Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Chinmaya IAS Academy- Civil service launchpad...

There is a friend of mine- K, who has a cousin-M.
M is into Civil services and is slowly climbing the ladder, one step at a time.

Few years ago, one afternoon when K & I caught up, she was telling me how this girl is very clear and wants to write the Civil services exam, and has told her parents to not push her into getting married.
Even though she is the only child, they have accepted her terms and support her in this.

With time, I came to know she had cleared basic exams, was posted in Madurai where she had taken an apartment and her mom moved in to help out [make sure she eats well, etc, cos she has never been on her own and the whole single child phenomenon]

All this was playing around in my head. I got curious about the Civil services, and began digging around the Internet for places that helped kids prepare for the exams and job. That is when I chanced upon Chinmaya IAS Academy, known to be the finest IAS Coaching Centre in Chennai…

Spent some time reading their site and talking to a few who have enrolled with them. Launched in 2017, they have quickly established a place in the market and renowned as a place that offers coaching classes for UPSC (IAS/ IPS/IFS/IRS) Examinations in Chennai. The place not only gives a good foundation in the civil services arena, but they also train students to equip themselves for the long run. The website is quite extensive, offering information on the courses, including the syllabus and even mock question paper that will help students prepare for the exams. Apart from these, you can Register for admission, chat with an executive who will be able to clear any doubts, or obtain more clarity as well. The best feature is the "Take scholarship sample exam", which will be useful for those who are worried about financial implications but have dreams of becoming an IAS officer...

                                         Admission Registration and Online chat support 

                                                                        Mock questions

Today with the amount of technology and exposure that is available, students need something that they cant find online. That is where this academy stands apart, and why it is listed among the Top IAS Academy in Chennai.. The IAS community is known to not only consists of smart thinking people, but also those who are grounded and clear headed. This is something that can’t really be taught but trained. Therefore, it is good that such centers exist, making life easier for aspirants!

Talk about having big dreams and being able to realize them with ease! Even though I am not writing these exams, just based on what I have read, I would recommend this center if you are looking for a place to help you get started.. Good luck~!

Monday, March 25, 2019

Joy of reading and gifting books..

If I were to rewind time and go back to my childhood, I only remember being outside with friends, playing or at home reading while listening to music [ in our Sharp Cassette player]. I also grew up listening to AC/DC, Van Halen, Phil Collins, Bruce Springsteen, ABBA, Carpenters and so on thanks to my uncles..... Which is probably why even today I love music from the years gone by and need music around me all the time.....

I used to get excited whenever I got news that someone was visiting, for it meant more books to be lost in. Loved reading Enid Blyton to Mystery of 5 find outers and slowly moving to books with bigger words and deeper subjects/plots.. I have over the years discovered new genres, authors as well... plus today, thanks to the whole social media circus, the world has become smaller. I have connected with friends and people from other parts of the country/world who recommend books and authors.. It is almost like going down the rabbit hole, you just get lost and enjoy the adventure.. Infact, the world has become so connected that I have even interacted with a few authors, going beyond just enjoying their books/style of writing. 

Am quite sure if you were to do a survey among those who read [does not matter what kind of books/genre], they will invariably be the ones who also believe in giving books as gifts to others. It does not matter who the recipient is, as in the age or sex or background of the person!  I too belong to that category! For all my friends and their kids, when it comes to visiting them I know what am gonna give.. With a few, we ask each other what they have read, or what they wanna read and gift accordingly, and for some we just go with their Amazon wish list or introduce them to a new author. 

Sometimes the new authors and books are welcomed, sometimes we read and leave it at it. But well, it is an amazing gift option. Infact, I was telling a friend of mine that it would be good for parents to give books as return gifts, instead of some random toy or thing.  Year on year, the budget for birthday parties seems to be growing rapidly, cakes getting bigger but the return gift remains something people pick up in a hurry, but they do spend on it [ atleast 300-500Rs].. 

If only kids of today are introduced to books like Amar Chitra Katha or Malgudi days?!! They would also love to be lost amidst other kids and get hooked to the world of books, instead of the iPad or whatever other gadgets they are into these days. Yes, it does have its consequences.. The child will demand you buy them a book every time you to a mall or bookstore, but then books trump other toys/puzzles, right? :-))  Gift a book, encourage a child /adult to read and that way you will be changing their lives forever... For adults, you can also include a set of bookmarks :-) 

As the kids grow older, introduce them to the world of libraries, that way they can borrow, read and go back for more.. 

Btw, have you read the Malgudi Days? If not, grab your copy today/ place your bulk orders here... 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

All about reading and books..

