October 26, 2013

Book Review: Never Say Never

Never Say Never

PublisherGrapevine India
No. Of Pages208
Date of Publication2013
ISBN 139789381841327
ISBN 109381841322
Year Of Publication2013

: Rs 100
(I got mine as a review copy from
the author herself!) 

About The Book:

Never Say Never tells the story Nikita kumar, an unemployed twenty-five year old based in Mumbai who doesn't know what to do with her life. To make matters worse, Nikita is in love with her best friend Aziza's boyfriend, Raghav Shetty, who is a radio jockey on the popular radio station, Spruce FM.  And that's not all; Nikita doesn't even like, let alone love Deepak, the man she's in a relationship with! Tired of her life going nowhere, nikita decides to change her life. On the night of her cousin Natasha's wedding, she makes a list of things she will never do. She vows to never marry for money, never doubt her abilities, never have feelings for an unavailable man, never stay in a relationship with someone she doesn't love, never get completely drunk in public and never wear velvet! But life seldom goes according to plan and Nikita learns that you should never say never...

About The Author:

Anjali Kirpalani is a twenty-five year old dreamer. Like the protagonist of her debut novel, Never say Never, she is 5' 2 and has frizzy hair but has never fallen for her best friend's boyfriend (even if she has, she promises she's never done anything about it!) Born in India, she lived in South Africa for 8 years and finally came back to Mumbai in 2008. She has had various jobs ranging from radio jockeying, business management, marketing, TV reporting, print journalism and voice-over artistry. Currently working with ET NOW, writing has been the one constant in her life. She grabs any opportunity she can to travel (this passion has led her to fifteen countries so far and she aims to cover the entire world) She also loves reading, eating and watching back-to-back episodes of Master chef Australia as a guilty pleasure. She can be reached on anjk87@gmail.com and followed on @AnjaliKir on Twitter. 

The Review:

When I got a message from Miss Anjali Kirpalani in my blog's FB page, asking whether I'd like to review her book, I jumped at the opportunity. I'd seen the book being promoted and wondered what it could be about. Even as I write this review The Fray's Never Say Never is playing in my head...Anjali had already told me that the book had nothing to do with the song. 

It doesn't, but it does share theme - "you can never say never". For most, this novel would be written off as one which tells the tale of a young unemployed girl, Nikita, who feels utterly lost in life. Anjali adds to her protagonist's misery by forcing her into a relationship with a guy, Deepak, she does not even like. To make matters worse, Nikita has secretly fallen for her best friend, Aziza's boyfriend, Raghav.... Wow! Talk about having one complicated life, or lack thereof. 

While I understand why most of my friend's would not pick this book up, I can understand why others would indeed like to give this a shot. Especially girls of our age, fresh out of college and have landed in the middle of the confusion called life. 

Being out of college myself, (pursuing an MPhil degree because honestly, I don't know what I want to do next), I could connect with Nikita. That is where Anjali hits the right chord - she draws the reader into Nikita's world, and makes you go through an amazing journey with her, wondering what the crazy girl would do next. In a time when everyone expects you to do the right thing, it's kind of comforting to find a book, where the protagonist gets everything wrong...right from her choice in lifestyle to her taste in men. 

Never Say Never is one of those books you'll pick up after a very tiresome day at college/work, wondering in how many ways your life can fall apart, and then Nikita Kumar, would waltz into your world and show you exactly how...

Another reason which made me like the novel was the character of Siddhart...he's funny, smart and the right amount of annoying. Never Say Never points out that even in our darkest of days, we have the nicest of friends to brighten up our lives...but maybe sometimes we're just to blind to notice it. 

For a debut novel, Anjali Kirpalani has done a wonderful job, the read was light and breezy...and though we know how the story will end (Aristotle's rule - order will always be restored in the end), you cannot help finishing the book, just to find out if your guess was correct. 

I'm glad that I got to review Anjali's first book, and here's hoping I'll be reviewing her future books as well. For now, you can buy Never Say Never here.

Rating: 3.75/5 

October 15, 2013

Musing: When and How Pippo Came Home...

My blog readers would remember that I had ranted about my cat, Pippo, leaving me not too long ago on my blog. I know most of you know by now that he has finally come home and arrangements have been made so that he can come and go as he pleases. But I have deprived most of the whole story - of when and how Mr Pippo Brahma, decided to sway his way home.

