Thank you!!!! 2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 790 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Happy New Year (Movie)….. a review.

Happy new year………. it changes all your perceptions about movies. Firstly it is a slap on people who scream plagiarism because this movie is a collection of dialogues from movies starting from the 70’s to the current day. Plus it is Farah Khan’s attempt to make a movie using all her other movies and that of SRK’s. Gone are the days when women flaunt their bodies. These taboos are mercilessly broken by Farah. Happy New year celebrates the male bodies with their washboard abs and six and eight packs and Boman Irani’s no pack. Its an all male cast except for eye candy Deepika.

The script is not original at all and the editing is ridiculous…… anything anywhere….. The movie is a joke on Oceans 11 and on many other movies but surprisingly enough…… it works!!!! I laughed all through the movie. I don’t know whether it is the fact that 500 bucks down the drain or something else but I laughed….. and I laughed a lot!!! The story is about Charlie who is planning a heist to take revenge for the wrongful conviction and subsequent death of his father. He ropes in losers to help him achieve his goal. Well thats it!!! Thats all there is to it!!! The rest of the 2 or 3 hours (seemed much much more) is a ridiculous attempt to make you laugh.

The stunner in the whole movie is Abhishekh Bachchan….. He stunned me!!! Why did he do the movie? Unless he had some acute financial crisis which would render him homeless……. foodless…….. and clotheless (that would be something you don’t want to see…. the guy has put on oodles of weight) and the joke is actually on you because he is also playing a double role!!! Deepika is the only saving grace in the movie. SRK is lost….. I was awfully disappointed…. being a fan et al.

Watch the movie when it is aired on TV no point wasting time and money on it. And if you persist in watching it leave your brain at home….. it makes no sense!!!

Rating…… 3/10 (3 because I am an SRK fan and the fact that it made me laugh for more than 10 to 15 mins)

God is a Gamer…….. a review

Ravi Subramanian is the author for best-selling thrillers and he has not disappointed his fans. God is a gamer is an absolute page turner guaranteed to keep you engrossed and on your toes all through till the end. It has a whole range of everything…… terrorist attacks, murders, suicides, hit-and-runs, espionage, ATM heist, cyber crimes, online phishing, money laundering, illegal sites, online crimes, politician and underworld nexus etc. This is my second Ravi Subramanian book so when I started the book I knew what to expect and I was not disappointed. I read the book cover to cover non-stop in 7 hours……

The book takes you to the fascinating world of Bitcoins for use as alternative currency for online transactions. What follows is an interwoven series of events spanning across New York, Washington DC, Mumbai, Goa etc. The book starts with the assassination of US senator and close aide to the US President, Gillian Tan in Washington DC, on his way to a meeting with the US President for the use of Bitcoins as a legal form of currency. A phishing scandal in New York International Bank in Mumbai has disturbed the peace of the banking world and has put the job of Swami, head of retail banking on line. Meanwhile Josh Connelly in New York is preparing for a major ATM heist using the TOR browser and making online transactions on “Cotton Trail”, a website for all illegal activities like narcotics, prostitution, banned substance even paedophillia which is accessible only through TOR and making payments for all of these via Bitcoins.

The book is about Aditya and Sundeep…… mentor and close friends of Swami who are floundering with their gaming business. The death of a top banker and aspirant for the post of RBI governor Malvika puts the whole plot in a frenzy with the CBI and FBI joining hands to solve the various interconnected crimes. The job of solving all this falls on the FBI officer Adrian, Tony and Dan and CBI officer Kabir.

The story also revolves around Varun and Tanya. Their love and romance puts the story in a lighter note. While Varun helps his father Aditya’s floundering gaming business to get back into track, Tanya tries to come to terms with the mystery surrounding the death of her mother Malvika and suspects the finance minister’s hand in her death.

