“The longer you ignore the significance of breathing right, the faster your mind and body will age.”

Life before yoga.
“My life was dominated by severe physical pain and the resulting mental confusion,” shares Seema Sondhi, candidly. “The pain was because of a distressed lower back, owing to 3 slipped lumbar discs. I couldn’t move without the help of a belt. I struggled to cope with the situation, and with its impact on my marital/domestic responsibilities; as well as on my two young daughters.”

The epiphany.
When all of it became too much too handle, Seema turned to yoga; and found a teacher who could come home and give her lessons.

“My life changed from that first class itself. I simultaneously vowed that this change, obviously for the better, was here to stay; and that it would do nothing except improve the quality of my life, and my fabric as a person. Within 3 months, my body was significantly stronger, my mind, clearer. I knew exactly what I wanted to do for myself in the future. I could feel everything falling in place, because the way I’d begun thinking, had changed,” she smiles.

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How yoga caused this epiphany – and she didn’t even know it at the time.
Seema laughingly confirms: “Yes! At the time, I didn’t know how this change was making itself evident, and how I was becoming sensitive to the realisation that it was. As I delved deeper into the study of yoga, I learned that yogic mechanisms work their way through the 5 layers of the body. As people, we only tend to remain connected with the physical layer; and tend to ignore, underestimate, or even get intimidated by the other 4 layers.”

Which are….?
“None that you don’t know of already, which is exactly what makes realising yourself through yoga such a beautiful and life-changing process,” Seema says. “These other 4 layers are your breath, mental space, intellect, and that final state of everlasting bliss that we all keep chasing.”

I remind Seema of the connection between everyone’s personal spiritual journeys, and levels of spiritual ascension, and that state of bliss. “Yes, that’s true. But your intentions, decisions, and actions are what define the nature, strength, and ‘speed’ of your journey.” Continuing further, she says, “What’s stopping you from feeling that bliss on a daily basis, little by little? Your own thinking! The more you practice yoga, the more you’ll find yourself saying that you’ve changed. I’ll give you my own example. It was only when I decided to alter the way I was going to approach my back problem, did my body actually undergo the envisaged change. Where I once couldn’t walk freely, with 6 months of practice, I was able to walk without my belt. By the end of the year, I was touching my forehead to my knees.”

At this point, I recall watching my aunt, my Guru, in yoga class, helping her students come one step closer to performing that posture correctly. I now know why she never judged, never admonished, never encouraged any inter-student competition with respect to this pose, or any other. The idea’s to find yourself, no matter how long it takes.

Seema’s journey as a student of yoga.
Vijay, Seema’s home-schooling instructor, announced one day that he wasn’t going to teach her any further. One year of instruction apparently showed him that Seema could actually go forward, and teach others what she’d learned.

“As much as hearing that made me happy, I wasn’t quite confident in my abilities as a teacher,” Seema says. “For the two years that followed, I was my own teacher. I practiced 7 days a week, without fail. I analysed myself as I practiced each pose, studied my breath as I held them; looking my strengths, and more so my shortcomings, in the face. The more consistently I did this, the more I understood that my own body was helping me learn, and improve. Again, this was happening because my mind was getting better at staying in the moment, a little less prone to wandering than it was the day before, or the day before that. This is the key to appreciating what yoga can do to you – acknowledging the present moment.”

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Certified by the International Sivananda Vedanta and Yoga Centre, Seema has 15 years of yoga, wellness, and holistic lifestyle expertise behind her. “But, I’m committed to life-long study of yoga. My education will never be complete, because yoga is more than a fitness/health discipline. Everyday is different, it’s a lifestyle choice,” she clarifies.

Seema says she feels honoured to have met everyone who has mentored her along the way, including Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, Mysore. More recently, she’s training with Matthew Sweeney; who after 20 years of studying Ashtanga Vinyasa, has developed his own sequences. Seema is certified to teach Sweeney’s Moon Sequence. At the time of this interview, she was preparing to leave for a month-long trip to Sweeney’s retreat in Ubud, Bali. “30 days of yoga, that’s it”. The way Seema’s face radiates as each of these words leave her mouth tell me that yoga is truly a lifestyle for her.

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The Inception of The Yoga Studio.
Seema launched The Yoga Studio (in Hauz Khas, New Delhi, India), in 2001. She asserts, “With the Studio’s launch, my only vision was to use yoga as a means of helping and healing people, the way it had helped and healed me. I wanted – I want – people to know that they can take sole, and complete responsibility; for changing their lives, through practice of yoga. I started The Yoga Studio with an open mind – I would teach whoever wanted to sincerely learn. Whether it was going to be just the 1 student, or 20, or 50, my vision entailed that the quality of my teaching, and sharing, wouldn’t suffer.”

I ask Seema if she faced any challenges along the way (with respect to opening the Studio). She stops the question mid-way with a tranquil nod of her head. “No, not at all. My entire family has been extremely supportive, and I know they always will be. Everyone does yoga now”. “Including the dogs”, I observe, as one of Seema’s dogs stretches out into a pose that ironically resembles the downward dog pose.

