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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Aravind Balasubramanya's 'Capturing Divinity' released today

It's a divine "incidence" and not a "co-incidence" that on the very day that I have finished reading Aravind Balasubramanya's book, "Memoirs of a Sai Student" THRICE, I get an email from Brother Aravind, sharing details of the book release of the sequel titled, "Capturing Divinity." 



I am so happy to know this because I enjoyed reading Aravind's earlier book. He writes with sincerity and a great sense of humor. The way he writes captivates your heart because he goes into the tiny details of Swami's personality and his own and does a fantastic 'Bhakti-mapping' too! 

"Capturing Divinity"  has been released and can be bought from the Sathya Sai Bookstore. The ebook will be arriving very soon.

You can also write to orders@sssbpt.org to order your copies.. If any queries, please write to enquiry@sssbpt.org

Monday, November 3, 2014

3 Posts on the Awesome Power of Staying HAPPY!

Here’s a fantastic round-up of the three HAPPY blog posts I read. You could try looking at it too. Go ahead, give it a shot!

Don’t POSTPONE joy

There’s something about being happy that makes all of us happy. I mean, come on, do you honestly enjoy seeing anyone suffer? We want the world to be a happy place, don’t we? We all want to lead happy lives. Do read: 5 Exceptional Posts that will motivate you today 

                                                           [Image Credit: Unsplash]

This post from Helen McKay, who says, “Don't postpone joy” makes sense. Her wise words also say, “I believe happiness is about appreciating small things and simple experiences: the kind of things that leave lasting, enjoyable memories. Our lives are full of joyful experiences, yet many folk don’t value them, as they should. So often, people put off the things that will make them happy, until they have achieved a set goal; but then – having reached that goal – there is always another reason why they cannot enjoy a state of bliss. Procrastination is a bad habit. Whatever you want to do in life, do it now – don’t procrastinate and put off starting. Between your dream and the fulfilment of it, life lies waiting.” Read the full blogpost here.  

It's not easy to let go of one's marriage and revert to living single again. Here's a from-the-heart perspective from a writer about how tough it is to be living alone. Lorna writes, "I still care, I still want him to be happy. But the truth is, I haven't even bought a mop yet. What does a mop have to do with moving on? Let me explain."  She says, "It's time to break it down to small, manageable chunks, be gentle with myself and begin with the last stage of moving on."

Fed up with crabby relationships? It’s no big deal! I  really enjoyed reading Anisa Virji’s blog post on how to release yourself from crabby relationships. She sums it up well, “Releasing yourself from such crabby relationships can have a wonderful effect on your well-being and the quality of your life.” I can SO connect to that!

In life, the sweet moments truly count! When you look back at your life, it’s those moments that flash back. So, here’s a thoroughly tempting post to sweeten this festive season – delicious desserts from across the world which aren't typically served in our homes!  

                                                  [Image Credit: Unsplash]

And if you're reading this post, clearly you're thinking about your happiness quotient in life. So, what makes you happy? Draw up a list. Go for it!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Breast Cancer: 7 facts you need to know about how to protect your breasts

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As this is a cause I feel strongly committed to, I decided it’s time to pitch in and write about it. From the moment I wake up, there is so little time to reflect on anything. But after talking to many women - those who are working in offices and those who are at home, one thing is clear: women get no rest or "Me" time. It is your life, your body and your happiness. Make time for your health no matter what.

                                                 [Image Credit: Unsplash]

Breast Cancer: Early Detection, Exercise and Detecting Breast Density   
Here are seven facts you need to know about your breasts – and what you can do to protect them [Source: Prevention Magazine, October 2014]

  1. Doctors say that early detection of breast cancer can improve the chances of survival by a whopping 99%. Start yearly breast check ups and mammograms. It is not enough to get cleared. Remember to follow up with your doctor on a regular basis.
2. This is one of the newest recommendations from oncologists: Find out how dense your breasts are. How do you find out? Ask the radiologist who is taking your mammogram to check your breast density. If the density is low, follow up regularly. If it’s high, consult your doctor at once.

