Wednesday, May 23, 2012

It's your move, Wordfreak!

It's your move, Wordfreak! is a story of today's times, where people spend a majority of their waking hours in a virtual world under a fantasy-driven pseudo name. Alisha Menon aka Worddiva and Aryan Rajaram Chawla aka Wordfreak are just that. That is, after their working hours. Alisha is a successful divorce lawyer, while Aryan is an architect who specializes in building eco-friendly homes to reduce the planet's carbon footprint. Both of them come from broken homes, albeit different circumstances and so have obvious commitment and relationship issues. But the inevitable happens when these two discover each other at an online game of Scrabble. And the rest as they say is history.

The author, Falguni Kothari takes you on a romantic, (sometimes even erotic) journey of the love of two strangers, virtual mates who not only discover their love for each other, but also overcome their commitment phobias and defy all that other people ever thought about them, to be with each other. She spins quite a realistic tale here with Alisha being skeptical about too-good-to-be-true Aryan and his Greek god looks, while Aryan who finally says his "I love you" to the girl he loves, but still cannot bring himself to reveal his traumatic childhood to her.

Diya is Alisha's best pal and is quite a character too. Being a model, she makes sure that her tomboyish friend is never out of style when she has to meet Aryan or his family. She loves to gossip and discusses every shred of a detail of Aryan's relationship with her, including their sex life ;-) Then there is Valima, who is Alisha’s maid but doesn’t quite approve of young people dating and getting away on the weekends together! There are various other people in their lives like Alisha’s mom, MT, Alisha’s boss, Aryan’s uncle, grandmother, dad, his second wife and kids, but none as interesting as Diya or Valima, although they do help a lot in taking the story forward.

Alisha’s and Aryan’s courtship is electric from the beginning, what with they being complete strangers and already having a backup plan to dump each other before the first date. They have spent quite a lot of time in knowing each other during the online games, and so once they meet, they relationship moves forward in leaps and bounds. There is a lot sexual tension in the air which the two of them keep denying, until Aryan invites Alisha to spend a weekend with her. Finally, all the suppressed passion comes to the fore and Falguni here brings you the details of their frenzied and wild love making. Quite as much :-P

It’s all going good between them until the skeletons from Aryan’s closet stumble out to haunt him. Alisha still doesn’t have a clue and when Aryan suddenly disappears after a small tiff between them, she thinks that Aryan has decided to dump her. And from there, the book quite turns into a Bollywood story with Alisha going to London and discovering about Aryan’s past. And then like the perfect girlfriend, she helps him to come out from the denial that he is living in, into accepting the truth, and to finally come to peace with his past.

The book is quite fast paced and characters very modern, that everyone can identify with.
But I would have loved to read about some of their witty Scrabble games, from where the love story started. The words “Wordfreak” and “Worddiva” quite bring out the Scrabble-r in me, and would have loved to read about a love story that started a little hatke as opposed to the typical “love at first sight”. The concept was very unique but not quite exploited to its maximum! That’s one place where I, for sure, felt disappointed.

Otherwise, the book is a light hearted fiction that has love, drama, action, tears and lots of passion! Even though I wouldn’t say it’s a must read, but if you like the Chick Lit genre, grab your copy today! A perfect read for a 2-3 hour flight/train journey!

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Because sunshine makes me beautiful!

Why do we associate all things lively and interesting with sunshine? Talk to a dad gushing to his 4-year old daughter and he will be quick to add, "There goes my sunshine girl". Talk to a boyfriend head over heels in love with his girl, and he will remind you that she is his 'sunshine girl'. I figured it’s because we look forward to a new day as the sun rises and shines and lights up our days. It’s the nature's alarm, telling us to leave our failures of the past just there, and move to a new beginning.

Cut to reality. Come summers and we all like to hide ourselves and our priceless white glowing skin behind closed doors to prevent it from sun burn and tanning. We curse the sun and pray for rain. Even the schools and colleges close down for a good two months. On a typical summer afternoon, if you ever decide to go down the road (God forbid you should do so!), all you get to see is the lonely road, the sound of whirring coolers in homes and a looming silence with not a soul in sight. Well, except Kyra.

