Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Book Review: Red Turban White Horse by Nandini Bajpai

I picked up an Young Fiction book after a long time and I must admit I did enjoy reading it :) The book's blurb reads: "Can a teenager plan a Big Fat Indian Wedding - in America? It's been several years since mom died-and dad's raised Mini to know more about computers, calculus, and cars than desi weddings-but ever since Mini saw the jewelry mom left them she's wanted her sister to have the wedding mom would have planned. Dad's tech start-up means a shoe-string budget, but Mini has her old Mini Cooper, her new driver's license, her stellar sense of style, and two months of summer vacation to get it done. And she's not letting the persistent, mysterious, and smoking hot Vir distract her, either. Flower garlands, decorations, catering, clothes, even a white wedding horse-everything is in place. But a monster hurricane is headed for Boston and it could blow the whole band, baja, and baraat away..."

The book is written in a simple and easy-to-read fashion. It is the story of Mini and her elder sister Dr. Vinnie Kapoor who falls in love with Dr. Manish Iyer. Mini is entrusted with the task of planning her sister's wedding at Boston from start to finish within a short deadline. What made the book eminently readable was the author's unique way of presenting the story including putting in newspaper cuttings and e-mails which take the story forward.

As with any other Indian wedding, Mini faces the task of organizing and arranging the mandap, clothes, food, lighting, music, transportation and logistics, etc. What makes it interesting is the fact that it is an inter-caste wedding. What makes it even more interesting is the fact that a good-looking guy Vir is sending her "I am interested in you" signals.

The author's writing style is such that the reader can actually imagine the setting - be it the lake where Mini goes for her daily jog or the temple where the wedding is being held. Since the author is staying in Boston, she has mentioned a lot of local places which add to the charm.

On the flipside, the book could do with some better editing. And since the story is based out of Boston, some local references were not so clear to me.

On the whole, however, the book is a good, enjoyable read. I liked being a part of Mini's journey through all the ups and a few downs as she set out to make the most important day in her sister's life memorable.

I was provided a review copy of the book by the online magazine Helter Skelter.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Book Review: In the company of a poet – Gulzar in Conversation with Nasreen Munni Kabir

I bought this book at The Times Literary Carnival 2012 where Gulzar was in conversation with the author about this book in particular and other general topics. He came across as a humble and easy-going person despite his stellar achievements. He was patiently signing autographs for all those who pushed forward their books at him. I, too, managed to obtain it.
The book’s blurb reads: “In this book of conversations, Gulzar speaks with insight, candour and gentle humour about his life and work: his school days in Old Delhi, where he wrote his early poems; working in a garage in Mumbai before entering films; his association with legends such as Bimal Roy, Balraj Sahni, Sahir Ludhianvi, Meena Kumari, Shailendra, S. D. Burman, Hemant Kumar, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Lata Mangeshkar and R. D. Burman, among others; his love of tennis; and his deep connection with his wife, the legendary actor Rakhee, his daughter Meghna and his grandson Samay.”
The book is written in the form of conversations between Nasreen Munni Kabir (NMK) and Gulzar where the author also lets us know if, during their conversation, Gulzar has laughed or smiled at a particular sentence or if something has irritated him. I found this quite unique compared to the other biographies which are more of a monologue by the author.
The book, interviews for which were done mostly by Skype as NMK is based out of London, tells us, in Gulzar’s words, his birth at a place called Dina in current Pakistan, his coming to Delhi and subsequently Mumbai, how he used to read books by a lantern rented from a second-hand bookseller, his association with Bimal Roy as an assistant, his gradual movement to lyrics, screenplay writing and eventually direction. Since the book is in a conversational style, it does not follow any particular format or chronology. One can peruse just about any page of the book at will without having to read it from start to finish in one go. However, I managed to complete it within a day; such is its allure - I kept on turning the pages wishing to unearth some more gems :)
Though most of the information mentioned in the book is publicly available, what makes it interesting and eminently readable is the tidbits that Gulzar adds to it. For instance, we learn that Lata Mangeshkar found the line “Aap ki badmaashiyon ke ye naye andaaz hain” from the film Ghar most interesting. As a result, we can hear her laugh when she sings this line in the song. We also learn the origin of his daughter's name as Bosky and why he took on a pen-name Gulzar (his real name is Sampooran Singh Kalra).
Gulzar shared a wonderful relationship with Meena Kumari. She would make him sit by her side and ask him to read the scene to her while they were making Mere Apne. In fact, Gulzar started fasting during Ramzan for the full thirty days as Meena Kumari was very unwell and unable to fast. Gulzar told her he would fast on her behalf and they would share the blessings. Gulzar considered Bimal Roy as his mentor and learnt a great deal from him. It was because of him that he dared to venture into direction. He also fondly remembers his associations with RDB and Asha Bhosle, his tennis friends whom he meets every morning and his other online friends who maintain a website on his behalf.
Interspersed through the book are examples of his poetry such as: “Roz akeli aaye roz akeli jaaye, Chaand katora liye bhikhaaran raat, Roz akeli aaye roz akeli jaaye”, “Lagta hai kamzor sa peela chaand bhi shayad, Peepal ke sukhe patte sa, Lehraata lehraata mere lawn main aa kar utrega” and “Aankhon ko visa nahin lagta, Sapnon ki sarhad hoti nahin, Bandh aankhon se roz chala jaata hoon, Sarhad paar main milne Mehdi Hassan se”.
The book also brings forth the involvement Gulzar has as a lyricist in the making of a film including giving suggestions where he feels a song’s placement is not suitable. There’s also quite a bit of philosophy in the book which is quite natural considering it is Gulzar who is talking. For instance, he says, “Mood and temperament are different things. Temperament is a combination of personality and attitude, and moods are lived moments.”
Gulzar comes across as an extremely well-read person with an immense interest in literature and theatre which continues to be his first love. He often liberally quotes other authors and poets throughout the book including Rabindranath Tagore, Ahmad Faraz, Mirza Ghalib, etc.
Gulzar holds the record of having received the greatest number of Filmfare Awards for a combination of Screenplay, Dialogue, Direction and Lyrics. Talk about multi-tasking!!!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I learnt quite a lot about the lyricist with whom I have been fascinated for a long time. But more than the information, what stands out vividly is the humility of this great individual – his easy approachability, his gratefulness for the friends he has and his love for literature. He started writing lyrics in the early 1960s and continues to this day; it is to his credit that he has evolved and changed to suit the modern times and has made himself relevant even today. Though most of his fans, including yours truly, remember his earlier compositions with fond nostalgia (Read about my top five favourite songs here: http://pallosworld.blogspot.in/2013/08/happy-birthday-gulzar-saab.html).
Reading the book now makes me want to listen to every song ever penned down by him, watch every movie for which he has written the screenplay and/or dialogues and also the movies which he has directed. It also makes me want to read all the poetry books he has written including his translations of other poets such as Tagore. So much to do, so little time! Sigh.
I leave you with this explanation of Gulzar of why he wakes up at five: "I wake up at five when it is still dark. I want the sun to look for me instead of my looking for the sun. Just as the first serve in tennis can be advantageous., so the first serve must be mine. The second goes to the sun."

