Review: Intentional Smile

A Girl’s guide to positive living.

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Author: Shazia Omar & Merrill Khan

Art: Lara Salam

Publisher: Bloomsbury India

Genre: Self-help

Rating: 4/5

Format: Paperback

Life is a series of hitting rock-bottom and getting back up. No one gets out without being grilled, marinated and roasted. Such is life. But sometimes the weight of the world gets too hard to carry. We lose our focus and sense of self. All of us have hit rock bottom at one point of our lives. However, how many of us have recovered from the fall? With everything that’s happening in the world around us, finding love, joy and happiness becomes an illusion. The silver lining keeps fading till you realize life’s nothing but a big giant pile of dump. It’s okay. Life is made that way. But what if the secret to living a happy life lies within you? What if the power to realize your potential has been hidden inside you all along, only you never considered tapping into the abundance that YOU are? Well, Intentional Smile is one such self-help book that’s going to help you look within and understand that life, after all, is pretty simple.

Shazia Omar and Merrill Khan have co-authored Intentional Smile which is a girl’s guide to positive living( I think the laws applied in this book are universal and not restricted). The book is a journey of self-discovery where gratitude , joy and abundance are the sole factors that make life worth living. Come to think of it; we spend our days whining and sulking about the tiniest things not realizing we’re being ungrateful for the million things that are still going right in our lives. Maybe if we’d take a minute to express gratitude for everything in our lives, our perspective would change. Life’s not as messed up as we think it is.

The book has been illustrated by Lara Salam who has done a tremendous job. It’s very rare to come across self-help books that are so picturesque and easy to follow. Most of the exercises, morning routines, chakras and Meditation cards are self-explanatory and easy to understand. Don’t you love books that are visually appealing?

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I think one of the most important themes in the book is self-love. One of the prerequisites to being a confident person is being happy with oneself. Social Media in this day and age has in a number of ways given false impression to different body types/skin and unreal expectations of how one should should like. Teenagers and mostly young girls are rubbed in a negative way resulting in low self-esteem, failure to accept themselves and lack of self-love. It’s so essential to know that you’re whole just as you are. The book captures and gives readers several practices and techniques to start loving themselves even more.

The journey of self-love begins with loving yourself

There’s a lot of criticism to positive thinking. An underlying impression that positive means staying happy all the time has made it difficult for people to come to terms with their problems. Thinking good thoughts, acknowledging your shortcomings and problems and believing in a better tomorrow is part of being positive. It’s humanely not possible to be an energizer bunny 24/7 but it is extremely important to accept you have a problem and then moving on from there. And how do you accept there’s a problem? You can try EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique. It is a technique to release all your negative feelings by tapping on certain acupoints. There is a clear diagram in the book to explain where your EFT hotspots are.

To free up energy for dream construction, we need to take care of ourselves so we feel good mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Don’t neglect your health.

You might think it’s easier said than done, right? But the authors, Shazia Omar & Merrill Khan, have spoken from their persoanl experiences. They’ve fought the demons and risen above it. Shazia Omar is a well-being psychologist and yoga teacher (she’s multi-talented; writer, mom and a believer too!). Merrill Khan is a child counselor, primary school teacher, wife , a mother and mermaid! (Super woman, eh?) Together these two weaved some magic and presented us with Intentional Smile!

Everyone has fears.

Becoming aware of your fears is the first step towars letting them go.

Identify your fears, then choose to let them go.

From morning routines to breathing exercises to setting goals to yoga, this self-help book has it all. And if you’re someone who loves visual representations of things, then, the art illustrations in the book are a treat. Intentional Smile is one book that’ll give you a warm fuzzy feeling from within and help you look at things from a better perspective. Start thinking good things to attract all that is good!

Remember, “You are a blissful warror princess”

 

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March Wrap up and Haul

A month of books, assignments and haul!

April is upon us.

I have a love/hate relationship with time. Sometimes I seem to float with the passing of time and on other days, I feel like I’m stuck in a labyrinth and everything is on pause. Well, that’s life. Now let’s get to business, shall we?

March was a busy month. If you’ve been reading my blog posts, you’d be aware of the humongous assignments I had to complete. Good news is I am done with all my assignments. I spent almost all my time writing each day and crying because ASSIGNMENTS ARE HARD. My reading was slow. And by slow I mean really really slow.  I read 3 books. Am I ashamed? No.

  • UNNS: The Captivation: I’ve written a detailed review. You can find it here: Review:

 

  • No Time for Goodbye: LOVED IT. You can read the review here: Review

 

  • Chameleon lights: I can’t talk about this book as of now except that the review will be coming up shortly along with some exciting news. Stay tuned.

