The Queen’s Last Salute by Moupia Basu | Book Review

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The year is 1842 and an ageing king has brought home a wife – a young bride, all of fourteen years – whom the townsfolk are eager to catch a glimpse of. Word is that she is a strange girl, one who wields a sword and is a trained horse-rider. More bizarre is the fact that she has grown up playing with boys and is smart, witty, maybe even a little cheeky.

While people begin to gather in the Diwan-E-Aam, ten-year-old Meera is arguing with her mother, Saanvali, in the zenana, about why she needs to dress up to meet the queen. At the same time, she is curious to learn how this peculiar girl, only a few years older than her, has managed to accomplish things unheard of for women, and how her arrival will change their ordinary lives.

When Saanvali brings her daughter up to the dais to meet Queen Lakshmibai, Meera, finally getting her chance to satiate her curiosity, looks straight into the queen’s eyes and asks, ‘Is it true that you ride horses?’ Even as the durbar hall lapses into silence, stunned by Meera’s insolence, the queen simply asks her name. Meera seems to remind her of a peacock – slender and graceful, with a hint of arrogance. But it is her large dark eyes that sparkle with innocence. The queen rechristens her Chandraki and announces that henceforth, Chandraki will be her companion.

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Drawn from her travel experiences and subsequent research around the rich folklore and history of Jhansee, Moupia Basu spins a fascinating historical thriller inspired from the life of the Rani of Jhansee, leading up to the events of the 1857 Mutiny. While Basu loops in all major historical events and characters of the time, starting from when Manikarnika married Maharaj Gangadhar Rao Newalkar and made Jhansi her home, the axis of this narrative is the relationship between the Queen and Chandraki. As I see it, more than Rani Lakshmibai it is Chandraki who is the lead protagonist, for it is through her eyes that we watch the events of Maharani Lakshmibai’s life unfold amidst the pages.

Read more about this heroic queen and her equally courageous lady-in-waiting, in my detailed review of the book published on Women’s Web as a Featured Post, here.

Title: The Queen’s Last Salute: The Story of the Rani of Jhansee and the 1857 Mutiny
Author: Moupia Basu
Publisher: Juggernaut Books
ISBN: 978-93-5345-024-3
Edition/Year: First Edition 2019
Format: Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Women’s Web
Rating: 4 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Moupia Basu has a master’s degree in English literature from St Stephen’s College, Delhi University. She grew up in the Delhi of the seventies and eighties. She has worked as a journalist with Times of India, Economic Times, Indian Express and Business Today and has written on a variety of topics including business, education and travel. Her debut book, Khoka, was published in 2015. She lives in Pune.

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Ten Years and An Overdue Intervention | Winner for January 2019 Muse of the Month | Women’s Web

The first short story I have written this year is for Women’s Web’s Muse of the Month. As always, they bring back their successful monthly writing contest with a fresh perspective in 2019 (read about it here).

January 2019’s writing cue is these lines from the inspiring African-American writer Maya Angelou, taken from her poem Phenomenal Woman

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed

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My story is titled Ten Years and An Overdue Intervention and has been selected as one of the five winning stories for this month.

It is about a young women who discovers her true ‘financial independence’ despite having been financially independent for a decade.

The story is published online at Women’s Web as a featured post and is available to read here.

the intervention - ashima jain (muse of the month - january 2019)

I imagine many women would relate to having experienced this at some point in their lives, as did I, in my professional surroundings, which is how I was inspired to write it.

Do take a few minutes to read the story and leave your feedback. Thank you!

Picture courtesy: womensweb.in

Book Reflections of 2018

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I began this year by reading two books that were a gift from my mother. Knowing my obsessive compulsive need for books, she had selected these because they are about books and bookshops. To be precise, they are about the Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, which is also exactly what the book’s title is (that and More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops). With a start like that, it was evident 2018 had to grow into another awesome year of reading.

At the first BYOB (Bring Your Own Book) meet this year, I remember we were discussing reading targets for 2018 and I quoted mine at 108 books – same as the previous three years. Someone pointed out that like business targets, I needed to show a 20% growth rate in my reading potential. The comment, though made in jest, made me gasp, prompting me to think how that was even possible. Even so, I silently thought I could manage an official target of 108 and strive to read a few more books. Little did I know, then, that my annual reading target would have a friendly companion joining it this year.

