Woosh! Another year goes by

It does appear that time is flying and we can barely catch our breaths.

A mixed bag this year (so what’s new?), the pandemic definitely left its mark.

Poked and prodded quite a bit, it started with me getting my very first tattoo, then the vaccination jabs, and finally, the full COVID treatment as I caught the virus just to finish up my year in style.

Not much writing happening – just a Pratham book and a couple of articles as a UN Volunteer. I did read a million books on Kindle Unlimited though, and enjoyed some really good books on Audible.

Turning empty-nester this year was both strange and happy. Lil D is no longer little, and has grown into a fine young woman, even if I say so myself.

I guess it is time to count my blessings, feel grateful for whatever I have, including the bouts of good health when issues are not plaguing me, and hope that the world wakes up a better place in the coming year.

Happy New Year! 🙂

Meet Malou

I had the opportunity of interacting with several UN Volunteers from the Philippines from this September onwards. I was so impressed with their dedication and selfless work and their cheerful smiles.

One of my interviews was released on the occasion of the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness (27 Dec).

Malou is an absolute sweetheart! More power to her and the UN Volunteers who are making such a difference on the ground. ❤

Read the interview here.

Endings and Beginnings

This year has been like no other. When the year began, it gave us no inkling of what it held. And we end it on a note of bewilderment, not really sure of what happened and what will happen. Hope springs eternal of course, and we await the new year with a curious mixture of weariness and bated breath.

Personally, the year has been kind to me. Things have more or less been on an even keel and changes have been very manageable. I’ve realised that I am truly happiest by myself and suprisingly, life has rearranged itself accordingly.

I am so grateful for everything that’s come my way, and then some.

The happy news includes a story of mine published in this hot-off-the-press anthology. An excellent collection of stories, it is really worth reading. Here’s to more reading and writing in the new year too!

Stay safe and take care. This is the way. 😉

A poem

A friend posted a picture of her dad’s head before and after she gave him a haircut.

For a heart stopping moment, I felt it was my dad. It was the very same kind of head and hair, and I was seized with a wave of longing to see him again.

That sparked this poem. 🙂 So here goes


There was a time when we plucked the grey hairs from my father’s head
We giggled –
he would soon go bald

Years later
brown shiny mirror framed by typical male balding
reflected his brown comb
He insisted we check if he had got the parting of his long-gone hair right

That he remembered, not us
Secret bits of youthful vanity tucked and folded into wrinkled skin

My scissors snipped at
hair that grew, hair that did not give up
Ironic proof of life in dying embers

White as sorrow black as grief
grey memories

Listening Now

I have always wondered whether I would enjoy listening to a book as much as reading it, since I am a fast reader and listening seems so much slower.

I had the chance to find out for myself recently. I picked up the Audible version of Elena Ferrante’s The Lying Life of Adults. Having raced through her Neapolitan Novels breathlessly earlier, I thought this book would be a good test.

I found myself instantly captivated by Marisa Tomei’s brilliant narration, switching from crisp tones to hoarse voices, rolling syllables to elongated ones, suave to stressed words. Vivid images were built up in my head and I felt so much closer to Vittoria and Giovanna. I dreamed about them in Tomei’s voice and I was mesmerized quite completely.

I had never imagined how crucial the narrator would be for audio books. Now I know.
But for the discomfort of constant earphones (which means I can’t “read” a book continuously), I’m now a fan.

About the book itself, it starts off with a bang but weakens midway and peters out to an ending that is as anti-climactic and dull as G’s stepping into adulthood. But the writing reminds me of crochet, digging into holes to create more holes, a beautiful pattern forming along the way. Quite lovely.

It’s been 39 days

It’s been 39 days since I stepped out of the house. I have actually not gone outside even a bit. Other family members have gone out on drives, to stores, to pick up delivered stuff, and so on. I haven’t ventured outside my doorstep, except to keep out the trash bin for collection.

The strange thing is I haven’t felt that I’ve missed out on anything! In fact, interacting with people virtually has been such a relief. The more I see of people, the less I want to interact with them, honestly. Sometimes, I can’t bear the noise levels in the house. It’s not even much – just the husband on a call, speaking sporadically; the daughter in class, answering a stray question; the thumping of the washing machine; the clang of dishes the maid is washing; the drilling, welding, and cutting sounds from the construction site opposite our place… I feel like they are amplified a hundred-fold, and want to dive underwater, where it’s all so quiet.

