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Tuesday, May 01, 2018
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
What he however did, was replace his gambling addiction with an altogether more socially acceptable obsession. Religion. In particular, he became a staunch supporter of the Kanchi Madam. He would follow the chief pontiff of the monastery around the country. On various occasions, his daughters and their offsprings would join him on the journey across the country and I've heard how he has been as far north as Rishikesh as part of the entourage.
|Appa with Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal at home, |
sometime in the mid-80s
And in my growing up years, even though my grandfather had passed away, the rest of his multitudinous family continue to worship the Kanchi Madam although I could never decide where I stood about revering human beings. On one occasion, I asked someone what the seer had done to deserve being prostrated before. And my impertinence was swiftly curtailed with some vague response about divinity and meditation. My ambivalence has never really gone away.
Such was the influence of this particular monastery and its pontiffs on our family that once when I was about eight or nine, some well meaning uncle suggested that I spend my summer holidays helping out at the Madam. Doing light chores that included reading out from the number of letters that came to the pontiffs as they liked children to read them out aloud to them. Innocent enough, but with the benefit of hindsight, I shudder to think what other chores I may have been asked to do. Luckily, I was never sent away and I never got to find out (the blasphemy of such a thought!).
It might be sacrilegious to even think that but my disquiet with such institutions returned when some fifteen or so years ago, criminal charges were filed against it and the chief pontiff was taken into custody. There was much uproar at such an eminent person being treated like a common criminal. While I initially bristled at the images of someone whose photos hung all over the walls of the house where I grew up, being handcuffed, I found myself shrugging my shoulders and moving on. These were not the gods I was worshipping and I no longer held them in the same level of esteem as I had when I was a child.
Then news arrived this morning that the presiding pontiff Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal had passed away. My old ambivalence returns. There's a mild sadness that the man who was venerated as god incarnate in my family circles is no more. The pontiff had, in his time as head, made significant departure from the establishment and moved the Madam in a direction that incorporated social good into the religious practices. He had recognised that as a religious unit they needed to go beyond simply preaching and had to have a greater common purpose for the people. In that respect, he had also invited criticism but had stuck to his principles.
Despite these significant ventures, I am less than convinced about what made this order of monks special (I confess, I do not know enough about their teachings or more about the social causes they supported). They are good, kind, decent, generous people but I doubt they have superior powers (there! I've said it!) to the rest of us. My own uncertainty lives alongside the strong conditioning of my childhood years. And I'm fine with that.
Addendum: When I called my father to commiserate on the passing away of Sri Jayendra Saraswathi, he spent more time talking about another godman (a well known con) that he is currently representing that the other more respected recently-deceased sage. We all move on, I guess.
Monday, February 26, 2018
exit. None of the ickiness of old age and impaired living but a swift, decisive end. Almost like the plot lines in the movies she played where all loose ends were neatly tied up and everyone exited the screen as the credits rolled. Only this is desperately sad and all too real.
Today I watch some of the old songs from her movies and I realise that the question from all those years ago, really should have been this - Sridevi and Rajini or Sridevi and Kamal? For this woman was a given. Her presence on screen is so strong, such a constant that she needs few embellishments to prop her up. She was one of the few women who could well and truly hold her own.
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Have you ever tried skiing?, asked a woman at the school where my children had just moved to from England. She was dark-skinned, seemed to be in her sixties and had a huge, friendly smile on her face. We had just moved to a part of Germany that sat right at the bottom of beautiful mountains. And where there are mountains, there is usually snow and where there is snow, there are crazy people throwing themselves off the hilltops. I wanted to quickly erase all memories of skiing but my husband intervened quickly and answered that yes, we had indeed gone skiing the previous year and why was she asking us about skiing, he wondered.
The reason was because Srilankan-born Shireen and her British husband Dan ran Ski Saturdays every year for the families at the school. And if we signed up to their programme, they would arrange for us to go to different resorts in the area for seven Saturdays between January and March. Before I knew what was happening, we were signing on the dotted line, buying ski gear (and spending a fortune!) and setting the alarm for a ghastly 5.30 on a Saturday morning to go skiing.
