Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Letter

I’m not feeling strong yet, but I am taking
good care of myself. The weather is perfect.
I read and walk all day and then walk to the sea.
I expect to swim soon. For now I am content.
I am not sure what I hope for. I feel I am
doing my best. It reminds me of when I was
sixteen dreaming of Lorca, the gentle trees outside
and the creek. Perhaps poetry replaces something
in me that others receive more naturally.
Perhaps my happiness proves a weakness in my life.
Even my failures in poetry please me.
Time is very different here. It is very good
to be away from public ambition.
I sweep and wash, cook and shop.
Sometimes I go into town in the evening
and have pastry with custard. Sometimes I sit
at a table by the harbor and drink half a beer.


~Linda Gregg

Friday, July 11, 2014

Untitled

Today it has been eight months since they buried you. I hope you have chocolate where you are.

We think about you every day.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

And then there were enchilladas

When J first came to this city a little more than seven years ago, Mexican food was the great divider. Part of it of course, was a simple craving; having been a California boy for all his adult years it was natural that Mexican food would be such a part of his habits that he couldn’t quite fathom going weeks and months without it. But partly it was just another way in which he, adventurer, follower of his heart, global enthusiast and fearless romantic, would be reminded that well, Bangalore was simply not home.

And yet, was that not part of its charm? Indeed it was. In those early days, he was taken up by everything he saw and experienced because it was a long way both physically and spiritually from the pounding surf of California. Also, our story was then still being written; even though we acknowledged an all-consuming and mystical attraction to each other, we didn’t know if the legal knots presented by his foreign citizenship would be too much to fight against.

So it went. There was this girl he had his heart set on, but meanwhile each day was a fresh circus of delights in this teeming city of ours. Graceful trumpet trees would catch his eye one moment, and life-threatening traffic would sap his energy the next. He met people who asked him the most inane questions (“do you find the culture different?”) but also formed long-lasting relationships with colleagues and friends. He went to weddings and participated in our festivals. He ate Indian food…and that’s where we can now hear the sound of a metaphorical squeal of the brakes.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

A separation

July has dawned, lush and steamy. The loss of another friend has marked me again, like a tree has rings to mark its age.

When I am a hundred, how many rings will I have?

This loss, as it were, is perhaps not a loss at all. It is merely a smudging away, the beginning of the gradual fade that happens as each year passes.

And the rain each night.

Oh well. If the world is indeed round, I shall keep traveling. We will meet again, if you promise to stay where you are.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Phantom planet

One of the things my mother remembers most about me as a child was my tendency to wander off. Beginning at about age two, I would simply walk out of the house unseen and be retrieved by any one of the neighbors eventually. My poor mother.

But the wandering is still there. This is probably why I hate unpacking so much.

And decades later, I want no one to retrieve me. Especially because there is such a deep sense of being not in the place I 'should' be. But is it really a 'should'?

There are no answers to the questions of belonging and peace. I suspect I will have neither in this life, how unoriginal of me! But the need for going away is here. And my feet are beginning to ask, 'why aren't you wandering again?'

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Watched: 2 States

from yentha.com
Is there anything else as commonplace in India as the old 'I love her/him but our families object' scenario? Certainly we would all be wealthy if we had a rupee for every time we've heard it. And clever author Chetan Bhagat has certainly made a pretty penny out of this same old scenario first in his book and then here. To be fair, it is somewhat based on his own love story, so no intention to dismiss that out of hand here. It's just that for me, the film simply felt like a bottle of flat soda. 

The main characters are a Punjabi boy and a Tamilian girl- Krish and Ananya-  played by star kids Arjun Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, who fall in love while in college and then come up against the opposition of both their families when they start planning to get married. And that's it. (The narrative is inexplicably told by Krish in what appears to be a psychiatrist's office, which device absolutely no one could explain.)

