Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

SUKI ONLINE / 2013 / #05

(Uhh. Yes. It's been two weeks. But we're back. For the moment.) 

Monday, September 02, 2013

SUKI ONLINE/ 2013 /01

Okay. So this is an experiment. I've been wanting to revive my cartoon strip SUKI for many years, but have never found the right space and time. I don't know if I have the discipline to keep it going without a newspaper deadline, but my plan is to post one fresh strip every week, on Mondays. The strip reads downwards, in sequence. Please inform me of glitches.

Suki may respond to comments, but only if she is addressed directly in a posted comment (i.e., sending e-mails to me will not cut ice with her).

Monday, August 26, 2013


My beautiful, feisty, high-principled, iron-willed Mum passed away today. In Madras, around 8 pm, surrounded by family*.

My Valkyrie Mum is what I'd like to say -- she was a true warrior, in the Carlos Castaneda sense -- but I don't think she would approve of Norse maidens and their rampaging ways. She fought by the rules, patiently and with dignity, for all the things she thought were right. But she took delight in worldly pleasures too -- she LOVED sweets and chocolate, she enjoyed a nice glass of sherry if it came her way, she had an eye for fine art and Persian and Afghan carpets (the only "real" carpets, in her opinion). Even in her final conversation with me, two weeks ago on the phone, the thing she exclaimed about was the new puppy in the house and what an absolute darling he was. She loved her pretty cotton saris, she used Ponds Cold Cream to keep her skin soft till the last and it was always a source of terrible annoyance to her that the skin on her arms and legs had turned to "lizard scales", in her opinion.

She believed in facing towards the storm with her head held high, her long shapely nose raised up like the prow of a Spanish Galleon. She was unsentimental and down-to-earth, never had time for foolishness or squishy emotions. Or weakness. She was very down on weakness. When I was a child, Mum's rule was, "If you've done something wrong, I'll scold you -- but if you cry, I'll spank you!" -- This rule came into being because by then she had read Dr Spock's Baby & Child Care handbook, in which corporeal punishment was frowned upon. But both my sisters had been born before the Spock era and had been routinely spanked! So I knew she was capable of it and therefore learnt very early in life to withhold tears and tantrums, regardless of provocation.

I was never spanked, because I was very good at not "making a scene". But I'm not sure if it's been useful: I've seen how some of my lady friends can turn on the waterworks at immigration desks and bureaucratic offices thus getting their work done, while I am dragged off to the gallows, stony-faced to the end.

Mum had a BA in English Literature and believed fiercely in education and self-reliance for women. In her view, there was no question but that women MUST have professional degrees and MUST have their own independent sources of income. She thought she was an Ugly Duck but believed that a "lady" must always be conscious of her looks, be graceful and soft-spoken and of course VERY SMART. She despaired for me, knowing that I was an irredeemable pudding to look at, utterly disinterested in clothes and jewelry, clumsy around the house and awkward in society. She knew I was going to stumble and pratfall my way through life -- and I have NOT disappointed her in that regard! But in her later years, she did once praise me for being "very good humoured".

The incident that takes place in my short story MRS GANAPATHY'S SMALL TRIUMPH (Hot Death, Cold Soup, Kali for Women, 1996) is based on Mum and an actual incident that occurred in her drawing-room in Madras, involving a visiting friend boasting about her oh-so-eligible son to my Mum, who had a not-so-eligible daughter living right under her roof (moi, i.e.).

She had contempt for physical infirmities and for people who did not find ways to overcome them. When she began to lose her eyesight in her late fifties, she adjusted herself so well to Macular Degeneration that even though it was incurable, she carried herself as if she could always see better than anyone else. She often DID notice anything unsightly or unattractive that entered within her field of vision and she was always sharply critical of mismatched colours in clothing or interior decor. She never lost her lust for looking at things she considered beautiful and worthy of her attention.

Even late into her life, when she had barely 15% vision, she took a covetous delight in catching sight of the hibiscus blooms on a bush that peeked over the boundary wall from the neighbour's yard. At five o'clock in the evening, a particular private bus that plied down the road was painted a shade of yellow that she never failed to praise. She commented on the naughty squirrels that harassed the courting crow couples on the Rain Tree arching over her garden and she despaired over the grass in her lawn if it wasn't exactly as bright and green as she wanted it to be. Whenever my sister bought lilies for her room, Mum would exclaim about them over and over again (to me, on the phone), enjoying them for their fragrance, their graceful shape and my sister's gift for flower arrangement, which, according to my mother, she herself never had.

Her hearing dwindled more gradually than her eyesight, but towards the end she fought her hearing aid and could only hear the odd word or sentence. She had the classic broken-hip accident that is the scourge of the elderly, followed by a back surgery some years later. Both surgeries slowed her down a great deal. She did her best to remain active and mobile despite everything and would force herself to eat at the table three times a day. In the afternoons, after lunch, she would spend at least a couple of hours, poring over the newspaper, using a magnifying glass combined with her reading glasses and with one eye winked shut.

