Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Big City Bustle

The week before last, I was travelling to see my mamaji's family for Thanksgiving. I took a bus from Boston to New York and another from New York to Allentown. I was in New York City for about half an hour on both days, going over there and coming back.

It's been a while since I've been into a big city like that. And at a bus terminal, no less. There are just so many people everywhere. People, buses, trains, lots of available options for public transport including the subway - we don't have any of that in the suburbs. It reminds me of Delhi. Delhi is a place where you will find people from all over the country, trying to achieve something or the other that they believe they can achieve by being in the city. New York is just so, except that it attracts people from all over the world.

My bus into New York, against all odds, seemed to be entering the city about half an hour early. I looked out of the window and kind of thought we were nearly there, but I didn't really believe it. (Thanksgiving is a time when everyone travels to see their families, so there's a lot of traffic. Plus, there's the big Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City, because of which there are a lot of street closures. I'd read that traffic is rather crazy in or near the city because of all that. But it wasn't quite as crazy as I'd thought, though the bus terminal was quite crowded.) But then I saw a billboard. McDonald's McCafe coffee, $1.99 for a small cup. That coffee is $1 for any size out here. Then I knew I was in the city, because that's the kind of price you'd find only in a place like New York.

There's just something about a city like that which draws me to it. It's the kind of place I've lived in for the first almost twenty seven years of my life. I am big fan of the wide open spaces and the green leaves that we see around here where we live, but a city like that is just something else.

In The Kitchen

You know how some people say that they find cooking relaxing? That it's their hobby? I used to find remarks like that rather weird, and I saw it as more of a chore that my mother did because she had to do it, and skipped every so often when she was too tired.

That was before I actually tried to cook on my own.

There are certainly days when I am tired after work and maybe feeling a little sick and wish that my husband would come home before I did and make me a nice bowl of soup. But when I am well, and only mentally tired from work, I love to experiment in the kitchen. Try things that I haven't tried before. Change some ingredients around in a recipe. Of course, once every week or so, I do make something standard like a simple yellow dal (which I don't really like all that much but my husband can't go without it for too long) or aloo gobi (actually it's aloo broccoli for us, more often than not), but the rest of the time, I make something at least a little differently. Add a little lemon juice to my pasta. Chop some cubanelle peppers into my rajma. Bake my own bread. (I haven't done a regular bread, but I have tried my hand at pumpkin bread from a mix and cranberry orange bread from scratch. Both turned out pretty good.) It's fun. It's satisfying. It gives me a feeling of having created something on my own. And that is a feeling to be savored.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Tangled from Disney is a comic yet heartwarming take on the classic story of Rapunzel. It sees the princess trapped in a tower, not even knowing that she is a princess. She's never stepped out into the sunshine and she is led to believe that her captor is her mother. The king and queen, meanwhile, yearning for their lost daughter, release hundreds of floating lanterns into the sky each year on the princess's birthday.

The princess's way out of the tower turns out to be a bandit the royal guards are chasing, who is actually about as charming as a prince would have been. She discovers with him a whole new world with birds, butterflies, dangerous adventures, and, of course, love (It's a fairytale, what did you expect?).

The funniest part is that after the princess hits the bandit on the head with a frying pan (in self defence), the bandit also discovers the utility of a frying pan as a weapon. You have to see it for it to be funny. But it's an extremely cute and funny movie that touches the hearts of audiences of all ages. Definitely worth a watch.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Losing It

The byline of this book by Valerie Bertinelli says "And Gaining My Life Back, One Pound At a Time". Kind of leads a reader into believing that it is about how the author lost weight. Well, it is about that. But not entirely. It is a memoir of the television actress's life from the time she began to appear on television. It sees her through a rather early and not very well thought out marriage, motherhood, divorce, ups and downs in her career, and so much more.

Of late, I've found memoirs more interesting than fiction. There's just that much more depth to these books. I love reading authors who are really candid and truthful about the best and worst things that happened to them.

One of the best things about the book is that, even though she does things I would probably never do, I can still relate to her. Because everything that is going through her head is expressed so freely and articulately, I can completely (well, almost) understand why she does what she does.

When I see her on TV (I've only seen her on Hot in Cleveland), it's not very easy to imagine that she's the same person who's been through everything that she has written about in the book. But then, that's what good acting is all about, right?

It's a well written memoir that is heartfelt, though it may not necessarily be very touching. But it's an interesting read, because it is a window into the life of another person who is very different and yet, very similar to me.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thoughts For Today

Happy Diwali, people. Belated for those of you in India. Here it's still the fifth of November.

I know I've been away for too long when I start typing blo... and Internet Explorer no longer shows blogger.com in drop-down list. I don't think that's ever happened before.

Life's been keeping me busy. I come home from work and it's time to get down to other kinds of work. Which is, on most days, either cooking or exercise or both.

So anyway, I was reading this article on CNN news today about how modern brides are coming around to wearing colors other than white on their wedding days. Ivory is quite popular, but the article featured someone who wore lime green and blue.

This particular woman said that a wedding day, being as significant as it is, is a day to look your best and hence you should wear the colors that best complement your skin tone. I was thinking back to the time I was in the CTC Plaza picking my wedding lehenga. I picked the pink that I totally love. Pink with silver sequins and trims. Everyone who knows me knows I love that pink. I picked it because my mom and I both thought it complemented my skin tone beautifully. She and I don't agree on anything all that easily.

What that led me to think was, isn't it slightly strange that in India, where people are so much more reluctant to let go of traditional beliefs and rituals, especially when it comes to important occasions like weddings, we have been so much more flexible about which colors a bride can wear for her wedding in recent times? In my mother's day, it was usually restricted to red or pink. With gold trims. But these days we have all kinds of colors, ranging from the traditional reds and pinks to the less traditional baby pink, green, orange, purple, gold, silver-grey, and various combinations of these. I haven't seen anyone wear blue, but I'm sure people wear that too. Just a random thought that came to my mind.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In Memory

My paternal grandfather was the one grandparent of all four whom I was the most attached to. I did spend a lot of time with my other grandfather too, until he passed away back in 1991, but somehow never developed the kind of attachment, the kind of fondness, the same sort of relationship.

My grandfather took my brother and me out to the neighbourhood park in the evenings. Sometimes it was my grandmother who did that, sometimes it was both of them. He went with us to the PTA meetings at school when my dad could not take time off from work. My mom could hardly ever make it to those meetings because she was a schoolteacher herself and often had a PTA meeting at her own school on the same days.

