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Idlicious – Pune January 23, 2010

Posted by Chatore Diaries in Uncategorized.
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Ever since I returned from my stint in Chennai, I have come to know that what they serve in the name of ‘sambhar’ here, in most restaurants in Pune, is just a fraud. Like one of those Amitabh Bachhan lookalikes- they have the haristyle, and the adopted manner-rism, but no substance at all.

Vaishali, has ruled the South Indian food scene for ages in Pune. Inspite of the long waiting lines, any time of the day, any day of the week and any week of the year, the food is to die for. Plain and simple.

Today, I finally went to a new South Indian joint in Baner, called Idlicious. Sparsely furnitured, but very clean.

The menu is simple, and to the point, with the prices that are very friendly. On top of the usual South Indian fare, they also serve lunch thali, and daily specials. They, however do not serve parathas, understandably so.

We ordered a plate of Idli – Wada, a plain masala dosa (soft), tomato utthappam, a tumbler of piping hot rasam and buttermilk.

The food was served quickly, was piping hot and very very appetizing at sight! The accompaniments included cocunut chutney, sambhar and is asked for, podi (powder chutney). Frankly speaking i was disappointed with the coconut chutney, and to some extent the sambhar as well. The chutney was not thick, as it is meant to be, but rather a slightly liquidy affair. The sambhar also did not meet the bar, but was more like daal, with stuff bolied and added. I am not saying that the sambhar was totally bad, but it could have been better.

The rasam was simply too good. It was hot, spicy and you could feel it going down your throat and settling in that very special place, where only mother’s food can reach. I’m still relishing the thought of the rasam ‘crusing’ my insides.

Our total bill came to Rs 125, which I must say, is a pleasant surprise in these times.

I would recommend this place to all. It’s ideal for a brunch sort of thing on a lazy Sunday.

Next time, i am going to try the curd rice. Friendly voices have told me, it is out of this world.

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Paranormal Activity January 17, 2010

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Just the other day, Sonal and I were discussing, how we haven’t been treated to a really scary horror movie like Bhoot or Omen. Most of the so called horror movies coming out of Hollywood (Dawn of the Dead, 28 days/weeks/months/light years later etc) has been pure and unadulterated trash. Even Bollywood, with offerings like Vastu Shashtra, hasdn’t come up with any thing worth remembering.

‘Paranormal Activity’ was what it took to break the monotony of the typical horror movie definition. Devoid of any blood, gore or loud absurd music, the movie targets our primal fear.

At the heart of the movie is a young couple, Katie and Micah, who feel that there is something ‘not human’ in their house. The man of the house decides to take care of ‘things’ on his own, by filming the unexplainable activities in their house. The camera is ‘on’ even while they sleep. What follows is best described as eerie and heart stopping. Moving doors, lights switching on and off by itself, heavy footsteps, sleepwalking Katie, and other stuff which will surely have a chill running up and down your spine.

What made the entire movie so believable was the minimalistic use of technology and the way that it was shot. The entire movie is shot using a hand held camera, which gives it an air of authenticity. There were many scenes in the movie where I gasped in sheer horror, and had to tell myself that this was just a movie. Before, i went in the theater, a lot of folks had told me that the movie was over hyped, and my expectations were set accordingly. The movie is anything but over hyped. The girl sitting in the row in front of us was sobbing the loudest that i have ever seen anyone cry.

Oren Peli, the director, has done a marvelous job with the camera works, and i can safely say that he may have just started a new trend of movie making.

Even the college crowd, who can typically take the fun out of any late night horror flick, were shut up for once.

I guess no one slept with the lights off yesterday. I know, i didn’t.

Paranormal Activity is a must watch for the horror fans out there.

Ponchiz – Sizzling Pune December 24, 2009

Posted by Chatore Diaries in dessert, nagar, ponchiz, Pune, sizzler, viman.
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Every once in a while there comes a movie that leaves you awestruck, say like the Titanic, Black and now Avatar. What is even rarer is a good sizzler joint.
Nestled in a cozy corner of Pune’s upcoming locality, Viman Nagar, is the latest Sizzler Joint – Ponchiz. Yes, the name is a derivative of the quintessential Paunch of the well fed. A visit to Ponchiz left me wanting more.

