Monday, June 29, 2015

653, 652, 651, 650 - Quick round-up of the last few days

1. Watched Insidious 3 at Phoenix with some pals from Bombay - one of who has shifted to Pune. A quick write-up on that (that I'd put up on FB):

'Some parts give you the chills, but overall...meh. Although, I think I'm at the stage where cracked walls, broken windows, chipped tiles, short-circuitry do not make me think 'ghost'. they make me think 'contact landlord'. And whether it's from this world or the next, I know the landlord isn't coming anytime soon.'

2. Cook made some really spicy seviya today. Very tasty stuff.

3. Ma had sent from Bombay very tasty fried rice - so yummy and good - tiny grains of rice with gaajar, soya, capsicums.

4. Have been seriously ill since the last few days. Despite that had to haul myself to work to finish up stuff. Seriously, in this lifetime, I have to crack this method where one is organized enough to take off work when one is feeling unwell.

5. A pal at work had got me this really tasty home-made chivdaa. It was slightly sweet and I think it was roasted in some kind of pungent oil smoked with kadi-patta.

6. Tried the Belgian-chilli hot chocolate at Chocolate room - which was nice. Maybe  little too milky.

7. Tried out a new restaurant around the block, Kimling. My stir-fried tofu was nice - if a tad dry. My friend seemed to enjoy her chicken dimsums. The beer may have made her partial to the dish, though.

8. Was slightly alarmed with the grade of thinking out there. A guy who I was chatting with online sporadically was around the area. He asked if we could meet up for coffee. I said, "Why not?", considering I was just being so resentful at work instead of nursing myself to health. Must say I had found him obnoxious before - but the same stripe of obnoxiousness as some people find me. So I dismissed it. We were just about to firm up on the place when he said, "Let's go to Goa." I made a joke about this - something about coffee being available in the vicinity. He then said, "Are you afraid I will rape you?" And just like that there was a strong urge to retch. I have a BIG BIG BIG problem with the word 'rape' being used in jokes. Or as an analogy to something that is nowhere close to what it is. "This team raped the other team on the field.", "That reviewer raped the draft.", "He raped the timelines." None of that is rape. None of that is even close to it. I don't understand it and I can't laugh along. Anyway, coming back to this...'person', I told him that neither Goa, nor coffee, nor any further conversation will happen again. To which he seemed puzzled and advised me to 'not be some feminist type' as 'no one will be happy with me.'

You know, people say, that someone can hide so much about themselves online. But, so much gets revealed. Feminism to some people out there is a woman's objection to getting raped.

9. But I had some nice meals with friends otherwise. They seem to be okay with me being a feminist.

10. Started reading 'The Private Lives of Pippa Lee' by Rebecca Miller. I see that it is also a movie.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

655, 654: First Impressions: The Zoya Factor by Anuja Chauhan

The Zoya Factor will soon be made into a movie. It's that kind of  book. So, now that we got that out of the way...

Zoya Solanki works in an advertising agency in Delhi. For reasons that are somehow important to the author, we come to know that Zoya is from Karol Bagh. I'm guessing this is to establish that she is not as cool and hep as someone from South Delhi, who would not be blasé about the fame and fortune that would befall her. Her agency is contracted to shoot the Zing! Cola commercial. The commercial stars cricketers and it's the year of the World Cup. Zoya was born the same day as India won the World Cup in 1983. She is also born with some kind of freakish luck that if she attends a match, any match - whether it is mohalla cricket or the semis in Wankhede, the team she supports wins. So, Zoya finds herself through an interesting but simplistic turn of events having breakfast with the Indian cricket team before every match. She travels to Australia with her Rinku chachi and Monita, a colleague, and Monita's little boy, Ayaan. She falls for Nikhil Khoda, the Indian skipper, with 'Boost-brown' eyes. She is idolized by another young bowler, Zahid Khan, and some other bowler called Hairy.

It all goes well for a bit and then things start going awry. A nation that worships cricket with much passion and no sense starts going into a tizzy over the lucky charm. The skipper starts wanting her out of the team breakfasts because until she 'joined the team', so to speak, he had 'snatched defeat from the jaws of victory'. So while he is attracted to this girl, he wants to redeem himself on his own terms without the support of 'luck'.

There's a media circus where the Australian media wants her out because she is giving an unfair advantage to India. There's a political party that wants her to campaign. And there's a freakish agarbatti advertisement.