It was just as terrifying as I remember but the genial group atmosphere, friendly coaches and long indulgent lunches made it much less daunting. By the time the seven Saturdays were over, I could fling myself off the side of a mountain (no logic to this sport, I tell you) and remain standing when I reached the bottom.
We signed up again this year but this time, I'd injured myself in the foot and was advised to stay away from sport. In the intervening period, my fears had returned and after excusing myself the first week citing injury, I didn't want to go on the second week. But my husband wouldn't listen and insisted that I lace up. I resisted but as ever, he held sway and I found myself skiing downhill. It all came back to me and dare I say it, I even enjoyed submitting to gravity this time.
Last week, we went on a short ski break and for the first time, I ended up on a red run (they are coded in order of ease - blue, red and black) inadvertently. Despite being terrified and being completely alone, I managed to negotiate the course while still on two feet (you have the option to slide down on your bum - I passed on that one). Over the next couple of days, I would go back on red runs, but this time by choice. And each time, my fears eased a little and my confidence grew a bit.
There's still three more Ski Saturdays to go before we hang up our boots for the season. Skiing has taught me that I am capable of way more than I think I can. That once you are on a course of action, you just have to get through with it, there's no point looking back when you need to have your sights ahead. That no matter how skilled you might be, the mountain will always win. The only thing you can do is to surrender. To yield gracefully.
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
By the time I had got on to one with my husband by my side, I was a weeping wreck. After my first tumble on the slope, I had lost all sense of shame and now, all I really cared about was survival. What others thought about me was a thing of the past. And all through my howls, my husband sat resolutely still, not giving into my pleas (what was I pleading for? It was too late anyway).
Chair lifts slow down as they approach a landing and you need to lean forward, push yourself off the moving chair and be away skiing. As we slowed down, I would panic and instinctively lean backwards, the skis would run ahead of me and I would land on my back with a smack. This happened again and again - panic, slip, bang. It's a miracle that I didn't injure myself seriously as I seem to have been hell bent on it.
As I slipped off my ski boots that afternoon, I swore that I had seen the last of skiing. Little did I know that just eight months later, I would be signing up for it again.
Monday, February 19, 2018
I spent three to four hours just trying to get across a few feet uphill. It didn't help that the rest of the group was negotiating this tricky manoeuvre with grace and ease while I looked like a stranded mammal trying desperately to get out of water. Gasping, spluttering and failing miserably. I'd take one foot ahead and slide back three and I would start again. Then there was this utter humiliation of falling. I kept falling, over and over again and needed assistance to stand up. And all the time, toddlers were racing past me with pity-filled eyes.
|But look at me now!|
The wretched discs go round and round and as soon as one has left, you should get into position so you can grab the next one and be dragged up. I had issues with timing and would always be too late to catch them. And even when I did, my skis would not be parallel and within seconds my legs would be tangled and I would fall into a twisted heap. I would be led to the back of the queue and the ordeal would begin again. The next time I would get into position and ensure that my skis are parallel, only to have the discs knock me on the back of my head and make me lose control. Once when I had got myself into position, someone at the back of the queue had had enough and jumped ahead and unable to stand on a slope, I slid backward, fell down, watched the skies and wondered why I was putting myself through this.
By the third day, my legs were bruised badly and I didn't want to do it anymore. It didn't help that my instructor (memorably called Vlad. Everything was downhill from there) had yelled at me for not following his instructions. As an otherwise capable adult, I could not comprehend my abject inability to come to grips with this new skill.
I sat in the cafe, drank hot chocolate, marvelled at the French Alps and felt utterly miserable. The next day I had an hour's private lesson with a kinder and altogether more easy going French woman and it was marginally better. That Saturday before we were due to leave, my husband insisted that I go with him and he took me on my first ever ski chair lift ride. What followed next is not something I would forget easily.
