#DecorDialogues with Architect Siddharth Shirur is now LIVE on the Home-N-Interiors page! CLICK HERE TO READ!
"To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect." - Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Makings of a Happy Diwali

The Mother of all Indian festivals - Diwali is finally all done with. Phew, relieved! Yep, Mother of all Festivals, fathers cannot possibly be credited for festive buoyancy of such epic proportions! 
I am inordinately vexed with myself for being bitten by the festive bug ever since I can remember. It is doubly irritating that I have no one but myself to blame for this maddening fervor. Pre-festive jitters and post-festive blues are real enough conditions, at least for me! And still, year after year I let myself get swayed and carried away in the tidal wave of colors, lights, sights, smells and jubilation of the celebrations.

The tiny seed of festive fervor is planted well in advance as one glances casually at the calendar. 'Ah, Diwali next year comes early,' you observe and put away that bit of info in the back burner. Unlike the Gregorian calendar by which a festival falls on a fixed date year upon year, the Hindu calendar follows the vagaries of the moon and dishes out new dates for festivals every year. Dates vary from a few days to even a month forward or backwards.  

Diwali this year is early and just around the corner! How could you've forgotten, you chastise yourself.
The seed of festive fervor had gone into dormancy, post last year's exuberant and tremendously tiring celebrations. The year flew past in the comfortable companionship of monotony, inertia and lethargy. 
All of a sudden you catch sight of adverts, hoardings and all the online and offline shops going berserk with deals and steals galore. 
Good God, it is pandemonium time you realize with a rush of excitement and trepidation at the amount of planning, cleaning, decorating, shopping and cooking that come together as a festive package deal. 
You see, the harmless dormant seed is the crazy magic bean, one that bursts open and unleashes the giant beanstalk of endless festive chores. 

On an optimistic note you start with the Planning, after all it is pretty easy to draw out lists. You proceed to embellish and fine tune them, sort them alphabetically, doodle them prettily and admire your orderliness and creativity. The List becomes List 1, 2,....Final List, Final List 1, Final List 2...Finally Final List, Grand Final List, The End List....and then as time flies, you start revising the chores in the order of urgency, which finally narrows down to simply, IN and OUT.

Whoever dreamed of the idea of Festive Cleaning was definitely a sadist. In India, Diwali cleaning is a ritual just like spring-cleaning everywhere else. The difference is that, other than the family members, okay only me cleaning the house, the domestic help is also included in the grand plan. Before you declare that to be a fortunate bit of luck, let me assure you there is catch to it. The Diwali Bonus. Try what you may, this is one gift that can never satisfy the receiver however hard the giver tries. 
The Help and her...erm..."Helping Hand", albeit half-halfheartedly, joins the cleaning venture envisioning a Bumper Diwali Bonus. Your troubles are doubled in the effort of outlining her To-Do-List while not overwhelming her mercurial attitude towards the injustice of feudalism.
If you thought you could motivate through example and involvement, you are sadly mistaken. You are left scrubbing the chimney and hob, with your help looking on with a running commentary of insightful suggestions on how best to get rid of the stubborn grease. 
You will not believe the number of homes besieged with no house help post-Diwali simply because their Diwali bonus did not exceed expectations! 
The trouble with cleaning is that it is like opening pandora's box, with this particular box having its bottom connected to a black hole, never-ending! As soon as you are done with one bit of cleaning, the next one beckons and the next. You've practically scrubbed, scoured and polished every inch of the house, with no end in sight.
The family's contribution to the upheavals at home is to express their angst with lame memes on social media or worse, making observations like, "You mean you cleaned this? It looks just the same," quite similar to their response after your 6-hour stint at the beauty salon.

The post-cleaning aches and pains, in joints you never knew existed are not the end of your woes. The cleaning spree gives way to the Decorating nightmare. Dreamy Pinterest and Instagram handles flaunting vibrant, eye-popping festive homes haunt you as you look at your own rather sepia-toned home in comparison. If untangling bunches of lights and decorations frazzled your nerves, setting them up in position only to find most of them not working is teeth gnashing. Outsourcing the chore to the better half only reminds you of helpful Uncle Podger!

