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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Oh, the joy of eating pazhamporis, only a Malayali can tell you

Can I share a secret with you? Something I never told you before?
Don't laugh! I see a smile on your face but that's okay as long as you aren't laughing at me yet.

The thing is I crave to munch on piping hot pazhamporis! 

Okay, blame it on the Malayali genes that are so used to munching on banana fritters while it rains, or when it is a sunny day or a scorching one. We don't care about the weather. 

We simply love biting into the juiciness of home-made pazhamporis, exactly the way our mothers make it at home.

I crave for a world where I don’t have to feel apologetic about eating pazhamporis.

Maybe I am not the only person who fears to talk about eating food openly, for the pure enjoyment of it. That doesn't always have to be equated with calories and nutrients. 

So, what's your favourite food that you love to eat? Tell me about it!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Book Review: Vikas Singh's Bhima is full of passion, action and humour

Over the years, like many Indians, I too have read several books in English and Malayalam that reinterpret the Mahabharatha from a specific point of view, such as that of Draupadi. I was a teenager when I read Malayalam writer MT Vasudevan Nair’s classic ‘Randamoozham’ (Second Chance) which positions Bhima as the protagonist. It was mind-blowing brilliant and I was haunted by Bhima for years.

Vikas Singh in his recently released novel, Bhima, states that he was inspired by MT’s ‘Randamoozham’ but felt that he had another ‘Bhima’ in his perspective.

This is my book review for the #FestiveReading series that has been unveiled by Writersmelon. Visit here http://www.writersmelon.com and you can also follow them on Twitter @Writersmelon.

So, what makes Vikas Singh’s ‘Bhima’ different?
For one, Vikas Singh’s ‘Bhima’ is full of passion, action and humour. The first chapter catapults you into the fiery passionate love making between Bhima and Draupadi, after he ties her hair with Dusshasana’s blood.

Sex sells – be it in books, movies, art, etc. But while reconstructing mythology-based classics, an overdose of sex is a dampener. A classic needs to be experienced as a classic – especially when it is reinterpreted.
Let’s move to the blurb may give you a further hint of what to expect:

I am the mightiest warrior of my time. I have violated my dharma and murdered a man in cold blood. I have, single-handedly, wiped out a whole generation of my kinsmen. I have committed acts of unspeakable brutality on the battlefield. I have done it all for the love of one woman.

I am Bhima, the second Pandava.

Vikas Singh’s ‘Bhima’ explores the curious, passionate, courageous and sensitive side of the great warrior. He is the only Pandava who sees through Yudhishtira’s intentions behind every action and raises logical questions to Krishna about every important event.

None of the other narratives on the Mahabharatha offer such glimpses of Bhima with this unique intensity – as a curious son, a selfless brother, a passionate and caring husband and a most protective father and uncle.

Then why did Bhima keep quiet when his mother Kunti said to Arjuna that all the brothers had to share the “prize”?

His thoughts go like this:

Yudhishtira says that “Mother’s words are like a command of the gods...”

A part of my brain was pointing out to me that if all five of us indeed married Draupadi, then as the eldest brother, Yudhishtira would be the first to consummate the marriage with Draupadi.
“What would have I done if I were in his place...maybe I would have just taken Draupadi’s hand and walked away from there forever...”

The technique of evoking humour will delight readers, especially with the consummation sequence, where the author tactfully uses Bhima’s witty nature to reconstruct the scenes.

We know that Arjuna has almost always been the unspoken hero in the Mahabharatha but he is side-stepped in this narrative. Throughout the narrative, Bhima’s honesty and integrity as a warrior is brought to life. You will feel for Bhima like never before.

Bhima’s love for Draupadi and his part-love, part-jealousy of Arjuna is explored across every sequence of his life. But as a reader, I would also liked to have seen an interplay of magical facets and a playful narrative in this book, instead of the straight-forward retelling of Bhima's version of the events that led to the Mahabharatha.