My grandfather would often secretly give us extra pocket money without telling my grandmother. He would play with us inside and outside the house to the extent that he could. He was a talented athlete in his day, but weighed down by arthritis in all the years that I knew him. He would sit in the veranda of the house, sipping his tea, reading his paper, and talking to us in the mornings before school.

In recent years, he had been in and out of hospital for serious health issues often enough for us to be kind of mentally prepared for the impending eventuality. But you never know how well prepared you are until it actually happens. It hasn't really sunk in for me, even though it has been four days now. Because I'm so far away from my family. I haven't seen what the house is like without him. I haven't attended a family gathering when he was not there. I haven't really had a chance to say goodbye.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love: The Book

As some of you may be aware, I often read a good book after I watch and like or am intrigued by the movie based on it. I think it started with Sense and Sensibility when I was about thirteen years old. I'd tried to read that book two or three times but never managed more than six pages. Then I watched the movie, basically for Hugh Grant, and liked it and then made it all through the book soon afterwards.

So anyway, I'd decided that I'd finish reading Eat, Pray, Love before they released the movie, but I overshot by about a week. On the other hand, I didn't watch the movie in the meantime.

The book contains the memoirs of a woman, Elizabeth Gilbert, who goes through a divorce that leaves her with very little money (A divorce is generally a very expensive deal for whoever makes more money of the two people involved. In this case, Elizabeth was already a celebrity writer and making a lot more money than her husband.) and little or no mental balance. She decides to visit three places she's always wanted to visit. She wants to go to Italy and learn to speak Italian (not to mention eat all the pasta and gelato she can find), to India and practise meditation, and to Indonesia to learn from a medicine man. She could afford to travel for a whole year because her publishers gave her an advance on the book she would write about her travels.

The book is beautifully written, with a great amount of spiritual and emotional depth to it. The writer is candid and fearless in expressing her innermost thoughts, but never in a gross way. She touches the reader's hearts in a very unique way - she's doing all this stuff that her average reader couldn't possibly do for a whole year, but, even so, her average reader can relate to her because she's very human with the same kind of flaws and mental confusion like the rest of us.

She does have the kind of ideas about India that Americans often have - that we are a nation of extremely poor people for whom it is a big feat to be able to speak good English. That was the only part of the book that was a turn-off for me. But it certainly helps that she just mentions it in passing and doesn't dwell on it. She focuses, in all three parts of her journey, on the good things about her travels and the things she gains and learns from them. She demonstrates an extremely positive attitude and a willingness to improve her self and her life, especially for someone who has so recently been through so much pain in her life. Definitely recommended.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


When I was coming from India to the States with my then new husband, some of my friends from my workplace came to the airport to see me off. It was there that Aman gave me a CD of videos and pictures of my farewell from that job, which had happened a few weeks earlier.

That day, at the airport, they had a bunch of technical difficulties and their X-ray scanners were replaced by staff members manually checking every passenger's carry-on baggage. After I got home and unpacked over the course of the next few days while recovering from jet lag (Actually, I don't think I was ever really jet lagged. But I was kind of in a trance from weeks of sleep deprivation during the wedding planning, the actual wedding, and everything that needed to be done in the meagre, and now extremely blurry, ten days between the wedding and the flight to the States.) and adjusting to a whole new environment, I never saw that CD and thought I had lost it in all the commotion at the airport.

Then, a few days ago, I was cleaning out some stuff and I found it. I'm not sure where it was for the last fifteen months or so, but it was obviously somewhere in the house.

So, on Sunday, my husband and I watched the videos which showed me laughing and talking with my friends and then colleagues, accepting gifts from them, singing and laughing with them and threatening to beat them up at the slightest provocation.

My husband tells me that I was very lucky to find a group of friends like that in my workplace. The work culture here is drastically different, of course, but he never experienced that sort of thing in India either. It's a different industry, and perhaps that makes things different.

I had some really beautiful times at my old job. The team I worked with has since undergone a whole lot of changes, including reorganizations, new hires, and people leaving the company for bigger and better things. And, luckily for me, I left at a time when they were just reorganizing things in a big way. So I remember things for the way they always were - totally fabulous. I would never have wanted to work for a different boss or with a different set of coworkers after being in that setting. I would not trade the teammates who routinely made fun of me and passed all sorts of comments about me for anything else. Because they made the job worth doing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Of Food, Travel and TV

There is this thing called a lunchtime poll on the CNN news website which is a poll about people's eating habits and preferences. They'll ask you questions on things like how often you like to experiment by ordering something new and different at a restaurant.

So the other day, they had this poll on where you would like to travel to try out the local cuisine. They had a long list of options that covered almost every country whose cuisine I've ever heard anything interesting about. Except, perhaps Peru. So the leading choice of the users was, quite predictably, Italy, which I voted for. Next in line was France, and not too far behind, the second runner-up, was India.

Indian is actually a rather popular cuisine in a number of countries throughout the world, as I can tell by the number of non-Indian patrons at the good Indian restaurants here, and by the growing number of Indian cookery shows on the Food Network and the Cooking Channel. Now I've never actually seen these shows, because they air during time slots that are usually not convenient to me, but I have seen their recipes on the channels' websites and there are lots of good ideas there. They have this reality show where they hold a competition to choose "The Next Food Network Star" - someone who will have their own show on the Food Network - and this time, the winner was an Indian who is going to start another Indian cooking show soon.

Strange, then, that Indian television doesn't have an exclusive channel for food and cooking. There are so many different cuisines within the country, specific to various geographic regions, and people are increasingly open to trying out recipes from all across the country or even across the world that they haven't tried before. I've gathered a bunch of ideas from the Food Network shows and tried new ways of cooking pasta and doing new things with strawberries. If they had something like that in India, it would be something I would willingly watch. And I am someone who never really watched Indian television shows out of my own free will, I watched the Indian channels for the movies and the music videos, but I was mostly confined to Friends and The Big Bang Theory and Mr Bean as far as shows went.

Hachi: A Dog's Tale

This was actually a random movie we rented this weekend. We saw the preview on another DVD we rented earlier, and we thought we might like this one. Based on the preview, I thought it would be kind of like Marley & Me, a fun and sweet story of a dog and its owner which saw the two of them through various stages of their lives and became kind of emotional towards the end when the dog died. Well, I was wrong. This story has a different twist to it that I never expected. It took me by surprise. Even more so when I thought about the fact that it is based on a true story. I am not going to give that away for the sake of anyone who doesn't know the story and might want to watch the movie, but I do want to say that this was one of the most beautiful and emotional movies I have ever seen. I think my husband watched it thrice over in two days. It's a story that is all about loyalty, love, and always being there for those who are important to you. It's a story about all those qualities that we, humans, stand to learn from dogs. Definitely recommended.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's Been So Very Long Since...

