Weekend getaway from Bangalore

Bangalore is an amazing city, no doubts about it. But what makes it better apart from its pleasant weather is that it is practically in the middle of South India, so no picturesque place is far enough – whether it’s the sunny beaches on the east coast or the chilly hills of western ghats.

One of the most sought after destinations is Ooty. I am taking the liberty of calling it the backyard of Bangalore. Since we have moved to Bangalore a little more than 2 years back, we have visited Ooty 4 times and with each trip we saw a new place. So, let me share the itinerary we followed for our latest trip.dsc00008

Day 1: Mysore

Srirangapatnam: Start early from your place, probably around 8 am because it will surely take you an hour or more to actually get out of Bangalore given the heavy traffic which somehow doesn’t die down on a holiday also.  Take the Bangalore-Mysore road and around 10 /10.30 am stop by any restaurant along the way for breakfast. For some time after getting out of Bangalore you will not find any proper places to eat but after a drive of 2-3 hours, there are good restaurants and cafes to eat at. After breakfast start towards Mysore.

Roughly 20 kms before Mysore, there is Srirangapatnam where there was Tipu Sultan’s palace and lies his tombstone. The palace is towards the left side of the highway and the tombstone, temple are on the right side. We missed going to the left side on our first visit since it is a little confusing there if you haven’t gone through an itinerary like this one before your travel (self promotion – wink wink 😉 ). Towards the right – the tombstone and temple isn’t much of an attraction as it has not been maintained well, can be visited just for the sake of history. The palace on the other hand (and on the other side) is a little better maintained with the royal items on display, the weapons, the artillery, Tipu Sultan’s clothes, the hierarchy of the Kings and paintings showing the fall of his empire by Britishers.dsc_0035

After spending sometime at Srirangapatnam, head towards Mysore and check in to the hotel. We found this really good hotel at nominal price, not in the middle of noisy markets but not even secluded from Mysore. I would totally recommend – Jade Garden hotel.

Mysore Palace: Take some rest and have lunch at the hotel and then head out to visit the Mysore Palace – the top attraction of Mysore. Mind you, there is generally a long queue but it is mostly a moving queue. You do not have to wait to get inside, there is a nominal fee to go inside. As you set your foot inside the palace gates, you see the grandeur with which the kings lived, the sprawling grounds, the huge gates on all sides, big trees inside the compound, I personally felt – Oh I wish, I was born in those times and was a princess living in the palace.dsc_0139

Shoes are not allowed inside the palace so you have to deposit them before you go in. Cameras are also not allowed and needs to be deposited near the main gate. Once you step inside the actual palace the magnificence which you had earlier thought of just goes exponentially high. The palace interiors, the wood carvings on the doors, the floor tiles, the painted glass ceilings are a sight to behold. Building the type of interiors at that time when each tile must have been laid and fixed by hands, the carvings that were done on the wooden doors, it is just amazing. Multiple artifacts are kept behind the rope for the visitors to see and adore. From main entrance to the entertainment halls, it looks much grander than the sets of Sanjay leela bhansali’ movie. Once out of the palace insides, you can collect your shoes and stroll down the pathway where towards one side there is an entrance to see the then residential area of the palace for which there is a separate ticket. If not interested in that, keep moving ahead on the pathway and there is a small temple and near that is a small area where camel rides are offered for kids. Towards the exit there is small handicrafts store as well.

Mysore Zoo: Next you may head to the Mysore Zoo which is around 4-5 kms from the palace. The zoo is huge and after walking that much in the palace you cannot cover the whole zoo by walking but can sure walk around for some time. You will see lions, Chimps, Tiger and many different type of birds. I had not seen even seen that many species of birds before that. If you have time and energy I would suggest not to leave out Mysore Zoo. There are a couple of small eateries also inside where you can munch on snacks before heading to the next place.

