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Parliamental – Book Review

Book: Parliamental

Author: Meghnad S.

Reviewed By: Manas Mukul

Publisher: HarperCollins India (2nd July 2019)

Price: 299 INR

Pages: 220 (Paperback)

ISBN-10: 935357059X

ISBN-13: 978-9353570590

Language: English

Genre: Political Satire

My rating: 4/5

 

At 11 am every day, during a parliament session, we witness the proceedings of both the houses through their respective channels. A speaker or chairman heads the overall functioning and MPs from both the sides, in power and opposition, go at each other. For the majority of sessions, you will observe uproar or that the house is adjourned, while on some occasion regular business does take place. In all the confusing chaos that unravels the onlooker feels that given a chance they will simply behead each other.

Well a lot goes on behind the scenes too – while a bill is being introduced, while sharing meals in the canteen, while the members interact with each other outside the parliament, etc. ‘Parliamental’ by Meghnad S. is a political satire, which tries to showcase what goes behind walls and in those power galleries.

I keenly follow politics and have opinions about them; sometimes they take the form of words and end up as tweets or on my blog or like most of the times they simply remain between my ears that gets replaced by a new topic almost every morning. I would like to express my gratitude towards Blogchatter’s Book Review Program for considering me this book review, which gave me an option to explore and review a favorite genre like humor and satire.

About the Author

Meghnad is a columnist, public policy professional and podcaster. He has his own show, Consti-tution, on the Newslaundry and is an influencer on Twitter with the handle @memeghnad. He also travels all over the country to conduct civics classes under the banner Democracy IRL. His articles have appeared and gone viral on BuzzFeed and other content websites.

My Review

The cover of the book is ‘cartoonish-ly’ done and you might recognize some of the faces from a current lot of politicians. ‘Parliamental’ is a great title for the book as it is in complete sync with what goes on in the parliament as well as the satirical tone. The back cover contains the blurb along with a unique thing – some one-line reviews; they are from the characters of the book, for better understanding you will have to grab a copy.

The story mainly revolves around two characters – Raghav Marathe, a young policy analyst bustling with restless energy to bring about a change in the system and Prabhu Srikar, a first time MP whose analyst Raghav is. The story throws up some important supporting characters too – Nikita, a journalist, Helen, a YouTuber, Dushyant, a lawyer, etc.

The story begins with Srikar receiving the news of his surprise victory and how he becomes a first time MP from being a sharp businessman. Raghav, his neighbor, who helped him during his election campaign and speeches, is entrusted with a similar responsibility along with helping Srikar with policy analysis. Srikar tries to stick his neck out whenever he isn’t comfortable about a certain political situation even if it meant going against the wishes of his political party.

Back Cover with Blurb

When a new bill is introduced that threatens freedom of expression on social media, they all unite together to take on the might of the system. During all of this Raghav through his twitter alter ego, @Arnavinator tries to expose the hidden secrets and things that were not meant to see the light of the day. There is a back-story as to why he decides to choose this particular name.

Meghnad craft fully uses satire using simple words and not heavy political jargons. He shows his funny side through the footnotes that are meanings of the regional words but with a comic twist to them. You will constantly have a smile on your face throughout the book. It was smart of him to use a story as the backdrop to highlight the issues rather than putting it out as non-fiction with real names and characters. He even takes potshots at himself with lines like – ‘Raghav felt like the protagonist in a political satire novel.’

The book is crisp and unputdownable and the vocabulary helps. The editing is sharp and polished and it definitely reflects. With less than 200 story pages it is a fast read and even though the book is a fictional political satire, it goes at a thriller pace and keeps you invested till the very end.

Using his sardonic style, Meghnad touches many contemporary serious issues like social media regulation, anti-defection, corruption, etc. He has about seven years of experience of working with members of parliament and none of it goes to waste. No real-life names have been used but that can’t be said for the reference. If you read closely and look widely you will figure out who is who.

The plot is predictable and a bit clichéd and the story end up abruptly. The build-up is nice but once you reach the end you might get a feeling that it ended in a rush. I have mentioned this previously; an extra chapter would do no harm to such a fast-paced book till the time the story is perfectly spaced out.

Overall, it’s a story about how a common man gets entangled and travels through the corridors of power and tries to change or at best question and expose the system. Does he become successful in his motive, for that you need to pick a copy of the book?