We take a moment to pause and reflect on the efforts of two women who really pushed Seema to make her vision a reality. Her mother, and my mother. With both our mothers in a better place now, we exchange a poignant smile as we realise that yoga is just another means of strengthening our bond as aunt and niece. Inside the Studio, she is my Guru, outside, she is my Bua. And I’m very proud of her. I’ve been dreaming of the day I’d write my 100th post on my blog, and I always knew I was going to dedicate it to Seema Sondhi.

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Seema’s specialities.

“So I teach Ashtanga Vinyasa, therapeutic yoga (aimed at remedying specific injuries), and pregnancy (pre-natal and post-pregnancy) yoga,” says Seema. I take the opportunity to expand my understanding of the ‘8 limbs’ of Ashtanga.

Seema obliges. “The 8 limbs describe a code of moral/ethical conduct to live your life by. They help you understand the need for self-discipline, better health, and a more fine-tuned self-introspection, from a spiritual perspective. These 8 limbs are: Yama (non-violence, non-stealing, non-covetousness, abstinence, and truthfulness); Niyama (study of the spiritual texts and self-introspection, meditative practices and spiritual regimes, cleanliness, contentment, and one-ness with God); Asana (the physical practice of yogic postures, respecting the body as the home of your soul); Pranayama (mastery over breath control); Pratyahara (working towards sensory withdrawal/transcendence); Dharana (slowing the mind down in preparation of meditation, as Pratyahara successfully sets a distraction-free ‘stage’ for the same); Dhayana (the deep state of meditation, that continuously ‘flows’); and finally Samadhi (a complete merging with the Divine/Universal Source, or self-realisation).

All these ‘limbs’ are interconnected. The Yoga Sutras will tell you that without Yama and Niyama, you cannot successfully practice Asana, which is incomplete, even incorrect, without Pranayama. Each is a stepping stone to final self-realisation; and collectively, the 8 limbs are the building blocks of your character.”

Seema moves onto explain the Vinyasa element, “Vinyasa refers to application of the right pace of breath, and the correct positioning of the physical body; that allows a natural flow of movement from the previous Asana to the next. Usually, people mistake this dynamism of movement with Ashtanga, because they take a superficial interpretation of ‘anga’, which means ‘limb’.”

Addressing misconceptions about yoga.
“I can’t do yoga because I’m inflexible.”
“I can’t do yoga because it won’t help me lose weight.”
“I can’t do yoga because I don’t have time.”
“I can’t stop eating non-vegetarian food.”

Seema laments these are the most frequent complaints she hears from people, even from those who are learning yoga. She elaborates, “Yoga can be practiced at any age, at any time. Here’s the singularly crucial fact everyone forgets. No form of exercise will help you lose weight, if you won’t regulate what you put in your mouth. On that front, yoga will firstly help you exercise mental control – you’ll become mindful of what you’re feeling, what you’re eating. The asanas will help you tone your body, making it more nimble and fit. You’ll automatically lose the unnecessary weight, as a result of which your body’s flexibility will improve, as will your levels of stamina, and balance. And you certainly don’t have to give up non-vegetarian food, you only have to pay heed to the signals your body’s giving you, and respect them. That applies to everything you eat, and drink.”

The connection between yoga and meditation.
The words flow out of Seema’s mouth like natural breath: “Yoga IS meditation. You can’t practice Asana with a scattered mind – if you think you can, then whatever you’re believing to be Asana, isn’t Asana. Meditation refers to complete mindfulness, complete concentration on the present activity – be a they Asanas, or every-day activities like eating, working, or commuting from one place to another.”

On what makes yoga difficult.
Seema feels it’s a person’s attitude, and the associated decision-making mentality that makes it easy or difficult – after all, yoga requires self-discipline and restraint, patience, enthusiasm, and humility! After pausing to think for a moment, Seema observes, “If you ask me, what causes people to start yoga, and then give up halfway, is their inability to accept whatever current state of fitness/proficiency in yoga they’re at. Yoga doesn’t speak to those who compete with everyone else, it speaks to those who compete with themselves.”

All this discussion on bodily mindfulness reminded me of a question I always forget to ask my Guru:

Ever since I’ve been practicing yoga regularly, I don’t feel like eating much. I could go a whole day without eating! Why?
I’m rewarded with a guarded smile from Seema. “Maybe because you’re breathing right, life-giving oxygen is reaching deep into your cells and feeding them, and giving them energy. Your cells undergo a detox, they’re rejuvenated and full of fresh energy, because of which, you don’t tire out easily, even if you don’t eat. How do you think yogis are able to control their hunger, thirst, and their resilience to weather conditions?”

Some food for thought.
“Yogis are at levels beyond the physical sensory ones, and can tell their minds what to ignore. The point is, their mind obeys. There’s a deep interconnectedness between your mind, body, and breath. Have you noticed how you breath heavily, when you’re angry; or placidly when you’re relaxed? If you want to control your thoughts, learn to control your breath. The longer you ignore the significance of breathing right, the faster your mind and body will age.”

