This happens to be one of the most common questions as we step into a shining new year. Just in case you are thinking this post is about my resolutions then no, that’s not what this is about.
Each time we are asked about our new year’s resolution, we are quite excited to share them with our friends and family as these are things we have carefully thought over and makes sense to share them. According to a study by Derek Silvers, when we share our goals or resolutions – we are less likely to stick to them and see them through. We might just need to come up with a witty way to brush this question aside each time it comes up and may be our resolution would last a week longer… Who knows?
Lets hope we manage to zip our mouths and achieve what we aimed for!
Have a successful & happy 2013
In essence this is clichéd love triangle where a guy meets a girl. She plays a damsel in distress and the guy rescues her from her evil husband. I know this doesn’t in the least sound new or exciting but I have to confess that an unusual setting and a great narrative is all it takes to make even such a clichéd story line gripping and entertaining.
This story is set in the post war depression period in the US. Jacob who is a medical student at Cornell university – studying to be a vet. He looses his parents in a car accident and doesn’t have a home or money for tuition. In a moment of daze he leaves he climbs onto a train which happens to be the Benzini Brothers circus train. Soon he finds himself as the vet for the exotic animals there.
The circus here reveals something dark and grim under the glamorous and entertaining appearance. When the number of people on the train grew more than its capacity or if some employees suffered from incurable diseases due to contamination, the solution was to simply execute them by pushing them off the moving train.
Another classic example for this is Marlena’s marriage to August. On the exterior their marriage is rosy and picture perfect. August seems charming, caring and more. But on looking a little deeper you realize the reality isn’t quite this. Marlena suffers in the relationship as August is a schizophrenic – she eloped from home for the charming August who in reality did not exist. Not having a home to go back to, Marlena silently suffered in this dysfunctional relationship. And then Jacob comes along and there is an instant attraction and rescues her.
Overall, this is a good read. But like I said earlier the main story line is not unheard of but the setting in a larger than life post-war US circus is a winner. Another positive is the narration – the whole story is narrated by Jacob who is in his 90s and in a nursing home. A casual summer read – not something that will knock your socks off.
Overall verdict : 3.5/5
Historic fiction has come to be one of my most loved genres and I couldn’t help but fall in love with this book. This tale has everything that a great story has – battles, victories, romance, politics, greed, lust and more. Hailing from India and never having visited Agra or seen the Taj Mahal this book has made my urge to visit Agra more fierce.
As a chapter in history we have read about Shah Jahan building this architectural marvel of a mausoleum in loving memory of his wife and also about the wrath of Aurangzeb and his succession to the throne. But never have given such a first-person (though fictional) thought to the process.
The story is narrated by Princess Jahanara who is the daughter of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. She is intelligent, witty, a hopeless romantic, brave and knows the rules of politics and power. As a child she learned a lot from her mother Mumtaz who herself was a kind and intelligent women. Other important characters are Jahanara’s two brothers – Prince Dara & Prince Aurangzeb. Dara was to be king in succession is portrayed to be kind and open to all religions while Prince Aurangzeb is someone whose greed for the Peacock Throne and conservative interpretations of the Koran portray him as insensitive and brutal.
Meanwhile, Jahanara is married off for political reasons and loathes her husband. He is everything she despises – insensitive, does not respect women, illiterate and crass. During a childbirth Mumtaz passes away. After her demise, Shah Jahan becomes inconsolable and lost in grief. He decides to build a mausoleum for Mumtaz and asks Jahanara to head the project. This is where she met her Isa, her lover.
Jahanara suspects Aurangzeb’s intentions to succeed to the throne and overthrow his father and does her best to warn and prepare Dara but unfortunately that doesn’t have quite the ideal outcome. Aurangzeb kills Dara and imprisons Shah Jahan and succeeds to the throne. Jahanara manages to escape and leads one of those ‘happily ever after’ fairy tale endings.
My favourite character of the book is Ladli – who is Jahanara’s gorgeous, witty and loyal Hindu friend. She comes to Jahanara’s aide when the Peacock Throne needs her. Her language and use of expletives just cracked me up. She adds some more colour to the already wonderful tale. This book is a must read! Entertaining and gripping all at the same time.
Overall verdict: 5/5
I was quite ashamed of not having read any classic literature at all so I resolved to read this all-time classic which is on every ‘Books to read before you die’ list I have come across.I am not sure about how to gather my thoughts on this book.
The book is based on the post-war times in the US where the society is fully materialistic and everything is measured by the length of your car, the size of your mansion and the depth of your pockets.
The central character Gatsby is someone who comes from a simple background. He joins the army to impress his lover – Daisy who meanwhile marries the richest boy in town to lead a simple and easy life. Years later, Gatsby gathers enough wealth so he can match up to his Daisy’s family. The story is from the perspective of Nick who happens to be Gatsby’s neighbour and friends with Tom and Daisy. Nick is the conscience of the plot. He sees things as right and wrong instead of being carried away with the flow of the materialistic world.
