Review: SA Fashion Week SS’16


The five-day Spring-Summer 2016 fashion week held at Johannesburg in South Africa bloomed in various shades of traditional African, typical west and was somewhere electrifyingly bizarre.

The international models with blonde hair fixed in a ponytail were more in comparison to the local ones with short black hair, sashaying around the season’s collection on the runway.

For a lady’s wardrobe, the designer, Gert-Johan Coetzee had played around with his mind patterns, as reflected in lacey dresses, either moving in black, suede and yellow color palette or in the beautiful white and blue combinations, grabbed right from the sky. “The 70s inspired Bohemian style met the grown up sophistication.” A similar streak was observed in the label called “Non-European”. SAFWSS’16 looked fine as long as apparel was displayed in earthy colors, with a touch of prints. The earthy colors define the summer better in Africa, as reflected in their collection.

Rubicon, Judith Atelier and JJ Schoeman rightly dressed their female models in whites and hues of cream, thus shifting to the summer gear. Alongside, some designs stemmed from the tribal sphere of Africa, sporting dark colors, with strokes of red, blue and green sparingly splashed across.

The good show actually began, with the entry of elegant, soft Lumin fabrics, inspired by the aviation scene. “It was the retro Lufthansa air hostess uniform from the 70s.” Then, Brand Keys upped the glamour quotient by bringing in more vibrancy on the ramp. The short and sheer pieces, glimmering in pink and nude shades stole the show.

There came tagging along the chic African street style, with better accessories, pertaining to the traditional hat, hand purse and appealing prints, from Miah. “Flowy pastel silhouettes with a pop of print tell the African style story.” Esmoko has finely blended the traditional African prints into the men’s collection. Adding to that, Liz Ogumbo captured the essence of old African beauties and the evolving urban ones in her designs, which was clearly visible from head to toe of the models.

For Anmari Honiball, her set of apparel announced the arrival of a riot of colors. When it came to Erre, the sheer, light and floral pieces actually made one’s fingers itch to buy.

The fashion week had its share of lows, consisting of bizarre pairings, such as denim jackets thrown on dressy pieces or denim tops tucked in shimmering bronze under forest green attires. It also saw geisha inspired collection, using odd designs woven into disorganized cuts, which weren’t well suited to summer.  Also, lots of black was seen on the runway, as if not really thinking through it.

When men’s collection was showcased, a series of bizarre moments hovered for a little while longer. The clothes designed for the effeminate men by Jerri Mokgofe and a twist in the formal suits for summer given by Afrikanswiss are a few instances of the same. After which Dope’s clothing line, built upon the Tennis wear theme, was disappointing.

However, Missober spelled the Summer-Spring collection the best, encompassing beautiful, bright and bold colors in its numerous A-line dresses. “The fashion week is a celebration of luxury of African designers, displaying sunny hues crafted with cutting edge detailing.


Links to SA Fashion Week SS’16:











Check it out

City’s libraries struggle for survival in digital age

By Sana Husain| 18 March, 2016

Gone are the days when everyone used to regularly visit a library as if it was a religious ritual. Today, books have been replaced by mobile phones or other gadgets that have reduced it to a mobile application and even computer software. The relationship between the reader and the tactile book has changed, as readers prefer accessing it at the touch of their fingertip.

In 2011, when Amazon’s Kindle Fire, an e-reader entered the market, there was a sharp spike in its sales. This is where the reading experience changed altogether. According to The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, those who didn’t own any e-book reading devices said that either they don’t need or want one, can’t afford one or they just prefer printed books.

Faced with growing technological options and decreasing attention spans, lending libraries struggle against obsolescence in the digital age.

In the face of this anomaly, British Library sells more than just books, such as DVDs like Agatha Christie’s “The Seven Dials Mystery”, Pride and Prejudice, ‘Walking With Dinosaurs, Best of British Classic Comedy to Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, that are stacked neatly in one row below the other. Its view enthralls one’s eyes.

