Wednesday, January 21, 2015

To-Visit List.


How many of you readers love travelling? I know, I do :D Travelling is a great way to move away from the regular humdrum and craziness of your life and unwind where you don’t have to worry about anything. 2014 was a great year for me travel-wise. I was invited with a few other blogger friends from Kolkata and Bangalore to go and visit the Four Seasons vineyards and the winery at Baramati, Maharashtra. Sitting on the balcony of my expansive room, soaking in the winter sun, staring into the vast vineyards, sipping delicious wine – life couldn’t be any better. I had the best holiday of my life there. I also travelled to Mumbai last year to attend an event and meet some other blogger buddies who I hadn’t met before. Blogging literally changes your world.

The two trips I mentioned were organized and managed by others and so I did not have to bother about the travel details, stay and all the budget. However, having to settle the budget, plan the trip and the travel, the hotel bookings, places to visit can be quite exhausting and tiring. What if I tell you that you didn’t have to worry at all about the kinds and number of hotels available in any area? Sounds amazing, right? Homestays.in is the one step solution to your booking worries. All you have to do is visit the website, search for the place you intend to visit, see the listings of the hotels there and plan your stay there according to your decided budget. It doesn’t get any easier than this. What I love about the website is the clean and hassle-free layout with simple listings with the number of rooms available and their charges provided in easy formats.

Travelling is something I enjoy immensely. The light headed feeling when your plane lifts off from the ground, the joy of wandering around aimlessly, looking and absorbing the scenery that encompasses you, nothing explains the surreal experience. My favourite places to go are mountains and forests. Having lived by the coastal regions my entire life, I gravitate more towards the towering mountains and lush forests than towards beaches and the sea. I have a long list of places that I’ve prepared over the years that I plan to visit as soon as I am done with my current course. I’ll have plenty of time in hand of which a huge chunk I plan to dedicate entirely to travelling across the length and breadth of the country. The list of the places I want to visit in the near future are-

1) Munnar – I spent my entire childhood, eight years to be exact, in Kochi. Unfortunately, we never got around to visiting this quaint little hill station tucked safely in the lap of the Nilgiris. Munnar is an extremely beautiful place with wide expanses of tea gardens all around. The temperature there is always pleasant which makes it a perfect destination to visit throughout the year. Check out the options from the elaborate Keralite style resorts to modern high-rises in Munnar at homestays.in.


2) Mumbai- I did mention visiting Mumbai last year but my stay was merely for a day and this city deserves more than a single visit. I plan to visit my new friends there and experience the many things I missed in my last trips- take a walk down the famous Juhu Beach, munch on the chaat and vada pav that the city is synonymous with, treat myself to some seafood delicacies, and street shop from Colaba Causeway and Hill Road.


3) Delhi- A trip to the capital city toh banta hai, right? Two of my favourite people on earth stay in Delhi and it has been on my to-visit list for a very long time. Delhi and its surrounding areas are a dream for any history lover. I’ll be visiting the city soon and I plan to put a tick on my checklist across The Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, The Qutb Minar, Lodi Gardens, and the Lotus Temple amongst many others. Sarojini Nagar and Lajpat Nagar are the Mecca for flea market lovers and I have a list of places and stores here that I know I need to visit.


4) Dharamsala- Dharamsala has the largest Tibetan monastery in the world outside Tibet. It has for very long been the safe haven and refuge for His Holiness, The Dalai Lama and his followers. I had quite some time ago found this very beautifully written article about this beautiful city tucked in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh and I’ve been dying to visit this place ever since. The scenic beauty of the unending Himalayan range coupled with the delectable food available at McLeodGanj makes this a must visit for all travel lovers in India.

So, what are the places you have bookmarked to visit in the near future? Do you share any from my list? Let me know in the comments below.


Till Next,

Monday, January 19, 2015

Of Books - Where to Buy Them



Hello there folks,

How has 2015 been treating you? It has been pretty fabulous for me so far.  I cannot believe it is 19th already!! The beginning of every New Year seems synonymous with new resolutions. I always end up breaking all my resolutions religiously. This time however, I have decided to stick to the few I have resolved to follow.

