20 December 2013

"The Christmas Sting" published in Good Housekeeping December 2013

The Christmas Sting

by Cashmere Maindarkar

Standing at the Airlines Counter in Terminal 1D of Indira Gandhi Domestic Airport, Ground Hostess Simran Singh was wishing she could sit down and soak her tired feet in hot water. The airline policy of double booking 10% of the seats on a flight was backfiring badly on 24 December.  She had spent all morning pacifying irate passengers with confirmed tickets who suddenly found themselves bumped off. She had calmed them down and found them seats on flights of other airlines and now her own nerves were shot. She would be glad when this shift was over. Christmas Eve or not there was nothing festive about today. There was just one last flight to Goa to deal with and then she was out of here.

Karan Sethi had a spring in his step that even his loaded backpack could not erase. His parents had finally relented and given him permission to have a holiday with his friends in Goa. His first holiday without adult supervision!  He couldn’t wait to catch up with his friends in Panjim. If only his parents had agreed to let him go earlier he could have flown out with his friends yesterday. Well, it didn’t matter much now. He would be with them tonight. He pumped his fist as he spotted the  Airline Counter. 

Francis D’Souza unbuttoned the top shirt button as he pulled off his tie. He was looking at this watch as the taxi came to a halt outside Departure Terminal 1D. He paid of the radio cab fare with his company funded credit card and collected the bill. Then he picked up his laptop bag and small overnighter.  He shut the door of the taxi and began walking towards the Airline Counter looking every inch the consummate businessman in his double breasted suit.

Anthony Lobo smiled indulgently at his wife of 50 years as she spoke with excitement about meeting their grandchildren in Goa. Lisa Lobo may have a short crop of grey hair, but her enthusiasm was endless. They were on the shuttle from the International Arrivals terminal to Domestic Departures at 1D. He was tired after the long flight, but the happiness on the love of his life’s face more than made up for it.  The porter stopped the shuttle and began to load their four suitcases filled with gifts for Christmas on to a trolley and began rolling it towards the Airline Counter. 

Simran looked at the four people at the counter and back at her computer screen which showed two seats remaining on the only flight to Goa later in the day. She sighed mentally knowing just what to expect when they would be told that despite confirmed tickets they had been bumped off the flight. 

“Excuse me,” she said to get their attention, “Are all of you passengers for the Goa flight?”
There was a general nodding of heads all round before she dropped her bombshell, “I’m afraid that there has been a double booking due to computer error for this flight.”
“What does that mean,” asked a confused Karan.
“Unfortunately all four of you have confirmed tickets on a flight which is already running to capacity,” answered Simran.
“So you will shift us to another flight?” asked Francis.
“Yes, the airline will take full responsibility to shift all passengers on to the next available flight” answered Simran.
“When is the next available flight, my dear?” asked Mrs Lobo.
“There is one of another airline leaving within an hour” replied Simran.
“So you can get us on that one, can’t you?” asked Mrs Lobo sensing her discomfort.
“Unfortunately there are only two seats left on that flight and there are four of you. This means that two of you will be able to fly out today, while two of you will have to wait to fly out tomorrow morning on the first flight available,” said Simran.

“So who gets to go today?” asked Mrs Lobo.
“Well I was hoping that you would decide amongst yourselves who needed to be there most urgently and let me know,” faltered Simran. “The two who decide to stay back will be given overnight accommodation in a hotel and tickets on the first available flight to Goa tomorrow morning.”
The four potential passengers looked at each other. Karan was worried, “If I don’t reach by tonight my friends will take off without me. They have plans to go beach hopping and I won’t know where to catch up with them.”

“My daughter and her children will be coming to the airport to pick us up. They will be so disappointed if we don’t make it tonight,” said Mrs Lobo.
The three of them and Simran all looked at Francis waiting for him to state his case.  He took a deep breath and began, “I have been working in Delhi for the last three years. The girl I am in love with is in Goa. She was in school with me, and when we were in college we decided that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.”