The Food

Ponchiz, is essentially your own sizzler shop. With an enviable variety of Sizzler bases, sauces, and accompaniments, it literally leaves you bedazzled with the sheer variety on offer. So what this basically means is that you could pick up a Chicken, a fish, a beef or a lamb base; add a sauce of your choice from Chilly Garlic, Mushroom, Red Wine, Barbeque, or a combination thereof; choose your potatoes –mashed, fries, sautéed; add accompaniments – Sautéed veggies or boiled, and your choice of noodles or herb rice. And voila! You have your own very Sizzler!
Apart from Sizzlers, they do also have soups, salads, vegetarian and non vegetarian starters, and Dessert that takes you straight to heaven!

The price? We’ll come to that later.

My Order

I went with my wife and some friends on a Sunday evening. As things typically are on a Sunday evening, I had a case of the next day work blues already settling in. So I needed good food!

We started with the Chicken noodles soup. The first taste filled me with happy warmth all over. The soup was very well balanced with just the right consistency – not too thick and not too watery either. Just the way it is supposed to be. At Rs 50a pop, I think it was worth every paisa!

Next, we went with the Chicken wings for starters. The last time had chicken wings was from a popular pizza joint, and boy did I hate them. I’d thought I had lost my taste for them, and boy was I wrong or what! These wings were different. Each piece was succulent, very well cooked and marinated in just the best chicken wing sauce I have ever had! For 75 bucks a plate for 6 pieces, this has a lot of promise!
Now came the most important part – The Main Course. I order like a King, and eat like one too! I ordered for a Chicken Shashlik base, with Red Wine and Mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes, sautéed green pepper and onions, grilled pineapple and herb rice. Honestly speaking, I was expecting a lot of cabbage cushioning like most sizzler joints do and tad too hot sizzler plate which inevitably burns my veggies! But this was different. The plate was sizzling for sure, but the way it should. The aromas from the sauce, chicken, potatoes, rice and pineapple were intermingling in perfect harmony and the wafting smell pushed my hunger to newer levels. So far so good.

My first bite was enough to tell me that I would be coming back. The chicken was well cooked, the sauce well thought of, and the veggies not burnt, the pineapple grilled to perfection. The highlight of my sizzler was the mashed potatoes. Mashed with cheese, and served hot, they beat any French fries hands down.
My friends had ordered Grilled Chicken with Chilly Garlic sauce, Roast chicken with barbeque sauce, and a grilled chicken with barbeque sauce. Of all, I loved the barbeque sauce the most. That is going to be my next order.

Destination dessert next. You’d think that after eating what we did, we’d be insane to go for dessert, and you’d probably be right. Ponchiz doesn’t outsource its desserts. Everything is baked in house by the dessert chef. We decided to go with Ponchiz Choco surprise and Frozen Delight. Ponchiz Choco Surprise is a three layered dessert, with one layer oodles of chocolate, walnut and choco chips! The frozen delight is a layered ice cream cake the like of which you shall not find anywhere in Pune, except at Ponchiz. If they served such desserts at Copenhagen, there would be no problem of global warming anywhere in the world!

The Bill

I will let you hazard a guess before I spill the best part. Go on, take a shot!
Okay, the grand total for all the food, repeat all- Soups, starters, four heavy duty sizzlers and desserts was Rs 865/- only. I did not know prices like that were still in fashion. That’s less money than what you’d spend on a pathetic Bollywood movie including the popcorn and excluding the parking. And not to forget the quality time with friends.

Go figure.

Verdict

Highly recommended for anyone, any occasion.

Movie Review – "Paa"ss December 6, 2009

Posted by Chatore Diaries in abhishek, Amitabh, Bachchan, balan, Paa, review, vidya.
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I had a great many expectations from this one. Especially considering the core concept being another one of nature’s mysteries. But the final product was a pot pourry of multiple plots.

Having said that, I bow before the mighty Mr. Bachchan for having delivered one his finest performances, ever. This came close to Black, almost. What i would have liked to see was more of Big B on screen, rather than the reel dedicated to the sub plots, which as a matter of fact, did not add much to the movie.

The movie opens with Jaya Bachchan reading out the cast and crew’s names. Literally. Frankly speaking, just because it is a home production doesn’t mean that each and every family member needs to be a part of the show!

The foundational stone of the movie is (was marketed) as progeria, a genetic degenerative disorder, was lost somewhere in the melee of a failed romance, a challenging political career, and an effort to re-patch the failed romance after a gap of 13 years. Frankly speaking i would have loved if the movie dealt with the challenges of raising a child with progeria in a manner similar to how dyslexia was dealt with in TZP. Now that was a well woven plot.

the comparison however doesn’t go to say, that Paa was a a complete waste of my time on Sunday. the highlight of the movie was the very intelligent, crisp and really really fresh dialogues. Cheeky, and with a strong delivery, the dialogues left me clutching my sides with laughter. And i wasn’t the only one.