The book is a quick read. seems to be really replete with trite phrases. There's a game I started mid-way while reading the book - count the number of times 'Boost-brown' eyes and 'strong chest' appeared in the text. I lost count.

But the highpoints are quite a few. I think Chauhan has a keen observation for cities and spaces. There's a portion where she describes the Karol Bagh midnight market really well. Also very good is her description of Famous Studios. While the India-Pakistan match is described pretty well, all the other matches seem to be more of the same. (Like the game, I guess.) The advertising campaigns and associated hilarity are really good. But for me the biggest gap is perhaps what this book could have become. You see glimpses of something dark and delicious when Chauhan skirts with the concept of a woman who has started believing her own myth. Or when she's scorned and moves towards retribution. But much of that gets painted over by more description of 'Boost'-brown eyes and strong chests.

I liked the book, even though it left me wanting. In one of her interviews, Anuja Chauhan had mentioned that she was tired of books about women wanting men. Unfortunately, despite whatever else this book is, it has turned out to be exactly that.


Monday, June 22, 2015


Tony neighborhood.

Nice mellow light in the store. It glints off expensive bottles of wines. Vey pretty cutlery - flute glasses, wide whiskey ones. Stout bottles of organic ale. Packets of fresh produce like kale and rhubarb. Hunks of imported cheese wrapped in cling-film. Assortments of interesting teas - something with pink jasmines and something else with saffron. Blocks of chocolate - with a gazillion per cent cocoa and some chilli thrown in or something else with butter ...and pepper. Linguine pasta with squid ink. Linguine pasta with chilli. Packets of potato gnocci. Arboro rice. Jars of coffee powders - monsoon Malabar and arabiaca and something else that's Jamaican. Tiny implements in steel and glass for brewing tea and decocting coffee. I take something and go to the cash register.

The man looks at what I have.

"In all that we stock, you choose instant Korean noodles," his smile seems to say.

"You still stock instant Korean noodles," my smile replies.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Here's the situation. You have slept off all of Saturday only to wake up at 7:30 p.m. You hurry to  a pal's place for chai. You've taken some of your clothes so she could pick what she wants for a wedding later this year. You play with her dog some. She's made ginger tea which is excellent. She drops you off at the Aundh Crossword. You blink at the vast array of Amitav Ghosh's books. You blink harder at the book that, maybe for the very first time, gave you a description of the kind of man you'd love or the kind of love you'd want. That was Tridib Das in Shadow Lines. And when I'd read it, it was one book in the English syllabus. A friend had given it to me and it wasn't really available to people who didn't study Literature. And now, there were so many many copies of it.

Whilst going through the other books, you get a call from another pal in Koregaon Park. We plan to meet. I walk back hurriedly from Aundh to Baner where I've parked my car. The breeze is so crisp and cool that I could bite into it.

I drive to Taj Land's End. We sit at the poolside and have this thing which I strongly recommend - an eggless, sugarfree Apple Pie served warm and soft. A glass of cold soy milk with loads of crushed almonds and sweetened with raisins, honey and flavoured with a teensy bit of saffron.

Around 2 we get bored of the place. We then go to Westin and park ourselves in some coffee shop where my pal has a plate of really scrumptious fish and chips and I eat a very gorgeous veggie burger. With thick stubs of golden fries.

We seem to talk for ages. Then I drive home around morning - some stress and tension inside me abating, some tiny bit in me hoping that work just may get better in the coming week. And feeling very grateful that I have this weekend and to just really relish this moment that doesn't come encumbered with a deadline or resistance or parched eyes or strained voices.

Last night, until wee hours of the morning, I dwelled in the now.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

663, 662, 661, 660, 659, 658

It's now been a week since I last wrote. Some stuff that has happened:

1. Rains. Gorgeous rain. Arijit Singh on youtube and grey skies and happy red roses in the neighbor's balcony. Black tea with a little sugar and ginger in my cup. Yes, I'll get to work and become cross-eyed with exhaustion...but you let a few moments of peace make you grateful, even if it is for a little while.

2. A couple of days ago, I returned at 3:00 a.m. The night before that, it was 2:00 a.m. You know what was good? That I would come home with a craving for something decadent and really unhealthy. So, anyway, one day I deep-fried some potato wedges (the frozen ones) with sharp mustard oil. Had some tea with that too. Also, one day, I melted a whole bar of Dairy Milk in milk. Then I shredded chapatti and added it to the milk, letting it get soaked, soft. Then I scooped up tiny bits of it and enjoyed it slowly and was very, very satisfied with it.

