Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The end table 2014

Not a year I've particularly loved or liked. You've heard all my moans and grumpy outbursts with such patience that I must thank you. 

Let's do a quick roundup:
1. Health - sucked all round. From parents to extended family, all around the globe we are giving thanks for doctors and nurses keeping us safe and returning us to health. 

2. Singapore - grown on me. I like it more than the previous year. Combination of familiarity with what's where and deciding to be in charge of my own joy. Building my little bubble and letting all the blabber and insensitivity bounce right off it.

3. Kid - Bringer of untold joy, this little one hit the half decade mark and started Big School with aplomb this year. He is growing in confidence, knowledge, love and laughter each day. He is the star of the show that is our life and the laughter of our souls! 

4. Books - Another year of avoiding the Kindle and going for paper. More reading than I envisaged doing and a far wider variety / selection of genres. I've come to enjoy occasionally sharing what I read  with my FB friends and it always brings forth some great suggestions and discussions. As I recently read, Books turn Muggles into Wizards. To many more words and worlds to escape into.

5. Friends - V and I reconnected with Kindergarten friends, met college friends after near on 2 decades, had a wonderful slew of house guests and met some of our dearest London friends - all in this friend filled year. From coffee in Singapore to brunch in a Mumbai home, from introducing our children (aren't we the children?) to catching up in a short Mumbai bistro evening, from brilliant Diwali parties to surprise new Singapore expats, it's been a beautiful year of renewal. Of showing me that technology is to be embraced somewhat and that the rewards for extending ones hand in friendship can bring hugs and great peace.

6. State of the world - Very poor. We are fighting everything from the environment to each other. The Sanctity for Life is a steadily diminishing commodity. I cry for the mothers who lost their children to violence, I cry for the earth whose pain is evident in natural disasters and I cry for us as a people unable to see beyond our own backyards. I pray in 2015 for a bit more gentleness, every gesture to be measured by what it means to someone's joy rather than a selfish interest. I hope to pay my own good life forward every single day, in smiles, hugs, meals, kindness.

On balance 2014 was a year that opened my eyes yet wider and showed me the circle of life - from pain and adversity on the one hand to how a hug or a call or a small kindness can spread the love and bring hope, give solace.

Goodnight, 2014! To you and yours, from me and mine, a wonderful 2015.

Sunday, December 28, 2014


It's been a festive few days. We celebrated Christmas, our anniversary and the renewal of old friendships over 4 beautiful Bangalore days. The traffic was not beautiful but all the gorgeous breeze and cool temperature, the friendliness and smiles made it a wonderful mini break. Here are a few festive pictures from our home in Singapore (prep for Santa to arrive), various places in our travels and our own DIY efforts to be celebratory.

Our main tree in Singapore/ my FB greeting (with Kid not cut out). This is year 5 of book trees. This is the biggest and best so far.

Brownie with meringue snowman at the Ritz Carlton in Bangalore. Cute and tasty is a winning combination.

Lovely little puppet display at the Bangalore airport. And for a change well and interestingly sign marked.

Kids Santa's stocking. All 3 cousins got the same this year (with instructions they are to be reused for many a year to come). Santa found us in Bangalore and left 11 little presents in the stocking.

Gingerbread display at the Ritz Carlton lobby. Kid says 'I have a Lego City, you can have a gingerbread city mama'. This picture does not do it justice.

Chocolate chip muffins baked this morning here in Mumbai - clearly our celebration continues. More cousins and more gup-shup.

Signage at our balcony window in Singapore so Santa can find his way. The bottom has this: Kids name (who has been a very good boy)

And finally here is our DIY tree in Sjngapore. Visual confirmation via picture text that Santa did indeed find our house, follow our sign and leave our presents under the tree. Someone can't wait to go back home in a few days!

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Marrying a Fine Man

It was a cold winters night. Morning hadn't yet broken. Despite all the advice of getting a good nights rest to look 'fresh' on her wedding day the Bride couldn't sleep. She tossed and turned, nervous and excited in equal measure.

At 4.30am she gave up. She crept into the dark living room and called her very Best Friend. Come, quick, what am I doing? Sleep not yet complete she assured the Bride she would be there in no time at all.

They weren't real doubts. She knew him for near on a decade at this point. But it was a life changing moment, a joining with no return, a shift into adulthood more serious than the drinking games, the parties and grown up jobs and clothes. She sat on her bed, waiting.