I like late nights the best, when everything is silent, or blanketed out by the whirring fan. Peace reigns, and I can breathe.

I think I’m finally ready for Vipassana.

Hello there!

It’s been more than a year since I updated my blog. Very remiss of me, I know.

Well, I thought I ought to organize my books in a better way. So I’ve added another page My Books. Check it out.

Pretty cool, eh?

I hope to be more regular here. So many things happening right now – life is never dull.

I hope you have all survived the various lockdowns and pandemic craziness, and hopefully we will emerge into a wiser world.

Lots of love, and take care.

March 2019 Books

Did not realize I had read 20 books in March. What fun! Quite a crazy mix, so I’ve attempted to categorize them somewhat.

NON-FICTION

1. The Vedas and Upanishads for children by Roopa Pai: No surprise that this book is wonderful. Complex topics, ideas, and philosophies conveyed in simple terms without losing the message. Am so blown away by how she does it, and does it so consistently. A book worth possessing for both old and young.
2. The Long Strider by Dom Moraes and Sarayu Srivatsa: What I picked up on a whim turned out to be an intimately written and brilliant book! The book is not just about Thomas Coryate and his amazing walk to India, but also the journey made by Dom Moraes, Sarayu his companion/co-author, and Juzer, their researcher, trying to retrace the path taken and gather details of the remarkable Englishman. The chapters alternate, giving you two incredibly good stories to savour. Chock full of quirky details and quietly humorous yet poignant, this book will definitely count as one of my good reads.
3. In the Land of Invisible Women by Qanta A Ahmed: Very interesting read about life in Saudi Arabia, where the author worked as a doctor for two years, just before 9/11. At times, I felt I was reading a dystopian novel. It felt so surreal: the unimaginable wealth, the scary moral policing, the schizophrenic existence of both men and women…I felt just as liberated as the author when she walks away in a free land at the end, symbolically leaving her abaya behind on the plane itself.
4. Becoming by Michelle Obama: This book has been all over the place, and so, I ended up reading it overnight, engrossing as it is. Michelle tries so hard to keep herself rooted, and compared to Obama, she has had it pretty good with close family, and a good education. But by the end of the book, I was actually more taken with Barack. I did not get as good a sense of him from his own book Dreams from my Father, as I got from this book. He comes across as such an incredible person, and Michelle is the perfect foil for him – strong, practical, and rooted firmly. What an amazing couple!
5. Listen to Me by Shashi Deshpande: A sweet autobiography, and gives a lovely picture of her internal struggles. Many times, I could completely identify with her thoughts.
6. Unforgettable: The Iconic Women of South Indian Cinema by Nalini Shivkumar and Rema Mahalingam: This book felt more like a compilation of newspaper articles. Some snippets were interesting, but it didn’t really do anything else for me.

FANTASY/SCIENCE FICTION

7. Firefight by Brandon Sanderson: The second book of the Reckoners trilogy. Ends on a cliff-hanging note that makes you impatient to read the next (Steelheart, which features in my February list, is the first book).

8. Calamity by Brandon Sanderson: The last book of the Reckoners trilogy. A bit disappointed with the very Hollywood ending. But there’s no doubt that Brandon has now become one of my favourite authors. His construction of worlds is so solid that you get quite completely sucked in. His writing is so competent that the story stays right on track. Creativity at its best!

9. Strange Worlds! Strange Times! Edited by Vinayak Varma: Such a delightful collection of science fiction short stories! Do read, they are quite enjoyable.

10. The Man who was Thursday: A Nightmare by G K Chesterton: What a strange story this was. Anarchists named after days of the week turn out to be quite something else. And the ending is surreal. But the writing, oh the writing! What beautiful, lyrical writing. Reminded me of what I was missing.

11. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa: A YA fantasy set in faeryland, featuring Oberon, Titania, and Puck amongst others, and technology taking on the guise of the villain. The heroine, Meghan Chase (what is with Magnus Chase, Meghan Chase and all?) is not the brightest bulb honestly. Too many times I wanted to smack her. Wish she was a stronger character. Didn’t particularly care for the central male characters either. Overall a good one-time read.

