Monday, August 27, 2012

Cooking pasta - the simple way

I am a huge fan of simple and quick cooking.  A working woman needs handy tools and quick results.

Take a packed of Delmonte pasta, some Delmonte corn and some Delmonte pasta sauce.  Chop up a large cup of vegetables like carrots, peas, cabbage.

On one burner, boil the pasta till it is just el dente, strain and keep aside.  On another burner, drizzle some Delmonte Olive oil in a pan and put in the vegetables.  Garnish with a little salt, pepper, oregano and chilli flakes. Cover the pan and let cook on low flame for a few minutes till the vegetables are almost done.  Add the cooked pasta to the vegetables and toss together with some Delmonte sauce.  Serve with some grated cheese.

Finger licking Good!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

P.G. Bhaskar - Jack Patel's Dubai Dreams


This was my reaction when I shut the book after reading it.  Of course I was captivated by the book right from the start, but I have often read books that are great in the first few chapters and then wimp out after the fourth of fifth.  That was not the case here, this book held my attention from the start to finish.

Jaikishen Patel's Dubai dreams start when he sends in his CV to a prestigious investment banking firm Myers York.  He is called in for an interview and learns that he will be required in the company's Dubai office to tap their Indian market.

Jai's father had been forced to leave Uganda after Idi Amin deported Indians.  He tried to settle down in Gujarat, but was not able to.  He moved to Chennai and found success in Garments business.  Jai refused to join the family business and followed his passion for finance by getting a degree in Business Management from IIM Bangalore.

This led him to Dubai, working for Myers York.  At his company the amount of business the Financial Advisors brought in was marked on a blackboard.  Jai, now renamed Jack Patel, wants to reach the top of the board! That is his Dubai dream.

We get to know, in a very entertaining manner, how Jack Patel brings in clients and how he deals with them.  His mentor, Mr. Kapoor, helps him nab a lot of clients.  He even goes over to Africa often to snag clients among rich Gujarati businessmen settled there who are looking to expanding their fortunes.

A whole array of lively characters pepper the book, from Jack's colleagues, Kitch (the vegetarian, straight laced Tamilian), his boss Peggy, Melissa, Rachel - who used to pole dance before she got into finance, Emma and Baby Jacob - the handyman who also made delicious ginger tea for them.  His client, Sunny Singh who had coined the phrase 'Singh is King' before Akshay took it for his movie.

He falls in love with Mina, the beautiful daughter of a client of his in Kenya.  At this stage in his life, everything seems to be going his way.  He has money and he has love.  Everything he touches turns to gold. Jack Patel's Dubai dream is realized finally,  he is the star achiever of his company, he is at the top of the blackboard finally!

All is fine until the crash of the banks in USA brings the financial world down with it.   So Jack Patel, who is at the top of his game, suddenly finds his fortunes plummeting fast.  His clients are losing money rapidly, and he is blamed roundly and abused. Mina's father also loses a good amount of money, and no longer wants Jack around his daughter.

How will Jack cope with the crisis?  Will he claw his way back out of this mess or will he go under?  This is what the book is about.

P G Bhaskar keeps the tone of the book light and funny.  At no time does the narrative lose its momentum.  There is always something going on, some tidbit of a funny happening that keeps you glued to the book.

This is another in the series of Metro Reads produced by Penguin books.  It is surely one of the best books in the category. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bharat Wakhlu - Close call in Kashmir

This book by Bharat Wakhlu is another offering from Metro Reads by Penguin books.  It is intended to be a light read, something that will hold your attention during the boring metro journeys.

The author uses the backdrop of unrest in Kashmir to create a mystery thriller.  The militants are planning to kidnap an Indian Scientist so they may be able to secure the release of some of their mates in jail.  On the other hand, there is a group of highly placed people who want to make money by selling ancient artifacts of Kashmir.

Against this backdrop, the head priest of Aishmuqam shrine, Shamsuddin Bandey makes a trip to Delhi to visit an old friend Professor Noor.  What he has to tell is explosive, there is some treasure dated from Dara Shukoh's time that is in the safekeeping of the priests of Aishmuqam.  The secret passes from father to son and survived many generations.  Now Shamsuddin is not sure he can preserve the integrity of the amanat much longer.

Mike Zutshi gets a frantic call from India when his 'rakhi' sister is abducted by the militants.  He is also asked by the CBI to assist them in a mission to locate an international gang of artifact smuggler that are being aided and abetted by an Unknown Enemy in Srinagar.

