Of Bookworms and Jelly Bellies

 Book: Bookworms and Jelly Bellies

Author: Rajini Rao & Ruchira Ramanujam

Genre: Cookbook

Publication: Hachette India

You may call me pompous and a brag,  but I take pride in being a good cook. I don’t innovate or concoct new dishes but I do follow the cook book instructions to the T and hence have successfully hosted elaborate parties and several surprise visitors ‘bouncers’ as we call them in fauji lingo.

I have a hoard of cook books tucked away in kitchen shelf with tell-tale signs of spills and subsequent successes. So when this book arrived at my door step, I was quite excited.

The colorful cover even caught my daughter’s eye instantly. Looking at her eagerness to flip the pages, the title ‘Bookworms and Jelly Bellies’ aimed to attract kids of all ages lives up to its expectation.

There are very few cook books that solely target young cooks who are entering that curious phase of making something on their own and the usual cookbooks even have some recipes whose ingredients might not be easily available. The end product after following all the instructions most often does not even look like the big glossy picture. This one however aims to make kids love kitchen work. It looks real and comprehensible for kids.

Divided into various sections for age groups ranging from three to fourteen,the book has some cute recipes with varying degree of execution difficulty.  From a twisty curvy cucumber slices caterpillar to baked scones to pasta dishes all the recipes are easy and create a curious enthusiasm in the kid…well my kid is enthusiastic to try her hand out. So I assume kids her age would be too.

Another adorable twist in the cook book is this reference to children’s stories. Each recipe has a corresponding children’s book with little trivia for that fun element. So if the recipe is of  ‘cookies’ the corresponding story is ‘If You Give A Mouse A Cookie’ by Laura Joffe Numeroff…a recipe for ‘Avalakki Pavalakki’ has devdutt Pattanaik’s ‘An Identity Card For Krishna’ for company…’Chocolate Snow’ recipe is paired with Roopa Pai’s stories ‘The Taranauts Series’ and Asterix in Switzerland is obviously for ‘Cheese Fondue’ recipe which even I fell in love with!

What this book is doing is killing two birds(…not for eating!)… One it attracts the kids to try something new with new name perhaps and two, it introduces many story books which the kid may or may not have read and after seeing it here would be curious to read. So it’s a win-win for the parent, I suppose. I quite liked the idea of this cookbook.

Some of the recipes are even good for serving as snacks during parties that I host. Now till my daughter finds time to experiment and play little chef, I, myself shall start trying some of these for may be her tiffin!

The book is a wonderful experiment of putting up recipes with a spin. It would be good thing to have on your kitchen shelf.

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Book Review: The Aravan Head

Book: The Aravan Head

Author: Arvind Narasimha

Genre: Fiction

Publications: Inspire India Publishers

Amidst house shifting, setting up a home and travel I have lagged behind in reviewing some wonderful books that came my way.

Honestly, when the book The Aravan Head arrived, I had not heard of the character ‘Aravan’ from mythology though I knew of the related story. At the beginning of the story, I assumed it might be one where modern-day characters would be in some way related to mythology. But I was wrong.

The book however does introduce the hero of the story, Arya, with ‘Aravan Head’ as the backdrop. Arya, a cop is that super hero of Indian movies who does all the right things and escapes unscathed ninety-nine percent of times in the story. His character is unblemished, his attitude is rock solid but yet he has a softer side. He cooks well, he stands up for what is right, he respects women and he is handsome too…a perfect man who every woman would love to have around.

A series of events sends the super cop on trail of perpetrators. He goes undercover and stays at the farmhouse of the leader of underworld and discovers all his nefarious activities. Along the way he rescues an eunuch from clutches of criminals and falls in love with a shy pretty and simple girl.

In his pursuit of justice and bringing an end to criminal activities he puts up a tough fight. Of course he succeeds but pays a big price for his efforts.

Though the story is typical ‘masala’ movie kind of thing but what I liked about it is that the entire story line is knit tightly with no languishing moments. It is fast paced and keeps the reader engaged all through. The characters are well-defined and blend in the story seamlessly.