Mother was always a formidable woman but Arjun could cuddle and kiss and tease her in a way that none of us dared to, least of all me. Since I was completely hopeless at displaying affection through words or gestures, I tried to do so through actions. I would tirelessly run errands for mother, or do things that I think would make her happy. This pattern, set in early childhood, would become a recurring theme later in all my relationships with the women I cared about. Sometimes they noticed. Mostly, they took it for granted. Still, I was grateful for any scraps of attention that came my way.”

‘Bhima’ by Vikas Singh is a deeply moving account that provides the definitive answer to the question: What was it like to be Bhima?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Happy Diwali

When I first came to Delhi, I struggled to understand why people celebrate Diwali with the joyous fervor they do. Coming from Kochi, the significance of Diwali, in comparison, has been minimal. 

The only time we in Kochi used to realize that it is Diwali is when popular sweetshops, particularly Bimbis located at MG Road, began to sell the 'North Indian mithai' items. 

We would see a crowd in front of it. All of us would use the pretext of Diwali to persuade the elders to buy the 'North Indian mithai' and the glossy packets, with its delectable scent, would linger on days after Diwali.

That, dear friend, is the closest that I came to understanding Diwali.

Now that I am settled and living outside Kochi, I see the happiness and the amazing positive energy that makes Diwali something more than a festival. 

I can see how it brings families together, colleagues together, friends and so on. People dress in their brightest and best clothes, vibrant colours are splashed all around and they share beautiful moments, sweets and traditions (optional of course).

For me, Diwali is about watching my son enjoy to the fullest. When he was a baby, I would light the diyas in front of our house. I would dress him in a new colorful kurtha and delight in his baby steps and the way his face would light up with smiles when he looked at the diyas and the lights all around our building.

Now my baby is 9 years old (how time flies - don't ask me about it!) and we go diya shopping together. You can't imagine the amazing fun we have, selecting diyas, carrying them home and then waiting for the D-day so that we can start lighting those diyas. Adi loves to paint the diyas and he takes a lot of effort to combine the colors and dry them so that they are ready at least a day before.

It's what makes Diwali a time of great joy and happiness for families. 

May there be abundance, love, joy and prosperity in your life. 

With all the love in my heart, I wish a very Happy Diwali to each and every one. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Malayalam Movie Review: Rani Padmini asks serious questions but fails to deliver a meaningful impact

I like movies that show strong women. 

I had great expectations from Aashiq Abu's latest Malayalam movie - Rani Padmini. 

The two heroines Manju Warrier and Rima Kallingal demonstrate commendable chemistry despite a poorly paced script and badly written screenplay. 

While Jinu Joseph is impressive as the racer, there is no chemistry with Manju Warrier. The vibes are sangfroid between the two actors. 

The first half of the movie puts you on edge. You keep waiting for a spectacular story but the second half is where the story "begins."  The pace of the film is inconsistent. The 'Ant" story and also the 'paragliding' scenes were stretched to too slow. Then suddenly, the narrative becomes too pacy.

Malayalam Movie Review: Rani Padmini Story
The story goes like this: Padmini (starring Manju Warrier) is a Malayali girl married to a Delhi based racing car driver, whose name is Giri (starring Jinu Joseph). The couple love each other but Padmini is like a caged bird under the watchful eye of a dominating mother-in-law, who makes it clear that "This marriage is more for me than my son so that I have some company."

The movie begins with Padmini about to run away from her home and she begins her dialogue, saying, "My husband has left me to go to the Himalayas." 

                                       [Image: Mollywood Times]

Matters reach a boiling point when her mother-in-law asks her to sign a mutual divorce petition. Her husband has not said a word to her but he signs the petition and leaves to participate in the Himalayan race. 

I love that scene where Padmini calls from Delhi and tells her jealous best friend that her husband signed the divorce papers. Her best friend's reply is catty and funny, "Don't worry. There is divorce happening everywhere. Divorce is trending. It's cool!"