Starting the day with a short silent prayer has been one and it is surprisingly refreshing especially on these cold winter mornings when all I want to do is sleep. Another thing I have resolved is to read at least 50 books this year. I read a mere 15 last year (thanks to the super busy second half of the year I had)  . My bookshelf has some 100 books that I've bought over the last 3 years and never got around to reading. I cannot get over the compulsive habit of buying books which makes the pile of to-read books only grow higher with time. You cannot blame me entirely, who can resist the smell of those new books inviting you to buy them!! 

How many of you are guilty of buying books and making a pile of them? I know I am. How many of you are also guilty of checking out books in stores and buying them cheaper online? *raises hand* Well, you cannot blame me for that. Being a student with no source of income is particularly difficult. You need all these awesome stuff out there and have only a limited sum of money you can spend. What do you do then? Search for deals to get things cheaper and at awesome deals!! This is where life saviors like CupoNation come into the picture. They provide you with information about the latest discounts and deals on different websites selling books. Books come at unbelievably great prices online and what makes it all the better is you get them home delivered. I absolutely love going to and buying from bookstores but the joy you experience from bagging a great deal is pretty awesome too. 

The Kolkata Literary Meet (KALAM) is to start from 23rd January and I cannot be more excited. I've placed a huge order of books by Ruskin Bond, Amitav Ghosh and Jeet Thayil which I am planning to get signed from them. Yay!    My favorite websites to shop books from are-

1) Flipkart.com




This was pretty obvious, right? Flipkart started their entire venture with books quite a couple of years back. I have been a loyal customer from 2010. They have never failed to deliver their promises and have super cool offers on books all the time. They have currently a huge sale going on and they offer free deliveries for books from WS retail!!

2) Amazon.in



Amazon’s Indian version is my new favorite when it comes to shopping books. They provide free shipping on (almost) all books and they also pack your book with in a pretty cover (different from the regular one) and add a message for free if it is a gift. I totally love that.Check for amazing Amazon coupons to save much on your next purchase.


3) Landmarkonthenet.com




This is another website I really like buying books from. The deals aren't always the best here but they store some books other stores don’t.


What are your favorite places to buy books from? Do you prefer buying them from stores of do you get yours online? Let me know in the comments.

Till next,


Friday, January 16, 2015

My Favourite Indian E-retail Websites

Frankly speaking, it’s absolutely fabulous to be alive in a time where you don’t have to travel all the way to your favourite stores to buy things. E-retail has made our world so much easier and has made shopping all the more fun and smooth! No more pesky shopping assistants breathing down you’re your neck, trying to ‘help you’ choose the right product. Honestly, I get more freaked out than anything else having people running around suggesting me what I should pick. 

Shopping online is way cooler and totally fuss-free. Just add your favourite products into the cart, fill in your details and pay through your card or try COD if you are not too sure and your yummy stuff come straight to you in a matter of days!! E-commerce websites offer you seamless tools for searching the right product with the right price, color, shape, size and what not. Just click/check the right boxes and your options are presented to you instantly. Pretty much like having a personal shopper 
 Online stores give you exactly what you ordered. And add to that the benefits of return and exchange. Don’t like a product? Size doesn’t fit exactly the way you thought? Worry not, the best e-retail websites provide free exchanges and full-returns. Things don’t get any better, does it?
The top giants in the business are definitely Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal who are ruling the roost as they sell almost everything available under the sun. There are, however, a few others who are doing some pretty amazing work to compete with these. Added to all the amazing deals these websites keep offering throughout the year, we have fabulous coupon websites that provide you fabulous deals that make it all the more fabulous than it already was.