By the time I finished reading those first two books, I was dying to share my experience. The books turned out to be absurdly hilarious in a way that book lovers everywhere would relate to. I thought a bookstagram would be ideal for this purpose, like the ones I had posted for a few books I reviewed in 2017. Well, the first bookstagram led to a second, then a third and before I knew it, I had resolved (something I resolutely avoid doing) to post an Insta-review of E.V.E.R.Y book I read in 2018.

I was clear I didn’t want to post generic pictures of books photographed in eye-catching locations. Instead, I wanted to continue from the craft and colouring experiments I had started in 2017. Thus began a journey of creativity during which I rediscovered a new-found passion for art and craft after nearly two decades. I added many more techniques to the basket, such as drawing, painting, paper-folding, Origami – both traditional as well as 3D Chinese Origami, paper-model building, and various other types of paper-craft. Feeding this passion also called for a substantial investment in art & craft supplies, as well as shelf space to store them. But the book and crafts partnership was a go.

And so, every book I have read this year, whether standalone or a series, is supplemented with a review – either in long form on the blog or in short on Instagram. For each of these posts, I have created an art project keeping to the book’s theme.

To know more about these 108 books, or to read their reviews and see the projects I paired them with, click here.

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Of course, if you have been following my reading, you would know how much I love collating reading statistics at the end of the year. These are also my way of taking stock of where I want my reading to go the next year. So, once again I am sharing a few figures from my 2018 reading challenge:

Total number of books read = 108
Total number of pages = Approx. 30,347 pages (big thanks to Goodreads’ My Year in Books for this). Almost the same number as last year, which is surprising since I read quite a lot of children’s fiction this year. Even then, an average book length works out to 281 pages which is very reasonable.
Longest book = Airport by Arthur Hailey at 522 pages. This was my introduction to Hailey and his best of the ones I’ve read so far.
Most popular book = Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. As far as I recall, I had never read a Roald Dahl before this year.
Number of Non-Fiction books = 21. Up 5% from last year. This genre has seen a steady growth in my reading list over the last four years.
Number of books by Indian/Indian Origin Authors = 41. A 7% drop from last year but still a comfortable number.
Number of books translated to English from other Indian or Foreign languages = 16. Up 7.5% from 2017. I also read a book in Hindi this year – something I haven’t done since college.
Number of books by debut authors = 21. Up by 5.5%.
Number of books by Women authors = 38. This makes 35% of my total reading and could definitely do with an increase.
Number of books reviewed = 108 (that’s 100%) with 15 detailed reviews on the blog or on Women’s Web and balance as Insta-reviews on Instagram. My Goodreads profile also carries reviews of all 108 books. I consider that a personal achievement.
Number of physical books read (paperback/hardcover) = 79. That is a massive 20.5% increase from last year. I do confess that I prefer to pick up titles by Indian authors as physical books.
Most books read in a month = 27 in April, of which 15 were Roald Dahl titles from a box set.
Least books read in a month = 2 in August. It was a time I was severely ill, catching one infection after another and was just not upto reading.

Now that the business side of reading is done, let’s move on to the side that offers pure joy – the act of reading itself.

In line with Aquamarine Flavours’ annual reading tradition, the start of the new year also means it is time to share with you a list of my favourite books from the ones I have read this past year. These are books that have sparked joy (how Marie Kondo of me!) and continue to remain close to my heart.

As before, I have categorised these favourites into Fiction and Non-Fiction, under Indian Authors and International Authors for easy reference.

If you want to know my review of the book, click on the book’s title or photo.

Note that this list is in no particular order.

Indian Fiction
1. IMG_20180409_132645_583Operation Jinnah – Shiv Aroor
Picking up a military thriller by an Indian author is not easy when it comes with expectations piled high after reading innumerable international thrillers over the years. But this one is an absolute treat and even has two women commandoes who go toe-to-toe with the best of the best. (Buy here)

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2. Koi Good News? – Zarreen Khan
An insanely hilarious peek into a couple’s mind-journal before and during pregnancy, taking you through the changes that a soon-to-arrive baby brings in their lives. (Buy here)

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3. Two – Gulzar
A translation by Gulzar of his novella originally written in Urdu – a painfully tragic story of many lives thrown about by the tornado that cut a sharp line dividing a land and its people – not once, not twice, but over and over again. (Buy here)

