Ralf Hart and all that jazz!

10 a.m. sharp, I switched on my desktop to start work. I soon remembered something I needed from my laptop so I switched on my laptop as well, to make the transfer. Whilst the computers booted, I went into the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. When I got back to my desk, my laptop had already spent 35 % of its battery. And that, right there, triggered a sweet stream of consciousness.

Six months ago, I was sitting at Departures, Delhi airport listening to Mikali’s Il Faut Du Temps Au Temps from the soundtrack of ‘A Good Year’ on repeat and trying to figure out a way to pass the time. Reluctantly, I switched on my laptop. I say ‘reluctantly’ because I knew the old, aging battery of my dear comfort computer wouldn’t last too long and ergo wouldn’t really help me pass the time. However, I still tried my luck and wrote a quick half-pager before the battery warning started blinking cantankerously.

Brilliant, my comfort computer had stayed with me for exactly 20 minutes. I put it back in my bag, folded my legs and began to look around. Within seconds, I found him!

He was sitting, hidden in one corner of the waiting lounge bent on some sort of gadget the size of an ipad but it couldn’t have been an ipad, could it? Were they in the market then? His hair fell on his face tenderly. He was dressed in shades of brown from head to toe – He was Ralf Hart!

Yes, ‘the’ Ralf Hart of ‘Eleven Minutes’ or ‘Onze Minutos’, Maria’s boyfriend and one of my favourite protagonists ever! The way he looked, he seemed to be the man, the artist who has just met Maria or is about to, as opposed to the boyfriend/husband in the end or beyond of the book.

And, no, I wasn’t attracted to him. That should have been my natural reaction but I wanted nothing to do with him. Yet, I was ensnared and unable to stop staring, albeit discreetly. And, he sat there unaffected by the viscosity of the airport, its acerbic friendliness; somehow shielded because after all – he was fictional, or was he?

A little later, he walked off into the crowds and I physically felt his charm being recanted. Soon, it was time to board.

As soon as I was comfortably set in my aisle seat, I saw him again and instantly my heart was in my mouth. I didn’t want him to sit close to me, not even, where I could see him. I wouldn’t have been able to relax or breathe easily through the 8-hour flight. And, I needed to.

As I hyperventilated obsequiously, he walked right past me and sat somewhere in the back and thankfully I was able to sleep through the flight.

As soon as we landed and I was off the plane, I saw him again; he was walking a little ahead of me. Groggy yet reverent, I tried to match his step. It felt like we were both walking in beat with Makali’s song. He was as surreal as he could possibly be, self-assured and as close to perfection … my mind was racing now trying to keep up with my heart that was saying that Maria was there at the exit, waiting to greet him, and if I just dextrously followed him I’d see her too. I was almost dizzy at the thought … 

The next second a hand stopped me in my way.
‘Do you know where you are headed Madam?’ a man’s polite voice said.
I looked at him and said, ‘Yes’ confidently and curtly.
‘May I look at your ticket please’ he asked and I showed him.
‘That’ he said pointing in the direction of where Ralf was headed ‘is the exit. You should be heading back that way to connections. Your next flight departs from terminal 3.’
I looked at him stunned, and then looked back at Ralf’s fading figure. In my heart, I bid him and Maria farewell.

Just then, I remembered I needed a notepad from my room. Whilst looking for it, I found this notebook of mine. I haven’t opened it in a while. I wonder why! I use it or rather used it until 4 months ago, to scribble ideas with the intent of coming back to them, to draw inspiration or some such floozy thing. But I never really come back to it.

I opened the notebook to a page with little bits of paper that I had been drawing

and writing on whilst on a train journey from France to Italy.

“… from the train - fields of rubies, gold, emeralds, and topaz canopied by possessive, dramatic skies. Is it pathetic that I am analogising these beautiful artworks of nature with precious stones? Perhaps! Perhaps not – the intent isn’t to capitalize nature … it is to say that nature is equally precious, if not more.

Beautiful midget houses. I want a midget house. I see a unicorn. I must have done something right. Forts, rivers, lakes and cemeteries.

Pampelonne - Carmaux - Toulouse - Narbonne - Montpellier - Lyon - Geneva - Roma”
I think we had just reached Montpellier.

Somewhere near Geneva that night, amidst confused rail tickets, towns looking deserted at 8:30 p.m., taxi drivers who refused to drive one anywhere and upon much begging mercifully drove one to the train station whilst giving one a tour of lake Geneva etc., wonderfully helpful fellow passengers, and a ridiculous number of traffic signals; somewhere amidst all that I lost myself in a thirteen minute time warp and missed my train to Roma. So, in my notebook the next 8 – 10 pages are blank. I wonder if I left them blank hoping that I’d go back!



My Aeshu!

