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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On The Cover: Poor Little Rich Slum - What We Saw in Dharavi And Why It Matters

Author Rashmi Bansal

Here's what's on the cover of this amazing book called 'Poor Little Rich Slum: What We Saw in Dharavi And Why It Matters' by Rashmi Bansal and Deepak Gandhi.

'One little two little three little Indians, four little five little six little Indians, seven little eight little nine little Indians.....One million little Indian entrepreneurs.

These are the stories of the little people who make up the Big Ideas of Dharavi.

A slum of energy, enterprise and hope.

Where every hand is busy, every head held high.

Where people could be miserable but choose to be happy.

A choice each of us can make.'

- Debolina Raja Gupta

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sneaky-Peeky Sunday: Lily My Lovely by Lena Kennedy

Right now I'm reading this page from the old-world charm book 'Lily, My Lovely' by Lena Kennedy. Here's a look:

'...him by his real name. She had just used dear or darling, and this thought amazed her and she wondered why it was.

 He returned soon afterwards, grinning mischievously. The corners of his mouth curled up and his brown eyes, which were usually stern, shone with humour. 'Up you get, Lily,' he said. 'All aboard. I got you a single ticket on the train.'

 'I won't go,' Lily stated obstinately. but her heart was hovering and in a strange way she was pleased that he was leaving her little choice.

 He held both her hands. 'Trust me, darling. Let's take a chance on some happiness while we are still young, and you are so beautiful.'

 That did it. Lost in a daze Lily held on to his hand tightly as they went through to board the train to Portsmouth. Kasie suggested that she sit on her own in first-class. 'It's better not to be seen together,' he explained. 'My shipmates are on this train and I don't like them to know my business. Besides, they might pinch you from me.'

 Lily stared at him suspiciously. 'I don't think I'll come,' she said half-heartedly. 'I've changed my mind.'

 Kasie shrugged and looked at his watch. 'That is entirely your own decision,' he said. 'But you had better be a big girl and make it. The train will soon be leaving. Trust me,' he whispered, looking down into her eyes. The steady gaze in those dark-brown eyes seemed to hypnotise Lily. She calmly took his arm and allowed him to escort her to the first-class compartment. 'I'll hang about in the corridor and keep an eye on you,' he told her. 'When we reach Portsmouth, go into the buffet in the station and wait for me. Promise me, leiblin?' he pleaded.

 Lily nodded dumbly and sat in a remote corner of the carriage well away from the other passengers - two well-dressed women and a petty officer. The rest of the train was overcrowded. Hundreds of servicemen sat on their kit-bags in the corridor; women in naval dress walked up and down the corridor, back and forth to the toilet, laughing and jesting with the service personnel as they pushed past them. Throughout the journey south, from under the brim of her smart black felt hat.....'

- Debolina Raja Gupta

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Just Reading And Reading More

Hey my lovely buddies, hope you've got time to do your share of reading. Well, for me, the last few days saw a lot of reading, though work and home kept me away from my books longer than I like.

I always carry at least two books in my bag, even when Im going a short distance, so its never a problem if I have a little bit time in hand and nothing to do - I always have a book to read !

Only yesterday I was at the salon and by the time my hair was done, I had already finished a book that I had begun reading there. Oh, before you think much, it wasn't a very thick book, so was easy.

 With so many sales going on everywhere, I've been picking up books right, left, center - with no more place to stack them! I've really used up my entire big bookshelf and even the smaller bookshelves, used them up in every possible way, using up each possible inch of space! Now really don't know how to store them..I guess I'll wait for a furniture sale now ;-)

 Yes, and even while Im juggling a few things, like work, home, being fashion conscious and all those wonderful things that we get to do as women, I'm almost always still hanging out and about with my book...

It's been raining here for the past few weeks, the entire last month and a half to be precise, and it's really gorgeous weather, what with clouds and cool breeze and mist all around. And I'm making the most of this weather, with my reading and my cups of tea.

 So....till I come back again and talk about another book, happy reading my friends!

