Monday, July 31, 2006

Who knew we had this much stuff?

Last week we should have been packed. Or atleast semi-packed. We weren’t. Sheer laziness and procrastination.

Hurriedly bought 20 flat-packed cardboard boxes, un-flattened them and proceeded to fill them up with frightening speed. They weren’t very strong and being sure they would not take the weight of our kitchen stuff I asked around my office for any spare strong boxes.

WH offered us 6 ‘indestructible’ boxes leftover from her recent move and destined for the recycle pile. On Thursday she bound the 6 flattened boxes with tape and carried them to office on her head. Literally.

She walks to work from nearby and insisted this was the easiest solution. Knapsack on her back and boxes on her head she trotted the 10 minutes to work.

On the way she passed a construction site and the guys working there called out, “Oi, nice hat!!”

WH who is white white white turned bright bright bright red.

She didn't thump them with the boxes which is a miracle. Instead she brought them in calmly, and recounted the story with a laugh.

I so owe her lunch.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bring out the candles

Always remember this: New flat things are never as simple as you’d imagine or hope.

I keep forgetting it. So now I'm saying it as a mantra to keep my head from exploding.

On our furniture and fixture list, beside the lighting fixtures row, scrawled in black pen: All light fittings to be removed and only bare wires left. Let me stop you right there. Leaving bare wires is definitely not THE problem, seeing as Vendor man had hideous UFO-like acrylic lamps hanging about 3 feet down into the room from the ceiling. In multiple places. Removing said space-ships to his new abode is doing us a favour more than anything – we’re saving hundreds in doctor’s bills by not being blinded by his bilious lights.

The problem is getting new lights sorted.

After much discussion V and I decided that the simplest best option would be rows of spotlights. We would buy them, electrician would fit them, light would shine, Ta-da!!!

Vendor man kindly gave us the name of his electrics and do-it-all guy with the warning that pinning him down to a time on the day ‘might be a problem’. The advice was ‘Just be firm’. So I call Ricky.

Me: Hi. I got your reference from RJP in Flat4. He says you very efficiently sorted out his electrics.

Ricky: Yeah.

Silence

Me: So we are now moving to his flat and he is taking all his fittings. We were thinking of putting in some spotlights throughout the house. When is the earliest you think you can do this and can you possibly give us a quote?

Silence

Ricky: Well, Let’s see. I have 10 chaps but……(silence)…..we’re mostly booked up. This is July. Almost August.

Me: So what’s the earliest you CAN do?

Ricky: Time is flying past, ain’t it? Soon it’ll be September.

Me (getting more high-pitched with every minute): So then, when is the earliest you can do this? Or just even give us a quote?

Ricky: That’ll be end of November. Sorry Mate.

As of next Thursday we will be living in darkness.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A long ride indeed

If you think finding a house/ flat that both partners-in-debt will like is the hard part, think again. After looking through what seemed like 3 million flats – literally at least one in every building in our chosen area – our to-be flat was something like an “a-ha“ moment from an Oprah show. Suddenly all doubt vanished, potential shone through the glass walls and we were ready to gift away our lives to the mortgage underwriter.

Once the offer was in we just moved to the backseat of the car and waited for the car to drive off the cliff. It’s not an unlikely situation. Most people have at least one gory story of sales falling through or gazzumping or some such wonderful terminology dooming a house purchase. We had heard so many stories that we kept our levels of enthusiasm to a bare minimum. After much to-ing and fro-ing we have exchanged and in a week we should have the keys to our kingdom.

The ride between the offer and the exchange of contract was not fun. Everyone goes on about how labour dense ‘developing’ countries are and how much bureaucratic red-tape there is when you need to apply for something in India, like a passport or ration card. Where do you think the Indians learnt it from? The British are masters of the red-tape system. They are only a bit more stiff upper lip about it.

So here’s the chain of events that a property under offer in the UK must endure (and I have spun it from our own morbidly long experience, humungous phone bills and sore throats from yelling at people):

Week 1 & 2: Offer to the agent. Agent lets the vendor know. Refusal in the first instance. All conspiring on how to leech us dry. Small bidding war as another couple also wants our kingdom. They lose. We win. Since we offer more money than them, we also lose.

