Sunday, 7 December 2014

Five reasons why I miss Delhi Winters

Winters are here! Ironically, I ain’t feeling an inch of it sitting here in Mumbai. Its perhaps the first time in 3 decades of my existence that I am sitting on December 7, 2014 with fan on and no sweaters! In Delhi, I have always cribbed about winters, preferring to snuggle in my velvet rajai than to wake up on a chilly morning; the torture of taking that morning shower; it was the favourite season of maids when they would cash on their worth. So, now, away from the winters why am I missing the love hate relationship?
Here are my 5 reasons for missing Dilli ki sardi

1.    Weddings
Come winters and wedding invitations start pouring in. If it’s a family wedding, it makes for a double treat. Cousins gossiping overnight on the terrace while munching on mungphalis and gazzak, and pre wedding bashes in huge lawns with bonfires! We Dilliwallas like our weddings big, fat and truly dhinchaak! While summers make it tough to carry heavy makeup and costume, winters make it all easy. The style divas love to flaunt their deep cut and backless blouses despite the chill.  And for those, who still feel the chill, a peg of Black Dog and dancing non stop does the trick.

2.    Winter brunches
Sunday mornings become party time, with moms preparing yummy delicacies (sarson ka saag, make ki roti, bajre ki khichdi, tikkas etc.) and the whole family enjoying the fare on sunny mornings at the terrace. Food lovers also go gaga over the winter brunches offered by the city hotels. I particularly miss the winter brunch at the American Diner at India habitat Centre, Delhi.

3.    Lodhi garden
No matter how much we run away from the suraj chachu in summers, winters do the patch up act. Even the annoying dhoop becomes “Makhmali”. Being away from Delhi, I can vouch there is no experience better than spending a winter morning in Lodi Garden, the Central park of Dilli. Kids flock to the garden to enjoy their favourite spot, while lovebirds leave no opportunity of getting cosy; on a lucky day you might even spot a painter sitting on the grass depicting the nature on canvas. Amateur photographers satiate their lenses with views of various migratory birds, even local. Have often seen squirrels being bribed with peanuts to strike a pose! How can we forget food here? Every Sunday, you can spot umpteen brunch gatherings in the garden.

4.    Winter shopping and discounts
Weddings and winter sales give Dilliwalas enough reasons to stuff their shopping carts. With fests like the CP shopping festivals and the big spacious malls organizing exclusive events, shopping becomes a joyful experience. And when the newspapers announce the end of season sale, Dilliwallas flock to their favourite stores to steal bargain on their long desired winter overcoats.

5.    Barbeque evenings
Fun, food and friends sums up the idea of a perfect evening for any Dilliwalla. Winters give just the perfect excuse, and Dilliwallas love to flaunt their barbeque skills on evenings with ghazals and old pals!

It is said we realize the value of something only when we are away from it. While I have been told winters will show us a small trailer here in Mumbai, I am yearning to rush to my Dilli to savour the magic of Dilli Ki Sardi! 

What all do you love about Delhi winters? I am all ears..:)

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Bhopal - A Prayer for Rain

30 years gone in vain
Still fresh is their pain
The memories of that unfortunate night
Brings on their face horror n fright
After effects haunt even today
Why have the culprits been let away?

These were the thoughts that immediately struck my mind as I walked out of the theatre after watching the special preview of the movie Bhopal - A prayer for the rain. The incident is very special to me, since it occurred the same year I was born. My dad tells me the next morning, the whole nation woke up to grief and mourning. The number of casualties was rising every hour. Seeing the images of those who suffered, many weren't able to take a single morsel down their throat. My heart bleeds when I think about the plight of the people who suffered that unfortunate night. We Indians respect and worship our jobs as 'anndaata'. So did those people, not knowing that their very own anndaata would not only take their life, but also haunt the generations to come with their sins.

The unfateful night of December 2-3, 1984, when many people embraced sleep to wake up to a new day, one act of negligence made it the last night of their life. Many might have weaved hopes of new beginnings on a new day, when they would go to their work and earn a better livelihood.
But the leak of poisonous gas from the Union Carbide MIC plant poisoned their dreams to death.

