Thursday, 31 March 2016

6 Herbs To Kickstart Your Kitchen

When cooking is one of your passionate hobbies, the irksome chore of running to the shop to get your fresh herbs may dampen your cooking spirits on some days. Imagine having some fresh herbs right at home – you reach out to the little patch of plants in your kitchen garden and pluck the ones you need. Now, wouldn’t that be charming!

Who doesn’t like fresh home-grown vegetables and herbs, in this era of chemicals, pesticides and toxins mixed in the veggies we eat? You could grow a few herbs at home for an everyday healthy menu. All you need is a few square feet of space in your kitchen balcony and, of course, a bit of love and care.

Here are some kitchen garden ideas and practical tips on how you can grow a herb garden right in your kitchen!


Coriander or cilantro, popularly known as dhania, is commonly used in many Indian dishes. This herb is very easy to grow if you are kitchen gardening, and the plants flower within a very short time.

How to Grow It

1) To grow coriander, choose a tray rather than a pot for better growth with enough space. Fill up the tray with 80% rich soil.

2) Coriander can be grown by planting 10-12 split seeds. Sow these seeds about half an inch deep into the soil, leaving a 3-inch gap between the two seeds.

3) Spray water regularly over the seeds and see them sprout in about 15 days. Continue watering the sprouts for the seedlings to grow and leaves to be harvest-worthy.

4) Ensure that the tray has enough holes for excess water to drain out easily.

5) Keep the tray in direct, bright sunlight for better growth.

6) You could use a nitrogen-based liquid fertiliser on a tray of coriander seedlings, so as to improve the foliage.

7) Coriander plants grow well in a climate that is neither too hot nor too cold. Excessive heat commonly causes the plant to flower and fruit prematurely, before the leaves are ready for harvesting.

8) It is crucial to harvest the cilantro stalks at the right time as leaving them too long without harvesting will turn the leaves tasteless. A coriander plant should be at least 6 inches tall for harvesting.

9) Collect the seeds that grow on the maturation of the cilantro plant. These can be broken into two, and used for the next cycle of potting.

10) Cilantro plants should be harvested little by little, rather than doing at a time. Do not harvest more than 1/3 of the foliage on a plant at any one point of time as doing so will make the plant weak.


Curry leaves are not just used for different dishes in India but also used for a number of medicinal benefits. These leaves are commonly used in the preparation of Ayurvedic medicines. Curry leaf is a low-maintenance plant that is very easy to grow in one’s kitchen herb garden.

How to Grow It

There are two ways to grow curry plants. The slower method is to get some fresh curry leaf seeds and remove the hard, outer shell for the seeds to germinate and sprout quickly. The seedlings that emerge from these seeds will take a couple of years to establish fully and become harvest-worthy.

The second (and faster) method is to get a plant to transplant it to a container in your kitchen garden. Curry leaf plants grow well in containers or deep trays that have adequate holes pierced for excess water to drain out. Ensure that the container you use is filled with rich soil and change the container as the plant grows. Take care to make sure that no roots are broken during the process of re-potting.

1) Curry leaf plants need direct, bright sunlight to grow well. This plant sheds the leaves during winter and watering these plants should be cut down during this season to avoid the roots from rotting.

2) Ensure that the curry leaf plant gets a few doses of iron-based fertilisers before every harvest.

3) The berries that appear on the curry leaf plants should be cut off. This will give rise to more leaf growth.

4) It is essential to prune your curry leaf plants regularly, so as to encourage good growth.

5) A curry leaf plant is ready to harvest when it is sturdy and about 6 inches tall. At this stage, simply pluck off the leaves, a little at a time, so as to ensure that the plant does not get too weak. The more you harvest a curry leaf plant, the bushier it will grow.


Holy Basil, aka tulsi, has a number of medicinal properties, apart from being a sacred plant in India. It is very easy to grow in a herb garden at home, considering that it is a very low-maintenance plant.

How to Grow It

You can use either containers or pots filled with a mixture of rich soil and organic compost or cow dung.

1) Tulsi plants grow from seeds, which can be sown about half an inch below the top layer of the soil. Ensure that there is a gap of at least 2 inches between two seeds.

2) Place the container/pot in a spot that receives bright, direct sunlight for at least 6 to 7 hours a day. It is essential to protect the plant from harsh draughts of cold air.

