Saturday, April 30, 2016


These masked heroes living a double life have always fascinated me. I always imagined living a double life, myself!
In fact, there were three such heroes that I particularly adored: The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Saint and (of course) El Zorro. I swallowed every book I could lay my hands on. The Club Library had this amazing collection of The Saint series by Leslie Charteris and The Zorro stories by Johnston MacCulley. Our school library fed me with the Scarlet Pimpernel (Sir Percy) by Emma Orczy (if I'm not wrong she was a Baroness)....
Much later, I fell in love with "The Mask of Zorro". Having Antonio Banderas in the lead role certainly helped. :) Each time I catch the movie playing on TV I sit and watch it, much to my daughters'chagrin. To them Antonio Banderas is an old man.....

Well, here we are and it is Z already. End of April. Let me leave you with a quote from yet another fascinating author who also wrote about Don Diego DE La Vega AKA El Zorro.

“Memory is fragile and capricious; each of us remembers and forgets according to what is convenient. The past is a notebook with many leaves on which we jot down our lives with ink that changes according to our state of mind.” 
― Isabel AllendeZorro

Friday, April 29, 2016


Yara-ma-yha-WHO, did you ask? 
I don't know who was the owner of that little book of stories of demons around the world but that slim dog-eared volume had it's place well hidden among the Agatha Christie Collection in my grand-fathers bedroom. I borrowed it occasionally and it kept me well fed with demons and frightening tales which I then used to frighten people with. 
The Yara-ma-yha-who is a demonic creature found in Australia. According to legend, the creature resembles a little red man with a very big head, a large mouth with no teeth and suckers on the ends of its hands and feet.
The Yara-ma-yha-who lives in fig trees. Instead of hunting for food, it waits for an unsuspecting traveler to rest under the tree. The creature then drops down and uses its suckers to drain the victim's blood. After that it consumes the person, drinks some water, and takes a nap. When the Yara-ma-yha-who awakens, it vomits the victim, leaving it shorter than before. The victim's skin now also has a reddish tint to it that it didn't have before.  It repeats this process several times. And at length, the victim is transformed into a Yara-ma-yha-who itself!!!! 
No, I will not leave you with an image. Sometimes the most frightening ones come out of our own heads. Instead, I will leave you with a quote from one of my favourite authors of all time.
“The 3 types of terror: 
The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it's when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. 
The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it's when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. 
And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It's when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there's nothing there...” 
― Stephen King 

Thursday, April 28, 2016


Okay, I will say it straight here. It's not just X-Men. It's the entire lot of Marvel Comics and the Super Heroes. Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Supergirl... the works! Yes, even Phantom (Specially Phantom)  and Mandrake! And the war stories
. Remember those comic books which we rarely had access to except when someone travelling from abroad happened to have one? Later, I discovered a reading library that had a huge collection. Ah, bliss!
I still read these when I get my hands on them. And I do NOT like the new ones, they are glossy and smart but what I yearn for are the comic books of our youth!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W: WENDY Darling

Who doesn't wish to fly, to soar above cities and seas....?
And if one can do that on the wings of some fairy dust.....?
And for company you have Fairies, Mermaids, Pirates, Tinker-Bell, the Lost Boys and the boy who never grew up....?

Welcome to the world of Peter Pan and Hook! Not to forget the tick-tock of that clock in the crocodile! I think I lived on that island for a large part of my childhood.
And how did I get there?
Why, "The second star to the right and straight on till morning!"

“Build a house?" exclaimed John.

"For the Wendy," said Curly.

"For Wendy?" John said, aghast. "Why, she is only a girl!"

"That," explained Curly, "is why we are her servants.” 
― J.M. BarriePeter Pan

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


In Class XII, we enacted Shakespeare in school. Along with a bunch of Class XIs. And yes, I got the role of Viola. It was a great time for the entire cast. Not only did we make new friends, we happily bunked classes and lectures and stayed late at school all in the name of rehearsals!!! Of course I love Viola, she got under my skin at the time.. How could one not love that feisty girl?  And of course, Cesario, who she disguised herself as!
We mugged up the lines, got yelled at by this rather strict English teacher who we were petrified of (sadly, she is no more) got into trouble when we were lazy, laughed a lot and had a wonderful time.
Those WERE the days, my friends!

