Friday, October 20, 2017


I'm doing Inktober and trying to draw every day, with mixed results. Here are a few: the rest is up on Instagram. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Books I read in August

I'm in Bangalore for a while, and it's not been a great month for reading, because I'm spending a lot of time hanging out with friends. No regrets!

But look at this magnificent haul of second-hand books.

Picture Books and Graphic Novels
(from the shelf of friends I'm staying with)

Three Pigeon books by Mo Willems
I like The Pigeon Wants a Puppy best. Not only does it remind me of myself (when I was a kid, and also like right now because I do want a puppy dammit!) but it also has Pigeon hilariously promising to water it once a month. Get it for the babies in your life, even if they're adults.

A Gardener in the Wasteland by Srividya Natarajan and Aparajita Ninan
This beautiful, beautiful book describes the work of Jotiba and Savitri Phule. The art is gorgeous, and I don't know enough about the Phules, so this book was a lovely introduction.

Everything else

The Inner Courtyard edited by Lakshmi Holmstrom
I've been wanting to read this, and was got it as a gift recently. It's a lovely collection of stories by some of the most eminent writers of twentieth century India (and one from Pakistan/UK).

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag
A friend had lent me her copy and asked me to read this book ages ago; I finally got around to it. Fittingly, because I read it soon after coming to Bangalore and the book is set here. It's a thin, delicate novel, much more nuanced than it appears at first.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
This book was really popular a year or two ago, and I can see why. It's a thriller, but an extremely intelligent one. It reminded me of Emma Donoghue's Room in style, though in genre it's probably closer to Gone Girl. I found Gone Girl extremely disappointing ultimately, and this book is everything that one wasn't.

The Cosmopolitans by Anjum Hasan
Another book I've been intrigued by since it first came out, and finally got around to reading. I loved its meditations on art and artists, and Anjum is, of course, a very good writer. (Check out this beautiful piece on her fiction.) I felt the novel handwaved a rather major incident (and flaw in the character), and I felt one plot twist was contrived and sort of predictable, but it's a really interesting book that's stayed with me.

How Fiction Works by James Wood
This is a surprisingly easy-to-read, engaging book on literature and art. I loved it and mean to reread it soon.

In an Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh
This amazing book blends history and memoir and is set in Egypt and India (mostly Mangalore). It's Ghosh's personal account of discovering the story of an Indian slave owned by a Jewish Egyptian who moved to India in the fifteenth century.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Books I read in July

I've left home and am living in friends' homes in a different city for a while — if it works out, till October. My laptop conked off and I had internet issues and health issues, but here I am finally with my books of July.

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
I am really enjoying Schwab's fantastically (heh) light touch and her wonderful heroine, Lila Bard. Highly recommend this series: start at the beginning, A Darker Shade of Magic. The Kindle books are not expensive.

The Strange Haunting of Model High School by Shabnam Minwalla
This is the YA ghost story that is not scary. You have school, friends, boys, competition, mean girls, and a friendly but sad ghost. Pretty entertaining stuff.

Boats on Land by Janice Pariat
I finally read this book I had heard about for years. The stories and writing are hauntingly beautiful, and I always have a weakness for stories and characters from Assam or even Shillong.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss
This novel fascinatingly combines science fiction with a Victorian London in which Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are at work, and the daughters of certain fictional mad scientists are in need of help. But Holmes is not the hero, he is more of a romantic interest: the women save themselves. This is one book that I greatly recommend to everyone.

Mr Majestic! by Zac O'Yeah
I'd been curious about O'Yeah for a long time but never read anything by him until this book. It's a thoroughly entertaining and curiously realistic thriller that I must imagine someone is planning to make into a popular movie right now. I rarely rarely enjoy thrillers based in India, but this is the real deal.

The Foucault Reader 
I'm not always a big fan of "readers", but they help me decide whether - and which of - an author's books to read. I'm new to Foucault and this was a very interesting introduction to his work. I'm more interested in his literary/art theory, but his social theory is interesting too.