...I had a wardrobe in which everything was just the right size for me. It's been close to four years that I've been losing weight, then sitting on a plateau (For the uninitiated, that's a widely used term for when you're trying to lose weight but your weight is more or less constant for a few weeks or longer.) for a while, and then losing again, and so on. I go shopping for a few outfits every time I drop a dress size. But there are always other things in my closet that are fairly new, too nice to throw out or donate, but a size (sometimes two sizes) too big.

There was certainly the time when I got married and didn't pack too many of my old clothes with me, but there was this thing about necessarily needing to buy 21 outfits sponsored by my parents and 11 sponsored by my in-laws. There was a point when I actually grew sick of fitting rooms and picked up a few things without trying them on. Naturally, a few of them were the wrong size. Some of those worked out well for me, though, because they were too small then and are just the right size now. But there really hasn't been a time as far back as I can remember when everything was just the right size.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's Been So Long Since...

...I danced at a wedding. Getting all dressed up for a wedding, dancing, feasting... it's all been so long. I have actually not worn Indian clothes in a really long while either. It just occurred to me that I wore a salwar-kameez exactly twice in the last fifteen months that I've been in the States - once on Karva Chauth and once on Diwali.

...I ate chikoos. We don't get them here at all. They have frozen ones at the Indian grocery store, but I'm not a big fan of frozen fruit. Frozen veggies are okay (actually they're good in some ways because they're already cut and peeled and have a longer shelf life) because you cook them and then they no longer feel like they were frozen to begin with.

...I ate burfi. We do get all kinds of sweets here, but they're not fresh like you would get from a local halwaai or a Haldiram's. They're often exported from Canada and they just don't taste like what burfi would taste like on the day you bought it fresh. We get good halwa and gulabjamuns and rasmalai and kheer at Indian restaurants, but not burfi or cham-cham or milk cake. It just occurs to me sometimes, usually I'm quite happy with my Boston Creme Pies and Chocolate crumb cakes and brownies.

The Great Thing About Window Shopping...

...is that it's one of the few things that I know of that can help me relax and that do not involve spending any money or adding on any calories to the day's tally. Sometimes, exercise does all that too, but it's not something I would really want to do towards the end of a tiring day, which is when you really need to relax. I've discovered that, if I'm at home, listening to music or reading, and there's food that's readily accessible, I'll want to stop what I'm doing and eat. I know, I think about food a lot. But that's just who I am. But if I am in the middle of a huge store browsing through clothes or shoes or books, I feel a certain amount of laziness when I think about going to the mall's food court or the bookstore's cafe. That is the good kind of laziness. And that's why I love window shopping.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Calming My Mind

Over the last week or so, I've had a bit of trouble with my sleep. I can fall asleep at night easily, but I get up and can't go back to sleep. The sun sure seems bright even at 4 AM and slips in through the blinds on our windows. And I can't fall asleep when the room is lit.

I am reading this book called Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. These are her memoirs of her travels through Italy, India and Indonesia - in that order. I am on the India bit right now. I'll write more on the book once I am done with it, but there is this interesting part that I want to talk about now.

She talks of this concept of a "monkey mind" - a mind whose thoughts behave like monkeys, jumping from one tree limb to another, stopping in between only to scratch themselves or howl. If you tell the monkey to just sit still in a corner, it just will not. But if you give it a pile of 10,000 buttons and tell it to move them from the pile to a new one, it just may do that.

If you try to meditate by just not thinking about anything, it's pretty hard. For a lot of people. Certainly is for me. But if you repeat a mantra over and over in your head, it kind of does the trick. The mantra doesn't have to be Om Namah Shivaya or something religious, it can be any random word that you pick up and choose to repeat. And you know what? It works. It's strange how I needed an American writer to re-enlighten me on the ancient wisdom from my own country. But it definitely helps relax my mind and fall asleep.

By the way, when I bought the book, I knew it was being made into a movie but I didn't know that the movie stars Julia Roberts. Now that I come to think of it, there was quite a stir in the Indian media surrounding her visit to India for the filming. This is one of those rare instances when I am reading the book before watching the movie.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Words to Eat By

I've learnt a lot about myself, food, and healthy eating in the last few years while trying to lose weight. Some of them were things that I kind of always knew at the back of mind, but let them stay at the back of my mind. Some are things that I learnt from other people who have gone through the same kind of thing, through online communities, and literature.

I was just thinking, a couple of days back, about how my friends and I used to eat at McDonald's all the time and not think about it. Now I've been reading up about the ingredients they use, the kind of oil they fry in, and the nutritional stats of their food. I still eat there occasionally, but only occasionally, and only because they are sometimes the only choice at freeway rest stops. I do like their barbecue chicken wraps a lot, though.

I've learnt that it always helps to know what you're eating and what goes into it in what quantity. If you're buying packaged food in India or another country where they don't always print the nutrition information on the package, they probably do still have a list of ingredients in there. Ingredients are generally listed in a logical order - the one listed first is the one that is used in the largest amount. That list does generally give you a pretty good idea about things.

I've learnt that the first bite of dessert tastes the same as the last bite. Unless it's a layer cake. What that means to me is that I don't need to eat a whole brownie, a whole bar of chocolate, or a whole cup of ice-cream to satisfy a craving. I can eat whatever I want, as long as I can practise portion control.

I've learnt that the pleasure derived from eating comfort food is a momentary and fleeting pleasure, while the pleasure of being able to fit into a size 8 (sometimes even 6!) top after years of wearing unmentionably large sizes is a pleasure that is a lot more permanent.

I've been too large for too long. When I go out shopping, I will sometimes still pick up a size "L" shirt to take into the fitting room, realize that it is too big, try on the medium, and finally settle for the small. It's a little more time consuming if they have the numbered sizes, because that means that I work my way from 12 all the way to 6 or 8. But I'm getting used to it. And it's a great feeling.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Of Food and Wisdom

How often do we come across customs and traditions that seem silly, or useless, or even counterproductive to us? Well, I, for one, certainly feel that way about a lot of Indian customs. But I'm not going to talk about those here. I'm going to talk about some that do make sense to me. Food and fasting.

We have this concept to Navratri where we eat only specific kinds of foods for nine days. It's supposed to prepare our bodies for eating differently with the onset of the changing season. Think about it. We all eat differently in the summer, in comparison to the winter. We could all use a few days of detoxification in the spring and in the, well, autumn. (Digression: It's not really autumn if the trees don't shed their leaves, is it? But let's just use the term to refer to the transition from summer to winter.)

