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Posts from — October 2015

Indiblogger’s #BNLF is finally here, and I’m Going…

 
#BNLF Blog Now Live Forever

This weekend I’m off to Mumbai to attend the Indiblogger, BNLF event. BNLF which stands for Blog Now and Live Forever is a one of a kind event being organised for the first time in India and I’m all excited to attend.

Years from now when we look back at blogging and it’s history in India, it’ll be cool to boast about the fact that I was there at the first big blogging event. Hey, I do like boasting a bit. But aside from that I’m also looking forward to meeting a lot of old friends and making some new ones.

BNLF Blog Now Live Forever

I’ve got to start packing once I’m done here, yep I know it’s early considering I leave early morning on Saturday and I still have one more day tomorrow but don’t even talk or think of tomorrow, it’s going to be a crazy day with me running around getting things done and organising & instructing for when I’m gone [the control freak me, doesn’t give up easily 😀 ].

So while I printout my passes and make notes on the agenda, here’s some of what is expected at BNLF.

There’s going to be two packed days of talks and discussions with some very interesting speakers. The line up includes Blog Coach – Jeff Bullas, Video Blogger – Kanan Gill, Author – Preeti Shenoy, Blogger – Purba Ray, Blogger – Arnab Ray, Marketer – Christoph Trappe, Blogger – Anshul Tiwari and last the icing on the cake, Bruce Dickinson – Lead singer Iron Maiden.

I’m looking forward to some of the sessions as they sound very promising and I’m hoping to learn some new tips and tricks.

Day 1 covers public relations for a blogger, life changing capabilities of blogging, telling authentic stories, public opinion and bloggers, creating videos, tips for global blogging success, blogging to book and turning readers into fans. Phew! thats a lot!

But there’s more on day 2 – an entire session on authentic stories, creating them and moving away from traditional marketing with Christoph Trappe, followed by 7 steps to master blogging by Jeff Bullas. Day two doesn’t have a lot of speakers but it looks packed!

In-between this there is also be a backstage party on 31st after the day is done and it’s invite only but I get to go coz all IndiCrew members get access. (IndiCrew is a volunteer bunch who help with the back-end stuff).

BNL Blog Now Live Forever

Apart from all that, the Indiblogger guys say there will also be “an authentic Mexican restaurant on wheels, a Master Class on Italian cuisine, a wall to climb, some smoking hot rides and a whole lot more”.

This weekend is going to be fun. I’ll tell you all about it once it’s done but you can also follow updates from me on Twitter – @Freya3377.

That’s it from me this week… I’m off to wrap-up and pack… :)

October 30, 2015   No Comments

Book Review: Palm’s foster home for peculiar stories by C G Salamander

 

Palm's foster home for peculiar stories
Title: Palm’s foster home for peculiar stories
Author: C G Salamander
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Jellyfish Publications (April 2nd 2015)
Genre: Fiction, Short-stories
Read: Paperback
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon India | FlipKart

 

Summary:

(Goodreads)

NIGEL THE LAST BRIT IN INDIA

There is chaos and pandemonium in the streets of Madras, and it is up to Nigel (an officer of the Imperial Police) to restore order to the city… only he hasn’t quite learned about India’s Independence. Yet.

GAYATRI AND THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY VEGETABLES

When the newest and most successful religion (Cabbagism) threatens to bring about the destruction of the world, it is up to a melancholic zombie and a collection of rowdy farm animals to save the earth.

ALIENS, DINOSAURS, PORCUPINES

A porcupine, after setting out on a journey away from home, falls in love with an armadillo.

 

My Review:

Note: Thanks C G Salamander for offering me this book to read and review :)

Cover: Fascinatingly Peculiar

Paper and font: Ebony on Ivory with a lovely smell!

Readability, language: Relatively easy but with definite presence of big words

Why did I choose this book: After reading the blurb, I just couldn’t say no, my curiosity got the better of me!

A collection of short stories in three parts with some stories tying in with others to make a grander plot. These are stories about Nigel, the Brit who has forgotten that the British left, a chicken who teams up with zombies to fight Cabbagism and the love story of a porcupine and an armadillo. Any more would give the stories away.:)

The title ‘Palm’s foster home for peculiar stories’ I realised as I read the book was bang on, for these are peculiar stories indeed! The cover immediately caught my eye (it played a big role in my saying yes), I like the colours used and texture of the cover adds to the experience. The blurb is short but captivating.

Palm's foster home for peculiar storiesDo you see the texture?

The book is split into three parts with part 1 and 2 having a plot to the collection of stories. Part 3 felt like just a collection of stories with no common thread. The plots are unique and mind-boggling, and I was left mind-fucked (for want of a better word) at the end of each part. Salamander’s imagination is something else.

