Friday 30 October 2009

Mary Anne

Just finished Daphne Du Maurier's novel 'Mary Anne'. Like all Du Maurier's novels, this one is also very well written, not a single boring paragraph, very witty and fast paced. I must say that I am impressed with Mary Anne and her history. She fought her one time lover the Duke of York and Albany in court which ultimately led to the Duke's resignation as the Commander-in-Chief of the British army. She did not stop at that but continued to wreck havoc in the British political circle with allegations of corruption against both the whigs and the torries. She even wrote a bestselling novel called The Rival Princes.


In today's mostly emancipated world, we women find the struggle so difficult. Imagine a woman, that too an ex mistress and someone labled as loose in 1807/8 fighting like a tigress with royalty and state. I am not supporting her corrupt practices, but at the same time I cannot, but be impressed by her audacity, wit and courage. The men around her-- her stepfather, her husband and her brother all were pretty ineffectual and looked upto her for idea, inspiration and money of course. She was the sole bread earner for her entire family from a very young age and I must say her surivival strategies were bold and smart. Salute to this bold, yet notorious woman who was condemed by men and their history. If you enjoy historical novels and have a penchant for notorious women, this book is a must read.

To add something completely unrelated, if you are a patriotic Bong like me, Mary Anne would bring Anjan Datta nostalgia in doses. So much so that you would ruffle through old music files to play Datta's song "Mary, Mary Anne, Marie....".

Enjoy


Found this photo in one of my old albums. Enjoy!

Thursday 29 October 2009

Sushi Besomes The Shef....

It is 8ish in the morning here....urghhh, the earliest I have got up in sometime. And the first thing I do is start writing in my blog. I think this is what is called 'being blog hooked'. Anyways guys my aavatar has changed from bored homoremaker to that of an experimenting chef. Yes my aavatars are a bit like the yahoo messenger ones, they change if and when fancy takes.

So in my new aavatar, I just do not go grocery shopping, I mean go and pick up the bread and eggs, resist the ice creams, you know the routine. I push my trolley towards the herbs, spices, seeds, preserves, take my time, read through them and consider whether I would be able to experiment with them or not. Yesterday during one of these knowledge sessions, I came across seasame seeds. (Oh I love my honey chicken heavily sprinkled with seasame seed.) I cannot tell you how excited I was to see these seeds, it was as if I have met a long lost friend in this allien land. No, on second thoughts it was not a very friendly feeling. It was more like 'ah I found you, now I am gonna eat you'.  A little rattiness for the experimenting chef is permissible, come on.

So the moment I returned home, I started scouring the internet for honey chicken recipes. Found those in plenty,one thing led to another and I found some recipies for terriyaki chicken as well. The recipies sound easy and the chicken looks yummy, so now I need to go out and shop for the terriyaki ingredients. But the most interesting thing is I found this site which talked about a book called 'Help! My Apartment Has A Kitchen Cookbook' by mother and son Nancy and Kevin Mills. I fell in love with the title of the book itself, but more goodies were to come. There is a little forward given in the site, it is hilarious. I think you can read it here. Reading  it, I was comparing Kevin's helplessness in the kitchen with my brother's. Though from the sound of the book Kevin is light years ahead making brunch burrito and chocolate chip wedges while  my bro still brags about his omlettes and maggies.

By reading just the forward and three recipies, I can tell it is an interesting book, instantly engaging the reader and making the reader laugh in the process too.

To get back to my cooking experiments, today I am planning to make honey chicken with seasame seeds. So watch out to know how my experiments with honey chicken and terriyaki chicken went and wish me a little cooking luck in the process too.

Before I leave you, I must share what I am currently pondering upon -- the sparkling white grab of the chefs. Is it not a wee little bit impractical to wear white when you know it is going to get sauce, juice, gravy splashed???

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Two Days in Paris

I just saw Two Days in Paris for breakfast. Yes one of the good things about being unemployed!Well I have been a fan of Julie Delpy even since Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, so ever since I heard that this movie has come I wanted to watched. It played in selected Indian inoxes but never got a chance to see this in India.

This movie is conceptualised, written, produced, directed and acted in by Delpy. Her character Marion is a French photographer who is based in New York for the last two years.  She is in a relationship with this interior designer American guy called Jack (Adam Goldberg). They come for an Europe trip, go to Venice for two weeks and on their way back stay in Paris for two days. They stay in Marion's flat which is on top of her parent's house and of course all hell breaks loose.

I loved the characterisation of this Jack guy...he is no run of the mill hero and so ordinary that you cannot help but like him. He complains about everything, thinks he is sick (headache migrane, tonsil...), dreads allergies, infections, diseases, terrorist attacks and just about everything else, refuses to use the metro or the bus and is judgemental to boot. Marion since, they are in her city, tries to play the pacifying hostess and calms the guy down. She is no less in her own way, is paranid about being fat, gets drunk easily, seamlessly picks up fights with random taxi drivers, ex boy friends and even waiters who come in her way. Ah yes she has plenty of exes in Paris and the couple seem to be bumping into these guys all the while, much to the frustration of Jack. After meeting half dozen or more of her ex lovers Jack is convinced that Marion is a whore but cannot say it on her face. I was laughing while watching this scene. It is so true we women can so easily call a man 'a bastard'  but for men there is some code of honour which stops them from uttering it the 'w' word. Though that does not stop him from thinking or even obsessing about it. Of course I am not talking about abusive men, but normal men like Jack here.

