Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tipping the Scales

Image courtesy: Google

This post is going to be an incredibly personal one for me. I tend to deviate from talking about this, but life sometimes sucks. Especially when you are a foodie who has to stay away from good food in order to stay fit. Going through a scary teenage, I found solace in junk food. I loved my burgers and french fries. Chocolates and ice creams made my world a better one. 

I would eat when I was bored, angry, stressed or simply watching TV. Yeah, you heard that right. I LOVED LOVE food. I tried not to notice the odd bulges around my tummy. I preferred to dress in shapeless clothes that tried not to show too much of my waistline. But sometime last year, I realized that my health was travlling downhill at a neck breaking speed. 

I started working out regularly. Not just because people made fun, but because I consciously felt the need to. Though I had tried to lose weight unsuccessfully in the past, I realized that in order for any plan to work, you need to stick to it with a dedication. So rather than abandoning my work out plan half way, I stuck to it religiously. Though it can hardly be called a work out plan, those baby steps started to work for me. 

Yes, there are days when I feel like switching off the treadmill and calling it a day, there are days when the long accumulated fat on my body literally cries out to stop harassing. But seeing those weighing scales tip backward, albeit very slowly, was rewarding enough. I wish I could tell that I lost couple of kgs in a week like some people I have been reading about. In my case, try more of a couple of months. 

Though the fat started going reluctantly, I started to enjoy the feel of sweat drenched tshirts and the sheer sense of accomplishment at the end of each session. Yes, my hard work was beginning to pay off. It was hard to stay off guilty pleasures called chocolates and ice creams for a long time. Yet, I reduced my intake. I would ocasssionaly reward myself the Hershey's bar from time to time. But the working out part somehow made me feel not-so-guilty. I know that it hardly makes sense, but it works for me. 

Today, I'm delighted that most of my old clothes look a tad baggy on me. I finally have something which can be called remotely close to a decent waistline. I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I'm enjoying my skinny jeans and leggings without looking or feeling awkward. I do crave a cheesy pizza or two from time to time. And I make sure I have that slice lest I end up thinking about it the whole while like a pizza deprived being. 

But the biggest lesson that I learnt in this journey is that I love my body way too much. Rather than cribbing about it, I decided to do something about it. And for the first time in a long time, I can confidently say, I wouldn't swap my body for a thing in this world. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review - Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamamda Ngozi Adichie

From the book cover: In 1960s Nigeria, a country blighted by civil war, three lives intersect. Ugwu, a boy from a poor village, works as a houseboy for a university lecturer. Olanna, a young woman, has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos to live with her charismatic new lover, the professor. The third is Richard, a shy Englishman in thrall to Olanna's enigmatic twin sister. When the shocking horror of the war engulfs them, their loyalties are severely tested as they are pulled apart and thrown together in ways that none of them imagined...

My take: Let me start by telling you that I now have a new favorite author- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Yes, I absolutely loved this book. Though this is the second novel by this Nigerian author, this is the first book of hers that I happened to read. The writing is beautiful with well etched characters who are driven by their impulses, the novel is a feast. 

Though I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, as I keep repeating, there are priceless works such as this that changes my perspective. I'm ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I had very little knowledge about Nigerian history and literature before starting this book. Set against the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967-70, the book not only tackles the political issues that were prevalent then, but also portrays characters and emotions as they are. 

Narrated in the third person, the book alternates among Ugwu, Olanna and Richard for their individual stories. Three very different characters, yet each incident is seen very differently in their eyes. But the character that fascinated me the most was Kainene, Olanna's twin sister. While Olanna can be described as the conventional beauty, Kainene is the opposite. She prefers to remain an enigma right till the end of the book. 

The relationship between the two sisters and how it changes later on is also one of the key factors that drives the story forward. Olanna's lover, Odenigbo is another interesting character who loves his academic company of scholars and books. The book can be divided into two parts- the early sixties and the late sixties. Adichie effortlessly weaves in the past into the present, keeping us engrossed right till the end.