Joke courtesy: Firstborn
Thursday, February 08, 2018
At the cafe and elsewhere, I spoke as often as I could to others in German and most were polite enough to humour me. I booked myself in for a training course and spent a Friday evening learning tips on how to pass the exam - mind you, this came after I'd spent eight hours earlier in the day cooking at the cafe. A colleague from the cafe spent an afternoon speaking to me in German ahead of the oral exams and I cooked for her as a thank you.
|"Wir werden an den Stränden kämpfen, |
wir werden auf dem Landeplatz kämpfen"
The results were to be called out by a woman from the Goethe Institute who would then hand out the certificates. I was really not certain about the outcome and chose to remain in the corridor while my son sat on the sofa in the waiting room where the results would be announced. The woman walked in. My son beckoned me inside. I shook my head. Come in, he mouthed. No, I said. You will have passed, he assured me. Don't think so, I mimed. You are so good, Amma, he said. I'm rubbish, I pleaded. The woman started calling out names alphabetically. Mine wasn't the first one like it usually is (initials AA). I was about to leave. Mine wasn't the second name either. I was on my way out. A pause. Then I thought I heard my name. That's my mum, said my son clapping for me. The woman said something about my marks which didn't register.
I came out into the corridor clutching my certificate. I had passed. 83% in reading, 80% in listening, 77% in writing and 90% in speaking.
That's when I realised how seamlessly our roles had reversed. My son was the reassuring parent and me the child riddled with self-doubt. He was cool and certain about my abilities while I was a wreck. That evening I knew what I was most proud about. The tall, ridiculously handsome and utterly charming son who became the parent when I needed one? Or the language skills? That's easy. German's a doddle.
Wednesday, February 07, 2018
So the kind woman drove me home and I gave her the keys to let herself in while I remained in her car. I called out directions to her as to where to find my mobile - luckily, I remembered where I'd left it and she didn't have root around for it. She helped me get off the car, brought me a wheelchair and waited for a while with me at the hospital. The X-rays revealed nothing at first glance but a doctor called two days later and informed me that I'd chipped bone and that my foot had to be in a brace for six weeks. We'd booked to ski for seven Saturdays from mid-January but he strongly advised me against doing any sport (an advice I paid heed to selectively) as it could hinder the healing process.
On Christmas morning, I'd complained to a friend about how I was still struggling to get used to the German brusqueness citing a recent incident when a rank strangers asked me if I really didn't speak much German or if I was just "being lazy". It rankled me a lot as I'd put in a lot of effort into tackling their bewildering maze of language. Why are they being so rude?, I'd bemoaned to my friend over the weekly catch up, why can't they be civil to foreigners?
And yet, barely a couple of hours later, there I was being accosted home and taken to hospital by someone whose name I forgot to ask and whose whereabouts I was in too much pain to find out. Came out of nowhere and offered to help a foreigner in need. Bloody Germans!
Sunday, December 24, 2017
You're supposed to burn the candles one per week leading up to Christmas, pointed out a German woman who'd come home last week. I had had no clue that there was a candle lighting tradition and had simply picked up four candles on a bed of foliage as it looked pretty and having lit one, it seemed a shame not to light the others.
We have no Christmas tradition and make up our own stuff. Neither me nor my husband grew up celebrating the festival and so have nothing to recreate from our childhood or pass on to our kids. Our Christmas tree is a stand for all things special - from drawings to medals to flags and our Christmas lunch is usually something I've cobbled together on the day. Yes, there is gifts for the children but it's not very different to other holidays - for me at least.
On Christmas day we might go for a walk or watch some TV. This year, perhaps some skiing, if the slopes are open for business. But barring that we are newcomers to this festival, which of course has little religious connotation and instead is almost entirely about buying. And to that effect, we have bought into it but, as for the rest, it's all a bit rough and ready.
Thursday, December 21, 2017
|Here's a view from my kitchen.|
I admit, it's very pretty here but if I had to
pick between great views and polite people, I'd
much rather the latter.
Germany's stocks are trading at a low at the moment. It would need an impossible act of kindness to look up from here.
Monday, November 20, 2017
Year ago, when I was working in a very cool Music Television station in Mumbai, my boss urged me to include references to bindhi and mehndi in the links that I used to write for the VJs to read from the teleprompter before they cut to a song. "They are all the rage", said my boss. I was baffled and couldn't comprehend how something that we had always done in India had suddenly become all the rage. And how my seriously Indo-phobic boss (and colleagues) was suddenly so smitten by these very Indian symbols. Then it dawned on me.
