Friday, April 27, 2007

Bye bye Provincetown

Place where I learned a lot, about myself, about how beautiful birds can be, about how one way of keeping your heart intact is to leave bits of it in different places.

Lovers know this, as do travelers.

Other People's Windows - 2

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Goodbyes in the time of globalisation

Last night in Provincetown - rainy, cold, not pretending to be anything but itself, the town that was home for some time. Amy had a goodbye party which of course had great food - chorizo and shrimp skewers- and a killer cocktail made with white rum, strawberries, pineapples and a little orange juice.

Also there, were Amanda, who had spent some time in Bangalore and was at the Fine Arts Work Centre, Vanessa&Liz whose video store I had haunted through my trip, renting a DVD a day, regularly and absent mindedly returning only the boxes, and Anna who I had met at their housewarming.

Amy lectured on the how sugar neutralises the effects of alcohol. Right. And right on.
Like many goodbyes in these globalised times, this one too was oddly distracted - filled with the sense that it wasn't real, that I could come back, they could come to Bombay. We planned the menu for the restaurant we will one day open in Goa.

I'll drink to that. My Ptown friends in Andheri (E).

Actually we've already drunk to it a lot, Vanessa and I.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Where do you come from my lovely

In talking of the histories of towns, past and present, one has to be careful to find the spot that's your locus standii.

P-town and Bombay share something in common. The Portugese. Provincetwon had a large Portugese population - sailors and fishermen. And today it's got a big gay community. Perhaps these intertwined histories give the town it's feeling of openness. Small as it is, this is not a small minded town and when you walk on the streets, the air is easy.

I've searched hard for a picture of these two histories. Not the usual funny ones of leather gear shops called Christopher Street, not the inscription on a house with the obvious name Gaspa.

The Portugese Bakery opened just a few days before it was time for me to leave. It's over a hundred years old. And the pastry case made me feel oddly at home, with its meat patties and doughy sweets.

In truth of course the sweets here are much nicer than Goan ones - most of which seem to be versions of gulgula, which is basically sweetened fried dough, made as dessert when the sweet cravings are strong and there's nothing else on hand. But, here at the bakery there were buns full of custard, meringue sandwiches with chocolate in between, but nothing as delectable as Trutas - a pastry filled with sweet potato, whisky and lemon.

Nothing though, made me feel more at home than this sign for a coffee I connect more to Dilli weddings than Italia.

As for gay Provincetown - toward the end of my time there I saw this, felt and true and simple, among the many memorial stones at the First Landing Park (Provincetown being the first place the Pilgrims landed).


Bada tadpaya! But finally before I leave, just before I leave - I shot the cardinal!

Come to me my chickadee!

Trying to get to the Beech forest has generally been an abortive enterprise.

The first time my friend Katrina was supposed to take me I fell sick. The second time I went with Tara and kids and we got disheartened half way and didn't continue. All we saw were a couple gold finches and no amount of scattering crumbs and Mihir making guttural sounds that were supposed to be bird calls helped.

Third time lucky!

I had given up on the forest and then my friend Stefanie suddenly emailed to say she'd take me.

We spent an afternoon walking there and at an abandoned salt marsh called Hatcher's Harbour. Finally there were birds, and I didn't just soared them winging! A downy woodpecker - which has V shaped black and white stripes and a slash of red on its head; Canadian geese fat and tame on endless bread; tit-mice with their square grey bodies and surfer hair-dos; red striped blackbirds, which have red under-wings, visible as a blood red streak when they are perched.

The forest itself, denuded of leaves, was Tolkeinesque, primitive, scary and beautiful. There's something thrilling about knowing the oldness of land as you walk through it. A sense of its long life and the awe-fullness of nature, that undoes the fear of death.

And at Hatcher'sHarbour, a cranberry bog! Later in the year while I am in Bombay's September heat, as the rains leave, there will be fruit here...

There's some corner of a foreign land that is forever...

Look carefully now for country of origin. Spotted on Commercial street, Provincetown.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Cape Cod Song

Now that the time is coming to leave I have the bittersweet feeling - of looking forward to something new, but feeling that Cape Cod has been sort of home. So on this day a song I learnt from Uma, Tara's daughter. It's an old New England folk song..

Cape Cod Girls they have no combs
They comb their hair with fish cod bones
Heave away, Heave away
Heave away my bully bully boys
Haeave away and don't you make a noise
We're bound for Australia

Cape Cod boys they have no sleds
They ride on codfish heads
Heave away, Heave away
Heave away my bully bully boys
Haeave away and don't you make a noise
We're bound for Australia

Cape Cod cats they have no tails
They blew away in the Nor'east gales
Heave away, Heave away
Heave away my bully bully boys
Haeave away and don't you make a noise
We're bound for Australia

Cape Cod doctors have no pills
They give their patients cod fish gills
Heave away, Heave away
Heave away my bully bully boys
Haeave away and don't you make a noise
We're bound for Australia

Scrap Happy

This shop of scraptures has been in Provincetown since 1946. Lots of houses there have them- they're all made of metal scrap and fall into some odd middle ground of art and garden ornament. The grandson of the founder is in the air force. He started working in the shop from the time he was 8 and the day we went in he had just come home from duty for the weekend and was busy in the workshop. The scraptures have a zany, assertive beauty. And they aren't cheap either!


Back from sunny LA I found.. Sunny P-town! We had beautiful days. My friend from college, Tara, came with her husband Jumbi and their two lovely kids Mihir and Uma. We spent the day at the beach, ate, played games, made the kids walk far too much so we could eat at Tips for Tops'n, a Portugese restaurant. It was nice to be able to share this lovely space with some friends - what fun is it to have things if you can't enjoy them with your friends. I wish more people could have come to visit while I was here.