The book is beautifully interwoven with lots of twists and turns in the plot. I was very fascinated with the whole bitcoin theory….. the first I heard of it….. also using the concept of downloading Bot malware while updating the gaming programs into the plot was a genius. Gillian Tan’s wife Nikki, daughter Gloria and White house head of staff Mike Hendricks keep the plot twisted and confused. The thriller ends with the hooker’s blog connecting all the dots to complete the picture. I kept wondering about the tag line “Is revenge a crime”…….. I understood it only after I finished the epilogue.

What I liked about the book was the pace in which it moved. It kept me glued to the book asking for more. The chapters are very small so for a person with a short attention span this is god-send. I was totally flummoxed reading the epilogue. It turned the story round totally and gave the whole book a totally different angle. The book is very informative….. I had no idea of the .onion pseudo domain host sites that can be accessed only through TOR browsers. Using hotel key cards for an ATM heist and hacking into the bank servers to increase the withdrawal limits made me realise we are totally not safe at all times and that cyber crimes have reached our door steps….. we better wake up and take note. All in all I was transported to a whole new online world of cyber crimes which I had no idea about. It was an absolute revelation. My knowledge barely covered phishing and hacking….. The events took the concept of cyber crimes to a whole new level.

The cover of the book has the white house in the background and the Bitcoin logo. The pictorial depiction of the black clouds moving towards the White House in view of a whole new kind of sophisticated criminal genre in the form of Bitcoins being used to finance crime is a new challenge for the whole world and therefore very apt for the theme of the book.

What I didn’t like about the book were the number of characters in the book that kept increasing with every chapter and often I lost track of them…… some of them were totally unnecessary. The book moved too fast from Washington DC to New York to Mumbai to Goa and back so I wasn’t really able to connect to the characters or empathise with them. The prologue was absolutely unnecessary and was not part or in any way connected to the main plot. Some of the events in the book were totally not necessary. The dramatic end where the FBI and CBI are revealing the killer reminded me of CID’s ACP Pradyuman and Salunkhe and I kept waiting for Daya or Abhijeet (Shome) to do some door breaking ūüėÄ (LOL ).

The book is a gripping thriller and absolute value for money. Must read for all!!!

Thank you Blogadda for the autographed copy of the book it was an excellent read.

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

Daddy….. the birth of a Father……. a review

daddy

Tuhin A. Sinha’s latest book Daddy….. The birth of a Father came to me via PR Pundit. This is the first time I am reading a Tuhin Sinha. The book is a non-fiction book for childcare written by a hands on dad. This is the first book that I have read that is a comprehensive and pragmatic account of¬†childcare and parenting from the father’s viewpoint. The book covers the dos and don’ts of child care from the time the parents know of the pregnancy, the ultrasounds, what to expect when pregnant, all of it from the fathers perspective¬†to the birth of the child to the challenges of a hands on father with a newborn upto the age of 2 years when the child leaves for pre-school.

In today’s urban life of nuclear families with little or no support system we often find ourselves at a juncture of balancing the home and workplace. In the past this has been a job which has been exclusive to the woman. She gives up her career or has to balance both. In the process even though she tries hard it becomes impossible to justify both and she ends up feeling guilty. Sharing of responsibilities is so essential in the modern day fast life. ¬†Today we see more and more women returning back to work soon after the maternity leave, and more and more fathers opting for a flexible job timings so that they can be with the kids and take an active part in their initial days. This is a joy that was not an option for fathers in the past because it was “a woman’s job“.

Daddy is Tuhin Sinha’s personal journey of becoming a father and all the challenges that he and his wife have gone through in this process. The book depicts this role reversal and the challenges that the couple have faced. The book also takes into account the experiences of many other fathers with similar predicament and the result is a beautiful compilation of childcare from the father’s point of view.

The book also has write ups by a child psychologist and pediatricians simplifying some otherwise scary aspects in the life of a newborn. Tuhin Sinha has simplified childcare and has shown that you¬†can be loving and doting parent without being overly obsessed about it. I have come across many parents whose obsession with children take childcare to a whole new platform…… which is absolutely not healthy. Tuhin balanced his utter total love for his baby without being obsessed about it. The “helicopter parent syndrome” was dealt with very nicely. Especially considering the fact that ¬†parents hate being told that they are so.

