Entering Chandigarh with elan- Elante Mall

Nothing happens in Chandigarh – Nothing much in any case that can count as a major event and generate enough interest and excitement. In fact at times you just might want to stand atop your house and scream out loud in order to generate some excitement !But when a huge mall opens up in a city , a city that despite being the hippest in the region, not to mention capital of two states, has strangely remained deprived of any shopping mall worth mentioning, it is an event that is bound to generate interest and rightly so. Yes it’s the latest happening hot spot of Chandigarh that I’m talking about- The Elante Mall in Chandigarh.


There had been talk about a new mall opening up with all the international brands, food chains etc but seeing how such rumours arise and spread, I chose to ignore it. Until one day in April this year when an excited call from a friend informed me that indeed it was true. So it is that I first went to Elante in Industrial Area Chandigarh. My merry trip did not get off to a very good start since I managed to get lost on the way. Industrial Area is not a part of the city one frequents often unless it is for the servicing of your car. And there were no signboards to guide you either (Signboards are still not there but by now everyone worth his or her name knows about it. And if still in doubt, just follow the general flow of the traffic- you’ll end up bang in front of it !)

Anyways, reach I did and I was pleasantly surprised even though most shops had not opened yet. There is something about the facade of a place that pretty much tells you what to expect out of it. And with fountains and nice open space in front, Elante stands tall indeed. On entering it, yet another surprise awaited me- it is vast and expansive. With its unique V- shape( it is that or have I got my sense of shapes and direction all messed up?), the Mall has all the shops nicely spaced out giving one illusion of space even when it is crowded. Having roamed around in Ambience Mall in Gurgaon and Select City Walk in Delhi, most malls, even the ones in NCR seem like match boxes to me. Somehow I almost feel claustrophobic in them. About DT Mall in IT Park, Chandigarh- don’t even get me started. Paras Downtown in any case is too much out of the way and the traffic snarls at Zirakpur intersection make a visit to that Mall a nightmare.


Honestly, even though I started visiting Elante regularly after that I was not very sure what brands would actually open, and more importantly, how much time they would take. Mango opened, as did Marks and Spencer. Zara came with its flamboyant multi floor look. Body Shop, Clinique, Inglot, Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Westside, Forest Essentials, Aldo, Steve Madden, The Collective, Color Bar, Da Milano, Promod…and the list is long indeed.  MAC took its own sweet time to open forcing me at one point to stick my head in through the shutters only to find baffled workers who had no clue as to when it would open. Eating joints are by now in plenty- from international chains like Chilis and Haagen Daazs, Nandos to our very own Nik Bakers and Backpackers. Apart from the top floor devoted to eating places and entertainment, I particularly like the outer courtyard that houses these coffee shops. With lot of live performance slated for the courtyard, this promises to be the beginning of something interesting. My son was particularly excited to see Fun City that he has been missing sorely ever since we moved out of Gurgaon. And the cherry topping on his joy was Hamleys. Though not as big as the one in Delhi, yet it is exciting enough for the little ones. And  finally of course, good old Big Bazaar, with its cheap discounts and deals, grabbing its trademark basement spot. Yes the pictures is complete but for an international level health club.

Having said all this, and lavished all praises for brand presence and design, how does the mall match up to its counterparts in Delhi? Well considering that it is just starting, it is way too early to pass a judgement. There are teething troubles that need to be sorted out and hopefully they will be. My concern here, for Elante, is of a different nature- not simply matching the standards that you have set for yourselves but maintaining those standards as well. Most basic of these are the hygiene and cleanliness specially of the washrooms and there has been some concern on same front. And while it is lovely to finally have all these big names in the city, I do hope these brands intend training their staff well and stocking themselves up as well. There really is no point if we still have to go to Delhi to shop for those very brands that are now present here. As a case point,right at the beginning, probably sometime in April, when I went looking for makeup brushes in Inglot, the SA had no idea what a stippling brush was. She just lamely pointed out to all the brushes she had in stock. While this kind of lack of knowledge is expected of SA of drugstore brands like Maybelline, Lakme and Revlon ( and I see plenty of that at their counters in Shopper’s Stop and Westside and Lifestyle), from Inglot it’s a bit of a letdown. I hope that all these are just initial hiccups and we will be provided with good services.

Coming to the crowd that is flocking to Elante- people, while it’s all very well to go there to look around, feel great about it and just window shop, eventually what is going to motivate these brands and invite more similar ones, is not the teeming “junta” in the aisles but the genuine shoppers. As of now, the majority of the crowd consists of those who are there just to roam around- be it the locals or those from nearby areas. While the tri city can never match up to NCR’s potential in terms of revenue generation, these brands do have to earn. So folks,enough of gawking- shop!!