Though the fist half of the book is spent in introducing the characters and their thoughts and emotions, the second half mostly deals with the war and its stark realities. Violence, poverty, desperation seeps in through the pages and grips you. But it is also a book of beauty. That shows that love can be found everywhere. 

The novel is sprinkled with Igbo words and phrases throughout, but this did not put me off. The latter half of the novel describes the plight of Olanna, Odenigbo and their Baby to flee from Nsukka, where they live to take shelter in the refugee town of Umuahia. Food shortages and the sheer terrror that haunts the people inflicted by the war are portrayed brilliantly. It is heart breaking to learn that a lot of the war background described is fact rather than fiction. 

I loved the book and highly recommend this one to everyone. If you are a fan of historical fiction, then you will adore this book. But this is also a story that speaks about human bonds and the beautiful emotion called love that pushes us to sacrifice and sometimes, question our beliefs in doing so. 

Linking this post to Write Tribe Pro Blogger Challenge

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Playing Cupid

Image Source: Indiblogger

With Valentine's day just around the corner, we can see a surge in the sale of red roses, teddy bears and chocolates. Cliched much? These may work fine if you are a teenager, But when it comes to your twenties, your valentine probably expects something that is more symbolic. Why not go for a bigger gesture this time? 

Are you planning to confess your love to that special someone this Valentine's? Or maybe you are planning to pop the big question? The M word? No matter what it is that you have in mind, it always helps when there is a personal touch. Let me explain. 

If your crush is a person who is also a good friend of yours, then I'm sure that you would be knowing her favorites when it comes to food and drinks. It is not necessary that you have to take her to a posh five star hotel and pop the question in front of a hundred strangers. Why not go somewhere cosy and intimate. A place that perhaps you hang out together. 

If you are a writer, then why not write a poem expressing your love for her? Even if you are not that great a writer, it's always the thought that counts. It also shows the efforts that you have gone to. 

Bake her a cake. Yeah, I can see you rolling your eyes now. But seriously, baking a cake is not such a big deal nowadays. There are ready made cake mixes that are available in the market in case you are a beginner. 

In case you can manage to get her away for a getaway, all the more better. What's better than popping the question when you are having fun. Get her flowers, not necessarily red roses. But her favorite ones. Pop a bottle of champagne or red wine, according to his/ her taste. 

A hot air balloon ride sounds pretty romantic to me on Valentine's day. I'm not too much into love confessions in public places. But hey, go for whatever rocks your boat! If you are dating a bibliophile, then gift her some good hardbound of her favorite classics- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre or even a trilogy that she's been wanting to get her hands on. 

Speaking of books, isn't the library one of the most romantic places on earth? Remember Carrie Bradshaw and how she planned her first wedding in the New York Public Library. Because as Carrie says, it is “the classic New York landmark that housed all the great love stories”. Well, that wedding never happened and we all know why. But my point is that, go for the library! Unless you are dating a jerk like Big, there's no reason why it shouldn't work. 

This post is written for Indiblogger in association with Closeup Cupid Games

Also linking this post to Write Tribe Pro Blogger Challenge

Friday, January 23, 2015

Book Review - Boy Meets Girl by Meg Cabot

Image: My own

From the book cover: Meet Kate MacKenzie...idealistic office worker, reluctant deliverer of termination notices and queen of instant messaging. As sweet as sugar. 

Meet Mitch Hertzog...ever-smiling corporate lawyer, defender of the downtrodden and king of aborted dinner dates. Good enough to eat. 

Meet Ida Lopez...cake, cookie and pastry-maker extraordinaire, purveyor of the dessert trolley and goddess of all things mouth-wateringly yummy. As nice as pie. 

Together they must battle tyrants and despots to find truth, justice and the perfect double fudge pudding.

My take: I picked this book up between some heavy reading that I did and it was absolutely perfect to suit my mood then. As you can see from the cover, this is a chick-lit for which Meg Cabot is popular. She is a writer that I go back to from time to time whenever I need a quick fix. Yes, her books are fun and hilarious, often bringing a smile to my face.

This is not a conventional novel, it is written mostly in the form of e-mails, doodles, journals and telephone conversations. I loved it! It was a refreshing change and I do enjoy reading this format when it comes to some books that handles the genre so well. 

