Surviving Stress: Discover the Awesome You by Vidhu Bhatnagar

“Stay positive and notice the miracles happening in your life on a daily basis.” – Vidhu Bhatnagar

This week’s read is Surviving Stress: Discover the Awesome You by Vidhu Bhatnagar.

Here is what I thought…

Blurb:


“Surviving Stress and Rediscover The Awesome You!” Whatever we do, Stress is an essential part of our lives and we just can’t wish it away…… we might as well learn to deal with it constructively. Stress in everyday life is a killer in itself and when we become parents, the stress multiplies. The first section in this book deals with my ways of surviving stress, balancing between work, patients, kids and home. When I became a parent I learnt patience and acceptance. I even had to unlearn many a tricks which I utilized for teaching my elder one, because they were just not correct for the younger one…. The whole parenting business is maddening with continuous dillemma of “how much is too much” and how less is too less’. The need to become a better person, a better parent has also been extremely strong, always. Thus, I learnt new lessons, identified my weaknesses and strengths and emerged as a ”New ME”. I realized how societal conditioning restricts our growth; how we need to identify our bonds so as to free ourselves and become our awesome self. Identifying the clutches of conditioning and then disentangling from them made me write about the second part in this book.This book is divided into two sections – the first section deals with the lessons I learnt regarding stress management and the second is devoted to learning about the societal conditioning and rediscovering our awesomeness. Hope you enjoy reading it. Vizmom!

Title:

What I like best about the title is how it encompasses the essence of the book in just a few words. Reading it gives an idea about what the book is all about – and that is that this is a self-help guide.

Title Rating – 4 / 5

Cover:

In my opinion, the cover could have been better. It is a little too plain for my liking and doesn’t really create an impact. Perhaps the author was going for an aura of peace or freedom – but the message just doesn’t convey.

Cover Rating – 1.5 / 5

Plot:

“Some choices are conscious efforts while others are divine interventions.” – Vidhu Bhatnagar

As the topic is related close to betterment of self, I expected a very serious style of writing that may or may not, at times, be difficult to understand. However, the writing style of the author is pretty simple and makes this book an easy read. Coming to the language, there are grammatical errors and sentence construction mistakes, without which the book would have been an even better read.

“Even as little as 30 minutes to yourself can do wonders for your rejuvenation and healing.” –  Vidhu Bhatnagar

While there are a lot of chapters (60+) in the book, only some of them seem to present a very fresh perspective into the topic. While most others are common, they still have been written from the author’s own unique point of view.

“So, have patience and exert loving kindness towards yourself because unlearning is a difficult task indeed…”  – Vidhu Bhatnagar

Overall, it is a good read that is both engaging and entertaining. If you are looking for something quick and satisfying, then this is the read for you.

Plot Rating – 3.5 / 5

I loved…

  1. The Style of Writing
  2. The Personal Quotes

I wanted…

  1. More Depth
  2. A Clear Cut Summary
  3. Less Grammatical Errors

Overall Rating: 3 / 5

Verdict: A One Time Read!

Order your copy from the link below:

Amazon India

How I survive Vizmom: A Guide to Everyday Living by Vidhu Bhatnagar

“Just because you have become a mother, does not mean that you stop living your life completely.” – Vidhu Bhatnagar

This week’s read is How I Survive Vizmom: A Guide to Everdayday Living by Vidhu Bhatnagar.

Here is what I thought…

Blurb:

This book handles the complex subject of a working mother’s various resources and techniques of handling her stress of working as a busy doctor, along with the responsibility of giving good upbringing to her children, sometimes with support and sometimes without, and striving to be a better person and a better parent all the time. The working mother is an anesthesiologist who deals with peri-operative management of operations and also works in critical care and this nature of her work makes her a devout believer of goodness, life and happiness (she witnesses so many people struggling for them). It is also a book about her own journey towards self discovery and she wishes to share all her knowledge so as to help everyone understand the meaning of Positivism and Power of Prayers. This book initially commenced as a blog; the continual support of her audience prompted her to initiate it into the world as her creation.

Title:

The title is to the point and very general in nature. I would have preferred a more descriptive and catchy title. In my opinion, a bit of wordplay would definitely have made the title catchier.

Title Rating – 2 / 5

Cover:

The cover is very mesmerizing to look at. It has a philosophical and soothing feeling to it, which suits the genre of the book perfectly. The colours are mellow and soothing. Definitely makes any reader want to pick the book up. I loved the cover.

Cover Rating – 4.5 / 5

Plot:

“Some choices are conscious efforts while others are divine interventions.” – Vidhu Bhatnagar

As I started reading the book, I realized that the author had put a lot of thought into her own life experiences. It is well thought out and definitely has a lot of effort put into it. The anecdotes and stories from which the lessons are drawn are very inspiring.

“To visualize the picture in entirety we need to dive into the sea of self discovery.” –  Vidhu Bhatnagar

The language is simple to understand. It is written with a first person narrative which makes it easy for the readers to connect, especially when it is a book about self-help. However, I wish that the sentences were a bit less complicated and were broken down to maintain the flow.