Orsino: "For, boy, however we do praise ourselves,
Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm,
More longing, wavering, sooner lost and won,
Than women's are. ...
For women are as roses, whose fair flow'r
Being once display'd doth fall that very hour."
Viola: "And so they are; alas, that they are so!
To die, even when they to perfection grow!” 

― William ShakespeareTwelfth Night

Monday, April 25, 2016


This letter U put me in a quandary. There's that Ulysses (Odysseus in Greek ) who we all know, the swashbuckling hero immortalised for children by Charles Lamb. Then there's the Ulysses of Tennyson who returns after his long travels and is re-united with his wife (Penelope) and son (Telemachus) but yearns to go off in search of more adventure. (THAT I can identify with!)

But then, my favourite Ulysses is not a man, not a hero but a ship, a well armed light cruiser, to be exact. HMS Ulysses. I loved the war story genre. All that patriotism and intrigue, the tragedy, the mutinies. Alistair MacLean had me hanging on to his every word. One that I read again and again still? South by Java Head. 

“She was still doing forty knots, driving in under the guns of the enemy, guns at maximum depression, when "A" magazine blew up, blasted off the entire bows in one shattering detonations. For a second, the lightened fo'c'sle reared high into the air then it plunged down, deep down, into the shoulder of a rolling sea. She plunged down and kept on going down, driving down to the black floor of the Arctic, driven down by the madly spinning screws. The still thundering engines her own executioners.” 
― Alistair MacLeanHMS Ulysses

Saturday, April 23, 2016

T: TESS of the D'urbervilles

Despite being an avid reader, I never encountered Thomas Hardy until I was in law college. There was this tiny book shop that sold second hand books and even let you borrow them on occasion and it was one of my favourite joints. It was here that I discovered Tess. and she broke my heart again and again. I loved it.

 “Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?"
"All like ours?"
"I don't know, but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like the apples on our stubbard-tree. Most of them splendid and sound - a few blighted."
"Which do we live on - a splendid one or a blighted one?"
"A blighted one.” 
― Thomas HardyTess of the D'Urbervilles

Friday, April 22, 2016

S: SHIMODA, Donald.

When I was 13, a friend passed me a black book by some author called Richard Bach. There was a bright blue feather on the cover. "Illusions", it said, "The Adventures of  a  Reluctant Messiah". From the first page I was hooked for many many years to come. And a lot of it still influences my thinking! 
In fact some years ago my Mom presented me with the book, "The Messiah's Handbook" and even now I keep finding myself reaching for the book, randomly opening a page and finding the words of wisdom and encouragement that I need right then!  
And, yes, I even tried cloud vaporising...sometimes, I swear it works. 

And I do not have to look up the net for a quotes. Here's one I use all the time, something my girls are very familiar with; 

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly." 
- Richard Bach. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016


Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest, Miriam, Friar Tuck, Little John... fascinating! We had this big hardbound book with illustrations and I loved reading it again and again. The pictures were in intricate detail and I almost imagined life with the Merry Men, sleeping under the stars and eating off the land! Each time I reached the end of the book and Robin Hood died, I think I died too!

“Underneath this little stone
Lies Robert Earl of Huntington;
No other archer was so good -
And people called him Robin Hood.
Such outlaws as he and his men
Will England never see again.”
― Roger Lancelyn Green, The Adventures of Robin Hood

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


I was introduced to Victor Hugo through a small extract in our English Literature book. It was from "Les Miserables" , you know, that part where Valjean steals silver from the Bishop and the Bishop gives it away to him? That extract made me read the rest of the book. And of course the obvious next step was towards Quasimodo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I cried with him, I cried for him and when he was shown kindness, I exulted. What a beautiful world, that Paris!

“A one-eyed man is much more incomplete than a blind man, for he knows what it is that's lacking.” 
― Victor HugoThe Hunchback of Notre-Dame

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P: PENCIL and Screwbolt

Yes, I used to read a lot. But I also had a FAVOURITE book.
It was called "The Adventures of Pencil and Screwbolt." I must admit I had to look up the name of the author who I remember was Russian. Iurii Mikhailovich Druzhkov. As I started on this theme, when I got to "P", I had a good many options but once I remembered Pencil and Screwbolt, no one else stood a chance! Not even Paul Baumer (All Quiet On The Western Front) or the Prophet (Kahlil Gibran) who also greatly influenced my thoughts and life as a teenager...
I used to know this book by heart as a child.
Now, I have scoured the internet sites looking for that book. It is currently out of print, they say.
Anyone heard of Pencil and Screwbolt? Anyone know where I can procure a copy?
I would be deeply obliged....

