Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Book Review #36: Sattvik Foods of India

Name: Sattvik Foods of India
Author:Anupama Shukla
No. of Pages: 156
Genre: Cuisine
Publisher: Platinum Press (An Imprint of Leadstart Publishing)
Price: Rs. 299/-
Published in: 2015 

How did I get it? From the publisher.

The blurb of the book says:
‘You are what you eat’, is a much repeated adage which is less understood and hardly ever embraced. In the pace and stress points of the modern world, the food that we eat only serves to satisfy our hunger, titillate our taste buds and in some cases, fill a deep-seated psychological need for security or love. Most often, what we eat has very little connection with what each of us really needs to eat. Hence, Sattvik Foods of India is a cookbook with a deeply significant difference. People are introduced to the fundamentals of well-being through the understanding of how each person is different in terms of elemental composition and nutritional requirements. Shattering the myth that healthy food is largely tasteless, this book presents more than 70 easy-to-follow delicious sattvik recipes from various regions of India. Those who are willing to travel down the road to wellness with this book as guide, will not only develop a clearer understanding of the subtle but undeniable connection between right food and wellbeing, but also expand their culinary repertoire. Presented in simple language, this valuable volume is both an engaging read and satisfying to the palate of the serious practitioner and curious reader alike. 

Anupama Shukla is a bureaucrat by profession. She grew up in a family that observed many guidelines related to a Sattvik lifestyle, but like most teenagers paid scant attention to them. Growing older, she moved from taking her body (and mind) for granted, to becoming increasingly aware of how what we eat shapes who we are. Her other interests include healing through aromatherapy and Bach Flower Remedies. Anupama can be reached at: anupamadshukla@gmail.com  

The cover of the book depicts a platter of food served in a traditional leaf plate. Sattvik is a word from the Vedic philosophy which means pure. Sattvik food means the food which enables the body to stay in balance. The book is a collection of vegetarian Indian food recipes. The author starts with a note on sattvik foods and explains why it is important to eat the right food. She gives a introduction on the ayurvedic perspective of food. She also gives information on the effects of the common foods that we regularly consume.

The recipes are simple and easy to cook. I tried a couple of them, and they turned out quite well.

I give "Sattvik Foods of India" 3 stars on a scale of 5.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Read Review: Yes, My Accent Is Real

Yes, My Accent Is Real by
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 18th 2015 by Simon & Schuster (first published September 15th 2015) 

How did I get it? I bought it.
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Of all the charming misfits on television, there’s no doubt Raj from The Big Bang Theory — the sincere yet incurably geeky Indian-American astrophysicist — ranks among the misfittingest. Now, we meet the actor who is every bit as loveable as the character he plays on TV. In this revealing collection of essays written in his irreverent, hilarious, and self-deprecating voice, Kunal Nayyar traces his journey from a little boy in New Delhi who mistakes an awkward first kiss for a sacred commitment, gets nosebleeds chugging Coca-Cola to impress other students, and excels in the sport of badminton, to the confident, successful actor on the set of TV’s most-watched sitcom since Friends.

Going behind the scenes of The Big Bang Theory and into his personal experiences, Kunal introduces readers to the people who helped him grow, such as his James Bond-loving, mustachioed father who taught him the most important lessons in life: Treat a beggar as you would a king. There are two sides to every story. A smile goes a long way. And, when in doubt, use a spreadsheet. Kunal also walks us through his college years in Portland, where he takes his first sips of alcohol and learns to let loose with his French, 6’8” gentle-giant roommate, works his first-ever job for the university’s housekeeping department cleaning toilets for minimum wage, and begins a series of romantic exploits that go just about as well as they would for Raj. (That is, until he meets and marries a former Miss India in an elaborate seven-day event that we get to experience in a chapter titled “My Big Fat Indian Wedding.”)

Full of heart, but never taking itself too seriously, this witty and often inspiring collection of underdog tales follows a young man as he traverses two continents in search of a dream, along the way transcending culture and language (and many, many embarrassing incidents) to somehow miraculously land the role of a lifetime.
I am a 'Big Bang Theory' fan. And so I decided to read this book. When I was reading it, it was actually Raj's voice who was narrating it in my head.

The book is a no literary feat but a light read. The author has narrated pieces of his life.And it was actually like as if he is narrating the story verbally. The writing style is such.  It is not a laugh riot either but it will make you chuckle at many places. I liked the author's dad's life lessons the best. I also enjoyed the chapter about his badminton playing phase.

