Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: Season Of The Rainbirds by Nadeem Aslam

On the jacket:

Set during a monsoon season in the 1980s in a small town in Pakistan, Season of the Rainbirds is centred on the mysterious reappearance of a sack of letters lost in a train crash nineteen years previously. Could the letters have any bearing on Judge Anwar’s murder? The letters and the judge’s death trigger a series of tragic events and as the murder investigation progresses, dark tales of passion and betrayal unfold and long-buried secrets come to light. The narrative segues between several characters—the judge’s family, a cleric troubled by local inhabitants’ lapses, a Muslim deputy commissioner defiantly involved with a Christian woman, a feudal landlord and a crusading journalist reporting on the delivery of the mail packet—and comes to a head when the journalist disappears and the country lurches between fear and uncertainty following an assassination attempt on the president. One of the most exquisite fictional debuts, Season of the Rainbirds is a compelling portrayal of a society in strife, of a timeless world where daily rituals are played out against an ominous landscape of oppression, decadence, bigotry and power.

Review:

A story set in a small town in Pakistan, Season Of The Rainbirds is about this sack of letters which had been lost after a train accident almost two decades ago, but have now reappeared. Characters get spun into the tale and this is how the story unravels. 

I had read Aslam's Maps For Lost Lovers before and loved it. This, however, was his first book. The plot is a little thin at places, but it doesn't hamper the reading experience much. The mystery has been woven intelligently and Aslam very easily gets into the characters' skin. What I most enjoy about reading Aslam is, in a way, reading about our own people from across the border. Habits, inherent natures of the characters are all one can identify with, not necessarily at a personal level.

If you have read Aslam's other books before, you might be a tad disappointed because of too high expectations. But remember, this was the first thing he wrote. 

Rating: ****/5


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

Book Review: Chokher Bali by Rabindranath Tagore


On the jacket:


Tagore elaborately records early twentieth-century Bengali society through his central character, a rebellious widow who wants to live a life of her own. Tagore said about the novel, ‘I have always regretted the ending’. Description: ‘The literature of the new age seeks not to narrate a sequence of events, but to reveal the secrets of the heart. Such is the narrative mode of Chokher Bali’—Rabindranath Tagore, Preface to Chokher Bali Chokher Bali explores the forbidden emotions unleashed when a beautiful young widow enters the seemingly harmonious world of a newly married couple. This path-breaking novel by Rabindranath Tagore weaves a tangled web of relationships between the pampered and self-centred Mahendra, his innocent, childlike bride Asha, their staunch friend Bihari, and the wily, seductive Binodini, whose arrival transforms the lives of all concerned. Radha Chakravarty’s translation brings the world of Tagore’s fiction to life, in lucid, idiomatic prose.

Review:

I am not sure why I am reviewing this book. Or why anyone needs to. Tagore doesn't need validation, that too from us. But yes, this is a translated version and reading it was an experience different from what reading an original would have been. Always is.

A tale about passion, desires, relationships, unfulfilled dreams as well as honesty, Chokher Bali is spun around members of a regular Bengali family. Since I have read the original, I found the translation is not doing justice to the story. Now, it's like any other average story. In a way it's unfair to the authors, because whoever reads their translated version are almost always kept wondering - what is so great about them. On the upside, by reading a translated version, an awesome story can be read by more people.

A tragic love story, my favourite character here is Binodini. One just needs to read how Tagore has described her emotions, and feel them. A man writing about the depth of a woman's feelings and making such a spectacular attempt of it - call me prejudiced but only Tagore could do this! Don't read more of this, just go pick the book. 

Review: *****/5 to the story and ***/5 to the translation


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

Book Review: A Free Man by Aman Sethi

On the jacket:



In this landmark work of reportage, Aman Sethi sets out to understand the life of Mohammad Ashraf, a daily-wage worker in Delhi’s Bara Tooti Chowk. Spending the greater part of five years in ‘the largely empty space between the backpacker haven of Paharganj and picturesque Chandni Chowk’, where daily-wage transactions take place, he learns, over alcohol, tea and ganja, the story of Ashraf’s life. 

Bringing labour into the narrative of the city, Sethi chronicles the minutiae that make up the lives of the labourers who are building Delhi: from the boiled eggs, sweet tea, varieties of raw alcohol that can quickly nullify a day’s earnings, secret pockets stitched into clothes, and unconventional banking arrangements to the vulnerability of the labourers to the kidney mafia and their survival in a network of systems that should serve but mostly alienates. The vignettes come in asides to the running conversations with Ashraf, throwing light on the lives of countless invisible men. 

A Free Man gives us the lens to view a contemporary transformation. Deeply insightful and compulsively readable, it is a humane, intimate and compelling account of an individual and a group of people who are most often explained away in a statistic.

Review:

I am amazed at how many good Indian authors I have been able to read of late. More amazed because they are not that heard of in the circuits. Unfair, both for the authors and the readers! Aman Sethi is one such authors. Looking at the rave reviews at the back jacket of the book, I was a bit sceptical. Because, experience says, the crowd at times loves the mediocre. But I was proved wrong.

A Free Man is an experience, not just a read. The writing gives the feeling of reading a journal, and that adds to the experience. Very realistic, the characters are rustic and while reading the book, you will actually visualise them and make out the whys and hows of their characters. You will be left wondering what if. What if you were Ashraf, a nobody, with no where to go, scheming through each day so that the next day can be lived through? Poverty is described but there was no deliberate attempt to use it as the selling point of the book. In short, a good read.

Rating: ****/5

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

Book Review: 55 by Chetan Chatwal

On the jacket:



Tried to picture myself in a shady second-rate college and realized that even thinking about it was difficult.'

