May 24, 2013

Book Review- The Secret Wish List by Preeti Shenoy

Title: The Scret Wish List
Author: Preeti Shenoy
First Published in India by Westland Ltd on 2012
ISBN: 978 93 82618 18 8
Pages: 260
Price: 175/-
Rating: 2.5/5
I was too keen to read this fiction as I personally attended the book launch event and heard the authoress sharing her thoughts on this book. Therefore I was too excited to dig in the book as I avidly enjoyed the book launch event. I finished this book in two days. But I bet it can be easily finished in 3-4 hours. The Secret Wish List is the second novel that I read by Preeti Shenoy. Simple Language and elementary narration are the foremost qualities that Preeti always wins over her readers. Her theme based feministic approach of a woman's search for Identity and earning her financial independence is always dominating what her last two novels portrayed.

Peeping in the Story: 16 year old Diksha fell in love with handsome Ankit, her Brother's friend. The teenager passionate love ended when they got caught red handed kissing each other. That one silly mistake changed Diksha's life. She was sent away from her home to a different girls’ school in another state. Forced to get married at the age 19 with boorish Sandeep much older than her. After 15 years of her marriage and having a son of 9 years old, life focused Diksha to rethink about her life again. Her Cousin Sister Vibha inspired her to make a secret wish list and Diksha slowly found all the secret wishes getting fulfilled in a vicious circle. Return of Ankit in her life again and her old best pal Tanu changed her life. Now let it be a suspense what then happened to Diksha's life and how the story ended.

The prologue of the novel (taken from Ch: 15, P: 132- 133) is justly picked up which recounts the main theme of the novel. One will get a glimpse of what Diksha is going through and that will compel one to dig in the novel more and more till it ends with the happy epilogue. The novel is surely a page turner, as Preeti very skillfully divided the plot and glued the readers with some exciting turning points that matured Diksha's life. The first seven chapters alternatively oscillate 16 year old Diksha’s passion, the freedom of mind and ready to turn 35 years old Diksha's frustration and soul confinement. The first seven chapters also introduce all the major characters: Diksha, Sandeep, Sandeep's Mother, Ankit, Tanu and Vibha.

In The Secret Wish List Preeti portrayed five women who are seemed to be picked up from our real Life. Diksha's Mother was sketched as the conservative, very much protective Mother and obedient wife. Diksha's Mother- In- Law on the other hand to much understanding, broad minded and practical lady who can be considered as Diksha's life line and one of the best friends too.
Vibha, the financially independent lady is always an inspiring personality and best cousin come friend of Diksha. Being a woman she always earned the freedom and celebrated her own identity. It is Vibha who compels Diksha to make her secret wish list and secretly encourages tasting the freedom of life. But she never advocates Diksha to delve into any intrigued life. Her sudden death of her husband's life changed her life and minds her to concentrate to spend more time with her family, with her daughter. But at the end of the novel Vibha's change in the character must raised the readers eyebrows to rethink about the broad minded independent woman's thought when Vibha protested against the divorce of Diksha and Sandeep and stopped talking to her.
Tanu, the best friend of Diksha when she was 16, portrayed as the epitome of modernism. When she returned after 18 years she is highly established with a high profile job. She looks dashing, confident, gorgeous and beautiful from every side. She is heartbroken from her several past affairs and she decides to remain single until Gaurav enters in her life.
Vibha and Tanu these two ladies, work like a catalyst in Diksha's life to bring out the Independent Diksha and to taste the freedom of life. Diksha always covets to do something of her own but she has to burry all her dreams after the silly incident of her teenage life and then getting married with the uncompromising, neandertal and isensitive Sandeep. Her 15 years of marriage life is like raising her son and run her household perfectly. She considered herself as the "willing door mat"(P: 71). But the sudden encounter of her secret wish list changes her life and slowing she stepped in to the world what she actually yearns for. Preeti limned Diksha the protagonist from a fragile woman to a dauntless personality.
The readers will surely move in to Diksha's character and feel pity on her. Preeti has challenged the stereotype women and dressed up Diksha in a different modern outfit who being "a good house wife" turned in to "a cheating adventurous spouse" (P: 177). The time will come when the readers will start blaming Diksha for her adulterous approach towards life, just at that point Preeti very skillfully made Diksha to achieve the readers full sympathy when Sandeep's real brutal, insensitive attitude face off (P: 190-192). But what I didn't like here that a woman can always do something of her own without the help of rich friends and folks. What would happen if wealthy Ankit would not return to Diksha's life and Rich Tanu will be not by her side? I truly agree that we always need some motivation and inspiration when we are totally lost with our soul and what our "I" covet for. But fairy tale elements are a very rare view that can be found in the real life. At the same time a Fiction is a Fiction that we should not forget.


