Book Review: Our Moon has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita

Rahul Pandita was fourteen years old in 1990 when he was forced to leave his home in Srinagar along with his family, who were Kashmiri Pandits: the Hindu minority within a Muslim-majority Kashmir that was becoming increasingly agitated with the cries of ‘Azadi’ from India. The heartbreaking story of Kashmir has so far been told through the prism of the brutality of the Indian state, and the pro-independence demands of separatists. But there is another part of the story that has remained unrecorded and buried. Our Moon Has Blood Clots is the unspoken chapter in the story of Kashmir, in which it was purged of the Kashmiri Pandit community in a violent ethnic cleansing backed by Islamist militants. Hundreds of people were tortured and killed, and about 3,50,000 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homes and spend the rest of their lives in exile in their own country. Rahul Pandita has written a deeply personal, powerful and unforgettable story of history, home and loss.

our-moon-has-blood-clotsContinue reading

Book Review: Final Cut by Uday Gupt

I tend to read chick-lit and short stories as “fillers” between two heavy books. Chick-lit because they’re light and generally feel-good stories. They rarely linger with you too long. Short stories, on the other hand, are always a joy to read. A few pages and the story is done. Perfect for times when you’re  feeling kinda restless and not in the frame of mind to read an entire novel. (That happens very rarely around here, but it does happen!) Final Cut by Uday Gupt is a collection of longer than usual short stories.Continue reading

Book review: The Sea of Innocence by Kishwar Desai

Goa, south India. A beautiful holiday hideaway where hippies and backpackers while away the hours. But beneath the clear blue skies lies a dirty secret…

The Sea of Innocence by Kishwar DesaiSimran Singh, a 40-something social worker-come-crime investigator is holidaying in Goa with her teenage daughter Durga. All she wants is the sun, sand, and an idyllic, relaxed holiday. But all of that is spoilt when she gets a disturbing video clip featuring a young girl being attacked by a group of men. And then comes Amarjit, her on-again-off-again flame, to spoil her holiday.

He begs her to send Durga back home to Delhi and help him to find out what happened to the Liza, the girl in the video. Enter Marianne, her sister, who fills in some of the details of the crime but is deliberately vague about the exact timeline.

As Simran gets pulled into the case, she finds out more than she bargained for about Goa’s dark underbelly:

the web of lies and dark connections that flourish on these beaches. Everyone, it seems, knows what has happened to the girl but no one is prepared to say. And when more videos appear, and Simran herself is targeted in order to keep her quiet, the paradise soon becomes a living nightmare.

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Delhi Lens: Monuments: Nawaab ka Masjid, Chawdi Bazaar, Old Delhi

Tiny matchbox shops line both sides of a congested road. A mêlée of pedestrians, cycle rickshaws, two-wheelers and a few tempos are a cause for constant traffic jams. A lot of the buildings are crumbling and dilapidated. There’s a mess of electrical wires overhead. Everywhere you look there is chaos.

 Chawdi Bazaar, Old Delhi, India

And then suddenly, while looking up at that jumble of old buildings, you spot a delightful color combination – terracotta and blue. You pause, raise your camera to your eyes, zoom in, and see a beautiful carved wall. You click a picture, but keep staring at that building as a sea of humanity passes you by, gazing upwards, awestruck, spellbound.Continue reading

Book review: The Other Side of the Table by Madhumita Mukherjee

Circa 1990.
A world drawn and woven with words.
A bond punctuated by absence and distance…
Two continents. Two cities. Two people.
And letters. Hundreds of them.
Over years. Across oceans. Between hearts.

The other side of the table by madhumita mukherjeeI was delighted, and a little apprehensive, when I read the back cover. Delighted because three of my favorite books are epistolary works – May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude; Helene Hanff’s 84, Charring Cross Road; and Mary Ann Shaffer’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Apprehensive because I am generally wary of Indian authors, even though there are some excellent novels out there – Indu Suderasan’s brilliant Taj trilogy comes immediately to mind. But then, there are also disasters, like I, Rama or How About A Sin Tonight. And telling a story through letters isn’t the easiest thing to do.

