Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Book Review: God is a Gamer by Ravi Subramanian

In yet another of the banking series, Ravi Subramanian comes up with a thriller that spans continents, governments and different companies.

The story:
The book starts with various seemingly disconnected events that happen in the same timeframe. These incidents include the assassination of a high ranking government official in the US, a Nigerian Phishing scam in the Indian branch of the New York international bank and a chance meeting of two acquaintances in a drug exchange in Goa, and an ATM heist. These incidents are preceded by a major development in the world of banks and the payment industry and the rise of the controversial virtual currency or the world of bitcoins.

The story continues with its crisp page-turning pace with the introduction of several characters at various points in the book. Starting with the US official who was murdered, his wife Nikki and daughter Gloria, Ashok, the owner of India’s largest BPO and gaming site, an Indian American who was the chief operator of the ATM heist, Ashok’s long lost son Varun who returns to turnaround his dad’s fortunes in the gaming industry, Malvika, the CEO of New York International Bank and her daughter Tanya, and some recurring characters from his previous book ‘If God was a Banker’ – Swami, a banker with the New York International Bank , and erstwhile banker Sundeep who is now Ashok’s right hand man.

What I liked about the book:
I thoroughly enjoyed the concept of the bitcoins and how they are woven into the storyline. At the end, even if all does not make sense, the means to get the bitcoins certainly does. Ravi Subramanian true to his financial industry background has done some justice to this emerging world of bitcoins.  
I found some of the final revelations on the mastermind behind it all and the motive a bit far-fetched. It was only at the end in which the by-line which accompanies the name of the book ‘Is revenge a crime’ angle is disclosed. Although I enjoyed most of the book, the end seemed to be just not right and just strange!

What I didn’t like about the book:
Well, I have mixed feelings regarding the size of the chapters and the number of characters introduced. The story flits from one context to another a little too fast and it becomes hard to keep track at times of the number of characters that continually get introduced.  However, if you do manage to remember who’s who, the end might just make some sense to you. What I also didn’t like was the unnecessary incorporation of steamy scenes which this author could have really done without. His books are really not from the genre where the author needs to titillate.

To sum up, the story is well built, the bitcoin concept is brilliant. However even so, although all the ends are tied up, I was left with a sense of too many things being too far-fetched or unnecessary. I wouldn’t say this is Ravi Subramanian’s best book yet. However, I would still recommend this as a one time, one shot, entertaining read. All in all, I would give a rating of 3 out of 5 for the book.

Thanks Blogadda for the autographed copy of the book!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Healthy kids make for happy homes

As we peered over my little daughter when she was born, all we wanted to do was keep her happy! And we promised to ourselves, we would do the best we could to keep her happy always!

And then started the flurry of advice as we scurried around her for 24 hours a day. “Give her breast milk for atleast 2 years” said one. “Give her ‘Bal-ghuti’ to increase her strength and immunity” said another. “Tie a black thread around her hands and her feet to ward off the evil eye and keep her from falling sick”. “Sing the hanuman chalisa everyday to protect her from all ailments”. “Put a blob of kajal on her forehead, cheeks, leg, her eyes and near her hairline to protect her” Grrr…and turn my pretty little baby into someone unrecognizable, I muttered under my breath. “Nazar utaro so she always eats well” and so on and so forth!

By and by I realized that the main concern around a child is her health. An upset tummy, a small cold can delay her from taking the next baby step in her growth etc. are not good things! A child should never be sick but be always up and about ready to play, and hungry to eat! Breast milk provides great immunity, but the immunity needs to become only stronger once kids need something more once they start mingling with other kids when they get to school.

I have seen the tantrums kids this small can throw when it comes to eating the right healthy food. You may decide to give her amla juice everyday, but watch her squirt it right out at you and never drink it ever again! Try that with other herbs used in the popular ayurvedic bal-ghuti for the same result! I even tried masking the amla juice with her favorite strawberry jam but she was on the alert and there was no fooling her! And then, gave her a spoon of Dabur Chyawanprash which she mistook for jam and actually lapped it up quite happily, Amla and all! In exciting flavors of mango and mixed-fruit, this magic potion can increase immunity by 3 times and keep your child safe from those dreaded colds and coughs are so unpleasant and cause such discomfort. And you can watch your kid gulp down the Amla happily along with the range of other herbs that increase immunity.

Now that the October heat is on us, the weather is sultry and the mosquitoes are back! But this time, my little girl seems to be prepared.  As I watch her happily prance about in the park with the other kids, I know she will be well, healthy and happy.

Read more on Chywanprash here.

