Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Salt: Pulsating

Phillip Noyce’s Salt starring Angelina Jolie in the title role of Evelyn Salt is a power-packed movie to satisfy your thirst for action thrillers. The story revolves around an undercover CIA operative whose already dangerous double-life gets even more treacherous, when she is accused of being a Russian agent on a mission to destroy America.

Interested? Please head over to Women's Web to read my full review over there.

Have you watched this movie? Share your thoughts with me!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Smitten By Saris!

Do you like saris? I think that this quintessential Indian attire is one of the most sensual and feminine outfits for women. Although they can be pretty daunting for someone who isn't used to it much, who can refuse that an elegant sari adds to the beauty of a woman?

If your an Indian, chances are that you might have stepped atleast once into a Nalli showroom, while on your sari-hunting trips. How has this reputable company evolved over the years and what are it's plans for the future? Meet Lavanya Nalli, President of the Nalli Group as she shares her vision and mission with us! Read my interesting interview with her at Women's Web over here!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sa Re Ga Ma!

Music plays a big role in almost all our lives. It has the power to take us back in time to look back at our cherished memories, to cheer us up when we are sad, to encourage us when we feel depressed or to inspire us when we feel discouraged. Many of us wake up to the sound of music, get ready while listening to music, tune in when we travel, continue listening even while we work , turn up the volume while cooking or doing other chores and some of us are even lulled to sleep by music. We have specific songs for our friends, for special occasions, for our better half and even for ourselves!We often feel possessive about it thinking, "Hey that's MY song or Our song!", no matter that we had no part whatsoever in creating the song in the first place!

But how many of us have actually attended an Indian Classical Music concert? Do we even watch or listen to such concerts without changing the channel? Indian Classical Music has such deep roots and a strong history backing it and yet not many of us are enamored by it. Why? Is it not packaged and marketed well enough? I remember that Doordarshan always used to carry some sad music performance all day through if there was any kind of national tragedy. Or during festivals, a classical music program would get slotted to be aired very early in the day, when quite predictably viewership would be pretty low.

Are Indian Classical Musicians getting the recognition and respect that they deserve? Is Indian Classical Music reaching the youngsters of today and making an impression in their lives? Ms.Aishwarya Natarajan, Director of Indianuance - an artiste management and concert programming company as well as the proud recipient of the British Council's Young Creative Entrepreneur Award in the field of Music shares her thoughts on all these and more. Read my interview with this star newsmaker at Women's Web over here!

Image Courtesy: Dreamstime

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I Believed

When I was 5, I believed everything.
People said I was just innocent.

When I was 10, I believed my parents,
People said I was just young.

When I was 15, I believed my friends,
People said I was just inexperienced.

When I was 20, I believed in Love,
People said I was just naive.

Now I just believe in myself,
And I no longer care, what people say.
                               - Anne John

Image Courtesy: Dreamstime 

Friday, August 26, 2011

TGIF #5: Capable Of Doing Many Things Competently Makes Me?

 It seems August is my lucky month! Won 2 competitions – one where I work and one about which I wrote here. Not only that, my blog has won 2 awards too! Isn’t that awesome?! I don’t know if Sunil noticed all my bragging when I won my first blog award but he was brave enough to give me the second one! It is great to know that he thinks I am a versatile blogger! So for this 'Thank God Its Friday Feature', my thanks goes to Sunil – am so flattered :-)

Actually Sunil sent this award my way a few days back but unlike my first award this one entitled me to do some work! So lazy me is putting it up only now ;-)

So for the first part of the award, I am supposed to say 7 facts about me. I have already blabbered a whole lot about me on this blog, but still due to popular demand (hehe!) here goes:

(1) I was born prematurely. I was soooo impatient to stay in my mummy’s tummy that I popped out in 7 months flat. So when I was born it seems that the docs gave me only 50% chance of survival. But I guess I decided that there was no getting rid of me so quickly and managed to hold on with my itty-bitty fingers! I am proud of the fighting spirit that I had ;-)

(2) Continuing from the above point- I still am a very impatient person. I can’t bear to wait, I want everything now! And I fight a lot too!

(3) I hate over-possessiveness in any kind of relationship. I find it stifling and restrictive. Some people seem to think that a person is overly possessive of you because they love and care for you a lot. Sorry, but I disagree. I think that it simply means that they are insecure and have an inferiority complex.

(4) I love to write and sometimes it seems as if I just can’t stop writing. Ideas and words keep flowing non-stop that I don’t even have the time to jot everything down. And yet at times, I can think of absolutely nothing to write about. In fact that is why I even wrote about nothing here.

(5) I cook quite well (if I may say so) and I find it mildly annoying that many people are quite surprised about this. I can’t see why people should be surprised about that and I detest lame jokes like “Oh what can you cook well? Hot water?” Seriously? Not funny. Do I look like somebody who can’t cook or what??!