“The inner courage gives us the strength to stay true to ourselves…”  – Vidhu Bhatnagar

Overall, it is a good read that has quite a bit to offer to every reader. The well defined and distributed chapters make this book easy and engaging.

Plot Rating – 4 / 5

I loved…

  1. The Beginning
  2. The One Liners

I wanted…

  1. More General Situations
  2. Less Complex Sentences
  3. A Clearly Defined Ending

Overall Rating: 3.5 / 5

Verdict: A Lot to Learn from the Book!

Order your copy from the link below:

Amazon India

Book Review: Distress to De-Stress by Vikas Kakwani

“Right from our childhood, we try to do things that would get us approval, admiration and appreciation.” – Vikas Kakwani

This week’s read is Distress to De-Stress by Vikas Kakwani, an engaging self-help book about managing stress that is definitely worth a read.

Here is what I thought…

Blurb

“I KNOW YOU HAVE STRESS.”

How do I know?

Simple. Because, you are alive. Also, you have picked up this book.

Wars, famine and plague were the prime causes of human misery in the centuries gone by. Over the last couple of decades, we have been able to ward off diseases, income levels and life expectancy have increased, and the world has seen its most peaceful time ever. But, instead of being happy and joyful we are stressed – a lot. Why did that happen? The change over the last few years had been rapid, and none of us were ready for it. We embraced everything that the changing world threw at us without realizing the deep impact it had caused. It is time to pause, reflect and take action before stress becomes the plague of this century.

Why is stress becoming the cause of misery and ailments in this era?

What is stress exactly, and what are its major causes?

How does social networking in the virtual world create stress?

How can one manage stress to mitigate its effect?

All these questions and many more get answered in this book that helps you identify your causes of distress and help you de-stress.

Title:

What I like most about the title is how it encompasses the entire genre and them of the book with just three words. It is simple, catchy and is definitely something that can make any reader pick up the book. Full points on the title.

Title Rating – 5 / 5

Cover:

The cover has a great colour scheme and is very simplistic in its approach. It has a tinge of satirical look to it, almost as though the author wants to show that a self-help theme can be engaging and interesting too. I found it cute and attractive. 

Cover Rating – 4 / 5

Plot:

“Since most relationships are based on who controls the other, it bestows stress all over.” – Vikas Kakwani

Within the first few pages of the book, I realized that this was not going to be like any other reference material to learn how to manage stress. It was blunt to the point, extremely straight-forward and, in places, quite hilarious too. This blend of humour into a topic such as this is fascinating.

“Our problem is that most of us think that we know everything.” –  Vikas Kakwani

The language is fluent and simple to understand. The first person narration makes it easy to connect to the author. Every reader will find something that he relates to from this book. The examples and scenarios have been blended beautifully within the novel.

“Love is always a two-way street. You love your food, and it loves you back”  – Vikas Kakwani

Overall, it is a highly enjoyable read that just flows beautifully from start to finish. You will definitely have learnt quite a few things the moment you finish this book.

Plot Rating – 4.5 / 5

I loved…

  1. The Narrative
  2. The Scenarios
  3. The Ending

I wanted…

  1. More one-liners
  2. A Better Blurb

Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5

Verdict: Do Pick it Up!

Order your copy from the link below:

Amazon India

Book Review: Elephants in The Room by Suraj Laxminarayanan

“Money was needed even to rob some money.” – Suraj Laxminarayanan

This week’s read is Elephants in The Room by Suraj Laxminarayanan, a crime-thriller that is definitely worth a read.

Here is what I thought…

Blurb:

A ragtag group of friends are planning a bank heist to end their cash crunch. Novices to crime, they are driven more by emotions than skill – their plan seems fool proof, or so they think.

In another part of the city, a gang of seasoned dacoits has botched up a job and now owes money to the local crime lord. They have to either pay up or pay for it with their lives – and time is running out… 

In a bizarre twist of fate, both these groups are brought face-to-face. Trapped in a situation beyond the realm of their planning and experience, they must think on their feet, form quick alliances and rally behind an unlikely leader.

Set against the backdrop of Chennai, where men sing gaana songs in kuppams (fishing hamlets) nestled against swanky glass-fronted buildings and life-size cut-outs of film stars and politicians, a story of love, greed, friendship, fate and the absurdity of the human condition unfolds.

Title:

The title has a tinge of comic sense to it which makes any reader want to pick it up right away. It is satirical and deep, adding to the story brilliantly. It complements the theme well. The author did a great job in picking out a title for this book. 

Title Rating – 5 / 5

Cover:

The cover, though muted and dull upon first glance, adds a lot of depth and intensity to what the book is trying to portray. While the image chosen is catchy, the colour scheme is slightly bland. 

