Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: Half Life by Roopa Farooki

Protagonists: Aruna, the highly emotional and seemingly unstable researcher; Ejjaz/Jazz, the loving,easy-going writer; Hari Hasan, the self-involved poet & father to Jazz.

Spanning across London, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur; Half Life is a story of a rather eccentric woman who walks out on her husband and home to go to her previous life in Singapore in search for her lost identity.

Aruna comes across an unbalanced, moody alcoholic who leads a perfectly balanced life with her doctor husband in London. Few lines from a Bengali poet (Hari Hasan) books compels her to fly back to Singapore where she has unresolved issues with her ex-boyfriend and childhood friend Jazz.

Chapters written from each characters perspective present their viewpoint beautifully. Roopa Farooki has skillfully crafted each character be it the drug-addict bipolar Aruna or Hasan wrapped in a time warp or Jazz with his own quest for finding himself. The book is so addictive that it makes you want to finish it without keeping it down. The author has beautifully described the conflicts faced in the life and the demons that reside within us. One of the lines from the book- "...running away really is the easy part; it is coming home that is hard" would probably never leave your mind. One of the most impactful yet free-flowing writing I have ever come across.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Review: Immigrant by Manju Kapur

Protagonists: Nina, the simple yet fiercely independent literature professor; Anand, the NRI dentist.
Set in the 70’s in India and later in Halifax, Canada; the ‘Immigrant’ is the story of how two individuals gradually change over times in new environments. Nina, an English literature teacher from an eminent college in Delhi gets married to a prized catch Anand, a dentist based in Canada.

The story beautifully describes Anand’s painful yet believable transition from a dependent, patriotic and shy person to an ambitious NRI dentist. In parallel, Nina’s struggles to make her widowed mother happy whose sole purpose is to settle her daughter in matrimony. The mother’s happiness knows no bounds when finally Nina agrees to consider Anand’s proposal.

The initial letters between the couple range from awkward exchanges to sweet nothings even before meeting each other makes the reader believe that love can happen even in an arranged marriage. However, what strikes surprisingly is that the romance soon goes out of the window once Nina settles into her married life in Canada. This is where the book slightly slows a little with repetitive narrative of Nina’s daily chores and Anand’s sexual escapades. It does pick up a little with Nina’s stride for independence and her involvement with another fellow classmate. Characteristic of all Manju Kapur’s books, Immigrant ends off wanting you to know more.

Book Review: Home by Manju Kapur

Spanning over three generations of Banwari Lals, Delhi based cloth traders; ‘Home’ is a family saga of typical middle-class merchant family. Set in the heart of Karol Bagh; the story revolves around how the different generations adapt to changing times. It also depicts how the patriarch one time strong and defiant bows down to his sons towards the end. The book illustrates how the women of the family who behind closed doors fill their husbands’ ears with comparative tales and one-upmanship of the other family.

Typical of family sagas and brings in dynamics of joint family, the worries of marrying daughters off, the privileges of having a son bringing in dowry and sometimes infertility. The narrative is rather slow and drags a little. Manju Kapur is a skilled written who artfully brings colour to each of the characters whether is it the dreary in-laws or the entrepreneurial aunt or the slimy parasitic nephew. Except for the fact that the book stretches a little; Home makes for a good read providing valuable insights into a distinctive middle-class trader family.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book Review: Custody by Manju Kapur

Protagonists:  Shagun, the initially bored & later rather over-active wife; Raman, the hard-working corporate slave; Ashok, the ambitious boss and Ishita, the divorcee.
Set in the 90’s in Delhi, the story revolves around Raman & Shagun and their pursuit for seeking love and companionship. Married for over a decade; Shagun comes to terms with her suffocation and unexciting married life in the arms of her husband’s boss Ashok. Raman, the hard-working and rather unobservant husband realizes his wife’s infidelity when irreparable damage was done.

And then the quest of seeking divorce begins. However, the twist in the tale occurs when the divorce is granted and custody of minor children needs to be settled. The mother; filled with new-found love and the want to marry the love of her life quickly agrees for part-custody of the children. Shifted from one house to another like pieces of furniture; their two children began their early life in turbulence. The defiant son is soon sent to boarding soon while the much younger daughter tries settles in with her father.

