be built. 
James Allen, As You Think

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.
For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.
Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing;
And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.
Kahlil Gibran 

When you part from your friend, you grieve not; 
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain. 
Kahlil Gibran

When love beckons to you follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth......
But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. And think not you can direct the course of love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
Kahlil Gibran


Monday, November 20, 2017

Jumping (Off) the Bandwagon



Counter-intuitively, sometimes it's easier to stand up to a crowd in public than a single person in private. We go around flaunting our beliefs behind the handy anonymity of the Internet, but when asked to defend them in front of a room of peers, we pause. Having avoided direct confrontation, we're relieved, but fail to realise that we've only postponed the inevitable. 

Is it that we're so afraid of confrontation, of having people disagree with us, that we fail to stand up for who and what we believe in? I've seen this happen so many times, and I daresay, have been guilty of it myself. We stick by previously established status quo, yet later complain that 'nothing is changing' and wonder where the problem lies. 

Change was never born out of agreeing with the masses just for the sake of it. Whether we're changing the mindset of a people, or the routine of an individual, change will require pushing ourselves out of the comfort zone, often alone. It's absolutely okay to be the first friend or family member to believe in something and to have the conviction to stand up for it. Even if others disagree with you, the realisation that we can respect others' opinions even if they differ from ours can come in extremely handy. 

Yes, it can be scary being the first person to step up and say 'this is wrong'. Expressing dissent can often be seen as a sign of aggression, but learning to stand up for your beliefs will help dispel these notions.

Think about this - a few years ago, people thought it was okay to treat people differently based on the colour of their skin, or the gender they identified with. Okay, yes, unfortunately, we still do have some people who think like that - but fortunately, or so I'd like to believe, they're a group that's getting smaller and smaller. One day, somewhere in the past, someone stood up and said - you know what, this ISN'T okay. Some shouted this, some whispered it, but you can imagine the backlash they faced.

Do we believe what we believe because that's what's right? How often do we examine what we believe and why we believe in it? Do we believe what we've been TOLD to believe?

Nowadays, more than every, when we're being confronted by a lot of - dare I say idiocy? - everywhere we go, on the news, on the streets, globally, more than ever, we're all being called to action. Called to actually THINK about what we're doing. WHY we're doing it. How we can be more compassionate - to those around us AND to ourselves. And if we find that our actions, our behaviours are not aligned with our values - then maybe it's time to stand up for what we believe. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

30 Desserts, Dishes and Drinks in Nairobi You MUST Try!

Doing restaurant reviews is always fun, but sometimes, it's nice to put together a collection such that one knows what to order from a BUNCH of different places.

Think of this as a culinary bucket list, if you will - but do remember that it is by no means exhaustive! In fact, a part 2 is on the way just because we had so many (and maybe a part 3 may be in order ;) ). This list was put together by yours truly, with input from a few friends and coworkers from McKinsey (thanks Darshani, Ekta, Kui, Ronald and the rest)!

Special thanks to Dashani and Ekta, and to the restaurants who sent me pictures :)

P.S.: Yes, I know, I know, the title. I couldn't resist!

1. The passion fruit cheesecake from Zen Garden. This has probably been one of my greatest discoveries since I moved back to Kenya! It is SO GOOD. For my best friend and I, it's kind of become 'our dish' since we're both so in love with it. Speaking of, I remember that I need to go back for a visit soon!



2. Pepper steak from About Thyme. About Thyme is already a favourite for so many reasons - their amazing ambience and great service are just the icing on their cake. I first tried their pepper steak about 2 years ago, and I was hooked. The onion rings on top are a perfect touch, I think!



3. The Diavola pizza from 360 Degrees Pizza. Spice and yum is all I can say about this one! If you haven't yet, please do go and give it a try. Plus, it's pizza. Who says no to pizza?!



4. Butter naan from Hashmi. Okay, so pretty much anything you order from Hashmi will be amazing, but their naans are to DIE for. Easily the best in Nairobi, I think. Soft, buttery goodness that melts in your mouth and goes with just about anything on their menu.



5. Salted caramel cake from Artcaffe. If anyone has told you that the tricolad is the best dessert on Artcaffe's menu - they're wrong. First of all, salt + caramel = perfection. Second of all, the way Artcaffe puts them together? Perfection squared! If I haven't yet convinced you to order it the next time you visit, maybe this picture will.



