Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Romantic Dinner

~ Rohan Kachalia

A frame of silence, aroma of roses and candles awaited her
As he waited for the most beautiful lady to arrive for a romantic dinner

It was nothing short of a fantasy
As she looked like an angel draped in a saree
Enhancing the beauty of the room drastically

Seated opposite to each other were they
Where eyes feeling shy to meet
And love waiting to blossom

Soon the feelings to be shared were set free
Brightening up the milieu
As dinner took the backseat

First were the gentle smiles and sighs
Followed with the touch of romance
Continued with the kiss of love

As thoughts of love started to flow
Increasing the desires and cravings for each other
Decreasing the distance between them

Eyes became friendly and started to talk
Soft touch replaced the smiles
As they danced to the tunes of love

They pressed their bodies against each other
Heart pumped in joy as tears of love flowed
Seeking peace in their loving arms

Capturing the soul of love, waiting to be tested in tough times
Promising to stand and support in all seasons
As they continue with their romantic dinner

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Rohan Kachalia is a banker by profession and hence a tea addict (can drink tea any time of the day), learner of new things, shopaholic, cricket lover, loves reading books in spare time, very emotional and sometimes romantic too! He blogs here (jointly authored with his spouse), on twitter you can find him here and here on facebook.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Weight cannot wait!


~ Kavya Shankaregowda

"We are blessed with a baby girl, mom and baby are fine.”

“Congratulations! How many kgs does the baby weigh?”

Thus begins a journey.

While we argue that eyes are the first things we notice in a person and some say it’s the smile, I’d say it’s the weight. Trust me; “you’ve lost weight”, “looks like you've put on weight” have become conversation starters these days. It is “weight”!

Till a child is about 7 years old, everyone wants to hug, do googly-woogly-whoosh, go awww and then suddenly, they want the child to lose weight. I was one of those kids.

I was the one who ate all vegetables while younger sister made tantrums. She ate potato chips as sides, every meal, every day. I played outdoors and she dint like playing. She was 8 kgs under weight and I was 10 kgs over weight. I had to wake up by 5:30 am for a jog and she slept till 7 am. I had to eat less and she was over fed. Relatives jokingly said, “Are you eating your sister’s meal too?” and with tears I would include “Give my fat to her please!” in my prayers.

In one of those 8th standard science chapters, they spoke about “metabolism”. That’s when I realized what it was all about. That was also the day I decided, “to hell with morons” and gobbled 3 gulab jamoons.

Fast forward many years of ‘forced’ dieting and ‘pushed-from-bed’ jogging, I was in the you-should-get-married-soon age. In one of that groom hunting mode days, I saw him, in a marriage and dad got him home next day.

The first thing he told me was your smile can brighten anybody’s day. I vowed to smile entire life and he promised to keep me smiling. Ours isn't a love or an arranged marriage, ours is a happy marriage.

While we were busy building nest, making plans, holidaying, uploading pics on Facebook and this close to starting a family, it struck me. PCOS!!!

In a time frame of 2-3 months I was >25 kgs heavier. My doctor ran various tests, scans and wrote 8 prescriptions. The first one being lose weight; it’s not going to be easy with the hormonal lorcha, but lose weight. My confidence dipped. I could not fit in any of my clothes; judgemental people started gossiping that I was pregnant and my smile vanished. That’s exactly when my man held me and said, “Smile please!

He suggested, "Join VLCC”, I knew he dint want me to struggle, but travelling the easy way was not what I believed in. I wanted to sweat it out. We visited a dietician; she told “you will need a year”. What I gained in 2 months, I needed 12 months to lose? That’s horrible math. But one’s body, metabolism and hormones are best friends; most of the times gel together. When they stop getting along, that’s when weird things occur. Dietician put me on a “No-Carb” diet, asked me what is that I truly love, in terms of food?

“Chicken.”

“Quit it.”

I did.

I went for walks twice a day, alone, each day increased pace and distance. I let go all forms of sugar and caffeine. I trusted on papaya and pomegranate, oats and soya milk, green tea and water, along with all forms of vegetables and greens.  

I checked weight everyday, I knew it was wrong, but I did. I rejoiced with 50gms of decrease and shuddered on 500gms increase, In 5 months I was 12 kgs leaner. Then I read about this place, Shantivana (http://www.naturecure.org.in/) and I told him, “Let me spend time alone”.

In my 10 days of solitude stay there, I learnt concepts of naturopathy. Oil massages, mud packs, steam & sauna baths, fresh fruit juices and 7 litres water per day; I was detoxified plus 8kgs lighter. Once back, walking showed no variations and I joined gym. In another 3 months of sweating it out, 7 kgs were shed.

Today it’s 9 months without non-vegetarian food. For a person who ate chicken for breakfast, mutton for lunch and fish for dinner, it was a brave decision. And the counter says I have lost 30.8 kgs. I have shocked everyone, but the best has to be of my dietician. “I haven’t met such crazy girl till date,” she patted my head.

This journey has been an obsessive one; where cheerful me turned into evil. It was he who handled tantrums, assuring good times. Without him, I wouldn't be smiling.

