Sylvia Plath But Make It Chess: The Queen’s Gambit

This blog post will be different since I’m incorporating an Adobe Spark Page for the first time ever! I had wanted to try it out for a while, but was reluctant to do so. However in the spirit of experimentation, I decided to have some fun with the visuals while keeping my content intact. Content-wise as well, this post is a little different from my usual review. I’ve always wanted to delve into the “book versus media adaptation” conversation and decided to go this route with “The Queen’s Gambit”. You’d have to be living under a rock to not know about this show one way or another. Largely touted as one of the best shows of 2020, and one of the best adaptations to happen in a long time, it’s no surprise as to why it is massively popular. Without further ado here is my take on the same, enjoy!

Tap on the image below to visit the Adobe Spark Page. If you’re unable to view it then visit the comments section for the link to same.

The Queen's Gambit

The Queen’s Gambit is currently streaming on Netflix.

Purchase the book by Walter Tevis here.

Copyright © 2021 by Shamika Lal,  all rights reserved.

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Riot Grrrls Gone Astray: Moxie (2021)

I take great pleasure in watching films focused on feminism and women empowerment, when they’re done right. Here’s my take on the latest offering in this range of films.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: I adore Amy Poehler.

It’s an indisputable fact that she’s one of the best sketch-players to come out of SNL. Alongside Tina Fey, she made for one-half of a terrific duo of Golden Globe hosts (Check out some of their zingers here). And how can I forget Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation! As an entertainer with a knack for roasting the who’s who of Hollywood and reminding her audiences of the daily struggles faced by women, Moxie was right up her ally. Needless to say, I had really high expectations going into this movie.

Unfortunately by the time the credits began to roll, I was left thoroughly underwhelmed.

The cast mimics my internal screaming throughout the film.

Allow me to give you a brief gist of the film.

Moxie follows a young high-schooler Vivian (Hadley Robinson), who anonymously publishes a zine (named Moxie, duh) calling out the sexist behaviour and attitude of her male peers and school administration, after witnessing them first-hand. This zine spawns into a school-wide movement where girls raise their voices on various issues ranging from sexual harassment to moral policing. The movie is very loosely (the keyword here) based on the YA novel of the same name by Jennifer Mathieu.

Looking at the condensed version of the plot above, you may or may not be intrigued. Prior to watching Moxie, I belonged to the former category mainly because it has so much potential! And that’s what made me so mad when I was done with the film.

I’ll talk about the positive points of Moxie. It accurately portrays the pathetic, regressive treatment and behaviour that women are subjected to, even today. A standout for me was the tank-top scene which sees the shamed girl reprimand the teacher for not acknowledging the wrongful treatment and ignoring the issue altogether. Instances of inappropriate touching, verbal harassment and bullying have also been showcased accurately. In fact, some of the cast is top-notch. The perpetrators, especially Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger), are so loathsome that the viewer is left wishing karma on them. The ignorant Principal Shelly (Marcia Gay Hayden) is equally frustrating. Some other excellent characters in my opinion were Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña), Claudia (Lauren Tsai) and Seth (Nico Haraga). The soundtrack is incredible, to say the least. A special shout-out to the Linda Lindas, a Bikini Kill-approved tween punk band, whose live performance is featured in the film.

Now for the negatives and are they a load!

The film fails to find its footing in matching the tone with the crux. I believe it tried to be the meet-cute of Easy A (2010) and Booksmart (2019). Unlike these two films, Moxie has neither the clarity nor the self-awareness. Booksmart dealt with a poignant topic tinged with nostalgia, which made it the right buddy-comedy film. Easy A, on the other hand, smartly dealt with the oh-so-relevant issue of slut-shaming by means of a ballsy protagonist. It truly showed that ruffling feathers and rightfully burning bridges, didn’t make things hunky-dory in the end. This leads me to my next point of Moxie having a weak protagonist. Vivian comes off as cowardly, privileged, and more of a follower. She doesn’t have the M of moxie in her. The film doesn’t emphasize her internalization enough which leads her to start the zine. Save for dancing to a few songs, flipping through her mom’s memorabilia, and reading a little, we get nothing from her. This is a huge missed opportunity as it could’ve also served as an excellent introduction to the revolutionary riot grrrls movement. I would rather vouch for Lucy as the protagonist. She is smart, compelling and brave. Even Vivian’s best-friend Claudia, who is initially more timid than the former, proves to be a spunky bad-ass. She ends up making some big strides for Moxie and rightfully calls out Vivian. Another issue with the film is ironically addressed in the dialogue itself: “not intersectional enough”. Despite having some excellent black, latino and queer characters in the movement, Moxie doesn’t tap into them. Rather they are brushed off to the side. This makes the film’s attempt at woke, inclusive activism seem performative and superficial, at best.

The fatal flaw of this film, however, is its unrealistic treatment of date rape. I was thoroughly appalled at how this heinous crime was used as a convenient ploy for a dramatic reveal. Rape is a despicable act which causes unfathomable mental and physical trauma to the victim and those closest to them. It is even more acute when this crime is committed by someone they trust. Survivors’ identities are not disclosed due to the ostracization, shame and ridicule they would sadly end up facing. The sheer anxiety and debilitating trust issues which are likely to follow them throughout their lives, are not talked about enough. Such important issues deserve to be treated with the utmost care and respect, instead of merely being skimmed. So the fact that Moxie simply blew it off for the sake of plot progression left a bad aftertaste. This was accompanied by the sheer disbelief that Amy Poehler had veered in this tangent.

By all means, feel free to skip Moxie. Amy Poehler has done far better work than this. I’d rather go for the book, which is supposed to be widely different and more nuanced. For inspiring and funny female-centric films, Easy A, Booksmart, Thelma & Louise and Legally Blonde are excellent options. If you’re truly curious to learn about feminism and what it means, then you’re better off reading the works of bell hooks and Virginia Woolf.

Anything but this hot mess of a film.


Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Moxie is currently streaming on Netflix.

Copyright © 2021 by Shamika Lal,  all rights reserved.

Personified Timelessness: Little Women (2019)

With this miserable year coming to a close, I figured that a quintessential December movie is the need of the hour. However, instead of suggesting an on-the-nose cheesy Christmas film, I’ve decided to go for a film which, in my opinion, reinvigorates the mind and soul while also being aptly themed for Christmas. Enjoy!

