Sunday, 12 July 2015

The 32nd Anniversary

“Why do you even expect him to call when you know he won’t? Come on, it’s our day, don’t spoil your mood because of him. He’s busy, as always.”

It was their 32nd marriage anniversary, Ankit and Naina. Back then in 1983, while everyone in India was celebrating the cricket World Cup triumph, the Jain household was going through a strife. Their youngest son had decided to fall in love with a girl not from their caste. The elders of the family were livid. In the days that followed, Ankit did marry Naina but he was shown the door out of the Jain household. With 30 rupees in his pocket and a loving wife by his side, he had come to the city of dreams – Mumbai. Cut to 2015, he owns 3 flats in Mumbai, a fat bank balance and still, a loving wife by his side. A happy man, with just one lament in his life – his busy son.

“I am his mother and I had not raised my child like this! I do not know what has gotten into him but a mother’s heart wants what it wants. I can’t help it”, she shot back with tears.

Vivek Jain was a corporate lawyer. In his short career, he had managed to achieve quite many feats. Last year, he shifted to his own flat after he was promoted to a very important position in the company. Owing to his almost 80-hour work weeks and never-ending meeting/parties for poaching prospective clientèle and maintaining the existing ones, he hardly got any time for anyone else. Now, his life was all about his job.

While Ankit and Naina were having their lamenting tiff, a mobile rang. It was Ritesh calling on Ankit’s cell. Ritesh Kanitkar was the Jains’ extended family. He worked together with Ankit and their families would often go to vacations together.

“Happy anniversary my friend!”, said a booming and beaming voice of Ritesh. 
"Thank you, thank you Ritesh.” 
“I know you would have nothing planned for this day, isn’t it Scrooge?” 
“Ha ha. You know me. Home is where the heart is.”
“Cut the crap! Get ready both of you, we are going to Vivanta’s for lunch and I won’t take no for an answer. Bye”

An hour later Ritesh picked up Ankit and Naina from their house. “Where’s Vandita?”, asked Naina. Vandita was Ritesh’s wife. “She had some work and said she will meet us there directly.” Varun parked the car and all three people were heading towards the lift. It was just then that Varun received a call. He motioned Ankit and Naina to go ahead saying this would take some time.

The lift chimed on the 1st floor and opened, the Jains had visited the restaurant many times but never had they seen a red carpet being rolled out from the lift and people standing there with flower bouquets to welcome them. “Happy anniversary sir, ma’am”, said the manager. “Ah. Did Ritesh do all this? Thank you thank you.” “No sir, he didn’t. Please come in.” 

With a slightly puzzled look Ankit and Naina went ahead, the manager flung the door open for them to enter into a dark room with a fired up projector playing some soft music along with slides showing the clicks from their marriage and vacations. Ankit kind of froze on his spot two steps into the room and Naina slowly wrapped her hand around his with an expression of bewildering surprise common to both their faces.

In what seemed like an eternity to Mr. and Mrs. Jain, the lights were switched on as the slides ended. Ankit quickly wiped his nascent tears form the corner of his eyes, Naina was the less inconspicuous of the two. As their gazes shifted to the other side of the hall, they saw a tall man walking towards them, just the person they wanted to see – their only son Vivek Jain.

Monday, 20 October 2014


This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Blame it on my ignorance, but I hardly knew the author of this book. And by the time I finished this particular piece, I was kicking myself for the same!! Not only has Mr. Ravi Subramanian carved out a perfect plot but he has also made the novel fair bit edgy and absolutely gripping. The story starts with a murder, follows it up with a phishing scam, another murder, then showcases an ATM heist (cyber crime) and ultimately reveals the reason why Mr. Subramanian gave the tagline- “Is revenge a crime?”

The storyline is crisp and precise. All the connections are explained in a concise way and all the questions are answered at the perfect time. The prologue introduces the concept of bitcoins-the modern money and senator Gillian Tan. Ironically, the main story starts with the murder of the senator and flows into a myriad of cyber-crimes committed at seemingly unconnected places. The story has different angles at different junctions.
While the murder of Senator Gillian Tan brings in the FBI in the foray, the case of the supposed suicide of the CEO of a prominent international bank is handed over to the CBI in India when the finance minister of India gets involved in it. Then there is Mr. Aditya Rao, the legend in the Indian banking industry and the owner of the Indian gaming company- Indiscape. Mr. Aditya also owns the most respected BPO in India- eTOIS. Alongside him is Sundeep, his protégé, helping him run the company and another former colleague Swami, who is the head of retail banking at New York International Bank, the same bank whose CEO, Malvika, died. The story also introduces kids of Malvika and Aditya bumping into each other, first at Rio and then at Goa. All these, with a few more supporting characters, find their lives turned topsy turvy under different circumstances which are ultimately strewn wonderfully into having one common origin at the epilogue of the book.