Jack is monolingual, speaks only English and so is everyone he meets in Paris.The only problem is they speak only French. This results in some laughter for the Parisans while Jack gets embarassed and mad at Marion. He hates the language, the food and just about everything else. Finally with great difficulty he finds double cheese burger and fries and looks happy and sated.To give him some credit the poor guy also without trying runs into trouble like faces a bomb threat, gets mistakenly handcuffed for mugging etc etc.

I have one small experience of this cultural thingy....I spent one Christams with a Philipina family who forgot that I am a non Tagalog speaking Indian. The whole evening they spoke to me in Tagalog. After a while I stopped telling them that I do not speak Tagalog, thank you very much. Instead I nodded and smiled which made them happy. One evening could be fun, but days of this I am sure would not be.  I am sure couples belonging to different cultures and speaking different languages do have this kind of problem. In fact I was having a conversation with a friend who was a little skeptical about the cultural difference with her boy friend.

To get back to the movie, the characters are very realistically etched and the viewer can establish almost an instant connection and identification with them. And as has become Delpy stock in trade some of her self realisation are just too good. Delpy is good but Goldberg is superb. Though I would still rate the Before movies higher, this is a good watch.

Monday 26 October 2009

Oxford Diary: The Eagle and Child Pub

Ever since we had come to Oxford I wanted to try out the traditional British fish and chips. For someone growing up reading English literature, fish and chips was a much read and much salivated over dish.  Finally yesterday we went to this pub called The Eagle and Child on St Giles Street. The menu said that this pub has been in operation since 1650s but was refurbished or changed hands or somesuch in the eighteenth century. Since then it has been extended also, though the space was not much and there were lots of twists and turns and smaller rooms 'snugs' tucked inside making the place really interesting. 1650 in Indian history means the Mughal times. Oh how I wish there was a mughal sarai (guest house/resting house something like the British inn) still operating.You get all these places in Delhi like Ber Sarai, I am sure there used to be Mughal inns, which got destroyed over the period of time. All we have got left are the forts and the gardens. Anyways, to get back to the English pub, this watering hole has been frequented by many famous names, one of which I still remember reading in the menu. It was none other than J.R.R. Tolkein the author of Lord of the Rings. Sitting in a place like that made me feel that I could just reach out and touch history. Just having finished a regency novel which had inns and charter houses mentioned in abundance my imagination took a flying leap.

This photograph is that of the famed fish and chips, served with tartar sauce and a slice of lime. This fish is what we Bengalis call fish orlay, in a much bigger size. Thanks to the popularity of Anglo Indian cusine this is easily available in many of the resturants of Kolkata, especially Park Street side. Other than Park Street another place which serves fantastic fish is Kwality Resturant in Ballygunj Phari. Also Bengali wedding menus are hardly complete without the fish fry or the orlay. Eating this fish I realised how predominantly colonial our food still is! This fish we had was most probably cod. Bhetki with which Bengalis make this preparation is way more tastier. But I must say this was the best tartar sauce I have tasted so far-- very light and just right. You get fish and chips in Mumbai also  in  Gaylord Resturant in Churchgate. Soumitro had taken us there when we had gone to Mumbai.
The glass of beer is Wychwood Hobgoblin. For my husband Indranil beer is a passion, he keeps visiting beer festivals and various pubs and goes into a hypnotic state drinking his favourite stuff. This is supposedly one of his favourites. This was a little expensive that the other pubs in Oxford but he says it was one of the best.
I had cider for the first time. Pretty sour, has a zing, it is definitely an aquired taste and by the time I finished the glass (with Indranil taking 4/5 swings in between) I almost liked it.
Other than the fish and chips the menu had  all kinds of traditional sounding dishes locally called the 'pub grub'.  There were soups, various kinds of sanwiches and flat breads, main dishes had selection of pies, something called pork belly, salmon, prawn, ham, beef and some vegetarian options as well. The pies were all served with mashed potato and seasonal veggies. Sundays are roast special with options in beef, pork and chicken as far as I remember.
Their christmas menu is also out, looks very traditional, just what I want to try out.

These guys actually keep reconrd of the number of pies and pints of ale they sold in this black board. Isnt this lovely? Now I want my own baclkboard too!

Inside of the pub. It is nicely lighted and pretty cozy and thankfully well heated.

