Saturday, November 4, 2017

A sensory explosion that is India!!

Hello Aalayam!!!

After almost a year, we are back, with a short, sweet and evocative picture post about all the beautiful things that evoke such strong feelings about India - the cacophony, the fragrances, the technicolor explosion, and of course, the gastronomic satiation.

I went back home to Bengalooru, after 9 long years. And here's my ode to all things that I love, about my home town.

Love, Supriya

Color, or glorious color!

If only I could purchase everything this vendor was selling!

Move aside the Bauble Bars of the world!

Why don't we get balloons like this over here?

Gorgeous selection, and admirable work ethic 
How many pani pooris can you stuff in your mouth?

Do you recognize this busy shopping complex?

You don't have to wait for summer to grill corn in India!!

Mallige Hoovu!

Tomato Slice on the streets! 
Ondu Lota Bisi Strong Filter Coffee barli

Masala Dosa anyone?

Street vendors

Shopping trips are never complete without a snack break!

Crisssssspy Vades!!

Remember the weights?

Baale Yele Oota!!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Brand Refresh - Varnanggall is back, and so is Aalayam!

I have been on a blog sabbatical these past few months. Mostly because I have not had to mojo to write anything. I used to think it was the lack of time that kept me away from beloved Aalayam. 

But you know something, once you get the inspiration, it’s easy to make the time.
And this time, it was really hard not be inspired by this comeback story. Yes, Lavanyaa, of the Varnanggall fame, is back  - with “Kannadi”, her new line of bespoke blouses, sarees and home décor that incorporate the multi-hued lambani work. 
The Banjara (also called Gor, Lambani, Vanjara and Gormati) are a community usually described as nomadic people from the northwestern belt of the Indian subcontinent (from Afghanistan to the state of Rajasthan) now spread out all over India. 

Banjara art is rich and includes performance arts such as dance and music to folk and plastic arts such as rangoli, textile embroidery, tattooing and painting. The Banjara embroidery and tattooing are especially prized and also form a significant aspect of the Banjara identity. Lambani women specialize in lepo embroidery which involves stitching pieces of mirror, decorative beads and coins onto clothes. 
Frequent Aalayam readers will remember Lavanyaa and her creative journey, her brainchild Varnanggall (see here), and her signature creations that have left many a gorgeous lady feeling more in tune with her inner goddess. I for one, always feel my beautiful best, when I don a Varnanggall. 
It’s something about the sensual mix of the fabrics, textures, colors that brings out the dusky diva in me. I am sure others who own or have adorned pieces from the Varnanggall line feel the same. 
If the pictures in this blog post are any testament (some pictures are staged, some are candid), you will see the inner confidence and beauty radiate from within all women wearing a Varnanggall.
For women of all social strata, we know that in today’s day and age it is important to let that inner confidence shine through… To stay resolute in the midst of naysayers, to remain steadfast in the face of challenges and stubborn obstacles.

And to remain poised in the hubbub of the world’s gargantuan expectations. 
That confidence lets us be ourselves, present our best faces to ourselves, etch a personality that is unique and memorable, a personality that shapes our temperament and our legacy, so we leave behind to our daughters a persona of strength, beauty, and belief that we can do anything we aspire to do, be anything we aspire to be. 
This philosophy is not about looking beautiful. Beauty that is skin deep, and not a derivative of inner confidence and peace, is insignificant. This philosophy is about feeling beautiful – no matter what size, what shape, what color or what age. 

This beauty is empowering. It’s a reflection of the power of woman. This is the philosophy of Varnanggall ...and quite honestly, of Lavanyaa.
And I am proud to be writing about this brand once again, here at Aalayam.

Reiterating why this brand is so close to my heart, it's the sustainable design model that Lavanyaa has embraced.  She works with the unsung heros of kalamkari, lambani and block print..the actual weavers and artisans, traveling to their home base, eliminating middle men, bringing never seen before quality, design and exquisite crafstmanship to our homes! Empowering women at every step of the supply chain.
Lavanyaa has been through a personal evolution. A lot of change has punctuated her life in the last couple of years since she was last featured here in Aalayam. She has moved continents, transitioned into a whole new paradigm personally, and philosophically. However, one thing that has remained constant, is her passion and commitment to creating signature Varnanggall designs.

Aalayam spoke to this enigmatic artiste about her latest line – Kannadi, and this is what she has to say.
" Kannadi is about Varnanggall’s revival and exploration with the bona fide "Lambani" tribe of Karnataka – an art that is nomadic and kaleidoscopic. Varnanggall showcases ancient Indian motifs with bright and intensive hand embroidery. Our artists have taken about 3-4 months to put together a complete "Kannadi" collection - beyond any doubt a package of patience and commitment. 