“That’s very nice dear,” said Mrs Lobo.
“Unfortunately, at that time I had no prospects and she was getting proposals from the best families in the community. That was when she cried and asked her father to think of our love for each other. Then her father gave me an ultimatum. He gave me 3 years to make something of myself and then return to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage.”
“That’s what any sensible father would do,” approved Mr Lobo.
“ This Christmas Eve is my deadline. If I don’t reach her home by this evening, she will have to agree to get married to someone else. ”
“Oh, young love,” said Mrs Lobo with a hand held to her heart. “Anthony this boy needs to go to his girlfriend.”
“Yes my darling,” said Mr Lobo, “I suppose he must”.
“That will just leave one seat and I don’t want to travel without you, so let the two young men travel today. We can always go tomorrow.” said Mrs Lobo.

Simran looked relieved that the matter had been settled quite so fast and so amicably. She quickly printed out tickets for the two travelers and they were on their way. The dash through the boarding gate of the flight kept Karan and Francis busy and then they got seats apart from each other in the flight. So there was no more conversation between them.

After landing the two of them walked past the luggage belt as they had no check in baggage and walked out of the airport. A young woman with a toddler ran to Francis and hugged him. Karan was taken aback.
“Who is this?” he asked Francis.
“This is my lovely wife Eva and that is my son, Blaze” replied Francis.
“Then what about that story you told us in Delhi. Was it all a lie?” asked Karan.
“Oh it was all true, but it happened last year. We got married on Christmas Day and I am home today for our first anniversary.” smiled Francis as he kissed his wife.
He walked away with his arm around his wife and child leaving Karan gaping with his mouth wide open.

The author writes short stories and fiction under the nom de plume Candy Laine.

19 November 2013

Publishing Ebooks on Kindle

Its been a while since I wrote here and that's mainly because of the other writing work taking up so much of my time. For those of you who do not know as yet, although its hard to be friends with me on Facebook and not know, I have published a couple of ebooks for Kindle. You can access them on your Kindle ebook reader, or through a Kindle Android App on your Smart Phone.

In case you do not have a Smart Phone you can read the ebooks using Kindle for PC. This is a free software available to anyone with an Amazon account. An Amazon account is also free to open. So you register with Amazon then download and install this software and you can read all the Kindle ebooks you like using this software on your Personal Computer. I wrote a hub about the whole process if you want details.How to Read Kindle e-Books Without Owning a Kindle Device.

The books are available for sale on Amazon.com and you can take a look at my Nom de Plume, Candy Laine's Amazon Author Page by clicking on the link. I'm still working on the Author description and other parts of the page. I will be adding a twitter feed if I feel the effort is justified. Feel free to give me feedback on what I should add or delete. It currently lists the two books that are published with them and gets updates from the Candy Laine official blog.

Yes, I set up a different website for the brand Candy Laine on weebly (which is a great place to set up test websites for free) and you can access the Candy Laine Blog by clicking on this link. This is also the work of just one morning and will be refined when I get some more time. All books that are published by me in the future will be offered free of cost for a promotional download lasting a couple of days.The time for the promotion will be shared on this blog and on the Candy Laine Facebook page.

Oh yes, I have been busy alright. I set up a Candy Laine Facebook page which you can access by clicking the link. Those of you already on Facebook can simply follow the link to the page and click the like button. That way all page updates will automatically show up in your home page feed. Allowing you to know just when the next book will be released and when it will be available for downloading. A lot of you like the links and photos that I post on this page, but have not got around to liking the main page, so please help me out here and go give the main page a like!

It seems that its important for Kindle ebook publishers to network and one such site I am trying out is Kindle Mojo. I found the site when the owner began following me on Twitter. It seemed like a good place to begin practicing some marketing so I went ahead and set up a profile page for Candy Laine on Kindle Mojo. Its got nothing new if you have already visited all the other links, so don't bother clicking through! :) This is also one of those experimental webpages that I'm setting up to see what kind of response is generated through it.

Okay, so now you know why I have not had much time to blog of late. There's been just too much else writing happening for Ms Candy Laine. Do tell me how you like the sound of this name as well. I did have some second thoughts about picking it, but when a dear friend of mine said that it sounded "pretty and gentle and romantic" I was thrilled. That's exactly what I wanted the author of these books to sound like. I even gave the blog the subheading "where romance flows."

