Thursday, July 30, 2015

626, 625: The pasta, the pasta

At Nature's Basket and such places, I suffer from this mild lapse of memory where I forget that I don't cook. Can't. Won't. But everything looks so tide, appealing, and inviting - the ripe plums, the little vials of sea-salt, hefty avocados, cartons of raw sugar, boxes of interesting pasta - that I think I'd love to cook and of course, I can whip up something nice.

Last night, I had a friend over. She just happened to be on this side of town and I was done with work. It would be nice to catch up. But just that morning, I'd asked the cook to not make anything. It's end of the month so there isn't a whole lot I can buy from a restaurant either. I'm not one of those proud and particular hostesses who needs to lay out a laden table but I really did want to put out something nice for my friend. There was paratha, some soya sabzi, and daal.

Then I remembered.

From the moment when I'd mistaken myself for someone who likes to cook, I'd purchased a box of beetroot pasta (that was supposed to be gluten-free, organic, etc. etc.). There was a packet of instant mushroom soup. Mom had sent across a large packet of peas and two packets of dried cranberries (which I love).

So I cooked the beetroot pasta (it takes slightly longer to cook than regular pasta) and made the soup separately with just water, some butter, pepper, and peas. Then I drained the pasta, coated it with the soup (it has become a little more runny than what I'd liked), and seasoned it with mixed herbs, some rosemary and lots of chilli flakes.

It was quite nice! I can imagine that with more veggies - at least mushrooms and leek, it would be quite a meal.

Maybe another trip to Nature's Basket is in order.


Monday, July 27, 2015

629, 628, 627: Assorted musings


www.pexels.com


1. Beauty rinses off a lot of pain.

2. I hadn't 'visited' my balcony in ages. So last night, a friend came over and we had lots of coffee and cocoa there. We even shivered a little. It has been ages since I shivered out in the open. 

3. Mom had last sent me packets of dried cranberries. Last night, I whipped up some raita with it. So a handful of dried cranberries in some whipped curd, some organic jaggery sugar, and chilli flakes. It was really very tasty. We had that with a kind of upma that's made with shredded left-over rotis, a pulao made of millet (or bhagar as it's called here) and large cups of coffee and hot cocoa. I'd had Red Bull before that. I love it.

4. A lot of books on www.tuebl.ca are not available anymore. So...shucks! But some still are. I downloaded Girl Interrupted. And Corfu trilogy by Gerard Durell - what I'm really delighted about.

5. I'd palmed off some ganjis to a friend's dog. One of them was too tight for her but she was clicked wearing it anyway. She looked mighty cute. And uncomfortable. But more cute than uncomfortable.

6. The sorting and folding of clothes is still going on. Slow, slow, slow. But I found a nice sand-coloured satin top with turquoise, white, and red beaded details on the cuffs. I wore that today.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

630

I am cleaning my cupboard and I am exhausted. I pulled out all my clothes from every single cupboard (there are three) and just the sheer volume of what I have scared me a little. Anyway, I think I should really prod on. The room will be messy for a couple of days but I hope it will be worth it.

 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

631: 100 books I intend to download soon

I love www.tuebl.ca because you can download free books from here. Contemporary novels too like Paula Hawkins’ ‘Girl on the Train’ and J.K.Rowling’s ‘Casual Vacancy’.
Here’s a list of books I want to download as soon as I fix up the connection on my tab (many of these are all available on the site):
Source: www.pexels.com