 

If my reading was slow then my book buying habit was on an all time high. Shall we take a look?

  • The lovely folks at Writersmelon sent me a number of gift vouchers as part of their reviewing programme which I made use of by ordering several books. In my defense, they’re all part of my syllabus (not all of them). You see I think passing my MA exams would be a cool thing, no?
  1. Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand
  2. Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai
  3. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  5. Intentional Smiles by Shazia Omar and Merrill Khan ( This was sent to me by Bloomsbury India).

I am looking forward to April. It should be a good reading and writing month!

What did you guys read in March?

Review: No Time for Goodbye

A roller coaster of emotions, suspense and crime.

Author: Linwood Barclay

Publisher: Orion Books

Genre: Thriller/Crime

Pages: 437

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4/5

Blurb:

Fourteen-year-old Cynthia Bigge woke one morning to discover that her entire family, mother, father, brother had vanished. No note, no trace, no return. Ever. Now, twenty-five years later, she’ll learn the devastating truth

Sometimes better not to know. . .

Cynthia is happily married with a young daughter, a new family. But the story of her old family isn’t over. A strange car in the neighborhood, untraceable phone calls, ominous gifts, someone has returned to her hometown to finish what was started twenty-five years ago. And no one’s innocence is guaranteed, not even her own. By the time Cynthia discovers her killer’s shocking identity, it will again be too late . . . even for goodbye.

My Thoughts:

A thriller that made me sit at the edge of the bed as I frantically kept turning pages, inhaling and exhaling and letting out deep sighs while wanting to finish the book but not wanting it to end, No Time for Goodbye, is a treat to thriller/crime lovers out there. I picked this book on a whim at a Trade Fair last year since the blurb sounded pretty interesting. Well, I wasn’t wrong.

Cynthia, a 14 year old girl, wakes up one day after a night of drinking and partying to find a deserted house. Her parents including her brother Todd seem to have vanished from the face of the earth. No one has any clue where they are or if they’re even alive. Fast forward to 25years later, Cynthia is now married to Terry Archer and they have a beautiful daughter named Grace and Cynthia still doesn’t have any idea what happened to her parents.

Cynthia does not give up and seeks the help of a popular reality TV show in the hopes of finding any leads about her parents. This shakes things up. Suddenly, she starts getting mysterious calls from people, her daughter is being followed by someone, a hat (probably her fathers) is found on the kitchen table all this adding to the suspense of the novel. To make things even more complicated, Cynthia’s aunt is murdered right when she was about to reveal something closely linked to Cynthia’s past. The detective, Abagnall, is also murdered while investigating the disappearance of Cynthia’s family. There’s an eeriness when you read this book, and you can feel something’s not right but you can’t put your finger on it.

If we talk about the characters then I’d wish the author would’ve chosen the POV of Cynthia herself. That way we’d have an insight into the psyche of a daughter trying to put together the missing pieces. The story has been narrated from the POV of Terry Archer, Cynthia’s husband, who is an English Teacher trying to maintain a balance between being a supportive husband, caring father and a professional. He is the calm to Cynthia’s storms and I loved the chemistry between the two. Despite, the trust and understanding between the husband and wife, Cynthia’s breakdowns made Terry question her sanity. It was a conflict for him; is Cynthia making things up or is something really wrong? This, I feel, added to the tension even more and gave a unique angle to the story. Although there were certain instances in the book that seemed implausible, the plot packed with high emotions and dark nature more than made up for tiny plot holes.

Sometimes we think we know other people, especially those we supposedly are close to, but if we really knew them, why are we so often surprised by the shit they do?

The writing style is effortless, easy to adjust to and is fast-paced. Linwood Barclay is a brilliant writer who has sketched a mystery that’s hard to decode.

Was I able to put together 2 & 2? NO. I wasn’t good at math anyway. I kept guessing and failed but I believe that’s what made the story entertaining. It kept me alive and wanting to know and get closure. No Time for Goodbye is my first Barclay book and safe to say it won’t be the last. Grab your copies and start reading and let me know so that we can discuss and dissect the book!

Also, your favorite thriller?

Review: UNNS: The Captivation

A secret Mission. A childhood love affair. Death and Revenge.

Author: Sapan Saxena

Publisher: Inspire India Publishers

Pages: 244

Genre: Thriller/Romance

Rating: 3.5/5

Blurb:

“Of course you know about the seven stages of love, but have you ever lived them?”

Atharva Rathod and Meher Qasim.

