Thursday, January 29, 2015

Voices Old & New : A review



BOOK TITLE: Voices, Old & New
ISBN: 978-1-927826-70-6
AUTHORS:  Naheed Hassan (Editor), Sabahat Muhammad (Editor), John Sequeira, Karthik L., Komal Singh, Maria Perry Mohan, Neelesh Inamdar, Roshan Radhakrishnan , Ruchi Singh, Sanjay Madhavan, Shivani Shourie, Sid Balachandran, Ada Wiam , Sonia Rao, Varsha Pillai, Viba, Adiana Ray, Anamika GK, Aniesha Brahma, Diganta Sarkar, Dola Basu Singh, Farida Rahman, Jaspreet Soni
GENRE: Fiction/ Short Stories / Mixed Genres.
NUMBER OF PAGES: 252
FORMAT: Digital/ PDF
SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone
REVIEW BY: Dhivya Balaji
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Indireads sent me a review copy, I thank of Indireads for it!
SUMMARY:
          ‘Voices, Old & New’ is a fantastic collection of short stories featuring the very best submissions from Indireads’ 2nd Short Story Competition 2014. It is available for purchase on Amazon, and is also available for free, as a thank-you gift, for a limited time, to all new and existing subscribers of the Indireads newsletter.
REVIEW:
          For the first time ever, a Summary of the book doesn’t gloss up or exaggerate the contents. ‘Voices, Old & New’ is exactly what it promises to be – a fantastic collection of short stories. There can be no other explanation for it. Never has a book of short stories impressed me so much as this one! The language and the editing – complete with the grammar, are perfect, and it is a real treat to read such beautifully written stories. Easily, this tops ALL the Indireads books I have read so far.
          Now for the review – how do I write the reviews for the book of short stories that requires special attention and special mentions for each and every story? Do I elaborate on the minute details of every story and write a review that is as long as the book? Or write a review of stories that affected me specially? For the sake of brevity in the review, I have decided to choose the few stories that affected me the most. These are not necessarily the most popular or this doesn’t mean the other stories are in any way lesser – these are the stories that left a lasting imprint in the mind of THIS reviewer.
Boomerang – well, fitting twist, excellent start to an amazing book, though it is dark! Brings out the perils of online chatting and what might come out of it – with an unusual twist. Ruchi Singh, ma’am, hats off!
Revenge – how can short phrases make a story so complete? I was initially left searching for the rest of the story before I realised that this is the perfect ‘short story’. *smile emoticon*
A Slave to Thee – Okay, this was the story that ‘totally’ threw me off guard. The most quirky of this set, in my opinion! And so is the ending. John Sequeira, please give us more such stories!
Prejudice – another gem. It talks about a doctor who gets her opinion corrected by a common girl, twice. A real treat!
The Ballet Lesson – Reverence. Ray-vay-rahnss. (You have to read the story to get this reference!)
The Message – paranormal at its best.
Between Him and Her – Forbidden but still enticing. The extreme gentleness of unattainable love!
Meeting By Arrangement – serendipity. That is the best word to describe this story.
Only You – ‘Promise’ will become the new ‘Always’ to some Harry Potter fans reading this story!
SPECIAL MENTION:
v To author Farida Rahman for giving some thought provoking stories! I really loved reading them.
v To Sabahat Muhammad – for an excellent cover design! I have never seen a more fitting cover for a book!
WHAT I LIKED: Everything – almost.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: As is expected, there are some stories I feel are lacking in certain elements. But even those stories have that charm. So no real complaints!
VERDICT: Don’t miss it! Go for it, definitely.
RATING: 4.5/5
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
          (Each story in this book has the ‘about the author’ section after it. They are as much a treat to read as the book itself!)
EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Digital
PRICE: Rs. 186, (Currently free for Indireads subscribers!)
BOOK LINKS:


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Blog Tour: Hey Dad! Meet my mom...

Welcome to the ‘BLOG TOUR’ of this Jan-Feb’s most anticipated book title ‘Hey Dad! Meet My Mom… (HDM3)’. The book has successfully created a lot of hype in the market and that’s why the creator’s of HDM3 has decided to giveaway some free copies.
Just 3 steps and you’ll stand a chance to win an ‘Autographed’ copy of HDM3 for free. Isn’t it exciting?