- Debolina Raja Gupta

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sneaky-Peeky Sunday: Poor Little Rich Slum by Rashmi Bansal and Deepak Gandhi

Just finished reading Poor Little Rich Slum by Rashmi Bansal and Deepak Gandhi (photographs by Dee Gandhi) but here's the page I was on this Sunday.....this book is a MUST-READ!

 'Nothing unusual about Syed's ambition. With an education, with experience, with energy and enthusiasm - a young man like him may well make it from Mahim to Manhattan.

 But, what if he is not actually from Mahim?

 "The moment I write 'Dharavi' and apply for a job, I will be rejected," he says matter of factly. "I always put my address as Mahim East."

 Syed is born and brought up in Dharavi. His father and grandfather and great-grandfather have lived in Dharavi.

 "I am not ashamed of my background. I grew up here, all my friends are here."

 And yet. He must downplay this background, deny his roots. To be 'accepted' in the outside world.

  'The image of Dharavi is very poor,' he shrugs, 'it's a slum area.'

 Within this slum, there are pockets of affluence. The house Syed calls 'home' is not typical of Dharavi.

 "It's a big area, proper construction. We have an attached toilet, washing machine, Dish TV, fridge - everything."

 Everything but respect. When Syed went to the bank for an education loan, he was turned down.

 "I gave a guarantee, even my house as a security, but I could not get the loan."

 Ultimately, the family shelled out Rs. 4 lakh for Syed's hotel management course. Which makes him all the more determined to go abroad, and 'recover' the amount quickly.

 "Most of the students pass class 10 and join degree courses. Science, or Commerce or Arts (only for girls.)".....

- Debolina Raja Gupta

On The Cover: Becoming British The Making of Mr. Hai's Daughter by Yasmin Hai

Author - Yasmin Hai

Here's what's on the cover of the book 'The Making Of Mr. Hai's Daughter' by Yasmin Hai.

'An unbelievably funny and passionate autobiography' - Spectator

'In this touching memoir, the pivotal tension between intent and reality is conveyed with grace and humour. At long last, we have a young British Muslim woman writing about her life....The book is a gem' - Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Mail on Sunday

Mr. Hai has arrived in London in 1964. But while becoming British via a passport had been relatively easy, becoming English was something to be studied- and then passed on to his wife and children. No speaking Urdu, no long plaits, no salwar kameezes, and definitely no religion. But for Mr. Hai's first-born daughter, Yasmin, being a second-generation British Asian was not quite so simple...especially as the Muslim community was about to go through some very profound challenges.

 'Ebullient and sharply humourous about the conflicts and confusions of growing up and adapting to a country (and a family) in a constant state of political flux, and often, social fantasy. Hai's personality is as engaging as her insights are illuminating.' - Ian Finlayson, The Times

 '(This) affectionate, sometimes sad......but always funny portrait of growing up in Wembley convinces me that it is entirely possible to be a Muslim and British. It is a book I cannot recommend too strongly...a tale told with such sharp observation and good humour.' - Eastern Eye

- Debolina Raja Gupta

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

On The Cover: The Carousel by Belva Plain


Here's what's on the cover jacket of the book 'The Carousel' by Belva Plain.

'A page-turner.' - The Philadelphia Inquirer


"There's no doubt in my mind," said the psychiatrist. "Your TIna has been sexually abused." Sally Grey stumbled out of the doctor's office numb with shock and disbelief. Such things didn't happen to families like the Greys, wealthy, proper families who raise fine, well-bred children. But Dan and Sally's five-year-old was clearly troubled, retreating into a world of fantasy and rage.....

 For generations Greys dominated the upstate New York city of Scythia. Now Oliver Grey, the silver-haired patriarch, has bowed out, leaving Grey's food to his two sons and nephew Dan. But as outside forces threaten the business, the once unimpeachable dynasty is shattered from within - by a tormented child obsessed with an heirloom silver carousel...and by a family member bent on revenge, a woman with an unspeakable secret and the power to destroy them all.....

'Bound for the winner's circle!' - Kirkus Reviews

- Debolina Raja Gupta

Monday, July 16, 2012

First Page Mondays: Poor Little Rich Slum And Why It Matters by Rashmi Bansal And Deepak Gandhi

As part of the First Page Mondays here at The Book Worm, here's the first page from the book 'Poor Little Rich Slum' by Rashmi Bansal and Deepak Gandhi. 

