Thursday, 28 April 2016

Ab:original makes its TV debut

So yes, I've given away the punchline in the heading of this post. Have to admit I have mixed feelings about seeing myself on camera. Not too sure I match up to the celebrities who were at the event that I was attending.

Food Addict is a new show by Zen Productions. It will focus on Malaysian cuisine with a strong emphasis on healthy foods. The show is expected to air in September 2016 and was introduced to the UAE media recently.

The event was highly anticipated as the launch brought four famous Indian personalities to the venue. These included comedian and actor Javed Jaffrey, actor R. Madhavan, actor and model Rahul Dev (who will be hosting the food show) and singer Sukhbir.

After addressing questions from the media about their favourite foods, R. Madhavan threw light on his experiences with Malaysian cuisine. Incidently the actor and Sukhbir are both  vegetarian. Actor Javed Jaffrey had us in splits with his characteristic puns. The attendees were then offered an array of Malaysian fusion food. This translated to us being offered Malaysian sweets along with gulab jamun and rasmalai. Everyone seemed to go with the flow. I was asked to offer my views on Zee Connect and here is the short clip. It was a fun event and I can't wait to see the show. Look forward to your feedback as always.

TV clip from Youtube

Image from the event:

Monday, 18 April 2016

The launch of the all new Honda Civic 2016

Over the past few years I've become particularly fond of the Honda brand of cars. It is probably due to their reliability and simplicity. Maybe its also because a Honda Accord took my family and me to a lot of places over the past four years or so.

Which is why I expected no less from the new Honda Civic which was launched in Dubai recently. It has been called the 'Stunning Civic' for its sporty look and added features.

On first glance the 2016 Civic sets an all-new standard in compact car style and performance. With sleek, sporty lines and an improved power-to-weight ratio, it is charismatic, spacious and stylish but also the most efficient in its class. In addition to a brand new engine in the LXi and EXi grades, it also boasts  of a new grade equipped with a new turbo charged 1.5 litre DOHC Direct Injected Inline-4 cyclinder Engine and will be called RS.

Convenience features include a Remote Engine Starter which starts the engine from a distance, ensuring that the car is cooled before you enter. There's also a Smart Entry and Push Button Start. The Electric Parking Brake replaces the hand lever with a compact, easy to operate switch, the Automatic Brake Hold function eliminates the need to keep the foot on the break when at a hill or an

A special mention must go towards the safety of the vehicle. A number of safety technologies benchmarked the 2016 Civic to receive a 2016 Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in United States of America, making it one of the safest cars amongst its segment.

What particularly took my fancy was the super cool blue version of the vehicle. There are a host of colours to choose from. What is your preference?

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Thailand in Dubai

Most newly opened spas are prettty much the same. They smell minty fresh and have that air of sophistication that makes you feel like all your troubles will be whisked away within an hour of a holistic treatment.
Of course most people, myself included, like to indulge in that feeling of total bliss.
After a very hectic month of far too many things on my to-do list, I booked a signature massage at the newly opened Orchid Palace Wellness Spa.

The spa is located on the 8th floor of Yassat Gloria hotels and apartments. The convenience of the location just makes it ideal. If traveling by the metro, just get off the Dubai Internet City stop and cross the small road from Dubai Tecom. The building is on Sheikh Zayed Road.
In no time the smell of lavender and mandarin transforms your world and a sea of smiling faces greet you in Thai.

Excuse the bragging rights, but having reviewed quite a few spas from the one at the Burj Al Arab to Six Senses Spa, one always wonders how long new spas will last in a bustling city like Dubai. Something tells me The Orchid will go a long way for its sheer commitment to using authentic Thai products. Everything is sourced from natural ingredients. The mandarin infused shampoo and conditioner and natural oils indicate a care for finer details. 

The Orchid Aroma Bliss signature treatment, which I took, combines the best in Eastern aromatic oils and western body massage techniques. Carefully applied pressure works to stimulate your nervous system. A 60-minute massage costs Dhs 240.
The spa is open for both men and women.
Call + 9714 381 887.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Chris Botti, Sting and David Gray at the Dubai Jazz Festival February 2016

Sting and Chris Botti live in concert and visibly in awe of each other.
I don't have to write this blog post. No one sent me complimentary passes. I bought them like any other die-hard music fan. In fact four friends from various parts of this country got together and booked them a month in advance to avoid missing out on this once in a lifetime experience.

