Missing Varrun by Amar Agarwala


Format:  Paperback
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd
No. of Pages: 326



Genre: Fiction

On reading this book, i realized it was all about the beautiful connection between a husband and his wife, a father and his daughter; a father and his son; and a grandfather and his grandson…. it was all about Bridging the distance… Reconnecting with people who mean a lot and about a family that is living in different parts of the world and their stories…. !! 
The book opens with  the protagonist waiting to meet his wife Amaya on her last day at the school. The story then goes towards the home she has created in Ceuta and her circle of friends and family and ofcourse him… 
He hails from Bengal, lives with his mother but through a mysterious act of fate meets this charming Spanish girl, falls in love with her and makes her his wife.. Their love goes beyond religion, nationality, lifestyle and so much more, which is what brings them together and keeps them apart…As their marrried life progresses, they pick up a small flat where they move to, stretching the little money he makes, while she goes on to look for opportunities. And one such lands on her lap, albeit it is in Spain… He agrees, she goes back to her hometown with their 2 children and he visits once a year to spend time with them. Yes, they live apart pretty much through the year…
Living alone, he gives up their apartment, moves back in with his mom and continues to pass each day….    The story weaves beautifully between the dusty lanes of Kolkata and the scenic sites of Spain… The big farewell get together they have at home the day Amaya retires, the way the entire family comes together, their love, connections… As days progress, Amaya tells her husband she wants to return to India with him, and she is sure of her decision… He hesitates, but relents… No sooner does the couple get back together that destiny plays a evil game and Amaya passes away, leaving him alone once again… 
He returns to Kolkata, gets on with his life, all the while missing his wife and his kids and grandson Varrun… The skype calls, the emails and chats continue and so does their life… he reminisces of the children growing up in Kolkata, his son’s best friend who is a reason for him to visit once again[for her treatment] and their chauffeur, who has been around forever, who was at Amaya’s beck and call..
Amar has woven a beautiful tale via this book, he has managed to capture the emotions and turmoil that people go through when relationships are broken, the difficulties in a long distance relationship and that of a yearning man who wants to reach out to his family but is dealing with life…. Its a good read, and am sure looking forward to Amar’s next book…

Mayakkam Enna

So, it was weekend and we were looking at the movies that had been released to see what we could catch… Since my Saturday was packed, we decided to hunt for tickets for Mayakkam enna for sunday…. The only theater that had tickets was AGS, Navalur OMR.. “What the heck, lets go check it out” we said in unison and i went on to book the tickets!!

The ride from Nungambakkam to Navalur took about 40mins, the theater complex is beyond Sathyabama College and Asiana Hotel… It sits majestic but only on entering did we realise it was barren [ empty…] but for the 5th floor with movie screens and the floor below- meant for Food court with 3 outlets..! The theater was huge, but the crowd was a very local crowd.. Infact two guys who came and plonked in seats behind us were DRUNK and belting out all the choicest colourful Tamil swear words!!

We sat back, sipped on our drinks and hoped the movie was worth the drive…..

Starring: Dhanush, Richa, Sundar Ramu and a whole host of others i have never seen before!!
Director: Selvaraghavan

Selvaraghavan and Dhanush have come together to release a movie that is all about a young boy finding his dreams and the hurdles he has to overcome and the people who stand by him through the ardeous journey…. Just that i get the feel Selvaraghavan has this streak in him to mess with people’s head along the story….

The Story-Karthik Swaminathan (Dhanush) is a young boy who is passionate about photography, living his life on his own terms.. His friends call him “genius” and pretty much all they did through the movie was sit around drinking and bad mouthing others…. The same happens when Sundar brings his new girlfriend Yamini [Richa] who is met with sneers and flurry of not so pleasing words!

Anyways, back to the plot, Karthik works hard, takes photographs of just about everything that catches his eye, but it fails to give him a break.. He works hard and wants to leave a mark as a photographer.  Though he does portfolio and weddings assignments, his passion is wildlife photography.

Even though their 1st meeting was bitter, for some reason Yamini is drawn to Karthik and tries getting close to him, going on to tell him she loves him and not Sunder..  After quite a bite of drama between the friends, Karthik & Yamini get married. Karthik one day goes to meet a renowned photographer Mathesh Krishnamoorthy [Ravi Prakash], who gives him a project to prove his worth.. Alas, Mathesh kicks Karthik out saying his photographs were crap, but then one day Yamini asks Karthik to pick up the National Geographic magazine in which his very photograph is published but with credit to Mathesh.. This drives Karthik over the edge, he falls down, and becomes mentally unstable- an angry violent drunk young man!!

