Wednesday, December 24, 2008

When 55 words aren't enough

Every year she buys two dozen tulips. Back from work he pretends not to notice, even though they undeniably sit in the giant unused fish bowl. He talks about watching sport and catching up on a year of under slept overworked days. As they wake up on Christmas morning, he will turn to her and say, “They are lovely darling, but not as lovely as you”

Christmas tomorrow is 7 years since we stood under a tree, adorned with jasmine strings and hanging lamps, on a sunny Delhi winter morning and promised to be together for as long as this life would allow. Happy anniversary my love.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Have and want

I have a house and life full of junk and yet I want more. Somebody stop me! The reality is that I don't have as much junk as I make this sound but enough to clutter up my mind space - and certainly more than my home can handle. The toss up this Christmas/ New Year season on what to indulge in is a pretty serious debate. And one that I am losing, inspite of my strong opinions and bossy methods. I think V has finally got the measure of me and how to say no, make me say no and make me think it’s my idea. In his tough life (ha!) he has me and my genetic need for things to contend with. Here's the current example:

I love random desk prettiness. In my first job, on my first diwali, I got a sand zen garden in a box. It looked calm, peaceful, organised and I looked after it as if it were a diamond which required daily polishing. I forget what I did with it when I left to go study. But as every desk I have ever had and all that adorned it are testament to, I love random things to sit on my desk and look interesting for when I lift my eyes from work.

My current desk has:
1. A miniature model autorickshaw from Delhi (thanks to the Nik)
2. A small bottle of holy water from lourdes (thanks to a friend)
3. Two baby clay models – one of a bolivian woman with a baby in a sling on her back and another of a little bolivian girl carrying a little cooking pot. (I bought one and a colleague gave me the other)
4. A colour cutout of a garfield comic – Frame1: Jon says to Garfield: You need to lose weight. Garfield says: Correction. And in Frame2: Garfield says: I should lose weight. In Frame3: Garfield says: I NEED cookies. (me - this always makes me smile)
5. A box of Peaches ‘n’ cream ice tea bags from Atlanta. I don’t much care for the tea but I like the little fake chest it came in. (thanks to a friend)
6. A bead figure with straw hair, from Ghana (thanks to a colleague)
7. My etsy desk calendar - (thanks to my random memory skills I have a refill for this year as well)
8. A stress ball in bright orange - (thanks to free stuff distribution in London Bridge station each summer)

On my pin board:
1. A cutout from Anita Roddick’s memorial service – it says ‘I am an Activist’.
2. A picture of a baby rhino (postcard from a friend)
3. An art card with a drawing of an American Indian in front of an oldy-worldy Coka-Cola sign (misspelled) – (picked up at an art gallery)
4. A birthday card with a police line-up of different sized/ types of dogs on the front and ‘From all the usual suspects’ on the inside. (thanks to my colleagues)
5. Another birthday card with a black and white picture of a woman sitting in front of a typewriter and a telephone. It says ‘This morning, the boss had brought in a device capable of doing the work of 10 men’. And on the inside, it says ‘A woman’ (thanks to my lovely colleagues).

As if I don’t have enough stuff, now I want one of those newton cradle thingies – although I refuse to buy something online as I want to see and test it and check it will fit on my already cramped work desk. I’m getting a really nice amnesty diary this year – thrilling in my small and unadventurous world.

No, I think I want a desk at home, so I can gather more desk junk, get another zen garden and stop using my lap or the dining table for the laptop. And maybe file things neatly. Or is that a myth? Also we have NO space for said desk. Two new bookshelves are crucial though as the stacks of books are threatening to overwhelm us. So bookshelves or desk or neither - for gifts to self this December?

I already, clearly, ‘have’. I need to curb the ‘want’.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

SFO: Done, dusted and growing a redwood tree

All bullet points – else we’ll never get to the end of this.

- It’s been WEEKS since we’ve been back and nobody but seems to mind the extraordinarily slow pace of my writing and so despite telling myself each time that I would post in quick succession it NEVER happened. Why can’t I do things unless people hold me to them? Where has my willpower gone? I blame the artic London winter.
- So Chinatown in SFO. I love it. In 1998 day my donut friendly friend and I spent an afternoon wandering Chinatown. Sadly when I got there this time I didn’t remember anything beside the fabulous Chinese meal we ate a in corner restaurant. Of course the chances of finding it again were spectacularly slim. Chinatown looked totally different from my memories this time round. The streets seemed straighter, steeper, cleaner and more organised – lovely to walk through and see all the Chinese people who work and live there, going about their chores. This time we ate dinner with my cousin A, her hubby and very cute (unseen before this) son in C-Town. They lived in London once upon a time and it had been too long. So we talked and ate at the Empress of China which was at the top of a building with a great view of SFO. The décor was a bit once-grande-now-old, the entrance was a bank of lifts, after walking through a very large Chinese shop. The food was yum though we were too late in the day for any dim sum.
- We had a very heavy brunch at an all-American diner near us (YAY gallon of milkshake!), and then courtesy my cousin’s hubby and his friends (cousin and girls long gone to thanksgiving thing in another city) we drove up to the Golden Gate and joined the masses of photograph takers. Then we drove up to a higher vantage point and looked down on the foggy bay and the resplendent bridge. I like it but think that the Bay Bridge looks nice and more imposing somehow.
- Then we drove to Muir Woods, which has apart from nieces become my favourite thing about the whole holiday. I am such a city girl that I was totally not expecting to fall so head over heels in love with these giant redwood/ sequoia trees. They are lovely, big, tall and whole and yet fallen, bruised, burnt and shadowy. All at once. We walked a short trail around them stopping to take pictures and listen to a short lecture on how they grow etc. and then went to the coffee shop to get warmed up with hot drinks. Redwood trees grow from burls, tumour like growths that they develop on their bark, like a bulge of bark. These burls once cut and kept in a bowl of water sprout shoots and grow into new redwood plants/ trees, that can be planted and encouraged to grow. I bought a small burl from the shop and brought it back with me. It’s sitting pretty in a bowl on my kitchen counter and its shoots are growing green and bright. I’m still thinking about a name for my plant. I think Shoot. Then I think Tom. Then I think Sam. What do you think?
- The next day we took a guided Napa Valley wine tour. BIG MISTAKE. Over a 9 hour period we saw 3 vineyards for an hour each and spent the first 5 minutes of each of those hours being sold the wine by tasting a bit in a glass and directed to the gift shop. Not a word on how wine is made, types of grapes, climate or anything remotely related to wine making beside a plug for the purchase of the end product and its various toys like a foil cutter, wine opener, glasses etc. I recommend if you want to do Napa Valley with even an iota of sense you should hire a car (i.e. learn how to drive/ get a license – a skill we are missing) and do it on your own. The only redeeming factor of the day was the hour long stop in the (touristy yet) pretty town of Sonoma for lunch. I had delicious fish tacos in a Mexican place called Maya which I would recommend unreservedly. I warned you - save your $70 each or be a gift shop bride.
- We spent the bulk of one day and most of the next just glued to our TV’s watching the unrelenting bad news pour out of Mumbai. For what it is worth the American coverage was better, more even, than the Indian coverage – especially CNN – insightful, calm, collected and respectful of its surroundings – quite unlike the shoving, pushing, stammering, one sided Indian coverage, which had very little to commend it. Then the day we came back I watched a Barkha Dutt special on NDTV. I don’t think the baton for journalism has ever fallen that low.
- Even with the depressing change in currency rates for us, the shopping is good. We missed the bulk of the Thanksgiving sales because we were enjoying the company of friends and the outdoors instead of queuing around the block waiting to get in anywhere on Black Friday. But I bought enough stuff, mostly in dribs and drabs, to comfort the shopaholic in me.
- The windy, up down streets are quaint but a bitch to climb up and down. The streetcars and cable car were fun if a tad slow. I loved the atmosphere which is busy yet gentle compared to the rush of Manhattan or London. It hums rather than buzzes and that is always good background music for a holiday.
- One of the things I will always remember about SFO is how on 6th Avenue between Lombard and Howard ( think), at the corner, there is this white painted brick building which has random real household objects stuck to its side – a fridge, a bathtub, a sofa among others. I didn’t manage to get a picture but I absolutely remember looking at it and grinning. If that is not the point of installation art I do not know what is.
- Will we ever see pictures? Who knows?! I still haven’t put up our Paris or Singapore ones from months before, so I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.
- SFO is done and dusted. We’ll be back someday - of this I am sure.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

SFO: Mini donuts vs. Sea Lions

The thing about SFO was that it was never ever going to be a rushing around visiting every tourist landmark holiday. None of our holidays ever are. The main reason is not lack of interest, it is pure unadulterated laziness. The need to relax and take in what we can rather than tick every box in the book. I had done the tourist trail in SFO many many years ago. So long ago in fact that I remembered only snatches of it, vague flashed of images and associated names of touristy places.

Fisherman’s Wharf is an iconic SanFran tourist mark. Somehow all tourists find their way there at one time or another. Fisherman’s Wharf was my one solid memory. Hanging around Pier 39 for an afternoon with my newly-married-and-moved-to-the-Bay friend, sharing a bucket of freshly friend cinnamon sweet mini donuts, watching the really loud sea-lions yell their thing. It was a fun day and we had so much to catch up on that time and the donuts just couldn’t keep up.

