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I admit, most of the time I live in a dream world. In one of my multiple dreams, I dream of green pastures and meadows. I dream of meadows splattered with beautiful wild flowers growing in varied colors of yellow, pink, orange, and fuchsia. I dream of the gentle buzzing of the bees gathering the sweet nectar of the flowers. I dream of melodious chirping of birds. I dream of healthy white cows with big black spots grazing and languoring in the afternoon sun in the meadows.

This dream is followed by a dream of big metal tins brimming with frothy, creamy pearly white milk and cream. I dream of such creamy milk being poured into old fashioned glass bottles and delivered to my door by a kind farmer. I dream of taking the cap off, licking the cream and then gulping the frothy, pure, creamy delight!!

Okay, okay I have read Heidi a bit too many times, but so what. I still believe in the goodness of all things old-fashioned and natural.

The closest I can get to my dreams in a densely populated metropolis is buying products of Straus Organic Family Creamery. Yes, they have adapted to the modern ways by providing the requisite low fat, non-fat fare, but they also have the good stuff. I could not conceal my joy when I saw the old-fashioned milk bottles clogged at the top with a dollop of cream. I could not resist scooping the cream and feeling its divine soft texture leading me to my “dream heaven.”

India’s official entry for the race to the Oscars. What are the first two thoughts that enter your mind when you think of movies from India? Well, either it is a BOLLYWOOD bonanza or a documentary depicting the dire straits of the poor in India. Either the images of festivities, exotic international locales, gorgeous long lustered gamine-esque lasses dancing around trees, men with bodies sculpted as if Michelangelo himself decided to sculpt David II pop into your head, OR you see the images of a poor, hungry, emaciated woman who sells herself such that her family can eat two square meals. Yes, extremes are shown in films from the sub-continent of India.

Well, brace yourself—this movie is neither. Yes, it has a dose of stark reality depicting the very bleak, basic, glamour-free rural India. Yes, it portrays the plight of the back-bone of India, THE FARMERS. Yes, it shows the wickedness of the politicians and the exploitation by the media of these naïve farmers.

But the film is also interwoven with intelligent and realistic humor. The humor is peppered throughout the film from the extremely salty expletives used by the 90 year old crippled mother to the almost nonchalant attitude of the farmer who is on the hook to commit suicide in a mere 72 hours. From the perfectly formulated British English of the aggressive TV correspondent to the various political angles of the politicians. At times it reaches such absurdism that one is compelled to guffaw out aloud.

The basic plot is that farmers are on the brink of losing their only ancestral asset to the government due to an unpaid loan. The government has a program that if a debtor commits suicide, the loan is waived to help the surviving members of the family. A poor unsuspecting farmer becomes a pawn between the media and the various levels of the corrupt government.

It is a movie about hope and moving on.  It truly depicts the resilient spirit of rural India. It portrays the essence of a true Indian; no matter how difficult the circumstances, one can find the courage to move on. A lesson to be learnt for those of us who rely on Prozac to deal with the “not so dire straits” in life.

P.S. The cherry on the cake is the excellent music by the band named Indian Ocean.

I have had a longstanding relationship with the coconut, longer than most of my human relationships have lasted. I was born in a small hilly town, in the midst of the Himalayas. It used to be the summer capital of the Britishers and aptly so, because of its natural beauty.

My upbringing reflected the simple and organic surroundings of my town. We ate simple but extremely healthy and nutritious food, and the only product I used in my hair for the longest time was Coconut Oil. I have to preface this by saying that in my town I was known as the “girl with the long hair.” My hair cascaded below my hips and NO they were not the hippy, stringy type of hair that you see around today. But, the most lustrous, ravenous dark hair.

Every Saturday night my mum used to bring out the blue Parachute hair oil bottle that was ubiquitous in all stores and massage warm coconut oil in my hair roots. She painstakingly made partings through my scalp such that each square inch of my scalp could get the requisite amount of oil. As any child would, I protested and whined to avoid my mum’s hands rubbing through my scalp (a luxury for which I now pay upwards of a $100.)

In fact, I had such beautiful hair that I tried my hand as a hair model.

Of course, as time passed, I weaned myself away from my mum’s massaging fingers filled with warm coconut oil and succumbed to the lure of cuts, colours, perms, dyes, flat irons, blow drying, stress, medications, hormonal changes, etc. Nothing wrong with that of course!

