Follow Your Dreams. You Never Know Where They Will Take You!

Everybody has family friends…certain families that adopt you as their own when you are growing up. Mothers and fathers that love you as much as your own parents and kids that are like your own brothers and sisters. That was the Al-Azzeh family for me. Aunty Pinky and my mother have been best friends since college and her kids, my sister and I were brought up together, jointly by two mothers who loved spending all their time together. We went through everything together. From watching Philips Top Ten (a bollywood music show) every Friday night to having our own fashion shows, from marrying off aunty Pinky’s youngest child to my baby sister to cooking in earthenware pots, from fighting over boys to learning how to dance for the first time, we did it all. This story is about Aunty Pinky’s youngest son who I have watched grow from a toddler into a very famous B-boy (dancer).

Naser Al Azzeh | JadoPado Learn

Meet Naser Al Azzeh. He was a shy, quiet kid growing up and thought his sisters and all their friends were crazy (especially me, I am sure). While his sisters and I were always up to something or the other, he was the good kid who never gave his mother any trouble. While his sisters spent hours dancing, he would turn up his nose as if to say, ‘Oh my God! Can’t you find something better to do?’ Ironically he was the first person to hit the dance floor (literally) at his sister’s wedding!

Naser Al Azzeh | JadoPado Learn

I shifted out of Bangalore five years ago but I always kept in touch with the Al-Azzeh family. Initially I started seeing videos on facebook of this lithe figure who had some wicked moves! And then the first time I went back to Bangalore for a holiday, I met the Black Ice Crew – Naser’s own team of dancers! They blew my mind away with their lightning fast moves! These guys really know how to dance!

Nas collageHe is just 25 but Naser has found his calling. From somebody who used to spend hours watching music videos to learn new moves, he now offers specialised dance classes all over Bangalore. He has taken part in international B-boy competitions and has his own crew of dancers! B-boying with its dizzying head spins and stylish hand-stands has become quite the rage in India now and at the helm of this new movement is Naser Al Azzeh.

Wine Tasting In Georgia

I was born a traveller. When I was a child, my parents made sure that I fell in love with the outdoors. From Cubbon Park to Bannerghatta National Park to Nagerhole National Park, they took me everywhere. They made me fall in love with trees, rivers, animals and open spaces. My favourite toys came directly from nature as well. I learnt how to make witches claws from Jacranda buds, to make hard balls to play cricket by crushing certain local fruits, to dance in the rain, to let hail stones melt on my tongue, finger paint with vegetables and so many other things that fed my fascination for the wild.

Memories of Georgia | life is an open road

It’s no wonder then that I grew up to be somebody who wanted to travel the world and live in new places just to see nature’s different faces, in different countries. The first exciting international trip I went on was to Tblisi, the capital of Georgia. It was love at first sight when I landed there. Here are a few of my favourite memories from that trip. First up, wine tasting in Georgia, the birthplace of wine!

Memories of Georgia | life is an open road
Georgia is famous for its vineyards and has a wide variety of wine to suit everybody’s taste-buds! I was able to enjoy my first wine tasting experience in this gorgeous country. Wine production began here over 8000 years ago! Some of the regions that produce exceptional wine are Kakheti, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi, Kvemo Svaneti and Abkhazia.

Wine Tasting In Georgia | life is an open road

The experience of wine tasting is not just a treat for your taste-buds but a visual feast as well! Since Georgians began making wine 80 centuries ago, wine vessels of every shape, size and design are a crucial part of Georgian pottery. Take a look at some of the exquisite wine bottles, bowls and pouches I saw there.

Wine Tasting In Georgia | life is an open road

The most common vessel you will see is the Kvevri which is a large earthenware vessel with a coating of beeswax on the inside that is used to ferment grape juice and to store wine. Even if you don’t drink wine, these beautiful, hand-crafted pieces make excellent gifts! If you are a little more adventurous though, you might want to taste wine for the first time in Georgia since nearly 400 different types of grapes grow here! In another post, I’ll let you in on a secret – the most beautiful place to eat at in Georgia. A restaurant that has a waterfall, a river passing by it and grape vines that form a cozy canopy overhead!