What to do?
Step 1 – ‘Like’ our page (Stay updated with the world of HDM3 by being a part of the ever growing family of ours.) Page link, https://www.facebook.com/heydadmeetmymom

Step 2 – ‘Share’ about the ‘blog tour’ on facebook by copying this text.

“#HDM3 - STAND A CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF ‘HEY DAD! MEET MY MOM…’ BY VISITING THE PAGE’S LINK AND FOLLOWING THE ‘BLOG TOUR’. (https://www.facebook.com/heydadmeetmymom)”   

Step 3 – What do you think about the title of the book, ‘Hey Dad! Meet My Mom…’? Be it anything, we want your opinion, your truest opinion over the title of our book. Answer in the comment section.

That’s it. If you successfully complete the above three steps, you will be lucky enough to get the book at your doorsteps.

Some Important Points to Remember:-
  • This competition is only for the Indian residents.
  • The results of the competition will be announced on 29th January, 2015 on the book’s page (That’s why we request you to please keep on checking on the fb’s page of HDM3).
  • Don’t forget to use the Hash Tag (#HDM3) while posting about the blog tour on fb timeline of yours; it will help us to track your participation. Without the hash tag your participation will be cancelled.

ABOUT THE BOOK:-

From childhood, the world in which we live, teaches us to bury our ‘bad’ past somewhere deep inside us, so deep, that even we can’t dig it back and after that just move on.

What happens when a 10 year old child, who claims to be your future son, comes to you to help you find a perfect match for his mother? What happens when eventually you start to doubt on his intentions? What happens when a girl starts to turn your dreams into nightmares? What happens when your ‘Future son’ starts to haunt you? What happens when your FUTURE starts to bleed in your PRESENT through your PAST?
‘Hey Dad! Meet My Mom!!!’ is nothing less than a roller coaster ride of comedy, fear, love and don't forget to expect the unexpected!

SURPRISE COMPETITON:-

Now here’s the surprise factor, as you have opened this blog and had read the post till the end, we would like to offer you a great chance to GRAB A PACK OF 4 BOOKS (including Bestsellers of Sudeep Nagarkar, Durjoy Datta etc.)

This will be rewarded to all those participants whose ‘Facebook shares (Step 2 in the previous contest) successfully receives more than 50 likes.’ So do not wait further and start showcasing your ‘Social Media’ strength and stand a chance of winning 5 (4+1) books.



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Daughter By Court Order by Ratna Vira : A Review


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BOOK TITLE: Daughter By Court Order
ISBN: 8172345216
AUTHOR: Ratna Vira
GENRE: Fiction
NUMBER OF PAGES: 372
FORMAT: Paperback
SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone
REVIEW BY: Shree Janani
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Review copy from Fingerprint! Publishers. Thank you guys!

SUMMARY : A seemingly innocent remark over an innocuous cup of tea. Aranya discovers that her family has been fighting a decade-long legal battle over her grandfather’s expansive estate, all the while not only keeping her in the dark, but also keeping her very existence out of the court’s knowledge!
A cesspool of emotions, half-truths, betrayals, and the unspooling of long buried dirty family secrets threaten to overpower Aranya and disrupt what modicum of peace and balance she has in her life as a single mother of two children. At the centre of this storm is the one woman who, ever since the day Aranya was born, has had nothing but curses and abuses for her; who has deliberately kept her name out of the court; who has wished her dead for every day of her life; who refuses to now remember her birth. The woman who is her mother. Her own mother.

This is the story of a woman fighting against power, money, deceit, and treachery for her right to be recognised as a daughter. A daughter by court order . . .

REVIEW:

A summary that promises the tale of an unwanted daughter and tackling the social stigma of gender inequality is sure to catch the eyes for avid readers. Add the writers’ background (her parents are renowned journalists) to the summary, the book is sure to create a wave. Throw in some brilliant promotional plans by the publishers and la! We have a best seller. That’s this book is a nutshell.

Our protagonist, Aranya is the quintessential unwanted female child loathed by her own mother, mistreated by her brother and let down by her father. Thanks to unconditional love from her grandparents and aunts, she manages to grow into a confident adult who can stand up for herself in-spite of her own mother plotting against her. She goes onto to win a court battle against her mother who categorically denies that she has a daughter (Thus the title).

Characterisation: Majority of the characters barring a few were well penned. The story line aided the characterisation, for, the subject requires not just protagonists, but the supporting characters as well to pack a punch.  The only character that required a lot more depth was that of Aranya’s husband. His characterisation was rather shallow and didn’t quite do justice to the whole story line. Aranya’s kids desrve a special mention. It is easy to show multitudes in an adult’s character. Showing variance and making a child character emote is not an easy task. The writer sure aced it!

