Thursday, August 29, 2013

A very short story: In search of true love

By the time I reached, Babloo had already cut the cake. I had deliberately reached late, arriving at the opportune moment when dinner was being served. 

I recognised a few faces, most were Babloo's school friends.

I avoided their gaze. 

They treated me as an outcast, often hurling snide remarks and scornful looks at my fragile and unpleasant build.

I sneaked into a corner, disappointed at the menu. I do have a sweet tooth but I dislike chocolate pastries.

A shriek exploded near my ears. Namrota had spotted me. 

I panicked, frisked into a drain pipe and landed headfirst over something soft. 

My whiskers stood up in glee. 

I had found my cheese. Yay

[This post is a part of the game ‘NibblePromptly’ in the birthday party at A Rat’s Nibble.]

Unaccustomed Earth Review: A book you cannot help falling in love with

[I am so glad that MySmartPrice sent me this book to review. It is thanks to these guys that I got to read a real gem. Please follow them on The site will help you buy anything (including books) at the least possible price.]

Book: Unaccustomed Earth
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Publisher: Random House India
Genre: Human relationships
Pages: 333
Price: Rs 295
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review: ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ is the number one New York Times Bestseller, penned by an author who has already made waves with ‘The Namesake’ and ‘Interpreter of Maladies’.

The Pulitzer-prize winning lady Jhumpa Lahiri has made a niche theme for herself. This book traces the same theme with stories and novellas threaded around the Bengali diaspora, living in America.

‘Unaccustomed Earth’ comprises of 6 novellas, all set in some American city and involving protagonists who have their roots in India.

The first story titled ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ is painfully good, sentimental, powerful and engaging. Jhumpa Lahiri brings to fore a father-daughter relationship and a grandfather-grandson relationship brilliantly. One week of stay makes an impassive old man fall in love with his toddler grandson, makes a daughter see her father in a new light. Lahiri pens a brutally real tale and adds detailing of the kind we never thought existed.

The second story ‘Hell-Heaven’ is about broken hearts and the many unspoken promises of life. It is about a married lonely Bengali woman, about her young daughter, about her aloof husband, and about a Bengali man who, from a complete stranger, became a part of the family, only to become a complete stranger again.
Lahiri vividly plays with emotions, often ripping apart the bosoms of the female characters and revealing to the readers the scars of the heart that lies beneath.

The third story ‘A choice of accommodations’ is about the ravages that time is capable of inflicting on a marriage. Lahiri describes how despite liking each other, a husband and wife can run out of love over time so easily, and how they can rediscover it years later, almost as easily.

The fourth story ‘Only Goodness’ is about a family that breaks apart; of a floundering relationship between a son and his parents; of a sister who committed an innocent mistake and had to pay forever with a drunkard brother; of a boy who demolishes all hopes of his ageing parents, gets back to the right path, only to get dissuaded. His world desired ‘only goodness’ from him, but he sadly failed to deliver the promises.

Lahiri pens a realistic tale and pours in the kind of simplicity that the much-awaited anti-climax never comes.

The fifth story ‘Nobody’s Business’ is about friendship, love, false love and unrequited love. It us about Paul who cared for Sangeeta (Sang) in a very invisible manner. It is about Sang who fell for the wrong guy, who never cared for Paul. It is about pain, hope, dismay and pain. It is about love in its many cruel forms.

The sixth novella is split into many chapters and explores the lives of Hema and Kaushik. The first chapter ‘Once in a lifetime’ is narrated in the 2nd person style and has yet all the ingredients of an innocent adolescent love. There is an unusual amount of reality to the tale; so much that you feel terrified, lest the author stole all your childhood secrets.

The next chapter ‘Year’s End’ is Kaushik’s reply to Hema’s ‘Once in a lifetime’. Narrated in the first person, it points at the stigmas of someone who has lost his mother and is forced to accept a stepmother and two stepsisters. The tale is poignant and touches most of the hues of human relationships.

‘Going Ashore’ is the final chapter of the novella, recounting the happy-sad moments of Hema and Kaushik’s reunion. Again, Jhumpa Lahiri digs deep into human relationships and threads a dauntingly realistic narration and ends the book with a lump-in-the-throat climax.