(6) While on the topic of food, my all-time favourite dish is hot and spicy Chicken 65. It sounds totally uncool, I have no idea about its origins and I don’t even know if it is available in other parts of India. In case you want more info, check out this mad video! Laugh but please don’t curse me!

(7) I prefer British English to American English. I try to write in British English but sometimes I muddle up both of them.

Was that some interesting trivia about me? So now moving onto the second part of the award. Although I have been blogging for 3.6 years I joined blogging networks only a couple of months back. So I am relatively new to blog-networking and it looks like most of the people I read have already won gazillion well-deserved awards! So after a lot of research, here are some of the blogs which I feel should be awarded 'The Versatile Blogger' *Drumroll*:

Namrata Mahalingam from Complicated Life. I think her posts are so simply, yet refreshing.
Ashwini from Just The Way I Like: Her posts make me laugh and she is a fellow Chennaite! No no I am not biased-it is just that she writes a lot about things that happen in Chennai and so I can relate so well with it!
Arpitha from Me-ing: I love her "don't give a damn!" attitude. One spunky gal!

I am still discovering more and more interesting blogs and surely this list will keep growing. I also notice that my list has only women. Well, I just can't help it! I like reading women's blogs, sorry guys! So for now, this is it and I hope that all you 3 lovely ladies will accept this award and keep the tradition going :-)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Doomed To Die

Everyone is aware of female infanticide. But even as social activists are fighting hard to eliminate this evil, of late a spate of baby killings of a different kind is being reported in the UAE, Read by guest post over at the Women's Web Blog here.

Image Courtesy: Dreamstime

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday Wishlist #5: Lush Treats!

Generally I have horribly bad luck in competitions which require some amount of chance. Lucky dips, lottery tickets, housey/bingo games, wheel of fortune etc etc - nope. No luck. I hardly ever win anything in such games. (I hardly ever win in any other games too, but I digress.) Over the years I gradually stopped participating in such games altogether. Then a couple of weeks back, a newspaper called 7 Days was conducting a contest over at their Facebook page. A very simple contest where they put up pictures of Lush cosmetics and we are supposed to ‘Like’ whichever ones we fancy. Every day they would pick a random winner to giveaway a Lush goodie bag. I almost didn’t click and then thought “Well what the heck? I’m not gonna lose anything!” and clicked. And voila! Not only did I win bit I was also the very first person to win!! (By this time you should have already guessed that, right?? If I had not won, this whole paragraph would have been a completely meaningless ramble!)

So anyway, I was thrilled! I don’t know how many of you have heard of Lush but they are this wonderful fresh and handmade range of personal care products. I came across them first when I was working in England. The entire street where this shop was located used to smell lovely and one just needed to follow one’s nose to find the shop! I confess that I have satisfied my cravings by simply gawking at the display and have never bought any before because as with everything else, great quality comes with a hefty price tag! And I couldn’t bring myself to spend that much money. They are also extremely environment friendly using minimal chemicals and limited plastics. Most of their products come without any packaging and whatever packaging is used is also to a large extent recyclable. So obviously when someone is sending me a free goodie bag of Lush goodies, what’s not to like huh?!

I picked up the bag over this weekend and it had a pretty gift wrapped box called “Hello Gorgeous!”. I couldn’t wait to get home and look inside. I eagerly opened up the box and then sat admiring all the lovely goods inside. This gift pack is kind of Japanese themed, starting right from the cute cherry blossom print packing. Inside packed in colourful packing peanuts (and these are also bio-degradable; how great is that?!) were:

(1) An heavenly smelling Bath Ballistics Bomb named Sakura, scented with mimosa, jasmine and orange blossom.
(2) A creamy Mmm Melting Marshmallow Moment Luxury Bath Melt which is supposed to make you “melt into a pink, fluffy bed of marshmallow and cocoa butter”
(3) A tiny tin of rich Gorgeous Moisturiser to “nourish, protect and rejuvenate”
(4) A bottle of Helping Hands Hand Cream to impart “instant softness for hardworking hands (moi!)
(5) And finally a pot of Rub Rub Rub Shower Scrub with “sea salt and tropical flowers”

All this plus a discount coupon! Am I lucky or what!?

I already started using most of the products and am absolutely luvin’ it!
My only small grouse is that since the hand cream has linseed oil in it, my hands kinda smell like I have been oil painting the whole day! But apart from that they are simply superb!

I usually don’t use too many cosmetics simply because I don’t really know how to use all the pastes and powders. Instead of a sultry, smokey-eyed look I would probably end up looking like a cross between a human and a raccoon. Plus I am an extremely clumsy person blessed with butter-fingers and I keep dropping stuff all the time. Once I dropped a box of black, smokey–eye mineral powder all over my white tiled floor and spent a good half-hour, cleaning away stubborn traces of what looked like black soot.

But the concept, the products and the people behind Lush are soooo awesome that I definitely want to try out all their other marvelous stuff too. I am one sucker! But a sucker for some of the best things in life!

