Friday, 31 October 2014

Fraudster - Review

Today, I'm reviewing the first novel of RV Raman, a new author. I received this in the mail when I was vacationing in Mussoorie, and I finally found the time to finish this book.

Fast Facts:-

Title: Fraudster 
Author: RV Raman
Genre: CorporateThriller (Fiction)
Publisher: Hachette India
Pages: 289
Price: Rs.250 (Paperback)

Key Characters:-
  1. Varsha: Assistant Manager at CBS & Co., one of the 'Big Five' global accounting firms
  2. K. Subramaniam a.k.a. Subbu: Senior Partner at CBS, and a mentor and fatherly figure to Varsha
  3. R.C. Visht: Chairman of First Line Credit (FLC) Bank
  4. Praveen Ranade: Detective Inspector

The Review:-

'Fraudster' opens with the death of Shruti Mathur, a young employee at Devalkar Bank. She is killed when she falls off a local train between Sion and Kurla. This comes shortly after she gives her statement to the commission investigating a large scale fraud, and is fired by her employer who considers her negligent.

Visht, who is on the panel investigating the fraud, discovers that Shruti has been framed and his bank (FLC) has been a victim of deceit. A tragedy befalls Visht and his close associate, Subbu. This devastates Kamini (Visht's daughter) and Varsha, but they pull themselves together and help the police in their task.

The story mainly revolves around Varsha and Kamini who are attacked for an important piece of evidence that incriminates the powerful mastermind behind the fraud. The perpetrator of the crimes is somebody close to them, but the girls are not sure who. There is some action in the story, complete with fire, gunshots, fisticuffs and chasing in dark, narrow and desolate alleys.

The book seeks to answer some glaring questions:-

  • Are the deaths by accident or by design?
  • Who is the real fraudster?
  • Will the fraudster ever be brought to book?

The book cleverly examines in a story the real-world scams that many a politician has been imprisoned for, but takes care to remove any direct reference to any individual/incident/party.

My Verdict:-

Raman's story has no loopholes, but it is evident that he is not a natural storyteller. The book is very focussed and the plot is linear. The content gets a bit repetitive as the structure of the fraud is revisited every few chapters, but the story largely remains interesting.

The author does a great job of detailing the day-to-day functions of risk management teams in banks, audit firms and IT Security personnel. The fact that Raman has experience in related fields is clear. He draws inspiration from his own world and makes a bold attempt at using similar scenarios for the novel.

I give this book an overall rating of 6 on 10 for a crisp plot and even pace. It misses a few points for keeping the story too simple and the language a tad bit ordinary. Nevertheless, it's a good book to keep you from getting bored on train journeys.

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This book review is part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program and Blog Tours. To get free books, reach out to

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Quikr Than You Can Imagine!

It was my Diwali wish to get a violin. I had dropped giant hints to my parents, sister and anyone who would listen, but alas! Diwali came and went by, but I did not have any violin with me. That is when I decided to take matters into my own hands, and get myself the musical instrument I had been craving for years now. Then reality struck me, and I realized that my paltry savings wouldn't afford me even a toy-violin, let alone a good quality real one! I was wallowing in self-pity as the country burst crackers outside.

I flumped on the sofa and blindly surfed the TV channels. Suddenly, I came across the Quikr commercial:-

This 30-second ad made me sit up and wonder if Quikr was really a matchmaker for buyers and sellers. I decided I'd give it a shot and find out for myself! I quickly logged on to my laptop and opened up the Quikr website.

I was pleased to see the neat homepage which had automatically picked up my location from my previous login. The homepage has neat tiles of categories you can choose from. Quikr apparently lets people buy and sell everything - from houses and vehicles to pets and electronics! It also supports 7 Indian languages along with English. (I hope they start supporting Bengali soon!) 

Meanwhile, I was fiddling with my phone (yes, I just can't stay still!) and downloaded the Quikr app for Android from the Google Play store.

I was amazed! The mobile app looks even neater than the website! I tapped on the "search" icon and the application smoothly used the GPS of my phone to fetch my city.

A simple "tap" lets you change the city too (in case you are shopping for a friend in another city).

I drew my attention back to my laptop and typed out my search text. I was going to get me my own Diwali gift!

Quikr's autosearch feature intelligently found out I was looking for a violin under musical instruments. I ran a simultaneous search on my cell phone.

I was taken to a page where multiple sellers displayed their violins. You too can take a look here:

The panel on left allowed me to refine my search results. I could reselect the category or subcategory, and pick multiple musical instruments from the list.