A determined Padmini runs away from her marital home, carrying a bag that also has her gold jewelery that she received from her parents at the time of her marriage. Her journey is to the venue of the Himalayan Car Rally, where her husband is one of the most anticipated participants. 

In the bus, she goes through the typical experience that most Malayali women have experienced at least once in a life time. That's right, a creepy guy pinches her while she falls asleep. Not once but thrice! 

That's when Rani (starring Rima Kallingal) makes her entry - a fiery tomboy like woman sitting next to Padmini. Rani gives that man "the experience" of a lifetime! I can't tell you how much I cheered for Rani at that moment. 

Amidst some poorly delivered dialogues and stale jokes, Padmini and Rani begin to care for each other and fall into an easy comfort zone that usually happens with women who spend time together.  They evoke the curiosity of others. Once when asked, Rani says, "We are lesbians and this is our honeymoon." The dialogue delivery by Rima Kallingal had humor and a spark of cheeky boldness.

We also have a "Don and Gang" who start off as a terror in Rani's life and follow her all the way up the Himalayas.

Malayalam Movie Review: Rani Padmini raises serious questions, answers none

There is a poignant scene where Rani tells Padmini's husband, "You don't deserve her." Symbolic words?

Director Aashiq Abu also raises questions such as:

1. Why are marriages arranged the way they are in conservative Kerala?
2. What is the role of a wife? To sleep, to obey and serve till she dies? 
3. Why do husbands not make an attempt to understand their wives?
4. What holds a woman back from exploring a world beyond her husband?

Aashisq Abu leaves us wondering why these questions were raised and for whom because there are no answers in the movie. The good, responsible wife goes back home to have a baby with the same man who had easily signed the divorce papers.

Aashiq Abu's 'Rani Padmini' is a movie to simply sit back and enjoy in the theaters. A 'good wife' has to pursue her husband to bring him back home even if it is from the Himalayas, then they have a baby, end of story.

Don't think too hard about a wife having to pursue her husband who abandons her without giving any reasons.  

After all, real life doesn't always give you answers. It's up to you to find them. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Want to make a change in your life? 3 simple ways to add joy to your life

We are all caught in a rut. [Do READ: Five Easy Ways to BOOST Your Confidence]

Crazy busy. Sometimes, we forget to breathe or taste what is on our plate. 

We check e-mails on our phones as we eat. We forget to laugh when our loved ones share a joke and we forget to smile. 

We are too busy to smile. [READ: Work, Love and Play like the Danes ]

Been there, done that. 

Here are the little things that I am doing for myself to change this:

1.  Breathe in, breathe out mindfully

Have you noticed how your breath changes when you are nervous or angry or upset about something? Watch your breath because it is closely aligned with your mind-body well being. That's the key to good health and happiness. The more you breathe in and breathe out mindfully, the happier you will feel. 

You will feel light all day. And when worry comes your way, make this your mantra - breathe in light, breathe out love. It works beautifully for me.

                                                                                        [Image: Unsplash]

 2. Don't disturb people and don't let people disturb you

With Facebook, Twitter and so many channels of communication, we experience a lot of "noise" from updates, tweets and so on. Most of the time, we are so busy "reacting" to posts or tweets that we fail to "listen" or "understand" the perspective of the other person. So many arguments erupt not because of an issue alone but our reactive approach to an issue. [READ: QUIET: The Power of Introverts ]

Ask yourself: Do I really need to react to this? How important is this to what I do in my life? 

Simply put, prioritize and pick your battles responsibly. This approach can do wonders to perk up your positive energy too.

3. Stop comparing yourself with others.

We beat up ourselves with constant inner dialogue about why we are flawed. Your life is your precious journey.

Each step of the way marks your unique strengths and abilities that set you apart from every other person in this Universe. 

