Tuesday 22 June 2010

Irish women writers...

Just finished reading  'A Charming Man' by Marian Keyes. Lovely book, dealt with extremely serious issues like alcoholism and domestic violence without without completely bogging down or depressing the reader. Love the way she writes, she is so funny and I laughed so much, at one point husband thought have been struck by late night madness/mirth-ness.

Must says really impressed with Irish writers, specially the women. Fell in love with Maeve Binchy and finished all her books which are available in the Oxfordshire library. Really loved the way she writes...her books were my only friends in the first few lonely months in Oxford.

Now that no longer have any books left to read, though every time I visit the library, faithfully (like a ritual) go and run my eyes through her books, who knows may strike gold with a new arrival! Nor can afford to buy books in present circumstances, so was looking for replacement author. Found another Irish lady--Marian Keyes. This was her second book, the first one a book cheekily called "Further Under the Duvet".

My vocabulary has also expanded to boot. New words/slangs learnt are:

Cripes: Slang used to express surprise, annoyance, disgust, etc.
Fecking: Polite and socially acceptable profanity used by the Irish. 
And a lovely phrase : rough as badger's arse...to describe post drinking hang over. 

Isn't this cool? So get ready to hear these words from me sometime soon in future!

Down and out with a cold...

Remember those scenes in Hollywood movies where heroines have flu or bad bouts of cold and heroes  bring them soup and daisies? 'You've Got Mail' is a classic example. Meg Ryan looked super cute with disheveled hair and pink nose, being cheered by Tom Hanks.

Sadly in real life getting a cold is nothing romantic nor do heroes come to hold fort with daisies.

To give a little background to this sudden interest in  cold and flu-- in this sunless island I have managed to get a sun stroke. Was out on one of the rare sunny days, soaking the sun in, and lo and behold got a sun stroke just like I used to get in Delhi. Getting a sun stroke in Delhi makes sense, but here it is like being a feminist in Mars. Most people give me incredulous looks or think that I do not know the right words and phrases being non native speaker and all.
At the risk of sounding obstinate, I insist that it is sun stroke cos I have suffered from it many times in India. I even know the whole routine by heart now. It starts with a buzzing in the head and stingy, watery eyes closely followed by headache, bad cold, running nose, fever and body ache. Stays for 5 to 7 days and vanishes to strike some other unsuspecting victim, leaving me with a peeling nose and looking more puffy and anemic than ever. Best medicine is rest, sleep, hours of it, lots of fluid and hot passionate sex [ just kidding:)].

So right in the middle of a week which promised to be super hectic canceling work and commitments left, right and centre. Am sitting surrounded with tissues, inhalers, balms and only allowed to drink hot drinks (decreed by husband). Feeling mighty sorry for self, husband also sympathetic but too busy to play nurse. Husband wanting me to visit doctor, resisting mightily, do not want to be poked and prodded at.

Husband has essays to submit one after another, wife out of action by cold, hence one take out after another and dirty dishes piling up. The worst bit is that it gets really boring after a while.  Do not have the energy to go out, yet too restless to sit at home. Bemoaning lack of  entertainment and guilty about being out of circulation.

Sitting at home, brooding about everything and nothing, feeling emotional and prickly. Horror of horrors realizing how unkempt my surroundings are. Spying all the hidden dirt, unhoovered carpet, things away from their usual places and mounds of dirty laundry. Cringe to myself, was I not a clean freak? When did this happen to me and my house?  New resolve in life-- revert back to being a clean freak as soon as health permits. Husband beware, serious cleaning time ahead!

No getting a cold is definitely not a good thing to happen, in spite of how glamours they make it seem in movies.

P.S. Photo courtesey google images.

Sunday 20 June 2010

The romance that never was...

Disclaimer: Just for a bit of fun and probably a good laugh.

Currently reading Marian Keyes "A Charming Man". Domestic violence is weaved into the novel. Met a character  who is definitely a victim, all under confident and hopeless and shivery. Knew someone like that while growing up. So kind of recognized the signs and somehow got to understand the person I grew up watching, much better. I keep understanding her better and better now when I am thousands of miles away and when she no longer is a victim and very much a survivor. I wonder how this helps her. But never mind, no one can accuse me of gving up.

Apart from that, predominant thought was about self. While reading kept thinking I am so lucky to have married a nice, gentle and kind man, whom I can boss quiet shamelessly, yet who is no mouse and can give me his two pennies worth of stern lecture when pushed too much, which can put me properly and tightly (cos of my figure, no fault of his) into place! The first time I got his lecture, I can tell you I was so surprised that my mouth was a perfect o. Stunned I forgot to fight back (and I am a champion in figthing and giving it back). After a couple of lectures, have managed to somehow precariously stop at my side of the line, well just about. Sometimes have to do one leg balance...you know how life is.

