Saturday, 26 December 2009

....the day after!

Having all the children roaring with laughter over stupid jokes and oohing and aahing over home cooked food and my staple chocolate cake all decorated with tinsel junk from past cakes that date back to my childhood, is what I believe are some of the best pleasures of life for me. Our little adopted granddaughter sat with her eyes all agog and blissfully happy, as Christmas magic still holds true for her. The older children just delight in it being one more excuse for us to pile the dinner table and dress up! Mithun always comes home to Baroda. And the rituals of fun extend yet another year. as each one adds to these interludes by bringing something special and unique of themselves, by virtue of who they are.

Our shoe box of old photographs have many similar group photographs, yet each of these photos are unique because they hold distinctive memories of specialness that are the imprint of the spirit of those people that smile back at you. Our homes have varied in size, often being really tiny, yet we have managed to squeeze in friends and extended family to spill about the space and never once have we felt crowded out. What is infinitely beautiful is the pleasure of sharing and being together.

My gift to my loved one's this new year is a limited edition desk calender I designed, with photographs of Begum, taken by me with my nokia N79! I think I was more thrilled by the secret of doing it as a surprise and all the surreptitiousness that was required to get it made! So watch your mailbox, it maybe winging itself to you. Conditions to receive it however apply. Excited squealing is mandatory!

Regarding an update on my duck story; in response to an sms enquiring about how my Christmas dinner went; I replied, "My duck didn't quack at the table!"

Bon Appetite to all of you for this festive season!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

I think I'm a sitting duck!

I announced to my staff today with great excitement (in my awful Hindi!) that I was getting a duck. They looked both puzzled and fearful, so I went into my gesticulating mode, flapping my elbows and singing batak-batak around the kitchen. This was met with mild irritation as they assured me they understood what I had said, and continued to look rather apprehensively back at me. Now it was my turn to be a mite irritated (since my excitement level was slowly being brought down by the lack of collective enthusiasm I had hoped for), and I said "I'm roasting a duck for Christmas, isn't that great"! Like a magic button, immediate relief spread across their faces as they chorused that they had thought I was bringing a live duck home, as a pet ! I think the TV serial Friends has had a permanent effect upon the psyche of our nation!

Well back to my duck story! I am thrilled to bits with having located this nice looking 2 kg bird. Of course it was sold to me with all the hype about it being a French (!) duck. So ma cherie I will have to wear a sexy apron and put on my fake french accent whilst stuffing this bird!! Of course now would be the appropriate time to let you into a secret. Shhhhh! Don't tell anyone, but I have never cooked a duck before! Many a person has stewed in their own sauce with my withering looks, but cooking a, never ever before.

So I set about looking for a dish to cook my bird in (who looks, I must say, very chic all curled up and demure), only to find I had NO dish large enough for my thirteen inch long French duck! So a new dish has been bought, pronto! Whilst all this other twirling and whirling was happening in the kitchen, I set about trying to defrost my frigid friend. With the foreign guest pirouetting like a ballerina in my microwave, it was time to decide on what marinade to conjure. I must say, my kitchen cupboards were most unhelpful with nothing magically tumbling out as the sign to direct me (which happens in all these films with romance and George Clooney thrown in!). My luck is having good old Jeevan my gardener, saunter past with a hose in hand and not much else to offer!

After flaying about in the spice rack my duck now floats in a shallow baking dish soaking in the soya sauce, ground ginger and green chillies, sugar, garlic, onions and lots of hope. After this spa experience, I will cozy the slumbering soul in a well heated oven and cross my fingers, light some candles to the lord of ducks, and wait to see what happens when the bell goes off!

Check this space duckies for I shall keep you posted on the out come. Place your bets if you may: disaster or triumph but remember, it all rests on the tip of the tongue or a slip between the fork and the plate!

Picture: Courtesy Surendran Nair: Turkey.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Ring the bells...merry,merry!

My absence from my blog has been a result of chewed up wires courtesy my cat Begum, and sudden power cuts that keep the towers of my server elusively out of reach! So if things come tumbling out rather frantically, as I stuff my face with my prawn salad lunch, don't be too harsh on me please!

From the last few days, my emotional pendulum swings from outrage to depression and back, as I see the abuse of power occur repeatedly in India; and be rest assured that all such incidents go unheeded and unnoticed, nine times out of ten. This is because nothing today is uncorrupted in India and we are content with this as the image that represents our country. Even a conversation that presents ideals will have onlookers wincing in agony over the "naivety" of the speaker, and the topic will get changed quickly because who is really interested in the betterment of anything, except if it is about getting something for oneself! Teenagers get assaulted and the perpetrators get high-ranking police jobs! Wow, what a brilliant equation that makes!

