Friday, May 6, 2016


"Are you ready for a fun question- answer session?" I ask her.

Why? and what Question & Answer session ?" - She retorts.

When I explain to her about todays post, she asks me in return - "ok I will - but will you buy me a toy?".  I smile at her and pause for a minute thinking, come on Jay! you should know by now that nothing in this world comes for free and even a 6 year old knows that!

After this brief distraction, I put my thoughts together and get back to my conversational mood.

"Hmmmm - Ok - So what do you want for answering all my questions correctly?"  I ask her.
"Lego Disney Princess Cinderella's Castle. You can find it in the lower shelf in the girls toys section at Target", she educates me in a single breath.

Her innocence instantly melts my heart and even if I want to, I don't have the heart to say NO. I give in and thus starts our verbal jugalbandhi. I probe further to see what's in that little mind, read on to see what I learn.

Favorite color? - Purple.
Favorite Princess? - Sofia The First
Favorite pet? - Dog, preferably someone like Clifford
Favorite restaurant - Olive garden, I love the salty bread sticks there
What makes you happy - Buying Lego Toys at Target
What makes you sad - The thought of not being able to buy all the lego toys at Target
Favorite person in the whole wide world - My dad
Your secret wish to Santa this year - Psssst - it's to have long hair without extensions
Your daily prayer to god - People should be happy and healthy and live forever and forever and forever, they shouldn't die you know
What do you want to be when you grow up - An Engineer and a Fashion Designer
Favorite food - Spaghetti
Favorite song - Manwa Laage from the movie Happy New Year
One thing that you don't like to do - Going to school!!

Phew - for a minute, I thought that I was Karan Johar shooting questions at my guest on my show " Koffee with Karan". Every question had an answer and it came without a pause or a blink and I am sure one would have been left with no choice but to give her the much coveted gift hamper for finishing the rapid fire round in record time. 

Well, there's more to this drama and as you scroll down you will get to know why we had this photoshoot in the first place.

She can build an elaborate Disney Lego set from scratch in just 2 hours. She can operate all the TV remotes in the house with ease. She can download apps, send text messages and emails on her own. She can also choreograph bollywood songs without any assistance. She can happily doodle faces of people like a pro. To top it all she is adorable!

As I sit down to type, a little hand constantly nudges me and reminds me many times to write about her special skills, also don't forget to write that I am adorable, ok? I want to see how many likes I get, she quips impishly. Keeping her request in mind and to keep up with an old promise that I had made to her I decide to go ahead with this post for mothers day. My muse for today's post is 6 years old and she is my daughter. This is our first time together on Sage&Slingback and also our first photoshoot together ever since she was born. 

So darlings, put your hands together for my little sass ball - Ms.Ryka Parvati Rao popularly known as Sundari. A heady mix of mischief, drama, intelligence, attitude and humor. I hope you will enjoy this tete - e- tete  between mother and daughter, designed just for this mothers day.


Every child is special and so is the bonding between a mother and her baby. A mother's love for her child is fierce, forever and will let nothing stand in its path, proving that the bond they share is one of the strongest connections in nature. By cutting the umbilical chord, the physical attachment between the mother and her child might come to an end but I am sure that nothing in the world can change the emotional attachment a mother and her baby share.
The relationship that Ryka and I share is very unconventional and atypical. Forty years of age difference between us hasn't stopped us from having open, adult like conversations with each other. She is my soother, my young confidant and my little helper. As a parent, I want to sum up all my life experiences to instill strong values in her which in turn will help her develop into a smart, confident young lady one day. Though her dad means the world to her, she can't do without her AMMA, her MOM, her MOTHER. Without her my tomorrow wouldn't be worth the wait and my yesterday would not be worth remembering.


In the year 2013, I had a done a feature on Ritika Mittal and her clothing line MORA called "Less in MORA" on Sage&Slingback.  I had featured a young girl named Anvika Rao wearing a MORA Kalyani saree. And as I was getting Anvika ready for the shoot, I could sense a streak of displeasure and sadness in Ryka ( she was 4 then). Teary eyed, Ryka had asked me " Mom, why are you dressing her up? Why are you coloring her hand? Why don't you dress me up? Why can't I be on your blog?". Despite my many efforts to convince her that she was still too young to be on the blog, she insisted that she wants to dress up and pose too. It was then that I promised her that one day I will do a photoshoot with her and feature her on Sage & Slingback. Now I felt that the time is just right to capture her innocence and do a special feature on her on this mothers day, featuring some of the special moments of our life together for the first time.

