Thanks to su’s comment [ETA: Not Mr.Swaram ;)] on my ‘House of Blue Mangoes’ review, I picked up Monsoon Diary and could not wait to start reading it. Somehow, I love anything to do with monsoons and the name of the book would not allow me to read anything else till I could be done with it. Its a delicious read and I bet all of us can see bits any pieces of our life in the same.

Author: Shoba Narayan
Price: Rs.295/-

The author takes us down a delightful journey down memory lanes. As Rocky and Mayur say quite often on their show ‘Highway on my Plate’ – there are mountains, rivers, there is food; there are friends, family, there is food. Thatz what the book is all about. It starts with the ‘Anna Prashanam’ or the ceremony of “feeding solid food for the first time” to kids, when she is fed ghee rice and continues till the wonderful goody-foodie times she has with her husband’s family.  In between the memoirs are intertwined recipes for simple yummy South Indian food items like Idlis, Pongal, Stew and so on.

I could relate to so many experiences the book .. the way her grandma looked after her Mom when she was pregnant with her second kid, the post-delivery care. I could see my own grandma in her Paati. We used to wait for the Upma she used to specially make for any of my recently-turned-Mom aunts [just rava, curry leaves and red chillies and tempering with ghee. We still call it ‘Baanhanti[a nursing mother] Uppitu’ and loveee it to the core.

Her Dad who makes wonderful coffee [Coffee-making is my Dad’s portfolio @ home till date ], the wonderful meals she shares with her classmates in school,  the traditional platter she cooks with great interest – with which she hopes to win over the hearts of her family members to go abroad for her studies,  her experiments with international dishes – trying different replacements for the Indian ingredients, the drool-worthy spread @ her wedding – which was talked about for years to come, more than the wedding itself 😛  and then her kitchen stories as a newly-wed, trying to prove herself as a seasoned-chef to her husband who loves nothing but authentic food and wonders why she has to try out different versions of the recipes which have been around for centuries now, its a totally soul-satisfying journey.

Just that I felt her childhood and the post-wedding days [esp.these] were wound up pretty soon and her days abroad were more than elaborate compared to the former. Otherwise, its a great read. Must must read for food lovers 😀

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When I was browsing through flipkart to order some books, I chanced upon ‘Sari Shop’. Had heard about it before, but reading the synopsis her made the book seem interesting and I ordered it immediately.

Author: Rupa Bajwa
Price: Rs.299/-

Was not sure what I wanted to read after Monsoon Diary – Vine of Desire, Sari Shop or Feast of Rose? It was so nostalgic and beautiful that I ws wary of picking up any, lest it takes away that pleasant feel!  Monu wanted me to read Sari Shop and so this review is specially for you Monu 🙂

Set in Amritsar, the story is woven around Ramchand, who works as an assistant at Sewak Sari Shop 0ne place where the lives of many people, irrespective of class, creed, intelligence intersect. Their lives overlap @ this point, whether they like it or not.

The characters in the story are very simple … a poor woman, whose husband has not been paid for 3 months; a rich girl about to marry, who nurses dreams of making it big as a writer; another one who just wants to sail through college and settle down with a handsome, rich man;  ladies who want nothing else but more riches than the others in their circle; a college professor who believes her intelligence is her richness etc.. The ironical juxtaposition of these characters is what makes the book a nice read.

Ramchand’s humdrum existence …. his room-shop-room and some cinema viewing, chai-pakora times and dhaba-visits with the other assistants form the main [and probably] only parts of his daily routine.

Orphaned and no contacts with anybody in the family circle or friends other than his colleagues, the rolling and unrolling of sarees @ his customer’s demands is the only real activity in his life.  His dreams of education being shattered, life becomes a long boring struggle for him. At 26, he has already been working in the shop for about 11 yrs and is almost blind to any life outside the shop.

A visit to the Kapoor’s place with a bundle of sarees, allowing them to choose the best for their daughter’s wedding from the comforts of their home, changes life for Ramchand.
The English-speaking world opens a window of possibilities and rekindles his age old desire and his father’s dream to master English.  Life then becomes more colourful as he picks up few second-hand books – a dictionary among them and starts his English-learning journey.  Though it seems like a daunting task initially,  he starts taking pleasure and waits for the sessions as time rolls by.

As his life takes a turn for the better and he is reveling in his joy of being able to read sign-boards and understand them, a few visits to a colleague’s house to inquire about his absence @ the shop, changes his life for the bitter.  The shocking revelations from his colleague’s wife takes him through mixed emotions of hope, mistrust, loss, resentment and makes him feel for his uneventful existence when he cannot do anything for her.

Another bitter news that he hears soon after leaves him a slave to dark emotions. Confused and feeling helpless, he tries to take matters in his hands and revolts – revolts against the only people he knows … the ones in Sewak Sari Shop, with disastrous consequences.

The ending sees Ramchand resign to destiny after he realizes the futility of his attempt to do anything. He gives into depression and lapses into his mundane existence once again.

The ending somehow left me wanting for more.  I was expecting that he will change for the better and remain so, but he did not. He gave into his dark emotions.  This hurt me a lot and made me feel for him, for all that he had to go through in life for no mistake of his 😦 😦

The other thing I could is that the some things are repeated . in the same page and sometimes just within 2-3 lines.  That did not have a very good impact.

The most beautiful part of the book according to me is the way the bonding within Ramchand’s small family .. his Mom, Dad and himself has been illustrated. Its a small part, but nicely done 🙂

Do read and let me know what you feel about these books 🙂

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