So on today’s Wednesday Wishlist, we have Lush goodies! you see, my wishes are not always deep and poignant - sometimes I wish for quite earthy stuff too - just like any other normal girl!
Okay now I am going to soak away all my cares in a warm, sweet smelling and surreal ball of marshmallow melt! Sigh!

Image Courtesy: www.makeuptemple.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Abused For A Living

Domestic help is a blessing for many women. But the quality of life for many immigrant domestic workers in the UAE is simply appalling. Read my guest post at the Women's Web Blog here to find out more.

Image Courtesy: Dreamstime

Monday, August 22, 2011

Marrying Anita

Anita Nair's Jain's Marrying Anita is poignant at times, funny and sarcastic at times and quite realistic at others.

Marriage, stands as a testimony to the cultures and customs of any society. There is no denying the fact that it is an integral part of Indian culture. Have you as an unmarried Indian woman, around and above 20 years of age, at some point or the other, faced both covert as well as inquisitive questions about getting married?

Family celebrations, any visits to relatives and you are showered with queries that range from the direct “So when are you getting married?” , the veiled ”So what do you plan to do next?” , the emotional “Your poor parents are waiting to finish off their duties. Hope you understand and be a good daughter to them.” and even the seemingly helpful and friendly “Tell me what kind of boy you want. I will search for you dear! Trust me-you will be married within a year without fail!!” Never mind the fact that you may or may not be interested!

Your parents are bombarded and you are constantly probed. The more the delay, the more suspicious and worried are the kith and kin, resulting in a more vicious groom-hunt. So what happens if you are a 30-something Indian origin lady, who has lived the most part of your life in the West? This is the basic foundation of ‘Marrying Anita’ by Anita Jain.

The story is told from the protagonist’s viewpoint (in this case, presumably Anita herself) and it follows her as she travels from the USA to India in order to find a suitable husband. Of course, she has gone through the dating routines of her adopted country, but has yet failed to find ‘that special someone’ due to varied reasons.

Anita finds Life to be quite different and yet interestingly similar to Life, as she knew it, back in the States. She can draw many parallels between both. She is introduced to several prospective grooms but somehow things still don’t fall into place.

While on this journey, she meets many people from different walks of life and each one seems to have a different way of handling their respective marriages. Some appear to be mere compromises due to societal pressures; Some seem to be genuinely happy and content while still others seem to be hiding behind fragile facades, which may come crumbling down at any moment and catch you unawares. She realizes that the set of rules that were applicable to the previous generations of our mothers and grandmothers, seem to no longer satisfy the young and urbane Indian woman. Anita comprehends that today’s modern Indian woman is smart enough to set her own rules, bold enough to follow them and what is more, suave enough to pull it off too.

She understands also that an increasingly large number of young women are no more satisfied with playing second-fiddle to their husbands and in-laws. No longer does marriage mean abandoning ones’ dreams and aspirations. Rather she expects and in fact, sometimes even demands that her marriage be aligned with her goals.

In an era when, even home-grown damsels are increasingly feeling uncomfortable with the idea of an “arranged marriage”, the NRI has her own issues. But then does she really? Are her problems and dilemmas actually very different from that faced by the middle-class, educated, working and independent desi girl of the modern and ever-developing India?

These are just some of the questions that arise while reading this engaging book. It has an open and light-hearted air, without being condescending or presumptuous, which makes it a pleasant read. Does Anita find answers to all her confusions and a solution to her problem? Is she successful in meeting the man of her dreams? Read ‘Marrying Anita’ to find out! Chances are that you will relate to it.

Have you already read it? Please share your thoughts with me!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

TGIF #4: Seasons

Growing up in India, especially South India and more specifically Chennai, one would be aware of a single climatic condition: Hot. As the joke goes, Chennai has only 3 seasons – Hot, Hotter, and Hottest! Okay it rains sometime in-between, a keenly observant eye might notice fresh new growth sprouting after the rains and maybe December nights have a slight nip in the air. But apart from that, the weather is generally nearly the same throughout the year, although the mercury does soar to unbearable heights during April/May.

Coming from such a backdrop, I feel truly blessed to have had the chance to experience the different seasons first-hand during my travels. The melting snow and impatient plants that push their way out and pop up eagerly herald the arrival of Spring. Everyone is relieved that Winter is finally over even though Spring also brings with it a lot of seasonal allergies and very slippery pavements!

When I used to read in books something like, “It was a clear summer day and the sun was shining down brightly, with not a cloud in the blue sky. It was such a fine day for a picnic.”, I always used to wonder how can such a day possibly be a nice day? Because in my experience, such a day is almost always sweltering and humid and sticky and plain irritating! But then I actually realized how lovely Summer days are in some other countries which experience the full gamut of seasons. Everything is so bright, sparkly and cheery that it is almost impossible to feel gloomy and you can’t help but skip along merrily humming a happy tune to yourself!

