Book Review

Half Girlfriend – Book Review 

I am not a fan of Chetan Bhagat, neither am I a critic and had only read The Three Mistakes of My Life which I found average. Infact it was the rare case of a movie being better than the book (Bollywood film ‘Kai Po Che’ is based on this novel). Then one day while looking for a light read I found Half Girlfriend and thought why not!

The most striking thing about this book is that it doesn’t feel like a book. It’s more like a Karan Johar film unfolding before your eyes. I don’t know whether it’s because of the fact that all Chetan Bhagat’s books have been made into films or because he knows his books will be grabbed by producers and directors in no time he actually writes screenplays rather than novels. Every scene that I read I could see it in my mind. Not everyone is able to write like this and Chetan Bhagat deserves an applause for being able to create such vivid images in the minds of his readers.

After reading Half Girlfriend I feel the poor guy gets more stick than he deserves. His books are light and fun with some drama and emotions… a perfect holiday read. Why do we compare him with other more literary writers? He’s not literary, doesn’t claim or try to be, so why can’t we just accept his writing style or ignore it if it’s too childish for our palate!

The book is a charming love story between a Bihari guy and a high society Delhi girl… And this is just the beginning of a million and one clichés in the book. Despite the very obvious story line the writer did manage to give a pretty decent twist to the story somewhere around the middle. The character of Madhav from Dumraon, Bihar is very realistic – his struggle with English language, hesitation in talking to girls and over-analyzing words and gestures of his only female friend, discussing his next steps with the gang of trusted friends are very close to real life. The high society Riya comes across as a little unbelievable but you ought to give a writer some creative liberty if you want an entertaining story. Chetan Bhagat has beautifully portrayed the town of Dumraon and the school. Rani Sahibaa’s character has been etched pretty well too. The way Chetan Bhagat has woven real life incidents in the story you almost feel it’s a true story and not fiction. If only he could have avoided the overload of cliches in the end…..!! Despite the supposed setbacks towards the end you know how the story will climax, and that takes away some fun. I was still ok with all the last minute drama but the appearance of a child in the very last scene was just too much. I mean, really?! No couple can be complete without a child in the picture??? This is the mother of all cliches in the book, and given that the book had a generous number of those its a HUGE deal! And I don’t know why Chetan Bhagat named it Half-Girlfriend. It doesn’t make sense even after reading the book. 

The book however is great for beginners. Chetan Bhagat has given a useful framework in the book for a holistic approach towards learning English or any other language for that matter.

It is a lovely story if you read without any expectations. If you have mildly liked any of his earlier books then you should like it too. But if you are looking for something unique and profound then this is not the book for you. Its one of the books that you want for some mindless reading, finish within a day or two and forget. Its ok if you don’t read it because I am sure the movie will release soon enough!

If you enjoyed this review and love reading books please join me on The Book Club .

-A

DIY, Festivals

DIY Holi Colors 

The colorful Indian festival of Holi is around the corner. It is the first time we are not in India on Holi and it almost slipped my mind until my friend Nukta sent me this picture!!

 

Nukta is pro-natural and pro-DIY. She told me she’s making her own Gulal for Holi and that’s when all memories came flooding.

I loved playing Holi as a child. We used to play with wet colors – the stronger the better, packet load of dry colors was bought and handfuls were emptied on the heads of unsuspecting people, water balloons were thrown and thick paste of water color was smeared on faces. Some even played with paint and grease. And when all inventory was over there was always water to throw. The whole fun was around making people as dirty as possible and with the color that wouldn’t go easily. After a whole morning of playing I remember spending couple of hours trying to wash it off using chick pea flour, yogurt or some other kind of natural cleanser, yet having pink or green patches on the face and hands which refused to go for days!!

Times have changed now. People are more aware about the harsh chemicals that are added in the colors to make them strong. Most prefer to play only with dry gulal which is bought herbal and dye-free from special shops. Some have even started to play with flower petals and sandalwood paste. 

If you want to play this beautiful festival with your family without exposing them to harmful chemicals you can also make your own natural color at home instead of buying the fancy over-priced stuff that may not be very natural after all. Nukta has been kind to share her recipe with us. Here it goes:

Gulal 1

Ingredients:

  • Corn starch
  • Liquid food color

 

Method:

Make a smooth thick paste of corn flour and water. Add few drops of food color , the quantity will depend on which shade of color you want. Mix it well, spread it on a tray for faster drying and leave for about 2 days. Once the cracks appear on the surface, put it in a zip lock bag and crush it to obtain a fine powder or pulse in a mixer grinder. The drying process can be sped up by preheating the oven, turning it off, and putting the tray in warm oven. Rose water or 1-2 drops of essential oil can be added to the corn flour paste for fragrance. 

