Saturday, July 26, 2014


Hawa Mahal
From Birla Temple, the rickshawwala drove me to the old city of Jaipur known as Pink City which is where you will find Hawa Mahal.

In the compound; ticket counter is ahead on the right
As the name suggests, the palace had been constructed especially for the Queens of yonder to receive maximum breeze. Read on to find out how and why.

Entrance to the palace
I walked through the arched entrance to the ticket counter and paid Rs. 20 as entrance fees. I asked the guy at the counter if it was possible to get a guide. He said that I could at a charge of Rs. 100 for a tour that will last a bit more than half an hour.

The Royal Bath
I went in along with the guide who could speak comfortably in both Hindi and English. He insisted he knew French too. But since I don’t understand a word, I told him to stick to Hinglish. We entered an open courtyard with a large square tank with fountains. They kept switching on the fountains every five minutes or so. I believe the tank was used as a bath by the king and his queens.

The ramp that goes all the way up to the fifth floor
Hawa Mahal was built by Raja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799. It has no less than 953 windows along the five-storey structure. For a minute there, I had a minor heart attack that I had committed myself to climb five floors as the staircase to the first level was quite steep. But lucky ole’ me! The way up was a ribbed ramp that could carry the Queens on a wheelchair all the way up. Poor slave women of those days!

The closed window looking out into the marketplace
The queens’ clothes used to weigh about 9 kg with jewelled embellishments. Over that, they used to wear a minimum of 6 kg jewellery. This totalled to about 15 kg making it impossible for them to walk around. On some days, the clothes and jewellery used to weigh up to 40 kg (eye-popping) - hence the wheelchairs and ramp.

Yours truly
The windows are built in such a fashion that it was convenient for the royal women to look out into the marketplace - it’s also a busy market today - while it is not possible for people to look within.

Along the ramp - the air changes temperature as it enters
Small rectangular holes are cut into the windows along the ramp. These are shaped in such a fashion that the outside rectangle is small while the inside one is large. The air passing through changes temperature. It gets cooled in summer while gets a chance to warm up during winters. Ingenious!

One of the upper floors
The Hawa Mahal is built of limestone, incorporating both Hindu & Mughal architecture as was the norm in those days. It's painted the same colour as the Pink City. It has been designed in the form of Lord Krishna’s crown or so says Wikipedia. It does look like a crown.

View from the top
I walked up to the fifth level. This is known as Chandni Chowk. Yeah, the forerunner to the many Chandni Chowks of North India. On Poornima (full-moon) nights, live musicals and dance programmes were held in this open space. The king used to party along with his queens in a true royal fashion.

Chandni Chowk - this is where the musicians played for the royalty
I climbed the last narrow batch of stairs to get to the topmost level to get a panoramic view of the city. It was amazing. I also got a couple of clicks. I will not say much about climbing down those stairs - just a dozen of them - it was hair-raising to say the least as my eyesight is not the best. But I am glad I made the full trip.

A view of Chandni Chowk on the fifth floor from above
They had an environmental friendly way of keeping termite away those days. A mixed paste of yoghurt and fenugreek seeds was applied to the walls. This kept all insects away. I was zapped!

This the balcony from which people could watch the live programmes below in Chandni Chowk
We came down the same ramp but got out of another door to the left of the fountain. When I gave the guide Rs. 100, he told me that I owed him Rs. 200. Huh! Lucky for me I had checked at the ticket counter in advance. I told him just that and gave him exactly Rs. 100.

A view of the old city
Loved the trip to the breezy Hawa Mahal!

Friday, July 25, 2014


When Indireads held their first short story competition, I was quite fascinated with the kind of stories that were shortlisted. I had my own opinion of the winners while I was surprised by the stories that actually won. Well, tastes are different I suppose. 

I have chosen to review the stories that made a mark on me. The stories fall under the genres of Drama, Paranormal and Romance. 

A Plate of Rice by Mohammed Musthafa Azeez (Drama) is a story that truly appealed to me. I have read Mohammed’s work before and have been impressed with his writing style as well as his story ideas. For such a young writer, the pieces Mohammed comes up with are very mature. This story is one such. Kudos! 

In Exile by Neha Puntambekar is a hard hitting story and truly shook me up. The author writes about something that happens with rich kids who get away with drunken driving. But I have never read a viewpoint from the kid’s side. Wonderfully penned! A must read. Congratulations! 

