Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Not just books

I don't know what to do with my spare time at work - yes there is such a thing - other than read. I seldom carry a book to work (that would be going too far), so it's usually mags, advertising books and blogs. There are quite a few blogs I check out and some that I keep returning to. It's usually the author's style of writing or personality that engages me.

My favourite. This is a fashion blog that lets rip on the fashion foibles of the rich and famous. Jessica's and Heather's posts are cleverly written with loads of puns and pop culture references.
This is one of those blogs many people contribute to, and I stumbled on it just after we bought our new home. The writing is patchy, but the site has fabulous energy, regular, multiple updates, loads of ideas and colourful displays! Have gone to many many interior design blogs and this is by far the best.
This is the blog of Stephanie (Mrs Limestone, as she styles herself) and its all about how she and her husband are redoing their heritage Brooklyn home. Very interesting and inspiring.
Similar to brooklynlimestone, this blog chronicles Nicole Balch's home reno. It's mostly done by this point, but people new to the blog will have fun with the archives.,

Mitali is the woman behind both these blogs as well as and I'd like to think that we are alike, serious enough to appreciate poetry, frivolous enough to love fashion. The first is a regularly updated series of budget fashion finds from Mumbai (it makes me want to shift there immediately), the second is her personal blog written with a mixture of irreverence and gravity. Style per diem is devoted to daily ensembles.
French blogger and artist who has become a fashion industry insider thanks to this blog. Loads of eye candy pics, fashion events, and above all Garance's own wry and very Parisien take on things.
Is this a blog or a website? Either way its a favourite and the best Harry Potter relates site IM0. I do occasionally check too.

Honourable mentions - the desi voice - a very famous blog by a very famous writer - and- dare I say it - overrated. - blogger oormila is a writer, painter, musician and mother - Sidin Vadakut, fraud mallu, blogs on this Domain Maximus - Another home reno blog - Photographer Scott Schuman's blog - ads from around the world. Hasn't been updated in a while. - A lovely interior decor blog...I never miss the sneak peak section. - Aamir's humour and intelligence make this a delight to read - A must for all Colin Firth fans

Blog Modus Operandi
I check these blogs every 3-4 days usually so that I have enough updates to read. Except Apartment Therapy, which i catch up with every day, since it has at least 5 pages of updates daily.

Favourite websites

and of course, can't live without google or wiki!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Loving Sea of Poppies! Not as much hard work as I thought... wonder why it took me a few days to get around to starting? Love and hate that it's a trilogy - Im sure to have forgotten this one by the time the next is out.

About 2/5ths to go.

Friday, October 23, 2009

from the library

Finished Amanda Eyre Ward's how to be lost last night. Frustrated. Not because it wasn't good. Oh no. It was a lovely read, but Ward was crafty enough to stop the story just as it reached its crescendo. We do know what happens, but unfortunately, we aren't invited for the final pay-off. Which is frustrating considering how involved I got over the course of the book. And then to be denied that last reward - very clever indeed. Will definitely be picking up more books by this pretty woman. (yes, of course, I googled her)

Am now officially booker updated. If of course, you don't count the large chunks from the 80s, 90s and 00s - well every decade - that i've missed. What I mean is I've at least gotten around to reading the last two. 08 and 07. Arvind Adiga's The White Tiger and Anne Enright's The gathering. The White Tiger was an interesting tale at least, marred by two things - I thought the writing pedestrian and the concept very pandering. Although there is a very true and resounding note struck with the incident of the accident - for lack of a better way to put it. Sounds like that would really happen and it's a powerful moment in the book.

As I've mentioned elsewhere I love most things Irish. Here the story didnt feel new. Dysfunctional family - gathering at a time of crises - opening a can of worms - the abuse angle... her style however is a redeeming feature and the blurring of fact and fiction is nicely done. How many people, if at all, did the abuser mess with - this little ambiguity tucked away at the end that makes the story a lot more piquant.

Now on to Sea of Poppies - Amitav Ghosh. Read the opening page this morning, and thankfully, it doesnt seem as daunting as I thought.

We moved to our own home a few months back. And this has brought me of my biggest pleasures: to sit in my beautiful living room (or so I think) or well lit balcony on a saturday afternoon, with a cup of tea and a bowl of something crunchy, while my children are either asleep or playing below. What bliss.

Update: Amanda Eyre Ward has written for Salon. As always, amazed.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Anita Shreve's The Weight of Water is a disturbing book. Gripping. Well written. But very very disturbing. All books where children die are.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thankam's diary

I have been reading my great grandmother’s diary. What a privilege! I have decided to transcribe it on a word file so that it is preserved. The original book has survived 77 years, but it’s always better to have some back-up (a word she would never have understood, incidentally!)

Before I transcribe this diary, I would like to set down a few facts, as I recall them.

* My great grandmother Tachat Devaki Amma or Thankam as she was better known was born in July 1898 in Chittur. The Tachat family was an old and distinguished one which while no longer in its heyday, commanded enough respect for my great grandmother to contract a respectable alliance with HH Ravi Varma, Prince of Cochin. Thampuran, or T as he is referred to throughout the diary, was 21 years her senior, and it was his second marriage. His first wife was a reputed beauty who bore him at least 2 children, Leila and Murali. Leila, unfortunately also passed away before she hit her teens – when she was 12 I believe. Murali went on to become an IPS officer. He passed away in the 1970s after having lived a full life.