The Punjabi family consists of Amrita Singh and a (again inexplicable) bad-tempered Ronit Roy. The Tamilian family is Revathy and one unknown gent who was probably the most subtle and effective character, and a younger brother. But what were the great objections to the young couple getting hitched? It was simply the fear of the 'other' that prevails in 'traditional' families all over the world, I suppose. What would have got my attention would have been a somewhat in-depth exploration of these prejudices and judgments, rather than simply using them as cute plot devices and situations. 

In any event, Ananya breaks up with Krish when the two families go on the warpath once too often. Krish gets morose, then the bad-tempered father has a change of heart and smooths things over (literally, overnight) and all ends well. 

Sigh. The Punjabi mother is funny, I suppose. The snide comments in Tamil are also amusing. But really, what unsettled me was the superficiality of it all. The couple didn't even have great chemistry for me and even though their physical intimacy was rather frankly and un-apologetically shown, there was no sense of real intimacy between them. 

Arjun Kapoor did not impress me. Alia Bhatt however is blessed with a certain elfin charm and breezes through her scenes with sweetness (nice dimples!) and radiance. Since her character, like the others, wasn't particularly fleshed out, these qualities made hers somewhat effective like that of her father's. Even in the ludicrous Punjabi wedding scene where she gives the groom a dressing down in public (like I said, ludicrous) she manages to escape the inanity of her surroundings. 

And so I have it. No great expectations were set, and consequently no one was disappointed. I'll just carry on waiting for someone else to tell a better-crafted story of what can be a deeply touching and nuanced exploration of something that is universal yet also uniquely "Indian."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sweet dreams are made of this


For someone who claims not be a foodie, yesterday morning was a bit of a departure, to be sure.

Well, what can you expect if you arrange to be taken out by one very handsome gent to a poetically beautiful garden where the world's kindest people serve you exotic and luscious foods and ply you with magnetically enticing coffee?

Exactly.

In other words, a grand breakfast which precludes the need to eat for the rest of the day is very much the right answer when everything else in the world is simply too annoying for words.

I dream of smoked cheese! 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Reading: A Dead Hand

With a cover like this, who could resist? Seriously though, it was the Calcutta setting and my wanting to give Paul Theroux another shot after his unlikable My Other Life that made me pick up this book.The story is based on a murder mystery- a dead child turns up in a hotel room, and the hero, an 'aimless travel writer' named Jerry Delfont, is hired by an American philanthropist, Mrs. Merrill Unger, to see if he can use his contacts to discreetly investigate. The corpse is dumped by someone in the hotel room of Mrs. Unger's son's best friend, and the friend Rajat runs away from the scene. So, understandably, she wants to help him out.

A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta by Paul…
This lady, Mrs. Unger, quickly becomes the whole mainstay of the story though. Jerry predictably becomes infatuated by her beauty, her goodness, and her rather advanced…er… Tantric massage skills. Behaving like a daft teenager, Jerry gets pulled further and further into her web while trying in his small way to get to the bottom of the corpse mystery, etc., in order to win her favor. But she seems to have forgotten all about the case anyway, and is happy to spirit him off to her spa and administer her magic on him.

This is the part that gets annoying: Jerry’s constant descriptions of the nature of Mrs. Unger- good, unselfish, sensual, confident, efficient, motherly, etc.etc. It becomes a real case of ‘more tell and less show’; indeed, I was tempted to shout at times while reading, “We get it, Theroux, the woman is an amazing goddess of charity and light- do you have to bang us on the head with a copper-bottomed pan for us to UNDERSTAND?”

The story loses punch because of this constant hammering. In the end, we do not even know how the poor corpse died; the narrative is simply carried along by Jerry’s somewhat down-in-the-dumps musings in the midst of his obsession. But then there are the observations about Calcutta and us Indians that do ring true. In fact, most took on a slightly poignant hue, now that I also know my own husband’s views on being an outsider in this country. Also there is an episode where Jerry gets to meet- get this- Paul Theroux- during the latter’s visit to Calcutta. I found this hilarious, although it was a rather pitiless account of his own self.

All in all, I did enjoy the book. I feel Theroux redeemed himself somewhat, even if his photo on the back cover shows him to be rather tense and displeased. Maybe I will pick up another piece of fiction by him again. His sense of place, his characterizations and deadpan humor are the big attractions. 