Instead we have "serious" debates on TV channels about Tiger Woods' infidelities! Though I do not condone his behaviour as it appears that he views women as mere objects for his sexual entertainment; it really is not my business to react more intensely than feel sorrow and compassion for his family. His wife and children and mother will, I am sure, be the most impacted and will appropriately find ways to convey their response to him on the matter. Where do I or "we the people" of this nation fit into this episode of his private life, and do we need to be looking to observe these aspects of life rather than take care of what needs urgent attention in our own back yard?

We make innocent children stateless from surrogacy issues, yet encourage this "tourist trade" without caring about legal pitfalls that become nobodies issue when it ruins the lives of those who trusted our system! Our nations motto is to let the dreams of others get crushed at the callous feet of indifference, as sycophancy runs rampant in the corridors of power where elected representatives of ours short change us at every opportunity.
Today guns blaze, but not metaphorically as alluding to acts of bravery or heroic deeds. No. Today guns blaze as people shoot one another like comic book western robbers come to life.

You don't get served what you want in a public place. Shoot to kill.

You don't get your kick back from a project. Shoot to kill.

Your sexual advances are not accepted. Shoot to kill.

You can't over take on a road. Shoot to kill.

Bang-Bang-Bang. It's so easy.

My heart goes bang-bang-bang as I lie awake at night some days, tense and angry from the news items that wash me with despair. The knowledge that so many stories of anguish are not even reported, is heart wrenching. The poor remains voiceless as we make them dance to our tunes decade after decade; and as we lavishly celebrate weddings with a display of wealth that is so useless, do we even for a moments at such occasions even remotely consider using the finances at hand, for something more human and vital.

The new year is ticking closer. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Which mouse will run up the clock? The old brigade still holds the reigns of power, and the new just pretend at being different. Mochi-Gucci is the game. So as Mayawati's statues stand tall, another farmer will kill himself in some remote corner of our country. Hey, it's the new year, so cheers! What will the nominated baron pronounce as the remedy for us this year? A glass of beer perhaps!

Friday, 18 December 2009

India has a long way to go.....

The story of Independence for women in India which rejects traditional norms, is always one which is fraught with battles with the legal system because of the rigidity of laws that do not update itself to keep up with changing values within society. The Indian legal system exists with no apology for its indifference to accommodate alternative choices and instead oppresses those who will not conform.

When Surendran and I chose to embrace a life-long commitment of togetherness twenty-five years ago, it was a structured union with a well formulated vision for a deliberated future together; and which chose to define its articulation from what we considered as important and valid for ourselves and our son. This choice has proved supremely effective for each of us as individuals, as well as for us as a collective unit, in nurturing us and sustaining the philosophy that is in harmony with our personal politics.

Today however we are obliged for tax reasons (!) to register our union under the special marriage act, merely because the Indian legal system does not view our relationship with the same yardsticks that it applies to the established/sanctioned representations of heterosexual unions. When matters/issues/ideas/structures related to liberal thinking are rejected legally, merely because a nation refuses to shed its conservative adherence to law, then I fail to comprehend how India views itself as a secular democracy that accommodates pluralism.

I feel betrayed by my nation that does not uphold the representations of the institution of family as we have devised it for ourselves, that in no way compromises any other individuals liberty, and which holds every factor that exemplifies each of us as law abiding citizens.

The true problem in India lies in the interpretations of meanings which get distorted by those invested with the power of implementing governance, and who care little to understand that well defined laws are always with the scope to accommodate nuanced meanings.

But try explaining this to a nose picking clerk in a stinking government office, where corruption exists as it's underbelly that continuously needs to be scratched by one and all, to get this cumbersome beast to move even an inch.

So bring out the tin drums and beat it for us, because within the next 90 days our names will be scribbled into a dirty unkempt ledger; and only then will the taxman believe that our pledge made twenty five years ago is for real!

Monday, 14 December 2009


Jazz fills my studio these days. It has mostly always been only Joan Baez that otherwise occupied the sound waves of my space, and then, for no real reason I suddenly remembered the sounds from my father's music collection, and I was filled with this deep desire to reconnect with some of them. Without ever being the teacher, I see today so many things my father's life rubbed off on me. Perhaps because I was like the runt of the litter, a sickly mousey child in my early years, I absorbed through being a silent witness to things merely because I just happened to be around.

Today when I teach it remains my constant desire to want for my students to feel their journeys. They sometimes look rather nonplussed at my passionate pleas to get their emotive senses in unison with their intellectual worlds, but this combination like a secret lock, is the only way that opens up one's ability to travel an imaginative landscape, and find a real and truthful destination within it for oneself.

Everything holds the sparks that may ignite the magic of marvel and which can lead to becoming seminal to discovery. We often find our truth in the least expected spaces; in the least imagined ways. Struggle has its own delight in cheating you too with the easy with which it often slips its rewards your way. I love those times that discovery dawns much later than when it should have, catching one unawares.

Where does my wanderlust take me today.

Sometimes I knock on doors that will never open.

But so often I am in treasure troves of delight, and asleep.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A Sunday peep-show!


then and now!

....really real!

.....tuktuk meri jaan.

