Friday, 6 October 2017

It's Review Time!

Rain- A Survivor’s Tale
by Sriram Subramanian

(A Critical Review)

The novel revolves around the life and times of a man who is in conflict with his past and his present. He challenges the forces of nature and long-standing conventions, loses badly, learns his lessons and starts over. As the subtitle suggests appropriately, the story is about a survivor, a person who goes through all the trials of fire and emerges purified. It touches upon a number of issues, starting with the problems of a northerner marrying a Marathi girl as the protagonist does. It beautifully captures the way a language can alter the status of a person. The protagonist despite his love of all things Maharashtrian is not able to express his fidelity and loyalty to the community due to the fact that he does not know the language. It expresses aptly how language barriers create family rifts. The book starts with the relationship dynamics in Jai’s family and highlights the entrenched blind faith in certain traditions and personalities like the great astrologer Pandit Borkar whose prediction sets the wheels of events turning and effectively begins the novel plot in earnest. What follows is a story of a man walking on a tightrope of his dreams and others’ expectations, trying desperately to establish himself, walking in his virtuous father’s footsteps and keeping everyone happy. An atheist, he tempts fate by openly declaring his intentions to thwart the great Borkar’s predictions of hard times in the near future and swears to build a bungalow for his wife, Sarika. He ignores her intuitive feelings when she tells him to pause and warns him repeatedly regarding opportunistic friends. But inebriated with the will to succeed at any cost and heady with the lucrative big business deal he lands up, Jai ignores Sarika’s misgivings.
What results is his complete collapse when not just his client breaks the deal, but he has to file for bankruptcy when his business partner and long-time friend turns into a venomous foe. All these difficult times are worsened by his father’s death leaving behind three thick diaries that take Jai on a soul-searching journey back to his past. His demons start resurfacing and skeletons begin crawling out of his past closet turning his mind around and creating a miasma of guilt around him, a whirlpool which he is not able to escape and eventually gets sucked into.
The adventures of Jai when his business crumbles and he takes to the streets takes the reader to the grimy underbelly of the city of Pune and unveils the tragic fates of those who make their living on the streets. It also exposes the political drama that goes behind the scenes of an election.
Various themes sprout up in the novel at different times, for instance, the Marathi pride and fierce sense of belonging towards their own community, the ambition of politicians, a mother’s blind love, misplaced anger, infidelity and so on. Jai’s father-in-law is the father figure in this book, the man who is able to view everything with an unbiased perspective and provides sane advice to anyone who needs it.
Jai’s past deals with a crucial social matter of how rumors can ruin a person’s life. The reception of a sibling by a child has been sensitively portrayed in the novel. In fact, Jai’s story of Sunny is the crux of the plot and a prime mover in his upbringing, his relations with his father and the major cause of his leaving his hometown. The author has carefully threaded this delicate issue into the book, taking into account honest, unbarred feelings and giving them voice in an effort to understand and learn the nuances of such a touchy matter. 
The thing about the characters was that they were predictable. The good thing was that they could be easily identified with. A bit of unreality crept into the story at times, when the protagonist takes to the street and farm life easily, giving it a very movie-ish feel. But there is an element of unconventionality in the plot when Jai’s difficult decision with Ashok bears no fruit and he is relegated to unknown parts of the country because of his own decision never to meet Sarika. The reader is kept wanting for the two star-crossed lovers to meet but is tormented for quite sometime. The jewel on the crown is the worldview of the holy man who wanders into the village where Jai has settled and shakes him out of his torpor, giving him the peace of mind he had been seeking so long. 
False friends, hypocritical relations, critical naysayers, hurt beloved, tormented protagonist- all the major elements of a potboiler combine in this book with the burning concerns of the age what with corruption, domination of females, plight of the slum-dwellers, the dirt of politics, and the state that the country is in to give it a contemporary fast-paced feel.
The novel moves through the political centres of the city of Pune to the smelly dilapidated hovels beneath the flyovers to tranquil farmlands seamlessly telling many tales in a natural voice of a common man who abides by the rules, is moderately ambitious, dogged by guilt due to his past and wants to transform his life.
Some incredible life lessons emerge suitably in the final chapter where Jai finally gets his salvation from the honeyed words of a great man, who in some beautiful and powerful lines, explains accurately what life is all about. It is beautiful to note the role of rain in this novel. At the outset of the novel, Jai prayed for the rains to be delayed as opposed to the majority of the population for whom rain was a blessing in disguise. As rotten luck would have it, it rained cats and dogs soon after and life took a severe downturn for him. However, the end of the novel shows how Jai reconciled with his lot, forgave himself, reconciled himself to the harsh realities of life and ultimately came to love the rains.      