In parallel, unravels the life of young Ishita born to typical middle-class East Delhi residing parents whose sole aim in life is to get their only child settled in matrimony. Love soon finds its way in Ishita’s life in the form of an arranged marriage making her postpone her higher studies plans. As expected, the demands for a grandchild mount upon the young couple. Endless doctor visits, medical tests and taunt from relatives shatters Ishita’s confidence and shakes the foundation of her marriage. An ‘amicable’ divorce brings Ishita back to her maternal home with a suitcase full of her marriage transactions.

Two parallel lives of divorcees are brought together with Raman’s younger daughter seeking a mother in Ishita. Fight for maternal love and jealousy surges in Ishita who cannot bear to part with her daughter and soon finds them fighting for full custody of the children.

Manju Kapur’s ‘Custody’ is a sure-shot page turner that will make you yearn to read more. Each character is weaved so brilliantly that you will have empathy towards each of them. Dealing with sensitive issues of infidelity and infertility, Manju Kapur artfully tackles the matter with her skillful writing.



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gradual Transitions......

Its amazing how the interest of an individual change over a period of time.

Just about a year back, I was turning into one of those bridezillas whose whole and sole aim in life was to organize her wedding. Have been meaning to write a blog around the journey of getting married but oh well there hasnt been any time to do that.

Coming around to the topic of gradual transition of life; once you get married, the next thing on our to-do list dawns upon you- time to be an adult; no more daddy & mommy to run off to for every trivial issue (mental note- did I really do that!!). Jokes aside, soon after we go married, we decided to take a plunge and buy our own brick & mortar. And lo & behold, the bridezilla gets transformed into a home decor maniac. From browsing through home decor website to blogs to attending fairs & exhibitions; I myself am amazed at how much the interests of an individual can differ over a period of time.

Inspiration & hope has come through several home decor blogs that I felt have added value & character to my house. But hold on, below I go ahead, a big round of thanks for all of the following blogs & many more who contributed to my ideas & will continue to do so:

1. Patricia's Colour Dekor:

2. Key bunch:

3. Simran's Simz Corner:

4. Ankita's The Bangalore Snob:

Pics of my newly done up shall follow shortly.......loads & loads of suggestions for corners, walls, empty spaces etc. needed!!

North meets South

When people ask me if mine was an arranged marriage; I often reply in affirmative. It was arranged by us! As corny as it sounds; in reality that was how it actually turned out to be!

Ok, lets rewind a little first. What started out as a “lets be friends” in a new country, new environment; got soon converted into a typical B school romance. From classmates we became soulmates and thus began the saga of a cross-cultural marriage. Although, we had exactly 6 months from the day it was meet the parents to the wedding day; my hyper activeness kicked in from day 1. Making to-do lists, preparing agendas and Gantt charts became my favourite activity so much so that I realized that I am being ‘Monica’ of ‘Friends’ fame. While I was doing my frenzied activities; my fiancé (now husband) was patiently observing (although in my mind it seemed laid back!).

On the hind sight, I did eventually have a lot of fun & gained a plethora of information especially on arranging a wedding in Bangalore. Hopefully some of my experience will help many who are getting married in the city. Here we go, a check-list of sorts that should get to started on the preps! Read away…

· Guest List: One of the foremost thing that you should do is to draw up the guest list. Trust me, everything else will be dependent on the number of attendees –from the size of the venue to the food, invitation cards and all other arrangements.

· Venue:Coming from a family where I was the first to get married; my parents had absolutely no idea how to get started on arranging a wedding (sorry folks, but that’s the reality!) that too in an alien city (I am from Delhi & hubby is from Bangalore). So, the to-be couple set about one day looking for venues and boy were we treated with suspicion (how else do you expect prim and proper Bangalorean wedding hall wallas to behave when two people without any grey haired person walks in!). Jokes apart, we managed to get a free (oops read available) wedding hall. The rentals usually start from 3 lakhs per day to well sky is the limit!

Pic of the venue (Raj Hans Convention Centre, Rajajinagar) on the day of engagement

· Wedding Decoration: Fortunately, the wedding hall came with its own decorator (mandatory) which saved us a task of finding the phool-wala & likes. But the bridezilla that I turned out to be; I wanted to know each bit of the décor from where deciding the colour scheme to where all in the venue the flowers would be put to the number of flower pots near the entrance or the colour of the sashes on the seats. I think at some points my poor fiancé (who ended up being dragged to each of these meetings!), wanted to re-think about his decision!!

