Friday, January 29, 2010

Chasing 'Post' Stress Blues Away

I am in 'Post Stress'. Don't ask Post what?...I mean blog post...Nothing works...even thinking of this as my personal scratchpad to scratch my lingering writer's itch isn't working.
My reading backlog is a larger mountain than my laundry . And this is despite being part of the privileged class among the student masses with a washing machine and a dryer installed in my kitchen. I wake up everyday with new resolutions and then I veer off into facebook and other trivial pursuits..and then as the sun goes down, I resolve for a better tomorrow..
Moral of the paragraph: Lazy moves the ass that has the means...( Psst...I just made that up....Academic pursuits have a way of catching up on your literary skills...Nothing sounds grand anymore unless it's perfectly vague)
So there I am, staring out of my window, where the green meadows and the cows chomping on the grass no more motivate me to sing a little song and write a note back here..In fact, there seems to be a flu in the air...the 'missing home' about two months, the next set of breaks will grace my student calendar...But twoooooo months is a looooong time away... Meanwhile I have no inspiration for a blogpost...I'm what you call partially broke, so traipsing off to Brighton needs to be done with a little more care...The money that's to pay for food and other expenses might just be indulged on some fripperies...There's always a justification...Like my grand aunt used to joke - Even when you lie dead, you must look beautifully dead!! ( It sounds guffawable in malayalam..not so much in English..but I hope I still communicated the context of the joke!!) The moans and the rants can continue...But yesterday, I discovered a 'Pakoda therapy'.... Get your best buddy on chat....and rave about your favourite snack that you miss...Well for me, its the really unhealthy but supremely tasty pakodas....bhajiyas or whatchumacallits...I could bet the last two pence coin in my wallet right now, that two minutes of 'How I miss dunking them in chutney and gobbling it up' will whip both of you into a frenzy, that you might just rush off into the kitchen to whip up a batch... Unlike Mumbai, where you just need to step out of the house to the nearest market to find someone - the vadapaowalac - actually frying up a crunchy fresh batch to be had with cutting chai, here in Brighton, you go down to the kitchen and roll up your sleeves to whip it up yourself...
So I turned myself into an episode of Nigella Express - got out all the ingredients that I have always kept for this very day...
Ok, here's a quick recipe if your mouth is watering too...Cut up some cauliflower, capsicums or any veggies you fancy - it could be onions and potatoes also..mix them up thoroughly with a wee bit of salt....Now get the main ingredient out - gram flour...mix some chilly powder and a pinch of asafoetida into it and beat it into a smooth batter with water...dunk the veggies into this batter and scoop it out with a spoon and slam dunk into oil...Now the Indian way of doing it right is deep frying till crisp brown...I'm too conscientious - so I shallow fry it..But it doesn't taste as gloriously sinful this way....
So once you have a bowlful of pakodas - get back on the then your friend in Mumbai or any part of the world for that matter- too should have finished frying her batch...Switch skype on, and gossip half an hour while munching on pakodas....Bonding like you never known before can happen..and the 'missing home' flu can be successfully kicked out!! The truth is the last part didn't work out the way it had been theorised...My friend did whip up a batch with onions and coriander, but we couldn't chat as we wanted to..Instead we mailed each other....So I'm still partially blue, with the pakodas doing a happy oily dance in my stomach... Atleast the stomach does not feel the distance that the heart does...Someone within me is happy..innit??

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Happy Deja Vu - Packed like Sardines!!