I quote “by doing nothing, nothing happens”, my journey has begun. 
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About herself, Kavya says ~ I believe "Good and bad decisions never count in life. It's only the confidence and firmness of those, that counts". I am a pampered daughter, a sensible sister, always giggling wife and an aunt for two little girls, but I am what I am, when I write.
Read her blog here and you can follow her on twitter here


Book Review: The Tell-Tale Brain by V.S. Ramachandran

On the jacket:


The brain remains a mystery to us. How can a three-pound mass of jelly that can fit in our palm imagine angels, contemplate the meaning of infinity, and even question its own place in the cosmos? Renowned neuroscientist Prof. V.S. Ramachandran takes us on a fascinating journey into the human brain by studying patients who exhibit bizarre symptoms and using them to understand the functions of a normal brain. Along the way he asks big questions: How did abstract thinking evolve? What is art? Why do we laugh? How are these hardwired into the neural mechanisms of the human brain, and why did they evolve? Brilliant, lucid, and utterly compelling, The Tell-Tale Brain is a pathbreaking book from one of the leading neuroscientists.

Review:

It took me about a fortnight to read this book and almost equal amount of time to write this review. Because. It's brilliant and also a subject I am not completely at home with. I couldn't review a book which is so extensive and well-written and not rate it appropriately.

I was ready to dislike this book, but I couldn't help but love it. The author has gone to the depth and explained the difference between humans and animals. He puts light on evolution as per biology. The book talks about Autism, Aesthetics, Synthesia, Phantom Limb Syndrome of amputees, consciousness, the idea of a self, free will, etc. 

I had to refer to the internet many times to understand a lot of terms Ramachandran spoke about. However, cannot ignore the fact how he has simplified the extremely scientific terms. This was clear to me only after I referred to the internet and encountered more complicated explanations.

For a book which talks about the evolution of the brain, the read through is more like reading a novel. The Tell-Tale Brain is not every one's cup of tea. For someone who hasn't even studied science since the Xth standard, like me, it requires a lot of patience and research. But! What a read! Totally worth it!

Rating: ****/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: The Good Little Ceylonese Girl by Ashok Ferry

On the jacket:


The Good Little Ceylonese Girl is Ashok Ferreys second collection of darkly humorous tales about Sri Lankans at home and abroad. 

Our Sri Lankan narrator visits his friend Joe in Italy where Joe attends a course in higher (or, shall we say, lower) studies in women. But Italians much like todays residents of Colombo live at home till marriage, death, and sometimes even beyond. A hen and chicken affair of fake fiances and phony engagements ensues. Long years and many miles away, Colombos Father Cruz attempts to rescue a church from parishioners who like to put their donations where others can see them with plaques to announce their charity. On the coast, a retired Admiral escapes the tsunami on an antique Dutch cabinet. A broken mother with neither Dutch cabinet nor navy helicopter to rescue her feels her son slip away, and watches him go giving her looks of mild reproach. Two childhood sweethearts, in time-honoured Sri Lankan tradition, are married off to strangers. Nineteen years of clandestine meetings culminate in another chance of marriage. Perhaps time does separate. 

Ashok Ferrey writes about Sri Lanka and its people, wherever they roam. He writes of the Sri Lankan diaspora, who seem not to notice that their country has changed in their absence. He writes of the Wests effect on Sri Lankans, of its turning them into caricatures, unmistakably genuine but not at all the real thing. As you laugh, you are left with nostalgia for a bygone Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans who might have been. 

Review:

I haven't read Ashok Ferrey before but I have heard a lot about his first book which was a set of short stories - Colpetty People. 

The Good Little Ceylonese Girl was a little difficult for me in terms of typical Srilankan phrases. A collection of seventeen stories, by the time I was on the third story, I was at home with the environment in them. The characters are not overpowering. 

The cover story is where the girl struggles between being good and making the wrong, right. Her decisions in life affect her adult life. The darkest story in the book, the story builds up to a finish which is quite surprising. 

Ferrey's writing is effortless; the stories are nicely peppered with puns, even the more serious of the stories. 

Rating: ***/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Book Review: Alchemy (II) edited by Sheba Karim

On the jacket: 

So many elements of ourselves come together in the act of sex: skin and bodily fluids, desire, fear, greed, joy, stigma, pride, affection, guilt, often in the hopes of creating something more beautiful, our personal elixirs of life, however temporary, however permanent.

In Alchemy, Tranquebar's second anthology of erotic short stories, editor Sheba Karim has brought together thirteen diverse works about the pains and pleasures of sex including an unapologetic account of a postmodern man's attraction to his maid, a futuristic tale of a four gendered orgy, a poignant narrative of a boy's sexual awakening in a cinema bathroom, and a lyrical meditation on a mysterious woman's carnal lessons to an imprisoned monk. The anthology's vivid, well-crafted stories move across genres, orientations, continents and genders, taking the reader on an intimate journey through the complex alchemies of sex, desire and love.

