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madhubani painting wall mural

Itinerary for Patna in a Day

Now that travel season is officially upon us, how many of you are peeking out of your shell? Do you feel ready to brave the crowds yet? I know many of us are still wary of a third wave hitting us in a few months and are cautious about non-essential travel. Our only concern was our child, who isn’t vaccinated yet, but we felt kids are a lot more resilient. Since he has no underlying health issues, we decided to bite the bullet and hit the road. 

Patna is my birthplace, although I have never lived there. Over the years, I’ve made sporadic visits but hardly ever left the house. This trip was my husband’s and son’s first visit there, and we wanted to explore the city a little.

Air Travel in a Pandemic

Child in mask standing in the airport with the runway behind him
Excited to travel after ages

Air travel rules have been relaxed a little for now. There are no tests or health checks required. No one asked for our vaccination certificates at any point in our travels. Prior check-in is mandatory, though. 

I was glad to see both Hyderabad and Patna airports going paperless. No need to print out your boarding passes—a screenshot saved on your phone will suffice. You do need to keep your mask on inside the airport and throughout your flight (except while eating or drinking).

The airports and planes were brimming with people, so I guess there are enough people comfortable with crowded places now.

It felt strange to be travelling again after such a long break. I thought I would be more anxious about the crowds, but since I had made up my mind to travel, I thought no point in worrying about it now.

child inside a flight looking out the plane window
Awesome views

Things to do in Patna

I was surprised at the number of things there are to see and do in Patna. From parks to museums and historical landmarks, you could spend a few leisurely days taking it all in. We didn’t have the time, especially since we decided to travel during the Dusshera festival. Here are some of the places we managed to visit before the festive crowds blocked all the streets.

Patna Museum

Time spent: 1 hour

patna museum courtyard
Patna Museum Courtyard

The rows of shops selling ‘khaja’ will lead you to the entrance of the museum. It houses artefacts found in and around Patna. Founded in 1917, Patna Museum has some interesting pieces on display. The 8th-century ornate door jamb at the entrance is just a sampler of things to come. A fossil of a 200-year old petrified tree trunk is another fascinating piece.

The main attraction at the Patna is a small casket said to hold the Buddha’s ashes. This room is locked and can only be viewed under the watchful eye of an armed guard.

ornate door from 8th century at Patna museum
8th century door frame at Patna Museum

Although a few prized pieces have been transferred to the new Bihar Museum, Patna Museum is still a worthwhile visit. The art gallery with various artists’ representations of Mahatma Gandhi is impressive as well.

It is well-maintained, although the inner galleries got extremely hot and humid since there were no fans or coolers. I couldn’t spend as much time as I wanted to there. 

Buddha's relics at the patna museum
Buddha’s relics at the Patna Museum

The ticket price is Rs 15, but a Rs 100 ticket will get you access to the room that houses the Buddha’s relics—the only room with air conditioning. You’ll need to keep your belongings in the locker at the ticket counter. You can only carry your wallet, water bottle, phone, or camera (with the valid ticket) in your hands or pockets. No bags allowed.

Bihar Museum

Time spent: 2 to 3 hours

child in bihar museum
Full of wonder

This is a must-see landmark in the city. Newly built to world-class standards, it has some remarkable pieces and installations. It is also fully air-conditioned and offers a nice respite from the heat outside. 

The Children’s Gallery offers a few activities for kids, so take them along as well. The rest of the museum is divided into galleries by theme. There are plenty of photo-ops throughout, so take your time. The building itself is impressive, and architecture buffs might want to spend time admiring that as well.

The crowning glory of the Bihar Museum is the 2300-year-old Didarganj Yakshi—a sandstone statue carved from a single piece of stone and finished with a smooth Mauryan polish. The woman looks stunning, and the work is so well preserved it is truly something to marvel at.

Didargunj yakshi sculpture at bihar museum
The Didarganj Yakshi

The entry fee is Rs 50 for kids and Rs 100 for adults. It is open from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm, and is closed on Mondays and public holidays. 