The Other Side of the Table tells the story of Abhi, who is training to become a neurosurgeon in London, and Uma, who has just entered medical college in Calcutta. They write to one another about medicine and life, love and friends, about travels and family, and things that are close to their hearts and about nothing at all. Each letter reveals a tantalizing glimpse into their lives.Continue reading

Mumbai Diaries: Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2013

I heard about the Kala Ghoda Art Festival, which is held from the first Saturday in February till the next Sunday since the last 15 years, only last year! At the time, I decided that I would visit Mumbai for the next event, and sure enough, I made my way to the city for the 2013 edition of the festival.

I have to say that it was an interesting experience. There were some lovely public art installations, and of course others that left me cold.

Some of the installations were quintessentially Mumbai. Like this one:

Dhanda, Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2013

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Year-end Wrap-Up: Top 5 books of 2012

2012 was a stellar year for me in terms of reading and all things book-related. I read over 60 books this year, across a variety of genres. I came across some brilliant writers, and some not so brilliant ones. I was approached by Random House India to participate in their book bloggers program, under which they send me books to read and review. And I joined a cool Twitter book-chat – TSBC.

So, what better way to kick-off this year-end wrap-up than by sharing with you my 10 favorite reads from the year? Without further ado, here they are!Continue reading

Book review: Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Midnight's Children

Midnight’s Children (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Midnight’s Children tells the story of “Saleem Sinai, later variously called Snotnose, Stainface, Baldy, Buddha and even Piece-of-the-Moon,” who was born on 15 August 1947 at the stroke of midnight – at the same hour that India won her independence. It is a story that first chronicles 32 years of his grandparents’ and parents’ lives, before focusing on Saleem’s life in Bombay, Pakistan and Bengal. It is also a novel about India; tracing her journey from the heights of independence (infancy) to her ordinary adulthood, culminating with Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule.

But this bland description doesn’t do justice to Rushdie’s sweeping novel. It says nothing about his magical prose, about the explosion of colors and smells and sights and sounds. So let me tell you a little more about Snotnose.

Born at midnight, at the precise moment of India’s independence, Saleem was “mysteriously handcuffed to history…thanks to the occult tyrannies of those blandly saluting clocks.” His birth was celebrated with fireworks. His picture was printed in the newspaper. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sent him a letter saying “We shall be watching over your life with the closest attention; it will be, in a sense, the mirror of our own.” He grew up with a sense of his own importance. He grew up wondering about his purpose. And in his quest for a quiet place in which to think, he found himself retreating to his mother’s laundry hamper. Where one day he discovered his gift for telepathy. From the age of nine, he could enter into other lives at will. And finally, he found all the other magically gifted midnight children scattered across India. At the age of 10 he set up a Midnight’s Children Conference, where he hoped the children could come together to discuss the fate of the nation. But like all 10-year olds, they were overtaken by petty squabbles and dissonance.

As you read Saleem’s story, the “chutnification of history” and “the pickling of time”, you can see parallels with India. Allegorical though they may be, some of them are only hinted at, but they are there. The signs of the potential that India could achieve at birth, the quest for purpose, the slow, inevitable decline to mediocrity. Of course, a lot of events take place because of Saleem. After all, the reason for the Indo-Pakistan war was the annihilation of the Sinnai family!

What more can I say about Stainface? He’s pompous, arrogant, self-centered, grandiose, and somehow loveable. As the narrator of this audacious novel he is absolutely brilliant. He jumps around from one time period to another. When he makes his tall claims, his companion Padma tries to ground him to reality, but of course, he refuses to be so grounded.

In this sweeping canvas of a story, Rushdie brings in the details of a miniaturist. The places and times are captured down to the last detail. Like the Pioneer Café, where Saleem’s mother meets her first husband Nadir Khan.