3) During summer, water the plant every day, and during winter, you can water the plant 2 to 3 times a week.

4) At a temperature of about 20 degrees C, tulsi seeds take about two weeks to germinate. At this stage, pull out the weaker seedlings and retain the stronger ones. You can transfer a few seedlings to another pot/container to give the remaining ones ample space to grow.

5) Use a general-purpose fertiliser about once a month for the plant.

6) A tulsi plant is ready for harvest when the plant looks lush. Pluck all the big leaves from the plant for your use. Periodic harvesting is necessary to promote good growth of this plant. After plucking the leaves, cut down the entire plant to about 6-8 inches above the ground as this will help the plant grow better.


Italian basil leaves are used in a number of Italian and other continental dishes. This is, again, an easy plant to grow in a kitchen herb garden.

How to Grow It

1) Use a tray or wide container to grow basil and make sure that the trays have facilities for good draining.

2) You can grow basil from seeds that can be sown in a tray/container filled with 80% rich soil.

3) Keep the tray/container in a place that receives direct sunlight. In the winter season you may keep it in a warm place.

4) Using an organic general-purpose fertiliser about once a month is good for a basil plant.

5) Water the basil regularly in a hot climate, ensuring that the soil stays moist and doesn’t dry out. In cold weather water the plant every alternate day.

6) Basil seeds germinate in about a week to 10 days from the time of sowing.

7) This plant is prone to pest attacks, hence regular inspection is required.

8) Regular pruning of the plants is essential to promote good growth of foliage.

9) Your basil plants are ready to harvest when they are about six inches tall. At this stage, cut off all the large leaves using scissors. Post the harvest of the leaves, cut the plant down to about 3 inches above the ground, this will ensure good regrowth.

10) If you spot flowers growing on your basil plant, cut them off, so that they do not consume the nutrients that should, ideally, go to the leaves.


Spinach, popularly known as palak, is rich in iron, antioxidants, and vitamins. It is easy to grow spinach while kitchen gardening at home, as the plant gets ready for harvest in a span of six to eight weeks.

How to Grow It

Spinach plants need a wide surface to spread out and grow, hence, a tray would be better for them rather than a pot. Choose a tray with a sufficient number of holes for drainage, and fill about 80% of it with rich soil. Get good quality spinach seeds and sow them about half an inch into the top layer of the soil.

1) Water the seeds regularly, ensuring that you do not pour excess water. Make sure that the soil is moist at all times and does not overly dry out.

2) Usually, spinach seeds germinate in about a week, retain the seedlings by removing the ones that are weak. Ensure that there are 3 to 4 inches of space between the seedlings. If need be, transfer some seedlings to another tray.

3) Spinach plants must be kept in a place that receives bright, direct sunlight.

4) Occasionally, treat the plant with a nitrogen-based liquid fertiliser to protect it from bugs and other insects.

5) Harvest your spinach plants after six to eight weeks of sowing. Cut off the large leaves on the plants, using a pair of scissors. The more you harvest the spinach, the denser the foliage will become.


Chillies are an essential ingredient in many Indian dishes, and it can be grown in containers at your kitchen’s very own herb garden.

How to Grow It

Chilli plants grow better in plastic pots or containers. These plants need warm and humid conditions to grow well.

1) Ensure that the pot or container you choose has a sufficient number of holes for good drainage.

2) Chilli seeds need a temperature of at least 20 degrees C to germinate. Hence, early summer would be a great time to plant chillies at your home.

3) Soil mixed with organic matter like dried leaves and cow manure is best for growing chillies.

4) Get good quality chilli seeds and sprinkle them over the top of the soil in the container or pot. Cover them with a thin layer of soil, which is moderately moist at all times.

5) Ensure that the container or pot in which you have sown chilli seeds gets adequate direct sunlight.

6) When the seeds sprout leaves, pull out the weaker ones and retain only the good and strong ones. It is also a good idea to keep only one seedling in the container, at the early stage.

7) Spray a nitrogen-based liquid fertiliser occasionally on the chilli plant to improve the foliage and prune the chilli plant regularly for better growth.

8) Keep the chilli plant at a warm place during winters.

9) The chillies are ready to harvest when they have a shiny finish on them.