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4. The Girl in the Garden – Kamala Nair
A story within a story about a little girl desperate to unravel the messy tangle of secrets that plague her childhood. (Buy here)

International Fiction
IMG_20180109_135956_9731. ‎Bad Dad – David Walliams
This was my first children’s fiction of the year and of the many I read, I particularly loved this one. It is a heartwarming story of a father who does some bad things, only to save the good in his life. But when, suddenly, things begin to go awry, help comes most unexpected. (Buy here)

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2. Fredrik Backman – This year I finally read all his remaining books on my TBR which include:
Two novellas –
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer (Buy here)
The Deal of a Lifetime (Buy here)
A series – 
Beartown  (Buy here)
Us Against You (Sequel to Beartown) (Buy here)
He continues to remain a top favourite and I am waiting with bated breath for the 3rd book in the Beartown series.

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3. Still Me – Jojo Moyes
The third book in the Me Before You series that finally brings Lou full circle in her journey to discovering herself. I thought the end for this trilogy was most fitting. (Buy here)

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4. The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan
A story exploring the complex mother-daughter relationships between these two sets of women born in two different worlds, along with their secrets and conflicts. This is Classic Asian-American Literature that will continue to be relevant for a long time to come. (Buy here)
A special shout-out to my friend who recommended it (you know who you are) 🙂

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5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A young author stumbles upon a book club formed during WW2 for a few stolen moments of peace in their warn-torn lives. A tale told by way of letters that describe the simplistic beauty of Guernsey, and a love story that very nearly breaks your heart. (Buy here)

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6. Airport – Arthur Hailey
This was my first Arthur Hailey novel and while I’ve read others too, this is clearly my favourite – a nail-biting thriller set at a fictional Chicago airport in the middle of a raging blizzard that shows exactly how the aviation industry functions. (Buy here)

Thriller Favs.jpg7. Thrillers call for their very own list so I am listing my top picks here:
Hellbent – Gregg Hurwitz (Buy here)
War Shadows -Brian Andrews & Jeffrey Wilson (Buy here)
The Woman in the Window – A. J. Finn (Buy here)
Deep Down Dead – Steph Broadribb (Buy here)
The Trapped Girl – Robert Dugoni (Buy here)
The Terminal List – Jack Carr (Buy here)
Skyjack – K.J. Howe (Buy here)
The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz (Buy here)
Bloody Sunday – Ben Coes (Buy here)
After Anna – Lisa Scottoline (Buy here)
Button Man by Andrew Gross (Buy here)
Dark Sacred Night – Michael Connelly (Buy here)

Note: Check out my thriller reading challenge which I undertook as part of the #BookSpyChallenge2018, run by TheRealBookSpy, here.

Indian Non-Fiction
IMG_20180213_140309_7391. ‎In Hot Blood – Bachi Karkaria
A meticulously researched account of the Nanavati case from 1959 where the author has tracked down people and corroborated events to put together a comprehensive account of this true-crime. Not to be confused by the events of the movie which are largely fictional. (Buy here)

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2. ‎Mothering A Muslim – Nazia Erum
An eye-opener on how, in today’s political environment, children perceive religion and the segregation that adults have knowingly let creep into their young lives. This book forces one to look at themselves and start questioning what values they want to raise their children with because those values are what are becoming the changing face of our society. (Buy here)

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3. ‎Remnants of a Separation – Aanchal Malhotra
The author retraces the lives of 19 families from both sides of the border who hold their deepest, darkest memories of the partition in the objects they carried across with them as well as those they left behind. (Buy here)

IMG_20181019_142624_5734. Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan – Ruby Lal
A remarkable biography of the woman who was the twentieth and most cherished wife of Emperor Jahangir, and later co-sovereign and ruler of Mughal India. One who proved to be a feminist icon in the days of 17th century Mughal India and yet, accomplished what no other woman in the history of Mughal India, neither before or after her, would ever hope to. (Buy here)

International Non-Fiction
IMG_20180430_092803_9541. The Bookshop Book – Jen Campbell
This book is nothing short of magical where the author takes you around the world on a journey to discover rare and unique bookshops. From the oldest, to the smallest, to those in unused barns, disused factories, old run-down railway stations, in buses, on boats, undercover, and even booktowns – she tracks over three hundred weirdly wonderful bookshops across six continents to learn what makes them so special. (Buy here)