Guess what, it was totally worth it. Admittedly I hadn't heard much about Chris Botti till I booked my ticket for the show. It was a chance to watch Gordon Sumner live and I wasn't going to give that up for anything. Watching the two musicians collaborate on various songs online, gave me goosebumps. But that was nothing like seeing their energy on stage. No video clip can do justice to it.

After a mind boggling set of songs with an outstanding jazz band that has been together for 12 years, Botti told the crowd that he played for Frank Sinatra. Naturally one's respect for the musician grew ten fold. He went on to tell us that in 1998 at the passing of Sinatra, one of music's biggest icons, Botti called up Sting's assistant to request if he would collaborate on a Sinatra tribute piece.
A few days later Sting called and agreed only to ask Botti to work with him on his next album, 'A brand new day.' The rest of course is music history and Botti said, "I'm still figuring out who got the better deal there."

On February 25, 2016 I'd like to think that their fans got the best deal ever. We arrived at the venue early enough to soak in the ambience of good food, music and positive vibes. From out of the blue, a girl with wrist bands came up to us and asked if we'd want a free upgrade.
Now, I don't drink so I was wondering if my ears were already popping. Turns out the organisers decided to give a few early entries a chance to go closer to the stage. So that's your tip for next time.

Deciding that karma had played its part we entered the covetted, 'Golden circle,' and started our journey with David Gray who sang with precision and style. He bobbed his head from side to side to most of the tunes and it was charming to say the very least. Before leaving the stage he took a moment to thank the Dubai audience and told us to enjoy listening to Chris Botti and the magnificent Sting.

I always believe that no matter how famous or successful an artist is, their humility to share the stage and admiration of fellow artists speaks volumes. Its bigger than any award or accolade one may attribute.

Gray, Botti and the legendary Sting did just that. All of them were shining in their own way and throwing the spotlight on each other equally. Song after song from Gray's 'Babylon' to Sting's 'Field's of Gold,' brought back memories from the soundtrack of our lives. Train rides, break ups, friendships and longing of the years gone by. All of it a bouquet of memories that only music can describe. Pure magic.
So yes, I'm writing to gloat, and say I saw the hottest guy in music, and at 65 he can still Sting.
Message in a bottle. Vintage music at its best. 
David Gray sang 'Let go your heart, let go your head. and feel it now.'

Chris Botti engaged the audience throughout with an outstanding band that had an award winning violinst,
drummer, piano and cello player.

Still rocking out a tune as good as if he were in the Police. 

All images and text copyright of Abigail Mathias.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Taking it to the limit

Way before there was a Google search engine or a sea of other technological ways in which we could get breaking news, there was a ‘Tequila Sunrise.’
I was barely eight years old when I first heard the song. Well in to my teens, another anthem of sorts ‘Take it easy,’ took on a new significance in our troubled times. “We may lose or we may win, but we will never be here again,” sang Don Henley and for some reason, I felt like he was talking to me.
Playing the Eagles every Sunday morning while we did our chores in a Bombay suburb, was purely automatic. There wasn’t a member of the household that complained about the easy feeling that the boys on the faithful Kenwood player belted out. Of course it was the 90’s but those evergreen hits had been written two whole decades before.
To the boys from the band who undoubtedly face a collosal loss, my heart sinks today. I woke up like most of the world, to the sad news that Glenn Frey is no more. Now, yes he hasn’t been breaking records like he used to and I can see a whole host of people on social media writing tributes to him. A few are scratching their heads thinking, ‘Frey who?’ What strikes me is how relevant the music of the Eagles is even to this day.

A group of friends and myself are taking part in an acapella singing competition this weekend. We are far from prepared. When life hits you with children to look after, an endless amount of work to take care of and complex to-do lists, music somehow takes a backseat. Among the Vocal Bandits (a name I put together for the group), I’ve found that we have very little time or faith that we can pull this off. Well I even thought we were ‘toast’ when we listened to a few of the other competitors of the upcoming contest this Friday.
Be that as it may, I was hunting for a song that could may be allow us to harmonise in some fashion. The song ‘Seven bridges’ by the Eagles, kept playing in my head and I heard it on and on again a day before the news that one of their core members had passed on.

Their song writing skills are up there with the greatest. From ‘Lying eyes,’ to the haunting and oft repeated tune of a ‘Witchy Woman,’ to an easy ‘Desperado’ the Eagles have found faith in countless listeners the world over.
While we all wonder if the music industry is being hit by the weight of the loss of such great artists, I want to take a moment to say thank you to these guys. For bringing us up with their melody. For holding forth with a faith that they can indeed, take it to the limit. Its what’s going to make me belt out a tune or more this weekend.
Thank you guys. We’re all so glad that hell indeed does freeze over. 

