Wednesday, June 26, 2019


                                      cold-weather-cartoons - clip art - free clip art - NX91jd

Being a grandma is the most fun one can think of, but the cold in Johannesburg is another thing altogether. Absolutely wrong timing, I say, having a baby at the start of winter, when wet wipes, bum cream, diapers, cold hands and red, flowing noses are the norm. And with a brand new baby in hand, one who is so tiny that he gets lost in his clothes, the cold gets to one all the more.

Let me speak for myself. I, for one, love winter when it is just right, along with a steaming hot cuppa green tea, a warm shawl, thick socks and just a nip in the air. However, when the temperature drops and I cannot feel my toes, and wooden toilet seats feel better than ceramic ones, it is time to tuck in and hibernate.

Green Tea cartoon clip art - KISS png

Grandmas, of course, cannot hibernate. They are the go-to persons as far as the first hand chores go. Not that I mind, because the warmest I feel is when I wash dishes in water scalding enough to take my skin off. Priyanka, my daughter, clucks impatiently as she almost burns her hands after I have had a go at the dishes. But anything to stave off the cold, I tell her.

 Washing Dishes - Cliparts Zone

Going out is a chore in itself. I lug on the layers, blow on my icy hands, and rush into the car which is mercifully heated. Likewise, the baby’s bedroom is heated and it is bliss to stay ensconced within the duvet till the time it is time to burp, change or rock the baby to sleep. Four of us snuggle in the warmth of the heater – Grandma, mama, and the two kids, though the big sister, Zoya, sleeps in her own cot, replete with a pretty duvet, a sparkly unicorn, a bald baby doll and a sequinned bunny. Of course, we need to check whether the warm, furry thing on the bed is the cat, Tyrion, who loves a quick snuggle himself.

When we got here in May, the weather was perfect – sunny days and balmy evenings. June waltzed in with the chill setting in. At first, I couldn’t understand why people around smirked when I asked them if it was going to get colder soon. Now, I know! As the old song goes, “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.” In my case, the chill in Jo’burg falls mainly on my bones! Or is it Jo’brrrg!     
Orcas Issues
Come morning, husband dear gets togged up in his warm jacket, his woollen cap and his gloves and sets off on a brisk walk. “Coming for a stroll?” he asks. One look at my horrified face is enough to elicit a chuckle as he strides off in true military style. As a result, despite the rich food we eat here, he looks the same, even as, in my case, I find calories sneaking in and making their homes in my entrails. Or wherever it is they hide away!

June is on its way out and if I were to misquote T S Eliot, I believe that July is the cruellest month. Temperatures are going to drop further, and I can only imagine the state that I will be in... Frozen, and in no state to mimic Elsa and sing ‘The cold never bothered me anyway.” (Let It Go)

Elsa - Frozen - PopSugar

Instead, I will be like an Eskimo, covered from head to toe, just my eyes peering out from within the layers, attempting to hibernate as much as possible. Probably scaring myself when I peer into a mirror and see visions of a Death Eater, courtesy Harry Potter. Cloudy skies, freezing winds and a frost that bites into the bones... time for braais and barbeques, warm fires and hot beverages, desperate glances at the elusive sun and new woollen clothes that hopefully look smart. So folks, if you do not hear from me in July, think of my fingers wrapped in mittens, unable to type, as I contemplate on the month of August when the cold starts abating, maybe by the 14th or so. Shucks, the day we leave for the warmer climes of India!

Braai PNG Images Braai Clipart Free Download Source · Meetings 2014 2015 Toastmasters Antwerpen

For as P B Shelley put it so aptly, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”


Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Just a fortnight old and he has turned the household upside down. Little Samir of the pointed chin and the delicate features, with a tiny head filled with downy hair has proved that he is a personality in his own right. No guessing where that comes from! As the adage goes – the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and it has been proved all over again. Samir feeds; he sleeps, Samir is hungry; he doesn’t let anyone sleep.

