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May 15, 2015

Capturing Wildlife Moments in India- Book Review

Capturing Wildlife Moments in India
Author/Photographer: Ashok Mahindra 
Publlisher: Oxford University Press(OUP) & Bombay Natural History Society(BNHS)
My Rating: ***1/2
About the author: Ashok Mahindra of The Hemchand Mahindra Wildlife Foundation is an avid wildlife enthusiast who has traveled to capture his passion through the camera lens.

Ustad! Yes, he is the Bengal Tiger rightfully adorning the cover of the book. The skillfully shot picture of the fierce animal enjoying his moment of royal leisure,,has given me a beautiful mental picture of the kind of brilliant photography I can expect in the book. 

The note that accompanies this picture clicked at Ranthambhore National Park, Rajasthan also makes for an interesting read.

I wish to highlight the 'Dedication' included at the beginning of the book. It is indeed a very strong message to our generation-

"I dedicate this book to young adults in the hope that they, and through them their children, will understand better that without forests and rainforests, without mangroves, woodlands, wetlands, swampy marshes and mudflats, there will be no species left for the following generations."

What follow are some 120 photographs of animals and birds of India, photographed from visits to over 30 parks,sanctuaries and other locations. Each photograph has a precisely written and very essential footnote which proves to be very informative for amateurs like me. 

I believe that for a majority of Indians like me, it is not so easy to venture into the wild. And I am thankful to photographers like Mr. Ashok Mahindra, who put their heart and soul into capturing some awe inspiring photographs of India's living treasury. While reading his notes I have also understood what risks he must have run to get that close to some fierce animals and reptiles! 

He has indeed brought the wildlife closer to us. What better way than a collection of snapshots in a well compiled book, if not in the real!

One gets to see the spotted owlet-one of my favourite kind of birds. Then there's a photograph of the Snake Bird or Darter, caught at that precise and opportune moment when its rising from the waters with a tiny catch in its beak. 

Oh! How beautiful is that shot of a large Indian hare looking right at the lens with beady eyes and both its ears perked up on high alert.

There's one particular picture in the book that has caught my fascination and that is of the Termite mounds. These mounds seem like such an interesting feature, housing millions of termites in a cool, air-conditioned environment.

"There is more to the forest than tigers.

You only have to look!"- writes the author. So true!

The foreword had included the maxim which goes “When you see it, you will like it; when you like it, you will protect it.”
After going through the book, this statement will truly make a whole lot of sense. 

At the end of the book, the photographer has very thoughtfully also included details about his camera and techniques applied.

For those wildlife and nature enthusiasts who enjoy and revel in beholding God's creation in action, this book is not only worth a dekko but also deserves to be included in one's private collection.

 The book will be available at most of the major retail outlets across India and also through online retail sites like Amazon, Flipkart etc.It will also be available for sale through the BNHS website and is priced at Rs.1450.

This post is a part of the book review program of at Saevus Wildlife India in association with The Hemchand Mahindra Wildlife Foundation for the book Capturing Wildlife Moments in India

May 9, 2015

Hama- Guri Goes To School- Book Review

Hama-Guri Goes to School-Children’s stories
Author- Aditi Bose
Publisher- Cresco Books
My Rating- ***1/2
About the Author- 
A management professional from Delhi, Aditi is a popular Indian blogger who has written numerous interesting stories of Hama-Guri before.

Getting to preview a book before its publishing is a great privilege and to review it is a great responsibility. I am even averse to reading E-books but since it is going to be a book for kids, I couldn't help but jump at the opportunity.

Since it's a preview, there's no book cover to judge the book by and that also works in its advantage I suppose because I began reading with an open mind. I was looking for good vocabulary and correct selection of words and as I read I was happy to see it was all about that. 

The protagonist's name itself is a very interesting aspect because it creates a level of intrigue for children too. Its not a commonplace name in Pune at least and hence makes a great first impression.

A children's book is best reviewed by a child. So I coaxed my 6 year old son to come hither. I am happy that he is as avid a reader as I am but being a child that he is, he loves a book full of pictures. Reading the black and white paragraphs scrolling on the screen was not a tempting offer for him. However like I mentioned before he was already wanting to know who Hama-Guri is, so he began reading. 

My preview copy of the book has 5 stories, all on interesting topics that primary school and even secondary school students experience at one point of time or the other, in their lives. Learning to accept that losing a competition is also OK, handling bullying, time-management, the doctor's visit or learning the importance of earning or saving pocket money are very important aspects of life which have been beautifully covered in the book.

