Friday, September 30, 2011
Tejas needs to improve his handwriting which is horrible.
I have seen Ojas blossom this year in terms of his personality. From a boy who would just shake his head in no and sit in the last bench alone, he has made his own group of friends and has even ventured to the front bench. He wants to finish his class work first and has become outgoing enough to get a punishment for running out of the class!
He said he got "board punishment" - which means he was made to stand against the board with an entire bunch of offendors.
Tejas was most worried about whether his single black mark woud be discussed during the meeting and he had gained assurance from the teacher beforehand that she will not talk about the black mark.
They scored above 91% in most except english literature (shame)!
I could see many 20/20 on their assessment sheets.
In Western Dance there is still room for improvement but by and large they are ok.
I also managed to pick up a lovely book from the book fair- it has 1 interesting thing about each of the states of India. More on it when we read them.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
This book is meant for young readers and the type face is quite easy to read for kids.
Like in the original story, Fillippo’s father leaves his family and travels to India and doesn’t return for nearly a decade. One day a messenger comes to their house and informs them that their father has been kidnapped. The only way to save him would be to offer a ransom- the priceless jewel that his father had crafted.
Filippo is entrusted with the task of taking the jewel to India and there he becomes the guest at the court of Shah Jahan. Does he manage to bring his father back? How does the jewel manifest itself at a later stage to become a beauty to be enjoyed by all?
Read this fast paced, action packed thriller to know more.
In a complicated yet obvious web of events a drama takes place in an obscure location in Delhi.
While the book reads easily and kept me interested, it also left me with a very sad feeling about the pointlessness of death before time and how it leaves people devastated in its wake.
Stephen is a young boy of part Indian origin. His parents are dead and his grandparents have brought him up.
Stephen comes to India to look for his father and gets involved in the Shiva network ashram and believes that he has yoga in his blood. Prophetic words out of his mouth. He befriends the young yogi Rani and also the Guruji’s driver Raj.
Ruby is trained to be a journalist. She comes to Delhi in search of opportunity and bumps into Stephen her old friend. He offers to allow her to share his flat and thereon her journey in search of a story continues.
Little did she know that her story to fame is going to unfold in her own home.Stephen’s body is pulled out of the Yamuna and ruby gets involved in trying to discover the truth behind this gruesome incident.
When Raj admits that he accidently hit Stephen that day and explains the incidents that resulted in his body landing up in the Yamuna, the police officer believes that he has closed the case.
But not Ruby.
She relentlessly follows the case and together with a journalist friend and Rani, she begins her quest to solve the mystery.
This book has a delightful set of legends from around the world like Finland, Mongolia, Botswana, India, France, New Zealand and Morocco and is promoted for “confident readers”.
In the Whistling Monster- we learn of the brave boy who is the only one who survived the whistling monster but he survived because he received help from an unexpected source.
Jamila’s love for India is evident from her other books and no collection of hers can be complete without a tale from India. She covers the entire story of the birth of Lord Krishna and even narrates the vision of the Brahmand that Yashoda ma gets when Krishna opens his mouth.
Why do people fear darkness? Why do we have nights? Why does winter come?
The changing of seasons and the cycle of day and night is beautifully explained in the ‘coming of the raven’.
As usual, “Puss in Boots” makes for a dreamy delightful read.
We need to learn to be thankful for the blessings and good fortune. We learn more about gratitude in “The Corn Maidens”
‘Gulnara the Warrior’ teaches us about the importance of peace over war.
Nishi Gupta lives in Britain and is leading a normal life until one day she finds herself on the stage of Britain’s got talent with her red guitar. A dream come true turns into a living nightmare and she is out totally disillusioned with herself.
Her friend suggests that the best way to find a toe hold in the music industry is to start working in a records company.
She lands up a job with Virgin records and finds herself reporting to a strict boss. In time the boss mellows down and gives her the most important assignment- handling the marketing of singer Nick who is part Indian and part Canadian.
Nishi and Nick fall in love. There are scenes of stolen moments and funny repartees to develop the romance between the two until fate brings Nishi back to India away from Nick and away from the fame she was just about to get.
The story is alive and very contextual. It talks of dreams – dreams that seem far fetched but a little nudge in the right direction makes the dream come true.
The author maintains a positive voice even when the protagonist is in despair.
I would classify it as “young fiction” more than mainstream though.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Tejas- Why? Do you want to see how many black marks I have got?
me- How many did you get
Tejas - 1
Ojas- I was naughty. But D (another classmate) has got 6.
Yeah right. Its all relative.
