Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Five - IV

1. Why do I have no faith in the system? After I fought with the Bloomsbury aunty I was sure I would not get a replacement for my faulty copy of 'Burnt Shadows' by Kamila Shamsie. On Saturday, after a week drought of post, my brand new proper copy arrived along with 5 other awaited parcels of internet shopping. Am waiting to finish 'Fugitive Histories' by Githa Hariharan which is my current midnight feast before I get stuck back into the wonderfully compelling Burnt Shadows. So many books so little time.

2. Actually that isn't strictly true. I finished Zoe Heller's 'The Believers' in one night, a birthday gift from a friend. And then 'The Inheritors' by Neel Chowdhury in three nights. I would recommend both and have every intention of getting everything else Heller has written. She has a wonderfully descriptive way of writing, setting the scene as if the reader is a fly on the wall, urging the protagonists forward, cheering the underdog, debating every side of the story. Eminently readable. 'The Inheritors' was interesting in that it was about the high flying business and social worlds of Calcutta marwaris, a quantity unknown. But it had its shortcomings in the simplicity and neatly tied ending, which made it predictible after a point. Good not great. I find myself speedily going through my very diminished book pile at great speed. Cannot wait for my replenishment run.

3. Talking of replenishment runs, I am off to India for 7 weeks in mid-Oct. I intend to make use of all pampering facilities and extended jaunts to buy books for who knows when I shall have the chance again. My bags aren't packed but the collection of stuff to be carried is now living in piles on the bed of our guest room. To look at it one would think we were moving permanently, not just going for a bit. As for whether this mountain shall mould itself into our Samsonites with ease is a question that no one can reliably guess. We are taking bets as to how much excess baggage we shall have to shell out for and how much stuff we shall have to discard at the airport.

4. In India I am doing the bharat darshan version of things, introducing my son and relatives & friends to each other in Mumbai, Kolkatta, Chennai and Delhi. Varying days in each city but none so short or rushed that we shall feel harried or cheated. Numerous flights which shall be erased from memory no doubt by the wonderful hospitality of family in each port. For the first time ever V and I will vacation together in India, having 2 whole weeks in which we do not scatter around the country like headless chickens. Our speciality so far has been 8 day trips (3 in 2 years on average) where we travel the long legs together and then scatter, only to re-group 7 days later having given pieces of ourselves to various cities. Not so this time when we will spend the 2 weeks entirely together before I continue on to the last two cities for varying lengths of time with bubba in tow.

5. Sadly this trip will necessitate big changes to how much we manage to do in each place. No more scurrying around cities trying to see/ eat/ buy everything in sight. I figure that since I cannot/ do not want to go to the mountain, the mountain shall just have to come to me. So family and friends shall have to come see us and thanks to all that economical labour food too shall be delivered and/ or carted home when leaving home in the cold winter evenings with tiny person in tow no longer becomes an option. I look forward to staying indoors, warm and comfortable, with dvd's to watch, hot indian food to imbibe and gurgles to respond to. Shall I blog while I vacate mes amis? Or will I be revoltingly boring droning on about my wonderful vacation and should spare your sensibilities for when I am back to the hard edge of life in London? The honest vote is now open.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Five - III

1. It's winter. Not autumn, just winter. Which is disappointing because either summer never really had a chance to settle in or I was too busy to notice it. There is a chilly breeze and mutliple layers including a jacket are now needed for adventures in the urban outdoors. We even had a day of lashing rain to bring the point home. The only redeeming features about winter are warm duvets and comfort eating. Hot chocolate anyone?

2. After a summer of visitors and the new addition to our busy lives, our home is now preparing for the long winter. The last of the parents or GOD (Grandparents on duty) as we refer to them, have left and we have been left holding a little boy whose new skill of smiling (and this time it isn't gas!) has us both enthralled. Life has changed immeasurably, it's a much tougher gig than before and at some level I miss the carefree life of coupledom where everything was about me and us. But as with all decisions in life that are taken and need considerable thought we knew this was the stage that awaited us. And although certainly different to our restaurant hopping, all day sleeping, much partying existance, this too has it immense rewards. Luckily there are friends with advice and plenty of Toblerone to see me through!

