Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Taj Conspiracy:Book Review

Pictured Above: Manreet Sodhi Someshwar, author of the Taj Conspiracy at a bloggers meet up, organized by Westland Books at The Punjab Grill
The Taj Conspiracy, by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar is essentially a thriller which centers on India’s most defining monument- the Taj Mahal. The protagonist Mehrunisa Khosa, who is of mixed race, half Indian and half Persian, is a Mughal scholar who identifies strongly with the Taj Mahal, as she looks at it as a reflection of her  own mixed heritage.  The book begins with Mehrunisa stumbling upon the dead body of the Taj supervisor, Arun Toor (Da Vinci Code anyone?). Mehrunisa eventually finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation and later notices that the calligraphy on Queen Mumtaz’s cenotaph has been changed to signify a Hindu origin to the Taj; the doings of a Hindu right-wing extremist group, who are adamant on proving that the Taj is originally a Shiv temple.

I was hooked!

Manreet has put in years of research to come up with accurate facts of the Taj Mahal, putting together a fast paced thriller which packs history, politics, bureaucracy, scandal and urban legends, in the right amount which makes sure you keep turning the pages in anticipation.

The narrative is gripping and there are enough twists and turns to make you gasp, along with the well sketched characters of Mehrunisa and cops SSP Raghav and R.P Singh who work ceaselessly to find out the conspirator behind this evil plan to destroy India’s most famous monument.

The end of the book, I’ll admit, was a tad disappointing and a bit too dramatic for my liking and it didn’t really do justice to the suspense that had been built up all along. Apart from that, I’d still recommend you read it, given Someshwar’s accurate research and the way she has effortlessly blended elements like fiction, history and politics into this unputdowanable thriller which keeps you glued.

(This is a book review requested by the publisher)

Monday, June 25, 2012

You Never Know When You’ll Get Lucky! Book Review

With a plethora of urban romances, structured around the lives, careers and relationships of young women (I choose not to use the term “chick lit” since I’m not terribly fond of it and feel that it undermines the character of a book, narrowing the perception of a reader) , written by young and educated, career women,  filling up book shelves swiftly these days, here’s another one in the form of Priya Narendra’s, You Never Know When You’ll get Lucky! Narendra has worked in advertising and according to her many of the hilarious incidents in the book have come from her stint in the industry. The book follows the hilarious life of Kajal, a young, independent and bold copy writer who works in advertising agency in Delhi and always ends up finding herself in clumsy and embarrassing situations. Kajal firmly believes that one should marry for love and furiously fends off her mother’s many unsuccessful attempts at trying to hook her up with prospective grooms.

 The book begins with Kajal trying to evade her mother and annoying childhood companion turned pursuer Bunty, at a wedding, where she ends up hiding under a table and bumping into Dhir, a handsome and suave investment banker from Bombay. Though there is an instant spark between the both of them, Kajal puts everything behind her since Dhir lives in Bombay and she can’t see how they can ever be together. Kajal finds herself in another short lived relationship and eventually dumps the guy at a family dinner where she realizes that he is a mamma’s boy and can’t up for her. This is when Kajal decides to get serious about her career and finds herself in the middle of an important ad campaign. Kajal ends up going to Bombay for a shoot related to this campaign and ends up meeting Dhir again, but this time the attraction is stronger and the pair of them realizes that there’s something deeper to what they feel for each other- the challenge remaining a long distance relationship which can often cause misunderstandings, as it does with Kajal and Dhir. The rest of the book follows how Kajal pulls off the ad campaign she was heading successfully and how Dhir and she finally work their relationship out.

The book is funny and engaging and Narendra has done justice in fleshing out the characters of Kajal, Dhir and other minor characters who add to the fun of the plot and the short chapters add to the pace and momentum of the book. But, frankly there’s nothing that sets this book apart from others in its genre and the predictability of some parts of the book are a tad disappointing as well. If you must, this book is best read on a long commute to work or during a slow day in the office.

(This is a book review requested by the publisher)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cooking Up a Storm and Some Steak!