Although I would agree on usage of fair bit of technical jargon of the finance world, but the author has tried his best to give lucid explanations of the financial terms. The best part of the book is undoubtedly the epilogue. After you read the final chapter, you find yourself accepting the predicament of the situation somewhat unsatisfactorily. You yearn for more answers and a better ending. That is what exactly the epilogue provides. “Is revenge a crime?”- The author completely justifies this tagline and even presents an opinion, albeit hidden in the plot. The epilogue will make you sit upright, bring on an expression on your face which would depict that you are slowly but enjoyably digesting every bit of the maverick plot and make you mutter a gamut of expletives in awe.

If at all one has to find the chinks in the armour then it would be a not-so-capturing blurb and a relatively easy narration. Even though the easy narration helps at times, but more often than not you wish to be more challenged in terms of capturing language.
Crisp storyline, well-carved characters, an impeccable plot and a method in all the mess are the defining characteristics of this book. Being just over 300 pages, it is a very good weekend read.

Book Details-


Author- Mr. Ravi Subramanian

Publishers- Penguin Books

Genre- Fiction Thriller

ISBN- 9780143421399

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The winter is coming- Two Conflicting Tales

Sanchit Wadhwa|10|Doon International School, Derhadun

“The winter is coming” thought Sanchit Wadhwa, the 10-year old kid who was the scion to the Wadhwa group of companies. Known as Sunny among his friends, he looked at the distant tree rife with brown leaves clutching to the tendrils draped with gloom. The thought of visiting his home cast a pall over his usual idyllic demeanor. Kids of his age eagerly await the whole year for the winter break but Sunny would feel unsettled by the idea of going home, or what others called his home. Little Sunny has been in the boarding school since when he was just 5 and a half years old. At his home, he remembers going to sleep every night against the backdrop of his mother’s suppressed shrieks and his father’s violent outbursts. He was too small then to understand, but now he does. The love out of which he was born had fizzed out.

On one such tumultuous night, he gathered enough courage to venture into his parents’ bedroom. Little did he know that it would kill the innocence he had as a five and a half year old boy. In there, he found his mother sobbing on the bed, in a torn designer gown with a bleeding lower lip and dishevelled hair. That is the last memory he has of his mother and his so-called home. Every year he dreads going back to that haunted place where he is treated as royalty. He would rather stay in the empty hostel than go to that hollow, cold home of his. But for that he needs to be a 16-year old.

“The winter is coming” he sighed and went back to bed.

Dhananjay Kate|12|Gun Factory, somewhere in Haryana

“The winter is coming” thought Dhananjay Kate, the 12-year old kid who did a man’s work in a gun factory along the borders of Haryana. Known as Dhanno to his masters, he looked at the distant tree rife with brown leaves clutching to the tendrils and his eyes lit up. He gets a month off, every December, when he goes to his family residing at a small village in eastern Uttar Pradesh. He remembers how distraught his mother was when he decided to accompany his uncle to work in the factory to support his family. With his father losing the battle against TB when he was 5, Dhanno had long given up on his dream of education and had made peace with himself. He had come to the gun factory when he was 7 and had started working as the chaiwallah’s apprentice. Now he had a “job” in the gun factory and earned ten times of what he did. The best part of going home in December was that he got to celebrate the birthdays of his two younger sisters. He planned to buy bangles for both of them this year from the nearby mela with the bonus he got in Holi.

Just when a tear, signifying his sweet nostalgia, trickles down his smiling face, a firm hand pats his back and the man yells, “aye kid, I don’t pay you to count the number of trees outside. Get back to work”. “Yes sir” says Dhanno and gets back to the machinery.

“The winter is finally coming” he says to himself in a low voice with the widest possible grin on his face blotted with charcoal.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Book Review: Private India

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!
Book Review: Private India

In Mumbai, the festive season of Navratri sees seemingly unconnected women killed by a psychopath. Detective Santosh Wagh, the head of Private India, and his team (ex-CID Nisha, tech expert Hari and forensic expert Mubeen) find themselves in the middle of all this, trying to nab the miscreant before he completes the series of murders on the ninth and final day of Navratri.