It was around this time, I saw some portraits posted on Facebook by my neighbor and friend Mr. Bhima Rao. Though I knew that he was into photography (mainly nature and birds) his sudden change of genre made me stop and take a look at his work. It was then that I realized that he would be good for this particular photo shoot. When I approached him with the idea he was more than happy to photograph Ryka and I. 


"I was always passionate about photography and I got hooked  on by watching my uncle photograph us as kids with his Yashica.  I got my first opportunity to take pictures during my visit to France and that's the time I decided to own my first camera - a Canon Rebel.  I am a self-taught photographer and landscapes and cityscapes were my initial interests but later on, I started trying various genres like birds, fashion and portraits. I believe that there is nothing that can beat the feeling of seeing a smile on someones face. I am currently building my portfolio and still in the process of  learning a lots of techniques from friends and other professional photographers. I thank Ryka and Jayashree for being great sports and their enthusiasm made my job easier.


Around spring break, I explained the idea to Ryka and I told her that this will be her fun spring project. She expressed her interest in styling the shoot herself. She was adamant that she would pick her own clothes and accessories along with mine. I gave her a free hand and here is the result. Mr. Bhima Rao patiently photographed us over 2 sittings and 4 outfit changes. A huge thanks to him for making sure that Ryka was comfortable and enjoying the process ( read it as multiple breaks for a diva who wanted to check her I-pad in between shots and take cookie & drink breaks).  He was very good in talking to her and getting the best out of her. 

Like I mentioned, I did give a free hand to Ryka in choosing her outfits and my saris. I wanted to use my vintage Sabyasachi's for this shoot as I have always worn his clothes to all the special occasions in my life. Be it Ryka's first birthday or her naming ceremony or her " Anna Prashana". So this shoot was our first one too and I wanted to wear something very old from my Sabya collection, something that he had designed when he had first started out. I personally feel when a designer starts out fresh, he puts his heart and soul into his work and the outcome is a true reflection of oneself . So I showed Ryka my Sabyasachi collections and out of the many, she chose these four for the shoot.

Ryka chose a lace dress from Target ( yes, that's her favorite store) in off - white and gold, with gold accessories for herself. When she picked an off white and a gold lace Sabyasachi sari for me, my heart sank for a minute as I am least thrilled about wearing lace saris (though this is one of the few french lace collectibles I have from the designer in my closet). But her reasoning was " Amma - it matches mine perfectly". Though amma is not into matching she had to give in as this was her daughters first styling project, remember?

Sundari wanted to show off her cool cotton knit sweater paired with her fluffy heart skirt for this look (again from Target). I thanked my stars when she decided that I should wear an off white flecther sari from one of Sabyas earlier collections. "I love the sparkly design in the end ( read it as Palla)"  she exclaimed with a twinkle in her eyes.

A zipper lace cardigan paired with an ice blue lace skirt from Janie & Jack was her outfit for look 3. Ryka decided to choose a cotton voile teal Sabyasachi saree with a magenta intricate hand embroidered border, for me. This time the deciding factor was the matching pink hair accessory. "My hair clip matches perfectly with your border. This is so cool!" she told me innocently.  A great stylist in the making, I thought.

Special mention : she was very particular that with this look, her hair has to be in a side pony with 2 loose strands of hair falling on her face. She made me comb her hair multiple times till she got the look right - phew!!

Look 4: 
One of my favorite looks that Ryka put together for us : A beautiful Sabyasachi creation for me in Matka silk ( one of the oldest creations from Sabyasachi) and a lace dress in lovely green for herself from Macy's . She decided to wear her favorite mismatched Mickey Minnie pair of black Mary Janes with this dress. 
Special Mention : The neckpiece is from my favorite silver brand "Rabbit out of the Hat". I am wearing a Nepali Jantar necklace which is a striking way of wearing an amulet box. Both originate in the Middle Hills region of Nepal.
The amulets (jantars) are square containers with an elaborately decorated surface,  cut in the back to allow for the insertion of mantras, relics, or medicine to serve their protective function. it is suspended by double decorative chains and held together with a large lotus-shaped clasp in a figure-eight form.