Kate is a character that most women can relate to, at least the ones who are stuck in a job that you don't particularly enjoy. Throw in the boss from hell in the form of Amy or T.O.D as she is more popularly known and you connect instantly. Kate's best friend, Jen, who works with her is another character who adds more charm to the story.

But the character that I loved the most was Ida, the slightly eccentric lady who has a soft corner for Kate and slips her cookies and cakes from time to time. The bonus of the entire book is that you can find recipes that are squeezed in between too! Yes, right from carrot cakes to gingersnap cookies, quite a few recipes are thrown in as well. I have half a mind to try on a few of them myself. 

However, when Amy fires Ida, since she refuses to serve an extra slice of pie to her boyfriend Staurt, Kate feels that it is her duty to defend Ida. In steps Mitch, Stuart's brother and the knight in shining armor for Kate. Did I also mention that Kate just broke up with her boyfriend of ten years and is camping on Jen's couch? The fact that Jen and her husband are trying to make a baby does not make living over there any easier.

The story moves along predictable. But what kept me hooked was the way the book was written. It is interesting to see the story move forward simply through e-mails and Kate's journal entries. Throw in more drama in the form of Mitch's family members, you can be sure that you shall remain entertained right till the very end. 

Pick this one if you are looking for some light reading. I read it when I was feeling a bit low and this one picked me right up. This is the perfect vacation read. 

Linking this post to Write Tribe Pro Blogger Challenge

Shows that I'm currently hooked on

Castle- This is what I'm currently watching and I'm totally in love with Rick Castle. And yes, Kate Beckett is simply kick-ass! I love reading and watching characters who are writers. Just a fetish and this was one show that got my attention right from the pilot episode. What's not to love about a mystery and crime writer? Throw in action and real crime and the chemistry between Castle and Beckett- you have a winner. 

How I Met Your Mother- Started and ditched for Castle. I hope to go back and finish off this series though I have read all the spoilers and knows how it ends. I keep comparing it to FRIENDS in my head and ends up disappointed. Is it just me or is Ted Mosby actually quite annoying? The only characters I like so far are Lilly and Marshall. 

Grey's Anatomy- I was on a binge watching spree on Grey's Anatomy and was planted in front of my television for the latter part of 2014. That was how addictive it is. Meredith Grey- dark and twisty (I love and relate to that part, aren't we all a bit dark and twisty inside?), Christina Yang- passionate and committed and an amazing friend, Derek Shepherd- McDreamy (!), Miranda Bailey- the Nazi with a soft streak that surfaces rarely. I love them all!!! Never thought I would find medical drama as fascinating and GA kept me wanting more and more. I have finished all 10 seasons sadly. I do wish they had wound up the show while it was still good. Yang has left, so I don't think the next season is going to be all that great. But I shall end up watching it anyway. 

Linking this post to Write Tribe Pro Blogger Challenge

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sweeping off those Litterbugs

I watched the above video twice before writing this post and each time it made me cringe more and more simply thinking about the state of affairs of our country. We belong to a beautiful country which gets deteriorated day by day. Yes, we may claim to be developed, we boast of living in metropolitan cities. Yet, when it comes to taking care of our environment, we are still way backward. 

Having lived in a place like Dubai for quite sometime, it never ceases to astonish me what the citizens here have done for their country. There are colorful flowers and greenery everywhere. It was hard for me to believe that a desert country could thrive so well. Of course, the clean state of this country that I live in is something that I'm proud of. You won't find people littering the grounds or dumping garbage on the side of roads. The reason is because there are heavy fines for all of this. Even chewing a gum while travelling on public transport like the metro attracts a hefty fine.

But the very same people who follows all the rules while in a foreign country, never hesitates or thinks twice once you are back home. People chewing paan and spitting the disgusting remnants on the roads and walls are a common sight. Not to mention the men folk who conveniently use the open air to relieve their calls of nature. Dude, a word of advice- if you simply can't hold it in till you reach a restroom, then probable you should take to wearing diapers. I hear they come in all sizes nowadays. And none of us are interested in seeing how far you can pee, thank you very much. 