Just wanted to share this with you quickly: 

My lovely friend Aeshna Roy is the Editor & Chief Designer at Hay House India and sometimes my very own personal editor who cleans up my messy stories gratis. She is also one of my favourite people on this planet and my personal fairy tale - recently her boyfriend of four years asked her to marry him in the most romantic way possible.

So, today Aeshna saw me struggling with my blog template - I've been experimenting a lot with it, as you can see ... And , very sweetly asked me what my favourite things were and I listed them out for her without asking why *frandship mein no qoschuns asked ;)* ... And 15 minutes later she sends me an image she's created with my favourite things, for me to use as a background image. 

Unfortunately, I don't know how I can use this image as the background image for my blog, so ... for now I've used it on my twitter page :) have a look. And in case you want Aeshna to design something for you, let me know, I will put in a good word for you ;)



from the diary of a chef

i wrote this one sometime ago but posting it now ... 

I’ve been sending desperate tweets all weeks saying ‘I need to be physically detached from the computer’ but no one really paid much attention or came to my rescue. So, today I decided to take matters into my own hands, and at about 4 pm I switched my computer off. I am almost certain my heart skipped a couple of beats when I did but the ever growing bulges that used to be my eyes once, seemed to be desperate to get away.

I tried watching television for a while … like about six minutes, and then got really bored.

Then I tried to take a siesta (yes, some people do still do that kind of stuff) … and I slept for exactly 20 minutes. After my power nap I didn’t know what to do with myself. So, I just sat there … contemplating. After about 4 minutes 30 seconds my father’s voice started ringing in my head, "considering you’re not doing much these days why don’t you help out your mother, in the kitchen or something" … like, what does he think I do on the computer all day. Anyway, considering I want to ask him to buy me something, I decided to try …

So, I picked up the phone and ordered some raw chicken. It went something like this -
Butcher: Haaalo!
Me: Hello bhaiiiyaaa? One kilo chicken chaiye hai! (I want a kilogram of chicken)
Butcher: Hain? One Killo?
Me: Haan!
Butcher: One chicken matbal. (You mean you want one chicken)
Me: Tut! Haa-an wohee! (Yeah! Same difference)

So then, half an hour later he sent the chicken over. And I really didn’t know what to do with it … So I called up Sim for a recipe. Sim gave me her mum’s Lemon Pepper Chicken Recipe, which goes something like this … for all you copy-kitties! :P

Lemon Pepper Chicken, from Meeta Aunty’s Kitchen
(I don’t have an ear for detail, so the proportions might not be exactly the same but it turned out all right)

Take one chicken. Wash it.
You could hold your nose with a clip.

Take 2 – 3 cloves of pulped garlic. Like you could pulp it or buy packet-ed pulp.
My family really likes their garlic, which proves that we are not vampires, so I used like 2 tsp of packet-ed pulp since I was too lazy to pulp the cloves. I like the word pulp, didja notice, didja? Pulp! If you don’t want to smell of garlic for two days after consuming the dish, you should use a little less, one or one.five maybe!?!

Take one or one.five tsp of whole black pepper and grind it.
Better flavour than pre-grounded ?!

Now, make cuts on the chicken pieces.
Don’t imagine that blood is going to ooze out of them, or you won’t be able to do it. Blood is not going to ooze out of them! Seriously!

Mix the garlic Pulp (pulp) and the pepper, and squeeze half a lemon into it. And then smear it on the chicken pieces, and let the chicken marry-nate for about 20-30 minutes.
It feels like you’re playing Holi with someone who is podgy. Chicken-marry-Nate!

When the chicken has marry-nate-d, eat it!

Haha! Gottya there. Don’t worry Meeta Aunty isn’t cruel :P

Take a pot, a medium sized one and put some cooking oil (about two to two.five tsp) and some butter (about ye high … like what you’d put on your parantha if you’re Punjabi a.k.a two tsp)
Umm! Give me some tummy lovin’!

When the butter melts, add the chicken, and cook until it changes colour. And looks like so …

Then cover the pot, and let it simmer until it’s cooked a bit.
How would you know if its cooked? Just ask your mum, like I did. 



Oh no!

This is a photo of mine that was published by FLOP Magazine in their Oct 2009 issue. I found out about it whilst I was away from home on a Eurotrip for a couple of months and the news (that the photo was being published) made me very happy back then ... it had something to do with being alone at that point and hearing some really good news, which made me feel a thousand times better ...

I am posting it on my blog today because I just found out that the magazine is shutting down ... I am very, very sad to hear that considering this magazine has been my utopia for almost a year now. So, all my friends who see this post, please visit http://www.flopmagazine.com/ (or click on the title of this post to be directed to the magazine website) any time this month and pay your homage - April end FLOP will do their last issue ... *sniffles*



Meeting Manolo Valdés!