As we were winding up the shoot, my phone rang and a loud voice beckoned us - " Rykaaaaaaaa, are you done with your home work? Did you finish your math sums? Did you practice your jolly phonics?". It was Appa on the other end of the line and like any other Indian parent he was making sure that there is a balance of creative fun and academics in Sundari's life. 

Oops -  got to go folks, appa is waiting - it's time to nurture Sundari's left brain now!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Color me happy!

You are my creative home. You are my voice. You give me unconditional love and support. Staying away from you for this long hasn't been easy for me. Trust me Sage&Slingback, I heart you.

Why have I become so mushy all of a sudden? I ask myself, has the "Cheeni-kum" bone in me gone on a vacation? Should I blame it on the pink hearts that were floating around the Valentine weekend? Well, it didn't take long to find an answer to my own question. Home is where the heart is and it feels lovely to do a blog post on Sage&Slingback, my creative home, after almost a year.

"Interesting projects are in the pipeline and some big announcements will be made in early 2015"-  this was my parting message in 2014.  It's been more than a year since then and I seriously missed pouring my heart out and interacting with you all candidly. Anywhere I went, people made it a point to tell me how much they missed reading my blog posts, asking me when I would be back on Sage & Slingback. Though the thought of coming back was always on my mind, I was still unsure. I just didn't have the time to sit down and put my thoughts together to create something beautiful. I had a full plate! Now that I am here, it feels good. Trust me, it really does!

At the beginning of this year, one of my art student asked me "So what's your resolution for the new year?". Though I keep asking this to myself every year, even setting aside a few goals, I only happen to conveniently break them later. But this year I am seriously determined to accomplish a few things for myself, one out of which is to resume blogging on Sage&Slingback. Designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee had once rightly said that he prefers reading blogs to articles as they are fearless and paint the real picture of the person who is writing them. I couldn't agree more. Nothing can be more exciting than coming up with creative blog posts for my readers in the days to come.

As the memories of 2015 start to unfold, I am amazed to see how much a year has changed my life. I have taken a spiritual stance and have shaved my full head of hair. Health and wellness have become a primary priority. Sundari has turned to a chirpy 6 year old. My tryst with Madhubani has deepened, keeping me busier and artistically satisfied than ever. 

As I was toying with ideas for my first blog post on Sage&Slingback for this year I happened to read an article by designer Payal Khandwala. In the article she mentioned that her fashion sense is an extension of her artistic personality, both art and fashion require creativity, talent, imagination and a point of view.  That line resonated with me, her words rang true in my case too. I find a lot of similarities between the art that I teach and the fashion that I believe in. Bold colors, imperfections and attention to details play a major role in Madhubani art and I celebrate the vibrancy of the folk art through my everyday dressing. The idea of juxtaposing folk art and fashion seemed really interesting and out of the box. This post is my attempt to shed light on the fact that both art and fashion are two different sides of the same coin.

Why Payal Khandwala?

The three things that I focus on when I buy an outfit are - affordability, wearability and how to make that outfit my own?  In recent years if I am heavily influenced and inspired by a designers work, it is Payal Khandwala.  Her line of clothing is simple, strong and sophisticated - exactly the way, I like my clothes. 

Payal Khandwala is an artist first and then a designer. Being a huge fan of her paintings and now her clothing line, she was my first choice for this post. She is influenced by Japanese designs and her approach to clothing is much like her art . The prism with which she sees fashion is therefore distinctive and she treats dressmaking simply as a shift in the canvas. She orchestrates color and textures to create layered separates that are dramatic yet minimal, with subtle attention to details. Her background in fine arts and fashion, coupled with her cultural influences, growing up in Mumbai, schooling in New York and Barcelona, has given her an inimitable perspective. She launched her eponymous design label "Payal Khandwala" in 2012. Her clothes are made with love in India using handwoven silks, khadi, cottons and linens, in a rich palette, soaked in a tradition of color.