Before I wind up, I just have to share this real life howler regarding Elante. On its Facebook page ( and there are so many of those) I put up a query as to when was MAC opening when one gentleman replied that it was already open- he had eaten there. Kill me someone!! MAC, my dear boy, not Mc Donald’s. The good old Punjabi spirit- stomach first ( no offences anyone). No wonder then these brands have taken so long to come here. What chance does Nando’s peri peri stand before Tehal Singh’s Chicken when MAC has had to bow before good ol’ Mc Donalds! I do hope all of them can coexist because we need both of them !!

I went on a “Braincation”

After 15 days in the “wilderness” I’m back in what we call civilisation only to read an article in Times Life ( June 16, 2013) about something called “Braincation”. On reading it I realised that I have done something hip and trendy; I have been on a “Braincation”!! Only that I didn’t know that I was on a Braincation. It’s only in retrospect that this realisation has dawned upon me and I’m basking in the glory thereof!

For the uninitiated like me, Braincation is a vacation for the brain which primarily, though not only, involves a break from technology that has made much deeper inroads into our lives and psyche than we can imagine. No wonder then, as I read somewhere, digital detox is what it is also called. My Braincation actually was self imposed. Pokhara ( Nepal) is not exactly in the back of beyond where my Smart phone or Laptop would not work. However when I got the chance to not switch on my overzealous smart phone, I grabbed it. It was as if my very being needed to tune out the over bearing intrusion of the outside world. In all honesty, I was not totally devoid of all gizmos and gadgets. There was a good old Nokia 1100 mobile phone that lay somewhere around the house to talk to friends and family. I did check my mail once a day or every other day; I logged into the bane of our existence, Facebook once or twice and I did write a few blog posts. But I kept my smart phone far away. Neither did I bother to pick up a local number and get data activated on it nor did I try and connect to Wi-Fi anywhere. It was then that I realised that the biggest culprit invading our existence second by second is our over smart “smart phone” which, in the guise of keeping us “connected”, has driven us to a point where we can’t bear to part with it even for a minute . Be it Mail, “WhatsApp”, Facebook ,Twitter, Viber or numerous other apps and games – there really is no rest for our over stimulated brains. To think of it, why blame the poor inanimate gadget? It was designed to make our life easier. Yet we have allowed it to take over our lives so much so that now there is a wholly legitimate phrase for a vacation that the brain needs from it- Braincation!  How is it that we get ourselves to a point where the things designed to make our life simpler, end up complicating it instead? The smart phone doesn’t prod us to reach out for it every time it beeps. We do it out of choice. Our need for constant and varied stimulation, the global attention span deficit that plagues us, our inability to simply be, even for a few minutes- all this make us jump for our smart phone every few minutes. Excuses are there in plenty, work being most common of all but at the end of the day, that is just what they are- excuses. It’s not uncommon to see a family out for dinner ( or even on a vacation) where the husband and wife are busy on their respective phones while the child is handed an iPad to play on. Why bother going out at all when all that you want is your phone and not the people or the surroundings ? What happened to good old family outings? People whose very life is on line, be it on the phone or tablet or a laptop are on the rise. Take these gadgets away and the person won’t know what to do with himself. If this is not addiction, I don’t know what is. No wonder then that after proudly proclaiming “free Wi-Fi” on their banners, hotels and travel destinations are now offering digital detox and “technology breaks” as their selling points.

This “use to the point of abuse” is a pattern that we human beings seem to have mastered. Plastic carry bags were supposed to offer ease of usage and disposal. We didn’t think twice before chucking out our good old cloth bags for them. Now we are fighting tooth and nail to ban those very bags. Simple mobile phones, the kind we hardly see much anymore, made communication easier. Today we are talking about the adverse effect of these phones and communication towers on our health. Microwaves are pretty much indispensable in every kitchen. Yet there is research to show how their excessive usage is detrimental to health. What is it with us that we just don’t seem to be able to maintain any kind of balance- be it in our lives or in nature? Recent Uttarakhand floods are a case point. Blame God, blame Kedarnath all that you will. At the end of the day we just have ourselves to thank for it.

So how did my mini Braincation feel? Liberating. After what seems eternity I had my privacy, my life. Not too strangely not only did I survive these 15 days beautifully but the world around did not collapse either. Yet as I reached our good old T3 terminal at IGIA, old habits seemed to be craving to take over as I switched on my smarty pants phone and found myself looking for Fb status updates, WhatsApp messages, mail etc. However having experienced digital detox, I’m determined not to fall back into the old mould. So all that I use my phone for now is what it was originally intended for- calls. Will I succeed? I sure hope so. For there is nothing that is worth losing one’s peace. Like it or not, for most things in life, there is a “later”.