Early in the morning, he is placed on a rocker that plays music to soothe his senses. From there, he looks at the world around him, his almond-shaped eyes darting from side to side. His expressions are wide ranged – one moment he wrinkles up his little brow, frown lines making him look like a wizened old man, the next moment he smiles beguilingly, making us hunt for that elusive dimple. He puckers up his lips three seconds before he actually cries, and in those three seconds we do everything to divert him, cooing to him, lifting him up and cuddling him, all of which are much appreciated by the smart little man. The one person he does look intently at is his spirited big sister, Zoya, who is head over heels in love with her baby brother.

The first time we saw Samir, we were struck by his resemblance to his father, who is the most relieved person going, as when Zoya was born, she looked like everyone else, but him. This time around, he is thrilled that his genes will go down in posterity.

 It is a delight to see the two little ones together. Zoya, who is a mini tornado herself, calms down the moment he is in the vicinity. She strokes his head with utmost care, gives his soft, butterfly kisses, and loves having him on her lap. Our hearts swell with pride when we see how well her parents have prepared her for this momentous event – the arrival of a sibling. There is no trace of rivalry in her three-year-old heart... all she wants is to take care of her baby and show him off to every person she meets.

As we change diapers, bathe the little prince in a basin and try to get him to stretch out his scrawny little legs, there is only one prayer in our hearts. May every blessing descend on his head, as he begins his journey in life, surrounded by love, laughter, good health and happiness! What more could a doting family ask for?

As he sleeps, little fists clenched tight, a smile suddenly transforming his face, we marvel over how tiny he is, with his rosebud lips, his delicate nails and his tiny red feet. And we think to ourselves, “Let him sleep... for when he wakes, he will move mountains.” 

                                                       (Quote attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte)

Monday, June 3, 2019


Three years old… that’s what she trills, loud and clear when anyone asks her how old she is. As she runs towards us, her grandparents (Nana and Mooma) at the airport, her eyes shining in glee, I realize that she has grown, that she is a little human being, a kutty manushyan in her own right. Gone are the faltering steps and the reserve that once stopped her from smiling at strangers – this is a grown up little creature, long hair tied in disarray with stray curls escaping, a tiny jacket to keep off the chilly Johannesburg wind and a vocabulary that has us gasping.

In the car she regales us with non-stop chatter and we can only look on, our hearts filled with delight, as she waxes eloquent on Tyrion, her grey cat (definitely the GOT influence!), her new school which she adores and the one question that she repeats. “Are you going to stay in my home, Mooma – Nana?” 

Of course, the one topic that is a constant is one that is on all our minds. “I am going to be a big sister. I love my baby!” her eyes glow as she talks about Junior for whom she has been waiting ever so patiently over the past eight months. She gives her mum’s tummy a kiss and leans against it to show her adoration of the little one who lies, cosy within.

Back home, she gives us a guided tour, which she later continues at her paternal grandparents’ home as well. The overflowing toy room, the warm little room that we will use, the lounge which doubles up as her toy room at times, the little pantry cupboard which contains her treats and her swimming pool which we have never had the privilege of using because the African cold and the African sun compete, in turns, to keep us out.

 This time, we go to drop Zoya off at school, and we see a different side of her. She turns quieter as she looks around at her teachers and her friends with large, wary eyes, but we know that this will last only till we leave. For after, she has the time of her life painting, singing, ballet dancing (“I want to be a ballerina!”), baking and sleeping. The warmth at school is palpable and it is no wonder that our little Sparkle loves being there. 

Her vocabulary is astonishing, if I do so say myself. Ask her a question and she hums and haws and says, “Maybe!” She points out ‘electricity’ and ‘excavators’ on the road. She hears a siren and whispers, ‘ambulance’. The most amusing moment came when she was sent to the naughty corner, and from a distance, we could hear her say, “Wee coming, oh dear!” The other day, when her Nana asked her if she wanted a cracker, pat came the reply, “Oh, yes, please!” Peppa Pig has much to do with this British spurt, I suspect.  For example, when her Mama does the smallest thing for her, she is greeted with, “Oh, thank you, my little sweetheart!”