Her designs are inspired by her art.

I find a lot of similarities between Payal's creations and Madhubani art as well. The following images show the color play between the two. This juxtaposition comes easily to me because my art and my fashion are an extension of me and my artistic sensibilities. I have also introduced some new lipstick shades in this post to add a pop of color and drama.

VRINDAVAN: This look is fiercely feminine with easy silhouettes in khadi and linen, making it softer and fluid. With a boat neckline and gathers at the front, this bright yellow one size linen dress fits all. 
Vrindavan is a Madhubani interpretation of Lord Krishna's birthplace, where Krishna and Gopikas play raasleela - a dance of divine love.
Lipstick : Tom Ford Matte - VELVET CHERRY

Payal's  geometry inspired jewelry is made of leather and when used along with this dress, makes a statement.

I have paired a collared cotton shirt from Gap with pleated palazzos from Payal Khandwala. The palazzo is a fabulous separate to have in your wardrobe. One can easily mix and match a lot of tops with it to have a dressed up or a dressed down look. 
This huge Radha - Krishna mural  adorns my bedroom wall. The colors here compliment my outfit beautifully with dominant shades of red, blue and white.
Lipstick : Tom Ford Matte - RUBY RUSH

The neck piece is from SUHANI PITTE and it has an interesting South Indian temple jewelry motif in the center.

Here though the emphasis is on shape, proportions are paramount. The silhouette has a structural quality to it and the design voice is neither too masculine nor too feminine. The top is made out of color blocked silk and a contrasting shocking blue colored pants add the much required pop of color. 
I chose the intricate Jalatarang - the fish swirl to represent the multi hues and textures in this outfit.
Lipstick : Bobby Brown - BURNT RED

The necklace is a tribal piece from Designer label FATHERLAND.

Vintage Benarasi sari in hotpink with dull gold paisley's on it was my ultimate choice to represent Shrishakti. To match the black in the art work, I paired the saree with a men-inspired collared black shirt from Banana Republic. 
Shrishakti denotes  "Ma Durga" equated to woman power. The colors in pink and red along with the gold paisleys and black lining match the Benarasi drape.
Lipstick : Chanel - Rouge allure velvet - 51 LA BOULEVERSANTE

This semi silver neck piece from Gujarat is a gift from one of my art student.

Two separates from Payal Khandwala complete this look. A silk collared shirt in yellow/green is worn with a khadi silk asymmetrical skirt in burnt pink.
The colors in the Kathyayini art work blend beautifully with the colors of the separates.
Lipstick - Chanel - Rouge allure velvet - 8 LA FASCINANTE.

I let the clothes do the talking by keeping the jewelry minimal. The statement silver cuff is from FabIndia and the silver tribal Kada is from Surendri by Yogesh Chowdhary.

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live and what is happening. I am sure it was a delight to see how amazingly the colors, traditional art and fashion can blend, an assertion of the fact that art and fashion are indeed 2 sides of the same coin!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Whispers from my heart.....

"My momma always said, life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get".
I love this line from the movie "Forest Gump" and I think it still holds good for many of us. While we are busy making plans, life has something else in store for us. As I was writing this  the news of the barbaric Peshawar shooting broke and it left me thinking even more about the surprises and uncertainties that life throws at us. Having said that one cannot stop dreaming or hoping for a better future, right? My life would stop the day I stopped dreaming and my hope would end, the day I stopped believing. I think it's time to count our blessings and start appreciating the littlest things in life. I look forward to a fabulous 2015 as I tell myself - "Everyday do something that will take you an inch closer to a better tomorrow".
I also take this opportunity to thank all my readers for making "Sage&Slingback" what it is. I attribute it's success to your unconditional love and support. Interesting projects are in the pipeline and some big announcements will be made in early 2015.  I request your continued support in the coming years and I wish you all an exciting year ahead -  a year that is filled with hope, happiness and a better tomorrow!