6. Chilli chicken at Paparoti in the Goan Gymkhana. This one is one that I haven't personally tasted myself, but it comes highly recommended by a trusted source. In fact, he went so far as to say that 'Paparoti is the best Indian restaurant in town.' Now, we'll just have to go ourselves to find out how true this is, won't we?

7. Meat lasagna at La Salumeria. First of all, it's lasagna. Second of all, it's La Salumeria. Need I say more?!

8. Waffles at Connect Coffee on Riverside Drive. You may have heard tell of a mystical place that specialises in coffee and waffles. I was introduced to this place by a colleague at McKinsey and lemme tell you one thing - Oh. My. God. Their waffles. Amazingly done, and perfectly complemented by ice cream and strawberries. MAJOR yums. Also, look how beautiful it is!!



9. Malindi Macchiato at Java House. Java is the comfort joint for many Nairobians, and their Malindi Macchiato is one you should definitely try the next time you're there. It's also rather unique to Kenya, so you're probably not going to find this one elsewhere.

10. Mango Masaai Mama burger at Mama Rocks. Who'd have known that a burger could be so much fun? This burger, were it a person, would be one of my best friends. I'm not a huge burger person - I mean, I like them, but I've never really craved them - but when it comes to Mama Rocks, I most definitely am! I've found myself longingly thinking of this burger, sometimes in the middle of a meal! Their chilli mango sauce makes this burger absolutely amazing, and I can't wait to have it again. In case you think I'm biased, I'll have you know that quite a few people I've spoken to also think that Mama Rocks has the best burgers in town!



11. Crackling paneer from Chowpatty. I wish I had a picture of this, but on second thought, my workout routine probably couldn't handle the visual onslaught. I had this for the first time at a work party we organised last month and honestly? I probably could've kept eating this all afternoon and evening. As soon as I could, I went home and confirmed that yes, this was indeed a regular menu item. Phew! I'm coming for you, Chowpatty!

12. Oreo milkshake from Urban Eatery. Given that I work in the building, you'd think that I'd be sick of Urban Eatery by now - but that's absolutely NOT the case. In fact, I had a hard time actually limiting the number of items from Urban Eatery (and Zen Garden, another favourite) that I put on this list and its sequel! So let's take a moment to talk about their Oreo milkshake. It's SO good, that I've actually gotten derailed from ordering other things in favour of this. I once went down for a beer - ended up ordering this milkshake. Was craving a chicken pie from Urban one day - ended up walking out with the milkshake. Went to Urban SPECIFICALLY to try their freakshakes. Nope, still got the Oreo milkshake. The staff probably needs to start wrestling it away from me by now!



13. Arbor cassata from the Arbor. I've never been much of a cassata fan - in fact, I've always thought it tasted vaguely of soap. When I went to the Arbor to do the Christmas review last year, this was on the menu, and something in me shrugged and said - sure, why not? Best decision EVER. Not only did it NOT taste of soap, but I fell in love. With raspberry sorbet, vanilla ice cream and glazed fruits, it was a match made in heaven. The sorbet was absolutely delicious and just the right amount of sharp and tangy, which perfectly complemented the sweet creaminess of the vanilla ice cream.



14. Pepperoni pizza from Chicago The Pizza Place in Sarit Centre. For as long as I can remember, for as long as I've been going to the Sarit Centre from when I was a wee child, I've been in love with their pepperoni pizza. There's just something amazing about a place that has maintained its standards over the years - their pizza actually tastes just as, if not more, amazing as it used to be!

15. Salt and pepper vegetables from For You Chinese Restaurant. I think restaurants in Nairobi do Chinese food really well, and For You is no exception. There've been many days at work when we've needed to order lunch or dinner, and For You always emerged as a strong contender. Many a time, I've been tempted to just order their salt and pepper vegetables because they're just that good! The batter is perfect, they're fresh and crisp and spicy and yummy, and now I'm hungry...

16. Dynamite roll from Urban Eatery. Perfectly fresh, crunchy, with just the right amount of flavour. I take mine with a bit of soy sauce, but you really could do without!



17. Chicken biryani from Ismailia. For those picky eaters, like myself, it comes boneless! It's perfectly made, and then baked with a phulka on top that you pierce before eating. It's quite popular in Nairobi, for good reason!

18. Halloumi fries at Mercado. I haven't yet tried these, so on my list too! Given that this is an authentic Mexican restaurant, it's definitely on my to do list for sooner rather than later.



