Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Book Review - Stolen Hope - Ramayana -The Game of Life

Ramayana – Stolen Hope is a third in the series of books named The Game of Life written by spiritual leader Shubha Vilas. Like the previous two books, this book makes for very easy reading. One can read the book just for the story or get a lot more from it with the notes on each of the stories and how we can apply them during our daily lives. While there are interpretations of the Ramayana, this series covers in parts, both the Valmiki Ramayana and the Kamban Ramayana which makes for an interesting juxtaposition.

The story - 

Most of us do know the story of the Ramayana, so I won't really elaborate on it in this blog but here is a gist of what is to be expected in this book.

The story takes off from its previous version ‘Shattered Dreams’ where Ram, Sita and Lakshmana continue their exile journey into the vile Dandakaranya forest. The story delves into their adventures with the various ‘Rakshasas’ (Demons), their meetings with various sages and people during the journey– my favorite was the story of Agastya and Shabari who they meet towards the end of the book and most importantly the abduction of Sita.

The turning point in the story as we all know is when Surpanakha, the demoness sister of the King of Lanka Ravana, sets her eyes on Rama and wants him for her own. As Lakshmana proceeds to mutilate her, off she goes to her powerful brother Ravana vowing revenge. Ravana proceeds to kidnap the Sita using guile and Ram is left disconsolate.

What I liked

The human laments of Ram who has just lost his love, of Sita who regrets her desire for the deer and Lakshmana’s emotions after Sita gets abducted make for some interesting reading. Relationships – be it between the husband and the wife, brothers, teacher-disciple, father and son, and our own relationship with God, have been well explored in the book and can help us apply these in real life.  

What I also enjoyed are discovering some new stories that I was not aware of earlier. The story of Agastya Muni, some dark tales of Ravana, the story behind the forest of Dandakarnya and the eighteen curses on Ravana kept me riveted.

While the story is a light read, since most of us are pretty familiar with the story of the Ramayana, reading through the notes and absorbing the philosophies behind the story, may not be that easy even as the author has provided examples and analogies for easy understanding. But worth it!

What could be better -
While the writing is fairly lucid, it is a little too elementary for me. While I do like to read stories for the love of the stories, the love of the language makes me long for books that have good vocabulary, and are better written. 


That being said, I will still look forward to reading the next in the series where one of my favorite characters Hanuman makes his appearance. Overall, I will give a 3.5 on 5 stars for this book.

You can buy the book at key stores or online at Amazon and others. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Book Review: Bestseller she wrote by Ravi Subramanian

I have read several of Ravi Subramanian’s books. Having worked in the financial services industry for about two decades, he boasts of a series of thrillers all set in the backdrop of a bank. The formula has certainly worked so far with a fast paced storyline and surprising twists for many of his earlier stories. But this book had me flummoxed. While I was set to delve into another conspiracy hatched and shady finance deals, I found a story about a squeamish and sordid extra-marital affair that was as interesting as shopping for a bag of potatoes.  

The story: Aditya is the hot-shot middle-aged successful banker and master storyteller who has never read books apart from his own.  Shreya is a student finishing her studies at B-school (obviously an IIM. Bangalore in this case) where Aditya is an alumnus. And stating the obvious – Shreya is gorgeous, ambitious, and talented. Most importantly, she wants to be a best selling author. Shreya adores the author in Aditya and looks up to him to achieve her means to be a best selling author – by hook or by crook. Aditya is good looking, successful and a very attractive ‘older man’ and yes..Married to the perfect woman. Interspersed are various other characters in the book such as Shreya’s friend and confidante, Sunaina, Ashok’s friend and batchmate Sanjay and others. More than any other plot, the story revolves around how Aditya and Shreya have an affair and the outcomes of the affair.

Well, the back page of the paperback did say this –
“What happens when their world’s collide? Is it possible to love two people at the same time? Can real ambition come in the way of blind passion? Can trust once broken, be regained?
Ravi Subramanian delves into the glitzy world of bestsellers and uncovers a risky dalliance between a superstar novelist and his alluring protégé.”

I guess, I shouldn’t have expected anything different really – no shady finance deals in this book! The entire story is summarized in those two lines and is easy to fathom!

What may work for some: If you are a reader looking for some dramebaazi Bollywood style, maybe this is a book you will like. If you like random twists in the tale that seem pretty senseless, perhaps you may find this book interesting. And well, this book is purported to become a motion-picture soon. So if you like to read the book before you watch the movie, maybe you will want to read this.

