Monday, March 7, 2016

Book Review: Raakshas

Book Title: Raakshas: India's No.1 Serial Killer
Author: Piyush Jha
Pages:  242
Genre: Thriller
Price:   Flipkart: INR | Amazon: INR 192
Publisher:  Westland Ltd

One look at the cover of the book and you'll know what it's all about. But the question I asked was, 'do serial killers really exist in India?' or is it purely a work of Indian fiction writers in a bid to mimic the West? The 'Soon to be a motion picture' had me interested.

Intrigued, I picked up a copy in lieu of Writersmelon book review program. And once it landed in my lap, I could not put it down.
The author of this book is Piyush Jha,a noted filmmaker in Bollywood, who is not new at writing books. 

The blurb:

What made him a serial killer?Was he born with homicidal tendencies?Did a harrowing childhood render him criminally insane?The questions haunt, Additional Commissioner of Police, Maithili Prasad as she discovers the horrific murders across Mumbai. As she spearheads the greatest manhunt in Mumbai’s history, she’s determined to contain the reign of terror unleashed by the ruthless serial killer. But before that she must grapple with her personal demons that surface to plague her with self-doubt.Just as it seems that Maithili has begun to understand the deep-rooted resentment that drives the serial killer, he turns around and makes her the object of his revenge. Will she emerge unscathed from this ordeal?

The first few chapters had me hooked with the entire description bordering on graphic details. Sinister yet gripping, is not for the faint hearted. One begins to question, whether serial killers are born so or is it the environment they are in or conditioning they get make them so? 

Initially, the chapters highlighted the story of the main protagonist interspersed with chapters on the history of Maithili Prasad. I had thought initially that it is the author narrating the story, but in fact the author weaves the story together from the point of view of  Maithili. 

Through and through the language used is good, and so is the flow of narration. I felt somehow the pace of the book dips halfway through. But overall, I feel Piyush Jha has done a remarkable job in storytelling and touches the right emotions of the reader.

At the end of the book, is a special section dedicated to Serial Killers in India - which answered my initial question.

I recommend this book to those want a real slice of a thriller.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

My Valentine Walk in the Woods with Shortcut Safaari

Haven't we heard or read this quote at some point in out life? Robert Frost's quote does remind us of the woods, but we don't keep our promise of visiting it! This valentine's weekend, I was going to keep my promise!

For the first time ever, as a blogger, I was invited to be a part of a movie promotion event. If you've been thinking, what's the connection with the title 'Valentine Walk in Woods' and a movie promotion, let me enlighten you...This was unlike any other run-in-the-mill film cliched promotion announcement- this was a zara sa hatke and a fun way to promote the film that keeps it's theme with nature and relates to children.

So on 13th February 2016, I traveled to Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) the Conservation Education Centre (CEC), located near Film City in Goregaon East, Mumbai for a Blogger Safaari with the team of Shortcut Safaari.

I was to meet my fellow bloggers Sujata Tawde, Geeta Sridhar, Amreen Sheikh, UK, Priya, Manujsha Pandey and a few others, invited by Riddhi Sharma. Reaching at 10.30 a.m. a wee bit late thanks to my autorickshaw driver, who had decided to go for his own trail by taking a detour from the venue.

Shortcut Safaari Blogger Safaari

From 10.30 am to 12.30 pm we had set out for a nature walk in the woods, at BNHS - Mumbai's best kept secret. Joining us bloggers on this walk was the Director of Shortcut Safaari movie himself, Amitabha Singh, who had earlier warmly welcomed each Blogger to the venue. And our VIPs of the day were the school children from Nehru Nagar Public School, Kanjurmarg. With instructions registered, pee breaks done and water bottles filled, we formed two groups and dispersed with two BNHS experts, one for each group. As soon as I stepped out side the BNHS observatory and classroom, I was taken back to my school days, a good 15 years ago. (Stop guessing my age!) 

It took me back to the time our school had taken us to BNHS, perhaps for an Environmental Studies assignment. And I'm sure, at that age I was not really paying a lot of attention to information given out about the trees and the critters there. But this time, it was different.

I was refreshed to know so many interesting facts on the bio diversity that is packed inside the green cover of Mumbai. Like did you know, Mumbai is home to the world's largest moth, the Atlas Moth? Or did you know about the agility of the Grey Hornbill or the beauty of the striped Tiger Butterfly? They all live in a biodiversity park within Mumbai's limits almost undisturbed by the hustle and bustle of urban activity.

Egged on by the inquisitiveness and enthusiasm of the children, 15 years later, I paid attention to each word by the BNHS expert. What surprised me to no end was the sheer unadulterated enthusiasm of the school kids in asking and answering questions to the BNHS Experts. And what did not surprise me was the eagerness of the children to pose for snaps! (Yours truly clearly remembers being camera shy, and still is) 

And to cater to such enthusiastic kids with bright and alert minds, a movie on nature is the need of the hour. That's what the movie Shortcut Safaari aims to do. At the end of the trail, we were treated to the music clip of a song from the movie but coded language! Can you guess what they are talking?

About 'Shortcut Safaari'

Shortcut Safaari is an independent film written and directed by Amitabha Singh. Other than being a fun-filled journey, it highlights certain touch points that affect us on a day to day level. In the broader stream of events and themes, the film also focuses on nature sensitizing. To a great response, the Film was premiered during the National Children's Film Festival at the Siri Fort Auditorium, New Delhi in November 2014, organized by the Children's Film Society of India (CFSI).

Furthermore, it received huge resonating appreciation from the audiences at Nandan, Kolkata during the Kolkata Children's International Film Festival in December 2014 organized under the aegis of Shishu Kishore Academy, Government of West Bengal.

Shortcut Safaari has made its presence felt over various National and International children’s film festivals across the country and now the film has embarked upon a new journey to connect as many children as possible to nature through various innovative activities and screenings. With Shortcut Safaari, Amitabha consolidates his position in the children’s film category. He has earlier helmed the camera for Chillar Party, Khosla Ka Ghosla and India’s Oscar entry in 2014- Good Road.

I'm glad I got a chance to be a part of this Nature Trail cum Bloggers Safaari. I am sure such an initiative fulfilled its aim to view  and to reconnect children with their roots and showcasing the natural world amidst the humdrum and chaos of daily city life.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Say Cheese!

If I were to pen a love story, it would probably be a funny one.
The reason being, I am induced to a fit of giggles whenever I am asked to do something remotely romantic. I could probably give a better sarcastic comment instead. You could say, I am The Chandler Bing of romance!

My dear husband on the other hand is a shy romantic. Yes, he's the more romantic one. Truly the better half in the world of romance. And I'm the funny one. But only when it comes to gifting, we both rock the romance boat. *giggles*

If you ask me to choose the funniest moment, it has to be from my wedding day. No, don't get me wrong.
The funniest moment so far follows a heavy moment of tension and anxiety. And NO it's not about the wedding night.

Let me share the tale:

A couple of years ago, the whole 'spontaneous-in-the-moment photography' - that is now as common as the gulab jamun in weddings - was just very new and very experiential. And to just experience the whole new fad, I had asked my family photographer to capture those emotions by showing him some similar photos. This was after our engagement ceremony. Typical to arranged marriages, we had the wedding post the couple of months of 'dating'.

One day prior to the wedding, all hell broke loose at both our houses when the news flashed:
'Mumbai Sena's Top Chief has passed away. Cremation to be held the next day'

The penny dropped. The next day was our wedding day. I gulped.
Having a wedding celebration on the very day thousands of mourners from far flung corners of Maharashtra will be bidding the final adieu to the revered and feared political chief - was a tricky tricky situation. His followers could anytime gatecrash and put a full stop to our new beginning. And moreover, the wedding hall was only 10-15 odd kilometers away from the crematorium.

Needless to say, we did a cross check of the wedding hall, the panditji and but of course husband's family and husband himself.

And in that tense moment, in one of the phone calls I had made to my then husband-to-be, tensed and worried said the sweetest romantic dialogue I will never forget:
"Come what may, we will get married tomorrow!"

The entire night I could not sleep a wink thanks to the lethal concoction of anxiety of what ill will befall tomorrow's scheme of things and anger at why has it to happen in my case?


The day finally dawned, and as expected the never sleeping Mumbai was deserted. At 6.30 am there were no cars, buses or two-wheelers on the roads. Not a soul in sight. It was like an unofficial bandh. All but our families were in the comfort of their homes, just hoping to get to the marriage hall as soon as possible. Luckily for us, our cars plied us safely to the hall. And upon arrival, I was glad to see hubby smiling his usual cool smile.

His smile had turned my frown upside down.

Morning passed with all the ceremonies (minus a lot of relatives) and we officially tied the knot by noon. Luckily there was no unwanted interference.

As expected, the well wishers and relatives' turn out was less than 25% of the number expected. And my Dad was already trying to control the damage with the caterers by limiting the quantity of food for the evening reception.

Now for the fun part:

One thing about weddings I realized after my own, is the amount of smiling one has to do. So here we were two souls, genuinely happy to be married to each other, but were not happy of the hushed happenings. The sleeplessness, the bubbling tension along with the fatigue of the long drawn wedding rituals was now showing on our faces.

And so came my brother to the rescue. With two Red Bulls.

Handing us a 'refreshing drink' right before our reception meet-and-greet programme, my sneaky brother had given us a disguised Red Bull each to drink. It was like a shot in the arm for us, quite literally, but a high intensity one. Never having tasted it in my life before, the results were stupendous for all there present to see. (I thanked there were few outside the family to witness my theatrics).

Our smiles were now broader, laughs louder, handshakes firmer, and we became more chattier. Our appetites had grown as we were oblivious to the people watching us loading our plate with all the food and eat voraciously.

And thanks to my wedding photographer, he had captured these finely embarrassing moments very nicely. We relive that funny moment in our life again and again when my daughter wants to watch the wedding video. If I may say so, it could well qualify for America's Funniest Wedding Video.

My wedding was one that all others who didn't make it to will remember of missing it. As for us, it will be highlighted by this funny moment.

Caratlane did this cute video with couples and found that funny moments are what binds a relationship. I agree, and laughing off worries together, makes a relationship stronger.

“This post is a part of #LoveAndLaughter activity at BlogAdda in association with Caratlane.”

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Those impactful words

Sania was walking fast and almost broke into a jog. Though she kept walking and walking through the long and winding corridor, she felt she was getting nowhere closer to her destination. Wiping the sweat over her brow she marched towards the end of the corridor and stopped. It was marked ‘ICU’.
For a whole two minutes, she stood outside the door wondering whether to go inside or not. She looked at her toes, wondering if she would find her answer there. She closed her eyes, and taking in one deep breath, she pushed the door open.

She entered and stood rooted to her spot, transfixed. The continuous beeping of the heart monitor was the only sound that punctured the deafening silence of the hospital. That, along with her throbbing heart, refusing to go back to its natural rhythm since the found the news.

There he was lying with an oxygen mask over his face and breathing deeply. Eyes closed, he looked serene sleeping on the bed. She wanted to touch him, but she just could not move. It was as if her legs had turned to lead, she could not move them towards him.

Sania was abruptly shaken out of her reverie as a voice behind her said out loud, “…just check and see if the breathing is normal. And…excuse me what are you doing here?”

Sania turned around to see a hospital nurse in her pristine white uniform march in with a tray full of implements that looked like tweezers, and various kinds of scissors. Uncannily she couldn’t see the nurse’s face.

“I-I-I-I-I was just…just” is what Sania could manage. Stammering, Sania flushed and before she could say anymore the nurse changed her voice to a more irritated one and hissed-
“PLEASE do not enter the ICU without permission. Only relatives allowed. You don’t belong here. Now go!” said the nurse as she pushed Sania away and slapped her arms.

‘You don’t belong here’ kept ringing in Sania’s ears as she was brought back to her senses by her friend who was shaking her arm.

“Sania! Sania! SANIA!!! Are you okay? Get up! SANIA!” yelled her friend as she dimly opened her eyes. Now wide awake and looking at her friend, Sania realized that it was only a dream.

Sania felt rather humid to which she realized she was soaking with perspiration, all over.

“Are you okay Sania? I think you had a bad dream. You were yelling in your sleep. Are you okay?”
‘You don’t belong here’ was still ringing in Sania’s ears. That voice seemed so familiar. Why wasn’t she able to recognise it? And why couldn’t she see the nurse’s face?

“Hey, I’m fine Tashi. Thanks for checking on me. I’m fine” lied Sania with a wry smile. Tashi looked worried. But Sania’s head was elsewhere, fixated on those four impactful words ‘You don’t belong here’.

To Be Continued…

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Navigating through the journey of Women's hair

If I tell you I was born with fantastic hair, I would be lying. Because I wasn't.

Perhaps the only time you would catch me ogling salaciously at a woman is for the gorgeous, shiny, sleek and blessed head of hair she carries. And I confess, am attracted to a fantastic head of hair.
And it is no joke, that 97% women think her hair could look much better. 

No woman might be completely happy with her hair. Fact.
Every woman likes the other woman's hair. Fact again. (Afterall, the grass is always greener on the other side)

Don't you agree ladies?

I too am from this majority. Though I am not a beauty and fashion blogger, and neither are those two my forte, I wanted to throw some light on the relation of an Indian woman and her hair.
Having learned genetics, I know the colour, texture, length, growth of one's hair is almost predetermined. And speaking of genes, the family I belong to, is not blessed with a good head of hair.

Moreover, as women, just as we navigate through the various phases of our life - adolescence, working life, marriage, childbirth, menopause- in which our hair too goes rigorous cycle of imbalanced hormones, stress, and lack of adequate nutrition, lack of sleep and more that affects our hair.

Personally, if you ask me when did my hair look the best ever in my life? I would say Pregnancy.

Yep. No kidding.

Getting pampered silly with rest, proper eating habits, adequate sleep, those multi-vitamins pumped into my system, my hair fall took a back seat, sipped on some folic acid and vitamin E to bestow me with thick, luscious tresses.

And then came childbirth.

Which brought back the horror and more. When my baby turned 6 months old, there was more hair on the bathroom floor than on my head! Eeeeks.

With every fallen hair, my heart sank.

Right now, close to my thirties, I can imagine how my hair will be a few years down the line. I cannot defy genetics and think that it will all of a sudden become thick and lustrous. I cannot think it will be akin to one of those lasses in a hair oil/ hair shampoo/ hair conditioner video, flicking my lovely long hair in people’s faces.

Reality – it will be normal for sure. Greying around the edges of my scalp.
I find the salt and pepper effect that just greying hair gives to someone is quite interesting. It appears to give them an air of wisdom.

Unlike men, women are a bit lucky in this department. They cannot blame genetics for the complete loss of hair! Bald women are rare – or so I thought.

Once on visiting the holy temple of Tirupati, my perception changed. Here, after offering prayers to Lord Venkateshwara at Tirumalai hill, there is a popular ritual of offering one’s hair to the Lord. Not a lock of hair, but the complete head of hair.

And outside this mass barbarization offering, you can see not only men, but throngs of women who have offered their hair to the Lord.

And where does all this hair go to? Sold off in an auction to make wigs, hair extensions abroad.

Traditionally, in India, most women have always maintained long hair, mostly with limited intervention through chemicals of shampoos and conditioners. I was told by an elderly lady, that in their day and age, women keeping their hair open was frowned upon as it symbolised a woman who is either a mourning mourning or one who is mentally ill.

However, this trend is slowly changing. More and more people are slowly accepting short hair with coloured highlights. Even in workplaces, an open culture is receptive to hair styles of women. And with more acceptance, the market is teeming with newer and finer treatments, products and experiences to style one's hair.

And I feel this is just the beginning. More is about to be explored.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

#100StoriesofOptimism - The Impact of Organic Farming

In my earlier post I shared Mark D’Souza’s inspirationalstory of being compassionate towards a small group of elders who had no support. His initiative of helping these elders by serving them fresh, home-made food daily, on his own touched a chord with many. That is the impact of positivity and optimism – making a difference.

And so as promised, my initiative – 100 Stories of Optimism – has a second story. It is from lesser known Maharashtra, populated by farmers and their families.

Now in India, we know how farmers are in turmoil due to the unsuccessful yield to their crop. 

Thousands of farmers are left with no choice but to either sell their land or hunt for jobs. And some farmers, who have no other means of living, burdened by the notwithstanding pressure of mounting loans and lendings, take the extreme step of suicide.

Yet, there is hope.

Some farmers have taken the positive leap of faith in farming by educating themselves and taking a chance in trial and error with certain methods of farming.

A farmer who took the positive leap of faith in farming methods is Rajendra Mane.

This impactful story is about Rajendra Mane from Pandharpur in Solapur, who adopted organic methods of farming to boost the production of pomegranate and grapes. Like every other farmer, Rajendra Mane was using pesticides and chemical based fertilizers to treat his crops. But after year or two of unsuccessful yield, made worse by the unpredictable weather conditions, Rajendra Mane sought advice on organic farming methods to have a successful yield of pomegranate fruit.

In the above video, Rajendra Mane talks about how invested a mere INR 10,000 in raw materials and is now reaping upwards of approximately INR 10 Lakh worth Pomegranate fruit yield per acre. And instead of chemical based pesticides and fungicides, Rajendra Mane employs the usage of organic pesticides – cow urine, cow dung, slurry, neem oil and more such environment and crop friendly substances.

Not only did this move keep Rajendra Mane’s Pomegranate crops pest free and disease free, but also reduce his costs of purchasing comparatively expensive pesticides and herbicides.
And the stats are staggering. Thanks to some planning and space management, he is able to plant 1500 plants instead of 300 plants in an acre of cultivable land.

And he recommends this form of farming and the usage of organic substances as fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. Not only are they relatively easy to source, but are cheap and go easy on the farmer’s pocket.

Some lessons we can pick up too:

If possible, we can implement organic farming in our neighbourhood. Say a 5 ft by 5 ft patch of land is arable, receives adequate sunlight and has access to water, one can use it to plant a small vegetable patch.

Even using potted plants in your verandah or balcony. But do use organic means of farming, that is environment friendly.

Do share your comments on this story in the comments section below. I’ll be back with another #100StoriesofOptimism, till then always be on the look out for hope, it’s right around the corner!

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Turn your good morning into a Gold Morning

'An early bird catches the worm'.
'Early to bed, early to rise
Makes the man
Healthy, wealthy and wise'

What's interesting about these two proverbs is that they both advocate the fruitful benefits of rising early every day. Though I am not a staunch advocate of this principle, I am a believer that waking early does get things done and is beneficial in the long run.

There are many who get up early and go to the gym to elevate their body fitness levels. In addition to them, there are even those who do yoga or go for a walk or meditate are firm advocates of the proverb 'In a healthy body nestles a healthy mind'.

However, I feel the most important thing that I wake up to every morning is the thought.
Yes, one thought can make your day or break it.

So I strive to keep my thoughts positive and free from any frustration as that one thought can snowball into a dozen more unpleasant thoughts that can ruin one's day.
And who likes to ruin their day? Nobody does.

That is my simple mantra on turning my good mornings into gold mornings.
And with that clean, positive thought is the need to add a touch of gold to our daily morning ritual - oral care.

#Colgate360GoldMornings is the bling you need to charge your day, along with that positive thought.

So while getting the best in 360 degree oral care from the new Colgate 360 Charcoal Gold Toothbrush, from the best oral care experts in the world - Colgate Palmolive - add the Midas' touch to your morning ritual.

As they rightly say, well begun is half done! :)
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