Madonna had just released Frozen music video in which she can be seen wearing a pottu on her forehead and henna on her hands. The rage that my boss was referring to was in America where I was told everyone was now copying the Indians. And therefore, what we had always done had suddenly gained legitimacy and validity and copyability. So, for anything to be worth emulating, it had to be sanctioned first by America and then we could all follow.
I was reminded of the aforementioned incident after I read about a young Indian actress who, following after the Harvey Weinstein allegations, had now come forward with accusations of sex assault by a Hindi film director. Even the headlines referred to the American movie producer as if it was a precedent he had set for us all to now follow. What would have been dismissed as regular 'casting couch' in the past, has now gained some legitimacy because someone in America has blown a whistle.
Surely this actress can not be the only one to have been assaulted. In an industry that venerates its men and denigrates its women almost as a rule, such occurence must be common place. But let's say more women come forward with their allegations - ignoring for a moment the very real possibility that if they did come forward, they risk serious threats to their lives from the star's fans - what would we as fans do?
What if we find out that our most favourite star was also a sex pest? Would we still love and adore his movies? Would we be shocked and vow never to watch any of his movies ever again? Or would we be able to separate the man from his movies?
If you are reading, lurking, then now would be good time to comment and share your thoughts. Thank you!
Tuesday, November 07, 2017
What there was, was enormous sadness. Despite her best efforts a rogue tear escaped and trickled down her cheek. I sensed a resounding bulk of grief that seemed to choke at the throat and in its rawness, must have chafed at skin and worn her limbs down. Yet there was an unquestioning acceptance of the card that she had been dealt with and perhaps it was this acceptance that had helped her keep a lightness of touch. And absolute grace. As I reacquainted myself with my old friend, I learnt that her personal devastation had, rather remarkably led to something else. Something that has her radiating in happiness these days.
I cannot say I knew my friend that well when we were young. But I am awestruck by the person she has evolved into. And in the short hours of her stay here, she managed to leave the gold dust of her presence here. Something for me to savour in the days to come.
Saturday, October 28, 2017
|Erissery on the menu board|
After a few weeks of experimenting, I think I've hit the jackpot with roti. The first week I made it, the owner wrote it down as handmade bread on the board. But last week she asked me if the bread I was planning to make was actually chapathi and I told her yes it was. And her eyes lit up and she asked me to spell it out for her. In true South Indian tradition, I added a 'h' to the spelling and that afternoons, the customers asked for 'chapathi'.
Every day, the veggies that are not fit to be sold in the cafe shop, end up being cooked and the menu has to be clever and adaptable enough to accommodate these unsuspecting ingredients. Yesterday, it was the turn of some kind of kale. I had planned to serve dal, chapathi and some curry but what would I do with large ferns of kale? I turned to the lady who usually makes fresh green smoothies to be sold in bottles at the counter and asked her if she could blitz the kale for me. I then asked her to pour the juice into the bowl of waiting atta. I started binding the dough as she poured it gradually and rather bemusedly. The dough's bright green was a sight to behold and proved quite popular with the customers, many of whom complimented me on it.
This is perhaps the most unconventional work I have ever done and each Friday, I am stricken with angst and I wonder why I'm doing this rather than stay at home and watch Netflix instead. I don't really know why I put myself through this experience that leaves me shaking and scared and excited and thrilled, all in the space of seven hours. May be that's why. May be doing something while being shit scared is a good thing. That and the fact that all the kale is good for digestion.
All I could think about how painful the whole exercise was and how little I was enjoying it and could I please hurry up and finish the whole thing quickly so I can go home to the pulav and paneer curry that I had made that morning before I set off? Instead, my pace slowed right down and I became the rock on either side of whom runners streamed. And then I did the one thing I never thought I would do - walk. I dragged my uncooperative limbs across one agonising kilometre after the next.
And to make my matters worse, with less than a kilometre to go, my husband called wondering why I wasn't yet in the stadium at the finish time I had expected. I just wanted the whole business done with so I never have to lace up and run a city race ever again. The runners do a lap around the Olympia stadium before the finishing line and I felt none of the famed rush that is supposed to hit the runners once they cross the line. Just blessed relief that I didn't have to run any more.