12. 123 Tomorrows by Vaibhav Thakur: A Kindle book that reminded me of Source Code a bit. A terrorist plot, multiple universes, a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kind of main character…ambitious book and quite well-written, found it gripping in parts.

FICTION

13. Exile by Robert Patterson: An Israeli leader gets assassinated in the US, and a Jewish lawyer defends the accused – a Palestinian lady, with whom he has a past. Tries to portray the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in as many shades as possible. Some parts were interesting, but found it a plodding read.
14. Dandelion Clocks by Rebecca Westcott: A beautiful YA novel about a teen coming to terms with her mother’s illness and demise. Choked me up a few times.
15. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty: Alice is a typical harried mom trying to keep her sanity with two little children in the middle of a nasty divorce. An accident makes her lose her memory and she bounces right back to her twenties, when she was so completely in love with her husband and they are looking forward to the birth of their first child. A neat device to make one remember what it was like to be younger and hopeful and have dreams. Interesting characters like her sister, her mom, and her adopted grandmom makes for a fantastic, moving read!
16. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: Nicely written, but it was predictable for me and the open ending was annoying! 🙂
17. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan: Another beautiful YA book about an adopted gifted girl who loses both her parents suddenly in an accident, but finds family and meaning with other people. A sweet book and has you rooting for the main character.
18. Newcomer by Keigo Higashino: Loved this murder mystery, mainly because every character is treated with such respect and humanity. Little sketches all along make this a hugely engrossing read.
19. The Mystery of the Lingeshwar Temple and the Lurking Shadows by Laxmi Natraj: An interesting contemporary plot with terrorists in a little village. However, I kept wishing I could read this in a vernacular language. It would have been superb and have given an immediacy to the happenings.
20. My Lawfully Wedded Husband and Other Stories by Madhulika Liddle: A Kindle book with cute little stories. The story in the title is about a wife cheating on her unsuspecting husband with an electrician, and the ending is quite literally shocking. Another story I enjoyed was set in Goa.
Phew! That’s the end of my list. So, what have you been reading?

February 2019 books

The month is short, but still managed to pack in quite a few, mostly light reads.

1. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: a nicely told YA romance, which doesn’t leave you wanting to smack the characters. The teenage angst is much more real and believable. Loved it.

2. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas: An absolutely rocking page-turner, based on Beauty and the Beast, but with large doses of fantasy thrown in. Deserves its bestseller label on all counts.

3. White Magic by Arjun Nath: Heartbreaking and educative, it talks about rehab of the junkie author interspersed with the life story of Dr. Yusuf Merchant, who tirelessly works for the cause of breaking addictions. Brilliant writing, with a sure eye for lovely turns of phrases, it manages to pull you into the hopeless despair of an addict without mincing words and gives you the shivers sometimes.

4. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson: OK, it’s official, this is now one of my all-time fave authors. When I read the Mistborn trilogy, I was blown away. Then I read one book of the Arithmatist series, and I was so impressed. Steelheart reads more like pop-culture and like the superheroes we are familiar with, but the writing, the foundation, everything is so solid! The style is so much breezier than Mistborn, so it makes for a quicker read. I am bowled over by not just the range of creativity, but the range of styles and the sheer superiority of the competence with which he writes!

5. Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao: An interesting tale of two girls/women, ranging from the weaving villages in the Andhra region to the hopelessness of the sex trade in India and human trafficking to the US involving the anonymous cleaning crews. Range of the novel was good, but I sometimes lost interest in the characters themselves.

6. Nathaniel’s Nutmeg by Giles Milton: Fascinating history of how the European spice quests and wars shaped the entire world. It just boggles the mind that folks took off on voyages that lasted years, the future was so uncertain and fraught with risks and perils, and laws were made up on the go. Makes one really wonder about the world as it is today.

7. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: Total kick-ass book! I loved the way the characters are brought out so strongly in so brief a work. This kind of writing is totally what I like. Fantastic.

8. Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Cafe by Milly Johnson: Solid writing, spunky characters, and just the right mix of romance, revenge, and redemption. Perfect for those sunny afternoons with a cuppa tea, love.

That’s it, folks. Onto my March list – what joy!