Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Memorabilia-XII: Playing With Acid!

Recently, an ex-jaipurian shared this picture of our school chemistry lab on our FB alumni group. The picture brought back some really special memories. So I decided to record it here. Have blurred out their faces to give them some privacy though.



I was a very disciplined and studious kind of kid in school. So I didn't get into too much trouble in the lab (or elsewhere in the school, for that matter). But I did have one fun adventure here, the mark of which I still carry above my right ankle!

It so happened that we were conducting an experiment that involved heating some concentrated sulphuric acid in a test tube, over a bunsen burner. I was merely following the instructions outlined for that experiment, but the guys working next to me were a bit more creative. I'm not sure exactly what they were trying to do that day, but one of them suddenly moved back from his workspace, and the very next moment, I could feel something stinging the back of my legs at a dozen odd places!

Apparently, the concentrated sulphuric acid, in his test tube, had started boiling and bubbling out! He had immediately backed off to remove the test tube from the heat, holding the tongs as far away from his body as possible. But his "far away" happened to be right behind me! Before I could register what was going on, his test tube had already burst into pieces, and the boiling sulphuric acid splashed all over my lab coat and the back of my legs! That was what caused the stinging!

LOL! The acid burnt big holes through my lab coat, and even left some burn scars on my skirt. My socks were also burnt through, along with bits of my flesh from the back of my legs! While most of these burns were minor skin grazes, I did suffer one big deep burn just above my right ankle, towards the back of the leg. That one took a long time to heal, primarily because the teacher in-charge of the lab that day (a temp one... not our regular teacher) sent me off to the washroom, to wash the wound with water, whereas I should have first immediately neutralized the acid with a base, as our regular teacher chided me about the next day!

Ahhh! Some memory! I think I had to wear slippers to school for almost 3 weeks after the incident! I also had to get a new lab coat, a new skirt, and a new pair of shoes! Yupp! You wouldn't believe it, but the few drops of acid that spilled on my shoes, burnt tiny holes through them too! And the poor guy whose experiment blew up... I think he lost a tiny bit of one of his eyebrows! :D I wonder if it ever grew back again. He he! :P


Here's more in Memorabilia!


This is my 30th (last) post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Monday Blues!"

Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday Blues!

Don't feel like writing much today. Missing my mom. Was going through some old family pictures on my computer. Found one I haven't shared here yet I think.



That's my mom-dad and me (with my first love in my hand).

. . . . .

It's such a crippling feeling, isn't it... knowing that you can never see your loved ones again... never see them smile at you with affection... never be able to hug them tight again...

I realized something today.

Losing someone you love is a painful experience for everyone. But it becomes a bit easier to move on if the loss was expected... if you'd received at least some prior warning/indication about what was coming... if you'd got some time to prepare yourself for the shock... mentally... and emotionally...

. . . . .

See you tomorrow, friends.


This is my 29th post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Solo Multi Subjects Spiral Notebooks"

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Solo Multi Subjects Spiral Notebooks

Remember that post I did a few days ago on "De-cluttering and Organization"? I mentioned how I found a bunch of old pads/notebooks that I decided to put to use in re-organizing my workspace. (Can't waste paper, you see!) But when those pads get filled up, I'm going to buy one of these professional looking Solo Multi Subjects Spiral Notebooks! :D








I found these on flipkart the other day! Aren't they cool? Just one diary with all your different data compartmentalized separately by those colored tags!

These images are of 3 different-size notebooks... A4, A5 and A6. Size A4 and A5 have 5 divided sections each, with 300 pages in total, including a monthly planner and a storage pocket. And size A6 notebooks have 3 divided sections with total 240 pages, including the monthly planner. (You can click on the image titles or the images to open these products on flipkart directly and view the product details.)

I have seen them around in stationery shops earlier, but never really thought they might be of any use to me, until now! It's funny how our mind tends to completely filter out irrelevant stuff, isn't it? :D

Anyway, Solo office supplies are usually good quality. I have used their ring binders, certificate folders and expansion files. Their plastic covers don't turn brittle with use, unlike some other brands that start cracking up. And it's easy to clean them too... just wipe the plastic with a damp cloth. Their notebooks should also be great.


This is my 28th post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Silly Saturday: Dating a Writer?"