And I will leave you with a quote, it's from The Prophet.

“You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts.” 
― Kahlil GibranThe Prophet

Monday, April 18, 2016


In school, a lucky few of us were taken to a then modern adaptation of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Hitherto my experience of Shakespeare was rather bleak. My grandfather insisted it was magical. I found it boring and full of complicated English made worse by the love sonnets that everyone kept harping on and which, we, occasionally had to mug up at school. Tedious, to say the least.
I went for the play expecting to be bored out of my wits. So what a pleasant surprise it was to have black leotard clad actors stage a modern, lively, musical! I do not remember which troupe it was, or where they were from (Britain, most likely!) but that night I went home in love with Oberon and Puck having discovered a whole new world. And yes, my grandfather was partly right. A lot of Shakespeare is indeed magical!

“Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet's eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.” 
― William ShakespeareA Midsummer Night's Dream

Saturday, April 16, 2016


No, not the guy in the blockbuster Alfred Hitchcock movie, "Psycho" but the guy in the book by Robert Bloch. I heard about the movie and was intrigued but those were the days when there were no VCD players and movies rare. In fact I first saw "Psycho" soon thereafter at a foreign film festival. But I remember bringing the book home from the library and lying awake at night wondering if anyone I knew could be like Norman Bates!!!

You see, “I think perhaps all of us go a little crazy at times.” 
― Robert BlochPsycho

Friday, April 15, 2016

M: MAXIM De Winter

Another love story you say? In the end, aren't they all stories of love?
Maxim De Winter appealed to the girl in me. The one who liked mystery and brooding darkness.. Still does.

“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.” 
― Daphne du MaurierRebecca

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Lisbeth Salander. The girl of the Millenium Series. Who would not want a friend like that?

“Don’t ever fight with Lisbeth Salander. Her attitude towards the rest of the world is that if someone threatens her with a gun, she’ll get a bigger gun.” 
― Stieg LarssonThe Girl Who Played with Fire

Actually to be honest, when I picked this theme, I was determined to stick to the friends of my youth and childhood. I met Lisbeth much later as the books were written long after I technically 'grew up'. I remember I picked up the first one, (The girl with the dragon tattoo) at the airport on our way to a holiday in Spain in 2010. When it finished I was in Seville and utterly disappointed that I could not find a book shop that sold books in the English language! Needless to say the first thing I did when I landed in New Delhi was buy the other two!!)
So.."L" cannot be anyone but Lisbeth, a friend who I met when I was no child but who has and continues to stir my imagination!

“Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.” 
― Stieg LarssonThe Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


I never cared for love stories much. All that mushy stuff was not for me! But for Kira I made an exception. Kira and Leo and Andrei. When all my friends were reading 'The Fountainhead' and oohing and aahing about Howard Roark and the famous last speech, my favourite people were in another Ayn Rand book, "We the Living" (which, incidentally, was her debut novel). It's one of those books on my bedside table. One I pick up again and again now and then and lose myself in a harsh and beautiful post-revolutionary Russia.

“It's strange. There's your life. You begin it, feeling that it's something so precious and rare, so beautiful that it's like a sacred treasure. Now it's over, and it doesn't make any difference to anyone, and it isn't that they are indifferent, it's just that they don't know, they don't know what it means, that treasure of mine, and there's something about it that they should understand. I don't understand it myself, but there's something that should be understood by all of us. Only what is it? What?” 
― Ayn RandWe the Living

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


No, no, no, we are not talking about Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan and the like. Those movies came into my life much later. This is about the books by Ian Fleming. I used to borrow them from the Saturday Club Library and dream of spies and dashing young special agents racing around to save the world. And me.

