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All Aboard the Indian Express

by Chia Yulo May 27, 2014

You’ll be hard pressed to find a more beautiful and stylish mother-daughter duo as Suman and Anjie Gogna. Their gorgeous skin, deep eyes and perfect eyebrows are definitely to envy not to mention how they flawlessly pull off laidback luxe style. Suman was born in India and moved to the Philippines thirty years ago. She has since been going back at least twice a year to visit family and shop for her then home-based boutique, Gifts of the Maharani. Her daughter Anjie, a makeup artist, has also been helping her run the business. They recently opened OM: Lifestyle + Café where they serve the best samosas and gulab jamun amidst a treasure trove of embroidered kurtas, printed caftans, hand embroidered fabrics, intricate accessories and unique home décor. Everyone at the HQ has been itching to go to India and our Creative Head, Bliss is the first to live the dream so we asked these experts for pointers and insider tips.

What are your favorite things to do in India? What's the best thing about going there?

Suman: Bond with family and friends, get connected with the root and culture, and eat authentic Indian food. And of course, shop until we drop.

 What is the hardest thing about traveling there?

Suman: Personally, I don’t find it difficult because I was originally from there and well connected with the local culture and vibe. For foreign tourists, I would imagine it to be dealing with the public comfort rooms, transportation, foreign exchange and sometimes the language barrier.

Anjie: There are a lot of things I find similar between Delhi, where we travel to, and Manila. So basically it’s the things that make it difficult to travel here that make it difficult to get around there as well. For instance, when traveling in the summer, the intense heat gets draining and makes it harder to move around. There’s also crowds of people to deal with everywhere you go given the dense population.

What are the top three must see places?

Suman: For the first time tourist must to see is Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. It’s considered as a golden triangle. Delhi being the capital and still lot of British structures, beautiful architectural sites like the India Gate, President’s House, Red Fort, etc. In Agra, one can find the Taj Mahal, considered as one of the eight wonders of the world. It is a marble monument made by Maharaja Akbar for his beloved wife Mumtaz, embedded with semi precious stones. Jaipur is also known as “The Pink City”. It is a beautiful city of palaces and you will see the highlight of old culture and tradition.

Any advice for first time travelers? What should we expect?

Suman: They should travel with an open mind. They will encounter some beautiful sights and some also not so beautiful.

Anjie: Despite the notion people have of India being unsafe for women, it is just like traveling to any other country where there is always some danger when one puts himself in a vulnerable situation. So basically, it’s the same precautions you must take as with all travels - be careful of your belongings, don’t go out alone late at night avoiding places that aren’t centrally located. Other than that, travel with an open mind. Be open to witnessing everything from sights of intense poverty, to richness of culture, to cows chilling on the roads.

 What are the important things for us to bring and what should we absolutely get?

Suman: Travel light. In India, dress more for comfort than fashion. Or better yet, be comfortably fashionable in light shirts with harem pants or long dresses. Be in comfortable walking shoes and bring a hat to combat the heat at this time of the year. Drink only bottled water, and take some medicines for emergency.

Anjie: India is very fashion forward in the metropolitan areas but if you are traveling as a tourist, you still want to dress simpler as it is still a conservative country at the end of the day. Leave your short shorts behind or you could be stared at. Instead, be one with the culture and have fun dressing in Indo-western get ups such as gyspy skirts or harem pants with light shirts. Keeping a light shawl or sarong with you helps so you can use it to shield from the sun, or to protect the hair from dust during commute.

Coming home, you shouldn’t miss packing some Indian sweets, and anything from clothes to home décor or home linen adorned with any hand-done work such as embroidery or block printing. These are arts that have been passed on from one generation to another and no other country’s intricacy in detail can come close to that of India’s.

What is your take on the Filipinos view of Indian culture?

Suman: Filipinos have a mix view about Indian culture for some it’s a lifetime experience, It’s exotic.. Once is not enough. For others, they find it dirty, and there is poverty, the food is spicy.

Anjie: If the Filipino’s view of India is an exotic culture where there is much to be explored, then that would be a view I agree with. But if the Filipino’s view of India is a dirty, poor country that is unsafe, then I think, being from Manila, that is just a completely unfair way to look at India.

What do you want people to know about India?

Suman: India is the second oldest civilization so there is much to explore. It’s a mix culture country from east to west, north to south. It’s beautifully diverse that merely traveling from one state to another, one will already get to experience an extreme difference in culture, religion, language, food habits, arts even the religion and the climate.

 Why do you think everyone should travel to India?

Suman: Everyone should travel to India because it has a lot to offer from arts, culture, traditions and shopping.

Anjie: I think traveling to India is a truly enriching experience that as much as possible, one must experience in their lifetime. From culture, to arts, to flavors, it is a country that has so much to offer. All your senses will get activated and possibly overwhelmed with one travel to India.

Any funny/interesting travel anecdotes you can share?

Suman: While we were walking in the old part of Delhi once, a monkey swinging on the electrical wires just came from a building and grabbed my shades straight from my head!

 Anjie: We were stuck in a traffic jam on a rickshaw once and witnessed a guy from inside his car swinging a baseball bat out of his car window out of road rage!

How has your traveling to India affected you?

Anjie: We are both constantly inspired by the Indian lifestyle yet we enjoy living it out in a more modern way given that we are based in Manila. That influences our lifestyle from the way we designed our home, our boutique down to our clothing and accessories, which we wear and sell.

What is the best thing about traveling with your Mom/daughter?

Suman: The best thing is we have a company of each other. We enjoy the same things. It’s easier to shop. We could take better care when traveling with each other. And myself, having been born and bought up there, have better knowledge of what is best to do in the local sense like where to go, how to get there.

Anjie: That just means I have the best travel buddy, shopping buddy, and tour guide, all rolled into one!


 [All photos generously shared by the Gognas from their personal album]

 Watch out for more exotic and exquisite finds at our Indian Bazaar!


Your Purveyor-at-Large,

Chia Yulo
Chia Yulo


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