Verdict

India is a country where after cricket, which is a religion, and Bollywood, which is everyone’s fascination, political discussion is like a meal. You will find people banging their heads with each other about current political events or ideologies at every tea stall, or during any train journey or while simply waiting in a queue.

The book is a welcome fodder for all those political analysts. I am going with four stars for ‘Parliamental’ by Meghnad S. – three and a half for the satire and the extra half for the amazingly humorous and creative footnotes. This page-turner is a must-read.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This review was done as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program. Please sign up if you are a bibliophile.

My side of the bargain – an honest review – Find the Book here on Goodreads and Amazon.

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Alumni of the Year – Book Review

Book: Alumni of the Year

Author: Tomson Robert

Reviewed By: Manas Mukul

Publisher: Notion Press (24 June 2019)

Price: 180 INR

Pages: 156 (Paperback)

ISBN: 978-1-68466-825-0

Language: English

My rating: 3.5/5

Almost everyone these days, especially the ones working in corporates and living in urban inhabitations are struggling to manage ‘time’, maintain a work-life balance and cope with the stress associated with it. We are losing a lot on life while chasing materialistic things, paying EMIs, not being there for our family and by the time we realize it; its always too late.

Alumni of the year by Tomson Robert is a book about what truly matters in life and what are the things that hold us back. This is his second book and I would like to express gratitude towards Writersmelon for considering me this book review. I loved reviewing this book as it gave me an opportunity to explore other genres other than thrillers/mystery books.

About the Author

Tomson is a storyteller. He lives in Dubai and works as a Director at a top-tier Management Consulting firm. He has completed his MBA from Loyola College, Chennai and is a professional Management Accountant. Tomson is married to Cini, and they have an adorable daughter, Lea. His first book was a collection of short stories titled Stories of Work, Life and the Balance in Between.

My Review

The book is a little bigger in size compared to the regular ones and the cover is nicely done. In the beginning, the cover doesn’t make much sense but when you finish the story, it all comes to you. It abstractly showcases a certain event in the protagonist’s life, which is of utmost importance to the theme of the book.

The book begins with a prologue ‘In another universe’ and is important considering how the events at the climax shape up. It also tells that the protagonist witness a recurring dream with increasing frequency, that has started giving him sleepless nights.

Back Cover with the Blurb

The story revolves around mainly five characters – Dave, Ann, George, Nitin and Divya with Dave being the protagonist. The story is spread across a time frame of around two weeks where Dave travels from Dubai to Goa to Kochi. Some other yet important characters ably support the story and every character has a role to play in the plot. There were no unnecessary characters.

The book alternates between flashback and present time, but it never hampers the pace or the flow of the book. In fact, the writer craft fully leaves a hook at the end of every chapter that he uses in taking us forward or I should say backward in the flashback. The book has a light breezy feel to it mainly because it gets the nostalgic notes right. Each and every one of us has had that tea stall during our school days where we would end up spending more time than in actual classes. Things like the school days childhood romance getting materialized in the two actually getting married makes you think of all such people you know in real life. It touches such finer things pretty well.

Dave buys his way in the ‘Alumni of the year’ contest held by his school in Kochi and during these two weeks, from the start to the events leading up to the contest, he has certain realizations that makes the reader look around and ponder what are the true things of meaning in one’s life. Questions like – Are we chasing things uselessly – start popping up inside the head.

The simple vocabulary gives legs to the pace of the book and it is a fast read with only 156 pages. I must highlight how Tomson has incorporated humor in the storyline. He has used situational humor and you will hardly find it out of place. There are some nicely understated things like the phrase ‘we were pregnant’. It’s a small statement but tell me where have you read it earlier, saying such a deep thing with fewer words.

Some chapters could have been more elaborate; a couple of them were shortened and felt as if ended abruptly. I would not have minded some extra pages. He has used the recent flooding in Kerala and incorporated in the narrative. Many a time writers try to mix real events in fiction and end up messing both, he has avoided that. There is a trend emerging with fiction books now going below 200 pages; I am not sure whether it is a positive or negative thing till the time the story is beautifully spaced out.

The strength of the book lies in its relatability, whether they are the school days or the present family days both have been touched with an everyday simplicity, which we encounter in day-to-day life. Anybody working in a corporate would know how the bosses are when it comes to deadlines and getting work done. No matter how much we promise our family members and more importantly ourselves that we won’t let the work affect them, it invariably does.