IMG_20180606_104121_7732. Get Your Sh*t Together – Sarah Knight
Sarah Knight means business. And she does not care what anyone thinks of how she gets her work done. As long as it gets done. Here, she breaks down existing rules of time-management into smaller, more manageable chunks of information which make them easier to assimilate and incorporate into your daily routine thus helping you achieve Work Life Balance. (Buy here)

IMG_20181116_091223_4583. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges – Amy Cuddy
You’ve all heard of the phrase ‘Fake it till you make it’. Well, Amy Cuddy teaches you how to ‘Fake it till you become it’. A life altering book that shows how behaviour can be altered subconsciously by tweaking the mind and nudging your body language to power-pose and in turn creating a more honest and meaningful impact, or presence, on your audience. (Buy here)

I have often been asked why my target is always 108 books and not 100 (a nice round number) or 104 (52weeks x 2 books per week). To be honest, I don’t have an answer. It’s just something that happened once and carried on.

Then, a few weeks ago, a friend pointed out that reading 108 books was like chanting the 108 names of God and we both ended up laughing at the absurdity of that analogy. Since then, I’ve decided this will be my official explanation (let me clarify here that I am not overtly religious). So if you’re curious why 108 books, there’s your answer 😁

My reading target for 2019 is 52 books (one per week) even though Brunch Magazine upped their target for #BrunchBookChallenge to 60 books this year. But Week One of 2019 just went by and I am already two books down on my reading challenge, so I don’t trust myself to maintain it. Which direction the scale finally tips is something we will have to wait to find out at the end of the year.

Meanwhile, I am heading over to the New Delhi World Book Fair this week. I am on a strict budget and the bigger challenge at the moment is to make sure I stay within its constraints. Hopefully I will and my family won’t be compelled to throw me out of the house for bringing in more books. Besides, I do have a library membership now which doesn’t exactly justify new purchases and I intend to make good use of it.

Here’s wishing you all a bookishly happy 2019. I’d love to hear from you all about the wonderful books you found this year and the ones that found you. So if you’re reading this, do take a moment to jot down your favourites in the comments below.

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Happy Reading!

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The 2018 Reading Challenge Part 1 | #BrunchBookChallenge

Note: This blogpost is a top post on Indiblogger.in and has appeared on their homepage.

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

The year 2018 has bid goodbye and with that I have wrapped up my 2018 reading challenge in which I read 108 books. This makes 2018 my fourth consecutive year of One-Year-One-Hundred-Books which originally began from the Brunch Book Challenge, run by Hindustan Times’ Sunday Magazine HT Brunch.

If you’ve been following me on social media, you would have noticed that a large part of my reading activity this year was supplemented by writing a review for every single book I read. This was posted either in long form on the blog or in short on Instagram.

I also decided to take forward the creative streak I re-discovered last year and create bookstagrams to complement these reviews. However, instead of posting generic photos of these books, I used various art and craft techniques to pair with the book’s title or theme, some of which included drawing, colouring, painting, paper-folding (both traditional Origami as well as 3D Chinese Origami), paper-models, and various other types of papercraft.

So, as per tradition, I share below the list of of all 108 books that kept me busy in 2018. If any of these piques your curiosity, click on the name in the list below to read my review.

Also, as before, I have selected my favourite books from the ones I read this year and compiled them into a list segregated by Fiction and Non-Fiction for Indian and International releases. Click here for the curated list.

There is also a separate list of thrillers I read as part of the #BookSpyChallenge2018, run by TheRealBookSpy, which you will find here.