The balance of extended family with grandparents and parents taking an active part in the child’s upbringing was dealt with very beautifully without stepping onto each others foot. The happy and secured upbringing for the child is an essential factor and including the grandparents and using their experience to give an all round development to the child was highlighted.

What I loved about the book is the simple language. The chapters were not too long and the anecdotes kept you glued to the writing. He simplified the mammoth task of child rearing and got you to enjoy it. He has amply justified the nuances of stay at home fathers and removed any stigma that has been associated with it. I found this fact refreshing. The pictorial references for swaddling a child, massage, bathing the child, burping the child are really a nice addition. The pragmatic approach to things that will happen and the practical way of handling them is something nobody else will tell you. The chapter on nannies in the Indian context was very informative.

Relationship of new parents post birth of a baby was a unique addition which I liked. The fact that life does not only have to be about the baby was endearing. The inclusion of a list of illnesses and a table of what to do when it happens was a good addition.  The chapters come with a short summary  at the end of it which lists the content of the chapter which in turn could serve as a to-do list for most fathers. The references from other fathers has helped give the book a well rounded approach and made the book sort of a handbook for fathers to-be. The dreamy and emotional letter in the end was a fabulous end to the book.

The cover pic of the two hands was beautiful. As a photographer I loved it. It clearly showed the love between the father and the child with the child grasping the finger of the father….. ¬†The personal pics in the inside covers makes Neev Tanish very real to the reader and also makes it a pictorial depiction of Tuhin’s personal journey.

What I didn’t think necessary was the lengthy prologue. The book is complete by itself….. the Bollywood connection to justify it was not required…… it was trying to validate the book. The effort was obvious…….The experiences of the common hands-on-dads made it more approachable because the book by itself is a beautiful rendition¬†of the relation of father and son and love comes through to me as a reader. All in all a good read and full value for money. A must buy for fathers starting a family and must gift for would-be mothers to gift¬†their clueless husbands.

Tuhin’s ¬†sensitivity of the whole what to expect when you’re expecting and later bringing up the child was so beautiful that I personally think all would-be mothers should be shoving the book down their hubby’s throats…. I know I would…….. “Kuch seekho”!!!

Thank you PR Pundit for the excellent read.

Charity vs empowerment

India is a poverty ridden country. According to the Rangarajan committee 29.5% of the Indian population lives below the poverty line. The fact is more pronounced in the rural and backward states of the country which is primarily dependent on agriculture as the basic occupation. The land holdings there are controlled by the few rich people and the rest are the farm labor who depend on their daily earnings for the survival of their entire family. This goes to say that a bad spell of monsoon would mean that they would have to pull their children out of the schools and they would have to migrate to the cities in search of a livelihood.

Most banks provide ample support by way of reduction of interest rates in the loans or by way of deferred payments. The Government in some cases also has helped these farmers by writing off the outstanding loans to these farmers. This helps them tide over the bad patch but in the long run these farmers and also the landless labor who are never at the receiving end of these benefits fall prey to looking up to calamities to tide through the bad patches.

The NGO’s and Government organisations who work extensively in the slums and poverty stricken rural dwellings provide for the people and give them ample support. In most cases their medical and basic needs are met but it also inculcates a sense of dependency on these organisations to fund their monetary requirements. Sometimes they look up to these organisations as¬†their only source of livelihood. ¬†Also corruption in these areas makes it impossible for the people to get what is allotted to them and most NGO’s working with poverty ridden people soon realised it.

The need to empower people to find their own feet therefore became of paramount importance. ¬†Today most of the NGO’s have skill training programs where they teach the adult men and womenfolk of the households basic life skills which would help them supplement¬†their earnings and in cases where there is absolutely no earning this training module has helped them find a source to provide for the entire family.

