An open box of Nordic Kandie Magic marzepan with 12 pieces, with two having silver and gold leaf

Luxuriant Marzepan, for Luxury Gifting

A content marketing post for a luxury marzipan brand based out of Bombay / Mumbai. First, their post on SlideShare, and then my original post below.

This post on Nordic Kandie Magic SlideShare

When it comes to gifting, especially luxury gifting, only the best should do. After all, this is a day and age when people have travelled to destinations as exotic as the Cook Islands and as expensive as Guana Island. And when it comes to gifting food and confectionery, it gets even trickier. The well-heeled, apart from being well-travelled, are also adopters of new-age, healthy lifestyle and dietary choices. Trans fat free, gluten free, organic, vegan, artisanal… The list goes on, much like that of their dream holiday destinations. Finding a gift that matches all these preferences would call for the services of a genie. Or in our case, some good old kandie. Nordic Kandie’s range of handmade, gourmet marzipan (or marzepan, as we prefer to spell it, to reflect its authenticity) and couverture chocolates ticks all the right boxes when it comes to high-end gifting, right down to the elegant gift box. But allow us to start at the beginning.

Marzepan, as you may know, if you’ve been to a Scandinavian country, or an Anglo-Indian neighbourhood closer home, is a sweet made essentially of almonds (blanched and ground into paste) and sugar (though in some places, that’s replaced with honey). The ratio of almonds to sugar may vary, but authentic marzepan is that known to contain at least 35% almonds. Ours is made up almost entirely of almonds, but that’s only the delectable beginning. So, if it doesn’t contain almonds – in some countries, it may be made of anything from cashews to pili nuts, and commercial marzipan usually contains almond flour – it’s not marzipan.

An almond-flavoured marzepan ball with almonds beside

The heart of marzepan, almonds are being counted among the superfoods these days. They’ve for long been known for their health benefits, thanks to all the goodness they bear (protein, vitamin E, antioxidants, manganese, magnesium… this list seems endless too), and are especially famous for providing an “energy blast”. So, mom knew best, after all. However, the elders may have been off the mark in one respect. Recent studies show that apprehensions of gaining girth – thanks to it being such a loaded luxury nut – are unfounded. Almonds are quite filling and it’s usually not possible to have too many at one go without feeling satiated. Unless you’re taking part in something like a ‘Man vs Nuts’.

When it comes to the almond source too, we’ve set the premium bar high. Our choice is the world’s finest, the Mamra of Iran. The defining quality of the Mamra is that it’s cultivated organically and so retains the finest flavour, texture and taste, all perfect for making our marzepan luxuriant. Not surprisingly, Mamra almonds constitute only 3-4% of the world’s almond produce. (If you see parallels between this and high-quality wine, we like where you’re going. Gourmet marzepan and fine wine, in fact, make for a very appealing combination, not the least because both are acquired tastes. But more of this some other time.)

Now, if the almonds are organic, can our sugar be otherwise? Befitting the health-conscious, we use only organic sugar for our marzepan. Making the actual confection itself is a complex process, and in our case, artisanal, perfected over centuries of marzepan-making. Our founder, Thea Tammeleht, is a sixth-generation marzepan maker, from Reval in Estonia, the Scandinavian nation widely regarded as the birthplace of marzepan. In India, in keeping with tradition, we make it all by hand in a European-standards factory.

Nordic Kandie Magic marzepan in the making

Almonds from its finest place. The recipe from its birthplace. To add further exquisiteness to our marzepan, we kept going west. To Belgium. Which can only mean one thing. Our marzepan is enrobed in authentic, luscious Belgian chocolate for a truly divine experience. One bite, and you’ll be transported to all those small chocolate stores dotted across Belgium, or as we’d take pride in thinking, to our stores in India.

