Saturday, 20 August 2016

When daughters make us proud

There was something different about today evening. Unlike most Friday evenings when people are busy partying, surprisingly everyone was in a hurry to reach home. The otherwise office cafeteria buzzing with activity during evening snacks saw many no shows as all were trying to wind up early for the day. The reason was NOT a India-Pak ODI match, but a 21 year old playing to win Gold medal for India.

After all, it isn't a usual affair to witness an Indian player qualifying for the Badminton Singles grand finale in "The Olympics!" 

The wait for next pickup in our Uber Pool cab became unbearable for none of us wanted to be late for the historic match. Finally, when the gentleman arrived after a good 6 minute wait, we were ready with our stinking looks. However, as soon as he entered the cab he said, "Bhaiyya, please try to drive fast, for today is a historic day for us...India might win its first Badminton Gold in Olympics!" While the driver gave a helpless smile, our anger vanished, realising the gentleman too was a part of the match frenzy. The otherwise frustrating ride through Mumbai traffic seemed to appear short and interesting as we kept discussing the sport throughout.

What made me happier was the fact that this was one rare occasion when the whole country was biting their nails for a sport other than cricket! Usually our cricketers take away all the limelight, leaving other sportspersons to make their name count by clinching medals. The fact that my favourite sport Badminton was the hot topic of discussion today had me smiling ear to ear. The Euphoria took me back in time when every evening and every holiday meant a longish date with the Badminton racket and Shuttle cock. My bestie and I indulged ourselves to the game for hours, hitting smashes and trying to freeze the game. Angered by their calls being ignored, our moms would drag us home to have meal or finish homework. 

The passion sadly, had a short life. As I entered the crucial 10th standard, all extra curricular activities were sacrificed in the race to qualify for competitive exams, for having a good career meant becoming a doctor or engineer. Not that there weren't sportspersons making the country proud back then. But the occasions were rare. Lack of opportunities, facilities and exposure prevented sports being seen a stable career option back then.

Today when I see the daughters of our country bringing laurels in the field of sports, my happiness seems no bounds. Finally, Indian parents are waking up to recognise sports at par with other career options. The proud families of Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu are a testimony to this fact. Beti bachao and beti padhao are no longer just slogans found in speeches and there are parents who in fact are saying, "beti khilao, medal jitao!" 

Of course, the burden of expectations and stress still shows on these young faces. In today's finale, while Spain's Carolina Marin looked relaxed and all set for the fight, the continuous tensed expressions on the face of PV Sindhu didn't go unnoticed by the commentators. Choosing sports as a full time career option still puts double the pressure to excel vis a vis conventional career options. But then, pioneers are those who take the path less beaten and leave their trail behind!

Congrats Sakshi & PV Sindhu! You haven't just won Olympic medals. You have created history, for a daughter has done what no son has ever done! 

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Book Review - Corpokshetra - Mahabharata in the MBA Yug

Author – Deepak Kaul
Publisher – Westland, BGB
Pages – 124
Price -  Rs. 200

First Impressions

The minute I picked up the book, my eyes were glued to the charming and smiling face of Lord Krishna on the cover. Here's our lord in the modern times, looking dapper in corporate attire! Few things of course changed with the times - the Sudarshan chakra seemed to be replaced with car keys! Soon, my attention went to the familiar figures of Pandavas and Kauravas all set to break each other's heads with cricket bats. Poor Bhishm pitamah too stares helplessly, as Lord Krishna gives a typical "Sab Maya hai' smile! Wow, couldn't wait to get started with this book!

My View
Having read many versions of the Mahabharata, this I must say has by far been the most unique experience. Since childhood, Mahabharata to me meant the epic TV series, grand courtrooms, royal costumes, headgears, horses, chariots, and of course, liberal use of shudh hindi.

I was somewhat in a state of amusement and shock while reading the first few pages. What if I were to tell you that Hastinapur was in fact Hastinapur enterprises, a business conglomerate; Duryodhan was the CEO who was against the Pandavas claiming their equity stakes  in the company; during the 13 year Vanya vaas, the Pandavas were to run a NGO; and Krishna actually owned a consulting firm? Before, you jump on and think I have lost it completely, let me tell you this is the set up of the modern Mahabharata as told in the book. 

For the generation that was born much after the TV serial Mahabharata became popular, Mahabharata is just an epic. To modernise the whole concept by drawing parallels with the corporate world is then a very unique attempt by the author. 

Like a blockbuster movie, the first half impresses us with the Corporate jargons. In fact, I was mostly in splits, appreciating the author's out of the box thinking! 

