Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Life is drama?

Not really, but I find that sometimes a melodramatic moment can put things into perspective. Of course there are people who live their whole lives moving from drama to drama. They exaggerate and their eyes go all wide and saucer like and even the smallest hiccup in life turns into an impending explosion of Mt. Vesuvius all over their pretty lives.

I am quick to add that while thinking about this while lounging on the daybed soaking in some Saturday sun I immediately dismissed myself as one of ‘these dramatic people’. I have moments but they pass – boredom and laziness more than noble thoughts about important world issues. What got me thinking about the ‘dramatic people’ was a reconnection with a school mate on that evil evil Facebook. To be fair I call almost all 9million and 22 people reconnections/ acquaintances because apart from the fact that we haven’t talked in 20 years is the fact that even 20 years ago we weren’t really friends. FB is shallow at best and irritatingly overfamiliar at worst. I’m stuck like in a muddy combination of yummy rasmalai (which I like) and quick sand (which I'm sure I won't).

But coming back to ‘dramatic people’ this particular school mate of mine belonged to a different section and we only ever had chance encounters as part of birthday parties for common friends or shared assemblies for the entire class. And although her features remain fuzzy in my head what I do remember was her everyday dramatic moment. She would stand in the corridor with her two friends from my section while we all filed in to class after morning assembly and at the top of her voice narrate that day’s drama filled incident. Sometimes it was the driver being SO LATE, on another the cook running AWAY WITH the MAID. Sometimes it was her BROTHER having dropped his milk ALL OVER her homework. Or her DAD being out of town (to SINGAPORE no less!) on work for a WEEK Oh my god! None of these things on their own or collectively even, were particularly dramatic but her narration and the expressions and gestures made everything seem like a crisis, one that needed IMMEDIATE and URGENT attention, else how was she going to SUBMIT her homework yaar! And then her two friends would come back to my class, clucking loudly at the problem in hand and try and hash out a possible solution before the commencement of class (She and her mum and brother can go and STAY with her nani nah, otherwise they will all be so BORED at home etc). Immediately after class they would dash back into the corridor with their advice and sympathy.

Often other classmates would chip in their two paisa of advice and there would be more serious advice to combat the problem (tell her brother to drink his milk standing up in the kitchen. Or, why is her homework on the dining table, doesn’t she have a desk? etc). And by the start of the next class the advice would all be filtered and summarized for her to take into account while solving that days dramatic moment. I never really participated in these, not because I didn’t have a vivid imagination and plenty to say, more because I was too amused by the ordinariness of the problem and tongue tied by the flying advice to add in my two-bits to the marching words.

We lost touch after school, no surprises there and if ever (once) I reminisced with friends about her, her features were all fuzzy and un-defined but this dramatic flair was as sharp as a ruler. When she FB’d me for ‘friendship’ I took one look at the name and picture and was momentarily confused as to who it was. But her introductory note, full of caps and HOW ARE YOU? OMG, it’s been SOOOOO LONG; my life has been so FULL yaar and I’ve been upto …..(and then a 20 year update full of ‘OMG’s’ and ‘can YOU BELIEVE it’)….gave it away in an INSTANT. Anyway, turns out we are now ‘friends’ on FB. But really her dramatic life and my clearly mundane one have nothing in common. And with all the invitations to groups! and events! and notes! and etc! from her I am liking Facebook less and less. I'll put up with it, but it's certainly not the love of my technological life.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Chores of Life

If there were a competition for being undemanding (household wide) V would take the Olympic Gold medal by a fair few miles and without a whisker of a doubt. In our household division of labour is such that he will do everything that is asked of him, including but not limited to – laundry (incl. wash and iron his own office shirts if need be), maintain all accounts/ financial gobbled-gook, be the gardener and provider of takeway/ delivery service food and organize all gadget things.

I, on the other hand, have only one task besides supervising our very slow cleaner once a week and that is the task of making sure we have sometimes healthy and always tasty food to eat. It’s a good thing given the situation that I actively love food and that V can scrape together toast or order in pizza on days when I don’t. To say I love food is a bit of an understatement. For me it’s not just looking at an array of photogenically arranged plates of the stuff and pouring though my collection of cookbooks, but the act of preparing, cooking and eating it all with relish. No chore is this in my mind.

One of my slightly OCD things is the planning of meals for a week ahead. On Friday’s or Saturdays I will make up a menu plan (in my head) for the coming week which will include dinners for the two of us from Monday to Friday. The menu plan basically leads to a quick check for existing ingredients in fridge/ freezer/ cupboards – all of which are stocked with a monthly home delivery run, at which time a vague menu is usually swirling around in my head. And then each week comes the quick grocery update list, usually not more than one canvas bag of groceries from our nearest Tesco/ Waitrose, enough to complement our existing groceries and come up with a week of meals.

Friday dinner is always an iffy one with last minute plans to eat out either by ourselves or with friends, rendering any forward planning useless. But Monday to Thursday is usually sacrosanct and followed to the T. While sometimes there are aberrations due to exhaustion or alternate office commitments and often there are just leftovers, this is rare. Not many people do but I enjoy the quiet of coming home early from work, turning on the TV for some background noise or putting on some music while I spin around the kitchen organising our dinner. People call me weird. I call me hungry.