Abhi baby has been himself, with a highly ‘phoren’ educated accent to all his dialogues. Vidya Balan needs more acting lessons, but was a better choice than having family bahu Aish play that role. Thank god, or rather A B Corp., for that.

What I would have also liked to have was if the movie was not shot entirely in a mono chrome mode. A bit of color would have highlighted the child’s happy moments. The music is nothing great, and you wont miss much if you don’t carry it on your iPod.

I will recommend this movie to one and all, only for Big B’s performance. He has achieved a new high with Paa.

Tripping on the Konkan November 14, 2009

Posted by Chatore Diaries in ganpatipule, Konkan, road, trip.
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Aah. Am I refreshed or what. You would be too, if you went where I did this time, and ate what I ate, and saw what I saw. All in our very own backyard. Well not backyard exactly, but very much in Maharashtra.

Taking advantage of the long weekend, my wife and I decided to go on a road trip. No fixed plans of arriving, and certainly no plans of where we wanted to stay. Only the direction and a solid intent.

So off, we pushed towards Ganpatipule. The original plan included Goa, but thank fully we decided against it. The drive to Ganpatipule has to be seen to be believed. I tried capturing whatever I could, but the pictures do not do justice to the original setting. It was so green everywhere, and beautiful, that for those three days or so, we did not have to make any effort to relax. We were in nature’s lap, and she was taking care of us. We left from Bombay at around 10 in the morning. We took the Bombay-Panvel-Pen-Mahad-Khed-Chiplin-Ganpatipule route. And it took us about 10 hours of fun driving. With the usual stops for chai and pictures and other things important, and sometimes, not so important.

Fresh Green!


Incredible India. On the way to GPule


Perfect Setting

We reached Gpule at 8 in the evening, and we needed some place to stay. We checked out a couple of hotel ‘resorts’ and finally settled in the Abhishek Beach Resort. We got a room with an excellent view, and service which was really nice. For 2200 bucks a night, we wouldn’t call it a steal exactly, but it was definitely worth it. The first night was uneventful, with us being tired, so we decided to have food in the hotel. We had some really well made Malwani food. Spicy, but very very good!

Next morning, we left for the Gpule Temple. This Ganpati temple is atleast 500 years old, but looks as if it was built yesterday. I was surprised to see the complete absence of greed, and Pandits with real knowledge. No one to hassle you into buying stuff the Lord doesn’t need, and we don’t want. We were lucky enough to reach just in time for the Aarti, and had the fortune of seeing the Lord in all his glory. It is said, that this is the Temple of Wishes, and whatever is asked for, the Lord giveth. It has immense following, and I now know why. The beauty of the temple architecture is such that it captivates one to be there for hours on end. Heedless of time or space. It transcends one into supreme bliss. The temple is on the shore, and the first rays of the sun caress the Lord, and then bless the world. After the darshan, we had some amazing ‘cant be made at home’ tuur daal khichdi as Prasad. And served with so much love and good wishes.


Ganpatipule Temple


Ganpati Bappa!


GPule Seashore

After darshan, we loitered on the beach for some time, and headed back to the hotel to freshen up, and look for some good local places to eat. We could not find many Khanavals (Home made food eateries) so decided to go to a hotel, whose chef is very well known in that area for his cooking prowess. And boy were we impressed!! We had Chicken Malwani and Prawn Masala. My dear readers, I have never cried so much over a meal (because of the spices), and have never recollected such authentic and delightful Malwani food with so much affection as I do now. The memories still tingle my taste bud, and my eyes water! J


The Konkan Coast

After lunch, we fought a terrible urge to nap (who sleeps on a vacation!!), and headed for the beach, and some sightseeing. After much fun and frolic we came back to the hotel and crashed.

Next day we left for Ratnagiri, about 20kms from Gpule. The road that connects the two towns, is one of the most beautiful roads in the world. It runs along the coast, with a sheer 100 feet cliff drop on one side, and lush greenery on the other. Nature resides in all its glory here. Green like you have never seen before, birds that we don’t get to hear in the cities and appreciate in our busy lives. Untouched, unexploited and unspoilt.


