Fillets of Plaice by Gerald Durrell

It is a memoir written by Gerald Durrell in his classic style. It consists of five tales from all together different times in his life. The first one is the most hilarious where he writes about the Birthday celebration of his mother. The readers who are well acquainted with his whimsically family will connect from the very beginning, embark on a two day journey for the celebration with his family and a few close friends.

The other stories are about the job he picks up while the family is back in London, his experiences while he is in Africa collecting animals. In the next tale he talks about his medical ailment and gives a funny account of how the doctors treat him. The last one is about a girl with whom he falls in love and it becomes a challenge because Ursula, the girl in question is even more weird than his family.

Though the author has tried to give a hilarious accounts in the tales but there is something amiss. I personally feel that the second tale can be enjoyed by only animal lovers. And it is dull as compared to the other stories.

Without going into further details I would like to mention that think before dishing out about 630/-. I am glad that I took the decision to read it on Kindle (which I usually detest) by paying a paltry sum of 105/- for an author like Gerald Durrell.

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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

I ordered this novel because it was highly recommended on various reading groups. Moreover, I had not read anything on the Russian way of living.

When I took off, the pace was slow, the book was fat, the font too small and I was short of time. I detested my purchase but there was something about the novel which did not let me part with it. And I am glad that I stuck to it for nearly 2 months else I would have missed a beautiful piece of writing.

I stuck to it because the novel had a charm to it. Even though I had never read anything on Russian history or their lifestyle, this novel never made me feel like a bystander. I was involved with the lives of the characters from the word ‘go’.

The heart warming subtle satire interspersed in the text was another reason why I clung onto it. Also, the characters in the novel became closer to my heart with each page, especially Count Alexander Rostov, recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew – member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt. He is ‘the Gentleman in Moscow’ – the central character of the novel.

He is the most endearing character who doesn’t loose his wit, charm and poise in the face of adversity. While Russia goes through tumultous upheaval, the Count is confined (sentenced) to life in the Hotel Metropol. He is uprooted from his soil and forced to live in an attic room of the most luxurious hotels where he had earlier resided in the most exquisitely decorated room – Suite 317.

Without getting into the nitty-gritties of the life of the Count, I would like to mention about the writing style of the author. Amor Towles not only has eye for detail but also has the perfect words to describe things, situations or characters. I must admire his knowledge about wines, lifestyles, attires, orchestras, architectural styles, the decor of room, the seasons, the crops, literature, arts, and just about everything! He describes them them with passion and at leisure. I noticed an entirely different perspective about everything through his eyes.

His rich philosophical views about life have been well embeded in the narration. The reader gets to introspect every once in a while moving through the labyrinth of life with the characters. The reader is kept engrossed with the turn of events and the people who stay in the Metropol. A few return after regular intervals but the others pay a visit to give a twist to the story. Though the enchanting tale is narrated at slow pace, there is never a dull moment.

Whatever I might write in praise of the novel but I will not be able to do justice to it. It has left a wonderful-everlasting impression on me.

A superb read!!

The exquisite pin and thread cards

Here’s a craft I picked up thanks to my father’s passion for indulging himself in craft activities in his spare time. He used to make ‘Nail and Thread’ wall-hangings. He couldn’t stop at 1, 2 or 3!!. When we had enough for our own house, my father made a few more wall-hangings and gifted them to his near and dear ones. When I was old enough for ‘Nail and Thread’, we had no space left to display them. So, I was forced to find an alternative.

Intricate and detailed work – that’s my forte. So I choose greeting cards to carry on this legacy. There was shift from ‘Nail and Thread’ to ‘Pin and Thread’.

Under my father’s guidance I could design the most exquisite patterns for greeting cards. With precision, a needle and a thread…and a few drops of adhesive – I made these exclusive cards. I was no less than a conjurer, who could produce curves with straight lines.

I’ll write no further. It’s time for you enjoy the exclusive art on the greeting cards…

The planning, the graphs
The tools
From the graph to the finished greeting card…
Going in circles.
A reminder of Pyramids
A few more patterns…
Sail to new horizons…and take on the world
The ever charming Lotus
My most treasured possession

So, did you like these pieces of art? Aren’t they exquisite?

Looking at life through a kaleidoscope!

Life is a like a kaleidoscope of colours: beautiful, unexpected, intricate!

The Wise man

Every once in a while, life seems to be colourful, symmetrical and amusing; it’s like looking through the tiny eye-hole of the kaleidoscope. It is just like the vibrant and symmetrical patterns made by the shards of colourful glass and translucent bits of paper in the cylindrical tube of the kaleidoscope.

The one who looks at it from the small eye-hole, gets fascinated and unknowingly tends to envy the flawless beauty. But the onlooker forgets or sometimes is so naive to realise that the intricate patterns, the symmetry, is merely the interplay of the mirrors that have been installed in the kaleidoscope to give a sense of completeness and beauty to the broken pieces of glass and bits of paper.

