Friday, December 31, 2010

2010



A lovely insane year that began in the quiet Sahyadri Hills, took me to live it up (watching, not with, the rich and famous) at St. Moritz, pizza in Rome, 
two months in a distant village in UP,a few sweet months in  Bangalore and then writing for an awesome magazine in Delhi and back in Blooru for a bit.

Love,



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Charcoal Air and Mirch

If I had to solidify this air, it would taste like charcoal. I couldn't sleep last night due to bouts of smog induced tuberculaic cough. Judge Maami and I watched Mirch last night. The actors were dressed in Christmas decorations and the special effects were stolen from the Vikram-Baital series.Enough said. 

The winter is too much for my soul. Wearing pink tights plus mismatched red and beige socks plus jeans, three t shirts, two sweaters, one Nehru Jacket, scarf, shawls and still feeling cold.But it's nice somehow. I am already dreading summer. IT's cruel, the winter, but not cruel enough to dread.




Friday, December 17, 2010

Alone

As it were, I dreaded it, this prospect, of being alone for ever so long. C left and the last two nights I drowned myself in other people. And yet, here I am alone in my room, double bed rearranged to single,and room spacious and suddenly sterilized of memory. I am cooking. There is something therapeutic about chopping onions,peeling garlic,washing dal. 
It's almost unhealthy, the fact that I never have time alone to myself and this is the first time in six months that I am sitting in an empty house and hearing the slightly faltering voice of my mind. I am happy with the silence, wearing my brothers pants (warm, corporate and good for winter.) walking around with unwaxed winter legs, suddenly noticing a copy of Hesse's Siddhartha lying around. (Is the universe sending me a message because my last interaction with it was listening to a teacher read the whole book out  in 7th std.) Am flirting with such possibilities and getting ready to eat a messy hot meal of Dal and Rice and two boiled eggs. (I had to make a meal out of what was available at home which includes nothing functional like fresh veggies.)


Monday, December 13, 2010

Pain is like your bladder.

Pain is like your bladder.When you get an ultrasound.You know how your bladder is so distended, so large that the deeper you press ,the clearer the other organs appear. Pain does that.It turns up the volume of every thought, every conflict becomes bright and blazing and every mangled dream is naked.

Hurt is more specific, more singular.It can be one sentence that becomes a liquid hammer incessantly swimming in your soul.

 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Make up!

The challenges of caking up are far beyond the reach of my bare face and unbrushed hair. That women can use mere make up to transform into smoky eyed divas has always fascinated me. And so I found myself under the mercy of a brush, endless creams, bronzers, fixers, and other er’s that would make my face bett-er!

Make up artist, Vidya Tikari is a petit woman dressed in black skinny jeans, a black blouse and can carry off bright red lipstick on a Tuesday afternoon in a way that most other women can’t. She is just finishing a class with a client when I walk into her studio. The client, Priya has had her glowing makeover already. Vidya meticulously goes over every step of the process with her, drawing it out on a paper with an illustration of a woman’s face. She dabs lipstick and blush on it, while explaining how.

“I am in my forties, I haven’t used make up all these years. Now my children are working and whenever I go to parties, I have no clue how to put on make up,” Priya says. No clue? Not quite! She’s doing confident pink strokes on her cheeks giving a sudden flushed definition to her cheekbones. It looks so easy, running a brush on your cheeks but it really isn’t if you don’t want to look like birthday cake.

Priya came to Vidya to learn basic everyday make up. Most clients are single women under 25. There are many housewives over 40 with grown children coming in to nurture their new interest. “I have even had 60-year olds coming in,” says Vidya.

It was soon my turn to have a go at the many coloured products in front of the mirror. I started with washing my face, deleting the Delhi dust. And then, fixing. You may have realised by now that make up doesn’t naturally stay. It has a nagging habit of inviting itself to the edge of teacups, to the stubbly cheeks of men or altogether disappearing. To prevent all this from happening you *fix *it, tell it to stay put.


My face was divided. Vidya painted half; I did the other half . We went through a foundation- a Skin Tint which offers a slight, natural smoothening and evenness to your skin tone. Next we used bronze cream based blush to rather unsuccessfully aspire to the condition of the Brazilian model. Vidya insists that there should be colour on my face, pre-empts my refusal and tells me to just try it out. And so I try to achieve a ‘back from a run’ flush and it does sort of work, that is, if you learn to “follow your cheekbones”. Want Mascara without raccoon resemblance? Look down and run the mascara brush on your lashes starting inwards and going out.

Next is the dabbing of bronze eye shadow in strong strokes, in an even not hurting the eyes sort of way. Gloss and some mild lipstick later, we are done. With session one, that is, which covers day make up. The next session will be party make up, a tad bolder. On day three, it is all about shaadi make up, very Indian and elaborate. Of course, you can also request Vidya to design these courses based on your interest. And it worked, I think. Because I have been told that I look like a different woman.
Rates:

Three sessions of one-and-a-half hours each.
With Vidya: `18000
With an assistant: `10,000

Vidya Tikari Studio B-21, Lajpat Nagar-II, 1st Floor, Next to Barclays Bank),Ph: 41635074/5. www.vidyatikari.in

Other personal grooming courses in Delhi
BLOSSOM KOCCHAR 52-54, Fifth Floor, Govardhan House, Nehru Place, Ph:26473051 www.blossomkochhar.in
Three day make up course. Includes make up and hairstyling.

VLCC offers short-term courses for self-waxing, make up, manicures and pedicures, sari tying etc. 20 hours. Priced at `7500 plus taxes.

Samit Basu Interview



Every one on Flight BA 142 got off with a superpower that they subconsciously dreamt of having. Uzma wanted to be loved and to make it in Bollywood. Aman wanted to be well networked and so he can now control the Internet. Vir can fly. Television journalist Namrata apparently can sense news before it happens. Throughout the dizzying, scene shifting (London,above Pakistan’s nukes, Delhi, Carter Road Coffee Day) plot, these characters come together harnessing their good intentions to (well, try) save/change the world.

They all live in your India of IPL and Manmohan Singh bleating-condemning terror attacks. It is postmodern but there are singing aunties and blue babies and snide allusions to the going-out-alone-at-night dreams of Delhi women. So, everything urban India, except add super powers, chaos and the license to laugh.