Palm’s foster home for peculiar stories

Part 1 is set in Madras, a little after Independence and Part 2 culminates at Eden Garden’s Kolkata. Salamander uses his backdrops well and they help the story along and add to it. The end of part 2 felt like I was there at Eden Garden’s.

The collection has a plethora of characters, all fantastical and fascinating. Sometimes the characters appeared in such quick succession that I’d get a bit confused and but by the end of each collection I kind figured them out. Salamander does’t forget or lose any or his characters, they all get accounted for.

Palm’s foster home for peculiar stories

The story structure in part 1 and 2 are complex, like a little jigsaw, only this one is in 3D and it is only at the end that it all comes into focus. I took really long to read this book, one reason was life but the other was the complexity. I had to go back quite a few times to pick up threads I lost. Maybe reading the book in one sitting would have helped, maybe.

Palm’s foster home for peculiar stories

Salamander through the book moves between persons in speech. The author has a good hold over english language and makes you have to reach out for a dictionary quite a few times. I missed my Kindle Dictionary feature so much as I read this book. But that said he also spins words and puns well to create images you see as you read. I enjoyed his writing style, more so because there was a definite Terry Pratchett feel to his writing.

Palm’s foster home for peculiar stories

A good book if you are looking for ‘mindful reading’, this isn’t a ‘leave your brains at home’ book. A enjoyed the first two parts, (my favourite being Nigel the Last Brit) and recommend you give this book a read!

Buy On: Amazon India | FlipKart

About the Author:

 
C. G. Salamander is a fiction writer and a story teller, his short stories and comics have been published in various short story anthologies and journals. Palms Foster Home for Peculiar Stories is his first book.

Author Links:
WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

 

Q & A with C. G. Salamander

After reading your book I understand the peculiar stories bit of your title and your love for puns. But why did you choose ‘Palm’s’ foster home? I missed that. 😀

C. G. S: The meaning behind ‘Palm’s Foster Home’ is double fold: when I was small I used to scribble down stories on my hand during class, and I ended up loosing a lot of my characters this way (the ink would disappear by the time I got home). So I guess I imagined my palm as a sort of asylum where all my stories continue to live. The second reason is because of this show called ‘Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends’ that used to play on Cartoon Network — this was a show that really resonated with me, and naming my book ‘Palm’s Foster Home for Peculiar Stories’ just felt right. But you’re right though, there’s nothing in then book to hint this out.

In part 1 and 2 there is a thread running through the stories. They all connect. I couldn’t find any connect in part 3. Did I miss something?

C. G. S: You’re right once again, Part 1 and 2 have an overall arc, while part 3 is actually a collection of standalone stories. You didn’t miss anything.

What inspired these stories? How long have you been creating this collection? Which authors inspired you?

C. G. S: To be completely frank, I’m not entirely sure what inspired these stories. It took me about 4 to 6 months to write all the stories in this collection, and about 2 mounts to tweak and fiddle with them. As for the authors that inspired me, well the list is endless, but the ones that deserve special mentions are Margaret Atwood who taught me how to wrap things up neatly; Salman Rushdie for introducing me to colloquialisms and Indainspeak, and of course Terry Pratchett who taught me everything else.

Which is your favourite story/character in the book? Which story did you enjoy writing the most?

C. G. S: My favourite story is ‘The Fertile Octogenarian’ (which incidentally most people aren’t too fond of.)
My favourite characters are Gayatri, Mary Beth, and the Disciple Bob — if I had to pick one, I’d say Mary Beth (Gayatri being a close second).
And the story that I enjoyed writing the most is definitely ‘Nigel the Last Brit in India’. I enjoyed myself far too much with that story.

Would you tell us a little about your last name – Salamander? What does C G stand for? Why did you choose it? Maybe a little something no one yet knows about you?

C. G. S: The reason I chose C G Salamander as my pen name is because the Latin or scientific name for a Chinese Giant Salamander (that’s what the C G Stands for) is Andrias Davidianus, which is extremely close to my real name (50 points if you guess it; hint: it’s not Rumpelstiltskin).

Something that no one knows about me? Hmmm… I’m actually super into writing bad poetry.

My neighbour’s curtains are brownish yellow
He really is a gruesome fellow,
He uses them to wipe his mouth
His neck, his stomach, and parts down south.

October 27, 2015   No Comments

Pakistan: From Nabia’s Point of View – (Part 3)

This series started out with my thoughts on Pakistan and it’s image propagated by media and Govt. I’ve been unhappy about how the country is depicted and the actual ‘true’ state.

Continuing on the question trail, of getting to know Pakistan and it’s people, this time I have Nabia joining me. Nabia fits the mould and yet she doesn’t, she a package of surprises. I’ve met Nabia just once in Chiang Mai but thanks to Facebook, I keep getting news of her. And things to do with her are fun, I tell you, every picture with her in it is packed with energy and joy.

