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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Life with Lemon Drops - book review

Life with Lemon Drops is a book of quotations by Radhanath Swami. The book has a quote accompanied by apt pictures on each page. In the words of the author lemon drops convey vitality and vigor representing the essence of holistic well being. A lemon contributes to a variety of tastes and flavours. When squeezed in a glass of water, lemon drops are immunity boosters and detoxify the body; sprinkled on a papaya, they create sweetness; over rice they give it a tangy taste and squeezed over hot milk they curdle it.

So the author says that a simple lemon drop can do many things including transformation of your life. The quotes are spread over variety of topics. The author has tried to squeeze the lemon on all the aspects of life and thereby enrich those aspects.

Some of the quotes from the book which I liked are as follows

To the degree we have influence over others, the same degree we have responsibility towards them.”
Everything we see is reflection of our own consciousness.”
Spirituality is not about negation but transformation.”
and this one is the best
We hear words, God hears intention.”

This small book is a perfect gift for all occasions.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Wisdom bartered for a Chicken Pizza

That day was anything but special. I was sitting alone in my home. My family was away for the wedding of my cousin. I too wanted to attend it. But I was having my exams. I persuaded my parents not to attend the same and stay with me during my examinations. But they were adamant. They had an explanation. According to them if you want to live in the society you will have to attend such functions. “Otherwise who would come for your wedding?” Asked my mother. I found this explanation to be utterly ridiculous. To add fuel to the fire my father told me that I was no longer a child and was a grown up adult who could take up his own responsibilities. I wanted to ask him why did he forget this fact when I asked him to take the car to my college. But I was seething with anger and left for the terrace. I thought that the cool air on the terrace would calm my hot head too.

I could hear the revving of the engine and knew my parents were away. I clambered down the stairs, locked the house and went out for a stroll. I thought the chicken pizza would lift my spirits. Since childhood all of us associate food with happiness and I was no exception. The eatery was crowded. There was not a single table empty. So out of compulsion I asked to pack my pizza as I wanted to eat it at home. 

While on my way home, I saw a woman sitting in front of her house. Her house was nothing but a shanty made up of tarpaulin sheets. She had kneaded the dove and was making the rotis. She did not have a rolling pin or a platform. Just slapping the dove in her two hands, she was rolling out big well rounded rotis. A ten-twelve years old girl was roasting those rotis on the earthen stove and placing the roasted rotis in a paper. There were twelve rotis already placed on the paper. 

Must be a big family I said to myself watching at the five children who were playing with the street dog. Out of them one was a toddler and was sitting in the lap of another girl who appeared to be his elder sister. The girl who was roasting the rotis was probably their eldest sibling.

It was five in the evening. It wasn't dark. I wondered why she was cooking so early. The curiosity coursing through me compelled me to ask her as to why she was cooking so early. She told me that her house did not have the electricity connection and she had to cook before it fell dark. Her husband would return after a day's hard labour and would get angry if the food wasn't ready.

At that moment I realized how fortunate I was. Something moved within me and made me handover the pizza which I was carrying to the woman. Seeing the fancy box in their mother's hands all her children assembled around her. They were asking for their share. But the woman was adamant. She told them that all of them would get to eat it only when their father had returned. That too from the leftovers of their father.

I returned home. I did not recollect when was the last time I had thought beyond my needs. I did not recollect when was the last time I had gifted something to my parents.  I did not realize when was the last time I had told them how much I loved them. I was too busy in thinking about myself. This little incident which had happened that evening was an eyeopener for me. I had learnt a new lesson which had filled my heart with immense happiness.

