Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review Round-up: Sorting Out Sid

I thought it's about high time for this! My new book 'Sorting Out Sid' launched earlier this month, and here are some of the reviews that I've managed to catch.

The Official Flipkart Review reads like this: 

Yashodhara Lal’s writing is witty and also full of empathy. It is a wonder that being a woman she has created a full-rounded, flawed and confused male protagonist. I think everyone can relate to Sid and what he goes through. At the same time, the writing is lucid and does not stretch too much on any one issue or scene. A light read for a day that you do not want something literary. (Go to the book page on Flipkart now)

Sakshi Nanda, whose very detailed review is one of my favourites. From her review:

Sorting out Sid’ is a quick-stepped narration that trots the story forward, a real story we can spot in our own milieus. A reality so real, either from our own life or from our neighbour’s. So real, it makes you become a part of the book instantly. It makes us think, as it makes us look around. And it makes us laugh out loud.

Priyanka Roy, who says in her write up: 

I hadn’t read the author’s previous book Just Married, Please Excuse. I wasn’t aware of her writing skills and must I say, I’m quite taken by her writing. Her ability to characterize is at par with quality writers. There is a quirk in the book that is contagious. With a steady dose of humour amidst quite serious incidents in Sid’s life, you never realize when you’ve cruised through the climax. 

Kokila, who states, amongst other things: 

I liked the book for authors writing style which is witty ,sharp and short.The people were not a black and white but of a believable grey.

Sri, whose review reads: 

Another thing which I liked about this book are the jokes-most of them are so hilarious, you can’t help but burst out laughing!

Would definitely recommend this book for all those looking for a light, fun book that is realistic and isn’t preachy.

Matheikal, who states his belief at the end of his review that the author is capable of more depth :)

The plot is very lifelike.  The characters are drawn from the next door.  You know them; you have seen them.  They belong to our own society, with its superficiality, lack of both emotional and intellectual depth. 

Itchy, who begins her review by asking: 

From the author of Just Married Please Excuse comes another breezy read, this time a totally male centric book. So what would a chik lit about the male species would be called, I cannot resist asking as I review this long over due book? 

Gingerchai, whose review reads: 

If this sounds a weary story, trust me it is not. Yashodhara adds an undercurrent of well-measured humor that never allows for a dreary chapter. While Sid sorts out his life perpetually, it is always with a tinge of comedy throughout as the cover says of a ‘Man In Progress’.

The Mad Momma, who does a round-up of several books, and honours me by including mine! 

She brings up a lot of very modern day issues through the book-  careers, Peter Pan men who don’t want to grow up, insist on bean bags being part of a more elegant home, don’t want to have kids, mostly cannot think beyond themselves. The love interest Neha is a divorced mother, and I smiled each time I watched those scenes play out.

That's it for now - there were some earlier write-ups too which I had written about. 

Looking forward to seeing more reactions over the next few weeks! 

Let me know if I've missed your review in comments to this post!  

Are you convinced about buying your copy yet? Y on earth not?

Go to the Flipkart page to read many other reviews, and of course, to actually get yourself a copy of the book! 

P.S - Kindle-lovers rejoice - it's on Amazon too

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Early Morning Chat with Peanut

I wake up at 7.30 a.m today and go out to the living room to find a grumpy little Peanut sitting on the sofa, all ready for school apart from the dishevelled hair.

'Good morning, Peanut.'

She grunts something unintelligible but allows me to sit down right next to her and cuddles up to me. She's not exactly a morning person and thinks that the whole deal about getting ready so early to go to school is unfair. I can't exactly blame her. 

'So what's up, Peanut? You have piano class later today, right? And sports in school?'

Another grunt from her. She knows I know all this already. 

I continue 'I have a little event today. At the World Book Fair. At 12 noon.'

This piques her interest. 'What's the World Book Fair?'

'Oh, it's like this REALLY huge fair about books, with thousands and thousands of people coming to Pragati Maidan...'

She sits up straight now. 'Wow! The whole world is coming for YOUR book?'

I clear my throat and admit 'Umm, well, not exactly. Mine is just a little reading at the Author's Corner.' 

'Will Enid Blyton be there too?' Peanut is really enthusiastic now. 

'Er, no...' I hesitate and decide there's no better way to break it to her. 'End Blyton isn't...alive anymore.'

'She's DEAD?'



