Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Monthly Reading Wrap- Up: February 2018.


February is over. Just like that my favourite month of the year has come and gone!
Time to wrap-up my reading in the second month of the year. 
Truth be told February was quite a dismal reading month for me. 
I read very little. Only 6 books! 6 Books! 
  By my standards I barely read at all!
But I am not bumming too hard, it was a month in which I had a lot of other things going on. 
I travelled. 
I got caught up in my birthday joys.
I watched movies. 
I did a ton of other things and my life was not centred around reading like it normally is and for a change it was alright. 

But I did read a handful of books and now it's time to talk about them. 

Books Read in February 2018. 

1. Thicker Than Blood by Munmun Ghosh: A book I read via Kindle Unlimited. A book I had sitting on my Kindle and I started reading it early one morning and read in one sitting. It's premise is pretty unique- about a woman dealing with infertility and her quest to have a baby. It shows her struggles against the backdrop of her Indian joint family and society's reaction to a couple's fertility issues. It was an interesting read but I was sorta bored by the middle of the book and didn't quite enjoy the second half. It will be perhaps more enjoyable or relatable to a reader who is dealing with the same issues. To be it was a little lacking in keeping my interest. 
Rating: 2/5 

2. Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index by Julie Israel: A YA contemporary dealing with a girl who is trying to unearth some truths about her sister's death and her secret love interest. It is a mix of grief, healing, moving on and a family in throes of grief. I enjoyed this book and seeing Juniper navigate her own grief and helping out others with their issues as well. I loved the friends she makes and even her love story was very engaging. 
Rating: 3.5/5 

3. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn: A very hyped read all across social media. My sister and I buddy-read this book together and we have a full review up on the blog as well. You can read it HERE. 
I enjoyed this book for most part but I had guessed a couple of twists before the halfway mark in the book. 
Rating: 3/5 

4. Prankenstien Edited by Ruskin Bond & Jerry Pinto: A fun and joyful read. 
Full review can be found here
Rating: 4/5  

5. History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund: A book I really didn't like. 
The writing was good and atmospheric. But I was bored out of my mind. It was one of those books that gave more importance to style than story and that is just not my thing. 
Really not my cup of tea.
Rating: 1/5 

6. Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom: Another YA contemporary about a blind girl with a lot of rules of engagement. It was really interesting to read from such a unique perspective and seeing the world (pun not intended at all) from a blind protagonist's eyes.
Rating: 3.5/5 

Travel Diary: Jaipur Day- 2. Bapu Bazaar, Johri Bazaar and Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar + Jaipur Travel Tips.

Hello, hello!
So, on our second day in Jaipur, we got off to a bit of a late start. My sister had a ton of work to get through and she was busy trying to finish everything, so that she wouldn't have to work for the rest of her vacation.

We had a late brunch in our hotel room and then left at around 4:30 PM. Our hotel's courtyard was totally deserted and we couldn't resist but take some gorgeous pictures of the property!

Alsisar Haveli has a series of beautiful courtyards, which I find really charming. This is the one that led to our room and every morning the staff filled that marble urn with fresh flowers. 

This is the central courtyard of the haveli. As you can see, it is beautifully maintained. Towards the right is the swimming pool and on the left is the restaurant. 

This is the central portion of the courtyard. It houses the offices of the owners of the property and has a little seating area outside. 

Here's the view of the restaurant and more rooms. 