Edible-gold-covered Nordic Kandie Magic balls

This is precious candy, do we hear your saying? But. There’s. More. Seriously? How? Here’s how. Make your marzepan experience the ultimate in decadence by going for a covering of – hold your pranayam breath – silver or even gold. Even as you wonder if our marzepan needs to be kept locked up (well, maybe from roving palates), you would of course know that this is the edible variety. This is a thin sheet (or leaf, as it’s called), much like the varkh found in some Indian sweets. However, like the rest of our marzepan and couverture chocolate range, it’s 100% vegetarian and vegan. (What’s non-veg/an about varkh, do you ask? That, if you don’t already know, we’ll leave you to find out for yourself. You could be surprised, or rather dismayed. Additionally, in many cases, the varkh is made not of a precious metal but aluminum, which is of course hazardous for consumption.) We use purified 24K gold and 18K silver for these premium pieces. Needless to add, these are certified for their authenticity from the source, a globally renowned maker of edible silver and gold leaf based in Italy. (Iran, Estonia, Belgium, Italy… Our marzepan seems the world in a box, doesn’t it? As well as… a world of luxury in a box.)

If you prefer things a bit more down-to-earth though, we offer numerous embellishments (more than 100, and free of cost if you order in bulk) on the marzepan pieces. And keeping in mind the Indian fondness for variety in everything, we offer a range of flavours as well: cinnamon, rose cardamom, salted caramel, strawberry, mint, nutmeg… Well, what do you know, our marzepan seems to be for the gluttons, after all.

The tradition of having edible silver and gold in confectionery comes, not surprisingly, from the royals and aristocrats down the ages. They believed it to be the elixir of life and would more than occasionally indulge in marzepan topped with gold leaf. Marzepan itself was considered a confection for the regals, due to the fine and rich ingredients it is made of. For the same reasons, with or without the gold, it was also considered a treat for the royals. Queen Elizabeth I is known to have developed quite a liking for it. Which is perhaps why at the beginning of this year, the German President, Joachim Gauck, gifted Queen Elizabeth II a marzepan model of the Brandenburg Gate for the new year. With our artisanal, gourmet marzepan, encased in equally exquisite packaging, we only seem to be continuing this rich tradition.

We invite you to be a part of this luxuriant gifting culture. Pay a visit to any of our stores in Mumbai and Delhi or get in touch with us here. Give it to your BFF for her baby shower, your closest kin you’ve invited for the destination wedding, your C-Suite frequent flyer, your blue-blood Deluxe Suite guest. And because we’re sure you won’t be able to resist its temptation, we suggest you also gift it to yourself.

An exquisitely wrapped box of Nordic Kandie Magic marzepan

Cover pic for this post, using a part of the Social Beat Digital Chai pe Charcha ad and my text

Irfanvertising | On the ‘Social Beat’

Irfanvertising LogoLogo of Chennai-HQed social-media agency, Social BeatSocial Beat is a, or even, the leading social media agency in Chennai. They’ve handled digital marketing (DM) and social media marketing (SMM) for clients ranging from start-ups to conglomerates. But that isn’t why I’m talking about them. And no, I don’t consult with them either.

The Digital Chai pe Charcha post for Content MarketingOnce a month or so, since January this year, Social Beat has been organizing these DM / SMM chat sessions called Digital Chai pe Charcha (DCPC). These are open to all and free of charge. (Why, Social Beat even sponsors beverages and biscuits for attendees.) Each session is around a chosen topic – which they publicize for about 10 days or so before the session – and goes on for about 1-1.5 hours. So far, there have been sessions around content marketing (one of my areas, which I ironically missed as I was out of the city / country), digital advertising, Instagram, ROI on DM (Social Beat’s baby, as ‘ROI’ is there in their baseline too, and thus obviously what their agency focuses on), and the first one was a generic one.

The sessions are beneficial for multiple, though perhaps expected, reasons: networking, knowledge-sharing and gaining, and in my case, refreshing. I had taken up a course in DM from NIIT about a couple of years ago when I started working in a digital agency. However, I didn’t start applying the knowledge until I started off on my own. These sessions at Social Beat thus act like monthly checkpoints, showing me how much more I know since yesterday or the last time and what gaps I need to fill. And even where I don’t seem to know much (like with the Instagram and ROI sessions), I still seem to end up being quite a vocalizer, as I am then eager to know more, or even all.

