Saturday, November 01, 2014

850

It's time to really get cracking and figure out where I'm headed. There is just too much fatigue and restlessness. Maybe this is something what I should think about and decide on first. Should I let go of the cook and the cleaning lady because they are not punctual and they have been absent for just so long without giving any intimation?

It's a difficult choice to make for several reasons. One - I have never done it before. I don't like telling people to leave. In the past, usually the maids have left of their own accord whenever they have found jobs closer home or for better pay. I have been feeling too tired and unwell lately so it would be nice to just have them join back. But I get the feeling that at least one of them has started taking me for granted. Maybe she's the one I should let go of. Oh well. If I actually had the time, I would like to sleep on it.

Friday, October 31, 2014

First Impressions: Pilgrims by Elizabeth Gilbert

Pilgrims is a collection of short stories about people who are living quiet lives that seem to be on the cusp of something. Sometimes, they glide over that cusp and move into the shimmering yonder and sometimes, they don’t. None of the stories in Pilgrims have a fantastic point to make. Each one comes like driftwood, mossy and beautiful, a gift from a large ocean of possible lives being lived out in this world. Some pieces of driftwood have just a few simple grooves. Some others have more intricate etchings.

The first short in Pilgrims tells the story of a young girl who is hired as a stable-hand in Wyoming. She is a sturdy girl with a sturdy dream. Just the sort of girl who will do all the robust work expected of a farmhand and then one day, just take off on her horse into the world.  

Another one, ‘Elk Talk’ is a delicate tale of a woman living with her husband and nephew high up in the mountains. They don’t have a neighbour for miles around. One day, though, a family of three drops in unannounced and introduces itself as the neighbours. It’s Halloween and their little girl is dressed with antlers on her head. The father has invented a whistle that emulates an elk’s mating call. All of them stand in the porch when the father demonstrates this whistle. They stand there in silence for a long, long time. Then finally a large, handsome elk steps out from the shadow and stares at them. Towards the end of the story, the woman tells her neighbour to stop whistling and moves away in a huff with her son. She is disgusted with the way the man could manipulate a beautiful animal like that. Also, a little resentful that the vastness around her that she had taken for granted has been compromised.

In ‘Alice to the East’, a young girl and her brother get stranded in Verona because their car has broken down. A stranger offers to help. What happens, over beers in desolate pubs or dusty trips to a mechanic, is a young girl excavating the man’s lonely life through conversations.

‘Bird Shot’ has a man trying to teach a young boy about his father’s legacy as a good shot of game birds.

In ‘Tall Folks’, a divorced couple are also rival pub-owners. One day, the man’s pub shuts down and the woman hires her nephew to take care of her place. The man’s club, however, is bought over by a misogynist sort of fellow with three daughters. He has pole dancers who mostly look sad and bored. But in that dimly lit bar, some stories get exchanged between people known to and estranged from each other.

The collection has a sweet, almost- love story called ‘Landing’. A tough, sophisticated girl falls for a redneck driver and their scene ends in silence in a diner over coffee.

‘Come and fetch these stupid kids’ is one of my favourites, along with ‘Elk Talk’. Two couples in their teens or early twenties live together in a huge mansion by the sea. The house belongs to a boy in the group. He is spoilt, entitled, and has a charm that is impossible to indulge. One eventful night, there’s a raging storm and the ocean’s heaving and churning. In that storm, the spoilt boy wants to go swimming. The other boy in the group, J, is the strong and sensible type. For some reason, he agrees as well. The girls acquiesce and they all wade into the ocean. The rain pelts down, huge waves toss them about here and there, lightning slashes across the sky and for a little while, all of them can hold their own. Then slowly, each one, except for J, starts losing steam. They sink and try to heave themselves out but get sucked into the sea again. The worst case is the spoilt boy though. He has gone really far away from the store and is drowning. J rescues him and swims back to the shore. Meanwhile, the storm has become a lot stronger. J’s girlfriend watches him swim to the shore and wonders if he will call the Coast Guards or come back himself. While her other friend is trying to stay afloat, she wonders about her boyfriend and how much resentment he might be feeling because none of his friends can take care of themselves. Including her.