3. Exercise alters oestrogen metabolism and lowers a woman’s breast cancer risk. To protect yourself from breast cancer and all cancers, doctors recommend 30 minutes of exercise for five days a week.   

4. Women who consistently breast-feed for the first six months have a reduced 10% risk of death from cancer. Why? Breast feeding lowers the levels of oestrogen and progestin in a woman’s blood and increases the level of oxytocin. After a substantial period of breast feeding – 6 months to one year – the hormones together reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer. 

5. Harvard researchers found that women who had the highest cartenoid levels in their blood had a 19% lower risk of blood cancer than those with the lowest levels. You can find cartenoids in fruits and vegetables such as carrots, leafy greens and red bell peppers.

6. According to Ayurveda, turmeric has many medicinal benefits. Recent studies show that its key compound curcumin can kill cancer cells. So, add more of this powerful spice to your daily meals. 

7.  Surround yourself with positive energy or practice being quiet so that you can listen to your inner self. Find ways to improve whatever you like to do. Show love to yourself more than before. Find joy in little things – a walk in the park, singing a song you love, being with the people who care about you and don’t make you feel bad about yourself. 

If you are contemplating breast cancer treatment, check my earlier post on 'How to choose your doctor and get your body confidence back.'

Don’t let cancer make you bitter. Make it a learning experience to feel better, wise and happier. [Medical inputs: Prevention Magazine October 2014] 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lots of Travel, Lots of Fun

The unexpected is always more fun.

Lots of travel in 2014 - this is not something I had expected because of the water tight, hectic schedule that is a part of my life. Like a bolt from the blue, travel simply happened...just like that. And the best part of my trip to Sydney is that I am getting lots of time to spend and enjoy with my nephew Vihaan, whom I have just seen fleetingly across the last few years. This isn't a guilt trip. It's an unexpected gift from God, bringing me lots of happiness and love. Thank you, God and dear Angels.

And I am loving every minute, as if it's a delicious feast to savor.



Saturday, September 20, 2014

Daawat-e-Ishq review: Aditya Roy Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra showcase memorable moments in this Love-Dhokha Story

Daawat-e-Ishq is not about a love story that revolves around food. It is about Love and Dhokha. It is about a young girl's 'daring to dream' story. Are you ready for this?



Daawat-e-Ishq: Love, Dowry and Dhokha

The opening scene in Daawat-e-Ishq takes you straight into a ‘bride seeing’ ceremony in Hyderabad. The boy’s mother looks her nose down at everything offered. It’s the typical “no girl is ever good enough for my son” scene that is shown.  The prospective bride is Gulrez Khadir (starring Parineeti), who is a sales girl in a shoe shop. She has many dreams: of going to the US to study fashion design, of designing her own shoes and opening a shoe shop….yes, she is street smart, ambitious, full of amazing energy and she has a “weak spot for men who speak English well.” So, when the boy and girl get a chance to talk alone, all hell breaks loose!
Gulrez Khadir is incensed that the prospective groom asked her if she watched “beelue” films instead of pronouncing it correctly as “blue.” She finds out that he had lied about  his educational qualifications too. 
Gulrez’s father, (starring Anupam Kher) is a clerk. He is afraid of his daughter’s BIG dreams which he sees as ‘unrealistic.’ His daughter's dream of making it big almost comes true when she falls in love with a suave, English speaking young guy who seems to be deeply in love with her too. He is all set to pursue his MBA in Kalamazoo and she is already dreaming of her life there. His parents, who profess to be very forward thinking, well-to-do, suave and educated, tell Gulrez and her father, they are fine with their son marrying whoever they want…but they need “help” so that their son can pursue MBA in the US. All the prospective bride's father has to do is to “help” by depositing 80 lakh rupees for their son’s education.
Gulrez is heartbroken that the guy she is in love with did not have the guts to question his parents when they made this demand. Her question to him is, “You and I fell in love and we want to get married to each other. Why are we talking about our marriage in terms of dowry?"
Then Gulrez realizes the fundamental fact of LOVE IN INDIA: whether arranged or love, the girl’s family always has to pay the highest price for it. Whether it is called a ‘list,’ a ‘help,’ 'gold' or 'property,' it is all pointing to one ugly thing: DOWRY.
Daawat-e-Ishq: Serving the Sweet Dish of Revenge 
So, Gulrez (called as Gullu) decides to fulfill her dream of going to the US and making it big as a shoe designer. She convinces her very reluctant father that it’s now their turn to make prospective bridegrooms and their families pay for the humiliation they have been through. They travel to Lucknow by posing as very rich NRIs who are looking to “shortlist bridegrooms.” 
Gulrez changes her name to Sania Habibullah from Dubai. And now it is the father-daughter duo's turn to put bridegrooms and their parents under scrutiny.