1     1.      Funny Girl by Nick Hornby
2.       Unbearable lightness of being by Milan Kundera
3.       Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
4.       Kafka on the shore by Haruki Murakami
5.       The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
6.       Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
7.       Audition by Ryu Murakami
8.       The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
9.       Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
10.   East of the West by Penkov Miroslav
11.   The Governess and Other Stories by Zweig Stefan
12.   Letter from an unknown woman by Zweig Stefan
13.   Portable Atheist – Essential Readings for Non-believers (I forget who it’s by)
14.   The last illusion by Khakpour Porochista
15.   Family Life by Akhil Sharma
16.   The Secret History by Donna Tartt
17.   Lolita by Nabokov Vladimir
18.   Reading Lolita in Tehran by Nafisi Azar
19.   The Enchanter by Nabokov Vladimir
20.   The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath by Ted Hughes
21.   Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
22.   Queen of Tambourine by Gardam Jane
23.   Girl Interrupted by Kayson Susanna
24.   Hiroshima in the Morning by Rizzuto, Rahna Reiko
25.   The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett
26.   Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
27.   Lord of the Flies by William Golding
28.   The Girl on the train by Paula Hawkins
29.   Another Bullshit Night in Suck City: A memoir by Nick Flynn
30.   Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf by Allee Edward
31.   Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
32.   Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
33.   Outliers (Story of Success) by Malcolm Gladwell
34.   I know this much is true by Wally Lamb
35.   Factotum by Charles Bukowski
36.   Post Office: a novel by Charles Bukowski
37.   Mr. Porky’s Pledge by Oliver Jackson
38.   Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins
39.   Girl with Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace
40.   Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins
41.   Half-asleep in frog pajamas by Tom Robbins
42.   B is for beer by Tom Robbins
43.   Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
44.   Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
45.   Chocolat by Joanne Harris
46.   Tomorrow there will be apricots by Jessica Soffer
47.   House of Sand and Fog by Dubus III, Andre
48.   My friend Leonard by James Frey
49.   The Corfu trilogy by Gerard Durell
50.   Rush Home Road by Lori Lansense
51.   Screenplay: The Foundation of Screenwriting by Syd Field (I don’t know why…)
52.   Hollywood by Charles Bukowsky
53.   The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger
54.   The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry
55.   The Perks of being a wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
56.   Wild by Cheryl Strayed
57.   Wallflower at the Orgy by Nora Ephron
58.   When Harry met Sally by Nora Ephron
59.   I feel bad about my neck by Nora Ephron
60.   Romantic screenplays 101 by Sally Walker
61.   On Writing: Memoirs of the craft by Stephen Kind (read it many times over but I love it)
62.   A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
63.   Story by Robert McKee
64.   Misery by Stephen King
65.   Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
66.   A certain age by Tama Janowitz
67.   Coming clean by Miller, Kimberly Rae
68.   Campari for breakfast by Sara Crowe
69.   The World Below by Sue Miller
70.   Tomcat in love by Tim O’Brien
71.   Gossip by Beth Gutcheon
72.   Country Girl by Edna O’Brien
73.   Wild Decembers by Edna O’Brien
74.   In the Forest by Edna O’Brien
75.   The Light of Evening by Edna O’Brien
76.   Water for elephants by Sara Gruen
77.   The Fall by Albert Camus
78.   The Stranger by Albert Camus
79.   The Plague by Albert Camus
80.   The First Man by Albert Camus
81.   Emile and Kingdom by Albert Camus
82.   The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir
83.   ‘Tis by Frank McCourt
84.   Essex Girls (this is not available online)
85.   Cupcakes at Carrington’s by Alexandra Brown
86.   Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
87.   Until you’re mine by Samantha Hayes
88.   The second life of amy archer by R.S.Pateman
89.   The sleeper by Emily Barr
90.   A tap on the window by Linword Barclay
91.   Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
92.   Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
93.   Ignorance by Milan Kundera
94.   Paper Towns by John Green
95.   In Evil Hour by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
96.   Love in the time of cholera by Gabriel Gracia Marquez
97.   A Thousand Splendid sons by Khaled Hosseini
98.   And the mountains echoed by Khaled Hosseini
99.   We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
100.                        Above the East China Sea by Sarah Bird
 

Monday, July 20, 2015

632

Aarushi is a book by Avirook Sen. It's on the Aarushi murder case. No sooner is it out than a journalist questions, "Why write about one Aarushi? Why not the 100 kids that Nithari killed? Could it be because Aarushi was middle-class and those 100 were poor?" One gets irritated about such stuff. Easy to dismiss off anything that involves the middle or upper-middle these days - the Aarushi book or the Vogue video or whatever. But somewhere else, a film-maker had made the point that a movie about poor people or lower middle-class people does not do well in Bollywood. (If they are poor, they have to be gangsters. The exception was, apparently, Peepli Live.) So one does wonder - why NOT the 100 kids that Nithari killed? Could it be that the middle-class will only read non-fiction about injustice if it involves 'one of us'?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

634, 633

I had an accident the other day.

Incident still makes me boil so I won't get into too many details. Just a cab hit and dented my car from the side pretty badly because it had to shove in between my car and the wall. At a signal.

