Without you, one night alone, is like a year without you baby

5 September 2015


 Addictions. We all have some small demons we have to fight. In my case, my demons are socially sanctioned- sort of. Cigarette aren't illegal (yet) and I didn't even know I had another addiction until last week.

What happened last week? Well, regular readers of this column may know I have three cats. They're all under two years old, and still fairly kittenish. One of their favourite pastimes, in fact, is playing follow-my-leader boisterouly, with no regard for the things they are jumping over. One of these things was a coffee cup, and before I could save it, the dregs of my evening coffee lay all over my most precious possesion: my Macbook Air.

 A writer without the tools to write is a funny beast. Even if you may not be writing anything at the moment, robbed of your implements, the tool of your trade, you feel somewhat naked. Exposed. Like you're going out into the world with no armour.

But more than that fiddly twitch--much like smoking, I may point out--what I missed most was my unfettered access to the internet. I know, I know. You're saying, "But why not use your phone?" and I do, I am, but there are so many things about a laptop I take for granted, the ease of tabbed browsing for example, or just the bigger screen, that I feel very much like a marathon runner whose legs have been hobbled together. There it lies, the great big world of the internet, and here I am, only able to experience it in dribs and drabs.


 But a funny thing happened in the last week while my laptop goes off to be repaired. I began to sink into my digital detox and then, on day two, actually to enjoy it. My usual morning routine is get out of bed, feed the cats, put the coffee on and go straight to my desk to catch up on what the world's been doing while I was asleep. Now I linger in bed longer, only hopping out for said cats, and coffee, but that too at a certain pace and time. I open the door and pull in the morning papers, something I usually put off till later in the day, and I read them carefully cover to cover, pausing not to check Twitter or Facebook like I normally would, but to stare out of the window and think about what I've just read. Then as the day goes by, I wander over to my to-be-read shelf, and select what I feel like reading that day. I usually go right back to bed and sit with my pile of books under the duvet with the AC on.

I am lucky in that I have finished two big projects already, and this was meant to be my fallow time, to come up with new ideas. I am also lucky that I don't have a day job or that many deadlines, I am free to lie in a hammock thinking deep thoughts should I choose.

 That's when it struck me. Why don't I choose? With no jobs and deadlines holding me to my desk, why do I insist on acting like an office drone? I am living the life and it's passing me by in a cloud of who said what on Facebook. I don't even like half these people so much, why do I keep checking what they have to say?

 Hopefully my laptop will return this week, and then my life can go back to its usual routine, deadlines and all, but until then, I'm sort of enjoying myself. Today, after I finish writing this on my phone with an external keyboard that slips into my purse, I'm off to a cooking class in far away Gurgaon, because why not? What else do I have to do today?

A version of this appeared as my column. 
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Today in Photo

4 September 2015


Sitting on the rooftop of Galleryske in Connaught Place and watching CP unfold beneath us. Interesting Thursday. #delhidiary

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Today in Photo

3 September 2015


They fuck you up, your mum and dad, They may no mean to but they do, They say, "Oh, my precious lad!" And then cut off a ball or two. - Squishy, poet, Nizamuddin #catsofdelhi

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Today in Photo

2 September 2015


Since my laptop was the unfortunate victim of a coffee spill (sob sob) I'm drowning my sorrows in the printed word. Finished The Devotion Of Suspect X which many of you recommended, then had a No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency morning and afternoon & now moving on to Nisha Da Cunha's short stories. The back cover describes her as one of India's finest short story writers, which makes me wonder why I've never heard of her before. Two pages into the first story and it is golden. My hoarding instincts which lead to lots of unread books languishing (sometimes so forgotten that I buy a second copy) have paid off. #nowreading #bookstagram

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Feed the dogs, tuppence a bag

31 August 2015

When my best friend in the whole world and I were about 12 or 13 or 14, we were on a save-the-dogs mission. I dreamed about starting up my own animal shelter — it was going to be called Have A Heart, and the logo was a smiling dog with a heart for a nose. With the help of an equal animal crazy school friend, we decided the best place for this would be my backyard — no one was actually using it after all, and the animals could live in cages so they wouldn’t get out and we’d keep all the cages impeccably and only allow twenty dogs at a time.


Not surprisingly, this never panned out. But we had something almost as good next door at the Friendicoes animal shelter in Jangpura, New Delhi. Friendicoes was about as different from my beloved Have A Heart as it was possible to be. For one thing it reeked of animal—my Have A Heart, I fondly assumed, would be poop and piss free — for another, if an animal was very weak or sick, they believed in putting it down. But still, they were the only option we had to take the little sick puppy we found on the road and cared for for three days. Candy, which was the puppy’s name, was met by the Friendicoes vet with a shake of his head. And sure enough she was dead three days later.

I even volunteered there one summer, taking the dogs for a walk, enjoying the feeling of “doing something good” even though I wondered if it still counted as a noble gesture when I was having so much fun doing it.

When our dog Doogie fell suddenly sick and died at home, I called the Friendicoes night vet. Again the head shaking.

