My Favorite Things: New Year Gifts

It’s almost the end of the year, y’all! And the end of the year means that its time for New Year Gifts! So, without further ado, let me present to you some jaw-droppingly awesome gifts for your literary friends.

You know how those literary types (me included) love to say “so many books, so little time”? Well, how about gifting them this gorgeous pendant that immortalizes the refrain.

so_many_books_pendant

Or for the fashionista in your life – this absolutely stunning Jane Austen book bag!

Jane_Austen_book_purse

Not to leave the men behind – how about this super sexy literary t-shirt for the Murakami fan?

windup_bird_chronicles_tshirt

And for your ebook toting friends, here’s a super cool Kindle cover that looks like, well, a good old-fashioned book!

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And for those who still love their physical books, here are two insanely awesome book ends

Book ends

Happy shopping! Oh, and feel free to send one (or all of these) my way ;-)

Here are some more of my favorite things

I Stand With Peshawar…And With Humanity

Sometimes I think there is no hope for this world. We are the generation that will watch as people and nations are ripped apart in the name of religion. We are the generation that will, with our own two hands and our hate filled hearts, bring about an apocalypse.

And then I see people quietly standing in solidarity, willing to offer support to the oppressed and those in pain, and I feel hope. But it often gets crushed.

Brutally.

And then I want to just ignore the world and retreat into my own mind, my own life, my most immediate surroundings. But that is no way to live – like an ostrich.

Is there any hope for us? Or are we a generation doomed?

Will they write about us in their history books, condemning our every choice, our every action, pointing us out as the most hate-filled generation since Hitler?

Or will we manage to reverse course? To realize that we are more similar than we are different? That at the end of the day, we are all humans…we all face similar problems…to greater or smaller degrees…and that if we only try, if we extend a hand to those around us, we can make this world a beautiful place.

Will we ever be able to celebrate our one-ness, or will we always be divided over our other-ness?

An evening of fun, food, and technology: Apptasting with Rajiv Makhni and Vikas Khanna

Question: What do you get when you put 150 women into a room with two hot dudes?
Answer: One hell of a fun evening!

Kissing_phones_Rajiv_Makhni

Kissing our phones for tech guru Rajiv Makhni

150 ladies – travelers, lifestyle bloggers, a lot of them friends – got together on a cold winter’s evening for an evening of fun, technology, wine and food. The room was filled with the buzz of conversations and everywhere you looked you could see shades of pink. The mood was built with free flowing wine, and the event was truly underway with the entry of two dashing men – Tech Guru Rajiv Makhni and Michelin star chef Vikas Khanna! And we set off on an odyssey of food and technology.

All the pink ladies

All the pink ladies! Photo courtesy Shalini

Given that it was a Lumia app tasting event, held in association with WOW, the apps were largely travel-related. And there were some interesting apps on display. There was a cool language translator that doesn’t just give you a text translation, but actually speaks the translated sentence in the language of your choosing. You can never be lost in translation when you travel again!

Techguru_Rajiv_Makhni_Masterchef_Vikas_Khanna

Laughs, conversations, contests & more

There were three amazing photography apps – one fun app that let’s you swap faces, the other a super cool app that gets rid of photo bombers and random people who walk into your frame, and a third app that gives you moving gif images. Imagine a night spent dancing captured in “moving photos” – how cool is that?

No_tan_Vikas_Khanna

“No tan in India, only Fair & Lovely”, says Michelin starred chef Vikas Khanna

And for the next time you’re out drinking, there’s an excellent app that will help you decide if you should hire a cab or drive yourself by telling you just how drunk you are based on your walk! But if you want my opinion – don’t drink and drive. Ever. Make alternate arrangements, please! After all, safety must come first!

9.5 weeks of taste

9.5 weeks of taste

Mixed in with all the technology were some fun food-related games. Both games involved blindfolds…and food. One needed touch and smell. The other needed taste. Both games were plays on sensual movies….Nine and a half weeks of taste and 50 shades of pink. Naughty, eh? But that’s the beauty of Vikas Khanna – with all the innuendo and all the leg-pulling and naughtiness, it never got uncomfortable or even the least bit lecherous.

Dancing_chef_Vikas_Khanna

The dancing chef, Vikas Khanna

It was all done in good (nay, excellent) taste (pun intended), with fun, wit and humbleness. And just as Rajiv was there for the technology, Vikas was there for the launch of his latest cook book – World Feast. And where there is a book launch, there generally are free copies! And when you have the author there, there also are signed copies! And when the author is as charismatic as Vikas, there also are selfies! As the women thronged around him, waiting for their chance to get clicked, I couldn’t help but marvel at his patience. He had a kind word for everyone, he had the patience to take more than one picture when they said “oh, this picture is making me look fat!”, and he graciously signed everyone’s copy too!

Book_launch_World_Feast_Vikas_Khanna

Booklaunch: World Feast by Vikas Khanna

Needless to say it was a fun, exciting evening – one that will stay with me – and with all who attended, no doubt – for a long time to come!

Three books, three genres, three great reads

Les Miserables manga book coverLes Miserables – Manga classic

Gorgeous artwork for a classic story adapted into a Manga edition – what more could you ask for? If you’ve never read Les Miserables, or even if you have, you’ll love this book!