Totally Filmy Entry - Mr Pippo 

After I had ranted on my blog, being the dutiful sister, when I heard some pathetic meowing at night, I woke my mother and my uncle, thinking Pippo to be in trouble. We were all worried that the "house cat" would not be able to survive in the big, bad world... the scene that greeted our eyes was nothing less than pathetic but funny... Pippo was the one growling at another cat, having cornered him...it was the other cat that had been crying for help. I was too startled to react at first...then began the endless flying up and down the staircase, fetching umbrellas, fetching mugs of water, a box of stones...anything to pry those two fighting male cats from each other...my uncle finally made the brown cat go away, and Pippo disappeared into the night. We waited for sometime, and then came back home.

I went back to look for Pippo the next day, with my torch in tow. Sadly, I forgot the umbrella this time. I found him at the unused backyard of our house. I remember the time when I would be playing with my friends, and we'd dare each other to go the backyard, which was supposedly "haunted." Truth is, no one has the time to maintain it, so it just has become a wilderness of sorts. I flashed the light, and a pair of yellow eyes stared back at me. Which barely came up to my ankle...and then it darted towards me like a bullet. Yeah, I've experienced Pippo's sharp teeth one, I was in mood to go through that again. I turned heel and came back home.

"Did you see Pippo?" my mother asked me. She was sitting in our living room, tending you her injured feet.
"He'll come home," I said, shortly.

Well he didn't. We spied him the next day sleeping one of the window roofs in the building, right under our kitchen. He didn't wake up, until my mother went into the kitchen to warm our food. The familiar sound of the microwave must have brought back memories, and the realization that his stomach was rumbling with hunger...

He meowed indignantly, and continuously, till my mother called out of the kitchen window, "Do you want to eat, Pippo?"
When more another "meow" came as the reply, my mother brought his food down to him. Pippo refused to come near her, fearing she'd trap him and lock in the house again...so he came around to his food, only whe he was sure the coast was quite clear. He ate and he left. It wasn't until the rain came pelting down, dripping him to the tip of his tail, that he realize what he'd left behind.

When the first copy at landed on my doorstep...err...room...

"When Pippo comes home," my mother announced the next day, "I had decided to keep our main door slightly ajar, and to lock our collapsible gate. That way Pippo can come and go as he pleases."

"Let His Majesty come home first," I replied, rolling my eyes.

It was Saturday, that Pippo finally decided to grace us with his presence. I had to go to college, and before opening the door, I heard someone meowing indignantly, right outside our door. Of course, it was Pippo. Perched on the window of the landing - looking at the house, and screaming, "ma..ma...ma..." Almost as though he was calling for my mother.

Pippo with Mummy 

"Ma, your son has come home," I yelled, while opening the door, the greeting the very indignant and hungry cat, "Hello, Pippo....are you finally coming home?"

Unfortunately I had to leave for university. But my mother later told me, she'd first made Pippo eat outside the house. He was too hungry to protest. When he'd filled his tummy, he looked at them, as if wondering why he had been denied entry into the house...skipped inside, and happily settled down in his favorite corner...(Between my room and the living room).

And then, he left again. The doorway has been arranged in the way my mother had thought it out to be...so now, Pippo can really come and go as and when he pleases. Thankfully his bad mood is gone, and he did find a very pretty mate for himself. I prefer calling her his wife though...her name is Zorro.

The First Night, after he came back home...

For now, Pippo comes home early in the morning, sleeps for awhile and then wakes up my mother at 5 am. He eats his breakfast, then finds a corner where he can sleep in peace for sometime. He goes out during the time I leave for either university or work, and comes home for lunch...after lunch, he sits patiently under the table, waiting for us to finish our meal...then either sleeps in that room or follows my mother to wherever she settles down for the afternoon.

At times he goes out in the evening, and others he doesn't. But he comes back when he senses we're about to sit down for dinner. He finishes his dinner before any one of us, and then promptly settles down for his siesta. He goes out around 1:30 am, and wanders back home around 4 am... If I am awake at 1:30 am, he comes into my room, and meows at me. I am guessing, that's his way of letting me know that he's going to go out for awhile. . .

When he didn't have access to the great outdoors...

So he didn't turn out to be a house cat. But he learned to go do his business outside. Although his litter box is of no use, but he won't let anyone remove it. He still checks that it is there every morning.

Pippo might be dividing his time between us and the world outside now, but I am happy with that. He needed to go out and see the world for himself. And I? I needed to test my faith...I let him go. And he was meant to be our cat - so he came back.

