Frankly Spooking: A Book Review

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I have grown up watching Zee horror show, movies like Viraana where the ghosts were blister faced and women inevitably encountered them in shower. The coffins opened, custard frothed from the blisters, the heads turned 360 degrees, sometimes without the bodies. Gross, I know but that was the horror served hot on the plate that I would gobble without thinking twice. Then entered the Stephen King’s novels, the real potion. Horror didn’t remain confined to old abandoned bungalows. It plagued the cities, found in the shops, wandered on the highways. A step closer. Though it was just written word, not a movie playing scene by scene, it would make the hairs stand at the back of the neck. The sensation, the adrenaline rush unmatchable.

Indian ghost stories, somehow, have usually been limited to churails, old chowkidars, haunted hills like Mussorie, Shimla, unable to meddle in the daily life. Ruskin Bond’s few stories come to my mind but since they have been set in the hills, they spook me when I am on a holiday. The other ghost stories do provide an eerie setting in the night but never frightening enough to make you feel that someone might be standing right behind you, in spirit, probably seeing every word you are typing on your laptop.

‘Frankly Spooking’ does that.

It brings the ghost to the dinner table, at the places we identify with like malls, classrooms, office, colleagues, your own home that you have been living in for many years. This book is a collection of short stories in the horror genre where ear phones have a life of their own, dead have social gatherings, tattoos breathe. The imagination is uncontainable, running amok at times; the spook it generates is spine chilling.

The scenarios in most of the stories are unsuspecting, people going about their regular work and the ghosts just make their presence felt. A distinct feeling that you get when you read this book is that you are never alone, anywhere. That is a remarkable feat on the part of the author.

He plays with your subconscious mind to generate a reaction, of shock, disbelief and chill. The ghosts don’t have a back story, they are unapologetic and love scaring people. The good part is that the tales are never gory, they scare you but the ghosts don’t gurgle blood or squash you against the walls to create a visual impact. Few of my favorites are Director’s cut, Wall of Silence, Dada’s house, Inked, Together in it.

I think writing in horror genre is very difficult. The length has to be right, the suspense has to be maintained, the chill has to be introduced just at the right moment. A person reading a ghost story knows that a ghost will appear but it is a matter of how and when, the unpredictability, that takes you by surprise. Sriramana does that effortlessly in most of the stories. Apart from one or two, each story stands tall claiming the top spot. Some stories are really short. I wish that they were longer to spook me a bit more. Nonetheless, a treat for the horror lovers.

If you enjoy horror or you are the one who watches a horror flick through the curtain of your own fingers, loving and still not loving, give the ghosts in ‘Frankly Spooking’ a chance. They will scare the hell out of you.

Author: Sriramana Muliya

Publisher: Harper Collins

Genre: Horror, Fiction

Price: 299/ -

The Coffee Shop

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coffeeThe perk of being a writer who works from home is that you can start your day at your own pace, schedule your meetings as and when you like, work wherever you want to. If you don’t want to work at all, you can spend all your day in pajamas and no one will ask you why. But that’s not how I figured my days would be like. I always needed a special corner in the house to get my thoughts flowing, a routine so that I could stay true to my work. Sometimes the clutter would put me off, at other times the ringing of the doorbell would. I wanted peace, a place away from the familiar faces, away from the whistle of the cooker or the constant nagging of my mother. My good that there was a rustic coffee shop just few minutes away from my apartment complex. The only hitch was that it was inside the railway station.

Hitch or blessing in disguise?

It served good coffee, there were fair share of visitors, there was no peace but there were many stories. Loud mouths, tired bodies, family feuds, sparkling spontaneity, you could get anything you wish for. The head phones provided peace and the eyes provided the stories.

So for months now, I would wake up, have bath, gobble my breakfast, excuse myself from the all and sundry of the household that would chain anyone’s thoughts, not only a writer’s, and make my way through the bustling platform to this coffee shop that functioned 24*7. For nights, only a small part remained open, the whole facility awakened sharp at 10:00 in the morning, guzzled till 10:00 in the night. I would be among the first visitors to reserve the best seat of the house. Best not only because it offered a full view of the entire coffee shop to observe and shape the experience, a broad window to peep out to the world without being noticed but it also had the power plug right next to it to keep my laptop humming for the entire day. What else does a writer need – a cup(s) of coffee and a laptop that never stops buzzing. Despite being old, rickety, the coffee shop had wi-fi to remind you of changing times.