Where we sat (it was originally a conservatory) the ceiling was of glass so we could see outside. Since we were there is the late afternoon we saw dusk coming and then darkness enveloping the world while the bulb gave us light.
When we entered the pub was not that full. But along with our food a gang of teenagers arrived, who sat right next to us and were taking at the top of their voices. Of course the girls were shouting more than the boys which started our discussion as to why women have to talk louder than men.
All in all it was one of my one of my memorable experiences so far in Oxford.

Sunday 25 October 2009

Oxford Diary: Apple Crumble


In my boring  home maker avatar I have turned chef. Last week we had picked up a bag of apples which were actually very sour. Since we could not eat them, I decided to try making apple crumble with them. When I was in Canada, my French room mate Pauline used to make apple crumbles often. She used to say that it is easy to make. So I took heart from that advice and ventured forth. Found plenty of recepies and demo videos in the net.
It really is easy to make and awsome to taste. So if you have some sour apples you cant eat go on and try it.
First peel off the apples, and chop them. I had about 5 apples, then I poured about three fourth cup of powder sugar and mixed it with the apples. I read in one of the recipies that cinnamon and clove power makes it aromatic. I have put in both. But I would suggest just put in cinnamon and not clove. Though smelling great, clove was not tasting too well. It tasted too strong.

The chopped apples mixed with sugar and cinnamon powder.

Now for the crumble. About a cup of self raising flour, butter, one fourth cup of sugar. All this was mixed with hand till it almost looked like bread crumbs.


Then get a baking dish or a foil, smear it with butter, pour the apples and then speard the crumble paste evenly. I baked it for 40 mins in 180 degrees. Afterwards I let it cool for 15 minutes and the crumble was ready to eat. Eating suggestion was with vanila ice cream or fresh cream, since I had none at home, I ate it just like that. In fact I am eating this while writing this post.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Getting the coins right...

Have you guys ever have problems with your coins? Well whenever I shift to a new country, the first few weeks go trying to figure out the coins. Initial days in Canada I remember holding up queues in super markets while I tried to figure out the coins and give the correct change. It used to be rather embarassing and the more embarassed I got the more muddled I would be. People behind me in the queues would be shifting impatiently while I would vainly try to see which coin is what. Mostly the teller would come to my rescue and sort through the coins to extract the correct change.

Same thing is happening in UK as well. Like everything else I am getting to know the coins. But this time I have become smarter, I have kept a small coin purse where I keep all the change and only take those out when there is no queue behind me.

One irritating thing in these countries is the usage of one and two pence. Not that you can use these to buy anything, but since they are in circulation they just tend to make your purse heavy.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

10 ways to deal with self doubts: real or imaginary

This post is inspired by a harried friend's Facebook status where she says she does not have a roomie, no money, her shinning academic career does not look so sparkling anymore, at least to her. I felt an instant bonding with her mental state. So much so that it is actually a bit scary. But there you go, all the self doubts that I had and never dared to express publicly, she expressed so piogantly. Self doubts are creepy thoughts which have a special talent to creep up to you in odd moments and grip you tightly. While gripping you tightly they suck all the positive energy out and leave you depressed, convinced that you are the biggest loser of this world, unsure, lacking in confidence, unloved, without any friends, or at least none who care whether you are alive or dead.....the list of negativities go on and on.

Me being the temperamental and moody Libra, I keep having phases of these. But then like all other things, these also pass. But no sir, they are the sticky kind, and it takes effort and money to make them go away. So I would say driving away self doubts is a time consuming and resource intensive business. But you gotta get rid of them, cos if they linger then they impede normal activities of life and worst of all hinders your rational thinking power.

Self boosters to drive away self doubts:

1. Point out the good things about yourself to yourself in precise bullet points. Like you are a survivor having survived lost love, broken relationships, sudden change in career....few people make it through, you are a fighter till the end, you have survived worse situtations in life so this also you would overcome....etc etc etc.

2. Get out of house, go for a walk, or sit in a park bench or librabry or movie hall and have a long dailouge with your self. Of course you start out by being soft and nice to yourself and then when your obstinate self refuses to listen scold her a little, be a little firm and ask your self to stop all this nonsense, that always helps!

3.Stand in front of the mirror and critically assess yourself....no no dont look at the double chins (if you have any or the protruding tummy) or the ever increasing number of grey hairs or the unplucked brows....smile at yoursef and twinkle your eyes and flutter your eyelashes....that is the trick....sooner or later you will start finding yourself beautiful and that would bring a genuine smile to your face, replacing the old artificial one. Tested recipe.

4. Write to yourself, even if you do not maintain a regular journal, no sweat...just open a new office document and pour your heart out....be uninhabited and write...all the things that bug you, all the things that make you hate yourself etc etc etc...pour your heart out honey, cos no one but you would be reading it. After you finishing reading it, go take a break, wash your face, drink some water, inhale some fresh air and then come back to read it. While you read it, you will see that you automatically reject some allegation of yours or point out to yourself that so and so is not right etc etc. This has helped me many a times, sometimes when I dont feel like typing or cant look at the screen anymore, I write on paper. Then when I am done, I tear the paper into peices and throw it in the air and let the breeze carry away my thoughts. No nothing dramatic like that, I just destroy whatever I had written.