I hope I’ve made complete justice to this divine artistry while weaving them into my creative brain :-) "
"At times when the tides are changing in your personal space, you tend to pause a bit and perhaps relook at life on how you can realign your professional goals to function better! And that’s how I was on a creative hiatus for about two years. “Birds of a feather flock together!”  - as always my ever supporting family and good bunch of friends for life who were around , these are the people who have constantly been lending credibility to my dreams and goals."
" During this period I traveled extensively, spent time alone and worked on auditing my brand, and I was instigated on how I could restate the brand's mission statement without hampering the aesthetics tied to it. First thing first, to reinforce the loyalty that existing customers feel, second, provide them with an easy and user friendly shopping experience, third, sticking to your principles and maintaining an enduring brand value. 

At the outset I felt I was going to bite off more than I could chew, but hey, here I am, back on the horse forging stronger bonds with my creative journey! "
Well, that was simple...yet profound. 

In all the rush of everyday life, we do not pause to see if we have made someone smile, if someone will remember us for making their day brighter. I deem Lavanyaa is doing that...making someone smile..making someone's day brighter.. not just to us with her brand, but also to these rural artists whose labor of love we adorn, embrace and enjoy.

The brand value and goodwill Varnanggall is earning as a result of these smiles is ....PRICELESS! More power to you with Kannadi, Lavanyaa. We love you.

 ~KANNADI 2017~
Sale Date: 19th of March 2017
Time : 7PM IST

Thursday, November 24, 2016

And it was time to ParTEA!

Hi there – in this post I want to bring you images of a merry summer afternoon spent with girlfriends. I know this post is a bit off season and perhaps many of you are already looking at entertaining for the holiday season. But I figured, you can always bookmark this post for next year's summer entertaining! By now, you know I love entertaining. My approach to entertaining is to create an artistic, fun and visually appealing experience that I hope my guests will remember.
 With everything else going on this year, I was not sure that I would be able to take on a full-scale party and so a tea party seemed an ideal summer socializing event. I am sure it gets equally crazy for many of you and catching up with friends is not always easy to accomodate in our busy lives, sadly!So, here is a quick and easy inspiration for your girls get together!
 I love my afternoon tea and I thought why not take the party outdoors and make the most of the Midwest summer? I am always looking for an excuse to hang out with the girls and this time it was a tea party in the comfort of my own home. Although mine does not have quite the Victorian fanfare that usually accompanies an afternoon high tea, it still has lots of color, and some fun elements and was a great way to spend a summer afternoon with my girl friends. 

This was also my little girl’s first girly party and what fun she had too! You all should get together and do something fun with your girlfriends, God knows we all need our sanity restored ever so often (!)– just make sure to add some beautiful blooms, a few pretty things and some mouthwatering snacks as that’s a sure fire way to ensure that the party is a success! I spruced up my backyard and added many tea themed accents such as paper napkins and tea spoons to tie it all together.

And one thing I have learnt over the years is that while it is o.k to learn/borrow ideas from whatever your favorite resource may be, always add a little personal touch - I think it goes a long way!! 

This party was a tribute to a great set of friends who have been an amazing source of support this past year as I have struggled with new demands thrown my way at work and at home. Again, reminding me that you always need to surround yourself with people who uplift you!

 I hope you enjoy these images from my Partea and I will see you around soon hopefully! Thank you for your patience with Aalayam's sporadic programming. Supriya and I filled our schedules to the brim this year and that's our excuse but we love our little blog very much and hope that next year allows us to nurture our blog a little more. We have no shortage of ideas, so check back with us in a bit! Also, a very warm welcome to our new members - thank you for joining the Aalayam family!
P.S: All images in this post are from my home and may not be reproduced wihout permission and without proper credits.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Home Tour: A journey into a Texas Home...with a Uttar Kannada Influence!!

I am happy to be back Aalayam!! 

It's been a long time and we have not featured a Home Tour in this space in forever! Deepa had a baby, board exams and a new career happening to her, and I just got sucked into the world of corporate America, business school student consulting, and some trailblazing Ted Talking! 

In order to bring balance to our lives, both Deepa and I realize that being invested in the rich cultural fabric Aalayam has woven already, is imperative! 

A sun kissed living room, with bamboo drapes, deep rich tones and lots of style!!

So, here I am, privileged and pleased to be bringing to you a Home Tour, featuring the home of my friends Mallika and Vinayak, a fun couple who, growing up, set the example of what falling in love, and getting married really should look like..and feel like! 

Mallika and Vinayak are new parents, who have recently moved to the Houston, United States, from Sydney, Australia. They have lovingly decorated their new, modern Texas home with it's signature wide spaces, sunny living areas and high ceilings with generous touches of rustic splendor, that speak to their roots in India..and of course, the resplendence of Mallika's native Uttar Kannada origins!!

A delightfully welcoming entrance to a gorgeous home!

Join me, as I virtually traverse through this loving abode. Partake in my excitement as I make interesting connections between the Boppanakeri (Mallika's native village) vistas and vintage bungalows, to this fabulously classy Texas home! Replete with the "bring the outside in" mantra, you will see lush green potted plants bringing in the reminiscence of the coastal foliage of Uttar Kannada. 

Color, deep rich color! Roof top drying of local produce in Mallika's native village, back in India!

You will also see rustic red splashes and deep burgundy wood tones that render your heart aflutter, making you fondly recall the terracotta terraces, and deep red chillie carpets from your native locales!!