Years later, I experienced the same head shaking when my partner and I took a kitten to them. The kitten was very sick with some kind of bacterial infection — we had acquired her at the shelter, so we thought the shelter might be more effective in her care than our normal vet. At all hours we bundled up poor Agni into a box and carried her there, at all hours, a kind and patient vet talked us through it, stuck a drip in her, told us what to do.

We had to go back for three days for her antibiotics, and the shelter is set up so you take a number and wait in a never ending queue. There is everyone who wants cheap vet care (it’s a 100 rupees per visit or a donation if you prefer), there are people who have their first dogs, people dragging in a goat, people who have been coming to the Friendicoes vets for years, their own pets acquired from the same shelter.

As we sat there, I also saw the troop of animals who call the shelter home. These are the ones who have been there for so long that they will never escape, so they mingle with the patients, sitting down under benches, abandoned pedigree dogs grown too old or too expensive for their owners, a puppy with three legs and big soulful eyes and always the token St Bernard — Delhi folks like the way they look, but inevitably the cost of keeping them, running the AC all the time, feeding them, grooming them, proves too much bother and they abandon them to the mercy of 40 degree temperature and lying on scalding asphalt.

If it wasn’t for Friendicoes, the city would have no real animal shelter. Every city needs an animal shelter. It gives the city a heart, a place for animal lovers to go, a place where you know four legged creatures will be treated with kindness and be given medical attention, regardless of what they look like or what breed they are. This very same shelter recently posted that they were in danger of shutting down because they are forty lakhs in debt (the MCD pays them money for sterilizing stray dogs, and as of now, the shelter is owed 38 lakhs from the corporation).

If it shuts down, Delhi will have no real animal shelter — it has a few others, but not with all the same facilities — with a late night vet and a place to take injured or young animals. It will have no place for people who want to keep a pet but but can’t because of the cost of medical bills.

It will also have no place for people who want to dump their dogs like they’re last season’s bag. (Which you might argue is a good thing, but then what will happen to the dogs? They won’t stop being dumped and they might not be abandoned in a safe space.) It’s the first time I gave to a charity. I urge you to do it as well. (www.bitgiving.com/Friendicoes)

A version of this appeared as my column.

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Today in Photo


Double teaming it with the cats today. I'm at one vet with Squishy having his balls removed, Olga is off to have her stitches taken out at another. This fancy carrier is one we just bought and which Madam managed to unzip from the inside halfway through the trip. #catsagram

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Today in Photo

30 August 2015


So I made lasagne last night. It was really really good. I even managed a passable bechamel sauce to layer it with. Achievement unlocked? #domesticgoddess #cooking

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Bitesize: Kissing in public is SHOCK! HORROR!

29 August 2015

Quick takes from a Facebook page re: a public art project showing people kissing

Storified by Meenakshi Madhavan · Sat, Aug 29 2015 13:23:10

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Today in Photo

28 August 2015


Downward dog with reclining cat. It's impossible to pull out the yoga mat without them all gathering around to plop themselves right THERE. #catsagram #yoga

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Today in Photo

27 August 2015


Random Scottish tchotchkes at a friend's house last night: that's good old Nessie with a tam o'shanter and a Scot scratching his bum. Which reminds me, have you been watching Outlander? It is SO good. Sing me a song of a lass that is gone, say could that lass be I?

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Today in Photo

26 August 2015



Chocolate cupcake evening.

One of the best baking related things I invested in recently was a set of measuring cups and spoons and I've been using them to be a bit more methodical about how I bake. Frosting has also always been a challenge. Today though, these cupcakes are buy-in-a-shop good, dense and the icing is unbelievably rich and just mmmm. Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen's I Want Chocolate Cake Cake.

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Bitesize: Why are some names more popular than others?

Ruminations on the names of the Mahabharata
Storified by Meenakshi Madhavan · Wed, Aug 26 2015 09:08:55
Muse: some names in the Mahabharata more popular than others. The 5 Pandavas live on today, but no little girls called Draupadi.
@reddymadhavan the other name of Draupadi, Krishnaa is still relevant.
Actually, not all five. When’s the last time you met a Yudhistra?
@reddymadhavan I think Yudhistira is still common up North, but names like Sahadev and Draupadi have fallen out of fashion.
& then the older gen: no Kuntis, no Madris, no Gandharis. All very pretty names. Pritha (Kunti’s other name) still popular though.
@reddymadhavan that's because they're not their names! They're titles indicating origin or parentage.
I guess no one wants their kid to be a Bheema. Poor fellow, full of devotion, but not very sexy. @charitmay
& then deeper into Hindu mythology: no Brahmas (but he was cursed to be forgotten), even though everyone else is a popular name.
No Vyasas or Dritarashtras. You don’t want to name your kid after the bad guy (Duryodhana)
but you’re ok w/your kid bearing the name of a kid who died at 16 (Abhimanyu) or the illegitimate warrior (Karna)
I think it’s interesting what parents want their kids to inherit: hero, swift, beautiful etc. Not virtuous, or strong.
@reddymadhavan Why would then even dhrishtrashtra name his sons such? A school of thought suggests its suyodhan and sushaashan!
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