My Review of Teja Lele’s Book ‘Live Smart’

Live smart: 100 hacks for a healthier and happier life by Teja Lele called out to me since it promises to make the reader more self-sufficient and independent if the reader follows the hacks and DIY instructions.

We have had an old copy of ‘Hints n’ Helps’ – Household dictionary – A complete guide to saving money on house repairs and maintenance published in 1988 in Miami, Florida that my dad bought at a book fair back then. So, I was curious to have a look at a ‘modern’ book on those lines. Live smart consists of a section on beauty tips, health tips and reuse and recycle tips, which is in addition to the home and food sections.

The author of Live Smart, Teja Lele, in the introduction says that COVID-19 taught us the importance of self-sufficiency. She also mentions that Scarlett ‘O Hara is the heroine she sees herself as. The author has been to twelve schools and moved around quite a bit due to her army-brat upbringing. It is what she credits her adaptability to. She lists ‘a basic survival skills quiz’ and asks the reader to rate themselves.  She talks about minimalism, old-fashioned living, frugal living and slow living in the introduction.

Book cover of Live Smart.

The book consists of five sections:

1.       Home, which encompasses topics such as how to fix a blown fuse, how to unplug a clogged toilet, how to fix a flat tyre to instructions on making an all-purpose cleaner. This section has a total of 25 such hacks.

2.      Section 2 is about Food and Kitchen, which teaches you how to make banana bread, a variety of sauces, pizza, how to re-use spare rotis, to growing your own microgreens and clearing a blocked sink. This section contains 22 tips.

3. Section 3 is about beauty tips. The author gives us the recipe for making reetha, amla and shikakai shampoo, dry shampoo, ghee kajal, moisturizing face mask, foot soak, body scrub, etc. The section contains 14 tips.

4. Section 4 includes health and well-being tips such as how to remove a splinter, how to save a knocked-out tooth, how to administer CPR, ease a sore throat, reduce nausea, tackle gastrointestinal problems, deal with insomnia and so on. The section contains 24 tips.

5. The fifth section is reuse and recycle where the author teaches us how to reuse fruit peels, vegetable peels, regrow veggies from kitchen scraps etc. The section has 15 tips.

In addition to the existing tips, there are also smart tips inserted in the book. For example, in the beauty section, the author tells us how we can bid adieu to clarifying shampoos by mixing a tablespoon of baking soda with the regular shampoo.

In her conclusion titled ‘Not the end’ the author touches upon the Japanese concepts of Wabi Sabi and Kintsugi, “which appreciates beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” She also explains the rasquache aesthetic of the Spanish. Rasquachismo is the art of ‘how to make the most from the least.’

This book will be of interest and use to the general reader who is interested in learning life skills and living a minimalistic life. Some hints about gardening and water and energy conservation measures would have been welcome. 

You can buy the book on Amazon India.

This review is powered by Blogchatter Book Review Program

The Rudest Book Ever

I recently read ‘The Rudest Book Ever’ by YouTube influencer Shwetabh Gangwar. And no, if you are wondering, the contents of the book are not “rude”. In the author’s own words, “This book is a collection of ideas, principles and perspectives. It is about practical learnings and making slight changes in the way you see things, which may help you avoid a lot of headache.”

In 13 chapters and 226 pages, the author introduces a lot of concepts and touches upon several psychological terms and definitions.

In this book, the author covers:

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Belief Perseverance or Backfire Effect

Cognitive Reappraisal

Self-distancing

Socioemotional selectivity theory

Enmeshment

Arrival Fallacy

Present Bias

Hyperbolic Discounting

Social discounting

The negativity bias

Solomon’s Paradox

Social comparison theory

Spotlight effect

The halo effect

Cognitive dissonance, etc.,

These terms are woven into the chapters and not referenced or indexed in a glossary, which may have improved the reading experience.

The author starts the book with the idea that we are all products with hope attached. One day we are expected to transform into a smart, able unit capable of choosing jobs, careers, relationships and environments for ourselves.

