Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Digital India : Empowered government... Empowered citizens

India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world today. There have been reforms targeting different sectors in each era which have led our country to the path of progress and now it is time for the government to adopt Information Technology as a key enabler for moving ahead.
Digital India is one such initiative where the government along with Intel plans to connect with the citizens on a deeper level while utilizing the benefits of Information technology.

So here are my thoughts on how technology would revolutionize governance and empower citizens.

1. (Agriculture) Elimination of middlemen - Although already some of the corporate sector are buying direct produce from the farmers, but still most of the agriculture production is handled by middlemen and farmers are cheated because they are not technologically equipped. Digital skills and Internet kiosks in villages will ensure that they know the market value of their produce and are more equipped to bargain a better price for their agricultural production.
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2. (Agriculture) Dependence on monsoons - Believe it or not, most of our farmers still depend on monsoon for irrigation. Canals, rainwater harvesting, dams do empower them to a certain extent but a daily/weekly weather report can do wonders and save a lot of our crop from spoiling. With the knowledge of weather predictions, farmer can take the right decisions at the right time.

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3. Reduce Corruption: India is ranked as 85th out of 175 countries in the list of corruption index (Source: Wikipedia) Despite of having Right to Information Act (RTI) in place, it still seems a long way to stop corruption at government offices. The reason is that simply creating laws will not help the citizens, they need to be educated about them too. With the digital skills program, people will be more aware of their rights and equipped to connect to the government directly. This would increase the transparency in the processes and reduce corruption.
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4. Elimination of the Agent-Raj : Just like the govt. did away with the license Raj in the 1990's, now is the time to get rid of the Agent-raj that is going on in this country. I remember I had gone to the RTO office to apply for my license. As soon as I entered the compound of the building, some 20 agents surrounded me. "Madam, license banvana hai?", "Gaadi transfer karani hai?", "Madam, only Rs1000, sab kaam karta hu". I decided that I am a responsible citizen and I will not fall prey to these agents, no matter what, I will apply for my license myself.

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And do you know what the result was - It took me 17 trips to the RTO, filling the same form over 10 times, waiting for more than 22 hours ("Saheb 3 bje aayenge", "Abhi nahi hai.. kal aana", "Firse form bharo, mistake hai?", "aap bangalore ke nahi hai", "Address proof valid nahi hai" etc etc etc)
and finally I got my license. I guess it would have been cheaper and much hassle free if I would have asked an agent and paid him 1000 bucks. The scenario is not much different in other govt. office.
On the contrary, the passport office seems a complete contrast to my license episode. Everything is digitally connected, smooth and transparent. Amazing what technology can do.

5. Judiciary Reforms - As per a survey, there was more than 3 crore court cases pending in the country and on a average it will 320 years for the courts sort out all these cases, which is humanly impossible. This means that there are people whose cases will be pending for their entire lifetimes or more to get justice. It may be difficult to expedite the judiciary process by digitizing it but if a person can view online the status of his appeal, the next hearing date and what is going on, it fosters hope, that someday justice will be granted.There are many people who have lost hope and do not trust the judicial system in India, a simple technology can bring hopes and optimism in so many lives.

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6. Environmental reforms - A simple carpooling app can go a long way to help people share rides along the way and not only save the precious fuel and our environment, also reduce the traffic rants of people in cities like Bangalore. When such apps are a success abroad, then why not in India?
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7. Police reforms: Digitization would empower the citizens to track their complaints and their status and also empower the police to easily search history sheeters on their database and ease of maintaining records. There are cases in villages where the police simply refuses to file an FIR, these will also be minimized if the rural population is aware of their rights and empowered to raise their concerns on online forums.