Wine Tasting In Georgia | life is an open roadPhoto Credit: Carel Bosman

The Creative Spark

All of us are made to shine in different areas. The problem is we spend our youth chasing illusions and put off true happiness for later. That is the biggest trap we all fall into! Always surround yourself with people who inspire you to follow your dreams, who light that spark of creativity within you!

The Creative Spark | life is an open road

Meet Sanjay Rajoura. He spent ten years of his life tied down to a boring corporate job that he detested! Don’t get me wrong, he has worked for some of the best employers in his industry, made a lot of friends (that’s just the kind of guy he is) and was rolling in dough but he still wasn’t happy. What? Many of you might jump to be in that place but wait! Think about what you really want to do with your life. That is what he did!

The Creative Spark | life is an open road

He left his high paying job in the States and came back to India when he just couldn’t take it anymore. A lot of people around him did not understand his decision but he stuck by it. He put his fist into the bag of creativity to see what life had in store for him and to his surprise the answer was not just one thing but a ton of different things! Was it easy? No way! He is a very talkative, friendly, funny guy by nature and is always up for a new adventure. So he decided to do something that was not very popular at that point of time in Delhi, stand-up comedy. He traded in his corporate wardrobe for a comfy pair of jeans and a T-shirt and started making people laugh for a living. ‘You are kidding me right?’ Nope! That’s exactly what he did!

The Creative Spark | life is an open road

That was just the first step in his journey towards creative freedom. Once he had made his mark as a comedian, he started acting in short films and commercials produced by friends. As he began to establish himself, something bigger came his way. He was offered a TV show that would air on Fox Traveller – ‘What’s With Indian Women’. He did a damn good job with that show and won the hearts of people all over the country! But he wasn’t going to stop there.

The Creative Spark | life is an open road

Because Sanjay had the guts to walk away from everything he had built up and start again from scratch, people now know him as a comedian, an actor, a tv show host, a writer and even a movie script writer.  So instead of just letting your dreams fade away, remember it’s never too late to follow them! You never know what lies in store for you, until you start moving in that direction right?

Redfoo LIVE at Cirque le Soir Dubai

I have been for a lot of concerts and parties but nothing prepared me for the night that Redfoo took over Cirque le Soir Dubai with his own brand of craziness. The night started off like any other but the moment Redfoo took the stage everybody lost it! Party rock is in the house tonight! Everybody certainly had a good time!

REDFOO |lifeisanopenroad

Redfoo and the LA Freak Crew set the place on fire! Dubai knows how to party but Redfoo pulled some completely unique tricks out of his magical bag for party animals. As the seconds ticked by, the crazy-meter went kaput because it couldn’t handle the level of crazy that Redfoo brought to the house!

REDFOO |lifeisanopenroad

Women poured onto the tiny wooden stage and would not leave his side. When he started singing ‘I’m Sexy and I know it’ all hell broke loose! The party animals in the house morphed into wild animals and the noise was deafening!

REDFOO |lifeisanopenroad

The La Freak Crew and in particular Miss Charlie Pearl (the dance diva with the pink hair) also gained a large fan following that night as their dance moves scorched the dance floor!

REDFOO |lifeisanopenroad

Everyone who was there definitely took home some great memories as well as bouncing zebras, light tubes, inflated animals, the smell of champagne on their clothes and the party rock anthem which they didn’t stop singing for weeks after that epic party at Cirque le Soir Dubai!

Heart of a Gypsy

As we get older, we all start measuring how far we have got, how much we have achieved, how many things we have struck off our bucket list. Most of my dreams are travel related. Very little of what I want out of life is measured in terms of monetary milestones. I will always be a gypsy at heart.

A whole new world |lifeisanopenroad

I was born and brought up in Bangalore and spent more than 20 years there. As soon as I graduated, I left the nest and shifted to New Delhi where I was a television journalist with CNN-IBN for 5 years. While I was based in Delhi, I travelled extensively across India covering Goa, Kerala, Rishikesh, Jaipur, Kolkata, Mussourie, Nainatal, Shimla, McLeod Ganj, Chandigarh, Gujarat and a ton of other fascinating locations.