Anyways while reading kept thinking thank God and thank my runaway gurdian angel (who sometimes does good things for me, belated realisation strikes) am married to my husband and not some nasty wife beater. In fact at one point got so overcome with emotions that actually bothered to get up from bed and come to the other room to communicate to husband my thankfulness. Isn't this what marriage gurus say? Do these small things which keep the romance alive and make the partner feel much appreciated? Afterall 90% of the time all he gets are my grumbles and complaints. No, for a change I can be a thankful and apprecitive wife 50s style or Indian bahu istyl. Let me tell you this need to be magnanimous is very strong and has to be gratified almost immediately.

Being the imaginative sort had a little Hindi movie style skit playing in my mind. Something like this....

'Oh baby I am so thankful that you are my husband"....
Husband startled: "What a nice thing to say! This is why I love you so...." 

You know...instantly violins would start playing in the background, and we would do an impromptu dance (hate dancing, though not in imagination) and the rest of it.

All this flashed through my mind during the two seconds that it takes for me to trek from bedroom to sitting room. Must congratulate my imagination for not only being vivid and totally filmly, but super quick as well.

So with great anticipation of a great marriage moment push the door open. Husband engrossed with a fierce frown of concentration, computer screen shows writing going on. I gaze at husband's face and the screen. Some words dance towards me: customers, insights, designs, markets... I sigh....dear husband...so bogged down with essays, assignments, exams, truant group mates with Ph.Ds in free riding and irresponsibility....you know the usual B school crap. My love overflows and I tap gently on his shoulder. No response...poor, poor dear...if possible my love doubles. But husband should look up when wife taps on shoulder, no? So retap...and then again, this time tap resembles a shake. Startled husband looks up....concerntration frown marred with worry. Looks say except great disaster to have befallen me in bedroom hence tapping err shaking.

"What?"  which came out more like a bark, ready to spring into action to slay the dragon disturbing me in bedroom.

"No...nothing....errr just wanted to tell you that ....I... mmm...am reading this book on domestic violence and am (now in a rush like a speeding train late at night) so thankful that I married you..."

Shit that did not come out loving and romantic, did it? But have great faith on husband to be more romantic. Wait all excited.

So what did husband do? Hug me? Say pretty things? Promise to love me for ever and ever?

All I got out of him was an uninterested "Oh" and then back to his computer screen. I mean that is it. No reaction, no romance, no love scene, no violin, no nothing. Essay winning over romance, assingment winning over love, concerntration refusing to give space to mutual appreciation, in short B school taking over marriage!

The moment which had great potential to blossom into what not, turned out even flatter than a month old Coke in an open bottle!


I want a clarification: when marriage gurus counsel to be spontaneous do they include wives of those B school stressed husbands as well? I do not think they were ever married to one, otherwise would never make a suggestion which just might wrap up their careers forever!

Monday 14 June 2010

For you, my friends...

"We may run, walk, stumble, drive, or fly, but let us never lost sight of the reason for the journey, or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way." ~Gloria Gaither~

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Bhopal Gas Tragedy....

Growing up in the 80s and 90s in India, we kind of grew up with the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. It happened when we were in primary school, for me it happened the year my brother was born. Before that my association with Bhopal was through my General Knowledge class where I was taught that it was the capital city of Madhya Pradesh. So when the newspapers carried news about Bhopal I was naturally interested. It was a name I had learned recently and I wanted to know what the newspapers were saying about this city. I was too young to realize the full import of the incident, though I remember my mother explaining that many people had died. As a child I was fascinated by the fact that many animals had died too.  One newspaper image still lingers in my memory, of that a small boy curled up dead clutching a dead animal, probably a goat. What a tragedy it was...the nation was stunned, its citizens shocked...newspapers were full of it, whenever elders met they discussed it. Political parties made full use of it, indulging in blame game and the Communists blamed the US imperialism and  the central government to their hearts' content.

Years passed, the civil society movement around the tragedy grew as we were growing up... the anniversary was commemorated each year, there were rallies, candle light processions, gheraos, protests and people wore black bands to show solidarity and news papers carried articles to trigger public memory. NGOs mushroomed working with the victims and fighting for justice. So the incident lived on, sometimes ebbing away, sometimes coming to the forefront. The court cases started, and along came the controversies and the frustration at the long winded judicial system. Various studies started coming out, how the health of the population was affected, how the environment was affected. Two messages came out very strongly-- how government, bureaucracy  and Union Carbide were responsible and how people were pinning their hopes on the judicial system to bring justice.