Overall a refreshing read.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Read Review: Delhi Is Not Far

Delhi Is Not Far by
Paperback, 111 pages
Published November 2005 by Penguin (first published October 26th 2005) 

How did I get it? I bought it.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
In dull and dusty Pipalnagar, each day is like another, and 'there is not exactly despair, but resignation'. Even the dreams here are small: if he ever makes it to Delhi, Deep Chand, the barber, will open a more up-to-date salon where he might, perhaps, give the Prime Minister a haircut; Pitamber will trade his cycle-rickshaw for the less demanding scooter-rickshaw; Aziz will be happy with a junk-shop in Chandni Chowk. None, of course, will make that journey to Delhi. Adrift among them, the narrator, Arun, a struggling writer of detective novels in Urdu, waits for inspiration to write a blockbuster. One day he will pack his meagre belongings and take the express train out of Pipalnagar. Meanwhile, he seeks reassurance in love, and finds it in unusual places: with the young prostitute Kamla, wise beyond her years; and the orphan Suraj, homeless and an epileptic, yet surprisingly optimistic about the future.
Few authors write with greater sensitivity and skill about little India than Ruskin Bond. Delhi Is Not Far is a memorable story about small lives, with all the hallmarks of classic Ruskin Bond prose: nostalgia, charm, underplayed humour and quiet wisdom.
Of course it's a classic. It's amazing how the author  describes the ordinary things and nuances of ordinary people in a extraordinary way. As described in the blurb above, Arun is the narrator and the story is more about the town Pipalnagar rather than any specific characters. And of course, the characters along with it's climate and environment make up Pipalnagar. And more so, it is about the bond between Arun and Suraj. It is a simple story in a style which is simply beautiful.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Read Review: Mrs. Funnybones

Mrs. Funnybones by
Paperback, First, paperback, 248 pages
Published August 18th 2015 by Penguin Books India

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Good morning, it’s 6 a.m. and I am wide awake because the man of the house has decided that he needs to perform a series of complex manoeuvres that involve him balancing on his left elbow. When I fell asleep last night, there was a baby lying next to me. Her smelly diaper is still wedged on my head but aside from this rather damp clue, I can't seem to find her anywhere. I could ask my mother-in-law if she has seen the baby, but she may just tell me that I need to fast on alternate Mondays, and God will deliver the baby back to me . . . 
Full of wit and delicious observations, Mrs Funnybones captures the life of the modern Indian woman—a woman who organizes dinner each evening, even as she goes to work all day, who runs her own life but has to listen to her Mummyji, who worries about her weight and the state of the country. Based on Twinkle Khanna’s super-hit column, Mrs Funnybones marks the debut of one of our funniest, most original voices.
When Twinkle Khanna's column started making the rounds, I was kind of surprised because I didn't have the slightest idea that she writes or that she is sarcastically funny.Then I saw that my books-crazy friends are reading and liking it, I put it in my TBR.

In the book, the author is a wife, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a sister-in-law and a mother. And so it was very easy to relate to.  It also takes on some absurd incidents that takes place in our country. Like when her husband Akshay Kumar was doing a ramp show to launch a new brand of jeans and he invited her onstage to unbutton the jeans he was wearing, some social activists' group lodged a complaint against her for indecent public behaviour! I loved her eccentric mother and mummyji in her narrations.

The book is not extraordinary but it's definitely refreshing. The author is sarcastic, blunt and makes her point. I felt there is a bit of me in it too. Just like the book's tagline goes, "She's just like you. And a lot like me". It's a light read but with a few serious connotations too. I would definitely like to read more of Twinkle Khanna.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Book Review #35: Godhuli-The Golden Dusk

Name: Godhuli-The Golden Dusk
Author: Harihar Panda
No. of Pages: 186
Genre: Non-Fiction/Social History/Memoir
Publisher: Platinum Press (An Imprint of Leadstart Publishing)
Price: Rs. 399/-
Published in: 2015

The blurb of the book says:
It was the most turbulent period in Indian history. The sonorous slogan, Simon, go back! reverberated through the political corridors of a rising nation. The historic Dandi March had its soulful impact on millions of common people as Mahatma Gandhi gave the clarion call to ‘Do or die’. But even as India achieved her blood-soaked independence, there were already signs of a popular uprising in the country against the tyranny of the zamindars. There were widespread rumours that the new government would confiscate the zamindari estates and distribute the land among the tenants and the landless. Villagers everywhere were elated at the imminent prospect of owning their own land. Those who had never before uttered a word of protest against their landlords, began to act with defiance and disregard. The mighty zamindari citadel was crumbling. All the king’s men had gone, leaving the abandoned King distraught and forlorn, victim of a changing world order…

My father, who had tolerated with exemplary fortitude a series of personal calamities, could not bear the ignominious loss of dignity, the thing he valued most in life. Independence without honour was a meaningless platitude for him. It was indeed a painful transition from wealth and aristocracy to democracy and equality. The unthinkable fall from mastery and power of the zamindars, was an event that shook the very foundations of the century-old socio-economic system of newly independent India. Written with elegance, the narrative captures with depth and grace an era which now lives only in history and in the minds of a remaining few who lived through those momentous times.

