25 May 2017

Today in Photo

I have been SO busy reading books for work (new column soon!) that I felt this evening was a good time to zone out with an old favourite. Judy Blume is still one of my author inspirations and Just As Long As We're Together is the complex girl friendship book I so needed when I first read it at 12 or 13. I think that copy fell apart so here's a photo of a slightly newer edition plus mangoes sent to me from Hyderabad. It feels like a summer vacation type of day. #youngadult #judyblume #bookstagram #mrmbookclub

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Newsletter: Rainy days and Mondays

I have been lax about cross-posting my newsletter here but no longer! Here's my edition from Monday--subscribe and read all the archives here

It has rained in the night, and outside on the balcony, birds are chirping, the temperature has dropped and green abounds. All quite idyllic, except the cats have killed a squirrel in the night and are now playing a very macabre game of catch with its corpse, so I've had to draw the curtains. (Cats are sociopaths.)

This is my all time favourite cat gif

Speaking of cats, Squishy, our big black tom, has taken to mothering the two foster kittens in a way that's quite sweet to see. Mack, especially, thinks Squishy is his hero and has even begun to walk a little bit like him, while the Hobgoblin occasionally has her bum licked or her face smacked, and even dared to jump on his twitching tail the other day. (Mack and the Hobster have new names now, because of their new owners* but that would be confusing in this newsletter, so they'll stay M & H till the end of this chapter.) (*Owners is a weird word for a cat person. We're definitely not "owners." "Mummies" is too twee, and cat slaves not entirely accurate, so I'm going with "cohabiters")

Anyway. Onward!

This week in food and drink:  Our favourite place to eat lunch outside the house is Little Saigon in Hauz Khas Enclave. Everything about it is amazing. But sadly, we're going to have to start calling before we go, because it was CLOSED last time we checked, so sadly, we drove away and towards this other thing called Cravity that was at the head of the road. Before we reached Cravity though (Cavity + Craving? Horrible name) we saw a very understated grey sign marked with Big Fat Sandwich. Now, we had somewhat cooled off our BFS love, because of how long they took to deliver and so on, but the sandwiches themselves were quite good, so we decided to go in. A revelation! Cool warehouse-y inside, a Blue Tokai coffee counter, lovely art everywhere. Plus eating there made us realise how much the sandwiches were losing in delivery. Very nice for a coffee/lunch meeting if you're in the area.

Went to Lady Baga in Connaught Place for Anuja Chauhan's booklaunch over the weekend. I was curious about it because it's the Olive group, and their stuff is usually good. However--meh. I mean, it was a launch, so launch food, but paneer in what looked like rechado paste? Some random lamb balls? Plus the sand on the floor seems like a good idea until you trail sand everywhere. And the stairwell smelt faintly of garbage, probably because there's a Subway on the ground floor, nyuk nyuk. (No hate though, I love Subway.) So, after some launching, my friend Sam and I went off to Nando's where our meal was v satisfactory.

This week in stuff I wrote: MANY things. A happy side result of that stress I alluded to in my last newsletter (I wish I could tell you all about it, but not yet) is that I became super motivated to do some freelance writing again and pitched to everyone and lots of people responded with "yes!" so I wrote everything. Mostly book stuff though because that is my favourite: Two pieces in Scroll: On The Handmaid's Tale and how it's happening right now in India. (Margaret Atwood retweeted this piece so how's that for endorsement?) ** A review of Paula Hawkins' newest book Into The Water which suffers from a case of too many unreliable narrators (plus reminded me of Rebecca.) ** As Aunty Feminist, trying a new op-ed, less Q&A approach, so here's my thoughts on fairy tales and what would happen if the prince didn't turn up at the last moment? ** In The Indian Express, talking about my girl Anne Shirley and her mother figure Marilla Cuthbert, who totally doesn't get enough credit. ** In Mint a review of Sri Lankan author Chhimi Tenduf-La's newest collection of short stories, which I enjoyed greatly. ** And finally, restarting my F Word column for the Week with this piece on body hair and why my arms are so hairy. ** (Related:  was quoted in this piece on the millennial writer as well, so look at me being young and restless.)

This week in stuff I didn't write but you should read anyway: The engineer behind demonetisation. ** My father was Hindi medium, I was English, I left him behind. Gorgeous piece in Arre. ** The secret life of urban crows. ** The personal essay boom is over (but not in India yet because how else would I make my money, right?) ** The Goya City Food Guides are lovely, so you should read them all: Kolkata, Bengaluru and Chennai. ** Every rom com's female bff to the protagonist. ** Schadenfreude is this bitchy review of Ekta Kapoor's ALT Balaji shows, their new web streaming content channel. ** How posh young Indians look for love. ** And.. on owls, because if you're going to stick them everywhere, you may as well learn about them too. **

Woop, woop, until next week!