The books organized at the book stands tagged as “Contemporary UK”, “Arts”, “Management”, “Fiction”, “Literature”, “ELT collection” seem to be a beautiful treasure, handpicked and organized into one layer of the building.

On the opposite side are rows of tables where old men and college students work on laptops or read a thick literature classic, like The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

The typical library setup is made interesting with the secluded little corner for kids, floored with blue mat and colourful bean bags and toys, to suit the reader’s comfort zone.

Leighton Ernsberger, assistant director Bengaluru and skills said that the Indian Council for Cultural Relations is the legal parent of British Library. It runs as a charity, where membership suffices for the running costs.

To supplement its finances, or rather “Making room for new things”, said Leighton, British Library sells about 20,000-25,000 old books for a considerably lesser price. They increase readership by updating resources online and thereby, providing a database of 1,30,000 books.

Fifty to sixty per cent renewal of memberships is observed every year, at British Library.

Apart from conducting reading challenge/ book-review contests for children and workshops on topics like Shakespeare’s play, that form a recurring part of the routine, the events are centred around the anniversaries of important personalities or subject.

To draw readers to the library, 2016 was marked as the Shakespeare year, celebrating his death anniversary and not just one day in the month of April.

According to Ugandhar, assistant manager at British Library, the readers in Bangalore want to buy more instead of borrowing books from the library.


Sanveer Singh‏@sanveer23

Torn between libraries in Bangalore – JustBooks, British Library or both.

6:39 AM – 1 Oct 2015


A red and robust structure stands tall amidst the vast, lush green stretches of Cubbon Park.

This is State Central Library, a product of public ownership, originally built in memory of Diwan Sir Seshadri Iyer, the Diwan of Mysore. It has units in all the districts of Karnataka.

Raghu, an engineer who said he reads everything, has been a patron at State Central Library for 20 years talks about its drawbacks: “This place doesn’t allow using laptop, even after having the infrastructure. Their indexing is bad. Every time, I have to spell the name of the book.”

He visits Alliance Francaise library more than the State Central Library. “Here, the bulk of readership is formed by students and 20 percent is comprised of by other kind of readers. International readers can be rarely seen here,” he added.

In the suburbs of HSR Layout is a unique library called Discover Kids.

In the play area, a mother is sitting inside a small fancy playhouse while her children play around it.

Main area of the library forms the study room, where children productively invest their time in the summer vacation. In the adjacent room, an art class is in progress.

Amidst the bustle in the busy space, is Shubha Issini, the owner of Discover Kids. A private establishment that she started 10 years ago with 1,000 books, it now has a collection of more than 8,000 books. With membership plans for three months, six months and one year, it charges Rs.400 per month. To keep the library afloat, she runs the library, by combining other fun and creative pursuits, to sustain readership amongst children. This is a stand-alone library, meant for the young, developing readers, that hasn’t stopped drawing attention from various parts of the city.

“The purpose for starting this concept originated from the love for reading and children,” said Shubha, adding that customers visit as often as every 10 days.

Saturdays consists of storytelling activities with guests for poetry-reading and book reading sessions.

The library has employed permanent teachers at Discover Kids and also allows parents to volunteer as teachers there. Not only that, but there are also books for adults in a different shelf.

Being at par with the tech-savvy world, they’ve “software of books for children, where they can check in and check out on the system, after scanning the barcode of the book they are interested in,” told Deepa, the librarian at Discover Kids.

“Older children are quickly growing out of libraries, unlike the younger ones,” added Shubha.

“Lending libraries are an integral part of the city life,” said Aruni, a mother of three kids at the library.

Although schools encourage reading habits, “In schools, the library period is only weekly and just for an hour,” chipped in Maria, Aruni’s daughter. In school, they don’t get to choose any book that they want. The books are segregated class-wise, where the qualified librarian decides for the children a particular section to read from. Due to these limitations, such libraries still stand strong and appeal better to children.  Aruni finds Discover Kids “soothing and homely” and Prarthana, another child, who has been visiting the library for the past five years said, “I love the environment here. It’s playful, fun and enjoyable.”