Years later in college and then later in universities, I interacted with groups working with the victims,  watched theatrical  performances  on the disaster, art exhibitions. Studying human rights the case came up for discussion in the course of my study. For me it was reliving the incident. I got to know more facts about the tragedy which had happened years ago, an incident which was not personal yet deeply personal, a tragedy which did not touch me and mine, yet had an enormous impact on me.

Over the years I have followed the fight for justice, most times through news papers, sometimes by wearing the black band, or donating a meager amount of money or visiting a public meetings, lectures or debates.

It was not only the fight for justice for the people affected, for our generation this fight was to affirm our faith in our justice system. Some horrible tragedy had happened when we were kids and we had expected that by the time we grew up justice would be delivered! What a wrong expectation that was!

Way too many things had already gone wrong, too many mistakes by our bureaucrats and government, we thought that the judiciary would poke its finger in the right place and pin responsibility onto the guilty. The judiciary was to be our savior. Because otherwise who else was left? The next step is the dreaded 'rebellion' by the people driven by frustration and voicelessness. No we did not want that...we wanted to have  our faith in the Indian Constitution and the rule of law reaffirmed. Today's verdict is such a massive let down...I am not angry, I am disappointed. My first instinct was to ask myself whether the Chief Judicial Magistrate is under political pressure or God forbid taken a bribe? Then I recoil from my own thoughts, I do not want to reach that level of cynicism. I am part of young India, we need to take the nation forward, not give up on it.

Somehow in this rush to be developed, the poor has gone out of favour in India. The poor and the disadvantaged are considered unpleasant aspects of the nation who need to be swept under the carpet or pushed into another hastily patched slum which is more like a black hole. All we want to show the world is our IT engineers, our rich industrialists with unprecedented personal riches and our English speaking, accent faking youth working in call centres. Thankfully India is much, much more than that and we Indians are proud of our diverse background. So what if we are developing and riddled by multitude of problems, we have our dignity and our faith for better future. If only our politicians, bureaucrats and judiciary believed in it too!

Sunday 6 June 2010

Dhokla....

Introduction: I must say that staying in the UK has made me quiet an enterprising cook and I am trying out things which I would never have bothered to make in India. In fact my mother has never made dhokla and she was impressed when I told her that I made some and it came out pretty well. Now for the rest of the story...

Ever since leaving India I have been craving for various Indian snacks like dhokla, pokoras, vadas, puchkas, bhel puri, chats, jhal muri. The list goes on and on.  Food that you buy in India dirt cheap and consume without much of a thought, seem priceless here so far away from home.
Recently read in a friend's face book status that she had made dhokla. When she got to know about my craving she promised me some. She sent it through her husband, who was to hand it over to mine. To cut a long story short, lets just say that husbands make bad couriers and that box never reached me. In the ensuing confusion the box of dhoklas went back home to that friend and eventually to her husband's tummy!
So I had no option than to pick up this ready to make dhokla mix and try it at home. At the first trial it was a little hard but still speedily consumed by husband and me. In second go the dhokla came out all soft and fluffy, just the way it should be. After eating dhokla continously for three days dhokla craving has temporarily sated. On to  vadas and dosas now. Another friend has promised to make us dosas, so chasing him currently.

P.S. For the uninitiated dhokla is a salty snack from the western Indian state of Gujarat. It is made of gram flour and curd and steamed in the quintisential Indian pressure cooker. It looks like a yellow coloured cake. It is cut into small sizes and served with mustard seeds, coconut and green chillies and of course mint  and tamarind chutney.

Thursday 3 June 2010

Curious about Cola?

I guess for the most of us (the unhealthy lot!) cola is a way of life. But have you ever wondered how Cola as a drink came into being? My husband and me, we discovered this cola called the Curiosity Cola. This cola has been in circulation since 1905. There is a brief history written at the back, which goes 'Originally the product of apothecaries, Colas' were first sold as "Health Drinks" and were viewed with curiosity by the public.' This company called the Fentimans claim to be making cola with that old recipe. In their words
'We have included a stimulating recipe of ingredients that revive the claims of yesteryear in brewing a drought from Bontanicals, with body and bite that is curiously invigorating."

This drink is sold in shops like the Taylors in Oxford. There also have other drinks like ginger beer and shandy.

We simply love it!