This post is written for an Indiblogger contest and is not entirely true! Dabur Chywanprash with all its health benefits can be given to only children over 3 years which I will when my daughter turns three!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: Private India by Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson

When two best-selling crime authors come together, the result’s got to be one helluva novel right? Private India is a part in a ‘Private’ world wide series written by James Patterson and a local author (usually),in this case Ashwin Sanghi and is a super murder mystery set in Mumbai that keeps the reader guessing.

The Story
A murder is discovered in a hotel by a maid, and strange symbols appear on the site of the murder. The murdered woman is discovered to be an accomplished surgeon. Tied to her hands are a lotus and a fork, and tied to a foot is a tiny Viking helmet. She has been strangulated, and a yellow scarf tied to her neck. Private India, an investigating agency headed by Santosh is called in to investigate the case in collaboration with the Police headed by ACP Rupesh.

 After the first murder of the doctor,  the series of murders continue with more women being discovered with strange symbols around them and the yellow scarf around their necks. After the doctor,.a journalist, a famous singer, an influential politician, a social-worker, and a school principal are all found dead killed by seemingly the same person in a similar fashion. All the women are found with yellow garrotes around their necks and strange symbols around them.  The team is flummoxed and is unable to find the common link apart from a few unrelated people whose names keep cropping up during the investigation. Santosh and team need to find out how the murders are connected, what the symbols are, what story the murderer is trying to tell and who the next targets are before the murderer gets to them. The urgency to solve this case increases further as sinister events unfold on the side and the murderer strikes again and again.

Other parallel story lines involve a gang lord who is simultaneously plotting bomb blasts, a corrupt Attorney General whose name crops up during investigation of several murders, Santosh’s team members most of who have a troubled past and Santosh’s turbulent relationship with erstwhile close friend ACP Rupesh.

My take
The mystery in itself is quite a page turner which keeps the reader hooked and wondering what will happen next while trying to analyze the preceding murders to see how they are connected. I also enjoyed the characterization of the many people introduced in the book and could almost imagine the story unfold.

However, what I didn’t think fitted with the main storyline were all of the parallel storylines that I mentioned earlier.  Infact, the book could have entirely done without including any of the other parts even as they added words and more complexity to the script and tried to befuddle the reader. For example, I found the terrorist links in the book to be completely unnecessary and a waste of words really.

All in all a thrilling page turner, and a nice juicy murder mystery you may say, complete with clues, plenty of suspects, involved investigators and a great storyline. I will give the book 4 stars on 5.

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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Review: Catching the Departed by Kulpreet Yadav

The Indian literary scene seems to have a lot of thrillers off-late. Some based on stories of the past interspersed with the current age, others focusing on a particular sector say Banking, and yet some others who have not carved a niche for themselves yet have a promise of doing so.

The book I am reviewing here is yet another piece of crime fiction. The author has tried to differentiate himself though by giving us a new detective – Andy Karan.

Like some books I have read recently, whoever is out on a killing mission or on a saving mission in India, must have an army training and Andy Karan is no exception, except that he is no longer serving the military directly, but posing as a journalist but is really an undercover agent.

The Story
Set mostly in Delhi and a village near Delhi, we hear that a villager has been killed under suspicious circumstances. Andy Karan’s boss, Monica (obviously female and obviously single and good looking like she would be in all Indian novels) at the magazine sends him on a mission to find out after getting a tip off from a random source she doesn’t bother to verify about. Andy Karan lands up at the village and without much ado raises hackles without bothering to do anything cautiously and gets beaten up. His boss, Monica is apologetic about sending him there but Andy wants to go back.  Why, because there is this mysterious old man boss who shows up, and says that he is Andy’s boss and Andy wants to do as he commands him to. One would think, someone with an army training would be more cautious, but no, apparently the secret investigation cells of India work so secretly that detectives like Andy don’t know who they are working for!
The story however far-fetched, was believable till this point in time, till it revealed the villain who according to me bordered on insanity although he should have been a really astute person. If you read it, you will realize how inane the villain is and even less believable are his plans that follow to unleash terror in India. And then I have my pet peeve..the story is interesting but it seems to be written for a film with its unnecessary heroine, good looking army jaawan, and multiple locations of Delhi, Mumbai and a rural village near Delhi.

I would say the effort by the author is not too bad. While I like the idea of Andy Karan, the promising detective, I would have been happier with a better execution of the story
I will give this book a rating of 3 stars on five.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Book Review: Rise of the Sun Prince- Part 1 of Ramayana: The Game of Life by Shubha Vilas

One of the most revered tales that is a part of Indian mythology, folklore and history is that of the Ramayana. This tale of Prince Ram has been handed down through ages and is considered to be one of the greatest love stories and the most dramatic stories of good versus evil.

