It is pleasant in Calcutta and surprise, surprise… the humidity here scores lower than iu Delhi. And let me tell you what a relief it is to live without that extra layer of dermis.
Most of my time is spent reading in my cool library room that is tucked into a corner, up above the floor where my parents stay. The dark wood of the wall-to-wall book cabinet, the light sky blue of the walls, the balcony that once used to be covered with bougainvillea flowers but now is home to those beautiful fragrant frangipanis... It is the only bit that seems to have survived the general air of disarray in the house.
The books are still there, the Ernest Hemingways, the well thumbed classics, some Mills and Boons (yes, relics of my teen years), the green cover bound Scarlet, the copy of Little Men which I had whacked from my school library eons back and which smells all musty and yellow. I wish I could carry my library room back to Delhi.
How I have always treasured it. From the days I could bang the door against my mother and not open it, having been quite an unsocial creature, when relatives walked in to the living room. And my parents expected me to greet them with hospitality and sing songs on my harmonium. Arrgh.
Then one day my mother battered the latch. My banging-door-do-what-you-will-do attitude died that day. I might have been mad as a bull and raged like one as I even tried to block the door with a chair. But it never worked.
The funny thing is the latch is now in place and I revel in the feeling that no one can invade my own personal haven.
It’s amazing – this feeling of vaulting over the moon and back. Especially since I have been working hard.
On a desperate last-minute cover crisis, I had to fly to Bombay last week. I had in mind a filmmaker. Surprisingly he agreed to the interview while every other individual was falling through.
Travelling, unavailable, shooting, impossible public relations executives -- there was never enough reason to get me pulling at my hair. Don’t ask. I was at the pinnacle of frustration.
On Thursday afternoon I was on the afternoon flight to Bombay where I landed and immediately fell for the city all over again.
There is a je ne sais quoi about Bombay (however much you hold its humidity against it!). Could it be the sometimes quaint alleys that remind me of Calcutta, the old-style architecture at places or the good-natured bustle about it? It is difficult to put a finger on that something.
My evening started with shopping at a Bandra store that surprised me with lovely floral dresses and jumpsuits and consequently at an ethnic shop where friend S and I browsed minutely through the clutches, tops, kurtas, rings, bags they had on the shelves. Oh the high of mindless shopping!
Now S lives in Pali Hill that has lovely cobbled pathways. I think it charmed me straightaway. After downing some fizzy lemonade at a tiny coffee shop, we hit the roads smoking Menthol Rush and talking nineteen-to-the-dozen as dusk gathered.
That was when S suddenly spotted an old school friend of hers across the road, walking at a brisk pace with some woman. Old school friend G turned out to be an aspiring filmmaker. While they were chatting, I was amazed to suddenly see above-said woman trotting away into the distance. In the meantime G invited us to his pad for an intimate gathering of friends and the promise of a vegetarian dinner (which of course extracted evil cackles from us).
He also recommended we sit at Elbo Room nearby. So we walked down there. It turned out to be a small bar even though I had expected to be a teeny weeny shack – given the fact that they promote it as a singles’ bar and encourage singles to frequent it. Nonetheless I noticed only groups of friends and couples. The music was up my road – fun pop and rock -- and the menu was cute. We guzzled away on beer and munched on Fish Orly.
Two pints and we decided to hit G’s place. The idea was to get under the skin of his woman friend and let out the bitches in us. “We have been good girls most of our lives A. Let’s do it,” said S.
So soon we were standing at the doorstep of this flat in Pali Hill with a row of Chinese lanterns lighting the narrow corridor. The door opened in a second and I instantly thought B-grade actress M! In a very sexy cocktail dress with cowls and a cavernous back, M led the way in.
Thereafter I was entirely asinine. G plied me with another mug of beer. I didn’t find it in my heart to say no to a host. Though it turned out M was the host (they are clearly in a live-in and he refuses to talk about it openly). I have this sneaking suspicion that she was the vegetarian.
It was a gathering of six. One of them turned out to be a bellydancer who also farms organic vegetables on a certain rooftop in Bombay (people never cease to amaze me with their entrepreneurship) and another a Shakti yoga teacher.
The evening was surreal as soon I piled my plate with loads of linguine. Mistake.