The trendsetter in Bengaluru is a chain of libraries, named “Just Books.”

Just Books franchise owner, Suresh Warrier, looks after two libraries, one in RR Nagar and another in Banashankari, in Bengaluru.

“Somebody who felt Bengaluru didn’t have good libraries, seven years back in Indiranagar, started more of a neighbourhood library, and spread it throughout India,” said Suresh.

Accessible to only the members, the privately funded library uses the motto “Rent, Read and Return.”

The library fee varies, starting from Rs. 300, depending upon the number of books the members want to take at once.

He said that the first segment of their consumers is formed by children studying in kindergarten up to high school. Keeping in mind their financial status, conscientious parents don’t want an influence of technology on their children. The second segment comprises of older people above 45 years of age, who aren’t keen on reading on Kindle. This implies that a large chunk of the population still relies on libraries instead of the digital versions of books.

A strategy to hook the readers, “We predominantly bring Indian authors to talk about their books, as part of the activities of engaging the readers; whereas international authors go to bigger book stores. Even non-members can join in during this,” said Suresh.

In the age group of 18-35 years, there are lesser readers because one tends to be busy with other things, such as college activities and then later working and getting settled in life becomes a priority. There, reading takes a backseat. After crossing that stage in their lives, they realize they need to spend time with themselves. In certain cases, parents read out to their children in summers. Despite the fast-paced life in the cosmopolitan Bengaluru, Just Books enjoys a large share of its readers, from almost all age groups, at some point of time in their lives.

Chanda Jadhav, a retired principal living in Bangalore, remembers visiting a library in her childhood in Mumbai.

“Of people who visit libraries have decreased due to the technology factor,” said Chanda. For her, another factor is time..

“A housewife like my 58-year-old sister is an active member at a library in Pune. She still visits it regularly. I was tied down by work in school and never had time to visit any,” Chanda explained.

However, she said she thinks lending libraries won’t fade out, as there still are children and grown-ups who prefer reading actual books over their electronic versions: “One who can’t afford books will always visit the library.”

Alifiya Saifee, a Bengaluru homemaker who has been an active member at Just Books for the past five years, said, “In my childhood, going to a library was a luxury. Hence, I used to borrow from friends. Also, parents stressed more on the exchange.”

She said that she prefers Just Books 90 per cent of the time because the adults’ books are constantly updated, unlike with children’s collection.

She added that with the lending library facility, parents are able to divert their child’s attention and prevent them from just sitting in front of TV.

Dr. R. Rajesh, a sociology professor at Bangalore University, said that libraries can sustain themselves by providing exclusive research content, which has to be otherwise paid for online or subscribed to. Also, in rural areas, people aren’t technologically-equipped enough to access e-libraries. Every system serves particular needs; hence these lending libraries won’t be completely out of the picture.

Parents equate reading habit to good academic performance. As the literacy rate is improving, the tradition of lending libraries shall continue, perhaps, evolving with new technological strokes of perfection. Situated in different parts of the city, these libraries continue to serve many, while struggling to survive in the digital times. Today, the readers are pampered with numerous choices, on different platforms, still they prefer libraries “ people love the smell of the book. They want to insert a bookmark in it, keep it on the chest, which people still prefer to do,” said Suresh.

 The story was originally published in The Beat magazine.

Read here:



Yoga for sale


Bengaluru witnesses changing face of yoga from traditional to modern

By Sana Husain| 5 Febuary, 2016


It is 7:30pm on the third floor of Sobha Lakeview Club House in Bengaluru. A woman enters the Traditional Yoga Studio. Green, blue and orange yoga mats checker the shiny wooden floor in the studio. Ladies wearing black lycra-stretch yoga pants and plain tees roll out their mats.

Minutes later and well into her yoga session, the woman’s feet slide down the wall, head bends down and hands balance her body, her body shakes and the legs touch the floor again, upon achieving the head stand.

“Let’s recite the prayer, ‘Astoma satgamya’,” says the yoga trainer and closes his eyes — ancient words in the most modern of settings.

