November 20, 2014

A wacky month

November has been a total wacky month for me...

Interstellar is a movie which caught B's mind completely, and being a movie which was made for the 70mm screen, he made up his mind to go all the way to the only 70mm screen which exists in India. Yes, we went all the way to Hyderabad, to Prasad IMAX to watch this movie. It was a total weekend trip, quick, fun and something so new. The movie was totally enjoyable, and the screen was phenomenal!

I am taking a trip, without B or T. Its going to be one after 2 years. A trip to Hampi, with office folks. I am excited and also wondering how they would be managing. But T being older and more understanding I am guessing should be very manageable.

And now with just a month left for the year to end, I am thinking I need to speed up my reading and try to complete the many books I am yet to get to. A month to go this year... and I have way too many books than weeks.



Finished:

A book with a number in the title: The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency
A book with a blue cover: And the mountains echoed
A book by a female author: C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
A book with a mystery: D is for Deadbeat

The second book in a series: River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy)  (*this can ideally be for a book with more than 500 pages too. Let me see if I manage to read something else by year end for that)
A book with a mystery: Tides of Memory by Sydney Sheldon ( that is in memory of my school time forbidden mystery ;) )
A book your friend loves:  Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim
A book that is more than 10 years old:  The House of Kanooru by Kuvempu 
A book with more than 500 pages: Fifty shades of Grey by E.L. James
The First book by a Favourite AuthorSessiv Ev by Orhan Pamuk
A book published this year: Once upon a crush by Kiran Manral
A book that became a movie: Fault in our Stars by John Green
A book which you heard about online: Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
A forgotten classic: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
A book set in another continent: Still Alice by Lisa Genova 
A book of short stories: Eunuch Park by Palash Krishna Mehrotra
A best selling book: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Currently Reading:

A funny book: Pricey Thakur Girls by Anuja Chauhan
Free Square: The Korean word for butterfly by James Zerndt 

To be done in 1 month:

A book written by someone under thirty
A book with non human charachters
A book with a one-word title - Infidel by Ayaan Ali
A book of non fiction
A book based on a true story
A book that scares you 
A book at the bottom of your to be read pile

October 7, 2014

Bingo Update: Fifty shades and Brave New World

10th month of the year and this does warrant a Bingo Update.

Finished:

A book with a number in the title: The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency
A book with a blue cover: And the mountains echoed
A book by a female author: C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
A book with a mystery: D is for Deadbeat

The second book in a series: River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy)  (*this can ideally be for a book with more than 500 pages too. Let me see if I manage to read something else by year end for that)
A book with a mystery: Tides of Memory by Sydney Sheldon ( that is in memory of my school time forbidden mystery ;) )
A book your friend lovesCalligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim
A book that is more than 10 years old: The House of Kanooru by Kuvempu 
A book with more than 500 pages: Fifty shades of Grey by E.L. James
The First book by a Favourite Author: Sessiv Ev by Orhan Pamuk
A book published this year: Once upon a crush by Kiran Manral
A book that became a movie: Fault in our Stars by John Green
A book which you heard about online: Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
A forgotten classic: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
A book set in another continent: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Currently Reading:

A book of short stories: Eunuch Park by Palash Krishna Mehrotra
Free Square: The Korean word for butterfly by James Zerndt

To be done in 3 months:

A book written by someone under thirty
A book with non human charachters
A funny book
A book with a one-word title
A book of non fiction
A book based on a true story
A best selling book
A book that scares you
A book at the bottom of your to be read pile

Can someone suggest a book by an author under thirty?

Fifty shades of Grey


 A book which I thought I would never read.

B cajoled me into trying something not my style, and see how I like it. I was very wary when I picked this up, and I was in no mood for some erotica. Reading the sample, I was convinced this was going to be a complete waste of time. With phrases like ' my sex' I was really unsure why I started reading it. Obviously the BDSM theme was pulling, its not really everyday I come across  work which is really out of the usual expanse of feelings and characters.

One of the things which did push me to attempt the book was the emotions which are shown of the girl, who is hopelessly in love, and who feels the futility of the relationship, and how she is unsure yet pulled into this whole world where she doesn't even know what to expect.And worst of all, he does not even warrant an explanation for why he is what he is. And, she is a person on logic, and reasoning, a hopeless Jane Eyre fan, and so not wanting the weird relationship which is panning out with him.

Very quick read and past the 60% mark, I was reading more of the story and skimming through the sex scenes. Nevertheless, I know that I would like to know the underlying story, so will pick up the second part too.

Brave New World

 This was a book which was suggested to me eons back, but I just never wanted to pick up those sci-fi stuff. I did not see myself reading those, and it just didn't seem to interest me. But when I had to pick a forgotten classic, I thought, why not!

And I was not disappointed !

It was different, a world which looks like a possibility, considering I am reading the book ages after it was originally written. But, the charachters, story and flow was beautiful. It is a very short read, but thoroughly enjoyed it.

I must admit that this is one of the few books which I was left gaping at what exactly happened at the end, and I had to read some critic notes to truly understand the authors thoughts towards the end of the book. It has been a great beginning and I am a little inclined to pick up some Sci-fi now.





September 16, 2014

Something french

I walked in and looked about. 

Everything looked just about the same. The blue walls, the water coolers, the small garden patch with the benches. It did bring a smile to my face. 

Turning a corner had me walking towards a chattering group and the familiar faces made me the silent spectator as always. 

And then I spotted the coffee brown polo neck and tan corduroy jacket. 

'Hello Sir, how have you been?' 

We started to walk to the playground as he was headed out for his lunch break duty. And I dutifully tagged along speaking about work, travel and all. 