The growing pile of items in the OUT column of the List is disconcerting to say the least while Shopping still looms large with very little time left to do it in. You fervently look into cupboards and decide to allocate each member an unopened new set of clothes as their festive gear. Ah, good that was easy! Next comes, navigating crowded aisles at the super markets to buy gifts for the near and dear, scouring streets for miscellaneous items like lanterns, rangoli powder, diyas and more till your arms are aching lugging all that shopping. 

For some reason you cannot at present fathom, why you kept Cooking - making the eagerly awaited festive treats to the very end, with just two days to go. "It's the Final Countdown..." plays in your head on an endless loop. As you come up the lift to your apartment you get tantalizing whiffs of goodies from each floor. Folks at home are anxiously peering into empty dabbas in the kitchen and returning empty-handed. You finally remember that last Diwali your overeager self had made a humongous batch of treats a good week before the festival which disappeared to mere scraps by the time the big day actually came, which prompted you to postpone sweet-making to the very end of chores this year, sigh Planning!

The sweet-savory trail begins with big plans and ear-marked YT videos of exquisite dishes. All you need to do now is follow the videos and voila! As you check out the videos, one by one, your heart sinks looking at the eclectic ingredients you've never seen and elaborate processes you've never attempted. Well, it's back to basics ain't it? Simple, tried and tested trumps over esoteric, exclusive and exotic. 
A few failed attempts nevertheless make mandatory festive appearances. You are covered in a fine layer of flour, sticky sugar powder and oil hunched over a pan stirring a stubborn blend to the right consistency to pour out into the barfi trays. As you jubilantly cut through the rows upon rows of the favorite sweet, you are wondering who on earth is going to appreciate your back-breaking labor when the very same sweet is churned out in tons by the Haldirams and Bikanerwalas. You still have to make the rangoli, make up goodie hampers, doll up, buy crackers....will the List never end?

The better half walks into the kitchen, offering a sympathetic suggestion,"Why didn't you simply pick up a few boxes of  Haldirams with the brilliant Buy 1, Get 1 offer we saw last week at S-Mart?" 
THAT DOES IT. You calmly set aside your diligent labor into a fresh box. You walk out to the living room, sink into the sofa, put up your bone-tired feet, pick up your phone and drown your sorrows gazing at the gazillion pre-Diwali wishes. An epitaph floats into your mind, "She died trying to make it a Happy Diwali," as you drift into an exhausted slumber. 

The room is dark by the time you wake up. As you squint open your eyes stretching the aching limbs, you realize the house looks beautiful with the twinkling lights and smells divine with the lit up scented candles. The family is tip-toeing around, the kids outside the door arguing in hisses and shoves on how the lantern should hang. The better-half is shuttling from room to room with the mounds of gift boxes. 
Somewhere along the line, I'd managed to inflict the folks around me with the same festive affliction! 
I continue pretending to sleep while blissfully watching my lazy elves finally embracing the festive fervor. 

"After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working." 
- Kenneth Grahame (Wind in the Willows)


This post has been featured on Women's Web online site:
A Homemaker Looks Back At Her Hectic Yet Happy Family Diwali That Just Went By... https://www.womensweb.in/2019/11/a-homemaker-looks-back-at-the-makings-of-a-happy-diwali-that-just-went-by-nov19wk2sr/

Copyright © 2019 KALA RAVI

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Why Suffer, When You Can Be Safe? #TogetherAgainstMeningitis

We live in an era where we are subject to numerous health risks due to modern lifestyle, air/soil/water pollution besides the already existing diseases in the environment. Doesn’t it make sense therefore to avail of safe and preventive measures such as vaccines that modern science offers us, to safeguard ourselves from potentially life-threatening and debilitating diseases?
I recently came across some chat forums on twitter discussing one such disease: Meningococcal Meningitis, a highly unpredictable and life-threatening disease that can be safely prevented with the aid of vaccines.

What is Meningococcal Meningitis?

Invasive Meningococcal Disease (IMD) is a rare but potentially devastating bacterial infection caused by Neisseria meningitis.1 It commonly present as an infection of the brain (meningitis) and/or infection of the blood (septicemia or blood poisoning).1 One in 10 people who develop the disease can die from it in as little as 24 hours while 10-20% of survivors suffer from serious complications such as amputation, scars, deafness or brain damage. 2, 3

How is it caused?