My son chose to read 'Hama-Guri Learns How to Manage Time'. And here's a video of him engrossed in it. 


Quoting his feedback on the same," How I wish this was not such a long story mummy. I am getting tired but I will read it after a break. Maybe if there were pictures I wouldn't want to stop."

I asked him whether he would like to read more of such stories, part by part or maybe if I read it to him, he said, "The story seems like it will have a great moral at the end. I would like to finish it later mummy!" 

The response brought a smile to my face and I felt my opinion of the book was not wrong at all. Indeed 'Hama-Guri Goes to School' will make for a good book for kids of all school going ages.

I now look forward to May 14th when its slotted to be released and I truly hope it is a colourfully illustrated story book in print, not only in an E-reading format!

Being a stickler for perfection however and also because this is a book for children who are still in the early stages of perfecting their English, I would stress upon a thorough editing and proof-reading before going into print.

There are a few typo' errors that I spotted while reading the first couple of stories beginning with  “Yes Hama it will a be a good day today.” Two words were missing in the sentence. And in ' Everything will be fine.' The first letter of every sentence after a full stop has got to be a capital. 

Except for such minor errors, the story-telling seems flawless and right from the heart. True to life experiences and apt solutions given to the problems in a child's life.

“I love Saturdays.” Hama said as he finished his breakfast.
And my son said " Me too!"

Mar 13, 2015

Confessions of the 8th Sin of Fashion

#FAME reads the invitingly classy purple banner.
And is there another better word than that to catch a Fashionista's eye? Its almost as if Fashion and Fame have been two sides of the same coin since forever now. The more fashionable you are, the more eyeballs you grab. That's like given!

Style however is more about how you carry fashion. Style is what YOU make of the fashion trends thrown at you. BUT how do you know whether you are good or bad, IN or OUT? And for the uninitiated, is it possible to learn the HOWs at this stage? For the internet addicts or better called the 'Netaratti', in this case, is there one place where you could get your A-Zs of Style & Fashion spoon-fed to you?  

Take the 'March Ka Mantra' from none other than Karan Johar himself and get in the know, I say. With his tongue in cheek digs at some fashion critics 'Social Media' sent his way, I am ready for the daily dope of Fashion, KJO and his Fashion Brigade are sending my way at the #LakmeSchoolofStyle YouTube channel.

Different people sin differently. We all have vices. We do! But when I say I have committed a Fashion Sin, I feel like I belong to a family. A big and growing world-wide family, tight-knit and close. That when I will look into another fashion sinner's eyes, I know he/she will understand my pain and not judge me. It will not remain a sin anymore. It will be appreciated as a passion.

Like KJo coaxes you to, in one of the cover videos, I am SCULPTing my own identity this way, I prefer to believe!

Thus I found an instant connect with one of the videos at the Lakme School Of Style- India's 1st Fashion Video Mag'. 


Its amusing to see some of India's fashion big-wigs confessing to the deadly sins of fashion, drawing up a vicious 7 in number. I could relate to 4 of the mentioned deadly fashion sins and am guilty of committing them too. The scales may comparatively vary but a sin is a sin! 

To the list of Bag Gluttony and Sale Wrath, I have an 8th Deadly Fashion Sin to confess to ie. Accessory Addiction

And confessing to that by broadcasting it here is not going to change things. I'm sure its only going to intensify in the sheer sadistic pleasure that I get from knowing it uncontrollably possesses me. 

And then like a light at the end of the dark tunnel, I found the 'DIY Accessories for Him & Her' video by Lakmé School Of Style Vloggers Amanda & Mili 

Style is something inherent that one cannot be taught, or so I'd assumed. Here these two have given me a paradigm shift in more than one ways. They make it look so easy! And have firmly re-established my faith in the belief that the more original your ideas of accessorising the more interesting your look will get.

If you could possibly create your own accessories like they did then there's no stopping you from indulging in your 8th deadly fashion sin- Accessory Addiction.

I am as passionate about art as I am about fashion. So to bring a confluence of both my interests I rigged up some handpainted wearable art brooches out of utter scrap.

 On two discs of waste canvas I painted a naughty 'Kanha' and a sultry 'Radha'. Cut out four discs of scrap velvet discs and sewed them together after stuffing them with cotton fillings. Thus making two lovely pillow-like round brooch bases. Quickly plucked out two peacock feathers that were working as a part of a wall-decor till date, stuck them onto the bases and pasted Kanha and Radha, each on one base.