Chamundi Hills: From the plains of Mysore start towards the Chamundi hills. It is 20 kms from the Zoo and as the name suggest you have to climb up to the top of the hill. Very curvy but smooth road up till the top. If it is about to get dark, stop midway where the road divides – one towards the chamundi temple and the other towards the bull temple. There is a small area where you may park your car, off-board, look farther from that point and appreciate the beauty of the whole Mysore city from there. After spending few minutes there, head to the Chamundi temple. Every time I have been there it has always been crowded and there is a large queue of devotees so we offered our prayers from the outside. A minute away from the temple is a small play area for children and few stadium like row steps where you can sit, enjoy the sunset and munch on a bhutta (roasted corn stick).dsc_0115

Bull Temple: Next start driving down the same path and visit the bull temple towards the left. A narrow road goes till the temple. It is not a proper temple but a huge single rock which is carved as a Nandi. (A bull from mythology).

End the day by visiting the Mysore mall and you can have your dinner there. Go back to the hotel for the much-needed sleep after this amazing but tiring day.

Day 2: Ooty

Enjoy the Buffet breakfast at the Hotel and start for Ooty by 9 am.

Bandipur National Park: Once out of Mysore, the drive till Ooty is beautiful. While still on the plains you will see vendors near the big trees selling watermelons or coconuts. Stop by at the coconut vendor for a small refresher. After a drive of 80 kms you enter the Bandipur National park. It is a tiger reserve and is home to other animals like Elephants, deers, peacocks. I have not been lucky enough to see a tiger ever but sure have seen the family of elephants cross by. What is good about Bandipur is that it is a National park, the animals are in their home where they are happy unlike the zoos where they are caged. In Bandipur you are not allowed to honk horns, park your car and in fact there are boards instructing the travelers to wait for animals to cross roads if they are doing so. Vehicles are not allowed there during the night is what I have heard. Bandipur also offers Safari to the core jungle if you wish to see Tigers. Deer, Peacocks, elephants you will see along the road from your car itself.dsc00017

With Bandipur ends Karnataka and the national park stretches to Mudumalai reserve from where starts Tamil Nadu. After Mudumalai, Ooty is 40 Kms and from there the weathers starts to a get cooler. There are 36 hair pin bends while climbing up the hills. As soon as the bends end you are almost in Ooty. A little traffic starts coming up since the town starts. Head up to your hotel for check in and an hour or so rest. Have lunch at hotel or in the Ooty town market.

Doddabetta peak: After lunch, climb up further to Doddabetta peak. This is the highest mountain in Nilgiri hills. If you are there after 4pm or so carry a jacket since it gets a little chilly. Parking is a bit of a mess in Doddabetta so if not really comfortable driving on narrow roads on hills then better to take a driver along. If driving yourself, be gentle on the curves ( 😉 ) and be ready to spend some time on getting proper parking. Dodabetta gives you the complete view of Ooty. It feels as if you are looking at the city from above the clouds. It is truly beautiful. Throughout this trip and places you visit you will find photographers taking out pictures. In these times everybody has a camera or a smartphone to click pictures but I would suggest to take at least 1 picture there and get the hard copy, frame it and hang it when back home. It will be a beautiful memory to look back on. Have a cup of tea, eat maggi, boiled corn or other such items that vendors have lined up.dsc_0047

Take in all the beauty of and from Doddabetta and head back to the town.

 

Tea factory: On the way back just before reaching town there is a tea factory and homemade chocolate store. Visit that and be privy to each and every step in the process of getting that ultimate hot cup of tea. There is actual tea that they are processing from the tea leaves and at the end of that line, you get a cup of tea to drink from the same tea that is made there. Just next to it is a small homemade chocolate store. Buy your favorite chocolate flavors to take back home.

Ooty lake: Enjoy boating? Just outside the town market is a lake where boating is offered. There are also some rides for kids, some small shops for souvenirs, eatables and all.img_6320

Rose garden: Prefer a walk in the garden over boating? Head to the rose garden directly from Doddabetta. dsc00186We were lucky enough to see the flower show there once which was beautiful. All the display pieces were made of colorful flowers.