“Lahiri’s enormous gifts as a storyteller are on full display….gorgeous”- these words by Khaled Hosseini sum up my feelings nicely. Indeed, a book you cannot help falling in love with.

~Ritesh Agarwal

Jhumpa Lahiri

Harry Potter and my silly observations

This post has been written for Harry Potter Festival, initiated by the wonderful Richa Singh, who also happens to be my digital mom    :P

Evening. It's 8:55 pm and I just woke up from sleep. No, my head hasn't stopped throbbing. But after this forced evening siesta, I am feeling so full of words that I thought that this would the most opportune moment to carry out the promise I made to my mom Richa Singh (she forced me into signing an ‘unbreakable vow’ actually).
So, here I am doing a write-up for this Harry Potter festival thingy. So you need to bear with me for the next few minutes unless you know how to perform the Aveda Kedavra curse (on yourself, that is)   :P

Well, there is a small lingering thought that has been stalking me for quite a few days. I was struck by this moment of epiphany that day when it dawned on me that some of the things in the HP series are so similar to the stuffs we have read or watched in Indian mythologies or lores. So much so that I wonder if JK Rowling stumbled on to them while doing research work for her novel.

My mind is a strange little thing. It makes some rare discoveries at times and then troubles my conscience and robs me of my peace of mind until I share them with every man or woman (or dog) I meet on the streets. I would need to vomit out the whole thing or else my head would keep throbbing the way it's doing now (and no, I didn't dream of long dark windowless corridors).

Lord Krishna, remember? Think of his early days! His parents were tormented by a wicked king Kans who later went after their son. Kans heard a divine prophecy which warned him that the 8th son of Devki would be the one to slay him. Disturbed by the prophecy, Kans went after the son the moment he was born in his obsession to kill the little life before it could even fully blossom. But Krishna escaped.

Krishna spent his childhood under the guardianship of foster parents and Kans did everything possible to hunt him down and get him killed. Later on, Krishna grew up and in the final confrontation, he put Kans' life to an end. In the process, he also freed the people from his barbarous regime.

Now, that sounded similar, ain't it?
May be, our queen JKR had read stories of Krishna during her own growing-up years or maybe something similar passed her eye and lay embedded in her inner conscience for years, only to be plucked out later when she sat down to pen the greatest tale of sorcery ever written. After all, our mind works in an incredulous way. You may have seen or heard something trivial back when you were a pre-teen kid. You may have got no recollection of the same, but your mind knows and will throw them out to you at the right time, without you getting any aware of it.

In the same light, the concept of Horcrux has existed in various lores and tales. There was this Indian film ('Jadoogar' if I am not wrong) in which the evil sorcerer (Amrish Puri, if I am not wrong) had his life concealed in a parrot. So, our hero (Amitabh Bachchan, if I am not wrong) had to strangle the parrot in the climax to kill the man.

This again goes on to show that humans are complex organisms. If they are doomed to extinction, that's because of lack of simplicity. Rowling must have drilled her head into so many anecdotes, myths, legends and what-not to finally extort a plausible plot for her 7-part series.

Anyway, now that I have finally written something for this Harry Potter Festival, I am feeling a lot lighter in my mind. O, and after spilling down so many words over this piece, my head too is feeling a lot lighter.

Btw, I will live. That unbreakable vow thingy binds me no more.
Bad news is, you are likely to hear from me again, which is not at all a happy thought unless your Mirror of Erised is made in China.

PS- My favorite character is Albus Dumbledore.

PPS- Crucio    ^_^

~Ritesh Agarwal,

a Harry Potter lover


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Memories and smells go hand in hand: O yes, they do

O yes, they never do

I slipped inside my car and submitted myself to the fragrance of Ambi Pur India’s sample which I had received recently. A seductive aroma assaulted me, completely overwhelming my senses and leaving me in a state of stupor. I couldn’t say for sure whether the fragrance reminded me of a farm-fresh fruit or of the lavender or of the smell of the first rain or of the beaches of Thailand. I was too much dazed to take note of such mundane matters. It was a moment in which I simply had to let go; a moment which deserved to be cherished and relished.

