Lifestyle, Thoughts, WAC: Women About Community

A Night on Sexual Health with Dr. Bajekal for WAC

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Hi guys! I know I know, its been a while. I’ll explain.

First, before we get into detail though, I wanted to share an event with you, which I did with WAC: Women About Community last week.

To give you a bit of background—starting this month, I’ve kicked off a monthly lecture series with WAC, rotating between the topics of sexual, mental and physical health.

I have so many exciting and inspiring women who have already signed up to come share their knowledge and experience with our community. Adidas is going to collaborate with us on workshops for the physical health bit, and my therapist here has agreed to come and speak about stress and anxiety.

Our first event was on sexual health, and with us was Dr. Nitu Bajekal, all the way from London, representing her own non-profit women’s health organisation, Women for Women’s Health UK. The topic was sort of anything that anyone wants to talk about, but mainly focused on fertility, hormones and contraception, with a touch of PCOD and menopause.


I had carefully chosen and paid extra for a venue which would allow everyone to speak and ask freely, without worrying about anyone listening in or making anyone feel uncomfortable. Unlike most of Europe and the US, India is not the most forward thinking society when it comes to sexual health (yet). Let’s just say, last time I went to a gynaecologist in Mumbai, I was told that using birth control will make me sterile… Yup. This is also why hosting this event, with someone credible and reliable to answer all the questions of our members, was so crucial. Dr. Bajekal being from India originally, but with 30+ years of living and working abroad, was the perfect bridge between India’s sexual health culture, and the education she provides to women through her work in the UK today.


Have you been to Ministry of New in Fort, Mumbai? If you haven’t, you should go. Its the most wonderful cowering space, and I think they charge around INR 1500 per day for those who want to come and utilise the space to work out of. They also host all kinds of events there, which is why I got in touch with them to host us for this. Marlies from Netherlands runs the space—she is lovely.


I had been contacted by several women from WAC who wanted to donate their products to the attendees of the event. Such a lovely idea, and nothing better than women supporting women, right? We were given gift-bags for everyone who attended the event, with organic tampons, pads and other female hygiene products from amazing Organyc


Lovely Kajal from eighty20 gifted us yummy granola bars to snack on, along with organic teas from Gardener Street. Rohini, Dr. Bajekal’s daughter and friend of mine, developed these bars with the founder of the brand while she lived and worked in Mumbai… I can’t wait to do more collaborations with each of these amazing, healthy, organic brands.


Some of the ladies arrived while I was still writing down some notes on what to say while introducing myself and my event. Typical me, to have everything in control with everyone else except myself! Haha.


Amazing Lynn, whom I’m by the way working on a super exciting project with, was one of the early birds…


Bahaar and Karishma too showed up as some of the first attendees of the event, which warmed my heart, considering we had just met at the Adidas women’s ambassador retreat I went for the weekend before. Oh and yes, I realise I haven’t told you about that too…yet. Coming soon! Anyhow, I was so happy to see these ladies there…


I had given the ladies in attendance the opportunity to submit questions beforehand, in the event that anyone wanted to be anonymous or ask something private that they wouldn’t be comfortable asking out loud.


When the clock hit 8.30pm, we kicked off Dr. Bajekal’s presentation. And what a presentation! We started off by covering the Circle of Wellness. The circle is all about a holistic approach to your overall health, mind and body. In order to feel good and do good, you got to prioritise your mind, body and soul, but also your nutrition, the people you surround yourself with, as well as get your life purpose in place. I loved the non-medical approach from a medical professional talking about the medical field.


