20 June 2017

Today in Photo

Caption options: Meenakshi with a meen akshi The hilsa alive with the sound of music. Far seer-ing Me and Noam Troutsky Me and Salmon Rushdie. #delhicacies lunch with @samitbasu whose stuffed animal this is.

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17 June 2017

Today in Photo

Spotted at a petrol pump. If you squint (and ignore the modern bottles) we've gone back in time. #delhicacies

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16 June 2017

Today in Photo

Dinner at Hornbill and I had a portion of pork raja mirchi all to myself! (mostly because no one wanted to share it with me) one portion later, I'm lying in bed and my stomach is rumbling ominously but TOTALLY WORTH IT. #foodstagram #delhicacies #urbanjungle

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13 June 2017

Today in Photo

Just did a long essay on memoirs in children's literature and it was a great excuse to reread these (and more!) what's your favourite kids book memoir? #bookstagram #mrmbookclub

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6 June 2017

Newsletter: Totally judgemental

This morning, I woke up to a lovely message from a reader on Facebook. She said (about Split): "
Meenakshi, thank you for the wonderful read. I had tears in my eyes. One of the best Indian YA books I've read, and I love how you developed the character of Noor in this case... and others as well, such as ammi. Ishaan is dreamy, I am glad you have found your Ishaan and I hope one day I will find mine. Even if I don't, I'll still have books like yours to keep me happy." Wasn't that nice? Split, and Layla, my two young adult books, were never publishing phenomenons, but every now and then I get messages from readers about them, and they make me so happy. Especially when the readers are the teen girls I wrote the books for. All in all, a good start to the week.

This week in live acts: We have two friends (a couple) who we have regular Oddbird dates with. It's not something we planned, it just turned out that way, and so now, whenever there's something interesting on, they'll message us or we'll message them. The last time was last week, for a singer/songwriter called Lucy Rose.

Now, I had never heard of Lucy Rose before that night, but the place was pretty full, and she began with a documentary on how she went on a "searching for herself" quest to South America, stayed with fans and played free gigs. The documentary wasn't so much a "documentary" as it was Ms. Rose being all like, "I can't believe so many people came to listen to me!" and sadly, she was a bit needy through the show. She kept wanting reassurance from the crowd that they liked the music and that they liked her, which everyone was happy to provide. At one point, sitting there with my thirty something gang, I wondered why we seemed to be the only ones who had never heard of her, considering all around me people were singing along, and then I realised that everyone was also very very young. All this not to complain about Ms. Rose, her music was very same-y, but her voice was pretty, she had a Zooey Deschanel haircut and looked up at us with big eyes, begging for approval.

And then the heckler happened. Some dude sitting in the back row decided to do that Delhi Guy Thing and shout out rude things like "We were paid to be here!" and other such delightful bon mots. Credit to Ms. Rose, she handled it well, and then after the gig, there was a whole long snaking line of fans waiting to meet her and shake her hand and tell her how much they loved her music.

So that's the story about how we accidentally discovered the Adele for teens. Here's a link to one of the songs that made a lot of people cheer and clap.

This week in the Future: How many times will I complain about Airtel and Airtel Smartbytes before I get real and get off it? Several friends had recommended ACT Broadband to us, but it took a while for us to get down to it. As I write this, the internet has been pretty stable and FAST (we got a cheaper connection with 40 mbps, but there's also 75 and 100), except for one time when a cable got clipped. Plus a brand new router to go with it. Is it silly to get this excited about new WiFi? I think not. (Also this means we got to rename our WiFi, and we always go for fictional tech-y names from TV shows we like.) 

Also this week in the Future: Related: went to the Facebook office in Gurgaon for a workshop organised by Harper Collins to teach authors how best to use Facebook pages. It was the coolest office, you guys, like something out of a movie about a start-up. BUT I had to sign an NDA on a tablet mounted to the wall to even ENTER the office, so I can't tell you very much else, except that the reception desk had Five Star and Dairy Milks in a bowl up front which is a good way to make me happy. (Plus, I learned things and am attempting to put them into practice). 