One of my colleagues in India used to religiously observe a fast every Thursday when she would only eat fruit and vegetables from sunrise to sunset. Well, I am not sure of the technicalities, but you get the idea. Me, I always knew about the health benefits of this kind of thing, (If done right, not if used as an excuse to eat mounds of halwa and puris before sunrise and after sunset.) but I never really tried it myself. Sure, I always ate a light lunch, but I tried to include at least a little bit of protein - legumes - and a little bit of grain - rice or wheat - in my lunch. And I would allow myself to eat dessert whenever they made fruit custard in the cafeteria. It worked for me most of the time.

A few months ago, I had a couple of days of digestive distress and I got around it by eating only strawberries and carrots for lunch for two days. It works better than any medicine. It also tastes much better.

Ever since, I got into this habit of observing a detoxification day approximately once a week. Some weeks, I don't do it. Those are the weeks that I didn't go out to eat and didn't eat anything particularly fattening at home either. Some weeks, I do it twice a week. I don't have a fixed day of the week, but I do often end up doing it on Thursdays. Just like I would so often end up showing up at work in a yellow outfit on Thursdays (Apparently, that's what you're supposed to wear when you are observing the aforementioned Thursday fast.) when I was in India. Sometimes it's Tuesday. Sometimes Friday. It doesn't matter, because I don't do it to please a supernatural being. I do it to keep my digestive tract from turning into an overpowering being. It works really well for me. My rule for those days is, no processed food from 8 AM to 8 PM. That means no bread, chapatis, oil, or milk. No cookies or cake or ice-cream. Milk is pasteurised, so it is a processed food. Plain rice with vegetables without oil is allowed, but generally not eaten. I don't fret if I happen to break the rule. Because even if I did it for the last four hours, or will do it for the next four hours, some good is going to come out of it.

I like the way I follow the ancient wisdom without the rigid rules. Because that's the only way that it's a good thing for me.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

34 Bubblegums and Candies

So I've been reading Preeti Shenoy's blog for quite a while now but I never got around to reading her book. Funny, since I actually started reading the blog after I heard about the book. But I needed something to get me back on track with my reading. I needed something I could read in just a day or two. And something written by an Indian.

The book is a collection of thirty four real life experiences, each with an insight into human nature. Each is told straight from the heart, with no frills or flowery language. Just a simple, usually quite touching, true story. She talks about her children, her friends, her husband, her father, just about everyone who is anyone in her life. It's all so honest and so beautiful.

In the last chapter, the most touching one of all (for me, at least), she talks about how she became a writer and blogger. She talks of her great personal tragedy that spurred on a series of events that led to the book. It's a beautiful chapter, one I can sort of relate to, because I also started blogging after a rather sad incident in my life (though a much smaller tragedy than what Preeti talks about) which led me to become something of a reclusive, sad sort of person, very different from my usual self.

On the back cover of the book, it says that you will probably recognize yourself in some of the thirty four real life incidents. I did. And for me, that was the best thing about the book.

I do have a word of criticism here, though. The book could have used a little better editing to take care of a few minor grammatical errors and some unnecessary capitalization. Sorry, but that's the kind of thing I have the strongest urge to point out!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Out in the Open

In Delhi, I used to work out in the gym because, more often than not, it was too hot and too dusty to go outside. Here, I like going out in the open for a walk or a jog or, usually, a combination of the two. It's a lovely 64 F (18 C) outside. But it's been raining almost non stop for five days now.

Remember the bit in Pyaar Ke Side Effects where Mallika and Rahul Bose run into each other at the mall and he tells her that he came there for a walk, because in Mumbai there's more room for walking about in malls than in parks? It's also true for Delhi, I think. I used to go out to malls on weekends all the time. But it's certainly not true for suburban Massachusetts. I have a beautiful water reservoir (like a lake, not like a tank) about a mile away from here and I love taking a walk along its banks. But there is such a thing as too much rain.

Song of the Week

I have never been a big fan of Shakira's music, although I do think she has a really cute and charming smile. The Whenever Wherever or She Wolf of Hips Don't Lie kind of music is really not for me. But I happened to hear the Gypsy number recently, and I totally loved it. It has this wonderful, soothing feel to it. The music is not quite the kind you would play at a dance party, but the kind I listen to when I need to relax. It has a wonderful Latino flavor to it. And it has lyrics that, when I hum to myself, make me feel free of worldly worries.

Speaking of songs, I only recently got around to listening to the songs from Raajneeti. The Mora Piya number does not hold a candle to Mora Saiyyan by Fuzon (I can't help compare. Can you?) but it is a great song in its own right. It's one of those songs that is actually supposed to be sad, but somehow has a good feel to it. It makes me want to dance.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Prime Obsession

Prime Obsession by John Derbyshire is about the Riemann Hypothesis - one of the greatest unsolved problems in mathematics. I read about a dozen or so pages of the book before I bought it, and from that preview it seemed to be a book along the lines (actually, it seemed to be a lot better) of Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh - a book for people who don't need to have a background in advanced mathematics but do have an aptitude and an inclination towards the subject.

In the first chapter or so, the author explains his basic mathematical concepts so beautifully that even someone who has little aptitude for the subject can understand what he's talking about. He has his readers interested and waiting for more.

But after that preview is over, it gets rougher. Perhaps because the subject of the book is a lot more complicated than Fermat's Last Theorem or any of the other popular unsolved problems in mathematics. Perhaps because the author talks too much about the history of all the mathematicians and the places involved. It doesn't hold my attention that well.

I'm about halfway through this book - and this is the first book in a few years that I feel like leaving halfway - and I can't understand some of the mathematical ideas in it. Not like I don't know how he arrived at a certain conclusion, but like I firmly believe the conclusion is wrong. Well, some of this is because he's not presenting rigorous mathematical steps in a book that's not meant for rigorous mathematicians, but, even so, it leaves gaps in my understanding.

I must say that the author has made fairly commendable attempts to explain rather complicated concepts to readers with insufficient background in the subject. It just seems that a reader who wants rigorous mathematical proofs should look for a different book.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Shrek Forever After

I'm going to put down some random thoughts on this movie here. I'm not in the mood to write an actual review.

This one was quite different from the others in the series before it. It had a dramatically different theme, and a different moral of the story. The others were mostly trying to put across the fact that beauty is more than skin deep, and so is ugliness. But this one was about counting your blessings and being happy with what you have.