Arjun Singh is a typical South Delhi brat whose biggest worry is securing a much-coveted seat in one of the city's top colleges. But his ambitious plans come to a screeching halt when he scores a paltry '55' in English in the board exams. Unable to meet the cut-off, Arjun is forced to take admission in a neighbouring second-grade college. Between grappling with his identity as a Sikh and facing repeated misfortunes in love, Arjun's only solace is his three best friends from school who have also ended up in the same dump. What will happen to his future now?

Witty, naughty, and plain irreverent, 55 is a delightful, mad caper about growing up and surviving three tumultuous years in the hallowed corridors of Delhi University.

Review:

It is pretty evident from reading the first few pages of 55 that the author is a Delhi boy. Not only by the references, but at times, the pages have a faint reminder of the film Delhi Belly, or so it seemed to me. The first few pages drag on and I couldn't identify with the lead character at all.

The book is light and filled with humour, the kind that if I ever meet the author, I'l expect him to be a jovial company. What I mean is, the humour in the book at no point seems put on or strategic, it flows smoothly. Students from Delhi might identify more with the plot, but as a read, it's a fun, in-flight read.

55 is Chatwal's debut novel and no doubt, a good effort. Editing was a tad bit loose, which made the reading experience not that great.

Rating: ***/5

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

Book Review: A River Sutra by Gita Mehta

On the jacket: 


With imaginative lushness and narrative elan, Mehta provides a novel that combines Indian storytelling with thoroughly modern perceptions into the nature of love�love both carnal and sublime, treacherous and redeeming. "Conveys a world that is spiritual, foreign, and entirely accessible."�Vanity Fair. Reading tour.


Review:

 Some books just make you feel good. Your heart has a smile when you are snuggled in bed, reading such books. Not because they are essentially happy stories, but because they are good stories. And captivating.

A River Sutra is a set of short stories, experience of a clerk who post-retirement, had taken up the post of a caretaker of a guest house near the Narmada. The guest house spoken about in the book is said to be located near Amarkantak, just a few hours drive from where I currently stay. Years ago, as a child, I had visited the banks of Narmada at Amarkantak (the river's source begins from here), so I could actually visualise the locals (to my best).

The stories are in one word - enchanting. Every story that is narrated it different, yet what is common is that they are all experiences. You will travel with the words and feel a part of the plots.

Rating: ****/5

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

Book Review: Work It Out Without A Workout by Vesna P Jacob

On the jacket:

  • I don’t get time to exercise 
  • What’s the point of joining a fitness centre when I know I’ll quit 
  • Working out is so boring 
  • I want to follow a fitness regime but don’t feel motivated enough 
  • I wish I could get fitter and slimmer 
  • My kids don’t allow me a break 
  • I am too busy and feel drained after gymming 
In Work it Out Without a Workout veteran health expert Vesna P. Jacob breaks these myths and shows you how there is NO EXCUSE for not being fit, healthy, and happy. From improving your posture to shedding extra flab without strenuous workout, you can achieve it all and that too without going to a gym. With easy to follow exercises, even while driving, travelling, or working, now you can look good while having fun at the same time.

Review:

To say the truth, I picked this book up thinking 'one more fitness book', but was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it is a fitness book but you have to read it to know the difference. The cover shows a very fit Vesna, but the very first chapter talks about her health failures. This is what won me over. Firstly, Vesna's story is touching. And inspirational. Secondly, Vesna is not preaching us while everything she has is perfect. She comes across as humane and one of us, she too has struggled with fitness of a certain kind and knowing she has succeeded, one automatically feels yes, she can be trusted!

The book also includes science in it's various chapters, scientific explanations and reasons of everything. Vesna has extensively spoken about the smallest yet effective things like posture. Other books talk about what we can do, what we can eat, etc. Vesna has also spoken about motivation. Motivation is what pushes us to shape up, what about when there is no motivation? No one tackles this topic, it was good to read about this in Work It Out Without A Workout.

Alongside, Vesna has also given detailed methods on how one can remain fit even in the busiest possible lifestyle and keep the body fit.

Rating: ****/5

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

Book Review: That's The Way We Met by Sudeep Nagarkar

On the jacket:



Can you ever forget your true love?

Aditya and Riya could never imagine life without each other. Since their accidental meeting two years ago, they have been inseparable until an unexpected tragedy promises to change the course of their lives forever. Will their love stand the test of time?

From the intoxicating rush of Mumbai and Delhi to the scenic beauty of Manali, Sudeep Nagarkar will take you on an unforgettable journey through life and love.
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Review:

There is really not much in this book. A love story, like hundreds other Indian authors are coming up with. Aadi and his girlfriend are very much in love, though not yet ready to tie the knot. The story begins with Aadi not finding Riya to find her in a hospital and being confused how she landed there. The next day he finds her at her home, with not a scratch on her body. Also, Aadi is extremely mushy, using a lot of flowery words in his texts to Riya. Quite a turn off.

When I started reading the book, I assumed the suspense to the why and how of this will be unravelled later in the book. But it seemed, the author had totally forgotten about it. There is a sub-plot of a relationship between Aadi's friend Mohit and Riya's friend Sonam which ends with them getting happily married. Aadi and Riya don't. She leaves him for a richer guy and throughout her actions have been justified, by the characters around Aadi and subsequently, believed to be so by Aadi.

What I liked was how four different cities were covered in the plot and a mix of cultures were imbibed in it. But then, the author was too repetitive in stating that Delhi is not as bad as Mumbaikars think. The two couples travel from Mumbai to Delhi and then Manali. From Manali, they suddenly go to Ahmedabad. This, when the two lead characters earn an average of only 35k a month and Riya is the only earning member in her family. Not very realistic, now, is that?

There are some errors like the chapter where Mohit and Sonam are getting married, it's written that Mohit had found a good partner in Riya. Really? Also, there was usage of phrases like 'time had eloped', and a few spelling mistakes here and there, affecting the reading experience.

