Book Review: Chilli, Chicks and Heart Attacks by Sanjaya Senanayake


Looking at the cover of this book I was bemused if I’d committed a mistake of some sort while asking for its review.  It was while going through the book I realised that it is the destiny of the protagonist, Dr. Manjula Mendis, that his life very much revolves around these three, not necessarily in that order.

Srilankan by origin and Australian by nationality, Manju ( a boy, mind you) gets a lucrative chance to complete his internship from one of the most prestigious hospitals in Australia. The book is written in the form of his diary entries.

The backdrop is funny. Manju’s mother’s life’s intention is to get him married only to the daughter of a rich-and-famous Srilankan family. His father agrees with his mother on everything. His sister has a foul mouth and is conveniently passing on her colourful language to her young son, which leads to frequent fights between mother and her.

The group of interns consists of a variety of characters like; a lesbian who’s a rockstar, a confused Indian-converted-blonde, two living medical geniuses, etc. They help each other out and try to survive in the demanding nature of their jobs. In the initial stages this struggle seems drilling, and one can only empathise with them. The author has tried to show his command over medical terms and procedures by cleverly using them throughout the book.

The author’s choice of names is hilarious. There’s a Prof.Bonkzalot, a Dr.Spyder and a Dr. Precious Thyme. New interesting words like vaginacology and sugardaddiphile can easily find their way in your vocabulary. There’s a dash of humour even in the way doctors are cynical about their patient’s treatment. And yes, Manju’s first week in the night shift needs a special mention, since I laughed the hardest there! Read the book to know why.

The author has tried to give a realistic feel to the book by showing the way interns are looked down upon by senior doctors, how casual banter takes place between interns about their shared misery and newfound knowledge, double-crossing doctors, the importance given to celebrity patients, etc. but on the whole the book goes over the top on some counts.

I agree that the book belongs to the fiction genre and the author has all the right to direct the story in any which way he wants, but it becomes a bit tough to digest all the twists and turns that are sometimes thrown in just for the heck of it. Belonging to the noble profession of medicine, Manju many times acts unapologetically in a not-so-noble manner and gets away with it.

There are certain portions where your heart reaches out to the characters, but sadly, most of the time you’re simply reading a heartless account of events. Also, I wasn’t too convinced with how everything becomes ‘happily ever after’ for everyone involved in the end. It felt like the dramatic unfolding of events in a typical Hindi movie climax.

Personally the book didn’t meet my expectations, but I’d still recommend it to the growing population of casual readers who don’t mind putting in their while for wicked humour.

Publisher             Westland
Publication Year  2013
ISBN-13               9789381626887
ISBN-10               938162688X
Language            English
Binding                Paperback
Number of Pages 320 Pages

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The Ugly Duckling – who remained ugly

Sometimes it is easy to suffer fools than suffer someone’s rather foolish words. Bracing such nonsense becomes a real task in itself if the person behind all this trash is someone for whom you have a high regard otherwise. What drives these people is something I can never understand. Are they as hollow as they appear or they’re hollow because they feel cushioned and benefited by it?

Before I start revolving in circles around the issue and digress tangentially away from the topic, let me get straight to the point. The person in question is someone I’ve grown fond of over a period of time. Calling her a mere neighbour would probably give an incomplete and incorrect picture of what she’s been to me.

In a city like Mumbai where people are known to have hearts that are colder than the ice in their refrigerators, I’ve been fortunate to be living next to this lady who’s been a strong support system for me. She’s provided painkillers for my aching molar at midnight and seen me through a nasty infection in my stomach, without any other motive than helping.

I find it odd, although endearing, when I fail to show up at her place someday and she gives me quite a mouthful for it. Out of habit or out of love, I’m not too sure, but she insists on seeing my face everyday and drops at my place (which is painful for her considering she has a knee problem and I live a floor above her) if I don’t follow her instructions. She’s a great cook and I rely on her big time for my kitchen doubts and tips.