Samit Basu has been given many labels and has dabbled in what is for the Indian writer exotic genres. He had decided, he says, as he settles with his cappuccino in a coffee shop in GK, that he didn’t want to do a “fancy novel” anymore. Samit has written The Simoquin Prophecies, The Manticore’s Secret and The Unwaba Revelations, part of the GameWorld Trilogy and has been thus far celebrated as ‘India’s first fantasy writer.' “You are supposed to write an India book right if you are an India writer and examine contemporary Indian reality, all this while I was writing books I wasn’t supposed to write,” he says

“When I started thinking of the checkboxes on contemporary India and what it means atleast through perception, I ended up with a really insane landscape. I wanted to write about urban 20 and 30 somethings which is also something you are supposed to write about.” Supposed, I ask? Samit grins and continues, “Ya ya, so I wanted to write a very good boy kind of book. Real people tend to be very self-involved but I wanted the story to have some societal relevance. I kept turning up the volume on these characters and they ended up with strange powers. See it’s not that I started off wanting to write a story that disobeyed the laws of physics at any point of time.” It’s like you begin reading and then you feel like your on edge in a gaming station, being chased by giants, or otherwise feeling love for comic book superheroes in shiny costumes.


He always knew though that he wanted to be a writer, “in the same way that (he) knew he wanted to be a rock star or an astronaut. “I have picked the least glamorous of these professions ya, also, the lowest paid.” Samit says that to work across media means that element of each comes into the other. He has co-written comics with X-men writer Mike Carey, written children’s books and screenplays.” You look at the different structures. The comic is the tightest structure- you have to be controlled. In a screenplay, there is a lot of room. I think that’s why my last two books have been shorter; you get across more in a shorter space. Also, in comics and screenplays, you learn escape routes through tight corners so that helps with the novel. But having said that there is nothing like writing a novel because the annoying things about other media is not present at all: (he lists in an almost wicked exasperation) budget, nature of artist, temperament of collaborators, evil businessmen associated with large scale entertainment companies you know.”



We are interrupted by a light eyed, dashing, whitewashed Hrithik Roshan sort of boy from the next table who says he relates to everything we are talking about. He plays video games, he wants to act and was writing a script for his audition to be a news anchor later that day. “See what I mean”, says Samit. “So much of all that is in the book is the lives of urban India. Your standard day, it will be fairly easy to sit back and laugh at most things in it.” He gets drawn into a conversation with the Bollywood aspirant telling him to skip the anchor audition and take the next flight to Bombay. “Look, I don’t want to suddenly come and crush your life plans and all but am telling you!”

Suddenly getting back on track, he continues, “And so ya, I wanted to look at some kind of encapsulation of the present generation and make it a book at the here and now. I mean you are in your twenties, and I have escaped mine and at the sage old age of 30, I am looking back on that distant period,” he says somewhat theatrically.

“The twenties are about figuring out what you can do with what you have. It is about making the compromises that you will come to terms with when you are in your thirties and forties. If you had powers, you might do things better right?” And so he gave his characters superpowers. “I figured that super heroes are completely mainstream I mean Dark Knight’s got an Oscar nomination and when you are writing, you kind of have to explain the context especially in India. In Turbulence, it’s not a standard costume -adventure thing. Which puts you on the same ground as someone writing a campus novel or a romance novel you know.” That things go beyond the normal, he says, is the “setting’s fault.” So, these well-intentioned heroes transfer money from drug lords to relief agencies and are ecstatic at this sudden sense of control they have to choose how to change the world. But then they are very much like the staff at the DNNTV where Namrata works, most people have the job because their dads knew the owners.A very important job done with very little skill. The chaos that ensues fuels the plot.

These characters hint at satire but they are etched out in bold uniform strokes, true to reality but more crayon drawing than impressionist painting. Although, its fun because everything is a snide target: security comparable to Hollywood stars scouting slums, a political party promising to ban women’s jeans, that this whole mess was predicted by some insane people on internet videos a long time ago etc.

Samit explains that it is a book with neat sections, very conducive to a film interpretation, apparently. The buzz is that the rights for Turbulence are being sold to Bollywood. “Selling the rights and having the film come out are very different things in Bollywood…there are three potential producers now but I need to find a director who can do something with it.” Samit “shuddered more”, so to speak, earlier, to think of what Bollywood will do to his book. Now, it is just a matter of shuddering a little less.

He interrupts me again to ask what sort of a book I’d want to write if ever. I am forced, of course, to aspire to some decent level of articulation till I manage.. “a really silly book about really serious things.”

“That’s my exact ambition too,” says he, the writer of the good boy book.

Old Delhi Street Food Walk

(Some pics by Pamela Timms and the rest by C) 

We meet at the steps of the Chawri Bazaar metro station, that spot where the enormity of Old Delhi- its tangled wires and rickshaw jams threatens to spill over and roll down the steps to meet the zipping silver of the metro. On the agenda today is an Old Delhi food tour and a look into food writer, blogger and the host of Uparwali Chai, Pamela Timms' own food secrets. She's had a hectic week, she says, and the best way to unwind Pamela style is to devour the culinary treats on offer in the old city. (Although, by her own admission, she over does it.)"I wasn't watching Social Networking with the kids last night because I was right here eating Nihari." She has made a "reckless promise to make at home everything (she) eats on the streets." And so whether it's milk cake with chai( which involves stirring 12 litres of milk with one kilo of sugar for almost two hours), or making Shahi Tukda at home, street version, she's up for the grind. 

 

Our street food-hobbyist's rickshawwallah friend- Rahul is already waiting for us at the Metro station. He takes us through the noisy certainty of the rickshaw jam straight from the metro station into the gully near. Here, in a grain store called Jain Coffee Shop is a little known Old Delhi food secret- Fruit Sandwiches. (Sounds so Scottish high tea, right?) Pamela, her husband Dean, his father and I sit in the bare blue walled backroom while watching them slap on some marmalade on the soft white bread. They place sheets of paneer, butter, pomegranate and apple (it is seasonal, ask for mangoes in summer) and it's done. An unlikely but excellent and fresh start to a day of eating. "By the way I try to recreate this for Uparwali chai but it didn't work out so well - the bread didn't hold together. It just is this way sometimes with street food."

 

Uparwali chai. Duh! It is tea- the high kind. Pamela always loved afternoon tea even as a child. "I even used to make afternoon tea for friends at university.  Then with a Dutch friend, Laura, we decided to create a pop-up tea party event for Delhi" Inevitably or Indian-ly, it was nicknamed Uparwali chai by a friend. "And, just as I expected, Indians love tea and cakes just as much as the British.  We love doing the events - we've done them everywhere from my roof to Sanskriti Kendra, to Yum Yum Tree and Gunpowder - each one slightly different" They innovate according to venue. Mini Utthapams in Gunpowder, goodies going around on the sushi belt in Yum Yum Tree etc. "The range of people that come to the events is huge - young, old, Indian, expat - all united in a love of home baking." 

 

Pamela seems to have learnt to get unused to the super market shopping experience. "In the UK, a Tesco pops up everywhere and it is impossible for a small butcher, baker or fisherman to survive. I enjoy going around to different store picking up things and trying out new ingredients although there is the occasional day when I crave for convenience."