Isn't it strange, and yet so very common, for all of us to want exactly what we don't have? When Shrek was a feared ogre, he complained that nobody wanted to talk to him and everybody ran off at the sight of him. That they judged him even before they knew him. And when he had great friends and a loving family, he wanted to live like an ogre and be feared.

This movie puts forth a previously mostly unseen (except a little bit in the third episode), fierce, aggressive side of Fiona. I know a lot of people are going to find this weird and/or make weird comments on this, but this side of Fiona was so much more appealing to me. It showed her as a more independent woman who knew her own mind and did exactly as she wanted to.

This movie is not the kind of thing you would expect from a sequel to the first three movies. It seems to be a slightly different genre altogether. But it has its own appeal. And it is still a must-watch for Shrek fans.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Out Shopping

After a really long time, I went shopping today because I wanted to, not because I needed to. I wanted to buy myself a dress. Because I've wanted to wear dresses for a long time, but I kinda felt that they didn't look good on me when I was rather pudgy.

Now, having shed at least fifty pounds and four dress sizes in the last three years, I am in the mood to wear dresses as often as I can. Of course, the warm weather here is very short lived, but, as they say, make hay while the sun shines.

But guess what? I didn't find anything I wanted to buy. I don't want to wear the kind of dresses that American women wear so often - halters or spaghetti straps or 33 inch lengths (that's too short for my liking). I did, however, find a few that had none of these disqualifications and also appealed to me otherwise - in terms of fabric, print and fit. Well, almost fit. I didn't find the correct size in any of those. But you know what the great thing is? All the sizes were too large for me. I could fit into the smallest sizes for a few styles that I tried on, just to see if what size would fit me correctly. Now, of course, the smallest size in an American clothing store is not the same as the smallest size in an Indian one, but this is still a big, huge deal for me.

So I'm happy today. Even though I didn't buy anything after a three hour shopping trip. So what's the problem? How do I celebrate? I don't celebrate this kind of success by eating something special. Shopping for something nice to wear was the only way I knew!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thoughts For Today

So now we've moved to our new apartment and things are beginning to settle down. We spent our first week in an apartment with no cable TV and no Internet and a lot of our stuff waiting to be unpacked. After the weekend, things are beginning to shape up.

In the midst of all this I achieved a personal milestone which most of my good friends will know the significance of. For the first time since I was a little kid, I'm now in the healthy weight range for my height.

I was grossly overweight through most of my senior school years and college. I've been trying to make amends for about three years now. In these three years, I've been through weight loss phases, plateaus (that's when the weight refuses to decrease any further), and also put some of it back on around the time I got married. But early in 2010, I found a renewed resolve to take the weight off and keep it off. I still want to tone up a little and drop another ten pounds or so, but what I have now is a big achievement for me.

Trying to lose weight in the States is not the same as trying to do it in India. It's a lot easier here. You can actually eat all your favorite foods, because they have reduced fat or fat free versions of everything, from chocolate brownies to ice cream. The government requires manufacturers to have nutrition information printed on all packaged food items. A lot of restaurants post their nutrition information online. It's also easier to find whole grain pasta, brown rice, and other whole grain food products. Whole grains are a big help if you're trying to lose weight or just eat healthier. They have more vitamins and minerals, they have more fiber, which means you feel more full, and whole grain pasta actually has a lot of protein too.

This is not where I'm going to stop. I'm going to drop another few pounds and then keep it all off. But, of course, once things settle down at home, I'm going to go shopping for new clothes first.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Reflections on a Year Gone By

It's hard to believe it's already been a year since I stepped into the pink lehenga and out of my parents' home. We set up home here, in a foreign land, and are about to take it apart and set up a new one. Such is life.

The year has taught both of us a lot. About each other and about marriage and relationships. About learning not to sweat the small stuff. And to tell the small stuff apart from the big. About being patient with each other. Doing little things for each other.

I know this is a bit of a cliche, but you don't really understand it until the time you experience it for yourself. Marriage is not always smooth sailing. You have to make adjustments and compromises. But it's all worth it. When you see the smile on your partner's face when you do something special for him, that makes it worth it. When you feel the warmth in your heart when he does the same for you, that makes it worth it. When you know there's at least one person in the world you can always count on, no matter what. When you know there's one person with whom you can discuss all your fears and worries and share all your joys.

That's what marriage is about. Knowing that you have a companion on the journey called life.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


We’ve had a major bed bug infestation in our apartment. I'd never really heard too much about this kind of thing, because it's not very common in India. They can't survive above 45 C and they don't like dusty places. Ha. You would think you were less likely to have bugs if your apartment was clean.

Apparently these little vampires spread over from neighboring apartments - that's one of the many ways in which they spread - and they reproduce so fast you really can't imagine it. A female can lays about 5 eggs a day. Plus, they can live for 18 months without food.

The building management has had the exterminators come in and treat the apartment twice and we did it once ourselves. But it doesn't really help too much. Strong pesticides like DDT are illegal here. The others don't really kill them, because they can go and hide in the neighbors’ apartment and then come back once the pesticide wears off. Now you have an infested apartment and infested neighboring apartments. There’s also some rubbing alcohol that can be sprayed on them, but you have to spray it on the bug to kill it. It’s just not humanly possible to spray every single bug, given the rate at which they multiply.

They can nest in anything wooden, paper, or fabric. Now we're going to move and discard everything that might be infected and cannot be treated. Clothes can be treated by running them in the dryer on high heat. But that's about all. Clothes, kitchen utensils. That’s it. We can't take anything else with us. We have to part with almost brand new furniture that we spent thousands of dollars on. Plus we have to part with bed linen, some of which was a gift, and stuffed toys, greeting cards, picture frames - just about everything of sentimental value. We’re not even sure how safe it is going to be if we take our passports, academic certificates and other papers with us, but that is a risk we have to take.

Anyway, we have been apartment hunting and we have found a couple of places we like. We’re just trying to get out of here as soon as we can.

Anyway, I know I'm rambling on too much about this, but that’s how life is these days. But hey, what has happened has happened. Can’t do anything about it, can we? Just trying to accept it and move on with life.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A First - A Weird One

In Delhi, I've stopped my car because there were cows in the middle of the road, even donkeys or pigeons (right in the middle of the DND flyway, when I was coming at almost 80 kmph, and the car behind me was at 80 kmph), but I did not expect that kind of thing out here. Well, what do I have? A big, fat, probably quite juicy turkey crossing the road in a leisurely fashion just inches away from my car! Now that's a first.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Choice

After the disaster called The Inheritance of Loss, I sought comfort in the soothing familiarity of a Nicholas Sparks novel. The Choice is about a loving couple whose lives are turned around by a car accident in which the husband escapes with minor injuries but the wife slips into a coma, leaving him to take care of himself and their two young daughters.