Me- We have Annual day in Office?
Tejas- Are you going to dance?
Me, playing trivial persuit- Who is my favourite baby?
Ojas- Donut (because you are always happy with him and you are always scolding us)
Thursday, September 22, 2011
‘Your destiny is much larger than these massive mountains. But to make it come true, you will have to cross these very same massive mountains.’
Thus spoke Shiva’s uncle.
21 year old Shiva, the chief of the Guna tribe is reminded of these words as he is contemplating the invitation of the King of Meluha, brought to him by his messenger Nandi.
Tired of pointless and endless fight with the Pakratis and their growing allies for control of the holy Manasarovar lakeside, the prospect of moving to the peaceful and meticulously planned city of Meluha on the Jhelum banks seemed to be very attractive to Shiva.
Taking the tough decision to move to Meluha, Shiva uproots his tribes and follows Nandi to Meluha. Before entering the city Shiva’s tribe is quarantined and made to drink Somras in its pure form which makes every member of the tribe fall ill except Shiva, who instead of falling ill gets completely healed of his scars and bruises of battle and develops a blue colour on his throat.
Meluha is ecstatic. The Neelkanth, their savior has made his appearance.
Moving on, Shiva stays as King Daksha’s at Devagiri where he meets Sati, his daughter. Over a series of dancing lessons, their romance blossoms. However, Sati is a vikarma- cursed because of the sins of past life. Irrespective of this, Shiva decides to get married to Sati and fulfils his promise.
The Suryavanshis of Meluha are at war with Chandravanshis of Swadeep.
However there is a third party involved- the Nagas who commit an act of terrorism and blast the Mount Mandar- the Somras manufacturing centre of Meluha- the key to the Meluhans long life.
Enraged, Shiva declares a war against the Chandravanshis and their King is captured. From the Chandravanshi princess Anandmayi, Shiva comes to know that the Chandravanshis also believe in a similar legend that the Neelkanth their saviour will appear.
Shiva visits Ayodhya, the capital of Swadeep and knowledge dawns on him.
The story ends with the attack of the Naga on Sati and the readers are left gasping for more.
The story is very interesting. The premise that Shiva could have been a man who rose to God like status because of his karma was quite interesting. The characters and plot broadly maintain consistency with the original legend. Some scenes seem to be a drag and could do with a crisper editing.
Above all, I loved the book cover. Truly indicative of the powerful God like character of Shiva.
In the second part of the trilogy, the story opens with Shiva and Sati battling a Naga warrior, thus setting the stage for events to follow. Shiva’s ultimate goal is to reach the Nagas, the root of all evil.
This story also throws light on the Naga perspective, their mysterious Queen and her nephew Lord of the People.
Shiva’s path to the Nagas is full of other discoveries.
The first discovery is that of Brangas- the cursed inhabitants of the land at the confluence of the river Brahmaptura and Ganga. The Brangas are inflicted by the curse and depend on the Nagas for the medicine for their survival.
To reach them, Shiva and Sati travel to Kashi, where a tribe of Brangas who have escaped their homeland live.
In the holy city of Kashi, their son Kartik is born.
Meanwhile, Shiva gets introduced to their leader Divodas who will lead them to the Branga land.
Sati stays behind while Shiva along with his trusted followers and soldiers travel to the Branga land.
The Naga Lord of the people feels it is the right tiem to reach Sati who is now alone without the protection of Shiva.
During this time, a village gets attacked by a pack of man-eating lions. Sati leads the troop of Kashi soldiers to kill the lions however the soldiers are totally a failure at war since Kashi is declared a city of peace and therefore no military training for the soldiers are done.
Sati is on the verge of defeat at the hands of the maneaters. However, right on time the Nagas come to their rescue and save Sati.
Sati discovers the true identity of the Naga Queen and the Lord of the people and comes to know of a greater betrayal at the hands of her father.
The Branga king refuses to reveal the Nagas to Shiva as they were dependent on the Nagas for their medicines. The other person aware of the recipe of the medicine is Parshuram the Bandit who is as difficult to catch as reaching the Nagas.
However Shiva is able to conquer the bandit not only physically but also his heart.
Shiva returns to Kashi and is startled to meet the Lord of the People who seems to be the killer of his friend Brihaspati. A rift forms between Shiva and Sati over the Lord of the People and despite many attempts of the Naga to redeem himself, Shiva still does not trust him completely.
The Naga Queen decides to reveal the secret of the Nagas to Shiva and the convoy travel to Panchvati the abode of the Nagas through the treacherous Dandak forest.
