2022 – A year in books

So, another eventful year comes to an end, and it’s time for my review of the books I read this year! Thanks to Goodreads, I can properly keep track of them, so here’s a little infographic detailing the 50 books I read this year and stars I gave them:

Yeah I read two whole technical books this year, and added them here to fulfill my challenge. But didn’t rate them because really, which self-respecting bibliophile would rate books about automotive jargon?!!? 😀 😛 You can view more details on the challenge here, or by clicking on the infographic. Surprisingly, I read many non-fiction books this year – 11, not counting the work-related technical ones! I am not a non-fiction reader, and even though I am making a conscious effort to stomach them more, it hadn’t really happened – until this year!

In fact, 2 of my best books of this year were also semi-fictionalized! Which brings me to listing those! Now, until 5 days before 2022 ended, the books I liked best this year (in no particular order) were:

  • The Complete Maus (Art Spiegelman) is a semi-fictionalized biographical graphic novel about the author’s grandfather’s experiences during the Holocaust (see review).
  • When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife (Meena Kandasamy) is a semi-autobiographical account of the author’s life with an abusive husband (TW: sexual violence, domestic abuse). The thing I liked the most about this one is that the author is hardcore raw without being voyeuristic. Must-read book, this one is!
  • Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good (Louie Stowell) is a fictional (obviously!) novel about Odin being fed up of Loki’s antics and sending him to earth as a mere mortal school student to serve out his punishment until he can be good! I initially picked up this book to pre-read before my 8-year-old could read it, and ended up loving it more than she did – go figure! 😀

Then at the end of the year, I read this very new book called “Brotherless Night” by V. V. Ganeshnanthan. And by very new, I mean that it’s releasing on January 3rd; and I got its Advanced Reader Copy through NetGalley.com. You can read my brief review about it here. Thus, while it’s not technically a 2022 novel, I read it this year, and simply LOVED it! So yes, that too, features in my list of best books of this year. Just like 2 other of my favorite books this year, this book is also very serious. Tread lightly, dear friends; for civil wars and genocide and human suffering can drain you! But if you can handle being drained, these books are much worth your while by being absolutely insightful and enriching.

Of course there were several other books that I simply loved, and you can read about them on my Goodreads page linked above.

What were your favorite books this year? Do let me know in comments!

Last year, as part of my end-of-the-year book update, I had made a list of books I wanted to read in 2022. Here’s my update on them!

  • Sapiens : a graphic history. volume two, the pillars of civilization (Yuva Noah Harari): Done! ✅ Didn’t love as much as Part 1, but was worth reading nevertheless!
  • The Glass Palace (Amitav Ghosh):  Done! ✅ Didn’t love as much as his other books but some parts were very interesting!
  • Caste: the origins of our discontents (Isabel Wilkerson): Done! ✅ This book must be made mandatory reading in school and colleges! And it prompted me to add a few more books to my next years To-Read list.
  • 1984 (George Orwell) : Done! ✅ Can’t believe I hadn’t read this all my life! Was amazing, but left some questions unanswered!
  • Violeta (Isabel Allende) : Done! ✅ Didn’t read this book for a year after getting it as an advanced copy, but read it in 2 days flat once I started. A beautiful book, this one!
  • Norwegian Wood (Haruki Murakami) : Abandoning this book for now.
  • The Overstory (Richard Powers) : Couldn’t finish this one. Generational sagas have never really been my cup of tea. Abandoning this.
  • Manufacturing Consent (Herman and Chomskey): I just couldn’t get through this book, as many times as I tried. And no, it’s not because the book is bad, but the subject just doesn’t reel me in enough. I think I am going to abandon it for now, and may (or may not) try to revisit it some other time. Am not even going to include it in the to-reads for next year! Sighh…
  • 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami): Wasn’t able to read this one in 2022, but will do so in 2023 for sure.
  • Anxious people (Fredrik Backman): Unfortunately, I haven’t even started the re-read of this! Hopefully this year I will!

And here’s my new list of books to be read in 2023:

  • Go Set a watchman (Harper Lee): I’ve been meaning to read this one for way too long! I am a huge fan of Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” – have read it thrice and made everyone around me read it. So I was excited when this book was published – but was put off by all the discussions about Atticus Finch turning out to be a racist. Now that Isabel Wilkerson, whose Caste book I read and loved, also mentioned this in the book, I think I have to go check it out for myself.
  • Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell): Same story with this one! I love this book – and Scarlett and Rhett are 2 of my favorite literary characters, but of late, I have been hearing a lot of comments that the book glorified racism. As always, I want to see (read) that for myself. One of my friends and I may also do a bookathon of this.
  • Scarlett (Alexandra Ripley): I haven’t read this one, but want to see how another author approaches this whole issue, too.
  • Bahut Door Kitna Door Hota Hai (Manav Kaul): Yikes this book has been on my Goodreads for so long!! Will hopefully read it this year!
  • The Malazan series: This book comes with the highest praise from my cousin, and while I don’t see eye to eye with him on many an ideological level, I do agree with some of his literary views more than most people, so have added this one.
  • The Tomb of Sand (Geetanjali Shree): This is going to be a challenging one! I bought the original Hindi version of the book whose English translation went on to win the International Booker Prize of 2022.
  • Gravel Heart (Abdulrazak Gurnah)/ The Books of Jacob (Olga Tokarczuk): Remember I had decided to read at least 1 book by every Nobel prize in literature winner ever? (yes, this is a question for myself!) These 2 books will be my feeble attempt to get back to that lofty ambition.
  • Parva ( S L Bhyrappa): I have borrowed this book from a friend 6 months ago, and I am yet to touch it. Hence it will be on the top of my reading order in 2023!

The one thing I missed mentioning in my post last year was at the crack of lockdown, my friend Divya started a book club – actually, a books and movies club. We ended up mainly discussing movies, but discussed 3 books: Pygmalion (George Bernard Shaw), A Damsel in Distress (P.G. Wodehouse), and Little Fires Everywhere (Celeste Ng). I thoroughly enjoyed discussing these. At times, I felt that these club discussions were the only times I felt truly engaged! This year we have decided to do 4 books, 1 for each quarter:

  • Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen)
  • The Psychology of Money (Morgan Housel)
  • The School for Good Mothers (Jessamine Chan)
  • The Palace of Illusions (Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni)

In addition to these books, I’ll of course read many more books that catch my eye. I am hoping to set myself a challenge of reading 50 books again in 2023, and also think that I may finally have to learn to like audiobooks, given how I am going to have to commute to office next year!!

All in all, I am very excited for a year full of wonderful wonderful, hard-hitting, tears-and-laughter-inducing, insightful, stress-relieving, eye-opening, but also real-world-escaping reading! Hope you have a great year of reading too! Cheers to 2023! Happy new year!

2021 – A year in books

It is said that the world belongs to those who read, and 2021 (and 2020) made that literally true, and how!  Confined to our homes and immediate localities for the most part, reading is what opened the doors to far away lands for me these 2 years. I know, it always does, but it was much more noticeable now.  From modern Europe to ancient India, from future dystopian Africa to California of the 70s, from the present political mess of DC to inter-generational conflicts in Turkey and Malaysia and wherever, the books I read this year allowed me to travel through time and space and have a very interesting time while I did it! 

My year began with a bang with some wonderful books, and carried on beautifully. My reading pace always ebbs and flows; there was a time in fall when I thought I would get to extend my goal of 50 books to may be 60 this year. But eventually, I had to scramble to finish reading all 50 books by the end of December. But finish, I did. And gladly so, because few other things bring me joy as reading does. Here’s the full  list of All the books I read in 2021. Many of these were a fascinating read, some of them were major disappointments, and a few were complete surprise packages.

As for my top 3 books of this year, here goes the list, in no particular order: 

  • Fairytales of Fearless Girls – I wrote a detailed post about this here.
  • Sapiens: a Graphic History Volume 1, The Birth of Humankind – Have always been a Yuval Noah Harari fan, but this graphic novel hit differently! It was entertaining, had unexpected elements, but also retained the original philosophy of the book. The illustrations were superb, too!
  • The Stranger in the Lifeboat: Mitch Albom made a beautiful masterpiece again, after a long time. I have always been fascinated by magic realism and human instincts, so the whole discourse about how a group of survivors from a shipwreck deals with the seesaw between hope and a certain death fascinated me to no end. 

I already have my first few books of 2022 lined up. I have been meaning to read a few of these for a long time, and others were recent additions based on book recommendations for 2022:

  • Sapiens : a graphic history. volume two, the pillars of civilization (Yuva Noah Harari)
  • The Glass Palace (Amitav Ghosh) 
  • Caste: the origins of our discontents (Isabel Wilkerson)
  • Norwegian Wood (Haruki Murakami) – Only because I was fascinated by the synonymous sociopathic song by the Beatles
  • 1984 (George Orwell) – Can’t believe I still haven’t read this!
  • 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
  • The Overstory (Richard Powers)
  • Manufacturing Consent (Herman and Chomskey) – Have been reading this book for a year now, and really need to complete it!
  • Anxious people – Again, because hopefully my new project will be translating this amazing book for my mom
  • Violeta (Isabel Allende) – I have an advance copy of this book and it will be my first Allende book too! Very excited for this!