V and I made a lazy start on our first sunshine filled San Francisco morning. We walked the mile or so to our recommended breakfast joint and joined the waiting line outside the revered institution of Mama’s at the corner of Washington Square. The green awning is like a hundred others dotted around the city. The line of hungry people outside is the dead givaway of fame. We read the menu in the window and I changed my mind a million times by the time we were ushered into the 'pay at the counter and then sit down' place. We both chose omlettes. V because he is boring like that (and believe me when I say he ALWAYS wants an onion and chilli omlette and went for the closest proximation of it. We (no make that I) fought through breakfast). Mine was a difficult choice. I was deciding between a stack of banana pancakes, cinnamon - orange french toast and an Italian sausage omlette. I had so confused myself by the time I reached the payment point that I just SHOUTED out the thing that was foremost on my mind: Washington Square Omlette. And was it an omlette!! About the size of a small ship, balanced on my plate, served with delicious grain toast and home fries (an American concept, of lightly fried chunks of potatoes – they really do go with everything – I vote home fries for England!), stuffed to the gills with peppers, onions, tomatoes and delectable italian sausage. Of course I ogled at our neighbouring tables, where french toast and pancakes were amidst the order. I was mentally trying to eat their food, complaining in my loudest hindi about how I had made the wrong choice blah blah blah, all while polishing, and I mean POLISHING off my entire (what felt like) 20 egg omlette.

It was all downhill from there. Thankfully this was literal as the road wound its way downwards towards the Wharf. We ambled along slowly and painfully with our very full stomachs. As we approached the Wharf I saw a Steve and Barry, a concept I have always been taken with ut never had a chance to look closely at. Went in to racks of clothes and accessories, very warhouse like, and came out with a pair of small gold sparkly hoops designed by SJP. At $4.99 they were a steal.

Then along Fisherman’s Wharf, taking in the seafood shacks and touristy shops and thronging crowds, till we got to Pier 39. Wandered in to have a look, past the gigantic Christmas tree with a lone busker beneath it. Clearly my memory isn’t what it was in my 20s or I am now a jaded tourist because it all looked more commercial and cheesier than in my mind’s eye. The bay and view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge were exactly how I remembered them though – grand and sweeping and with an air of mystery (and fog) surrounding them. V enjoyed the view immensely – his first experience of a city beside mid-town Manhattan (don’t ask) was turning out well.

The big fat sea lions were still bobbing up and down in the K-dock, on floating rafts purpose built for them. Instead of spreading themselves out nicely on the numerous rafts they all piled themselves into one another using only a fraction of the rafts, dangerously tilting some of them till one of them fell into the water. But that didn’t deter them, they’d carry on regardless, swimming right back and hopping up to find themselves a warm body or two to squeeze themselves between. It was a mesmerising few hours just leaning against the railing watching their antics and pillow fights. The bag of hot mini donuts no doubt helped. One of the sea lions did a little turn in the water for us, leaping up and down through the water like a sleek arrow, belying their huge girth and showing off their innate skill. A few others picked fights or courted their fellow sea lions - it was amusing to say the least. If I had to choose between taking home a sea lion and a bucket of mini dounts I'm not sure which way the coin would fall. Maybe I'd eat the mini donuts and then carry away the sea lion! Stomach and hands to good use.

We walked a bit more and generally chatted about nothing at all. To cap off our long day we finally took a slow mo street car all the way to Castro, crossing through the centre of the city, taking in the changing landscape of this up and down, hilly city, watching people mill around their city, going about their daily lives.

By dinner time our humungous breakfast was duly digested.

Mama’s: (On Washington Square) 1701 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA 94133. No reservations. Closed Mondays.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

SFO: the delights of nieces abound

There is no excuse for tardiness, especially in the unpredictability of this here today gone tomorrow kind of life. So I’m pulling up my socks and making good on a new year’s resolution to post more often. Better late than never?

Our first two days in the Bay area were in my cousin 40in2006's lovely high ceilinged home. I had some serious jetlag issues and the first night just could not get to sleep before 2 am (11am in the UK, by which time I had been awake more than 24 hours). It helped that my cousin and I sat and chatted till we could keep our eyes open no more. The two days absolutely flew by in a flurry of activity. The highlights included:

We visited the Container Store – a magic kingdom of all things packaging OCD. I could easily live in this store. I managed to convince V to come as well and if he hadn’t I’d have trotted home with armfuls of unnecessary (but Oh So Pretty) junk. I limited myself to some paper thin silicon cutting boards and magnet measuring spoons. V came away with Cable ID (do not ask).

We enjoyed a summer day barbeque thanks to my cousin-in-law, who deftly marinated some steak and salmon and fed us thin, flavourful slices. We sat out under their green leafy gazebo and ate till we had no more space left in our bodies.

I went on the school run with my cousin, dropping & picking up – from school and art class, picking up from movie afternoon. Mundane tasks like grocery shopping, filling gas – all pleasurable because of the company and the novelty of being in a car on America’s big wide roads. I felt like a country bumpkin for behaving as if driving were the greatest invention since sliced bread. It's what the London tube system has conditioned me to.

Spent an evening looking at photographs and listening to stories of their European vacation, of trawling through pictures of other nephews and nieces, festivals celebrated through the years, till finally the jet lag caught up, my eyes gave way and I fell into bed

The cherry on the icing of this cake was without a doubt my nieces, whom I hadn’t seen in too long and whom I apparently love more than I knew. At 7 and 11 they could not be more different, both in stages of development and in personality. In both I see glimmers of hereditary genes, small nuances and habits that they have from their parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts. It is amazing how level headed and logical the elder one is, serious yet firm in her likes and dislikes. While the younger one flits merrily between myriad available choices, smart comebacks and the insecurities of being the younger sibling. To buy them birthday/ New Year gifts in lieu of the many years I have missed we decided to take them to the mall and let them go wild. I told them this 24 hours in advance so they had a chance to think about what they might want. The elder one immediately declared her disdain for shopping and settled on books. The younger one had a list as long as a monkey’s tail and she kept asking if she could change her mind or have everything. In the mall they each chose a webkinz (DO NOT ASK – google your curiosity) and then we went to the bookshop where the elder one picked two books after careful consideration. The younger one changed her mind about the webkinz about 5 times in the shop and then could not decide what clothes she wanted for it. As for the bookshop she soon had a small pile and could not decide which two to buy. One so decisive and the other so dramatic. Each so lovely.

They are so different and yet so similar that I’m not sure my description is doing them justice. They have these full busy lives with school, friends, activities, their sibling love-hate relationship – all balanced delicately as their parents try and inculcate the best of both world. It looks hard this parenting in a foreign land, the juxtaposition of American existence with an Indian life.

Monday, December 01, 2008

SFO: Back to front

I'm sitting in the airline lounge sipping on water and waiting for our flight to bring us back to London. I cannot believe how quickly our holiday flew by. It was sunny, bright and all things nice - a sharp contarst to the horrific Mumbai news which we spent days following across the American news channels from our hotel room. From all these miles away there was nothing to do but call all the people we love and know in Mumbai to check their wellbeing. And seethe with shock and anger and sorrow and sadness at the unfairness and hideousness of the situation. I have many thoughts that I want to write here but I need to calm down and think clearly before I do.

Our flight is in an hour and I'm hoping that we take off on time.

The Saturday we left from London dawned grey and bitterly cold. While London was expecting 'artic winds' we were at the airport, enjoying the warmth and food of our T5 airline lounge well in time for our flight. I was so over excited at the prospect of seeing my cousin, her hubby, my uncle and nieces that I just couldn't sit still. As I bounced around on adrenalin they announced our flight and of course with V dwadling at a computer terminal (something about sports scores, I wasn't paying any attention) we made it to the gate just as they made the final call.

Finally, we were on the plane. Seated in our places and chattering away about our impending holiday we almost missed the announcement. A luggage truck loading suitcases and bags onto our flight had collided with the plane causing serious enough damage to the body to be declared unfit for flight on inspection. So we disembarked to the nearest lounge where I emailed my cousin to let her know of the delay and to wait impatiently for a replacement aircraft to be found. A 3 hour delay was made shorter by a long chatty phone call to a friend. The 11 hour flight was soon on its way. Not soon enough there we were in San Francisco, through immigration quickly and with our suitcases intact, being greeted by hugs and kisses and all things family. Our holiday was well and truly on its way.

I'm hoping we have less excitement on our flight back now. There is no family to make the flight shorter or more readily enjoyable, only the prospect of a cold winter and a week of work. Thank goodness we have a weeks' worth of sunshine to hold in our hearts and minds as we fly across the pond. For there, in London, I have no doubt, it will be brrrrr.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

See you sunshine

This weekend I'm leaving behind the London forecast of artic winds and 2 flakes of snow for the sunnier climes of California. I'm taking V, tonnes of suggestions of where to eat and the joy of knowing that when I get to SFO I will see my most favourite cousin (40in2006) and adorable nieces after too long. I hear that one of them, whom I have cradled in my arms when she was just a rosebud baby and I was just a young thing, is now taller than me. I'm not sure how I shall face this horror of being the shortest (yet again!) - I guess the 7 year old who is still shorter than me shall have to be my solace.

It's my first trip to San Francisco in over 10 years and V has never been anywhere in the US besides New York - so it's fuzzy memories for me and just movie scenes for him to go by. I hope to indulge in aimless wandering, friend and family mixing, excess food adventures and super retail therapy to boost the economy. Oh, and to smile ALL THE TIME.

Wish me good weather!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rugby for all

On Sunday V and I travelled across London to the Twickenham Stoop to join a bunch of colleagues in the front row of a Harlequins versus Wasps rugby game.

Originally we thought that it was at the main Twickenham Stadium. In fact as part of my 'home of sports' pilgrimage I was quite excited – to be watching a live rugby game at THE Twickenham. But it turned out to be at the very little brother Stoop, which is a trudge from the station past fields covered with cars and a much smaller affair altogether. Not small, just smaller.