3. Read some really good books. I finally read 'The Kite Runner' by Khaled Hosseini. It reminded me of Bombay. Hassan reminded me of Bombay. Kabul reminded me of Bombay. That sharp pungent whiff of what I've loved, how I've lived, when it will all come together...that book was a potpourri of all of that. It makes me cry. That book. It's fantastic.

4. Also read 'The Elephant Vanishes' by Haruki Murakami. This was my very first Murakami. I liked some of the stories very much. There ought to be a word for the special ache one feels for reading Japanese authors (or authors of Japanese origin). You know, it's a soft miasma of emptiness, peace, and love you feel for all...umm...vacancies in life. I don't know how else to put it. There's a short story in here called 'Sleep'. It is poignant and beautiful. There's another story of a brother and sister  and one of a barn-burner. There's another one simply exploring a man's memory of when he'd met his first Chinese. And as soon as you get memory into the picture, there will be a trippy, wicked wonderland experience.

5. Much earlier I'd read 'She's come undone' by Wally Lamb. Actually, I re-read this book. The second time I appreciated it a lot more - maybe because I think I have accepted some parts of myself more now, I identified more closely with Dolores Price. I love bildungsromans. (Is that the word?) I love 'coming-of-age' stories. We become heroes in such fragile ways.


Friday, June 12, 2015

665, 664

A lot of deep breathing required now. So many things happening at work and I am so scattered. The weather is getting beautiful and I'm just stuck in office morning to night. I have to drive to work and although carpooling and all is fun at times, it irritates me - that my exposure to human beings and my requirement to be civil has begun at an earlier hour. And it has to last longer too. Today, though, I went to 'Chocolate Room' with a bunch of girls from work. It's a cute little cafe in Aundh. We walked in when they had just baked a fresh batch of brownies. The place smelled really good.

So that has been half the day. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Day was busy. Lots of tough stuff happening at work. But mid-afternoon, we spotted a rainbow. Beautiful, bright, vivid and lush. A friend who'd stepped out to get some snacks, spotted a double rainbow. She had clicked a picture too. But the second one had vanished when I went out. Now, when I think about it, the colours of the rainbow that I saw were becoming so deep that maybe the second rainbow got mixed in it as well.

Pretty sky, nice day. It too passed.

Monday, June 08, 2015

667 - The beautiful trip to Mumbai

It was returningt o roost. It felt like I belonged once again and it was plump with possibilities and joy and well-being. The weather turned dreamy. I'm back to wearing my blue sapphire ring that I used to wear many years ago. When I was driving around Bombay, this time, I saw the reflection of trees and the sky flitting on the smooth, pale face of the blue sapphire and it looked so good! Just everything about this trip was about 'returning'.

When I got back to Pune, there was no electricity. In fact, we hadn't had electricity the whole day. All the food had gone bad and the mosquitoes were out to party. My tooth started aching and I was in such a panic because all those memories from last time when I was unwell came flooding back. But then, one breathes slowly. One feels a little hopeful when one locates the torch. And then more hopeful when the torch shines on a bunch of stocky, white candles. Then I lit the candles and the home was gorgeous. Pale yellow soft light that keeps a cool, rainy night in centre stage.

A beautiful Bombay Sapphire Sunday.

Sunday, June 07, 2015


Now I don't even know whether it's the work or it's me. There is so much of the grind I have to go through from Monday to Friday that the Saturday is just spent sleeping. Waking up with a fuzzy taste in the mouth. Then sleeping. Then feeling dehydrated and having some water. Then sleeping. Today I am just so fed up with my inability to cope with everything that I ate a lot. And then slept again. This evening, though, I was invited to a friend's reception. A bunch of us from office were going together. I wore a sari. Interestingly, it was a sari gifted by a friend from Bangalore. The friend whose reception I was attending has also moved to Bangalore. I like my saree draped a little casual, no pins or fuss. The saree didn't have a fall and the pally had loose threads. I like sarees that way - especially for summer. Anyway, I wore tube skirt for a top and a large black bindi.

A wardrobe is an interesting thing. Last few months I have been feeling ugly. Someone clicked a picture of me the other day and I didn't like what I saw - a puffy face, no colour, thick arms, and thinning hair. Yet, instead of wearing something simple or safe t cover the arms or the slacking stomach, etc, I chose a bright-yellow tube skirt to wear for a blouse, and a thin white, black, and grey saree that had a darling warli print on it. I'd draped it such that the saree looped around my neck twice. I think even on the days one feels dowdy, frumpy, old, and fat, something pretty in the wardrobe always draws you in.