Now, before we get any further, I want to share a few tips on traveling within Jaipur
  • Jaipur is a very well connected city in terms of public transport. You have autos that ply all over the city, but beware that they do charge a lot more from tourists than from locals. 
  • Apart from autos, the old walled city also has e-rickshaws that charge a minimum of Rs. 10 to move from one point to another. These are really helpful if you want to move from, say, Bapu Bazaar to Johri Bazaar etc. within the walled city. 
  • Jaipur also has Uber and Ola. Now, we have not tried Ola in Jaipur, but on this day, we happened to use Uber to get from our hotel to Bapu Bazaar. Let's just get this out of the way in the clearest way possible- Uber in Jaipur SUCKS! Like big time! It is a very reasonable way to get around (compared to Bombay, at any rate) but most of the cars are in a terrible condition and the drivers are not at all keen on switching on the AC! Before you wonder, Jaipur's day temperatures during the five days that we were there ranged between 30-32 degrees Celcius- not the kind of weather where you'd be comfortable in a non-AC car! So, yeah, avoid Uber in Jaipur like the plague. Also, Uber drivers in Jaipur tend to cancel trips at the drop of a hat. One of our Uber drivers on this day, refused to show up at our location and kept saying he is parked in a gully and if we wanted a ride, we should come to him. We just let it be and waited for him to cancel the trip. So.. yeah.. avoid Uber like the plague! 
  • If you can budget for it, the best way to get around in Jaipur is by hiring a car for a full-day (8 hours, 80 kms kind of a deal) package. Depending on the car you want, you'll end up paying anywhere between Rs. 1,200 to Rs. 1,800 per day. If you plan your day properly, then this is a good and peaceful option to get around Jaipur. We hired a car for 4 out of 5 days and it was the best decision we made! 

So, anyway, we took an Uber to get to Bapu Bazaar from our hotel. Here's a glimpse of our outfits of the day. 

I wore an ikat dress and comfy shoes (Vans) and my sister wore a tunic from Anokhi and really soft jutis. Tip: Wear comfy shoes whilst in Jaipur; all the historical sites include a fair amount of walking as do all the main shopping areas. I wore my pink Vans even when it did not match with my outfits because I wanted to be able to walk and be comfy! 

Isn't my little bag cute?! I picked it up from one of the leather shops near Hawa Mahal the previous evening. It is tiny but holds a lot because it has a deep gusset. 

So, anyway, moving on. Bapu Bazaar is a series of shops on either side of a long stretch of road. The good news is that all the shops are in a covered pavement, so if you feel up to it, you could even do Bapu Bazaar in the day. We were a little overwhelmed with everything on display to take any pictures, plus there was a lot of pedestrian and vehicular traffic weaving in and out, which made taking pictures really difficult! 

Some tips on what to buy or what to look for at Bapu Bazaar: 
  • Bapu Bazaar has a lot of fabric and readymade garments on offer. They also have several shops selling bedsheets and sarees and such. However, please make sure you know what you are getting from there. Not all prints are genuine block prints (done by hand as they are meant to be) and, in fact, most of the block printed items sold at Bapu Bazaar are machine printed. 
  • We did buy three block printed bed sheets- they were not hand block printed- but the cloth was of really great quality and so, we didn't mind buying them. Make sure you negotiate, even if the shops claims it is fixed price. 
  • Bapu Bazaar has some really great wholesale shops selling really trendy readymade kurtas and dresses. One such store is called SASA and they have an excellent collection of really trendy and well-made kurtas and dresses made with a mix of traditional Indian fabrics and cotton-linen blends. We picked up quite a few outfits from there and their stuff is really well priced. 
  • While there are several shops in Bapu Bazaar selling traditional Rajasthani bags, but once again, just check to see if the embroidery is handmade or machine made. And if it is machine made (check for uniformity of stitches and overall cleaner look of the thread), then make sure that it costs less than Rs. 1,500-2,000 for sure! 
Overall, here's our take on Bapu Bazaar. It is a bit overwhelming with multiple shops and just the sheer variety of things available there. However, unless you find a great wholeseller or a store that has good quality stuff that you like, then it is a great market to pick up reasonably priced souvenirs for friends and family- like bags, stoles, dupattas etc.

Definitely carry a bottle or two of water because even though we did have a 1 litre bottle of water with us, we were parched after the first hour and there are no shops inside the market area that sell water or any beverages! Best to go prepared. 

Also, if you have any local contacts or friends, perhaps it is a good idea to ask them for any specific stores that you ought to visit in Bapu Bazaar to make it a little less overwhelming! 

After Bapu Bazaar, we took an e-rickshaw and headed to Jaipur's iconic Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar (LMB), which is situated in the middle of Johri Bazaar. Now, we did not have much luck finding or buying any silver jewellery in Johri Bazaar- most of the stores we walked into had imitation jewellery or gold-plated jewellery, none of which were of interest to us. So, instead, we decided to go grab a traditional Rajasthani thaali from LMB! 