I have read several interpretations of the Ramayana. Some of my favorite books on the Ramayana include those by the very popular C Rajagopalachari and Kamala Subramaniam. However, I am always looking for new interpretations that provide me with more answers and new stories and am happy to say that I have found yet another version that I quite liked.

Shubha Vilas who is a spiritual leader and a motivational speaker has done justice to the Ramayana through this first volume called as the Rise of the Sun Prince in a six part series called as “Ramayana, the Game of Life”.

I was quite happy to receive an autographed copy of the book that provided a lovely message – “With this book I wish to share traditional wisdom to deal with the twists and turns of life. I hope this book will bring you a new perspective on living a progressive life.” And that is exactly what the book seeks to do. The Author has included not just the story but also interpreted it with reference to our everyday life and the life lessons we should get from the various chapters of the book.

The first book of the Ramayana details the story of Lord Ram, prince of the Ikshvaku dynasty, the descendants of the Sun God (and therefore the name of The Sun Prince). In this book you will read about Lord Rama’s birth, his young exploits in guarding the sacrifice of sages led by Vishwamitra against feared demons Taraka and Maricha, the freeing of a stony Ahalya from a curse and ends on a very happy note of Rama’s wedding with Sita. The book also has a substantial part devoted to the famous sage Vishwamitra. 

As most of the Ramayana story is well known, I will not get into more details of the story. But particularly interesting are some nuggets that the author has imparted throwing light to some questions we have on this epic tale. To cite an example, I always wondered why Lord Rama’s childhood was not as extensively covered as was Lord Krishna’s childhood in our scriptures. The author provides a note –

“Lord Rama’s childhood is underplayed in the Ramayana, with the entire childhood occupying merely 10 verses. In comparison, Krishna’s childhood has been elaborated extensively. Lord Rama is called Anusthana Pradhan, meaning the One who has descended to teach human lessons on discipline and morality. Lord Krishna is called Anubhava Pradhan, meaning the One who has descended to impart fascinating experiences.  Because Lord Rama had manifested to impart discipline, His childhood was kept low key.”
Let me provide an example of the lesson that he has provided on the Sage Vishwamitra’s enmity with the great Sage Vasishtha –

“Often in life, like Vishwamitra, we are so busy pursuing our short-term goals, that we do not find any time to pause and reflect on the direction we are heading toward. Life gives us many hidden doors, which become visible only if we pause. Most people live their lives by the clock, running at a frantic pace. A balanced individual needs to use a compass from time to time to check if one is running in the right direction. Else, the faster you run in the wrong direction, the farther you stray from your goal.”

I also don’t however know how true some of the stories are although I am sure the author has done his research. For example, I had no idea Dashratha, Rama’s father had 350 wives apart from the four we know of commonly, and had married them to escape the axe wielding hermit and Kshyatriya hater, Parshurama. Apparently, Parshurama had vowed to kill all the Kshyatriya kings except those who were getting married. 
But well, it may be true too.

All in all, an interesting book with some good interpretations.  However, I have found more compelling narratives in other books. That being said, I am glad to see a book in mainstream publishing that carries more than a story and also provides readers with a way of life.

My verdict:
I will give this book 3.5 stars out of five.

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

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

10 Life Lessons Learnt from a Baby

It is ridiculous how much babies can teach you instead of the other way round. Some of the most profound life lessons come from babies. Here are ten life lessons my ten month old baby girl SSS has taught me by example!

1. Try and keep trying no matter how many times you fall (literally!) -  It is truly laudable how tirelessly SSS keeps trying to make those new movements. Be it sitting, crawling, standing, climbing or trying to walk. She never ever gives up no matter how many times she fails, falls, or hurts herself! This is certainly something we grown-ups need to learn from.

2. Be Bold - It could be out of ignorance of the unknown or just plain daring, but babies venture out into unknown territory far more easily than grown-ups do. Perhaps SSS is telling me to go out of my comfort zone and do bold new things I haven’t done before!

3. Find joy in simple things - Splashing in the water during bath time, untying a parcel, chasing a ball, playing for hours with a piece of string may sound mundane but are a source of joy for the little one. I need to sit back, relax and find pleasure in the simplest things I do!

4. Forget the bad parts easily - She stands up, she slips, she falls, she cries. You pick her up and soothe her. The next moment she is laughing out loud! How lovely life would be if we could forget the hurt as easily and move on with life!