 

By now, we are full with chikoo milk shake that her husband Dean (who self admittedly is prone to exaggeration)  declared  rightly that the shake was the best shake he had ever had. We head out towards Church Mission Road to Kake Di Hatti but obviously tuck into every culinary distraction on the way. First, A-Matchless (9311150022), a tiny little corner store that has all sorts of baking equipment (mango shaped cookie moulds at `20 a piece), cutters etc. 

 

Improvising Scottish baking with Delhi ingredients isn't just a matter of compromise for Pamela, but a creative exercise that has formed much of the muscle of her blog (rated as India's top five food sites by Good Housekeeping). Cheese Cake has been given an old Delhi make over by using naan khatai as a base, malai for cream and phalsa berry as garnishing. She has even convinced restaurant owners in the Kullu Valley to fry up Bar-one Pakodas. "My starting point for developing recipes is to find delicious combinations rather than creating a novelty item for the sake of it.  I've been baking all my life and it feels natural to start incorporating some local ingredients into some of my recipes.  I'm loving what jaggery, malai, spices, whey are doing to my repertoire!" We know that the traditional Scottish Haggis ( sheep's heart, liver and lungs with oatmeal etc) isn't an invitation to Indians but Scottish shortbread is immensely Indianise-able to Pamela. "I decided to transform the shortie's natural homeliness into go-get-'em brazenness with the addition of cumin and jaggery." And she served it with Mango Shrikhand as a dip. 

 

 We walk less than a few metres when Pamela insists we try the Daulat Ki Chaat, the gift of winter, an airy soufflé flying playfully with a saffron- pistachio breeze. The legend, according to Pamela is that it is set with early morning dew. 

 

Dessert in our bellies, we head for lunch as following order in eating would murder the beautiful haphazardness of Old Delhi. The rickshaw plods through narrow streets. "Oh, wow, the first batch of strawberries", gushes Pamela as we pass a fruit store, imagining all the baked goodies she can conjure up. "The star fruit, you must must have with Shakhar-khandi- sweet potato", another winter blessing on the streets. After much chaos we reached the packed Kake-di-hatti. Not for the faint hearted or the obsessive compulsive, as plates lie on the wet brown road in the entrance, piles of curries are kept in huge open aluminium vessels but the smell draws you in, pushes you through  the crowds and upstairs into the gaily painted family section. Multicoloured tables that we wait at for about ten minutes, unattended. "I almost feel like they are intimidated by me because they can't understand my Hindi and I can't theirs", laughs Pamela. We order Aloo Naans to go with a deep, flavourful Aloo Palak and Lauki ki Raita. Pamela says that she has never fallen sick eating street food. "I realise I'm tempting fate by saying this .I have been sick after eating in some posher restaurants though." (She insists she won't name names.) 

 

My father-in-law thinks I am crazy. He's always telling people 'Oh, dear, the kind of places Pam goes to eat.' He's watching over her, sipping his Miranda and smiling even as his daughter-in-law affectionately slanders him. He's careful not to eat even a morsel. She continues explaining all the food to him. Why the spinach in the Aloo Palak is good for his health, just like some, if not most of street food. 

Stuck in office without work when life waits outside awkwardly with its hand held out. 
Am going crazy as usual. But its only when I have the semblance of a life that  I am stuck at work.
There are so many phases in life when I have lots of free time and nothing to do. 




Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Back

So disoriented I feel waking up in a charecteristically cheap Chennai airport hotel at  4 in the morning and dazing through lets make a commonwealth impression Delhi airport and now in office.
Life is so long.Travelling so short.
Sigh

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pride,Poppadum and Olive




Went for Gay Pride yesterday, was fun. Gay parties in Delhi are awfully boring compared to Bombay. Seriously. Compare Olive to Bollywood Mischief. At Olive, you kiss the air and you pretend to touch.

Also, of great interest to me is the number of fancy sounding restaurants that open in Delhi every now and then. It's About Us wanted Utthapam to marry Lasagne. Ambrosia had Greek Curry. Chalchitra had a trying so hard to be funny Bollywood theme. All of the above are foodwise extremely mediocre.
The thing is if you promise to serve world food and have Paneer Shashlik or Rocket Salad on your menu, it doesn't really mean anything. I recently went to this place called Banyan GRill tucked away behind the grime, dirt and asbestos opposite select city walk. Under a banyan tree, white walls, quaint cabinets and flower pots hanging like it is the South of France. (the visitor comments claimed this place transported them to
above mentioned coveted corner of the world.) Thing is I don't fit this profile of well travelled Indian. All my knowledge of food comes from spending too much time with well travelled people. So judge my opinions keeping that in mind. Total country bumpkin.


So yesterday , we went to Poppadum. As soon as I entered, they enquired if I actually wanted to go to Thai High. I assured them that I actually wanted to thulp one proper Andhra Thali and not pick at Phad Thai.
The place was completely empty and apparently my friend was asked the same question last time around.

Anyway Poppadum with its new temple bells and paintings of babas by Israeli travellers in Pushkar was a far cry from the Andhra Mess of my dreams. I was determined to hate the food and offended when the waiters said things like Baingan Pulusu or Pumpkin Kadi.The food didn't disappoint. Sure, it was spicy like
the war won't end. The dal was slightly thinner than preferable. The pacchadis were gorgeous- beetroot, peanut, spicy-sourthing. And also, the cabbage peanuty dry vegetable was notable.The diversity of flavours, the sour faintly spicy gongura , all of this was heady. Overall, each piece was a gem. But in order for me to taste anything I had to isolate each ingredient and eat it with the strong, neutral and ever loved curd rice. An assault of too many flavours.

So, yeah the point is why doesn't this restaurant work. Is the food too spicy for a Delhi audience? Andhra Food too new? Fine Dining and South Indian very niche?

Well, atleast the food is good. Which I can't say about any of the other ambitious places I listed above.

(I am so screwed right now, I almost ended this mail with (and am now)..


Best
Y

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Appointment




You can sleep all you want but the day is still there waiting and the bed is not another country.

A young, unnamed Romanian seamstress living in Nicolae Ceauescu’s regime is constantly summoned. Her crime is having sewed ‘’marry me’’ notes into the Italy bound trouser pockets in the factory where she works . The hope is to escape the country. Women could apply to get married. It was all about Italy. It was nothing about him(the potential husband). It was about going from being bare assed poor to having a marble vase on your table.

There is of course always a battle between content and form.Here the content is unnerving. You are invited as voyeur into this woman’s mind, as she takes a tram ride from her home to meet General Albu for an interrogation.The prose is like thought process , especially as it would be in a totalitarian system- disjointed, scattered, wretched, random, hopeful. You end up reading in rhythm,this happened , that happened, her best friend died, her body splattered red like a bed of poppies , the nut, it always helps to eat a nut to face the summons.

And so, the form is not friendly, not conducive and you feel like an outsider visiting neurosis. You understand how terror’s largest presence is not in the
fire of bombs or the drums of gunfire but in the rhythm of the mind trying to retain sanity, the mind that occasionally tips over, scrambles back to an uncertain balance.