From its birth as a spiritual practice in India around 3000 BC, the traditional form of yoga was handed down from one generation of yogis to the next over millennia. Then the West picked it up in the 20th century and eventually sent it back home as a more expensive and fashionable hobby with accompanying clothes and accessories. When globalization changed the face of India, such amendments were inevitable. The modern approach is attached with new prefixes: “modern” yoga, “power” yoga, “aqua” yoga and, interestingly, “hot” yoga – yet a far cry from yoga’s birth interpreted in the Vedas.

The Traditional Yoga

Dharmendra Soni, the yoga teacher at Traditional Yoga Studio, has been practicing yoga for 15 years and teaching for the past seven.

At the age of 12, he learnt it from his yogi grandfather. Later, he studied for three years at Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana Yoga University in Bangalore. “The senses want to indulge and enjoy, irrespective of traditional and modern techniques,” he said. “The westerners took up one style of yoga practice. When they focus on something, Indians focus on them. That’s how they gave culture to India.

“People innovate to enjoy, where the basic practice takes a backseat and the new thing grabs the entire attention. A person who wants to really practice, for him or her, the brand or colour of clothes doesn’t matter.”

Traditional practitioners say the meditation ritual contains the essence of yoga- an “immortal cultural outcome” of Indus Saraswati Valley civilization. Basic humane values form the very identity of yoga sadhana, “a tool for one’s wellbeing”.

Legend holds that on the banks of a Himalayan lake, Lord Shiva poured his profound knowledge into the “seven sages.” The sages carried this powerful yogic science to different parts of the world, including Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa and South America. Although close parallels have been found between ancient cultures across the globe, it was in India that the yogic system found its fullest expression, states the research.

The fundamentals of yoga sadhana include yoga’s functions on one’s body, mind, emotion and energy.

Yoga improves lifestyle

The blossoming of yoga’s popularity and its westernized return home to India has been both a blessing and a curse, longtime practitioners say.

Soni cited a particular problem in inexperienced teachers who have completed a one-month course but can’t even define yoga. They establish their websites and host clinics and adapt a different teaching methodology, he said, but don’t necessarily adhere to yoga’s traditional principles.

Soni’s wife, Taruna, who’s also a yoga teacher, explained that there’s a controversy between modern science and traditional yoga’s way, where the latter lacks a practical approach.

Regardless of that, the students are lured by the appeal of evolved yoga practice, without really understanding its significance and context.

“The craze of yoga has gotten me here,” said Shawaz, who has been practicing for a month at Traditional Yoga Studio. She said she finds the traditional technique “meaningful,” as it involves the concept of prayer.

“It helps me gain control over day-to-day activities and experience flexibility,” Shawaz explained. “There’s improvement in attitude, interaction with people, in complexion, body posture and lifestyle altogether.”

She said she used to take pain killers every day for knee and leg pain after coming home from office. Now, after continuous yoga practice, she said she’s immune to cold or fever, and “forget any pain”.

Pooja Bhattacharyya said she was a hardcore gym freak for 12 years and didn’t believe in yoga. “Now, I believe there’s no need to go to gym,” she said. “Though traditional is tough to follow, Dharmendra makes it very simple to understand and gives it a modern twist too.”

She added that she isn’t impressed by modern techniques as they become as rigorous as a gym workout.

“Yoga looks slow, but can burn calories. Now, I’m not afraid of eating,” said Pooja, who is not immune to the stylishness of modernized yoga and said she finds Nike yoga wear worth paying more for, in comparison to the cheaper contemporary brands, such as Urban Yoga.

Yoga is not just for spiritual seeker

R. Rajesh, the Professor of Sociology at Bangalore University, said that India is paying a heavy price for its own yoga: “Despite having an indigenous system, we have allowed people to loot our culture.”

He added that modern science is swaying everyone to its tunes. The modern yoga techniques have always been there, but weren’t brought to the limelight, because of ignorance. So, the new media is taking advantage of it, by trading in fashionable wear for yoga sessions.

