Tuesday, June 29, 2010

On a Chocolate High

“During my job at the Taj pastry kitchen, I was given a mound of chocolates to wrap. This was my first touch and feel of chocolate. Back then, I did not know that I would be doing this for the rest of my life”, says renowned chocolatier Chenddyna Schae. Chenddyna launched Jus’ Trufs to create a brand for her exclusive chocolates. From a small beginning with a Diwali stall at the Bombay Store to having big corporates as clients, Jus’ Trufs has come a long way since its inception in 2001. Opting out of mass production, Chenddyna carved a niche for herself by customizing chocolates to meet the need of each client. “I wanted Jus’ Trufs to be a corporate gifting company and not just another producer of homemade chocolates”, she says.
Chenddyna’s chocolaty journey began way back in the eighties when she was a fresh hotel management graduate. “Being an independent woman, I found it hard to take orders. I gave up my job and began to work from my home kitchen”, she says. Making burgers, pizzas and cakes while in Manipal and making chocolates after she moved to Mumbai, Chenddyna had a modest beginning as a self-made entrepreneur. She then took a break from commercial chocolate making to devote her time to her children and family. After relocating to Bangalore, she launched Jus’ Trufs and was back to business after a 10-year hiatus.
In the nascent stages of her venture, Chenddyna’s kitchen was her workplace and her domestic help assisted her in chocolate making. She now has a dedicated team working to make chocolates and a factory that can produce up to 100 kilograms of chocolates per day. There were just four varieties initially, but now Chenddyna finds it hard to put a number on the flavors on offer.
Jus’ Trufs is known for its soft-centered truffles but it offers a lot more than just truffles.Local flavours like cinnamon, elaichi, chai masala and coconut are a huge hit with foreigners who savor the taste of India in the chocolates. Innovative creations like edible chocolate photo frames, chocolate roses and chocolate logs add variety to the collection. Photographs, logos, invites and messages for any occasion can be printed on these custom made chocolates. “There is immense attention to detail. Maintaining personal contact with clients is sometimes challenging but essential if we need to understand their specific requirements”, says Chenddyna talking about the care taken to process each order.
The ingredients that go into making various types of chocolates are sourced from the far corners of the world. “Raw chocolate is imported from Belgium and coco beans are sourced from Ghana. We have other raw materials coming from Singapore, Madagascar and Sao Thome. Blending these ingredients is our secret recipe”, says Chenddyna. The colours and flavours of the season influence the presentation of the chocolates. Different moulds and wrappers are brought out for special occasions like Valentines Day, Christmas, Diwali, Rakhi, Father’s Day and Easter. To keep up with the spirit of the ongoing football frenzy Jus’ Trufs has introduced chocolates that resemble footballs.
Jus’ Trufs provides end-to-end solutions in designing chocolates and hampers that are delivered to different parts of India and abroad. The packaging is customized for each delivery depending on the distance and weather conditions. Catering to an exclusive clientele, the orders range from extravagant wedding spreads to huge corporate orders. While some chocolates are bought for a reason, the others are for the season and the rest are for sheer indulgence in rich chocolate that makes people high and happy.

Retail Outlets: Jus’ Trufs have their counters at Hypercity in Whitefield, Columbia Asia Hospital, Crossword on Residency Road, Infinitea on Cunnigham Road, Chocoworld in Jayanagar and at the International terminal of the BIAL.

For more details log on to http://www.justrufs.com/.

This article was published in The Hindu, Bangalore edition on the 30th of June 2010. Below is the link to the online version of the article.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Voice of the Waves