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1. Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops – Jen Campbell
2. ‎More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops – Jen Campbell
3. ‎Bad Dad – David Walliams
4. ‎House of Discord – Sadiqa Peerbhoy
5. ‎And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer – Fredrik Backman
6. ‎The Deal of a Lifetime – Fredrik Backman
7. ‎The Midnight Gang – David Walliams
8. ‎The World’s Worst Children – David Walliams
9. ‎The World’s Worst Children 2 – David Walliams
10. ‎The Doodler of Dimashq – Kirthi Jayakumar
11. ‎Tinted Glasses – Mansi Laus Deo
12. ‎The Perils of Being Moderately Famous – Soha Ali Khan
13. ‎Lovers Like You and I – Minakshi Thakur
14. ‎Marital Advice to my Grandson, Joel – Peter Davidson
15. ‎In Hot Blood – Bachi Karkaria
16. ‎Mothering A Muslim – Nazia Erum
17. ‎Hellbent – Gregg Hurwitz
18. ‎Little Maryam – Hamid Baig
19. ‎Some Mad Poems Some Sad Poems Some Bad Poems and A Short Story in Verse – Jayant Kripalani
20. ‎Gurgaon Diaries – Debeshi Gooptu
21. ‎Remnants of a Separation – Aanchal Malhotra
22. ‎Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? – Raymond Carver
23. ‎What We Talk About When We Talk About Love – Raymond Carver
24. ‎Grubbipus Maximus and the Magic Mirror – K.E. Priyamvada
25. ‎Operation Jinnah – Shiv Aroor
26. ‎The Epic City – Kushanava Choudhury
27. ‎Scene: 75 – Rahi Masoom Raza (Translated to the English by Poonam Saxena)
28. ‎Sanjay Dutt: The Crazy Untold Story of Bollywood’s Bad Boy – Yasser Usman
29. ‎War Shadows -Brian Andrews & Jeffrey Wilson
30. ‎Clear by Fire – Joshua Hood
31. ‎James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl
32. ‎Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
33. ‎The Magic Finger – Roald Dahl
34. ‎Fantastic Mr. Fox – Roald Dahl
35. ‎Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator – Roald Dahl
36. ‎Danny the Champion of the World – Roald Dahl
37. ‎The Twits – Roald Dahl
38. ‎George’s Marvellous Medicine – Roald Dahl
39. ‎The BFG – Roald Dahl
40. ‎The Witches – Roald Dahl
41. Boy – Roald Dahl
42. The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me – Roald Dahl
43. ‎Going Solo – Roald Dahl
44. ‎Matilda – Roald Dahl
45. ‎Esio Trot – Roald Dahl
46. Still Me – Jojo Moyes
47. The Woman in the Window – A. J. Finn
48. The Bookshop Book – Jen Campbell
49. How I Became a Farmer’s Wife – Yashodhara Lal
50. The Light We Lost – Jill Santopolo
51. To Hell and Back – Anurag Anand
52. Deep Down Dead – Steph Broadribb
53. The Trapped Girl – Robert Dugoni
54. Genuine Fraud – E. Lockhart
55. Great Textpectations – Ruchi Vadehra
56. Get Your Sh*t Together – Sarah Knight
57. Pieces of Me – Róisin Ingle
58. Uncommon Type – Tom Hanks
59. The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan
60. Airport – Arthur Hailey
61. Calling Sehmat – Harinder Sikka
62. The Good Indian’s Guide to Queue-jumping – V. Raghunathan
63. Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty
64. Koi Good News? – Zarreen Khan
65. Hotel – Arthur Hailey
66. Wheels – Arthur Hailey
67. The Nine-Chambered Heart – Janice Pariat
68. Two – Gulzar
69. Spirits in a Spice Jar – Sarini Kamini
70. An Evening in Lucknow-Selected Stories – K. A. Abbas (edited by Suresh Kohli)
71. Beartown – Fredrik Backman
72. Us Against You – Fredrik Backman
73. The Boy Who Loved Trains – Deepak Sapra
74. The Girl in the Garden – Kamala Nair
75. Lessons in Forgetting – Anita Nair
76. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
77. Job Be Damned – Rishi Piparaiya
78. Out with Lanterns – Alisha ‘Priti’ Kirpalani
79. Seven Sixes are Forty Three – Kiran Nagarkar
80. Charlie Next Door – Debashish Irengbam
81. Khushwant Singh Selects Best Indian Short Stories-Volume I – Edited by Khushwant Singh
82. Khushwant Singh Selects Best Indian Short Stories-Volume II – Edited by Khushwant Singh
83. Who Stole My Memories – Maitrayee Sanyal De
84. Pyjamas are Forgiving – Twinkle Khanna
85. Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan – Ruby Lal
86. Ishq Mein Shahar Hona – Ravish Kumar
87. Those Children – Shahbano Bilgrami
88. The Pilgrimage – Paulo Coelho
89. The Valkyries – Paulo Coelho
90. By the River Piedra I Sat Down & Wept – Paulo Coelho
91. Veronika Decides to Die – Paulo Coelho
92. The Devil & Miss Prym – Paulo Coelho
93. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges – Amy Cuddy
94. The Fifth Mountain – Paulo Coelho
95. Eleven Minutes – Paulo Coelho
96. The Zahir – Paulo Coelho
97. The Witch of Portobello – Paulo Coelho
98. Sirens – Joseph Knox
99. The Terminal List – Jack Carr
100. Skyjack – K.J. Howe
101. Reaper: Ghost Target – Nicholas Irving with A.J. Tata
102. The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz
103. Bloody Sunday – Ben Coes
104. Daughters of Legacy – Rinku Paul & Puja Singhal
105. After Anna – Lisa Scottoline
106. The Fallen – David Baldacci
107. Button Man – Andrew Gross
108. Dark Sacred Night – Michael Connelly

