Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Writing A Book Review For Penguin Books..!

Last two days kept me very busy with some thing other than writing blogs. It took me to a related field of writing - writing a book review for Penguin Books.

Shobhaa De, a famous Indian writer is on my blog list; and on one of my regular visits to her blog I came across the launch of 'Blog A Penguin Classic'. The publishers Penguin Books (India) were sending out review copies to selected people for reading their range of 'Modern Classics' and for writing a review of what they have read. This appealed to me immensely. ...what better than to be able to enjoy reading a book, and then to try your hand (or your pen/key board, actually) at writing a review?
The next day after I clicked to show my interest in their promotion, I received in my courier mail, a beautiful and an elegant looking book: Selected Stories by Parashuram. Being a voracious reader, I was lost to the world for two days as the book is a tough read.

..... this is the actual picture of my book while I read it at night.

Some of the stories were fun read and some were serious stuff; but all very interesting.
The serious stories had
intense situations, and many layers of mind blowing characters that it took me two reads for a couple of stories at least, to understand their depth.

Then came the writing part. Having never written a book review before, it was a challenge to write about a masterpiece; that too a translated one. It took me some serious research work and reading other book reviews before I could put my pen to paper. ooops !! my fingers to my key board....God! how things have changed in our lives..!

By the time I had read a few reviews my mind was already racing up. After burning the mid-night lamp (3.00 am), I had a skeleton 'review' sitting on my desktop. That night I slept peacefully over it, and the next morning with a fresh mind I re- read my review. With a bit of editing done, I dashed it off to Penguin Books. And there it is now on their website waiting to be lapped up, and commented upon. Pls do the honors, my friends.

How did the review turn out ? Pls let me know..!

check it here:


If this one doesn't work pls try: http://blogapenguinindiaclassic.blogspot.com/ and look for Parashuram's Selected Stories Reviewed by Shaheen Saeed (that's me)

A wonderful experience : reading and writing this review. I hope I can do more of these in future.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Songbird's Nest - Nature's Miracle ..!

The Songbird's nest would hang in one of those patio baskets ...........

Last week was official farewell to winters in this part of the world. Bright sunny days, sultry afternoons, but soft sunny mornings and cooler evenings mark temperature changes and hint at the setting in of hot summer days. It is also the breeding time for some of the common tropical birds like the passerines commonly known as Songbirds. Locally they are called Bulbuls (derived from the word Nightingale) because of their loud hooting sounds. Last year during this season I visited my sister in Bombay. Today, as I saw the Songbirds hovering over areca palms and bougainvillae in my little garden, I was reminded of the time my sister and I enjoyed the nature's miracles at our doorstep. We had noticed that a familiar looking Songbird would be seen everyday in the patio garden where my sister hung baskets of beautiful green creepers that swung half way down from the ceiling. One day the songbird arrived with a dried twig in her beak, and flew from branch to branch as if in search of some thing. She had a jet black furry head, with bright red spots under both her eyes. She was about 6 inches in size with an elegant slender longish body. Before long she had built a neat round nest inside one of the baskets. We had watched the progress of her little new home, and waited for her to return there each night.

........ in search of an ideal site for her nest.

My sister's excitement was rubbing on my brother-in-laws curiosity. He would often be seen with his digital camera trying to sneak in for a shot of the Songbird/nest. That day the songbird stayed in her nest all day and night. She flew away early morning (probably in search of some food) for a short time. When my sister climbed up on her ladder to peak into the nest, she screamed for the camera. The shot we got was rather blurred; so she brought the basket down on the ground all the time looking out for the one who layed those beautiful, soft, pink, spotted eggs.
.........This was the shot we got of 2 eggs before we hung it back and the Bulbul arrived soon after...!

Here she sits on her ivory tower hatching her eggs.... !!! (this picture was taken from a distance by zooming in) ..............

Each day, we waited with baited breath to see the little chicks coming out of those eggs.
During this period I learnt that songbirds or Bulbuls are commonly found in Asia, Middle East, Africa and some parts of Europe. Most species are known to be monogamous; they feed on nuts, seeds, and worms. They have also adapted to living in cities along with human race.
On the 11th day, early one morning two red blobs of flesh were delivered from the 2 egg shells.
They were a restless pair and very very noisy lot. The mother bulbul always shot anxious glances before she flew away in search of food for her new family. A few days later, the new-borns developed their feathers, and we knew that soon they would fly away. They grew beautiful feathers just like their mom. One day the mother bird arrived with her mate; - there was a lot of commotion, chirping, and fluttering of wings; and then the four were gone. They sat perched on the parapet wall for a few minutes, as we watched them and silently prayed for their safety. Then they were gone.
Next morning the patio bore a sombre and quiet look; but we knew that the Songbirds family was safe, happy and chirping away in some garden..!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ironies Of Life....!!!

There are times when you just take stock of your own life's happenings. It's debits & credits and the bottom line of your life's balance sheet. It appears totally out of balance, and I some times wish I could have done things differently. On one of those days when there is no one to share your inner feelings, you know where to express them. So here is a vague account of life's ironical imbalances.

I have a huge house, but a home is missing from my life
I have lots of conveniences, but very little happiness
I have a lot of income, but have no money
I have a world of experiences, but I lack judgement of human beings
I am highly educated, but have no knowledge of why is my life this way
I am capable of achieving the impossible, but cannot cope with normal chores
I solved many relationship issues for friends, but failed to resolve my own
I have won the highest oratory award, but have difficulty conversing with my spouse
I have made many a laugh & smile, but found only tears in my own eyes
My morals are impeccable, but my morale is very low
I have added many years to my life, but not life to my age
I have learnt to smile, but cannot hide the pain
I have an illusion of living, but I have no life.

Does any one else also feel this way at all or am I the lone ranger ...?

PS: This post was awarded Best Post Of The Day, on March 17. 2009 at Authorblog by David Mcmahon, Journalist and Internationally-published Photographer.

Many thanks David, for the honor..!!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Festival Of Colours...Holi...!!!

Markets are already flooded with heaps of gulal (colour) - they are arranged in pyramids and sold loose. Vendors sit on street corners selling gulal to passers-by. Gulal is made up of many rich colours like pink, magenta, red, yellow and green....!!!

The spirit of Holi is colour - rich and vibrant, flung into the air and smeared with laughter on friends and loved ones. It recalls, very simply, the secret of life: a shifting panorama of sights, movement and feelings. Colours denotes energy - the vivid, passionate pulse of life. Colour signifies the vitality that makes the human race unique in the universal scheme. Holi, the festival of colour, is also the enactment of spring. It is, in a metaphorical sense, changing earth’s dull garb of winter for the fresh blue of the March skies, the bright colours of new blossoms, the brilliance of the summer sun washing everything with its red-gold hues.

A Bollywood actor models the colours of Holi.

Children, friends and neighbours gather on the streets and a riot of colour takes over. Coloured powders called 'abeer' or 'gulal' are thrown into the air and smeared on faces and bodies. 'Pichkaris' are filled with coloured water and this is spurted onto people.

An enthusiastic group of students enjoying the spirit of Holi..!!!

Water balloons are thrown at friends and neighbours in the spirit of fun. Sometimes, mud baths are prepared and people are 'dunked' into this amidst much laughter and teasing. The visitors carry 'gulal' or colour to pay their respects to elders by sprinkling some on their feet.

Holi knows no bars, everybody feels it is their right to enjoy and enjoy they do. Songs, dance, drinks, Foods everything goes in excess when it is time for Holi.

"Life just turns Colorful" when it is time for Holi.