'Well, she lived a really, really long time ago...and she wrote all those great books before you - and even before I was born...' I look at her face searchingly. She still looks a little shocked, but I press. 'And her books are still around and we're discovering more and more of them even now, aren't we? Isn't that great?'

She thinks about this and then suddenly grins shyly 'Yeah.' 

I start to comb her hair now and say 'Wow, Peanut, your hair is growing really long...and it's so straight!'

'Yeah.' she says 'Yours isn't.'

'No, it isn't.' I sigh ruefully. 'Yours is like your Didu's - except that it's brown.'

'I know that.'

'And it really shines in the sunlight and looks light brown.' I caress her hair lovingly. 

'I know that too.'

'You know everything, don't you, Peanut?'


I'm glad that we're having this little chat, despite the little know-it-all's know-it-allness. I decide to ask her about something that's been on my mind. 'Peanut, you remember how I used to go to the office all day before - till last year? And now I go out a lot less, right?' She nods, so I press. 'So what did you like better?'

Pat comes the response 'When you went to office.'

Now it's my turn to be shocked. I take a moment to compose myself and ask in what I think is a relatively neutral tone 'Why?' 

She doesn't have to pause to think about anything. 'Because I could do whatever I want then the whole day, and there would be no shouting from you.'

Fine. Fine. FINE. I fume for a couple of seconds, and then say. 'Well, maybe I'll go back to the office now, shall I?'

'Yeah.' She affirms.

I glare at her. 'I'm still going to call up every hour from the office and check what you're doing and maybe I'll even shout from there.'

'Fine.' She says, now all bright and not to be outdone. 'And when you're a giraffe, I'll be a monkey and climb up your long neck just as you're about to eat some fruit from a tree, and I'll grab the fruits first. Ha HA.' 

*End of conversation and I boot her out of the door to school where she belongs.*

Friday, February 14, 2014

Conversation in the car

We are on the way- 3 kids, me and a cake- to celebrate the birthday of their Anjali Masi.

"Where does Anjali Masi live?" Asks the curious Peanut.

"In America."

"We are going to AMERICA?"

"No, no" I clarify "she is coming to Gitanjali-masi's house. We are meeting there"

It occurs to me that Peanut may not be very clear on the relationship so I ask "do you know who Anju Masi is?"

"Yes. She is the one who came yesterday to our house"

"No- I mean do you know how she is related to you?"

"Yes. She is my fake Masi."

"What!! No..."

"But Gitanjali Masi is my real Masi, so Anju Masi is my fake Masi."

After a few moments of my clarifying the concept of cousins etc, something else strikes her.

"So her mother lives here and she lives in America?"

"Of course. That's how it works when you grow up."

Peanut looks worried "I am always going to live with you."

Now it's my turn to look worried "but peanut... You have to move out someday... When you're all grown up.. Like 20 years old..."

"No! Never!!"

"What about when you get married?"

"Even then! I will get my husband to move in..."

I am digesting this declaration when Pickle pipes up.

"I will build my own house."

"See?" I turn to Peanut again "even your brother will build his own house."

"I also" Papad is never far behind his bro.

"Both of them will live in their own houses" I beam at my Sons.

"I will build of straw..." Says Pickle.

"I will build of sticks..." Says Papad.


 I say to Peanut "Even the Three Little Pigs moved out when they grew up..."

She just crosses her arms and glares at me. And then snaps "Well, that's because they're just PIGS!"

- I have nothing more to say and the topic is closed. - 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

My Zumba Story

''You're taking a song today. Which one?''
''ME? No way. Forget it.''
''You want to do El Amor? Or maybe Zumba He, Zumba Ha?''
''I don't think you're listening, Sameer - I'm not doing it.''
''El Amor, then...''
''Here we go...guys, guess what? Yashodhara's taking a song today...''

At my peak pregnancy weight when I was carrying the twins in 2010, I had reached the whopping figure of 85 kgs.  Up from my regular weight of about 60 kgs - and no, even twin pregnancies don't justify that much weight gain. After the twins were delivered via C-section, I had to have another surgery due to some complications  - and had to go slow on any form of exercise during the recovery phase. Even after I was given the green signal to go full out, no matter what I did, the last 8 extra kilos just refused to go away.

I don't quite know what made me look up Zumba.  I just happened to Google for instructors in Delhi, and happened to chance upon the number of a young man (okay, he's my age, I'm young!) named Sameer, whose classes I ended up joining - and sticking with for months and months, unlike with most other forms of exercise that I have taken up over the years.