The mobile version showed me a similar scene, only with a design that is much simpler. Every ad shows:-
  1. at least one picture (they say ads sell better when you have many pictures to back them)
  2. the title (the more informative your title, the more your customer will notice your ad)
  3. the cost
  4. the location/area of the seller
  5. date of uploading the ad (new ads are displayed first if you don't select any filter)

Most of the violins I skimmed through were priced at around Rs.50,000. My face fell. Quikr again stepped in to cheer me up and I noticed the slider to select a custom price range, along with predetermined price-bars on the left panel.

I set all the filters to suit my budget, and sent up a prayer. I could not afford to spend more than Rs.5000 on a used violin. I sorted the list in ascending order for price. I checked to see if the mobile app also had a similar function.

Lo and behold! I could sort all the violins based on price, pictures and recency of the advertisement. And that was not all!

The app also let me filter according to the locality of the buyer, the price range, the seller (individual or dealer) and the condition (used or new) of the violins! I adjusted the filters and pressed the magic button ("Apply").

My precious shortlisted violins appeared on my phone, and to be on the safe side, I quickly saved my search as an alert. This is a wonderful feature, and I've been receiving text messages and emails about violins so I can take a well informed decision.

Coming back to the laptop view, I finally was able to choose a violin after saying "no" to a few. I was blown by the pictures of the 2-year old Selecta violin which came with the case, not one but two bows, and a chin-rest and all the 4 metal strings affixed to the instrument.

The Andheri East location was also closeby from my place. And had it been far, I could have taken Quikr's help to get the muscial instrument delivered to my home! How awesome is that! To avail their pickup and delivery service, you only have to mention the to and from locations, the product details and the date of delivery. You can make the payment directly to the Quikr representative when you receive your goods.

Out of curiosity, I checked how my selected violin would look on my phone. The interface is user friendly and lets you swipe to browse through adjacent ads. I read the details of my selection.

My (presumably well off) seller was upgrading his violin to a Hofner. There just couldn't be a better time for me to get myself a Selecta! :-) I saw that he was going to sell his shoulder-rest too. The app would let me call, SMS or email the seller through the app. I decided to call up the owner immediately. His phone was engaged, but I did not have the patience to wait. So, I turned my attention to my laptop again.

I clicked on "Reply to this Ad" on the right panel and typed out my message. The smart system had auto-populated my email ID and phone number. I had requested the guy to sell me the shoulder-rest and electric pickup within the 5000-cost. I was buying a second-hand violin afterall!

With only 3% battery on my phone, I decided to reply from my phone as well. I quickly tapped out a message there too, and hit the "Send" button.

After my reply was posted successfully, I sat back and waited for a call, text or email from the owner. You will notice how fast Quikr actually works when you see that I made my entire search, selection and intimation within a span of 7 minutes. In an hour, I got a call from the seller, and after a couple of minutes of negotiating the price, we closed the deal. I was going to get the violin and all paraphernalia for only Rs.5000! The same thing if bought from a music-store, would cost me upwards of Rs.10,000!

We quickly decided that I would collect it personally from him outside his office during the lunch hour and pay in cash. The transaction and settlement were swift and by dusk, I was back home with my prized catch. ;-) And now I testify that Quikr really is "buyer aur seller ka perfect matchmaker"!

You can only derive vicarious pleasure from watching me play my "Diwali gift" which I bought with my own money. I was so happy to finally own a violin, that I immediately subscribed to some YouTube video channels for violin lessons. 

For Christmas, I think I'll get myself a real violin-instructor. By the way, did you know Quikr also has ads for violin teachers? Well, they sell "services" too!

This post is part of activity at

Sunday, 26 October 2014

God Is A Gamer - Review

Ravi Subramanian is back with another exciting masterpiece! I was lucky to get my hands on the autographed first edition which released last month. Are you all set to read the review of the world's first bitcoin thriller?

Fast Facts:-

Title: God Is A Gamer
Author: Ravi Subramanian
Genre: Financial Thriller (Fiction)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 310
Price: Rs.299 (Paperback)

Key Characters:-

  1. Gillian Tan: A US Senator who chairs the classified committee on alternative currency
  2. Swami: Head of Retail Banking at New York International Bank (NYIB) - Mumbai
  3. Malvika: CEO of NYIB - Mumbai
  4. Tanya: Malvika's daughter
  5. Aditya Rao: Founder of eTIOS (an IT outsourcing firm) and Indiscape (a gaming company) in Mumbai
  6. Varun: Aditya's son
  7. Adrian Scott: FBI Special Agent 

The Review:-

'God Is A Gamer' is the latest offering by Ravi Subramanian, a rising star in the Indian financial-thriller space. The story alternates between Washington D.C. and Mumbai, where two seemingly unrelated incidents shock the White House and corporate boardrooms of Mumbai, respectively.