Around 10% of the population carries meningococcal bacteria in the back of their throats at any given time (carrier). Occasionally the bacteria defeat the body’s defenses and cause infection. Meningococcal disease is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets (e.g. coughing, sneezing, kissing).4

Who is at risk from Meningococcal Meningitis?

Children below 5 years of age, adolescents and young adults (15-19 years) with the highest carrier rate of the bacteria are at most risk. Increased risk factors include living in community settings, participating in mass gatherings. Basically, it can affect anyone, anywhere in the world, even healthy individuals without identifiable risk factors.5

What are the symptoms?

The early symptoms can be misleading as they are flu-like in nature (e.g. irritability, fever, loss of appetite) 6 and make diagnosis difficult.7 Signs of meningococcal meningitis include fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting, sensitivity to light, confusion etc.6 However it is important to react as the disease can lead to death within 24 hours of onset.7, 8 Diagnosis involves testing samples of blood and cerebrospinal fluid for the Neisseria meningitis bacteria.7

Can Meningococcal Meningitis be prevented?

Yes! Vaccines can be given to infants as young as 9 months and works as the missing link for comprehensive protection against acute bacterial meningitis!11 Vaccines available in India can prevent four different types of bacterial serogroups that cause meningococcal meningitis.

Should you get Meningococcal Meningitis vaccination?

Armed with all this information, I am ready to take a stand against this dreadful disease. I plan to visit my doctor along with my teen son, discuss this life-saving vaccine and avail immunization at the earliest.

How about you? I strongly suggest that all parents get more information on meningococcal meningitis and how to prevent it by having a talk with their doctors. A simple timely vaccine can spare your family from this devastating disease.

It is after all, always better to be safe than sorry

Join the movement against Meningococcal Meningitis today!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog content are independent and unbiased views solely of the blogger. This is a part of public awareness initiative on meningitis supported by Sanofi Pasteur India. Sanofi Pasteur bears no responsibility for the content of the blog. One should consult their healthcare provider for any health-related information. This article is meant to help create awareness and spread knowledge. Any decision regarding your health and child's health should be done after consultation with your doctor. While all efforts are made to keep articles updated, the speed of research in these fields mean the information often may change when more research knowledge is available. Relax-N-Rave or the authors should be in no way held responsible in that case.

1. Meningitis Research Foundation. What are meningitis and septicemia
2. CDC Meningococcal disease: Recommended vaccines
3. Meningitis now. After-effects of septicemia
4. Meningitis now. What is meningitis, types and causes
5. Martinon-Torres, F. Deciphering the burden of Meningococcal Disease: Conventional and Under-recognized Elements. Journal of Adolescent Health 59. Volume 59, Issue 1, March 2016. Pages 12-20.
6. CDC. Meningococcal disease-Signs and Symptoms
7. CDC. Meningococcal disease – Diagnosis, Treatment, and Complications
8. Branco, R., Amoretti, C. and Tasker, R. Meningococcal disease and meningitis. Jornal de Pediatria. Volume 83, Issue 7, 2011. Pages 46-53
9. CDC. Meningococcal Disease – Prevention.
10. WHO. Meningococcal meningitis.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Those Cold Days

I am dabbing ineffectually at my unstoppable nose with an overburdened handkerchief and wondering dispassionately, what happened to the good old course a common cold was supposed to follow? It's been a good two weeks and this dratted cold along with aches and pains galore, doesn't want to leave me!
The mutant common colds today are like unwanted, pesky guests with no due date of arrival or departure. You have no clue what to expect from them. Are you supposed to ignore, worry or pamper them? Are your symptoms just those of a common cold or is it dengue or chikungunya? 
Trying times, I tell you. Why can't germs follow prescribed or known norms?

Common Cold Mami saga

Once upon a time, when you were afflicted by the common cold, you expected a set pattern of events. The cold of yore started with a ticklish, irritating sensation in the throat. The head began to pound at loud noises. Eyes watered in bright light. The body ached at all places and your appetite went down from 5 helpings of everything to meager 2 helpings. Amma would be the first to discern that you were coming down with something. Your over-bright watery eyes, warm forehead and lowered enthusiasm for her special potato roast curry alerted her right away.

The first patient of the common cold season, always instigated the latent medical genius and patient, caring nurse in amma. Later patients weren't as fortunate.