....Rene Magritte remembered.

......and paradise sometimes lost.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Nokia N 79!!!!

Yours and mine.....

Today's and yesterday's....

Two generations.....

Two histories.....

......and the constant flow of time.....

Friday, 11 December 2009

Cambodian taily -tales ....

The delight of a trip is the tumbling out of stories inside your head that come to you unasked long after you return home; and, whilst you are away, the reverse occurs when home comes wafting to you in the sudden collision with a smell or a sound, that grips your heart with nostalgia for what it recalls uninvited.

Devoid of religious rituals I have, over the years, conjured many of my own that symbolize the feelings of my heart; and so amongst my many personalized rituals, flowers and their heady scents offer interpretations of private memories I hold dear. In Cambodia the jasmine gajara is replaced by a tiny, tight, rosary-like structure of jasmine buds. Or otherwise thin sticks upon which jasmines are skewered together with a crowning glory of a bright colourful flower, that stands in contrast to the milky whiteness of these pre-pubescent flowers; and they soak you in the seduction of their potent fragrance like a skilled lover does. Mixed with this are the many joss sticks that fill the air with mingling smells of sandalwood and frangapani, lemon grass and orchids.....

It is well known by now to all my friends that I am besotted over my furball child. Leaving her behind with zillions of instructions for her well being (!), I always leave with a heavy heart (!!) knowing I will be starved of my fur-fix whilst wandering away from home(!!!). So it will come as no surprise that any cat anywhere elicits a response from me that isn't ever calm or dignified (!!!!). Amongst the many fur friends of Cambodia, it was the short tailed, rather mangy creature that showed up on our beautiful wooden sit-out balcony in Phnom Penh, from where we could see the stretch of the river front, that stole my heart the most. I presume it was a "he"....and though he wasn't all that spruced up....but hey, I think he had good taste to come visiting with me each morning (!!!!).

I am sure I should sign up for the "go berserk with Nokia phone camera" contest. For those who may not know, I earned my way through graduate school in Baroda by being a photographer and was Jyoti Bhatt's student too. And it maybe that I had a sort of love hate relationship with the camera that I chose to never touch a professional camera after getting my scholarship in 1982. So it could be the residue of old stubbornness or just old age "moronity", that keeps my finger only on my phone camera button, as I phoo-phoo the very professional stuff that Surendran and Mithun strut about with! So let's toast the Nokia N 79 please!

I must end today's epistle my meeting up with the Cambodian gecko! In the beauty of our Siem Reap hotel I was transfixed one twilight to see a sixteen inch (trust my maths please!) lizard on the wall. My first reaction was to think it was an ornamental piece and thought the placement rather odd. And then it moved! Ok friends.....I was spooked beyond spookdom and galloped off only to notice that the entire ceiling was virtually a lizards highway above my head!!!

I shall leave you with the imagined image of me, skirt hiked up till my ears, running down the corridor, half bent and incoherent! Hey....I didn't say it was a pretty picture....just a sorry sight!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Cambodia....a kingdom of wonder.

I was away in Cambodia for six splendid days, with two extra days added to this day count for the time that was spent suspended between time zones up in the skies amongst the clouds, where I normally play at being "pretend god" for a while! With partner, a son, and a friend in tow the four of us stepped into this amazing cultural treat where hours melted away as we were transported back into the glories of the past, via the architectural feats of temple carvings that weave stories of Hindu and Buddhist mythology that leave you gasping in sheer amazement at the skill and technique and sophistication of their visual language. It in someways made the entire modernist period look like a poor second cousin!

As we climbed steep stone steps of temples and literally soaked in the sun that lives in the clearest of blue skies, we were surrounded by the sounds of hundreds of cicadas insects that filled the quiet spaces that surrounds these monuments with a magical music that sounds truly like a John Cage symphony! With lisping Cambodian children who hawk their trinkets with the charm of practised sentences that know how to tug at your heart strings, and women selling mysteries from their kitchens wrapped in banana leaves, you know for sure that the enchantress of adventures has cast her spell completely to entice you to be in love with everything.

.......And then you stand in the rooms of S-21 and hear the silent screams as you revisit the horrors of the Pol Pot regime and know that history isn't always the dream that was promised as the future. With agonising deliberation hundreds of photographs document the chilling tales of the demonistic delight of brutality that is in evidence till today in the maimed bodies and tortured minds that make up the living memories of this tragic past.

As I opened the book I had taken to read, "Evening the Whole Day" by Preeta Samarasan, I was confronted by the opening page that had this remarkably apt quote from Waterland by Graham Swift that reads:

History begins only at the point where things go wrong; history is born only with trouble, with perplexity, with regret. So that hard on the heels of the word Why comes the sly and wistful word If. If it had not been for....If only.....Were it not......Those useless Ifs of history. And, constantly impeding, deflecting, distracting the backward searchings of the question why, exists this other form of retrogression: If only we could have it back. A New Beginning. If only we could return.....