Voila!!! The quickest DIY Art Brooches one could ever make...

The sultry Radha found herself on the lapel of my Denim JumpSuit. Just the dash of colour needed to spruce up the grunge.

 While naughty Kanha is perched atop a suave dude's hat. Gearing up to rock a Saturday night among a bevy of girls, is what I imagine!

#LakmeSchoolofStyle YouTube channel already seems to have taken over my senses. My heads whirring with ideas, all over again. 

Really thankful to BlogAdda for letting me experience this 'oh-so-fashionable' time with KJo and his Fashion Brigade. 

'This post is a part of the #LakmeSchoolOfStyle activity at BlogAdda.com in association with #Fame'

Mar 9, 2015

Rise Of The Grey Prince- Book 2 The Saga of Agni: Book Review

Rise Of The Grey Prince
Author- Arka Chakrabarti
Publisher-Srishti Publishers & Distributors
My Rating- **1/2
About the Author- Arka is a 27 year old Tax Consultant-cum- Content Writer, who resorted to writing to escape life's monotony. He has also written the first book in the 'The Saga of Agni' series which precedes the book being reviewed here.

The book begins on a slow foot and as the back blurb promises, I await to be drawn into the sublime world of secrets, alongside Agni. As each page is turned I am spotting numerous typographical and grammatical errors. My heart goes out to the author who has passionately told a story. However this book desperately needs a good amount of editing and a thorough spell check all over again.

The storytelling picks up a swift pace as the story progresses and I realise there's a whole lot happening. Agni, the protagonist of the story is on a mission to reveal the real truth behind his father's sacrifice and in turn discovers some dark secrets from his past. Though a quick re-cap of the story from the previous book in the series ' The Secrets of the Dark' has been thoughtfully provided at the very beginning of this book, I still find myself struggling to catch up. 

As Agni fights the daggers from his past, he has by his side two of his most trusted loyals- his Guru Sidak and Vrish, the son of Briksha-the man who played a pivotal role in his escape from death as a child. 

I am great sucker for well chosen names and as the book progresses, numerous characters weave in and out of the story. I again find myself taking mental notes of the various names of people and places. I wish the author had put more thought into it while picking names for them. Or maybe I am missing a point. However that is my main reason for giving a lower rating to this book. Arkansas as a person's name, Gaya as the name of the place he lives at and Athena too in the same breath is kind of confusing. 

A neatly drawn map of the land at the beginning of the book becomes an interesting element in the book. 

Arka Chakrabarti's style of storytelling is smooth and fluent. There are many layers to the story and the author has made a great attempt to tell it all. Probably in a hurry to finish the take the story from one level to the next, I imagine he has restrained from launching into elaborate descriptions. I sorely missed the full and hearty backgrounds to the Colony of Hala, Nisarga, Guardian of Hydespus, Erythrean farmlands, etc. What a beautiful read that would have made. He has left a lot to my imagination. A tad bit too much for my liking.

"Which way is Nisarga?" 
"North" he almost cried with a blood full of mouth.
The monster put his other hand through him and ripped the Captain into two.

The epilogue is riveting and smartly written, leaving great scope for the third book that will complete the trilogy/series but again its not without a few errors.

The author elaborates 'About the fictional land of Gaya', its ages and eras, its languages, its currency, weights and measurements, its time at the end of the book. It would have been brilliant if it was placed at the beginning of the book, following the maps.

The roughly 200 pages long story is a very quick read. You can easily finish the book in a day if you are a voracious reader. Ignore the anomalies and put your thinking hats away. A young mind will enjoy this out and out surreal world that the author has made a very good attempt at constructing and deconstructing before our eyes with his words. 

Feb 9, 2015

The Blue Stone that came from the heart... #SoundOfLove

Ours was not that silly 'LOVE STORY,' spun running around trees or sketched across college desks. Ours was 'DESTINY' written by Lord Brahma himself. And before you begin to think I made a kitschy, cliched statement there, please allow me to tell it all. 

As all dutiful Hindu Brahmin parents do, my parents approached a typical old astrologer too. And thus I found myself fasting on Saturdays, 'for a perfect husband!' as they put it. I did it as dutifully as I could so as to get a husband as nearly perfect as husbands can ever get. If you know what I mean! Little did I know my future had a really whirlwind romance,in store for me, like no other's.