Buddha Smriti Park 

Time spent: At least 1 hour

stupa at the Buddha Smriti Park patna
The Stupa and grounds of Buddha Smriti Park

Also known as the Buddha Memorial Park, it is a calm oasis in the middle of chaos, near the railway station. The Buddha Smriti Park sprawls over 22 acres of greenery, where you can sit under the shade of a tree and watch the antics of squirrels and enjoy the sounds of the birds.

The Buddha Smriti Museum takes you on the Buddha’s journey via paintings, artefacts, and engaging art installations. It also has a small meditation cave where you can spend some time ruminating.

The 200-feet-high Pataliputra Karuna Stupa at the centre is magnificent. At the centre, the memorial includes the remains of the Buddha donated by different countries enclosed inside the Stupa’s glass structure. You can sit around the memorial to meditate. Be mindful of not talking or making noise as this is a meditation zone.

Ticket prices vary for what you want to visit. Entry to the Park and museum is Rs 25, and for the Stupa it’s Rs 50. It is closed on Mondays and public holidays. The timings are from 9 am to 7 pm. Cameras are not allowed here, but you can take your mobile phone. You can take pictures in the garden areas but not inside the structures.

Gandhi Ghat Promenade

Time spent: at least 30 minutes

boats parked on river front at gandhi ghat patna
No takers for the boats at Gandhi Ghat in Patna

The riverfront stretches for about 17 km. The best seats are usually taken but walking on this stretch offers some good views of the new (almost completed) Mahatma Gandhi Setu (bridge) that spans 5.75 km.

If you’re brave enough to venture into the water, then some small boats and ferries ply in these waters. Or you can just sit on the steps of the banks and get your feet wet while sipping some hot lemon tea.

It is best to get off your vehicle on the main road and walk the rest of the narrow path leading up to the promenade. If you are ok with large crowds, then stay till 7 pm for the aarti (prayer ritual with lamps) on the weekends.

sit out at gandhi ghat patna
Old world charm at Gandhi Ghat, Patna

Many other spots such as the Gandhi Maidan, Golghar and other nearby parks are great for kids or an evening stroll. Many religious or historical sites are worthy of day trips from the city as well.

For the Foodies

Patna has some unique dishes that you might not find so easily in other cities. Khaja (sweet and savoury varieties) is a popular snack you might find across India. Do try other items such as thekua and anarsa (both sweet). For the chaat lover, Patna chaat is a special treat.

Then of course, the most famous dish in Bihari cuisine, litti chokha, is available in most restaurants and street-side vendors. But if you can get someone to make it at home, over some goitha (cow dung cakes), then there’s nothing like it!

collage of images on making litti chokha over a bonfire
Littli Chokha done the traditional way

For authentic Bihari food, don’t miss the Potbelly restaurant located inside the Bihar Museum. Do note that it is closed on the days the museum is closed. Also, it is pinned incorrectly on Google Maps, which takes you to Patna Museum instead.

Harilal sweets is THE place for all your sweet cravings, with their branches spread across the city. Try the parwal mithai, chum chums, and ras malai here. They also have full meal options.

We loved the food at Aasman on Frazer Road. The grilled seafood platter was superb. They have an extensive menu, and the ambience is cool and relaxed. The service was excellent as well.

Seafood platter at Aasman

Note that Bihar is a dry state, and no alcohol is allowed within its borders. They take this rule seriously, so don’t even try.

Travel within the city

Cabs with Ola and are readily available from anywhere in the city. For shorter distances, try the cycle rickshaws. There are also electric auto rikshaws, but you need to settle on a price before you get on to avoid arguments at the end.

You’ll find colourful Madhubani murals painted all over the walls of the city. It surely livens up the place. Although, Madhubani artists are of the opinion that over selling the art form has led to its diminishing interest.

man riding a motorbike in patna with colourful madhubani wall murals behind
Pretty walls

Best Time to Visit Patna

November to March is when winter sets in, and it is easier to go sightseeing in the day. The sun sets earlier than the west coast here, around 5:30 pm, so it’s best to wind up your day before dark.

flight on tarmac at patna airport
Walk up to your flight at Patna airport

What needs to improve

Sanitation is an issue like most other Indian cities, but the infrastructure needs a lot of improvement. Houses have been built without allotting adequate space for roads. Apart from a few main intersections, it is difficult to commute within the city.

