The Promise- Danielle Steel : 56/52


a) I’m too old for this kind of drivel

b) This wasn’t drivel back in 1978

c) I’m too hardhearted and cynical to understand Love

Chances are that the right answer might be option c.

After the thundercloud of This Divided Island, I wanted some cotton candy fluffy clouds. The Promise was one of those books that Chitrakka made be get for her from V K Library. It was the rage back then. Longlongago. I think I even tried to read it as a teenager, I do have vague memories of some beads being buried on a beach. But I don’t think I finished reading the book back then. The story was totally new to me now, new meaning roll-your-eyes-at-the-cliched-plot kind of new.

All it lacked was six songs and two fight scenes. Otherwise it was the perfect BollyKollyTollywood plot. I’m sure this book must have been made into an Indian movie. Or was it too lame for even that? Rich boy, poor girl, villi mother. Lou. Accident, lies, plastic surgery, Devdasish mode. Two years later meet, don’t recognise, fight, make up. Live happily everafter.

Classic Danielle Steel setting: everything and everyone is beautiful. Perfectly dressed women, effortlessly chic in Channel or in miraculous bargain buys . Gold clasp handbags, luxury luggage, gold cigarette cases, gold watch fobs. Adorable doggies, breathtaking views from the window. The works.  And the typical Danielle Steel relationships: old people in love, young people in love, young woman in love with a man 20 years her senior. Gaaaaaah.

Anyway. I wanted fluff, I got fluff.



And suddenly I realised that this was part of the theme in Anbe Sivam. Rich girl, poor boy. Elopement, accident, disfigured face. Lies. That movie wasn’t about love as it was about other things, but I did wonder what Bala would have done if she had seen Nalla in the end. The romantic in me ( there isn’t one) wants to say that she would have called off the wedding and lived regretfully ever after with an ugly but principled husband. And the cynic in me ( there’s lots of her) says that she would have pretended not to recognise him or brushed him off with gentle words and lived happily everafter with the handsome Ars. What would I have done? I love communists with their lofty ideals and impractical principles, but I think I too would have chosen the MNC slave adman.  But no, the disfigured face wouldn’t have mattered to me.

What do you think would have happened?

That Tag

There’s this tag doing the rounds on Facebook. Top ten books that changed your life. I’m too cool to participate in Facebook tags. Also, most of my real life Facebook friends are more Like-and-Facebook-will-donate-one-dollar or Share-in-2-seconds-to -avoid-bad-luck or the Profound Quotes by Rumi and Gandhi sharing types. And on the other extreme I’m intimidated by some of the lists that I see. What if my top ten books are too plebeian for the book bourgeois and they judge me. Someone listed Dante’s Inferno on her list. I tried ten pages of that book after I read the more common-man Dan Brown’s Inferno and gave up in frustration. There’s a lot of Shakspeare also being listed. I wonder if they are being pretentious or they’ve read more Shakespeare than what was prescribed in school. Or maybe abridged versions are allowed on the List. Yes, they should be.  I don’t know the rules. Anyway. I wanted to list mine. This is in no particular order.

( Warning: Too many old blogposts linked here. Kindly adjust)

1. The God of Small Things- Arundhati Roy

People seem to either hate the book or love it.  But I’m tampering with the laws that lay down which book should be loved, and how. And how much. This gets its own blogpost soon. And so does She.

2. Gone with the Wind– Margaret Mitchell

The book has grown up with me. I read it from the perspective of someone new every time I read it. And it is like reading a whole new book each time

3. Animal Farm- George Orwell

This  should be the prescribed textbook in Commie School and should be read even before The Communist Manifesto. Absolute brilliance. And there’s no better way than this to have called Stalin a pig.

4. Nancy Drew- Carolyn Keene

A part of my childhood died when I learnt that Carolyn Keene was a pseudonym for a group of authors. But then there were some books that kept me up all night with a torch under the pillow and some books that were returned to VK Library, unread. Explains. But Nancy Drew made me write Detective against Ambition when everyone else was writing Doctor or Teacher, and prepare fingerprint kits with cellotape and talcum powder. Again, this gets a separate blogpost soon.