"Have you ever seen a girl fast on Saturdays for marriage and a good husband?" My office colleague jeered at me in her cacophonic shrill voice one day, over lunch. 
"What if you found a 'Hanuman' instead?" She continued walking around the table, akimbo and her cheeks puffed up, mimicking a comic representation of the revered Hindu God. 
 And the rest of the bevy of girls who found it absolutely amusing too broke into peals of laughter.
Her absent minded prediction was proven astonishingly correct when  I met with the love of my life some months later. However, thanks be to the good God above, the great fear she had instilled in my mind simultaneously, about his looks, were lain to rest. 

Come December, my paternal uncle and aunt whisked me and my father up one evening and drove us to Lonavala to meet their relatives. Surprise, surprise! These relatives that we were visiting had an eligible bachelor waiting in the wings to meet me. 

I am a die-hard Bruce Willis fan. And also of Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel. What do they have in common? A handsomely bald pate. I had a self-confessed fetish for the species and if they were to sport a french beard, my heart would be rolling at their feet. Thus putting all my fears to rest, I had  discovered my dream beau, standing there on the porch of his Lonavala farmhouse, waiting for me. As our eyes met,  I heard my uncle officially introduce him as 'Bajrang'. Yes! That was his name. Bajrang aka Hanuman- the same deity I'd been praying too over the past couple of years. 

Now, even though my heart was more than ready to leap out of my chest and into his arms, I decided I was not going to be an easy win. His name couldn't be the only sign that God would give me. 
The night of December 14th was chillier than I'd expected and standing on their porch, bidding his family adieu, I felt myself shivering like a leaf in the wind. before I could turn to my dad to protest and plead that we step into the warmth of the car as soon as possible, I felt a warm jacket being thrown across my shoulders. The man looked down deep into my eyes as I turned my face to see who it was. And thus began our 'Mills & Boon'-esque love story. 

That hour onward the poor love-struck knight did everything, small gestures and big deeds to win the lady's heart over but I was bent upon holding my fort. He shooed the driver away and drove me and my father back to our Pune home all the way. All the while he kept throwing side-long looks at me, through the rear view mirror and smiled to himself. 

"You can call me Baji!" was his sign-off line as he finally drove off at 2am. But he'd also promptly wished me "A very Good Morning" at 6am. via SMS. A string of E-mails and chats via Yahoo Messenger later, before the end of the following day, I heard our respective fathers already discussing 'US' over the phone. December 15th was the one and only one occasion in our subsequent life of togetherness that me and my then would-be husband spoke to each other over the phone for long hours, off and on all through the day and night and into the wee hours of the December 16th morning. Love was truly and finally happening for me but the excitement was showing somewhere else, far more evidently.

"I like you Vibhuti. Let's meet up tomorrow." There was a tone of urgency in his sleepy, baritone voice and must I say it aloud, he had me at that itself. However like all good girls should I reined myself in with a "So soon?" "Yes!" he said for he was quite a determined man. Within a few hours of having ended our phone call for the birds had started chirping in the dawn, he arrived at our home. All fresh as dew, flashing his endearing smile, he was ready for our very first date. The loveliest bunch of orchids welcoming me into a new life. "..but I love pink roses!" I retorted despite cupid whispering into my ears, "Now don't you be rude!"

He took me shopping. He took me for a romantic sea-food lunch. We went for a movie. And yet we wished the day not end. We caught yet another movie before saying the inevitable good-byes. We parted having firmly replaced the word 'LIKE' with another four letter, more meaningful word-'LOVE'. 

Giddy headed days of day-dreaming and exchange of romantic SMSes flew by in a blink. December 24th arrived. The so called Christmas eve party thrown by Baji had suddenly turned into a surprise birthday party for me at midnight with the arrival of a cute birthday cake. I clapped, cut cake and blew candles like a giggly little girl. And he had to go and make it more wonderful by admitting his love in the presence of all our relatives, at the very spot where we had first seen each other- on the front porch of his Lonavala farmhouse.
February. Oh, the heady month of love! It does something to you doesn't it? It did something to Baji too. We were hurtling, top speed towards marriage. Our elders had given us a year to zero down on a date but this man refused to wait. He'd given me a swell birthday gift by making our relationship official on that day. Now in return, he demanded his birthday gift in March but I refused to budge. 
" please darling, lets wait. Time will fly. You won't even know!"  I ended the tiff there.

February 14th, the quintessential day of love. The lusciously green and misty Aamby Valley in the background, Baji slipped a ring onto my right ring finger. "It should be the left ring finger you silly man!" I squealed as I jumped up and hugged him. I loved it. "..but why a BLUE STONE? And why not pink or red ?" I asked. "Or even white?" I winked.
" You ask too many questions!" He groaned. "Its BLUE! Simply because, my dear, it comes from my heart! Love has made me blind....to colour too." He said.