My was smiling all through and seeing him again brought back so many memories or studying and doing things just to have him smile! 

'Amma... wake up.. the sun is OUT! It is day.'

Oh well, there are some dreams and some thoughts which are better off in dreams.  

I opened my eyes smiling, and thought that was the kind of crush high school physics teachers were entitled to :) They last through years and years, 15 years to be precise :)

As I thought back, I was quite surprised by the extend I remember about his dressing style, his goatee, his smile, and the seriousness with which he prepared his classes, and the interruptions which he did not entertain. I still have a vivid picture in my head about how he walked about with his box of chalks and textbooks.

Seems like ages back.

I have an immense liking for french beards, or goatees, or whatever it is called. And when I say immense, I quite mean it.


Source: http://images.yuku.com.s3.amazonaws.com/imag/jpj/9c116a978b4cbfc688ff60acfac9cebc68109854_r.jpg

I believe that is something which I have loved since school, and this teacher being one to sport is so well with his jeans, polo neck and corduroy jackets, had me ( and many more girls) listening raptly to vectors and forces and speed and pressure issues.

 A shaggy look, beard is something I will swoon over, any day, over the clean shaven or mustache. There is a mystery, a warm, fuzzy feeling whenever I see men as above. And that is also the reason, one of my all time favourite men in Bollywood has been Kunal Kapoor. It is as obscure a choice, I have been told, but that is the truth.


Source: http://www.pinbollywood.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/1368073346e4d23.jpg

My fascination with a goatee is to such an extend that I have asked B to attempt a goatee in lieu of any gifts for birthday or anything for the entire year. But, he anyhow picked to give gifts that have an 'itchy beard' ! I believe that there is sure to be a period of irritation, especially when the hair lengths are different, but once trimmed and the threshold is crossed, it would be wonderful. Or so, I believe. I still plan on repeating the request, he might just have that bout of overflowing love wherein he might attempt it one more time.

Fingers crossed!

September 3, 2014

Book Review: Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar (Translated by Jerry Pinto)

A book with 2 chapters. A book with just 6 charachters. A book which makes you think of love very differently.

A paying guest with a free spirit in a house where a family of 4 resides. A son who falls in love with the paying guest and the daughter also follows suit. But the daughter being more feisty, decides to run away with the man and live a life away from the eyes of parents and society. But, alas, only to be left stranded and in need of counselling to get back her life and goals in order.

The son is distraught and does not even know what has happened. But he fathoms the impossible when he realizes his sister is back, and his love and sister had run off. No one understands the son, he goes into depression, and that too is not even accepted by his parents who are only fussing about the daughter, getting her fine and marrying her off. There is a certain pathos which has been shown on the side of the parents, in their dealings with the children. Society and expectations mould the behaviour of parents towards adult children. They are expected to understand and comply to keep with the traditions, and to the extend that they do not see what is blatant enough, but not the norm.

This book left me with a feeling of unknown. It did not end, per say. I felt there was a closure required, which was lacking, in my respect. But, the work was beautiful in seeing the feelings coursing through love, despair and rejection. It was beautifully portrayed.

Rating: 3/5

August 17, 2014

Book Review: Sessiv Ev (Silent House) by Orhan Pamuk

 Sessis Ev, or Silent House is the second novel by Orhan Pamuk originally written in turkish and later translated into English. His first novel being a turkish book called Cevdet Bey ve Oğulları (Cevdet Bey and His Sons), which I believe was not translated to English. So, for all practical purposes of the Bingo Reading challenge, where I am to read a first book by a favourite author, this book fits the bill. And at the onset I should also add that this book did nothing for me as My name is Red did. That was a different setting and maybe more complex and intertwined to my taste. This was something I picked up, and read through, without really feeling anything much.


Set in a small town outside Istanbul, and revolving around how 3 grandchildren come to visit their ailing grandmother and her help about the house, a dwarf. As we proceed through the book, we see how the past plays out and how the many people in the small town are related yet believes to be unrelated.

 Eldest drinks and binges all through his stay and wonders about his ex-wife and how she enjoys life. He is shown to be someone who wallows in misery and drinks till sleep overbears. Sister lives a life analyzing the communist era and trying to be there for eldest through the rough patch. She aims to spend time with the grandmom though the grandmom does not really believe so. Youngest, with money in his pockets, from private tutoring classes, wishes to woo and live life with the party crowd in this sleepy beach town. He seems to believe he is in love with a girl and it is interesting to see how he misread her intentions, and almost forces himself on him, before taking control of the situation and rethinking what he is going to do. 

One of the characteristic things which I liked when reading My Name is Red was how every chapter would be in the first person narrative of each charachter in the book. This was something new for me, but this book also had the same method of narration. But, when I look at this book, the method seems to be a little more ineffective, or something which he has not mastered to that extend. This book was a good  20 years before My Name is Red, so I believe its safe to believe he was testing out strategies long before the master piece.

Overall the book was not as thrilling as My Name is Red, the plot was not that gripping either. The story was told mostly about thoughts and what each charachter felt as the summer proceeded and how things pan out for each. It was a little slow and also did not really evoke much feelings neither in terms of story or language.

Rating: 2.5/5

July 25, 2014

Banana bread infused with rum soaked sultanas

Been a while since I did some baking, and when I saw a banana bread recipe on Nigella Lawson's website, I thought this would be perfect for a weekend! And I had some rum sitting about too which I was thinking of using up lest I start using it in other ways ;) Also, added to that I had some bananas which no one seemed to be interested in consuming!