There are some lines from the book which are going to be remembered for centuries more (assuming the world doesn’t end this dec ).”Whenever you feel like criticizing any one…just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
I think it is quite an interesting read but needs quite a bit of patience for a noob in classic literature like myself. I am used to reading light entertaining books so I had to push myself to get through even though it was just 179 pages. The words are quite heavy so you cant just flip pages like you can with a Memoirs of a Geisha. I am glad I read it as it marks one of the most significant literature of that time but somehow wasn’t gripping enough.
Overall rating : 3.5/5
One of the best books I have ever read! It has been everything that you need a book to be – entertaining, enthralling, mesmerising and more! This an amazing tale of the coming of age of a little girl, geisha rivalries inside the okiya, her struggle for freedom and her search for her prince charming. As for me, I knew nothing about Geisha’s and their quaint little world or even how you say the word ‘Geisha’ (gay-sha) – so it would be fair to say reading this book was quite educational for me.
This story is about a pretty little girl – Chiyo who comes from an impoverished family. Her family comprises of her father who is a fisherman and barely manages to make ends meet; her mother a very beautiful woman whom Chiyo has inherited her lovely looks and grey eyes from and suffers from a terminal illness; her elder sister Satsu who has inherited more ordinary looks from her father.
During the Great Depression in Japan, Chiyo’s father is forced to sell both his daughters into slavery. Owing to her unusual and charming looks, Chiyo is sold into an okiya which is a Geisha house while Satsu is sold into prostitution.
Coming from an extremely humble background little Chiyo is amazed by the glitz and glamour of the Gion. The first part of the book is the transformation of a simple girl into a sophisticated and superstitious Geisha. It also gives us an idea about her Geisha studies – singing, dancing, tea ceremonies, along with the hardships and rivalries at the okiya with the okiya’s top girl – Hatsumomo.
Soon as an apprentice geisha Chiyo follows her ‘older sister’ Mameha – a successful geisha around the gion and meets potential patrons. During her coming of age, there is a bidding for her Mizuage after which she no longer needs to be accompanied by her older sister. She takes charge of her life and tries to free herself of the debts owed to the okiya.
The two key characters are Nobu and Chairman both of whom are partners in an electrical company. Nobu is an ugly yet kind hearted sumo wrestler while the Chairman is a refined, classy man whose words gave Sayuri (Chiyo’s geisha name) the strength during testing times. Sayuri had grown to be obsessed by him and his thoughts. Sayuri has come to find a friend in Nobu. Nobu who wishes to be her ‘danna’. Danna is someone who takes a geisha as his mistress. It is interesting how until the end, it is undecided who Sayuri’s fate holds for her – Nobu or the chairman.
It is very rare that you come across a tale so complete and entertaining! Though the downside is that some elements to it are too extreme or fairytale-ish. For instance the character of the chairman comes across as one which perfect and this worries me as it is too ideal and far from being realistic. Having said that, I wish there were other books by Arthur Golden because am sure I would be waiting to read it. A (almost) perfect tale – it has all the elements a new world, the victories and struggles of a little girl, her romance, her education.
Mr.Golden – Please write another book! I would love to go on another exotic and entertaining journey via your book.
Overall verdict : 5/5
I was tired of having the regular grilled chicken recipes with ginger, garlic and herbs. Was craving a new kind of grilled chicken which wasnt very unhealthy. Came across this recipe (thankfully!). Made use of dates syrup – something I havent ever used before. Was quite hesitant about it at the start but am glad I tried it! The Mediterranean grilled chicken was absolutely delightful and a refreshing change! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
- 3 Chicken thighs on the bone
- 1 red pepper
- 6-7 baby potatoes (I added more because I love roasted baby potatoes)
- 1 large onion – chopped into big squares with the layers separated
- 8tbsp date syrup or pomegranate molasses
- 1 tspn Cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp Cumin seeds
- 2 Green chillies – with seeds just slit from the center
- 1 lemon
- Handful of chopped parsley
- Handful of chopped coriander
- 2tbspn coarsely ground garlic cloves
- 2tbspn coarsely ground ginger
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- 30gms Butter
- Olive oil
Instructions couldn’t be more straightforward – just throw the ingredients together and marinate for an hour. The only complexity while marinating the chicken comes from the use of lemon. Use the juice of half a lemon and the zest from it for the marinade. While the other half just cut into large pieces and add to the marinating chicken. This would give off a great fragrant freshness from the lemon. Also, dont shun away from adding the molasses even if you arent paricularly fond of sweet grilled chicken because it perfectly balances the heat from the black pepper, cayenne pepper and the green chilles (with the seeds). So you will be just fine!
