Monday, September 29, 2014

879

Last night, after working through yet another Sunday, as I sat with my mum and had chai and sabudana vada, I wondered: Is it time to leave Pune yet? 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

880

A long, long day at work. It seems unending. The fast doesn't make it better. I really should have prepared better for it. Stocked up on fluids and fruits and curd. With no food and drinks, it's difficult. Anyway, coffee and water sustains me somewhat when there isn't time to get a juice or buy a lassi. Around 11 when I was done with office, I really wanted to visit a Durga pandal. Someone had told me about one that remains open until three in the morning near Congress Bhavan. I absolutely wanted to visit it. So the plan was to go home, eat something and then leave to visit the pandal with my friend who was staying with me last night.. She was reluctant to step out because she had almost retired for the evening and also because PJs, ciggies, and moonlight is a hard-to-resist combination. One doesn't choose a middling drive in the night over that.

Anyway, I convinced her that I needed the blessings of the Goddess because I am so overworked. She didn't say anything but I could see the 'meh' in her eyes. Anyway, she gamely came. Now, I reached up to FC Road and then got lost. I drove around a surprisingly busy area and then got lost some more. At which point, my friend's vision of PJs and moonlight seemed like the best idea ever. While driving back, though, we saw the Chaturshingi temple glittering and twinkling. It was flooded with lights and the night was splashed with swirls of pinks, blues and greens of plastic toys. Inside the temple, there were lots of people and the police sat about here and there chatting. There were shops selling trinkets and slippers and odd stoles and various kinds of accessories that, for some reason, had violet and mauve faux fur trimmings. Must be the trend now. 

Crudely tied bamboos separated the stairs - different lanes for the genders. The main sanctum for the goddess is on top of a hill. The lines up to there were relatively sparse, with the majority of the people at the base of the temple. Groups of lanky teenage boys were passing under, over, and in-between the bamboo separators - more for fun than any great urgency to get to the goddess, I think. So, I did the same. I wanted to get to the temple quickly though because my friend was waiting down. I had worn slippers right up to the top and I didn't really want to then go scouting around for a place to leave my footwear. (I didn't know where to leave them at the base). I stood outside for a little bit and came down.

It's getting hot in Pune and it is very, very busy at work. But this nugget of serendipity exhilarated. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

881

This year, I'm trying to keep the nine day fast. Yesterday was okay. It's hard to keep a fast when there's a lot of work in office and one is not getting enough time to do yoga. I think the deep breathing helps in curbing the appetite and still keep you fresh. Anyway, a friend visited and it was really nice to go for coffee and chat up. Then late night, we drove to the sixteenth century Shiv temple, for old time's sake. We used to walk there very often. The temple was open. That was surprising because usually they close the gates by nine at night. But we entered. It is huge with gnarled banyan trees all around. Last night, we walked in to the busy flapping and screeching of bats and shadows shifting on the ground. It was beautiful.

Thus has begun the time of the goddess.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Reading Timeline

So, based on the books I have chosen and with the time I can eke out, here's the plan:


  • The Room by Emma Donogue (21st September to 21st October)
  • The King's Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conrad (22nd October to 23rd November)
  • Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (24th November to 25th December)
  • Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis (26th December to 31st Jan, 2015)
  • Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie (1st February to 15th March)
  • Goldfinch by Donna Tarrt (16th March to 17th April)
  • Dongri to Dubai by S. Zaidi (18th April to 19th May)
  • The Secret Lives of Sisters by Linda Kelsey (20th May to 21st June)
  • The Post-birthday world by Lionel Shriver (22nd June to 23rd July)
  • Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut (24th July to 25th August)
  • Alchemy of Desire by Tarun Tejpal (26th August to 27th September)
  • A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (28th September to 29th December)
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (1st January to 3rd March, 2016)
  • A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif (4th March to 3rd April)
  • Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (4th April to 5th June)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

882

Let me quickly list the things softened the edges of this day:

  • cheesecake laid out at my workstation. not just cheesecake. homemade cheesecake. and very, very delicious.
  • some tough, long calls were taken .
  • went for a tiny walk where i breathed.
  • it had rained today which always makes for a pretty after-tea stroll.
Anyway, good stuff.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

883

I have started reading 'Room' by Emma Donoghue which is, so far, marvelous. I go home really late from work, heavy with fatigue and dried, parched eyes that I rub like crazy...and yet, through a half-eaten dinner with a thudding heart, I peel back page after page.

So grateful for this book. The way things are, I'm really grateful to have a story with me that just sucks me into its dark, disturbing world. Grateful for the book because it makes me really grateful for the sunshine in my life - whatever there is of it - right now.

Monday, September 22, 2014

886, 885, 884

She worried about losing her mystique
With the frequent dinners with those boys
And the routine coffees with the girls
But she needn't have worried...
Her mystique was safely guarded
Like the sunlight that lays fallen on the ground.