Lady in White

We took our time to reach Ratnagiri and explored the city a bit before we checked into a hotel. We went to the Kohinoor hotel, which has an awesome location, overlooking the sea and coconut farms. What surprised us was that here too, we were treated to a plethora of all things natural. Beautiful multi colored butterflies criss crossed our paths here and there, tiny birds chirping everywhere. After hours of clicking away, we moved on.


butterfly-effect

We stayed in the Hotel Vivek, in the heart of city. We had breakfast in a local shop – Kanda poha, onion bhajji, Thalipeeth, and Idli sambar followed with piping hot ginger tea! We went Kokam shopping in the markets of Ratnagiri and came back with hand full and empty pockets. All the stuff was so so good. We picked up Kokum Juice, Thechha (local Pickle), Mango Concentrate, Kajus, and so much other stuff!

Post shopping we visited the Ratnadurg fort, which was again, overlooking the ocean, and cleansed our lungs with all the fresh air we could gather. The location of the fort makes one wonder of the ingenuity of our kings and warriors! Sea on one side, Deep, long valleys on the other that gives a good view of who is approaching and a clean complete 360 vantage point!

Our primary motivation during any holiday is food. Authentic, clean desi food. So after breakfast we were asking around for places that would serve the local delicacies. After much asking around we zeroed in on Amantran, apparently THE place for sea food. We reached at around 9 in the evening, and thankfully got seating immediately. The menu was delightfully simple, and the prices were astoundingly low! Even for a quaint town like Ratnagiri, the prices were low! A Crab Thali for Rs. 80/- only! Beat that! And fully loaded mind you! With Solcurry, Chapatis, rice and the Crab Masala. I am not a sea food fan, but from the look on my face, I gathered it was damn good!!

We had to leave the nex day, and it was raining heavily as it was. We left Ratnagiri at around 10:30 still undecided if we wanted to go to Pune (because apparently the Mumbai Goa route was closed due to heavy rains) or Mumbai. We made our decision at Chiplun. We decided to take our chances and headed towards Mumbai. On the way, we came across a dhaba. And had yummy omelets and bhurji pav! From the dhaba, we could see below into fast paddy fields and the Konkan railway track! Just when we were finishing our meal, a train crossed the fields. It was a sight we only see in movies. Not in real life!

It took us about 9 hours to reach back to Mumbai.

A very strongly recommended road trip.

Cost of Fuel – 5k

Cost of Stay and Food – 6.5k

Discovering India on your own – Priceless!

Some of the Best Books I Have Read – Part -3 November 14, 2009

Posted by Chatore Diaries in animal, bram, code, dracula, farm, feynmann, god's debris da vinci, riots, shantaram, shashi, stoker, tharoor.
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Finally. After a long long time I am back. And with the third part of the series. And maybe the last. So here goes…

* Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts – Genre – Autobiographical: I believe that not many books have been able to capture the attention of Indian readers mind as fiercely as this one did. The exploits of Australian convict in Aamchi Mumbai is filled with moments of joy, despair, fear and courage. Part fact and part fiction, it is remarkable what all a man will do for survival. This is one such survivor’s story. Replete with funny moments, this book is captivating to say the least.

* 1984 – George Orwell; Genre – Fiction: This book published in 1949, painted the societal picture that would exist in 1984 – a good 35 years earlier. It portrayed the society to be living under a totalitarian regime in 1984, where all citizens would be under constant surveillance. Everyone would have a single job, and would be expected to behave in a particular manner. Any deviations would draw severe punishments from the government. The protagonist is a civil servant whose sole job is to modify historical records to suit the current propaganda. Tired of his monotonous life, the protagonist plans a rebellion. After reading this book, you will thank your stars for having born in a democracy- however corrupt it may be. I do.

* Alexander – Valerio Massimo Manfredi; Genre – Historical Fiction: The story of one of the greatest warriors and statesmen of all times. Alexander is a series of three parts, each describing the different stages of the warrior’s life. It is an inspiring and very well told account of a man, for who, honor is above all else. Loyalty, honesty, courage, betrayal, love are at the core of this narrative. The author has done his research thoroughly, and has presented us with what I call ‘Gems for Generations’ to come. Don’t miss this series.

* Animal Farm – George Orwell; Genre – fiction: – Animal Farm is political satire at its BEST. It cannot get any better than this. Picture this – a bunch of animals living in a farm. They have some level of intelligence, and hence decide to form a government. All hopes of Utopia are squashed because of the corrupt, stupid, and highly selfish interests of some animals. This book has parallels with humans, specifically our politicians, and draws on their innate characteristics to tell a story that will never go out of style. Because Politicians will never change. 🙂 And guess what, this book, was banned in the Eastern bloc till 1989. Imagine what must have been the significance of its publication on the government there.