By the time you visit all these places it will be dark already, best to head to the town market, take a stroll, have dinner and get back to the hotel.

Day 3: Coonoor

The drive from ooty to coonoor is amazing. It is approximately 30 kms, there are huge tea gardens all around and its lush green. It is not to be missed. When approaching coonoor, park anywhere and the view will be brilliant but there are certain points which have been developed by the government as a tourist spots.

Dolphin’s nose:  Drive down to Dolphin’s nose from the main town and get soaked in the nature. This place in fact can be seen in some Bollywood films – the popular one being the famous ‘Saajan’. View the mountains all around separated by a deep trench. On the mountain, just opposite you can see the Catherine Falls.

When driving back up to coonoor from Dolphin’s nose, stop by at one of the restaurants just next to tea estate and sip from a variety of tea types.

Sim’s park is another such spot which is a very peaceful park built in step-wise manner from top to down rather than sprawling plain.

Tea plantation: Some tea plantations are open for the visitors to see. There is one such in coonoor which is owned by yester-year actress Mumtaz. There is also a factory near to the same where essentials oils are prepared from the different herbs and trees in the vicinity.

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We were done by 1 pm with visiting all the above spots and headed back to Bangalore thereafter.

Recommendation:

One thing which we couldn’t do but would recommend everybody else is – take one more day and stay somewhere between Ooty -Coonoor and do nothing. One time I want to visit again and just do nothing. Stay at one of the many good resorts/cottages and just spend time taking it all in.

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The Joy of Reading

img_20161021_115309Our generation and the ones coming after are severely underestimating the joy of reading. With social media taking up the free time that was earlier used to read a book, reading has been left behind. Reading for relaxation has become so rare that every time we read we post it on Instagram with hashtags like #joyofreading #loveforreading as it has become once in a while thing, and that too many of us don’t even completely read the books about which we post. I hardly find people who love to read or read at least a little every day. If not any books, earlier most would at least glance through a newspaper every morning. Even that is now replaced with 30-word-news on smartphone apps. All this is done in the name of saving time and guess what we are doing with the time saved? No prize for guessing – we are using it again on smartphones – surfing social media, playing games online or e-shopping.

The joy of reading an actual book is something which cannot be replaced by any digital content. The touch of paper in your hand, the smell of old books, the spots left behind on some page by the small tea drop, sudden stumble on a flower pressed between the pages, sad to say but all this is lost. Reading is a joyous activity. You get transported to a different world – the world of those fictional characters, you start understanding different perspectives, you start empathizing with the characters, you travel the world with it, visit places along with those characters and some places which do not even exist – how exciting is that!  There is a popular saying ‘A book is your best friend’ and no kidding, it is true! You find solace in reading. All your worries are set aside when the book is in your hands and trust me, if the book is good enough it leaves an impact on you and stays with you forever.

I was introduced to extra – curricular reading quite early at home when my father had a subscription for Reader’s Digest. That was the first ever material apart from school books which I lay my hands on. During secondary school this reading took a hiatus until I went to college as television and internet took undue preference. I was re-introduced to fiction reading by my roommate in college who had a collection of Sidney Sheldon novels which she used only during her train commute between home and college once in six months. Sidney Sheldon got me hooked, never ever to have a time again when I won’t have a book at my nightstand on regular days and my bag during travels.

I wish that all of us and the generations after us do not give up on reading. If you are a parent read bedtime stories to your little one from the beginning, gift them a good book with every other present you give them on any occasion, if you are a student reading apart from school might sound boring but do not underestimate the way it can relax you, if a regular professional read to reduce stress.

In fact, there are many people and organizations who are trying to do whatever they can to get people to read. Read their amazing initiatives here:

http://www.katha.org/site/about-us/challenges/reading/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-35742282

This new year let us add ‘Reading More’ to the top of the list of our new year resolutions and truly attempt to not break this resolution ever.