No time to lose! You are hustled off to sleep under her watchful eye while appa could decide to sleep...wherever! The cure-all Vicks Vaporub came out from the medicine box which amma liberally rubbed over your forehead, nose, throat and chest. The fan was switched off, the thick rug brought out and a glass of the mandatory manjalpodi paal (turmeric latte, ahem!) thrust in front of you. Your annoying sibling was promptly told off to be less annoying, find shelter in another room and avoid the contagion. Ah, the sweet perks of sickness! 

Next morning you woke up with a frog in your throat, a blocked nose, feeling hot and cold simultaneously and an anxious amma peering at you. By laying her thermometric cheek to your forehead, she instantly declared you were officially unfit enough to qualify for a school leave and she hurried along, mentally planning the alterations to her usual schedule. 

The aroma of tulsi, carom seeds and ginger being boiled into a kashayam wafted in the air, proclaiming the home to be sick bay. Before you had any thoughts of brushing your teeth, a tall steaming glass of salt water awaited you - Have cold, Will gargle, period. If your face creased in distaste, you are reminded that had pati been around, you'd be harboring a piece of kadukkai in your mouth along with burnt turmeric paste on the forehead. 

The tried and tested formula for any known ailment in my family for generations has been the "milagu-jeera rasam" that makes an appearance irrespective of whether it is a cold, indigestion or general lassitude. This particular rasam is genetically embedded in our DNA (along with thayir sadam) and thus qualifies as soul food. A hand-mashed bowlful of steaming hot rasam sadam warms your insides while the pepper-induced streaming nose, clears all blockages. 

If you still waddled around with a stuffy nose, out came the dreaded tall vessel. Hot water was boiled in this vessel and generous scoop of, what else...Vicks Vaporub was added and you were forced to bend over it, a towel thrown over your head and made to inhale the healing vapours. While the nose promptly got blocked again by the time the water in the vessel cooled, the "Vicks vapour" inhalation sure gave your face a sheen like nothing else.

After a cozy nap, by late afternoon, you were done with sufficiently warming your bed and now your stomach growled for some attention, what with the milagu-jeera rasam having accomplished its job of improving your digestive capacity so well. When amma offered you a couple of slices of dry bread toast, you told her to add a few couple more topped with a generous flourish of Amul butter. Amma's ante immediately perked up. She quietly watched you polish off the pile of toast engrossed in the dog-eared volumes of Indrajal comics and ask for a refill. Uh-Uh! The saintly mother nurturing the sick child quickly vanished. "Aha, so now that you are well enough, you better call up your classmates and ask them what you missed at school. Better still, go over to their house and bring back lessons to copy and homework to complete."

Darn, I didn't want my "coldiday" to end so soon! Meanwhile, the door bell rang and since I was trying to pretend to be weak and wan still, I refused to answer it. Cursing about how she was the only one in the house doing everything, amma went to answer it. It was appa, he was home early. He told me to move over from the cushy diwan. He needed to lie down, he sniffed loudly and asked amma to get him some piping hot kaapi for his splitting talavali
"Make the kaapi extra strong and extra hot...cough, cough, achooo!"Appa quavered. He asked me to fetch him some extra pillows, the newspaper, his reading glasses, his bottle of Amrutanjan, the thermometer, his muffler, his large handkerchief...

Good God, appa had caught the cold! Time to flee! I scooted to gather my school bag stuffing a couple of comics into it and headed to my friend's place. Uff!! What a big fuss over a common cold!


kadukkai - a dried fruit from the tree Terminali chebula used as cough remedy
pati - grandmother
milagu-jeera  - pepper-cumin
Thayir sadam - curd rice
milagu-jeera rasam - Watch this one!
Kaapi - filter coffee
talavali - headache

Enjoyed this post? Read more southern-spiced pieces from,

The Mami Saga:

1) Common-place Curd Rice

2) Kaapi-ready

3) Of Dangling Drumsticks, Wily Vadus and more

4) Idli Seria Vanduda?

