Sneezing Aunty

At my mother’s, we live on the second floor while there is a quiet hardly-there Maharashtrian family that lives on the 6th floor. The apartments are placed such that their kitchen and ours are facing each other, albeit at different levels.

Uncle, Aunty, a son and a daughter make their family. Their children are both married and have kids.They always smile and acknowledge us whenever we cross paths but I don’t remember them mingling with anyone.

It has been quite some time, in fact many years, since I have seen Aunty. I can, in all probability, even mistake her for someone else now. But, old habits and old memories die hard, don’t they?

This Aunty had a habit. She sneezed a lot, and very loudly at that! She might be allergic to smoke or some smell for all I know, but her loud sneeze was audible very clearly in our kitchen, every time she did it.

I was just learning the ropes of cooking that time and felt guilty of being responsible for it at times. Is my cooking smelling so bad, does it bother others too, or, was I not supposed to put chilly powder in hot oil….were some common concerns I had.

I was a lazy regular engg student and had no option but to burn midnight oil during exams just to make sure I didn’t flunk. It was the ultimate sacrifice for me to leave the comfort of my bed and sit upright at the dining table to study (Umm, my study table put me to sleep too 😦 ).

There, at odd hours, along with the heaps of papers strewn all over the table, the string of unwashed coffee cups lying somewhere under them, the tired scientific calculator, and the reluctant and bored Varsh, was the familiar sneeze, always. Sometimes she would be wrapping up her kitchen late or sometimes getting up early for someone’s tiffin.

It had almost become a ritual for me. So much so, that I looked forward to it! My breakfast wasn’t complete without her sneeze for company. I even wondered why Aunty is always in the kitchen even at this age. Didn’t her daughter-in-law cook?

If I was visiting and didn’t get to listen to her, I would enquire with Mom about her. Her sneeze had somehow become a part of my kitchen adventures. This time around when I went home, Mom wasn’t there, but sneezing Aunty was, and somehow the familiarity, although far-fetched, seemed a bit comforting to me.

Book Review: The Bestseller She Wrote

After meeting and interacting with author Ravi Subramanian, I was quite excited to read and review this book. His shift from churning out Banking thrillers one after another to something about ‘Love. Betrayal. Redemption.’,as the tag line suggests, seemed like an interesting read.

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The story is about Aditya Kapoor, an IIM-B alumnus, a banker by profession and the most sought after commercial author in the country. His is an ideal life, with a spectacular career, a loving and supporting wife, and the adulation of everybody, well, almost.

Just when you think nothing could possibly shake that halo from his head, comes the character of Shreya Kaushik, a young and fiery IIM-B student. She is beautiful (obviously!), headstrong, focussed and ambitious and wants to be a successful author like Aditya.

Just like a moth takes to a flame, Aditya is smitten with Shreya and what transpires between them is what the story is all about. A middle-aged man going through a mid-life crisis, he finds the advances of a much younger and strikingly beautiful Shreya too tempting to resist and drops all his guards (which don’t seem to exist anyway) alarmingly easily.

The story starts to make headway when an obsessive Shreya makes her book her entire being and wants Aditya to do the same. With Aditya’s marital status, sparks fly abound, and then one after another there are lots of twists and turns which keep the reader hooked till the end.

My review:

Ravi has a knack to keep the suspense built up till the end, and here too, he succeeds. While it takes time to move, the story travels at a fast pace after the first few pages. He has kept the banking part only as a backdrop and it interferes less with the characters and their lives. His characters are shades of grey. The supporting characters, like with his earlier books, play a major role in carrying the story forward.

It gives you a fair view of what goes in the making of a bestseller, and can be of priceless help to many. Also, it sheds light on the fact that books are only as good as their marketing strategy, and a bestseller need not be all that good after all.

On the downside, I felt that the author has fallen victim to his own formula. The whole betrayal story has been done to death, even by him. Although the protagonist talks of high morals, the author hasn’t bothered to give him much strength of character. When Aditya does show signs of remorse towards the end, it seems difficult to empathise with him at that point.