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Silly Saturday: Dating a Writer?


Picture Credit: www.writerswrite.co.za

Here's more in "Silly Saturday"!


This is my 27th post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Reviewing Books"

Friday, April 26, 2013

Reviewing Books

I've been writing book reviews here for a while. A lot of bloggers have been doing it for a lot longer than me. I get to read some of them every now and then. I get to read book reviews on sites like goodreads etc. too.

Many of the reviews I come across (especially where free review copies of books were sent to the reviewers/bloggers) are mostly just praise. At times, I've even come across reviews that gave the impression that the reviewer never even bothered to read the book! In fact, I personally know of people who do this - post book reviews without actually reading the book.


Blogger Reviews Books

As for me... to be completely honest with you guys, I spend a lot of time writing my reviews! It's never a quick 20-minute blogpost-writing stint for me... especially if I'm reviewing a new author, or someone who's not yet established in the mainstream bestsellers list!

I just try to put myself in the author's shoes. If it was my first book, what would I want from my readers? Word-of-mouth publicity, yes. But, even more importantly, I would want their feedback... honest, unbiased feedback. What they liked about my book, what they didn't; what areas were okay, but could have been better with a little more work; what kind of changes might have made the book better; which parts completely sucked... and so on. I mean, I wouldn't just want to be a "one-book-show", would I? I would like to take my writing to such a level that every new book from me made it to the bestseller list!

And that's exactly what I assume about all new authors whose books I review here... that they would like to stick around for a long long time too... leave behind a rich legacy of quality writing.

Feedback is crucial for that. Whatever our area of work, none of us can improve without genuine feedback. So when I receive free copies of books for review, the least I can do in return is give those authors a proper feedback, that will help them improve their writing.

I have certain parameters on which I rate the books. And I don't post a review immediately after reading the book. I sleep on it for several days, read other people's reviews to make sure I didn't misunderstand or overlook any important aspect of the plot or the characters. In fact, when I reviewed Douglas Misquita's Secret Of The Scribe, I actually read the entire book twice, before starting its review!

I know that writing a whole book is quite an achievement! (I can't even manage to write a short story usually!) And then actually getting it published too... that's another big feather in the cap! So if a person can do these two, then I see no reason why s/he should stop one step short of making it to the international bestseller list!


Here are some of my reviews.


This is my 26th post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Winter Blooms"

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Winter Blooms

I often take photographs from my cell phone camera during my evening walks in the apartment compound. These flowers were in bloom during winters. They've of course been replaced by spring flowers now. One of these days, I'll take some new pictures and will share them here too. Meanwhile, you can click on this picture to see it in full-size.




This is my 25th post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Wordless Wednesday: Eco-friendly Garfield!"

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Eco-friendly Garfield!

Eco-friendly Garfield!

Picture Credit: FB Community

Here's more in "Wordless Wednesday"!



This is my 24th post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Ten On Tuesday: 10 New Blog Changes"

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

10 New Blog Changes ~ Ten On Tuesday

Based on the feedback received on that reader-poll I conducted the other day, I have implemented certain changes in my blog in the last 2 days. They are as follows:


  1. Changed my Blog Header image, because the colorful wordle in the middle was confusing my readers and distracting them away from the main content (post) on my blog. Also reduced the height of the header image to make optimum use of the area above the fold.

  2. Removed the 'Facebook like' and other 'share' buttons from the top of the post to give immediate visibility to my main content (post). Those buttons now remain only at the bottom of the posts. I also removed the pumpkin image from the post-title CSS to de-clutter that space.

  3. Removed the 'about me', 'find me on', 'subscribe by email', and 'FB page' sections from the sidebar, as these options are given elsewhere too, in the blog pages, and were just using up space unnecessarily.

  4. Also removed the 'KraftyFingers' feed from the sidebar, as I won't be updating that site for a while now. It freed up space to add a similar 'Latest' posts section in the sidebar instead.

  5. Trackers, like the 'Indiblogger rank' and 'Goodreads challenge', weren't really serving any purpose. So they're gone. Histats tracker has been moved down to the footer.

  6. Gave the Comment Form a whole new look, and also added a custom 'comment form message' to make the comment process simpler for my non-blogger/non-techie readers. Added a direct 'Share your Feedback/Comment' link too, at the end of the posts, for the same purpose.