Verdict

If you are looking for a simple light breezy read then this is the book for you. It is a good read on a perfectly relaxing day and you will become a part of the story in no time. Sometimes the life lesson books become too heavy to digest, ‘Alumni of the year’ by Tomson Robert is the exact opposite of that. I am going with ‘three and a half’ stars for this nostalgic simple book. An extra ‘half’ for keeping it light.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

My side of the bargain – an honest review – Find the Book here on Goodreads and Amazon.

Tomson Robert can be reached at authortomson@gmail.com, tweet to @tomsonrobert or visit his blog https://medium.com/@Nosmot

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When the Wheels came off Mahagathbandhan

This article was first published in the July edition of ‘The EDGE’ as a cover story. You can read the story and other articles here.

It’s been more than a month, since the declaration of results of the General Elections for the 17th Lok Sabha. NDA came back to power with a thumping majority bettering its previous tally from 2014 and in the process BJP too capturing more seats and crossing the majority mark on its own.

The opposition is still sulking from the rout and yet to come out of the shock and analyze what hit them. Many experts and psephologists didn’t even predict this kind of a win for the NDA. A bigger ‘Modi-wave’ hit them, which is popularly being termed as ‘Tsunamo’.

There were many alliances formed, at the national and regional level to take on the might of the juggernaut known as Modi-Shah. The wave has had a far-reaching impact. It is one thing to win an election with a majority and it is another where you end up decimating an entire opposition to the extent where they begin to self-doubt and self-criticize that might eventually lead them to implode.

The cracks in the alliances are beginning to surface. The blame game and mudslinging is at its peak. Nobody wants to own up to their failures and just wants to take the easy way out by pointing faults in others. The wheels have come off the much-hyped ‘Bua-Bhatija’ Samajwadi Party & Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in UP. Mayawati has already made it official that moving forward they would be contesting all elections on their own without any alliance, especially not the current one with SP.

Uttar Pradesh was BJP’s biggest bastion during the general elections of 2014 where they bagged 71 out of 80 seats. The Mahagathbandhan of SP-BSP was touted as a potent force to provide resistance to the wave, though the results tell a different story.

The Mahagathbandhan failed miserably, but the same cannot be said about Mayawati. BSP went from 0 seats to 10 seats from the 38 contested while keeping its vote share intact compared to the 2014 elections. Many experts are of the opinion that SP’s voter base helped Mayawati achieve this, while the same didn’t reciprocate for SP. Mayawati openly lashing out on Akhilesh for not being able to safeguard Dimple Yadav’s seat and criticizing him for the loss paved way for the split-up of SP-BSP alliance.

Irrespective of the result, this alliance would not have lasted long. It is the way BSP has been, it is the way politics of Mayawati is. She rode to power first on the support of BJP, then she shook hands with UPA when they came in power and when she realized that her politics is about to fade and BSP might go extinct, she jumped on the boat of their archrivals SP. Everybody from the political spectrum is aware of what are the events that led to the enmity between both the political fronts.

The formula of ‘Mahagathbandhan’ worked tremendously well in Bihar where the once archrivals, Nitish Kumar and Laloo Prasad Yadav, came together to form an unthinkable alliance along with Congress. Mathematics for the coalition was worked around and it defeated the first Modi wave and Nitish Kumar came back to power, hence laying down foundations for many of such alliances.

Some of them were based on chemistry some simply based on arithmetic but all had one common agenda of defeating BJP and more importantly Modi. Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party tried to use the same formula and formed an alliance along with Ajit Singh’s RLD, which was termed as UP’s Mahagathbandhan.

The common masses believed that Akhilesh Yadav as CM of UP (2012-17) did decent work and his performance was better than previous regimes but his fallout with his own uncle on the eve of UP Assembly elections didn’t go down well with their core voter base. The same base would turn up on the name of Mulayam Singh Yadav and vote blindly for them for the past two and half decades. Now the people would see him as someone who went against his own father’s wishes. The largely conservative rural voters would not approve of this any day.

During the same period, Mayawati was fighting an existential battle. BSP failed to secure a single seat in the General Elections of 2014. Don’t forget that the same Mayawati was eyeing the PM’s chair via a third front. The results of UP assembly elections 2017 came as a reality check for both SP and BSP where SP went from 224 seats in 2012 to a mere 47 seats and BSP went from 80 seats to a paltry 19 seats.

What mislead them were their vote percentages. BSP and SP both got about 22% while BJP single-handedly touched 40%. As per their simple calculations, 22 plus 22 would convert into 44, which was anyway more than what BJP secured; what they didn’t take into consideration that alliances and votes don’t work on mathematics. They work on ideologies.