This week in food and drink: After my Facebook meeting, went off to meet my friend Manasi at Cyber Hub which is so cool: all those restaurants! All those choices! We went to Indigo, which was one of my favourite lunch places in Bombay, but which I had totally forgotten about. Still amazing, and on my way back home I spotted another Indigo sign (in the way you sometimes do with a number, start seeing it everywhere) in Bhikaji Cama Place, so that's my next lunch destination the next time someone asks.

Finally ordered from Rustom's which is literally across the road from our colony. A gastronome friend had given it a thumbs down, "too oily" but then we realised a) she gave a lot of things a thumbs down and b) we are not even one-fifth as picky. Very nice food, though the beef cutlet WAS, in fact, a bit... oily. However, the prawn and coconut curry was extremely satisfying.

Also got a Thai green curry from a place called Tuk Tuk which was everything I wanted in a Thai green curry.

This week in books: My friend Nayantara, a person I have known consistently since I was twelve, and a person I used to walk to nursery school with when we were both about two years old, before we moved to various parts of the world (her) or just away from the government housing (me) (we were reunited at twelve at ANOTHER set of government housing, and our mothers were all, "You used to walk to school together!"), had a birthday party this weekend and so, of course, I had to buy her books. It's very hard buying books for your besties, because you normally pick besties with the same interests as you, and that includes reading at the very top of the list, so you're not sure what they've read and what they haven't. I make up for this by gifting out of a list of books I'VE enjoyed but I'm fairly sure they haven't read. (STILL HARD.) So, if you're faced with a similar dilemma, I picked the first of the Earthsea series by Ursula Le Guin and also Agatha Christie's Autobiography which is both seriously good and a serious must-have for anyone who is a fan, and really who isn't?

Also, I'm re-reading Judy Blume and I'm currently on Tiger Eyes with New Mexico, sexy Wolf and hiking boots. I believe there's a movie, but the book is so sad I'm not sure I want it translated on screen. After Judy, another re-read of either A Suitable Boy or His Dark Materials. What do you think? Read with me, we'll make a book club out of it. 

This week in Those Pesky Cats:  Returned from said birthday party to find two of our cats (Olga and Squishy) had gone off into the night. Only Bruno waiting for us on the staircase wearing his good boy face. We attempted to look for them both at night, only Squishy is a black cat and the night is also dark, so no luck. The next day, we hunted every few hours mainly because Squishy is not... the smartest of cats, so I was afraid he would die, though K gave him the benefit of the doubt. When we finally found him, he was sitting on a window AC in the middle of the sun, looking close to death but SO happy to see us. I swear his little face lit up and he made his way off it and to me as soon as he was able, pushing his head through the bars. Lots of juggling later, we got him home, and now he's going nowhere close to the front door. It was really sweet though, watching him look so happy that we found him, so trusting and loving, even though I had to carry him like a sack through a crowded park.

Olga on the other hand, seemed pleased to see us when we finally found her one day later, but not so happy about going home. Now she's stalking about, none the worse for wear, with a sulky expression on her face, but Squishy is delighted we are all together again and doesn't let her out of his sight. Sigh.

No links this time because the newsletter formatted weird, but remember you can totally subscribe for more timely updates. Here's a link! 

4 June 2017

Today in Photo

Hot off the presses! The One Who Swam With The Fishes, the first book in my #girlsofthemahabharata series is now available for pre-order! This is the story of the first girl of the Mahabharata, Satyavati, the fisher maiden turned queen. There's adventure, magic and some kinda creepy sex. Order now, link in my bio. #bookstagram #mrmbookclub #authorsofinstagram

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3 June 2017

Today in Photo

Presents! Thanks @penguinindia for the coffee and thanks to my Beef Benefactor (who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons) for the pickle. Very pleased. #brownpaperpackages #tiedupwithstring #myfavouritethings

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31 May 2017

Today in Photo

Could the monsoon be here already so quickly after the coast? Perfect overcast day to read some Kipling, bought at the Friendicoes yard sale a few months ago. #nowreading #bookstagram #150in2017 #mrmbookclub

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Let Us Now Praise Marilla Cuthbert

(A version of this appeared in The Indian Express)

What do we know about Marilla Cuthbert? We know she's an older single woman who keeps house for her farmer brother in the beginning of Anne Of Green Gables. Her age is never mentioned until once in Rainbow Valley, where Anne says sadly, “Marilla is eighty five.” By some back calculation, this makes her not younger than fifty something when we first meet her: “a tall, thin woman, with angles and without curves. [..] She looked like a woman of narrow experience and rigid conscience, which she was; but there was a saving something about her mouth, which, if it had been ever so slightly developed, might have been considered indicative of a sense of humour.” Remember that mouth as her creator L.M Montgomery wanted you to, there's foreshadowing in that mouth.

With Mother's Day just past, and a new adaptation of Anne Of Green Gables on Netflix, I got to thinking about Anne as a mother. She was a great mother, as her children will evidence, loving and warm and all those things. But it surprised me that she took so easily to it, where was Anne's role model? Her own mother, long dead, her brief stint as a helper for mothers with their children just left an impression of an impatient harridan and her brood of squalling infants. We never do learn much about Gilbert Blythe's mother, and Diana's mother is stern and inflexible for the most part. So where does Anne learn it? Some might argue that motherhood is instinctive, but I say your basis has to be formed on what you know. And what Anne knew was Marilla Cuthbert.

Marilla, fifty something, a spinster for life, a stern woman who knew what she wanted. Balanced by her brother Matthew, who you, reader, might remember more lovingly, because he shared an affinity with Anne, and was sympathetic to her needs. But remember also that it was Marilla who made the final decision that Anne should stay with them—even though she wasn't a boy, Marilla who gave Anne one of her biggest comforts: her relationship with God. So too was it Marilla who made sure the flighty, imaginative girl was taught household skills—something we might scoff at now, but which was a necessary accomplishment in that time. Anne teaches Marilla how to love, yes, but Marilla gives Anne a safe space in which to love.

All this not to run down Matthew—he was lovely, but he was not a parent. He was the generous uncle Anne needed, a port in the storm, a place for unconditional love. Matthew gave her a puffed sleeve dress and listened to her talk and took her side against Marilla whenever needed. But Marilla, that spiky spinster, the childfree person who didn't even really want a child, she gave Anne a chance to go to college, and a place to come home to, and rounded off her raptures with old fashioned common sense. Marilla didn't want a child, not even the boy they asked for, he was meant to be a help to Matthew, but once she had one, she mothered her as she had been mothered herself. Unsentimental and supportive. Stern but loving. The first time we see her completely on Anne's side is when she goes to correct Mrs Barry's impression of Anne, that she was a child who “set Diana drunk.” Matthew would never have the courage to make that confrontation, and in this scene, all of Marilla's mothering comes to the forefront.

Poor little soul,” she murmured, lifting a loose curl of hair from the child's tear stained face. Then she bent down and kissed the flushed cheek on the pillow.

We know the great tragedy of Marilla's life was her lost romance with Gilbert Blythe's father, but we do not know when that exact moment was that she decided she was going to be alone forever. Spinsterhood was thrust upon you in those days, when you were considered too old to be viable, and your options were limited. In Marilla's time, you couldn't even be a teacher, so you had to settle down and keep house, and if you lived alone with no independent income, you may not even have a house to keep.

Children's literature does away with mothers to make heroes—think Harry Potter or Oliver Twist—but Anne with her imagination and her speeches would not have the same effect on readers if we didn't have Marilla in the background making sardonic remarks and always making sure that the whimsy was balanced out with the very real indeed.