The book ends when the Secret is revealed to Shiva.
However the secret does not seem as earth shattering as it is made out to be throughout the book. Perhaps the relevance will be revealed in the final book of the trilogy.
The story starts slowly and I almost gave up after the first few pages. But soon the tale picks up speed and I was in a rush to reach the end.
However, the story this time became a little filmier than the previous one. However, it is a fun book and I almost cheered at the discovery of the identity of the lord of the people.
The author manages to keep the parallels to the original myth intact and develops the story well. Here again, I felt that the writing could do with a sharper editing.
Highly recommended for a fun read.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Tiger Hills is a moving epic story encompassing generations of a family living in the Coorg estate.
The story covers a range of historical facts and customs of Coorg and also explores the political scene during that time.
The description of the coffee estate is vivid and evocative. One can almost smell the coffee flower and sense the rains in the hilly Coorg.
The narrative is kept neutral leaving the reader to judge the way the characters respond to situations or make choices in their life. I flitted between hurt at Devi’s predicament and sympathy for Devanna and many a times I felt shocked at Devi’s callousness towards her own son, despite fully understanding the reasons behind her attitude. Such is the power of the narrative.
The scene unfolds in 1878 with the birth of Devi, the first girl born in the family after about 60 years.
She is the darling of the household and extremely willful. She grows up with her cousin Devanna whose mother died under tragic circumstances. Devi is Devanna’s first and only love.
During an intriguing Tiger wedding that happened in the nearby village Devi meets Devanna’s cousin Machu, the brave and handsome tiger killer. She vows to marry Machu and only Machu.
With time Machu returns her affections but he is bound by a vow of brahmacharya for a certain number of years.
Meanwhile, Devanna’s is sent to Bangalore for studying medicine. Devanna bears the traumas of hostel life with courage and determination but after a very particular tragic incident he is driven back to his village and commits a terrible act with larger repercussions.
Circumstances cause Devi & Devanna to get married but Devi is still in love with Machu.
Does time heal Devi’s hurts?
Will Devanna ever earn the affection of Devi?
How does Devi’s love for Machu manifest in a later stage of life?
These and more developments make this a fascinating and absorbing read.
The very fact that the size of this book did not deter an impatient reader like me and kept me going till the very end, speaks volumes about the quality of writing and the plot.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
The idea is to make science interesting for children but the way it has been dealt in the book, it becomes interesting to adults to.
The premise is that we have a lot of questions. While science does not have all answers these books have most of the questions figured out for us.
Why is snot is green? What is space made of? What are the top ten phobias? Why do brain freeze when we eat icecream fast? Why do we walk on 2 legs? Will we ever run out of electricity?
And more of these questions come in this book.
It is divided into five sections -Lost in Space, The Angry Planet, Animal Answers, Being Human, Fantastic Futures and each of these sections cover various questions in a very conversational and easy to understand and assimilate manner.
This is full of technical stuff like- Thinking Machines, Signals, codes & Smart phones, Electro-tainment, E world, Androids & AI.
Various questions for curious minds are dealt here with surprising ease.
Are Computers just posh calculators? Who built the Internet? What is inside a laptop?
How do smartphones and TV remote controls work?
What will future phones be like?
Will ebooks destroy physical books (scary!)
Who delivers my emails?
The good thing is that once we read this book, we can answer the questions that our children ask us with much ease and since it is a very simple book, we could also read them together with the kids.
Author- Glenn Murphy
Publisher- Pan Macmillan - Science Museum Collection
Romy comes in contact with Monkey Magic and she realizes she can communicate with the orangutans. She tends to sick baby orangutans and also in the process chances upon conspiracies in the jungle that will drive the orangutans away.
While Monkey Magic is an exciting and magical story, the book also gives facts about orangutans and their habitat. The book also has a strong environmental message and is recommended for children for not only developing their knowledge but also making them aware about the wildlife and the endangered species.
Raj and Aparajita are neighbours. A chance meeting in unusual circumstances draws them towards each other and they keep meeting again and again. Aparajita is already married whereas Raj is in the marriageable age. Realizing that their love would bear no fruits Raj gets married and they move apart.
The story flits between the past – Raj & Aparajita’s youth and the present where the progeny from both sides- move unknowingly towards a common goal.
The story opens with a phone call to Uma who rushes to see her Raj Mama who is gravely ill.
He is found at the door step of the Ghosh family clutching a solitaire ring in his hand.
Mr Ghosh returns the Solitaire to Raj’s family.