The followers, party workers, and cadres go by how and what their leaders say or is it? For more than two decades Mayawati and Mulayam Singh spat venom on each other and so did their party members and workers at all levels. Now to expect that all of a sudden the same antagonism would evaporate in a day was an idea little far fetched.

The topmost people of two political parties might get up one day and decide to shake hands and appear to become friends doesn’t necessarily mean that same would transpire among grassroots level party worker leave alone voters. It is literally difficult for them to become friends and work shoulder-to-shoulder with someone, whom they abused and badmouthed for the past twenty years.

When the Lok Sabha by-elections happened in UP after the assembly elections of 2017, the verdict was more or less against Yogi than against Modi. But when it came down to the general elections, the Modi-Shah duo was successful in converting it into a presidential format of election where it was all about a single personality of Narendra Modi. A personality that they have successfully marketed into a towering figure against which no other figure from the opposition stands tall.

As the dates for voting approached, Mayawati started openly batting herself for the prime position of PM that didn’t go down well with the voters. I met people who claimed that they voted for BJP because they didn’t want somebody like a Mayawati to be the PM. She might command respect and support from her community in UP but the same is not the case when it comes to other states of India, whereas Narendra Modi since 2013 has successfully catapulted himself as a national leader.

I am sure how Mayawati worked her way around Akhilesh in gaining their support and in the process bagging more seats, he would not have objected when she would have put her name forward for the PM’s chair.

Both, SP and BSP’s ideologies are caste centric, which made it even harder for their bases to align together. The last time when Mayawati came to power was when the upper caste voted in her favor. That is not the case now. She has even started losing the support of non-jatav dalits and hence the slow decline in BSP’s vote share.

The same worked this time in BJP’s favor where a majority of Hindu votes consolidated in their favor. Of the alliance’s 15 winning candidates, 11 were Muslims, Yadavs and Jatavs. Many reports suggested that this verdict is against caste politics. Well, it is not. BJP was smarter in fielding their candidates. NDA fielded about 34 upper caste candidates and 28 non-yadav OBCs.

In 2014, Mulayam Singh Yadav won by a margin of 3.64 lakh votes from their bastion of Mainpuri, which got reduced to 95,000 votes signifies that the vote transfer didn’t take place on the ground despite Mayawati campaigning for him.

Rajan Pandey, a journalist who co-authored a book on elections in UP highlighted, “BSP claims it is a party of Dalits but it has been reduced to be a party of Jatavs and even not all Jatavs are with it.” The alliance only considered their core voting communities and completely disregarded the non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits.

Surprisingly, they even fielded 20 odd candidates from upper castes when contrarily they were propagating a 2% tax on elite upper castes. In the reserved seats, BJP fielded as many as 15 non-Jatavs and only 2 Jatavs.

BJP played smart in constituencies where their incumbent MPs performed poorly and the general vibe was against them. Like in the case of Menaka Gandhi and Varun Gandhi – they simply swapped their constituencies. The Nishad Party candidate who won the by-poll from Gorakhpur constituency was also easily poached and he joined hands with BJP right before the elections leaving the alliance looking foolish.

The rebellion from Shivpal Yadav and BJP forming strategic alliances with smaller parties like Apna Dal and Nishad party too helped them. Presence of Shivpal in Firozabad ensured that his nephew Akshay Yadav lost.

The fielding of wrong or weak candidates too catalyzed this drubbing at the hands of NDA. Ajit Singh’s RLD fielded 3 candidates out of which 2 were from their family clan and still lost in their traditional Jat belt. Similarly, in Phulpur where the alliance won a stunning by-election by fielding a Kurmi candidate changed its candidate this time around with a Yadav candidate. Phulpur having a Kurmi majority helped BJP’s Kurmi candidate to win by 1.71 lakh votes.