My father died in 1994 so Mum has been "alone", though surrounded by her own staff and my sister and her family living upstairs from her, for almost 20 years. She was a splendid hostess and her annual birthday celebrations, in December involved stacks of food and guests who came by all day. In her day, when she was an Ambassador's wife, she hosted and catered countless cocktail parties and glittering dinners of the kind where, at the end of the evening, the men go off to smoke cigars and the ladies withdraw to a separate room for liqueurs and tiny cups of coffee.

It is very odd to think that she's no longer there. Even though, in another sense, she is now free to be everywhere at once. I am glad for her that she is no longer confined to a weak and suffering body.
I will toast her life every time I eat a chocolate, dunk bread into a fondue and catch sight of a hibiscus.

Hugs and happies, Mum! And thanks for all the fish.

*I wasn't there. My passport is at this moment stuck in the Italian consulate in Boston, awaiting a Schengen visa, with crossed fingers. I won't know about the visa or the passport for a week yet.

Monday, August 05, 2013


I read about Dr Helena Wright in today's newspaper. A pioneering presence in women's health issues in the early 20th century, she was also remarkably forward-thinking and compassionate. Not to mention discreet. By employing the services of a Man Called Derek she enabled some 500 married women to conceive in the years after the end of WW1. This was done with the knowledge of their husbands, many of them rendered unable to father children following their wartime experiences.

It's a wonderful and oddly heartwarming story. Apparently a well-kept secret! Derek's surname is not revealed.

Friday, August 02, 2013


This afternoon, I and a friend had the most delectable fusion-cuisine lunch at New Delhi's Indian Accent at The Manor Hotel. The hotel as well as the restaurant are such an aesthetically satisfying experience that for me anyway it was like being fed at many levels at once -- sight and sound plus taste and scent and whatever specialized sense is associated with non-intrusive-friendly service.

We hadn't made a reservation, but were easily accommodated at a table with a pleasant view of the room and its lush green exterior. We both chose the tasting menu, vegetarian for S and non-v for me, but got a tiny nibble right away, in the form of two miniature naans, stuffed with blue cheese. When I say miniature, I mean, really teenie tiny, like the smallest size of Nivea tin.

We each had non-alcoholic drinks: Lavendar fizz for me and unsweetened Lime soda for S. Then began a gently rolling tide of single-bite events. Pea-soup in a slender cylindrical "cup" -- so narrow that the word cup hardly suits it -- affording perhaps two swallows of soup. A single marble of crisp-fried potato-shreds that melted with a delicate crunch in the mouth, leaving a whiff of pani-poori flavours, a tiny spear of watermelon to set it off on the side. A spicy shredded chicken that smoldered in the mouth. Three bites of fish, so fresh that it felt almost immoral to eat something so recently alive. Followed by a single rib of pork, still sizzling, sweet on the outside, melting on the inside.

Each item was served on a different, artistically distinct dish. One came on a dimpled white plate, the next on a smooth black slab of stone-ware, the one after it on a curving strip of pure white porcelain. Strips of fresh green banana-leaf set off the food. We each had different crockery for each course.

The main dish for me was a black pepper prawn, served on a deep white plate, with a small meat-stuffed kulcha on the side, plus a single serving of black-dal and raita. S had a paneer "barrel" -- thin sliced, rolled and then lightly batter-fried -- with pickled-accents poured around it. Both dishes were perhaps six bites deep, so that we could finish them easily, without any sensation of heaviness.

But before the main dish arrived, we had a palate cleanser in the form of a conical section of kulfi-flavoured sorbet. From the corner of my eye, I had noticed other tables being served something that looked like small black iron claws -- but when it came to our table, I saw that it was minute replica of a coal-fired iron, with the cone of mulberry pink sorbet nestled inside it! Loved it.

Dessert was three separate items, a pistachio-flavoured crème brûlée, a tiny glass of frosted lemony ice-nuggets and a slender wedge of treacle pie. As a finishing touch, there was a tray in the shape of doll-sized string-bed, on which there were four small bowls of sweet-savoury treats.

Are you drooling slightly? That was my intention entirely! The Chef's name is Shantanu Mehrotra (I hope I've got this right; I didn't write it down though I saw it embroidered on his jacket) and both of us complimented him warmly at the end of the meal. The whole experience was playful and flavourful, both at once.