Dr. Bajekal highlighted and spoke about so many important topics, but one of the most discussed themes of the event was contraception. Go figure! Can I smoke while being on the pill? Is it going to give me cancer? Is it bad to drink while on the pill? And is there one alternative better than the other? Oh, and did you know that PCOD didn’t exist 200 years ago? It’s a lifestyle and nutrition related disease. One of the main things to point out here, is that Dr. Bajekal specified several times, the importance of awareness and personal choice. Its not her job to tell us what to do, its her job to inform us about the decisions we are making, and then for us to decide what to do with that information. Where to balance out the negatives… I personally really appreciated this, as I feel most doctors are more keen on lecturing and educating than actually giving patients the knowledge and power to make their own decisions…


Biggest takeaways? We are what we eat. What we put in our bodies turns our genes on and off, like light switches. Contraception is not bad for you if you take them as prescribed. Drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes is bad, though (duh). We don’t need to have our period every month when we’re on the pill (did I mention, Dr. Bajekal is a writer for Huffington Post? Read more about her thoughts on the benefits of the pill here).

Over and above everything, the event with Dr. Bajekal was incredibly informative and inspiring. It left me, and most probably most of us, with a lot of thoughts on the power we have of our own health, as long as we choose to face it, and deal with it. I’m definitely more doubtful to dairy than I ever have been. Oh and, got PCOD? Throw your dairy out entirely. I mean it. Do it, like…now.

A big thank you to everyone who showed up for the event, and most of all, thank you to Dr. Bajekal and Women for Women’s Health UK, for taking the time to do this event with WAC as a part of our new series of lectures. 30% of the ticket sales will be donated to an NGO called SNEHA, an organisation that focuses largely on improving health for women and children living in the slums.

P.S. Most important book tip of the year? How Not To Die by Michael Greger. I just ordered my copy online!

Food, Recommendations, Travel

A full day at the (beautiful, fun) Monkey47 distillery

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On day two in Germany, I set my alarm for 5am and got up to work for five hours before the bus took off to Black Forest. The 4.5 hour time difference made it convenient for my work to happen before the day started for us over there, while my sleep schedule clearly took a hit… I think I averaged about 4-5 hours per night during the whole trip…


After breakfast, we hopped onto a massive bus that was going to take us from Stuttgart to the Monkey47 distillery. Rasna, Randeep, Karina and I sat in the back of the bus. I took the opportunity to get some work done, although I realised much later (today, in fact), that making deals while you’re scattered slightly all over the place isn’t great. I agreed to doing a job at a rate that I would have never agreed to if I had had my mind in one place at the time. Oh well – lesson learned, right?


Kel and the rest of the crew sat in the front part of the bus, and learned from Julien about the forest and the thousands of distilleries in the area. The further outside the city we got, the less network we had, and the emptier the sides of the road got. A real winter adventure, to say the least…


When we reached Monkey47’s distillery, we were met with absolute silence. There is something about the combination of negative temperatures and snow that just makes everything so crisp and quiet…


The blue sky against the snow covered buildings and grounds was looking stunning. I’m realising now, looking back at the photos – it actually looks as cold as it was. The air was so cold, you could almost touch it. On this day, I think we had around -12 degrees Celsius in the sun.


One of the first things I noticed when we entered the front part of the building, was the little sample unit of the best of the best throughout the years – a collection of the greatest of each year, and something we later that day had a chance to take part of by trying each one of them. Each bottle had its own name and its own sense of fragrance and flavour. I usually find it too strong to drink liquor without anything to dilute it with, but in this case it was so tasty, you didn’t need anything except the purest form of gin. No ice, no water, no nothing. Yum.


While we were greeted with warm gin similar to the flavour of Swedish glögg, I couldn’t stop staring at this pretty thing. The machine, not the meat. So impressed with the look of it I even took it for a spin…


…and the result, well, as you can see: a pile of ham and freshly baked bread basically. Dream come true, especially with their banging company.


It was so cold outside, we struggled with taking our outdoor gear off while being indoors. Neither of us was used to the -15 degree temperature. Not even Kel and I. Being from Canada and Sweden, you’d think we be pretty well prepared?