Divya Gojer |lifeisanopenroad

Anyone else would think that after landing such a great job why quit right? But the gypsy in me was crying out for change. So I packed my bags and moved to Dubai. Finding a job in Dubai is no easy task. Luckily for me, it all worked out smoothly and before I knew it, I was on a plane heading to a new country with just two suitcases containing all my belongings. It was the most exciting moment  yet my heart was in my mouth as I did not know what the future held in store for me.

Divya Gojer |lifeisanopenroad

Since I wanted to try something different, I looked around for where I could best use the skills I had honed at CNN-IBN. I got into Social Media which is an industry that is booming at present and there has been no looking back after that. I love what I do and am always looking for new ways to challenge myself. What’s next? I’m not sure as yet but for now, I am loving this experience and want to make the most of it. Live your dreams out they say. I certainly am doing just that!

Krysalis: Awaken Your Inner Beauty

Anybody who knows me, knows that I love to travel. Through all my adventures, I have realised that some special journeys don’t involve physically moving from one place to another but involve a journey within yourself.  When I was little, I remember trailing along behind my mother to the beauty salon and being fascinated by all the things that happened there.  To a kid, what happened in there was almost magical. I would walk in, clutching the hand of my tired mother and watch her undergo a marvelous transformation. As the staff in the salon started working on her, I would watch the stress just melt away.  She would forget all her worries and a smile would spread across her face and wrap her in a cloak of warmth and positive energy.

Krysalis Salon | lifeisanopenroad

I have always been quite a tom boy but as the years rolled by, I have enjoyed my fair share of visits to the salon. I would rush in, do whatever I had to do and rush out. I never had the time to waste at a salon, I had better things to do. All that changed the day I stepped into Krysalis. I fell in love with it instantly. It was not just the look of the place that grabbed my attention but the warmth that filled the entire salon.

Krysalis | lifeisanopenroad

I have watched not just one or two but dozens of people I know undergo massive transformations at Krysalis.

Krysalis Salon | lifeisanopenroad

People step in, dragging their feet, tired because of what life has thrown their way but after a few hours at Krysalis, I have seen the same people walk out with a bounce in their step.

Krysalis Salon | lifeisanopenroad

So what is so different about this salon? Honestly all I can say is that they are specialists at awakening inner beauty. At every other salon I have visited, you are just another customer, another source of business but at Krysalis, they believe in investing in people’s lives. So if you live in the UAE, drop by if you want to undergo a metamorphosis and feel renewed from within. What better way to celebrate the New Year than to get a completely new look?

Krysalis Salon | lifeisanopenroad

Filipino Food: An Explosion of Flavours!

I came to Dubai barely 6 months ago with stars in my eyes. It was a completely new experience for me! This was the first time I was leaving the familiar surroundings of India and I did not know what to expect. Everybody had told me something different about Dubai and I honestly did not know who to believe. So as usual, I set off on my own journey with my eyes wide open. To my delight I found Dubai very welcoming. I thought that since it was such a large, cosmopolitan city most people would not really have the time to stop and chat but I was wrong! In no time at all, I found myself surrounded by friendly faces. The first place where I made a ton of friends was at work and the majority of those friends were from the Phillipines.

Why You Must Try Filipino Food | life is an open roadMy new friendships began at the lunch table over steaming hot delicacies. The first Filipino dish that my friends made me fall in love with was Adobo. Adobo is made from marinated vegetables, meat or fish and is served with rice. It is made using equal parts of soya sauce and vinegar and is quite simple to make. My favourite version of this dish is the one that has Pork in it, every single mouthful is heavenly. You should find the recipe online and try it out at home. The variety of different flavours in this dish will leave you dying for more!

Why You Must Try Filipino Food | life is an open road

The next Filipino dish that I tasted was Karekare. This is a Filipino stew made from meat and vegetables cooked in peanut sauce. The first spoonful did not blow me away. It tasted like normal stew until my friend passed me a little container with shrimp paste that goes with this dish. The wow factor comes from the shrimp paste. Every drop of this paste is packed with flavour!