The sun hinted signs of retreating. Its golden rays gleamed across the water. The clock struck five and within minutes the splendour of the surroundings was concealed in a veil of darkness. A pathway hewn between a cluster of trees led us to a resort about which we had heard rave reviews. Beyond the lanky trees is a beautiful beach we were told. Our cottage was just a few meters away from the crescent shaped Radhanagar Beach, one among the most famed beaches of Asia. We were in Havelock, one of the most popular islands for tourism in the Andamans.
Barefoot is a resort by the sea. Cobbled pathways lead to cottages that have donned the colours of the earth. There are ten fan-cooled Nicobari cottages, eight air-conditioned Andaman villas and an exclusive Nicobari suite. Locally available natural materials like cane, bamboo and dried leaves are extensively used in the construction. Cradled under a canopy of trees, these cottages with warm lighting, thatched roofs, wooden floors and sunlit bathrooms strike a chord with nature. There is a conscious effort to optimize the use of natural resources and integrate with the environment in a symbiotic manner. Walking into nature’s arms was a pleasure and an experience to treasure.
Recipes from around the world amidst aromas that are truly Indian have made their way into the kitchen at Barefoot. We treated ourselves to a platter of mouth-watering delicacies. The dishes ranged from chocolate pancakes and idlis for breakfast to pasta and parathas for lunch followed by gulab jamuns and chocolate truffle for dessert. Visitors can hang up their feet at the lounge bar and enjoy a drink.
While we were at the restaurant one afternoon, the clonk of a bell cracked the silence. The tingle heralded the arrival of Rajan and all eyes turned in his direction. Rajan, a 60-year-old elephant has made Havelock his home.Adopted by Barefoot, Rajan has become an icon of the resort. He has a long-standing relationship with his mahout with whom he shares an intimate bond. Rajan is taken into the forest during the day and spends the night at the resort. Among other things, that make this gentle giant special is his ability to swim. He loves to wade into the water and paddle in the sea. Visitors can dive and snorkel with Rajan and have their photograph clicked underwater.
Lured by the exciting outdoors offered by Barefoot Adventures, we chalked out a plan for our stay at Havelock. Snorkeling, scuba diving, joy fishing, island camping, finding Rajan in the forest, diving with Rajan, kayaking and hiking in the nearby hills were some of the activities on offer. There are many good spots for snorkeling and scuba diving around Havelock. While scuba diving is for experts, snorkeling is for novices. With no prior experience, scuba diving would have been a tough proposition so we chose to explore the waters of the Andaman Sea with our snorkels.
Aboard a dungi (a small motorboat) loaded with snorkels, fins, tender coconuts and biscuits we headed out to Elephant Beach, the first stop for the day. Elephant Beach seemed like a piece of heaven on earth with boats anchored to the shore and tree stumps flaunting artistic poses against the backdrop of the blue-green sea. Floating on the surface of the water and breathing through the snorkel we marveled at the world that lies beneath. Bold and beautiful corals painted the ocean bed with a riot of colours.The silent orchestra of the depths of the ocean was mind blowing. Schools of fish seemed to be going about their business hastily. I watched in awe, as the fish pranced around the colourful corals gleefully. Humphead parrotfish, clown fish, cleaner wrasse, sea stars were a few that we could identify from the many that crossed our path. We were told that these waters are home to a colossal number of species of fish including exotic ones like manta rays, pacific lionfish, parrotfish and marbled stingrays. South Button, Aquarium, Henry Lawrence, Inglis and Lighthouse are other good spots to feel the pulse of the sea and explore life under the surface of the water.
Walking along the beaches at Havelock is an out of the ordinary experience. Shells of myriad colours and shapes strewn on the sliver-white sand invariably have live creatures inside. The intricate sand art created by crabs is intriguing. These beaches are throbbing with life, quite literally. The water sparkles like a million gems as the sun hovers over its expanse, the waves dance to the tunes of the wind, the shade of the trees on the beach is inviting. Slow and laid back, these beautiful beaches are perfect for those who like to escape into the beauty of nature and the bliss of serenity.
We rented a scooter and hit the tarmac to explore Havelock Island. Riding along the shoreline we stopped at beaches along the way. The play of light and the colours of the water were a sight to behold. Starting from Radhanagar Beach we traversed the entire island on our bike reaching the Kalapathar Beach on the other side. Although we were assured that Havelock is very safe even at night, it got a bit spooky as we made our way back with the headlights piercing the darkness. There were no signs of people for miles on end. Braving the chilly wind and creatures calling out from the bushes we reached the resort.
Intensive logging has thinned down this densely wooded island. The residents are migrants from the mainland and visitors are tourists from India and abroad. Boats trickle into the jetty ferrying people and almost everything else that is used on the island. Newspapers are brought in all the way from Kolkatta every day. On the island are seven villages, splendid beaches and fields of areca, coconut, paddy and banana. Village 1 has the boat jetty and carries a trail of litter left behind by the large number of tourists who visit Havelock. Village 3(Govindnagar) has the market place and is abuzz with activity. This is where the locals buy commodities that are brought in from the mainland. Colourful Indian artifacts, shells and local handicrafts on display in roadside shops make a walk down the bazaar an interesting one. Village 5 has a string of resorts, restaurants and cafes lining the beach. Village 7(Radhanagar), located towards the northwest of Havelock is an ocean of calm. The Time Magazine voted the Radhanagar Beach as the best beach in Asia in 2004.
Crystal clear waters, sun soaked beaches and strips of silvery sand draw beach buffs to Havelock. Spectacular coral reefs and colourful fish that dart underwater make this a great spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. Hills overlooking the sea and mangroves bordering rivulets add variety to the landscape. Be it walking along the beach, diving into the sea or just devouring delicious food, Havelock presents a slice of adventure, tossed in bright sunshine and garnished with a cool blue of the ocean.