The scene opens with the death of US Senator, Gillian Tan, in a car explosion executed using the Misznay-Schardin effect. FBI Agent Scott immediately gets on the case. A few days later, another incident sends shockwaves through NYIB - the accounts of several NYIB customers are compromised and 5 million dollars are siphoned off through dozens of ATMs in New York. Malvika, the India CEO of NYIB, puts the blame on Swami, the Head of Retail Banking, which eventually costs her the CEO-position as she is relegated to the passive role of a Chairman. Swami, meanwhile, fumes as he is increasingly seen as a weak leader and struggles to build a good rapport with Matt Metzger, the new CEO.

In a separate scene, Varun, Aditya's estranged son, is reunited with his father who helps bail him out of jail, something that wouldn't have been possible without Malvika's intervention for she is connected with India's most powerful men in the government. Varun and Tanya, Malvika's daughter, fall in love with each other after a number of chance meetings. Aditya lets Varun handle the business of Indiscape's newly launched game, Townsville. Varun uses his genius to take Townsville to the top of the charts from its previously dismal performance, and wins Aditya's confidence.

Two scandalous deaths in NYIB ups the tempo of the tale and puts pressure on the CBI to investigate if those are murders. Simultaneously, the stress on Agent Scott mounts as they suspect the involvement of an enormous amount of bitcoins and the use of TOR (a software that keeps its user's online activities anonymous and untraceable) in the Senator's murder and the ATM heist. To add more spice to the story, a prostitute's confessions of her "liaisons" reveal some shocking clues on the case.

The FBI and the CBI are led on a wild goose chase as they follow up on a wrong lead and detain an innocent. Will they be able to solve the multiple murders and the 5 million-dollar mystery? Or will the real culprit walk scot-free? You will have to get hold of this novel to find out!

My Verdict:-

Ravi Subramanian has an impressive style and command over his story. His characters are well fleshed out and he describes seemingly innocuous objects only if they have some significance later in the plot. Bitcoins, drugs and stealthy internet usage play a central role in this financial thriller. Ravi has done his research well and succeeds in explaining to the readers the intricacies of this new-age virtual currency. The corporate atmospheres of a gaming company and an investment bank mimic those in the real world, and one forgets this is fiction as the office-politics resemble reality.

The book betrays a couple of punctuation mistakes, but otherwise is perfect in its language and form. The story is fast paced and gripping right from the start to the very end. The plot is tight and the epilogue neatly ties up all the loose ends of the story. 'God Is A Gamer' is one of the finest thrillers I have read by an Indian. Ravi is well on his way to becoming the 'John Grisham of Banking', which he aspires to be.

This book deserves an overall rating of 9 on 10 for accurately portraying the corporate and political worlds and smoothly interweaving the world of bitcoins in a power-packed story. Here's a video-glimpse into the story:-

This review is part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

From Shabby to Slick!

I was really excited to receive Garnier's BB Cream last week, and I waited until Wednesday (the voting day) to use it. Now, I want my readers to know that I'm almost a makeup-virgin and can't tell a BB cream from a CC or a DD (no, they're not bra-cup sizes!). I later found out that BB stands for "Beauty Benefit" and what a BB cream essentially does is save you the extra effort of wearing makeup! Being the voracious reader that I am, I read all of the text on the package and learnt that Garnier's offering is just what I've been looking for!

The cream is an all-in-one moisturiser! It is a magical potion that is all of the following:-
  1. A sunscreen lotion - to protect your skin from tanning. The cream comes with SPF 24, which is nothing but the "sun protection factor" that shields you from the harmful UVA and UVB rays.
  2. A moisturiser - to keep your skin hydrated, soft and supple.
  3. A foundation (the makeup bit) - to conceal your blemishes and smoothen your skin.

I decided to test if this cream was really magical, so captured some evidence! :-) I grabbed a straight-out-of-shower selfie when my face was untouched by cosmetics:-

Notice carefully how my forehead is darker than the rest of my face, I also have dark circles around my eyes. The natural contours on my visage are discoloured. Let me tell you that dark skin tone itself is very beautiful to have, but mismatched skin-tones in patches do not look very appealing. I squeezed out some of the BB cream and gently applied it all over my face and smoothened it out evenly. And this is the "after" selfie:-

Do you see how my complexion now looks more even and the skin around my eyes have become slightly lighter? No wonder they call this the "miracle skin perfector"! The smooth finish is another thing that got me all pumped up! I happily set out to cast my vote. I decided that day that I would include my Garnier BB cream into my daily routine! 