How could I refuse his  proposal for marriage now? March it would be he said and in March it was!

This #SoundOfLove video reminded me so much of the way I had Baji do a jig for me. :)

This elusive thing called 'Love' is such an enriching feeling, that it was difficult to believe when it began to flow in abundance towards me. I am ever so grateful to Blog Adda and BlueStone for sending me down memory lane once again. 

“I am participating in the #SoundOfLove activity atBlogAdda in association with Bluestone”.

Jan 29, 2015

The Aryavarta Chronicles Book 3-KURUKSHETRA: Book Review

The Aryavarta Chronicles Book 3-KURUKSHETRA
Author- Krishna Udayasankar
Publisher- Hachette India
My Rating: ****
About the Author- Krishna Udayasankar is a graduate of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore, and holds a PhD in Strategic Management from the Nanyang Business School, Singapore, where she presently works as a lecturer.

“For a while, Criticism travels side by side with the Work, then Criticism vanishes and it's the Readers who keep pace."

That's precisely what happened with me when I picked up this book with the other end in mind. I had planned to review it and being a die-hard historical fiction fan had already made up my mind to read it like a good critic would. What fueled my criticism were the numerous typographical errors. So many missing letters in words which changed the meaning and structure of the sentence.for eg. 'Identity' became 'identify' on page. 31. This book sorely required some more proof-reading. There was also one sentence on Page 360- "And the toxin? Where it is?". This left me in splits in the middle of reading a gravely serious scene. Especially in the last few pages, the frequency of errors increased as the end of the book approached. It seemed the author had furiously typed away and the proof-reader lost patience by the end of the book.

The book cover reads, 'The Epic as it was never told before'. This made it all the more enticing and exciting to pick this book up. Not having read the previous two books of the Aryavarta Chronicles, I was absolutely clueless to what I should expect from the story telling. It could be an advantage for it would mean getting to read the juiciest part - the end but it also meant struggling to imagine the build up from the first two books. Nevertheless, I quite liked the author's style of story telling. The English is impeccable. She clearly has a knack for writing long sentences with deeper meanings and an absolutely brilliant vocabulary. However at the very beginning of the book I felt like it was becoming a tedious task to read this book. I still kept ploughing through the pages since the Mahabharata and the story of the war at Kurukshetra has been my long time favourite epic about ancient India.

However I soon realised that from page 161 onward I stopped being critical about the prose and was taken in by the book. I was engrossed in reading and keeping pace with the fast progressing storyline. I finally stopped falling off the wagon as the narration became more and more interesting. Like the back blurb reads,I must agree that the author did show great imagination in narrating the gory war episode that ensued over the period of 18 and odd days. One may imagine a war story would only have a cold and chilling effect but in this book there was passion, there was rage, there was love, lust and a whole lot of conspiracy, politics and sly strategies too. I loved it how she has woven a 'Mills & Boon'-esque story of the love birds Uttara and Abhimanyu into the very fabric of the heated battlefield. That made for a welcome break from the constant long drawn and brain-whacking discussion between all the prime characters. 

My favourite part of the Kurukshetra war was the extensive description of the various battle formations that was written very intelligently. However my grouse is the way the character of Govinda Shauri developed in the plot. In my opinion the character of Govinda Shauri has been painted more like a 'Narada' in the first half of the book than like 'Narayana'. While by the end of the book Govinda is jerked into emerging as a God. The transition didn't appear smooth or convincing to me. He also teetered on the brink of sounding so vain and confused about what he exactly wanted from it all? Why was he triggering the war after all? And suddenly when he had to convince Partha to wake up and smell the stench of the Kuru fields, to pick up his Gandiva and stop being silly, Govinda Shauri almost abruptly begins expounding such intelligent philosophy. Also his God-like sermon is being lapped up by an over-eager and already very convinced Partha. The same Partha who was doubting Govinda's credibility a minute ago, keeps oscillating between blind belief and distrust. Otherwise I also missed the mention of the very famous gem that Aswattama was born with, on his forehead, probably kept out on purpose to portray him as a normal human being unlike a demi-god. Though the character has been dealt with very nicely, the story of how his father Dron was tricked into believing his son was dead was also only briefly touched upon. 

