Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year 2010

There is excitement as the New Year 2010 grows closer to us each hour. To each of you, I wish you a very  joyous and happy new year ahead.

Ring in the New Year 2010 with new resolutions that will make you grow your happiness as much as your relationships and learning curve in every realm of life. Ultimately, we want to make our dreams come true by working hard for it and not simply because we left it to chance or good luck.

Lord Alfred Tennyson's poem reminds us of ringing in the New Year so that it is time to let go of the past and bring into our lives what is true.

"Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
"


I also want to thank you all for sharing your thoughts and comments with me, encouraging me and lighting up my life by showing how deeply you care about what I write.

To each one of you, I owe the high curves in learning, sharing and loving. I thank you all with all my heart.


Happy New Year.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Memories This Christmas

Christmas involves a magical journey of introspection, reflection and self realization. Picture perfect post cards maybe more tempting but the inner journey is what strengthens the beliefs and adds greater meaning to the occasion.

At times, you may even wonder if the seasonal magic is overhyped but the truth is that by the end of the year, we need to celebrate our new learnings, friendships, experiences and those moments that added so much fun to our life. Christmas packs in the spirit of love. It heralds a new awakening that brings so much joy to our loved ones in the form of gifts and surprises.

This Christmas, the Secret Santa gifts that I recieved from my dear friends in office (Mayank and Priya) made me so so happy. Chocolates, a beautiful stole made from the softest fabric with hints of gold twirls on it, a beautiful Lord Ganesha on a swing and a wooden figurine of Mother Mary brought me so much joy. More than anything, their thoughts that led to the buying of those gifts and actions that pursued my happiness made me feel so loved and pampered. Ultimately, it is love that conquers and melts all barriers.

On Christmas Eve, we sang carols in office with so much energy and love. That was really awesome especially when all of us who sang happened to be non Christians. You don't need to have an official religion to celebrate good occasions and beliefs, do you? That's what spurred us to do what we wanted to do - sing to our heart's content and bring joy to everyone around us.

That isn't all. We had a rockin' office party that started off with so much zest. I had lots of fun and we partied away till past midnight. We shared love and happiness with everyone. Isn't that the meaning of Christmas?

What makes this Christmas unforgettable is that I celebrated it with my son, Adi. We put up a Christmas tree at home and Adi had wanted Santa to give him purple colored gifts. To Adi's surprise, Santa gave him three purple colored gifts! It was so wonderful to share Adi's total delight though he freaked me out when he asked, "Did you put the purple gifts there, Amma?" Celebrating Christmas with Adi has given me and taken me back to many beautiful memories this Christmas. How can I thank my cheeky brat for that? Maybe I should get him more purple colored gifts:)

Wishing you all a very joyous, happy Christmas and a fantastic New Year ahead.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Punjab's Awesome Comfort Food - Panjiri

On a Monday morning, it is almost painful to reach office, especially in winters. All I want to do is curl up in the fluffy blanket and sleep some more. Of course, reality bites and the first thing that bites you on a Monday is to rush to office before traffic jam begins. 

The best part of this Monday was tasting the Punjabi delicacy called Panjiri. Well, to be honest, I haven't even heard of this dish till I tasted it. When my dear buddy Ranjit brought it back from home (Amritsar) saying that her mom made it, I had a generous helping and then some more and again more and of course, nearly finished most of it. It was so tasty and rich.

According to Ranjit, although this dish is ideal for nursing mothers, the way in which the ingredients are measured and inserted into this recipe make it very healthy for others too. The one that her mom made and I binged on is good for the eyes and help lessen headaches. 

What a wonderful, traditional dish to taste on a Monday morning, isn't it? I searched the web and found a little more information about Panjiri. Here's a gist for those of you who are like me and don't know anything about it:
 

1. It is a popular dish in every home in Punjab, whether rich or poor. 
2. Kids are fed this comfort food as it is associated with lots of love.
3. This is particularly meant to be eaten  during winters as it has a warm effect on the body, combats cold and provides nourishment.


Remember, don't get too carried away by the awesome taste of Panjiri. Like all delicious things, this too can add tons of calories:) Still, I recommend you give it a try so that you are hooked to its taste forever!

