Thursday, 30 April 2015

Asus Zenfone 2 - The Superior Smartphone!

The latest gem from the world of Asus - the Zenfone 2, is a firecracker of a device! It has features that lift its position from a smartphone to that of a superphone! Take a look:-

ZenMotion or Magic?

The intuitive touch gesture of the Asus Zenfone 2 is so futuristic, it lets you draw an alphabet to open an app! So, the next time you wish to take a picture, just draw a 'C' and your camera will get to work! To add to it, the response time for all the touch and tap gestures is a fraction of a second - much faster than most other phones. This feature happens to be my favourite and hence, is right on top of this list!

Television-Like Child Controls 

If you have your little one playing with your phone every time she or he is around, you will thank Asus for for bringing the Kids Mode to the Zenfone 2. This mode lets you preselect the apps that your child can see and use. You can also block notifications and password-protect calls. The best thing is, this feature also acts like a strict parent and controls the time your kid spends using your phone. Another control is the secure browsing facility which is built into the default browser of the phone. This feature is powerd by Trend Micro.

PixelMaster Camera - The Ace Photographer

This phone is a God-send device for photo-fanatics! You can take the best low light and HDR pictures ever. It lets you merge 4 pixels into megapixel to capture more light in dimly lit environments. This phone comes with the big daddy of all HDR modes - the super-HDR mode! The picture quality on the Zenfone 2 is easily the best one seen across all phones so far. The low-light mode even works on the front camera. This means, you will have better selfies than your neighbours! ;-) Asus has also worked on its flash and given us the dual colour real tone flash, which removes that irritating white spot of light on most pics which are taken with the flash on. And if that DSLR is just too expensive for you, you can thank Zenfone 2 for coming with its own customizable settings for factors like shutter speed and ISO.

You can also do a lot of post processing with the PixelMaster. There is a Real-time Beautification mode for portraits and Photo Collage effect. You can also use the Super Resolution mode to take several smaller resolution pictures that combine to form a large photo. The Asus MiniMovie lets you collate your pics and form a nice video with a background music for better effects!

A Power Performer!

The Asus Zenfone 2 comes with a 4GB RAM which lets you keep 15 apps working in tandem without slowing your phone down. Also, the ZenUI which is build on top of the vanilla Android, is absolutely fantastic! It makes the process of operating a smartphone a dumb person's job! You will be impressed by the spectacular design and the form of the phone. Even the view-cover modes can be customised!

A Budget Buy!

After going through the huge list of amazing features, you might think the phone will cost you a bomb. But you will not believe your ears when I tell you it is available under $199! The offer is just too good to be true. So, make sure you prebook your own Asus Zenfone 2 which is available exclusively on Flipkart. Visit the Asus Flipkart Page and the Asus Facebook Page.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Those Little Things in Life

Real happiness comes not from riches or big parties. It comes from those little things in life that make your smiles reach your eyes. When you know what truly makes you happy, treasure it, cherish it and celebrate it. Those little moments are worth a lot more than the supposed big ones that you throw your grand parties for. Today, I will tell you what makes me smile.

When I was in school, I would think topping the class needed celebration. I wanted to be rich and successful. But a few years into my work life, I realized money and promotions did not make me feel quite the same as certain other things. The happiest moments of my life were when I was dating my first boyfriend. I did not know until we broke up that he made me happier than anyone else could. I was a fool not to hold on to him. I actually lived the happiest moments of my life when I was with him.

I remember the the first time he proposed to me over email on 27th August 2006. I was not even sixteen. I should have celebrated that moment, but I was too busy wondering if he really liked me or if that was just a prank. We had a long distance relationship for over seven years. Those were undoubtedly the best moments of my life. He would bring me roses every time we met. And those moments would be rare. We could only meet once in two months, or even less frequently due to exams, the lack of money and the unavailability of trains at times. But the roses would always be there. I remember when we met in Malaga during our internship in Spain. I was really angry at him for spending 5 euros on a single rose. I was mad that he hadn't bought me a chocolate bar which would be more useful and less expensive in Europe. But I realize now that I could not feel the love behind his gesture.

I should have celebrated all those moments, and held on to them. Because some things in life never return. And you realize your mistake only when it's too late. I remember vividly how my first love would painstakingly plan our dates and make everything so special for us. He would time his visits so we could attend those special candle-lit dinners at a nice restaurant. I still remember how he blindfolded me and made me go up several escalators and let me open my eyes only when I was seated at that beautiful restaurant. Everyone, including our attendant and the guard were smiling. The whole world know how special he was. Only I could not see it. I will always cherish those little moments of immense joy. I will still celebrate life.

#CelebrateLifeAtIvy by owning a dream home at Ivy Estate, an 85 acre estate with 34 acres of greenery and open spaces. Join the 1600 happy families already living here. Check out this walkthrough video and decide for yourself.