The Prologue of the novel mentions about the 7/11 attacks on Mumbai for which Indian Mujahideen, a terrorist outfit based in India, was the prime suspect. The novel goes on to depict another such planning to avenge the missions foiled by Private India. In the first part, the novel slowly submerges into the killing of the women and ultimately conjoins the two plots at the end.  Alongside Santosh and his team the novel brings in several supporting characters like the famous Jack Morgan (ex-marine and the boss at Private Agency) Rupesh Desai (Assistant Commissioner of Police and erstwhile a very good friend of Santosh), Munna (the dominating gang-lord of Mumbai) and Nimboo baba (the self-styled godman).

The novel commences with the murder of Dr. Jaiyen at a hotel which employs Private India as their ‘advisor’, which effectively brings in the protagonist to the middle of all the mess that follows. Next to be killed is a journalist, Bhavna Choksi.  Soon the killer starts killing high-profile women (the Chief Justice of Mumbai high court, a politician and a singing sensation) and the pressure mounts up on the investigating team of Private India. The notorious killer leaves behind different props with every murder and it is only after the fifth murder that Santosh is able to crack what exactly the props mean. There are tortuous twists and turns which leaves you with more than one theories to solve the murder until you arrive at the climax.


The best part of the book was the ability of the author to make you visualize the scenes he’s describing.  The author describes the fine details of the scenes which breathes life into the story. You find yourself trying to make connections as new information is methodically unveiled. The reference to the Hindu Goddes Durga has been aptly done throughout the book, be it about her nine avatars or about the yellow cotton scarf and the thugee tribe.

Small stuff like the quirky introduction of the characters, quiescent enough not to affect the seriousness but still managing to squeeze out a giggle, makes this novel very likeable- “Mubeen was Private India’s full time medical examiner. Time of death, cause of death, manner of death- death was his speciality”. There is a fair amount of terse one-liners used in the novel which makes you appreciate the intelligence and adroitness of their usage by the writer. “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”

The first person speech used for the killer is a masterstroke. Not only it enhances the enigma of the killer but it also augments the depressing mania surrounding him.


There are a few grammatical and spelling errors which is not at all expected from such a reputed publication. Apart from that the second part of the novel seems to lose a bit of pace. There is an intricate weaving of the plots which sometimes leaves the reader wanting a bit of simplicity because some of the plots seem unnecessary. The book has two climaxes and it should have been avoided as the second climax leaves you wanting more and seems insufficient.

Overall verdict-

The author reveals just enough to keep you at the edge of your seat. From the very description of the first murder, the author successfully develops an intrigue in the reader’s mind. The book is a very good read and I finished it within a day of receiving it. My overall rating would be 4/5.

Details -

Title             : 
Private India
Author        : Ashwin Sanghi & James Patterson
Publishers : Arrow Books
Genre           : Fiction ( Crime Thriller)

ISBN 9780099586395

Thursday, 31 July 2014

A trip to Leh and Ladakh

This post is a part of Skyscanner travel wizard activity at

A trip to Leh and Ladakh

Different people have different preferences for trip vacations. Some like the hustle-bustle of the crowded yet renowned cities like Paris and New York, some prefer the pleasant bucolic scenes and some opt for archaic places of historical importance. But my calling has always been the nature, specially the ice-caped mountains!! So, when I got the much-needed respite from my jam-packed schedule, I decided to make a quick trip to the scenically stunning Leh and Ladakh.

But owing to my sudden decision, I had no time to plan a week’s trip. That’s when a friend of mine suggested Skyscanner. Saying that Skyscanner’s Travel Wizard is good would be an understatement; it is simply the best!

The first step was to book tickets for the family of four. Skyscanner not only made the bookings hassle-free but I even got a great deal saving around 29,000 bucks on the return journey.

After the flight tickets were booked, the staying arrangements were to be done. I had to look no further than Skyscanner for that. It just took me few minutes to shortlist three hotels of my choice and after some more deliberations, I booked Hotel Yasmin for a week.

Lastly I had to look for transportation once we reach there and Skyscanner seemed just the perfect option for that too. My planning was done and dusted with in under an hour and all thanks to Skyscanner!

