One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s One amazing thing can be summed up in one word: Amazing.

It is 3 P.M., there are nine people in the visa office in the basement of the Indian Consulate in the United States. Uma Sinha, a girl of Indian origin, whose parents moved to the US when she was a little girl, have now moved back to India and want her to visit India. She is here to get a Visa to travel to India to visit her parents for six weeks during the winter break. There is an old Chinese-Indian lady, Jiang, accompanied by her teenaged granddaughter Lily, and the two are fighting inhushed tones. Then there are Mr and Mrs Pritchett, an affluent looking couple of Caucasian origin. Cameron is a lanky African-American, in his fifties, with a shaved head, an ex US armyman. Tariq is a 25 year old Indian, with a beard and dark glasses. Malathi, from Coimbatore is the Costumer Services staff at the Visa Office and Mr VKS Mangalam is the Visa Officer.

Suddenly, there is an earthquake, and the building crumbles. Uma breaks a hand, Jiang gets a deep cut, the water starts seeping, the phones don’t work and with no sign of help, they are trapped in the building. The stress builds up and to keep everybody occupied, Uma suggests that they each tell a story; with the condition that there would be no interruptions, no questions and no recriminations especially by family members.

Jiang goes first, talking about her childhood, youth and marriage in Calcutta, India and how she moved to the US and started her chain of stores. Mr Pritchett’s story about his childhood (it was very touching, I was crying while reading it) and Malathi’s story was about her bravest act in Coimbatore. Then Tariq speaks about his family and their life post 9/11 and his friend Ali. Lily, the little one about her childhood, her brother Mark, her music lessons and the efforts she made to get noticed by her family. Cameron talks about his younger days and why he wants to go to India and Mrs Pritchett talks about her reason to go to India. Mr Mangalam talks about his family and how he wanted to be rich and Uma, about her college days.

I enjoyed the characters and their stories and couldn’t keep the book down and when I reached the end, I was disappointed that there is a big question mark about the rescue. A sequel would be more than welcome.

Book Source: Bought
Publisher: Penguin

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Moin and the monster by Anushka Ravishankar

Moin and the monster by Anushka Ravishankar

Moin and the Monster by Anushka Ravishankar is a very well written and perfectly illustrated book. Hats off to Anushka and Anitha (the illustrator) for doing a wonderful job. My daughter gave me her book and asked me to read it. Once I started the book, I really enjoyed being a child again.

Moin Kaif, a student of Class IV, hears something shuffling and sniffling under his bed one night and when he asks who it is, a voice answers that it is a monster. Moin tells the monster that he cannot see him, to which the monster says that if he drew the monster as the monster would describe himself, Moin could see him. Moin, being a very bad artist, says he could not do so but when the monster says that a monster rule would change Moin into a suitcase, poor Moin has no choice but to draw a picture according to the instructions given by the voice of the monster and the monster comes to life.

The monster is upset with the picture, he says that he looks funny instead of fearsome; is pink instead of purple; has drumsticks instead of bamboos for legs and has autorickshaw horns instead of animal horns.

Moin is in a fix. He has to hide the monster from his parents, feed him and take care of him and the monster loves to sing, eat bananas and wants a new hairstyle. Thus begin the adventures of Moin and the Monster. He goes with Moin to a birthday party, makes friends with Parvathy and Tony, sings a song; goes to school with Moin and is pinned up on the notice board as a painting and as a result of the hair treatment for a new hairstyle, grows hair so long that it cannot be managed.

Tony wants to write a book on Monster rules and keeps noting them as the monster reveals them and also one book on the strange behaviour of monsters.

Moin wants the monster to go away but the monster tells him that the monster would stay with him forever- A monster rule.

Overall, a very nice book, a must read for adults in this stressful world.

Can you believe this, the monster sits on my desktop background too.