Review:


Alchemy, The Tranquebar book of Erotic Stories II is the first Indian Erotica that I have read. To tell you the truth, I was curious and getting a chance to read was most welcome. It was quite an interesting experience to read Indian authors venture into this genre. Not all stories were what I would recommend others to read, but some others proved to be exceptionally good reads. Writing a common review for all the stories together wouldn’t be fair, so here is a brief review of all the thirteen stories.

The Farmer’s Daughter by Rabi Thapa: An ex-editor of a Nepali newspaper, Thapa is a published author. His story The Farmer’s Daughter is a firsthand account of his desires for his maid, how he befriends her but never gets the nerve to tell her what he has in mind and ultimately loses her.

Clay by Gudiya: Clay, to me, was not as much erotica, as a well-written, sensitive, story. The story is so touching that somewhere, depiction & imagination of sex takes second place and human sentiments take precedence.

Sanskrit by Ranbir Sidhu:  The story is about an Indian couple, Anu and Hari, living abroad. It’s about their anniversary night and the events if the night, when they are both stoned. A few things like why Hari’s boss Jack has to keep calling him, knowing the occasion and disturbing him, is a little absurd. A good story.

Abandon by Shrimoyee Nandini: Abandon is about a dating couple which goes for drives after midnight, stops at neglected construction sites and have sex. Soon it became a habit and visiting different unattended, half-constructed buildings became their habit. The end of the story is very unexpected; a good read.

Mouth by M. Svairini: Mouth is not a story everyone might appreciate, but it’s well-researched, well-written story about submissives involved in an orgy with their masters.

A Foreigner by Amitava Kumar: A little vague, it’s a story of an immigrant and his fantasies.

Semen, Saliva, Sweat, Blood by Hansda Sowendra Shekhar: If I had to pick a story which I liked the most of these thirteen, it will have to be this one. A story about gay relationships, as a reader I did cringe over the sex involved, probably because it’s the unknown but the emotions spoken about in the story are heart-touching. An excellent read.

F is for Free by Abeer Hoque: A little vague, this is a story of an immigrant and his sexual fantasies.

The Periscope by Lopa Ghosh: I found this one a little vague as well, it talk about sexual fantasies.

The Matinee by Mohan Sikka: My other favourite in the book, this talks about how a boy finds out about sexual desires. A subtle, well-written story.

The Marrying Kind by Mary Anne Mohanraj: Story of Leilani and Jared. Jared is the perfect man who wants to marry Leilani, but she doesn’t feel the spark until he breaks all his own barriers to satisfy her.

The Monk by Ananda Devi: A little boy believes he is a monk, reincarnated and leaves his parents behind to live in a monastery. Someone who pushes himself hard, and is one of the best there, suddenly encounters puberty and all the fantasies that come with it. Definitely a good read.

Next Year At The Taj by Sheba Karim: A story about an estranged couple where the man wants to make it work and the wife is already distant and detached. The man ends up sleeping with a hooker while travelling to across the globe, and is so guilt stricken that he resolves to get the old love back in his marriage.

Excellent editing and a good compilation. I am not very convinced about all the stories being erotica, but most of them are very well-written reads.

Rating: ****/5

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

How lonely (or not) is an only child?

With extensive inputs from Abhay and Soumya, two of my favourite people. A click on their names will take you to their twitter profiles. :-)

I am the only child. It would be a lie to say I love being the only one, but it does have its advantages. The eldest child, the middle child, and the youngest child ~ everyone will have some good and some bad to say about their position in the family; but no can say, "It gets lonely."

An only child can.

Maa says, when they decided I'll be the only one, the first concern was not to spoil me. Tales of spoilt only child had scared her, and she didn't want one such. So! I was brought up in a fairly disciplined manner.Never unfair, but definitely more disciplined than my cousins & friends. Bachchi hai, chalta hai was never the flavour of the household. The fact that I was always obedient and fiercely independent helped. As a child, I was a picture of perfection. Till I reached my teens, my life could've been used as an example of how a child should be. And, I was a happy child.

But, a rebel was growing inside.Teens came, so did the wild child in me. The age when others were learning to behave, I was misbehaving. That streak is still on. I am still rebelling against the rules I have followed as a child.

I grew up with kids who all had siblings. I was kind of ashamed of the fact that I didn't have one, when I was with them. These are the neighbourhood kids I am talking about. What Abhay says about this, puts a clearer light to what I mean ~ I was almost looked at as a social recluse. I was sympathised as someone who had something missing. Sometimes as bad as someone could sympathise at a physically disabled person.

No same-age companionship at home. I ended up having a very strong friend circle. Funnily, I am neither friendly nor am I outgoing. Yet, my best friends go to 20+ solid years and some other good friends to before kindergarten. Across time zones and decades,misunderstandings and my disappearances, I can boast of friendships stronger than some family ties. Lucky, that’s it.

Abhay, on the other hand, says he valued people more, possibly because he is an only child. “Being an only child has never kept me away from people. Subconsciously, the lack of access to people ensured that I built a strong sense of judgement and valued my trust in people at a very early age. I built myself to be okay by being alone. I built myself to be strong independently. I built myself to be able to tackle, rather than depend.”

Soumya, another only child, told me ~ Being an only child carries some benefits but during the transition to adulthood from teenage, you get to miss the company of a sibling the most. Important life events like falling in love etc are something which you simply won't be able to share with your parents at an initial stage. That leads you to make a great number of friends around you yet at a certain point in life; you choose to stay in your solitary confinement (because you have trained yourself that way). You hide your emotions well; you become more of a perfectionist because you believe in self-appraisal a lot. You tend to become self-dependent, but at the same time, you feel burdened to carry the responsibilities of your parents all on your own. You make it a point to please everyone, thus put more effort than the rest for a given task. An only child also begets the qualities of a leader, because he adapts to the idea of working alone if there's no one to support.

Soumya’s words more or less sum up what I feel. What he said reminded me of the time when my mother went through a knee-replacement surgery and for the first time ever, I was on my own. I was signing pre-op papers, I was settling bills. I was living through the scary thought of, what if something goes wrong? With no one to talk to, in desperation, I had told her, I wish I had a sibling to share this with. Her answer was, “Siblings fight too. What if your sibling didn’t want to share this with you? What if your sibling lived far and couldn’t come right now? If you want to share your fears, do it with people close to your heart, not close to you by blood.” Made sense and my closest friends proved her right. Still. Not all siblings fight. Maa and maasi don’t. They are the best of friends; mine could have been my friend too. No?

While someone like me still misses what I think was deprived of and lives in the ‘what if’, a more practical Abhay says, “Growing up in a nuclear middle class family in a Delhi neighbourhood in the 80s and the 90s meant I was spending a lot of my time interacting with people. If I was not running chores & errands for mum, I’d be playing hockey or cricket till evening. Like my parents, I had my own set of friends with amongst whom I spent my early childhood as well as the introductory teenage years. Through the teenage, these friends became friendships. Strong bonds which have lasted more than half our lives were formed. What I could not say, do or feel through a sibling, I did through friends. Maybe that was the only difference. Yet, to me, there was none.”

I remember a stage in my life where I had a make-believe sibling. It was embarrassing for my parents, it should have been for me as well – but it never was. Why? Because of the innocence behind the thought.

An only child has no one to discuss their childhood memories with. No one apart from our parents saw us growing up, no one grew with us. No one made us cry by saying, ‘you were adopted’.

No one to take care of us in the school bus/car pool, no one to look out for us at school, no one to fight the neighbourhood bullies for us. We did all this for ourselves, hence the fierce independence.

We also bear over-protective parents. Once, I’d angrily asked my mother, why can’t she be like my friends’mothers and worry in moderation. Her answer ~ They have other kids to tend to at the end of the day, if something happens to you, that is where my world will end. I’d found her answer ridiculous until now, when I have only one parent. Roles have reversed. She is my only child, and I am the ever-worrisome parent living in another city.

My mother has brought me up single-handedly since I was 16. Now, when I think back, I wonder if life would have been so smooth, had there been a sibling? Taking care of one child is easier than more. One college, one career, one set of tantrums, one set of demands, one marriage, one set of boyfriend problems to listen to. After my father’s death, the only loss my mother couldn't make up for was his physical presence. Apart from that, my life continued as before. Emotionally I was stunted,but financially stable (not as much as before, but not bad either). Would it have been the same with two more kids at home? Maybe not.

A school friend, who was brought up by his single mother, almost since after his birth, had once said, “I have seen how much trouble my mother had to go through to just bring me up. What if there were more like me?” He has vowed never to have more than one child, if at all. Well. Makes sense from where he stands.

Another friend, when giving me the news of her second pregnancy, had said, “I am so happy. If I can, I’ll have more kids. It was so lonely growing up alone; I want my kids to have company at home. They should never feel lonely, even when we are dead and gone.” She makes sense too.

Soumya, almost echoed this friend,“I won't be opting for an only child. I would want my children to have the company of siblings. Because an only child means he will face helicopter parents. That's the worst thing about being an only child. Also, at a psychological level, you fail at some point to differentiate between a friend and a sibling- and you end up showing your weakness to the world- thus opening a possibility of being taken for granted easily.”

We are very independent people. I remember coming back from kindergarten, taking off my shoes, picking them up and putting them where they were supposed to. I was 2, and I was never taught to do so. (There is a flip side. The unjustifiably pampered lot is highly dependent on parents, servants, friends and the spouse for every small need.)

They say an only child never learns to share. I disagree. It’s just how parents bring you up. I know people with 3-4 siblings, but they don’t share.

We hate being the center of attention;we are very private people (mostly).

We observe, so we know the person behind your face more than you would want us to.

While we grow up without siblings, our parents grow as parents without knowing what bringing up more than one child is. If the only child is smart, he/she can use this to the best of their knowledge. And we do.

Our best friends are our siblings. We love them to death.

We are very close to both our parents.

We function alone.

But, we are happy in our own zones. We are content. Very content.

We are very, very weird. It’s easier for an only child to befriend another, because a lot of things make sense to only us. Our imaginary friends (and family) exist even when we get older, and only another only child won’t raise an eyebrow to that.

