#WhatTheBlack!

The name says it all – a product launch campaign featuring something black. The suspense was supposed to grow darker with each clue for three consecutive days, followed by the actual product. Sounds interesting? It bloody was!

When BlogAdda invited to participate in this #WhatTheBlack campaign, I was mighty curious like many of my fellow blogger friends. Signed up the form and waited with bated breath for the first clue to arrive. It was clear that the final product would be something in black, but it is pretty difficult to guess without the clues since the product might be anything – food, cosmetics, daily use commodities, a gadget, a book. Came July 30 and the first clue arrived.

Day 1 – A black egg with chocolate inside

photo 1(1) photo 2(1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arrived in the afternoon, while I was already fretting over friends posting snaps of these on social media as they had already received the clue. The packaging was impressive and cute, to say the least. My father-in-law was probably more excited than me and took initiative in cracking open the black egg. The paint was not up to the mark and stained all our fingers, but the chocolate inside was worth the effort. An egg-shaped note from BlogAdda and whattheblack.com added incentive to wait for the next clue, the next day.

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Book Review : Love Kills

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

Blurb View:

Meet Johnny W – Will, not Walker – named thus by his alcoholic father who died under mysterious circumstances. Johnny is the founder of Thy Will, a dead diction centre for the rich and the famous and the fiance of Mira Kermani, daughter of the richest man in town. His questionable methods aside, Johnny’s commitment to ridding his patients of alcohol and drug abuse is beyond doubt. How ironic then that Mira is found dead in her apartment from an overdose of morphine. But why is Officer Ray convinced that Johnny is the killer? Johnny’s assistant Sera, who secretly love him and his half-brother Zac are working hard to protect him from the officer. Or are they? Could Aunt Adele’s hunger for what was rightfully her sons inheritance have driven her to murder? Or is the murderer an unhappy patient? From the author of the disturbing and controversial Jacob Hills, an unputdownable story of crime and passion in the hill station town of Monele.

Review:

I had wanted to read Ismita Tandon since she’s one of the few women authors penning thrillers with love as the core theme. As the title suggests, this is a tale of love and death. Literally. It is intriguing whether love blooms on dead bodies or death comes riding in a love carriage. Meet the riders in this carriage Johnny, Mira, Sera, Zac, Adele and Officer Ray.

Set in a beautiful  and obscure hill station called Monele near Ooty, ‘Thy Will’ is an alcohol rehabilitation center run by Johnny Will. He prescribes things to his patients that are not strictly legal in a rehab. The idea is pretty unique in its own way. Johnny and Zac, half brothers and cousins have a dark and grimy past that is trapped in the vestiges of Thy Will. Zac’s mother and Johnny’s aunt Adele is a pretty but wasted lady torn in the dilemma of raising a child out of the wedlock.

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Books for life: Celebrating #IAD

 

Image Courtesy: b00kr3vi3ws

Image Courtesy: b00kr3vi3ws

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ― C.S. Lewis

Writing is not everyone’s cup o’tea, but reading is, or at least it must be. It’s not onerous to read – a book, a magazine, an article, a paragraph, or even a single sentence. Reading is a habit that will take you places, through magical universes and realms you have longed to visit, through the past and future while you read them in present. “I have been an avid reader” – I bet many of us must have begun their #IAD blog posts with this claim and they are very well so. Debdatta of b00kr3vi3ws has been extremely prudent in conceiving the idea for International Authors’ Day and a blog hop. We’ll write all about books, reading, writing and more – for you.

Few favourites.

Few favourites.

I can’t recall how long I’ve been reading, but it has been nearly three decades. And now when I introspect, I haven’t even read a sensible portion of everything I ever want to read. My parents had been kind enough to hand me books along with food from a very tender age. The rhyme and picture books have slowly graduated to fairy tales, mostly translated in Bangla/English from Russian and Ukranian folk takes. I’ve been lucky enough to scourge through those books in the Kolkata International Book Fair for a few years and enhance my collection. Shelves started spilling books and my father had to find me a study desk with bookshelves beneath. As my trips to the Book Fair increased each year, the bookshelf started shrinking. Innumerable Bangla and English books spilled over to my bed, the dining table (except for lunch and dinner times), the television stand, a piece or two inside the almirah, on the fridge top, and even inside my school bag.