And then Autumn comes calling with a plethora of big, fat pumpkins and luscious, juicy apples! This is by far my favourite time of the year (and mind you, I don’t even like apples!). I know that Fall officially signals the end of life and most of the vegetation is shedding leaves and preparing for the bitter winter to descend on them, but somehow I love Autumn. The sun shines down so brightly that if you were indoors you might be fooled into thinking that it is actually warm outside! But no! There is a crisp and chilly wind playing with my hair but it is not freezing cold as Winter. It is as if Nature, in a wildly passionate moment, whipped out her palette and starting splashing the Earth randomly with every colour imaginable! Deep red, rich gold, striking orange, glowing bronze, shocking scarlet – the world seems simply ablaze with colour that it compels you to pause for a moment and just take it all in. How can anyone not like Fall?! The only people I can imagine are the sweepers and cleaners as they might have to end up sweeping away a lot of falling leaves!

It makes roads treacherous, people just never want to leave their warm beds and go out for anything and even if they do, they end up getting stuck in snow. But none of this can ever take away the awe and amazement that would fill every South Indian who witness his/her first snowfall in Winter. Everything is going along jolly well and one fine day you look out the window, only to find the entire landscape magically transformed as if by the sugar fairy! All the griminess and grubbiness is artfully covered up and it is surprising that a landscape solely having shades of just two colours, black and white can be so breathtakingly beautiful. The whole place seems like one gigantic iced cake that it is almost surreal. Watching the softly falling snowflakes twirling to the ground so silently fills be with wonder and to think that no two snowflakes are exactly alike, my God! Isn’t that simply mind-blowing?! If instead of gentle snowflakes, you happen to have a snow storm raging outside with the wind howling outrageously through every nook and cranny making your teeth chatter uncontrollably and giving you shivers up and down your spine, well what better time than now to snuggle up with a steaming bowl of chicken soup and an interesting book or with your better half, whichever you prefer!

And then the whole cycle repeats itself like clockwork. I know that there are many people who don’t like routines. But strangely, I happen to like routines. I like it that there is a particular order to my day and thereby my Life itself. I like it that I am aware of what is going to happen next and that I know what I am supposed to be doing at a particular point of time. Although I would be the first to admit that Life is what happens when one is busy planning for it, I am content with atleast having the illusion that perhaps I am in control of my Life, however slight it may be. Yes I do appreciate a break in the monotony now and then, but broadly speaking, never changing and constant routines make me feel safe, even though I aware that it may well be a false sense of security. I feel that the Seasons serve to remind me that there is indeed a pattern to be followed. That if Autumn comes then so will Winter and no matter how much inches of snow your car is buried under, eventually Spring will melt all that away and the sun will start shining again to bring you new life. It is an eternal cycle or circle if you wish, of Life and it fills me with quintessential hope and faith.

And therefore, this Friday, I thank God for all the beautiful Seasons that choose to grace this wonderful world.
So what's your favourite season?

Image Courtesy: Dreamstime

To Have And To Hold

Unsure, hesitant and apprehensive,
I stepped into the crowd.
A sea of humanity,
Chattering, noisy and quite loud.

Standing by myself, I observed,
The circus and drama all around.
A tap on my shoulder made me turn,
A smiling face it seems I had found.

Years have gone by since that first day,
And yet it feels so fresh and new.
When someone speaks of a 'forever friend'
You see, I always think of you.

Laughter and tears,
We’ve seen it all.
You’ve been there when I rejoiced,
I know, you’ll be there when I fall.

When Life pulls me down,
Everything seems simply impossible.
But then I think of our friendship,
And suddenly, even hope seems plausible.

People may come,
And people may go.
But you my dear friend, are here to stay,
Without a doubt, forever more.

- Anne John

Image Courtesy: Dreamstime

If Only Life Had A Rewind Button

Have you ever felt that way? I have. Lots of times! I know that there are a blessed few who live with absolutely no regrets. Then there are others who fool themselves into thinking that they have no regrets. Unfortunately, I don’t fall into either of the two above mentioned categories. I accept that in my moderately short life so far, I do have a handful of instances which, if given a chance, I would like to change.

Does this sound interesting? Head over to Janhvi's Thoughtful Thoughts to read my guest post over there! Have fun!

Image Courtesy: Dreamstime

Wednesday Wishlist #4: Where The mind Is Without Fear

The flavour of the month of August seems to be Freedom. Independence Day has just gone by. Against a backdrop of scams and corruption, an old man is igniting the spirit of patriotism among all Indians with his sheer courage and determination, not to mention debates and protests. In this scenario, a poem has been floating around in my mind. Everyone who studied in Indian schools must have come across this poem – and probably learnt it by-heart to write it out word-perfect in the exams or recite it on stage vociferously. Today, Tagore’s words seem as apt as they must have been all those years ago when he initially penned it. There are loads of things to complain about India. And yet reading these lines, brings forth a strange mix of longing, love and hope for the prosperity of my beloved motherland. It would be blasphemous to imagine my writing to be anywhere close to Tagore’s. So for my wish this Wednesday, I humbly echo his supreme words.

