September 19, 2015

Book Review: The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

When I first came across this book, I was very unsure whether I would enjoy this book, in spite of adding it to my to - read list. And I must say, it has been on that list for a very long time, and each time i read the synopsis and put it off thinking its too romantic for me and Sufism is something I really have not much idea about. This time around, I had ample time on hand and my mind was free to concentrate and read a trying book ( as that was the impression I had gathered).

The Forty Rules of Love is a story of self discovery and freedom for a 40 year old housewife, from the shackles of daily mundane activities and a loveless marriage. And she discovers love and a deep understanding of self through the story of Rumi and Shams, via a work of fiction which she has to read, to write a literary review, in her capacity as an assistant to the editor of a publishing house.

Sufism, what does it mean? Where do these people dwell? There were so many questions when I think of Sufis and now its a world which I have been given a peek into, through the work of Elif Shafak.

This book speaks of the meaning of being a Sufi, and why they are many times misunderstood, but yet revered as they are considered very close to God and his teachings in Islam. Spiritual, psychic and drawing on the inner energy, Sufis are at times said to have special capabilities, but most often, they just have an aura about them. The author speaks of those who are born with a Sufi heart, and others who choose the path to become a Sufi, by following strict conducts and rules.

We are thrown into the path of Shams, from 13th century Persia, looking for the One, to share his knowledge with and someone who he will connect with at a spiritual level. The journey he makes looking for this person, and how he identifies Rumi when he meets him, as his true companion is a journey which when I read, brought me to think about many ideals that we follow in life, and how they can be changed, modified to bring peace and love around us.

One of the forty rules that Shams talks and which spoke to me, was submission. When I think of submission, I think of giving in, but why not look at it as trust. Its a difficult task, to believe and trust someone to know what is right for you. It speaks of love and oneness between two individuals, maybe something which we have not given to in today's world. This is demonstrated between Shams and Rumi, across many situations, and you are left wondering how can you manage that level of trust.

Is it that the world today does not allow for it? I am not sure whether thats the reason, the world depicted around Shams and Rumi is also dotted with people from varying backgrounds and hidden motives. I think its a matter of the mind, and as Shams trains Rumi to accept, love and forgive, it left a huge impact on me, and has led me to look for more works by Rumi.

This book speaks to you, the author does a fantastic job of bringing together so many different aspects, and very seamlessly at that. This will be one of those books which I will recommend to many when they ask me for a suggestion on what to read next!

Rating: 5/5

September 16, 2015

Book Review: Mrs Funnybones by Twinkle Khanna

Have I read her columns?

Yes, a few.

Have I enjoyed her columns?

Yes, they are short and brings home a point which many women face everyday.

Now coming to the book. A work of fiction, more like a conversation with her mind, in topics ranging from parenting, marriage, fashion and work divided into various chapters. But, they are written in very much the same way as her columns, and some of them are just re-written versions of her weekly column itself.

Did I enjoy that?

I think after her column, I expected a different approach for her first book, so I must say I was not too thrilled about the book. 

It was very quick to read, in fact I finished it in one sitting, in about 2-3 hours. The language is very simple and she gets the humour across without much effort. But, once I was through half of the book, I felt there was a repetition in the prose. The peek into the Bollywood lifestyle which seems to be the core of the book became boring and extremely superficial by then.

Prodigal Son, Baby, the man ... it all seemed to lose its charm.

I believe its the short chapters and a column like approach which caused me to lose interest mid way. But, her language and style is fun to read, but maybe in a better setting.

Rating: 3/5

Image credit: Image linked to source

August 12, 2015

Second time around...

It was not much of a question whether we wanted to go ahead and have a family of 4. I think both B and me were always clear, that is something which we wanted, though you would hear it from him that he had to coax me into it. And I will strongly say, that ain't true.

But when I look at these past months, this pregnancy has been really different from last time. For one, I would classify as being affected by morning sickness for sure. I had these certain smells which I just could not handle. And I had a clear dislike for roti and dal. I just never wanted to have anything apart from rice. I think I could have survived on rice for easily 2 meals a day, but I diligently avoided it, knowing how I am susceptible to piling on the kilos if I ever fell into that trap.