Exams!! Can you imagine having to take a 3.5 hour long one after years of writing little more than scrawling your name across a paper or occasionally taking copious notes at a 15 minute press conference? Well, that's the reason for the lull in my 'post'-production - that's a cheap tribute by the way, to my erstwhile specialisation in broadcast journalism and video production!! So now, that my travels through the countryside have wound up, did you think I gave up travelling for good? The snowfall did keep me in Brighton for longer than I thought..and then the exam and submissions... But this week, I went back to London... The visit was prompted by the arrival of a close friend from India...But this visit of mine once again reminded me of the bustling metropolis I left behind.... On a Saturday, try getting into a tube on any line of the London Underground. If you want to grind out your misery, try the Northern Line - ('s said to be the oldest line on the map, and does it act out its age or what!!). Well, it's most often truncated in fits and bursts between weird and funny sounding stations like Angel and Mornington Crescent - and for those who have to make a journey there, guess what the London Rail people say under their breath of course as they make repeated announcements over the public announcement system " Well tough luck, try the bus stops, they are quite close to the exits of the station. You will get to your destination - eventually.." I had to make my way to Old Street from Victoria...two different lines...and trying to move from one to the other is like trying to march to two different tunes alternately... Hmm...for those who don't know London it's kind of difficult to understand what I mean...See from Victoria which is on Victoria line, you need to swap at some point to the Northern Line and if you don't decide your stop right ( Psst.....again...I never get it right automatically!) you might just have to hop out and get on another train, coz the line forks into two and there is no knowing which line you stumbled into...they all meet up at some station though!! Ok, here's a map just to give you an idea...Mind you, the intention is not to confuse you, so just look at the different colours..that's how many lines can be possibly hoped...Mumbaikars aren't you thankful there are just three lines to worry about in our constantly abused but misused system??? So some back-ing and fro-thing ( well, literally so that I'm not accused of resorting to Indian stretchable time!) I make it.... Now the truth is I tried to find an Indian equivalent...say like having to go to Charni Road in Mumbai from maybe Vashi in Navi Mumbai...Hop lines and all that jazz?? But frankly, I'd do the London's better explained and the surge of humanity is more polite and does not shove...though the surge of humanity on a Saturday evening is no less than Mumbai peak time.. And considering that I'm just of proud Indian-standard height which is nothing to write home about...a measly 5 feet 3 struggling inches, here I was standing in the crook of someone's armpit looking through the enlarged nasal passage of yet another one, trying to rescue my butt from something poking out of the 'lady behind me's shopping bag....and that's when it hit me....Deja Vu!!!! How many times have I done this merging my self into the faceless population on a train journey in Mumbai?? Well, lost count...and here was my count register in the United Kingdom beginning with a similar experience...With one big difference...In India, I can suss out train stations with my eyes closed...gut instinct and then the distinct smell of different localities - like the smell of glucose biscuits as you cross towards Vile Parle and the distinct 'only Kurla muck special' on Central Line...But here in London, I crane to catch a glimpse of the little flashing messages of which stations approach, even as my ears try to pick out the announcements over the din... The new Mumbai local trains have installed an audio-visual system for announcing stops...I never appreciated it then...I do now...Miss the train journey from Andheri to Lower Parel...and the occasional traipse through South Mumbai to Nariman Point... How many would walk out of an extremely crowded train after some difficulty wriggling out at the stop before the doors closed? I'm thinking not many British...but one Indian was... Made me feel just at home.....London tubes have begun giving me happy Deja Vus....especially when you travel packed like Sardines...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Travels through the English Countryside - Part 3