My view from the door out towards the middle-courtyard. Want to know something really awesome about the ground captured in this photo? Well, for starters, there is no snow on the ground, while there were deep layers of snow all around the property. Why? The distillery is built so that the hot water that is used to make the gin is also transported in pipes below the ground, which heats up the entire outdoor area, so, the snow doesn’t stay on it, because its always kind of warm. I found this so cool – talk about best use of/maximising resources and technology combined.


The tour of the Monkey47 distillery is what they call a Monkey Safari. So, fairly appropriate to have an old safari inspired bus parked in the middle of the driveway…


Then we got back inside again, to heat up our fingers and toes and meet founder Alexander Stein, to hear him passionately speak about Monkey47 from idea to reality, and all the highs and lows along the way. This was one of the most inspiring “talks” I’ve ever heard, I think. Having been a Nokia employee, and quitting against everyone’s advice, to start something that no one really believed in, and then doing it so well, with such care and passion…its inspiring as hell, to say the least.


We even got to hear the backstory of the label. When asked ‘why the monkey?’, Alex’s answer was something along the lines of ‘oh well, why take oneself too seriously?‘. Rather than calling it ‘Black Forest Dry Gin’, he’s used the German word for it – Schwarzwald. Why? His dream: To one day sell Monkey47 in the finest section of Harrods in London, and have a wealthy, old woman read out loud to her husband… “But what’s that, darling? What does Schhhhwwwwwwzzz…..mean?”. Last but not least – the drawing: a mix of Taj Mahal and Black Forest, all in one.


“My best advice to all of you – Never listen to anyone else’s advice!”


Then, it was time for lunch in the upstairs dining area. As we walked up the stairs, we walked away from a minimalistic, Scandinavian design-ish space, to much more of a cabin in the woods type layout.


I loved the decoration of the space. Anything from the light switches to this basket, to keep cups and beverages. Everything was so well thought through!


Us + Julien from Monkey47, Singapore…

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Did I say I have a thing for potato salad? Well, either way, I do. Anything potatoes really.


Lunch was sort of like a ravioli with meat inside, in a soup-like broth. On top you add potato salad and you have it with pretzels. Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of this dish, but I’m pretty sure its safe to say that this is as German of a meal as it gets?


Post lunch we had a quick break to be food comad and hang out a bit before getting into gin-business…


…I took the opportunity to roam the property. Maybe not so much roaming, but more like running around the building, clicking a few random photos, and running inside again trying to keep my frozen fingers intact…


Then, finally, the time had come to learn about the process of making Monkey47!


We were having gin and tonics, browsing the distillery, and getting ready to get our hands dirty basically… Zach, on the left in this photo, is probably one of the most genuinely enthusiastic people I’ve ever met. Him, Julien and the rest of the team were constantly making sure we were well fed, comfortable, happy, and always with a Monkey47 drink in hand…


First stop was the peeling room. Here, the most beautiful lemons and grape fruits are carefully peeled by hand. The peel-liquid smells like actual lemon-perfume.


Beauties ready to get peeled. I have a real obsession with lemon in general, and like to put it on anything and everything. This was my favourite part of the full tour.


Alex spent more time telling us about the peeling process in detail…


…while we peeled away around the table.


Next phase was the spices and herbs that go into the gin. Each one is carefully picked, grounded and stored here in carefully weighted and planned out boxes. Each box then goes into one of those blue tubs which you saw earlier in the post. Juniper is one of the most special ingredients that goes into Monkey47 gin.


Here it goes! The red stuff in the tub is lingonberries.


Do you have any idea what each of these spices are? From black pepper to nutmeg, there’s a whole lot of stuff that goes into each box.


And of course, lavender, to top it all off. Imagine drinking something that you know contains fresh lavender? I know – best. It’s such a nice ingredient. Local, too.


Once the mix is ready to go into the actual production phase, this is where it goes.


Its so pretty, it almost looks like its not real. Sort of felt like it was taken from a movie set or something. The prettiest lab I’ve ever seen.