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Counting Crows - A Long December




Because sometimes only a song will do. And only it can catch the feeling of every day being a long December. And the slow, slow, fading of hope.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Oscars 2014

So! The Oscars have happened. Owing to geography we in this neck of the woods have the rather odd time of VERY EARLY in the a.m. in order to watch the ceremony live. But ceremony, shmeremony. What I really care about is the fashion, what? Although I completely missed the red carpet coverage because I was annoyed at my alarm and flung it away, I still caught glimpses of some lovely ladies through the show whenever I could. So here goes, in no particular order.

The Jolie looks vaguely rain-drenched and hesitant in this moody Elie Saab, I thought. Still, because it isn't black and does have very pretty embellishments, I quite liked it. The only nitpick would be the over-long sleeves. Always puts me off, that. But then the earrings make up for those. So overall, if there's something to dislike, there's also something to like- while not a favorite, this dress is beautiful and therefore on my list.


A study in contrasts: Cate Blanchett in dreamy, gauzy Armani Prive and Charlize Theron in structured, dramatic Christian Dior Couture. Well, then. I have to say I liked Charlize better- there were simply too many dresses of the 'dreamy, gauzy' variety this time. While Cate does look dreamy herself, Charlize is quite definitely more interesting. For once I wasn't annoyed by the sheer skirt trend, and then it showcases her amazing figure much more effectively than Cate's dress does for her.

How cute is Penelope in Giambatista Valli? I love the saree-like drape detail. Plus the pale pink is heavenly. The only thing I would change is her hair, but since it is Penelope and I love her above everyone, that too shall get a pass. When is her next movie coming out? The good Javier is also missing, sigh. The world is so dull without these two.

And here we have the indefatigable Lupita Nyong'o. She has been blazing through awards season so far, and capped it with a win at the Oscars too where she gave a touching speech. But look at her! I was half-dreading what she would wear since I didn't have great faith in a Prada design (Lupita is the face of Prada) but she certainly picked a winner. The pale blue and the subtle sequins gave the gown the look of a sparkling piece of clear sky. Add to that the diamond headband and the way she fluttered in excitement on the red carpet, and the whole effect was a childlike, delightful look.

Finally, my favorite of the evening. Kate Hudson looked like a goddess- the goddess of youth, beauty and all around hotness. I was left gaping: the dress, the hair, the make up and the figure. Atelier Versace it was, complete with a cape (although it's so small, it should be called a capelet. Or a capeling. Or a capette?) The shimmery dress looked even more fabulous in movement, and Kate carried it perfectly, making it stand out in a sea of similar pale, beaded confections. 
I also give honorable mentions to the following.
Lady Gaga, simply for turning up in a non-Gaga outfit; indeed, she looked positively ethereal in a shiny Versace; one Chrissy Teigen in a striking, playful floral Monique Lhuillier, and Emma Watson in an interesting charcoal Vera Wang.

All images taken from Red Carpet Fashion Awards


Friday, February 28, 2014

You were never as beautiful as you are now

These days I have become keenly aware of the beautiful impermanence of things. I have always had an appreciation for this, having been so ill when I was very young and literally at death's door. But this, nowadays, this has come with age and the recent loss of someone very dear. 

It manifests in wildly varied ways. Having seen my mother last week after too much time, I spent half a day crying before I was to leave. I followed her around like a dog, wanting to burn her every gesture into my brain, memorize everything she said.

But also, when I see someone (a complete stranger, for instance) dressed in something outlandish, I no longer inwardly roll my eyes as I used to. Instead, I feel a strange urge to walk up to them; last night this happened when I was waiting for my cab. It was a stunningly beautiful evening and this woman waited nearby dressed in a hideous yellow outfit. 

My heart yearned to go up to her and say, 'you look wonderful. Enjoy this evening. You will look back and realize years later, that you were never as beautiful as you are now."