What did not work for me - was just the fact that the book had nothing new to offer and was quite insipid. Perhaps the author has become too repetitive in his rendition of the MBA story – finishing B-school, the first job, the ambition during the first job etc. Maybe it was time that he moved away from what he is comfortable with - the 2 Bs of Banking and B-school to something different. Something that was a little more intense than a lazy spin of a story woven umpteen times already.

All in all, I was disappointed in this book especially since I did get some good thrills from his previous books. I will give this book 2 stars out of 5.

I am reviewing ‘The Bestseller She Wrote’ by Ravi Subramanian as a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Monday, September 07, 2015

Book Review: Mrs Funnybones by Twinkle Khanna

Celebrities are shallow, dumb, rich and have everything on a platter. The Twinkle Khanna that we knew was everything that most celebrities are – a star kid, married a star husband, starred in a movie called Mela after which better sense prevailed and retired from Bollywood and took to making what we all thought is something those rich people do – Make Candles or/and get into interior designing. 

But then, when we thought perhaps we will hear of her making a comeback as a Mom to the younger stars, she decided to don the writer’s hat in a new avatar called Mrs Funnybones instead. When I read her column first, the only thought I had was – Ghostwriter! There is no way someone who is a star kid, star wife, an ex-bollywood heroine, and is pretty gorgeous can write so well! But as I continued to be hooked on to her starry tales all with the eyes of the star wife, entrepreneur and a raving mom, dutiful daughter and DIL, she won my trust over. 

After having her readers hooked to her column, her next agenda was a book with a series of anecdotes in no particular order but alphabetical. The stories range around parenting, diets, moms and mom-in-laws, multi-tasking, babies, unreliable servants, entrepreneurship, family, the battle with the bulge (she apparently underwent a metamorphosis like Monica Geller did in Friends!), and several tales that women can nod their heads thinking yes, that’s kind of my life (or sometimes kind of wish that were my life!).

Sprinkled with a dash of some starry tales on bollywood parties and being a celebrity, the book mostly deals with challenges and situations that every family faces laced with plenty of humor and a wee bit of philosophy. 

All in all, I would definitely go back and read this book on a dreary day to perk me up and recommend it to my friends. I would rate this book four stars of five for the fun read it was. 

You can buy it on Amazon here

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Asus Divas Meet

I was quite excited when I saw an exclusive invite for a phone launch event in my mailbox. Being an avid follower of many things digital, my first reaction was curiosity! I have never been to one of these glitzy events and this sounded like the perfect chance to finally flex those blogger muscles and walk into an interesting event that sounded fun.
ASUS, the Chinese phone manufacturer was coming out with a slew of interesting phones and had invited bloggers to the ‘Divas meet’ at Mumbai at the ITC Grand Central in August. This event was for women bloggers only and promised to be an evening of banter and plenty of tech talk, beauty talk sprinkled liberally with the fun.

The highlight of the evening was the theme on selfies. With the launch of an amazing phone for taking selfies, the Asus team demonstrated how we girls could glow in all those selfies using the Asus ZenFone selfie phone.  Peter Chang the really cool MD introduced us to the affordable luxury phones with plenty of humor in his presentation. The selfie phone had a range of features that included a 13MP front facing camera with a front flash (yeah you read that right), and an auto-focus laser feature, and a front facing camera panoramic view. A cool ‘beautifying’ feature made the make-up less face look naturally made up. The screen was a good 5.5” HD display. Basically, this phone is a girl’s best friend! The other phone I completely blew me away was the ZenFone 2 Laser. While all the features of this phone were really cool, the fact that it had Corning ‘Gorilla Glass 4’ meant that it would virtually scratch free always! The MD actually took a knife and sliced at the phone but it remained as smooth as ever! Some of their other innovative products were the ‘Lolly Flash’ which is a cool device that is a little flash extension to give that extra light for an even better photo and a sleek power bank.

The star guest of the evening was VJ Anusha Dandekar who sashayed down in style to dish out her secrets to taking the perfect selfie. Born to talk, she gave the audience her tips and tricks to taking the perfect selfie. Not only did she give us these tips demonstrating the power of the ZenFone Selfie phone, but we also got a chance to try out this device in large groups competing for some funky prizes. Walking the ramp was another fun activity that took place to add to the glamor! She went on to also talk about beauty and make up and how to achieve the perfect selfie look. I never quite ever thought a few tweaks here and there in my photo taking abilities would do wonders!