Cover Rating – 3 / 5

Plot:

“He rested on the bed all day and all night, almost better off dead than alive.” – Suraj Laxminarayanan

As I started reading this book, I was wondering how the author would manage to create a lighthearted read from such a thrilling topic. The blend of humour into a crime filled plot line has been done brilliantly. This is one of the strongest points of the book.

“He shuddered in his seat, almost cowering as though a rain of glass showered over him.” –  Suraj Laxminarayanan

The language is fluent and simple to understand. The narration is in third person which I found quite apt given the plot of the novel. The dialogue oriented script adds to how engaging the story is. 

“Was this fake or or was it pure madness?”  – Suraj Laxminarayanan

It is a highly enjoyable read, with in-depth descriptions and beautiful explanations. The author did a fantastic job in managing the flow from start to end.

Plot Rating – 4 / 5

I loved…

  1. The Narrative
  2. The Minute Descriptions
  3. The Climax

I wanted…

  1. More one-liners and twists in the writing style
  2. A Crisp Blurb

Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5

Verdict: Worth A Read!

Order your copy from the link below:

Amazon India

Book Review: The Panchatheertha Part 1 by Rajiv Mittal

“The only qualification they needed to have was an intense dislike for each other.” – Rajiv Mittal

Hey there, readers! This week, I had the pleasure of reading a very unique book. It is called The Panchtheertha and it is the first part of the series by Rajiv Mittal. 

Let us get into the review, shall we?

Blurb:

The Panchatheertha (five pilgrimages) is an outrageously funny, satirical revision of sections 1 & 2 of The Panchatantra, the masterpiece Vishnu Sharma wrote between 1200 BCE to 300 CE. The stories are primarily about statecraft and full of wisdom and morals. Despite that, youngsters found them very entertaining. In the tales, animals act and speak on behalf of human beings. The series begins with a parent story that unfolds story after story; each strung to the other by a narrator.

Vishnu Sharma’s reincarnation Shiva Varma has, in this redraft, revived the ancient Indian tradition of parampara (continuation of knowledge from one guru to the next). In his excitement, he forgot the younger age group of his shishyas (students). His characters now try to explain the motives for their actions, also express their feelings; something The Panchatantra had cleverly avoided doing. Within its pages, animals are still made to think and behave like human beings but have not otherwise been harmed in any way.

The Panchatheertha was considered lost but the discovery of two altered strategies ‘The Loss of Friends’ and ‘Gaining Friends’ should create hope within the large and growing community that has had considerable success with the first and complete failure with the second. Those wanting to meet Shiva Varma are hereby informed he dislikes economists, preferring astrology. He is in samadhi (seclusion / deep meditation) and not in hiding.

There are many intriguing characters not known to Vishnu Sharma in this adaptation; from a sex consultant plying his trade in the locality Ajilundpenodhoka in district Makasam… to a devadasi (courtesan) wanting to conduct the temple prayers because she is bored… to Sage Narada Muni !!

Bibliophiles are urged to read the original Panchatantra (which Shiva Varma did consider including as an appendix), to truly appreciate the extent to which history gets distorted when it is made to explain itself. Historically, the appendix has been viewed as a vestigial organ with no real function. This is why Shiva Varma chose not to include it… or so he claims.

Title:

What I love about the title is how catchy it is. Though it is only one word, it holds a deep meaning to it and is quite a good idea by the author. With the meaning ‘five pilgrimages’, this title is apt for the story line and is perfect. 

Title Rating – 5 / 5

Cover:

I am not a huge fan of the cover, mainly because of how bright and distracting it is. It is difficult to read the title and the author’s name – but this is just my personal opinion. I wish it would have been more mellow or at least less blaring. 

Cover Rating – 2.5 / 5

Plot:

“The range of emotions which this created in the general public was evenly balanced between euphoria and despair.” – Rajiv Mittal

Within the first twenty pages of the book, I realized that this read was going to be a roller-coaster journey. Starting from the style of writing to the character portrayal, the author has done a splendid job in sketching a brilliant story.

“He thought all eunuchs were the creation of the devil.” –  Rajiv Mittal

Just like in the author’s debut novel, the language is fluent and simple to understand. The humourous lines and the sarcasm loaded into each paragraph makes this read utterly enjoyable. One of the strongest traits that the author possesses is his ability to create a continuous flow from start to finish. I particularly loved the involvement of the animals in the tale. 

“So whenever he wanted to restore harmony in life, which was often, he would go to the temple.”  – Rajiv Mittal

Overall, the read is pleasant and breezy. It leaves you with a good feeling the moment you are done with the last page.

Plot Rating – 4 / 5

I loved…

  1. The Satirical Writing Style
  2. The Conversations
  3. The Beginning 

I wanted…

  1. A Better Cover 
  2. More Descriptions of Scenes

Overall Rating: 4 / 5

Verdict: Worth A Read!

Order your copy from any of the links below:

Amazon India

Amazon (US)

How to clear CA – Final Paper 7: Direct Tax Laws

Exams are always around the corner for aspiring Chartered Accountants, aren’t they? That’s why I thought I would share this post, tell you what I learnt through my journey and maybe help you find a way through the awful month of May / November.