Every one of us has to learn how to learn and how to think. The author points us in the right direction as to how we can go about this and not be swayed by the group we belong to or influencers who try to tell us how we should think. The irony of this was not lost on me.

The imaginary conversation between a parent and child in Chapter one was humorously written.

As we get older, our perception of life changes from chasing ambitions, money and desires to getting close to family, friends, religion and mending relationships.

The author introduces a novel idea of seeing oneself as a nation. He builds the concept in one chapter. In another chapter, he asks us how much we actually know ourselves. He talks about how first impressions often fool people and how we need to rely on data. There’s even a chapter on sex education for young people, although this is written from a male perspective.  

The author highlights that how we think matters much more than how much we know. A thinker is a pursuer of the truth about reality. They may not discover reality as it is but they almost never mistake narratives for what they are not.

He advises readers not to seek approbation from outside and look to the self for answers.

My favourite bit in the book was about defamiliarisation. Defamiliarisation is a common literature technique, which has been employed famously by many novelists like Tolstoy, Nabokov, Kazuo Ishiguro, Martin Amis and more. It means defamiliarizing things you know and relooking things that you are familiar with from a new set of eyes and in a new way.  

On the whole, the book is a collection of thoughts, advice and self-help material that can help us rethink our ways and open our minds to new ways of thinking.

I thank Juggernaut Books for the review copy.

#BlogchatterBlogHop – Reading habits that help me read more

I read four books at a time and mostly read what I like. I subscribe to Kindle Unlimited and read what my writer friends have written. I spent the whole day reading today (it was a Sunday) and I count it as a day well spent. The only time I got on to the Internet was to get on Goodreads and update my page count. Such little things motivate me to read more and explore more books. I also post on my bookstagram and on my Facebook to get the word out about what I read. It keeps me connected to the book, author and the very act of reading, lending everything a higher purpose and giving me a sense of fulfilment and a sense of achievement that’s hard to beat.

Blogchatter poster for the bloghop

The trick to reading more, I’ve found, is to always keep a book at hand. The fact that we have a large home library means I don’t have to step out of the house or wait to get access to books. And with Kindle, one can get an e-book wirelessly delivered in seconds. I’m also a part of several reading groups and book groups that give me the latest on books – what’s released, book reviews and other information that keeps me focused on the books I want to read. I write reviews sometimes, too.

I also follow publishers and other bookstagrammers on social media, so I’m always surrounded by the kind of bookish news that feeds my soul and spirit. Having said all this, I just want to mention that it is not a competition and one must read for one’s own enjoyment, rather than making it yet another source of anxiety or stress. Take part in bookish challenges only if you really want to. Else, no one is putting a gun to your head and forcing you to read 400 books a year.

Read and absorb what you read. Enjoy it. Let it provoke new thoughts and open up new neural pathways. That, I feel, is the essence of enjoying a good book, which should not be lost.

This post is a part of Blogchatter Blog Hop.

Swedish Geneticist Svante Paabo Awarded Nobel Prize 2022 in Physiology or Medicine for Ancient Human DNA Research

Book Review by my dad, K.S.Loganathan

Ancient human DNA research is a subject of importance in human evolution. It casts light on what makes our physiology different from that of our ancestors, which has contributed to dramatic developments in building complex cultures, figurative art and speech and led to advanced technological innovations, such as for example, agriculture, the wheel and other advanced tools.

When ancient humans migrated out of Africa, at least two extinct hominin populations inhabited Eurasia. Neanderthals in Western Eurasia and the Siberian Denisovans existed. Humans encountered and inter-bred with both groups around fifty-four thousand to forty-nine thousand years ago. Genetic data can prove that ancient mixture between populations occurred. The sequencing of the Neanderthals, our big-brained cousins, also led to the discovery of the Denisovans, an archaic population that had not been predicted by archaeologists and that mixed with the ancestors of the present-day New Guineans.