I forgot to take photographs while I was there, so the mushrooms featured at the top of this page are a red-(white?)herring, because they have nothing at all to do with The Manor. Instead, they're from my drive-way, growing on the old bougainvillea in this rainy season. What amazes me about them is their pure, fresh whiteness arising out of the old gnarled wood of the creeper. My picture does not in any way do them justice, because I've not learnt to get the lighting right. Fortunately, they keep growing, so I'll keep trying. This picture captures all three stages of the mushroom in one glance -- the extreme youth of the rounded knob, the proud umbrella of the mature phase and the drooping grace of the spent spike.

Friday, June 28, 2013

THREE VIRGINS and other news

So! Here it is, THREE VIRGINS and other stories my latest published collection. Five new, five old. Hard Back edition, published by Zubaan, currently available in India (but eventually in the US too).

The link will take you to Zubaan's site. I will post links to Flipkart and Amazon when I get them.

There's SO much other news ... I didn't realize that it's been two months since the last time I posted anything here, but looking back I can't believe that it's ONLY been two months.

I finished writing the novel (sequel to ESCAPE) that I've been working on for the past four years; visited Randolph a couple of times; flew back to New Delhi on the 14th of June; left for Madras on the 15th; celebrated my 60th birthday last week; finalized the half the pages for my next Tulika book and ... in two days I will return to Delhi.

Up ahead, towards the end of July, I'll go to Calcutta to work on a couple of new short performance pieces for Seagull and to make a brief presentation of my life as an author-artist at their School of Publishing. In September, I've been invited to the (theatre) Festival Tramedautore in Milan, Italy. This year, they are featuring South Asian works. Two of my plays will be presented, I think, but details and dates are being worked out. I won't post links until I am sure of what and when.

I am also, even as I write this post, completing the final draft of the novel. When I say I "finished" it (two weeks ago, literally on the morning I was due to leave Newport) I mean that I brought the story to a close. I've still got to tweak, polish, nip and tuck. And deliver. But it's been such an enormous struggle just to reel the story in, that as I see it, what remains is small stuff by comparison. Fingers crossed. I've been sharing the name with a couple of friends, but I'll hold back from revealing it here until I've sent it off.

In the midst of all this, lots of very intense conversations, personal events, journeys of the mind, of the stomach, of the nose, eyes and ears. The primary New Thing in my life is the Samsung Galaxy Grand that I received as my gift from my family in Madras, for surviving sixty years of existence. I will admit to being charmed by it. I used to be an extreme gadgetophile but I stopped, many years ago, because of novelty-fatigue. Nowadays, I mostly just turn my head the other way when some new item grazes the horizon of reality. But many of them really are very beautiful, quasi-magical objects so when I have one all to myself, I fall willingly under its spell.

Sixty! Wow. I can't quite believe it.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Michael Cimino's HEAVEN'S GATE

I might never have watched this powerful, majestic film if not for reading Dana Steven's review of it in SLATE five days ago. Very possibly, I might STILL not have got around to watching it, if I hadn't happened to check Netflix to see if they had it as a streaming option -- which they DID. The review talks about a sumptuous though overlong sequence early in the film of Harvard graduates waltzing, so I thought I would just take a peek. I do that with films often enough, watch the first few minutes to get a sense of its texture before deciding that I don't want to invest any hard-core time. With this one, I watched it begin, then I watched the entire waltz sequence and then I -- what can I say? -- was caught and mesmerized for the rest of the trip.

It's a very long movie, three hours plus, and I allowed myself to see it over the course of three days. But I remained engrossed all the way through.

This IS surprising because I am not especially interested in "frontier" films, in period dramas of the American West, or in an obscure battle between rich cattlemen and the wretchedly poor East European immigrants who came into conflict with them. The power of the film lies in its documentary feel -- the grit-in-the-eye chuffing of a real steam-engine, the glorious chaos of horses as the primary source of transport, the dirt and squalor of the past, with its outhouses and open fields and untarred roads -- it had an authenticity and a poignancy that punched the breath out of me. Wow. A hard, sad, angry film telling a story that no-one wants to hear.

Who makes such films any more? No-one. Apparently, because of its epic failure (the only thing I knew about the film was that it was such a vast disaster that both the studio -- United Artists -- and the director, Michael Cimino -- never recovered from it) the lesson everyone learnt is that (a) big budget films are only worth making if they're aimed at simple-witted jingoists who want to cheer and thump their chests at every opportunity and (b) cinematic beauty and artistic rigor is only acceptable if it's underwritten by conservative values, such as romantic fidelity, monotheism and patriotism.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Aren't they beautiful??

My sister S came to Newport for a visit yesterday and we had a fun day. She arrived late in the morning, driving down from Randolph, the Boston suburb in which she now lives. She had texted me en route, saying "I'm in Newport! Will be there soon!" So I stood at the window of my kitchen, from which I can see cars turn off the main road and then up through the parking lot of Dunkin Donuts to where my building stands.