  7. The blog archives remain expanded (hierarchy view), though I have unchecked the 'Show Post Titles' option. The sidebar scroll got reduced considerably by this one step alone! Now let's see if this works with my readers.

  8. My sister pointed out that using my miniscule cartoon favicon as a link for 'Home', just below the comment form, was downright idiotic, 'coz it looked like a floating ghost, and none of my readers would be able to relate it to my homepage! So that's gone as well! You'll see a standard 'home' icon in its place now. [grins sheepishly]

  9. Edited the About page (to improve readability of content) and the Potpourri page (to make it more precise and to-the-point). Will be making some changes to the KBL-T30 and Services page too tomorrow.

  10. Added a sticky 'Back to Top' button on the bottom left corner of the screen, so that my readers don't have to scroll all the way back to the top of my blog, after reading one of my typically looooong posts!

I was also in half-a-mind to remove the category cloud from the sidebar, as I don't see it on most popular blogs nowadays. I thought I was probably the only one using it here. Apparently, I was wrong! I was told that it represents the diversity of content on my blog, at a glance. So I should let it stay. Which is okay, I guess, as I don't have any redundant tags anyway (e.g. book/ books/ book reviews)! Now I just need to add two more sections in the sidebar, and then I'll be done with this round of design changes on my blog.

So what do you guys think about them? Do you find it easier to navigate through my content here now? Please DO share your feedback and any other suggestions.


Here's more in "Ten-On-Tuesday"!


This is my 23rd post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Night-time Photography"

Monday, April 22, 2013

Night-time Photography

The following pictures were taken from my mobile phone camera earlier this month, at the apartment society where Dad & I have booked our flat. Even though it's an 8MP camera, night-time photography is not even close to what I get from my old 5MP Canon Powershot! Nevertheless, these came out better than I'd expected!









This is my 22nd post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Some Reader-Feedback Required"

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Some Reader-Feedback Required

Guys, do you find it easy to access other content on my blog?

For example, if I share this post on Facebook, and you click through that link and come here, do you feel like checking out any of my other posts? Or do you feel too intimidated and confused to want to spend any more time here?

Would you please take a few minutes to let me know which of these navigation elements you find easiest to use on this blog?

Which of these do you find most useful to surf through my blog? (Multiple answers allowed)



For any other feedback, please feel free to leave a comment below.
(For non-bloggers: you can select your google (gmail) account to leave a comment.)

Thanks friends.


This is my 21st post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Silly Saturday: The Family Tree!"

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Silly Saturday: The Family Tree!


Picture Credit: FB Community

Here's more in "Silly Saturday"!



This is my 20th post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "De-cluttering and Organization"

Friday, April 19, 2013

De-cluttering and Organization

You know... life feels really wonderful when you don't have to search for things all the time! Organizing my personal space has been on my to-do-list since December 2011... (Remember the post "Creative Avalanche"?) and today, I finally got started on it. Here's what I accomplished today...



  • One separate notebook for miss_teerious:
    This was an empty pad (not a new one though) that I allotted to this blog. All ideas and plans associated with this blog will go in it now, so that I don't need to search through ALL my various diaries and registers and notebooks!

  • Another one for KraftyFingers:
    I'd already set this one aside last year, for all my craft related ideas, lists, plans, course outlines etc.

  • A diary for my handwritten Reiki notes:
    I'd written down a lot of stuff on loose sheets of paper in my Reiki classes in Nagpur. Re-wrote them all together in this diary today. Also added my Reiki 1 & 2 notes from Kanpur. Now my printed notes are all filed away in one place, and the handwritten notes are in this diary. Life is good.

  • A notepad from Oneness University:
    It re-surfaced today after six years! Going through it, I realized it contains some pretty useful stuff... notes I took when I attended a spiritual workshop at that place. I decided not to throw it away, at least for the time being!

  • A pad for my recipes:
    As you can see in the picture, this pad is just a temporary space for jotting down new recipes. After I try them out in my kitchen, they'll eventually end up on this blog, along with pictures and any personal modifications/observations during my experiments, or any other remarks.