From ancient DNA, we can reconstruct such populations that no longer exist (such as the Yellow and Yangtze River people) in unmixed form based on the bits of genetic material they have left behind in present-day people. Two approaches to DNA studies have emerged – the analysis of the entire genome or partial analysis based on mitochondrial DNA.

Book Cover

As Director at the Max Plank Institute for evolutionary anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, Svante Paabo undertook research on ancient DNA, which led to the identification of ancient Denisovans as a distinct species. It has augmented traditional archaeology and historical linguistic studies as a tool for investigating past populations and their migration to all parts of the world.

Such studies reveal that the Yamnaya, a Steppe pastoralist tribe, invented the wheel and horse-drawn carriages, and spread agriculture throughout Europe and South Asia around 4000 years ago, mixing with Iranian farmers on the way. A smaller group entered India via Tibet. Early Sanksrit literature (like the Manusmriti), as well as the Avesta (the ancient Persian text) called them Aryans.

The genetics of modern humans gives the ancient travel path. Ancient DNA databases are currently run by different research groups, most of them in Europe and USA. For a general introduction to the subject, read ‘Who we are and how we got here’ by David Reich, Oxford University Press, 2018 and watch his videos on YouTube.

David Reich was a part of Svante Paabo’s international team, which sequenced the entire Neanderthal genome in 2007.

Author Arjun Raj Gaind’s New Book

‘The Anatomy of Scars’ by author Arjun Raj Gaind was my first read in The Himalayan Book Club in January 2021. At that time, I had received the Advance Review Copy( ARC) of the book, which was later self-published by the author on Amazon and available for free for a limited period on Kindle Unlimited. I also attended an online meeting with the author arranged by the Himalayan Book Club.

It was published with this cover. I’d written about it on this blog then.

Recently, the author has published a book called ‘The Anatomy of Loss’ with Bloomsbury. ( 28 July 2022)

The new book cover

Here’s my review of the ARC of ‘The Anatomy of Scars’, which I shared on Goodreads and Amazon in January 2021.

‘The Anatomy of Scars’ by Arjun Raj Gaind is the story of Himmat, whose nani ( maternal grandmother) is a Muslim married to a Sikh. The initial part of the story is set in 1984 when Indira Gandhi is assassinated. Himmat witnesses something his nana (grandfather) does that disillusions him.

The story highlights how the Sikhs were persecuted after Operation Blue Star. It also conveys the other side of the story. Nana says “In the future, a time will come when people will speak of 1984 dismissively and blame Bhindranwala and Mrs. Gandhi for what is happening here in Punjab, but they are not the ones to blame. It is us, puttar, you and I, the watchers and the talkers, sitting on our sofas and running away when it is time to stand up and fight for what is ours. We are the ones who have killed Punjab. We were given paradise, and we have turned it into jehannum.”

Several years later, Himmat moves to London to study, and the rest of the book details his experiences there. Himmat is a man searching for his identity. His sense of rootlessness is highlighted – “I wasn’t Indian anymore or Punjabi, or even Sikh. I was a nobody, a man without a country, without history, a refugee in the truest sense of the word. A refugee from my past, a refugee from myself.” In London, he becomes part of an anarchist group, who wanted a separate state of Khalistan. When Himmat meets the leader of the anarchist group, he thinks “And now he wanted me of all people, someone who had never believed in anything to become part of his stalwart band.” When he stands up for his Pakistani friend, he realises he does not want to be a part of the fringe group anymore.

The story also traces how different people are in search of their identities and their roots, be it Himmat or the character Kev-O that the author meets in London.

Himmat reflects, “London had changed me far too much. In the few short years that I had spent there, I had become a true émigré, an immigrant not of body, but of soul, of spirit, of self.”


The book examines stereotypes, gender and sexuality through a confessional tone. It also examines infatuation, falling in love, falling out of love, and explores the concept of manhood as defined by society. The story is about moving on, disappointment, disillusionment, and scars – Scars that nations inflict upon us, scars that history inflicts upon us, and scars that people inflict upon us.
The protagonist Himmat has led a chequered life replete with a spectrum of experiences from consuming drugs to being arrested. There are brief descriptions of self-harm and suicidal ideation.