And the tiredness which hit me like a wave, was just something I never expected in the first trimester. I was usually in bed sleeping for 1-2 hours after T and B left for the school and office respectively. And then lugging myself out of bed and getting into office was a task in itself. But, then maybe I just felt all the more tired coz when I was with T, I didn't really give into thoughts about how I was feeling. But, tired I was for sure!

And come second trimester, I was again in for some aches and pains. And invariably, the pains only arrived when it was time to get into bed. This ensured a tossing and turning and looking at the phone kind of sleep, which was really not great! And I really don't remember being miserable like this with T. She gave me intense calf cramps, but then that was it. Here I was faced with more aches and pains than I knew.

And now, at 37 weeks, all I have is aches and pains, and more aches and pains. Everyday is a  new ache and again not something which I knew would be so different from the first time around. I have aches where I did not even know an ache is possible exclusively, but now I know better! And, all my internet reading points me in this direction, that every subsequent time one is pregnant, the aches only increase! Now, this research I never did before the decision making stage... don't think would have affected the decision, but still...

And now as I do the waiting bit, I wonder how different will labour be first and second time around... Quicker, more intense is what reading says, and that doesn't do much good, just makes me gulp down and clench my fists all the more. I was a crying sobbing mess the first time around, and I certainly hope I can set a better record this time!

June 26, 2015

Experiencing happiness

Every one of us has days when we are down and about, and those days when you feel you can step up and do right about anything. On one of the down and about days is when I came across a friend who shared this course on LinkedIn, which was to be launched on Coursera, titled " A life of happiness and fulfillment". I thought about it a lot, and there has been many conversations which I have had with B about how I do not know really how to be happy and when I can be really sure that I am on a path to happiness.

And being one of those days, I decided to sign up for this course, and set my life straight, maybe with the help of this professor. All this was almost a month back, and I marked it on my calendar to not miss it too. This month the course started, and I saw myself watching each of the videos, answering the questions, making the effort to take up the course with all due respect. I did not even expect this from myself knowing that I am usually tired, or sleepy in between T and work and planning for my months ahead.

About the course, I was very happy with the way it was sectioned, delivered and the amount of research which went into it with guest talks etc. Defining happiness, assessing when and how you are happy, achieving that happiness, are all covered, and as a student, you are made to assess yourself and see the change in yourself with the progression of the course. One aspect of the course which I really liked was the concept of ' Flow'. It is very interesting to note how the same activity can result in a positive or neutral outcome, completely based on your mental state, and if you are in the ' flow' of matters.

Happiness in life is very much linked to your job, with over 50% of your day being occupied in your work environment, it is very important that the work that you are involved in, motivates and invigorates you from within. And what do you do if it doesn't? That is a question which we all know is for us to answer, but then there is a possible right methodology to employ to achieve this. That is something which I again found so beautifully explained in the second module of this course.

There are many times logically we know what is the right path, but when these have to be pointed at ourselves, we look at the path very differently. We deal with ourselves and our failures, especially, in a different manner than how we would otherwise deal with the same situation, when it has befallen a friend. Understanding how to deal with yourself is also a huge part in imparting happiness to oneself.

And the final deal which I am most thankful for is that I got around to thanking someone who made the most important impact in my life. I wrote an email expressing gratitude though these thoughts have always been on my mind, and it was simple for me to put it down. But, the fact is, this gave me the opportunity to get this doe and it did feel real good!

May 27, 2015

Book Review: The House that BJ Built by Anuja Chauhan

Anuja Chauhan's new book, The House that BJ Built, was sure to be on my to- read list after Those Pricey Thakur Girls, which I thoroughly enjoyed. She has a way of bringing in situational humor to play and setting a beautiful scene in your head through detailed descriptions.