And I stood! And stood!

Soon, it became clear that she'd either had some kind of catastrophe OR she was not actually so close to arriving. In my family, it's always been easier to think of catastrophes first and all other possible explanations later. This isn't because we routinely have terrible things happen to us. There have been no lightning strikes or unexpected meteors, sink holes or random herds of moose charging through our family's history. Nevertheless, when someone doesn't appear on time, these are the first thoughts that pass through our fevered brains.

But when she did turn up, her first words were: "Were you worried?" And in her hands she had a bunch of daffodils, still in bud, that she had bought at the Middletown Stop'n'Shop -- which was why she was late.

We had a happy day. First off, we went down the road to the MAD HATTER BAKERY where we bought cup-cakes for S to take back to Randolph. There's a much longer story attached to this mere little stub but it boils down to: cup-cakes. S had called them to send me a surprise cup-cake gift card -- over the phone -- in December 2012 -- but I never got around to going there and therefore never learned about the surprise -- until S told me about it over the phone three days ago! So then I went across, asked them about it and they were most apologetic but (not surprisingly) had forgotten the details of that 3-months-old gift purchase call! Even so, they were kind enough to allow me the benefit of the doubt, to the value of $20 (I asked S on the phone what the amount was and she said she'd forgotten). I on my part said that my sister was going to visit me on Saturday and I would bring her over to confirm that this was not all just a Mad Hatter's story!

And so it came to pass. Gladness and cup-cakes all around.

We returned to my little apartment, had a cup of Earl Grey tea, enjoyed the sight of the daffodils in a jar of water (as yet unfurled), then went out again, to enjoy a stroll in the sunshine, en route to lunch. We were aimed in the direction of Panera but decided instead to stop at YESTERDAY'S and were very happy with our choice. Yummy chocolate lava cake at the end, shared between the two of us since we were both totally stuffed. The cuisine is a charming Conti-Asian-fusion.

Then on our way back, we stopped at a shop that can only be described as a cook-ware boutique, called PAN HANDLER'S. Its owner is a charming, helpful and friendly lady called Patty (or Pattie?) who, with her partner Walter have created a small but irresistibly beautiful shop, brimming with useful, interesting and attractive objects for use in and around the kitchen and dining room. S bought me a tiny Victorinox pocket-knife -- now that the TSA allows travelers to carry small knives -- and a curved chopper for her home. But to give you a good idea of how nice Patty is: she stopped me from buying a pair of onion-goggles -- i.e., goggles to help those of us whose eyes stream with tears -- because she pointed out that they would NOT go over my glasses.

And that was our day.

Finally, to top you off, here's a story from the New Yorker of one person's irrepressible will to overcome his difficulties:

And also, GENE WEINGARTEN'S column in the Washington Post, including a (very brief) collection of jokes about FORBIDDEN TOPICS.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Two stories, both about murders and murderers but from opposite ends of this dark spectrum.

The Aarushi Talwar Case is at the initiating end, with the as-yet unsolved murder that took place in New Delhi more than four years, of a fourteen-year-old girl. Meanwhile the family has been not merely bereaved but utterly devastated by the process of finding justice. The story is written with unusual sensitivity and thoroughness, which is what makes it worth reading.

Meanwhile the second story is about Jerry Givens, a man who had the job of being an executioner for the state of Virginia in the US, but who is now a passionate opponent of the death penalty.


I am ending this post with what I consider a rather surreal drinking water tap, at the Madras Zoo (the correct name for it is: ARIGNAR ANNA ZOOLOGICAL PARK or Vandalur Zoo) I have yet to write an account of my visit ... and I do still plan to ... but not tonight.

I have a number of photographs, but I realized just now, looking at them, that this one is probably the best in the collection. There were different animals for each different water fountain and I didn't have the smarts to take pictures at EACH ONE. Ah well. At least I DID take this one!

Thursday, February 07, 2013


This is the cover of a new collection of my short stories, due to be published by ZUBAAN. It's been a long time since my last collection -- KLEPTOMANIA (Penguin Books, India, 2004) -- came out, so I'm very pleased. The stories are a combination of old and new: a few of those that appeared in Kali for Women's 1996 HOT DEATH, COLD SOUP* collection alongside more recent pieces, a couple of them completely new and never-published. We're still deciding how many stories will make the cut. Maybe thirteen.

I am particularly thrilled with the cover -- the drawing is by me, but design and titles by Zubaan's multi-talented Anita Roy. This drawing, and those on the inside pages (small amusements to herald each story) are what I call "telephone doodles" -- drawings done while talking on the phone. Well, okay, I'll admit that THIS one, on the cover, wasn't done during a conversation! But it's in the same style, sort of. The original is in b/w, coloured in PhotoShop. The inside doodles are b/w and really were done during Skype chats.
*(this link is to the GARNET WORLD FICTION edition, published in the UK. The KfW edition is out of print).