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8. Education for everyone: The web, in true sense, globalizes the mindset of students. With the advertisements doing rounds on how people learn so much using the internet, it is well known that internet opens a world of opportunities which does not discriminate between the rich and poor, the urban and rural. This will be a great boom for the rural students who do not have the right infrastructure, schools or teachers to guide them. With basic internet surfing and computer skills and an internet kiosk in each village, learning can be made open to everyone.
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8. Women Safety: Much is talked about how women in our country can be made to feel safe. With so many cases coming to light from our very own capital city, it seems that no woman is safe in any corner of the country at any time of the day. A safety app on our mobile phone where a woman can message the police and intimate about the danger will make her feel safe in the city and she would walk with confidence even when she is alone. A digital skills program for women would ensure that they are at least capable of raising their voice to the govt. departments, NGOs through different channels about their concerns.
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8. Public Grievances: Urban consumers use Facebook, twitter and other social networking sites to share their grievances against a product or a service, and these complaints go viral within a matter of days. The service provider is left is no option but to oblige and rectify the problem as soon as possible since his reputation is at stake. A similar approach can be followed with a Public Grievance portal where citizens can raise their concerns, discuss, comment and communicate more openly with the government.

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Somewhere I feel that the rural population lacks in these aspects since they are not educated and do not have the digital skills to collaborate on online platform. The Digital Skill for India program will go a long way in helping them and shaping the future of the nation.

Hope to see a more empowered and digitally connected India in the coming years.

This contest is written for #DigitalIndia contest on Indiblogger in association with Intel.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Yummlicious Singapore !!!!

Singapore is a Foodie's delight. I had heard so much about Singapore from my family and friends that it was No.1 on my wishlist and I longed to travel there. So this holiday season, we decided to plan a trip to Singapore. But my Itinerary was not just about places to visit but also about the food to try in Singapore. I had heard a lot about the variety of cuisines Singapore has to offer so I just researched on the internet and decided to eat one Singaporean specialty each day.

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Far East Hospitality was the best website which guided me to the food options that I must try in Singapore, and trust me I was not disappointed. I almost loved everything on the Singaporean cuisine but I will list my favorites here -

1. Best Of Coffee -  Well, I am a coffee addict, so my post for favorite food has to start with the Coffee, or rather Kopi that I love from Singapore. Kopi is a national drink of Singapore and it well deserves this tag as Singaporeans love to start their mornings with their special kopi and evenings are best enjoyed over a cup of kopi. I felt that this is a stronger version of cappuccino since the coffee beans are high caffeine robusta beans rather than arabica, that is mostly popular in the west.
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Multiple variants are available such as  Kopi, Kopi-gau, Kopi-poh, Kopi-C etc just like we have our Cappachino, Caffe-latte, frappe etc etc. The best was the Kopi enjoyed at 40 Hands Cafe at Yong Siak Street as recommended by Far East Hospitality.
The Name of the Cafe comes from the fact that it take 40 hands to produce a single cup of coffee right from bean to cup. The aroma of roasted coffee beans with condensed milk making it thick and creamy along with the perfect sugar makes the best coffee I have ever had in my life. 

2. Best Appetizer: Being a non vegetarian, my favorite appetizer is the famous turtle soup available in Singapore. In India, my quest for a good non vegetarian soup was not much of a success but Singapore quenched my thirst by its turtle soup. Soft shell turtles are very juicy and they do not have the typical meat or sea food smell. The flavors of local herbs and chilli along with the soft flesh works wonders. In just one sip, I knew I fell in love with this soup.
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3. Best Main Course Dish: Chilli Crab is promoted as one of the Singapore's National Dish and after eating I agreed that this deserves to be one of the National Singaporean Dish. Stir Fried Crab in a tangy thick tomato and chilly gravy appeals to the taste buds. This is yummy and a must try food when in Singapore.
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4. Best of Rice: I have eaten enough of Chicken rice, mutton and prawn biryanis in India and now it was time to try something unusual for my palate. So, we tried the Duck Rice, a delicacy made with roasted duck and served with thick dark sauce along with boiled eggs and stir fried vegetables. We had this dish as Ah Seng Duck Rice and I absolutely loved this delicacy. The impeccable combination of spicy, tangy and salty gravy with the fresh and juicy duck flesh perfectly compliments the rice on the plate.  