The House that BJ Built, is a sequel, set almost 20 years after D gets married and the next generation is grown up and working their magic in the world. Their ancestral home being the crux of the story, as the title suggests, and how this home brings the once separated sisters (and their kids) from across various states and countries. B's daughter stays at the property with BJ and runs a tailoring unit catering to designer whims and fancies of customers abroad. A's son, Samar, is a new and upcoming Bollywood director, who falls into a row with the film fraternity and runs off to his step - grandfather's abode at 16, Hailey Road to sulk, lie low and spend some time with him after a long 3 year hiatus. BJ foresees how there might be property related disputes, and tries to dispose off the ancestral home and hand over the inheritance to the heirs , but that was not to be so, and we have his sudden death and Pandora's box being opened up with a rolling list of impediments in the face of the sale of 16, Hailey Road. And to top it, we have Samar, left with the responsibility of seeing to the correct disposal and disbursal.

As the story proceeds, one does get a whiff of Bollywood, not talking about Samar, but the plot and the twists and turns which roll out with it. Having said that, the writing and the flow is beautiful, which does make it a very gripping work. The eventual ending is predictable from way before the ending, but the turn of events which lead to the ending kept me at it.

The writing style and the author's capacity to incorporate humour is the same and to the same effect as with Those Pricey Thakur Girls. So if you enjoyed the previous work, this is a surely one you would not regret picking up.

Rating: 4/5

May 4, 2015

Week 3

By the point I was to leave for Trivandrum, I think I was more excited than what T was.

If you had asked me till a week before, maybe I was talking about the adjustment, killing the boredom, planning on activities for her and all. But, right then, all I was thinking was what all do I take for her from here :) And she has been away just a month.I had gone to the point to see what are the things she would have missed, things like her favourite triangle cheese, marshmallows, bangles and some new books. That was pretty much what I knew she would like the most.

When I went to pick her from her summer camp after getting home from the airport, I had a girl, running to me, forgetting that her ammumma was there right beside me. She sat glued to me in the car, and lunch had to be fed by me, and she wanted to colour with me and all. And this ran well into the next day too! But, yes I think after a month, I was enjoying the time we were spending together and she was thrilled to show me around my own parents place!

 But all in all, I know for sure that she was spoiled rotten with all the attention and everything practically left to her wishes, unless it is grossly wrong to be allowed. And obviously, like I always believed, Ruby was a real puller for her. She was so occupied with her that she really did need little else to be entertained.

Now for the re-settling into the routine life in Bangalore. But, for the girl she is, she is off to summer camp here after just coming into Bangalore the same day and happy at it too!

April 17, 2015

Week 2

As three weeks pass, now my parents seem to know the energy and activities which are required by T to keep her occupied through the day. Being Kerala, there was a state wide bandh ( strike) one of the days last week, which meant that her summer camp would be off for the day. Amma was truly worried as to what would the activities she would engage her in, and how she will be occupied sitting indoors. It is really hot and humid during the summer months, so moving outside during the day, was quite impossible. 

I was surprised with the solution Amma came up with!


She decided she is going to stitch a dress for her, using the time she had with her at home, and it being an activity which T has never been involved in, it was a completely new experience for her. Being measured, and then watching the fabric being cut, and sewn into the dress. She was thoroughly thrilled with her new dress and she even got to affix a stick on flower at the end all by herself! Anyhow, that was a day well spent by both of them, though Amma did say that she is certainly a handful and also, she did agree that if it was not for the summer camp, T might just have been bored and would have wanted to come back much earlier.

But after these 2 weeks, I see that her frequency of wanting to talk to B and me has certainly increased! Does that show boredom or missing? I am not really sure.
But she has asked me way more times as to when I am coming to pick her up and when my office has holidays. Now that I am just a week away from going to Trivandrum, so I guess now she has a date to look forward to and that should let the last week pass uneventfully.

And at our end... I think I am thinking last weekend around the corner when it will be just B and me at home... Its gonna be back to running and shouting and planning weekends. Must get to some awesome weekend brunches to celebrate this successful attempt for both of us!