  • A catch-all-else pad:
    For shopping lists, other to-do-lists, reminders for self, extensive travel plans... all those things really that cluttered my blogging notebook in 2011!

Besides the above 6, I also found two notepads with totally obsolete information - one dating back to April 2006, and the other one going even further back, to 2001! It was amazing going through all the stuff in the latter! Apparently, I continued to use it from 2001 till 2007! Long time for 1 diary, huh? What an odd assortment of content it had! I have a feeling I'm going to find more of such useless notebooks stuffed away in my books almirah! I'll try to tackle them tomorrow hopefully.

I'll also need another diary/notebook for my magazine, if I'm going to start it anytime soon. And I've been thinking of making an online repository of all my Reiki experiences. I already made a blog for it in 2008... just don't know when I'll actually get around to updating it! Maybe putting all the ideas down in a dedicated notebook will get me to stop procrastinating?

What do you think? Do you use a planner to make sure you do whatever you think of doing? If yes, then do you compartmentalize it like this, or is one planner sufficient for you? And how is it that writing down the targets/ideas helps us accomplish them sooner and more easily?


This is my 19th post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "My Old Den"

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Old Den

Off late, I've been really missing my old "den" in Delhi... my computer-table-cum-cabinet.



This full-almirah-height computer table was a really neat purchase. It had a proper place for everything - compartments for all the computer hardware, a drawer for all my diaries and miscellaneous stationery, a big cabinet for all my big folders and bulky books, two smaller cabinets for all my DVDs and some novels etc., and an entire shelf on the top for my old portable 2-in-one and other odd stuff!

There was space for my pen holders and photo frames too, and those two shelves in the middle were also very useful. And the best part... it had plenty of workspace left even after being loaded like this with all sorts of things!

I bought this table in May 2006, in Delhi. After I left that city, my sister continued to use it there, till she got married in November 2011. That's when we were forced to sell it, because the cost of transporting it to Patna would have been more than its worth! (By the way, even after using it for 5.5 years, we managed to sell it for practically the same price that I bought it!)

Anyway, off late, my current computer table (an even older model, purchased in 2001, I guess) has become really cluttered. As I'm involved in more activities here than in Patna, there's a lot more stuff now that I need to keep on immediate access. And that's why I've been missing my old "den" lately! :(


This is my 18th post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Wordless Wednesday: Memorabilia-XI: Writer's Knot!"

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book Review: Arjuna by Anuja Chandramouli

Review: Arjuna by Anuja Chandramouli

Arjuna - Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince
Author: Anuja Chandramouli
ISBN: 978-9381576397

Buy from:

Flipkart

Amazon.in

Amazon.com


Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince, by Anuja Chandramouli, recreates the magic of the timeless Indian epic, Mahabharata, in an easy-to-read, engrossing narrative. It promises to reveal previously unknown dimensions and shades of this Pandava hero. So how far does it succeed in delivering that promise?

Blurb from Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince:

Arjuna is the immortal tale of one of India s greatest heroes. These pages retell in riveting detail the story of the Pandava Warrior-Prince who has captured the imagination of millions across centuries. This is the intense and human story of his loves, friendship, ambitions, weaknesses and follies, as well as his untimely death and revival, his stint as a eunuch, and the innermost reaches of his thoughts. Told in a refreshingly modern and humourous style and set against the staggering backdrop of the Mahabharata. Arjuna's story appeals equally to the average, discerning reader and the scholar. It spans the epic journey from before his birth, when omens foretold his greatness, across the fabled, wondrous landscape that was his life.

Before I start my review, let me clarify that I haven't read any other version of this great Indian epic. My only exposure to Mahabharata is the old T.V. serial aired on Doordarshan - B.R. Chopra's Mahabharata - and some excerpts in old Amar Chitra Kathas (or some other such children books).

Based on that limited background, I will have to say that Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince failed to deliver its promise. It didn't reveal anything new about Arjuna. There were a few incidents that weren't as crisp and clear in the memory as others.... e.g., when Arjuna meets Hanuman... but they've all been covered in the T.V. serial. The "final journey" of the Pandavas was probably the only part of the book that was completely new to me.