Now that you know that kitchen gardening is really quite simple, are you ready to start your own little kitchen’s herb garden? Besides, your own plants providing you with ingredients is sure to make you feel content at home!


Thursday, 24 March 2016

Open vs. Closed Kitchen – Which is Right For You?

While an open kitchen gives you the convenience of getting to serve easily and spending time with your guests even while the meal is being prepared, a closed kitchen always gives that private space you sometimes need in your messy kitchen. Confused about which one will suit you best? Don’t know how either one will impact your way of living?


What are they?

An open kitchen is one which is more integrated with the adjacent rooms in the house – usually the living room and the dining room. Such a kitchen is commonly ‘open’ from more than one side, meaning that it doesn’t have walls on more than one side.
The concept of the open kitchen started becoming popular in the 1990s, and is still a favoured choice of many.


1) Considering that a couple of walls are eliminated in the case of an open kitchen, open kitchens tend to be naturally brighter and well-ventilated, as compared to closed ones.

2) The person preparing a meal in an open kitchen gets to be involved in the conversations around or pass dishes to people in the adjacent rooms. Cooking time doesn’t mean missing out on watching your favourite programme on the TV in the living room. The family, or any guests who drop in, can feel like a part of the meal-making process, too. All in all, an open modern kitchen makes for better bonding with your family and/or guests.

3) Open kitchens lend an air of informality to the house.

4) Proud of the wonderful way you showcase the pots and pans in your kitchen? Or of the latest kitchen equipment that you have scouted hard for? With an open kitchen, it becomes possible for you to show off all of your beauties and the fabulous decor of your kitchen to your guests!

5) An open kitchen plan lends a sense of space to the house. It makes your house look bigger and, therefore, work great for modestly-sized homes.

6) With all the aroma of fresh food floating all over the house, the family’s appetite is increased and the meals end up being happier.

7) If you have kids who need supervision, an open kitchen can help you keep an eye on them while you cook.


1) While an open kitchen layout makes for a wonderful way to showcase your pretty vessels and appliances, it also showcases any mess that might be made in the kitchen while cooking. When you are entertaining, are you sure you want your guests to see something like that?

2) Also, all the sounds of kitchen appliances – like the mixer or dishwasher – can be heard in adjacent rooms.


What are they?

A closed kitchen is just what the name suggests – ‘closed off’, or isolated, from the rest of the house. The walls separating the kitchen from the other parts of the house makes the kitchen a room of its own.


1) If you are the type of person who thinks of the kitchen as your sanctuary, as your own place where you can sink into the cooking process without any interruption or distraction, a closed kitchen would be perfect for you.

2) All the smells and messes remain hidden inside the kitchen, away from the rest of the house.

3) A closed kitchen lends an air of formality, as opposed to an open kitchen. So, if you are the kind of person who prefers a formal cooking experience, silence and privacy included, a closed kitchen might be your best bet.

4) Considering that the number of walls in a closed kitchen is more, there is more space for a bigger countertop, more cabinets and shelves, and more storage space for appliances.

5) With a closed kitchen, not only are the smells of cooking confined (mostly, at least!) to the kitchen, but the sounds too.


1) If you have a closed kitchen layout and the you decide you like an open kitchen better, you might have to spend huge amounts of money in tearing those walls down to create an open-plan kitchen. Are you sure you want to do that? Or would you rather invest that money in newer and better kitchen appliances and fixtures?

2) A closed kitchen plan allows for lesser access to the natural light and air circulation available in the house, as against an open kitchen.

Can you have the best of both worlds?

Yes, you can! If you would like to have the benefits that both open and closed kitchens have to offer but want to avoid the cons of both types, you can still do it with some simple kitchen design tips. Here’s how:

1) Incorporate sliding barn doors for your kitchen and your kitchen can be open or closed whenever you want it to! Installing metal mesh curtains can also give you a certain degree of privacy in the kitchen. If you want an open kitchen, just open the curtains and you have one! Opening the sliding barn doors and the metal mesh curtains will also allow for natural light and air to flow into your kitchen.

2) If space permits, you could install a small booth or fold-down table in your closed kitchen, to let your loved ones keep you company as you cook.

3) A glass partition separating the kitchen and the other parts of the house is another trick to allow natural light to flood the kitchen area while the sounds and smells stay in. This modern kitchen idea also proves worthy when you don’t want to feel completely isolated from the rest of the house. Choose translucent glass or hang curtains if you don’t want a  complete see-through.