The first bite and I wanted to scream out. There being no cheese to counter the overpowering taste of the pesto in it – it was akin to digging into linguine with turmeric. Plus the dishes had all organic vegetables -- the likes of which I have never heard of. One of them being Marca. That's the only name my beer-sozzled brain could latch onto.
Yes, I need sympathy. S refused to help me out with it after one forkful And she insisted I finish soon.
Meanwhile having got on quite a bit with the beer, I was in a strange complimenting mood. I started with the Chinese lanterns, carried on the appreciation to her wine goblets and did not even leave the terrible linguine alone. Let this suffice: Sheesh!
The next morning I was off for my interview at Andheri. But not before S made me watch part of the ghastly film, A Nightmare on Elm Street. I cannot imagine that it is the nth remake of the 1984 classic. So after watching a serial killer called Freddy Krueger flaunt his four bladed talons for like eternity (though in truth it was barely 40 minutes into the film) and dipping into yummy cheesy and caramel popcorn, I was off.
The interview itself lasted two hours. Said filmmaker was great to talk to. I have this vague notion that he is a womanizer too. He quizzed me as no one I have interviewed has ever. Then it so happened my collegaue asked me to confirm whether he has a happy eye!
But my afternoon began as I made for Carter Road.
There is this point where the road from Saint Mount Mary Church suddenly dips into the sea. The sight of the vast expanse of shimmering silver waters in the distance -- it made me catch my breath.
S met me at the Café Coffee Day on Carter Road and after tucking into a light lunch there, we tucked into Theobroma fare right after. Needless to say we were gagging at the thought of food. We tried out Theo’s Vodka Chilly Cake (disappoints) and a tiny cupcake dressed up with beautiful swirls of salted butter (thumbs up). The platter of cupcakes in fact put me in mind of little fairies in flimsy dresses flitting by and putting little cupcakes on the counter for us.
It was my second evening in Bombay and the last. S took me to Carter Road where we sat watching the sun set into the sea and lovers sitting on the black rocks. But then suddenly S had a brainwave.
The doggie park on Carter's Road . It was doggie lovers’ paradise. There were all sizes and shapes of dogs. Fat labs to surprisingly friendly boxers called Attila, rescued strays sitting seriously in a corner because they were new to the park and hence feeling shy, and adorable Irish Setters who couldn’t get enough of sniffing up chocolates. Sigh.
I am back to my longing for Bombay phase.
It has to be them effing hormones. I mean nowadays I pick daintily on my mango. Hardly like the greedy little thing I used to be once upon a time when I would sink my teeth into it, work my way to the aanthi (the core), suck on it like my life depended on it and go all messy with the juice dribbling all over.
Gah! It’s disturbing to have a bowl sitting at home beckoning away. Maybe I should have them before I give the mango a slight respite. Hmmm…life is full of tough choices ;)
Now I think I shall run to Khan Market and pick up those lovely toasted multi-grain sandwiches stuffed with chicken ham and egg and devour them while working on a story at home. And sip a pecan-flavoured cappuccino to go with it.
I am shaken. Or have been since the past 24 hours. Something happened that made me think about a lot of things. How all my life I have been avoiding something and how all your worst fears in life actually come to haunt you. Why do they, you think?
I have also been too much into things. So have decided to lay it less thick. Hope it does help me. Like wondering as to why someone sounds upset about some of the things I said even though they hurt me more than he can imagine. Not that he would understand.
They say if you give respect, you get it in return. Is that true? Wonder...
On a random note felt horribly nostalgic and tearful thinking of a day and a trip years back when I was in my late teens. Yesterday I had been rubbing some Moroccan Rose lotion into my hands at night when I was swamped by memories of my trip to Chandipur on Sea (it's in Orissa) with my parents.
We had checked into a resort kind of a place where there were these basic but beautiful huts. Our hut was strongly redolent of roses. Thereafter we lazed around on the beds soaking in the smell on a hot afternoon, followed by a lunch where they served us veggies with rice and accompanied by fish. Somehow I have never been able to stomach the kind of fish they serve you at coastal areas near Bengal and I remember how much I cribbed that afternoon to my parents.
Oh god I miss them so terribly. We have grown so far away and most of it is my mistake. I missed them more than anything yesterday suddenly when I realised how much they have indulged me in life. Including not being accountable to them or anyone. Not forcing me to confide in them or anything really. They have really let me be. Wonder if the rest of my life will be the same. If people will let me be.
And I miss my parents, the young them, more than anything.