In today’s world, the pretty pictures that showcase our lives on social media do the same. For the onlooker it is like peering through the eye-hole of the kaleidoscope. The mirrors of the kaleidoscope are replaced by ‘filters’. It is the interplay of these filters that eventually produces a detailed, aesthetically appealing picture. The picture becomes a source of envy. The audience fails to realise that the beauty is the handiwork of these filters. The life in reality is like the shards of glass: though colourful, but in pieces and strewn across the myriad canvas of life – held together reluctantly by societal norms. Isn’t it? The society provides it a structure, an empty space to gather the pieces of life. Though some may rebel but ultimately they have no option but to stick around.

While peering through the kaleidoscope, we forget that by just a twist of the hand…the whole picture changes. Yes, life can change with a slight twist and along with it changes the destiny. The new pattern configured by the kaleidoscope is equally enthralling but there is a total disconnect from the previous pattern. How much ever you rotate the tube of the kaleidoscope…you can never get the previous pattern. The change is permanent!

Likewise in our lives, we encounter a slight twist and everything changes. There are no remnants of the previous life. Yet, as the shards in the kaleidoscope are the same, the people and places in our lives are the same. Some move away, some come closer, some take occupy a bigger space, a more important role in our lives and the rest maintain a distance throughout our lives. The arrangement changes and so does the picture. But like I said, the shards remain the same. Our future remains connected to the past. Only the pieces rearrange. You never know when you would bump into someone from the past. No wonder, the sages preached about living in in harmony with the people around.

Whether the new arrangement is better, much more beautiful or disappointing; it depends on the person peering through the eye-hole. Everyone has their own perceptions. Each one of us receives change in a different way. The new pattern that you see, seems to be designed with utmost care. Like the previous one, it is complete, symmetrical and though not astonishingly beautiful, you begin to live with it, accept it and enjoy it. The keyword is ‘accept it’, hai na!?!

One of the hardest lessons in life is ‘letting go’. Whether it is guilt, love, anger, loss, etc. Change is never easy, you fight to hold on, and you fight to let go….!

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The colourful pieces of glass and paper, the positioning of the mirrors, the symmetrical-vivid patterns: they can bring out the magic of the kaleidoscope, right? Nah, we can’t enjoy this magic without the glint of light! The kaleidoscope has to be held against a source of light to unfurl the magic. Likewise, we need direction and a source of energy so that we are not left rudderless in this world. The source could be ‘that’ one person, the Guru, the Almighty or the divine!

And then when all is settled…again…the slight twist of the hand…the rearrangement of the shards…the interplay of mirrors…the formation of the new pattern…with the same shards…and life goes on unabated!!

Twigs, fallen leaves and crafty me!

I am sure most of you are aware of my love for trees!

I like the big ones and the small ones too.

I adore the ones with the large leaves and the ones that spread their branches far and wide.

I love the ones with fresh, soft new leaves and the ones with the mature, sturdy leaves.

I enjoy the sight of flowering trees and the ones with huge leaves.

I am happy to find a tree that I can climb or a tree that I can embrace!

And I love the towering trees and the fallen ones too!

The fallen twigs challenge the creative streak in me. I rack my brains for ideas that can retain the beauty and originality of the tree and at the same time give it a new look that personifies its elegance.

Presenting here are few projects I did with twigs and leaves…

A bunch of coloured twigs to catch your eye!
Retaining the charm while giving them a new look
Colour me blue-green-red-yellow
Fallen leaves embroidered together.

My first car, my first love!

Today is the time to bid farewell to MY A-Star. It was my first car. It was the car that gave me wings. It was the car that gave me my identity.

I went through the most tumultuous time soon after I bought this car. And the car had to take the brunt. I banged it a few times (yes, I accept it. It i s bound to happen when you are devastated) and other times people became the reason for all the dents it bore. The worst was when the rear tyre burst in-the-middle-of-the-road-atop-a-busy-bridge and to add to my agony I wasn’t even carrying my phone. My daughter and me, we were luckily saved and our faith in humanity strengthened because many people stopped by to help us.

As I started picking the threads of my life and regained my confidence, this car helped to venture out, take the National Highways and head to the new destinations without any inhibitions. I drove down from Gurgaon to Meerut and later to Haridwar and Rishikesh and many more places. Rewari, was now as close as my neighbouring market.

It was also the ‘place’ where me and and my daughter shared the quality time while commuting to and fro from the school. While going to the school, it was time to play her choice of songs and on the way back I was allowed to play my favourite . The back seat was invariably strewn with our stuff. That always reminded me of someone’s words, “the back seat is complimentary…so dump your stuff! You won’t be charged extra!!”

Eventually I shifted to Gurgaon and the car gave a reason to bond with the other family members as I ferried them. I would volunteer to drive then around so that I could leave my baggage home and feel free! Like I said…the car gave me wings!! It set me free!!

The pick up of A-Star was amazing for its size. So, I ended up taking all the ‘pangs’ in the world. I could easily steer it in the narrowest of bylanes. Also, driving it at high speeds on NH8 was always exhilarating!! During the monsoon, I drove through every puddle, every pool of water splashing it all around. My daugther would sit with her fingers crossed whenever I drove it through knee deep water.

Memories, memories and memories…associated with MY A-Star! Though I have been driving another car since 4 years but I guess your first car is like your first love…there’s no substitute to the first car!!

Will miss my A-Star…the chota ‘dynamite’…just like meeee!!