Overall my view is: After finishing the book I really didn't enjoyed what I expected from the book. Like her previous novel Tea for two and a piece of cake, The Secret Wish List, sounded quite similar with some alteration and facts. In the both novels like a magical world everything worked perfectly with a fairy tale ending with few unpleasant events keep flowing through out. I felt like reading a modern Cinderella story where a mediocre lady or a married lady meets her prince charming and then they lived both happily ever after with some alteration. I loved the way how she narrated in this novel a homemaker's frustration, a stereotype chauvinist husband, but the entry of the rich long lost handsome lover, intrigue trip to Maldives, entry of the highly established long lost girl friend, pour too much of the cinematic elements . If one wants to make a movie on it, it will be a perfect script for that.

Preeti described very well the Salsa portions. I really enjoyed it and learnt many things from it. Few errors that I found where Diksha was called as Vibha and Tanu two times (P: 109 & 234). And it will not be complete if I won't mention the little 9 year old matured Abhay, Diksha's son. The real judgment of Diksha's character Abhay gave by saying : "My mom is the best" (P: 203) and liking Ankit rather than her dad. The best lovable characters of the novel will be Abhay and Diksha's Mom- in- Law. The last page of the novel is also a new additon that I like too. I hope Preeti's fifth novel will bring some new plot and different story from the last two. I personally liked Preeti's last novel Tea for two and a piece of cake more than the latest one.

Published here too: http://www.bookrack.in/2013/05/the-secret-wish-list-preeti-shenoy-2/

May 20, 2013

E(N)chor Chingri / Raw Jackfruit with Prawns


Distinctively  Bengalis are famous for their love for Jackfruit. Whether it is raw or ripe Bengalis are always head over heel in love with this Vegie/fruit. At the age of our Grannies the houses with stretched field were always cluttered with the Mango, Guava, Coconut, Banana, Papaya, Jamun/Java Plum, Tamarind, Kul/Boroi/Jujube trees and common among all was the Jackfruit tree. It is so common and a deliciously cooked dish when it's raw, we Bengalis love to call it the Vegetable Meat. The most delectable part of it is, out of one Vegie so many dishes can be cooked.  But the ripe Jackfuit is many a times an allergy enhancer for many. Even the strong flavour sometimes annoys too many. But the best part of it that everything of this Tree along with the wood, fruit, and the seeds are useful. I first tasted this dish in a party and fallen in love with first bite. So planned to make it at home. Thanks to Soumi  Naha one of my  sister like friends for helping me to cook the dish.
If you ask about the food value it is very nutritious.
"The edible jackfruit is made of soft, easily-digestible flesh (bulbs); when eaten, its simple sugars like glucose and fructose can quickly replenish one's energy and bring on a physical sense of euphoria and revitalization. A portion of 100 g of edible raw jackfruit provides about 95 calories and is a good source of the antioxidant vitamin C, providing about 13.7 mg. Jackfruit seeds are rich in protein.
Fresh jackfruit has small amounts of vitamin-A, flavonoid pigments such as carotene-ß, xanthin, lutein and cryptoxanthin-ß. Together, these compounds play vital roles in antioxidant and vision functions. Vitamin A is also required for maintaining integrity of mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin-A, and carotenes has been found to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Jackfruit is rich in B-complex vitamins, with large amounts of vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), niacin, riboflavin, and folate. Fresh jackfruit provides potassium, magnesium, manganese, and iron. Potassium provides cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure.
Jackfruit can be a good bulk laxative because of its dietary fiber which helps to protect mucous membranes in the colon by decreasing exposure time and binding to cancer-causing chemicals. "(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackfruit)
Ingredients:
E(N)chor/ raw Jackfruit: 1 small
Bagda Chingri/Prawns- 12-14 pieces (You can use Kucho Chingri/ shrimp too)
Potato- 1-2 medium (cut in cubes)
Onion- 1 medium
Ginger paste- 1 table spoon
Turmeric Powder- 1 tspn
Cumin Powder- 1 tspn
Coriander Powder-  1 tspn
Red Chilli Powder- 1 tspn
Powdered Garam Masala- 1/2 tspn
Cumin Seeds (whole)- 1 tspn
Mustard oil- 2tbspn +  2tbspn + to cut the E(N)chor/jackfruit as much as u need.
Ghee-  1-2 drops
Method:
First you have to cut the E(N)chor/Jackfruit. Whenever you cut it follow the tips:
  1. Spread a thick layer of news paper on the platform on which you are going to cut the E(N)chor/Jackfruit. The sap is very sticky that comes out of the vegetable so be careful.
  2. Before starting the cutting procedure apply a good amount of mustard oil on your hands and palms.
  3. Then skinned the vegetable and cut it in small cubes. If you feel the seeds are too hard then remove it and use the flesh only.