5. Vigorous excercise like an hour of aerobics....by the end of it you are so tired you dont care about self doubts....you are beseiged with muscle pain! Did this only once or twice in long life....but not a bad remedy if you can actually get your lazy depressed self to the class and dont let your fat self to cower seeing all those flat tummied sexy divas excercising for God knows what.

External boosters to erase self doubts: be warned these may be both time and money intensive,damn!

6. EAT-- chocolates, ice creams, chips/crisps, Chinese takeaway, spicy Indian food, nachos, sushi (no, it is not unhealthy enough), large pizza with extra cheese and toppings, KFC or just walk into a fancy resturant and buy yourself an expensive meal with expensive wine. Soon the bill would depress you so much that it would take over all the self doubt space and mission accomplished. Tada!

7. DRINK--now this is a bit risky one. If alone please drink at home, but please please dont get into the habit of drinking alone every evening. Best would be if you could find a couple of friends and go out or party in someone's house. I always prefer the house party, that gives me space to be a little drunk and talk nonsense. Whenever I get drunk I want to fly away, whats your wish in drunken state? But drinking and being uninhabited sure scares the self doubts away.

8. SMOKE-- again if your are not a regular, please dont get into the habbit. I am not a regular smoker but an occassional smoking spree sure does help me. I love menthol ciggs, what is your poison?

9. Chat with your mom or best friend or not so best friend. The downside of this is, if the other person is not being understanding or receptive the chances are that you will feel more depressed. I have had such expereice, so I do this very cautiously and selectively. Alternatively you could hang out with friends, no do not share your grief, just hang out, soon you will get into the silly giggling mode and when you come back home you will realise that you are no longer sad.

10. Have sex-- frankly have not tired this. I have always been happy happy when I had sex. Gotta try this one out.

Ok the promised 10 tips are laid down but I have some more to share, so what the heck....read on.

11. SHOP-- ok this can be a bit dangerous. I am sure you know about shopoholics, so have a budget, a small one, cos once you are out shopping your budget is going to double or tripple in the excitement of all those goodies which you must have. This has been my downfall many a times. Though I am not a reckless shopper but when I go shopping to cheer myself up I do get wee bit reckless and almost always overindulge!

12. Read a good book maybe a Mills & Boons, soon you would be so carried away in the passion of the hero and heroine thast your miserable love life will stop bothering you. But this may have the opposite impact as well.

13. Watch an old favourite movie-- this almost always cheers me up. Also you could try music, play some favourite music and sing along, who cares if you cant sing but do bray...this is about yourself and not about those who can hear you.

Ok now the things you should never, ever do in depressed state:

1. Try to connect with your ex. No no do not visit his Orkut or Facebook profile, no dont punch in his number, oh no the number has trickly dialed itself.....damn soon he picks up the phone and you can hear his oh so familiar sexy voice.....you if you have any shred of dignity and self preservation left keep down that phone NOW and thrown your mobile away, break it if needed. If he ever calls you back, keep a mountain on your heart and do not take the call. Oh please do not, you are sure to come out more depressed than ever after talking to him and realising that you still have feelings left, or land up having sex one more time and feel more rotten than rotten egg the next day.
Same goes for writing emails or sending text or voice messages to the ex. Oh why did God invent exes? Who needs them anyways. Way too much trouble for a small bag of happy memories.

2. Hope for sympathy from unsympathetic sources like a bitchy cousin or friend. Honey some people never change or are too bloody self centred or critical of you to engage with.

3. Call or meet the guy with whom things are warming up a little....if at this stage the guy sees you clingy, emotional, ridden with self doubts....the guy being the guy is sure to get scared and run like hell. Seen this way too many times. Only one guy in a million, no make it a billion would actually sit you down, give to a fresh hanky to blow your nose, buy you a drink and listen to you. It is better not to take that chance.

4. Weigh yourself--oh no this is a dangerous area to begin with, when in the throes of self doubt this is a positive killer. Dont, dont, dont!

5. Being in bed or not going out of house-- I know few of us have that luxury but chances of bunking classes or calling in sick when depressed are pretty high. Done it many times myself. But then I land up hating myself for wasting time and get all the more depressed. Believe me the outside world is at that time much more cheerfull that your house.

Ok enough gyan. I am supposed to go job hunting today and lo and behold was instead wrtiting this long piece as if it is my life's vocation. Actually as mentioned before I am dreading this job hunting bit a bit. Anyways gotta go, cheer up honey and remember all women have these phases so you are not the only one whom destiny has singled out for this torture. This almost cheers me up!

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Missing out on celebrations....


I was sad missing out on celebrating kali pujo/diwali and then bhaiphota/bhaiduj. This is what I hate about staying abroad, the dates just merge into one another and the festivals just become a face book status message. You call home only to miss home all the more. Diwali night I stood at our window a long time, there were occasional crackers in the sky. Flashes of past diwali kept coming back.