I was running to raise funds to replace the asbestos roof at my school in India. If you wish to contribute, you can do so here - https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/abhiarumbakkam
Monday, October 16, 2017
Friday, September 15, 2017
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
She recalls instead in vivid detail her mother, the only daughter of a tahsildar cowering in fear, while her father yelled at her for not seasoning the rasam. My mother remembers all too well her mother's wedding saree, the cherished six yards of silk being ripped to shreds by a madman wielding a pair of shears. She remembers her father's curmudgeonly behaviour which meant that his wife would be sent to a local government hospital to terminate her sixth pregnancy after bearing five children in a decade, rather than be cared for privately. She recalls being told that her mother would not be coming back home as she had contracted lock jaw and had died. Even after seven decades of bereavement, my mother still misses her mother acutely and says that some days she talks to her, asking her how she could leave her children to face the frightening world alone. But no, they would not talk of her. Instead, they talk of his brilliance. The legions of students that recall his command over Shakespeare and Chaucer and his great facility with numbers. A kind father, a genial grandfather, an erudite scholar. Not a wife beater, not that one.
Monday, September 11, 2017
"Chumuti!", she exclaimed, recalling the name her toddler son had given the toy.
"Yes, it does look like I finally found out where Chumuti had been hiding all the years", called out her husband from behind the boxes which they had set out to clear.
"Was it in 92?", she wondered holding her hand out for Chumuti.
"No, this must have even earlier", he replied tossing it to her. "By 92 Sumanth was already six and he had outgrown these toys. Must have been more like 89 or 90 that we bought it for him".
"Yes", she nodded, her mind already half way back to 1990. How Sumanth had wanted the wind up toy and how much her husband would not buy it for him. Too expensive, too fragile, not now, may be later, the reasons had been plenty and each one valid but Sumanth had worn his father down with persistence until he gave up resisting. The toddler had taken the toy to bed with him the night they bought it for him and the night after that and for nearly every night for a whole year until another toy had come along and Chumuti had been forgotten.
She ran her fingers through the grooves of the toy remembering with aching fondness how tiny Sumanth's fingers once were when they held Chumuti. His fingers that were part of a small, perfect muscular body which held a fiercely independent spirit that astonished and frustrated her in equal measure. His stubborn streak that seemed disproportionate in someone so small. A characteristic she recognised as one he had inherited from her but one she would never admit to.
She checked the time and mentally calculated what the time was where Sumanth lived. He must be at work, she figured. Perhaps she'd try his cell number rather than at home. He answered in quiet voice.
"Everything alright, Amma?", he asked. He had started to roll his 'r's recently. Said it made it easier for him to be understood over the phone. She had wanted him to speak normally with her, as she could understand him perfectly without the affectation, but she had not told him so. She did not want to irritate him.
"Appa found Chumuti", she said holding the toy up to the phone absentmindedly, "you remember?"
"Your toy, Chumuti!"
"If it's not too urgent, can I call you back, ma? I am running late for a meeting."
"Don't worry, it's nothing too urgent. What are you eating?"
"Just grabbing some toast. Say hi to Appa. And send me a photo of Chuputi okay?"
"You gave it its name...and it's Chumuti."
"Chumuti, then. Got to go...I'll call you later, okay?"
"Eat something more than just toast, Sumanth"
She held Chumuti a little longer. Elsewhere in the house, she could hear her husband going through the boxes, wading through the paraphernalia of her children, throwing up old toys and outgrown clothes with casual disregard for the heft of the years gone by, for the years when her children were truly hers alone to enjoy and to be exasperated about, for the years when she would sigh deeply at the weight of motherhood but delight secretly in its demands. She could never go back there and it was rather pointless wishing for those years.
"Throw the box away", she called out to her husband. "It's full of useless old junk, just sitting there gathering dust and taking up space."
Her husband looked up surprised. "Are you sure? I thought you might have enjoyed looking through the kids' stuff."
"No, I don't. And if you find something don't bother telling me. I'm going to make myself some coffee, would you like some?", she asked making her way to the kitchen. Her husband's reply was drowned out by the noisy cappuchino machine Sumanth had gifted them on his last trip home.
Thursday, September 07, 2017
P.s. Anyone interested in contributing towards our fundraising efforts, please click here https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/abhiarumbakkam
Wednesday, September 06, 2017
-What do you mean?
