Friday, June 29, 2007

I'm only happy when it rains

You wait for the rain, sweat running down every crevice, corner, surface; humidity sitting like a hippo in the air between you and the wall.

Then it rains and there's mud in and filth in every corner, crevice, surface of your body and the world.

The auto wala says to me, arre baarish,maidam, na aaye tho tadpaye, aaye tho sataaye.

But I love it.

I love the sheeted light, the unchanging silver grey day, the kids looking like flowered humpbacks with their big bags under their raincoats.

The day causes no anxiety, no requirement to react to changing temperature and signs of time.

Coffee at 6:45. A window to watch trees, water, birds from. That voluptuous monsoon feeling. Makes you forget for a minute that the clothes which have turned your bedroom into a deeply unglamorous dhobi ghat haven't dried for three days.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Two days outside the Tate

Spent just two days in London and there was a certain sweet decadence to it, a certain freedom.

Visits to other cities are always touched with a sense of the dutiful and the utilitarian. But the fact that I'd been to London several times before freed me. I was there for a thingie at the Tate Modern and they'd put us up in a hotel close by. I never really left the environs - just sat around by the river, walked around the exhibits, just let the time go by and the light slide on.

There was just one afternoon when we had to go to lunch at the Italian embassy. I took my friend Ruchir along and he duly photographed the food, giving me a holiday from my normally self embarrassing behaviour. I should add that this was completely his own craziness, not mine imposed on him. Husseyn, one of the artists from Istanbul, who owns some very fly shoes, and various flamboyant T-shirts and loves to drink as much as Ruchir, got along famously with him, although he kept calling him Richie. From now on my mental image of Ruchir will always inclulde a bow tie.

Later I went to see the Serpentine gallery with Husseyn and his wife Camilla and one more artist from Istanbul, Ousman. The art there was just ok, but I like the idea of a gallery in the middle of a public park. Imagine something like that in Azad Maidan. But no, we just get the darn cows.

It was perfect weather, so we came out of the gallery and sat around in the cool grass with the medium warm sun enveloping us. And indulged in a cab ride back. I don't know that I've ever taken a taxi in London!

On the last day I sat in a cafe with Ruchir and did a full day's adde baazi. We drank beer, ate pizza and olives and salad and finally a gigantic ice cream sundae. We gossipped and made faltu jokes and talked about books, friends, love, life and human failings (Ruchir's of course, I don't got any). Was a lovely day, with something of the agenda free innocence of our 20s, whiled away without anxiety, until it was time to take the flight home.

are you kidding me?

First time going into town after being away for four months. I get off the train and cross the road and this is what I see. I nearly screamed.

Yes, my thoughts exactly - what the eff? Is it all a bad dream?

Well, thanks to the internet, you can go back and find an explanation for at least some of life's mean tricks - well maybe not explanation, but someone to blame, which is better.

So typical - of course we'd like some public art and of course one girl's goose is another girl's gander or whatever - but why should what we get have to be so ridiculous, so ham handed? It doesn't matter if it's the government or the Indian Merchant's Chamber they seem bent on preventing people from being surrounded by any thing of beauty. Bole tho.. kuchh bhi.

Monday, June 25, 2007

multifacet magic

In the MOMA store in New York in the kids section I found a little toy. . It's one of those prismatic thingies that help you to take cabaret style pictures-the kind which indicate the villain has drunk too much and now his lust has multiplied to 6 Bindus instead of 1. Bring it on babay! Anyway the look on everyone's faces when they see it is the same as the villains': delight, anticipation, covetousness and mental math and geometry and whatever else, at the possibilities..

Look what it can do..

It caused Nandini to peer at it in delight

Witness, my friend Sanjay

My friend Me

But best of all, my cutie Imran, Samina's son, who has lately learned to whistle and does so like he's practising for an audition of some 1970s Bollywood orchestra.

However this picture did not have a happy ending. Imran took such a shine to the object that he wanted to keep it and tried to clutch it, hide it behind his back, pretend to play with it for a long time in the hope that I'd forget to take it. But I was as bad as any other kid and determined not to part with this magic toy. However guilt filled me and I tried to push away the thought that after all the item HAD been acquired in the kids' section. I muttered something to Samina who said "Of course you shouldn't give it to him! This is definitely something one has to keep for oneself."

Heartless mothers rule!

summer surrender

Delhi summers have an inescapable quality. They make the kharbooza, tarbuz, aadu, aalu bukhara, dasehri,langda, litchi, cherry fruits plump up and glow orange, yellow, red, like the little suns. But the heat is intense, encompassing, draining energy and protest. Surrender is the only response - laying down your arms and lying down on your ass the only option.

For this reason, once I got to Delhi I was fat with inertia, wanting to wallow in the cool waters of home, the curtain dark afternoons reading comics and murder mysteries, the hum of coolers and ACs, the bed made by someone else, the special food for the visiting badi didi. Summer temperatures and feudal ease are a deadly combo, I admit.

Meena, my mum's cook, stood in the kitchen's heat as the morning grew hotter, slow cooking meat pulao on my last day there. But finally she laid down her arms and her ass and embraced the cool floor and the open door.