Among those who are chosen to be interviewed, there is Tariq Haidar (starring Aditya Roy Kapoor) who owns Lucknow’s most popular kabab joint. He is a high school drop out who speaks English badly, has a crude manner of talking, is a down to earth man for some one who is very rich and he falls deeply in love with Sania Habibullah. Her plan is to trick him into marrying her and then file a fake case against him citing section 498 A.
Now, citing section 498 A has been a clever move to bring in an element of pushing awareness around a social cause. The glitch is this - the movie highlights how the section can be exploited rather than how women can use it to protect themselves from dowry harassment. Law abiding citizens may not appreciate this "twist in legislative intent" that the film seems to focus on.
Tariq and Sania have nothing in common but there is a chemistry between them that blossoms. Here’s where the story loses its plot, becomes predictable and turns cheesy.
Daawat-e-Ishq: What I Liked 
In Daawat-e-Ishq, let me tell you what I really liked: 
1. Brilliant performance by Aditya Roy Kapoor as Tariq Haidar - a high school drop out who cannot speak English fluently. He was just amazing in terms of capturing the raw, refreshing spirit of Tariq Haidar! The movie shows that though Tariq is not suave, sophisticated or educated, he knows how to respect a woman in the manner befitting a real man unlike a 'city' guy. 

2. Natural, effortless acting by Parineeti in her portrayal of 'Gullu' - the ambitious sales girl who has a mind of her own and when she is determined to get something, nothing can stop her.

3. Several memorable moments in the movie such as where Tariq Haidar tries to woo Gullu by serving her food in the presence of his parents, how he has a conversation with her where he tells her that her real value is not in the dowry she brings but her beauty, her personality, charm and intelligence.

4. It is a pleasure to see the refreshing vignettes of Lucknow and Hyderabad. The heritage status, diversity and cultural richness of these two places are well portrayed. There has been a clear and note worthy effort to steer clear of "dolled up" landscapes. Every scene is clearly set in sync with the city and what it represents.


5. The music has a rare life that it breathes into the story. There are no fancy landscapes, exotic locations or make believe lands. Each song matches the mood of the situation and the protagonists breathe life into their characters with every song.  



Daawat-e-Ishq is an entertaining love story that is served with love and a dash of cheesy predictability. Watch it with your loved ones and enjoy the performances by its lead actors and have fun listening to the songs too!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Seven Exceptional Posts That Will Motivate You to Own Your Choices in a Fast Changing World

Here you go with my favorite posts for this month’s reading list:


Is there a connection between writers and pubs? YES, says Billy Wilder. Head out to ScotlandsPubsandBars.co.uk, a great resource detailing dozens of pubs with connections to music, industry, literature, sport, architecture and more. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? 

If you aren’t tipsy yet, you have to read: Vidya Sury’s thoughts on the book “The World Has Changed: Conversations with Alice Walker”

Alice Walker’s book 'The Color Purple' had given me sleepless nights because of the heart wrenching narrative. 