Ever since, I have been using just the beauty-benefit cream on my face every morning. I apply it while I'm dressing for work, and it takes less than a minute for my visage to look professional! I find this the perfect product for a working lady like me who is always pressed for time in the mornings. I can now manage to look presentable without bothering to spend a quarter-hour applying various layers of sun-protection, moisturiser and makeup. Also, the travel blogger in me is rejoicing at the fact that I won't have to pack too many cosmetics on my trips anymore! Lighter luggage implies happier holidays! :-)

Have you tried Garnier's BB Cream yet? What do you have to say about it?

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Playing the 'Game of Blogs'

The last few weeks were one the most memorable I've had this quarter, thanks to an innovative initiative by They organized the 'Game of Blogs', a fiction writing contest where 30 teams battled it out. I was a part of team Tete-a-Ten, and we had a whale of a time with each other! Before I tell you about our journey, let me introduce you to the 10 members of this fabulous team:-

  • Ayan aka Gyanban - He led the team in Round 1 and helped frame the story for the next 2 rounds.
  • Sharon - She penned her parts soulfully and ensured our story was free of inconsistencies.
  • Ritesh Agarwal - He steered our team through Round 2 and 3 and painstakingly edited spelling mistakes in our pieces.
  • Tinu Menachery - She wrote wonderful episodes despite being stuck in remote foreign locations with no internet access!
  • Gauri Kamath - The only blogger I had the privilege of meeting face-to-face at a bloggers' rendezvous! :-) She is a gem of a storyteller!
  • Raghu Chaitanya Koorella - His point of view was interesting and he had some cool ideas in Round 1. Unfortunately, he left us before Round 2 could begin. :-(
  • Vaisakhi - She joined us in Round 2, but caught up fast on the story and crafted some nice posts for the team.
  • Anupriya Mishra - She was terrific at her stuff but had to leave us in Round  2 as she left for USA.
  • Vinod Bidwaik - He remained incommunicado all through the show. So essentially, we never had a 10th member :-P
  • Oindrila De - Yours truly! :-) 

Now, I'll tell you how it all unfolded. On fine day in September, Blogadda emailed us details of our team members and revealed the first task. The nine of us almost spammed the mail-chain with our introductions and ideas for the story. When we tired of email, we hopped on to Whatsapp. A call was made for the team-lead. When no one volunteered, we started nominating one another to take on the reigns. Fortunately before midnight, Ayan put his hand up and put an end to the notification-bombardment.

Our start was a little chaotic, but we organized ourselves through the course of the competition and went about our mission methodically. We logged on to Skype and discussed our genre, fleshed out the characters and sketched a structure for our story to smoothly flow through each round. Having a frame and distributing story-parts really helped all the writers plan their time and write their pieces independently. Everybody knew the sequence and each author modified her/his post to blend with the previous post before submitting the entry on Blogadda.

We were in the middle of Round 2 when found out that our team topped the charts for Round 1! We were overjoyed and doubled our efforts to stay ahead in the next round as well. That sure paid off because we were the number one team for Round 2 also! We gave each other virtual high fives and concentrated on Round 3 - the finale!

We had intense discussions on how to end the story and tie all our threads back together. I think we did a fantastic job and we all agreed that the ending was superb! I hope the judges enjoy reading our first collaborative novella just as much as we did writing it.

Before I conclude, I'll share the blurb of our story, "Missing" with you:-

'Missing' is the story of a set of seemingly unrelated characters who lose important people in their lives and search entire cities to discover they were missing something even more important. Will they find what they were looking for? Or will it all end in a tragedy? Read all the 25 gripping chapters to find out!

Onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineteneleventwelvethirteenfourteenfifteensixteenseventeeneighteennineteentwentytwenty-onetwenty-twotwenty-three, twenty-four and twenty-five.