Peppa Pig TV Review - Common Sense Media

She also has created her own vocabulary for her own use. “Crumbs”, for instance refers to the food that has fallen on the ground and must still be eaten. Her Mama has all her special words written down but that, I suspect, would take another chapter in itself. Her sense of humour often keeps us in splits, and we wait for those times when mischief peeps out of her sparkling eyes.

Now that our Sparkle is a bit more grown up, the tantrums are slowly building up. Mama is the strict one who nips them in the bud. Dada tries, but judging from the hapless expression on his face, his heart is really not in it. The grandparents strive to keep straight faces, even as their hearts melt like chocolate in the sun, at the first sign of a rebuke.

A huge milestone gladdened our hearts last week. With the imminent arrival of a little grandchild, the question that loomed was whether to have Zoya sleep on the bed next to Mama or a crib by her side. So, all of us set to work, trying to persuade her that the crib would be a great idea. Dada put the crib together and we went shopping for new sheets and accessories pretty enough to bring cheer to Zoya’s heart.

That night she slept on her bed with not a whimper, covered with a pretty white and pink duvet, with a sparkly bunny, a pink unicorn and Bella, her new panda strewn around her. We were all so proud of her!

Dancing and music are in her blood, as she sings the toughest of Hindi songs and the cutest of nursery rhymes with the same ease. She twirls around, jhatkas and matkas in perfect rhythm, as she copies the gyrations of Bollywood dancers. In school, she has taken ballet and her ambition, as she once told her teacher, is to become a ballerina. 

Meal times are when she watches DD (cartoons on the mobile) as Mama makes sure that her viewing time is limited.  Mama also ensures that her plate has all Zoya’s favourites on it – chicken nuggets, carrots, tomatoes and corn. She also loves to draw, and it is a treat to watch her, as she concentrates on not allowing the paint to flow out of the lines. 

That is Zoya for you… a little girl who manages to get the limelight on her whatever she does, whether at the mall or at a party. She bosses over her older cousins, goes absolutely wild as she rushes around, fearless, keeping up with them. She refuses to cry even when she is hurt. However, one stern word from Mama and she drops everything she is doing, looking at her with large, woe-begone eyes. Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth on such occasions.

As we wait for the arrival of the littlest VIP, our hearts swell with love and pride as we watch the big sister, and marvel over the things she does, the words she uses and the oh-so-precious hugs and kisses which come so naturally. These moments are precious, akin to pearls in a necklace, strung together with adoration and warmth. We strive to keep them in our hearts for as long as we can, because as little ones grow up, their minds and thoughts shift, the caresses become fewer as they turn more reserved and conscious of being adults.

And to end with a quote that I have always loved from Winnie the Pooh.
Winnie The Pooh: Pinterest

Photographs: Priyanka Menon Rao

Tuesday, April 30, 2019


Hinduism has always been an all-encompassing religion, willing to adopt and adapt the best from other fellow religions. In his latest book titled ‘Faith 40 Insights into Hinduism’, Devdutt Pattanaik creates a master list of relevant questions and answers them all in a simple and fascinating manner. Every chapter begins with a query that has often been asked by the lay person, and the author unravels each mystery in his own engaging fashion, enhancing the experience with his own little illustrations. The yellow hard bound cover with silver lettering strikes the eye like a ray of sunshine, or like the silver lining that indicates the presence of the sun.

The book is divided into four sections: Belief, Customs, Scriptures and History. The author puts forward his reasons for writing this book. He wants people to view Hinduism with a more forward–looking gaze, not allowing it to remain confined to a time, a geography or a scripture. Thus, he strives to make it relevant to ‘contemporary space and time’, keeping in mind that ‘nature is diverse, culture is dynamic.”

The first section on Belief elaborates on concepts intrinsic to Hinduism like the beginning of the world, the religion as mythology, the significance of gurus, views on death, suicide, karma, patriarchy, the caste system and yoga, as the author connects the past with the present. The author stresses on the fact that Hinduism is rooted in the idea of rebirth (karma) and the material world, though self-sustaining and self-created dependent on a spiritual principle (atma).