It is a typical Nicholas Sparks story with all the usual elements - undying, relentless love, hoping against hope, lasting togetherness through sun and rain. Well written, as usual. With a twist in the story near the end that tells the reader of the choice that the husband is faced with. Like the other Sparks novels, a twist appears near the end of the story which makes the readers feel for the characters even more than before, makes the readers weep with the characters. A beautiful story that touches your heart.

But, well, I think I'm done with Nicholas Sparks for quite a while now. His stories are way too similar to each other. Plus, the promos of The Last Song that I see on TV all the time kind of put me off. I don't know why Miley Cyrus has that effect on me. But this post is not about her. I was talking about Nicholas Sparks. Speaking of whom, I did watch Nights In Rodanthe recently on TV, and it was pretty good. Okay, now I'm just rambling. So here's the thing. If you haven't read anything by Sparks, you must read The Notebook, and The Choice would also make a good read. If you've read a lot of his work already, there's nothing much that's new here, but it's still a good read.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Eat Healthy, Think Better

I don't understand the eating habits of Americans. I mean, they'll eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch (which is not entirely unhealthy but not the healthiest of lunches either), with a side of pretzels or chips, and a cup of yogurt. And they'll pick the fat free yogurt. I mean, hey, there's a bag of pretzels that you're eating, there's all this other stuff loaded with fat and carbs, and how many calories can there really be in that tiny 6 oz cup of yogurt?

I was just thinking, today, that it's so much easier to pack a healthy lunch than one that is unhealthy, if you're preparing either from scratch. Chop a few veggies, boil some chicken in water, mix it all up into a soup or salad (save the chicken broth for later). But there are all these processed foods and takeout lunches loaded with stuff that's not good for you which make people choose convenience over health.

I heard something about how McDonald's switched over to using peanut oil for frying and then switched back to using animal fat and how people who were vegetarians or those who were worried about their health made a ruckus about it. Hello, if you're concerned about your health, why are you eating at McDonald's in the first place and why are you picking the one thing that contributes a drop in the ocean?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Winter Like No Other

It's the last day of February, for crying out loud! If I were in Delhi, I'd have put away my warm clothing almost a month ago. Those who know me well would know that I generally dress less warmly than those around me. But now I'm surrounded by people who are used to the -5 F weather that we had around here for a while, and who are now roaming about with very light jackets in 40 F weather. These women will wear mini skirts, Capri pants and open sandals in this weather. And it's still snowing. Well, not today, but it was snowing yesterday. So I'm still wearing boots (Boots! I never wore anything other than open toed sandals in India, except in the gym or on trekking trips. I would never even wear socks. I didn't even own a pair of socks!) most of the time, and fairly warm jackets which protect from the wind.

And here's the worst part. It rains the day after it snows. The snow melts. So I don't see the pretty, white, Christmassy scene outside my window. I see dull, brown, withered grass and trees. When will spring come?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Inheritance of Loss

It had been a while since I'd read anything by an Indian author and I happened to pick up The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. To say that I was disappointed would be putting it mildly.

I don't know how or why I managed to read the whole thing. It was a huge waste of my time. The book does not entertain, it does not grip the reader's attention, it does not have any life lessons for me to learn from it.

It's set amidst the Gorkha movement for an independent state for the Indian Nepalis (or Nepali Indians, whatever). I've read and liked stuff set amidst riots, like Lajja, and also, Mr and Mrs Iyer is still one of my all time favourite movies, but this one just did not speak to me. It has a narrative that keeps jumping back and forth between three or four different times and places in a way that just fails to grip the reader's attention or keep the pages turning. I mean, The God of Small Things also jumps about, but Arundhati Roy has her own way of keeping you glued to the book and making you want to read it again the instant you finish reading it. Kiran Desai doesn't. In various parts of the narrative, she's not sure whether she's addressing an Indian audience or an international one. Her characters are very difficult to relate to. She doesn't develop them well enough. It's hard to believe that a group of Indians living in a small town at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the 1980s, even those who have returned from foreign countries, would be eating tuna fish and bacon and pudding and scones all the time and would be celebrating Christmas properly, complete with the exchange of Christmas presents.

Then there are certain episodes in the story which do not add to the plot development and are just plain gross. Only a perverted mind would add such episodes to a novel when there was no apparent reason for them to be there. Disgusting.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Special Evening

So yesterday my husband and I were celebrating Valentine's Day and also the anniversary of the day we first met. It's hard to believe that it's already been a year. One whole year of loving each other, annoying each other, of just being with each other.

We went out for this spectacular Boston Harbour Dinner Cruise to celebrate the occasion. Dinner on a cruise ship, champagne, roses, chocolate dipped strawberries (those were so yummy!), live music (Great music. Nothing like the cheap sounding live music you hear at Indian weddings sometimes.). And amazing views of the Boston coastline. We went upstairs all the way to the observation deck, which was open from all sides. We were chilled to the bone, obviously, given the 26 F weather, the 20 mph wind, and the fact that it's always colder at sea than on land. But the view was worth it. And so was everything else.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Very Indian

Why are Indians so overly eager to deem things to be Indian or to classify them to be made by Indians? I just read something on one of the Indian news websites about how Couples Retreat is a movie with a soundtrack by A. R. Rahman. Really? Two songs out of fifteen make it his soundtrack, do they? Much as I like his music, this is just not true.

I'm sure everybody recalls how Slumdog Millionaire was plastered all over the Indian press as an Indian movie that got recognized internationally. The producers, screenplay writer, and director were all English. True, they did have an Indian assistant director, and a number of Indians in the cast, but you know, that doesn't make it Indian?

Being a country that's well on its way to becoming the most populous nation in the world, don't we have enough things that are actually ours? And if we don't, what does that say for the country?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is the story of a girl who lost her mother at a very young age and later, in her teen years, sets out on a quest to find out more about her. Set in the 1960s in South Carolina, a time when the Civil Rights Act had been passed but not yet actually enforced, it speaks of a time dotted with incidents of black-white discrimination. The protagonist, Lily, has a governess, Rosaleen, who is black, and a father who is often mean and even cruel to her. Lily and Rosaleen, through a series of events, end up in the house of three black sisters, the eldest of whom knew Lily's mother quite well. The sisters agree to house, feed and clothe Lily and Rosaleen and teach Lily about beekeeping, which is their own little business.