Oh, and we are not the weirdest people. There are twins! :-)

Disclaimer: This is NOT written as parenting tip. As (new) parents, you might or might not agree. Also, as an only-child, your views might differ. The above is what three kids feel and experienced. 


Friday, January 18, 2013

For the love of Beckham!

Angad Sethi, a medical student in his first year of college, love sports, news, politics, romance and of course,Twitter. When in mood, he listens to songs, the old romantic ones are his favourites. Angad blogs here and you can follow him on twitter here.

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There are some things about one's childhood that one can never forget, from a doll to a toy, they remain with us for long. Sports freak as I was, all my memories are about sports..NO,this article is not on Sachin or Dravid, we all know how great they are and how emotional we are about them..it is about someone else,a man from a different country..from almost a different world. If you existed in the 90s the name David Beckham was almost unavoidable.

From his hair styles to his mansions, he was there, everywhere. A new kid was on the block. As that face glowed with the hair curling, you almost forgot that this man was  a footballer, he was loved and adored but all this was to change.

WC-1998 The first time Beckham showed he was a genius but a flawed one. As it happens with great people, one mistake..the team lost and the pin up suddenly became England's biggest villain. They say if you do well,they name a street after you,when you fail..they beat you down the same street. Hatred grew, people were calling for his head..an effigy was hanged. There seemed no way back as the critics grew but so did his will to prove them all wrong. Abused, threatened and rattled, Beckham fought on knowing all it takes is that one moment, one moment of genius. That would be the moment where all the fingers pointed at him would be taken back and England will admire his genius. All Beckham needed was that one moment and the moment did come...

WC 2002 Eng Vs Greece. England went into the match needing a draw or win but as it always has been the case, were trailing with almost no time left. It was the perfect time for Beckham, the show stopper to steal the show .. and boy,he did .As he curled in a free kick from 20 yards, the way only he could, he  made fans fall in love with him all over again! He won them back by the only way he could do it the best! The devil had been forgotten. England and the world fell in love,again with the most popular footballer,ever..

There are greats, then there are stars ~ but few are born superstars. They thrive on adversities and more importantly, take the game to a level never seen. Murali might have more wickets but Warne mesmerized people, Caprio might be a better actor but no one captures people's imagination more than Tom Cruise - and Beckham, has almost single-handedly changed the way people see football.

Now, he is in the twilight of his career. At 38, he is fighting for that one chance at glory. I hope he does. I want to tell to generations to come "I was among those who waited to hear ..ITS BECKHAMMM one last time.

Book Review: Wodehouse At The Wicket by P G WodeHouse

On the jacket:

From his early days Wodehouse adored cricket and references to the game run like a golden thread though his writings. He not only wrote about this glorious British pastime, but also played it well, appearing six times at Lords, where his first captain was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Illustrated with wonderful drawings and contemporary score-sheets, "Wodehouse at the Wicket" is the first ever compendium of Wodehouse's writings on cricket. Edited by cricket historian Murray Hedgcock, this delightful book also contains fascinating facts about Wodehouse's cricketing career and how it is reflected in his work. This is the perfect gift for Wodehouse readers and fans of all things cricket.
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Review:

The book begins with a a lengthy introduction, telling the reader about Wodehouse's involvement with cricket. Quite an interesting way to begin a book. If you are a regular Wodehouse reader, you won't find the regular humour as in maybe, Jeeves' stories, but it's humorous nevertheless.

Seventeen short-stories, Wodehouse at the Wicket is a perfect Saturday afternoon, leisure read. A collection of prose as well as poetry, this is not a regular Wodehouse read. A cricket enthusiast would also enjoy reading this. A non-fiction, yet feels like reading some tales. 

Read Wodehouse At The Wicket to get the flavour of the English love for Cricket. Believe me, it's more than love, it's a part of life in this book.

Rating: ****/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Review: Maps For Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam

On the jacket:


Set in a nameless British town that its Pakistani-born immigrants have renamed Dasht-e-Tanhaii, the Desert of Solitude, Maps for Lost Lovers is an exploration of cultural tension and religious bigotry played out in the personal breakdown of a single family. As the book begins, Jugnu and Chanda, whose love is both passionate and illicit, have disappeared from their home. Rumours about their disappearance abound, but five months pass before anything certain is known. Finally, on a snow-covered January morning, Chanda’s brothers are arrested for the murder of their sister and Jugnu. Maps for Lost Lovers traces the year following Jugnu and Chanda’s disappearance. Seen principally through the eyes of Jugnu’s brother Shamas, the cultured, poetic director of the local Community Relations Council and Commission for Racial Equality, and his wife Kaukab, mother of three increasingly estranged children and devout daughter of a Muslim cleric, the event marks the beginning of the unravelling of all that is sacred to them. It fills Shamas’s own house and life with grief and, in exploring the lovers’ disappearance and its aftermath, Nadeem Aslam discloses a legacy of miscomprehension and regret not only for Shamas and Kaukab but for their children and neighbours as well. An intimate portrait of a community searingly damaged by traditions, this is a densely imagined, beautiful and deeply troubling book written in heightened prose saturated with imagery. It casts a deep gaze on themes as timeless as love, nationalism and religion, while meditating on how these forces drive us apart.