Friday, September 19, 2014

888, 887

A really tough day at work. Or rather, an usual day at work but I took it too heart. Anyway, after feeling really deflated for a whole ten minutes, just left work, went for yoga and then home to cook some dinner, eat something small and go to bed. A colleague had got me kharvas - this very tasty dessert that's made with a cow's first milk for the calf. I love, love, love it!

Anyway, on to live another day!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

889

Last week or so I was feeling a little resentful of a few people. Last night, had a massive tooth-ache. From what I understand of holistic healing now, I think they are related. So, here's to peace. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

890

It was good salvage of a Sunday spent in office. Wrapped up work and went to Crossword with Papa. He bought a book of some important speeches and I bought one of the King's Speech. That and two notepads with bright pink covers. I love pink. The colour makes me happy.

We went home and a friend had bought me some pani puri masala and an imli chutney from a sweet shop in Bombay. So, last night we made some pani puri with a channa stuffing. It was so tasty!

The stuffing was quite interesting. We hadn't really thought of making pani puri so the channa was really prepared to be suited for pani puri. It was kabuli channa that was cooked in a paste of brinjal and spinach - very creamy and thick. It really tasted good.

Really have to figure out a way to sort this out - this sense of just going through my days in such a haphazard manner!


Saturday, September 13, 2014

891 - Published in Golden Sparrow today

This article was published in Golden Sparrow today. The paper carries details of two books - On Writing and Old Man and the Sea. I'd written about three, though. Here's the whole piece.

****************

The books one returns to

Why go back to a book when there are millions of new books to go through? In an age when we're so driven to make a day newer than the previous ones, why revisit a familiar story? For me, re-reading a favourite book is like going back to a childhood spot for the comfort it offers. It reminds me of time when I was open enough to let something change me. All kinds of re-reading, then, are a kind of a returning. Here are three books that I keep returning to.

On Writing: Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
I read this book before I'd read anything else by King. Not only did I love the book, I wanted to commit it to memory. There's a lilt to the way it is written. Yes, prima facie it is about how to write. It has tons of superb exercises and discussions on plot, character and dialogue writing. But also, more importantly, it's about the life of a writer and the lifecycle of his craft – and how there can be no real distinction between the two. (Hence the word 'Memoir' in the title, I guess.) As a child, Kind spent a lot of time being lost in a vacant backyard of some industrial building. These memories form the setting in 'Salem's Lot'. His experience of going through substance abuse finds its redemption in another of his books. His first short story of a rabbit (which he wrote at age six or seven) and his mother's praise is the green light his writer's destiny was waiting for. The publishing of 'Carrie' is the goalpost for why Stephen King conventions have 'Long Live the King' banners today. Despite Stephen King being the writer of 'pulp', I go back to this book for the nuances – the way he describes how he fell in love with Tabitha over a reading of one of her poems. Or why he wrote when all his days felt like dead ends. Or why he still writes when he doesn't have to keep writing anymore. On Writing, to me, is a chronicle of how a writer is born, made, and continues to remain. It's always one melting memory at a time.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Don't judge this book by its movie, even though it has Julia Roberts and Xavier Bardem. I read the book at the height of its fame and infamy (when the author was either a sensitive soul or a selfish prick, depending on which review you read.) But any writer who can capture masturbation and  meditation so artfully really knows how to communicate the ambiguous. In a nutshell, a woman goes through a searing divorce. She feels battered and decides to go on a journey to heal herself. She goes to Italy (to eat), India (to pray), and Indonesia (to find balance but she meets her husband there, so 'love' it is). All three destinations beginning with 'I' – the theme to be tackled. This book, to me, is all about the writing and the insights. When I read about Liz Gilbert's morning in Rome where she makes a soft-poached egg and reads a newspaper in a square of sunshine, I feel like I'm looking at some form of art. My favourite parts of the book are where she writes about why she took up meditation (because logic, after a point felt 'dehydrating'), or to understand why loves Italian so much (experts actually constructed this language by picking out the most beautiful words and phrases from other languages) and her usage of the word 'Attraversiamo' (or let's cross over) – it's like going through a lexicon of the heart.

Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
To me, this story is told in broad strokes. An old man goes to a tavern every day and shucks oysters with other fishermen. He dreams of seal lions. He goes out to the sea one day and catches a fish. The fish struggles. The man struggles. The sea roars and Nature plays its part to make life difficult for everyone concerned. And then the narrative quietens. The man senses a kind of nobility in the fish. He observes at one point, 'there was no panic in his fight.' There is a transformation that happens when nothing really is happening. It is for this reminder that I go back to this story over and over again. Life is a big thing. But it's a simple thing too. 'Old Man and the Sea' shows me how.