Diwali at My Place

I'm just back from a rejuvenating vacation in Mussourie and the 'city of dreams' welcomes me with preparations of Diwali. The festival of lights spreads so much cheer and excitement all around that you can't escape it even if you want to. I first noticed this phenomenon when I entered my office last Thursday. I was amazed to find most of the work-areas on my floor draped in colored crepe and cellophane paper! I stood transfixed at the entrance after the door clicked shut behind me. And then it hit me -

The annual bay-decoration competition for Diwali had been announced! I love this competition a little more than the other sundry contests held at my office during autumn. Every team is supposed to do up their bay using lights and colors and creativity. This year, we saw many teams showcasing current affairs as their Diwali-decor themes. One team had installed a standee of an astronaut on Mars and visitors had the opportunity to get clicked as the astronaut on Mars! One of my close friends' team took up the evergreen theme of "go green". They made these lovely Japanese fans with green crepe paper and stuck them as leaves on a giant tree-trunk. They even covered the white lights with green cellophane and the entire bay glowed like emeralds in a jewelry box. The real treasure for me was the surprise samosas, dhoklas and motichoor-laddoos which arrived in the evening and made me salivate!

Unfortunately, the situation at home is not as rosy. Most of my family is busy - my parents have to attend work or social parties, my sister lives far away in Mysore and I type blogposts after blogposts staying up late at night. I miss the Diwali we had when I was in school. My mum would make rangoli at the entrance and we'd help her. She would borrow the chakli-maker from our Marathi neighbour and the two ladies would make numerous chaklis which we would then steal from the chakli-jars (shh... don't tell anyone! ;-) ). We would also light diyas in every room and on the balcony. Back then, I was a  good painter and would decorate many diyas using my oil-paints.

I miss the cameraderie I shared with kids of similar age. Growing up has made people less social and driven them into their shells. Diwali has lost its true meaning. It is now just another festival when retailers and brands throw huge discounts at us so we can throw our time and money at them. If we aren't shopping, we'll mostly be watching television. Gone are the days when we would visit most families in the building and share sweets and savouries with them.

This Diwali, I wish to change this boring way of celebrating and introduce some lively music for everyone to groove to! I want my family to come together and share some nimkees and soft drinks at the dinner table. I miss bonding with my parents and sister. They mean the world to me.

Here I leave you with a heartwarming video from Pepsi's #GharWaliDiwali campain that tells us to be home this Diwali -

Saturday, 18 October 2014

What Makes a Happy Home

A couple of weeks back, I suffered a horrible asthma attack which brought back unpleasant memories of my childhood...

I have always been an asthma patient. I got my first attack when I was seven. I did not even know how to pronounce that word properly when my breath shortened and lungs contracted. I still feel shivers down my spine when I think of how I'd have to stay up on nights and use the Rotahaler to get some relief. But all of that medicine was doing me more harm than good. The capsules and all kinds of inhalers were mostly designed to dilate my bronchioles (the branches of the larger windpipe that carry air into our lungs). And I hated the fact that I was dependent on artificial substances!

I realized how worried my parents would have been when I was unwell. They did all the running around, took me to doctors, got me nebulized (a process which helps the phlegm get out of your lungs through your mouth and nose) and sacrificed their free time for me. Even my little sister would be sad to see me struggle with something as basic and involuntary as breathing. I was making my home unhappy!

And then, we witnessed magic! Over time, my immunity grew and my respiratory system became stronger. I also noticed that my mum had been feeding me a spoon full of Dabur Chyawanprash every morning before breakfast. Were the herbs making me stronger? Or was it just that I was growing and nature was making me fine? I'll never find out! But one thing I have found out is that my improving health was what changed the mood of my family!

I suddenly saw their smiles reaching their eyes... my sister giggling a lot more... my parents leaving us with relatives over the weekends and taking some time off for themselves. And the best thing was that I could breathe freely! The frequency of asthma attacks had dropped to once a year. That was phenomenal! In a few more years, I started running and jogging. I was so happy to be able to hop, skip and jump like everyone else! This personal account taught me that a home celebrates only when the children are fit and fine! A child in ill-health makes the whole house sulk. Healthy children (and not paints/curtains/furniture or whatever those TV commercials will have you believe) make a happy home!

Now that you know the secret to bringing happiness into your homes, you must concentrate most of your energies on your health and the well being of your family. My father always reminds us of the adage, "Health is wealth". If you are not in the pink of  your health, you won't have a flourishing career for too long. Money is easy to recover, life isn't. So, listen to your body and give it that 20-minute exercise, let it rest for 8 hours every night, and feed it nutritious food and not hydrogenated junk. If this plan doesn't get you a promotion in a few months, feel free to vent your anger by commenting on this post. I know you won't, because good health will make you realize that everything else hangs low on the totem pole of life.

Cheers to good health!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Beyond the Maharashtrian Boundaries...