The writing style was definitely not "humourous", as stated in the blurb, although it was "modern"! Simple flow, average vocabulary (the kind we use in normal day-to-day interactions), and a brisk pace. The book covers most of Mahabharata (and not just Arjuna's tale) in only 360 pages! It seemed like reading an abridged high-school version of the epic tale, with a little more focus on Arjuna's life!

But without any new stuff about this central character, the book was practically just a re-write of Mahabharata... that too an incomplete one! There was nothing original in the plot or the characters. On the contrary, the small size of the book made it impossible to do proper justice to any of the characters! As such, I really cannot give any points to Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince, for those two parameters.

The print quality was good and the editing was clean. The cover didn't impress me. I liked the four-page "Cast of Characters" listed at the very beginning of the book. The narrative hopped randomly, across points along the historic timeline of the events... I found that a bit annoying. I would have preferred a more linear approach. Despite all that, the book was difficult to put down once I started on it! And that's saying something, considering there was nothing new in the story!

My rating: 2 out of 5. Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince, by Anuja Chandramouli, lacks originality and depth, yet makes for a gripping and quick read. There are hardly any new insights about Arjuna, but you do get to experience the Mahabharata again, at the pace of a fast-moving action thriller, in simple, contemporary English.

Buy Kamadeva : The God of Desire, also by Anuja Chandramouli, from: Flipkart | Amazon.in | Amazon.com

Disclaimer: The author sent me a free, personally-autographed copy of this book for reviewing, but that has, in no way, affected my rating and opinions.


Here's more in Books.


This is my 16th post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Writers' Block... Yet Again!"

Monday, April 15, 2013

Writers' Block... Yet Again!

Halfway into this round of KBL-T30, I've finally hit a writers' block!


Writers' Block

Or maybe it's not really a writers' block... maybe it's just a preoccupation with something else... (???)

The thing is... I have been thinking of starting my magazine again for a couple of months now. (Ok, more than a couple of months!) Been wanting to give it a new look... cut off some sections, add some new ones maybe, make it more niche...

Ever since I woke up today morning, my mind's been going around in circles regarding that! It's still working overtime... so I guess I'll just sign off for tonight. See you tomorrow friends...


This is my 15th post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Molded Custard with Strawberry Starfish"

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Molded Custard with Strawberry Starfish

Custard-jelly was one of my favorite desserts when I was a kid. Mom used to make it very often for us. My sister and I have made custard a lot of times, but I don't remember having made jelly ever. Also, I've never tried making molded custard before, though I remember mom made a beautiful molded custard-jelly arrangement for one of our birthdays. She first set a layer of strawberry jelly in a glass dish, in which she had already arranged pineapple slices. Once the jelly was firmly set in the refrigerator, she poured a layer of vanilla custard on top and allowed that to set. The result was a gorgeous yellow and red dessert that we kids totally loved!

Memories, eh?

Anyway, there was a surplus of milk in our house the other day. So I decided to try out the molded custard recipe. Here's how I did it.




INGREDIENTS:
1/2 liter milk
40 g custard powder - vanilla (I used Brown & Polson)
40 g sugar
1 tsp butter


METHOD:

  • Take out 1/4 cup milk in a small bowl, and put the rest of the milk to boil.
  • Mix in the custard powder in the cold milk till it makes a smooth paste without any lumps.
  • Add the sugar to the boiling milk.
  • Remove from heat and mix in the custard paste thoroughly.
  • Cook again for 2-3 minutes on medium flame, stirring continuously to ensure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the vessel.
  • Remove from heat finally, and mix in the butter.
  • Pour in a wet mold and allow to set in the refrigerator.
  • Just before serving, take it out and allow to sit in room temperature for a few seconds, so it leaves sides. Then place a plate on top and turn it upside down.
  • Decorate it with some strawberry jam (or real strawberries, if you have any). I made a starfish, but you can try other shapes.

This was only my first attempt, and an impromptu one at that, so I didn't give it too much thought or time. Besides, Dad and I were the only two people who were going to eat it! But, if you're planning to make molded custard for a larger group, try using a shallower mold... one with straight sides, not slanted/sloping like mine. Then you wouldn't have to take it out on another plate. You could also add layers of jelly and fruits and whipped cream. You could even make individual servings in wine glasses.

