27 September 2017

Today in Photo

Tuesday night at Coast Cafe with this one and a new camera app calls for a photograph. We spoke of "shoes and ships and sealing wax. Of cabbages and kings. And why the sea is boiling hot. And weather pigs have wings." #delhidiary #friendswhocarroll

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24 September 2017

Today in Photo

Worn out by all the partying. Squishy is my spirit animal today. Photo by Kian. #catsagram #blackcatsofinstagram #snooze

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23 September 2017

Today in Photo

Rainy day reading material. I'll never be too cool for Agatha. Massive online sales and a partner who bought me three books off them, ahhh heavenly. Cup of coffee, a messy bed, a purring cat somewhere about and book 147 of #150in2017. #bookstagram #mrmbookclub #nowreading

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22 September 2017

Today in Photo

New pinch new clothes! Shift dress and contrasting jacket set for a gig at Piano Man last night. A bit long at the back but I felt very graceful and flowing and not like a blob which is rare with long lots of fabric type clothes when you are "fun sized." Off @ajiolife which is where I've been getting a lot of my clothes lately, if anyone's interested. #whatibought #ootd #delhidiary

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Newsletter: Dispatches from the domestic front

(I sent this out as my newsletter for 01.05.2017. For more up-to-date madness, subscribe here!)

K has taken to exercise in a way that is alarming for me. If we were animals, he'd be something strong limbed and energetic--a big cat, perhaps--and I'd be a sloth. Or a panda. They're cute, right? But they conserve their energy and move only very slowly, and I am a slow moving kind of person. Oh, I don't mind walking as long as the walk isn't the PURPOSE of the thing. Walk and shop, walk to get somewhere, fine, but walking just for the sake of walking? I'm always checking the time to see if I'm done yet, whether I can go home now please. Even the Mi Band I bought isn't spurring me on, on the contrary, the days where I manage to do one kilometre just pacing the house are red letter days for me, I feel so virtuous and alive. And in the meanwhile, there is K with his skipping rope and his pull-up bar. Some of us just aren't meant to exercise. I am one of those people. I never get "addicted" to it, never need to stretch my limbs unless I've been on a bus or something, never feel like my well-being depends on it. Luckily, I also eat moderately, so my body keeps a balance, staying the same size mostly. I say that now, but in my thirties I'm way heavier than I was in my twenties and in my forties I probably will double that as well. Ugh. Ageing sucks. Having to "look after your body" also sucks. I miss the old days where no one cared about health and pregnant women bummed cigarettes from children and everyone drank till they dropped dead. 

This week in Khan Market: Surprised by the fact that I don't miss Khan Market. I thought I was going to once I moved away from Nizamuddin, but moving away also made us explore so many other places in this city. Like, our Nizamuddin selves would not pop over to Little Saigon at least once a month for lunch. or try and find new exciting places to hang out at instead of the same ol', same ol'. It is damn convenient--Khan Market ie--though. Everything that you need for a fancy life: your well-stocked grocer, your book store, your bar, even your roadside jewellery shops. And Khan Market will always have a place in my heart, just not the only place, I don't think.

Anyway, I was in my old stomping grounds twice this week--once for a friend's birthday at Public Affair (which I always think of as PUBIC Affair for some reason, sorry guys, it's very fancy and nothing remotely pubic about it, it's just my brain association); and the second for a conversation my mother was doing with Sunil Sethi at Cafe Turtle. Both times, I went out to the terrace (both for a cigarette and to get away from relentlessly cold air conditioning. K has a theory that the posher the place in Delhi, the colder it has to be, which is funny because it's true. I'm going to have to start carrying a little shawl around.) If you also haven't been in Khan Market for a while, you may not know that there's this whole MCD thing to close down the terrace sections of restaurants. Apparently one collapsed in Connaught Place even, so terraces in all these heritage type markets have this desolate sad look. Gossip has it (and this is just gossip, so don't quote me) that this one prominent family that owns a bunch of buildings in Khan pays the NDMC a lakh a week or something for them to look the other way and so their restaurant is the only one allowed to keep tables and things outdoors.

This week in other places that are not in Khan Market: My dad was in town so full parental week for me. We went to Delhi Club House, which I've been wanting to try, but which all my friends are bored of, so no one wants to come with me. Quite nice--again with the super high air con though. I was battling a hangover from Public Affair the night before, so could not stomach the idea of a cocktail, but they looked pretty good. Surprisingly, a large number of patrons looked like Gymkhana-Club-On-A Thursday members, so either a) they're really into clubs, or b) they're dressing aspirationally.

This week on books-to-television: From all accounts the new Netflix adaptation of Anne Of Green Gables is going to be that dreadful thing for nostalgia reading: gritty. It's now called Anne-with-an-E,  and is written by the same writer who did that Breaking Bad episode called Ozymandias. Uff, what an episode that was. BUT that's okay for a meth lord and Santa Fe, but not for idyllic PE Island and a little girl with red hair who always saw beauty in things. As a palate cleanser for my soon-to-be outrage, I watched the 1985 CBS adaptation of Anne, starring Megan Follows who WAS Anne, who was so, so perfect in the show. It made me feel better.