Some other yummy treats you may be tempted to visit are:
  1. Nirula's Chocolate Sundae
  2. Vietnamese Salad
  3. Golden Pineapple

Have you tasted something new this month? What's so special about it? Tell us why you liked/didn't like it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Adi Becomes a Doctor

In Adi's playschool, Roots to Wings, a lot of emphasis is given to helpings kids learn from real life situations. The teachers bring out a monthly theme that is taught in their lessons and they share a monthly planner with the parents. The planner details the lessons, stories and rhymes that teachers will cover each week, the concept behind the lesson and what the expected outcome is. It also covers the menu and activities for each week. 


Once a month, the kids have a competition where teachers from another school will attend and evaluate and give a prize. Sometimes, the competition will be judged in-house. 


For highly disorganized, working moms like me, this planner is a life saver. It tells me all that I need to support my kid with. What I do is if the main concept is flowers, I get three or four coloring books, dot-to-dot books and so on based on flowers. In spare time, Adi and I sit down to do the coloring and he goes through the names and concepts again while coloring. He likes it and doesn't feel he is learning something or doing homework. By the end of the month, he is very thorough with the concept without having felt that I was busy teaching him. 


This month, the concept was about people who help us in the neighborhood like teachers, postman, potter, doctor, policeman and so on. The competition required kids to dress up as one of these people and talk about what he/she does in that role. I asked Adi what he wanted to be. He insisted on postman. I tried getting the postman's uniform but couldn't get in a day's time. Well, now you know, how disorganized I am despite the planner in hand! 

So, I cajoled Adi into becoming a doctor by saying it gives him the power to demonstrate injections on people and that really clinched his interest and I had won!


Then, I managed to find out a place where they got the doctor's coat ready for him. It took me nearly half a day because most shops didn't have it ready. Then I got Adi a doctor's kit for Rs 100 which I think is a really cheap deal. The kit had a stethescope, a thermometer, injection instrument without the needles (adi was heartbroken!) and bandaid. 


Then Adi was ready for school. Once he had got back from school, I called and he was so thrilled. He said that he did really well. He demonstrated how doctors use the stethescope and check pulse and put bandaid. Then, Ma'am asked the whole class to clap for him and gave him a special lollipop and pencil with a sharpener. He was so proud and happy that I wanted to just cry over the phone.


The fun part comes next. He says that during the class, he took injections (without the needles of course) for two friends, Aditi and Naman, both of whom cried and shouted for Ma'am. So I said, Adi, why did you hurt them? Adi said, "Amma, I gave injection so they become better and their fever is gone." I said, "Okay, but what did Ma'am say when they cried." Smart Adi says, "When Ma'am came, I said I am so sorry Aditi and Naman." With a naughty twinke in his eyes, he says, "So Ma'am didn't scold me, see?"


Yes, I see! I just had tears popping out of my eyes, then coz I was laughing, saying, "What do I do with this little brat of mine!"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Book Review: Among the Chatterati by Kanika Gahlaut

Among the Chatterati is a book I enjoyed reading. It is the first book that I have read by Kanika Gahlaut. The writing style seemed refreshing and engaging. The story was not preachy yet it weeded out my impression about Page 3 columnists. To be honest, I always questioned their purpose in life and work.

I mean, seriously, what literary fulfilment does one get by covering who talked to X and why Z's handbag was not Gucci, that sort of trivia really makes no sense to me.

The protagonist, Aby, is a normal girl. She has spunk, character and conviction about a lot of things in life. It happens to be a sheer accident that spurs her career to take a new turning point as a Page 3nd then fate plays against her and she becomes a society columnist though she has no interest in it. I can relate to that because sometimes we don't always make the choice s about our professions, sometimes they happen to us as if part of a bigger plan.

What we learn from Aby is that it takes a special kind of person to understand and track rich lives that are unveiled at parties. Of course, the rich have some attributes that are characteristics like being catty, petty, bitchy, pompous, extravagant, and so on. Aby feels sick of covering overrated designers who have very little originality to offer and aging beauty queens who refuse to face that their days are over and worse, low rung politicians who frequent Page 3 parties, hoping to find women and fame. Of course, Aby makes fatal mistakes. She gets names of boring rich women mixed up and sometimes, even their brands. That's a fatal mistake in Page 3 reporting. You are supposed to know who is who, who is sleeping with whom and when do these relationships keep changing at various parties. Society gossip is the bane of Page 3!