That's it from my end for now folks. Will keep you apprised of what comes next. Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings.

13 September 2013

Delhi Heritage Walks with Sohail Hashmi - Published in Good Housekeeping September 2013 (North Edition)

Walking down the steps of the baoli in the now dried up mausoleum of Ghyas ud din Tughlak, Sohail Hashmi pauses. As do the dozen odd people in the motley group accompanying him. Sohail starts talking about the taste of the sweet water from this well – which he has himself tasted as a teen – and everyone listens in rapt attention to the real life history lesson taking place. The well at one time used to be located inside the lake that surrounded the mausoleum and was the only sweet water well for miles.

Welcome to Delhi Heritage Walks with Sohail Hashmi, a weekend activity that has become a must for all those in love with Delhi, its past and its present. Started in 2004, these heritage walks are the result of Sohail’s irrepressible love for his Delhi which was nurtured by his father. Sohail’s father dabbled in archeology and showed him the seven different Delhis in chronological order when he was still a child. He would explain how the architecture of the Arch, the Dome and the Minaret had evolved over several centuries, from the 12th century onward.

Needless to say Sohail was hooked. In 1968 Sohail ran away from school with five of his class mates to spend an entire day at Tughlaqabad. The place has had a magical hold on him since then. He grew up to document these fascinating bits of history in stone in films that he scripted. It was indeed a pleasure for him that the discovery of the kitchen area, and a stepwell by archaeologists, in Tughlaqabad, was made while he was shooting for a documentary inside the fort. These structures had been buried under rubble and silt for hundreds of years and were revealed when archeologists began clearing up the rubble of collapsed walls. 

He read about Delhi through a number of authors like Syed Ahmad Khan, Bashir-ud-Din Ahmad, Maulvi Zafar Hasan, and Lucy Peck. College professors like Prof. Percival Spear and Professor Narayani Gupta also influenced him. He always loved to walk and with a college friend he explored the many lanes and by lanes of Shahjahanabad and gradually picked up tidbits of information that were enriched later through the reading of some of the books by authors mentioned above and other sources, both written and oral.

In 2004 Sohail was running a creative activity centre for children called "Leap Years", started by Rahul Bhandare, an entrepreneur, who wanted to create spaces for children where they could engage in extra-curricular activities to help them explore their creative talents. Sohail realised that these children, given the kind of emphasis that is placed on rote learning, were growing up in this city ignorant of its shared heritage and history. So he started fortnightly excursions for them called “Discover Delhi". Very soon, he started receiving requests from parents who wanted to join in these walks. Time Out magazine carried a story on the walks, NDTV used one of his walks to hang some stories for a breakfast show and the word spread and soon the walks developed into what they are today.

A typical walk with Sohail takes about two hours and covers an area of about 2km. The pace is leisurely and allows you to imbibe the historical surroundings, as Sohail brings alive the old building with stories from the past. There are close to16 walks to choose from, including old Delhi, Kashmiri Gate, Mehrauli, Hauz Khas, and Lodi Garden to mention a few.

Did you know that the current New Delhi sits on the ancient ruins of at least 7 older cities? The oldest is referred to in the ancient Hindu text of the Mahabharata as Indraprastha. This was the city was said to have been constructed by the Pandava brothers, but there is little archeological evidence to support this theory.

Others which are better documented include -
Quila Rai Pithora (Prithivi Raj Chauhan)
Mehrauli (Qutubuddin Aibak)
Siri (Alauddin Khalji)
Tughlakabad (Ghiyasuddin Tugluq)
Firozabad (Firuz Shah Tugluk)
Shergarh (Sher Shah Suri)
Shahjehabanad (Shah Jahan)

Shahjahanabad including Lal Qila and Chandini Chowk was built in the 16th century by the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan. This is referred to as old Delhi today, while Lutyen’s Delhi built by the British is called New Delhi and includes gems such as Rashtrapati Bhawan, North Block and South Block.
Contact Sohail Hashmi through his Facebook Page

Besides Sohail, there are others who offer heritage walks. These include the Salaam Baalak Trust (Salaam Baalak Trust website), Masterji Kee Haveli (Masterji Kee Haveli website), Delhi Food Adventure in Chandini Chowk (Delhi Food Adventure website), Old Delhi Bazaar Walk (Delhi Magic website), Delhi Heritage Walks (Delhi Heritage Walks website), The Trail of Nizam Piya (1100 Walks website.) The cost usually depends on the walk and the company organizing the walk. The cost ranges between Rs.300 for a regular walk, to over Rs.3000 for a customized one.

