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The Book Cafe in Pretty Dhalpur

May 16, 2015 by  

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Kullu, or Kulu, is the capital town of the Kullu District in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh and is located on the banks of the Beas River in the Kullu Valley about ten kilometres north of the airport. A summer visit to Kullu Valley generally mandates bye-passing the eponymous township en route Manali, its poster destination.   Unsurprising, as what you see of it from across the Beas is unremarkable and uninviting. Having choked up both banks with thoughtless habitation, it is steadily crawling up the mountain-face behind it. In the bargain one is guilty of forgetting that Kullu is home to the 17th century Raghunath Temple honouring the vale’s chief deity, and hosts the iconic Dussehra unfailingly each year. Another draw includes the Bijli Mahadev Temple perched high on a ridge above the town with fabulous views of the Kullu and Parvati vales. Recently, it has added another more youthful one – The Book Cafe. Sitting pretty in Dhalpur, within a gaily painted pre-fab structure, this cheery little place is more than a good cause to weave through the busy bazaars of Kullu. IMG_20150409_112939 Joined at the hip with a freshly refurbished building, the cafe is fronted by a large ground which has long been used as a resting…

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Book Find: Minakshi Chaudhry’s A World Within

April 2, 2015 by  

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“…He looks at me. His eyes full of tears, ‘You will not understand.’ Something snaps in me and I blurt, ‘Dadoo, will you forget us?’ He looks at me in shock, ‘It is not possible to forget your children, one cannot forget one’s children even if one forgets everything else.’ I am deliriously happy. But this turns out to be an illusion.”   img675Book churner Minakshi Chaudhry’s latest literary outing, her 13th, is a clear departure from her earlier works. A World Within is a two-year conversation between a dementia-struck father and his daughter even as he slowly and surely disconnects from his familiar former self. It is the heart-wrenching story of a helpless parent building bridges to nowhere on a despairing child’s watch.  Told with her trademark humour, this time encasing her pain, this prolific teller of ghost stories, lovers’ litanies, and valleys afar, brings you an extraordinary tale about dealing with her father’s losing battle with the debilitating Alzheimer’s disease. Though fictionalised, the book has been penned from an up-close and extremely personal perspective given the author’s own close-quarter view of a malaise that is socially scoffed off as memory…

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Top Ten Book Read For Your New Year’s List

January 6, 2015 by  

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At the beginning of last year, I started out with a specific reading challenge in mind: I chose to read 35 books in 2014, but at least 10 of the books I chose had to be a five-star book and the rule was that I had to choose from several genres. Otherwise I’d just stick with fantasy and historical fiction, which I adore. I spent some time in advance getting my reading list worked out. As luck would have it, I spent a lot of time in bed this year from painful arthritis flares, and I also did quite a bit of traveling and long-haul flights, so I had plenty of time to crack out some long-count novels and business books that I’ve been wanting to read for ages. Between the real travel journeys I embarked on this year and the fantasy travel that I completed with my reading list, I feel like I really got to see the world this year. Carrie Kellenberger By the end of 2014, I had 61 books on my list, and I relied on my grandmother’s tried and true technique of going back through my notes and book…

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Book Review: Amaltas Avenue By Manju Jaidka

December 28, 2014 by  

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Amaltas_AvenueAmaltas Avenue, Manju Jaidka’s third novel, is set against a backdrop of campus happenings over a period of three days during a sultry Chandigarh summer. The book focuses on a number of characters who share a common milieu, including the eponymous residential neighbourhood, even as they drift through seemingly ordinary lives, playing out mundane everyday roles at an individual level. It is not to be confused with other breezy campus writings as Amaltas Avenue in fact brings to attention more complex issues through its protagonists–often antagonists–when they are confronted by unexpected turmoil in their personal and professional arenas.   An insider for over forty years, the author has had a ringside view of the intrigue, manipulation, fraud and power games that go on within the realm of academia. In contrast, student ragging and indiscipline takes on the reminiscence of a Sunday picnic, while education moves to the backburner in her narrative. Such is the story-teller’s craft that the reader is often found searching for the proverbial fine line between fact and fiction. Borrowing heavily from her own role as student, teacher, warden even, at the Punjab University in Chandigarh, Jaidka is able…