In the divine land of religions, Indians don’t necessarily prefer the spiritual rigors of traditional yoga practice.

“Everyone doesn’t want spirituality. People perform asanas for getting a beautiful body. Their aim is to get rid of stress,” said Swami Krishnananda, who has been practicing for 24 years and teaches 20 students at Surya Jyothi Yoga Vedanta Center in Kormangala. Previously a businessman in Gujarat for more than 10 years, he decided to attend a yoga teacher training course and stayed with his mentor, Swami Shivananda, in Kerala for 15 years.

Now, he charges each student Rs. 1,500 per month for his one-hour classes: “When cost of the classes is more, people want to go there,” he said.

Despite this concession to the modern – and westernized – way of thinking about yoga, he said his approach remains traditional, starting with a belief that “when five elements of the Earth are imbalanced within you, then yoga becomes essential for us. Medicine only works on the physical body, whereas yoga provides the perfect solution for all problems.

“In the west, yoga industry is a business. Some people consider yoga fashionable and it’s their choice. I can’t change their mind. But, practicing in air-conditioned rooms is not real yoga. What’s real is the union with supreme self, through advanced meditation. Only in a human body does one acquire knowledge about God, through meditation.”

Citing his guru’s teachings, Krishnananda said that the highest form of yoga is about service, love, giving, compassion, meditation and bearing injury and insult while overcoming the six enemies of lust, anger, greed, hatred, jealousy and egoism.

However, he added that in Kormangala, people are only making money in the name of traditional yoga.

Yoga in studios

Uma Subramanyam, a co-founder of A1000 Yoga Studio in Kormangala, has taken a more contemporary approach to yoga.

“My husband and I wanted to give a new face to yoga, by packaging it in the modern style, just like Zumba was introduced, with the Bollywood touch to it,” she explained.

Yoga studios such as Nivesaa, in Indiranagar and Ashmayu in JP Nagar have the aerial yoga practice established there.

Namita Sanghvi, a yoga trainer there said, “A1000 yoga studio caters to the modern needs, yet is rooted in the traditional form.

“Yoga is in vogue. In ancient times, people were healthy. Then, the priority was to control the mind. Now, since the body movement is limited, it’s difficult to control the mind at first. Hence, we focus on body first and later the mind.”

So, what began as a method of spiritual cleansing has been amended and altered on its way back to India. Still, the men in shorts and the women in their stretchy black pants enter the yoga studio on a Thursday night, unfurl their purple and green and yellow mats, sit with their legs crossed, then breathe in and breathe out.

The story was originally published in The Beat magazine.

Read here:


Between religion and marriage

Bengaluru woman learns the man she married is not who she thought

By Sana Husain| 29 January, 2016


“For the first time, he had introduced himself as ‘Rehan’ to me,” she said.

Now, within the four walls of her husband’s house, she sits clad in a green dress, eyes downcast, tears rolling down her face. Wiping them off with her bright pink dupatta, she said, “I had believed the guy more than my parents.”

Najma Bana, 25, is the daughter of an auto-rickshaw driver. She was 16, when she entered into a relationship of seven years with Anand Rao, a lawyer. After their marriage, she discovered his real identity as a husband of two other wives and father to their children. Also, she learned that he is Hindu. Despite the lies, they welcomed a baby boy after a year.

She had the child circumcised, giving rise to more conflict —she wanted to raise their son a Muslim, but her husband insisted on Hinduism.

Within limited means, she continues to live under the same roof as him and his other wives, an unusual situation that nevertheless highlights the vulnerability of women in India, especially those taken advantage of by powerful men.

Not just any other man, but an affluent lawyer, who keeps three wives under his control.

“When I was pregnant, petty issues were blown out of proportion by him. He verbally abused me. I was at my parents’ place for five months. I waited for him, by sitting at the doorstep, endlessly from day to night,” Najma recalled.

