Book Review: The Jasmine Bloom

Book: The Jasmine Bloom

Author: Rajat Narula

Genre: Fiction

Publication: Srishti Publishers

I need to apologize for finishing the book in two days flat but not putting up the review sooner.

No! I did not skip pages or skimmed through. Yes! If the first few pages of the book hold my interest, I can finish reading in one sitting.

There, I said it! Yes I liked the story.

The cover of ‘The Jasmine Bloom’ by Rajat Narula itself gives a summery  vibe. Sameer Chaddha, a middle-aged corporate guy who is stagnating in his career and hence unhappy and withdrawn all the time seems to be like some people I know….married for almost two decades, with teenager kids and unsatisfied with career graph. But the similarity ends just there…and I am glad it does.

Sameer Chaddha and his wife Kavita seem to be communicating less and less over the years with both retreating into a shell. His interaction with his teenage daughter is counterproductive leaving him more frustrated. The physical intimacy between the husband and wife is almost nil.

At such time in his life, Sameer finds himself falling headlong in a whirlwind  affair with his colleague Ritu who also is dealing with an abusive husband and an autistic child. As the two give in to their lust ignoring and ruining the fabric of their respective families, certain events bring their dream world crashing to reality.

The story however is not with the regular obvious end where each character realizes the folly and starts afresh with their spouses and all ends well. There is a twist….the characters do recollect the threads and reconcile with the changed circumstances and try finding semblance and happiness. They try building bridges and mend broken ties but with new perspective.

Am not an advocate of finding love outside marriage just because one of the partner is bored or needs some change in life. Am more of a loyal and ‘yours forever’ kind of person. So when I said I liked the story, it wasn’t to glamorize infidelity. The good thing about the story is its pace and structure. There is no unnecessary drag in the story.

The circumstances in the story that lead to torrid affair are though very clichéd and convenient yet the story reads well. The angst of a teenager is captured well. That the wife always knows when the husband is cheating is also woven in the story.

However I would like to read someday a story without these excuses of midlife crisis or boredom or abusive husband. A story bold enough to scream “I wanted this, so I cheated and I have no regrets”. Lets see how people react…

Till that kind of story gets written, we can read ones which try to reason an affair. The book is good read.

Also read on Amazon and  Goodreads

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कुछ लम्हे ख़ास होते हैं

कुछ लम्हे ख़ास होते हैं
यूँ ही दस्तक दे, छन से बिखर जाते हैं
सवाल खड़े कर जाते हैं…
वह पल पहले आता तो?
क्या यूँ ही गुदगुदा जाता?
या तब भी ओझल हो जाता ?
वक्त तब क्या करवट लेता?
रुला जाता या नशा चढ़ा जाता?
क्या बरसों की धूल से मैला हो जाता?
या अब सा नया ही रहता?
या इश्क़ बन जाता?
कि कुछ घडी का खेल?
खैर वक्त किसने बाँचा है…..
इन छोटे छोटे लम्हों को पिरो लो
तो दिल का एक कोना
हरा हो जाता है…
ऐसे लम्हों का इन्तजार रह जाता है

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तुम और मैं


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तुम और मैं
अब हम बन
नयी राह पर चल पड़े हैं
तेरे सपने मेरे सपने
अब हम बन
नये आसमां में उड़ चले हैं
अब तू अगर राह के कंकर चुन लेगा
तो रोड़ों को मैं भी दूर करूंगी
राह के गड्ढों को तू पाट देगा
तो खायी मैँ भी नाप लूंगी
ताल में नैय्या तैरा लेगा
तो समुन्दर मैं भी पार करूंगी
तेज़ हवा में लौ बुझने न देगा
तो आँधियों से में भी लड़ सकूंगी
मेरे आंखियों के मोती बिखरने न देगा
तो तेरे हर दुःख का नाश करूंगी
अगर देगा तू साथ सदा
तो हर रिश्ता मैं भी निभा रहूंगी
बस हाथ थामे संग रहना
तू देखना
मैं तुझपर कितना प्यार करूंगी

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फिर भी..


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हर दिन हों लगे चाहे सारे छप्पन भोग,
पर रस-स्वाद ढूँढ़ते हैं वो लोग,
हम तो लगाते अपने प्रभु को,
नमक-सूखी रोटी का भोग,
फिर भी हर दिन थोडा,
मुस्कुरा लेते हैं हम लोग !!

फीके रंग, कपड़ा ढीला या तंग,
इसका करते हैं वो सोग,
पुराने-फटे पिछली होली के
रंगे कपड़ों में,
साल बिता लेते हैं हम लोग,
फिर भी हर दिन थोडा,
मुस्कुरा लेते हैं हम लोग !!

रौशनी के महलों,
ठंडी हवा के झोकों में,
भी निर-निराले उन्हें
लग जाते हैं रोग,
सितारों की चादर तले
सर्द-गर्म हवा को लगा गले,
यूँ ही इश्वर को,
प्यारे हों जाते हैं हम लोग
फिर भी हर दिन थोडा,
मुस्कुरा लेते हैं हम लोग !!

इस रोटी, कपड़ा और मकान
की जंग में ,
हर दिन हारते हैं हम लोग,
फिर भी हर दिन थोडा,
मुस्कुरा लेते हैं हम लोग !!

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Book Review: Europa


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Book: Europa

Author: Hywel Richard Pinto

Genre: Science Fiction

Publishers: Story Mirror

The closest I have come to read science and fiction together are books by the ‘Robin Cook’ who mixed medicine and thriller for his stories. And I loved his stories. Though in past few years haven’t read him.

I grew up watching television series ‘Star Trek’ with Captain Kirk and Mr Spock. It used to be a much awaited series every week with the crew of the space ship tele-porting from one place to other, fighting aliens and traveling non-stop in space.

It is with these kind of influences playing on my mind, that I started reading the book ‘Europa’ by Hywel Richard Pinto.

The book is very ambitious in its space travel story. Though the unmanned spacecrafts have flown past planets Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune but as yet no man has traveled and walked on surface on these planets.  The story of Europa however sees a crew of astronauts and biologists travel to Europa, the moon of planet Jupiter, in search of earlier mission survivors and collect samples from the surface.

The time that the space ship Europa takes to travel is over one year when most of the crew sleeps in life-sustaining pods. But two of the crew who have been planted by the crooks to do nefarious activities wake up earlier than others to carry out the plan. However surprisingly the captain and his first officer wake up too. Mystery shrouds the strange waking up cycle till the time other crew members wake up six months later. And then the discovery of a crew member’s death creates trouble.

When the crew lands on the moon of Jupiter, they come face to face with not only the previous mission’s survivors but also strange hypnotizing creatures who all have survived in caves of that moon which is surprisingly filled with pure oxygen and has a large water body.

Through various twists and turns the mission is accomplished and the crew returns to earth where the captain of the Europa mission has to answer a lot of questions about deaths of crew members during mission. The crooks meanwhile out of greed become each other’s doom and all ends well.

The book is high on imagination and sees continuous action without losing its grasp on story. The investigative court however seems to have not been given much thought and it ends abruptly. The part of story dedicated to assassins though written well but doesn’t really concern the mission. It is parallel and mentions the mission very marginally.The Indian connection of the assassin and his master was not really required.

The book also has some grammatical errors. Another big mistake on part of publisher may be is that pages 7,8,9,10 and page 66 are repeat pages. The problem this creates is that if you are involved in reading the story and suddenly similar text starts appearing, it breaks not only the rhythm but also confuses the reader for few seconds.

But even with such silly mistakes, the story is a good science fiction with thrill and suspense thrown in. Not a bad read.

Indeed a courageous and good effort by the author.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

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Fit At Forty

“Eat those greens” was the regular admonition administered by my doctor mom.  But who pays heed in childhood to well-meaning nagging of parents?

A year ago I weighed 67 kg.

Fat Forty at Golconda fort

For a person who had not put on any extra weight even after pregnancy, I looked fat. My girth was not at all flattering, my face seemed puffed up and I wasn’t really feeling confident. I had become laid back, my clothes seemed ill fitted and I looked ‘old’ to myself.

I had turned forty… An age they say to be naughty and flirty! But I felt fat and fifty!!

That is when I pulled myself together. I did not want to enter on other side of middle age huffing and puffing with pills and pains. I joined a gym…

It isn’t that I was eating junk all the time, but the nutritionist pointed out that my carbohydrate intake was definitely much more than the proteins and iron. While proteins help in building muscle mass, iron too is an essential nutrient that plays an important role in many bodily functions. Lack of sufficient amount of iron may lead to anemia, headaches, hair fall, brittle nails, breathlessness and even irritability.

Iron is important

I had no clue that my headaches could have been due to insufficient iron.

Found in two forms in foods, heme in animal products and non-heme in plants, the average intake recommended is 18 mg per day which may vary depending on age and gender of a person.

We women often suffer from anemia. Anemic women may even have trouble during pregnancy with mother’s anemia adversely affecting the fetus. With menstruation being added burden on women, we need at least 27 mg during pregnancy.

Meat eaters have the advantage over vegetarians as the iron content from animal products is easily absorbed in our bodies. Hence the vegetarians need to have more iron rich food and more frequently.

So now at 63 kg, though  yet miles away from an hourglass figure, I know where I went wrong. Besides a daily exercise routine, I brought some changes in my eating habits especially the breakfast.

Reduced weight gives more mobility and fresh look

Now my breakfast menu looks something like this:

Monday:   2 boiled eggs, 1 bowl oats garnished with almonds, colorful tutti-fruity, raisins, walnuts and sometimes banana slices.
Tuesday:   1 generous bowl of spiced boiled sprouted black gram and 1 boiled egg
Wednesday:  2 boiled eggs, 1 khakra
Thursday:   1 generous bowl of steamed spiced sprouted Moth and Moong (brown and green lentils)
Friday and Saturday repeat either of these. Sunday is for either poha, upma, sabudana khichdi or bread-omelette.

I also changed my dinner habits by eating smaller portions and twice a week I eat only sautéed broccoli and mushrooms. Some may however not relish these exotic vegetables, not to forget the exorbitant price these days. Legumes work best for vegetarians, if I may say so, both in cost and iron content.

Now Livogen, aims to educate women on importance and benefits of iron intake for a healthy lifestyle by sharing iron rich food recipes. So here is an easy recipe for vegetarians with cooked lentils.

RECIPE OF USAL:

Ingredients:

  • Soaked sprouted whole moong (green lentil) 1 cup
  • Soaked sprouted whole moth (brown lentil)   1 cup
  • Ginger julienne 1 tbsp
  • Cumin seeds 2 tsp
  • Seasoning : Mustard seeds, Asafoetida, salt, sugar, green chilies, curry leaves, dry mango powder, turmeric powder, red chili powder
  • Oil

Method:

  • Soak overnight the two lentils. Drain excess water and let these sprout for a day. These can even be eaten as quick snack. (Quick snack recipe: mix raw sprouts with finely chopped onion, tomatoes, capsicum, spinach, chat masala, pepper powder, salt, pinch of sugar and juice of half a lemon).

    Sprouted lentils rich in iron

  • Pressure cook the lentils for just about one whistle to avoid over cooking. The cooked lentils should keep their shape.
  • In a pan heat 1 tbsp oil preferably mustard oil or olive oil for added advantage.
  • Add hing(asafoetida) and mustard seeds.
  • As the mustard seeds crackle, add curry leaves, green chilies, turmeric powder, pinch of red chili powder.

Season it away…less oil, just about spicy with sweet and sour taste to balance

  • If the spice in green chili is not very strong add red chili powder; aim is to prepare a breakfast which is easy for digestion and not that will burn your insides.
  • Add cooked lentils. Add a pinch of sugar or little more, salt and dry mango powder.
  • Add raw ginger julienne and raw cumin seed after the water is almost dried.
  • Garnish with chopped coriander(I did not have fresh coriander at home though) . Serve hot.

Usal, ready to eat

The best chefs also recommend cooking food in iron skillet for that iron content in food.

There are however some foods that reduce the absorption of sufficient iron which may not be totally avoidable but can be eaten in moderation. Similarly there are foods that facilitate the absorption of iron. White wine is one such thing.

So what are you waiting for?

Grab that bottle of bubbly, a bowl of sprouts or a roasted chicken and get your fill of the iron!

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Book Review: Then The Door Bell Rang

Book: Then The Door Bell Rang

Author: Capri Jalota

Genre: Fiction

Publication: Inkstate Books

Another book that has been long overdue for review is “Then The Door Bell Rang”. Reading through the blurb, I was little worried about not making it through the entire book…well I am not exactly comfortable reading about suicides and self harm. At least that is what I assumed the story to be.

I was only partially right.  The story is of ‘Jane’ with Indian father and British mother. Jane’s mother leaves her in her father’s care while she is still young and the failed marriage of her parents subconsciously affects her.

When Jane does fall in love with Uday and marries him eventually, she is not ready to mingle with his side of the family assuming bad vibes…all this because a letter from her mother elaborates the experiences her mother had with her in-laws in India.

Suddenly Jane is swallowed by grief as Uday meets an untimely death. It is then while going through his stuff that Jane learns more about Uday. She realizes that the ways Uday used to woo her were not his after all but of his dear friend, Rahul. She comes to know real Uday through a journal that her husband kept hidden in his cupboard.

An attempt, to later find Rahul and inform him of his friend’s death leads Jane to India where she gets to know her in-laws and meets another couple who help her in her efforts to locate Rahul. An untoward incident causes the death of the man who had been helping Jane hunt for Rahul. A panicky Jane runs back to Dubai without as much a courtesy call to the bereaved widow and the two little girls who had grown fond of Jane.

Years later, Jane does find Rahul with two young girls under his care. That the two girls belong to the man who helped her in Mumbai, makes her reach out to them. Events lead to Jane feeling lonely and suicidal.

As she finally contemplates to end her life, the door bell rings bringing her back from the brink and her world is completed.

The story many a times becomes monotonous and bit stretchy. Though the events in Jane’s life do take the story forward but I would have preferred if Jane’s interactions with different people were little crisper and tighter. The story doe not dwell enough on bond between Rahul and Jane which seems so minimal almost non-existent and stretched over a long period of time.

The story also wears a gloom in most part of the book.

However Jane’s self doubts and battle within herself make her look real and not just another fictional character. Her growth as a person because of various events happening in her life has been depicted very well.

The story is well written with good command over language and makes for an okay read. The story does have a happy ending but I prefer a more lighter atmosphere.

Read and decide for yourself if the book is for you.

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