Quick Facts:

Getting There: Port Blair is connected to Chennai and Kolkatta by air and sea. Ferrys ply between Port Blair and Havelock. Ensure that the flight timings and ferry timings to Havelock Island are well co-coordinated. Scooters are the best way of getting around Havelock. Carry your driving license.

Season: The weather is warm and oppressive for most part of the year. It is relatively cool in the peak season lasting from December to January. Avoid a visit to the Andamans from May through September.

Tariff: The tariff of cottages and villas range from Rs 6500/- to Rs 9000/-
For reservations contact,
Central Reservations
Barefoot Group, B-4, RM Towers
No. 108, Chamiers Road
Chennai -600018
Ph +91-9003115483, +91-44-24341001

For more information log on to http://www.barefootindia.com/

This article was published in The Hindu on the 20th of Jun 2010. Below is the link to the online version of the article.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Window to the Wild

In the early eighties, a wildlife resort called Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) was born at Mastigudi, along the banks of the River Kabini (a tributary of the Cauvery). JLR started as a small setup with a few tents by the river. Three decades later, it has grown into a chain of tourist homes that have pioneered eco-tourism and brought the locals and the tourists closer to the wild.
As part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of this award-winning government establishment, the Chief Minister unveiled a commemorative book titled “Wild Vistas”. The richly illustrated book is a treasure trove of nature’s bounties in Karnataka. Interspersed with stunning pictures that exude the energy of the wild, the book traces journeys into the jungles.
The attractive book is the tireless effort of Kunal Sharma supported by N. D. Tiwari. Kunal Sharma is the resort manager of Kabini River Lodge, the flagship property of JLR and N. D. Tiwari is the Managing Director of JLR. Kunal’s interest in JLR was kindled when he studied about the resort and its eco-tourism practices while doing his MBA specializing in Forestry Management. As a person who studied JLR academically, Kunal saw JLR from the outside and then it’s working from the inside. The book is an objective account by a person with a passion for the jungle.
For ages Karnataka has lured adventure lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and wanderlust tourists. From sun soaked beaches to misty hilltops, from the hiss of King Cobras to the kiss of elephants, from elusive tigers to vibrant peacocks, from dolphins to mahaseers, Karnataka is a traveler’s paradise. To its north, the Kali cascades down the Sahyadris. To its south, the Cauvery meanders along rugged slopes. To its west, towering hills stand in the way of rain-laden clouds.In between are dense forests, sylvan hills, velvety plains and verdant valleys. An assortment of flora and fauna thrive midst the loops of flowing rivers and the lungs of the countryside.
It is hard to separate JLR from the best on offer for a nature lover in Karnataka. Twelve and counting, JLR’s resorts in pristine locations are windows to the vistas of wild Karnataka. Pictures spanning decades capture the landscape, the people and the wildlife – the essence of the biosphere of the state. “This book is about Karnataka, JLR is mentioned in the passing”, says Kunal who burnt midnight oil over the research for the book over the past two years. The book is a labor of love and is a compilation of the work of professional and amateur photographers, naturalists, travel writers and the staff of JLR. “Photographers gave some of their best captures without any hesitation. None of them asked for money”, says Kunal as he talks about the contributions that poured in generously.
JLR has loyal guests whose relationship with the resort and its conservation efforts have strengthened with time. “Eco-tourism should cover all aspects of nature. This book is an example of JLR’s association with nature lovers”, says N. D. Tiwari. Late Colonel John Wakefield’s principles of sustainable tourism ensured that JLR endorses and practices the concepts of eco and educative tourism. “Papa (as Colonel John Wakefield is affectionately called) opened his house for the research of the book”, says Kunal who unearthed some old photographs and references from shelves of the grand old man’s library.
Apart from showcasing the natural grandeur of each of the JLR resorts, the book is peppered with guest columns by eminent personalities like Bittu Sahgal, Dr. A.J.T. Johnsingh, Rohit Barker and Hugh and Coleen Gantzer. It also carries special features on eco-tourism and the people and traditions of the state.
The book puts forth the eloquence of nature. Some pictures speak a thousand words; others leave you at a loss for words. The yawn of a tiger, the art of a weaverbird, the kill of a leopard, the feed of a frog, the call of the wild- you can attribute some pictures to serendipity, the others to long hours, days, months and years in the jungle. Wild Vistas is an elaborate collection of evocative pictures, descriptive experiences and moments that are truly wild.