LUSH Jungle Solid Conditioner

Jungle gud

Ok so these mangled remains is what is left of my LUSH Jungle Solid conditioner and that alone should tell you how I’ve used and abused this conditioner. I carried it along for my 15 days of wanderings in the wilderness( hence the picture quality),along with LUSH Trichomania Shampoo Bar, assuming that a solid shampoo and conditioner would be way easier travel companions. More on that later but for now suffice it to say that solid shampoo and conditioner bars are not as travel friendly as one would like to believe.

Like so many of LUSH’s innovations, solid henna, solid oil bar, solid toothpaste  ( all of which I’ve talked about), this solid conditioner too is a novelty from them. The original product, unlike what you see, was a very pretty sea green round bar with something engraved on it, which, for the life of me till date I can’t decipher. It came in a plastic kind of transparent bowl/container with the bar sitting in it prettily. It’s better to store it in this snug fitting container as, given the high Cocoa Butter content, it’s quite prone to melting and losing its shape in a bigger container. jungle condi

About the conditioner

LUSH says – “Tame your mane with our solid fruity conditioner filled with an abundance of fresh fruit and conditioning cocoa butter. LUSH co-founder and inventor Helen Ambrosen was the first person to make a solid conditioner work. She discovered that cocoa butter will slide onto your hair to make it softer, and then dissolve in water to leave it smooth, shiny and de-tangled. Jungle feels rich and hydrating on the hair and leaves you with a fresh, fruity fragrance after washing it off.”


The conditioner contains  Cocoa Butter, Fresh Avocado Extract, Fresh figs, Fresh Bananas, Fresh Kiwi Fruit, Fresh Passion Fruit, Ylang Ylang oil, Sandalwood Oil, Cypress Oil. It does have other ingredients like Cetearyl Alcohol and SLS for which LUSH has often been criticised but LUSH products have way fewer nasties than the conventional brands do.

What else LUSH says-

  •  Vitamin K: Kumquats are rich in calcium and vitamins, including vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties.
  • Made by hand: Fresh bananas and avocados are mashed into every batch to condition the hair.
  • Dual purpose: Our preservative and packaging-free solid conditioner also doubles as a shaving cream for your legs

Application :

LUSH tells you to – Moisten the bar under warm water, and then slide it gently along the length of your wet hair in long, top-to-bottom strokes. Massage it in with your fingertips as you would a conventional conditioner. Rinse thoroughly and revel in the results. Given the weather in most of India for better part of the year, you won’t need to moisten it under warm water except in the winter months when you’ll be using warm water for a shower anyways. The conditioner is fairly easy to apply and it glides easily along the length of the hair. At times you may find that a few pieces are left sticking to your hair but as you massage it, it easily melts down. Leave it on for few minutes and rinse off as usual. And yes it does leave my dry hair very well conditioned- smooth with a lovely scent that faintly lingers on. Interestingly this scent revives when you wet your hair as I discovered after using it on my 7 year old’s hair. Every time thereafter he would wet his hair, without shampoo or conditioner, this smell would revive and linger on yet again.

Personally I love this conditioner bar. Given the price tag. Rs 370/- or so for a piece, it is one of the cheapest conditioners from LUSH and I like it more than their Retread Conditioner. About it doubling up as a shaving cream for the legs, can’t say as I haven’t used for that purpose.


  1. Rich in Cocoa Butter and other natural ingredients
  2. Gets the job done and beautifully at that.
  3. The fresh fruity smell lingers on. But as with all LUSH products, it’s better to try it out before buying lest you get stuck with a product you can’t stand the smell of.
  4. Way cheaper than LUSH’s other conditioners but works as well and for me even better than Retread.
  5. LUSH is a cruelty free brand- easier on the conscience.


  1. Solid shampoos and conditioners are not as travel friendly as one may think. The only pro is that they won’t spill. But they are likely to melt during travel specially in the summer months. This happened with both my Snake Oil Bar and Jungle Conditioner and I had to devote considerable time in salvaging them. Moreover you can’t immediately pack them up and get going. You have to let them dry out a bit at least or they’ll just keep melting in their container. Bottles are easier as in you just wipe them and move. The storage, even at home, requires extra care or they will just melt with the moisture like any soap does in its soap dish.
  2.  As the bar wears out, it becomes difficult to use. The remnants that I’ve posted are proving to be quite a challenge to use.
  3. Some people may find rubbing it on the hair not suitable as it can tug on long hair.
  4. People with oily hair and scalp and those with very fine hair may not like it.

Priced at Rs 370/- a piece but LUSH jacks up its prices so very often !!