Friday, November 20, 2015

Hello from the other side

I love Adele.

In 2011 after a bad breakup I tortured one of my best friends by playing her albums over and over, while sobbing into his shoulder. We weren't really friends yet, but he was the boyfriend of a classmate, and had invited me to visit him, in his rundown ghost-infested house outside of Milan. It seemed like the thing to do in a summer when all my other plans were going awry.

Anyway, Adele. Her new single is not my favourite. I think she has changed producers, and Hello from the Other Side doesn't seem quite as honest as her previous work. It seems less raw, more 'produced' and perfect for American radio. I've listened to it a lot though, in the last few weeks, and while I still think it is sort of average, Adele doing average is better than anyone else doing it.

Jason is not as tolerant as I am.
This morning he woke up and said- Hello from the other side of the bed.
He made me tea and said- Hello from the other side of the kitchen.
From behind the curtain (which confused the dog)- Hello from the other side of the curtain.

It has been going on for hours and I am still amused. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015


Am thinking of moving to Canada. Seems like good return on tax dollars (President who enjoys Bhangra is a bonus).
This is how American I have become. It didn't even take 6 months.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Lage Raho Munnabhai

Feeling somewhat homesick, and a little bit sad at all the ghastly things going on in the world I decided, that for Gandhi Jayanti, Jason and I would watch Lage Raho Munnabhai.

Made in 2006, this movie has not aged well. Vidya Balan has aged exceedingly well- she was still sort of no-voice tiresome in this movie- I suppose she came into her own a bit later. I have never understood the appeal of Sanjay Dutt, and there was a lot of him here, so that was a bit annoying. Arshad Warsi was very much stuck in his role as the loving side-kick. He is really lovely, and I want to see him in things where he gets a bit more to do. We fastforwarded a lot, and watched the laffa champion bit more than once.

J loves all the slapping and punching. It is difficult not to enjoy the goofy sound effects, and thrashing about with him chortling away beside me. The other nice thing about the movie was that it made J reevaluate what was asked of him in terms of dancing skills- he now knows that he knows the roughly three different moves required of any man, to a Hindi song.

But but but- Munna proposes to the Jahnvi from behind bars, so drunk that he cannot get the ring onto her finger- by this time I was yelling at the screen, trying to urge Jahnvi towards better life decisions. Jahnvi- you're young and attractive- not to be ageist, but can't you find yourself a boyfriend who isn't a middle aged man with something of a drinking problem, and very questionable sources of income? Also we came to loathe the Good Morning Mumbai yodeling so much that many curses were muttered, and eventually loudly flung.

I don't think I shall be recommending a re-watching of this movie to anyone.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Gandhi Jayanti

In today's news

1. A 90 year old Dalit man was set on fire for trying to enter a temple. Also in Utter Pradesh. The gift that keeps on giving.

2. People are still yammering on about the Oregon shooter, and prayers, and whether guns were allowed on campus or not - will not one acknowledge that barely a fraction of mass shootings in the US have been carried out by women, and not a single one on school campuses. White men with guns are the problem. Stop the guns. Or just preemptively lock up white men.

3. Meryl Streep is not a feminist- she is a humanist. She is an idiot. And there ends my love for her.

4. Bon Jovi, despite repeated appeals, will go ahead with his show in Tel Aviv. So there go any feelings for him as well.

5. The ILO has been fucking around with me for days, proposing a work contract, and then taking away the work contract. If the International Labour Organization will not treat potential consultants like they have the right to an opinion who will? (No one. Young, brown, third world consultants have no right to expect any better.)

6. #Joaquin is coming for us on the East Coast- or so I am told. But I have seen enough spurious storm warnings in the United States to know that this could also be nothing. It will rain, and Americans will cry about how infrastructure might fail, and will stockpile food as if the world is coming to an end. Everything is always more potentially apocalyptic here. 