Banana chocolate bread with rum soaked sultanas


So, that was what pretty much lead to this bread, and the chocolate was something I added just to on a whim, which I thought would be the perfect combination for the liquor.
Banana chocolate bread with rum soaked sultanas
 Ingredients

Sultanas - 2/3 cup
Dark rum - 5 tbsp
Flour - 1 1/4 cup
Baking Powder - 2 tsp
Baking Soda - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Cocoa powder - 1 tbsp
Unsalted butter (melted)- 9 tbsp
Superfine sugar - 3/4 cup
Eggs - 2
Vanilla Extract - 1 tsp
Very ripe banana (mashed) - 2 large
Chopped walnuts (optional) - 1/3 cup

Method
  1. Pour the rum over the sultanas in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from fire and keep covered for about an hour. This helps the sultanas soak in all the rum and distend a little. After an hour, drain the remaining rum and keep aside the sultanas.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170 C.
  3. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt together. 
  4. In a separate bowl, melt the butter, add sugar and beat well. Add eggs and vanilla extract to this mixture. Next add the mashed bananas and then the soaked raisins, followed by the chopped walnuts.
  5. Add the sifted flour mixture to the wet ingredients and fold it in.
  6. Pour this mixture into a greased loaf tin  and bake at 170 C for about 40-60 mins. A tester will come clean, on being completely baked.
If you do plan to make it, I must add, it tastes heavenly, and the rum is not that over powering that you would think of opting out. Try it... its a great flavour!

July 24, 2014

Book Review: Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer

Set in Iran during the uprising, when being against the uprising was a sure way to the gallows. A man is picked up by the militants and thrown into the prison. His wife awaits for his return, his daughter does not know what is happening. His son lives across the ocean in the U.S trying to study an make ends meet with the money sent by his father.
This is a book which had so much to offer with such diverse characters and locations, did not, in my opinion, pick up to its true potential. It does not draw on the culture of Iran or the Jewish customs. I felt I was reading a story about the insurgents, or militants, and their outlook which was affecting a family.

I had such great expectations from the book, especially after I read the NY Times review of the book and so on. But, I did not see this book leaving me with a wonderful feeling of having read something beautiful. There was little about the place, and maybe it is that I was expecting more historic references as the book dealt with the difficult times when the family was looking to leave Tehran and make an escape away from the madness.

Most of the book is in third person, and the most effective prose all lies in the conversations Shirin, the daughter has with her mother and her friend. Her feelings and fears have been very nicely articulated, and how she at her age believes how the universe functions, and how she can cause harm to her parents by her innocent attempts to help. One of the interesting bits was the feeling and life led by Parvin, the son who is studying architecture in New York, living as a paying guest with a Hasidic family, and does seem to like the daughter of the family, though he is unsure how the family will accept his non - religious ways.

All said and done, I think this book lacked the punch, which I was very much expecting considering the setting and the time period of the plot.

Rating: 2.5/5

July 18, 2014

Binggo

Been 2 months since my last update, so thought I should get to it, though I have just 2 more books to add to the list. At this rate, I truly wonder whether I shall get done with all the squares... 10 done of the 25

Finished:
A book with a number in the title: The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency
A book with a blue cover: And the mountains echoed
A book by a female author: C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
A book with a mystery: D is for Deadbeat

The second book in a series: River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy)  (*this can ideally be for a book with more than 500 pages too. Let me see if I manage to read something else by year end for that)
A book with a mystery: Tides of Memory by Sydney Sheldon ( that is in memory of my school time forbidden mystery ;) )
A book your friend loves: Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim
A book which is more than 10 years old: The House of Kanooru by Kuvempu
 
Currently Reading:
A book which I heard of online: Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer

To be read
A book at the bottom of the to be read pile: Room by Emma Donoghue
A book set in another continent: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

July 16, 2014

Book Review: The House of Kanooru by Kuvempu

When we can gone to Thirthahalli, little did I know that I would come back with a book which would surely show me a life which is far beyond what I would have imagined. The House of Kanooru by Kuvempu, was a pick from Kuvempu's house which the State of Karnataka has turned into a historic museum. It housed many artifacts, books, articles of daily use which I remember being used by my grandmother! Things which I never thought I would see again were the items on display. And I had a strong urge to buy something from there as a memorabilia. And this book is what caught my eye.

Written by Kuvempu himself, and with a introduction by Girish Karnad. This was made into a movie by Girish Karnad, called Kanooru Heggadithi in the year 1999. He acted, directed and wrote the screenplay for this movie, and this movie won the National Film Award for the Best feature film in 2000.

Based around the Kanooru family, two brothers and their love for a girl. The ancestral property which plays as the stage for all that transcribes through a period of 10 years. The seasons change, the people age and children grow up and marry, but some of the smaller things in life such as family, love and respect stay on forever!

The language of the book, being a translation, works to be not that smooth, and at times you can see the Indian speaking style being translated as is in English. This does get a little while getting used to, but nevertheless it was a wonderful read. It narrates the life of villagers and farmers and their seamless association with nature and all that is available around them. I was left many times wondering why didn't I think of all these things which one could do.

The story is predictable and meanders around the main characters and their life. There are many small tit bits which are woven in to strengthen the characters and give depth to the narration. But, overall, I think this is a book for the writing and the clear picture it portrays of the life in the country. The story shows the feudal nature of life and at times the faces people assume with power, poverty, money and loss.

Rating: 3.5/5

June 24, 2014

Morning Drives

Weekends tend to be a snore unless you plan something in advance. And I am the kind of person who tends to go into a real bad mood by the end of the weekend if we have not done something more than the customary grocery shopping. Planning a weekend takes effort and when it involves more than your family, they really have to be the same kind of people.