I only began to follow Rugby after I moved to London and even then I don’t really watch just any match on TV. I watched the world cup that England brought home with great gusto and under the guided patience of the sports fan in our home I now follow the rules, understand the scoring and no longer grimace at the seeming disregard for pain and torture the players seem to inflict on one another. I understand now that all that tackling and standing on one another’s head and the scrum are well choreographed and policed by rules that make serious injury only a distant possibility. And that most rugby player have amazing fitness levels that help them work through pain and injuries unlike us (me) sub-humans who cry at the slightest twist.

V, on the other hand, played rugby in school, follows it (amongst many other sports) closely and was really looking forward to the live action. I got over the disappointment of not being in the main stadium pretty quick amidst the packed cheering crowds. It was a cold, yet fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, all these hunky men running around, chasing a rugby ball and us cheering them from our spectacular seats.

Rugby has proven that it is entertainment for all - sport for V and eye candy for me. What more could I ask for from a sport? Twickenham Stadium here I come.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Diwali - chaar guna behtar

It turns out that promises I make myself I rarely keep. I was going to blog about the many diwali’s last week but was too caught up in the whole super Obama drama and then moping because of the weather and then socialising to get out of the rut. So I didn’t.

Diwali One – Childhood, teen years and early adulthood: the scene has always been my parents home in New Delhi, India. My father is totally non-religious. He won’t go to temples or pray in any discernable way. My mother clearly believes in something, will go to a temple if I coerced her but essentially is like my father in that there is no regular form of prayer in their house. I on the other hand have had a somewhat religious bent of mind inherited from my nani and garnered over years of watching other people praying. But diwali is the exception to any rule. And this is what I remember. My parents, or more specifically my mother, will unpack her puja which consists of various inherited pictures and murtis and line them up against a wall, on a suitable table runner or duppatta. The Nik and I would have to pile up our books and pencil cases in front (to meet with Saraswati puja guidelines) and a load of mithai later hey presto(!) we looked liked we prayed everyday! After getting dressed in something new (sometimes a step we skipped) and decorating/ embellishing with kheel, khand ke khilone, batashas and diyas we would sit and sing the two religious songs we knew. And by we, I mean me and my mother, in our awful braying voices. The boys would stand sheepishly at the back, tugging at their kurtas and hopping from foot to foot. Puja concludes with silent prayer and one diya each is placed in each room of the house and all the candles and diyas on the perimeter would be lit. Then my mother would distribute the kheel, khilone, batashe and mithai onto thali’s with other diwali stuff like nuts, fruits, mathris and the Nik and I would be dispatched to each of our neighbours to be neighbourly. We’d invariably come back with more, less appetizing mithai and stuff from their houses. Then polish off a load of mithai and our chosen khilona (which were such pure sugar that we'd be bouncing off the walls by dinner). Then fireworks. The end.

Diwali Two – Two&some years ago we bought our very first home, V & I. Our very own veritable pot of debt and DIY disasters. But by the time diwali came around we could think of no invitation better than to go home to India. After a number of years as the youngest bahu I was going to be at my in-laws place for the very first time to celebrate it with V’s family. One of his brothers and his wife joined us. I’m not sure what bits I remember besides my lovely new clothes, the fact that we got all dolled up and ate a sumptuous feast mostly prepared by my mother-in-law (I contributed one dish I think). Then we lit diyas everywhere and finally at midnight we did the puja as is tradition in their household. In jodi’s, with many an asking for grandchildren(what?!) and long happily married lives (now that I am fully on board with!). I remember it being a laughter filled evening and how happy we were to be together. And how sad that the other sibling and his family hadn't joined us. I’m glad we chose to go - I think it was the best decision in ages.

Diwali Three - Of course 2007 was going to be THE year. V and I would take time off, decorate our OWN flat, embed traditions we’d inherited and started in our married lives as renting people. Does my life ever turn out like I plan? Um, no. Long story short, we didn’t take the day off. Came home late in somewhat freezing rain, joined our hands in prayer in front of an agarbatti, an Ikea tealight and our prayer shelf and then ate Maggie and cheese and tomato tasty toasties in front of the TV. Diya in every room and then blissful sleep. Not what I expected at all. I was upset about how little effort and time I had put into it all. And I carried that with me all year long.

Diwali Four - In 2003, a year and a half after we moved to London, we finally had an apartment that was big enough to fit in a proper sized crowd. So that Diwali (or rather the weekend before it) we had a HUGE party. 60 people, including loads of screaming children. Snacks and dinner and taash. It was a roaring success. But so draining that we never did it again. This year my beloved aunt and uncle will be in town. This is a sign we need to do something big. Or relatively bigger and better and more celebratory than the last dud year. So we decided to have a mini-party on Diwali day. It was an exercise in planning and precise execution considering it was a working day. From the select invited guests to a small spread of vegetarian food, it all worked to plan. We had diyas all over the house and lit our fabulous pair of valakkas (a wedding gift from the same aunt and uncle – so utterly apt). The house looked great and we all cleaned up pretty well too. It was not a long evening, having been a working day to be followed by another, but it was a fun evening, full of chatter and laughter and all things joyful. Even the lashing rain and mini-snowflake dance did nothing to dampen our spirits

So those are my chaar diwali stories, each different in location, shape and character. Each one a memory that I hold, some more dearly than others. I think we’ve set a good precedent, V & I, for diwali in our own home, borrowing from our many diwali’s before. I’ll be carrying the warmth of this one all year long. And looking forward to the next one.

Puja: prayer
Kheel: puffed rice
Khand ke khilone: animal shapes/ toys made of pure sugar
Batashas: candied sugar shaped like coins
Mathris: flaky salty biscuits/ crackers
Diyas: tea lights, these made out of teracotta/ mud
bahu: daughter-in-law
Jodi: couple
Agarbatti: incence stick
taash: card games
valakkas: free standing oil lamp from Kerala
chaar: four
chaar guna behtar: four times better

P.S.: I will add in a few pictures tonight.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

This day, like no other

Dear Blog,


Point to note for www posterity: Barack Obama has won the 44th presidency of the United States of America in the elections held on the 4th of November 2008.

I'm not American. But today it's just a good day to be a world citizen. I've been watching the news with a silly grin on my face all morning. Despite so many people's gut feelings that colour would trump all and the Bradley effect would not allow an Obama win, today America did the rest of us proud by making the choice that was right in character. That it broke the colour and ethnic barrier as well is no small accomplishment.

I'm hoping the world will be a better place for his presidency. More fairness, justice and inclusion. Better relations, less colour discrimination, more forgiveness, less war.

I know that the world is a better place today than it was yesterday. I hope fervently that it's going to get even better.

I am happy. Oh So Happy.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A place in history

Today I woke up thinking it would be a good day to be American. Or that instead of being American for the day (I won't give up my Indian passport you see) all sensible and logical people in the world (i.e me) needed to be added to the electoral register for something as monumental as this American election. After all, no matter how much we disagree with it both in principal and practice, it is the American President who is the leader in many ways of the free world. Whose lead and licence allow the remaining countries to forge ahead. Or not.

I went to a school where we were taught democracy by electing a council from amidst our student body. Every civics class was made to count as we learnt both in theory and practice how democracy worked and how each voice counts. What free and fair meant. How campaigning could be ethical and how secret ballots worked.

In college the life lessons continued. The lesson of each voice counting was brought home when we were electing a student president from a senior class. After days of campaigning for two strong and fair candidates, voting day was upon us. The geeky lot like me made it our duty to go and vote having given great thought to whom we wanted as our student body leaders. Others however thought of this as just a childish exercise and stayed away. When the votes were counted it was a head-on tie. Not a vote askance. This then for me was the most important lesson of them all: If you didn't vote, your voice didn't count. Why let everyone beside yourself go to the bother of lugging themselves to the voting booth - do you not want your voice to be heard? It was a right not to be taken lightly no matter how childish it may seem when you are at school or collage I think.

I like to think I am a conscientious world citizen and voter. I take an interest in the world around me, how politics and economics and philisophy and religion shape it. I read manifestos and editorials, watch both the news and popular opinion polls and whether I have a vote or not, in my mind I vote and I know the best way forward for my world. Today I wish I were American for the day. Or had the chance to be added to that electoral register as someone sensible.

You, if you are American, have that choice today. To be sensible. To do the right thing. To take the time to think about it, how you have a place in history, a chance to right the wrongs of the past 8 years. And how your vote COUNTS!!!!


Monday, November 03, 2008

Still running

Right. So Diwali. That will be my next post. And if I manage to get my act together then it will even have *gasp* a photograph. Note to self: Yes, I know I am inefficient and always late with my blog posts but dear Lord I have so much to do these days that you would think I ran a country, not just my house and my life, so forgive me.

Instead I want to note all the events of last week, which was so hectic and so wonderful that I am in danger of waking up exhausted but happy, seeing as some of it might have been a dream.

Diwali. See above. Let me just add that it was wonderful.

Work all day. Walked halfway home in lieu of any sort of gym activity in the face of late nights. Only to find that our lift had given up the ghost. Knowing that we were going out for dinner and not wanting to contemplate climbing the stairs twice in one night I left a complaint with the porter and then went and bugged my neighbour for about an hour. Then I complained about the lift again. All the flashbacks to our just moving in and the lift dying on us for a WEEK came surging back. Of course then we were unfit clowns whereas now we can climb the seven floors without stopping or our hearts threatening to explode all over the stairwell. Still. I didn't want to do it (unless it was my choice - this is my favourite self punishment on days I miss the gym - climb every staircase to and from work including moving escalators) and I certainly had no intention of making my poor aunt and uncle suffer. So I sat in the shopping mall and read a book and listened to my ipod till V appeared and we went off to meet my aunt and uncle in East Ham, where they were joining us after a day of London touring. It was my aunts 60th star birthday and in lieu of anything remotely like a sadhya I decided that a spot of idli-dosa at Saravana Bhavan would have to do the trick. It certainly did. Once sated and home, 7 floors later, it was a delicious apple tart and vanilla ice cream to top off the day.

Work all day. Endless meeting about a meeting. Endless calls to the porter and Management company to complain loudly about the lift. Despite assurances that they should have come and had a look within 4 hours of the complaint (YESTERDAY that is), and that they were being strict with them, no sign of any lift working when I got home with two bags of groceries. A dinner of Breton chicken and garlic bread at home as my aunt and uncle had already spent the day out and had no intention of climbing those stairs again. V out for an office thing and only home at 1am, when he informed me in hushed tones as I was half asleep that the lift was working again. YAY!

Day off. Marvel at the working lift. Wandered up to the Greenwich Observatory in a chauffer driven car. Such luxury I have not known in all my time in London. It was a bright blue sky, sunny day although the cold necessitated scarves and filter coffee. Walk across the prime meridian and then through the galleries and we were off. Driven to Borough Market near London Bridge, a thing I hold dearly and which clearly delights tourists. Being Friday it wasn't as crowded as a Saturday, when Londoners join the hoards of tourists inspecting the brownies at bakeries and marvelling at the giant cheese wheels. After a wander through and the purchase of some brilliant chorizo at Brindisa we ambled to the fabulous Fish! for a lunch of fish and chips amidst the bustle contained within its glass roof. A drive to our nearest mall for a last minute whip through the home section and the purchase of doughnuts to mark the end of their stay. A short rest at home and then the long drive to Heathrow to see them off. Leaving on a jet plane. It has been so great having them come to stay for this whole week - 3 celebrations in one - their anniversary, diwali and her birthday. Then a drive back into town where I caught a train to North London to a colleagues house for a proper send off for two very pregnant colleagues. Large and boistrous office crowd, snacks and drinks for the evening. Got home at 11 to find V and next visiting friend, Sher, ensconced on sofa after having polished off the diwali leftovers. Chatted for a while and then went off to collapse in bed.

Saturday: Woke up late. Fed the Sher some breakfast and sent him off to see his other friends. Tidied the house and generally kept busy all afternoon while the wind and rain railed against our glass fortress. Decided to keep the momentum of the week going and braved the horizontal rain, traipsing off to west London to eat at Dalchini, our favourite Indo-chinese joint. Only to find that their menu and chef seem altered and everything now tastes exactly the same. One gravy, multiple meats. Not sure when I'll be back again.

Sunday: Sher back after a night at his friends house. We went off to find some lunch, the boys at Gourmet Burger kitchen and me at Wagamama. Endless talking talking, planning planning. Then he left to catch his plane and we wandered off to meet other friends and watch the new Bond movie. I've never been a big Bond fan and this must have been the first or second one I've seen on big screen. The Quantum of Solace was smooth and Daniel Craig is a hottie. Good action, tight story and amazing sights - it was good - I might have to see the first one that he starred in. A dinner of tapas and then home where the heart is.

It's a new week but things look set to be hectic hectic hectic. Note to self: Finish the diwali post before next diwali. Preferably this week.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A few days of running

It's Diwali people! And despite a very hectic few days I am planning to celebrate properly. So 1 diya on Dhanteras (done), 11 diyas on choti diwali (done - albeit at 20 minutes to midnight last night) and today 21 diyas (not yet though). Last year was a bit of a washout but I think I will save that story for contrast effect with how spectacular this year is going to be.

The reason for both the hectic-ness and the to-be spectacular Diwali celebration is the very best kind. My aunt and uncle are in town, all the way from India, on a sort of half work, half holiday thing. This is my father's younger sister, the one whose temprement I aspire to. So fun things we've done so far since Friday night include:
- A trip to Victoria Station bright and early on Saturday morning to put them on an all day tour of the Cotswalds, Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford. You would think that we'd rest during the day, but no, OH NO, instead we swam 40 laps and then entertained out of town friends enroute to India with their 350 bags and 1 child, cooking a mushroom pasta lunch, adding another lot of friends to the mix for an afternoon of numerous rounds of tea/ coffee/ alcohol and an entire bag of banana chips & borubon biscuits, all amidst the laughter that only good friends can spare.
- Brunch at the Tea Palace on Westbourne Grove on a rainy Sunday and a good walk around the picturesque streets of Notting Hill.
- Tea and snacks at our home with visiting cousins come to see the Aunt and uncle.
- Their anniversary dinner at La Tasca, which although very much part of a chain of restaurants most often comes up trumps. It did and we enjoyed a host of tapas and a chorizo and squid paella. Rolled home in the freezing cold.
- Mama Mia! at the Prince Edward Theatre at the intersection of Leicester Square and Picadilly Circus last night. Was bright and energetic and oh such relief from the drudgery of life. Although 80% of the audience were tourists from non-English speaking countries they ALL knew the words and sang loudly along. I saw this in New York with V last year and was struck but how similar yet different the shows were on either side of the pond. On balance I think the Brits carried off the humour better while the American lot had an impressive theatre and more energy. Everyone had glorious voices.
- Yummy hot dinner in Chinatown after the show. And then a cab home to wake V up and say our prayers and light the 11 diyas.

Woke up to the sound of our alarms this morning. Diwali although it doesn't feel quite like it yet. I'm wearing a bright zari-fied ethnic kurti to work today, my defiance to the staid office uniform. No one on the train could tell as my overcoat saved their eyes from the BRIGHTNESS. People in office - not so lucky!!!

Happy Diwali everyone. If it's something you celebrate I hope you have a wonderful time. I certainly intend to.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hair to celebrate

Growing up I would have gnawed off and gifted you my right arm if you had straight hair and were willing to exchange it with the curly mallu mop I inherited from my paternal genes - even if only for one day. In fact I recall many of my selfish dear god prayers including the wish of straight as straw swishy black hair. Of course I still have my right arm, you have your hair and I'm waiting on God for other more important things like world peace.

And of course the grass being greener on someone else's head (!) meant that everyone thought my hair was permed, the ringlets framing my head mistaken for an artificial architecture that THEY wanted. I trained myself young, to tame the wildness by tying it back tightly - so much so that my forehead is a tad broader than it need be. Even in adulthood my hair was awkward, and no matter how much V said it looked lovely I just never ever believed him. Terrified of perming it I just stuck to the tied back old aunty look, a bun or ponytail adorning the back of my head at all times. Bottomline - I have never liked my hair. Except on the days I got a haircut and it had been blowdried to perfection. And who are we kidding, that never lasts.

However Colin the Singaporean dude seemed to know what he was doing. The too short poodle look that I came back with from my SIngapore holiday has this morning suddenly grown out into a head of lovely waves. I'm not quite sure how except that I used a leave in conditioner after washing, tied it back while damp and when I finally opened it in the afternoon it looked GLORIOUS. I have felt a bit like a model today swishing my head around, flying in the right direction in the wind as I walk along, daring it to all tangle and go back to its original birds nest state. But no. Till this very minute it is looking lovely and just exactly how I now want it to look. Not straight (which I have learnt would look foolish on me - my genes did know what they were doing!) but gentle curls and waves framing my face just right. I keep going to the mirror to check that this is mine and not a dream. Or a wig.

I'm having a good, GREAT hairday. I never ever thought I'd be able to say that.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

With age comes hope

When we are young - and I mean teen young, early twenties young - we swing wildly between supreme confidence and crashing insecurity. Some of us thrive in our youth, others hide and wait for a more sensible age to come around. Either ways we survive it - with heartache, innocence, joy, angst - all mixed together and helped along with the love of family & friends & time, in the hope of our advancing years bringing us to a more settled, more stable life.

September and October are strange months. Growing up I didn't know a lot of September/ October people, I never read the Linda Goodman sun signs for Virgo's or Libra's. Then I met V who is a Virgo and Linda Goodman's Love Signs became my secret bible. But that was it, V in September and his brother and my uncle in October. That was it. And then suddenly over the past few years, like an odd shaped stone collecting moss, I found myself with so many dear friends and family whose days of birth are in September and October. So, without naming names, you know who you are, I want to wish all my September & October friends & family a very happy birthday, a year ahead of joy and peace in its many forms, be it with work, relationships, life.

And since so many of them are inching their way into the late twenties and lovely thirties I wanted to find the perfect go-for-it song. Of course being a boyband groupie makes this difficult without utter sop. But I've been thinking of this song for a while now - since mid-September when I started to write this post in my head. I like the Ronan Keating version (this may not be the original). And then today I tried to embed the youtube version of it but failed miserably. So here is an abridged version of the lyrics:

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat, but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid life ever leave you empty handed

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,I hope you dance, I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Don't let some hell bent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out, reconsider

Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,
I hope you dance (time is a wheel in constant motion always)
I hope you dance (rolling us along)
I hope you dance (tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder)
I hope you dance (when those years have gone)

Happy birthday! I know it's a bit of a morbid song, forgive me. But I just wanted to reflect on how trying life can be for some of us some of the time - whether our search for a job, our doubts about talent, our reach for love, our yearning for a different life. Life is a seeking adventure and all I guess I wanted to say was keep dreaming, keep reaching out, keep the faith. And smile a lot.

