Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A House for Happy Mothers - Review

I had read Amulya Malladi's The mango season when I was in the US. I loved her work then and picked this kindle version when it was available for free. But this novel is not what I had expected from her.

The concept was something new, surrogacy in India and the premise of the novel was set good. But then the ugly side of the exploitation takes shape and it was kind of depressing to read on. I frankly don't understand the title of the novel when all the surrogate mothers are stressed that they would never see the baby again. I kept reading the novel because I am 29 weeks pregnant and thought something would be alike. There is nothing happy in the house for those mothers. Though the house portrayed here was kind of okay, the author does mention that others are cramped and dilapidated.

The life of Priya, the donor mother, is not as emotional as the Indian mother. Her life is very comfortably revolving around her husband, her friends, his friends and the parties their friends throw where everyone goes around judging each other. Sometimes she comes off as shallow. The backdrop though a valid one could have been more sensitive. The author does revive the emotional bonding between the american couple through the way they get over their misunderstandings, miscarriage and everything in between.

The novel however ends abruptly. They give each other hope (the surrogate mother and the client) and they are never going to be in contact with each other. The author substantiates each other's decision because they each get something in return to look forward to. This was how the surrogate and the donor mother cope with their decisions to hire or become a surrogate mother against their conscience. The ending could have been more concrete so that it could have tied all the characters together.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Because of Winn-Dixie - Review

The beautiful thing about a children's novel is that we get to see the world that beholds the eyes of a kid. It somehow masquerades the harsh truth and gives a coping mechanism. I believe it is called the moral of the story. Not all stories have a moral and yet they beautifully teach kids to handle the emotions and their own little world through the characters.

One thing a children's novel needs is a beautiful character sketch, be it with with flaws or their strengths. It gives a take-away or a memento that is going to be etched in the memory of the kid forever. Someone they can relate to. So it is apt that many of us would remember India Opal for the way she transformed and touched the lives of everyone around her, be it the dog Winn-Dixie to the musician Otis. But she is graceful enough to think that it all happened because of Winn-Dixie (And hence the title).

The valuable lesson for the kids and the adults alike is to love one another without being judgemental. When there is a fear of losing someone or a emptiness around you, the book summaries it beautifully:

"There ain’t no way you can hold on to something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it."

A very simple yet realistic story that is deliberately spun around friendship, hope, sorrow and many more human emotions tied together beautifully by a dog.

Everyone has a story - review

Boy meets girl story with an atmosphere set for romance. But the story fails miserably because the plot was not strong. The story did not get me hooked even after a couple of of chapters and I should have known to close it. I don't know how the amazon best seller tag was attached to this nonsense. The story stops making any sense after a while. Even the supporting characters have a better past and strong character build, but the main two protagonists are not built solid.

The character of Vivaan is not at all steady. He yearns for Meera and when he is back he never declares his love. The author just lengthens the plot unnecessarily with added drama. It could have been handled better. Well one can guess the need for Vivaan to travel or 'escape' as the author puts it. It is no suspense that he is running away from his past, and that alone does not qualify for his mysterious persona. Seriously, I don't understand how Meera thinks she can get a good novel out of Vivaan just because he said he wanted to travel.

And Vivaan had to travel thousands of miles to get some serious 'gyan'. And that too foreigners would open up to him like he were some old friend and offer him advice. That is not how it works in the reality. When we are strangers we are just acquaintance at the best and not some one dearly. Healing of Meera (from the heart break) was the understatement of the year. She mops around all the time and one miraculous night she heals. She goes around and grooms herself. The author could have been more elaborate with this. Speaking of healing, when Meera was in the ICU, I don't know how her parents never visit her. Or even her closest relations. It was bizarre but again the characters were not etched solid.

The only consolation so far from this novel is the philosophical and romantic lines written beautifully and briefly.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Masala Toast

What makes a good English breakfast? French Toast of course.  But the Desi version should be called Masala toast.  Here I have eggs and bread in common.  That's it.  So should I be comparing both.  Maybe not, but it is the best and easy Sunday breakfast if you are really lazy!  I have here a very basic version with very limited ingredients (or creativity) but really the choices are endless.  You can add red chilli powder, cumin powder, chillies, garlic, mint, coriander leaves and so on.  Well it depends on your taste buds and the heat you can handle.  So without further ado lets get into the recipe and enjoy it with all the Masala and heat on a nice and slow November morning.

  • Eggs - 6
  • Bread slices - 8
  • Onion - 2 medium sized, Finely chopped
  • Turmeric pwd - 1/4 tsp
  • Pepper pwd - 1 tsp
  • Garam Masala pwd - 1/2 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil - 2 tsp
  • Oil or Butter to toast the bread
  • In a mixing bowl, add the turmeric pwd, pepper pwd, garam masala pwd, salt and 1/4 tsp water and mix everything well.  The turmeric will not mix well with the egg if water is not added.
  • Now break the eggs and whisk them together with the spices till they are well combined.
  • In a pan or tawa, add 2 tsp oil and saute the onions till they are translucent.  Add this to the egg mixture

  • Heat the pan or tawa again and add some butter or oil to toast the bread.  Dip a bread slice into the egg mixture and slide it onto the pan or tawa.  Keep the flame on low as the egg cooks faster and will burn otherwise.  When one side becomes golden brown turn it to the other side.  When both sides are cooked and golden, remove to a plate
  • Cook all the bread slices in the same manner.  Depending on the pan or Tawa size you can cook 2-3 in a batch.  Remember to mix the mixture every time otherwise the onions will settle in the bottom.
  • Serve hot with Ketchup or chutney or any dip of your choice.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Before we visit the Goddess

This is the third book I am reading of this author.  This book is as good as her first two books (One Amazing thing, Palace of Illusions).  Being a Bengali author this novel too revolves around a Bengali family with three generation of mothers.  Their hardship, though melodramatic, is the very epitome of the novel.  One mother's resolve will shape the life of the next mother.  It is wonderful that the author has portrayed every mother with their own weakness, battles and regrets that seeps through to the next generation. 

