Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

On the last day of a fabulous decade.

A decade where I grew up but stayed playful, got older but remained naive, matured as a person and also got pickled, got educated but continued to learn, earned a salary and blew it all up, made some incredible friends and lost some as well, found and lost and found love again.

Much love to my family and friends - they are the cocoa and sugar to my dessert! Yes, Nishant is the nut.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Emperor - A Review

The Landmark sale convinced me to try the first of the Emperor series written by ex-history teacher Conn Iggulden - The Gates of Rome. A big fan of Robert Harris and his Imperium, I was especially fascinated with the struggle between Dictatorship and Republic in Ancient Rome. The more erudite of readers can probably draw parallels with modern-day politics but I just enjoyed reading about Cicero and his life as told by Tiro. The follow-up Lustrum wasn't as gripping and suffice to say, I'm not panting at the bit for his final book in the trilogy. At the same time, I liked Robert Harris's unusual depiction of that famous Roman Julius Caesar and the Emperor series seemed to paint a different yet similar picture.

So when I raced through, The Gates of Rome, I quickly bought the other 3 books in the series (at full price) and settled down to pace myself through them. Emperor takes one through the life and times of Gaius Julius Caesar - from his childhood to his exile, triumphs in Gaul, Britain and even his time in Egypt. The author's detailed description of army maneuvers are gripping and I suspect will be the mainstay of the movie (rights to which have been picked up already) but the more interesting (for me, anyway) parts of the books is the complicated relationship between Caesar and Brutus culminating in that famous phrase - Et tu, Brutus? It is an unusual and ambiguous depiction of a friendship-cum-enimity where love and hate blur together and jealousy and awe jostle for supremacy. The stark contrast tugs at our heart strings especially when one quickly re-reads the first chapter of the first book after completing the final book. No surprise that while the author plans to write a fifth book, I would be happier if the series was left as is.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Advice columns

So I have a guilty pleasure.
I enjoy reading advice columns in newspapers and magazines. Not the sleazy sex columns where every man seems to write in about the same thing. Ugh.
No, I enjoy reading what people write in, asking for advice to their personal problems. Maybe I get a kick out of trying to imagine what my advice would be and giggling when I'm off-base (Hey if Pooja Bedi can do it...). The problem is that the main paper I read doesn't have this kind of a column and I'll be damned if I go spend Rs. 100 just to satisfy my idle curiosity.
So I hit the motherlode the other day via an accidental link to Dear Prudence in Slate Magazine and then her archive section. I waded through all of 2010 columns including the live chat which often ran into multiple pages and enjoyed myself immensely. Between the Bridezilla mails and the one about etiquette (how long can I put off writing thank you notes etc), I also noticed a lot of mails about hurt feelings caused by friends and family members. Whether it was the mother-in-law who displays a wedding photo (without the bride - her DIL - in it) or the friend who doesn't invite her closest friend for her wedding / party / house-warming; the mails all spoke about people who have hurt the writer's feelings in some way making him / her (oh, alright they were mostly female) bitter and angry. While the advice columnist (sanely) told the writers to either speak up or shut up, I got thinking.
As someone who often gets foot-in-mouth disease and then worries her apologies sounds insincere, I also know that many-a-times people have no clue that what they've said may have come off as hurtful. While often, the recepient is too stunned to respond (hey its happened to me too - I was just flabbergasted that someone could be so rude! And to me no less!), I also think people should be called out on their gaffes immediately, if not soon after. No way should it fester and weigh on someone's mind and then erupt in a totally inappropriate time on the clueless, albeit rude person. Of course, if there is malice involved, an apology may not be forthcoming but at least you got it off your chest and sounded assertive too.
Now I just re-read this post and I think I am sounding a lot like Prudence so am jazzing off. Not to read all the columns of 2009 :)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Family Matters!

