Sunday, December 13, 2015

Mumbai City – Made of Great

When it comes to my favorite city, it cannot be anything else other than Mumbai.
There is no thinking required nor are there any two thoughts about it. Mumbai wins hands-on in my mind when it comes to being my favorite city.
Yeah yeah … you have all heard about the horrors of Mumbai Locals, the rains and the incessant flooding and of course the Blasts have made the city famous time and again.
Yes, it is a notorious city that way but the reason these things happen is because Mumbai is unequivocally THE most important city in the country.
Thankfully, I have lived my entire life here and have grown to love it.
For anyone from outside, it is difficult to fall in love with the city. It is a difficult city for people who are not use to it. In case you are the one amongst many who actually enjoy the Mumbai brand of life and living, there is no looking back.

The Drive

One of the things I have always loved about the city is the sheer driving ease as compared to other Indian cities. Mumbai is one of the more disciplined cities in the country and most people tend to follow the rules (and not break them as one deems fit). Few people jump the red light and a handful will break traffic rules for the heck of it. The drive around the city is not bad … from the point of view of other cars and vehicles around. The traffic situation is definitely bad and there are traffic jams every now and then and there are many who would break the traffic rules but the overall situation is pretty disciplined and BETTER than other major cities. In fact, while the average Mumbaikar will crib about the bad traffic situation, someone who has driven around in different cities of the country will truly appreciate Mumbai's traffic sense and the 'relative ease' of driving around.

The Design

Mumbai, as a city has not only evolved and modernized but for those who haven't forgotten, it is an island city made out of 7 islands joined together (followed by additional reclamation from the sea). It's a city that stretches almost around 60 km from Churchgate to Virar and THAT is essentially the path taken by the infamous Mumbai Local trains. The north-south connectivity provided by the local trains is unparalleled. Trains are fast and they are not impacted by traffic conditions so they are more or less on time and you can reach places within defined time interval. The east-west connectivity is pretty much provided by the slow buses plying on the roads … and hence subjected to traffic snarls and uncertainty. Metro and Mono-rail projects along with some freeway projects are all set to solve this age-old east-west connectivity problem and we are definitely making progress. The new Mumbai emerging from these connectivity projects will be a city designed for better travel across the different parts.

The Connect   

It's the average Mumbaikar who is the Hero here. People connect with each other in various ways .. some of them very peculiar to the city. People connect most in local trains and then they also connect at the ubiquitous tea and vada-pav stalls. People also connect during the rains taking shelter under any shade available. People connect in Mumbai is definitely strong and it makes it a city with a warm heart.

Mumbai is simply the best city and my personal favorite and it is definitely #MadeOfGreat

Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Review: Soul Warrior (The Age of Kali #1) by Falguni Kothari


Book: Soul Warrior (The Age of Kali #1)

Author: Falguni Kothari

No. of Pages: 404

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Falguni Kothari (seems like self-published)

The book blurb reads thus …

Twisted myths. Discretion advised. Fight fate, or succumb to destiny? 

In the dark Age of Kali, the Soul Warrior alone stands guard over the Human Realm, protecting its denizens from evil-willed asuras or demons. When a trick of fate appoints him guru to a motley crew of godlings, he agrees to train them as demon hunters against his better judgment. Suddenly, Lord Karna is not only battling the usual asuras with sinister agendas, but also rebellious students and a fault-ridden past.Spanning the cosmic realms of mythic India, here is a tale of a band of supernatural warriors who come together over a singular purpose: the salvation of Karna’s secret child.

It was definitely an interesting blurb but I was already suffering from a Mahabharata overload, having read Sharat Komarraju’s Hastinapur series (2 books) and some related short story collections. So, I actually skipped this one but luckily I did decide to read/review this one … why u ask ??

Because it was fugging awesome !!  (and if you are wondering what the hell is ‘fugging’ and why would I use it here in this particular review, you got to read the book)

I enjoyed reading every bit of this novel and would probably be the first time that I actually connected to the author on twitter and told her how much I was enjoying her work. Even asked her when the subsequent books in the series were coming up. 

Coming back to the book, the author has taken up a very refreshing writing style for the book. 

From the plot point of view, there are surprises in the book, Several of them, spread across the book ... and the way the author reveals the suspense in an off-hand matter-of-fact manner, it almost shocks you into stopping to read and say to yourself ... "Damn .. didn't see that coming" In short ... superbly written.  

The book is NOT mythological. It is set in modern day ... in the present times. What the author has done is take some characters from our Indian mythology and bring them to the present times (along with some 'new' characters'). 