Lovebirds since adolescence. Bonded by love, separated by circumstances. They part ways only to meet again. But this time, he is on a secret mission…

Are they in control of their own destiny, or its their destiny which is making them dance to its tunes? Only time would answer, as Atharva and Meher unwillingly and unknowingly transcend the seven stages of love.

A quintessential tale of love and romance marked beautifully by its own rustic old school charm.

 

My Review:

Caught in the midst of childhood love and innocence, Meher and Atharva, fight against all odds to defend what’s right to them. Atharva is a RAW agent, one of the best the indian government has ever seen. Meher, on the other hand, is working against the indian government who were responsible for the death of her father. Their paths cross but are they meant to be?

UNNS: The Captivation is a story about childhood lovers who take separate paths but destiny binds them together under circumstances that changes their life forever. Atharva, is on a mission and meets Meher after 15 years. Little does he know that the love of his life will eventually lead to his doom. The story keeps getting complicated as Atharva tries to decipher what’s happening to him. Suffering from a rare disorder, Atharva, despite his pain, keeps his eye on the mission till Meher arrives and ruins everything for him. Just when he could trust her, Meher, siding with the anti-national forces cons Atharva leading to his arrest on the charges of treason against RAW and India. A failed secret mission that lead to the compromisation of several other RAW agents. All this because Atharva was blinded by his childhood love. His credibility as one of the best RAW agents is on the line and there’s nothing he can do but surrender. His only regret: Why would Meher take advantage of his love for her?

The story does not end there. Infact, it keeps getting complicated. They meet again. Under different circumstances. But will Atharva’s love fool him once again? Or will he see right through Meher? That’s for you to read and discover.

The writing style is pretty simple. Sapan Saxena didn’t lose grip of the plot and was able to create suspense without making the reader pull their hair out. Although, there were a few errors as far as writing was concerned but since the story is indeed captivating one can skim through easily. I think novels that are a blend of romance and thrill go a long way in receiving readers’ attention and bringing parsie to the author. I really enjoyed the climax because it wasn’t cliche at all and did justice to all the characters.

If you’re into novels that have a bit of romance but at the same time are filled with suspense and thrill, then UNNS: The Captivation would be a good choice.

 

Review: Good Times Bad Times

A story about the significant wisdom of living life to the fullest and, above all, rising above ones fear by facing them.

Author: Chetan Dalvi

Publisher: Half Baked Beans

Genre: Contemporary

Pages: 120

Rating: 3/5

What happens when you’re forced to live under circumstances that suck the happiness out of you? What happens when life keeps throwing curve balls at you? You persevere. You face the storm and you liberate yourself. Such is the story of Jonathan, whose life is turned upside side before he finds peace and unearths the true meaning of life.

In the quest to fufill his father’s death wish, Jonathon, leaves the comfort of his Mumbai life, quits his job and takes on a journey that is filled with uncertainties. At this point, he is clueless. He has no idea how he would complete his father’s wish. He has no financial help, no job to fall back on and hardly a shoulder to cry on. The novel talks about the wisdom of living life to the fullest, believing in the good and understanding that life with its ups and downs is beautiful.

Jonathon encounters several people on his journey who without even trying teach him lessons he can never forget. He learns that no matter how small a job is one should always do it with respect and integrity. I think one of the fundamental ideas reinforced in the book is to embrace the bad times and accept it to be a stepping stone towards a life filled with potential. Towards the end of the novel, the author spoke about a simple rule of life:

We cannot ignore fear. We can just learn to face it each time, as fear is never ending. The more you face it, the bigger it becomes the next time.

The narration and writing style is simple and is quite relatable. All of us at some point in our lives have gone through pain and hardships. We’ve been in situations where the light at the end of the tunnel seemed like an illusion. The author has penned down various aspects of life and how time plays such a crucial role in healing scars and giving closure.

Life, as we know it, is a series of events that either make you or break you. It’s upto you to face it with your head held high or let it shatter your soul. Good Time Bad Times is a novel which makes you believe that there’s always a silver lining, if you refuse to give up.

You can buy the book on amazon: Good Times Bad Times

February Wrap Up

A month in books and reviews.

I hibernated in the month of february. Not much happened in terms of blog posts. I almost forgot I have a blog. (Sorry for the exaggeration). I suffered from lack of motivation and I decided no blog posts were better than poor quality content. BUT I did read 5 books, more than I read last month. Let’s take a look:

  • The Catcher In The Rye: J.D.Salinger’s novel talks about teenage alienation, a sense of abandonment, identity crisis and longing to find onself. It’s part of my second year syllabus and I personally didn’t like the book much. I know it is regarded as one of the finest pieces of literature the world has seen but it just didn’t resonate with me on any level. I had difficulty getting used to the writing style and I legit forced myself to read. It’s okay if its your favourite novel. No judgment. It didn’t appeal to me.

Blurb:

The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children’s voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden’s voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

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  • The Boy In The Striped Pajamas: I think its one of those rare books that stay in your mind long after you’ve read it. I knew it would be heart-breaking the minute I started reading it. The writing is simple and easy flowing. You’ll get it done in just one sitting. I was devastated towards the end and I don’t think I will ever recover from the heartache. Also, I plan on watching the movie in a day or two. Hoping it lives upto the book.

Blurb:

Berlin, 1942 : When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences

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  • The Color Purple: Alice Walker is one of the finest writers the world has ever seen. The book is set in rural Georgia and is a story of a woman named Celie who is abused and beaten when she was a child and raped by her father. It is her story of self-discovery and her triumphs and joys. It’s heartwarming to say the least. I highly recommend reading this book.

Blurb: 

Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of women of color in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture. The novel has been the frequent target of censors and appears on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2000-2009 at number seventeen because of the sometimes explicit content, particularly in terms of violence

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  • An Ember in the Ashes: Where do I start with this one? I think it’s definitely one of my top favourite reads of all times. I am not even kidding. An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy novel written by former American Washington Post editor Saba Tahir. Fantasy novels have never been my go-to genre ever. BUT I am so happy I read this book. It’s the first book in the An Ember in the Ashes series. The second book A Torch Against the Night was released last year in August, 2016. And guess what? The book will be made into a movie and is in development at Paramount Pictures. Guys, we’re in for a treat. I ordered the sequel the day I got over with AEITA because I needed answers. Please read this book. (I’ll post the review of both the books when i’m done reading them).

  Blurb:

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

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  • Animal Farm: I guess most of you have read this masterpiece by George Orwell. It is an allegorical novella that was first published in England on 17th August, 1945. According to the author, the book is a reflection of the events leading to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Stanlisnist Era of Soviet Union. It was chosen as one of the 100 best English Language novels by the Time Magazine.

Blurb:

“All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.”

One night on an English farm, Major the boar recounts his vision of a utopia where his fellow creatures own the land along with the means of production and are no longer the slaves of humans.

Before long his dream comes true, and for a short while all animals really are equal. But the clever pigs educate themselves and soon learn how to extend their own power, inevitably at the expense of the rest of the community.

This well-loved tale is, of course, a satire on the Soviet Communist system that still remains a powerful warning despite the changes in world politics since “Animal Farm” was first published.

This production is based on Orwell’s own radio version which was first produced in 1947.

 

What did you read in the month of Feb? March looks like a productive month. I also hope I will be writing more. See you. 

Exam Tips: Last minute study hacks.

Last minute tips and tricks to ace exams.

It’s that time of the year again.

Last year I wrote a blog post on acing examinations which was not very specific but aimed solely on how to study. Today I am going to attempt to write and explain to you some of the last-minute exam tips and hacks I’ve learnt over the years and I’m still learning. Since most of you will be appearing for your University and Board examinations, I thought I’d help you ease off a little. And as I always say, do not let these marks define who you are.

