Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How much do you love your smartphone?

How do you feel when your smartphone dies? Is that feeling similar to someone precious you may have lost in life? Does it break your heart? That you burnt a hole in your pocket for purchasing that tiny little (or the size of your palm) device can surely make your heart burn. But isn't it weird that a tiny little device has taken such an important place in your life. So much so that when it dies, you don't know what to do. You don't remember phone numbers of your friends. Even if you do, there is no point, as you wouldn't spend your precious money on sending an SMS or calling them because you don't have WhatsApp available. So what if you spent  thousands to buy that tiny little device that's taken up a giant proportion of your life?

Precisely, this is what I realised in the past one week that my phone went dead. Nothing came to my rescue. Not even my Facebook status. Nobody read it (though I have over 600 friends on FB). Neither did I receive any call or SMS from anyone, except my husband and parents, nor did anyone bother to check on whether there was any WhatsApp from my end. Irony of life. It made me realise that everyone's life is so hectic these days. So much so that we have all the time in the world to 'Facebook' but not a moment to take out the phone and call our loved ones. Or for that matter, speak to someone we haven't spoken in a long time.

Our interactions are now merely limited to Facebook, WhatsApp, or any other social network. Gone is the long duration calls. Or smses. Smartphone has made us dumb humans. We hardly remember our numbers barring probably our parents, husband's or some close friend. There isn't any guarantee for that too. We don't have to remember Birthdays or Anniversaries because Facebook is there to do that honour on behalf of us.

Have you ever once thought that how our lives were when we did not have smartphone? We all have shared such nostalgic posts on Facebook (yet again). But have we ever left aside the phone for a while and sat down in peace for even half an hour with people around us? Aren't these materialistic things and the craze or phenomenon of social networking moving us away from what actually is networking?

Having said that, I don't deny using social network for purposes apart from work and sharing of blogs. But this realisation is too hard to ignore. That social networking and over dependence of smartphone is taking us closer to a phase where talking on phone and interaction in person may become a thing of the past.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Book Review: Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

Hi All, 

It's been really long since I posted a book review. Though I had aimed at a 'book a weekend ', the  first book that am reviewing ended up being a 600-page novel and it was far from getting over by the weekend. 


What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.

My Take on the Book:

Set against the backdrop of post World War- II, the author reinvigorates the 'what if' question to the scenarios that dominated the livelihoods of people post the war. Through the eyes of her central character, Ursula Todd, the narrative flows from  past to present to past describing vividly how the events of Ursula's life have an affect on her as a person, as a daughter, as a women, as a lover and as a survivor of the war. While the author has woven all the elements magically, giving vivid descriptions of the war scenarios, Ursula's home, family, her love life, and her changing personalities; the narrative picks up pace towards the beginning and the end, slacking a bit in the middle. 

Though as a reader, I feel the book could have been a little less elaborate towards the end but then when you read the author's note (at the end of the book), you realise that there has been a painstaking effort into writing the book. Thorough research, and including some of her personal experiences especially her family, the author gives shape to the book. 

The shift of narrative from past to present becomes a little too over the top at times, making you lose track of the storyline. There is a hint that Ursula has the ability to see the future or something haunts her from the past, however, this gets marred by the number of times the author shifts focus from Ursula's present to what happened in the past and especially when the war scenes come up. 

In her bid to show the research that she has undertaken to write the book, the author loses the plot quite some time and by the end of it, there are a couple of scenes that are described through the eyes of Ursula earlier in the book but never get explained till the end. 

Kate Atkinson's Life after Life is the winner of COSTA Novel Award 2013. Whether I will pick the book again to read? Not sure, definitely not anytime soon. But you can give it a shot if you like moving, emotional and vivid narratives. 

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Beginning 2016 with a night long trip to Chikmagalur

The first post of 2016 has finally arrive, though a week late. Last year, I had written the first blog on the first day of the year, with an aim to continue the trend throughout. I am glad I succeeded in it. This year, while writing was on my agenda, there was something else hovering over my mind. A long weekend awaited all of us during the beginning of the New Year. Almost everyone that I know of had some or the other plans ready. We on the other hand had just a small idea of heading to Bengaluru to be with family (His parents and sister). So while on one hand, I checked for Tatkal tickets to Bengaluru, I simultaneously opened multiple windows to see 'weekend getaways from Bengaluru'. That's how I zeroed down on Chikmagalur. While there are many lessons learnt on this impromptu trip, there is no denying that it was the need of the hour too. Moreover, I was of the opinion that who knows may be, if I began the year with a travel, the year may continue to be so :-)