Picture this -

Krishna dancing on the head of Kaliya Nag, the MD of Yamuna Corp, to relent and set up a co-operative to be run by cowherds
Krishna raising mountains to get Indra, the chairman of Govardhan Ltd., to stop scorching fertile land to set up a cosmetics factory
Duryodhana and Karna discussing the state of affairs over a cup of Starbucks coffee
The battle of Kurukshetra is actually an attempt by Pandavas to reclaim their lost equity stake from the Kauravas through a hostile takeover
Kurukshetra, where the Mahabharata took place was in the fact the largest conference room in the offices of Hastinapur enterprise
Kauravas inviting Pandavas for the historical Poker game over Watsapp!

While I would refrain from revealing more about the book, the above hints are enough to invoke your interest in this interesting book. Throughout the first half I was in awe of the creativity, holding my stomach and laughing throughout the story of Mahabharata in the MBA yug. 

However, it was the battle of Mahabharata that finally woke me up from my comfort for I was beginning to get somewhat confused. We all know the battle of Kurukshetra was the deciding factor, however, whether the fate of Hastinapur Inc was to be decided by boardroom battle, golf match, or cricket was something I was thoroughly confused about. One moment saw Arjun throwing things in the boardroom to avenge the wrongdoings against Abhimanyu, while the other saw Pandavas and Kauravas using sports to decide who shall control Hastinapur Inc. 

Finally, I did what the reader of fiction should do, stopped drawing parallels with the story I knew and enjoyed the story with the fresh mind. By the time I flipped the last page, my heart was shouting "this is entertainment, entertainment, entertainment!" Lol!

I recommend this book for its sheer uniqueness. The apt use of corporate lingo will leave you in splits. 

The book is unique for another reason. Did you know this is a crowd curated book? Bloody Good Book is a unique eBook publishing venture, wherein the aspiring authors are invited to submit their manuscript at The first 3 chapters of their manuscript will be made available to readers, who will read and review them. The top rated and most popular books are reviewed by BGB (eBooks) and Westland (print) editors and considered for publication.

Thumbs Up
Very unique concept
Apt use of corporate jargons
Seasoned with the right amount of humour
I particularly enjoyed reading the afterword for its sheet honesty and recommended readings by the author.

But then, umm...
The Kurukshetra war could have been more realistic than a combination of verbal spats, physical fights, cricket and golf match deciding the fate of a business conglomerate.

My Rating 

This review is for Writers Melon and Westland.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Book Review - Panorama - A collection of short stories

Author – Shilpi Chaklanobis
Publisher – Notion Press
Pages – 134
Price -  Rs. 150

First Impressions

I am a big fan of short stories, so the plain cover that revealed nothing about the book could hold my attention for few seconds only. Like a child, I was eager to dive into the world of stories, when these words on the back cover caught my attention...

"Often laced with an element of introspection, the stories are sure to change the way you see the world around you..."

My View
There is something magical about short stories collection that entice the reader in me. Whether I am in a mood to read or not, a short story collection is something that is bound to lift my spirits on a dull day. It was on such a dull, rainy day that Panorama arrived to uplift my mood. 