This article was published in The Hindu, Bangalore edition on the 10th of June 2010. Below is the link to the online version of the article.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dancing Queen

Gender is not black and white but shades of grey. Social stigma and bias pervades our society even as transgenders are fighting for their rights. Danseuse Hemabharathy Palani has broached on this socially sensitive topic in her latest work called ‘Uruvam’ (means form), a contemporary dance piece inspired by the mythological character of Ambe in the Mahabharatha. Prior to Uruvam, she conceptualized and created Chaaya (means shadow), another performance based on a social theme. While Uruvam is about osmosis of genders and sexuality Chaaya is about emerging from the shadows of sexual abuse at a young age.
Hemabharathy is a senior repertory member of Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts, Bangalore. From the tender age of 12, she trained in Kuchupudi under renowned dancer Vyjayanthi Kashi. Apart from Indian classical dance forms like Bharathanatyam and Kathak, she has also trained in kalarippayattu, yoga, ballet and Pilates. “Gestures are used extensively in classical dance. Being a trained classical dancer, it was not easy to express myself only through body movements without any gestures”, she says talking about the transformation from classical to contemporary dance.
Chaaya is a tribute to unsuspecting victims of child sexual abuse. In the backdrop of an electro-acoustic musical score, Chaaya recreates the turmoil of womanhood, battling to erase a traumatic past. “Even if the child is not able to comprehend the gravity of the event, the body remembers it for many years”, Chaaya trails the stories of a few who are living with the scars of abuse and exploitation.
Hemabharathy was the recipient of the Robert Bosch Art Grant 2009, an award for young and talented artists by Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions Ltd. In Uruvam, a creation that transcends time she has woven mythological stories, personal experiences and inputs from psychologists and experts. This 22-minute solo dance work, choreographed and performed by Hemabharathy was a yearlong project. “I want to use dance as a platform to raise the voice of the transgender community. This is my contribution to society for everything that dance has given me”, she says.
Uruvam, developed and produced under the auspices of Robert Bosch Art Grant gave Hemabharathy the freedom to express herself. The background scores are by Australian music composer Leah Barclay and the digital design and graphics are the work of Japanese media artist Matsuo Kunihiko. “I could devote all my time to my work as I did not have to worry about the money. Raising funds is a challenge”, she says.
As an upcoming artist on the Indian stage, Hemabharathy has many awards and accolades to her credit. She received the Priyadarshini award from the All India Ferderation and was conferred the title of an ‘A’ grade artist by the national television channel Doordarshan in 1999. In 2003, she was selected to represent India in an international choreography event in Essen. She was part of a team that performed at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan in front of the Heads of State of India, Brazil and South Africa. Hemabharathy has performed in Bonn, Frankfurt, Essen, Venice, Monaco, Munich, Dusseldorf, Bologna, Lublin, London, Yena, Amsterdam, Yokohama, Norway, Japan and China as part of the Attakkalari repertory. She is part of the current multi-media dance production ‘Chronotopia’ which toured Europe in March 2010.
An enduring journey through pain and suffering, varied perspectives and unheard voices made it to Hemabharathy’s storyboard. Through creativity and the power of her agile body she introduced a level of abstraction to real life stories. She studied the subject with passion and collated her experiences into performances that carry a social message.

Uruvam premieres at Alliance Francaise de Bangalore on 12th Jun 2010. The show begins at 7:30. Entry is free.