19. Chiken tinga tortillas at Mercado.



20. Trio of dips at Hob House.



21. Poussin chicken from Pizza Corner.



22. Slow grilled rib of beef with truffle sauce at Sierra Bar and Grill. Look at how gorgeous this is!



23. Coffee at Spring Valley Artisan Coffee. I know, this is a new name for most of you, and you were probably expecting me to recommend coffee from a bigger chain, right? Nope! Give these guys a try, they're definitely worth it. The best brewed coffee in Nairobi, I believe!



24. Chicken 65 from Nyama Mama. I'm loving the trend of modern African fusion type cuisine that's popping up over the city! Nyama Mama is a little newer on the block, but is a pretty cool place to be.



25. Tom kha ghai chicken coconut soup from Urban Eatery. I am a HUGE fan of Thai food, and an equally huge fan of this soup! A perfect complement to any meal, or a meal on its own if you're not looking to do something too huge, this'll definitely warm your soul and leave you begging for more.



26. Mulled wine at the Arbor. Okay, okay, so this isn't exactly on their menu - yet. However, consider this my single-handed petition! I tried this at the Christmas review I mentioned earlier, and I was hooked. I would drink this ALL THE TIME if I could! Don't take my word for it though - other patrons of the Arbor loved it too!!




27. Chocolate fudge cake from Java House. You really didn't think this decadence would be off this list, did you? Pure indulgence, this is hashtag treat yourself alllll the way. Perfectly sinful and sweet, it's a treat you won't regret!



28. Chargrilled halloumi sandwich at Zen Garden. Look, I'm not even going to try sell this one to you myself. It's a chargrilled halloumi sandwich with charred mushrooms and basil pesto. Isn't that enough to tempt you?! Spoiler alert: I'm a huge fan. It's light enough to not completely weigh you down, so you can order some of their yummy chips to go alongside!



29. Mr. Hendrick's Basil Smash at the Balcony Bar (Villa Rosa Kempinski).



30. Irresistible sticky date pudding from About Thyme. I can personally confirm that this is, indeed, irresistible!




Liked this post? Please feel free to like, comment AND share! And let me know what I should include in part 3 ;)



Thursday, November 9, 2017

Tandoori Patio: Restaurant Review

A warm Sunday afternoon (as has been increasingly the case in Nairobi recently), so it made sense that the family and I wanted a lunch spot that was open and somewhat outdoorsy (as outdoorsy as can be in Westlands, that is). We'd been to the Tandoori Patio a few times before (one was a surprise party for my 24th birthday), and decided that it was worth a repeat visit.

The ambience at the Tandoori Patio is skillfully designed in a way to almost (almost) make one forget that you're sitting in the middle of Westlands.

Warm Sunday = perfect opportunity for a chilled beer, so I decided to get a Tusker Malt. Now, I will NEVER understand why servers in this country ask if you want your beer cold or not. Is there really any other way to drink beer?! I confirmed that, yes, I wanted it as cold as could be, borderline freezing if you will.



Look at how beautiful it was!! And iPhone users, I'd like you to appreciate that this was a live photo, which means that I get to see this with the glory of bubbles rising gently to the surface whenever I want.

To start off, we decided to get the Rajasthani bhindi (Rajasthan is a region in India, bhindi= okra), and the hara bhara kebabs. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest bhindi fan in the world (yes yes, tone it down with the gasps), but I actually really liked this! It was like beautifully fried bhindi chips - and the batter was heavenly! My 90 year old grandfather, however, thought this was 'weird'.

I was so enamoured that I kind of forgot to take notes about - or pictures of - the hara bhara kebabs.


For the mains, we decided to get the chicken tikka masala (surprise!), the tawa fish masala, and the tawa mushrooms with a selection of naans. 

Everything was AMAZING. Seriously. I'm practically salivating as I write this. The chicken was fresh, light and not too creamy. The fish was also fresh and perfectly marinated. The mushrooms were creamy, with lovely flavours of garlic and methi coming through. The naans were soft and light. The only complaint that I'd have is that the food was relatively mild, despite us having asked for it to be as hot as they could make it. 




Haven't yet been? Do give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Enjoyed this post? Please feel free to like, comment and share!


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Letting Go, pt. 1




When I was younger, I may have said that learning to let go is an unfortunate part of life - but now, I think that it is just a part of life. Not an easy part, sure, but one associated with a lot of emotion - sometimes positive, sometimes negative, and one that teaches us a lot. We learn to let go of a lot - relationships, objects, expectations, emotions - among others.