There's a big smile on my face as I write this, because my exam scheduled on Wednesday has just been postponed. In fact, it took quite a number of 'mediated conference calls' with the weather gods for them to make climate in Brighton chilly enough for the University to reschedule exams. They were worried we- the procrastinators - would freeze to death in the under-heated exam hall and more importantly, many of the earlier stated category who waited for the last possible day to return from their breaks, are still stranded in airports across the world..Wonder when Britain will gear up for the snow? So with these thoughts let me take you on the last leg of my journey through the English countryside. So where were we? Yeah, on the way to Dewsbury near Leeds..on Xmas eve...the landscape was totally frozen and the National Express Bus I boarded from Leicester St.Margaret's Station filled with many brown faces...By now, I'm used to this Asianisation of England...So there I was back to the book - each leg of travel was as eagerly awaited as the arrival at the destination... Now Dewsbury is a quaint little town nestled some half hour away from Leeds...So if you are taking a train, Leeds is the easiest point for you. Another Asian dominated hub, with the Yorkshire twang so pronounced that for a week after my return, i was 'u'ing my o' do I explain that? Think Geoffrey Boycott...yeah, that's a good example of Yorkshire in action!! And another round of graciously overwhelming Indian hosting ensued...This time, by a hardcore career woman turned housewife, who had taken the task to be Super Mom very very seriously...So there she was juggling roles of SuperMooom with being Gracious Host and holding all the balls in the air without dropping it even once!! So on Xmas Day, she entertained 'three' kids - 2 little girls and one kid-at-heart, thoroughly as the British take closing everything down completely - very very seriously...Nothing moves anywhere in the UK - perhaps they preparing for the massive outpouring of mankind into every possible shop and outlet the next day...26th, the Boxing Day...for the SALE...everything that can be tagged is normally on SALE...and I think many wait for Boxing Day to shop for the year ahead...Or so I heard...But my interest in Boxing Day was less for the sale and more for the chance to head to York.... All we could do was a drive through this really really ancient town...but what the heck...when you have the British History concisely reduced to about 600 pages in your hand - even old York shutting down its museums and the York Minster for the holidays, can't dampen the spirits... The first mention of York in the book is about 495 AD when the Saxons came pillaging...'and the sheer weight of numbers of these pagan warriors overwhelmed the indigenous Britons'. Walking around York looking at stones, that have seen centuries of history - bloodshed - there's a chronicling of killing of Jewish moneylenders by English kings, and further uprisings in the book....English kings were such sadists, cruel and debauched..and then there is the meddling of religion in governance... And if the Archbishop of Canterbury is the biggest Christian voice for the Anglicans, then Archbishop of York is as big a person....Maybe a shade his junior, like the CEO and COO of Anglican England, I think....Well, the latest one, apparently is a huge personality, literally too...And that's where he lives...The Bishopthorpe castle. These Anglican head priests, I tell you - being the God's messengers come with some pretty good perks, dont you agree? Well, like my book tells me, the 'thorpe' in the Bishopthorpe suggests a Viking influence...and that means that predates the Normans and the Saxons also... Someday, I'd like to go back and get acquainted with each building personally. That will be good fun, perhaps in the summer this time. The euphoria of seeing a white white countryside is slowly fading as I see Britain come to a complete standstill in the worst winter it has experienced in decades. Let me leave the York tale incomplete for now....and move another quaint little blip on the English Map....from Dewsbury to Uttoxeter...that falls just outside Derby - in Staffordshire. By far, the prettiest countryside to drive through. They say, anywhere you drive through in England, the countryside is alluring. But the drive to Derby or even Birmingham..the nearest big cities will ensure that by the time you reach there, you have a beautiful smile on your face. I guess, the wattage of mine was increased by the spotting of a rainbow, that stretched teasingly before me. I would have liked going to hunt for the pot of gold at the end of it...but we had a movie date in Birmingham...Can you see one end of the rainbow in this picture? Look hard and to the mid portion of the photograph and you should be able to spot it too!!! Ooh, just the last thing...snippet, trivia - whatchumaycallit....Watching a Hindi movie in a multiplex in Birmingham is like being transported to a theatre in Punjab - the ambience, the smells, even the conversations are so authentically 'recreated', I had to pinch myself a couple of times to remind myself that this was England and not India.. I think I shall leave this travellogue unfinished here....Somewhere, this chapter feels half baked...But like a painting that was kept out to dry for too long, somehow it feels like the meat dried up with the juices..Someday, I might dust out some other memories of this trip and let it surface somewhere else...For now, apologies for an incomplete blog...and keep reading!!!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Travels through the English Countryside - Part 2

