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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday Snapshot ~ Ranakpur Jain Temple


For Saturday Snapshot, I am sharing few pictures of Ranakpur Jain Temple. A few days back I was going through my old pictures folder and thought to share a few pictures here. I had been to Ranakpur, Rajasthan during our 2010 India Trip. Ranakpur is famous for its Jain temple. It is exquisitely carved and is a destination for many tourists and pilgrims. To know about it more follow this link to Wikipedia

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. It’s easy to participate – just post a picture that was taken by you, a friend, or a family member and add your link on Alyce’s site.



 There are around 1444 pillars in the temple and not two of them are same!


 This design is carved in a single piece of rock.
Isn't it exquisite!

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Prince of Ayodhya by Ashok K. Banker

My tryst with reading novels based on Indian mythology started with books like 'A Palace of Illusion' by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik. Soon many such books made to my to-read-list. One fine day, I sat searching for books based on Indian mythology that are available in the libraries here and the title that came up was 'Prince of Ayodhya' by Ashok K. Banker. Long back when I had written a post asking my fellow bloggers to suggest me good books by Indian writers, Vibha had suggested the Ramayana series by Ashok K. Banker. So, I went ahead to reserve it. My librarian told me that this book might be missing as she could not locate it in the shelves. I had given up hope that I would be get hold of this book here. But, to my sheer delight after a couple of months, I received the book. I have to praise the libraries here. They are really very well maintained and managed.

The Prince of Ayodhya is the book one of the six books of Ramayana series by the author, Ashok K. Banker. Ramayana is one of the two great ancient Indian epics, the other being Mahabharata.

Quoted from the book's cover:

The original Ramayana—a classic tale of war between absolute Good and Evil—was written 3,000 years ago by Valmiki, a reformed thief-turned-sage. Now, with breathtaking imagination, Indian novelist Ashok K. Banker has recreated this epic tale for modern readers everywhere.

 Ayodhya, the Unconquerable is the legendary capital of warriors and seers, and the greatest fortress of the civilized world. Soon it will be a wasteland of ashes and blood. For Ayodhya lies in the shadow of a demon's wrath—a demon that is sending all its dreadful power to ravage the world of mortals. And only Rama, Prince of Ayodhya, can hope to prevent the onslaught of darkness.


The book was every bit fascinating that I expected it to be. Even though I have read that the author has added his own imagination in the story telling and that his version of the story deviates a lot from the original Ramayana, the novel refreshed a lot of my childhood memories that I had of the epic saga. All thanks to the Ramayana TV serial that was telecast-ed on Doordarshan in those days.

The author has given a lot of attention to main characters and they are beautifully sketched. As you read the novel they will be well etched in your mind. The book also dwells on relationships - the brotherly love the four brothers shares, the relationship King Dasratha has with his queens, the respects disciples have for their guru, the love and concern queens have for their sons. Not only that negative emotions are also given ample space in the narration. Queen Kaikayi and her aide Manthara are characters you won't forget, not to mention the devil king Ravana! They have bigger roles to play in the next books of the series.

The plot is gripping, the narration never falters, the subtle details of Dharma and Adharma will keep you engrossed till the end. If you have the slightest interest in Indian mythology, this is the book you can't miss. I can't wait to read rest of the series. Highly recommended.

Thanks for stopping by! Cheers!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Books and Lucky Library Picks update

I have not posted anything about Lucky Library Picks or my To Read List Books for the past 2 months. The reason is simply that I have not been picking up as many books from the library of late. With my India trip only about 2 months away, I want to finish reading the books I already have on my shelf. And I tell you, I have more titles than I can actually read. So, I thought it would be a good idea if I could just make a list of the books to be read in the next 2 months.

To start of I have a few books that I abandoned mid way, not because they were not good but, because I got something more interesting to read. I wish to complete reading them before my awaited India trip. Of course, there will be a whole new bunch of book to buy from India and they will only add to my already long TBR pile.

Here goes the list:

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

I have read more than half of it and hopefully it will not take me long to finish it.

Ninepins by Rosy Thornton

I received this review copy from the author. I had enjoyed her book The Tapestry of Love and I am looking forward to reading her latest book.

The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott

I received this review copy from the publisher. This is one of the book in my priority reading list.

The Difficulty of Being Good by Gurcharan Das and Saraswati Park by Anjali Joseph

These are titles I had picked up on my last India trip. I don't know why I have not read them till now. I have to read them before my India visit this year!


Apart from these I have some books from the library that have been sitting on my shelf for rather long. They are:

The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt
One Day by David Nicholls
My Friend Jesus Christ by Lars Husum
1Q84 Book 1 & 2 by Haruki Murakami

Of course, I don't want to return them to the library without reading them!

Apart from all these, I have 2 books that I am presently reading:


A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir. I received a review copy from the publisher.

Prince of Ayodhya by Ashok K. Banker. This is the first book of the author's series on Ramayana. I had reserved a copy of this book long time back in the library. Actually, I was not even hoping to get it as, it was showing missing in the online catalogue. When I received a call from the library that this book has arrived, I was very happy. I am planning to buy next few books of the series from India.

Well, this is going to be my reading list for the next 2 months. Hopefully, I will reach my target.

Apart from all these books there are 2 books that I brought from the library with the thought that I would enjoy them. But when I started reading them, I realized they were not my cup of tea. So, I abandoned them and returned them to the library. They were Ghost Light by Joseph O Connor and The Goddess Village by Nuala Woulfe

Meanwhile, if you could suggest me some good titles by Indian authors it would be great. I need to make a list of my 'To Buy Books' from India :-)!

Have a nice weekend. Thanks for stopping by! Cheers!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Prodigal Daughter by Jeffrey Archer

After reading Kane and Abel, I could not resist picking up The Prodigal Daughter which is the second book of the Kane and Abel series. While the first book revolved around the rivalry of Richard Kane and Abel Rosnovski, The Prodigal Daughter centers around Abel's daughter Florentyna.

Florentyna is a smart and intelligent child. She shares her father vision and love for America and secretly wishes to become the first lady president of the United States of America. The novel takes us through her birth, childhood, education, love, marriage, motherhood, career, politics and finally her rise to the highest office of America.

A good part of the first half of the book is just a re telling of what happens in Kane and Abel. So, if you have read Kane and Abel, this book will seem monotonous in the beginning. Even though the author has tried to put the facts from Florentyna's perspective, I felt as if I was reading a summary of Kane and Abel. The pace of the story quickens in the second half of the book when Florentyna steps into politics. The author has provided the readers with ample insights of how things works and happens in politics. I am not really a big fan of political novels and hence there were times I felt like skipping a few pages! One of my favorite and memorable character in this novel is Florentyna's governess, Miss Tredgold. She is her friend, philosopher and guide. She contributed a lot to the making of Florentyna's personality. The bond of love they shared is awe inspiring

This book actually fell short in my expectation. I was looking for something as compelling, if not more than Kane and Abel. Kane and Abel was fast paced, had a lot of twists and turns in plot, there was always an air of tension and apprehension through out the book which kept me glued to it. I found it lacking in this book. From the beginning I knew Florentyna would make it big in life. Although there had been a lot of ups and downs in her life too, I could guess where she would end up.

The book is written in such a way that even if you have not read Kane and Abel, you will be able to follow the story easily. That becomes a demerit for one who has read Kane and Abel, as a good part of the first half seems to be lifted from it. I would have enjoyed the book more if I had read it as a stand alone book.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sweet Lime Soda


When ever I listen to Indian news these days, there is always some piece about the relentless heat that is scorching most parts of India. Luckily, I live in a country where the temperature barely soars over mid twenties. Most of the time it varies between pleasant to cold(or to very cold). I have almost forgotten how it feels to be in 40 degrees and I have no wish to experience the same.

To beat the heat, most people like to have chilled drinks and one of the most popular drink in India is Sweet Lime Soda. I will rank it only second to fresh sugar cane juice. Sweet Lime Soda is nothing but sweet lemonade that uses soda water instead of plain water. A special blend of spices is often used and the resultant is often termed as Masala Soda. Here I have used a blend of roasted cumin and black pepper but, I have strained it as I don't like bits of spices in my drink. You may however choose not to strain it. Lets see how I make this summer delight drink.

500ml of soda water ( I use half plain water and half soda water)
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (Adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp black salt
1/2 tsp roasted cumin powder
1/4 tsp black pepper powder
1/4 cup lemon/lime juice
1/4 cup water
Slices of lime/lemon and mint sprig to garnish
Ice cubes as needed


Process:
1. Mix all the ingredients except the soda water. Stir till all the sugar is dissolved. Strain and divide equally in 4 glasses with ice cubes.
2. Top it up with soda water. Stir and serve immediately if you want to enjoy the fizziness of soda water. Best served chilled.