Neither the mornings were dreary, nor the afternoons stretched out. The evenings, particularly busy. There was always one or the other interesting character marching in. Many times, love birds would drop by looking for free wi-fi and a sweet conversation, either real or virtual.

But today was different. My mom had some important appointment so she had left early and with her, the morning cacophony too. Even at the age of 35, she believed I couldn’t function without her. After a complete set of repeated instructions, the whole house was left to me, the quiet and peace I had always yearned. I thought of staying back but somehow over the months, it was my favorite spot that set my brain cells on fire. So I had as usual reached there and reserved my seat. The ideas just poured with every sip and clunk, the faint buzz of the coffee machine, the light laughter in the background. Just when I was totally engrossed in a story that was titillating my mind for hours now and the typing was just not matching up to the speed of ideas that were flowing feverishly, a dark green summer dress interrupted my thoughts. The sparks of her beauty flew all around. She breezed in with a big trolley bag, a long string purse hanging loosely from her shoulders, her waist length hair moving frantically hiding her face as she sat right in front of me, albeit a few tables away. There was an inexplicable pull that made me lift my eyes time and again from my laptop. Her shapely, full legs criss-crossed in the knee length dress, the tender toes adorned with black nail paint made her all the more tempting. I wanted to see her face but a book, a damn book in her delicate perfectly manicured hands covered all her features except… except her eyes. The arched eyebrows seemed shaped by a master craftsman. The lashes, beautifully curled, drooped on the face as she read line after line without moving the book even a bit.

I had always romanticized the scenes at the train stations. Blame the DDLJ and the cheap novels that I read in my teenage. There was a certain seduction in the possibility of a chance encounter with a stranger. But I didn’t see that stranger as someone this young.

Still, it was the longest wait of my life, waiting for her to lift her eyes from the book and look at me. This suspense was now killing my own story. I fidgeted with the chord, the empty cup of coffee, made a loud clunk with it but to no avail. What is it that she was reading that she didn’t have even one glance to spare for me? I looked good and had a good height. I was not the one to be overlooked by girls. Despite my middle age, I had the edge, so I believed, to make them spare a good thought for me. Averagely handsome but deep eyes and a thoughtful look was enough if you overlook the day old stubble and the home slippers in my feet.

“Kite Runner” by Khaleid Hossaini, the title read. I couldn’t count how many times I had read that book. I had the author signed copy resting with pride on my work desk at home. My all-time favorite book was in her hands and I was jealous. Jealous of the man whose writing was getting all the attention and I was lurking there like a hungry dog desperate for just one look. Puppy love…. Was it?

She twitched as if she had just heard what I was thinking and then looked straight at me. Her slightly brown eyes lined with kohl killed me. She drank me gently and in fraction of seconds, she returned back to her book, her eyes, fixated again on the pages that echoed friendship and betrayal. I, for a moment, thought of my friends and how they would react if they saw me going mad for someone who I haven’t even properly looked at. But it vanished as soon as I eyed her again, her beautiful hands moving through her silky, slightly wavy hairs that contoured her face. She looked at the boy serving the coffee and signaled him to get the bill. The book was on the table now, her radiance made my heart beat faster. Her nose, her lips, her chin invitingly innocent, looked shaped to perfection.

I had to make my move now or else she would be gone. I walked slowly to her table and in an attempt to strike a conversation, I said, “Ah! Kite Runner. It is my favorite book. ” She looked at me and said, “Pardon?”

“I said it is my favorite book.”

“Oh! That’s good” and she again started looking towards the counter.

Not to take it lying down, I asked, “Have you finished it yet?” I pulled the chair and sat on it.

“No I haven’t.” She said with an amusing look in her eyes.

“I have an author signed copy with a beautiful dedication.”

“Oh! Really”

Her monosyllables were making me go for her even more. It felt as if she knew it.

Her eyes penetrated deeper into me. How I wanted them to look just at me and nowhere else. There was innocence, a sense of calm yet playfulness in them.