Happy birthday people. Can I just say how glad I am that you are MY people!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Singapore: Sick, Swim and Singlish

Ok, so I have been back from tropical hot and rainy Singapore for nearly a week now but not written. I have an entirely plausible excuse - sickness. Specifically, tonsilitis, snot, sore throat, fever. I caught the first leg of the tonsilitis on the long long flight to Singapore. We landed on a lovely hot hot evening to be greeted by a smiling R. And on the way home we could hear the F1 race cars roaring and see the bright lights of the Singapore circuit, if only from a distance. Holiday here we were.

None of the pictures or words from his parents adequately prepared us for how madly in love we fell on sight of our delectable nephew, P. He was about ready to drop off for a night of slumber but not before we got in a hug and fair number of kisses. And I only felt a tad guilty for passing on my germs - he did already have a cold and cough. V left with both his brothers and friends to watch Friday night practice and I stayed home with T and a plate of idlis, catching up on gossip and my breath after that endless flight.

By the next morning my tonsils were swollen to a monsterous size and I had a fever to match so off to the kind Chinese doctor who gave me some serious antibiotics to ingest. Needless to say I stayed home the next few days, begging for pity, whining like a child and having every whim catered to while I watched the adorable baby play and entertain us and himself. V enjoyed each night of the F1 with his brothers and then we'd all spend the remainder of the night staying up late and chatting and laughing. By Tuesday I was a bit better and ventured out for an afternoon with a friend but I was so sapped of energy that I slouched all through it and was not good company at all.

Right. So before this falls into an endless ramble on my holiday, let me focus on the highlights. In my week in Singapore despite all illness I learnt the two key words that qualify as all defining Singlish. Can and Cannot. So any experience/ event/ question/ answer can be answered / defined with these two words. Here is how:

1. F1: I didn't see any except on R&T's TV from the confines of a very comfortable leather sofa while sipping on warm Diet Coke and explaining the rules to T. V, on the other hand, had some majorly kick-ass tickets thanks to both his brothers, saw all the 3 days, bought a load of memorabilia and took pictures and videos. The whole of Singapore fairly glowed from the F1. Even in the aftermath. But for me, F1 was Cannot and for V it was Can. I hope in another year I Can.

2. Transport: Of all kinds. We took the MRT only a couple of times primarily because it was just easier and fairly cheap to take cabs many a time. The MRT is quick, clean and efficient and such a contrast from London that it takes some getting used to. I guess volume of people is a factor but the fact remains that beside a disciplined people the system itself is designed in a more sensible manner. Some of the tips that London could so easily use were they not so enamoured by carpeting and cloth is the idea of plastic row seating. Easy to clean and neat to look at, it left a lot more standing space for people than the indecisive seating that the Tube provides. The cabs were an experience as well. Priced for a wider audience you could book one of these from your home on an automated system or from your mobile or queue at a taxi stand to wait your turn. And each cab driver wanted to have a conversation: Going to? Lunch/ dinner? Like Singapore? etc. etc. etc. All in perfect English, with a number of cans / cannots thrown into their responses: Orchard Street Can? Lunch/ dinner Can? Singapore Can? etc. etc. etc.

3. Shopping: Having been to Singapore previously there were no attractions left to see. And being sick I was not motivated enough to go and check out the aquarium (previously unseen by moi). It's such a tiny city/ state that there are limits to its activities. The best known activity is the most materialistic one - shopping. I can go either ways - some days I can love shopping and spend hours and serious cash indulging - others I need to just go in get what I need and leave or even better indulge in some focused internet browsing. But in Singapore I was determined to let my inner shopaholicness out to play. The first few days we had no time or inclination what with illness, F1 and an adorable baby to keep us busy. Then V got into the groove and systematically attacked his list in a few afternoons. I followed him listlessly, stopping for regular breaks in the lovely coffee shops and just looking. Taking measure is what V describes it as, this looking, this gathering by eye of the various things available, this mental totting up of size, shape, colour, cost and what will safele fit in my suitcase. And then of course the mental tussle of what I need vs what I want vs what I NEEEED and where I was going to put it when I got back to my shoebox London home. In the end I shopped 2 days before I left, 3 pairs of sandals (purportedly for next summer), 1 pair of shoes (for work. Hah!) and 4 handbags (because can one ever have enough of those?) - all to add to my collection, my collec-zione, my ridiculous wasteful life of bags. What else did I buy? Oh yes, a small oddly shaped pillow for my hallway chair (and now neither of us much like either colour or shape), chopsticks, a chinese-y notebook, a lovely red character necklace, a change purse and two little oddly shaped dishes. I also bought a load of gifts to be given and sent out - colourful and so different from what I have access to in London. So for a shopping fix, Singapore clearly Can.

4. Food: I am such a planner. I scoured the internet, blogs and friends minds to get a shortlist of where we should go. But in the end we didn't eat out nearly as much as we could, in the main due to my tonsils. But each place we ate at was good, some of them great. The food fresh and spiced and varied and affordable. I'm not putting up my reccomendations just yet - they do deserve a post. But in short Singapore food Can.

5. Weather: The weather was tropical. Hot and humid followed by great thundering bursts of rain. And the hot was lovely, it made my skin and bones feeel warm and loved. But we needed and lived in and out of air conditioning to avoid melting into puddles of sweat. Of course my sore throat and cold thought it was all a bad joke and reared up in protest every time it was subjected to changing climes. On our very last day there I was finally fit and fine enough to wander out to the gigantic pool in R&T's development. And after taking the Baby for his first swim in which he squealed with delight - a sound I will not forget for a time to come - I swam 20 laps in the warm water under a beating sun - a joy which far surpassed the divided lane, covered, heated pool to which we are used. The weather in Singapore, especially compared to the indecisive English weather, Can Can Can.

6. Friends and other Indians: Singapore, much like London, has a large Indian population. In London they are more widespread, the pockets of various statehoods lining the suburbs, Wembley for the Gujaratis, Southall for the Sardarjis. In Singapore they seem all to be professionals, young to middle aged, determined to stay for a while, try out this life but go back eventually. It's unlike here where generations of Indians seem to have settled into the fabric of life and running businesses and marrying into the British ranks, besides the newer immigrants who remain unsure about whether we are here or there. We met a few friends, some from previous work places, others from B-school and yet others from London but each meeting was fleeting and interrupted by my unhelpful coughing. I planned to but eventually had to bow out of coffee and an early meal with marathon girl. I hope to be better host than guest when she comes to London. Singapore is close enough to India to be ideal as a first step out. Being so chock a block full of Indians it would be easy to have a large friend circle and full easy life. So for R&T Singapore Can. For V&I being so settled in London I am not so sure. As a holiday place though Singapore surely Can.

7. Miscellaneous: Went to Clark Quay one night. Still utterly boring, quite plastic. The air conditioning units when veiwed from behind brought on childish giggles. Heaving with wannabes and tourists. I Cannot. Had a haircut at the hands of Colin, T's hairdresser. In a fit of daring I asked him to chop it off. Before I could change my mind he had and now I have a short unmanageable mop. It looked good when he styled it. Now it just looks like a bad birds nest that could easily win the Turner prize. So haircut, Cannot. The good life is easily to be had in Singapore. Large houses in serious secure developments with pools, gyms. Full time paid help, everything delivered or within a short short distance. Cabs and the MRT to whiz around the city. Divine weather, with an umbrella. So one Can, but sadly for a multitude of personal inner battles I think I Cannot.

8. The Baby: The highlight and joy of our trip was this beautiful child, son of R&T. At 8 months old P is just the most interesting thing to watch. He wanted to be carried and paid attention to. And as all genius babies his age, he would go straight for the new toy in a pile of his own toys and we would clap. His favourite toy was the crinkling of fresh newspaper. And then a small basketball that V bought him. He loved V and smiled at him, went to him willingly and they played endlessly - uncle and nephew seriously bonding. I have this whole series of pictures of them, of P sitting patiently in V's lap and then both of them playing with his toys, them crawling around and then V lying on the floor and our man P climbing up, standing balanced precariously against his supine uncle. He had many a first as babies of his age are want to do at that age, all in the week we were there. Memorably, he climbed/ crawled up a set of 4 stairs, refusing any support from his father as he did so. He went for his first swim/ dip/ paddle in the pool and loved it. He's at an eminently huggable and kissable age and we took full advantage of it. He gurgled and giggled, played endless games of peek-a-boo and let me get to the plug point quicker than you. We could never imagine what he'd be like before he arrived, but now that he's here he is so much a part of our family that it is unimaginable what it was like without him in it. I'm so glad that V and I had this week to spend with all 3 of them, R&T&P, who gently, lovingly and without doubt are the fabric of our family that bind us in. Our family, Can.

9. Overall: Beside the illness it was a brilliant holiday. The perfect kind where there are no museums and cultural things to distract from all the rest and relaxation. I will go back - for the aquarium and the F1, I hope. The weather was kind, the food was tasty, the days were long and languid, the shopping was indulgent, the friends were fun, the family and THE BABY were the perfect thing for these tired London souls. I came back to a severe tonsilitis relapse (I don't think long distance air travel and I agree on much) and am laid up at home indefinitely till I stop being infectious, stop coughing like a 90 year old, stop dripping rivers of snot through my nose and stop buring up (almost there). But the memories of Singapore will carry me through. Can la.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Six quick things

Right. It's high time I got my act together. So here goes:

1. Birthday things: More than two months late but with every good intention here are just a few of my birthday things. The 3 prints on the wall are from V. I chose them from the wall of the very talented Shaylind at her Etsy shop, Constant Dreamer. They arrived on schedule but we didn't get around to framing them for ages after. And then it took a couple more weeks till we got around to hanging them up. And I don't like these frames although they work for now. We may have taken procrastination to a whole new level but I LOVE the prints. They make me smile EVERY SINGLE MORNING. The two cookbooks are Nigella Express and a Madhur Jaffrey bible - thanks to a very generous book voucher from MG. The ipod dock is from Broom and lives in my kitchen. I do not know how I survived without it all these years. It has made using said cookbooks a lot more fun and both have conspired to make the food just a tad tastier! The London walks is a set of cards she 'donated' to my cause(?) of walking(!) from amidst her boxes of packing. It is as yet unused and the blame lies solely with me. The beautiful purple orchid is from G, who comes each week to check that I haven't yet killed it. The American Hot pizza was my sinful lunch on the day. And that beautiful cake is a vanilla chocolate marble lovingly decorated by J and enjoyed by all in the office, all day long.