When I first heard about the latest take on “Little Women”, my joy knew no bounds. I was even more excited to hear that Greta Gerwig would be directing as well as writing the adapted screenplay.

Having watched her solo directorial-cum-screenwriting debut “Lady Bird” (an absolute must-watch) before, it’s apparent as to why Gerwig was the right fit for this project. Her knack for exploring and showcasing interpersonal relationships in their truest sense, is par excellence. And a film like “Little Women demands exactly that. Add to this, her stellar casting choices, and you’ve got a solid, meaty project.

Initially “Little Women” was due to release globally on Christmas Day 2019, which in my opinion was perfect timing. If you’ve read the book, then you know why. So imagine my utter dismay on finding out that it would release in February in India. Come February, with the bad show timing schedules and yours truly was left fuming. Thankfully streaming came to my rescue unexpectedly soon and now I’m a happy camper.

Well, enough of my rambling for now. Let’s get back to the film.

(From left to right: Watson, Ronan, Pugh, Scanlen)

“Little Women” commences with an adult Jo March working in New York City, reminiscing her past spent in 19th century Massachusetts. Gerwig decides to shake things up (quite literally) by focusing on perspective and dismantling the chronology of events in Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel that we’ve all come to know and love. There are constant shifts between the past memories and the present events at hand.

You’d think that such a ruse would end up confusing the viewers. However due to its deft handling, with the right cuts and edits, it ends up being a much-welcomed change. In fact it makes the plot, dare I say, more alluring. The confusion is further cleared by the use of subtle tones. The past is presented in warm, golden hues while the present is shown with relatively darker, cool tones. The purpose of this tonal scheme is not lost on me, since it’s a wonderful way of depicting the character’s (in most cases, Jo) frame of mind. It also lends itself wonderfully to the plot in terms of foreshadowing, whilst simultaneously involving and elevating the stunning cinematography, headed by Yorick Le Saux.

The film does a thorough job of not only introducing the characters but also enhancing them seamlessly. The March sisters may share a surname and home, but they are poles apart in terms of personality and represent a smorgasbord of aspirations. We’ve already met headstrong, literary Jo (Saoirse Ronan). Then there’s the eldest March sister: beautiful, traditional Meg (Emma Watson). Further down the line, we meet the gentle, musical Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and finally, the baby of the family: artistic, demanding Amy (Florence Pugh). The present March family is rounded off with the selfless yet quietly strained matriarch Marmie (Laura Dern).

In due course, we also meet the supporting characters and love interests. Some notable ones being Aunt March (Meryl Streep), Theodore Lawrence a.k.a. Laurie (Timothée Chalamet), Friedrich Bhaer (Louis Garrel), John Brooke (James Norton), and Mr. Dashwood (Tracy Letts).

Although the story is set in the backdrop of the American Civil War, the main focus is on the coming-of-age aspect of the March sisters. The film perfectly captures siblinghood and childhood with all its warmth and struggles. It’s the attention to the tiniest of details, such as the orchestration and execution of the sisters’ exuberant overlapping chatter, akin to reality, which really stuck with me. Another wonderful feature is the downright refusal of restraint in scenes depicting childhood squabbles which allows the ferocity to organically mature into palpable family tensions by the time the sisters reach adulthood.

The plot does not shy away from the expectations and repressions that the 19th century society exerted on women. Rather, it underscores them since several of these issues, namely: gender dynamics & discrimination, lack of creative liberty, societal and class distinction and more, persist even today. The vulnerabilities and struggles which stem from the aforementioned issues are also addressed through two standout monologues. The first monologue is by Jo who laments about loneliness being the cost of her high ambitions. The second one is surprisingly by Amy, who easily takes Laurie down a peg, by presenting the harsh truth of the economic proposition of marriage and its consequences, as opposed to its romanticism. The issue of marriage has further been referenced in a rather amusing banter between Aunt March and Jo, where the former promptly reminds the latter that her wealth grants her spinsterhood.

Despite addressing such serious issues, the film has some terrific positive spins and takes. The familial affection, friendship, optimism and poignancy has not been skimped out on. Be it the surprise Christmas dinner, Beth’s unexpected gift or Laurie and Jo’s first meeting and ensuing shenanigans. None of the March sisters’ differing aspirations have been judged with a cynical eye, especially the rather traditional ones involving Beth and Meg. However, the most positive take of them all is that the fruition of one’s aspirations and goals has been considered as the happy ending, as opposed to the romantic couplings which very rightly get the deus ex machina treatment, as Alcott had originally wanted.

The ensemble cast as a whole is excellent and overall the performances definitely match up to what the film and plot demand. A fun fact to note is that none of the actresses playing the March sisters are American. The standout performances for me are Saoirse Ronan, who accurately represents Jo’s ambitious nature as well as its clash with her vulnerabilities, and Florence Pugh, who goes above and beyond with a complex, fleshy take on Amy, that easily throws away previously held notions of the youngest sister simply being a spoilt brat. Timothée Chalamet as Laurie, has excellent chemistry with all the sisters. Meryl Streep and Laura Dern, as always, shine in their respective roles in their limited screen time. A special mention goes to Eliza Scanlen as Beth, who is absolutely expressive even in the character’s most quiet moments, proving her wide range. This is even more remarkable given that she has previously played sociopaths all too well on-screen. And how can I forget Tracy Letts‘ memorable turn as Mr. Dashwood, a book publisher whose conversations with an adult Jo are highly entertaining. Now for the flip side. I had high expectations of Emma Watson since she has nailed far tougher American accents in films before (see The Bling Ring and The Perks of Being a Wallflower). However, she surprisingly stumbles, and its even more apparent in light of the superior performances by her fellow non-American peers (FYI: Ronan is Irish, Pugh is British, and Scanlen is Australian). In terms of casting, I wish that an appropriately aged actress were cast to play baby Amy. As a viewer, it’s a little disconcerting to see (a very much adult) Pugh play a fellow classmate of actual 10 year old kids. They could have taken cues from the 1994 version of “Little Women“, which had an excellent (and then appropriately aged) Kirsten Dunst play baby Amy. It just makes the transition to adulthood for Amy, all the more impactful. As much as I like the little things that Gerwig added to the film, she sometimes goes for the overkill, a prime example being the letter fiasco concerning Jo and Laurie. Such scenes added nothing but dead weight to the film. That being said, the positives of the film easily outweigh the negatives.