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Wednesday 6th February

Here's a link to an academic essay by PhD scholar ROSITTA JOSEPH about my 2008 novel ESCAPE, published in MUSE INDIA's Issue 47, Jan-Feb 2013. It's only the second academic article I've read about ESCAPE (the first one was by a Professor of English Literature in Tarragona, Spain; now a friend) and the first I've read by an Indian scholar. Unlike the reviews that came out, this article analyses the real-world social context of the book with some seriousness.

It's always a great relief to know that there ARE readers who notice minor details -- such as the "notes" from the Generals' publications -- and come to the correct associations and conclusions. But especially now, when I am writing the final chapters of the sequel ... yes. It's good.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Sunday February 3rd

These photographs are from the Madras trip. I'm posting them now because (a) the reason I took them in the first place was to post to the blog and (b) I delayed posting them coz I didn't have my computer to edit them on.  I don't know if I am right to believe that my computer (a MacBookPro) protests and/or trashes any storage device which has been slutting around on Other Operating Systems but whether I am right or wrong, I don't want to find out the hard way -- so I didn't upload and work on the pix in Madras, where I was using an ACER.

Here's my recap of the past six days:
Monday 28th The main feature of the day, after getting back from Madras was feeling COOOOOLD. What is wrong with my feet? They seem to have no idea that they are connected to a warm-blooded body. They spend all their waking hours time sending up a continuous whining lament of "We're COLD! VERY COLD! EXTREMELY VERY COLD!" Etc. It gets to be supremely tedious. I considered the possibility of hibernating until early March.

Tuesday 29th My friend RS came over for lunch as well as to continue a double-headed interview for Forbes Life Magazine on the subject of The Patron and the Artist. We started working on it maybe two years ago, by e-mail, but haven't budged since the initial exchange of Q's and A's. What makes it interesting (we hope) is that R has for years been a patron of my paintings/drawings/prints aside from continuing to be a good friend throughout. The purpose of the piece is to explore both sides of the Art coin and the plan is for both of us to ask questions and to find answers, which is why I call it "double-headed". It's going well, I think.

Wednesday 30th The fear of multiple deadlines piling up on my desk finally convinced me that my plan for the month (see Monday 28th) was perhaps not a good one. Also, E fixed the plug for the heater in my room, so that it's no longer threatening to melt down. Also I was revived by an excellent tea upstairs, with rum-marble cake and good conversation. Also I have been pursuing the "writing for two hours" part of my Resolutions quite diligently.

Thursday 31st Somewhat to my surprise, a minor form of drawing that I call "telephone doodling" -- just the same as we all do while talking on the phone, except that I've taken to using good paper and a slightly more formal approach to subject matter -- has suddenly become the basis of a book of illustrations I have been trying to do "on the side". That is, I have discovered that I can telephone-doodle my way through to completing these illustrations which have otherwise been stuck in my mind, refusing to come out on paper. Because they're doodles (i.e., I don't think of them as formal illustrations), I can do them while thinking about other stuff. Such as the two hours of writing, for instance ...

Friday 1st Yaaay! I finally managed to make an expedition to Deepest Grrrgaon! To have a night-spend Chez Ghose -- let's just say that we talked and ate and giggled and talked some more all through the evening and then again in the morning and into early noon. "We" comprised E and V and S, as might be expected, but also their visiting friends M, R and M plus U, at whose adjoining house we had dinner. M/R/M are visiting from England, but have a long and loving connection with India and with the Ghoses, so it was very good to reconnect.

E had a pre-dawn event with her Cycling Club. She went and came back from it before I was even conscious. She is the most active and energetic person I know. I feel like a fossilized sloth in her company(I mean this in a nice way. We sloths don't in the least mind being turned to stone. Kind of suits our sedentary personalities). It always amazes me that she and I can not only have a conversation, but even manage to chat for hours, because I really think we occupy different time zones while sitting in the same room. Exhilarating!

Saturday 2nd Got back to my dimension in time for lunch. Back to all the little obsessions, drawings, writings, eight-glasses-of-water, etc. The weather has slightly improved. I am no longer stuck to the heater.

Sunday 3rd Today! More drawing, writing, water etc. No origami, however. Instead, I watched the final Harry Potter movie, Deathly Hallows Part II. Okay, so that's done now. I'm glad I've got it watched and under my belt. Onwards ...

Monday, January 28, 2013

MONDAY 28th January

Okay. Ten days. Almost. Since my last post.