5) Mamievolution

6) Buzz Fuss

7) Yours Generously

8) Those Cold Days

Copyright © 2019 KALA RAVI

Saturday, 5 October 2019

The Festive Spirit

Wherever he looked, Ramesh saw hoardings and advertisements of electronics, clothing, food and everything under the sun. The beginning of the festive season was when the whole world eagerly awaited the chance to splash and splurge, while he dreaded it. Shops overflowed with goods and people. 
Whatever he earned was never enough, not with six mouths to feed, shelter, clothe, educate, and treat for ailments. The festive bonus he’d received was sent to the village to help his sister’s family who were having a harder time than him, with a second consecutive year of drought. There was no question of having that extra money to buy new clothes and treats.
As he entered home he could hear his 8 year old son complaining to his wife when she reprimanded him for constantly pestering her for a pair of denim pants. “But aai, it's just not that special time of the year without new clothes! You know all my friends get new clothes for the festival!”
Ramesh called out, “Come here, Kunal. Tell your friends, it's not THAT time of the year by just wearing new clothes. It is THAT time of the year to be kind and generous. Do you know because of our little help, Anu athya’s family will have enough to eat for this whole month? If we had bought new clothes, they would all be sleeping on empty stomachs. Won't they be glad to have enough to eat and bless us? 
We will be going to the village for the festival. You will have plenty of fun with Varsha and Ajay lighting hundreds of diyas that kumbhari kaka makes.”
The child was thrilled to hear this. Ramesh continued, “And you know what? No one in the village has seen your clothes, anything you wear there will look new to them! Now that you both have grown so tall, you can collect some of your old clothes and toys and give it to the village children, they’ll be so happy to receive it. Now run along.” Kunal excitedly dragged in his younger sibling who was playing outside.
Ramesh exchanged a look of relief with his wife as they watched their two boys rummaging in the old trunk holding their belongings, searching for things to gift their lesser fortunate village friends.

Featured Image

aai - mother
athya - aunt - father's sister
diyas - earthern lamps
kumbhari kaka - potter uncle


Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.
- Buddha

Buddha quote

I am participating in the #WordsMatter Bloghop. The prompt this time was "It's not that time of the year without..."
I received this tag from Mahati Ramya at Fantastic Feathers. It’s my pleasure to pass on this tag to Suchita Agarwal at Tales of Suchita. There are 38 of us on this Blog Hop and it will be spread over 3 days – 4, 5, 6 October  2019. Do follow the #WordsMatter Blog Hop and prepare to be surprised!

Dear Friends,
Currently my blog is facing an issue with the sharing buttons not having my twitter handle embedded. Kindly bear with me till I sort it out. My Twitter Handle is @KalaRavi16

Copyright © 2019 KALA RAVI

Sunday, 29 September 2019

The Two Sons

I love old folk tales. Simple tales. Tales from childhood, that warm your heart. 
There is this one tale, I've never forgotten, one my mother used to narrate.
I don't know if this is the original tale or there is another version, there well may be. Maybe you've heard it before, still hear it again. I'll share it just the way my mum did years ago.

Folk Tale

The Two Sons

Once upon a time, there lived a farmer in a small village. He had worked hard all his life to build up a good fortune with a large farmhouse, lots of cattle and acres of land.
His wife had passed away a few years ago and now he was sure his old frail body wouldn't be around much longer.
The farmer had two sons, Ajay and Vijay. He loved them both dearly and they in turn revered him. The father wanted to ensure all his property was equally divided between the two sons. 
The farmer came up with a plan. Early one morning he called Ajay and Vijay. Looking at their curious faces he explained, "Ajay and Vijay, you know I am getting very old, I don't think I'll be around much longer. Before I leave to join your mother, I have divided the cattle, the land and the money. Only this house remains. I'll be giving you two a little test. Based on the result, the winner will get the house, it it alright with you two?" 
The obedient sons nodded respectfully with downcast faces. They really loved their father.

The father continued, "You know we have the two identical, tiny, empty rooms on the upper floor? Here, take this," he said, giving them each a hundred rupees and continued,"Now I want you both to listen carefully to what I say. With the money I gave you, I want you each to buy whatever you can think of and fill up the room. That is all. I will decide the winner based on what I see. Now go on both of you, you have till today evening." The sons were puzzled with this strange test, but nevertheless set out to fulfill the task.