How we planned the trip

That you get better offers and discounts if you book in advance for a travel is absolutely right, we were in a situation where we had to choose between hotels and homestays. Several travel websites showed a number of homestay options but none were available during the period that we were looking for - Jan 1 and 2. It being the New Year, most homestays that had some really fun and adventurous activities along side were booked. I chanced upon a homestay by the name of Homestaypark, Chikmagalur. After a lot of discussions, the concerned person brought down the price per person per night from Rs2,000 to Rs1,800. It seemed a lot for us, considering we were going to stay for only a night. So, we took a day's time to confirm from him and searched through other options available. To our dismay, there were no homestays available at this price. Those that did have some vacancy were charging no less than Rs2,500-3,000. We finally confirmed the person on the day we reached Bengaluru (December 31).

Meanwhile, we decided to hire a private cab to take us from Bengaluru to Chikmagalur. At Rs7/km and Rs 300/day for the driver, this was the only available option again after having seen through other private cabs and tours and travels. Bus and train was out of question with a toddler and an elderly couple with us.

The route we took

Going by the internet results that I checked, every road trip mentioned about the route from Bengaluru via NH48 (Hassan and Belur).  You have approx four tolls to cross on this route. The road till Hassan is beautiful and amazing to drive on, it slows a bit in the town of Hassan and then gradually picks pace once you cross that.

On the way, we saw this majestic Belur Temple. Worth a stop for a break

The place where we stayed

While we had made arrangements at homestaypark, it was after reaching there (mind it, it was one hell of a ride to find the place) that we were told it is Brundavan Homestay. The Homestay is amidst the coffee plantations and the estate is called Brundavan estate. To easily locate, ask someone for Jakanahalli, that's the landmark for Brundavan estate.

Needless to say, coming from a  metro and living in an estate surrounded by plants, tall trees and coffee plantations, coupled with the chirping of birds every now and then, and the brushing of trees against each other thanks to the cool breeze can be very soothing and welcoming. The homestay is a perfect getaway for all those tired and worn out working professionals looking for some quiet and calm atmosphere. So much so that there is NO Network coverage in that area. Yes, we were technically without our phones for two full days. But the place made up for it.

The lives that we all lead nowadays, such homestays are a blessing. Away from the maddening crowds, hustle and bustle of the city life, tucked away in a far corner on top of the estate with not a sight around except for the tall silver trees, small beautiful flowers and plants.

The tall trees are apparently silver trees which are used for making furniture. 
Where did we go

Call it paucity of time, or the fact that we were travelling with a toddler, we managed to see just one tourist spot- Mulleyangir Peak, the tallest in Karnataka. The road to that peak was one heck of a ride. Would advice those scared of heights to avoid taking the route. While coming back, we got stuck in the massive rush of cars from both sides and hence, by the time we were downhill, it was time for us to head back to the homestay, have our lunch and depart for Bengaluru. 

Ideally, one should be there for at least 4 days to see the town at peace. The place needs to be enjoyed at its own pace.

While coming back, we did venture to a market to buy local produce especially coffee and pure honey. There is a shop in the main town of Chikmagalur called, Namma Angady, it has everything- from coffee to honey to dry fruits and chocolates. However, we bought our coffee from a local vendor- Jeevan Coffee Shop, located next to Nandini Dairy. 

What did we eat

Our stay was inclusive of three time meal. We had four meals. The food that we ate was something that no hotel can match. Cooked by the ladies of the house, it was authentic kannadiga food. From mutton biryani, to thatte idli, chicken fry to mutton stew, plain rasam, egg masala and some more recipes whose name I unfortunately do not remember any more but were worth every bite. I loved their salads, which were so fresh in taste and made with a difference, not the usual cut vegetables. The vegetables were tossed with mustard seeds, pudina, and other seasonings. 

At the price that we paid, the food was way above everything. Moreover, the warmth and love with which it was served can never be matched. 

Total Cost of the trip

Homestay: 9,800 INR - (1800 per person(5) plus 500 extra for one extra lunch plus 300 for the driver's food) Definitely worth the food and stay! 

Cab: @7/km- came to approx 7,500 INR

On the way- food: approx Rs 1,000 (including bottles of water) 

Toll tax: approx Rs 300-400  both sides

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