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 were men of an age that didn’t know better. We do, though, or at least are supposed to, so it’s beyond my imagination why we continue 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 – and that’s also the only thing they really do), 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 almost 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 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!

Book Review: American as paneer pie


Author
: 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! 😀

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

Twilight Saga: Books Review

My oh my!!! For the first time in 10 years of computer literacy, I read an e-book completely!

And after a long long time, I sat up the whole night to read a book!!

Plus, both the above statements are true, not just for 1 book called Twilight, but for all the books in the series, namely, Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn!!

This completely gripping love story between a supernormal human and super-ahem-monster connects with you like no story has done for a loong loong time!! Cheers to Stephanie Meyer!!

So people, if you have even a little thing for romance, go for these books! And guys, keep your girls away from these books, ‘coz it will make them fall in love with Edward Cullen!! All my female friends have, and I won’t blame them!! (Me too in the same situation!! 😛 )

Do I need to give a signal now, it’s so clear…GREEN ALL THE WAY!!!!

Book Review: “2 states – The story of my marriage” (No Spoilers)

Just read the latest one by Chetan Bhagat!

And by his own standards, its a very nice book! Fairly gripping (I finished it in non-stop 5 hours), humorous, and easy-flowing, this book describes the life and times of a couple divided by a wide North-South chasm.

On the flipside, the book is written in a very simple manner, sometimes even reminding you of a mere diary entry. However, the heart and the soul is definitely in the right place!

I will not divulge the story here at all, but would just be content with saying that anyone and everyone, who’s been in love with a person of a different caste, will 100% relate to this book.

Go read it!

Verdict: Green

Wise and otherwise!

I just started reading the book ‘Wise and Otherwise’ by one of my favourite authors, Sudha Moorthy, and although I have just been able to feast on 3 of the stories, I have almost fallen in love with the book! Ms. Moorthy’s stories are always simply written and yet heart-wrenching; and this book adds further to her glory. Do catch a glimpse if u can; I’m sure you won’t feel like putting it down until you devour it fully! 🙂

P.S. I plan to finish reading it in a coupla days. Shall keep you updated about the rest of it.

If….

Just came across this classic poem by Rudyard Kipling…and thought it would be nice to share with all my readers…..Enjoy folks! 🙂 

=============================================================== 

IF………….
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master,
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

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A Summons to Die Hard is not a Piece Of Cake!

Confused by the title people?? Actually its just my laziness to write 3 seperate reviews for the 3 pieces of work i read/watched of late…. So lets not beat around the bush and get straight to the point! 😉

John Grisham’s Summons is an ok-ok story abt Ray Atlee, a law professor having a celebrity judge as a father and a hopeless drug addict as a brother. When his very-much law abiding father passes away, Ray is startled to find 3 million bucks in cash at his house. Summons is a story about Ray’s quest  to find out the truth about the money. Moderately paced and sufficiently interesting, the book does tend to drag towards the end, and the climax too is not so surprising, to say the least.

Rating: 2/5 readable. but not a must!

Die Hard is the fourth part of the previous 3 versions of Die Hard. Although I haven’t seen any of them, going by the fourth, I can say that they must’ve been fabulous pieces of work! Amazzing action sequences is the strongest point of the mvie, not to mention a decently engrossing plot. Die Hard 4 is a modern times thriller about a cyber geek, who creates havoc (FireCell or something, in the cyber lingo)in the United States by hacking into ALL the important systems and databases, and actually bringing people’s lives to a standstill; and how Bruce Willis (John McLane in the movie) with the help of a hacking wizkid fights him.

The director hasn’t taken much effort in avoiding cliches, and yeah cinematic liberty does get stretched at times(esp. in the sequence where an F17 chases Willis’ truck), but overall, the movie is a great entertainer!!

Rating: Green!

Piece of Cake is the first book written by Swati Kaushal, an MBA Graduate. It is a simple story about a modern girl, well-educated smart and independent, but single, who is confused about choosing between a sexy RJ who’s younger to her in age and a well settled celebrity neurologist, who doesn’t seem to be of this age. Not to forget the spin brought in by the literally cut-throat competition in the corporate world!

Entertaining, humourous, and contemporary, this novel surely makes for some good and light reading!

Rating: 3/5 Definitely Readable!

Lyrics that have touched my heart……………

When you are listening to a song, what is more important to you? The music or the lyrics? Well I have always been partial towards music.. I ‘ve always been more attentive to words only when recited without music, you know, poetry and stuff…

But our very own Hindi songs too(without which our bollywood movies would be  incomplete, ofcourse) do have very meaningful lyrics at times. Just an attempt to list a few which caught my fancy…………..

1) Khul ke muskurale tu : Phir Milenge

This song is played in the background when the protagonist understands that she has contracted AIDS through her unfaithful partner, and decides to bravely lead her life, her disease and her past not withstanding.

Khul Ke Muskurale Tu Dard Ko Sharmaney De
Boondon Ko Dhartee Par Saaz Ek Bajaney De

Hawayen Keh Rahee Hain, Aaja Jhoolein Zara
Gagan Ke Gaal Ko Jakey Choolein Zara
Utaar Gham Ke Mozey, Zamein Ko Gungunaney De
Kankaron Ko Talwon Main Gudgudee Machaney De
Khul Ke Muskuraley…Saaz Ek Bajaney De

Jheel Ek Aadat Hai, Tujhmey Hee To Rehtee Hai
Aur Nadee Shararat Hai, Terey Sang Behtee Hai
Har Lehar Yeh Kehtee Hai, Khud Ko Jhoom Janey De
Zindagi Ko Aaj Naya Geet Koi Ganey De
Khul Ke Muskuraley…Saaz Ek Bajaney De

Bansuree Ki Khidkyon Pe Sur Yeh Kyon Thithaktey Hain
Ankh Key Samander Kyon Bewajeh Chalaktey Hain
Titlyan Yeh Kehtee Hain Ab Basant Aaney De
Jungalon Ke Mausam Ko Bastiyon Mein Chaney De.

Khul Ke Muskuraley…Saaz Ek Bajaney De
 

2) Main ek sadi se baithi hun : Lekin

Haven’t watched this movie, but had an audio cassete of this movie as a kid….found the song melodious so listened to it, now that I understand the lyrics and stuff, find it amazing and having so much insight.

Main ek sadi se baithi hoon – 2
Is raah se koi guzra nahin
Kuch chaand ke rath to guzre the – 2
Par chaand se koi utra nahin
Main ek sadi se baithi hoon – 2
Din raat ke dono pahiye bhi
Kuch dhool udaakar beet gaye, beet gaye
Din raat ke dono pahiye bhi
Kuch dhool udaakar beet gaye
Main man aangan mein baithi rahi – 2
Chaukhat se koi guzra nahin
Main ek sadi se baithi hoon – 2
Aakaash bada buddha baba
Sab ko kuch baant te jaata hai, jaata hai
Aakaash bada buddha baba
Sab ko kuch baant te jaata hai
Aankhon ko nichoda maine bahut – 2
Par koi aansu utra nahin
Main ek sadi se baithi hoon – 2

3) Samay O Dheere Chalo –  Rudaali

This is the title song of the movie Rudali, based on the life of a tribe in Rajastan that earns its living by mourning at people’s deaths. They are especially invited by families when any member is about to die, as it is believed that deaths should be mourned as loudly as possible, for various reasons…

samay o dhiire chalo
bujh gai raah se chhaanv
duur hai duur hai pi ka gaanv
dhiire chalo dhiire chalo

ji ko bahala liya
tuune aas niraash ka khel kiya – 2
chaar dinon mein koi jiya na jiya – 2
zahar ye saans ka piya na piya – 2
ye hava sab le gai
kaaravaan ke nishaan bhi uda le gai
udati havaaon vaale milenge kahaan – 2
koi bata do mere piya ka nishaan – 2
samay o dhiire chalo
bujh gai raah se chhaanv
duur hai, duur hai pi ka gaanv
dhiire chalo dhiire chalo

                                                                       <To Be Continued>

Anything for you Ma’am!!

Book Review : Anything For you Ma’am — An IITan’s Love Story

Author: Tushar Raheja

Rating: 3/5– Definitely Readable

How many of you think that IIT students are nerds?? OK may be nerd is too harsh a term, how many of you think that they are devoted-to-studies, intelligent, sincere, and shy??

How many of you would rubbish the idea that IITians can be utter vagabonds, and not just by whiling their time away, but also by playing pranks, telling lies, and above all, falling in love, albeit sincerely???

Now here’s a true story about such an exceptional IITian, Tejas , and his more-than-exceptional tale of love, labour, and above all, luck!!

Written in a very simple and flowing language, this book attempts to relive the pages of Tejas’ journal of love. Although it sometimes reminds you of Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point SomeOne, and gets a little too slow at times(ofcourse that’s because even in the story, time gets stagnant now and then, as the lover boy misses his sweetheart!! hehe!!), its clear and concise style, and effective narration don’t let you put the book away quickly.

The story is about how the protagonist Tejas( which of course is a renamed Tushar), overcomes the antagonist( which but ofcourse, is Fate, who else!!), and meets his love, who’s a thousand miles from him. This intercity love story, interspersed with lots of twists and turns, does surprise you quite a few times. And although you sometimes get irritated at Tejas’ habit of creating loopholes in the law, his motivation to meet his lady-love really amazes you, charms you even!!

A very good book, definitely readable, and even more so, as it is Tushar’s maiden book!

My favourite English books

Here’s a list of my favorite English books…they are not jotted down in any particular order. And I hope I haven’t forgotten any; I will update the list later if my memory decides to improve itself. 🙂

Believe me, people; if you haven’t read any of these, you are surely missing a wonderful treat!

  • The Enchanted Woods trilogy-Enid Blyton
  • The Hound of BaskerVilles- Arthur Connan Doyle
  • To Kill a mockingbird -Harper Lee
  • The Diary of a Little Girl – Anne Frank
  • The Partner- John Grisham
  • The Alchemist- Paulo Coelho
  • FountainHead- Ayn Rand
  • Love Story-Erich Segal
  • Acts of Faith- Erich Segal
  • Hotel- Arthur Hailey
  • Mindbend- Robin Cook
  • All the short stories  collections of Jeffrey Archer
  • Veronica Decides to Die- Paulo Coelho
  • The Devil and Miss Prym – Paulo Coelho
  • The Interpreter of Maladies-Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Malgudi days- R K Narayan
  • Waiting for the Mahatma- R K Narayan
  • Mahashweta – Sudha Murthy
  • How I Taught My Grandmother to Read and Other Stories- Sudha Murthy
  • Harry Potter series
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time-Mark Haddon