Monthly Archives: January 2013

What I’ve been reading

Ever since I went all spiritual and zen and stuff a couple of years ago, I haven’t managed to read sufficient fiction. I have been devouring novels that fall under ‘self-help’-a rather pitying label, if you ask me. So I’m gonna say I was reading a lot of NON-FICTION. After I figured out who will cry when I die, and how to get from where I am to where I want to be, I am back to good old fiction. With plots, and characters, and conflict.

Here is a recap on some of the fiction novels I’ve recently read.

The Good:

mumbaistan

Mumbaistan by Piyush Jha:

Three novellas come together to form Mumbaistan, each involving plenty of twists and turns that keep you hooked to the plot. The first novella, Bomb Day, sees a prostitute, her lover, and a policeman, playing a deadly game with each other. The stakes are high and nothing is as it seems. In Injectionwala, we are introduced to the malpractices that go on behind the curtain. A policeman chases a vigilante on a killing spree. In Coma Man, a man wakes up from coma after two decades, and sets out in pursuit of his wife-and himself. Mumbai is a character in itself, a sort of catalyst. Fast paced and action packed, this was one book I did not want to be disturbed reading! Jha keeps it crisp and pulls you right in.

Palace of Illusions

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni:

Has become one of my all-time favourites. This book is Mahabharata as seen, felt and narrated by Draupadi.. or Panchaali as she liked to be addressed. It doesn’t matter if your grandparents have told you stories from the Mahabharat countless times before. This book will change your perspective completely. Besides, how much would you know about Panchaali anyway? Her character and life is so flat and uni-dimensional in the traditional narration of Mahabharat that you are sure there must be more to her. And there is. A lot, lot more. Her character arc is by far the most superior I have ever read. You will see the main players in the epic mythological tale also differently. Complex, layered and excellently told. Highly recommended.

A word of caution: Reading through the first few chapters, you might find the pace a little tedious, but it’s important to know where Panchaali is coming from, and also, the pace picks up like nobody’s business once she’s married off to Arjun.

The Bad:

Inheritance of Loss

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai:

As you may or may not know, I like reading fiction by Indian authors. I was, thus, mighty excited to read this 2006 Man Booker winner. Was I disappointed or what. The novel seriously drags. I found it difficult to finish it. Nothing really ‘happens’ during the first 200 pages or so. I didn’t care much for the few main characters either. You don’t fully understand their actions or thought process. It just didn’t sustain my interest. Maybe I am missing something, but I just can’t fathom HOW this book can win the Man Booker.

Winner-Stands-Alone,-The---Paulo-Coelho-925104426-1264887-1

The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho:

This book is just one long (375 pages long) rant about the rich and famous of Hollywood.. who, without exception, lead unsatisfied, miserable, materialistic lives full of greed and worry. That is how Coelho portrays makes it seem. I think he should stick to fables and magical tales to get his point across. As a fiction novel, The Winner Stands Alone falls flat on it face. I used to be a big fan of Coelho and his teachings, but this book was really disastrous. Big disappointment.

The Okay:

The Wednesday Soul

The Wednesday Soul by Sorabh Pant:

I felt very good about myself buying this book because I’m all for supporting Indian stand up comedians and when one of them writes a book, of course you have to buy it. I began reading The Wednesday Soul on a bus journey to a neighbouring city, which was perfect because this is the kind of novel you need to read while travelling. The novel follows Nyra Dubey’s journey into afterlife, where all sorts of crazy unimaginable things happen. Involves dog-men, Eledactyls (Elephant-Pterodactyl), guards who go rogue and a final war in space. Overall, the book is rather okay. Fun at times and ‘trying too hard’ at times.

Have you read any of these books? Would love to know your thoughts on them.

Book recommendations are also welcome.

Manali

Psst.. In the past, I have written about books here and here.

Restaurant Review: Faaso’s, Mumbai

‘OPEN BOX WITH CAUTION

No specific reason though.’

A yellow box containing Paneer on Biryani had arrived from Faaso’s. But first, let me take you back a bit. We have a ritual in our department to order in lunch every Saturday. Last Saturday, scouting the web for possible restaurant delivery options did not take me far. On a completely related note, Prabhadevi (in Mumbai) lacks serious food options. Potential restaurateurs,  please consider Prabhadevi – it attracts so many office-going crowd. If things don’t change around here (by which I mean if eateries don’t spring up, threatening to occupy all corners of Prabhadevi), I swear I will set up a food stall which will cater exclusively to me and my cravings.

Back to Faaso’s. It’s a fast food chain in Mumbai and Pune that specialises on delivery. Their tagline is ‘Wraps on the run’ and outlets typically have a really tiny seating section. Their focus is on Indian wraps and rolls and making India cool in a non-cliche way. It has smart, witty statements and graphics on its branding and packaging. Eg: ‘Rice is a smooth operator. It gets cozy with multiple curries.’ And – ‘Our courses do not offer soup as it is not a part of our curryculum.’ The Biryani (Rs 120) arrived as promised, about 20 minutes after placing the order. Eagerly sampling a spoonful of the rice, I was taken aback by the lack of flavour. Did they forget the spices?! It even lacked salt. We salvaged the Biryani by adding generous (really generous, like Bill Gates generous) quantities of chaat masala to it. In case you are wondering how I got my hands on chaat masala in office.. between my colleagues and I, we have a mini pantry thing going on in our department. The Boss stacks steel spoons, forks and salt. And at any given time, I have ketchup sachets, plastic bowls, tissues and at least some type of food handy.

Faaso’s has a few things going for it – I am mighty impressed by their packaging, look and feel. But no so much by their food. I am also a bit peeved by the fact that their minimum home delivery amount is Rs 100, when ALL of their vegetarian wraps and rolls are priced under Rs 100. Where does that leave the lone eater? I do not like being compelled to shell out more for eating extra food I did not want to order in the first place. I was also going to write about the utterly unpleasant guy who took my order on the phone, but I think it would be too much nastiness in one post.

Think I’ll stick to the friendly neighbourhood Udipi hotel next Saturday.

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