The protagonist, Karna, is modernized. His portrayal as the cool-dude badass warrior is what I liked most and the introduction of the 'new' characters enhances the modernism and makes the whole take extremely enjoyable. 

The interaction between the various characters in the story is enjoyable and you look forward to their interactions more than the action inherent in the story. The other protagonist of the story is Draupadi. While Karna is still in his element, although modernized, you discover a completely different Draupadi here.

The supporting cast of Lavya and Ash along with the teens has done their job well of bolstering up the story-telling. And yeah, how can I forget the cool-dude Yama (God of Death) and the legendary Baitaal (from the Vikram-Baital stories, although nothing to do with Mahabharata). These and a couple of other character add to the colorful landscape of the story-telling. Kudos to the author.

I could probably go on and on about how wonderful the book is and one proof is also that I recommended the book as a 'must read' and 'immediate read' to my best friend who shares the passion of reading with me. 

It was a delightful read indeed and I will eagerly look forward to the next part in the series, to the extent that I tweeted to the author encouraging her to make that quick J


Ratings on Book Review Parameters:
Cover Design:  4.0 / 5
Writing Style:  4.5 / 5 
Characters:     4.5 / 5
Story / Plot:     4.0 / 5
Climax:             3.5 / 5
Overall:           4.0 / 5

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Sunday, December 06, 2015

Sugar Free Delight

With so much coffee in office that keeps the body machine running through the day (and week); the sugar levels tend to go up for any working professional and so the advice these days from docs is to get the diabetes check done every quarter once you cross 30 (I remember the number being 40 just about 10 year ago).

Additional suggestions are to keep the sugar intake limited. Can't really control the sugar intake in office coffee since it is either machine made (too much sugar or no sugar unfortunately) or made by our 'office boy' who is unfortunately 100 years old (at least it seems so) so any suggestion to alter the composition of the tea or coffee falls on deaf ears (literally). So either u get sweet (cross that, make that very sweet) coffee or you get 'no sugar' coffee. So as bad as machine made coffee

So I am left with controlling sugar intake in terms of 'sweets' intake.

As an indian, I am sure you will appreciate how difficult it is to avoid 'sweets' in the second half of the year which is full of festivals and good mahurat for marriages. Festivals also result in a lot of sweets being made at home and how can one NOT consume home-made mommy-made sweets in copious amounts. That's as necessary for survival as the coffee in office

So the alternative is to go sugar-free for home-made sweets and thankfully even the sweet-shops have sugar-free ones on offer now.

Its not easy to convince Mom's to use sugar-free instead of sugar or jaggery so I decided to make something myself … just as an example for mom to try and get confidence.

Since I had to make it, I looked for a fairly simple recipe that would use no or very little sugar and I could readily replace the sugar with sugar-free. To be on safer side and avoid comparison, I even avoided the usual indian desserts/sweets so that the taste would not be compared with the ones mom would make and be given a low rating … so heres the recipe I tried using Sugar Free Natura and I must say, the results were good and Mom was impressed.

I decided to make some Banana Cookies

Ingredients needed were few and simple:

                3 ripe bananas – mashed in a large bowl

                2 cups rolled oats

                1 cup juicy dates – chop them nice

                1/3rd cup vegetable oil or melted butter

                1 teaspoon vanilla extract

                Sugar Free Natura !!

Note: You can replace the dates with 1 cup raisins and dried apricots and voila … a different flavored banana cookies. You can experiment with different dry fruits to get an assortment.  


The making … its damn simple actually. As simple as A B C or 1 2 3

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

  2. Take the large bowl and mash the bananas in it.

  3. Gradually, stir in oats, dates, oil, and vanilla. Mix well, and allow it to sit for around 15 minutes.

  4. Add some Sugar Free Natura. Go light on it as the banana will act as natural sweetener and you need sugar-free just a little bit.

  5. Drop by teaspoonfuls (depending on the cookie size you want) onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

  6. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly brown.

(well, that's actually twice the number of steps I thought)

Let it cool and its ready to be enjoyed. Its healthy and pretty tasty.

As simple as that

Some helpful tips:

  1. Go for small sizes. The banana cookies are chewy so small bites are better.

  2. Keep some in the jar in your cabinet and keep some in the refrigerator. Both of them offer different experiences and you never know which one will you enjoy more.

  3. You can also experiment with adding greater quantity of Oats (take 3 instead of 2 cups). A couple of times and you will get the proportion as per your taste and texture preference.

  4. You don't like dates. Go for raisins or dry apricot or other chewy dry fruit or you might even drop them out completely.

  5. It is a very flexible recipe so feel free to experiment with ingredients.  



 ENJOY ...

Here is the link to the Sugar Free Natura website for more information