Rating: **/5

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

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Chronicles Of A Married Life - III


There is no perfect rule to make a marriage work. We try our own permutations and combinations, we stumble, we fall, then suddenly something works and we decide to add it to our list of 'dos' while we sweep the others into the carton named 'don'ts'. Every couple has different sets of dos and don'ts. A few nights ago, I was in conversation with a few married girlfriends and this is what Sangeeta Verma had to say. Yes, no one can give you a perfect formula, but we believe that if keep a watch over the following, life does get easier.

Marriage is always a sweet dream when you are in your teens, of being part of as perfect a couple as one sees in movies, of being loved by that one person whom you are yet to meet, of being together, laughing together without being stressed or disturbed by any external factors.

And then one fine day, when you are actually married you realize it’s no more a Bollywood movie. Life gets a new meaning. You get a new identity. In each other's vicinity, deep diving in love, you are just in verge of realizing that your dream has come true. This is the time you are struck with the realities of being married.

Your relationship is in your hands - It's not always love, there are going to be disputes over small matters. Marriage works when one gets into the reason of those disputes and comes up with a resolution making sure that it's not repeated. If disputes are over house being a mess like shoes in one corner, socks elsewhere, newspaper not in place, times like these when things get on your nerves, ask yourself one question - What are we fighting over, non-living things???

Communication - Always try to have the ‘US' time where you can discuss all the goods and a bit of the bads too. Least you can do is trying and correct your negativity or make his negativity your positive point. That's what is meant by completing each other.

Finances - Time is never the same. Today you are healthy and wealthy; tomorrow there might be crisis. When you had a good financial stand, you both were a happy couple. At the time of crisis, what changes? Should anything change between the two of you? No. Supporting each other in every situation, that's what marriage is all about.

Privacy - No matter how stressed are you, no matter how bad your mood is, no matter what your relation with his parents is, never ever bring those external factors into your private zone. A mantra to happy marriage is understanding each other's mental and physical needs.

Personal Space - Everyone needs that personal space without any interference, otherwise relations start getting suffocating.

Think before you share - Better weigh your words before you speak to each other. Not necessarily during day to day life. You never know which word might take a form of possessiveness. At the same, do not hide important matters. The more open you are about your relationship the better life is.

Compromise - You may agree or may not agree to each other's perspective in life. Remember that every individual is different and compromise is the key. Work towards mutual understanding; it doesn't always mean you'll have to kill your own individuality.

Romance - Most importantly, never let the romance fade; stealing a moment, a peck, a hug, cooking together, roaming or even window shopping, romantic dates, beautiful surprises. Just grab the moment whenever possible, taking out time for each other from the busy schedule matters a lot.

Disclaimer: We, my friends and I have been married for only a few years. We are either in love marriages where both are poles apart; or in arranged marriages where it's more about others than the couple. In all, we feel we are doing decent. We are not preaching, we are just talking about what works for us and what doesn't. That's all there is to these posts.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Chronicles of a married life - II

So I am back with the Chronicles of a married life (read part one here) after almost six months, but this time, we are probably back for the party! What happened over these months? Oh, the usuals of a married life - him & me, me & him, us & the world. But, as he says, As long as you and I are together, everything else will fall in place. And fall they do, maybe not in the most perfect manner, but yes, hand in hand, it's more fun to fight life.

Over the past few weeks I have started observing couples, speaking to married friends. A few friends and I discussed the ups and the downs; some hilarious and some saddening. But the good part is, that we survive these. We survive the sad moments in life, because we have someone who never lets go.

That brings me to a recent fad. I say recent because I don't remember this happening when we were in the age group of 20-25. This age group seems to have a lot of relationship advices! So many! We, I remember, were more interested in making a career, dating, partying, slogging at work - the regular!
But now, it shouldn't surprise you if you see a 20 year old, in his/her second or third relationship, giving advices to a 17 year old. Dude, you are 20. You past relations didn't work and no one knows if this one will. Don't mislead the 17 year old, he'l grow up thinking he'l know it all when he reaches your age. Lol!

No, I shouldn't compare. We'd done our share of stupidity at that time. But, my point is, dating is not a relationship, per se. You meet in the morning, after putting on your best clothes and attitudes, spend the day together and go back home to eat the food your maa cooked with the money your dad earned (or vice versa). Yes, you are in a relationship, you are learning about it. But you have not mastered it, kids.

Deal with finances, each other's habits, each other's families (or worse, the extended families), deal with their pet peeves, deal with their snoring, deal with everything there is about the person you are married to - and believe me, while it's not sooo difficult, it's not a cake walk either! 

Men (read: young boys) believe that they sacrifice more in a relationship and women (read: young girls) believe it's they who give up the most. As a girl, I too have believed that I am sacrificing more, be it in past relationships or in this marriage. But the magic in marriage is, you spend so much time with each other, you start noticing your partner's silent sacrifices. This, will probably require an entire blogpost, so yes, later.

All in all, a relationship can be 50-50, but a marriage HAS to be 100-100. Please step into it only if you can. Only if you are willing.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book Review: Chanakya’s New Manifesto by Pavan K Varma

On the jacket:


Chanakya (c. 270-380 BCE) was classical India's greatest thinker and teacher. Through his unparalleled ability to devise result-oriented military, political, and administrative strategy, he overthrew one king, crowned another and paved the way for the establishment of India's first great empire. His seminal work, the Arthashashtra, arguably the world's first comprehensive treatise on statecraft and governance, was written approximately two thousand years before Machiavelli's The Prince. 

What would Chanakya do if confronted with the various crises that beset contemporary India? Using this question as the starting point for his new book, celebrated writer and thinker Pavan K. Varma has drawn up a practical and detailed plan, modelled on the Arthashashtra, to bring about reform and change in five key areas that require urgent attention governance, democracy, corruption, security, and the building of an inclusive society. Whether it is laying the foundation for an independent and effective Lokpal, or decriminalizing politics and successfully weeding out the corrupt, the solutions he proposes are substantive, well within the constitutional framework, and can make all the difference between intent and action. 