I couldn’t buy every book I wanted, as I have been taught to respect and judge the value of money. I used to wait for gift cheques and solid cash from my grandmother(s) on birthdays/Durga Puja/Saraswati Puja/Poila Boishakh (Bangla New Year). My first Tintin (in Tibet) was courtesy maternal grandmother and I still cherish the copy for a handwritten note from her. I would demand for books rather than dresses on each occasion and it certainly made my relatives wonder if I were feminine enough. My father wasn’t worried, he built huge book-almirah with four shelves for me. For us.

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Love Thy Neighbour!

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

True. Having been taught the gospels of Saint Augustine in a school named after him, this is one of his teachings I believe in. You cannot discover more than half of yourself unless you have travelled. Each new sight and sound, flora and fauna unravels a part of you hidden hitherto from your own soul.

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

I have travelled in India, yes. As a family, we’ve done the usual ‘South India’ tours, the ‘Bombay-Goa’, ‘Rajasthan’, and the shorter ‘Puri’, ‘Darjeeling’ ones. There’s one more tour that people from Calcutta usually cover early in their life – Nepal, our beautiful neighbouring country. My parents had missed it, somehow. My in-laws have visited there recently. It seems we’re one of the few couples in our family not having been there. I’ve always longed to visit Nepal as I primarily adore mountains. The alluring chill of the hills, the tranquility that is hard to find in the plains, and the familiarity of the people in language and habits are reason enough for a visit or two. So I had planned a Nepal trip long ago including places to visit, food to eat, adventure, religious shrines, national parks and lakes. The itinerary got easier with Skyscanner providing a credit of 1 lakh rupees to accommodate all my plans. Here’s the plan all chalked out for any one to have a great trip in Nepal. I have pointed the key places I’d like to visit in the map here – Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Patan (5 km from Kathmandu), Royal Chitwan National Park, Pokhara and Lumbini. Each has it’s own significance in my trip, read further to know how they fit.

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(Re)Futebol!

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

The battle has begun. Media has labelled it as ‘The Greatest Carnival of Football on Earth’. And indeed it is so. We’ve already had the Indian General Elections and a dying IPL back to back this year. But, this is the real thing most of us had been waiting for.

Childhood - top to bottom - Batistuta, Roberto Baggio, Roberto Carlos. Image Courtesy: Google

Childhood – top to bottom – Batistuta, Roberto Baggio, Roberto Carlos. Image Courtesy: Google

A month of sleepless nights is all I wish for. The World Cup this year, has begun at a very opportune moment for me. With things not exactly going well here and there, 90 minutes of adrenaline rush each day seems to be the best refute. I’ve been watching football effectively since the 1994 World Cup. Prior to that, I was just old enough to listen the nitty-gritties of the game during Italia ’90 from my previous generation. Summer vacation meant a trip to my maternal grandparents’ home. My father, maternal uncle and my elder cousin participated in animated discussions over each match and carefully dissecting the game of players like Batistuta, Roberto Baggio and Goycoechea. Their names sounded like pieces of enigma to my pre-teen ears while my cousin being four years elder than me had gained the privilege of discussion with our parents. He played the game himself, with his friends in school and our maternal uncle at home. They would make a dummy miniature football of a ‘cambis’ ball, and run all around it on the terrace.

I was never an outdoor sports person and would spend the hot sweltering evenings on the terrace, eating purple Kalo Jaam (Java plum) soaked in salt, and watching my uncle and cousin play. The elder one would pass tips and tricks, laced with anecdotes from previous world cups, trivia about every player and the faults of the game to the younger one. I bet those sessions were enriching to my cousin, though he never pursued the game since he was short like his idol Maradona. I had, rather imbibed the bits and pieces of information, names of the players, game statistics and an overall idea of the enthralling game. By the next world cup, I knew most of the international players – Valderrama with his huge crop of hair, Rene Higuita with efforts to score a goal, Roberto Baggio with his ponytail and Buddhism and many more. We used to buy chocolates more often than needed to collect the football cards with different players and compare with friends in school.