Logo for On1yDCPC has also been good as it has led to one work, or rather showcase, opportunity. I blog a lot about vegan stuff (under the series, IrfindingVegan). So, when Social Beat organized a food bloggers’ meet for On1y, a brand of gourmet herbs, spices and seasonings, I requested them to accommodate me, although I don’t really consider myself an “influencer”. (I don’t have too many followers on my blog, but that’s because I blog about several things – which is what my blog tagline says too – and I’m okay with this.) The good folk at Social Beat (am connected with most of the senior folk on social media) were kind enough to do so, and I eventually found myself at The Raintree, Anna Salai one Friday, first listening to a presentation about On1y and then tasting some fine dishes sprinkled with their range. I of course touched only the vegan dishes. Happily enough, all of On1y’s range is vegan.

The sessions seemed to have served their purpose for Social Beat too. I’m guessing they initiated this to be seen as thought leaders / experts in what they do, network with potential clients and other professionals, and provide a forum for DM / SMM / start-up discussions.

Not surprisingly then, I look forward to these sessions, and ever since they started being held on a Saturday evening (as against Friday evening earlier), it’s become even easier to go for them. Last time, they even asked us what we’d like to discuss next. Some suggestions that came up were influencer marketing, growing a brand organically on DM / SMM, handling negative comments (trolling) on SMM. I can’t wait.

A pic from the first Digital Chai pe Charcha session

A pic from the first Digital Chai pe Charcha session. Me at the back in blue. And trust me never to be looking at the camera.

And oh, why did I pen this piece? Is it some form of content marketing for them? (No, don’t think they need it, although any positive press never hurts.) Work opps from them or other professionals and clients coming there? (Nah, the info coming from there is precious enough for now, though again, chats with potential clients and new connects never hurt either.) Well, simply to return the favour. I don’t like freeloading.

And that’s not why I don’t touch the beverages and biscuits. One’s unhealthy and the other unvegan. But then again, the sessions are refreshment enough.

Cover pic for this post, with silver-coated marzipan balls below and the text 'MMMarzipan' above

IrfindingVegan: Mini Marzipan, Mega Magic

IrfindingVegan LogoFor this post alone, this series should have been called Irfvestigating Vegan. Read on.

Nordic Kandie Magic logoOne of my Bombay friends is an associate with Nordic Kandie Magic (or simply Nordic Kandie), makers of gourmet marzipan and luxury chocolates. She had undertaken this association just a bit before I was in Bombay last, around Feb, and has been talking to the Nordic countries and back on how good the marzipan is. I heard her out as a friend, but as a foodie (or rather, voodie, a vegan foodie), I had tuned out. The only times I have been exposed considerably to marzipan is during Easter or Christmas or both (see, I have been that tuned out), when I used to work with this large organization in Bombay and when the sizeable Christian population in the department used to bring this sweetmeat for the rest of the folk. As far as I remember, it would contain egg, and so I wouldn’t have it (while I wasn’t vegan then, I was veg). Sensing my lack of shared interest, she seemed to ease up in her marzipan mania communication to me. And then one day, boom.

A Nordic Kandie Magic mini about to be dunked into chocolate, with almonds in the backgroundShe got back squealing to me Nordic Kandie’s marzipan is very much vegan. Her WhatsApp message came around the beginning of April, so I thought it to be a belated All Fools’ Day prank. However, as the notifications from her continued with more and more exclamation points, I decided to speak with her. She gushed to me. Not wanting to first be elated and then disappointed, I calmly asked, “Are you sure?” She was vehement, “Absolutely!” And then she made me super-proud. Not by the confirmation that it is indeed vegan, but by narrating the tactics she employed to find out it is so.

Edible-gold-covered Nordic Kandie Magic ballsShe asked her boss, the lady who runs the company, whether it’s got egg. No. Milk? No. Cream? Nyet. (Her boss is from an erstwhile USSR republic, and more about her at the end.) Milk solids? Nada. Gelatin. No-no. The lady equally vehemently told her – as if offended that people think she puts these “contaminants” into her fine marzipan (and chocolates) – they use only almonds (and the best, mamra, from Iran) and organic sugar, and where they use chocolate, it’s Belgian and sans lait (without milk). And for the high-end marzipan, silver and gold (yes, thin slivers, and certified from where they buy this precious metal), but I am only Irfan Syed vegan, not James Cameron vegan. In short, she didn’t ask her boss directly, but very directly/indicatively and in various forms, and each time, her boss denied putting any meat or dairy vestiges in it. Time for me, and my heart, to go boom-boom. It was vegan, and my friend had found out, or investigated, indirectly. Just the way I do it. And like it.