Although the twists and turns keep the reader glued and excited about what will happen next, they seem forced at times. The end seems very abrupt and convenient. I, personally, find it hard to believe that education doesn’t help a person in learning to let go.

If you’re looking forward to another book-based motion picture, as the book mentions, read this one for reference!

I will give it 2 & 1/2/5 stars.

Book Details: 

Paperback: 392 pages

Publisher: Westland (19 October 2015)

Language: English

I am reviewing ‘The Bestseller She Wrote’ by Ravi Subramanian as a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

 

 

My Playlist Pick

Ever since I graduated from my Nokia 1100 to smart and smarter phones, one thing that took more effort and time than anything else was uploading music on my phone. It was and is a lot of fun to select and unselect songs depending upon my mood.

Although every few days I take time out to change my whole playlist, current songs mostly don’t find a place in it. I am more of the nostalgic type, and love to live a song through some memory.

More often than not my expression changes with every song, and I go through the whole journey, from sad to happy to peppy, all in the matter of a few minutes.

Indeed, there are favourites. There is always a song(s) that renders you incomplete without atleast one good feel of it. Out of the many very dear songs I have, I can choose one such favourite, quite easily.

Aate Jaate from Maine Pyar Kiya has been on every phone and every playlist I have ever had. Yes, I don’t listen to it all the time, but the feeling that it is right there in front of me gives me an assurance that life isn’t very bad.

An adolescent me grew up on the love and mush that it brought to life. The beautiful lyrics, music and the voices of Lata Mangeshkar and S P Balasubramaniam, and ofcourse a Salman Khan movie, just about everything is perfect with it!

Do you have any such favourite? Please share with me.

Add to cart, Mom! :-)

There was a time when taking kids out for shopping was a task in itself. I remember carrying (and I still do) a whole snack-pack with me even when the list wrapped up in single digits. If getting them interested and ready wasn’t challenging enough, there was always the fear and embarrassment of a full blown tantrum over some unnecessary toy or the constant ‘I’m hungry’, ‘I’m thirsty’ or ‘I want to go to the loo’ story in any store.

When it comes to shopping for kids, parents can never be completely convinced if their choice is right. Also, there are so many options and fakes available in the market that it is impossible to determine if what they are buying is authentic and worth it. All brands are not easily available everywhere and are sometimes priced very dearly. E-commerce, in such cases, comes as a boon to many.

Here are a few e-commerce trends that I feel are changing the way people shop for their kids:

FlipTrends - Kids

Shopping across borders: Have a hankering for that super cute blazer for your infant? Want to get an adorable doll similar to the one your daughter’s best friend’s Uncle got for her from London? Looking for some advanced educational toys for your school and cannot find them? While there are asterisks involved, it is possible to order all these and more from any country in the world.

Shopping in India: Apart from a privileged few, there weren’t many who knew the names, origin or variety of many kids’ brands. Merchandise wasn’t freely available, and even if it was, the prices were over the roof. E-commerce has brought the best brands from around the world at one place and they are now just a click away.

Sales and discounts: Whenever shopping for birthday parties, presents or return gifts is considered, the concept of sales and discounts is a big lure. Bulk purchase can also be a good option depending upon the concerned site. What more, the gifts can reach the consumers all wrapped up pretty, ready to be given away. If this isn’t a draw for hassled parents, then what is?

Easy return policy: Non-standardisation of sizes can lead to a very obvious problem of size difference. Colour, texture, fabric and fit are some of the most common difficulties parents face when it comes to shopping for apparel and shoes. Products like games, books etc. are generally not an issue, but with easy return policy there is always the relief that you aren’t obliged to buy what you don’t want to.

Involvement of kids: Today’s internet led generation likes to keep up with the latest and the best. What better way for them to boast to their friends about their ‘package’ that arrived from so and so online shopping site? Kids can also be involved in browsing and short-listing and can be taught financial responsibility.