I’m sure it is clear by now on why-the-high-regard-for-her part. Let me now come to what I was trying to say in the first line of this post. This lady, who’s in her 40’s now, is quite a looker. Her varying health problems make sure that she’s not in her best shape mostly, but she does make a pretty picture and certainly makes no bones to prove otherwise. Modesty and humility are two words that she’s never heard of. So much is her obsession about herself and her lineage that she assumes she can look down on everyone, including me.

Born in a business family (practically spoilt silly), well-educated and never one to compare myself to others, I wasn’t quite sure how I fell into this list of underachievers (according to her). Not that it mattered too much to me. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, right? As long as she behaved well with me I was fine with her attitude, until some days ago.

Her wedding anniversary was approaching and both of us were getting nostalgic on how our arranged marriages fell into place and how our kids have made the whole ride pleasant for us. It was alright till she went on and on about how pretty she was, how she had long shiny black hair and how her husband fell for her beauty in no time. It was when she caught me completely off guard by saying that I stood no chance with A (since he’s fairly handsome) and simply got lucky and that A Jr was smart to take on his father’s genes more than mine, that I felt that stab in my heart!

How could she say something like this? How is this her f*****g business anyway? A had said yes to me within five minutes of meeting me, so wasn’t this kind of a love-at-first-sight thing? When my perfectly average looks didn’t matter to him, why is this lady so bothered with it? Does my background and my education mean nothing at all?

Hurt by her unkind words but never showing it on my face, I came back home and told A about this whole thing. As expected, he only repeated what I knew he’d say. ‘Don’t listen to what rubbish others say. I love you. You complete my world.’

Slightly convinced but truly heartbroken I kept wondering, ‘Does it really matter if I’m not beautiful? Who and what defines beauty? Is your face the only thing that gets you brownie points? Would you rather be a beautiful idiot?’

There’s no end to this debate, but I know this. I don’t long to be anyone else but probably this lady would like a chance to be me and is hiding her own insecurities behind her pretty face. I don’t want to go gaga over how good I am, but surely I’m worth something, and that isn’t being on this lady’s list of ugly people.

As kids we’re taught that we need to respect our elders and never to answer back, come what may. This must be why I didn’t react to her comment and continued being the good neighbour I was, and still am. Deep down though the damage is done, and I can’t help but suffer the tales of her beauty over and over again.

Of and about my favourite women

Happy Women's Day

Happy Women’s Day

Every year I read many posts and articles on Women’s Day that celebrate womanhood, emphasize our unsung role and contribution in the success of our families and society and accentuate the lives and stories of successful women who’re living the dream.

While thinking up of a proper Women’s Day post for my blog I felt that it would be fitting to applaud the women who’ve helped me in being what I am today, have been a source of inspiration to me and have found the perfect balance between their personal and professional lives and are absolutely unmatched on both fronts.

At a time when things seem blurred and the future appears cloudy, all one needs is confidence and an assurance that everything will be fine. After spending considerable time trying to figure out what to do with my life I turned to two women for that much-needed push to get over my insecurities and take the road less travelled. This post, decidedly, is dedicated to both of them.

I was in Std X when Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge released and was immediately smitten by this dusky Bengali dame (howcome I failed to see the spark in her before that?) who defied all beauty norms and became the whole nation’s desire in no time! She proved that all one needed was the chutzpah to be daringly different. Even with not-very-outstanding looks she became a role model for girls like me who’d never prided their brown skin and weren’t conventionally beautiful.

Kajol, as you must’ve correctly guessed, has been my favourite ever since. What I truly admire about her is her ability to live her life on her own terms and not compromising with her personal or professional goals or happiness for anyone else’s sake. She comes across as a person who isn’t doggedly ambitious and doesn’t seem to believe in the ‘Out of sight means out of mind’ mantra that makes most celebrities resort to cheap publicity stunts for being acknowledged and remembered.

She gives an interview rarely (which is a pity since she always has interesting titbits to share). She’s frank and honest, may be a bit rude at times, but I guess it is more of an I-care-a-damn thing than rudeness. Quitting at the peak of your career, first to get married and then again to have children, isn’t an easy decision, but she took it nevertheless and has excelled in both.