But I'm back in Delhi. Arrived this afternoon. I feel I've been running continuously since my last post. Even though I've been mostly sitting down. And eating. *sigh*

This is going to be a very quick recap of the week, which was built around the birthday of my niecelet, who turned eight this month. On Sunday the 20th, we went to the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur -- the niecelet, her father, the sister and me. A great time was had by all and I will eventually post photographs from the trip. On the 21st, the sister and I had dinner with my uncle, aunt and cousin, all three visiting from London, at the Madras Gym. Good dinner, great conversation -- we haven't met for a very long time, so it was fun to catch up.

During the day I worked on the design for the cover of a collection of short stories (by me) due to be published by Zubaan. That was fun, but also a bit stressful since everything has to be done at break-neck speed these days. Publishing is no longer the leisurely occupation it once was. Books fly out of presses like bullets. And vanish just as quickly ... which is why it's worth making the effort to produce attractive covers. Alas, "weird" is what I am best at producing, not "attractive" and this cover design is no different. But at least there's a design that we all agree is worth working on and so that's a relief. More about this later -- I mean, when the book is closer to flying out of the press.

All of the 22nd was spent at the office of my publisher in Madras, Tulika and Radhika Menon (the proprietor) in particular. I was supposed to be helping to organize their artworks for an exhibition early next month, but more than half the day went in just talking and talking and TALKING - a broad, wide and flowing discussion about many different facets of publishing for children and of being an illustrator of children's books (me, not Radhika) and of the number of important subjects that really had to be tackled, such as nudity and prudery amongst them. But the 22nd was a red-letter day for another reason -- a new child in my family -- this time a boy, in the US, born to my niece there, who had a daughter just 18 months ago. So that pretty much took care of all thoughts and communication for the whole of the 23rd. I'm sure something else happened, but it is now a blur, during which I also managed to work on a concept note for Tulika's exhibition. On the 24th, the nephew arrived from Bombay and aside from eating too much food while talking about food -- he is a well-known food-writer -- the birthday had to planned for and stuff had to bought for it.

On the 25th, there was a very discrete and self-contained celebration, at two speeds. One speed, sedate and dignified, was downstairs in my mother's house, attended by four others aside from the immediate family. Cake, sandwiches, samosas, soft drinks and chips were had. The other speed was manic and heady, attended by two (only two! And still it was like a herd of elephants overhead!) young friends of the niecelet and was celebrated upstairs, with her parents and the boys' mother. I didn't go for that, having already had my fill downstairs. Five hundred balloons (regular air-filled balloons, not gas) were blown up by a professional Balloon-Wallah and deployed all up and down the driveway and in the stairwell. At party's end, these balloons were ritually popped by all three celebrants, with the help of plastic forks and to the accompaniment of much whooping joy.

On the 26th, the sister and nephew left for a two-day stay in Cochin, while the household rested from the party and the country celebrated Republic Day. My mother watched the parade on TV while I contemplated my wasted life, in the gloom of my room, while gnawing moodily on a gigantic triangular slab of Toblerone that my Madras niece had thoughtfully bought for me. On the 27th, my architect cousin brought a Chinese takeaway lunch to share with my Mum and me, and on the 28th ... well, that's TODAY! I left for Delhi.

So, yes, many of my resolutions have been suspended during my stay in the South, but I am expecting to bring them all back online, one by one ... stay tuned! If nothing else, there will be photographs.

Friday, January 18, 2013

SATURDAY 19th January

It's been ... oh ... FOUR DAYS since my last post?

Too much to process, not enough time. Still: some of my resolutions are in running order. No bread. Two hours of the morning without the internet. Daily origami (though I haven't been posting pix).Daily photographs (ditto -- not been posting to the blog). Eight glasses of water every day. All the rest are merely in suspension while I'm in Madras.

Here's a recap of what this week has been like:

13th: We (E and I) arrived from Delhi in the late afternoon. We ate a snack at the airport in Delhi, lunch on the plane, and immediately after arriving, had tea at my Mum's house followed by an extremely filling FONDUE DINNER. So that pretty much set the tone for the week, i.e., near continuous eating.

14th: In the morning, we began the day with a visit to my Mum's sister's home, filled with flowers and paintings, plus, two beautiful cats upstairs. My uncle passed away peacefully on the first of this year, so this was also a condolence visit. It was a beautiful fresh day and my aunt was looking relaxed and the house was fragrant with incense. This visit was followed by a visit to meet two more cats, also very charming, in my cousin's daughter's home. Much purring was enjoyed.