5. Explore the world - However tiny her world maybe, her surroundings will always be interesting to her and she will continue to explore every nook and cranny. I need to start exploring my surroundings – the new park nearby, the attractions the city has to offer, a trip to the nearby hillstation…

6. Find new uses for old things - A tiny box is just a box until she puts a pebble into it and shakes it to make for a new rattle! A chair is just a chair till she learns to push it around to learn to walk! Babies are born innovators not knowing the intended use of things, and manage to use things in ways we grown-ups cannot imagine! I have learnt to convert all sorts of household objects into toys for her and had fun along the way!

7. Surprise us – This element of babies is one of the most endearing aspects. There is never a dull moment with her. You may think a box of expensive toys would wow her, but surprise! She puts the toy aside and plays with the wrapping paper! How fun life would be if we started surprising one another with the smallest of things and putting in efforts towards goals to surprise ourselves!

8. Ask questions – Although SSS is too young to start probing verbally, her curiosity in the smallest of things is amazing. The look of wonder on her face when cars go by, or the baffled look when she sees anything new tells me I need to start getting ready to answer a host of questions. And also start asking some pertinent questions I have ignored in my general life.

9. Exercise - Right from the time the baby develops arms and legs in the womb, they are continuously kicking them and exercising. SSS is never still in one place and forever wants to move around tirelessly.  I need to take a leaf from her active lifestyle and get mobile for a fraction of that time for a slim me!

10. Eat only as much as is required – Last but not the least, babies know exactly how much they should eat and refuse a morsel of food beyond. Now if only we could apply this when presented with a buffet of the most deliciously fattening fried and sweet stuff, life would be much fitter than it is!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Z of the A to Z Challenge

The last letter of the alphabet and the last blog of the month!  I am so super excited and happy to announce that I completed the A to Z April Blogging Challenge!  All I can think of right now after all that writing, reading and thinking about what to write next and my baby daughter SSS keeping me awake till 2:00 a.m. yesterday is ZZZZZZzzzzzzz sleeping!

Thanks ladies and gentlemen for following me through the challenge. I hope you liked reading my blogs as much as I enjoyed writing them. I hope I continue to see you again on this space even if the challenge is over. Here is signing off and ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz! 

To read all my A to Z blogs do visit here

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Yosemite National Park

Y of the  A to Z challenge

One of my most memorable trips so far has been a visit to the exotic Yosemite National Park in the United States. The onset of the winter season had begun, and the night we arrived at Yosemite, it first snow of the season fell. We woke up to a sheet of snow outside the window of the hotel. Having stayed in hot tropical countries all my life, it was my first experience of snowfall.  And it truly was as lovely as the books describe it to be during Christmas time! The whole world looked pristine and white that winter morning and I could not stop gawking at all the loveliness around.

Winter has a different sort of beauty and I am glad I experienced the first snow of my life at Yosemite! Although pictures hardly do any justice to the beauty that took our breath away, here are a few pictures that have remained etched in my mind forever.

You can read more details on the Yosemite trip here

What does X mean to you?

X of the A to Z Challenge

Honestly, I have run out of topics to write on as this challenge having written a blog nearly everyday! Therefore, my topic today is the very letter X!

X is one letter in the alphabet that means so many different things!
While it is used to make weird sounding words that are generally used in playing Scrabble, or make words that sound as though they start with Z rather than an X -for example, Xena (remember the warrior princess?) or Xenophilius Lovegood, or Xavier the letter X itself has several interesting facets and uses that no other letter of the alphabet has.

Here are a few uses of X

x - sizes are denoted in XL, XXL. Here X stands for Extra.
x - differentiator - The X-factor, The X-Men
x - Used as a multiple 2x, 3x etc. or used as the multiplication sign
x - cross mark/ incorrect
x - unknown variable in algebraic equations. This was always the dreaded letter back in school where the question to a complex algebraic equation was as simple as find the value of x!
x - In Roman language, X means 10
x - rated movies are meant for adults
x - represents the unknown or to cite an example - Person x

These are some of the uses of x I could think of.  Let me know in your comments if you can think of any more!

Working from home

W of the A-Z Challenge

It never ceases to amaze me what technology has done. People separated by thousands of miles are a phone call away. One can not just speak to these far off people but also see them! Gone are the days of snail mail where letters would take months to get delivered.  Internet speeds have gone up radically and have changed the way we communicate, watch tv and even work.  Working across borders has become so much easier despite different time zones.

I work for a company that interacts with other countries may thousand miles away.  But what makes it easier is the flexibility that allows me to work from home. All I need is my laptop, a high speed internet connection and I am set. I don’t really need to travel every single day all the way to my office on congested roads where all forms of transport jostle for space.  Working from home is a boon for many like me who prefer to not spend their time traveling, atleast not everyday! But the problem of working from home is that everyone around you thinks you are on a holiday and that I am free to do everything else!