Anyway, now just living in Pune is making me really weary. Earlier that day, I'd hit my head, my slipper had snapped, broke two nails, had a bit of a run-in with a colleague, and the wonderful ladies that I have cleaning and cooking for me just trigger that deep, dark place inside me. So, I'm guessing there were signs that it would be a tough day.

Sure enough, it was.

Anyway, I feel that I've had enough of this no-drinking nonsense. So this Saturday, I thought I should just do what it takes to make me feel better. A friend and I decided to go out. We decided to dress up and go out. This in and of itself is SUCH a new concept for me now that putting on my faux leather leggings and charcoal top made me high. But I got a chance to wear my pop pink wedges that look pretty and cheery.

We went to Kiva where we ordered some Sula Cabernet. It's some kind of a red wine and one is better off without it because it. is. not. good. AT. ALL. But what I would recommend is their mushroom starter that comes with a light, herbed sauce.

Next, we went to Paasha at J..Marriott, which is a very pretty place. It was not very crowded. We sat in the open-air section and from the 24th floor, the city just looked breathtaking! Tiny colourful lights streaming across some diffused white glow, slight drizzle, the mountains looking strong and lush, and us, shivering a little, sipping our Long Island Iced Tea. I chomped through a bowl of phirni too. We got some peach-flavoured kamikaze shots that were a tad syrupy but tasty nevertheless. It was superb!

Maybe I should lighten up and have a nice, tall drink with a good dessert. It may just soften the rest of my days here.


 

Friday, July 17, 2015

638, 637, 636, 635: Books I read (Part 1)

Maus by Art Spiegelman


This is a graphic novel and a fable of the Holocaust. The Jews are mice, the cats are Germans, and the Polish are pigs. It is also a memoir of sorts because it’s told from Art Spiegelman’s point of view (who is Jew – so, he’s a mouse). It is a record of his father’s memories of the Holocaust, and a portrait of how even the broad strokes of history shape the smallest details of our lives – how we might have breakfast or how our father may bolt the door.

The book begins with a young Art crying about being teased by his friends. His father then tells him that he knows nothing about hardship.

Then begins the story of Holocaust and his father's survival through it. Although the descriptions of the Holocaust are in themselves troubling and poignant, it is the stubborn humanness that I found unnerving. Like the common decency one jailor may show a worker simply by not pelting him with stones on a snowy day. Or why someone who gets beaten and prodded and treated like an animal would still do push-ups. The part that really made me cringe was the aftermath of the Holocaust - beyond death and discrimination, when the Jews were free. The Jews, like Art's father, returned home to find that the Polish have taken over their lands and homes.

There is a portion where Art is deeply troubled by his father's expectations of him. His father wants Art and his girlfriend to move in with him. They don't want to. Although one may be sympathetic towards a Holocaust survivor, one may not be very tolerant of being related to him. Art's father displays incessant penny-pinching traits. He hoards groceries. His 'stranger-danger' alarm bells get sounded off everytime he sees an African-American (they live in the US.). Also exhausting is the guilt Art's annoyance with his father brings with it. In one sequence, Art visits a counsellor who helps him see that maybe Art feels that he is less of a man, or more of a loser, because he did not go through the Holocaust experience like his dad.

It is an exceptionally powerful book. Every little victory seems pyrrhic: people survived the concentration camp, and committed suicide within a matter of days of becoming free. Why do we keep going? Why do we stop? Between those points, maybe, lies the story and the reason.


Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole



(Spoiler in the write-up.) Ignatius J. Reilly, the protagonist, of this book is twisted. He is grossly overweight, Irish, 30 years-old, unemployed, and lives with his mother in New Orleans. He can never hold down a job and is working on some serious manifesto of the age throughout the book. Something as menial as getting a job is ridiculous and leads him to believe he lacks (in his words), 'some perversion that a contemporary employer seeks' (or something to that effect.) 

The turning point comes when his inebriated mother drives and crashes somewhere. (Ignatius, of course, doesn't drive.) To pay for damages, now, Ignatius must get a job. He becomes a hot dog vendor, gets embroiled with a stripper who seeks to boost her business by employing a ridiculous parakeet act. There's a policeman. There's his mother who you really feel sorry for because...imagine a child like him. She has a friend who is this fiesty woman who always goes dancing. Ignatius tries his hand at working at a Levy pants factory where he meets people, tries to stage an uprising which fails because people snicker at his heft or something. And then there's Myrna Minkoff, Ignatius' pet peeve - but a woman he may share 'something' with. 