7. It is Gandhi Jayanti. And Modi's face is everywhere. It feels like the cruellest irony. This life is not to be borne. Not today.

As you can tell I am angry. I suppose that is not in the spirit of Gandhi Jayanti either.

Monday, September 28, 2015

I'm reading Nora Ephron and am seized by the desire to live in New York, and be single, in my 20's. My 20's are nearly over, and I am married to a man with whom I live in North Carolina- which is pretty damn far from New York, in every way that seems possible.

The way she speaks of New York, with its charm to residents and difficulties for visitors reminds me of Geneva. When I lived there it was great- visiting it is tiresome. I do not enjoy the high prices of everything, and the lack of belonging. Perhaps this goes for all of Switzerland. It is pretty, but visiting it only makes you feel outside of a perfect bubble of joy and beauty. Which isn't even necessarily true. Switzerland is full of annoying things even for residents, and there are many such bubbles to be found in the world. Perhaps even in North Carolina.

The Farthest Field

I am currently reading The Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War, and am not enjoying it as much as I had hoped. It pains me to say this, but the prose might be too florid for me, I didn't think I would ever say such a thing but my tastes in literature appear to have changed. Too many curlicues, and similes, and flowers. Too much ponderous description. It is starting to feel like too little substance wrapped up in a whole bushel of shiny, complicated bows.

I feel a bit sad because I like war stories, and World War II stories in particular. The author was a couple of years ahead of me in school, so I am predisposed to love his work. And yet I cannot because there is just too much flourishing about, and clever use of words (I do not want to be looking up more than one archaic word per page- this is non-fiction not a Scrabble game). It is tiring.

I believe I shall go and read some Nora Ephron. She is not as evocative about Calicut, or Madras, but that is ok. We will get to the point sooner, and there might be fewer idlis, but there will be greater comprehension.


Monday, September 21, 2015

I don't think Beyonce is that great.
Clearly I am not getting it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


I have a deadline coming up. So have been doing a vast amount of cooking.

In the last few weeks I have made

1. Paneer from scratch, several times
2. Paneer paranthas
3. Quiche with paneer in it, and a base made from scratch
4. Fancy khichdi with many bits and bobs
5. Less fancy khichi
6. Sambarshadam
7. Chow mein like the LSR cafe
8. Lobia
9. Black dal
10. Orange dal
11. Mattar paranthas
12. Aloo paranthas
13. Aloo-gobhi-mattar paranthas
14. Gobhi paranthas
15. Puliyogare
16. Baked french fries
17. Hasselback potatoes
18. Potatoes Dauphinoise
19. Lamb meatballs
20. Chicken meatballs
21. Beef meatballs
22. Cashew celery soup
23. Endless salads. Admittedly J makes most of the salad dressing. But I find all the other bits and bobs to go on.

Of all of this I have only one picture- of the quiche- but here it is. It was better than my photography skills.

Now I am tired. I have run out of things to cook before this paper. Must write the paper in a rush of activity and can then return to my customary sloth.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ab ki baar America yaar

So I find myself moving house one more time. I've not lived all over the world like some of my friends, but I feel like I do a fair bit of shifting house, and this time it is the furthest away from my old house that I have ever moved.

Here is a short list of all the places I have lived, which means all the places I have boxed up my books and clothes for, and unpacked them in.I don't know which is more tiresome. It is possible to procrastinate more about the packing, because you can only last so long without unpacking your undies, and once you've begun you might as well empty the suitcases and hide them till the next time.