Here is the link to buy it online :)

Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Rapunzel Story

“They have silver in their hair, gold in their heart… and magic in their hands.”


Or at least in my grandmother’s hands. This is not just because every dish she prepared made my taste buds go ‘this is nirvana!’ or even the simplest tea she brewed was so much better than any I ever had so far. It was because her hands worked magic on my hair. Every afternoon when I came home from school, I would get over with my ablutions, and before mother could place my bowl of rice in front of me, I was off to see grandma in her room, where she sat caressing her tresses with oil. My grandma had luscious, beautiful, wondrous, jet-black hair. She loved to tell me her story of her Rapunzel-like long hair and how when granddad’s parents came to see her, the first thing that amazed them about her was her hair. They asked not one question after that. And just like that, their marriage was settled.
“They liked your hair so much that they wedded their son to you?” I had asked incredulously.
“Absolutely!” Grandma had answered with that beautiful laugh of hers and the familiar twinkle of her eyes. “In those days, one’s hair was one’s pride.”
“It still is.” I had said. “But hardly anyone has the kind of black hair that you do.”

But it was evident why that was the case. Grandma oiled her hair daily, not missing even a single day. And that is what she had done to me as well. Every afternoon, I would sit in front of her, my arms around my knees and my mane spread out. Grandma would then run her old veined hands over my hair. First slowly, and then with a little emphasis to ensure that every strand of my hair got the massage and nutrition it needed. She took care of her hair like a plant, watering (oiling) it, and helping it grow by nurturing it carefully.  No wonder I too had long, black and shiny hair. Not just because of my genes, but because Grandma had put so much effort into caring for my hair.

She always insisted on coconut oil. She said it was the best oil for one’s hair.

“What if my hair is oily or say, dry and flaky? Isn’t there supposed to be different types of oil for different types of hair?” I would ask when I entered adolescence and saw my peers doing all kinds of things to their hair and feeling just a little bit left out.

Coconut oil is the best.” She would say with a finality that no one could contest. Parachute was her constant. And consequently, our staple.   


“Come on everyone! Be seated quickly!” I ordered.
Mom, dad, grandpa, my little brother, uncle, aunty and their two daughters were all seated as per my instructions. We were going to witness something today.

“What is it? Will you tell us?” everyone was asking.
“Just wait and watch.” I said and switched on the video.

On came all the snaps that we had taken at different times in our life - right from when we were tiny tots to weddings, birthdays, celebrations, occasions all the way to our current year. There were also photos from times much before we were born.

“Who is that?” My cousin exclaimed at a black and white photograph of a beautiful woman with long black hair that reached her knees.
“That is your grandmother, kid.” Grandpa said fondly, a tear escaping his eye. “This was the picture I had taken of her when we got married.”

Everyone gasped in surprise.

“How did you arrange these pictures? They look ancient! And so beautiful.” Mom lauded my efforts, making me blush.
“This picture relived all those moments again.” Grandpa said a little sadly.

It had been three years since Grandma had left for her heavenly abode. I still remember how we used to celebrate Grandparents’ Day when Grandma was alive, with all due ceremony, cake and music and good food…

But ever since grandma’s demise, this had seen a cessation. There was no more celebration, no more cakes, no more laughter, no more good times on this wonderful day.

But this time, I was determined to celebrate Grandparents’ day. Because I am sure that's what grandma would have wanted. Because she would have liked to see us together and happy. Because it was simply the time to #LoveJatao.
So, I had done all I could to gather our fondest memories and to relive all our cherished times.

I rushed to the kitchen and brought out a tray. In memory of Grandma, I had arranged a cake, with ‘To our favorite Rapunzel and her Prince’ etched on it in lovely pink icing.

Grandpa had tears in his eyes. As I fed him a piece, I'm sure I heard grandma’s beautiful laugh somewhere. She was still with us.


Happy Grandparents' Day!
Hope you cherish these moments with your grandparents forever!