The Algebra of Infinite Justice by Arundhati Roy
I vaguely remember reading these essays when they had first been published in Outlook and other magazines. Rereading them had me marvelling at her prescience, while also often feeling disappointed that her prose seems less luminous than in my memory. (I might share further thoughts on this book in a separate post later.)

The Blind Lady's Descendants by Anees Salim
I'm surprised that I haven't read Salim before. This is a beautiful, clever book about family and sanity, and how much the two affect each other. The prose is enchanting; I found the protagonist/narrator annoying, but was compelled to read on nonetheless.

Murder in Mahim by Jerry Pinto
At times more anti-bigotry treatise than murder mystery, this was a fun and also deeply moral book. For more, read this lovely interview of Pinto by my friend Shreya.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Self-promotional announcement: the food blog is active again.

In the last couple of years, various friends have adopted dairy-free or gluten-free diets for themselves or their children. I have often found myself offering suggestions, since I got on the bandwagon years ago.

So I decided to revive this blog and share my tips for cooking or finding food that's safe for my body. Check it out or follow me on Tumblr, and do recommend it to friends who might be interested.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Books I read in June

I had exams through most of June, so this is going to be a shorter post than usual. (On the other hand, I have spent a lot of time painting to relieve stress: check out the results on my Instagram. As always, I'm not including books I didn't finish, even though I may have read most of them (sigh).

Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie
Something reminded me of this book and I was dying to reread it. It's light, meaningless fun, and Tommy and Tuppence are Christie's best couple. Tommy reminds me a lot of the Guy, but I have nowhere near Tuppence's spunk and coolz.

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith
A nice YA that deals with family and romance and (surprise!) the role money plays in life. A bit too optimistic to be believable, but that's most of the fun of reading such a book.

Karachi, You're Killing Me! by Saba Imtiaz
I hear the movie (Noor) was awful, but the book is quite fun, though predictable. I loved the depiction of journalism and Karachi, and would read more books that just follow their heroines through their exciting jobs please, personal drama and romance not required.

House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
Apparently one of the first popular and critically acclaimed novels by a Native American. It's too misunderstood-violent-man genre for my taste, but the writing is good and the depiction of Native culture is interesting. As always though, I felt I'd have appreciated a woman's point of view.

Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar
I had thought this was Serious Literature, and wasn't prepared for how fun and smutty this was. It's a fictionalised account of the life of Mirabai and her husband, told from the husband's point of view. It reminded me of Philippa Gregory.

A Right Honourable Gentleman and The Year of the Crocodile by Courtney Milan
Two short stories by a writer whose romance novels I love, but these are eh, meh.

Love Poems by Emily Dickinson
I have no intelligent critique of poetry, but this is a slim little volume of Dickinson's work, which is good for me because I like poetry in small doses. I think I'm going to return to it again soon.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
I'd read this just in December, but this book has something new each time. This is the kind of fiction that seems to me truer than non-fiction, because it is both beautiful and profound.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

My Interview with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

I met Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, author of acclaimed novels like Palace of Illusions and The Mistress of Spices, earlier this year. We talked about the importance of women's stories, and she told me about her next book. 
When you really look back and read the character of Sita as presented by many people in the history of the Ramayan, Sita’s not like that at all. At some point a patriarchal interpretation of Sita was created and pushed onto women. Sita is very demure, she’s obedient to whatever her husband says, she’s a doormat, she accepts everything that happens to her – and ladies, you better be like Sita. 
That’s what I want to counter. Look, it’s not just me: it is already there in the story. It’s just, the patriarchal spin has been given to it. Sita makes a number of important choices, some of them right, some of them wrong. She’s a very active character. My goodness, she’s the world’s first single mother in literature, and she brings up those children with great courage.
It will be a challenging project. I pray that I can do a good job.
Read it all here. 

