The Five People You Meet at the National Book Fair

National Book Fair

Five types of people, in case you were wondering. While I may lament the denigration of society in Delhi, the city still has loads of readers. A good number of them showed up in Pragati Maidan on Sunday. The National Book Fair, an annual event where the bigwigs of the book publishing world set up stalls, is on till August 31.

The Persuasive Dealer: “Pick any for Rs 100! Harry Potter, Dan Brown, 50 Shades of Grey, Mills & Boons…Errm, that’s just one yellow page Madam…” Wait longer and the fungus-eaten page may crumble even as you look. But, to be fair, this is quite the loot if you are looking for a cheap truckful of bestsellers, classics and children’s books. It’s just that I associate book fairs with rare, special books we can’t buy on Flipkart or off the street.

The New Writer: “I have written that book, in case you are interested.” It isn’t always I meet an author and listen to a first-hand synopsis of her book. Quite interesting it can be to browse through fresh writing on subjects as diverse as religion, motivation and suspense to good old romance. You will need to be a good selector, of course.

The Ambitious Parent: “The next door kid can play the piano!” “Hush, I heard she is secretly preparing for the civil services.” Last time I heard, the kid was in Grade 3. While over ambition is another story, I was impressed by the hordes of parents stocking up on children’s books – stories, hobbies, learning software. If you are looking for those, you won’t be disappointed. I was especially thrilled to see lots of young kids, some accompanied by grandparents. Little eyes that lit up at the sight of big, colourful titles.

The Book Lover: First the bad news – the stalls are fewer than I have known them to be in previous years. You may also dislike the picnicking crowd that has made a cafeteria out of the carpet, despite the fact that the Pragati Maidan Food Court is well stocked, reasonably priced and right across from the exhibition. This aside, the fair is a good place to get books to your heart’s content – the genres are plenty; there are good discount deals. The air-conditioned halls and books everywhere you look is a welcome respite from the grime and heat of Delhi in its current state. While you’re at it, you can also check out the stationery collection up at one of the halls. The “Literature in Cinema” theme is a bit of a setback – other than a poster display area and a few stalls selling books on Bollywood, I didn’t find too much of this.

The Strollers: Notwithstanding the size of the city, couples in Delhi often run short of dating ideas. Some of these decide to give the fair a try. Slowly they walk hand in hand, whispering sweet nothings in the face of the crowd accumulating behind them. The fair could be a series of vacant rooms for all they care. Of course, the foodies landed up as well, gorging on the burgers and sandwiches, smelling up the place faster than the AC could neutralize things.

I am hoping you will tell me about the people you meet when you go book-shopping at the fair. Remember to be wary of Wrackspurts.

Hardly Independent

*All opinions below are strictly personal.

We are a hypocritical society.

We laud our great culture of forbearance, tolerance and love, and punish our children when they marry outside the community.

We celebrate Gandhi Jayanti with Lage Raho Munnabhai on television and slap the driver who dared overtake us on the highway.

We ask our women to dress up in decent, Indian clothes and verbally and physically thrash our wives, oh-so-like Fifty Shades of Grey.

When we spot a pile of garbage outside a house on the street, we abuse the creator and decide to dump our bottle of Cola. 

We ban mobile phones for girls in order to make them secure, and then rape them mercilessly on the street, in vehicles and at home.

There is no stone left unturned to educate our boy and make him self- reliant. We then demand dowry to fund his self-reliance.

We rollout scheme after scheme and wholeheartedly put down the earlier government, and yet fail to provide basic food and health to large sections of our population.

On Independence Day, each year, we dedicate songs to our brave soldiers fighting at our borders, braving the cruel cold. We feast on laddoos and put up balloons in saffron, white and green.

And yet, in this independent land of our great freedom fighters, rich heritage and grand culture, we don’t think twice about abusing the weak, the downtrodden, or the dissenter. Indeed, the greatest spoilsport to the holiday is the fact that August 15 is a dry day.

