December 20, 2008

November 28, 2008

in happier times

this blog has lain silent thanks to repeated house-movings, work deadlines, deficiencies in internet service provision, global meltdowns and a severe shortage of spirulina. but, to reassure worried viewers, i am unharmed, superficially, anyway.

September 02, 2008

"Back to Bom!"..

..shouted Saleem Sinai's sister, "Back to Bom!"

"Govinda aala re", shouted the gopis of Mumbai, the day after I got there.
it's good to be back.

August 05, 2008

'teshuns I have known

My favourite rail station in Londinium is Charing Cross. Reason: The train (the 3:43 fast to Dartford) pulls out of the station straight onta a bridge. The views: On one side- Westminster, the London Eye and Not-so-much-Big-as-Tall Ben. On the other side- St. Paul's, the Gherkin, the Tate Modern power station, and the Embankment. All this through the latticework of rusty girders. Perfect.

In literary terms, Victoria carries the palm. This explains why:
Jack.  [Very seriously.]  Yes, Lady Bracknell.
I was in a hand-bag--a somewhat large, black leather hand-bag,
with handles to it --an ordinary hand-bag in fact.

Lady Bracknell. In what locality did this Mr. James,
or Thomas, Cardew come across this ordinary hand-bag?

Jack. In the cloak-room at Victoria Station. It was given
to him in mistake for his own.

Lady Bracknell. The cloak-room at Victoria Station?

Jack. Yes. The Brighton line.

Another special 'teshun is Paddington. Only because of the Bear with the battered hat and the marmalade habit who arrived there from Darkest Peru.

And Waterloo is beloved simply because the town by that name in Wallonia is pronounced in the Netherlands as Vaaderloo. Sounds very desi, somehow.

And then of course there's St. Pancras. While it sounds like the kind of place you go to have your intestines rummaged, it's actually a shiny new international train station. Airline-like procedures are followed, but at 10 times the speed. And there's the statue that sends you off to Bruxelles Midi, Gare du Nord Paris and other points continental. From a distance, it looks like a regular farewell. Click on the picture to enlarge it, and suddenly it looks a little less romantic. The woman looks like a man, and the man looks like a Vulcan, minus pointy pinnae.

July 28, 2008

now that's what i call ageing

I remember when it was "Now 29".
I waddled around for a few years. Did a little bit of this, that and the other. And turned around to find that they're listening to "Now 70"

July 09, 2008

A question of timing

So there I am, ranting a bit about how the TV licensing enforcement goons are after me.
Blog post finished, I dust the chalk off my fingers and wander around the world wide web. I find that Stephen Fry has posted a podgram. In the latest installment, he talks about protecting the BBC's licence fee.
Even though it came directly after my last post about Mr. Fry?
And that post came about because, on a fine evening in Piccadilly, our eyes met?
Yes, it's still a coincidence. Now go away and don't leave those chalky marks all over the keyboard.
There's a keyboard???
(throws down crumbling chalk piece and flounces out of the room)

July 08, 2008

A question of trust

Episode 1:

The pardner and I walk into a violin shop in west london. He tries out a few instruments, likes the sound of an 18th century German violin that costs quite a bit. He is told he can take it home for a few weeks, with no obligation to buy, just to try it out, see if it suits him. he is thrilled, and gets ready to swipe his credit card, but it is waved away. he is only asked for his name, address and telephone number.
bemused, he and i walk out clutching the violin tightly. this violin was being played when mozart was alive! and now it's with us. how could it be lent out to us to trustingly?

Episode 2:

I don't have a TV. If you remember, and you should, I said so last year too. I didn't have a TV then, and I don't have one now. So why am I receiving threatening letters from the TV Licensing Company? These letters are sent to my address, but not to my name. Not even to "The Occupant" at my address. But to "The Legal Occupier". Makes me feel a bit dirty, like I've invaded and occupied a home, in what is technically a legal manner (UN resolution was passed after all), but we all know the truth, don't we?
The letters (yes, there have been many) say that while most people are law-abiding, and chup-chaap-se buy their TV licenses, some of us filthy occupier types don't, and we'd better, cos they're going to hunt us down. The assumption is that we're untrustworthy TV watching freeloading liars.
It was only when I read this (take a look, go on) did my hysteria subside.

This post is not about whether the licence is a better way than taxes to pay for the beeb's excellent ad-free programming. Or even about how this programming is now available free on the iPlayer. Or about an old violinist with a business to run, being more trusting than a behemoth TV corporation. Or even about how it's better to have an 18th century violin squealing in your house, rather than have the family hunched about a blue screen, while all hands fight to control a long black box.
It's mostly a wish that this beautiful violin would sound a lil better when I play it.

June 26, 2008

Out of the Fry pan...

.. and into the Fry-er!

Stop me if I sound gushy, but here's what happened yesterday. The pardner and I were in Piccadilly. We stepped out of a samwich bar and gulped a few lungfuls of fresh air.