Kyra is my childhood buddy. We have shared our secrets and stories of success, failure, hopes, anxiety and aspirations. She always knows how to cheer me up when I am feeling down or doubting my talent or self-worth. She has always been there when I needed her, and is the most jovial person I have known all my life. She is the kind of person everyone wanted to be friends with, but I took and still take great pride in the fact that she is MY best friend, My sunshine girl, my Ky.

A few years later, this little sunshine joke of ours turned quite literal for us, as I developed skin problems which worsened if I as much as stepped out in the sun. And imagine that for a girl living in Delhi where the summer temperatures hover around a harsh 40 degrees and threateningly close to 48 degrees. I had tried various sun screen lotions off the rack but nothing worked for me. My skin was too sensitive to them. It would break out even before I stepped out in the sun.

One day, Ky and I had a huge fight. Apparently, she had planned an outing to Rishikesh with a bunch of our other friends. We could go for river rafting, cliff jumping and other such adventurous activities, or just laze around on the beach. I being myself was so horrified at the idea, as if she was suggesting going to a graveyard at 12 in the night! She tried convincing me but I was in no mood to listen. We both huffed and puffed and Ky left, sensing that I was too worked up about my skin “problem” and all that!

A few days later, I received an anonymous courier. As soon as I opened it, I laughed heartily.
This was my "make-up" gift from Ky, who apparently had taken up my malady too seriously.
My "make-up" gift !

 I was almost determined to not go on an experimentation session again when my eyes fell on another thing in the courier packet. Ky, knowing me well, had written me a letter too.

Dear G,
I know you are feeling very distressed because of your skin issues, what with it turning dark and getting those burnt patches. But let me tell you that you are still the same sweet G for me who is my confidante and best friend. Nothing, absolutely nothing, not even the sun with all its mighty powers can make me change my feelings for you. But G, I tried to tell you something the other day too, but you just wouldn't listen. And that is when I realized that the sun was not only playing havoc with your skin, but with your character too.

In all these years, I have never seen you so worked up or talking so rudely with me. Not only has you appearance changed, but your beautiful inside too. My gentle G has suddenly become this aggressive G who is only safeguarding her skin, while our friendship is withering away in your hostility. 

Tears were rolling down my cheeks. I couldn't read any further. The letter lay crumpled in my hands. I had not realized how much I had hurt Ky, who had been there for me always. And that day I decided that enough was enough. How long could I go on sitting inside the house, fearing my demons? I had to go out and face them.

And so the next day, doused with a liberal portion of the Lakme Sun expert with SPF (Sun Protection Factor)  50, I went to Ky's house to surprise her. We both hugged each other, and decided to go for a movie! Ky and I stepped out, oblivious of the harsh sun. We were reveling in the joys of our once again blooming friendship. A few hours later, as we entered the house, laughing and joking about the movie, I began to panic. I was so happy that I hadn’t checked on my skin even once. What if it had broken out again? What if? What if?

And with a thousand questions on my mind, I dashed off to the bathroom to check my appearance. As I looked at my face incredulously, Ky walked up from behind and gave me a smile. Eureka! It had worked. And so, one by one, I started using the other products like the face wash and sun mask too. And slowly, my damaged skin started returning to its glorious old self.

My sunshine girl literally brought back the sunshine in my life. I can never thank her enough for not only making my skin better, and empowering me to step out at any time of the day, but also making me a better human being. Because I might not be able to get a Lakme Sun Expert for all the obstacles that I will face in life, and yet I will always have the comfort of knowing that Ky will always be my side without ever judging me.

And now for the SURPRISE! I am writing this post from Rishikesh where Ky and I are vacationing with our third sunshine buddy. Guess who?
Yep! It is Lakme Sun Expert.

