Monday, July 27, 2009

Nirulas & Chocolate


Doesn't the Nirula Food Guide look tempting? Then, move on to their sinful, delicious hot chocolate fudge?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Thank You Note that Comes from the Heart

When my sister was admitted to the labor room, I felt my heart burst inside with fear and tension. I had never felt so much fear in my life, ever before. I could not even pray properly because my mind was full of anxiety so I knew I had to share it with the people I trust. I know that Twitter is used for business purposes, PR and marketing but I use it to share my world, my thoughts and my dreams, with these wonderful people online, whose tweets make me smile and sometimes cry. I wasnt sure if anyone out there would care to read tweets on a lazy Sunday but they did. Amazingly.

Within seconds, I got prayers, good wishes and reassurances from people across the country and the world. They are people I don't know. I haven't met most of these wonderful, caring people. I don't know their nationalities, their religions, their addresses or their identities. What I do know is that their prayers made it possible for a baby to come into this world safe and sound, with his mother. Believe me, my family and I thank you all, not just for the kind reassurances, but for your unconditional prayers. We believe that your prayers made a powerful difference.

Thank you all:
@Houseonahillorg
@suhel_khan
@priyatwitr
@nitinsgr
@SachinKalbag
@poshpudding
@Maxwell_F
@yearning4d_sky
@jeetumg
@realin
@ankitchadha
@babysyed
@koolkarthik
@ashwinkgopal
@countroshculla

Friday, July 24, 2009

Luanne Rice's Silver Bells - A Book Review

Luanne Rice is an author whose easy writing style is peppered with compassion, just the way I like it. At a huge discount fair in a mall in Delhi, I stumbled across some of her novels. I thought, why not, the covers and the titles look so homely, why don't I read what's in them?

Her novel, Silver Bells, is a simple story of a Christmas tree man from Nova Scotia. His name is Christy. He loves growing these trees and works very hard to make a living for his two kids, Danny (a.k.a Harry Houdini) and Bridget. Despite the weather shocks that can destroy his work in lightning speed, Christy lives to sell these trees in 'uptown' New York where the rich are miserable but believe that buying expensive things can make them much happier. But his son, Danny, has a sharp, intelligent mind. He wants to make a difference to help his father. He wants to study and follow his big dreams in New York, the city that can make dreams come true. His father fears for these big dreams, the way parents do when they know their kids are being unrealistic, and stops Danny from studying.

Imagine having big dreams and being restricted from pursuing them. Imagine wanting the best for your children, working hard for them and not even realizing that time flies by and you haven't even accomplished a precious bond with them. The rush and hectic pace of city life is truly a double edged sword, making us unaware that time is slipping by and so are our loved ones.

Following a scuffle between father and son, Danny runs away from home. Christy's repentance, love and search for his dear son is what the book is mostly about. In comes Catherine, the beautiful, wealthy, sophisticated woman who feels deeply for Danny as much as she feels for the loss of her husband. Catherine's love transforms not just the son but his family too. She brings the family together and makes the Christmas season come alive for all of them and for us, the readers. She stands out as a character that you and I would yearn to meet, sit across the table and enjoy a coffee with.

What I like about Luanne Rice's writing is that it is a simple plot, one that readers can relate to instantly. In this book, the seasons of Christmas comes alive through Christmas trees that shed their magic on the readers.

An excerpt that is beautifully penned by Luanne Rice: "All summer long, the trees had grown tall and full, roots deep in the rich island soil, branches yearning toward the golden sun. The salt wind had blown in from the east, gilding the pine needles silver. Everyone knew the best Christmas trees came from the Nova Scotia, where the stars hung low in the sky. It is said that starlight lodged in the branches, the northern lights charged the needles and the magic. Nova Scotia trees were made hardy by the sea and luminous by the stars."

I loved the way the novel ended, too. Its ending tinkles like this:
"The city lights sparkled down on the street, the sidewalks, the stonework, the silver bells, on Christy Byrne and Catherine Tierney - the tree man from the north country and the librarian from the big city. The snow fell, and the bells of Christmas began to sing."
A perfect ending for a perfect season. Isn't it?

Bright Yellow


The pineapple pieces look so enticing but what I love most about this picture is its bright yellow color and the pale droplets around it. This is food and life in India, an interesting paradox that never fails to evoke new thoughts and themes. Feel free to capture such moments in every day life.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Book Blogger Appreciation Week is On!

Those of you who love good books, read about the Book Blogger Appreciation Week at http://jennsbookshelf.blogspot.com/. Don't miss it!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Writing Woes

The book store, with its rack of new, wonderful smelling books awaiting their destiny to be read or trashed, has always been a part of my life. Thanks to my dad, who is a voracious reader and introduced me to the world of books.

The moment I walk into a book store, I feel such joy wrap itself around me that I feel a little drunk with happiness. What inspires me about these books is that all their makers, the authors, had the infinite patience and courage to face the scary white page and weave stories from the scratch. Trust me, I'm still struggling with the scary white page and so, the result is that I've been writing and erasing whatever I've penned. I'm not proud of this cowardice but thats the truth.

My instinct is to write but then I freak out and delete the file because I'm not happy with it. I start a new story and the same thing happens and then I just feel so tempted to sit down, cry my guts out and start again. Whatever I've written languish in my Recycle Bin and that thought of what is pending there drives my stress levels and dries up my dreams of writing THE book.

When I read a lot of books that have been written, I am sure what I wrote and deleted would have read so much better but I just freak out and not persist in polishing what I've written. Clearly this is a real problem. I want your suggestions to be able to change this. To be more accountable and committed to writing. Tell me, please, what can I do better?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mumbai Rains Through Twitter

This year 2009, the Mumbai monsoons flooded Twitter. Being far away in Delhi, it was an amazing experience to get minute by minute update of the Mumbai rains. So, I collated my learning from the tweets.