 

The Hungry Millenial

Recently I came across an article on Facebook regarding how we millennials are always working but are still dissatisfied with our jobs and wanting to do more. It instantly struck a chord.

Whenever we friends talk, just after the pleasantries are done what starts is the tale of how we all are not content with our jobs. We all have steady careers which the baby boomers feel is enough for one to lead a decent enough life, if not luxurious which should be more than just satisfactory. But we millennials don’t believe so.

If I talk about my friends and social circle, we all have good jobs, can afford an abroad trip if not every year then at least once in 2 years without burning a hole in our pocket, we eat out more than once a week, watch every new movie in PVRs, go on weekend getaways every few months, some of us even own our own homes even though on EMIs – all in all we have pretty much everything which looks like should be enough to keep one happy. In the end though, we all are still starving for more.

It is good in a way since it motivates us to work harder but at the cost of our own sanity, is it worth? Probably not but it is easier said than done.which-way-1420248

I remember, recently we went out of the city for a weekend and within two weeks there was another extended weekend. My husband suggested that we go for another getaway and I responded – ‘No, I don’t think I deserve it yet’. I was a little confused after hearing myself say those words. Since when do we have to deserve a holiday? I work at least 10 hours every weekday in office, I carry work home, I don’t mind doing some work on weekends, I ask for more work proactively, during holidays half the time I work from home but still taking an afternoon nap on weekend seems like a waste of time.

The little time that we get on weekends, we want to utilize that also for something productive. We often think that we are not doing enough in our life – maybe we should do some freelancing, maybe launch a start-up, start a you tube channel, start a blog, do something for the society, do a part time degree or anything else. We never want to switch off. So, basically taking a complete ‘off’ makes us anxious. Sometimes I go back and think that I do have a regular job, no need of getting anxious but not sure what causes it – maybe the fear of missing out or fear of getting lost in the multitude.

Howsoever hardworking it makes us, the anxiety it brings, the stress and irritation it leads to, it is mentally overwhelming and can most of the times cause serious health trouble. So, our generation really needs to switch off once in a while, think about what all we have been able to achieve in our age, laud ourselves for it, try to be happy, satisfied and live in the moment without worrying so much.

3 day itinerary for Kuala Lumpur

Reach KL by flight. (4 hrs from Bangalore, 5.5 hrs from Delhi). Suggest to take a flight which lands you in KL early morning so that you get time to relax. Check in to the hotel, rest for a while, have a hearty breakfast and set out to explore.

Transportation modes to explore the city:

  1. Getting a cab could be an expensive affair so let’s rule that out.
  2. Hop on Hop off service is very good there, you get a 24 hr pass for 45RM which comes roughly around Rs.750 approximately per person. There are around 25 stops covering all the main tourist attractions. Obviously you cannot cover all the tourist but I would suggest you choose the main ones that you would prefer over others, where you would want to spend some time and get down only at those stops. The places which do not interest you much should be skipped.
  3. Another good option is taking the metro; it is very convenient. Collect the route map and you can explore the whole city yourself. For the tourist spots use the hop-on hop-off map.

We took the hop-on hop-off first day but towards the evening of same day started using metro.

Day 1:

KL tower – it is a 421m tall telecommunication tower situated on a small hill in KL. You can climb up to the top to observation deck and see the breath-taking view of the city. It also houses a revolving restaurant.

Bukit Bintang – This is the happening city centre housing high end brand outlets like Prada, GUCCI, BOSS etc and upscale restaurants and café. Unless you are a high spender it is good to saunter in this area and do a heartful of window shopping J.

China Town – A bare 1.5 kms away from Bintang walk China Town’s narrow and crowded streets are in complete contrast with the bustling yet sophisticated Bintang. There are street side food joints, the vendors frying the noodles and hawking for customers. Good place to have lunch if you are a non-vegetarian and on a budget. You will can also buy small souvenirs and cheap imitation goods. Haggling is the way to go!

