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Maya the Drag Queen’s Foray from Saris and Stages to Social Activism

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Alex Mathew, the unassuming man behind the dazzling persona of Maya the Drag Queen, is a force to be reckoned with. For over six years, Maya has graced stages across Bangalore, captivating audiences with her vibrant costumes, soulful voice, and powerful message of self-acceptance. But Maya’s journey is more than just glitz and glamour; it’s a story of resilience, activism, and the unwavering pursuit of self-expression.

From Dreaming of Broadway to Becoming Maya the Drag Queen

Alex’s artistic inclinations manifested early on, with him participating in plays and belting out tunes at karaoke bars. However, something felt amiss. Auditions highlighted his thick Malayali accent, seen as a flaw in the industry. Directors relegated him to the background, dampening his spirit. Disillusioned, Alex sought inspiration from an unexpected source: Mrs. Doubtfire. Robin Williams’ transformation sparked a fire within him. He delved into the world of drag, discovering Indian drag pioneers like Kamal Haasan in Chachi 420, and international icons like RuPaul. Thus, Maya the Drag Queen was born.

Love, Loss, and the Road from Kerela to Bangalore

Coming from a conservative Christian family in Kerala, Alex’s initial foray into drag wasn’t met with acceptance. His mother pleaded with him to stop, leading to a period of estrangement. However, Alex persevered, and Maya blossomed. He crafted an elaborate backstory for Maya, a fisherman’s daughter named Mayamma who escaped an abusive home and found solace in performance. This backstory wasn’t just for entertainment; it was a tribute to his mother, Renu Mathew, a champion for abused women. Witnessing her mother’s abuse at the hands of her alcoholic father, Maya yearned for freedom. This fictional narrative resonated deeply with Alex’s desire to create social awareness and empower others. Maya became a symbol of strength and resilience, resonating with the LGBTQ+ community facing similar struggles.

Following the heart-wrenching family rift, Alex found solace and acceptance in Bangalore. There, he not only embraced his passion for drag but also found love with his partner, Anandaraja.

Life Post Decriminalization of Section 377

The 2018 decriminalization of Section 377 was a watershed moment for Alex and countless LGBTQIA+ individuals in India. It wasn’t just a legal victory; it symbolized a shift in societal acceptance. For Alex, it meant performing at his workplace, the Lalit Ashok hotel, alongside colleagues from the LGBTQIA+ community, proudly raising the rainbow flag. This act, once unthinkable, became a powerful symbol of inclusion and a testament to the ongoing fight for equality. The law change, coupled with Alex’s relentless activism, continues to pave the way for a brighter future where LGBTQIA+ individuals can thrive and express themselves authentically.

From Performing at Kitty Su to Hosting Storytelling Workshops

While every performance is a vibrant blend of music, ranging from pop anthems to powerful ballads, the true magic lies in the message. Alex, a self-proclaimed “performance-based activist,” uses his platform to tackle misconceptions about drag and advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights. He educates audiences, dispelling the myth that drag is solely for the LGBTQIA+ community. Alex emphasizes that drag is an art form, a celebration of self-expression, open to all.

maya the drag queen hosting workshop - the reel stars

Maya’s repertoire extends beyond dazzling nightclubs. She has captivated audiences at storytelling workshops for children, leaving them mesmerized by the “magician behind the show.” Alex, the man behind the makeup, has also emerged as a powerful voice for change. He conducts gender awareness workshops, speaks at diversity conferences, and actively campaigns for LGBTQIA+ rights and feminism.

A Future Full of Color

Alex’s journey is far from over. With films, documentaries, and chat shows on the horizon, Maya the Drag Queen is poised to continue captivating audiences and spreading her message of love, acceptance, and the power of being true to oneself. Alex Mathew, the man behind the makeup, is a testament to the transformative power of drag and the courage it takes to embrace one’s authentic self.

Anusuya is a content samurai, slaying mediocrity with creativity. This Calcutta-born and Bengaluru-raised girl loves crafting compelling content across all realms; social media posts that pop to website copy that sells. When she's not hunched over her laptop, you'll find her creating Pinterest boards for her next vacation or binge-watching Asian dramas.

Lifestyle

Vietnam is Paradise on a Budget for Indian Travelers

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Vietnam is a Southeast Asian gem that beckons Indian travelers with its rich culture, stunning landscapes, and delicious cuisine – all at a price that won’t break the bank. This Asian destination became one of the top-tourist destinations for Indians post Covid-19 and the hype doesn’t seem likely to die down anytime soon! Buckle up for an unforgettable adventure that’s easy on your wallet!

Here’s what you need to know to help you get started with your Vietnam itinerary; with some tips we stole from slow travel content creator Komal Maheshwari!

First, meet Komal! She’s a slow traveller who takes her followers along on her journeys on social media. This engineering graduate from Siliguri, quit her IT job to pursue content creation full-time and there’s been no looking back. She now has 53K followers on Instagram! If you’ve got the travel bug, follow Komal Maheshwari for some authentic travel tips!