The wedding being in Bangalore would have been considered to be a typical South India. However, compromise was reached with the entire engagement ceremony (a day before the wedding) had hues of a North Indian wedding. From the décor (orchids) to food and the Yo Yo Honey Singh music; you would not be able to figure out if you were in Gurgaon or Bangalore!
· Caterer: Even though the venue guys had given us a couple of numbers for their preferred caterers, the organization maniac that I became; I goggled, hunted and mined several other contacts for catering vegetarian food for the two days. The most exciting bit of finding the caterers was of course food tasting!! Although this was met with a rather ‘how cheap are you’ from my hubby dearest! We had to make sure that the food was upto the liking of my Panju family; so that’s where chole bhature said hello to curd rice!
Note for all those organizing wedding with majority out-of-town guests; make sure you keep into mind the number of guests for smaller occasions where the caterer may be needed (speaking from experience because we figured 2 days before the wedding when the caterer refused to cater for 20 people! Not something you would want to face at the last minute!
· Wedding trousseau: The most exciting part of a wedding for the bride would needless to say is her trousseau. Getting married in a typical south Indian tradition, I wanted a few heavy Kanjeevaram silks but wanted to add the Punjabi tadka to the wedding. For the engagement, I choose a georgette sari (picked from Meena Bazar) with gold zari work. As the sari was a heavier side, I choose lighter jewellery (picked from going up and down a billion shops in Karol Bagh, Delhi). Green bangles that I wore were mandatory from the boys side& as much as I protested they won’t budge!

For the wedding day, I wore my Kanjeevaram silks (had to change saris in between). Deliberately choose, a yellow gold sari for the early morning function as I think it sets off my complexion better while a pink one for the reception. Both saris & quite a few others including several as gifts for my relatives were picked up from a friends shop in Bangalore who supplies for Nalli Silks & many others across India. The wholesale rates do end up making you pick more than you need & my cupboards are bursting open unfortunately L.

Pics of Wedding day attire
For the rest of my wedding trousseau, I shopped endlessly in Delhi (Karol Bagh, GK, Lajpath, CP and anything else that I could see!!) and Bangalore (primarily Jaynagar & Commercial Street). I managed to find an incredible tailor in Commercial street who I could give my clothes blindly to without even trials!
Neurotic bride-to-be that I was, I dragged my fiancé out for his shopping as well.
· Make-up artist: Finding a decent make-up in Bangalore may seem to be easy but if you are finicky as well as price-conscious; its definitely not a cakewalk. After browsing through a zillion Facebook pages and speaking to at least 15 MUAs; I zeroed in on about 3 who I personally met got a trial & finally chose Vidhya Rao. Vidhya is a Bangalore based MUA who specialized in bridal and fashion make-up. I can personally vouch for her work. She is efficient, punctual and ensures that quality is delivered. My wedding pictures are a testimony of the brilliant work that she has done. She went much further that what her duty calls for whether it was giving me skin advice, home remedies for falling hair or recurring pimples. The entire time that I interacted with her, she made me feel like she too was an integral part of the entire wedding preparation and I could bank upon her for a sudden emergency.

Pics of bride in making
Photographer: Went through a similar ordeal of finding “the one photographer” for our special day. From bugging friends to lengthy telephonic discussions with several potential photographers; I left no stone unturned for finding the best photographer in the budget that we had. Most of the ones that we met were either too amateurish or were costing a bomb. I was fixated on ‘candid’ photography that our parents could just not understand a word of and not getting the regular ‘smile please’ stage photographs. We eventually compromised on having both a regular & candid. We did several rounds of discussions individually with regular photographers & candid ones, did permutation combination math for figuring what would be most economical at the best quality & finally settled in with Abhishek Singh of Candid Pictures who did both candid & regular. All the pictures of the article are his team’s work. We were pretty happy with his work & have been recommending them to several friends

· Other arrangement: Phew! While these were just some major tasks; many many more shall keep pouring in and the check-list shall soon have more tasks added than checked-off! If you are arranging a wedding with majority out-of-town guests (like I unfortunately had); make sure that you keep into consideration where they would be staying, their pick-up & drops, visas & sight-seeing (we had a couple of friends coming to India for the first time & we had to help them with getting in and around Bangalore!), gifts, blah blah and much much more!