“Little Women” provides as much heart as it does substance, which makes it the perfect go-to film in December. Staunch Alcott purists will definitely have something positive to take away from the film as well. You all can rest well-assured knowing that Greta Gerwig has done her homework. So by all means, go ahead and immerse yourself in the lives of these bright, young women set in beautiful Massachusetts. It’s best enjoyed on a cozy night in, with a warm cup of hot chocolate and/or the ever-indulgent chocolate chip cookie.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I’ll see you in the New Year.



Copyright © 2020 by Shamika Lal,  all rights reserved.

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble: Halloween Reads

After a solid break and a lot of thought, I figured this would be the right way to resume blogging. I was previously working on restaurant reviews and other food themed posts. However, given the situation we’re all facing, it would be tone-deaf on my part if I wrote and posted about food. All I can say is that I’m utterly grateful to have a roof over my head and a meal on my plate, every single day.

Besides, I consider well-made films and shows alongside well-written books to be some major “food” for thought, which we could all use more of.

Here’s my first post on books and reading recommendations. Let’s get to it!

It should come as no surprise to you that Halloween fascinates me.

(P.S.: You might want to visit the “About” page of my blog, featuring an image of Shaggy and Scooby if that were not glaringly obvious)

As a kid, I was really taken up by cartoons that revolved around the supernatural and its impending mysteries. I can still vividly recall, sing, and play (the keyboard and guitar, if you will) the Addams Family theme song (cue, finger snaps). Ditto, for the ever-evolving Scooby-Doo theme song.

Did I also mention my fascination with cemeteries as a kid? Creepy, I know.

It goes without saying that Halloween isn’t as widely celebrated in India when compared to the United States. That being said, it hasn’t stopped me from whole-heartedly embracing the spirit. Although COVID-19 has sadly changed things for all of us this year, we shouldn’t let it dampen our zest for life. In these trying times, there’s no better way to partake in the spooky October festivities than by indulging in some great reads over the month.

The way I see it, reading ticks all the boxes. It proves to be a great escape from the stress, worry, and fatigue that are now commonplace owing to the absolute whammy of work-from-home schedules, online classes, and household chores. More importantly, it’s the safest way to celebrate the fall spirit and welcome Halloween this year. Also, it doesn’t stop you from getting decked up in your Halloween best (read: costume), settling in a cozy nook of your house and happily chomping away your candy, all while getting lost in the pages of a book.

My recommendations include novels, short stories – standalone & collective, series, and even a play, for the literary at heart. Without further ado and in no particular order, here are some spooky reads:

  1. The Lottery – Shirley Jackson

This short story is unarguably the winner of the most misleading title, in my list. The basic premise revolves around an annual lottery held by a small but tight-knit township. At twelve pages, the build-up and conclusion are nothing short of extraordinary. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that the befuddlement I experienced in the last few pages, definitely made for a very memorable read. For a story of its length, it is quite allegorical in nature too, which is an unusual but welcome change. This is perfectly aligned for the busiest of bibliophiles and for those currently experiencing the much-dreaded reading slump.

2. The Landlady – Roald Dahl

This absolute cracker of a story is from Kiss Kiss, one of Dahl’s revered collections of short stories. The genius lies in the sheer subtlety of Dahl’s writing as well as the satisfactory conclusion which spurs the reader’s imagination. In fact, the shift is so subtle that it left me stumped for years until a recent discussion with a friend prompted me to revisit the story that subsequently changed my perception. Dahl is noted for infusing dark humour into his works, including children’s literature, so I should’ve seen this one coming. By sole virtue of this piece of work, Dahl easily gives Stephen King a run for his money. It’s that good.

3. 99 Fear Street: The House of Evil Trilogy – R.L. Stine

The nostalgia is strong with this one. My school gets full credit for introducing me to this series. A boring “Library” period was transformed into a gruesome delight when a classmate stumbled upon the books by happenchance. To this day, I can still remember the absolute ruckus which ensued due to the sheer number of people fighting to get their hands on these books. The plot follows a family moving into the most dreaded house of the new neighbourhood, despite warnings from everyone around them. The frights and gores are well-earned, and the campy plot holds up well, even today. This is the perfect childhood horror throwback for all 90s kids.

4. The Pillowman – Martin McDonagh

This play is widely acclaimed for many good reasons. The story introduces us to Katurian, a fiction writer residing in a totalitarian state, who is interrogated about a string of bizarre child murders that closely mirror those in his books. Katurian’s gothic stories serve as excellent plot devices that add another dimension to the play. The main plot puts forth the real-life horror of police brutality in the spotlight, which further amps up the suspense. By cleverly introducing us to real & fictional horrors and presenting them in a cohesive way, The Pillowman is a revelation.

5. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

Whirlwind romances, sandy beaches, massive estates, unwelcoming hosts, buried secrets – these are just a few of the themes explored by this gothic novel. The narrative is just as much a deep-dive into the human psyche as it is into the mystery. The novel is a slow burn with an excellent description that draws you in. The fleshed-out female characters are another plus point. To those looking for a leisurely albeit haunting read, this book is it!

6. And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

I know, I know. Why choose a massively popular book which has spawned scores of shows, movies and plays when you could go for something more under the radar? However, the fact of the matter is that this is Christie at her best and a terrific introduction for those new to her bibliography. Ten strangers are invited for a stay on a lonely, private island. What is the common factor you ask? Other than their questionable pasts, a macabre nursery rhyme outlining their fates. Christie expertly marries the themes of isolation, deception and suspense while firmly staying in her wheelhouse of the mystery genre. The climactic build-up is matched by the eerie undertones, making it a very hard book to put down.

7. Night Shift – Stephen King

There’s something for everyone in this varied collection of short stories. The reigning king of horror has written short stories that range from classic King to surprisingly poignant. Among this collection is a precursor to his famous novel Salem’s Lot, which will delight hardcore fans. His trysts with romanticism and mystery are also commendable. Some of my personal favourites from this collection are: Graveyard Shift, Strawberry Spring, The Last Rung on the Ladder and The Woman in the Room.