Monday, June 05, 2017

Books I read in May

A funny coincidence: each of the three book posts I've done this year has 18 books each. This one has... ten. Next month will be even fewer I suspect. Oh well.

Novels I read for work
Friend of My Youth by Amit Chaudhuri
I found this typical of Chaudhuri's oeuvre: excellent at capturing the small moments, veering between boring and profound, and you suspect profound because it seems intensely self-aware. Anyway, I had great fun writing the review for Scroll, in which I used internetspeak to mock the novel's somewhat prissy tone. Read it.

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas
This book is being made into a Hollywood movie starring Dhanush, and I interviewed the author. The book itself is hilarious fun, if you can get past the racist stereotypes, the misogyny, and the casual transphobia. Nice cover though.

Romance and YA
Baaz by Anuja Chauhan
I have to give up and admit Anuja Chauhan is just not for me and trying to understand why everyone loves her. I liked Pricey Thakur Girls but the others I've read have been meh. The hero of Baaz is the kind of annoying know-it-all I would give a wide berth (okay, maybe after lusting after him first). The heroine is great but seems to be there just to make the hero look cooler. I don't know, man. Read if you like Chauhan, I suppose.

Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey
This is more my kind of romance, even though I've forgotten most of the book in less than a month since I read it. It was more feminist than most romances, which to me is essential: the heroine is young and her flaws are evident but relatable, the hero is really nice for a romance hero, and the plot is nonsensical but fun. Excellent timepass.

If We Kiss by Rachel Vail
Like all of Vail's books that I've read so far, this YA romance was sweet, light, hopeful. I read this late one night when I couldn't fall asleep, and it was just what I needed.

Living a Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed
A brilliant book that I read slowly for weeks and am not done thinking about. I highlighted so many lines that I want to return to. It made me think of so much, not least friendship and solidarity.

We the Children of India by Leila Seth and Bindia Thapar
I saw this book recommended after Leila Seth's death, and ordered it immediately to gift to a nephew. It's beautifully explained and wonderfully radical, and Thapar's illustrations are gorgeous.

How to Read Literature by Terry Eagleton
A surprisingly funny, very readable book on literary criticism: kind of a basic introduction. Highly recommend this.

Signs and Images by Roland Barthes
Look at this beautiful hardcover!

Okay, the book itself is great if you're interested in cinema and images and criticism. I wanted to read more Barthes, and this was really good (and less expensive than many of his books).

A Lover's Discourse by Roland Barthes
More Barthes. A bit dense, especially as I don't know most of the material he refers to, but I found some of his comments about how lovers are viewed (and gendered expectations) very interesting.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

How food intolerances took over my life

I have never written much about my food intolerances, even though they've been a big part of my life, even before I knew I had them. I finally wrote the personal essay that's been stewing in my head for years (with the encouragement of my lovely friend Shreya, who commissioned and edited it).
My body had never seemed really part of me. In the last few years, I have learned to know it, to care for it, to even love it instead of resenting its limitations. I am amazed now at how strong it is... In spite of all the poison I have fed it, my body continues to function and heal itself.
Read it here. 

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Books I read in April

I've started to put up books I'm reading on Instagram, to have an instant record of what I read, and to make it easier to put this post together at the end of each month. Let's see if that works.

April was probably the most books I've read in a month, ever. (I also watched a lot of TV -- Riverdale, which isn't all that great but is entertaining, and The Get Down, which is better and which I watched in a little over two days straight. Yeah, some eleven hours of it. I also caught up on Jane the Virgin.)

Books! Ahem. I have eighteen books this time, which is the same as last time. Only last time's post was for two months, which means I've read twice as many books this month. Let's get to them.