Why You Must Try Filipino Food | life is an open roadAfter a few months of being fed delicious treats at work, I thought I knew quite a bit about Filipino food until I opened the fridge at work and saw a box filled with what looked like mini idlis (Indian rice cakes). I turned around and saw Kathleen smiling at me. She said, “I knew you would be curious to try these, so I got some from home. We had a small dinner party last night and I got some yummy stuff for all of you.”

Why You Must Try Filipino Food | life is an open road

Puto tastes like sweet idli. It has cheese on top that melts in your mouth. Kathleen had brought a box full of Puto to office in the morning but before lunch time came around, every single piece had magically disappeared. “What! Don’t look at me, I don’t know what happened to them.”

Why You Must Try Filipino Food | life is an open road

Camping At Um Al Quwain

It is very easy to get absorbed in city life and forget about the beautiful outdoors. It is even easier to drown in a sea of skyscrapers if you live in Dubai. That is why I always surround myself with friends who love to travel and appreciate nature. That way I stay connected to what I love the most. It is the secret to how I manage to constantly dream up new adventures!

Jellyfish at Dubai Mall| life is an open road

As the Eid break fast approached, my friends all made plans to leave the country. Unfortunately, I could not leave the UAE as I was required to stay connected to office work. But I found a way around that as I was meandering through Dubai Mall. As I wandered through the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, staring at the exotic marine life on display, a plan began to form in my mind!

Dubai Mall Marine Life| life is an open roadI quickly called up a few close friends and we made a plan. We decided to go camping in Um Al Quwain. The plan involved leaving Dubai by 6pm but we eventually headed out only by 10:30pm. Nothing was going to stop us! We headed out in our trusty Pathfinder and reached Um Al Quwain by midnight. The weather was heavenly and we quickly set up our tent. The smell of barbecued meat slowly began to fill the air and I could not tear my eyes away from the grill. I took up the role of BBQ Assistant, just so I could snatch the first piece of meat that came off the grill. A few hours later, once our tummies were full, we grabbed spears and walked along the shoreline looking for crabs. We shone our torches into every little crevice and spent a long time perfecting the art of crabbing. Finally, our bag began to fill up. None of the crabs were as gigantic as the ones I had seen at the Dubai Mall Aquarium but they were certainly large enough to eat!

Spider Crab at Dubai Mall | life is an open road

Once our bag was full, we headed back to the tent and exchanged our spears for fishing gear. As we made our way out along the rocks, I slipped and injured myself. I decided to rest for a bit and was rewarded with a huge catch when I woke up. I had missed out on learning how to fish but still had quite an adventure in Um Al Quwain. Our new tent had been inaugurated and had also helped transport half the sand from Um Al Quwain to our apartment. A good reminder of a wonderful holiday!

Beach at Um Al Quwain | life is an open road

Iftar Buffet at Cafe Najjar

Ramadan in the UAE is a different experience in itself. Having spent most of my life in Bangalore, I am used to yummy treats from my Muslim friends during Eid but when you live in the UAE, the entire month of Ramadan is a food fiesta! There are special buffets on offer all over the place and great discounts too! So basically what I am trying to say is that the month of Ramadan is foodie paradise!

Cafe Najjar | life is an open road

I got to attend quite a few iftar buffets this Ramadan, some were small and intimate gatherings with just close friends while others were lavish spreads in some of Dubai’s finest restaurants. I want to tell you about one particularly special evening. A colleague of mine was going to move to Malaysia, so we decided to head out from work to a nearby cafe for an iftar buffet. Since all of us were quite emotional about her leaving, we decided food therapy was the best way forward.

Cafe Najjar | life is an open road

It was quite a pleasant treat when we reached Cafe Najjar and saw a mouth-watering feast laid out on long tables covered in pristine white table cloths. The first thing that caught our eye was the dessert table. Now dessert is normally supposed to be eaten at the end of a meal but rules are meant to be broken right? So we all headed for the loaded dessert table. I spent a few minutes letting my eyes dart from one colourful dessert to the next until the manager finally walked up to me and smiled. We started chatting with each other as he told me about every dish available that night.