I buy my first design magazine under the guidance of Shoefie – Living etc. Mind-boggling.

Week 3: Contact a few mortgage brokers for quotes. Everyone says we are in a prime position to buy. That is just sales speak as they want a big fat fee from us. No way Jose. We shrewdly take on the mortgage broker who will get paid a commission by the bank instead of us. Go to his office for a talk. Turns into a 4 hour marathon of explanations, form filling with mundane details and endless photocopying of documents. With the press of a button the form is submitted to relevant bank. Papers to follow and hearty handshake mortgage broker assures us we’ll be approved in 2 days.

Week 4: Valuation ‘expert’ from the bank goes to check out said flat. Finds the value to be the exact amount we have offered (as told to him by accompanying estate agent). He charges us obscene amount for doing basically nothing but checking out our flat and producing a 2 page letter re-iterating all the things he’s been told.

Meanwhile hearty handshake mortgage broker has passed us on to his Head Office where incompetent liaison lady now has our file. She writes us letter of reassurance that is not reassuring in the least. Discovers that wrong side of bank statements has been photocopied and asks us to produce copies and original again. In Notting-something. No way Jose. Harass local mortgage man into looking at them and taking proper photocopies this time. You would think since it’s a major part of his job he would know which side is up. Incompetent idiot.

Cleared a drawer and a cupboard
. Big bag of clothes and 15 pairs of shoes for charity. I feel like an angel. Am exhausted with the effort.

Week 4 & 5: On suggestion of friend-who-has-done-this we appoint a solicitors firm to handle the legal higgledy piggledy. Now they are in touch with vendors solicitors through agent. Reading 10 million documents, conducting searches of random things like the environment, sewage and council issues – it’s a busy life for solicitor Santa.

In the excitement of having a flat we decide to trawl through the 10 magazines I have so far bought for ideas on furnishing. We do not agree on anything.

Week 5: Liaison lady comes back asking for more documents. All irrelevant and making us feel a bit criminal like. Try to prove good intentions by showing required documents and not yelling at everyone concerned.

I want minimal, V wants minimal. Neither knows what that means in real time furniture. We both want a modern streamlined look but cannot agree on a colour scheme let alone any single piece of furniture. Oh hell, this is going to be a long ride!

Week 6: Mortgage approval letter arrives with copies to everyone. Solicitor Santa is slowly wading through documents. We go and meet him in his very tiny office and sign our contract. Pay up a whopping 10% of the dosh as deposit.

We go and look the furniture shops of Tottenham court road. Heals. Habitat. Cargo Home Shop. Lombok. Suddenly we’ve moved from modern to heavy traditional wood. Sea change hits us like a Tsunami.

Week 7: Cheque with 10% takes about a week to clear. Bloody inefficient retail banks. Talk to Santa’s secretary everyday, chasing her to check if the money has been received. Soon she recognizes the voices, pretends to be a garden centre and offers us mulch.

Week 8: The vendor does not back out – in fact after many hair-turning-grey nights he signs his side of the contract and the exchange is done. Now we are both legally bound to each other – him to sell, us to buy. 2 months on something is happening

Also in week 8: I go and meet vendor in ‘our’ house. Take measurements to see if world’s largest pieces of furniture will fit. They will; but we will then have to walk on skirting boards and jump from chair to chair. Like monkeys. Am pointed toward appliance manuals, am offered names of electrician/ plumber and cleaner and am offered advice on installing an air-conditioning unit for the 2 hot weeks in an otherwise grey year.

Week 9: Went to shop and signed away what’s left of our arms and legs to get 13 bits of heavy solid looking wood; from a sustainable forest; made by workers paid above the average wage; ethical (for all you sunflower seed chewing organic earth and fair-trade lovers!!).

Today: We are off to sign deeds and stuff. So in a week we should complete and own a piece of London for the next 992 years.

I’m off to live in a cardboard box with a roll of duck tape, scissors and 25 pairs of shoes.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The evolution of post

I’m not going to talk about the rights to freedom of speech, liberty, expression etc. The desi blogworld is doing that well enough. If you want the updates on the action you had best go here.