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Eve at the parlour

There is usually a crowd in here. But it is exceptionally busy on Christmas eve. Women of all ages rush in to look their best barely a few hours before Christmas. You've probably witnessed the trend, the world over.

She sits behind me. I cannot see her face. I can only hear the nagging voice arguing with the hair stylist. "No, I want it shorter. I have a four month old baby. You know I wanted to shave my head off. I, I, I." No kidding. This is actually what I hear. 

It is a real blessing that the women from the Phillipines who run the beauty parlour I am in, have the patience that they do. Miles away from their own families, they have to work every day plus a half day on Christmas day as well. To add to their woes there's an unending sea of women who believe that it is their right to argue and bicker about every Dirham spent.

I sit and wait patiently. For my hair to transform itself. I feel lucky that I could cross the road and attempt to look decent for Christmas. It is a few hours away from all the chores. I feel fortunate my family is close at hand. Why can't we empathise with those whom we can see aren't as lucky? Perhaps I am reading too much in to this.

The cackle continues. "I have a party to go to at two." I now know everyone's schedule for the day. Another lady is trying to outshout the hair dryer by explaining her shopping list to what one can assume is a disinterested (or deaf) someone. I am being ignored. Should I too kick up a fuss and demand to be attended to? After all I made this appointment a week ago.I count to 10 and remind myself that all of this too shall pass. Meanwhile I can hear Pharrell Williams 'Happy' playing faintly in the background.  

The women who run the place speak in their own language, often grumbling and smiling, while most of the customers are oblivious to what they must be thinking. 'Atte' (sister) is all I can understand. I make it a point to wish all of them a Merry Christmas knowing the small tip doesn't measure up to much. The gesture of acknowledging Christmas does.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Notes on a metro

Train travel has always inspired me. Sure the Mumbai suburban train service has its flaws. It packed like hell on most days. But it also provides solace and a chance for one to find your own little corner to catch a breath and think.
Some of my best ideas have come on a 50-minute train ride to college or work. And that’s been no different 20 years later on the Dubai Metro. Here is one piece that came up recently.

On motivating, passionate women at any age.

Danica's free hand drawing, December 2015. 
I don’t have to look far when it comes to women who are passionate at any age. My daughter provides sufficient inspiration. At the age of five she wants to be a mother above all else. I tell her I would simply love to be her age again but there's no going back. No adult logic that works with a five year old and for now she says she can’t wait to be a mother as I’m gathering she believes it’s a fun job.

Noted poet, author and my English Literature professor is another woman unabashed about her age. At 55 plus (I’m guessing from her salt and pepper hair) she was often spotted with a sleeveless black sari and a cigarette after college hours. She didn’t care much for do-gooders like myself at the time. I was obsessed with saving the world. Yet listening to her recite Shakespeare as if it were the letters of the alphabet, always made me pause in awe. It was our common turf.  
This was one woman who opened up our tiny minds to the world around us. She forced us to watch a half hour of the BBC World News every day and quizzed us about what we learnt. I never knew her habit would stick to me well in to my 30s. Approximately 20 plus years later Eunice lives alone besides her chirpy parrots for company. Her students have moved on. Many in advertising, a profession she detested whole heartedly. I was and am a big fan. She referred to us as cabbages but we learnt lessons for life in her small class room. She made American poetry of yester year relevant to a class of college kids in the 90s. Even when I write today, Eunice is always there, urging me to get better.

We all have our flaws, our burdens to carry. Whenever a day feels particularly overwhelming I just think of a close friend who is called Jas. 
At 40 she has recently been awarded by the leading software firm that she works for. It is one of many huge hurdles crossed by Jas. You see her Vice President and other influential people never imagined that someone with no control over her nerves and body could ever become a competitive software engineer. 
I am no VP but I always believed in Jasmina. I first met her in college when she had no one to write her exams. We met countless people who told us it was not worth studying ‘for a person like her’. We have fought sales people who haven’t allowed her wheelchair in to stores for fear we would break something.
She is extraordinary. In her own way, she had proved that no matter how many doors close there is always room for one to open. Barely a month ago she took her first international flight to Singapore. In my country, India women like Jasmina are not just role models they challenge the very notion that women are powerful. From small but significant hurdles like attending my wedding which was quite a distance from her house, to owning her own vehicle she has proved countless times that she has the will power to do anything.

My mother like most mothers is in another league of her own. While I watch Jyoti Singh’s mother fight for her deceased daughter, I pray she doesn’t lose the strength to keep going.

Who are the women who inspire you?