The chapters have intriguing titles: ‘Can rakshasas or asuras be called the Hindu devil?’ and ‘Is Hinduism’s Narasimha like Hollywood’s Wolverine?’ thus creating a curiosity in the mind of the reader. The debate about Hinduism being feminist or patriarchal is cleverly argued, as is that about Hindu views in death and suicide.

In section two, titled ‘Customs’, the author starts with what rituals are. “Rituals are full of colour and fragrance, gestures and songs, stories and performances, food and music and clothes. They make Hinduism visible. Without them there is no Hinduism to see or hear or smell or touch or taste.” How evocative is this, as every word conveys the emotion that is Hinduism.

Other interesting questions are thrown up in this section. Why do Hindus worship idols and light lamps? The latter question finds a fascinating answer, one not commonly known by many. Another rare explanation is on the sacred thread and how it embodies Vedic wisdom. The author also raises a pertinent point about how the world craves vengeance in the name of ‘justice’ by keeping alive the ills of the past, and using them as fodder for the present. He also talks about vegetarianism and how turning ‘blood’ into contamination forms the basis of ‘untouchability’, which is a dangerous idea. In my opinion, this idea, seen in the light of Sabarimala, is what makes the issue a highly sensitive one.

The last two sections revolve around Scriptures and History. The author gives us an overview of the Vedas, as also that of the Tamil Veda that consisted of three books, which marked the rise of the bhakti movement of India. The Manusmriti speaks of the code of conduct for human society, pertaining mainly to Brahmins and Kshatriyas, and remains a significant book on dharma-shastra as it documents the prevalent social practices of its time. A time did come, however, when it was seen as the source of India’s inequalities as people felt that it institutionalized the caste system.

Further questions are asked and explained. Did the Aryans come into India or spread out of India? Why do we give race so much of importance? Were the Hindus casteist? And interestingly, is the samosa Indian or Vedic?

Forty questions are asked and answered in simple terms by an author who is well-versed in Hindu philosophy and culture. The final truth that he puts forth puts things in perspective. “Hinduism does not believe in changing people’s minds or replacing old ideas. It believes in expanding their minds and adding new ideas. Hence, there is no need to convert, just enlighten, empathize and accommodate.”


Thursday, April 4, 2019

Remember When by Preethi Venugopala

“Remember when I was young and so were you…”

Remembering is what Tara does best, wallowing in the past, a past which has left deep scars on her. Her relationship with Ranjini, her obnoxious sister, is confrontational, as the latter perceives her as a threat, surprising since she is the rich, pampered one who seems to have the better life.

As Tara goes to pick up her five-year-old, Aryan, she runs into her best friend from college, Rupa, who is now an entrepreneur dealing in Kerala art murals. The two friends bond over tea, as secrets from the past tumble out, along with the name of Manu that has never been mentioned in the home of Tara and her husband, Karthik. There is a hint of a mystery that tantalizes the reader.

“Tara’s impulsiveness had left in its wake broken hearts and lives, including her own.”

Tara’s first novel is all set to be published in Chennai, on the 1st of December, a long-cherished dream. Much of her childhood has been spent in Kannur. She has memories, good and bad, about that period in her life, when Manu is the luminescent star around which her life revolves. Though they are from different communities, life couldn't have been more perfect, with Mary, Manu’s rich and widowed mother, also accepting her whole-heartedly.

However, their worlds come crashing down, when one misunderstanding pushes them apart, and Mary and Manu leave for Chennai, leaving their past behind.

However, years later, fate intervenes to bring them together once again, as Tara gets stranded in the floods in Chennai, and is forced to accept Manu’s hospitality to tide over the period. Her son, Aryan, soon wins over Mary and Manu with his winsome personality.

As the floods continue, a few more guests who are stranded in the floods make their way to Manu’s home. This includes Rupa, Tara's old friend, and her fianc√©, Pratheesh. As the water rises, people from the ground floor are evacuated to Manu’s house as well.