April 7, 2015

Week 1

After the whole new experience effect, now seems like she is settling in and is happy to be walking about exploring and checking out new things. Having Ruby, my parent's pet Beagle seems to be the most important and exciting feature of the summer vacations.

Knowing how T is and how she needs some kind of play area and craft activities to keep her occupied, I had ensured that there would be a suitable summer camp which she would be able to go to for a few hours each day. And once the camp started, she has been busy with Easter egg painting, making jelly, pot painting and all such activities. She does reguarly speak to both B and me, and give a complete update on what all she has been up to and how Ruby is her best friend.

And on our end, it had been a weird start to an empty house. That first weekend was killing, we scrubbed the whole house down, moved furniture into T's and room, and setting up her bed for when she is back. ( I plan on transitioning her to her very own room, this summer, and have her ready by the time school reopens.) Anyhow, we were like lost in the house, with no agenda and most importantly, no sound. I decided I needed music, and B started watching his TED talks, all in the pretext of distracting ourselves. But, now, we have got used to the change, and to the time we have to ourselves, after 4 years of fighting and gritting our teeth at each other.

Initially the plan was to travel and do something different, which we would not be able to do with T around, but eventually we decided, why not go and do the many things which we want to do right here in Bangalore. So the last weekend, we went to a musical nite by Farah Siraj, which was I think the latest we both had been out of the house in the past 4 years. We got back by around 1 am and I think we were so thrilled to be able to do something as such. These were the small things which we missed, having no family or support around to even take a small break of a few hours. 

This break for us has been great, and knowing that she is happy and thrilled makes it all the more easy to enjoy ourselves!

April 1, 2015

Week 0

When the idea was thrown up by T, I never thought she would be so adamant and staunch in following through with it.
A month at my parent's place for the summer
But she did, and she has surprised me and much more than me, B! She started off by December on how she wants to go when school closes, and we just kept telling her that we have to wait for the summer vacations. My parents also helped in making her understand that the next time they visit will be to take her along for her summer break.

B has been shocked at her independence and clear focus on what she wants. And he in fact doubted whether she understood what it means to be away from both of us. This being the first time she is away from both of us.

Makes us wonder if it is the age in which where she does not miss us, as long as being cared for and happy?

Or, is it the effect of day care and independence of thought and action which I have been persistently pushing?

With the awe and concern expressed by many, I am at the stage wherein I am left questioning why she does not miss us, but then I give myself one clench of my fist and tell myself, she is independent and does what she wants and needs, and I should be happy and thrilled about that.

I know there are certain attraction factors which are keeping her busy and if I think about it, it is truly very early to say how she will be through the month ahead, or how she will be at the end of the one month at my parent's place. In fact, I am happy she is creating some happy memories and associations for her summer vacations. I was speaking with some of my friends, and they were very supportive of how it is wonderful that I am doing this for her, and truly helping her enjoy her vacations rather than having her cooped up at day care or at home with nothing new to do and look forward to.

So at this point, I am looking at another week or two to pass and then decide how she is going to be ... but a part of me tells me she will be happy and well settled :)

March 17, 2015


The word itself gives me the creeps.

And, here there is a whole new research and use which is thought out for them. I always knew they are hardy and are known to survive in the most unearthy conditions and terrains, but a use for cockroaches... I am not sure I can ever be a part of such a research team. Maybe it is good that I decided to not go the biology route, who knows what anthropod I would have to hold squirming in my hand!

This article brought me to that time during my summer vacations in India, in the midst of the monsoons, where we have all the creepies inside the house, and most often inside the bathroom. And this being the time when I was around 9 - 10 years of age, I was petrified of going into the bathroom to relieve myself, in fear of a flying assault.

And, I know there are many who would not even know of the flying breed of cockroaches, but trust me, they exist. And they do not fly about, rather sprint more is what I would call it, than fly. But since their flight is so short and they do not really know how to manage their flight, its very often that they will come and brush against you or even worse, land on you! And once, just once if they latter has happened, I don't know many who would not have the kind of fear and creeps about this insect.