Ajay was sure he would win the task. He knew exactly what to buy, his father would be proud of him for having filled the tiny room the best.
Vijay was thoughtful on his way to the market. He thought hard. A hundred rupees to fill a room...yes he needed to think harder.
It was evening. Both the sons and the father went up to the first floor. The two rooms were on opposite sides of the staircase with a long corridor in between. Ajay and Vijay were both eager to show their rooms to their father. 
"Ajay since you are the elder, we'll see your room first," said the farmer.
Ajay was beaming with pride as he led them to the room. He was sure his father would applaud his efforts.
With some difficulty, Ajay opened the door to the room. It was dark and filthy. A cascade of dry hay fell on them. Ajay had spent his money on buying bundles of cheap hay and stuffed every inch of the room, from top to bottom with it.
The father looked stunned. No doubt, his elder offspring had passed the test, the room was certainly filled to the brim.
Next the three headed to the door on the opposite side of the corridor, Vijay's room.
Vijay unlocked the door and invited his father and Ajay to come in.
The room was neatly swept and was filled with the divine fragrance of incense and jasmine flowers. Placed against the wall opposite the door, there was a beautiful framed image of the smiling Lord Krishna adorned with a jasmine garland. The room had a warm glow from a small lamp lit in front of the frame and incense sticks were wafting the soothing fragrance. Vijay handed his father a bill of all the things he had purchased with the hundred rupees.
The old farmer's eyes filled with happiness. He hugged Vijay. 
The winner of the test was obvious, wasn't it? 

The elder son's untidy, unthinking, hasty choice of hay to fill up the room reflect his inherent nature. 
The younger son's thoughtful, neat, pleasing to the senses and careful choice of the God's picture frame along with the lamp, incense and fragrant flowers to fill up the room reflect his inherent nature. 

I am taking my blog to the next level with #MyFriendAlexa

Copyright © 2019 KALA RAVI

Friday, 27 September 2019

7 Tips on Choosing the right Interior designer for your home

I am often asked by friends and people I meet, "How do we choose the right interior designer for our home?"
With the wide range of professionals and firms advertising complete home makeovers, it is confusing how to select the right one for your home. 
Doing up home interiors is not something you do very frequently, since it is a tedious, time consuming and expensive process. 
Therefore you need to put in thought and time before you select a professional Interior Designer to do your home interiors.
Before you proceed with this post, you should read this: 

Being in the Interior Designing field myself, let me share a few tips on, 
Choosing the right Interior designer for your home
Choosing Interior Designer

1) Online research, Word of Mouth, Trusted references
The first refuge to source out any kind of requirement today is to google. There are a large number of individual professionals and firms offering turn-key interior design services. You need to go through their website properly, check testimonials. Also make sure you meet the design team face-to-face and check out their authenticity, maybe even visit sites they have executed.
Despite almost everything being online today, many people are still old school especially when it concerns their homes. However grandly a designer may advertise and market, people are more likely to go with a tried and tested one. One whose work they have seen and one who comes recommended by people they themselves know well. 
It makes sense therefore to ask around in your circles for good references and also verify the glowing recommendations by seeing the executed work yourself. What looks beautiful to one person, may look garish to another!

2) Credentials, Work Portfolio, Testimonials
Once you've narrowed down on a few designers, make a point to personally meet them. You may or may not decide after meeting just one. Ask for his qualifications if they are not already mentioned, a qualification from a good institution does add weight. An Interior Designer may or may not be an architect. But he should have adequate knowledge of the structural implications for an interior project...like he should know the load-bearing columns, beams before undertaking massive renovations.
Have a good look at previous work portfolio and seek testimonials of previous clients. You may even ask for contact numbers to verify the same. 
Don't be biased about hiring only experienced Designers, you'll be surprised to discover many new designers doing better work at far lesser cost.
Over and above all these above points, make a point to observe if the Designer is eager to spend time understanding your needs and vision to create a dream house for you. The designer's attitude should be one you are comfortable with. Most importantly ask questions, a good designer should be open to answering them. He should be able to communicate his vision for your home clearly.
Also remember, a chatty or friendly designer may not necessarily deliver all he promises while a subdued designer may deliver beyond expectations. 