24 May 2017

Today in Photo

Back at Oddbird, one of my favorite spaces in Delhi. Always good shows plus great food and a bar. Tonight we're seeing Lucy Rose. #delhicacies #theatre

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23 May 2017

Today in Photo

Come let me smoosh my face into your armpit and sleep on the only viable chair in this house full of chairs. #fosterkitten #catsagram #siesta

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20 May 2017

Today in Photo

Hobgoblin gets her new mama and her new name! She's now Rooey, for cotton, very appropriate. So pleased that both our foster babies are going to our friends so that we can visit them often! Rooey was rescued from a naala, she was little and emaciated when she came to us and now she's a huge bouncy kitten and goes to a home with a brand new sister in June. #fosterkitten #catsagram #saturdaynightwithwineandkittens

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19 May 2017

Today in Photo

Will the person who sent me this mystery postcard please give me a hint as to your identity? (thank you!) #postcard #snailmail

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17 May 2017

Today in Photo

Terrace garden DIY. The painters left about three ladders behind when they were done with our flat. One year later, I realised they weren't coming back for them so voila! Garden sculpture! At the moment it's just what I had in hand but I plan to get a few more hanging pots and put them on it. Looks quite interesting right? #balcony #gardening

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14 May 2017

Today in Photo

It's good to know there are still such joys in the world as a black cat trying to camouflage himself on the newly changed duvet cover. #catsagram #squishy #catsofdelhi

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12 May 2017

Today in Photo

Mack meets his new mummy! In two weeks, the lovely @janicepariat will be taking our lovebug home. I couldn't have asked for a better ending. Mack was rescued from a garbage dump, lost a tip of his ear to a fight and is now living like a little Lord. A real Slumdog Millionaire story, except he's a Slumcat. Hurray! #adoptdontshop #fosterkitten #catsagram

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11 May 2017

Narnia and the Outsider

A version of this with the angle changed to reflect more on the food aspect was published in the Hindu books section. Read that here

The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on to the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon , which when opened , turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious.” - C.S Lewis, The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe

I forget when Narnia fell out of fashion and it became a party piece to tell readers that the author, C.S Lewis, really meant it to be a Christian allegory. “Don't you see,” someone will say to me earnestly, when I tell them the books were my earliest experience with fantasy, “The lion was Christ! It was a Christian book!” Then they sit back, ready to be smug and delighted by those facts dawning on me. They're not the first ones to tell me, nor will they be the last, and Narnia-defenders, like myself (or should I call us apologists?) have this bowed, wary expression even as we admit all the things we loved about the books. What was not to love? Talking animals! Magical doorways! Fauns! Little children who became kings and queens! Learning that the worst thing you could be was a traitor! (Second worst: coward.)

There is an argument to be made about not re-reading your old favourite books as an adult. Your rational mind isn't supposed to stop and examine a problematic bit of prose, you're supposed to skim right along, breathless and caught up in the adventure like the heroes you're reading about.

The first time I read about Turkish Delight was in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, the very first of the Narnia books, which, if you're not familiar is about four English children who stumble through a wardrobe into a magic land and overthrow the evil queen who has been ruling there for many years. Before they can overthrow her, one of the children—Edmund—is lured into her power by the magic Turkish Delight she feeds him. This makes him silly and vulnerable—not unlike being roofied—and soon, he is her spy.

She comes of your father Adam's first wife, her they called Lilith. And she was one of the Jinn.” The words used to describe the White Witch by the friendly Beaver, who is helping the children. Lilith, from the Bible, was, actually created the same time as Adam, but out of the same dirt as him—unlike Eve, who was created from his rib. In an excerpt from The Hebrew Myths by Robert Graves, Lilith was banished because she did not want to “lie beneath Adam” since she was created out of the same dirt he was, and didn't see why she had to obey him. She left him eventually, and became a demon or in charge of the demons, and was basically the first example of a woman who chose to do what she wanted. Jinns on the other hand, are supernatural creatures of Arabic and Muslim mythology, and it's mostly to this that the Narnia books take exception. While the Beavers and the children eat fish and potatoes, Edmund has already been corrupted by the Turkish Delight, he betrays his whole family for it, and is betrayed in turn. (In later books, the dark-skinned Calormen have many gods and are slightly ridiculous, and the hero turns out to be a royal Northern, beautiful and fair and ruled by Aslan, the Christ-lion figure).

He had eaten his share of the dinner, but he hadn't really enjoyed it because he was thinking all the time about Turkish Delight—and there's nothing that spoils the taste of good ordinary food half so much as the memory of bad magic food.”

Now, in Lewis' time, Turkish Delight was the ultimate in imported confectionery, and in war-time England, when the book was written and set, sweets were hard to get. Researchers say that maybe the idea of Narnia under the White Witch where it was “always winter and never Christmas” led Lewis to think of the sweet, after all, sugar rations were scarce during the time, and he probably drew parallels between that life and the one he was creating in Narnia.

I didn't like Turkish Delight the first time I ate it. I had conjured up something soft and sweet, a little like a marshmallow, but more exquisite, and the reality was a rubbery gel like thing, made of starch and sugar, flavoured with rosewater. Not quite something I'd betray one person for, let alone a whole country, but then, mine wasn't flavoured with magic.