Last Saturday I attended a wonderful cooking workshop organized by the supremely talented chefs Shamsul Wahid and Hanisha Singh at The Smoke House Grill and the lovely folks at Brown Paper Bag Delhi. The reason I was so kicked about this and squeezed myself in at the very last minute was that I've never been terribly fond of cooking (unless it's toast and eggs or Maggi) and so I thought this would be a great way to challenge myself and see what could possible go wrong. For if you know me, then you'll know that I'm pretty much a disaster in the kitchen (unless I'm baking of course, something I totally love and am told I'm good at too!)

For a reasonable sum of Rs.1500 we were provided individual work stations and all the ingredients neatly laid out, complete with the largest knife I have ever worked with and which I'll confess almost scared me away a tiny bit! But when Chef Shamsul started, it was magic show, his hands just effortlessly sliced, chopped, seared, fried, marinated and baked and I was left staring at his nimble fingers in awe. Apart from that, Chef Shamsul also gave us a number of handy tips which I have filed away neatly in my mind and hope to refer to when I start cooking more often.

So, here's what we made- chicken breast stuffed with sausages and cheese, wrapped in bacon, a juicy, medium rare, three peppercorn steak, served with roast potatoes, gravy, green beans, mashed potatoes and a crunchy salad on the side. And the best part, we got to eat all that we had cooked and it was absolutely divine, leaving me with a small sense of pride and a big smile on my face :) 

So what do you know, I can cook- yes, little old me! 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Of Flaming Gulmohar’s, Sticky Sweet Mangoes, a Lot of Heat, a Little Bit of Rain and the Reason for My Disappearance

It’s been far too long and a lot has NOT happened and I have been lazy. And so, today I decide to blow the dust off my blog and tell you all about it.

May in Delhi has been brutal and the only things capable of making me smile, (other than air conditioning of course) and especially when I’m in the office on an oppressively hot day, is the sight of a Gulmohar tree laden with scarlet blooms or that of a tiffin box (obviously not mine) filled to the brim with cool and sweet and juicy mangoes, cut up in perfect bite size little cubes! 
Being stung by the heat there was nothing to do all of May and there were moments when I would look mournfully at my blank calendar and want to burst out crying. There were days where, while sitting locked away in my cool and dark air conditioned room, I longed for a couple of days in the hills. Away from this suffocating heat, where I could sit with my hair falling down my shoulders without the back of my neck getting damp with sweat and enjoy a steaming, hot cup of chai, spiced with cinnamon and cardamom while I read Ruskin Bond, surrounded by silence and mighty green Deodars and look up to see cool, blue hills in the distance.

And then after weeks and weeks (or so it seemed) of slowly being cooked alive by the wretched heat, one afternoon, fat, grey clouds gathered in the sky and it rained! Not a lot, but enough for me to do a happy little dance while I felt the rain on my face and arms and saw fat droplets splatter and crash against the windshield – the bright, red brake lights of the car in front of us illuminating the drops, making them look like sparkling pieces of rubies scattered across the glass!

Continuing with the cheerfulness, yesterday I attended a wonderful bloggers meet up lunch hosted by Westland Books at the Punjab Grill, where we met to discuss author Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s latest thriller, The Taj Conspiracy, set against the backdrop of the Taj Mahal. Manreet is a lovely person and an excellent conversationalist and it was absolutely wonderful to get an opportunity to hear her talk about the book, the research involved and some interesting trivia on the Taj that came as a surprise! 

By the look of it, this is turning out to be a rather wonderful weekend and today evening I shall be heading to Landmark Bookstore in Vasant Kunj to hear the legendary and very prolific and delightful Ruskin Bond speak! I’ve heard him speak on a couple of occasions and was extremely charmed by his sharp wit and easy humour, a lot of which you find in his writing!

And so, hoping that the rest of the summer is slightly more kind to us, I shall go back to turning on the AC, dimming the lights and returning to a basket full of books that I have ordered from Flipkart, that lie waiting to be read.