Earlier this week, I was asked to collaborate with a blogger from a different region and discover interesting things about each other's cultures. I thought really hard about all the blogger-friends I had and then I remembered my friend, Purujeet Parida from Odisha. I have been a Mumbaikar ever since I was a toddler and have never been to his part of the world. I knew instantly that THIS was my golden opportunity to ask him about his sphere and get to know more about life in Odisha. Before I continue, I want you to meet Purujeet -

Purujeet traveling with his rucksack

Purujeet (who blogs at hails from Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha. (It's funny how I was born in the adjacent state of West Bengal, but never had the chance to visit Odisha.) His life wasn't the typical city-life you'd expect from a capital city. I bombarded him with a million questions on his culture and school-life, and learnt how different his life was from mine. (I have spent most of my years in Mumbai and haven't experienced half the things he has.) There are many fascinating things about this guy, but I want to share with you two important questions I asked him (and his answers to those). These were important to me to understand the specific differences between Odisha and Maharashtra.

*  *  *

My first question: 

How and why do you blog?

Purujeet's answer: 

I write for many reasons- to relax, to introspect, to vent. Most of it never sees a page on my blog, but it all contributes to the worldview and purpose behind every actual post I make.

I blog about things that move me. It is easy to find expression for emotion that is already churning within, for questions, issues and ironies all around me. I try my hand at poetry if I feel rational arguments may not be the best way to tackle my idea, my emotion. Whether the poems are any good, I cannot say, but it moved me to write them and feel my raging thoughts lay purring upon the page. I can only hope it ignites a remotest spark of similar passion in my reader.

But my blog is also my way to practice writing because I am always working on side projects which are usually fiction and mostly sci-fi. Writing a real-life blog keeps my compass pointed earthwards. There is some fiction on the blog as well, but very less hard Science Fiction.

My second question:

What is the perception of blogging in Odisha?

Purujeet's answer:

The perception of blogging in Odisha is nascent at its best. It is not surprising considering the superficial penetration of internet in the society. While the empowered masses are vocal and alive online, there is a vast majority of people ignorant of this wondrous new mass-media who tip the scale unfavourably against blogging. The average Odia person would not read blogs for reviews on products, travel packages, etc. before buying them. The average Odia person would rely on any blog a little less than they would on the punctuality of the Indian railways.

This is slowly but surely changing. More and more Odia bloggers and vloggers are getting viewers and recognition online. There are many cooking and singing channels on Youtube run by Odia bloggers. The hoary perception about the nature and purpose of blogging though, is persistent.

*  *  *

Purujeet's amusing answers made me introspect. So, I decided to answer my own questions. 

How and why do I blog?

I blog because I love to write. I feel that writing gives me wings. I express myself best in the written word. Writing gives me the time and space to expand my thoughts and articulate what otherwise would remain the real-world equivalent of a tweet (no offence to Twitter... I completely love tweeting in the virtual world). This is the basic reason why I tap away at my keyboard and polish my pieces till they make me smile. 

Another reason is that I aspire to become a full-time travel-writer. I aim to write extensively about travel and my experiences with different cultures, cuisines and creatures. I mostly use this blog as personal space to write about anything and everything under the sun - short-stories, reviews of books and products, random thoughts and experiences and whatever else you can think of. But I also have another blog - Oindrila Goes Footloose, my travel blog, which I only use for travel-related posts. (Most people who know me also know that I'm a travel-addict!)

What is the perception of blogging in Maharashtra?

Maharashtra, and specifically Mumbai, is probably the best place to be as an Indian blogger. Mumbai is a blogger and vlogger's paradise. There are numerous bloggers in this city. You will run into at least one blogger if you walk into any cafe with free wifi! My own office has a handful of bloggers. Whether or not people blog regularly, they have their own blog (and most have their own domain).

This is also where most of the blogging contests and meets happen! It really helps to live in a metro as you have easy and frequent access to exclusive blogging conferences and events. Quite a few Maharashtrians make a living solely by blogging and promoting their pieces! Blogging is seen as a serious career option by many progressive-minded youngsters (and even people in their golden years). This region blogs about everything - food, travel, books, movies and experiences! Also, blogging here comes in many flavours with people taking to video blogging (on Youtube), photo-blogging (on Instagram), microblogging (on Twitter), location-blogging (via Fourquare/Swarm and Facebook), fitness-blogging (via Nike Plus Running or Endomondo) and of course, plain-vanilla old-school blogging (which is what yours truly is doing right now ;-) ).