#LoveJatao #ParachuteAdvansed #BlogAdda
I look forward to hear from you how would you celebrate Grandparents Day. Do share a selfie with your grandparents on Sept. 10, 2017 on Twitter or Facebook with #LoveJatao & tag @blogadda to win a goodie from Parachute Advansed.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Shanti Didi

I saw her sitting in the room, coiled up in a corner, while her mother wiped the floor of our house. I was too hungry so I rushed to the kitchen, got myself some garlic bread with jam and was about to get back into my room when I stopped.
She was a little girl, barely nine years old. She must be hungry too. Thinking so, I got her a plate full of bread slices with jam smeared on them. “Have it,” I pushed the plate in front of her. She got up immediately, sprang to full attention and stared at me like she had never seen me before.
“Don’t you like bread?” I asked her to which she nodded, took the plate from me and began eating. It made me really happy for some reason to see her eat.
After that day, I met her again two weeks later when her mother brought her to our place once more. “Sit,” she instructed her daughter, who crossed her legs and sat down on the floor, staring at the wall as if it was the most interesting television show possible. But as soon as she saw me, her gaze locked on me as if I was now the most interesting phenomenon in her life.
I guessed she wanted something to eat like the last time, so I foraged around in the kitchen and arranged some stuff for her. She looked at me intently and then began to gulp down everything on the plate. What a sweet hungry girl.
“Taaanku.” She said to me.
“Thank you, you mean?” I asked her.
She stared at me as if I was speaking in an altogether different language, which I now realize I must be.
“Do you go to school?”
She shook her head. I frowned. How come her mother hasn’t enrolled her yet? She is young surely, but old enough to be in a school.
But there was no point in asking her why she hadn’t been put in a school.
“Do you know how to read?” I asked her.
She nodded vigorously. I was kind of surprised. I supposed she was being homeschooled.
Just then, she picked up a newspaper lying nearby and raised it high in front of her. She then began to speak. And speak gibberish she did. She pretended she was reading the newspaper. She went on for about five minutes without stopping. She spoke nothing of any sense whatsoever. I couldn’t help but crack up. She looked so adorable, so sweet and yet so stupid. But what caused me astonishment was her confidence. She was speaking like she was spouting some high-profile news items, probably replicating people she had seen around her.
And then it struck me. What was that advert I had seen regarding Nihar Shanti Amla Oil? I dialed 8055667788 and took the phone to her. It was Nihar Shanti Amla’s new concept – Pathshala Funwala. As soon as she got hold of the phone, her attention was completely diverted. It was as if I didn’t exist. After about three minutes, she handed me the phone urgently, pointing to the buttons. I put the phone to my ear and realized that the voice was asking for an option to continue the English lessons.
From that day onwards, whenever she came to our house, I would call up 8055667788 from our landline. When the English tutorial by Shanti Amla called back, I would give her the receiver. She would then spend hours listening to the lessons.

One day I saw her on the street, walking with her mother. I had gone to the market for groceries.
“Hi didi! How are you?” began a chirpy voice.
I turned, saw her mom as taken aback by her words as I was. I stopped anyway and greeted her with a smile.
“Do you go to school now?”
I had talked to mother regarding her schooling and it came out that they were not planning to send her to an educational institution but after we coaxed her mom to do so by offering to pay for her school fee, she had started going to school.
As they say “If you change nothing, then nothing will change”.

The sweet girl nodded.
“She is the best in English in her class, her teacher told us that day. All thanks to you, bitiya.” Her mother said to me, overwhelmed with joy.
I waived away the thanks.   
“She really loves the fact that they call her Shanti Didi now!” exclaimed her mother happily.

Then it struck me. Her mother’s name was Amla and hers Shanti. Talk about coincidences!

“I am blogging about Pathshala Funwala by Nihar Shanti Amla Oil in association with BlogAdda

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Granny and Europe

Source :

My granny is a typical Indian grandmother. Refusing to go for anything apart from what she has been used to since the beginning of time.