And yes, it can become a holiday if you don’t have the right attitude to working from home. It is extremely easy to flop on the sofa in your pyjamas with the laptop and find yourself reaching out for the remote…or start cleaning up and clearing up the kitchen and rearranging things…or opening the door to the neighbors and engaging in long conversations…or getting your kid home and starting to play with her!  Well, no one can be blamed, if they think you are on a holiday then!

A few tips for people to not succumb to the many temptations of wfh (working from home) –

  1. Get dressed as if you are going to office
  2. Set up a home office – a table space in the quietest room in the house, a phone connection, a high speed internet access, a printer if need be are all musts
  3. Get a back-up internet source and a power supply source if you work from India where there are power cuts
  4. Don’t get your kids home
  5. Don’t run errands and stop cleaning and clearing up the house!
  6. Work during office timings as you would at office and in the same routine including breaks
  7. Be available on phone or office messenger
  8. Tell everyone around you that you are working and have deliverables just like office going folk do and you are not available to do anything else
  9. Deliver the goods without getting distracted
  10. Go to office if you have one sometimes at least or it can get boring to work in solitude every single day!

Voice of a Billion

V of the A to Z Challenge

I know I said that my earlier election post would be the last, but given the election fervor and fever that continues to rage in the country, I can't help but wonder now what is going to happen.

I hope people have Voted.  I wonder if people truly have a Vendetta against the current crop of politicians, or if they want Vengeance on the Vile rulers who have done nothing but Vacillate on key decisions. Can people find a more Virtuous set of rulers who will be Veracious and truly deliver on their promises instead of being merely Vociferous during the elections?

We don't need Vainglorious politicians who in reality have delivered nothing apart from a Vulgar display of their indifference.  We certainly don't need Villains as our rulers who smile during the elections and Viciously loot the country in scam after scam after that. We don't need rulers who don't even have a Vague idea of what they need to do and are only out to line their own pockets. What we need is a Visionary leader who believes in the Vibrancy of India and who can Vigorously embark upon true development with a Viable plan. We need someone who is not perpetually Vexed about how to go forward, and someone who is far more Vocal than our current prime minister.

Who will finally be Victorious in this Vicious competition for Votes? What does the Voice of a Billion people sound like? We will find out on May 16!

Election Commission awards EVM contracts to ECIL, BEL

Monday, April 28, 2014

Unspoiled Getaway - Matheran

U of the A to Z Challenge

The sweltering heat of Mumbai in late April, an anniversary gone by in the hectic work week that was, a required stress buster, all made us want to go away to somewhere cool, somewhere unpolluted, somewhere natural and somewhere near.

Not far from the bustle of Mumbai, we zeroed on a hillstation that we had never been to together.  The hill station of Matheran is a 2 hour drive from Mumbai and a delightful get away.  The government of India has made this cosy hill station into a protected sanctuary where vehicles are not allowed…which means air that is as fresh as it can get without the fumes that vehicles bring about. I was quite surprised to see such a lush green cover in this heat and it was quite pleasant even in the hot summer month of April.  I never realized how refreshing unpolluted air can be.  Even though it was hot when we reached, and we were tired with our baby SSS and the 40 minute walk uphill, we were instantly recharged after we dumped our luggage in the hotel and stepped out in a few minutes.

What to see- There are several picturesque points in Matheran that offer spectacular views of the valley and the hills. The popular ‘points’ are marked on the map below. Sunset Point, Porcupine point, Monkey point, Panaroma Point, and Heart point are some of the popular points to visit although I prefer to visit the quieter places that are along the way but less noisy and cleaner. The toy train was remarkable of course climbing that steep incline.  Waterfalls can also been seen near the Charlotte lake, but since it was summer when I visited, there were no waterfalls to be seen.  It is a nice place for adults looking for some greenery and a respite from the heat. It is a fun place for kids with monkeys, horses, sheep and various animals to be seen, a fun market to head out to. My baby girl was absolutely fascinated with all the monkeys monkeying around and laughed her heart out at their antics!

A common sight in Matheran is that of horses and monkeys.  With no vehicles allowed, the transport of the yore..the horses are used in this hill station.  One can see horses almost everywhere. I was told there are about 400 horses that are used in this scenic hillstation to ferry people, building material, food and almost everything!