Section 1


We wish they would not exist, but
we cannot wish them away. Sixty
per cent of our city is a slum and it 
all started here, in Dharavi.


"What's the big deal anyway?"

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.....

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
 - John Godfrey Saxe

Dharavi is an elephant of an issue with blind men scrambling all over it.
Each sees a small part of the picture and considers it to be the 'whole.'

To the residents of Dharavi, it is a way of life. They live here, work here,
marry here and even die here. What's the big deal anyway?

'Bombay mein sab log aisaich rehte hain, idhar family hai, biradari hai....
 yehi hamara ghar hai.'

The resident of Dharavi is blind to the inconvenience of living in a place where one toilet is shared by 1,440 residents. Because he knows no other world.

To the residents of high-rise buildings in Mumbai - a small but important slice of people - Dharavi is 'Asia's largest slum.' A filthy place you see through a car, with windows rolled up tight.

Silently admiring the leather bags in the boutiques on Sion-Dharavi Link Road. Mentally noting, 'I must stop here sometime!'

The high-rise resident is blind to the community and kinship of Dharavi. To the little girl who may live in a 100sq. foot house with eight other siblings, but still has a smile in her eyes.

To the businessmen who operate in Dharavi, it is a convenience. Cheap labour and cheap rent make it a  mega-hub of micro-enterprise. $650 million is the sum total of Dharavi's annual turnover.

'Idhar sab tarah ka kaam hota hai!'

 The businessman is blind to the toll on human life. The living conditions, the working conditions, leave much to be desired. But as long as dhandha chal raha hai, who cares?

 To the builder who proposes to redevelop Dharavi, it is a goldmine. 1.7 sq km in the heart of the city, right next to the upmarket Bandra Kurla Complex.

 'You see, Dharavi is value waiting to be unlocked.'

 The builder is blind to the human beings who 'occupy' this prime property. All he can see are the 'zeroes' people will pay for fancy new.......'

- Debolina Raja Gupta

Sneaky Peeky Sunday: The Making Of Mr. Hai's Daughter by Yasmin Hai

Sorry friends, got late again! Was out over the weekend for work and didn't really get down to blogging after that, preferred the zzzzzzz land...

So here's the page from the book 'Becoming British: The Making of Mr Hai's Daughter' by Yasmin Hai. It's a fun read, so enjoy!

'.....why was college-educated Afshan, who should have known better, coming down on the side of the protestors?

 "You know they portray the Prophet to be some kind of pimp!" said Parveen, bolstered by Afshan's support.

 'But you haven't read it!' I replied, still reeling from what Afshan had just said.

 'You don't have to,' Afshan cut in again, slamming her hands on the bedside table. 'It's a sin. Full stop.'

 Even though I was still at university, I was spending more time in London. In fact, I might be living in Manchester, home to the hacienda, and iconic bands like the Stone Roses, where my roommate's brother was managing the Happy Mondays and one of my neighbours was the legendary Peter Hook from New Order, but all this went straight over my head. Instead, most weekends I could be found back in London, standing next to the biggest speakers at the Dub Club in Tufnell Park, bobbing away to roots reggae.

 Something truly amazing was happening in London.

 You could just sense it as you walked down Portobello Road or round Wembley, areas with a big black or Asian population. The confident gait of the young people and the assured eye contact we would make with each other as we crossed paths was a reminder that we - the children of immigrants - were finally coming of age. And that 'being different' was something we were going to revel in.

 After all those years of searching for like-minded people, who understood the complexities of living between worlds, I was finally finding them.

 For the first time in ages, I noticed that heavy feeling in my heart starting to lift. My confidence grew and with it my love life. I began seeing Jay, my old friend from the north London......'
- Debolina Raja Gupta

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: Touching Earth by Rani Manicka

I'd heard a lot of good reviews about the book 'Rice Mother' by Rani Manicka, but never actually got around to reading it. So when I accidentally came across her second book 'Touching Earth' at a re-sale old books shop, I was pleasantly happy and picked it up almost instantly. Can you imagine how much I got if for? Just for INR 25, which less than 1USD !!!!