"It's not possible. I have too much work."
I could have laughed at the ridiculousness of her statement. Work? Really? She would give that lame an excuse?
"And pray tell me what may that be?" I turned to look at her, my face all smiles.
She gave me a stern look and said, "You have no idea how much work a home requires. You won't understand. You are way out of it all now. Always outside for work and studies. You won't understand. "
"At least tell me, no? I will try to understand."
I was so looking forward to this conversation. It was going to be so much fun.
"Please, please, please. Pleaseeeeeeeeee…" I began ranting the way I used to when I was a kid and wanted some particularly stomach-upsetting delicacy.
"Well, it’s not rocket science. The house requires maintenance. The daily puja, cleaning, washing, cooking... "
"Which is all done by the respective maidservants.” I cut in. “But go on.”
She glared at me.
"You leave them women alone and they will flutter about, sit all day in front of the television and do nothing. They are the biggest shirkers possible. They-"
"Okay okay! I totally agree. But nothing will happen if we seal the house and go for one month. No need for cleaning. You will be free from any responsibility. At least for some time."
Granny clearly wasn’t convinced. "Listen. I will tell you what to do.” She began. “You go to Germany. Do that cun-convection-whatever thing and come back and then we will go to Sagar Ratna and have a huge party.”

It was all I could do not to burst into laughter. Only granny could place a meal in Sagar Ratna over a Europe trip.

I knew this would be both entertaining and exasperating. But I had only so much time. I had to get my point across.

"Convocation, granny. It is my convocation. And you know how much I want you to be a part of it. I won't accept any of your reasons. You must come. You have to come. I assure you, you will love it. I will be wearing the graduation robe and the special square graduation cap. Don't you want to see me awarded? In front of so many students and teachers and their parents and well-wishers? Please please please don't say no. I have been planning this for ages. And didn't you say you wish I hadn't gone to Germany alone? Now I'm taking you. I wouldn't be alone anymore."

Granny's face was working furiously. I knew in her heart of hearts, she wanted to be there. But she just didn’t want to leave the country where our family had lived and perished. She saw herself as a custodian of that legacy. And she wouldn’t give it up. At any cost.

“You know I would love to. But seriously I can't leave everything and just go. It doesn't work that way. And you are talking about this chilly country. The temperatures go negative. You yourself said that. How will I manage?!”
“Oh granny granny granny! It will be spring this time of the year. It won't be cold. Winter is gone. And summer will be here soon. There will be flowers and sunshine and sparkling lakes. It is all very pleasant indeed. You will love it. "
"But beta... I'm not used to the environment. I don't even know the language. What will I do there? "
"But I will be there with you, all right? Just come. You won't regret it. I promise.”

For a long time, she busied herself with putting things here and there. Cleaning the spotless vase. Wiping the photo frame and staring at the family photograph. Tilting the clock. Smoothing the cushions. In short, doing anything she possibly could in order to avoid answering me. There was no need for any such work but granny has a habit of fussing about things. It was not that difficult for her to come. But the real reason she didn't want to go was -

“I don't like the idea of living in a foreign country. This is my birth place. I want to live here. I don't want to live anywhere else.”

I knew this was the actual reason. She just hated the idea of being in a ‘foreign’ setting. She was a woman who was born in the pre-independence era. Although by the time she grew up the tensions had ceased, she was still not very comfortable with the idea of settling in a different country.
I respect her choice. But I wanted her to witness my convocation and experience the joy and pride on having raised her granddaughter single-handedly into a winner. I had just finished my graduation and had come top of the class. And I wanted gran to witness this achievement and feel proud of her own efforts. I wanted to tell her how much her toil, struggles and sacrifices meant to me. Without a family and no one except granny to call my own, I had never imagined reaching where I had reached and achieving what I had achieved. To convince her to let me study abroad was a gargantuan task in itself, but she had agreed eventually and had extended whole-hearted support. It had been tough though to leave her here. All alone. But it was turning out to be tougher to take her abroad. 
But then I had to give it a try.

Source :

“I am not asking you to live there. We will come back next month. It is only a matter of a month. You will see me convocated and we will tour a few places in Europe. Germany. France. Eiffel Tower, remember? And Italy too.The Leaning Tower of Pisa! It really leans to a side, you know! And there are beautiful cathedrals and so much more that you would love to see. It will be a nice break. "

Granny's eyes were shining. She was feeling proud already. But the doubts lingered inside her.

"Let the butts go into the ashtray. Here is your ticket. We are leaving next Friday."

There went my master stroke. I had carefully chosen the date so she wouldn't have any cause to protest. Only a stubborn unchangeable stance could help me win this battle of negotiation with grandma.

Source :

And so on a sunny Friday morning, I stowed our bags into the cab and waited for grandma to finish staring at the door of our flat.