While this earlier set is mainly snapshots of a mood or a specific time in a particular place, the next batch of stories have a more pronounced plot. “The many things that Denny Brown did not know at age fifteen” allude to whether comparison is an inherited compulsion. “The names of flowers and girls” has a young man allow a woman to captivate his imagination to understandable, sad results. “At the Bronx Terminal Vegetable Market” is an interesting tour into the world of vegetable dealers and buyers in the Bronx. It’s also a study of how one man keeps his dreams alive in that scenario. In “The famous town and restored lit cigarette trick”, a celebrated magician loses his mind and is later redeemed by his plain, stoic dogged daughter.

“Finest wine” has a 70 year old woman entering fantasy land where she drives a bus filled with all the men she has loved foolishly and wisely.

What struck me was the gentle commonplaceness of these lives that Gilbert writes about. No great transformations occur. No great tragedies or resurrections either. Yet you get this unmistakable feeling of how much changes even when nothing happens.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

851

"We must have the stubborness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world." - Jack Gilbert

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

852

Ma bought me a beautiful dress from Zara - it's in a brownish, copperish silk fabric with fine pleats from top to bottom. It has a lovely, deep back and it's knee-length. I love the demure, stylish feel of it. It is indicative of desserts to be had by a fireplace or a walk on the beach after a fancy meal on the yacht or a cozy coffee at some lovely cafe on a cobbled street.

The dress fits. Now to get a lifestyle that goes with it.

853

Yesterday, saw a beautiful blood-red flower blooming in the midst of a wall of leaves. It had a white centre with some yellow antennae-like filaments. My friend took a picture and today when we tried looking for it, it was gone. It must have been plucked.

But we also saw tiny buds in pale pink blooming along a vine. They'll grow up to shock and tingle passersby on early morning walks in a week. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

854 - Climbing hills

Sometimes , if I have been irregular, the hill I climb looms like a spectre - something that scares me a little before I trod on its uneven pathways with halting steps. Then, as I climb, as I face the breathlessness with deep gulps of cool air, I relax. The smells of the fresh pudina growing alongside and bright yellow buds dotting the shrubs seem welcoming. Then climbing the hill is like moving my hands over a face - one that I am so familiar with, one that I love.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

855 - in which I find out I am a little bit spoilt

The weather in Pune is supremely beautiful. It's grey, cold, rainy, and the perfect backdrop for tiny yellow flowers that are sprouting up everywhere. The kandeels and Diwali lights are still out and there's a movie-feel to a day when you go about doing something as basic as buying milk.

This morning, I met up with a school friend at Dario's again. We were 'partners' in school, which meant that we shared the same bench and also the same tiffin, I think. Anyway, in school I think she was not deemed to be very bright which of course means that she has gone ahead to make a success of herself in the world. (My school was odd, like that - people who seemed to be going nowhere have had some serious accomplishments.) It's funny - meeting up someone from school. I don't know why there isn't any awkwardness. Why there is an easy flow of conversation. Why there is absolutely no sense of the huge gap in time. Anyway, we chatted over coffee and then promised to catch up again - next time, hopefully, with enough time for a movie.

Now, getting to the part where I got the sneaky feeling that I may be a little spoilt.

One of the ladies who comes to clean is on a longish leave. So, today I had to wash my clothes. I don't have a washing machine so I had to do it by hand. So, I did. Then I had to dry the clothes. Obviously but I don't know why I thought I needed to soften this very harsh experience. To do this, I switched on the fairy lights and sat out amongst the plants and looked at the foggy night sky. Then I wrung out the clothes and dried them. Then, to treat myself, I went to Peter Donuts for a hazelnut cappuccino and a custard cream-filled donut.

There, I flipped through the latest Vogue with Deepika and Barkha Dutt on the cover. It looked interesting. While flipping through it, I came across this bit by Barkha who said that despite whatever she had to go through, she never played the victim card. I think that's a real triumph. To do what you have to without whining 'Oh, I'm a victim...feel sorry for me' nonsense. Good on you, Barkha! I think I will get that issue - you know, as a reward for washing and drying clothes.