You know, a land that lies in the middle of water.
- I don't get it.
An island...you know...like a country with water on all directions.
Do you understand?
Okay, an island means a country with water in all directions.
For example...Great Britain (where they speak English) and Sardinia (where I went on holiday twice and where I wish I were right now). You understand island?
- I don't know.
I want an island but only in my kitchen.
- Like Great Britain? In your kitchen?
No, no, that was an example of an island. This island will be in the kitchen.
- And there's water everywhere?
No, no, no water. Just floor. On the ground, in the middle of the kitchen, I would an island like.
- I don't understand.
I want a small kitchen island in the kitchen.
- My sister speaks better English than me. I will call you on Wednesday and you can explain to her what you want, okay?
The entire conversation was had in German and repeated in varying volumes and at different speeds in the fond hope that it will be understood. The conversation was had between me and a local Handyman. I am not sure I am getting a kitchen island shaped like Great Britain, but I am certainly getting a lot of wear on my German muscle.
Here's a picture of a kitchen island. You can imagine it as a country floating in the North Sea.
|Image courtesy Ikea|
Tuesday, September 05, 2017
Like most Indian children of a certain age (perhaps even now?) doing on the sly things that their parents disapprove of is nothing new for me. But somehow I assumed that going away to live on my own, getting married and begeting a child would mean that I would no longer need to pretend. Granted I would not rub it in their face, but I had thought I would not have to walk on eggshells for fear of disapproval. I had thought that perfectly adult behaviour would escape derision or scorn. But how wrong was I! What I did as an adult mattered just as much as it did when I was a teen and my shockingly short haircut earned me the privilege of not being spoken to for weeks on end.
Which is why when I was out for lunch recently with a friend and another who had brought her visiting mother-in-law with her, I was surprised to hear them discuss animatedly about which wine to drink and then order a glass of wine each. The mother-in-law came from a very conservative teetotalling vegetarian community and seemed very accepting of her daughter-in-law's choice to drink wine at lunch time (at any time really). But then what choice does she have, said one of the friends later, she either accepts it or risks alienating herself from her son and his family. She has chosen wisely to overlook the differences and to embrace them instead.
How refreshing is such an attitude! To not constantly measure your children by your own duplicitous, questionable standards but to accept them with all their choices, however hard it might be and however bad you might think it will make you look in other people's minds (here's a tip: no one really cares).
|Indulging in a spot of|
Skinny dipping. I was
Right. No one cares.
I guess there will always be something about us that will rankle those that raised. Some mild disappointment with our comportment, some Major disagreement over decisions, some outright disapproval over choices but I have to realise that it is okay. It is absolutely fine to not see eye-to-eye on everything with a parent. Looking back, I wish I had raised my arms, displayed my pits to the world and watch the onlookers stumble about in shock and consternation. Or watch them shrug their shoulders and carry on.
When I look back on these years, I can see how much these experiences shaped who I am today. Given that it was my house that always played host, I was expected to share everything. Skirts, pillows, sheets and my parents' attention to a large degree. It has made me less fastidious about possessions but more particular about swarms of people. After any large gathering, I find myself craving a quiet place to retreat and to recover. A sanctuary from the roar of other humans.
In the photo, we seem to have been hastily assembled. Someone must have called out for those who were nearby to gather around for a photo and we must have obliged. Taller ones to the back and smaller ones up front, they must have said. No one seems sure about smiling and we appear rather tentative about it. The sole adult in the photo seems to be wishing he were somewhere else.
I recall the dress I am wearing rather vividly. I had had it sewn a few months earlier and on the
Childhood photos can evoke deep nostalgia but this one does none of that for me. It was a captured at a time when I was ten years old and barring one, stars people with whom I have no contact. It was as if, like in the photo, in life too we were thrown together for a short while before heading our separate ways.
Saturday, September 02, 2017
I don't know what colour it must have been originally, but someone must have thought to paint over it in teal blue. Its colours matched the walls around it which suggest that the left over paint from the walls must have been dabbed on to the box. Perhaps no one thought to move the box as the paintwork was being carried out and by the time it was finished, perhaps it was covered with dripping that they spread it around until it was blue all over.
