31 January 2017

Newsletter: Thinking about home

(This appeared as my newsletter not long ago. Want regular updates? Subscribe here!)

"Do you think there's any restaurant in Delhi that you would eat at every single day of the week?" K asks as we sit at Vinayak for lunch. My mother tells him there are a couple of canteens she used to eat at every day, before I was born, so like, the 70s? I'm thinking of the dhaba near the old Indian Express office in Qutub Enclave. They did delicious parathas--chicken and veg, and noodles, except for the one time that a baby cockroach was also served up, so my memory of it is both yummy and I want some more mixed with a faint amount of nausea. There was also a tea boy, who served really bad cups of coffee--all this before we moved to the newer office a few blocks away, which came equipped with a fancy canteen and coffee machines on every floor. Then, of course, all the office buildings there were sealed, and it was back to the ITO office for everyone else and off to a new job in Gurgaon with what became Ibibo for me. ("Ibibo" for "I build, I bond," something we came up with at one of the never ending meetings, was supposed to be a blog portal, a rip-off of a Chinese portal, but we didn't know then that blogs were on their way out.) Strange how some memories take you off on other ones.


This week in homes: Back when I worked at Ibibo is also when my friend Meghna and I shared a flat in another illegal building, a place called Anupam Enclave, not too far from our current home in Delhi. (Our friend Supriya had already moved out by then and we had a constant revolving door of flatmates who came and left.) This building was four floors, and we were on the very highest, which swayed each time a truck drove past. Such legendary parties we gave, Delhi will never see the like again. I'm thinking of all the walk-ups I've inhabited, not a single building with a lift, so my legs are always stretched, suitcases are always packed light, I'm out of breath if I've been away too long, sitting on the landing below ours and gazing up at our front door, so close and yet so far. In Goa, our house has a garden and only two stairs leading to the balcao, but it's large, so if you leave something in the bedroom, you have to traipse across the house. Not quite as much cardio as climbing all those stairs, but something to keep me from just sitting on my bottom at my desk the entire time. We've been painting, did I tell you this before? The mouldy bits of the wall are covered up with yellow, and just yesterday, we painted the Godrej and the remaining wall. They're now aqua, but I made a smudge, and covered that smudge up with a box, and since the blue wall is also our projector wall, everything gets a blue censored box if it's in the right position.
(Speaking of Meghna, she's now a qualified yoga teacher, and gave us her and our first session. She's very good.)



This week in home entertainment:  Since my mother has been here, we've been watching a movie almost every night. It's usually Hindi films from one of the streaming websites, we've watched Highway and Pink (Hotstar), Fan (Amazon) and Udta Punjab (Netflix). My objections to both Highway and Udta Punjab is how well they began, all these gritty films on difficult subjects and how they devolved into typical Bollywood romance in the second half. All the storylines need to have some romance in them in order to work, apparently, but they kind of ruined the film by just inserting the love story in there. Highway was a particularly bad example of this, at least Udta Punjab has three different storylines that intersect in interesting ways. But that's two Alia Bhatt movies for me, and I thought she was dumb thanks to the AIB spoofs on her, but turns out she's a versatile and talented actor, which is a ray of hope for the future of Bollywood films anyway. Pink turned out to be excellent, despite Amitabh's grandstanding at the end, and everything getting wrapped up very neatly, and Fan  was the creepiest of them all, even if it wanted to be an action movie with not one, not two, but three completely gratuitous chase sequences.

Besides Hindi movies, we also watched The Godfather (Amazon Prime), which both Mum and K had seen before, much to my surprise. (Not K, he used to work at a video store, so he's seen EVERYTHING, but I thought my mother was more like me, inclined to soft commercial releases with not so much Men Talking And Doing Things.) I understand many more things now that I have watched it, about pop culture references, but mostly about the bits in You've Got Mail where Tom Hanks is telling Meg Ryan about how everything in the world can be related to The Godfather and she's like, “Why do men always always always reference that movie?”
Also, not on any streaming website, but acquired elsewhere, an episode of Planet Earth II, the grasslands episode. Recommend watching all six for anyone interested in this great big world of ours, and how things adapt and live and thrive within it.
  
This week in hobbies: My Salim Ali Book of Indian Birds sits always at my left hand on my desk. This is because the bushes outside my desk attract a whole ecosystem of small birds. Once I got into naming and labelling them, I started to look everywhere, and now I have fifteen different species, all listed at the back of the book. The other day, our morning visitor was a large Indian peafowl (a peacock, to be less exact, but more descriptive) which K woke me up for. The peacock didn't knock, he just stood around the garden looking attractive, much like men in fedoras with artistic beards and skinny jeans do. If this peacock was a human, he'd be the one at a party, who, upon being ignored for five minutes, goes and picks up the guitar, playing a few chords on it, until polite people gather around him and ask if he can play, to which he'd reply modestly, “A little.” This is probably unfair anthropomorphising of the peacock, who has really done nothing to me, but probably also influenced by the fact that pick up artists call getting dressed and going out on the town “peacocking.”

This week in sports: Once again we are cutting down, quitting, attempting to stop smoking and so have turned to physical exercise as a way of controlling cravings and energy slumps. Badminton satisfies all those things, the thwock of a shuttlecock being hit perfectly fills a void inside of me. The cigarette void, probably. Either way, I'm getting very good at badminton, and sometimes we play it indoors. (Maybe not “very good” but I am fairly enthusiastic, which counts for something.)

This week in food and drink: Tried out new restaurant The Banyan for Chinese food the other night. The food was okay (and such small portions!) but it's built around a MASSIVE banyan tree that is really the most spectacular tree I've ever seen. Worth going for drinks and to gaze up at it in wonder.

Reading list:  If you can't come to Goa, Goa comes to you. On Delhi's new "beach shack" restaurant, Lady Baga. ** Karan Johar won't say those three little words. ** Bhutan had a ban on Indian chillies and now everyone is depressed. ** He's baaa-aack. Arnab gets a new channel to play around with. ** Scathing review of a food book just before I was about to buy it, so good timing. ** Morbid but fascinating: scientists on Twitter have been using #BestCarcass to show off pictures of dead animals. ** Sweet story about the habits of our close cousin species: the Neanderthals. ** Want a great relationship? You need to be kind and generous, duh. ** The British curry house and why it's become more white, less Indian. ** Why everyone in Bollywood is called Kaira, Ria or something like, and why they all have jobs like "photographer." (Kian was Kian before the Kiaans, and Meenakshi never had a moment.) **

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