Central Market – This is a shopping center just next to China town. You can buy souvenirs, Malaysian designs and prints, beautiful silk nightgowns, home décor lamp pieces, paintings etc.

Little India – As soon as you get down first thing you will smell is sambar. It is a proper south indian small market place – same bright-colored kurtis like you see with street side vendors, eateries serving south indian food, biryanis, some fresh fruit vendors. Decent place for vegetarians like me to eat at.

Next stop from Little India is KL Sentral metro station. At the basement of the same get your tickets for Genting Highlands tour for next day. Trust me, it will save you lot of time the next day.

If it is not evening already you may visit some of the gardens which are in the KL green belt – Botanical gardens, Bird park, butterfly park, orchid garden. If evening already, head to Suria KLCC in the city center which hosts the famous Petronas Twin towers.

Petronas Twin towers – This was once the tallest towers in the world with a height of 452 m and 88 floors. It houses the shopping center in first few floors and office workspaces on all the other floors. Tourists can go to the 41st floor from where a skybridge connects the two towers. A ticket of 85RM (Rs.1300/person) to walk the sky bridge and see the amazingly lit up KL city in the evening.

There is a light show in the evening once the sun goes down. Sit back, relax and enjoy the water fountain light show from the feet of Petronas. It was the highlight of the day for me. For luxurious shopping head inside the KLCC and lighten your wallets!img_20160925_212716

 

Day 2:

National Museum – Spend the 1-2 hours of morning at the National museum. img_20160925_212646This is just next to the KL Sentral station from where you will get the Genting highland bus so instead of covering this on Day 1 or skip it I would suggest to cover it this way.
It takes you from ancient KL culture to culture of recent times – the people lives, how they clothed, the utensils they used, what they ate, the weapons they used, the Kingdom that prevailed and to the recent times like how it is now. It is good for the 1-2 hours you need to pass time before boarding the bus for Genting.

 

Genting Highland – There are two options to reach Genting – either by road until the top or take the bus till cable car station and the skyway/ropeway from there. Make sure to get your return ticket done else you might end up without transportation on the way back. The road till here is picturesque. You get out of the bustling city and start climbing the hills. Road is curvy but it is a smooth drive. A person like me who loves hills more than the city, prefers greenery over concrete structures will be left spellbound. The almost 1.5 hr journey till cable car station is amazing. We opted for ropeway. I am glad we did.

Skyway – Ropeway is almost 3.5 km long. The cabin can seat 4 people very well. You fly over dense tropical forest, feels like you are in between the clouds, it starts getting colder as you gain altitude. View was breath-taking. I was getting scared also in between when we would pass the poles and it would make a thundering noise and give a jerk to the cabin but it was hell of an experience. It was the highlight.img_20160925_212624

Once up there the entrance is directly the basement of a mall.  Outside it was all hazy and pretty cool (literally). There are resorts, a theme park, shopping plaza, restaurants and a casino.

Theme park – When we visited the theme park was under renovation so there wasn’t much to do otherwise people generally spend a night up there.

Casino – This was my first visit to a casino and I was pretty confused how to start with it and I didn’t play anything, I regret it now though, should have placed my bets! There were poker tables crowded with men in suits, professional players, smoke billowing in the air, people sitting with pen and paper, doing calculations and placing bets. It felt like I was in a movie, seriously, red carpeted halls, poker tables lined up, roulette rolling, single machines with loud music but the smoke was suffocating. We walked around and after taking the feel of it headed out.

Spice Garden restaurant –  Have lunch at one of the restaurants. Spice garden was one of the Indian restaurants, pretty decent.

Shop at the plaza. You will find some glassware items, home décor pieces, regular stuff, souvenirs etc.

To comeback you again take the ropeway, the ride back is as amazing as it was climbing up. All you see is the green forest and misty haze. Once down at the cable car station, the bus will pick you up and take down the same picturesque path. It will drop you at the KL Sentral station.