What then, does it mean to be a yogi?
Seema takes a deep breath before answering. “You know, to be a yogi means to be yourself – do what you want to, say what you want to. Don’t be controlled by anybody, don’t be a slave to any phenomenon. But, at the same time, have compassion and empathy for other beings – all of them. Above all, always be grateful. I can speak for myself, I’ve learned a lot in life, by being grateful.”

If you’d like to make queries, please call +91 9811131368, or email contact@theyogastudio.info. Below are details about the branches (appointments only).

Seema Sondhi – The Yoga Studio (Hauz Khas Branch)
D-43 Hauz Khas
New Delhi – 110016

Seema Sondhi – The Yoga Studio (Gurgaon Branch)
Intellitots Essel Towers Complex
MG Road, Gurgaon

 (Image Credits: Personal/Seema Sondhi)

The Wonders of Korean Volcanic Mud 

If I compared myself to a pig, you’d think it’s probably because I eat too much. If you know me well though, you’d understand it’s not my appetite for food, but my strange love for mud, that prompts me to draw the comparison. But jokes apart, the kind of muds I love are the clean, filtered ones, with beauty/wellness benefits of some kind.

The current erratic weather conditions of New Delhi (hot stuffy days, with oh-so-slightly nippy evenings and early mornings) are very inviting for rashes and spots – the angry, obstinate, red ones, which seem like they’re here to stay forever. In such situations, I depend on clarifying muds to cleanse the skin. I decided to try the increasingly popular Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask by Innisfree.

This is my 3rd or 4th use, spread over a few weeks, because I already do enough in the name of skincare; but I haven’t tried a mud pack in a long time. I’ve used Fuller’s Earth (Multani Mitti) as a body pack, but it’s effects on my face were disastrous.

This particular mud pack now, from South Korea’s Jeju Island, is probably one of the country’s most useful contributions to the global beauty industry.

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Image Credits: Personal

What’s so special about it?

  • In 2007, Jeju-do Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes were classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for their amazing geological formations and rich biodiversity, which harbours many rare and endangered species.
  • The most prominent feature perhaps, is the dormant  volcano Mt. Hallasan; which at 1,950 meters, is South Korea’s highest mountain. It’s also called Mt. Yeongjusan, or ‘mountain high enough to pull the galaxy’.
  • Mt. Hallasan’s volcanic mud contains scoria – bits of dark coloured igneous rock characterised by bubble – like cavities called vesicles.
  • Scoria are formed when magma containing significant quantities of dissolved gas, is thrown out during a volcanic eruption. As the magma cools and emerges from within the earth as molten rock, the pressure on it lessens, and the dissolved gas begins to escape, creating the above mentioned bubbles.
Macro of Scoria (4 inches approx.) Photo credit: Jonathan Zander, GNU Free Documentation License
Macro of Scoria (4 inches approx.) Image Credits: Jonathan Zander

The Koreans have been ingenious enough to use scoria mud in a facial beauty pack – the porous structure of the scoria mud helps absorb excess secretions from the sebaceous glands, tighten the skin’s pores, and gradually create an even skin tone! Who doesn’t like the idea of natural mud painlessly sucking out dirt and grime from their pores? I’m loving this pore-for-pore strategy!

My experience.

  • The clay has a fascinating ‘lunar surface’ colour. It’s rather thick in consistency, so I would advise wetting the face with some water before application.
  • Fellow sensitive skin souls, I’m happy to report a complete absence of itching/tingling/burning.
  • I would also advise that you avoid talking while you have the pack on, because you can really feel your skin tighten, as the pack eventually dries.
  • You’ll know when to wash it off, but 10-12 minutes are sufficient.
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Image Credits: Personal

The results.

  • There’s nothing to fault this pack on. If there’s ever been a face pack that’s given me the kind of near-insant clarity and radiance I get from my trusted honey pack, it’s this one.
  • In the past, if I’ve delayed moisturising my face post pack-application, my skin has always turned very dry, even scaly, with a nagging burning sensation – almost like a reminder that I need some cream on my face. I purposely avoided that step, just to test the effects of this pack. Nothing happened. I applied my usual cream anyway.

At INR 1,100/- is this 100 ml tub worth a (repeated) purchase? Totally.

Move over, activated charcoal. This Jeju Island wonder gets my vote.

Lots of Happiness, Healing, and Love, from Miss J

My previous post was on the journey of Jhelum Biswas Bose. In the interview, she’d told me how she’d thought of using the title, “Miss J” to name her brand – a tribute to her nickname amongst colleagues at Harper’s Bazaar. “It was my way of giving back to the company that taught me so much,” she says, “but, I stuck to Jhelum Loves because I felt the masses would relate to it better.”

Well. I personally think the nickname packs a real punch, as do the good things in small packages that Jhelum loves (now you get it); and wants others to benefit from as well.

What Jhelum Loves – for what Thinking Totty Needs.