Yes, that’s my strategy. When I need to find out whether or not something is vegan, I never use the v-word directly with the attendant/manager. Most folk, especially in India, don’t know what vegan is, neither as a concept nor as a word. At one place, the manager even shot back with a question of his own, “Baingan?” (Brinjal/Eggplant/Aubergine in English.) My friend had done (learnt) well. (She had also learnt to not dislike street dogs with my influence. That’s another strategy of mine: don’t forcefully urge people to be nice to animals; rather, show love to animals in front of them, and they’ll gradually begin liking them a bit, or at least loathing them less. But that is a part of the Irfanimals series.)

It was my turn to do the “inrestigation” – the rest of the investigation. I went to Google and the Nordic Kandie site and social media pages, and found that it is indeed “100% vegetarian and vegan”. And even the images looked good enough to eat. I turned the investigation back to my friend. Why doesn’t the lady say it’s so? Ah, that’s because many folk don’t know what vegan is; when she says so, many still ask her whether or not it contains egg. Villiterates (vegan-illiterates).

Vegan certification over, there was now only one thing to do: sample it. My friend came to my help here too. She said she’d send me some, at no cost. I wasn’t complaining, especially as it is high-end and not something I’d eat on a daily basis. Also, this is one of the perks of being a vegan blogger.

True to her word, though a bit delayed in her word – during the wait, I stopped short of sending her typical jokes like ‘Are the almonds coming from Iran?’ – it came last week, a couple of weeks later than promised.

The box was huge, and I wondered whether the European understanding of ‘sample’ is ‘copious’. But disappointingly or elatingly, it was packed long and hard. There was the outer box, then the bubble wrap (lots of it; bubble-wrap poppers would have been delighted), lots of cellotape, and then… squish. I felt my scissors had made an incision. Some sticky gel began oozing out. (Did some bubbles of bubble-wrap contain something other than air?) However, my mom, who’s apparently more used to packaging food items, assured me, “It must be something to prevent the items’ loss of quality or taste.” To me, it seemed a moat, for once I was through that, there was the jar of mini marzipans, like a fort beyond the water.

Nordic Kandie Magic Minis in the jarI cleared the wraps, cleaned the liquid, and held the jar of joy in my hands. Branding-loving me admired the packaging. The jar made of glass and not plastic, indicating premiumness. The deep blue ribbon, bestowing richness. And finally, the luxurious-looking brand card. I loosened the ribbon and proceeded to the lid. It was tight. I held the jar against the light and saw a vacuum seal. Neat thinking. I held the lid more firmly now and started slowly rotating it. The lid loosened and my senses did too: the aroma of almonds slowly went through my nostrils and then into me. I looked in: from top, the bits looked like billiard balls neatly arranged at the start of a game. I lunged in and popped one. Umm. This should be called mmmarzipan. Then, another. Then, another. And then, started feeling a bit full. But of course: it’s made of almond. I had my lunch (light), and then opened the jar again for dessert. Again, um, two, three. I couldn’t seem to be able to have more than three at a time. Which, come to think of it, is a good thing. It automatically forbids you to have too many at one go and fill up yourself and your hips soon after. Also, you can keep and savour it, even that tiny bit of a jar.

A user photo of a jar of Nordic Kandie Magic minis on a ledge overlooking a beach at sunsetI had the mmmarzipan mmminis over three days. By the second day, I think I had figured out how to have it. Yes, these are foreign, specifically, European sweet-treats, and so an acquired taste. I even devised a small ritual. Open the jar, smell the contents (like they do wine), have the whiff of almonds pervade me, whet my appetite and then dig in for one, two, three, stop. Also best not to mix up flavours/tastes. They come in different colours/flavours such as rose, vanilla, light chocolate and dark chocolate and are coloured accordingly. My favourite was dark chocolate, also as I don’t have a sweet tooth, and not surprisingly saved those bits for the last on all days and for the end. And once there were none, I went back to leching at them on the FB page. And started sucking up to my friend.