Bollywood & I:

My earlier posts for this year have been a little profound. I was digging on the many aspects of life, precisely happiness and peace. I take a break from my soul searching phase and want to end this year with a lighthearted post.  Accept my creative madness with a dash of smile and I am sure you will enjoy my natter.
Irrespective of the notion that bollywood is for dim wits, I have no qualms in admitting that I am crazy about bollywood movies. While my friends spent their pocket money on fast food and make up, as a teenager, I saved mine to buy copies of Filmfare & Stardust. Apparently people who know me well, know that I thrive on bollywood and everything about it fascinates me. Masala, melodrama, item songs, running around the tree and breaking into songs - I embrace it with open arms. 
I am sure I am going to lose a handful of readers after this candid confession, but it's a less known fact about me that I am a huge Salman Khan fan. I was in my first  year of engineering when "Maine Pyar kiya" was released and like any other teenager of my times I was completely "fida" over him and since then I have remained a Salman Khan loyalist. I take his failures personally and celebrate his successes as if they were my own. Though I don't watch every movie of his, I religiously follow his professional carrier graph, indulge in his personal gossips and remember his birthday - Dec 27th every year.

Every time I talk passionately about my liking for him, eyes are rolled, faces are made and I am sniggered at. People waste no time in throwing the most obvious questions at me. "How can you like a guy who has injured 4 and killed 1 in a drunken state?, How can you like a guy who ill treats all his girlfriends?, How can you like a guy who is insensitive to animals?" they argue. I stand there without an answer or a counter argument. All I know is that behind his bad boy image there is a heart of gold that is less publicized, a heart that reaches out to those less fortunate ones in the name of hope, care & happiness, a heart that believes in Being Human!

Forbes, India recently ranked Salman as the current superstar of bollywood. The quote read: A quest for redemption: Though entangled in court cases and mired in controversy, Salman Khan's super stardom is now being channeled into a genuine effort to do good.

Salman, Sundari and 3 Idiots:

Recently, one of the Indian channels on television had a rerun of the 2009 blockbuster movie, Raj Kumar Hirani's  "3 idiots". Normally, I don't watch hindi movie reruns, but with this one, I paused and decided to watch the rest.  A few minutes into the movie I realized that I was smiling. The memories of the 2009 days loomed large. It reminded me of my conversation with my gynecologist.
"Dr. Bennett - Can I have my baby on Dec 25th or say precisely on Dec 27th ?" - I asked him.  Little did he know about my hidden agenda. After a couple of check up's he told me that I could bring her to this world any day after Dec 27th. I was quite disappointed  with his answer but the prospect of seeing my Sundari soon cheered me up, after all I had waited for 14 long years to see her. 
"3 Idiots" was about to release on the 25th & I wanted to watch the movie as it was a part of my "to do before my Sundari is born" list,  27th was Salman's birthday whom I wanted Sundari to share her birthday with. Though I ended up watching 3 idiots, first day first show on 25th, my latter wish of Sundari sharing her birthday with Salman Khan on Dec 27th was not fulfilled. Even to this day I blame it on Dr. Benette - shucks, I missed it by a day, I tell myself. It's been 5 years since "3 idiots" was released and ironically as Raju Hirani is all geared up for his next  release "PK" this month, Sundari will be turning 5 and Salman is all set to step in to his big 50.

A high five:

December is a month of jingle bells, celebrations and many memories.  All bundled up in her cozy fleece, my Sundari came home on the cold morning of Jan 1st, 2010. We welcomed her with an aarthi while Bhimsen Jhoshi's song " Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma" played in the background. It has been 5 years since then and the journey has been the most fulfilling one. She brought happiness to my life and now it was my turn to celebrate her and her big 5 through this post. Recently I had hosted a holiday/ pre birthday bash for her and her little friends. Here are the snippets from her dress up party.

Home made orange - chocolate bundt cake: 

A pinterest favorite: Santa Hats

You can never go wrong with an Ina Garten ( Barefoot Contessa) recipe : Heirloom tomatoes topped with pesto cream cheese.

Seen here in Alice & Olivia outfit and a bow statement neck piece from Anthropologie.

Sundari & Strawberri:

As I end this post, I will leave all of you pondering over this line from Salman's recent movie KICK. This describes him and my liking for him very aptly I guess - "Mere baare mei jyaada socho mat. Mein sab ki dil mein aata hoon, samaj mei nahi".