Let Me Go by Rubina Ramesh is another story in the Drama genre that I loved reading. It made me cry my heart out. A story that brings forth strong emotions in the reader is one that really works for me. Just awesome! The relationship between brother and sister touches your heart. Congrats!  (I was amazed that this one didn’t win a prize. I am just glad that this story is part of this anthology). 

Romance is my favourite genre. While I liked A Tiara for Seher and The Blind Date, I was totally impressed by You Stole My Heart. What surprised me was that this one was also penned by Rubina Ramesh, the author of Let Me Go. While the Drama made me cry, this romance made me dance. I simply adore the royal background to the story and fell in love with Prince Armaan. Enjoyed every juicy bit of it, to be truthful! “Like a porcelain doll maker who feared that his masterpiece would shatter with his own breath” - what a simile! 

I am not fond of paranormal but have a kind of morbid fascination to it. I read Together Forever by SS Kuruganti and felt quite revolted. Nothing wrong with the writing and probably the author has achieved what she set out to do. But the story made me sick. So, I didn’t read the rest of the stories in that genre.

CLICK HERE to purchase your own copy of The Long & Short of it by Indireads

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Durva Creations, Sion East
I usually take a walk from my house to Gokul Mandir in Sion East. I walk through the back roads and return from the main road. 

Baby Krishna-Lord Ganesh. Mwah!
On Saturday, I surprised upon a huge pandal at Jagger Niwas. Thinking that it’s too early for Ganesh Chaturthi, I peeped in to see hundreds of colourful and decorative Ganesh Idols sitting on the shelves and some on the floor, awaiting buyers.

Lord Ganpati

As I went in to check them out, I was met by Mrs. Jagger with a smiling face. She wanted to know what kind of idol I preferred. I explained to her that I am a blogger and would like to know about the kind of Ganesh Murtis they had to offer. 

On a Swan

After taking a round of the pandal, I promised to go back the next day armed with my camera and notebook. 


I went back on Sunday afternoon to meet Mrs. Jagger. She let me take pictures to my heart’s content while the assistant helpfully removed tags and dust-covers to give me access to some of the most beautiful idols that I have seen on my many such ventures. 

One more Maharaja

Click Here to read about how the Idols are made in the villages of Maharashtra and brought to Mumbai. 


Both Navin and Diya Jagger have been celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi with a specially purchased idol every year over the past 25 years. In fact, 2014 is their silver jubilee year. 

In the lines of Lord Krishna
Navin Jagger takes great interest in visiting a number of vendors each year to choose the perfect idol for their home. His final order generally was a combination of one particular face, another posture and different colours - put together as per his taste and made to order. Incidentally, Mr. Jagger says he never bargains with the vendors as he feels that art is priceless. 

Look at the velvety texture of the dhoti. Isn't it amazing!

This eye for detailing and colours gave forth to an urge to do something different this year and Durva Creations was born. Mr. & Mrs. Jagger hold 9-5 routine jobs that are quite ordinary. They so wanted to bring some art and colour into their lives. That’s how they hit upon the idea of going into business of getting together some exclusive Ganesha Idols for this year’s Chaturthi

This gorgeous Ganesha is sold with stone embellishments complete
Navin Jagger has been visiting a cluster of villages around Pen in Maharashtra since four months. He’s been checking out many idol-makers and bringing together ideas for the kind of idols he wished to sell at his stall. Some of his friends who have been a moral support are Kishore Wadhwa, Rohan Advani, Divyesh Shah, Harpreet Sandher, Karamjeet Sandher and Jaymev Obhan. 

Royal Lord Ganesh

While idol-makers were taken from one village, painters of the idols were chosen from elsewhere, ensuring that the idols at Durva Creations are exclusive enough. 

Doesn't He look cute! Hugs!
Different faces, various poses and vaahans were put together with brilliant colour combinations to suit his exclusive taste as 300 plus idols found their way to Durva Creations at Jagger Niwas. 

This flaming red Ganesh Idol caught my eye for sure
A visitor will find a maximum of three idols that look the same; even those have been made different with separate colour combinations. 

Ganpati Bappa Morya!
All the idols have been prepared and painted in the village and brought here with extreme care, ensuring that there is no damage. 