Book Review: A Maverick Heart: Between love and life by Ravindra Shukla


The book’s blurb reads: “Resonance – We often use the term, “frequency matching” in our daily life to define compatibility. Our frequency does not match, we do not get along? We are not in sync? We are not on the same page etc.?
When people of similar frequencies (wavelengths or within the same range) come together – output is not a simple sum of individual work, but exponential. In science we term this phenomenon as resonance. Output at this stage is beyond any logical limit.
Three young kids, with different family backgrounds and outlook meet during their graduation days at IIT-Bombay campus and become close friends. Although, individually they are in sync, but the same is not true for their interaction with the world.
How will their relation withstand the conflict of family and society pressure?
How do their characters shape out, as they traverse from an educational environment through the corporate world to the realm of the socio-political world?
Inspired by the real events across the globe from the last decade, Ravindra Shukla brings you the characters based story – struggle and triumphs of a young generation and their relevance in the current socio-eco-political era.”
The book deals with the lives of Rahul, Richita and Neerav – three students at the prestigious IIT-Bombay who enter the engineering college with big dreams in their eyes and wanting to make something of their lives. During their academic sessions, Rahul and Richita get attracted to each other and fall in love. Neerav and Rahul become best buddies.
The author has described their interaction well, in addition to painting a realistic picture of the campus as well, including the famous lake where Rahul and Richita spend a lot of time discussing about their dreams and their future.
Do Rahul and Richita come together? Will they convince their respective families for this alliance considering they are barely qualified engineers? What importance does money play while deciding a career vis-a-vis wanting to contribute to society and make a change? Can both these meet at a common point? Does having a lot of degrees make you a better person? Can you truly forget your first love and move on with your life? How do you measure success – by your material possessions or by the impact your work has made on your surrounding environment? These are some of the questions Ravindra seeks to explore in this book.
His writing style is easy-going; the three main characters have been well-developed and you are interested in knowing more about their lives as the book progresses. Since the author himself is an engineering graduate, he has written quite in detail about the technical aspects.
The only negative for me was that I felt the book resembled the movie Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi a lot – it, too, talks about some of the points I mentioned above including the critical decision – to sell your soul for money or to enter the social sector without any financial concerns.
This book review is a part of "The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program". To get free books log on to thereaderscosmos.blogspot.com.