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Buy this cute Chhota Bheem online..happy kids assured! 🙂

Time is at a discount for almost everyone these days. Spending time for shopping with kids without having to break your back with shopping bags and messing up your mind with their constantly wavering choices sounds like music to parents’ ears. Add to it the faith that they’re getting a genuine product at a reasonable price, and they’re on! Isn’t it tempting to order a pizza and watch some wonderful movie with your family at home instead? 🙂

 

Chhota Bheem has come to town!

I always look forward to Indiblogger meets. Not only are they very well organised and chalked out, the by-now familiar smiling faces that never let the planning fatigue show and the zealous blogging community that is abundantly in attendance every time, make them an interesting platform for exchange of ideas and getting inspiration.

If this wasn’t enough, this meet became all the more appealing to me as a mother since we were witnessing the launch of ‘Flipkart Li’l Stars- India’s Biggest Online Kids Store’. There was going to be an interaction with people from Mattel, Disney and Chhota Bheem about children and their world. Kalpana Behara, a parent blogger was going to discuss with us the ‘Questions and debates in the mind of a parent blogger’. The venue was Blue Frog, Lower Parel. Sounds good, yes?

My time management went awfully wrong that day and I reached there huffing and puffing, almost half an hour late. Half expecting to be shunned out for being a lazy bum, I (and my empty growling stomach) breathed a sigh of relief when I was told that lunch was being served and there was still time for the meet to begin. Unable to find anyone I knew, I went and joined a lovely lady on her table, only to find out later that she was Kalpana Behara, the parent blogger and guest speaker.

Kalpana was warm and informative and gave us useful pointers about blogging about our children, getting rid of the blogging block we all have seen and known, and the need to instil writing discipline in us. She interacted with the bloggers and shared her own bitter-sweet experiences. ‘Being a narcissist is ok’ is what she believes in.

After this was the panel discussion with the people from Flipkart, Disney and Chhota Bheem. They insisted on the need to have a platform where all our kids’ needs could be met in the comfort of our homes. They wanted to know about the products we like to buy online, our reasons for them and our experiences. What I liked about their approach was that they were prepared to take positive as well as negative feedback.

This was followed by a lively performance by the in-house band Blunder In the Code. We sang along with them and we all had a wonderful time.

Any Indiblogger meet is incomplete without a game! We played the Ad-Mad game where 5 teams of 12 teammates each were made and we had to make a skit using the products available on Flipkart Kids Store. There was also this contest where we had to post the pictures of the most cutest/beloved/fancy toy of our kids on Twitter and there were prizes for the people who won. Needless to say, both contests were well participated in and well attempted.

All of us had a lovely time over cocktails. Bloggers mingled with each other, there were lots of conversations, exchange of numbers and loads of pictures, as always. The best part for the mom in me was this super cute Chhota Bheem toy we got from Flipkart.

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Two successful firsts

Dear Angel,

Today was a big day for you. It had two firsts and you took them both bang on. I’m so proud of you!

First, we got your tonsure done today! Usually it is done in Rajasthan at our native place, but cruel and mean as it may sound, it applies only to boys. For girls this ritual isn’t as necessary ( I feel like slapping myself even for saying this!) and can be done right here at home without much fuss.

The barber came to our home on our request. I was very nervous that you might get hurt because you are very fidgety and restless. However, you surprised both me and Papa by being very cool about it. Not once did you cry or make a scene. In fact, it wasn’t until evening that you realised your smooth tresses were missing. 🙂

Second, is my favourite and has given me so much relief! We took you to see Bajirao Mastani today. Your first ever movie! We weren’t sure how you will take the darkness or the loud sound associated with theatres, but girl, you were a whole big surprise! You loved it! This proves that both you and Bhaiya, along with Papa, could very happily make the theatre your second home.

Not only did you let us see the movie peacefully, you found things to occupy you. The lights at the bottom of the stairs, the seat handles, the occasional glance at the screen when some song was playing, you loved it all. You even went near some Aunty and stood next to her holding her finger. She assured me she was ok with it. Sweet na? 🙂

(Do hell with people who say kids shouldn’t be taken to theatres. If the kid behaves, what problem do they have with it? Nuclear families don’t have much choice, do they?)