Now to wash the vessels, sweep and mop the house.



 

856 - Fiction in Verse: Death in Rhyme

Death in Rhyme
We sat in a circle,
My family and I,
Looking and asking those questions unsaid,
If each of us had a solid alibi,
How was it that the patriarch had ended up dead?

“He was old,” said my brother
“That counts for something, doesn’t it?”
“It might have,” piped the policeman,
“But we found traces of arsenic.”

“Arsenic! You mean poison”, I asked.
I fumbled and sweated and looked aghast.
“But how did it get in his whiskey,
When he himself had poured the drink and handled his glass?”

“It could have been suicide”, said mother,
“He could very well have killed himself.”
“True, except that he’d made a will the day before
Where he’d mentioned that if he died suddenly, search the shelf.”

“The shelf?”, I asked looking up at the stone slabs
“What’s there on the stone shelf that we didn’t see?”
“We found a scroll - his horoscope,
And a letter that said, I believe in the stars...so believe me.

“He wasn’t very well liked”, I said
“Angry and cantankerous and weird as a black moon,
But maybe his horoscope points to the killer.
We could decipher that and be done with this soon.”

The horoscope itself was long-winded
Couching in maybes and it coulds and it is very likely that
It outlined his opportunities to be a statesman
And eventually turn into a pompous, obnoxious twat.

“What’s that?”, pointed my brother
To a strip stuck across the scroll’s breadth
“It seems to be what we were looking for,” said mother
“The prophecy of the conditions of his death.”

It will be painless, as merciful as death can be,
It will be slightly twisted with a pall of mystery,
But look no further and waste no time,
 A Libran will have killed me; it’ll be a Libran’s crime.”

We gulped in shock and looked somewhat scared
The policeman noticed all this with an ice-cold gaze
The evidentiary sanctity of a prophecy was slim,
But the truth was that we were all born in early October days.

“That’s stupid and foolish and occult, isn’t it?
He could have written the horoscope, that silly old twit,
That paranoia just implicates us, alas,
We were all out, I tell you, we didn’t go near that glass.”

A mewl was heard and we glanced out,
A fat black cat was climbing into sight
The dead man’s companion for a great part of his life,
His heft a joke, his demeanour a fright.

The uniform was about to continue a discussion
Of motives and intent and oblique references to gallows
When we heard a thwack and saw a dribble from above
Of a thin stream of liquid into the whiskey glass below.

The cat squatted and flicked its tail silently
Unaware of the medicine spilled from the bottle
The policeman inspected the ingredients of that liquid
And after that, deductions moved full throttle.

“There’s arsenic in these eyedrops
Prescribed for the man,
Whose is this cat and where did it come from?
Tell me everything now as much as you can.”

“Oh, it’s our father’s”, said my brother
“It’s a symbol of his search for irony,”
“So, even though he wanted a totem for good luck
It’s a black cat, he got, as you can see.”
“She was born before us, though,
To a neighbor’s ginger cat,
I remember the celebrations that day,
In fact the nation celebrated that.”

Noticing the policeman’s puzzlement,
I fitted in pieces I remembered
“I think he was born on Gandhi Jayanti,
Yes, it was a few months before December.”

“That’s right!”, my mother exclaimed,
“It was his stupid yearning for irony then,
The cat was born on October second,
But he called it Jinnah, just for fun.”

“So, the cat’s a Libran?”, asked the uniform
“It’s a curious incident, that.”
With that, he left still worried
How a death prophecy got executed by a cat.



Saturday, October 25, 2014

857

Finished reading 'Myth = Mithya'. So, naturally I felt a little bereft today. Went to Crossword and picked up a few books. The coffee and the baked Philadelphia cheesecake at Moshe's is pretty neat! I feel a little bad that I'm not living up to my resolve of not buying new books. But I swept and mopped the house today (the cleaning lady is on a holiday) so I think I deserved a little treat.

Here's what I got:

The Devotion of Suspect by Keigo Higashimo (Why? Because it's a Japanese writer and they seem to write with a sensibility I love.)


Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro (Why? Because of 'Remains of the Day' and 'When we were orphans'. Because he can write in a way that can make your heart ache. Because he can make your heart ache in a way that will make you feel glad for the pain because it at least means that you can  feel.)

Then there was a quick dinner at One lounge at Koregaon Park.

All this and its just Friday. Although I will have to work the weekend, it feels good to take it nice and slow after a long while. I just wish the cleaning lady hadn't taken an off.

But never mind, grateful for all that is. Because there's plenty.

 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

858

It was a superb Diwali! Started off with a walk up a little hill with a friend. On the way, we usually cross a house that has a part of the hill in it's garden. So, it's a natural 'rock' garden, so to speak. This house had a kandeel in flaming orange fluttering in the morning breeze. There were lots of orchid blooms tied to the grills of the gates and white and red rangolis dotted the porch.

Then Mum, Dad and I had breakfast at Dario's. I love Dario's when you're the only person in their outdoor space, watching sunlight filter though trees and hear the peacocks in the backdrop. They also play some really good 90s music that seems to come from far away. I love that sense of being a little lost in time as soon as you sit down at one of their purple and white tables.

Then I met up a friend for coffee. He gave me a bunch of movies which I hope to watch over the next few days and we went to Shaniwarpeth. It was lovely. Reminded me a little bit of Zaveri bazaar. I saw the Dagdu Sheth ganpati for the first time. I have to say it is the prettiest Ganpati I have seen ever. I mean ever. Lots of pink, blue, purple and green lights around. The roads looked iridescent.

Now I'm home, taking in the cozy nooks that twinkle with lights. Eating some seriously good palak paneer with a cup of chilled Red Bull and reading 'Myth=Mithya' by Devdutt Pattanaik.

Dear Universe, Lakshmi entering household or not, I feel seriously abundant tonight!

 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

860, 859, Diwali

There was a walk home one late evening. And a sudden purchase of two kandeels - one large one with mustard, fushcia and indigo cut-outs of flowers and the Indian mango motifs. I wasn't going to buy those until I saw another customer asking for a demo. The salesperson put a bulb under this kandeel and suddenly, so suddenly, it sparkled like a jewel. You could imagine it in a large palace with marbles or in a large garden with fountains and jasmine shrubs and peacocks. I got that for my mother. I also got three small kandeels - simpler ones in an ivory glossy paper with a thin rim of gold shimmer around the rings. For my own home, I put up a slim string of blue fairy lights. They go up around the grill, around the legs of a chair and a little bit around the bookshelf. The rest lay clumped and untidy on the floor. But when they were lit, my home, my floor looked like the resting place for baby stars who would grow up and join the large constellation when they woke up.

May you all have light of all kinds cuddled up in different corners of your worlds. May the light wake up happy.

A great, joyous Diwali everyone!

Monday, October 20, 2014

861

Yesterday was Sunday and I came in to work for a couple of ways. My mind is now so twisted in angst in connection with office that it feels like quite an upheaval to simply relax and even think of a possibility when workdays felt normal and good and when I used to cross the road and enter the office premises without having a knot in the stomach. But I often think back to this line by Virginia Woolf, "Arrange whatever pieces that may come your way." I am trying to do that.

So yesterday, I wrapped up work in a couple of hours and took my mum out on a drive. We bought some diyas. Mum got some sparkly ones painted in red, green and gold. She also got a set of translucent heart candles that you can float. Mom does that in our Vashi home. I got some basic clay ones in small and really large sizes. What we really tripped out on were the lights. I got lots of fairy lights - a string in snowy white, another in sky blue, and a third in a rich, vibrant yellow that softly fuses into a gold blush if you set it up that way. Mum got this nifty strip of electrical diyas that you stick on grills or ledges or wherever you want on some adhesive. And a strip of fairy lights in really faint blush-pink. It is lovely!

So, overall, looking forward to setting up these lights now!