Leila by Prayaag Akbar
I just finished this beautiful, devastating book. It's a dystopia set a few decades ahead in India, and the way things are going right now, this future seems all too possible. It echoed A Handmaid's Tale, though the central conflict here is a mother's search of a lost daughter.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
It had been a long time since I'd first read this, and I didn't remember much apart from the bare bones. It makes a rather big deal of extramarital sex (Hester hadn't seen her husband for two years! everyone thought he was dead!) but apparently those were the times. As I said on Instagram, the Puritans were stupid. (Also, Hester was a big introvert - that's the only way I can explain the ending and really much of the book.) It's also a rather overly sentimental overwrought book without a lot of nuance, but it's surprisingly intriguing nonetheless. All in all, meh.

The High Priestess Never Marries by Sharanya Manivannan
I went into this book of short stories with very high expectations, given all the praise I'd seen. So I was a bit let down at first. The prose is lyrical, and in fact many of the stories seemed to me more poetry than stories, not having much plot or characterisation. There were a few I really liked though, and Manivannan can doubtless write beautifully.

Women at War by Vera Hildebrand
A meticulously researched account of the all-women Rani of Jhansi regiment in Subhash Chandra Bose's Indian National Army. A bit dry: read it for the facts, not for the prose.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
One of the most beautiful books I have read recently. A young adult novel that doesn't shy away from the realities of being a black teenager in America. Apparently it's inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. If there's one book I would recommend from this list, it's this one.

Rebels Like Us by Liz Reinhart
Similar themes as The Hate U Give -- teenagers, high school, racism, romance. But it's heavier on the teenage girl friendships and romances, and lighter on the activism. The racism is real and present and appalling, but there's less violence and trauma.

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
I reread this and found it still beautiful, still relevant. Many of us upper class and upper middle class women still don't have money or a room (office/study) of our own to make art in, let alone less privileged women.

Orientalism by Edward Said
I had read of Said's ideas filtered down through different channels: it was time to go to the source. So much that still applies, so much that still rings true -- and has even gotten worse perhaps, with the West (and not just the West) becoming increasingly close-minded towards Muslims. I realised that Said's criticism about how the West views the Oriental/Arab is similar to how Indian Hindus view Muslims also.

The Diary of a Social Butterfly and The Return of the Butterfly by Moni Mohsin
A fictional journal of a rich socialite in Lahore, who is the Marie Antoinette of our times. Often searing and funny to the point of despair. You'll laugh till you cry. These two books helped me pass two awful days when I was ill in bed.

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta
Terrorism, racism, parenting, teenage angst, family, romance, crime and a thrilling finale -- this novel has it all. Why someone hasn't made a (good) movie of this yet, I have no idea. Highly recommend it.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab
A reimagining of Frankenstein. Anti-heroes and grey heroes. A young girl hero. Crime and compromised cops. A thrilling novel with a perhaps too pat ending and easy tying up of threads.

A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
I loved the first novel in this series. The second, as the second of a trilogy tends to be, is a massive setup for the third, and ends on a cliffhanger. There's magic and young heroes and romance and royalty and parallel worlds. There's a heroine who is a thief and a pirate and the bravest person you ever saw. I'm saving the third book for a bad day when all I can do is read.

Brilliant, Lucky, and Gorgeous by Rachel Vail
I discovered Rachel Vail recently through a friend and obviously loved her, since I read everything I could lay my hands on. Young adult books are what I read when life is difficult and I need to get through the day. I find them engrossing, though they dredge up old teenage emotions, and I often cry through them. I especially loved Brilliant in this series, and Gorgeous was good too. The heroine of Lucky I found more self-indulgent and boring.

Well, That was Awkward by Rachel Vail
A beautiful tale of friendship and romance and coming of age. This is my favourite Rachel Vail so far.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Books I Read in February and March

I not only didn't post the Feb list, I even forgot to keep notes on what I've read. So this is going to be an incomplete list. Also, a lot of the reading I did was for the English literature course I'm taking. I've put off posting this forever, so I'm only doing really brief impressions instead of paragraph-long ones. 18 books in two months.