5. Dark Places- Gillian Flynn

It was a tie between this and Gone Girl, but Dark Places was deliciously dark cranberry flavoured bitter chocolate and it pipped the mind games of Gone Girl by one point. Protagonists who are nothing are really something.

6. The Mahabarata- By Anyone

From the ACK comic books to Prem Panicker’s tweets as @epicretold. Jaya, Palace of Illusions, Ajaya, Karna’s Wife. I’ve read almost every non-serious version of this book and still can’t get enough of it. And Karna. Sigh. Oh Karna.  Why isn’t someone writing Karna’s version of it? The closest we’ve got from Karna’s point of view is Dhalapathi. I want a book.

7. Little Women- Louisa May Alcott

The chapter with Jo getting her story published was in my fifth standard English textbook. And I’ve been hooked since then. I’ve read the book right from the baby version when I was ten to the actual unabridged version very recently. Beth doesn’t die in the baby version. And when she did, I felt exactly like Joey .  This too deserves a separate blogpost.

8. A Fine Balance– Rohinton Mistry

Read it very recently. I can’t imagine that I lost out on all that darkness and depression for so many years of my life.

9. The Illicit Happiness of Other People– Manu Joseph

This is popping up on a lot of lists. I’m still recovering from this book . I continue to pick up random passages every now and then and just relish them again

10. The Cuckold- Kiran Nagarkar

Strange how Krishna who spoke so much about Duty in the Gita encourages Meera to not do her duty as a wife. Ok, that’s my interpretation. But this book tells the tale from the Prince of Mewar’s point of view. The husband who lost his wife to a god.


Honourable Mentions. I thought I’ll have a difficult time listing my Books, but there are some more.

1. The Kite Runner- Khaled Hosseni. He killed it with that Bollywood ending though.

2. The Diary of Anne Frank- Anne Frank. Because it is actually a happy book. Just set during a horrible time.

3. City of Joy- Dominique Lapierre. Priests, poverty, foreign doctors. Lepers, more lepers and even a leper wedding. Reality. What’s there not to like in this book.

4. Half of a Yellow Sun– Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche.  I have no clue if the Nigerians still want it, but I wish for a Biafra someday. That’s the secessionist in me talking. Yeah. I’m like that.

5. The Ring and Message from Nam- Danielle Steel- Ouch. Danielle Steel. But yes, I romanticize wars. Or maybe I should read these two books again to see if I still feel the same way about them

6. As The Crow Flies- Jeffrey Archer. Such a pity that the guy who wrote this story of Charlie Trumper is now torturing us with The Clifton Chronicles

10. The Seige and The Betrayal– Helen Dunmore. Because Soviet Russia. Because World War II. Because dark, cold and depressing.

8. Crosswinds- Keepsake. My first series of books with the boy-girl covers. Clean American High School fun. Good old days when sex, booze and cigarettes were not a thing in young adult fiction.

9. Master of the Game- Sidney Sheldon. He’s not called a master storyteller for nothing. Maybe I was too young for it when I read it first. But it only kept getting better and better the second and the third time I read it. A book that keeps you reading through the night whenever you read it even though you know what is going to happen next.

10. Anthem- Ayn Rand.  Dystopian as dystopian can get.

Waah. I want to list some more now. But maybe I’ll do a list of popular books that I just don’t get.

What’s on your list?


Asterix and the Two Decade-Long Dream

It was one of those lazy summer holidays during my tween years when I first discovered Asterix.

I had finished my Nancy Drew even before we got off the train and had already memorised the Tinkles that we had bought at the railway station. The vacation that year was  in one of those nondescript towns in some corner of Kerala, Trikerripur or something and I was bored to death. I was lolling by the window and tearing leaves off the tree when Shashi maama handed me a large comic book from  his cupboard, and with a tilt of his chin, told me to try it. Very hesitantly, took it from him. The pictures were too cluttered, and there was too much text in the talk bubbles. But then, this did seem to be a better option  than stripping a tree bare. So I sprawled myself on the bed and started to turn the pages. Asterix in Switzerland. They had to literally drag me down for dinner that night.