894, 893, 892

It has been very busy at work lately and I don't like it one bit. There are many things I'm not liking about the situation. I don't like how I don't have the ability to just mentally switch on and switch off. If one can mentally detach at will, I think it helps getting a lot of rest in a short period of time. Otherwise the mind just keeps whirring and sometimes the heart feels heavy. It really does. Thankfully, Ma has been here for a little while and this has been a big help. A really big boon. After a long time, I felt like wrapping up work as quickly as possible and heading right home. And every time I walked in the house, I felt so good. But unfortunately, since I can't just close my mind to work after a point, it stayed with me - horribly and fully. 

I think the only way to get through this is to know that this will pass and possibly something good and useful might come out of it.


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

895 - The brilliance of it

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” 

― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

896

All of this work has got to mean something!

Actually, it doesn't have to...but it would be nice.

Monday, September 08, 2014

898, 897

Things have been good at home. It feels just so awesome to have Ma around. My house is blanketed with well-being. Not to mention the food...oh, the food! There's a kind of a pudding with's made with curd and condensed milk that I love. It was a childhood favorite and I think I haven't had it in ages. So, I've been having that. Then lauki cooked with a sesame paste that's pungent and tastes brilliant with hot rice. And dosas. And the Thai vegetable curry that Ma makes. Things have been so nice.

Then unfortunately, last night, I fell very ill. Really ill. Head and shoulders ached. Stomach was really tender. I was groggy and had fitful naps throughout the day. I woke up to a very dark world - mood was foul and the anxiety stayed knotted in my tummy. But one must feel better soon because there's a lot of work to be done. So my cook and I painted a couple of wine bottles. Hers came out really well and vibrant. Mine is a greyish, pink background with a quote attributed to Jim Morrison: "Where's your will to be weird?" The paint was runny so it's hard to decipher what the quote is but overall, the design is true to the sentiment of the message I think. Oh well.

Then we went out and bought flowers. Lots of them. Different coloured stalks and lots of roses. I got a bright orange - I don't know what its called. It has a long, fleshy stalk and its mainly orange but a few streaks of purple on it too. This funny orange flower went into the vase I painted - flora with a will to be weird. The gladiolas went into my cook's bright and colourful vases. The roses, though, there were so many of them. We put a single rose with some leaves in tequila shot glasses. And all these were lined up by the window sill. In my ill-health, I sipped spinach soup and admired this handiwork. 

Feeling a lot better today.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

900

What does one make of this? A time of life when it all feels a little fake...

Friday, September 05, 2014

901 - Epistle to the Universe

Dear Universe,

Today is not an exceptionally sad day. In fact, it was quite nice. I went out for coffee with a colleague after a really long time. However, I have worked through the night and I am still not done. I have worked for most of my adult life and I am still not done. I have tied many times to sit down and write, making umpteen schedules and I am still not done. I have stacked my clothes according to colour and size and material and appropriateness so that I get a chance to at least wear every garment at least twice but I am still not done. I have made lists of people to forgive and meticulously prayed to forgive them but I am still not done. I have, at times, quelled my mind to sort through my earlier years of hurt and angusih to set myself free from the caked residue of the past and I am still not done.

I know you are busy and all being the Universe and all that but one of these days, while I am sleeping or maybe even when I'm not, can you please please tell me what really is the point of it all?

If I am driving or in a conference call, come back another time.

Thank you and best regards,
Mukta

P.S. - I was told I was part of you - hence the letter. If you are not the entity with the answers, do pass it on to someone who has a clue and gives a shit.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

902

Mom is here and after a long time, I slept. I slept so well. I slept like I had absolutely no trouble in the world. My house is bustling and everything is neat and organized. There isn't that homey clutter that I had gotten so used to that I didn't even realize how bogged down I was feeling. I love it! Last night, she even made me jelly and custard and sliced bananas. I love it!


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

903

Saw a rainbow at the top of the hill today. The top of the hill - it's a very pretty place. Grass is green - the colour of Absinthe. For some reason, I've been thinking of Absinthe a lot the last few days. Absinthe and white sofas in rich, plush leather and a granite expanse of some sort that has the reflection of fire. Anyway, today I wondered where that memory or that thought (I'm not sure what it was) was coming from but my friend and I sat on a rock and looked out at the city - the way we usually do. The sky was grey but suddenly it shifted and a faint rainbow peeped out. There was mist of rain still. The colours deepened slightly but just so slightly. A half-smile in the sky to a drunken world. Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder?

Monday, September 01, 2014

904

Curry Leaves on Sus-Pashan Road is a super place for Malabari cusine. I had the fried raw bananas dusted with red chilli powder and a plate of pepper-fry mushrooms. This was so good! Lots of chopped onions sauteed with curry leaves and crushed pepper corns.

It was a cold a rainy day then and this plate was spicy and made my insides all warm.

Will return for a complete meal now - hopefully for Onam.