There’s a reason why I call myself a ‘thinking totty’ – I think, which is fabulous, I think too deeply, which can be understandable. But then, my deep thinking becomes overthinking, when the intensity of the thinking is totally out of context. As a result, I tend to tie myself up in knots, beat myself up about things out of my control; and consequently upset myself. I poured my heart out to Jhelum, condensing an autobiographical monologue as much as I could to fit the duration of our meeting.

Like a kindly fairy godmother, Jhelum separated my wants from my needs, and made the necessary additions to the products I now consider indispensible to my regime.

The Jhelum Loves Purifier (Facewash)

This contains pure honey, lemon essential oil and crab apple Bach Flower Remedy (BFR). It has a gel-like consistency, and you can see beads of tea-tree oil floating in the bottle. Honey and lemon are great as antibacterial cleansing agents, having an effective impact on acne and acne scars; in conjunction with the tea-tree. The crab apple BFR is for invasive feelings of negativity  and diminished feelings of self-love/pride, which in turn increase reactivity to surrounding situations, I was told.

To complement this, and based on my heart-to-heart with Jhelum, my face wash has walnut BFR, for serenity during and protection from tumultuous effects of change – be they controllable or uncontrollable ones. There’s also olive BFR, for relief from exhaustion, and star of Bethlehem BFR, for allieviation from distress and an increased sense of comfort.

I recall I texted Jhelum immediately after using it for the first time. As soon as I’d applied the face wash, I felt like someone had rested a comforting hand on my forehead and pulled my face in for a hug. I even exclaimed with an, “Aaaaaaaah!” so loud, it alarmed my husband and my feisty Shih-Tzu on the other side of the bathroom door.

The facewash foams well, and leaves a squeaky-clean radiance on the face. If your daily routine causes dust, dirt, grime, or sweat to accumulate on your face, this Purifier will leave you asking for more. Don’t get too over-excited chasing that squeaky-clean feeling though. As much as I love the sensation myself, I’ve found it increases the propensity for sensitivity and redness.

One month in, I notice a dramatic change in the general cleanliness, smoothness, and illumination on my face. In fact, people were complimenting me, even when I’d only used it for a week. You don’t need more than a squeeze of the bottle per application, so even this tiny bottle goes a long way – and is worth every penny of the INR 475/- I paid.

The Jhelum Loves Rejuvenator (Face Oil)

Out of the products I tried, this one was my absolute favourite! And this is coming from someone squeamish about using face oils. To say that I’m obsessed with it would be an understatement, and I’ve to fight off the temptation to apply this more than twice a day. The oil comes in a cute dropper-style bottle, which ensures you don’t squeeze out more oil than you need. A drop is enough, really. I use it primarily at night, right before bed-time. In the past month though, I’ve been carrying it around in my bag to keep at bay the inevitable dryness London weather induces, with its oscillating nature. Still, stick to night-time application.

It’s a lifesaver. The general sense of wellbeing it imparts, not to mention the radiance again (possibly because of the geranium essential oil) is unbelievable. The odour is pleasant, and it’s not a heavy/greasy/sticky oil at all. The holly BFR is to help revive feelings of self-love, and make the mind and soul more inviting for Divine Love. Mine also has cypress, for its skin tightening properties. This is a great option to try if you’re looking for something effective to replace that super-expensive serum you’re using right now; although I’m sure that has its own benefits, of course. I’m a face oil convert, and at INR 775/-, a very happy customer.

The Jhelum Loves Soothsayer (Face Mist)

Fellow Rosacea victims, and all ye of the generally high-strung disposition – when told to calm down, use this! The lavender essential oil in it makes for an instant hit of soothing freshness. The hornbeam BFR will work for you, if you’re struggling to cope with daily pressures and feel you need a boost of mental, if not physical energy. Spray on, and crack on. This handy travel companion costs INR 475/-.

The Jhelum Loves Divinity (Face Cream)

Jhelum’s pamphlet uses words like “creme brûlée,” and “custard” to describe this cream. I agree! It’s light, has a softly decadent fragrance, and is cooling on application. The aloe gel, saffron, rose, and vanilla essential oils work in perfect tandem, resulting in a very obviously clear, glowing, well moisturised, and almost translucent complexion, with daily, diligent use. Like the other products, it comes in a small tub, but at INR 950/- it works faster and better than the bigger, fancier bottles you’re picking up at your local drugstore, for the same price.

In addition to these, and moreso as a conclusion to my personal conversation with Jhelum, I was recommended two more products by her:

  • A specially customised Massage Oil, aimed at dissolving blockages in my Heart and Throat chakra a.
  • A Tonic-Style Remedy, a few drops of which I take in a cool glass of water daily. Besides the crab apple, olive, and holly BFRs, it has cherry plum BFR to help me control emotional outbursts and an occasionally volcanic temper; and white chestnut to calm the precipitating worrying thoughts. There’s also vervain BFR, to prevent self-combustion at the hands  of my own passionate demenaour. Totally relate to this one.