The first and the best: don’t get summoned and don’t go mad, like most people. The second possibility: don’t get summoned, but do lose your mind.. The third: do get summoned and do go mad. Or else the fourth: get summoned but don’t go mad like Paul (her lover) and myself….or to be young, and unbelievably beautiful and not insane, but dead.

Her tram journey was supposed to take her to the interrogation but
she misses her stop and where she goes is worse, by far.

The trick is not to go mad.


Rating: ***1/2

What to romanticise.

It is really tragic the way I only blog about Delhi. I know Delhi well in theory because of my job , (Wait, what, I can't blog about Delhi again man.)

I just came here to say that the only way to deal with one's moral flaws is to romanticise them. 
I wish I was "pregnant with departure'', as in leaving to the hills for nine months. 


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Delhi is a kind, soft, polite city with manners? Agree?

I almost hate to admit it but Delhi has been kind to me. Despite feeling completely depressed now (and please man depression means like my generation genre depression - scattered, nothing happens even on facebook types ) I can't help feeling complete warmth for Delhi's love and excitement about winter.

Giani's sweets promptly put up a red banner saying 'Winter Special Moong Dal Halwa and Gajar Ka Halwa' when winter was just a cool secret hiding in the air. A month ago, girls at clubs were already in stockings and boots. Obviously, the best part of all this is wearing winter clothes.My previous experience with extreme winter clothes has been tragic, freezing, temperate and usually grey.

By extreme winter, I mean , something below the 15 degrees of Bangalore winter. 

So yes, Old Delhi and it's delightful Daulat Ki Chat- like Phirni air flirting with badampistasaffron breeze.
Set , apparently by winter morning dew. It is special because you only get it in winter and in the age of 
oranges from Mozambique, seasonality is a fragile beautiful thing. 


Unlike in the other cities of the world (I hear), people are nicer in winter than in summer. They turn down the volume on the customary aggression of Delhi. This was recently defined like this. I see auto. I see another girl telling the auto guy where she wanted to go. In the cold, dark, madam come with me sort of street, the only thought in my head was : Hope she doesn't get the auto. 

Pahadi Phool and I (rather cruelly, it must be admitted) decided that it is the line that defines Delhi. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Facebook

Access my basic information
Includes name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends, and any other information I've shared with everyone.


Allow 

Don't Allow 

Monday, November 08, 2010

Delhi is like a deep fried snack..

greasy,inviting,delicious,angry,sleazy,dripping,seductive and altogether and simultaneously exhausting and fun in a hop -skip- jump but can't find an auto back way.

But I crave to sip afternoon beer at Pecos.

With due thanks to chole bhaturey at Nathu's Sweets.

As one can tell, I feel exceptionally greasy and full of despair this Monday after a blissful weekend.


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

An ad for a media job.

Job profile:

This assignment falls under the Promotions team of Condé Nast India. The primary role is to create advertorials / promotional articles for brands that advertise with us. This translates into a major revenue stream for the company. Since the magazines caters to luxury and life style readers, a lot of brands would rather have us create something in the Vogue/GQ/Conde Nast Traveller style for their brand than simply placing an ad, because no one in India understands this set of Audience better than we do. The advertorials follow the editorial style to ensure that the promotional article looks like an editorial point of view and not a paid promotion. The role also encompasses developing all marketing and advertising collaterals across all 3 brands – billboards, print ads, emailers and any other collateral needed. The designation and salary will depend entirely on the years of experience of the candidate. The biggest benefit of working on this team is that it allows a writer to fill his / her portfolio with three genres of writing – Travel, lifestyle and fashion. Moreover, the writer is given the chance to work on some the best, most well-known brands across the world.




Apply to all of journalism. 

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Nadeem Aslam Interview



The best piece that Nadeem has ever written, says editor John Freeman of Leila and the Wilderness, which is also one of the longest pieces ever commissioned by Granta.
“I was on a panel in Edinburgh with him almost two years ago. It was all about the short story. I asked him, do you ever write stories? And he said no, but I have a story I think I want to write. I’ll send it to you. He did, only 9 months later, which is much longer than most people wait when they say something like that. It has such thematic depth and story-telling muscle – so much of what this issue ended up being about: love, family, the pull of extremism, tradition and honour, the feeling that Pakistan is becoming someone else’s place…all that’s in this story. So it was really a no-brainer putting it first.”


Past its minarets from where Allah was pleaded with to send the monsoon rains…..its snow blind mountains and sunburned deserts… past the boy sending a text message to the girl he loved…past the crossroads decorated with fibreglass replicas of the mountain under which Pakistan’s nuclear bombs are tested...past the six year olds selling Made in China prayer mats at traffic lights… in this immense homeland of heartbreaking beauty…



Nadeem Aslam, who was born in Gujranwala and lives in England, had Leila in the Wilderness in his mind for 15 years. In the two months that he took to write it, writing for 12 or 13 hours a day, not leaving his house, not seeing any one, not celebrating Christmas till the novella was done and sent to Granta, which accepted it immediately without any editorial cuts. What it does is that it distils the purest form of truth in prose, sprinkled with a surreal magic and an inhuman brutality, the politics of this moment - Guantanamo Bay and Jihad and love, all at once, in a sweeping fable. Leila is a young woman separated from her lover Qes and married into a family that kills all her just-born daughters and despises her for an inability to produce a son.

“I was introduced to a man – an educated man – who asked me whether I was married and had children. When I told him that I had no children and that I thought of my books as my children, he said, in utter seriousness, ‘Yes. Your successful novels will be your sons, and your unsuccessful ones your daughters.’ That was when I began to think seriously about writing the novella.”


“But I do love thinking about religion and how it attempts to put something other than money and sex at the centre of human discourse – it puts love there. As Borges said: I give thanks…for love, which lets us see others as God sees them.”

“It has always been the case. I remember being a student and buying Bruno Schulz’s Street of Crocodiles for 50 pence in a second-hand bookshop after reading the first paragraph. No one told me it was a great book, that he was a great writer. I knew it instinctively. When the real thing comes along you don’t need anyone to tell you: something inside you tells you. That is how I wish the readers to come to my work.” (Nadeem has never had a reader in mind while writing.)



“That sentence (the one-and-a-half page one) is the only occasion in the story when I let my subconscious speak. It was like a word-association game – I asked myself: What do you think of when you think of Pakistan? Give me the answer as fast as you can. I took less than ten minutes to write, one thought led to another – and it all feels like a train journey, sometimes the rhythm is uniform, sometimes broken, sometimes a wide and deep vista is seen out of the window, sometimes the back of a building looms up just two yards away. And all the while the wheels on the track keep up a steady beat – ‘past the…past the…past the…past the…’”



“Reality (referring to the many worlds in this book) is like that – it is made up of many layers, and our mind is quite capable of perceiving them simultaneously. We try to keep this aspect of existence out of art, out of stories, because we wish to see order in art, not chaos; we wish to sense rhythm and pattern, as opposed to confusion.”