Funny #CrashThePepsiIPL Ads

So, today's match got cancelled due to rains in Kolkata. :-( But you don't have to be so sad, because I have brought you 5 Pepsi-IPL ads that will tickle your funny bone:-

1. Atithi Devo Bhava

This is probably one of the worst ads, but also really funny! The plump guy is fed up of his neighbour who keeps visiting all the time just to have Pepsi. So, he comes up with an ingenious idea of getting a shot glass so he doesn't have to part with too much of his favourite drink. The victory dance with all his flab jiggling about is perhaps the funniest bit of this ad.

2. Lift the Pepsi

This is a classic lift scene with the mandatory hot girl in short and tight clothes stuck with a dork. So, the smarty pants guy throws the ball inside the lift so he can get in with her on the pretext of collecting his ball. But the tables turn when the girl intimidates the guy and smoothly takes away his can of Pepsi and drinks it all up!

3. Blindfold for Pepsi

This is actually one of the best shot videos. It almost looks like a real ad. Even the background music is quite soothing. All the three actors are good looking. The story makes good use of the game of blindfold. It doesn't have anything to do with cricket or IPL, but the concept is nice. The two guys decide to blindfold the girl and drink the Pepsi out of her handbag.

4. Boom Boy gets Angry!

This one is hilarious! The supposed actor just cannot remember his dialogues even after several retakes. This is when the director collapses with exhaustion and the boom boy blows hot and cold with anger. The angry man grabs the bottle of Pepsi off the actor's grasp, drinks it up and says the dialogues with perfection. He also berates the dumb actor for being useless.

5. Blind Date with Pepsi!

A good play over a blind date! A young guy is late for his first blind date. He gets into a lift with a man perhaps in his forties, and speaks to his date over the phone. When he asks her how he will recognise her, she says she's got a Pepsi on her table. The older man hears this and forms an evil plan in his head. The young guy tells her that he's wearing a black shirt. The scene rolls over to the date table. And you can see the old man in the young guy's shirt drinking up the girl's Pepsi! :-D

Check out the #CrashThePepsiIPL videos & participate in the activity at BlogAdda.

My Favourite #CrashThePepsiIPL Ads

The IPL season is on again! While I'm not really into cricket, I happened to watch a few ads on YouTube. So, here's my list of ads that I thought were the most creative:-

1. The Jungle Match

This ad is particularly creative because of the unique jungle backdrop. I love forests and all things natural. The scene has been shot really well. Even the acting is good. The idea of getting tribals in the game of cricket is quite cool. The concept is quite Rajnikantesque. The ball that is hit by the old man goes all the way above the clouds in the sky and brings down a bottle of Pepsi.

2. The Pepsi Chase

This video is quite well shot. I assume it took many retakes. The first two guys are seen jumping over walls and running all across the college campus to taste the Pepsi in the bottle. It drives home the message that 'when two people fight, the third fellow takes the prize'. Great acting by all the male actors!

3. Restart After a Setback

I really liked how this ad told an entire story in 30 seconds. No job-loss or breakup is big enough to engulf you. Have faith in yourself and keep trying. There will always be a better job, a better life-partner, a better tomorrow. I like this story of hope. Finding out your boyfriend or girlfriend is cruel can really suck. Sometimes you are dumped and then some other times, you need to break up because you can't stand that jerk. But once the worst is over, you must get up and keep going. The same goes for jobs. Sometimes, you are sacked, and if you are lucky, you have the opportunity to quit. But the thrill of finding something new is irreplaceable.

4. Burp Your Way Through!

This ad is quite an interesting and funny one. A bunch of guys need access to the TV that the girl gang is hogging. So, they drink up all the Pepsi and go burping around them. The girls get irritated and leave the turf. Victory!!! This one is definitely low budget. Looks like it was shot by a bunch of friends who hung out at one of their flats.

5. Save Our Soul, Pepsi!

Another jungle ad. But in this one, the bottle of Pepsi is actually the saviour. An interesting tip to save oneself from attacking tribes! The costumes are made entirely of leaves, and adds to the humour element. The tribal guys acted really well. The victim was not too bad either. So folks, remember to carry a bottle of Pepsi when you go trekking on your own! ;-)

Check out the #CrashThePepsiIPL videos & participate in the activity at BlogAdda.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

When We BOLTed to Lonavala

Last Sunday was a Sunday to remember! Almost 30 of my blogger friends and I found ourselves at Cafe Infinito in Bandra Kurla Complex in the wee hours of the morning.

We were all set to go on a road trip to Lonavala! And that too in the all new Tata Bolt! We were given badges and caps with our names on them. And, that called for a photo session!

Breakfast was an elaborate affair. There were cakes, hash browns, mushroom bruschettas, sandwiches, breads, scones and fruit juices! You must have guessed by now that your foodie blogger tried each of the vegetarian items on the buffet table.

After the pet-puja, we headed out to check out our cars. There were 8 Bolts in our fleet, and I would be enjoying the ride with Vaisakhi and Raj. Sohail was our supervisor and we had Pandeyji who drove for the major part of the drive.

Our first task was to take the suspension test. I was given a drawing sheet to check if I could connect the dotted lines while our car went over bumpy tracks.