The other day this person I met asked me if I remembered the 1st ever book I read.. I racked my brain for a few minutes and gave up! Came home and asked mom, she said it was a set of books gifted by my athai [ aunt] - Jack & the beanstalk, Sleeping beauty, The Swiss Family Robinson, Snow white & 7 dwarfs and one more.. I have them around somewhere at home, unless mom has given them away to some cousin or uncle. 

Dont ever remember mom /dad reading to me, but do remember being nose deep into books... And am sure this is a habit that just sky rocketed when we were in Tirunelveli.. Uncles used to visit us and every time would be with a box of books and music cassettes. That is how I fell in love with books and reading. Amar Chitra Katha is one set of comic book series that I remember being part of the collection. Even today, whenever I see an ACK book, I will pick it up and read through before putting it back on the shelf. 

Whenever I go visiting a friend/family, if there is a kid in that space, I always carry books. I have cousins & friends who are abroad, so their kids get books that have both english & tamil in them. Sometimes the parents thank me for the books and other times I am met with glares that say "now we are drowning in books, no space at home already...". lolz.. It gives me such joy to see kids reading... Am ok with them reading even silly books, as long as they get into the habit.. I know for sure they will grow up figuring out the genre that appeals to them.  

I also don't mind sitting and telling stories, or reading books to the kids. Its fun watching their expressions, and answering questions about the pieces of a story. They pick up new words, thereby their vocabulary improves. Infact, I believe this for everyone.. The more you read, the more it is reflected in your personality.. No, I am not judging anyone, just saying! 

Today, kids have such a range of books available to them- Indian and international.. It leaves me puzzled whenever I go book shopping. There are some that have 40-50 as part of the series, some into fantasy, others general, and more.. Uff... And so when I stumbled upon this list put together by Amar Chitra Katha, I was kicked and had to share it...  The best part is I have read all the books on the list, some of it might be for slightly older kids, but others work for little ones as well. It was exciting to see Malgudi days sitting proudly at the 4th spot.. I am back to reading and watching the series.. have you read it? 

Read the article here

There are always books and authors waiting to be discovered. Reminds me of the time a friend & I had visited this space called "Rare books" housed in a garage.... The minute you step in, you are transported to a different world altogether. We met Mr. Govindaraju, the 82-year-old who was lost in pages from newspaper and magazines, pulling out interesting/ vintage ads. He is an avid reader, collector and has taken over the reigns from his father.  I picked up two books from that space and must say it was the most fun I have had in a long time.... He had shelves piled up with books as high as the ceiling and we walked around the tiny space, taking it all in.... 

Monday, March 18, 2019

When Swami became my friend... Malgudi days...

I remember getting back home from school, washing up, changing out of the school uniform, gulping down the glass of milk before heading out the door to my great aunt's house down the road. I wouldn't even ring the bell, just take off my chappals, and enter their living room, and make a beeline for that sofa [almost as if it had been reserved for me]. Hearing me enter, uncle would come into the room from wherever he was and head straight for the TV. 

Back then, we got only one channel- Doordarshan. He would sit with me, just to keep me company till the show began. And like clockwork, it would start, and for half an hour I was lost to the world. I don't really remember what day of the week it was aired, or the time but do remember distinctly the colours and music. 

I am talking about Malgudi days, the show based on the works of author R K Narayan, a collection of short stories. The show's basic plot revolved around Swami [the protagonist] and his endless adventures.Set in the imaginary town of Malgudi, each episode was a short story. 

It featured government workers/middle class people, businessmen ,street vendors and school children (including Swamy and his friends) not to forget their life, mindset back in the day (especially towards British).  Though the town of Malgudi was small, it had a Government factory, 2 schools, a local market, a Post office, two cinema halls, a bus stand,  and few other buildings as well. Oh and there was a paper called the 'Malgudi Times' as well, all of which had me believing there really was a town called Malgudi back then. It was directed by Kannada actor and director Shankar Nag.

Infact, the show used to be telecast in Hindi [it was almost like the makers of the show had the country and the world convinced that South Indians were fluent in Hindi].. Must say, this show is one of the things I used to watch that helped me learn the language as well.  A couple of years later, I was gifted the book by one of my uncles... 

The stories were all fairly simple. They were about Swami and his friends, their adventures and was set in the pre-Independence era. I remember watching the boys run around in dhotis, caps and crisp jackets on streets around the now vintage Austin and Hindustan cars. Infact the the donkeys and elephants in some of the scenes made the town come alive. It was magical and I was hooked.  The plot of each episode usually involved the little problems that cropped up in the town of Malgudi or  between the boys themselves – it could be small fights, jealousy or misunderstandings. From something as simple as a rough day at school to a stolen necklace, you had it all. But the beauty of it was that all the episodes/stories had a happy ending... 