"It's locked. The lights and gas are off. The maids have been informed. The milkman and the newspaper guy have also been instructed. The neighbors have been told. It's done, granny. Time to leave."
"This is the first time I'm leaving the house for so long." She said, staring wistfully at the boarded doors and windows.
"Oh heavens!" I sighed. "I should have taken you away ages ago!" 
Saying so, I ushered her into the cab.

As the cab zigzagged its way towards the airport, I felt light. Much lighter than I had ever felt on leaving India. Because most of the times, I felt guilt overriding me that perhaps I was selfish to leave granny all alone in that flat. 
But then I had my ambitions. And I know granny wanted the same for me. 
But no such feelings that day. I was feeling happier than ever. I couldn't wait to take her to my university, and sightseeing across Marienplatz and Deutsche museum and maybe Lake Starnbeg where we could do some boating...

"I don't much like these stuck-up air hostesses, acting all polite full of lofty words..."

There went granny and her complaints!
We had barely gone through the security check when granny had come into her element. 
Oh well, it was just the beginning. I was expecting this.

"...and mannerisms like some robots or dolls. No genuine feeling-"
"Namaste!" A woman greeted us as we boarded the flight.

I almost choked with laughter when I saw the surprised expression on granny's face. Despite herself, she smiled at the air hostess. Being an Indian, you can't not smile or return the greeting when someone says ‘namaste’ to you. It’s kind of hard-wired into your being.
Thank you, Lufthansa. I chuckled to myself.

We stowed our handbags in the luggage area and sat. I made granny take the window seat.

“You will see Lotus Temple from above.” I pointed towards the window. That cheered her up considerably.

"2 Veg meals," I answered the air hostess as she asked for our meal preference.
She smiled and went away.

Next time when she came, I was ready. Our tables were down and I had convinced granny that if she didn't like the food, we could send it away and get something else instead.

“What else will they have? Apart from bread and cheese and wine?" she said aloud, rolling her eyes.
I blushed a little, hoping no one would think we are stereotyping Europeans.

"Here," the woman came again and handed us our meals.
"Any drinks? Tea or coffee?"
"One tea, and one orange juice," I told her.

She promptly handed out the drinks, gave us a winning smile and went on ahead.
If granny didn't like the burger, I had decided that I would swap it for some instant noodles. One can't go wrong with noodles, you know.

Before I had finished my thoughts, a delicious scent wafted up. To my utter surprise and delight, I saw granny uncover chapatti, rice with palak paneer and raajma. A tiny curd sat in the corner as well.
Wow. That was decidedly Indian. Since when though, I wondered.

"Indians have gone everywhere, haven't they?"
Granny asked me while mixing the rice and curd together, once she was done with the other dishes.
I chuckled.

“Was the food to your taste, granny?" I asked her after she had finished.
“Not bad,” she said, wiping her mouth neatly with the tissues.
“Well, shouldn’t be since the likes of Kunal Kapoor and Vinod Saini prepared today’s meal.”

I gleefully watched granny’s expression change to astonished admiration as I showed her the facts written in the airline magazine. I had often seen her hunt for Kunal Kapoor’s recipes on Youtube and watch similar cook shows on TV. She definitely held these culinary giants in high regard. After all, they were the pride of the food in Leela Palace. 

The best part was post this incident, granny was all praise. By the time we land, I was sure she will give her best smile to the flight attendants. Because, and I was so happy for it, she was really enjoying the entire experience.

Her fears of everything foreign had thankfully been hugely quelled, thanks to Lufthansa's homely care. Later, as we laid back, granny watching a Bollywood flick on the entertainment TV with earphones plugged in, her expression all serious and her eyes earnest, I couldn't help but feel proud that the airlines and perhaps the world was turning out to be more Indian than I thought.

Dreaming of the impending graduation ceremony and laying my head on granny's shoulders as she flicked back and forth through the various things to watch, I dozed off contentedly. 

The flight had been a good start to our Europe trip. It was then that I decided to write something for Lufthansa Airlines. After all, the airlines managed to cheer my granny up! What could be a bigger achievement? 

As my eyes closed of their own accord, I started dreaming of all the places I would be showing to granny- all the beautiful mountains, lakes, palaces, museums, castles and cathedrals in Europe. Aah...that was a pleasing prospect. Germany, wir kommen!

~This post is part of the #MoreIndianThanYouThink activity by Lufthansa in association with IndiBlogger.~