4) You could even close up just a small part of the kitchen – maybe the part that sees the most action, like your gas stove or the sink? This way, you can hide messes, without having to compromise on interacting with your guests and/or family as you cook.

5) Do you want an open kitchen but can’t bear the thought of the cooking smells spreading to the rest of the house? You could use vents! Put up some high-quality, high-powered vents that carry the smells outdoors, so that they don’t linger on and spread.

6) With an open kitchen plan, are you scared that the noises from your dishwasher or blender spread to the adjacent rooms? Don’t worry – just invest in some noise-free appliances. You don’t have to give up on the very idea of an open kitchen just because of this one factor!

7) You could raise the height of the platform of the kitchen area in your open-plan kitchen, so that your cooking activities aren’t really visible to guests when they’re seated in the dining area.

8) Make a partition using indoor plants in between the kitchen area and the dining/living room. This is also a great way to introduce a few kitchen herbs into your tiny garden and use some fresh leaves in your cooking.

9) If you want an open modern kitchen but do not want guests peeking in all the time, create a seating arrangement for the guests where their backs are to the kitchen. Simple!

10) Want to chat with your family while cooking, but want some privacy when there are guests? In that case, why not close off the kitchen to the dining room, but keep it open to the family room!


Monday, 21 March 2016

12 Legal Documents You Will Encounter In Your Home Purchase Journey

Though a structure of bricks and tiles, your home is also built with the help of various papers, literally. A thorough paper check assumes significance in the light of the complexities involved with the home-buying process. To make this easy for you, MakaanIQ lists the documents you must know about if you are planning a home purchase.

Ownership proof of the land

As a buyer, you must ensure that the land on which your home is being constructed is in the ownership of the developer. The sale deed might be in favour of the developer or in the form of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the developer and the original land owner.

Non-encumbrance certificate

A non-encumbrance certificate states the history of a property over the duration of 12-30 years, including the ownership transfers during that period, mortgages, etc. It should also state as the conclusion that the property is free from all encumbrance. Many banks also demand this document for processing of the home loan.

Copy of the relative order in case of conversion of agricultural land

Townships and mega projects generally come up on lands which were earlier demarcated as agricultural areas. In such cases, it should be seen that the land-use pattern has been changed in the government records. In many cases, developers get some land converted and start construction according to their plan, hoping that they would get permission for the remaining land in due course. If this does not happen, the fate of your home may be in limbo. Buyer have to check the documents to confirm that their flats are being constructed on a residential land.

Copy of permission from appropriate authority and approved building plan

In many cases, developers have the permission to construct “X” number of floors but they get “X+Y” number of floors constructed. In such a scenario, if the buyer has skipped the above document, he would never know whether his floor is authorised or not. In case the flat/floor plan is not approved, there is always a danger of demolition from government agencies.

Land and building tax paid receipts, location sketch of property certified by revenue authorities

These documents help one to locate the property in the government records and it becomes easy to get the mutation of the property done in favour of the buyer. Obtaining the latest bills, tax paid receipts also lets us know whether all the dues have been paid or are still pending.

Commencement certificate

A commencement certificate is applicable for an under- construction property. It is issued by the local development authority after inspecting the site. It allows the developers to start construction of the building and states that the permission has been duly obtained. Failure to obtain a commencement certificate can result in seizure, levy of penalties or even demolition of the construction which has already taken place.

Agreement of sale

It is at the initial stage that an agreement to sale is entered into between the parties. The property might still be at the construction stage and only an advance booking amount might have been given by the buyer to the seller. Agreement to sale elaborates upon the terms as agreed on between the parties. The date of possession, penalty clause, arbitration clause, jurisdiction and force majeure are among the major points about which the buyer needs to be cautious.

Original share certificate(s) issued by housing society

In many residential societies, shares are allotted in proportion to the person’s ownership in the society. In such cases, the original share certificate is necessary to ascertain the subsequent transfer of ownership of the flat. This certificate also aid in the transfer of ownership in the buyer’s name.

No-objection certificate from the residents welfare association (RWA)

It has been seen in certain cases that even after the transfer and registration of the property, many societies refuse to register the name of the buyer in their records. An NOC from the society obtained beforehand can be useful in such cases.