PriceBurp.com is one of my personal favourites when it comes to finding awesome deals before grabbing anything online. Be it coupons for sites like Amazon, Flipkart, and FabFurnish, or others like ShopClues, this coupon site has then all under one umbrella. I have listed my favourites to shop from (in no particular order)-

Amazon

Amazon opened its Indian website very recently which was an instant hit among the Indian shoppers. Amazon is a platform where you can buy almost anything that you can think of. They are currently running and sale and you can the products available at a much cheaper rate by checking the amazing coupons priceburp.com offers for books, electronics, watches, toys, clothes,accessories and more.




Flipkart

Flipkart started the entire online shopping trend in India and they began by selling books. Imagine how much it has evolved and almost became synonymous to Amazon.com, giving away best deals on electronics, clothes, shoes, accessories and kitchenware. Flipkart has become our favorite online shopping center where we can check out wide varieties of products and goods. In fact, certain products like Moto E, Asus Zenphones, etc., were launched first and exclusively sold via Flipkart.




Myntra

What started off originally as an online store of personalizing gift items, has now expanded into a company dealing in fashion and casual lifestyle based products. Although its Wikipedia page would tell you that it’s owned by Flipkart, Myntra works independently as it has only merged with the former. Myntra stores a variety of lifestyle fashion brands like Polo, Nike, Puma, Adidas and ...(you get the idea, pretty much everything).




Snapdeal

We all know how beautifully Snapdeal doused the fire of Flipkart’s ‘Big Billion Sale’ by a simple full-page ad on Times on India, having the tagline ‘For Others It’s a Big Day. For Us, Today is No Different’. This is exactly why Snapdeal is now a 2000+ crore company, operating all over India. Snapdeal’s marketing strategy and all-year sale has earned it a fair name for being one of India’s top e-commerce websites. It hosts over four million products on its website ( unbelievable, isn’t it?). If the deals weren’t enough, you can now save more from the deals available at PriceBurp.com. Starting from a toolkit for your garage to hair straighteners, Snapdeal has them all.




Koovs

If you are one of those who want to own things you see on the runway and cannot afford the price tags, Koovs is the place you need to check right now. This is one hell-of-a website that puts up unbelievably trendy products at the most reasonable prices. Look at Koovs more like a boutique store where you get to browse through the choicest apparels, bags, jewelry and accessories. Meant for both men and women, Koovs displays brands like Puma, Nike, Burberry, Benetton and Gap among innumerable others.




Pepperfry

You must have definitely seen the cute advertisements that Pepperfry has been airing recently on TV. Pepperfry is indeed a nice place to buy furniture online. They have such fabulous pieces that are no very easily available at your local markets and the prices that they are offered at are unbelievable. Just browse their website, check the amazing furniture, order one and they send you the product complete with professionals who would install the furniture at your place. Can refurbishing your home get any easier?! Check out the great deals that PriceBurp provides you to make shopping from Pepperfry even better.




What are your favourites to shop from? Tell us in the comments!!
Till next,


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Book Review : Breach by Amrita Chowdhury

Author: Amrita Chowdhury
ISBN-13: 9789350098554
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: Hachette India
Number of pages: 352
Genre: Fiction
Language: English
Price: Rs.350 (Got a review copy)


About the Book

How secure are your secrets? Weeks before Acel is ready to file the global patent application for Colare, a wonder drug for pancreatic cancer, the research data stored at its offshore data center in Mumbai goes haywire and Dr. Udai Vir Dhingra, the charismatic, Ivy-educated young leader of its Indian business, gets blamed. Battling market pressures, media leaks, livid American bosses and crumbling relationships, Vir must find the real perpetrators or see his career-and his life-spiral downwards. Swept into a shadowy world of masked online identities and muddied digital footprints, Vir discovers that nothing is easy or obvious and everything has a price. Set in Mumbai, Washington DC and Suzhou, in an online-meets-offline adventure of cyber threats and IP espionage, drug research and medical ethics, strained affairs and lost love, disillusionment and hopelessness, Breach is a clever, fast-paced thriller full of surprises.