Also I have a personal penchant for well-selected names of characters in a story. Krishna Udaysankar may have tried to give the story a new flavour by spelling the names of the various characters of the Mahabharata differently but I would have preferred it if they didn't sound like they belonged with Harry Potter. Why make him 'Dhrstyadymn' that will be read as Dhr-stya-dim by dropping the vowels when most of the other names were written as they have always been spelt. Same goes for 'Pradymna'. When its 'Kripa' and 'Govinda' then why call him 'Dron' and not Drona? She has also dropped the 'h' from many names that may go unnoticed by wont of habit in reading the names as they are usually pronounced in Hindu historical fiction.

 The explanation and introduction of the cast of characters and the family tree given at the very beginning of the book helped me understand the concept of the 'Firewrights' and the 'Firstborn'. 

All in all, the author has written a book with all her sincerity, integrity and skill. And I salute her for finishing the trilogy so beautifully on one of the most complex epics from Indian history. The kind of research and study that has gone into this endeavour is exemplary and worth a roaring applause. 

I thank BlogAdda for sending me such a wonderful book.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Jan 28, 2015

All the myriad things that define 'ME'! #UseYourAnd

Words, in black and white, telling a story and in verse. Words always intrigued me ever since my school teacher held my hand and taught me to hold my pencil to write them on paper, slowly, steadily. One of those many words that brought me pride was 'ME' when I wrote an essay and scored the highest in my English class at fifth grade in school. Writing became my passion and I found solace in it.

So here goes yet another piece on that very word 'ME' which triggered my story-telling years ago. 

A funny happy-sad picture of the day that spelt victory!
Someone who knew me as a child would use just one word to define me- 'Tomboy'! Yes, I was just that and more. I was more energetic than any boy of my age and grew up wielding a wooden bat playing 'Galli Cricket' with the boys from our society. That was a hugely different me, with a short crop of golliwog hair, grazed knees and a badly sun-tanned face. Sweaty and grimy after a great game outdoors, my mother had a tough time getting me to look girlish, if she were to ready me for an outing. I however clearly remember she taught me to be myself and not let that label become something that would hold me back. She taught me to use it to my advantage and make the most of it. And that's exactly what I did! In an all girls convent school, I stood out not like a sore-thumb between all the lovely girls but as an outstanding athlete with great leadership qualities. I was elected as a Cabinet Minister and saw that my squad bagged sports trophies under my captaincy.

Then came that phase of life as a an adolescent. I was studying Commercial Arts at an all girl's college once again in South Mumbai. That was one transitional phase when all the beautiful, well turned out girls around me, suddenly opened my eyes out to a whole new fact. I could become equally lovely too. I distinctly remember those days when I consciously began changing myself. I let my hair grow into long tresses. I had my ears pierced and began sporting earrings too. I realised I had a natural flare for dressing fashionably and soon became popular amongst friends for my unique sense of matching accessories with my clothes. Yes. Vibhuti and 'matching' chandelier earrings became synonymous. And till date I remain passionate about my collection of earrings. And that is how I acquired that label of being a 'Fashionista', very early on in life.

All through the five years of rigorous training in applied (fine) arts for Advertising, I discovered that time and again I felt divided between two passions- my love for art and my passion for writing. Its been a decade that I have been experimenting with my capabilities and exploring career opportunities alternating as an 'Artist' and as a 'Writer', thankfully blessed with success as both. The brush and the metaphorical pen can easily be declared as the only two friends who have been by my side through thick and thin. I cannot imagine a world without them. I find solace in painting and self-expression through writing.

Like every other girl dreams of I discovered there was more to 'ME' when I smoothly transitioned from being only a 'Daughter' to my doting father to being a loving 'Wife' and then a 'Mother' to two naughty little boys. I thought I'd found my comfort zone and would have readily settled down for these beautiful coveted titles, if the 'Vibhuti' from somewhere deep down inside had not gone on chiming that there were many more words waiting out there to define 'ME'. That I would be happier and would be able to keep the cheer in my home only if I kept the passion in my heart beating.

'Blogging' changed my world and in 2009 I thought that there couldn't be a more wonderful title than calling myself a 'Blogger'. My ambitions grew and I went out for a gulp of a mouthful of sky. 'Not Totally Unbelievable' my maiden collection of short stories was published in 2011 and I was thrilled to hear me being referred to as an 'Author'. My life's dream of getting published by the age of 30 was accomplished.

Last year I experimented with an idea, of bringing my passion for fashion and art together and launched my label of hand-painted fashion accessories. And India's prestigious 'The Week' magazine interviewed me, mentioned my label and quoted my take on fashion, in its cover feature of the February 2015 issue.