It was a winter morning but the temperature wasn’t too low, and the sun was kind. I was sitting in the common room of my hostel where I was staying for a few days, feeling freshly infused with a special kind of Sunday languor by the angel of indolence, snug on an overtly cushy pink and green sofa chair. I had made this common room home; since I shared my room with 3 other travellers - I was living in a dorm (the horror!!!).

Away from the quagmire of shared rooms, bathrooms, and loo(s), this room felt ‘a lot like home’ with its Television set placed on top of a warmth-inducing dilapidated wooden book rack that hosted lengthy volumes of the lonely planet guides to all parts of the world amongst other books left behind by weight-shedding backpackers. Right in front of the TV was a worse for wear centre table with a tiny potted plant on top of it, which was probably the only ‘young thing’ in the room. The other three walls supported three antique looking wooden and jute sofas. Close to the balcony door was the nebulous sun-hatched spot with a sofa chair … ‘my sofa chair’ that I dashed towards each time I entered the hostel and to my delight, found empty each time I did. The warmth of the sun here, in this chair, made me feel connected to something universal. I could be anywhere in the world, and given a sofa and a spot in the sun ‘like so’, I would be home! 

15 minutes into my weekend reverie, my drooping eyelids were wheedled into attention by a friendly voice from across the street. In the balcony right across the hostel’s, was a young boy of about 18, yelling ‘Hola chica!’ 

It took me a few seconds to wrap my head around the intrusion and reply, 

‘Hola, que tal?’, (Hello, how are you?).
‘Muy bien, y tu’ (Very good, and you), the boy said.
‘Bien, bien’ I replied.

 He then started off with a cheery rant in rapid Spanish and I had to intrude at some point with,

‘No entiendo’ (I don’t understand).
He grinned and said, ‘Hablas poquito Español eh?’ (You speak little Spanish, eh), to which I said ‘Si, Si’. 

A big smile and a wave goodbye later, I got out of the chair and left the common room, it didn’t feel private enough any more. The boy was sweet and well-intentioned but the recluse in me wanted to set out in search of better obscurity. 

So, I went to my dorm, picked up my little day-bag and set out … Sigh! What a job it is to be a tourist on a Sunday. I started walking in a new direction, hoping that it would take me somewhere nice, somewhere I’d want to be … somewhere I could be completely anonymous again! I walked and I walked and I walked … and behold! After about an hour of walking very slowly, taking in the sites I passed by, I found myself at the gates of the Museo del Prado (
Tut tut, don’t google it, I’ll tell you, I was in Madrid). 

Inside my head someone said ‘George just lucky, I guess’. But George was about to get luckier as ‘Along came Polly’! Polly told me that since it was Sunday the Museo del Prado was ‘gratis’ (free) in the evening from 5 pm – 8 pm, and right now it was the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía that was gratis … Now I couldn’t believe my luck, I was damn glad that boy had cajoled me out of my reverie.

Reina Sofia (the national museum of 20th century art) is just down the road from the Museo del Prado (featuring exquisite collections of European Art from the 12th to the 19th century).

After Polly had finished asking me for alms for god knows who or what, for giving me the information that she had; and after saying ‘Sorry, I haven’t got much money’, I started walking down the road towards Reina Sofia. My camera was at this point focused on autumn leaves, fountains, people - the usual, until it spotted something very unusual across the street …

I randomly took this picture (picture 1) and then went back to it on the LCD screen of my camera. I am going to shamefacedly admit that it took my slow brain a good 30 seconds to realize that this was public art! I crossed the road, to get closer and find out more about the artist.

Mesmerized I walked back and forth this road …  

Lillie, 2006, Bronze

Irene I, 2006, Bronze

Irene II, 2006, Bronze

Ariadna IV, 2004, Bronze

Lydia, 2004, Bronze

La Dama, 2004, Bronze

Colosos, 2005, Iron


Regina I, 2005, Bronze

Odalisca, 2006, Bronze


Las Meninas, 2005, Bronze

I had never heard of Manolo Valdés before this day but what I saw on this day I absolutely loved - loved the work, the use of wood, the display. Of course, I had to go back to the hostel and google him to be able to understand things better, since all the information provided alongside the display was in ‘shudh Español’ and I couldn’t be bothered trying to read it.

I later figured that Valdés is a Spanish artist, from Valencia, who works in paint, sculpture, and mixed media. Heavily influenced by old masterpieces, it was in 1983 that he started working with sculpture in a big way. Today, Valdés is hugely celebrated for  his work using materials like alabaster, bronze, marble, granite, ceramic, silver, and wood. 

The massive bronze female heads adorned with hats are inspired by the paintings of Matisse, and
Las Meninas are inspired by Velázquez. In the last few years these works have travelled through Europe and North America  (I think) with the Meninas being exhibited in Paris in 2005. In 2007, the women and the Meninas went to New York, in 2008 to Barcelona, and in late 2009 I unknowingly caught up with them in Madrid.

Muchas muchas gracias well-intentioned balcony-friend!