To this day, we serve tirelessly under greed, intolerance and envy. Hardly independent, I daresay. Until we find a way out of this hypocrisy, this annual commemoration of our freedom struggle leaves me cold.

Year-End Nostalgia


*picture from

The boulevard outside the house is lined with billboards announcing New Year Eve parties. Every club promises the grooviest music, the ‘sexiest’ crowd and the coolest DJ. The markets overflow with people utilizing festive season discounts and work leaves that will otherwise lapse. Quite remarkable how they beat the Delhi chill to party, observes my Granddad. On his part, he sits wrapped up in his several layers of woolens, looking very much like an Indian-ized Santa Claus. When I ask him how he plans to spend the New Year eve, he points to the stairs leading to the terrace. Much like last year, he will walk up there and sit in the sun, munching on a few roasted groundnuts.

What is it about nostalgia that brings along sadness? Is it the pang of loss, of moments that will never again be? Several New Years ago, Granddad would be planning to take a train to Delhi. He would spend the season with his darling granddaughter, firmly postponing all work in his Kolkata office, much to the despair of a rather conniving boss. His friends would drop by at all odd hours, one of them particularly loud-voiced. It was this friend he requested to soften down when I would wake up early to prepare for Class Tenth exams. Granny would fix me a cup of hot milk and offer me an assortment of biscuits – I always opted for Britannia. When Mom and Dad switched on the Christmas lights, I would leave my books behind and jump in glee.

Granddad misses his friends sometimes. They aren’t around in the colony’s markets or the morning-walk park. Some of them are abroad, staying with sons and visiting daughters. Others, he is afraid, are no more. He looks at me sideways, when he thinks I am not looking, and blinks away a stray tear. His darling Granddaughter mustn’t be gloomy, he seems to say. He strokes my hair and warms my hands by rubbing them against his woolen housecoat.

I have always been fond of winter. Bathing in the December sun, cups of hot coffee, snuggling under the quilt. As a kid, I would handpick my mittens, sweaters and socks for the day. I would please my 4 AM riser of a Granny by showering nice and early. The homework would be done well in advance of the much-anticipated weekly – Mahabharata. Will I grow scared of winter when I grow old? Will the streets I now oversee abound with unfamiliar, unfriendly faces?

This New Year Eve I am staying in. The family will beat the chill with steaming hot food from the neighbourhood diner. I will watch the fairy lights twinkle, competing with the stars overhead. By the window, when the fog grows dense and dark, I will try and come to terms with how time doesn’t hang around and party. Amidst the pomp and show of the gazillions of New Year Eve parties, time will rise and be gone in smoke before dawn.

P&P wishes everyone a Happy New Year 2014!

Ten Things 2013 Taught Me

1.  Uneasy lie the brands that rope in celebrities as endorsers. One moment everything is hunky dory and there are people queuing outside your store. And the next moment, poof! Dope, a rape charge, a dead animal can shoo them all away.

2. There are moments in life when all you can do is sit by the window and watch the stars come out. For all the brouhaha about assertiveness and taking control of your life, these are moments when reflection is the best course of action.

3.  Trains offer the best opportunity to observe people. Flights tend to be sleepy, people absorbed in work, the view outside the window or their thoughts. But there’s no disguising vexation and true colours in a crowded metro where you long for the next person to either get down or offer you a seat.

4. The jhaadu* of modern society continues to sweep out introversion. It’s the age of conversations, or so they say. Of social media, communities and being interested in others around you. It’s increasingly difficult for the loners, especially after they perceive the hollow bottoms of most of these relationships.

5.  Health isn’t something you can ignore. This goes beyond a cup of green tea in the morning and cutting down on fats. It’s important to get sleep, feel de-stressed and take that vacation once in a while. Schedule a break when the rest of the world begins to obnoxiously howl into your ear.

6. Going to the movies can be harsh on the pocket. Especially in Delhi. It might be a good idea to go well fed so you can cost cut on the corn. Beware of compromising on the choice of movie, especially if the music is about Fevicol, Chewing Gum and Sari(s).