8. A Rose for Emily – William Faulkner

Ah, this one. Although not an easy short story to read, the non-linear narration is intriguing enough to keep the reader hooked. The story begins with the unnamed narrator attending the funeral of Emily, the grouchy town recluse, out of a sense of obligation. What follows is a look back into Emily’s life alongside her questionable actions and equally strange interactions with her fellow townsmen. The strong sense of foreboding cuts through very well for this rather slow story. The conclusion makes the reader appreciate the symbolism of a preserved rose, which is alluded to in the title.

9. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

Humanity has witnessed and committed unspeakable atrocities which easily challenge the grisliness of fictional horror. The extensively detailed account of events mentioned in this true-crime novel is proof of the pudding! The events center around the quadruple murder of the Herbert Clutter family from Holcomb, a small farming community in rural Texas. The novel gives a blow-by-blow account of the victims, the murder, and the neighbouring residents of the concerned community. It also details the killers’ backgrounds, interpersonal relationships and, psychologies, which are deeply unsettling. This penchant for detail alongside Capote’s knack for eloquent prose is the main reason why this piece of non-fiction is hailed.

Fun fact: Capote’s good friend, Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird) assisted him in the interview and compilation processes. No big deal.

10. The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

How could I not! As is obvious, the graveyard plays a central role in the story. It unexpectedly becomes the home of Bod Owens, a human infant whose tendency to wander mercifully saves him from being murdered with his family. The residents of the graveyard adopt Bod as their own and keep him safe from the insidious Jacks. The book strikes a wonderful balance between horror and heart. Gaiman’s writing compels the reader to view the graveyard for more than what it is believed to be. As if this were not enough, Bod’s hijinks and shenanigans quench the reader’s thirst for adventure. Only Gaiman could spectacularly bridge the gap between the themes of adolescence and arcane horror. A highly recommended read for Gaiman fans and newcomers alike!

With that, I conclude my current list of recommendations. Do you have any recommendations for me? I’ll definitely add them to my ever increasing TBR pile. Maybe we could have some wonderful discussions in the comment section below!

In the meantime, stay safe. Happy Halloween!

Copyright © 2020 by Shamika Lal,  all rights reserved.

Kubrick’s Cube: The Shining (1980)

New year, new post, new subject. I’ve decided to expand my domain of critical appreciation and experiment with it. Cinema is one of the newer subjects that I’ll be tackling in this post.

Here’s a well-known fact: Stephen King is a masterful storyteller.

Whether or not you consider his plots to be twisted, grotesque, heartbreaking and every other adjective that you can think of, you cannot deny that they’re undoubtedly memorable and do make a lasting impression.

Even today, people find it hard to believe that the guy behind novels such as “Carrie” and Pet Sematary” turned out to be the person responsible for “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Stand by Me”(The Body). This is a testament to the versatility of King as an author.

Want to know another fact?

Most films based on Stephen King’s works have not fared well.

By “fared well”, I mean hit the three check-boxes: – the critics, the audiences, and King himself. Notable exceptions do exist, of course. “Stand by Me”, “Misery” and “The Shawshank Redemption” have gone on to exceed far beyond even King’s own expectations. However, when compared to the sheer number of King based films made, the number is very low.

The 21st century has continued to adapt King’s works on the small and big screens. But among this eclectic mix of King films, none has garnered as much buzz as this one:


“The Shining” is one of the most polarizing films ever made, not just from the point of view of King but also of Hollywood. Initially, the film received lukewarm reviews and had left critics divided. But as the years passed by, many respected filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese lauded it and it went on to become one of the greatest horror films ever made. The Kubrick-helmed film spewed a new generation of filmmakers and its lasting impact is seen in many movies and TV shows till date.

As a fan of King’s novels, I decided to watch the film and give my take on it. I expected to either like the film at most or abhor it for steering away from the original.

However, I did neither of those things.

Rather, I was left deep in thought.

It was one of those rare moments where you’re left so intrigued and perplexed by what has happened, that you fail to register the depth and complexity of what truly lay beneath. Then and there, I knew that this was not going to be an easy film to review.

Nevertheless, I’ve decided to give it a brave stab.

The basic plot of the film revolves around Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a recovering alcoholic and aspiring writer, who takes up the job of off-season caretaker at the Overlook Hotel. Joining him for his new stint, are his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd). The Overlook has a haunted and gory past, with the previous caretaker having lost his mind and gone on a killing spree. Meanwhile, Danny possesses some telepathic abilities also known as “shining”, through which he discovers more about his current lodgings.

Now, if you think that the plot veers towards blatant predictability then cease your thoughts at once. Unlike the horror films we’re accustomed to today, this film is out in the left field. As a viewer used to the bloodshed, violence and shocks prevalent in stereotypical horror films, it was such a refreshing change to have a film focus on the psychological aspect. It’s an incredibly tough task to box this film because it’s so much more. Kubrick’s meticulousness is seen through and through right from the duality aspect to the emphasis on derangement. The film is interspersed with vivid imagery such as the Grady Twins’ greeting, the cascading blood, the hedge maze and of course, the symmetric symbolism. The performances by the actors are top-notch. Jack Nicholson flawlessly pulls off the role of a light-hearted, possibly abusive protagonist whose descent into madness is riveting to watch. “The Shining” would not be the same without him. The scenes at the bar and the typewriter scenes were standouts for me. Shelley Duvall looks perpetually miserable and lifeless. Danny Lloyd is brilliant to say the least. His performance solidifies his status as one of the best child actors of the eighties. The music score is way ahead of its time, a cacophony of eerie sounds and echoes which effectively amps up the theme of the film.

However the credit goes to Kubrick who has been very hands on with every minute aspect of the film. He has mastered the art of effortlessly blending the dramatic with the relatively normal. Although this film strays far away from King’s original plot (easy to see why King still hates it to this very day), there are some wonderful character arcs which complete the story and make it a standalone. The movie does an excellent job of building the suspense and igniting a slow burn of fear within the viewer. It has ample amounts of what-if moments too. And when the unhinged parts of the story have been done justice, the film really rips. Good move on Kubrick’s part to add an R rated scene, which (hopefully) pacified King to some extent.