3. For a fair few years now I have always had the thought in my mind to be a kind, fair and good person - to think before I act. This does not mean that everyone I meet becomes my best friend or that I go around giving hugs to strangers on the street. What it does mean is that I endeavour to connect and do things for/with family and friends and give them the opportunity to reciprocate appropriately (not do things necessarily, but be there when I need them or atleast show a modicum of interest/ concern in our lives). Of late with a certain couple (family or friends I won't say) I have felt taken advantage off Both V and I have made every effort with them but there seems to be some coldness and aloofness building. Luckily for them (and me) I know my limits of bullshit-taking. I am fast reaching the point where after cajoling and then resorting to a sarcastic email I am at the end of the rope. I'm done. It's their turn and if they don't respond it's their loss. There are no second chances and I am clearly humanly fallible in that I cannot always be good and kind no matter how well intentioned I aim to be.

4. Finished all my books from Amazon. That's what a young baby who stays up a lot at night demands. Thankfully I shall soon be off to India where I can buy the next 25 books to read. In the meanwhile I am re-reading lots of old lovelies from my bookshelves such as Listening Now by Anjana Appachana and The Memory Box by Margaret Forster (next). And some books from previous purchasing jigs which fell by the wayside for one reason or another (the Harrowing by Robert Dinsdale, The Inheritors by Neel Chowdhury and Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian) .

5. What with the 'wonderful' weather, little person, swine flu advisories and laziness/ exhaustion I spend most of my days at home. Changing diapers. And watching TV. And reading. And napping. And eating Toblerone. And Ben & Jerry's half baked I have strayed from my point. What I meant to say was, we get out a few days a week for a wander and a baby weighing but not much else. This means that I need to find things to occupy myself. Yay credit card era. I have spent the last few days indulging in the purchase of half a new wardrobe and am extremely pleased with myself. Of course it won't last, because everything will arrive and nothing will fit and then when it comes time to write the next five I will be all grumpy. What with clothes and weather, consider yourself warned.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Five - II

1. It's been a slow news week. Actually it's been the wierdest kind of week, one in which I have had no inkling of date or day unless I look at a news channel on television. I feel like I am living in somewhat of a vaccum. And although I know this is only a temporary state (and clearly one for which no amount of preparatory talks are enough) again I have friends to thank for calling to check I am alive, awake and kicking!

2. Skype works and I have everyone of any importance in my life on it. The problem is that some people don't have camera's or good quality camera's which makes it a bit of a one sided discussion; it gets old fast when you can only see a static picture and/ or no picture at all. Then there are the vagaries of internet speed which picks on the streaming quality making transmission shaky and unpredicatable. And finally the timing of getting to see/ chat with anyone is down to luck/ texts/ calls to get people online. When it does work though it is a joy to see smiling faces. In one case we will be conferencing a whole bunch of spread out family once a week so everyone can see everyone. This Sunday is the trial to see if it works for 4 sets of us simultaneously across countries and time zones at a pre-arranged time.

3. Not much by way of snail mail but I did get a host of books I ordered online, all neatly boxed up. Here is what is on the midnight menu for the next few weeks: The weekenders: adventures in Calcutta by Bella Bathurst, A good Indian wife by Anne Cherian, (Un)arranged marriage by Bali Rai, Tales from Firozsha Baag by Rohinton Mistry, Swimming Lessons and other stories by Rohinton Mistry, Such a long journey by Rohinton Mistry, The Cardamom Club by Jon Stock and In times of Siege by Githa Hariharan. By way of explanation on the Rohinton Mistry's, I have read them all ages ago and the copies are living in Delhi adopted by my mother. I need my own and to refresh my memory with these wonderful books.

4. I had a huge fight with somebody at Bloomsbury. I was reading 'Burnt Shadows' by Kamila Shamsie (one of my favourite authors) and suddenly the story made no sense. It was 3something am and I was somewhat sleep deprived so I thought it was just exhaustion playing tricks with my eyes. When I went back to it the next morning it still did not make any sense. Turns out the book has been wrongly bound and has huge chunks of pages missing - just when it was developing the most intriguing of turns. Anywho, I called Bloomsbury's complaints department and the long and short of it was that they wanted me to go return the book to the vendor I pruchased it from. When I pointed out that it could have been at an airport on another continent or a gift from someone the woman thought I was not being 'accomodating enough' at which point I lost my cool and pretty much yelled at her. I have to send her the book and a replacement will be posted. I have her name and her supervisors number so I'd better get it back in a hurry!

5. My new favourite ice cream is called half baked and has among other things brownies and cookie dough in it. We don't readily get cookie dough in London, or if we do I haven't seen it. I also don't know anybody who uses it so I would ahve no idea what to do if a roll of it came and thwacked me on the side of my head. I know it from the serial 'Friends' and am intrigued by how it can be eaten raw or baked. I want cookie dough.