Friday, 31 August 2018

Vignettes/// Shades of Purple.





Hello! 

Purple is one of my favourite colours in the world. Pink and Purple was my colour palette of my teenage years.
Now my wardrobe is made up of all kinds of colours but still I can seldom turn away from  purple. 

I am so in love with my Lil Sister Backpack from The Burlap People. The perfect shade of Lavender.  

Details///

Kurta Set- Sasa Jaipur 
Bag- The Burlap People 
Pins- Ali Express 
Silver Bracelets- Amber, Colaba 

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Book Haul: Books of August 2018, Indian Books in August Edition.

Hello! 

Since I've been reading only Indian Books all of August, this reading theme seems to have spilled into my book buying as well. So all of the books I've bought in August are all in the same vein. And I am very happy about it. :) 
Here some gorgeous books I've bought this month and some of them I've already read and even reviewed. 
:) 
I've also been doing mini-Book Hauls on my Instagram Stories and been loving it. But I couldn't not do a haul on here. 
:) 

Let's see what I've added to my shelves lately! 




















 
BOOKS BOUGHT//// 

1. The Ammuchi Puchi by Sharanya Manivannan 
2. Pashmina by Nidhi Chainani 
3. Getting Granny's Glasses by Ruskin Bond 
4. The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani 
5. Sultan of Delhi by Arnab Ray
6. Murder at the Happy Home for The Aged by Bulbul Sharma 
7. Obsessed by Ruchi Kokcha
8. Hush A Bye Baby by Neelanjana Pal 
9. Savitri's Special Room by Manu Bhattathri 
10. Night of Happiness by Tabish Khair 
11. Swear You Won't Tell by Vedashree Khambete-Sharma 
12. The Windfall by Diksha Basu 
13. Remnants of a Separation by Aanchal Malhotra 

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Book Review: Swear You Won't Tell? by Vedashree Khambete-Sharma







Book: Swear You Won't Tell? 

Author: Vedashree Khambete-Sharma 

Pages: 244

Read: Paperback edition 

Read in: 3-4 hours 

Plot Summary: Dead body, check. Disillusioned reporter, check. Dark and sinister secrets, check. 

When Mumbai Daily journalist Avantika Pandit is asked to interview her childhood nemesis Aisha Juneja, she knows it will be like an express bikini wax - painful, but quick. 

Then Laxmi, her former best friend, shows up dead. And suddenly Avantika finds herself turning into the reporter she used to be - a nosy little newshound with the self-preservation instincts of a dodo. 

Now, she has to meet old acquaintances she'd hoped never to run into again, try to unravel the puzzle of Laxmi's death, and ask the questions nobody seems to be asking - who is the man Laxmi was in love with? Why hasn't anybody heard of him? What does he have to do with her death? 

The answers could get her killed. But if the choice is between death and writing listicles, dying might not be that bad after all. Featuring schoolyard rivalries, the Backstreet Boys and a fat dollop of 90s nostalgia, Swear You Won't Tell? is part thriller, part whodunit, all fun.

Things I Liked: 
  1. This is a very charming-ly written book. The author's voice is very tongue-in-cheek and her protagonist's self-deprecating sense really shines through. So, that was a plus. 
  2. Avantika Pandit is a fairly likeable character. She is disillusioned with her job as a journalist writing random features and listicles and she can't wait to cover some meaningful stories. She is also a very lonely sort of a character- didn't have too many friends in school and she doesn't have too many friends now, which is why when she is asked to go interview a famous bag designer, who happened to be her high school nemesis, she was reluctant for multiple reasons. 
  3. The mystery itself- the death by drowning of Laxmi, Avantika's childhood ex-best friend- starts off in an interesting manner. There is a hint of a mysterious boyfriend, who her parents disapproved of because of which, she supposedly left home never to return. The same boyfriend that none of her friends knew about. Plus, there is someone who doesn't want Avantika meddling around in Laxmi's death. 
  4. There is a lot of 90s nostalgia in this book, which is quite, quite lovely! Those of us, who went to all-girls convent schools can, especially, relate to a lot of Avantika's school-related shenanigans! 90s were truly the best! 
  5. I also liked how Avantika's school flashbacks are meshed together with present-day events. The author pulls up the relevant flashbacks to fit with Avantika's life today or a brainwave or just her remembering something from the past suddenly. 
  6. There is also a semi-decent twist at the end, which is not bad, but is sort of easy to guess. 