And then, it happened. Time slowed down. Traffic stopped. A black taxicab drew up in front of us. My eyes were drawn to the door. It opened and a tall, portly man emerged, blinking. He had a large nose and was in a purple velvet jacket. Our eyes met. He smiled.

He then trotted across the road and entered a building cordoned off by policemen in fluorescent jackets.

My hand moved slowly, reaching for my phone, and I managed to take a picture of his back.
Here is that picture.

Hours later, in my pew in St. James, listening to Mendelssohns violin concerto in E minor (yes, I know he only had the one v. conc., but it does happen to be in E minor) I realised that

1) I had become a celebrity-obsessed paparazzita
2) I saw him, and he looked at me! I am Ralph Wiggum.

May 28, 2008

.. it's all just a little bit of history repeating

Moving to Bangalore taught me all about petrol bunks, rickshaw drivers' attitudes and lumpen elements.

Trips to Pune in the summer were refreshers on alphonsos.

And now here I am in London, graciously accepting people's apologies when I bump into them with pointy suitcases, and learning to cunningly put into my sentences words like posh, lush, whinge, toff, luvvies, yobs, WAGs and chavs.

(Anyone who wants to get an insight into the English weather-alcohol-sense of humour-class obsession should read an anthropologist's view. )

But despite the newness of my surroundings, things do seem to have turned a full circle. A delicious, sweet, soft, sugar-sprinkled circle. With a hint of nutmeg.

Did I, or did I not start this very blob with a post on pedhas being near, yet so far? And three years later, here I am in South-east London, while Chitale's finest are in an unopened box, cooling their heels in a house in South-west London. A careful courier courteously carried them on Corean Air (bear with me). Now all that is required is planning the drop at a dead letter box. Synchronize your watches, and remember Moscow rules!

May 20, 2008

'Tis the season to be snaily..

..fa la la..

It's true. May 24th is National Escargot day!

Put on your game face, waddle to the nearest French restaurant, and order Beurre d'escargot, along with a glass of house white.

Divine tasting though it is, I suspect that even my shoe (the tight one that bullies my bunions) slathered in copious amounts of garlic butter would taste as good.

If this post makes me sound annoyingly Frenchified, please to remember that I have in the past suggested a desi leech-ghee stir fry.

And if you are angry about this post, and (though reading this online) are a technophobe, do write to me via snail mail.

May 13, 2008

Universal franchise

For those of you following UK politics, you'll know that Gordon Brown's Labour Government is in trouble. The Tories won the London mayoral election, and Labour lost a number of council elections, its worst performance in 40 years.

What does this have to do with you and me?

I voted, innit! I was a part of it all!

As a citizen of the Commonwealth, I was on the voters list. I'm not an Brit citizen. I'm not even a permanent resident. I'm just a dolphin gambolling about the cold English waters. But there I was, with an election card and a burning desire to vote.

On election day, I waddled over to my polling station- a primary school. Amidst the surreal post-modern art of 3-year olds on display, sat two young women with the electoral roll. Trembling with excitement (not), I mumbled my address. My name was duly found, crossed off the list and I was handed three ballot papers and sent to a corner to exercise my franchise. Having listened to the radio, my Mayoral choice was easy peasy, and I boldly marked my first and second preferences. But what to do about the council elections? I almost voted for the party with the most interesting symbol, until I realised that I had no idea what they believed in, and could possibly be the party that wanted to stop the influx of us brownies.

Brownie- what a nice way to refer to South Asians. We're brown, sweet and irresistible. Also we're chewy, sometimes nutty and can be hard to swallow.

Finally, I voted for the party that (I think) shares my idealogical preferences.
The ballot sheets were slipped into a ballot box- i.e. a cardboard box with a slit. No Electronic Voting Machine! Even more disappointingly, no indelible ink marks were made on my forefinger and I regretfully left the station. Outside, an apple-cheeked old lady wearing party colours and knitting in the sunshine checked me off a list.

Ruminating on the walk home, here are my questions-
1 How do they prevent fraud? All you need to do is quote an address. No finger mark (Look, with a spot I damn him) to prevent proxy voting. The answer- yes, fraud does occur.
2 Is it fun without Clinton v. Obama style tense debates, ballot box stuffing, jab tak rahega samose main aloo etc? No, but heads aren't broken, and large sums aren't wasted which is a good thing.
3 What makes some countries give voting rights to temporary residents? And others rescind them from convicted criminals?
4 Democracy, in its Greek cradle was direct. Is there any point to the representational exercise at all, with its manifestos only for elections and influence from lobbying groups?

Such seditious thoughts in one so (relatively) young..

May 08, 2008

Ayubowan to Sri Lanka?

Ayubowan: Sri Lankan greeting
Serendipity: the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, while looking for something else entirely
Serendip: the old Persian name for Sri Lanka

For more, go read the travel page of the Economic Times Epaper, Delhi edition on Thursday April 8th. It has all the pictures and everything.

Who knows what else you'll stumble upon?