Another heart-wrenching post is from Vishnu about  the “We own you” mindset of Indian parents wherein “your success is their success, your failure is theirs, your income is theirs….” For those of us who are in the denial mode, just look around. You will see this popping up everywhere – in schools, at PTA meetings, in family conversations.  Sadly, it is our children who suffer the emotional impact of our expectations. So, if you are a parent or planning to be one, Vishnu’s post is a MUST READ. 

Now I want you to pause whatever you are doing, take a deep breath, exhale and relax. It's a beautiful day outside - can you feel the golden sunshine embracing you, reminding you of all the love and friends who fill your life with happiness. 

Nothing in life is MORE IMPORTANT than realizing you own your choices, your life and your power to change whatever you are going through now. 

Be HAPPY - no matter what. 

You can also BOOST your mood with Five Exceptional Posts That Will Motivate You Today and Anupama Prakash's excellent book review on Bird Song - A Novel of Love and War by Sebastian Faulks.


And while you are it, make yourself this yummylicious Oreo shake from Rak's Kitchen. You'll LOVE it!

♥♥  I thank you with all my heart for reading my post. I dedicate this post with love and gratitude to all of you who love to read.  REQUEST: Please SHARE this article on your favorite social networks. Every share, like or tweet makes me reach out to more people in a positive way. I am grateful and I appreciate you for doing so. ♥♥

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Would you pick up a book of erotic short stories?

I had begun reading an unusual book called 'blue: The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories from Sri Lanka' edited by Ameena Hussein. It is recommended as a break-through in Sri Lankan writing. Here's a book review of it by Sharanya Manivannan.

This is definitely not a genre I read. But my rationale for picking this up was: Why not just see another person's perspective about an aspect of life that you know nothing about? 

The problem is: As a reader, I felt a complete disconnect as I began reading this book. I could not understand what made so many young writers put in so much effort to write this kind of fiction. This book, no matter what the reviews say, is not a milestone in Sri Lankan writing. I couldn't tolerate it at all.

Coming back to the genre of erotic books, the last book I read was 'Autobiography of a Sex Worker' by a Malayali woman - this was at least three years ago. After reading the book, I found myself able to empathize with sex workers in India. I saw a different world that shocked my sensibility and yet I began to feel for these women.

You may surprise someone by seeing real life and real people differently. That's one of the reasons I love to read. When I read, I don't 'judge' people. I love and accept them. I question their choices out of curiosity and not necessarily to be critical of them.

Most importantly, you become so involved with the characters and their lives that you begin to rework your perspective on people, their lives and choices.

We need more stories - erotic or not - to carry us away into a world of imagination. After all, it is only during these times that your creative spirit is rediscovered and savored.   



How do you like to explore newness and creativity - be it in books, films, stories you read? How open are you to "shocking" stories and how does it change the way you relate to real happenings in the real world?
I would love to know your thoughts.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

This Beautiful Life

The year 2014, when it first began to unfold, promised me nothing and gave me no reason to hope. Fortunately, 2014 isn't anything like I expected it to be. 

In 2013, I felt a hundred years old, really. I expected to feel worse at the beginning of the new year. But funny thing is, I didn't. 

At a professional level, this has been my best year. At a personal level, I have begun to protect my fence of happiness and growth. I am not letting in people who make me feel negative about myself. The need to be surrounded by those who care and love me has outweighed everything else this year and yes, it has paid off in a big way. 

I feel as though I can take on the world and conquer it with just a smile.  I would also like to believe that my best years have just begun as amazing, beautiful things are happening in my life.

My new home is slowly getting ready and should be ready early next year. You know, it's a really small space in terms of square feet but the view is amazing. One rainy morning, I went to that site, conquered my fears of slipping way down into a cavern below and found the courage to climb through some very rough terrain to experience the view of my new home.

What I saw filled me with such joy and pleasure - I have no words. Thank you, God - but can you please speed up the process a bit? I am SO excited and eager to move into a new beginning in my life.

Yet in my heart, that's my dream home and it means everything to me. 