The maintenance of landmarks should be a priority. The city has some great tourist spots, but things like the AC not working or no clear information on timings, etc, make it a lousy experience.

Airport stalls overcharge for food and drinks. A Mars bar is for Rs 900 and dosa for Rs 350. Eat before you enter or pack something.

Safety

I did not feel unsafe, but then I was travelling with my family. Single women or even groups of women without a male escort need to be on their guard. Like any other city, take care of your belongings, especially your mobile phones, even when inside a vehicle.

Face masks are recommended but optional. No where were we explicitly asked to keep ours on.

Book Review: The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

“They say a witch used to live in these woods, a long, long time ago…And there, she bore the wolves who chase the sun and moon. They say she went to Asgard and was burned three times upon a pyre and three times she was reborn before she fled. They say she loved a man with scarred lips and a sharp tongue; a man who gave her back her heart and more. They say she loved a woman too, a sword-wielding bride of the Gods; as bold as any man and fiercer still. They say she wandered, giving aid to those who needed it most, healing them with potions and spells. They say she stood her ground against the fires of Ragnarok until the very end until she was burned a final time. All but her heart reduce to ashes once more. But others say she lives yet.”

The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec is a reimagining of Norse mythology’s end of the world, Ragnarok, and how it came to pass. It is told from the viewpoint of Angrboda, one of Loki’s wives. This woman who was a lover, mother, healer, and warrior was lost into the annals of myth in favour of the more famous men in her life…till now!

Angrboda was known for being the mother of three of Loki’s infamous children, but nothing is known about her. Gornichec puts her centre stage as she spins an epic story of love, loss, and destiny. 

“There is a difference between understanding and forgiveness. It’s possible to have one without the other.”

Angrboda’s character is woven into a complex individual. Her knowledge of Seid, the power to divine the future, gets her noticed by the All-Father Odin. He demands her power for himself, which she refuses. He punishes her by burning her three times on the pyre, but she escapes by leaving her smouldering heart behind. 

Loki finds her heart and offers it back. So starts their journey of love. Loki’s pitiful tries to fit in with the Gods and make mischief lands him in enough trouble. He finds a safe haven with Angrboda and loves her and the children they have together. When this bubble bursts, she’s forced to find herself again and, out of the depths of sorrow, decide between revenge or acceptance.

The book is an adventure. I listened to the Audible version of it, and it is narrated beautifully.

“The ending doesn’t matter. What matters is how we get there. To face what’s ahead with as much dignity as we can muster and make the most of the time we have left.”

It has everything you’d expect from a mythological story: love, intrigue, betrayal, and ultimately redemption.

Verdict: Must-Read

Note: Some links are part of an affiliate program, which means that if you click on a link and buy something, I might receive a percentage of the sale, at no extra cost to you. 

On 100 Days of Blogging

What happened when I blogged for 100 days straight? It felt incredible, first of all. I am proud that I took it on and committed to it, even with travel plans looming ahead. I’ve written previously about my feelings when I completed a hundred posts and my reasons for blogging. This felt like more of an accomplishment because it needed more discipline.  

It wasn’t always easy. There were days when motivation was lacking. On these days, I took a quick break to unwind either on my art table or with a book or TV. I planned for days when I knew I would be away from my desk and scheduled posts to auto-publish – posts like this one!

I had stopped working after my son was born. As most non-working parents would experience, it is tough to have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. The laundry’s still piling up, the house is a mess, you’ve barely managed to feed everyone, and you’re exhausted by the end of the day. It feels you’re tired after having achieved only the bare minimum. It can be pretty demotivating. 

When I started drawing again during the lockdown in 2020, I regained some of my purpose. I was doing something that was just for myself, something I enjoyed. When my husband gifted me a website on my birthday to sell my art, it felt great to work towards something and see it do well. I felt the same when I started the blog. It gave me a space to talk and something to do that’s just for me. After all, you can’t be a mom, wife, daughter, friend all day long. You need time and space to be just Me.