April 08, 2008

Time pass

My mood on march 30th verged on the Distinctly Discombobulated. capitals intended.

what happens every year in northern latitudes is a change of time. daylight savings, they call it. in summer, you lose an hour. at the stroke of 1 a.m. in the UK, you are suddenly transported to the stroke of 2 a.m. this is particularly annoying if you are awake at the time, or in need of some extra sleep that night.

a whole hour gone! an hour i could have spent sleeping, gazing out of the window, ensconced in a blankie with chipce and a book..
the mind boggles.

the most irritating part is that you get an hour less of sleep, wake up grumpy and with bad hair.. and then find that you're supposed to be grateful it stays light an hour longer.
well of course it would! you put forward the clocks by an hour, didn't you? given a chance, if you changed the time by oh-i-don't know 5 hours, it would be bright and sunny at midnight!
easy peasy!

of course, you gain back your hour in winter. this is all very well when you have spent a year in the temperate zone country in question. but when you arrive just before the hour is lost, you can't help but feel the loss. i lost an hour that wasn't compensated by gaining an hour in the last week of october. i do realise that i will gain the hour this october, but what if i'm in the tropics when the hour is gained?
you see my dilemma?
(orcaella gestures hypnotically)
now do you see it?

of course, i haven't really lost an hour (sheepishly), it's just an accounting change. but i do question the rationale behind it.
daylight savings was introduced to save energy, though studies have shown that the energy savings are often less than anticipated.

the search for a fiendishly cunning plan that replaces the current system with one that doesn't deprive me of my sleep for a day, and yet helps conserve energy and gives me long summer days is on.

until then, i've lost an hour and someone, somewhere will have to pay.

March 27, 2008

Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne

Last weekend, I woke up to the silence of snowflakes falling. When you wake up and it's snowing, there's only one thing you do- dash on several layers of clothing and rush onto the street and twirl about while the snowflakes gently daub your cheekce.
Well, that's what I did, anyway. Only me. Everyone else in the area stayed indoors.
I finally got home, got myself a cuppa tea and took a picture of the flakes from the kitchen window.

-"What a brilliant photograph!"I hear you exclaim.
Yes, it was taken on my Lumix DMC FX 3, no filters, shutter speed auto, one-handed.

in an aside: honey it's over, you can get off the roof and come back into the house now. please bring the remaining popcorn.

March 03, 2008

House hunts I have known..

when you're as peripatetic as i have been, you get used to house hunting. a tip: treat it as a fun way to see the city and meet a few kooks.

kookiest bangalore experience: middle class home in bangalore with a reasonable rent, and a loo without a flush.
i didn't even notice, and moved right in! and then, gave my notice and moved right out.

washington d.c.- very odd experience involving ads placed on a housing website for flats at low rent in great areas. when contacted by email, the putative landpeople asked for a photograph and a message to be recorded at a slow speed on their answering machine. a quick search of the sender's name took me straight to a site for russian mail-order brides.
ye gads!

london- the oddest experience. flats offered for rent in fabulous locations in central london, for a pittance, practically. salivating at the thought, and having learnt nothing from my DC experience, i wrote to an owner, asking for pictures of the flat, and scheduling an appointment to view it. i got a diatribe in my inbox- about how the lady was alone, her husband dead, she didn't live in london and people asking to view the flat never seemed to actually have the money for it. references, bank statements or salary slips were no proof. she wanted money to be transfered about and proof of it sent to her.

i try not to be cynical sometimes, so i charitably ascribed the email to a poor ol soul, lonely and mistrustful.

until i got an email from the next apartment owner. who said that he wasn't in london either and would have to be really sure i was interested in the flat. he found it necessary to add that he had to be with his children, since "there (sic) mother was dead (sick)"

either it's me, or some major mortal coil shuffling off is going on.

February 04, 2008


While this blob has remained slumped in the same cyberspot, i have been moving. With dizzying rapidity, i have gone from bangalore to pune to delhi to sri lanka to london, where i have now come to rest.

so it's a tweedy and muffled orcaella brev. addressing you over a pint of bitter from the corner seat at the pub.

many years ago, when i was just a rebellious teen growing up in the irrawaddy delta i came across a book that began thus:

In Life*, there are many hundreds of common experiences, feelings, situations and even objects which we all know and recognize, but for which no words exist.
On the other hand, the world is litterered with thousands of spare words which spend their time doing nothing but loafing about on signposts pointing at places.
Our job, as we see it, is to get these words off the signposts and into the mouths of babes and sucklings and so on, where they can start earning their keep in everyday conversation and make a more positive contribution to society.

*And, indeed, in Liff.

It struck me particularly, as there was the following entry in the book:

POONA (n.) - Satisfied grunting noise made when sitting back after a good meal.


It was only last week that I found out that the book in question was "the meaning of liff" and was co-written by douglas adams.

i would love to start off a blob tag chain letter-type event, with everyone naming the place they last visited, and using it to define a recognizable situation or event for which no word exists. but i need to get back to dealing with my CHANAKYAPURI (n.) - the situation when the bread portion is constantly replenished, but the curry portion remains intact after eating it for half an hour. typically seen while eating pavbhaji, chole bhature or misal pav.