My hand-painted gemstone chandelier earrings..:D
There are a myriad other things that can define 'ME'. Especially this new Avatar that I have taken on. My knack for socialising through the various online media is a story in its own self. I enjoy it to the hilt and feel blessed that I am able to cut out a career for myself as a Social Media Strategist.  My virtual world between my Facebook friends, the Twitterati and my BlogAdda Dost is a heartwarming part of my life. 

I wonder what would I have done without these varied elements that make up my life? What would I have done if my life was also like those  many unfortunate girls out there who have never been given an opportunity to go out and explore the myriad possibilities that life can offer. What if I was forced to pick between the ORs and close my eyes to the ANDs that I have enjoyed in my life. 

I would have felt suffocated if I was to live with one of the stereotypical labels given to girls at large. What if my parents were to stunt my growth, not letting me metamorphose to my choice, as AND when! I am grateful and thankful that they let ME be me and I used the opportunities completely. I am proud of that! 

In sharing my story I wish to say that like me you can  #UseYourAnd too. 
All you women must #UseYourAnd. There's an inexplicable happiness in finding that there are a multitude of things that define me, not just one! There's a sense of pride to say that my life is defined by the word 'AND', not by an 'OR'..

I am thankful to Gillette Venus and BlogAdda for triggering such a lovely blogging idea where women will be motivated to break out of the shackles of the 'OR'  to wake up and embrace the 'AND' within.

If my story has inspired you enough, watch this video to know more about how you can  #UseYourAnd 

This post is a part of #UseYourAnd activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette Venus

Jan 19, 2015

My Journey from ‘OR’ to ‘AND’- #UseYourAnd

And I discovered there is more to myself!
There is not one but many ways to describe ME and yet there is not one thing that can fully define ME.
I am multi-faceted AND multi-talented.
I feel blessed I am ME.

My story did not begin when I was born. My story began when my mother left me. Forever! Her death gave birth to a new me. My journey of life surely began as the only daughter in a nuclear family  who could choose to be responsible or while her time away. Living the luxuries, being taken care of and being pampered to the hilt, I was my mother's only pet and treasured baby. But the day she died, she left me and my dad a broken mess. I was left with no option but to pick up the threads of my life on my own. I was no more a child or that spoilt teenager. I had transformed, overnight! Jerked out of my comfort zone it was almost like learning to live all over again. I wasn't only the daughter but now also the only lady in the house, my father's soul support. His only and sole support!

The year my mother was diagnosed of her acutely failing health, it had been the last academic year for me to secure a degree in Commercial Arts. I had to quit my studies for it was just my father and I who were battling by my mother's side in her struggle for life, against acute renal failure. Mum loved Pune so we shifted. After a year of neglecting my studies, I enrolled myself back into the university and appeared for my final exams through an entirely new college. I decided I would juggle all my responsibilities. With minimum attendance recorded and almost no training at college because most of my time was spent outside the ICU where my mother got admitted time and again all through that horrible year, I managed to pass with flying colours.

And before I begin to sound like a martyr I wish to bow out and say this post, is not a vanity trip and neither is it because I wish to gloat about my successes. I write to inspire. To tell my friends, LIFE is what you make of it. Get a grip on it and march on!

This is the era of the woman. The woman who will not and need not,submit herself to circumstances.

God had his own blue plan drafted for my life but that did not mean he stopped me from walking the path I believed would lead me to my goals. There were just torturous hurdles that I had to fight tooth and nail to overcome. I was a super ambitious girl with a zest and zeal for life that ran in my veins, like it rushed in my mother's. She had left us physically but haunted me in my dreams, egging me on to pursue my career and make the best of what I had. And what I had, by God's grace was a lot- my talent,a gift from God, my writing skills.

We had shifted home from the hustle and bustle of Mumbai to the more serene Pune, so that my mother's health may improve but sadly, that was not destined. What was in my destiny, was the struggle people predicted that lay ahead of me. When I proposed that I would take up a job in the Advertising Industry, my Puneite neighbours who surely meant well, painted a very bleak picture in front of my eyes.

"Pune lags a decade behind as compared to Mumbai. Don't expect a writing career like the one you would have had in Mumbai!"

"Pune works less and sleeps away most part of the day.Starting a career from scratch over here is bound to result in ziltch!" 

While the aunties had even wiser words for me.
"Darling, without your mother around, your father will be worried for you. Why do you want to go out into a new city and chase a career in an almost non-existent industry? Why don't you get married and settle down? "

Another said, "Look! Your father will not be able to find a nice groom for you on his own. let me help you! We start looking now. We may find someone in a couple of years. Don't waste your time on a hopeless career."