1. Home (Blr)
2. Boarding School
3. Home (Blr)
4. Hostel (LSR)
5. Home of kindly granduncle who let me crash at his pad while prepping for finals
6. Home (Blr)
7. Home of a kindly uncle in Dwarka (D.U in it's infinite wisdom had begun classes but not allotted hostel seats)
8. Hostel (DU)
9. Home (Blr)
10. Delhi- Apartment in Alaknanda
11. Home of kindly friend who let me stay even though everything prompted either a rant about men or tears, sometimes both together 
12. Home (Blr)
13. Delhi- Room in N Campus
14. Delhi- Apartment in Jor Bagh
15. Home (Blr)
16. Geneva- Room in student housing
17. Geneva- Flat with 2 Francophones
18. Geneva- Flat with Spanish, Danish and French flatmates
19. Geneva- Flat with Dutch girl, then 2 Italian boys
20. Geneva- Flat with 2 Italians
21. Home (Blr)

22. Home- USA- in less than a week.

How scary, how tiring, how far, how fun. At least this time there will be two of us unpacking.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Summer fun

I just had my first mango of the summer. I look forward to more tomorrow. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

How to keep yourself from being masturbated at by strange men

You may think it is enough to build walls, put up a roof, and live in the house, to keep yourself from being jacked off at by random men. But this is not enough. Should you be lucky enough to have a garden, put a gate around it, make it high, but this will not keep someone from sitting on the road and playing with his penis at you.

You may think that this is not related to you at all; it’s just a man caught at a stray moment on a road that has a decent amount of tree cover on a hot afternoon. This is not true. You know this because he is sitting right outside your gate directing his gaze at the young woman working inside the house, at her desk, doing accounts, The light is on, and you can see her typing. This is obviously highly arousing (perhaps you will want to make this her fault- she was provoking him by poking at her calculator).

But for the last few moments his gaze has been on you, and because you are weighed down by the bottles of detergent and club soda that you carried home from the store on foot, you aren’t really paying attention to his hand rapidly moving up and down. When you notice him pointing his penis towards you unfortunately the instinct is to shriek and run inside. An instinct you have to fight to reach into your bag to hunt for your phone. Should he threaten you, you could run into the house and lock yourself in, but should he overpower you and come into the house with you, there is little you can do.

And then before you know it he does, and he takes off around the corner, leaving you with the unpleasant image of being threatened by some strange dick, and the fear that this situation could escalate to something even more physically threatening.  The police are no help. You did not have the presence of mind to take down a full license plate number, and without this they do not want to interrupt their Sunday afternoon nap. You have the last two digits, but that is not enough.

The men who look after the neighbouring house for some fancy politician type do not care much, they have a camera trained on the road, perhaps they can get me a license plate off the footage, but they seem bereft of all expression when I request the footage.

This has happened before, another man who works on the road tells me. That time this guy hung around for 45 minutes, and frightened a group of young girls returning from school. But no one complained. We do not know if it was the same guy. He was wearing a helmet, so I have at once seen too much, and not enough of him to be able to recognise him.

The police return my call after 30 minutes. If it happens again please let us know. Again we will interrupt our snooze to hear you complain. He didn’t do anything to you right? So why do you care? Let it go madam, we have other things to do.

It seems like there is very little you can really do to keep yourself from being masturbated at without your consent.  Perhaps by next Sunday afternoon, which is really the only time the road is this deserted in daylight hours, I shall buy a gun (look I married an American, it was bound to show eventually). A girl can dream.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Food notes after 2 months in North Carolina

I would have said the South, but the South is big. And Alabama is very different. See- I am assimilating- I am taking on the disdain of a native North Carolinian for her less advanced neighbours.

Here are some assorted notes on the food from here (not comprehensive in the least). Some of it is delicious. Some of it is inscrutable. Most of it is very bad for you. All of it will make you miss a good hit of sour like in a good kadhi, or sambar. It is very much like Punjab here- a purely butter based civilisation. The predominance of vinegar in meat preparations does not count, it leaves an anaemic tang in the mouth that is far from satisfactory.

i) I have been introduced to pork ribs. We ate them dry rubbed St Louis style (which apparently means something specific because every city has a style and they all compete with each other about how much sugar to put in their food- St Louis mercifully puts very little) and they were fantastic. I am now a convert, even though I approach most barbeque with suspicion. I do not think people should get points just because things have been cooked over charcoal. I am from India. This lack of modern equipment does not impress me much.