This week in Kittenamas: I THINK (knock on wood etc) that the two kitties we are fostering are mostly spoken for, it's just a question of my friends making up their minds. They're both SO sweet, and have really blossomed. I wish we could take more credit, but really it's just a matter of giving kitties lots of food and a secure place to live, out of the mean streets. Mack--the brown kitten--is especially a Love Cat, and likes best to be cuddled and picked up and have his tummy tickled (very rare trait in cats), while the Hobgoblin is a little darting bit of cotton wool. Our other cats have managed to ignore them completely, so peace reigns, mostly. It's nice to have enough space for five cats, but kittens are such delicate darlings, I check in on them every morning just to see they haven't perished in the night.

This week in new books:  After a meeting with the guys at Harper Collins this week (book is looking SO lovely!) I asked them for a copy of Anuja Chauhan's latest, about an Air Force pilot called Baaz. Excellently done, even though Anuja is clearly more into the idea of armies and battles than I am (I am a pacifist, believe that if everyone was, the world would be a lovely place, don't believe in young men being lured on promises to become cannon fodder. This is extremely naive of me, I know, but wouldn't it be nice?) and the book has some very exciting battle scenes as well as the zingy dialogue that makes her books so readable. You should pick it up, you'll love it.

Lunch reading list to ease you into Monday: Loved this piece by Manasi on Jo March (and it inspired me to start re-reading Little Women again). ** Fab obituary on the Hungarian woman who married a Nehru. ** Freelance journalist Aparna Kalra was attacked in a park near her home, but happily she's making a good recovery and even wrote a piece about it. ** Like a Zomato for sex workers. ** Dental care is the new hipster must-buy. (I've been using an electric toothbrush for years and since I switched haven't had a single cavity or gum bleeding). ** Related: the best inventions of 2016. ** Genital cutting in the United States. ** 100 Days of Trump, 100 days of false statements. ** Nevertheless HE persisted. **

21 September 2017

Today in Photo

The countdown has begun of my last five books to finish my #150in2017 Goodreads reading challenge! This is book number 146 and part of my goal to read more 1) Indian fiction 2)classic myth lit to see what other people have done in the space I'm working in currently and 3) books in translation. Yajnaseni has been recommended to me by practically everyone who has read it and I'm lucky there's a great English translation of the original Oriya classic. #bookstagram #mrmbookclub #nowreading

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Today in Photo

After a long break, getting back into my comic drawings! Today's is all about my relationship with food. Sorta. :) experimenting with some typographic styles which makes me sound much better at this than I am. Let me know what you think though! #comic #sketch #wacom

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Tsundoku: Domestic Violence, Twitter Shaming And Alibaugh Memories

(This appeared as my book recommendation column in BLInk in June.)

Thinking about these great words by Nora Ephron (author of, among other things, Heartburn, a book that will make you hungry and make you want to read it all in one go, so read with a snack): “Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on.” The complaint I hear most often is “I don't have time to read!” Which is not true, the correct statement is: “I don't make time to read.” You should. It'll fix (almost) anything. Welcome to Tsundoku, a weekly books recommendation column, where I break down books into the three parts that really matter: what everyone's talking about, what's happening in the world, and what old book you should read (or re-read) next.

Water cooler: Nope, not Arundhati Roy's Ministry Of Utmost Happiness because I presume by now you've read enough reviews of that to make up your own mind whether or not you're going to read it. I? I'm still on the fence. A quieter buzz this month formed around a surprising fictional memoir, Meena Kandasamy's When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait Of The Writer As A Young Wife. It's thinly veiled fiction, so thin, in fact, it was only later that I realised it was a novel. Kandasamy is a poet, so her prose sings in places where you'd expect a story like this to sag. The unnamed protagonist of Kandasamy's book takes a lot of abuse from her communist-leaning husband, he beats her with whatever he has on hand, he rapes her and refuses to let her moan or make any noises at all, but worst, he cuts her off from everyone she knows by forcing her to give up her phone, her social media and replying to all her email himself, signing it with both their names. I read the entire thing on my phone with one hand over my mouth, it's gripping, you can't look away and by the end of it, I was slightly breathless, as though I had escaped this man myself. What is compelling is how you feel the narrator grow slowly more and more isolated, her whole world is reduced to just her flat, just her husband, this juxtaposed with flashbacks to the life she used to lead, the lovers, the travel makes for a claustrophobic and terrifying read. When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait Of The Writer As A Young Wife by MeenaKandasamy, Juggernaut, Rs 499.