I realized that real happiness did not vest in throwing big parties, flaunting expensive gazettes or cars. Real happiness lies in being considerate and caring for your loved ones. From that day onwards my idea of happiness changed. Now whenever I am happy I share my happiness with the unfortunate souls.  Rather it is the other way round. Whenever I do something for others my heart is filled with joy. If I have money I buy sweets for the urchins. If I don't have money I gift them my used clothes. If I have neither I just go and play a game of football with them. Their radiating smiles makes every pore of my body dance in joy. Indeed real happiness lies in giving and whatever you give returns to you multiplied.
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Thursday, 23 April 2015

Tea vendor who brews novels

What would you require to write twenty novels? Many many things. First you require a place of solitude where no none will ever disturb you. You and your muse can spend countless hours in each other's arms and let your feelings articulate into words.

Then if you are to write twenty novels your daily needs must be taken care of. So either your parents must have left you a fortune or your spouse must be both earning and understanding. (A combination which I doubt exists!)

Even if you have the aforesaid privileges you must have a never dying commitment. Writing twenty novels is not an easy feat for sure. It requires years of discipline. Plus there is risk of repetition. While writing twenty novels there is every likelihood that your writing becomes clitched.

Did I tell you that you are supposed to literally write these novels and not type them using your computer key board? Also these novels are to be written in a language which is not your mother tongue.

Did I hear you saying that is impossible? It has been made possible not by any university scholar but by a humble chaiwallah. (Indeed good days have come for our tea vendors) His name is Laxman Rao. He sells tea on the on the roads of the capital Delhi. He has written twenty novels in Hindi. What is more interesting is that his mother tongue in Marathi and not Hindi. He migrated from Maharashtra to Delhi and eventually settled down in Delhi. He published his first novel Nayi Duniya Ki Nayi Kahani in the 1970's. When several leading publishers either rejected his manuscripts or asked for money to publish it, he decided to go on the self publishing route. 

Don't look down upon him merely because he has self published his books. First edition of his two books is already over and he has brought out the second edition. Due to paucity of funds he publishes his books in small lots of 1000 or 2000. But any published author knows how difficult it is to even sell a thousand copies of a book. This so called rustic man has already sold those many copies and has brought out the second edition of his books. His novel Ramdas has been turned into a drama script and was staged at Shriram Centre in New Delhi.

No writing luxuries and no writer's block for this great achiever. His humble background did not come as a hurdle on the way which lead to realizing his dreams. He is indeed a role model for all those who dream of writing a book but are never able to go beyond a few lines.
“I’m voting for Laxman Rao’s #WillOfSteel and blogging on BlogAdda to help him get felicitated and eventually enabled by JSW." 

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Rice Saver

India has been a store house of wisdom for many many years. We Indians have regarded everything in this universe as divine. As a result we respected every shrub and tree and used it for medicinal purposes. India has been a home to numerous varieties of grains particularly rice. Rice is the staple food of majority of Indians. Rice grains were even found in the Mohenjodaro and Harrapa excavations. Such long goes the association of we Indians with rice.

However the British ruled us for many decades and inculcated in us the colonial mindset. All that was native was bad and evil. All that was foreign particularly European was good and healthy. This mindset even took a toll on our indigenous grain varieties. Everybody wanted to go for the high yielding hybrid and other genetically mutilated crop varieties. As a result with the introduction of the high yielding varieties our native varieties began to become extinct.

Before selling the agricultural produce particularly the grains in the market, the Indian farmers kept a part of it for their personal consumption and a part to sow in the following year. But now with the craze of new crop varieties the Indian farmers did not have the option to store a part of their crops for the next sowing season. They are required to purchase the same from the companies which manufacture them. That is because you cannot sow the seeds derived from the harvest of hybrid varieties

Plus there is another aspect of this problem as well. The indigenous varieties are better suited to our climate. They form an important part of the food chain. Many insects and other organisms thrive upon them. But the new varieties are repellent to these insects. As a result along with our traditional crop varieties even these insects are being wiped out of the environment. This is very dangerous because if these varieties and the organisms dependent upon them become extinct there will be an imbalance in the biosphere and slowly even the very existence of humans will be in peril.