Its been about 3 months since my last post. A post where I promised to myself that I would write at least once a month. I could make a dozen excuses enumerating how strange and different the time has been but I have no patience with specious reasons especially my own.
Instead I will simply write the post. A prosaic (though not poetic) solution.
So I have enough time to do some reading these days catching up on books both good and bad. People often find my reading habits strange. I remember a senior in school being non-plussed to see my name in both Isaac Asimov as well as Agatha Christie books in the library (written on the borrowing cards, not the pages of the books!) after having caught me with a Mills & Boon as well as pontificating on Ayn Rand. Anyway, my guilty pleasure these days is Regency romances (long enough to last, happy endings to suit romantic me) but after amassing many of these, I decided to pick another book of a different sort.
Enter Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry. A tale of a Parsi family and the illness of the patriarch, the book looks heavy (the hardback didn't help) but makes for easy reading. On of the themes (Parsi - non-Parsi romance) intrigued me while the who-will-take-care-of-the-ill-father struck a chord. However, Mistry's prose is light and doesn't dwell on the sadness of the story (though the description of the partiarch's affliction of Parkinson moved me). Even the subtle Shiv Sena-RSS sub-plot is well handled but doesn't overwhelm the reader, instead leaving silent questions for us. I especially enjoyed the deft descriptions of the Parsi religion and a provoking thought at how willingly we ignore religions unfamiliar to us. But in the end, what really works for the book is the engaging story and the way it draws us into the quiet life of a Parsi family in Mumbai (not Bombay). And in the end isn't that what a good book (whatever the genre) is supposed to be - A Jolly Good Read?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Textbook Romance

As we walked down the streets of Paris, S questioned the city's reputation of being the most romantic city in the world. Perhaps I was merely tired and foot-sore after walking what seemed like a million miles all over Versailles, but I agreed with her. It was damp, cold and everybody spoke a strange language. And then we looked up and gasped. The Eiffel Tower! All lit up at night..

As we excitedly posed in front of the Tower (in every possible combination), we marvelled at the feat of engineering and the beauty of the design. Simple, elegant lines wrought of metal lit by glowing bulbs; flashing intermittently and drawing everyone's eyes.. Gorgeous.. and yet, I still didn't see how Paris could be all that romantic a city.
So we went on our way exploring Paris as all tourists do.. walking down the Champs de Elysses, admiring the glass pyramid at the Louvre, lazing in the chairs at the Jardin Tuillieres and taking pictures everywhere. Even the pretty little terrace at our cozy hotel room didn't inspire me to poetry!
Until the next night when, after going up and down the Eiffel Tower, my husband walked me across the river to the Palais de Chaillot. As he cuddled me, I enjoyed my chocolate crepes on the steps and gazed across the Seine to the Eiffel Tower.. it hit me.. this was easily one of the most romantic moments of our lives... and some of my cynicism faded. Paris may not be the most romantic cities is the world for me but boy, it sure comes close!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Anti-Social Media

It feels very strange to be posting a blog after so long.. Not just because I'm out of practice but because sometimes I catch myself composing a particular sentence to use. Maybe I just find myself thinking almost exactly as I would write.. I frame amusing lines, find funny jokes, google what I want to explain.. And then I either tweet ir or post it on Facebook..
So is social networking the end of blogging? Not for other people.. Some have found a simple solution.. Write a post and their link is their status.. A few clicks is ensured..especially if the heading is provocative enough.. Hey, I may sound derisive but it requires real discipline to control that snappy one-liner and instead write a warm, funny blog post.
But the ones I reall envy are those who have this great imagination.. They continue to post some really funny stuff on Twitter and Facebook, while still writing amazing content on their blog. Sure, some are journalist so they're already at an advantage but what about the others.. They have a day job which they slog away at, keep their followers amused with hilarious tweets and give us something to think about in their blog post as well.. I think I'm rambling now..
But I know I want to write and for that I cannot use social media as an excuse.. Thus, I make a promise - to myself as I doubt anyone reads this except by accident - to try and write at least once a month. Movie reviews, book reviews, random jokes, funny pictures.. Something which I want to share.. And not on twitter or FB..