Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Lazy dreams

Poor Lazy.

Lying supine on the sofa, Lazy tells me about her dream(s). In each one the water has finished, dried up or been drunk by her or other people. No 'leading up to it' scenario repeats itself but each episode ends with her being thirsty and panicking, looking for some water to drink.

Lazy says that as a result of these odd ‘missing’ water dreams she wakes up at night to drink water from the full glass on her bedside table and only sips a little, never finishing the glass or fully quenching her thirst.

Every morning Lazy wakes up thirsty, and looks desolately at the half a glass of water by her bedside. That night she drinks a whole glass of water before placing a full glass on the bedside table. Her dream ends exactly in the same way – not a drop of water to drink.

She wakes up upset. Too.Many.Times

What does it all mean?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Out of this world

I’m feeling a bit shell-shocked. Went with Shoefiend to watch ‘In this World’ at the Amnesty Human Rights Action Centre last night. Directed by Micheal Winterbottom, it is a documentary following 2 young Afghans, Enayatullah and Jamal, from a camp in Pakistan making their journey overland to London with the help of people smugglers. The film shows every horrible struggle of their journey: sitting in the back of lorries driving endlessly on dusty roads, being caught by authorities at a check post in Iran and sent back, bribing someone to get back on their journey, having to exchange their attire for something that would make them fit in, walking for days through a dusty cold plain, and then over snow laden mountains, being shot at by Turkish authorities, working off their accommodation in a sweat shop, being transported hidden among a truck of orange crates, being shipped in a metal sea container for 40 hours with dire consequences, hanging off the underbelly of a truck supported by nothing but two wooden planks and sheer willpower. All this with a small bag each and the single-minded goal of reaching a supposedly better life in London. I haven’t recounted the story very well and I suggest you read some more official reviews here and here.

The beauty of the film lies in capturing not only their journey in such detail but in showing you the hope & persistence that these two young journeymen have. Throughout the journey Jamal tells funny stories and jokes to keep Enayatullah amused. Enayatullah shows his wordly-wise side by hiding money in his shoe before he is caught in Iran and uses this to get them back on the trail. Periodically Jamal tries to teach Enayatullah words in English, enough so that by the time they reach Turkey Enayat can dish out a few slanted sentences. Jamal bribes a border guard with Enayat’s walkman much to his chagrin. Jamal gets Enayat to buy him a big ice cream cone in Istanbul and they sit and enjoy it by the side of the road. They both play football with various groups of kids wherever they get the chance. Both boys become quite friendly with an Iranian couple and their small child who join them in being smuggled to the West. There are so many moments where you see a glimmer in their eyes, their recognition that their life could actually become better at the end of their journey, that when tragedy strikes you can’t help but think how unfair life is.

The film was utterly powerful and has made me think about many things. Primarily, the sheer desperation that a person can feel, that would compel them to undertake a journey fraught with danger and uncertainty in the hope of a better life. And then how different and cushioned our lives are that we know so little and react so minimally to atrocities and the plight of fellow human beings in other parts of the world. I cannot even imagine what life is like for refugees. Their camp looked clean and neat but they live under the brand of being outsiders stuck in an unending mire of joblessness and seemingly without any hope of a better life where they were. They never once consider any of the other European countries as a possibility, looking single-mindedly at London as their destination. They know they will probably never see many of their family members again and yet they leave cheerfully. How convinced they must be to believe that there is nothing worth staying for and how strong in body, mind and spirit to attempt this excruciating exercise. Their journey was horrific and you could often see them draw on inner strength and each other to keep going in the belief that what they were attempting would lead them to a better existence.

I honestly do not know what to think. This film has got my mind working overtime. Working in the development sector I have read my share of horror stories from around the world. I’ve also seen and heard about wonderful development and reconstruction programmes work their magic. Did they make the right decision? Was their life so hopeless? Was there no other path for their lives? And conversely how does a developed country react to asylum? How should they be reacting? How should the layman react to a young boy selling 2 wristbands for 1 Euro to make some money to help his journey along? What’s right and what’s wrong? Does each drop of our contribution, monetarily or in kind, really make up an ocean or just a small ineffectual pond? Is there any hope that this world will one day be a better place for everyone? So many questions and no good answers.

