Book Review, Indian authors

Olympus: An Indian Retelling of the Greek Myths

Very few writers incite in me the urge to reach for their books at the devdutt_660_041113063104mere sight of their names on the cover and Devdutt Pattanaik is one of them because, according to me, he is the master of retellings. His works, Jaya and Sita have been revelations to me; and The Pregnant King is still one of my favorites. His stronghold seems to be his ability to stay subjectively objective in drawing from mythology what is relevant to the ever changing modern scenario. He is not a puritanist bogged down by the conservative traditionalist. Neither is he dismissive of the western view on Indian mythology. He understands that it is important to stand firmly grounded on the cultural nuances to understand and interpret Indian mythology. So when such a reasonable and learned man shifts his gaze to Greek mythology, and you love reading mythology, you follow suit.

olympusOlympus: The Indian Retelling of the Greek Myths comes to me in my near total ignorance of Greek Mythology, but for a few stories here and there. And, because I read from cover to cover, the Author’s note required atleast three reading of me because I believe that is the most important part of the book. It prepares you for what follows by giving you a briefing as to what Greek mythology came about geographically, politically, socially and culturally. The book is later divided into 8 books each for a Greek God and the mythical stories surrounding them.

Pattanaik, as expected of him, doesn’t stray from drawing parallels between Indian and Greek Mythologies. He finds parallels between characters, incidents, and ideologies. This book, like any good book, has worked up my curiosity about Greek mythology.

Pattanaik’s writing is simple and straightforward as always. The stories are almost journalist and to-the-point and the notes that follow are where he lets his analytical and reasoning brain at work. This is the kind of book you go back to for light reading. The stories are prophetic, pragmatic and sometimes cringe-worthy-all of what is beautifully handled by Pattanaik’s simple language that keeps him an observer and narrator, at a safe distance from all action. I would go as far as calling him a modern day Sanjaya, the commentator of the Mahabharata war to the blind King Dhritarashtra.

P.S. I would love for Devdutt Pattanaik to turn his gaze towards South Indian folklores, which otherwise seem to be largely neglected. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know his fresh and progressive views on the myths down south?

Verdict: This book is for Greek mythology neophytes and can serve as your crash course in the same.

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Book Review, Indian authors

Kindle Short Read: Bhoomija by Anand Neelakantan

The Ramayan has never ceased to invite imagination. The Kindle Short read Bhoomija is 61g1cri5UoL._SL250_yet another take on Ramayan. It takes on the premise of Ramayan without even beginning to narrate the story. It dwells with the premise of how and why Valmiki wrote the Ramayan.

I was curious about this story as this comes from Anand Neelakantan, who spoke objectively about Raavan with Asura: the tale of the vanquished. I wanted to know how he would spin this. But this story speaks of the Ramayan without talking of the hero or the anti-hero. This is a non-judgemental take on Ramayan. It is a take on the premise of Ramayan and how over the many years generations have given us their own interpretations based on their judgment. This story is about Sita in her many names. It is about what she represents as the daughter of the soil. It is, beyond doubt, about Ramayan.

This story is about Sita in her many names. It is about what she represents as the daughter of the soil. It is, beyond doubt, about Ramayan. So, if ever Ramayan has mystified you this story tries to demystify and decode it to you.

(Find the short read at Amazon Kindle. Each Short Read is priced at Rs.25 and is a 30-minute read)


Biblio-rants, In conversation

In conversation with – Anand Neelakantan

After the success of Asura: The tale of the Vanquished and the Ajaya series Anand Neelakantan is now busy with the Baahubali : Before the beginning series.The first book in the series, The Rise of Sivagami was out on March 15th and is doing really well on the charts. I had an opportunity to talk with the author. And here’s an excerpt of the conversation-anand_neelakantan


How was it writing The Rise of Sivagami in 109 days?

It was maddening. I didn’t think whether it was possible or not, I just sat down and wrote. More so because I was sending my unedited rough chapter drafts to Rajamouli. Soon after each mail he would text me back asking me ‘what next?’. He said, “Not to pressurize you or anything, but I can’t sleep until I know what happens next!” Later when I went to the sets of Bahubali 2 the producer told me that I had cost him 5 days of shooting as Mr.Rajamaouli was up reading my drafts all night and couldn’t shoot the next morning. (laughs) I tell you, that’s the biggest compliment I’ve received for the book, bigger than an award!

With your books like Asura: A tale of the vanquished and the Ajaya: Epic of the Kaurava Clan series you seem to be obsessed with the anti-hero. Why is that so?

To me, they are the heroes. See, if I am to write about, say, Krishna or Rama, they are divine and the divine can do whatever they want. So there is no story there. And many people, a lot more talented than myself, have written about them. What more would I write about them? I want to write about the less spoken about.

How would you characterize your style of story telling?

I believe that fiction is a mirror. It should reflect the society and basic human nature. That’s what I keep in mind when I write. My stories have to be entertaining and at the same time make my readers think.

Coming to The Rise of Sivagami, how much of this story is S.S.Rajamouli?