Then, in my personal life - I don't want to talk about the changes there because, well, it's too personal. But all I can say is this: the angels are protectively guiding me, the spirit guides are nudging me to do what brings me happiness and  I have begun to write with a natural tempo after many, many years of block.

I sat down and began to look over my previously published writings without any sense of attachment to the words. Instantly, I knew what I could have done better. Yet I felt better and not worse. Becoming older is helping me to find my voice and place as a writer. I do not deny my age. 

But what I feel differently now is that as I grow older, I feel more beautiful and divine from within - my soul is radiant and shining forth with an illumination that is helping me to see a bigger picture of where I want to be.

Here's a quote from Brene Brown that inspires me:

Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it's a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands. The people who love me will be there regardless of the outcome within arm's reach. This realization changed everything.


More than anything else, I have begun to dream and to hope with an abandon that is poetic. And yes, my life is an ebbing sea ahead of me. 

But at sunset, the sea  is full of grandeur, splendor and looks most enchanting as it dies with the sun and for me, I know that is truly my moment of glory, fleeting though it may be.

Life's beautiful. I am grateful for it to God, my dearest family and closest friends every day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Anupama Prakash's Book Review: Bird Song – A Novel of Love and War by Sebastian Faulks

♥♥ This is the first Guest Post on Petals!. I thank Anupama Prakash with all my heart for writing this book review for Petals!  ♥♥

So, honestly I picked this book for the lame reason that it has been made into a mini-series and was featured on Masterpiece Theatre, a program close to my heart. Masterpiece Theatre, didn’t let me down and Sebastian Faulks’ s page turner outdid expectations.

Starting off pre World War 1 in France, we are quickly entwined in the life of Stephen Wraysford, the protagonist as he settles down as a guest in the Azaire household. Stephen, an orphan, is sent by his benefactor to learn the textile business from Monsieur Azaire. 



Stephen’s character unravels beautifully through the book, subtle personality nuances mingled with straight forward biographical detail, bringing this strong in convictions yet vulnerable in emotions, young man(he is barely 20 when the book begins) to life in our imaginations.

It’s easy to identify and sympathize with Stephen and I cheered him on as he flirts with and then has an affair with the enchanting yet unhappy lady of the house, Isabelle Azaire. 

Madame Azaire, is portrayed as an intrinsically free spirited, independent woman with very little opportunity to explore this side of her personality under first, her overbearing father and then her insecure husband.

Even though Stephen and Isabelle’s love story ends prematurely in the first part of the book, the ferocious intensity of having loved and lost , shapes the rest of Stephen’s experiences so much so that even the horrendous experiences of War are mere events superimposed on this love story. 

I have watched many War movies in the past and have been greatly affected by them but none come close to the emotions of horror Sebastian Faulks dredged up in me. People with weak sensibilities be warned this is not one for the faint hearted. The fears and foibles of ordinary folk, thrust into the extraordinary situation of a war have been dealt with, with brazenness. 

Man’s baser instincts aroused by the need to survive, co- habitating with the immense compassion and love that we are capable of feeling toward our fellow beings have been explored through parallel stories.

The author adds another dimension to this tale of Love and War, by taking the story to the 1970’s where we are introduced to Elizabeth, Stephen’s granddaughter. Elizabeth, is a successful career woman, who is looking for more meaning to her life and decided to delve into the past to begin to find it.

Personally, I was unhappy with this digression by the author. Elizabeth’s character seems like it was hastily thrown together by the author and adds, not sure what, to a book that is already filled to the brim with feelings and emotions.

The book ends with a simplicity that is welcomed after the upheavels of love and loss, death and destruction. Stephen goes on to lead a simple happy life after the War and Elizabeth finds stability and meaning to her life. 

About Anupama Prakash: 'Heard somewhere that in order to be a good writer , the most important quality required is that you be an avid reader, and I'm going with that!'  You can also follow Anupama Prakash on Twitter.

 ♥♥ REQUEST: Please SHARE this article on your favorite social networks. Every share, like or tweet makes me reach out to more people.I am grateful and I appreciate you for doing so. ♥♥

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