To reflect on this, I decided it was time to do a post (or a series of posts) about letting go, bringing in stories and perspectives from people across the globe. This time, the focus is on relationships - family, friends, significant others - and experiences various people have had. I was interested in hearing about other people's perspectives, especially because for me, letting go has been such an all-or-nothing experience!

Thanks so much to all my contributors! And if you're interested in contributing, please shoot me an email and we'll chat about part 2, which should be ready in 2-3 weeks.

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I would say that from my experiences, the hardest thing about letting go of a negative relationship - be this a friend, family member or partner, has been realising and accepting when the time had come to do so. There had always been so much guilt and heartache associated with the decision. Many times it didn't even strike me as an option. It always seemed to be the 'right' thing to keep trying to make it work - surely I could change myself further or change my approach, yet again, to deal with the situation?

Would letting go mean compromising my value for loyalty?

But staying would compromise so many more of my values.

Each time, I reminded myself that I was a strong and independent woman, who didn't need to be held back and drained by negativity. Life is too short for that. I also accepted that while it's okay to love a person unconditionally, we didn't need to be part of each other's lives to be happy.

Once the decision was made, and I accepted it, I felt free and light, ready to live my dreams without negativity bringing me down.
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Trying to write about “letting go” just reminds me that I haven’t necessarily let it go. Or at least that the ACT of letting go is an ongoing process for me. It’s a constant struggle to allow only healthy relationships in my life. I put up with a lot of negative behaviors from the people I care about, and while a certain amount of acceptance is needed (no one’s perfect), there is a line between companionship and abuse. I’m particularly susceptible to being taken advantage of, partly because I’m naive and optimistic, but also because I find genuine fulfillment in helping others. I am learning, though, and it’s getting easier to recognize when someone’s taking advantage of my kindness.

I dated a narcissist. He loved how good I was to him. But it was always dependent on what I could do for him, never a genuine thought for me or my welfare. I finally got myself out and distanced myself from him. The actual letting go came over a year later, though, when he came back and reminded me how great I was at dealing with his issues and how no one ever loved him like I did. I was so strong for him and it was because of me that he had learned to deal with some of his greatest obstacles. It was still all about him, but it felt good and gave me that special feeling of being appreciated. That’s what I had to let go of: that feeling of being important to someone. It’s a need to be needed and an ego boost that comes from loving the unlovable. Letting go means not letting myself fall back into the self-sacrificing behavior that certain people have taken advantage of.

He’s not the only self-centered person I’ve been attracted too, and he actually wasn’t the last, even though I could have sworn that I had learned my lesson. But he is the one who taught me that I don’t want to be a martyr, and it’s to him I compare everyone else. If the new person makes me feel like he did, I at least admit to myself that I’m making a mistake again, and I try to get myself out of that situation. I try not to get too negative about it though. There has to be balance; I may have been hurt, but I’m not a victim. They aren’t necessarily evil or malicious, but they are unhealthy. And I may feel used and abused at times, but being generous and caring does not make me inherently vulnerable.

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Your family is supposed to be your rock, your constant, your always. Blood is thicker than water, and all that, yes?

How then do you deal with the fact that sometimes, family is toxic, and vile, and pulls you down?

I moved states a few years ago, and thankfully do not have to visit with this person often - but I still deal with the conflicting emotions - "but they're family!" "Family doesn't give up on each other!"

When I decided to let go was when I realised that this relationship was serving as a black hole for all my happiness and success. Do I still love them? Well, yes. Family is family. But do I like them? Not particularly.
Moving away was the best thing I could have done for myself.
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I think it's good to sometimes distance yourself and keep away from certain relationships especially those that are toxic to you. But like it or not, you never really cut them out because they all form a part of who you are and help you evolve as a person (from my perspective). And in some cases, in the future these people can change - so it's good to be open and forgiving but sometimes they're actually the same so it may be better to just keep them out.
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I recently spoke to someone I've known for a bit - someone who had been an important part of my life. He told me that he can't have me be a part of his life anymore. In this case, my experience with letting go was one I was jolted into.

Initially, I felt offended - in light of everything we'd been through together, how could he so easily choose to exclude me from his life? This feeling persisted even after I tried to make myself aware of the external social pressures he was dealing with. I kept thinking to myself - I would never have done the same to anyone else.