Thea Tammeleht, owner of Nordic Kandie Magic, holding an open box of marzipan magicTo tell you a bit about the company, from the investigation I have done, Nordic Kandie is run by Thea Tammeleht, an expat of Estonian origin. She started this a few years ago, after multiple years in the corporate field, to pursue her passion and long lineage of making marzipan. In fact, on further investigation, I found that there is a long-standing war, though not a bitter one (can’t be when marzipan is involved), between Tallinn, the capital of Estonia and from where Thea hails, and a German city with a typical German name: long and pronounced like you have marzipans in your mouth. What’s the war over? Over which city the dessert originated in. I don’t know about that dispute, but over these Nordic Kandie treats there is none: these marzipan minis are mega magic.

Find out more about Nordic Kandie on their site: Nordic Kandie website

Connect with Nordic Kandie on their Facebook page: Nordic Kandie FB

Cover pic for this post with the text 'On1y The Best', the 'On1y' formed using the On1y logo
Side shot of Melange, The Hindu's Saturday supplement

Offside: “Home Town”, Heart Paper

Logo for Offside, the series on my blog about 'being an "outsider" in my "home town"

In my second stint in my “home town”, Chennai (I will soon be completing two years since I came here for the second time), I decided to do two things differently to be able to better adapt to the city. (After first 18 years and then five years of staying in my “heart town”, Bombay/Mumbai, Chennai, like any new city actually, can take quite some adjusting to.) One, I resolved not to view Chennai through Bombay’s eyes/lenses; no city in the world can be the same as any other city in the world. Two, I decided to buy an apartment for myself so that I could have my space when needed. (I have stayed by myself for over a decade and am staunchly independent-minded. However, I did move to Chennai to be with my parents, and presently stay with them, enjoying home-cooked food and motherly affection.) While the apartment obviously took some hunting and deciding and finalizing, and in fact is still under construction, the first was easy to initiate. Courtesy The Hindu.

Before Tenure 2, when I would visit Chennai during vacations, I would make it a point to read Hindu instead of Times of India, which is the paper du rigueur in Bombay. (We all prefer reading the leading local paper wherever we go, don’t we?) For, as I just mentioned, to get the local news and flavour, and okay, primarily the movie listings at SPI Cinemas (my favourite multiplex chain in Chennai, India, the world; okay, hyperbole: I haven’t gone abroad.) Especially after its revamp of the supplements (about three and a half years ago, I think), both the layout and the writing drew me in. So, when I decided to move back here, one way I felt I could come to understand the culture and mindset of the city was by devouring a city paper (again, only the supplements; have never been too hot about politics, business or current affairs).

Chillis hanging at a bajji stall on Elliot's Beach in Chennai

Chillis hanging at a bajji (a popular snack item) stall on Elliot’s Beach, Chennai

Be it through MetroPlus (the weekday city supplement), Melange (MetroPlus’ chunky avatar on Saturdays), Friday Review (arts and culture), CinemaPlus (on Sundays) and Sunday Magazine (literature and opinion), I slowly started “getting” the culture here. (I haven’t “got into” the culture yet – and am not sure I ever will, having stayed elsewhere for so long and coming here later in life – but again, I do believe I get the culture here.) And myriad aspects of it. Chennaites’ love of music, dance, art, reading… Of kaapi and bajjis… Bessie Beach… The ECR lifestyle… The love, no, craze for movies… The Kamal-Rajini factions… Now, Vijay-Thala factions… So much so that when one of my best friends came down here from Bombay in November, I was able to give him a fairly involved experience of the city. We watched ‘Thoonga Vaanam’ the opening week in a mass-market theatre chain. We visited V House and even did some meditation in the room of silence. And we gorged at many of the ‘bhavans’.

But apart from a view of the city, MetroPlus also gave me a peek into many of the people who are from here, have moved here, or have lived here. And somewhere, some of these people stories provided answers to some questions in my mind. (City changes can make you philosophical. Also, I was on a sabbatical for the first part of last year, trying to figure out in which direction, career-wise, to head next. City changes can also do that to your work, I guess.) Here’s a snapshot of three stories that spoke to me, in chronological order of appearance. I don’t remember the names or the details, but I guess I remember what I needed to know.

A lady RJ had moved from here to China as her husband had got a transfer there. For obvious (linguistic) reasons, she couldn’t pursue a similar career in Mandarin Country. So, she decided to change careers. She fixed on fashion designing, took up a course, excelled in it, and eventually set up her own studio, which is doing just sweet. Well enough for her to be profiled in MetroPlus, you see.