Himmat tries so long to run away from the past but he realises that the only way to live in the present is to make peace with it and go back to his roots. He reflects on what it is to be a Punjabi and an Indian. The story is about brokenness and reclaiming the lost parts of one’s soul. It’s about releasing old memories and breaking free. It’s about hatred and forgiveness. The story highlights that sometimes one is a victim of circumstances and that every scar conceals a story. The characters leap off the page and the story deals with raw, visceral emotions.

The book is a bildungsroman, which is slated for an international release later this year.
Note: I received the ARC from The Himalayan Book Club. All opinions are honest and my own.

First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday is a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author, or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

Here’s how it works!

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Preface

This is the journey of my cultural memory. The five elements -ether, air, fire, water, and earth, known as ‘Panchabhutas’ – have always fascinated me. In Sanskrit, ‘pancha’ means five, and ‘bhutas’ are the natural elements. As I begin to delve deeper into the ancient texts, I found that each of these elements was related to one particular sense.

V

V

V

And the book is…

Book cover of Beyond the Horizon Beyond – Haiku and Haibun by Kala Ramesh

This is the book I plan to read next:) Have you read it? What are your impressions? Anything you’d like to share?

Neither a borrower nor a lender be

I recall getting one of my first autographed books in 2013. It was from Yasmeen Premji, the wife of billionaire Azim Premji. It was at the book launch event of her ‘Days of Gold and Sepia.’ That year, I would also get the autographed copy of ‘I’ll do it my way’ by Christina Daniels and ‘Men on my Mind’ by Radha Thomas. But I would foolishly (a few months later) lend these autographed copies to someone and never get them back.

After this incident, which still rankles, and several others where people I know have borrowed books, only to never return them or returned them in a damaged condition, I’ve become absolutely blunt (if necessary) with them that my books aren’t for lending. On rare occasions, I have deviated from this principle, but in general, I realize that people don’t value my books the way I do. And drawing boundaries with people is the only way I can have any kind of satisfactory friendship with someone.

Speaking of boundaries, I recently bought a copy of ‘Set boundaries, Find Peace’ by Nedra Glover Tawwab. I got this book recommendation from Melody Wilding’s newsletter. I have spoken about Melody Wilding before on my Instagram here. Nowadays, there is more awareness about HSPs or highly sensitive people. About 20% of the world’s population consists of HSPs. Coach Melody Wilding’s work will resonate strongly with you if you belong to this section of people. So do let me know via comments if any of what I said struck a chord. Ciao.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

The books I have been reading

  1. I’m 71% through with ‘The Murder at Lemon Tree Grove: Iqra Investigates ( Aunty Millennial Book 1) by Andaleeb Wajid. I’ve been taking my time with this one ‘coz I’m simultaneously reading other books. I love the romance between Iqra and her husband Saad. Also, I find the book a light read so far.
  2. Out of the blue the other day, I received a copy of ‘Inferno’ by Dante Alighieri, so I read 25 pages of it.
  3. I bought and read my first ‘Hole’ book by Lesley Denise Biswas with illustrations by Anupama Ajinkya Apte. The story is about a grandma who has Alzheimer’s, and this serious topic is explained in such a way that little children can understand what it is. The book also shows us how in villages, sometimes people are labeled “mad” due to a poor understanding of mental health matters.
  4. I also read ‘A Christmas tail’ by Sudesna Ghosh on Kindle Unlimited. Engaging writing, cats, and nice people make for a short story that puts a smile on one’s face. I recommend it to cat lovers! Check out my interview with the author.
  5. I have a number of new books I’ve bought recently. Will get to them in due time and post about them after reading.

There’s so much to read; so little time! What have you been reading these days?

Photo by Praveen Gupta on Unsplash

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