Now, when the alliance has been called off, it is easy to claim that the caste-based politics didn’t work for the Mahagathbandhan but it was the consolidation of other Hindu votes in sync with the ideology of Hindutva against these three core community votes that led to the debacle of the promising alliance.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

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काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो आपके कन्धों पर बैठ के एक और बार दुनिया देख पाता,

आपकी साइकिल पर बैठ सैर कर पाता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो आपके सीने पर एक और बार सो पाता,

आपकी सोंधी सी खुशबू महसूस कर पाता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो फिर किसी मैदान में कोई खेल खेल पाता,

आपसे जीतने की वो बचपन की ख़ुशी को दुबारा जी पाता…

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो स्कूल न जाने का बहाना ढूंढ पाता,

और घंटो आपके साथ मस्ती कर पाता…

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो फिर आपसे अनगिनतक्योंक्योंकर सवाल कर पाता,

मेरे हर बचकाने सवाल पर आपका सहज सा जवाब सुन पाता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो एक आखिरी बार आपके पास बैठ कर आपकी हर बात सुन पाता,

आपके सारे अनकहे अनसुने दुःख बाँट पाता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो आपकी हथेलियों पर फिर से खड़ा हो पाता,

और उन्ही हथेलियों की रेखाओं को बदल देता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो हर उस गवाएं पल के लिए आपके गले लग पाता,

और शायद एक बार ही सही पर रो पाता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो भगवान् से लड़ जाता,

और हमेशा के लिए अपने पास रोक लेता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो आपके आखिरी पलों में आपके साथ होता,

आपमें समां कर आपके साथ ही इस दुनिया से चला जाता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो स्याही बन कर आपके लिखे हुए शब्द बन जाता,

और दुनिया से जाने के बाद भी आपका नाम अमर कर जाता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता

मानससमीरमुकुल

I have previously written a poem with the same name with a romantic angle – Read here – “Kaash main wo baarish ki boond hota”

This blog is a part of the #BirthdayBlogTrain hosted by Gunjan Upadhyay http://tuggunmommy.com/ and Neha Sharma http://growingwithnemit.com/.

I would like to thank Nisha from https://www.thefantasticmommy.com/ for introducing me to this blog train and would further like to introduce Silja Nair from https://vijvihaar.in/ to share her take on the prompts.

46

Zaika-e-Lucknow: Top food places in Lucknow

Zaika-e-Lucknow: Top Food places in Lucknow #BharatkaZaika

Lucknow is popularly known as the city of Nawabs but for the foodies, it has a different connotation altogether, they consider it as the ‘City of Kebabs’. As soon as you arrive in Lucknow the first thing that you will notice is ‘Mukuraiye, Ap Lucknow me hai’ written on billboards and other places, which literally translates to ‘Smile as you are in Lucknow’.

Lucknow has an opulent cultural heritage and is renowned for many things – the monuments with incomparable architectural features, the rich literature, the ‘Chikankari’ on clothes, the ‘Khatirdari’ (hospitality) or the ‘Tehzeeb’ (, the unique lingua franca or the delectable culinary delights. It has its own unique charming vibe to it.

The Awadhi cuisine dishes out copious vegetarian dishes but it is a food lovers’ paradise when it comes to the non-vegetarian offerings. We can all thank a toothless Nawab for the evolution that began in the 17th century for Kebabs. Without delving much in history let me highlight what are the places that are must-visits and what are the must-haves when you pay a visit to this iconic city and its scrumptious food.

Tunday Kababi

Tunday Kababi at Aminabad

No discussion around Lucknow’s food can be complete without the legendary Tunday Kababi. Their one-of-a-kind Galouti kebabs are one of the best kebabs that you will find in India. A one-armed chef for the Nawab of Lucknow first prepared it in the 17th century and since then it has captured the imaginations of all the food lovers across the region. The secret-recipe Kebab is prepared with minced meat and 160 different spices that lend an immaculate flavor to the dish.

The shop that started with humble origins is now converted into a food chain with multiple outlets across the city and country. You can also try Shami Kebab, Boti Kabab and Seekh Kabab along with other non-veg dishes.

Alamgir Restaurant

Alamgir is another gem of a place for non-veg lovers. It is right opposite to the Tunday Kababi restaurant in Aminabad in a small alley. If you walk into that alley today, you will feel as if the whole place is taken over by Alamgir with food being prepared everywhere. Their Band Ghosht and unique chicken Kalimirch are a must-have. Try them with their saffron-colored Sheermal.

I believe that the only place that can compete with Lucknow’s biryani is Hyderabad’s biryani but there are still places in Lucknow that will serve you something totally unique.

Outside Idrees Biryani

Idrees Ki biryani

Another place, which is based on, a secret recipe passed on from the previous generation. Currently run by the sons of Muhammad Idrees, who started this small place in 1968, is a must visit if you love to have biryanis. The place looks so ordinary and small from outside that if you are not keenly looking for it, you might actually end up missing it. Better look out for the huge crowd that is always gathered outside the eatery. You will be actually surprised to know how many celebs visit the place on their visit to Lucknow.