It was a heart wrenching watch. If you get the chance watch it – I guarantee it will make you thank your lucky stars for your health, your family, your security, your access to technology to watch it, a computer & the internet to blog about it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Love and Fish

Jane got me thinking about anniversaries.

In early May 1991 V and I met for the very first time. I was on my summer vacations having just completed my class 10 exams. V had just finished class 11 exams and had this serious and handsome face with a smile that caused a flutter in the heart. I was 16 and he was 17. Yes, like the song…

At the time we were both too young to know what the future held for us. It was not till a few years later and many reams of friendly correspondence that things turned romantic. The rest, as they say, is history.

Girls, being far more sentimental than boys, think up anniversaries for every occasion. Well, both of us (and by that I mean me, followed by poor V) like to mark the years that have passed since we first met.

2006 marked 15 years since that day we first met. Knowing your other half for half your adult life is quite a landmark (I think). And we decided to celebrate by going out for a lovely meal in the evening sun. After much deliberation about where to go, we chose ‘Fish!’ in Borough market (since our Zanzibar holiday two years ago we are both hooked on seafood). It’s a restaurant that is always full on Saturdays during the day - which is when we usually pass it while shopping in the bustling Borough market. We’ve been tempted to go in many a time but mainly due to the crowds have always ended up sitting in the church courtyard eating falafel in pitta or brockwurst in a bun from the market stalls.

I booked at ‘Fish!’ for an early meal as it was a Monday and we both had work the next day. It was a lovely sunny albeit windy day and the glass walls of the restaurant kept the inside nice, bright and toasty. To start with, V had smoked Salmon and I the halibut rarebit. As main courses V had halibut with vinaigerette and I had tuna steak with Hollandaise sauce. I have only good things to say about our meal. The fish was fresh, beautifully handled and cooked and artistically served. The portions were a good size and the service friendly. Fish! is highly recommended. I would say a weekday evening meal is probably a better option than a weekend day time meal. If you love fish this is an excellent choice to dine at.

We had a lovely evening reminiscing about when we first met. I remembered a totally different version to V – and with his razon-like memory compared to my rusty old one I’m relying on his! It was interesting to see how far we’ve come since we were teenagers, how much we’ve evolved as people and grown as a couple. We laughed a great deal, talked about our life together, enjoyed basking in the past and dreaming of the future. The evening was perfect in every aspect.

May 1991: Calcutta – May 2006: London - May 2021:?

Fish!: Cathedral Street, Borough Market, London SE1 9AL. Tel: 020 7407 3803

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Sunny sunny days

I had all of last week off - a week between my short term contract and a whole new world of permanent full-time work. With the impending flat move and the new job I made up a to-do list that would ensure I had a busy fulfilling holiday week. List included:
- Need to shop for new work wardrobe and sort/ chuck out my old tired wardrobe.
- Need to sort through all the junk we’ve accumulated so we don’t clutter up the new house.
- Need to file our mountains of paper for easy transportation.
- Need to organise huge plastic bag of photographs and the accompanying 5,768 stubs to museums, trains, planes, buses, trams, parks, movies & 6842 tourism brochures and maps of ‘interesting’ places while said photographs were being taken – all to be pasted neatly in my scrapbook of life in the correct order.
- Need to think about buying furniture for the whole of the new flat as we own nothing but a bean bag sofa and a tiny wrought iron table.

What did I do? Nada. Zip. Nothing. Kuch bhi nahin.

Why? Glorious weather bestowed upon me by BBC and the weather gods meant that I spent most of each day sitting in a park under the gleaming sun and reading, sipping cool drinks and people watching, lazing and gaining some bone-soaking warmth – all wonderful things, all at the same time. It was too beautiful a week to spend indoors with mudane tasks and even the prospect of clothes shopping was not enticing enough to shift me from a park bench. Blue skies and a light breeze made the sunshine ‘just right’. I had a truly lazy week.