* Riots – Shashi Tharoor; Genre – Fiction: A beautiful story of hope and hopeless-ness. The story of a riot ripped town, and an American student who is a victim of the riots. The uniqueness of this book lies in how it is written. It is in the form of multiple diaries, which bring out the inner most feelings and thoughts of all characters, lending the book an almost living quality about it. You can feel the book’s heartbeat between the pages, and the shallow breathing emanating throughout the story.

* Dracula – Bram Stoker; -Genre – Fiction: – So you think you know who or what Dracula is? You think he is only the greatest blood sucking ‘thing’ in the world? Well you are in for a surprise then. Dracula, or Count Dracula is nothing like the general perception that has been created about him. Sure he drinks blood, and has immense powers, but he is also a romantic at heart, smart and very very difficult to get hold off.. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is what I call a masterpiece. It is spooky, dark and full of moments where you WILL reach out for the nape of your neck; look around to see if there is anyone behind your back, getting ready to bite into you, and turn you into the living dead. Beware, read at your own risk, and keep plenty of garlic on you. Best of Luck.

* Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman -Richard Feynman; Genre- Autobiographical: Who said Scientists cannot be fun? This one sure had a lot of fun in between discoveries. The book is the life story of a Richard Feynman- a Nobel Prize winning Physicist. The book is peppered with funny instances and eccentricities that can only come from being a scientist. It is a light book with plenty of ‘ I wish I could do that do’ moments. Enjoy.

* Da Vinci Code – Do I need to say anything? Anything at all for this one?

* God’s Debris – Scott Adams -Genre – I don’t know: So you thought this guy was good with Dilbert kinda stuff only. So did I. And boy was I mistaken! This particular book, is about a lot of things, and as the author like to point out in the beginning, suitable for people only above 14 years of age, since they would (hopefully) have the maturity levels to understand the discussion. Like I was saying this book is about beliefs, religion, philosophy, good arguments, judgment and everything in between. This book will force you to question what you think you know. It will make you question your beliefs and the validity of those beliefs. I will make you wonder if you really have a free will. Or if you have been pre-programmed to think the way you do, act the way you’re supposed to. A quote from the book that does not leave me- “When belief does not control your most important decisions, it is not belief in the underlying reality, it is belief in the usefulness of believing.”. Go figure. And read it.

Some of the Best Books I Have Read Part II July 26, 2009

Posted by Chatore Diaries in able, Americans, atlas, best, Books, Carrie, Exodus, Globaliation, Inscrutable, kane, Middlesex, namesake, Papillion, Pi, shrugged.
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In continuation of my previous post on Some of the Best Books I have ever read, here is a list of another 10 must read books. Hope you like these ones as well 🙂

• Papillion- Henri Charrière; Genre – Autobiographical- This mind boggling, half true story of a wrongly convicted felon, and later a fugitive from justice, is the stuff real adventures are made of. Autobiographical in nature, it traces the adventure of one Henry Charrière across prisons, continents, and alliances. His adventures last well over 2 decades, during which he forges life time friendships with the like of Louis Dega, a financial scamster, falls in love with a tribal woman who bears him a child and so on. This book is replete with adventure. I warn you- don’t pick up this book if you want to just do some time pass. Once opened, it will not allow you to put it down. There is a movie of the same name starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman

• Inscrutable Americans – Anurag Mathur; Genre – Fiction – Probably the best book ever to have come out about the experiences of an Indian village boy in America. Gopal, the central character visits the US to further his education. The plot revolves around his experiences there off, as he tries to ‘fit in’ and understand the new culture, all the while balancing his own. This book is like a long well told joke, which never loses the punch even if told innumerable times.

• Globalization and Its Discontents- Joseph Stieglitz; Genre – Non – Fiction- Joseph Stieglitz is an American economist, who at one point of time was the Chief Economist of the World Bank, and at another, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during 1995-1997 in the Clinton administration. In this book, Stieglitz highlights the role of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in the world Economy, and how these institutions are not doing what they were supposed to do. He bares all in a simple narrative, pointing out the glaring holes in the very fundamental functioning of the IMF and WB. If you want to know, why Botswana will always be debt ridden inspite of being rich in natural resources, or why African nations are riddled with poverty, this is the book to give you the answers, and get you thinking.

• Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides; Genre – Fiction- Middlesex is like a lot of novels in one big novel, with multiple stories and plots intertwining to make it gripping. Calling it slightly controversial would be an understatement. It is the story of a Greek family, and there movement into America of the 20th Century. What this book basically revolves around is the hermaphroditic nature of the protagonist- Callie. Raised as a girl, Callie discovers her maleness upon reaching puberty. The struggle within, seeps out of the book into the reader’s conscious. This book has elements of incest, gender confusion, anger and rage and finally freedom. Eugenides has created a Greek tragedy with this book. A little heavy on the senses, I would not recommend this book for anyone who does not like to venture into the unknown, for where, ignorance is bliss.

• Life of Pi – Yann Martel ; Genre – Fiction – This fantastic tale of adventure is sure to leave one smiling end to end. It is the story of an Indian boy, Pi Patel form Pondicherry. Pi’s dad owns a zoo. Pi follows three religions simultaneously- Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. But the book is not only about his beliefs. The book is about a shipwreck, which involves Pi and his family. Pi survives the shipwreck, along with a dying Zebra, a Hyena and a Royal Bengal Tiger, whom he calls Parker. Scared at first, Pi starts understanding the dynamics of these relationships. After a lot of eating around, there is only Pi and the Tiger left. The book picks up speed from here. A joy to read, and re-read, this book will captivate you every time you read it.

• Exodus – Leon Uris; Genre-Historical Fiction — Have you ever wondered why is Palestine always besieged with wars? Why can’t the Arabs let the West Bank be? What’s up with Gaza? What is the Palestine problem? If you have, this is THE book to answer your questions. It explains the struggle of the Jews to revive the nation of Palestine, and the founding of Israel. Leon Uris, the author, was a war correspondent who covered the Arab- Israeli fighting in 1956. Relentless in detail, the book has shed light on the intricate balance of power in the Middle East and the influences of England and France, in messing up the situation long beyond solution. Read it now, and thank me later 🙂

• Carrie- Stephen King; Genre – Horror — Carrie is the story of a very ordinary, very shy and plain young girl who uses her telekinetic powers to seek revenge on those who tease her. Carrie’s mother is a religious fanatic who believes in the heavens and hells beyond the ‘gates of this life’. Sinister in design, and macabre in execution, Carrie is a benchmark in dark writings. Stephen King almost never wrote this book, but was goaded by his wife to finish what he started. Another classic example of why we should listen to our wives ;). This book has been banned across many libraries in the US and the movie based on the book has been banned in Finland. Enough reason to make it your next read?:)

• Kane and Able – Jeffrey Archer; Genre – Fiction– Kane and Abel is undoubtedly one of the best fictional works of all times. The intertwining lives of the two central characters, who are world apart, literally and figuratively, makes for read that is not soon to be forgotten. Kane is the rich boy, born into wealth, with intelligence and smarts that come from the best education, and lifestyle. Abel, on the other hand, is raised in a poorest of the poor families. But with a strong sensibilities. typical of Archer’s style, this book unravels fantastic cross connections, plots, schemes, mysteries, action, adventure and deceit. Again, one of those books which one opened, cannot be shut easily.

• Atlas Shrugged- Ayn Rand; Genre – Fiction – I am not even going to talk about the plot of this book, as many people have already devoted careers in doing so. Enough to say, after reading this book, you won’t look at things in the same manner again. Objectivism, the central theme of the book, is brought to life through the central character- Galt. Personally, I liked Atlas Shrugged more than The Fountainhead, as the former as some direction in a plot. Sometimes, the book feels like a long long rant, but have patience, there is a lot to be taken away from this masterpiece.

• The Namesake- Jhumpa Lahiri; Genre – Fiction– Such thought provoking stories to come out from such a young mind as Jhumpa’s is truly the wonder of our generation. The Namesake, has already been made into a super hit movie. Infact it is one of the very rare movies, which do justice to the original book. I, however, am biased towards the book, simply for the reason, that the feel of the character between your fingers cannot be matched by any screen. You become the character, and the character flows through you. I cannot forget the part of the plot where the leading lady (portrayed by Tabu in the movie) gets news of her husband’s demise. That twist had hit me so hard, that I was in no position to go on reading for the next few days, simply because Jhumpa had succeeded in making me believe in the reality of her characters.