Some two feet long and about a foot wide, this box became mine when I was about ten years old.
And in order to establish ownership, I wrote my name down on its side in indelible pen. Over the next few years it would become the receptacle that held my worldly possessions. Notebooks, diaries, hair clips, report cards, certificates, birthday cards, wallets with a few desultory coins and much later a stack of love letters exchanged between a friend and her then boyfriend given to me to keep for fear of being discovered by her parents. I once peeked inside them a found rough scribblings in brown ink which my friend later confessed was blood. They were consigned to the bin soon thereafter, much like their love affair, I imagine.
Friday, September 01, 2017
|From my very first bloggers meet. There was no audience.|
We paid for our own teas.
Perhaps I am in the minority, but when I read someone's blog post, I want to know what they think. I don't want a write up that is a mouthpiece for some product that I don't need or some overpriced service that I don't want. Don't the bloggers have any loyalty to their readers? The ones who visit their blogs, read their drivel and leave a comment? The ones whose footprints have landed them these deals in the first place?
I know, I know. I know what you're thinking. Jealous cow! No one is offering you a free trial of their latest avocado seed remover and that's why you want to piss on their parade. Unfortunately, that is the truth. The most I get offered is spam comments which ask me if I have erectile dysfunction or invite me to live webcam with someone called Tatiana from Russia. I have turned down both these offers though not before considering them carefully.
So let me cast off this semblance of loyalty to the readers and lay it open in public. Here's my offer to write and feature anyone willing to pay me. I can extol the virtues of your very wonderful enema kit and tell both my readers how their lives will be more enriched if they use your dry cleaning service. This place is for open for sponsorship and this writer is for hire. Now, if you will all form an orderly queue please.
Thursday, August 31, 2017
When Watsapp made an appearance on the scene some time ago, I bought into it but when I found its demands unable to keep up with, I uninstalled it. But a dear friend insisted that I reinstall it when the free phone call facility was introduced and this way, we could chat more for free. Soon enough I enrolled into a few groups of old school friends and gradually grew accustomed to the noise from everyday interactions.
The ubiquity of a life too connected has meant that I never have a chance to miss anyone. Barring the case when someone really close passes away, nearly everyone is readily available everywhere at the tap of a button. And therefore not really missed that much. The downside to such instant access is that I do end up seeing people rather more than I would like to - and they of me. This fact was brought to my attention a few days following an interaction on that wretched Watsapp. An unsolicited rude message was my awakening to pull away and to remain that way.
Back in the day when I used to meet with old friends, we would bid each other goodbye and promise to remain in touch. A promise I would promptly forget and be chided for later at the next reunion. I felt no need to know the birthdays of old classmates or indeed wish them or be kept abreast on their children's well being. These were minutiae that I simply had no headspace for and on those warm summer evenings when it was just that bit too hot to sleep, I would find myself wondering whatever happened to an old friend. And upon finding no satisfactory answer, I would invent them a life, throw in a career, imagine a partner, some children and drift off to sleep. That was enough for me.
Lately, after all the exercises in being social, I have come to the conclusion that if you really want to keep a friend, unfriend them on social media. Don't know too much about their lives, keep somethings a mystery, save some for conversations to be had when you do meet them. And whatever you do, do make an effort to miss them. Miss them properly, wholly and let them miss you too. And when you have had enough of missingness, pick up a phone.
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Call centre lady: Nein
Me: Okay...leider mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut aber Ich versuche...
On my good days I resolve to get better at German but on those days when I long for some simplicity and don't want to feel like I am wading through a sea of bafflement and incomprehension, I curse this place and all its people. Bloody Germans! With a language so complicated that few countries in the world dare speak it.
Have you had the joy of interacting with a German noun? They are staggeringly long, often made up of smaller words and have a gender. They are like a group of children who have climbed on top of each other to form a pyramid of some sort and then covered themselves up with a cloak and given themselves a mask and demand that you call them by a neutral gender. You want to give them a clip around the ears, ask them to quit horsing around and behave. The nouns are most silly!