Obviously I am also hoping to reading many other amazing books in 2022, too! 
What books did you guys love this year, and which ones are you planning to read next year? Do let me know!

Book Review: The Maid

Author: Nita Prose 

Date of Publication: Expected on January 4, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Crime

Legacy: This is the author and long-time editor’s first novel

How I heard about this book: Got an advance review copy of the e-book from Netgalley.com. I chose it because the plotline sounded interesting to me.

Appropriate Audience: Teen/ Adult

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Very good , but slightly short of great)

First of all, let me say that it was very thrilling to read a book that has not yet been published and that only a handful (okay, giant’s handful) of people have read before. All thanks to NetGalley, which is a book review website that lets readers and bloggers review advance copies of yet unreleased books.

Now let’s move on to the actual thrills of the book. Like I said, the plot of the book, where A charmingly eccentric hotel maid discovers a guest murdered in his bed, is what drove me to it. I thought it would be interesting to read a murder mystery panned out from the lens of a maid, the ubiquitous yet invisible entity that has the potential to know everything. The book started off on that note. It described Molly the Maid (and her obsessive habit of cleaning and keeping things in order) and the luxurious hotel at which she worked.  I was a bit put off with her seemingly Asperger’s behavior because it reminded me so much of Eleanor  from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – an absolutely brilliant book whose plot has nothing in common with this book other than the socially awkward and lonely kinda-autistic protagonist. But other than that, the book took off well. 

The plot and the characters were built well and simultaneously, and I liked that even though many of the characters were somewhat stereotypical, they were still interesting. The writing itself wasn’t wordy or pretentious, and made me wanting to keep turning pages. The mystery was developed rather soundly, and except for a few loose ends (<spoiler alert> why does the main culprit not contest the extra charges? <end spoiler alert>), it was wrapped up pretty neatly.

P.S. The juxtaposition of what happens to Molly’s grandmother and what happens to Mr. Black was rather eerie and a masterstroke by the author. It made me deeply contemplate about a lot of things that I can’t list here only for the sake of avoiding spoilers 🙂

This review was originally published on NetGalley and my book blog https://therevisitingbookworm.blogspot.com/2021/10/book-review-maid.html

Movie Review – The Great Indian Kitchen

[This post was originally published in a Marathi magazine called Palakneeti, published from Pune. You can read the original post on the magazine’s free online version here]

Once upon a time there is this beautiful girl – educated, trained in Indian classical dance, an expert at cooking; and as she grew up in a gulf country, street-smart, too! Because of all these qualities, she is deemed to be a perfect arranged match for the son of a renowned family in Kerala. The prospective bride and groom meet and talk (well, it’s more like stare shyly/ awkwardly at each other and exchange pleasantries –Are we shameless or what to get over-friendly on our first meeting!), while the guests are entertained with mouth-watering snacks (all made fresh and from scratch, of course!).

Everyone is happy about everything, and thus, the wedding happens in great pomp and ardor. The new bride enters the big, traditional family home of her husband, complete with a tiled roof and a courtyard, and gets to know her abode and her world. It’s the first day, and everything seems so nice and new and gentile.

From the next day begins The Great Indian Kitchen! The husband enters the kitchen to have his morning tea, and flirts with the new wife, showers praises on the hot cup of tea she hands him, and leaves the empty cup for her to wash and walks out.

The elated wife washes the cup and leaves it to dry. Afterwards, her calm-and-composed, hardworking mother-in-law starts her training. They start at the beginning – breakfast! On the menu are hot and crispy Dosas with Sambar – along with a coconut chutney made from scratch, on a grinding stone okay! Those stupid mixer-grinders and ridiculous electric tools can never beat the authentic taste of the traditional stone! Then they proceed to lunch: the menu is pretty simple, just everyday fare, but made fresh and flavorful. And yes, rice cooked over an open flame – oh it is so tasty! How can we serve that mushy pressure-cooked rice to our men? And for dinner we have to make Rotis! After a long day at work, don’t the men deserve a delicious and filling square meal! In addition to this, the mother-in-law also initiates the daughter-in-law into dish-cleaning, table-wiping, sweeping and mopping, and other sundry rituals of the family. At the end of the day, after performing all these chores, the poor exhausted girl still satisfies her husband’s needs before falling asleep. Can the life of an ideal Indian woman get any more fulfilling than this??

After a while, the mother-in-law shifts abroad to help out her daughter after the delivery of her child. All the chores of the house are obviously left to the daughter-in-law. And no, we don’t believe in hiring help – firstly, how much work can there be with just 3 people in the house? And of course a maid can never perform her duties as well as the woman of the house! That’s why we have also kept the washing machine in storage – imagine spoiling our good quality clothes using a washing machine! We are rich (we straightaway told the hopeful daughter-in-law that she can’t get a job because we are well-to-do), but also conscientious – money doesn’t grow on trees, after all!

However, we are SO very understanding during the daughter-in-law’s menstrual cycle! Not only do we not make her do any housework, but we also don’t even see her face or disturb her during the 4-5 days! Talk about her sheer fortune, huh!

The movie then goes on to show what happens later in this very fortunate daughter-in-law’s life (kitchen). If you have gotten the sarcastic tone of this review, know that what I am saying next is very sincere: I loved this movie! It has been a while since I watched such an entertaining but though-provoking (and chilling) Indian movie. It is hard to underline the disbalance of power in Indian society using simple day-to-day routines, but the director, Jeo Baby, has managed doing it quite well. This particular film unfolds in Kerala, but substitute Dosa with Chhole Bhature or Kande Pohe, and it represents any and every region of India. Even urban women employed outside their homes, who have modern mixer-grinders, ovens, air-fryers, and any such equipment at their disposal, go through the drama of “The Great Indian Kitchen” regularly. “You are free to achieve whatever you want, as long as your home comes first” is a motto forced upon women working even at the very highest positions and ranks. We are divided over religion, region, caste, economic status, and whatnot, but we are united in claiming that “nothing can surpass the taste of the food cooked by our moms!” And we do so with pride, never once thinking about the pressure we put on them and all our female relatives, and the difficult positions we put them into.

Without giving away any spoilers, I would also like to highlight the role of a bride’s parents in ensuring her “smooth” transition into these great Indian kitchens. Really, parents? Really? You raise a daughter with all your heart, only to do this?

The acting in the movie is top-notch, and the actors seem so natural that the movie might very well be happening in your neighborhood. The music is very effective too. When things come to a head in the movie, they have the backdrop of a religious ceremony where a very haunting bhajan is being sung. The pitch and tempo of this bhajan increase along with the daughter-in-law’s patience, and it all comes crashing down, together. Very apt!

If I had to criticize something in the movie, it would be its initial pace. To highlight the everyday gargantuan routine, similar scenes have been repeated quite a few times. This might even be intentional – we get bored watching a few minutes of these scenes, but women do it their whole life, don’t they!

And thus coming back to the movie, of course women handle house-hold duties all their life, and triumphantly at that! So what if this woman couldn’t handle them? She was undeserving of the honor of being the daughter-in-law of this family anyway! This is what happens when girls are raised abroad and are given undue freedom! Good riddance we say! Our son will have a hundred alliances lined up; and he will be married before you know it.

A better bride will arrive, the son will praise her tea too, and leave his cup on the counter. The new wife will happily wash it. Or will she? To find out, be sure to watch this movie and obviously the great Indian kitchen saga!

One year!

It was exactly a year ago from today when I rushed in to my workplace and informed my boss that I will have to work from home for the next couple of days. At around 9:30 PM the night before, we had got notified that my daughter’s school would be closed for the next 2 days. It was the first school to close actually, because of a Corona virus case found in the school district. The boss wasn’t very happy about letting me “WFH”, but nobody really had a choice there because I couldn’t keep my daughter alone at home; so he relented. Little did we know, that not only would her school remain closed, but that all the other schools also would close the next week and within 10 days, a shelter-in-place order would be issued in the state preventing anyone from going inside an office!

And that was the last time I saw the face of my office! It’s been a year since then, and what a flabbergasting year it’s been! To keep a record of the madness that ensued, I thought I should write a post about it, even though I won’t be able to describe everything that happened during this time within the space of this post…

The whole saga began rather skeptically, actually. By this time last year, we had been hearing about the novel corona virus in little bits and pieces of news for almost two months. No one however knew what to expect. Even after schools closed, we had hoped it would go away quickly, we had a couple of social events too. Then, as March came to an end, the cases began skyrocketing, and that was when the actual isolation began and the panic it created was hysterical. There were SO MANY RUMORS! People began hoarding groceries and toilet paper, investing in air purifiers, relearning how to wash/sanitize hands… The last part was actually the most ridiculous! As a partial germaphobe and control freak, I am constantly washing my hands or applying hand sanitizer – it goes with me everywhere- and I always have ample stock of clorox and other disinfectants too! So I was like, come on people, this is basic stuff! Yes, we need to be more careful now, but we should have always been practicing basic hygiene! And don’t even get me started on the hysteria about going outdoors. Mixing with people is one thing, I was actually super-glad that I didn’t have to go into crowds and could stay far away from people, but some people were actually not stepping out of the house for the fear that someone with COVID might have walked and spread their germs in the air! <major eyeroll> Paranoia and shaming were at new heights!