Now, let’s dive into our take on what you can do to make your Vietnam trip a success, with some tips from this traveller!

Must-Visit Cities in Vietnam:

  • Hanoi: Immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of Vietnam’s capital. Explore the Old Quarter’s bustling streets, visit the iconic Hoan Kiem Lake, and delve into the city’s fascinating history at museums like the War Remnants Museum.
  • Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon): Experience the dynamic heart of South Vietnam. Take a motorbike tour, wander through Ben Thanh Market, or visit the Notre Dame Cathedral and Reunification Palace. Don’t miss the Cu Chi Tunnels for a glimpse into the war’s complexities.
  • Hoi An: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a photographer’s paradise. Explore the charming ancient town with its colorful lanterns, tailor-made clothes, and Japanese Covered Bridge. Relax on the nearby beaches of Cua Dai or An Bang.
  • Nha Trang: Craving beach bliss? Nha Trang boasts pristine coastline with turquoise waters and soft sand. Explore nearby islands like Hon Mun for snorkeling and diving adventures.
  • Ha Long Bay: Embark on a magical cruise through this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Witness towering limestone pillars rising from the emerald waters, explore hidden caves, and discover a breathtaking natural wonder.

Foods to Try:

  • Phở (Noodle Soup): A quintessential Vietnamese dish, Phở features fragrant broth, rice noodles, and thinly sliced meat (often beef or chicken).
  • Bánh Mì (Savory Sandwiches): These delightful baguettes are filled with savory ingredients like pate, grilled pork, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs.
  • Bún Chả (Grilled Pork with Noodles): Tender grilled pork served over rice noodles with a sweet and savory dipping sauce is a must-try.
  • Gỏi Cuốn (Spring Rolls): Fresh rice paper rolls filled with vegetables, meat, or shrimp, dipped in a flavorful peanut sauce.
  • Cà phê Phin (Vietnamese Coffee): Enjoy a strong and silky coffee brewed with a traditional phin filter.

Experiences to Try:

  • Motorbike Tour: Explore the countryside or bustling cities on a motorbike for an authentic Vietnamese experience.
  • Cooking Class: Learn the secrets of Vietnamese cuisine by taking a cooking class and whipping up your favorite dishes.
  • Tailor-Made Clothing: Hoi An is famous for its skilled tailors, so take advantage of getting custom-made clothes at affordable prices.
  • Water Puppet Show: Witness a unique Vietnamese tradition where puppets come alive on water, accompanied by live music.
  • Kayaking in Ha Long Bay: Explore the hidden grottoes and emerald waters of Ha Long Bay on a kayaking adventure.

How to Plan Your Budget-Friendly Vietnamese Escape:

Wondering how to plan the trip and budget? According to @komalified, your budget could range anywhere between INR 25,000 to INR 70,000+ and it all depends on what kind of traveller you are.

Here’s how to can plan in advance, save some money and figure out exactly how much you’ll need! But remember, you should always carry a little extra, just in case!

  • Travel During Shoulder Seasons: Avoid peak tourist season (December-February, July) for better deals on flights and accommodation. Shoulder seasons (April-May or September-October) offer pleasant weather and fewer crowds.
  • Book in Advance: Secure flights and accommodation well in advance, especially during peak season, to get the best deals.
  • Embrace Public Transportation: Buses, trains, and local taxis are affordable ways to get around Vietnam.
  • Explore Street Food: Indulge in delicious and budget-friendly street food for an authentic culinary experience.
  • Accommodation Options: Opt for guesthouses, homestays, or hostels for comfortable and affordable lodging.
  • Visa on Arrival: Indians can conveniently obtain a visa upon arrival in Vietnam, simplifying the travel process.

With a little planning and these tips, Vietnam is ready to unfold its magic for Indian travelers seeking an unforgettable and budget-friendly adventure. So, pack your bags, open your mind to new experiences, and get ready to discover the beauty of Vietnam!

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Lifestyle

Simple Yoga Asanas To Start Your Yoga Journey on World Yoga Day

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Yoga brings body and mind together to achieve alignment in life. Its three main aspects are movement, breathing, and meditation. Yoga Asana has many physical and mental health benefits, including flexibility, strength, emotional and physical balance, improved posture, and body awareness. 

Did you know? An āsana is a Sanskrit word that means a body posture. In English, it is called a Yoga posture or Yoga pose. It embodies a steady and comfortable posture. 

On this international yoga day, let’s meet the Yoga Influencers who teach all the basic Yoga Asanas, each with its own benefits:

TRIKONASANA (Triangle Pose) by Rishika Khandelwal @yoga.with.rishika

Rishika Khandelwal is a Yoga influencer and fitness freak. She loves dancing and is a choreographer. She teaches yoga asanas through her Reels, which are easy to learn. Riishika’s mission is to help people get STRONG and FLEXIBLE with bodyweight exercises, such as Yoga. 