The movie has its flaws too, certain parts felt gimmicky. For me, the “redrum” reveal was flaky and not dealt with carefully. But that does not take away or dilute the film’s authenticity.

What the film is truly great at is giving more. The viewer always has something distinctly unique to take away from this movie. And the more times it has been watched, it always throws up something new and plausible. However, my favorite part of the movie is its unsettling ending which features a photo. The questions that crop up make the viewer want to revisit and never get bored.

Ultimately, I recommend people to watch “The Shining” with an open mind and no expectations. The surprises and scares that it has in store for you are absolutely worth it.

For the die hard Stephen King fans, with hopes that the original plot shall be followed to a tee, this film is not for you. Unless you are willing to witness & accept some drastic plot changes, I’d rather you be excited about the “Doctor Sleep” movie being in the works. For those of you who don’t know, “Doctor Sleep” is the sequel to “The Shining”.  It’s been confirmed that Mike Flanagan, the director of “Gerald’s Game” (another good King movie), has been roped in for the project.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

And that’s all, folks. For now, I’ll leave you this.


You know I had to.

Copyright © 2018 by Shamika Lal,  all rights reserved.

How Should Entrepreneurs Approach Investors

I’ve always wanted to write an article on business and decided to give it a shot. Hopefully, this post gives you the 411 if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur.

Over the years, the subject of money has elicited a slew of opinions from various people. Some love it, while others hate it. The profound few might tell you that they seek happiness from the little things where money holds no place. Some intellectuals go a bit further by stating that they appreciate the efforts undertaken to earn it and so on.MoneyMoneyMoney

Now, what if you happen to mention these statements to anybody from the cutthroat corporate world?

You are most certainly bound to become a laughing stock.

Money is the lifeline of any type of firm, be it profit-oriented enterprises, charitable organizations, SMEs or huge conglomerates. It’s the blood which flows through the veins of the firm, thus allowing it to function well.

However, it proves to be much more for the wide-eyed entrepreneur who seeks funding to materialize his/her vision.

The art of approaching potential investors is very much like the game of Minesweeper. The repercussions of a single misstep bring about some heavy casualties. Which is why this article will guide you through the dos and don’ts of this process.

What should you do before approaching investors?

Various measures need to be taken to ensure full credibility and transparency on your part. Start off by knowing your business’ credit history and keeping track of your personal finances. Backers usually need proof that you can handle your money responsibly and pay off your debts on time. You can obtain credit reports from a reputed credit-reporting agency for this purpose. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your credit score, too.

Lining up the team is another important activity. Investors need to be assured that you and your team can execute the ambitious business plan laid before them. Elucidate about your vision for the firm’s future, the various phases of the firm’s growth cycle etc.

Speaking of business plans, ensure that you create a detailed one. It’s easier said than done, especially when investors are concerned. Be realistic by considering your burn rate, breakeven point and the amount of money needed. Know your numbers like the back of your hand. Create an estimate of your gross-margin, costs to be incurred, and first-year requirements. Identifying the types of customers, you’re planning to acquire is a bonus.

Do your research on your potential investors. Matching your business strategy and financial needs to the right investor is of the utmost essence. Learn about the way they conduct business and their various criteria. After all, knowing is half the game won. Create a wish list of potential investors and choose each of them carefully. Choosing an investor is a step towards commencing a long-term symbiotic relationship. Define yourself and your firm. As time goes by, the wish list will have drastically reduced to those investors who are on the same page as you regarding time, strategy, funding, and goals.

When should you approach investors?

The quote “strike while the iron is hot” couldn’t be more apt for this situation.

The idea of approaching investors when you’re running out of funds and are close to desperate is a badly thought-out one. Instead, you need to make a pitch when you’re in top form i.e. bringing in the money alongside some eye-catching metrics to back you up. For better chances, start holding the conversations before the need for money.

Apart from the ka-ching, this approach rakes in other benefits. You get the opportunity to reach out directly instead of cold calling later. The backers get to witness your progress which increases your credibility. You get the opportunity to branch out and build connections, irrespective of the outcome. These connections could be of future use. And lastly, you get to pick the investor who’s right for you.

How do you connect?

Always stick to warm leads when you’re starting out.

Reach out to a connection who’s a credible friend or investing partner. He/she could introduce or recommend you to investors who will be good for you. Try to attend conferences where these investors might be present or even try branching out through your connections on websites such as LinkedIn.

Executives would prefer to not change

These investors might be board members, industry influencers or even founders of portfolio companies/VCs, the list goes on and on.

Because investors get so many inquiries, you need to create a great first impression by standing out as someone who’s valuable and worth paying attention to. Once that’s been taken care of, the momentum is set.

Now that you’ve got a brief idea about how to approach your backers, step back and analyze. Think about building the vital path to investors and be smart about it. This is just the beginning, so be persistent. And when an opportunity does finally knock on your door, grab it with both hands.

Copyright © 2017 by Shamika Lal,  all rights reserved.

When Fashion Befriended Food: AKA Bistro

A long year of seemingly never-ending examinations, assignments, and hectic schedules had finally reached its end. I craved for an outing. So, what better way to go about with it than to dine at a new restaurant with my family.

Amidst the tortuous and cobbled lanes of Fort, stood a newly set-up restaurant called “AKA Bistro”.  Upon our arrival, I couldn’t help but notice how spacious and airy the property was. In a city like Mumbai, acquiring such properties is a rare feat. I could only imagine how bright and well-lit the restaurant would be in the morning. (P.S: My hunch proved to be right when I checked out the photos on Zomato!)

Space: A big deal in Mumbai.

The first word that came to mind when I soaked in the ambiance, was “quirky”. Why so?

On closer inspection, one would notice that the objet d’art, displayed proudly against an elegant backdrop of sky blue, were mannequins.

That’s right, mannequins.

So you can see where the fashion part comes in play. In fact, situated right next to our table was this particular relic.

Do you see it?

Seems like an ordinary dress to you, doesn’t it? Other than the eccentricity of displaying dresses on hangers, nothing comes across as unusual, no? Well, I beg to differ.