Ever since I have grown up I don't much enjoy crackers. They are bad polluters. But cut out the crackers and I love Kali pujo (worship) nights. Bengalis worship Ma Kali the day before diwali day and does the rest of bursting crackers and decorating their houses with candles and lamps. Two days before the Kali pujo there is the night when you have to light seven candles and then the evening before Kali pujo fourteen candles. This is done to scare away ghosts. It is believed that Ma Kali is the violent avatar of Ma Durga and she got so mad that she was dancing naked with human skulls. Her dancing was about to bring an end to this world so Lord Shiva her husband had to lie down, she stepped on him and like a good Hindu wife, felt deeply ashamed and her tongue sticks out as a reaction of her shame and of course her mad dancing stops and the world is not destroyed. Bengalis have captured this naked goddess with her hair open, skulls in hand, tongue sticking out standing on her husband pose and this is the idol we worship on the day of Kali pujo. According to folklore demons and ghosts accompany her when she comes to the earth to be worshipped. Hence all the light and the crackers to drive the demons away.

In my childhood there was a certain thrill about this pujo. You never know which demon or ghost would choose to visit you or your house. Elders would add to the mystery and tell stories from the past. I remember pestering my father for these stories and as the stories unfolded my eyes would almost pop out and shivers would go down my spine. So the night of the pujo is always associated in my mind with an anticipation-- an anticipation of the evil....I almost waited for the worst to happen but it never did. From my childhood I remember going cracker shopping with my father...there were certain grown up crackers and certain kid crackers. Amongst us cousins and friends a competition would start as to who could burst the grown up crackers. It was the opportunity to show how brave and grown up you were, no place for the weak hearted. Once I grew up, my brother and then my cousins continued this cracker excitement business. The last time I was home, my young cousin of about 7 years got a huge load of crackers but was scared stiff to burst them. So instead my dad ended up bursting the crackers!

The day after kali pujo, North Indians celebrate as diwali or the festival of lights with all that cracker bursting. This is followed by bhaiphota/bhai duj, this is a festival where sisters pray for long life of brothers/cousins. During the ceremony brothers sit on a small mat on the floor, while sisters arrange a plate of sweet meats and another with chandan/sandalwood paste, there is a small poem that the sisters chant while they put a chandan tikka on the forehead of their brothers. It is a sweet festival, in my house it is a major celebration where the whole family (about 60 odd people) gather and gifts are exchanged among brothers and sisters. Oh grand daughters pray for long life of grandfathers while grandmothers do the same for their grandsons. It is one of my favourite celebrations, a day you earmark for your family.
The photograph displayed at the beginning of the post was taken from the following site-- http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc78/myscrado/durga/pkl_03.jpg

Saturday 17 October 2009

Oxford Diary: Matriculation....

Today was the matriculation ceremony for 2009/2010 batch of students who formally got enrolled/ registered in the Oxford University. The ceremony happens for each college, so Indranil's MBA class belonging to various colleges of the University matriculated with their respective college members starting from undergrads to Ph.Ds and D.Phils. Various groups have various gowns to wear and you are supposed to understand from the gown to which group commoner, graduate etc a scholar belongs to. It is a formal ceremony, Indranil had to leave early in the morning for his college. I went later in the day to Sheldonian Theatre where the ceremony was taking place. Guests were not allowed inside. So writing down my experience of standing outside the theatre.

Sheldonian Theatre where the matriculation ceremony took place.

Queues of students outside the theatre waiting to go for their ceremony.

To begin with it was a pretty chilly and overcast day. Indranil was grumbling a lot about going out around 7.30 in the morning, that too in his formal tuxedo. So I have been up since early morning trying to pacify an irritated husband and cursing the university for this early morning affair. He had to go to his college for the college group photograph and roll call. From the college, they were made to walk to the Sheldonian Theatre. According to Indranil the photograph session was hilarious with the students all creating ruckus and the walk along with all the others was nice.

When I reached the theatre, a batch of students were coming out. It was a very British, very sombre affair. So many students were gathered, yet there was hardly any commotion or shouting. Just some good natured jostling. On the opposite side family members and friends were waiting. They were also very silent and well behaved. Except for a family of parents and young girl next to me. The parents kept teasing their daughter and the mother and daughter were playing some pushing game which was really amusing to see.

I was wondering what would have happened had this been an Indian affair. Lots more sound for sure, many more vivid splashes of colour and some over enthusiastic parents sneaking in to catch a glimpse of their progeny getting matriculated. Saw a couple of Indian parents and the other was actually wearing a purple and pink monkey cap. Seriously it was not that cold, she should consider her child's dignity, if not her own.
One funny thing was amidst all that soberness, someone had painted one of the statue's lips pink. It looked really incongruous and funny.

One young undergrad student sauntered by, who to my amusement had a 6 inch ruler stuck with a black tape in place of specs handle. He looked as if it was the most normal way to wear his specs....oh the student had panache I must say. The joys of being a bindaas student! At odd moments like this I miss it, I must say.