I massage the chakra oil as instructed by Jhelum. I muse definitely be a vervain personality, for this remedy serves as an instant  pick-me-up. Since I take ACV and Ayurvedic concoctions when I wake up, I save this for late morning/early afternoon. I’ve gotten used to a general heaviness on my temples, which I didn’t realise until this remedy took care of it.

It could be the massage oil, or it could be me getting old, but I’m generally more placid and physically ‘settled’ on a daily basis; as opposed to the panic-stricken Energiser Bunny I was, until not too long ago. I also feel the need to justify myself less, and internally, there’s no urgency to do so either. This is an astounding and a rather quick, if not sudden development.

Here’s a picture of me, after using these products for a little over a month, taken in direct sunlight. If you’ve been following my beauty posts, bear in mind I’d forgotten to pack my daily arsenal of ACV and honey on my London trip; nor did I feel the need to buy any there, thanks to these products.

I’ve always been a brisk, happy person, inspite of people and circumstances. For a while now, I’ve struggled to revert to that original state of mind. I have to say, meeting Jhelum was no coincidence.

Thanks to her, it feels good to be back.

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Image Credits: Personal

“Beauty has been associated with profanity and flippancy for too long. You can’t have an opinion, because so many people do…… I put in a prayer when I’m making a product for someone, I only want that they should be happy; and smile more”.

One of the most beautiful people I’ve come across in a long time. The kindred spirit and beauty lover that is Jhelum Biswas Bose, founder of the Jhelum Loves range of beauty and grooming products; created by blending 3 wellness philosophies -Bach Flower Remedies (BFR), Aromatherapy and Chakra healing.

The morning I meet Jhelum, I’m upset, exhausted, and mentally singed, because I feel I’m screwing up the balance of my professional and domestic responsibilities, something I usually handle with my chin up. I walk out of our meeting a different person; soothed by Jhelum’s amiable aura and her near-hypnotic, yet non-judgemental eyes. “So Buddha-like,” I think, and  I’m  not surprised to learn that she practices the faith. A month after using some Jhelum Loves products, customised to my wellness needs, I’ve  shed layers of imagined and actual mental dead weight.

Jhelum is a miracle worker silently and meticulously revolutionising the way the Beauty and Wellness industries are blending.

This post is a conversation with Jhelum, about her life-story. The second post will be on brief reviews of some of her products; with which I’m obsessed. I can’t do without them.

Beauty in her blood.

“I’ve always been in the beauty industry, even as a child,” shares Jhelum. “My mother owns a salon in Calcutta, I practically grew up there. I did my homework on the facial bed, observing my mother going about her work daily. I didn’t realise it back then, but her approach influenced my understanding of the psychological power that beauty has over women – over all of us. She would go beyond every client’s requirement for a treatment, cream, or hairdo, and patiently hear them out on issues they felt were troubling their perceptions of themselves.”

Coming full circle, via the written word.

Jhelum wanted to be a teacher all her life. She chose to pursue English Literature, coming to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) for her Masters and M.Phil degrees. “I began teaching whilst I was taking my M.Phil degree. But, I realised I was too arrogant to be a teacher, I felt the graduate students I was teaching weren’t good enough for me… (Smiles.) I guess it’s student mentality to take a Pass Course paper lightly, so I decided I’d rather invest my energies in a field where my audience would have some levels of interest. I began writing, in a freelance capacity, which led me to Good Housekeeping. The editor, Manjira (Dutta) gave me articles to write on beauty, which brought to the surface everything I’d been consciously and unconsciously registering since I was a little girl. Over time, I became Beauty Editor of Good Housekeeping.”

The first move, with friends and mentors along the way.

I believe it’s characteristic of a certain breed of creative and intelligent people to get bored of what they’re doing every few years. Jhelum confides, rather comfortably, that she tends to get bored of what she’s doing every 3 years or so; distracted by a persistent need to reinvent herself. This is how she arrived at Harper’s Bazaar when it came to India.

“I spoke to Manjira about wanting to make this move. I was interviewed like every other candidate, and was lucky to be selected for the role of Beauty Editor. I loved my job, but didn’t have much exposure to fashion. I couldn’t understand how someone could spend an hour talking about a Dior bag, but I could go on for hours on end myself, talking about a perfume from the same brand.”  “Such passion!” I declare, and Jhelum disarms me with her brutal honesty. “Or remnants of that same old ego,” she says, with one of her placid Buddha-smiles. I urge her to continue.

“Sujata (Assomull), the then-editor at Harper’s, and I built a very positive relationship over time. She had a big role to play in grooming me, honing my communication skills, and constantly reminding me what I’m capable of. In terms of my career, she made me dream, and made me dream big.”

That first ‘3 year’ mark.

“By the time I was 3.5 years in at Bazaar, I’d experienced Sephora (Dubai and Singapore.) So, when I heard it was coming to India, I wanted to join it, no matter what. I put in my application. When I was called for the interview, I honestly told them I had no retail experience, but simply loved the brand. I was ready to sweep the floors even, as long as I got to work for Sephora. I did get a job, but as a Marketing Head!”