God bless you my dear. Please always remain the happy child that you are. Your smile is the light of our lives now.

Lots of love,

Mamma.

A rude wake-up call

 

Her eyes were bright, dreamy

Her soul was free and spirited

She wished to find her place in the world

Her love for life was pure, uninhibited.

Then one day the brightness left her eyes

Her body bruised, her soul battered

She wondered what she did wrong

Was her life, forever, tainted?

Try as we may, we can never even come close to fathoming what goes on in the hearts and minds of the innocent people (girls, boys, men, women, etc.) who go through the terrible and painful ordeal of sexual violence. The world is progressing, everything ‘simple’ is getting replaced with something ‘smart’, and yet as a society we are witnessing the worst ever situation concerning safety and security of women, children, and human beings in general.

We Indians have always been hypocrites. We never practice what we preach. What is right for us isn’t right for others and vice versa. Having brought up in such a setting, there are certain things that we as children are expected, taught or made to accept as normal and routine. Anything that might not highlight our family’s name in the most positive light is a clear no-no. This, in a major way, aids in us, as people, to start becoming tolerant of intolerable issues.

It is truly saddening that an innocent girl had to loose her spirit, her dreams, her respect and her life to make us get up and notice the extent to which sexual violence is rampant in our everyday lives. It takes the slightest trigger, digression and motive for a non-criminal to resort to the most heinous crimes that can mar a person forever.

Whilst we are slowly making our way in creating awareness amongst people, there are certain solid steps that need to be taken for the victim to feel assured that her/his case will be dealt with utmost sincerity. No one leaves home in the morning expecting something like this to happen with them. The victim is innocent and very vulnerable and should be handled and treated with love and care, not sympathy. Only then can we hope people to come ahead and report such incidents.

Here are a few reasons why I think reporting such incidents should be encouraged.

1.Truth is stranger than fiction: This old adage is still relevant. Our wildest imagination cannot conjure up the brutality, insensitivity and ruthlessness that a person can display in reality. We try to feign ignorance and disdain the sight of such news. However, what we need to admit is that it has happened somewhere on this earth and may get repeated. The reporting of such news is done as much for justice as it is for creating awareness.

2.The culprit is closer than we think: While we can never be careful enough with strangers, we have to keep our eyes open for the wolves even on our side of the door. Cases of incest, marital rape, sodomizing etc. go unreported in most cases owing to the shame it will bring to the victim and his family. In such cases, especially, the victim needs to be counselled and encouraged to put his side of the story forward, come what may. It will also give others the courage to follow suit.

3.To avoid repeat offences: Once a victim, always a victim. If a person takes such an incident lying down once, he’s subjecting himself to the same treatment over and over again by letting the accused believe that he will not speak about it. This can have severe psychological effects and the victim can be scarred for life.

“I’m writing this blog post to support Amnesty International’s#KnowYourRights campaign at BlogAdda. You can also contribute to the cause by donating or spreading the word.”

13 Months

My darling Angel,

I haven’t written about you on my blog as much as I did about Bhaiya, and sweetheart, I truly hope you will forgive me for this. Having you in our lives has been a roller coaster ride. Too much has happened since then, and it is impossible to chronicle everything. I would, however, love to share a few cute and not so adorable things you’ve been doing of late. All of 13 months, but by the surprises you throw at us, you are a riot! 🙂

~ You’ve discovered that there’s a whole new world in Mamma’s kitchen, much to my dismay. You conveniently come in and throw everything in sight, like utensils, bottles, spoons, etc., on the kitchen floor.

~Dirty mud-covered potatoes and garlic are your personal favourites and you are usually found nibbling on either of them. So many baby creams at home, and you stink of garlic and sometimes onion too! Come on girl!

~It was most unpleasant for me to find that not only can you tear cardboard boxes and open simple plastic ones, you can manage to screw and unscrew them too. The contents of them, needless to say, land yet again on the kitchen floor.

~You love driving Bhaiya crazy. You have to have everything he has, including his books, his pencils, his colours, his story books, etc. Whilst he loves to read and paint, you, as expected, mutilate them mercilessly.