Celebrate your uniqueness, the strengths that make you special and don't compare yourself with others at any phase in life. 

In this world, there is no other person like you. You are you. There's no one else. Remember that always. It's your strength. It's what makes you special.

Monday, October 19, 2015

'Amar, Akbar, Antony' movie review: Clean family entertainer by Nadirshah who tackles child abuse with sensitivity, like a seasoned director

Hard to believe that Amar Akbar Antony is Nadirshah's directorial debut. 

Like a seasoned director, Nadirshah brings together the most popular 'poster boys' of Malayalam cinema - Prithviraj, Jayasurya and Indrajith  - in a well-paced interesting comedy thriller. I liked the scene where the guys get drunk and they talk about how women are 'heartless' and men are all 'hearts.' Their versions of heartbreaks gives you a different dimension to how men feel about heartbreaks and break-ups. 

And yes, Nadirshah pulls it off almost effortlessly, getting many nuances right, especially in music and cinematography. 

'Amar, Akbar, Antony' movie review: Tapping into actors' talent
Director Nadirshah has also tapped into remarkable talent while portraying and bringing out the best in 'side characters' especially KPAC Lalitha, Srinda Ashab, Baby Meenakshi and Kalabhavan Shajohn whose performance was both touching and impressive as Jadayu Sabu. Ramesh Pisharody as 'Unni' is also good. 

Oh, there is the reckless, 'confident' biker Asif Ali too! He is the narrator, after all!

When the story steers from a bunch of guys whose dream is to visit Pattaya by pooling in their savings to the issue of child abuse, the impact is felt. That people need to observe their surroundings more responsibly and be prompt to report when things seem amiss is the key thrust of the script. 

Ignoring child abuse thinking that it is someone else's problem won't help the society to move forward in tackling the issue. However, the concept of mob justice is hard to accept too though it makes sense for the public to be told to react promptly without being indifferent.  

                                            [Image: Google]
I was impressed by the nuances that Nadirshah struck all the right notes and nuances in music, given that he has always demonstrated a passion for scaling new heights and trends in Malayalam songs right from his TV show days. For instance, the song which shows Prithviraj teasing girls has been sung by Vijay Yeshudas, reminding us of a similar once-popular song 'Maaney madhura karimbe' sung by Dr. KJ Yeshudas for a Mammootty starrer some decades ago. 

 The other song 'Premamennal' is a superhit - the lyrics, the way it has been sung and how the actors have spiced it up with their glamor quotient.
However, the most touching song was 'Yenno Njaaanende' by Baby Sreya. It was simple but soul-stirring.

Hats off to Sujit Vassudev who not only made us proud by capturing some rare and scenic vignettes of beautiful Kochi. I am delighted that Sujit Vassudev also appeared in a cameo in this movie as the celebrity cinematographer who orders for pizza delivery at home! And what a gorgeous home, it is! We Malayalis love such cameos, don't we? 

So, friends, go watch this movie in the theaters! And give a round of applause to Nadirshah!

[Other movie reviews you may like to read: Premam, Lavender, Theevram and Mumbai Police ]

Thursday, October 1, 2015

That Magical Feeling Stories Bring

 My 9 year old son and I have a "secret" bed time routine. 

Before he goes to sleep every night, I tell him a story.  But wait, I don't simply tell a story. During dinner, I build up some excitement and give him a clue here and there to keep him guessing about the stories I am going to tell him. 

Sometimes, I tell him two stories and a third one, if he hasn't slept by then. He loves mythological stories, especially of Arjuna and Pradyumna. Devarishi Narada has also become a recent favourite.

When he wakes up the next day, he loves to discuss those stories. 

You can imagine how that delights me.

Signing off now but I'd love to know about the routine you have in your life that makes moments more memorable.

Do write in. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Book Review: Solider and Spice - An Army Wife's Life by Aditi Mathur Kumar

I was always curious about Army wives. 