We had one meeting where he gave me a list of dos and don’ts regarding the characters of Sivagami and Kattappa. He essentially gave me the two characters and asked me to write the story around them like I would write any other story. All the other characters are how I created them from my imagination. The freedom he gave me and the responsibility of staying true to the franchise was daunting.

What are the challenges you faced in writing this novel?

The first challenge was to finish plotting, planning, drafting and revising in 109. Besides this book is a prequel to an already established franchise. The magical grandiose Mr.S.S.Rajamouli has created on the screen along with the musical accompaniment of M.M Keeravani’s magic is indisputably unparalleled in Indian cinema. For me to be able to recreate that magic in words is an intimidating task. But, like I said, I didn’t stop to think. I just started writing. Also, I think the bigger and real challenge would be to keep my readers engaged and interested all through the series. And, since I like challenging myself, the challenge is accepted!

What are you reading at the moment?

I tend to read more non-fiction when I’m writing. I feel it helps in adding more reality and character to my writing. Also, I fear reading fiction while writing fiction may cause my reading to influence my writing. So at the moment, I’m reading Indica: A Deep Natural History of the Indian Subcontinent by Pranay Lal. I’m also reading Anthakaranazhi, in Malayalam. I just finished reading Veerappan: Chasing the Brigand by K.Vijay Kumar.

What are the books that you read recently and liked?

Although I read it about couple of months back, itt has to be the multi-award winning Aarachar, by K.R. Meera, Manushyanu Oru Aamukham by Subhash Chandran and The Ivory Throne by Manu.S.Pillai.

Currently, Anand Neelakantan is busy scheduling time to promote his book The Rise of Sivagami, the first book in the Baahubali: Before the Beginning series, and working on the second book in the series. Further he also has some upcoming screen-writing commitments for Amazon Prime and Discovery Channel based on Indian history.

Book Review, Indian authors

The Rise of Sivagami: Book 1 of Baahubali – Before the Beginning by Anand Neelakantan

‘Why did Kattappa kill Baahubai?’, the most asked question in these 2 years, only begins 911wBYUAMAL.__BG0,0,0,0_FMpng_AC_UL320_SR208,320_
to gauge the wide public interest in the Baahubali franchise. While the answer to this question might evade us till the end April this year, when Baahubali 2 -The Conclusion releases, clues to it might be hidden in plain sight within the pages of The Rise of Sivagami, written by Anand Neelakantan. SS Rajamouli and Anand Neelakantan were well ahead of their game in marketing Baahubali franchise and the book by releasing Chapter 2: Kattappa ahead of the book release to pique interest. The book was up for pre-ordering on Amazon and it hit the stands on 15th of March, 2107. I caught hold of a digital copy from the Kindle store on the D-day.

The very first few pages into the book told me that it will need more than my Anand-Neelakantancursory attention. All the main characters are listed with their brief description before the story begins. This gives you an insight into what is in store for you. It also gives you a sense of the magnitude of the plot. This fictional political drama focuses on Sivagami’s story. How from young orphan she turned into the powerful bureaucrat she seems in the first movie of the franchise. The characters seem well thought out and by the end of the book you see a lot of them evolve into full bloom. The plot twists and turns tend to shock at times and sometimes get predictable. But, this book only starts to lay a ground for the plot twists and turns that could be possible in a story of this magnitude.

Anand Neelakantan had announced his arrival with his book Asura: The Tale of the Vanquished. And, in true Anand Neelakantan style, there are no black and white characters here either; every character has a gray shade, with the exception of Kattappa and Mahadeva. But, Neelakantan, a fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire series himself, assures us that the plot will only thicken as the series proceeds.

Verdict: If you have enjoyed Baahubali, the movie and the mini-series on Amazon Prime, then you are definitely going to love and enjoy it. This book serves in thickening the plot and getting you further immersed into the world of Mahishmati. 


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My summer essentials to beat the heat

The summer is at the top of it’s game. All those smoothies and ice teas aren’t only going to help you from the heat. The AC is only going to burden the electricity bill. Nevertheless, we aren’t among those who take all that drama lying down (pun intended). So here’s a list of my summer essentials.

  • Sunscreen: I have a whole list of my recommendations for suncreen in post you can find here.
  • Face mist: Imagine you just came in from the scorching heat and your face is a fiery burnished red. You definetly want some solace from the sweat and heat. I recommend good ol’ rose water. It is both cooling and moisturizing, all in one. It works on your skin and your hair. Rosewater also doubles up as your makeup setting spray for summers. I would recommend the Kama Ayurveda Pure Rose water. But, if you are a little more adventurous you may go for Vichy Thermal Spa Water which is 100% pure and paraben-free.
  • Wipes, blotting paper or tissue : Gone are the days of hankies because they are very, very unhygienic to use and reuse. Opt for wipes, or blotting papers depending on your skin type. 
  • Water alias H2O: I know you’ve heard enough high praise for water and there’s a reason for that. H2O as water H2O in food, summer needs water in whatever form you are willing to take it. So up your water intake by including meals that have high water content.

Apart from this, if you are into make-up I would suggest tinted moisturizers or BB or CC creams. These are not heavy on the face and do a good job in the summers, especially with all the sweat. A smudge-proof Kohl and/or mascara along with a good ol’ bright matte lippy goes a long way.