There are two ways to get to Matheran.  By road and by train.  By road, which we took, there are two routes that lead there from Mumbai– one through Badlapur onwards to Matheran, and the other via Panvel that we took.  A two hour drive leads you to the foothills of Matheran where you are supposed to park your vehicle in the parking lot. A bevy of porters, horse owners and handcart rickshaw pullers will besiege you and tell you various options to go up.  You can trudge upwards on a 40 minute walk on foot or on horse or on a hand drawn cart.  You can also hire porters if you want your luggage carried. The second option is to take the train to Neral station (Central Railway local train) and then take the toy train that winds its way up through a scenic hill offering fantastic views of the hillside right upto the station of Matheran.

Notes: All prices for horse, porters, hand drawn carts and even hotels are negotiable.  They typically ask for Rs 450 per person for anything. But you can negotiate to bring this price down to 250-300 per person.

There are hotel options for all budgets offering varying facilities and locations.  You can even reach on the spot and find a suitable hotel.

All in all, I loved the place and I will be back there soon!

Some pictures from my trip -

Here comes the toy train

The Toy Train

Of hills and valleys

Of trees, hills and valleys

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Time for Change

T of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

This is my last blog on elections and voting in the A to Z challenge.  Tomorrow is an important day, the day Mumbai goes to vote in the Lok Sabha elections in the biggest democracy of the world.

Why should you vote?
  1. You can avail discounts at enterprises that are promoting voting!
  2. You can take a selfie and post it on facebook, twitter, Instagram and all the social networks you are part of!!!
  3. Get some value from the money that has been spent on the election.  It is your own money you have paid in Taxes.
  4. You don’t think the current government has done enough in developing the country. Roads are still bad, power cuts are still long, education is not for all, security is weak, women are not empowered, jobs are few, corruption was rampant, the neighboring China has skyrocketed its development when we were at the same starting point but we are where we were 10 years back, promises are many but actions are few.
  5. Voting brings about accountability. If the government does not perform, it can be voted out.  If however, it knows people don’t care enough to vote if it performs or not, corruption will continue and development will not.
  6. Each vote makes a difference. Really it does.  If you don’t vote, it increases the chance of a bad candidate to win. Take responsibility for your actions if governance is bad then. Shed the cynicism and vote!
  7. Vote for a candidate or party you think will make for a stable government, a responsible government, and one who you think will bring true development to the country.
  8. You have the right to choose who will rule you. Unlike non-democratic countries where citizens cannot choose who will rule them and may get tyrannical leaders or ineffective leaders, Indians get to choose. It is a privilege no less. 

Your office may or may not have declared a holiday.  You may have a train to catch on the voting day, you may have an important meeting that day…time will never be enough for our routine tasks, but this is an important occasion to celebrate once in five years..so make time for it!  You can start as early as 7:00 a.m. and vote till 5:00 p.m.

Scenic Switzerland

S of the A-Z Challenge

I visited this gorgeous country many years back and can still vividly remember the beauty that it was. Images of green pastures, spotted jersey cows, ice peaked Alps, misty mountains, scenic water falls, cosy churches, and every road prettier than the last come to mind.  Here are a few pictures from my visit.  It is little wonder that so many romantic movies in Bollywood have been shot here! You can also visit my post of long ago for more pictures and the journey here -

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

R for Richland Talk

R of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

Yes, that is the name of my blog.  It has been many years since I started blogging and what a fantastic journey it has been! I may not have blogged very regularly in the past, but it has been one of the things I have enjoyed doing.

Richland Talk has been a place to Rave, a place to Rant, a place to Review, a place to Record and a place to write on what I think is wrong or Right! Between home, and office, and a few vacations here and there, I guess, this blog is somewhere ‘different’ that I can go to during my time off.

If I have not thanked you dear Readers earlier for all the support, please let me do it now. Your visits and comments have kept me going and helped me keep this blog alive. It is through this blog that I have discovered so many more amazing writers and friends who I may not have even met, but have formed a connection with.

Dear Reader and Friend, I hope to see you around this space again and again!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Quaint encounters

Q of the A-Z Blogging challenge

In my travels, as limited they may be, it is astonishing to turn the corner and find something quite out of the ordinary in the middle of the city.  An old world charm here, an interesting piece of history there, something incongruous in the middle of a busy street, a different culture all make for quaint.  Here are a few pictures of my ‘quaint’ encounters. What are your quaint encounters?

Toy train at Elephanta island, Mumbai

A houseboat in Kerela
Oud perfume and Oud holders in Oman

Tram at Kolkata, India
Vintage car museum, Udaipur

Cobbled streets and stone walls of Cuzco, Peru

Friday, April 18, 2014

Photographing the baby

P of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

Ever since the day she was born, all I wanted to do was to take photographs!  Record her every moment. Be it crying, sleeping, smiling when she was awake, smiling while sleeping, wailing for a toy, recording her first or second or third or zillionth flip to her tummy, and all her possible actions (or inaction). 