They were betraying her now, a slight nervous streak appeared.

I just smiled back.

“So what does the dedication say?” She asked breaking the connection, shifting her gaze to an invisible object on the table.

“Do you want to read it? I will just go and get it for you. I live nearby. ” I wanted her to say yes, anything to be by her side for few more minutes. And added, “Or you can come with me?”

Her lips made a move but her throat caught the sentence midway. “Well…, I don’t have enough time.” She paused and my heart plunged deeper in my stomach. “I have a train to catch. So thanks but no thanks.” She said in a disappointed tone.

“Can I walk you to your train?” I was smitten. I didn’t want to lose any chance of spending some more moments with her though I knew it would end as soon as the train would whistle goodbye to this station. Her nod was enough to make me collect my things, leave my favorite seat knowing fully that I wouldn’t get it again today. But I wouldn’t get to be with her again too.

“So stranger, what do you do except sipping coffee here and practicing pickup lines?” She interrupted my thoughts as we made our way through the crowd and forced me into a full throttled laughter.

“I write in my free time.” I said with a wink.

“Hmmm… a writer. Sounds intellectual. But at the train station?” She questioned.

“Well, I get to meet pretty strangers like you.” I smiled. “Where are you heading?”

“To my college. The vacations just got over. I am in First Year B.E.”

My hand brushed past hers. We looked at each other; a rush of emotions clouded the judgment. When we unlocked our eyes, that lingered on a bit longer than they should have, there was silence. We made our way through the shadows, not talking to each other, hearing our own heart beats.

Her train was already at the platform. As she searched for her seat and adjusted her luggage, I kept pacing outside alongside her, not to lose her in the melee. I could have gone in and helped her out. But something stopped me. The dainty windows of the second class AC could allow only a hazy view. I moved closer. I pressed my hands on the window and peeped inside. The tubelight created a familiar shadow leaning against me on the other side. The hair were now tied in a ponytail, which highlighted her cheek bones. I squinted my eyes to capture the radiance, one last time, to feel her gaze right into me, to touch her hands that were right opposite mine, through the glass. She said something, I could make out. But what did she say? A smile spread across her face. I moved my hand on the glass as if to touch her face and turned away. I didn’t want to know.

I wanted to keep her in my memory, the way it was just now. What we had, the moment, couldn’t last longer. It would have been diluted with the words; it would have vanished because there was no possibility of us getting together, ever.

But I still sit at the same seat, in the same coffee shop, writing, and in the heart of hearts, waiting for that stranger to walk in again. I still go and look at that train, from distance, in the hope of spotting her, wondering if she thinks of me too.

Pic courtesy: en.wikipedia.org

The Almond Tree: A Book Review

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A generous soul whose answer to violence is peace and a strong headed boy whose answer to oppression is fighting back with even more grit. The Almond Tree begins with the story of two brothers in a strife ridden Palestine and follows the generous one, Ahmed, on his journey to make his mark, create a good life for him and his family despite all odds. It spans across a wider timeline starting from the year 1955 when Palestine was facing the illegal occupation of its land by Israel to year 2009 when the ground invasion was continuing mercilessly in Gaza, again by the same oppressor.

On one hand, it depicts the brutal assault on humanity, clear violation of human rights, the protagonist making its way through the misconstrued system, if there is any, making it big in the foreign land away from the slaughter house as he is a maths genius, offering a life worth living to his family. On the other hand, it shows the ground reality of a man, his brother Abbas, who gets crippled due to a vicious attack, takes on the path of high morality and fights for the cause. The characters are well etched, particularly the protagonist and his guiding light, his baba.

The book began on a promising note. The first chapter itself built a lot of expectation around the narrative, the story, the strife. Add to it, “the story can do for Palestinians what the Kite Runner did for Afghanis”, the quote from Daily Star, I was intrigued. But as I moved along, after few chapters, the clichés started holding true. Though it humanizes the land, the people that have been oppressed for so long, you can’t help but wonder if it is just fate or matter of pure convenience on the part of author to create a lot of melodrama.