About the Author

Amrita Verma Chowdhury is the author of Faking It, an art crime thriller about fake modern and contemporary Indian art. She holds engineering degrees from IIT Kanpur and UC Berkeley, where she was a Jane Lewis Fellow and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon - Tepper Business School. Her work as an engineer in Silicon Valley led to seven US patents for semi-conductor fabrication-something to show for all those bad-haired days. She has done strategy consulting and board effectiveness work in the US and Australia and has spent long nights fitting five-syllable words inside two-by-two squares. She has worked in the rarefied bastions of Ivy League education bringing together ideas and people. She currently works in publishing. She lives in Mumbai with her husband Sumit, their two children Shoumik and Aishani and an assortment of pets including a cocker spaniel, a guinea pig and two turtles. She loves travelling, baking cupcakes with her daughter and hearing from her readers.

Gaurav Says

Few times at present have I come across meticulous thrillers that hardly have a dull moment in them. Previously, I have seen this trait in the works of film directors like Farhan Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Bhardwaj, who know how to tell a story with style. Amrita Chowdhury has just about worded one of the best, stylish and pacing thrillers of 2014 that come at par with the directorship of the above mentioned personalities. ‘Breach’ captures that portion of cyber-crime, which makes you read pages after pages, just for the sake of knowing what happens next! ‘Execution’ is primary, which makes an author a bestseller and Amrita knows how to exploit it. She places each event of this thriller in a brilliant chronology. Right from the start, we find how loopholes in the cyber space can wreak havoc for giant companies, individuals and the economy in general.
Coming to the storyline of the whole book, we have one giant pharmaceutical company called Acel, based on Maryland, who are gearing up to launch their revolutionary anti-cancerous drug ‘Colare’. They have their offices in Mumbai, India where Dr. Udai Vir Dhingra is in charge. Weeks before filing for petition, the core team finds out a glitch in their test trials of Mumbai. Smelling fish, Acel hits the panic button and blames Dhingra for the ‘breach’ of information regarding Colare, from Acel’s well-encrypted database. Vir’s world takes a summersault when he finds himself tangled within a nasty web of online hacking and advanced programming.
Notching down from the high-profile hacking in the background, we come down to a parallel story of a genius national ranker from Korba who gets a chance to study with his cousin, Ankita, at one of Mumbai’s prestigious universities. Raghu, previously a topper in the university now faces an adversary in Madhu, who leaves him behind in aptitude. Seeking revenge, Raghu hides under the fa├žade of masked online identities and hacks into Madhu’s online content. Furious with the misuse of her personal information, Madhu swore revenge. As painstaking and brain-slaughtering it can get, Madhu learns the tricks and ploys of online hacking and exacts her fair share of vengeance!
Two storylines, beautifully fuses together as we move further and further into the text. I’ve hardly been excited with tech-savvy novels before. My favourites being Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Roald Dahl and Michael Crichton among others. However, the maturity and vigour with which Mrs. Chowdhury shaped her novel, it kept me rooted to the narration till I could reach the final pages. She kept all sorts of readers in mind while she scripted ‘Breach’. Be it for individuals who speak, talk and eat ‘Programming’ or the myriad scientists who are dedicated to the world of fighting cancer, the book has all sorts of information lucidly explained.
To speak more about the story would be to rob you off the chance of reading something truly amazing. Like I said, after a long time, I’ve had the good fortune to stumble upon an exciting, fascinating and truly sophisticated thriller. If I could offer any appreciation to Mrs. Chowdhury, I would ask her to write a sequel of ‘Breach’ with Raghu and Madhu on the fore. 


‘Breach’ is definitely one of the ‘coming-of-age’ thrillers in the Indian soil. Amrita Chowdhury has injected our bookshelves with a particular style of storytelling, which was previously followed by thriller writers Stephen King, Ernest Hemmingway or our very own Satyajit Ray. 'Breach' is fresh, detailed and flawlessly executed. I highly recommend you get a copy and get reading.

Reviewed for Dreams and Drama by Gaurav Dutta. Thanks so much , Gaurav :)