After that bit of fun, we slided on to the highway towards Lonavala. Once inside, we were greeted by Captain Bolt, the mystery guy who would call us up and check on us. We were impressed by the Harman ConnectNext infotainment system which has been custom made for the Bolt. This device recognizes 9 Indian accents including Punjabi! It can be controlled by the console, a phone or tablet connectected to it (via bluetooth or AUX cable) or voice. We tried a lot of things like navigation, changing FM radio channels, playing music, answering calls and even getting our messages read out loud! This thing is absolutely fabulous!

The interior of the Bolt is spacious and well designed. The cooling is really good! And, we knew this when we stepped out in Lonavala in the scorching heat of the afternoon. Many controls like voice activation and volume are on the steering wheel itself.

Before we reached our final destination, we stopped at a restaurant called Dhaba for lunch. After a filling meal of Indian breads, papad, rice, dal, paneer and chocolate brownie with ice-cream, we were interviewed for a minute each.

After a few more minutes of uphill drive, we finally reached Tiger Point in Lonavala. The place is quite filthy with glass pieces strewn all across the sandy mountain. The ghat looked great though. We took loads of selfies and groupfies up there even though we had a stubborn sun shining on us.

We took a good look at our revotron engine powered petrol car before we switched it for the diesel variant - the one that comes with the Quadrajet engine. The Bolt has many awesome features like ABS, air bags, power steering, superior design and cabin space, but my favourite is the ultra comfortable body hugging rugby shoulder seats! Here's a short video of all the stuff we did last weekend:-

That was a sunday well spent at #BoltDrives with BOLT from TATA Motors in association with BlogAdda.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Steel-Willed Resolve

Every year, our country gives birth to certain people who grow up not only to raise their families but also to rise. They rise above their circumstances to inspire a million others. Today, I will tell you about two such people who inspire me. These stories are of people who have been nominated for JSW Will of Steel awards.

The first beacon of hope is Dr. Debal Deb. He has spent over twenty years in the difficult and unstable areas of eastern India, helping farmers stay true to their roots. Dr. Deb's cause is something nobody would ever have thought of. It doesn't even remotely come across as vital. But herein lies the crux of his struggle. He has worked with several farmers to conserve traditional seeds. His work is time consuming, and requires a lot of patience and long hours of field exposure to educate the farmers about the importance of indigenous varieties of seeds. In India, we have a crisis of traditional varieties of seeds due to the rampant cultivation of crops which are widely consumed or yield the best produce. Many farms still have cash crops as a backup.


Dr. Deb's relentless efforts have saved nine hundred and twenty varieties of rice in in West Bengal and Odisha alone! His creative and unique approach is impressive and inspiring. He truly knows that India can progress only when the poorest farmers understand what they are growing and how they should be growing it.

The second story is that of Arunima Sinha, a volleyball player of national level. She inspires me for more reasons than one. She is an amputee who climbed Mount Everest! It is my dream to summit the tallest peak of the world once in my lifetime. That peak is extreme not just in its height but also in its harsh conditions - the wind, the temperatures that go up to minus seventy degrees Celsius, the low concentration of oxygen which takes your blood-oxygen level to about 40 (normal level is above 94). Such conditions are enough to kill the fittest of people. To survive the Everest, one needs plenty of endurance, excellent levels of fitness and nutrition, and several days of acclimatization.


All of these challenges increase in intensity when your left leg is amputated. Arunima first showed her courage when she fought with the goons who were trying to snatch her chain. Then again when the robbers threw her out of the train. I salute such women who have the strong will to fight for what is right and rise despite all odds. I sincerely hope we all find that will of steel in us. It is an important ingredient in getting anything done, especially when our circumstances are unstable.

I’m voting for Dr. Debal Deb and Arunima Sinha’s #WillOfSteel and blogging on BlogAdda to help them get felicitated and eventually enabled by JSW.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Book Review - Shamsuddin's Grave

Earlier this month, I received a review copy of Shamsuddin's Grave by Paromita Goswami. My busy schedule kept me from finishing this novel, but I finally read the last page today. You can read my review now!

Fast Facts:-

Title: Shamsuddin's Grave 
Author: Paromita Goswami
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Partridge
Pages: 280
Price: Rs.450 (Paperback)

Key Characters:-
  1. Shamsuddin: A poor Miyan Muslim in Assam - the central character
  2. Latika: A passionate and dedicated social worker who forms a close friendship with Shamsuddin
  3. Snehalata: Latika's aunt and Shamsuddin's benefactor
  4. Debjyoti: Team Lead of the NGO that helps the slum dwellers in Guwahati. 

The Review:-

Shamsuddin's Grave is the story of a poor man who leaves his small village in Assam to make more money in the city of Guwahati. However, Shamsuddin is caught in new problems of the city. He finds it very expensive to make his ends meet and works doubly hard to afford a roof over his head and save for a new home. All this while, he leaves his wife, Amina, and their children with his brother. When Shamsuddin returns to his family after a couple of years, his world shatters.

Latika, a divorcee, leaves Delhi to work at an NGO in Guwahati. She is appalled by the pathetic and unhygienic conditions of the poor people living in shanties, especially those belonging to the Miyan Muslim community. Latika rolls up her sleeves and gets to work right away, despite threats from the local goons.