Composedly remembering the past, she treads from the drawing room into the kitchen on the ground floor of the three-story house that is also home to his other families. The scattered utensils and empty fridge are a part of it. “Have been living here without food for a week…” She walks to her wardrobe and opens it gently. “He gave nothing worth Rs. 4 lakh ruppees here.”

Her relatives were against this marriage, yet she married him “in the name of love,” she said.

Pacing the small apartment, she picked toys up from the floor and handed them to her son, now 20 months old. “He never treated me like his wife. My child, Mohammad’s health is deteriorating, without proper medicines and clothes. He has lied about providing jewelry and clothes to me.”

After three months of marriage, she approached Karnataka Rakshana Vedike and also consulted with Women’s Welfare Charitable Trust, which helped her through all of the struggle. To address the issue over conversion of child’s religion, she lodged a complaint with the police and finally attended counseling sessions at Parihar Family Counselling Centre.

“I don’t plan to remarry, as I’ve only loved him. My heart doesn’t allow me to leave him,” she said.

She said she hopes to earn and provide for her son as best as she can.

“His love drew me to him and not his money. I’m only living for my child,” she added. She has refused to involve her parents in this matter.

Anand Rao, Najma’s husband, responded, “I respect her and will love her till death. I have given her basic amenities – food, water, shelter and clothes. She orders me around, doesn’t cooperate and live like a couple. I can’t live with her in this city, in a rented house. Obviously, I have filed for divorce and want child’s custody in my name.”

At his office, he sat with his hands tightly folded across his broad chest. With fierce eyes, he explained, “In a relation with her for seven years, I married her on July 27, 2013. Before the nikaah ceremony, on July 24, 2013, I had the first meeting with her parents. They rushed into marriage, asking me to ’marry that day’.”

He added that he refused conversion to Islam. Hence, the marriage ceremony didn’t happen in the registrar’s office.

“She didn’t take permission before getting our son circumcised. I still called her to house and respected her,” he said.

Reacting in a way, similar to his wife, he said that his parents and first two wives don’t get involved in all of this.

“I want to get done with it and can’t marry more women, as it’s a headache. Why should I talk to her if she doesn’t respect me?” he added.

At their house in Govindpura, Anand walks into the room downstairs, where Najma is holding her son. She throws a chips packet away in seeming frustration, looks away and doesn’t respond to her child’s wails. Not looking into her eyes, he takes Mohammad in his lap and feeds him.

A few minutes later, he climbs upstairs and calls to his two other wives, who are working in the kitchen. His children crowd around him, as he smiles and seats himself on the sofa.

Iqbal Ahmed, senior counsellor at Parihar Family Counseling Centre, said, “Her husband had cheated on her and applied vermillion on his forehead after marriage. The girl was crying and wanted to save the relation.”

He added that after one session, around six to seven lawyers came and said that they will settle the case in court.

“No religion teaches to play with a girl’s emotions. We are spreading awareness amongst Muslim parents and encouraging pre-marital counseling for the better future of their children,” he said.

Kamal (name changed), Anand Rao’s colleague and attorney, said, “My friend will always say that he’s right. Being a gentleman, he shouldn’t have married her, since he already has two wives.”

About Najma, he added, “He married an auto-driver’s daughter, who isn’t of his caliber, such as his female lawyer colleague would be. From a BPL family, she used to earn Rs. 3000 ruppees per month at a call center.”

“Rao is trying to dodge the prosecution. As per Special Marriage Act, a man’s first wife is considered legal. He didn’t register their marriage under that. Now, where does the wife stand and was she fooled into it? He can’t give her a legal status.

“Here, humanity is denied as he calls three women on one bed. On the basis of moral grounds, it’s flawed. She is educated, but was wooed and lured by him.”

Mohini, a program officer with the Karnataka State Child Protection Society said, “The husband can’t claim the child without registering the marriage. The child would have the best with his mother.”

On January 12, 2016, Najma, in her steady and sweet tone, said, “He has filed for divorce. Still, he has asked me to stay in house for few days. I can’t go anywhere else, with my child. I’ll fight for my child and my rights.”

The story was originally published in The Beat magazine.

Read here: