Vandana Verma on Capturing the Zeitgeist for Motherland

6 years ago

Vandana Verma is the editor of Motherland, a magazine that covers “trends, issues & ideas that shape contemporary Indian culture”. With a tagline so inclusive, she certainly has a firm grip on the country’s zeitgeist. What’s more, living and working in New Delhi has her eating her way through the Capital’s burgeoning food scene, sharing her love of food at her personal blog, Sing For Your Supper. She also loves putting an outfit together, injecting ’60s charm into her killer personal style via a blunt, Marianne Faithfull fringe and black Bardot eyeliner.


We wanted an insider glance into this insider, and penned a dozen questions about her relationship with food, style and Motherland. Ever the lady, Vandana was kind enough to oblige.


You’re a small team within a big agency – how do you manage to cover so much ground?

Yes, Motherland is founded, edited and art directed at Wieden+Kennedy Delhi, but while we’re a stand-alone title, we’re incredibly lucky to have the infrastructure and support of being housed within an agency. Plus W+K (and this is true of the agency globally as well as here in Delhi) have always had a strong focus on, and commitment to, popular culture: our creative director, V Sunil, really pushes this onto the pages of the magazine, and that was really the original impetus behind the launch of the magazine. We’re also a quarterly, which means that we’ve got a longer lead-in time to put each issue together.

How do you keep your pulse on Indian contemporary culture?

Through our contributors, and through living in these cities all chugging along at an insane pace; I think what Motherland does differently is that it looks at Indian culture through a global lens, and so offers its readers, both local as well as further-flung, a glimpse into the thoughts and ideas emanating from contemporary India. In every issue we look to pair features that look at emerging Indian cultures with as much cool illustrative or photo work as we can. My hope is that you’ll always find little oddities on our pages that you wouldn’t necessarily come across elsewhere.


What’s the one meal that brings back memories?

Butter chicken and butter naan. Always outside, of course, never made at home. We’d never have managed the right amount of butter-without-guilt at home.


What’s your idea of a romantic dinner?

Everyone has their own definition of what romantic is; for me it’s a complete absence of anything pink or heart shaped, and the definite presence of multiple well-made, non-sugary cocktails. I like Le Bistro Du Parc for drinks and nibbles or, for a more leisurely (and always fantastic) meal, Indian Accent at The Manor hotel.

What’s your go to cocktail?

There is nothing as good as a good gin and tonic. Hendricks gin and Fever Tree tonic, poured in a 2:1 tonic to gin ratio, with a slice of lime or cucumber. Or if you’re feeling more adventurous, try this heatwave-appropriate drink which brings together gin, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, lemongrass, lime, simple syrup, soda and ice. In this weather it is perfection.


Who is your culinary hero?

Indian Accent’s Manish Mehrotra for giving Indian food the attention it deserves and Mandakini Gupta of Smitten Bakery, for finally bringing excellent puds to Delhi. It’s been a very long wait.


Which are your top three restaurants?

If it weren’t already evident, I’m a fan of Indian Accent, for their fresh, innovative spin on Indian cooking. I also love The Hawksmoor, in London, because I am partial to a good burger (and to good cocktails, which they do as well), and theirs is served with a side of triple-cooked chips, a shiny brioche bun and an oozing layer of Ogleshield Cheese from Somerset; and finally The Modern Pantry, also in London, where I ate just last month, because I was entirely won over by its fresh, cosmopolitan menu, super-charming staff, and proximity to the bar at The Zetter Townhouse.

Tell us about your introduction to fashion. How has the way you dress evolved over the years?

I’ve always enjoyed putting together an outfit; my mother will recount countless times we’d row over what I was going to wear to a birthday party … and this was when I was three. I remember insisting on this oxblood velvet dress with a lace Peter Pan collar, and eventually, after an hour of tears, getting her to acquiesce. I also remember that it was summer in Bombay, and that it was the most uncomfortable thing ever. But of course that’s what she had been saying all along. I think I grew into my own style when I was at university, although at the core of it one thing has remained constant: I love (and for the most part, live in) dresses. Little sixties shifts, belted tea dresses, strappy sundresses…so easy. And I think it’s important to put yourself together in the mornings for yourself; it’s amazing what a little bit of eyeliner can do for your day. Today I’m a fan of a fairly minimal silhouette and a neutral black/navy/white palette for day; evenings are for high hemlines and a bright red mouth, and flats with everything, all the time. I never want to not be able to dance all night if the mood strikes.


If you could have anybody’s wardrobe, whose would it be?

Julia Restoin Roitfeld; I’d nick all her classic-meets-coquette gear in a heartbeat.

Dress like a lady or borrow from the boys?

Like a lady.


What’s the most stylish film you ever saw?

Bonnie And Clyde. Everything about Faye Dunaway in that film is perfection.


Your treasured vintage find?

A pair of Miu Miu heels that I’ve never worn (they’re heinously uncomfortable) but I’ve gazed adoringly at for ages, so I think they were worth it.