KL Sentral – This is the heart of city metro and even connects to good shopping stores and cafés. Make some purchases if not yet tired and then take the metro to the stop nearest to your hotel.

Day 3:

Batu caves– Get to the KL Sentral station and take metro to Batu cauves. This is a hindu shrine and dedicated to lord Murugan. There is also a temple at the entrance and a tall Hanuman statue.img_20160925_212247

This is a site of limestone caves which open up to the blue sky above. There are approx. 300 steep steps to climb and you will be greeted by monkeys all around. The monkeys there are wicked. When I visited they somehow got hold of a lady’s wallet which had her cash, cards, passport and everything but she didn’t let go either so ultimately the monkey left seeing the people approaching. So, take care of your belongings. The place would have been amazing if it was maintained properly but it was really dirty and stinky. The place is quite far from city center also and takes up almost 4-5 hours of your day.

I regretted visiting that place so I would suggest if you were not able to cover any particular places on Day 1, better do that instead of visiting Batu caves.

A surprise to me from myself!

Who doesn’t love getting surprise gifts? Everybody does!

I am one of those people who loves to give surprises. The excitement of seeing the other person surprised when they least expect, it just makes me happy inside. But the thing is I hardly get any surprises. Dropping subtle hints doesn’t help – Trust me ladies – men don’t get it.

Fortunately, I have somebody to the rescue. So, I recently came across some unboxing videos on YouTube for subscription boxes and was amazed by this idea of monthly subscription for lifestyle, beauty, jewellery products. Seems like this concept has been around for a year now in India.

There are a good number of sites available from where you may subscribe for a plan that suits you. Some offer just make-up products, some lifestyle products, some jewellery and some the combination of all. In fact, there is one mystery box also where every month the products will be based on some theme and there are some who curate the boxes based on your specific needs like your hair type, skin type and special requirement.

How it is different from ordering from other regular e-commerce sites is that you do not know what products are there in your box until they are shipped and that too you wouldn’t know if you don’t follow the provider’s social media posts.

So it is like getting a surprise – and that too every month.  Amazing, isn’t it? I loved it. To try it for the first time I ordered one-time box from MSMbox this month. Posting the details of contents below along with the MRPs. If I go by the MRPs I saved approximately Rs.700 though I feel the prices are marked on a higher side but still if I had to get these items separately or from any regular site or offline store I would have spent much more than Rs.495 which is what it cost me. (shipping of Rs.99 not included).

So, all in all this box gets a thumps up!

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Book Review: The Goldfinch

Author: Donna Tartt

First published in: 2013

Storyline:

While the 13-year-old Theo is visiting the art museum in Manhattan with his mother(an art student) his attention is caught by a young girl who herself is accompanied by an elderly man. Suddenly there is a loud noise, a terrorist bombing in the museum. Theo survives the attack but unfortunately his mother does not. Going through the debris, searching for his mother Theo sees the same elderly man who hands him his ring and somehow in the whole confusion and fear Theo along with the ring takes the renowned painting of a Goldfinch, an art piece which his mother admired immensely. He, without a mother and an absent father goes on to stay with his friend’s family. Soon his father who had left him and his mother a year ago comes to take him to Vegas for ulterior motives where Theo befriends an alcohol and drug addict Russian boy, Boris. Meanwhile, Theo’s drunk father dies in an accident and to escape the child care homes Theo leaves Vegas to go back to Manhattan. Before leaving for Vegas Theo had got in touch with the partner of the elderly man whom he saw in the museum. In Manhattan he stays with the same person. All this while living in fear of getting caught for possessing the Goldfinch since police was on lookout for all pieces stolen from museum on the day of attack. After bumping into Boris after many years and after a series of events circling the Goldfinch Theo finds himself in another country just before his wedding day, alone, without passport, having committed a murder, contemplating suicide.