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5. Best of Roti: Well, roti also has its twists in Singapore. There are a variety of Singaporean Pratas (Paratha) available. My favorite one is Chicken Floss Prata, where shreds of dried chicken rolled into a Prata, perfectly suiting to the Indian tastes. As recommended by Far East Hospitality, the best chicken floss prata can be tried at The Roti Prata House on Upper Thomson House. This Prata is big and very filling for a single person. I bet you will fall in love with the Prata varieties in Singapore and you will eat them again and again.
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6. Best of Desserts: Since I have a sweet tooth, I love almost all the desserts, be it in India or Singapore. One of my favorites is Almond jelly, which is a simple yet a very refreshing sweet. This is a sweet jelly made from almonds and versions of this dessert are available at different Singaporean restaurants. Some combine it with fresh lychees or with strawberries and other fresh fruits while other places serve it with logans.

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So all in all, Singapore was a gastronomical delight and I loved the entire spread of food especially the sea food variety.

To know more about Singapore food and the delicious cuisine, visit Far East Hospitality.

This yummy post has been written for Takeaway Level: Singapore campaign by Far East Hospitality in association with Indiblogger.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

#Choose To Start with the all new Moto E

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There is a quote which says that a Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but now its time to add another phrase to this quote, he can live much lesser time without his smartphone. 

Smartphones have become the lifeline of our lives and it is hard to imagine spending even few minutes without it. Reminiscing old memories is always a pleasure, the first cordless phone where the entire family could talk from their own space, the first cellphone where we could talk to anyone in practically any city any place and then came the smartphones which are all the more special because they not just make communication possible anywhere but are also connect you to the world of possibilities.

And what better way to Choose my smartphone journey with the amazing and all new Moto E. This is a new class of smartphone which provides a great mobile experience and is friendly to the pocket.

So, here is my to-do list of what I would #Choose to start with the all new Moto E -
Me and my daughter in a Selfie

Selfies - My friends call me the selfie queen of the group, because I pollute their bandwidth with my selfies all the time. And now with my new Moto E this has become all the more easy. Just with a twist of the wrist I can launch Motorola's quick capture feature without even touching the phone. A 5 mp rear camera along with a front camera is perfect for taking photographs and selfies.

Music - I love listening to popular bollywood songs, yo yo honey singh and other pop music. Whether I am cooking, jogging, playing a mobile game or surfing the net, headphones are my best friends. Earlier I used to have a small transistor for my music, then came the walkmann, then I had my iPod and now my smartphone fulfills my music needs. With a battery that lasts all day, listening to music for hours on the go without having to break for charging is definitely worth an applaud.

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Gaming- I am an addict of mobile gaming (honest confession). Be it Candy crush, 2048, temple run, fruit ninja, clash of clans, you name it, and my powerful smartphone will assist me in faster gaming with its quad core processor

Paris on my Map

Travel bindaas without a map: My all new Moto E would provide connectivity to Internet 4G and 3G speeds, which means I can never be lost while meandering into the streets of Bangalore or Paris or Singapore. I no longer need a hard copy of the map to find places, my all new Moto E is just what I need to carry.
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Zing with style: Being fashionable and stylish is as important as being smart in today's world and the same is valid for a cellphone. Black and white are for business but when spending fun time, going to parties or even personal time at home, colors add zing to life. I would change the skins of my Moto E to match with my moods and shades of my dress.

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Get Fit from Fat: I would also choose to get fitter with the awesome apps like Endomondo, pedometer and other awesome apps which come with the latest Android OS, Lollipop to maintain my fitness and keep a track of my diet, jogging and more.

So this is how I would Choose To Start my all new Smartphone experience with the awesome Moto E.

This post is written for the #ChooseToStart campaign by Moto E in association with Indiblogger.
Read more about the all new Moto E on http://www.startwithmotoe.com/

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Nashta with Kellogg's waale Guptaji

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Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and if it is yummy and healthy the entire day goes well. Even dietitians and nutritionists recommend never to skip breakfast no matter your weight loss target.
My mom also thinks so, and that's why she never lets me leave home without breakfast. But traditional breakfast recipes are making me fat. Those aaloo parathas fried in shudh ghee, aaloo-poori, kulcha, jalebi's, though are very yummy but not good for health. My mom still understands that oil is to be used in limit, but if my grandma wishes, she would even fry idlis in ghee and put a chunk of butter on the dosa before serving.
To add to the fact, I have acidity problem and oily breakfast is the last thing I would want to eat. So I keep searching for healthy breakfast recipes that not only appeal to me but also pleases the taste buds of elders in my family. And my search ended at Kellogg's cornflakes, tasty and healthy.