The King is waiting to find a home
The sizes of the Ganesh Idols measure thus: 12”, 15”, 18”, 22”, 24”, 30”, 3’, 4’ and 5’. While I got to see all sizes, the 5-foot ones were yet to arrive. Costs range from Rs. 1500-8500. Prices are negotiable. 

Look at that decorative trunk. Awesome!
What’s special about the Ganesh Idols sold at Durva Creations?

They have a provision for embellishing the idols with coloured stones. Believe me, the result is extremely beautiful. It must take a lot of time and patience to do this artwork and this responsibility has been given to artist Siddhant Pitale who is adept at multi-tasking, it seems. Mr. Pitale is still studying while holding a day job. He still finds time to spare for this creative work from 8 pm to 1 am when he’s available at Jagger Niwas. Anyone who’s buying Ganesh Idols from here can meet the artist personally after 8 pm and discuss exactly what they want done on their idol. The cost for embellishing your Ganesha will be separate depending on the number of stones used and the level of ornamentation required. The artist takes 1-2 days to complete work on each idol. The sooner you place the order, the faster you are ensured of a well-decorated Ganesha for the festival. 

Completely ready with stone work in red, blue, green and white
What impressed me about the Ganesh Idols I found at Durva Creations:

I have never seen such beautiful clay idols of Lord Ganesh ever before on the many visits I have made to sale outlets as well as Ganesh pandals during the festival.
The faces of Ganpatis look absolutely divine, making one want to pray when in front of them.
The eyes of the idols are very expressive.
The velvety texture to the dhotis worn by the idols, painted in shades of colours, looks very attractive.
The variety is amazing.

All of 4 feet, squatting on a conch shell. Don't miss the li'l dolphin
Click Here to LIKE Durva Creations on facebook

Any takers?

Durva Creations,
214, Jagger Niwas, 
Opp. Sion Hospital,
Sion East, 
Mumbai – 400022
+91 98202 49404

I sincerely pray to the Elephant-headed Lord that Durva Creations does great business this Ganesh Chaturthi. All the best to Mr. & Mrs. Jagger on their divine and colourful venture! 
The Lord awaiting the Bhakta

Tornado Giveaway: LOVE'S LABOR by Andy Paula

23rd July, 2014

Renita D'Silva is the 23rd Author in the Tornado Giveaway.She has decided to give 10 copies of her book to 10 lucky winners. To enter the Giveaway, see the bottom of this post. To see all the books that are part of the Tornado Giveaway - Click Here


Click Here
Piali Roy has run away from home and the two stubborn men who love her. One is her beloved Baba; a rigid traditionalist, he refuses to accept anyone from outside her caste and community. And then there is Sathya, the unsuitable outsider. He loves her truly, madly, deeply and has even called off his marriage for her sake. Neither man will budge, and the small town of Jampot, where everyone knows everything, is not big enough for the two of them.

Away from their unreasonable demands, Piali strives to find peace in the mountains. But within six months, her lover tracks her down. Once again, she betrays the one by trusting the other.

Will her labor in the name of love be in vain, or will love transcend all differences?


Andy Paula is a corporate trainer by profession and a writer by vocation. After the innumerable essays, poems, articles, editorials, congratulations & condolence letters she wrote for herself and others refused to satiate her writer's Self, she finally put herself seriously to the task and wrote Love's Labor, a romance novella that is now on Goodreads.

To know more about her :  Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

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Check out the First Book of Tornado Giveaway: 

Tornado Giveaway: 1st of July 2014 Scarlet Revenge by Ann McGinnis

Click Here to buy your copy of DOUBLE JEOPARDY by Sundari Venkatraman
Click Here to buy your copy of THE MALHOTRA BRIDE by Sundari Venkatraman
Click Here to buy your copy of MEGHNA by Sundari Venkatraman

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tornado Giveaway: LILY'S LEAP by Téa Cooper


22nd July, 2014

Téa Cooper is the 22nd Author in the Tornado Giveaway.She has decided to give 5 copies of her book to 5 lucky winners. To enter the Giveaway, see the bottom of this post. To see all the books that are part of the Tornado Giveaway - Click Here


Click Here
From Escape's Queen of Australian historical romance comes a story about a privileged member of Australian's squattocracy, a bushranger, and a very special horse.