A beautifully written, powerful, compelling story about mothers and daughters, about the idea of family, about breaking through the barriers of race and colour. Although ridden with grammatical errors here and there, (It's hard to break that habit. I do notice them and they do bother me sometimes.) it's a story that will appeal to women of all ages and ethnic groups, to mothers and daughters everywhere. The writer takes us on a journey through her protagonist's mind and her thoughts, showing us how messed up her life is, how flawed and human she is, just like the rest of us, and also, how much she needs to be loved and to live a life of dignity. The narrative has the mark of a good book, which is to make the readers feel the characters' pain and joy as they go along, and this is a quality that makes the book hard to put down.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Love The One You're With

Love The One You're With by Emily Giffin is the story of a married woman who runs into her most serious ex-boyfriend on the street and revisits her feelings for him. He sends a wonderful professional opportunity her way, and it leads to the two of them spending time together and keeping in touch over the phone and e-mail.

Set primarily in New York City and Atlanta, this is a story filled with incidents, which, if looked at independently, would lead you to think that the heroine was selfish and disloyal. But the character development in the book is so well done that you connect to her, you relate to her, you know why she's doing what she's doing. Not like Love Aaj Kal, where the character development is so pathetic that the heroine looking for her first love after she marries someone else comes across as selfish and a little ridiculous.

When I shut the book closed at the end, I felt good about it all. There's a certain feel-good factor to it all. It's a story that tells you that everyone is human, everyone makes mistakes, but if you want to, if you really want to, it's never too late to make amends.

I really like the last sentence of the novel where she says that love is about the sum of our choices, the strength of our commitments, the ties that bind us together.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Do You Know How Much You Eat?

I recently began tracking my food intake throughout the day in an attempt to analyze my diet. I've only been doing it for about a week, and there are some surprising things I came across. Even with my diet consciousness and efforts towards healthy eating, my total calorie intake in a day was just above the recommended daily allowance of 2000 for the average adult female. How come? It's pretty simple, actually. Unless you actually write down everything you eat, you're more than likely to miss out adding up the calories in some of it. I generally worry about the calories in things I eat for pleasure, like chocolate. I don't count the calories in the milk I drink every morning. They are still there, of course.

Then there are the little snacks at various points of time in the day. There are hundreds of options for healthy (and otherwise) snacks which come packaged in 100 calorie snack bags. Even the healthiest of these will add calories. Normally, the average person would overlook counting those. But they do add up.

Have you ever tried to see if you're getting enough of every kind of nutrient in your diet? Enough protein, enough fat, enough carbohydrates? Or, for that matter, enough water? Most of us don't get enough water during the day. I realised that I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, but I don't eat enough protein on most days, except the days when I eat chicken or fish, which is only about twice a week.

I think everyone should do this for at least a week. Write down everything you eat. Absolutely everything. And then see how much of what you're eating. You may be surprised at the result. You may see something very evident that you need to change about your eating habits.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Google it!

Last night, there was this documentary on one of the news channels about Google. We didn't watch the full one-hour feature because it was late and we were sleepy, but in the middle of it, I asked my husband, "How did we live before Google?"

Google has become as everyday as food and water for most of us. Stuck with a coding issue? Google it. Want to find a fancy restaurant for a special dinner? Google it. Want to know where to learn to play the guitar? Google it.

Well, of course, Google has become synonymous with searching the Internet, but there are so many other things I probably can't live without. Gmail. Google reader. Google news. Google maps. Picasa. YouTube. And, of course, not to forget, Blogger. And this is true for a large percentage of educated people, ranging in age from school children to those in their sixties. Barring those like a certain friend of mine who use Windows Live for blogging and react in strange ways when enquired about the existence of a Gmail account in their name.

Google is what we turn to when we need information for something we're doing at work. It's what we turn to when we need entertainment. It's what we go to when we need to express ourselves. It's also where we go and Google our own name when we have absolutely nothing better to do with our time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Friends, Marriage and Other Such Things

A few of my friends from college (and I) keep in touch with each other through a regular exchange of e-mail messages. That's been a significant mode of communication for a while now. It helps get things across to everyone at the same time.

When we started out, none of us were formally engaged or married. In the last twelve months, five out of the six of us have taken the pheras and the sixth is now about to exchange rings. What struck me as interesting is that everyone now signs their e-mails with a "Avantika & Mrinal" (both fictitious names) type of sign-off, rather than just their own name. The thing is, it's not just about the signature, is it? It's about just about everything under the sun. What you do, what you eat, when you sleep, when you get up, where you go, where you don't go, what you buy, what you don't buy... just about every decision is now made together. Sometimes that makes the decision easier, sometimes that makes it more difficult. Sometimes it makes life more interesting, sometimes it makes it duller. Either way, it is what constitutes the essence of marriage. Togetherness. Doing things together. Having dinner together. Going out together on weekends. Being together. That's what it's all about.

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Cup of Coffee

In India, I'd never really experienced the idea of coffee waking me up. It was always mostly psychological. I would think that a cup of coffee would wake me up, and it would. For about half an hour.

I don't know what it is, if the coffee here is that much stronger, or if my body is no longer quite as accustomed to the caffeine, but a single cup of coffee early in the morning keeps me wide awake until about ten in the night. A cup after noon leads to restless sleep.

I remember how we would sometimes make cold coffee on summer evenings at home and sleep peacefully after that. I would drink cold coffee as often as I could, as opposed to hot, except at work where we didn't have cold coffee. There was the time when Abhinav conjured up a cup for me with water from the water cooler, milk powder, coffee powder and sugar.

The reason why I'm rambling on about this is that I like coffee. The aroma, the flavour, the feel of it. I like the variations we get at Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. The peppermint mocha, the caramel latte, the hazelnut flavour, the cinnamon... I have a strong urge for a cup right now but it's half past five in the evening. It feels like much later than that because the sun set an hour ago and I'm not yet used to that kind of variation in the length of the day - it goes from fifteen to sixteen hours in the summer to nine hours these days.

Anyway, the point is, I feel like drinking coffee but it already feels like nighttime and I know I won't be able to sleep if I get some right now. Maybe just a sniff at the jar of coffee powder. Or maybe a hint of it in a hot chocolate drink. Hmmm...

Song of The Week

After I saw the promo of Veer with the sight of Salman Khan putting me off more than ever before, I had no inclination to listen to the music of the film. But I happened to listen to a few tracks, and it is one of the most soothing albums I've heard in a while. There is a song or two that does not sound like it belongs in a period film, but all of them are good in their own right.