Chanakya's New Manifesto is both a call to action as well as a deeply insightful account of the challenges facing the country today. It is a book that should be attentively read by everybody with a stake in India's future. 

Review:

 After studying Economics for seven years and management for two, I gave it  all up the day I was done with university. My grades were good, I used to romance the subject. But I never missed it since I changed industries in my career. Until I picked up  Chanakya's New Manifesto by Pavan K Kumar. I am not a great fan of non-fiction, but this subject is something close to the heart, deep down and I really wanted to know Varma is suggesting. 

While I was reading the summary, the first doubt that came to my mind was, what would people from non-economics/management backgrounds make of it. So I put the book aside and tried to check out some reviews. The book seems to be very well-received, indeed. 

There are no paragraphs after paragraphs of boring, uninformative lines. This book is precise and the author has actually stated everything in points. Reminded me of curriculum book, in a pleasant way. Varma's vision is impressive. If what he is suggesting can be implement, even half of it, we can actually see a brighter future. Or so I personally feel. The author does make it clear and mention that the book is a blue print. 

A lot of what Varma suggests is do-able. Yes, we are too large a country with problems the size of dinosaurs. But again, the fact remains, we have to begin somewhere. A brutally honest book, Chanakya's New Manifesto points out the problems we are facing, with probable solutions. As citizens, this is our option to stop expecting from the government and try at our end as well.

Governance, Corruption, Democracy, Security and Building An Inclusive Society ~ Varma has taken these five aspects and delved further into them. Varma has structured everything around Chanakya's own theories and explained them well. Once might get tempted to read Arthashastra after reading this book, but with in itself, the book is extremely informative as well. 

We are plagued by insuffiecint corruption and a government (as well as opposition) which we are slowly losing hope from. There is no point in denying we are stuck in a vicios circle of a corrupt system, archiac policies and inefficient governance. Whoever we vote for, our problems will not change. Our future is bleak and only we can change it, at least make it a bit better. Very well thought of and crisply-planned, stage by stage, Chanakya’s New Manifesto shows signs of hope, if implemented, even partially. We have a huuge problem, and here is someone who has suggested what seems like a do-able and positive solution. What we need to do is, do it! What say India? Can we?

My rating: ****/5 

ISBN : 978-93-82277-09-5
Publisher : Aleph Book Company
Genre : Non-Fiction

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program at BlogAdda for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!



Book Review: Memoirs Of A Geisha by Arthur Golden

On the jacket: 

This is a seductive and evocative epic on an intimate scale, which tells the extraordinary story of a geisha girl. Summoning up more than twenty years of Japan's most dramatic history, it uncovers a hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation. From a small fishing village in 1929, the tale moves to the glamorous and decadent heart of Kyoto in the 1930s, where a young peasant girl is sold as servant and apprentice to a renowned geisha house. She tells her story many years later from the Waldorf Astoria in New York; it exquisitely evokes another culture, a different time and the details of an extraordinary way of life. It conjures up the perfection and the ugliness of life behind rice-paper screens, where young girls learn the arts of geisha - dancing and singing, how to wind the kimono, how to walk and pour tea, and how to beguile the most powerful men.

Review:

The first time I read Memoirs Of A Geisha was more than a decade ago. It is originally a Japanese novel which when published, led to a lawsuit on author Arthur Golden for defamation of character (by the Geisha whom he had interviewed for background information.) I saw the movie in between, a few years ago and it just refreshed the entire story. This is one of the book which despite having been read so many year ago, has every instance vivid in my mind. As a child, I used to watch the Japanese teleserial Oshin and then reading about Sayuri and the other characters in this book, was interesting. Yes, as you might have guessed, Memoirs Of A Geisha is one of my absolute favourite works of fiction. 

Told in first person, Memoirs of a Geisha is story spun around the time of before and after the World War II. Having read it the first time, as a teenage, I mostly had my eyes wide open while reading it. Different culture, different people, so many hardships, new traditions - the book had it all to offer. The book is realistic and takes the reader through a ride of the lifestyles and general traditions of Japan of that era. Back then, poverty striken families would sell their young daughters to Okiyas (boarding houses for geishas) where the girls were trained to grow up to be Geishas. They would spend their lives in these Okiyas. 

A life of a Geisha is extremely interesting, to say the least. Do not even remotely confuse an Okiya to our local Kamathipura, there is a vast vast difference. I always do, and shall even now say, grab a copy and read this book. You'll only have an excellent reading experience!

Rating: *****/5

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

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Out of the comfort zone, on a stroll.

~ @sai_ki_bitiya

God knows why I am writing this up when I should be studying for an important class tomorrow. 

Ah! The dreaded subject. The subject in question is <insert a drumroll here> … Finance. A subject I only know how to spell. Yes I can do a bit of math, mainly the calculus. Or whatever you call adding and subtracting. Oh wait, I think that’s calculation and not calculus. Hey, don’t laugh at me. I can do poetry and laundry better than you.

OK, Fine! Go ahead and laugh I guess. I’ll even add a bit more to your mirth.

Grade 9: I was afraid of all snakes, be it Rattle snake, Boa Constrictor or Pythagoras.

Grade 10: I cussed the people of Algeria for having such a 'mammothly' stupid language, Algebra. Like, come on now. Bah!

Grade 11: I thought Calculi were a rare hybrid of Cacti.

The list goes on. The point is I hate math. I also do not understand it. Yet, here I am, taking this course as part of my study program. 
Yes, I am 30+ and I am changing my profession.

I remember telling a close friend that I want to change career paths and that I am going back to school to learn a new profession. I remember her face went as shocked as she could possibly manage to show.