A male theatre personality who had studied, taught and performed theatre in several cities in India, then moved back here some years ago, eventually found himself at a crossroad. The only way he could do what he wanted to do was by doing his own thing. So, he started his own theatre group, which too is quite successful. Else, why would MetroPlus…

The lady director of either a hospital group or a hospitality chain (I told you, I don’t remember the details) mused in the middle of her interview, while talking about the ups and downs in her life and how she was none the worse for it, “God always gives with one hand and takes away with the other. Such is life.”

Here’s where I fit in.

When I was moving here the second time and also wanting to get back to advertising (after being in content development for some years), several people both here and in Bombay tut-tutted the idea: “Bombay’s the place to be for advertising… Advertising in Chennai is very local… Go to Bangalore: it’s better for advertising…” Agreed, Chennai may not figure in the top three cities in India known for its advertising fraternity (those would be Bombay, Delhi and Bangalore, respectively), but the city has an Advertising Club chapter, so it can’t be that small either. Although a bit pensive due to these pronouncements, I was keen on making the reshift to advertising while sticking around in the city (why go to Bangalore when I had come here to be with my parents?). But something else was happening along the way…

As I got more and more into The Hindu supplements (reading most of them page to page), I started realizing I also wanted to get into writing. While writing has always been a part of what I’ve done, it started acquiring firmer proportions. Blame all that quality writing and all those fine writers (Baradwaj Rangan, Bishwanath Ghosh, Vaishna Roy, to name a few senior Hindu journalists).

Audience at a literary event in Chennai

Audience at a literary event in Chennai

Now, jog back to the first two stories earlier. I moved to a city that may not be known so much for its advertising but is quite the opposite for the writing profession. And I wanted to do two things, which I felt I wouldn’t find together in one job. Ergo, I decided to strike out on my own. My current profile reads: Self-employed, and ‘Writer and Ad Consultant’.

And now, the third story.

I’m not sure how many people may have their closest friends in one city and their parents (and relatives) exclusively in another, and have had to make that choice. I had to, a few years ago; and obviously, I did come here; and of course, my best friends are in a different city. We talk on the phone, yes; last year, I did go there (and do plan to, once a year); and one of them even came here last year (as I mentioned earlier). But sometimes, you would like that listening ear to have a face too. And then you assuage yourself with: ‘God takes away with one hand, but gives with another.’ Today, it’s time for my parents. Maybe, tomorrow, when they’d have moved to a higher place, it might be back to my friends, let’s see. I shall let God employ his hands again.

Pic featuring Mr Big and a quote from 'Sex and the City'

Oh, and how about making friends in a new place? As Big says in the ‘Sex and the City’, “Middle-aged men don’t make new friends.” (The path-breaking ‘Sex and the City’. The only place with more truisms than MetroPlus, I guess.)

So, thanks, The Hindu supplements, for helping this offsider get a bit more onside. And if the aspiring writer in me does manage to write for any of you, then I guess, I’ll also be on the inside.

The The Hindu Lit for Life 2016 logoAll the glorious things I’ve said about The Hindu supplements come to the fore at The Hindu Lit for Life fest, a celebration of reading and writing, writers and readers, literature and the intellect. This year’s edition starts tomorrow and goes on until Sunday. Just where I’ll be, soaking up some more Hindu pleasantness. Check out the site here: Hindu Lit for Life

 

The back/reverse of my visiting card

Irfanvertising: Well, Advertising Myself

Irfanvertising LogoIrfanvertising, as most people who follow this blog and especially this series would know, is where I discuss and comment on most things advertising: from branding to design, with special love for logos. Well, just this once, I’ll be talking about my own.

My website for my profile as a writer and ad consultant is now live, and yesterday, got my visiting card made too. Designed it myself (while I’m basically a writer/copywriter, do have a visual sense – coming from being in a creative field – and also do some basic design from time to time). And here I shall be talking of the thought – communicative and visual – that I put into it.