“Pakistan is a country with immense problems and huge moral dilemmas - so it calls for minds that have to be sharp. It's not up to writers to do PR for Pakistan or Islam, or America, or India.”

PS:

The italics in the first paragraph are deeply unintentional but the calm, serene ,slow moving nature of my internet makes sure I make no ammends.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Who let the dogs out?

My neighbourhood's idea of a beautiful Sunday morning is rape. Seriously.I have the whole house to myself and it's soft and cold and quiet when suddenly,loudspeakers achieve a vulgar audacity strapping on the excuse of a Diwali mela to scream.

It's my life..stop nanaanana me stop nananana me stop stop it's my life. 

Munni Badnaaam huyi darling teree leyeee.

Who let the dogs out? Who Who? 

And you know what adds insult to injury? I was at the wedding of a friend in Goa recently where I briefly danced with random gora who assumed that I lived in Bombay because this friend is from Bombay. (I was obvi making polite conversation.) So I was like "No, I live in Delhi."

He says, "Oh, GK- II"

I was obviously kind of stumped. I was like, yeah, but, how do you know?

"You are so Greater Kailash II, man."


Friday, October 29, 2010

Yum

When the magazine goes to press, a happiness descends, light and sparkling after all the vulgar exhausting hard work. One needs to listen to music that doesn't demand anything from you. Like really, Norah Jones types.
And then a huge chocolate cake arrives from some arts council. 
Delight, well deserved. 

Also, since I am free for a day, I feel like vomiting all thoughts on blog.


Rats,Dogs and me.

"First you lived in a godforsaken village, then you moved to a rat hole, and then to a dog hole, and now you are insanely ill." This is how C described my life recently and I suddenly and self indulgently began to indulge in (the in retrospect kind of) self pity.

Dude, seriously, ever since I moved to North India, I have been facing insane situations 

1) So NINE months ago, I ventured north of the Vindhyas to a village in Uttar Pradesh.The experience to me was almost, well, hate to use the word, but EXOTIC. 
   I loved the err..quaint villages, the quiet Ganges, the long boat rides and of course the daily trips to dozens of villages, collecting data and realising the ridiculousness of government schemes in UP . I  had been frivolously exposed  to what they(who) called real India  - Covering Deprivation trip, Rural School Teaching Program- you know the excesses of alternative education na? Uttar Pradesh was more than I was prepared for. Pradhan Confrontations, teenage girls eloping with boys while pretending to be in school and then hiding in sugar cane fields, milk served warm from buffalo breast, twenty cups of chai a day,"I killed him because he looked at my sister", being told that it was bad Hindus like me who pollluted the ganges, awesome lunches and birthday parties,dawats for the birth of sons, nose ring shopping, squeezing cute children,the best holi ever,salwar kameez shopping, the begining of immune system breakdown etc. Also, long rides on buffalo carts-aiyo how to explain all this without sounding like gora volunteer who flew from Alabama somewhere to Anoopsheher direct? 


2) Now, after my work was done in the village, I had no interest in returning to the comforts of Bangalore.In Bangalore. I had only two real job options- one was working for the features page for a daily or financial reporting for some wire that paid pretty insanely well. Death only. 

 So, I continued at this very generous and amazing NGO in Delhi and considered looking for another journalism job. I lived in their office which was full of rats because it also doubled up as storage space for all sorts of things. Every time I entered the kitchen, a rat would dash past.So, just in order to avoid this sight, I would warn him before I entered.Make a lot of noise, put on the light(while not looking) and then enter the place. Because, if I don't see him, he doesn't exist and his sewaged footprints are not  resting under the dal and rice on my plate, na? (IF anyone has seen Khirki Village, where the office is, they will know the potency of sewage there.) 


3)Dogs.I finally found a job and a house with room mates and  two street dogs.I am animal lover enough to be vegetarian.But these dogs would shit and piss in the living room so much so that in the morning I had to daintily walk an obstacle race so as to not desecrate my Dilli haat chappals with canine urine.Plus one of the dogs was named Pussy and was schizophrenic. Also the drain in the bathroom was always clogged with dog hair and for the longest time I accused C of hair fall because my hair is black and straight and not like the dirty blonde fuzz in the drains.He became vain and started googling hair doctors.

Now, I am a messy girl. I curl up on my mattress in a way that I don't disturb all the magazines and books lying around. But this experience was so traumatic that I seriously began to develop a vulgar form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that according to C makes it impossible for him to travel with me in the third world. Yeah right, only South of France from now on. 

UFF . I want to stop existing with such uncool predicaments. 

Anyway, finally I have clean nice house with nice room mate. 




Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Because leaving Delhi for a bit

makes you realise you don't like it as much as you thought you did....


Bombay

Why? 
fried now,no time 2 tell y,bye. 

Bangalore
Why? 
Whaaaaaaaaat why and all you ask da macha?lets put off one beer.


Delhi
Why?
Because the boss said so behenchodddddddddddddddd


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

OLIVE AT THE QUTUB

Welcome to the museum of Contemporary art. In the shadow of the Qutub, large bright rooms are framed by flowing white curtains, and all the exhibits are exceptional and edible. Here a pecan pie marries Diwali with a topping of Cardamom ice cream. Ingredients put on costumes never seen before and staid dishes are demolished and glamourised by the wand of artistry. You start with breathing some Reconstructed Minestrone. A collage of tomato, onions, truffle oil and pasta with a whiff of parmesan ice cream, all like mousse, not soup. Warm bread (bread with soul, not New India multigrain bread) and you hand grind pesto with roasted vegetables with a mortar and pestle taking your time to ponder over a starter. Goat Cheese Souffle(`425) ,the robustness of goat cheese with the silk of a soufflé and then a fusion drama of caramelized pecan nuts, chilli jam around the main piece. We also picked the Mystic Salmon with Poached Organic Egg (`545)-salmon fresh as if caught an hour back an a Norwegian fjord,smoked in-house with apple wood and cured. Between sips of dreamy berry toned Chilean red wine, we were served mango sorbet with watermelon caviar to usher us into the main course. The Meditteranean (`525)Vegetable Filo Pie disappointed, relatively, a bit plebian like veg patty at the metro station although the tossed vegetables and honey sauce tossed around the main affair added a nice touch. The Cajun and Roasted Pecan Nut Basa (`695) was served on bed of thinly sliced potatoes with a creamy caper sauce, perfectly offset by vegetables and fresh Thai lemon. To end, try the Maple glazed pecan pie `395 with warm toffee sauce, fig and honey ice cream or Tiramisu (`325) reinterpreted somewhat, airy coffee and chocolate , not confined by cake like limitations. Here at Olive, the produce shines, speaks for itself and if we could give a ****1/2, we would.