This is why the work of Dr Debal Deb assumes importance. He is an ecologist highly committed to conserve indigenous seed diversity. He has been working with traditional farmers in eastern India to achieve his goal of conservation. Dr Debal Deb has saved 920 varieties of rice in the past two decades. He has stored all of them in community based seed banks in West Bengal and Odisha for farmers. He encourages our farmers to use the traditional varieties of rice, thereby paving way for their conservation. In his own words he battles with "developmentality", a mental "virus" of the modern world which has produced a collective mindlessness in India's elite and led to the crisis.

Indeed it would not be wrong to say that Dr. Debal Deb is working hard to not only save the rice seeds but the very human life. Because these indigenous varieties have an important role to play in the ecological cycle. If they get wiped out from the biosphere that day is not far off when even we humans, the most intelligent organisms, will become extinct. Isn't that a good reason to felicitate Dr Debal Deb?

“I’m voting for Dr. Debal Deb’s #WillOfSteel and blogging on BlogAdda to help him get felicitated and eventually enabled by JSW." 

Friday, 17 April 2015

Dream with your eyes open - book review

Dream with your eyes open is a book on entrepreneurship. According to the author this book is for all – those carrying just the disruptive (yes disruptive is the author's favourite word and not innovative) ideas, those who have been in the business for a many years and even those who are planning to give up their jobs and start their own dream project.

The author respects failures more than the success for the insights the former offers He stresses on the mindset required to be an entrepreneur when he says that it's a journey, not an outing. He says going ahead in your own business with an idea to just try it for a year or two is sure recipe for disaster.

What I liked about the book is the candidness with which the author speaks about his success, failure and most importantly the whole process which led to those outcomes. He mentions his first step into entrepreneurship – Lazer brush, which he had set up by importing discarded British machines which still were cutting edge technology in India. He advises newbies to take the first step instead of wasting endless time in research. The writer divulges his experience of being a forerunner in the cable TV business. He describes in detail the efforts made to introduce the Indian TV viewers to cable TV. He narrates how he was much ahead of time when he introduced home shopping in India and the same became a cause of its failure. He underlines the insider-outsider dynamics in the Indian movie industry when he shares the evolution of the brand UTV.

With new age quotes like I am too busy working on my own grass to notice if your is greener, the book becomes an interesting read. If everyone is thinking alike then somebody is not thinking comes another hilarious yet honest quote from George Patton. which finds a mention in the book. Along with the difficulties faced by the entrepreneurs which include finding funding, managing exits and attrition, the author emphasizes the need for core values like mutual respect in communication. The author asks us never to underestimate the power of humour as laughter makes life's darkest events conquerable. The author cautions the would be entrepreneurs to believe in their dreams by telling them that they and only they know its direction and velocity. He says entrepreneurship is a lot like life; sometimes just asking the right questions presents you with half the solutions.

The author says that insulating yourself against failure doesn't ensure success, it only makes success more elusive. He also discusses the much sought after ingredient – luck. Luck according to him is nothing but creating your own environment and then taking the advantage of the opportunity. How true! He says outcome is direct proportion of risk and effort. Business and life cannot be planned with certainty. Hence the caution to dream with your eyes open.

Throughout the book in his own words the author has discussed foolish mistakes, setbacks, missed opportunities and lessons learnt over the years. The book will indeed be of help to those who dream of becoming an entrepreneur. 

However that does not mean that the book is free from any flaws. The biggest flaw in the book is that the author has not arranged his experiences in chronological order. So in a former chapter his daughter is born and in the subsequent he meets his would be wife. Similarly first comes the premiere of Dev D and then that of Devdas. The book is replete with such chronological disorders. This creates confusion and mars the narrative. The book deserved a better editing. Had it been chronologically arranged its impact would have increased by manyfolds.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

City of Spies - Book Review

The Indian novel scene can be divided into three major genres thrillers (Dan Brown inspired), college romance (Chetan Bhagat inspired) and mythological (Ameesh Tripathi inspired). It is against this hackneyed backdrop comes City of Spies like a fresh cool breeze in the month of summer. (Yes the publisher being Indian I chose to count it amongst the Indian novels)

Set in the tumultuous times of Pakistan City of Spies is written in the first person from the view point of Aleeya an adolescent girl. The novel has a background of the ouster of the Prime Minister and the usurpation of power by the tyrannical ruler. An ardent fan of the Prime Minister and son of the servant of our protagonist dies in a hit and run accident.