“…with filmi playback music blaring out from the cheap radio by the cash till, a long narrow greeny room lit by flickering neon, a forbidding world in which broken-toothed men sat at reccine-covered tables with crumpled cards and expressionless eyes.”

The characters, even the minor bit players, are finely detailed. No player, or event, has been tacked on as an afterthought just because an “India novel” would be incomplete without it. There is a lot of history, even though the timelines may not always be right, because Saleem admits that “Memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events…”

In the hands of an inept writer, it would have been an impossible book to read. But Rushdie’s fine art of storytelling turns it into a rich and magical tapestry. Saleem (and through him, since this is magic realism, India) “have begun to crack all over like an old jug–that my poor body, singular, unlovely, buffeted by too much history, subjected to drainage above and drainage below, mutilated by doors, brained by spittoons, has started coming apart at the seams. In short, I am literally disintegrating, slowly for the moment, although there are signs of an acceleration.”

But it does end on a note of hope. Although Saleem, who holds the dream of India within himself, believes he will “eventually crumble into (approximately) six hundred and thirty million particles of anonymous, and necessarily, oblivious dust” as national unity seems like an unachievable dream, he does leave the reader with a sliver of hope. His son Adam, gifted with “elephant ears”, is also inexorably tied to India. In him lies the future of the nation. And who knows what feats he might achieve.

Having read the book, I am now all the more eager to watch the movie, which is slated to release in December 2012. Since Rushdie has been closely involved in the movie making process, I have high hopes from it! Overall, I think this is an excellent book, and I highly, highly recommend it.

Disclaimer: I got a copy of this book from Random House India, but the review and opinions expressed are my own.

Happy Diwali!

The festival of lights is here! It’s my favorite – a day when the house is adorned with flowers, colorful rangolis decorate the entrance, diyas are lit all over. A day for family and loved ones. A night of twinkling lights, of visiting friends and neighbors and relatives, and yes, of those infuriating fireworks that go on until all hours of the night!

I typically spend the first half of the day making a rangoli outside the door with flower petals, while the husband hangs garlands of marigold and Ashoka leaves at the entrance, in the balcony and on some of the doors. After relaxing in the afternoon, it’s time for pooja (prayers) in the evening, then we spend a quiet evening listening to music, drinking wine, talking. Bliss!

This year, my mother will be in town for Diwali, so we’ll go over to a cousin’s house after the pooja. That should be fun!

Happy Diwali

The window display at The Wishing Chair, Shahpur Jat, New Delhi

Here’s wishing all of you a very, very happy and prosperous Diwali. Be safe. Be happy!

If you’d like some more information on the festival of Diwali, take a look at these articles:

It’s the festival of lights! (An older post that gives some details on Diwali)
Light that lamp
(A brief look at how and why Diwali is celebrated by different religions, from

My favorite things

With Diwali, the festival of lights, just around the corner, I’ve been pouring over ideas for unique lighting ideas. And boy, there are so many that made me go Ooooh! Here are a few of my favorites…

I fell head over heels in love with these fairy lights in a cage – found on The Wishing Chair’s pinterest board. Aren’t these totally moody?

fairy lights in a cage

Then there are these fairy lights and butterflies around a mirror. They’d make a girl look tantalizing, don’t you think?

Fairy lights around mirror

And these cool, colorful lanterns strung up along a window could be a decorative item from Diwali through New Year. You could also make it a part of your decor if you can pull it off right!

tea lights strung up

If you’ve got a crafty bone in your body (and by that I mean the DIY kind), you could try making these amazing egg carton flower lights. Aren’t they gorgeous?

egg carton flower lights

Or maybe this glowing jar light…

glowing jar lights

Or how about this DIY bottle full of light? Just change the snowflake with something seasonal, and it could be a talking piece year-round!

DIY bottle lights

Now it’s your turn – which one of these is your favorite?

Take a look at some more of my favorite things…