Media and the film industry have touched upon this topic many a times. Several documentaries have been made highlighting the legal and political aspects. But, what about the emotional trauma faced by the people who lived that torture that very night?

Last Sunday, me along with team of bloggers were invited by Indiblogger and Rising Star entertainment for a special preview screening of the movie. Having seen umpteen number of documentaries on this subject, I was not hoping for any new aspect that would enlighten me. However, by the end of the movie, I was sobbing my hearts out for the unfortunate ones who suffered at the hands of Union carbide.

The film portrays the event from the eyes of the very people who lived it. Dilip (Rajpal Yadav), a poor rickshaw puller is the protagonist. Like many others around him, he too struggles with poverty, hunger and family responsibilities. The only hope of a better life and escape from hunger is Union Carbide, a multinational company that had set up its MIC pestcide plant in the vicinity. Dilip and others aspire to work with Union Carbide, as they see others wearing their uniforms and earning for their family's happiness. Everyday, many men waited outside the Union Carbide office in the hope of becoming a Carbider one day. What they didnt know was that behind the glitz and glamour of being a Carbider, there was 40 tonnes of poison waiting to annihilate everything around.

While the dirty game of capitalists and selfish political interests continued, innocent people suffered to the hands of negligence. 

Rajpal Yadav as Dilip, does complete justice to the role. Tanishtha Chatterjee plays the supporting wife who can do anything to support her husband.

While i had gone with no expectations, by the end of the movie, I had tears of empathy and I felt like one of the victims.

We all know what happened that night, but the movie is a must watch to know how people actually felt that night.

Bhopal - A Prayer For Rain releases on December 5th.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Book review – Fall Like A Rose Petal

Author – Avis Viswanathan
Publisher – Westland Ltd
Genre –Self Help
Pages – 290
Price – Rs.350

Sneak from the cover
In early 2008, the author Avis Viswanathan and Vaani – his soul mate, friend, wife and business partner were staring at bankruptcy of their firm. A series of business decisions had literally brought them to the brink of penury. This book is their story. It captures learnings from this excruciatingly painful, life changing phase that they are still going through.

The Cover
A minimalistic cover which straightway draws your attention to the title and a beautiful rose petal that sits pretty. The never say die spirit of the author almost started influencing me from the cover page itself. When there is no option but to fall, then fall like a rose and enjoy every phase!

My View
Change is the only thing constant in life. While crests and troughs are life’s buddies which come calling every now and then, there are very few human beings who welcome each situation with a smile. Our author Avis is one such man of steel.

Imagine this – bankruptcy knocking at the door, umpteen bills and staff salaries to be paid, two kids still pursuing their studies, no backup/family fortune to fall back on….such a situation is good enough to drive anyone to extreme measures.

However, Avis decides to turn this weakness into opportunity. Not only does he keep his cool and deals with each situation wisely, he also foresees an opportunity to share his lessons in life with his children through this book.

Now, its not uncommon for people to emerge heroes out of tough situation, but I was left amazed how one could use these situations to show the guiding light to future generations. How many people would actually have the presence of mind to even act wisely, leave apart leaving a message for their kids!

The book takes us through a long and painful journey Avis and his Vaani were forced to undertake. Avis shares each and every detail as if he is sitting in front of you and telling a story. There are moments in the book when you feel like crying, while at many occasions you just feel like giving him a standing ovation.

While the genre is self help, the book doesn’t sound preachy, nor does it have the “change your life in a week” type message. Instead, it just underscores the wisdom every parent gives us, albeit with real life tested situations. The author, it seems shares a friendly bond with his children and so, never makes an attempt to conceal any detail which might show him weak. Every father is a hero to his kids, but to admit the mistakes and reveal the hardships warrants a lot of guts.

Read the book to get a new perspective towards life. Life may not be always rosy but by learning to face the situation with a smile, we can surely make the journey a lot easier.

What I loved about the book
The familiarity the author has managed to create with the audience. After a few pages, you too feel family and it seems like a live conversation full of real life wisdom. There are references to many inspirational quotes; I’m sure not only the author’s children, but anybody who reads will benefit.

What could have been better
There is way too much detailing at some instances, for instance detailed description of many people who have been saviors to the author. Leaves you uninterested in them and flip over to the next page.

My rating

About the Author
AVIS Viswanathan (47) is a happiness curator, Life Coach, inspired speaker, author and organizational transformation consultant who leads change management, culture and leadership development mandates in the corporate sector globally.

This review is written for WritersMelon. The views are strictly my own and under no influence.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Book review – Happily Murdered

Author – Rasleen Syal
Publisher – Srishti Publishers
Genre –Fiction
Pages – 246
Price – Rs.195

Sneak from the cover

The radiant new daughter in law of the influential Mehta family dies mysteriously on the very next night of her wedding. The murder is an inside job, the police are certain. It could be anyone – the adulterous husband, conniving in-laws, jealous friend or the love struck ex-fiancĂ©. Will one of these nine unlikely sleuths finally unravel the mystery behind Gulab’s death and avenge it? Or will the truth die as viciously as Gulab?

The Cover
A beautiful cloth, perhaps a part of the wedding finery decorates the cover and almost took my attention away from the title. Admiring the color, my eyes suddenly widen at the sight of blood oozing out from beneath the cloth. What else lies inside? I wonder then, for never would someone associate “happiness” with murder! And here I read someone talking about being “Happily Murdered”!

My View
It was a “dream come true” moment for Gulab. Few hours back, she had married the man of her dreams. The Mehta house was full of celebrations. She regarded the Dancing Pavillion one last time, her feet unable to bear the excitement. And before she could live more of this dream, it was time to say goodbye to this life.

The story begins on a somewhat shocking note, with a young and happy Gulab dying mysteriously on her wedding night. The wedding hustle and bustle in the house suddenly transforms into media and police activity. On the radar is every person in the house – Gulab’s husband Sid, her in laws KD and Tina, her business partner Vikram and his wife Monica, Monica’s sister Sara who was once engaged to Gulab’s husband, Gulab’s ex Ned, and even Gulab’s best friend Yuvi.

While the police struggle to nail the killer, there is a different sort of struggle in the house. Like the empty bottle in the truth and dare game, everyone is trying to save himself/herself whenever all eyes fall on him/her.

Having fed on a generous diet of Agatha Christie books, the debut author surprisingly knows how to keep the readers hooked. With every family member becoming a self proclaimed detective to nail the true killer, the story oscillates between flashback and present. The beauty lies also in the way Gulab’s life, hopes and feelings are expressed in her own voice, even though she is dead in the first page. I wondered then, was I reviewing a debut work, for the book has all the elements of a perfect murder mystery!

Frequent references to various quotes bring the reader closer to Gulab’s state of mind, and by the time the mystery is unraveled, the reader feels a strong sympathy and pain for her.

I would strongly recommend the book if you are looking for a good mystery read. But a word of caution though – chances are, you won’t be able to keep the book down unless you have read till the last page in one go!

With a debut penned with such finesse, I look forward to the Rasleen’s next book.

What I loved about the book
Expression of Gulab’s feelings in her own voice, since she is a deceased character; strikes an instant chord with the reader.

Despite being a debut, I was impressed to see no traces of drags and unwanted descriptions that is found in many books. Also, the pace of the story is just right with each part given its due attention.

What could have been better  
The sudden improvement in relationship between Sara and Gulab was a bit hard to chew. Few typos sneak into the otherwise perfect language.

My rating

About the Author

A mystery addict, Rasleen considers Agatha Christie her Guru. She designs homes for a living and loves to seek mystery in everyday domestic situations. This is her debut. 

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Enjoy your way to a good health

Life as a kid was at its blissful best. With a day full of activities and quality time spent playing with friends; BMR (basal metabolic rate) was always on the go. In a healthy body resides happiness, we all know. However, something attained without hard work is often taken for granted. That’s exactly the case with our dear friend, health.

As we run on the highway of life, all the things lucrative pile up on our priority list, promising us happiness. We break the red lights, adopt short cuts to success, thinking that pinnacle of success will bring us true happiness. What we ignore sadly is that in order to enjoy the good things in life, we need a healthy body and mind. So, early morning rendezvous with nature is replaced by coffee and extended newspaper session, evening sports by social networking and channel surfing, good night sleep by odd working hours, and wholesome natural food by quick fix junk delicacies.

The consequences don’t take much time to show though – loss of stamina, glow wiped from face, growing waistlines, irritability, etc. But, blinded by the lure of materialism, we blame it on hectic work schedules.

How we secretly wish for a time machine then, to take us back to the good times. Well, time machine may not be a reality, but going back to basics might help us make up with our good friend health again…

Here’s how –

1.  Enjoy the routine tasks
Good health is not always about shelling big bucks at a swanky gym. The journey to discover a healthier self can begin at our home. Did you know simple activities like cooking can help you burn 90 calories, ironing 77 calories, and something more than all this – a smile on the faces of your loved ones. See this video to see how

In case you are looking for some more motivation to get going, here’s a video that shows us how to enjoy and get fit in style. Not only will it help you stay fit, it will also help you save some bucks!

2.  Get back on your date with nature
A 15 minute walk or a 20 minute exercise session won’t take away much of your time, but it will definitely help you feel lighter enough to take that flight to a happier you.

3.  It’s all about sharing
Once you are up and running the marathon to a good health, spread the bug to more people. Making a difference in somebody’s life will give you a kick like nothing else can. Here’s a video that shows how

4.  A smile that sets everything straight
Learn to laugh the stress out and share happiness with others. With smiles flowing around, we can definitely ward off the stress that poses threat to our health.

5.  Eat right
While those cookies make for a perfect high tea and the chocolate pastry, the perfect midnight sin, we turn a blind eye to the after effects of processed foods. Just like childhood, when mom ensured there was enough of natural goodness in our food, we too need to discipline our taste buds. And thanks to awareness among many brands, it isn’t a hard nut to crack anymore. We just need to say hello to the goodness of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and good fats. The markets are full of healthier options that are generous to the taste buds as well.

6.  Back with a bang!
Hard work and perseverance have the last laugh, so do you when your healthier Avtaar faces the world

Staying healthy is not rocket science. Just a bit of effort and sticking to the basics will do the trick! What is important however is to keep the fun element alive and enjoy every baby step to a good health. After all, it’s the journey that matters more than the destination.

This blog is written for “Health is fun with Farmlite” campaign by Sunfeast and Indiblogger.With its Farmlite range, Sunfeast brings the goodness of raisins, almonds, oats and wheat fibre into our everyday life, making it easier to take that flight to a healthier self. Sunfeast Farmlite cookies are available in two variants – Oats and Almonds and Oats and Raisins
Pic Credits -

All videos above are courtesy the Farmlite Bytes Film festival.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Book Review – The Bluest Marble

Author – Vipin Kumar
Publisher –
Genre –Fiction/Urban Life
Pages – 264
Price – Rs.249