Over the years, this is a series/book that I have made references to whenever we spoke of our childhood. I remember, once a friend mentioned there was a pure veg hotel called Malgudi Station in Baner, Pune.. Talk about the name going beyond just the book.  Another piece of interesting news is that Malgudi is a real station today- Indian Railways has renamed Arasalu railway station in Shivamoga district as "Malgudi" station. How cool is that?! 

Today, when I look back in time, nostalgia hits me hard. There are some things that are precious, and for me it was all these moments from my childhood. We did not have a TV at home and so this aunt's house was where we would head to watch these shows and movies as well... I have now picked up the book to re-read and also saw that the show was available on Amazon Prime.. Good chance for those who want to watch Malgudi Days all over again.

If like me you would love to own one of these beauties, then grab the hardbound copy of the book here...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

[Book] A contest, a win and Meeting Padmalakshmi..

If there is a contest within my eye/ear shot you bet I will participate. I dont really get into it with dreams of winning big, but it is more the thrill of being able to answer some challenging questions and rack my brains a bit..

Few days ago, Taj Coromandel announced a contest on their social media channels, and wham bam I jumped at it. It had just two questions, easy ones -

1. Name Padmalakshmi's latest book title
2. List the spices that were shown in the photograph... 

Well, well well, what  do you know, I ended up being one of the two winners.. :-)) 

So, last evening was the Book reading event. I was at the venue around 6.40pm , found myself an empty seat and got down to it. A friend of mine joined me in a few minutes. 

It was an evening spent listening to Padma share tales from her childhood, her parents divorce, how they moved to USA when she was just 2, growing up as a brown girl in a country that was quite harsh to other races , her teen years, entering the world of fashion, stumbling onto the food arena, her marriage [ with Salman Rushdie, her daughter with Dell] and her life today. She also shared snippets from her days spent at her grandparents home in Chennai- Besant Nagar to be precise. 

She then moved on to read from her book  Love, Loss and What we ate - A Memoir ... The section she chose was about the joy of the humble Curd rice. Well, looks like she is quite fond of it, cos the section had quite a vivid description of how the curd rice is made, the tempering, the sounds, sights and variations from across her family. I found it quite entertaining, probably because in our households the curd rice is the last thing on our minds when we talk about food. :-)  
And I like mine plain or with a simple tempering, no ginger or fruits for me please.

I actually thought the event would be about her latest book - The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs [An Essential Guide to the Flavors of the World] .. The book, the cover and contents were quite interesting.

The one statement she made that resonated with me was “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to what happens to you".. I so agree to this and intact live by this policy.. 

Moving on, the floor was open to questions, and then came the moment when I got to meet her. The two of us who had won also got to take our photograph taken with Padma.. I did ask her something on my cousin's behalf, for which she gave answers patiently...  And well, that was the end of an eventful evening. 


After I got done, I shared updates online and I had friends asking me a barrage of questions. One question that all of them asked was "How was she?".

My answer to this was "She is exactly as we see her on TV.. not just looks, but the way she talks and carries herself... "

Another friend asked "Was she warm?'

My reply to this was "well, she was sweet enough to patiently answer my queries..."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

[Book review] The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Well, its about time I revived this  blog and what better way than to talk about a book I have just finished reading for the 2nd time. "The Yellow Wallpaper" by the American writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman [it is is all of 27pages and was first published in January 1892 in The New England Magazine..

The book is entirely in a first person narrative.. It is all about what One woman goes through, dealing with her husband [a physician], brother [also a Doctor], husband's sister and a housekeeper, not to mention her own thoughts which daunt her day and night. All this happens at a home away from home, a place chosen to help her recuperate and cure herself of what she deems to be “nervous depression" but one that is completely shrugged off by her husband and others, sometimes they even  mock her.  Over time she starts exhibiting different behaviour in front of those who don't accept she has a problem and on her own she is a completely different person. 