India is famous for her handicrafts. The handicraft and cottage industry has proven to be one of the major export oriented industry. Handicrafts have not only found its place in the urban haats and exhibitions but also in our urban malls. The skill required for this has been handed over from generations by grandmothers and mothers to their children. In other cases the NGO’s have started skill centers to provide such training. Be it the Kantha and jute industry in West Bengal, the handwoven sarees of the south of India or the Katki silk¬†sarees and Pipli work in Odisha or the Warli Painting industry are just some examples of successful attempts by NGO’s to promote the artisans to find a source of livelihood without leaving the confines of their homes. Also the lace industry in Hyderabad and Karnataka and Chikan embroidery industry in Lucknow ¬†helps young girls to help their parents earn more than Rs 50 a day to supplement their family income. The Lijjat papad movement and Anand have empowered women in Gujarat and Maharashtra and are success stories for such models.

The Kantha and chikan are no longer limited as the must haves in feminine wardrobes but it features in most fashion ramps and found its place in the international fashion scenario as well. I have worked with some organisations who have been providing training to young girls and women in the urban slums to find a means to earn a livelihood through such cottage industry. The upcoming festival of Diwali and Christmas has these girls and women make candles and colorful diyas and sell them. Also the embroidery business and garment business takes little capital and widely popular skill. In some cases the girls and women are trained in the beauty industry to enhance their income and provide for a career.

Dharavi in Mumbai is an excellent example of the cottage industry which houses not only one of the largest leather goods industry but it¬†is¬†also a major exporter of the leather goods. Dharavi has most of the garment industry within its confines. Entrepreneurship and the need to generate employment are the only means to eradicate poverty and empower the masses. If you can’t find a job for you, why not create it and create it¬†for others as well. If one skilled person can teach another person the art…… he is empowering¬†more people and helping more people to a means of livelihood just by sharing information and skill. Skill is something that can stand by you when nothing else does.

We donate money to various causes involving people but instead if we donate our time and teach or share some life skills that we have emulated over our life time we can help people to perhaps develop a skill to last a lifetime and also a sureshot means to earn a livelihood and support a family. They will no longer need the help of any charitable institutions but rather be independent as to provide support to many like them.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day…… Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Lao Tzu

 

Private India…… a review

PRIVATE INDIA LR

I received this book as part of the BlogAdda Book review program.¬†This book is a culmination of two great minds. Our very own Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson of the Private series fame. It’s an absolute page turner thriller and promises to have you glued asking for more. The collaboration has the protagonists of both the authors coming together to solve this absolute interesting maze of events.

A series of serial killing rocks the city of Mumbai. The women murdered are strangulated with a yellow scarf. The ¬†murdered victims are the movers and shakers of Mumbai. They belong to different walks of life ranging from a doctor, to a journalist, to a singer, a politician, a principal, a judge, an actress……. with nothing in common among them on the face of it. The only common factors are the yellow scarf used for killing the victims and a series of trinkets placed around them. What ensues is a chase with a body found at every corner. ¬†The story is also of the troubled head of Private India, Santosh Wagh who lost his family in an accident. He is entrusted with the investigation of the serial murders. He and his team of investigators Nisha, Mubeen and Hari Padhi look for clues only to reach a dead-end at every corner. The entry of Jack Morgan fastens the pace of the investigation with all fingers pointing to the Attorney General who is embroiled in the killings at every stage.

Sanghi’s penchant for mythology comes through with the interesting trivia about the thuggee cult and the navratri festival, making Goddess Durga an important part of the story. Mumbai is the central theme where the book is based. So the author takes you everywhere from Malabar hill to cuffe parade to Mira Road.¬†The book has a little of everything criminal in Mumbai…….. the nexus between the police officer Rupesh and the underworld don Munna and Godman Nimboo baba, the corruption between the politicians and the judiciary, the betting racket angle, the bollywood angle, the maimed child beggar angle, child abuse, prostitution and political nexus and of course the terrorism angle……. just about everything criminal in Mumbai.

The cover of the book has this lovely picture of the gateway and the Taj hotel together in one frame, taken in magic hour. I particularly loved that shot also the pic of the bandra sea link at night is beautiful and it does show the Indian connection to the Private series…… very apt.