Yes, it was and it is the life of hundreds and thousands of people living in the strife ridden country, robbed of their property, rights, mental peace they are entitled to. Who wants to live under constant fear, when your sister is blown to pieces because she chases a butterfly and accidently steps into the mine field, when your father is imprisoned for a crime he never committed, when your brother goes into coma due to a hate attack, wakes up, remains crippled for life, when your house is blown to pieces because your father is considered a terrorist and you live a life of abject poverty. The author manages to put a face to the character that goes through all this. He emerges victorious, wins a nobel prize for his genius too.

The brother, however, as expected, lives a life of downtrodden, hates his brother for siding with the enemy, runs away from home and is one fine day, after so many years, spotted by Ahmed on TV in burning Gaza as a prominent member of a banned Brigade. No wonder, he now wants to unite with his estranged brother and bring him to the mainstream.

After a point, the events in this story almost seem contrived. The situations too cinematic, too dramatized. The heart change of the rebel brother, after the death of his son, also seems forceful as if things have to come together at the end. Hard core rebels who start fighting for a cause are never deterred by the deaths of their own blood and bone. They, in fact, bring in their families and several generations go on to push forward the agenda.

For me, this book is not ‘The Kite Runner’. It does give a peek in to the lives of those who have struggled, are still trying to come to terms with their losses. With this book, the story of such people is spreading around. People who have been living in the darkness of a tunnel, some of them trying to create bridges of hope and peace. It is non-judgmental to a certain extent as well, a sincere effort I must say. But on the whole, a courageous story which loses its heart in the middle.

Author: Michelle Cohen Corasanti

Publisher: FingerPrint

Genre: Fiction

Price: 295/-

 

This review is posted as part of Book Review Program by The Literary Jewels.

Love that Bloomed Late

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spicysaturday

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“Just one more page please.” I said trying to keep the lights on for five more minutes.  My husband, with a knowing smile, put the pillow on his face and went to sleep.  Every night, if he is not sleeping later than me or we are not hitting the bed together to catch a movie while the fruit of our bearing, the kiddo, sleeps blissfully, we have this standard conversation as I flip through the pages of the book that lies by my night stand. The bookmark keeps moving till it reaches the end, the books keep changing, but the ritual remains intact, of reading, of having some fodder for the dreams that make up my night.  A standard practice that I developed while struggling to adjust to the charms of college life, leaving behind the pig tailed girl from a tiny, sleepy town.

Enid Blyton books, The Hardy Boys, Tom Sawyer never made it to my list as I was well past the age when the reading bug bit me.  The little world I existed in consisted of Chacha Chowdhary, Motu-Patlu, Pinky, and the anatomy of human heart for a long time. The permutations and combinations were not far behind too.

It actually started with ‘Mills and Boon’, the side effects of professional college I say. The romance flew high, much higher than the course, the tardy professors.  Hostel buzzed with activity. Night lamps burned bright till the wee hours of the morning, not for studying but for gossiping and reading romantic stories.   Waking up in the mornings was never a fight. Even if it was, bunking a lecture would come handy.  But missing to spend the night with the bare chested, chiseled heroes and picture perfect heroines that would come alive, breathing from the pages of the M&Bs, was impossible.

But then, how long can you survive on chick-lit and (s)ex-plicit scenes?  For very long I admit, but then the heart started wanting more meaningful, the mind started wanting some titillation of its own.  Jane Austen, Stephen King, John Grisham, Jodi Picoult, Paulo Coelho, the list went on. A well-stocked British Library in the vicinity helped. It was a journey to explore, to know more, to understand the world that existed far and beyond.  Long journeys in Punjab State buses to home and back to the hostel meant ample time to finish a good book.  Self –exploration that I could spend hours and hours with a book, that solitude didn’t mean lonely, that there were several different perspectives to look at, several different notions to respect.

The world of words was overwhelming.  It was intimidating at times but made me introspect, every time. The office replaced the college, the home replaced the hostel, the husband replaced the friends in the crinkled bed, and then the kid replaced the husband, with the tide of time. The books, however, remained the only constant. Many of them saw me through my hippy college days, big bandages, shouting-from-rooftop happiness, hormonal outbursts, sleep deprivation, anger management and finally, some solace.  They existed, they guided, silently, effected my choices with the sheer knowledge they imparted of human feelings, of lives well-lived, of good advices, they opened up my mind in more ways than one.  Then they adorned my bookshelf waiting to be dusted, to be picked up again.