 Anyhow, I remember this one incident wherein, there was a flying cockroach which had escaped from the usual recess in the bathroom, and entered the bedroom. And, this had to happen only around 9 pm, when there was no way of finding this insect, or creating a overdose of insect killer in the air and leaving the room for a few hours. It was time to get to bed. That one night, with temperatures in Trivandrum being scorching in the summer months, still had be covered from head to toe, with the cover tucked in from all sides, and yet unable to sleep. The next day morning, I woke up with a fever thanks to the extra layers and heat which I had subjected myself to.

Would I do something different today?

I doubt it. 
I still am petrified of cockroaches.
But, being a mother, I am usually the one now responsible for the extermintaion procedures at home
And during those few minutes, I know how my heart thumps and hand become clammy.

Some fears just reside.

January 28, 2015

Book Review: Rebirth by Jahnavi Barua

Rebirth by Jahnavi Barua was shortlisted for the Man Booker 2011, and this on the cover of the book, alongside the woman on the cover, drew me to go ahead and pick up this one.

Every woman who has been pregnant will say that during those months, you fret and worry about how what you are doing affects the small life within, and how you would like to do the very best in your ability to ensure that life is unharmed in every which way. This story revolves around a woman, who is pregnant after many years and trying. And after all these years, her husband chooses to leave her, because of not having a child, or because of the 7 year itch, it is unknown. But he does come bounding back on knowing about the child.

And does a child set everything straight?
Do the mistakes made get washed away with the arrival of a child?
Or is it that what is expected for the want of a family for the child?

It is a book which flows so beautifully, the prose keeps you engrossed to the extend that you are transported to the Brahmaputra in Assam, and the fountain in the park at Richmond Town, Bangalore. The imagery which the author portrays is vivid and most importantly, it reached me. There are some detailed accounts of North east cultures/ rituals / and lifestyle. It is a region of India which holds  lot of surprises and secrets. Many would say there is so much about every region which might be new, but there is really something about the North east and its limited connectivity, which only adds to the charm which is otherwise too, immense.

The book moves across the 9 months the woman interacts, cares and changes herself to her changed life, all in anticipation of her child. It is a very short read, but it leaves you with a calm and peaceful feeling, though it does not really close the plot or give too many answers.

January 12, 2015

Book review: Disappearing Daughters, The Tragedy of Female Foeticide by Gita Aravamudan

The first 5 pages of this book, give you so many numbers, statistics to be more specific and you are left gaping at the words, wondering how and when the world will change.

Mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts, everyone of them has played a part in ensuring the many girls in India do not learn how to crawl, sit up, stand, walk or speak. The means which they employ, it seems like they have studied to ensure the best practices and have optimized on the success ratios.

As a reader moves through the book, the primary thought that comes is, "Who is the true perpetrator of this crime?"

The father who wants a boy to take forward his family name?

The mother who wants a boy for a better standing with her in-laws?

The doctor who wants to earn that extra money in spite of doing what is illegal?

Each of them play a role in systematically eliminating the female fetuses across many districts, cities and regions. This is a practice which has infiltrated across strata and the methods might vary, and the complexity of processes, but the end out come is always the same - A Girl Dies.

Before I started reading this book, I had an image wherein the women were helpless, crying and were being forced into it. But, after reading Disappearing Daughters, I view the world through a different outlook. There is nobody who is not involved, but circumstances, or pressure is not always the reason. Many a times, those involved, do not see it as anything wrong, and many ethnic races view it as a tradition.

How does one reduce this atrocity or make people understand? 
By giving a positive reward to those who keep their girl child?

I am not sure.

But, neither is the government, or the many NGOs who are working in this field. There is a fair bit which education can change, and there is another large chunk which will be changed by society and the expectations set by it, and only by this!

But, all said and done, it is such a shame that one gender has been picked and picked repeatedly over these many years.

Is it a time for things to reverse? That would mean revenge.
I do not think that would be sustainable either.

The way ahead is for a change, a change from everything what everyone knows as of now.
New rules, and  new thoughts.

But, again, how long would that last!?