Things I Didn't Like: 
  • Long time readers of this little blog know that we like our crime/ murder mystery and thrillers on this blog. So, it is very, very annoying if basic things like police procedure and such like are not researched at all by the author and are grossly misrepresented!
  • *SPOILERS* So, Laxmi's body is found washed up on Mahim beach and brought to some government hospital for a post mortem and identification, where another school friend recognises said body and calls the nemesis person, who then identifies Laxmi and informs her parents. *END SPOILERS* 
  • Now, here is where my problem is- where are the cops in all of this?! The moment a body washes ashore, the cops are called to the scene. If the body has identification, the cops call the deceased's next of kin. Then, the post mortem is done and the report goes to the cops. The post mortem is done by designated doctors and not an Ob-Gyn just because she happens to be the dead body's best friend! 
  • I really wish the author had done her basic homework! Even if the death due to drowning was accidental or a suicide, the police case is not closed till the investigation is complete. According to this book, the police were not involved at all! I get it that you don't want to write another parallel investigative track and create new characters, but this is just sheer laziness! 
  • Avantika is the only one investigating this "case" and she doesn't even manage to fully crack it apart from making one very educated guess! 
  • The author should've stuck to writing this book as a slice-of-life/ "chick lit" type of book and not made it into a crime thriller/ murder mystery! 

Rating: 2/5 

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Book Review: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena





Book: An Unwanted Guest 

Author: Shari Lapena 

Pages: 304

Read on: Kindle

Read in: 3 hours 

Plot Summary: We can’t choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance. 

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.
With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in – or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run. 
Until we find ourselves in a situation we can’t escape. Trapped.

Things I Liked:
  1. The premise of this book is very interesting and sort of nightmare-inducing! Imagine this- you and your friend (much like Gwen and Riley) decide to take off for a girls' weekend to a remote mountain inn. On getting there, on the very first morning, one of the guests ends up dead. Then, a few hours later, another one ends up dead. And now, you and the others are trapped in this remote mountain inn while a snowstorm rages outside. Good, right? Of course, "good" in terms of a book's premise. From a story point of view, not as a real-life-this-could-happen-to-you type of a thing.
  2. This is a very atmospheric book! I was pulled into the whole ambience of the book- the dark corridors of the old hotel as the power went off, the howling winds and snowstorm outside, using cellphone torches to look around, expecting a deranged serial killer jump out of the shadows! Basically, the author has done a fabulous job of brining the world around these hotel guests to life. You get pulled into their environment and begin to feel a bit of their paranoia. 
  3. The mix of characters at the inn is quite interesting. First, there is Gwen and, her suffering-from-PTSD friend, Riley. An old, married couple- Beverly and Henry- whose marriage is falling apart. Ian and Lauren- somewhat new-ish in a relationship and this is, possibly, their first weekend getaway. David Paley, a criminal defence attorney with a mysterious past. Matthew- an heir to a big New York fortune- and his glamorous fiancĂ©e-Dana. Candice- a bitter writer struggling to get some writing done. James- the owner of the hotel- and his twenty something son, Bradley. Each of these people has their own secrets and issues and all of this becomes so much more heightened as bodies begin to drop. 
  4. The book is very fast-paced and, because events occur during the course of one night, it is pretty unputdownable as well! 

Things I Didn't Like:
  1. Now, while in a mystery/ thriller book, it is nice not to be able to easily guess who the killer is. However, the perfect mystery book is one where the author drops enough breadcrumbs for you to guess who the killer could be. In this book, there were no breadcrumbs. Except maybe one small, tiny one. But, this is not a big issue, if you like being surprised by who the killer is! 

Rating: 4/5 
Read this book on a rainy day and I am sure you will enjoy it! 

Friday, 24 August 2018

Book Review: The Ammuchi Puchi by Sharanya Manivannan and Nerina Canzi



Book: The Ammuchi Puchi

Author: Sharanya Manivannan

Illustrator: Nerina Canzi

Pages: 32

Publisher: Puffin

Read On: Paperback

How Long it Took Me To Read: Half an Hour

Plot Summary: Aditya and Anjali love listening to their grandmother's stories, particularly the scary one about the ghost in the tree. But the night their grandmother passes away, all her stories seem to lose their meaning.
Then something happens that is more mysterious and magical than any story. Could their grandmother still be with them after all?
Stunningly illustrated and told in gorgeous, poetic prose, this is a poignant and moving story about bereavement and healing.