Here are the book details:
Title: Touching Earth
Author: Rani Manicka
Publishers: Sceptre
No. of Pages: 432

Before I go for the review, a brief look at the story:

Touching Earth is essentially the story of two Balinese twin sisters - Nutan and Zeenat, who are forced by circumstances to shift base from their beautiful paradise island to the disturbing and sordid streets of London. Living a life of dreams, magic, spells and innocence, the sisters suddenly find themselves in a world that is trapped in the web of lust, sex, prostitution, and something that kicks it on - heroin addiction.

The sisters are brought to London by their father, and both girls have big dreams in their eyes, dreams that begin to vanish soon after their father returns back home, leaving the girls to fight their way alone in a new big city, one that is getting ready to spin its web around them.

The other key characters are:

Ricky Delgado: A young charming Sicilan, who loves to trap people in his deadly life web of sin and addiction. He also has an affair with one of the twins.

Anis: The young artist who knows his subjects better than they know themselves.
Elisabeth: Mistress to an Arab billionaire, the cold ice-queen, who guards a terrible secret, one that does not allow her to fall in love.
Bruce: Who ends up falling in love with Elisabeth, who must not love.

I can't really give out too much of the story here, as it will spoil the magic that Rani Manicka creates. The novel is filled with her lyrical style, a sing-song that instantly transforms the readers between the island paradise and the real, modern-day, sordid streets of London. What you read is so powerful that you can't help but turn the pages. As the author takes you through the fate of these young characters whose lives go topsy-turvy with heroin-addiction, she spares you none of the visual and depressing details of an addiction that takes over your life and wrings out every last breath from it.

The book is detailed to the point that it feels the author has done a lot of 'real' research on the subject and spent time with heroin-addicts. The story is dark and at times, depressing, but this does not mean you won't enjoy it. Don't let the reviews of the book being dark and sordid put you off, instead, read the book for exactly the same reason, as this is a book that despite talking about a subject that is essentially not a happy one, will make you flip through the pages and want to know what happens in the end.

Never in the book does the pace get slow or boring. The characters are extremely well-drawn and you feel as if you've begun to know them personally, though the related events are not something that most of us encounter in a regular day. There are many real-life circumstances and events, relationship angles that we may have personally experienced or seen others close to us go through. And of course there are those parts of the narrative which only a creative writer can come up with, which comes with creative license. Though there are parts in the story that you know are purely created out of imagination, you still end up believing the same, such is the power of the storyteller.

I've read a few reviews by other book lovers who mentioned that they were disappointed in the book after having read The Rice Mother, which they thought was brilliant. Well, I don't have any such comparisons to make, and I can definitely say this book is worth a read, especially if you haven't read her first book, and even if you have read her earlier work.

I give FIVE HEARTS to this one:  AWESOME

- Debolina Raja Gupta

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Biggest Book Sale At Landmark 2012

All you book lovers.......here's news that you just can't miss...One of India's biggest bookstores, LANDMARK, announces its BIGGEST EVER Annual Sale - starting 06th July 2012 till the 05th of August 2012, get upto 70% off on most purchases. 

If you're using a State Bank Debit/Credit Card or TATA Cards, you get an additional 7.5% discount on a bill value of INR 1500 or above.

I literally went crazy at the awesome offers and the unbelievable prices - books starting from INR 49! The offers include:
  • Best-selling books starting at INR 49   
  • 03 books for the value of 02 on top 500 new releases and bestsellers
  • International magazines at INR 60
  • 20% off on soft toys
  • Huge discounts on toy brands like HotWheels, Lego, Mattel
  • Upto 50% off on Console Games & Tech accessories 
  • 3 DVDs for INR 499
  • 50% off on TV series
  • Upto 50% off on fragrances
  • Home Decor starting at INR 79
If you're a Landmark Fellowship member, you get an additional 5-10% off on your discount bill!