Goes to show, all those rumors about cats...well, I chose not to believe them. I love you, Pippo. 

Welcome, Home.

We're Friends - Me with Pippo 

P.S. -  This blog post was written most because a fellow blogger wanted to know exactly what the drama had been regarding Pippo...and I said "long story"..."Well write a blog post about it? I'll read up" had been the answer...and so here I am, all finished with my third Pippo tale...I think there are going to be many more in the future!!! Fellow Blogger, I hope you read this post and like it a little too...

October 14, 2013

Book Review: The Guardian Angels

The Guardian Angels:

PublisherGrapevine India
No. Of Pages328
Date of Publication2013
ISBN 139789381841280
ISBN 109381841284
Year Of Publication2013

About the Book:

Guardian Angels is the epic and tumultuous story of two star-crossed lovers who weren’t just soul-mates but were also each other’s protectors.

The fates of Adi Mehta and Radha Deodhar are deeply entwined when within days of their first rendezvous they save each other’s lives.

Despite their vast sociopolitical differences, they are drawn to an uncertain future fraught with contrasting ambitions, personas and ideologies.

. . . he is the son of a billionaire, she is the daughter of a socialist.

. . . he is quiet and unassuming, she is a firebrand and spirited.

However, the unexplained phenomena ties them forever – whenever they are in peril, they are each other’s only saviors.

Over the following two decades Adi and Radha live through hope and despair, joy and sadness, and try to decipher their relationship. As the truth of their bond is revealed, they must confront the true nature of love, and ultimately, their destinies.

About the Author:

Rohit Gore grew up in a number of towns in India. At various times in his childhood, he wanted to be a theatre actor, an architect and a bookshop owner.
After his engineering degree, he was based in Mumbai. An MBA from S P Jain Institute followed and since then he is in the IT industry.
He loves sports, specifically the discussing and watching part of it, since the playing days are long gone. He has travelled a lot – a consequence of living in Mumbai and London. His greatest passion is reading and it inspired him to write. He is a frequent contributor to many online writing forums and wishes there were more writing groups.
He has a keen interest in history, especially the history of music and arts. One of the things he would like to get better at is photography. 
He currently lives in Pune, a wonderfully vibrant city with his wife Pranita and son Sahil.

The Review: 

I discovered Rohit Gore last year when there were ads on homeshop18.com for his book, Circle of Three. I had liked the book immensely and immediately, but never got around to reviewing it - because simply put, I'd not become an official reviewer till this year. 

I applied to review The Guardian Angels from the Tales Penseive because, I wanted to read more from Rohit Gore and also because the blurb really attracted me, The key words for this attraction was, "star-crossed lovers." 

The book arrived at my doorstep on Panchami (09.10.2013), the day before the five days of Durga Pujos start in Bengal...I was a bit worried about when to begin reading the book, because I knew once our crazy days start, I wouldn't get to spend two consecutive minutes with the book. 

I finally managed to get some time for myself and once I began reading the book, there was no stopping. I think I paused once to have dinner, and once to sleep a little and till I finished the book, I couldn't leave it aside...

Adi and Radha are characters who are brought to life by Rohit Gore. We encounter them first, when they are merely twelve years old...and we witness them, growing up and changing into distinct individuals. 

One could say the book actually narrates the lives of Adi and Radha since the time they met each other, then they go their separate ways...but something always pulls them back to one another. In truth, they are exactly what the book's title tells us from the start - The Guardian Angels.

The writing is simple, lucid and well, at times heartbreaking. From experience I know, it is the simple words which manages to wrench your heart. I don't remember crying so much, while reading (unless you count the time I bawled my eyes out when J K Rowling mercilessly killed Dobby in Harry Potter.) Nor do I remember getting so involved in a book. 

Rohit Gore uses a semi-epistolary form of writing, with the help of entries from Radha's journal. Other times it is either Adi's perspective, or other characters from the story. What I greatly appreciated was that even though the supporting characters have their own roles to play and do not seem like mere puppets for the story, the focus never shifts from Radha and Adi. 

This is a book definitely worth reading, especially on a rainy afternoon, when you don't feel like doing any work. You might finish the book in record time (like I did), but the story will stay with you for a long time afterwards. 

A friend of mine had once written on my Facebook timeline (back when it was called a wall), "One day the music will stop, the curtain will fall, and all the characters would leave the stage. But you'll still remember it." 

There can be no other phrase to describe the impact this book is going to have on you, especially if offbeat romance tales are your cup of tea. 