Why?” she squeaked in dismay.

Why? I thought to myself. I am settled, busy, content with my current profession, working at a great company with a load of benefits, six minutes of commute and the best part - I am recognised at my work for professional excellence and get to work on the best of projects.

Believe me it is no fun to work a full day, then become a domestic diva in the evening and then stay awake the whole night prepping for an assignment. This, when I could quite possibly be huddled under a warm blanket and watching Sheldon’s famous door knock in The Big Bang Theory. The friends complain of my non-attendance at the monthly get-togethers, the usually supportive husband grumbles about the unwashed laundry and the dog has me in his little black book for the absence of enough Ball-Fetch. There have been days I have woken up with ‘grump’ written on my forehead and I refuse to look at the mirror lest it should confirm.

But you know what? I am strangely very happy. I don’t see this as changing my profession. Rather, I am just doing something that would make me happy. And learning makes me happy. I don’t know how I will fare in the new career, but for now I just want to come out of my comfort zone and learn a completely new field of knowledge for me. People learn a new language. I am studying for new gig. No, I don’t have glamorous dreams that would Bollywood-ishly land me job in an upscale publishing house and me drinking wine in a high rise New York apartment overlooking the river. My dream is to just keep practising happiness. Oh wait wait! Can I please use that awesome cliché? This is indeed my pursuit of happyness. <insert angel chimes here>

I wish this was a breeze. But it’s not. I cannot say I am exceptionally smart in studies. I was an above average student in my teens but that was then. The world has tumbled and turned upside down ever since. I have challenges that often scare enough to flip me off the path I bite my manicured nails in school, pull my hair at home and cry my mascara out in the car. I wish, pray and hope that I have more grey matter that will attract more learning bits.

I am now halfway through my program and I have to say I have a true gleam in my eyes when I get my final marks for each course. I do manage to get B+ grades but I haven’t let that affect me as of yet. For now, anything upward of the passing mark is a miracle to me. For now, I am thankful I have a window of opportunity. For now, I am just a woman who can’t wait to attend another class. And yes, Finance will just have to be conquered.  

Here is a thought ball for you.
When was the last time you..
did something new..
just because you wanted to..

Yes, it rhymes. What else did you expect from a poetess?
-----------------------


@Sai_Ki_Bitiya or SKB, as we all know her, believes in miracles when no one else does. Newly started to experiment with life, one baby step at a time, she is still searching for eternal truths but finds solace in poetry and literature. (She confessed she is an awesome cook as well, but very shyly said, "This isn't a matrimonial site!")

Monday, February 11, 2013

‘2-Minute Noodle wala love’ v/s ‘Ishq wala love’

~ Isha Sharma

After being super-active on social networking sites like Facebook & Twitter, individuality has somewhat got blurred between ‘Virtual v/s Real life’ as it’s too hard to formulate a category where you can decide between real and virtual friends. The meaning has shuffled and most wonderful connection I share with, are mostly people I know via Twitter.  

But stark irony and reality is that having 650 friends on Facebook and about 2,000 Followers on Twitter , it could never get  = 2650 friends because, during emotional crisis while I scroll down my phone-book, it takes around 20 minutes to keep popping my eyes out at the phone screen and finally pressing the ‘Lock’ button on phone which is the only option, I am left with. (Read: OMG, My life is over!  Not even a SINGLE friend to count on. Now I know I am surely going to DIE SINGLE and someone who coined the word FOREVER-ALONE knew it will suit me aptly! ) and I silently weep, crib, curse myself and put myself to sleep.

More than that, what sometimes bothers the most during you being ‘Single’ is all the mush you see around on your Facebook feed and Twitter Timeline. Be it the honeymoon pictures, wedding-sangeet pictures, they give you  a reality jolt that ‘How hopelessly single are you, honey’ and worst being seeing one of your junior  you had in high-school putting up a display picture with his recent GF hanging out at a nearby mall.  You all of a sudden are made to feel so aloof by all your ‘Happily in love’ friends.

Yes! It does affect me because being a girl and NOT getting affected by all of this is as impossible as me missing a Shahrukh Khan movie (Except for few which I miss deliberately because I am a ‘smart-enough’ fan. :P )

When all of a sudden, all your close friends ask you ‘Still single?’  because they know almost all your male friends and they silently pray you get hooked to someone but all you do is just laugh it off saying ‘I haven’t found someone even half awesome as I actually am’ (I know! Such an orkutiya I might sound at times, but this line is one of my finest discoveries I’ve made while glancing through one of those stupid Facebook quotes pages. )

Being a typical virgo, I am a hopeless romantic who still cry during the last scene of ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’ where the heartbeat theme begins. I still have a stock of movies like ‘A walk to remember’ ‘Jab we met’ and ‘Kuch Kuch Hota hai’ and a windy day with hair all open and my favourite Rehman song  ‘Tu Bin Bataye’ plays in the background and for a few minutes I play the lead actress my own world, waiting for my lover to take me away to my Utopian world. But I stick religiously to the concept of  ‘One sided short love affair’ or what we call ‘Who dekh. Mere Crush ne DP Change ki. Haayee!’ 

But, the deeper plot is that I don’t fear commitment. All I fear and despise  is ‘Two- minute noodle wala love’ where for people it just takes ‘one like and comment on a  Facebook picture’ and exchange of about 450 WhatsApp messages to declare  ‘In love, yet again’ and their relationship status changes to  ‘In a relationship’ fetching them around 50 likes.  Sadly, time has never moved for me since I saw DDLJ for the first time ever. My definition of love is unexplainable because it’s too beautiful to be penned down in just a few words. 

One-liners and pictures which you get to read/see on Twitter/Facebook which says  ‘Love is’ makes you fall in love with the whole idea of ‘Falling in love’ (I hope that made sense and didn’t sound absurd). 