Thursday, February 27, 2014

You never came

The pink flowers have arrived again,
just as sudden...
when did so much time pass?
It is already the next season
and you, in your city famed for rain,do not even know it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Bookshop

You enter in the evening, after walking down
Three steps to a miniature courtyard and a door tied open
With a piece of brown twine. The table lamps
Have tassled shades the color of scorched parchment,
Tiny pools of yellowed light beneath them,
So that looking across the room seems like looking
Across a small autumn garden. The proprietor,
Wire-rimmed glasses glinting, nods but doesn't lift his head
From his reading and the rye bread sandwich
Into which he’s nibbled an almost total moon.
You browse, and while you do, your hands
Grow heavy and old, as if by taking close-packed books
From their shelves you are pulling bricks from a wall
Bound to collapse should you remove too many
And not replace them. What you’re searching for, among
These histories, these poems, these illuminated guides
To the soul, or the soul’s companions . . . these compendiums
Of fossils, stars, speeches, journeys when the world
Was a path through forest or waves against painted eyes
On the bow of a wooden ship plying the Aegean,
Is a single line of calm.

~By Dick Allen

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Missing

The other day, caught in an unexpected hunger pang and rooting around in the fridge, I found a bottle of mayonnaise. Proceeding to slather it on a slice of bread, I chewed for a bit and came to a realization: this mayo was nowhere close to the one my mom made at home when I was a child. That mayo, prepared by my mother's gentle hands, had the qualities of air and light and sunshine and delight. This mayo was a tad pasty, too salty, and just too generally store-bought to provide the soul with any nourishment.

When will I see you again, mom? It's not the mayo I miss. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Boy, interrupted



Oh what happened yesterday? Where did this Stanislaus fellow come from? Pardon the wailing, but what happened yesterday? Was this not the Australian Open Finals?

To step back and look at the whole thing more logically, one must concede that this Stanislaus did produce some rather superb tennis right in the first set. In fact he managed to get the better of Nadal in clean, controlled and confident tactics. Rafa was caught off-guard, but it wasn't alarming...at least not in the first set. 

And then in the second, Rafa suddenly got a back injury. And went off the court. And Stanislaus Wawrinka sat and argued loudly with the umpire. And Rafa came back, to loud booing from the crowd. I could hardly believe it even as it happened. The rest of that second set was sheer torture to watch, with Rafa moving listlessly and looking like he should be allowed to limp off the court. 

He revived somewhat in the third, at which point I could take no more of the stress and went off to wash my hair. By the time I came back, all was over. Wondrous Wawrinka was being handed the big shiny trophy and Rafa stood there looking like a child whose dog had just died.

Oh well.

Now the rest of my hellish week will no longer be redeemed by happy thoughts of my favorite man in the whole world (sorry, Javier Bardem) biting yet another Grand Slam trophy in front of the cameras. Instead, I will need to endure sarcastic jibes from those I have bored with my devotion to him...c'est la vie.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Watched: Dedh Ishqiya

After having watched Ishqiya a couple of years ago, I was somewhat eager to watch the sequel, the brilliantly-named Dedh Ishqiya. This film has the same elements that gave the first installment its chutzpah: the dusty rural milieu of the heartland of the country, punchy dialog, a certain unapologetic and very adult sense of humor, and of course the 'criminal caper' elements. 

The two lead characters, Babban and Khalu are back, needless to say. Involved in yet another jewel heist, they again incur the wrath of the brother-in-law Mushtaq who also appeared in Ishqiya. This time though, Babban has been betrayed by Khalu and they eventually meet in a gathering hosted by Begum Para of Mehmudnagar.

The Begum is portrayed by Madhuri Dixit, and I was looking forward to watching her on the big screen again. Luminous and graceful as ever, she is perfectly cast as the anxious, mysterious and somewhat desperate widowed Begum. Her sidekick, Muniya played by one Huma Qureshi, is interesting as well. In fact the relationship between the two women is intriguing as lesbian overtones are suggested in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

The underrated Arshad Warsi as Babban and the superb Naseeruddin Shah as Khalu enjoy themselves to the hilt. An added dimension is the beautiful Urdu poetry and dialog throughout the film. (There were subtitles that I initially scoffed at, but was later grateful for.) Vijay Raaz is Jaan Muhammad, Begum's suitor and small-time politician and crook.