Some of the Best Books I have Read – Part – I July 11, 2009

Posted by Chatore Diaries in Babudom, Books, Catch 22, Firm, Godfather, Matilda, Morrie, Netadom, Ramayana, Sybil, Trainspotting.
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I am an avid reader…a bibliophile. For as long as I remember, I have had books around me, and I have been the happiest when I was involved with a captivating book. It all started with seeing the pile of books at home, some belonging to Dad, some to my aunty and uncle.But my own journey and fascination with books began when my Dad got me a copy of the Amar Chitra Katha. Boy!! Was I hooked or what! From then on, I was books and more books. From the Amar Chitra Katha, as I grew up, I graduated to more serious topics of law, medicine, Autobiographies, investigation, business, management, philosophy, religion, and everything in between. I sampled all sorts of fiction and non- fictional writing from multiple languages, translated into English or Hindi. I am no by no means the most well read person I know, or the one who remembers all the books he read. But here i present a list of some books I consider as masterpieces, and that I would recommend everyone to read. These are in no particular order.

1. Catch 22 – An all time classic. Considered as one of the best literary works of all time. This is the story of man named Yossarian in the Army, during WW 2. Most of all, this is a satire on the governmental ways of working, some processes and rules that defy common sense and logic. The beauty of this book is in the way that the plot has been presented. The story is presented from each characters angle. It is by no means a simple book to read, but the trouble is only the first few pages. Once you get the hang of the writing, it is fairly simple.

2. The Godfather – Whatever I say about the Godfather, is not going to do justice to it. It has been a favorite with bibliophiles for decades now. A lot has been said, and a lot will continue to be said about the Godfather. Elegant in its plot, and masterful in its presentation. This is Mario Puzo’s greatest gift to mankind.

3. Tuesdays with Morrie – This short, but very very deep and touching narrative by Mitch Albom, has forced me to think time and again about people who have helped me, been with me through thick and thin, and shaped my life. This true story revolves around a teacher and his relationship with his students, in particular, one student, the author Mitch Albom. The teacher is dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease (a form of muscular dystrophy), and Mitch gets to know about it. Mitch hasn’t been in touch with his old sociologist professor for over a decade and a half, because of professional priorities, or whatever. This story is about what happens when Mitch meets his old dying professor, and the lessons he learns thereafter.

4. The Firm – One of John Grisham’s best ever. The story of a fresh and highly ambitious law graduate and the sudden surprises life throws at him after graduation. He joins one of the most sought after and prestigious law firms, and then gets drawn into their secret. For the movie buffs, there is a very well adapted movie by the same name, starring Tom Cruise.
5. Sybil- Sybil is a dark and haunting true story of a girl called Shirley Ardell Mason (aka Sybil), who is suffering from multiple personality syndrome (MPD). She has 16 personalities. Flora Rheta Schreiber is the author and has done a good job in retaining the essence of the interaction between the patient and the doctor. It is not an easy to digest read. So be prepared for going through some heavy emotional roller coaster.

6. Ramayana by Ashok Banker (In Parts I-VII)– This is the Ramayana re-told for the new generation. Simple in narrative, and extensive in detail, it attempts to give a logical reason for every mantra and tantra. Mr. Banker has done a wonderful job of essaying the entire Ramayana, in a manner that in coherent with the millennia old version, and reads like a dream.

7. Matilda – Matilda by Roald Dahl is the story of an exceptionally bright young girl child, who is born in an imbalanced household. Her parents are involved in a lot of shady business, her only elder brother treats her like muck. In all this mess, no one pays attention to the extremely talented Matilda, who ultimately finds solace in books. She can read at the age of 2, and by the age of 6, is a regular at the city library. When she joins school, after much pleading with her parents, she meets a teacher who actually recognizes the bundle of surprises that is Matilda. It is a book written for children, simple, and straight forward, but adults will enjoy it as much as the next 10 year old. 🙂

8. Journeys Through Babudom And Netaland:governance In India – TSR Subramanian – This is a indepth analyses and narration of the Indian Bureaucratic system. The narration comes from an ex-IAS officer, from the batch of 1968. It traverses the many streets and alleys that is our system. It covers the ups and down, the good and the bad, the ways of survival, and numerous examples of failed logic in the ‘system’. This book has been an eye opener

9. The horse that Flew by Chidananda Rajghatta -Chidanand is the foreign editor and the U.S Correspondent for the Times of India. In this masterpiece, he has travelled down the annals of history and shed light on some of the greatest Indian or started by Indians, enterprises. He covers the likes of Infosys, Juniper, SUN amongst others. Some of the facts highlighted are simply awesome, like the fact the NR Murthy had to spend three nights in a prison in Bulgaria because of running down communism, in the then Communist ruled Bulgaria. These are some other interesting snippets are spread across the book, making it very difficult to put down once taken.