Whew!

I read the book long back but I remember laughing out loud at the sub-plots. Ignatius' character is pretty much all-round iconic but the other secondary characters are so...I can't think of a word more apt than 'silly' - so specifically, deliciously, thankfully silly - that you want to belong to Ignatius' world. To be surrounded by that kind of naivete and pillowy, wholesome good-heartedness. 

Yet, towards the end - right at the  end, when Ignatius leaves home and is driven of by Myrna (who lands up unexpectedly), I felt sad. A melancholic, deflated kind of sad. In light of that ending, I went back through my favorite parts of the book and then, for some reason, I got the sense that maybe despite the snobbish slobbery of Ignatius J. Reilly, he just needed his mommy to hug him. This was before I read up about the author. He committed suicide and this work was published post-humously. His mother had met with several publishers to get this work out. 

Now, I'm not saying that the book really points to all this or whatever. But there's a fragility behind all that big humour that I found masterful.


Room by Emma Donoghue




This story is narrated by 5-year old Jack who has spent his whole life, thus far, in a small room. The reason it has worked out this way for our little boy is because his mother was held captive in that tiny room years ago. The kidnapper raped her repeatedly (and continues to) and Jack was born. He was born in that room and has lived in there ever since. 

The story begins with Jack's birthday. There are some treats in store for Jack - a pancake, a toy, a shirt. These are portions of the ration the kidnapper brings them periodically. Unless he is angry with the woman over something. That's when he stops bringing them food or does set the thermostat properly so that the mother and son have to freeze. Jack learned numbers and counting by going over each tile in the room. There's a wall where Jack's mother marks his height. There's a closet where Jack hides on nights the kidnapper comes to have sex with his mother. He only hears the man's grunts and groans, speculates on why his mum is so silent, and wonders when he'll be allowed out so he can snuggle with his mother. 

THEN, there's this other tiny piece of sky they see through the skylight. Jack doesn't know what that is, considering the room is in a basement and the only windows are really high up, beyond Jack's eye level. That place is 'outside', his mother explains. Jack narrates his possessiveness where he feels his mother seems is more besotted with 'the outside' than she is with him. 

Although the book's premise is grim , the first few chapters are cockles of sunshine. Jack is a happy child. His mother takes very good care of him and she's such a hero that you want to applaud. 

One day, certain events take place and Jack and his mother escape. (The portion where the escape happens is really thrilling.) That, at first, seems to be good news, except that it's not.

While the heart was heavy in the beginning, it positively breaks when Jack's mother tries to mesh back with her family. There comes a point when she commits suicide, after the escape. The onslaught of beneficence almost gets to her. Jack, on the other hand, was told the 'outside' is where freedom is. He finds, though, that you cannot walk on grass, take a toy in a store, clang your spoon, or do any number of things in the world. There's a part where he wonders whether his mother could have wrong about the 'Outside'. Then he resolutely decides 'No' because his mother could never be wrong. 

Like Maus and other horrific stories, I really wondered about the mother. How do people survive the worst periods of their lives and then somehow decide that it's time to get out? Is it because they feel that what they struggled for isn't worth it? Or that the banality is far more excruciating than a crisis?

This book is a very tender potrayal of how two broken people hobble along after a crisis. The goalpost, what everyone tells you, is normalcy. That goalpost keeps shifting. 

In the end, Jack's mother decides it's time to revisit the place where she was held hostage because it's time to make peace with her past. She returns with Jack. Jack's survey of the room is a sucker-punch. 

He feels the room is much smaller than what he remembered it. He says goodbye to the room. He says goodbye to the skylight. He simply sees the place as a spot where something had happened.

Jack has grown up. Jack has grown up?



Monday, July 13, 2015

641, 640, 639 - The walk, the climb, the exertion, the exhaustion

Walked 50 kms yesterday - nearly 9 hours - through this crowd of colour and music, through the city - up a hill - across the plains, literally through 'almost rain and shine', looking up at the far distance beyond and wondering how the hell will we EVER climb that...went for the Palki yesterday and although the legs and back pain beyond belief, it was very, very memorable. I was told not to leave Pune without having that experience at least once. Passing on that advice to everyone in the city. There's a new found respect you have for all kinds of journeys - no matter how arduous or easy or impossible or easy, you do the all in the exact same way - one.step.at.a.time. (That rice, daal, and mawa kulfi at the end of the journey felt brilliant!)