Let’s take a closer look.

Now, you do.

You’d have probably figured out by now that the aforementioned dress is made out of pasta. To be specific, conchiglie or shaped pasta.

And it doesn’t stop there. I came across other wonderful curios as well, some of them being:

A fashion magazine hanging from a night-lamp. (Hi, Lisa Haydon!)

A unique take on a chandelier (minus the lighting).

Okay, I’ve talked quite a bit regarding the decor and feel. We need to get down to the real deal, food.

We commenced dinner with the “Soup of the day”, which was Cauliflower & Sage. The mildness of the cauliflower complemented the peppery hit of the garden sage perfectly. A side of toasted bread served as the final touch. Needless to say, a lovely way to start off our meal.

Cauliflower & Sage Soup

The quantity may seem rather measly by the looks of it. However, take my word for this. It was enough. Not too much, not too less. Just the way I like it.

Alongside the soup, we placed an order for a salad as well. Yes, a salad! My taste buds were feeling quite adventurous that evening. Or maybe the recent health fad rampant among my peers finally got to me.

Duo of Quinoa & Cauliflower Cous Cous

Our salad for the evening was a “Duo of Quinoa and Cauliflower Cous Cous”. Apart from the glaringly obvious ingredients, added to mix were baby spinach. feta, pine nuts, and pomegranate seeds. The cauliflower was crisp and well-seasoned.  The feta and pine nuts added some great depth in terms of texture. The quinoa was well cooked. The pomegranate seeds added a much-needed pop of flavour to the dish. Overall, a really refreshing dish.

For the main course, we decided to go with two dishes which followed two different routes. The first being Spanish and the second, Italian. We placed an order for some “Vegetable Paella” (Spanish) and some “Aglio Olio Pepperoncino” (Italian).

Vegetable Paella

The Vegetable Paella is typically rice cooked with saffron which gives it a vivid colour. Very reminiscent of the colours of a typical biryani, but a few shades darker. Various bell peppers and other vegetables are also added. To top it off, a dash of aioli. Aioli is basically a sauce of Mediterranean origin, which is a mix of garlic and olive oil. The dish was very well cooked, spicy and flavoursome. The vegetables added some crunch and the aioli, an unusual but very welcome hit.

The Aglio Olio Pepperoncino is a spaghetti pasta dish drizzled with some olive oil.

Aglio Olio Pepperoncino

Various vegetables are mixed with the pasta. It was like a breath of fresh air when we tried out a pasta which was not soaked in any type of sauce, whatsoever. The focus was solely on the quality of pasta, and it delivered. The pasta was al dente i.e. it had a bite to it. However, I felt that the olive oil drizzled was a tad too much, which made the dish a lot more oily. Nevertheless, a really tasty dish on the whole.

To end our dinner on a sweet note, we ordered for some dessert. Who doesn’t make room for this part of the meal?

The restaurant has a mini-confectionery stand with various delectable treats on display. Apart from this, there are some desserts on the regular menu too. I think it’s safe to say that the customer is spoiled for choice as far as desserts are concerned.

I decided to go with the Cream Cheese Brownie. It reminded me of cheesecake, which is my favourite dessert. That, in itself pretty much sealed the deal. Anything involving cheesecake, and I’m in.


Cream Cheese Brownie with Vanilla Ice-Cream

The brownie was served with a scoop of Vanilla ice-cream garnished with a basil leaf. The warmth of the brownie against the cold of the ice-cream made a really interesting case of hot & cold, which worked very well. The brownie had some gooey chocolate in it but also a good amount of cream cheese, which did not make it overpoweringly sweet. The ice-cream was smooth, creamy and delicious which is exactly what you expect from a good ice-cream.

My experience at AKA Bistro was a good one, and I definitely plan to drop by again. Soon.

For more details on AKA Bistro, go on:

Copyright © 2017 by Shamika Lal,  all rights reserved.

If You’re Wondering Where I’ve Been


The last time you heard from me, it was April 2016.

I was rambling on about submissions for writing internships and decided to share them with you guys. I’d promised that I’d keep y’all updated which was exciting and seemed totally fine.

That is until I pretty much left you guys hanging. No explanation, no posts, nothing.

Just give me the title of Procrastinator/Promise Breaker already!

So I’ll give you the brief gist. I did get a writing internship after all! I started out as a content writer and got promoted to editorial intern within a span of 10 DAYS ! YAY!

How I got hold of this internship and the experience as a whole, is a story for another day.

It isn’t often that travel blogs let interns take over editorial content and post travel articles online. However, Trodly (where I was hired as an intern) did give me the freedom to do so.

So, I want to share with y’all the articles I wrote during my stint as an intern. I owe y’all some good reads anyway.

Now without further ado, here are the links:

The Ultimate Guide to Nepal

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Sri Lanka

15 Best Places for Team Outings Around Bangalore

I hope that they’re detailed and lengthy enough to whet your appetite for reads from this blog. Don’t forget to check out the description at the end! 😀

Go right ahead and comment here to let me know what you think about them!

For now, I’ll be lying low. What with it being my final year of graduation and the exam season currently going on, it’s gonna be quite difficult to post more frequently.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on some terrific content and have several ideas swirling in my head. Also, I’ll try to take up the challenges and quizzes y’all gave me ages ago, whenever I can.

Lastly, I’m really sorry for this late post.



Copyright © 2016 by Shamika Lal, all rights reserved.

The Quintessential Travel Junkie-cum-Foodie’s Survival Guide

I’ve been applying to various firms for some writing internships lately. And luckily enough, I did get positive responses from some to send a few articles as per their requirements. This happens to be one of those submissions, and I thought that it’s only fair to share it with you guys. As I’ve been getting responses from travel based firms, this is my first post solely related to travel. Hope you guys like it!

12 years old. That’s how young I was when I went overseas for the first time. The destination was South East Asia, and my first stop was Thailand.

You’d probably laugh and say, “Jeez, what could a kid tell me about Thailand? She’d barely remember anything!

Turns out, I can tell you quite a bit. I can ramble on about the adventures I had while out there. The memories I made whilst vacationing, range from a scale of amazing to mortifying.

Of course, I remember the latter, all too well.

A downright embarrassing memory of mine includes not being able to hold my breath underwater whereas everybody else (including a 71-year-old grandma) managed to do it. Meanwhile, I panicked and got my face splattered with seaweed.

Ah, good times I tell you.

But all jokes and umm, mortifying memories aside, I had a ball of a time in Thailand!

However, one thing bothered me.

As a kid on a group tour, various families along with mine had to visit a slew of landmarks as per the schedule for a number of days. The day always started with a rushed breakfast, and we’d simply make a dash for the attraction. On reaching there, the routine was pretty much the same: take in the sights, click tons of pictures and get out. Soon after, we’d head out to a restaurant and eat.

Sounds alright, doesn’t it?

But, what if I told you that after visiting the tourist attraction, we’d head out to a restaurant which was way too far off or totally off course? So much so that it would end up being a complete waste of time? Not to mention that we’d end up scarfing down non-authentic food. Our time for exploration was cut short in a jiffy and there was no good food to even give us an ounce of comfort.

I can assure you that it ends up being nothing short of a total bummer. Nobody would like their mood to be ruined this way. I would not wish this upon anybody, even my worst enemy. And that’s saying something.

But that’s where my guide comes in handy: to save you from ghastly situations like these!

After a lot of careful thought, I’ve actually compiled a list of places perfect for travel junkies. But it doesn’t just stop there! To save your time, energy and palette, I’ve also suggested notable restaurants near the concerned attractions so that your experience becomes all the more memorable. Moreover, these restaurants serve authentic & delicious Thai cuisine!

Now that’s what I call killing two birds with one stone.

So without further ado, here are my top 5 suggestions:

When the Emerald Buddha had Green Curry 

Wat Phra Kaew: Temple of the Emerald Buddha

The name Wat Phra Kaew is rather difficult to remember let alone even pronounce. But the sights it offers are far from forgettable. It is the most sacred Buddhist temple (wat) in Thailand, but is famous for being the home of the Emerald Buddha. Located within the provinces of the Grand Palace, this site appeals to one, aesthetically. And why wouldn’t it? It has so much to offer: elephant statues, a library, ornate carvings and sculptures, Cambodian temples, lively yakshis and more! A must visit for every travel junkie to get an insight into this nation’s history. Don’t forget to take note of the various rules and regulations involving dress code before dropping by!


Thai Green Curry: An instant hit!

Once you’ve satisfied your thirst for knowledge, you can always head over to Jin Chieng Seng by Inn A Day. A cosy restaurant with a hip décor, this restaurant is located merely 0.7 km away from the Grand Palace. And it guarantees you a sumptuous meal, most notably  Thai Green Curry. Thus you get your share of delicious local cuisine.



Modernism befriends Unconventionality

Before you start grumbling as to why I’ve suggested you another temple, allow me to explain. This is not an ordinary temple. Rather, it’s an unconventional one. Have you ever come across a temple which has its entrance surrounded by a sea of hands wanting to grasp and touch you? Or one where predators emerge from the grass? Or one where heads hang from trees? Clearly not.

Ethereal Vision: The White Temple

Wat Rong Khun, otherwise known as The White Temple, owned & built by the artist Kositpipat was opened in 1997. It is actually an art exhibit designed in the form of a Buddhist temple. The intricate designs and outlandish concepts are reasons enough to convince you to visit this temple/exhibition.

Now, this site doesn’t have notable restaurants nearby. So I suggest you go to Chivit Thamma Da Coffee House which is one of the best in the Chiang Rai region. Located 13.8 km away, this coffeehouse not only serves European and Thai cuisine but also puts a modern spin on it, a great example being Tofu Steak!

Thai Tofu Steak: Surprisingly satisfying!


Walk the Line

Sunday Night Walking Street: Let’s bargain!

Indians are known for a lot of their mannerisms, the most notorious of them being bargaining. Which is why Chiang Mai’s Sunday Night Walking Street is bound to be a hit amongst all of us. Chiang Mai (Rose of the North) is well known for its laid back culture, numerous restaurants, Buddhist temples and an active nightlife. Sunday evenings often see several people, citizens, and visitors alike, giving the street market a visit. Everything you could possibly think of : jewelry, clothing, Thai silk, shoes, DVDs, arts, crafts and so on, are available at dirt cheap prices. So if you’d like to collect some souvenirs for yourself and your family, this is the place to be!

Khao Suey: Never gets old!

The evening market also marks the arrival of various street food stalls offering varieties of Asian cuisines. Notable street food dishes would be Suki Yaki, Khao Suey, Som Tam and so on.

Under my Umbrella

Umbrella-ella-ella eh eh eh eh eh

I hope you read the title in Rihanna’s voice. Anyway all jokes aside, the Bo Sang village is a must visit for those interested in arts and crafts. This village, situated a 30-minute drive away from the east of Chiang Mai, is known for its handmade bamboo umbrellas. Aptly nicknamed as the Umbrella Village, visitors get the chance to observe the entire process of production and choose the designs as per their choice.

Look at the glaze on that Pork Knuckle!

Located just 0.9 km away from Bo Sang is Aroy Garden, a restaurant which specializes in Thai and German cuisine. Along with its hearty portions, it is well known for its Pork Knuckle.

Right Back in the Water

Phang Nga Bay: I saw this in a James Bond movie!

No, your eyes do not deceive you. As unfamiliar and strange as the name Phang Nga Bay sounds, you’ve seen this place before. Thanks to many films of Bollywood (Kaho Na Pyaar Hai) and Hollywood (Leonardo DiCaprio’s “The Beach”) being shot here. And who could blame them? With its lush beaches, sparkling waters and peculiar limestone rock formations, it never fails to catch your attention. It also proves to be a perfect atmosphere for a boat tour. And why wouldn’t it? This bay has so much to offer in terms of lagoons, deep blue waters, and seaweed laden hidden coves.

It’s also good for swimming conditions all round the year!

The best way to explore this place would undoubtedly be a boat tour. This serene atmosphere leaves you calm and at ease, at the end of the day.

Prawns: Ultimate guilty pleasure

The boat tour I’d recommend you would be Captain Mark’s Alternative Tours. Mainly because they make a stop at Koh Panyi fishing village where the tourists get treated to a walking tour and a lip smacking seafood lunch!