It was Sameer who noticed that I was so intensely focussed on the workout that I actually had learned the dance moves by heart. And one fine day after a few months, he put me up in front of the class and made me take a choreography. And yes, it was indeed 'El Amor, El Amor', one of the Zumba classics.

It was a real high and soon I was taking a couple of songs in each of Sameer's classes and picking up techniques from observing him - and enjoying myself thoroughly in the process. The nicest part about Zumba is the crazy music; high-energy thumping, pumping music and easy-to-follow but varied dance moves.

After some months, I dropped out of Sameer's classes, when I was undergoing some existential issues and  stuff at work, figuring I needed to try giving this up for a while to focus on other things - but found that I was actually feeling worse-off while I wasn't doing Zumba, even though I kept up with my Yoga practice. And then last November, it was Sameer again who called up to enquire where the hell I had been and suggest that since there was an instructor training in Delhi, being taken by ZES (Zumba Education Specialist) Lucas Mthenjane, flying in all the way from Africa, I might as well bite the bullet and go in for my B1 (Basic) License.

As is my wont, I Googled up on Lucas too, and when I saw how a few of his videos, I thought, ah, what the heck, I'll do it - his martial arts background and flawless movements were nothing short of impressive, after all. An intense two days of training in the four basic rhythms (Reggaeton, Salsa, Cumbia, Merengue) that make up a Zumba class followed. And just like that, I had my license.

Now, what was I going to do with that license? I decided to try and figure out if people were interested in a morning batch in my colony - Sameer was already taking the evening one, and he's a tough act to follow given that he's superbly energetic and a trained dancer with a background in Ballet, Salsa ( and currently runs a large and vibrant organisation called the Delhi Salsa Club). I thought it would be great to get some new people in. And they trickled in, one by one. Those who had seen the enthusiasm of the earlier batch; those who were curious about this new form of dance-fitness; and those who were just fed-up with being unfit and wanted a solution.

It's working out well. I take 3 classes a week - 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday and 7.30 a.m. on Wednesday. These timings work very well for me - well, the Wednesdays causes me to miss time with the kids before school, but that's just one day - but they don't interfere with an actual work-day in any way. It's a great workout for me and one that I push myself harder for because there's a class, now consisting of several people. I've become leaner since I started in November and continue to take great pride in how regular we are with it - last week, one of the ladies said 'Thank you, Yash! I'm fitting into my old clothes now' - her pre-pregnancy clothes! That was quite a kick for me. The ongoing Raahigiri festival is a temptation especially since the Delhi Salsa Club Zumba Team ( now consisting of 5 people, including me) is the one taking the Zumba sessions on Sunday morning; but I've been carrying on with my Sunday classes in my colony anyway. I figure I'm a little shy anyhow, given how new I am to instructing and prefer doing this thing with a select group of people I can focus on for now.

So that's it. It's a beautiful, fun, simple and highly effective form of dance-fitness and if you're looking to find a workout you can stick with - I strongly suggest you try and check out a Zumba class with a good instructor near you. We're all over the place now! It's a mega industry by itself, and for good reason. I hope it weathers various storms and continues to grow because if it means more and more people are getting fit, enjoying some music and feeling happy, how on earth can that be a bad thing?

P.S - If you'd like to take classes with Zumba@DelhiSalsaClub, you can call Anuj at 98997-71415. 

A Peanut @ 6.5

The little Peanut isn't really all that little anymore.

If any of you have read this blog before, or my first book, 'Just Married, Please Excuse', you'll know that we very imaginatively stuck with the name Peanut because that's what she looked like in the first ultrasound.

It's quite something how things have changed. Peanut is already a young lady of remarkable intelligence and compassion ( disclaimer: I'm the mom) - of course there are times when she regresses, especially when she's playing with her 3 year-old twin brothers - but for the most part, she's a first-grader with a mind of her own, nimble fingers that are learning to master the piano and a capacity to go through books like no other.

The latest book she's picked up is - wait for it - none other than the above mentioned 'Mama's book' by yours truly. She was very kicked by the back cover which announced the arrival of Baby Peanut - she kept on asking me 'Which chapter do I come in, Mama?' and I told her that I didn't remember exactly and she would just have to go through it and find it. She looked at me with her eyebrows raised and enquired 'Are you sure you wrote this?' She couldn't seem to digest the fact that I didn't know the chapter-wise contents by heart.

