Backpack Brigade

I tried carrying all my stuff in trendy feminine bags. I really did. But there’s two things to factor in – one, trendy feminine bags are not normally made to carry a camera and sound recorder, both of which I have on me most days because work demands it; and second, if it dangles off your shoulder or hangs sideways as a messenger bag, you can’t move very well through crowded Mumbai. So a backpack it is. Over the years I’ve tried many and found that there really is a massive, noticeable difference between the well-designed ordinary serviceable backpacks and the ones that are designed keeping form and function in mind.

The star of backpacks is one that E owns – a Crumpler laptop backpack he bought seven years ago. At the time, he paid Rs. 9000 for it. It was a lot of money. We weren’t sure why we agreed but it felt like a good bag, and he had just bought a laptop that cost much more. Spending a little to keep the laptop safe didn’t seem too ridiculous. Having carried it myself on many occasions I can tell you that it is worth every penny. Seven years on, it still looks new and there is not a stitch out of place. We stuff it with all kinds of things because it seems to expand to fit our belongings. The zipper is the stuff of legend. No matter how much you put in the bag, it glides smartly over the sides and adjusts to a neat close. No tugging, no rubbing candles over the zipper to make it run smoother (all the time when we were in school), no “I got it closed!” moment followed by “Crap, the zipper ripped on one side”. It just works. And then you put it on. The first time I hoisted the heavy bag up, I didn’t think I would be able to bear its weight. Then it settled on my shoulders and as if by magic, re-adjusted to the way I was standing. The load seemed to distribute itself and I was no longer uncomfortable. The worst thing I can say about it is that your back gets hot if you’ve been walking around with it for a while. But then, when doesn’t it get hot here?

They design backpacks to look so good these days, it really won’t lower your fashion quotient (by too much) if you carry one around during the work week.

Here’s the link to the cool Crumpler featured in the picture above.

Design-wise, what also caught my eye was the Colombian brand Cyclus which makes backpacks out of the inner-tube of tires. Pictured above is their Pangolín line which takes the biomechanical functions of a close relative of the Armadillo as inspiration.

If feminine and elegant is your thing, we suggest the Coach Studio Legacy Leather backpack. With calfskin trim, a multi-function pocket and the option to choose between tan/silver, black/silver or black/brass, this is a great bag to carry in a more formal setting.


Maybelline Water Shine Lip Colour

This sheer, light lipstick from Maybelline is a great pick for day wear. It’s like wearing lip gloss minus the stickiness. The colour is more opaque on the stick than on the lips and the pink and brown shades are great for Indian skin.


Wavy Beach Hair
A few Sundays ago the beauty supplement of a popular Indian newspaper featured a big story on curly hair versus straight hair. It was amusing to read the subtle ways in which their bias towards straight hair showed. Like the opening paragraph, which described a girl with curls, “almost like an afro”, who was so much happier now that she had straightened her hair and it fell in a “silky and elegant” way on to her shoulders. Various experts were quoted saying straight hair was more professional and looked better groomed. Women talked about how the five-figure amounts they had spent over the years on straightening treatments. Good for them. The article annoyed me greatly until I realized that for half my life, I hated my curls too. What changed? A number of things. I found a hairstylist who understood that curly hair does not behave like straight hair and so she cut it appropriately. The difference was enormous. My curls suddenly had a shape and form and moved in the cool bouncy way they were supposed to. I stopped having to pin them down to prevent them from springing up all over the place and sitting funny. I stopped using a hairbrush every day. You can’t brush your curls into looking straight. When I look back now I realize that every girl in school with curly hair brushed and brushed and was left with an untidy bushy ponytail that did her no favours. I now comb my hair with a wide-toothed comb after a shower and let my curls air dry into shape. They don’t need three-times-a-day brushing to look good. (And second-day curls sit even better than freshly washed ones.) A regular hot oil massage or an avocado hair mask work beautifully for softness and shine. And finally, find someone who just gets what curls are about. After years of, “Why don’t you straighten your hair, it will look better?” I began to listen to the one voice (outside of my head and not imaginary) that said the curls were great, I should leave them alone, let them loose and just relax. I did just that and the hair seemed to settle down and become easy to manage.

I’m having a great time rocking the curls and this summer I’ve been trying cool and sexy beach-waves that are so easy to do. I use a home-made concoction whose recipe I modified from many floating around online. A little sea salt, a few drops of coconut oil, coin-sized amounts of conditioner and styling product all mixed into two cups of water. Shake well and store in a spray bottle. Spritz into damp hair after a shower, style with your hands and let it air dry. For a more professional version of beach hair, try Bumble and bumble’s Surf Spray. I’m a fan of their products and this one looks like a winner.


Pimkie Colour Forecast
Time waster alert! European clothing brand Pimkie has an entire website built around the idea of color forecasting. Pie charts, bar graphs and colour swatches detail the fashion habits of three cities – Paris, Milan and Antwerp. Clicking on any one opens the door to not only colour palettes but live streaming street views where, presumably fashionable people walk. When I checked, it was night. No one was wandering the streets and even if they were they wouldn’t be sharing too much by way of colour information. But it’s addictive! Click on the Yesterday’s Colours link and you get the choice to view the data in swatch form or Camembert style (that’s pie chart for the unfashionable). Further clicking leads to images of clothing and shoes in the desired colour from Pimkie’s collection that can be bought online. I love Pimkie, their clothes are really good in terms of quality, fit and price.

Check it out here.

Photos courtesy: Crumpler, Cyclus, Coach, Bumble & bumble, Maybelline and Pimkie. All products were purchased or reviewed independently.