~You love breaking things. You drove my poor boy over the edge the other day when you practically broke HIS birthday cake wala plastic knives into pieces ( How did you!?). Also, his Pokemon and Cricket Attax cards have never been safe with you around.

~I got a walker to help you walk when you were about 7 months old. Sad as it is, you never took a liking for it and it had since been gathering dust. Now, in an interesting turn of events, you hold it by its side and take it for a walk! 😀

~You have very particular tastes and decide whether you want to eat or not just from the look of your food. If it isn’t of your choice, God have mercy on me. Getting a little baby like you to sit at one place and eat can sometimes be more challenging than feeding an entire household!

~I cannot, for the life of me, get you to tie your hair. Those lovely little tidbits I bought for you are all a waste! You revolt against them with such fervor, someone might think some monster was about to get you. 😦

I’m not sounding like a complaint box, I hope. For along with these (mis)adventures there’re a lot of Awww moments too.

~You love to eat with Papa and Bhaiya. Whenever Papa sits for a meal you get the first bite from his plate. Bhaiya was reluctant earlier but is so used to share his food with you now that he calls out for you.

~Your eyes are filled with naughtiness. They sparkle when you have something on your mind. You do this nose twitching thing a lot nowadays. It is deliberate and meant to tease, mostly me! Badmaash! 😛

~We did this sing along thing when you were younger. Nothing much, just aa aa aa types, on some tune. Now that you’ve grown up, you have learnt a few tricks. Now when I sing aa aa….you go dai dai dai. Again, when I insist you to sing aa aa, you stick your tongue out and do furrrrrrr. And the way you laugh after that….. I feel so offended (but end up laughing)! 😦 😦

~Notwithstanding my objections, Papa gives you his phone to play Candy Crush! Imagine! What I do find hilarious though, is the way you get angry at the candies if they stop moving! 🙂

~ You have learnt to take 3 steps on your own till now and seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. You also try to speak, a lot. You say some odd word here and there and from the look of it, I guess you will talk soon. YAY!

Well, I can go on and on. You are my girl and my darling. Every day with you is special (and tiring, sometimes). You are this ball of energy and it takes a lot of effort to keep up with you. I try.

Love you my baby. 🙂

Are you loyal?

Loyal and trustworthy are two words that are commonly used interchangeably. A loyal person ought to be trustworthy for he is going to stick around and a trustworthy person is assumed to be loyal because he will always keep anyone’s trust intact. Is it black and white like this and entirely correct though? I wonder.

On more than one instance I’ve come across people who are loyal but not trustworthy and vice versa. It is a matter of circumstance and personal opinion to conclude whether they are right or wrong.

A spouse who continues living in a crumbling marriage, harbouring secret feelings of infidelity but never acting on them. Isn’t this breaking trust in a way? He/she might be loyal but the fact that he/she wants to deviate speaks volumes about his/her trust in the spouse and their relation.

A very close friend who knows you in such detail that you might find it amusing and scary at once. You know that he will keep your darkest secrets close to his heart. Yet, it hurts you to know that he has such kind of an ‘arrangement’ with a dozen other people, and you start wondering if loyalty should be a concern here!

Relationships are becoming increasingly fickle, nowadays. Added to that is the wish to finally accept that our desires don’t always conform with the rules that are set for us by society. In such a situation, shouldn’t we simply concentrate on just being and also letting people be happy, with or without such big words?

I feel proud when

…someone says that A Jr’s manners and achievements can mostly be attributed to me and my upbringing.

…I’m lauded to have the courage to give up my career for my kids.

…my friends say that they find solace after talking something out with me.

…the hard work I’ve put in looking and feeling my best starts showing results.

…my parents say that they’re proud of me, for everything!

…I get to bask in the reflected glory of my kids.

…I’m regarded as someone with set standards and a no-nonsense attitude.

…I can teach my parents a thing or two about internet, Whatsapp and video calls, etc and make them happy.

…and

….just like that….there’s no harm in it, yes? 🙂