I went to LANDMARK recently and here are the books I got, starting at INR 49, plus a few with 50% off and a pack of 03 at the price of 02!

Here are the books I picked up:
  1. Trunk Music by Michael Connelly
  2. Betrayal by Danielle Steel
  3. A Fraction of The Whole by Steve Toltz
  4. Pride by Rachel Vincent
  5. Becoming British: The Making of Mr Hai's Daughter by Yasmin Hai
  6. Tony & Susan by Austin Wright
  7. Nemesis by Lindsey Davis
  8. Poor Little Rich Slum by Rashmi Bansal and Deepak Gandhi
  9. The Carousel by Belva Plain
  10. Safe Harbour by Danielle Steel
  11. Paradise by Toni Morrison

- Debolina Raja Gupta

On The Cover: Betrayal by Danielle Steel


Here's what on the cover jacket of the novel Betrayal by Danielle Steel.

 Tallie Jones is a Hollywood legend. An ambitious and passionate film director, her award-winning productions achieve the rare combination of critical and commercial success. But she has little interest in the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles, instead focusing intently on her work and family.

 She has close, loving relationships with her daughter, her elderly father and Hunter Lloyd - her co-producer and partner of four years. Completing her trusted circle is Brigitte Parker - Tallie's best friend and devoted personal assistant. They've been friends since film school, and Brigitte's polished glamour and highly organised style provides a perfect balance to Tallie's casual appearance and down-to-earth approach to life.

 However, as Tallie is in the midst of directing her most ambitious film to date, small disturbances start to ripple through her faultlessly ordered world. An audit reveals worrying discrepancies in her financial records, which have always been maintained by her trusted accountant, Victor Carson. Receipts hint activities of which she has no knowledge. Someone close to Tallie has been steadily helping themself to enormous amounts of her money. Her once safe world of trusted associates is suddenly shaken to its very core - and Tallie is in shock, trying to figure out who has betrayed her among those she trusts and holds dear......

- Debolina Raja Gupta

Monday, July 9, 2012

First Page Mondays: Paradise by Toni Morrison

As part of the First Page Mondays here at The Book Worm, here's the first page from the book 'Paradise' by Toni Morrison.

' They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time. No need to hurry out here. They are seventeen miles from a town which has ninety miles between it and any other. Hiding places will be plentiful in the Convent, but there is time and the day has just begun.

 They are nine, over twice the number of the women they are obliged to stampede or kill and they have the paraphernalia for either requirement: rope, a palm leaf cross, handcuffs, Mace and sunglasses, along with clean, handsome guns.

 They have never been this deep in the Convent. Some of them have parked Chevrolets near its porch to pick up a string of peppers or have gone into the kitchen for a gallon of barbecue sauce; but only a few have seen the halls, the chapel, the schoolroom, the bedrooms. Now they all will. And at last they will see the cellar and expose its filth to the light that is soon to scour the Oklahama sky. Meantime they are startled by the clothes they are wearing - suddenly aware of being ill-dressed. For at the dawn of a July day how could they have guessed the cold that is inside this place? Their T-shirts, work shirts and dashikis soak up cold like a fever. Those who have worn work shoes are unnerved by the thunder of their steps on marble floors; those in Pro-Keds by the silence. Then there is the grandeur. Only the two who are wearing ties seem to belong here and one by one each is reminded that before it was a Convent, this house was an embezzler's folly. A mansion where bisque and rose-tone marble floors segue into teak ones. Isinglass holds yesterday's light and patterns walls that were stripped and whitewashed......'

- Debolina Raja Gupta

Saturday, July 7, 2012

On The Cover: Touching Earth by Rani Manicka

Im currently reading this immensely interesting book called Touching Earth by Rani Manicka. Im surprised I never heard of this one before!



They come to worship in the spider's temple.......

THE BALINESE TWINS - Beautiful and exotic, they exchange an island paradise for the shabby squalor of London, and innocence for corruption.

THE SICILIAN - Ricky Delgado strikes a devil's bargain with a blood goddess: 'Build my temple and bring me the souls of damaged people, and you will see what rewards I give.'