By then, schools had begun figuring out how to deliver online lessons. And the couple of months left in my daughter’s Kindergarten year passed soon. They hardly taught them anything even with the new streams of tools such as i-Ready, RazKids, and so on; but we kind of expected that. After a few weeks, her extracurricular classes, i.e. Taekwondo and Bharatnatyam also began over Zoom. Then it was summer vacations, and since cases only multiplied, the next school year also began virtually, and we got to know how little the kids are taught in school.

Online work, on the other hand, was the best! There was no pressure of leaving the office on time to pick up my daughter, ironing clothes, packing lunches and snacks, driving through traffic and snow, etc. etc. Even late nights at work were much more comfy from home! So much that I began dreading the return to office whenever that would be. Well, I still am, even though it’s been a whole year.

However, we were set to miss a lot of trips and activities over the summer, and we were horrified at that (lack of) prospect. I may be far (really really far) from being a fitness enthusiast, but I love going on trips and long drives and treks and hikes and walks and bike rides!. My husband and I are very outdoorsy people; in fact he and I first bonded over our shared love for treks (we had been just acquaintances for 3 years by that point), but I digress as usual. Our daughter too is a highly enthusiastic person, and needed to burn off all that extra energy lest she unleash it on us! Hence, our dear old Stony Creek Metropark was our biggest savior! That’s a 4000 acres park about 20 minutes of a drive from my house, and we used to go there frequently before the pandemic – but “frequently” took a whole new meaning during it. Almost every other day, we started going on walks there, away from people, on obscure trails, early in the mornings. We had been going to that park for years, but we discovered so many new vistas and hilly trails and unpaved jungle trails there! We bought bikes and rode on their beautiful bike paths. (There was a bike shortage at that point, because international travel was suspended and China was the source of the virus – and of course they were also the source of all kinds of raw materials and assembled parts, including those for bicycles – so it took us a couple of months of hustle to get all 3 bikes). We played games in the open fields and took occasional picnics – all of this away from people and civilization, and it was amazing! There were also other trails and parks we explored, and had a great time.

If Stony Creek was the highlight of our outdoors adventures during the pandemic, another Creek was the highlight of our indoor time – a TV show called Schitt’s Creek! The number of movies and TV shows we watched soared dramatically during the pandemic – we even had a wonderful, wonderful book and film discussion group that met online every weekend- but we were obsessed with Schitt’s Creek! That show put me in a never-before funk, where I was actually heartbroken over the series ending. And mind you, I have been obsessed with plenty of shows before, including some like Marie Kondo’s, so there’s hardly any emotional depth there, but whether it was the loneliness brought upon by the pandemic (even though I am not a very social person – it’s the free time that makes you notice your loneliness?), or that my husband and I blew through the entire 80 episodes in a span of 2 weeks and bore its full onslaught suddenly, but this show affected me like nothing before! I have to say that it is among my top 5 favorite TV shows of all times and probably second only to F.R.I.E.N.D.S. It is amazingly written, with actual laugh out loud moments, but also features very kind and good people at the heart of very eccentric and sometimes mean personalities (I am looking at you, David. Also, I totally love you, David!!!). Never has a hoity-toity character been combined with such endearing vulnerability on TV – and Dan Levy (who is also the creator, producer, writer, and director of show) has portrayed it with so much sincerity and tongue-in-cheek wit, it is unbelievable!

Thankfully, all this idiot-boxing didn’t deter me from my original true love – reading! I read so many books during this year, and you can read all about them on my Goodreads page!

The pandemic also made us cook a lot more, especially in the initial months (although I must admit, we could barely resist ordering outside food for a month!), and we experimented SO MUCH! From Shakshuka to Dalgona coffee to Chicken roulade, and traditional Maharashtrian fare we had never cooked before, we had the Masterchef tournament at home coupled with the Great British Baking Show. My husband especially honed his skills and how! I mean he was always a good cook, but the extra time in the pandemic saw him try his hand and excel at so many dishes!

While all this sounds great, and believe me, in a way it was – I was quite happy to be away from people (yes, unsocial much) – but on a general social level, this has been a terrible year; more than 2 million people have died, so many more have lost their loved ones, people have been displaced, lonely, worried and whatnot! My heart goes out to them, and because of their sorrow, I have to remember to be grateful that I have had a relatively good year, and to recognize my privilege for getting to work comfortably from my house, to be able to see my daughter learn and grow (and also annoy and slack) – when else would I have gotten that opportunity and time? This time also taught to not take anything for granted – including the behavior of people in response to a major crisis. When the pandemic began, everyone stayed home, the air was cleaner, the water was purer, people were considerate towards each other; and those with minds not as cynical as mine announced that this will continue. It didn’t. Human beings were soon back to creating a mess of the one planet we have access to. In fact, in my opinion, everyone behaved exactly the same way they would when there wasn’t a pandemic. People who are homebodies stayed homebodies, people who go out went out, people who were generally cautious stayed cautious, people who were paranoid and idiotic stayed the same, too!

So that was my year of the pandemic. I don’t know what this next year will bring, but hopefully, it will be less heartbreaking and earth-wrecking and everything in between!

Fairy Tales of Fearless Girls (and why my daughter is not a princess!)

Came across this wonderful book by Susannah McFarlane, while browsing (online) my local library’s bookshelves. It is a modern take on fairy tales, and I was blown away by it.

What if Rapunzel wasn’t a poor, helpless princess with her beautiful long hair as her only redeeming factor? What did she do all day in that tall tower of hers (Hint: very interesting stuff)? What if prince what’s-his-name wasn’t her savior but her companion?

What if Cinderella put up with her evil stepmother for the sake of kindness and she went to the ball just for the experience of it rather than making the prince her mission? The book explores and wonderfully illustrates (figuratively, but also literally- the illustrations in the book are superb!) these ideas and more!

I have always had this contentious relationship with fairy tales: leading ladies with big eyes and beautiful shiny hair and no personality; them being so dependent on the prince marrying them; them forgiving the most horrendous things done to them because that’s what good girls are supposed to do; aaargh! I mean, I love Hans Christian Anderson and the Grimm brothers for their rich imagination, but the fact remains that their stories were regressive and borderline offensive. But they both were men of an age that didn’t know better. However, we do, or at least are supposed to! So it’s beyond my imagination why we continue to celebrate those tropes and that silliness! Over decades, the popularity of these princesses (I don’t even know why Disney calls them princesses. Other than Snow White and Elsa, and may be a couple more, they are all simple girls who end up marrying princes), especially enabled by the blatant consumerism propagated by Disney (ohhh the staggering craze of the all the merchandise! but that’s a topic for another day), has grown by leaps and bounds. So much so that all the girls and their parents are obsessed with them.

Which brings me to the other topic I wanted to talk about! Over the last 7 years as a parent, I cannot tell you how many times I have cringed at people asking me how my “princess” was. Of course, let me preface this by saying that I don’t have anything against princesses, or against people who think/consider/treat/expect their daughters to be princesses – to each their own. But in my case particularly, I find the usage of the term ridiculous. My daughter is not a princess! Aside from the plain and simple fact that we are not royalty, we also have no interest in treating our daughter like one – with all the bells and whistles that come with it, including “fulfilling her every wish”! I am actually a bit horrified to think of the entitlement that comes from always getting whatever you ask for, even when you have enough money to spare. As someone from a very middle class family with no family money and no connections to fall back on, I have grown up with values like independence, not taking things for granted , staying grounded despite small successes, and making the best of whatever one has. And I’d like my daughter to grow up with similar values! Although I won’t lie – I would want her to be slightly less emotionally conservative and much more fearless. Yes, the middle class has its own set of problems – the constant, suffocating fear of taking risks and the tendency to stay “on the safe side”, for example. But spoiling her like a princess won’t remedy that. Instead, we will always let her know that even though we won’t build the staircase for her, we’ll have her back anytime she misses her step on the ladder she builds herself!

The (customary) birthday post

Yes, yes, I know, I have missed my birthday posts the last 3 years, so there is clearly no ‘custom’ followed, and I am a day late to publish this post; but with hope against hope hopen, I hope to re-establish it.