Review:

In one word, I loved this book. Before I began to read it, I had checked the reviews. Though what I got were mixed views, I wanted to read it. Come to think of it, we read about people and stories of people living across the globe, but how much do we read about plots set in our neighbouring countries.

Personally, reading Maps For Lost Lovers was a emotional experience, and experience involving a lot of imagination. Imagining the plot about people from across the border, at a place we only hear bad things about, but in our hearts we all know, it's the same blood flowing through our veins.

Getting back to Maps For Lost Lovers as a book, is a masterpiece in it's own genre. While reading about the book, I'd read it took more than a decade for Aslam to complete this book. The book is about a Pakistani community set in the midlands of England. The writing is amazing and the story heart-wrenching. It's powerful and it's disturbing. 

As always, I don't want to delve on the plot. It's excellent, which is why I suggest - read it! But mind it, it's a very sad tale. 

Rating: ****/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Are you provoking people to judge you?

You had a fight with your partner just before you left for work. You had a frown on your face, all the way to office and as soon as you got out of the elevator,  an office trainee bumps into you. You snap at her. A few minutes later you hear her calling you a *meanie* to her friend. You walk up to her and yell at her, "Before calling people names, find out where they are coming from! Don't. Judge. Me."

You are tweeting emo 18 hours a day. Your tweets seem partly suicidal. After three days of reading all that, someone asks you to relax and go get a life. You snap at them, saying they have no clue what you are going through and they have no business judging you here.

Fair enough? NO.

Don't mix judging with forming an opinion about you based on how you are reflecting yourself. Assuming that a person is of a particular religion, so shall behave in a stereotyped manner is judging. Assuming that a person is a man so will lech, or a person is a woman so will be a bad driver, is judging. Seeing a fat person and assuming that they overeat, is judging. Making fun at people's physical attributes like maybe, thick lips/big forehead/thick nose is judging ~ behind that face might be a person better than you can ever be.

Generalising is judging. Generalising without any provocation is judging. One cannot  go around misbehaving with everyone they meet and then say I come from a broken family. A stranger wouldn't know your family problems. A stranger would have their own problems, as well. Does it mean that they can misbehave with you as well, coz hey! we are not judging anyone!?

One thing today's youth is quick to blurt out is *MaH lIfE, mAh RulEs. DoNn JuDgE mE*. Really? So if you think it's okay to dress inappropriately, bunk college and make an ass of yourself, no one can dare to correct you? Because, it's your life? Judging that you need help (or maybe some caning) would be wrong? Oh, please!

I will never, ever judge you based on how your parents are, what locality you grew up in, what school you went to, how much you scored. But I might judge you if you don't respect your parents, if you misbehave with elders, you lie, or you cheat. I might judge you if your parents sent you to the best school in town, but you still can't form a correct sentence in either English or Hindi.

I will never judge you if you are dark or fair, but not taking care of your skin is not right either. I will never judge you if you are fat or thin, but over-eating as well as forever dieting is not right. I will never judge you if you don't speak to me in English, speak to me in what you are comfortable with. I will not judge you for being the person you are .... but, please do not behave as your mind finds fit, and then blame it on your past & problems.

Judging is wrong. Very wrong. But hiding behind it and trying to get out of all your bad behaviours is equally wrong. Yes, I would never know your story until I have walked in your shoes. The same holds true for you. But, this is a society we live in and a certain amount of decorum is expected. Please don't use your life's bad experience as an excuse for your poor behaviour.

'Coz if you do that, I might judge you. 

Use your life's experience to make yourself a better person, not a pain in everyone's ass.

-------------------------
Disclaimer: I know the above has counter-points as well, and a few valid ones too. While I would love to know everyone's fair view on this, please do no pick one or two rare scenarios as an argument. This is a very general post and has nothing to do with anyone living, dead or hanging somewhere in between.
I shall be writing another post on the flipside ~ why not to judge. Umm, soon! :-)

Book Review: Tick-Tock We're 30 by Milan Vohra

On the jacket:

Interesting, isn't it, how someone is always utterly attractive to someone else? For every male tree frog, there is a female tree frog whose dry skin and warts and bulging eyes are the most divine. And to you, Lara Bagai, a karela is a thing of beauty, Nishad comments. 

So he remembers I love karela. So what? 
I take it your interest in frogs is purely academic? 
I snigger. 
'I promise you I am not in danger of being madly besotted by one anytime soon,' he half-smiles. 

The clock is ticking towards Lara's thirtieth birthday and the whole gang is coming together to celebrate it. Its a pact they made back then to meet when they all finally turned that age. So far, so cool. What isn't cool is the other pact Lara had made one tipsy evening with Nishad. To marry each other if neither of them were hitched by then. 

The last thing Lara wants is to give Nishad the pleasure of knowing he was right about Ranndeep being so wrong for her. Ranndeep, all-male, pro-motor racer whom shed been so sure of at the time. So there was only one thing to do. Lara would have to drum up someone else to pass off as her love interest for now. Enter flamboyant Perzaan, Turkish dude full of surprises. With the reappearance of Ranndeep and the gangs other quirky characters, its a week of audacious hookups and mix-ups. Chances are you'll be guessing right till the end who ends up with whom, if ever. 