The book is very special, mainly because of the powerful story that needs to be told to the world. Paromita explores the sensitive situation in Assam and addresses the problems faced by this state - floods, infiltration, Government apathy, illiteracy, human trafficking and poverty. The author gets the emotions spot on! The characters feel real and unique.

The only downside of this book is the poor editing and sweeping errors in spelling and grammar. The same story, in the hands of an expert writer, would perhaps make it to the Man Booker longlist.

My Verdict:-

This book gets an overall rating of 6 on 10 from me for the moving story and high levels of interest that it commands. However, the poor language hinders the novel from being a great one.

*  *  *

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Book Review - Metro Diaries

Another day, another love story! Today's review is for 'Metro Diaries' by Namrata. This book is a collection of short stories on love. I read the electronic version, but you can also buy a paperback.

Fast Facts:-

Title: Metro Diaries 
Author: Namrata
Genre: Fiction/Romance
Publisher: Revelation House
Pages: 162
File Size: 901 KB (PDF version)
Price: Rs.248 (Flipkart price for paperback) / Rs. 187.15 (Kindle edition)

The Review:-

Metro Diaries aims to bring you a collection of twenty true love stories captured in various cities and towns. Namrata, the author, proclaims all of the stories to be true, with changes only in the names of the characters. One of these stories is about herself. She does not reveal which one, though. Each of these stories have short verses separating them.

The stories are about people who have fallen in love, lost love, been through pain, and found love again. The characters range from teenagers and young office goers to married and old homemakers. Of all of the short pieces, I found the 18th and 19th stories to be the best. 'Love Revisited', the 18th piece, was the story of a beautiful girl who is married to a Londoner and later abused. Her story of escape and finding love again was slightly engrossing. 'The next story, 'The Last Letter', was that of an old lady reminiscing her days of yore when her husband was fighting in the war of independence in India. This one was touching.

Apart from these two, I found the remaining stories quite dull. The characters are not well fleshed out. Almost every character in the book seems to behave in a similar fashion. Their dialogues, emotions and reaction largely remain the same. The author fails to recreate the emotions of men. The points of view and letters from men and women are startlingly similar. It is evident that this book has been written by a novice who only uses feminine perspectives. Also, the book is littered with spelling and grammatical mistakes. The usage of certain words and phrases are absolutely out of place.

Some of the poems used in the chapter are nice. I do not wish to discourage the author. I know it takes a lot of courage and perseverance to bring a book to the table. Nevertheless, I feel Namrata needs to read a lot of diverse material so she can create better quality stories with more colour in her characters. Some of her pieces look promising. With plenty of practise, reviewing and editing, I'm sure she can come up with much better books in the future. I wish her the best in her literary journey!

My Verdict:-

This book gets an overall rating of 4 on 10 for poor editing and repetitive use of similar phrases. The book failed to keep me interested. However, some first time lovers and readers may enjoy the book in bits and pieces.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Benefits of Listening to Your Heart

One of the most difficult things humans have to do in their lives sometimes is listen to their heart. And this task is difficult despite the fact that only listening to your heart works in the long run. Most of us decide to ignore our true calling and do what society deems right. However, I am glad I know a person who not only has listened to his heart, but also proven to all of us that it really pays to choose that path. This post is about his special story.

To preserve his identity and privacy, let's call my friend 'Nihaal'. I always knew there was something different about Nihaal. He was special in a way that no other person I knew was. He was perpetually broke, but more benevolent than my friends who were well off. He was busy as a bee, but still made time to teach lesser privileged children. He was often saddened by the materialistic thinking of the corporate world, but he never lost his cool or drive to stay simple. After a few months in a regular paying job, he quit the corporate world forever and started teaching full time.

His positive attitude was infectious. He entirely transformed the class of Muslim students he taught. The boys and girls would sit separately in the first few months; students would hit each other and start fights in the middle of a lesson; their math and English was really weak; and they had no exposure to any extracurricular activity. By the end of two years, the students started behaving more maturely, girls and boys sat together, they started dreaming and aiming big, they sang songs in English and discovered they could paint and sculpt.

All of this did not happen overnight. Nihaal worked harder than he had ever done. He introduced roleplays, videos and excursions into the daily routine of those kids. He inspired them. And of course, he inspired me, and many fortunate people who have known him over the years. He recently told me he had been offered admission to Harvard. That was his ultimate dream. I cannot tell you how proud I feel to have known such a wonderful soul. He proved to all of us that it pays to listen to your heart.

His story deserves to be told because he not only makes those children happy, but all of the people he comes to interact with. He has a way of making people feel at ease. He can counsel his friends and always makes time to stay in touch with all. But I'll tell you a secret - he is an introvert! Despite his predisposition to avoid people, he has pleasantly affected and inspired hundreds.

I am participating in the #DilKiDealOnSnapdeal activity at BlogAdda in association with SnapDeal.

Only If You Accompany Me...

Today, as I flipped through an old album of a friend, I realized how much I miss him. It brought back wonderful memories from the past. From several beautiful instances, I clearly remember one that I shall narrate to you tonight.