Watchlist: Speaking of Arundhati Roy, remember when Paresh Rawal suggested we tie her to a jeep so that people could throw stones at her? He then deeply regretted making that remark (one assumes) and tried to erase everyone's memory of it by deleting the same tweet. More recently pictures of the Spain-Morocco border passed off as India's by the Home Ministry had several people asking questions. The internet has a long memory as far as some things are concerned, and all of the above would know that too if they read British journalist and author Jon Ronson's book So You've Been Publicly Shamed. From the PR executive who tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!” before she got on a flight, only to get off at the other end with her name trending and her job gone, to the charity worker who mimed shouting and a middle finger in front of a sign saying “Silence and Respect” at a war cemetery, there are people out there who know what it's like to be on the other side of a baying Twitter mob. Ronson talks to the people behind the tweets, and tries to understand what made them say what they said. It's worth a read when there's a different thing to outrage about each day: pick your battles. SoYou've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson, Pan Macmillan, Rs 140

Wayback: In keeping with the environmental theme of this week's paper, a story as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1982, Anita Desai's Village By The Sea is the story of a little village in Alibaugh, due to get a new factory. Besides that, it's also the story of Hari and Lila, siblings and children to a drunk father and a sick mother. Hari goes off to Bombay to seek his fortune at twelve, Lila stays behind, and gets some help from a local naturalist who is bemoaning the loss of biodiversity that will inevitably happen when the factory goes up. But, we're made to understand that the factory also signifies hope and jobs, and while you're rooting for Hari and Lila and their family, you also feel a little sad for the world they will lose. Isn't that always the way? Village By The Sea by Anita Desai, Penguin, Rs 299.

(I've used affiliate links here so if you buy through the links above, I might get some money.)

20 September 2017

Today in Photo

Little Saigon, it's been far too long. The best iced coffee in this city bar none. The ONLY Vietnamese food in the city but excellent for all that. We go whenever we can, but book a table in advance because they're closed on random days and since everyone loves it and it's a teeny space, it's very full. Always run into someone I know so have started dressing nice and actually wearing a bra before I leave the house. #lunchtimeisbesttime #delhidiary

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19 September 2017

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Salman Khan?

(A version of this appeared as my F Word column ages ago.)

Are you as bored as I am about hearing about Salman Khan? I'm definitely late to the party with this—my hot take—which is more like lukewarm take at this point. And yet, we keep circling back to the question of Salman Khan: is he a good man? Is he a terrible one? Why does everyone love him so much when all he does and says implies a basic lack of respect for other people? Perhaps India's biggest superstar, his fans forgive him everything. Not only do they forgive, they attack like piranhas in a feeding frenzy if you say anything bad about him in their presence. “Bhai” is their guru, their idol, their everything and if you attack him, you're basically attacking their sense of self.

Portrait of a Salman fan

It's easy to write off the Salman supporters as the lowest common denominator, to put a little elite angle on the whole thing, “how could they know any better?” but doing that is dangerous as we see from Trump's success in the US, the people who support him are probably the same sort of people who would—if Indian—be Salman Khan fans. Never dismiss a large group of fans. They're worshipful and their worship is dangerous.

Khan's popularity boils down to this—he is an Indian male role model. How many do we have? Not that many, to be honest. Oh sure, you could want to be a top businessman, or an author or a newscaster, but none of them have the sex appeal, the way of looking into your soul and saying, “I am you” that Khan does. I'm thinking of some of the boys I went to school with, how when end of term report cards came in, some of them spent the entire day in a funk because their fathers would give them a hard time when they went home. Some fathers—I knew this from playmates' houses-- existed only to arrive at the dinner table, when all conversation ceased, when the air grew a bit more tense, when I began to regret accepting the dinner invitation in the first place. These men grunted their acceptance of hot rotis, they looked grimly at their offspring, stroking their mustaches, they nodded politely at my “hello Uncle” but for a moment, they looked a bit pissed off that there was a stranger in their house who they'd have to make conversation with. You spoke in hushed voices around these men, you made a speedy exit, and your friend understood, because they were equally dying to go into their rooms and not make eye contact with this man at all.

The Indian father of the 1990s, in fact, was much like Kevin Arnold's father in The Wonder Years, a show set in the 1960s. Taciturn, sometimes prone to violence, a man who seldom laughed, a man who worked hard for his family, but who didn't show that he loved them in any other way than financial. I was fascinated by these families, even though I had friends with the sort of fathers who remembered your name and asked what you were reading. I was fascinated by the home dynamics, by the fact that these men literally never apologised. Their word was law, and the people it was law for worshipped them for it.

My (very unscientific) theory is that Salman Khan fans come from these sort of homes. Where their fathers laid down the law with a heavy hand. Where the mothers blended into the background. To ask a mortal household god to explain his actions would be as unreasonable as expecting your Ganesha statue to suddenly start talking. Their fathers expressed their distrust of feminism and other “high faluting” words by flared nostrils. I remember watching a video where a son “pranks” his father by telling him he's gay, explaining the joke gleefully to the viewers before telling his dad, who is watching TV with a stone cold face, dressed in a vest and a lungi. Before he can explain it's a joke, this man rises up and starts slapping him with an open palm, hitting his son on every part of his body that he can reach. “No, wait, Papa,” the son keeps saying, and finally manages to get out, “It's a joke! See, there's the camera.” The father lowers his hand, glares at us and his son and walks out.

Trying to figure it out

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe Salman Khan is not their father, but themselves. “It's a joke,” says Salman Khan when he compares himself to a raped woman. “The driver did it,” says Salman Khan, when defending himself against a hit and run charge. You can't slap him, because it's all so terribly funny, the things we get ourselves into while trying to please our fathers. So terribly, terribly funny.