Preethi Venugopala narrates a tale that transcends the normal love story, weaving in the Chennai floods as a backdrop. She describes the survival techniques used in the actual floods as a part of Manu’s website. Varun Chinnappa, a popular You Tuber and travel blogger, turns into his enthusiastic assistant as he creates a video on rain catchers and sterilising drinking water that soon goes viral. The stories of the various characters that have been brought together by the floods reveal facets of their lives which sound familiar.

Once the floods recede, it is time for them all to bid adieu to one another. However, there is still a secret that hovers in the air, one that needs to be spoken of, even if it could wreak havoc in Tara’s life. Meanwhile there are other questions as well. Why has Karthik, Tara’s husband, not called her even once despite the fact that she and Aryan are stranded due to the floods? What is the decision that Tara has to make about her future, and how will it affect her relationships?

Preethi Venugopala keeps the reader guessing till the very end. While this is a story imbued with romance, there are elements of suspense in it that keep the reader hooked on. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019


The blurb prepares you for what lies within – “A quickstart guide to creating a pack-and-carry career and work-from-home lifestyle on the move”

Chandana Banerjee is an Air Force wife who took the road not taken by creating an identity of her own, not enmeshed with that of her husband’s. She added new skills, took short breaks and worked from home, proud to be her own boss. In this enlightening book, she shares her journey with her readers, describing how every military wife could crack the work-from-home life and create her own professional identity.

Every chapter has been divided into bite-sized nuggets of wisdom that are practical and doable. Ms. Banerjee begins with the advantages of working from home, and she eschews the common excuses that prevent military wives, or milpreneurs, as she terms them, from stepping out of their comfort zones.

Every person has a passion or a skill that can be turned into a work-from-home career. The book offers interesting work-from-home ideas like creating a blog, freelance journalism, photography, providing specific services and the like. The author offers a free e-book that can be downloaded, titled ’25 Portable Work-From-Home Ideas for Military Wives’.

Learning online is another feasible option as Ms. Banerjee lists out common hubs that interested military wives could dig into, which provide both free learning or, in certain cases, affordable monthly subscriptions.

Once the learning begins, it is time to set up a home office, an area dedicated to your work, furnished with the basics to get you started. This helps one to draw a line between home life and professional life. Time management is of vital importance, as it is not possible to avoid distractions when working from home.

This book is a ready-reckoner for those who want to launch their careers from home as it sets out a number of baby steps to do so, right from assigning a time frame, creating a portfolio of work and connecting with the world through a web presence. It also lists out some ways to balance work with military commitments, along with valuable tips to keep healthy while doing so. Working from home as a mom with small kids can be challenging, but finding fringe hours or stray minutes could help in finishing work commitments.

Ms. Banerjee ends her book on a significant note as she talks about the right attitude that a milpreneur needs to cultivate to bash on regardless of the roadblocks ahead. Out-of-the box thinking, a can-do attitude, optimism and the ability to adjust are a few positive suggestions and these would strike a chord in the readers’ minds. After all, aren’t these qualities required in other spheres of life as well?

Verdict: A book that offers practical advice to milpreneurs who want to work from home and carve out their careers!


Saturday, February 23, 2019


Mathematics has been a subject of immense speculation over the centuries. One either loves it or is petrified of it. Curious is the fact that those who are worried about numbers hardly ever get over their fear of them. It is for this reason that Archana Sarat, a CA by profession and a math and science buff, as she refers to herself, went back into the hoary past and dredged out ancient stories, only to find that this subject not only extends over centuries of time, but traverses across geographical borders as well. This might be a book written for children, but it does hold the interest of adults as well.

The book begins with the story of Ipiko who lived 40,000 years ago, and saved his tribe from being decimated by mammoths by using drawings and scratches which would later be seen as the first writing of mathematics. A subsequent chapter deals with Ipiko’s descendant, Neeraza, who hit upon the idea of tally marks for the very first time, a concept used liberally in today’s world.

Whether it is delving into the Indus Valley Civilization where scales and mathematical instruments were found, or recreating the use of clay envelopes and tokens in Mesopotamia, Archana Sarat keeps the interest alive with a harmonious blend of history and mathematics. Her forte as a story teller comes across as she employs simple language to put her ideas across.