My surrender was less wholesome. Samina and I went for pedicures one day. Our pedicurists were Gents Log!! Makes for better massage for sure. But also it's so thrillingly fetish, it turns your toes a hot and cold blue...

Thursday, June 7, 2007

a swati moment or two...

Back in very hot Delhi, I feel lethargic, lazy and loutish.

I have to be lured out by various means - well only one means works really and that's decadence. So I readily agree when Swati suggests we meet for boozy long drawn out lunch at Mainland China, despite my suspicion that she has chosen Mainland because it is owned by Bengaalees. When I get there I see that Imperial Garden which once stood next door has shut down because their lease expired - now just an inscrutable Chinese sign over a bricked up entrance of a building being re-organised. I felt sort of sad looking at it. I always hate it when the old gives way to the new and all that other zen stuff...

We are the first to arrive and more or less the last to go at Mainland China so it's a good thing we were paying customers.

After her first capiroshka Swati felt despondent (or maybe drunk) and also like going to the loo.

She returned with a shawl much to my amazement. Swati has been known to do several outlandish things in her time so I feared she had nicked the understated cloth of grey from some well coiffed South Delhi lady who is always in pearls and always prepared.

Swati says she got it from the management. I am still struggling to understand. "Well they had a sign in the loo saying please ask if you need a shawl, so I asked." Needless to say I am still struggling so after a while I go off to collect photographic evidence.

Way to go Mainland China. As Swati suggested - the sewing kit is probably for when you eat too much and bust a button.

On returning, I find Swati in deep conversation with the ladies who have occupied the table next to ours with cheery loudness. Before I can sit, the lady smiles at me and says, " I really loved Khamosh Pani." I sputter and Swati gives me that Little Jack Horner grin which usually accompanies this particular behaviour of hers, as if to say she has done something altruistic instead of shallow and show offy. I am polite to the ladies but then say, "Swati, I can't go and pee without your handing my excerpted bio-data to someone." "She's a wedding planner." says Swati adroitly, so I am deflected into suitable 'how interesting, how cool' etc. to the lady concerned.

"And I believe you are a documentary filmmaker and that is why you went down to the loo to take a picture of the sign." Is there anything Swati hasn't told them? Do they also now know my shoe size, college crush on a loser boy from KMC who I never spoke to ever and and which U-Special i took from Patel Chest to home?

I merely smile idiotically. Swati giggles because she has no shame.

Moral of the story - when out with Swati pee very fast and don't take pictures.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

conversations in transit

It was my last day in New York and it was crazily hot - full preparation for returning to the Indian summer. Of course I had a gazillion last minute things to do, including some mailouts at the post office.

So I walked to the post office in the sweltering heat, dripping sweat and period blood, stood in a long line while Americans did the nice thing and chit chatted with the postal workers instead of just getting on with it. A woman in front of me was reading the New York Times and started a sort-of-conversation with me. The kind where she's addressing the world, but I am the only one smiling politely in response. She complained about the Republicans and George Bush, quite loudly. Her tone veered dangerously between political indignation and post office line rage.

Then she started complaining even more loudly about
a) there being only two windows operating when a while ago there were four
b) people taking too long at the windows instead of just getting on with it. ("She's got a 100 international letters. And meanwhile that one's doing a transaction that's taking hours. I just want to buy a book of stamps. And god knows you can't get anything out of them machines here. " )Her complaints were heard by said people who looked at her askance. The 100 letter girl said in her Australian accent, "Well it's not our fault is it?" "I'm just saying", said our lady.

Finally it was her turn.

She:"I want two books of stamps. What you got?"
Postal worker: Star Wars and the American Flag
She: What? Don't you have anything else? Don't you have any flowers or something? People are getting married and I'm supposed to put a Star Wars stamp on them?
PW: That's what we have ma'am. Star Wars movie's just out.
She: But I don't like Star Wars! How can they force people like this? People are getting married - dont' you have flowers or something?!

After a very long time in which this discussion circled around and around, she left with two Star Wars, since she hated that less than the American Flag. And finally it was my turn.

Then I hurried back home dripping more sweat and period blood and struggled to zip my bags shut before Angelo, a car guy that Maria always gets, arrived to take me to the airport.

Once we were on the road, Angelo expressed regret at my leaving. Wouldn't it be nice if I could move to New York, he asked.
I tried explaining that I like living in India.
A:"But you can do well here."
Me: Um, actually I am doing pretty ok in India.
A: Yeah? But you could do well here. You could make a lot of money.
Me: I think in my work you don't make lot of money anywhere in the world, so guess I'll just visit from time to time.
A: Yeah? You know what? Why don't you marry an American, for visa like.
Me: Er, I don't think an American will want to marry me. I don't think anyone does.
A: Yeah? No, I could find you someone. My girlfriend's cousin, right, he married a girl so she could be here. You just gotta pay the person. Lots people will do that.
Me: Ah. Well, that's that then, I don't think I could afford to pay anyone to marry me.
A: Yeah? You could ask Maria.
Me: (politely) Ha ha, yes I guess I could, ha ha. Maybe I will. What's this route we're going by, I've never gone this way to the airport.
A: Yeah, it's less traffic.Why you don't ask Maria to sponsor you.
Me: Hmm
A: Yeah, Maria could sponsor you. You could make good money, you could be her babysitter.
Me: (genuinely) Ha ha ha. Yeah, now THAT's a possibility.
A: Yeah, knamean? She could sponsor you, you could be a babysitter.
Me: Yeah, I should really give it some thought.