Tara by Mahesh Dattani
About a girl who's discriminated against by her family, and narrated by her twin brother who carries that guilt, this play was more nuanced and interesting than I'd expected from the description.

The Hairy Ape by Eugene O'Neill
Ugh. The white working class man is the worst victim ever. Women are upper class and bitchy and weirdly delicate, fainting at the sight of hairy sweaty topless men who work. 

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
I'd always loved Miller, but my favorites are All My Sons and The Crucible; Salesman, I've always felt, is less nuanced and interesting. I am older now, and have more sympathy, and recognised and appreciated the "capitalism is bad" bits, but the cardboard cutout of the devoted wife annoys me.


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
I found this much more grownup and difficult than I had remembered. I'd read it just as an adventure story earlier and found it less fun than Tom Sawyer (don't judge me) and more boring. This time I read it carefully, and read about it, and wow. If Twain was going for satire, the end is brilliant, though I found it painful to read through - but I suppose it is about making us uncomfortable. (A couple of links if you're interested.)

The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald
I had dismissed the book the first time I'd read it as frivolous and sexist. It is both those things, but this time I appreciated the beauty of the language and the tightness of the plot. Still totally misogynistic and classist, though. (I really liked this scathing piece.)

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
I was less traumatised by this novel this time around, and enjoyed it even more. I didn't even mind the ending, which I'd earlier felt betrayed by as a cop out.

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
I've become a more careful and kind reader. My impression of this book was that it was boring and very boy-centric; this time I was less dismissive and more appreciative. I can understand the appeal to teenage geeky boys, but it's not something that speaks to me, or was ever meant for me. The writing is also a bit ineffective, maybe? It's not clear how smart the protagonist is (he seems really stupid sometimes, and I don't get whether we're supposed to agree with everything he thinks or not), and we never see anyone else's PoV.


Sexual Politics by Kate Millett
Brilliant. An incisive look at sexuality and misogyny in literature and society. Trigger warning: some of it, especially the opening chapters, is difficult to read because of the long excerpts from misogynist books, including graphic descriptions of rape and violence.

The Cambridge Introduction to Scott Fitzgerald 
by Kirk Curnutt

This was interesting, especially if you're a fan of Fitzgerald. If not, don't bother.

Other Classics

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dresier
For a nineteenth century novel, this was surprisingly liberal and feminist. The protagonist leaves her lower middle class family to find herself in the growing city of Chicago, and immediately "loses herself" (that is, her chastity). The novel foreshadows deep doom for her, which never materialises. What's waiting for her at the end of the novel is (spoiler warning!) independence and success, while she rejects the lover who had patronised her and the one who had abducted her kills himself in poverty and despair.

Kanthapura by Raja Rao
There are so many brilliant Indian authors I hadn't read. I was afraid this book would be stodgy and boring; it definitely wasn't. The most wonderful thing about it was the narratorial voice: the old conservative grandmother telling a tale about the struggle against colonialism and casteism shaking up her little village, and the courage the villagers found.

Fantasy and YA

The Gameworld Trilogy by Samit Basu
For some reason, I'd only read the first of these years ago, and I knew I had to remedy this. I enjoyed it even more this time around, because I've read more of the fiction it's referencing and satirising and mocking. It's delicious, especially the first and second books, and Basu is laugh-out-loud funny. I need to find more of his work.

Unfriended by Rachel Vail
One reason I love young adult books is that they are so hormonal. Full of angst and emotion: reminds me of my passionate teenage feels without the despair. This one is typical and very good.

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
A seventeen year old girl who is a pirate captain, and allows herself to be captured by an enemy ship because she wants to spy on them. Our heroine is much fun, even without her magical abilities.

First Class Murder and Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens
Love this series; will read every book. (I don't think they'll hold up that well on a reread somehow, but they are really fun schoolgirls-solving-murder books.)