The irony is that I went from the “girl with the long hair” to the girl with the “thinning and very short hair.”  I have reconciled with the idea of the “new me” and have learnt to evade the consistent question from my peers, “what happened to the beautiful, long tresses?”  I have also learnt, there is more to one’s being than simply the exterior.  However, in all honesty I do miss my “inner girl with the long hair.”  In retrospect, maybe I should have continued the ritual Saturday night massage with the blue bottle of Parachute coconut oil.

Even now when I sporadically apply coconut oil, it is not only reminiscent of my mother’s loving and kneading hands, but I do wake up with a sparkling shine in my hair.

I am a self-proclaimed bath, shower and product junky. I have spent at least half of my life trying to find unique bath and body products not readily available in stores.  For such a purpose I have scoured all ethnic stores of the town/cities/countries I have visited.  Now some of the products are available online.

The irony is that my olfactory senses are hindered by allergies. However, this has been a blessing in disguise as my other senses have been heightened and I pick the most unique products sheerly based on visual beauty, texture, touch, feel and the mental ability to formulate the scent of the product. And trust me, I have never been wrong.

I try to avoid the big department stores when I travel as the products are ubiquitous and available almost all over the world.  The true pleasure in a find is when you discover the hidden gem!!!

I have had the most fun when I travel internationally. I love going to the local grocery stores and pharmacies to check out the products.  You will not believe the wide array of unique products I have found at a FARMACIA, PERFUMERIA, SALUMERIA (yes they carry soaps), CHEMIST SHOPS, DUKAAN, EPICERIE and of course the chemist shops at the international airport terminals.

Some of the products that I simply love and have been using for years are:

Cleo body products from Italy, infused with honey and yoghurt. Just the combination of the two products makes me salivate and reek of a luxuriating, holistic effect.  Both honey and yoghurt are known for their healing and repair values for the skin.  The whipped body butter is like applying fresh whipped cream to your body, drizzled with honey….so light and airy, almost scrumptious!!

The pink and white packaging gives it a distinct European touch.  I am happy to see the products are now available online, although I would rather go to Italy and buy it from the NEGOZIO.

From India, the MYSORE SANDAL SOAP owned by the Government and manufactured in 1916.  Can you believe that…1916, before INDIA got freedom from the Britishers.  The soap comes from the South of India, where Sandalwood trees used to grow in abundance.  It is the only soap in the world made of 100% SANDALWOOD OIL.  I love the retro packaging and the round cake is reminiscent of old world charm.

CLV Lux soaps from China….the soaps remind me of flowers, candy, marshmallows, crayons, happy times and children!  The bars are yellow, pink, blue and green.  Simply a visual delight making one look forward to a long, luxuriating shower. …..AND always remember cleanliness is next to Godliness!!!

The world has truly shrunk.  Boundaries have been destroyed.  All is accessible.  The world is my oyster.  Such clichés have truly delivered in today’s times.

A perfect example of destruction of such boundaries is the fashion world.  Western designers are getting inspiration from the Eastern World and vice versa.  Gone are the days when a T-shirt and jeans, long dresses or a business suit dictated Western fashion.  In the same vein, the days of traditional ethnic attire such as saris, kimonos, and mantoos are short lived as well.  Go to any Asian country and the “new traditional attire” is jeans, skirts, pants and dresses.

That is so wonderful to say the least as there is a galore of inspiration for designers.  It is also an opportunity for various countries and cultures to learn and grow with each other as after all, aren’t we living in a “WORLD ECONOMY.”

Look at the hair parting in the CHANEL Spring/Summer 2011 show.

Compare it to the hair parting with “Sindoor” in the model from India.

Filling the hair parting with a deep red “Sindoor” powder is a century old traditional practice in India denoting the marital status of the woman.  Of course, modern women in India too have veered away from such traditions and adopted the more Western style of shorter hairstyles.  But the black ink used by Chanel in the hair of the models is an example of inspiration from the other side of the world.

How about a “Dhoti” dress?  “Dhoti” is worn in lieu of pants by men in the remote parts of India.  It is a piece of cloth tied around the waist via a special technique.  It is supremely cool and comfortable in the sweltering heat as it allows great air ventilation.  In fact, it was the attire of the Father of India, MAHATAMA GANDHI.

Compare the traditional Dhoti to the modern version of the Dhoti Pants below.  Similar, right?

Well, designers are taking inspiration from the “Dhoti” to design dresses and pants in the Western world.  Probably because the drapes of it are soo sexy and intriguing when incorporated in CLOTHING.  Check out the Marchesa’s dhoti inspired dress below.