I don’t want to sound all mushy and cliché but Yes! Movies have contributed greatly to my definition of love.

Love is lot more than exchanging those ‘Lovey-Dovey’ messages and gifts, but sometimes just when you hear them calling your name sounds more than it just being your ‘perfect’ happy moment of the day.

Love is lot more than merely being an emotional expression or a feeling. Love for me is not someone who buy me diamonds and expensive gifts, but it’s lot more than that ‘One glance and you skip a beat’ connection with just one small conversation you exchange. 

It’s just sad to see how today even a 14 year old kid boasts about how hot and sexy his girlfriend is, little do they even know the real meaning of ‘Togetherness, commitment and emotional equation’.  I am 20 and all what I understand about love is that it surely isn’t ‘2-minute noodle wala love; where just one fight/argument and poof!!  ‘Contact Deleted’ , ‘Blocked’, ‘Unfriended’ and ‘Unfollowed’ from all social networking sites and you are ready with another ‘Break-up tragic’ story of yours.

 I am a hopelessly romantic person and romance for me still is *falling in love with the same person every day*, all over again even if it is one of those annoying habit of the other person but it’s the love that matters at the end of the day and makes you fall in love sincerely with their flaws too. 

I still silently pray that my ‘Palat..Palat’ trick I learnt from DDLJ works some day and during my train journey, I do look around for my Aditya (Jab we met edition)  I am still waiting for my miracle to happen which would make me believe that ‘Yes! Miracles do happen.’ Like what I saw in the movie ‘A Walk to remember.’

Yours truly,
Hopelessly-in-love with Crush no.123456

ISHA/@MissCandyflaws (Even my name has flaws, but still proud to be perfectly imperfect) 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Book Review: Because Shit Happened by Harsh Snehanshu

On the jacket:


On a fateful winter day, Amol Sabharwal, co-founder of one of the most ambitious startup ventures in the country, yourquote.in, decides to quit. What makes Amol quit his own business venture just when it is on the brink of raising its first round of funding?

Harsh Snehanshu, best  selling author of Oops! I fell in love! gives you an insider’s peek into the big, bad entrepreneurial world of fame, betrayal, lust for power, greed, and unethical business practices. Based on the real-life story of the start-up that the author co-founded in 2010, Because Shit Happened will tell you what NOT to do in a start-up.

Review:

Because Shit Happened is not Harsh's first book, but it is the first time I read him. And I was pleasantly surprised. An almost real-life story of his own experience with a start-up, the book was a fresh read. A one-go kind of read, it is so, because Harsh manages to keep the reader's attention occupied.

Too many sub-plots and a lot of events, as do happen in a college student's life, Harsh has spun the tale with quite a finesse. It does become a drab in between, solely because somewhere as a reader I knew the startup is not going to work and wanted to read the climax soon. That's not a totally bad thing, in a way.

For an author who is in his 20s and frankly, as a reader, I had never heard of before, Harsh definitely shows promise. I hear his fifth will be about travel, and I am looking forward to it.

Rating: ****/5

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

Book Review: RIP by Mukul Deva

On the jacket:


Indias literary storm trooper, Mukul Deva delivers yet another pulse-pounding, crackerjack of a thriller. Tethered on the edge of reality, RIP will keep you turning pages late into the night.

R.I.P. The Resurgent Indian Patriots. Self- appointed guardians of a nation seething with anger at the endless scams and scandals rocking its very foundation. Vigilantes who vow to stop corrupt politicians and colluding civil servants. Even if it means killing them. 

Colonel Krishna Athawale and his team of Special Forces officers rally to protect the country from the enemy within. They call themselves the K-Team. And no one is safe from their deadly intent. 

Hellbent on stopping them is Raghav Bhagat, rogue para commando, gun for hire and Krishnas bete noir. 

Caught in the crossfire is Vinod Bedi, Special Director CBI. Reena Bhagat, a glamorous news anchor, embittered by her husbands betrayal. And two young boys, Sachin and Azaan, torn apart by the loss of a parent. 

It doesnt get bigger. 

Review:

A thriller set in the present day political scenario. Before I get to the plot and the reading experience, I too would like to mention a few points like the author himself has in the author's note. While I respect that the book is a result of a lot of anger seething within the author, it was no acceptable to me, as a reader to see no imagination when it came to situations. Why did Uttar Pradesh have to have a woman CM? Why was the judge who was one of RIP's targets the one who let Manu Sharma go in the Jessica Lall case? Why is Hazare, Hazarika in the story? Why is the current political situation of the country, used as a backdrop in story, the same as is? Where is the author's imagination? Did he not trust the readers' intelligence enough to think they will accept new fresh backdrops? Or is it too easy to use incidents which readers are familiar with, to sell a book. With regards to this aspect, as a reader, if feel cheated.

 As a plot. RIP is a thriller with a love-story spun in it. Pacy, with all sub-plots well-connected, RIP is a tightly spun thriller. The book is indeed unputdownable, except where as I mentioned above, familiar situations crop up. 

Three groups of people walking towards the same targets. One group, the K-team, aims to end lives of those who think hav done the country wrong, yet got away scot-free. they call themselves RIP (Resurgent Indian Patriots) and are all ex-army men. Special Director Vinod Bedi, heading the Special Crimes Division (CSD) of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) along with his men, is trying to track the K-team, and catch them before they attempt another killing. Raghav Bhagat, hired by the home minister, Karunakaran, along with his set of men, all of who are also ex-army men are trying to catch hold of RIP before Bedi and his men, and kill them.

Spun within is an angle of Sachin and Azaan, Krishna and Raghav’s sons, who happen to be best friends. Krishna’s wife is dead and Raghav’s estranged wife is shown to be slowly turning into Krishna’s love interest. Raghav and Krishna had crossed [ath earlier and were shown to be not in the best of terms. Hence, further complications, in this sub-plot.