  • LEARNING: Most of you might be at the revision stage right now (kudos to you, I have no idea how that feels) but I’m sure or I hope some of you still have to learn the subject material. So how do you do that when you’ve got revision to do?
  1.  You start by picking one topic a day and scheduling it with other topics you have to revise. Don’t learn every thing on the same day. If you’re short on time and studying one topic a day wont cut it then use what I call, “Divide and Conquer”. This means that you study a new topic in the morning and take up another new topic sometime in the evening/night. You revise your subject material in between the ‘learning’. This avoids cramming. Your brain needs time to process new information so be kind and revise instead of continuously hammering your brain to function.
  2. Before you start a chapter, go through the previous years question papers and see if the chapter is worth spending time on. Since time is paramount, you can’t waste it on a chapter that’s only going to amount to 2-3 marks. Don’t come at me, nerds, I know even 1 mark is extremely essential. But you’d rather lose 10 marks than 1, right? Prioritise what’s important. You’ll realize that you’ll be feeling less stressed and are able to study more. If you find some extra-time, go ahead and tackle the 2 mark chapter.
  3. DO NOT STUDY THE ENTIRE CHAPTER. When I gave my boards, I was of the opinion that I HAD to study everything. Every chapter has certain topics that are more important and always have a chance of being in the question paper. Focus more on them.  If you’re certain about a particular question, practice writing down the answers. You’ll be surpised how much time you save in the exam hall. Which brings me to my next point:
  4. Practice writing. I have always advocated using a pen and a paper while studying. Really, it works wonders. Keep making sub-points while you’re studying. Seeing answers written on paper have a higher chance of staying in your mind. I don’t know how it works but recalling answers become 10 times easier. Be creative, use diagrams, flowcharts, acronyms, anything that will help you retain information. You might feel you’re wasting time writing down answers but then when you sit down to revise, it’ll take you less time.(If you followed my advice of writing answers, you’ll already have a set of notes prepared. SEE WHAT I DID THERE? HA!
  5. Something I discovered this year was studying using Youtube. I gave my first year MA exams and was OBVIOUSLY behind schedule. Since I was required to read a lot of plays and novels and all that cool stuff, I realized watching videos on certain dramas helped. For instance, I read and watched, Dr.Faustus. I was not very sure of the context of the play and watching Youtube videos helped. Visual learners are in for a treat with this. I’m sure there are several videos on various subjects out there. Check out Salman Khan Academy, CrashCourses if you’re short on time and can’t find a quick fix.
  • ORGANIZE: I am still understanding what organization stands for. But I’ll try to break it down.
  1.     To-do-list: Make a list of the things you have to study for the day as soon as you wake up. This helps a lot. You kind of get an idea of where you stand and what you need to do. Also, ticking off things from the to-do-list is the single most best feeling in the world. Take it one day at a time. You have to try to stick to the list you’ve made if you want to avoid wasting time. BUT and there’s a big but, do not make a list that’s ambitious. I know you want to make the most of your day but always keep sometime for relaxation. Being well prepared is not directly proportional to 16 hours of studying. Even if you study for 4 hours with breaks in between, you’re doing fine.
  2. Test yourself. I think the best way to find out what you’ve learnt is to attempt question papers right after you finish a chapter. This works pretty well for me. You can dig up previous years’ question papers and see if you’ve understood the material. Again, this might not be the case for you. Maybe you’re better off answering questions after a revision. Great, do that.
  3. Study with a friend. I remember studying with my best friend for my 10th boards and during under-grad and we used to update each other on what we studied. Not only does it give you the encouragement you need, it also makes studying fun. And if you’re someone who is competitive, you’ll make sure you study way more than your friend does.
  4. Take regular breaks. Since you’re studying a few days before the exam, it might not be possible to take breaks often. What you can do is study for 2 hours and take a break for ten mins. No matter what you do, your brain needs time to process. Jumping on to different topics won’t help. I’d rather spend 10 mins watching cupcake videos then cram. (At least, I’ll learn something). I don’t think I need to say this but keep yourself hydrated at all times. Keep snacks and drinks at your disposal to avoid wasting time.
  5. If you’ve been trying really hard to study and are not able to focus at all, leave it for the time being. Just go for a walk or listen to music and come back to it. Forcing yourself is never going to work. If you find yourself still struggling, move on to the next chapter or a different subject. Tackle it again the next day or after a day or two. Sometimes you have to take a detour to find yourself home. *mic drop*
  • FOCUS ON YOUR WEAKNESS:  We all have THAT one subject that makes our insides curl and gives us nightmares. For me it was maths. I HATED IT. I no longer have to study numbers( Thank heavens for that) but I still get jittery when I think about it. Try to devote each day on such a topic. I know it’s hard but that’s the only way you’ll be able to score well. If it’s maths for you, then practice maths more than you would normally do. If it’s history or geography, study half a chapter or a full chapter everyday. The idea is to stay in touch with the subject so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming a day before the exam. If you score very well in all other subjects but don’t score well in one subject, your total goes down drastically. That’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid.
  • STOP COMPARING:  I cannot stress how important it is to realize who you are and what your battles are. Your dreams are different from your friends. You’re not the same. Don’t get bogged down by what your friend is accomplishing or plans on doing. It’s easy to feel lost but losing yourself in the process sucks more. Just do your thing.

Please remember, these exams don’t carve out a future plan for you. Sure, it helps you get into a good college et cetera but they’re not everything. Don’t burden yourself with what others expect of you. Focus on what you want the most and never compromise on your mental state over something as trivial as exams. I say this from experience. Most of the things you’re worrying about won’t even matter in the future. Give your 100%. That’s all.

The above tips are very subjective. One formula does not work for everyone. I hope It was of some use to you. Do you have a study hack I could use? Let me know!

 

January Wrap Up

A month in books, blog posts and author meet ups!

Don’t you think the month of January stretched for far too long? Despite that, my reading was poor. I have no excuse except that I procrastinated heavily to a point where I was procrastinating procrastination. I could manage to read 3 books. However, I did write 6 blog posts which is black magic IMHO. I hope I continue being consistent here. Let’s see what January was like:

  • Selfienomics by Revant: A pretty promising debut novel on life, politics, emotions and health. I liked how the author opened room for discussion, citing important facts that we otherwise ignore and giving us a bollywood-ish feel. If you’re looking for a light, self-help book, Selfienomics would be a smart pick. You can read the review here: Review: Selfienomics

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  • Lanka’s Princess by Kavita Kane: A retelling of one of histories most epic tale, Ramayana. I absolutely loved this book. I wrote a detailed review which you can read here: Review: Lanka’s Princess. I also had the honour of interviewing Kavita Kane. The interview is here: Author Interview: Kavita Kane

 

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  • The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night Time by Mark Haddon: I LOVED THIS BOOK. It’s one of those books that’s rewarding, a story that’s going to stay with you for years to come. Mark Haddon’s portrayal of a boy with Asperger Syndrome and his disassociated mind is so well captured. It’s funny, wise and griping right from the start. The author gave us an insight into an autistic mind where emotions are absent and the world is based on number and logic. I have to write a review for this one. (Remember what I said about procrastination?)

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I attended the Kolkata Literary Meet 2017 and met Shazia Omar and displayed sheer awkwardness and lack of emotion. (WHY AM I LIKE THIS). The author, however, was really warm and welcoming. Her book Dark Diamond was the topic of discussion at the Lit meet. You can read the review here if you’re interested in reading historical fiction: Review: Dark Diamond

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Took this picture at the Western Quadrangle of Victoria Memorial. 

Can we talk about what I plan to do in the month of February( I SPELT FEBRUARY WRONG 5 TIMES, MAYBE I SHOULD LEARN SPELLINGS FOR A START)?

  • Reading at least 6 books including a classic because I plan on passing my  exams, so yeah. I also have to study and work on assignments. I have no idea how that’s going to happen.
  • Writing reviews. I suck at this.
  • I have been meaning to do blog posts on studying, writing cover letters, applying for jobs etc. Although I talk about books here, I want to diversify a little. Let’s see how that goes.

Well, those are a few things I plan on doing in feb.

What did you do this month and what are you planning for the next month? Let me know!

Author Interview: Kavita Kane

Meet the queen of Indian Mythology.

No other way to celebrate my 5Oth post on WordPress than to have the versatile author and senior Journalist, Kavita Kane talk to us about her love for mythology, what inspires her and a little something about her no one knows!

You can read the review of her latest book Lanka’s Princess here: Review: Lanka’s Princess

Get to know the author: 

A senior journalist with a career of over two decades, which includes working for Magna publication and DNA, she quit her job as Assistant Editor of Times of India to devote herself as a full time author. A self-styled aficionado of cinema and theatre and sufficiently armed with a post-graduate degree in English Literature and Mass Communication from the University of Pune, the only skill she knows, she candidly confesses, is writing.
Karna’s Wife her debut novel, (2013)was a bestseller. Her second novel – Sita’s Sister (2014) also deals with another enigmatic personality – Urmila, probably the most overlooked character in the Ramayan. Menaka’s Choice(2015) ,another best-seller, is about the famous apsara and her infamous liaison with Vishwamitra the man she was sent to destroy. Lanka’s Princess (2016) is her fourth book based on Ravan’s sister, Surpanakha, the Princess of Lanka who was also its destroyer…
Born in Mumbai, a childhood spent largely in Patna and Delhi , Kavita currently lives in Pune with her mariner husband Prakash and two daughters Kimaya and Amiya with Chic the black cocker spaniel and Cotton the white, curious cat.

 

 

Interview:

  • Did your career as a journalist somehow inspire you to become an author? 
As a journalist I had written non fiction for more than two decades! I wanted to test my creative writing skills and gathering enough courage, ventured into writing a novel. That’s how my debut book Karna’s Wife came about. It was more about testing myself.
  • Did you always want to write on Indian Mythology? What has been your experience like as an author of Mythology?
Mythology as a subject greatly fascinated me while I was studying English literature when I came in contact with Greek, Norse and Celtic mythology besides the fact that I grew up on a staple diet of Amar Chitra Kathas! Another favourite subject was history so I guess somewhere down the line I unconsciously leaned towards mythology as a genre when I decided to write my first novel.
Mythology is a huge canvas where you can add colour without damaging the whole picture. It’s not about retelling ancient tales of God or simply about  good vs evil : mythology is a lesson in knowing about Man and his follies and fallacies. Holds true especially now.
I receive so many questions on my books and our mythology from readers aged 18  to 30 and I realise they want to know so much more. It’s a void they want filled by writers of mythology.
  • Tell us a little about your latest book, ‘Lanka’s Princess’.
As the title says it’s about Surpanakha, Ravan’s sister whom we rarely see as Lanka’s princess. She is that ugly woman whose nose got chopped off. Yet she is the one who started the war. She is the turning point in the plot and pushes  forward the second part of the narrative of the epic. Also, besides Ravan,  she is the antagonist of the latter part as was Manthara and Kaikeyi in the earlier section of the Ramayan.  Yet what do we know of her?
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  • Your books are always well-researched. So what’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research online for your book?
While researching,  I often find the way the stories in our epics and mythology are woven within another and this interweaving is truly amazing. It is like a maze and connecting the dots  is a challenge. For instance I just realised Shishupal and the Pandavas were maternal cousins! It keeps coming and I have to make a concerted effort to stop reading and researching and get down to some writing!
  • Of all the characters you have written about, which is your favourite and why?
Urmila! My first book was to be about her but not having enough research material on her, I started on Karna’s Wife instead. But Menaka was one of the more difficult characters to sketch, adding to her shades of grey yet not to make her dark and negative. She was a temptress, a consummate seductress who used her wiles to succeed, she was a mother who abandoned two daughters- certainly not the perfect woman, is she? Yet she fell in love with the man she was meant to destroy. She was the reason for the downfall and rise of the most powerful man. Must have been a remarkable woman and that’s how I portrayed her in my book Menaka’s Choice.
  • Describe your ideal writing space. 
Physically I don’t like to write on a desk. I find it confining. I just need a quiet room with lots of sunlight and greenery. Also I never write in the night. That’s when the ideas rush in!
  • What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?
Each time a reader gives his feedback, I am truly touched. The most humbling moment was when Karna’s Wife was compared favourably to the classic Mritunjay. Or the moment when I received a hand written letter by a 90 year old fan hand delivered by his grand son! It was incredibly heart warming.
  • A book that had a deep impact on you.
Most books do so in some way or the other and  it would be unfair to name one.
  • Million dollar question, are you working on another book?
Yes!
  • Lastly, tell us something about yourself no one knows. 
I hate chocolate!
I feel extremely honoured to have Kavita Kane on the blog and had a great time interviewing her.

Get Interview Ready!

Cracking interviews is hard but preparing in advance is half the battle won.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I am still learning how to adult. Whatever I say in this blog post is just a sum total of my experiences while giving interviews. Call it a case study. (You can call it whatever you want).

Congratulations! You finally got the interview call you’ve been waiting for or in other terms losing your sleep over. You’re excited and nervous. While it’s not rocket science that you should prepare yourself before an interview, it is also essential to keep certain little things in mind before your big day. Following aren’t tips but just a few reminders that in my opinion set you apart from other candidates. (You see I spend a lot of time observing people because a.) I’m easily bored. b.) I get good material to write on):