Oh and do you see that slightly uneven ring, close to the top, in the picture? That happened because I used some cake sprinklers in the mold, which was a bad idea, because they melted when I poured the hot custard in the mold! First the colors dissolved, and then the sprinklers disappeared completely, leaving behind this uneven surface on the custard mound! Next time, I'll use the sprinklers just before serving! :P

Here's more in Recipes from miss_teerious!


This is my 14th post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Silly Saturday: The Bathtub Test"

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Silly Saturday: The Bathtub Test


Post Inspiration: FB Community

Here's more in "Silly Saturday"!



This is my 13th post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Haste Makes Waste..."

Friday, April 12, 2013

Haste Makes Waste...

...And gives you a lump on the head too!



Although I didn't get a lump... thanks to Dad's presence of mind! He immediately gave me some ice to put on the hurt spot!

Don't ask me what I was trying to do in such a hurry... I don't like to have people laugh at my expense when I'm in physical pain (although it does make for a funny sight).

Besides, haven't you heard? Most accidents happen at/near home. In fact, as per this link (www.lpch.org/DiseaseHealthInfo/HealthLibrary/poison/stats.html), approximately 45 percent of unintentional injury deaths occurred in and around the home! And as per this link (http://www.neighborhoodlink.com/article/Homeowner/Safety_at_Home), there were 33,300 fatalities and 8,000,000 disabling injuries that occurred in peoples homes, in 2002!

I'm sure those statistics were made up... all statistics are made up. But who cares. Quoting statistics does make you feel important, doesn't it? Like you know something... something important.

But is anything really important? Anything in this world, I mean? After all, they say that the world we live in is just an illusion. Then logically following, everything in it should also be an illusion. Right? Then what difference does it make whether 45% of unintentional injury deaths occurred in and around the home, or 75%, or only 5%?

And anyway, we all have to die one day or the other... one way or the other. So whether we die due to an unintentional injury in or around our home, or an intentional murder at the hands of a psycho terrorist, die we must. Really... what difference does it make, if you look at the big picture?

Besides, if you manage to get a lot of loyal fan-following before you die, your fans might even persuade God to bring you back, like they did with that character-whose-name-I-don't-remember, in that TV-serial-that-probably-had-a-KK-at-the-beginning-of-its-name, a few years ago!

So really... it's no big deal after all. Just a bump on my head. I should be perfectly fine after a good night's sleep. (Or not perhaps ???)


This is my 12th post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Culinary Skills Enhancement"

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Culinary Skills Enhancement

The Master Chef season has inspired me to work on my culinary skills. So I've decided to try making 2-4 new dishes every month (depending upon how much time I have). These would also include items that I made a few times in Kanpur, but not after we left that town in the year 2000. (I suppose if I haven't made a dish in 13 years, I'll have to start from scratch on it... it would be pretty much a brand new recipe for me now!)

For starters, these are a few items in my list currently:

  • samosa - never made yet
  • mathri - have made 2-3 times, more than a decade ago
  • dhokla - never made yet
  • chhole-bhature - never made yet
  • dosa, sambhar, coconut chutney - have made sambhar long ago, never tried the other two
  • gatta - never made yet
  • daal-baati - ditto
  • gujia - ditto again
  • tamarind chutney - used to make awesome tamarind chutney in Kanpur!
  • palak paneer - tried my hands at it in Patna... it tasted horrible! Absolutely horrible!

From this list, I've already managed to make palak paneer successfully, couple of weeks ago. I tried making mathri last week, but didn't get them right. Apparently, the dough wasn't hard enough. Will try making another batch this weekend hopefully.

In the meanwhile, I made sambhar and coconut chutney today, with rava idlis. They turned out pretty neat, except that the vegetables in sambhar got practically dissolved! I'll have to remember to cut them in bigger chunks next time! Here's a picture... have a look...



Will share the recipes as and when I can. I already have loads of pictures piled up in my hard drive, for various recipe posts here. Let's see if I can post them all during this spring-cleaning round of KBL-T30.


This is my 11th post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
Link to the previous post: "Wordless Wednesday: A Lose-Lose Situation?"

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Review: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Review: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The Sense of an Ending
Author: Julian Barnes
ISBN: 978-0099570332

Buy from:

Flipkart

Amazon.in

Amazon.com


The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes, is an intricately penned story of one man coming to terms with the mutable past. It is a story about the subjectivity of memory, and how it creates unreliable histories, because “what you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed.” Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2011, this 150-page novella is truly a literary masterpiece loaded with dexterity and insight.