This brings me to my new year resolution, rather every new year I have the same resolution, to slim down and loose the extra flab. And what better way to start your day with a healthy and filling breakfast which does not add fat or cholesterol to your diet routine. This is when I came to know about Guptaji's family and their breakfast recipes. They are known as Kellogg's Wale Guptaji's family and the entire locality is talking about them and wanting to have breakfast at their house.

This family knows over 100 mouthwatering recipes, that too using one secret ingredient - Kellogg's Cornflakes. This secret ingredient is healthy, low fat and filling and this makes it the perfect food for people like me.
I surely want to go to Guptaji's house for breakfast and want to learn those yummy Kellogg's recipes from Mrs.Guptaji. She has umpteen recipes in her pocket which can be prepared in minutes and are very tasty. Her recipe names are also as awesome as her breakfast - Nakhare Wala Nashta, First Crush Wala Nashta, Jagah Banane Wala Nashta, Movie Wala Nashta, Homework Wala Nashta and so many more. A Nashta for every occasion, wow, I didn't know that Cornflakes can be eaten in so many ways.

Some of the awesome recipes that I want to taste and also learn from Mrs. Guptaji are the following -
Sitaphal Cornflakes - Custurd apple crushed into cold milk along with cornflakes and walnuts is energizing, sweet and yummy
Best Family Wala Nashta - A combination of apples, cold milk and Kellogg's cornflakes with a twist of cinnamon
And for those in my family who love ghee, I would ask for Best Tiffin Wala Nashta, which is a lip smacking sweet laddoo recipe with cornflakes, nuts, milk and ghee.

Guptaji!!! Nashte pe kab bula rahe ho?

Read more about the Kellogg's Cornflakes and Nashta recipes on https://www.facebook.com/anaajkanashta

Visit https://www.youtube.com/user/kelloggindia for more information.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Being #together is the best feeling

While pursuing the larger ambitions in life, we often forget that the best moments and joys come from the smallest of things. My story dates back to 2012 when I had traveled to Germany for a project assignment leaving behind my family for couple of months. This was my first trip abroad and I was very excited but at the same time nervous too. Soon the excitement faded and I started feeling lonely in this world. I longed to meet my husband and family back in India, but I were to stay there until the project ended.
Although the phone and Internet connect us virtually almost all the time, but still the longing for each other increased with each passing day. Skype and Google talk became my best friends and I used to be in touch with my husband almost all the time, though I missed his physical presence. Festivals passed one after the other and so did some of the weddings of my close friends and relatives. And so passed my birthday and our first wedding anniversary too. The feeling of being lonely had started to sink in now and I wanted to go back to my roots now. 
New year was around the corner, holiday season had started and those Christmas decorations, night markets and jingle bells did not ring any bells in me since there was no one I could enjoy them with. On one such night, I was talking to my husband and telling him about the beautiful lighting and merry atmosphere in the city and that how much I was missing him. He asked me to go shopping as it would lift my mood, knowing very well that girls love to shop. I expressed my displeasure and told him that I don't feel like shopping without him. 
"C'mon, spend some money. It would make you happy," he had told me on the phone.
"If money could buy happiness, all the rich would be happy. Money can't buy happiness" I replied to him disapprovingly.
The next day I tried to reach him but his phone was not available. I looked for him on skype and other chat accounts but there too he was offline. I was slightly worried about him so I called his mother. She too was unaware of his whereabouts. Next day morning, my door bell rang and there he was, standing casually with his backpack and smiling. I couldn't believe if it was real or I was dreaming. I almost screamed in shock and hugged him tightly.
"Money can't buy happiness, but it can definitely buy tickets to Germany so that we can be together for the new year." He grinned. I had never felt so happy in the last few months of my stay away from home.
He was right, though money couldn't buy happiness, but togetherness definitely can make us happy. We spent the new year together in Paris and relived our romance once again on the Eiffel Tower. We roamed on the streets of Zurich and experienced the snow on the Alps. We watched movies, drank wine, went shopping and most important of all, enjoyed so many priceless moments together.
Those memories are still fresh in my mind and bring a smile to my face every time I revisit them.