At the time that this diary was written, 1932, my great grandmother already had two children, Meenakshi (my grandmother) and Leila (named for her short-lived predecessor). A third daughter, Vatsala was on the way, to be born in December 1932, although there is no direct reference to her pregnancy anywhere in these diary entries. A few clues are to be found when she talks of dizziness, of doing ‘Bhajanam’ and ‘Neysevikkal’ in the 7th month as was customary and conducting a pooja towards the end of her term. In that particular entry she talks about having lost two sons (in infancy) and her hope that she may have a son, but it is couched in general terms with nothing to indicate that she is pregnant. However the diary ends on 14th November and Vatsala was born less than a month later.

A daughter, Padmaja and the much longed for son Balagopal, were born in 1935 and 1937 respectively. Thankam’s life was tragically cut short in 1939 because of a botched D & C, a mere two months after her eldest daughter, Meenakshi was married.

Thankam restricted herself to a page or less per entry, though every once in a while she would end up writing a few lines extra. Her English is simple and she is obviously completely at home in the language. Her intelligence shines through and her sense of self and strong opinions seem quite remarkable to me accustomed as I am to thinking that women of her day and age were not emancipated. How much of this can be attributed to my great-grandfather I don’t know. He was quite obviously erudite and liberal and it is possible he inculcated a love of reading in her. She speaks of her children but her whole life is not consumed solely by them. She takes a lively interest in the politics of the day and is staunchly patriotic and Gandhian.

Freed from the burdens of domestic work that consumes much of our modern life - cooking and cleaning - for which her privileged status accorded her servants aplenty, she was free to make visits, shop at the Swadeshi Stores, go to the club, the temple, palaces of various Thampurans and for music recitals. She speaks of having completed A Passage to India (I wonder if she ever read my favourite Howard’s End). The diary begins when she is in Tinnevally, a judge’s wife, and documents her shift to Thripunitura following her husband’s retirement on being refused an extension. Her personal emotions seldom come through and she seems to be a good and dutiful wife, if a little westernized in her longing for romance!

Familiar names show that nearly a century on, our family’s social circle has not changed much: a great deal of it still revolves around names like Ambat, Ambady, Kuttikat and Thottekat. When the diary ends on November 14th , it ends too soon for me. The narrative is unfinished and I wish someone would take it up and tell me what happens to all the brother and sisters she was so concerned with, what books she read, what she thought of Hitler who was yet to rise to power and a hundred other things! Of course I know I can always find out what happens to the players in her story, but I would much rather have heard it from her.

Please excuse any factual errors. All of this is hearsay or from half remembered conversations. In transcribing the diary I would dearly love to provide footnotes but do not know if I can trace all the people...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Reader's Journal

It's back to the library and back to reading!

First, On Beauty, where I kept flipping over to the jacket to look at Zadie Smith. Like her, Howard's End is a special favourite. I was reasonably engaged trying to draw parallels - Oh look, Kiki Margaret Schlegal! Carl is Leonard Bast! They even have a stealing scene - only a discman, not an umbrella! But just before it got too distracting, On Beauty found its own steam, its own relevance (ok - sounding pompous now!). EM Forster would have loved it.

Next, Engleby by Sebastian Faulks who I am definitely going to read a lot more of. Amazing. I loved the university setting. About halfway through I figured out which way the wind was blowing, but I suspect I was supposed to, though the clues were very subtle.

Picked up Marry Me as a tribute to John Updike. Should be ashamed to admit that I haven't read any of his work. Why Marry Me? Because it looked slim and non-threatening enough. I must admit I couldn't engage with it at all, though I read it diligently from end to end.

Have now almost finished Jahnavi Barua's Next Door collection of short stories. Growing up in Assam, obviously I was an outsider, but reading these very evocative tales makes me feel as though I too, belong. These tales are set in Lower Assam, while we were in its upper reaches. Maybe its the familiar ring that 'Barua' and 'Barun' have. Maybe its the description of the Brahmaputra as being as vast as the sea, which is exactly how I remember it, though I have only ever flown over it. Maybe its the descriptions of gardens and time spent outdoors, which is what I remember most from my childhood there. I know for a fact that anyone who has at least a nodding aquaintance with Assam will read these stories very differently from the rest!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dipping my toes in again...

2008 was my worst year by far for reading. I still read some fabulous stuff, but for the very first time in my existence it felt as though I could go through life without ever reading anything at all. Yes, it was a crazy year. From beginning to end, every certainty I ever possessed was questioned. I thought I had figured some things out - myself above all - but I was wrong. And yet it was a year I will be grateful for.

I went back to the library, ironically a year to the day I last did - Jan 25th. Planned to borrow a bunch of M & Bs or at least pseudo historical romances, which is my preferred form of trash reading. Struggling through The Last Mughal made me think that perhaps I was better off reading only frivolous stuff. But standing there in front of those bookshelves, it wasn't the romances that I felt like picking up. I did pick one, The Weaver's Daughter, but even though it was a pedestrian piece of writing, it was less a bodice ripper than a low-brow attempt at capturing a time in history.

So now I'm reading a book that I have long wanted to: On Beauty by Zadie Smith. Marvelous. Especially the Howard's end style beginning.

See, I'm less frivolous than I think!