Saturday, October 22, 2011

Good, good day!

Day before was plump with goodies! It started with me reaching Lower Parel in the morning, earlier than I'd estimated. I hung about for a while inside Palladium looking at those beautiful stores, but mainly the Anita Dongre and the Rohit Bal ones. There was a scarlet, gold, and green ghagra in the Anita Dongre's showroom that looked so old-world opulent that I imagined the mannequin to have been transported by an elephant. A similar palanquin-panache haze hung about outside Rohit Bal's Prive'. There were rows and rows of princess-like lehengas in heavy white silks and dull gold zardozi. I'd reached early and the stores weren't open for business. But they were all lit up and happy looking, so I could peer in through the metal barricades. These stores - they looked like affluent babies sleeping in plush, luxurious bedrooms under thick, soft quilts. In time, they would stir, yawn, and get ready for the world to descend and fawn upon them.

To pass time, I went to Indigo Deli and had some hot chocolate. I'd recently been to Delhi and in true Delhi-returned fashion, I picked up 'City of Djinns' again. I've been trying to read it for so long now but  think I'll manage it now. This time in Delhi, I spent a lovely morning at Lodhi garden by myself. It's one of my favorite places in the world. Lodhi garden. The ruins, the landscaping, my childhood memories of the place, more recent memories of my adult-life - they just waft and weave music and poetry into filaments of time I spend there. I took long walks, sat on every possible stone on the ruins, followed puddles of soft sunlight on patches of thick grass, and just looked around and thought about life. Life as an invention, a discovery, a ballad. When I'm around something really beautiful, I often think that perhaps we aren't born with a soul. We create one as soon as we see something we want to hold on to for later - whenever rough, coarse times come our way. The soul, I imagine, bookmarks whatever is worthwhile.

Anyway, after spending a couple of hours at Indigo Deli, I went for a client meeting at Mahalaxmi. It went really well and I decided to meet a friend back at Palladium.

Now, this friend of mine is a fine conoisseur. She's fed me great canapes and brushcettas with goat cheese, pine nuts, and some sort of roasted seeds that's made my heart sing. Her custard laced with orange marmelade and crushed butter cookies is carefully constructed with maybe ten different levels of nuanced taste. So, when she suggested we have a bite at Moshe's and she'd be choosing the dishes, I was game.

The meal was superb. Here's what I recommend for vegetarians:
  • The soy and tofu burger. The patty is delectable beyond belief! I've been a meat-eater earlier and have chomped down several truck-loads of minced beef and mutton cutlets in my time. This soy and tofu burger is right up there with the best of them. In fact, even if you are non-vegetarian, I strongly recommend you have a go at this. For starters, the patty is maybe 3 inches thick. It's full of some sort of spicy, smoky flavor and the soya makes it juicy and wonderfully chewy.
  • The Egyptian Dukka fondue - There's a very liberal sprinkling of aniseed that makes the fondue delicious. I'm not a big one for cheese but the dry Egyptian seasoning in the fondue melt ups the taste ante here. Even the cubes of bread are baked with saunf and are perfect to mop up this creamy fondue with.
  • The African Rubois tea- It's a deep, red color - reminiscent of the lavish dust of the region. Interestingly, even though the drink looks robust, it has a very delicate, subtle flavor. It's decaffeinated, light and a perfect beverage to sip after a fondue and burger meal. (Again, this is not just for vegetarians.)
After an afternoon of some refinement and genteel conversation, we decided to go shopping at Crawford Market and Zaveri Bazaar. Colorful, dusty, crowded, choc-o-block with novelty - a world where couth gets nudged out by brazennes. Yet you'll find quiet taste genuflecting in some dark alley.

As we walked deep into Crawford market, we found ourselves at a crossroad. Because of Diwali festivities, there were a million colorful kandeels fluttering away in the sky. And beyond this cloud of pink, yellow, red, tangerine and green fluttering arms, rose a beautiful dome of a mosque. And beyond that still, the sky sighed out an inky dusk. I'm a big one for Mumbai skies. Yet, this one was so stellar and different - not one of those city nights that have skyrises stencilled on them. This one seemed to be ageless. It seemed as if a perfect piece of history got hiccuped out of Time itself.

My friend and I went about here and there and got some excellent staionery. She got some moss-green handmade paper sheets with gossamer thinness. I picked out a few hundred sheets of paper in shades of blue and salmon. Now I'm wondering what to do with this. Maybe I'll write out the verses of Tao Te Ching and have them bound and gifted to friends or cousins. We bought pretty envelopes and yards of twine to wrap up scrolls (if we wanted to. Frankly, we just liked how they looked.)

The day ended. I caught a train from VT and spent the long train ride ensconced in typical city bustle. Somewhere inside my brain, my evening at Crawford Market and my morning at Lodhi Road melted and fused into each other.

Today, from that little well of sudden, dulcet historicity, little bubbles of joy bubble over. They shift around on the surface and they spell out 'Happy Diwali'.

Light and love to everyone!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

And yay!

Last evening was comforting. It was like having warm custard pudding after an exhausting trudge in the rain. Last few months have been knotty. The past few weeks, however, have had me straining at the leash for some sanity and sleep. There has been an accident of some sort. Not too much harm done, but if the soul were a Martini, it's been shaken, stirred, spurted, and spit out.