Aby's high point in her career arrives when she meets the other Gandhi scion, with whom she manages to spend time and become friends with while she covers his foray into Indian politics. 

Her involvement with another man with political lineage and aspirations lead her to considerable self evaluation and confusion as she questions her purpose in career and her goals in life. We all arrive at such moments, don't we?

With its refreshing style and amazing candour, I found myself drawn to this book by Kanika Gahlaut so I'd recommend it to all of you.

Have you ever considered Page 3 content seriously? Tell me your thoughts about it and do help me understand your reasons by explaining why.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

5 Things That Make me Cry

 1. Memories (some hurt, some soothe and some can never be replicated again).

2. Demise of a specially loved one.

3. Being away from my parents.

4. A truly bliss filled moment.

5. Listening to my favorite songs by my dearest Dasettan. (Dr. K.J Yeshudas).

I've shared mine. Tell me yours.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Book Review: Trust Me by Rajashree

For years now, I've been hooked to new Indian writers. As an avid reader, I am amazed by the variety and intensity of young Indian writing. The moment I spot a new writer's book, I am tempted to buy it because I love Indian writers and their stories. No two stories or novels are ever the same even when topics continue to revolve around family drama or coming-of-age situations.

Rajashree's debut novel Trust Me had me hooked from start to finish and not because 'trust me' in Polish means 'F..k you'! New knowledge from this book that was almost funny because the way the author presented this nugget of information. 

I completed the book greedily in a day. Of course, it is a romantic comedy about Paro, a protagonist who struggles to survive in Mumbai. She is no beauty but she has brains. She is on the 'healthier' side but she is tempted easily by tasty food though she always vows to go on a crash diet and slim down. She falls for a handsome man and is heartbroken when he cheats her and forces her to abort her baby. Her dreams of happy marriage turn to ashes. Bitter and angry, she is comforted by her boss, who takes her out to dinner and then makes a pass at her. It makes her feel worse that men see her in this way and she begins to hate and distrust all men. Her two staunch friends, Kavita and Saira, tell her from their own bitter affairs with men that 'all men are bastards' and they take comfort from this snippet of enlightenment.


What I enjoyed about the story was I could relate to it. I have known friends who've gone through similar situations. So many conversations between the protagonist and her friends sound very familiar to my ears. There's no serious literary treasure in this book but it is a sure entertainer that will make you smile, hope and cry with Paro. 


To make ends meet, she joins as an assistant in a Bollywood commercial flick. She is shocked how superstars behave to director Jumboji and to the producer. The larger-than-life image angers her but she works hard on the sets. She realizes that Mrignayani, the heroine, sleeps around to get plum roles. She realizes that actors can pick and choose actresses like books off a shelf. Relationships have no meaning in the make believe, tinsel world. And that is exactly why she tries hard to resist Rahul, a struggling actor who is poised for stardom. He woos her from day one but she thinks he is just another dumb actor trying his luck with a girl on the set. She continues pining for Karan, her first love. She gets to know Rahul well and they even agree to have an affair but slowly, her feelings towards him change. She feels softer towards him though her best friends advise her to stay away from actors. She learns the hard way again that men are bastards.


The rest is even more interesting to read. I loved the way it didn't get tragic or read like a sob story for Paro. Like many girls, she too learns to find joy and strength from within. She battles her emotions and finds happiness at last. The best thing was the way the author made it so entertaining and interesting for the reader, without using any jargon or preachy dialogues.


If I had to sum up this book in one word, I'd say "Fun"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Book Review: The Immigrant by Manju Kapur

A lot of readers have talked about Manju Kapur's novel, The Immigrant with mixed reactions. In fact, I have always loved her books, right from Difficult Daughters to Home. She is a brilliant yet down-to-earth writer who writes about an ordinary middle class Indian woman's life with a crystal clear narrative and insightful perception.