She isn’t a late bloomer like Vidya Balan but is someone who’s able to bloom whenever she pleases. It probably is her being secure and happy with herself that even after having two children she still looks like a million bucks and can steal your heart with that innocent enigmatic smile!

Understandably then, she’s someone I look up to, especially now when I’m trying to find a foothold in my life and planning my second innings on the work front. 🙂

My second favourite woman, incidentally, is another Bengali tigress. This lady is not a celebrity per se, but deserves just as much adulation for being just what she is.

We met while we were both pursuing our Masters in Business Administration. Quite different from us, she was the only one in our class who was married and had a child. What made me like her in the first place was her commitment to everything she was involved in. While we’d all be fooling around, this lady sat through hours and hours of boring lectures and made notes and would endlessly nag us to explain something if she didn’t follow it the first time.

Her home was like a picture taken out from a home décor magazine, impeccably clean and in perfect order, at all times. She was the perfect wife and mother and for me the elder sister I never had. I could drop at her place anytime for lunch uninvited.

Even after all these years we’ve managed to keep in touch and still share that deep bond. We don’t mind sharing our fears and losses with each other and seek each other’s advice on important matters. So much so that when I was deciding whether to go back to my books and pursue a professional degree and follow my heart, I called her up and spoke with her at length even before my mother got any wind of it.

As expected, she turned out to be the rock-solid support I needed desperately. Her belief in me and my intellect moved me, since I wasn’t that sure of myself anymore. With her relentless encouragement at every step, I cleared the first level satisfactorily, and yes, she was happier for me than even I was!

I adore her and am grateful to God for making her a part of my life. We know we’re just a call away from each other and when we do talk it doesn’t even feel like we live in different cities and haven’t met in almost 7 yrs! Isn’t that something!? 🙂

It is Women’s Day week and this year I’m looking forward to this day with mixed feelings. With so much crime against women and even young girls happening everywhere in our country there isn’t a lot to rejoice or celebrate. But all isn’t lost. Our very own Mary Kom and Saina Nehwal have made us proud in this year’s Olympics and we’re slowly and surely creating a niche for ourselves round the globe. Also, we mustn’t forget the courage and spirit of all women across the length and breadth of our country who’re shouldering equal responsibilities with men in every field.

If you’ve noticed, I have highlighted only the virtues and achievements and have turned a blind eye towards the failed endeavours of the ladies here and it is done deliberately. This is our day, and for once I believe that we should stop being too subjective. Holding each other’s hand and taking a collective step towards the betterment of women, and ultimately our society, is the need of the hour and we must do every little bit we can for it. Isn’t it?

Happy Women’s Day! 🙂 🙂

A new beginning

There are some things in our life which are omnipresent. They are forever in our thoughts, even when we don’t know. My blog is one such thing for me. I haven’t written seriously since a long time but there hasn’t been a day or an occasion when I didn’t feel like ‘blogging it out’. Why I didn’t do that, is a different story.

Many of my blog friends wouldn’t know (or may be they did, through the many widgets that show the site visitors impeccably) but I’ve been lurking around a bit, reading but not commenting on their blogs. With no intention of offending anyone, there was a simple reason for it. Blogging was becoming a way of venting out, justifying, explaining and defending, and at times just glorifying our lives for our own benefit (even I did that sometimes).

That’s not why I began writing or reading blogs. We had views and ideas, but there wasn’t the need to have people agreeing with it. The number of readers a post got didn’t motivate a ‘sequel’ to it. Nothing was written just for the sake of garnering appreciation or creating a controversy. The greed was to write what we enjoy. Nothing else.

And hence, I’ve decided to make a new beginning. One thing that I’m going to remind myself everyday is that my blog may be a part of my existence but it isn’t my identity and I cannot open the book of my life here for people to derive conclusions about me. At the same time I don’t want to create an impression of a person that I’m not.

My personal life had taken precedence here and I’m going to change that. No more elaborate A Jr stuff (a post on writing about our kids is going to come up sometime soon) and definitely no more bursting of mother love. 😛 😀

Hope my readers will continue coming back to my blog for the sheer joy of reading and will not go disappointed. 🙂