I barely remember my birthdays in the last 4 years because it was so crazy and busy even when I was being lazy!  It all started just a day before my 34th birthday, when I had my first job interview – after 5 whole years of being berozgaar, or unemployed. Thankfully, I aced it, got the job, and joined work on the 3rd of November. That week was so busy and eventful, that I forgot to write a blog post. In fact ever since that job interview happened, life has been crazy busy! Working full-time and tending to a very feisty toddler was a double-shift job! So much so that I missed writing the next birthday post as well! I had grand plans to document my 35th revolution around the Sun – also the last year before I hit my middle-age mark. But life (and my own laziness) had other plans. You’d think that third time’s a charm, but no, my 36th birthday was left un-blogged, too! My 36th year,however, was a year of parties and events and more parties in addition to work and home (more than half of them because of having a child, btw – I did not know children amped up your social life THAT much!) , and amidst all that, and a hyper 5 year-old child, everything else whizzed by!

Which brings me to my 37th birthday. Hi! This is a very different birthday, almost like the year preceding it. The last 8-9 months have been turbulent to say the least. Not so much because we couldn’t go out much – we did A LOT of hiking and biking and driving (much more than we do in  normal year, so yay!) , and I have never really enjoyed crowds anyway; but because it was an adjustment to be in the same small place 24 hours a day, especially on weekdays. Also, the overthinking and over-worrying and being over-careful about the smallest of conscious or subconscious actions was exhausting.!  What was even more exasperating was the stupidity of people all around who tried to stretch either or both extremes of paranoia and carelessness!

Anyway, I digress, as usual. So, my birthday this year came amidst all this hoopla. Still, I have always been excited for my birthdays and so I was this year too! 🙂 I took 2 days off to celebrate (laze around for) the occasion and had plans to cycle for the last time this season, but it rained continuously. So I relaxed, read, ate lots of yummy food made by my husband❤️, and went on a nice long drive to enjoy the rainy weather and the beautiful fall colors💖! I don’t know if I’ve had a more perfect birthday in a really long time!

As for resolutions, I carry forward the same resolution for the last 15 years – to lead a healthier lifestyle and lose lots of weight, and to read and write more. Other than that, I’ve resolved to drive more (the snow being my biggest deterrent), scream less (haven’t I resolved to do this already in the past? sigh…), and live the best possible 3 years until I start the 5th decade of my life! Yes 5th decade! My goodness! Here’s to wishing  me, and as always, all of you the best to come! See you soon, hopefully!  💖

Book Review: American as paneer pie

: Supriya Kelkar

Date of Publication: 9 June 2020
Genre: Young adult fiction, comedy-drama, coming-of-age
Legacy:  The author is an India-American brought up in the mid-west, and has written many brilliant children’s books 
Intended Age Group: Any, but particularly tweens and teenagers

This one was touted by many book lists, so I immediately reserved it at my local library. Was the first one to get it too! And I have to say, I loved it from the go! So well-written, fluid, un-pretentious, funny at times and quite emotional at others! Also, full props for the unapologetic usage of Marathi words and expressions! It was refreshing and very apt!

The book is about a 10 year old girl named Lekha Divekar, who lives in a small white-majority town an hour from Metro Detroit, and her struggles with fitting in, belonging, and being happy. Over the course of the book, she becomes a part of the swim team, grudgingly befriends a fresh off the boat Indian girl, and in general navigates between her hopes and dreams and the xenophobia and political climate of the country. She is ably supported by her very white and very righteous and amazing neighbor/schoolmate Noah (his inclusion was very important to paint an impartial picture of the landscape), and her parents.

The story drove me to tears a couple of times, and filled me with a sense of pride in a couple of situations. Loved the twists and turns, and also how even the strongest of characters were given a weaker side/  soft spot, to show that even the perfect armor has chinks and how we all can help each other find ourselves and get stronger, not matter how strong or weak we ourselves feel. My favorite one was  Avantika and her dependence on Fair and “Dainty”. Because however brilliant and independent and smart Indian girls might be, they are still expected to be of a lighter skin tone! Loved that the author brought this to fore. 

It is extremely important for the Indian kids of today to see a protagonist like them, and this book does a stellar job of representing them without being caricature-like or other-worldly. It is very real!Of course there’s going to be a few issues here and there, for e.g., as a native Marathi speaker, I can’t imagine any Marathi family would name their dog Ram; but these are very minor issues.

This is a book that every Indian tween (and their parents should read)! Also Tandoori Paneer Pizza totally rocks! 😀

Earth Day 2020

Happy Earth Day 2020, people!  And really, when we speak of conserving the earth or the environment, we speak of nothing noble or sacrificial, but of making life better for us and for posterity, so happy “Us Day”, too!

So, on this Earth/Us Day, I thought I should make a list of changes my family and I have made to our lifestyle in the last several years. We keep slipping up every now and then, of course, but we try hard  not to. Also, I do admit that what we are doing is far from enough, so I’ve also included my “next step “self goals in the list.

1) Bamboo toothbrushes

The plastic that gets wasted when we dispose our plastic toothbrushes is insane! So, a long time ago I switched my toothbrushes to bamboo ones (with plastic bristles, sadly).

Next step: Find good toothbrushes with bamboo bristles

2) Compostable trash can liner bags

We meticulously separate our waste into recyclable and landfill, and have been using compostable trash can liners for a couple of years now. My city doesn’t have separate facility for composting garbage bags, but as these are made from corn and plant products, I know that they are less harmful when rotting in a landfill.

Next step: Start composting to make full use of the compostable bags.

3) No balloons at birthday parties

This one was tough! We started this no-balloons trend at my daughter’s 5th birthday and after some (a lot of) resistance, we managed to convince her that balloons are horrible for the environment and we shouldn’t do something horrible on our birthdays. She still gets to play with balloons if someone thrusts them into her hands despite our disapproval, and I also think that I might occasionally allow her to play with them ( because you know, joy of childhood and all that!), but the senseless manner in which they are bought and distributed and discarded has to stop! Also, we have been using the same birthday decorations for almost 6 years now!

Next step: Find a way to tell the hosts of the birthday party that we won’t be taking home single use plastic party favors. (You’d think that this is me telling them, but whom are we kidding? I know no one reads my blog! 😀 )

4) No disposable plates, silverware, or straws

The amount of disposable plates and cutlery we go through during trips and mainly parties has always made me shudder. And while some people think that paper plates will decompose, most paper plates are coated with plastic so they can hold moist foods and hence, they won’t decompose – by design. So following my friend Aabha’s lead, I went to Ikea and bought a huge set of plates, glasses, and bowls. I haven’t used disposable plates or cutlery at home for years now and now and even offer to lend my whole set to friends for their house parties. We also never use plastic straws and carry our reusable (steel and silicone) straws everywhere. Next step: Figure out a way to use real plates and silverware at picnics and trips. The main problem here is the ability to clean them off properly. Need to find something that will.

5) Water filter pitcher and steel water bottles

I personally detest bottled water, for reasons that are obviously environmental, but also practical – carrying crates of water with you is tiring! And don’t even get me started on how weird the water tastes after it spends a day in the hot trunk of your car! undefinedSo we always carry lots of steel water bottles and thermal mugs with us when we go out. They are not that heavy, actually. And when we go on trips and have to stay in hotels, we carry our water filter pitcher with us and fill it with tap water. Very convenient and guilt-free, too!

Next step: I guess we are pretty much set here – we have taken week-long trips and have never faced problems with this approach.

6) Reusable shopping bags

We mostly use only reusable bags for everything. Not just cloth bags and totes, we even use mesh bags for small produce. undefinedThey are another example of how environment-friendliness and convenience go hand-in-hand. Just managing all the plastic bags from stores is a staggering task!

Next step: Figure out a way to reduce packaging material from online shopping.

That’s all I can remember off the top of my mind, but I am sure there’s more I do and even more that I can do. I wanted to tag some friends to let me know what they are doing to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, so I can copy their ideas, too; but then I thought why just restrict that to a few people? I am sure all of you do something or the other of this sort, so do let me know your ideas and practices in comments or in separate posts.

Happy Earth Day, once again! 🙂

Screen-time of the month – March (and February)

Yes, I do sound like a broken record when I say this, but I (also) missed publishing my screen time on February. However, these have been strange times, where there are new challenges and new headaches and new distractions. Anyway, here’s the list of what I watched in February and March.

DCI Banks – Netflix

This BBC series started off on a promising note, but ended up disappointing! Extreme thrills and last-minute rescues are great but not if they are needed because the cops have been completely stupid and imbecile all through the investigation.

Good Newwz – Prime Video

I do not usually watch Bollywood comedies as a rule (they mostly are too silly, obscene, in poor taste, misogynistic, extremely slapstick, script-less or a combination of these attributes) , but this one was actually good! Yes, the melodrama in the second half was a bit much, but overall, the movie was insightful and crisply-written and genuinely funny!

Love Sex Dhokha – LSD – Netflix

What a brilliant movie this was! And while it isn’t something you’d want to watch in a family setting, it gives you so much insight on the general familial take on Love, Sex, and Dhokha. Honest, genuine portrayals by all the actors, too!

Psych – Prime Video

This series is about a brilliant but anarchistic son of a strict police officer who pretends to be a psychic detective in order to earn a livelihood doing what he knows best – observing and finding clues without necessarily sticking to the law.