Messagevertising

The key element in any bit of communication is the message. My message, or rather my philosophy/motto/slogan/credo as a writer and ad guy is: Insight. Simplicity. I try and look for a key insight to tap into for any communication and then like to keep the communication simple (though no less effective; but when you do both, it pretty much ends up being effective). Since those initials are the same as those in my name (ok, ok, that’s why I chose them), it also ends up being tied very very integrally to me and my work.

Visualvertising

How do you depict ‘Insight, Simplicity’? I like certain colours, which proved to work well for my philosophy. Grey for ‘insight’, coming as it does from your grey cells. White for ‘simplicity’, for obvious reasons. And a nice, vibrant blue (specifically turquoise) to hold these together. (Blue is my favourite colour, coming from belonging to the water-bearer sign, I guess.)

My work philosophy: Insight. Simplicity.

Mine is not a company and I don’t intend to initially use my name as a brand name (though, like most people in the creative field, I would love if it becomes so). So, I didn’t want to create a logo out of my name, or as typically happens, out of the initials. (You know, CK, DK, name initial-surname initial.) But I wanted a graphic element – as a visual element on the card and also something I could use as a device or hook later if needed. But what could it be?

Graphic depicting how the dartboard idea led to the creation of a visual element for my visiting cardInsight and simplicity. Together they help you be bang-on. So, hey, a dart-board. But since it’s been used in communication since almost the hieroglyphics, I decided to graphicize it, giving it edges rather than keeping it round. Also kept only two circles (for simplicity) and from the same brand colours (blue-white-grey).

Visual element of part of graphicized dartboard in the top-right corner of my visiting card designBut again, as I didn’t want to use it full-on at the start, have tucked it away into a top corner, as only a visual element for now. If later, I want to use it as a full-blown icon, I’ll move it from its present position to something more centre-stage. When for instance, I make the next 100 cards.

Designvertising

Visual design is one thing. Design – that is, useable design – is another. I had been looking at visiting cards closely for the past few months. And became fairly clear of one thing: while having a very creative card – folds, holes, shapes, and other whoops and whistles – is very cool, it should also be easy to handle.

Photo of a corporate man putting a visiting card into his suit pocket

I wanted it to be easy to zip out and give to the other person and wanted the other person to find it easy to put it into their pocket/wallet (the only places I wanted it to be), rather than they first wowing at the cool card I have with three strings and two folds that they now have to wonder where to put on their person/baggage. User-friendly, in short. And practical: less time engaged in an element of the transaction and more time involved in the actual transaction.

Readyvertising

Front (obverse) and back (reverse) of my visiting card design

Here then is the final product. My name, profile and essential contacts on the front (though with a couple obscured for this space), with a corner of the graphicized dartboard peeking in from above. The back has offsetting turquoise with my message, and the work-related social media contacts below.

Now, time to go networking and hand these out.

Logo of The Brew Room on table

IrfindingVegan: Room for Vegan

IrfindingVegan Logo

A coffee shop. A hot cup of coffee on the table. A warm piece of cake alongside. The rain slamming the French windows of the coffee shop outside. You comfortable and assured inside with the knowledge that you’re inside and at the sight of the coffee and cake that await. Are there any more experiences more comforting than this in modern, urban life? Only if you add ‘weekend’ to the mix above.

But turn vegan, and you have to go cold-turkey on all the above. Almost all cafes in Chennai/India are non-vegan (not surprising given how much both the city and the country love their milk and “worship” their cows – and only a vegan can tell you all the things wrong with that, both nutritionally and ethically), and very few are vegan-friendly (there is CCD with its Vegan Shake, Starbucks which doesn’t make a bad soymilk-based coffee, and yes, there’s always black coffee). But what about that quintessential modern, urban, and English accompaniment to coffee – the piece of cake? What if you crave for it, even if just a bit, no matter how much vegan control you exhibit? The Brew Room, Savera Hotel’s indoor-cum-outdoor coffee shop on Radhakrishna Road is your answer. (I gather they also have a branch – a stand-alone – at, but of course, Besant Nagar.)

The entrance of The Brew Room

I had read about The Brew Room offering vegan coffees when I went through its launch PR article in the paper, but when I visited there a few months ago, was as disappointed as the staff seemed clueless: I had to explain what ‘vegan’ is, and when one needs to do that, you know they ain’t got the green stuff. But they were obliging – and warm and cordial – and the Nepali chef on duty then went to great lengths to make my sandwich vegan and the server assured me the iced coffee I was having was vegan. I’ve forgotten both item names now (although the sandwich was nice), but think it’s because I was disappointed at their “false PR” and decided not to go there again.