Happy Birthday Gulzar Saab

As Gulzar Saab turns 79 on 18th August, I list down five of my favourite songs composed by him. The beauty of his writing is how evocatively he is able to present things across to us - be it love, separation, celebration or mourning. His astute observational skills and his command over Urdu have enabled him to pen down amazing masterpieces over the years.

Considering his body of work and the fact that he has been writing forever, it is a difficult task to select only five songs. Nonetheless, here goes:

1. Tujhse Naraaz Nahin Zindagi from Masoom released in 1983. It portrays the angst between the relationship of a son and a father beautifully - the son cannot understand why his father won't take him home and the father cannot understand how to make his son understand. For a long time, I didn't know the real meaning of the first line of this song. Recently, I read a book titled In the Company of a Poet - Gulzar in conversation with Nasreen Munni Kabir where the meaning was elucidated. It was a revelation to know what it actually meant. But that, I guess, is the case with most of Gulzar's songs. They need to be deeply and thoroughly understood to be better appreciated; it's not enough if one listens to them in the background. And, as they say, adversity tells you who your real friends are - "zindagi tere gam ne hame rishte naye samjhaye".

2. Mera Kuchh Samaan from Ijaazat released in 1987. This movie was directed by Gulzar. In addition, he was also its screenplay writer and dialogues writer besides being the lyricist. Talk about donning multiple hats. This song sounds almost like a conversation between two lovers where one is asking the other to return all her memories as the relationship has ended. My favourite line in the song - "Ek sau solah chaand ki raatein; ek tumhare kaandhe ka til". What a beautiful way to show their intimacy!

3. Kajra Re from Bunty Aur Babli released in 2005. It is the wonderful capacity of Gulzar to adjust to the changing times that he was able to come up with this beautiful and foot-stomping number. And the poetry and the romance is not amiss, especially the ode to Delhi towards the end of the song.

4. Tere Bina Zindagi from Aandhi released in 1975. This is another movie where Gulzar in addition to being the lyricist was also the director, co-producer and screenplay writer. This song particularly strikes a chord because it says, "I don't have any complaints against life without you; without you life itself will not be life for me."

5. Aanewala Pal from Golmaal released in 1975. I have already written in detail in my previous Kishore Kumar post about why I love this song so much. The song tells you to "carpe diem" - "seize the day" in a no-nonsense and almost romantic way. When I have had a tough day at work, I retire to my room at night and listen to this song - "thodasa hasake, thodasa rulaake, pal yeh bhi jaanewala hain"

Friday, August 16, 2013

Public Transport, Private Harassment

My August-2013 blogpost for Stop Street Harassment is now online at http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/2013/08/mumbaitransport/.

I have written about the various forms of street harassment women face while travelling by the different modes of public transport.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Goa: Through My Eyes

A recent chat on Twitter by www.mumbai.burrp.com was on "Goa Beyond Beaches". While a lot of tourists visit Goa primarily for the sun, sand and sea, Goa has a lot more to offer than just its beaches.

I had an opportunity go visit Goa last August and this is what I found:

We stayed at http://www.panjiminn.com/, a cosy, little inn situated in the Romantic Latin Quarter of Panjim, Goa's capital.

Goa has plenty of Hindu temples including, but not limited to, Mangeshi at Ponda and Devaki-Krishna at Marcela. In fact, the latter is the only temple in India where Lord Krishna is worshipped with his mother Devaki.


When there are temples, can a church be far behind? The Panjim church of Our Lady Of the Immaculate Conception (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_the_Immaculate_Conception_Church,_Goa) is centrally located in the shopping-cum-dining district. The view from above is awesome.

After the religious touring, one can go hike up the Fort Aguada.


All of us take the bus or train to work. How many of us take the boat? Try that in Goa :)

The Kala Academy, Goa (http://kalaacademygoa.org/) is a must-visit for all those interested in culture and arts. One gets to see different types of wall paintings; an instance given below:

And, I know, I said no beaches but no visit to Goa is complete without a photograph of the stunning sunsets :)

Friday, August 09, 2013

As Beautiful As Your Work

When I thought about whom I could write for the topic, “women who make their work beautiful”,

I could think of nobody else other than my maternal aunt.

My mother’s eldest sister – Priyamvada Karande – is a published award-winning author. She has written many books till date, in addition to writing articles for several newspapers and magazines in Marathi. She has won the Maharashtra State Award for her book of children’s short stories.

She primarily writes on the quirks of human behaviour which she observes in her day-to-day interactions. Her stories mostly have a positive theme running through them. Her genuineness and her fascination with people shines through her stories.

What I find extraordinary about her is that she has been doing this for the last 45 years. Since her school and college days, she was interested in literature and writing and used to write plays for her college annual functions. Then, she graduated onto newspaper and magazine articles and finally books.