Here's our Royal Rajasthani Thaali.. featuring traditional Rajasthani delicacies like Daal Baati Choorma, Ker Sanghvi, Gatte Ki Subzi and some other North Indian delicacies like Kadhi, Paneer etc. 

The thaali at LMB was quite yum and not very overwhelming! It was just enough and just right! 

After dinner, we called another Uber, which was as awful as the one we took earlier in the evening and headed back to our hotel. We made sure we reconfirmed our rental car booking for the next day because we had big plans! 

Hope you enjoyed this travelogue! 

More to come very soon!  

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Travel Diary: Jaipur Day- 1. Alsisar Haveli + Albert Hall Museum.


I spent 5 days in Jaipur this past week and I am so glad I to go to a city that has been on my 'must visit' list for absolute ages. 

We, my sister and I, had been planning a Jaipur trip since the beginning of the year. We booked our tickets and even booked our hotel after doing some research. We knew we wanted to live in a haveli/heritage property because when in Rajasthan why not live a historical setting if one can manage it? Of course, there are hotels for every budget and every persuasion. For us, being people who like being cozy and ones who will be spending a fair amount of time indoors and spending our evenings in, we wanted to live in a nice place. 

We flew in on a super-duper stupidly early morning flight. We took off at 6:00 am and landed in Jaipur at 7:30 ish and Uber-ed to our hotel/haveli- Alsisar Haveli. 

First and foremost, say hello to the beautiful Stella! 
The resident puppy at Alsisar. She is a gorgeous little dog who loves sunbathing, crumbs and getting cuddles. She was one of the highlights of my trip!

Since we arrived dreadfully early, we couldn't get our room straight away, check-in time is at noon. So we waited and grabbed some breakfast. 
The morning was surprisingly cool and it was wonderful to just sit outside and soak in our surroundings. 

I was so impressed with how utterly gorgeous the property is. As we were driving in we were a little spooked seeing how commercial the neighbourhood was, we were bang in the middle of Loha Mandi- an area full of ugly shops. Luckily, the haveli was far enough from the market to keep the honking sounds at bay.  

Some early glimpses of the property during our first hours there. We were so smitten. 
There is beauty and charm and history in every corner. 

Above: A little lounge area. 

Below: The haveli looking gorgeous in morning light. 

A fountain in the courtyard. 

Gorgeous Stella sunbathing like a Boss Lady. 

Once we wrapped up breakfast, we waited for a little bit in the reception area and by 10:00 AM our room was ready and we could finally check in! Praise the lord! We were by this point super tired and ready for a power nap! 

Glimpses of our room. 
We had a room on the first floor, which was comfortable and tastefully done up. 

We got to the room.
Took showers.
Jumped into bed for a much needed nap! 
We napped for around 3 hours and then got up, got ready and headed out. 

Since we only had half a day left- everything in Jaipur shuts down at 5:00 PM- we decided to make our way to the Albert Hall Museum. Turned out it was the 132nd Anniversary of the Museum and the tickets were free. Which was great but it also meant it was packed to the gills! 
We got the Audio Tour, which was affordably priced at ₹ 118 and was very well narrated and presented and was a fantastic way to explore the museum. 

The museum building itself is gorgeous and a sight to behold. It is built in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, which combines Mughal and Hindu elements with some Victorian influences. Such a lovely mishmash if there ever was! 

See the domes and the arches? Those are the Mughal influence. Isn't this a gorgeous building? 

The exhibits at the museum can be broadly divided into three categories- metal work, fabrics and paintings. 

The first gallery is the metallurgy gallery and has some great examples of metal work such as this shield, which is fully engraved on both sides with the story of the Ramayana. 

As you can see, the figure in the centre is that of Sita doing the agnipariskha or the test of her "purity" by fire. Just look at all the details on this beautiful shield! 

The carvings on the pillars are so intricate! 

The next section was the fabric section and we got to see samples of all the fabrics that Rajasthan is famous for such as bandhni (tie-dye), bagru, ajrakh, block printing and even some zardosi work. 

Some examples of zardosi work on display, including a cloak belonging to one of the Kings. 

Some examples of the different styles of printing that I mentioned above. 