It was a lovely evening. We sat in a garden, there was tasty food, jazz, and long silhouettes of bamboo trees. We chatted a bit with my friend who is staying in Bangalore now, having a new life, making ne friends. It's all very fascinating. In a sense, like reading a new book.

On the way back, my friend took a wrong turn and we entered into a tiny settlement that had a green swing just set up in the middle of the road. To it's left was an even tinier lane and the huts in that lane had bright orange kandeels. It reminded me of Wit's End in Bandra and it was lovely. The strong tug of nostalgia was, for a fleeting moment, too much for me to bear.

Finally, we got on to the right road that got us to Baner through a winding sope beyond which larhe hills lay dark an silent. The friend whose reception I attended - she and I used to walk up one of those together. As we drove, a nice song started playing on the radio. Meanwhile my friend narrated a story of magic and love and loss and collapse of time. It was a fine night- soft and gentle.

Somewhere inside of me, I think I am ready to leave Pune. I am ready to leave this life the way I live it now. Maybe it's Pune saying goodbye.

Maybe time will tell.


Friday, June 05, 2015

669: What I cooked today

I reached home at around 1. Roasted some vermicelli. I had a container full of chopped onions which I sauted properly in mustard oil. I also fried dried soya nuggets in the oil. To that I added the roasted vermicelli, salt, turmeric, chilli flakes, and water. Then I pressure-cooked it. While it was cooking, I did a few suryanamaskars. (That is not part of the recipe, by the way.)

After 3 whistles, I turned off the cooker and ate this very tasty rice substitute with curd.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

671, 670

I ate a lot of rice yesterday. I had asked the new cook to make pulao - a little of which I had for breakfast. Then for lunch, I got some more pulao from the stall opposite my office. It was too salty and not very good. But it was rice. Then late at night, after I reached home, I had lots of the pulao (from the morning) with pitla. Still feeling so stuffed. I love - really love - how rice fills me up. But I haven't been doing any yoga since the last two or three days. Must go easy on that.

Monday, June 01, 2015

672 - Tears will set you free?

Since last week, I have been very tired. So tired that I wanted to cry but I couldn't. I haven't felt this exhausted before. I don't know whether it was because of the heat or my increasing sleeplessness. But my body ached, the muscles and tendons in my legs feeling sore and tingly because I'd imagine a deep tissue massage even when I was half-asleep.

We have shifted our office space. It's a swankier location and it has yellow partitions which I like but I really preferred my old office. It was more warm. This place seems to buttoned-up a bit too much for my taste. But I suppose it will take time to settle in.

There has been a lot of work so I am reaching home really late. I'm not able to sleep so by the time  hit bed, it's six in the morning. Then I wake up by eight to let the cleaning lady in. So, it's been two hours of sleep for a long time now. I've been irritable and grouchy. My mind has been so slow and woolly. I need to really focus on a person's lips to get the full import of what they are saying. The afternoon slump is really cruel. I have absolutely no ounce of energy. I drag myself to the coffee machine to swallow some bitter stuff that coats my tongue such that I feel like there's a layer of cotton on it. An all through the weeks, I feel like some nerves in my hands and shoulder blades near the soles of my feet are balled up. I feel like I am constricted. When I become aware of how much tension I am holding on to, I remember to press the tips of my fingers or massage my shoulder blades. And the release of that tension feels so exquisite that it's painful. The only thing I can't massage or expand is this tiny hard lump of sadness I seem to carry around in my heart. It feels physical. Whatever gets through my gullet - water r candy or rice- seems to ricochet around this dark smooth shiny rock.

I feel that this rock could be blasted or dissolved through a really deep, intense, physical experience like maybe that kind of sex or weeping really hard - the kind that you hiccup and choke and cough through. Sex is not something I would consider but crying I would. In fact, crying even used to come easy. I can't imagine being so exhausted that I can't even cry.

Today it changed though. My folks are here and earlier in the evening I had a huge argument with them - at least my mom. And I cried and cried. Even though I was bawling through this whole thing rubbing my eyes fiercely and all that, I felt a little relieved. I could feel that tough little stone part of my heart blasted through.

But I'm feeling exhausted and really tender now. I want to be taken care of now for the next few months or so. But I've appointed a new cook who comes tomorrow morning at seven.