Blurb from The Sense of an Ending:

Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life. Now Tony is retired. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove.


The central theme of The Sense of an Ending:

“How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.”


How often indeed? We choose to remember only that which we want to remember. We modify our own memories, even implant false memories at times, just to write our life stories the way we want to. For example, a doting wife would conveniently ignore the flaws in her husband, even if they were visible to the entire world, just because she's cast him in the role of "her knight in shining armour"! And a man might convince himself to believe that his love interest is married to someone else, even when there is not a shred of evidence towards this, just because he happens to relate with the Indian 'devdaas' character!

The main characters:

Tony Webster is the narrator of this story - an average, self-centered guy, who, like most of us, has "settled for the realities of life, and submitted to its necessities". His youthful ambitions and inspirations have given way to "maturity" and "practicality", and he just allows himself to be swept with the tide, without trying to make any waves in it. As he narrates his version of the story, he is very much aware of the subjectivity of his memory, and constantly points this out, portraying himself as an unreliable narrator. And while his life "didn't turn out to be like Literature", he's more-or-less content with it - "Some achievements and some disappointments." Until he's bequeathed an unexpected legacy of 500 pounds, which makes him re-visit his past and question his memories. But does he find the answers he's looking for? Is he able to make peace with his past eventually?

Adrian Finn is Tony's old school friend, who analyses life and relationships in mathematical equations, adds a philosophical angle to everything, and is very much concerned with apportioning responsibility and blame for every little event in history. He seems to know clearly what he wants from life. His teachers and peers think of him as nothing short of a genius. Until his sudden suicide, with a note for the coroner, saying "life is a gift bestowed without anyone asking for it; that the thinking person has a philosophical duty to examine both the nature of life and the conditions it comes with; and that if this person decides to renounce the gift no one asks for, it is the moral and human duty to act on the consequences of that decision." But was his suicide really the answer to a philosophical question? Was it really any different from their sixth-form classmate Robson's suicide, who got a girl pregnant in his youth, couldn't face the consequences, so ended his life? And was he really justified in holding Tony responsible for the events of his life?

Veronica Ford was Tony's university girlfriend, who, according to Tony's perspective, dumped him and started dating Adrian, Tony's smarter friend, only to spite Tony! But was she really the bitch Tony believed her to be? Or was she "damaged goods" as her mom made her out to be? Does the book lead to a romantic reunion between her and Tony?

I was instantly hooked to the writing style of The Sense of an Ending, because it almost seemed like Tony Webster's personal blog... his experiences, his memories, his feelings, his perspectives. Very much like miss_teerious, you know... complete with its humble "disclaimer" in the footer that the observations are "restricted to the extent of my perception" and "may not necessarily hold any truth/validity"! In fact, just like miss_teerious, it even tends to ramble on a bit at times - not serving any purpose in the advancement of the plot, yet playing a vital role in describing the character of the narrator. And Barnes' insights about life and people are just so astute...


“How time first grounds us and then confounds us. We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe. We imagined we were being responsible but we were only being cowardly. What we called realism turned out to be a way of avoiding things rather than facing them. Time... give us enough time and our best-supported decisions will seem wobbly, our certainties whimsical.”

And...

“What if you can prove you weren't the bad guy she took you for, and she is willing to accept your proof?”

“You're doing it for yourself, of course. You're wanting to leave that final memory, and make it a pleasant one. You want to be well thought of...”


Despite being such a short book, The Sense of an Ending weaves a complex web of real-life characters... people who aren't just simple "black-and-white"... people you can relate to... people whose personalities are revealed to you layer after layer, just like in real life. The suspense keeps you turning the pages, and yet, the depth of the philosophical insights in the book makes you stop reading every now and then, and reflect on your own life instead. The book sucks you right into the plot and keeps you there for a long time, even after you've finished reading it!

My rating: 5 out of 5. The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes, is an elegantly composed, but disturbing tale about time and aging, memory and remorse, mistakes and disappointments, responsibility and blame.

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This is my ninth post for 2013 April Spring Cleaning Challenge.
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