Adults think that children know nothing about their best kept secrets. In the case in hand the well kept secret is the driver of the vehicle which had hit the young boy. But children do perceive what is happening around them with their own little understandings. But they seldom understand it fully. They try their best to search those missing links. Aleeya is one such girl. Her questions remain with her even as she transforms into an adult. Finally she receives her answers that too from the very mouth of the horse. City of Spies is her journey towards those answers.

The author wonderfully articulates the difficult years of our neighboring country. They mesh up with the story without hindering it, without overshadowing it and at the same time have a personality of their own. The novel reinstates that the political upheaval in a country affects even its children including poorest of them.

The novel gives a gratifying experience of reading something really different. There is no suspense surrounding the killings. There is no any revenge saga. All that remains is how each one of us has his or her own perspectives and how the father of the deceased respects the same. The novel is highly recommended particularly for those who are fed up of reading the novels falling in the genres mentioned at the beginning.

Having said that let me point out that on page 66 of the novel tyres is misspelt as tires. I even found the title of the novel City of Spies inappropriate. It some how does not summarize the story aptly and makes the reader to conjure up his own expectations which are likely to remain unfulfilled.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

The last fruit

I love mangoes. I eagerly wait for the arrival of the mango season. First come the green raw mangoes. Though I don't like them much I love seeing them. For they announce that the juicy, sweet mangoes which I like will arrive soon. From the moment of the first arrival of the ripe mangoes into the market upto their disappearance as a result of the monsoon rains, I buy mangoes regularly. They say that you should not eat mangoes once it rains. But still my love for the mangoes compels me to store them (as many as possible) into the fridge and relish them for a few days even after they have vanished from the markets.

Even after eating hundreds of mangoes my love for the king of the fruits doesnot seem to end. I simply love eating them. I remember that June so vividly. My mangoes had disappeared from the market and were on the verge of disappearance from my refridgerator too. Only one mango was left in the refridgerator. I was unhappy that my last fruit will get over soon and I will have to wait for the next season for my beloved fruit to arrive.

Rhea entered my house. She was my neighbour's cute four years old daughter. Curious as always she went on to raid my house. Whenever she came to my house her parents would instruct her not to touch anything. Needless to say that it fell on her deaf ears. Considering her age even I was fine with her exploring my house provided she did not touch the knives, scissors and the medicines.

So that day her area of operation was my kitchen. She ran towards the kitchen. She opened my fridge and said “Even we have a fridge. But it is red in colour.”

Mango,” she exclaimed with joy in her voice which was palpable. Besides mango there were guavas, strawberries and few chocolates too in the fridge. I just wished that she chose one of those. I simply told her that my fridge was stocked with guavas, strawberries and chocolates as well. But she did not even see them.

I want mango” she said. I was in a dilemma. She was a child. I could have easily handed over a chocolate and she would have forgotten about the mango in the next few minutes. As adults we manipulate our children many a times, don't we? I wanted to eat the last fruit of the season. I could have easily bartered it for many other delicacies which were instored in the fridge.

At that time my eyes fell on her innocent face. Her round face was beaming with excitement. When she will grow up she lose all of it and become a civilized citizen  adept in the art of hiding her emotions and of course would never open the fridge in her neighbour's house. That day I saw God in her. What is more important than being truthful to your emotions? As adults why do we teach our children to be treacherous under the garb of being diplomatic? We all are hypocrats!