  1. Take a pressure cooker (optional) and cook the  E(N)chor/Jackfruit with a pinch of turmeric powder, little bit of salt and  water till its semi cooked. (If you are cooking the  E(N)chor/Jackfruit in pressure cooker then just wait for 1-2 whistles and then put it off stove). Strain the E(N)chor/Jackfruit and reserve.
  2. Take a Kadai/ Pan add Oil. Fry the Potatoes and the Prawns separately semi- brown and reserve.
  3. Grind the onion, ginger and tomato in to smooth paste.
  4. If you need more oil add little bit. Let the oil get heated properly then add the whole cumin seeds. When it will start to splutter add the onion tomato paste and fry till the oil start to separate and the whole mixer looks dark brown but be careful not to burn it.
  5. Add Turmeric, Cumin, Coriander and Red Chilli Powder, sauté for a few seconds then add 1/4 cup water. Let all the masala get mixed properly then add the Potato. Fry for sometime then add E(N)chor/Jackfruit. Fold all together  nicely  and add 1 cup water and let the water boil.
  6. When the water will start to boil add the prawns and cook till the potato gets properly cooked and the water totally dried up. Add the Garam Masala Powder and ghee, fold it nicely, then serve hot with plain rice.




May 14, 2013

An Evening spent with Preeti Shenoy, Agnimitra Paul & Arupa Lahiry at the Book Launch of The Secret Wish List (Starmarks, South city Mall, Kolkata)

Presented by Starmark, at South City Mall, Kolkata, the book launch of The Secret Wish List by Preeti Shenoy was a great success. Meeting the Author in person, anchored by Arupa Lahiry and the honourable guest invitee, renowned fashionista Agnimitra Paul, was like leading to a land of mesmerism with all the discussions on the novel, thoughts provoking to it, prolonged with a question-answer session. Preeti Shenoy had written already three novels and this one was the fourth one. I had read Preeti Shenoy’s third novel Tea for Two and a Piece of Cake and literally liked it, reviewed it.  

Meeting an Author in person is always a gainsaying job when prior attachment and an elusive relationship grow in between his/ her works and the reader. We, readers always portray a naïve calibre about the Author through the reads come to our way. So when we meet an Author in person it becomes quite challenging to confront him/her to match with the fictitious portrayal that we already created in our mind. But when I met Preeti Shenoy, I was too happy and inspired by her humble and down to earth characteristics. Preeti was a lady who could easily inspire anybody, too resonating and energetic when she spoke and above all too friendly who talked individually with her fans and gave her autographs to us.