What helped my 100 days of blogging:

  • I jotted down bullet points for blog post ideas and grouped them into categories for reference.
  • I had a couple of previously written posts that I used here.
  • I used some of my Instagram posts to get ideas and elaborated on the captions for blog posts.
  • I was realistic about my reach. I need over a thousand posts and more engagement with the community to reach more people. That will happen over time. For now, I’m just glad to be posting what I want without any pressure.

Will I continue blogging every day?

I don’t think it is sustainable to blog every day. I plan to cut back to twice a week (more if I feel like it). Sometimes I worry I’ll run out of things to write about, then I look around and find at least five more things I want to talk about.

I’m in it for the long haul. I hope you join me on my journey!

Pumpkin and Lentil Soup

October is a time for pumpkins. I am not a big fan of pumpkin pies or lattes, but I do love a good soup. This lentil soup is healthy and filling. It also tastes great and is easy to make.

Ingredients:

Makes 4 servings

  • 2 cups boiled and mashed pumpkin (or squash)
  • ½ cup boiled and mashed orange carrots
  • 2 cups cooked yellow lentils (toor or mung dal)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (or water)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp butter or oil for tempering
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • Coarsely ground pepper
  • Roasted and ground cumin seeds
  • Drizzle of cream to garnish (optional)
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)

Method:

  • Sieve the boiled pumpkin and carrot to remove seeds and fibre. 
  • I usually take out as many seeds as I can before boiling the pumpkin. Then rinse it and roast it to use as a crunchy topping for the soup.
  • Cook the pumpkin, carrots, lentils, and stock on medium heat till it comes to a boil.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • In a small pan, heat the oil or butter.
  • Once it’s hot, add the ginger and pepper. Cook till it sizzles.
  • Add this to the soup and remove it from heat. Mix well.
  • Garnish with a drizzle of cream or sprig of parsley. Add the roasted pumpkin seeds if using.
  • The roasted cumin seeds are *chef’s kiss* —do not skip it.
  • Serve piping hot.
bowl of pumpkin soup
child sleeping with his toy car

What is Sleep Training?

If you are a parent, then you’ve heard the phrase sleep training multiple times already. Maybe you are looking for ideas to get your baby to sleep through the night so you can get some sleep. Or maybe you’ve gotten some unsolicited advice on how you need to sleep train your bundle that kicks all night.

There’s a lot of information available online on different methods to sleep train your baby. No hard and fast rule works. It all depends on your baby and you and what you’re comfortable with.

Co-sleeping vs Sleep Training

The most common sleep-training method you’d have heard about is the cry-it-out method. It means that once you’ve fed and changed your baby, you put them in their cot and only go back to feed, change the diaper, or once the sleep time is over.

We tried this for a short while. I felt horrible about letting my son cry his tiny lungs out. Moreover, it didn’t work for long. Sleep regression around growth spurts are standard, so we’d be back to square one soon enough. It wasn’t worth the pain.

There are other gentler ways of getting your baby to sleep. What worked for us was a mix of rocking him back to sleep if he woke before we slept, then co-sleeping if he woke after we had gone to bed.

Co sleeping benefits the baby and you, and all of us get a whole night’s sleep. My husband and I are careful sleepers, so it was safe for our baby to sleep between us. A co sleeping cot comes in handy if you’re worried about your baby getting squished or there’s not enough space on your bed.

I had a poster in my son’s room that reminded me during difficult days that soon he will be doing things on his own, so treasure this time together and hold him a little longer. Sure enough, he baulks at the idea of us carrying him now.

When Can Kids Sleep on their Own

It depends on the child. My husband’s nieces started sleeping through the night as babies. My nephew would wake up, but his parents made sure to get him to sleep in his room, so he never got used to co-sleeping. He started sleeping on his own around the time he was two. Our son used to come to our bed in the middle of the night. It is only recently (he’ll turn six next month) he’s agreed, by way of discussions and bribes, to sleep in his room the entire night. I know of much older kids who continue to co-sleep with their parents. So to each their own.