The state of the restrooms in our country are a pathetic state where many of of us ladies, hesitate and use it only in cases of unbearable emergency. Yes, provided you have the will power to hold your breath and jump out as soon as you finish your business. Which is why I hate travelling long distances when I come for my vacations. I have many an entertaining tale on those journeys that I have gone. The memory of some of them which is still nauseating. 

Though there are arrangements in cities to dispose off both plastic and food waste, people still take the easier route and dump their waste as they feel like. Last month as I was in India, I saw a couple of guys dumping huge amounts of waste right into the waters from a bridge! It was in the early hours of morning and was still dark. The sight was disturbing and it's pathetic how some people shall always be. Like we have studied in school, not only is this degrading, but causes water population as well. 

There are lot of initiatives that are taken up by the younger generation that I saw on TV sometime back. This includes generating cooking gas from waste and is an effective ways of recycling it as well. Even if one doesn't resort to such extreme measures, the least you can do is to dump your empty bottle and cans in the waste bins that can be found in ample in all public places. Smokers, kindly refrain from throwing out your cigarette butts through your open windows. Not only is this littering, but harmful to the vehicles behind you. Small acts can go a long way in making our country a cleaner and sparklier one. Say NO to littering today.  

This post is written for Indiblogger in association with The Great Indian Litterbug campaign by Times of India

Also linking this post to Write Tribe Pro Blogger Challenge

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Book Review - Lord of the Flies by William Golding

From the book cover: William Golding's first novel, Lord of the Flies, was published in 1954. It is now internationally recognized as a twentieth-century classic, one of the most celebrated and widely read works of modern fiction. 

A plane crashes on a desert island and the only survivors, a group of schoolboys, assemble on the beach and wait to be rescued. By day they inhabit a land of bright fantastic birds and dark blue seas, but at night their dreams are haunted by the image of a terrifying beast. As the boys' delicate sense of order fades, so their childish fears are transformed into something more primitive, and their behavior starts to take on a murderous, savage significance. 

My take: I have a new habit. I have taken to checking out the Goodreads reviews on books before starting a book. Apparently, you either love LOVE it or you end up hating it. At least, according to those reviews that caught my attention. But upon finishing the book yesterday, my reaction was somewhere in the middle. 

Let me explain. The story, no doubt, is brilliant. I loved the story line. Yes, the entire story and the characters that are brought out in the form of Ralph, Piggy, Jack, Roger or the twins reflect people that we see around us. Ralph is the leader, who believes in law and order. Piggy is perhaps the most vulnerable among the boys, who keeps making fun of him as he is on the heavier side. 

Jack, is the hunter and clearly the leader who will go for what he wants at any cost. The boys are divided into littluns (kids who are around 6 years) and the biguns (who are the older boys). Though initially, they form rules and find a conch which is blown to call everyone together, it soon gives way to chaos and terror. 

Everything in the book can be taken as a metaphor, be it the conch, the pig's head that is called "Lord of the Flies" by Simon in his hallucinations, or the beast. The rumors about a beast soon turns the boys into savages. But Golding portrays it brilliantly when he says that the beast is inside each one of us. 

The story in itself was chilling. But the narration, didn't really work for me. Yes, it's a classic, so you can't really expect things to be fast paced. The entire book is the story of the boys as they are trapped on the island and their desperate measures to survive. Yes, towards the end, some of them portrays a blood lust that will send chills down your spine. 

I would rate this one a three on five. I loved the plot and the characterization. The writing not so much. I felt my attention waning as the book progressed. 

A Stephen King fan? You must definitely read this. This is what King had to say about this book "As exciting, relevant, and thought-provoking now as it was when Golding published it in 1954." Couldn't agree more with that. A must read for all lovers of classics and English literature. 

Linking this post to Write Tribe Pro Blogger Challenge

My First Guest Post!