What do you think? Did any of these titles tempt you to pick them up? Or have you read any of these which you absolutely love and can’t stop raving about? I’d love to share notes with you. Do drop me a line and let me know.

Oh, and Happy 2019 to you and yours! 🙂

Daughters of Legacy by Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal | Book Review

There is a tremendous amount of history behind successful businesses which have continued for generations and time has shown how it has brought its share of challenges and perks in running them. Included in that history is the fact that these age-old legacies were handed down through the male line of succession – from father to son – who, born into privilege, automatically gained a position of power.

Today, however, there are increasing examples of daughters taking the reins in their hands and steering these businesses to newer and greater heights. They have had their share of struggles in navigating the challenges and scaling new peaks, the greatest of which is proving themselves as women in a man’s world.

Rihanna said: “There’s something so special about a woman who dominates in a man’s world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness, and the nerve to never take no for an answer.” The question remains – why are legacy businesses still considered a man’s world?

In Daughters of Legacy, authors Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal show how a new generation of women is redefining India Inc.

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The book features twelve women from illustrious families such as the Future Group, Kirloskar Systems, Emami Limited, Parle Agro, Nalli Group of Companies, and MBD, to name a few and have been chosen from a wide cross section in terms of scale of business, roles and hierarchy. These women have not only kept the legacies alive but have also gone on to carve a niche for themselves as individuals beyond their famous last names.

To know more about these path-breaking women and their inspiring stories, read my detailed review published as a Featured Post on Women’s Web, here.

Title: Daughters of Legacy: How a New Generation of Women is Redefining India Inc
Author: Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
ISBN: 978-0-143-44158-8
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Women’s Web
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Authors: 
Rinku Paul is an internationally certified life coach and a proponent of women leadership and an inclusive work environment, and has brought together her love for entrepreneurship and writing in her published works. Her previous books – Dare to Be: Fourteen Women Who Gave Wings to Their Dreams and Millionaire Housewives: From Home Makers to Wealth Creators – were released to acclaim. Her passion project is ‘Dare to Be Conversations’-a podcast series and a platform for women to be a part of stirring stories and breakthrough ideas.
In her previous avatar, Rinku has had a corporate career spanning over sixteen years with the news channel Aaj Tak, a part of the India Today Group, till she decided to pursue her dream – impacting people’s lives.

Puja Singhal, having spent more than a decade living the corporate life, strategizing on how best to marry business and people as an HR specialist, decided to take a break to focus on her family and other love, writing. Having co-founded a writing studio, The Muse, and published two books, Dare to Be and Millionaire Housewives, along with Rinku Paul, she is now back to juggling corporate responsibilities along with family duties and, of course, writing. Puja holds an Honours degree in political science and an MBA in human resource management.

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Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan by Ruby Lal | Book Review

A few years ago, Hillary Clinton, speaking to a women’s magazine, said: “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world. It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children’s and grandchildren’s fates, are decided.”

While she was spot-on in her observation in the wake of 21st century’s rising wave of feminism, I doubt she was aware of the dynamic woman who did all that and more at a time when it was absolutely unheard of. A woman who proved to be a feminist icon in the days of 17th century Mughal India – a time when the term Feminism had not yet been coined (it would take nearly two hundred years for the world to first hear what Feminism was). And yet, this astonishing woman accomplished what no other woman in the history of Mughal India, neither before or after her, would ever hope to.