Nabia Amin Lakhani

 

Nabia with her father in 2010

The only sister to three brothers, Nabia is the youngest in the family. She was born and brought up in Karachi but has lived in Islamabad for a couple of months and visits quite often too. She has also been to Balochistan, Murree, Lahore, and Quetta.
A graduate from Karachi university in arts, she has done the montessori course and has been working as a teacher for the last ten years. She is currently taking a break from teaching to concentrate on her upcoming wedding.

 

What do you think of Pakistan?

I love Pakistan Fatema. Yes there are issues here, but then these same issues are everywhere in the world. Only difference is that since everyone calls Pakistan a terrorist state and Muslims in Pakistan or anywhere else are known as terrorist, it gives the world a completely different look of this place.

I have lived here all my life, yes we are dealing with terrorism etc. but then who isn’t? I have family members living abroad and they only watch news about Pakistan, so for them to even come down to Pakistan and experience it themselves is not an option because media exaggerates everything. Yes, we have been mugged, robbed, harassed, but then so many others have gone through the same Thing in their country as well!

It breaks my heart that Pakistan is seen as a place that one would never want to go to because they are afraid that they would get killed! I mean, come on!!! I’m glad with the article that Humans Of NY shared because he actually highlighted the good parts of this place I call home. When I was younger, I wanted to go away from Here, but now that I’m older and have seen some places myself, with my own eyes, I realize that every place is alike. Pakistan is no different.
 

 
What is your life like?

My life here is amazing, I’m independent, I can go anywhere I like, I can do what I like.

 

Would you label the country as backward, extremist, terrorist?

Backward, extremist … No. I won’t ever label Pakistan that way, because Pakistan has not pushed me to sit at home behind closed doors because I am a woman.

There are some maulvis who want women in burqas but then that’s their view, and these people are usually the ones who give Islam a bad name.

I wish you would come down here once and experience it for yourself.

We wear what we want to, we do what we want to, we go and work wherever and however we want to. So how is this place backwards ?

An Old photo of Nabia’s Parents.

When my brother went to India around 2 years ago , he had to go to the police station every morning and inform them about his plans for the day otherwise they would follow him and his friends everywhere .. Only because he was a Muslim from Pakistan. It’s unfortunate that all this happens now, but believe me, I live here and I can tell you… Pakistan is not what the goras or anyone else portrays it to be.

Everyone should not be labelled the same just because of some lunatic who goes around killing people in the name of Islam. These people have given my country a bad name and I pray everyday for the betterment of this country.

It’s the best! Believe me.
Been to America and when I came back, I was the happiest person.

 

How do you define normal? What do you think is a normal life? Do you lead a normal life?

Normal for me is what I’ve seen growing up … Family, friends, home, work. And that’s exactly the kind of life we have here. My life’s very normal Shukar Alhumdolillah. We have the same kind of life here like anyone else has anywhere else in the world.
 

Badshahi Masjid in Lahore

 
Anything you’d like to add or say?

All I want to add is that everyone should come to Pakistan and see it with their own eyes and then make a judgement about this country.

And people should not restrict their visits to Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi only, they should go up north & any other places that that can visit and see how beautiful Pakistan really is. If you think Switzerland is beautiful :) then you really haven’t seen Pakistan. It’s gorgeous!

 

What is your image of India? What do you think of it and it’s people?

My image of India, hmm, the only thing that pops up in my head after reading your question is: ” my brother from another mother” :) :) :) :)

I honestly feel that India and Pakistan are the same and I pray that we can be civil to each other, make friends with people in India and vice versa and invite them here. I feel we have SO much in common that it’s not even funny.
When we watch Indian movies, we get an idea of what Indians are like or how things are in India, and it’s all the same as Pakistan.
 
You can also read – Pakistan: As Shajee Sees It

Photo Credits: All photos have been taken and belong to Nabia Amin Lakhani.

October 22, 2015   4 Comments

Book Review: 10 Love Stories – An Indiblogger Selection

 


Title: 10 Love Stories – An Indiblogger Selection
Author: Various
Paperback: 184 pages
Publisher: Harper Vantage (28 July 2015)
Genre: Romance, Short Stories
Read: eBook
Stars: ***/5
Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

 

Summary:

(Goodreads)

A brief fling between ex-flames ends up all in a jumble. A Chinese dentist who swears by his crocs strikes up a rare friendship with a quiet photographer. On a cold winter’s day, amidst the romantic grandeur of old Delhi, something is brewing between two strangers brought together by their parents. This IndiBlogger-HarperCollins collaboration is a collection of the ten best love stories selected by some of contemporary India’s finest writers and editors from a list of over 500 entries. These stories are a window to how a new generation of young men and women negotiate matters of love and life in the age of Whatsapp and Facebook. The peppy-dynamic prose within these pages radiates a youthful vitality that perfectly captures its unabashedly urban and modish characters.