That's my story. Who is your sunshine buddy?

 This post has been written for the Lakme Diva Blogger Contest on Indiblogger 
 You can vote for me here.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The day dreams turned into a nightmare!

They were very young then. D and M. They used to play in the evening together, sometimes in their homes, or in the park adjacent to thier house. They had their own world in which only the two of them, their brothers and sisters, their parents and their houses existed. No bad people or any evil that was associated with the outside world ever entered their world. They ran in the park or played on the swings on days when a cool breeze flew, and sat under the shade of a tree on days it was hot and humid or chatted on the terrace. They made fun of each other, discussed their funny/rude/intelligent classmates and shared their growing up stories. They were experiencing the most beautiful years of our life and they didn't even know it. That was the beauty of it.

But it all changed in a single day. They both were playing in the park one day, and a guy came up to them. He must have been a college goer, was well dressed and came on a bicycle. He loitered around for some time, and then finding the park almost empty, approached them. He wanted to know some address that they didn't know. They politely declined and started to move. He subtly blocked their ways and started talking about some inconsequential things. In the process, he touched them in all the places he shouldn't have. They felt uncomfortable, but didn't raise an alarm. After all, they were too young and ignorant. In their world, everyone was good and gave candies to kids. Not the goose bumps of the wrong kind. This went on for quite some time until one of them began to cry. He got afraid that they might raise an alarm. And somehow, they wriggled out of his grip and ran home. They recounted the entire incident, oblivious of the horrors that could have descended on them that day. The parents said their prayers to God, thankful of His mercy and everybody went back to sleep peacefully. But. Their daily park activity was stopped. They couldn't go out and play because they were little girls, and apparently a nymphomaniac could be out there on the prowl.

Later, during their teenage years, they had their share of the butt slapping/pinching, molestation and lewd comments passed in buses, trains and market places. They shared these with each other, but what could they do? But there was an incident each in both of their lives that they didn't share with each other. It had crossed the boundaries of the 'normal' indecent behavior meted out to young girls like them. They were so ashamed of themselves that they didn’t even share it with each other, let alone the parents or the siblings. They grew up scathed, scarred and abused for life. They thought that they would be considered 'bad' for having this brought upon themselves.

But a few weeks back, all of us were chatting about an incident that had happened with one of our friends and that led them to reveal 'their incidents' to each other after almost 12 years. They realised how ill informed they were. They didn't even realise then that what had happened with them was a grave crime. They knew it was wrong, but didn't know if everybody else would feel that way too. What if they didn't believe them? What if, they stopped them from going to school/college/friends’ house just like the park incident? And they hadn't heard these kinds of stories from anyone else too. That meant it was only them. And so, they buried those incidents deep down in their hearts and tried to believe that they were indeed wrong about it all.

Imagine if two best friends couldn't reveal to each other a one-off incident like that, what do victims of years of child sexual abuse go through? You and I cannot even imagine it.

The reason for this post is today's episode of Satyamev Jayate on Child Sexual Abuse. First I have to give it to Aamir Khan for taking up this topic that is somehow always brushed under the carpet. People turn cynical. After all who talks to young kids, aged 4-12 years about sex and what touch is a 'right' touch? That's the problem of our society. They want to live in denial. They do not want to accept the fact that someday their kids could be a victim of this horrendous crime too. Because as long as it’s happening to someone else's kid, they can always be judgmental and say, "Oh! You know it’s his/her mistake. He/She shouldn't have gone there. It's no place for kids." Right! Park is not a place for kids too. The government spends the tax payers' money on building and maintaining parks for imbecile, nut-head nymphos looking out for their next victim!

In today's episode, Aamir talked to the victims and survivors of years of abuse. It was mind numbing and very disturbing. But the best part of the show was where he took a workshop for kids aged 5-10 years. He informed them about the 'danger' parts of one's body, and that except the parents and a doctor, nobody else had any business touching them. Even a doctor can examine the child in those sensitive areas Only when a parent is around. He explained it all in such a matter-of-fact way, using a chart and diagrams that it almost felt like he was teaching them the A-B-C. There was nothing wrong or disgusting about it.