Narration & Story line: The theme of gender inequality requires a compulsive narration. Especially when the protagonist’s own mum is portrayed as a misogynist who spews venom on her own daughter, the writer is forced to an arduous position to cook up something truly compulsive. This writer managed to put forth a compelling story. The narration did have some fair share of slips but that could be overlooked, for, the crux of the story was narrated well enough.

There are two ways of emoting: Active (Shouting out, using brash words) and passive (Silent tears, sad smile!). The writer has portrayed both ways with such perfection that even a novice reader can distinguish between all sorts of emotions. In such stories laden with sadness, writers by enlarge tend to get sadness, pain and anger all confused. This writer managed to create distinction between the three most over abused emotion.
Language: Needless to say that the off spring of a journalist and a highly educated economist can’t possibly mess up with language. The writer’s knowledge of the language aided in delivering all the right emotions that a given situation requires. It is pleasantly and mildly shocking that the writer is a rookie.

To sum it up, in a country that worships mothers, a tale of neglect and hatred with a compelling narration is bound to become a best-seller.

VERDICT: Must read. The plight of a daughter can’t be portrayed better than this

RATING: 4.5 on 5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ratna Vira holds a masters degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, as well as a masters in English Literature from St Stephen’s College, University of Delhi. She also holds an MBA.

She is the daughter of senior journalist, Nalini Singh, and SPN Singh.

Ratna juggles her corporate career with her writing and love of art. She lives in Gurgaon with her daughter and son, where she is at work on her second novel.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback & Digital

PRICE: Rs.180.50 (Digital)

BOOK LINKS: http://www.amazon.in/Daughter-Court-Order-Ratna-Vira-ebook/dp/B00LBEQAC6/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Other Side Of The Table by Dr.Madhumita Mukherjee : A Review


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BOOK TITLE: The Other Side Of The Table
ISBN: 9788172344474
GENRE: Fiction
NUMBER OF PAGES: 240
FORMAT: Paperback
SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone
REVIEW BY: Shree Janani
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Review copy from Fingerprint! Publishers in exchange for a honest review. Thank you guys!

SUMMARY : Circa 1990.
A world drawn and woven with words. 
A bond punctuated by absence and distance...
Two continents. Two cities. Two people.
And letters. Hundreds of them.
Over years. Across oceans. Between hearts.
Between Abhi, who is training to be a neurosurgeon in London, and Uma, who is just stepping into the world of medicine in Kolkata. 
As they ink their emotions onto paper, their lives get chronicled in this subtly nuanced conversation through letters ... letters about dreams, desires, heartbreaks, and longings... about a proverbial good life falling apart, about a failed marriage, a visceral loss, and about a dream that threatens social expectations...
Letters that talk. And don't. Letters about this and that. Letters about everything...
Letters with a story you would never expect
REVIEW:
Yet another book that is written as a collation of letters! Is writing a story in the form of letters the latest fad?! Some writers weave exceptionally cohesive stories in spite of writing in a format that by default renders the story incoherent and there are the others, who are fascinated by the concept of “letter narration” and fail miserably at it.  Uma and Abhi inadvertently end up being each other’s punching bag.
This book/writer belongs to the neither category. Uma and Abhi exchange a series of letters until Uma finally lands in Abhi’s doorstep. The letters are about mundane things to their lives’ most important events.
The book opened with a great momentum, the letters back and forth seemed utterly fascinating. Unfortunately, there came a point when the narration got utterly boring and the story line began to slack. The pace had dropped so low that a novice reader would probably chuck the book midway. On the other hand, a seasoned reader would be patient enough to wait for the momentum to pick up.  This is one such book that requires its readers to wait patiently for the pace to pick up.
The other major disadvantage of such a book would obviously be the story line itself - Unless the protagonists exchange chronicles of murder or some topic which could be classified as borderline explosive, narrating mundane emotions would certainly backfire. That is precisely what happened with this book. The writer promised an array of intense emotions in her summery, but ended up writing a bland story which lacked finesse to produce that emotional bang. Normally a story line containing a miscarriage, a brain tumour and a failed marriage (not in that particular order) would evoke a sea of emotions even from a seasoned reader who has probably shed more tears over characters than in real life people. This book managed to just skim through all those heavy emotions instead of creating a wave.
The writing isn’t stellar either. The letters at time became a bit incoherent but the writer somehow managed to veer them back to track post an incoherent thread. This steering back tends to create a zigzag effect on the readers making them unsure of how to rate the book.
The characterisation is rather commendable. The writer has managed to show various shades of the protagonists in-spite of all those discoloured emotions she ended up with. The writer sure needs to be lauded for her effort to portray gender inequality prevalent amongst doctors. In fact, it was rather surprising to read that even such a critical profession suffers from the common evil of gender inequality. Hats off to the writer for bringing to light the stigma attached to a female surgeon. It is rather apparent that the writer might have had such an experience first-hand given that she is doctor herself.
In a nutshell, this book requires the patience of a season reader just for the discrimination thread of the story.
VERDICT: Not for people with a patience range of a teaspoon.
RATING: 3 on 5
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Madhumita Mukherjee grew up in Delhi and did her medical education from Calcutta National Medical College. She has been living and working in England since 2001 as a Paediatrician. She has a special affinity for epistolary novels as well as novels written as journals and diaries like 'Diary of a Provincial Lady' by E.M. Delafield, and 'I Capture the Castle' by Dodie Smith. Besides these, she takes special interest in novels with medical themes such as 'A Country Doctor's Notebook' by Mikhail Bulgakov. Her message to the readers as a doctor is to never take health for granted.
EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback, Digital
PRICE: Rs.160 (Paperback)