2. I have uploaded my Paris pictures to the computer. The computer however is playing up and rejecting i-tunes updates, CD's and anything else its mood does not fancy. So the pictures to match our marvellous mini-break will have to wait till SOMEBODY decides to co-operate.

3. Work has been super busy with everyone deciding to take their summer vacations at the same time. I've had to put in longer hours and more brain power in the past two months than at any other time in the past 3 years. But despite all the outwardly moaning I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it. It's been productive and I still find I am passionate and willing where my job is concerned. I think that is a good sign, no? V's has been manic with 5 am starts IN OFFICE and late nights still IN OFFICE for an entire week, thanks to the manic circumstances of his job amidst the financial market turmoil. His eyes need cucumber slices.

4. And amidst the outwardly busy world it's also been a time of quiet contemplation of life in our household. The last post was pretty self-explanatory I think. In a strange ironic way death always makes me think of life and how it is too short to waste or complain about. Which is not to say don't waste or complain but to say if you do either of those figure them quickly, DO SOMETHING, don't just get into a rut of whining. It also brings up all those memories of a wonderful life gone by and the unfairness of sudden loss. It is such a hard and long process, this grieveing, that all I can do is be patient and send my love and thoughts and memories to my friend in the hope that some of them will provide comfort in the face of the seemingly harsh reality that life does go on.

5. V and I are off on vacation. Finally. To Singapore, where our most delightful baby nephew awaits our attention. Or rather we await his. A week of tropical weather, family love, catching up with old friends, retail therapy, foodie heaven and wait for it, F1 GRAND PRIX LIVE WATCHING. If you have any suggestions of where to eat (keep in mind I am allergic to shellfish) or to shop please please do email me at the email address in the sidebar.

6. I will try and blog from there but I might be distracted so forgive me will ya? And I promise that October will be better and I will blog at least twice a week - after I get back that is. Will you hold me to it?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sometimes there are no words

I am sorry. You are in my thoughts and prayers. And I know that these are of no comfort. Especially across the oceans.

I want to mark this week and specifically the 16th of September 2008. For a person I love who lost someone they love.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Earning (or is that eating?) my keep

I’ve recently been given the same award by two lovely blogger ladies who have very different lives and very different blogs. In an e-mail I asked one of them to please please take hers back and she (rightly) said that it was hers to give and mine to decide whether to do anything with. In the spirit of acquaintance-ship I’ve come around to agreeing. There was a time in the early days of this bloglife where I would have gift wrapped and sent you my left arm had you given me an award (I bet you that’s why I never got any!) but I’ve grown older, wiser and way grumpier. So I choose not to accept awards or pass them on. As I’ve said before, everyone on my blogroll is chosen for a reason, specifically my reasons, and each one of those on it are worthy of a mention. But I find back-patting tiresome. And I don’t think I ‘deserve’ an award any more than the next gal. And I don’t love my blog. Or most of my rambling/ writing. And to top it all I AM JUST PLAIN LAZY. But in the spirit of not pissing everybody off, I am grateful. But I won’t do it (i.e. put it up and and pass it on) with any conviction and that I cannot do without. So I must humbly bow out. Not of blogging (yet) but of award and tag thingies.

Now that that is out of the way let me get on with the business of blogging. Which I seem not to do often enough these days. If I promise to change will you love me?

Two Saturdays ago we had the ONE day of summer weather surely due to us. It was so beautiful SO BEAUTIFUL that I felt skin tingly all day what with the warm sun beating down on me. After a blazing 60 lap swim (my highest ever and yes, I am very proud!) I abandoned my boy for a Hen Doo. Hen Doo’s are (or is that were?) not de rigueur in India. At least not the ‘lets all go and walk around some Soho-type bars with bunny rabbit/ sex siren costumes and number plates hung around the neck drunk as can be’ sort of variety. All I remember from when I got married is having a massive party organised by best friend for 3 of us chicks who were all getting married within 2 days of each other. Actually that theoretical bit is pretty much all I remember as I consumed about a bottle and a half of wine and danced madly till I fell asleep at 5am. So in some ways the ‘drunk as can be’ bit does fit. No licence plates or traipsing through bars for this girl though.

This Hen Doo was for a girl getting married (maybe I should say woman?) who is quite pregnant. So are some of her dearest friends. She insisted she had no energy to stay up past 8pm and instead decided that we would ‘take tea of the English variety’ at a café followed by a viewing of Grease (her favourite movie) from the safety of her couch. So there I was, in East Dulwich, a part of London I have never had reason to explore. It was to be a late lunch/ early tea thing and since I had had my swim and then traipsed across 2 stations and train changes to get there I was absolutely starving. It was a longish walk to Lordship Lane; the friend I traveled part of the way with and I could have chosen to take the bus but neither of us wanted to waste the sunshine and chose the leisurely walk instead. Lordship Lane is a mix of lovely boutique-y shops and independent grocers. It was buzzing with people and their prams and their shopping. We reached Le Chandelier on time and went in even though no one from the group had arrived. They did arrive a few minutes later and we promptly retired to the (weirdly) French-Moroccan themed room upstairs.

Le Chandelier is a ‘Tea Room’. The downstairs is bright and airy and Oh So Pretty. There are many a different chandeliers hanging from the ceilings and rafters, but not in an in-your-face way. I think some were antique and others quite new. The food menu is quite substantial with proper lunch things like club sandwiches, large salads and omlettes. They also seem to take their loose leaf teas quite seriously with a detailed separate menu explaining the large selection of teas. In fact Le Chandelier sells both loose leaf tea and chandeliers, you have only to ask for the correct menu.

To eat I chose an Afternoon Tea which came as good English teas should, on a tiered platter, each level of delicious indulgence precariously balanced on its own paper lace doily. The bottom layer had half a sandwich each of salmon and egg mayonnaise and two canapés (one each with smoked salmon and ham). The middle tier had a large slice of chocolate cake, a round apricot tart and an apple triangle. The top tier had 3 scones and a generous helping each of strawberry jam and clotted cream. I chose an Oolong tea to wash it all down. It looked beautiful. I only managed to wolf down the canapés and sandwich and then I HAD to have one of the warm scones, so I donated all 3 pastries and the remaining 2 scones to the 3 pregnant women who wolfed them down without letting them touch the sides.

I have to say this is only my second time of having an English afternoon tea. The first was many years ago and it was fab although a bit rich for my system and somewhat at the time unaffordable. I’ve always wanted to go somewhere fancy like the Dorchester or the Savoy or the Marriott in County Hall to try a proper tea. I’ve never managed it, each time being intimidated by both idea and price. Le Chandelier was the real thing at a fraction of the cost.

We looked at some hilarious pictures of the Bride through the years (secretly prepared by her best friend) and were regaled by stories of her childhood and teen years. We laughed a lot, a LOT, considering that most of us had never met before. It was a lovely afternoon. Many (and I mean MANY) hours later we were done, with scones, cups of tea and tales. While a majority of the party went off to enjoy her sunny garden and then watch Grease with a non-alcoholic cocktail in hand, I and the friend I traveled part of the way with headed back into town.

If you want a quirky afternoon tea I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. Ditto for a chandelier. Make the trek.

Le Chandelier: 161 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, London SE22 8HX. Tel: 020 82 99 33 44

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Who do you think you are?

There are 4 categories of people in my gym (and no, it’s not small, medium, large and extra-large):

1. The Everyday, All-the-timers
There are people who you will see no matter how you change your routine. If you turn up one evening because you couldn’t wake up in the morning, they will still be there, working out like their life depend on it. These people usually have premier lockers so they never have to carry another gym bag or wear their trainers with their business suits and look like twats on the train to work ( They probably also spend a large chunk of their wages getting their gym gear laundered by the in-house laundry and placed back in said locker on a regular basis. They look the fittest, most sculpted, utterly muscular and dare I say this, vaguely lonely. They all say hi to one another and the fitness coaches, perceptible nods as they walk by from one machine to another, something of a clique or club-ishness about their demeanor. A trainer recently told me that this is the social life for a few of them – they know all the coaches and trainers, attend staff parties and outings. This IS their spare time. I feel vaguely sad now that I know this. I am almost tempted to walk up to one of them and say “Come watch a movie. Eat some popcorn. Or a brownie. Anything away from here”.

2. The Persevering
The Perseverings think that the gym is important. That it will wash away the calorific sins of the previous night’s meal. They are usually focused on getting themselves between 30 to 45 minutes of exercise. So i-pod gym play list on or headphones plugged into the TV screens they jog, run, cycle, climb stairs or cross train. With brows furrowed. After all, this is a serious business. They must do it intently or not at all. They sweat a lot. I mean A LOT. Like bucket loads. And mostly they won’t get wet wipes to disinfect the handles of any machine they used that is now soaked in sweat. After all, the business of losing weight/ staying fit is way more important than wasting time wiping away sweat. Let the sweat be a lesson to the next loser that ‘no pain, no gain’. And how to achieve pain, you ask? Well sweat it out MAAAN!!