Friday, July 10, 2015

642 - SOS from a different Savannah

www.pexels.com

 
The forest knows and the forest grows
Deep inside a psyche somewhere
Tender as a wound that is healing
 
Endymion's paw prints near the marsh
The little mermaid's conundrums and those of the brothers - Karamazov and Grimm, yet,
The forest knows and the forest grows
 
Rushdie's roars echo as caves crumble
Vikram Seth's sun soaks the sky and makes it thus
Tender as a wound that is healing
 
The birds of Tolstoy and the ivy of Dickens
Gnarl through the rainbow earth, rooting all wisdom
The forest knows and the forest grows
 
The constellation of Shadow Lines and Namesake
Tesselate the nightly pond, bruising it and leaving it thus
Tender as a wound that is healing
 
Wilderness, as lush as Angelou
Dusk-music as mild as Wilde
Thickets of poems and stories on high trees and burrows, and yet, in silence,
The forest knows and the forest grows
 
(For an assignment, we had to write a villanelle. This is my piece.)
 
 
 
 
 

 


Wednesday, July 08, 2015

643: On watching 'Inside Out'

Watched Inside Out. It's a sweet film, I guess...but of course, even the ambiguous emotions can't be free of stereotyping - so 'Joy' is svelte and fair while Sadness is stout and blue and wears a chunky turtleneck.

Even emotions must clock in their hours at  'headquarters' and they must use the grand one-finger swipe on glass beads that capture memory because everything mimicks a touchscreen in the head. Memories too are stratified. There are 'core' memories that must be managed by whoever heads the 'Fake it till you make it' brigade. (There's no brigade, per se...just one person.) The other three emotions, especially Sadness, that actually approaches the truth gets bossed over. Eventually, it's the truth that gets you through. (Oh, and the final miserable straw that breaks sad Riley's back is getting a vegetarian pizza...with broccoli.) My absolute favorite part was the 'I Lava You' short musical animation before the film. It's not part of the film - but it's delectable! (Lava: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8f4BpGbVnDk)

Anyway, these comments aside - it's a sweet film. Reminiscent of the poem that's either by Emily Dickinson or Robert Hamilton (both have been credited with this poem on the Net):

“I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow;
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.”

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

644: Outgrowth

 
From www.pexels.com
 
Does anyone else feel this way? That the body is too small to contain anything? That something inside s squirming and roaring to tear out of you? Sometimes I wake up with this very weird feeling of not knowing how to dress. I look at all the clothes piled on the bed and dishes piled in the sink and I wonder how to get on top of all this. There is a huge part of me that wants to forgive a certain person but I can't. I wake up with this unforgiveness like a knot in my stomach - something hard and uncomfortable in my gut. It has been like that now for a while. Around me, people say 'move on already'. I think I want to. I think I have wanted to for a long time. But so far, it has not been possible. So I wonder whether I really want to or whether I want to hold on to the past because it is When I started writing this post, I'd felt a little hopeless but somehow this feeling of being too big and wieldy for one's environment makes one feel a little hopeful. Maybe after one outgrows whatever tightness the skin and bones comes with, the forgiveness will probably stretch out.

I think it was a line by Rilke, "I want to leave my body behind and walk under the stars."

 

Monday, July 06, 2015

646, 645 - Bandra-Kurla Complex and Yauatcha

I'm back from Bombay. It was a great trip and I've come back tired and with a cold.

Anyway, I bought an iPad mini for my father (it was his birthday last month). Personally, I prefer Android tablets but I thought he'd like all those important lectures and research material that an Apple product gives you access to.