In a country like India, where ‘yagnas’ were plentiful in the days of yore, rules were laid down about the construction of sacrificial altars, and even a small error could nullify the purpose of the sacrifice. This proved that mathematics played a significant role even back then.

The Diary Entries of Pythagoras tell us much about this personage who was not only the first known pure mathematician, but also a musician who played the lyre, a bit of an astronomer and even a litterateur. He explained the Pythagoras Theorem in an easy manner, and it is still being taught to modern day students. However, it is believed that he and the Pythagoreans refused to accept any belief that went against their own. Archana Sarat has an intriguing anecdote to illustrate this facet as well.

The names of Archimedes, Euclid, Hypatia, the first woman mathematician in the recorded history of the world, Fibonacci, Aryabhata, Brahmagupta, Bhaskara I and II have all been brought in, each of their stories embellished and presented with élan. The difference between classic physics and quantum physics has also been broken down into simple terms.

In short, this is a book that has been crafted to banish the fear of the bogey – Mathematics. The author links the Babylonian Clay Tablet in a way that a modern school girl can use it to do her calculations, and points out that the origins of the decimal numeral system and the discovery of zero were in India. By the end of the book, the reader feels a sense of pride and achievement, a feeling that should be engendered in the young readers of today.

Thursday, February 14, 2019


How does one react?        
 When a dastardly act ends in the murder of a whole vehicle of CRPF personnel at Pulwama, dedicated young men who play on their lives every day to protect the Kashmir Valley?

When, while the whole nation is mourning for the grievous loss, some petty souls resort to nit-picking, pointing fingers at the bereaved organization, wondering aloud about whether there was a lapse in their training or security?

When those same petty souls have never thought about joining the Armed Forces, the CRPF or the ITBP, where, day in and day out, these young people are trained to defend their country in times of war and peace?

When even the politicos come together to bemoan a colossal tragedy, but one spokesman points fingers at the leaders of the political parties in J&K?

When all that the country needs is a time and a space to close its eyes and spend a moment in silence, condoling the passing of precious lives?

When voices need to be lowered and prayers be said for the shattered families of the young men who are no more?

When social media messages need to assuage, comfort and console, not rant, criticise and rave?

When rage needs to be controlled, so that the right action is taken at the right moment?

When a whole country needs to work as one, leaving differences aside, standing side by side?

Into that hallowed space, may my country awake!
Deepti Menon     



‘The Anatomy of Choice’ is the second book in the Haveli series, narrating the tale of two women, Bhavya, the second daughter of the Sharma family, and Noorie, a courtesan who lived in the days of yore, and who now “rests close by, celebrated in death as she never was in life” singing “hauntingly sad ghazals.”

The ivory-hued Haveli with the hundred doors and the black domed mausoleum by its side are now known as Chaand and Chaand Raat, as the love story of Noorie and Hamad Bahadur are played out by a modern pair of lovers. There is a hint of romance that plays its way like a will-o-the wisp, intriguing the reader, tantalizing and mysterious, as Noorie endeavours to “remind him of our love through the music he loved so much”.

Transgressions are rarely forgiven, and Bhavya and Tenzin realize how far they have drifted as a consequence of their choices. Bhavya comes home to the Haveli, where she is welcomed back by her family. However, there is a feeling of disquiet, as they wait for her to make up her mind and get her life back on an even keel. Bhavya, on her part, values her independence too much to allow anyone to hurry her into making her choices.

Harshali Singh weaves magic with her words, as she tells a story that meshes together a family of characters, all of whom have secrets deep within their hearts, be it Arun, the taciturn head, Uma, the gentle matriarch with a spine of steel, Suresh, the faithful friend or the tempestuous Bhavya. These secrets waft about as the reader senses their presence throughout the book.

Uma comes across as the voice of reason, like when she tells her headstrong daughter, “Decisions are the hardest to make, Bee, especially when you have to choose between where you should be and where you want to be.” This is the dilemma that Bhavya finds herself in as she flounders between the hard decisions that she knows she needs to make, about staying in the past or leaving it behind.