Before technology intervened we relied on paper, pen and the post. It was a more romantic way I think, writing in your neatest hand, trying to get down all your news in aerogram or on embossed letterheads, in the best possible order, making as few scratched out mistakes as possible. There was also the anticipation of receiving a letter from your parents or friends or lover, covering the distance between you with words of affection and bringing you all the action you’ve been missing. The joy of reading and re-reading letters from dear ones, imagined bent over their desks in concentration composing just the right things to say. There were birthday cards, anniversary cards, just because cards and made up tapes of music, all reliant on the whim of the postal service. There were cultural missives from pen pals in extreme corners of the earth asking if we rode to schools on elephants or owned any tigers. There were our own replies setting the record straight and often trying to gauge the improbable cultural stories of a land unknown. There was the trepidation of mail lost, the short bursts of static conversation reiterating that you had written and that the mail service or the weather was to blame.

All in all it was an art to be a letter writer. An art that has now given way, buckled under the pressure, to a keyboard and an internet connection. E-mail, chat, informational websites, personal blogs and even on-line phone calls.

My parents are tech saavy. After a lifetime of working in an office where paper was dominant, my father taught himself how to use the whole MS suite on our dinosaur computer. And once she knew I was going to be living away from her home, my mum set-up an e-mail account and taught herself how to e-mail. Today they would not know how to go back to the old ways. They both use chat and e-mail to keep in touch with me and the Nik on a regular basis, to keep our phone bills manageable and to tell us things too mundane to waste on a phonecall. They also use computers extensively for work, e-mailing work related stuff back and forth in a way far more practical than smail mail. It’s the rare occasion that warrants buying a paper card and posting it.

I have veered so far away from my original thought that I have dropped off the side of the flat earth. Before I blogged I wrote a monthly e-mail to friends and family (which was so long that certain people admitted never getting to the end!) that was a newsy single version of the hundreds of letters I wrote in the days of snailmail. It was meant to give an essence of our lives here in London, far away from home, family, friends and all things familiar. It was meant to be a record of our lives in this new and exciting land. The most frustrating thing was the absolute lack of replies. It made a once joyful task a burden and I was soon looking for a suitable alternative to keeping in touch, to keep writing. The blog seemed a brilliant idea and the blogosphere a whole new world. I could write what I wanted, let everyone I previously e-mailed know where I was at and then it would be their choice to read it or not. The pressure was off my broad shoulders. The form of my writing changed from ‘We did this last weekend’ to more generic, often fictitious stuff, reviews for books and restaurant I liked, records of important times and memories in our lives. It somehow captured the essence of who I am without revealing who I am. It’s read by more unknowns than knowns and has opened up a whole new parallel world of interesting people, thoughts and ideas, all for a fraction of the cost and the saving of a rainforest of paper.

It took me an eon to explain blogs to my folks. It’s only recently that my mum has started to regularly look at my blog. And although I don’t write nitty gritty life detail on them she reads what I’m writing in the context of knowing me as her child. In some ways it is her window into my world. This blog is my letter home.

I won’t join in the ethical debates about blogging, its consequences and it being used as a possible harmful conduit of hate. I’ve heard all the arguments and seen all the interviews on NDTV (you know who you are!). Banning blogsites won’t achieve anything as the resilient human will find an alternate way soon enough.

In the meanwhile though my phone bills are set to rocket.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Turning 31 without incident

It was hardly what you would call a celebration. Besides voices on the phone my only other human interaction was with shop assistants and the charming waiter at lunch. Went to the Royal Albert Hall to try and get myself some tickets for the proms. Everything was either too expensive, too late or just not what I wanted to see/hear. Walked along Hyde Park for a bit before deciding on Oxford Street as my destination.