Her sense of purpose and her energy is tremendous. One hour with her and you get so inspired to go back to your own work with renewed vigour. For her, writing is a form of self-expression; she is most happy when she is seated at her study table with a pen in hand and a blank paper in front of her.

Words come easily to her and she is able to churn our articles and stories based on even the simplest of experiences or incidents. Without a keen eye for detail and a passion to always perform your best, I believe, this would not be possible.

Through her writing, she teaches children about freedom fighters in an easy way; she entertains us with her humane stories; she leaves us wiser for having read her articles.

Even today, in this day and age of technology, she meticulously writes on foolscap paper, takes photo-copies and personally goes to deliver at the required offices. Fame has not affected her in the slightest bit. But, that is not to say she is a stranger to technology. She has her own e-mail id with which she communicates with the world at large; she recently started her own blog (http://manmanasitmajhya.blogspot.in/) and she seems as at ease handling a laptop as she does a pen and paper.

I am very proud of my aunt for being a woman who is able to bring meaning to not only her life but to those hundreds and thousands who read her. Through her sheer dedication, commitment and will to churn out prose or poetry, she embodies for me the spirit of the woman who makes her work beautiful.

I am writing this post for http://mia.tanishq.co.in/ in association with Women’s Web.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Kishore Kumar: Chalte Chalte Mere Ye Geet Yaad Rakhna

As we celebrate Kishore Kumar’s 84th birth anniversary tomorrow (4th August), I would like to list down five of my favourite Kishore Kumar songs.

Kishore Kumar was one of the well-loved singers of Bollywood; one who was as famous as the hero he sang songs for, which is usually not the case. My only regret: I wish he were alive so that I could have heard him perform live.

So, here goes:

1. Aanewala Pal – Golmaal (1979): This song had all the characteristics of becoming a super-hit song. Gulzar penned down the lyrics, R. D. Burman composed the music, Kishore Kumar sang it; it was picturized on Amol Palekar. Why do I like the song? It tells you the importance of carpe diem – seize the day – so beautifully and so poetically. And Kishore’s voice exhorts us all to enjoy the present moment, if possible, because it will soon get over.

2. Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas – Blackmail (1973): In my honest opinion, this has got to be the best ever romantic song. Dharmendra woos Raakhee with a hand-written letter ably aided by Kishore Kumar’s lilting melody. The perfect voice to tell the person you love that they are close to your heart every single moment. Any other singer and the song would not have sounded half as good or as romantic.

3. Yeh Naina Yeh Kajal – Dil Se Mile Dil (1978): This is not a very popular song of Kishore Kumar since the movie, apparently, did not do so well. I became fascinated with the song after I heard a colleague of mine sing it. Since then, it has become one of my favourite Kishore songs. “Zindagi tum meri, meri tum zindagi” croons Kishore and it is very easy not to get mesmerized by his words.

4. Ruk Jaana Nahi – Imtihaan (1974): I love this song for its inspirational message. Kishore’s voice brings forth the message quite clearly that one should not stop in his journey just because one has failed. Who else, but Kishore, could sing the song such that, each time one listens to it, one gets goosebumps? It is as good as, if not better than, any motivational self-help book.

5. Yeh Jeevan Hain – Piya Ka Ghar (1972): The underlying meaning in Anand Bakshi’s lyrics was so evocatively brought out by Kishore Kumar in this song. This song essentially became the theme song of the movie. Though sung a little sadly, Kishore’s voice tells us everything we need to know about life. This is pretty much what you are going to get – a little bit of happiness, a little bit of sadness – he states quite matter-of-factly.

I now realize that, coincidentally, my favourite songs all belong to movies which were released in the 1970s. And, though Kishore Kumar sang quite a few songs that were picturized on Amitabh Bachchan which went on to become huge hits, none of them figure in my list. Also, none of the songs have the trademark Kishore Kumar yodelling style in them.

The A to Z Challenge

So, I started compiling a list of books from A to Z for http://tsbookclub.wordpress.com/. However, it got delayed at my end and I couldn't send it across. Nevertheless, here is it for posterity. I couldn't manage to find books starting with Q, U and X (without googling, of course :)).

The ones in bold are the books I have re-read and would heartily recommend to one and all.

Read on!!!

1.       A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
2.       Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
3.       Chanakya’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi
4.       Dave Barry is from Mars and Venus by Dave Barry
5.       Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
6.       Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt
7.       Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
8.       How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
9.       Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
10.   Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik
11.   Kitnay Aadmi Thay by Diptakirti Chaudhuri
12.   Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
13.   Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
14.   Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody
15.   One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
16.   Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
17.   Q
18.   Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
19.   Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
20.   The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
21.   U
22.   Veronkia Decides To Die by Paulo Coelho
23.   Why Men Lie and Women Cry by Allan and Barbara Pease
24.   X
25.   You Can Win by Shiv Khera
26.   Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig