I have a little clock which I have set on the bookshelf facing our bed, and I glance at it before I hop out of bed, to see whether I've slept in or I'm waking up early, you know, the usual time-things that take over your life from the moment you open your eyes. Beats having a cellphone next to me though, all that horrid light, all those people clamouring to be heard, no, it's better to deal with the world when you've gotten up and made your coffee and are sitting down at your laptop. (Not that this stops me having a quick look at my notifications after I get up though. I just want to make sure no one has died or the world hasn't ended while I was asleep.) Anyway this morning, I read the clock wrong, but the good news is I got an extra 45 minutes out of this day, which I am spending writing this newsletter to you. (It takes about an hour to two hours to put together this whole thing--I make notes during the week, directly on to TinyLetter's draft page, and I collect links and then the writing of it is where I join all the dots and tell you what's been happening. Fun! But a little mind-space consuming which is why programming has been slightly erratic, I'm trying to finish the edits of my book by the last weekend of this month, and it's a chore and a half, so in procrastinating and then doing, all my brain is occupied with thinking about that.)
This week in memories: I went to the market the other day. I don't go to the market, I prefer the market to come to me, via Grofers or Big Basket, but we were having friends over, and I suddenly started thinking about a big bowl of sliced cucumbers and carrots with a cool dip. It's the kind of snack your friends with full-time help put out all the time, and also, your friends who PLAN these things in ADVANCE, but as you know, I am neither of those groups, but our cook had just come in and we were planning to order in for dinner anyway, so I volunteered to go get that kheera-gajar (not mooli. NEVER mooli. Mooli is always the last thing on the plate after everyone has eaten around it, all the carrot-cucumber is gone, and there's the radish, left mocking you. Friends, if you want to bulk up your veggie selection and are a little short, do a batch of french fries, put out small tomatoes with olive oil and salt, roast some cauliflower, ANYTHING except the mooli which only belongs in a paratha or in a pickle. No, don't argue with me. You know I am correct.)
There are two veggie sellers in the market: the big Safal guy and the littler, more posh, private guy. It's not a big market, as far as colony markets go. There is no ATM for example, but there are two general stores and one chemist. No electrician but a dry cleaner. Two kinds of co-ops (Mother Dairy and Safal), one momo guy, one chaat guy (eh, he's okay, I find his stuff too sweet and I haven't yet dared to try his gol gappa.) One florist who is pretty good. One cigarette shop, which is useful to know. And when I went, one bhutta guy had just arrived, cart full of corn, fire not yet lit.
I asked him to make one while I finished my shopping and when I bit into that bhutta---I can't describe it. What is that nostalgia you taste with your tongue? What is the word for a familiar food that tastes exactly the same--so few things actually do--when you were six or eight or eighteen or now, at thirty six? I was all those Meenakshis at the same time, I was aware of them like Matryoshka dolls, stacked inside of me. Even Delhi, even this city, which I don't know whether I loathe or I love, probably a mixture of those two, even Delhi suddenly became filled with Context. In the monsoon season, we eat bhutta, in the winter, we eat sweet potato chaat, in the summer; well, I never really had a summer snack, so you'll have to tell me. Jamun, maybe? Mangoes? But those are not street foods, not the way that corn is, or the ridiculously tart amrak they serve with shakharkandi.
I skipped along home, eating my bhutta, devouring it, passing people who looked at me with hostility or consternation, I ate every last kernel. (I don't know why the default Delhi expression is set to "hate." Even when you go to a bar and you go to the loo and run into another woman, she'll give you this expression of pure loathing. Why? What do I remind you of?) (Except for the little girl underneath my mum's apartment yesterday. We were pulling into the parking space and she was standing there and we waited for her to move and she looked me straight in the eye and smiled. Just a smile. For a stranger. It was nice.)
This week in cool things friends are doing: Ameya is heading up Indian Express's audio division and it is A-MA-ZING. She's hosting a water podcast herself (monsoon, rivers etc) but there are other subjects too if water isn't your thing. Check it out, they're adding new shows all the time so keep an eye out!
This week in Cool Stuff I Read On The Internet
Men in that decade’s pop culture tended to be harmless – think the goofs of Seinfeld and Friends. One of the bestselling American books of the early 90s, You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, reassured readers that resolving miscommunications between the sexes was actually easy, if we just understood how to do it. Solutions were big then. A couples therapist named Harville Hendrix sold hundreds of thousands of copies of a guide called Getting the Love You Want, which unravelled “the mystery of romantic attraction” and answered “humanity’s yearning” in just 384 pages.
There’s a whole subreddit (r/TargetedShirts) with 29k users devoted to the weirdly specific t-shirts that show up in Facebook users’ feeds — shirts like “I love ANIME but JESUS always comes first,” or “I’m a VET who EATS BEEF and sings KARAOKE.”
The Internet at the time was largely populated by academics, professionals, and college students. Not everyone had the desire to publish their angsty poetry, sexcapades, or surfing habits on a daily basis; the other limiter on chrono-content was the sheer time and energy it required. Diarying was a helluva lot of work. First you had to have something to say, then write, edit it, format it, add clip art, edit your index.html, edit any prev/next links, check those links, and lastly, upload the files.
Celebrity performers were novel just a decade ago, but now they’re something of a norm. John Mayer, Katy Perry, and Chris Martin have all been hired to perform at private weddings. Earlier this year, both Mariah Carey and Elton John performed at the wedding of a Russian billionaire’s granddaughter, while Mark Ronson DJed. Sarah actually blames her Russian clients for the trend “because they are the people who started hiring them for everything: 18th birthday parties, 21st birthday parties, wedding anniversaries, not just weddings. They diluted the uniqueness of that. Now we have weddings where one headliner isn't enough; they need three or four. Then you hit problems as to what order do you put them on in.” Tell a big name that she’s not the headliner, and she’ll drop out.
A police officer in Dadar once told me that his biggest nightmare is the mangalsutra theft. No matter what the status of the complainant, a mangalsutra robbery is always reported. “Because the Indian Penal Code doesn’t record emotions and relationships, only crime. We then have to listen to the stories too,” he had said, of the many times he has had to comfort a crying adult, who believed the theft was a bad omen.
If they tell you about a personal experience, avoid interrogating them or taking the devil’s advocate position. (The devil doesn’t need more advocates!!!) Become known as the friend who says, “I believe you.”