This post has been written for #together campaign by @housing. Read more about housing on https://housing.com

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Start Of A New Life

Change is the only constant thing in life. But then, we are so hesitant to accept change that we do anything to be where we are. Same was the case with me when I decided to challenge my personality faults and resolved to improve myself. Since childhood I was a shy and introvert personality.
I did not mingle with people a lot, had few friends and was mostly known as a silent person sitting on the back bench doing her studies in school. I never had the guts to face the girls who bullied me and I preferred to stay away from them. Neither did I ever had the confidence to participate in the cultural activities in school because the thought of going on stage itself sent jitters in my stomach and made my legs tremble.
An average student who likes to have lunch with the same set of friends, who never speaks up in class and doesn't have much to do with others was an easily forgettable personality. My parents encouraged me every time to be sportive, to participate in events and to shun my fear, but much to their dismay, I never did anything to surprise them.
The wheel of time turned, new session started and the school was inviting nominations for NCC Camp (National Cadet Corps).The entire class was excited about it and so was I. I had a fascination for the khaki dress, the march past, the rifle shooting and the camps. So, I too raised my hand for admission into NCC. I heard some giggles, some whispers from surrounding classmates and soon the entire class was laughing. The teacher asked -"Are you sure? Will you be able to leave your home and live in a camp for 10 days" I saw a strange belittling smile on her face too. I was ashamed, not at myself but at the teacher who, instead of encouraging me, was lowering my self confidence.
This was not an instant decision, I had been awake for almost an entire night to gather the courage to nominate myself for this prestigious group. Why couldn't I go to an NCC camp? Just because I was shy or lacked confidence?
I was determined to do this and nothing should deter me. I swallowed, brought all my energies together, and replied strongly. "Yes, I want to go for the camp. Is there a problem?"
That was a moment when I could feel a new found strength in my voice.
"Okay. I would put your name in the list. There will be externals who would be selecting. Let's see what happens"
My heart was pounding with excitement. This would be a first time I would leave my home and live with strangers in a tent. I would have to do everything independently, mingle with new people and survive in harsh conditions. I was thankful that the externals were selecting for NCC and my past record will not impact the judgement. There was a week left for selection and I prepared day and night. I contacted the seniors, which in itself was a humongous task for a person like me, and asked them about the questions that will be asked. Mirror became my best friend who witnessed my dialogue delivery and practice to be confident.
The final day came and I was the only one selected from my class. This was a good enough shock for those who had giggled and whispered behind my back.
 I left my home, stayed in a camp for 10 days and successfully concluded it.
This was a turning point of my life. Not only did I learn that I can survive alone, I made some new friends and was also promoted to become the vice Sergeant of my team.
My life completely changed since then and I never looked back. I soon fought my stage fear too and emerged victorious in the end.  I went on to win many personality titles in my school, college and work life too. \

Now that I look back, this seems like a small struggle which started a new life for me.

This post has been written for #StartANewLife campaign by @housing. Read more about housing on https://housing.com/