Some parents feel that it is wrong to introduce these concepts to so young a child. But I think in the age and times that we live, it has become imperative that the right kind of information be passed on to young minds to save them a lifetime of nightmares and scars. And let them enjoy the most beautiful years of their life, armed with not only creative stories and dreams, but also the right information. Let them not be wronged at the hands of some frustrated distant relatives or friends. You brought them into this beautiful world and you owe them this - that the beauty of their world remains, until they grow enough to figure it out all themselves.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tzinga - The 5 hour charge!

What is that one thing that you need the most once you get married?
My answer: Energy (and not for The reason that you are thinking with that naughty smile on your face)! :-P

After all, being married, more so for a working girl, is all about channelizing energy into juggling your responsibilities between office and home, doing the laundry, dishes, cooking and the list goes on.
Last year, when I got married, it was all hunky dory initially. Setting up our own love nest was a dream come true. But the nightmare that ensued was like the little writing that comes below the advertisements (*Terms and Conditions apply*) that I had failed to read. Getting up early was never my scene. And that H and I worked in diagonally opposite corners of NCR (National Capital Region), meant I had to get up early to serve him breakfast, at least! But how long can a romance last in wake of so much opposition (read: getting up early, work in the day and do the home stuff in the evening, and then sleeping late into the night)? I had no time to exercise and I was gaining weight. I had no extra time or energy to spend in the gym. I was irritated and cranky and felt guilty at times!

The other day, we had another of those promotional events in our office, and I halfheartedly went along with my colleagues to find out about what it was this time. These guys were handing out free samples of a new energy drink called Tzinga. Weird name I thought! I hadn't heard of it, and so thought of giving it a chance. I tried the Mango Strawberry flavor, and found it to be really tasty. In the past, the only association I had with energy drinks was with Red Bull, and I hated it when I drank it. It was so hard and bitter. This one tasted more like fruit juice with a tingly after taste. You can actually feel a different flavor once you have gulped it down.

And so, I decided to try the Tropical Trip and Lemon Mint flavors too. I found Tropical Trip equally good, with a blend of fruity flavors and it was difficult deciding what fruit/ flavor it actually was. But Lemon Mint completely took the cake for me. I was bowled over by its taste. It had such a subtle lemony taste, and as it goes down, you feel an after taste of mint which is oh-so-lovely and refreshing. I finished the whole bottle before mouthing my verdict. What else does one need on a hot summer afternoon?  :-)
Mango Strawberry and Tropical Trip are drinks that you would essentially like to have after your gym/aerobics class, as it’s very energizing and gives you the feel of taking a fruit juice. But Lemon Mint is The One for me. Anytime, anywhere. Feeling low on energy or coming home in the hot afternoon, I know what I am reaching out to after getting home.

Happy with my free 'drinks', I went back a happy woman, ready to face my challenges at home. And when I finished all my chores more enthusiastically than the other days, both H and I noticed the change. H joked that maybe 'free' things did turn me on. We laughed about it but it actually got me thinking. I had merely had it because it tasted nice and had not even bothered to acknowledge the fact that it was primarily an energy drink. So I immediately googled it up and found that Hector Beverages was venturing in the Beverage Market armed with Tzinga in three flavors. They have a FB fan page with some very interesting doodles too.

And while the curious me was trying to find out more about this brand, I came across some very interesting facts about this start up and their product, its brand placement in the beverage market and it’s USP. It is priced at a very economical 20 bucks, as compared to an average 75 bucks for a can of energy drink. Besides the other normal stuff like Caffeine and Taurine found in energy drinks across, which boost physical and mental performance, it also contains Ginseng which is anti-oxidant (good news ladies! Anti aging properties you see!) and apparently an aphrodisiac! ahem..well...