A friend asked us to join them for a picnic and we were so thrilled at doing something different, we were up at 6:30am ( well in reality, T woke us up). We were off to Nandi hills, a mere 70kms from where we stay, but the idea of packing up food and eating it there was enough to have us cooking till 7:30 am, and then setting off. 2 couples and 2 kids all packed into the car, and happy to be off on a road trip, if I may call it so!
A welcome back to Nandi hills
Having been to Nandi hills many a times, it was just the pleasure of the drive and the conversation which was so great, but for our friends, it was their first trip up there. And, boy, has the place changed! I realized that I was headed up the hill, after 3 years, which means T has never been there even. They have lookouts set up and lots of picnic spots, which were all occupied. And along with the people, were so many monkeys, something which I have not seen in all the times I have been there prior to 2011.
There are monkeys everywhere!
The wind which blows at the top of the hill is something all the bikers and trekkers come for, and that was something which was still very much there. T was in fact a little cold, and I did not carry a jacket, which was quite irresponsible, but then I think a 3 year hiatus can affect the memory of the chill. ;)
The wind blown lovelies
The eateries have not become any more in number, and the same ol' tea shop served the ice cream and tea. It is still that early morning tea place, or else a picnic spot offering you the snacks and drinks supply all through. But, I think its one of the places from where you see Bangalore in a very different light, especially if you head up there at 6am, when the gates open, and watch the sunrise!
Chillly but so much fun!
As you can see I had clearly forgotten how chilly Nandi hills can get, but the company made it all worthwhile!

June 18, 2014

Hootsuite or Buffer?

Recently I had asked my social networks whether anyone had anything specific to say about Hootsuite and Buffer for social media management, and I wanted some user reviews based on corporate profile management. Most of the inputs were in favour of using Hootsuite, but having started off with buffer, I thought I needed to find out if Buffer would work too. Also, added to the fact, I was falling in love with Buffer's clean and simple approach without the entire tutorial need as I saw when I signed up for a Hootsuite trial, this was more an attempt to stick to something which was more pleasing to the eye.

No doubt buffer is certainly more pleasing to the eye, but Hootsuite seems to offer more.
Buffer

  • Clean, simple, intuitive
  • Adding content from feeds and adding feeds in themselves are a breeze
  • Scheduling posts and fixing time and days 
  • Quick analytics on retweets/favourites and most importantly, the reach of each post, essentially things which really matter. For better analytics, they have a business subscription
  • Allows 10 social profiles, 1 team member and 15 feeds for the Awesome plan ( approx. $10/month)

    Hootsuite
    • Looks very similar to tweetdeck and hence for those who have used it, would find it simple
    • Its easy to pull content from one social platform to another, and makes it simpler to discover content
    • The auto scheduler does an auto scheduling based on your message cap and with the days and time period which you would like. Very similar to buffer
    • Exact times can not be auto-scheduled
    • Hootsuite Syndicator works well for adding posts from feeds, but the overall interface is cluttered.
    • The reporting section looks more swanky with more things to show your boss
    • Allows 50 social profiles, unlimited feeds, 1 team member and 1 report/month ( approx. $10/month)

    And when I am looking to manage about 6-8 social profiles, and the chances of it increasing is very high, then I do not see how Buffer will work, even though it seems so much more easier. Maybe it is simpler for a person to use for their personal social media management, but I doubt it will work for a corporate profile.

    Do any of you have any thoughts?

    Images are linked to their original sources

      June 16, 2014

      Something new...

      So, I got a new phone. Knowing my luck ( or not) with phones, I am looking at any instant for something to happen to it. Its just so difficult that I do not know how I am going to make peace with this new gadget in my hand. I worry too much, but with my history of phones, I think I have all the right to be super worried!

      An with a new phone, I am trying my hand at some fitness regimes. Gone are the gaming days, so now all I need on my phone is the Flipboard, some social media and some trackers. The latest trackers that I am looking for is a fitness one. I started to use Nexercise, but I do not like it, prmarily because, it does not have the simple floor exercises to log, and it expects me to be doing some complicated like Aqua jogging, Ballet, Burpees, Disc Golf and what not. This is one of the top downloaded apps on Play Store, but doesn't seem to work for me. Or maybe I should try it out a little more, I do not know.
      Image Source: http://kansan.com/media/2012/10/apps_alee.jpg

      I am going to be using a few fitness apps and going to compare what I am using, liking and which one I am going to stick to eventually.

      1. MyFitnessPal Calorie Counter
      2. Lose It
      3. Sworkit
      4. Nexercise

      Sworkit is a circuit training app and it syncs to MyFitnessPal, which makes it all the more a perfect combination. So, I shall be using these and coming back with what I like and also what is the kind of exercises which I like to do.

      I started with the Calorie Counter, and I decided I do not want to do it. I have done my fair share of counting and I thought that in my head if I know that I am not eating junk, and I am eating good food on a regular basis, I am allowed to eat whatever I want in between, maybe just on the weekends. That should help in my counting in the very passive sense.

      Lose It again being on the Calorie counting route, I decided I did not want to do this either. But, I must add that Lose It was a far more beautiful and user friendly app as compared to Calorie Counter. But for me, maybe some other day.

      Sworkit and Nerxercise I have been using regularly for the past 2 weeks and the ease of logging workouts id very high in Nexercise, and the range of exercise options seems very nice in Sworkit. I still have not figured how to use them in conjunction though. With this added responsibility of logging workouts, now I have started aiming to exercise more regularly as I need to input the data. This might be a new app fad, which might wear out, but nevertheless till it lasts, I am getting some workout done!