Take a look at this short movie to learn more about Housing.com

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hope is the essence of Life

Approaches to look at life are different for different people and it is circumstances that turn them into a positive or a negative person. I was not a very optimistic person, rather I used loose hope at the smallest of glitches that life brought at me.
There is too much work in office, why does my boss sit on my head all the time?
I did not get a promotion I deserve, this HR should kill himself if he doesn't respect the ambitions of sincere employees?
Uff.. this traffic is so bad, why do all the people have to take this road?
I need a bigger house, I need a bigger car, I need a fat paycheck, I am not willing to work weekends, I want to holiday abroad and blah blah ...
The list of unending desires and lack of job satisfaction had made me an almost whining personality. And then, the big news came that I had conceived.
I was happy, very happy but the nagging devil in me lifted his head yet again. 
I was fat, my thighs became like big tree trunks, I was vomiting day and night, food and travel was no more a joy and I felt that I wanted to slow down. My mind had lingering questions all the time - how will I manage the baby, will my career take a backseat, how will we work out of finances if I took a break and the list was endless.
I reached my 7th month and the doctor told us that my baby had a single umbilical artery and was not growing very well. I was asked to stay at home and take rest. It seemed that my mind will never come at peace, stress was a way of life. The more I tried to be positive and stress-free, the more stressful thoughts corrupted my mind.
"Umeed par to duniya kayam hai," my husband would say to cheer me up. "All is well" was like his mantra but I could never be like him. The more I tried the more I failed. 
And then one day, my baby arrived into this world. She was a healthy baby girl and we were discharged from hospital after couple of days. Soon the feeling of being a mother started to sink in.
When I brought her home for the first time, she wrapped her tiny hand around my finger and smiled in her sleep. I couldn't express my joy, I was in tears. That one moment changed my outlook of life. 
They say that Hope is a good thing, and indeed it is.
There is no fat paycheck, no appraisal ratings, no appreciations and you got to work on weekends too. But when you finally see your baby clinging on you when he has a bad dream, being sad when you are away, hugging you and expressing his selfless love, you cannot ask for more.

Being at home with your baby is a thankless and endless job, but then, it is full of hope and happiness. Our sweet little home is now more beautiful where my baby crawls, eats, makes a mess and experiences his world. 

This post has been written for #lookup campaign by @housing in association with Indiblogger. Read more about housing on https://housing.com/lookup

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Book Review: Hifi In Bollywood

Book Title: Hifi In Bollywood


Rayhan, the protagonist, is an aspiring film maker and has always dreamt of being a director in the Hindi Film (HiFi) industry. The terms Bollywood and HiFi have been interchangeably used in the novel to signify the Hindi film industry. Rayhan's father, a middle class service man living in a flat in Mumbai wants his son to settle in the US and marry Vanita, his friend's daughter who is a medical student in the US. But Rayhan, has different plans, and to chase his dreams, he secretly comes to Mumbai to try his luck in Bollywood. His friend Shady lands him a job as an assistant to a famous director Saajan B by lying that he has experience in Hollywood. Mumbai takes him on a roller coaster adventure ride where he encounters different characters - Peter, the local don who vies for a role as villain, his maid who tries to make a move on him in anticipation of a role in films, a local politician who wants to marry his domestic help, Voila who makes him fall in love and film stars and their ego. 
Will his father go berserk when he sees him in Mumbai? Will he have a future in Bollywood? Is his lie of being a Hollywood return a big ticket to success or will it backfire? Will Rayhan realize his dreams in Mumbai or will he have to go back to US just like millions who try their hand in Hifi? Will he get his love Viola or will he go back to arranged marriage with his father's choice?

My 2 cents: The book is an interesting casual read with good narrations and character built up. It is narrated from the eyes of Rayhan, the lead character, a young, hardworking guy who is serious about his dream. The story flows seamlessly, the language is easy to read and twists keep coming as small surprises through the book. From page 1 itself the story grips you and it is unlikely to leave the book midway once you start it. I started reading casually one night, and I couldn’t keep it down until I had finished it by morning. 
The title is apt and the cover page design is interesting. The end though seems to be a little too filmy but then, it is about bollywood, so all is well that ends well :)

There are narrations about the lanes of Berkeley, Mumbai, movie sets, studios, filmstars, and many others which could be virtually explored through the book. The writing style is lucid and I must say, I see another Chetan Bhagat in the making. 

All in all, the book is a good read. Read it for some good humor moments, powerful narrations of film sets, seamless flow and lucid language, some magical twists and to visit the HiFi.. I mean Bollywood virtually.

My rating : 4 out of 5 stars.