Back at home, for lunch, Mum's cook had made fried fish. She knows that E likes fish, so she had laid out FIVE MACKEREL for him and he ate FOUR!! Everyone was delighted, because of course, the one thing my Mum still enjoys is to feed people at her table. Everyone here loves E, because he is totally unfussy with food, and eats everything that's set in front of him, including all the spicy, bony things that I for one NEVER eat (I don't like fish. A cause of much sorrow to my parents, all through my childhood). In short, he is the perfect guest, in Indian terms. In the evening we played badminton with my niecelet. And at night we ate some more. *sigh*

15th: Idlis in the morning. Since these are festival days in Tamilnadu, celebrating PONGAL, (a harvest festival, following the end of year rainy season in this part of the country), my niecelet is on holiday till Thursday. In the evenings we play badminton  -- I call it goodminton, because we play so dreadfully -- on my Mum's small lawn. All through the day we fend off mosquitoes with spray-on repellant, which, to my surprise, work quite well. The weather is exceptionally balmy, with the result that walks down the road are pleasant. The only problem is eating five times a day -- three times at my Mum's table and twice upstairs with my sister, niece, niece-let and nephew-in-law! Alas, all the food is good and there's always too much of it.

16th: Idlis again in the morning. My Mum's kitchen produces fixed breakfasts -- Khichdi on Mondays, Idlis on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Dosai on Thursday, Uppuma on Friday, Dosai again on Saturdays, then on Sundays the upstairs cook (my sister's cook, i.e.) sends down dosais made by her. In short, it's a rice-based breakfast every day except Friday's semolina uppuma. At lunch, it was fish again for Ethan, a flat fish with a name none of us could recognize.

The niecelet came down and was happy to be offered two portions, much to my Mum's disapproval. She felt that E was not getting his rightful share!! In the late afternoon, G, E and I went out on what was meant to be a brief drive to see the festival crowds at the beach, but instead we ended with a huge snack at G's Club -- I had a sada Dosai and ice cream, G had peas Uppuma, E had fresh, hot julienned potato chips, plus coffee. Then back to Mum's house for dinner ...

17th: E left in the morning. I went with him to the airport, with a hired driver. Said goodbye (didn't wait, there's no point at the airport these days, since visitors can't go in) and took photographs from the car all the way back. As always, I managed to see many more interesting sights than I could ever take pictures of -- I never have my camera up in time. For instance: an elderly woman, tall and grey haired, walking right across a busy street, dressed in a baby-pink silk sari, with sparkling gold borders, dripping gold jewellery from her ears, wrists and neck! An amazing sight. Later the same day, I saw a homeless woman, dressed in rags, standing in a shaft of sunlight, drinking tea from a paper cup. She stood with such unaffected grace, in that shaft of light, steam rising from tea in her hand, it was as if she were standing on a stage under a spotlight, savouring her drink, not out in the dusty, crowded street. Wonderful.

Later in the day, went to FabIndia, bought three short tunics and two beautiful indigo blue cotton stoles.

18th: Tried hard to catch up with my various projects but instead spent the whole day wool-gathering, doing puzzles on my iPad and ... eating, of course. My cousin R came over around lunch-time and chatted with my mother, while she and I ate lunch. He lives in London with his parents and comes with them every year around this time. He enjoys talking to my Mum and she enjoys his company too, so it was a pleasant interaction. On Monday night we will meet again for dinner, with his parents, whom I haven't seen for several years.

19th: And now I must stop, because the power goes off for two hours load-shedding every day.

LATER: I have finally managed to upload a photograph and also to correct the many errors I made while posting this account earlier today. I am not satisfied with the colour I reported for the lady I saw crossing the street in a pink sari. It wasn't baby-pink, but a much brighter, fresher colour. Neither fluorescent nor the famous "mutai-pink" of my childhood -- the pink of boiled-sugar sweets we bought from the local sweet shops, a vicious, poison-pink -- whereas this sari was an entirely pretty, lively and flowery colour, like maybe a phlox or bud-rose. It wasn't an artificial colour, yet it caught the eye, it was so TASTY bright.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


... FINALLY ... managed to upload a photograph from my iPad to this blog, via the Acer laptop kindly lent to me by my niece. I am sure there's a simpler and less round-about way to do upload to the blog, but I'm not in the mood for figuring it out just this minute. I find that it can take a couple of hours to do something the round-about way and I know that the quick way really would be a great deal quicker -- except that it can sometimes take a couple of hours to learn that quicker way! So nowadays I refuse to bother learning something new on the computer unless the learning process is itself exceptionally basic.

I'm in Madras at the moment. E & I arrived on Sunday and I feel like we've entered an alternative Universe -- it's a nice one -- but also really very different to my regular life. The main difference is that here, in my Mother's house, I become a tiny little girl of around 10 years of age, who must be asked whether or not I've had my bath or scolded for not wishing to eat fish at lunchtime!! Fortunately, at the moment, E is with me, which means that all attention is focused on him. The cook is thrilled that he enjoys eating fried fish, because it means that she's entitled to cook stacks of fish for herself and the other "staff" (my Mother has four ladies to help keep her household in running order) as a result! But he'll leave in a couple of days and I'll be back in the familiar dog-house. 

