Russian Rendezvous

It is well known that you can travel the world through books. I, for one, have travelled to about 25 countries through books. This summer I travelled to Russia through 3 books – a sort of time travel, as they all were Historical Fiction.


  1. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons – This is the first of a trilogy – a story of two young star-crossed lover Tatiana and Alexander, set in Leningrad during World War II. It follows the trial, tribulations and tragedies the two lovers face as Leningrad falls under siege. This story brings to light what the people of Leningrad faced at that time – the cruel winter, depravity and sheer helplessness as thousands died of cold and starvation. The love story is beautiful and makes you want to read the next one.
  2. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – Set in Russia soon after the Russian Revolution, the story chronicles the life of a Russian Aristrocrat Count Alexander Rostov, who was placed under house arrest in the Hotel Metropol, Moscow, for 32 years. This book shows how a once grand city of Moscow, and the country Russia for that matter, slowly declined into a dull, drab, communist USSR.
  3. Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yeltsin – This one is a children’s book – a story of 10 year old Sasha who lives in a communal apartment with his father. This gives us a glimpse of how life was in the USSR in the 1950s, when everything was state owned. Food shortage and long lines were the norm. By this time Stalin had become paranoid and everyone was suspected of being a spy, arresting and incarcerating even his most trusted men on the slightest, often misguided, suspicion.

These 3 books have made me more aware of the History, culture, lifestyle of Russia at different times. From the pomp and grandeur of the Tsars to the desperate times during World War II to the failed experiment of communism – Russia has had an intense journey. I’d love to read a book that shows life in contemporary Russia now. Any suggestions?

A book that gives you travel and hunger pangs

44259I’ve just finished reading the book A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle and I am in a bad shape – literally and figuratively. I have recently put on a lot of weight for which I do blame the month of lazing around along with a week in Europe spent eating and drinking without considering the repercussions. But another reason for this sudden piling up of pounds is this book! Let me tell you why. Continue reading

Four Fabulous Films for Children

There aren’t too many films made especially for children. If they are, they are mostly animated or from the fantasy genre. Realistic films are somehow not considered entertaining enough. However, every once in a while, an enlightened soul makes a gem – a film for children, about children. A film that children and adults alike can watch – should watch – and appreciate good storytelling and cinema.

Here are 4 such films – all having a common theme of siblings on a quest. Continue reading

Kakka Muttai – Not just for kids

KaKaaka_Muttaikka Muttai – This heartwarming Tamil film won the National Award for Best Children’s film in 2015 and the two boys who play the lead won Best Child Artistes. It is a simple story to look at but touches upon several relevant issues – in a light and matter of fact manner. keep reading

Unputdownable vs. Unpickupable

Every book lover would have a list of books they deem ‘unputdownable’. Books that you cannot put down till you’ve finished reading them. Books you like to read over and over again. But every once in a while you come across a book that you just cannot connect with, a book you struggle to continue reading. A book, which you abandon halfway, or sometimes after the first few pages itself. I call such books ‘Unpickupable’. I have had my fair share of Unpickables. These books haunt me and keep making me feel guilty for not doing the right thing, which is to complete the books. Believe me, I have tried real hard to finish these….but with not much success. Here are some books that are a thorn in my side….a stone on my chest….a mark on my conscience….simply because I have not been able to finish reading themUnpickupable

  1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – This book is on every list of must reads….100 books to read in a lifetime….10 most romantic books….best books by women authors….all time greats….And now, it makes its appearance on my list of Top 5 Unpickupable books! I have tried reading this not once, not twice but 6 times in the time I’ve been a reader. The first time was in high school because it was a classic, and we were supposed to read classics. Another time was when I became serious about reading and wanted to read all the books that were considered a ‘must read’. The most recent attempt was 2 years ago, where I met a few people who were discussing the all time greats and I felt very ‘uneducated’ for being the only one who hadn’t read Wuthering Heights. But…every time I started reading the book, I just couldn’t get past the third chapter where the supposed ghost of Catherine comes to haunt Lockwood. I have no idea what happens after that. The book is ‘Unpickupable’.
  2. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller– Another iconic book that all avid readers swear by, I haven’t been able to complete this one. I’ve had it on my bookshelf since I was in college. I get caught in a Catch 22 situation every time I think about it. Don’t want to read it…don’t want to miss having read it. What do I do? Currently for me, the book is Unpickupable.
  3. Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – I have no idea what this book is about. I read 2 chapters without registering a single word!!!! It was as if the book was written in gibberish! I have never felt so clueless as I did when I put down the book at the end of the second chapter. The book was therefore deemed Unpickupable! Sadly, I had registered this book as ‘currently reading’ in Good Reads and it keeps popping up every time I log into the ‘My Books’ section of Good Reads, where it keeps taunting me with ‘update progress’. I need to learn how to remove it from there. Wipe off its existence!

Do you have any books that are Unpickupable for you? Do share them in your comments…to let me know I’m not the only one guilty of abandoning books….

#books #unfinishedbooks





Follow your Own Rules

Wadjda is the first film made entirely in Saudi Arabia  – a country where they do not have cinema; and it is made by a female director – Haifaa Al Mansour (Saudi women aren’t even allowed to drive). So this makes it interesting enough to warrant a watch. But that isn’t the only reason. It is a beautiful film! A simple narrative of a young girl Wadjda (played by Waad Mohammed), who longs to have a bicycle – but girls aren’t allowed to ride bicycles. The main story is about everything the enterprising Wadjda does to put together the 800 Riyals she needs to buy a bike  – from making and selling friendship bands to charging money to earn illicit errands, and ultimately signing up for a Koran recitation competition just for the prize money.

However, there are several threads that weave through the main story – subversive plots that give us a glimpse of the struggles and suffocating restrictions the Saudi women face every day. Be it the fear of your husband taking another bride for not bearing him a son, to being frowned upon or disciplined for committing a ‘sin’ like putting on nail polish. Even little girls are constantly reprimanded for ‘playing where they could be seen by men’ or ‘singing when they could be heard by men’. The beauty of the film is that it does not make it very tragic or heavy. In fact, throughout the film, there is an underlying spirit of hope, courage and defiance that  makes you root for not just Wadjda and her mother, but almost all the female characters.

The tag line on the poster for this film says “When the rules don’t fit, find the courage to follow your own.” and that is exactly what young Wadjda tries to do. Makes you raise a toast to all the women who stood up for their dreams.

#foreignfilms  #mustwatch  #wadjda

What an experience!

 I like watching regional films and I’ve seen several good ones – Marathi, Bengali, Malayalam and a few Telegu movies. I’ve always watched these on DVD, obviously with subtitles. So when a malayalee friend suggested we go watch a Malayalam film on the big screen, I thought, why not? It would be a new experience. She told me it was a supernatural thriller, which, if I was paying attention, I’d have known means horror – my least favourite genre. But I just registered the ‘thriller’ part. 

So we get settled in our seats and the movie starts. And guess what? There are no subtitles!!!! Can you imagine? Watching a Malayalam movie – I don’t know the language; which is an out and out horror film- a genre I dislike; and there are no subtitles! I should have walked out – even my husband, who thought this incredulous, insisted I should, when I updated him in the interval. But I didn’t think it would be fair to leave my friend alone, in a cinema hall with just 7 other people in the audience. So I stayed. And, surprisingly, it wasn’t all that bad! With my friend giving me the gist every once in a while, a smattering of English dialogues and the power of music and expressions, I could not just follow the story, but also get involved in it.

In the end, it turned out to be quite a memorable experience. I came home feeling I had really proved to myself how much of a cinephile I was!