I had only devoured three books from his collection and by then it was time for us to leave. I made puppy-dog eyes and tried to get Shashi maama to offer the comics to me, atleast one for the road. But no. Those were his treasured possessions and no manipulating child was going to get him to even lend those precious comic books, ones he had lovingly collected over the years and lugged across the country throughout his transfer postings. I sulked all the way back home. But over the next few years more vacations happened and I managed to read and reread the entire set.  And though I didn’t get all those puns back then, I knew that I was hooked. For life.

Update:  The Original Collection. Yellowed, dogeared, loved.



Many years later, I stood in front of a wall of comic books at a colleague’s house in Oslo and thumbed through his well worn copies of Asterix in both French and Dutch. Treasures from his childhood. And over dinner my Norwegian colleague and I bonded over that Gaul. Asterix had helped to break both the ice and the language barriers for us.


When Shashi maama died, his wife packed up all their things and moved to another town. She gave away a lot of stuff, some out of necessity and some, just because she had lost the will to live. No, don’t look at me that way. But yes, I did wonder if that pile of yellowing, well thumbed through comics was part of that give-away list. It wasn’t. She sent over a Guy De Maupassant, she sent over sarees and beautiful blue baking dishes. She sent over DVDs and rotimakers. But that pile of Asterix? Never, she said. That’s his soul in there.


Last Friday, as usual, I woke up to my Twitter timeline. Someone had shared a link to an Amazon offer. The entire Asterix box set was at a 94% discount at Rs.999 !  It has been in my Wishlist forever, constantly mocking me with that five digit unaffordable figure. I rubbed my eyes and pinched myself and checked again. It was true. Thank god for fast 3G, I completed the order right there on my phone. A thousand bucks well spent at 6.09 am. But by the time I had put out my announcement tweet for the benefit of others, the offer had vanished. It was back to a reasonably discounted Rs.11999 again. What followed was a weekend of anger and frustration. Amazon sent everyone an email cancelling the order because it was a pricing mistake. But goof ups happen and they happen again for the best. This arrived on Tuesday.

20140526_195804            20140526_195944                20140526_200147

Finally. That two decade-long dream has come true.




One of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received. With the warmest message ever. ‘Here’s the damn book. Takeet and STFU’


I’m a sucker for a good deal. Well, who isn’t. So when I do my online bookshopping, I check a zillion times on a zillion sites to get the best price. There’s that does it for you, but then, I get my thrills doing it on my own. I visit Flipkart, Amazon, HS18, Bookadda and the rest, check for offers, combo offers and coupons, and put the item on my wishlist. Then check again. And again. And finally buy. I like the satisfaction of having got it at the lowest possible rate. ( Psychanalysis: It is the reformed share trader in me that’s being sated here)

So when I was tracking Inferno on Flipkart, I noticed that the price kept fluctuating more than a pennystock on a good day. At 10 am it would be Rs.750 Rs.350 and when I check again at 11 am, it would be Rs.750 Rs.348. The next day it would be Rs.750 Rs.599 and the next Rs.750 Rs.304. So I started an OCDish tracking of the book and kept tweeting about it. I did not actually want the book at the lowest price because the thrills of watching the price go up and down was more fun.And I kept spamming my Twitter timeline with #InfernoOnFlipkart hashtag.

And one fine morning I got a package from Flipkart. Silly and Kaapi, two sweet souls on my timeline who were fed up of my obsessive tracking and tweeting, sent me the damn book. And asked me to STFU.

I was cured, but only for a while. I began to obsessively track Alchemy of Desire. And got it for Rs.198 when it had hit an all time low. It is Rs.399 right now. And I point and laugh at whoever buys it today.