Uma suspects that the ring has more in it than the obvious and the ring is meant for someone who means a lot to Raj Mama. She also suspects that Raj’s daughter Indira is upto no good and is in fact causing deterioration in Raj’s health.
Uma’s sister Kamini finds herself a part of a secret group called VNP wherein a lot of scientific and ancient mumbo jumbo is being discussed. Including to subjects XX& XY who are supposed to come together and the VNP is working towards that while some dark forces are preventing it from happening.
Where do all these separate parts converge?
Do Raj & Aparajita find each other?
What exactly is this mysterious VNP?
These questions get answered towards the end of the book.
I honestly felt that the author could have stuck to the love story rather than brining in the VNP cult because that gave a sense of unreality to the whole book.
Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Three Indian Princesses is a delightful compilation of the stories of Savitri, Damayanti & Sita written in an easy to read set of chapters.
Savitri is the famous story of Princess Savitri who negotiates with Lord Yama, the God of Death in a clever manner. Savitri marries Satyavan, the son of a King who has been overthrown from his kingdom and is living in the forest. Satyavan is supposed to die within a year of marriage. However, Savitri is determined to give death a slip and she determinedly follows Lord Yama and using a play of words, forces him to grant a boon which effectively brings Satyavan back to life.
Damayanti’s story is about loyalty despite the odds. Her story is contained within the epic Mahabharata and is also a case of history repeating itself when one compares the gambling episode of Nala and Yudhishthira.
King Bheema is childless and by the grace of Brahma he becomes the father of the princess Damayanti.
King Nala is the apt husband for her, except for one vice- he loves playing the dice.
However the demon Kali wanted Damayanti as his bride and he & evil Dwapar conspire to enter the spirit of Nala & his dice and make him gamble away his wife.
The inevitable happens and Nala is on the streets. However with perseverance and skill he wins back Damayanti and his kingdom eventually.
Sita is the daughter of the earth, found by King Janak when he was tilling his land. He names her Sita- the furrow and she is Laxmi incarnate as Lord Ram her husband is Vishnu incarnate. They eventually marry when Ram wins her hand by breaking Shiva’s heavy bow. Circumstances cause Ram & Sita along with Ram’s brother Laxman to go into exile where Sita is kidnapped by Ravana the demon. What follows is the war between Lord Ram’s monkey army and Ravan’s poweress and Sita is rescued and brought back to Ayodhya as Queen.
This book is narrated in the first person by a very highly placed member of a mythical secret organization that inhabits a mountainous valley. In this organization, nothing belongs to the individual, not even your name and your face. Not even your parents’ name. There is a group of mothers, there is a group of children and there is a group of men that are perpetrators of the progeny.
The narrator has been named Karna – all children are named after the most powerful set of brothers- the Pandavas and Karna. The group of children undergo rigorous training. They live in the brotherhood and spend quality time with the motherhood.
As they come of age, they are supposed to give up their face- a new face or mask is fitted for them and they are not supposed to show their face to anyone thereafter. The second important change that comes to them is the assignment of an alphanumeric number- in this case it is X470 and thereafter as X47 as he becomes a Wafadar- the most powerful among the rest. As one goes higher up in the system, they can take a new name- mostly after a bird.
The thought leader in the organization is Aum whose dogma forms the guiding principles for the clan.
The members of the cult are taught to challenge their bodies and endure beyond the normal human benchmarks in physical and mental aspect- to be able to kill single handedly in combat, to be able to kill with surgical precision using the various sharp instruments called chaunch and to be able to treat the dogma over and above everything else. They go through rigorous training of all sorts including the mastery of senses. They are allowed to indulge their senses so that they attain mastery over them.. However, there is no space for love, emotional attachment or even the finer arts like music. Thos weaker ones are eliminated, even if it meant the elimination of the Gentle Father who developed compassion for a particular member.
The narrator, at his high position within the organization has found a reason compelling enough to escape the confines of the valley. He has become a ‘savage” according to the principles of Aum- he is married and has children and does not live in the valley. He records his story for everyone to read as he awaits the arrival of the members of the cult- for they are sure to locate him and destroy him.
Here's a butterfly captured mid flight...And here it rests on the chandelier lights
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Well, I could call myself Bihari ke naam par kalank as I never got these right in the last 7 years. Either the dough would have less of jaggery or the khoya filling would get stiff and therefore very difficult to handle. But this time I got the mix really well. So here I document them.
Thekua (recipe courtsey Nani- she gave the exact measure...and all of us scrambled to write it down, but frankly nothing beats experience in handling this)
1/2 kg wheat flour
1/4 kg palm jaggery
(Makes 45 small pieces)
Melt the jaggery in 200ml warm water (just enough for kneading the dough)
Filter the liquid jaggery.