There are those people who still scoff at the concept of blogging and dismiss it as some kind of hobby or means to while time away, but perceptions about blogging are evolving rapidly, and the blogger-tribe is gaining more respect. As most brands launch their own blogs and look for good writers, our ilk is set to soar to newer heights! What is highly encouraging is the fact that the people here love to keep themselves informed and well prepared about everything. They never book movie-tickets without reading at least 5 reviews. They scrounge through travel-posts before selecting their next vacation-destination. They check restaurant-reviews even if they're stuck in the middle of nowhere with only one eatery to cater to them! (OK, that was an exaggeration. But you get the drift!)

*  *  *

Having this conversation with Purujeet and myself opened my eyes to the differences in the choices and reasoning of people from two different parts of India. This beautiful diversity is why my country has the opportunity for every kind of product or experience - there's always somebody who'll love what you have to offer!

This post is part of "Beyond Boundaries" at in association with INK 2014.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Missing (Chapter-24)

This is the twenty-fourth part of the short story that I am writing in collaboration with nine other bloggers on Blogadda. Our team is 'Tete-a-ten'. Read the previous parts here: onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineteneleventwelvethirteenfourteenfifteensixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two and twenty-three.

Duttas' Residence, Mumbai

"Looks like all the visitors decided to call on us today!" Tara Dutta lightened the tense mood in the living room and proceeded to answer the door. She swung open the charcoal coloured main-door to find Dr. Sneha Phadnis with an eager expression on her peach-tinted face. "Dr. Phadnis? What brings you here? I thought you had left for Delhi", Tara's voice echoed her surprise. She welcomed the doctor into her spacious drawing room and picked up the day's newspapers to make some space for her on the Rexine sofa.

Sneha stood motionless as her black-lined eyes absorbed the scene - Shekhar sat in the armchair with Roohi playing about the house. A slightly older man sat on the sofa - Aryan Ahuja. Sneha's heart skipped a beat. But there was a lady seated next to him - dusky and confident, she wore a blue phoenix tattoo on her arm. Dr. Sneha's heart sank. She had waited all these years for him and here he was finally - married!

"What are you doing here, Aryan?" Sneha made no attempt to hide the pain in her voice.

"What are you doing here, Sneha?" Aryan was startled. He didn't know if it was her presence or her question that startled him more.

"Um... Pardon me, I shouldn't have barged in without a warning." Sneha apologized to Tara. She wanted to leave the house that very minute. She wasn't sure how much longer she'd be able to hold her tears back. I have made a mistake. That woman is probably Aryan's wife.

Almost unable to calm himself, Aryan clarified "It's not what you think, Sneha. Let me explain..." I cannot lose her again.

Jennifer suddenly got up, "Looks like it's all sorted here". "I'm sorry I doubted your intentions, Dr. Ahuja", she turned to the forty-five year old man with an athletic built. "I think I should leave now", Jennifer Joseph smiled at Tara and swiftly left the house, her Nikon D7100 swinging at her hips.

Tara's lips broke into a wide smile as she noticed Aryan and Sneha lost in each other, their faces betraying a million emotions. Sensing their need for some privacy, she quietly pulled Roohi into her bedroom and signaled for Shekhar to follow her.

Feeling powerless under the surge of her unanswered questions, Sneha asked the man in front of her, "Why did you never say goodbye to me?" She paused to catch her breath, but did not wait for a reply, "Why did you never try to meet me? All I heard from you were about random cases you wanted a fresh perspective on. You spent the last twenty years calling me for one medical case or another... but you never really spoke to me!" Sneha's tone went from anger to anguish to accusation.

Aryan finally found his voice, "Sneha, I wanted to tell you so many times..." He took a step closer to her, "You were always busy counselling and making a name for yourself. I did not want to draw you away from your duties - your career."

"You idiot!" Sneha softly punched him in the arm. "You do not realize that I'm already drawn to you... have always been. Nothing you do is going to change that." She let a tear trickle down her cheek. Aryan cupped her face in his hands and wiped the stray tear with his thumb. Sneha lifted her eyelids and saw her Aryan after two decades of separation. His jet black hair had generous amounts of greys peeping through. He could still steal a million hearts with his disarming smile. She took a deep breath and smelled the woody notes of his Polo Green perfume. How had she survived without him for this long? Aryan pulled her closer and leaned in to plant a soft kiss on her perfect lips.

He pulled back, held her slender waist with one hand and ran his fingers up the small of her back till he reached the nape of her neck. He took a good look at her face - she was still the Sneha he had first seen at medical school all those years ago. Only now, she was so much more beautiful! Her mature features had lent her an enigmatic character. He smoothly drew her toward him and kissed her a second time. This time, more passionately.