Little did they know that I had always been a rebel. And my father always surprisingly never let the fire in my belly be doused. In fact he gave fuel to it! I refused to cower to this dim fate that all were spewing like venom into my ears and my father was like the antidote, instilling undying hope. I could never imagine my mother patting my back on settling down for a lesser life. I dreamt of making my parents proud. Marriage and kids, the easy life was not a choice I planned to make at that point! Then it would have definitely meant a compromise.

So I rose, intending to stand on my own two feet and began to explore Pune who was a stranger to me. As soon as I secured my degree I interviewed for a job opening and also got selected as English Copywriter at a leading Ad' agency in Pune. I was to be the highest paid fresher at that time but the very first day at office turned out a fiasco. An extremely modern looking girl with western dressing sense was probably indigestible. And sexual innuendos, attempts of harassment were completely unacceptable to me. A loud and tight slap- in-the-old-bugger's-face later, I barged into the boss's cabin. Finding no consolation there from another old lecher, I walked out on the job and floated my own Advertising agency. 

I am happy to share that my passion for writing took me from strength to strength in the following years of dedication and focus. Pune had very few good English Copy-writers in those days and being a small city, word spread like wild fire. I rode the wave like a queen and began to bag big clients and small, big projects and small like no other. Soon I was being hired on retainership by leading Ad' agencies of Pune. The stranger of a city gave me many new and loving friends, who saw the passion in my eyes and spirit in my heart.

One day I was recommended to the Editor of one of the Times Of India Supplements and was called in for an interview. In 2006 I saw myself discovering a new interest and knack for journalism. My feature articles were being appreciated.I brought my father's name into print with a bold byline on the front pages and Page 3 of the leading daily newspaper of India. 

2007 gave me the love of my life and that's another heartening but long story of how I made an uncompromising choice. 

Life was good to me and God was being kind. I was now not only a daughter, I was also a wife and a daughter-in-law. These men in my life are made of another metal I believe. They give impetus to my woman power. They believe in me and I love them for that. God has blessed me with a family of REAL men.   

In 2008 with my father-in-law's blessings and constant cajoling to take another leap in my career, I inaugurated my own Art Gallery that would help me pursue my other undying passion-Art. AND I became an art curator.

The following year I was taken to a whole new level of life. Motherhood! This becomes a turning point in most women's life and usually we mellow down. I am a true Capricorn and family is of utmost priority to me but I also refused to let go of my own singular identity. Like every other new mother I gave my baby my days and my nights. I didn't have the comforting presence of my mother or my mother-in-law by my side. I drew strength from my prayers and meditation. Like mostly all women do, life posed the biggest question before me too. Do you wish to be a doting mother OR that famous writer, you always wanted to be? After much deliberation with my own self, I decided I had to delete that OR and type in an AND. Remove that question mark and make it an exclamatory!

I let my heart rule but made my mind search for a way to make both ends meet. A stay-at-home mum who desperately willed her career not die a premature death. In 2009 I took to Blogging and look half a decade down the line, here I am! Still at it. A happy wife AND a doting mother to two naughty sons.  In 2011 with my very first book titled 'NOT TOTALLY UNBELIEVABLE' I became a published author AND with my own label of hand-painted fashion accessories I became a serial entrepreneur.
Then I was invited to blog at an international portal AND so I am a fashion blogger at http://wearethecity.in/blogs/vibhuti-bhandarkar-virtual-social-blogger/
 I am a social media strategist AND an artist. AND I am also the founder of a Women Entrepreneur's group called 'Amazing Woman Entrepreneurs' where I coax women to rise and shine to show how AWEsome we really are!

So this post is simply an attempt to inspire you all to #UseYourAnd like I did. I have been interviewed and written about in the Pune and Mumbai's leading newspapers, more than many times. I wish you celebrate your AND like I am doing. Push yourself out of the comfort zone of excuses and strain yourself to reach out for your dreams and ambitions. Don't remain debating between the ORs. Don't let that creepy word bog you down. This AND has much to offer. Your dreams, your identity, your happiness!

I am thankful to Gillette Venus and BlogAdda for triggering such a lovely blogging idea where women will be motivated to break out of the shackles of the 'OR'  to wake up and embrace the 'AND' within.

If my story has inspired you enough, watch this video to know more about how you can  #UseYourAnd 

This post is a part of #UseYourAnd activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette Venus