Occupancy and completion certificates

These two papers are applicable for a constructed property. The occupancy certificate is obtained by the developer after the construction has been completed. An inspection is carried out by the specified agencies to ascertain that the construction is done according to specified norms. The completion certificate is issued by the municipal authority which denotes that the building has complied with the rules in terms of height, distance from the road, and is constructed according to the approved plans, etc.

Letter of allotment from housing board /society/ private developer

A letter of allotment states that the premises have been allotted to you. It relinquishes the right of the housing board /society/private developer to allot the premises to anyone else from now on and transfers their rights to the allottee.

Sale deed

A registered sale deed is a legally acceptable evidence of the buyer’s ownership of the property. The sale deed needs to be registered at the earliest. It must be ensured that the buyer as well as the seller, either in person or through their legally authorised representatives, sign the deed. The stamp papers should be of adequate valuation and details of parties as well as that of property is clearly mentioned.

Source: MakaanIQ

Monday, 7 March 2016

Converting terrace into a happening party spot

Outdoors with a hint of the indoors always make for the best venue to party. And what better place than the terrace. A terrace garden is a good space to chill out with friends and enjoy good conversation and food amidst the greenery and open feeling that only a terrace can offer. However, along with good food and music, ambience also needs to be addressed before throwing a roof-top party.

An exposed terrace garden will need a shelter for which patio umbrellas or a tarpaulin marquee would be ideal. Stone benches or platforms, free-standing hammocks and swings and individual metal and cane outdoor chairs are some options in seating. Round bistros with a folding accent table make for a good addition to this space. Choose a teak bistro table that folds up easily, making it a handy piece of furniture that you can move when you want to.

Do not over-furnish the space as movement will be restricted. In fact, if you plan to throw outdoor parties regularly, then it is better to have a permanent seating arrangement in terms of concrete or stone benches in the terrace garden or a set of wrought-iron sofas and chairs, minus cushions of course.

To add a twist to the terrace garden, it can also be designed on two levels, with the seating space and garden featuring at the higher level, with a snack counter set up on the lower level to enjoy light snacks.

Fountains are another way of adding a touch of glamour. A faux copper floor fountain can act as a functional decor accent which will add a new dimension to the space.

Ensure your terrace garden has enough green potted plants and flowers which not only add colour to the space but also brings it alive. Place artificial birds and potted hangings to make it look beautiful. The plants and the small garden that you have on the terrace should be the focal point.

If you are having a dance party, then you can hire a DJ or if it is just a dinner party, you can have a music system playing soft music in the background. If it is a night party, hanging little lamps from trees makes for a pretty picture.

Lighting is an important aspect while throwing an outdoor party. Traditional lamps such as lanterns and a kerosene lamp are apt for such occasions. Candles are another great idea but this depends on the number of guests you have. Place candles around for a small, intimate gathering. The lights should add to the atmosphere so that guests can enjoy the moonlight, the open skies and the cool, fresh air.

Source: Magicbricks
Author: Rekha Kavoor

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Managing From Abroad: How Power Of Attorney Helps NRIs Manage Their Assets

If you are living abroad and managing your assets in India has become a headache for you, Power of Attorney (PoA) is the perfect instrument for you. Because of its various benefits, even resident Indians tend to execute POAs. People having numerous assets find it tough to be present everywhere physically. Therefore, they execute POAs to delegate the responsibility.

What is a PoA?

In the simplest of terms, it is the power (right) that a person (principal) grants to an attorney (a legal representative). A principal-legal representative relationship is established between the two and the principal would be bound by the acts of the legal representative.

For instance, if a person has purchased a property in India and cannot be physically present to process the registration, he can delegate these rights/duties to any relative/friend by means of a registered power of attorney.

Types of PoA

Special PoA: In a special PoA, the power of the agent is restricted and limited to a specific purpose. A special POA may be transaction specific and the POA ceases on the completion of transaction.

General PoA: Under a general PoA, broad powers are granted to the representative to make decisions on behalf of the principal. Besides, the representative can also carry out the various activities on behalf of the principal without any limitation on transactions.

Durable PoA: A durable POA remains effective for a lifetime, unless it is explicitly cancelled. A specific clause can be inserted in the document, stating that the representative’s power would remain valid even if the principal becomes incapacitated.