Bhavya’s whimsicality keeps her unpredictable. The relationship between Bhavya and her siblings is often turbulent at many levels. While Aruna and she glide over memories that are hurtful, her brother, Dheeraj and she exchange angry words on many occasions. Etti, her younger sister is “a minefield of hints and expectations, soundless”, waiting for Bhavya to own up to her life choices.

The discovery of Noorie’s diary, “beaten leather-covered ivory sheets of heavy handmade pages filled with... Devanagari alphabets” imbues Bhavya with a curiosity about the erstwhile courtesan. She “finds solace within the fragile pages of the journal written with henna-dyed hands, centuries before her” as she spends time at the mausoleum, where she senses that both Noorie and she are prisoners of their own circumstances.

Apart from the cover that symbolizes the choices of the past and the present, Harshali Singh makes use of an unusual device to name her chapters, using words from different languages along with their orgins, which give the reader a hint of what nestles within the chapter. The language used throughout the book is rich and filled with imagery, especially when the tale harks back to the courtesan’s life.

A book that needs to be preserved as carefully as Noorie’s diary!                                  




Saturday, February 9, 2019

Victims for Sale by Nish Amarnath

Sandy Raman is a nineteen-year-old journalist from Mumbai who does not hesitate to go where angels fear to tread. She lives as a paying guest with the Sawants, an Indian family after the death of her boyfriend, Saahil, in the Mumbai blasts. The appearance of Nirmal aka Nimmy, the son of the house, makes her feel she has an ally, even though she is a trifle startled by Nimmy’s sister, Asha, who first accosts her with a knife. Nimmy and Sandy grow closer, much to the disapproval of his family, but a few instances of his behaviour make her wonder, especially his reactions to her references to the mentally challenged Asha.

As Sandy begins her Masters at the London School of Economics, she comes across the flamboyant Ritchie Johri, a film maker from Los Angeles. She is soon elected as the LSE television network executive head, and hopes to bag a grants programme run by a multinational conglomerate, EGG. Many influential people cross her path, and things seem almost too easy for her, especially when she gets a chance to be a BBC TV series producer in a campaign that teaches disabled children and teens better life skills to help them in public. 

Till she gets involved in a series of murky murders, as people close to her start getting killed.

So, where do things start going wrong? What is the connection between violet teddies and the chaos that Sandy finds herself embroiled in? Why does Nimmy react violently every time she mentions her desire to help Asha through her TV show? As Sandy investigates into the activities of the Bread Breakers, a home for the differently-abled, she realises that she is embroiled in “a cold-blooded tale of sexual abuse and exploitation”. As she continues her investigation, many threads start to unravel, until the final stunning denouement hits her in the face.

Nish Amarnath is a young writer who obviously believes in doing her research, be it in the gamut of health care homes, the BBC’s White City complex or the British police system. Her style is crisp and terse, as she outlines a plot that is filled with twists and turns that keep the reader gasping. Her eye for detail reveals that she has lived in and explored the city of London. ‘Victims for Sale’ lifts the curtain on the poignant truths that disabled girls often go through, maybe due to disinformation or more sinister causes. As Sandy finally puts it, “The betrayed one pays the ultimate price of the betrayer.”

A fast-paced tale of intrigue and suspense!              

Sunday, January 27, 2019

See You Later, Alligator!

Spotless floors, pristine rooms, sheets drawn perfectly, cushions placed in their proper nooks... what is it that’s missing, I muse to myself? I do not even need to pause to think of the answer. It is our little Miss Sunshine who is missing, our Sparkle, who came home for two months and turned our lives upside down with her irrepressible presence. Right from the moment she bounced in to the moment she bade us goodbye at the airport, we spent almost every waking hour together.

Every night, I would walk gingerly, picking up toys of all shapes and sizes from the floor, each with a personality of its own. There were twin lion cubs, an African doll with the prettiest face, a couple of seals, five bedraggled dolls that came from her great grandmother’s Nursery school and a whole lot of kitchen utensils that were clogged with play dough after the little one’s culinary experiments. Little drawings would be strewn around in all their glory as well. 