 

A little heads up before we begin – I became a Chartered Accountant after clearing the May 2016 exams so though I’m still fairly new and I know the most up-to-date system, this article is for the students who are attempting their examinations under the old scheme.  Also, I opted to self-study for this subject, which I think helped me a lot in being able to write this article.

 

So, without further ado, let’s get into the plan, shall we?

 

How to clear your Direct Tax Laws paper:

 

Let’s divide this into three parts so that it’s clear and I can cover everything without confusing you. The first part is the REFERENCE MATERIAL, the second part is the TIME MANAGEMENT and the third part is the PAPER PRESENTATION. I believe that it is the combined implementation of these three that helps a student write the exam successfully.

 

REFERENCE MATERIAL:

 

Logically, it makes sense to me that since the suggested answers / answer key is coming from the institute, naturally so should the material you study from. This is what I tell everyone who ever asks me for advice about clearing not only this subject, but any subject. However, for DTL, it is difficult to refer to the study material because of how complex it is. Please note that I am not going to depend the basis of my plan on whether you went for coaching or not. Regardless of that, here are my suggestions:

 

  • Guides (More details below)
  • Practice Manual
  • The most recent two RTPs
  • Last four to six Mock Papers (Conducted by ICAI)

It is pretty straight-forward. All you have to do is study from these books.

Now that you know what to refer to, let me briefly tell you how to sort it all out. This is the order in which I recommend you study.

1) Guides: This is the book that is going to give you the complete understanding about the subject. You will need to read theory, practice sums and memorize case laws from this book. So choose wisely. Some famous options are Vinod Gupta and TN Manoharan. I opted for the latter, simply because I found the structure better in the sense that there was more clarity within the content bifurcation. Other than these two, there is a third book ‘RCC for CA Final Direct Taxes’ by CA Ravi Chhawchharia that is really picking up these days. So you can use any of these three for your attempt.

2) Practice Manual: For DTL, the PM is very useful because of how in-depth and detailed this subject is. This book will help you focus more on the important questions and chapters once you are done reading the guide above. Don’t think that studying just the practice manual will get you through for sure. This book is ONLY for revision.

3) Revision Test Papers: I would suggest getting at least two RTPs and using these as exams to test how good you are at the subject. Naturally you will be solving this a week or two before the exams. But make sure that you put in equal effort in correcting your own answers and learning from your mistakes because otherwise this is a pointless exercise.

4) Mocks: I used to solve many mock papers when I studied. I never went to the institute to write them but downloaded them from the website, printed them out to get a real examination kind of feeling, set the alarm to three hours and write the papers as though they were my final exam. I suggest you to do the same. Before correcting your own paper, give a half an hour gap between writing and correction. Also, be stingy with marks. As stingy as possible. This will help you prepare for the worst.

TIME MANAGEMENT

It is easy to understand what you are supposed to study from but very difficult to plan how to cover everything in 3 months, especially when there are other subjects to cover as well. I’m going to help you do just that. But please note that this period of three months should not involve coaching for this subject but rather should be the plan after the initial coaching period. I’m only guiding the self study portion. DTL is one of the larger and more time consuming subjects. Here is how you can try your best to cover as much as possible:

Let us have an aim of studying for a minimum of 10 – 12 hours per day. Even if you do wake up between 5 – 6 AM and start studying, ten hours is easily achievable and a definite must if you want to cover all subjects.  So, I am going to try and split it up for you into two parts. Major and Minor.

The ‘Major’ part under DTL covers ‘PGBP’, ‘Capital Gains’, ‘Assessment Procedures’, ‘Collection and Recovery of taxes’ and ‘Company Assessment’ while the ‘Minor’ part covers the rest of the chapters. Please note that these are falling into the ‘Minor’ portion not because of lack of importance but because they are fairly less time consuming to study.

My strategy was to create short notes as I was studying each chapter. The way I did this was to read a certain page or two, create a table, flowchart or even write in words the important part and then use it later just before the examination. The key here is to condense 50 pages of a chapter to 5 pages of short notes. Alternatively, buy a highlighter and highlight the keywords within the book itself.

Try to do the ‘Major’ part at the time of the day where your brain is completely awake! For me it’s early morning. Find your peak time and try to finish as many pages / concepts as possible for every chapter. Don’t leave a chapter midway. That will not ensure efficiency. Start a chapter only when you know you have the time to complete it.

Your target is to complete the Guide in 15 to 18 days. This is achievable even while studying for other subjects. But if you prefer to study only one subject at a time, and you want to allot 10 – 12 hours per day only for this subject, then give yourself a target of 8 – 10 days only. It is easily achievable, so don’t worry. Take a grace day or two if required.