Trikonasana, a powerful yoga pose, relieves stiffness and enhances flexibility. This sideways bending pose can elongate the leg muscles, improving the strength of the thighs, calves, and legs. Its benefits extend to the back muscles of the thigh, known as hamstrings. Furthermore, making it a comprehensive exercise for the lower body.

Bhujangasan (Cobra Pose) by KumKum Patnaik @kumkumpattnaik

Kumkum Pattnaik is a Yoga practitioner. Flow with her as you learn the art of becoming a yogi. She believes that ‘The Present is All You Have.’ She also lifts weights at the gym. 

Bhujangasana is a great stress reliever. Its benefits include strengthening the spine, improving flexibility, and stimulating abdominal organs for better digestion. It also helps open the chest and shoulders, improve posture, and relieve back pain. It also helps to strengthen core muscles and has a calming effect. 

To do Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), lie face down with hands under shoulders. Inhale, lift your chest and straighten your arms slightly. Keep shoulders back and look upward. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then exhale and lower back down.

Uttanasana (Standing forward bend pose.) by Kruna Tyagi @karuna_tyagi123

Kruna Tyagi is a certified yoga trainer. She loves traveling and exploring nature. Wherever she goes, she likes to spend some time in nature with her Yogic Kriya. 

Uttanasana is the go-to treatment for (or prevention of) back-related issues. It also enhances blood flow, lowers stress levels, builds hamstring muscles, and increases adaptability.

Stand straight, bend forward, and touch your feet. 

Baddha Konasana (Butterfly pose) by Somya Thakur @somya_yoga

Somya Thakur is a Certified International Yoga Trainer—RYT500 from Indore. RYT 500 means a yoga teacher has completed a 200-hour and 300-hour training. 

She is also a Certified Nutritionist. She teaches yoga through her content and also talks about its benefits. 

Baddha Konasana’s benefits include activating the bladder’s urethra, controlling kidney issues, enhancing the digestive system, managing the menopause process, and relieving tiredness. This Yoga Asana is also called Butterfly Pose.

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) by Siddhi Jain @_yoga_abhyasa_

Siddhi Jain is a yoga teacher who shares yoga and lifestyle tips. She is also a Spiritual Being Living A Human Life. Her way of teaching Yoga Asana is very simplified.

Dhanurasana’s benefits include strengthening the back and abdominal muscles, improving blood circulation, adjusting hunched back and body posture, and managing diabetes, digestive ailments, and chest ailments.

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) by Ael @foldsbyael

Simple Yoga Asanas To Start Your Yoga Journey on #InternationalYogaDay - The Reelstars

Ael is a yoga instructor who loves exploring her lifestyle, infused with humor. Her content is all about yoga and its benefits. 

Vajrasana is a seated pose in which you sit on your heels. However, with your hands resting on your thighs or knees. It helps improve digestion and relieves gas and bloating; it is an after-meal practice for better digestion. Other benefits are that it supports weight loss, relaxes the body, reduces bloating, constipation, and gas, controls diarrhea, calms pain due to fissures and piles, and calms the mind. 

These basic Yoga Asanas can be practiced by anyone and everyone easily. Every Yoga Asana has its own benefits, to improve your health and well-being. Follow these yoga influencers to help improve your Yoga practice on this World Yoga Day!

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Travel

Raunaq Sahni: Embracing The Melodies of India

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Raunaq Sahni, popularly known as Monkey Magic, has reached a remarkable milestone with the successful launch of his debut book, “Melodies of India.” As a travel creator turned author, Sahni’s literary skills shine in this captivating exploration of Indian culture and life along the revered Ganga River.

In an impressive display of independent authorship, Raunaq wrote and published “Melodies of India,” offering readers a unique perspective on India’s rich heritage. The book has already surpassed 5,000 pre-orders, setting a new record for creator-published works in India.

6 months along the Ganga River:

Raunaq’s journey to craft this inaugural literary work spanned over four months. From the mystical origins of Gomukh to the tranquil shores of Gangasagar. However, his adventure along the Ganga River inspired “Melodies of India,” delivering a profound exploration of the country’s diverse heritage.

Raunaq kicked off his pre-launch tour on June 2, meeting fans and distributing pre-ordered books across seven cities, including Jaipur, Surat, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, and Varanasi. The tour concluded with a grand launch in Delhi on June 16.

The seeds of this idea were sown back in 2018, when Raunaq first visited Rishikesh. Moreover, felt an instant fascination with the Ganga River. His annual tradition of visiting the river on his birthday deepened his connection, ultimately inspiring the book.

Embarking on the Narmada Parikrama:

An unexpected visa rejection in March 2023 led Raunaq to embark on the Narmada Parikrama. Furthermore, where he experienced incredible hospitality and warmth from the people he met. These interactions fueled his passion for exploring and documenting India’s cultural richness, culminating in “Melodies of India.”

Through “Melodies of India,” Raunaq Sahni has not only shared his experiences. However, but also inspires countless others to explore the world around them with an open heart and mind. His story is a beacon of inspiration for anyone looking to embark on their own journey of discovery.

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