First Experience

I watch my niece’s first experiences with the world around her. She satiates her curiosity and completes her exploration of a new object with all 5 senses: look, touch, feel, smell and finally take it in her mouth to taste. I don’t stop her, just ensure she doesn’t hurt herself.

As adults, for which new experience do we let all our senses be involved?

I got a chance to indulge an adult, much younger than me, live through experiences again vicariously.

His first flight. I observe and guide.

His ascent in life and profession. I wait and watch. His genuine glee.

I gave him wings, my only plea, don’t use them to fly away from me. He did exactly that.

When the initial attraction is over, you need something to fall back on; there was nothing, only mind’s play. Fell down with a thud.

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“Somanatha: The Many Voices of a History” by Romila Thapar

I read this book for the book discussion of Delhi Heritage Walks and it was so fascinating that I finished reading in less than 2 days (about 200 pages). I have a fascination for history but this book is different from other historical books in that unlike most historical books that describe a trail of events, this book is describing different voices of a single historical event- the raid of Somanatha temple by the Afghan ruler- Mahmud of Ghazani and how the single event has been modified by different sources to suit their own interests.

downloadThe original Hindu and Jain sources of the period barely mention the event and it is fast forgotten and the temple soon becomes derelict on its own due to perishing trade in that region. But it is fascinating how the event is given such significance in the later British sources earlier to represent the defeat of Hindu pride by the Muslim invaders. It is also funny as to how the gates of Somanatha Temple are added by a British which have no mention earlier and still they become the central point of negotiations post that till the gates are brought back and then forgotten completely when it is ascertained that the Gates have Islamic architecture and not Hindu. The event is still being cited by the RSS and other Hindu fanatics.

Thus it is important for anyone to read all historical sources before one forms an opinion about any event because history will always bear the perspectives of the author.

This review was more from the perspective of a layman like me. For a historian’s perspective please do read this blog:

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“Cakes and Ale” by W. Somerset Maugham

Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale? Act II Scene III Twelfth Night

1616166My discovery of Maugham is entwined with my discovery of College Street at Kolkatta and I can’t describe one without the other now. I had heard a lot about College Street at Kolkatta but it turned out to be even better than the description. True that unlike Daryaganj, the street is not very long and most of the vendors are selling books for college and competitive exams but when I finally spotted one vendor selling novels and picked up a Somerset Maugham lying there, he got me all the Maughams he had and it was difficult for me to choose which ones among them I should pick. Then I spotted a Tennyson- Complete Works, he sold it to me saying that it is a collector’s item. I was so happy that he actually knew who Maugham and Tennyson were and was not selling the books based on the thickness.

Cakes and Ale was one of the Maughams I had picked up from the shop- published in 1976 and first bought by someone in 1986, hence a prized possession for me.

The opening preface by Maugham itself got me hooked on to the book. I love how he tries to explain as to how the book fell into controversy as it was considered to be about some authors whereas he says it was mostly autobiographical taking inspiration from some living personalities.

The most striking part of the book is the satirical description of the literary world- facetious and fickle, wherein the success of the book is more dependent on the marketing of the author and the book and not on the content of the book itself.

The only person non-conforming to this facetious world was Rosie Driffield- a promiscuous ex-bartender who has a childlike smile and a unique zeal for life. Like the characters of strong independent women created by other authors, Rosie was highly promiscuous and touched the life of everyone around her including the protagonist, who doesn’t think highly of any character in the book except Rosie.

I wished the book would never end, but now that it has, I have a lingering urge to reread it or pick up another Maugham.

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The ‘In Bruges’ walking tour

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“In Bruges” Movie: A must watch for Bruges


I can’t remember the last time I read a blog about Bruges that didn’t mention the black comedy ‘In Bruges’. So rather than just mention it, I thought I’d write a whole blog post on it. Come with me as I go on a self-guided tour of Belgium’s prettiest city in search of key locations from the film.

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“Samarkand” by Amin Malouf

979196Most of the historical fictions and translated books are badly written but this one is a total exception. This book is very well written. Also I discovered  only later that the book was written in French and was translated to English by Russel Harris.

The book covers interesting phases in Persian history. The first half trails the life of Omar Khayyam in 11th century Central Asia, his 9 year affair with court poetess Jahan, his success as a philosopher, astronomer, mathematician etc. The story also features – Nizam ul Mulk, the Muslim Machiavelli who is still remembered for his brilliant innovations in government and Hassan Sabbah, the founder of the Order of the Assassins and the castle at Alamut.

The second half trails the life of an American scholar who after getting obsessed with the Samarkand manuscript travels to Iran in 1896, and lives through the Persian revolution post Shah’s assassination and the Persian struggle to establish democracy, amidst extreme foreign interference. The story culminates when the Samarkand manuscript sinks with the Titanic in 1912, lost to the world forever.

All I can say is that I had picked up the book for Samarkand before my trip to Uzbekistan but the book has piqued my interest in Persia (Iran) so much that I have bought 2 books: Understanding Iran by William R.Polk and Rubaiyat by Khayyam, published in 1942 (oldest I could find and had to get it shipped from US.

Time … has two dimensions, its length is measured by the rhythm of the sun but its depth by the rhythm of passion.” (Pg 26)

“I am not poor for my desires are simple.” (Pg 27)

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Photo Prompt

Fuel your Story Writing Skills!!

The Heart of Writing


Use this photo to write a story. Set a scene here, pick a particular shop or restaurant and begin a scene in there, create characters who are walking through these streets on a particularly significant night or write about someone who lives nearby or works here. What happens?

Happy Writing!

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The Joy of Writing Rediscovered



In today’s wIMG_0321orld of ever-changing technology, I have doggedly stuck to the old ways and supported them: paintings/ sketches versus photographs, books versus kindle/ ipad, no phone versus the constant buzzing of mobile phones. It is not that I am Amish or neophobic or an octogenarian but I do feel there is a certain appeal in the old way of doing things and we shouldn’t right away reject them for any new technology that comes in.


However, mainly due to convenience I have taken to typing on phone or laptop as opposed to writing while penning down my thoughts as mostly you think while traveling while you can’t really write and it is easier to retrieve a typed document. But there is a reason why the phrase is called “penning down one’s thoughts”. I am rediscovering the magic of writing through my latest obsession- Sheaffer fountain pen!! Somehow one can certainly express oneself better while writing! The added advantage is also you can doodle along with your writing!!


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