The story set in India, quickly marches forward to the life in America.  Each character has a say through their chapters and we try to understand the many shades which substantiate their actions.  The mother-daughter bond forged in this novel, is very down to earth practical.  Though every daughter or mother loves each other and are the cause of their existence, not everyone has a smooth relationship.  The plight of an estranged daughter is caught very well. 

From start to finish the author does not keep the chapters in any order of events which whet our interest as to how the end will be tied together.  The author has chosen Point of views that are told either in monologues or narrations.  But since the story was gripping enough I did not account if a particular character has been given a particular style of narration.  The characterisation of Sabithri was very strong and Tara's and Bela's were a bit flat compared to hers.  Though there were a lot of
travel between times, the author captures our imagination very apt to the era.  She paints a picture carefully including every small detail.  All in all a very beautiful book capturing the importance of blood relations and the inheritance of talent.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

A man called Ove

Everyone has to die some day and this book just focuses on the one who had to stand the death of his beloved.  Ove is portrayed as a bitter and grumpy old man.  The author starts his narration with Ove and continues to introduce more characters without names but from the point of view of Ove.  As Ove learns each one’s name, so do we.  As he reminisces his past, we learn more names of the characters in his black and white life. 

This is mainly a love story that is partly delightful and partly heart wrenching.  To soothe the heart aches, the author keeps shuttling between the past and the present.  Though we get stricken at some points, we slowly heal (along with Ove) through the happenings in the present.  So many light-hearted moments around a man, whom I suspect has ASD, is a pleasure to read.  But it was also heart wrenching when he was left to himself time and again.  It was like watching, helplessly, as a child tries to shape itself with the right principles.  On the whole the author has managed to sculpt the character of Ove with such details that it is hard to hate him even when he is grumpy.

For a life so short, the kindness keeps pouring out of their lives.  This makes it inspirational and uplifting to follow in their footsteps.  After all, Ove made Lemonades when life threw lemons at him.

I was getting more and more attached with the character towards the end.  During the end though we know the inevitable does happen, the author does not disappoint us.  The story comes a full circle and we know that we can close the book with a feeling of content.

My favorite quote from the book: 

“He was a man of black and white.  
And she was color. All the color he had.”

Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the great motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone."

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Queen Of Jasmine Country

Andal the saint poet, who lived to tell the world of a devotion so high but which can be attainted through pure love.  Her verses are very popular in the Tamil culture that the month Margazhi sounds synonymous with Andal.  Though the verses are very popular, we do not know a very clear picture of her life.  Through folklore and hearsay, we know that she was the adopted daughter of Saint Periyazhwar and she was the avatar of Bhu-devi.

The author has made a novel around the life of this saint, using her imagination and entwining it with events that are well known facts.  It really was a fresh take on Kodhai’s life.  She was christened as Andal much later, in her early life she was Kodhai.  She paints a picture that is truly human with a myriad of emotions ranging from lust to disappointment.  I do know a few verses of Andal’s “Thirupavai” and I always thought of how selfless the goddess was when she prays for the world’s benefit.  But here the author has entirely twisted the idea and made it as a yearning of a teenage girl. 

The book travels through some important ancient scriptures like the Kurunthogai, Thirupavai, Nachiyar Thirumozhi and many more.  Though I could recognise the English translation of the verses, I regret that I do not know the whole verse by-heart in Tamil.  Now when I prostrate before Andal I doubt if I will search for the teenage girl Kodhai, whose love for the lord grows quickly and erotically in each and every verse.  I had always been in awe of her love for the God, how she takes Him to be her husband, lives for Him, yearns for Him, finally attains Him.  This book only makes it easier for us to understand (though only through imagination) why and how she loves Him and cannot fathom anyone else in His place.

The author’s prose is rich and the whole novel is a monologue.  Though this is her debut novel she manages to pack an intense story in about 140 pages.  Her expressions, emotions and even the very atmosphere of the story is doused in every word with a rich vocabulary she has carefully chosen.  The author has peppered the whole novel with settings synonymous to the Tamil culture, be it the Tamil names of the characters, the millets used in diets instead of rice or the many flowers which are native to Tamil Nadu.  She makes this imaginary story her base for the events of the Pavai nombu, which beautifully says why and what made Kodai to pen those verses.  She draws a picture of the ancient Tamil Nadu with the rules for each strata of the society.  Also, a detailed account of the harvest festival Pongal is mentioned here.  Many Tamil words are literally given in English without a translation.  It made me relish the story with a native feel though I know for many it would limit their experience.  The author has mentioned about a mother for our protagonist but I would like to get to know her more.  Many a times I read and re-read the same lines a couple of times.  This is a novel you would not want to rush with.

Though the author has altered many happenings in her novel, she does give a detailed account of how the original story was told.  She also gives references to how and what made her depict a particular scene in the book.  The avatar and life of Andal has been very controversial and in recent times it had made way for heated arguments and rows.  But although the author has tried to shed a new light, that is imaginary, in the life of Kodai, she will still be known as the virtuous one who will heed to all our needs.
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