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Book Review : The Winds of Hastinapur

Blurb View:

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

‘My hair is white and thin now. In a few moons, the Goddess will claim me, and I do not have a fresh young virgin by my side to absorb my knowledge and take my place when I am gone. The Mysteries of Ganga and her Sight will vanish with me, and the Great River will become nothing more than a body of lifeless water… It is my intention, therefore, to tell you the story as it happened, as I saw it happen.’

The Winds of Hastinapur begins at the point when Ganga was cursed and sent to Earth. She lives among the mortals and bears Shantanu, the King of Hastinapur, seven children, all of whom she kills. With the eighth, she leaves. That boy, who returns to Earth, will prove to be the key to the future of Hastinapur. The story, as told through the lives of his mother Ganga and stepmother Satyavati, is violent, fraught with conflict and touched by magic. 

A lady of the river who has no virgin daughter to carry on her legacy, Celestials who partake of a mysterious lake they guard with their very lives, sages overcome by lust, a randy fisher-princess – these and other characters lend a startling new dimension to a familiar tale. Sharath Komarraju does not so much retell the epic as to rewrite it. 

Review:

Another Mythological fiction. Another Mahabharat. Although the epic seems to be the flavour of 2013-14 with a range of books on its characters, Mahabharat never gets tiring for some of us. We’ve had Arjun, Draupadi and other characters adorning our bookshelves these days, but Sharath Komarraju presents us with two very interesting and often neglected characters – Ganga and Satyavati.

The book begins with Ganga reminiscing about her life, her mother and the influence of Gods on her. Most of us have known Ganga only as a river and mentioned in Mahabharat, but her history and the course of her life is as interesting as other women in the epic. Ganga’s identity is primarily showcased as the mother of Bhishma who also bore other children to his father Shantanu. Satyavati is Bhsihma’s stepmother whom Shantanu married after he got besotted with her. Ganga and Stayavati make an interesting pair of women to be compared with each other.

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Book Review : Mistress of the Throne

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Blurb View:

1631, the Empress of India Mumtaz Mahal has died. Yet, rather than anoint one of his several other wives to take her place as Empress of India, Mughal King Shah Jahan anoints his seventeen-year-old daughter Jahanara as the next Queen of India. Bearing an almost identical resemblance to her mother, Jahanara is the first ever daughter of a sitting Mughal King to be anointed queen. She is reluctant to accept this title, but does so in hopes of averting the storm approaching her family and Mughal India. Her younger siblings harbor extreme personalities from a liberal multiculturalist (who views religion as an agent of evil) to an orthodox Muslim (who views razing non-Muslim buildings as divine will). Meanwhile, Jahanara struggles to come to terms with her own dark reality as the daughter of a sitting King, she is forbidden to marry. Thus, while she lives in the shadow of her parents unflinching love story, she is devastated by the harsh reality that she is forbidden to share such a romance with another. Mistress of the Throne narrates the powerful story of one of Indias most opulent and turbulent times through the eyes of an unsuspecting character – a Muslim queen. It uses actual historical figures to illuminate the complexity of an era that has often been called India’s Golden Age.

Review: 

Historical fiction is one of the most difficult genre to delve into. You can’t have too much of history or too much of fiction. Any extreme will turn it into a drab history book or a complete fiction. Much kudos to Dr. Ruchir Gupta for choosing a very unusual subject – Jahanara Begum for his book. A quick recap into history and you’ll find that Jahanara was the daughter of Shah Jahanand Mumtaz Mahal, elder sister of Aurangzeb and the first crown princess of India.

The book covers Jahanara’s journey from teenage till her last days. It is a very comprehensive account, more intriguing as its written in first person. The reader feels like residing inside Jahanara’s heart and brain all the time. I must say I’m very impressed in the way Dr. Gupta has approached the subject. The fine line between fact and fiction is so well blurred at places that readers would doubt their own knowledge of history.

Jahanara Begum has been a fairly neglected character in history. Many of us might not have heard her name at all. But her importance in Indian and Mughal history is brought up beautifully in this book. Readers traverse through Jahanara’s life with each important incident beginning with her mother’s death. After Mumtaz Mahal’s death, Shah Jahan was devastated and became a loner. Jahanara held the family, her brothers and father together, and as a result was crowned the Princess of India, on the throne of the dynasty. Her life became important than anybody else in the kingdom, but at the same time, she was forbidden to marry any man according to Mughal rules.

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