Those first three months saw me with a battery of cameras, tablets and phones clicking her all the time. As the days passed by, her movements increased and became stronger, and it became increasingly difficult to obtain a still image quickly!  And then, my mum used to wonder why I am taking so many photos incessantly…well, out of say 20 photos, only one would come out 80% right! Now the latest obsession is videos instead of photos.  If a picture is worth a 1000 words, a video is worth a 1000 photos! It makes everything come alive in pictures and has sound as well!

There are several professional services that have baby photography as a service offering.  Most of them charge exorbitant amounts for a handful of photographs (5-10).  The photographs usually include the use of props, the baby in usually a sleeping pose, a naked baby, black and white pictures, and pictures with the parents.  Much as I would have liked to have one done, the price was too much to pay and the fact that SSS hardly slept for the first three months made it impossible to have a photoshoot for a reasonable amount of time. The photographs of such shoots are beautiful of course, and way better than what we amateurs can take. However, there are plenty of resources online as well that provide tips and tricks on baby photography, and though I didn’t try too many of them, I must say, they are quite helpful if you end up using them.

I use a Nokia 925 phone for all her photos and videos.  It is great to be able to take photos and share them instantly over wifi or 3G on Whatsapp or social networks.  It is also easy to make any edits to the photo using this phone.  The very reason I bought the Nokia 925 was because it boasted of a fantastic 8.7 MP camera and I must say I am quite impressed with the picture quality.

 Now that one set of her grandparents don’t get to see her frequently, it has become a ritual to take a video a day and a photo a day at minimum for them to be able to see her progress. I guess by the end of her first year, I will have a fine collection of videos of her each day!

Some tips for photographing babies that I read here and there and used -
  • Google for those adorable new born baby poses and use them in photoshoots
  • Don’t use any unsafe pose that may harm the baby. Professional photographers usually photoshop those amazing poses of those levitating babies!
  • Use all sorts of props – headbands, cute caps, baskets, colorful pillows, colorful backgrounds to get that perfect photo
  • Use a bean bag with different covers on it to get awesome snaps
  • Choose the time of the day when the baby is the least cranky. For new born photographers, the sleeping baby is a good time
  • Try different camera angles
  • Clear up the background – remove the diapers, hankies, too many toys, etc. before focusing on to the baby
  • Take photographs of the baby in the same place/background, with a toy perhaps, to prepare a monthly progress photo calendar
  • Get someone else to make your baby laugh if you want a smiling photo.  She may just stop smiling when you point the camera at her!
  • Post some pics on your social media, but please don't do this every day! She may be your darling, but other people may get bored! Share them privately instead with the people who want to indeed see them
P.S: I did finally manage the professional photoshoot at a reasonable price and the pictures are totally worth it.  Here are a few pictures from the photoshoot and otherwise.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Off we go..

O of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

There was a time when we used to just dump a few clothes in a backpack and go on the spur of the moment out for the weekend!  Well, gone are those days, and every outing over 1 hour is planned with much packing involved!  A whole list of things needs to be checked on before we dare venture out.  Sterilized milk bottles, milk formula, extra handkerchiefs, wipes, diapers, a clean cloth to put her on, a hat, an extra dress, toys (and just one won’t do), boiled water to prepare her milky concoction are all packed in the bag with much care. For a one night trip to Pune to visit family, SSS hogged one full suitcase space which was three times her size! 

If you plan to pack the bag with the baby around, be prepared to have her pack herself into the suitcase, very helpfully unpack all that you have packed, flee with the bottle of lotion and tuck it away in a corner behind the door, upset a glass of water into her clothes, poop atleast once, try to eat the diaper, and finally, you just dump everything and zip the suitcase hoping all that is required is in there! Of course when you get to your destination, you realize that the all-important baby toiletries bag has been left behind and you have to rush to the medical store to buy everything again!

 And it is not just one bag you pack, her handy travel bag also needs to contain one of everything her big suitcase contains and trust me this is even more important than the big suitcase.
The day you think you’ll just hop across to the neighborhood store without the BAG, she  will not need just a change in the diaper but also a change in clothes! Even if you have just fed her, don’t you think she won’t get hungry again in a few minutes!

Forget the designer bag you bought to match with the shoes.  That has been substituted with the capacious baby bag now! Oh well, one of the few minor sacrifices Mom’s have to make J.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nursery Rhymes - Not that innocent!