It was sometime in October,  a couple of years ago when one of my close friends from work (let's call him Himanshu for the sake of the story) told me about the Bandra Wine Fest which would be held over the weekend. He really wanted to visit that festival as wines are one of his favourite alcoholic drinks. As fate would have it, I had a major exam on that Sunday morning. That meant I would not even have the Saturday to myself, as I would have to spend all of my time studying.

I felt horrible that I would not be able to go along with Himanshu. So, I got another friend to volunteer keep him company. This guy was an alcohol worshipper, so I guessed the duo would really enjoy their time in Bandra. But after the broke the news to them, they both seemed sullen. They had been thinking I would accompany them, and their hearts sank when they found out I was bailing myself out of this. The spiralling sadness engulfed me in guilt. Then, I decided to put my time management skills into action!

On Sunday morning, I finished my exam early and managed to get back home and finish lunch. I immediately called up Himanshu to check if he still wanted to go to the wine fest. He asked me sarcastically who I had arranged for him. I apologized and said I was free for the rest of the day and would love to spend some time together. He perked up immediately and asked me to pick him up in 10 minutes.

On our way to Bandra, he told me how he had almost gotten himself into a date-like situation with a girl he met the previous night at the cafe next to his place. She was so obsessed over him that he had gotten 14 missed calls after he told her he was going with me. After he showed me half a dozen text messages from that girl (named Gayatri), Himanshu switched off his phone and said, "My evening is all yours! No distractions today."

I wrinkled my forehead and told him he shouldn't be an idiot and just take his new girlfriend along. "Girlfriend?!" he balked. "I barely know her, Oindrila! I am not going to waste such a fantastic wine fest on a random chick I just met. You know how badly I wanted to go with you. I wasn't going to go with Gayatri even if you were unavailable today. I told you last week that I would go only if you accompany me."

I smiled at that. We both knew how much we loved wines. None of the other friends we had were into wines the way we were. They would be more attracted to beers and whiskies. But one thing we enjoyed more than wines was our friendship and the company we provided each other. I was glad I could make Himanshu feel special that day just by following my heart and showing up. But what said to me was even more sublime. I think he made me feel better than acing my exam would have.

The wine fest was absolutely rocking, by the way! We had over twenty glasses of wines and ciders, and ate quite a lot to cleanse our palates and keep us from collapsing with intoxication. There was even an impromptu salsa session, but we danced rock and roll to a slow tune. We were drunk alright! I have many pictures of that afternoon which turned into evening and ended late in the night. But don't think I will ever need pictures to remind me of that day.

I am participating in the #DilKiDealOnSnapdeal activity at BlogAdda in association with SnapDeal.

A New Smartphone Experience with ASUS Zenfone 2

The smartphone I own is almost two and a half years old now. It is starting to show its age - the UI is not so responsive anymore and the battery drains faster than the sun drains my electrolytes. I think it is finally time to buy a new phone! I was surveying different smartphones in the Indian market the other day, and I came across the new ASUS Zenfone 2!

Sceptics might want to know why am I ditching my trustworthy phone for an expensive one which will have similar features. Well, to silence all such people, I present to you 5 reasons why I feel the ASUS Zenfone 2 could redefine my smartphone experience:-
  1. 4 GB RAM - a first of sorts

    For the first time in the history of gadgets, there is RAM worth 4 gigs in a smartphone! This means, I will be able to do my tasks up to three times faster. Also, my game-hungry family will have a gaming experience that is up to seven times better than they are accustomed to. This mean machine also has dual channel performance and a super quad core Intel Atom Processor (64-bit).

  2. Faster Recharge

    The most annoying thing about my old phone is that it takes ages to get fully charged. The ASUS BoostMaster Technology charges so fast, you get almost 60% charge in under 40 minutes.

  3. PixelMaster Camera for DSLR-like snaps

    The travel blogger in me always hunts for new places every weekend so I can sit back with my camera and capture the world through my lenses. The Zenfone 2 has a 13MP camera and f/2.0 aperture lens that takes the shutter lag to zero. It is fantastic in low lights when you can see pictures about 400 times brighter as it illuminates through picture-merging technology. I will bid goodbye to flash when I get my hands on this phone! ;-) There is another Super HDR mode which lets you see things through their shadows in the daytime.

  4. Dual SIM

    Perhaps, a lot of phones have this. But mine does not. I would love to use the Dual Active feature to answer two calls from the same phone. This means, I can speak to my boyfriend and answer urgent office emails from the same phone. I will not have to lug around two separate phones for work and personal life.

  5. Ergonomic Design

    The ultra thin arc design  has a luxurious brushed metal finish. This makes it look very expensive. I hope the phone fits my budget. I love style in all the things I possess. My gadget must definitely reflect my personal taste in elegant dressing!

Have you got a chance to check out Zenfone 2 yet? Did it blow your mind too? I should buy it, don't you think?

Book Review - The Guitar Girl

Today, I finished reading a novel that took me back to my teenage years! I really love feeling that way again. For that, I must thank and congratulate Aniesha Brahma, the author of 'The Guitar Girl'.