RTPs (2) and Mocks (4) – Together this will take a total of 4 – 5 days. Ideally it is a last minute check on your performance to evaluate how ready you are and what chapters you will need to quickly brush up on. Again, correcting your paper is a must. I can’t reiterate enough how vital this is. There is no use to solving a mock paper or an RTP if you don’t take the time to correct your papers.

PRESENTATION

Now comes the most important part. This is one that most students neglect or don’t really take all that seriously.  A lot of you believe that as long as the answers are correct and that your effort goes into the preparation, how your answer looks on the final paper doesn’t really matter. Here are some dos and don’ts you need to follow to be able to successfully complete your paper.

1) DTL has both practical and theoretical components to it. Underline the sub-headings in every answer.

2) Use bullet points and split lengthy answers into paragraphs as much as is possible

3) Definitions are very scoring but also tricky to answer if you don’t remember keywords. Present those well.

4) Provide appropriate conclusions, workings and calculations within your answer sheet.

And finally, it is absolutely alright if you haven’t been able to clear in the first shot. I mentored a lot of students so far and one beautiful thing I’ve noticed is how they are able to put in more focus and effort by following these steps. Most of you only require a sense of direction and that is what I wanted to help provide. You know what hard work means, you know what Chartered Accountancy is about. All you are unsure of is how to approach it.

Change isn’t something that comes instantly. It’s a gradual process. But once you reach the top, there is no looking back. Give it time, be patient and just give the exams your best shot. I am not going to say ‘All the Best’. Instead, I am going to say, just do your best.

So, that’s all I have for you today.
Coming up next is my tips for INDIRECT TAXATION.
I hope you have a wonderful day.

IKEA Hyderabad: An Experience Beyond Imagination

IKEA opened its first store in India at Hyderabad on August 9th. *Lame Proud Moment*

Needless to say, I was one among the THOUSANDS that was awaiting this moment with bated breath. Okay, perhaps I went slightly beyond just the anticipation. When IKEA decided to postpone their initial launch from the 20th July, I was devastated. I locked myself in my room and added another 20 days to the calendar, feeling heartbroken. Imagine Samara from ‘The Ring’. That was me.

But life moves on, and eventually the days actually passed by pretty quickly as I immersed myself in the routine.

9th August, 2018

Then came the opening day. Sadly for me, it was a Thursday which meant I could not go. Because I am a grown up with responsibilities. *Sigh* That was a big blow to my happiness, to be honest. But I waited, trying not to listen to the numerous stories about IKEA that everyone had to tell me. That night, as I sat in a 3 hour long traffic jam to go home, I decided it was time to take matter into my own hands. I applied for leave (I hope my manager isn’t reading this!) and set the clock to 7 AM the next morning. It was settled. I HAD to go.

10th August, 2018

I started off at 9 AM after spending the entire morning chasing my mother and sister outside the house. We wanted to be there early so we didn’t drown in the humongous crowds. Well, thankfully, our plan worked and we were among the first hundred people waiting at the gates for the ‘shopping palace’ to open at 10 AM.

The anticipation was unbearable. As the clock struck 10:05, I was about to break into a sweat when I noticed they were finally letting us enter. Gulping down happy tears, we then made our way into what can only be termed as the LONGEST maze of our lives. After walking through the zig-zagged barricades for eternity and then feasting our eyes on the ‘actual’ entrance, we were overjoyed. From this step on, here is how the whole journey went.

Time: 1 Hour

Showroom Section

We were led to the first floor which is the area that has the showroom containing readily set-up furniture and decor. After collecting our cloth bags, pencils and notepads / direction guides, we entered the gorgeous segments. The best part was how these settings were structured. You have 11 sections in total, such as Living Room, Dining Room, Bedroom and so on. For example, the living room contains around 4 – 5 different settings of how your living room could look – with book cases, couches, etc.

So, the whole concept is divided into four steps.

  1. Walk into each setting and look around at all the decor
  2. If you like something you see, search for the price tag attached to it
  3. Take images of the tag on your phone
  4. Pick them up from the marketplace / self-service section on the ground floor (explained later in this article)

Be warned that this will take you a few hours to complete as you go from one segment to another, taking images, talking to various staff, gaining more perspective and discussing potential objects with whoever has accompanied you. At any point, if you get exhausted, you can always go back out towards the restaurant (explained below) that is on the same floor.

Time: 3 Hours
Recommendation: Bedroom Section

Restaurant

The IKEA restaurant is beautiful. It is the first time I’ve seen this ‘supermarket’ style concept for a restaurant in Hyderabad. The idea here is that you need to pick up your trays, your food and you glasses (for beverages – hot and cold) and then make your payment at cash counters. After this, you take your empty glasses, go over to the fountain drinks section and enjoy the unlimited refills. There are vegetarian and non-vegetarian options as well as continental food that will surely not disappoint.

Time: 1 Hour
Recommendation: Coffee, Bread Varieties

Marketplace

Now it’s time to get back on your feet!