Sunday, October 19, 2014

862

On tough days, maybe one gets nothing more than a patch of purple sky that sweetly turns pink just as you look out the window. Maybe on those days, that's all you get. No prayer gets answered. No wishes come true. But the Heaven seemed to have put up a show just for you. 

It's been a good day.



 

Friday, October 17, 2014

863

Today in office there is colour. A lot of it. Diyas in thermocol have bright pink, yellow, and orange with glitter strewn on them. There are tiny tealights where flames flicker in a pool of translucent red gel. There is a floral rangoli made with orange and white flowers. Somewhere else, which I found the loveliest section in the office, patterns have been made with shredded leaves.

I love leaves. I wish when it came to decorations, we gave flowers a break and leaves a chance.

Story of sorts in three letters



Son's birthday and notification of my pissed off status
Shernaz M [shernaz65@sundry.com]
Sent: Thu 22/04/2014

Hello. I'm sure you are very busy or at the very least, believing that you are. I haven't heard from you in ages. Must admit I'd have hoped for a mail when Sunny had colic but I didn't get one because you must have been busy. You know, Tanya, I don't get why you must be so spoilt. I know you are upset with me because I didn't gush over your ad but Nitin is a very demanding husband. He'd had a bad day and you remember he was not even all that sociable over dinner. I just couldn't...Tanya, you don't know how it is.

Anyway, Sunny's birthday is on 24th July. Please come. I was thinking of having a theme party. Can you suggest something? Don't worry. I only want an idea. Not any further assistance. I know 'you're busy'.

-          Shernaz
P.S. – Why do you work for a company called 'Bullshit'?

Re: Son's birthday and notification of my pissed off status
Tanya Gaya [Tanyag@bullshit.com]
Sent: Thu 23/04/2014

Hi Shernaz! Given that you are swilling around with sarcasm all the time, it took you a long time to write this letter. And yes. I was busy then. I am busy now too. So consider yourself lucky that you're getting this email. And yes, I was hurt that you didn't respond to my ad campaign. And I was even more hurt when you used my ad to wrap Sunny's nappies.

Anyway, I'll come.

As for a theme, how about you use the theme of the Universe? Position yourself in the centre of the room...because you know, if there is a 'Universe', you'd fancy yourself in the centre of it, won't you?

And I work in a place called 'Bullshit' because it's clever and the name is a tribute to the philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt. (He wrote a book called 'On Bullshit' where he very eruditely differentiated the notion of 'bullshit' from 'lie' and 'deception'. Get the book. It's a great read and is published with very absorbent paper that you might find useful for Sunny's nappies.)

Also, why does it surprise you that I work in a place called 'Bullshit'? You were a lawyer, weren't you? 

Tanya

Re: Re: Son's birthday and notification of my pissed off status
Shernaz M [shernaz65@sundry.com]
Sent: Thu 22/04/2014

Hmm...Frank Herbert, eh? Very similar - the stuff that comes out of your mouth and Sunny's butt. Whatever. You work in a company called 'Bullshit'. You employee of the year yet? I like the Universe idea, thanks!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

865, 864

There is warmth, comfort, and tender homage to a beaten soul - the way fiction draws one in. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

First Impressions - The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith


Robert Galbraith is J.K. Rowling's pseudonym for a series of murder mysteries.



I haven't read any J.K. Rowling earlier. I tried reading Harry Potter multiple times but gave it up on reaching page 5. So, I am not a fan.



Now that I have these two things out of the way, I 'll get to the book.



It's a decent read for a whodunit. The book is approximately 450 pages long and I could figure out the murderer by page 200 so the 'big reveal' at the end wasn't exactly a surprise. I had hoped for a bit more psychological profiling of the killer or even of the private detective, Cormoran Strike. There is some but not enough to warrant gushing praise or earnest recommendation.



The Cuckoo's Calling begins with the death of Lula Landry, a supermodel. Lula is flying flat and splattered in the snow. There is speculation that she has jumped to her death. Her brother, however, does not think so and hires Strike to find out the truth. Strike is a detective with 'a past'. He's a mess in that appealing way all private detectives are. He served in Afghanistan before taking up detective work, left the army for the love of a woman, lost the woman, became homeless and lives in his tiny office which he can barely afford to keep because the arrears in rent are piling up. He is also the bastard child of a famous father and a mother who was a groupie and a heroin addict and who, the story goes, killed herself. Strike doesn't believe that story.