As the students filed out, families waiting for them started clicking photographs...one saw one young student rather red faced, posing for photographs on the parapet as his proud mother and grandmother fawned over him. He seemed like he was caught in a nightmare, looking for ways to flee. Remember those late teen days when such behaviours on part of parents were the greatest social catastrophe. In whichever country or culture you belong to, some things are constant.

Finally Indranil came out, I was waving like mad to make him look up so that I could take a photo. To no avail, the lady next to me, saw my frantic waving and suggested that I shout his name. That also did not help. Once out of that place, we walked along High Street, the entire place was filled with students wearing gowns. There was festive air all around with some guys playing lively music at one corner, while in the other corner there was a brave musician who was on the tightrope while playing his fiddle.


There was a beer festival happening in the Town Hall which Indranil wanted to attend but it was too early in the day to start guzzling beer. So instead we loitered around some more, looked for cheap deals for a printer and its accompanying jazz, finally found one. Then in keeping with the rest of the morning, we went in for formal English breakfast for our lunch.


Friday 16 October 2009

Belated Blogger Action Day

I found out from Oxfam blog that yesterday they were celebrating Blogger Action Day to raise awareness against climate change. I was pretty excited and wanted to write something and be part of this initiative. But wanting to do something and actually doing it has a lot of muggy waters in between. I did the cursory google search and read some really blood curling articles. Climate change and global warming are no longer distant threats which we can pretend to ignore, they are here and very much happening.

For once I am at a loss for words and don't really know what to say. The issue is so complicated and there are so many complex layers and powerful players...I feel quiet ignorant to say anything at all. Except that as a citizen of this earth I am deeply worried and promise to use the resources much more carefully like water, electricity, petroleum etc. I wish our leaders also took this seriously and stopped just giving politically correct speeches and actually took some concrete steps to hinder climate change and global warming!

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Oxford Diary: Getting bored, parsley tubs....

Oh well I picked up this tub of parsley from M &S today and I am really kicked about it. I love the green and it just adds colour to our window sill and I am sure will make food much better as well. I remember when I used to live with Anasua at one point in Delhi we used to have tussle over parsley seasoning. I for one can have parsley seasoning in all my food, while Anasua was the more discriminating sort. So finally we settled on a bargain that we have parsley seasoning on whatever I cook and when she cooks no seasoning. I am sure soon Indranil would also start complaining about parsley overdose.

Except for my doing housework nothing much is happening. Indranil's classes have started, so he is mostly gone or when at home studies! Yes horror of horror I am married to a guy who is engrossed in some book or article or FB all the time. How I hated this very idea and how Angira and me, we had sworn that we would never marry a fellow student. I I could shrug off the shackles of studies but lo and behold within a month of marriage husband gets into an intensive course. Left to myself I am getting super bored. I don't really know what to do with myself. I got out for a walk and grocery shopping, that finishes in 40 minutes, I start reading a book, that too finishes in 2 days. Have chatted with all the friends in my gtalk,left sentimental messages to those on FB list, even become regular in Orkut. Still it seems like time doesn't pass. Have to look for a job for my sanity's sake, but so far being clueless continues. Now I guess I am bored enough to actually do something about being clued in and getting the job.

On a brighter note, got myself membership in Oxford Public Library....so no lack of books. Also picked up some movie dvds, didn't know they cost, but oh well. Anyways watching some old Cary Grant movies and loving him.

Monday 12 October 2009

Oxford Diary: Breakfasts....


Now that I have my own house to run, I am so far doing a fair job I guess. Since I am not doing much else as in looking for a job, I am doing a lot of home cooking. But here in UK my favourite meal is the breakfast. You can start eating lovely things like croissants, pancakes, Nutella, strawberry flavoured yogurt, and so many more goodies. Since we have reached I have made Nutella a part of all my meals as well as in between snack so much so that Indranil has suggested that I write to Nutella company to make me their most valued customer! Now wouldn't that be great, if that ever happened?

Coming back to breakfasts, today for Sunday breakfast I made pancakes. Considering that it was the first time I made pancakes it came out pretty well, not that you can go wrong with all the detailed instructions in the back of the packets.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Oxford Diary: Snores, doctors, Thames, fairs and what not....