The Famous Books and stationary retailers and one of the biggest uprising chain of book stores in Kolkata, Starmarks organised the launch of the Book The Secret Wish List on 26th April'13 at 6.30pm at their South City Mall book store. With a minimum of 20 audience, Author Preeti Shenoy, Fashion Designer Agnimitra Paul and anchor Arupa Lahiry, the launch event had become a booming success. I reached to the session a little late so I missed the exact moment when the book got launched. But other way lucky enough to be a part of the discussion that sprung up slowly through a question-answer dissertation. I enjoyed and loved the part when the discussion bloomed on about the Search of Identity of women and how could they achieve it. Preeti referred to homemaker's frustration and how can they too earn their Identity.  In India she referred women were mostly designated as someone's daughter or someone's wife or someone's mother.  That was one of the points that inspired Preeti to write something about the Indian woman and their daily frustration and how to cope up with it. Every woman has a dream imbedded inside her to secure a respected place for her and prove her Identity. That was what Preeti said, she wanted to portray in her latest novel The Secret Wish list, where the protagonist Diksha became from Nothing to Something. Angimitra Paul also added strong vibes how her women artisans were able to acquire their own Identity and became the proud earning members of their families.  Literally got motivated when Agnimitra Paul referred that her show stoppers for the Fashion shows were sometimes the common workers of her leading organization.
Arupa, when asked about the inspirations behind the book, Preeti shared some short anecdotes with us.  One I am sharing here:
"One lady was abandoned by her husband she was expecting that time. After some years she moved to USA with her daughter and on a snowy evening she sat with her daughter and playfully wrote 11 wishes listed down on a plain book. Before start writing the fiction Preeti talked to the lady and she informed that 9 out of those 11 wishes came true."
Talking about Diksha the Protagonist of the book did something of her own from zero to success. So Preety said that she did believe in the law of attraction what we did believe that really sometimes had come true.  Therefore at the end of her book she added an empty page which was quite a novel idea what I felt, titled it:
"What is your wish list? Go on write it down. You never know how it can change your life."
Preeti aded: "Unless and until you are writing down your wishes you are not giving a concrete shape to it".
Preeti is here launching her fourth fiction but she is already on to her fifth one. And she was characterised as a Voracious writer by Arupa. Preeti pointed out all the characters in her novel were borrowed from her own life and she had a real life experience with it.
Preeti confidently declares this book was different from her other novels and she ensured that everybody would like the book. And Arupa vouched for it when she shared her story while starting reading this book she denied visiting an invitation only because she could not leave the book in between. For her this book was absolutely a page turner and unputdownable. Arupa also wished for The Secret Wish List that may be in future it might be got screened as it has the perfect Cinematographic elements in it and Preeti wished too with her fingers crossed.
A glimpse of the Question & Answer session in between Preeti and the audience:
1.    How long you used to write?
Ans: I used to work for 8 to 10 hours a day. It took almost 8 months. 
2.    It is seen in the different part of the book you challenged the stereotypes.  Did you?
Ans: Yes I did challenge somewhere the stereotypes what I tried to illustrate in the book.
The overall experience of the event was wonderful. Preeti Shenoy herself looked very young, vibrating and enthusiastic and through her conversation she compelled us to listen to her that much confident and attitude she carried with her. Love the way Agnimitra Paul carried herself. With the minimum make up and not a single accessory on her, she is a true beauty and soft speaker too. Quite moved by the magnificent anchoring by Arupa Lahiry who is a professional dancer and studied English literature. She was well versed and swung the event giving totally a relaxed feeling creating a homely atmosphere. 


All is well when it ends well. I returned home almost flying high with pride with the exquisite joy of talking to the author in person and having her own signature in my copy of The Secret Wish List as a lifelong asset.

To know more about Preeti Shenoy visit her website and she is an avid blogger too: http://www.preetishenoy.com/


Review on The Secret Wish list will be coming shortly..