A well written story, it might as well be made into a movie which would definitely please the masses. The subtle emotional feelings and brewing love between Arya and Pavitra, the shy girl has been shown to blossom softly without unnecessary erotic presentation. The  end of story brought a little twist which was quite necessary to bring some realness to the human characters.

I loved reading the book because it kept me involved and eager to turn the page however, the perpetual success of the lead character became slightly predictable throughout the story but then again that is what the Bahubalis and Rajnikants of cine-world do…

All in all a mass entertainer. Go ahead and read if thrillers are your choice of weekend reading.

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Yaari Dosti….

अमीरी गरीबी से परे हो
अहं से न घिरी हो
शर्तों में न बंधी हो
जिंदगी के तूफानों से लड
लौ जिसकी न बुझी हो
दोस्ती वो निराली है
नखरे उठाती नखरे दिखाती
उसकी नोंकझोंक ही बडी प्यारी है
गुनगुनी धूप सी
मन हरा कर जाए
दोस्ती तो वही निभाने वाली है
गिनती के ही हों सही
अपने यारों की लेकिन
खासी ऐसी यारी है

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Book Review: Bhrigu Mahesh, The Return Of Damayanti

Book: Bhrigu Mahesh, Return Of Damayanti

Author: Nisha Singh

Genre: Thriller

Publication: Partridge Publications

Whenever I go to book stores, I invariably reach out to the mysteries and thriller section unless there is some super attractive history book that I was waiting for. Needless to say, crime fiction and thriller stories are my favorite genres for a leisure evening.

But the books that I have been reading in past few months were luke-warm as far as nail-biting thrill is concerned. I wasn’t really very sure whether I did the right thing by applying to review this book.

It turns out that I was wrong. Bhrigu Mahesh, the detective in “The Return Of Damayanti” by Nisha Singh reminded me of our very  own Vyomkesh Bakshi or the Brit pair of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson.

A keen observer who analyzes every situation in detail, Bhrigu Mahesh is approached by a retired petrified clerk  with a strange request. The poor clerk is at his wit’s end as he is scared of the ghost of his dead wife and he wants Bhrigu Mahesh to get rid of the ghost. Intrigued at this odd request, Bhrigu Mahesh drags his friend and confidant Sutte to the village of Krishnadwar. As is his habit he observes all the people closely related to the household of the clerk to zero in on the culprit who has been troubling Natraj Bhakti, the clerk.

As he contemplates, Natraj Bhakti’s sister is murdered and the story takes a sinister twist. Investigations lead Bhrigu Mahesh to the mastermind who for satisfying his weird experiment on human behavior has been manipulating unsuspecting people into doing out-of-ordinary acts that lead to eventually killing.

Though this is not a fast paced action story yet strangely the narration doesn’t bore you and you don’t feel like skipping anything. Story meanders through the lanes of the village and grows on you with little details hidden in the narration. Characteristics and habits of the people involved become evident subtly in the story. The friend of detective, Sutte, provides interesting breaks in the narrative by showing his annoyance about the village facilities and Bhrigu Mahesh’s habit of slipping into thoughts.

What I liked about the narration was that all the suspects of the ghost mystery and later of the murder are treated equally which keeps the reader guessing who the murderer was or who was troubling Natraj Bhakti with ghost activities. The culprits that emerge after complete investigations and deliberations of Bhrigu Mahesh are a surprise for the readers.

Even the title presents a mystery. Reader becomes curious to find who Damayanti is. While the reader is getting used to the idea of story revolving around a paranormal phenomenon, the sudden twist gives a new dimension to the story.

There could have been though more details of the house and village to complete the picture in the mystery. The house, the murder scene and the temple where the god-man instigated ordinary folk seem little less connected. Even the room which Nataraj Bhakti built for himself is described to be little away from the haunted room so I wondered how the clerk knew about ghost visits.

But in all the book is an engaging read. Readers who find thrillers interesting will enjoy this. Have a read.