First times are always special, aren't they? I was asked by a good friend and an amazing blogger who goes by the name of Shanx and who blogs at Embark With My Thoughts to write about my blogging journey. He has introduced a great initiative on his blog where he's giving bloggers an opportunity to talk about the journey that made us who we are today. He publishes each post on a sunday. So do head over to his blog and show your love :)

I loved writing  about my journey, though, I don't know if it can be called that. Yet. Mine was more of a trial and error route. I have penned down a few words about my tryst with writing and you can read the post here. And while you are there, feel free to snoop around and drop in few (or more) comments as he is a writer who has a way with words. Especially if you like fiction and poetry. 

Thank you once again, Shanx! My first guest post! Yayyy!!!

End of Time

Image courtesy: Google

Take me to the end of time
To see the sparkling rays of golden sun
Take me to the end of time
To see the blushing pout of roses red

Take me to the end of time
To feel the wind on my fingertips
Take me to the end of time
To feel an angel's kiss on my face

Take me to the end of time
To hear the melody of hopping birds
Take me to the end of time
To hear sweet murmur on your lips

Take me to the end of time
And hold me close
To your heart and soul...

Linking this post to Write Tribe Pro Blogger Challenge

Friday, January 16, 2015

Book Review - Sacred Sins by Nora Roberts

From the book cover: In the lazy days of summer, a merciless heat wave is the biggest story in Washington, D.C. But the weather is knocked off the front pages when a young woman is found strangled to death. A note left behind reads Her sins are forgiven her.Two more victims soon follow, and suddenly every headline is devoted to the killer the press has dubbed “the Priest.” 

When the police ask top-notch psychiatrist Dr. Tess Court to help with their investigation, she comes up with a disturbing portrait of a twisted soul.

Detective Ben Paris doesn’t give a damn about the killer’s psyche. What he can’t easily dismiss is Tess. Tall, dark, and good-looking, Ben has a legendary reputation with women, but the coolly elegant Tess doesn’t react to him like other women he’s known — and he finds the challenge enticing.

Now, as the two are thrown together in a perilous quest to stop a serial killer, the flame of white-hot passion flares. But someone also has his eyes on the beautiful blond doctor ... and Ben can only pray that if the madman strikes, he'll be able to stop him before it’s too late....

My take: I had bought this book after reading the above blurb on the book cover. I love mysteries and this seemed like the ideal book to continue my obsession with crime stories. Unfortunately, I was disappointed once I was well into the book. 

The book starts off promisingly, which was the reason that I was hooked. But after a few dozen pages, the mystery factor of the book slowly dwindles down till it focuses on the romance quotient between the lead characters- Dr. Tess and Detective Ben. Ben is a character who is troubled by his past and holds a grudge against all psychiatrists blaming them for the death of his brother many years back. Tess, on the other hand, is a rich but classy character who tries to help all her clients and goes out of her way to help them. 

I do realize that it is supposed to be a tale of "suspense and sensual passion" as was mentioned on the book cover, but I felt what could've been a power packed thriller was lost somewhere in between. The characters are etched out well, but somehow, it didn't work for me. 

When I read a thriller, I expect to fall headlong into the crime. I'm intrigued by the murderer/ bad guy/ villain. These are beautiful characters in shades of grey that makes a book absolute page turners. What ticks them off, the elements of unpredictability, the way their mind works, how you can get thrown off by their behavior... The possibilities are endless. However, in Sacred Sins, the murderer seemed to fade into the background. Maybe this was the reason why I didn't warm to the book. 

I wanted to know more about "the Priest", why he believed in absolution, what made the victims of crime special - all blonde women in their twenties. The story had such a great potential that when the killer was finally revealed, I was left with a sour aftertaste upon completing the novel. It was surreal and seemed like a shortcut to get to the end of the mystery so that the author could finish off the story. Yes, Roberts offers an explanation to your questions, but it just wasn't satisfactory for my taste. 

Now, I'm not revealing what the big mystery is because it would take out the fun in reading this one (if you are going to read it, that is). I did wish on more instances than one that the doctor and detective would focus on the case in hand rather than tearing each other's clothes off and making earth shattering love. 

Of course, Roberts is an author who is known for her romantic novels, but when it comes to a subject such as this, I really did wish she had concentrated more on working out the mystery factor and making it a story that was jam packed with mystery and terror. 