Read the complete interview here.

Also Published in 

19 August 2013

Living History by Hillary Clinton

Living History 

  by Hillary Clinton

Paperback: 592 pages
Publisher: Scribner
Review of the book by Cashmere 
It is impossible to think of Hillary Clinton without thinking about her equally famous husband, Bill Clinton.
Being the first lady of the country did change the way she was perceived. In this autobiography she speaks of those years she spent in the White House and the past that led them to it.

Ever wonder what it would be like to get inside the head of the wife of one of the most powerful men on the planet? Living History By Hillary Rodham Clinton gives you that opportunity. She talks extensively about the years that she spent in the White House along with a brief history of how she got there. This is what made it interesting reading.

Indeed she is all set to portray the all American Girl who comes from a regular middle class American family. She married her college sweetheart and then shifted away from friends and family to live with him. She also supported his decision to get into politics and dealt with minor issues of her own as a lawyer and somewhere along the way she became Mrs. President.

I happened to learn some facts that I did not know, interestingly enough that my wedding anniversary and her birthday fall on the same day. For those of you who are interested that would be 26 October. And some other well documented facts were seen from her unique perspective. Although she did not mention any of the more private details of her more publicly trying times, she did not gloss over them totally either. There is no doubt that she is a strong individual.

Many instances in the book show that element of iron she has. Something that we have seen her exhibit after she took over her current appointment. At the same time she is a definite champion for women in the workplace. It is thanks to her that a number of other women and girls worldwide feel inspired.

I was most interested in what her reaction to Monica and the whole scandal was, there the book dealt with a sensitive issue proving just enough information and not too much of emotion. All in all while it did take me two long sessions to read the book, but it was well worth it. I enjoyed it despite its tendency to get too seeped in American politics at times. How can she help it, that is who she is! The human angle was great.

If you have not read it as yet, I would recommend that you do. You never know when you would be referring to her as Madam President!

27 July 2013

The Iron Marshal by Louis L’Amour

The Iron Marshal 

by Louis L’Amour

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Bantam

Review of the book by Cashmere
The Iron Marshall is a slight departure from the usual Louis L’Amour in the fact that his hero is not a man from the wild west. He is a boy from fresh off the boat from Ireland who manages to get himself into a small frontier town in the wild west.

Tom Shanaghy is the son of a blacksmith who knows his father’s trade. A hard working family which falls on difficult times when the father becomes a farrier and joins the army as a horse-shoer and leaves for British India. He goes missing there and is presumed dead.

Tom’s mother then decides to leave for the new world of America to make a better fortune for her son and herself. However she passes away on the boat and young Tom reaches New York with no prospects and no help.

An accidental meeting with John Morrissey gets him a job and a way of life that he drifts into. Gang wars and survival are all a part of the day for him. And then one day in an effort to get away from some goons after his life he hops onto a train headed west.

He falls asleep in the empty railway car and then is woken rudely by who he presumes is a railway marshal. He is literally made to jump off the running train and lands smack in the middle of the wild west. The man throws a bundle after him thinking it to be his, but it is not.

He walks into the unknown land with a stranger’s backpack and a riffle. He saves a man from hanging and rides into his town with him. The town needs a marshal and he gets appointed. Then starts the trouble.

I wont spoil it for you. Its a good book.

18 June 2013

Summer Holiday Homework for Moms

Yes, its holiday time for the kids and work time for the moms. There being no way that a child will be able to complete the charts and projects that are assigned to him as holiday home work all on his own, it is inevitable that the mother ends up doing them.

Here I'm showcasing my talent. LOL
This was a clock model that we had to make for mathematics. The hour and minute hands actually move.
This was a collage we made on the life and times of Mahatma Gandhi for holiday homework project in Hindi.
Then we had the means of communication coming up for environmental science. This was an older project but I decided to add it in here anyway.

