Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book Review: The Case Files of P. I. Pojo - The Killing of Mr. Heathcote

Book Title: The Case Files of P. I. Pojo - The Killing of Mr. Heathcote
Author: Meghna Singhee
Pages: 204
Publisher: Penguin India
Price: Rs. 199
Genre: Mystery

Pratap (Pojo) Pande is a teenager who studies at a boarding school in Panchgani called Heathcote International. Son of parents that are creators of a popular detective show, Pojo is a precocious boy who loves to solve and unfold the mysteries behind everyday cases, akin to a Private Investigator (P.I. ). And one such mystery he resolves to unfold is when the mascot and icon of his school, a cat, is said to be killed - Mr. Heathcote. He has his sidekicks as a super senior Radha Rao and Pops - a junior to Pojo, who's also Radha's cousin to help him uncover secrets, search for clues and interrogate suspects. Eventually, Pojo solves the mystery, in a truly Sherlock meets Poirot style - a tad bit eccentric and the use of the little grey cells.

If you've been reading my book review, you'd know I'm a sucker for mystery and a thriller any given day. So when I signed up for the Book Review program with Flipkart, they sent me this book right away. One look at the cover, you'd think it is uncannily representing a children's book. However, abiding with the adage- I judged this book by it's content and not the cover.

And it was truly a delight to read this book at one go ! Meghna Singhee has done justice to the whole idea of representing a hostel life set in a hill station, be it the junior-senior divide, the banter, the pranks, the hostel food, the allowance, the midnight escapades, the social gatherings, the hot shower restrictions, the free time break and the finer and innocuous details of the on-goings of the staff and the students day in and day out.
It brought back nostalgia by transporting me back to the days when I was away from home for higher studies. The characters have be described well, with each of them distinct from the other, as one would actually find in a hostel. Overall, I liked the smooth flow of the book's narration with witty and funny anecdotes, with one chapter after the other connecting the dots of the mystery flawlessly. And in the end, when the mystery unfolded, it was a wonderful surprise!

I would love to recommend this book to anyone who would like a good mystery, age no bar. (Even though the back cover says '10+')


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

ZENith - The next Smartphone Level

Now-a-days, buying the right phone for oneself, can be one of the toughest decisions to make. No sooner than you finally decide on a model and purchase it, than a newer and better model appears into the market. Alas! That is technology – ever advancing.
So why should one settle for last season’s smartphone?

Smartphones belong to various budgets and price points against the features. Then again purchasing a smartphone is an investment after all. So get the best value for your money with features that stand out without compromising on quality.
E-commerce sites will help you to refine the top features out of a motley of features.

But, what features in a phone would redefine your smartphone experience?

I just found out about the new ASUS ZenFone2 which claims to redefine the smartphone experience.
Shall we test it out?
Lemme check out 5 features that stand out:


5. 4G LTE for Superfast connectivity
Need for Speed? Internet is life and there is no life without the internet! Forget 2G and 3G when there's 4G to propel you to superfast speeds of data-transfer with multimedia messages, video chats. Live lag free. Asus ZenFone2 promises superfast on the move data speed of upto 150 Mbits/sec.

4. 13 MP PixelMaster Rear Facing Camera with 140 degree panoramic selfies.
I believe a camera with a good pixel density is a total must for any smartphone. Besides, one cannot always carry a digicam along to capture moments.
Now-a-days 8MP in the maximum Megapixel density available in most smartphones. ASUS ZenFone promises 13 MP camera with a 5 MP Front facing camera. It also has a 140 degree panoramic selfie mode to compete with Ellen DeGeneres' Oscar selfie capture.

3. 4 GB RAM
4GB is usually the smartphone’s space capacity and no I’ve not made a typo. It is the world's first smartphone with 4GB RAM. Asus pioneering the way for more better, faster phone performance. Upping the ante indeed.

2.  Low Light Mode
This cool camera feature is gonna make all those spur-of-the-moment-I-forgot-to-put-flash-on-auto-mode photos look blur free and blob free. Low light mode increases the light sensitivity by 400% and reduces the noise to give clear and bright shots without the need for flash.

1. 60% battery capacity in just 39 minutes ! 
How amazing is this feature! This is by far the USP of this phone. Thanks to the ASUS Boostmaster Technology no more being tethered to the charger. Less time to wait. Hey, a phone would charge up faster than delivering a pizza!

How cool are these features! Did I make your smartphone choice easier? No wonder it’s at the smartphone ZENith.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Book Review: Ramayana - The Game of Life (Shattered Dreams)

Book Title:
 Ramayana - The Game of Life (Shattered Dreams) Book 2
Author: Shubha Vilas
Publisher: Jaico Publishing House
Edition: 2015
Pages: 387
Price: Rs 350

To be honest, I haven't read the original Ramayana in its entirety. I can recall reading the adapted form of Ramayana in an illustrated version of the Amar Chitra Katha series way back in school.