I have been taking photographs with my camera but I'll wait till I'm back in Delhi to upload them, because I prefer to edit them on my MacBook.

I've been making origami lillies to give away and have just seen a great link to a whole zoo of origami animals ... No doubt a couple of them will find their way online just as soon as I find a good source of the Right Kind Of Paper. The hunt is on!

Saturday, January 12, 2013


12: Okay ... so ... that's my photo upload for today and here's my Resolution: To Stop Making Any New Resolutions for this year!

I believe I've done medium-well so far and it's been fun and it's been a bit frantic and the best part of it has been making a number of new origami models, at least three of which are now firmly fixed in memory (the flowers, the butterfly and the folds for creating a pentagon), posting regularly to this blog, spending the first two hours of every day AVOIDING the internet and writing for at least two hours regularly.

However, tomorrow I am going away to Madras for two weeks, which means the inevitable disruption in all my familiar routines. I know I won't have the right kind of space and time to create origami models and all the other stuff -- uploading photographs, posting to my blog etcetera -- may be a little more difficult because I'll only have my iPad with me, not my laptop.

I did take pictures today! But they're on my phone and the local server is refusing to upload anything right now. So maybe I'll do that later this evening or maybe not. Whatever else, I'll be taking lots of pictures while I'm away and I will eventually upload them, one (at least) for each day that I'll be away.

And I'll be sending one piece of snail mail most days (I've sent five out so far). And drinking 8 glasses of water every day. And doing one tedious chore a day (today's was dusting ...).

Thursday, January 10, 2013


10 & 11. Well now. Yesterday I was so distracted by the origami segment of my resolutions that I made three altogether and dropped the one about posting a Resolution for the day! All three are from videos posted at online sites. The red and blue flowers are by JO NAKASHIMA while the third one, called "Carambola" is from a video posted by SARA ADAMS, who credits CARMEN SPRUNG with the design. (aside to Biatti: if you want, you can watch the demonstration in GERMAN! This is how I first watched it, but was later glad to find that she has English versions too)

All three were a real delight to create. Particularly the Carambola (which, I discovered by Googling the name, is another name for STARFRUIT -- which I've seen in supermarkets but never tasted!)

One reason it was an unusual and exciting model for me to try was that it was my first ever attempt to follow instructions for creating a pentagonal paper origami base from the more traditional square one
and then to fold something from that point of departure. It does involve cutting -- but then, very often, we start off with a sheet of rectangular paper which must then be cut to make a square. So this is not really that different -- and besides! Isn't it too thrilling to know that you can fold a square sheet in such a way that a perfect pentagon can be cut from it??

So. Well. The day began with origami, with two hours of writing, four glasses of water and ... okay, NO BLOGGING. Also, I went out for lunch at Delhi's Santushti complex, at the excellent BASIL & THYME which was a complete distraction from all resolutions -- even though I did manage not to inhale the bread, to the amusement of my lunch companion.

I must report here that I've been rather lucky in the lunch department: on Monday, I had, if possible, an even more excellent meal at DIVA. Actually, it's not fair to compare the two experiences: DIVA offers Italian cuisine in a style that subtly flatters the diner -- I mean, I felt my host and I had made such a CLEVER choice by going there for lunch! And the food was fresh and creative. I, who don't especially like fish, had a portion of Dover Sole that was exactly right in terms of quantity and flavour, presented with half-a-peach, poached plus just a little pasta and some spinach (I think) for colour and contrast. For dessert -- o yummm! -- a scoop of coconut ice cream, creme brulée and glittering strands of spun sugar. And the accompanying drink was a custom-designed (for my host, who is a regular) glass of prosecco with ginger -- yesss! It was good!

Basil & Thyme is a more familiar hangout for me and I have great memories of long, chatty lunches with just pathé and tiny toasted rolls and Zara Gateau for dessert. This time I had a Chocolate Espresso Almond Gateau for dessert, the Glazed Filo stuffed with Chicken and Mushroom for my main course. All good. Both meals were hugely augmented by great companions ... *grin* They know who they are.

There really isn't space left over to describe the rest of my day -- which included a visit to Jorbagh's THE BOOKSHOP, to buy a copy of Amruta Patil's amazing ADI PARVA, then to the IIC to have another long and interesting chat over tea with yet another clever and interesting friend.

All of these effects resulted in getting home so over-stimulated that, even though I did consider making a late-in-the-day blog entry, decided to be "human" once more and to default a second time.

So what is my Resolution for today? Just this: to take more photographs, because I have a cute little camera that I never use as much as I'd like to -- and to post at least one of them here ... now and then. I am not going to commit to Every Day. What I'd like is to take pictures of the world outside my living spaces, and to post them here. I've not been out today yet! So if I do post one today, it'll be later.