You will need to take the MASSIVE lifts and go down to the ground floor. Then, exchange your cloth bags for trolleys and then you will be led into partitions 13 through 27. You may think you don’t need a trolley. Well, think again. This marketplace is where you will be able to pick up every item (excepting furniture) that you saw on the first floor within the showroom. Once again, this is structured into segments such as ‘Home Organization’, ‘Decoration’, ‘Lighting’, ‘Fabrics’ and so on. You’ll find a lot more variety, colours and options as you go through each of these sections. At 23, the marketplace ends and if you look down at your trolley, you will find a heap of items that you never intended on buying!

Time: 2 – 3 Hours
Recommendation: Lighting, Outdoor Furniture

Self-Serve

Finally, the furniture. Everything is flat-packed in cardboard boxes in aisles and racks. If searching for your items seems difficult to you, just walk over to the computers set up at the centre of each room and type in the codes. From here, you can add the products to cart, take a print of the items you want and have someone assist you with finding these items. Alternatively, you can also walk over to the information desk, give them your printout and ask for the products to be delivered to you. At a cost, of course. But worth it, in my opinion!

Time: 1 Hour
Recommendation: The Online Purchase Option!

Billing Counter and Beyond!

There are multiple billing counters with IKEA paper bags too. Just get your products billed, make the payment and push the trolley out. But wait! There’s more. You can also check out the IKEA Cafe and get yourself some really economic treats while you rest your aching feet.

Recommendation: Yogurt Ice Cream

You also have additional services like refund counters – with a 60 day refund policy, delivery counters and collection counters – for self serve items.

To Sum Up

IKEA will take you on a wonderful experience and convert ‘shopping’ into a complete day’s event. The staff is very helpful, friendly and will guide you through any issues you may have. The entire store is extremely spacious and even with weekend crowds, it doesn’t feel suffocating. There are easily accessible and well-maintained washrooms that you can use whenever you need to. Plus, there is also a play area for children too! Also, parking is spacious.

I absolutely LOVED visiting IKEA and despite blowing nearly half my month’s salary there, I don’t regret a single minute or rupee. Definitely do go visit, for the experience, if not for anything else.

Final recommendation: Go around 9:30 AM and do NOT go after lunch, at least for the next couple of weeks. The enjoyment will be lost in such heavy crowds.

Product Review: Lousfa Shea Butter

I have always loved the idea of shea butter because of how natural it is. Made from the seeds that come from the Karite tree, it is not only rich in vitamins (A, E and F) but also provides UV protection for the skin.

It has so many fascinating uses, right from moisturizing skin to protecting hair and even repairing damaged nails. But I was always apprehensive about buying shea butter because I wasn’t sure how I could guarantee that the brand I chose was actually selling me the purest form of it.

So naturally, when Lousfa (Kothari Productions) came out with this 100% pure and raw shea butter, I was intrigued. Despite my initial dilemma, I decided that I would take the plunge and make the purchase from Amazon.

Packaging and Delivery

I got the product three days after placing the order, which I feel is quite prompt. It was delivered on the day that I was promised so no complaints there. Further, the packaging was quite sturdy too. The shea butter bottle came in a cardboard box and inside, it was wrapped tightly with a plastic film. Overall, sturdy packaging and quick delivery, so brownie points to the seller for that!

Usage

Just to be cautious, I started using the product on my fingertips and hands. When I opened the lid, I was pleasantly surprised to see a firm and thick substance with a buttery feeling to it. Instantly, I understood why shea butter was known for its moisturizing effects. It was soft and smooth against the skin but the best part was how long lasting it really was. For nearly 10 hours after I had applied it on my nails, my fingertips were feeling freshly cared for.

Over the course of the next few days, I found many other uses for it:

  1. To reduce the redness and burning from sunburn
  2. For massaging into the skin, especially on dry areas
  3. On chapped lips as a balm
  4. For inflammation arising from bruises or weather changes
  5. As a general moisturizer
  6. As a hair mask along with aloe vera gel and honey

Final Verdict

All in all, I found the product quite useful for regular skin and hair care. It really does feel 100% organic. Lousfa shea butter is a definite recommendation from my end.

Score: 4.5 / 5

 

If you would like to have your product reviewed, please do write to me at inkspression.shravyagunipudi@gmail.com

 

The Age of Azmoq (Book 1: The Valantian Imperium) by Rajamayyoor Sharma

“The man raised his hands and jumped with such grace, it seemed he was going for a swim and not jumping in to end his life.” – Rajamayyoor Sharma

Ola, readers! Yes, it’s been ages since I’ve read a book or done a review, but you know how life is, right? It’s awfully busy sometimes and then some other times, it gives you time to breathe, a.k.a, read. This time, I read, *Drum Roll*  The Age of Azmoq (The Valantian Imperium) by Rajamayyoor Sharma

Let us get into the review, shall we?

Blurb:

 

Azmoq is the rarest and most coveted metal on the planet. It’s the ultimate source and symbol of real power, and the Valantian Imperium controls it all.