I have always felt that somehow they know. The feeling that I will come back to them, night after night.  I have always been. They have been my constant companions.  I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t discovered the magic of books. The magic that never ceases to exist, diminishes for a bit, but revives with every new title, every new word.  I haven’t had my fill; I am sure I never will. Perhaps, this is the beauty of it.

Pic courtesy: http://graduateloop.org

Sorting Out Sid: A Book Review

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‘Come here, my dear, you are so near….

Please have no fear, I love my beer….’

He ransacked his brain to come up with the last line to do justice to the poet in him and came up with ‘And my name is…. Sid’

This is Sid for you, the protagonist of ‘Sorting Out Sid’ who very closely resembles urban, uber-cool, working, unabashed, impulsive, witty and too-busy breed of modern India.  The character is straight out of your office and you wonder, “Have I met this guy before?”  Right from putting on his various modes and various smiles, may it be Casual-Party-Sid, Work-Sid or Witty-Office-Sid, he is as real as a character in a book can get.

This is the story of Sid whose marriage is falling apart while he is busy climbing the corporate ladder.  He is about to be the VP in his firm, only that it deals with toilet cleaning. When Neha, a single divorced mom, saunters in like the cool shade in a parched, summer day, life for Sid takes a turn. Does it bring out the better or worse in him? To know the answer, you need to grab this book and read it without any breaks. I did, as I couldn’t put it back.  The characters pulled me in.

The pages are full of witty remarks and droll humor, almost immediately diffusing the tension that builds up while handling delicate situations in the life of Sid. I am amazed at author’s ability to bring so much of verve and life into this character. You, as a reader, see the story unraveling right in front of you like a movie, which, I feel, is a rare feat achieved by the author. For that matter, all the main characters and even the supporting ones are very well etched. Except Sid’s estranged wife, Mandira and I wonder why her issues are never harped on in the book.

There are many points where you feel that now the tone of the book can get serious given the situations but the author has managed to balance it out with the layering of unexpected humor right then and there like the alternation of bitter chocolate and sweet vanilla icing.  In a scene where Sid starts dreaming of all the important people in his life accusing him, he suddenly remembers Sita’s plea to Mother Earth to swallow her up and he ends up imploring his beloved bean bag, Brownie, to eat him up. “Brownie! Do it! Swallow me up now.”

Sid, with his funny one liners, utter stupidity at times, and crazy ideas is very likeable. Aditi, his best friend, through whom he meets Neha also has wonderful layering in her character. Neha, as a single, cheerful mom, is a perfect anti-dote to Sid’s craziness. Aditi’s husband, Krish, though a side-character, delivers some of the best lines. Sid’s parents and their methods of dealing with the problems are a reflection of how a normal household with a strict, overbearing father would be.  The silent, understanding love of a mother, the never-satisfied father, another mother always looking for faults, it is a plethora of intriguing characterizations and subjects that have been handled with the right kind of sensitivity.

You will see the shades of everyday world we live in, where women are not afraid to walk out on their marriage and have the tender ability to live life on their own terms, men are not super-heroes but have shades of grey and understand that they can’t handle everything, couples are exploring love and not just rushing in the emotion, corporates who are stuck in their jobs, people who are enthusiastic about following their passions, complicated mother-daughter, father-son relationships where each has a point to prove and sometimes, not.

‘Sorting Out Sid’ is a light read despite revolving around issues of broken marriage, unhappiness in profession, human vices, and complicated love life.  A double thumbs up for the author for wonderfully balancing humor and sensitivity, and for making the characters so believable.  I would recommend this book as a must-read.

Author: Yashodhara Lal

Publisher: Harper Collins

Genre: Fiction

Price: 250/-

Cover Design: Arijit Ganguly (A special mention. He has done an incredible job.)

With a child suffering from autism, it’s a fight not worth losing

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When Ria saw her newborn for the first time, her eyes lit up with dreams of his delighted chuckles, naughty caricatures of days to come. Life was blissful. She couldn’t ask for more. As he started to walk, the dreams got bigger. With every step, hopes too. Every milestone, right from him holding a spoon, eating on his own, to a first time babble, was a stepping stone to success.