 

My Review:

Cover: Simple and Pleasing

Paper and font: Ebony & Ivory

Readability, language: Easy on the eye and mind

Why did I choose this book: Somewhere deep down all blogger hope to someday write a book, so when a few get a chance to do that I’d like to show my support.

This is a collection of short love stories as diverse as it gets, from WhatsApp to dental clinics, this is a coming together of a variety of writing styles, storytellers and stories.

The title is bang on in terms of description as a collection of 10 Love stories created by Indiblogger. The cover is simple and pleasing with limited colours and basic illustrations. The blurb doesn’t say much about the stories, rather it talks more about the Indiblogger-HarperCollins collaboration.

The book is edited and formatted well, and the reading experience is good with a comfortable font and feel-good paper. The layout of the stories and their order also make of pleasant reading.

A collection of short stories this book doesn’t have a specific plot, setting or characters but rather a wide selection as the stories move from arranged marriages to love on WhatsApp, from Mumbai to Kolkata and from dentists to air force pilots.

All the stories were engaging and enjoyable but three stories stood out for me as my favourites. Crystal Cacophony by Jenny Sarto, At The End of The Parade by Nilanjana Bose and Speechlessly In Love by Varsha Dutta.

Crystal Cacophony is the story of Ahaana and the innocence of love, it’s purity and naiveté. It is also about the little joys and big heartbreaks of love. My favourite part of the story was the good-natured banter between Ahaana and her brother Pavan.

At The End of The Parade is about a mature love, one that transcends age and time. A love that bypasses tradition and logic, it’s weird and yet it makes you smile. I was drawn to the heroine Pallavi as I watched her stand up for what she was wanted and fight with a resilience that made me want to pat her back with an atta girl.

Speechlessly in Love is the story of Ananya and Aakash, their diverse motivations for marriage and the finding of love. A quite simple love that lies in the small little things. I enjoyed the writing of Dutta; she kept me hooked as the story looped to start and end with insipid tea.

I enjoyed the book and would recommend you read it. It’s suitable for all ages. And of course in reading, buying and sharing this book you’d be supporting fellow bloggers. :)

Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

 

The Authors:

 

JENNY SARTO – “Crystal Cacophony”

DEEPIKA ASTHANA – “Delhi Times”

NATASHA GAYARI – “For Love of the Written Word”

MEENA BHATNAGAR – “Love? Bah! Humbug”

KOBITA BANERJEE – “Mind The Gap”

NILANJANA BOSE – “At the End of the Parade”

PARMITA BORAH – “The Transitional Boyfriend”

SUMMERITA RHAYNE – “Right or Wrong”

VARSHA DUTTA – “Speechlessly in Love”

PALAK KAPADIA – “WhatsApp-ening to Me?”

October 20, 2015   No Comments

Pakistan: As Shajee Sees It — (Part 2)

Shajee with his niece on Eid

Part 1: Getting to Know The Real Pakistan

In search of answers, wanting to know more about Pakistan and the life of people like you or me, (someone who has to make a living, has a family, has friends, lives a middle class life, etc.) I reached out to friends and I received info packed long answers. I’m sharing them as I got them, with a little intro and formatting though. 😀

Ahmed Shajee Aijazi…

 

Shajee and his brothers when they were all in Pakistan for his wedding

I met Shajee some years ago in Chaing Mai where he was attending the Foundry Workshop. He came across as a soft-spoken quiet sort but hidden behind this demeanour was a strong passionate person. Shajee lives in Karachi with his family and is a photographer by profession.

 

What do you think of Pakistan?

Pakistan is a great place to live in some ways and not that great in others, as I would think is the case with every country. There are a lot of great people here who are working for the welfare of the country. People generally are very philanthropic and charitable. We have people like Abdul Sattar Edhi who’s running the biggest ambulance service in the world and is a simple person, then we have the likes of Dr. Abdul Bari who runs an entirely free top-of-the-line hospital here for people who cannot afford good medical health. So, we have these great inspirational figures amongst us who inspire us on a daily basis, but overall, the thing that I would say makes Pakistan great is that the family life and overall family system of people is still intact, which seems to be decaying at other places.

Abdul Sattar Edhi who founded Edhi Foundation, the largest non-profit social welfare organisation in world.

Then in terms of Islamic scholarship, we have top notch Islamic scholars here in Pakistan and recently I came across a fact that the most hafiz of Quran produced in the world are also from Pakistan. Although this is one aspect that is distorted by a small minority to be used for their own purposes and agendas. But, I would say that there are other factors such as illiteracy, poverty and frustration with the ruling class, that play a role in this distortion as well.

 

What is your life like?