Or so they thought…

For the first time in generations, the Valantian Imperium, masters of the Valantian continent glimpse the first tremors of fear. There are rumors abound. Rumors of legends. Legends of both ancient Azmoqian weapons and men of godly powers, long thought to be myths.

As these rumors grow, a small group of people, from various walks of life, some commoners, some within the mighty Valantian Imperium itself, by pure coincidence, have set in motion a chain of events. The legends, if true, along with these set of events, might reignite the flames of a revolution. A revolution the Imperium had long suppressed. A revolution that might alter the balance of power in the continent, and eventually the entire world…

Title:

First of all, there is an aura surrounding the title that gives it a rich, vibrant vibe of fantasy. It is deep, thought-provoking and definitely induces curiosity among readers.

When I read the title and saw the words ‘Book 1: The Valantian Imperium’, I knew for a fact that I was on an amazing journey to a series that would most definitely be some of the greatest that I would read.

Title Rating – 5 / 5

Cover:

“I didn’t really care if he slept on a mat. Or what he did with the mat.” – Rajamayyoor Sharma

Upon first glance, the most striking attribute of the cover is how the colours blend together. The colour choices are bright but not domineering the title, they blend but also stick out wonderfully and all in all, I was quite impressed.

Further, the sync between the title and the cover is complimentary to the entire theme.

Fabulous.

Cover Rating – 4.5 / 5

Plot:

“The hills itself looked like a part of the blue sky, as if sent to our world by the heavens to cover the world with a part of its beauty.” – Rajamayyoor Sharma

Without a doubt, this read is one of my most engaging and engrossing. Right from the start it pulls you into another dimension till you start believing that you are with the characters. This is the highlight of the novel.

One of the other standout points is the conversational style that carries through the narration. For a fantasy theme that is so intricately woven, the elements of conversations really do add so much of enchantment to the story. Another really cool feature of the book is the illustrations which help us visualize the story with a more clear sense, almost like virtual reality.

“I felt sadness. I had never been this afraid in my life, but I had experienced grief.” –  Rajamayyoor Sharma

The author’s sense of language is evidence that he is meant to write. That, and the way the author chose to make most of his sentences complex, add a very strong grip to the story. One of the most important elements of writing  a novel is the language – the grammar, the punctuation and the sentence construction. Rajamayyoor has nailed this.

“I knew I was still young, but when someone that old implied that I should have done something by then, it made me feel I hadn’t done enough in my life.”  – Rajamayyoor Sharma

One of my most favourite characters is Grim. The portrayal of this character was done flawlessly and lingers long after you read the book. Further, though the genre is that of Fantasy, the book is packed with values, morals and elements of life that we can all easily relate to.

Overall, it is a highly engaging and an enjoyable read.

Plot Rating – 5 / 5

I loved…

  1. The writing style
  2. The complex sentences

I wanted…

  1. More one-liners
  2. More Illustrations

Overall Rating: 4.75 / 5

Verdict: Definitely Worth Every Penny!

 

Order your copy from any of the links below:

Amazon India

Amazon (US)

If you are interested in getting your book reviewed or would like me to take an author interview, feel free to reach out to me at shravya.gunipudi@gmail.com

 

A Bruised Smile – My Bullying Experience

This is the story of a little girl with big, bright eyes and a genuine smile. I once caught this little girl in the washroom, sitting on an overturned bucket inside a cubicle. Her uniform clung to her knees as she wept silently for hours, trying not to be heard. But as the last school bell rang, she jumped up and wiped away her tears. In her eyes, there wasn’t just happiness to be going home. There was relief. That little girl brings tears to my eyes even today. Because, that little girl was me.

It is the victim’s silence that fuels the perpetrator.

For all these years, I kept a secret confined to the deepest part of my soul. I was bullied. So, why am I speaking up now? Because I can finally accept that this happened to me. Because, though I may never be able to move away from it, I can hopefully move on. Because I realized that it is the victim’s silence that fuels the perpetrator.

It first started when I was five years old. My being left-handed provoked my teachers enough to beat me up. I remember being terrified to use my own hand, trying hard to pretend that I was ambidextrous and this memory still has the power to send chills down my spine. I was damaged at that age despite my mother’s constant support. I tried so desperately to believe her when she told me that I was perfect just the way I was. But the trauma could not be erased.

Fast forward by three years. On my first day in a new school, when I was walking towards my classroom, I saw a few books and a lot of stationery strewn across the corridor. In a corner, a lunch box lay open with the food inside it emptied. With horror in my eyes, I instantly realized that these things belonged to me. As I quickly knelt to pick it all up, my cheeks flushed with embarrassment, I heard laughter. There were two things I learnt that day. One, I was the perfect target. Two, this would keep happening.

Over the course of the next couple of months, I retreated further and further into my shell. The bullies found innovative ways to make me feel worthless. My nicknames started with ‘ugly’, ‘dark’ and ‘transgender’, gradually progressing to ’Ms. 20,000 kilograms’ and ‘Ms. Elephant’. Nearly every single night, my tear soaked pillows reminded me of my misery. I would spend hours in the dark staring at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep for the fear of choking in my own nightmares. I contemplated suicide repeatedly but the worst part was not knowing what I did to deserve such hatred. At the age of nine, I could not understand that this was not my fault.