Today, mom and I had lunch at Yauatcha at BKC. It's a posh Tea and Dimsum place (so...not a Chinese restaurant because that would make it pedestrian) at BKC. B-K-C. Bandra-Kurla Compex - next to Kalanagar! I was halfway through my pot of orchid tea when it struck me that when I grew up in Bandra, this place was a dumping ground. It was a space for the city's grime and a scratchy underbelly. And now, it's so swank! Now it was a place where I was having lunch at a Michelin starred restaurant! Anyway, nostalgia aside, I really liked my dimsums - I had one filled with Shitake-mushroom and another one stuffed with mock meat cooked in Peking style. You get only three pieces of dimsum per plate though - all the size and look of signet rings. But the main course was better. I had a tofu that was so silky and soft that I wanted to take home large sheets of it to wrap myself up while sleeping. It is the best tofu I've had in.the.world. Mom had a braised chicken which she enjoyed and the jasmine rice was tasty too - simple and fragrant with the earthy tones of that clay pot it was served and possibly cooked in. The piece de resistance, though, I think was the dessert. They have a tropical cake that is some kind of a mango mousse served with some white chocolate ganache, a pina colada rabdi type thing (which was so delish!) and rum infused vanilla ice-cream. It was s good - so good -you involuntary close your eyes. Next time, I'll just go for desserts. There was exquisite looking raspberry velvet cake that I've started dreaming about.

My slipper snapped there so we drove around until we found a cobbler. He repaired my slippers and gave them a new lease of life for ten rupees. Some things just move you, you know.

In the evening, we went to Taj Land's End for our regular snack of potato wedges. Now I kow, it's only the humble potato wedges but I love them. They are so evenly salted and flavoured. I eat potato wedges everywhere and I can safely say that not everyone can manage that.

Now I'm back in Pune - all feverish and rheumy-eyed. Made some instant mushroom soup (Knorr). Used less water to make it thick. Maybe it's a testimony of just how bad a cook I am because I think cooking 'instant' stuff isn't all that easy. I had a hard time removing all the lumps from the soup. And I like lumps in my soup - but not the dry, powdery lumps but lumps that got cooked and are slightly chewy. So I used a sieve to first strain the soup. Then, in all the lumps that remained, I added some hot water separately - just a sprinkle to cook them enough to make them chewy. Not sure if it's warranted, but I got a technique for cooking instant things.

And oh, I do miss Maggi.


 