POA in real estate

In real estate, PoA could be used for the purposes mentioned below:

Mortgage, exchange, sell, lease, collect rent, grant, borrow
Manage and settle the disputes
Perform the acts as required by banks, insurance companies and enter into contracts, deal with bonds, etc.
Power of attorney by more than two persons

In cases where a property has numerous owners, it would be difficult for all the people concerned to collectively complete a transaction. In such cases, granting the power of attorney to one person would make matters simple. As a result, this person would be empowered to act on behalf of all the owners collectively.

How Power of Attorney can be executed in India

If an NRI is present in India, he could before going abroad execute the POA from India itself.

Step 1: The NRI needs to get the desired matter of the POA drafted and typed on non-judicial stamp paper of adequate value which is generally Rs 100.

Step 2: Along with the legal representative and two witnesses, the person is now required to visit the Sub-Registrar’s Office.

Step 3: It should be ensured that all the persons going to the Sub-Registrar’s Office are carrying their valid identity proof. Photocopy of the POA, along with the original copy, must also be taken along.

Step 4: At the Sub-Registrar’s office signatures, photographs and fingerprints of the party will be collected.

Step 5: Now, you need to collect the registered POA on the due date from the Sub-Registrar’s Office. This might take three-five days after the formalities have been completed.

What if you are outside India?

If you are settled abroad and won’t be able to visit India in the near future, you may execute a POA from the country of your domicile through the Indian Embassy/ Consulate. There are two ways to execute a POA from abroad:

Legalisation: In this case, signatures of the notary or judge before whom the POA is executed are required to be authenticated by the duly accredited representative of the Indian Embassy/Consulate. According to Section 3 of the Diplomatic and Consular Officers (Oaths and Fees) Act, 1948, notarising a deed from an authorised officer of the Indian Consulate/Embassy would be considered a valid notary. Such a POA is not required to be stamped at the time of execution. However, it needs to be stamped within three months from the date of receipt of the POA in India. Stamp duty would be payable according to Section 2(17) read with Schedule-I of the Indian Stamp Act, 1899, when the deed is presented for registration in India.

Apostalisation: The deed of POA executed outside India are proven through an apostallisation process which is governed by the Hague Convention, 1961. Also known as superlegalisation, apostille is a certificate which confirms and verifies the signature/seal of the person who authenticated the document. However, this deed, too, needs to comply with Indian laws such as the Indian Registration Act, 1908, and the Power of Attorney Act, 1882. You also have to pay the stamp duty on this. If one wants to obtain apostille in the US, he/she can refer to this link.

Regulation of POA

A PoA paper should be interpreted to include all the necessary powers for its execution. The POA has to be given a strict interpretation and no extra rights should be construed, unless they are specifically mentioned. For instance, if the POA mentions “right to lease”, the “right to sell” can’t be attributed to it.

The representative has to act within his scope and cannot bind the principal by his acts which are beyond his authority. As an NRI, you can’t be sued or held responsible for the fraud of the representative, unless it is proved that the fraud was done in connivance with you.

Revocation of POA

If the principal thinks that the legal representative is misusing the power granted to him or is unable to properly discharge the duties assigned to him, he has the option to revoke the PoA. Revocation might also be required if the principal thinks that now he is in a position to take care of his assets.

How to revoke a POA?

You may revoke a PoA during your lifetime.
PoA is also revoked when the principal dies or becomes insane or is declared insolvent.
PoA can be revoked on mutually agreed terms between the principal and the representative.
A PoA is revoked when the specific transaction for which it was executed has been accomplished.
Revocation of POA has to be done in the same manner in which it was executed. If the PoA was registered with the Sub-Registrar, you have to get it cancelled from the same office. Also, the representative and the parties concerned need to be duly informed about the cancellation of the POA. If interests of a reasonably large number of people are involved, it is recommended that a notice be published in a newspaper. A notice about the revocation of the POA could also be posted on the property where it can be visible to the general public.

Sale through PoA is illegal

There have been many cases where people resort to property sale through POA to avoid payment of stamp duty, which is illegal. Besides, selling properties where the owner has only right over possession and no right over ownership through PoA is also illegal. Proper transfer of title and ownership cannot take place, if the sale is done through a POA and not by means of a sale deed.

Source: Makaan IQ