I thought for about five seconds last week that I should maybe make an OFFSET of this newsletter where I send you RECOMMENDATIONS ONCE A WEEK and maybe that could be a SUBSCRIBER TIER THING! But then I realised it was a foolish idea for many reasons: 1) would I have enough recs to give you week after week? 2) how many people realistically would be into that sort of thing? And “into” in the sense of “let me give you some money for this,” and 3) does anyone even CARE about my recommendations? so I said nah, and fuck it, and that’s how ideas die in this house.
But I still had a list of things I enjoyed both experiencing and purchasing, so that’s how this edition came to be. Sometimes recommendation newsletters fill me with doom and gloom, all those people buying all those useless things until we collapse under the weight of it all, so I’m only suggesting a few purchases which are in the category of “if you need a new one of X, this is what I’ve replaced mine with.”
Shall we jump in? Ooh I love giving unsolicited advice! It’s SO GREAT. Here, have these things! TAKE MY WORD FOR IT!
A new backpack: I started using a backpack not that long ago, I think 2017-ish? I bought a basic one off Amazon, 50 litres, which means, I guess, you can stuff 50 one litre bottles in there, but since I am an inefficient packer, I could get maybe ten items of clothing in the same space. But I liked that I didn’t have to wheel something around or carry a suitcase up flights of stairs. I love my new strolley suitcase (also bought earlier this year) but that is very specifically for shorter trips or trips where I’ll be staying in one place, say. I took it to London with me, and we did really well, me and my suitcase, although I also took K and his much larger bag to London as well so I had back up. The problem was London with its changeable weather, I had to pack for two eventualities, so I wished I had something slightly more capacious.
Anyway, my old backpack sort of started falling apart, it was quite cheap, and the straps broke off, nothing I couldn’t fix, of course, but by this time, I had used her enough (Elvira, her name is Elvira, and sometimes because of the nonsense German words on her label—sometimes Indian manufacturors like to slap German words on things because of, I don’t know, quality assurance?—her nonsense German words read “da tasche” which is SO CLOSE. “Tasche” means “bag” but “da” means nothing at all, anyway, because of this, I call her also Natasha Da Tasche, and those of you who know that our cat’s full name is actually Olga da Polga will know of my previous love of this particular nobiliary particle) as I was saying, I had used her enough to know what I didn’t like about this particular bag design. Elvira was built specifically for camping, which means she’s pretty waterproof and has a reach in design, so you open the top and sort of rummage around till you find what you want. This is not very useful for your urban backpacker, such as I, who found herself unpacking and repacking every few days whilst on this long around India trip recently. What I wanted was a better bag, one that organised stuff, one that had a laptop compartment so that when I’m taking it along as cabin baggage I don’t have to take two things, and one that held a few more things. I checked Decathlon, as a sports speciality shop (I like their reasonable sports equipment: bought very nice ski pants and jacket here when I first went skiing and these are still useful and flattering city pants that I sometimes wear just to walk around Berlin for instance, or one very cold winter, to wear inside our house in Delhi), I figured they’d have a bit more range and quality assurance than Amazon. Immediately, I found this one, while I was leaning towards the 70 litre one, I picked this because a) I sometimes need to travel cabin baggage only and b) if you buy a big bag, you’re tempted to load it fully, and I am only 5’2” tall and my curves are strictly for show, not for hefting more than my body weight. (If you can manage 70, it’s weirdly cheaper than the 50l version.)
What I like about it is that it has SO MANY POCKETS so my toiletries and shoes can go into separate compartments from the main clothes bit, it has a detachable shoulder bag for city walks once you dump your bag at your hotel and it opens like a clamshell which means you can see all your things at once and don’t have to pull out everything in search of one thing. Other cool things: a side zip for passport and phone, a laptop sleeve at the back and a waterproof cover (heavy, so ditch this if you’re not checking in your bag) to tuck away the straps when you’re checking it in so the straps don’t break in transit. This is coming with me to Bangkok, Elvira has been retired for Freja Roopwati Forclaz.
I joined these two subreddits called r/onebag and even better r/heronebag which is the same philosophy, except for women, who obviously need to pack and take different things than men. I’m a fan of minimalist packing, but I’m also a fan of fashion, so it’s hard sometimes to make those two the same, but I’m working on it! Nothing as liberating as travelling light, I can tell you. (And also once you switch to a menstrual cup, you’re packing fewer things, so give it a go. I also swear by these washable panty liners which I’ve had for about seven or eight years, use them on your light days, chuck in the machine and they’re not stained or torn at all, just a little grey from so many years of use.)
A new lipstick: Perhaps you’ve heard of the Lipstick Index? Apparently lipstick sales go up during recessions, because women substitute lipsticks for more expensive things. A little indulgence. Anyway, the Lipstick Index is soaring right now, and I have added myself to the long list of numbers with a new crayon from Maybelline which I bought on a whim and have grown to LOVE. (Out of stock most places so I have to link to Amazon here, see if you can find it at your local make up store though.) Because of my skin tone, I find wine or maroon reds suit me the most (also very into MAC Diva) and this one is gorgeous. Does it stay on? AND HOW. Have to use large amounts of coconut oil to shift it, and this after dinner parties and glasses of wine and salt rimmed margaritas and wearing a mask and smoking and so on and so forth.
Social smoking: Smoking is back, which is not surprising considering the end times we live in plus how generally nihilistic we’ve all gotten thanks to people dying by the thousand, so why not start socially again? It makes you look cool and everyone knows the best part of a party is outside on the balcony with everyone else trying to kill themselves. Which reminds me: there’s apparently a new rolling tobacco brand launched in Goa called Fuko which a lot of hipsters in Goa swear by and some hipsters in Delhi as well.
Ignoring the AQI: Speaking of trying to kill yourself, I’ve been venturing out more than before into this terrible air, and while my head is full of snot every morning, I’m having a nice time. Look, the politicians are never going to fix Delhi’s air problem, like, it’s going to be a good twenty or thirty years before that happens and are you going to stay at home every year during the nicest weather we have because you may as well live while you’re young (and die ten years before you normally would but no one cares about the future). So I’ve stopped even looking at the bad pollution headlines because I already have a sinus headache, why add a stress migraine to the whole thing?
Sunday book market: One of the Ignoring AQI activities I did was go to the Daryagunj Sunday Book Market. It’s kind of tradition for me and my mum, we used to go all the time when I was a child (at the time we lived in Nizamuddin and I remember we took a tonga ride home, this is pre-flyover, pre-thinking about animal rights, so when we got home, I was delighted to be able to feed the poor broken down horse an apple) and several times as a grown up too. I was jonesing for some good second hand books, so we made a trip for the first time to the new location which is at a big ground called Mahila Haat. Which means you walk in a circle from stall to stall, all very nice, but I think it’s sort of lost the essence of Daryagunj. It used to be down one long road, you checked out the pavements and then you left when you were tired, but this arrangement means you feel obliged to look at every single shop. I don’t know, I liked how natural it felt, books and people and random passersby just trying to get through. But still an incredible arrangement of books, fulllllll of people, mostly students browsing, and we had a great time. After which we went to Karim’s, another tradition, and got seekh kebabs and mutton korma and pillowy soft rotis. Worth it! Do it before the weather gets worse. (We also went to Sarojini Nagar later in the week where all the American and UK export labels have been replaced by Korean ones.)
A lovely beach resort: I wanted to tell you guys all about the nicest beach resort we stayed at while in Goa this time. It’s called Duck N Chill, and it literally had rooms ON THE BEACH, which meant we opened our door and ta-dah, there’s the sea. We’d never actually spent so much time in South Goa before (Duck n Chill is in Agonda) and it was a lovely surprise. Of course, you need to like your beach resort, because unlike the North, there’s nowhere else to go once you’re there. This place was reasonably priced with excellent service, pretty decent food and made me a fan of daiquiris for life. The rooms are basic but large, comfy bed, good bathroom, romantic mosquito net. No AC, but the sea breeze kept it cool enough by day and by night we were quite chilly. You need to get one of the rooms on the beach though, the others are not so nice.
Mrs Harris Goes To Paris: A fun movie I went to watch with my mum and K. A sweet cleaning lady with a good heart has an adventure in Paris where she’s gone to buy herself a dress from Dior. Like, not earth shattering cinema or anything, but a nice feel good movie and fun to watch all the clothes on the big screen. I have no doubt it’ll come to a streaming service soon, so you can wait also. I liked being At The Movies though.
A new yoga mat: I needed a new mat, because I’m about to turn 41 in exactly 29 days, and one of my goals for my forties was to just be slightly less sedentary. (My biggest goal was to live abroad in this decade, which I’m doing so now I’m checking off the rest of the list.) I wanted one that folded up so I could pack it to take to Bangkok with me (and beyond) so I got this one, currently on sale for 55% off. It has good reviews, soft enough to not hurt my knees too much and has a bunch of yoga poses printed on it if you need inspiration. (I’ve been using the Down Dog app which is free and has this one set of yoga poses called Yin Yoga which is basically stretches and meditation and which works out all the kinks from my back like magic.) Moving to a European city means I walk a lot, so at least I move my body twice a week, but I also wanted to supplement it with something at home, just so I stay flexible and bits of me don’t start like suddenly falling off.
Reading books set in the place you’re going: HUGE fan of this practice, and since we’ll be in Bangkok for 45 days, which is a long time (and for which you need an actual visa not a landing visa which I normally get because that’s only valid for 15 days. So it was me and the travel agents at the VFS Thailand counter. Thailand has some funny visa requirements: hotel bookings and flight details IN COLOUR. Your bank statement, but the last transaction has to be from like, yesterday. K does not need a visa because he is German and everyone likes the Germans.)
So I bought three books, and the weird thing is two of those three books are by non-Thai authors. I looked, and apparently a lot of Thai language books just don’t have English translations or there aren’t that many Thai authors writing in English. Here’s what I bought though, and will be taking with me:
Bangkok Wakes To Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad which is very Cloud Atlas-y from what I can tell, lots of different stories and then they come together in a giant loop.
Bangkok 8 by John Burdett: Apparently a very well known thriller set in Bangkok? Backpackers carry this book along for atmosphere. Featuring a Thai cop written by a farang. (Thai for foreigner, our “firang.”)
Bangkok Days by Lawrence Osborne: Non-fiction travellogue about the city by a writer who wanders and writes about the places he washes up in, which is really the ideal life, and one I’ll be living, but I won’t be a white man, so there’s that.
I’ve already read the BEST BOOK about Thailand earlier this year, and in fact, one of the best books I’ve read all year which is Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski and so I’m super jealous that K gets to read it for the first time while in Thailand, but it can’t be helped. Maybe I’ll re-read it. (My best book newsletter usually goes out in late December.)
The Americans: My mum and I are watching this spy drama set in the 80s, and we’re really into it. It’s unlikely mother-daughter viewing, but somehow it really works. The action, the small domesticities. I’m so into it I’m carrying Crime and Punishment to read on my retreat, just for a little more old timey Russian flavour. Current Russia is a shitshow, but olden times (including when I was an infant) was sort of fascinating.
I think I’ve run out of steam! Oh well, probably for the best, how many more things can I throw at you? Anyway, your usual reminder that if you liked this post or any of my others, please buy me a coffee! Your tips are encouragement!
Do I have links for you after all those recommendations? HELL YES.
The mysterious case of Swamp Boy—the ending will shock you. (Now This)
I wrote a piece about Delhi’s Diwali parties which is funny, I think. (Conde Nast Traveller)
I just had my first Negroni sbagliato in Goa so I was interested in the origins of this drink. (Slate)
This is a really scary story with no conclusive ending about a woman who was stalked for EIGHT YEARS. (And how the police treat women who are being stalked.) (Esquire)
And now Twitter is dying, behold the Tweet Museum!
Last issue’s most clicked link was the origin story of Weleda skin food. (NYT)
Phew! I am WORN OUT. Speak soon.
Who are you? Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, writer of internet words (and other things) author of seven books (support me by buying a book!) and general city-potter-er.
Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. (Plus my book recommendation Instagram!)
Forward to your friends if you liked this and to your favourite lipstick shade being out of stock FOREVER if you didn’t.
Also, write back to me! I love to hear from you.