Rating: 4.5/5

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.

October 9, 2013

Musing: A Little Bit of Hope...(Foundation)

Since July 16th 2013, my life has revolved around Hope Foundation, just as much as it has revolved around myself. Well, I am not going to complain about that - ever. The children I've met, whom I've grown to love and care for, they are going through miserable childhoods. Jean Webster's dear character Judy Abbott had correctly noted that all children, no matter how bad their lives turn out to be, should have a happy childhood to look back on...

This isn't a childhood. This feels like a struggle, and despite it, the children still manage to be so sweet and innocent, that I never tire of telling stories about them.

The first incident that comes to mind is that when I was given the task of teaching the creche children on my own. The girl, Baishakhi, who usually teaches them wanted to give her poor voice a rest - and so she, handed the books over to me (the A B C and basic counting books i.e.), and I could feel almost twenty pairs of eyes on me. I'm not the kind who likes attention given to her. When I realize people are listening to me - I tend to calm up, and stop talking altogether. But this, I firmly reminded myself, was volunteering. And I had to teach the children, no matter how much I despised public speaking.

I had a bright idea instead. I asked them if the knew any rhymes, I was rewarded an ear shattering, "YES!" So I asked them to tell me a poem they could all recite. What happened next was right next to a catastrophe...while five of them started reciting "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," the other half began shouting, "Aata gaache tota pakhi..." and even more began singing the Bengali vowel song, "O e ojogor ashche tere, aam ti aami khabo pere." I swear I hear a faint voice go, "Johnny, Johnny..."

Imagine the poems being shouted at the top of their lungs, directed right at you. It took us almost five minutes to make the children shut up. I could see the injured looks on their face as they were scolded for misbehavior. I told Baishakhi it was perhaps my fault and should have specified a rhyme... she rolled her eyes in reply. So we came to a better idea: I would ask them to tell me poems one by one.

So this kid, Babushona, who is around three or four, gets up, puts his hands in his pockets and looks at me. "Kobita bolo?" Recite a poem, I tell him.
He looks smartly back at me, and says, "Kobita, kobita, kobita, kobita, kobita," Poem, poem, poem, poem, poem, poem, while I am stunned, and staring at him, he asks casually, "Aar bobbo?" Should say it again? 

The next one was the day before Independence Day. I was around ten minutes late to class...I found everyone being given a rectangular piece of paper, and Baishakhi explaining, that we were going to color it the way she would demonstrate. It turned out we were going to make flags. She asked me to make the chakras for half of the flags...I told her I couldn't draw to save my life but I would try. From the huge collection of crayons, we dug out saffron, green and blue.
After she'd made one, she held it for the class to see, "Ei ta ki banalam bolo toh?" Tell me, what have I made?
"Pakkha!" Fan! One of the children immediately shout, and everyone follows suit, yelling that it's a fan...We tried in vain to tell them what is a flag and this one belongs to our country...and I discover, desh (country) to them has a different meaning altogether.
While the other teachers give up trying to explain a flag, I find a picture of the Earth with India's flag planted on it. I show it to the kids and ask, "Ei dekho - ei ta k potaka bol e... aar ei ta ki jano?" Look, this is called a flag, and do you know what this is? I'm pointing at the picture of the Earth. No one answers for half a minute, then a voice says confidently, "Rosogolla!" A round sweet - I cannot translate this one word, sorry!
*head desk*

The last incident which comes to mind is during the time we were playing "Pass the Number." It's basically an exercise to help children identify numbers...so far, they can only identify 0, 1 and 2. Usually Baishaki shows the number to the whole circle, makes them repeat it with her, and then we begin playing,
Pass the number, round and round, round and round,
Pass the number, round and round, 
Who has the number?
And landed in the hands of a usually very quiet child. We ask her multiple times what's the number she's got. These cards are marked with the number of flowers...so we encourage her to look for the flowers. Of course, she cannot find any. I ask her gently to look at the figure again.
She looks at me. Looks at Baishakhi. Finally decides to answer.
"Dim" Egg! she tells us, nodding her head confidently.
I try to hide my face as I'm overcome with convulsions of laughter, and Baishakhi glares at me. Poor thing! She's been their teacher for one and half years now, and I can sense her disappointment and frustration....not to mention, the authorities will not like children claiming zeros to be eggs...though, that kid had a point. How many times did our friends say, "Exam mein anda milega?!?!" Doesn't that count?
*facepalm again*

My days in Hope Foundation are numbered now and I honestly don't feel like giving up volunteering. But the coursework for MPhil is getting tougher by the minute... I really don't know what I am going to do, but for as long as I am at Hope, I will sincerely wish and pray, the children give me more stories like these to remember them by and make me laugh whenever the day becomes a little gloomy... 