But a great deluge and a best friend visiting from my best city in the world (Bombay/Mumbai) can have you changing your mind. My friend and I just got out of a popular South Indian city eatery, where we were waiting for the heavy rains to subside and so filling up while there, but it almost started dripping again (like it has been all the past week), so we decided to head to Brew Room, which is close by.

He still had appetite, but only just, so he went for a soup, and I knowing that I wouldn’t find much there, and not having the appetite for a sandwich, went for an Americano. My coffee came while he had gone to the restroom, and so did the chef on duty. The chef informed me they didn’t have the tomato soup my friend ordered, so would we be okay with a broccoli soup? It seemed fine, except that I wouldn’t be able to share it if I wanted, as it had cream. I suggested waiting for my friend to affirm, but he seemed to be taking time drying up. I finished my coffee in that wait (my way of warming up), and friend still not having returned, decided to get up and walk around.

Fairy lights on the cupola of a wrought-iron gazebon on the lawns of The Brew Room

The fairy lights on the trees outside and through the rain and fogged glass were pretty, the Kollywood AD types at the behind table were still in conversation, I was already familiar with the décor and ambience, so went to one thing there that seemed mutable: the cake/pastry selection.

The cake/pastry section at The Brew Room

Like most vegan folk I’m sure, I’m not wistful about food things I’ve given up. (I don’t know why non-vegan folk make such a big deal of this, admiring our control; it’s simple: we trained ourselves to give it up, and found compassionate, equally healthy alternatives.) Plus, I find cake too drying on my palate (only less drying than biscuits); blame maida, I guess. So, my mouth wasn’t watering (odd that dichotomy, no?) at the fare on display. But. But. But. But if there’s a vegan option, I wouldn’t mind. There were not one, but three vegan cakes, all of different sizes and appetite as well as fattening value. Making me feel like Ms Goldilocks. (What’s a guy version of Goldilocks? Boldilocks? How typical, how sexist, how chauvinistic. I know.)

I wasn’t sure I had the stomach for even one – after two dosas and one coffee – but also wasn’t sure I could resist at least one. So, asked for the smallest: the pumpkin muffin. But not before exclaiming and exulting and then looking askance at the chef and the server. The girl server was the same as last time, so my questions were aimed with more fervour and enquiry at her: Did you start vegan cakes only now? Did you have them earlier? Do you not promote them? Do you not know what vegan is? Their responses: No, sir, we had them earlier too. Yes, sir, we know what vegan is. So, I had to ask another: So, how come I didn’t notice them earlier? Now, no one can ever respond to that.

Glad to know they indeed have vegan options (so, that wasn’t a “fake PR piece” after all) and excited at this prospect – it’s at the latter end of my weekend city-walk route, en route to my almost-standard weekend activity of an evening movie at a multiplex – I returned to my table and awaited the muffin. My friend had returned by then (and affirmed to broccoli), and I gave him the vegood news. Vegetarian but not vegan and not a lover of sweets (just like me), he understandably didn’t have similar exciting emotions to display. Plus, his soup had come. So, while he scooped up his thick non-vegan soup, I forked my just-arrived, just-warm muffin. I don’t remember the exact subtleties of taste – but I was quite full by then. Or was I? For I then ordered the next-sized banana cake slice. And then the lavish chocolate pastry. What I can remember and say is that while non-vegan folk would not know the difference for the first two (I believe the substitute for dairy milk was vegetable oil), that in the third is fairly detectible: I could sense cashew milk in the chocolate cream and shavings on top. I asked for the baking chef to confirm this, and thank him, but the regular chef on duty told me he had left for the day but he would convey my appreciation to him. (See what I mean by cordial?)

I asked for one more muffin, as a parcel, not for myself, but for my parents (who keep thinking that by having turned vegan, poor me doesn’t get to eat any of the nicer things in life). Well, I plan to do nice again very soon, only this time also with coffee. And nothing says ‘nice things in life’ than those two warm, brown things together.

Here’s the Brew Room site: The Brew Room

And here’s their FB page: The Brew Room on FB