BOOK LINKS: http://www.amazon.in/Other-Side-Table-Madhumita-Mukherjee-ebook/dp/B00BD2PL6W/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hidden Passion by Summerita Rhayne : A Review

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BOOK TITLE: Hidden Passion
ISBN: B00RBUM0EG
AUTHOR: Summerita Rhayne
GENRE: Fiction - Romance
NUMBER OF PAGES: 145
FORMAT: Digital
SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone
REVIEW BY: Shree Janani
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK:  I got the opportunity to read this book as a beta reader! Thanks Summerita for choosing me to beta read and also for taking my suggestions with a good spirit!
SUMMARY : Rukmani, the youngest of her family, has always had her way and she thinks she would too when the question of her marriage arises. But when she expresses her wishes, her world comes crumbling down because aristocratic affairs seem to matter more than her heart. Who can she run to but the strongest ruler of the region, Deveshwaraya?  Devesh finds himself torn between duty and desire. He is drawn to her yet being with her jeopardizes everything he has worked for. When even protecting her invites trouble, how can he let his heart become involved? 

Hidden Passion – the story of a princess daring to reach out for her heart’s desire.

REVIEW:
I had the opportunity of beta reading this short and sprightly read. Our protagonist Rukmani, the princess falls for the quintessential “oh-so-hot” Devesh, who became the prime from being a humble farmer. When she suggests marriage both her family and Devesh initially balk away for Devesh cannot afford to have a rebellion due to this alliance. His desire and sense of duty clash with each other and though he desperately wants Rukmani, he is hesitant to take the ultimate step initially.
The story is truly what the summary promises – the story of a princess daring (translates to running away from home) to reach out for her heart’s desire.
When analysed based on the flexibility of the extent the writer takes up the suggestions of the beta readers, Summerita scores admirably. The difference between the initial draft and the changed story is remarkable. Certain parts of the story were added, and these gave the story's characters some much needed depth. It is a joy to read the changed version of the book and enjoy those parts that were added as a results of opinions being valued.
Most of the books involving a period theme tend to be borderline pukish-erotic. Thankfully this writer avoided that route. The chemistry between Rukmani and Devesh was crackling and perfect. In fact, it was a bit overpowering and left a lasting impression. So much so that I remember those parts in the best clarity weeks after reading the book.
The story had all the essential elements such as tragedy, romance and action in the right quantity making it a short yet delightful read.
To sum it up, the story line, the narration and emotions were packaged to produce a neat, short and sweet romance novel.
VERDICT: Why not?! Go for it!
RATING: 4 on 5
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Summerita Rhayne writes sensual romance with emotional conflict. She took up writing when she was in her late thirties and hasn't looked back since. She first got published in 2013 and has won contests with Harlequin and Harper Collins India. Writing, she finds, is the only way to deal with the numerous story ideas bubbling in her brain which pop up more rapidly than her keyboard can do justice to. Especially when writing time is in short supply while juggling it with a job and the demands of a family. However, her pet belief is that a story and its characters have a life of their own and will find a way to make the writer pen them down. What else can one do when cerebrally confronted with the sizzling interaction of two Alpha characters? 