I am no epics or sacred texts buff, but when BlogAdda asked me to review this book, I felt like signing up for something that is different from my usual choice in books - Fiction.

On first look the illustration on the cover of the book is nice. So I began reading this as soon as I received it. Mind you, it took me time to read it. The author's note appealed to me, when she wrote - 'Have you ever wondered if the age old epics hold any immediate relevance to our lives?’

This book is the second book in the series. The previous one being Ramayana - The Game of Life (The Rise of the Sun Prince ) Book 1 talked about the events prior to Lord Rama and ended with his marriage to Sita.

The book starts with the narration of King Dasaratha and his decision to change the fate of Ayodhya. In subsequent chapters, it talks about Ravana's life and his conquests. And with Manthara's sinister plot, the drama intensifies. Later talks about Bharata's journey after Rama's exile and Dasaratha's death.

Each and every page of this book contains footnotes. In every such footnote is a teaching, which one could sit back and ponder upon after reading through the page narrative. 
For instance - 'An unprotected and unpredictable mind is like an open pot of nectar. One blob of poison dropped into it will ruin all the nectar'

More learnings from the book include on how to handle reversals positively, to handle temptation, to explore beyond our comfort zone and with due emphasis on how human relationships work and importantly how they fail.

On reading this book, on realises the depth of knowledge our ancient texts have and why we needn't look anywhere else to find motivation and value addition to our lives.

The book is narrated beautifully and lucidly with the right emphasis and details of the thought processes of the characters. Through and through this book is a keeper to impart knowledge from our sacred text. 

For me this was a revelation of sorts. I found this to be an authentic rendition of The Ramayana.

Overall, I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand and apply the learnings of The Ramayana in one's day to day life. Even if we did not have the advantage of grandparents or parents eloquently narrating this epic tale to us, this book can help us understand The Ramayana.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Foodie Heaven - Singapore

I close my note book. My flight lands. 

Without a second look, I await my destination. So I walk towards the conveyor belt, grab my luggage and head towards the doors into - food heaven - Singapore!

This was my motto for the food trail !

As I step outside the airport enclosure a lovely Singapore morning greets me. I was jet, set and ready to go on a mini food trail in Singapore - in 24 hours. I had noted down the dishes I just had to try in my notebook. 

10.00 am
I am told by the cab driver to not miss sampling the breakfast that powers Singaporeans daily - Kaya toast with soft-boiled eggs and a piping hot kopi (coffee) or teh (tea). The Kopi and Kaya Toast culture originated from the Hainanese cooks who used to work for the British as cookboys. This was where they learnt to make coffee and toastListening to the way kopi and teh is pronounced reminds me of how it's pronounced in a similar fashion for kaapi and chai back home too! 

(Image source: http://www.hungrygowhere.com/gallery/52-dishes-you-must-eat-in-singapore-*gid-8e493101/e3e40100)
I reach Raffles City Shopping Centre, 252 Northbridge Road to have my breakfast at 
Toast Box. And glancing around the restaurant at others 'breaking their kaya toast' I emulated. I dip my toast into the soft cooked eggs drizzled with soy sauce and a sprinkling of white pepper and devoured it. I wash this down with the syrupy Nanyang-style kopi.

12.45 pm
Some sightseeing and shopping later, it was almost lunch time and the next stop on the food trail was grabbing Singapore's unofficial National dish - Chicken Rice. It is much more than just another tasty dish, chicken rice to Singaporeans is akin to 'soul food'. 

(Source: http://discover.stayfareast.com/post/114023443948/everything-you-need-to-know-about-chicken-rice-to)

I walk to Tian Tian at Maxwell Food Centre and grab a seat and wasting no more time, I order 'Chicken Rice'. I am told that Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsay and Dr. Leslie Tay have graced this restaurant and I cannot wait to sample it. I get a generous serving of chicken chunks with sweet dark soy sauce to accompany steaming Haianese rice. I indulge as any typical Singaporean would - drizzle a generous amount of sweet dark sauce onto the steaming rice, “dress” a chunk of chicken in the chilli sauce, and then heap a dollop of minced ginger on top of it. The condiments balance all the flavours of the rice, chicken and the sauce and give me a wholesome experience.

2.00 pm
'You cannot leave Singapore without tasting our Crabs' my dad had said. How can I miss out on the de facto National dish of Singapore? With that thought I get all nostalgic and remember home. And home food reminds me of my fondness for seafood. 

(Image source: http://ieatishootipost.sg/top-ten-things-to-eat-in-singapore-the-hawker-edition/)

I head to Roland Restaurant and I am greeted with the aroma and the bright sight of Chilli Crab. I bite into the succulent fleshy crab and take my time to grab all the beautiful flavours! Lip Smacking !

4.00 pm
Satiated with my extravagant lunch, I then take a cab to hop over to a popular stretch of eateries along Upper Thomson Road and over to Sing Ming Roti Prata for my next food destination in my trail - Prata

(Image source: http://www.hungrygowhere.com/dining-guide/hawker/sin-ming-roti-prata-*aid-04773f00/)

Flaky buttery goodness with chewy insides and a dough that is a fresh mix of flour, eggs, sugar, salt and water is what maketh a good prata. It might sound familiar like the home made paratha and I am told that it is loved by many in the South East Asian subcontinent. I love the fact that the prata is like the south east asian cousin of the Indian parantha -Simply adore the confluence of cultures in food !

After a short break, I continue on and I remember from the geography class back in school of Singapore's famous fruit and local produce - Durian. I cannot miss this opportunity to sample this one-of-a-kind fruit so I head to the market to find it. I notice that the Singaporeans have certainly found ways to include this pungent fruit in many desserts and sweet concoctions and one of them is: chee cheong fun (steamed rice rolls). 

(Image source: http://www.hungrygowhere.com/gallery/52-dishes-you-must-eat-in-singapore-*gid-8e493101/2e1e0200)

I head to 89 Killiney Road and over to Rice Roll & Porridge shop to get my durian fix. I waste no time as soon as I get my order and I bite into the chilled roll that is stuffed with durian flesh and topped with a mixture of ground peanuts and sugar- YUM ! With that yummy treat and ended my delicious supper. 

9.30 pm
Only a couple of hours before I was to leave for home. How I wish this trip wouldn't end !

11.30 pm
Heading to the airport I was still savouring the amazing flavours the culminance of cultures I had experienced in the last couple of hours. I bought a souvenir for myself to remember this culinary journey and mainly Singapore.

When I reached back home, my souvenir sang to life:

Singapura, oh, Singapura, 
Sunny island sets in the sea. 

Singapura, oh, Singapura,
Pretty flowers bloom for you and me. 

Come along join the song in merry singing,
Blend our voices, 
Join in the chorus. 

Singapura, oh Singapura, 

Pretty flowers bloom for you and me.

My thoughts exactly! 

My trip was really memorable all thanks to all the information I got through http://discover.stayfareast.com/ to made my culinary trip to Singapore truly unforgettable !

It's a matter of taste after all.

PS. This is a my fictional account of a foodie trip to Singapore. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I #ChooseToStart a new memorable journey

Back in the 11th standard I was gifted my first phone. Before you get all 'what-is-so-great-about-that', let me tell you it was 2004. Thats like 11 years ago and not everyone had a mobile phone. Not even GSM or colour display ones. Forget touchscreen, smartphones even! 
So much so those privileged owners would like to flaunt its presence by playing those electronic default ringtones out loud and would enable the key press sounds, that would make a loud * beep * every time a key was pressed. And I would notice the onlookers watch them in awe whilst traveling in buses and trains them fingering their prized possessions.

(Image source: http://www.mobileextras.com.au/Portals/0//ProductImages/motC131.jpg)

So I had my first phone ever-'The Motorola C131'. This simple phone had a black and white display. It was a CDMA phone with the same key press beep and the electronic ring tones. It was a phone with limited means with all the basic features of messaging, making voice calls, calculator and stopwatch. Plus it had games like BlackJack and Snake, which I used to adore. Back then playing Snake ad BlackJack was equivalent to playing today's CandyCrush and Temple Run - Super Addictive !

Then a year later, still with my C131, I saw a new flood of bright colour display phones coming in to the market. I couldn't afford one then but aspired to get one.

Years later, as I write today, I am remembered about my first phone. Some may say, not to get attach to things; and attach with memories. I would differ a bit here. 
These 'things' do give us the memories for a last time. 

I remember receiving congratulatory SMSes and calls when I got my 12th Standard results.
I remember talking to my mom while jumping with joy when I got the seat in the college I wanted.
And I still remember receiving my dad's call when he could finally get network when the Mumbai 2006 floods had hit.

One phone and so many wonderful memories associated with it.

This was my back story of my first ever phone.

Now, owning a new smartphone for anyone is not only affordable but is a choice for everyone. And if I have to start my smartphone journey, I would start with the latest entrant to the market -  Moto E 2nd Gen.

With the new Moto E, I would love to capture thousands of memories with it's 5 MP camera with auto focus. I would love to easy launch my camera JUST by twisting my wrists! Not all moments can be remembered and capturing them makes them immemorial.

The new Moto E will help me experience for the first time the buttery smooth, flawless touchscreen and it's scratch resistant and water resistant corning gorilla glass will prevent any scratches or water spills that I may "accidentally" drop.

I will have the liberty to access the internet at break neck speeds with the 4G LTE and 3G model versions and high performance Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will stream in a heartbeat. Not to forget, publishing my blog! This is a must have when living in 2015 socially connected generation.

MotoAssist will help me seamlessly get all my data from my old phone to my new Moto E phone - in minutes.

I even have the freedom to personalize my phone with colourful grip shells that fit with ease - like my phone is making a style statement.

So let's start all over again. Let me make more memories. After all, it's always a good time to #ChooseToStart

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Family: #Together Forever !

Our adult lives are so busy and defined by our Whatsapp/ Facebook statuses.

Can we get those days back where we talked face to face and not face to screen?
Can we rebuild those cherished memories where we talked and walked along the streets of a garden, beach or playground rather than the escalators and elevators of mall or shopping arcade?
Can we go back to those days where I was not judged by the time I took to receive a phone call?
Can we sit #together in front on the TV and have dinner, rather than be in different places for different dinners with different people?
Can we get up in the morning and look at our reflection in the mirror rather than the IMs we missed last night?
Can we not judge a person based on why they have read but not replied to our message an hour ago?

I miss those simple times. Where we were not bound and gagged by technology.
I miss those uncomplicated relationships and people.
Regardless of those rich, vibrant memories of more than a decade ago, I love my times with my family.

(Image source: buildingabrandonline.com )

This is my memory of my source strength and optimism for more than two and a half decades now:

My brother, mom, dad and I have this routine of a "sitdown". We never timed it or planned it in advance. It just happened. We love to share our viewpoints on anything under the sun. We share food together, discuss plans, do homework, go back to our fond memories and funny anecdotes. We used to differ in our opinions too, but in the end, either one of us used to play mediator and get back the house in order. We shared our day's stories, our feedback on things, simple things that did not make much sense then, but used to make a lot of difference in our lives. 

In the end, we came together as a family, we came together as a team, brimming with optimism and positive attitude to life. My family gave me strength in my times of difficulty and distress. Be it flunking in an exam or missing out on an interview. When we sat down together as a family, the words of support and wisdom poured in and mended the wounds of difficulty. They were through thick and thin. That's what I cherish the most. That's what is lacking in perhaps many families now-a-days. 

We need another person or a gadget to"connect". In my opinion technology might have brought the world closer, so to say, but building and preserving relationships perhaps is difficult using technology.

It is funny, that we used to do this more than a once a week every month and it is now that I miss those times the most. Since after my marriage, I have a new family. A family that I have to nurture and bring to the table the same ideas and routine of a sitdown. I hope to implement alike thought processes, positivity and the values of togetherness, bonhomie and optimism on life.

Family. After all there is nobody like family. With family, you are #together forever.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Starting Afresh - One word at a time

This is about me taking a detour in life and beginning again. Starting afresh. I can talk about this as if it happened just yesterday.

Coming out of an interview for a 'Sales Manager' at a well known and upcoming organisation, the only thing that rang in my head was what the interviewer said to me after the official interview was over: "You write very well. Why aren't you writing for a living? " Everything about that interview after that moment - seems like a blur.

On the way back home, I was still wondering if there was any iota of honesty in that question. I sat deep in thought. In retrospect I reflected on my past. I remembered those days in school how I loved finishing those essay questions, grammar quizzes. How it seemed to me that Verbal Ability section was a breeze in comparison to Quantitative and Logical Ability sections in CAT.

(Image source:  https://www.pinterest.com/jessirose1/words/)

Come to think of it, this wasn't the only time I was asked about my writing. I then realized that I had not paid attention to my strengths and followed it.
I went back to my earlier posts, those that I wrote on a whim and out of sheer boredom back during engineering. Those were some good posts.

Till that very moment, the question, I realised I was doing something that I didn't LOVE. I was not being true to myself. I wanted to #StartANewLife.

Is it too late to begin afresh? I still look at my peers - they're all at high and mighty designations in their career paths as I'm about to start from scratch. I will be a beginner while my peers have settled and mastered at their profession. I would be falling behind others.

I was trained for two years to sell, but to be honest, closing a sale did not gimme an adrenaline rush like the one I got when I was lauded with appreciation for writing a blog.

I now write, compose and create. I become a voice for somebody. My words walk the talk. Now, work does not seem like work. It has been more than six months since I took the step ahead.

No regrets. I will never have regrets in life, as I know everything happens for a reason. There was a reason for these turn of events.

Now there is no turning back. No more U – Turns. And it does not stop here. I want to write now and keep writing and build meaningful conversations that can make a change. I want to be remembered for my writing. I am not the best, I know it. But I will write nevertheless.

And not to look back in life and wonder, if only, I had chance to change.

And as for my blog, there is no thinking about shutting it down. No way.

Change is good. Change is for the better. After all it's time to #StartANewLife.
The all new housing.com in their new avatar. They highlight positivity and showcase optimism in life.

Life can change, only if you're willing to embrace the change. And for me, this is just the beginning.

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