First of all, I visited the penthouse of this well-known couple for a story on their fantastic home. The amount of natural light that filtered in through the bay windows and the beautiful patio that stretched out on the first level of it, just stole my heart. I want a house like that. Filled with daylight and happiness.
Oh and things were so much about art installation inside that at one point I almost mistook their pet, a very ugly French bulldog called Dude, to be a piece of installation too.
Midweek I was filing the above story on a tight deadline and feeling oh-so-stressed-out. But with wrapping it up came sweet redemption – a night of karaoke with my two girl friends at a new karaoke joint in town. The theme was retro Hindi, something that I heart.
How many times have I stood in a discotheque and hoped for retro! I have realized that I can move my body more sensuously when I hear those throaty Jawani Jaaneman and Laila O Laila-like numbers. The deal is that they make me feel very diva.
Of course I have been fighting in between with my boy like crazy. But been making up immediately and falling in love over again. The thing with fighting is that it makes you realize that you cannot really live without the other, without feeling ill inside. And he says something about our catfights. “We might fight a lot, but we also love each other that much.” It makes me smile.
Anyway, the other day I got a call from a communications person of a certain hotel saying they were holding a chocolate making workshop. And she immediately thought of me because of all the times she had seen me talk to the pastry chef with zest. I was delighted.
It was today.
Now getting up early on a Saturday is a bitch I agree (but so is it any other day, isn’t it?). Thereafter I spent the better half of the morning and the afternoon getting chocolate educated. How do you temper chocolate and how do you shock a chocolate mold? How do you make sure you never have air bubbles lodged inside your truffles?
And all of this was with couverture chocolate (couverture has a high percentage of cocoa butter which makes the chocolate honey soft), so we got nibbles of it too in the form of little dark pellets and sugar free blocks of dark and white chocolate. You would be surprised – at least I was – to find that sugar free chocolate was pretty good.
My neighbour was an elderly lady with a fine old-day accent and great enthusiasm. She was chatty. How couldn’t I like her and her love for chocolate? She turned out to be a Bengali when she spoke to her husband during the break. And we bonded. As we also did with the others in the class during lunch.
So over a lavish lunch of butter and bread, baked fish fillets, creamy corn and spinach and kebabs, we chattered away. None of us, it turned out, had really made chocolate before. There were at least a dozen of us. Among which was a mother-in-law who had come with her sweet and pretty daughter-in-law in tow, two sisters-in-law and even a young guy whose hobby it is to bake.
It was cute to compare notes on our levels of cooking. Some like me were ultra lazy but it was our common love for food that had us there I guess.
Once we got back to our class, the chef was cajoled by the above-mentioned women into taking a hands-on class next Saturday. And success was had. So, yes we are on for another chocolate-bonding session the coming week. I am drooling at the thought of making my own ganache and pralines soon. Amen.
Someone said to that effect once. A shopping-friendly person. And I, I remembered it just today after an evening of doing just that.
The background to it was built up with mayhem at work. Now there’s something about me that just detests feeling low. About anything.
I needed retail therapy, desperately at that. So with the aim to lighten my poor, overburdened heart I stepped out to Select City Mall (the only mall I heart in the city). And havoc I wrought!
Waiting for my friend to arrive, I happened upon prettiness at that French brand called Promod which I initially thought was so Indian. I was first introduced to it when I picked up a dress from Sarojini. The tag read Promod.
I was left wondering how on earth such an Indian brand could have come up with such a chic thing till I realized it was French all the way. Ooh la la!
I staved off the decision to use my credit card at Promod. Somehow I did.
My next stop was Mango. Here I made some four trips to the changing room. By which time I had tried a ruffled, chiffon dress in a bright orange colour with floral prints, another beige dress prettified with tiny blossoms and yadda yadda. Till I fell in love with a floral printed beige top with a drawstring at the waist, an olive coloured short skirt and a third, short and tight pencil skirt in navy blue. These three I promptly fell in love with and owned thereafter.
Friend P was amused by the maniacal glint in my eyes. She miraculously enough was not moved to buy anything. She is a glutton for all things that relate to shoes and dresses.
Next we moved on to Promod (yes, I retraced my steps) where a beautiful lacy dress in a tan colour beckoned to me. Wearing it was such sheer poetry, the way it flirted with my knees and hugged my silhouette, I could not say no.