I washed the mango and handed over the same to her. It was too big for her tiny palms. But still she held it tightly and began to squeeze the juicy pulp into her mouth. The yellow juice smeared her face and and her frock. It had smeared my heart too, with honesty, innocence and the joy of giving. 

“I am participating in the #DilKiDealOnSnapdealactivity at BlogAdda in association with SnapDeal.”

Cup of happiness

It was a summer morning. The clock had struck little above six. I woke up as my room was filled with light and I was feeling hot in my bed. I stretched my body, opened the door and stepped into my garden.

It was such a pleasant sight. The air outside was surprisingly cool. I could hear the chiriping of the birds. I could even spot a few small birds, whose names I did not know. I was able to identify the call of the cuckoo bird which is so peculiar in the summer mornings. However I was not able to see the bird with the melodious voice.

Mesmerized I stood in the garden soaking the beauty of nature inside. There was absolutely no sound except for those emanating from the birds. I had a sudden urge to have a cup of coffee that too while sitting in the garden.

I went inside the house, prepared my coffee and returned to the garden. Sitting on the steps of my house with a cup of coffee in my hands I closed my eyes. The smell of hot coffee mixed with the fragrance of early morning in the garden entered my lungs. I was transported to a different world all together. "Life is indeed beautiful," I said to myself. When I opened my eyes there were two curious eyes staring at me from the gate.

She stood at the gate in her soiled clothes and an old sack dangling from her left shoulder. She was a ragpicker. She stood there. Her eyes cemented upon me. Her eyes were filled with curiosity. They were so naive, so innocent. There was not an iota of jealousy in them. What was she thinking I wondered. Was she wondering as to how people lived in fancy houses overlooking gardens? Was she considering that getting to eat as  and when you feel like, was a luxury? I considered myself fortunate and a smile broke on my face. She complimented my smile.

I walked to the gate with the cup of coffee in my hands. Her eyes gazed at the cup. I listened to my heart and handed over her the cup. Hesitatingly she took the cup in her hands. I asked her to have the coffee. She sipped the coffee. Her countenance beamed with happiness which I cannot describe in words.

She finished her coffee and left. She was too unsophisticated to say thank you. I returned back to the stairs. I looked at the beauty of the nature in my garden with the empty cup in my hands. Yes, the cup was empty but I was filled with all the happiness. 

 “I am participating in the #DilKiDealOnSnapdealactivity at BlogAdda in association with SnapDeal.”

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Leap of Faith - Book Review

Leap of faith does what Hum Aap ke Hain Kaun and DDLJ did to the movies. It pulls out a big fat Indian (Haven't we learnt from the movies that all Indian weddings mean Punjabi weddings?) with all the seven days elaborate marriage cermonies including the sangeet, mehandi, milni. To add more flavour here the bride is German.

The Punjabi groom has an old grandmother who is against the wedding. She does not want her grandson to marry a firangan. Though everybody respects her, no body is willing to accept her take on her grandson's marriage with a German. In one of the ceremonies the music system gets blown up. As a result the groom's father's turban catches fire. In another instance the would be German bride hurts herself while trying to wear glass bangles. Finally the ornaments which have been handed over from one generation to another and which the eldest daughter-in-law is supposed to get in her marriage, get stolen. The devious Dadi who has been helpless in preventing her grandson getting married to a foreigner tries to convince everyone that all these incidents are bad omens and God is giving them signals to stop the marriage. But no body listens to her.

Needless to say the couple gets married inspite of all the odds. But do they get the stolen jewellery back? Who is the thief? These questions will be answered only when you read Leap of Faith which is undoubtedly one of the finest books written in the recent times.

Yes we have had exotic weddings involving even the foreign nationals in our books, especially in the romance genre. But the situations and instances in those books were predictable and at times even banal and childish. The characters were stereotyped and they lacked any depth.

Leap of faith comes up with natural dialogues and equally natural reactions to them. The book is full of conversations and interactions which we can absolutely relate to. They come directly from the real life into the printed matter in the book. I guess the author, who herself is a German married to a Punjabi, has picked lot of incidents from her real life and weaved characters around them.