The whacky side of India's first M&B author... 

Review:

Easy-flowing, smooth language put together in a sweet story. Tick-Tock We're 30 is a story of love, relationships, friendship, jealousy and the general mish-mash of the lives we lead. The only thing that didn't work for me was to much detailing. Characters were too descriptive and personally, I feel the book didn't have to be 400-pages long. So while the book starts a little slow, it picks up momentum and is quite unputdownable.

Nothing over-the-top, Tick-Tock We're 30 is good for an travel read, or your bedtime read. You might find pages straight out of your life too. Lara's life, her struggles, her friends, her ambitions ~ they are all a part of us, we can all identify with her. When Lara is upset or insecure, as a reader, you would be too. You'd smile, when she smiles.

Rating: 3.5/5

[This review is for Westland/Tranquebar Press. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book Review: Bombay Stories by Sadat Hassan Manto

On the jacket:


Bombay in the 1930s and 1940s reigned as the undisputed cosmopolitan capital of the Subcontinent. Bombay Stories is a collection of Manto’s work from his years in the city. Freshly arrived in 1930s Mumbai, Manto saw a city like no other—an exhilarating hub of license and liberty, and a city bursting with both creative energy and helpless despondency. It was to be Manto’s favourite city, and he was among the first to write the Bombay characters we are now familiar with from countless stories and films—prostitutes, pimps, lowlifes, writers, intellectuals, aspiring film actors, thugs, conmen and crooks. His hard-edged, moving stories remain, a hundred years after his birth, startling and provocative?in searching out those forgotten by humanity, Manto wrote about what it means to be human. Matt Reeck and Aftab Ahmad’s translations reach into the streets and capture in contemporary, idiomatic English the feeling that Urdu’s most celebrated short-story writer’s work stories provide in the original.

Review:

 As a reader, I am too small to even write a review on Manto's works. So, instead, I'l give an overview of Bombay Stories.

A collector's item, Bombay Stories has 14 short stories. But. What you cannot miss are the introduction and the appendix sections. What I mean to say is, this is one of those rare books which has to be read from cover to cover. 

Manto has written what he has, decades back. Yet, every story holds true in the world we live in. Bombay, the real Bombay, as what soul in these stories is. Human relationships, simple yet so complex, are played with in every story. 

My favourite of these fourteen short-stories is Barren. Barren - a woman's womb, and a man's heart. A man who is not capable of loving is also barren, and his life is more treacherous that one can imagine. Another personal favourite is Ten Rupees

I am sure I cannot do justice to the author by writing more, so just go pick up a copy. 

Rating: *****/5 

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

It's okay to fall. But, do get up and walk.

24-years-old Yatin Gupta talks about how he hit rock-bottom emotionally and has since then been fighting, surviving and challenging life's little decisions by controlling his temper and channelising his energies in the proper way. Everyone has a story from which we can learn. Come read what Yatin has to say ... 



At times, fighting your inner demons and situations around you is extremely tough. They take a toll on you. You lose your patience, your calm and are always grumpy & frustrated. All this has been keeping me on my toes since March 2011 when something really unexpected had happened. 

I, am one person who hardly gives up on things and people until and unless I have totally mutilated all scopes of survival in the relationship or that particular thing. But you feel helpless & lose hope, when things begin to go haywire in an unexpected way. That’s what had exactly happened with me. 

Nevertheless, I am a fighter and I believe in learning from mistakes & experiences; shall continue to do so. Do I have any other option?  In the past couple of months, I have re-discovered myself. A lot of people including my childhood friends and people around me have been telling me that I have changed and for the good. Though, some people didn't feel so and left after tagging me with a lot of derogatory and negative adjectives; now I feel even that happened for the good. 

Of late, I concentrate more on myself rather than pleasing people. In spite of trying too hard, I know it wouldn't please them in any way, so it's better to leave them behind and move on as I am a firm believer of the fact that life moves on and you have to keep moving with it.

Anger management is something I have taken up quite seriously and I have been reading a lot about it lately. I now ensure that I don’t lose my temper easily over things. May be I was too vulnerable back then but now I am not. Books! Books have helped me a lot. They have changed me as a person. Now instead of wasting time here and there, I prefer to read a book as they take me a completely different world. I really don’t know how this change has occurred but it has happened for good. The owner of this blog pushed me into reading at the right time when I was clueless about what should I do. 

Since August 2012, I think I have managed to read more than 100 books, which is quite an achievement for me. 7 books in 7 days is something that I have achieved and now my target is to read 30 books in 30 days. 28 books in 30 days is something that I have done and now I just have to push myself a bit more and I know I will be able to do a 30 days-30 books marathon. Next on the list can be guessed by any person with a bit of grey matter. Yes, its 365 days - 365 books. I am not really sure if I will be able to do this in the near future but I HAVE to do in this lifetime. Dr Shashi Tharoor has inspired me to do that. Apparently, he has done it and he is a mortal like you and me. So, why can’t I? :D 

Twitter has always helped me a lot, personally and as well as professionally. I have learnt many things from people there. 

