No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories by Jayant Kaikini

Genre: Fiction/Short Stories
Publisher: Harper Collins
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary:

Jayant Kaikini’s compassionate gaze takes in the people in the corners of the city, the young woman yearning for love, the certified virgin who must be married off again, the older woman and her medicines; Tejaswini Niranjana’s translations bring the rhythms of Kannada into English with admirable efficiency. This is a Bombay book, a Mumbai book, a Momoi book, a Mhamai book, and it is not to be missed. – Jerry Pinto No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories is not about what Mumbai is, but what it enables. Here is a city where two young people decide to elope and then start nursing dreams of different futures, where film posters start talking to each other, where epiphanies are found in keychains and thermos-flasks. From Irani cafes to chawls, old cinema houses to reform homes, Jayant Kaikini seeks out and illuminates moments of existential anxiety and of tenderness. In these sixteen stories, cracks in the curtains of the ordinary open up to possibilities that might not have existed, but for this city where the surreal meets the everyday.

Review:

No Presents Please came highly recommended and I was looking forward to reading the book. It definitely did not disappoint.

This is not the kind of a book that you can read in one go. The stories make you think and reflect. Some make you question your own opinions, and some just leave you a bit disturbed. It takes a while to “chew on” the story, before moving on.

Jayant Kaikini stories are of ordinary men or women translated from Kannada to English by Tejaswi Niranjana. These are stories of Mumbai, and about Mumbai.

Unlike most books, the short stories are open-ended and often tend to feel abrupt. The discussion at the end of the book explains it well as it is meant to depict a change…. of a thought process, of life. Leaving us, the reader, to decide the direction. The insights into the translation process was also a treat to read.

My favourites were:

Unframed: A story about unclaimed photographs.

Water: A story based around the Mumbai flood. It depicts the quintessential Mumbai.

A Truckful of Chrysanthemums: Simply heartbreaking!

The book is a must read even if you are not a Mumbaikar. A well-deserved winner of the 2018 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.

Food Allergies are NOT a Fad! Surviving Food Allergies in India

We Indians love drama! India is a country where serious terms are thrown in just for the heck of it. Feeling low is termed “depression” and intense dislike for certain items is termed “allergy”. Food allergies are practically unheard of, and that is an unfortunate reality.


Dealing with a lack of awareness

I have been struggling with an allergy to nuts for a while now. As a complete foodie, it has been an upward battle. Come festival time, and the hazard is increased further. It is often frustrating that people do not take them seriously. “Oh, allergies are so ‘in’ these days”. “Are you allergic to this? Come on, have a bite, you might actually like it”. A “bite” that might result in an anaphylactic shock, and can prove fatal. Food allergies are rare no doubt. But they are not caused by eating way too much processed food. Or not getting enough Vitamin D. The white blood cells are just a bit too overprotective.

So how does one survive nut allergy in a country like India where a celebration means a generous dose of nuts and dry fruits? And where no occasion is complete without mithai?


Being ruthless

To begin with, I am quite ruthless when it comes to refusing food served if the host is unsure of the contents. Some do take offense. But more often than not, informing in advance ensures I have a choice of nut free food.


Dining out

I find dining out much easier. Most restaurants are accommodating. I am labeled the “nut wali lady (the nut lady)” by most take-ins. Jokes apart, most restaurants are accommodating and a conversation with the chef is a big help. Among other restaurants, I regularly dine in at Barbeque Nation where the staff ensures that the food served is completely nut free.


Finding the safe zones

Festival time is mithai time. I did some digging around and found a few I can actually eat. Jalebis, Rasgullas, and Haldiram’s Gulab Jamuns (bless you, Haldiram’s). It is not really that bad, is it?


Packaged foods

It is high time there is an awareness about food allergies when it comes to packaged foods. They might not be particularly healthy, but one is allowed an occasional cheat food, right? The Indian food industry has finally woken up to the fact that people might be allergic to the ingredients used. But there is still a long way to go.

When I was diagnosed with the allergy, I decided to not let it define me. I wasn’t the one to be cooped up in the house. It takes a few lifestyle changes. And being very, very adamant. But I am getting there, living life to the fullest (with an antihistamine in my bag… just in case).

Image credit: Michael Flippo – Dreamstime.com

Daddykins: A Memoir of My Father and I by Kalpana Mohan

Genre: Memoir/Autobiography
Publisher: Bloomsbury India
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary:

When journalist Kalpana Mohan’s elderly father falls ill in Chennai, she is on the next flight over from California and the home she has shared with her husband for three decades. Caring for her sometimes cranky, sometimes playful, and always adored father at his home in Chennai, Mohan sets out to piece together an account of her father’s life, from his poverty-stricken childhood in a village in south India, to his arranged marriage, to his first job in the city, all the while coming to terms with his inevitable passing.

Mohan’s tender, moving, and sometimes hilarious memoir is an account of a changing India captured in her father’s life, from the sheer feat of surviving poverty in I920s India of his birth, to witnessing key moments in the nation’s history and changing alongside them. Above all, Daddykins is an intimate and deeply relatable account of our relationships with our parents whatever our age, and the shared experiences of love and grief that unite us all.

Review:

Daddykins was a heartwarming and nostalgic read. I have always been daddy’s girl and the book was a perfect pick to celebrate my father’s memories. The book reminded me of my dad’s idiosyncrasies and had me saying ‘hey, my dad did that too!’.

The author Kalpana Mohan shares her father’s journey that is seamlessly linked with that of the country. His relationships with other members have been well portrayed. I particularly liked his banter with Vinayagam. As our parents age, they get set in their ways. And more often than not, the caretakers make up for our absence. Vinayagam being fiercely protective about the author’s father and not mincing words was so real.

Daddykins also had those tiny snippets that took me back to my childhood in the 80s. When a celebration meant a choc-bar at India Gate or a 1 by 2 soup from the van.  The book is completely relatable. It resonates with one born in pre-globalization India and who has an ailing parent.

The last few pages were tough to read. We can never be prepared to lose a parent, not matter how old we are. I confess I did shed a tear or two remembering my own daddykins.

I would highly recommend the book. It’s a perfect pick to celebrate your dad.

Taking the plunge

After much deliberation, I finally decided to take the plunge into the world of blogging. Late bloomer, I know! Combining my two great loves – books and food, this is where I share my views on books, an occasional TV show or movie, and of course food.

I have grown up surrounded by books and with a bursting at the seams library. With no particular favourite genre, my next pick depends on how saturated my brain is. I also have a liking for lesser known books that have missed all the hype and hysteria. Quoting Haruki Murakami “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

Join me on my journey as I explore new favourites and reminisce some old ones.

Image credit © creativecommonsstockphotos – Dreamstime.com