Cafe Najjar | life is an open road

Once I had piled my plate high with the most delectable food I could find, he went on to tell me a little about the history of Cafe Najjar.  This Cafe started in Lebanon over fifty years ago and now has branches all over the world. It began in Beirut in 1977 and now has outlets in over fifty countries! So what’s the secret to their success? Coffee! They offer eighteen special Lebanese brews and carry something exotic from nearly every country across the globe.

Cafe Najjar | life is an open road

However this particular evening, our iftar meal was not about their coffee, it was about their food, so let me tell you more about that. For once the food on display, tasted as good as it looked! We had a million options to choose from, each yummier than the last! There was a wide array of Lebanese dishes from Fatoosh to Fettah with Lamb (meat with rice and toasted pita bread), Tabbouleh (salad), Sayadieh (rice and fish), spicy Tahini fish, different varieties of Baklava and much more!

Cafe Najjar | life is an open road

From the minute we entered this Cafe to the moment we staggered out several hours later, all we did was eat voraciously! We heaped our plates with helping after helping of perfectly flavoured and balanced dishes, made by a chef who obviously knew exactly what he was doing. We took a ton of pictures, laughed and talked late into the night until we could not keep our eyes open any longer. In other words, a perfect iftar meal in the true spirit of Ramadan!

Iftar Buffet at Cafe Najjar| life is an open road

Ramadan in Dubai: A Culinary Extravaganza!

Dubai is a place that is always filled with tourists. What attracts people to this glitzy city, filled with high-rise buildings? For some, it is the wide variety of malls, for others it is the old world charm, but what attracts me the most to this city is the food. Dubai is a city, where if you can dream of a dish, you can find it!
Ramadan in Dubai | life is an open road
During the holy month of Ramadan though, things change completely, at least during the day. Dubai’s bustling restaurant scene virtually goes into hibernation mode for the regular part of the day; only opening up later in the evening, once the faithful have broken their fast. It is an amazing cultural and religious phenomenon; one that can only be put into perspective, once you pose the fundamental question: What is Ramadan? In essence, Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and fasting observed by Muslims around the world. In the UAE and Dubai in particular, it is a way of life; an event of tremendous significance for both emiratis and expats alike. During Ramadan in Dubai, eating or drinking in public places is prohibited. This strict rule is in place to ensure that devout Muslims are not deterred in their focus while observing their fast, which in the sweltering heat of the Middle East is probably one of the toughest acts of physical endurance that you could dream up, and then some!
Ramadan in Dubai | life is an open road
Now then, how does a Dubai newbie and foodie to boot, survive during Ramadan in Dubai? Well, if you are staying with a friend or at a hotel, it is best for you to plan a midday break and head home for lunch, where you can wolf down your food within the confines of your room. Otherwise you might find yourself staring longingly at food, without being able to eat any of it.
Ramadan in Dubai | life is an open road
The best part about Ramadan are the lavish spreads on offer all around the city, once the sun sets. From small roadside stalls to five-star buffets, you can experience a culinary extravaganza! Here is a look at what one of the street vendors had on display in the bylanes of Dubai. From piping hot samosas to spicy bondas, from pakoras to vadas, from dates to freshly cut watermelon, he had a delicious array of treats to offer every passerby! Now multiply what you see by hundred, in terms of both quality and quantity,and that’s what you can expect at any of the finer hotels in the city!
Ramadan in Dubai | life is an open road
Muslims the world over, fast for different periods of time, but in the UAE this year, people fast for roughly fifteen hours and break their fast only once the sun sets. They cannot consume a single drop of water or eat a morsel of food until then. At the time of Iftar, family and friends gather together to break their fast together.
Ramadan in Dubai | life is an open road
It’s awesome to make friends with locals in Dubai who are keen on inviting tourists into their homes, to partake in Iftar. Some friends of mine invited me to share in their meal, when they broke their fast. We began with dates stuffed with macdemia nuts and almonds.
Ramadan in Dubai | life is an open road
We then dug into some heavenly Lebanese food (special rice wrapped in vine leaves) and pasta and washed it all down with laban, which is a mixture of yogurt, cold water and salt.
Ramadan in Dubai | life is an open road
If all these Ramadan pictures have got your mouth watering, then you know which place to visit next year, during this month!