A gripping tale, RIP was worth a read. The cover design is innovative and does hold interest.
  
Rating: ***/5

[This review is a part of the biggest Book Reviews Program. for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!]

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book Review: Matters of the Heart by Danielle Steel

On the jacket:

In a spellbinding blend of suspense and human drama, Danielle Steel tells a powerful and unusual story of one woman’s journey from darkness into light, as she fights to escape a mesmerizing sociopath who holds her in his thrall…. 

Hope Dunne has carved out a name for herself as a top photographer, known the joys of marriage and motherhood, and the heartbreak of loss. In her chic SoHo loft, Hope is content with her life, finding serenity and beauty through the lens of her camera. She isn’t looking for a man or excitement. But these things find her when she accepts a last- minute assignment to fly to London at Christmas and photograph one of the world’s most celebrated writers—an Irish-American author known for novels of thrilling literary darkness. 

To Hope’s surprise, Finn O’Neill exudes warmth and a boyish charm. Enormously successful, he is a perfect counterpoint to Hope’s quiet, steady grace—and he’s taken instantly by her. He courts her as no one ever has before, whisking her away to his palatial, isolated Irish estate.

Hope finds it all, and him, irresistible. Finn’s magnetism and brilliance are undeniable. But soon cracks begin to appear in his stories: gaps in his history, a few innocent lies, and bouts of jealousy unnerve her. Suddenly Hope is both in love and suspicious, caring and deeply in doubt, and ultimately frightened of the man she loves. Alone, thousands of miles from home, her mind is reeling. Is she just being paranoid? How many lies has he told? Are there more secrets to come? Is it possible that this adoring, attentive man—like the characters in his novels—is hiding something even worse? The spell cast by a brilliant sociopath has her trapped in his web, too confused and dazzled to escape as he continues to tighten his grip on her. 

With razor-sharp insight, Danielle Steel delivers an unforgettable tale of danger and obsessive love. Fearlessly telling the truth, refusing to look away, Steel proves once again that as an American storyteller she has no peer when she explores the dark secrets that sometimes lurk just below the surface of ordinary lives, writing about men and women and their courage to prevail, in this case, even in the face of evil.

Reviews:

Matters of the Heart was my airport read during a recent vacation. The plots is very similar to how all her other stories are, following the formula. Characters are wealthy, successful, good natured, loved by all yet not very happy from within. 

There is nothing new about the story. Steel is a good writer and she knows her craft. She spins stories as if on stencil. The book begins a slow, leisurely pace describing Hope Dunne's life and hinting that she has just survived a bit heartbreak of some kind. 

As the plot unfolds and other characters come into Hope's life, we get to know more. The story picks up pace towards the climax, however, Matters of the Heart is another run of the mill, Steel novel.

Rating: ***/5

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

Book Review: A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks

On the jacket:

Terrified, a young prisoner in the Second World War closes his eyes and pictures himself going out to bat on a sunlit cricket ground in Hampshire.

Across the courtyard in a Victorian workhouse, a father is too ashamed to acknowledge his son. 

A skinny girl steps out of a Chevy with a guitar and sings four songs that send shivers through the skull. 

Through desperation and desire, soldiers and lovers, parents and children, scientists and musicians risk their bodies and hearts in search of a connection -- some key to understanding what makes us the people we become. 

Provocative and profound, Sebastian Faulks' dazzling novel journeys across continents and time to explore the chaos created by love, separation and missed opportunities.

Review:

A novel in five parts. Yet, five short stories, but not a novel. A Possible Life was not an easy read. But, it was a good read. This was my first read of Faulks. The five stories are entwined, objective of one can be seen in another. The five can be treated as short stories, or taken together as a novel. The stories spoke about five different eras and the characters were totally different. Everything is different, yet a thin line connects them.

Of the five, the first story is my favourite. Worked well for me, as it set the tempo for the rest of the book. A Possible Life is a not an easy, rainy afternoon read. It will take some time and you would be involved in five different plots for a while, when you read it. I suggest you pick a copy up!

Rating: ***/5

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

Book Review: The Man Before The Mahatma by Charles DiSalvo


On the jacket:

At the age of eighteen, a shy and timid Mohandas Gandhi leaves his home in Gujarat for a life on his own. At forty-five, a confident and fearless Gandhi, ready to boldly lead his country to freedom, returns to India.

What transforms him?

The law.

The Man before the Mahatma is the first biography of Gandhi’s life in the law. It follows Gandhi on his journey of self-discovery during his law studies in Britain, his law practice in India and his enormous success representing wealthy Indian merchants in South Africa, where relentless attacks on Indian rights by the white colonial authorities cause him to give up his lucrative representation of private clients for public work—the representation of the besieged Indian community in South Africa.

As he takes on the most powerful governmental, economic and political forces of his day, he learns two things: that unifying his professional work with his political and moral principles not only provides him with satisfaction, it also creates in him a strong, powerful voice. Using the courtrooms of South Africa as his laboratory for resistance, Gandhi learns something else so important that it will eventually have a lasting and worldwide impact: a determined people can bring repressive governments to heel by the principled use of civil disobedience.

Using materials hidden away in archival vaults and brought to light for the first time, The Man before the Mahatma puts the reader inside dramatic experiences that changed Gandhi’s life forever and have never been written about—until now.

Review:

Our school curriculum more or less had us reading about Gandhi every year, since the time we could read sentences. But if we sum our knowledge about him, there isn't much. In my case, there were lots of loopholes in my idea of his story. So, when The Man Before The Mahatma came my way, it was only a welcome read.

The author has very clearly done painstaking research on the Mahatma, and as a reader, I got a clear picture of how a common man became the Mahatma.  Why did he do what he did, what drove him, what was his upbringing like, how did the people in his life influence his actions, did he never wan't to give up on non-violence, was he really as much a politician as some people say he was, did he always think for the country or were some actions for his own good?