As I reclined on the seat further and steered towards a bucolic bylane to drive at a leisure pace, an army of reminiscences crossed the border of time to launch missiles of nostalgia at me.
I was drifting into another world…a world of happy-sad moments….a world of happy-sad memories….a world of happy-sad fragrances………I was drifting….away away away I went....

“Ritesh aao baitho yahan. Tel lagaane do.”

My hair still smells of warm coconut oil, even though I have quit applying it a long time back. But I doubt if my hairs will ever let go of its fragrance completely. Nourishing my scalp with the generous dose of coconut oil was a daily ritual for my mother, one which she performed dutifully and unfailingly during my entire years of childhood and adolescence. It may appear a trivial thing for a casual reader, but the care and concern which were reflected during those small prosaic routines are apt testimonies of an ideal mother-child relationship. Some youths of today may be fawning after the western ideologies. But personally, I take intense pride on being born to an Indian mother.

Me and my mom on my 1st birthday

It is a cliché but one cannot meander on to the topic of smells and leave out the aroma of the rain-drenched soil. When the heaven cries, the earth rises up in perfumes to console its adversary.
Even when the sweeper of my building would splash water on the dry stairs for his periodic washing, that utterly delicious smell would make me go crazy. I call it ‘delicious’ coz during those moments I would feel a strong urge to eat mud or cement or soil or earth (call it whatever). I would often scrape off the wallpaper at my home and slurp those tasty cements. I still feel the urge, though I have given up on this habit.

PS- I once learnt that such a habit is a sign of calcium deficiency. However, I am not sure how this thing works.

PPS- By the way, those cemented stuffs are indeed delicious. Who cares for what medical science says about Calcium deficiency and blah blah. I would even bite into the earthern cups (‘bhaand’ or ‘kulhaar’) in which the chai-wallahs or ganna-wallahs (sugarcane vendors) used to serve tea and sugarcane juice.

Courtesy: Google images

Memories and smell go hand in hand:

Your memory is greatly influenced by what you are smelling at. It is something which even the scientific community doesn’t deny. Contrary to what you think, our memories are not independent. In fact, they are vulnerable and are often affected by various factors including that of smell.
Which smell can evoke your favorite memory is actually a matter of serendipitous discovery? You can try smelling the rain or the rose, you can try walking past the breezy lake or sniff at the ‘aamras’ (mango juice), you can glance at the old lozenge shop or peep into the kitchen.
Who knows where your favorite memory lies…. quietly, clandestinely, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be smelt…………..

My Darjeeling sojourn: A personal favorite memory

A magical trick you MUST try:

To the less informed, I would say ‘Never underestimate the power of smell’. I once read in some educational column that a potato, an onion and an apple taste the same. All three are sugar-based products and they taste exactly the same. It is just their varying smells which make a fool out of us, making us resent one and love the other.
The simple trick to verify this fact is- clutch your nose shut before putting a slice of a potato, onion and apple into your mouth. Now, try to distinguish between them. You would be surprised that all 3 would seem identical to your taste buds ;)
Yup, I even tried that once myself and was pretty amazed.

What JK Rowling never revealed:

Albus Dumbledore always gave a boost to Harry’s sagging confidence by suggesting intriguingly that you have a power which Voldemort will never understand.
Harry fooled himself throughout his life by believing that this was the ‘power of love’.
But no, Dumbledore lied to him.
Nah, actually, it was the power of smell.        ;)

[This post has been written for AmbiPur India, the leading supplier of car perfumes of a huge assortment of aromas. If your car doesn't smell the way you want it to smell and fails to elicit happy memories from the past, then you are recommended to install a car perfume which can make the air inside the car extremely aromatic. 
You do not have to overspend in order to inject that magical ambience in your four-wheeler. You can buy a 7-ml pack for a price as low as Rs 145. Prices vary depending on the flavor. The most popular one is the 'Ambi Pur Car Aqua Air Freshener Starter'. It can be bought from sites like Flipkart at Rs 229 here.  
Also, make sure to follow these guys on their Facebook page at ]