In no time at all the Best Friend was there, having careened through town in darkness, her outfit for the day neatly pressed on a hanger. And there they sat, on a childhood bed, and laughed away an unanticipated nervousness. The friends' mere presence, there there to hold hands and listen to her gibberish made all the tension slip away.

Morning soon arrived. The Bride and Groom stood under a flower laden tree, surrounded by a hundred of their closest family and friends and were soon declared married by registered decree. A bright crisp Christmas morning made merrier by all the love and sunshine surrounding them.

Thirteen years on I find myself reminiscing about that day. Here I am still married to that Fine Man. Each day an adventure, a perfect fit through the trials and tribulations of life, the gentle eyes and smile that still make my heart flutter. I wouldn't change a thing. Heady heady days. 

Monday, December 22, 2014


Day 2 of the break and the luxury is not letting up. A lazy morning around the house - including a hearty breakfast of hot toasted slices of Flurrys Masala bread - my dad-in-law arrived from Calcutta yesterday - and a few rasogulla's (also courtesy Kolkata). 

After much deliberation and many voting rounds we headed for Dum Pukht at the ITC Maratha near the airport. Our normal go to fancy Indian food is Peshawari (in the same hotel). More curries and a smashing kakori and biryani were promised.

We weren't disappointed. The kakori was delightful and a lotus seed and root seekh was the surprise great appetiser. I'm not a fan of biryani (or any pulao) so stuck to roomali (which turned out to be too dry and thick) and shared too many mains (aloo dum was the surprise winner). The flavours of everything were more complex and it was a far richer meal than Peshwari. I'd go back to Peshawari in a heartbeat. 

The decor was interesting. Like the food, more layers, more complex and far more ornate than the earthier tones of Peshawari. 

Sated beyond any nutritional boundary we headed home where 80% of the household found themselves horizontal spaces to digest food comas. I entertained the 3 kids while trying very hard not to nod off sitting up! Eventually I gave up any idea of rest/ sleep and read while the kids played. 

In the evening the 3 sisters in law ventured out. First a wander through the insipid, overpriced Marks and Spencer. Then a walk through Bandra to admire the twinkling Christmas lights and enjoy the breeze. A challenge to find walkable sidewalks in the crazy traffic but we managed and ended up at Fab India. Wandered through the rich aisles of silk and cotton and leather and wood. Since I had already shopped there last month I had nothing left to buy and instead bought all my masalas and mosquito repellent. I leave you with pictures of a colour extravaganza.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Li'l Flea Market

In Mumbai for winter break. Day 1 has been a leisurely 'figure it out as we go' sort of day. 8 adults and 3 children mean there are a lot of whims and fancies and palates to be catered for. 

A 5am wander around the house in pitch darkeness did not convince Kid that it was night. His tummy demanded a Singapore breakfast - so we have literally been up since the crack of dawn. A morning of playing shops, noughts & crosses, drawing, running, animal and vehicle counter waterfalls, trains, impromptu Hindi lesson and word games to entertain 2 out of 3 kids. A lunch of pizza and milkshakes at the round the corner Cafe Mangii (a name associated only with unwell dogs I fear but thankfully tasty food).

Then kids and fathers went home while my sis in law T and I wandered over to the Bandra Reclamation for the L'il Flea Market. We chanced upon the advert in the paper this morning and went for a lark, intending to gaze and not buy.

Not quite a brickwork Dilli Haat of artisans, this little pop up flea was on an uneven ground covered in white cloth and filled to the gills with posh arty organic shops. Rs.100 got us a stamp on the hand and the right to enter. I didn't have much hope with this money making beginning - after all they expected me to spend money inside and I assumed that the tables were paid for by the shops rather than the customers. I was however pleasantly surprised both by the variety and quality of things available. Small, home grown but designed and thought through offerings to appeal to a wide market. From kids clothes to shoes, funky crafts, cushions, artworks and clothing, there was a l'il something for everyone. Most store owners were friendly and had put in a lot of thought to their displays. They weren't the artists but the people sourcing them and yet there was a level of passion in telling someone else's craft story that was impressive. There was only partial cover along some lanes from the searing heat - peach and blue lengths of clothe. Added bunting and fluttering lanterns, painted tokris and ribboned circles made it look craftsy and cool - casually thrown together to effect a  soft and welcoming look in a sharp and clear day. There was also a food section complete with fluttering curtains, old style lamps, makeshift tables, benches and floor mats. 

So here is a glimpse of the few hours we spent, cold coffee (me) and lemongrass tea (she) in hand and making impulse purchases.

Ribboned circles at the entry. And half recycled tyres made into little kids see saws.