      June 7, 2014

      A Thank You

      Many of my conversations with B have a potential to be a post, but I do not ever get down to writing most of them. Today, there was something which came out and I thought I should write it down.

      When I look around, I see parents of many toddlers who have raised their kids in a way very different to me. I am not in a position to say whether that way or my way is better, but what I do know is that I am happy the way things are.

      When I look back, one of the first things which I am grateful for is Amma to tell me that I should put T in a cot, teach her to sleep by herself, rather than get her used to body warmth and suit the short term convenience. I know the effort I put in to sleep train her, and the extend of crying I had to endure to ensure that she would learn. The extend of reading I did to CIO or go in a slow, paced manner. Eventually I decided not to CIO, but I chose to go with the Sears method, and it worked for me, but that was possible primarily because of the cot being there.
      3 months

      Another thing which kept me sane was a decision which I made to use diapers, and not follow the cloth napkin routine. There was a strong urge in me to use the eco-friendly, baby- friendly option, but that was certainly not a solution for me, as a person almost all on my own with T, I was not in a position to take on another responsibility. So, I chose diapers and it helped me a long way, and in a way was also responsible for helping me sleep train her.

      Another thing which I see is so many children who are jumping about in cars, sitting on the front seat, and many a times, moving between seats too! T has been on a car seat since the time she started to move about in cars, and that has made my life so much more simpler. I was able to move about on my own since the time she was 4 months, and she started to enjoy the rides. As a mother taking her child out all by herself, there is no way she can do it, unless there is a car seat. I think this gave me the mobility and peace of mind while driving, making my life much more bearable.

      4 months
      I am not a person who loves kids. In fact I am not too sure whether I have ever been the child loving kind. I would just say that I have been a person for rules and following them, so which might be a reason why kids and me never really gelled. And, I think a large part of my kind of child rearing has been influenced by these rule following ideas. This might not suit many, but now I have a kid who is so set on rules, I am happy :)

      May 19, 2014

      Book Review: The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim

      Set in Korea during its occupation by the Japanese. That was a setting, I had never looked at, and knew very little about. Many of my historic fiction reads have put me back in touch with history and in fact I think I retain these stories and those pages in history much more after reading stories weaved around the facts.

      The Calligrapher's daughter was lent by a friend, and it fit into my Bingo requirement too! Set in a small village, a calligrapher who believes the Japanese are spoiling his country. He who wants a son so bad, he refuses to name his daughter when she is the healthy born child after numerous child related misfortunes. It gives the reader a peep into the ways of traditional lives, with separate living quarters for male and female members of the family. Rules and regulations are abundant and a small girl who struggles to keep up with them, and yet have some fun. As I progressed through the book, a clear message which I seemed to be receiving was that with the influx of Christianity, there was a women's empowerment movement which was being brought about, with new rules and regulations, some which were in complete opposition to the original Korean way of daily living.

      The position royalty holds in this Japanese occupied country, and how they navigate through their traditions while imbibing the new Japanese ones also. A life of boredom and confinement portrayed through the historic narrations by the aunt has a lasting impression on the calligrapher's daughter. The story moves through childhood, marriage, WW II, moving houses and losing people on the way. All through we see how a girl who was not wanted, and always chastised for her open, rebellious attitude bring her family together and leave many things behind to be there for them at the time of need.

      There were numerous instances where I felt that the protagonist's mother portrays the typical women of the yester years. How they know what is the right thing to say, and they know what is the unsaid. Myself, I fail at it miserably, so this was interesting to read and in fact see how my MIL usually achieves this quite effortlessly. My mother on the contrary I see as myself, who doesn't bother too much about unsaid things, and look at the words which are spoken and act upon that alone.

      Personally, this book was a very simple read, very well written and infused with much regional specifics which was good to learn. Traditional beliefs, doings, rules, however you wish to name them, this book is filled with them, but it was all new to me, so I thoroughly enjoyed it!

      Rating: 4/5

      May 12, 2014

      Poovar, Kerala

      Kerala is my home state. This means I have been to very limited touristic places in Kerala and I end up being at home or visiting the N number of relatives who are dispersed throughout the state. So, I would have traveled along the entire length and breadth of the state, but I would have seen very limited wonders Kerala has to offer.

      This time when I planned to be at home, I thought I should take T out to some real backwaters and show her the small kids splashing about and that should help get her to love the water like I do. We decided to visit Poovar and take a long boat ride through the meandering, narrow waterways. There were very recent rains towards the coastal regions of Kerala, so it was perfect with lots of water and not too hot and humid a weather to enjoy the beauty.

      Identify the bird
      Floating cottages of Poovar
      Meandering backwaters
      Poovar, lies about an hours drive from Trivandrum. It is an easily accessible location, and worked for us a great day trip. The motor boat rides through the backwaters can be taken for 1 or 2 hours, and they drive you all the way upto the Golden Sand beach. The beach is beautiful and the waves are soft and not as rough a Kovalam. There are just tender coconut vendors at this beach, which is really the mouth where the sea water enters to form the backwater stretch at Poovar.

      Once you finish with the boat ride there are some great restaurants around Poovar, at the innumerable resorts which serve great food. Local cuisine and sea food being the top fare.
      Giggling kids splashing in the water

      We decided to head to Kovalam to gorge on some sea food, and boy, did  we gorge! Crabs, squids, prawns and fish, we did true justice to being at the coast!