Wednesday, August 09, 2017
|Porridge with fruit, paper version of the Grauniad and dull, wet|
weather - it was good to be back in Edinburgh
And now that I am back, I am left wishing that I had watched more, stayed out later, braved the cold (yes, even in August, it's Edinbrrrgh) and thrown myself unresistingly into its artful melee. But I rest in the knowledge that I will be back next year and the year after and the one thereafter. For now though, here are brief reviews of nearly every show I watched.
Eggs Collective: Get A Round - Dark side of a night out with friends. They are soon to be on BBC. Great energy but I didn't quite feel the pull. 3/10
Instructions For Border Crossing - Technical issues hampered this play. Lots of audience interaction but didn't like the actor. Was confused about what he wanted from us or what his stance was. 1/10
salt. - A searing, powerful exploration of identity. Selina Thompson, an adoptee of Afro-Carribean origin who grew up in Birmingham, went on a cargo ship tracing the journey her ancestors would have taken on a slave ship and has written a play about it. As she smashes a large rock of salt ("salt of the seas, salt of the tears"), it splinters and shatters across the stage and into the audience like the lives of those enslaved, resonating across continents, across ages. We were given a rock to take with us as we left. It weighed heavy in my hands. 10/10
Seance - Spooky twenty minutes in a pitch dark shipping container. A long table runs down the length of the container with chairs laid out quite tight on either side of the table. The participants are advised to wear headphones, place their hands on the table, lights go out dramatically and the Seance begins. Brilliant sound design that unsettles and challenges every rational notion you have. Is this theatre? Is this art? Brilliant entertainment. 10/10
How To Act - This play by Scottish National Theatre meant its posters were plastered on buses. Pity such publicity could not save the lacklustre play. It's set as a masterclass with an acclaimed actor and whose dramatic exercise with one of the participants forms the length of the play. Gradually, the lines between reality and retelling blurs and there's a moment when something dramatic is revealed but it flops and we are urged to "speak the truth". Whatever. 1/10
Out Of Love - Writing that scorched and scalded and soared from the pages. Beautifully acted and realised. The power of female friendship, fierce, convoluted and glorious - all laid out in just over an hour's time. Oh, to be able to write like this! 10/10
Man Watching - An anonymous woman has written about her sex life and each night a male comic reads it out cold, for the first time in front of an audience. Interesting, funny, gimmicky. 5/10
Kafka And Son - Based on the letters that Franz Kafka wrote to his father that were later published as a book. Kafka was bullied by his overbearing father and this appears to have had a lasting influence on his life and his writing. The play was sensitively told by the actor playing both the father and the son to great effect. 8/10
Shape Of The Pain - What is it like to live with chronic pain? What does it look like? How does it sound? What triggers it? What worsens it? How do you live with it every breathing minute? Shape Of The Pain attempts to articulate chronic pain syndrome - something one of its creators suffers from. Its a visual, aural, technical and verbal description what must be indescribable. At the end like many in the audience left with my limbs aching, my head throbbing and my eyes stinging. 9/10
All We Ever Wanted Was Everything - A boy and a girl are born in Hull and their lives are traced over three decades - from New Labour to Brexit Britain - via plenty of live music. The evening of my show, the actor who played the narrator was given a special award by The Stage for being one of the best at the Fringe. His high octane, high energy performance was certainly a highlight but the rest was glittery and loud and distracting. 3/10
Cosmic Scallies - Skelmersdale in Lancashire is a monument to all things tried in failed. It was a town where, in the 1960s planner attempted to create a utopian housing scheme and didn't succeed. It's the setting for an unlikely friendship between two friends who go all the way back to primary school. It is tender, funny and at times brutally honest but the play is shy of going just that bit further. 7/10
EntryNoEntry - A performance art piece by a Srilankan artist who invites you into a dark cave, dances with you, asks gently probing questions of you about who you are and where you come from and leaves you bewildered and blinking into the lights. 6/10
The Road That Wasn't There - A trigger happy old woman, her concerned son, a half-torn map, a graveyard, a young girl in far away New Zealand and some puppets are among this rather Neil Gaimanesque story for children. The kids in the audience seemed riveted. 5/10
|Blurrie with Guardian theatre critic Lyn Gardner|
All shows (bar one) were booked on recommendations by Guardian's theatre critic Lyn Gardner. You can read about my experience and my Primer To The Fringe here.