 

Ambience:****

Meal for two: `4000

OLIVE AT THE QUTUB One style Mile, Behind, Mehrauli Ph: 29574444

Chef Saby's interview 

Describe the Delhi customer.

 

 Oh. Very refined. The reason that I have made Delhi home is that. Bombay of course has its charm and glamour and its Bollywood. Here I was cooking for the Bacchan family and the Ambani family and everything in between. If I have to do a dinner for Neeta Ambani who is having five ambassadors of different countries there is no question of experimentation, you know. This is my 17th year of cooking and now I am trying to do little here and there. I feel that I have traveled enough, done enough; I understand basic flavours and recipes very well.

 

What cuisines are you most inspired by?

 

Internationally, food barriers have broken; there are not cuisine boundaries anymore. In London they will say new or contemporary, not Italian and Chinese. I personally am inspired by European, American as well as Eastern - Japanese and Chinese cuisines.

 

Food as art/philosophy

 

 

As I got into cooking, I realised I wanted to express myself and please people with art or music and that food was the best medium for me. As an artist you get inspired by landscapes and portraits and nature. I started taking my inspiration from fruits and vegetables and these are the basics. In art school, in the first few months they tell you to stick to drawing straight lines .If you are good at it; you can go to a circle in six months.  I wanted to start copying Vincent Van Gogh on day one. No body wants to go through those steps anymore. Earlier we were fighting to get ingredients but now lots of the chefs get very confused with so much choice and it ends up being khichdi cuisine. I see a lot of people using Wasabi. If you don't know its background, its origin, what it is, and you loosely start using it, it just doesn't work. Today it is a very big world. You can do anything from anywhere I get lost at times. What do I cook with there is so much options. I am so worried, so scared -280 varieties of cheese in a grocery shop. , cuisine is lot about the culture, understanding the people the food, the ingredients, the philosophy. It's more than just cooking. Unless you understand that, food is not going to have soul.

 

Signature Dish

I don't have one. I give equal importance to every dish I make. But here's the recipe for Goat cheese soufflé.

 

What are the best wines to accompany European food?

To start with I will recommend some Indian wines. If you are looking at Indian wines, sula has some decent white wines, and Grover does lovely red wines.

Recently I was so upset with myself because I had two bottles of wine from London and I didn't keep them in the fridge because , you know wine vibrates , it isn't good but I discovered they were spoilt. You should take care of wines, make them breathe well, buy them from shops with air conditioned cellars.

 

 

What are food trends to look out for?

 

24 hour restaurants, not coffee shops but places that actually serve good food all night, not necessarily gourmet. Breakfast places like Balthazar in New York. There aren't any here. Parisian Style Cafes which serve coffees, paninis, sandwiches all day. I see a huge demand for quick Japanese takeaways.

 

What are the food trends in the art of cooking itself?

 

Ingredients. In France people want to know where the chicken is coming from, what it was fed, how many metres of space it got to roam around, Was it caged? We are coming out of the phase of the economic crisis, the idea of being a third world country, our outlook will change we will start demanding this knowledge here.

 

 

You are known for sourcing local ingredients and adapting it to the cuisines you cook, tell us ingredients you have discovered?

 

Many Many. I am always traveling and discovering. I discovered this sticky black rice in the North East which I use for sushi and it is not even known to the Delhi palette but it works beautifully. I pick up snails and oysters from the Indian Ocean. I use wild mushrooms picked by tribal women in the North East. They can never imagine why I'd want to buy them because it grows abundantly there. I get passion fruit which I am very proud of from there too. Fruits from Garwhal. I have Thai suppliers too.  

 

 

An ingredient you can't live without?

Nothing. People have come up to me and said they want food without salt and I have done it. The most basic ingredient. Nowadays you can't say you need this particular ingredient or you can't cook.

 

What is your comfort food?

Indian food always. Kerala food. A Malabar Paratha with fish curry maybe.

 

Favourite restaurants in Delhi

 

I keep eating a lot of street food; you know during the whole Id season, I was at Purani Delhi. I love Food Chowk. They bring street food but it's the experts from Parathey Waley gulley, then the Nizams etc doing it. It is food with History and not just the regular mall food courts which can be soulless. I like these snacks, a Pav Bhaji, a Dabeli , a nice Dosa.

Hindi

blooper of the day:
Mein ek patrika hun. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nazar


I put so much nazar on my immunity by
1)laughing at all fragile bellied white people
2)at people who don't do things-like drink cold water etc , because they WILL fall sick
3)hypochondriacs
4)people who think a 6 hour work day is bad
5)people who crib, who have weekends off

that God punished me by making me so ill,always.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Compulsive Decadence


IT is quite alright to be practically decadent, to spend your money on a fridge, a closet full of shiny synthetic sarees you can drape 
at weddings, a cupboard to keep books in , instead of piling them up on a floor. But I am the other kind of decadence, I invest in things that will ultimately be dispelled out as shit. Merde.

Yesterday, I went shopping, hoping to buy something decent to wear for a friend's wedding.I obviously do not , or more importantly, can not 
afford a designer lehenga that costs a whole month's salary. So I thought I'll look for something cheaper and went to shopper's stop but every thing was too tacky for my taste so have started begging sufi slut, room mate etc to bail me out of this mess. 

The point however is that, we decided to go to ai after failing at shopping. And ordered insanely expensive Japanese food. (I can never like Japanese food. I am vegetarian and I love veg sushi however uncool that makes me sound but nothing else.) And suddenly , it occurred to me. 
If I actually gave up my expensive food addiction, I would have that much money every month with which to buy these fancy clothes. 

That's how much I spend at expensive restaurants week after week. I need rehab. Fast. 



Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Camel Back!

Just got back from Jaipur and Pushkar. Jaipur dissapointed,crowded and slightly blah.Even the shopping wasn't gush-worthy.The last time I was in Jodhpur, I was 17 and I found myself in the godown of a shop amidst a mountain of bags, going utterly crazy. Either Rajasthan isn't still amazing or I have grown up so much that I buy crap only discerningly.
Anyhow, Pushkar was quiet, kaliyug and beautiful if in a dry decidous way.I took a camel safari hoping for Saharan sand dunes but only got patchy green stretches of land.Of course, I took pictures in the few patches of sand that were available,omitting the green. I will post pictures soon.But the camel ride and the bus ride that followed (with babies lining the aisles) has destroyed my back. I can't walk properly aaaaaaaah, it really hurts to be in office sitting all day in front of a computer. 



Monday, September 27, 2010

Commonwealth obligatory post

A bridge collapsed, so much maanam mariyadai gone for India no? I feel compelled to list off one list of stereotypes according to category of people and their opinion of the games.