My life is pretty good, Alhamdulillah. We go to our work every morning, we spend the weekends with our families, go for picnics and other recreations. We don’t really face all that many problems as one outside of Pakistan would think. And in the recent times, the situation has got much better with this new army chief who’s cleaning up crime and terrorist outfits in a very good way, so things are definitely getting better then their predecessors.

Recently a bus tour of Karachi has started that gives you tours in a local bus as if you were a tourist. On the Tour with Frere Hall which is a British time building in the background.

 

Would you label the country as backward, extremist, terrorist?

I think it would be unfair to term the entire country to be that. Sure, there are people and groups who are like that, but the general population is not like that, at least in the cities. We have a diverse range of people who come with different mindsets and bring that to the public sphere.

 

Kemari Boat Basin @ Karachi

 
Is it really stressed on a day to day basis because of extremists and terrorism? Are Pakistani’s living in fear constantly?

Not at all. Never have I left the house thinking I would be hit in a terrorist attack. And from previous years, its gotten much better now. These news are getting lesser and lesser every passing day.

Being in Karachi, we do fear muggings and thefts, but that’s not the extremism and terrorism that you’re talking about. This is simply street crimes, which happen to be a part of every big metropolitan city. But, that’s also gotten better in the past year, as I said, since this Army chief came to his position, he’s been taking bold steps to even remove these criminals. And this is only particular to Karachi. There isn’t much of that in Lahore or Islamabad which are other metropolitan cities of the country.

Shajee and his wife at Swat, the town of Malala.

 

Or is all this talk of extremists and terrorism exaggerated stuff media feeds to the world?

Well, I think as HONY had put it, if there’s only one spot in the newspaper to put for Pakistan, obviously the most violent one or the dreadful one is the one that’s going to get published. So, yea, the media does exploit our image in the world. But, it’s definitely not even close to what the media shows.

 

What is your image of India? What do you think of it and it’s people?

The image I have of India is a land of very diverse people with a rich history. Although the governments of both sides get tangled in politics that leave the two countries at each others’ throats, but I don’t think the common man on both sides is interested in this animosity. The common man when he comes together with similar Indians, connects with them and doesn’t see them as much different and understands that they are a part of a similar human everyday struggle, that they go through. I definitely want to visit India and see all the places first-hand which we have only studied in history or seen in movies and interact with every-day Indians in the hope to find them similar to the every-day Pakistani.
 

More to come… :)

Part 1: Getting to Know The Real Pakistan

 

Photo Credits: All Photos by Ahmed Shajee Aijazi except – “Abdul Sattar Edhi” by Hussain – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons and “Kemari Boat Basin @ Karachi” by Faisal Saeed – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr Commons

October 15, 2015   No Comments

Book Review: It’s a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt

 

 
Title: It’s a Wonderful Death
Author: Sarah J. Schmitt
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Sky Pony Press (October 6th 2015)
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Read: eBook
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

 

Summary:

(Goodreads)

Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll. But in her quest for mortality, she becomes a pawn in a power struggle between an overzealous archangel and Death Himself. The tribunal presents her with two options: she can remain in the lobby, where souls wait to be processed, until her original lifeline expires, or she can replay three moments in her life in an effort to make choices that will result in a future deemed worthy of being saved. It sounds like a no-brainer. She’ll take a walk down memory lane. How hard can changing her future be?

But with each changing moment, RJ’s life begins to unravel, until this self-proclaimed queen bee is a social pariah. She begins to wonder if walking among the living is worth it if she has to spend the next sixty years as an outcast. Too quickly, RJ finds herself back in limbo, her time on Earth once again up for debate.

RJ is a snarky, unapologetic, almost unredeemable, very real girl. Her story is funny and moving, and teens will easily connect with her plight. Prepare to meet the Grim Reaper, who’s cuter than you’d expect; Hawaiian shirt–wearing Death Himself; Saint Peter (who likes to play Cornhole); and Al, the handler for the three-headed hound that guards the gates of Hell. This cast of characters accompanies RJ through her time in the afterlife and will do their best to gently shove her in the right direction.

 

My Review:

Note: Thanks Sarah J. Schmitt and YA Bound Book Tours for offering me this book to read and review :)

Cover: Eye-catchy

Paper and font: Easy on the eyes!

Readability, language: Simple and easy.

Why did I choose this book: The title got me interested and once I’d read the blurb, I just had to read this book.

RJ dies accidentally, not by accident but rather due to the cunning gypsy who uses her to avoid dying. But it isn’t RJ’s turn so she raises hell up there. The powers that be give her 3 tests to prove she deserves to go back. Being the dudette RJ thinks the tests will be child’s play but each test changes her life completely, and she isn’t the dude any more.

The title had me intrigued and curious at the start and by the end of the book the title made perfect sense. The blurb piqued my interest and got me wanting to read the book. As for the cover, I really liked it, its simple and somber and yet resonates.