Well how about a Toga dress?  Toga was a one-piece garment, essentially the national dress of Rome.  Well, it surely inspired a number of modern day versions of the Toga.

So, boundaries have fallen, cultural demarcations are destroyed, perimeters have been demolished. Those of you interested in fashion, design, culture….set your wanderlust free and get inspired by the “SMALL WORLD.”

Saw the movie – The Town yesterday….no not set in one of those generic Towns that one sees in most U.S. cities, with the strip malls, perfectly manicured side-walks, Big Box stores and the obligatory generic “brand name” coffee shops, but a Town named Boston. A Town that still retains some individuality and does not seem to be sold out to corporatization (at least, it does not appear so in the movie.) A Town where you still see people walking on the streets and not driving in their cars. A Town where you still see wild flowers and over-grown grass and not perfectly planted petunias straight out of the Martha Stewart Home and Garden collection. I was floored by the European feel to The Town; very few of them left in the U.S.

I am sure by now you have guessed that since I have devoted one full paragraph to the geography of The Town, the USP of the movie is The Town where it is shot-BOSTON. Ben Affleck made The Town the central character of the movie and named it aptly.

The storyline, although narrated well is a true and tried formula for a successful heist movie. It is a concoction of Point Break and The Professional (especially the scene where Affleck ducks the Feds wearing a cop uniform.)

Affleck has good control over his facial features and of course is quite pleasing to the eye. Jeremy Renner brings a “pent up intensity waiting to explode,” to his role-possible remnants from Hurt Locker?

To appeal to the masses the required humor was added by the sentence “Go @##%%* yourself” said by thief (Affleck) to the FBI agent. Of course, the entire audience unanimously gaffawed….an insight to how low brow humor appeals to the masses.

All in all, entertaining and worth a watch on a Sunday afternoon when Fargo is not playing for the 67th time on TV.

Just read a line on style icon Carey Mulligan: “She’s got great taste; carefully avoiding anything above the knee, tight…” Buck, Joan Juliet. “The Talented Miss Mulligan.” Vogue. 2 September 2010. http://www.vogue.com/magazine/article/the-talented-miss-mulligan. 30 September 2010.

As a lawyer, it set the wheels of my analytical legal mind in action as to what exactly is the definition of “good taste.” Is it subjective or objective? Can it be loosely interpreted by each individual’s own sensibilities, or do certain established standards apply to define good taste? Are being sexy and having good taste synonyms, antonyms or both? Is the good taste of one the obscenity of another? After all, there can be art form in pornography as well.

For some, an above-the-knee short (or very short) dress is taste. For others a tight fitting (even better if skin tight) dress is taste. For yet another demographic it’s chest-baring dresses, and for others if a woman wears all the above rolled into one it is the epitome of style and sex appeal. Conversely, for some (not necessarily the puritanical ones) it could have the opposite “turn off” effect.

Believe it or not, there is law on the issue of interpreting what I will call “good taste,” for the purposes of this blog. It is outlined in a 1973 Supreme Court case, Miller v. California. No, I will not belabor you with the case as we are on to something more important and interesting here.

The Court analyzed whether a certain form of art (style/fashion are forms of art) would be offensive to an “average person” applying “contemporary community standards.” I question the test, as the definition of “contemporary community standards” has significantly changed from 1973 to 2010. As a lifelong observer and student of style and fashion I have observed that any style that is not form fitting or body baring to some extent is not appreciated by the “community.” Loose clothing, no matter how stylish, is considered matronly and homely. (Right about now I can hear Stella McCartney, Alber Elbaz and Nicolas Ghesquière scoff!)

As a personal observation, and nothing against the opposite sex, I have noticed the tighter and shorter my clothes are the more admirable glances I get from my darker halves. I could run around in the most stylish and tasteful Balenciaga or Prada dress but somehow fail to pique the interest of men.

So, if we follow the above logic is it appropriate to deduce that our “community standards” adhere to a blatant exhibition of a woman’s curves? Unless a woman succumbs to such exhibitionism will she not be considered stylish? Is that in keeping with “good taste?” Has there been such degeneration in our society that style and taste is all about body-baring sex appeal?

The sad part is that we are talking about “community standards.” Most of us human beings are gluttons for approval and such approval will obviously come from a “community.” And to please that “community” we will continue to comply with the “acceptable standards of the community,” i.e. body baring tight clothing, conformity and lack of imagination!