Here are the top ten things I learnt from tweets on the Mumbai rains:

1. Water logging

2. Loads of muck

3. Traffic jam

4. Trains running very slow

5. Office goers on the road

6. Auto guys complain there's traffic (in Mumbai?!)

7. Some one gimme a lift on the way/ take me home

8. Disaster management cell nos. Does someone have it please?

9. Opportunist marketers bombarding

10. Congestion and detour

I would have loved to mention the names of all those who sent updates on Mumbai rains but that would occupy pages and pages so i am keeping it simple by saying: Thanks Tweeples!


Monday, July 13, 2009

A Typical Kerala Feast

This is a typical Kerala sadhya or 'feast.' To celebrate important occasions like festivals, birthdays and marriages, this is what Hindus in Kerala arrange as part of their lunch. Food habits in Kerala differ from region to region but the sadhya is a favorite with every Keralite.

The pic above shows a sadhya that my mom-in-law arranged for my parents when they came for lunch. My favorite is the paalada which is the yummiest, tastiest payasam or traditional milk dessert that is served at the end of the feast. Scooping it up from the fresh, green banana leaf and tasting it....well, there are just no words to describe the bliss of tasting Kerala's finest paalada. You've got to taste it to believe it.

Needless to say, we all enjoyed it and had a nap right after coz the feast is yummy and sleep inducing:) Thanks to my wonderful, awesome and amazing mom-in-law.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Smiley Coffee at Barista

We got the inaugral Smiley Coffee @ Barista on the day before Valentine's Day, this year, 2009. It looked cute so I couldnt resist taking a quick snapshot before we gulped all the yummy smileys.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Why Drawing and Coloring within Lines is Important

Drawing is a highly underestimated skill because we don't realize how it benefits kids to start using their hand-eye coordination at a very young age. It helps them concentrate to create something that springs from their imagination. I didnt really see it as a very important activity till Adi, my son began to attend the summer camp and developed interest in coloring.

During June 2009 vacations, Adi met Jithu, my cousin's son in Kerala. Now I have to say that Jithu is fantastic at drawing, coloring and painting. His paintings comprised pencil sketches, oil paints and even simple drawings. Still, there was something so life-like and beautiful about those pictures.

One particular drawing that Jithu showed me was very touching. It depicted the terrorist attacks on Taj Hotel that happened in November '09. The drawing, indicating helicopters filled with defense personnel looking ready to strike, was deeply evocative because it reflected the confusion, trauma and tragedy that the terrrorist attack left on India and the world. It was difficult to believe that a child had interpreted the incident so poignantly and drawn this on paper. I think I felt tears in my eyes.

Jithu showed Adi how to draw without spilling colors here and there. He did it with infinite patience and very slowly. I think that left a wonderful impression on Adi who suddenly developed a great interest in coloring. Out of the blue, he began coloring, coloring and coloring.

Our Tamil neighbor in Delhi has a daughter who is very artistic. She makes beautiful wall paintings, glass paintings and drawings. Entering their home is like walking into an art gallery, where colors and strokes are masterfully blended. She became so popular that other neighbors began requesting her to paint their walls and do glass paintings at a reasonable price. More than anything, talent, particularly, young talent must never be wasted.

It struck me that painting or drawing is not just about using a crayon or a paintbrush but about making choices like what details to mirror in their drawing, what colors to choose and how to capture what they see in their young minds on paper. Children learn various aspects like shapes, colors, textures, and sizes when they draw consistently.

Another very important activity is learning to color within those black lines in the activity book. Adi and I practise this over the weekends. He loves joining the dots too. Typically, he rushes to choose a color and somehow fill in the blank space in a rush, sometimes leaving white spaces here and there, which I point out to him and say, "Can I fill up that white space please?" and he rushes to do it himself. (Read: ownership)

Now, when Adi colors within the lines, I encourage him to go slow and not rush through it. He is trying to focus on doing a good job of it now but sometimes the colors do spill out and I reassure him that its ok, we will do better next time.

Coloring within lines is important because it helps kids to judge with their eyes on the work while working with their hands. They learn without even realizing they are learning. So, let me get back to Adi, he has crayons in his hand. We have to get back to coloring together:)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

At Superstars, New Friends Colony

Months ago, we went for dinner with friends at Superstars, New Friends Colony (Delhi) and what you are seeing is the starter: crispy fried honeyed chicken strips with three types of yummy sauces.

Happy Coloring @ Chutneez

At Chutneez, your meal begins with an array of different types of mouthwatering, delicious chutneys (sweet, tangy, sour, chilly). Each chutney is served with great care and you can refuse any specific one that you dont want to experiment with. So when I looked at my plate, I liked the soft blobs of colors that dotted it. Reminded me of a painter's palette. Happy Coloring:)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Delicious Vietnamese Chicken Salad


My friend Millie and I like to spend Saturday afternoons checking out nice restaurants or food joints, where we can sit down and chat about everything and everyone under the sun. In Khan Market, our favorite meeting spot, we went to a nice restaurant where we ordered this Chicken Salad. It was so fresh, yummy, healthy and crunchy that I finished most of it. The crunchiness was due to the croutons added to the salad. I think just having that salad would be like having a meal in itself coz it is so filling. Try it out next time you visit Khan Market in New Delhi.

An Awesome Book Review

Some book reviews totally get to you so much so that you want to grab that book and start reading right on the spot. Here is one such review from S Krishna:

http://www.skrishnasbooks.com/2009/07/penny-pinchers-club-sarah-strohmeyer.html?showComment=1246599603657#c730321246979470491

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India is my Country & my Pride