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Cook Book Events & Recipe Chatter in San Francisco

December 10, 2014 by  

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If you’re looking for gift ideas for someone on your list, cookbooks are a great way to go. Especially signed, beautifully photographed, locally written ones. On Saturday December 13th from 3pm-4pm, catch Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns of Bar Tartine at ~OMNIVORE BOOKS in San Francisco. They’ll be discussing their new cookbook, Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes, and signing copies. The event is free, and books will be available for purchase.  Omnivore is also hosting a number of other special book events next week, if you can’t make this one.


The Aspen IdeasFestival Turns 10

July 3, 2014 by  

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In keeping with the spirit of “WeBlogTheWorld” and having a global perspective, I flew from Stockholm to Oslo to London to Washington, D.C., to San Francisco en route to Aspen, Colorado to cover the second half of the 10th Anniversary of the Aspen IdeasFestival, an annual gathering of luminaries meeting in this alpine paradise to discuss burning issues of the day. In the middle of the six day, two session marathon of seminars, talks and panel discussions spanning 16 topical tracks is an “afternoon conversation” plenary involving attendees of both segments.  This year, interviewees included Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi, former vice president Al Gore, former UK prime minister Tony Blair, and former CIA director David Petraeus. Impressive that the first three speakers on this top profile stage in the Benedict Music Tent were women, as was noted by David Gergen, who interviewed Al Gore. Watch this space over the remainder of this week for highlights and themes from this august gathering. Of course, if you are reading this, you…

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Headhunters On My Doorstep by J. Maarten Troost

July 2, 2014 by  

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Headhunters On My Doorstep, by J. Maarten Troost Auki warned us about the gelatinous creatures we’d discovered in tide pools along ‘Eua’s coral shelf. The sea slugs had always been part of the Tongan’s diet, with natives picking and eating sustainably. But now, aid and corporate funds from China had purchased the foreign investor free license to over-consume and threaten the islands’ delicate ecosystem. This is one of many reasons why Tonga – and the South Pacific – are hailed as the “last frontier” in tourism. Tonga now faces the same challenges as destinations in the Caribbean and Central Asia: how to protect its unique culture from an influx of outsiders, while improving infrastructure to draw in tourism money, and carefully balancing growth without destroying the scenes such travelers are desperate to see. Headhunters On My Doorstep – J. Maarten Troost, 2013 Robert Louis Stevenson Robert Louis Stevenson. Photo credit: Wikipedia – University of Edinburgh. You can only imagine how exotic and pristine these isolated countries must have appeared to early expatriots, such as the renowned Scottish author, Robert Louis Stevenson. After penning the classics Treasure Island and Kidnapped, a deteriorating health…

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2 Documentaries Explore Issues Facing Women & Lower Castes in India

June 21, 2014 by  

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  The Backward Class, India, women, girls, Dalit, documentary, film Recently, the two most prominent news items from India in the North American media recently were the sweeping election win for Narendra Modi and the BJP party in the world’s biggest democratic election; and the horrific rape and murder of two teenage girls, who were left hanging from a mango tree, in Uttar Pradesh. Ever since the high profile Delhi Gang Rape in December 2012, the status of women in India has been under the spotlight, not just in India but around the world. I was in India during the paradigm-shifting backlash to the rape of the 23-year old medical student aboard a moving bus in Delhi and it affected me very deeply. It affected everyone very deeply. There were riots and calls for changes to the law and changes to attitudes towards women. The deeply felt need for change was one of the reasons that the long-time ruling Congress party was ousted, in a landslide victory for Modi and the BJP. People in India are fed up with corruption, inefficiency and oppressive attitudes towards women and people from the Other Backward Class, including Dalits (formerly…

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