Ria knew her son was special. But little did she know then, that tag would literally stick to him in the years to come, shatter her dreams.

When he didn’t speak a single word at one and a half years old, he was a late bloomer to her. But something about him was changing. He never made eye contact. When she taught him, like pointing the nose on his face, or birds in the sky, he would just look at her pointed finger. He wouldn’t play with the other kids. He never waved bye byes.

She would get toys, but he would pick up a bottle of water, tilt it, spend hours just watching the water going up and down in it. He would listen to the doorbell, but not when she would call out his name. After telling herself repeatedly that there was nothing wrong with him, and failing miserably, she decided to finally approach a professional.

Her son was diagnosed with Autism.

[To read more, Please Click Here.]

Online Shopping Experience with Jabong.com

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Until about a year ago, online shopping was akin to books for me.  I could only trust the online stores for books and nothing else, and that too after physically visiting a Crossword store to finalize my list. Primarily, the discounts lured me.  A very cautious shopper at that.  Clothes, items pertaining to home décor, and accessories needed to be seen, to be felt and visualized before spending my hard earned money on.

When my husband ordered the lenses for his high end cameras online, I declared him lazy and mad. Mind you, they are pretty expensive and need lot of care when they are shipped due to their fragility. I waited till the day of delivery to rub the fact in his face that the wife is always right. Only to find his lenses reach our home spic-and-span. And in proper working condition too. The smirk on his face was enough to dare me into the online shopping world and change my perceptions.

I liked the idea of not hearing charged sales pitches from the salesmen when all you want to do is look around in peace, not sweating it out in the sun and dealing with the swarming traffic. I started with a dress, then footwear, then another dress; the list goes on. Now, a good site can indulge me for hours and makes my wallet go light by quite a few bucks. I need to be told to hold back.  With heavy discounts and Great Online Shopping Festival, I have tried buying almost everything on internet.

Except one.

Despite being addicted now, I, till few days back, didn’t have the courage to order any home décor item. The fragility, the picture not worth a 1000 words and a second look kept me away.  Moreover, if the piece didn’t turn out to be the Michelangelo I ordered, I would be stuck with the routine of calling and following up with the customer care to take it back, and then wait endlessly for the refund. That was until Jabong.com happened.

About a week ago, when a neatly wrapped package arrived at my doorstep, I squealed with joy. The joy of having bought something for my home without even stepping out.  I had been looking for a perfect piece for my side table in the living room.  Nothing really clicked on or offline. It had to be beautiful, delicate, stylish yet subtle.  The discounts  and Jabong’s option of opening the package before paying anything to the delivery boy and returning it back right then and there, if not satisfied, was really hard to resist.  It was like picking up the piece in the showroom, turning it 360 degrees, not liking it as much, hence putting it back on the shelf.  Added advantage- you didn’t have to get dressed in your couture best and fight the uncivilized traffic to reach the showroom; a faded pajama and a peaceful smile were just fine.

After spending a lot of time on the site doing window shopping, inundated with enormous options to choose from, I finally zeroed in on a TruDecor item. The finish, the curves, the colors simply fascinated me.  All the dimensions were clearly mentioned, the pictures from different angles made sure that I could visualize it. Add to this a heavy discount, and the deal was sealed. I couldn’t wait to lay my hands on it. I placed the order conveniently with a very user-friendly interface and then the wait began. I also liked the idea of continuing as a guest and not being compelled to create an account. One can place the order and track it as a guest as well. The process of creating an account was easy too. They said the delivery would take 3-4 business days but it arrived in just 2 days, right in time for the small dinner party I was throwing for my close friends.

The package was big, neatly secured with broad tapes. There was a big ‘Fragile’ sticker too. When I cut open the tapes, it was very calming to see a bubble wrap with higher tensile strength and big bubbles to mitigate any chances of a break on the way.  There was another small box in which the showpiece was actually kept, buffered with thermocol casing.