May 6, 2013

The First Kolkata Food Bloggers' Meet at Haka, City Center I, Kolkata

The Confident and Talented Kolkata Food Bloggers. Picture Courtesy: Sarani Tarafder


The day at last came when our long waited dream came true.  On 28th April'13 (Sunday), at Haka ( City Center I, Kolkata), a group of 7 out of 13 (now 15) Food Bloggers in Kolkata were able to gather in one place and spent happy 4 hours extending the discussions on knowing each other, Food talks and sharing chitchat laughs with glee. We were all attached and knew each other virtually through our Blogs and Facebook. But when we met face to face we didn't feel that we never met before in reality. All girls were too sweet and confident enough to continue any discussion at any extend. Our new family made us too proud to introduce ourselves as the Food Bloggers in Kolkata.
We shared beautifully packed tasty gifts from our food blogger friends. Mainly we enjoyed the taste of Godiva gifted by Archita and the homemade stunning cake with a heart shape inserted in it by Amrita. Gifts from anybody are always very special. But when it comes from somebody very special the gifts become a more than a gift, a relic of the special moment. We wanted to keep it forever, but the edible part of it created a different story. So we chose to better gobble it up, savour it and treasure the taste forever with us. 
Now we are also happy to announce that Kolkata has also a good number of Food Bloggers like the other cities and these talented bon vivants now will be seen often with the updates of meets in various eateries with some food updates too. So without wasting a single moment, let me introduce the Kolkata Food Bloggers:
  1. Arundhuti Rama blogs at My Saffron Kitchen
  2. Amrita Gill blogs at Sweet 'n' Savoury 
  3. Archita Chanda Ray blogs at My food My life
  4. Poorna Banerjee blogs at Presented by P 
  5. Sarani Tarafdar blogs at Cocoawind 
  6. Sanoli Ghosh blogs at  Sanoli's Kitchen     
  7. Kamalika C blogs at Silence Sings


And those who were not able to turn up on the first meet are:

  1. Sayantani Mahapatra blogs at A Homemaker's Diary
  2. Indrani Dhar blogs at Recipe Junction 
  3. Mugdha Mohanti blogs at Cooking Fundas 
  4. Radhika Harlakar blogs at The Flavor Carousel
  5. Antra Ray blogs at Antypasti 
                 6.. Chandrani Banerjee writes for Cuisine Delights (Presently out of town for a long term project)
 I would now like to give a short review on the restaurant where our meet took place:


Restaurant Review on Haka, City Center I, Kolkata:

Cuisine: Chinese
Ambiance: 3/5

Food: 2.5/5
Service: 3/5
Price: 345/- + Tax (weekend buffet price)
Our Meet took place on Sunday and the restaurant opens at 12.30pm on weekends. We, few of the early birds reached before 12.30 pm and waited till the gate got opened. The ambiance was OK. Like other Chinese restaurants it's been decorated with the  Feng Shui stuffs and red dominated chairs and tables.  We chose the option to go for buffet. The Starter options were limited in to two veg and one non-veg dish. The taste of the starters were not up to the mark. The red chili fried chicken was mostly found with bones and tendons rather than flesh but the taste was good. The main course spread was also welcomed with limited options. Again the taste was not very good but nice. And the dessert I preferred not to go for any as they didn't enrich my taste buds much. When we ordered for Sweet lime we were served the cooler in room temperature and had to add ice separately to chill it.  The waiters were quite strange too. We kept on calling them in thought that they didn't get us. But they prompted their services without any fail what we asked for without a single gesture of letting us know of their acknowledgement. But what we noticed that as the hours increased the restaurant got too crowded and yes couples, families, groups, everyone was enjoying the place. Even we were informed by friends who had tasted Haka earlier that the taste of a-la-carte was much better than the buffet one. But yes Haka is the cheapest Chinese buffet till now in my visiting list. The overall experience was satisfactory, but couldn't mark it good.

Picture Courtesy: Sarani Tarafdar.