Fast Facts:-

Title: The Guitar Girl 
Author: Aniesha Brahma
Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Romance
Publisher: self published through Kindle Direct Publishing
Pages: 193
File Size: 932 KB (PDF version)
Price: Rs.61 (Kindle Edition ebook)

Key Characters:-
  1. Rhea Shah: A sixteen year old schoolgirl who regularly writes in her journal.
  2. Sophie Ghosh: Rhea's best friend, classmate and confidante. 
  3. Arjav: The third friend and classmate who completes the trio.
  4. Robbie Shah: Rhea's elder brother who goes to college and has his own band - Blitzkrieg Bridge.
  5. Joy Fernandez: Robbie's best friend and another member of the band. 

The Review:-

This is the story of Rhea, a high school girl who has a huge crush on Joy, her elder brother's best friend. Sophie and Arjav, Rhea's best buddies, are the only two people who she can confess her feelings to. Robbie, Rhea's brother, is in college and only visits home on weekends when he usually gets Joy along. They have a very popular band which Joy plays the guitar in.

Unable to gather the courage to confess her love, Rhea starts a blog under the assumed identity of 'The Guitar Girl'. On her blog, she posts poems and songs that reflect her true feelings for Joy. Coincidentally, Joy comes across her blog and finds The Guitar Girl's lyrics to be perfect for their band. He offers her a contract which Rhea/Guitar Girl accepts on the condition that her anonymity is kept intact. Meanwhile, in her real life, Rhea ends up getting secret guitar lessons from Joy after a serendipitous incident.

Rhea's dual identity makes the situation very interesting and the story takes unexpected turns. To thicken the plot, her friends too have something to tell her. The book keeps you guessing if Rhea will have her happily-ever-after while she tries hard to manage her studies and tons of homework that she is assigned almost daily as punishment for passing notes to Sophie and Arjav in class.

The narration is youthful and in line with the media teens use to communicate. The entire book is a compilation of text messages, Google Talk chats, Facebook messages, notes passed in class and journal entries. The lingo is spot on and the characters lifelike. There are some typos in the book, but I'm not sure if they are deliberately placed to simulate real chat-scenarios. The editing, otherwise, is quite good, and the style consistent with that associated with the 16-18 age group.

My Verdict:-

This book is the perfect chick lit novel for preteens and teenagers! It is almost India's answer to Princess Diaries. The dialogues, levels of maturity and tones are carefully matched with the characters. The Guitar Girl is, not surprisingly, a pageturner! The story is light and an excellent palate cleanser if you have been reading critically acclaimed books. There could have been more layers to the story, but I like it the way it is. Simple, happy and light.

This book gets an overall rating of 9 on 10 for making me walk down my memory lane and reminisce the innocence and youthfulness of my teen years. My rating is biased as I am a huge fan of teen fiction and romance. However, even the unbiased reader would have generous and positive feedback for this story!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

A Night to Remember in the Maximum City

If you follow my blog, you will know that dancing is my secret passion after traveling, writing and running. I started learning to dance at the age of five, but I entered the realm of couple dancing two years back. In early 2013, I joined Latin ballroom classes in Powai and learnt the delicate art of dancing the rumba.

As my dancing improved, I advanced to higher levels, and went on to learn cha cha, jive, foxtrot, waltz, bachata, samba and paso doble. I also joined salsa to learn some street dancing. The best thing about joining the dance class (apart from having a great time, of course) was the grand party we would have every three or four months. This Latin party would be held at one of the best nightclubs in Mumbai where dance students from all over the city would gather to enjoy a night full of crazy dancing and mingling with dance students from other parts of Mumbai.

Through these dances, I had the distinct opportunity to taste the colourful nightlife of Mumbai. My first dance was at the Flaunt night club in Holiday Inn, a posh hotel in Andheri East. I remember how nervous I had been, worrying if I would remember my steps and be able to walk in my towering heels and swirl in my sheath dress. The glitz factor was very high on the dance floor - there were students from the advanced levels of Latin ballroom and salsa. They were decked up in glittering short dresses and wore makeup that shimmered in the lights reflected by the disco ball. I had started feeling a little out of place, but then one of my dance partners from the class spotted me and asked me for a dance.

One dance led to another, and I forgot everything else when I realized how much fun I was having. I danced with several men that night, many, experts in the art! I even danced with a gal pal who sat alone without her partner who couldn't make it at the last moment. I have been to many a discotheque in Mumbai since, and have sampled the fine lounges and restaurants with ample dance floors in Powai, Juhu, Bandra, South Bombay and Andheri. Many of these places have a unique charm and an ambience that keeps your coming back for more. However, my first experience at Flaunt remains my favourite for it was there that I learnt to lose my inhibitions and dance like no one was watching.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Catching up with Kangana Ranaut

Guess where I was last Thursday! Yes, "catching up with Kangana", as the title of this post suggests. I was one of eleven bloggers chosen to attend this invite-only event. Sponsored by AskmeBazaar, the meet-and-greet event with Kangana Ranaut was hosted at Bungalow 9 in Bandra.