Harihar Panda was born in 1932, into a traditional landlord’s family of Orissa (present-day Odisha). He joined the Civil Service after completing his post-graduate studies and gaining a degree in Law. During his term with the Civil Service, he successfully undertook varied judicial and administrative assignments. Post-retirement, he taught at the University Law College, Bhubaneswar, specializing in Constitutional and Administrative Laws. He has also served as Chief Executive of a literary journal. His abiding love of literature has richly endowed his life and he continues to read and write into his eighties. Harihar Panda can be reached at: hariharpanda@hotmail.com

Cover: It depicts a haveli (big mansion) representing a bygone era. I love the look of the book; it is hardcover and has a ribbon bookmark as well.

Writing: The writing style is simple; at many places it seems like a verbal narration of events which has been directly written down.

Plot: The author as born and brought up in the pre-independence era of our country. He was born into a zamindar's family and was the heir apparent. He is sharing his stories from his childhood and growing up years which gives the reader a glimpse into the lives, culture and history of that time in the author's domicile. He narrates as if he is narrating his life stories verbally to someone.

When the publisher sent me a list of books to choose from to review, I picked up this book for its name. I am from the Indian State of Assam, and in Assamese language 'Godhuli' means dusk as well. The author is from the state of Odisha, whose culture and language ia very similar to that of Assam as well as West Bengal. So many things mentioned in the book are actually familiar to me like women ululating during auspicious rituals, celebration of Durga Puja, mythological night opera, musical instruments and the like.

I give "Godhuli-The Golden Dusk" 3 stars on a scale of 5.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Read Review: Rise of Kali: Duryodhana's Mahabharata (Ajaya-Epic of the Kaurava Clan, Book II)

Rise of Kali: Duryodhana's Mahabharata (Ajaya-Epic of the Kaurava Clan, Book II) by
Paperback, 530 pages
Published July 29th 2015 by Platinum Press (first published June 21st 2015)

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

of the Pandavas, told from the perspective of the victors of Kurukshetra, Ajaya is the tale of the
Kauravas, who were decimated to the last man. From the pen of the author who gave voice to
Ravana in the national bestseller, ASURA, comes the riveting narrative which compels us to question
the truth behind the Mahabharata.

THE DARK AGE OF KALI IS RISING and every man and woman must choose between duty
and conscience, honour and shame, life and death…

o The Pandavas, banished to the forest following the disastrous games of dice, return
to Hastinapura.
o Draupadi has vowed not to bind her hair till she washes it in the blood of the Kauravas.
o Karna must choose between loyalty and gratitude, friend and Guru.
o Aswathama undertakes a perilous mission to the mountains of Gandhara, in search of the
Evil One.
o Kunti must decide between her firstborn and her other sons.
o Guru Drona has to stand with either his favourite disciple or his beloved son.
o Balarama, having failed to convince his brother about the adharma of violence, walks the
streets of Bharatavarsha, spreading the message of peace.
o Ekalavya is called to make the ultimate sacrifice to uphold a woman’s honour.
o Jara, the beggar, sings of Krishna’s love while his blind dog, Dharma, follows.
o Shakuni can almost see the realization of his dream to destroy India.

As the Pandavas stake their claim to the Hastinapura throne, the Kaurava Crown Prince, Suyodhana,
rises to challenge Krishna. As great minds debate dharma and adharma, power hungry men prepare
for an apocalyptic war. The women, highborn and humble, helplessly watch the unfolding disaster
with deep foreboding. And greedy merchants and unscrupulous priests lie in wait like vultures.
Both sides know that beyond the agony and carnage the winner will take all. But even as gods
conspire and men’s destinies unfold, a far greater truth awaits.
I have been waiting for this book since the day I finished reading Book-I. Once again my heart went to Karna. Suyodhana, the misunderstood and misinterpreted hero, made me sad. As I had siad in my review of Book-I (Read my review of Ajaya-Epic of the Kaurava Clan; Book 1-Roll of the Dice), I have never been a fan of the Pandavas and I love to hear the other side of the story. Shakuni and Krishna are the ultimate manipulators, who are kind of still manipulating mankind.

It is really interesting to see how the author narrates the mythological aspects like boons and magical weapons in a believable and possible way. Like the part where Arjuna is supposed to meet Shiva and ask for his bow, Duryodhana being beaten by Bhima when striked on his thighs and so on. It is an advantage if you know the conventional Mahabharata or at least some stories of it. That way the story becomes more amusing as well as interesting.

Ajaya would leave the readers wondering what is dharma and what is adharma. What dharma means to one might actually be adharma to another. Both the Kauravas and Pandavas believed that dharma was on their sides. I seriously fail to understand that the Pandavas who defeated the great warriors on the side of Kauravas by sheer cunning and cheat, can be called righteous. The following quotes are mentioned at the beginning of the book:

I loved afterword on dharma at the end of the book. The author says "The greatness of Vedavyasa's work is in the questions it evokes every time we read it, rather than in the answers given by preachers who reduce it to a simplistic tales of good versus evil". The fight between dharma and adharma is eternal and the dilemma concerning both rings true in any age.