This article was published in The Hindu on the 10th of June 2010. Below is the link to the online version of the article.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Dance For a Dream

Lanky trees danced to the pitter-patter of rain. The wind was nippy and the smell of the wet earth wafted in the air. Cartwheels, action, dance and drama came together during a practice session of a unique performance called ‘Abertura’ (means ‘an opening’ in Portuguese). I was in BOSCO, a home for street children, watching Heidi Rehse make the newly formed troupe dance to her tunes. The exuberance of the trees seemed to have diffused indoors as the boys grooved to toe-tapping music. Much like trees that stood tall despite the gusty wind, the boys danced gleefully despite being victimized by life’s cruel ways.
Heidi is a professional dancer and choreographer from Germany. In the eighties, she went to Brazil to study dance through a student exchange program. For the love of dance, she stayed on for many years after the completion of her course. As her passion and profession, dance has become a way of life for Heidi. Being an exponent of samba, samba reggae, modern and contemporary dance, she was a part of various dance companies including Afro Dancarte, CIO Afro Danca and Spazzio Company. During her stay in Brazil, she interfaced with children in favelas (shanty towns) of Rio de Janeiro and introduced them to different forms of art. In 2000, she successfully conducted a dance and theatre project called Salamaleque (means ‘lively’ in Portuguese) in Rochina, the biggest favela in Rio and South America. Encouraged by the success of the project, Salamaleque was transformed into an NGO that supports children in education and health care apart from making them culturally aware.
From favelas in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) to townships in Accra (Ghana) Heidi used art as a medium to bridge the gaps of race, religion and social status. Abertura was conceived in Rochina and has traveled across continents to Europe, Africa and now Asia. Heidi has worked with street children, children living in slums and immigrants who are trying to find their feet in a new country. “Everyone in the world can dance. Art is where the people are”, says Heidi who has been training people from different strata of society. Immigrants in Germany (in the age group of 11-30 years) who trained under her are going to perform in the upcoming International Youth Festival in Poland in June 2010. Samba Ao Cubo is a group of professional women dancers in Stuttgart, Germany who raise funds for the Salamaleque NGO by staging dance performances.

Working with children from disadvantaged backgrounds is a challenge but Heidi enjoys the experience and that is reason she is here in India. During her one-month stay in Bangalore she will conduct dance and art workshops for the BOSCO boys. "Children should have access to a cultural life. I want to introduce these boys to different forms of music and dance like gumboot and hip-hop. The workshop will include lessons covering the basics of dance and choreography”, she says. Heidi wants to combine the Indian street dance with elements from hip-hop, gumboot and other dancing styles. “We transform anger and rage into dance”, she adds describing Abertura, a performance that depicts violence and then transforms it into a high-energy dance. It is a fusion of theatre elements, non-violent fights, music and mimicry. The workshop will culminate with a staged performance. The boys will also learn to make the props for their stage show. “The boys are making such great progress right now, that I will be able to enhance the show to include a full gumboot performance”, comments Heidi. She plans to organize shows in different locations in Bangalore including two schools and a HIV hospital. . “The performance and experience will help them reinforce their self esteem”, she adds.
Its not just dance, Heidi wants to involve the boys in drawing and photography projects as well. In 2005, Salamaleque handed out disposable cameras to children in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Each camera could capture 27 images. The children were asked to depict their lives through photographs. The little ones composed excellent images bringing to light less known details of their favelas. Selected photographs were displayed in an exhibition called “A Look Inside”, in 2004. The exhibition has traveled to Munich, Stuttgart and Hamburg in Germany, Caxias do Sul and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Basel in Switzerland. In 2009, an exhibition called “African Moments” showcased the photographs by children in Ghana. Heidi plans to exhibit the photographic creations of the Brazilian and African children in India and take the photographs by the Indian children to England, Germany and Brazil.
“These children can show to the world outside what life means to them through their photographs”, she says, as I flip through the stack of enlarged photographs. Each photograph has a story to tell. While some are beautiful compositions others are disturbing. Through the photographs I traveled from the insides of a favela in Rio de Janeiro to a kitchen in Ghana. Schools, garbage dumps, bedrooms, friends, family and shops were subjects of the candid photographs. The dark side of life in our cities does not create the most pleasant of images to exhibit, but it gives us the chance to appreciate, understand and accept people, many of who are social outcasts.
For more information about Salamaleque contact Heidi at heidirehse@hotmail.com.

This article was published in Bangalore Mirror on the 06th of June 2010. Below is the link to the online version of the article.