3. The Reluctants
There are people for whom just the effort of getting up in the morning/ packing a gym bag or going to work/ then rushing to the gym is exercise. By the time the bag has been unloaded into the locker (which looks and smells much like an smelly dungeon) and every square inch of branded clothing and perfectly styled hair is in place they are exhausted. Who wouldn’t be after all THAT effort? There are many many women who spend a large chunk of the morning grooming themselves before work, more time than they have spent on the gym floor. There’s an array of eye liners, mascara, shadows, foundations and powders, lipsticks, liners, gloss. And all that is before the mind-blowing hair products. I would say that, combined, my gym locker room cosmetics are worth a small fortune. Of course, before I can steal all of them and sell them on e-bay (yes, I know these are used products but they are snazzy expensive products so who knows) it is more likely we shall all blow up into a flammable mess.

There is a woman whom I see very often in the mornings who arrives in her gym gear wheeling behind her a small red strolly. She then spends between 35 to 40 minutes (I see her before and after my workout and she’s still at her locker!) taking out everything from it and arranging it over two of the lockers. Shampoo, conditioner, 3 different creams, body oil, hair dryer, curling iron (both of which the gym already provides), a variety of hairbrushes, outfit and heels for the day and sometimes entire manicure and pedicure sets. I kid you not. I also think she is just using the gym as her personal washroom, because I have never ever seen her working out. I think she might be an extreme version of this category. Real, but extreme.

4. The Laziness
For this lot coming to the gym is an imposition. They are there under duress, having been dragged towards the idea of fitness by a spouse/ partner or a nagging conscience. Especially in the mornings when the outside world is so hostile, the weather its unwitting partner. They mostly are also the ones who show off more. I have seen dudes in my gym that will wander around the weights floor and sit at for example, a lat machine and use about 20kgs as the weight to pull a bar towards them. As soon as they do a short set they swiftly, within the blink of an eye, change the weight to 70kgs and then sit there looking proud and checking to see who saw them do that. Set that is, not the slimy change of weights. There is a lot of this extremely lliar-like behaviour going on.

I’m not quite sure where I fit in the scheme of things. I think I am part Persevering, part Laziness – I spend 2 seconds every morning after my alarm goes off trying to lie to myself that I had a terrible night with fever/ cold/ tummy ache/ headache/ any ache (none of which is in the slightest bit true – I sleep the sound sleep of a healthy youngster) so I can turn over and have a glorious extra hour in bed. I usually manage to dispel the lie in seconds 3 to 5 and get up; but lately I’ve been doing this a lot more. On the days I do go back to sleep I end up feeling guilty and going in the evening therefore ruining things like line of domino’s where one excuse means I now cannot muster the energy to go the next morning. And so again I set an alarm, ignore it, tell myself I’m tired from yesterday evening and voila! its my very own vicious circle of hell and fat.

On the 4 mornings (or evenings) that I do attempt cardio I focus all 45 minutes on the TV screen. Watching the weather and travel news is my addiction in the mornings. What natural elements and shut down tube line of irate people shall I have to battle on my way to work today? Bad game shows are my thing in the evenings. People unable to answer the simplest of questions on the Weakest Link make me mad. Yet without the distraction I am just not motivated enough to get through. If there were no TV screen I would just not go. Simple.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

One go Paris

What do I say about my weekend in Paris that would do it justice?

I’ve been to Paris only once before. Exactly 7 years ago to the month, with V, even then on a train, although it was nothing like the Eurostar. It was an overnight train journey in a train exactly the 3 tier Indian railways, with their rexine berths. We shared our compartment with a gaggle of Japanese people, small and precise in their movements and speech. In Paris we stayed at a friends empty Bastille flat, were joined by V’s eldest brother and wandered around in cabs and the rare metro, ticking off the most basic sights in our 3 short days: mona lisa and venus de milo at the Louvre, Champs Elysee with it’s Arc de Triomphe, a boat ride down the Seine with view of the Notre Dame and climbing to the very top of the Eiffel Tower to have our picture taken by a very friendly Bengali man. We bought our way into a packed Moulin Rouge where I got very drunk on a bottle of Champagne while watching the can-can. I remember the cab ride home way past midnight with a Sri Lankan cabbie who insisted on showing us ‘Diana’s tunnel’ and the beautifully lit up Eiffel. We stood in wonder watching as its lights went off for the night. I remember nothing till nearly midday next day when I got up and wandered around the markets of Bastille with my head threatening to explode all over the pretty stalls of artisan food.

As we prepared for this weekend I pulled out my scrapbook/ album (which has not been updated since Madrid in 2005 {I better get to it!}) and looked back at our pictures from that trip. We look so different, younger of course but that’s not what I mean. We look more unsure, not quite certain how we got there together, our smiles broad as can be as we realise that this IS OUR WONDERFUL LIFE. LOOK AT HOW LUCKY WE ARE? WE ARE IN PARIS! You can see it in our eyes. That melded joy and innocence. After years of traveling/ living alone on work abroad here was the sudden broadening of our lives together. We had had a few magic days in Florence before, just V & I, but this was more. Wandering with V’s brother, in my mind an acceptance of me into their tight-knit hilarious ranks. It was a memorable trip, it still makes me smile.

Now I feel more jaded, older and in more comfortable skin. Well traveled by my own standards. But I never went back to Paris. Not once in all these years of living in London. Not once in the many many times that V has gone on work. When V suggested it last month, it suddenly felt like the right time.

So on Saturday, after a rather early morning nearly empty tube ride to central London, we were quickly checked-in and security checked and walking to our coach under the St.Pancras domes. Two&abit hours on the Eurostar later we were at the fabulous Gare du Nord, buying a carnet of tickets to navigate the metro. We checked into our room with high ceilings, its tall windows flooded by sunlight in a quiet street just off the glitzy shops of the Place Vendome. We walked a few minutes away to a lovely buzzy square (recommended by real people on Trip Advisor) with loads of little café’s to eat in for our first Parisian meal. We had a big spread which in its many forms was all bread and cold meats and coffee and milk which suited us fine. Then we walked from our hotel up toward the Arc de Triomphe, sitting on a bench by the Avenue des Champs-Élysées for a break. And then back along the river towards the Eiffel Tower. We wandered below the looming tower and then ice cream in (his) hand we found ourselves a quiet bench to sit on. A wander through a local supermarket for some water and then we headed back for an afternoon nap – a luxury not to be found even on a slow London afternoon.

Refreshed for a night out we legged it to see where Nicholas Sarkozy and his bride live (impressive) and then on to our dinner reservation at La Cantine du Fauberg. We had a long and splendid dinner in this beautiful basement restaurant, surrounded by tables of glamourous people, listening to French music. Then we wandered back towards the Eiffel to see it lit up at night. The Champs-Élysées was jam-packed with tourists whom we left behind as we turned onto a side road and wandered to the river to Eiffel watch. It was blue. Nice but not fabulous. A cup of coffee at a nearby café rounded off a long evening of our long first day.

On Sunday we took the train to the suburb of Bercy, which is home to the relatively new Frank Gehry designed building for La Cinémathèque Française, which in a cinephile’s dream city like Paris ought to be a grand building. To be honest I was more than a bit disappointed by it. I’ll put up pics later and you can make your own choice. We wandered around the Palais Omnisports and the Bercy park. Watching dogs run after balls, a group of young adults play football and a purpose built ramp park being skated and cycled on. We wandered over the up-down bridge across the Seine towards the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Then it began to drizzle so we retreated to the safety of a hot coffee in a café. When the swift drizzle abated (and V had finished reading his all important article about 3 sailors drowning – macabre material for a pleasant weekend), we walked to Cour St-Emilion which is host to Bercy Village. Cour St-Emilion and Bercy are lovely, with wide streets lined by stone houses and modern flats. Bercy Village is a set of old wine warehouses that has been converted into a shopping village with swanky shops lining two sides of a short gated cobbled street. We wandered in and out of shops including the divine O&Co where I had to get V to physically restrain me from buying my weight in olive oil and related products. Found an Alsacien place and proceeded to devour an overly chees-y flammenkuche. V pronounced it ‘OK, but not as good as in Alsace or even as good as the Heidelberg one’.

A bit more of a wander and then we took the metro to Absesses, from where we climbed the 225 stairs up to Basilique du Sacré-Cœur instead of taking the funicular. Relished the view for a few moments and then walked down the terrace steps amidst the swarming tourists and souvenier sellers of Montermarte. Walked down through Pigalle and Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, the tourists thinning till we were once again on abandoned, quiet streets. And then just as suddenly we were in tourist centric Opera again.

That evening we went to Cite for a meal. We ignored a recommendation and chose a small middle-age knights themed restaurant. Not a great choice for either food or ambiance. A bite from V’s chocolate crepe while walking to Notre Dame was worth it though. Notre Dame was gorgeous, lit up against the fading light, each of its facades more beautiful and ugly than the next. It’s a strange building, impressive in its scale and minute in intricate design, and both beautiful and ugly in equal measure. We sat in the square in front for a while, enjoying each others company while watching the camera flashes punctuate the falling darkness. Then we walked through the busy Latin Quarter for which I did not much care. We got stuck in the rain on our journey back and got soaked in the 2 minute run from station to hotel, hand in hand.

On Sunday we drank coffee and had a croissant at the Partie de Campagne near us, whom I love all the more for their cute bee theme (when I put up my birthday gift post you’ll see why). Then we wandered to the Opera (which was swarming with tourist buses of Indian people) and then on to the Galleries Lafayette. The Galleries Lafayette is like Selfridges, brand after brand strutting around for attention and money. We did not pass go, or collect $200, instead we went straight to the food hall and bought cheese, mustard, wine and almond biscuits. Then we were off with our bags to a friends’ light and airy flat in Republique. Lunch with her at a delicious Tapas place (yes I know that's Spanish food - its just made for a refreshing change!) close by and a walk along the Canal St. Martin to a local coffee place before it was time to head back to London.

