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


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 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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