Our last stop for the evening was Aldo. A pair of gladiator heels there did the trick. I am wearing them right now and they feel like heaven on four inch heels.
I was so excited, I could not stop chirping. I guess P must have been tired of my constant chattering and scanning shut shop windows. Was I on an overdrive! She led the way to Big Chill where we sat down and pecked on a lovely smoked chicken salad. Luscious strips of smoked chicken that were laid on thick with slices of parmesan cheese and iceberg. A bit of a sour/sweet sauce drizzled on top perfected it.
We sat and discussed life, and love, and us. It was so relaxing. I have met P after the longest time. A few years back, when she was not hitched and living in a paying girls’ accommodation, I would be crashing over at hers all the time after an evening of movies and gallons of food. And we would talk into the wee hours of the night and arrive at work very late in the due course of things.
Things change. We do have our together times even though it is few. But it makes it all the more special. Right P?
I am upset. And I don't know about what.
So I just ravished a huge bowl of Chicken Biryani. It did do its part. Make me feel a bit more human. But I have been wondering. It's amazing how one thing/ incident/ person, affects me so that I start tainting others with it. And that is so frigging unfair I know. Yet I have been doing it. Saying a whole lot of hurtful things to my guy.
I know none of what happened is his fault -- whatsoever. I have been however absolutely mean to him in saying certain things which I did not mean from the core of my heart.
I never knew I had so weaknesses till now. It's a bit scary. It puts me in mind of those lines from the Abba song 'Lay all your love on me':
I still don't know what you've done with me
A grown-up woman should never fall so easily
I feel a kind of fear
When I don't have you near
To top it all, a sore throat is on its way to bring me down.
And I am such a cribber. What will come of me?
Have you ever sat in a room and wished you were just somewhere else, anywhere else, but there?
I have a few of mine first up.
Last night however could have stolen the cherry, the cake, the stilettos, everything in the blink of an eye. Because how does one react when one feels non-existent in a roomful of people?
The evening started at an open-air wedding of a friend of my boyfriend A. It was a slightly nippy night and I was happy. Delicately -- draping a sari necessitates the need of being feminine (not that I am complaining!) -- weaving my way around the tables in the open ground and spending time with A’s various school mates, I was at ease. I guess I turn into a chirpy bird when I like people.
A’s parents left in some time for home after being assured that I would be dropped of by his close friend. So there I was chit-chatting with some couples. It is funny isn’t it, how randomly one connects with others without having any real connection. Isn’t that the real connection, than one with others which turns out to be forced?
Then somewhere the evening took a downturn. A nose-dive of sorts. An ex of A appeared – she is a part of the same school circle of friends. Now there’s a tiny bit of history to her and me. I have heard quite a bit about her from A and I have always been in sympathy with her. But it seems that she has been averse to meeting me even though she split with him years back. It irked me I guess.
I realised that when without thinking much I hugged her at a cocktail party. Punch me, box me, slap me. I do not know what came over me. I did not like the fact that no one introduced us at that party. Her reaction was muffled. She refused to acknowledge me thereafter and the night of the wedding, she completely looked through me.
That’s the point from when I wished I was not there at the wedding. Thereafter the party shifted to the newly wed couple’s hotel room where I was dragged beyond my wishes. The reason being A’s friend who would be dropping me home. The entertainer was a guy, a starlet of sorts, who deems himself to be a Romeo, a Casanova, a stud, have what you will. The surprise part was how everyone in the room was so taken in by him, to the extent that he even stepped on the newly weds’ bed. Evermore I could not relate to any of the conversation.
I was an outsider and never did I feel it more.
While sitting in a corner, leaning against the wall and feeling particularly weepy, I saw this one boyfriend taking particular care of his girl and never leaving her side. It made me feel even more alone.
Probably the best thing would have been to just not hung out long with them. Who knows? But there are things you learn from every experience, don't you?
My friend N says that people are different. Not everyone can make you feel wanted and neither do they care particularly about how you feel when you enter their clique. “We live in a world where we usually meet people of our kind you know. Those we relate to. And the moment we step out of that cocoon we feel out of depth. It does take all kinds to make up this world honey.”
My thoughts on last night: That there are people you cannot trust and there are people you can. And that you have to trust only yourself to take care of you, no matter what.
P.S.: I also had a Sex and the City moment – that I am blessed to have the friends I have and for the human beings they are. So here’s a round of Cosmos to them!