I haven’t read something like this ever before and found it fascinating. Yet at the core this isn’t an entirely new idea but rather an interesting approach to the old idea that every little change in the past makes a entire new future.

Set for the most part in the afterlife or rather in the lobby of the afterlife, Schmitt has done a good job of describing the place and the people. There is enough similarly to the conventional idea of heaven & hell to make it easy to recognise and yet it was different enough to pique my interest.

It’s a Wonderful Death has two fascinating sets of characters. One is a human set of characters who reminded me of school – it’s politics and group dynamics. The other I couldn’t help but laugh at as Schmitt describes Death Himself dressed in Hawaiian shorts, Saint Peter who likes to play odd games with Al the only one who can handle the three-headed dog who guards hells gate and so on.

RJ is the main character and at the start I sympathised with her, then as I got to know her I started to dislike her only to start liking her again as the story progressed. Schmitt does a good job of building the readers relationship with RJ so that at one point I found myself rooting for RJ and almost crying for her.

The story is well paced with a climax I just didn’t see coming and didn’t like, yet it seemed the most appropriate ending. There aren’t too many subplots and the story sticks together well with no loose ends left behind.

Narrated by RJ, It’s a Wonderful Death is written in simple language that did not require me to reach out for the dictionary for any of the words. Listening and seeing the tale unfold though RJ’s eyes helped in understanding her better and gasping her point of view as Schmitt explored the life of a teenage girl.

I enjoyed reading It’s a Wonderful Death and would recommend it for anyone over the age of 14-15. Even if you are in your 30’s like me, this book will be entertaining and will transport you back to school (well, some what). :)

Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

About the Author:

 
Sarah J. Schmitt is a K-8 school librarian and Youth Service Professional for Teens at a public library who, in addition to planning a variety of events, enjoys opening up the world of books to reluctant readers. She has a Masters of Science in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs from Indiana University Sarah lives outside of Indianapolis with her husband, two kidlets and a cat who might actually be a secret agent. IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH, is her debut novel.

Author Links:
WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

October 13, 2015   No Comments

The #QualityITCFoods Blogger Meet: Yippee, A Recap

In my list of soul foods, Maggi would be in the top 5. And I use the word Maggi not as the Nestlé brand but as that descriptor (like Xerox is synonymous with photocopy) it has become for those soft soupy noodles you can slurp. Then I remember that June debacle that makes me snatch my hand back and deprive myself of a food I enjoyed. The whole lead issue didn’t just put me off Maggi but also all other noodles in that category.

And today’s meet up was all about that. Well, not exactly. The meet up today was all about Yippee, it’s fight to stay in the market and taking the number one position held for so long by Maggi. When I turned up at ITC Gardenia today I didn’t know what to expect. As I caught up with blogger friends I looked around and figured the meet would be about all the various packaged foods ITC makes.

That’s Sid, Vidya and Bhawna with me there. I’ve linked them so, check out their blogs folks!

The Cutting Chai Stall

Rajesh V L, the CEO of ITC Foods took the stage and gave an introduction to ITC Foods, how it started, their ethic and beliefs, the various products and brands, and some up-coming products. And I was impressed, the company seems to be quite transparent, they seem to be giving importance to sustainability and also seem to be doing work in the causes space. (I’ve used ‘seem’ a lot, but after all I didn’t really see it, just heard it. 😀 )

One thing in his talk that really stood out for me was their work on e-Choupals. This program really gives back to the farmers (who are our lifeline) by giving them access to the internet and bringing information to their fingertips. An example Rajesh gave was that a farmer now has access to check the rates of his vegetables even before he sets out for the mandi. So now, he can avoid having to make a distress sale after landing up there. A program that provides farmers with up-to-date marketing and agricultural information sounds empowering.

Rajesh was followed by Kavita Chaturvedi who is the Head of Marketing. She has been a part of the Yippee noodles journey since day 1 and that was the story she shared. She talked about how research started on the noodles. In line with Rajesh’s earlier talk, Kavitha talked about the search for that quality thing with a difference.

She recounted stories of how they came about their top three USP’s. The round block of noodles, their non-stickyness and the masala with veggies. Frankly, this won me over. For years with Maggi I have hated breaking the block, it shortens the tendrils of noodles and reduces the slurpyness. It’ll be nice not to have to break the block. And have cold noodles still flowing and not just become one gooey mess like Maggi does.

I’ve been a Maggi loyalist until now but after today, I’m ready to give Yippee noodles a chance and their Yippee 4 in 1 pack in the hamper will helping this I think. :)

Kavita also talked about other aspects of Yippee, their vigorous testing in their Japanese technology factories (over 800 tests are done everyday and 66 on water alone), their hygiene standards and their approach to the Maggi debacle. She talked about their approach of transparency and being up front, and shared Sunfeast’s You Ask We Answer website and videos that were ITC’s answer to the Maggi fiasco.