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Tab Bhi Uljhan Hoti Thi; Ab Bhi Uljhan Hoti Hai


रेत से बटोरी सीपी ही
बचपन की दौलत होती थी
सिक्कों की खनक में लेकिन
अब दौलत अपनी नपती है
ऊंचे आस्मां में ही
बचपन की पतंग उड़ती थी
अब कहाँ उस नीली छतरी को
निहारने की फुर्सत होती है
कागज़ की कश्ती जाने कितने
किनारों की कहानी तब सुनती थी
पक्की सड़कों पर लेकिन अब
बारिश ही कहाँ उतनी होती है
इश्क़ के सपने सजाये
रैना पलकें मूँद लेती थी
पहली झुर्री की आहट से
अब रातों की नींद उड़ती है
जवां होने की लड़कपन को
बेहद जल्दी होती थी
ढलती उम्र थम जाए
अब इसकी फ़िक्र होती है
तब भी उलझन होती थी
अब भी उलझन होती है
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Wakt ka kya hai….


वक्त का क्या है
यूँ ही रेत बन
उंगलियों से फिसल जाता है
लाख कर लो मिन्नतें
पलट के नहीं देखता
यूँ ही धोका दे जाता है
ख्वाइशों का क्या है
यूँ ही पंख लगा
हर सू उड़ जाती है
लाख लगो लो लगाम
हाथ नहीं आती
यूँ ही दिल सुलगा जाती हैं
नज़र का क्या है
यूँ ही आवारा बन
दुनिया देख आती है
रस्मों की दे लो लाख दुहाई
अनसुना कर देती है
यूँ ही ललसा जाती है
आग ही है
जो वक्त से लड़ जाती है
शोले कुछ कर गुज़रें
ऐसी हवा चलाती है
ये कर जाए घर तो
यूँ ही दिल तड़पा जाती है
और मोहब्बत ही है
जो वक्त बाँध लेती है
ख्वाइश को राह दिखा देती है
नज़रों को ठिकाना देती है
मुझे और तुझे
बस यूँ ही संभल लेती है
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Book Review: The Girl Who Loved A Pirate

Book: The Girl Who Loved A Pirate

Author: Kulpreet Yadav

Genre: Fiction/Crime

Publication: Rumor Books India

An author signed book is a prized possession for book lovers. And when ‘The Girl Who Loved A Pirate’ arrived at my door step, I was happy to receive yet another book with a note from author.

I haven’t read the earlier book in this series which I am guessing introduced the reader with ‘Andy Karan’ the spy.

This story is about a ruthless pirate wanted by the Malaysian government. Andy Karan, an undercover spy has dual job as a journalist trying to unearth drug don in Goa and a secret mission for the Indian government with the help of the pirate.

In a series of events that take the reader from Goa and the rave parties to the high seas where drama unfolds as pirates and Filipino crime hardened sailors take on each other. The leader of pirates battles with an urge to go against the government mission for safety of his lady love. The Indian coast guards and Navy along with Andy Karan come into play for the sake of mission. All in all there is a lot of action going on from the word go of the story. The subtle love story of pirate leader ‘Ba-qat’ and Andy Karan’s escapades with drug lords of Goa run parallel in the story.

The story however begins with Kurukshetra and Karan in his dying moments. I was expecting a ‘Karan-esque’ end to the story, Mahabharata style. Or that the pirate and spy stumble upon a dark secret of being brothers….a la Karan Arjun style. But as there was nothing of that sort, I was confused as to why the prologue  was the way it was.

Also I felt that since the story was named ‘The Girl Who Loved A Pirate’, there was very less mention of ‘Dao-Ming’ the pirate’s lover. She is in background with Andy Karan’s drug investigations and pirate’s action taking the center stage. I would have liked to see the girl in more prominent role may be as a spy herself who falls for a pirate and that would have justified the title of the book too. May be like the lead character ‘Lisbeth Salander’ of Millennium series by Stieg Larsson like ‘The girl who played with fire’ and the first one ‘The girl with the dragon tattoo’.

The book is a nice read with author’s knowledge about ships and seas shining through. The story also keeps the reader engaged and guessing throughout with fast action thriller. I would like to read more from the author…

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