I started off in earnest to accomplish my list. Sorted out one set of drawers which was full of paper and assorted junk. Or maybe I should say shape shifted because I took them out of the drawers and made them into neat little piles on the floor instead – sorted but not really.

Looked at the plastic bag of photographs and accompanying ‘junk’ every morning and put it off till the next day citing reasons of laziness, ‘there’s always tomorrow’, ‘unable to tackle it because it’s grown too cumbersome’, ‘it’ll be easier to carry to new flat in big plastic bag’ etc. It has to be done and when it is it will be a feat in itself since I stopped pasting anything in that album after March 2004. We’ll talk again in 2007.

Did not buy any clothes or even venture near any shops to window browse. Old wardrobe is doing just fine for the moment. New excuse is that we should avoid buying anything as we will have to move it to the new flat – best wait till we have moved before I buy.

Did dream about new furniture and eagerly leafed through a few home design magazines while sitting in the sun. No decisions or short lists yet. The design wars loom ahead of me and V (and now I’m clapping my hands in glee). With every piece of furniture I’m sure we will disagree although in principle we seem to want the same look for the flat. It’ll be fun fun fun.

And now I am in office – being all official and sitting at a desk, leafing through files and making lists of things to be done. My holiday week is over and the good weather is still here. When I had no job I cribbed, when I have a job the sun turns on and I’m still cribbing (although only a little). When will I understand that life is happy and good? I’m looking at the sun through my window and dreaming of a picnic on a sunny day. It’s only day 2 of full time work. Thank god for the weekend in just 3 days - I can hardly wait!!!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

When it rains, it pours

The post title was not meant to be a precursor to the troubles that the deluge is bringing to Mumbai. At this distance I have no first hand knowledge of what the situation is – I only hope it does not turn out like last year. I do remember how disrupted things got with last years monsoons when at the end of July we were delayed for days by the weather conditions.

But as I said, this one is not about Mumbai or any actual rain for that matter. It’s about a turn of good luck that has been long awaited. Suddenly things are looking up and falling into place. All at the same time.

Two things have happened/ are happening.

First and foremost – I got a new job. Exactly one year to the day that I quit my old job I got offered a new job at a place I was really keen on working at. It’s a great job with great benefits and a wonderful working environment. It’s only a half hour commute from home and I have flexible working hours. In retrospect it was great to have a year off (courtesy V) to entertain the multitudes of guests and generally be a social bee. So back into the world of the employed with great joy and enthusiasm!!

Second and not least by any means – We found a flat. You will recall our horrendous experiences with estate agents while we hunted for an abode to call our own. Well one of the numerous visits with an estate agent paid off. She is the second Ms. Butterfly – and has consistently shown us flats since August. Her selection was better than other estate agents – she understood what “2 bed 2 bath and not on the ground floor” meant! Anyway, both V and I saw this flat and simultaneously began affirmative head nodding. It was bound to happen sometime - although the prospect seemed so distant. Of 80 flats viewed since August we had never both liked the same flat or even elements of the same flat. Well, it finally happened - the moons must have been in our favour. We put in our offer. After much negotiation to outbid the competition and one nail biting week our offer was accepted. Now we are waiting for the endless searches and solicitor like things to happen. (Hmm, if things do not speed up I may have to have a go at the Solicitors as well!).

I said "are happening" above because rejoicing would be premature. In the British system of house purchase a zillion searches and contract readings are done before an actual exchange of contracts takes place – and up to that point either vendor or purchasers can pull out. We won’t but he might. So finding, offering and being accepted are small but premature victories. Will keep you posted on whether it goes through. If it does, there will be the trials and tribulations of moving (to which I have made various people promise to come and help!)

So lots of excitement in our lives. As I said - when it rains it pours.