Yamini sticks with him no matter what, sends out his photographs to every magazine and publication in hope of getting him a break…. Which eventually happens via the Kumudam magazine at an ad agency… 

In between, there is a lot of drama between the couple, the scenes that had me wondering what is up with Selvaraghavan, why does he want to mess with our heads like this? show some gruesome scenes[ a miscarriage, blood stains on the floor] and sights….. But i guess that is the turning point in the movie where even though there is a rift between the young couple, there is a breakthrough in Karthik’s life and he goes on to reach great heights….

The movie is painfully slow, very dark [literally- no lighting] in many scenes and sometimes you wonder where the fastforward button is… But one thing for sure, the movie is packed with emotions and drama… 

I loved the locations and cinematography wherever there were scenes with Danush heading off for a photo shoot… The lighting, settings were lovely in those locations!!

But there were some scenes, little things that had me wondering “Why oh why… what do the directors think when they are making the movie….” Do all movie makers assume Audiences are stupid, or that they dont notice these small nuances?

  • The maple leaves falling in the forest…. 
  • A Cormorant posing for Danush in the middle of a forest 
  • The mystery behind what happens to the cars? [in the scene where Danush goes to pick up Yamini who is stranded with a car breakdown in a bus stop and then he runs away the minute they kiss which is interruped by a call from Sundar]

Newcomer Richa has done a good job of being this “stiff upper lip, i have an attitude” kinda girl…. Danush has acted well, essayed the role to perfection i would say…. but this is not a movie for all…

If you enjoy movie about Friends
If you like Danush…
If you have been humming the songs from the movie..
If you enjoy watching people sit around drinking for hours
And if you are prepared for selvaraghavan’s style… Go watch Mayakkam Enna!! else, give it a miss!!

Ides of March


Starring– George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei
Directed by – George Clooney

Trivia on ides of March :-

The Ides of March (Latin: Idus Martiae) is the name of the 15th day of March in the Roman calendar, probably referring to the day of the full moon

In modern times, the term Ides of March is best known as the date on which Julius Caesar was killed in 44 B.C. Caesar was stabbed (23 times) to death in the Roman Senate by a group of conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus.



The Movie

The Ides of March takes place during the frantic last days before a heavily contested Ohio presidential primary, when an up-and-coming campaign press secretary (Ryan Gosling) finds himself involved in a political scandal that threatens to upend his candidate’s shot at the presidency.

The movie is a thriller that is centered around the political campaign of Mike Morris [George Clooney], the Pennsylvania governor who is also  a Democrat eyeing the President post. Before he can go on to acquiring the President’s seat, he needs to win the Ohio elections, where it is evident he needs the support of the influential Senator Thompson (Wright).

The campaign is managed by veteran Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the younger smart Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling). Thompson, the senator seems to be leaning towards Morris’ rival Senator Ted Pullman, whose campaign is managed by Tom Duffy (Giamatti).

. Though Paul agrees that Duffy has the “brains”, Paul continues to  maintain that he has the “balls” along with the brains, which is Stephen.  Stephen does what he believes in, unlike Paul who will do anything to WIN… As the campaign progresses, one fine day Duffy invites Stephen for a meeting and offers him a job, which is where the twist in the movie takes place. And before Stephen could share news of this meet with Paul, the story hungry reporter Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei) threatens to publish news of the meet about Stephen consorting with Duffy, which he rebukes in return getting blackmailed by Ida to squeal something from the inside…  
 
Stephen gets close to Molly, an intern with their campaign office, eventually discovering a deep dark dirty secret related to Morris… This however does not end well, Molly dies and Stephen then takes this opportunity to corner Morris… 

The Ides of March  is a movie that is slow, but yet paced well.. Every scene has been thought through, every dialogue delivered after much planning…. Each of the cast has done a commendable job, keeping their emotions in check, delivering crisp dialogues and emotions…

George Clooney has held the role of Governor Mike Morris, a politician with a drive to win beautifully.. The interview on TV where he talks about banning death penalty and yet when asked about how he would react if someone attacked/misbehaved with his wife, without batting an eyelid he replies he would avenge her dead and go to jail…  