“You only live twice:
Once when you are born
And once when you look death in the face” 
― Ian FlemingYou Only Live Twice

Monday, April 11, 2016


The most fascinating world that was opened up to me by my grandfather was that of Greek and Roman Mythology. Jason and the Argonauts, Medusa, Hercules, Hector, Achilles... all their worlds were fascinating and I spent hours in them. I did not mind reading the same stories over and over, each time adding to the colours with my own imagination. And yes, for me, it all started one hot sleepless afternoon when my grandfather told me the story of Icarus.

“Never regret thy fall,
O Icarus of the fearless flight
For the greatest tragedy of them all
Is never to feel the burning light.”

― Oscar Wilde

Saturday, April 9, 2016


My grandfather, as I was saying, introduced me to many many books. Heidi, by Johanna Spyri was one of them. It was not something I really liked. It was too cute. Too girly, you know? But the book itself was a picture book with amazing illustrations of the beautiful Swiss Alps. I used to read the book when no one was looking...

 “Flowers are made to bloom in the sun and not to be shut up in an apron.” 
― Johanna SpyriHeidi

Friday, April 8, 2016


I stumbled upon Stephen King while on a short trip to Bombay (there was no Mumbai then!) when I was about 15. I had been introduced to horror movies by a family friends and decidedly enjoyed the genre. Anyway back then in Bombay I discovered a tiny book shop that had stacks of Stephen King books and  I bought one book. Little did I know that that would be the beginning of a long, terrible addiction that continues to run me to this day.
Yes, that book was "Pet Semetary".

“The soil of a man's heart is stonier, Louis. A man grows what he can, and he tends it. 'Cause what you buy, is what you own. And what you own... always comes home to you.” 
― Stephen KingPet Sematary

So here's to ghouls, ghosts and things that go bump in the night... You can pretend they do not exist but can you ever be sure?

"Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win." Stephen King

Thursday, April 7, 2016

F: FATTY and the Five Find Outers

F is also for the Famous Five, the Magic Faraway Tree and  Fatty and the Five Find Outers! They were the best friends I had. I would read and re-read those books and almost knew them by heart. They were my companions under the quilt with a torchlight, they were the ones I imagined camping with when I was turning lazy somersaults in the pond and the ones by my side when I went exploring new places!

It wasn't a bit of good fighting grown-ups. They could do exactly as they liked.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


In my teens I was often moody and rebellious. Pointed out the negative in everything. So is it any wonder that, out of all of Winnie The pooh's friends, Eeyore was the  one I loved the most?

"Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore gloomily. "If it is a good morning," he said. "Which I doubt," said he.
"Why, what's the matter?"
"Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can't all, and some of us don't. That's all there is to it."
"Can't all what?" said Pooh, rubbing his nose.

"Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush."
A.A. Milne

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Young, handsome, beautiful Dorian Gray. How I loved to love him. And hated him. Could never ignore him though, could you?  

Dorain Gray “You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.” 
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Monday, April 4, 2016

C: CORLEONE family

The Godfather by Mario Puzo was one of those unputdownable books in my life. I devoured it whole. I saw the movie (which I also adore) much, much later. In my impressionable teens, it was the world I ever wanted: the secrecy, the faith, the strength, the protection of the mafia...

 “There are things that have to be done and you do them and you never talk about them. You don't try to justify them. They can't be justified. You just do them. Then you forget it.” 
― Mario PuzoThe Godfather

Saturday, April 2, 2016

B: BERTIE Wooster

Ah, British humour. I always think I got lost in the world of Bertie Wooster and Jeeves and Aunt Agatha and Glossop and all the rest. In fact, I revisit them often and they never fail to leave me refreshed and in a rather rummy frame of mind!

“And so the merry party began. It was one of those jolly, happy, bread-crumbling parties where you cough twice before you speak, and then decide not to say it after all.” 
― P.G. WodehouseMy Man Jeeves

Friday, April 1, 2016


Long before the Chronicles of Narnia became a block buster film, I discovered the magical world of "The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe." Yes, it was the lion that stirred my imagination the most. In addition to the extensive collection of books we had at home (everyone loved to read, specially my grandfather who introduced me to many worlds... more about that later) my mother was the Librarian at school. So there never was a shortage of books in the house. And my Mom kept bringing us new things to try. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was my first C.S. Lewis....

“I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mill so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.” 
C.S. Lewis