THE COURTESAN: Elizabeth makes her living from men's desire. A switch allows her to feel no pain but she guards a secret that doesn't allow her to love.

THE ARTIST: Anis takes to painting as an outlet for his rage. His artist's eye knows his subjects before they know themselves, and he paints them all, a gallery of broken people.

Can they escape the deadly web of decadence and sin?


'Exquisite' - Heat

- Debolina Raja Gupta

Monday, July 2, 2012

First Page Mondays: The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins

                                                               Author Jack Higgins

As part of the First Page Mondays here at The Book Worm, here is the first page from the novel 'The Eagle Has Landed' by Jack Higgins.'


 At precisely one o' clock on the morning of Saturday, November 6, 1943, Heinrich Himmler Reichsfuhrer of the SS and Chief of State Police, received a simple message: "The Eagle has landed." It meant that a small force of German paratroopers were at that moment safely in England and poised to snatch the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, from the Norfolk country house where he was spending a quiet weekend near the sea. This book is an attempt to re-create the events surrounding that astonishing exploit. At least fifty percent of it is documented historical fact. The reader must decide for himself how much of the rest is a matter of speculation, or fiction.......


 Someone was digging a grave in one corner of the cemetery as I went in through the lychgate. I remember that quite clearly because it seemed to set the scene for nearly everything that followed.

 Five or six rooks lifted out of the beech trees at the west end of the church like bundles of black rags, calling angrily to each other as I threaded my way between the tombstones and approached the grave, turning up the collar of my trench-coat against the driving rain.

 Whoever was down there was talking to himself in a low voice. It was impossible to catch what he was saying. I moved to one side of the pile of fresh earth, dodging another spadeful, and peered in. 'Nasty morning for it.'

 He looked up, resting on his spade, an old, old man in a cloth cap and shabby, mud-stained suit, a grain sack draped across his shoulders. His cheeks were sunken and hollow, covered with a gray stubble, and his eyes full of moisture and quite vacant.

 I tried again. "The rain," I said.

 Some kind of understanding dawned. He glanced up at the sombre sky and scratched his skin. "Worse before it gets better, I'd say."

 "It must make it difficult for you," I said. There was at least six inches of water swilling about in the bottom.'  

- Debolina Raja Gupta

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sneaky Peeky Sunday: Lucknow Boy A Memoir by Vinod Mehta

As part of the Sneaky Peeky Sunday here at The Book Worm, here is the page from the quite-sensational memoir, Lucknow Boy A Memoir by Vinod Mehta. Enjoy...

'....question to ask, 'Who gave you the manuscript?' I told him I had enormous respect for him but I couldn't reveal my source. 'Surely you understand that?' I asked. End of conversation. 

The conspiracy theorists began spinning bizarre tales. The excerpts, Caroline Lees reported in the Sunday Times (London), were seen as an attempt by Rao's spin doctors to 'repackage a dull prime minister. 'Those who know Rao as a politician,' she wrote, 'say he is so boring that audiences walk away in the middle of his speeches.' She believed, 'Far from being a public relations disaster, the leaking of the extracts appears to be a part of a campaign to restore the fortunes of Rao's ailing Congress (I) party. There is little doubt that Rao's racy novel has been a significant victory in the battle to repackage the leader.'

 So, the leaking of the manuscript was part of a grand strategy? A front-page report in the Time of India added an additional twist. It quoted a PMO official saying, 'someone from the magazine approached the prime minister and he let them use the excerpts.' Another explanation, quoting another official, was reproduced in the same report. 'The Prime Minister was leaving on a two week long foreign tour on October 15. His publicity managers thought it a good idea to project a livelier side to his personality. The kind of attention the novel has got in the western world, including CNN and BBC leads credence to this.'

 Meanwhile, Rao's political opponents within the party found the excerpts 'a golden opportunity'. K.K. Tewari, a Congress MP, described P.V. as a 'sex maniac'. Arjun Singh, another committed antagonist, ignored the sex maniac bit attacked Rao viciously for deviating from the policies and programmes of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

 When asked for a reaction, my response was carefully banal. 'The novel represents another dimension of the prime......'

- Debolina Raja Gupta