Reading India with #TSBC

About a year back, I stumbled across Ann Morgan’s fabulous blog, A Year of Reading the World. I was completely blown away by what she had written there and with good reason too !

In 2012, Ann Morgan had embarked on a year-long journey of the literary kind. She read a book from every independent country in the world, which meant that she read a total of 196 books that year. Ann then went on to write Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer, a book which talks about this literary journey of hers — the stories, the research, the people involved — and how it changed her thinking and her perception of the world.

Reading Ann’s literary journey first on her blog and then in her book, got me thinking about reading my immediate world that is, India. Reading India’s diversity and sub-cultures through her 29 States and 7 Union Territories. Reading India one book at a time would be a literary journey with a difference, a reading challenge with a difference.

I was so inspired and excited that I discussed this idea with my co-founders at The Sunday Book Club (TSBC). The result of that discussion was the introduction of this unique India-centred reading challenge on TSBC. And that’s how the hashtag #TSBCReadsIndia was born in February 2015.

So, how does #TSBCReadsIndia work? Continue reading

5 years, 413 posts, 3,33,785 words…

5th birthday

Click on the picture for the source

… later, it is time for that annual blog anniversary post. The fifth to be precise, and about a blogging year that has been quite different from the previous years.

If the first year of blogging was an exciting time of finding my feet in the blogging world, then the second year was a heady and wonderful year of peer recognition. The third year of blogging was the year of reality check in the form of severe writer’s block and coming face to face with negativity and bullying in the blogging world. Year four was all about facing extreme blogging fatigue, wondering what to do, and slowly reclaiming the pleasure of blogging.

As for the fifth year of blogging, it has probably been the most relaxed year of blogging ever — barring a couple of mini rants here and there. I blogged when I wanted to, what I wanted to, how I wanted to, and even where I wanted to. Basically, I did what I wanted to. Blog-wise, that is. :)

But before I go into a little bit of details of that, I must share with you an incident that turned out to be the highlight of Year 5 of blogging. It’s not about the blog directly and yet it is. It  happened on the morning of 19th October 2014.

It was a Sunday and I was woken up by the doorbell at around 7.30 am. Though I like to sleep in a little on Sundays, that rarely happens. Our housing society’s garbage collector, Suraj, has a rather perverse streak — on weekdays he collects the garbage around 9.30 am; on weekends he’s there before 8.00 am.

I stumbled out of bed, grumbling under my breath, picked up the garbage bag and opened the door to hand it to Suraj. But it wasn’t Suraj who was standing on the other side of the door. It was someone else. Continue reading

Travel, travellers and travel blogging… Some thoughts

We live in a super-specialised world and the world of travel and travellers is no different. It’s not enough to just say that “I like to travel” or that “I am a traveller”. One has to qualify what kind of travel you like or what kind of traveller you are. You’d be considered boring otherwise !

Don’t believe me? Well then, just see some of the words I picked up from the Twitter and Facebook bios of travel bloggers on my TL, which describes the kind of travel they do or the type of travellers they are.

Solo. Couple. Family. LGBT. Gay. Luxury. Heritage. Road. Backpacker (you can add variations in spelling here like backpakker, bacpacker, bakpakker). Nomadic. Wandering. Itinerant. International. Different. Newly wed (I kid you not!). Budget. Flashback. Mountain. Himalayan. Beach. Food. Frugal. Happy-Go-Lucky. Culture. Nature. Environmental. Rural. Eco. Weekend. Slow. Lazy. Grumpy. Happy. Lost. Spiritual. Religious. Ethical. Independent (really wonder what this means). Immersive. Adventure. Long-term…

One would think that the “variety” in travel / travellers would have automatically translated into variety in travel writing or blogging as well. Surprisingly, I have found that this is not the case. Sure, a lot of destinations get written about, but they are usually in the form of listicles, guides, travel tips, sponsored articles or articles espousing the cause of a particular type of travel (read the above para for examples). First-person accounts of travel experiences — which in my opinion is what any travel writing/blogging should be about — are comparatively few.

And therein lies my problem with travel blogging. As someone who blogs about travel (among other things), I know how important it is to read well in order to write well. The operative word here is ‘to read well’. Unfortunately, more often that not, whenever I read a travel blog post, I’m left with a feeling of “this is not about travel / this is not what I want to read in a post on travel”.

Let me elaborate with some examples the reason I’m peeved with the state of travel writing / blogging today.

Continue reading

My “now” song: Piku’s background score

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a storyline, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, a background score, etc. That particular piece of music becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

I watched Piku the other day. Like most people who’ve seen the film, I loved it. However, unlike most people who’ve seen the film, I thought the real star of the movie was its background score. Composed by Anupam Roy and also played on the sarod by him, Piku’s background score is my “now” song.

The score is first heard in the film when the opening credits appear on the screen — white lettering on a black background with the tittle on the ‘i’ appearing in red. Simple and beautiful. (In retrospect, I thought it was the perfect way to listen to the score and not get distracted by any visuals or graphics on-screen.) The background score appears several times in the film sometimes as an interlude, sometimes to underscore a particular emotion, and sometimes as the background score it is meant to be.

Each time this music was played in the film, I would just get lost in the music. And each time a different set of emotions would be invoked, some nostalgic, some bittersweet. Continue reading

Restaurant Review: Masala Table

Last Thursday, as I left home for work, I reminded Amma that I would not be home for dinner as it was a Restaurant Review evening.

“I remember,” Amma said. “Which restaurant are you going to this evening?”

Masala Table at Sanpada.”

“And what kind of food will you be having there?”

“Indian food.”

“Really? I thought you don’t like to eat Indian food in restaurants !”

Amma’s statement is not exactly right. It would be more correct to say that I prefer to eat Indian food at home, and try other cuisines when I eat out. It doesn’t always work though, especially when I’m eating out with colleagues or friends and the cuisine is decided by consensus. In the case of Masala Table, the invitation to review the restaurant decided the cuisine. :)

Masala Table, Restaurant Review, Global Culture, Sanpada, Navi Mumbai, Indian CuisineMasala Table is one of the three restaurants of Global Culture, which opened in Navi Mumbai a few months back. [I had visited their 80 Days restaurant in March and had liked it very much.] Besides the 3 restaurants, it also has a bar.

Masala Table offers Indian cuisine through an a-la-carte menu and a buffet as well. The Global Culture website, which claimed to treat food as an art form, had this to say of Masala Table: “Rediscover the good old Indian aromas, Peshawari, Awadhi, Kashmiri, Hyderabadi…”

Continue reading

The box of coins

When I returned home after visiting the RBI Monetary Museum, it was to find my oldest brother there on a surprise visit from Pune.

I immediately handed him the set of Information Brochures I had purchased at the Museum and launched into an excited account of my visit there. My brother listened to me, went through the brochures and then said:

“You know, I just remembered. There used to be this box of coins at home, though I can’t recall the last time I saw them. With all the moving around cities and houses that we have done, it probably got lost somewhere.”

Amma, who was listening to our conversation, suddenly piped in and said, “No, it has not. The box is in one of the cartons in the kitchen loft.” This statement was enough to make us search for the box in the loft immediately. It took us a while to sort through the stuff there, but eventually we found what we were looking for — the box of coins.

It was a small plastic box, heavy with the coins it contained. It jingled tantalisingly with a metallic sound as we brought it down from the loft and opened it eagerly.

Box of coins, numistimatics, nostalgia Continue reading