She prefers to call her books sweet and sensual to denote the slowly deepening relationship between the characters.

She loves winding down with music, movies and social networking.
EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Digital
PRICE: Rs. 63

BOOK LINKS:
http://www.amazon.in/gp/product/B00RBUM0EG/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_ttl_sol_0

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Food & Music : Notre Second Amour - An Introduction

Books, Food & Music: The three things that truly brought us together and cemented the bond of our friendship! 

For the past year and half, we have been penning down our thoughts about the books that we devoured, hated, loved and retched. To say that we got an heartwarming response for our reviews would be an understatement. For us humble girls from a unexciting background, Readers' Muse has been a great achievement. We never imagined to get about 16,000 hits over a year. We never had a hard fast target or a marketing plan to publicize or monetize our blog. Yet we managed to achieve the brand name that we are today. We attribute this success to all the writers, publishers,publicists and most importantly, our followers for supporting us tremendously. Thank you folks!

This immense response inspired us to give more to our followers. My Co-Blogger and the extraordinary writer, Dhivya, wanted to diversify and write about the food that we loved. I was a bit apprehensive and turned down her brilliant idea initially. After days of mulling and debating over it, I decided she was right after all and La! We have our brand new food & music column - Food & Music : Notre Second Amour - Translating to Our second love. Indeed food & music are our second love (The first obviously being books!). 

Given that it's festival season in India here, we decided to kick start our column with the very well written ( and mouth watering) article featuring the secret of cooking "a perfect" Sweet Pongal/Chakkara Pongal ( A traditional south Indian dish commonly cooked as an offering to appease gods and celebrate harvest) by Dhivya (The capable cook!).  

Keep a tab on this column to stumble upon such wonderful recipes and a round up of brilliant music that we enjoyed. 

Happy Reading!

THE EVER ELUSIVE PERFECT ‘CHAKKARA PONGAL’!

The month of Maargazhi, and its crowning end, the first day of the Tamil Month of Thai (celebrated as Pongal festival in Tamil Nadu), is famous for various reasons. But to me, the main reason I love the month and the festival, is Chakkara Pongal. The exquisite south Indian delicacy made of Rice, Jaggery and Milk looks simple with few ingredients, but is somewhat tricky to make. Being a foodie in my mid-twenties, I have been to the kitchen a fair share of times in the recent years, but the technique to get the perfect ‘Chakkara Pongal’ eluded me until recently
          It did look fairly simple when year after year my mom brought it to the table, hot, perfectly made, with the ghee shimmering on its surface, decorated with cashews. I spared little thought to this delicacy when it managed to be the same every year – the semi solid consistency, that hardens as it cools and the perfect blend of jaggery, spices and milk that is neither too sweet, nor bland, and of course, the tantalisingly sinful cashews and raisins roasted in ghee. This Maargazhi (it is traditionally prepared in my house the first day of every Maargazhi and on Pongal festival) I took up the challenge of preparing this sweet.
          My mother, to give her credit, looked pleasantly surprised when I said I would prepare ‘chakkara pongal’. But that pleasant surprise soon turned to horror when she saw my method of preparation. For I had not asked her the method, and had instead relied upon internet sources for the recipe. My vain and conceited cooking attempt shattered my pride as the chakkara pongal turned thick, hard and of course, really coarse – not at all how my mom had made it every year. Any hopes of becoming even half the chef she was crashed around my ears as I realised that though the internet has recipes in abundance, there are very few that give the tips and tricks necessary to make the perfect dish.
          My misadventures apart, my mom patiently corrected my disaster (it takes even more experience and knack to do that). And before my family was any the wiser, the chakkara pongal was presented to the Lord and eaten with little complaint. When all the hullabaloo was over, I forcibly cornered my mom and asked her the ‘brahma rahasyam’. When she did explain it, it was so absurdly simple that I felt foolish for not having thought of it before. I will never make the mistake again, and will surely follow my mom’s version of recipes in future.
          A casual comment from a friend sparked me into action – writing the specially altered recipe. It is not only me, many people would benefit from the misadventures and corrections I made. So, to help those hopeless cooks, without much ado, I am presenting here my mother’s version of the famous delicacy, and though it may offend some purists, this version is technically acceptable, and trust me, yields a far better end product. The ingredients are same, but there are few changes in the traditional method.