I wandered around Oxford Street in the sweltering heat amidst the throng of sale seekers. I’ve had my eye on a bag in River Island for a while now and decided to treat myself to it even though it was not on sale. Mini dilemma as I could not decide on the colour and even contemplated buying it in all three. Eventually I went for the black – tried, tested, boring and the ideal replacement for one of my dying black bags. Then wandered in and out of shops till I got to St. Christopher’s Place which is a charming alley leading to a square of restaurants and shops. The square (more rectangle really) was packed like a can of sardines. Somehow the beating sun and small band of singing Spaniards added to a sudden feeling of claustrophobia and I escaped across the road to the quiet calm of Busaba Eathai. Enjoyed a quick and very tasty lunch, all the while fielding phone calls. Thank you, you know who you are, for calling*.

Took a long and leisurely bus ride that ended by the perfect park. Sat by a babbling fountain/ artificial brook and read for a while enjoying the setting sun and cooling breezes.

It was a calm day, the first birthday not celebrated with some form of partying. By the end of the day I was bean bagged in front of the telly watching double CSI and Law & Order, eating my dinner off my knees and chatting with V. And although all day I kept telling myself silently that it was indeed my birthday and I was REALLY now 31, it didn’t really feel like anything much. I plan to make up for it when V gets back and have a fantastic birthday celebration!

A day for quiet reflection. On what my 31st year will be. That’s what my birthday turned out to be.

**For those of you who will read this subsequently and had forgotten, yes I was expecting you to call and yes I am upset enough not to forgive you for it without some serious bribery!

And thank you bloggerworld for bothering to leave me birthday wish comments – they meant a whole lot!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A whole new year

365 days later the earth has circled the sun once more. I am a year older, a step closer to the big 4-0 but strangely more content and excited than I thought I would be about the 30s.

With V away on work and me on my ownsome lonesome everyone is making up by being extra kind…..

My office just went bananas yesterday. I came in to a huge happy birthday banner across the wall by my desk. Lunch time saw a well planned game of 'pass the parcel' with an old braying radio, something in every layer, mostly mini toblerones. And a game of pool. Then a surprising 8 big shiny purple balloons from 3 breathless colleagues and a small tea party with a home-baked carrot and banana cake from my boss. A card and a £10 coupon later I was nearly in tears. This is why I have always wanted to work in an office bigger than a two man show! I feel ever so justified in waiting to work here in this small friendly office.

It was not over. Went for dinner with 2 colleagues to ‘Little Bay’ on Farringdon Road. Hideous red and gold d├ęcor that was a sorry cross between Grecian, renaissance and plaster of Paris art. But the food more than made up for it: Garlic Portobello mushrooms followed by red snapper with spinach and potatoes. I will be going back. Only with my sunglasses on inside this time.

Today is the day. It’s been a big morning already

Today I’ve been up since 7am, woken by a call from b-i-l in Singapore. Dropped off again till the Nik rang to sing to me at 9am. I have given up. Sleep is for the young and bored.

Just finished reading and blubbing over 16 e-cards – I love technology for saving trees, chopping off the cost of postage and adding music to the cards. So many people remembered! I do feel blessed.

My friend P called and invited me out for a birthday lunch today. She is so kind. Have altered the plans though so that now she can spend today with her other half who is about to take off on work. And we will meet tomorrow with a third friend and have a lovely lunch out, gossiping.

As V is away on work on another continent I have to be content with phone calls and texts (I do love technology). I am getting a fabulous gift (?) and another whole day to call my birthday when he is back. So double whammy!!!! YAY!

I am off now, out into the sunshine, with no real plan in my head except that its my birthday and I should be out and about and having some fun. So seeya peeps….woohoo 31 here I come!

Little Bay: 171 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3AL Tel: 0207278 1234

Friday, July 14, 2006

This last day

It's the last day of a magical year. It’s been an amazingly unexpected ride. A lot has happened in my life this past year, almost all of it good, and definitely all of it for a reason. All at once I feel older, wiser, sadder, richer, positive, relaxed, impatient, cheerful, steady, calm and peaceful. More than anything I feel blessed – for my V, my family, my friends, my cities, my country, this country, my blog, many other blogs, some bloggers, stacks of books, sounds of music, my job, my colleagues, some lovely movies, wonderful days out, holidays, my good fortune, our (almost) apartment, my life.