We also got to try some of the gin, which in this phase contains around 85-95% alcohol, if I’m not mistaken. Super strong, and you can really taste the flavours of each ingredient in each drop.


Monkey47 being the name of the gin – each of these are named after famous monkeys. Captured here: King Louie. How cool? I’m a sucker for details so I really loved this.


After a few hours at the distillery, we paid a visit to the Monkey47 ‘farm’. They have three alpacas and they’re both stunning and hilarious looking at the same time. This was my first time seeing an alpaca in person and so up close!


They also have boars, which have been tamed after they were found parentless as little boar-babies years back. Wild boars are generally quite dangerous to be around, but these guys are more like dogs – jumping on two legs and playing almost the way a dog would.


Last but not least, the basement, where some of the most special spirits are stored and kept. I think I remember Absinthe being the third from the left. I didn’t try these but I bet they’re pretty strong!


This is also the room where they cure their own meat – the same stuff we were served at the distillery when we had just arrived.


Safe to say, our day at the Monkey distillery was a once in a life time experience. From the team, to the fresh ingredients, everything done so carefully – by hand, and with such passion and care – I won’t ever drink a different gin again. They set a new, high benchmark for anything from people, to hospitality, ingredients, adventure, fun, luxury, and of course – gin.

Thank you to team Monkey47 for one of the most memorable weeks of my life!

Food, Lifestyle, Recommendations, Travel

Our first day in Stuttgart, Germany

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Safe to say, last week was one of the most memorable weeks of my entire life. Yeah I’m serious. I’ve also learnt a lot, about things like perfected hospitality, and been reminded of the importance of hard work and dedication – two things that just never fail.

Although I have absolutely no clue how to give it all justice, I’m going to attempt to take you through my trip to the Monkey47 distillery in Black Forest, Germany. And a whole lot other good stuff, too…


Hat Cityhats, coat Pinko, bag Valentino, boots Dr Martens

First of all, many of you have asked me why I went to Germany. Or what the purpose was of my trip. Monkey47 reached out to me a little while ago, and asked if I like gin and if I’d be interested in coming to Germany with them. Simple as that. Pretty sure my blog had a lot to do with it, in case you’ve not figured by now… It was an honour to be invited, and an even greater honour to spend a week with Alex Stein, founder of Monkey47, and his team.

The trip started with a late night Lufthansa flight. Kelvin, Gauri, Priyanka and I all synced up at the local airport bar in Mumbai, for a couple of glasses of wine and a brief pre-departure catch up before boarding. We were flying economy, but got this much extra legroom. Thanks Lufthansa! Sadly the food was quite bad, but the legroom did sort of make up for it…


Once we boarded the flight, I passed out almost instantly. I slept for 6 or 7 hours straight, then woke up to read the latest British Vogue and learn about ‘sisu’, which is one of my favourite words…


My mom is half Finnish, and her and my grandmom have always told me to find the ‘sisu’ in me when things get tough. ‘Sisu’ is the strength of will, determination, perseverance, and the ability to act rationally in the face of adversity…


Once we landed in Stuttgart, our entire crew met up at a breakfast bar, for…well, pretzels and breakfast beer, of course…


This is the time I met people like Rasna, Aditya, Karina and Priyanka for the first time. We had never met before this, and I’m pretty sure we all farewell this trip with a new longtime friends to take with us. Thanking Monkey47 for that.


We shared pretzel and salami sandwiches, and discussed expectations and excitement for the upcoming trip. I spent an hour trying to activate my international roaming and calling plan with Vodafone. Remind me to switch from Vodafone to Jio this week?


A delayed flight and two bus rides later, we boarded a tiny aircraft that took us for a 30 minute flight between Stuttgart and Munich. What later turned out to be a 2.5 hour train ride, took literally 45 minutes tops from ground to ground in an airplane. I know its 2018 but aviation stuff still really amazes me. Anyway.