The lioness arrives at Bungalow 9 (and has the lions drooling :-P )

I had to attend this event straight from work, so I carried my evening dress and accessories with me. While I waited for Kangana, I spoke to a few photographers and media teams from certain magazines. A lady from Society magazine took my byte on my thoughts on Kangana's fashion sense. I honestly think the actor's bold attitude goes in her favour. More than your style, your ability to carry off your style matters. Kangana never looks uncomfortable in any of her outfits.

The place is all set to welcome Kangana!

A little about the venue now... I had last been to Bungalow 9 for a Christmas ball, and remembered completely loving the place for its ambience and food. The decor on Thursday was different as AskmeBazaar had put up life-size standees of Kangana, their brand ambassador. This two-storey restaurant and lounge is a renovated bungalow and has a large hall to host dances and events like these. It also has alfresco dining outside the edifice. On the second floor, there is more room for those who wish to dine inside.

Kangana looks stunning in her designer gown.

After making us wait for several minutes, the star of the evening descended into the hall looking like a princess. She wore an elegant, flowing full-length gown made of a light silk-like fabric in a creamy golden colour. Her dress had a peter pan collar (just like the collar of my dress... go on, scroll up ;-) ) and a belt which she loosely tied in the front. Her ensemble was very simple, accentuated only by her giant diamond-studded finger-ring. Kangana volumized her hair with curls and sported a dark shade of brown which went well with her ballgown. Her skin looked brilliant and the nude makeup only enhanced the ethereal look she meant to create. I couldn't get a glimpse of her shoes as the paparazzi made a beeline for her.

The crowd overwhelms her, but she stays calm.

The emcee for the evening asked Kangana for her thoughts on online shopping and her style mantra. Kangana revealed that she does not have a personal stylist. When she is not styled by a professional for her shoots or events, she picks her own clothes and does her own makeup and hair.

Kangana was also asked about her views on women empowerment. To that, she replied that her role in Queen (for which she recently won the National Award) taught her that women can be quite sensitive, but they are powerful too. And the world needs to work together to let women enjoy equal rights everywhere. After the Q and A session with the star, the media teams from various channels rushed to her and bombarded her with even more questions.

Because who doesn't love selfies?

I was a little disappointed as I did not get a chance to interact with Kangana one-on-one. I was planning an exclusive interview with her for all you readers. But my fellow blogger-pals asked me to cheer up and take selfies instead. :-) (We are girly that way!) And through this event, I met some beauty, fashion and lifestyle bloggers.

Amardeep too is excited to meet Kangana!

Amardeep Bajpai, the Chief Marketing Officer at AskmeBazaar, told us how they have grown tremendously in the past six months. In February, they held loads of contests on Facebook and elsewhere, and asked guys to propose to Kangana in creative ways. The winners of all of those contests were flown in from various cities and rewarded that evening.

Daniel - caught in the act!

After a brief break when I went out with my newfound friends for a round of drinks and selfies at the specially designed selfie booths, we were back at the hall for a standup act by Daniel. This dude with killer looks almost made us fall off our sofas - with his sense of humour. He cracked a series of dirty jokes that made some squirm and others, laugh their lungs out. Here's a sample: "In Goa, people can only count till 68... because at 69, they think they have to turn over and start again." (Laugh if you get this.)

The goodies that came out of the goodie bag! :-)

The night ended with some great food. I had Vietnamese khao suey, penne, noodles, spinach and corn fritters and paneer steak. And for dessert, there was tiramisu with liqueur, chocolate cake and dry-fruit ice cream with Bailey's liqueur. Bungalow 9 always gets its food right!

AskmeBazaar bid us farewell with goodie bags and our pictures with props captured in customized frames. I unboxed the goody bag at home and here's what I found - a mug, a diary and a powerbank. It was an evening well spent before the long weekend.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

My Money Book - Product Review

I recently changed jobs and had been worrying myself sick with the thought of managing my finances. 'Why worry about money when you have a better salary?' you might ask. Well, you forget that I will get my first new salary only at the end of April. And to add insult to injury, my previous employer will pay my full and final settlement again at the end of April. This actually means I will be living on pittance for most of this month.

While I was brooding over the messy financial situation I was in, I received this -

Exide Life Insurance sent me their latest toolkit - 'My Money Book', so I could consolidate my financial information, and get my head around my money-matters. As I leafed through the book, I discovered five useful things:-

  1. My Money Book is actually 'Our' Money Book

    The book lets you keep a record of accounts and insurance policies of all your family members, and not just yourself. Everyone in your home can have access to important financial information at one place. Nobody need worry about looking for different papers for each member of the family.

  2. Lets you store Lawyer and CA Contact

    My Money Book is perhaps the only record keeping diary that has rows to let you fill the number, email id and address of your Chartered Accountant, advocate, financial advisor and also the family doctor. Most diaries let you maintain details of yourself, spouse and other family members only. This book does a very useful thing by helping you track contact details of other important people in your life.