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Read the concluding Chapter-25 here.

My team and I are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at #CelebrateBlogging with us!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Missing (Chapter-17)

This is the seventeenth part of the short story that I am writing in collaboration with nine other bloggers on Blogadda. Our team is 'Tete-a-ten'. Read the previous parts here: onetwothreefourfivesixseveneight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen and sixteen.

Ballard Estate, Mumbai
03:15 hours

Sub Inspector Prashanth Bhambore slammed the brakes of his Police jeep as the tires crushed the dry leaves strewn about the abandoned patch of wasteland. He was not surprised to see half a dozen people already gathered outside the otherwise deserted warehouse. The case of the missing nine year old girl had kept quite a few uniformed men busy. He saluted Inspector P.K. Kamble who was busy barking orders to his subordinates, "Bring that scoundrel to me!"

"Ek minute, Saheb. Thamba! (Hold on a minute, Sir!)" Dr. Sneha Phadnis rushed out of the jeep, Fanus Mistry in tow. "Yes, that's him! He was missing!" she almost cried in relief as she spotted Cyrus at the centre of the commotion. Fanus was more concerned about Cyrus' condition. He noticed how the fair complexion of his love-interest had paled, his clothes had soiled and he lay motionless, surrounded by strangers and policemen.

"Are you two with him? You plotted the kidnap of my daughter?" Shekhar yelled at Dr. Sneha, shock and pain evident in his tone. "Calm down, mister! We have come all the way from Delhi in search of our Cyrus. He has been missing from home for the past two days", the forty-one year old doctor tried to reason with the spectacled angry man. "Inspector, please arrest Cyrus!" Shekhar ignored the lean, middle-aged woman's explanation and remained steadfast on his decision.

Helpless, Dr. Phadnis turned to SI Bhambore, her almond-shaped eyes pleading for his help, "I assure you, he is innocent! Please don't let Cyrus be arrested. He has been under my treatment for many months now. I can vouch for his character. Believe me, this was not a kidnap attempt." She looked at Tara now, "Let me check if Roohi has any signs of injury. I'm certain Cyrus did nothing to harm her."

Tara furrowed her forehead, but nodded in agreement. Tara and Sneha took Roohi out of the men's view. "Baby, Doctor-aunty wants to check if that man hurt you. Please show her all your wounds", Tara spoke to her child. Tired little Roohi first pointed at her knees. "I fell outside the school in the afternoon. I waited so long for Daddy to pick me up, but he didn't!" she stared at the long, black bindi and explained the bruise to the kind-looking lady.

"Roohi, were you with Cyrus when you fell?" Dr. Phadnis softly asked the girl who was still in her school-uniform. "No, aunty. Cyrus helped me after I started crying. He is really nice. He let me eat ice-cream!" This information disturbed Tara. Could it be that my little angel was sedated? She shuddered at the thought. "Baby, let Mummy see if you have more wounds." Tara helped Roohi out of her school-frock and carefully scanned for any cuts. Dr. Sneha frowned at what she saw and enquired, "What is this scar on your stomach, Roohi?"

"That one is from an operation many years ago", Tara spoke, her tension disappearing, as she dressed Roohi back into her uniform. She was relieved to learn her daughter was safe. "Roohi had to undergo a surgery when she was only three days old. They removed the double bubble from her intestines to keep her food channel unobstructed." Tara still couldn't forgive herself for letting that happen to her only child. Everyone had told her it was not the mother's fault. Nobody can control genes or their mutation. But Tara kept blaming herself... she shouldn't have worked so much during  her pregnancy... she should've avoided papaya... she should've...

"That's Duodenal Atresia", Dr. Phadnis snapped Tara out of her mental self-flagellation. "The parents of most patients have perfectly normal genes", she stated, sensing Tara's emotions. Her vast experience in clinical psychology had taught her how to read body language and calm her subjects. "Doesn't Roohi have Down's Syndrome? Quite a lot of cases I've read about develop Trisomy-21", she said with a look of concern coming over her peach-toned face. "Ma Durga has been kind on her. And how can I forget Dr. Aryan Ahuja! He was a blessing sent from above", Tara looked up at the starry sky and silently offered a prayer of gratitude to the heavens that had kept her baby safe and sound when she was most sensitive.

Aryan Ahuja. A flood of memories gushed before Sneha Phadnis' glazed eyes... She crushed the end of her black dupatta and controlled her emotions. She must not lose her composure. 

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Read Chapter-18 here.

My team and I are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at #CelebrateBlogging with us!