She wants to occupy the rom downstairs that opens out to a garden with flowers, but her husband decides otherwise and they move to what used to be the nursery upstairs. He says the room downstairs is small and even if he wants a room of his own, there are no others nearby. Yes, it is a big room, but quite drab. She hates the wallpaper and wants to rip it off. She is left with nothing to do and no one for company, she stays confined to the room upstairs and does nothing but is lost in her thoughts or writes in her journal. Unfortunately her husband or his sister do not approve of her writing and so she hides it from them. She slowly she starts developing an increased interest regarding the room’s wallpaper, especially the pattern. Over time, with nothing to do, the wallpaper becomes her sole focus and soon her interaction with it grow deep and dark.. 
The book speaks volumes about how women/people are just ignored when they talk about having random thoughts, fears or issues. They are told to just put those thoughts away, and focus on other aspects of life. Apparently, back in the 19th Century, women were considered psychologically quite frail and no attention was paid to their aspirations or desires.
There is this one statement the woman makes in the book- "There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.” ... this left me haunted... I couldn't even wrap my head around what she was going through. 
Free download of the book is available on the net..  

A piece in The Guardian about the book & the author..

Friday, September 16, 2016

[Book review] Nisha Mehta, My Tarot- Something Paranormal

Title:My Tarot- Something Else by Nisha Mehta
Format: e-version
Pages :110 pages.
Goodreads link-  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30399534-my-tarot?from_search=true
Amazon- https://www.amazon.in/My-Tarot-Something-Nisha-Mehta-ebook/dp/B01H4SJF06?ie=UTF8&btkr=1&ref_=dp-kindle-redirect

 Well, the author is a Tarot reader herself and so this book makes a lot of sense..  I, on the other hand was introduced to Tarot about a decade or so ago, and since then I have strong belief in it. I have a few friends who are Tarot readers and it always amazes me the things they share.  That apart, I did not know much about Tarot. So reading this book was quite a different experience for me.

For those wondering what Tarot is, Nisha says "Cards act as a bridge between the known and the unknown". How simple and yet complicated right? The best way for you to grasp it all would be to get a reading done~

The book opens with an Introduction that concludes with these words "Tarot tells you what you need to know and not what you want to know". Over the past, I have come to understand the true essence of these words.. Yes, when you go for a Tarot reading, you need to have a few things in mind - belief, and a few *to the point* questions that you ask the reader to help give you clarity in life.

And with reference to the title "Something else", Nisha explains that people are always looking for something more than just a reading. She says this book will be more than just about Tarot cards, it will give people something they can relate to, understand and associate with.

The one thing I understood at the end of it was that it was a well thought out book- the subject was dealt with under different sections, clearing giving an introduction to each chapter. It made it easier for a novice to understand what it was about and how one should approach the same.

For example, this statement Nisha makes in the book “Tarot is not restricted to images and their interpretation only” is so true..  She has explained each deck, the main cards, and how a beginner should approach the tarot cards as well. Not just these, but you gain insight into how to read the cards, almost like a list of top 4 things to follow towards the end of the book.

The best thing about this book was the simple language, clear explanations and even the diagrams to explain how it works. So, if you have been hearing the word "Tarot" from your friends/ if this is  something you have been curious about, do give this book a shot and let Nisha know what you thought of it.

Reach Nisha via her FB page - https://www.facebook.com/nishamehta.tarotreader.author/

Monday, April 25, 2016

[book review] Rainbow in my clouds- Radhika Lee

Book name: Rainbow in my clouds
Author: Radhika Lee
Print Length: 332 pages
Publisher: Notion Press; 1 edition (12 November 2015)

This year has been quite good, have been reading  more than ever. Am on my 40th Book now and it is only April..

The latest book I breezed through was Rainbow in My Clouds by Radhika Lee. It is not fiction, heck it is far from that. It is a book about Radhika’s journey through life, the twists and turns she has been through, her turmoils and  traumas, and how she overcame it all to become what she is today.

Radhika Muraleedharan, aka ‘Mrs. Lee’ hails from Kochi and is the founder and director of Nairobi International School (NIS), in Nairobi. This is about 30 years of her struggle…one that seems unending, daunting and certainly makes us wonder how she went through what she did and did not give up ever.. She overcame an abusive marriage, dealt with a drunk husband, a sick child, family troubles and work as well.

After moving to a foreign land at a young age, she works at different schools, helps children beyond just what a teacher would do going on establish three schools of repute in Kenya, not just any school but e-schools. She had to deal with red tapes, banks, cranky colleagues and personal issues all the while. Her tale is inspiring, in some parts I was in awe of how persisted…The moment where she meets John Couch, the Vice President of Education, Apple, who asks her to narrate her story [to conclude the conference in Vienna, with 700 present] is truly a wow moment for anyone!

Her story gives other women going through troubled lives the hope that they too can make something of themselves, achieve something and go on to create a name for themselves in this world. 

If you are looking for something to get you going, give you the motivation you need to push the envelope, then this is the book for you. She has written in simple language, and there are parts you will choke, gasp and smile, so be prepared for a roller coaster ride~ 

An article in The Hindu