And of course, there were some snacks while we caught up with other blogger friends and tried out those wonderful phones at the end of the event. All in all, a fun event. I can’t wait to get the ZenFone Selfie phone (although it will have to wait since I just got a new phone!).

For more information on these phones, check out their website.

Here are some pictures from the evening. 
The Asus Mascots

Presenting the phones

Taking a selfie

The irrepressible Anusha Dandekar

Trying out the phones

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Book Review - Tat Tvam Asi by Pinky Acharya

Tat Tvan Asi meaning ‘That Art Thou’ is a collection of little stories that according to the back cover is the author’s ‘viridicial journey that propagates empathy through inner cleansing’. I honestly don’t know what I was expecting when I signed up to review this book.

The stories ranged around acts of goodness by domestic helps, stories of good Samaritans, obvious insights on the thought processes of the haves and have-nots, technological advances etc. Each story about 1-2 pages long was followed by a message or a learning the author had from the story. It looks like the underlying message at the end of the book is little instances everyday in our lives have a story behind them and a learning behind them. But isn’t that true of our lives everyday?

Well honestly, I could be wrong but I found the stories something we have all experience at some point in our lives or read in the local news too! I didn’t find the insights particularly new or revealing or anything that would leave a deep impression in my mind. However, if you can use the insights and moral lessons the writer gives us in this light read, perhaps it might just inspire you to be ‘good’ and do some good in the world!

I would rate this book 2.5 on 5. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Book Review: The House that BJ Built by Anuja Chauhan

I first heard of this book through the omniscient ever buzzing twitteratti. Before I knew it, I was one of those wanting to get the book. I was fortunate to get a copy through a cool online library through an app.

I had really no idea what I was in for. I had heard the words ‘sparkling’ and ‘witty’ associated with the author Anuja Chauhan. So, well, the easiest way to describe the book is a rom-com written by a Delhi wali writer in chaste Hinglish.

A sequel to her previous work ‘The Pricey Thakur Girls’, this book revolves around their ancestral house in Delhi’s priciest part of town that their uncle BJ had passed on to them after he died. Bonita Singh, the daughter and heir of one of the pricey Thakur girls, is a feisty entrepreneur somewhat on the wrong side of the law through her pirated designer clothes business. Sparks fly when her step-cousin Samar who she had a crush on forever visited to see the dying BJ. Of course he is the handsome talented brooding energetic passionate (and all that classic Mills &Boons stuff) filmmaker while she is the sparkling, successful, witty, beautiful, smart (and all that classic M&B stuff again) heroine of the book. Samar promises to BJ that he will sell the house and divide the proceeds among all the Thakur Girls. The other Thakur girls are only too happy to be able to make crores with their ‘hissas’, but Bonu Singh refuses to sell. But that is the least of their problems.

Other family members make false claims to the house, and legal wrangles with oily slick lawyers need to be fought. Tenants refuse to evict and local goons demand their share. And Samar and Bonu Singh (Bonita) continue with their simmering chemistry with all the petty squabbling while their aunts indulge in mostly frivolous activities in a jolly get-together.

Overall, was a fun book for those who enjoy rom-coms, M&Bs and Hinglish. For others, I could classify it as a fluffy read but the Hinglish can put you off. I would give a rating of 3.5 on 5 for this book

Friday, June 12, 2015

The most Accepting and Accommodating country in the world - India

In yet another aspect where Indians score over the world must be the accepting and accommodating nature of Indians. Not only do we value everything we have, but we also tout it to the world outside as a ‘unique Indian aspect’ found nowhere else but in India.

It is perfectly acceptable to have foreign MNCs peddle sub-standard stuff to us…afterall we seem to be paying lesser than other countries..where else would you get a Rs5 chips packet or a Re 1 shampoo? Our toothpaste is chalkier, our soap less moisturizer, our ready to eat packets are slow poisons, our cosmetics are skin abrasives. But they are big brands you know. So we use them and will continue to use them. Our ‘export’ quality is the good quality stuff that we can’t buy while the stuff we buy from foreign brands is the worse quality many times the price..but who cares if we get the latest styles right? Some of my friends even get baby diapers from abroad because they are ‘softer’…but then perhaps babies abroad are more delicate right..and need diapers all day long unlike many of our cloth nappy wearing babies?

It is okay if the mangoes and all fruits are pesticide laden. After all what can we do? How can we not eat Hapoos? So we accept and life goes on. And yes, then we even have purifiers that claim to remove all pesticides and ‘harmful elements’. It is okay if cows eating plastic and garbage are milked and who knows our milk isn’t some white powder anyway. But again what to do? Change the milkman maybe?

We pay a lot of taxes yes. But you could say they are less than many countries such as the US so that is okay. What is also okay is the garbage strewn on the roads, footpaths, road dividers, and everywhere you look. So what if the road is terrible on the way to work. It is still better than what it would be after the monsoons as long as we can drive on it. So what if the footpaths have encroachments – hawkers, shops, garbage, parking spots, huts and you cannot walk on them, the roads are there for all to walk. It doesn’t matter anyway. The bikers can run you down on the footpath as well and get away with it.  Talking of roads and the brilliant infrastructure we have in the city, I mean the eastern freeway, the bandra-worli sealink (2-3 good roads in the whole city), obviously prices of Rs 2 crores for a matchbox unit are so justified anywhere in the distant municipal Mumbai limits. The rest of the connecting roads be damned.

I wonder if it is our ‘Chalta hai’ attitude that has prevailed, the fear of backlash from anyone or the lax attitude of anyone in the government office. Whatever be the reason, we learnt to compromise. We compromised, accepted, created a little noise maybe, but then went back to our peaceful routine, accepting everything like the Zen masters.  On the side, bad roads will continue killing people, our food, water and air will be the slow poison to kill us amongst the other things.  We can either put up, change brands, use more home cooked food (still pesticide ridden), get everything from abroad or flee abroad or maybe create some small movements to change things (which will die anyway)..forgive me for being so pessimistic!

However things are changing. A large organization  has been brought to its knees for the poor quality product they have sold us for years. We never believed fried squiggly dough could be healthy, but we didn't think it literally had poison either.  Abroad they would have had millions of dollars of lawsuits, but in India…chalta hai, they ll get away with it, you and I both know. As a result of this case, there are several organizations Indian and MNCs scurrying for cover with products they never should have sold to us in the first place. May such organizations that deem us unworthy of quality products remain in the covers forever. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Congratulations! It's a girl!

We had moved recently from a different city to Mumbai. We unpacked our bags, and all the clutter of the domestic life fell out. Ahead of the internet connection, the other more important requirement was the all-important cook and a helper to help with the cleaning. .  Finding a house is extremely simple thanks to housing websites these days, but unfortunately there is no app to find helpers with a good work ethic and who have a heart of gold.

As we sent the word out for the vacancy, a plump looking decently dressed humble looking lady accompanied by her young teenage daughter walked into my house for an ‘interview’. She said she was new to the place and knew no one and had worked for no one in the area. She had no references she could give me but she just wanted an opportunity to find some work somewhere. Something in her sincerity appealed to my otherwise suspicious mind as I thought I should give her a chance. Looking at her daughter, I wondered if she would train her to wash utensils and clean houses too. But as I look back to that day, I see how mistaken I was in my assessment on this front.

It turned out that the lady had three daughters around the same age and she was working hard to educate the girls to enable them to make a good living better than what she could manage.  Her husband was fortunately not a drunkard but a good man with a steady income and a living quarter that allowed them to live with their daughters with dignity. And both were happily providing for their three daughters to study well beyond the free school education. Vocational courses, a laptop, anything to help the girls learn and get good jobs even while they slogged all day.

On a similar note, another woman I employed had three daughters too.  But she had left them in the village she came from. She often spoke about how young she was but had so many responsibilities and mouths to feed. She felt the best way of reducing her ‘burden’ was to hand it over to another in the form of marriage.  And even though she lived in the big progressive city of Mumbai, she had no qualms in marrying off her eldest daughter at the age of 15 to a lad of 18 to live a wretched existence like she did.

While the second case made me despondent, the first case gave me hope. Save the girl child, and cherish her is not just another campaign. It is a very real awareness requirement in both rural and urban India where girls are routinely killed, treated as a burden and never a priority. If only, all parents started looking at daughters not as a burden, but educated them and loved them as they would love their boys, the country would be a much better place. 

A giant mithai box at the Chembur Festival

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Day in Dubai

It was the month of December and I was deep in the middle of work at office and work. The last vacation I had seemed to have been years back, (okay, I am exaggerating). Proposals to be submitted, events to be held, projects to be completed, I seemed to be drowning in a truck load of work. Fortunately there was the amazing holiday in the middle-east that I had to look forward to, light at the end of the tunnel and a glimmer of hope to come back rejuvenated.

I had made plans with the two SSs in my life (daughter and hubby) to visit the cities of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Muscat for a lovely long trip during the Christmas and New Year break.
Dubai is a city of man-made wonders. I am not the biggest fan of man-made wonders, but when I saw this glittering city, I thought otherwise. A city that came up in the desert, a city with few resources, and a city that is one of the largest commercial hubs in the world is a force to reckon with. It showed the perseverance of mankind to conquer a hostile environment and transform it completely, that people now flock from far and wide to it. Tall buildings do remind me of Howard Roark of The Fountain Head and make me believe, they truly are testament of the human spirit in achieving such heights!

With its man-made palm islands, skyscrapers that adorn the skyline, endless shopping malls, one can only marvel at the rulers who achieved all of this in a short span of time. Besides these man-made wonders, the desert and the beaches are natural wonders that can be seen in Dubai.  The sheer scale and size of everything here are mind boggling. Be it the miles of shopping malls, or the ‘sky is the not the limit’ height of the tall buildings, they did make me feel very small. How I wish I had a house in one of those tall buildings with fantastic views from up there or atleast a similar building in Mumbai! Perhaps a housing website will help me find me a great deal in Mumbai in those coveted towers downtown (the day I can afford it!)

Apart from the artificial wonders, Dubai is also blessed with natural wonders of the beach and the sea that are of course humongous and you feel insignificant when faced with these natural wonders. Our day had us visit the sand dunes and the beach. It is incredible how sitting on a sand dune and watching the sunset, or sitting on the beach can make all your stress dissolve away as you realize how small you are as compared to the vastness of things around you. I am guessing that going up one of those sky scrapers (esp. the Burj Al Arab) would have the same effect. The tranquility along with little SSS troweling her way through the sand and picking out shells made for a blissful day!

We wrapped up the day with a lovely dinner with one of old school friends and her family and truly felt thankful for the people I was with for being such fun and being there.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Reading Bed Time Tales to your Toddler

Being a working Mom means a hectic evening with the little one. The two hours I get after I get home is the most precious time of the day. Strictly divided into three slots of dinner time, play time and bed time, (and the fourth is my slot of MY Time after she sleeps!). My 1.5 year old SSS is becoming naughtier by the day and with extended play times, her dinner time and bed time are fast morphing into play time as well!

While her favorite activity is running around the house, and opening all the drawers and kitchen cabinets she can, my favorite activity is definitely not fetching the balls she throws!  Being from a family of avid readers, my personal favorite activity is reading of course and reading to her is a delightful way of spending time with her. Alas! The only time I get to do that is at bed time! Dangling a pretty picture book is the easiest way to divert her attention from ransacking her cupboard for socks and get her to clamber to the bed!

If you are Mom, you may tell me how short their attention spans are and how difficult it is to make them read, but patience is key. Here are some of my tips to make your kids read –
  1. Get board books with bright pictures. The larger the pictures the better it is.
  2. Large Pictures of animals, objects they recognize make for ideal reading
  3. Forget long stories of the Arabian nights and Gulliver’s travels for now. Read small stories that have very few sentences on each page.
  4. You don’t have to read. Spin a different story around the picture
  5. Point out little objects in the picture
  6. Allow them to turn the pages.
  7. If they start tearing pages, tell them a firm No and take away the book for a while
  8. Start off for as much time as they let you read to them.
  9. You read! If they see you reading, they will want to automatically read too
  10. Patience Patience Patience
Of course, I make it sound easier than it really is. Truth is, it is hard work, but I am hoping it pays well in the long run!

Now the only problem is, once they start reading, there is no stopping them. If a juicy mystery can keep me up till wee hours of the night, the teddy bear tales are just as powerful in invoking tears and tantrums to not put the book down and to finish the stories! Then the only thing you can then do is offer that glass of warm milk, change her diaper, switch off the lights and sing her favorite nursery rhymes to lull her to sleep. And that my dear readers, is how SSS sleeps a cozy night to sweet dreams of crows and fairies and cows!

What books do you read to your child?