(This was sent as a newsletter last year or thereabouts. Like, most of this stuff is older writing now anyway, except for the Today in Photo. I suppose my newsletter has turned into my blog? But I still archive things here because there are still people who prefer it. So there is that.)
I have had a slow week. Last weekend, I had two house parties in a row, this is rare, because who hosts parties anymore? There was a time in Delhi where your weekends would be spent flitting from one house party to another--and I don't just mean sitting around with three people in a living room having civilised conversations. No, these were party-parties, sometimes you'd see the same five people, but in different combinations, sometimes the only person you knew was the person taking you there, not even the host, but it didn't matter, because you carried that bottle of Old Monk tucked under your arm as an offering, just as someone carried it to your house previously. Anyway, it is fun going to parties, especially unexpected ones, and making conversation with unexpected people, but you are required to be on in a way that is taxing, if you're not used to having conversations with other people apart from your partner, your employees (maid and gardener), and now your German teacher. (And with him, your conversation is about German, if not in German just yet, but it's a process.) (I have had only three German classes, scheduling has been hard recently, but the other night I dreamt of two German words--ich nicht--which means "I not" which is not a sentence, but in my dream it kept echoing in my head: ich nicht, ich nicht, ich nicht.) (Probably because they sound sort of the same.)
This week in movies: I did leave the house once though! Went to watch the premiere of Manto in the cinema with my friend Naila. The movie was great--a biopic of an Indian writer, done well and sensitively, and I'd recommend you watch it, but it's much clearer viewing if you've actually read some of Manto's short stories, because they're woven into the narrative. It could be confusing if you've never even heard of the man, but once you have, there's a thrill at watching him loaf around Bombay with Ismat Chugtai, that pre-Partition writer life, you know? I've seen biopics of writers across the world in a specific time period, and this was my first time watching something set in India. It was really very cool.
My only quibble is that it seemed somehow disjointed, like several different scenes as opposed to one long story, and also that he spends a lot of the second half feeling sorry for himself and gazing moodily into a whiskey glass, which okay, I suppose he might have done in real life also, but I would have liked to see more of the effects of drinking rather than the drinking itself. Watching someone get high in the movies or on television is very boring unless it's done really, really well.
Also, my Feminist Voice kept popping up in my head, no matter how many times I said, "Shhh! Just watch the movie!" "If Manto was a woman," said my FV, "Then he'd HAVE to get it together after Partition and keep his family together. He's only being so self-indulgent because he's a man." My FV keeps it real, she is the antidote to my usual Pollyanna-rose-tinted-glasses situation.
This week in make in India, I think?: A couple of weeks ago, I bought myself a large bar of Amul dark chocolate, which was surprisingly so good, that I bought another bar, and now I can't stop eating it. Amul, a gift for someone you love, Amul, the butter guys, were never very good at the chocolate, sort of hard and chalky compared to Cadbury's (which I actually like the Indian version of more than the British one). BUT! This dark chocolate is kind of perfect. And so CHEAP, guys. It's a 100 bucks a bar or something, and this is a big bar I'm talking about, not one of those piddly little ones.
And while we're on the subject of Amul, please also try their gouda and emmental line of cheese cubes, which are heavily processed, but still tasty. They're not any kind of gouda you will be familiar with, but they still make a nice snack for between meals.
This week in books: Got sent the new Robert Galbraith Lethal White, and all I will say about it is that it is a) massive, and if you read in bed, you'll have to keep tossing and turning to get your wrists aligned properly and b) SO GOOD that you should probably clear your schedule for as long as it takes for you to finish it. (This Digested Read column about the first book Cuckoo's Calling is snarky and hilarious though.)
I just finished Lark Rise To Candleford, which is this semi-autobiographical life of a young girl in England during the 19th century. I have this other set of books which I love which begin with A London Child of the Seventies (that's 1870s, by the way) and this feels like a country counterpart. Lark Rise is also famous as a BBC show, which I just watched the first episode of, and it is VERY BBC period drama, so obviously I love it already.
Meanwhile, Galbraith put a spanner in my plans to finish reading Sapiens for my book club yesterday, but I mostly enjoyed that too. It's quite dense, but so many insights into what makes us human beings--how we work, how we think, how we operate. Plus written lightly, so it's very readable. Give it a whirl, except don't try to speed-read in three days like I did because then the only whirl will be inside your own head.
And last night, I began reading Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London at midnight, and by the time I finally was like, "Enough! Go to bed!" it was 2 am, so yeah.
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