We had a packed weekend of doing nothing but wandering and taking in everything without any of the fuss of tickets, queues or waiting times. With its lovely (if unprouncable) French accent and beautiful shuttered window buildings Paris is a feast for both ears and eyes. We walked a lot, hand in hand, grinning and talking like teenagers again, taking random pictures and indulging myself in self portaiture. We lingered on park benches and in café’s - reading, listening to music and talking animatedly about life and our plans for the future. We smiled a lot, our innocent youths seemingly given back for this short interlude.

No matter what I write I can’t describe how much fun this trip was. I want to come back and read this post when I feel low or old. But really, no words can do it justice, and so I hope instead that when I do come back to read it I can manage to conjure up this feeling.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

That blog, this blog

There are genres of blog writing I cannot bear and then there is just narrow minded, self-centred, bad writing that spews forth from trawling through the blogosphere. I try and avoid both but often my eyes are drawn to these. I then torture V with a lot of ranting about what other people write that bends everything I think or believe out of shape. He nods wisely, agrees because he loves me but really has no clue because he barely has the time to read the Economist and watch his quota of TV let alone trawl the blogworld for mind fodder. He patiently tells me I should stop reading things that irritate me so. Or take in and even enjoy the other world view. I try. Mostly I succeed and stop reading the ones that most irritate me most. But some things are like an addiction. I find myself going back to read the next set of self-obsessed precocious nonsense. I am definitely an addict. I know they drive my blood pressure up but I cannot help myself from going back to read the sanctimonious crap. I am searching for a permanent cure.

I choose my blogroll with care, and there is no one on it whose writing does not rank highly in my opinion for interest, imagination, viewpoint, clarity or humour. Some or all of those. I leave bloggers on it WHO I WANT to read daily. Of course none of them writes daily. I really wish they would though. Some have become friends, virtual and real. Many provide an interesting blip to the day, a view point that makes me think in a different way. That allows me to appreciate alternate opinions, different contexts and incisive minds. I used to be oft petty and refuse to include anyone who didn’t have me on their blogroll. I realized the futility of this quickly so now it’s a list I want to read rather than a list that reads me.

I love the new bloglist thing that updates the blogroll continuously. I had to put everyone into the new thing and I fear some whom I read regularly have been left off. I do know most url’s by heart but I’m only human (CeeKay, I know you have been missed out – promise to rectify asap!). If you read me and think I should be reading you or if you have been relegated to the ‘Once in a while’ heap but promise to be good and write (YOU know who YOU are) or if you used to be but are not on there now and should be - please please please put your hand up now.

Of my own writing I am deeply tired. Some days I have nothing to say. Others I have too much to say but no time to. And yet others I spend toying with ‘what if’s’. What if this person reads this and feels bad? What if I say something I regret? Aren’t words like arrows, once they leave the bow there is no changing their course? Sometimes I feel I should say things when the thought comes to me – isn’t that the point of my blog – to be spontaneous. Then I get side-tracked by other. Or I think about all the other blog stirring up their own hornets nest and I shrink back in cowardice. I don’t take harsh-ness kindly and I don’t know how I’d react – maybe my vicious self will emerge. She is not nice. You would not be friends with her.

So I write blah blah mundane blah. Or ignore this place. Neither is fulfilling.

And mostly the evil thoughts pass but really I am going to hell for even thinking them.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Preacher man

This morning I woke up late and happy. I decided to avoid the sardine can tube and took the bus to work. So ipod in ears, taking in the views of peak hour London, I am enjoying the bus ride snaking its way to the City. All is well with the world as I know it.

Quarter way into the journey, amidst a gaggle of eager beaver office goers, a well dressed man with a black rucksack gets on the bus. He stands in the area reserved for wheelchairs and pushchairs as needed. He takes a sign out of his bag and hangs it around his neck. It’s bold lettering clashes against the small check of his shirt and proclaims: REPENT YOUR SINS! REDEEM YOURSELF IN THE EYES OF THE LORD!

And then he starts on a sermon about how we must all become Christian, go to church, repent our sins, find peace. About how we could all die this very minute, or at the next crossing, or maybe tomorrow and would go straight to hell if we hadn’t found our path by then. I have to say I could only make out snatches of what he said over the music from my ipod but it was engaging to watch most of the passengers pay attention and listen with interest. Bus folk are so unlike Tube folk. For Tube folk acknowledging that anyone else exists is taboo. I suspect the summer air has gone to the heads of the Bus folk.

Then I pressed pause on the ipod to scroll through the playlist looking for some inspiration and I heard this:

Preacher man extolling the virtues of repenting our sins: This morning how do you think you woke up? You only woke up because God himself made you wake up. Did you hear me? It’s God that made you wake up.

Very white collar worker with mid-row view: No way MY-TE (that’s mate to you and me), it was my alarm clock!

Round of laughter and applause. Almost everyone got off at Aldgate East.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The way to celebrate

I think it’s blatantly unfair to wait for 364 days (365 in this leap year) and then get just one day to celebrate the day of ones birth. With this in mind I declared birthday plus week. It began on my 33rd birthday on Tuesday, 15th of July 2008 and ended on Tuesday night the following week, 22nd of July 2008. I know it’s a day over a week but remember this is birthday PLUS week, not birthday week - which would have been a whole day shorter).

The day was simply marvelous. The short and long of it:
1. We fell asleep well before midnight. And anyway my mum had declared my birthday begun at midnight in India, 7.30pm in the UK.
2. Woke up to a madly beeping mobile at 5.10.
3. Tried going back to sleep. Couldn’t manage it.
4. Waited till 5.30 and managed to wake a groggy V up instead.
5. A singing boy by my side is what this girl needed. And got.
6. He went back to sleep. I went to the gym.
7. Felt like a martyr throughout my workout. Convinced myself that I deserved to eat ice cream all day. Straight from the tub.
8. Reached work at 8 to find two gifts and one gifting colleague singing at the top of her lungs.
9. Spent all morning juggling calls, answering texts and emails, facebook-ing it and trying valiantly to work.
10. Home baked cake (not from my home; again one of my lovely colleagues), tea, repetition of the birthday song and a hilarious card at 11am.
11. Went for a quick lunch to Pizza Express and treated myself to a yum pepperoni and jalapeno pizza. No dessert though.
12. Came back into meetings punctured by yet more calls and texts. Ignored colleagues with new superpowers gained as result of being ‘Birthday woman’ – she who blanks out all irritation/ irritants.
13. Changed out of my stodgy office garb and dressed to the nines in a fab new bright orange and pink top (totally not me usually), cut off black trouser, fashionable jacket, make-up, pointy heels and delicate pearls. Teetered out of work with the broadest smile.
14. An early evening glass of forbidden cold coffee and a quarter of a divine chocolate slice at Apostrophe with a friend.
15. Then gabbed with her all the way into town on the bus, bathed in the sunshine and the glow of being 33.
16. Met V at Tottenham Court Road for a divine meal at the heavily booked Hakkasan. Believe me when I say Hakkasan needs a post all its own.
17. And then the joys of a black cab ride all the way home, no tube and walk to stagger through, rolling on the weight of our stuffed stomachs, on my high heels.
18. Then the tiniest pot of chocolate mousse with a tea light perched atop it, and yet another rendition of happy birthday. Just half the pot of mousse though!
19. In the fading light of the day we took some random pictures to mark the day. Self-portraits if you will. I think we both look happy and our joy at life and each other shine clearly through. I hope they sustain me through the year. And that many years later I can look at them and remember how happy we felt.
20. I went to sleep tired but deliriously full of food and utterly happy. It was such a busy yet full birthday. I think I like things this way.

The week continued on and the celebrations never stopped. With everything I did all week I told myself it was part and parcel of my birthday celebrations.
21. Big fat meal with a friend at Tayyabs on Wednesday.
22. Repenting in the gym on Thursday.
23. Taking stock of all my birthday presents on Friday.
24. Watching the hilarious Henning Wehn at a comedy evening with friends at the Betsey Trotter on Saturday
25. Helping my friend organize and pack on her last Sunday in London
26. Cooking a big old meal for V and I to enjoy on Monday.
27. Spending a relaxed laughing evening with two girls, eating Chinese food and discussing all matters including death and ambition.

So it has indeed been birthday + week. The weather has mostly co-operated. There are things to note about this week though, things that should remain the same or change for next year:

28. I had no ice cream. Although I ate to my hearts content there was just no opportunity. Not even for a single bite. Next year I will be having an entire tub.
29. Taking self portraits on ones birthday is an excellent idea. I will do it again.
30. Some people take the day off on their birthdays. I have never given in to the idea. In spite of having to detour a lot during the day I managed to get everything on my plan done. Also everyone at work got to help me celebrate my birthday with me. And my day went by in a flash of sunny-ness.
31. Choosing a place to dine well researched well in advance meant that V had it booked ahead and that both of us lived in anticipation and hope for all that time. It was well worth it. It’s important that I remember this but also the flipside that it could all go horribly wrong.
32. I got just the best gifts. No bookshelf like last year though. Next week I shall put up the whole list. Accompanied by pictures – taken by me, not stolen off the web. I promise.
33. The sun shone all day. My bones felt nice and warm. I hope it is as benevolent every year.

All 33 points (curiously in tandem with my age!) point to the fact that one day to celebrate is just too short. I’m glad I decided to think of it and do it differently. I hereby declare that everyone should have birthday + week. Think about it.