KiKiRa The Great

I’ve been fortunate enough to be nestled into the world of Bangla Literature in my formative years. I had begun reading magazines and novels for children even before I turned ten. The joy of holding a freshly printed periodical magazine at least once a month and glancing through the pages to skim the content before rushing off to school was incomparable. Calcutta has carried a rich tradition of interesting magazines for children, young adults as well as adults. The ones, especially for pre-teens were a huge treasure of informative articles, short stories, poems, comics and sports. Anandamela, Shuktara, Kishore Bharati, Kishore Gyan Bigyan, Sandesh – there were so many to choose from each fortnight! The most popular among these, Anandamela was from the ABP house of publications – it was bourgeoisie, glamorous, rich in content and had great print quality priced at Rs 10 for each issue.

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The annual pujabarshiki Anandamela 1996 and the Kikira novel published in it (on right)

The fortnightly and annual Pujabarshiki issues of Anandamela introduced me to Kikira The Great by Bimal Kar. No, he isn’t Japanese and is almost not a detective. KiKiRa stands for Kinkar Kishore Ray, a brilliantly crafted pseudo-acronym to enhance his identity. He is a self-proclaimed magician who had a target of at least a hundred magic shows in his lifetime but was stopped short at only thirty six of them due to an illness. A sudden bout of disease disabled one of his hands and made it impossible for him to perform on stage again. He called himself ‘Kikira The Magician’, ‘Kikira The Wonder,’ ‘Kikira the Great,’ and still had a few tricks up his sleeve that effervesce in all of his cases. Kikira has two assistants, a young clerical fellow named Tarapada and a doctor of medicine, Chandan. The evolution of this apparently lopsided friendship between the three occurred during a case for the first time. The first story in the Kikira series – Kapalik-ra Ekhono Achhe (Tantrics Still Do Exist) – began with Tarapada and Chandan as the main protagonists, Kikira only making an entry later with a burly introduction! I think the author wanted to experiment, improvise and give a trial with the readers to see if they accept such an offbeat character.

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Book Review : The Peshwa

Blurb View:

peshwa-1It is the 18th century and despite the dominant Mughal rule, the Maratha Confederacy has established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the Indian Subcontinent. The fragile peace between the two powers is threatened when Balaji Vishvanath Bhat, Peshwa of the Confederacy, foils the plans of Nizam Ul Mulk of the Mughal Empire, and asserts the power of the Marathas. However, little does the Peshwa know that he has dealt the Nizam an unintended wound—one with roots in his mysterious past and one that he would seek to avenge till his last breath.

When the Peshwa surrenders his life to a terminal illness dark clouds gather over the Confederacy as it is threatened by a Mughal invasion as well as an internal rebellion.

All the while a passive spectator, the Peshwa’s son, Bajirao Bhat, now needs to rise beyond the grief of his father’s passing, his scant military and administrative experience, and his intense love for his wife and newborn son to rescue everything he holds dear. Will the young man be able to protect the Confederacy from internal strife and crush the armies of the Empire all while battling inner demons? Will he live up to his title of Peshwa?

Review: 

I’ve always been a fan of historical fiction as they seldom fail to provide new perspectives to the erstwhile facts. After the success of the Hindi film Bajirao Mastani, Ram Sivasankaran’s novel The Peshwa is bound to invoke interest among history lovers. I haven’t watched the film, but I was aware of Peshwa Bajirao and the colourful life he led. A book on him seemed to be need of the hour and well in sync of keeping abreast with the topic.

Ram Sivasankaran has done quite a bit of research and plotting before embarking onto this journey with The Peshwa. The story begins with the lesser known Peshwa, Balaji Vishwanath Bhat, father of Bajirao. He had been rock solid against the Mughal empire and their tyranny against the Chhatrapati and the Maratha Confederacy. Sneaking a glimpse into Balaji Vishvanth’s life and his valour while camping outside the borders of Delhi to initiate the release of Queen Yesubai. This was Bajirao’s first tryst with negotiation and a pre-emptive to war. He was on the verge of evolving into a fine warrior, unlike the previous Peshwas, who were Brahmins and administrators. After the demise of his father, Bajirao had to accept the responsibility of the next Peshwa bestowed upon him by Chhatrapati Shahu.