Its snowing again in Brighton. The forecast is for heavy snowfall through the next couple of days. So like the last time when our little University in Falmer had become Falmer Island to my Robinson Crusoe, it looks like a re-run is on the cards. That being so, we shall continue our journey... So where was I? Yes, on the Midlands train to Nottingham, looking at a snow-white countryside, whizzing past me..Since this was not the original train that I had a reservation on, I was theoretically a squatter...sitting on someone else's seat, hoping that he had some crazy adventures of his own like me, so that he could miss his train, and I could keep the seat... ( pssst...that pic is not mine...but the train was just like this one, maybe the same leads you to where I found it from) No such luck comes my way.... Just as I opened my history textbook for the journey -An Utterly Impartial History of Britain or 2000 years of Upper Class idiots in charge - when a little dandy young man, walked upto me...and I knew exactly what was to pop out of his mouth... So even before he could say I of 'I believe you are on my seat', I did my good Indian girl act - nodded my head up and down, put out my right hand to signal 'please to be waiting, sir' and then began collecting my assorted scattered belongings...On the left hand was my coat weighing half a ton, the overnighter, my muffler and pair of gloves, the right heaved my heavy back pack onto my slender right shoulder and then I had to do a little Indian maneouvre to balance the roughly 600 pages book, in the crook of my arm.....The little dandy just stood there, not even asking for politeness' sake if he can help me with something...hmphhhhh...such is life...chivalry lies long dead and unceremoniously buried in some frigid corner of the countryside I'm travelling through... As you would have it, the train was packed...So I had to traipse through another long compartment, my poise and sophistication all blasted to shreds by my mountain of possessions, as I waddled through the narrow space...But find a seat, I did...ended up in a very inelegant heap, opposite a very OTT PDA couple ( to be read as over the top, mooching each other's head off). The girl sitting beside me, was lost in her own little world, keeping beats with some music I couldnt identify wafting through her headset...And there I was...sufficiently confident, that no one would disturb me now, I opened my book yet again.... Soon enough I was laughing my head the Englishmen to raise a joke at themselves....I'm sure if there was an Anglo-Saxon supremacist anywhere in the vicinity, I would have ended up as the target...Here I was prominently displaying the book that mockingly told centuries of English history and laughing in snorts at the description....You would too, if you were me... Here's a quick para just so that you get the drift...: Henry I: A Very Fertile King As a mere Prince, Henry had made great efforts to build bridges with the marginalised English nobility. He slept with no end of English women; his self-sacrifice in the cause of Anglo-Norman unity knew no limits. When one dispossessed English lady came to him in poverty after her husband died in prison, Henry went out of his way to help her. The first child was born nine months later. Contemporary commentators, generally monks sworn to celibacy jealously describe Henry's antics as 'chasing after whores' or 'brainlessly rutting like a mule'. Except that mules are generally sterile while Henry most definitely was not. So there, now you see, why the journey was going so well? Well, it would have gone even better if the train didnt grind to a halt at this station called Kettering on route to Leicester..guess why? Because there was a fire alarm and the driver had to rush to check out the cause of the reported fire. Well, I never got to hear about the driver's adventure, as for my arrival in Leicester was delayed by another 45 minutes... But I got there all right, and for the next two days, all I did was eat, eat and eat some more. There's something to be said for the famed Indian hospitality in a foreign country. They are so deprived for house guests, unlike back home, where the news of another round of relatives coming for a 'friendly visit' is normally treated with 'Oh No's, 'But why, she just visited two years ago', 'Why does she have to visit us always' and the likes. But here, a guest is made to feel like royalty...seriously...So every five minutes you are asked, if you want another round of tea or coffee, if you want snacks about ten minutes after the breakfast dishes were cleared...I'm sure you get what I'm getting at... So overwhelmed was I with the treatment that I started rolling out my wishlist...The first on it, since the host was a red-chillies-in-the-bloodstream garu from Andhra Pradesh, I asked for the Pesarattu.....Now, that's something only someone who has stayed in AP can truly appreciate...A hot hot pesarattu with chutney and a fiery Andhra tomato chutney - its something that makes you feel like you died, went to heaven and then were told that for your good behaviour down below, you have been allotted the master suite..that was just the beginning...the demands rolled and my lovely hosts played the genies in my bottle to the hilt...So much so that, most of what I saw of Leicester can be coded as 'during the drive before Pesarattu breakfast', ' post the tea and divine angel cake break' etc etc.... But, I'd be really not doing Leicester justice if I didn't mention that one thing that will strike anyone as soon as you reach Leicester is the brown-ness of skin here...Even the whites, far outnumbered in their county, looked far browner than their Southern cousins. Every second shop was Indian, and even shop windows seemed plucked straight out of some Indian suburbia...the only thing not at all subcontinental is Leicester's climate. The temperature according to the clock tower at Leicester Mercury - the local newspaper- showed -1 degrees for most of my stay there. So after two days of belly bloating escapades, it was time for the next stage of my journey. By the National Express bus - from Leicester to a sleepy little town called Dewsbury, in Yorkshire. We got to the bus station well on time...But some happy 'Leicester I was here' photosession later, I realised that I had only one black glove dangling from my hands. ( Pssst...look at the two pictures carefully, one with a black glove dangling, by the next one, one hand is bare.. you can deduce where I would have lost the glove) All my interest in catching the bus fled. I couldn't have the blot of losing another glove to add to my list, could I? So even as I set out, my chivalrous host promised to do the hunting for me, so that I don't miss the arrival of the bus...The bus arrived and simultaneously I saw him walk up with that naughty little black rag that dared escape my grip, dangling in his hand.... So at the end of this story...time for some additions to the checklist: One black glove: Lost and recovered Another silver earring: (From the same left ear, different from the earlier one): Lost and later retrieved ( That's why it didn't get its own paragraph...was a fizzled out adventure) Next episode:Dewsbury and good old York visited...That meant travelling from Midlands towards the North of England...through a quaint snow-covered countryside on Xmas eve.....