What I loved about the book was the small chapters. It kept me glued without letting me lose focus of the plot. Also the pace at which the book moved was fast enough to not let me lose the plot. Mumbai being one of my favorite cities and having lived there for a decade, I identified with the plot and the investigators. The trivia about the thuggee cult was totally new to me. Also the trivia about the various sects in India who were listed by the British as the killers was something I had never heard of. Being a Bengali, Durga and navratri are my favorite festivals so the significance of the nine avatars of Durga used in the book in this manner was well imbibed and a revelation. This is the first time that i have read Hindu mythology being used in a thriller in this way.

What I didn’t think necessary in the book was the terrorism angle……..¬†the Indian Mujahideen angle and the Pakistan and ISI angle could have been avoided as it did not contribute to the main plot in any way. The Nimboo Baba character was also unnecessary. The book was long winding and some of the details regarding the Mumbai serial bomb blasts was¬†totally¬†unnecessary though I must say that it is the first time that the serial blasts in the Mumbai locals has been highlighted. Usually it is only the Taj attack that people talk about.

All in all the book is a great read and value for money.

I want to thank BlogAdda for the excellent read…… it was wonderful!!!

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

Water Politics

Water is one of the most essential components for all living beings on the face of earth. It is also a fast disappearing resource. Scarcity of water is something that my city has faced stoically over the years. From getting a meagre supply of two hours a day to no water for days together. Scarcity of water therefore is something that is very close to our heart also something that irks and makes us happy. It has been a long time since we have been able to take this precious resource for granted.

We are totally dependent on the three months of moderate rainfall in monsoons for our annual supply of water. The entire agriculture is also dependent on the monsoons. The inflation rate rising prices are all dependent on the three months of monsoon. So it is but natural that when it comes to the political scenario the bigwigs make water one of the issues in the elections.

So far we haven’t got a single party who talks for the people. Most people are out to fill their own pockets. Most of the local politicians have vested interests or own the water tankers that supply water to the impoverished rich people in times of scarcity. You rarely hear of the rich ever having a water problem. It is only the middle class and poor who are dealing with this on a day-to-day basis. They wake up at odd hours to fill buckets with water to sustain the day or sometimes the days or week while the rich on the other hand fill their swimming pools and jacuzzi with potable water lest their skin gets affected.

The politicians wish to keep the pressure of the water scarcity in the minds of the people at all times in spite of heavy rains. The “one time a day” water supply to the city has been on in spite of the heavy rains. Authorities say that the catchment areas are ¬†still only 95% full….. this in the wake of a very good continuous and optimum rainfall.

The politicians now have started their vote bank politics whereby they are diverting water to their own jurisdiction in view of the upcoming elections and creating a false scarcity in the minds of people. In spite of the so-called water shortage the farmers in rural India are still being encouraged to grow water sucking cash crops like sugarcane. Sugarcane has been responsible for draining the water table but the politicians who own these agricultural farms  and the sugar factories pay no heed to the woes of the people and continue to grow them thereby diverting potable water to these water hungry parts of the state.

Water harvesting is something that is being used for domestic use and watering gardens in the city is something that these sugarcane growers have never even heard of. The corporations make it mandatory for all housing societies to install borewells and water harvesting in their premises. The same has not even been implemented in the rural areas which need the water more.

Many novel villages have now implemented various methods of water harvesting in their villages. Many man-made lakes have been created to supplement the water shortage and supply water to the villagers and farmers throughout the year. The technology used is cheap and expertise is available at lot of NGOs who provide them free of charge.

We have had a late monsoon this year but once it has started it has made up for the deficit. Most of the rivers and lakes are full but the irrigation dept says it is not enuf. These days the current slogan the parties are making is that the villages need water and so in spite of rain we have to live with water cuts and they divert the water to feed the water guzzling cash crops. It is as if my city is responsible for the water crisis of the entire state. These villages have not made any attempt at water harvesting or even changed their crop pattern to low water requiring crops.

The politicians are also investing in expensive townships which has water guzzling golf courts. All the potable water is being diverted to these townships to feed their swimming pools and man-made lakes while the people who deserve this water continue to live in the misconception of having a deficit rainfall and subsequent water cuts.

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