Book Source: Borrowed from my daughter
Publisher: Duckbill

Battle for Bittora by Anuja Chauhan

Battle for Bittora by Anuja Chauhan

The Background:
Sarojini Pande or Jinni, is the daughter of Jyoti and the only granddaughter of Pushpa Pande (Amma), a politician and Pandit Madan Mohan Pande (Bauji), a freedom fighter. She studies in Loreto Convent, Delhi and goes to her grandparents’ house in Bittora, Pavitra Pradesh, for her summer vacations. Her only friend in Bittora is her grandfather’s friend’s son, Zain Altaf Khan since they are five or six because all the local children thought that these out of town children were a pair of zoo exhibits. He belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Bittoragarh and they live in a crumbling palace, with huge heads of animals mounted on the walls. They even write a series of comics in their summer vacations, Zain doing the teat and Jinni, the art. He calls her Kaka Nagar, Bapa Nagar, and all nagars of Delhi and she calls him Maruti Zain. At twelve, Jugatram gives driving lessons to both of them and that too on the school bus. Zain is sent off to some fancy public school in England and then their holiday terms no longer synchronize. When they are sixteen, on the last day of the vacations, they have a huge misunderstanding and he storms out of her house. Later, she moves to Canada with her mother.

Nine Years later:
Jinni, 25, works in the 3-D animation division, as an animator at Pixel Animation, Mumbai and loves to design kitaanus. Gaiman Tagore Rumi is his colleague and friend. Her grandmother, Pushpa Pande (PP) of the Pragati Party (PP) of the Pavit Pradesh (PP), barges into her office one night and tells her that she is needed for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. She takes leave from work and joins her grandmother in Delhi for the campaign. At a wedding in Delhi, where all the top brass are present, Jinni comes face to face with Zain. After the party is over, Amma tells Jinni that she (Jinni) has been given the ticket by Pragati Party (PP) to fight the elections from Bittora against Zain Altaf Khan (ZAK) who has been nominated by IJP, a pro-Hindu party.

She is introduced to amma’s election agent, Gudia aunty, who is now her election agent, a kleptomaniac. The crack team comprising of Rocket Singh, Munni, Pappu and Jugatram gets busy organizing rallies, meetings, donations for the elections and Pappu says that is ready to do anything for her. Jinni starts wearing sarees with frumpy blouses, folding her hands into elaborate Namaste, going door to door asking for support for her party, listening to people wanting BiPaSa (Bijli, Paani. Sadak) and Zain starts his propaganda by calling Bittora his mother. The fight gets dirty as campaign continues; the mudslinging goes from bad to worse and deep down somewhere, the love story blossoms. The assumption as to who would take a lead in which constituency keeps changing till the end and the reader keeps guessing who would win.

The language used is funny especially, her grandmother’s English pronunciation especially, the way the author has spelt it in the book, if you read it as spelt, you can’t stop laughing. She has used funniest possible words to describe people like The Rapist, Saakshaat fart, Shotgun and calls coffee Bhainscafe.

Believe me, I am not in the least exaggerating, when I say that I have been uncontrollably laughing in the Metro with tears streaming down my eyes and people looking at me awestruck.

At certain places, I felt the book was dragging a little bit and planned to put it down, and then the curiosity got better of me, I read a little bit more and got back into reading it.

I really loved the book very much.

Book Source: Complimentary from Landmark
Publisher: Harper Collins

Married to Bhutan by Linda Leaming

Married to Bhutan by Linda Leaming

Married to Bhutan by Linda Leaming is a memoir with travel and spirituality interspersed in between. She mentions about how, in 1994, when she was planning a long trip to India and Europe, her friends convinced her to visit Bhutan as well and she added to more weeks to the trip. And these two weeks that spent in Bhutan, especially Punakha, changed the course of her life. She mentions that at that time, people in America did not know where Butane (Bhutan) is. She then mentions that she again visited Bhutan in 1995 and 1996 travelling to every corner of the country, learning about the people and how they lived before she finally moved there to teach English at an Art School in a suburb of Thimphu in 1997.

She talks about her marriage to her colleague in the Art School, a Thanka painter, Phurba Namgay, their different upbringings, different languages, and different religions. She mentions very sportingly about her visit to Namgay’s house to meet his family, which in the villagers view was like being married for all practical purposes. She tells about the gross mistakes she made while learning the language. The most hilarious of then was the one in which she is talking to her mother-in-law, who did not know English and she with her manageable, Dzongkha and they were actually repeating each other.