These are just my ways to rock the scorching summer heat that’s out to burn us to a crisp. Let me know yours in the comments so we could brave the heat together.

Cheers n love.

Book Review, Indian authors

The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Has it ever happened to you that you start reading a book and feel like the story has 17157775_10158235040090364_4958159897414216041_o.jpgtaken you into itself like a dream-like trance? You know you are reading words and turning the pages as you go, but then you forget all that and drown into the fluidity of the words. The prose sings to your heart like poetry and at times you have to pause to drink in the beauty of it all.

The Mistress of Spices is set in an Indian spice shop in Oakland, US. Tilo was born in India with magic in her blood. Her magic had always led her fate and destiny. Now, as a mistress of spices, in her little spice shop in Oakland, she uses her magic and her training in the power of spices to help the local Indian community. Her spices always aided her in her services till the American walked into her shop. The true test of her magic and power came when he fell in love – a feeling forbidden to her by the spices.

Back when The Mistress of Spices, caught my fancy as a movie starring Aishwarya Rai chtira-banerjee-4and ‎Dylan McDermott, I hadn’t heard about the book it was based on. Much later it was a friend’s high praise and raves that had me wanting to read this book. At that point, I hadn’t been introduced to Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni at all. This book has made me truly appreciate and indulge in her craft. The characters born of her pen were all so relatable and recognizable that I silently let out a prayer for them. With her emotional depth and imagination, Divakaruni proves her merit at convincing her readers of the inconvincible. Also, since magical realism is an unfamiliar realm to me this will be the book that introduced me to it.

In this story, through her characters, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni reflects on the rules and boundaries set by culture and its impact on people and their relationships. Selfless and forbidden love is a recurring theme in the story. She paints a picture of the pain and the longing in love and then the selfless sacrifice resulting from love. This story made me feel like a fly on the wall of the premises, where the story is set, to the point that I simply did not want to leave.

Rating : 3.5/5

Verdict: The book is not for everyone. It speaks of the pain and the agony of forbidden love. It speaks of the selfless sacrifice that transpires from love in its purest form. The beauty of it is in the poetry in the words and the world Divakaruni weaves within them.

Continue reading “The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni”

Gadgets, Skincare

We all scream suncreen

Hello dear Sunshine,

We love you, we really do! But like all good relationships, ours is a love-hate one. While we love you we have to protect ourselves from your heat, your wrath.


Girl who uses sunscreen

This post goes out to all those who, love the sun or not, have to get their asses out in the heat and slog like a log. That makes all of us, right?That doesn’t mean we can’t look our best. We neither want to tan into a crisp not want the harmful UV, UVA,B,C,D… and what not rays to rip that glow off our skin and make us look older than we are. And, most importantly, we don’t want skin cancer.

There are different things you need to consider before getting yourself a sunscreen that best suits your needs.

  1. How long do you spend outdoors?
  2. Do you wear make-up over sunscreen?
  3. What is your skin type-dry, oily, sensitive, or combination?

Dermatologists advise that we use sunscreen atleast 20mins before you get out into the sun. It is also advised that you reapply your sunscreen every 30-60mins. But who has that time, no? So, here are my favorite sunscreens for this summer. The ones I swear by no matter what.
First in the list,

  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 50+ with helioplex broad spectrum uva-uvb
    • It’s one of the most matte sunscreens in the list. If you hate greasy 71MkLfA0mfL._SL1500_sunscreens that make your skin shine with oil this one is for you. It’s perfect to wear under your everyday make-up.The only con I find in this is that it leaves a white film on your face. But, again, if you are wearing make-up you can mix this with your foundation and voila! It retails for Rs.499 for 88mL.
  • Lotus Herbals Safe Sun UV SCREEN MatteGel PA+++ SPF 50 UVA UVB
    • lotus_herbal_sunscreenThis is my favorite and the one I’m using now. The gel base makes it easy to apply and re-apply making it one that you can carry around. It takes about a minute to settle on your skin and then it’s matte. This one gives a slight supple moisture to your skin which is perfect or the day time. It retails for Rs.395 for 100gms.
  • Biotique Bio Sandlewood Ultra Soothing Face Lotion SPF 75+biotique
    • This is a heavy-duty sunscreen with SPF75+, perfect if you spend a lot of time outdoors. It gives you a moisture boost with sun protection which is again good if you tend to lose moisture throughout the day. It retails for Rs.200/-for 50mL.
  • Kara Sunscreen Wipes with Plum and Aloe Vera
    • kara sunscreenAnything with Aloe vera is a beauty in itself. Plum is rich in anti-oxidants and that, again, is good for your skin. These are handy sunscreen top-ups for your handbag. I always leave these in my bags for quick touchups in the summer.It’s a must-have. You get 10 wipes for Rs.80/-


Regularly using a sunscreen that you like is the best way to enjoy these sunny days without compromise. So have your share of fun with protection.

All the brands listed here are available in India and I’ve linked it with their respective Nykaa and Amazon links if you want to purchase them. (PS.this isn’t a sponsored post.) Let me know if you have any other favorites in the comments section.

Lots of love!