This is one of Roberts' earlier works and I guess the changes are evident when you read her newer books. Well, I guess this is one book from which she has evolved as a writer. So, if you are looking for a good Nora Roberts book, I would suggest you pick some of her later works. And if you are looking for a good kick ass mystery (like me), give this one a pass. 

Linking this post to Write Tribe Pro Blogger Challenge

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Some Days

Image courtesy: Tumblr

There are days when hope whirs past me. I read. I think. I write. Most of the time, it hardly makes sense. And some days, when it all do. But strangely, those are days that I feel most content. Those are the days that I am me. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Book Review - How to Fall in Love by Cecelia Ahern

From the book cover: She has just two weeks. Two weeks to teach him how to fall in love – with his own life.

Adam Basil and Christine Rose are thrown together late one night, when Christine is crossing the Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin. Adam is there, poised, threatening to jump.

Adam is desperate – but Christine makes a crazy deal with him. His 35th birthday is looming and she bets him that before then she can show him life is worth living.

Against the ticking of the clock, the two of them embark on wild escapades, grand romantic gestures and some unlikely late-night outings. Slowly, Christine thinks Adam is starting to fall back in love with his life. But is that all that's starting to happen?

My take: I'm a huge fan of Cecilia Ahern. But somehow, I found a bit annoyed with this one. Yes, the story line is much darker than the ones she usually writes- it deals with suicide and the human psyche. As with all of her previous books, the cover made me fall in love with this book even before I started it. 

The story is narrated in the first person by the protagonist- Christine whose job ideally is to help people with their jobs. She has a recruitment agency where she goes out of her way to help her clients. 

Her life starts spiraling out of control when she comes face to face with a man- Simon, who shoots himself in an abandoned building. This incident acts a trigger for a set of following events and she leaves her husband that very night. However, misfortune awaits her again when she is confronted with Adam in the same month under similar circumstances.

Fed up with his life, he is ready to jump the Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin when she sees him for the first time. Unable to bear the guilt of Simon's attempted suicide and due to her natural instinct to help people, she makes a deal with him. To make him fall in love back with his life before his 35th birthday, which is in two weeks.

The rest of the book shows the unlikely friendship and relationship between the two. And the reasons as to why Adam chose to do what he wanted to. Being a successful guy who was in his thirties, I found it difficult to believe that he would be ready to end his life with something as petty as a heart break. True, that was not the sole reason, but this was a little hard to digest. 

The first half of the book seemed dragging and Adam came across as needy most of the time. This may not have been the intention of the author, but this was the feel that I got from the book. Christine, on the other hand, seemed to be a bit clingy for someone who made it her mission to help people. She is going through a hard time herself and has her own inner demons to battle. 

Abandonment issues, family problems, cyber bullying are all subjects that are dealt with in a subtle way. Unlike her previous works, where she adds a touch of magic to her stories, this one had none of that. The book picks up towards the end making me feel that the story could have been made crispier. 

There are lot of other characters including that of Christine's friend- Amelia, Detective Maguire who investigates the suicide incidents, her own bizarre family and Barry- her husband. The book is sprinkled with humor in a lot of places and this made the story a little less bleak  and a bit more livelier. 

Needless to say, I was a tad disappointed with How to fall in love. I find it difficult to believe that this was the same writer who gave us P.S. I love you, If you could see me now, A place called Here, Love Rosie and so many more. If you read this book without any said level of expectation, it is likely that you may enjoy this one. Or if you are like me, a fan nonetheless, you will end up reading it anyway.

I was in a dilemma regarding the rating as it was an okay read for me. The story line was promising but I do wish the protagonists were more believable and easier to like. I guess, I shall give this one a two point five. The beautiful cover of this book definitely scores some marks there. I would say read it and then decide for yourself whether you like it or not. In case you do pick it up, let me know your thoughts.