The home maker me is very impressed! Very economical, equally tasty and really effective. I am all thumbs up for this new drink.
Do try it once and let me know if you like it too!

Until the next time , be happy, energetic and spread the love..

PS: Please read the ingredients at the back of the bottle before trying it, in case you are allergic to some stuff. This is purely my personal opinion about the product and may/may not match with your views. But either ways, I would love to hear back from you. :-)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Happiness and all that Hoopla !

Lately, I have been very miffed and very confused with the different definitions of happiness around me. Now different people tend to be happy about different things. ? I am sure that definition is different for each one of us. Some of us might find our salvation in retail therapy, some in our kids’ smile, some in their work; some in spirituality and a lot of people find it in power and money. And there are some who conform to somebody else’s idea of being happy and find their happiness in the other persons’ happiness. But since when did it become fashionable to equate happiness with money, and all things that it can buy?
 For once, I am not a conformist. And neither am I a believer in the shop-till-you-drop formula of girls my age. I, in fact, hate shopping. You know the kinds, where you keep hopping from shop to shop; mall to mall, oblivious of what you want, just waiting for serendipity to happen. That’s not my idea of shopping at all. I go shopping when I actually need something, buy it and come back. And since I am very choosy too, sometimes I don’t buy anything at all and come back. But some people just cannot digest the fact that a girl can act choosy and wise at the same time! I mean what have we girls been relegated to? Some sort of card swiping shopaholics, shopping bags toting maniacs? You know, people actually say things like she is stingy, she is a miser and so she wouldn’t spend on herself. Oh Please! For God’s sake, it’s MY hard earned money. Don’t I get to choose what I want to spend it on, and where? I mean, just because I don’t go out splurging my money on clothes, accessories and shoes that I may never ever wear (because I don’t like them as soon I reach home, but I bought it coz they looked so elegant on the mannequin), doesn’t mean I am a miser. Maybe you didn’t think I was being smart, or did you?

And yes, the other thing about money. I am a typical Cancerian when it comes to money. I like to have loads of it in my bank. You know we like being secured and all. So when I go out to shop, it helps me think rationally. When I see something ridiculously expensive, like a formal Van Huesen skirt for 3000 bucks, it helps me rationalize. I know I have the money to buy it, and so I will buy it Only if I need it. Because there are times, when you like something, and you don’t have the money to buy it. Then it doesn’t matter whether you need it or not, because you will always remember having not bought it because you couldn’t afford it. You know that self pity mode women are prone to go into. So that’s that. Having money to splurge actually makes me wiser.
I spend my hard earned money my way.  And that makes me happy. For me buying useful/useless things is not equal to happiness. I find happiness in buying my favorite books in original paperback, in buying books on a sale where every book costs only Rs. 100, and I am happiest if I can find some lazy time to lie down in my home and read that book. I am happy when I spend time with H and with family, cracking PJs, or playing with my nephew. And I love to travel. I would prefer to spend my money on a week’s vacation over buying something expensive like diamonds or an iPad. And that doesn’t mean I am averse to all the good things in life. It’s just about that ‘rush’ people experience when they shop. I am just not like that. Materialism is not my idea of happiness.

Now don’t try to look at me with those cat-ish narrow eyes, unbelievably. I am not trying to act all saintly, but yeah…I am kinda bore for people my age. I don’t go clubbing, partying or shopping on weekends. I try to imagine myself as this intellectual thinker and arty type, who reads and stare at the walls thinking what her first book will be about (Jeez! *fingers crossed*)
People, I am done with your judgmental genes, please. I am not here to please you in any which way by buying anything that doesn’t make me happy. I have never done it and I am never gonna do it. Every time you stoop down enough to say something like, “Buy this because everybody your age owns it, and besides, it will make you appear in that league”, your name is struck off from my guest list. What guest list? My first book launch party, stupid! (Don’t ask me when and where, because it’s still in my dreams). But you gotta watch out. You might just not want to repeat that and miss out on THE master piece ;-)