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Travels through the English Countryside - Part 1

I wanted to begin this serialised version yesterday, but you know how things thing led to the other, and as usual on the New Year's Day...newly made resolutions got broken... So here I am on Day 2 of 2010, raring to tell you about the last two weeks of December that whizzzzed past...and Im not exaggerating... So where do I begin... Ok on the 22nd morning...after a night spent in restless anticipation of the day ahead, calculating what all can go wrong, how many things can I goof up.....I woke up to darkness, the sun was slumbering...the snow looked like the ugly mottled cousin of the pretty princess I eulogised in my previous posts...and I knew one step this way or that on the slippery ice, I'd be patting a very bruised ass for a long time.. So with a backpack and an overnighter ( I try to pack pretty light!) and my book for the journey in hand, I set out... My clumsiness is worth an entry into the annals of the Clunks...and soon enough I went skidding across the snow, but landed in a neat graceful kneel....And there began my adventure... Didn't want to get late to catch the train from Falmer to Brighton - I have already once witnessed my train leaving without me to Brighton as I dragged my bulk into the station..So I hurried and I reached there twenty minutes before the train...and just as I was feeling incredibly proud of myself came moment number 2 of my grand adventure... Out came my battered and bruised mobile out of my coat pocket, had a disagreement with my slippery glove and pop it went...out of my hand, on to the bounce, two bounce and then the third...right on to the tracks...With my mouth in a perfect O, I stood there for half a minute, unable to believe I just did that... In that thirty seconds, I had a swift debate in my head, whether to abandon my mobile there, for unlike in India where jumping on to the tracks is second nature for, such foolhardiness isnt exactly applauded...but then all my contacts...the sobering thought that if i lose this phone, my student poverty could force me to go without one for a long time...But what clinched the deal was that it doubles as a good camera too... Thirty seconds later, a pip squeak emerged from my throat....Helppppppppp....At 7 in the morning, at a sleepy station like Falmer, trust me, there is not even the odd dog to look at you sympathetically...So abandoning bag and baggage, I rushed across the overbridge to the ticket window...and soon enough the English Samaritan followed me with a rubbish pick to help retrieve my battered phone...Now with me around, do you think adventure ends there? Just as we reached the doors of the station, I heard a train whizz through the tracks where my poor mobile had plopped itself..... I closed my eyes tight shut and hoped that I wouldnt see a mutilated handset...With a laugh at my theatrics, my Samaritan trudged forth..What did he care about seeing a mangled phone corpse? But by the time we crossed the overbridge, a little flutter of hope heaved in my fragments could be spotted on the track...we moved closer and there it little companion of two years..fallen on its display screen belly in the snow collected on the tracks.. In another thirty seconds, it was back in my ungloved hands...I didnt want to take a chance now, did I? And in less than a minute after that, arrived my train for Brighton... Now you'd think that's all there was to the journey....My first leg of the journey was from Falmer to Brighton- London Victoria. Take the Underground to St.Pancras and then proceed to the Midlands Train departure and board a train for Leicester... Brighton - London Victoria journey : No Mishaps to report...but yes, the driver of my train could just not find parking space at the station...So we waited 15 minutes outside the station... Ahhhh...I know you are thinking so why is an Indian used to stretchable time cribbing? Well, because that 15 minutes cost me my connecting train to Leicester... There I was with steam literally coming out of my nostrils as I hurried through the Underground and across a very crowded King's Cross station to the St.Pancras departure area....only to see that my train promptly left on the time it had decided without waiting for me... The next train was to Nottingham and the ticket checker at the entry wanted me to give him one good reason why he should allow me to take that train and not have me buy a new ticket....I put my 'innocent little I dont know what to do look' on and said, 'Coz it wasnt my fault that there were no parking slots at Victoria station for my train from Brighton'..I don't think my reply pleased him much, but he told me he'd stamp my ticket if I gave him a cheery Christmas smile... The ticket punched and on board the Nottingham train to Leicester, I finally allowed myself a smile... And as the train went past a frozen English countryside, I figured, what's Life without a little adventure....With the smile still on my face, I touched my left ear...and the smile promptly vanished.....the lovely silver earring I had hooked into place there : missing!!! Checklist: Trains Missed: 1 Mobile Lost and Retrieved: 1 Wait for Part 2: In Leicester and onward to Dewsbury in Yorkshire..

Friday, January 01, 2010


I want this new decade to be all that the old decade was not... New beginnings, new wishes, new promises, new resolutions.. But I want some things old too Old friends, old memories, old comforts, old assurances The new boxes of life will merge with the old.. And somewhere tag themselves in my nostalgia.... You will be there my fellow traveller in this journey... Whichever way you choose to take at the crossroads I promise to return from my journey and meet you by the turnstile.... A promise for the New Year... A promise I make...