Linking this post to Write Tribe Pro Blogger Challenge

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Ideal Man

Image courtesy: Tumblr

The sound of the leaking faucet drifted in from the bathroom. Remind the watchman to get it fixed, I made a mental note for the umpteenth time. Yet I always forgot only to be reminded of it just before I went to bed. The sound of the dripping water, tonight was however, strangely comforting. 

Drip. Drip. Drip. 

On other nights it would have annoyed the hell out of me. Yet tonight, as I wallowed in self-pity over the state of my life that seemed to be spiraling out of control, the sound reminded me that some things never change. That it would never take you by surprise. And it would continue to be just that - a strangely monotonous routine that was here to stay. 

Such things grow on you, slowly creeping over you before you realize that you have actually started enjoying its company. Like a bad habit. Much like how you light that first cigarette, justifying yourself as you feel the smoke absorb in your lungs saying that it was just the one. A phase. But before you know it, the pack of cigarettes quickly turn out to be the high-point of your day. You look forward to those precious few minutes when you feel in control.

He was like that too, a habit that was difficult to break. What was it about him that I noticed first? Was it his warm smile that somehow reminded me of a bright yellow sun? The kind that my five year old niece drew with a smiley face and sunshine radiating from its face. Or was it the way his hands grew animated when he spoke about something he loved? Or maybe it was none of it. Maybe I took interest when he decided to shower his warmth on me. 

But this was not how things were supposed to end between us. We were supposed to get married, visit Maldives for honeymoon, have two kids- one boy and one girl. Things were supposed to be perfect. He was supposed to be the ideal man. One who would have my back at all times. But then, he had gone and screwed it up. 

It was supposed to be just another day at work; but my world fell apart on that wretched day. Working together in the same office meant that we got to spend a lot of time with each other. After all, that was really how I came to know more about him and then fell for him. 

It was in the pantry that I saw him laughing with her. Sonia. The bitch. Did he really expect me to believe that they were 'just friends'? Of course, I couldn't let my feelings betray me. So I smiled and brushed it aside. All the while seething inside. When he said that he wanted a break, to think things through before we took them any further, I did everything I could. I begged, pleaded and cajoled. I even threatened him. But nothing seemed to work.

Later that night, I saw them leaving the office together. His hands on her waist. I had seen that look on his face before. When he was with me. This was not how it was supposed to be. They thought they were so cute with their stupid fake smiles and behavior. He even held hands with her. He had never done that when he was with me. Of course, when he said that he was not into public displays of affection, I had believed him. How could I not when I was head over heels in love with him. 

But when he took her home that night, that did it. That was the last straw. I had had enough. I was hardly thinking straight as I broke into the apartment past midnight. There they were, lying so peacefully sleeping. Without a care in the world, not realizing that mine was falling apart. 

The blade of the knife that I kept in my purse glinted in the moonlight that was seeping in through the lace curtains. A gentle breeze drifted in. A quick slice and it was done. A muffled scream and she lay bleeding and writhing before coming to a complete stand still. Not so pretty now, are we? I smiled.

There he sat with a terrified look on his face. Oh. That sure got his attention now. I see a brief look of confusion on his face as I pulled open the syringe and pushed it up his hand. Maybe I caught him by surprise or he was in too much of a shock to retaliate. Either ways, he now lay heavily drugged. At my mercy.

Dragging him into my car and driving home didn't take much time. I was surprised at my strength. I was not as weak as everyone had thought, after all. Locking him in the bathroom and keeping him there seemed like the only solution at the time. And when he gained consciousness and tried to fight me, I had run the knife along his hand, a small gash but deep enough to draw a lot of blood. That sure shut him. 

It's been over a week and I enjoy the power that I yield over him. Of course, it's only a matter of time for him to realize that we are meant to be. He was my soul mate, the one person in my life who was supposed to stay forever. From the bathroom, there came a whimper. I smile.

Drip. Drip. Drip. 