Review: I am partial to books about Grandmothers.So any book, in any genre about a Grandmother invariably gets added to my bookshelves. This one was on my radar for precisely this reason and the art looked stunning.

Grandmothers are the best! I loved my Thamma something special and still feel lovely when people say I remind people of her. I am often told I am curious mix between both my grandmas. Like my Dida (mother's mum) I am obsessed with socks and love fizzy drinks and mall crawling. My Dida spend over 30 years living and working in London and her favourite thing to do on payday was hit the shops and buy little treats for everyone and herself.

And like my Thamma (dad's mum) I love dressing up, stories and story telling.

Both my grandmothers are no longer here. And I miss having the joy of having a grandmother. I was 20 when my Thamma passed away and 25 when Dida did. And even though I was a full blown adult it was hard dealing with their loss. Even now, years later, it takes me by surprise how much I miss them in waves. I'll see something or find something and think of my Thamma. It took me years and years to talk about her without tearing up. I barely manage to do so now. This loss and this grief will stay with me forever.

So, I can only image what it does to child to lose someone who helps raise them. I don't know how their minds and heart handle the grief. But it is something we al have to deal with. And a book like this that deals with the aftermath of a loss is so important and critical to those dealing with bereavement. Talking to children about death must be hard and tricky. So a book like this makes it a little easy and let's a child learn about death and loss and see how other kids grieve. And there is hope and love and that grief is a part of life. I really loved that this book adresses death in such a honest yet subtle way.

The art in this book is adorable and stunning. Each page has some absolutely gorgeous artwork and it was a visual treat to read it.

See some of the pages below...





Another thing I loved about this book was how the Ammuchi was not quite your average grandmother. She loved scaring her grand kids and was so spunky and unique. She is truly a memorable character and is so well crafted even in a short book like this one.

Rating: 4/5

A brilliant little book that I cannot recommend enough. It was so good! And it's important and can be a great tool in talking about death and loss to kids.


Thursday, 23 August 2018

Book Review: Bijnis woman by Tanuja Chandra.



Book: Bijnis Woman 

Author: Tanuja Chandra 

Publisher: Penguin 

Pages: 141 

Read On: Paperback 

How Long it took me To Read: 2 days 

Plot Summary: A masaledaar mix of fact and fiction, action and emotion, drama and passion—these strange, funny, intriguing tales from small-town Uttar Pradesh have been passed orally from one generation to the next. They are likely to make one exclaim, ‘This couldn’t have happened!’ even as the narrators swear they are nothing but pure fact. 
The bizarre chronicle of a lazy daughter-in-law, the court clerk who loved eating chaat, two cousins inseparable even in death, a blind teacher who fell in love with a woman with beautiful eyes and other wild tales from Bareilly, Lucknow, Hapur, Badaun, Sapnawat and Pilibhit, places big and small, in that fascinating part of India called Uttar Pradesh.

General Thoughts: Short stories always have me interested. And add UP and it's many shades to it and I am sold!  

Review: UP is often in the News for all sorts of horrible things. In general, especially amongst those not living in UP, the place is a mystery and often thought about in not so flattering ways. I don't blame them, it's sometimes easy to judge a place based on headlines and by the actions of some of it's people. It's easy but not right. UP is so much more than it's sordid politics, it's crime rates and seemingly wildness. 

I consider myself 1/4th UP-ite. My Dadu, my mother's father and his entire family is from Benares. Bengali but born and raised in Benares. So I've always felt this unknown love for UP. I also spent five years living in Lucknow and got to experience the many wonderful things and food and sights of living in UP. So a short story collection set in UP was very high on interest radar. 

This collection is a delightful bunch of stories set in the heartland of UP. Stories about regular and not so regular folks.

If like me, you have a connection with UP or you are from UP this is a book that will bring back memories and push you into whirl of nostalgia. If you no connection to the place and it's people, it's still a collection of memorable and enjoyable stories.

In any collection of short stories there are often a few stories that aren't as good as the rest, thats normal and happens all the time. So to find a collection where every single story was in the same range of good. In this book I honestly didn't not like any story. I liked all of these stories. This is a rare, rare book!

The range in these stories is pretty incredible. Some about regular people living their lives, friendships,  some are love stories and others have a touch of magical realism. There is a little something for everyone.

I love how atmospheric this book is, the places, the homes and the minds of these people all come alive and it feels like you've been sucked into this time and place.

This was such an enjoyable read and made me really homesick for UP and reminded me so much of stories one heard in UP.

Rating: 4/5 

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Vignettes/// Bookshop Hangs + OOTD.


Hello! 

Today's post is a happy one. 
Is there anything better than hanging out in a bookshop. 
:)
I think not. 
A nice quiet bookshop, rows and rows of books and leaving with a handful of books. 
My recipe for a perfect day. 

These pictures were taken at Wayword and Wise by my sister a few months ago. I was too busy staring at the bookshelves and trying to control my impulse to go all out and buy a shit to of books- you know usual bookworm problems! 



My sister's ring resting on a bookshelf. 
Ring from Silver Palace, Colaba. 


Me thinking, "How many books can I take with me?" 


Sister buying books for a friend's kiddo. 


Decisions, decisions, decisions! 


This is actually a perfect bag to take book shopping. You can wear it crossbody and so it's out of your way while you are browsing to your heart's content. 
I did have a tote to hold some stuff that didn't fit in this tiny bag. 

Hope you guys are having a good day off. 
Happy Eid to everyone celebrating it. 
I plan on making some kheer to celebrate. 
:) 


Monday, 20 August 2018

Book Review: The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani


Book: The Night Diary

Author: Veera Hiranandani

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Pages: 272

Read On: Paperback Edition

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Plot Summary: It's 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.

Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn't know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it's too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can't imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.

Told through Nisha's letters to her mother, The Night Diary is a heartfelt story of one girl's search for home, for her own identity...and for a hopeful future.

General Thoughts: I was sent this book by the kind folks over at Penguin India in exchange for an honest review. So all the thoughts and my review that follows is entirely my own and is 100% honest as always. :)



Things I Liked: 

1. Reading about the partition can be hard and heart breaking. And incredibly poignant especially given that I read this around Independence Day. It was honestly a perfect read to mark and honour our anniversary of Independence from the British Rule. Independence was of course a good thing. A great thing, to be masters of our fate- is there anything better than that? I think not and all the blood, sweat and hardship that went into our freedom is not mean feat. I am eternally grateful for all the sacrifices men, women and even children made for us to have our freedom. But it's equally important to remember that our freedom came at a massive cost. Partition ripped our nation into two and cost millions of lives. It leaves a palpable scar even today, 71 years after the fact. So books like these that chronicle that time and document the lives of those affected by it are very important to read.

2. I personally love books told via letter and diary entries. So this book was total treat to read. Since it combines a little bit of both. The book is told in a diary but it's letter our protagonist Nisha writes to her dead mother. So it has the honestly and unfiltered thoughts and feelings of a 12 year old girl grappling with so many huge changes in her life but also has the dated and chronology that a diary demands. All good things.

3. The author has done a great job with Nisha's character. She leaps off the pages as a real, living, breathing person. We get to know her so well and it was a delight to see her world- as turbulent as it was- through her eyes.

4. This book is aimed at young readers and it is a great way for them to see the first hand experience of something they read about in history books. I know I would have loved having this book when I was first learning about our freedom struggle and subsequent independence and partition. It would have added an human dimension to my history textbooks. So if you have a kid who is learning about these things in history, I highly recommend you get this book for them.

5. Even though this a young adult book it works just as well as a grown up. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

6. So many books about partition paint a picture of things going insane in an instant. Which is a little silly given we know how things went down in most places. This book gets it right, the simmering discontent right. You can feel the unease this family must have felt, the fear and the unknown future ahead of them.

7. The journey from their old home (now in the newly formed Pakistan) to India is harrowing and really made me feel like I was there with them. The author has completely nailed it.

8. I also really liked this family. They aren' perfect, far from it. They are fairly dysfunctional and yet it made for compelling reading. So many novels about the partition show these huge incredibly happy families as if only happy families were wrecked by the devastation of partition. It's almost a means of showing a clear before and after, you know what I mean? Like huge happy family before and then sad and traumatised family after. Like the tragedy is any less if it's just a family of three or four.

9. The book also pretty great secondary characters too, some of my favourites were:

Amal, Nisha's twin brother, who is grappling with a lot of issues separate from the state of affairs of the time. Bullying. Being not a stereotypical boy. A learning disability which would sadly probably go entirely undiagnosed in the 1940s. I really liked Amal and wished him well.