Upon reaching Munich, we headed straight to Le Meredien to drop our bags and get changed for the day…


I was using a relatively new suitcase from Rimowa, and the code lock somehow changed on its own, and locked me out of my bag. Two full-grown German men and a screwdriver later, and my bag was forcefully opened (and broken). Rimowa must be the most expensive yet crappy suitcase brand ever? Still love them because they make such pretty suitcases, but after receiving multiple messages on Instagram from people saying they’ve had similar experiences with Rimowa, I think I’m done with them. Pretty doesn’t make perfect, after all.


At this point of the day, the temperature had dropped to -13, and we were off to lunch to meet the German team. Who are all absolutely fantastic, by the way.



I had weiner-schnitzel and beer – welcome to Germany, basically. Almost everyone else had a beef steak, with some German traditional pasta and grilled onions. I wasn’t sure what to make of it…



After lunch we grabbed some coffee and headed off to the Monkey47 store in Stuttgart. If you’re ever in Stuttgart, this place is a must-visit. It’s a super cool bar with influences from their Black Forest distillery.




Here you can buy their gin, but also things like their handmade cups, homemade honey, and traditional pickled onions. I bought a full box with gin and ceramic cups which I mailed off to Sweden for my mom – she’s turning 55 next week, and she loves gin. I can’t wait for her to try it.




At the shop we got to be a part of a bartender training workshop, where all local bartenders showed up for a session on ‘why Monkey47’. It was incredibly inspiring to hear Zach speak about this, who had come all the way from Singapore for the occasion. While they spoke about their natural ingredients and the distillery process, we were served slo-gin with soda (more on what that is later) and gin-tonics.





We spent nearly two hours at the shop, discussing gin, the beauty of Monkey47, and hung out with the team. I don’t think I’ve ever engaged with a brand who has such passionate, happy employees. They literally live and breathe Monkey47, and before we even visited the distillery the next day, I kind of already knew what Monkey47 is all about. The level of perfection and attention to detail that goes into each step of the production process. The respect it has for its local ingredients. The way they all know and value the selective and highly regarded brand that it is, but at the same time never take themselves too seriously. The product is so good, they don’t have to try and prove it. They rely on showing their gin as a central part of an entire experience and lifestyle, not just in a glass in a tasting room or through a nice online review.


This vibe continued to shine through throughout the day. We shopped away at the store, and in addition to the gin-box I got for my mom, I got a bunch of bottles, honey and pickled onions to bring back for Saif and I and our friends.


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We went back to the hotel for a quick nap and shower at some point. I was cold to the bone, and took the longest, warmest shower to get back to normal temperatures.

A couple of hours later, dinner was planned for us at an old butcher shop turned event space. The venue had a bit of a homely home-vibe to it, while we were greeted with cocktails and gin-chicken-soup at the door, and meatballs with horseradish and mustard as a second round…





Then it was time for us to meet Alexander Stein, or Alex, for the first time. Founder of Monkey47 – more about this brilliant man later. He welcomed us to Stuttgart and Germany, introduced us to Monkey47, and joined us for a fabulous meal…



Herring and potatoes for starters. Unfortunately, being Swedish and all, I’m not a herring-fan, but nevertheless I heard it was excellent from the rest of the crew.


The main course was an excellent piece of grilled salmon with hollandaise and white wine risotto. It was as delicious as it sounds and looks, if not better.



For dessert, we got to eat the most incredible thing. I can’t even remember the name of it, but I’ve messaged the team to ask for it… It was something similar to an apple cake, but way more delicious.


I hear rumours that we may be able to eat this at a secret Bombay restaurant soon – look out for something with the name ‘Monkey’ including apples at a menu near you… It was so good, and I’m not even a dessert person…


After a long first day and night, we all wrapped up around midnight. I came home to a cozy hotel room and crashed before I even had the change to put the light out. Exhausted beyond belief, and so impressed by the welcome we received on our first day of the trip!