Now this is an interesting bit of fabric. This is a block printer's sample sheet. Every block printer used to put together a sample sheet like this displaying the different block print and colour options that he had on offer and brought it to the mandi (market) and this helped him get orders from customers for cloth lengths. 

A cute little figuring of a block printer working on printing fabric. 

The painting and art gallery was easily our favourite. It featured a lot of great examples of the Rajasthan School, which is very influenced by the Mughal or Arabic style of illumination and miniature painting. 

The Albert Hall Museum is not overwhelmingly big and the audio tour is very easy to follow along and very nicely done! So, if you have about an hour or so to spare in Jaipur, we'd definitely recommend stopping there. 

After this, we went to Anokhi and shopped there a bit, they have a much larger and varied selection as compared to their Bombay store. I highly recommend you visit the Anokhi in Jaipur.

After which, we had a long-winded quest for finding a tea/ coffee and snacks type place! We went to two different cafes before we found a cafe that was not over-crowded and muggy! Most cafes had their AC and even fans off! WTF! It was 33 degrees Celsius and not pleasant in the very least. 

We finally went to a place called Nibs for coffee and a quick bite. A full post on that coming soon. 
We also stepped into Soma and I bought a couple of things. We made a quick stop at some shops outside of Hawa Mahal and bought some mojris and some embroidered leather bags from shops my sister has bought from before, a little bit of bargaining and some truly beautiful things were acquired. Will share some of my buys on the blog later. 

Then it was time to head to the hotel- where we had a light meal and called it an early night. 

Hope you enjoyed this little look into our Day 1 in Jaipur. Be on the look out for more such posts later this week. 

Friday, 23 February 2018

General Whimsy: Hello from Jaipur.

Hello from beautiful Jaipur. 
This city has been on my travel wish-list for ages! And I am so beyond grateful to finally be in this time capsule of a city. 
Palaces, forts and havelis. 
So much history and culture and art in one place. 

This is just a quick post to share some snippets of my travels so far. 
Detailed Travel Diaries will follow soon, once I am back home. 

TBH, this has so far been a mixed bag of a holiday. 
It's been good largely but not great. 
The place I am staying at is beautiful but the service is shit and the food is the worst! 
If the haveli wasn't as beautiful as it were we would have moved out. The food is seriously so bad! 

OK I am off to read for a bit now and plan my day tomorrow! 

Will be back with more from my Jaipur adventures. 

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Monday Moods: For the Love of Yellow!

My daily journal full of kooky cats and of course a pastel dreamy shade of yellow! 


For some reason, rather unknown to me, I've decided that my colour for 2018 is yellow. It has always been a colour that I find myself being drawn to. Bright, bold and happy. How can yellow with it's cheery vibes not make you happy? 
And since being slightly obsessed with yellow I find myself being flooded with yellow.

Pom-Poms on my bag.
The tote is from iTokri and the pom-poms are from another bag of mine. 

Yellow with red applique and mirror work.
Kurta from Okhai.
Buddhist inscription pendant from Darjeeling.

A yellow Llama and a yellow tassel on a pouch.

Fields of mustard.

My calendar for 2018 from Bhuli Arts. 

My current read!

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Book Haul + Review: Karadi Tales- Fly Little Fish + One Dark Cloud.

The folks at Karadi Tales, a children's publishing house based in Chennai sent me these books in the mail to read and review. 

My first imprecision was being completely blown away by the art in these pages! 
Every single page in these books is beautiful. 
Art and illustration and colour. 
These books are a serious visual treat. 

I read both these books the very day I got them! 
In one sitting, one after the other. 
It made me so happy. I can only imagine how much kids will love it! 