Ryan Gosling has proved he can take on versatile roles and deliver them with finesse. I recently saw 2 other movies of his- Drive and CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE….  
The movie is based on a stage play, Farragut North by Beau Willimon,  George Clooney and his co-writers Grant Heslov & Willimon (who  had infact spent quite a bit of time working for Hillary Clinton) have beautifully crafted the movie, where the main role has been essayed with ease by Clooney…  

Ides of March Trailer… 

Pazham Pori [Banana Fritters]

“Try some Pazham pori”, she said bringing in a plate of what looked like Hot fritters.. It had a light golden colour on it and aroma wafting along the way was divine…. 
I bit into it cautiously aware of how hot it was and i went “Mmmmm”.. It was sweet, but not overpoweringfly sweet, it was soft, but not mushy soft, it was yumm… All i missed was a scoop of Vanilla Ice cream, and ta da, before i knew it there was a scoop of ice cream on the table… This is what i call sinful…. 
It has been quite a few years, but still the memory lingers on…  The last time i had these was during the houseboat ride in Coir village Resort near Allepey in Kerala, during the holiday a couple of high school girl friends took 🙂 [yes, it was yours truly travelling with her 3 BFF]
When i asked the guy at the resort how he made it, this is what he had to say….  [this is in case you dont have any friends from Kerala or Mallu land ;o) ]
What you need
Giving measurements for 4 bananas!!

Ripe Nendram Banana –  4

Maida- 1 1/2 cup
Sugar – 1 tbsp (depending on the sweetness of the banana)
Salt – a pinch (optional)
Water- Enough to mix the flour in…
Oil – for frying

How to do it..

1. Mix the maida with water, salt and sugr to make a nice thick paste… [almost like Dosa batter consistency]
2. Cut the Bananas length wise into long strips… [2 slices off a banana]
3. Place a pan on the stove and add the necessary amount of oil, bring it to a good temperature [whatever is best suited for frying]
4. Dip the banana in the batter and fry till light golden brown
You can eat this as it is or with ice cream or chocolate sauce…. Bon Appetit!!

Skywatch Friday.. Sailing along the Backwaters

The silent waters glistened against the setting sun, adding to the lovely mood of the evening. We were enjoying the ride along the backwaters in Allepey, and it was very evident that the 2yr old in our midst was not the only one excited and high… 
The 3 hour long house boat ride was the highlight of the trip, where we got the opportunity to steer the boat, watch people go about their daily routine on a tiny boat, while many others were seen travelling with their cycles on these boats. Step out of the houses and you were on the shore of these back waters. Wow, what their lives must be like was the only thought running in our heads. As the sun began to go down, we had nearly reached the point that was an indication to do a U turn and head back to our resort. 
The hot bhajjis, tea, and pazham pori [banana-Nendram pazham fritters] that the resort guys had packed along for the ride were sinful. As the boat sailed along the smooth waters, we saw the sun set and the beautiful reflection in the water… There were bunches of water plants floating about, adding to the magic of the experience… relaxed and content, we lost ourselves in the serene surroundings….
For more beautiful skies, visit Skywatch Friday

TiE lessons- Suresh Krishna, Sundaram Fasteners

1.Make the wise Choice of serving customers who will be unforgiving.  They will eventually help you build great products and services, ergo grow.

2.In the history of TVS, there has been NO strikes!. The secret- messages and information and communication must go directly from top to bottom without any filtering

3.Delegate with vengeance, people will definitely make mistakes, but
remember that is what helps them to learn and discover themselves

4.The Karma of an entrepreneur is to help the people they are associated with realize their full potential, give them the boost they need and help them reach greater heights.. 

5. Remember to Communicate sincerely and directly to all your
employees with only true facts. This will go a long way as it helps
build trust.

 6.Give the employees a sense of belonging !