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

-- Rabindranath Tagore

Image Courtesy: Dreamstime

Friday, August 12, 2011

TGIF #4: My First Blog Award!

It is said that Archimedes got a brilliant brainwave, while stepping into his bath and promptly went running around the streets, shouting ‘Eureka!” to one and all. I know that some people get their bright ideas while sitting on the potty. I get mine (ideas, not potty) when I am drifting in a semi-conscious state, wavering between sleep and wakefulness. Now, this of course means that by the next morning when I wake up, I would have forgotten half of the ideas that I had thought up, thus depriving this world of potentially huge and path-breaking intellectual insights. (Ahem! Ahem!)

Anyway so last night, there I was, snuggled up in my cozy bed, listening to my husband’s snores, thinking about what to write today for the TGIF feature. I could envision a couple of nice ideas and so fell into a deep and satisfied slumber. Today, I sharpened my pencils (Ok Ok! Can’t I just use a figure of speech?! )and when I opened up my blog to write a post, what do I see? A comment from Sujatha. Ta-Da! Abstract Admissions has won it’s very first blog award folks!

Now if I don’t thank God and Sujatha and the wonderful blogging community out here, wouldn’t that just be an unforgivable crime?! So thanks a bunch Sujatha for your generosity in giving me this award as well as for your fantastic blog, which makes for some very interesting reading!

Also, give yourself a small pat on the back, dear readers and followers, coz now you have solid (well actually virtual)proof that you have not wasted your time, but have rather been reading one lovely blog indeed!

Image Courtesy: Dreamstime

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Totally Time Pass Lists # 2: Why Do I Blog?

There are thousands of bloggers out there and no doubt, each has their own reasons to blog. Here are some of mine!

1.Thinking too much
: I guess this is one very common affliction of women! I am constantly thinking about something or the other and often having conversations with myself as well as some imaginary people. No no! Don’t worry, I am not schizophrenic! I am aware that these are indeed “imaginary” people! So obviously, if someone seems me ranting and raving to myself all the time, they will come to the conclusion that I am bonkers. But what to do? I need to send out my thoughts or my head might just explode! And so I blog.

2.Appreciation: All of us seek to be appreciated one way or another. Be it our work or the dishes we whip up or the handicrafts we do and in my case, what I write. It feels lovely when someone comments/likes/votes or even simply takes the time to read what I've written. Who doesn't like a compliment, huh? And so I blog.

3.Making Friends: Blogging is an excellent way to meet like-minded people from all over the world with absolutely no restrictions. Especially for introverts like me who tend to avoid meeting new people face-to-face and generally blank out when meeting strangers, this is a blessing. And so I blog

4.Creative Outlet: Some people create something by writing code; some out of threads, yarns and needles and some others out of light, sound and film or paints, brushes and canvases; some even out of waste. I love the fact that the individual letters and symbols that I type, come together so beautifully as a whole, to strike a chord with you, to invoke your tears as well as your smiles, your blessings and your curses and quite simply manages to create emotions and thoughts. “Its only words, but words are all I have, to take your heart away.“ And so I blog.

5.An Album: This blog is afterall a chronicle of things that happened to me and my reactions to them. Often, I go back to my old posts to reread them and reflect on the “me” who wrote it a long time back. In many ways, it is similar to a photo album. You turn the pages and just for an illusionary instant, you can make believe that you have turned back Time itself. And so I blog.

So pray tell me my fellow bloggers, why do thee blog?

Image Courtesy: Dreamstime

Wednesday Wishlist # 3: Write A Book

Contemporary Indian writers in English are slowly changing the face of Indian English literature. Nowadays there are more and more books being published which are written, keeping in mind the average, educated and normal Indian that one happens to meet during the course of our everyday lives. Writers like Chetan Bhagat are said to have introduced many young Indians to reading itself. Tastes and choices have changed. Flowery prose and high-brow language are clearly not reaching the masses. Although those with a love of literature, myself included, do enjoy reading the classics and deep literary works of world renowned authors, I think that books with correct but simple language and with stories/incidents that everyone can connect with and relate to are what many people are looking out for. Whether this is for the good or bad one cannot say; but what one can say with a reasonable amount of confidence is, if you have an interesting story to tell and a fairly good way to tell it, there are people out there who are willing to listen to you.

I think that there is a secret, aspiring writer lurking behind every original blogger. Atleast there is one inside me - has been for a long time. There are new writers getting published almost everyday. I know that I could possibly self-publish, but come on! I am talented – I can find a publisher, what say ;-) Anyone interested? I’ll guarantee that I can probably nag and push and threaten and bully a minimum of 10 people to buy it! And after I sell all those books and become rich and famous, my husband will take early retirement and we will go and live at a charming little seaside cottage, happily ever after! (Although I do have my doubts about the happily ever after part. Oh well, we’ll deal with that later!)

I have no idea about what I will write but someday I will. And when I eventually do, you people out there, you better buy my book!