ITEMS REQUIRED:
Rice – 1 cup
Jaggery – 3 cups
Milk (Thicker, the better) – 2 cup
Moong Dal – 1 teaspoon (this is optional, for auspicious occasions, in some traditions)
Clarified Butter (Ghee) – 150 – 200 grams*
Cashewnuts – 50 grams*
Raisins – 25 grams*
Almonds – 25 grams*
Elaichi – 5 nos.
Cooking camphor, Jaadhikkai (if preferred, though my recipe doesn’t count on it!)
Water – as required.
(* - indicates that you could add more of it if required, but this is optimal. Any more ghee would make it too oily and any more nuts and dried fruits would ruin the presence of the main ingredient. You can add if you prefer!)

THE METHOD:
1.     Take a thick bottomed bronze pot (or any pot shaped vessel – these are the best for making the dish). The bronze pot is traditionally used in our houses.
2.     Add one and a half cups of water (you could add a maximum of two cups, depending on the quality of the rice you are using – anything more would make it liquidish)
3.     When the water has come to a boil, add one cup of rice and the teaspoon of moong dal. Again, this is part of our habit. Avoid it if you prefer!
4.     Stir until the rice is half cooked. (It must be neither too hard, nor too squishy)
5.     Once the rice reaches the semi squashed state, add two cups of milk, as thick as you can get it
TIP: Make sure the milk is thick enough, as this gives a creamy texture to the dish. The milk needs to be pre-boiled (this is for beginners. When you use milk directly from the packet, there is a mild chance of it getting curdled. Boiling it beforehand would remove any doubts you have about that. This step is unnecessary for those of you who have prior experience in the kitchen.
6.     Once you add the milk, stir well and watch as the contents magically become semi solid.
TIP: Once you add the milk, the thick consistency will water down a lot, but not to worry, it will thicken as it boils. Again, this explanation is for beginners like me. Old hands know this well.
7.     Now take the jaggery, in the ratio of 3:1. That is three cups jaggery for every cup of rice you have used.
NOTE: Now, this is where the recipe veers from tradition and practice. The next step is to be carefully noted and followed for best results.
8.     In a separate thick bottomed pan, take jaggery and dissolve it in water. (add only the water enough to totally submerge the jaggery.)
TIP: Grate the jaggery finely before you prepare the syrup. This will help you cook faster and also make sure it dissolves evenly
9.     Once jaggery is completely dissolved in the water, filter the contents (this removes the silt and mud nowadays found in abundance in the shop bought product).
10. Take the filtered liquid and let it boil to get jaggery syrup (also called as ‘paagu’)
TIP: When the syrup is boiling, it is very important to find the correct consistency. Again, beginners note. Experienced cooks kindly ignore this tip!
To know if jaggery syrup is of the correct consistency, take a cup and fill it around half with water. Using a ladle or spoon, take a drop of the boiling syrup and pour it into the water in the cup. If the syrup dissolves, it is not ready. If, on the other hand, it hardens and you are able to take out the drop and roll it into a bead in your hands (trust me, you could really do this with the syrup that appears liquid). If the syrup drop has hardened into a bead of sorts, congratulations, your syrup is in perfect consistency. Proceed to the next step. Oh, and switch off the stove immediately!
11. Now, if you haven’t forgotten, the rice and milk mixture is boiling in the bronze pot. Add the hot jaggery syrup to this pot.
NOTE: For that, we have to first make sure the pot has to be big enough to hold all this. NO offense, folks, I have seen people who lost this step because they had small bronze pots.
12. Stir well until the rice and jaggery syrup mix evenly. The mixture will thicken as it comes to a boil.
13. Put the stove on low flame and keep stirring until it thickens.
14. At this stage, you can add the crushed elaichi (or powder it, if you wish!) and the cooking camphor and jaathikkai if you wish.
TIP: Practice extreme caution while adding the camphor and jaathikkai. Too much of this will make the whole dish bitter and smell strong. Which is why we have always avoided using this.
15. In another pan, heat the ghee and add the dry fruits as specified.
TIP: While adding the specified dry fruits, always add the almonds first as they take a long time to fry. You could cut the almond into thin slices or halves or as you wish. Then, when they are half done, add the cashew nuts (these can be added whole or split into halves) and finally add the raisins and switch off the stove once the raisins become light and puffy. You could even switch off before adding the raisins because the heat is enough to fry them. Never fry the cashew nuts until they are visibly brown – that is a sign that they are burnt.
16. Add the roasted dry fruits to this mixture in the pot and stir well.
TIP: keep aside a part of these fried nuts and add once the mixture has been poured onto a serving pot. This works well as garnish!
17. That’s it, you are done!