  3. Is updated to track Aadhar No. and NPS investment

    It is nice to see a place that actually asks for your Aadhar number along with PAN, passport and driving license number. Also, the investments section has a page dedicated to tracking deposits made to the National Pension Scheme.

  4. Has neat division of Financial Information

    My Money Book is divided into four main sections -

    a) 'My Insurance Policies' - This section lets you track details of your policies for life insurance (maximum 8 policies), health insurance (max. 2 policies), motor insurance (for up to 3 vehicles) and home/property insurance (for max. 2 pieces of property).

    b) 'My Bank Details' - Here, you can store information about your bank accounts (max. 2), lockers (max. 2), demat accounts (max. 2) and credit cards (max. 4).

    c) 'My Loans' - This section is for details of home/property loans (max. 2), auto loans (max. 2) and personal/consumer durable loans (max. 2).

    d) 'My Investments' - The last section is to help you track your investments in fixed deposits (max. 4), mutual funds (max. 8), property (max. 2), public provident fund (max. 2), NPS (only 1) and other schemes such as NSC, KVP, Post Office Schemes, etc.

  5. Captures finances in a lot of detail

    This tool is built to help you maintain every important detail for every investment, loan, insurance policy, account and credit card you have. For example, you can store details of the bank name, branch address, account number, account type, IFSC, helpline number and Branch/Relationship Manager's number for each of your bank accounts.

Even though this book has quite a lot of useful features, I would have liked to see many more things and some changes. Here is my wishlist for the next edition of My Money Book:-

  1. Life insurance policies can be capped at 2. You don't really have 8 policies in the average family of 4. And only a fool would buy too many life policies without understanding the true meaning of insurance and instead using it as investment.

  2. Health insurance policies should be increased to at least 4. 2 is not enough to cover every member's health plan, unless you assume the breadwinner has a family-floater plan.

  3. 2 is too small a number for bank accounts. These days, we have to change banks every time we change jobs. We end up having too many accounts this way.

  4. 4 credit cards again is too less for an entire family. I alone have 4 cards!

  5. A family may not have 8 mutual fund investments. This can be brought down to 4.

  6. For PPF details, the columns for deposit made and payment mode can be removed entirely. PPF is mostly handled by an auto-payment instruction on our account or directly handled by the employer. It is unlikely that the monthly amount will change as mostly only 2 changes are allowed annually. Even for NPS the same change should be made.

  7. The next edition should probably be a mobile app or a web app where everything is dynamic and one can control the number of instances of each info-type. Also, this will help people copy-paste from their online accounts when they update their financial profile. Also, one's financial data is sensitive and confidential. This should be password protected. Taking My Money Book online will also enable Exide to add more features such as report generation.

This review is a part of the biggest Sponsored Reviews Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free Products!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Elite Jewellery You Must Buy

Fashion is not just about your clothes, footwear and makeup. An essential accessory is jewellery. Back in school and college, we got by with cheap imitation pieces and oxidized metal. Plastic fashion jewellery and beads with our initials were also pretty popular. But now that we have stepped into the workplace, our jewellery needs a makeover. No more can you look elegant with shabbily assembled coloured stones. You must plan your accessories with every outfit. But don't look so worried, in this post, I will show you how to mix and match elite jewellery pieces with your ensembles.

If you work at a bank, you probably have a strictly formal dress code. With expensive dresses and blazers, you need to pair your elite jewellery right! Keep a few simple rules in mind, and you should be able to leave an indelible mark on your clients. The first rule is to pick neckpieces in contrasting colours to your tunic if the neckline reaches up to the base of your neck. The necklace in this case will rest on top of the fabric, and you must ensure it stands out. So, wear white pearls with a black dress and black stones against a white tunic. Keep your earrings and bracelet of the same colour family and pattern even if you cannot exactly match the pieces.

If you wear shirts, leave the first two buttons undone and let your necklace show through. Try wearing shorter strings or statement pieces which have large stones. Remember though, if your necklace lies on your skin, it must be of the same colour family as your shirt or blouse. The idea is to have a cohesive look that does not distract the people you will interact with. The best way to dress for work is to ensure your personality stands out better than your look. Another thing you should do is invest in elite jewels. You need not look at diamonds and platinum if those are too expensive for your budget. Look for silver and rhinestones. Silver effectively does for less money what platinum takes thousands to do. Also with rhinestones, you will have a variety of colours to play with. Go easy on the gold though. If you love gold or are looking to invest, look for simple and elegant designs in matte finish. Your work-jewellery must not look like a wedding piece.

Now, when do you wear the showy pieces of elite jewellery? The answer is - parties and dates. Every time you have a wedding or store launch to attend, bring out your glittering diamonds and gleaming gold. If you wish to attract all the attention to your jwellery, make sure your clothes are not too shimmery. Too much shine in an ensemble makes you look overdressed. Always keep your outfit balanced. For dates, keep your jewellery interesting. A striking bracelet with many charms that jingle is a great idea. At the end of the day, remember that you are the first jewel in any look. All other jewels come after. So, don't forget to smile! A smile can make you look like a million bucks even if you wear accessories from a thrift store.