Plot SummaryWhat Little Fish wants to do more than anything else in the world is fly. Not discouraged by those around her, she flaps her tiny fins and practises jumping. But can Little Fish ever expect to take flight?
Age Group: 4 – 6 
Author: Lavanya Karthik 
Illustrator: Satwik Gade, Ashwathy P.S. 
Pages: 36
Read On: Hardcover
Review: This was such a delightful book with a good message- one of believing in yourself and trying hard to achieve your dreams. A message deeply important to children and grown-ups too. The art was simply stunning. The use of colour and illustration makes it a complete visual treat. Seriously, every single page was a work of art. I wanted to stare at the images and possibly frame them! 
This is a great book for the little people in your lives. Great to read it to them and flip through with them or even for a kid to read on their own. 
I loved this book so much. It's perfect for those of you who want to buy and read books to your children/nephews/nieces with a decided Indian touch. 
Rating: 5/5 

Book: One Dark Cloud 
Plot Summary : Author Shobha Viswanath brings you a book that introduces children to numbers using memorable elements from the Indian monsoon.Brilliant paper collage illustrations by artists Ashwathy P.S. and Anusha Sundar bring to life this simple counting book for a rainy day.
Age Group: 2 and up 
Author: Shobha Viswanath   
Illustrator: Ashwathy P.S. , Anusha Sundar  
No.of pages: 32  
Read On: Paperback
Review: A counting book that uses all the elements of a rainy day! How utterly charming! Each page has a different element of a rainy day- raincoats, umbrellas, clouds and even samosas! Ah! You can almost smell the rain. A perfect book for a rainy day with a toddler. The art in this book is a great mix between photography and illustration. Once again a great book full of desi things. I mean if this doesn't making counting fun I don't know what will?! 
Rating: 5/5 

Both these picture books were so much fun and I highly recommend them to anyone looking for high quality Indian picture books! 
Thank-you Karadi Tales for sending these my way. 

Friday, 16 February 2018

Book Review: Prankenstein Edited by Jerry Pinto and Ruskin Bond.

Book: Prankenstein 

The gorgeous illusions in the book were delightful! 

Book: Prankenstein

Edited By: Ruskin Bond and Jerry Pinto

Illustrations: Lavanya Naidu

Pages: 121

Publisher: Talking Cub

Read On: Hardback Edition

How Long it Took Me To Read: 3 hours

Plot Summary: Is your school a hotspot for jokes? Do your family members regularly fall victim to pranks? Do ghosts and spooks get you into trouble? Find every kind of funny, crazy, impossible mischief in this book. Here you will find the girl who turned into a sloth just for her mother, the horse who went to the library and ate up some classics, the substitute teacher who saw dead people, the play where everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and many more amazing tales of pranks and troublemaking!
Selected by Ruskin Bond and Jerry Pinto, these stories have been written by some of the best children’s writers of the country, including Sukumar Ray, R.K. Narayan, Ranjit Lal, Subhadra Sen Gupta, Paro Anand, Bulbul Sharma and many more. As an added bonus, watch out for brand new stories by Ruskin Bond and Jerry Pinto, too. Prankenstein is a delicious treasure trove of trouble and will have every mischief-maker plotting that perfect prank!

General Thoughts: This book was sent to me by the publishers but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Things I Liked: 

1. An anthology dedicated to mischief! What's not to love?! An ode to childhood and it's innocent pranks and mischief. A throw back to simpler times and nostalgia.

2. This collection of stories contains stories from various authors. Some I had read before- Ruskin Bond, Jerry Pinto, Sukumar Ray and R.K. Narayan and some that were entirely new to me. A good way to sample new works and new writers.

3. For the Ruskin Bond fans, worry not. Not only does he edit this compilation, there are also a couple of stories by him.

4. The book is sectioned off in portions, mischiefs in School, Relatives and even Ghosts! So you could go a section that appeals to you the most and jump between sections.

5. This is a children's book and it works wonderfully for younger readers, obviously. I think the best part is that it takes today's children to a time before technology and how kids in the past entertained themselves. I also think it brings the stories of their parent's childhood come alive. And maybe even give kids today an idea on how to manage some mischief of their very own! :)

6. Even though it's a book meant for kids, the book is thoroughly enjoyable for grown-ups as well. A mark of a very good children's book in my opinion. This book and it's stories will take you back to your childhood and maybe some shenanigans you and your friends got up to. It is hugely relatable.

7. The illustrations are lovely! In fact, one of the stories in told in graphic novel style, quite lovely.

8. I read this book on a day that was less than stellar and it just lifted my mood. It was so funny and soothing and I had the best time reading this book!

Rating: 4/5

A fun read for people of all ages!