So I really liked Surili Akhiyon Waale. I haven't heard anything new by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in a few months (The last time was probably Main Aur Mrs Khanna or Dekh Bhai Dekh), and this is a good track to break the spell with. As long as it's just the audio. I haven't seen the video, don't want to see it. Don't want to imagine that this song is in praise of Salman Khan's eyes!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Random Little Things That I Miss...

...about my single life in India:
  • Having someone to cook for me. I mean, it's good to be able to cook for yourself and make exactly what you want to eat, but at least once in a while you want to eat something cooked by someone else who does not cook for a living, and you want to not know what's for dinner.
  • Sometimes, when I'm feeling sleepy towards the evening and I debate whether or not to get some coffee, I miss having friends and colleagues around me who would get it for me without even asking me.
  • This doesn't get said enough. I miss the Hindi radio channels that make you listen to all sorts of useless bantering about movies and movie stars, and songs that you love and songs that you hate.
  • Easily available chaat and other things savoury that you don't have to put together yourself.

And the stuff I think I will miss when I go back to India:

  • Low fat versions of just about every food item. Low fat salad dressing, reduced fat Oreo's, reduced fat muffins and doughnuts and what not. And the milk that comes with exactly as much fat as you want - skim, 1% fat, 2% fat, or whole.
  • Easy access to Mexican food.
  • Snow outside my window.
  • Easy access to original DVD rentals from Netflix.
  • The huge bookstores.

Monday, January 11, 2010

3 Idiots

I read somewhere that 3 Idiots has made more money in the US than any other Bollywood movie. It sure looks like it. In our neighbourhood cinema complex, where Hindi movies rarely last more than a week, and where I saw Wake Up Sid in an auditorium with about twenty people on a Saturday night, this movie is still running with packed audiences in its third week.

Totally worth it. In spite of Kareena Kapoor, who had suddenly turned into a tolerable, almost good actress with Jab We Met and then began to go downhill again. She's done a good job here. Though, of course, not half as good as Sharman Joshi and not a quarter as good as Aamir Khan. I love the way he works on just one film every year and then delivers a wonderful film towards the last few weeks of each year. Last year, I went out to watch Ghajini in theatres twice. The year before that, I went to watch Taare Zameen Par twice.

Aamir's character in the film is just so great. He's innocent, dreamy, inventive, innovative, and super intelligent. And he has this huge desire to actually learn. And he's also a little mischievous. He's about as close to a perfect guy as you can find. But the way the story has been handled is so crafty, nobody steals the show single handedly. Each character has their own importance in the plot, and it shows. Boman Irani with his Daffy Duck like slurred speech and his crazy scientist hair is just so funny. And the character they call "Chatur" adds a new, fun angle to the story.

When we came out of the movie hall, I heard a teenage boy humming All Izz Well as he jogged towards his car. It's been a while since I heard someone do something like that. Made me feel all the more at home.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Random Questions

What, exactly, is the whole point of decaf? I mean, people drink coffee to stay awake. They drink it for the caffeine. Why would someone want to drink decaf?

What happened to the days when I could eat all kinds of stuff without worrying about how I look or what I'm doing to my health? Those good old days of childhood and early adulthood.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Body Surfing

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve is another book I picked up based only on the pitch on the book jacket, without any feedback from anyone I know. This is the story of a woman, Sydney, who, at age twenty nine, is already once divorced and once widowed. She finds herself a job tutoring a high school student, Julie, with whom she strikes up a good friendship. She finds, with her student's family, a sense of belonging. She takes a liking to Julie's father and also develops a romantic attachment with one of her brothers. It looks like this just might be the happy ending Sydney had always wanted and deserved, but fate has other plans.

Anita Shreve has a unique storytelling style, which takes a while to get used to. In places, her narrative does not flow linearly, jumping back and forth in time. She pays close attention to the descriptions of mundane details like the flowers in the garden and the linen on the tables. She also pays a lot of attention to everything that goes on through her characters' minds, whether or not it directly contributes to the story.

Once you get the hang of it, her story flows easily, keeping the pages turning quickly. She gives you characters you may or may not be able to relate to, but ones you care about. She makes you want to find out what happens to them next.

I think this is only the second book I read that was set in places I know and have been to, the first being Five Point Someone. Well, The Sari Shop was set in Amritsar and I've been there too, but I was there only for a few hours and I never went to the bazaars that the author talks about, so I don't think that counts. This book is set mostly in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and I've seen the places mentioned in it. Helps visualize things in my head.

Anita Shreve is apparently the author of more than a dozen bestselling books. This is the first one I read. I'll say I liked it enough to want to try out some of her other work.

Friday, January 1, 2010

What I've Been Doing

I always knew I wanted to write. I always wanted to publish a book, and I still do. But I have discovered that writing fiction is very different from writing non fiction. And my talents lie in non fiction. I have exclusively been writing non fiction ever since my school days. In recent times, I spent a lot of my time doing some freelance writing. You will see some links on the sidebar on my blog. Those links are there so you can read whatever I write in various places online.

But before I started doing all that, I did spend some time trying to put together a story. I started out with one, and went on to write two. Neither one was quite as good as I had hoped. But I would still like to share both of them with my friends, who have also been loyal readers of my blog. And I would still like to continue to work towards my dream of being a published writer. I am going to keep my friends and readers updated on my latest adventures and misadventures. Until then, keep reading my blog, and read my stories at your own risk.

Love, Marriage and Other Such Oddities is a semi autobiographical account of the phase when I saw a lot of people around me get married, and was led to believe, by my family, that it was high time that I did too. There are arranged marriages and love marriages happening in today's India, and there are about as many distinct stories of, and as many distinct reasons for getting married, as there are people.

PS: Certain people I know were rather interested to know who I would or would not thank in the acknowledgements section. The thank-yous are at the end of the book.

PPS: The cover picture is from my friends' engagement, and I sincerely hope they do not mind the fact that I used their picture for the cover.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

This movie is the sequel to a movie about three chipmunk brothers who can talk, and even sing, and become international pop stars. In the squeakquel, as they call it, the three find love in the shape of three unbelievably cute and charming female chipmunks who can also sing. They also learn a thing or two about life, about the importance of teamwork, caring for others' feelings, and being there for each other.

I would have to say that I liked the first movie better, but I guess that was mostly because of the novelty factor. The second one has too many people in it, which creates a bit of a jarring distraction. Even so, it has some really cute scenes, especially the conversations between Theodore (the littlest male chipmunk) and Eleanor (the littlest female chipmunk). And the one where Alvin tries to kiss Simon. Cute family movie which has a little something for everyone.