Our weekends are usually made up of multiple meals outside (restaurants, people’ houses) and one home cooked meal which could be as complex as multi-layered slow-cooked Lasagna or as simple as a packet of Maggie noodles doused in ketchup, masala chili and Tabasco. I spend all week thinking of and researching where we could/ will go in this city of a million restaurants. And this week, after a week of: 1. bhindi, kaali dal, aloo with rotis 2. Mushroom fettuccini with garlic bread 3. Mostly home-made pizza and 4. Baked potatoes with salad, I’m ready for the weekend….bring it on!

There is such a fine line between enjoying something and finding it an unappetizing chore. I have read time and again on blogs and in books, of people who can’t/ won’t cook because for them it is a waste of good evening time and space or they don’t enjoy it or someone else is happy to do it for them or they can afford to both physically and financially eat out all the time. Sadly we have neither the stomach nor money nor energy for that lifestyle. And gladly one of us is happy to cook. And luckily both of us are always always happy to eat.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Before the snow

Well, the snow came and Britain behaved like it was flying tarantula's, a never before seen insect. This is the WEATHER people - you've had it for a gazillion years AND its all you ever talk about. Anyway, it snowed, nothin melted, we ooh-ed and aah-ed at the marvel of a blanket of white-ness, everything closed, everyone complained about something (travel was top of most lists) and then it was all happy happy because no transport meant you could stay at home and stick your nose in a book.

Last week was a heady mix of irritation and enjoyment. Came home on Thursday evening to water cascading 7 floors down from a burst mains pipe on our floor. Our corridor carpet was floating and all our neighbours were shoveling water into the stairwell. We joined the party, mops in hand and bonded while swapping stories of what water damage had infilterated each of our flats. We got lucky, with minimal damage. Others hoever had ankle deep living areas and water pouring in through ceiling lights. Needless to say the lift was declared unsafe and yet another round of walking up stairs began. Thank god we got fit with the gym - now we don't even get vaguely breathless.

On Friday night we hosted dinner for 25 of my colleagues (some with partners) and they all gamely trudged up the 7 floors for butter chicken, sukhe aloo, chole and paneer makhni with safron pulao and white rice. Preceded by 6 dips and doritos, pitta, vegetables and papad. Followed by an apple tart and chocolate cake (celebrations of two of their birthdays). We had a super time, enjoying the warmth of the house (candles and alcohol) and camaraderie away from work, laughing and chatting way into the night. It was 3.30am by the time everyone finally left. We tidied up and called it a night.

On Saturday, in anticipation of being snowed in we went to meet friends in Central London and watch 'Revolutionary Road' with them. I haven't read the book but I can tell you that the breadth of thoughts that Kate's character was thinking didnt translate as well as the depth of her depair. It was wierd that just last week I had been thinking about the stagnation of life, the humdrum that we get sucked into and leaps of faith we are often so terrified to take. Of course her life and feelings were magnified a million times over and the solutions were not ones I'd ever contemplate. In summary I can safely say it was not a movie I enjoyed at all. My advice: Don't Do It.

Then we attempted to find a Tapas restaurant. After two failed attempts (one was closed during the day when I called and the other doesnt take bookings {or rather does but hasn't changed the information on its website}) we decided to go to ChaCha Moon. V and I had been before with an escaping friend, but our friends hadn't. We had been in summer when it was new and after a mile long wait in line we sat at the canteen like tables and slurped up. As a promotion every single Singaporean dish on its menu was priced at £3.50. V's duck and noodle dish was too salty but the rest of us enjoyed it very much.

This time we had no wait - we were there early in the evening. By the time our food arrived the line of waiting patrons was a mile long. The prices now vary from between £3.50 to £5.50. We ordered a mix of sides and mains and thoroughly enjoyed picking at a selection of different flavours and textures, accompanied by chilli sauce and chopsticks. The spring onion pancake, chicken dumplings and cucumber & carrot salad were super. Someone else really enjoyed the seafood udon noodles, declaring them the 'best ever', although I suspect that hunger from all that walking was the key reason. We'd have eaten anything hot at that point to stave off the withering cold. But really ChaCha Moon was super, Singaporean food YAY, good value for money and different from the usual Oriental fare on offer. Alan Yau is something of a genius. I will go back as often as I can, methinks.

Now the snow is all gone and life is all back to normal. I'm planning my next very busy weekend.

ChaCha Moon: 15-21 Ganton Street, London W1F 9BN. Tel: 020 7297 9800 (no reservations)

Monday, February 02, 2009

White. Not Christmas.

After a day and evening of watching the snowflakes dance around from the warmth of our living room (lots of ooh-ing and aah-ing from me) we've woken up to huge snow drifts covering the balcony...

The heaviest snowfall in 18 years has hit London. In February, missing Christmas by over a month. As expected there are no buses. Runways and airports are shut. The bus network has been suspended as have been most tube lines. London is so unprepared to deal with the bitterly cold weather that is routine to American cities and continental Europe. Thank god for insulation and heating and the promise of hot tea from my stove all day.

It's a day of working from home for me, a trudge to work for V and another day of living in the bathtub for our plants. If you live in London or the South East enjoy the white. It might be another few decades before we see it again.