An aerial shot of Mallika's family home in Boppanakeri, Uttar Karnataka, India!

Mallika and Vinayak have subtly adorned their home with all the right touches.... imperial looking wood chests and ornate carved mirrors, masks and gilt edged accessories, intricately woven baskets, mats and blinds that bring in a delicious throwback to traditional textures, and instantly invoke flashes of "Ajji Mane" or "Halli Mane" decor! 

Mallika and I playfully pose near a enchanting little pond, in her family home!

So, without further ado, I will present to you Mallika and Vinayak's home, and their delightful journey to make it their own cozy abode! 

In their own words!

Wood tones and furniture bring about a solid sensibility to the home, played up by colorful and meaningful accessories!

First of all, thank you for letting me and Aalayam readers take a virtual tour of your home!! Tell us a little bit of your story - how did you meet? How did you imagine your home is going to be when you "grew up"?

Vinayak and I have known each other for almost 14 years. We met in Bangalore where we used to work together. We were dating for a few years during which time Vinayak decided to move to Sydney, Australia to pursue his studies which led to 2 years of long distance relationship! We then went on to live in Sydney for almost 10 years after marriage before making the move to Houston in Nov 2015 for Vinayak's work. We now have a little boy who is almost 2 and keeps us on our toes! We always imagined having a beautiful spacious house with a big backyard and a dog. Most of it has come true other than a dog :-) 

Woven bamboo textured planters, and gorgeous tropical foliage, bring the outside in!

What makes your house "your home"?

Our family makes our house a "home". People ask me if it has been a tough move from Australia to the States and I tell them not really. Of course the way of life is different and sometimes challenging but my home is where my family is. We brought with us all the things that we have collected over the years and it now adorns our home and the familiarity of it all gives us a lot of comfort.

The combination of the ornate carved mirror, the golden urn and the textured planter, work in a sublime fashion in this sunny fireplace!!

Does the decor in your home fit the bill for any one particular style - if so, what drove you to that style?

We think our style is mainly contemporary with spots of Indian, Balinese and Moroccan pieces. Vinayak likes modern sleek comfortable furniture and I on the other hand like ethnic, colorful, rustic items so we have made a home with a combination of both modern and ethnic pieces. It's true that opposites attract :-) 

The dining room gets the balance of modern and traditional, just right!!

How does your personal decor style influence your personality or the other way around? 

Our personality influences the decor in our home. It reflects our passion for travel. It reflects modern and comfortable living but reflects our roots, where we come from and where we have been.

Adake (Betel) trees  in the backyard, from back home! A inspiration!!

Where do you draw your online inspirations from - any favorite resources that you can share?

I really like Pinterest and I also really like a FB page called Home decorating mummas. Vinayak and I watch a lot of home renovation and makeover shows. These truly inspired us and we bought our first home in Sydney as a renovation project. For a year, we worked on the house every weekend while living in it. We are really proud of how the home and the garden was transformed by us. This is a true passion for us and we are looking forward to our next project.

Lounging in style...!

Are there influences from your home state  (Karnataka/ Boppanakeri) in your décor? How do you balance the modern, clean convenience of the western decor to the intricacy and nostalgia of Indian decor? 

There is definitely an influence of my home state and my native place. Whenever i am shopping for the house, I tend to get attracted to items that are colourful, rustic and remind me of home. I have too many Ganeshas and elephants around the house  All our big furniture is modern  but is surrounded by decor that reminds us of home.

Strategically placed art work adds color and character, while traditional textures add visual interest!

Masks from wanderings around the world! Bringing back influences of "Yaksha Gaana" or traditional native Uttara Kannada dance dramas, where ornate painted faces form the visual cynosure of the drama.

What are your favorite places to shop for your home? Are you budget savvy or would you rather own pieces that truly strike a chord with you even if they are expensive? 

A lot of our decor items were collected during our travels mainly from local artisan markets and our furniture is mainly from Australia. 

Can you tell, Mallika is an accessory enthusiast, just like me!

Here in the US, we go everywhere..Ikea, Target, Pottery barn, Home goods, World Market. As for being budget savvy, if the both of us truly like something we usually go for it as long it is does not cost an arm and a leg.

Traditional accessories pepper into this modern Texas home!

Finally, what is your favorite place in your home to relax, recharge and rejuvenate?

We love our kitchen. When we entertain, all our guests just hang out in the kitchen as there is heaps of space around the kitchen island. But our favorite has to be our living room. We spend most of our time here as a family. It is cozy and has big windows which brings in a lot of light and you can see the whole backyard through it. 

Mallika and her beautiful family!

Thanks a ton for sharing your home and your perspectives on what Home means to you, with the readers of Aalayam! I personally loved the peek into your beautiful home, and cannot wait to come and luxuriate in its beauty in December!! And to the readers of Aalayam, feast in this glorious Texas home tour and let us know what you think of Mallika and Vinayak’s soul refreshing journey!!

Until next time!
Love always,


Throwback to 2006! Mallika and me in her Boppanakeri family home, surrounded by smiling faces and verdant landscapes!