The book has all the ingredients of a great mystery thriller.  There are credible characters like Namrata, Mike Zutshi, Minnie, Ashok, Shamsuddin Bandey, Professor Noor.  The backdrop of Srinagar, Kashmir is very attractive too.  The author knows his subject well, and is able to write about it with authority.  These are all the pluses of the book.  It is very well written and well edited too.

So what is the problem, you may ask.  The writer needs to bring some more excitement into his work, one needs to feel the emotions the characters are going through.  We need some more passion in the characters.
The scenes need to develop properly so we can really get involved in them. The chapters are so short that just as you have begum to grasp what is going on, the action moves to another scene.  Even though a lot of things are happening here, it does not really get you to the edge of the seat.

However, the author plans to write many more books.  I am hoping he sticks to Srinagar background, I loved it.  Maybe Mike Zutshi will return with another mystery to solve, and this time things will be more zingy.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Jhoomur Bose - Confessionally Yours - Recalcitrance - Anurag Mathur

A few months back while researching on the tale of Gulfam and Sabz pari, I found the story belonged to a ballet created during the time of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah.  He was a colourful character and surely worth reading up.  The wiki page linked a book called Recalcitrance which was supposed to be about Wajid Ali Shah.

I followed the link and was led to the twitter page of the author of the book, Anurag Kumar.  A bit of a dialogue (the book was not available online or in bookshops) led him into sending me a copy of his book.  It was extremely kind of him.  Thank you Anurag.

I am quoting from the blurbs here: "Anurag is a freelance journalist.  He belongs to a very old family of Lucknow which witnessed the events of 1857.  Ever since childhood he was fascinated by the Great Uprising"

1857 was indeed a very tumultuous time and there were surely some great stories that can be written on that period.  My favorite is Ruskin Bond's "A flight of pigeons".

Recalcitrance follows the lives of two friends Chote Bhaiyya and Narinderlal who happen to witness the events that take place in Lucknow at close quarters.  Chote Bhaiyya finds himself smitten by a muslim girl, but cannot find the courage to act in time to get close to her.

The problem with the book - despite a story that should practically tell itself, after all the events were happening so rapidly at the time - is that it gives out a very disjointed feel.  It proceeds from one event to another without any apparent link. There is no attempt to bring together the events at any later chapter either. Several characters are not named  but referred to ambiguously like, "a holy man", a "general" etc.  I got the feeling that the author is trying to point to some important historical figures of the time, but I failed to place them.

This incoherence spoils the story and I wish the author had worked harder on it, because it is apparent that the subject is very close to his heart.

Confessionally Yours by Jhoomar Bose is a fresh release and I was recommended it by Samit Basu via a tweet.  Not personally of course, it was a general tweet and I picked it up.  The book starts like a typical pulp fiction with a blogpost of a woman who recounts her first sexual experience.  From then on, the story moves to a very amusing account of a typical day in a newpaper office, starting with a staff meeting, with the editor, called Ed, swearing after every two words. Polly Sharma, our heroine, is a new recruit in this newspaper called, well, Tabloid.  Her boss, Leena, the features editor is not the easiest boss to work with.  Her penchant for being a grammar nazi has given her a nickname Comma.

As is the case, the tabloid (or Tabloid) is always on the lookout for racy stories to help the sales. Polly, who has been following the blog of a woman who has been very confessional about her sex life in her blog, wants to profile the blog.  Her boss agrees.

So far so good.

Then comes a peek into Polly's own life.  Her husband has been aloof for quite a while, and Polly has been excusing him for it, thinking he is busy with his office work and should be given space.  In the meantime, she has to adjust with her mother-in-law, aptly named Dragon, who pops in for visits ever so often.

Her maid Mini is facing domestic violence and Polly tries to help her out.  In the meantime, she learns that her husband had a torrid affair with a girl before he got married to her, and she finds herself trying to match up to the woman who was once the love of her husband's life.

The story starts on a simple note, with Polly trying to get a grip on her work.  Her early chapters are full of funny details about her work life.  But the humour peters out soon, and story takes a rather serious turn; serious and even sleazy at times.

I liked the early chapters a lot, and although its nice to read a book where a lot is happening, I wish SO much didn't happen.

The best part about the book is that it is very well written.  Indian fiction is not always well edited, but that is a fault this book does not, thank god, suffer from.

The book is classified as a 'Metro Read'. On a few trips on the metro in Delhi, I have seen girls reading books.   So I suppose, given the category, the book is pretty good.

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