      Sea wall
      Harbour








      May 10, 2014

      A Bingo Update

      My last Bingo Update was in March, so its been a while and a little late too. I have got done with just 2 more books, and picking up something from a friend now! This means I am done with 6 squares from the 25 for the year

      Finished:
      A book with a number in the title: The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency
      A book with a blue cover: And the mountains echoed
      A book by a female author: C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
      A book with a mystery: D is for Deadbeat

      The second book in a series: River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy)  (*this can ideally be for a book with more than 500 pages too. Let me see if I manage to read something else by year end for that)
      A book with a mystery: Tides of Memory by Sydney Sheldon ( that is in memory of my school time forbidden mystery ;) )

      Currently Reading:
      A book your friend loves: Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim


       

      May 9, 2014

      Book Review: River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh

      When I completed the Sea of Poppies, I was all the more thrilled to go on to the second part, but some travel plans had me taking something which was lighter to carry around. During this time, I ended up reading some reviews on Goodreads and across various blogs. Many of the reviews did bring about a feeling that this is not going to be as good as the first part, something which happens to so many of the books which fall into a series mode.

      But when I did start reading it, on completing the first 200 odd pages, I felt the story was wonderful and it was more about the opium than about the people involved in it. The characters who came across every paragraph in the first book were almost sidelined and in fact when I think of it, I do not know how many times they were mentioned through the book itself. But, the book has a different set of people and a life which picks up for them after the ship wreck. A changed scenario, but still bound together by the opium trade.

      When I was done with done with 350 pages, I started to pick up pace, and that is when things were not the same again. The turns in history are beautifully woven in and to see how the East India Company and British have had their share of supremacy all through those years.

      The book winds down with tragedies and then in a sudden instant you are transferred back to a different era where all the opium details was an old man narrating his life and the past to small eager ears.

      I had read very iffy reviews about this book, and those did make me feel a little unsure, but once I started to read with more concentration the story was beautiful. I think it took a while for it to grow on me and capture my full attention, but once that happened, it was a wonderful read.

      Rating: 4.5/5

      April 29, 2014

      A year for drives

      A year for drives...

      That is exactly what this year is looking for me. A new car always has that effect I believe on many new owners. You want to 'test' your car and what better ways than driving along the vast expanses of our country!

      So the next trip up is not something which was planned, but it is something which I never imagined myself doing. I always thought it was too difficult, or maybe just not 'me'. A lot many things are changing in me anyways after my marriage to B. Well, that should be another post altogether!

      So, we are planning to drive to Trivandrum. This was a planned trip, but the driving bit was not planned. We had intended to book a Tatkal train ticket or maybe take a flight, even though at the last moment. But, reading and looking at the supposed to be great routes on the Bangalore- Salem - Madurai- Nagercoil route and the little frenzy inducing stretch between Nagercoil and Trivandrum, I thought why not try it.

      There will be a fair bit of driving and with both of us geared up to use our new car alot, this was a perfect opportunity!


      April 14, 2014

      Thirthahalli - Relaxed and laid back

      Thirthahalli has been on the cards since the time we drove down to Chitradurga, and saw what great roads the Tumkur route had. The plan was to cover Shimoga, but that was soon changed to Thirthahalli as we found a great place which we wanted to visit... Kolavara Heritage Resort. It is a home stay in the real sense, a family who invites you into their home for a few days. They spoil you with food which is delicious, freshly prepared and all through authentic Malnad. I am so thrilled that Vatsala and Nishcal took care to ensure that every meal had a Malnad touch to it. They kept to basics also understanding the need for simple foods which might be suited to kids. Personally was really touched that they dished out a fish fry for my daughter, as she is huge on fish in general!

      The surroundings are quiet and peaceful and there are so many nooks which just invites you to sit and read. And this is something I keep hoping for time and again whenever I am visiting any place over a weekend. Kolavara fit into the reading bit completely. It was perfect for the reading and siting about with a drink in the evening. The sounds of the night and a water flowing somewhere near by will be all that you will hear. The property has ample space to walk about and it has so many wonders to thrill most city kids!

      In terms of location, if you are looking to go about and see a lot of things, there are not too many places which you can visit easily. There is Kuvempu, a very famous Kannada poet's house and a hilllock atop where is last remains are kept. His home has been converted into a museum and the smallest of smallest things have been saved and preciously polished and displayed for the visitors. The house in itself is adorned with paintings, photographs of his family, books, certificates and diploma! They also have a small bookstore with many translated works by the poet. The hillock proves to be a great location for watching the sun set into the ghats and see the dry expanse of the northern regions of Karnataka.

      I picked up The House of Kanooru, which is the translated work of an original Kuvempu novel. This was made into a movie by Girish Karnad, called Kanooru Heggadithi in the year 1999. He acted, directed and wrote the screenplay for this movie, and this movie won the National Film Award for the Best feature film in 2000.

      Kuvempu's House, which is a museum now

      Entrance to the Kavishala

      Another view of the Kavishala

      The dry beauty of the pre monsoon ghats

      Sun set at the Kavishala

      Another view of the ghats
      On our way back we stopped at the Sakrebyle Elephant camp, as I was sure T would be thrilled to see elephants. In fact she had a choice to see either the Lions or the elephants, and elephants were her pick! Might just be the mallu blood in her! ;)

      Clinging for protection

      A mother and daughter

      Entrance to the camp
      It took us about 7 hours to drive to and from Kolavara. Shimoga is an hour less, and Shimoga would be better situated if you wish to go to Jog falls or the Lion Safari etc. One of the places we wanted to visit was Agumbe, which was said to be a great temple and again a great place to watch the sunset. But, alas, we overslept after the great lunch and then decided to laze around some more and finally just skipped it ! But, no regrets!