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Review:

Loved it! It keeps you hooked until the end. Usually the novels with more than 400-500 pages have big monologues in the middle or too much description for the smallest thing or event which bores me personally but this one even though more than 700 pages did not give me such a moment. Maybe because there is a lot going on throughout. The narrative is in first person and starts with a flashback with Theo finding himself in a hotel room, on brink of committing suicide just reminiscing how it all started. Starting from the day he carried the Goldfinch out of the museum and all the happenings thereafter, all experiences that led to the current day. The wrongs that he did, the people he wronged – all comes to him while lying there in the hotel room.

The novel explores the emotions of the young boy who adored his energetic mother, his experience living with another family – completely different from his own, his search for the young girl he had seen in the museum, his friendship with another boy going through the same stuff as he was, his namesake relationship with his opportunist father, his undying need to hold on to the same thing he feared having the most – the Goldfinch.

The novel is complete package of different emotions – sorrow, fear, love, friendship, realization.

Fact: The novel won the Pulitzer prize for Fiction in 2014.

Being Human

I’m scared to read newspapers early in the morning, afraid to scroll through facebook during the day and terrified to watch news channels in the evening. Everyday atleast there is one news running which shows how miserably we are failing at being human. We have no sympathy towards anybody other than ourselves. Two days back there was news about how a tribal man had to carry the corpse of his wife for 12 kms since he did not get ambulance service from the hospital. Yesterday there was another news that a woman’s dead body was dragged carelessly by policeman, fitted into a sack by breaking its bones and then carried on bamboo poles because ambulance was not available. Again today while I was scrolling through facebook a post was shared that when a woman onboard a bus died while birthing a new-born, her body along with her husband, mother in law was thrown out of the bus. I am cringing really hard right now while writing this, I am just holding back the tears, my heart is palpitating. What on earth have we become? One thing is government is not providing services, like in first case the administration is arguing that the man did not ask for help but wasn’t there anybody in hospital who noticed that this how he is carrying the body? Nobody from hospital staff who could have stopped him and brought it to administration’s notice? Secondly, no visitors for other patients who saw him? They didn’t see him and raise alarm? Nobody saw him on road walking with a corpse tied in a cloth on shoulder and crying daughter walking beside? How can we be so insensitive? How inhumane? We call ourselves the part of oldest civilisation but doesn’t look like we are civilised enough to be sensitive to others. It pains real bad to see this happening but after sometime media forgets and then we forget and life goes on. But we should stop this once to reflect on ourselves, think about the cold-hearted-ness of the world and pledge to ‘BE’ human in true sense. It sure is government’s responsibility to look into these cases and rebuke the people responsible but is that enough? No. We as a society have to grow ourselves.

Book Review: Memoirs of a Geisha

Author: Arthur Golden

First Published in: 1997

Storyline : A small 9-year-old girl along with her older sister is sold by the poverty-stricken family and has to leave the small hut house on the beach, her ailing mother and all childhood memories. They only had each other but that also did not last since Chiyo the younger sister, the prettier one is sold to the Geisha house whereas the older sister Satsu is forced into prostitution as it was considered that she didn’t have the looks needed for a Geisha. Chiyo loses the touch with her sister and starts living in the Geisha house where she has to do house chores to pay off her living cost to house and seek apprenticeship from one of the other Geisha Hatsu staying in the same house. Hatsu who is trying to make her way to be the heir of the Geisha house takes instant dislike to Chiyo and considers her to be a potential threat. Chiyo who is always seeking the whereabouts og her sister comes to know that Hatsu has the information on this but instead of helping Chiyo Hatsu makes her do all her chores and even to the extent of hurting her rival Geisha Mameha by spoiling her valuable Kimono.geisha

Chiyo makes a friend also in the Geisha house, another apprentice, Pumpkin who is not as pretty as Chiyo and is always way behind Chiyo in learning the ways of a Geisha.  When Chiyo gets info on her sister she plans to run away but is caught and made a slave. Later Mameha, Hatsu’s rival takes interest in Chiyo and takes on her to mentor Chiyo while Hatsu starts mentoring Pumpkin. During her time as slave, Chiyo once sitting dejected on a road is offered money and handkerchief by a man who she knows as a Chairman. When she is ready and is taken by Mamhea to popular tea houses for networking she comes across the chairman. She falls for him and wants him to be her ‘Danna’ or sponsor but due to world war 2 Chairman who also liked Chiyo is about to lose his business cannot afford to and instead offers another Danna who had saved his company but was the same person who had once tried to assault Chiyo. It gets complicated but ultimately Chairman becomes her Danna and moves her to New York.