Kazi their longtime and loyal servant, who was just a sweet heart and I really loved reading about him and Nisha cooking meals together.

The slightly standoffish and, in so many ways, a stereotypical father.

10. The book also gives us snippets about Nisha's parents lives and how they had a inter-religious love marriage in the 1940s and how it affected their families. I liked getting this story as a bonus to everything else that was going on in the book. I especially liked getting to hear about Nisha's mother.

Rating: 4/5


Sunday, 19 August 2018

Stationery Sunday: Passport Sized Traveler's Notebook

  
Greetings and salutations! 

I wanted to quickly share the set-up of my (this is Debs- Pooja's sister) teeny-tiny Passport sized Traveler's Notebook from Ali Express. 

Ali Express also has some quality handmade leather, faux leather and fabric traveler's notebooks for those of you who are interested. 

This burgundy passport sized TN is from the IPBEN Store on Ali Express. 




I used the passport sized TNs to capture my day-to-day highlights in a bullet-journal form. I also use a monthly calendar to capture the one thing in my day that I am grateful for, so, it also sort of a gratitude journal. 






Here is a nice shot of the TN with all its different colour tones! Isn't it pretty?! 





A quick peek at my zipper wallet insert, which has some of my most-loved, most-used stickers. This insert is from the Traveler's Company/ Midori and I find it super useful to carry around washi samples and sticker flakes. 




Here is a view of the inside of the TN. It has three vertical pockets on the left-hand side, which are perfect for slotting in cards or washi samples. 


Overall, this is a very well-made little TN and I love that it comes with pockets and a pen loop, which makes it very handy for on-the-go journaling. 

Have a great Sunday, peeps! 

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Book Review: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan




Book: Crazy Rich Asians

Author: Kevin Kwan 

Pages: 546

Read on: Kindle  

Read in: 5-6 hours 

Plot Summary: When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. 

But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country's most eligible bachelor. 

On Nick's arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.


Review:

The Crazy Rich Asians movie released in the US last weekend. Even before its release, the movie generated a lot of buzz for being the first all-Asian cast in a movie since The Joy Luck Club. 

So, even though I had heard of this trilogy for a while, I, finally, bit the bullet and ordered the first of the series to read and see what the fuss was all about! 

So, anyway, at 546 pages, the book is a long-long-long one with pages and pages dedicated to brands of couture, jewellery, luxury cars, yachts and private planes. We get it- the book is about crazy rich Asians! But did it have to have pages and pages about who wore what and vivid descriptions of high-end designer dresses, homes, cutlery and so on! It got tedious after a while! Also, somewhere in an attempt to establish just how rich everyone is, the author lost sight of developing his vast array of characters and giving them a little more soul! 

I liked and related to Rachel Chu- she is our lens into the crazy world of some of Singapore's richest people. Rachel has a PhD and teaches Economics at NYU but none of these qualifications matter to Singapore's swish set, who see her as nothing but an ABC (American-born Chinese) gold digger. 

I also liked Astrid, Nick's first cousin, who is the 'it' girl of the swish set and she is rather unfazed by how everyone sees her and watches her every move. I enjoyed Astrid's track in the book a lot more than I did Nick and Rachel's because her marriage and the situation that she found herself in is much more realistic, complicated and relatable. 

Also, since Nick has not told Rachel anything about his richer-than-God family or how he is one of the most eligible bachelors in Singapore, she, basically, reaches Singapore completely unprepared in every which way. Now this is completely shitty! 

I found Nick to be super annoying and selfish. Like a typical entitled rich boy, he didn't bother to fully disclose his situation and the social and familial pressure that surrounds him when it comes to choosing a life partner. Nick blithely breezes through life being moronically unaware of his mother and grandmother's aspirations when it comes to his wedding. It takes his best friend- Colin- and Astrid to open Nick's eyes to the potential issues that Rachel must be dealing with due to him not preparing her. 

Nick rationalises to himself that since his plush lifestyle was his "normal", there was no special need to prepare Rachel for anything, but, of course, he is wrong! Rachel has no clue what to expect from Nick's family and his snobbish mom, who has already written her off! 

Another thing that I found annoying is that so much of Rachel's first week is spent by her being vaguely told by the people around Nick about how rich he is and what a catch he is, but never directly. All of this is inspite of Nick's family's businesses and wealth being very secretive, so much so that one of Rachel's friend's from college, whose father is a wealthy property tycoon in Singapore has never heard of the 'Young' family. 

Now, I can imagine that there are several discreet wealthy people all over the world, but this family is supposed to be super-duper rich with its fingers in multiple pies and so, no one outside of a very select, small circle of people knowing about them and their wealth just sounds ridiculous! 

The book does have its moments, but overall, I found it quite tedious and annoying. There is no sense of culture shock that Rachel faces, she is just mostly awed by how much money everyone has because that's what the writer focuses on- big house, big garden, extravagant meals, expensive clothes, jewellery, shoes, homes and so on! Like I said, this is a long, tedious book! 

Maybe I hated it so much because I am not a fan of rabid name dropping, even if it is of designers and pretty things. We get it that these people are super-rich. Can we move on to some real drama?! 

I'd rather the author focused more on building up some of the characters with deeper motivations, insecurities, drivers etc. instead of casting them as rabid caricatures and stereotypes of rich, vicious aunties and social climbers. 

This is a book meant for Americans or, basically, Westerners. To educate them that Asia has its fair share of richer-than-King Solomon kind of families too. It is almost like a look-at-us-we-are-not-about-starving-children any more! So, perhaps that's why the book was such a success in the US market? It was, perhaps, super surprising to the Americans that Singapore and China have such rich people that they can buy out all of Chanel in an hour of casual shopping! 

But to me, a girl born and raised in South-East Asia, this is no new news! Of course, every Asian country has its own share of super rich people! Also, we don't have anything to prove to the "first world". There are various kinds of wealth (cultural, material etc.) and Asia (all of it) has had no shortage of it for more than 6000 years! 

Perhaps the author's heart is in the right place, but, this book with its nauseating display of wealth really rubbed me the wrong way. *shrugs* 

I hope, just this once, that the movie is better than the book! 

Rating: 2.5/5

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Happy Independence Day! + The First Indian Books my Sister and I Read and Loved.


Happy Independence Day, fellow Indians! 
71 Years of Freedom after centuries of oppression and tyranny. 
I can't thank the hundreds and thousands of people who gave their life to attain us our freedom. No amount of gratitude will ever be enough. 

I love India- it's people. It's culture. It's 5000 plus years of history and heritage. There is so much to see and experience and do in this country of ours. 

&

The literature that comes from India is one of my biggest loves. 
We have books and stories coming from each and every corner of our country. Stories written in our mother tongues and in English- our medium of education. And in both cases the stories and characters and worlds built are rich in texture and nuanced and some of the best literature the world has ever seen. 

Today I want to talk about the very first Indian books I read and the books that made me fall irrevocably in love with Indian Writing.
My sister was the person who shaped my love for books and I read a lot books she read and recommended. So today, apart from me talking about the books from India I loved first, she will talk a little bit about her finding her way to Indian Literature.

But first me!
:)

Most of the first books I was exposed to as a teenager were written in English, it was only later that I discovered the wonder that is translated books and I mostly delved into Bengali Literature, given it was my mother tongue and I had spent years hearing my family wax eloquently about the Bengali classics. As I became a more seasoned reader, I sought out books from all corners of the country. To learn more and to read more. And it's been one of my absolute favourite things to read about. 

My first exposure to Indian Books was when I was around 13 or 14 year old and it was thanks to my sister and her own love for the written word. My sister was in college in LSR, and was beginning to build her own personal library, something we've been adding to ever since. My sister read a lot of incredible books in college and since I was such a me too, I read what she read, even if some of it was beyond my years. Precocious much? :) 

This is when I discovered the wonderful world of Jhumpa Lahiri, Amitav Ghosh, Shashi Tharoor and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and I was smitten silly. I was in awe of these stories and the writing chops of these incredible writers. They remain to this day some of my all time favourite writers. 

So here are some of my first and some of my favourite Indian Books! 


1. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri: Ah! What can I say about the book that made me fall madly in love with Indian writing and the book I still love so much?! It is one of my favourite books of all time and it is one that I recommend all the time. I remember reading it when it first came out and being stunned by the writing and hoping and praying that some day I'd write something remotely close to this. 