Friday, August 23, 2013

Photography: Rakhi 2013

Rakhi 2013

~Ritesh Agarwal, 
a silly little guy trying to sound like a top photographer  :P

Chained for life

I am chained, I seek freedom

My soul is the prisoner, my body is my prison house

I feel choked with no hope, no sunshine, no ray

I am condemned, the world mocks at me, calls me a gay

[The above is a few lines penned for this caption pic by ‘Half Baked Beans’]

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Man and Madness Review: You'll love it to pieces, or hate it to the core

Book: Man and Madness
Author: Parna Banerjee Sarkar
Publisher: All About Books Global 
Genre: Romance in prose-poetry style
Number of pages: 110
Price: Rs 150
Rating: 3 out of 5

Review: You will love this book if you love romance, and you will hate this book if you hate mush. You will love this book if you appreciate poetry, and you will hate this book if poems turn you off. You will love this book if you get sold before emotions, and you will hate this book if you are indifferent to sentiments. You will love this book if you are romantic, and you will hate this book if you are cynical. You will love this book if you love fantasising, and you will hate this book if you are a hardcore realist. You will love this book if you love rain, and you will hate this book if you grunt when it drizzles. You will love this book if you respect art, and you will hate this book if you look for plot. You will love this book if you like abstract adjectives, and you will hate this book if you hate convoluted sentences. You will love this book if you loved 'Guzaarish' or 'Lootera', and you will hate this book if you loved 'Dabangg'. You will love this book if you have been in love, and you will hate this book if you hate love stories. You will love this book if you can empathise with a lover's pain, and you will hate this book if you rarely smile. You will love this book if you can sit through a broken man's soliloquy, and you will hate this book if you prefer conventional narration. You will love this book if you are a girl, and you will hate this book if you are a guy. You will love this book if you are ruled by your heart, and you will hate this book if you are run by your brain. You will love this book if you crave for intriguingly knitted passages, and you will hate this book if you are looking for a casual read. You will love this book if you can accept prose in the form of poetry, and you will hate this book if you cannot. You will love this book if you prefer depth, and you will hate this book if you prefer breadth. 

Penned by author Parna Banerjee Sarkar, 'Man and Madness' is a book which you will love to pieces or hate to the core. 

-Ritesh Agarwal

You can buy the book here

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Where did she disappear?

Image source: Google

I thought I won’t notice her disappearance, but I did. Her blog lay unattended, her Facebook status obsolete and her phone switched off.

Was she sick?

Was she busy?

Was she on a holiday?

No! Actually, she was dead. She conveyed this piece of information to me through telepathy, just before her soul vacated her body.  

Yes, telepathy exists. It always has between the two of us.

Perhaps, she was born with some power she herself wasn’t aware of. Her mind always knew where to mind mine. They connected despite the distance in geography, she from Mumbai, me from Calcutta.  

Now, her grave rests in Mumbai.

Yet distance has lost its power. Now we belong to the same world. My 17th century grave rots in Calcutta.

Sharing my world with her should have come as a joy. But no, I feel lost; I am devastated; I miss her terribly. In her life and in my death, we were conjoined together by some psychic thread. But now that thread has snapped.

Telepathy works no more.

[This story has been penned for a contest run by Namrota Mazumdar at her blog post 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Photography: I want 'independence'

She begs

She begs on the streets of Rajasthan for an independence the society is too poor to lend her.

~Ritesh Agarwal

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Photography: A monkey and its baby

At Bharatpur Sanctuary, Rajasthan

I was fortunate to take this snap, since the innocence of the baby is very apparent as it suckles its mother's milk.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

My mom and me

Me and my mom on my 1st birthday

My mom used to be strict and conservative, just the way Indian moms are supposed to be, even though she had me as a child, someone whose obedience, innocence and goodness left no shred of a doubt in the minds of my proud family. Besides, I, being the only child of hers, was entitled to more than the usual share of pampering which a child is expected to legitimately claim.