The best way to reach the place is to spot the patanala police station in Raza Bazaar in the Chowk area. If you aren’t comfortable eating in cramped up spaces then my advice for you is to take the biryani home and enjoy it there.

Awadh Biryani Corner

You will not hear a lot about this place, as it is a small place near the Dainik Jagran Chauraha (roundabout) but I can definitely vouch for their biryanis. I started going there during my school days since their biryani was dirt cheap and always came along with a free cola. Over the years I have become a lover of their biryani and their shami kebabs. Watch out for the portions before ordering, it might be too much for a single person.

Wahid Biryani

Idrees biryani getting prepared

Popularly known as the ‘Pride of Lucknow’, Wahid Biryani was started about 60 years ago. They have tried their best to preserve their authentic taste through its 55 spices that go into the preparation of their aromatic biryani. They have multiple outlets across the city.

Rahim Ki Nihari

It’s a 130-year-old restaurant started in 1890 and is famous for its Nihari & Kulche. What Tunday is to Kebabs and Idrees is to biryani, Rahim is to Nihari.

It started as a breakfast joint and you will be surprised to see the crowd even today queued up early in the morning. It is located on phool wali gali near Tehseen Masjid in Chowk. You can also try paaye, sheermal, kakori kabab, parsande, seekh kabab & kheer.

Dastarkhwan

Dastarkhwan is another non-veg eatery with multiple outlets. My favorite one is near the Tulsi theatre. Their Tawa Chicken Masala are a must-have with paratha.

You must be thinking I am mentioning everything related to non-veg but vegetarians don’t get disappointed. Lucknow has a lot to offer in veg especially when it comes to street food.

Band Ghosht & Sheermal at Alamgir

Baati Chokha Restaurant and Banarasiya

The Baati Chokha restaurant in Gomti Nagar and Banarasiya restaurant near Pheonix mall are famous for their local vegetarian cuisines. Both have got this rural ambience, which complements the food really well. Baati Chokha are a must have in them. Their refrigerated Kheer and Bakheer served in earthen bowls is too good.

Ratti Lal ke khaste

It is one of the oldest sweet shops in Lucknow. Lucknowites love to have Khasta Kachori in breakfast along with Jalebis. Ratti Lal is famous for its Khasta Puri. It is located in the Aminabad region.

Royal Café – Basket Chaat

If you are a fan of basket chaat or tokri chaat then you must have already visited the Royal Café in Hazratganj in Lucknow. Currently they have more than one outlet in the city. It is one of the most preferred places to hang out for couples.

Jain Chaat Corner

Sheermal getting prepared

Another great eatery offering mouth-watering chaat is Jain Chaat Corner near Novelty Cinema. It is one of the best places to try any variety of chaat. Their Papdi chaat and Golgappas are a must to have.

Sharma Tea Stall

Sharma Tea stall is one of the oldest tea stalls in the city, started way back in 1948. It is nearby Jain Chaat Corner in Lalbagh. They are famous for their bun Makhan (butter), samosas and of course tea. The highlight is the butter that is homemade. You might have to wait a little longer for your tea, as it is always crowded.

Prakash ki Mashhoor Kulfi

This place was started in 1965 and is one of the best places to try desserts. Their Kulfis are truly amazing. Every time my father used to visit that area in Aminabad, he would make sure he gets a portion for my mother. They have special packing for takeaways so that your kulfi doesn’t melt on its way.

Makhan Malai

Makkhan Malai

It is one of my favorite delicacies that I remember from my childhood. Back then a guy used to sell it on his bicycle door-to-door and we would not miss any chance to have it. Currently there aren’t many takers for this unique fluffy sweet dish and is majorly sold around Gol Darwaja area.

Honorable mentions: Shree Lassi at Chowk, Bajpai poori kachori near Leela Cinema, Raja Thandai near Gol Darwaja Chowk and Azhar Paan near Akbari Darwaja Chowk.

Do let me know whether you liked the collection or not and do highlight if I missed any major place. Now you know what all places to visit the next time that you are in Lucknow.

For all those who love kebabs,

For all those who love kulfis,

For all those who love biryanis,

And

For all those who love food…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

“#BharatKaZaika is a blogging event conducted by #BlogBoosterIndia. Hosted by Aditi, Mahesh, Pragun, Preeti, Saba, Sanjota, Sudip, Suhasini, Supriya and sponsored by Habhit Wellness Private Ltd.