Kumbalangi Nights – Prime Video

This was a weird movie! I did not like it at all throughout its length, until the end – when I was like, this was good! The fact that I did not turn the movie off midway should’ve given me a hint. The story is about three brothers with a terribly dysfunctional family right from its inception, and how small events in life can turn it around so magically!

What’s up Lagna – Prime Video

Again, I try not to watch uber-commercial Marathi movies, but sometimes give in. Is it closet optimism that for once, a movie in my mother-tongue will be good? I don’t know the answer to that but I did watch this movie and it wasn’t bad. The story is about a modern relationship where the husband and wife have different work schedules and life habits. It was relevant and the acting (Prarthana Behere and Vaibhav Tatwawadi) was very natural. Good timepass!

Panga – Hotstar

I like Kangana (even though I disagree with her politics), I like the director Ashwini Iyer Tiwary, and I love the concept (a national level Kabbadi player making a comeback after a long time – which includes a wedding and childbirth and rearing), so I’d been waiting to watch this movie for a long time! It was quite entertaining, if not earth shattering. Thankfully there was hardly any melodrama and a lot of situational comedy. Loved how the writer and a director kept it light. The acting was great, too!

Chhapaak – Hotstar

This was another movie I was excited to see and also, liked it. This was again, not earth-shattering or anything with respect to film-making as a craft; but such stories need to be told without a preaching tone – and this movie does just that! To actually see the story of a survivor will ( I hope) make a lot of difference in the outlook of people.

The Dark Knight series – Netflix

I have watched this series umpteen times and can re-watch it umpteen times! I actually didn’t even like Batman comics or movies until I watched Batman Begins. And no, this has nothing to do with Christian Bale (although I gotta admit, he is uh-mazing!), but the way Christopher Nolan has presented this dark superhero story with more emphasis on philosophical struggles and less on action and gore (unlike the previous batman movies)!

Tanhaji – Hotstar

Oh dear lord, what a torture this was! Bad acting, terrible stunt choreography, even worse cinematography, exploitative use of violence and jingoism, no sense of direction!

Panipat – Prime Video

It should suffice to say that this movie was pathetic in all respects. A special mention is however deserved by Arjun Kapoor’s acting! How can one single man go the entire legth of the movie without a single change in expressions? Just how???

Captain America – The First Avenger

Captain America is one of my most favorite superheroes! Anyone who knows me really well knows that I am a sucker for sincerity and earnestness and niceness, so it should come as a surprise that I had never seen the first movie. I finally watched it and loved it! Except for certain action sequences, of course – but I don’t like those in any movie! Which is why suspension of disbelief is a requirement, I suppose. In any case, like I have always maintained, super heroes are so much more than their ludicrous action sequences.

Ustaad Hotel – Hotstar

This was a disappointment! Too slow and I have watched several movies like it that are much better than it!

Screen-time of the month: January

Honestly, this is nothing but another attempt to keep writing… something! So here’s what I watched during the month of January.

Bala – Hotstar

Had been waiting to watch this movie for a long time, so I pounced on this one! I loved it! Right from the writing to the acting to the direction, everything was excellent. But the concept and the sentiment and the message of the film were even better. Ayushman Khurana was amazing as usual! I only wish that they hadn’t blackened Bhumi Pednekar’s face so much because 1) she is a terrific actress and doesn’t need the extra makeup to bring out the pain and determination of her character and 2) girls of much lighter complexion than her still face similar issues.

Ghost stories – Netflix

This one was kind of a bouncer, basically because there were no ghosts in it except in the last story by Karan Johar. Was there horror? There most certainly was, but then they should have called it horror stories,no? However, all the 4 stories managed to capture my full attention. I liked Dibakar Banerjee’s segment the best. A highly chilling, visually captivating allegory with excellent story telling – even though there were no ghosts in it. Anurag Kashyap’s segment was a little gross for my taste and I also think it could have made a bigger impact with a subtler narrative. Sobhita Dhulipala was excellent though! Zoya Akhtar’s story was the least horrifying, even though it was the most haunting. Very surprisingly, I loved Janhvi Kapoor’s acting in that one. Rounding out the anthology was Karan Johar’s segment which actually had multiple ghosts. Unfortunately, it was the weakest of them all – very frilly and silly!

Jeopardy GOAT – ABC

I have been a fan of quiz shows since I was a child and this all-star special was amazingly supercalifragilisticexpialidocius! And even though I am a James Holzhauer fan, I was floored by Ken Jennings’s knowledge, speed, and above all, humility! He totally deserved to win this one.

Uyare (Malyalam movie) – Netflix

Very nice movie! Parvathy was brilliant in this.

Mr. Robot – Amazon Prime

I could finish only 1 season, because the plot, however intriguing it might be, got very irritating because of the constant unreliable narrative caused by drug-induced hallucinations. I have never been a fan of unreliable narrators, but I get that sometimes the narrator is genuinely confused and needs to go through the motions to arrive at a reasonable conclusion while also reiterating that not everything is as it seems. However, using them to purposely confuse the audience again and again is plain gimmicky!

The first season though was mind-blowing. No pun intended. The whole idea of rescuing the world from the claws of capitalism, only to realize that anarchy breeds its own set of numbing problems was shown beautifully. I always question the motive though – had Mr. Robot not died due to the negligence of Evil Corp, would Elliot still be so anti-capitalism?

Splitsvilla X2 – MTV

LOL this is one of my guilty pleasures – a show on top of my list of shows that are utterly ridiculous but I still cannot stop watching!

Masterchef India – Hotstar

This is still ongoing but so far, it has been a great season!

You – Netflix

Whoa! This one was a shocker! Like, every aspect of it, save the ludicrous immunity from law & order that affects all such shows, was very thrilling! Blew through it in a matter of a few days!

Happy New Year 2020!

Hello, everyone! Here’s wishing a happy, happy new year to all my readers, or what’s left of them anyway! (I know I have no one but myself to blame for that, but let’s put that aside for now. )

This year has whizzed past me at astronomical speeds (both literally – the Earth did complete a revolution around the Sun- and figuratively! I had barely gotten used to writing 2019 while writing the date, and now I have to push 2020?!

Of course, what’s a new year without new (and many old) resolutions? I thought long and hard about my resolutions this year. As neither mega nor micro resolutions have worked with me, I needed to focus on what I really wanted out of my life this year. So I categorized my resolutions/goals/ambitions/wants/needs ( you know I love categorizing!) and listed them down. Hopefully I’ll manage to achieve some of them, if not all! There are still things on the work front that I need to do, but there are many paths and options there and I don’t really know for sure what I want, so I’ll just table it until next year. As of now, my resolutions are as follows:

Health & Fitness resolutions

  • Become fitter by: 1) eating healthier and better and 2) working out more (more than more because more in my case can be very little because I don’t work out AT ALL usually. Go figure! 😛 )
  • Go to the gym regularly and be able to swim 2 Olympic sized pool laps (200 meters freestyle) without stopping
  • Eat out less often and cook more often
  • Dance more
  • Sleep early and wake up early

Reading & Writing resolutions

  • “Read” more audio books to save time
  • Inventory all the books I own and their whereabouts
  • Finish reading all the books in my personal library (from the aforementioned inventory) before hogging public library books
  • Buy more books 😀
  • Read more newspaper and current affairs magazine articles (as opposed to Twitter opinions)
  • Read more Marathi books
  • Read at least 1 Hindi and 1 French novel
  • Write more often and more regularly
  • Start a translation project
  • Consolidate all of my blogs into one blog

Miscellaneous resolutions

  • Scream less at my child (same strictness, lower decibels)
  • Snap less at people but stand my ground and keep expressing my opinions fearlessly (even though most people disagree with them)
  • Become more disciplined
  • Make more lists 😀
  • Have more interesting, meaningful, insightful conversations rather than the regular ghar-pati-bachche-office stuff
  • Limit social media “friends” to only those with whom I have/wish to have regular contact

That is all for now. I’m sure I’ll be breaking many of these resolutions and adding some more to the lists. Let’s see how it goes. Wish me luck!

Bye bye, 2019, OR Hello, 2020?

How was your 2019 and what are your resolutions for the year 2020? Do let me know in comments! Happy new year once again, people! Peace Out!

A Nobel project

“Where the mind is without fear, where the head is held high, Where knowledge is free; Where the world has not been broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls…”

This amazingly beautiful classic poem from Rabindranath Tagore’s Geetanjali was floating in my head while I was day-dreaming at work today. Everyone who knows me well knows that my mind works in terms of trains of thoughts, it was doing just that! It went to this poem (which was also my school prayer!), then Tagore, then the Nobel prize, then the Nobel prize in literature… Then I began wondering how many books from Nobel prize winners I had read. As it turns out, I have read none! I was surprised, and in that amalgamation of disbelief and excitement, I decided to embark upon an unbelievably exciting (or excitingly unbelievable? we’ll see…) journey of reading at least 1 book by every Nobel laureate in literature!

Ha! Let’s see how far I get on this one, given my track record. Wish me luck!

Book review: Born a Crime (Stories From a South African Childhood)

Author: Trevor Noah

Date of Publication: 15 November 2016
Genre: Autobiography, Social commentary
Legacy:  This is the first book by the author who is a renowned comedian and TV host
Intended Age Group: Any
“We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.”
This thought embodies the book. I read this one because it was recommended by a very socially aware friend – I usually steer clear of biographies. And I must say I am grateful to her for encouraging me to read it!
This book tells the bitter-sweet coming-of-age story of Trevor Noah, the son of a black South African mother and a white German/Swiss father. This pairing made him a “colored” boy – of mixed race, which was a whole different street to navigate when it came to the already jumbled and messed up labyrinth of different races and ethnic groups during the African apartheid and thereafter. Not to mention, it was also “illegal” to be of mixed race, hence the title of the book. Noah writes about his childhood experiences of social/racial/domestic/systemic abuse and prejudice and how he sometimes overcame it and sometimes ‘ran with it’ – pun totally intended (read the book to know more!). To be honest, it was eye-opening for me. It never ceases to amaze me how different and yet how similar all cultures are, and how our circumstances pretty much rule us.
To help us understand the African societal structure and constructs, Noah gives us a bit of history in every chapter – it’s a great dose of history! It’s much different from the textbook history we learn without empathy in schools. It’s human nature to dismiss any suffering except our own, and Noah strikingly demonstrates that with the help of various instances including the ‘Hitler’ incident -I won’t narrate it here to avoid spoilers, but that incident, and that whole idea, really made me stop and think. As kids in India, my friends and I also used the name of Hitler flippantly: you know, labeling anyone who was assertive or steadfast as Hitler, greeting each other with a “Hail” just to show comradeship, and even arguing the merits and demerits of dictatorship. We knew about the atrocities committed by Hitler, of course, it was taught in schools; and yet, it was just a story to us. And it was the same for Noah and his fellow Africans, who were themselves the victims of slavery and genocide, and yet, couldn’t empathize with victims of the holocaust.
Trevor Noah is amazingly gifted at observing people and the world. He introduces a world that is so different from the world we ‘imagine’ – because our imagination, as the introductory quote here states, is pretty stunted at best. When we think of Africa and apartheid, we think of injustice; but we hardly ever scale the depths of the destruction of human rights and worse, spirits.  There are so many things we take for granted and the success of this book is that it hits us hard about our complacency.
While Noah excels in deep understanding and insight, he lacks in fluid writing (I do think that he is a wonderful comic, but that’s immaterial here). Also, non-linear narrative is great when you are working a mystery, but in a biography – especially one which has so many ‘hues’ – no pun intended, it just tends to confuse the reader. In fact, the back and forth narrative and the long descriptions of his childhood routines is what made me take off a star. But despite that, the book is worth reading for everyone who is the least bit interested in cultures, society, and humanity.
Read this book, people! We often resign to the fact that history is written by victors, but that’s just because the vanquished and the survivors choose to or are forced to stay mum. Not anymore. It’s high time we start listening to their voices – especially when they are as insightful as Trevor Noah’s.
Rating: 4 on 5

Movie Review: Dangal

Okay, first things first. Dangal is an excellent movie – entertaining, sensible, inspiring, and, surprise, surprise!, a very clean PG movie!

I had a lot of mixed feelings about going to watch Dangal. I’m not a big fan of Aamir Khan (I do concede that he is an amazing actor, of course. Still, we cannot be fans of each and every amazing talent there is, can we?) and I’m wary of sports biopics. (Mary Kom was good but Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and MS Dhoni were strictly average. Also, the screenplay-ed stories of living people always seem weird to me)

But it got good initial reviews and I was on Christmas vacation, so I thought of giving it a try. It was almost after a year that I was going to be able to see a movie with my husband, after all.

My first thought into the movie revolved around Aamir Khan’s ears – they are so distinct that they’d be his identification even if he got an exhaustive movie-style plastic surgery. But 5 minutes into the movie, they disappeared. So did Aamir Khan himself. From then on, only Mahavir Singh Phogat, his amazing daughters, and their awe-inducing training routine and camaraderie prevailed. We all know the story of the movie by now, so I won’t dwell on it. But I cannot dwell enough on the powerful performances by all the actors. They are so real, so earnest, so natural – minus the melodrama that ensues with films like this. ALL of the actors, including the narrator of the movie – the skinny and ever-faithful cousin, make an impact and help carry the story and the feelings forward.

Also, I think that all these “protests” about Aamir Khan forcing his ambition on his daughters are ridiculous. One often needs a nudge while pursuing an unconventional path. Plus, he did not see a wrestling future for the girls until they beat up boys who were calling them names. He tapped their potential. He did not force a fish to fly, he in fact recognized the flying fish while others were calling them weird. We need more fathers like this!

The music of the movie needs a mention, too. It complements the film. None of the characters mouth the lyrics, which is great. The songs only carry the story forward.

Now, if I had to pinpoint the flaws in the movie, I would have to say that Aamir Khan being locked up in a storage room during his daughter’s Gold medal bout is silly. I mean, come on! So childish. But then, it does not really take away from the fantastic movie!



A new project – to improve the old one!

Hey friends!

I have been thinking about revamping my blog for a long time now. Presentation, look-and-feel, colors, and so on. But I have realized that the most important thing I need to revamp is the content. Being a technical writer and an aspiring writer/editor myself, I think I should refresh my old blog of 9 years – by editing and revising the existing posts first.

This WordPress site has seen many locations: apartments, workplaces, buses and rickshaws, even, as I wrote posts on the fly. Especially during my initial years, I wrote from my heart ( You may read that as did not bother to proofread 😛 ).

So this is me, trying to proofread and edit and hopefully make better, all my blog posts to date. I will post on social media the links of posts I think people may have missed earlier.

Wish me luck! 🙂


The Hysteria (and atrocity) of Mob Justice

A few days ago, India was shocked to hear the news of a mob of 200-odd people in UP beating to death a man who was rumored to be consuming beef. While there are many different serious issues involved in this situation, including why the beef ban makes no sense, and how the temple was used for entirely ‘un-temple-like’ matters, this post is about the mob and its mentality, and the reasons behind this mentality, if any.

India is no stranger to the concept of a mob. From the time of our struggle for independence from the British, mob demonstrations, protests, meetings, and rallies have been quite common. In fact, these mob gatherings played a very important role in gaining us our independence – Dandi Yatra and Bharat Chhodo Andolan, for instance. However, these were mostly peaceful gatherings, condoning non-violence as a principle. The violent part of our freedom struggle, albeit very important as well, was commandeered by individuals rather than groups.

Thus, it is really strange to see that the mobs of today are far from peaceful. Just a few months ago, an angry mob lynched a rape suspect after breaking him out of a prison in Dimapur. Companies and companies of police forces could not control the mob. The matter lies under investigation while even the guilt of the murdered suspect is not yet established. However, the cruelty with which this suspect was murdered remains for all to be seen.

It saddens me deeply to see how people have stopped believing in the criminal justice system or law enforcement, in general. The humongous number of cases of rape, assault, and abduction; and the general lethargy in prosecuting them has triggered a long-due avalanche of public outrage in our country. People want justice, and they want it right now! But wait! Is any of it really true?

Yes, there is public outrage. But is it over matters that really concern the public? How was it any of those 200 people’s business to prevent the unfortunate man from eating beef? They had a right of opinion, yes; but who in the world gave them the right to enforce their opinion on someone, let alone physically confront them over it? If they had a problem with him eating beef, the most they should have done is filed a report at a police station, if at all that were possible. (I know, the anti-beef law is ridiculous and denying people their staple food while proudly wearing leather shoes and belts is as hypocritical as it can get,  but that merits a different blog post altogether. ) What gives them the right to kill someone? If the cow is sacred, isn’t a human life so too?

We have established that this killing makes no sense logically. Some people said to me that it is not a logical but a moral and sentimental issue. Educated people said this, no less. Again, the issue of how educated people fall prey to herd mentality or pandering merits another blog post. (And here I thought I had no topics to write about!) But for now, let’s see how this is (not) a moral and sentimental issue.

If we as a nation were that moral and sentimental, we would have stood up to the many issues that we face today. Take rape, for example. The Dimapur mob did kill a rape suspect when the outrage over numerous unsolved rape investigations was at its peak; but how many people from that mob regularly protest against inappropriate behavior in public places – the eves-teasing, the molestation, and overall unlawful intimidation? Oh and let’s not even open the can of worms called inappropriate behavior of domestic nature!

Don’t these so-called torch-bearers of moral conduct turn a blind eye towards countless “immoral” incidents that happen everyday around them, even when they are in groups?

I myself have been verbally abused in a crowded public bus, when a man whom I told not to lean on me launched a full-fledged  filthy-worded sledging attack on me. He even threatened me of dire consequences – while the many men and women around me just watched. Verbal abuse is bad enough, but how many of us even actually interfere in what we can clearly see is a physical or sexual attack? Where does this “moral mob” dissolve then?

When Government officials ask hundreds of people for a bribe, why don’t they unite and use the power of the mob to make the officials see the error in their ways? I remember when I was in Engineering college, public buses routinely refused to let us board until all the seats were filled because we, as students, paid concession fares. Hundreds of students hence traveled standing, but none, including me, had the will to collectively negotiate or reason with the individual buses or with the public transport authorities. This same universal set of students was however more than eager to stage a protest at the university against the rule of introducing uniform attire in colleges. The situations I have mentioned are nothing compared to the heinous crimes that are being committed by mobs, but the underlying problems are the same.

Do mobs only act when it is absolutely illegal to do so? Why is it that a large group of people will shut down an entire market on the day of a strike, but they will not be “moral” or “sentimental” about a poor lonesome fruit vendor who can only have enough money for dinner if he sells enough fruit in the day?

Clearly, a different type of sentiment is at play here.  Is it all politically motivated – someone actually pulls the strings and controls the mob after brainwashing them, while letting them believe that they are all in control? Do we as a society need to vent our frustration about the many problems of the world and take any easy route offered to us? Those easy routes mostly happen to be the wrong ones; but we have put out ourselves so much that we cannot retreat? Don’t at least some of us have a crisis of conscience while watching a fellow human being mercilessly beaten and back-off, or try to get others in our ‘united’ group to back off? Do none of these mob members take a moment to think about the consequences of their actions, both short and long term?

So many questions, I know! I am really baffled by all this ominous stuff. The truth is, I refuse to believe that human beings are inherently evil creatures. A few may lose their way, but as a society, we are bound by conscience to behave rationally, compassionately, and justly. At least I hope so. Wake up, fellow human beings! Social interaction or forming groups is what makes us human beings special. It is time to give a good, long thought to how we, as a group, should make each other better, and not worse. Let’s be a solid community,and not just a mob.

The Birthday Blog Post

This was meant to be an actual birthday post, meaning it was supposed to be posted on my birthday, which was yesterday.  However, as most of my activities are these days, it had to be postponed. Thankfully, I can accredit it to my daughter, and not to my usual procrastination. 😀

20141029_004353Anyway, yesterday’s the day I turned 31, finally severing all my ties with my twenties. (No, I can no longer say that I was in my twenties  just until a few days ago! 😛 )

In other (more real) senses, too, this birthday was of quite some importance to me.

For one, I became a mom about 5 months ago, so it is my first birthday as one. My daughter does not understand it yet but years later she will see herself wishing me in photographs. Yes, I posed her to  hug me and pretended she was wishing me a happy birthday, I admit! 😛 😉

My last birthday was pretty disastrous, what with the morning sickness and stuff. So on this birthday, I was happy to actually eat my birthday cake. 😀 Chocolate, of course!

I have always been a big fan of birthdays; and while I agree that we all grow a little everyday, there’s something that changes on our birthdays every year. As a kid, I used to truly believe that what we wished while cutting our birthday cakes really came true.  As I grew up, I transferred my wish-fulfillment tactics to making resolutions. Needless to say, neither of them came to fruition. Well, at least most of the times. Still, I make resolutions on every birthday: most are just repeats of those made about 10 months ago, all still unfulfilled. And some, I try to incorporate based on my age. This year, as I myself have a child, I have resolved to reduce my childish streaks, at least a little. The child-likeness, albeit, I cannot camouflage. But the flashes of temper, the random indiscipline – they sure have to go out the door.

Apart from that, I have resolved to read more, on the new Kindle Paperwhite that hubby dearest gifted me on my birthday. :):) I used to be an ardent supporter of good old-fashioned paper books; but considering how my daughter devours anything that she can tear or wring, I fear for their safety. Hence, Kindle. At least until she finds a way to destroy that, too. 😛

Well, that’s it so far. Let me publish the post before I get interrupted again. Happy birthday to me! 😀 😀

Mesothelioma Awareness

Recently, I was contacted by  Heather Von St. James, a triumphant survivor of mesothelioma. She wanted me to spread a word about this rare form of cancer. I must admit, I had never heard of mesothelioma before.

Mesothelioma is dangerous, yet avoidable. It mainly occurs due to asbestos exposure. It has been cured in rare cases, like that of Heather. It was quite inspiring to read about her victory over it.

For information about Mesothelioma, please visit http://www.mesothelioma.com/

Also, stay away from asbestos!

My childhood rain memories

It is that time of the year, again (In India)! 🙂 Yes, the monsoon season, indeed. As my readers already know from several of my previous posts, I love the rain.

rainRain reminds me the most about treks, chai-pakodas, the ‘terrifying and soothing at the same time’ property of nature, and the romantic breeze, of course; but I have talked about those things previously. Today, as my life currently revolves around my cute little 2 months old daughter, I have decided to write about my childhood rain memories. I think I did have a gala time with the rains during my childhood, too. Doing what? Here’s my top 5!

1. Making paper boats

paper boats

One of the first memories I have of ‘fun in the rain’ is of making paper boats and releasing them in nearby gutters, and seeing how many reach the far end! Of course, most boats used to sink soon; and hence used to begin the competition of seeing ‘whose’ boats among the group of budding ship builders floated the most. As I grew older, I learned to make different types of boats:  those with anchors, those with a mainsail and a jib, and so on. I loved it – what wasn’t to love? Making them was fun, getting wet while putting them in gutters was ‘adventurous’, and watching my parents clean up the mess left behind was even more fun…hahaha! I guess that is why we stop making boats when we get older – we have to clean our own mess, don’t we! 😛

2. Jumping and dodging puddles

I don’t need to see a ‘daag acche hain’ commercial to remember how, despite warnings from my parents about the troubles dirty water could cause, I used to jump into puddles and splash water. (Not just on myself, but on unsuspecting and suspecting people, too) hahaha.Puddle I used to also try to dodge these puddles, but the more I jumped around them, the more I ‘accidentally’ launched myself into them. 😛 😀 Not my fault, no? [Evil Grin] 😀

As children we were really carefree! Now, I wouldn’t even dream of doing such a thing. However, I do remember that I accidentally stepped into a puddle on a Jersey City street while on a trip to New York, and felt happy! 😛 😀 Now whether that was from the nostalgia about Indian roads or about actually stepping in puddles, I do not know.

3. Playing while getting drenched

rain-wallpaper-5This should have been number 1, actually! What can beat the ’kick’ we felt when we played while getting soaked from head to toe, wiping our faces again-n-again to see what’s going on around? Ahhhh, coolness, freshness, adventure – thy name is ‘getting drenched’! 😀 My favorite rain game? Catching Cook, Lagori, and swimming. Funnnn! Oh, and coming home to a hot bath after playing our hearts out while getting drenched – heavenly!



4. Buying rain coats


If you are telling me that you did not obsess over colorful umbrellas and rain coats when you were a child, I’d say you are kidding me! 😀 I remember getting all excited at the end of summer about buying new rain coats. Discussing latest fashions was not about clothes and shoes back then; it was about pencil-boxes, labels, and rain coats. How excited I was when the new skirt-n-top rain coats came in the markets! And when the transparent ones did, too! Mmmm the smell of new rubber and plastic…..mmmmm…

5. Singing ‘Ye re ye re paavsa‘ and ‘paus aala vara aala‘. lol… Did you sing rain songs as a child? Which ones?

What were your favorite childhood activities related to rain? Do let me know. 🙂

A Brand New (Mother of a) Role! :)



Yes, I am happy to announce that exactly a month ago, I assumed one of the most important roles I will ever play in my life. I gave birth to this sweet little girl that you can see in the accompanying photograph, Ananya. Her arrival was nothing short of a mini-tsunami of change in my life, and Mayuresh’s.

From the moment we had a slight doubt that the little present (or future, should I say?) was on its way into our lives, nothing remained same as before.  Lifestyle, pastimes, physical condition, mental state, plans, priorities… you name it and 360 degrees turn it made!

9 months passed with much hullabaloo. Girls, if you are interested in knowing more about those 9 moths, you can read all about them, in detail, in my newest still-under-construction blog The Mommy Diaries. (For those who prefer saving and browsing through the blog later, the URL is http://amrutasmommydiaries.blogspot.com/.) I singled out girls because I am very sure boys will hardly be interested in knowing the nitty-gritties of pregnancy – a phase they will never experience first-hand! 😛 Anyway, the new blog is not yet fine-tuned and ready for public viewing, hence this subtle mention.

But as people had told me earlier, the real adventure was yet to begin. And it now finally has. After experiencing the first few days of overwhelming physical agony and mental ecstasy, my mind now has finally reached a point where there can be emotional upheaval.

And emotions indeed poured like cats and dogs! From what it really means to be a mom, to what I want to be able to teach my daughter… From how I can never be carefree again, to how I can prevent my life from being one-dimensional… So many and Oh so many thoughts have firmed their roots in my mind these days!