Born into the rough, but privileged society of the Australian colonial landowners, Lilibeth Dungarven finds herself married, widowed, and, much to her distress, back under her father’s thumb, all before her twenty-first birthday. Determined not to forgo her dream of breeding the perfect racehorse, Lilibeth ignores propriety and sets out to restore the family’s flagging fortunes.

When Captain Tom and his mismatched band of bushrangers stumble across a mob of the best horses they’ve ever seen, and the daughter of the famed Dungarven horse stud, they know their fortunes have changed. Their catch is worth a king’s ransom. All they have to do is hold her for seven days. How hard can it be to control the pampered daughter of a colonial upstart?


Téa Cooper lives in a stone cottage on one hundred acres of bushland, in the Hunter Valley. When she isn't writing, Téa can be found haunting the local museum or chatting to the locals, who provide her with a never-ending source of inspiration. The settings for her stories range from the glittering beachside city of Sydney to small country towns and the harsh outback.

Take a ride from the ocean to the outback and discover pure Australian romance.

To know more about her :  Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

Click Here to buy your copy of DOUBLE JEOPARDY by Sundari Venkatraman
Click Here to buy your copy of THE MALHOTRA BRIDE by Sundari Venkatraman
Click Here to buy your copy of MEGHNA by Sundari Venkatraman

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tornado Giveaway: INDIA WAS ONE by An Indian

21st July, 2014

An Indian is the 21st Author in the Tornado Giveaway. He has decided to give 10 copies of his book to 10 lucky winners. To enter the Giveaway, see the bottom of this post. To see all the books that are part of the Tornado Giveaway - Click Here


Click Here

Suddenly, he saw something shiny at the bottom of the abyss. He squinted his eyes to see what it was. He ran back to his binoculars and turned them to see what it was. Sharp barbed wires that separated the two mountains came into focus. He had come as far as he could in his country. But she was standing in another country.

He was in South India and she was in North India…

Have you ever imagined India being divided into two countries? What happens to the millions of Indians who are from South India but are now residing in North India? Kaahi & Jai were two such people who got trapped in this situation. Everything was going smoothly for them and suddenly, their world turned upside down.

How will they get together? Will India become one again?

Take an exciting journey with them from their college days in Mumbai to their life in the US and back to India when they find out that India is divided.


The author was born and raised in Mumbai, India. He came to the US in 1989 and lived in New York. He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.
The Author calls himself An Indian. We have no pics of him. But the Author does have something to say to every Indian out there....

Dear Readers,

I wanted to tell a story peppering it with Indian languages and narrating my experiences, inter-weaving them with some imaginary tale. When I mentioned this idea to my wife, her very first question was, "who is your target-audience?" That made me "think outside the box". After reading the book, you'll agree that there is no target-audience. I'd say - 10+, any sex, from any country, any ethnicity, any religion - is the intended audience.

When I wanted to tell a story, I wanted to "lull" the reader into thinking that they are just reading a travelogue. Making them wonder where (if at all anywhere) the story is going. Is it just another boring experience written by a NRI? AND THEN BOOM. It hits you. Suddenly, along with the characters, the reader's dream-world shatters.

This book is broken up in 3 parts. And it is intentional. Let me explain why.

The first part is about the Indian culture. Most Indians (in India) already know it. But what about NRIs? They may find it nostalgic. And what about their kids. They may have a better understanding about their roots and culture. And the non-Indian find it very fascinating. 

The second part is about life in the US. Readers who are in the US may find it a bit like a travelogue. However, others may find it very interesting. Those who can't be here get a glimpse into the US life of an Indian (and the US life in general).

The third part is for everyone. 

Hence, you'll notice that different people react differently to this book. There is something for everyone.

I hope this helps you.

Thank you,
An Indian   

The author was born and raised in Mumbai, India. He came to the US in 1989 and lived in New York.  This book is for those who like travel, history, romance, culture, cuisine, sports, political-thriller, etc. It’s dubbed as a realistic-fiction. A fiction based on some real events.  He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

To know more about him:  Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

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Next Giveaway on 22nd July 2014: Lily's Leap by Téa Cooper

Click Here to buy your copy of DOUBLE JEOPARDY by Sundari Venkatraman
Click Here to buy your copy of THE MALHOTRA BRIDE by Sundari Venkatraman
Click Here to buy your copy of MEGHNA by Sundari Venkatraman