Little puzzle pieces lay like leaves on an unswept avenue, along with tiny shoes that left a Hansel and Gretel trail, and Kinder Joy halves that still held chocolate within their bodies. Our little Sparkle was more interested in the tiny toise within (read ’toys’) that needed her Mom’s expertise to be put together.

She loved reading the story of Gajapati Kulapati, the elephant with a tummy ache, the Bamboo Story, and a cute little tale about Baby’s Belly Button. What kept us all in splits was the way she made up instant songs on anything and everything, including her Mom’s ‘bum bum’. This little two and a half year old could throw tantrums one moment and flying kisses the next, but whatever she did, we, her Nana and Mooma, enjoyed to the hilt. Especially when she opened Santa's presents in the presence of her Christmas tree! :)

So, there I would be, creating gastronomic ‘miracles’ in the form of dosas especially for her. One morning, it would be a triangle, the next a flower, the third a cat. Dosas doused with ghee and love! She loved French fries, veggies (all except peas), chicken, sausages and crackers. After dinner, she would quickly pop in a forbidden chocolate into her mouth and then wag a finger at us, saying, “No eating chockies! They make cavities!” Ice cream would be greeted with a, “It’s sooo cold!” even as she licked the spoon clean.

Meal times would find her absolutely quiet as she would be allowed to watch DD (cartoons) on her mom’s mobile. By the end of the meal, one only had to take a look at the phone to see what the little one had had for dinner, starting off with buttery fingerprints and blobs of ketchup.

Of course, her Mama often took her for Summit Talks every time she got a trifle too high spirited, or sent her to the naughty corner, from where she would look at us, trying to melt our hearts with her woe-begone glances.

Going out was always a lark, even if it was only to the grocery stores (Bismi and C Mart), the toy shop, or the Sobha City Mall which probably reminded her of malls back home.  However, the two places she loved visiting were where her two great-grandmothers, Mushi and Mimi, waited for her with bated breath.

Mushi’s house had the added attractions of two little pugs that came tearing out at the click of the gate, Bhanu Mooma (a grand aunt) who grabbed her the moment she entered and Mushi herself, who sat on her high chair and enjoyed her antics. No visit was complete without a huge bowl of potato chips and cashew nuts that she valiantly munched through.

She would let her hair down at Mimi’s house, and regale Mumu and Mushan, (her grandaunt and uncle) with her quaint comments. The next moment she would grab Mumu’s hand and propel her towards the kitchen saying, “I want something!” Something would mostly consist of chigda (round little savoury snacks) or baby idlis. Once in a while, a chocolate would make its appearance as well.

Ironically, India for her meant our home. So, every time she left a place, she would say, “I am going to India. See you later, alligator!”

It was a delight to see her go wild at the Cherai Beach where she and Nana jumped along with the waves, chortling in glee. Mealtimes saw her picking at her veggies and chicken with gusto, with a helping of pasta or noonus (noodles) thrown in. When the manager gave her a chocolate as a special New Year’s treat, she thanked him prettily, the way she did whenever she was given a gift.

It was a wrench to see her leave along with her Mama. Of course, she was all excited to see her Dada. After an enlightening conversation in the car about the sun having gone home to his mama, and having risen just to say Goodbye to her, and a number of hugs and cuddles, we stood and waved at her. She kept turning around to see if we were following, till she finally went inside, a forlorn little figure holding her favourite doll.

Of course, we knew that we would follow them in about four months, when our second grandchild would come into the world, a fact that our little Sparkle never failed to mention to whoever came before her. “Mama has a baby in her tummy!” And until then, we would have a collection of precious moments spent with her to laugh and cry over till we got to see her again.

“Being a mother is the most important job in the world. Being a grandmother is the most fun.” Truer words were never spoken!     


This triad of stories by Mona Verma boasts of a theme quite unique, of relationships unimagined, and biases that rule. Whether it is th...