  • Appearance: From what I’ve seen, there are two kinds of people. Those who dress for a red carpet event and those who look like homeless drug addicts. It’s not wrong to dress either way but since we’re trying to make a statement by not drawing unnecessary attention, we should stick to basics. The idea is to look professional. (Put on those nerd glasses for special effect). You might wear something that’s in vogue but if you end up looking like you slept in those clothes, it’s not going to work. First impression is HIGHLY important. Choose subtle, warm tones and if you cannot wear heels do not wear them. You wouldn’t want to trip right in front of the interviewer. (I’ve seen this happening and it wasn’t a good sight). Unless, you’re interviewing for a fashion magazine or something in that field, you’re allowed to be creative.
  • Being on time: I’ve already mentioned the importance of giving a good first impression and punctuality is one of the prerequisites to that. For once in your life, start early. The advantages of reaching early are plenty:  a.) Since there are a number of external factors involved such as weather, traffic, your car breaking down, your uber driver being an idiot etc you have to play it safe. Now is not the time to take risks. So in case something goes haywire, you can still make it on time.  b.) You get time to compose yourself. Go through your notes. Look around. Soak in the vibes. Do breathing exercises. Whatever it is that helps you calm your nerves. c.) You can interrogate the person before you who came out of the interview. It’s enlightening to say the least. You get a gist of what’s about to hit you and you get time to mentally prepare yourself. I think it’s one of my favourite things to do. (Also, when you’re waiting for your turn and it kind of gets dry, you can start clicking selfies. #Adulting  #IHaveNoIdeaWhatImDoing #SoNervous).
  • Organise yourself: We’re all a mess. Well, I am. I never have anything sorted. It’s not humanly possible to have everything in control but there are a few things we can take control of. The company you’ll be interviewing at will give you instructions about the documents you should be carrying. Here, make sure you have everything organised in a file in a chronological order. Get photo-copies of all your documents and certificates just in case they need to keep it. What happens is when you’re inside the interview room and you’re being grilled, you can’t spend time thinking which certificate is where. Not only do you look clumsy searching for the document that should be in your file, you come across as being unprepared. If you know where your documents are, you can easily present it when asked. ( I once dropped the entire file inside the interview room and well the rest is history).
  • Don’t talk too much: No, really. Just answer their questions as articulately as you can. If they ask for an explanation, you can drop that thesis you’ve prepared. There’s a difference between being confident and being cocky. It’s okay to brag here and there as long as you can support your statement. For instance, you might be asked to describe yourself (I loathe this question), don’t say you love food and you can eat 10 chicken nuggets in a minute. No one cares. What you can say is you love food and you love trying out different cuisines and you would like to be a food blogger someday. Avoid giving vague answers you can’t account for. DO NOT say you’re a voracious reader if you’ve only read Twilight or 50 shades of Grey .While I was giving interview for The Telegraph You internship programme, I mentioned being an avid reader and my dream of wanting to author a book someday. I got asked a lot of questions about the types of books I read, the genres I liked and if I wrote a book what would the title and genre be. Employers are smart. They can look right through you and won’t hesitate in calling you out. They are looking for people who can contribute to their organisation and prove to be an asset. Keep this in mind.
  • Prepare some basic questions: 1.) Describe Yourself. 2.) Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (Reading a book and crying over the death of a fictional character) 3.) What are your hobbies? 4.) Why do you want to work in our company? (Because you’re hiring?) 5.) How can you contribute to our organisation? You get the drill.

Since I love embarrassing myself on public platforms, I’m going to tell you one of my interview stories. So this HR of a reputed company asked me, ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’. My reply will make you cry,’Urm..I haven’t thought of it’. I never got a call from them after having cleared all the rounds. In my defence, it was my first ever interview and I wasn’t too keen on having a future. The question hit me like a ton of bricks and I didn’t know what to say. I mean, I don’t know what I’m going to do after I write this blog post, leave alone thinking in future tense. Alas, that’s life. We have to make scenarios in our heads of all the things that MIGHT happen. Jokes apart, I learnt my lesson the hard way and I’ve got no regrets. Things happen for a reason.You might not have a clear idea of where you’ll be after 5 years but just imagine how you see yourself. Employers love asking this question.

  • Stop trying to be different: Logically speaking, you’re not the first person the employer is interviewing and you won’t definitely be the last. Employers have seen it all. Trying to be someone you’re not is digging your grave. You should just have confidence in who you are and believe in giving the best. At the end of the day, you’ll know you got that job because of your competency and personality. And that, my friend, is the single most best feeling in the world.
  • Do your homework: Study about the company, their clients, their strategies. Another thing you can do is present to them an idea of what you would do had you been in their place in terms of marketing strategies or launching new products etc. This shows that you’re passionate about working in the said company and you’re willing to go the extra-mile without them asking you to. (I haven’t yet tried this but I will when I get the chance). Try this and let me know?

I love this quote from Jim Lehrer:

There’s only one interview technique that matters… Do your homework so you can listen to the answers and react to them and ask follow-ups. Do your homework, prepare.

  • Zero-Expectations: I hate to break it to you but try to be realistic. Don’t get me wrong, you should have huge expectations but only of yourself. You can’t vouch for anything else. Life is not a wish granting factory and somethings don’t go our way. You might have given your best and still you weren’t selected. Don’t lose heart, keep trying. There’s enough sun for everyone. You have something in you to have gotten this far and maybe better and bigger things are in store. This way when you do get the call, you’ll be happier.

There is no specific rule to cracking an interview. It depends on the employer and the interviewee. Subjectivity is a prominent factor dominating interviews. No two people will have the same experience giving interviews at the same company. It all boils down to what you have to offer. The above points are only for reference. Some may work for you, others might not.

If there’s something I really believe in, it is working hard to get what you want. Nothing in the world is out of your reach. You need to be willing to grab it, you need to be ready to sacrifice your sleep, you need to show up everyday. It won’t be easy but it’ll be worth it.

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them“- Walt Disney