   

 
Gulal 2

Ingredients:

  • Turmeric/Sandalwood powder
  • Talcum Powder/ corn starch

Method:

Mix turmeric/sandalwood powder with talcum powder/ corn starch. You can choose to add a bit of food color and dry if you prefer a deeper color. While using turmeric and corn starch you may add a couple of drops of essential oil or rose water for fragrance. Sandalwood and talcum powder will have fragrance of their own.

Water Color:

Water colors for Holi can be made by using easily available kitchen ingredients. For reddish pink color you can boil beetroot in water. Use turmeric for yellow color, saffron for orange color and red cabbage for purple color. You can mix corn starch in the colored water prepared as above for making gulal if you don’t want to use food colors, but these will not be very bright.

Wish you all a very Happy and Colorful Holi!

-A

Motherhood, Mundane musings, Parenting

Joys Of Having a Three-nager

Soon after her third birthday I felt my daughter grew up overnight and her ways of talking, reasoning and carrying herself went through a major change. She often surprised me with her understanding of things and her clarity of expression. Sometimes her words were shocking and sometimes hilarious. It was then that I realized after adorable one and terrible two comes the three-nager stage, when they are still young but old enough to exert their personality and explore their individuality.

  

Initially I blamed the change on our international move and arrival of her baby brother but as I spoke more with parents of kids same age I realized it was a common issue everywhere.

As VMJ turns 4 later this week I was reminiscing about all the things she has said during the past year that caught me off guard.

  • “This is pretend”- This was the first time I figured my little girl is not so little anymore. We were in a park and there was a birthday party happening close by. The host had called for a fairy performer to entertain the kids who all seemed to be 3-5 years old. The fairy performer had a nice costume on with glittery wings and a lovely floral tiara. As I saw the fairy in action I immediately called VMJ over to show her the fairy, expecting her to jump with joy and surprise. I was deeply disappointed when she didn’t even blink an eye and gave me a flat “This is pretend mumma”. What on earth happened to sweet innocence of childhood?
  • “Leave me alone” – I knew this would come one day but I wasn’t prepared to hear it so early in my parenting journey.
  • “Could you please not bother me” – Another phrase that came as a shocking surprise.
  • “This is not fair” – Same as above. It took me a while to digest that she can understand and express the feeling behind this phrase.
  • “Because I need to” – Her reasons for doing things have become very grown -up like. She’s started telling me she “needs” to read a book or go out or watch a cartoon. Yes, I agree that kids imitate adults but this one knows exactly when to say “want to” and when to say “need to”.
  • “I heard that mumma” – I used to feel she was still a baby and needed to be explained complex parts while reading a storybook. One day I was reading her a story and feeling it might be too complicated for her to understand I repeated the text in simpler language. “I heard that mumma” came her prompt response.
  • “I know what I’m doing” – I can’t tell her anymore how to wear her shoes or put a clip on her hair. Apparently she always knows what she’s doing. Like my friend says the typical girly ‘Know-it-all” attitude has kicked in big time!
  • “Because I was lonely” – VMJ has started understanding the concept of being lonely and refuses to stay alone coloring or reading while I put her baby brother down for a nap in the other room.
  • “It’s so boring sitting at the table without family” – First feeling lonely and then bored, this generation surely is learning fast.
  • “Papa you look cool” – Her compliments are more grown -up like too. Earlier it used to be only ” Papa you look nice” or “I like your shirt”. Now they range from cool to smart and handsome.
  • “I know that… You don’t tell me” – If I try to repeat a relatively complex concept or name I have told her before I am immediately shushed.
  • “You’re hurting my feelings” – What I took decades to tell my parents, VMJ mastered in 3 years.
  • “You are not making me happy” – This one tugged at my heart for a couple of days until I realized how VMJ was manipulating me with this. 
  • “I’m getting frustrated” – I thought the minimum legal age to feel “frustrated” was at least 10 years!!
  • “Don’t tease me” – VMJ is old enough to understand our silly banter and smart enough to tell me not to tease her. Really? Wasn’t this supposed to come a little later?
  • “Stop kidding me” – I would but darling you are very much a ‘kid’… Hahahaha
  • “Did you change your mind?”: We were playing together and I told VMJ that I was going to make Chai. After I put the pan on gas I started tidying up the kitchen waiting for the water to boil. In the meantime VMJ had got her tea set out and set the table. She asked me again “Mumma, are you making Chai?” and I told her that I’m making green tea. “Did you change your mind Mumma?” asked my darling princess. “Yes, I did.” “OK, I changed my mind too. I’ll also have green tea.” 

As she’s helping me plan her birthday, deciding the guest list, suggesting games that make perfect sense, picking the snacks and return gifts for her friends I am happily surprised at her maturity. At the same time a part of me is getting jittery of what to expect in months to come. I hope I am not writing a post about Frightening-Four the same time next year! 

Would love to read your anecdotes of having a three-nager at home. Moms of younger kids beware… you don’t know what you are in for once your beloved turns 3!

-A