The entire cast is pitch-perfect and I could not pick a favorite. All in all I enjoyed the movie though the pace felt slower than Ishqiya and certain scenes could have had tighter editing. Still, I would give a high rating here simply for the authenticity portrayed through the characters and their motivations. Also worth mentioning is the lovely old mansion, or rather, castle that the Begum lives in; its peeling plaster and moody colors are lovingly captured as the incongruous backdrop to the hectic lives of the protagonists. Now I wonder if there will be a third in the line-up: Dhai Ishqiya, perhaps? 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Golden Globes 2014

Awards season is upon us again. Never cared much for the actual awards, but for the past few years have been fairly interested in the red carpet fashion. I am all for not judging women by appearance alone, and far be it from me to make snarky comments on another woman's sartorial choices, but by Dior this fashion critic gig is just so much fun! 

So to begin with, a blast of color. Reese Witherspoon in her divine blue Calvin Klein just epitomizes simplicity and chic. There was nothing much to this dress, but that is the genius of the Klein label at its best. I love how the shade almost matches her eyes.

And then what can one even say about Helen Mirren?

When I am 68 I may be many things, but I certainly won't be going about in Jenny Packham gowns attending awards shows now will I. Ha. La Mirren just glows with the fun of it all. After all, it's a rather nice way to spend the evening, eh? Put on a delicately beaded confection of a gown in jade greens and soft blues, get an ace artist to do your makeup and hair, and then just glide around looking fetching!

From color to er...color. Sandra Bullock picked this tri-color Prabal Gurung frock. It's probably lost in translation a bit from the runway, but I still give the Bullock points for this because it's a bit different and she does look lovely and glowing. I am awaiting her choice for the Oscars with some eagerness; while I do hope she will look even better than this, this itself is quite nice if not spectacular.
Cate Blanchett in her Armani Prive: Thankfully it is not in one of those pale shades. The lacy details and that butterfly-like shape on the shoulders  make it interesting for me. Hair and face are utterly gorgeous, per the usual for Blanchett. She does look a tad displeased in this photo though doesn't she. I wonder if she got tired of all the camera flashes and just wanted to be home in her jammies.
And because Blogger doesn't let me arrange pictures how I want to in a single post, poor Melissa Rauch here must hang suspended awkwardly between the others. Still, she does look cute as a button. PLUS she is from The Big Bang Theory so I like her anyway. This difficult to pull off yellow shade looks perfect on her and shows off her enviable figure.

And finally, Juliana Marguilles in her Andrew Gn. The more I look at this, the more I like it. Black and gold is a great combination and the dress itself is so simple. This might even be my favorite of the night. 
I will also give honorable mentions to:
 Emma Watson for daringly turning up in a dress-from-the-front-pants-from-the-back creation in red and black.
Emma Roberts for her classic-chic black Lanvin and turquoise jewels.
Laura Dern for looking like a bronze bombshell in her Cavalli; 
and Lupita Nyong'o in regal red Ralph Lauren with a cape.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tastings: Dalma

We finally tried that Oriya restaurant near our place, yesterday. Wandering in the hot sun fruitlessly looking to purchase a particular brand of frying pan, we decided to console ourselves with a big lunch. 

So Dalma on 100 Ft. Road, Koramangala, it was. It's very much a no-frills restaurant to be sure, the decor being mostly 'college canteen' in tone. But since this is precisely the kind of place that often turns out the most authentic food, we were hopeful. So J grandly ordered a prawn thali and I went for the rice with crab curry. 

Verdict? Definitely interesting. Although the crab as usual left me a tad ill-tempered because of the amount of work you have to do to get just a little meat, it tasted fine. The prawn and the crab were in suspiciously similar-tasting curries, but we did determine that the prawn had more cumin. Still, the best tasting was in fact that bowl of dal on J's plate. It had pumpkin and potato, and was spiced with a familiar, homey blend of Bengali touches.