Hopefully, my guide ends up working in your favour and ensures that you make some lasting memories with your loved ones in Thailand.

And lastly, Bon Voyage.


If you have other suggestions, then do mention them in the comments section below!


Copyright © 2016 by Shamika Lal, all rights reserved.

Unapologetically Bawa: SodaBottleOpenerWala

Before I go ahead and give you my review, we really need to get a few things cleared up.

You must be wondering about two words in the title.

If they’re “Bawa” and “SodaBottleOpenerWala”, then I have guessed rightly.

Allow me to familiarise you with these terms.

The word “Bawa” is an Indian synonym for members of the Parsi Community. Now although this word has, at times, been used in a rather mocking way for these members of the Zoroastrian community, people don’t care to find out its actual meaning. Which just shows the extent of ignorance present among our generation today.

So all jokes aside, the word “Bawa” actually means “old gentleman”.

And I firmly stand by this meaning whenever I state the term “Bawa”.

Now, “SodaBottleOpenerWala” is actually a surname. Don’t be too surprised, there are lots of surnames like these in the Parsi community. I actually know quite a few people with the surnames “Soonawalla”, “Daruwalla” etc. Quite often their surnames end with “walla”.  It is how it is.

“SodaBottleOpenerWala” is located in the swanky locality of Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC). Its ambience stems from Iranian and Parsi influences. There are a lot of things to take notice of while you’re dining here. There’s definitely no monotony when it comes to aesthetics. It is unmistakably Bawa and wholeheartedly embraces it.


A lot of things will definitely catch your eye. Right from the ancestral portraits and various other paintings (this includes a faux Mona Lisa!) haphazardly arranged on the walls, to the hilarious list of Bawa resolutions for the year. A special mention goes out to the mini toy train running around the whole time and the Jukebox!

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Take a closer look at the resolutions, you won’t be disappointed!

Jokes on the Bawa culture prove to be a running gag here. They’re present everywhere: the menus, the tables and even the walls!

For example:

It’s not potato.

It’s not batata.

It’s pateta!

120,000 Bawas agree with this, don’t tell me they are wrong!

This just goes on to show that it never hurts to laugh at yourself!

Heading straight for the kill, I’ll talk about dinner now.

Firstly we placed an order for some drinks, namely Raspberry Soda and Sekanjabin. The former (Raspberry Soda) was fruity and refreshing. Not too much soda was added to the pulpy raspberry juice, which gave it the right amount of fizz. The latter (Sekanjabin) is actually an ancient Iranian drink which comprises of vinegar and honey. It is a summer drink, which is at times seasoned with mint and served with some chopped up lettuce. The drink intrigued me in terms of taste and presentation. It’s very different from the other mock tails that I’ve had before. It was minty, with the perfect balance of sweet and sour.

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Raspberry Soda

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Soon after, we placed an order for a few starters. All of them were delicious and memorable in their own way.

The first of these starters would be Aloo Aunty’s Vegetable Cutlet. To clarify, there’s no person called “Aloo Aunty” in this world. At least, to my knowledge that is! The Hindi word “Aloo” means potato.

Aloo Aunty's Vegetable Cutlets
Aloo Aunty’s Vegetable Cutlet

This starter comprises of vegetable cutlets with a hearty filling mainly composed of potatoes and spices. These deep fried cutlets appear as rounded spheres with a golden batter. The cutlets are served with some onions and meethi (sweet) chutney. The cutlets by themselves are so tasty with the right hint of potato.The chutney is mainly tamarind sweet chutney which works so well with the cutlets. This chutney is what helps the dish become right on the money. No wonder it’s a hit amongst the diners!

In quick succession, two other starters followed suit. They were Spicy Mushroom on Khari and Kolmi Fry.

The former was a delectable appetizer. It had sauteed mushrooms with a coat of melted cheese placed on light khari biscuits. Khari biscuits are savoury Indian biscuits which are neither sweet nor salty. The mushrooms were well cooked and blend very well with melted cheese and biscuits.

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Spicy Mushroom on Khari

However, my favourite appetizer of the day was Kolmi Fry. It was a combination of two of my favourite things: deep fried prawns & onion rings. At first, its appearance surprised me because it definitely seemed like deep fried onion rings to me. Only after taking the first bite did I realize that it is stuffed with some juicy well cooked prawns too. And boy, does it pack a punch! The mint chutney served alongside is tasty too. The dish had the right amount of heat and did not go overboard on the spices. Highly recommend this one.

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Kolmi Fry

For the main course, we chose Vegetable Berry Pulao and Bheeda Par Eeda.

The pulao was brilliant! Well cooked vegetable rice topped off with dates, berries, nuts and green chillies makes for a very memorable dish. I scraped every morsel from my plate.

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Vegetable Berry Pulao

The other dish  Bheeda Par Eeda  is mainly Parsi style baked eggs with spicy okra. This was equally good too. What makes the dish work is when the egg yolk is mixed with the okra which gives it the right blend of sweet and spicy.

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Bheeda Par Eeda

Although these two are separate main course dishes, we decided to have them together. And guess what? It worked out really well for us! Having a scoop of rice alongside baked eggs gave us some astonishing results. Either ways, stand alone or with a combination of the two, these dishes are a must try.

Lastly, we ordered for dessert which was some good old Parsi Dairy Farm Kulfi. Creamy, milky and firm, it’s everything you’d expect from a product of Parsi Dairy Farm. Thus, dinner ended on a sweet note.

Parsi Dairy Farm Kulfi

Do take note that all the desserts and confectionary items are provided by the restaurant’s bakery counter called “The Irani Bakery”. There are a lot of delicious treats to check out. There’s a well equipped bar as well. The service is quick and efficient & the staff is courteous.

Other notable dishes, popular amongst the frequent diners would be Eggs Kejriwal Breach Candy Awesome Okra. Do check them out.

Overall, my time at SodaBottleOpenerWala’s was a cheerful and memorable experience. Their modern take on Irani cuisine makes me want to go back for more.

I can assure you that this is not the last of my visits to this diner and I eagerly look forward to my future visits.

For more details on SodaBottleOpenerWala, you can go on:

Copyright © 2016 by Shamika Lal,  all rights reserved.