October 2, 2013

Musings: A Cat Person's Rant

When the tears come streaming down your face,
When you lose something you can't replace, 
When you love someone but it goes to waste...
Could it be worse?
- Fix You, Coldplay 

Pippo's 1st Week with Us
Pic Courtesy: Indrani Brahma 

"You're a cat person."

Whenever I heard this phrase before, I used to smile. Sometimes, I would get adamant in my fierce defense for our feline friends. Pippo was such a cute little thing when he first came to us. And my family and I tried to give him the best life we possibly could. One which you can see for yourself here

Yet...it was not enough. We live on the first floor and hence letting the cat out of the house, wasn't much of an option for us. But in last two months, Pippo grew into his extremely fierce and very grownupish self....Sure, he had his moments of cuteness...

In July, Pippo posing for me
Pic Courtesy: Indrani Brahma 

But he also has grown of capable of doing this, to those who love him best:

My Poor Foot, After Pippo's Attack

I was the first person to have received this blow from Pippo...but I never thought he'd turn on my mother... *sighs* She's the one who tends to him, day in and day out. I cannot believe that Pippo would attack my mother. Twice! On two consecutive days... 

Pippo was the one person, for whom I've run barefoot to the streets trying to make him come home. It was for him that I scaled the wall (wearing my high heeled sandals), and a wall that was filled with moss. The landing ground wasn't safe - and I had to walk all the way home after that. 

He was the one person who was allowed to bite me and scratch me, and I would still love him and pet him, after he'd calmed down. But now - the real truth - is coming home to albeit reluctantly.

Cats are ungrateful. A quote I'd read, now keeps haunting my mind, "The trouble with a kitten is that eventually it becomes a cat." - Ogden Nash 

We finally came to a decision. Cats are impossible to keep at home forever...they need to be let out. So we let him out...he came back within ten minutes. But with a good mind to attack all of us! So we let him go again...

He's been out side all afternoon, and evening. When I came home, I went in search for him with a torch light. I found him, sitting behind our building. He greeted me with a "meow"...but eyed the umbrella I was carrying, with suspicion. (We've all developed the habit of carrying an umbrella because that's the only thing Pippo is scared of...just wave it at him, and he calms down)...

I stood there talking to him. Asking him to come home...my neighbor must have thought I've gone crazy, and I probably am, for venting my feelings out like this on the blog. But I really don't know any other way to deal with this...

I told Pippo about the time he was a kitten and I'd found him. I reminded him of all the days I'd run back home from college, because I needed to play with him a little. I pleaded him to come back home, but the sat there, in all his white and brown patched glory, blinking at the torch light. I was hurt. But I couldn't afford to show that to this cat. (Yes, now Pippo has become 'the cat I used to have'.)

"Fine. Don't come home," I told him finally, "I'm leaving."

I don't have access to a terrace. If I did, I would've gone there straight. In stead, I sat on our front steps and bawled my eyes out. Till some idiot spied me there - and I had to flee upstairs to our flat. 

"Pippo k dekhte peli?" Did you see Pippo? My mother asked me as soon as I got home.
"Hyan." Yes, I replied. I locked myself in the washroom, and washed my face thoroughly, so no one in the family realizes how truly heart broken I am at the moment. 
"Bari ashte chaiche na aar... dhurr, jahanoom'e jaak o." He doesn't want to come back home...let him go to Hell. 

Then I locked myself in my room, began to write this rant on my blog, in between gulping down a steaming mug of tea. I don't know how many more mugs of tea I'll be needing, just to get through tonight. 

Till Pippo comes back home or disappears for good, I feel like Trishanku....I'm neither here, nor there. Like the sage, caught between two worlds.

Posing for the Camera
Pic Courtesy: Indrani Brahma

The only comforting thought that comes to my mind at the moment is, 
If you love something, let it go.
If it comes back, it was always yours.
If it doesn't, it was never meant to be. 

Well, I know it doesn't mean much to you, but I really love you Pippo. If you love mummy, even a quarter of how much we love you - come back home... 

P.S. - I know all dog lovers out there would love to point out that if I had a dog called Pippo as a pet, this would've never happened. Look, I agree. But please don't tell me that tonight.