Monday, June 20, 2016

Home Is....

  • Where morning is somewhere between 0700-0900, unencumbered and uninhibited 
  • Where ginger tea, biscuits and newspaper are a morning tradition as are afternoon siestas
  • Where the local dhaba's chicken  biriyani makes a fabulous combination with mummy's fish curry 
  • Where malai chap, chena poda, kulfi  and kalakand reside in the fridge always for a quick snack, dessert or just like that
  • Where taking bath using the bucket and mud and splashing water everywhere in the bathroom is every child's dream come true
  • Where mausi's evening massage is divine
  • Where bhata(rice),dali (lentils), aloo bharta (mashed potatoes) and amba khata(mango chutney) are so satisfying and fulfilling that one could eat them morning, noon and night and still ask for more
  • Where the huge balcony the bedroom opens into gives the feeling of sleeping in close proximity to nature
  • Where the cuckoos create a racket in the morning which can wake you up 
  • Where one gets the rest and relaxation no Thai massage or expensive getaway could ever  give 
  • Where the heart truly resides

Monday, June 13, 2016

Bhubaneswar - first impressions

Bhubaneswar is my home town. I have developed a kinship for Bhubaneswar. When we reached the airport and I saw the Konark Chakra, I was filled with overwhelming delight. We could see my father and sister waiting for us in the entrance. Thanks to regular video calls, Chiyaa could immediately recognise her Aja. She ran with her trolley to greet him. It was indeed a spectacular sight. Blood indeed is thicker than water. In spite of the distance and gap , the granddaughter could immediately connect with her granddad. She has no reservations or stranger anxiety and immediately climbed into his arms. I think after a point, the sight of grand kids brings more joy than seeing one's children ;)

We had a pretty sultry ride home. In spite of the air conditioned interiors of the car, Pumki was very uncomfortable. She wailed through the ride back. But for Chiyaa who had never seen bumps before  it seemed like a roller coaster ride. In the back glasses of one of the cars there was a picture of the eyes on Lord Jagannath. She saw them and said, ' look there is an owl on the back of the car'. We were pretty impressed that rather than being enervated by the heat and humidity, she was keeping her senses open and was soaking in the vibrant colours and sounds of India. 

We were literally under 24 hours air conditioning at home. Frequent power cuts was another stark difference from life in the western world. Thankfully we had inverters keeping the flow of electricity. One day during a thunderstorm, the inverter went kaput. There was a pleasant breeze which was a relief and the kids managed to survive the afternoon. Papa called an electrician to fix the issue. The person was available within the next few hours and sorted the issue for Rs 300/- In another instance also we had the stabiliser mended within a few hours. The ease with which such assistance was available really amazed me. 

I don't know whether it is our lack of awareness or such facilities are a bit hard to get in the UK. When Chiyaa was born, we were occupying an apartment where none of the heaters worked except the one in the drawing room. We used to be holed up in the drawing room for most of the day. We had a makeshift bed arrangement in the room. For the nights we had heater fans , which were not as regulated and effective as a central room heater. But it was something we managed with. We spent a lot of time chasing the landlord and the letting agent but to no avail.  We got in touch with the apartment maintenance team who denied responsibility to any property repairs but for common areas. We  called an electrician, but he detected a wider problem and the solution would have burnt a big hole in our pockets. In fact he even suggested legal action against the landlord and the letting agent. But with an infant in tow, we opted to look out for a different place. We managed to ultimately move out and ironically in time for the landlord to fix the wiring. It took him close to 24 months to respond! ( yes it did take us quite a while to find a property of our choice, keeping in mind our family, facilities, commute to work and daycare .) In the recent past when we moved to Ipswich, we were given a sofa as part of the furnishings of the house. The sofa was in a very decrepit state and we wanted to replace it. Little did we know that this wish would lead to quite some work. We were able to get a very decent sofa for £60 only from a second hand furniture shop. But it was a challenge to get the existing monstrosity out of the house. Since it was categorised as 'bulky waste' we were not allowed to dump it in the usual garbage dump of the apartment. We had to get in touch with municipal council to collect it. They were not permitted to enter the apartment which meant we would need to wait for them with the sofa . They could arrive anytime depending on how busy they were. It was impossible for us to be on standby with a huge sofa when we already had our hands full with 2 kids. Google search gave us a few alternative and independent removers but most of it was a wild goose chase. To cut a long story short we eventually managed to find a site called who offered excellent service in getting rid of the ridiculous sofa . We paid £100 for their service which was ironically more than the price of the sofa we had purchased. Being at home the past few weeks made me realise it would not have been such a struggle to accomplish the same task here. Our 'jugaad' mentality does make a lot of things way more feasible. Repairs and refurbishments are easier, affordable and achievable here. 