Intellectual jhola wearer The politicians are greedy.khel nahin khana do.Journalists are dumb sell outs, people are starving and I cannot invite them into my south Delhi home because the carpet will be stained.Profession: Employed by an NGO


European Non British
I don't care about anything except the football world cup, I haven't even heard of these games. (fashionable voice.)

British:
Looks at India like a paapa nerdy boy in class who was only noticed when math scores were read out and laughs at him trying to hit on the hottest girls in class by wearing clothes that he went UNFASHIONABLY out of the way to get.
Sarkari Man: India is superpower, no question ,no answer.
South Indian: Why Delhi Why Delhi? They are only in a mess because they are in Delhi. Chennai or namma Bengaluru are wayyyyyyy better as potential hosts.
American: Man,why would the US report on the Commonwealth games unless there is a terror attack.
Labourer 1: Apparently something is happening, big where they will build palaces for white people so they are throwing me out of myh ouse to godknowswhere.
Labourer2: I made much more money digging roads here than I would in my godforsakenmonsoonlesslandlordinfestedvillage where it is polluting to touch me.
Jaya Jaitley: "I don;t know why we have to break already normal pavements and make them better to impress our colonizers who probably won't notice them anyway. (At a protest against the alleged killing of stray dogs in preparation for the games.)
Italian intern: Delhi is nice the way it is, it cannot be a 'world class city' and its nicer this way anyway. You know what'll teach them a lesson; if there is a terror attack.
@Jama Masjid : There are enough cops to give you a sense that there is war. But when you enter, they peep into your bag, don't feel you up for bombs and I don't get how it is difficult to shoot there again.
(Plus auto driver, markets the chandni chowk wala gate as the gate to go by because the firing happened there.)

@Sam's Cafe: Gunshots heard outside.English woman wiggles in her flowery skirt as do her ears ,mouth and hands. Other goras stand up in Guardianstyle terrorism enthusiasm and rush to take photos. I am sitting there eating spoilt omellete and fearing the worst.Bloody hell, it was firecrackers.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Stand up Comedy or what?

There was this time at The Edinburgh festival, when I went for one of the Fringe shows in a little den underground. The audience consisted of a couple of staid, skirted , lipsticked brits, some cricket lovers and maybe seven Europeans. So comedy boy talks about this strange phenomenon of American accent epidemics. America is the only country you come back from with a guaranteed accent apparently. I myself have lost many friends to that drawl. The comedian began to wonder, in order to humour us, why people don't ever come back fromIndia with an accent…and he did a stereotypical Indian accent. It was actually pretty funny, truth is funny.No one laughed. 30 odd brits and 7 Europeans with frozen upper lips.Comedy boy, edges them on… "Everyone is wondering whether to laugh or whether that is racist."

Yikes. I was the only Indian in the room feeling major responsibility for killing laughter. It was awful and this man came and apologized to me after the show although I still didn't get what the fuss was about.

According to Vidur KapurNew York based comedian who performed a couple of weeks back at the Park told me about how one just can't do accents inBritain. they are too "politically correct." I guess the problem with these types is that they are constantly taking notes in their head, stealing jokes, situations. And especially because you know how everyone loves to laugh at the Indian media (quite understandably), I was slightly intimidated to meet him. Vidur talked about this expressionless woman who interviewed him and he just wanted her to LEAVE! Yeah, but it was ok although it brought back this memory of some stand up show I'd been to in Bombay where the comedian tastelessly went on and on about some Aromita Paromita from Horny 24/7.

Another thing I wonder about is how people can use their personal lives with so much ease. Vidur loves making fun of his parents and his grandmother in particular."My grandmother mainly cares about how much money I make. I told her I want to be a prostitute.When I told her how much I would earn she thought it would be great.." Apparently, though, most times he lifts things straight out of real life." Oh yeah, my mother and grandmother would get really sensitive. I would tell them that I am not just picking on them. I am picking on everyone, including myself so they shouldn't take things so literally, you know?"

So, the ability to laugh at things means you are comfortable with it right? Because if you can't it means you think there is something wrong but you have been taught to be politically correct about it.

There was this time when Vidur asks us, the audience, if we have had phone sex. An aunty responds saying she has. "Aunty, you have had phone sex?" he asks in his special 'for aunties' tone. . Aunty tells him she thought she heard it as phone set!!

Hmm... so another wonder point is how much of this 'audience spontaneity' is rehearsed. This particular instance, I think was coincidence. But,a colleague said he knows people who were given a bottle of whisky at a Russel Peter's event just to be bakra..

Cross posted on  firstcitydelhi.blogspot.com


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Celebrating Delhi


Edited by Maya Dalal

Penguin, Rs.350

 

With time, landscapes get sedimented over with new meanings and new maps of movement; but the submerged Histories resonate at the sound of a place, says Narayani Gupta on the History that gets lost when names of streets are changed to adhere to the politics of the time. We learn stories about the curious mix of names in Lutyens Delhi for instance. Kasturba Gandhi had to step into Lord Curzon's seven league boots, and Copernicus was randomly chosen to replace Lytton in the naming of that road that we now associate with Mandi House. In Celebrating Delhi, a compilation of  eleven lectures  that were delivered at The India International Centre in 2006, we are treated to an intelligent digging into Delhi's past and present, it's streets, its music and even it's first foundation stone.

In My father, the builder, Khuswant Singh writes in a warm, humourous style about how his father Sir Sobha Singh transported secretly, the foundation stones of Delhi in the middle of the night and how he watched the birth of New Delhi, brick by brick . Going back to the First War of Independence, William Darymple critically examines the religious rhetoric around it and why what mattered most then was the threat that the Company posed to religion. Dunu Roy brings us back into independent India's Delhi, questioning who makes a city, who breaks it and in the course of History, who is completely excluded. The city of Delhi, he says, was claimed for the elites, with the acquisition of the Southern basin and then the approval of the slum clearance project in 1924.Roy outlines what he calls selective inclusion and systematic exclusion - a history from Independence to the Commonwealth games.

 

The book then shifts from politics to food with Priti Narain talking about the asli khana of Delhi. She traces the eating habits of the Mughals (Apparently many were vegetarian and Akbar started his meal with curd and rice).We learn how colonisers influenced our food. It is the Europeans who first brought chilies, tomatoes and potatoes ,now such an integral part of Indian cuisine. In the last piece, Ravi Dayal concludes that there is thus no such thing as a Dilliwallah anymore and this absence seems to be part of the present, amorphous identity.

 

If the question is whether the collection is comphrehensive, the question itself is not valid because comprehensiveness can only be attempted for a subject as varied as Delhi with its many histories. As a cohesive whole, you can sense that these are words written(spoken?) with love and from a point of belonging and knowledge. Celebration , in its true sense and for the average reader, the best moments are the "Oh really? I never knew that.." ones.  When you pick up the book, attractive cover design apart, you get the sense that you are in for some drab Historical non - fiction but in fact the prose leads you in and makes for a breezy informative read. We would have liked some photos!  A good introduction to understanding the capital and its many facets- some glorious, others just dubious.