Tomorrow my new year starts. It has a lot to live up to.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

From a distance

After lunch I scan the BBC website for an update on the news. I see the small blurb ‘Blasts in Mumbai’. That was the beginning of an afternoon of horrid news. Many hours, phone calls, jammed news sites, and television coverage later I am nearly sure that everyone I know is safe. This brings me absolutely no comfort.

I feel washed over by grief. A bombing incident such as this is an atrocity against an honest, trusting public who have little part in the political drama that has caused it. Just fathers mothers brothers sisters sons and daughter – all on their way home after a days work. At last count 180 innocents. Life is unfair.

I feel like a cheat, an immigrant with a distance that disconnects me from the realities of my country. All night I have thought about the bravery of people who rushed to help the injured, blood donors offering their veins up, people handing out biscuits and water, shelters opened up for people who could not make it home, people with cars offering lifts to the walking public. I have felt powerless and deeply saddened, angered and shocked.

I know that danger is such an integral part of our lives. You never know where, in which city and when something like this will happen. You never know if it’s going to be you or someone you love or an unknown person who is loved by someone else. Each one important, each one a person whose whole life is changed by one moment of insanity.

From this distance all I can do is pray for those who lost their lives and rejoice at the resilient spirit of a city that promises never to let anything bring it down.

Time is too long for those who grieve. God give them strength.

Monday, July 10, 2006

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em

The Beautiful Games – all over – but not for long enough!

Federrer won Wimbledon. Again. His dominance is getting a wee bit boring. But there is no denying that at just 24yrs of age he has many more winning years ahead of him. Nadal gave him a good run for his money in the third set and turned the finals from pushover to a small struggle. I like the gracefulness of tennis and the etiquette that governs it - it's one of the few sports I'll watch without a struggle. Oh, and by the way, the Swiss Government has stopped giving Federrer a 'significant' gift each year after winning Wimbledon. I wonder if they ran out of cows?

Footie widows everywhere are rejoicing. 63 games later it’s all over. The Football World cup is over and done with for another 4 years. It seems like just yesterday that all the big Ingerland flags adorned house fronts and little flags blew in the car exhaust fumes. We’ve been talking about little else for a few months – under duress let me stress - footie has been the most sociable of topics. When I deigned to watch I rooted for the underdogs in most matches – Croatia, Ukraine, Serbia & Montengro, Angola, Ivory Coast and my favourites Ghana - willed them on to fight it out with the bigger, better, richer, more prepared teams. But in the end I wasn’t so bothered by who came to the final and who won. Of teh two finalists, if pushed to choose, I would have wanted France to win (only for Thiery Henry). As V was away I only flipped back and forth every 20 minutes or so, checking to see if anyone scored. I didn’t miss this though. And somewhat because of it, by the penalty shootout, I wanted Italy to win. It was the right outcome.

There are claims that extreme provocation caused the infamous headbutt that marked Zidane’s final exit from international football. I still think his actions were uncalled for and the red card much deserved. His punishment will be to be forever remembered for the headbutt rather than his exemplary years of football and his captaincy of France. All greatness washed away by one foolish final act.

Sports are a never ending event - all over the world and in my house. Get used to it. One finishes and the next starts – or like the last few months they conduct themselves simultaneously - India v WI cricket tests and one-days, FIFA WorldCup, F1 every 2 weeks, Wimbledon. Being married to a ‘Sports mein to meri jaan hai sir’** person means that it’s any one of the numerous sports all vying for his attention. Remote control and ten sports channels all get a good run for their money. I’ve learnt to be patient and even begun to enjoy some of the sports as a result. I can even explain the offside rule with a ketchup bottle and assorted cutlery. What is this world coming to?

**From some Hindi movie (Golmaal?) meaning (somewhat) “I live for sports, sir”/ “My heart is in sport, sir”.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

I am the Master of my Fate. I am the Captain of my Soul

I want to say this before I turn 31 in the middle of this month. It’s been brewing in my head for ever so long now; a seedling of a thought brought on by the newness of the New Year, now grown into full fledged thoughts.