Just when I felt like I had reached my threshold, with the name calling and the damage of my  personal belongings, the abuse turned physical. Once, I was invited to play with the ‘popular’ kids during recess and that day, I fell in the sand, scraping my knees. I brushed it off as clumsiness when my worried mother asked me how it happened. The next day, I fell again and this time, bled from my elbows. A dangerous pattern started, where I got bruised repeatedly, multiple times per week. But I didn’t care because all those nights, my pillow remained dry. That had to mean I was happy, right? A little blood couldn’t stop me from happiness, could it?

I realized that in my eagerness to feel accepted, I had let myself be used.

But this euphoria was short lived. Because, one day, it dawned upon me that I wasn’t falling. I was being pushed. It happened again, and this time, I heard the children laughing as I lay face front on the sand. They were laughing all those other times too, but in my blind hope, I hadn’t heard them. I realized that in my eagerness to feel accepted, I had let myself be used.

As the weeks advanced, they would find new ways to torment me. Inquisitive eyes measured my developing body and lewd comments were passed to my face. Bets were placed on the colour of my intimate clothing and my skirt was pulled up to decide the winner. Though I was very young, the humiliation I faced was unimaginable. However, I never once let them see my tears.

But one day, when a fellow classmate put his hand up my skirt, I just mentally collapsed. I fell into severe depression and blamed myself for everything that happened to me. I struggled with insomnia, suffered with poor eating habits and withdrew from everyone. This was when I turned to writing for solace because I was unable to express my emotions verbally. I would weave stories of friendship, love and companionship, but mostly, my stories centered the one thing I craved the most. Acceptance.

For others to accept me, I had to accept myself first.

Still, despite all the self-hatred I possessed, I managed to survive and because I did, somewhere along the way, a miracle happened. I call this miracle ‘self-realization’. I finally understood that for others to accept me, I had to accept myself first. I needed to come out of my shell and conquer my insecurities. Thus began my transformation and my healing process. But trust me when I say that it was possibly the hardest thing I have ever done till today. I took to writing seriously, focused on my academics and started making friends. I pushed myself to test my limits. There came a day when I finally wasn’t just accepted, but was looked up to. It gave me a sense of achievement, but more than that, it made me gain my own perspective. You see, if I had succumbed to that pressure back then, I wouldn’t be here today. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. I can finally see that light now and my euphoria today is only intensified by my bitter experiences yesterday.

I may be damaged, but I will never be broken.

I know now that happiness needs to come from within. I know now that nobody has the power to decide for me excepting for myself. I know now that I am not worthless, that I am not weak and that I am not incapable. But when I was a child, I didn’t. I’m choosing my battles, conquering my fears and taking steps – one at a time. But some scars last forever, and I am okay with that.

Bullying can cause lasting damage. I still have extreme trust issues, I still can’t express my feelings and I still struggle to sleep peacefully at night. I may be damaged, but I will never be broken.

A lot of people see my success. But I see the years of pain it took to get to where I am today. Given a choice, I would have preferred to have my childhood instead of it being ripped away from me through the years. When people exclaim that my maturity spans beyond my age, their compliment causes me pain. Because that wasn’t a choice I got to make. But I made it through and if I can, then you can too.

To those of you who can relate, know that you have nothing to be ashamed of. You have no reason to hide. Loving yourself is the primary solution. But seek betterment only because you want to. I battled with severe inferiority complex which came from foolish comparisons and now I know that there is no such thing as ‘inferior’ or ‘superior’. There is just you. And you are perfect exactly the way you are.

To those who have hurt others in the past…verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually…I have only one question for you. How does it make your life better? Try walking in your victim’s shoes and you will see how damaging it is to suffer for no fault of your own. Your happiness should come from another’s smile, not tears. Your sense of power should come from protection, not destruction. Your popularity should come from respect, not fear. But mostly, a solution to your insecurities should come from within yourself and not from feeding off of another’s sense of inferiority.

There is nothing wrong with being different.

Lastly, to the parents and the teachers. Behind every happy child, there is you. Please pay attention to early signs of your child’s distress or aggression. Silence speaks louder than words. Counsel your child to find out if he is bullying or is being bullied. But most importantly, do not discriminate. Be it two children in your house or forty children in your classroom, demonstrate equality. Let them all know that they are unique and that there is nothing wrong with being different. My mother, who was, is and will always be my support system, is the reason I am standing proud today. Love and guidance can do wonders. Be that person who changes another’s life.

It wasn’t easy for me to relive those memories that I kept repressed for so many years. But I hope that something good comes out of it. Because you took the time to read my story, I ask only one thing of you. If you feel that this message could be of use to someone, then please help it reach that person…

And as always, I am here for you.