Mix all ingredients and quickly knead them into a soft pliable dough.
Either roll them out and cut them into diamonds/ squares or just press them on a wooden mould which has floral/ tree like designs.
Deep fry them on low flame until they are golden/ dark brown in colour.
This is fairly simple - if you can make samosas, you will have no problem with teh dough.
Khoya- 400g (unsweetened please- not sweetened)
Sugar- for swetening- 6-7 table spoons
Dry fruits/ grated coconut etc.
roast the khoya until it starts leaving ghee and starts collapsing into a ball. Add dry fruits etc.
Wait till it gets cold and then mix the sugar. Rub it properly.
It will form a powder.
For the Outer shell
1/2 kg maida (flour)
50 g or more ghee
rub the flour and ghee together. take a pinch- it should bind together else add more ghee.
Knead the above into a stiff dough adding water.
Divide the dough into 28-30 balls.
Make a round and then add filling. Fold into a semicircle and bind the sides
Deep fry on medium-low flame.
Monday, September 05, 2011
Friday, September 02, 2011
However, the moment I started reading, I was drawn into the story line. Not only it unfolds the fascinating world of flowers to the readers, but it also tells a heartwarming story. Something that became totally unputdownable. I savoured every word in the book and didn’t want it to end!
The story alternates between 2 time spans from chapter to chapter. One that talks of the present- where Victoria is released from foster home at the age of 18 and is living on the streets and the other runs in flashback, covering ground on what happened before her present stage. The entire book is divided into 4 sections.
Victoria has spent her entire life in foster homes. She moved from one foster home to another, and ultimately finds herself living with Elizabeth, a single woman running a vineyard and an expert in the Victorian language of flowers. From Elizabeth she learns the precise language of flowers and gets her own dictionary of flowers.
Victoria is placed in Elizabeth’s home for a trial period of a year before formal adoption. She is distrustful and defensive, hates being touched, is wicked in her ways and seems to be having learning problems. Elizabeth has demons of her own to defeat. One by one, Elizabeth breaks her defenses and disciplines her in her own firm yet loving way. She home schools her above all, teaches her the language of flowers.
As the trial period comes to an end, Elizabeth gets cold feet. Meanwhile she is also on the verge of solving her own family problems. Victoria feels caught in the midst of these two changes in Elizabeth’s life and mistakenly connects the two incidents.
Things take a bad turn and Victoria is forced to move out into a group home.
Victoria moves out of group home at the age of 18. She lives in a corner in the park and has planted her own secret garden.
She applies for a job in a florist’s shop and puts her knowledge of language of flowers to use. She draws out people and they speak about their problems. She makes them bouquets that speak their heart and magically her clientele grows.
And amidst this there is a flower vendor who communicates with her using the secret language of flowers.
She discovers the connection between the vendor and her past life and their love blossoms. Together they consolidate a flower dictionary with pictures and meanings.
But soon, her old fears of disappointment in love catch up with her and she withdraws, despite the pain.
What follows is painful and heartbreaking. It also allows Victoria to banish her fears, come out of her childishness and become more responsible in her ways.
The book is as much about flowers as it is about the coming of age of the characters especially Victoria. Grant, the flower grower and vendor is too good to be true. Extremely loving and caring, he defies human behavior by being too nice in the face of disappointment and hurt.
A glossary at the end of the book summarises the meaning of flowers. Frankly I will never look at flowers in the same way as I did so far.
Highly recommended for a leisurely read, this book warms the heart in more ways than the obvious.
For those who find MBA school / course as a big mystery- this book aims to unravel the same.
It starts from basic- ask yourself why to go for an MBA, and slowly takes the reader through application process, what to expect in the exam, interview process and how to prepare for the interview and overall how to scale the entire course. It also talks of internship, bridging the skill gaps, career options and the importance of networking.
This book is to make one street smart in the MBA world from an understanding point of view. One can prepare oneself on what to expect and how to gear up for the MBA course. Also makes for a good reference point and something to refer once one is already into the course.
I would like to draw upon the comparison with Dr Spock’s book on parenting- The book doesn’t make one a parent but definitely tells a parent whether they are headed in the right direction or just blundering through.
I liked the chapter – Inside the class- which details on what to expect in a particular elective subject in the MBA curriculum.
The section on fielding interview questions and on how to make one’s CV look more promising are worthwhile.
Basically demystifying the MBA hype.