While Indranil snores in the next room, I sit with my midnight snack, a double chocolate sundae, none less. Whosoever said eating after sundown is a bad idea, obviously failed to impress me. To go back where I begun this post, Indranil and his snores. Oh well the last ten days he has been really sick, high temperature, terrible body and eye ache, constant head pounding, sore throat...you name it he had it. It started with him feeling lowly and us thinking that he is jet lagged, then it got promoted to flu. Then at one point we thought it was swine flu....I spent a terrible night with Indranil withering with head and eye ache and the NHS website shouting to get an abulance. By some sixth sense I hung on, felt this terrible night and the terrible aches would pass. The next day we went to the GP, who bless his British soul seeing that Indranil is from India thought he has malaria. From there, he was reffered to the Department of Tropical Medicine in a far away hospital, where after loads of blood test and oodles of other tests, with threats of typhoid, malaria, chicken guina, dengu....has come to the conclusion that whatever the disease, it is self limiting so he will get better on his own. So he survived this entire sickness on Crocin. Long live Indian Crocin. One impact of this sickness is that Indranil has started snoring rather loudly,maybe he cant breathe properly. But I think I prefer snores any other than those terrible sleepless nights with high fever and pains.
While trudging to the nearest NHS surgery, we crossed the Thames river. I must say I was expecting Thames to be much more grander, but sadly at least in Oxford it is not. Some pictures of Thames which flows through Oxford.
Oh found this dainty fair going on in one of the city squares in the City Centre. Though did not buy anything, though was itching to pick up some cane baskets (on two grounds: no money and we were on our way to the far away hospital). All kinds of stuff, though old and used were on sale, even gold. Some photos of the fair.


Another thing that I wanted to talk about is the community centre which housed the NHS surgery. Now I have always heard about community centres neven been to such a thriving one. It is such a lovely place and the people managing it are also very nice. There are all kinds of activities and classes going on. It is nice to see a bunch of old ladies having fun dancing, some sitting in the cafe just chatting. I am really impressed. And there is a retirement house just next to this community centre, which I guess makes the centre all the more thriving.

Monday 5 October 2009

In the heart of greenery and solitude....

In the mad rush after our marriage,one good thing that Indranil and me, we did was to go for a small weekend trip. I got to know about this place from Anuradha who had gone there before. The village is called Kamarpara and the resort if it can be called that, is called Aro Aakash. This place is about 10 kms from Bolpur station. Once we booked the room, pickup from station was organized. Friday morning we caught Shantiniketan Express and reached Bolpur by 1 ish. From there it took us for 20/25 minutes in the car.
We were there for 2 nights and 3 days. All we did was eat, sleep,take walks, sit in front of our mud house and chat. On Saturday we ventured out to see Shantiniketan, it was an aborted home coming for me and then we went to see this haat and went shopping.
This trip was a much needed rest between super hectic schedule. The place was so serene that it kind of took our breathe away just by its simplicity. There was no television, no radio, no space for any laptops, in fact there was barely any electricity. All we could see was green and water and all we could hear was the cricket and frogs. Some photographs from the trip.

View from our house. There was nothing except green and ponds all around us. Since it was the middle of monsoon, the two days we were there, it kept raining, making it all the more lovelier and greener.

This is where we stayed. My first experience of staying in a mud house, though with a modern western style toilet.


The mud house where we stayed was called ekka (meaning one floored). It could be seen far away in the distance beyond the pond.

Way from our home towards the main gate. The house that can be seen in the distance is another mud house, this one is called dokka since it is two storied.

Water drenched paddy fields.

Just some random landscapes.



We visited a haat (market) which happens every Saturday, some 5 kms from Shantiniketan. This is a new phenomena when I as a child used to visit Shantiniketan, never saw this. That afternoon it was raining cats and dogs. Most of the stalls could not be displayed. Found this potters' stall who had braved the rain. This lady in the middle of the photograph is the potter who had done the cups, vases, ashtrays etc. Picked up a small fish shaped ash tray.

Inside Shantiniketan.

Chadimtola.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Full moon, Kojagori Lokkhi Pujo....

Today is full moon. As I sit writing this, from my window I can see the full moon slowly rising in the dusky sky.

One significance of this full moon night is that some Bengalis worship Goddess Lakkhi on this day. It is generally said that Bengalis from East Bengal do this, more so they offer ilish maach (hilsa fish) to the goddess. But my father's side of the family in spite being staunchly from the western side of Bengal perform this pujo (praying ceremony). This full moon day in Bengali calender is called kojagori lokkhi pujo.

In my family the pujo is held in the evening when the moon is shinning brightly in its full glory. For this particular pujo, there is no idol, rather a kunke which is an old bowl like thing made of mixed metals like bronze, silver etc and has intricate designs. Years ago during zamindari system or maybe even before this it was used to measure grain. It is kind of a family heirloom. Since lokkhi or lakshmi is the goddess of wealth hence worshipping this kukne. The ceremony is usually brief.

What used to be fun was the dinner that my mother usually prepared. It used to be a vegetarian meal with luchi, aloor dom, cholar dal, begun bhaja, dhoka, phul kopir torkari and usually payash for dessert. I am almost salivating thinking about those goodies. My mother is sure to make all of these dishes today, though with the family dispersing the dinner has become less fussier. I can almost see my mother standing in her kitchen frying luchis, while the aloor dom shimmers in a pot next to her, in between the luchis she would check the aloo, instruct the maid to taste the payash after she finished chopping the brinjal for begun bhaja. The dinner used to be a big thing in our house once. As a kid I remember all my dadus (grandfathers), uncles, aunts, cousins gather in our house, since our thakur ghor (worship room) was very small most of us would spill in the terrace. Some of us would play hide and seek while the elders used to laugh and joke, some one would start singing some rabindrasangeet being inspired by the full moon. After the pujo there would be prasaad (sweets and fruits which are offered to the goddess is usually eaten in a Hindu home by the everyone after the ceremony gets over) distribution and then finally dinner.