Last evening, I met up with this friend who'd gone through the same accident, but seems to be taking it with amazing sang-froid. We went for a walk around one of those tiny market areas that Vashi has so many of. Sweet, earnest little shops displaying polyester nighties in alarming colors and prints, bright baubles and combs and all that. We took a turn and entered a side-road. Suddenly, any trace of it being Saturday night fell away. It was quiet and calm. Even the light from the street lamps fell softly. It felt like the world had suddenly been baby-proofed. No sharp edges, nothing to scrape or bump against. A mellow, placid little cocoon to wander about in for the night.

Then we came to this little pond by a temple. I remembered it hazily. Maybe I'd seen it a year ago, in the early rains. In the darkness, this place looked worn, yet peaceful. Like a fractured prayer bead. We sat and chatted for a while. There was a huge tree; I think it was neem. It looked as it had some morning breeze trapped in it that it wanted to shake off. While all the other trees were still, this one trembled and shivered daintily.

My friend then mentioned why I'd been writing so many sad things recently. Now, the question warranted some thought because it's not all been dreary and sorrowful. There have been dinners with friends and family, some delicious books read, some really good conversations, portions of good work done, money collected, money spent, excursions planned, and all that. But somehow, I guess I was waiting for the right kind of leisure time to write about this. Good, happy instances were like fine bone china. I'd bring them out for a 'special' occasion.

Today, I leave for Delhi for a couple of days. I'm so excited to be taking a break. I can almost taste the sweet nectarine of plush, computer-free hours. This morning, I woke up early to finish a couple of assignments and I got done in 2 hours, instead of 5 that I'd estimated. This, literally, has not happened in a long, long time! My feet are almost tapping to the joyful, upbeat drumming of my heart.

I thought I'd write all this down without further ado. Heck! I'll just use the bone china for breakfast.

So, SJ, thank you. The smiles are happening.

Pelted, precious stones

While I am sleeping,
The past comes stampeding
With summer nights and rainy days;
The storm doesn't pass
In fact, it seems to last
Until I've heard everything that nostalgia says;
Memory mottled with half-smiles
And farewell whispers
Blow about in gusts of gold
Reminiscences narrate their pretty foibles
And precious little stories get told.
By the time dawn breaks
Gemstones lay heaped in a sharp, dazzling lot
I wake up to pick out a jewel
And be adorned with a stampeding thought.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Strange times

I don't visit doctors all that much now but there used to be a time when I did. For a rough, scratchy throat maybe or some ache in the tummy or a dull headache or quiet, strong fever. The doctor would ask, "Where does it hurt?" Even physiologically, it was always a little difficult to determine. Like, was my stomach hurting three inches to the left of the navel or two inches below? Or all over? It was hard to say.

Growing up and now fully grown up, I stopped going to doctors. Although, in times of silent distress that all living beings go through, I have tried to address that question - "Where does it hurt?" It's a question I asked myself before I decided to shift out of Mumbai for the first time, decided to give up law, decided to major in Sociology instead of English, decided to be a vegetarian. It's interesting because this question, often, does not come up. It's quite possible to be hurting but not realize that one is in pain. Of course, very often, there is no pain or hurt. It's just a question you ask to shake things up a little in your head.

A couple of days ago, I had a re-union of sorts with a couple from friends from school. I was meeting one after nearly 12 years and the other one I'd met briefly in Delhi last time I was there. But this time round, she'd come with her adorable 3 year old boy! I must say, he is the sweetest, gentlest, little boy I have met in a long time. Usually, I get on famously with little girls. Boys are a different story. But this boy was a smiling, friendly fella. Maybe my jinx is broken now.

After putting the child to bed, my friends and I talked. After a while, they spoke and I listened. It dawned on me that death doesn't always happen once. It happens many times over. From the child I was to the city I grew up in to the kind of people I shared the world with - none of that exists any more. Not even a trace of it.  If I didn't remember my shared history with these friends, I wouldn't even know who or what they were talking about.

I think there's a strange strength you need to relive your childhood. Especially with people who know you since then. Nostalgia feels like those huge tidal waves that wash all over you with brute strength, buckling your knees and making you fall. You may get up. But you'll always get up dizzy. Possibly with salt on your lashes and sand on your lips and little cuts on your hands.Yep. Memories, especially childhood ones, are very disorienting.

Last few months have revolved around the past. Flavours, fragrances, and people from childhood have featured in a big way. Including books, aspirations and childhood hopes that one pinned satin ribbons on.
In the spirit of nostalgia and the sweet-empty sadness it brings up, I will quote Ray Bradbury here. He is a writer who treats memories the same way a pianist finishes off a ballad - with elegance, sadness, and a little musical silence at the end. This is from one of his books I'm reading now, 'Dandelion Wine':

'Clock alarms tinkled faintly. The courthouse clock boomed. Birds leaped from trees like a net thrown by his hand, singing. Douglas, conducting an orchestra, pointed to the eastern sky.

The sun began to rise.

He folded his arms and smiled a magician's smile. Yes, sir, he thought, everyone jumps, everyone runs when I yell. It'll be a fine season.

He gave the town a last snap of his fingers.

Doors slammed open; people stepped out.

Summer 1928 began.'

I chose this paragraph because I feel it represents the innocent head rush we've all experienced at some time or another. That this day would mark the beginning of an epic summer. And we loved it then and forgot it later.

Youth. Where did it hurt?