2. The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh: If I had to describe this book in one it would be exquisite! It really is a sublime work of art, aren't all of Amitav Ghosh's books exquisite? He writes about a place and time that most people don't quite think about. He talks about World War II but instead of the fighting fields in Europe, he will take you to Mandalay. He talks of families and love but he does so in his own unique often unsentimental way. His work is infused with history, impeccable research, irony, humour and just characters that linger long after you've turned the last page.

I am not sure which of his books I read first, it was either The Glass Palace or The Hungry Tide. I read them both soon after the other because I couldn't have enough.
Everyone recommends you start with The Shadow Lines but I started with these two books and read Shadow Lines much later. His work in incredible and I honestly cannot recommend him enough.


3. Riot by Shashi Tharoor: I read Riot well into my teens and I loved it. I really, really should be re-reading because I remember very little of the actual plot. I do remember being stunned by the prose and the backdrop of a riot in a small town being used as a means to tell a love story and to see a town simmering with communal tension. I have since read a few Tharoor books, pretty much all of his fiction and I am a fan.


4. Sister of my Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: I read this book and was hooked and in love with the writing. So much of the world CBD writes about feel familiar to me. I guess because pretty much all of her books deal with Bengali families. I read this book in pretty much one sitting and I have re-read it a few times since. I love CBD's books, her older books are the best. Sister of my Heart, it's sequel The Vine of Desire and Arranged Marriage- a collection of short stories are some of my all time favourites. I also really enjoyed Before We Visit The Goddess- her latest book, which came out last year.
I think after years of reading only Western, mostly British literature, it was wonderful to read about my people and homes that mirrored mine.



5. Lifting the Veil by Ismat Chungtai: This has got to my first introduction to feminist Indian writing. She wrote of things considered quite scandalous for her time. I read this book when I was very young and TBH I think I was way to young to be reading some of her stories. But I loved them. I loved her voice and her observations about people and the things they did and thought. I especially loved how she wrote women. I haven't read anything for her in far too long and I really need to change that.


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Oh hello, hello! This is Pooja's sister. You can call me Debs and I am here to share some of my early journey into reading Indian Writing.

I have been a voracious reader from a very young age. I started reading Enid Blyton books when I was six years old, right after I had won one of her books as a prize in school, and moving on very rapidly to the classics. I had read Little Women, Pride & Prejudice, Wuthering Heights and several Sherlock Holmes books before I turned 11.

By the time I got to college, I was almost exclusively reading English books written by western authors. It was in college that I noticed several books written in English by Indian authors and, I am ashamed to admit, promptly turned my nose up at those titles convinced that they were going to be less than stellar!

It was in the middle of my first year in college, during a particularly acute reading rut, that one of my seniors gave me her copy of Anurag Mathur's Inscrutable Americans. I took it skeptically and started reading it with a semi-open mind. By the time I finished the first chapter, I had laughed out loud several times and I was hooked!



Some of my earliest forays into Indian Writing involved Shashi Throor's The Great Indian Novel, which is AMAZING! It is insightful, well written and utterly hilarious! One of the best works of satire that I have ever read! I rapidly devoured his other books and enjoyed The Five Dollar Smile and also, to some extent, Showbusiness. 


After that, I discovered and fell in love with the brilliant writing of Amitav Ghosh. I did read Shadow Lines first and then Calcutta Chromosome and then all his other books. He is just so, so, so brilliant!



One of the best, most wonderful ways in which I got to read a lot of translated regional Indian writing was through the Katha Prize Stories series of books. Katha used to publish an annual collection of prize winning regional short stories translated into English in these nifty volumes. It was through these volumes (I remember binge reading volumes 1 to 7 over a two week period!) that I got exposed to so many wonderful regional authors from every corner of our country! Seriously, if you can get your hands on these books, buy them!


Once I got hooked to Indian Writing, I read several Indian authors back in college and, of course, over the years. Some of my favourites include Jhumpa Lahiri (all her books!), Vikram Chandra (Red Earth and Pouring Rain, Love and Longing in Bombay), Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (almost all of her books! So good!), Salman Rushdie, Anita Desai, Upmanyu Chatterjee, Vikram Seth, Rohinton Mistry and so many, many more!

Quality Indian Writing in English is a thing! Don't let our recent "bestseller" lists fool you! Even better, read some of our regional authors- in regional languages- or their translated works. Ismat Chugtai and Manto's translated stories are some of the first books I bought once I started working!

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Indians.

We have so much to be proud of and so much more to achieve!