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Gunpowder, Goa

When in Goa, most of us look out for fun, frolic and comfort food, rather than fine dining or gourmet restaurants. In our recent trip, the resort was in Assagao, we were tired after a ten hours long road trip from Pune and it was raining in the evening. Search for nearby restaurants turned up Gunpowder with superb reviews and the promise of serving amazing pork/beef. What else does one need! We placed it on the map and it was hardly a kilometre or two from the resort. Not willing to drive long in the rain, Gunpowder’s cuisine was the perfect choice for the night. Located on a relatively quiet road, it’s not hard to find though.

Address: 6, Saunto Vaddo, main Anjuna-Mapusa Road, Next to Hotel Astoria, Assagao, Bardez, Goa, India

Contact:0832-2268091 / 0832-2268083

Check them out on Facebook 

USP Quirky decor, handicraft store, south Indian non-vegetarian food

Decor

One of the USPs of Gunpowder is its decor. There are cane chairs and tables in the portico, Chinese lanterns up on the thatched ceiling with coloured trails of frayed rags. The seating is mostly outdoor in a pretty garden, though it was raining while we visited. The tables in portico were already filled with happily eating people, so we had to wait while one of them was vacant. You will find a bookshelf among all other attractive decorations and a mini store inside that houses lovely pieces. There isn’t a lot of space, but it is enough for Gunpowder to operate.

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Spa Ceylon Green Mint Cooling Foot Scrub

My favourite season, winter, is here. While it comes with a lovely nip in the air, deliciously fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits, sun-warmed pullovers and jackets, it also arrives with cracked heels and dry scaly skin. I’ve tried a multitude of foot scrubs and creams, in hot water and cold, but none have been of much use for my sensitive soles. The Spa Ceylon Green Mint Cooling Foot Scrub was a pleasant surprise that I received in a subscription bag. Spa Ceylon is a luxury Ayurveda brand that is obviously expensive. So I was hoping to try out the product before buying a full sized product. I must say that the cooling foot scrub has absolutely bowled me over. It’s a class apart from the other ayurvedic foul smelling scrubs or creams. More details below.

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Appearance 

The scrub comes in a 200 g bright green tub that justifies the Mint flavour, and has a cool black lid. I received a free sample of 50 g with my bag. The flavour is soothingly minty and the scrub is coarse and grainy. It is bound to remind you of a refreshing peppermint chewing gum.

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Ciao, La Vita

Image Courtesy: BlogAdda

Image Courtesy: BlogAdda

#DearZindagi,

It’s been long since we had a chat, or met with a cuppa reckoning the balance sheet so far. I believe I’ve crossed the threshold called ‘half-life’, and like an unstable radioactive element, will continue to decay exponentially for the rest years. This isn’t just a chemist’s blabber, dear life. It is the exact summary through midway, rather midlife.

Let me begin with gratitude for not deserting me. I know it has been difficult for you to put up with a brooding brat like me, but – you’ve been damn good so far! Since I gained enough maturity to ponder upon stuff, I’ve realised that you have clung to me. When the going got tough, you were tough enough to get me going against childhood bullies, teenage crushes, adulthood heartbreaks, or the corollaries of wedlock. Do you recall the huge transition that I had to make from a suburban school to a metropolitan high school? I was lost in the sea of people, everyone rushing past me in a bloody busy city, pushing and jostling me to the brink of oblivion. While I would sit alone on the penultimate seat of the school bus on chilly winter mornings, the fog mixed with strong but sweet charcoal fumes from tea stalls would remind me that you were right there, with me. When I have ambled along the college lawn, both alone and lonely, you have thrown surprises with vibrant yellow petals of Radhachura (Gulmohur) strewn all over the trail, just for me.

You’ve been holding my hand during every major decision I ruminated upon and led me carefully to what my heart desired. I would have been a failed, incomplete scientist if you hadn’t put words in my pen and prodded me to be a writer. It’s been quite a few years now, and I know you still stand by me despite a number of futile results. I’ve been worried that I can’t write as well as others, distressed that I haven’t been published yet, exhausted of rejections and writer’s blocks. And yet, when I open a new page and tap at the keyboard, you make me a writer – impervious to the mediocre and convoluted world. You’ve manoeuvred quite enough to get me a little accolade, a tiny prize, a monthly salary and exciting work to keep the ball rolling. Each instance I falter and risk crumbling down, you’ve sprung a sweet surprise and motivation to clench me up.

It’s you, life, to whom I owe the joie de vivre, the pleasure of creation in the form of words and stories. I have scooped up inspiration from you, life, and woven stories that have touched a few peoples’ hearts. They have praised me, but it’s you whom I should shower with thanks. If I have ever felt the fear of losing you, I’ve resorted to poetry and reading and waited patiently for you to resurrect. Because –

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. – George Bernard Shaw

So long,

Yours.