Trip to the Roof of the world

The commencement

Having already seen the heaven of India(read Kashmir), I had a very high benchmark for a scenery which would impress me beyond imagination. But little did I know that this trip to Leh would inflate those benchmarks to unattainable standards. Even before landing at Leh’s airport I had already finished half of my camera’s memory on the pictures I couldn’t resist clicking from the plane’s window. The eagle’s eye view of Leh was breath-taking. Overall it’s a very small town whose main source of income is tourism. The main tourism season starts around April and continues till late October before the snow sets in. On the journey from airport to the hotel in the cab hired through Skyscanner, I witnessed a number of Buddhist temples with typical prayer bells.


Day 1(local sight-seeing):

After resting for half a day and acclimatizing to the high altitude discomfort, we were raring to out and explore Leh. On the first day we went local sight-seeing. Chiefly, we went to some of the most renowned monasteries in and around Leh. We started with the Hemis monastery, then visited the Thiksey monastery and finally to the yamaluru monastery. While Hemis was the biggest and most elaborated, Yamaluru and Thiksey were humble yet artistic. The monasteries gave a sneak peak to the lives that the monks lead.


Day 2(Pang-gong Lake):

The next day saw us on a day’s trip to the famous Pang-gong lake. The lake is situated at a height of about 14,500 feet above sea level and is land-locked. To reach the lake one has to go through the Changla pass which is at about 17688 ft. high from the mean sea level. The snow covered mountains and the tortuous roads which, I must say, have been nicely maintained by the Border Roads Organization provided scintillating views.


Upon reaching the Pang gong lake we were amused to see the serene blue expanse of water with a flock of seagulls flying over it. The lake seemed an exact and precise reflection of the sky. It looked like the sky and the lake were one only to be separated by the brown mountains


Day 3&4(Nubra valley):

The third day’s places to visit were Nubra valley and Diskit village. I had booked a hotel at the Diskit village for a night’s stay through an agent of the same hotel that I booked through Skyscanner. The route to Nubra valley goes through the highest motorable road in the world- the Khardung-La pass which is at about 18380 ft. above the mean sea level. I even came across the story of origin of Maggi at the pass! The Diskit village of Nubra valley was a welcome change since it was at about 10,000 feet as compared to 13000 ft. altitude of Leh. I was amused to see the ubiquitious greenery after witnessing only snow-clad and dusty mountains till then. One of the main features of Diskit village is the sand dunes. I even rode on the double humped Bactrian camels. It was great fun!! You can even visit the Mahakali Mandir, which is situated at a steep height, and the giant Buddha Statue on the way.




Day 5(Shanti stupa, Sangam, Magnetic Hill):

Our fifth day started with a visit to yet another monastery followed by a visit to the ‘3 Idiots’ school or the Druk White Lotus school. The school was very tourist friendly and gave us a peek of its innovative methods of construction of school buildings. We were also escorted to the famous point where ‘Chatur’ was given the “shock of his life”!

From there on we went to the Shanti Stupa. Set at 14,000 feet , one can witness breathtaking picteresque panorama of the entire horizon. It would be disparaging to describe it view through a mere photograph.

Our next stop was ‘sangam’. It’s the meeting point of two rivers, namely, Indus and Zanskar. Zanskar flows into the indus river and the distinction is widely discernible. You can even enjoy rafting here.

Next on cards was the mysterious Magnetic Hill. It is said that due to magnetic interference the hill is able to pull cars uphill. Though we witnessed it first hand, the guide rightfully informed us about this being an opotical illusion. However it was an uncanny experience of thrill when the car started moving on its own towards the steeper slope. On the way of our return to the hotel, we also went to the Leh palace and the military museum.


Day 6(local marketing):

Its good come back with some physical manifestation of the beautiful memories of the places one has visited. Thus on the last day of the stay we decided to hit the markets. We went to the ‘Tibetan Gol market’, which is quite famous there and bought some mementoes. On the last day we went to a restaurant to have our food and I must say, it was delicious.

Day 7 –

The return journey was again facilitated by Skyscanner. I had booked a cab through SkyScanner and it dropped us to the airport.
Here’s the rough invoice of the journey-

1.     Flight tickets- 40,000INR( I save a great deal of money due to Skyscanner)
2.     Transportation+accomodation+food- 43,000 INR
3.     Personal expenses- 13,000 INR

And I managed to save 4,000 INR!!!! Thank you Skyscanner.

Everyone who has visited Leh and Ladakh would agree that the journey was enthralling yet enchanting at the same time and I’m no different. However, it would not have been possible to plan such a wonderful trip in such a short time period had Skyscanner not come to my rescue. Not only the service was good, but the range of facilities provided was colossal. It’s a complete one-stop solution to all the travel problems.