When I held that beauty in my hands, I was a satisfied customer. The actual product looked exactly the same as the picture shown on the site. Still, the feeling of touching your actual purchase is unmatched so I spent a few moments admiring the showpiece while the delivery boy patiently waited.  I had almost forgotten about him. Back to reality, I completed the formalities and we both went our ways – me, busy with showering my affection on the piece and he, off to creating another happy customer.

Here I am, showing off with the pictures

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What I like:

1)      Easy navigation, user-friendly interface.

2)      Browsing different categories and going through hundreds of options within each category is fairly easy.

3)      Making wishlists, remembering the items even when you act as a guest and not logged in are quick and hassle-free.

4)      Once the order is placed, there is constant update about which stage the package is in through sms – thankyou note, number of business days it will take, shipped, reached my city, out for delivery etc. Email is also sent at regular intervals.

5)      The packaging of the products is satisfactory.

6)      They keep introducing many new offers to engage the consumers like the Holi offers they are already gearing up with.

What I don’t like:

1)      The quality of the boxes used can be better.

2)      The customer service response is little delayed if you want to go through unintrusive methods like emailing instead of calling. The turnaround time on the queries is high. A live chat can be a good addition to overcome this barrier.

As I tick the ‘home décor’ box too in my online shopping list, I am a total convert. An addicted and happy online shopper. And with sites like Jabong.com, I don’t see that changing anytime. In fact, my breed is going to increase manifolds.

Age is ‘just’ a number

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“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”, Mark Twain once said in vain. He forgot to reconfirm it with his wife. Because Mrs. Mark Twain would have certainly corrected him and told him that it does matter if you are a bottle of wine or a woman. Needless to say, they both get better with age.

Now that I have successfully crossed my 20s and about to hit the mid-way mark in 30s, I have earned the right to be honest.  I have heard, “Age is just a number.” Yeah, just like grey hairs are God’s way of telling you that he knows how to paint. And the wrinkles on your skin are His way of counting how many times you have smiled and frowned. “You are punished Lady for smiling so much.  Now will ensue the catastrophe of deeper laugh lines so that your face looks… well, smiling and drooping all at once.” Not to mention those half squats to uplift that sagging butt and wrinkle creams for the sulking skin. We have to go through so much to look … ahem ‘young’.  The worst enemy in all this is gravity, my friend.  But yes, we all want to do that, look a little young, and feel a little young.

But I still won’t trade this time for anything.  After all, I have spent a good part of my late 20s and early 30s figuring out what it means to ‘Grow up’.  I have heard it quite a number of times with the extra emphasis on the wrinkles I have inflicted on the other party. Talk of sadistic pleasure.

And why would I?  I now know the meaning of equity and cash flow (from my husband’s pocket) which I didn’t in my 20s. And I have successfully performed the transition from the art of dressing to kill to dressing to hide.  I no longer think in fractions for myself like I do for my son. He is six and a quarter but I am thirty-something and not thirty-something and a quarter or a half. I have stopped taking guilt trips. I would rather take a trip to the nearest mall.  I have stopped seeking approval, now that I have a self-approval stamp. I now wait for my son’s results rather than mine. It is scarier but better than sitting for the exam myself.  I no longer get butterflies in my stomach before an all-important interview or meeting because numerous trips to the loo don’t ensure success. All they do is make you look pale.

So you see, I have ‘grown up’ and have found the secret to a cross between the youth of 20s and wisdom of 30s. I have simply stopped counting. Growing old…. na, it is not my thing.

Turning Two

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Two years ago, an insane world called me out.  I hesitantly stepped in and the hesitation was not without a reason. I had failed once and I didn’t want to fail again. After all, failure is never a mood lifter. With a pat on my back, I thought for a second and then told myself, “Why not?”  The worst that could happen was that no one would read me. Well, no one was reading me anyway so what was there to lose.

Two years ago, I registered with WordPress and wrote my first post “Hello World!” and the insane world of blogging opened up its arms for me.  First, I met bloggers. You know the drill – you write, you read, you comment, hope for people to come to your blog and read some more. I was naïve. Few months down the line, I discovered the actual meaning of blogging. It was not just a platform to let my creativity flowing. It was the place where people without faces, sometimes not even real names, laughed with me, shed tears with me, showed solidarity and lived many moments of my life with me.  I got to see many of the faces eventually, albeit virtually, and I thought to myself, “‘Why not?’ was actually a good choice.”