Mihir's school has recently introduced them to the idea of bird watching, so we bonded a bit on that front. We went to the Beech Forest to look (unsuccessfully) for the birds. Half way Uma burst into tears of hurt betrayal because there was no BEACH in the BEECH forest. So beach it was...

Monday, April 23, 2007

film festivaling

I've got high nostalgia for film festivals. I seem to remember them as a time of timepass and adde-baazi, all about films and friends. You took chhutti from whatever you were doing, you watched films, sometimes you dressed up a bit, you hung out, you met old friends and you made new ones.

Then, perhaps there was a sense that there were very few people and very few avenues and we weren't all in the game. Now, as things get easier, and in some senses they have, festivals feel very un-festive.

First there's the PES- Promiscuous Eye Syndrome - where, as people speak to each other, their eyes are actually looking slightly left of shoulder in case there's someone more important to be talking to. Then there's the RMS -Relentless Marketing Pressure. Pressure to be savvy, to make that ephemeral deal.

I know - these things are as old as hierarchy and viability. I know, we need to grow up, fund raise, network, sustain ourselves, not be smothered by our middle class gentility. We need to separate the (possibly casteist) discomfort with the idea of businesss.


Can't forget the films and friends, shouldn't, or, I am convinced, filmmaking will lose its simple pleasures, and films will lose their beauty.

Anyway, in LA, I had fun. Although I ate too many samosas! What is it with NRIs and samosas, yaar? Someone needs to publish a book of Alternative Appetisers for the Diaspora.

I did make some new friends too. Good hearted Srinivas, Rani with the bronze skin and others whose pictures I did not take due to being paralysed by sun and too much wine.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Oh Krishna, You are the Greatest Musician, of the World

LA is lined with tanning parlours - 19.99 all day tanning! they declare. It has a retro kind of look about it - I feel bad I never got to see anything and I don't know if I will go back again. While driving I spy the Ripley's Believe it or Not museum and every inch of my Indrajal comics educated (true) self wants to go there and not to the county museum to see, well, Indian miniatures.

But you never know what lies ahead and at least I saw this miniature which I loved. Fond memories of Mithunda happened. Oh yeah! Krishna was a disco dancer...

And in LA..

It's a relief to be some place WARM!! Who'd have thought a good Indian like me would crave some sun? But as soon as I step onto the LA street in a T-SHIRT, no jacket! I feel like I am bloody reborn. The snow is nice for drama, but not for real life I have decided.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

On the way to LA

There are airplanes, and then there are airplanes - the teeny tiny Cessna which flies from Boston to Provincetown is just a limousine with wings. And if you fly on a cloudy day, it's a roller coaster ride that leaves you queasy for days. Flying east to west is like international flights - airports to change in, day when you start, night when you reach, the piquant edge of marginal jet lag because of a 3 hour time difference..

Monday, April 16, 2007


So after my musings about how the rain don't really show in these parts, we had a doozie of a storm up here.

At midnight while chatting with Madhusree who was in New York complaining it's wet, the wind had been pretty noisy, gaining in speed and sound. And while we spoke I kept trying to turn the lamp on with no success. Took a while before it struck me the lights were out. In a while, so was the phone.

My love of nature was severely tested. I could see wires all fallen down, trees that looked like deranged dervishes, all whirling, no grace, and I kept waiting for the lights to come back and not think of being alone on Commercial Street, about movies like The Perfect Storm (although the thought of George Clooney did momentarily distract me) and also about ghosts and serial killers. Finally I reacted to crisis in time honoured way by going to sleep. Lights came back on only around noon. Phones are still iffy. The sun comes and goes. And already people are out jogging.

Needless to say, I am not one of them. And I got no picture to prove nothing.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Imagining things can be fatal

In these last few weeks, because I don't have TV and infrequent papers, I've been leading a little old lady life. I listen to NPR, watch birds and I cook. This is cool with me. Because on a day you hear the news, an interview with Gwendolyn Brooks, a radio-doc about kids and Shakespeare, an interview with a new punk-rock band and This American Life, which has lovely rambling perorations on things people's lives are about: ruined reputations, mean pretty girls, conversations in a restaurant or Wire Tap, a show whose host has phone conversations with friends, family and strangers (one today was with an 81 year old woman who specialises in puns. She has made 200 puns about boyfriends which she turned into a storybook and it is now doing very well). I wish we had good radio at home. I wish someone I knew would open up one of them community radio things and hire me to work there doing whatever I want. Anyway I like this texture - it reminds me of the random general knowledge and arts and ideas articles that would fill up my head. Or of school Sundays where Vinod Dua's Aap Ke Liye would spring on the morning his bouquet of variety stories.

In this continuing little old lady mode, I decide to give the evening a Japanese theme - just for some way of organising the sights and sounds and moments.

While in the bath I read the following- in which a Russian, known, for literal reasons, as Manskinner Boris, says this to a Japanese lieutenant:
"I tell you Lieutenant, there is only one way to survive here. And that is not to imagine anything... I certainly never use mine. My job is to make others use their imaginations. That's my bread and butter. Make sure you keep that in mind. As long as you are in here, at least, picture my face if you ever start to imagine something, and say to yourself, 'No, don't do that. imagining things can be fatal.' These are my golden words of advice to you, Leave the imagining to someone else."

Now they tell me..
It's enough to make a girl stop reading and start thinking. And then what if she starts imagining something then? Will she suddenly meet her Boris Manskinner? But let's not go THERE.
Does this happen to you that when you are reading a book, it sort of becomes like your personal I Ching. That every second page seems to contain some paragraph that holds a particular, resonating, resounding message for your life as it is then. I suppose that's the sort of dangerous tendency the paragraph's warning me about. Conundrums wherever you turn. The rose scented bubbles cannot be trusted for very long.