10. Trainspotting – Drugs, more Drugs is the only theme of this piece of fiction. A group of 4 friends, all addicts, and their constant search for the ‘next fix’ makes for an interesting read. The constant ideation that brings with it the money for the next dose of death, the constant fixation with the next high, and the dark and scary underground world of dealers, abusers and money lenders. How the families of the addicts cope. How the death of a near one can straighten one person completely. The highs, the lows and the complete ruins of an addict. Beware, this book is not for the light hearted. Not easy to read since it is written in a very Irish English style, with pronunciations intoned in the language. There is a movie of the same name starring Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller based on the book.

So these are some of the books I liked, and this may not necessarily apply to all. I have purposely kept the descriptions short, since there would be much better and detailed reviews available. My intent is just to highlight. There are millions of other books that need to be mentioned here, but have not been. Some other books of interest are The Animal Farm, 1984, Riots, Lord of the Rings, Jurassic Park,
Do let me know how you liked this post, and if there are any books you would like me to speak about. If I have read them, I would be more than happy to share my thoughts and review, else I will go and read it :)Till then happy reading.

Infestation!! June 13, 2009

Posted by Chatore Diaries in emotions, feelings, Rats. infestation.
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I am staying over at a friend’s place in Chennai. And he has a problem – rats! Without realising it, he had given shelter to a family of rats. It was when i used his spare bedroom that we realised there was a problem. For a couple of nights i had a feeling that the silence was unusual till one moment of time, and then suddenly everything would be lost in a cacophony of varied sounds. Scurrying feet, lots of miniature hustle and bustle..basically…disturbing sounds. It did not take us long to figure out that we were dealing with a universal problem – Rodents. Our suspicions were confirmed when we came across nibbled wires, food and underwear.

As i write, there is a Ratman hard at evicting the Rat family from the bedroom. I hope he kills them all before dumping them.

At the same time, i cant help but get a little philosophical and wonder, that isn’t infestion an emotional issue as well? We shelter feelings without realising it, and before we know it, they become a problem. Feeling of hate, jealousy, prejudice, anger are all potential infestation material. Aren’t they?

Well, looks like the Ratman is busy cleaning the house. I got a lot of cleaning to to myself.

Attacks on Indians in Australia June 2, 2009

Posted by Chatore Diaries in attacks, Australia, indians.
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The recent spate of media reporting attacks on India students and workers in Australia is a classic case of little too much information just little too late. Let no one fool you into believing that these attacks are a recent activity.

The Australians have been known to be very racist in their outlook, on the field as well as off the field, as the recent attacks have shown.

What I see as the root cause of the problem is jealousy. The simple fact that someone else comes to your country to do a job better than yourself, at a cost much much lesser than what your holy self will charge, is simply hard to digest. The youth is lazy, largely uneducated and filled with hate. This side effect can be attributed thanks to the Social security system in place. People know, that the government will bail out their sorry asses no matter what. So what do people do? Especially the youth? They wait for the next welfare cheque from the government. This is for booze and drugs. What do they do for entertainment? Target hard working immigrants. Simple. Make these people work for the money instead of doling out the benefits just like that. Once they work, they would be more respectful to the working class.

Australia, traditionally was a prison island for her Majesty’s PoWs. Since then, I don’t think much change has come in the outlook of these people. They are still rednecks, without much of an intellectual frame of mind. Atleast the majority is.
What has the Australian Police or Security department or whatever it that they have, done to provide protection to the Indian students there? Another attack, one which has been reported, is the fifth in as many days. Read about it here. Why should the Indian students take this non sense? This is clearly a systemic failure. Although I agree, it is not possible to keep an eye on hooliganism everywhere across Australia, it would be a good idea to introduce stringent punishments and security measures as deterrent.

Or you can wait for the next Australian to come to India. And I don’t mean the teams which come to India, and then run back because of ‘imagined security risks’ and lack of kangaroos.

If we start exporting the likes of Harbhajan Singh to Australia, we would have more cases like Andrew Symonds. And believe me, India has no dearth of such Harbhajan Singhs who know how to give back.

The nation down under has already made a big fool out of itself. It is time to stop before we re-christen it to ASStralia.

Choice is yours mate? What say?