All paper goods - boxes and punch out figurines. Simple, colourful, beautiful and user friendly.

Posters galore

The only (and very inviting) shade - simple cloth lengths stitched together as makeshift awning.

Tokris to match the awnings.

I fell in love with the fabric of that blue shirt. Scooters! Just adorable. Sadly not my size!

This was my favourite store. This lady Kasmira Rao-Nadndi runs Folkloric - Old tales, new language - and works with traditionalist artisans and craftspeople to bring traditional design and old craft methods into the modern home with an update or twist. Each piece has a story and a royalty that goes back to the artist. I bought the birds on a wire rectangular cushion to sit on the chair in my room. I'll take a picture when I go back.

I also bought a copper bracelet from a store called 'Indrika' that uses recycled materials to create pieces of Jewelry and fabricate some lovely clothes. The bracket looks like a giant nail twisted into a shape that circles a wrist. Unusual and inexpensive and ticks the Eco warrior box.

After a short break to cool down and recompose ourselves I joined T, my MIL, S (the benchmark Sil) and her daughter R on an hours journey to Phoenix Mall to watch PK. I didn't have high hopes when I saw the opening bit of spaceships. It turned out to be a movie that commented on the juxtaposition of the hope and superstition that religion offer the human race. It was sharp and well scripted and Aamir Khan outdid himself in his role as an alien. It didn't offend anyone and used humour to cast its net wide and deep. I would highly recommend it. Beware however of grimacing when you see Anushka Sharma's freshly botox'd pout and very bad wig! 

All in all a fabulous first day of the holidays. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Black and white and red all over

As I stood at the condo gate at stupid o'clock (6.50am to be precise) this morning I was only half paying attention to the Kid who was excitedly telling me all about his concert this afternoon. I smiled, nodded enthusiastically, kissed him, hugged him and promised to be at school, his personal cheerleader, brownies in hand, by 1pm. But really, inside I was half asleep. 

He got on the bus and as I waited for it to pull away I noticed how lovely the light was. I took this picture to remind myself of these early mornings. How we have changed from a family of stragglers at 7.45am to an efficient buzzing household at 6am. This is what Big School is all about: we pay them a hefty fee and they teach us a hefty lesson. Early to bed early to rise? An early start is an enthusiastic start. One can accomplish so much at the crack of dawn. And various others adages that escape my sleep deprived mind. 

As he completes 4 months at Big School and approaches his last week before a 3 week winter break I find I am the most pleased. Only 1 more week of classes for 2014. This has been the term of getting used to this new early routine. And as beautiful as this old Singapore Black and White House opposite our condo gate is I am most thankful for the break from seeing it at unearthly o'clock five days a week.

Lots of lie-ns for mum = happy holidays!!

Written on Friday (12th) and posted a day late!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wise and wine

Or maybe that should be 'wise with wine'

In the past few months I've been attending the occasional lovely little art talks with a bunch of people from our condo (plus friends). Run by the very passionate and talented Claire Kwiatkowski each talk in the series 'Picture this' talks about an artist and a specific piece of art. A few months ago we went to one on Monet and his 'Impression, Sunrise'. It was such a interesting talk, a glimpse into the birth of Impressionism but also Monets' ideas and influences as well as the technological advancements (tubes of paint) that allowed for such a new style to be developed. 

This past Wednesday we went for this, Vincent Van Gogh's 'Starry Night'. Once again Claire held fort and talked not of his perceived madness (the ear cutting etc) but instead of his expansive knowledge and verbose letters to his brother. He moved from place to place over his short life and his work influenced both by his surroundings/ other Masters but also (unwittingly) by his mental imbalance (epilepsy of a kind). She showed us his personality reflected in the steady march of his works from mastering techniques in other mediums before finally picking up a paintbrush and oils at the ripe old age of 30. It was an impressive talk and it made me come home and want to dig up my book of his works and my memories of the museum visit to see just his works. 

Yes that is a bowl of soup by the little hand out! A delicious bowl of carrot and orange soup. You see, the talks are held in various venues and are either coffee morning talks or dinner talks. This was in the same venue we went to last time, a little restaurant in the business district here in Singapore, called SPRMRKT. This is a lovely (if cosy) venue that shuts its doors to the public and lays out 2 long tables (about 25 people) and has a 2 or 3 course menu to choose from - a veg and non veg main option. Also the option of wine. So talk followed by long chatty dinner. On a weekday. Lovely! 

Can't wait for next years 'Picture This' series.