3) Identify your needs 
The first question any designer will ask you is, what are your expectations, what do want to get done?
I would consider identifying and tallying your needs to be the most important aspect when you start looking for a professional to do up your space. Most people have little or no idea about visualizing a look for their homes other than what they are seeing. 
In this case, note down a list of your aspirations for your home. For instance, you could make a room-wise list like this:

Living Room
1. False ceiling 
2. Seating area - mix of formal and informal seating
3. No TV in living room
4. Shoe-rack
5. Display unit
1. Light and open look
2. Large storage - 3/4/5 door wardrobe
3. Walk in wardrobe (dream)
4. Dressing area
5. Projector TV
1. Mediterranean theme
2. Pull outs
3. Height of kitchen platform to be higher
4. Chimney - Yes/No
5. Washing machine, Dishwasher space
6. Puja area 

You could make the list as specific as you want/can. Save different folders of reference images to share, as they can give the designer a better understanding of the image in your mind. 
Identify your needs, however wild or improbable they may seem and share them with the designer, it is upto them now to creatively incorporate them where possible. 

4) Infrastructure 
Check out all you can on the infrastructure the designer has at his disposal. Most designers today offer you a 2D Autocad or similar software designed plan. Detailed 3-D view or walk-through of their proposed design may be at an additional cost. This greatly helps you to get a better understanding of the designer's plan for your home. 
An interior designer may be a freelancer or part of a larger architectural firm. Sometimes big names may not necessarily translate into a great experience. A larger firm could mean less time dedicated to a single client. On the other hand, a free lancer may not have the requisite team to handle turn-key projects. Usually it is easier if the designer has his own team of civil, electrical, plumbing, carpentry contractors because he will have a better say and co-ordination with them.

5) Understanding the monetary aspect
In tandem with your needs, you need to fix an overall budget that you are ready to spend on the entire exercise. Conveying this to the designer is very important. A designer should ideally be able to work around your budget or else clearly state otherwise. Most designers will give you an all inclusive (material, labor, supervision) Estimated Project Cost based on the scope of work and finishes selected. You could ask for further breakups in the costing. 
The costing may vary greatly depending on the cost of materials you finally select, the finishes (for furniture), fittings, paints etc. you select. The Estimate will give you a fairly good idea of what to expect based on standard materials which you may change if you do not like them. For example, the estimate may have vitrified floor tiles all over and you may opt for Italian marble or wooden flooring, so these additions will increase your budget.
The Designer may include his charges within the projected cost or separately charge a percentage (ranging anywhere from 5-15%) of entire project cost as his designing and execution fees. 
If the Estimate figures scare you too much, you may ask for Design Only services and settle to carry out the execution part yourself if you have the time and capability to handle it.

6) Compare 
When in doubt always go for a second or third opinion. No harm in comparing proposals, estimates, work ethics of two or more designers. The more homework you do before you settle for the final designer, the better.

7) Your Home, Your Space
Ideally designers input your visions to create personalized spaces that reflect your desires and likes. But there are many out there who force their trademark styles on your home. For instance, a family that is more at home with a traditional or rustic setting may become a modern haven of black-white-chrome because the designer convinced the clients of it. 
Be open to new ideas but don't get swayed to the extent that your home looks like someone else's! 

I hope these tips will help you narrow down your search for the right Interior Designer for your home. Do connect with me by commenting below if you have further queries, I'll try my best to help you out!

Beautiful Homes, Happy Homes!

Kala Ravi

You could check out lots more home and decor related posts by me here:

I am taking my blog to the next level with #MyFriendAlexa

Copyright © 2019 KALA RAVI

Monday, 23 September 2019

Yours Generously

"Mama, porum, porum, enough, please stop, I don't want so much!" I shriek in protest to the server ladling out large spoonfuls of ghee atop the rice on my elai1. Sitting next to me, dear Mami is chuckling away. She contentedly accepts a couple of spoonfuls of ghee and asks the server to bring her extra helping of payasam2. As the gleeful server moves ahead to press his hospitality on a mama seated further long, she whispers conspiratorially, "Urar veetu neiye, pondati kaiyu!"

Any major Tamilian function, say like an engagement, wedding, upanayanam, sashithiabdhapoorthi etc. is usually conducted in halls or mandapams with catering by professional caterers.
If you've ever observed, you'd have seen that functions catered by reputed and successful caterers will always have the benign presence of the owner of the enterprise, the chamayal3 contractor. He is hard to miss - Typically clad in pristine white shirt and pant with immaculate vibhuti4and chandanam kumkumam5  on his forehead. He wouldn't be actively involved in the service or directing his staff, he has delegated all that work. Still he will be there, overseeing the proceedings while making small talk with the host mama & mami, enquiring if everything is to their satisfaction. 