There are minor misunderstandings. There are apprehensions. There are celebrations. The author does not waste a single line in unnecessary descriptions. The flow of the novel is commendable. The way she weaves the story around the mundane daily life instances is simply brilliant. She choses not to bore her readers with the elaborate descriptions of the Indian customs which they already know.

This is an extended Punjabi family. Punjabi men and women have the same names. That creates confusion at some places as the writer does not address the women characters with the suffix kaur. The thread of Preeti's divorce is not taken to its end. I felt that the line on page no. 146 “she manages to response” is incorrect. It should have been “she manages to respond”

The writer manages to weave the plot very subtly, very softly. This was indeed a challenge given that the plot itself is wafer thin. But still she manages to keep you engaged and brings out the novel very well.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Mandate : Will of the People - Book Review

Veer Sanghvi's Mandate : Will of the People is an interesting read. Spread over the elections ranging from the year 1971 to the latest mandate of 2014 the book rivets you to your seats through incidents which shaped the future of the nation.

The book says that Pandit Nehru never chose Indira as his successor. It was Shastriji who inducted her as a information and broadcasting minister. The book says that Shastriji and Indiraji had little love for each other. The book says that Shastriji had a minor heart attack. This was new for me. Could that have been a reason for his sudden death abroad? Perhaps we will never know. The book is full of such nitty-gritty.

According to the author Indiraji was not chosen for the job of Prime Minister because she was brilliant, but actually because she was quite the opposite. She was unable to read her first speech properly and all the foreign correspondents made fun of her. It was she who sowed the seeds of dynastic politics, minority appeasement and charisma of the leader overshadowing the party.

For the first time I heard that there were any good effects of the emergency. According to the author it brought the tanking economy back on track and ensured better law enforcement. Further he says that the target of the Sikh violence which followed Indiraji's death were not the burly Jat Sikhs who were in a position to defend themselves but the slightly built Mazhabi Sikhs who were vulnerable.

Then came the Rajiv era. Much before the BJP used the media for advertisments, Rajiv Gandhi had used it. He had hired a prominent company named Rediffusion from Mumbai and given it a free hand in making the advertisements. The book claims Rajiv corrected the mistakes committed by his mother and brought the north-east population into the main stream.

The book also speaks about the infamous bofors deal and the ouster of Indiraji loyales Pranab Mukherjee and RK Dhawan.

After reading the book you will realize that even before Dr. Manmohan Singh there have been many accidental prime ministers. One of them actually managed to settle the Babri Masjid dispute by talking to both the communities. But Rajiv Gandhi asked to postpone the decision for two days and in the meantime withdrew his support to the government. The book also speaks about prime ministers of India and Pakistan who had almost settled the Kashmir issue. The books claims that the BJP perfectly timed the Ram Jana Bhoomi issue in order to gain from the popularity of the Ramayan television series.

Shankar Dayal Sharma's refusal to take up the post of Prime Minister on account of his failing health, was another addition to my knowledge by this book. The books says that Sonia's heart indeed went out for the poor and she made Manmohan Singh to change his mind with regard to the subsidies to the poor. However at the same time the book claims both of them behaved as if their allies had a right to make money during their tenure at the office.

The writing of the book is simple yet crisp and riveting. Unnecessary details, jargons are avoided. The book runs into mere 137 pages and is indeed a page turner. There is no any reason cited as to why the writer chose not to touch the pre 1971 era. The foreword by Amish is definitely out of place. The author even says that Amish had initially refused to write it.