Linking it to my event - Cool Summer Sips. The last date of the same has been extended to 30th July.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Andy Leelu - a runaway boy by B L Gautam

The story is set in 1962, in a sleepy little village named Sehore in the state of Punjab. The main protagonist is a rebellious teenager who lives by his own rules. He detests any authority over him and does what his heart wills. Because of his audacious nature and dare-me-if-you-can attitude, he is labelled as a bad boy.

The novel is semi autobiographical in nature. It draws inspiration from the  author's cousin Leelu who disappeared mysteriously and died at a young age. This book is a tribute to him. Through this story, the author takes us to his own childhood and reminisces his days spent in the company of Leelu and the various escapades he had been a part of.

Leelu comes to live in his maternal uncle's place after his mother, unable to bear the cruelties and abuses of his husband, leaves Mohindergarh to return to her maternal home. It is then the companionship of the author with Leelu begins. Radhe (the author), son of Masterji is in awe for Leelu for his audacity and carefree nature. Radhe has the image of an quintessential good boy and Leelu is incorrigibly bad boy. Their companionship and camaraderie is not approved by Masterji, who has a reputation to live up to. The author dwells upon many of their secret missions, some of which finally put them in real trouble. There is also a liberal dose of a teenager's sexual fantasies as he discovers his own body and desires. Also there is a tiny love story in the making.

The early sixties were a tough time for India. It was still a young nation and there was too many things to cope up with. The wounds of partition were still fresh, wars with neighbors were looming, there was a constant fight against cholera and famine, the nation was still learning to cope up with hard earned freedom. The back drop of this time is intricately woven into the story. As one reads the story, one knows not only the story but also the socio economic issues India faced at that time.

What I was intrigued at first was the name of the book itself - Andy Leelu. It seemed a very English name and wondered why would one be named such in 1960s even after fighting against the English for freedom. The answer was not very far in the novel. Leelu won himself the title of Andy after showing heroic courage and saving a life, while other onlookers were finding themselves helpless in the situation. The named Andy was apparently after a freedom fighter from Sehore.

The story builds up slowly at first and picks up momentum by half way. A few times I found the description monotonous but many a times I could relate to the village life and incidents. When finally Andy Leelu disappears, there are a string of unanswered questions that will leave the readers baffled. I wished if only he would return just once to solve the mystery behind. The author has put his heart in the story, that is evident when one reads the book. It is a compelling, multilayer-ed tale of love, companionship and rebellion.
 
To know more about the author and the book visit http://andyleelu.com

This review was requested by the author.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Updates! Updates! Updates!

Well, the title of this post was just to catch your attention. I have been missing from here for quite long so, I was not sure if you will stop by to read this.

I don't want this post to be full of excuses as to why I have been away from this space  and blogosphere for so long. Things had been busy till a few days back. After our trip to Ibiza, my in laws came to visit us for a couple of weeks. Days passed fast and what is left now is memories of great time spent with family. After they went back last Sunday, the house seemed so empty. For two days, I didn't feel like doing any thing. Slowly I am sinking back into my old routine and blogging is a part of it. So, hopefully I will be regular from now on.

There are a lot of things I want to write about here. But, I am not feeling inspired enough to put my thoughts into writing. I have not been reading much lately and although I have a dozen of recipes in my draft to keep this space going, I don't feel like posting them. May be I am suffering from blogger's block. I am sure many of you understand what I mean. Hopefully, it is just a passing thing.

While I have been away from this space, I read 2 books, Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri and The Prodigal Daughter by Jeffrey Archer. Enjoyed both of them and will post the reviews soon. Currently, I am reading Andy Leelu by B L Gautam and A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir. I received book review request for both of them.

I feel guilty for not giving adequate attention to the ongoing food event in this space - Cool Summer Sips. I have received many entries but have not sent any acknowledgement mail. The credit goes to my laziness! In fact, I have not even posted one entry for my own event. That's why I am extending the event's last date by a month i.e. to 30th July. So, don't forget to send in your entries.

This much of update is all for now. I will be back tomorrow with some more. Stay tuned.
Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!
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