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Ruby Lal, in this remarkable biography titled Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan, traces the rise of Mihr un-Nisa, born to a Persian noble and widow of a subversive official, who became the twentieth and most cherished wife of Emperor Jahangir, and later co-sovereign and ruler of Mughal India.

To know more about this phenomenal woman with a fascinating history, read my detailed review published as a Featured Post on Women’s Web, here.

Title: Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan
Author: Ruby Lal
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
ISBN: 978-0-670-09062-4
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Non-Fiction/Biography
Pages: 328
Source: Women’s Web
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Ruby Lal is an acclaimed historian of Mughal India. Her previous books are Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World and Coming of Age in Nineteenth Century India: The Girl-Child and the Art of Playfulness. She teaches at Emory University and divides her time between Atlanta and Delhi.

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Koi Good News? by Zarreen Khan | Book Review

Marriages, they say, are made in heaven. Well, so are thunder and lightning.  A wise woman once remarked: whether you’ve been married a year or several, it is an Indian marriage that is most frightening.

When Mona Mathur of Dehradun married her college sweetheart, Ramit Deol of Amritsar, there were two things she wasn’t prepared for:
1. The size of the Deol family which put any Sooraj Barjatya movie to shame.
2. The fertility of the Deol family which had them reproducing faster than any other species known to mankind.

It has now been four years since their wedding, and Mona and Ramit have done the unthinkable – they have remained childless. Of course, that also means that they’ve battled that one question day in and day out: ‘Koi Good News?’ It doesn’t matter that they have been happy to be child-free. They are married; they are expected to make babies. After all, there are grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, aunts, and even colony aunties in waiting.

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Now, the truth is, Ramit and Mona had been trying to conceive for the past one year. But having a baby isn’t as easy as it’s made out to be. Finally, aided by the wine at their highly glamorous neighbours’ party, Mona gets pregnant. And so begins a crazy journey – complete with interfering relatives, nosy neighbours, disapproving doctors, and absolutely no privacy at all!

Can Mona and Ramit survive The Great Indian Baby Tamasha or will their carefully built tower of marital joy crumble to the ground?

To find out more about this book, which some bookstores have been found to also categorise under pregnancy self-help, read my detailed review as published at Women’s Web, here.

Title: Koi Good News?
Author: Zarreen Khan
Publisher: HarperCollins India
ISBN: 978-93-5277-905-5
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction/General
Pages: 388
Source: Author/Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: After working for Pepsi, Hindustan Times and ACNielsen for ten years, Zarreen Khan decided to take a break and raise two children, who are sometimes kind enough to let her role-play as a marketing consultant. She lives in Delhi with her husband, Moksh, and children, Zayn and Iram, dealing with the craziness of being half-Muslim and half-Punjabi, which is detrimental to her weight, sanity, and sense of humour.
Zarreen’s first book, I Quit! Now What?, was published in 2017. Koi Good News? is her second book.
Follow her on Facebook to know more about the author and her writing.

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Great Textpectations by Ruchi Vadehra | Book Review

How many of you (if you belong to that generation) remember the time when mobile phone service providers first added the text feature? When each message character was worth its weight in gold, and we were forced to develop an entire lingo meant specifically for messaging in order to have a text conversation without emptying one’s bank balance?

Today, nearly two decades later, however, texting is a much more evolved form of speech – Fingered speech, to be precise. Now, we can write the way we talk, especially when characters are not weighed by their monetary value. No wonder, then, that people are having entire relationships via texting. Whether it is a couple in love, living a few kilometres from each other, or two people sitting on different continents running a business together, texting is the new means of interaction; of getting to know each other and thereby establishing a deep, albeit largely virtual relationship.

Without the necessity of face-to-face interaction that most expect to be the framework of relationship building, new rules are being established, as the protagonist of this novel discovers along the way.

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Amaya Kapoor is a Delhi-based intellectually inclined thirty-five-year-old single, financially independent, and sexually liberated woman, who wants to open a ‘boutique bookstore’ and live life on her own terms—single and content. She comes across Rohan while playing Scrabble online, and they soon get chatting, enjoying each other’s company without the usual baggage face-to-face interactions bring. Their text conversations are fun, flirty, and become instrumental in connecting their worlds. Amaya and Rohan become an integral part of each other’s lives even before they realize it and so, eventually, decide to meet. What happens to their virtual relationship when they finally do meet in the real world? Can texting really be the key that unlocks the heart?