She giggled her way through the first few chapters although Vijay was suspicious about whether she was really understanding everything - after all, this isn't like a kid's story. On the other hand, it's not one that's very complicated, either, so she did seem to get the general gist of the events, even though she obviously didn't get the dry humour peppered all over the book. The problem arose when she reached the chapter 'Opposites Attack', where it goes something like this.

'You really don't want kids - ever?' Vijay was aghast...
...'They're icky, runny-nosed pests...' Y said 'Monsters!'

Peanut looked up at me, shocked 'You didn't want kids, Mama? You don't like kids?!'

'No, no' I was a little shocked myself 'That was...before you came along...and then I had my little angel Peanut' I put on an unusually sweet voice 'And everything was wonderful!'

She didn't seem too convinced. She muttered 'Monsters, you said kids are monsters...' and then she proceeded to read the book, her brow furrowed.

My mind was racing. This was a little too much. I didn't expect her to be reading this book before she was seven - obviously, the sarcasm was lost on her and she wouldn't be able to take everything in the right spirit, straight-laced kid that she is. I suggested to her that she go to bed, but she ignored me and kept reading. A few more gentle suggestions later, I lost it and snapped that she better put the book away, and go to sleep - or else.

Immediately, her face crumpled. Putting the book aside, she turned to me once and said 'Mama - I think you still don't like kids!' And with that devastating comment, she turned her back to me and started to sob into her pillow.

Ohhhh dear.

It took a lot of cuddling and convincing to let my daughter know that indeed I do like children these days, especially my own. I'm just hoping no permanent damage is done. Of course, the very next day, she was bouncing around happily and back at the book, running to our old Kajal Didi and saying 'Aap bhi hai iss kitaab mein!' I found myself very glad that Kajal is unlikely to ever read the book and her role in it, although she and Peanut seemed equally kicked by the discovery of her role in it.

Aside from the reading, Peanut has been progressing well at her Piano - she started a year ago in February and is now reading music pretty well. We invested in a digital piano last June, and that's really helped her progress because she practices every day. I'm thinking of taking lessons myself now just to keep up with her, but am trying to plan life in such a way that it doesn't get too overloaded. But obviously, she's already way ahead of me - I took guitar lessons last year, and my ability to read music, practice on a regular basis and general willingness to learn does not compare with hers at all.

She managed a distinction on her Trinity Initial Grade piano exam, with a grade of 87 marks - which apparently is just the cut-off for distinction. Her erstwhile teacher, who had to leave was pretty happy with her achievement. Peanut herself beamed when I told her the news about her marks. She had been pretty nonchalant about the whole thing, and apparently I had managed to hide my own stress reasonably well (yeah, right); Peanut informed me that the lady taking her exam was very friendly and had red curly hair; she had then confided to me that in her own opinion, the lady was going to be a circus clown when she grew up due to that hair. Anyway, she seemed pretty kicked about her exam results because when we reached home after her class, she went straight to Papaji's room and shouted 'Papaji! I got a DICTATION!' - much to the mystification of my bemused father-in-law.

Peanut's a kid who's always full of surprises - for example, I was watching Tom and Jerry right now with the kids and enquired who was hiding inside the knight's armour waiting to axe Jerry ( dumb question, I know, but it was addressed to the little twins who were ignoring me completely). Peanut replied first, saying 'It's Thomas, I should think.'

Yeah, she could have just said Tom. I'm definitely raising a reader.

A couple of other examples of recent conversations with Peanut:

''Mama, do the numbers never end? Is that man who made the numbers in the beginning - is he still talking and saying them out loud?''

'' in school we heard the story of how Guru Nanak asked a rich man and a poor man both to give him one roti...and then he squeezed the Rich man's roti and it was full of blood...yuck...what? Why, you ask? Oh...I think he had put his own blood in it...(thoughtfully) He probably didn't like Guru Nanak much, I should think...''

In short : Life gets more and more interesting. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How I spent my 9-5 today

Laid up in bed.

A horrible stomach infection that ( a little too literally) took it all out of me today. And that's it. I'm going to have to stop eating out. This is the third instance in the last few months where I've had something - typically it's spicy Chinese Food - and then a couple of days later, it hits me like a ton of bricks.

I don't know why there is this intervening period of approximately two days where I'm floating around like a butterfly, perfectly happy. It was throwing me off the trail but I've finally spotted the pattern: my stomach can't handle spicy Chinese Food. At all. Damn.