I wish I had some photographs to show, let me see if I can find some old ones.
Enjoy the full moon folks, I sure am while the Oxford moon plays hide seek with the clouds!

Friday 2 October 2009

Oxford Diary: SBS, kind lady, flu....

SBS just in case you are wondering is short form for Said Business School. Today they organized lunch for partners and families for the new students. I was a bit late, arrived only to see Indranil waiting at the traffic signal, looking mighty impatient. I realised soon when we reached the drinks' table to discover that all the wine had disappeared. There was one glass of red wine, which after one cursory offer to me, Indranil promptly gulped down. I managed to get some sparkling water, which is not my drink any day. Urgh....The food was good though, pies with cream, cold cuts, fruits, meat balls, chocolates and candies.

Met some of Indranil's Indian classmates. In fact the Indian students are planning a diwali celebration and there was a little impromptu meeting held after lunch. It reminded me so much of our meetings held at Ganga Hostel, JUN to plan the Bengali night. The celebration promises to be interesting, lets see how it goes.

After the lunch, I decided to go check out Argos. We had checked Argos online yesterday and they have some kind of clearance sale which looked interesting. Argos turned out a completely 'students getting ready to get back to school' kind of place. I could find nothing of interest there, or maybe they sell only online, need to figure that one out. Feeling disappointed, cos I really wanted to pick up some deals from there, ventured into another shop. I am forgetting the name of this shop, but they had good stuff and the best part was the sales lady asked me whether I was a student. When I told her about my husband being one, she said we could get 10% discount, so I should come back with him. I wanted to pick up a shopping trolley, asked the sales lady if they had any, they didn't, but one kind lady overheard and suggested that I go check out Marks & Spencer, they had something. Better still the lady took me there herself, found out the trolley bag and even helped me operate it. She was out shopping for her daughter and seemed really peeved that her daughter was not responding to her text about some urgent shopping decisions, she reminded me so much of my mom. I told her so, some relationships are all the same, no matter in which country or culture you belong.

So thanks to this kind lady, I hope she had a successful shopping spree, my first venture into Marks & Spencer happened today. I know venturing into a shop is nothing exciting, but hey if you have been hooked into English lit like me places like M &S are like landmarks. It is never the same to venture into M &S in India. I wish I had money to pick up at least some of the goodies on sale. Never mind, I am sure my time would also come. Though picked up some body sprays for Indranil, poor guy he had left most of his stuff back home.

Next venture was Sainsbury. I have become a regular visitor there, soon it would seem like my next home in Oxford. Picked up a 16 piece dinner set and some wine glasses, so now apart from out 2 mugs and 2 plates, we have some more plates and mugs. Yeeeeee we are rich!

Indranil has flu and what a bad patient he is. He is one of those who feel that they are going to die every time they sneeze. To make matters worse we are not yet registered with NHS. He is being really paranoid and I am sure worsening the flu. I have always hated nursing, that remains unchanged. Wont make any Florence Nightingale any time soon.

Oh reading this really interesting but thick book called London. Fascinating.

Thursday 1 October 2009

Oxford Diary: Being Wifely...

First of all apologies for being away from my blog for such a long time. I was getting married and then before long started to get ready to come to Oxford with Indranil. Pre deputure days were horrible, I worked till the last, shopped, sorted, packed, scuttled between in-laws and parents' home, met all kinds of relatives (in India relatives except you to visit their homes soon after your marriage, since we were going away soon the pressure was treble)...

Finally reached Oxford 2 days back, kind of done with the initial settling down, Indranil's b course induction has started from yesterday, so I am kind of in a loose end. Yesterday I ventured out and did some shopping (all essential mind you cos we are on endangered list, one student and the other unemployed), cooked food, picked up Indranil's clothes thrown all over the flat. Today morning after Indranil kind of rushed out (he is always running late), it suddenly hit me that I have become very wifely-- I cook, I shop, I sort and fold clothes, look for cheap deals. Something in me protested, so ever since I have demolished 3 packets of potato chips ( no sorry crisps) and slept for some solid hours. Now trying to decide whether I should go out for a walk or not. It is one of those rare sunny days, the enthusiastic part of me says I should take advantage of it while the lazy part of me refuses to.

Here time passes super slow. I kind of automatically wake up around 7ish....Indranil goes out by 8.30ish....and then the clock just refuses to move. I wish I had this much time in India when I was rushing around non stop. Have to get into the habit of orkutting again.

Must upgrade my resume and start looking for a job soon. I am completely dreading the idea, but some bulls have to be taken by the horn. Now that kind of sounds cheesy, doesn't it???

On this note, bye. From now on I have a feeling that I am going to be a very very regular blogger.

Oh the photograph in the header is taken from our flat's window.