Indian Mothers Like to Believe Their Daughters are Virgins
The story of The Immigrant is set in the '70s and revolves around a 30 year old protagonist, Nina, who is unmarried and begins with her lonely life as a lecturer in Delhi's Miranda House college. Her mother, like most Indian mothers, lives to see her daughter settle into a happy, comfortable marriage. Again, like most Indian mothers, she believes her daughter is innocent, inexperienced in the ways of men and a sure virgin who will be a prize catch for a well-to-do, eligible bachelor.

Marriage is an Eye Opener
Nina's life takes a significant turn when her marriage is arranged with Ananda, a slightly pompous NRI dentist who lives in Canada. You can feel sorry for him at times because he definitely suffers from several complexes which makes him behave the way he does.

Till they are engaged, he is trying to impress her like any normal guy. He takes her out for dinner, likes the fact that she seems traditional and untouched by any other men and feels satisfied with his choice.

The couple have a short honeymoon in the Oberoi Hotel which makes Nina and her mother marvel at how far they have come from a middle class life to something more high class. I can connect to these nuances because we see it all around us.

Loneliness Worsens After Marriage
The Indian bride in Canada is a phase where the butterfly begins to lose color. There is loneliness and a feeling of being uprooted from the place of origin and only a husband to talk with. We all know what that entails, don't we?

Well, Nina's married life feels lifeless to her from the moment she is in Canada. The reason you don't feel very sorry for her is because she hardly comes across as a caring, loving person you want to protect.

Is the new Indian Bride demanding too much and giving too little in marriage?
What I would have liked was a portrayal of Ananda that was more objective because whatever we read and draw our conclusions about him are based on Nina's perception. Although sexual anxiety is rarely delved into in such detail by Indian writers, The Immigrant does so in a forceful fashion that somehow disconnects the reader.

In fact, I felt sorry for Ananda because he was trying so hard to overcome his sexual limitations to impress his wife, Nina. She comes across as some one who sets high expectations for others and hardly makes the effort to be warm or considerate to anyonelse. There is not even a single dialogue or instance in the story where Nina makes an extra effort to be caring or loving to her husband.

Ananda has his flaws but he tries so hard to make her feel comfortable in Canada. Although her teaching degree is useless in Canada, he tries to find her a job so that she doesn't feel so lonely and moody all the time.  He is keen to have a child while she is very cold and calculating about everything.

When she makes changes in her life, she does it with a feeling of compulsion and revulsion to Ananda. When Ananda cooks for her, she does not appreciate the effort. When she is cooking, she feels it is something out of the world that needs accolades. She seems so determined to be indifferent to Ananda's efforts. Of course, he wants to show off but he is also trying hard to please her.

Also, I cannot understand why she does not see it as an opportunity to learn and experience things differently in a new place. Why should the author manifest the protagonist as some one who is so cynical about everything in life? I really have no clue.

Sex on the Sly

To me, the worst thing is that Nina justifies her affair with another man. She taunts Ananda for his illicit relationship but she discreetly continues her own without any guilt. She just doesn't want her husband to find out that she was unfaithful, so she covers her tracks well.

Of course, we are a very open society now or so I hear everywhere around me. Well, okay, fine, I won't jump to conclusions and go on to say she is a fallen woman but puhleeez, doesn't she have any emotions that a normal Indian woman has? Doesn't she want a happy life with her husband? Does she make an effort to even understand her husband or his family? Does she think of her old mother who is waiting to hear that she is expecting a baby? Does she care about anyone but herself?

If the author's purpose was to depict an insecure, lonely Indian woman's transition into an equally boring, lonely married life, she fails to convince me as a reader. I do not understand or appreciate that Nina finds true evolution by hating the man whom she agreed to marry and has sex with another man because she finds no pleasure or happiness with her husband.

Is an Indian woman's independence based on her freedom to cheat and be unfaithful to her spouse? Does this represent an Indian woman's quest for freedom of expression?

If it is, I am sad to know it. I would have preferred living without such openness. Tell me, what do you think? Do you have any real life stories, anecdotes or even books that explored these issues that you want to share with me?

I'd love to know.

Book Review Reccos
You may also read book reviews about Learning to Honor Death and Silver Bells.

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