Beautiful, expressive character drawings, incredibly detailed scenery, and a true love for the original classic shine through on every page. Of course, not every facet of the classic could be explored in the Manga version, but if you’ve never read the original, chances are, after reading this, you’d want to run out and get your hands on Victor Hugo’s original classic. That, to my mind, is the biggest victory of this beautiful book.

Highly recommended!

Vanessa and Her Sister Priya ParmarVanessa & Her Sister – Priya Parmar

London, 1905: The city is alight with change, and the Stephen siblings are at the forefront. Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby, and Adrian are leaving behind their childhood home and taking a house in the leafy heart of avant-garde Bloomsbury. There they bring together a glittering circle of bright, outrageous artistic friends who will grow into legend and come to be known as the Bloomsbury Group. And at the center of this charmed circle are the devoted, gifted sisters: Vanessa, the painter, and Virginia, the writer. Each member of the group will go on to earn fame and success, but so far Vanessa Bell has never sold a painting. Virginia Woolf’s book review has just been turned down by The Times. Lytton Strachey has not published anything. E. M. Forster has finished his first novel but does not like the title. Leonard Woolf is still a civil servant in Ceylon, and John Maynard Keynes is looking for a job. Together, this sparkling coterie of artists and intellectuals throw away convention and embrace the wild freedom of being young, single bohemians in London.

The story unfolds through Vanessa’s diary entries, interspersed with postcards between Lytton and Leonard, painting a picture of a young Vanessa as she breaks away from stiff formality, embracing a bohemian, non-conformist way of living and entertaining. While she worries about not knowing how many people to prepare sandwiches for and experiencing a slight pang at breaking away from tradition, Virginia seems mostly caught up in her own madness, craving everyone’s attention and going to any lengths to get it.

But since the entire story is told from Vanessa’s point of view, none of the other characters are substantial enough – we see them primarily through her lens. Nor is her “diary” a particularly interesting read. Sure, there are times when she philosophizes a bit, or delves deeper into a problem, but it’s more like reading a chronicle of her daily activities – Julian (her son) was sick; she had to pack up her house and manage the finances even while traveling.

As individual vignettes, there is a lot of interesting detail about life in the early 1900s in London. But as an overall novel, it leaves something to be desired.

When Mystical Creatures Attack! By Kathleen Founds

When Mystical Creatures Attack! Kathleen FoundsThe book opens with essays from Ms. Laura Freedman’s high school English class. They’ve been asked to writes essays about how mystical creatures resolve the greatest sociopolitical problems of our time. And the responses – random, occasionally vague, unique, mysterious, eccentric, magical – set the tone for the rest of the book.

Students include Janice Gibbs, “a feral child with excessive eyeliner and an anti-authoritarian complex that would be interesting were it not so ill-informed,” and Cody Splunk, an aspiring writer working on a time machine. Following a nervous breakdown, Ms. Freedman corresponds with Janice and Cody from an insane asylum run on the capitalist model of cognitive-behavioral therapy, where inmates practice water aerobics to rebuild their Psychiatric Credit Scores.

The lives of the main cast of characters – Janice, Cody, Ms. Freedman – are revealed through class essays, journal prompts, letters, emails, therapeutic journal exercises, an advice column, television transcripts and a Methodist women’s fundraising cookbook.

It’s wholly original and utterly delightful. It has its laugh-out-loud moments and its serious ones; some random ramblings and some crazy teenage hormones. It’s deep and philosophical, profound, strangely moving, and irreverent all at once. Overall, it’s absolutely brilliant!

Highly, highly recommended!

Haider and the Hindutva brigade

Haider posterIt’s amazing how a movie like Haider gets even the closeted hindutva brigade crawling out of the woodwork. It’s a movie. It’s more about a family than about Kashmir. Yes, it’s set in Kashmir, and yes, the major protagonists are Muslims. Does that make it an us vs them story? No. It makes it a human story.

Millions of Kashmiri Pandits were displaced around the 1990s. But this movie isn’t about them. Millions of Muslims were recruited by militants and sent across the border to train as jihadis. This movie isn’t about them. The Indian Army was called in to maintain peace and order. In the process, many were killed, maimed, captured, tortured. In turn, they killed, captured, maimed and tortured Muslims, some innocent, some not. This isn’t even a story about them.

This is simply the story of a Muslim family, of family dynamics, of love and obsession, loss and revenge, of how they were caught up in the broader events happening in the state, and how they dealt with them.

Yes, it shows the Indian Army in a “negative light” – it shows the prison/torture camps and has a few graphic scenes (for Indian cinema) of torture. If you think this is Muslim propaganda, please, un-bury your head from the sand. If you think Haider’s (Shahid Kapur) soliloquy is a whole load of bullshit, please, un-bury your head from the sand. If you think that all Muslims are Paki’s, dude, you’ve got issues.

Yes, Haider’s father wants revenge for his lost years. For the torture he had to endure at the hands of the army. But he doesn’t want revenge against India. He wants revenge against his brother, for giving him up to the Army. There’s no clear cut black and white in an us vs them narrative, because life is all about the greys. Moreover, this isn’t an us vs them story. It isn’t even really a Kashmir story. As I said before, it simply is a human story.

So for once, can we put aside our differences and our prejudices and just watch some excellent acting by some brilliant actors, or is that too much to ask for?