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.