      March 17, 2014

      Child brides of Yemen

      Child brides don't talk about it, but they suffer. A recent study in Yemen has shown that girls who have their rights taken from them in this way do not forgive their parents, and there is a breakdown of family relationships.
      Back in 2010, I had come across a video on child brides of Afghanistan. And now, in 2014, things do not look very different. Why are these young girls, some even as young as 10 years forced into marrying men who are old and sometimes as old as their grandfathers!

      Is this a way to ensure the women in the society do not ever gain independence, do not ever speak up in front of the men. I am sure that such small children are so scared of these men that they are forever silenced from voicing their opinion. Here is a voice of one odd woman, a doctor, on the child brides of Yemen.

      ...... girls under 15 are five times more likely to die giving birth.
      But, who cares, right? Who bothers about their safety!

      Too often girls have no voice, no choice, no access.

      March 10, 2014

      Caring through the day

      When T was 2 I decided that I wanted to get back to work, and this involved going through many schools hunting down a day care which suited my needs. I did not know whether this was what I wanted for her, but I had gotten to a point where I did not know what I would do with a toddler who wanted to get out and do stuff, but I was a mom who loved my peace and quiet.

      Now, its close to a year when T has been in day care and as I look back, one of the outcomes which I see is that she has certainly grown up with a wide range of activities which she has been exposed to, but she has also been exposed to many things which bigger children do, and she is merely copying them. I have also seen many characteristics which were not there a few months back and have suddenly started to emerge. Is this the 3 year old thing, or are these things which she is picking up now with school and she is at a more impressionable age.

      I have had my share of issues with T picking up words and things from other kids at day care. But that is something which I had made my peace with, and now I see the stubborn, bratty behaviour and I am a little worried. Maybe a little more patience on my side is also needed. As she grows up and has her own way with things, I need to let things go a little and not control too much. I guess I should also be accustomed to be a guide not an enforcer. I keep reading about bringing in good characteristics and values, and at times I do tend to feel I am nit making the mark.

      A long way ahead, and now the journey begins, as I talk to this individual who has a say in everything.

      March 6, 2014

      Update: Reading Bingo Challenge

      Having had taken up the Reading Bingo Challenge, I thought I should also share what are the books I have been reading as a part of this challenge. I thought there would be many books which will help me check the boxes, but I decided I shall try to read a different book to satisfy each criteria. And, now I think this has made the deal more difficult for me.

      Anyways, here goes...

      Finished:
      A book with a number in the title: The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency
      A book with a blue cover: And the mountains echoed
      A book by a female author: C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
      A book with a mystery: D is for Deadbeat

      Currently reading:
      The second book in a series: River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy)


      March 5, 2014

      Book Review: And the mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini


      Khaled Hosseini

      This was a book which I bought way back, practically when it was released and then I never got around to reading it. Things just kept piling up on my plate, and this poor soul got shoved deeper and deeper under.

      Recently, I did get around to finishing it, and I must say that the book proved to be something I will certainly recommend but, I will also tell you that it is a little slow in between and can leave you overwhelmed with information and tit bits from all over the globe! Its wonderful in a dreamy sort of way, with the story panning between Afghanistan, United States and France, over generations. How the past can haunt you through messengers.

      Having said that, I did think that it took a while to get into groove, and took me a while to place the timelines to the different chapters. There was a wee bit of confusion, but that for me, only adds to the fun.

      There is not too much about the places, but more about the people from these different places, and how they perceive life to be. What they expect from life... It made me realize again why there is such a huge difference between the way we do things and how our parents would have done or handled similar situations. It talks about human emotions and builds on them. It shows how and where people compromise, to keep others happy, and to achieve their means.

      While closing this book, I was in a very pensive mood, thinking about family and wondering what are the compromises done for me to see where I am today. It certainly leaves you in a subdued mood. But, you must read it to experience that!

      Image linked to original source

      March 4, 2014

      When I know...

      There are times when you know what is the right answer and how to go about it. But you just do not want to do it.

      Your mind tells you the logical result of your dilemma but your heart does not have the heart to agree to something which feels like a trap.

      You have a dream, and you see it going up... poof!

      Is that what is called life? Do you just accept and sit back and watch?

      Its perfectly right and logical, just not what you want.

      How do you solve this now!?

      January 27, 2014

      Reading Bingo Challenge

      This year, I had set myself to just do three things

      1. Read
      2. Travel
      3. Exercise

      And I thought why not take up something interesting to do my reading bit :) I am already planning on reading 50 books this year and tracking them through Goodreads.

      And now, I am taking up the Reading Bingo Challenge. It sounds so interesting and it shall surely make me hunt for books and read them :)


      Want to take it up? Surely do... please leave your blog link or any web location where you plan on keeping a track of the books that you would be reading. I would love to see your reading picks and also, I need to know 'A book your friend loves' . ;)

      January 22, 2014

      Book Review: The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

      Set in Gaborone, capital of Botswana, the protagonist is a smart, intelligent women who decides the country needs a detective agency, and she goes about setting it up.

      A straight As student, falls into a bad marriage and picks up her life to set up something she believes in. When I picked up the book, I thought it was going to be a mystery novel and would be interesting. But, I was in for a shock. It does certainly have mysteries, and many. Some small, short and sweet, and some which pan the whole book. There is the mystery of the heart and how we deal with our lives on a daily basis.

      White lies, being cheeky and being human. I think this is what the spoke to me about. It makes one feel glad the way we deal with things and at times makes you feel less guilty of those things which you think are all wrong with your life.

      This is a very easy read and truly a feel good book!

      Rating: 4/5


      January 17, 2014

      What have you been reading?