Azulia GRT, Chennai

 ‘Marhaba Ma’am were the 1st words i heard as i hopped off the elevator and walked through the door into Azulia… This is the Greek/Mediterranean Restaurant in GRT, T Nagar. I have visited Copper Point in the ground floor numerous times, but this was the 1st time i was at Azulia.
 The grand entrance…. 
 The ambiance seemed like it had come out from  a movie based in Egypt or Turkey, there were beautiful light fittings and so were the other pieces on the walls. After being shown to our table, Chef Ethem Aydemir came over to say hellow and give us a brief into the cuisine and the dishes he served at the restaurant. Following this, we also got a bit of insight from the Restaurant Manager Ricardo and PR man Marc. The menu card, is more like a coffee table book, so elaborate- filled with pictures from the 10 countries [They serve the cuisines from Egypt, France, Italy, Morocco, Greek among others] spread across the elaborate menu, with nearly 160 dishes- from Soup, starters to desserts. 
 The arrangement in the table- bottle of water, olive oil+balsamic vinegar and the pepper mill which had light at the bottom 
Lost between the pages, we decided to give the task of choosing dishes to the Chef and we were not disappointed. I have had Lebanese/Greek/Arabic food earlier, and so i was prepared for what was being brought to our table.  The waiters and waitresses quietly went about putting an Apron on each of us, going with the custom of savouring this particular cuisine with ones hands. [Wish i had taken a picture in the Apron, felt like i was on Masterchef ;o)] 

The Turkish magic- a small pill when water is poured expands to a hand towel..
The lunch opened with the Cold Mezze platter- Pita bread, Hummu [Chick peas], Mutabal [Babaganoush-made with Brinjal, sesame paste, garlic and olive oil], Tzatziki [thick yoghurt with cucumber, onion and herbs] ,Tashi[ sesame paste dip].. followed by a plate of Dolmades ..

Before we were done sampling these, an array of Hot Mezze dishes made their way to our table- Falafel [chick peas, broad beans, red pepper, dill, coriander, garlic & chilies, served with  tartar Sauce],  Bourak Bel Jibneh [Cigar like rolls with 3 different kinds of cheeses that was simply sinful],  Fatayer [a kind of samosa with Spinach and pomegranate sauce filling ],  Kebbe Laktine  [a dish made with broken wheat yellow pumpkin and herbs]   


 Amidst flowing conversation, the food kept flowing to our table… The non veg gang got quite a colourful mix of dishes.. Castalata [Lamb chops] ,Fillet de poivre, Poisson a L’Estragon [Fish], Cannelloni al a Bolognaise, Yoghurtlu Kebab, Beef Steak and ofcourse the Chef’s creation prawn marrakech with gnocchi.…  
Lamb chops i heard was not cooked to perfection, and the gnocchi wasnt too great either, but i saw the others polish off their plates… 🙂
We, the vegetarians got some interesting main courses -Risotto Tortufo fungi[rich risotto cooked with mushrooms] &Pasta Genovese Verde [mine with Asparagas and artichoke, while Nishanth’s had sauce and looked different]… Along came the thin crust pizza loaded with vegetables- Olives, tomatoes, onions,mushrooms, liberally drizzled exotic herbs and olive oil, cheese and few mint leaves. The base used on the pizza was the authentic Arabic spice mix- Sumac & Oregano].

Before we could blink, it was time to wrap up the meal, but not before biting into the 3 desserts that were laid out on the table… The Chef was gracious enough to send out platters filled with the desserts- Baklava dripping with sugar syrup, Gateaux Fromage [Orange flavoured cheesecake] and Hot Soufflé [which was almost like a lava cake].   The Baklava was good, but it was a tad too sweet, while the Hot Souffle was oozing with Chocolate and the Cheese cake had a strong Orange Flavour to it…

 

Subsequent to the lavish meal, we were given a tour of the kitchen and sneak peek into the various Spices, oil and flavours used in Mediterranean cuisine… There we were, a bunch of “educated in Mediterranean cuisine and their culture”… As we bid adieu to the staff and Chef, we were each handed a bag with an Apron and a little box with a Turkish Evil eye .. 
 What are you waiting for? Head over here if you wanna experience the Mediterranean in Chennai…. 
Food– 3/5
Ambiance– 4/5
Service– cant really rate it because it was a review meet! 
Price– Looking at the menu, it looks like a meal of 3-4 courses for a couple will work out to Rs3000 – 4000/- 
Address:
GRT Grand
120, Sir Thyagaraya Road,
T. Nagar, Chennai – 600 017
Tamil Nadu, India
Phone: +91-44 2815 0500 / 5500
reservations@grtgrand.com 

Shiraz Cafe, ECR, Chennai

Text from friend – Have you been to Moonrakers?
Me: yes, ages ago with you! 
Friend: Ah, would you wanna go again, this time with P in tow[her nearly 3yr old adorable brat]?