Thursday, July 02, 2015

649, 648, 647 - Here's what I think, all scepticism aside

It happened one morning. I was almost asleep…or almost awake, depending on how you look at it. The sun was up but just barely. Little squares of orange light filtered in through the curtains. It was cold. I was under two layers of blanket and had, as a pre-emptory measure, turned off my alarm. I’d be going  late to work.
Then the bell rang. It was the cook or the cleaning lady. Both are punctual on days I want to sleep in. So, here’s my hypothesis number 1: If you want house-help to come in on time in the mornings, have tough, sleepless nights before where you toss and turn and pace about the house. And then hit the bed around 5 a.m. They will arrive punctually (and very shrilly) at the appointed time.
Anyway, the bell rang and I just rolled over, put my pillow over my head and thought, “I wish someone just opened that goddamn door.” Someone did. I heard the maid outside say, “Didi, tomorrow I’ll come with my daughter. Can she use your table to study?”
I live alone so I found it weird. Very weird. I was on the bed still and someone had opened the door. From what I could gauge, it was me. So, here’s my hypothesis number 2: There is more than one of me. And it is not metaphorically speaking. It seems to be literally the case. I could urge myself to go and open the door when I’m still in bed. I feel that sort of communication with the many you’s happens when you’re in that stage between sleep and wakefulness, between dream and practicality, between night and day, when every kind of an in-between state gets coagulated. Something happens during that time – like the crystallized ball of your personality breaks at an intersection and each little bit rolls off in one direction. Then one day, it comes out – each bit of personality comes out. I have tried to capitalize on this and send this part of me to work. But that I haven’t been able to do that – so maybe some parts of the personality are smarter and less of a push-over.
It so happened that I got a bad headache while I was reading Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie. Not because it was bad or heavy. The book was very good and very vivid. It had a sub-plot that involved a character’s memories starting to weigh on him. Each of his memories had weight and he was unable to forget anything. So his memories kept piling up higher and higher and his brain had started to crumble. Things got meshed in his head – colors mingled with smells and songs mingled with touch. The headache I talked about earlier seemed to  cause some funny things to happen – I’d be running my fingers over a pretty silk stole and I’d start humming a tune – something I hadn’t hummed in a long, long time. Or a friend would say ‘cobalt blue’ and I’d smell soup. Another time, I had another experience with a book. I had just come to that part of Maximum City by Suketu Mehta where he writes about Bombay riots. I was on the page where the author has described the burning down of entire bastis. People were trapped in that fire and lost their lives. The next few days, I’d walk around with a sharp charred smell around me. So I just kept the book away. This brings me to my hypothesis number 3: Some people become permeable membranes when they read. The book gets inside them. It is different from those who have active imaginations, who create three-dimensional worlds behind their lids as they sleep. I’m talking about parts of the book entering you with a strong, physical strain and altering, maybe, even your DNA. Like your genetic code gets smudged somewhat based on what you read.
Speaking of memories, it seems like everything is a memory. Nothing is original because everything is a memory. Everything is a looking back, of sorts.  I had started having very bad dreams when I’d started yoga. The yoga I did was physical mainly – very little meditation or breathing exercises. So I stopped yoga. I started running instead. Bad dreams continued. So I stopped running. Then I did kick-boxing for a while and the dreams got so intense that I’d wake up with nail marks dug deep into my palms. So I stopped that also and went back to yoga. This time, it was a different set up and a different teacher. This teacher said that most of yoga is about making the spine strong because it’s the spine that stores the memories. When you bend it or you move it or you stretch it, the memories get released – this is what causes the bad dreams. So why doesn’t everyone have that problem? Because everyone may not have those kinds of memories that need the release. So, my hypothesis number 4 is this: Everything is a memory and a memory has size and shape and weight. The harder or bigger those memories are, the heavier you feel. I feel that people who are overweight or underweight, with fat around the stomach, have not been able to process their memories. There is a reason why fat around the stomach is a common problem now. So is insomnia and sleep deficit issues. There’s a reason weight gain is linked to lack of sleep. It’s because memories are not getting a release. A memory feels sharp and brittle – like a kidney stone. And you have to pass it when you are in a state of great tenderness and surrender– which is when you are sleeping. And the reason one doesn’t do it is because it is too painful. And something – some part of the aura – rips when you remember. Some energy bleeds off you. My yoga teacher had once mentioned that most people put on weight around their solar plexus area because that’s the energy zone or chakra that relates to personal power. And most people are living lives where their personal power is constantly diminished – whether it’s due to rising rents or dying pets or aging parents or unwritten books or unfulfilled potential or whatever else – that part gets clogged. And the memory of that weakening personal power is too hard to assimilate. This is why I feel getting to optimal health requires one to remember long and hard. Maybe somewhere a good gym or an exercise class will have sessions where you sweat it out and then sit somewhere and fill out a journal.
To carry that thread of memory further, I’ll talk about houses. That’s where memories get made. There’s a line in Tao Te Ching that goes something like this: ‘Even though a vessel has a form, it is the empty space that holds the water. Even though a house has walls, one lives in the empty space within the walls.’ (I have paraphrased here.) So, it’s the empty space that has the value, so to speak. I’ve lived in a lot of places in my life – a couple of homes that are owned by my parents – and some rented apartments. Based on my experience, here’s my hypothesis number 5. I feel that the space in which one lives is ‘alive’. It listens. It responds. And when a home has outlived its utility, it leaves signs for you to heed and move out. In a way, it drives you out. My home, right now, had throbbed with aliveness and joy when I’d first seen it. I had moved in place of a young man who was shifting out. I’d asked him about the place and he had grinned from ear to ear and said, “You will love it here!” And I had. My friends and family had come over and stayed for a long time. I’d tended plants and painted tables. My soul had expanded. Everything had seemed fresh. But lately, since the last few months, I’ve fallen ill. Around me, things go sour ever so often - it’s not the heat or the humidity. Corners seem to be crawling with spiders and insects, despite the cleaning. The home seems abandoned even though it is lived in. Maybe I ought to move. But I see now what comfort zone means. The thought of shifting everything to another space, to have another negotiation with a broker, to have to pay the deposit, to look for maids - all of that seems to be a lot of work. Last week, I checked out a couple of places in the neighborhood. They were bright and cosy, yet dulcet and roomy. I loved them - even though the houses were not for myself but for my parents. I came home and I felt that my home was sulking. It didn’t like the fact that I’d looked at another space and found it desirable. Fresh veggies in the fridge had gone bad. The repaired faucet had started dripping again. Cobwebs seemed to have grown larger and a fan that I’d had cleaned just recently seemed to be caked with dirt again. So I have decided to have a chat with this flat - in the non-mad way one would chat with a house - in silence, in my favorite corner. I’ll probably nurse a cup of tea and ask it, “What’s going on?” Maybe it will tell me. And if we must part, then maybe, hopefully, we will part as friends.