ii) I have eaten fried chicken. Chickens here have breasts bigger than many humans do- and you have to worry about this, but it is all the same after a good frying. And fried chicken is very good.

iii) When Southerners say sausage what they mean is spiced pork made into a patty of any shape, called a sausage just to cause confusion as there is never any casing to be seen. They eat these frequently, often on a biscuit- also called so to cause confusion with a native English speaker (ha! see what I did there?). Here a biscuit is not a crisp thing to pick up and dip into tea but a fluffy mound of cornmeal, butter and cheese that disappears easily in the mouth, only to appear almost instantly on your electrocardiogram.

iv) Pecan pie. Now as a woman in a bar in the middle-of-nowhere Georgia told me- it is not pe-can like pee-can which is a thing that sits under your bed, but pay-Kahn like the Dominique Strauss. How ever you say it pecan pie is wonderful. Red velvet cake, key lime pie, pound cake, brownies and blondies, something with funfetti because the stuff is everywhere, will also often show up on the same dessert table, but the pecan pie is best.

Now a small note about pound cakes. This is not a sponge cake. It is a plain cake, with flour, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. I have not understood why this cake is so beloved.  My husband and his parents think it to be the height of culinary achievement, and they are not alone in this. Nothing in which you put equal parts sugar, butter and flour can fail if you ask me. Most American baking has so much butter and sugar that it must be very hard to make it taste bad. To me pound cake seems the most boring thing. It is not sublime in texture, it is not a showcase for excellent vanilla like an ice cream can be, it is not a particular test of skill, but it often inspires a devotion that is difficult to comprehend for those of us coming to this food in our adulthood. It will send grown men into raptures, and is more mystery than food.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Things I have watched in the last 2 weeks

The One I Love
I have liked Mark Duplass since I watched Your Sister's Sister some years ago. He's some some great little bits on The Mindy Project. Lovely as he is this movie was a bit annoying. I think they could have taken the main plot device a bit further. This is a quiet film about a dysfunctional marriage between two completely normal, and slightly annoying people- which made me both like it, and be bugged by it.

The Obvious Child
Jenny Slate is fantastic. She shows up every so often on Parks and Recreation, and this film made me want to hug her. I imagine that for many of us the twenty-something broke girl figuring out life in New York thing can get a bit old but this movie was very sweet. As a bonus it also has that guy who showed up in the last few seasons of the Office. And there's an abortion which gets treated completely normally. Which is really nice. 

This movie had one scene where the American hero is doing an Indian voice to the Indian heroine, and she's being Texan back at him, which is, unfortunately, what conversations with my American husband sometimes devolve into. It is unavoidable. He cannot get over the headshaking, and I cannot get over the ridiculous English. This movie had some really funny bits, without anything terribly special to recommend it.

Shuddh Desi Romance
This was so much fun. Parineeti Chopra is one to watch, and all four characters here were perfect. This was the second movie in as many weeks that talked about abortion without making it seem like some terribly tragedy, and I liked that a lot. Also this movie got so many little details right about living alone as a girl in a barsaati. The washing of clothes in plastic buckets, and the importance of cupboard space. I look forward to watching this again.

Not enough food. Terrible songs. Wonderful t shirts, and moustaches. 

The Fall
I hope there is a third season. I binge-watched this over a weekend when sick, and was terribly sad when it finished. Jamie Dornan is so much better than this 50 Shades nonsense will make him appear to be. Gillian Anderson is luminous, and so so good in this series about a detective and a serial killer.