The conclusions which follow after reading the book are no party is a saint and all parties are ever ready to draw leverages from all the possible natural, mandate calamities and circumstances. So this trip of four decades of the world's biggest democracy is indeed an eye opener and hence worth taking.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Special Lassi - Book Review

Special lassi is not that usual extra maska marke lassi. Special lassi is the opium laced lassi. The writer and her male white friend named River go on an adventurous trip at the foothills of the Himalayas. Yes, though the cover claims their trip to be in the Himalayas, it is actually in the towns situated at the foothills of the Himalayas. Their trip is an adventure because it is unplanned, unconducted. They hop on crowded jeeps and rickety buses. They beg for food in homes when the hotels in the north-east shut down at eight in the night. They try to find lodges in the quaint towns at odd hours and manage to stay in ugly holes. As a revenge they decide to shit on the beds and eventually steal the bedshit from the hotel.

Wait their adventure does not stop here. There is no mention of the age of the author and her friend in the book. But the blurb describes them as “two bleary-eyed kids, teetering on the cusp of adulthood.” Both of them are self confessed stoners. It is also ample substance abuse, procuring of the illegal drugs and even smuggling of contrabands across the international borders that adds adventure to their road trip. River is ever ready to purchase the drugs from any one who offers it to him. Though the author protests his purchases she does not mind sharing the joint with him. Plus the liquor is freely flowing. I never start a review with what I did not like about the book. But Special Lassi is an exemption. I disliked the glorification of consumption of drugs. If I were to hand over this book to my children I would think hundred times. Probably I would never let them lay their hands on this book. The way smoking joints is shown to be a cool activity is for sure in every likelihood influence the young minds adversely.

Stoning apart. Let us look at the book as a travelogue. The journey starts with Darjeeling and its famous tea estates. Then they go to Sikkim and gaze the mountains at Pelling. From Gangtok to Rumtek, Namchi to Yuksom they go trotting Sikkim. They observe a very different kind of Buddhism practiced there. The writer mentions the practices of Buddhism in these regions, which are for sure going to be a great cultural shocks for people belonging to other parts of the country. The writer says that you should enter temples and monasteries after removing your foot wear so that you can soak in all the good vibrations. She also mentions how seriously cutting down trees is taken in Sikkim. She says in Sikkim the general perception of the people is that you may get away after killing a person but you cannot get away after killing a tree.

From Sikkim our duo goes to Nepal via Silliguri. Descriptions of Nepal highlight the difference between an underdeveloped country and developing country like India. While we look forward to emulate America and European countries Nepalis our poor neighbours dream of developing like India some day. But still when it comes to punctuality we have a lesson to learn from them. They visit Fewa, Lumbini in Nepal. The writer overhears that the Kumari Goddess custom emerged because the King of Nepal was pedophile.

From Nepal they come to Haridwar and attend the Ganga Aarti on the ghats. The writer incorrectly mentions that the aarti sung at the ghats is Om Jai Jagdish Hare. It is actually Om Jai Gange Mata and the voice which she choses to call sharp, clear cry bursting belongs to none other than the queen of devotional songs Anuradha Paudwal. I wish mistakes like these were avoided.

Our backpackers then go to Macdonald Gunj, Manali and finally Leh-Ladakh and its lakes with pristine waters. Throughout her journey the author meets lovely yet irritating people. She says people often say that she has been lucky to have encountered such wonderful people in her travels. In her own words she feels, “Is it really about getting lucky? Or is it more about making an effort? Like putting away the headphones, shutting down the laptop, asking and responding to questions, being curious about other people's lives, smiling. I believe that the only prerequisite for finding interesting things or people in life is to be interested; luck has very little to do with it.

Unfortuantely lines like these come only towards the end. The most beautiful writing comes only when the writer is on her own. The description of her cycling down the world's highest motorable pass in Ladakh is sheer beauty. That makes me wonder would this book have been better if it was minus River. There is not a single picture in the book. Pictures of the places visited by the writer would have made the book interesting.

Yet given the dearth of travelogues on the Indian literary scene, this book is recommended inspite of all its shortcomings. It will take you on the tour of Himalayan foothills and tell you how beautiful our country is. Did I tell you that the duo is on a hunt for special lassi? Do they find it? Read the book to know more.