From there, Jhelum moved to Marketing roles at Crabtree & Evelyn and Satya Paul. Since she loves sarees, Jhelum was at home with  Satya Paul, though she felt they were steering away from their signature core-competence at the time.  I’m sensitive to ‘out-of-element’ phenomena when I’m writing myself, so I completely get it when Jhelum says she felt like she had to go back on every line she wrote, to make sure it felt correct. “As a writer, this makes you feel very bad. I developed health complications because I felt this way. The asthma that set in wouldn’t let me sleep at night. People suggested that my throat chakra was blocked, because of which I was struggling with self-expression, but this didn’t make sense to me at the time…”

That decisive bend in the road – and more friends and mentors.

“I decided to give my career a break. Taking a sabbatical for 2 months, I spent time healing myself first; and then figuring out what I wanted to do. I needed to keep working because I’m the sort of person who would drive everyone around me crazy if a day came when I had nothing to do. Nonita (Kalra) at Harper’s was someone I hadn’t worked with, but who I looked up to since my initial days in journalism. I’ve often spoken to her though, taking advice from her. She encouraged me to start a venture of my own, as she believed I had it in me to do so. This meant a lot to me, coming from  someone like her, who has seen so much of the world. Nonita and Nishat (Fatima) both helped me frame my vision for the future. My parents served as the perfect sounding boards, cheering me on to do whatever I wanted – so as long as I was careful,” Jhelum says, more expressively, but  softly.

“As I emerged from this healing period, I was lucky to land work with Harper’s almost immediately. I took charge of helping them establish their social media for a year. I also got good work with Essenza di Wills (ITC), Good Housekeeping again; –  the India Today group were generally very positive about welcoming a child back into the fold. In the midst of it all, Nishat asked me why I hadn’t thought of starting a blog. That got me thinking. I wondered at the number of people who’d like reading what I liked – again, the issue of an interested audience!

So, I sat with a web developer and conceptualised a proper website, instead of just a blog. I didn’t know the technicals, what I did know was the layout of a magazine. I used that as inspiration for my  website, Beauty Beats.” 

I ask what the dot in her logo symbolises. “A bindi, or a polka-dot. Something classic, or something contemporary, depending on your perception of what’s beautiful.” Here it comes again, another of Jhelum’s Buddha-smiles. “It’s also a tip of the hat to my Bengali heritage. And I’ve called it Beauty Beats because beauty actually beats in my soul.”

Buddha-smile.

The switch to alternative medicine – Bach Flower Remedies (BFRs)

Jhelum describes further how she’d been taking antibiotics for a long time, to alleviate  a cold and cough that plagued her every month. “Throat chakra issues?” I chip in, and am rewarded with another Jhelum-Buddha smile. She continues, “From homeopathy, I moved onto BFRs. These helped me so much,  I decided to do a course  from London (2014.) I followed up the first level, back in Mumbai, where courses were being organised in conjunction with the Bach Centre, U.K. The idea that 38 essences had the potential to heal every possible illness and change lives, touched my soul. I felt more confident and in control of things.”

Developed by Dr. Edward Bach in the 1920s-30s, these remedies are a system of 38 flower essences which have equal and opposite effects on human emotional states. When paired with their opposite condition, they induce a balancing effect on human well-being, curbing and eventually eliminating the effects of illnesses.

“Again, I’ve always loved fragrances, and aromatherapy has been an integral part of my exposure to beauty as a field,” says Jhelum. “In addition to BFR, I learned Aromatherapy from Dr Ravi Ratan and his wife Dr Minoo, in Mumbai. He taught me to apply Aromatherapy with chakra healing, beginning with myself. It was under his tutelage that I learned how my sacral and heart chakras were blocked, how to open them, and how to express myself better without ruffling feathers. I think you need the same,” she concludes, reading my mind with an empathetic version of her Buddha-smile, of which I couldn’t get enough by this point.

“BFRs can also be categorised into 7 groups, that align with the 7 chakras of the human body. I was able to see a synergy between these distinct fields, which resonated with my personal practice of Buddhism and its central tenet, of simple self-healing,” explains Jhelum.

Delving into the subject of production, she tells me how the actual experience of making  face washes and creams was nothing short of serendipitous. If everything Jhelum was already doing/had done wasn’t enough, she’d decided to learn soap-making. Jhelum applied the knowledge to gifting ideas for friends and family. With the help of soap base, some essential oils and BFRs, the 10-12 kgs of honey given to her by her gardener were transformed into the first batch of  Jhelum Loves products; that are now gathering an increasing band of loyal followers. The brand is young, considering that this first batch of face washes were gifted during Christmas 2015. Jhelum completed her Aromatherapy and Chakra healing course in February this year, and has been taking one-on-one consultations since April.