She describes about their trip to Bangkok, where Namgay spent most of his time looking at the aeroplanes and also about their visit to US where he became a devotee of appliances and worshipped on the altar of mass consumption.

She describes the culture, the language, the various rivers, the currency, the religion, the post office, the handmade paper factory, the traditional dresses of men and women, the Thanka paintings, the history, the mores of Bhutan with the enthusiasm of someone who genuinely loves the country. She mentions that the Bhutanese King is more interested in Gross National Happiness than Gross National Product.

In the first chapter, she explains patiently about the slow paced nature of the Bhutanese people. She explains how she learnt about the difference in the learning system as compared to America. She also talks about the similarities and differences between her hometown and Bhutan, and their people.

The cover by Phurba Namgay, her husband, gives the book a very “Pick me up” look. While introducing a new Bhutanese word, she has very carefully put it in italics, which helps us to look at the glossary and then when it is mentioned again in the book, it is easier to relate to. The Epilogue is very well written.

Spending four years of my childhood in India, close to Phuntsholing, in Bhutan, I found it very easy to relate to all that was mentioned in the book, the markets, the bailey bridges, and especially, the post-office, I remember shopping for stamps for my cousins’ collection and mine too, but they have the record stamp, the one that plays the National Anthem, but I don’t.

A lovely book. What did I miss, some beautiful pictures, that could have made it into a coffee table book.

Book Source: A Gift from my husband
Publisher: Hayhouse India

Bollywood Fiance for a day by Ruchi Vasudeva

Bollywood Fiance for a day by Ruchi Vasudeva

The Blurb:
The man of her Bollywood dreams
——————————————————————-
Winning the chance to meet the ultimate Bollywood heart-throb, Zaheer Saxena, is just what Vishakha needs to take her mind off her recent humiliation—being jilted the week before her wedding! And when gorgeous Zaheer offers to be her fake fiancé, the chance to save face with her family is just too tempting…

It’s a deal that benefits them both—Zaheer is warding off any unwanted female attention until his next film is finished; but can Vishakha trust herself not to hope that her dream fiancé for a day will be her forever man?

My view:
Vishakha Sehgal, 26, a paediatrician, lives with her mother, stepsister, Saira and stepfather in Lucknow. Her step father is very affectionate but does not want his children to have a love marriage and gets her engaged to his friend’s son, Munish. Her fiancé confesses a week before the wedding that he is in love with her sister, Saira and wants to marry her. The wedding is scheduled on the same day as her wedding. She is a very dedicated doctor and a very sensitive girl but keeps her feelings to herself and suffers in the process. On alternate afternoons, she volunteers to work at an orphanage, Sambhavana Anathalaya, and also plans her dream project for the children there.

While shopping for her engagement dress, she fills up a contest form and wins a date with a Bollywood star, Zaheer Saxena, the heartthrob of all her friends. As luck would have it, he turns up late for the date and she takes out all her anger on him and asks him to take her for a real date. She calls of the date midway and goes back to Lucknow. He follows her there and to her hospital and the orphanage. He finds out the cause of her troubles and proposes that she attends the wedding on a positive note introducing him as her fiancé and that would also help him ward off Mia Khan, his heroine.

Thus the story begins. He talks about his childhood and she about hers. There are certain moments in the story, where you feel you are a character in the story and the things are going on around you.

The term moral science has been metioned, it is so nostalgic because I don’t think schools use it anymore, they use value education. Her medical training also reflects in the book when she mentions Vishakha managing a case of diarrhea. The language used is very simple and a lot of commonly used terms have been used.

Read and enjoy, I shall not write more about it.

Book Source: Bought
Publisher: Harlequin India Private Limited

Blinkers off by Andaleeb Wajid

Blinkers off by Andaleeb Wajid

Blinkers Off by Andaleeb Wajeed was a suggestion on my blog by The Visitor on my review of “My Brother’s Wedding” (review at http://wp.me/p3cEWT-5W), who said that this book was more interesting. When I ordered my copy about a month ago, little did I know that I would receive would be an autographed copy.