The worst part was that this morning, I knew I had it coming - a bad night wherein Papad kept on kicking me repeatedly - at about 6.45 a.m. my eyes opened, and I realised my tummy was hurting and I felt pukey. But that did cause me to cancel my Zumba class at 7.30 a.m.? Hell no. Like an overconfident ass, I thought it would pass.

Now, I love Zumba and it keeps me fit, but the one lesson that I don't seem to learn is that when you're not well, it's a killer. As an instructor, you have to keep your energy levels up and your movements big because the class takes their cue from you. But I told myself I would take it easy - there were at least 3 people coming from outside of my colony and whatsapping them at 7.15 a.m. to say that today's class was off didn't seem like a good idea. Plus, since I started my classes in November, I've been really proud of the fact that not a single class has been missed, barring one - and that's because some of us went to do Zumba at Raahigiri instead.

So I said, what the hell, and went ahead with the class. I told the guys that I would be taking it easy today, but in the middle of it all, I went ahead and did the more strenuous moves. A couple of people who were nearest to me could see my discomfort in the mirror and told me to slow it down. Instead of the usual 55-60 minutes, I had to stop at 45 minutes and was feeling distinctly woozy by the end of it. I declined the kind offer of the participants to walk me home - what was I, a baby?

I then ran to the nearest toilet to throw up.

I knew that Vijay would be disapproving of my decision to go ahead with the class when I was anyway feeling sick. I got home somehow after packing up the music system and collapsed into my bed. It was a full 8 hours later that I managed to get up the strength to go and have a bath and eat something.

So that's it. The bottom line is:

- Home-cooked food be da best.
- Zumba is great. But it is terribly strenuous and there is absolutely no point attempting a class - whether student or instructor - when you're anyway feeling low.
- I genuinely wanted to give my class their regular workout without a break - but if I don't take care of myself, I won't be able to give them what they signed up for. It's the typical put-your-oxygen-mask-on first.
- It does not make sense to brag - just yesterday I was telling the Mad Momma that I don't watch my diet at all now that I've got the Zumba going 3 times a week. Exercise actually isn't enough - diet and sleep are equally important and I've been taking both those for granted. No more.
- My birthday is this week and Vijay confessed he had been thinking of ordering some Chhole Bhature, of all things! I yelped as loud as I could in my weak state and have requested that we just have some Khichdi instead.

Now excuse me as I get back into bed. For the most unproductive day I've had in months, I think I'm both older and wiser at the end of it. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Out with the Kids

Over the last several weeks, I have found myself taking my 3 kids out more than ever before. It may have had something to do with young Rinki having gone away, their holidays, my general vela-ness, but there was a lot of this going on.

Despite the gloomy winter, I didn't miss too many opportunities to get them out of the house especially when there was even a hint of sun. While each of these little excursions is probably a post in itself, I thought I would record the trips nevertheless before I forget them all:

- A memorable trip to the Delhi Zoo, perhaps the only one I've written about.
- An afternoon at the Kingdom of Dreams, Gurgaon where they marvelled at the performance but more at the sandpit.
- A beautiful sunny ice-creamy day at Select City Walk, Saket.
- The discovery of a little Play Area and a Cafe Coffee Day inside the Delhi Gymkhana
- A random trip to Galleria, Gurgaon to watch a performance by a music school on a freezing winter night
- A spontaneous trip to CyberHub,Gurgaon where we didn't really get beyond the play area and the Angels in my Kitchen outlet
- Peanut's school fete, as lovely as the previous year but it was just so terribly, terribly cold that day. The highlight was standing in line for half an hour for Candy Floss. Pickle and Papad just stood there mournfully until I reached the front, disregarding the instructions to step back from the damn thing.

- A picnic at my all-time favourite - Lodhi Gardens
- A day at the Eco-Rail-park at Chanakyapuri where the enterprising children wangled themselves some Maggi.
- But the biggest hit of all - a trip after twenty years for me to the Children's Park near India Gate, where the kids all went a little nuts! And yes, that's some Candy Floss again.
(And my ever-sporting mom, the Grandmother who's always up for an out-of-the-blue excursion!)

Good fun, I have to say. Good fun. 

Launch of Sorting Out Sid: At the Beer Cafe, Delhi - Feb 8th 3 p.m.

Delhi folks - come?