Establishing a Bedtime Routine

Since he was about four or five months, we’ve established a bedtime routine for our son. Dinner by 7 pm, a bit of playtime, then a bath and book before going to his own bed. Even though he used to wake multiple times when he was a baby, we’d stay in the room with him till he fell back asleep or get him to our bed to co sleep. Once he started walking, he’d just climb down from his bed and join us in ours on his own. That way, he knew the queues for when bedtime starts and ends. 

This routine has stayed more or less the same after six years. The number of times he wakes up has reduced, and now finally, he doesn’t come to our bed and goes back to sleep if he’s woken in the night to use the toilet.

Our sleep progression went something like this:

Newborn to about a year: Rocking him to sleep every time he woke up then co-sleeping

1 to 4 years: sitting next to him till he fell asleep. Then he would join us in our bed when he woke up at night.

4 to 5 years: Saying goodnight and letting him fall asleep on his own. Then he’d come to our bed when he woke up at night.

6 years: Sleeping on his own after we read together and spend some time catching up on our days.

How much Sleep does a Child need

According to the Sleep Foundation, newborns and infants need at least 14 hours of sleep, and toddlers up to teenagers need 10 to 12 hours of sleep a day.

Our son sleeps by 8 pm and wakes around 630 am. If he gets late getting to bed and still wakes on time, we make sure he naps in the day or sleeps early the next day. He cannot understand his irritability is due to tiredness or inadequate sleep, so it’s up to us to enforce a stricter bedtime. But we also need to be flexible at times. 

If we have planned something for the evening, and he hasn’t had a chance to nap in the day, we let him participate till he says he’s ready for bed. These times are not frequent, and I feel it helps keep him adaptable to different situations instead of being rigid with routines.

Here’s the quote I try to remember on difficult days with my son. Hope it reminds you to take it easy today.

painting of a woman

On Validation Seeking

Have you ever said (or heard someone say) “I don’t care what the world thinks. I do what I want, and I don’t need the world’s approval.” This sentence is usually followed by a smug look, especially when others nod in awe. This person has just received approval and validation for feeling like they don’t need it.

Seeking validation is human nature and essential to being a part of society. We are constantly seeking approval from people around us. It gives us a sense of belonging. A slight nod of appreciation or a Like on a social media post makes us smile and stand a bit taller with a little sense of accomplishment.

Some harmless peacocking is good for the ego, but how do we know if it gets out of hand—when seeking approval turns into becoming dependent on approvals? 

In light of some investigative revelations that Facebook’s research showed the mental harm of social media on teenagers, it’s worthwhile to reassess our reasons for seeking approval. Constant exposure to the extravagant ‘lifestyle influencers’ makes you think that the only way to achieve happiness is to be skinny and rich. There might even be people you know who constantly post about their fabulous lives. But take a moment to think—would they post something they’re not happy about? Do you see the complete picture before deriding yourself about how everyone except you has a perfect life?

It took me a few therapy sessions to even realise how I was dealing with my need for validation. I was unable to handle the slightest hint of criticism, even in jest. I took every disagreement personally and would overthink it for days. I am slowly learning to let it go by telling myself that it isn’t always personal and that I don’t need to be liked by everyone all the time.

Here are some unhealthy approval-seeking behaviours that are considered as red flags.

  • Agreeing with people even when you disagree
  • Pretending to know what the group is talking about
  • Afraid of criticism
  • Afraid of confrontations
  • Fishing for compliments
  • Feeling insulted if someone disagrees with you
  • You don’t complain or criticise when needed
  • Non-conforming for the sake of standing out and getting attention
  • Needing to be the first one to share news or gossip for attention

Do you spot yourself in these? I surely do!

When you feel your confidence levels have plummeted or feel a lack of personal fulfilment or achievement in your life, this is when you’re most likely to spiral down the validation seeking trail.

Once I started my artwork and blog, I had a sense of purpose and achievement every day. It has boosted my self confidence. Although I still fret about any disapproval or criticism I’ve gotten, it doesn’t keep me up at night.

I post my work on social media in the hope of selling them, and I post intermittently on my private account to share my happiness with a select group of loved ones. So, I am seeking some approval for sure, but my day doesn’t revolve around the number of Likes or orders I’ve received.