The Man Before The Mahatma answers these and many more questions, it tells us the story of the little man we all know as Mahatma. As this country's not very tolerant youth, Oct 2 and Jan 30 make much more sense to me now.

Rating: ****/5

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

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Blueprint for Change

Blogadda has come up with this initiative in which we talk about problems or concerns that we face everyday and in our blogs, accompany them with a blueprint on how these concerns could be rectified. For two days I sat thinking. I was on bed rest anyway, so more the time to think. To speak the truth, I couldn't think of anything revolutionary. So, I decided to scrap the idea and just talk about what bothers me around myself, at the grass-root level.

Health Awareness amongst the youth: Starting from basic hygiene to going for regular check-ups, very few adults are aware and diligent. Brushing your teeth twice a day, keeping your body clean, eyes healthy, exercising to keep the joints running well ... these are absolute basics. What about when you are doing everything outwardly but still get sick. This topic is close to me, as I am a survivor of a life-taking disease, which struck me solely because my own immunity was low. How many of us know youth living in metros away from home, surviving on junk food? Rather, how many of us are these youth? I was one, I ate what filled my stomach, ignored the nutrition, let my immunity drop so low that it just took a few coughs by someone, for me to contract it and drop down almost dead, because I couldn't breath. I was treated and well to go, restoring the immunity my mother had built before I left home, has become an impossible task. 
Journalists, BPO execs, hotel employees ... people who work around the clock, form a huge database of our GDP earners as well as basic population. Alcohol overflows, while food mostly stays limited to finger food, or even worse, just chakhna. In this particular case, where families are away and the kids are too busy earning money & blowing them away, who is the only person who can reach out and ask them to hold on, and take care of their lifestyle, diet etc? The employerEmployers need to butt in here, put pamphlets, memos, mails, whatever works in the employees' faces ~ We appreciate your work, but don't forget to appreciate your body. Eat right, exercise a bit, abstain a bit and you are even better to go!
I, on my end, always talk to the young lot and keep urging them to eat right. If you eat right now, you'l be right tomorrow.

Disciplining the country's future: There are three category of parents when it comes to disciplining their children ~ the one that does, the one that doesn't and the one that does only when the child's behaviour is a problem to them. Type 1 is rare. Very rare. Type 2 is the most common, and usually a family with more children than the parents can handle. The third type is the Page 3 kind, they fancy themselves to be cool, disciplinarian, while they do it on paper only when their child's behaviour affects themselves. Don't scream inside the house, mamma will slap you. Child goes and creates a ruckus outside, mamma has her nap peacefully. Don't litter in the house, I'l break your bones. Child goes to a mall with mamma and litters, but mamma can only see the two size smaller dress on display.
This is wrong in so many levels. Isn't this how a person grows up to be a selfish, self-centred being who only concentrates on hoarding goodies in his own life, oblivious to others around him. Such a future will only be shaky!
How to correct this? Only parents can correct this. Street plays can spread the awareness, but unless parents are willing to bring up disciplined children themselves, there is no cure to this. Don't let your aankh ka taara become someone else's aankh ka kaanta!

Laakh dukkhon ki ek dawaa - education: How many times do we swear in baited breath and say, "illiterate", when someone does something to infuriate us. Well, that's pretty general and example, but don't we all agree that education to a large extent can solve a chunk of problems around us? Yes, there aren't enough jobs. But there are also so many grads and engineers who are venturing into startups. 
Sponsoring one child's education is so easy, just go pay his/her fees. Make sure they have proper school supplies throughout the year, meet the child once in a while, talk, give guidance where required. One can be surprised as to how willing a lot of kids from marginal communities are, and if with the money you give them some personal time, they'l lap it up like greedy. A lot of my friends, and I, do not believe in paying to NGOs because it's our hard-earned money and we prefer to see it being put to correct use. So we do the needful ourselves. Most my NRI friends have adopted minimum of two kids whom they are educating and also meet to spend time with, when in India. No one is too busy to do this, try it.

Feed a few 'more' tummies: I don't want to get into religions, but wanted to state a fact. It's not that other communities don't do it at all, but ever noticed how much the Sikh community feeds the poor? Not only feeds, treats them as humans and feeds them in a clean, hygienic manner. Be it to please their God, or be it for their own peace of mind, the bigger picture is that a lot of what is earned is shared
We have different food habits, we eat what suits our taste, else we waste it. We cook loads for house parties and weddings, and some kind ones send the leftover to NGOs, so that the food doesn't get wasted. But. Why only send the leftovers? Why not fresh food, cooked only for them? 
I am not saying give free food to beggars, that will only stop them more from making an honest living out of their lives. But what about the old? The crippled? The helpless? Take a portion each of all the items of your Sunday lunch, put it in a paper plate, sit in your car and go search for one such person. Urge them to eat, give them water to drink. Ask them how they liked your cooking. If they did, believe me, they will be so vocal about it, you'l be back the next Sunday.

Hand-me-downs: Families with 2-3 children have always followed the policy of clothes being handed down from the elder to the younger. It's a good way of saving money for those who run on tight budget, but we all know, not all such families run on tight budgets. A frock, for instance, is worn by three sisters and then given to the maid's daughter for whom it's either oversized or too small. Why can't the not-so-badly-off families hand down their children's clothes to the poorer children/street kids? Buy a new dress for your second daughter, give her an individuality, she will thank you all your life. And in the meanwhile, give the dress your elder daughter doesn't fit into any more, to the dhobi's daughter. What say? Possible? 

This post is a part of Weekend contest at BlogAdda.com in association with Chanakya’s New Manifesto

#BookReview: An Awfully BIG Adventure by Aniesha Brahma

On the jacket: Seventeen-year-old Yoshita Ray has stopped believing in happily ever after and fairy tales ever since her mother aba...