This Post is written under my Food Travels for #BlogBoosterIndia #BharatKaZaika

15

9th Year Anniversary

9th Year Anniversary

Its 9th day of June and my blog, ‘The Contemplation Of a Joker’ completes 9 years of its existence. Yes, today is its 9th birthday. 😀 Happy birthday to my blog.

By that logic, it belongs to the Zodiac sign Gemini. Some of the characteristics of a Gemini are that they are surprising, unpredictable, adaptable and indecisive. 9 years is a long enough time to figure out that these features totally align with my blog.

It has been surprising with the kind of content it dishes out. Totally unpredictable with the frequency – it has successfully completed an AtoZ challenge and there were times when it didn’t come up with a post in six months even.

Adaptability is one of its key features as to the various genres it has catered too. Some might see it as a negative but I would like to believe, it is a positive for my blog till it figures out and carves out a niche for itself. It is at times indecisive when it comes to picking and sticking to a theme while undertaking a challenge.

I still remember the day when I started this blog. I wanted to reach out to an audience and test waters before actually taking the writer/author route. While I have still not fully taken the plunge I am happy with the progress my blog has made. I know…I know it has been slow, but at least I never gave up.

The last year…the 9th was the best year for it as it saw the most number of posts being published and saw a better consistency and hence a better Alexa rank. While blogging, on the whole, is on a decline with fewer and fewer money being pumped in by the brands but I still believe that if you keep publishing quality content you will develop an authentic readership however small it may be.

A couple of days back a blogging community-based platform, Indiblogger declared that they would be going offline and shutting down operations. I was shocked and a bit heartbroken but I could see it coming with more and more of such platforms closing down. Last year it was Blogmint and this year it is our beloved Indiblogger.

Indiblogger was famous for its blogging challenges and competitions; some of them had literally big prizes. All these years of blogging it was a constant companion and these challenges kept motivating to come up with better content. Some of my best work has come as part of these challenges only.

Their Indimeets will surely be missed by the whole community. They hosted some of the best blogging meets hosted across the country and gave a true opportunity to make friends with the faces behind the blogs we visit on a regular basis and have made a bond with them.

I remember winning a PS3 at one of those Indimeets and now since they are going away forever its meaning has become even more for me. Indiblogger – you will surely be missed and thank you for being such an important part of my blogging journey. I dedicate this birthday to you.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been a part of my blogging and writing journey – the ones who regularly visit and comment on my blog, the ones who have just read a post or two, the ones who motivate to do better work, the ones who painstakingly review and read the initial drafts, the ones who don’t read at all but still are gracious enough to share my posts. I thank you all ‘Dil se’.

For all those who have been a part of my blogging journey,

For all those who read my posts,

For all those who regularly share my posts,

And

For all those who still believe in my writing…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Thank you ALL 🙂

Manas’ Sameer’ Mukul

 

17

Things I wish I knew as a First-Time Author | #BlogchatterEbook

Things I wish I knew as a first-time Author

It was around the same time last year when my relationship with Blogchatter started. They had announced their annual BlogchatterEbook Carnival, which transforms a blogger to a self-published author. Since I didn’t have much time to create new content for the Ebook and I desperately wanted to test publishing waters; I decided to edit and compile the existing top blog posts from my blog ‘The contemplation of a Joker’ and give this activity a real chance.

Today I can proudly say I am an author of a ‘self-published’ book. This year Blogchatter has given me an added responsibility. They took from a blogger to an author and now they are converting this author into a mentor for the people who would be participating in this years’ carnival.

I am proud to be considered a mentor for this year’s #BlogchatterEbook and I am here to help you out with your doubts and queries. Since the last years’ affair was so rushed for me there were many questions and things that bothered me right before compiling and putting the content in a book format. There are multiple questions that pop up from what font to use, what should be the order of the content, how to go about formatting the content, what is the ideal word limit and so on.

Based on my experience from last year and the questions I have been getting, I am writing this post on the ‘Things I wish I knew as a first-time author’.

I want to begin by saying; this is YOUR book and is a reflection of you. You are here to have fun and make sure you enjoy the journey from a Blogger to a published Author. There are no set mandatory rules, just a set of guidelines to help you come up with a better version of your book. Many people get scared because of the guidelines and never publish the book itself.