Image Courtesy: Dreamstime

Monday, August 8, 2011

Julie & Julia

If you’ve been reading my blog, then you would probably have read about how crazy I am about books here. But the problem with having started reading way too many books, way too early is that I often find that either I've forgotten half of what I've read or muddle up one book with another. Added to that, now with so many books being converted into celluloid, it gets even more confusing. You see, when I read a book, I almost always have the story running in my head. And then I go watch the movie. So at the end of day, I have 3 stories albeit with slight variations – one that I've read, one that I've seen and one that I've imagined! You can understand then, that sometimes I simply cannot recollect if some incident actually happened in the book or in the movie or simply happened only in my imagination. Does anyone else have this problem, or should I fix an appointment with a psychiatrist asap?

Anyway, this has made me come to a conclusion, that maybe I should start writing down my perceptions of books that I read. It would probably help me remember what I read and what I didn’t and also if someone is looking to read those books, they could check it out quickly here. Please do keep in mind that the books I write about here are not always going to be new publications. But maybe one day, one book at a time, my blog too could become as awesome as this one :-)

BTW in case anyone is really interested in reviewing books, you can check out Blogadda and Women's Web. Both give out free review copies to good and deserving reviewers but you should be based out of India. (Which is where I am losing out :-()

So here we go! The very first book review on Abstract Admissions. (Since I've already rambled on quite a bit, I'll keep it short this time!)

Book: Julie & Julia

Author: Julie Powell

This must be one of the very rare books that I’ve read after watching the movie first. Obviously I thought that the movie was charming, after all I love Meryl Streep as I’ve mentioned earlier. Although I am addicted to watching cooking videos l must confess that I have never seen any of Julia Child’s shows-although she does seem to be pretty enigmatic.

Julie & Julia is in a way, every blogger’s dream come true. I mean there you are, stuck in a monotonous job , when you decide to start a blog while eating scrumptious French food almost always cooked one way or the other in butter, only to find that gradually the blog becomes a super-hit and the next thing you know, it has been turned into a book and a movie to boot. Now you can kick that boring old job goodbye and become a freelance writer/food critique or whatever else you fancy! Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?!

The premise of this book then, is pretty straight forward. Julie gets the idea that she should complete all the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s magnum opus, Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, within 365 days, no matter how daunting they recipes seem to be. In Barney Stinson style, she goes “challenge accepted” and starts off, in her own words, “risking her marriage, her job and her sanity to master the art of living”.

Although at times, Julie turns philosophical, drawing parallels between her chosen mission and her life, she doesn’t get preachy on you. She comes across as a normal, girl next door, with pretty mundane problems that are to be expected in the life of any urban woman in her late twenties, trying to figure out a purpose behind her routine life. The sarcastic and sometimes irreverent humour of the author made me smile a lot. The story, itself is of course, quite different from other such books and I know that it has spurred many young women to take up similar challenges. (One such being here). But I do think that it is more of a feminine book and I doubt if many men will enjoy reading it(case in point, my husband fell asleep halfway through the movie and refuses to read the book. Oh well, you win some you lose some ;-)).

On the whole, Julie & Julia is written in a breezy kind of way and I would classify it as a light and enjoyable read, perfect for relaxing while sipping on some aromatic cardamom tea.

Have you read Julie & Julia or watched the movie? Let me know what you think!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Haaaave you met Elvis?

No not him.

I’m not really a pet person. Thus far I have owned only 2 pets in my lifetime. The first being a lost parrot, which landed up tired at our doorstep, when I was very small. So my mom took it in and we looked after it for some time. The only thing I recollect about this parrot was that (1) It used to eat guavas and spit out EVERY single seed everywhere! (2) We never used to cage it and it was used to roaming around freely in the house. One day it was missing and the maid found it electrocuted below the refrigerator, where apparently it had been pecking on the wires. Tragic. But frankly, I was too young to really remember much.

The next pet or should I say pets, that we owned were fishes. Nothing fancy; just a small and simple aquarium with a couple of aquatic plants, a few smooth pebbles scattered around for aesthetic purposes and a small number of common aquarium fishes. My brother and I were supposed to take turns to clean the tank but since both of us were/are pretty lazy gooses, many a time, the poor fishes must have cursed us to damnation for letting them swim around in dirty water. Fed up with our negligence, our parents often threatened to give the fishes away. The final straw was this incident.

It had been exam-time, and so neither of my brother nor I, were going to spare any time for fish-tank-cleaning activities. By the time the exams were over and I had gotten over my laziness, the water was so extremely sinister looking and foul smelling that the Loch Ness monster would have loved it; I finally took pity on the fishes. I managed to transfer all the fishes into another container, except one. This one was quite a big fish with long whiskers and was well known to thrash about a lot when caught in the net. So you will empathize with me when I say that I was pretty nervous. I had emptied half of the murky water with weeks of fish crap, slimy moss and other such god-awful things into a bucket and then decided to take a break to contemplate my next course of action. I sat, rested my leg on this bucket and was trying to bring up my courage to catch the whiskered terror. So deep in contemplation was I, that involuntarily, I kicked over the bucket. In an instant, our entire living room was flooded with water that must surely have had alarmingly high toxic levels. Call it crazy coincidence, but it was precisely at that moment, that we had a neighbour drop in with another visitor! God knows what they must have thought! Needless to say, the rest of the day was spent cleaning the house, by pouring bucket after bucket of water and emptying a bottle of strong detergent. That marked the end of our tryst with pet fishes.

Neither have I had much luck with dogs. Although I never owned one, some of my friends have. One day, while I was visiting somebody, for some strange reason their dog started chasing me. I ran for dear life and that must have probably made the dog more determined to get a hold of me. At the spur of the moment, I had this brilliant(!) idea that it won’t follow be up the stairs and so made a dash for the terrace. But surprise! It bounded right after me up the stairs and had me cornered and cowering at the very end of the terrace’s parapet wall. Thankfully, by this time, hearing my strangulated cries, the dog’s owner came up and led him away. I am sure that if the dog had taken even one more step towards me, I would have blindly jumped off the terrace!

So this being the state of things, I don’t think I am ready to have pets. Pets require too much attention and care and I am just not ready to take on that kind of responsibility. Plus they die. I mean come on! You put in so much effort and time and energy and money and love and care and what-not - and in the end they go and die on you. Not fair. It is enough that the people I love will end up dying some day, let alone the animals too.

Now let’s come to the star of this post. Elvis.

The sweet little African Grey Parrot at a friend’s place. I have indeed heard so much about talking parrots but I’ve never really come across one. But boy! Can Elvis talk! If he knows you reasonably well, he will imitate you to perfection. The other day, I was in one room and I thought that Elvis and my friend were having a conversation. It was only after a while that I realized that my friend wasn't there at all - Elvis was talking so exactly like my friend that I was simply amazed. But the most charming thing about him? He happily whistles an old Hindi number and once done he congratulates himself saying “Bravo, Elvis Bravo!” in his parroty voice! Now if that’s not cute, I dunno what is!

I’ve only met Elvis a couple of times and both of us are pretty scared of each other. (Don’t you smirk! He’s got really sharp claws and an even sharper beak.) But I must say that he is a real darling! His grey plumage with a red tail doesn't make him as pretty as the other green or multi-coloured parrots, but the African Grey is said to possess intelligence nearly equivalent to that of chimps, dolphins and even human toddlers.And they have quite a long lifespan too! Oh btw, Ajay does a really comical imitation of how Elvis walks - those of you who know him, please ask him to show it to you when you meet him next! It is hilarious and I can’t stop laughing when I think about it!

I do have a vague dream though. Sometime in the distant future, say in 10 or 15 years, when hopefully I am wiser and reasonably mature, I am woken up in the middle of the night on by birthday. I am given a small box and there is something moving inside it. While I am nervously wondering what it can possibly be, out pops a tiny, little dachshund puppy. (I know dachshunds are kinda weird looking but I think that is why I like them. They look so silly!) He has a shiny, black coat with coffee-coloured paws and a coffee-coloured eyepatch over one eye - making him look like an adorable dog-pirate. He wags his stubby tail and looks at me with melting chocolate brown eyes. I gather him up in my arms and look gratefully at my husband. Doesn't it sound straight out of a movie? Well that’s how I am, but honestly, isn’t that a pretty picture?! (I know secretly you agree!)

Okay forget my cheesiness and check out this celebrity African Grey - Einstein! Have fun!

Image Courtesy: Sebastien Ravinet

TGIF #3: Breaking Dawn

First, a disclaimer to all Twilight fans. No I will NOT be thanking God for the Twilight series.

Second, a disclaimer to my parents, brother, husband and in-laws who might be reading this post. I know that you all would probably roll your eyes heavenwards and burst out laughing if I say that I am going to write about dawn. But please bear with me.

As I have said before I love my beauty sleep and am no early-riser. The warm bed, the cozy blankets, the soft pillow - all hold me in their loving trance and I have to try mighty hard to untangle myself from their comforting embraces. In fact, many times, I have felt relieved that I didn't have a Hindu wedding. As many Tamil Hindu weddings take place really early in the morning, surely I would have fallen asleep while the mangalsutra is being tied ;-) Usually my mood is pretty sour if I am woken up early-which is hardly ever and then too only upon force under dire circumstances. But maybe, it is precisely because of the fact that I experience the breaking of dawn so rarely, that I also appreciate the inherent beauty of it.

I believe that living in glass enclosed spaces in high-rises cuts one off from the changes that happen ever so subtly during the break of a new day. After all sitting in an air-conditioned room with the curtains closed – who can say what time of day it is without looking at the clock? One can perhaps, hope to catch a glimpse of a new day if you are blessed with a balcony or private terrace or simply lean out of the windows. But if I close my eyes and think about breaking dawn, here are some of the associated things that pop into my mind’s eye.