This story is set in Bangalore and is a young adult love triangle. Noor, the protagonist, belongs to a traditional family and has a super smart 12 year old brother, Roshan.

Noor, 20, is a third year graduation student who wants to become a screenplay writer, and joins film-making classes, as an optional subject, on weekends. Mr Paul, the teacher, divides the class into groups of two to make a documentary film, which a part of the course. Supriya, the College Diva, her classmate from school, is pretty and smart, paints her nails in the class, and calls her Norr is teamed up with her and is not interested. She chooses an Indian wedding as the subject.

Mr Paul asks each group to come up with ideas, from which he would select the best two and the class would work as two groups on the selected ideas. Noor’s idea is selected and she has in her group, people who think it is her fault that she has been short listed. They are very unreceptive of her ideas and finally, Nandita and Noor hit off well together. Nandita is very understanding and practical and helps Noor in overcoming her inhibitions.

Dennis, Daanish Aslam, 28, Mr Paul’s assistant, is very good looking. He teaches in New York Film Academy and lives in New York. He comes up with the idea of filming his friend’s sister’s wedding. Supriya claims that he is her boyfriend and ends up belittling Noor. Noor is infatuated and the love triangle sets in.

Ashmita is Noor’s best friend, very outgoing and complements Noor very well. She is one person Noor can confide in and who can read Noor like a book. Heeba, 19, the bride, whose wedding is the subject of the documentary, has her own secrets and ever helpful Noor gets involved in them as well.

The story is engrossing and written very well. The flow is smooth and the short chapters make it a fast read. The language is simple and the characters have been beautifully described, picturising them was not difficult: Noor in her Salwar Kameez and Supriya in her tight fitting clothes. Beautiful Nandita and her curls and Sweet Suvarna. The timeline used in the story starting with July, 2010 to 10th August 2010 adds pace to the book.

Book Source: Bought
Publisher: Rupa

The Sari Shop Widow by Shobhan Bantwal

The Sari Shop Widow by Shobhan Bantwal

The Sari Shop Widow by Shobhan Bantwal is a very simple and sweet book. The characters are life like and relating to them is easy.

Anjali Kapadia, 37, is the daughter of Usha and Mohan Kapadia, lives in Little India, New Jersey. She converted her parents’ sari shop into a chic boutique that sells exquisite jewellery and clothing, Silk & Sapphires, ten years ago. She is very creative and artistic and designs luxury saris and wedding attire for the Indian immigrants and her life revolves around the boutique. Anjali is traditional yet independent; she values her family and the Indian values. Her brother, Nilesh, is eighteen years younger and is a college student.

In their quest to make the boutique exclusive and well stocked, the Kapadias run into financial problems. Her father calls up his autocratic brother, Jeevan in India and asks him for help. Jeevan is a shrewd businessman. Jeevan comes down from India with his partner, Rishi Shah to assess the situation. They go with the Kapadias to inspect the boutique and give their verdict. Anjali is very skeptical and curious to know what would happen to the boutique, when they suggest that Silk & Sapphires be transformed into a modern store and they also plan to buy fifty-one percent of the boutique.

Rishi Shah, 42, is an Anglo-Indian, is the son of a Gujarati father and a British mother. He has a chain of boutiques the world over and helps various businesses in problems. He has a live-in girlfriend, Samantha, but breaks off with her after coming to New Jersey. He is a very strong willed person.

Risha feels that Anjali is scared that they may take the boutique away from her and tries to gain her trust. In the process, they fall in love. They have their share of misunderstandings and her mother’s reaction to Anjali’s spoilt mood because of Rishi is very natural and has been potrayed that way.

Each character in the story has a defined role to play, be it Anjali, Rishi, Jeevan, Mohan, Usha or Samantha for that matter. The relationships of the Kapadia family are a very important aspect of the story. The story has a Gujarati flavor to it.

As with Shobhan Bantwal’s books, this book was also captivating and whenever I got a chance, I would read just a bit, even while waiting for the traffic light to turn green. I really loved the book.

Book Source: Bought
Publisher: Fingerprint