Finally, J surprised me by ordering for dessert malpua and gulab-jamun. The malpua he endearingly described as 'those little fried syrupy pizza-looking things I saw in the display case', and proceeded to polish off not one but two of them. It was rather good: it had a delicate hint of fennel and bits of coconut and was most delightfully syrup-drenched. It succeeded in becoming J's new favorite Indian dessert, and that is quite a feat in itself.

In the end, we decided that we would go back to this restaurant. We will be trying the fried fish and definitely the interesting eggplant and potato dishes on offer. One must have a strong stomach in terms of hygiene; not that it is filthy, but it has a certain unapologetic basic approach that might be too harsh for some. The service is prompt and the wait-staff is the usual sweet youths who appear to have recently migrated to Bangalore from the place of origin of the cuisine they serve- in this case, Orissa. (Or Odisha, pardon me, I don't know when that change happened.)

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Whine and cheese

Wine, like the art of eating with chopsticks, has always confounded me. Although I mysteriously got over the Chopstick Problem one fine day at a Japanese noodle house in LA with J, wine appreciation still eludes me. Indeed, I am such a plebeian that most wine gives me an instant and terrific headache. 

On the occasions that it leaves my head alone, it leaves my taste-buds unmoved. What of the bouquet, the character, the feel, the vintage? Pshaw. It just tastes like grape juice left out of the refrigerator too long. Recently, however I had the opportunity to drink some Really Good wine. By which I mean, I had it on authority that it was Really Good- the evidence being my host's wine cellar. Now if someone has an actual wine cellar, I am jolly well going to believe them when they say the wine they are offering is Really Good. 

And lo! The elegant glass full of shimmering ruby liquid held a big surprise. For the first time, I actually tasted something. This something was albeit pepper, but I was right, wasn't I? And when compared with the other wine on offer (yes, lots of wine glasses on that table) I could actually agree with the hostess when she explained how the first one was considered more 'feminine' than the second.

Phew. Some hope, finally. My philistine roots can perhaps be successfully concealed? No- on second thought, not for a long time. For when J brought home what he thought was a passable wine and sipped it to determine its character, we hit a blank wall. He said he thought he got a hint of chocolate in the first swirl. Well,  I said eagerly, this has to be good, and took a generous swig. But what happened? Even after much swirling, I tasted naught. I had imagined myself reeling off a sophisticated list: chocolate, sunshine, a slight nutty aroma, definitely a fruit overtone...sigh. Instead, all I could pronounce was, "I taste a definite, in fact overpowering sourness, an aroma not unlike diesel fuel and nary a hint of chocolate."

Back to the drawing board then. It's still a long, hard road to becoming an oenophile, after all.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Step 1 marry, step 2 keep name


When I was younger I sometimes wondered if I would change my name when I married. (Then I got old and got married, and never gave it a thought.) Several months after the event, people would randomly ask about it, or even assume that I would change my name legally. 

Well. I suppose the purely practical part of me was so fed up with the tons of paperwork it took simply to marry my dear man, I knew I would never undertake anything so heroic as a name change. Ha! And besides, the usual voice in my head said, 'why should I change my name anyway? Because I now 'legally' live with a man, so he must automatically bestow his name upon me? Or must I, eternally grateful little woman, simply 'take' his name, doing away with the name I was born with?'

Perish the thought. So now it is many years later and I am much-married, and still no name change. Although I did mull the options. One was to hack off my last name, tack his on. No- his last name is rather military-sounding, however slightly. Did not want my goddess-like first name to be associated with jackboots and the like.The other option was to leave my last name on and tack his on, separating the two with a fashionable hyphen. This did have some charm, I'll confess. Even if it would serve only to compound my own problems in life by then causing me to always fail to fill in my name in the minuscule space they give you for names on any form in this country.

But the ideal would actually be to leave off both names altogether and come up with something completely different. The Spanish two-surname thing appeals to me. So henceforth, I will be known as D. Castillo-Garcia. Problem solved!
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