Q&A came after, moderated by Archana Doshi founder of www.archanaskitchen.com. Rajesh V L came back to stage to patiently answer the many questions that were raised on quality of ingredients, safest and freshest sourcing, the various types of fats, etc. The answering had me impressed with how he stuck to facts and called things as they were. But then again, never judge a book by its cover. 😀

After all this Yippee talk, Master Chef Kamlesh Joshi took stage and demonstrated the making of Khow Suey using Yippee noodles. The recipe was an interesting one and since I tasted it at lunch, I’d definitely like to try it sometime.

There was a cook-off that followed that required that each team make a dish with Yippee noodles using the array of ingredients provided. I felt like I was at one of those Australian Masterchef episodes where people went about making something with the ingredients provided. Our team came up with a Chatpata Yippee Pasta and came third. The first prize was won by the Team that made Yippee Gol-Gappas. I missed tasting them, but the three Chef-Judges couldn’t seem to stop eating them! 😛

The Ingredients

The Sunfeast Smashers (one of the first things we did was break a bowl 😀 )

Chatpata Yippee Pasta

The Three Chef Judges – Prashant Joseph, Yogesh Dutta, Kamlesh Joshi

Finally after all that food talk and cooking lunch was served and it was quite a spread. I enjoyed the Khow Suey, gosht and Chicken in Wine sauce. Didn’t have place for anything else as there was a big spread for dessert. And I ate one of each. 😀

Dessert Spread

Khow Suey

The ITC Foods Display

I even brought a bottle of tiramisu back for Che along with a hamper. :)

Tiramisu in a Jar

The ITC Hamper

It was a fun day – meeting friends, getting to know more about ITC Foods and having some yummy food. Thanks are due to the guys over at ITC Foods for it all and the guys at ITC Gardenia who made it all possible.

October 10, 2015   5 Comments

Getting to Know The Real Pakistan — (Part 1)

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve come across one too many posts about how bad a place Pakistan is. It’s never bothered me before, but this time, somehow it rankles. Writing off a country as backward, extremist, terrorist, and what not just doesn’t sit well.

And this isn’t the first time, jokes and posts putting down Pakistan abound and I remember them since being a child. From the age when I started to comprehend the concept of countries, I remember being told Pakistan is a bad place, the subtle message being that I must hate Pakistan, for in it lies the proof of my being Indian.

This messaging was everywhere, in papers, on the TV, in people talk. And yet I remember the fun I had had when my Grand-Dad’s childhood friend visited from Karachi. (The friend had chosen to move at partition.) He hadn’t seemed different from us, his description of life didn’t seem unreasonable, and he had the same cute cuddliness my Granddad had. I had really liked that Pakistani.

Then came the phase of college, when being a Muslim seemed tough with bullies repeatedly telling me to go back to Pakistan, calling me a Pakistan-lover, and other names. Stories and media reports didn’t help as they painted a tainted picture of Pakistan and I found myself slipping further on the anti-Pakistan route. My intensified hatred became proof of being a true Indian.

The anti-Pakistan sentiment by itself might have been fine but this isn’t a feeling that limits itself to a country or place, it transfers to people too. With time I found myself starting to believe that Pakistanis were awful people and that the country was a terrible place to live.

That belief lasted until a few years ago, when I met some Pakistanis and they shook up my beliefs, shook them up really well actually. They were a mixed bunch in gender, lifestyle, dressing,… They wore skirts, spoke impeccable English and didn’t hide behind the burkha or beard. They were just as normal as we were. They didn’t seem traumatised, deprived, or curtailed like I had been made to believe.

As I got to know them better, it got clearer that we were not different as people. Our lives, lifestyles, cultures, terrain, mindsets and more were so similar. I found that I really liked these Pakistanis.

Through them I also got to know Pakistan better and I realised that it wasn’t the inhospitable crazy country I believed it to be. Looking at one part of Pakistan and saying the whole country in unliveable and full of terrorists, is like looking at the Naxalite areas of India and saying all of India is a wasteland filled with Naxalites.

Media and the Government have been sending out filtered messages for years and years now. Slowly and subtlety playing with our minds until we now blindly believe that Pakistan and Pakistanis are terrorists, heathens, bad people and such. This nonsensical belief and our idiotic hatred of everything Pakistan works for the Government as they churn more money for their pockets out of our psychosis.

How do they make money? Ever wondered how much our defence budgets are? How much is spent on weapons and bombs? How much money is silently sidelined in each defence deal? If peace existed, this budget would not exist! And this is just one example.


When I first started thinking about writing this piece, I shared a post by HONY on Facebook. The responses confirmed that I wasn’t the only one who had been taken in by this bullshit about Pakistan. There were so many people out there, just like me – educated, well read, articulate and intelligent folk – who didn’t see beyond the propaganda being disseminated.