There have been many ups and downs in the last two years. I got published for the first time along the way, got so much of love from the fellow bloggers, many of whom are now friends, discovered life in a whole new way and understood the shades of grey.  I fumbled too when I struggled to find topics to write, to keep this blog alive, disappeared totally for a month or so. But if it hadn’t been for you people, who kept returning to read more, I would have lost my way. You hear me when I am good with words, and many times, not so much.  You hear me without knowing me, but for the image you conjured of me from my blog.  So thanks, with all my heart, for being there, even when I am not writing or around.

For the uninitiated, blogging is still insane and you fail to explain what it means in the whole scheme of things.  It is insane, alright! But it is irreplaceable. It makes me see life in a totally different light; even a simple tantrum and disappearance of cookies turn themselves into a post. Exciting, isn’t it!

February is special for being my birth month. And I noticed just now that I started my love affair with blogging on Valentine’s day. Well, a day of love or not, I want this love to continue for years and years to come. Hope you will keep me company all along :)

A Perfect Day

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Today is a fine day.  The sun is shining bright, the cold wave has subsided and there is a certain beauty in the way the rays are hitting the green moist grass. A perfect day for baking.  I gather all the ingredients – flour, chocolate chips, baking powder, vanilla essence, sugar, milk and creamy butter. The flour and the butter merge seamlessly, with my fingers performing a sensual dance in the mix.  Now it is the turn of chocolate chips to arouse the flavors, the rest of the ingredients just follow to create an amalgamation that fills your senses with pleasure. The dough is ready, the oven is preheated; the little balls are now spread evenly on the tray and they make their way to the center rack where all the ingredients will first forget who  they individually are and then will come together to form the wonder I call chocolate chip cookies.

The whole house fills with the fresh aroma of baking that instantly lifts up my mood. Sadly, it is time to head out for a business meeting so I pull out the tray and move the cookies on to the wire rack to cool them down. After popping them in the container, I leave with a gleaming heart.  I am happy that the evening tea would be the best tango ever of my taste buds with the little crumbs that would melt lusciously in the mouth.

I spend the meeting in trance, all the while visualizing the perfectly stacked cookies in a glass jar. The idea of lifting the lid, laying my hands on the cookie and slowly taking it to my mouth suddenly sounds so urgent that I almost end up making a mock gesture  and the guy on the other side of table looks at me intriguingly. “Just a fly”, I say sheepishly by redirecting my hand to my forehead trying to gain his confidence again.  The meeting ends shortly thereafter and I am relieved. No, the meeting is not successful but c’mon I have chocolate chip cookies to fall back on to pass through this little failure.

So I quickly run the errands, drive and drive with the anticipation of explosion of flavors in my mouth. I reach home and rush to the kitchen only to find my son stuffing his mouth with what seems suspiciously like my favorite food on the earth.

“Poor soul, must be hungry!” The mom in me takes over.

I bend over to cuddle him, with my one hand holding him tightly and the other searching for the jar on the shelf.

“Hah! Where are all the cookies?” My grip loosens suddenly and I look at him accusingly.

“Mumma, friends came and ate all.”  All the steam of my dreams gathers in my eyes.

“Mumma, will you cry now?” My son says with so much of concern in his voice that I actually feel like beating him to a pulp.

Whosoever invented the five stages of grief never warned about how long they will last.

Denial: “Are the cookies really gone? There were right here, a whole stack few hours ago…”

Anger: “Why the hell he invited his friends over? You ate the last cookie right in front of me. You are not my son.”

Bargaining: “If you let me have that last bite or at least the crumbs in the jar, I will make a big cake for you… pleasssse.”

Depression:  “I want the cookie, I want the cookie…. I so want that cookieeeeeee”

Acceptance: “Oh! It’s nothing but loads of calories… Good, the pathetic cookie is gone.”

The husband steps in to diffuse the situation and promises to take me out for a large hearty meal but ……..buuuuuhuuuuu…….. my cookies…. :(

Pic Courtesy: www.cosozo.com

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