The stories even though poles apart are weaved with a common thread of emotions. Touching different aspects and emotions of life, each story strikes a chord with the reader's heart. Wok  is a story that speaks of innocence, sacrifice and love. The powerful story of a single mother, her challenges, sacrifices and love for her little one got my eyes moist. If you ever had a pet and you loved "Marley & Me", the story "Peanut" is for you. The devotion towards his master is more important for a pet than his own life, and  this tragic story proves this. "The Thirst" tells the story of a daughter whose thirst for her mother's love blinds her of her own interests. Whether she finally gets the love she's been looking is for you to find out. Sometimes, all it takes is an incident to change our perspective and wash away the mind blocks society has built up and "Selective Secularism" narrates one such incident. "Bribe" introduces  us to the mental tug of war between a father and a husband. The father wants to be his daughter's favourite. But, does the demanding husband understand the silent sacrifices made by his wife? "Forever" is the story of ambitions, love, compromises and revelations. Life doesn't always give us a second chance, especially when it comes to relationships. "The Wait" shakes us with its powerful narrative; a dutiful wife's endless search and hope for the deceitful husband who abandoned her. Her innocence charms and her dutiful nature surprises the readers. A story of devotion, diligence and deceit that shakes our conscience. When a natural calamity strikes, all we do is extend our sympathies and perhaps some donations. However, little do we know the harsh reality of children who have been orphaned in such calamities. "The second Tsunami" is such a heart warming tale of tragedy, hunger, love and survival. Does hunger come above a sister's love for her brother? "The Example" forces us to reconsider the definition of success and achievements. Is real success all about accolades or about making a difference in someone's life? "The Meeting" is a wonderful story that explains the changing dynamics of friendship when money crawls in between. On the land of Sudama and Krishna, will Payal get the same love and recognition from her rich friend Ria as she used to when they both shared the middle class status? Children often fail to notice the sacrifices of their mother, especially when she is a working mother. "Mirage" tells about such a relationship between a mother and daughter. Selfish, busy and a bad wife is all that Khushi thinks of her mother, a single parent, until one day an old cupboard reveals a shocking secret. "Destiny" is a chilling story of beliefs, destiny and the unexplained powers of the universe. Fortune tellers can tell our future but can we change our destiny if we know the impending risk in advance? "The Untimely Death" is a story set in the unforgettable year "1984" when Indira Gandhi's assassination changed the lives of many families overnight. Unaware of the political dynamics that govern the fate of cities, an innocent school girl discovers the world around her totally changed in the wake of 1984 riots. Often, we sacrifice our personal space to feed our ambitions.  In the story, "Before It's Too Late" Arnab discovers the importance of family time after reaching the pinnacle of his career. However, to his surprise, the same family who earlier craved for his presence had conveniently filled the void with materialistic comforts and friends. While money can buy almost everything, can it buy back the precious moments that could have been spent with family? The last story "The Sealed Wish" is a story of love, tragedy and coincidences that challenge a mother who has lost her husband and daughter. 

Powerful and thought provoking, these are the stories of people around us, of their hopes, feelings and circumstances. Each story is refreshingly different from the other, and hints at important lessons life teaches us. 

A brilliant work from a debut author! A perfect book to give you company on a rainy afternoon with a hot cup of chai. 

Hope to see the book made into a motion picture someday....

Thumbs Up

Powerful narrative. Each story strikes an instant connection with the reader.
Versatility of stories.
Writing style that lives up to the standards of a perfect short story.

My Rating - 

About The Author
Shilpi Chaklanobis hails from the beautiful city of Kanpur and has spent the majority of her adult life in Delhi. She currently heads  the Digital Marketing division at an MNC. The amalgamation of her years spent amongst the quiet, calm streets of a small city and the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan like Delhi has lent her a unique perspective towards life. She aims to translate her experience and understanding of human relationships into stories that not only move people but also resonate with them. She believes that the beauty of a story lies within its ability to be interpreted by the reader in the way they desire as is evident from her writing. Apart from writing, she spends her time time devouring books by the dozen. This is her first endeavour as a writer and her writing not only shows promise, but also has a sense of sensitivity that compels you to think about the lives you touch every day.

I received the book from the author for an honest review. You can buy "Panorama" from Flipkart and Amazon

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Introducing li'l one to friends from the sea

Motherhood in itself is a magical experience! To see a little life develop step by step in front of your eyes is a beautiful experience words can't explain. Having recently turned one, my little bundle of joy is now officially a toddler and is all gradually observing the beautiful world around him. Experts say that a child’s brain develops the most in the first five years of his life. As parents, this is the best time to introduce new words into his vocabulary and make him familiar with the surroundings.

Since children have a short attention time span, the best way to teach them something new is by using pictures, stories and songs. They might forget what you try to teach them, but they will forever remember the stories and rhymes. 

So, when I received the #colgatemagicalstories packs, I was more than elated, for these days my little one loves to observe animals and their sounds. While other kids are scared by the shrill barks of the neighbourhood German Shephard, my son jumps and shouts with excitement, as if encouraging his canine buddy. Since I had not yet tried to relate pictures with stories, I was all excited for the experiment!

Soon, I received the 4 special Colgate packs, each with a separate set of magical sea world creatures inside. Since my little one is too small for art and craft, I took the lead with the cut out. I was impressed with the focus on “learn and fun” in the packs. For starters, the packs had instructions simple enough for the kids to follow. The packs even suggested the kids to take the help of elders, to avoid any mishap.

What impressed me even more was the little information about each creature that truly lived up to the “learn and fun” spirit.

Did you know these amazing facts about life under the sea?

  • Octopus has three hearts and can change its colour quickly
  • Puffer fish defends itself by filling its stomach with water
  • Killer whale is the largest member of the dolphin family
  • Sea turtles can grow upto 300kg in weight

Well, I for sure didn't know all this.