You see, I had heard stories. Whispers and rumors, more like. 

But I had no clue that Army wives had a strict dress code. No showing skin, legs. That kind of thing. And the golden rule is - Hierarchy rules! Never ever say 'No' to a request by your husband's superior's wife. 

When I mentioned this to my always-logical-and-practical husband, he scoffed, " That cannot be true. Its just your imagination. You are talking about the Indian Army, for god's sake. Not some kitty club." 

Well, after I read Aditi Mathur Kumar’s novel "Soldier and Spice," I knew it wasn't my imagination at all! 

What to look forward to while reading Soldier and Spice 

Soldier and Spice is a full-of-life book. It keeps you informed about the life of Army wives in India. 

When you finish reading the book, you will be wonder, "Is all of this (examples: the memsaab part and men standing up every time a lady stands up in the Officer's Mess) really happening in independent India?"

The protagonist is a newly married girl called Pia, who comes from a "civilian" background and is clueless about the Army life. She loves her handsome Army man and is willing to adapt to the new life ahead though she doesn't know how to cook, throw a party or live by the Army code of life at the time. This novel captures the nuances of what the life of an Army wife can be like. 

Something unexpected happens. Pia’s world falls apart for a while but she sifts her way through the trials, the sorrow, the grief and even the issue of dealing with gossip of some idle minds. She provides emotional strength to her husband and supports him at every phase.

Teaches you one powerful fact: Even the strongest Army man gets injured and it's the wife who can get him to be back in action! 

Aditi Mathur Kumar’s novel Soldier and Spice is a thought-provoking read that tells you everything you want to know about an Army wife's life.  

Friday, September 25, 2015

Worry is a waste of time, and waste of time is waste of life

Do you often worry about things going wrong? [Do read: What's the best spiritual lesson you learned from dealing with anguish?]

Throughout the years when I had the opportunity to observe Swami (my Guru), there is one remarkable trait that I saw in Him. No matter what the situation is, Swami is always in harmony and absolutely free from worry. 

Swami often says, "Worry is a waste of time and waste of time is waste of life." [Do read: How to find the peace within you when your plans go for a toss! ]

                                                [Image: Unsplash]

A year ago, I saw a video of Swami visiting Delhi, Rishikesh and other places when he was in his early 20s - at a time when the world around probably looked at him with a mixture of disbelief and criticism. There was also a special musical programme where Swami  addressed the 'Who's who' of Delhi - the leaders from political, business and elite community. 

Knowing the 'elite' culture in Delhi very well, I can say that I'd get the shivers and worry endlessly about the whole thing. And I am nearing my 40s, so to speak and I have 'ample' experience with Delhi's so-called elites!

But in that video, young Swami exuded a radiance, a rare luminosity, that lit up the entire evening. His body language was that of flowing confidence. 

That video shows Delhi's top folks turning up in their most expensive, finest clothes - they looked intimidating with their presence and their looks, occupying the finest seats in a posture of ultra-rich sophistication.

I looked at Swami's young, beautiful face. Swami wore his simple saffron robe, his bare feet peeked out of the robe. His eyes were filled with light and he sat simply on the floor of the stage - watching, observing and looking like the beautiful Lord Krishna Himself.

What amazes me still is the absolute peace that his face exuded.

In the way Swami looked, He looked like the King of the Jungle. He looked like the Leader - in his unassuming saffron robe, with his bare feet peeking out - sitting on the floor!

My heart surges every time I recall Swami's beautiful, divine simplicity - a message in itself - to be free from worry always.

So whenever I find myself worrying, I recall Swami's young, radiant form that always shone with the light of absolute confidence. 

And I inscribe His divine words again and again in my heart, "You may face many ordeals. But do not pay too much attention to them. Lead your life happily till the end." [Do read: How to never ever give up on the spiritual path]

When faced with worry, how do you overcome/tackle it? Share it here so that others can learn too. I'd love to know too!


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