Review:

Geisha culture was very popular in Japan. This novel very beautifully explores all the facets of being a Geisha. The glamour associated with it, the intrigue of Geisha life, the setup and business of whole Geisha culture. The novel is written in a way of narration by the writer as part of his interviewing the Geisha in her older age in New York. All events happening in her life from her childhood to being a popular Geisha are narrated precisely. It gives insight into the life of a Geisha, the trainings that they have to take – dancing, preparing sake, the competition to stay in Geisha houses for survival, the rivalry with other Geishas, the money minded-ness of the mothers who run the Geisha houses, the networking that Geishas undertake to get a sponsor so that they do not have to be mistresses to multiple men and all the other things associated with being a Geisha. It also puts light on the complete control of Geisha house on personal life of a Geisha who are not allowed to fall in love, especially with someone who cannot sponsor them.

I absolutely loved this novel. It is so well written that when reading I totally forgot all happenings around me. I could imagine each and every scene clearly in my head as if I was there and seeing everything first hand – either the structure of geisha house, the Geishas, their amazingly designed Kimonons, the tea houses and everything else. I got completely engrossed in this book and I did not want this one to finish. I would totally recommend it.

Book Review : The Palace of Illusions

Novel: The Palace of Illusions

Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

First published in: 2008

Storyline:  Draupadi born from fire to King Drupad was a feminist since her childhood, always arguing over different rules set for her and her brother. While her brother ‘Dhri’ was taught all war arts, she had to sit behind curtains and involve herself in ‘homely’ activates like stitching, learning to dress herself up and upholding all the duties and conducts of a princess.Palace-of-Illusions

When married, she ends up marrying all 5 brothers instead of just the one whom she had chosen in the ‘Swayamvar’ when her mother in law commits the blunder of commanding her sons to share whatever they have brought without looking at what or who they had brought. The brothers were in exile at the time due to being ousted from their own kingdom by opposing cousin brothers. Draupadi was pulled in the whole journey of Pandavas to reclaim their kingdom. Once back from exile her husbands lose all their belongings including Draupadi to the notorious cousins in gambling.

Apart from this quest set upon her due to her husbands, the story reveals the feelings Draupadi had for one of the enemies of her husbands, her thoughts about all her husbands – their qualities and their shortcomings, her lack of attachment with her mother in law, her wonderful friendship with Lord Krishna and her undying love for her brother Dhri.

Review:

I have not read many mythological books so I wasn’t sure of this pick but I am glad I read this. This depicts the life story of Draupadi from her birth from fire to her death while walking the stairs of heaven. Everything that we know about Pandavas and their story is from Draupadi’s perspective. For those who are not familiar with the epic ‘Mahabharata’, Draupadi was the main character who unknowingly caused the biggest war of those times and she was also the only who witnessed the whole war with her own eyes.

The whole story is combination of myth, history and fiction. It touches upon how in India the birth of a daughter was perceived, the definition of beauty that is set for a woman, the way a woman is expected to follow her husband and many other such aspects which are still true to some extent.

The author has very cleverly put Draupadi’s point of view within the original saga.

But being a woman, I loved Draupadi’s perspective of the epic which hails Pandavas as great rulers having great qualities. But Draupadi’s take explores how sometimes these virtues of Pandava brothers and their mother were imprudent and senseless. When you think about it, Pandavas were not as great as they are hailed out to be, the torture they put Draupadi through, the eldest Pandava’s addiction to gambling diminishes their goodness.

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