As soon as I opened the packs, I was I went back to my childhood, remembering my favourite cartoon The Little Mermaid!  Waiting to befriend my little one in the pack was the Dolphin, Parrot, Sting Ray, Whale, Pirate, sea turtle, sea horse, lion fish, barracuda, sharks, crabs, mermaid, star fish and Octopus! Quickly, I prepared the cut outs using the simple to manage cardboard stands provided in the pack itself, and we were all set for the #colgatemagicalstories.

My little one is too young to understand stories, but loves music and rhymes. So, I prepared a small jingle to introduce each character from the story.

Here’s a li’l jingle I sang to him - 

Welcome my friends from the sea,
Thanks for coming to meet me,

Shark, whale, dolphin, star fish
All the fishes make a wish

Blackbeard’s treasure is tough to find
But Sadie will be helpful and kind

Parrot’s talks gives company
Crab dances very funny

Looking at Octopus shark and whale
The pirate feared and turned pale

But then came the pretty mermaid
To the lost pirate’s aid

Together the treasure they found
And then headed to the happy sound

In castle their friends laughed and played
In the magical world, they happily stayed

This is a sponsored post. Discover the magical world of sea with the special #colgatemagicalstories packs.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Monsoon masti in Lonavala

As monsoon sets in, the Western Ghats become the ideal destination for travel enthusiasts. Hills, pleasant weather and lot of sightseeing options make them a tourist’s delight. Talking of sightseeing, the first name that comes to my mind is the twin hill stations Lonavala Khandala. Incidentally, it was the song, “Aati kya Khandala” that introduced me to Lonavala. Listening Aamir Khan sing “Lonavle me chikki khayenge” I too used to plead my parents to take me to Lonavala Khandala so that I could “eat my favourite actor’s favourite chikki!”

Years later, when I relocated to Mumbai, Lonavala got instantly refreshed in my memory and made its place on the top of my “places to visit” list. Since I had set my foot in Mumbai, everyone I met suggested to take a short getaway to Lonavala Khandala and enjoy the beauty of Western Ghats during monsoons.

Fortunately, I got my chance soon. Owing to its proximity from Mumbai (It’s just a 96km pleasant drive away), Lonavala topped our “to travel” destination and one long weekend, we found ourselves up early to explore Lonavala.

The drive through Vashi-Panvel was smooth and soon we found ourselves surrounded by the hills enveloped in greenery! Awestruck by the breath-taking sight of the hills, tunnels and waterfalls, I couldn't have agreed more that Lonavala is the place to be during monsoons.

Lonavala boasts of many amazing resorts which make for a pleasant experience. It was a wise decision to compare Lonavala resorts using Cleartrip, for not only we got a resort that offered breath-taking view of the hills, but also offered us a good deal on tariffs. 
After a sumptuous fest and some rest, we set out to explore Lonavala, for we wanted to make the most of our long weekend.

If the sight of hills and waterfalls impress you, wait till you set out for some sightseeing. Lonavala offers many interesting places for sightseeing that are a must on your itinerary -

1. Bushi Dam
Located on Indramani River, Bushi Dam is a very popular destination among tourists. Tourists particularly enjoy playing with water on the steps. Swimming is prohibited since there have been many incidents of drowning due to inconsistent flow of water. One needs to check regarding timings as tourists are not allowed to go near the dam after 5pm. Also, consumption of alcohol is prohibited near the dam.

2. Tiger Point
Also known as Tiger’s Leap, it is another popular spot. Resembling the shape of a Tiger trying to cross the valley, Tiger’s Leap offers a beautiful view of the hills and valley. One can also enjoy the waterfall during monsoon seasons and the place is a perfect “selfie/groupie” spot.

3. Lonavala Lake
A perfect spot for the Love birds, Lonavala Lake offers a romantic experience in the lap of nature. The lake dries up in winters so one can enjoy it only during the monsoons. One can enjoy swimming or just watching nature and birds.

4. Karla Caves
This was a surprise last minute addition to our itinerary as our friends in the resort recommended it strongly. And I am thankful to them for this. These ancient Buddhist rock cut caves date back to 2nd century BC. The cave complex with its intricate carvings are a shutterbug’s delight!

No trip is complete without savouring the local flavour. While one can enjoy fresh Bhutta near the waterfalls, Lonavala is well known for its Chikki and fudge

Available in many flavours, Chikki is a must buy. Maganlal and National are famous shops one can visit to explore many varieties of Chikki. 