7. Time flies. Yes, you might have read this eons ago in school. But the full weight dawns on you when a wintery sun rises to a Christmas you no longer bring in with carols on the school stage. There are suddenly new responsibilities you can’t forget and go out to play. It might be a good idea to seize the day before it joins the league of moments you can only remember, not relive.

8. Do what your heart tells you is right. Notwithstanding the consensus about the brain’s superiority, a half-hearted decision you don’t feel strongly about/made under pressure will never succeed. This is true for all things human – education, relationships and priorities.

9. Count your blessings. You may not earn a million or own a palatial bungalow in uptown Mumbai. But you possibly have a friend to give a Christmas gift to, a family to hug, a little pet who looks at you fondly. Most importantly, you have the heavens above. While Santa may/not come riding in his sledge, you can go out for some role play and bless others in the world.

10. There are stories lurking in every corner. A story in every success, one in every misgiving. If there’s one foolproof way to bring in laughter and happiness, it’s ferreting out these little tales and realizing the lesson they carry. For ourselves and everyone around.

What have been your lessons in 2013?

*To read about lessons from a previous year, go here.

Bring in the divine this Diwali

The Sampoorna Lakshmi Pooja Pack

The Sampoorna Lakshmi Pooja Pack: Everyone has a reason to pray

It’s that time of the year again. The roads are blocked, the markets are laced with gold streamers and houses are being spring-cleaned. Every year, when Diwali arrives, I am reminded of a very fond Dadi of mine. She would perform Lakshmi Pooja at home though several Bengalis usually celebrate the day as Kali Pooja. This entailed armfuls of prasad – all of it very tempting. When I came across Cycle Pure Agarbatti’s Sampoorna Lakshmi Pooja Pack, all I could visualize was Dadi and those armfuls of prasad. This neat and very easy-to-use pack is exactly like the magic wand that swings and behold, the stage is set.

Packed inside the orange confines of the box are over 30 elements needed to solemnize Lakshmi Pooja – the goddess of wealth is said to bless households on the moonless yet luminous Diwali night. Right from the twin-idol set of Ganpati and Lakshmi (the brother sister duo who are together worshipped on Diwali), the multitude of lamps, including a pretty floating one, to the paraphernalia needed for the aarti, there isn’t one constituent missed out upon. The surprises never cease – instead, they multiply when the pack, alike a Pandora’s Box, brings up a decorative rangoli, two sets of agarbattis and hold your breath – packaged Ganga Jal. Where and when, if at all, can all those living away from home, manage to put together such an assortment? Cycle Pure just answered that question.

Just when you are super pleased about this one-stop-solution of a pack, you get cold feet about when and how to use what – the pugi phala or the soubhagya alankaara, for instance. Though all the elements are neatly numbered, Cycle Pure has a finer solution to cater to these fears. The pack provides an instructional booklet in several languages coupled with an audio CD with Sanskrit shlokas. During the pooja, the track can be chosen to be a companion to your recitation or, akin a family member reciting the katha, play undisturbed. Needless to say, the sense of the divine that emanates post a successfully completed pooja, is beautiful. And with the Diwali lamps lighting up the night-sky, it is almost unparalleled.

Priced at 700 INR and available cheaper at a festive discount, this Lakshmi Pooja pack can be a terrific gifting idea for most. It will be especially useful for people who may, in vain, rush from pillar to post to collect all the constituents. It will even be wonderful for those of us who deeply miss the presence of someone like Dadi on Diwali.

We celebrated Lakshmi Pooja a couple of days ago – Bengalis have it soon after Durga Pooja. For us, therefore, it’s a double whammy of sorts. No excuse could be feeble enough to seek the blessings of the goddess. This Diwali, the house will glitter more than usual. The air will be rich with the aroma of agarbattis. And then, when the shlokas play, my family of five will fold their hands in prayer.

*You can order a Sampoorna Lakshmi Pooja Pack at, with free shipping and a cash-on-delivery option.