This year SeaWorld declared bankruptcy and I have been wanting to see this documentary, about their mistreatment of killer whales, for a while. It was terribly written. The script seemed to be more interested in letting former SeaWorld employees apologise for their negligence. They explained over and over how they had not known that this might be a difficult environment for these massive whales. J and I watched it in parts, and were depressed after every segment.
So this one SeaWorld employee was killed by a whale and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which sounds very much like a union to me, got involved in the investigation, eventually leading to trainers being banned from working, as well as a bill in California against the use of orcas in parks. I saw the situation, and the documentary as being about a victory for union action, which gets a lot of crap in the US. I am tired of hearing about how unions destroy things instead of protect people. It was good to see a documentary that essentially said if these people hadn't gone to court no one, including apparently handlers who worked with these animals all day every day, would have known how terrible working conditions for people, and living conditions for the orcas were. It was terribly written, but I am glad to have watched it. 

Mean Girls
I liked this. Hadn't seen this before. How lovely Lindsay Lohan was. How lovely Lizzy Caplan is, and how eagerly I await the next season of Masters of Sex. I'm not sure I'm on the Tina Fey bandwagon but I was so happy to see Amy Poehler. Please follow the link for only the best version of We Didn't Start the Fire.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thai Villa

J and I like Thai food. Or rather J likes Thai food, I dream about it on a near daily basis and love it beyond all reason. One particular lemon fish that I ate as a 13 year old in Banglampoo before the mall burnt down and had to be rebuilt will forever be my most perfect fish.

I am in the process of moving to North Carolina and we have not discovered our go-to Thai restaurant yet. We have this kind of pan-Asian fusion restaurant around the corner, Tasu, and the food is a lot better than that shady description makes it sound. It is not identifiably Chinese, or Thai or Vietnamese, but their wonton soup is a thing of wonder, and everything they send out is delicious. I love it, but it is not where I would go if I wanted Thai food.

So we decided to try something new, and ventured into Thai Villa, in Cary. Only 3 tables were occupied, which is not the best sign, but it's kind of hidden away in one corner of a strip mall, so we shrugged that off. Big mistake. On entry the place looked promising. There wasn't a single tv, which has been my major grouse about most American restaurants- why must people always be watching sports? Even when out to dinner? And why do you need a 5 screens per room to watch them on? Anyhow. The lack of screens and the friendly service were a good start. But it was all boiled socks from there.

J ordered the Chicken Tom Yum Soup and Rainforest Curry with chicken. I ordered Glass Noodle Vegetable Rolls and Kapow Chicken (chicken with basil, red chilli paste and green peppers). The soup looked and tasted as if it came from a Knorr soup cube that hadn't even been brought to the boil. The chicken smelt bad. I would find that all the chicken they served that evening was really really smelly. The vegetable roll was a small limp thing with little to recommend it. Both the chicken main courses had the flavour of nothing so much as the boiled socks of a teenage boy.

The chicken was rank, but even worse was the criminal way in which they dealt with the curries. We decided not to stay, and that's never happened before. Neither of us has left a table at a restaurant after just a few bites convinced that the meal is beyond saving.

I've been to Thailand several times, and I don't expect the food to taste like on the streets of Bangkok. It is really painful though to encounter something so rank that calling it Thai would be insulting to the cuisine, and calling it food would be an unfortunate mistake.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I keep falling asleep in different parts of the house over this horrible document that needs editing. The dog is tired of being startled awake whenever J comes upon us. J is tired of having to wake me up so that I can get this done and we can have our life of leisure and poverty back. I am tired of falling asleep in the cold and waking up covered in dog hair while being told off by an irate American.

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year Resolutions

I am new and proud owner of a Fitbit. A little pedometer thing which counts my steps and has a flower that grows as I get closer to 10,000 each day. This means that I might occasionally be found running up and down the stairs shortly before midnight, when the clever thing resets itself to count again from 0, to try and make up the numbers for the day.

The other day I was walking Higgs; I saw him scampering about the place, running and up and down busily smelling things, going about his doggy detective work, when I thought- Higgs must do 10,000 steps a day. He runs a lot. And he has four legs. If I had four legs I would do 10,000 steps in no time at all.

This entire post is just an excuse to put up a picture of this face.