Offering a quick break from the busy life of Mumbai, Lonavala is indeed the ideal weekend getaway.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Book Review - The First Storyteller

Author – Varun Gwalani
Publisher – Frog Books
Pages – 208
Price -  Rs. 225

First Impressions

The Skiros immediately attracted my attention. Was it a symbol standing pretty in the middle of a forest? Or a gateway to a mystical world? I didn't know. I kept looking at it for several minutes, playing my little guessing game. There was something mysterious about it, something magical that I had to find out. I jumped in to know about the magical world of the first storyteller.

My View
I don't know if I should be calling this a book review. For it's hard to do justice to this amazing display of creativity by Varun Gwalani. I hadn't read his first book. However, looking at the blurb, a part of me could relate to the protagonist and I immediately wanted to read more. 

Still wanna get an idea about the plot? Well, this is the story of a storyteller (no, we don't know his name). Living in a coastal village, all he had was the power of his stories which only his mentor, the old storyteller understood. After his mentor's demise, he began to feel a vacuum inside, for he was living in a world which didn't embrace his ideas. The storyteller had thoughts free like a bird, vast as a sky and fresh as the rain. However, the people around him loved to lead their lives the same way, day after day. They had rules that nobody challenged and monotony was glorified in the name of consistency. It is not a surprise then that the storyteller stood in the village as an odd one out, and was often mocked at for his silly, insane thoughts. 

When the river flows against us, we have two options - either to surrender and go with the flow, or to fight our way up. His ideas were succumbing to the disrespect of the people around him. He had no new stories to tell. Not willing to give in to those who never understood him, the storyteller decided it was time to ditch the people who only gave him hatred. Thus began his journey through the Skiro into the mystical forest, a journey to discover life, discover himself. He knew he might never come back. But at least it was better than not trying at all.

More than being an escape from people and places, it was an escape from the mental block that attack most creative people. Just like the journey of life, the forest too gave him an easy option to give up and settle for less. But, in his battle with the demons of his mind, the storyteller had to risk and strive for what he set out for.

The journey that transforms and rejuvenates him also brings him face to face with his fears, apprehensions and mental block. Whether the storyteller overcame these and how, and whether he was able to return from the forest is for the readers to find out.

As I delved deep into the story, I realised this is not just the story of the story teller. This is the story of each one of us, for we all might have felt stuck in the "status quo" at some point in our lives. Like the storyteller, we too are travellers in the forest of life, embarking upon our specific journeys. While giving up is the easiest option, we have to keep moving ahead, for only then can we overcome the roadblocks. We too, like the storyteller encounter demons of our fears, the fairies of emotions, distractions that try to entangle and hold us. However, faith, confidence and focus can have us carve out our path in this forest. Once the distractions are fought over, the mind is cleansed, confident and open for seeds of fresh thoughts to be planted.

The book is like a painting, each person will relate to something and will have a different takeaway from the other one. However, it is a one of its kind story that you don't get to read everyday. So, grab the book and discover your own path!

Thumbs Up
  • Unique and powerful narration
  • A story everyone can relate to, something tough to achieve in fiction
  • The story maintains its grip on the reader right till the last page

But then, Umm...
Few editorial errors and misprints could have been avoided. 
The story takes time to build up the momentum and requires attention, so someone looking for a light read fiction may not be the target reader.

My Rating

I got the book for an honest review from LeadStart Publishing

Monday, 11 July 2016

Save Today For A Better Tomorrow

(This was published in Parentous)

A few days ago, as mom-in-law had just finished giving my son a bath, I noticed that she had left around 2 mugs of water in the bucket. For my 10 month old, bath time is fun time with splashing, toys and laughter. Usually, even when he’s done with the shower, we play a splashing game with the remaining amount of water. “Pour the little water left in bucket on him mom. He will enjoy!” I suggested.

What my mom-in-law said next gave me the Eureka moment of parenting…

“Using a natural resource more than we need amounts to wastage. We are lucky to be born in a place that isn’t drought affected. Only if we save water today, our son will have water tomorrow.”

Her words kept hovering in my mind for several minutes. As parents we want to provide the best to our children. We strive hard so that our children have everything in sufficient quantities. In this quest to provide the best for our kids, we often mistake abundance for sufficiency. Children too grow up thinking, “It’s OK, our parents can afford anything.” Sometimes this very notion takes them away from a basic lesson in life – Only if we use judiciously and conserve the rest, our future generations will have abundant natural resources...continue reading...