To find out more about this book, read my featured review as published at Women’s Web, here.

Title: Great Textpectations
Author: Ruchi Vadehra
Publisher: Rupa Publications
ISBN: 978-81-291-5183-4
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 236
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 3 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Ruchi Vadehra belongs to a family of writers from both sides of parentage. Writing is thus homecoming to her. She began with conceptualizing and co-editing a neighbourhood community newsletter which inspired her to take forward her zest for words, people and travel through fiction.
Ruchi lives with her husband and two children in New Delhi. Great Textpectations is her first book.
To know more about her book, connect with her on Twitter.

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How I Became a Farmer’s Wife by Yashodhara Lal | Book Review

In an interview, many years ago, Bill Gates remarked: “I know there’s a farmer out there somewhere who never wants a PC and that’s fine with me.”

At the time he said this, Gates probably didn’t take into consideration the rapid development of technology and, more importantly, our dependence on it. Nor did he account for Vijay Sharma’s determination to venture into farming and rely on the now omnipresent network-connected device as a valuable resource to aid his endeavour.

Can you blame him? Who in their right mind would’ve thought, back in 2006, that an educated man would contemplate giving up a successful corporate career to become an urban dairy-farmer? Even today, it all seems a little far-fetched, but Yashodhara Lal’s latest offering narrates the story of just such a hare-brained idea.

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Mild-mannered Vijay is the perfect Indian husband – responsible and predictable. Well, at least he was, until he decided to turn Farmer! Vijay’s unsuspecting wife Yashodhara is caught off guard when, tired of the rigours of city life, he actually rents land and starts dairy farming! As if Yash didn’t have enough going on already, what with her high-octane job, three children and multiple careers. As Vijay dives deeper into his quirky hobby, the family is plucked out of their comfortable life in the steel-and-chrome high-rises of Gurgaon and thrown headfirst into a startlingly unfamiliar world – complete with cows and crops, multiple dogs and eccentric farmhands, a shrewd landlady and the occasional rogue snake. Will these earnest but insulated city-dwellers be able to battle the various difficulties that come with living a farmer’s life?

To find out more about this book, read my detailed review as published at Women’s Web, here.

Title: How I Became a Farmer’s Wife
Author: Yashodhara Lal
Publisher: HarperCollins India
ISBN: 978-93-5277-585-9
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 328
Source: HarperCollins India / Women’s Web
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Yashodhara Lal is an author, mother of three children, marketing professional, and fitness instructor. She lives in Gurgaon with her family, her husband Vijay and three kids – Peanut, Pickle and Papad – who never fail to provide her with material for her blog.
To connect with her, find her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

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Book Announcement | When Women Speak Up

I am bursting with joy as I type this post to announce the release of a book that carries my name. This being the second such publication, in a span of a little over a year, I do believe the news accounts for a wonderful beginning to 2018.

This new book has been published by Women’s Web – A digital media platform that began with a firm conviction that women were more interested in the world around them than conventional magazines gave them credit for. They enable women to tell their stories, inspire other women, and be inspired by them too.

If you may recall, Women’s Web launched their first book – Kunti’s Confessions and Other Short Stories at the start of 2017 which featured my short story, ‘Personal Effects.

This year, they have launched another collection of inspiring stories titled When Women Speak Up and includes two short stories written by me:
A Step Out of the Box
A Matter Of Style

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Raised as ‘good girls’, we are often told that we must know our place, we must stay quiet to ‘avoid trouble’, and of course, that men don’t like women who are ‘too bold’.

Indian women today are breaking all those norms and stereotypes! This powerful collection of short stories will show you exactly how.

From re-imagining characters from India’s best loved epics, to utterly relatable stories set in urban bedrooms, kitchens and offices, these 19 stories capture the angst, the struggle, and the joy, of women speaking up. Sometimes, when you have trouble finding your own voice, you may even want to look back to them for a little dose of inspiration!

The book is now live on Amazon and you can buy it here: When Women Speak Up: A Women’s Web Collection of Inspiring Stories

I would love for you all to read it. I guarantee these inspiring short stories are highly readable and will have you rooting for their protagonists.

Please, do also leave your reviews on Amazon and Goodreads so others may be inspired to read it too 🙂

Image Courtesy – Women’s Web