The confusion and the musings aside, this new role has also brought in a plethora of new experiences. Ananya is just a month old, and cannot smile purposely – I know; and yet when she coincidentally grins when I’m talking gibberish to her, I feel she is responding already, and we have this special connection. Such a comforting bubble it is! 🙂 Getting worried when she cries and happy when she clings to me, understanding her yells and wails (Oh yeah, it seems they have a different kind for every reason!), treating her like the most delicate thing on the planet, while hoping she will be really strong when she is older… I can ramble on and on about all these new experiences I am having, but then what would I write in later posts, if I do write them, that is!

Wish me luck for bringing up this cute little baby, and also for being able to keep writing this blog in spite of assuming this mother of a role. Well, who knows… it is said that when you are really busy doing something important, you find time to do all the things that you like doing. ‘Cause it is not the lack of time that prevents you from doing what you want to, but it is procrastination! The busier you get, the more efficient you become in handling things that you care about.

We’ll soon know if that is true! 😀


Jab Celsius and Fahrenheit met!

fahrenheit_celsiusI had heard about Chicago’s cold winters. I had survived a couple of them. But nothing could have made me imagine the kind of cold that would come in, jab Celsius and Fahrenheit met!

Yes, that’s right. For those of you who did not know (and that includes me, until recently) at -40 degrees Celsius,  the Fahrenheit scale of measurement catches up (or down, whichever way you like it).  I guess the world is so damned frozen by the time the scale hits -40, that Mr. Celsius and Mr. Fahrenheit no longer have the energy to diverge! Hahaha, just kidding! It is all purely mathematical, actually.

This historical event (well, in all of my 30 years of near-cognizance) happened on the 6th of January, a day when by the grace of Murphy, I had an unavoidable appointment outside my house. I have spent months and months sitting at home, and on the one day when I could have been glad for doing that, I had to drag myself out, wearing no less than 7 layers of warm clothing. Needless to say, I looked like a frozen elephant! 😛

To add to the woes, the extreme drop in temperature led to low air pressure in the car tires, forcing husband dearest to queue up at the air filling station and drag the air pipe (or whatever it is called) to all the tires while shivering bitterly.

Thankfully, none of our body parts fell off by the time we got back home. I wonder what the homeless people were doing, though… Poor them! Now the temperatures are slowly but steadily rising, thankfully again.

Here are some pictures of the terrible ‘polar vortex’ed city of Chicago and a few other places. See and enjoy the fact that you weren’t here, then. Those of you who were here, rue the same fact. 🙂


Happy New Year 2014!

Hi friends,

Before anything else, let me wish you a very happy new year! May the year bring plenty of health, happiness, success, fun, and laughter in your lives! 🙂Image

I know that a new year is just a statistical tool to help us keep track of time, and the Gregorian calendar (by which the 1st of January becomes the first day of the year) does not even mark the change in a season, but mere mortals (and procrastinating ones at that) like me do like to have landmarks and deadlines in life, to keep us on track. A new year serves that exact purpose. 🙂

So how was the last year for me? Well, bitter-sweet, like most other years. The year started in Orlando (ahh, the lovely, sunny land of Florida) and ended in Chicago (ohh the wretched land of snow). – which actually is poetic justice! 🙂

This time around, the new year celebration was rather subdued, although very comfy and cozy, with just me and my husband sipping sparkling pomegranate juice (yes, seriously) and munching on yummy, home-made Malai Kofta and naan. And thus, we also managed to wake up early in the morning the next day, which has been one of my new year targets and resolutions for many years now.

As for resolutions, this year too, I made the same old ones – lead a healthier lifestyle, read more, write more, obsess less, be less emotional and more practical, and so on. What remains to be seen is how soon and how often I break them! 😀

I am majorly concerned about writing, though. It is after all, my bread and butter. At least it used to be, and after this “break”, it will be so again. Just don’t want to lose my shine (if I had any in the first place; and if I did, then if any of it is left) by the time this break ends. Let us see. Only time will tell! Coincidentally, and on a totally unrelated note, that was the last book I read last year [Only Time Will Tell – John Grisham], and did not like it at all. Why I am writing this here? I don’t know – just want to write something. That’s a good sign, I guess… hehehe.

Anyways, here’s to more good signs, and good omens, and good deeds, and good news; and hopefully see you again soon.

Cheers! 🙂

Racism? How beneath our own race!!!

Here’s a transcript of an interview between a journalist and a typical young, educated, white-collared Indian.

Q: Do you think Indians, especially those of the younger generation, are racist?racism pic
A: No way, man! It is well-known all over the world – We don’t indulge in racism! We are all-embracing…
In fact, the only race we do believe in is the race for betterment, for success – financial, social, traditional, emotional, and cultural! (They don’t call us the Gen-Next for nothing!) Plus, our culture is the greatest of all, re! Look at all those stupid Americans and Australians… harassing not only Indians, but their own country men living there! We are not like them at all. We believe in “Live and Let Live”!

QWhat is racism, according to you?
A: Racism is being biased towards some races and discrimination and stuff.

QSo, you are saying that none of us treat people of other races differently?
A: Yeah, yeah, I know that those roadside boys keep whistling at foreign tourists and trying to pick them up. But they are just appreciating beauty – of what value is beauty if no one appreciates it?
And plus, most of these boys are outsiders – from the neighboring states and all, you know! They don’t stay in their limits sometimes; but they are like that only! We can’t teach them these things, right… yeh cheezein to khandaani hain! They speak their own strange languages, and don’t understand ours. But, however useless they are, they don’t do any real harm at all, so it is okay. And don’t even get me started on those originally from neighboring countries! Unka bhi to kuchh nahi ho sakta!

QSo it is only they who are inclined towards racism?
A: Well I can’t say that directly and be politically incorrect, right? I can tell you for sure that OUR community and state is awesome! We are all modern now! We even write “sub-caste no bar” in our matrimonial ads, for god’s sake!
Also, when my North Indian boss’s daughter wanted to marry a Southie, her family didn’t agree at first. Neither did her boyfriend’s. Different culture, different state, different lifestyle – how to adjust with all that, they both asked? Their point of view was correct in a way. Apne apne samaaj ke sab ladke-ladkiyan mar gaye the kya? But look at both their parents’ generosity and open-mindedness… after she ran away with her boyfriend and got married in court, they graciously welcomed the two of them back. Spent like a crore of rupees on the reception. Totally awesome, right!

Racism pic 2QWhat about our internal problems related to casteism?
A: Oh my God… what world are you living in? I am telling you everything’s changed now… Earlier people used to talk about untouchability and stuff. Now we don’t even get to see it anywhere! Well, may be in remote villages and all, but who lives in those anyways – not even a handful of people, I guess. We in the cities are much more modern now… what’s the harm in interacting with those other caste people, I say? It’s not as though they are going to come and live with us now!

And what about discrimination against the “so-called” upper castes and lower castes, both? 
A: No, no, what upper castes and what lower castes? Everyone is just basically proud of their own caste and want the best for it – doesn’t mean we discriminate right? Sometimes things just happen… It’s India yaar!

QRecently there has been news of certain politicians being violent towards out-of-state vendors and businessmen. Do you approve of such tactics?
A: See, tell me this – India is such a huge country, and a highly developing one at that! Even if we don’t allow people from other states to work in ours, they will surely get jobs in their own. Then why do they want to force the people in our state to seek employment elsewhere by filling up all our jobs? As for violence, it is unfortunate; but again, kya karein, it is inevitable sometimes.

QBut don’t you think India is a free country and we can all live and work wherever we want in India?
A: Yeah, we are a free country; but that’s why we all need to stay happy in our own zones, na! If no one is happy how will our country be united? And we are so liberal now…even the different castes are not constricted about employment and work. Our society allows Brahmins to run a business, Kshatriyas to become professors, Vaishyas to do blue-collared jobs and even Kshudras to enroll in armed forces… all these people are allowed to do things they aren’t supposed to – how much more liberal can we be, man! To maintain a balance, we need to have some boundaries, right. Without those, we will be like those Americans and Hippies and stuff.

Q: Okay, and what do you have to say about name-calling? Like in USA, calling African-American people Negros is considered politically incorrect as well as outright offensive. But here, people often use racially offensive nicknames. You just used the word ‘Southie’ in a previous answer.
AArrey, those Americans create an issue out of everything. We just do the name-calling as a joke, man. Plus, it is the easiest way of referring to them. And don’t victimize them okay, they also have nicknames for our state and community. It’s just tit for tat. Now take the software analogy only… in our own company, we call those who test testers, those who code developers, and so on. Similarly, we have names for those from different states and with small eyes, dark skin, dim wits, tendency to show off, miserly traits, oily hair, gauche accents, country of origin, and so on. What’s racist about that!

QOkay then, any parting thoughts on this whole issue of racism?
A: Well, I just want to say that we are not racists at all. No, no, indulging in racism is far, far beneath our glorious race, dude!

[Also published on TheFrustratedIndian blog]]