A sense of the whole earth being slowly nudged awake by a cool, refreshing breeze, not yet warmed up by the Sun and not yet sullied by grimy exhaust fumes. The Sun itself, creeping stealthily above the horizon, sending out testy feeler-rays in advance, to check if indeed all is well. The skies transforming from an inky blue-black to deep oranges and golden yellows, couching the promise of a colourful day in dreamy, wispy clouds. Wise crows, cawing raucously and going about their business intently, bent on proving to everyone that early birds do indeed catch the worms. The mystical and melodious “ko-kooo!” of the koel hidden in the gently rustling leaves of the neighbourhood trees. Squirrels squeaking loudly, friskily jumping about and bounding off helter-skelter with their bushy tails held up disdainfully. The “krrr krrr!” of stick-brooms sweeping away debris at every doorstep, followed by quick, short “chalap chalap!” of water being splashed about accompanied by the intoxicating smell of damp earth.

A pressure cooker whistling merrily in the distance, signaling to a busy mom getting her child frantically ready for school, that the idlis are done for breakfast. The “triiingg triiingg!” of the newspaper delivery boy’s cycle bell as he goes around hurtling newspapers like deadly hand grenades. The gruff “kaaaiii mmmmaaa kaaaiiiii!” of the vegetable vendor who comes visiting with her basket of fresh vegetables balanced precariously on her head and a voice grown coarse over years of such shouting. The "tink tink tinkling" of prayer bells shaking vigorously by a devotee, as if he is trying to awaken God himself, afraid that his prayers might fall on sleeping ears. The aroma of fresh brewed filter coffee. Straining your ears involuntarily to listen to that faint sound of a song playing in someone’s house or in the nearby tea shop, which then proceeds to lodge adamantly in your brain, repeating itself over and over in a never-ending loop.

And then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, everything vanishes. School buses come rudely blowing their horns and stepping on the accelerators, people rush off hurriedly to their respective jobs, the Sun blazes down from a clear blue sky so angrily that even the few gentle clouds have been scared away, the air grows increasingly humid, heavy and hot, squeezing out tiny drops of perspiration on your forehead, the newspapers whose folds where not disturbed even by grenade-throwing actions, now lie sadly in a crumpled and soiled heap, the idlis and coffee are long gone with only dirty tumblers and plates with remnants of tiny, white idli crumbs and chutney smears remaining to prove that they ever existed in the first place.

As if by magic. As if it was all only an illusion created by an evil temptress to trick you into believing that for a moment there you were in Paradise, when in reality you were just another mere mortal, placed on this earth for purposes yet unknown.

But fret not. Because no matter how improbable it may seem, somehow, somewhere, there will always be a fresh start, a new beginning. There will always be a new dawn that reaches out and touches you and simply speaks to your soul, in a language that has no words; filling you with hope, reinforcing your beliefs and reassuring you of the goodness and greatness of God. In Scarlett O'Hara's words, "Tomorrow is another day".

Thank God for every new dawn!

Okay, now let me go and brush my teeth.

Image Courtesy: Dreamstime.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wednesday Wishlist #2: Swimming

I am a Piscean. Although, even after pouring over Linda Goodman’s books, the case whether I match up to all the Piscean qualities is open to debate, I still do belong to the Water sign. (Don’t get me started on the whole Zodiac-shifting-new sun-sign thing now please.) For the most part of my life, I have lived somewhat near to one beach or the other. I love going to the beach, love the cool breeze ruffling my hair and the lulling sound of the gushing waves and I love wetting my feet too. I think beaches are beautiful, serene and calming. So then, isn’t it a pity, that I haven’t learnt to swim yet?

Countless number of times, I have wished I could swim. Currently I live in an apartment in the desert (!) and even in Chennai, where I grew up, summers coupled with frequent power cuts are scorching enough. How jealous am I to see people going for a refreshing swim! Of course, I can go and stand in the wading pool and lamely look around - but how can it even come close to actually letting the water swirl around and envelop you, while you remain in total control of your body and your breathing!

So why haven’t I learnt to swim yet? I really don’t know. I tried a couple of times but I am simply terrified. I invariably panic and splutter and blubber and hold on for dear life to whichever poor soul is near me or to the walls/railings. And I hear that the most important point to learn swimming is not to panic. Sigh!

I am not afraid of flying (No silly, I haven't gone mad - I meant in a plane of course.) as such, but I have this irrational fear lurking within me, of flying over water. I always imagine the plane crashing and landing in water and me slowly drowning into the dark depths of the oceans. Okay, okay, I do realize that even if a person knows respectable swimming, he/she is also probably going to meet the same fate - as swimming in the ocean and swimming in the pool are two totally different things. But still!

Also what if I land up in a situation like Julia Roberts in Sleeping With The Enemy? (Hehe! AJ ut?!) Swimming would definitely come in handy, wouldn’t it ;-)

So on the Wishlist for this Wednesday: I wish that I knew to swim!

Image Courtesy: Dreamstime


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