————

I am writing a letter to life for the #DearZindagi activity at BlogAdda.

 

Adda, Pimple Saudagar

Besides restaurant reviews, we’ve begun pub reviews as we are serial pub hoppers. There has been a dearth of pubs/lounges in Pimple Saudagar until last year. Since then, two or three of them have popped out of nowhere, some with their exorbitant pricing, others with sheer lack of infrastructure. Adda, has a bit of history, though. It was previously named Elevate Lounge and was a mildly successful one. There has been a renovation, probably a change of management or even ownership and Elevate has been beautifully revamped into #Adda. Yes, the hashtag is present in neon beside the name and looks cool! The name signifies the establishment – Adda – a place for hangout of like minded people, for fun and frolic.

Did you know? The term ‘Pub’ originates from ‘Public House’ which traditionally sells beer, ale and other brewed alcoholic drinks. In Europe, pubs date back to the Medieval age.

The concept of pubs is relatively new in India and probably arrived with the British. I’ve read in historical fiction and other books about Seraikhanas along major highways in the Mughal era that served alcohol, food and even had lodging facilities for travellers. But pubs, solely meant for serving drinks were probably set up by the British officials, albeit for their folks only. ‘Native Indians’ were kept out of them by guards, who must have evolved into bouncers these days.

Here comes a snippet about Adda and everything about it.

Events at Adda

Events at Adda

Address: Shop 1, Rainbow Plaza, Near Shivar Garden, Pimple Saudagar, Pune – 411027

Contact: 020 30189670

Check them out on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

USPLadies Night, Offers/Discounts, Live band, Good pub food.

addaDecor

The entrance to Adda is led through a corridor that is strategically lit with a mirrored wall and is the smoking zone. You might encounter a lot of smoke if you’re a little late in joining the party. Once you go in, things get better though. The decor is quirky with a lot of brickbats carefully arranged on racks and graffiti that is eye catching, most of them is Hinglish.

 

There’s a huge black board that will remind you of school, but it’s filled with offers, discounts and events for the week from Monday to Friday. The toilet sign board reads शौचालय, and I’ve been wondering what happens to people who cannot read the Devnagari text.

There’s a wall redecorated with faux wooden doors and stained glass that gives a retro look of an old style mansion. The utensils for serving cocktails and snacks are done wackily in aluminium kettles, some of them inscribed with catchy taglines and hashtags. It looked pretty cool to me each time I’ve been there.

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Book Review : 03:02

0302Blurb View:

At 03:02 on a Sunday morning, the world as we knew it came to an end. Mumbai suddenly went black — no electricity, no phones, no internet and no working cars. It was as if someone had turned off the master switch of our civilization, turning us back hundreds of years overnight. We learned that it was not just Mumbai, but much of the world that had been impacted. We also learned that it was no accident. A deadly enemy was behind it. An enemy that was now in our midst, seeking to conquer us and destroy our way of life. This is how our war for freedom began. A war that was to be waged not on the borders or by the Army, but in our homes and streets, with us as the soldiers. This is our story. ’03:02 celebrates fictional heroes who fight for our freedom, but to give back to the real heroes who do so every day, for every copy sold, a contribution from author royalties will be made to the National Defence Fund, which takes voluntary contributions to help armed forces service members and their families.’

Review: 

Mainak Dhar’s previous book Chronicler of the Undead is the only dystopian novel I had read in a long time. His latest offering 03:02 seemed a tad different, moving to the thriller and mystery genre. That was reason enough to pick it up for review as I’ve been a fan of Mainak’s writing. It’s always perspicuous and pleasing to read. From what I’ve read by him so far, I surely can’t complain about the form of writing. It might be the content that varies from each book to the other and creates a difference in quality.

03:02 is an interesting take on a thriller, blended with mystery and most importantly, terrorism. The protagonist, Aditya, is on the verge of turning into a corporate robot and deserves the promotion he receives. There’s a party in the evening and he crashes onto his bed later that night. Something happens at 03:02 in the morning and there’s a blackout. Aditya is oblivious of the situation and wakes up to realise something serious has happened. He goes out, scrutinises his neighbourhood and learns that nothing is working – phone, car, electricity – all dead. His neighbours are as baffled as he is. The scenario unfolds gradually, the horrors are peeled off in layers and people face the stark reality of living a life without modern facilities. Aditya takes control of the situation for the lack of a leader and starts restoring life.

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