The two most important lessons I have learnt over time are ~ Ignorance is bliss and Silence is Golde”. I am sticking to them for good, I know they'l help me a lot in the future. 

I really don’t know how to sum up this post. All I can say here is, it just takes a wise thought and a dedicated effort to bring the change in you. As Jeffrey Archer said in one of the events that I attended, "If you want to do something, why wait for it? Why wait for an inspiration? Just do it. If you are making excuses to not to do it, you are fooling no one else but yourself!"

-----

You can follow Yatin on twitter here. On Facebook he is here and his blog which has got more than a million hits in only four months, is here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: The Other Side Of The Bed by Bhavya Kaushik

On the jacket:


This is a story which tries to answer the age old question, what to do when someone you love dies; in a contemporary and personal way. Nakul, who lost his beloved wife after only a month of their marriage in a serial bombing attack, found it impossible to continue with his life.

He takes a journey in which he interacts with people like him, who have also lost their loved ones in those blasts and decides to help them. Though he didn't realize that in the process of helping them, he was helping himself. This is his journey through the five stages of grief - 
DENIAL, ANGER, BARGAINING, DEPRESSION and ACCEPTANCE, and how he comes out of them with the help of his family and his "Grief-Mates".

He thought that he had forever of togetherness with his wife, but he didn't, none of us does. And before it is too late, we should better go out there to our loved ones and tell them how much we love them. Have any of you said it lately to your wife, your husband, your children, your brother, sister or your parents, that "You mean the world to me. You have changed my life. I cannot live without you. I love you..."

Review:

This is Bhavya's first published book, I believe and I was impressed with his story-telling skill. However, after reading The Other Side Of The Bed, what glared at me was a good story, with very very poor editing. The language had a very strong Hindi-influence, as if the author has thought in Hindi and translated.

The Other Side Of The Bed is a well-structured story of Nakul Sharma who loses his wife to an accident, and how from not being able to deal with it, he is finally able to accept it and live on. In this process he meets other who have lived through similar trauma and they all help each other.

The story is not at all over the top. In fact, it's sweet and you'll actually want to smile a few times, when the author is describing Nakul and Tamanna's love story. Nothing filmy, no use of silly slang and no forceful attempt to make the characters look cool. There will be times when you will feel like you are reading Nakul's diary.

For a first-time author, Bhavya has set really high standards, despite the poor editing in the book. With better language and grammar, I am certainly looking forward to another nice and simple, yet heart-touching tale.

Rating: ***/5

[This review was requested by the author. Other than a copy of the book being sent to me, there was no other payment made. The review is my own honest opinion as a reader.]

Book Review: Fitness On The Go by Abhishek Sharma

On the jacket:

The anytime, anywhere workout fitness guide for busy people 

Is your weight under control? 
Can you climb a few flights of steps quickly without going out of breath? 
Are you able to concentrate well in your work? 

Looking slim isn't the only marker of being fit. Fitness means having stamina and strength, being able to do your everyday tasks better and being calm and focussed. Now celebrity fitness trainer Abhishek Sharma shows you the perfect exercise regime that: 

Works on both body and mind drawing elements from yoga, martial arts, and athletic workouts
Can be done anywhere and without machines and includes a range of exercises such as brisk walking, jogging, skipping and cycling
Helps you achieve a focussed mind by teaching breathing and mind centring exercises
Is great for people on the move since the emphasis is on using your natural surroundings
Is boredom-free as it is utterly versatile and can be changed around constantly
Will make you more confident, fearless and is a great self-defence tool

Fun, challenging and flexible, Fitness on the Go has worked for celebrities such as Ranbir Kapoor, Akshay Khanna and Bollywood's fittest heroine, Deepika Padukone. Supplemented with photographs and celebrity secrets, it is the one stop solution for the modern warrior.

Review:

This is the first fitness-related book that I read, written by a male expert. I don't want to compare, but to give a fair idea of what I felt once I finished Fitness On The Go, I need to mention one thing. Books on health & fitness that I have reviewed on this book before, dealt more with general well-being. Sharma, on the other hand, hasn't ignore them, but has really spoken about fitness in terms of exercising the muscles. 

So many people believe that because they are thin, they are fit. That is so wrong! You are thin because that's how your body is, you still need to workout and oil your muscles! Sharma is quick to point this out in the book.

Sharma has stressed a lot on Yoga, running, stretching and even the quintessential, 15-minutes a day in sunlight for our skin. The book is not a crash-course on how to lose weight. It's more a handbook for us to quit giving excuses of not working out when on the move. The book has step-by-step regimes which you can follow, painstakingly accompanied by illustrations.

With major stress on jogging, running (both in the outdoors) and yoga, the book also has very helpful instructions for you, if you are training or planning to train for a marathon. 

Seriously, pick up this book. It can only do you good, if you chose to follow Sharma's instructions. I intend to!

Rating: ****/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Les jus not be only friendz (1) by Vikash Sharma

Les just not be only friendz (1) is the first story of what is to be a trilogy and is written by debut author Vikash Sharma. The st...