Sneak from the cover
With portraits that both touch and disturb, corporate politics, Mumbai night life, Dalal Street, lower middle class Delhi and psychological “illness”, the Bluest Marble is a sensitive exploration of young urban aspirations and angst in the age of economic turmoil.
The Cover
A lone tree sans any leaves make for the simple cover. But there is also blue marble (kancha) sitting pretty on one of the branches. Makes me wonder…no matter how sad things are, there is always a ray of hope.
The words below the title somehow confuse me, “Is it always about loving your friend and family?” I open the book to read why the author feels so.
My View
The book begins with the fast pace life of amchi Mumbai. An investment banking job worth flaunting, a luxurious living, a bachelor pad with college friends Rakesh and Jitu, a mean machine, who well, does more than just transport Aditya’s life was at bloom with happiness. Then slowly, autumn strikes and the leaves start falling. Still not recovered by the heartbreak from a lost love, his career faces the wrath of a turbulent economy and he loses his job. It is then that he realises the utopian world he had been happy with was somewhat a fallacy. That his friends had been just “the friends in good times”.
Aditya also has a strange tendency to hallucinate. So after every few pages, you see him hallucinating about his ex girlfriend or even with his bike. While it is tolerable the first few times, the dragged dialogues with no value addition prompt the reader to flip the next page and find something meaningful in the story.
The next part of the story shows Aditya running away from his dismal present to find solace. But the more he runs, the noisier it gets in the mind. There is a very detailed account of his home in Adarsh Nagar in Delhi. And by detailed description, there is so much of it that at one point, I wondered if the author belongs to that place and has got emotional while penning down the debut. If not, a crispier account too would have been welcome.  
Peace and self realisation finally comes calling, not in the company of loved ones, but alas, in a mental hospital in the company of fellow patients. Well, that’s the irony of life! How? The review doesn’t offer spoilers so read the book to know more. It is here that the story takes a serious turn, and you empathise with Aditya. I really liked the description of Aditya’s self discovery under a keekar tree, akin to Buddha’s enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. But just when I wanted a detailed account, I see a hurry to draw the curtains. The discovery of the secret to happiness and the discovery of bluest marble is all so concise that I wondered what suddenly happened that had not happened in the last 250 odd pages. Then the last few pages show the sudden transformation and good times, like the climax of a regular Hindi movie!
Overall, I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the author to try something different in the debut itself. Hope, the expression will improve book by book.
What I loved about the book
Despite the few shortcomings, I recommend the book for a good attempt at a different flavour. The book will at some point make you think about your life too, the ups and downs that went by and the blue marble that each of us can find within us.
What could have been better  
The hallucinations with the ex girlfriend and the dialogues with the bike get over after a point. The Delhi darshan account could have been crispier and much more time could have spilled over to the actual crux of the story in the climax.
My rating
About the Author
After co-authoring award winning plays at IIT Bombay and penning numerous unpublished stories and poems, this is Vipin Kumar’s maiden attempt at being published. With a passion to tell an “honest story”, Vipin actually admitted himself in a hospital to do justice to the hospital episode in the book!
Hope to read more good works by you Vipin.

This review is for The views are strictly my own and under no influence.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

What would you like to have - Million or Crore?

1 million = 10 Lakh
10 million = 1 crore
1000 million = 1 billion
1 billion = 100 crore

What has happened to me today? You must be wondering. Some of you must be finding me crazy or dumb wondering why do I wanna write something when I have no thoughts in my mind?

Well, however dumb it sounds, I have a point in quoting the above conversions. Not that I am starting a section on academics! You see, in primary school, when the foundation of our elementary mathematics was laid, all we were taught were thousands, lakhs and crores. Thousands meant very expensive, lakh was a big figure and crore was a figure one only heard of in television. That’s 80s and 90s childhood for you.

Life was beautiful till school and even graduation. However, a post graduation in finance saw frequent encounters with millions and billions. While it was more about cracking the numerical back then, they seemed fairly tolerable. However, the real problem began when I stepped into the corporate world. Everything everywhere is quoted in millions and billions. While technically it is not at all a problem, I am somehow miss my old friends – lakhs and crores. Now, when someone quotes a figure in millions and billion that needs an opinion, the mind goes back to lakhs or crores within fraction of a second and that’s when I can infer whether it is a figure to bother about or not. Somehow, even today, if I have to conclude how expensive something is, or the extent of financial implications, my old friends lakhs and crores come in handy.

When life was all good with lakhs and crores, why then is it mandatory adopt the strangers millions and billions? I often wonder…
Image source: Google images

The answer goes back to the 80s when focus was more on the Indian Numbering System.  While teachers took us briefly through the international numbering system, everything around us was quoted in lakhs and crores. However, in the global arena, there needs to be uniformity, and hence, millions and billions get away with the cherry on the cake.

Do you face the same fraction of a second calculation every time a figure is calculated in millions and billions? Or the world around you has always valued money in these number?

Your thoughts are welcome…

P.S.  We are lucky we just have millions and billions in our life. Look at this page on Names of Large numbers and you will realize life is still beautiful!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Movie Review – Pyaasa

Date of Release – February 19, 1957
Genre – Drama, Romance
Director – Guru Dutt
Duration – 146 minutes
Cast – Guru Dutt, Mala Sinha, Waheeda Rehman, Johnny Walker, Rehman
Music – S.D. Burman
Written By – Abrar Alvi
Lyrics – Sahir Ludhianvi

My View
To mention the word “review” for a movie like “Pyaasa” would not be giving due respect to this masterpiece. Considered one of the greatest movies of Indian cinema, Pyaasa combines love, pain, deceit and the double standards of society with a perfection that hardly any movie has done. It is said that Guru Dutt was a director ahead of his times. And when you watch this movie, you marvel at the thought process of this genius back then in 1957!

The movie, considered by many to be based on real life story of the famous lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi revolves around a young man Vijay (Guru Dutt) who is gifted with the art of poetry. However, in the world of opportunism and malice, his honesty has hardly any takers. So, his talent goes unnoticed and everyone, including his real brothers discard him as a penniless loser. Vijay’s principles and self respect however, are unfazed by hunger and rejection. Harbouring the dream of being published someday, he comes in contact with Mr. Ghosh (Rehman), the owner of a large publishing house.  He is unaware that Rehman is only a selfish man who obliged him to know the secret of his past.

As if rebuke and rejection was not enough for Vijay, destiny plays another cruel game with Vijay. His college sweetheart Meena (Mala Sinha) who had left him to enjoy marital bliss with a well settled Mr. Ghosh comes face to face with him. With old love coming knocking on the door, things get even more complicated with Mr. Ghosh discovering their secret and Vijay losing his job.

When the world uses Vijay for their vested interests, leaving him with pain in return, it is only a prostitute  Gulabo (Waheeda Rehman) who stands by him through thick and thin. Smitten by his poetry and gentleman attitude, Gulabo proves her true love by sacrificing her entire money to fulfil his dream of being published.  Vijay’s poetry does eventually make him a favourite with poetry lovers however, just like the distance between the cup and the lip, Vijay too is unable to get his due credit, thanks to the not so good gestures by Mr. Ghosh, his brothers and some selfish friends. While the publisher makes a killing with Vijay’s poems in print, the real hero is parked away in a mental asylum.

Whether Vijay is able to get his due and whether he finally gets peace in the world of fake promises and double standards is for you to see.

The film has power packed performances by Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Mala Sinha, Rehman and Johny Walker.  Guru Dutt, the king of tragedy and romance conveys such intense emotions effortlessly that you simply relish each and every scene. Waheeda Rehman portrays the transition beautifully from a charming prostitute to the woman seeking true love and respect. Notice both sides in these songs.

Mala Sinha aptly essays the role of a weak and helpless lover who is stuck between the concern for her love and the bindings of the society. Rehman, well known for his negative roles during those times, does full justice to the role of a mean and cunning man who masks his malicious intensions under layers of sophistication.

While I had always thought Johny Walker’s role in the movie was just about the song, Sar Jo Tera Chakraye, I figured that he is used as an SOS vehicle in the story when al the odds are against Vijay. Besides adding the humour quotient, he is credited with bringing an important twist to the story.

While I have heard the songs many a times since I was a kid, I fell in love all over again with them when I saw the movie. The songs are brimming with emotions and I wish we had lyricists and composers like we had back then.

The post would be incomplete without a mention of the lyricist, Sahir Ludhianvi. Though there are no words to describe the beauty with which he has penned down the songs, it is best recommended to listen and reflect upon the message he is trying to give in each song.

Overall, Pyaasa needs no endorsement to prove itself. For those of you who look at old Indian cinema with tinted glasses, such masterpieces are just not to be missed!

Did you know the role essayed by Guru Dutt was originally offered to Dilip Kumar, but he declined. Also, Nargis Dutt and Madhubala were offered the roles played by Mala Sinha and Waheeda Rehman respectively. The movie became a major commercial hit.

My Rating