ADDITIONAL TIPS:
1.     The jaggery is made into a syrup instead of being added directly because this makes sure the chakkara pongal is not spoilt easily and has even consistency throughout.
2.     The rice is cooked in milk instead of water to give the dish a creamy feel. Trust me, this makes a HUGE difference.

3.     Try to keep the gas on low flame whenever you see the risk of the contents overflowing or if they stick to the vessel. There is always the risk of the dish getting burnt.



Monday, January 12, 2015

Lost Libido and other gulp fiction by Salil Desai : A Review



BOOK TITLE: Lost Libido and other Gulp Fiction
ISBN: 9788172344177
AUTHOR: Salil Desai
GENRE: Fiction / Short Stories
NUMBER OF PAGES: 288
FORMAT: Paperback
SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone/ Short stories.
REVIEW BY: Dhivya Balaji
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Fingerprint publishers for this review copy.
SUMMARY:
An incredible collection of stories about people caught in the chaotic, cultural flux of urban India and their reactions to the problems, temptations and tricky choices that life throws at them.

‘Lost Libido throws up some startling and unexpected developments - a pre-requisite for a volume of short stories. Desai's writing is energetic and contemporary’
REVIEW:
          The book is a collection of 17 short stories about every day human emotions. This review will be a short comment about each story in the collection.
LOST LIBIDO:
          In what would be a dashing start to the novel, the title story is about a techie, Aakash, who seems to have lost his libido. He frets over his predicament and takes the help of his friend to discuss his problem. The friend suggests the service of a masseuse. When Aakash sees the masseuse, who seemed to be from a wealthy family, his guilt overwhelms him and he refuses any service other than the plain massage. He feels better about himself because he overcame his urge (his libido having never been lost) to take advantage of a young girl and to cheat on his wife. The ending twist is ironic, at best!
4/5
WHO STRANGLED SHARMA? :
          A classical case of whodunit. A manager is found strangled in his cabin, and suspicion falls on all office employees. In a blame game, each employee blames the others citing some past clash. This is one story where a lot of reading between the lines is required. The first line and the story's ending are totally twisted and it is one amazing analysis into what the human mind is capable of conjuring when it gets a chance and is emboldened by a success. The concepts of gratitude and betrayal are portrayed as a gray areas.
4.2/5
HUNCH ON A HIGHWAY:
          Ajay Kale is always on the lookout for strange happenings and has a weird habit of noting his co passengers in depth during travel. On an eventful bus journey, he notices a well dressed man sitting next to another respectable looking man, waiting for a chance to rob his laptop bag from him. Whether or not Ajay allows the robbery, and whether or not his methods were right forms the rest of the story.
3.8/5
DROWNING DEPTH:
          A story that analyses the psychological and emotional trauma of a child who had drowned in water and who understandably has a fear of water bodies. What happens when this child is forced to swim? That too in a swimming class where his peers poke fun? Will the water scare him away and result in another seizure or will he overcome his fear? Thoughtfully written, and was great until the ending, where the twist made the reader look with some amount of dubious incredulity at the end.
3/5
THE MATHS CONUNDRUM:
          Manohar gets a random call on his landline, from a depressed child who thinks his number is the child helpline. The depressed child wants to commit suicide because he has achieved less mark for his math exam and was therefore afraid of his parents. Manohar tries in vain to convince the child not to run away from his home. When the child's parents arrive home, they see their child missing and blame each other. Whether or not the child is safe forms the rest of the story. This sheds light on parenting and education values of the current generation.
3.5/5
BIT ON THE SIDE:
          A story with more than its share of twists. Arun visits Isha, a woman who supposedly is the mistress of his best friend Sameer. Arun also claims to be his wife's best friend and asks Isha to let go off Sameer because he is a middle aged man full of diseases. Sameer himself learns of this and catches Arun red handed. His fury at having been called ill in front of his mistress sends Sameer into a fit of chest pain. What caused Sameer the pain and what made Arun rat him out is a twist in the tale. But the best and most befitting twist of all comes in the end, when Isha has her own truths to reveal.
4.5/5
WHEN THE HORSE BEFRIENDED THE GRASS:
          Munna and Raghu are petty thieves who steal everyday for a living. What happens when they steal money from a man who has saved it for his son's medical expenses? Do they return it due to prick of conscience? Have they been caught? A thought provoking story of human mind's many colours.