Every day, I practice gratefulness for what I have, and that has helped me immensely in my journey. Hope this helps you too!

Love & Light!

greenlights ebook with leaf, cars making the traffic lights, and moon locket

Book Review: Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

“Great leaders are not always in front, they also know who to follow.”

I knew this book would be eccentric; I just didn’t realise how much. Matthew McConaughey Oscar winner actor is anything but your regular cup of tea, and this memoir of sorts just gives you a glimpse of that wild life.

Greenlights is not a tell-all book. He hardly discusses any of the movies he worked on and doesn’t talk about anyone he filmed with or dated. It’s a book about his upbringing, his experiences and explorations, and what he’s learnt along the way. So if you’re here looking for some gossip, this is not for you.

Greenlights is part memoir and part life guide. He has a few insightful observations which have shaped the way he lives his life. Just go for what you want and be true to yourself. The universe will give you green lights as you move ahead. Take a break on yellow lights when you need it, and watch out for the red lights.

“The inevitability of a situation is not relative; when we accept the outcome of a given situation as inevitable, then how we choose to deal with it is relative. We either persist and continue in our present pursuit of a desired result, pivot and take a new tack to get it, or concede altogether and tally one up for fate. We push on, call an audible, or wave the white flag and live to fight another day.”

McConaughey talks about his parents early on in the book. Physical violence seems to be their love language because he reiterates that they all love each other fiercely. It might be a trigger for many people to read this part of the book, but as he says, it is what it is.

He takes us on his journey of self-exploration from his birth till the 2020 global lockdown. This is when he isolated himself with his old journals and wrote this book. His connection with himself is enviable. He knows what he wants and goes for it, or takes time to explore what he needs to do then goes for it.

“The sooner we become less impressed with our life, our accomplishments, our career, our relationships, the prospects in front of us—the sooner we become less impressed and more involved with these things—the sooner we get better at them. We must be more than just happy to be here.”

What comes through in the book is how passionate he is about his work, life, and religion and his loyalty to his family. The only romantic relationship he chooses to talk about is with his wife, and it is evident he’s found his soulmate in her. 

“Me, I didn’t marry the woman of my dreams that night, I married the best one on Earth for me, and she’s a mermaid.”

The note he wrote to himself ages ago with a list of things he wanted to achieve (and had forgotten about it) is more or less all checked. Talk about manifesting your life!

I had initially ignored getting this book which I thought would be a regular run-of-the-mill Hollywood memoir. A friend suggested I try it. I wanted to get the Audiobook, but unfortunately, it wasn’t available in English in India. It would’ve been spectacular listening to his voice narrate this.

Verdict: Read

“Fuck y’all for saying something is shit just because it’s popular!”

Matthew McConaughey Greenlights ebook with a large leaf and moon locket

Note: Some links are part of an affiliate program, which means that if you click on a link and buy something, I might receive a percentage of the sale, at no extra cost to you.

collage of book covers of biographies

7 Must-Read Biographies

I love stories. These stories become even more meaningful when you know they’re true. I’ve not always read non-fiction, and I started reading biographies even later. Since then, I’ve read stories from people’s lives that are inspiring, heart-breaking, and relatable. 

I cannot classify the stories I’ve read into good or better stories. Each book brings its own charm. However, some books are well-written, and some books pull you in and make you pause as you feel each word that’s penned down. This is a list of those books.


Decoded by Jay-Z

It gave me a refreshing perspective of the hip-hop culture and rap music – a genre I always overlooked. The lyrics have been beautifully written and explained and is comparable to pure poetry. That is not to say that there isn’t some lousy hip-hop doing the rounds (pointless violence and sex), but good rap, as Jay Z points out, is very powerful and has several layers. Even the cover of a Rorschach blot is a stroke of genius…just like rap music, it conveys different things to different people. I was very impressed with the book, the writing, and the person. I am not rushing to buy hip-hop CDs just yet, but I now know better than judging a book by its cover!

“A poet’s mission is to make words do more work than they normally do, to make them work on more than one level.”


Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

The man and the madness…the serene picture of Jobs on the cover is unlike everything that follows within. It is hard to like him, but it is impossible not to like him. Isaacson has created a beautiful masterpiece and has been as objective as is possible without falling prey to Steve’s “reality distortion field”. His personality from both sides of the coin is lovingly portrayed. 

I have not followed Jobs’ career, so the revelation of how obnoxious and eccentric he was is surprising and somewhat amusing. I could not have survived in that environment, but many thrived. He was such a control freak that he wanted to tell his side of the story by commissioning this biography so that others don’t mess it up after he’s gone. But in a move that was so unlike him, he never interfered with the content, interviews and didn’t even read it. 

As Isaacson points out, “sometimes it’s nice to be in the hands of a control freak”. Because only that control freak could have created a brand (not just the products) that is now Apple. Some incidents will make you laugh out loud (make sure you are not reading it in public when that happens), and some bring a tear (like the beautiful letter he wrote for his wife for their 20th anniversary).

In the end, I think we all would agree that the world lost a great innovator who still had his best years ahead of him. What revolution he would have created next is something we will never be able to imagine. In his own words, we don’t know what we want – it was up to him to visualise what we did and hand it to us. Then we would wonder how we ever lived without it.

“Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!'” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

-Steve Jobs

An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

I got introduced to him through his many videos on life in space. In this book, he talks about what goes on in the life of an astronaut on Earth and outside. He talks of his (and others’) life experiences that shaped how he lived and how being an astronaut is just barely 1% of the glamour we believe it to be.

I loved the way he sneaks in lessons to live by – by way of anecdotes. Most of them are so obvious that I wondered how I never looked at it that way—the most critical being attitude and how you view things that happen.

It’s a brilliantly written book even for those not interested in space travel (if such a person exists).

“You can choose to focus on the surprises and pleasures, or the frustrations. And you can choose to appreciate the smallest scraps of experience, the everyday moments, or to value only the grandest, most stirring ones. Ultimately, the real question is whether you want to be happy.”


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

It is a story of living life when death looms over your head. I’ve often wondered if doctors get used to dealing with death and just get on with their life…but this answers at least what one doctor felt about it.

The book is beautifully written. He takes you through the ups and downs of dealing with death on a daily basis and what happens when it comes knocking at your door. The heartbreaking last paragraph will leave you with tears. He talks about how his life and perspective changes as he comes to terms with his mortality – his fears and hopes. It will make you think about your life and what you might want to change before everything is taken away.

“Will having a newborn distract from the time we have together?” she asked. “Don’t you think saying goodbye to your child will make your death more painful?” “Wouldn’t it be great if it did?” I said. Lucy and I both felt that life wasn’t about avoiding suffering.”


Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

When you only know about the kind of life you have, it doesn’t seem all that bad…till you grow up and look at the world around you and realise how difficult a childhood you had. This was the age before technology was such a big part of our lives, and we didn’t have other worlds to compare ours to.

Trevor talks about his years growing up, his mother, and the apartheid in South Africa with his usual humour and lots of insights. His love and respect for his mother are so evident. You can also just picture clearly the scene where he describes their cat and mouse chase!

It is a thoughtful and honestly-written book that deserves all the accolades he’s been getting for his work.

“We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.”


Becoming by Michelle Obama

Open, honest, surprisingly revealing, funny and just a whole lot of adjectives that can describe this excellent book. Not only does it give you a peek at life in the White House, but she also discusses racism and sexism, dealing with infertility and going through a rocky phase in her marriage. Parts of it are so funny that I had to read it repeatedly because I couldn’t get past it.

It is not a book you’d expect from a high-profile personality, especially someone involved in global politics (albeit indirectly). I was pleasantly surprised at her frankness and openness to discuss sensitive issues. She talks about her family growing up, her need to succeed, her marriage, life as the First Lady, and how the social and political climate has changed over time. There are so many things I identified with as a woman and as a mother. She is so relatable, and that made this book so meaningful for me.

“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.”