I was not a ‘successful’ teenager in any sense of the word. All these years on all I recall was being desperately awkward, pudgy and not particularly popular. I spoke too much (and this was not an endearing quality) just to cover up my teen insecurities, was basically the odd one out who never really fit into any one group of friends and mainly spent my high school years flitting between the teenage cliques that dominate the school hierarchies. Some of it had to do with being in a school where most of kids came from creative background families: journalists, publishers, IAS officers, gallery owners, news readers, rich industrialist entrepreneurial families. My dad was in ‘service’, worked in an office and my mum was a ‘home manager’ making sure me and the Nik ate well, studied hard and generally grew up alright. I was never embarrassed by this difference (and I am so thankful my mum was home when I got home each day) just acutely aware of it. I tried to gravitate towards the ‘service’ background kids but didn’t really find any group to belong to, just one-off friends (some who’d last a year or two till we moved to different sections) with whom to walk to the canteen every few days, to share girlie chatter. Then I tried desperately to fit into the cool arty family teen groups but just did not fit. Again I found a few friends from this group, people willing to engage with me on an individual level but not really willing to be my introduction and support into a group in which I truly didn’t belong. By the time I was finishing school the whole ‘trying to fit in’ got boring, then frustrating and then I just walked away. I lasted on my single friendships quite well. Anyway, school did end and with it all the angst of not belonging.

It was only temporary. I got to college and hostel life - all the way at the opposite end of the country. I was thrilled by the idea of a whole college of people to possibly befriend. Year 1 was easy as I bonded instantly with the 5 other girls whom I shared a flat with, 3 to a room. Then we moved to a hostel and I got my first taste of late teen rejection. The rooms were built to line either side of a corridor. Every set of two rooms were connected by a shared bathroom in the middle, with interconnecting doors. As the hostel was new and huge there was no pressure on rooms and the 6 of us decide to share 4 rooms facing each other. So my 2 roommates and I had to decide who would be the singleton and which two would share the room on the other side of the bathroom. It was a similar situation for the other 3. I pulled the short straw as my two roommates chose to share and for me to live on my own in the other room. I was devastated, my teen eyes seeing this as outright rejection. I kept up my brave face (which was difficult to start with) but as with all things time evened out the creases and found joy. I eventually grew to love my own space (who wouldn’t – two beds, two cupboards, two desks – more than enough place to spread out my junk and no nagging roommate demanding spic and span cleanliness) and we remained great friends for the rest of our college days.

When I started working I was a bit at sea again where friends were concerned. I was in a city where the language was not familiar and the possible office colleague/friends all kept breaking into their own language/ culture things. I found my way though, growing more confident with the passing year and adapting to make myself more friendly/ approachable; basically forcing them into being my friends. Not attractive but very essential in my minds eye.

Back to work in Delhi in my mid-twenties I suddenly found myself in a group of friends just on the back of being V’s girlfriend. And it was fabulous. Suddenly I was included not just by accident, clumsily in the middle of a group, but for real. And what a grand time we had! But all good things must come to an end and after 3 years we all moved to different cities to pursue different things.

I don’t mean any of the above to sound sad or pity seeking. It’s not in any way. I have plenty of dear friends; individuals from school, college, different work places who have kept in touch even in the tbe (time before e-mail). Equally I have slipped out of touch with a whole bunch of people, time and circumstance just overtaking their importance. It’s just to put some chronological order to my life in the context of friendships: for me to be sure of where I’m coming from, and know where I’m headed.

All I’ve been thinking these past months since I turned 30 was that my immense need to be popular, be swamped by friends who loved me, was gone. *Poof*. Just. Like.That.

I think the 30’s can be a time of great personal security. It’s like a magical feeling of finally knowing your place in the world, being surrounded by the few lasting friendships that truly matter, being confident in what you do, who you are and finally shedding the insecurity that comes with youth. That is not to say that there aren’t any insecurities, because there are. Just more mature ones, things that don’t hinge on looks or brains or how many people will invite you to their chaperoned dance parties.

I feel all grown up. Responsible, mature and sure of what I’m here for. Secure enough to spill out my guts on a blog read by me and 3 unknown people.

I love being 30. Enough said.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Wanted: A downpour

Mumbai is getting it again. And I am sorry if this post sounds unapologetic in a time of difficulty.