She asserts, “Eventually I will diversify further, but I want to maintain this level of personal interaction for as long as possible. I insist on atleast a phone conversation, if not an actual meeting, before I administer a product to someone. The personal connect goes a long way; and it may seem odd in today’s day and age, but I put in a prayer when I’m making a product for someone. I only want that they should be happy; and smile more. Beauty has been associated with profanity and flippancy for too long. You can’t have an opinion, because so many people do. My products are simple and fuss-free, but I still love my makeup products. I’ve a right to. I’ve fought for the freedom to exercise personal choice all along. If we become a little intolerant towards the intolerance in the world, things will be much better.”

As a parting shot, I ask Jhelum if her products are aimed at healing those who are getting hurt in their attempts to secure their own rights to exercise personal choice.

“I won’t even go so far as to call myself a healer. My life has taught me that you are your own healer. So, I’m here for you as a friend and helper.”

Buddha-smile.

You can reach Jhelum on jhelum@beautybeats.in or on 011-46061760.

Coming up: How I felt using the following products!

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Image Credits: Beauty and Wellness Expert Jhelum Biswas Bose

Be a Child of Nature

Be a child of nature.
Pick up the humming in the earth’s womb, as you sink your feet into grains of sand.

Train your eyes to see in the dark, should you swim down into the watery deep.

Dance to the sound of raindrops on leaves.

Fear not whistling storms or growling thunder, instead be patient (let them have their moment).

Squint at the sun, stare at the moon.

Caress a dying rose, giggle at a fat gourd on its vine.

Cheer animals, send wishes and prayers with the birds.

Embellish your melancholia with the glitter of stars.

Be a child of nature.

Go back to where you came from.

 

Summer Pampering for a Knotted up Back and Bare, Hippy-Feet: My Experience at Blossom Kochhar’s Spalon, Hauz Khas Village

I’ve visited Blossom Kochhar’s quaint Shop, Spalon (Spa + Salon) and Tea Room often, but mostly to purchase products, or for an express hair wash/blowdry in between errands if desperately needed. Yesterday, I succumbed to the dastardly heat and some pent-up burnout from writing assignments; and took appointments for a solid pedicure and what they call a ‘backacial,’ or a facial for the back. The Spalon is tucked in a corner of the constantly bustling Hauz Khas Village, so I was looking forward to a few hours of hibernation away from noise, work and the summer heat.

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Why these two particular services?

  • I have an incurable habit of walking barefeet; accompanied by a strange tendency to walk with my entire body weight on my forefeet, with my ankles sometimes freakishly high up in the air. Never noticed, never uncomfortable, but can’t stop it. So, my feet are always tired, hardened and constantly in need of pedicures.
  • We think we pay attention to our backs, but we don’t really. Prepping it for a summer holiday on the beach just days before doesn’t cut it either, because there can be problems on the surface and inside that we aren’t aware of, or are ignoring. Also, my work involved me being rooted to a chair for hours on end, typing and/or reading. I develop muscular knots with alarming frequency.

The Blossom Kochhar Spa’s ‘Backacial’

I was so relaxed and light after this, I was least interested in getting up and facing life! After I’d settled into the spa bed, the backacial carried on as follows:

  • My back was prepped with an antiseptic ‘rinse,’ made from a few drops of the Blossom Kochhar Aromamagic tea-tree oil in water.
  • After a swift cleansing, an exfoliating and anti-tanning scrub was applied and left on for a few minutes.
  • The extremely warm and knowledgeable lady conducting this for me studied the condition of my back gently and meticulously. I expected her to tell me it was sensitive and prone to redness, which she did. What I didn’t know – and therefore didn’t expect – was to be told that I had whiteheads. On my back!? Noooooooooooo! Apparently, it has to do with a greater number of sebaceous glands present on the upper back, where most of mine were present.
  • The mineral scrub in the pack helped set the stage for some systematic whitehead removal. The procedure was nothing complicated and not painful. Besides, I was constantly asked if I was comfortable at every step of the experience, and there was no reaction, or redness afterwards, or any today. So, reading this shouldn’t alarm you.
  •  Now, to close the pores: The Aromamagic ‘fairy’ oil was applied – a blend of jojoba, tea tree, spearmint, witch hazel and juniper, which combat inflammation, acne and the pesky white/black heads. This was followed by the most HEAVENLY back massage, focussed on the knots between my shoulders and the sides of my back, as well as the taut pain on my lower back. I think I may have scared the poor lady with requests for stronger pressure, but she delivered, very well, and very intuitively. I didn’t have to tell her where to concentrate her energies, it was like she’d understood my anatomy from the first touch. Vegetable oil was used for the massage, and yes, it was odourless. Back to Indian basics, people.
  • A lightening pack, comfortably cooling on application was then spread on my back and left on for 7-10 minutes.
  • A steamy, warm towel was the cherry on the cake.

When I emerged, I felt as though layers of grime had been lifted off my back, and my muscles felt untwisted, my bone structure ‘opened out.’ A great way to spend a Monday!

The Blossom Kochhar Foot Bar’s ‘Stilletos’ Pedicure – for tired feet.