This wise gentleman, has a deep understanding of this oft quoted Tamil proverb or pazhamuzhi,
 ஊரார் வீட்டு நெய்யே , என் பொண்சாதி கையே
Urar veetu neiye, en pondati kaiyu", (literally translates to: Someone else's ghee and my wife's generous ladling). 
The Hindi equivalent would be, "Muft ka chandan, ghis mere nandan (literally translates to: It's free sandalwood, use/rub away my son).  
The English interpretation would be, 
"Using liberally or generously of, what is free to you. Being generous with what is not yours."

So what is this proverb all about, how did it come into being?

Mami informs me that traditionally aatu neiye or homemade ghee was an essential and important constituent of all meals in households. Homemade ghee was the norm for every family and making it was akin a ritual. 
The top layer of thick cream from home set curd was collected for about 2-3 days. This was then hand churned to yield white butter. The butter was rinsed with water and stored along with fresh water and kept in a cool place. The freshly prepared butter was added to the previous collection. Once a week, the entire butter was heated in a heavy bottomed pan with constant stirring to yield fragrant, rich ghee that cooled down to a beautiful grainy texture. 

The ghee so painstakingly extracted was a prized possession of every homemaker. So the mami of the house dispensed it with a lot of love and care to her family during all meals. She offered a second helping of this practically divine ingredient while serving special guests. Young children always got at least 2-3 spoonfuls of it in their paruppa sadamwhile mama looked forward to a generous dollop of neiye with jaggery to accompany his evening tiffin of adai.

The homemade ghee was often not enough to meet the needs of large households and hence sparingly used. Additional store-bought ghee or kadai neiye would have to purchased to supplement the stocks. This kadai neiye wasn't held in very high esteem by most mamis but nevertheless they'd use it to make their sweet and savoury bakshanams and tiffins. 
Never would a mami be caught dead serving her beloved husband even a spoonful of the kadai neiye with his afternoon lunch. 

All the same when the same mami and family went to someone else's home for lunch, matters changed. Mami would go into the kitchen to help during food serving time. 
If she chanced on the coveted neiye jadi - ghee jar then she'd ensure she served it to her husband seated in the pandi7....more liberally than at their home, 2-3 spoons at least, no holds barred...it isn't her neiye after all! 
So now you know, how the proverb "Urar veetu neiye, en pondati kaiyu" came into being!

Coming back to our catering contractor, this gentleman knows all about waiters going overly generous with the serving. They have nothing to lose, while he has everything to lose with the unwarranted generosity. And so, he keeps a hawk's eye on waywardly generous waiters and cooks pouring in reckless quantities of expensive ingredients like our favourite neiye and dryfruits, if he is to make his venture profitable while seeming to be magnanimous!

He calls out a waiter and instructs him to pack manga urgayu8, avial and sambar (basically perishables) for the hostess mami to carry back home. And when he eyes mami looking longingly at the luscious jangiri, he tells him to pack those too - they wouldn't last through the day in any case!


Trivia: The Brahmin custom of Parisheshanam before starting a meal by the the male members (those who've had their upanayanam) involves invoking certain Sanskrit mantras once rice and ghee is served on their plate by the lady of the house and only then partaking of the food, morsel by morsel chanting further mantras and then proceeding to totally dig in with gusto!


1 Elai - banana leaf
2 payasam - sweet dessert or pudding made in south India
3 chamayal - cooking
4 vibhuti - holy ash applied on forehead
5 chandanam kumkumam - sandalwood and red sindoor powder applied on forehead
6 paruppu sadam - dal rice (baby food)
7 pandi - seating of diners
8 manga urugayu - mango pickle

Some things are more precious because they don't last long

Enjoyed this post? Read more southern-spiced pieces,

The Mami Saga:

1) Common-place Curd Rice

2) Kaapi-ready

3) Of Dangling Drumsticks, Wily Vadus and more

4) Idli Seria Vanduda?

5) Mamievolution

6) Buzz Fuss

7) Yours Generously

I am taking my blog to the next level with #MyFriendAlexa

Copyright © 2019 KALA RAVI