N of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

I sing a lot of nursery rhymes to my baby daughter these days.  We learnt these very same nursery rhymes as kids and they continue to be very popular still. However, as an adult, I have now started delving deeper into some of the lyrics that seem downright violent.  After some research, I discovered that many of these are not as innocent as they seem.

It is funny to know that the story behind many of these nursery rhymes alludes to political histories, atrocities, diseases, and religious intolerance!

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown and
Jill came tumbling after

Going up the hill to fetch a pail of water sounds bad enough, and poor Jack broke his crown, is probably much more serious than a happy occurrence! How poor Jill must hurt after tumbling down the hill!

Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run,
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice?
Really? Cutting off tails of blind mice with a knife? – This rhyme actually refers to Queen Mary 1 of England burning and executing three Protestant bishops

Peter Peter pumpkin eater
Had a wife and couldn't keep her
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well!
The Poor poor hostage wife!

Georgie Porgie pudding and pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play,
Georgie Porgie ran away.
Certainly not the right rhyme I would like to hear in this day of violence against women!

Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Oh wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?
The king was in his counting house counting out his money,
The queen was in the parlour eating bread and honey
The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose!
Everything about this is violent!

Goosey goosey gander,
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady's chamber.
There I met an old man
Who wouldn't say his prayers,
So I took him by his left leg
And threw him down the stairs.
This probably refers to the anti-Catholicism wave in England’s history where Catholic priests were hidden in secret chambers in houses.

There are many more poems that I wouldn’t like to sing to my baby girl anymore, but well, perhaps it is best to not look too deep into the meaning unless it is not downright explicit. I will continue to sing Ring-a-ringa roses to her.  She’ll not know how it alludes to the bubonic plague!

For more such rhymes you may be interested in links below.


Myriad M Musings

M of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

I thought of a variety of topics I could write an M post on –
Magnificent Mangoes, Mini Marathons, Maudlin Motherhood, Mythical Mahabharata, Manic Mondays, Memorable Moments, Multi-tasking Moms, Magical Memories, Majestic Mountains, Mad Mornings, Mainstream Movies, Mythical Moorings, Melancholy Melodies, Mysterious Murders, Melodramatic Movies, Mellifluous Melodies, Maximum Mumbai, Multifarious Mumbai, Minimal monochromes, Mischievous Monkeys, Menacing Monsters, Messy Marriages, Mundane middle-class, Malicious Magazines, Misty Mornings.

But Alas! The M day got over by the time I finished finalizing my topic, and now I am just leaving you with a few beach photos of Marvelous Mauritius where I had a Merry trip to break from the Monotony.

Monday, April 14, 2014

LOST: A fantastic television series

L of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

I have never written a blogpost on a tv show earlier, but this is one show I have raved about for long enough to merit a post. 

Touted to be one of the greatest dramas that unfolded on television history by fans, LOST caught the imagination of millions of viewers around the world who were hooked to the adventures of survivors of an Oceanic flight that crashed on an unknown island. With several characters in shades of white, black and grey, and a gripping story with tight editing, LOST was a runaway hit.

A drama interspersed with some science-fiction based on the lives of the survivors of the flight is the theme of the serialized story. Episodes are around the lives of the characters off the island and on the island. After surviving on the island for a few days, the survivors realize that they are not alone and that there are ‘others’ on the island who might want to kill them.  The story veers from the characters onto the secrets of the island in subsequent seasons – on its electromagnetic nature, its healing properties, the propensity to not allow pregnant women who have conceived on the island to survive, how there are people mainland who are desperately searching for the island, etc,

You can read all about the story and characters on Wikipedia so I will not delve deep into it. 

What I liked
What I liked about the story was the gripping storyline that seemed to have and had a finite ending unlike the rambling shows on Hindi TV. However impossible it might seem, the plot was constructed in a seemingly logical way and even made us believe when it shouted out for us to ‘believe’ the impossible parts, A wow location at Hawaii where it was shot was fantastic too. Crisp editing was another strong point. 

However,the greatest asset to the serial was the presence of very strong character roles.  Each of the characters were well suited to the roles they played, from Jack the Doctor, who wanted to always ‘fix’ things, to Ben, the manipulative leader of the ‘others’. My favorite though was ‘Sawyer; the suave conman and Kate the fugitive on the run.

Although the end was debatable and several open ends were not closed, all in all, a great series had ended when it did and the journey through it was enthralling as it was entertaining! I miss a show like that!

Veering back to reality, RIP MH370, the real life Malaysian plane that was never found after its journey on March 8.

Some interesting links for LOST fans -