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.