Then there is the personal ongoing origami calender which has us folding an airplane a day. Although this one has been suffering some setbacks since the summer holidays began.
 Then we had the paper bags for art and craft class. I first experimented on the design that I googled with newspaper and then did it again neater in card paper.

Then there was this round of painting where we did the background of a Road Safety poster using paints in ice cube form. Mixed water colours with water and froze them for a couple of hours before my son has a blast doing an abstract art painting.
There is also a genders chart for English and a input and output devices chart for computers that have not yet been photographed. All in all an exhausting summer holiday!

18 May 2013

Vintage Stuff By Tom Sharpe

Vintage Stuff  

By Tom Sharpe

Print Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Cornerstone Digital

Review of the book by Cashmere
I must confess that when I picked up this book I had no clue who the author was.

The picture of a man with a monocle and a lad with a revolver in typical British dress is what caught my attention. Being a big fan of PG Wodehouse I was hoping that it would be some what similar in vintage.
As I began the first chapter I could almost feel Wodehouse coming alive, but that had changed by the time I reached the second one. It was British humour, but it was not Wodehouse.

The book chronicles the adventures of a Public School Master and his recently graduated student through France. The romantic notions of the Master have played right into the hands of one of his rival Masters at the school.

This man plants a series of irresistible clues to make the adventure seem intriguing and the cause very worthwhile. After all how often do you get a letter from a Countess with her own crest asking you to come and rescue her?

What the Master needs is a sidekick, whom he discovers in the strong, but not very intelligent student. A guy who is an expert with a gun, and follows orders to the tee, that he is also the despair of his father is also mentioned. The mother naturally dotes on her son.

There are other characters such as the ex Major, who is also a Master at the school, the Headmaster, and the Matron. Not to mention the French and British Secret Police.

All in all a light and entertaining read.

03 April 2013

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat Pray Love 


by Elizabeth Gilbert

Pages: 384 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks
Review of the book by Cashmere 
As the book cover says, its one woman’s search for everything. After turning 30 Elizabeth was mortified to find out that she did not want to have a baby and settle down into the traditional life that she and her then husband had planned on. That’s when she initiates her divorce proceedings.
After going through the most harrowing time of her life she decides that she needs to spend a year travelling across the world to heal herself. She hopes to find pleasure in Italy, union with God in India and balance in Indonesia. The three “I”’s as she calls them. It is the chronicles of this life altering journey that she records in Eat Pray Love.
In Italy she eats. She goes to every city and hunts not for the art or the sights but for the best place in town to eat. So she goes through pizzas and pasta and gains weight. Part of which she lost during her divorce and then a few additional pounds just like that.
In India she spends her four months in an Ashram trying to perfect her experience of God through yoga. She learns to meditate, and then unleashes the Kundalini Energy in her body. That experience alone would be worth giving up her plan to visit all the cities and temples in India and staying put in the ashram.
In Indonesia she goes hunting for an old medicine man and finds an idyllic paradise. She makes friends with the locals like Wayan and Tutti and with expatriates such as Felipe whom she eventually falls in love with. In fact her next book committed is supposed to continue the saga of their love affair and marriage.
It is a book that every married woman can identify with. Specially if she has ever had that urge to chuck everything and just leave. To travel the world and to find her own place under the sun.
A nice read. Recommended.

15 March 2013

Playing for Pizza By John Grisham

Playing for Pizza 


 By John Grisham

Publisher: Cornerstone Digital
Print Length: 322 pages

Review of the book by Cashmere 
If you saw the name of the author (John Grisham) and expect a nice legal novel, please reconsider that expectation.The master story teller has not set this story in the court room, but in Italy. And it is beautiful!
It does not have anything to do with the finer points of law and every thing to do with the finer points of human emotions.

Playing for Pizza speaks of the story of Football Americano in Italy and its unlikely heroes.. The Parma Panthers. When Rick Dorsey manages to become the "Biggest Goat" in the history of NFL his agent Arnie realizes that Rick's NFL career has finally reached the end of the road. Only trouble is, his client is 28 years old and had no interest in calling it quits with football.