Hunger by Roxane Gay

I love how she writes, her open vulnerability, and her strength. Everyone navigates the world differently, and most times, we’re completely oblivious to people whose needs are different from our own. I identified with a lot of how she felt, and her words resonated with me because my relationship with food is also not based on just hunger

Check out my full review here

“In yet another commercial, Oprah somberly says, “Inside every overweight woman is a woman she knows she can be.” This is a popular notion, the idea that the fat among us are carrying a thin woman inside. Each time I see this particular commercial, I think, I ate that thin woman and she was delicious but unsatisfying. And then I think about how fucked up it is to promote this idea that our truest selves are thin women hiding in our fat bodies like imposters, usurpers, illegitimates.”


If you love animals, then do check out my list of biographies that include animals.

Note: Some links are part of an affiliate program, which means that if you click on a link and buy something, I might receive a percentage of the sale, at no extra cost to you. 

colourful salad ingredients in a wooden bowl

Black-eyed Beans Salad

We try to have salads as often as possible, but it’s a pain to wash and dry the salad leaves. This bean salad is filling and full of protein and other awesome things. It can be had as a meal in itself or with some garlic bread and soup on the side.

Ingredients:

For a meal for one

  • ½ cup boiled black-eyed peas
  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts 
  • 1 small tomato, cubed
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • Few pieces of pickled radish or onion
  • A few olives
  • ¼ cup of semi-ripe mango, diced (or Totapuri mango), optional 
  • 2 prunes, cut into small pieces
  • Coriander and Mint leaves to garnish

Salad dressing

I like the store-bought Sweet onion dressing for this one 

You can also quickly make your own dressing with 3 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon (or vinegar). Add a teaspoon of honey or sugar. Mix well and pour over the salad.

Enjoy your health boost for the day!

Note: Some links are part of an affiliate program, which means that if you click on a link and buy something, I might receive a percentage of the sale, at no extra cost to you. 

baby with a book

Raising a Reader

I love reading. I’ve loved it ever since I can remember. I don’t remember where I picked up the habit because no one else in my family was interested in or had any time for reading as a hobby. 

When I started college, I first came across people who romanticised reading. You’d never catch them without a book with them. They’d pride themselves in how many books they carried on their travels because they’re more important than clothes or shoes! Then came the Internet memes asking boys to find girls who read over every other type (whatever that means). I’ve seen parents proudly showing off how their kids are glued to books at the dinner table and prefer the company of books over people. Let’s not even get into the topic of book hoarding.

I love books, and I have done all of these things mentioned above. But I am also a practical person. I’m not going to carry a book unless I know I’m in for a long wait. On my travels, I would prefer to explore the place I’m visiting. I don’t think people who read are superior to anyone else. And I don’t condone kids being encouraged to be so immersed in books that they forget to interact with people around them. After assessing my reasons to overfill my bookshelf, I’ve decluttered all but the books I absolutely love.

Of course, a Kindle comes in very handy now. So many books at your fingertips without the weight of it. You can read a salacious romance novel without prying eyes judging you.

child with a pile of books on the floor

Books are a treasure trove of knowledge and imagination. They let you escape when you need to, entertain you, and expose you to worlds you’d never imagined. Some books come into your life at the time you need them the most. They give you a point of view or insight or just a warm hug that you didn’t know you needed until then.

I wanted my son to love books. It didn’t matter what kind. We’ve read to him since he was just three or four months old. To this day, he will not sleep without reading a few pages before bed. His interest in books led him to try and read on his own without us forcing it on him. 

We’ve read him picture books, stories, silly poems, comic books, chapter books, newspapers, and even brochures. He’s curious as any child would be discovering more of the world around them.

All this doesn’t mean he’s allowed to read at the dinner table. He still asks for screen time and is usually out playing with friends most of the day. In the afternoons sometimes, we’ll read together. He’ll read his books, and I mine. As with any activity, we remind him, too much of anything is harmful. Whether it’s a screen or a book, there’s time allotted to it.

As he grows older, he might find a book that he can’t put down. We’ll probably let him stay past his bedtime for another chapter, then gently remind him that tomorrow’s another day.

Reading is good – living life is better. 

baby reading a book after throwing many books on the floor