The bathroom must be colder than before. It must be freezing. I turn off the light and go to bed. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Book Review - Idris: Keeper of the Light by Anita Nair

From the book cover: The year is 1659. Idris, a Somali trader, is in Malabar to attend the Zamorin’s Mamangam festivities. Everywhere he goes, his jewelled eye evokes a sense of wonder and incredulity. Then, by a strange twist of fate, Idris meets his nine-year-old son, Kandavar, born of a mysterious midnight tryst in this very land. Anxious to remain close to him for as long as possible, he joins the Nair household headed by Kandavar’s uncle, and is charged with a crucial task: of distracting the boy from his dream of becoming a Chaver, a warrior whose sole ambition is to assassinate the Zamorin, in a tradition whose beginnings have been lost in time.

In an attempt to stave off the inevitable, Idris embarks with his son on a voyage that takes them from Malabar to Ceylon, and from Thoothukudi to the diamond mines of Golkonda, where he meets the queenly Thilothamma, as solitary a being as he is. Will the mines reward him? Will he find the strength to leave his new-found love and journey back to his son’s land – and to an uncertain future?

Packed with adventure and passion, and full of fascinating insights into life in the seventeenth century, Idris: Keeper of the Light will keep you riveted and hungry for more.

My take: I bought this book seeing all the raving reviews that it has been getting. Besides it was by one of my favorite authors. So I might have bought it anyway. The book I bought was the hard bound version (I don't think they have a paperback version as yet). Of late, I have been having a thing for hard bound books. And I'm glad I got it because this one is definitely for keeps. 

Historical fiction is a genre that I'm not a huge fan of. Mainly because it reminds me of my school days where mugging up dates for my history exam gave me nightmares. For this very reason, I was skeptical when I picked it up. But I couldn't have been more wrong. A few pages into the book and I was hooked. Nair is an author who does her homework and the amount of research that has gone into into it is vast and it shows. 

Idris breaks the stereotype of the typical hero. He is black as the night and tall like a palm tree. With his one gold eye and his passion for adventure and star gazing, Idris grows on you. In his own words, he was Idris Maymoon Samataar Guleed. Previously of Dikhil. Now an eternal traveller seeking the measure of earth and man. 

The language that Nair has used is poetic. This has made reading Idris an absolute joy. The sprinkling of various words in Malayalam, Arabic or Telugu in any other context might have been putting off for the readers, but here, it somehow makes the novel more endearing. They are necessary for the story much like its protagonist who is a jack of all trades.

At 380 odd pages and the subject dealt with, the book is not an easy read, but I found myself racing through the book along with Idris and Kandavar. I finished the book in three days straight and I'm still stuck somewhere between the pages. There are a lot more that I would like to find out about Idris but unfortunately, looks like I will have to wait till the remaining two books of the trilogy comes out. Yes, you heard that right. It's a trilogy. Considering the nature of the subject, I think it's only fair. Besides, if this is the type of writing then I'm looking forward to some bulkier reads. 

Like all of Nair's previous works, the women characters in the novel are well etched out. Be it Kuttimalu- Kandavar's mother or Margarida, the child prostitute or Thilothamma, a strong and independent woman who finds solace in the company of her dogs, all of whom changes Idris's life in one way or the other. I only wish they had been given more space as these were characters who were anything but cliched. But then, I guess the story would have deviated from the title, which wouldn't have been fair to Idris. 

The other characters that Idris meets across the span of his journey all contribute to the story in their own ways. Idris is not just a novel about him but it surrounds the people that influence his life in one way or the other. Be it the faithful Sala Pokkar who joins him and Kandavar on their journey or Chandu Nair, Kandavar's uncle or Golla, an attendant who is introduced towards the latter part of the story. 

The other thing that I loved about the book was that Nair has weaved in many intricate stories into the main one. Like the story of Venkata Reddy, Thilothamma's great-grandfather with a secret that he took to his grave. The flashes of memory which takes back to Idris's past are as enchanting as well. 

On the whole, Idris is a well written, well researched novel which offers insights into the seventeenth century. But more importantly, it is the story of a man who loves to travel and not belong. Who refuses to be tied down. It is the story of a star gazer who is on the path of discovering himself; of a journey that takes us across the seas and then some more. 

It is the sort of book that upon completion you need to pause and really reflect on what just happened. I finished this book last night and needed some time to just think about it before penning this review. This one deserves a five star rating and no less! 

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