3.8/5
OUR FRIENDLY NEIGHBOURHOOD MURDER:
          The peace of a friendly neighbourhood is disturbed when an old man arrives. He opposes all council decisions and he creates hell for everyone in the area. All neighbours plan to murder him, but their conscience wins over and they decide against it. One fine day, the man is found murdered. Who did it remains a mystery to be solved.
3/5
DUBIOUS DISTINCTION:
          Shyam loves cricket. He tries to get into the national team, but fails. He tries to associate himself with all forms of cricket but fails every time. He decides to see a match one last time before he totally dissociates himself from the game. What happens next and how he earns a dubious distinction is what the story is about.
3.2/5
THE SNAKE AND THE STICK:
          Yet another murder planning story. A husband tries to kill a nagging wife and sets up an electrical trap for her. Whether or not he gets nature's due punishment for the crime is the story.
2/5
THE RECORD BREAKER:
          Maruti Shinde has a different record in mind. He wants to become India's youngest hangman with most number of hangings to his name. How he achieves it and society's reaction to it is the story, tastefully written.
3.5/5
A SUSCEPTIBLE CONSCIENCE:
          An everyday story. A sales representative allows a street urchin to clean his bike and over a bad day refuses to give him his pay. What happens when his conscience pricks him and whether or not the street urchin got his pay forms the rest of the story.
4/5
THE AMATEUR MURDERER:
          A murder planning story once again. Sathish Rao marries soon after the death of his first wife. But on seeing her possessions, guilt overwhelms him and he decides to kill of his second wife who 'enthralled him into cheating'. He devises a poison to kill her. What happens when he urges his wife to take it? Does Karma repay him?
2/5
THE PERFECT DAY:
          Oh, the irony. Prashant Kulkarni decides to end the lives of his family and himself due to his financial troubles. But he decides to give them one last day of happiness before this death. Unaware, his family enjoys this. But what happens when his wife learns of his plan and tries to convince him to face his problems rather than die? Irony at its best.
4/5
ONE MONDAY MORNING:
          A busy Monday morning as usual in Khandekar family starts with the wife locking her husband in and dropping their son in school. Khandekar expects her to be back in ten minutes but when it becomes hours, his mind runs in all directions. What he discovers about himself and his family in that Monday morning is the story.
3/5
CUL-DE-SAC:
          A story with multiple endings, many probabilities and some self depreciation from the author himself. A unique attempt about all the possibilities in a work place sexual harassment scenario. The longest and most unique story. Read it for the different endings.. Especially the last.
4/5
SPITE IS RIGHT:
          A road rage story. Three pages quick read about spite and road rage and its effects. A fitting end to the book.
3/5
WHAT I LIKED: The language and the tries to give twisted endings to each and every human emotion.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Most of the stories are about murder and planning. It is amazing how many people plot murder for a story that is supposed to be about everyday human emotions. Even if it might be true in actuality, this sounds a bit far fetched. After some time, even the twists become predictable, if not in details at least in context.
VERDICT: Go for it if you like stories with twists in endings, but expect nothing much from it. A collection of tales about life and its many human emotions.
RATING: 3.5
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
          Salil Desai is an author and film-maker based in Pune. He has penned two crime novels, Killing Ashish Karve and Murder on a Side Street as well as a collection of short stories, Lost Libido and Other Gulp Fiction. His next whodunit, Bathed in Blood, the second book of his Inspector Saralkar Mystery Series will be released in January 2015.

          His books have received good reviews in The Hindu, The Pioneer, DNA, First City, The Tribune, Afternoon Despatch & Courier etc.

          An alumnus of Film & Television Institute of India (FTII), his dramatized training videos (www.relivingindia.com) are much appreciated in the corporate world, while his short films ‘Making Amends’ and ‘…To Khayega Kya’ have been screened at various film festivals.

          Salil also conducts workshops in creative writing and film making for aspiring authors at British Library and leading educational institutions. Over 400 articles written by him have appeared in The Times of India, Indian Express, DNA, The Tribune, Reader’s Digest etc. Know more about Salil at www.salildesai.com

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback, Digital
PRICE: Rs. 125