A few days ago (before the deluge) there was a news piece/ end of the news filler** on NDTV titled Monsoon Magic. It basically tried to romanticise the Mumbai showers, spinning it to show loads of little kids walking around the semi-flooded streets of Mumbai and splashing each other with dirty street water, couples walking along the beach in the pouring rain holding hands and smiling beatifically and generally a lot of green foliage blowing in the lashing winds and downpour. It made everything look romantically beautiful and accompanied by some fairly good music made for one of the few pieces of non-news worth watching.

But this post is not about the rain in Mumbai. It is about the rain in London. Contrary to common belief, London gets a good hot summer interspersed by short drizzly bits that act as the temperature control. Winter however is an altogether different season. Grey skies, a constant drizzle and the sharp claws of cold pretty much sum up 7 months of the year. I have long hated winter but after 4 years here have got used to the cold and built appropriate defences against it. I can safely say I am used to the winters and to a point even like them. Talk about sea change.

What I still intensely dislike (someone keeps telling me how 'hate' is too strong a word to use so flippantly) is the Chinese torture drip-drip rain. Pins and needles when it gets beyond weightless mist, London’s rains are a bit of a joke in the rain game. All you get is what you can’t really see: a rain mist that is a soft, weightless and continuous, that sinks into your clothes even though you can’t really see any droplets and renders you sopping wet by the time you reach the tube station. A barely there drizzle that leaves you wanting more power - oomph if you like - a deluge with a punch. No umbrella really helps – only your head is protected from the sideway moving rain – and strong winds usually mean your umbrella will upturn or be snatched from your hands. When the rain does become a smidgeon heavier it’s for a few scant minutes. And by the time this Indian has pulled on her shoes and run out with every intention of feeling the weight of the rain on her face, it’s gone back down to nothingness. To me the English rains are such a disappointment – not nearly as romantic as story books make them sound.

In my minds eye I can see the big terrace in front of our first floor flat in Delhi being pounded with a monsoon downpour. I was 7 yrs young and the Nik had been born a few month before. As there were no impending exams (my parents excuse for not letting me play holi till I grew up enough to not want to play it myself) my mum allowed me to stand/ dance on the terrace while the heavens opened. The smell of the ground, the smell of the rain, the feeling of getting soaking wet in the rain legitimately, the smile on my mums face as she watched me from the doorway with my baby brother in her arms, the feeling that all was well with my world, that everything was perfect in those moments – everything about that day is clearly etched in my memory.

All these years on, even newly in my 30s, the magic of the monsoon has not diminished for me. In my world, to be classified as rain, it should be constituted of heavy, big, robust drops that cannot help but be attracted to gravity with their sheer weight. The drops should hit the ground with a perceptible ping, a bounce releasing the sweet smell of the earth beneath. A sheet of water that means business. Once in a while it should catch you unaware, soak you before you have the chance to get under that umbrella. It should wash your face as you gaze skyward, running in rivulets down your cheeks.

It’s bright and sunny in London and we are going through one of the mini-heatwaves (30 degrees in which all the newly-moved anglised desis are complaining about how unbearable is the heat – grow up people!). Despite immensely enjoying this hot and bright weather I am longing for a downpour. A sharp shower that will bring the temperatures down a bit and possibly drench me as I walk home. I’ve only ever seen one serious downpour in 4 years of London living – isn’t that a shame? And before you ask, yes I have been looking, monitoring and waiting patiently for the rain to be worth my while! Watching that NDTV filler brought back all those memories and I cannot help longing for heavy rain.

**This new footnote thing is attributed to Falstaff:
Since the advent of 24 hour news channel, the smart masses and not so smart producers have realised that there is only so many times you can repeat the same thing. Very often a slow news day will appear (like 5 times a week) and since nobody interesting enough could be found to be hounded to death/ spycammed into admitting something riveting, news channels will create ‘interesting’ fillers. It is this bloggers opinion that news fillers are usually boring bits of non-news that have been jazzed up to fill in the time between the actual news and the repeat cycle of news that starts in 4 mins…beep….