An hour later in a preheated oven grill at about 200 degs for roughly 40mins or depending on how big the chicken pieces are. Before putting the marinated chicken to grill add some butter to the chicken pieces for a nice crispy coating. Do ensure that before serving you remove the whole lemon pieces.(Sorry, dont have a picture of what it looked liked once it was done – my energies were directed towards downing it )
You can have a couple of quick and easy sides to go with this. One can be olives drizzled with dried oregano. Another can be a yoghurt based mint sauce with some finely chopped cucumbers. If you havent really thought of what this would go well with and haven’t got the time to do a full blown bread to go with this, you could do a quick tabouleh which is a healthy salad made from coarsely broken wheat with parsley and a bunch of other veggies thrown in.
Being the food lover that I am I have these food addiction phases. One of the recent ones was a french croissant addiction. Every bakery, supermarket, cafe I went to I would unhesitatingly buy them; a lot of my googling around was for their recipe – in short I spent a great deal of time and effort towards eating/learning about them.
One fine weekend I thought I am willing to take on the challenge of investing almost half my weekend (takes 12hours at least) towards baking croissants. Took up the challenge but was to no avail – what came out were bread-ey buns! Ah well, they weren’t bad so downed them as breakfast everyday of the week thinking to myself that the next time I will get this right!
Dying to cleanse myself from the guilt of baking bread-ey buns I set out the next weekend to salvage my soul. Another 12hour long mission this time I backed myself with even more reading, watching videos. After I baked them, I knew I got a little closer but it was a disaster nevertheless! How do you get fluffy, light croissants? Mine were heavy, not crispy on the outside and fluffy on the side. I wonder how they do it. I have come to conclude that French genes are a must to the process – know any place where I can have some french genes injected?
Just in case you are in London and wondering where you would find the best croissants, let me help you and tell you to head straighht to Paul’s.
PS: Not giving up on this French mission. Shall nail it someday and then put up pics of my croissants.
This book by Jean P Sasson like all of her other books has a female protagonist in a middle-eastern setting. This is a true story about Mayada Al-Askari who belongs to the royal family. Her grandfather Sati Al-Husri is a much known and respected Arab nationalist and her paternal grandfather Jafar Pasha Al-Askari was a World War II hero. Coming from such a family, Mayada had known people in the government and officials high up and led a privileged life. She worked as a journalist in a magazine and had met Saddam Hussein twice in person and had been personally awarded by him for her outstanding work.
Slowly as the Saddam regime grew powerful, the condition of people became worse and more and more people fled to nearby countries like Jordan. Mayada’s mother, Salwa was also one among them who moved to Jordan to escape the terror in her homeland. She had tried to convince Mayada who couldn’t quite think of leaving her homeland and did not want to believe that things were quite so bad because it hadn’t affected them yet. The blue bloods always don’t quite see the real state of affairs quite when the commoners do because of this Mayada’s vision of Iraq was rosier than the reality.
Unfortunately for Mayada, her dreams were shattered when one day she was picked up from her printing shop and was locked up in jail without being told why. She was also not allowed to inform her children about her arrest. Her inability to reach out to her kids Fay and Ali troubles her. She is thrown into cell number 52 in the Baladiyat prison with 17 other inmates called as the ‘shadow women’. Each of them have a very similar story of being thrown into prison without any reason and each of their inability to inform their relatives/children troubles them.
These reality of what happened inside the prison can stir your insides. The torture the prisoners are put through for no apparent fault of theirs is just shocking and sometimes it is so inhumane that it is even hard imagine the existence of something that defies every human right out there. Pulling out the nails, electrical shocks with women coughing smoke later, beatings, abuse – every possible method of torture was employed by the secret police of the dictator. It is really touching to see how these shadow women did not envy or feel jealous of Mayada when she was to be released from the prison. On the contrary, they rejoiced her departure from the torture prison and were happy for her. They were also happy that someone would be sent out alive to tell people their stories, inform their relatives so they could help try and get them released from the prison.
The other important character is Samara another shadow woman of cell 52. She is one of the most beautiful and supportive shadow women in the cell. She is the one who helped Mayada and other women the most to build their will power and get through the hard times. Unfortunately the contact phone number she had given to Mayada when she was leaving the Baladiyat prison was not in use and thus no hope of relatives trying to help her get out of the prison. There was no silver lining for that cloud. Most of the investigation done by Mayada and others suggest that probably most of the inmates were executed before the war.
Overall, this book gives a good insight into the harsh realities under the Saddam regime but it isn’t a great read in terms of the way it has been put together. I think the content is what makes this book work. Sasson could have done a better job of stringing the story together in a better way because it does seem to get like your history textbook sometimes but I have to say it would be a gripping chapter in history.
Final verdict: 3/5