      A Kindle does make reading so much simpler.I did not buy it at the start, but once I started to use it, I know now I do prefer to buy books on the kindle and take books from the library!
      1. You have access to so many books which else you need to go hunting for.
      2. The reading process is simple where I lie in any which position which suits me, and I do not have to bother with holding the pages of the book in place or having T pulling out the bookmarks and me re-reading pages to figure exactly where I left off.
      B gifted me the kindle in August for my birthday, but I already had so many books otherwise that I ended up reading them first before venturing onto the kindle because I thought once there I might not want to pick up the paperback books again.
      1. Its not true that the kindle can really replace a book. At times I want to hold a book, turn pages and read it.
      2. I also realized that some books are not available on the Kindle store, so there is nothing much you can do, but buy and read the paperback version.
      Here are some of the books I recently completed, and I was looking for the second part in the trilogy by Amitav Ghosh which is when I realized that some books are not available in India... or it could be a specific case with the Kindle India store.

      I believe I bought this months back, but being my first Amitav Ghosh, I was a little wary whether I would get through it. But, I loved it completely, and to the extend that I did not wait to finish before hunting for the next book in the trilogy.

      I did not find it on Kindle and hence ordered the paperback too.






      This is a series which I happened to chance upon, and I have loved the short quick mysteries which seem to fit perfectly for me before I fall deep into big fat complicated novels.

      Till date I am done with

      A for Alibi
      B for Burglar
      C for Corpse

      I usually restrict myself to just reading one in between picking up something bigger.



      So... what have you been reading??

      January 7, 2014

      Speaking up...

      Is it wrong to wish for something in this new year looking at all the wrongs that have been about the last year?

      Does talking about the wrongs against women make you a feminist?

       Recently, I had a conversation with B about feminism. This is a topic which has come up many times during our discussions and he believes that I look at all men with suspicion and never tend to give them a iota of benefit of doubt. The conversation in question came up after he read a status update on my Facebook timeline from a friend, who said she hoped this year will be better for women, and that women all over would become stronger and arise from the shackles which bind them.

      He was of the opinion that if the women feel shackled, why should that be a matter of concern for men. They have not shackled them, then why blame men for it. And he feels that this is demeaning to many men that women write them off in such a bad manner. He feels that if women have it in them to become equals and do what they wish, then they should. Why associate it with men in anyway, as an enabler or a deterrent?

      My take was that with regard to the statement, when there is so much going on in this world where women are at the receiving end, then why wouldn't those women who can speak up without being afraid to do that for those who can not. This does not mean that the women treat all men to be the same, but there is a certain caution which is associated with men in general after hearing about all these situations. Why shouldn't we help them in any which way we can? This might give someone the strength to fight and more importantly stand up. He was of the opinion why speak up then; if you wish to help, go out and help. That statement was received with a frown on my face, so that line of conversation was stopped.

      Then it was why are all women feminists, and trying to uplift or speaking up only for women. He believes that giving mutual respect and independence is what feminism should be all about. This would be a valid point for not just women, but in essence, this is what he sees humanism as. I agree with it completely, but is our society at the juncture to accept something like this? I doubt it.

      Do we see mutual respect and independence for so many people around us? There are people I know who have been so accustomed to having everything being done for them, now when they want/have to do something by themselves, it seems to be difficult, or rather more like they have forgotten how to do it. One of the things I really appreciate in B is that he pushes me to get out and do my own stuff. I usually complain and try to avoid it, but I know that he is doing it for my very own good. And I really appreciate it when I look back at the situation after the said situation has passed.

      As a reader, do you think there is really any use of online activism? Or is it just for the noise ?

      January 2, 2014

      Looking back

      Well, I did not really look back in December, as I was still living through the year and looking at what the year end would bring my way. Not that it did bring anything unexpected.

      So now, as this new year unfolds, I take a step back and look at what I did in the last 364 days?


      The beginning of the year was plagued with moving out of the comfort zone and getting back into a working schedule. Managing work and T was proving to be a big concern, and the only way I could manage was with day care. A huge step which I took after waiting out a good 5 months before taking the plunge. And from then, it has been no looking back. T adjusted, liked and at times bawled her way to day care. But, eventually everyday she comes back with a new story to tell, or make up new stories and tell. She has started to speak so much that it amazes B and me of the kind of things she picks up from others conversations.

      For example, I wrote about how she did something which I explicitly told her not to, and she did agree to it minutes before deciding to let go of that. It has been a trying year in all respects and it does not make things easier that now she has her demands and things which she wants to do. These I am learning to understand and tackle in the best possible manner.

      This was followed by a visit to Ooty and then followed by some travel for B wherein T and I were at home just spending days as they came. We did enjoy our time together and that is when I realized that children are far more manageable when they have instructions only from one source. They need to be in direct instruction from one person and that helps them to get the work done. I realized she has no one to go to an make requests. She would make deals with me about how she would clean up and then do painting, or play on the iPad etc. But, she understood there was no question of not cleaning up! Getting this to function with both the parents around is something which we are yet to master.

      Baking has been a priority task through this year, and we have tried to keep things healthy with salads and non fatty eating options. This has been a task, but with limited work out options opening up, eating right is the only way I see it working. Something I want to try is burpees which a blog friend keeps mentioning, and this looks like something which could be a good substitute to a short workout. I was in a phase where I would do suryanamaskars every morning, but somewhere along the year that dropped off. This again needs to be picked up. And the most important task is I believe sleeping early and being up at 7 am to ensure that I get the uninterrupted time to achieve it.

      Resolutions are not something I am good at, nor do I ever know what I should be putting down, so the only things which I wish to do is read, exercise and travel.