Desperate to play for any team and with the added complication of a possibility of a paternity suit from a team groupie, Rick is convinced by Arnie that going to play football in Italy is the best possible deal for him at the moment.

Rick is not so sure, but he goes anyway. The football Italian Super Bowl is nothing like its American peer. The Italian play for the love of the game, and for a free meal of pizza at the end of it. They play because they truly enjoy the game, a fact that Rick had begun to miss.

Add to that his cultural education on all things Italian, from the food,the wine, the cheeses and the Opera, it makes for an interesting tale. He is educated by his Italian team's American coach, Sam Russo. Having married an Italian Sam Russo lives in Italy and works as a guide. He also coaches the Parma Panthers and dreams of lifting the Italian Super Bowl Cup. A dream he believes that Rick can make come true.

In the name of romance there is an Italian Opera singer and an American Exchange student. The realization of which one is right for him, is also an interesting development. Rick Dorsey, a man who has been passed around much like the football from NFL team to NFL team in America, manages to take a team of odds and ends and shape them into a team with a chance for winning the championship.

While I do not understand the nuances of all the plays that were described in the book, I'm sure that someone addicted to sports would be able to enjoy the detailed descriptions of each play as it is given in the book. On the other hand I did enjoy the trivia about Italy and its many provinces that were covered by the author. I specially enjoyed the description of the churches and the way Rick Dorsey was forced to sight see!

All in all an enjoyable and quick read.

14 February 2013

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger :A Novel


By Aravind Adiga 

Paperback: 304 pages 
Publisher: Free Press

Review of the book by Cashmere
The story of Balram Halwai was quite interesting. From a promising student to a human spider in a tea stall the ups and downs of life in the “Darkness” are spelt out with chilling coolness. The matter of fact description of exploitative practices was quite scary. Made you thankful for not being born in the Darkness region which I would consider East Up and Bihar area.

Then leaving the home village for the nearest town the boy decided to better his prospects by learning to drive. The burning ambition to get out of the tea stall rut motivated him to get into that smart driver uniform. There too with his employers he was servant number two. The lowest in the servant hierarchy, a nobody till he figured out the servant number one’s secret.

That secret he exploited to its full and ended up coming to Delhi with his employers. Out of the darkness and into the dusk. A city where Light and Dark both had their place and he was balancing his act between the two. Keeping up an education which came to him from the streets the driver found his very existence threatened when his master decides to replace him with a local driver.

Drastic problems called for desperate measures. A murder and a robbery later the man flees to Bangalore. There again he takes to the streets and pavements to educate himself. As he says each city has its own language, you need to listen to understand what it is saying to you. The solution to his problem lay in the Bangalore concept of outsourcing.

He begins a taxi service for call centers and turns a profit with the seed money that came from a murder. He crosses over from the poor to the rich. He has finally made it to the other side. Although he is trying very hard not to be like his old masters when he deals with his servants. An interesting read and a glimpse into the underbelly of modern India. The difference between the haves and the have-nots is beautifully portrayed in this Booker Prize winner of 2008.

11 January 2013

p.s. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

p.s. I Love You 


By Cecelia Ahern

Print Length: 512 pages
Publisher: Harper
Review of the book by Cashmere 

What do you feel like when the man who has been your best friend for 15 years and husband for 7 years dies at the age of 31? That too after struggling with a brain tumor which was not caught in time despite raging headaches? That is what the author of this lovely story explores.

How do you feel when the world wants you to get some fresh air and drink tea, when all you want to do is wish that you could die. When all that you can think of is the past and the future seems impossible? When you wish that you had died with your husband so that you could be together?

As Holly works through her demons she gets by with support from friends and family and most importantly the list that her dead husband left back for her. A single note with a mission for each month after his death till the new year. Notes which she lives for and which have become the center of her attention. How will she cope when all the notes are over?

Its a sentimental and often sad journey of rediscovery for the widow who is missing her husband to the exclusion of the rest of the world. It really gets to you sometimes and yes I cried and yes I had to see the movie after I read the book.

Thank You Prabhjot for lending me this book! I had not heard about it or the movie made out of the novel starring Hillary Swank and Gerald Butler. And if you had not told me I must read it I would have probably missed out on a beautiful although tear jerking story.