  • The pleasure of soaking feet in steamed hot milk; and massaged in a warm ginger and sugar scrub is best felt, not described!
  • Tea tree and neroli oils were mixed in the water, for a combined antibacterial and softening/relaxing effect.
  • For the purposes of cuticle softening, cleaning and buffing, my feet were bathed in the fragrant Blossom Kochhar Aromamagic Orange Blossom Body wash. (*mental note to try when current body wash finishes*!!)
  • The gentleman who was doing the pedicure for me was as knowledgeable and understanding as his colleague. He observed the tendency of my feet to get too dry too quickly; and used the Blossom Kochhar Aromamagic honey and Shea butter lotion (*mental note to try. Good lord, I have no control on my fetish*!!)
  • I handed him my personal nailpolish to apply finally (Tom Ford’s Bitter Bitch. Don’t ask.)
  • The application was quick, but very uniform, smooth, and very, very neat.
  • As a parting shot, he recommended I try the Blossom Kochhar Aromamagic camphor ice foot cream, to help solve the problem of rapid dryness. (*Mental note.* Justified! He said it!)

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The Spalon has the loveliest tea-room where you can relax with a cup of your favourite tea and maybe some sandwiches. As a freelancer I’m always looking for ‘hideouts’ where I can write in undisturbed peace. I’ve found one where I can also reward myself with some beautification after all the hard work!

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Thank you Blossom Kochhar Shop, Spalon, and Tea Room. I congratulate you on being a personification of your brand ethos – simple, straight from the heart, authentic.

Here’s a little something I saw on the wall, which resonates so well with what I think makes all Thinking Totties special. You’ll find heartening quotes like this one everywhere in the Spalon.

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I’ll be back for more, and certainly more than once for that back massage!

Image Credits: Personal

How Lazy Women Destroy Hardworking Men

Absolutely NO idea what inspired this, at this time of night; when I’m winding down with my chamomile tea, and my Wolverine-claws are receding with a slow shhhhwwwick.

There’s a lot out there about the-gem-of-a-women-stuck-with-the-useless guy. Like a few other posts on this blog, this one’s dedicated to the boys again. I want to talk about a lazy woman dulls a hardworking man’s shine:

  • Too much complacency: 

Whether one’s a working woman or not, into some high maintenance, “I like to look after myself” or not; there’s no excuse for not having something to do with one’s day. For a genuinely hardworking man, it’s important that a woman links her mindset, or rationale behind daily living, with some kind of purpose. Lack of purpose implies lack of intent; lack of which is lacklustre for a man of his word and deed.

  • Superficial support:

If a woman is unable to understand a man’s ambition or add value to his vision, her support will always be half-baked. Sooner or later, this will make itself evident. The more often it does so, especially in public, the quicker a hardworking man’s morale will plummet.

  • Manipulation over Motivation:

With few constructive activities to fill her day, a lazy woman has enough time and energy to overthink, overrate, overreact. When a hardworking partner turns to such a woman at the end of his day, her conversational content and finesse are aimed at inspiring control over everything and everyone else, as opposed to improving/progressing further his, and their combined life.

  • Selfishness and disrespect:

It takes a hardworking woman to understand what constitutes a hardworking man’s day; and how it influences relationships and plans outside of work. Sometimes in an unforseen manner. Therefore, a lazy woman will resort to self-serving attention seeking tactics. She will put the man on a guilt trip about everything – no quality time together, no help around the house, no energy to indulge her likes, or no socialising with people who matter to her. In the case of some women, complaints of this nature are justifiable, somewhere. A lazy woman, on the other hand, will focus only on blaming. She will never be able to get her man to see reciprocity, because; (that’s right) she hasn’t done anything to reciprocate!

You’ll often find lazy women getting their men to compensate with their money – The “If you can’t make me happy, give me something that’ll make me happy,” variety. It’s worth noting that approaching the subject of a man’s wealth with a sense of entitlement is also a sign of disrespect. It displays a gross ignorance about the amount of backbending that goes into earning every penny.

  • Escapism and excuses:

Be it a task she’s set for herself, or one set for her by her man/family/friends, a lazy woman will find a way to deflect it onto someone else, or put it off for another day. And another. Till doing that work has no significance, or till someone else’s inability to successfully jump in can come under the spotlight. Such a tendency upsets and irritates a man, not to mention the trust issues that crop up eventually.

  • “You’re not doing enough.”

This is the  stiletto heel digging into the core of the heart, and twisting it in for good measure. Being hardworking involves being a ‘giver’ to the job at hand. It does mean you can ‘give’ back to loved ones, but it also means ‘taking’ away from them in many ways. There’s more sacrifice involved than meets the eye, especially sin every a hardworking man’s journey is replete with ups and downs.

It takes a patient and compassionate woman who’s made some sacrifice in life, of some kind, to see the bigger picture. A lazy woman is only a ‘taker,’ so she only focusses on ‘what’s in it’ for her.

Unapologetically lazy men exist. But the ones who are hardworking, decide to be so for certain reasons. The most genuine of these reasons are often held closely to their hearts, unvoiced. They’re better understood than explained. And such men deserve women who can understand this expectation.