Anyway, back to Lula. In the course of the story, we explore the world of the superbly beautiful and the rich. We are told how they are hounded by not just the press, but the voyeurism that fuels the press and the characters of the 'inner circle' that sell their stories to the press. Lula was a black girl adopted into a white family. She never felt like she belonged to her regular family. She was born looking like a goddess. So she never felt like she belonged to other regular people either. She suffered from depression, was keenly looking for her roots, had friends who were misfits the way golden swans may be misfits in a plastic pool, and one day she died.



The thing is that after a point, you stop caring about that stuff. The writing is trite. For the most part, there's nothing fresh in there. It takes too long to come to the point by which time you may very well not be bothered about the killer, motive, and technique of murder. There's a bit of posturing in the way the club scenes are described ("Hey, you menial people! Here's how the swish set parties! Bet you didn't know that!" - that's the vibe I got when reading some portions.)



Even Strike - whose back story has a back story, which may emerge in other books - even he seems to lack dimension sometimes. Yet, for reasons even I am not very clear about, I read through that book and will possibly read the next one as well. Because, the pull, when you least expect it, comes from very strange quarters.



Right at the beginning, there's a description of Lula Landry lying in snow in a sequinned top. She is dead. It's early in the morning. Snowflakes drift along the rich London neighbourhood. The cops are there smoking. Flash bulbs go off incessantly. But this very beautiful body, clothed in sequins lies in the snow facedown. At the time, all the artificial light available in that small portion of the world is reflected off her clothes and she looks if she is moving. I found that bit really touching. I don't know why but I wanted to know about the person who died. Not who killed her and why and if she did commit suicide, what were her reasons and all that. Just...who was this person who even in death in the dark, shifted haltingly, tiptoeing on light?



Then there is the description of London streets and London pubs - where there is a quiet despite a crowd. In another section, Galbraith describes a scene in an uber-cool club where a dangerously good-looking  Evan Duffield (Lula's boyfriend) is sitting on a leather couch surrounded by women. His habit is to wear a wolf's mask when he is out in public to avert the attention of the public (or not so much avert attention because a wolf’s head does get attention but to cock a snook at them). This specific description of a fragile doomed man who holds his dominion by virtue of charisma alone is very...feral. It’s like, you know how if you are too intelligent, there’s a chance that you just might go mad or turn evil because how are you going to handle all that brain? Well, what if it’s the same with looks? What if you are so good looking that you just can’t handle it? Evan seems to be a poster boy for just that contingency.



There is also a bit where Strike remembers some personal tragedy and he focuses on the rain outside. He notices 'raindrops tracing ellipses over the window panes.' That’s poetry. In the middle of trite prose and boring details, that sentence made me sit up.



There is beauty in some portions that is hard to turn away from. So I read despite the tedium that sometimes set in. That and the strange notion I have that Lula Landry is 'modeled' in some way after Naomi Campbell.





 

Monday, October 13, 2014

867, 866

A quick round-up of the last two days:

An interesting discussion with a group of pals on the epistolary form of writing. We even did an exercise and it was fun.

On the way back home suddenly decided to go to Bombay. And one reason I love a flush, full wallet is that it allows me to change my mind and indulge in a trip home.

So I went to Bombay and it was nice. Went for Haider. It was nice enough but it left me underwhelmed. I think if you must adapt, then the characters that die in the original must die in the adaptation. Why did Haider live? I think if there isn't that kind of fidelity to characters, then it's just another story of a son seeking to avenge his father's death...and that is any of Amitabh Bachchan's 500 movies.

But maybe the real Haider or Hamlet is Kashmir and it's demand for 'Azaadi'? The way the film is shot, the place really comes alive like a spectre, like a soul, like a song.

Back home to Pune with high fever and a solid backache.

Rested at home and read a book. Now, will paint my coffee table.