I reached out to friends in Pakistan, I wanted to hear their story. I wanted to know what they thought of Pakistan? What was their life like? Did they consider their country backward, extremist, terrorist, and such? What was their image of their country? And most importantly what was their image of ours?

Their response was unexpected, it overwhelmed me, and floored me. Like us they give ‘dil khol ke’. :) It was the responses that sparked the thought of sharing what they said and made this post a post in parts. After all a dialogue isn’t complete until, the both sides have spoken. 😀

Part 2 – Pakistan: As Shajee Sees It :)

 

Photo Credits: hswajid, AllauddinYousafzai, HONY

October 8, 2015   2 Comments

Book Review: The Big Indian Wedding by Sakshi Salve

 
Title: The Big Indian Wedding
Author: Sakshi Salve
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Rupa Publications (7 October 2015)
Genre: Society & Culture
Read: Paperback
Stars: **/5
Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

 

Summary:

(Goodreads)

the big indian wedding presents the largerthanlife, sometimes outlandish, generally madding, and always highoctane world of indian marriage ceremonies!

dip in to discover of the zany, overthetop, and thus far undisclosed stories associated with the wellheeled indian’s courtship and nuptial dance. from inebriated first dates over bottles of dom pérignon; to inspired proposals in exotic locations; to the entrance of the bigticket wedding planner to, finally, the giant wedding itself, preluded by shopping sprees, bachelorettes, sangeets and mehndis, and culminating in the mother of them all, the ‘saat phere’ this book is the ultimate compendium to the indian marriage tamasha.

written by someone who has keenly observed and enthusiastically participated in weddings and has almost been roped into one herself and peppered with witty observations, merry quizzes, and a whacky proposal manual (bollywoodstyle), this book is a satirical account of the excesses of modernday indian weddings, and a sobering comment on the simplicity of the past.

 

My Review:

Note: Thanks Sakshi Salve and Weber Shandwick (publicist?) for offering me this book to read and review :)

Cover: Eye-sore

Paper and font: Ebony and Ivory

Readability, language: Easy on eye and mind

Why did I choose this book: The premise of the book had looked promising.

This is a book about the weddings of the Elite of India – the rich and the fancy. It covers how weddings have changed with time, the various functions, the costs, behind the scenes and more.

The Big Indian Wedding is an appropriate title for this book. The cover is an illustration by Ankit Parikh who has other illustrations in the book too. No offence to the illustrator (I have no degree in art) but I really didn’t like the cover. It looks cheap and tacky. The blurb is OK except for the largish para on the virtues of the author!

The book starts with the proposal and runs along all the functions and parties in-between before ending at the wedding. Salve covers so many “do’s” at big-shot weddings that you start wondering what they don’t do. Each event is given its due attention and is detailed in terms of the partying involved. (The partying animals seem to have no clue about the why and how of the events.)

Salve compares the earlier generation’s modus operandi with the current gen’s as she describes each event. This is all fine except a lot of times it felt like she was comparing the upper class with the Upper than that class. For example she talks about the Bahu with cooking skills. Which super rich family ever looked at a Bahu’s culinary skills!?

The book is set in no one place as Salve takes us on a wedding locale tour from Goa to the Greek Islands. She talks about the travels and destinations of choice for the Indian rich as they go about out-doing each other in spending money and finding excuses to party in the run up to the wedding.

The Big Indian Wedding is about the rich and elite of India. This isn’t the upper class, rather the Upper upper class, the boys who can buy all the toys and Salve’s descriptions of their shallowness and materialism are bang on.

Written in second person, Salve holds a constant but boring pace. After a while of reading I started to wish the pages would fly by fast, but they moved along only at a tormenting pace. The language is simple but very clichéd and the text is filled with cheesy dialogues that didn’t make me laugh. And a lot of those were in Indian languages.

There are many pages of illustrations by Ankit Parikh that break the book up into 4 sections. I enjoyed perusing some of them while others I felt were just taking up space.

That said the book did have it’s moments (though rare and in-between) when Salve’s sarcasm shone through.

I didn’t enjoy the book at all and now I wonder what even got me interested. I had hoped for a funny hilarious book on rich Indian weddings but the book turned out poor in that department. At the end, Salve puts in a little epilogue about how she is jesting in the book, but I thought the book it self was a jest. Avoidable at best, unless you move in Salve’s circles, then please get a copy for display!

Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

About the Author:

 
Born and raised in New Delhi, India, Sakshi is the daughter of Harish and Meenakshi Salve and mentee of Suhel Seth. During her free time, Sakshi can be found in her personal library which is home to over “25,000 titles”. And when not writing, she is mostly in the kitchen baking cupcakes, or playing with her two loveable dogs, Rio and Caolila.

October 6, 2015   No Comments