I am impressed by the array of continental food items available in supermarkets. Yes the whole meal pasta does not look very convincing, but it is a good enough to keep the kids happy. There is a lot of real estate development and the number of day care centre advertisements drive home the fact, a lot has changed. There was a time when I dismissed that a 'small city' like Bhubaneswar could boast of such facilities. The city seems to have grown and matured. And I feel really proud of it!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

India - first impressions

I am back in India after 4 years. I did not know what to expect. I was definitely prepared to be rudely shocked. I was also prepared to be pleasantly surprised. It was definitely going to be interesting. 

Across the Asian sub continent we have a lot of shared ethics and practices. That is why when we landed in the Abu Dhabi airport, I could smell home. And one practice that is common is washing up after finishing our business in the toilet. In all the Indian homes I have been to in the UK I have seen some arrangement or other for washing up. The ring of toilet roll is there but also along with it is a bucket and mug or wet wipes.  In the Abu Dhabi airport I heard a lady in the adjoining restroom comment ' Thank God there is a health faucet here' I could not resist a smile. I came out of the toilet and noticed that the ladies who were thanking the health faucet seemed pretty westernised and well  travelled. There are some things which are quintessentially Indian and I reckon this is one of them.

When we reached the Indira Gandhi International Airport, we went to the help desk to enquire about where we needed to go since we were a mixture of nationalities. My mother had warned that the last time she had travelled she needed to fill in a lot of elaborate documentation. In the flight we were not given any documents to fill for  my elder daughter's  and my Indian passports. We were doubtful that the air hostess might have missed giving us some forms. We asked the help desk person if we needed to fill any forms. He just directed us to the Special Assistance desks. The Immigration Officer handled our case pretty quickly and effectively. We had anticipated some trouble or red tape but our port of entry check was seamless. In fact the Indian passports were  welcomed with no fuss at all; really felt like I was being given a warm homecoming. It wasn't so the last time we had landed in Chennai. We had to wade through quite a bit of beauracracy. I could feel the good work being done by the current administration. The song 'dil kya kare jab kisi se' from the movie Julie rifted. Golden oldies. I was home where some things didn't change.

Our flight landed in Delhi at 0300 but our next flight to BBSR was scheduled at 1100. Since we had a very long wait I had booked a room in the airport hotel. The check in to the hotel was rigged with security checks. We had  3 security checks, where we had to show our passports and tickets and even go through a full scan of our luggage. We had to move a couple of floors but it took us 1 hour with all the security checks. We were helped a lot by the hotel staff. Mummy tipped him Rs. 300/-. Once the check in was done the front desk staff asked if we needed Internet. Of course we did!  This was another fact which we do easily took for granted in the UK. In most hotels WiFi is free and of pretty good speed. Here it was a password protected network. But it was enough to WhatsApp family of our safe landing in India. We slept like logs in the room. With burning eyes we woke 1.5 hours before our next check in. The hotel staff helped us with the check in for the flight again. He established contact with some ground staff. They had costs on which explicitly stated 'No tips'. But mummy offered them Rs 500/- as tips. It drove home another major facet of India. This is something conspicuous by its absence in the UK. And here within the first 5 hours of landing my mother had tipped Rs 800/-.  

I am very glad to be home. I had anticipated the weather, the infrastructure, the way of life to be very jarring. But I did not feel any awkwardness. After all dil hai Hindustani. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Alphabet soup for lovers

I read a book after a long time. An actual, physical book with pages to flip. It was a very easy book. A book I finished in a day which gave me a major sense of accomplishment! Yeah cheap thrills that is what I am into ;) It was also my first book by Anita Nair. I have another Malayalee writer I admire after Shashi Tharoor  and Arundhati Roy. 