Me: yayy, lets go! 

I was at her house by 5.30, we were packed and ready to scoot by 5.45.. And as we wove around the city traffic, we caught up on “life this week” and during the conversation somehow chat steered towards Shiraz cafe and that i had not visited the place. We drove down till Mahabs, did a U turn and drove into the lane that houses the Cholamanadalam Artists village. 
I had visited the village with uncle aunt and cousin nearly a year ago, but the cafe was shut then. Last nite we parked near the Cafe entrance, and made a beeline for one of the comfy looking sofas inside. There was plenty of outdoor seating as welll, but it was dark and my friend preferred being in a lit place, esp with the little one running around… 
Shiraz Cafe is an Iranian Cafe where they serve up quite a range of Arabic,Greek, Lebanese- Middle eastern and Iranian food. 
The café is run by Farhad and Nasrin  – a charming & friendly couple who hail from Iran, but have been in India for over 30years. Farhad mentioned that he took care of the art workshop  while Nasrin manages/cooks/plays the role off the perfect hostess at the cafe.
The bright yellow wall paper with the mosaic like patterns, the cute little tea pots, the vibrant red flowers in the vase, shelves laden with crockery, amidst which i spotted a tea pot, and right on top was  a toy Motorbike… and ofcourse the music flowing in the back ground was just the perfect mood and setting. There was a huge table with a glass top that had engravings of patterns in vivid colours, while mirror with adornments were found on the walls, each of which reflected the love for art and colours the couple had.. Not to forget the cute doggie- Topoli, that curled up and slept like a baby against the wall under a table.

As we walked in, we were greeted with star shaped cookies that just melted in our mouth. We were also offered a Granita kind of a drink made with Pink Guava, Barley water and Tulsi Seeds. It was such a refreshing drink…   


Nasrin told us they close at 8pm these days, and asked if we wanted to have dinner there [a fixed menu of veg food]… 
1st course was a thick creamy soup that was quite filling- i could taste onion, garlic, herbs, yoghurt and few other mysterious yet tasty ingredients.. Pita bread and hummus followed next, except here the Pita bread was toasted and looked like Nachos.. The Hummus was rich and quite delicious… 

 The Soup
As we chatted with some of the other guests, the waiter brought out our meal in cute little bowls- There were 3 kinds of rice- Sprouts and Candied orange peel rice; Dill rice; and plain rice. It was served along with quite an array of side dishes Black Dal curry; Potato peas and paneer curry and there was a brinjal dish[which neither of us liked much]. And then came the sinful Tzatziki of sorts- rich fresh yoghurt with Cucumber and herbs… 
It was a sinful delicious meal.. The food was just perfect, the gravies were not filled with masala or oil… 
We ended the meal with a taste of the Apple Cake and Marble chocolate cake and then a cup of hot Iranian Tea [mint, sugar, and lemon].. I actually asked Nasrin if the Tea had honey, but she sweetly smiled and said “no, it is the mix of Mint and sugar that gives it the richness, many ask me if it is honey, and i could simply lie and say yes, but i dont… am glad you like it..”

The meal for two costed us Rs735 [Rs700 +Tax-Rs35] which i thought was quite reasonable considering the spread they had served us. Apparently their Sunday buffet is a Must visit!! 
It is the ideal place to go chill, have some good food, enjoy music, or maybe a stroll after the meal around the village, down to the beach…. 


Ambiance- 4.5/5
Food- 4/5
Price- 4/5
Service 4/5
Overall Experience- 4.75/5
Timings:
Shiraz is open from 11am to 8p.m through the week. Sunday brunch costs Rs. 400 per head. 
Call Nasrin on 98405 72126 for reservations.
Address:
+91 9840572126
Inside Cholamandalam Artist’s Village, Injambakkam, East Coast Road, Chennai 

Directions:
As you head down ECR, drive past VGP and keep an eye out for FOOD WORLD store on the left.. This is about 1km ahead of the ECR Toll booth.. Once you see Food world, turn left into the narrow path and drive straight down. You will see Cholamandal Artists village board on the main road and inside the lane as well. There is a seperate entrance to the Cafe, a small gate…