Amidst pampering, I grew up. I never threw tantrums, not because I wasn't capable of, but simply because I never needed to. Even the smallest of my wishes were fulfilled by my mom and my godmother masi, who, despite the financial troubles, always bought me smiles at the expense of theirs.

One dreadful incident which I won't forget till eternity, though my mom must have forgotten it, took place when I was in my mid-teens and was caught watching 'fashion TV'. The fault lay with me, coz I developed the audacity to tune into the tabooed channel right before my sleeping mom who, by some conspiracy of fate, chose to open her eyes at the same time when I had relaxed my guard.

Over the years, my mother has become cooler and less conservative. I have programmed her to accept me the way I am- a grownup guy who refuses to grow up. She now finds it easier to accept that her son, however childish he may still be or however innocent he may try to act before her, will have his righteous share of female friends. She has also accepted, though with a sense of resignation, that I won't go to bed at the time at which she wants me to go to bed, but will keep the light turned on till 2 am, and, at times, even 4 am, if not 5 am.

~Ritesh the ‘laadla’ ladka 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Daniel Radcliffe: From Hogwarts to Hollywood

Image Courtesy: Google

[This is a guest post by Spencer Blohm, a freelance entertainment and pop culture blogger]

Our favorite Harry Potter star just recently turned 24, and while he has repeatedly stated that he would not return to the role of the boy wizard, he has also hinted that he’s not opposed to the prospect of playing Harry Potter’s father, James. There’s no doubt Daniel would be more than up to the task -in previous films he’s already briefly played Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) and of course  each of the “seven Potters,” during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. The scene, during which Daniel performed near perfect imitations of Ronald Weasley, Hermione Granger, Fred Weasley, George Weasley, Fleur Delacour and Mundungus Fletcher, took 96 takes to shoot. After that ambitious task, emulating James Potter should be effortless for Daniel.

Daniel, who has been mentioning the potential of a “James appearance”  for years, may not have realized how quickly that opportunity might arise. At the London premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, J.K. Rowling told a reporter that she would likely never write another book with Harry as the central character, however, a prequel following the trials and tribulations of Lord Voldemort (Tom Riddle) may be in the works. And we’re all aware that Voldemort and James Potter do meet, quite violently, in their later years.

But what will the beloved real life Potter do in the meantime? He has been spending a lot of time on stage, first with Equus (2007) and then How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (2011). Currently he’s performing in The Cripple of Inishmaan. Oddly enough, in The Cripple Daniel plays an orphaned boy, desperate to escape poverty. Sounds familiar, except that as a young wizard Daniel was supernaturally gifted, and in The Cripple of Inishmaan, Daniel is the opposite -physically disabled.

He’s also appeared in increasingly serious and controversial film roles, such as his current role in Kill Your Darlings, arriving in theaters soon, in which he plays the gay poet Allen Ginsberg. Daniel is also expected to reclaim his role in the second season of A Young Doctor’s Notebook as the conflicted, often tormented doctor working in Russia during the 1917 Revolution. Daniel has chosen his scripts with remarkable instinct, Kill Your Darlings was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and A Young Doctor’s Notebook quickly became Sky Arts channel’s most watched television show with 800,000 viewers in the UK.

With numerous critically acclaimed, mature roles piling up, it makes sense that Daniel would shy away from returning to Hogwarts. He told Time Out London, “I’ve done so much work to establish myself as something outside that series I’d be really hesitant to go back. Even if they were set later in time. I’m 23, which is too old to be running round in a schoolboy’s cape... No, I can’t get away with that any more, I’d just look foolish.”

He has a point, it would be more detrimental to the image of Harry Potter if audiences were to see an adult Daniel attempting to recreate the magic of the first eight films; it would be better to let the young Harry remain unblemished (and without a five o’clock shadow) in our minds. But still, we can never fully let go of the possibility of Daniel’s reemergence, if only for a few moments. And it seems neither can Daniel: “I’d never totally close the door for the reason that Jo’s a great writer. But no more school boy stuff. A cameo as Harry’s dad? That would be perfect!”

[Author Bio: Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment and pop culture blogger for GetDirectTV. In his free time he attempts to train his pet owl to carry messages, and then return home. This venture is not going as well as expected.]

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