 

 

 


Saturday, September 18, 2010

The last of the Tonga.


This might be our last tonga ride in Delhi what with the proposed ban on the traditional
mode of transport. We decided to take it with Veeren Singh who has been riding on the ancient roads of this part of town for forty years.

Where are you from
?
I was born and brought up in Delhi. I have been riding this tonga for forty years now.

Did you go to school?
You think that if I went to school, I’d be a tongawallah?

Where in Delhi do you live?
I live here (near the Old Delhi Railway Station). This is our area.

Who all are in your family?
I have a wife and two children.

Do you like Delhi ?
Well, I’ve lived here forever.

Do you like your job?
What can I say? Suddenly they say I can’t ride this tonga anymore, do they want me to die of hunger? I don’t know anything else.


How much do you earn in a day?
I earn Rs.200 to Rs.300 a day and spend Rs.150 on feeding the horse everyday.

What do you in the free time?
Ghode ka kaam karte hain. (After work, I take care of the horse)

Do you watch television or films?
I never watch tv/cinema.

Which actors and actresses do you like?
I don’t know any film actors.

Are you interested in politics?
I don’t know anything about politics.

Do you know the name of our Prime Minister?

First it was Nehru then Indira Gandhi. Bahut pehle tha, tab bahut badiya tha. (It was long back, it was a good time then.) Now things are so expensive and Desh ki sharam chali gayi. (The nation has no shame now.)
Do you believe in God?
Yes
Do you know about Aids?

I am a Hindu, I do not know about Id. (We clarify our meaning.) No, I haven’t heard of it.

The Swan Thieves

The Swan Thieves
Hachette India
Rs.595

‘The Swan Thieves’ promises to be a saga about love, obsession, art and history, similar to Kostova’s bestselling debut, The Historian. The characters in the present are irresistibly drawn to the past and history manifests in their own lives in tangible, life altering forms. Robert Oliver is the genius artist we romanticise, love and hate. When he attacks a painting at the National Gallery of Art, he is taken into psychiatric care and becomes the patient of Dr. Marlow, also a hobbyist painter. Marlow is drawn into the mysteries behind Robert’s obsessions with French impressionism and in particular the artist Beatrice De Clerval, whose letters to her artist uncle Olivier Vignot, Robert possesses and is obsessed by.
Kostova treats us to the cinema of a painter’s mind, lush watercolours, nuanced
brushstrokes ,every detail in place .There is a gradual, layered and intelligent build up. You feel like you are in New York of the eighties when Robert and his lover (later wife) navigate the art world. You empathise with artist Beatrice living in 19th century France who lives ahead of her time, when her intense genius is suppressed by the need to conform. With Kate keeping her dignity intact even though Robert has wrecked it without explanations of the coherent kind. There is Marlow who crosses all professional boundaries to understand Robert even if out of a personal fascination for an extreme pursuing of art that he himself hasn’t done in his comparatively sane psychiatric practice. Robert himself never speaks much during the period of his treatment and that’s probably why you never get an authentic insight into his tormented mind throughout the book.
Kostova takes us into the mind of love, into the staid atmosphere of its remnants, of Robert’s girlfriend Mary, the then scandalous relationship between a young Beatrice and her aging uncle who she knows will die leaving her to hold their secret for life. Marlow lets love cross the forbidden line of professionalism. Lush prose and a handholding into the geography of these characters, painting by the French Channel, teaching in a suburban art school in Virginia. You are there, almost, but you would want this to be offset by mastery of plot. The narrative pace is mostly competent; the beginning of the book turns out to be a page-turner. However, Kostova falters in the end when you sense a sudden constructed-ness. Letters as narrative devices? Sure. But Marlow imagines a letter that Olivier Vignot might have written to his niece. Suspension of disbelief suspended. The plot comes together as a quick tying together of the mysteries which after 500 hundred odd pages of lush prose and crazed expectation disappoints.

Historical mystery, love stories, and the obsessive ness that accompanies the transcending of the ordinary, anchored by bright, engaging prose.


Rating: ***

Monday, September 13, 2010

From a press release


"create an air of internationalisation of India's corporate sector, ushering in holistic western food values."



Chuma. hamburger vitamins or what. 

Sorry about the nazar


Dude, Sometimes I worry that this nazar thing works .All through June and July I whined about the absence of a decent monsoon.Now it looks like we'll all drown.Storm threatening my balcony, aiyo!

Also quote of the day.
A friend's friend is in Kashmir, under house(boat) arrest. She asked "How bad is the flood situation in Delhi? You think it is advisable to leave Kashmir and come to Delhi."

War or Flood?Flood or War? 

Friday, September 10, 2010

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA


C is always complaining about the absence of Swiss perfection in India.(Understandably.) The more I think about it, the more I realise that India can never compete in the most basic things.

Just for instance, the whole process of house hunting.It turned out that I found a house. The landlord agreed to rent it to us, we met him on two occasions (please take into account the time , the auto fare, the office hours off) and finally on a third to pay the token amount and move in!. At this point, he tells us that we cannot move in because the house will take 20 days to be ready.By this point,I have moved out of my previous house and am homeless in the big bad city. Thanks to Sou's generous generous hospitality though, I managed. Who backs out last minute? What about professionalism? How can you completely disregard your customers/tenants situation.

It's got , in this case , to do with power games.If I own this place, I can order everyone around.I love Delhi for many reasons but what I hate it most for is this sense of entitlement some people have.You can see a stark difference of tone when they talk to their servants and their guests. I really think the mark of a person's character is in his behavior towards people supposedly "inferior" to him. You have to respect people, no matter what their class is right?You cannot scream at someone twenty years older than you for no reason at all apart from your feudal inherited sense of entitlement.

It is an already understood fact that getting an internet, a gas connection will involve hours of red tape.
But who has the time?It's unfortunate that we have to run our own lives behind schedule because people can't be professional because we really have better things to do than spend 5 days getting a gas connection , right?

I am dying of dizzy fainting syndrome now for instance, because I haven't eaten in 24 hours. I ordered food two hours ago and it isn't here even though I called this person three times in between.

Then what's even worse is when people commit to you because they are afraid of disappointing you. 
But I'd rather be dissapointed than wait hours at some place expecting someone to turn up.I could have met a friend for a drink in that time, filed a story,cleaned my wardrobe,repaired my camera,read my book something.

Where else can people get away with this.I know this is a rant but I am sick of flakiness, the inability to carry out anything with some sense of commitment and responsibility. the bureaucracy,complacency and how my life is constantly on hold because I am waiting. 

It is really uncharacteristic of me to write like this but I am just angry.