Then, soon, looming before me, thank god, Terminal 7. A plane, Woh Lamhe on the baby monitor, chicken curry you can drop on your shirt.

Delhi airport, tubelight, my mum's missed call on the cellphone as she waits outside, and the rush and push of immigration lines. A little boy tries to catch my eye. I think he's mistaken. He comes up to me anxiously and says.

"Aunty, aunty, your shoelaces are open."

"Yes, beta, I know." I say through gritted teeth. All around the world, that's all people seem to want to communicate to me. So I have finally got.



Sunday, June 3, 2007

Friday, June 1, 2007

Harlem Homegirls

On Mother's Day, Saadia, who I bonded with on the basis of same taste in clothes and similar shopping mania, Tulin - Maria's Turkish friend who is a famous style consultant in Istanbul and has columns with glam pics alongside and also features on Turkish Page 3s - Nur (Tulin's aristocratic aunt) and I went to Harlem for a gospel brunch in Harlem.

But since the sound engineer had an accident or something, we barely got to hear any gospel! We had to be content with southern fried chicken. A little mimosa drinking made the lack of music bearable. When the sound engineer arrived he did not look like he'd been in an accident so we gave him beady looks but he kept acting busy and ignored our collective glares.

So we had to be content with Tulin's fantastic eyelid and hair trick in the entertainment department.

Later we walked around Harlem, and took in the sights.

I must say I generally agreed with the Harlem Point of View as expressed by Puppy.(please check out legend under the word"Outlet" and don't be distracted by the mural - can't let ideology interfere with reality now). Or in Bollywood terms - sab theek ho jayega. Hence I immediately pounced on Delicioso one dollar delights. It was needed after hectic shopping at Marshalls once urban heritage had been appropriately consumed - the refurbished Apollo theatre and all

But next time I'm getting the nails instead of only the icecream that matches my accessories. A girl's got to have the complete look. (although I may draw the line at the Eyebrows Wax).

Delicious Things in Toronto

Went to see my friends Krishna and Gisele in Toronto mid-May. It must be the first time in a decade or more that I went somewhere to simply meet my friends. Of late life has always taken me to a place where there were friends, but the reason for being there was always work. It must be that way for most people now - because folks kept asking what had brought me to Toronto and they'd always be a bit surprised that it was just to see friend.

It's a liberating thing to just be seeing friends. And so nice to see them in their homes, to see how the colour of a wall has changed, go with them to their favourite shop or Chinese restaurant, just be part of that texture and know them more fully as them, not only in relation to yourself.

And a lovely thing to know you've known each other for years - Krishna and I became friends when I used to work for Anand so that's really prehistoric times: 15 years now, and Gisele and I have been friends for over 10. Clancy, Gisele's cat was a new friend to make though - since it's the first time I stayed at Gisele's. I slept deep and long in Gisele's living room with it's skylight, uncaring of the sun on my face. It was somehow very peaceful. Gisele, in her nice new age way said - that's because there's been a lot of laughing and happiness in that room and you've been part of it. Well, new age or not, it IS a nice thought. I do remember several times of being in that room half hysterical half apalled while G and Noah and other friends did angular dances to old records and relived the '80s (on the whole not aesthetically advisable though).

G had a dinner party and so I also met my friend Kelly after 7 years I think. I feel sad I didn't take a picture of her in all her red haired glory. She looked lovely and happy though. No one relived the 8os this time. We mostly sighed about the 90s and bitched about the 00s. We grow old, we shall wear the bottoms of our trousers rolled.

Gisele and I went on a very rainy and greedy walk through Chinatown and Kensington market - we ate Senegalese fish, chorizo empanadas, greasy Taiwanese chive rolls, and ended up at her friend Ki's Malaysian restaurant where we ordered and polished off a shocking number of delicious things and drank the most amazing lychee martinis. Ki turned out to have Bollywood songs on the stereo - apparently Hindi films were big in Malaysia when he lived there in the 70s - especially Bobby!

In Chinatown we bought dragonfruit - which is quite nice, fresh and like a white kiwi without such an intense flavour. Also Mexican mangoes which should basically not be allowed - no taste, not to us alphonso reared pigs.

Dancing Rose

My friends Maria and David have adopted the most sunny tempered, lovely girl called Rose. She's a feisty little thing, talking talking talking walking walking walking carrying a purse, pushing a stroller, wearing her "we're not in Kansas anymore" glittering red shoes, or her payals from the Indian masi, insisting that her brother John's turn on the TV - "it's a-over". She's figured out how to change stations on the radio and dance little lady dance. Irresistable...

Meanwhile John has his own trick even when he's not wearing his Superman costume - staring at the TV without blinking even once, I am sure of it. Rose, as Supergirl is an avid apprentice of her big brother though and getting their fast.