The writing is beautiful. She compares food with life, which makes one hungry and contemplative at the same time. But the scenes between the protagonists are well written but seem like Mills and Boons for mature audiences. The book was a good read, wish the content was different. Will be picking another by the same author. Hope to like it more.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


Picked this book as a recommendation from my sister in law. And I have a new favorite author. Chimamanda Ngozie  Adiche  has a way with words. She writes like Arundhati Roy and is puts mundane facts in iridescent spotlight like Jhumpa Lahiri. I loved the way she brought to life very normal, generic emotions. 

The book is about a Nigerian girl Ifemelu. Like most Nigerians she too dreams of making it big someday. And big is equal to America. As with most developed countries, one is happening if one makes it to the hallowed shores of the United States. Life brings her to the US and she realises that she is black! At this point the novel turns into one about race. At this is the point u regret. I felt here Ifemelu left the pages and in came Chimamanda. The characters Ifemelu begins writing about race and how to deal with it. But to me it seemed like a long discourse by Chimamanda. The novel picks up again when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria and sees everything with americanised eyes. 

The book is a must read. For
To enjoy the beautiful writing, to get some eye opening and candid opinion and to relish the similarly across developing nations. I would not do justice without quoting some lovely lines....

How easy it was to lie to strangers the versions of our lives that we have imagined.

She was taking two sides at once, to please everyone; she always chose peace over truth, was always eager to conform. 

He had spent too much time mourning what could have been and questioning what should be.

(The following lines are about Ifemelu's father )
He had scolded Ifemelu as a child for being recalcitrant , mutinous, intransigent, words that made her little actions seem epic and almost pride worthy. But his mannered English bothered her as she got older, because it was costume, his shield against insecurity . He was haunted by what he did not have - a post graduate degree, an upper middle class life - and so his affected words became his armour. 

Ifemelu watched them, so alike in their looks , and both unhappy people. But Kimberly's unhappiness was inward , unacknowledged, shielded by her desire for things to be as they should , and also by hope: she believed in other people's happiness because it meant she , too, might one day have it. Laura's unhappiness was differ t, spiky, she wished that everyone around her were unhappy because she had convinced herself that she would always be. 

The point of diversity workshops , or multicultural talks was not to inspire any real change but to leave people feeling good about themselves. They did not want the. Intent of her ideas;they merely wanted the gesture of her presence.

There was a manic optimism that he noticed in many people who had moved back from America in the past few years, a head-bobbing, ever-smiling , over-enthusiastic kind of manic optimism that bored him, because it was like a cartoon, without texture or depth. 

But of course it makes sense because we are Third Worlders and Third Worlders are forward-looking,  we like things to be new, because our best is still ahead, while in the West, their best is already past and so they have a fetish of that past. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The journey starts

Well India happened two weeks back and till now I can say I am lovinggggggggg it. I had a lot of doubts and reservations about the trip but by God's grace none of them have turned out to be true.

Our tickets were booked from Leeds  so we had to make a trip from Ipswich to Leeds. The morning of the journey Chiyaa kept thinking we were going back to Leeds for good. She was  worried that all her toys were  being left behind. She even started dismantling her kitchen set to take back. The innocence kids have is just so so precious. My heart  went out for my little girl. 

The journey to Leeds involved a change of train. As we were in the waiting room for the transfer , we thought Pumki  needed a nappy change. There was no changing place nearby on the platform. We had to do it  in the room. But there was a lady having her lunch. We thought we should let her finish eating. I am not sure how she understood us, but she said ' if you need to change please go ahead. I have three sons and will be a grandmother today or tomorrow. And I was a carer for disabled children so I have seen it all.' We were touched by her warm gesture. I asked details about her soon to be grandchild. It was to be a surprise and her first grandchild. Her daughter in law was 12 days overdue and was being induced since the  previous day. If things did not progress over the day she would be operated the next day. It seemed like something so close to my recent experience. I wished the lady luck. I wish I could know what she had, when, how.... I guess some things are meant to be left unanswered.

We reached Leeds and checked into a hotel. Since it was not our home in Leeds Chiyaa kept asking if it was a different Leeds. We somehow reasoned that it was the same place but a different accommodation :)

The next day we had been invited by my college mate to have breakfast, lunch and dinner at her place ;) It was a simply brilliant day where we hung around and chatted and enjoyed some sumptuous food. The time just flew past and the children played a lot too. It was really kind of her to host us. Evening it was shut eye time as soon as possible. We had a really early start at three in the morning. 

A longggggg journey awaited us.....