Subsequent reflection taught me two things:

-First of all - get over it! Deal with it already. An automatic response was to build a wall up, to keep him out, running contrary to my decision to include him in my life in the first place, with an expectation that he would do the same - an expectation based on zero grounding.
-Secondly - there was no going back.

I felt like I was being forcefully jolted out of the safe and comfortable space I was otherwise so happy drowning in. It did feel like a smack in the face - how ignorant could I have been?

This led me to think about a few things.

Firstly, my relationship with him. It opened me to the reality of not having feelings returned in the way you expect them to be. But shouldn't that be okay? Because,if you are operating from a place of compassion, another person's joy should be a liberating experience for you, and not something that should fill you with pain such that you want to so badly respond - by alienating them.

On this day, I challenge myself to be strong enough to stick it through. I will let every bit of updates from friends in. I will no longer run. I’ll perceive these interactions as yet another opportunity to exercise compassion in an otherwise challenging situation.

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Every rejection is an indication that your path is different. Rejection makes me think of parched lands where life is difficult. The first rains in these arid areas have to find their way across the dry land, overcome obstacles in their way but eventually become the life force of so many other entities. Adaptability & resilience are so important in everything that we do.

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So I think what I have to share is that this year I’ve lost contact with a lot of people I knew really well before. Initially, I was sad about it and maybe trying to keep hold of them despite the effort and even though we were just on different wavelengths. I think I was trying to forcefully keep them in my life because they had been in my life for so long.

But at some point it just became unsustainable and it was quite liberating when I let go. People change and friendships change and it’s okay. People come in and out of your life and that’s okay too. And rather than hanging on it’s better to let go, to let things happen naturally, because this way you make space for new people in your life. People that align closer to your way of thinking and way of life.

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I know that this was about letting go of relationships - but bear with me, as a I have a point about letting go in regard to relationships.

I recently met someone - yes, met met - and in a weird way, it has made me confront and let go my previous relationships - as well as let go of expectations of what a relationship should and should not be.

Up until I met this person, I didn't know that was what I needed. Apparently it is!

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Distance. It's a funny thing, isn't it? You think that distance will have a huge impact on friendships, those that you're physically closer to will strengthen, those you're far away from will fade to a certain extent.

Was I wrong, or what?

I recently moved halfway across the globe for no reason (well - a few reasons - but that's a story for another day), far away from most of my best friends, but quite close to one of my close high school friends.

I thought that our relationship would strengthen and go back to how it used to be when we were together - but it didn't. And I finally realised that I had to let go, and the space I was holding for them to one day come back was only serving to deplete my happiness and energy. We had some good - nay, great - times together, but it was time to put that relationship behind me.

It's funny, isn't it? Shared experiences keep us together, but not all shared experiences have to be physically shared. My best friends whom I moved away from? We're closer than ever.

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Stupid distance. A friend whom I grew up with, whom I shared good and bad times with, whose wedding I planned to be in, who was going to be my bridesmaid moved away.

And that was that. Over time, I was forced to let go.

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As we venture out in our twenties exploring new opportunities, new locales and new people; inevitably, what we move away from will grow distant. Some influences will grow tiresome and some commonalities will turn into differences. With friendships, I’ve noticed a loose consensus out there: it’s part of growing up, some friendships fade with time. Changing lifestyles and priorities create natural rifts that grow into chasms. However, when it comes to romantic relationships, the same consensus does not exist.

In this arena, I have received advice that states, “You need a clean break” and conflictingly, “You can’t simply cut someone out of your life”. Most of this advice came at the end of a two-year relationship, one that began in my formative university years and ended as I broke out into the real world. I was choosing whether to let go or not. Breakups happen for a reason of course, but those reasons may not warrant complete silence. In my case they didn’t, and I chose not to cut away this positive influence in my life. I decided to stay friends.

A relationship is a living, dynamic experience. Metamorphosis between romantic intimacy and platonic support is a journey with bumps and bruises, it is the road less travelled. Memories and metaphorical scars can divert you off course, at times, taking you backward. And in these trying times, I found solace in my self-awareness.

Building a strong relationship with myself strengthened my presence in all other relationships in my life. Including this evolving friendship-with-an-ex. My ability to set boundaries, confidently share my emotions and shape the change in our relationship were results of this newfound peace with myself.

In hindsight, there were some hiccups along the way but I believe I made the right decision. There are merits to both sides of the clean break argument, but in these murky waters, I believe a strong sense of self will help you wade through.

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