Just remember – Every Criticism is good criticism if you are a writer. Reach out to as many people as possible and ask them if they can give feedback for your work. That will certainly help in boosting confidence and correcting errors. Even if you aren’t finding people to dedicate time for you, do a couple of thorough self-reviews.

To begin with I would say just pick up a random book and go through the look and feel; how the content is formatted, how the chapters are starting, what the margins look like on each side, how many lines are there in a page and how many words in each line and so on.

Let’s start with the cover page:

Do include a cover page, with a pic, title and your name and/or any tagline. You can use Canva and Snapseed to design and edit. If you are looking for free pictures; Canva, Unsplash and Pixabay are good resources. Since it is an Ebook, you can choose a picture in either a vertical or horizontal format. I consider it a mistake since I chose a horizontal picture that might not ideally look like a book cover.

Length/Size of the book:

Personally speaking, there is no defined limit – It’s not an essay contest. Just make sure whatever story you are conveying and the central plot are complete. Don’t worry about word count – still, try to keep it around 15k at least. The more the merrier. If you are going with a compilation of let’s say recipes or travelogues then try to focus on each chapter and make it complete. In that scenario, keep a healthy count of somewhere around 12 and more.

About Content:

It will be best if there is a central theme around the work. Last year I compiled random short stories and that worked too. A theme gives an insight to the readers about what they are getting into. Sometimes, since it is the first time, the book might have two themes – then also go ahead with it and divide it into two sections. Remember there is no right or wrong here.

Title

I wasn’t sure what the title of my book should be – when I looked around it was right in front of me. It was the same as my blog’s title. When you have a THEME, it becomes easy. If it’s a compilation, my advice is to pick the title of most imp story and write ‘other stories…’ If the book has more than one theme, then the title should focus on the theme with more content or importance.

Formatting

It is always about the content in a book and not fancy fonts. Try to keep any ‘serif’ font – Times, Courier, Century Schoolbook, Palatino.

Size – ideally 10 or 12 points (also depends upon page formatting n font)

Indentation

Well, it’s not important but if you want your book’s content to look like a regular ones’ then indentation gives that look and feel.

Select-All (Content/Chapter) and then Control+J. Your content is perfectly done.

Margins

Margins give better readability. Usually, keep half an inch as margin.

Page size – I have mostly worked on A4 so I can recommend that. If you want to convert it into paperback later then A5 for a 6*9 layout is good. Try to keep 250-300 words on a page. I have seen the regular books have somewhere around 20-25 lines on a page. Try to keep that depending upon the size of the font and page.

Header and Footer

Try to keep the name of the book as header and a page number as footer. Start page numbers from the first chapter. I kept the author name too in the header.

For page numbers – go to Insert – Page numbers and then format. Insert only page numbers and not Page1, Page2… The beginning pages like Title, preface, acknowledgment should be devoid of page numbers or if you really want then go for roman numbering.

The order of the book

There is compulsory order but the one that is usually followed is – Cover Page – Title Page – Copyright page – dedication (optional) – Acknowledgement (Optional) – Table of contents – Chapters – About the author (it can be placed before Index as well). If you are writing non-fiction or content that requires a lot of references, then you can add the list of references at the end. If the book has more than one part then you can also add a teaser for the next part in the end.

How to save as pdf

Everybody is not tech savvy and since I received a couple of questions on this – After you have put everything in order – verify the order of chapters and pages. Close the file, open again and re-check. Go to ‘SaveAs’ and then in the format or file type change it to pdf from doc or docx. Save it and your ebook in pdf format is ready.

Headings

Try to keep consistency in the formatting of heading throughout the book – it looks very professional. It is not pleasing to the eye to look at different fonts on different chapters. Similarly, for sub-headings, if your book has them, then keep them same everywhere.

How to reduce the size of a picture

It is not advisable to stack-up your book with a lot of pictures as it will dramatically increase the size of your book and might not meet the maximum size criteria provided by the platform. Hence if it is unavoidable then you can follow these steps to reduce the size of any picture. I use Mac – in that when you open a pic in preview – Go to tools – adjust size, there you can reduce by percentage or pixels or cms. It definitely reduces the size in MB by 50% in one go itself.

Just remember no question is a silly question.

All the mentors including me are here to help you out to get your book ready.

All the best of love’n’luck for your journey.

For all the first time authors,

For all those bloggers who will take the plunge,

For all those who found this helpful,

And

For all those who now know things as a first-time author

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul