the zipless life

May 25, 2012 § 17 Comments

those in the know tell me that the true indicator of really sound screenwriting or editing or background music in a film, is that it doesn’t draw attention to itself, it just brings cohesion to the ultimate idea of the film and makes it better. the upshot is that if it’s really good, you will remember a great movie and have no recollection of the editing and dialogue and music as separate things. that’s an interesting idea and i have never thought about it like that.

i ate somewhere recently that had a very interesting interior. it was all brown and shadows with the strange overhead lighting that always brings to mind police interrogations in movies – but also with a single very beautiful wall. a regular wall with sconces displaying bottles of wine and packages of tea and all manner of things that have labels which are cool to read – but also Fiestaware, which i have not seen in India so far.

have you ever eaten off heavy ceramic? no sharp, tinny klink-scratch-klink when you eat, no, your flatware strikes your plates in these rounded, muted tones that is lovely to hear, like the sound of heavy brass bells in the distance, the ones with the dirty satin flags tied around their necks lining the steps cut into the rock winding up to that monastery, a blur on a cloud, a birdcage in the sky – you look up and squint against the bright white sunlight and a flock of red robed birds appears. smiling eyes, grubby faces, dirty flags and that flat, pale sun with its cold, white light.

hmm, anyway.

brightly coloured ceramic is a gorgeous thing.

later that night i went to get banana chips from the small, incredibly cute marathi restaurant next to where i stay. it is like a scaled down, toy version of everything a restaurant should be. the tables stand on dinky, stainless steel legs with delicate rounded feet, sighing sadly every time a heavy vessel is set down on them. the chairs are tiny and accommodate only a modest quantity of ass, with the rest left to hang unloved from the sides. the table fans are all angled lovingly towards each other, such that if you passed through exactly the right spot at the right moment, you would be caught in a dramatic vortex of humid air – but everywhere else is still as a calcuttan sunrise.

anyway, i go there to get my fresh chapatis and raw banana chips. i stand at their takeout counter, which consists of an old wooden school desk attached to the uniformed paunch of a beautiful man.

he is a man rather like a squirrel is a rodent; strictly for the purposes of taxonomy and displaying none of the rougher characteristics of his brethren. his hair is waved, his cheekbones are as glass, his moustache is adequate and he has small, bright eyes that fit his face with a satisfying neatness. i wander up to him every night and watch him gaze mournfully from under a thick fringe of dark eyelashes while i hem and haw and eventually order the same thing.

he is always on duty at the takeaway desk and always very evidently bored, which is not surprising. his voice is polite, but you can see it in his feet – small, nervous feet with pale purple veins and finely formed toes, tapping impatiently on the stool he sits on.

he is a rather beautiful man.

anyway. last sunday, i am lurking about the gateway of india, eating an orange rather messily and waiting for my friends. so i’m just walking around harmlessly – looking at people, reading the romantic exclamations on the wall of the public toilet, trying to spot a celebrity stepping into the Taj hotel – and then i see this really incredible looking thing – you’ve got to imagine some form of large, predatory cat growing four wheels, a bumper and hideous camouflage – and that is what this thing was. an armoured vehicle with tinted glass and metal wings. an annoyed, ugly feline of a car – so of course i get rid of my orange peel, wipe my sticky hands on my skirt, cup my hands around my eyes and try to peer into the car to see what other treasures it may conceal in its ugly stomach.

and lo! like a vast, khaki coloured butterfly does a police official alight in my vicinity.

“kya hai, medam, aap ko kya chahiye” his voice is stern and tone is nasal. I Am A Danger To The Establishment.

“bas andar dekhna tha.” i say, sidling away quickly and putting my hands behind my back. i am met with cold silence. Tinkerbell does not approve.

“yeh dikhane ki cheez nahin hai.” – the matter is closed but i try once more.

“ek baar please. police gaadi ko andar se kabhi dekha nahi hai, na” i add, winningly.

“madam, yeh aap ki khush kismat hai.” says Toad Fairy, pat.

oooooooo, burn.

welcome to bombay :)



January 26, 2012 § 21 Comments

i was thinking about it, and i really think it’s the carrot.

the carrot is just the sexiest vegetable there is. you bung it in anything and it’s fantastic. (at this stage, let’s assume you’ve made your obscene allusion and i’ve commended your wit. moving on.)

my mother makes me pasta whenever i go home. i don’t give her recipes of things i like because she does not ever follow recipes. we usually let her come up with what she wants to come up with, and then we eat it. if we like it, we tie her arms and legs to bedposts and threaten her at knife-point until she promises to write the recipe down and leave it alone.

so –  it’s an insane pasta and i freely admit to being the only person in the universe who likes it. what it is, is, it is any old pasta in a white sauce, with carrots. but the difference between your white pasta and my white pasta is that mine is rita hayworth and yours is paula deen.

in my pasta, there isn’t that puddle of ugly cheesy gloop that passes for a white sauce in restaurants; there’s just a suspicion – a rumour, if i may – of milky smoothness about the penne, just enough for you to know it’s there. you see it in a creamy mist in the distance, teasing you, so you run after it. you keep thinking, god i wish there was more sauce, but you don’t actually want any more, because it is the restraint that is sexy. little coquette!

and my god, the carrots. every little round carrot piece has a golden caramelised halo from being cooked very briefly in olive oil, and that muted, softened sweetness that you anticipate when you bite into it.

 anyway, i told my mother that this recipe was an Unfuckable and must be reproduced faithfully when next requested. so of course, the next time she made it, she replaced the carrots with beetroot. let me just come out and say there are way too many things i don’t quite get about that woman. (do you know when she needed a username online, she picked the title of a rock hudson movie from 1961? who are these people we live with????)

the incredible thing is, i loved the beetroot pasta even more than the carrot pasta. i was alone in my joy. my sister point blank refused to eat it and made many cutting statements about the relative merits of various root vegetables. my dad looked at the pinkness of it and ate something else. there wasn’t any damage done, because over a period of one and a half days, i ate just over an entire kilo of the pasta on my own. *burp*

messing with recipes reminds me – maggi. some people like their maggi fucked with and some people do not like their maggi fucked with. i do not like my maggi fucked with. in fact i SO like my maggi un-fucked with, that i want it to be made in a beautiful meadow far from corrupting civilisation, by a nordic cook armed with only ONE packet of maggi and ONE packet of tastemaker.

(i don’t have to mention water because of course there’s a spring of crystal freshwater in the meadow. of course, you lumpen lack of imagination. did you not read the right storybooks growing up?)

i like there to be a goodish deal of what i call ‘juice’ that i can eat with a spoon after the maggi is gone. i do not like your juice-free maggis. i do not like your butter or cheese or masala or onions or whatever it is your mummy put in that made your maggi nice. your maggi is not nice. when you eventually find your bodhi tree, you will make maggi like i do and then we can all hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

but (if you look closely you’ll begin to see a pattern) i do like carrots in my maggi. i assure you i have no idea why. like i said, bung em in anything and you’re looking at a better dish.

children’s storybooks remind me, you know how everyone says enid blyton was their favourite author growing up? without prejudice to the quality of that opinion, i just have one question –

where are the mentions of russian storybooks?

as i the only one growing up in a sea of mishas and valyas and the young pioneers and byelorussian blockading and azerbaijani horse races? not even folk tales, my friends? not even a handful of stars or the adventures of dennis or raggitty and the cloud, likely my three favourite children’s books of all time?

the thing with russian children’s stories is that they never talk down to you. please read the adventures of dennis here online [i apologise for the painfully terrible formatting]. not every story has a plot or a readily discernible purpose. some stories are bittersweet for no reason, just like some days are. blithely recorded are several stupid decisions, broken promises and vast quantities of regret, but there isn’t a moral in sight.

 and dennis, dennis is only seven years old. in comparison, darrell rivers seems to have had the emotional range of a pimple.

i think there is a small but important difference between nostalgia and love. nostalgia is the missing of the days you were in love, but love is ageless.

i fell in love with my russian books for what i believe are excellent reasons (not that you need any). i truly believe that their like has not been seen since they quietly disappeared from public imagination.


i miss them and i wish they were still around.


July 6, 2011 § 26 Comments

i made this blog for a particular purpose.

i wanted there to be less noise and socialisation than on the last one. i wanted to be more honest in writing. i also wanted a sense of fulfilment from writing. without tedious elaboration – it has not served its purpose.

i will leave both this blog and the older blog up for a couple of weeks and then delete both.

for those who are curious – in the next few months, i plan to swim, find new music and be new people. if i am lucky, i will also figure out what i want to do with my life.

good fishing, everyone.


leave it to psilk psmitha

April 29, 2011 § 18 Comments

i had to help Organise an Event a few days back, a sufficiently novel experience for me to immediately gird the old loins by making a (small) list in a notepad file and wonder how to inflate it into an impressive  spreadsheet; some people have alcohol for dutch courage, i have microsoft excel. it’s not so much the striking things off of lists i enjoy so much, i just enjoy the lovely inevitability of the whole being accomplished when little parts of it are. of course, the little parts are never really accomplished, because why would the universe make it that easy? so lists are retrospectively and sneakily modified to make it look like that which was eventually achieved was what was originally intended to be achieved. nobody is fooled but everybody is kind.

a couple of weeks back i finished reading a spot of bother by mark haddon of the curious incident of the dog in the night time fame. i thought it was fantastic, really fantastic, much better than …night time. a friend did complain that it was a bore, though, so who knows. i thought it was beautiful.

i also read neil gaiman’s anansi boys, which was nice in a lukewarm sort of way. the halfhearted attempt to build atmosphere was a Fail i think, and it wasn’t witty enough to make up for it. i liked american gods better, it was tighter and better paced and all manner of things that make a novel a good blip on the mental radar, which is really all you can hope for. unless your novel is pathbreaking and brilliant, in which case, hi, my name is Your Friend. what are you doing tonight?

speaking of brilliant, someone pointed out that i say things are ‘quietly brilliant’ a lot, and that is true. i think i am capable of finding things brilliant only if they do not make a song-and-dance about being so; if they do, of course, my go-to adjective is ‘smug’. i need to be less wartime british and more russell brand in my personality, don’t you think?

while we are on the subject, i would like to point out that in terms of pacing and structure and all, leave it to psmith is a really wonderful book. i feel a golden, misty sort of affection for the blandings series, and so do not have the objectivity to tell if those books are actually very great, and the jeeves ones have all merged into a single amorphous novel in my recollection, but i am reading this psmith for the first time and i am Shock and Awe, Shock and Awe.

i was wondering idly recently if i would ever morph into an intimidatingly successful but also fatally curvy businesswoman who would take on all the guys in the industry and leave them strewn helpless by her deadly path, and so i googled ‘tamil superwoman’ (you’re making The Judgey Eyes now…) and ended up here! check it out:

‘A vast majority of her movies are softcore and a common theme is her playing a freakishly strong agent in skimpy bikinis beating up huge thugs.’

are you serious, reshma of reshma ki jawaani? look good in bikini, beat up bad men, be an ‘agent’… she was all three charlie’s angels in one – both by mass and coolness. who’d a thought?

i am halfway through dune (book one) now, which came recommended to me, and i am seriously disappointed. i once read a review of the freakishly terrible eragon which used the masterful phrase ‘masturbatory writing’ to describe it, and i have this new book to apply it to. i have never read such self-conscious, self-indulgent, smug (ooh look! here it is again!) writing in my life (eragon excepted); if this author is also not fifteen, pimply and full of adolescent obnoxiousness, he has no excuse.

i recently summoned the testicular fortitude to harness myself to a steel rope and zip between cliffs and over lakes, and would love to say that i was the soul of courage throughout. i was not. i am scared shitless of heights and fifteen minutes in, i wanted to go home. so clearly, next up is bungee jumping. name a place and a time!

Suicidal ‘R’ Us.

in one week, i will be in bangalore selling my soul for a pittance, and i CANNOT WAIT to start.

bring it, world.



April 25, 2011 § 7 Comments

i have no clue what this is called.

self-empowerment v1.0

April 15, 2011 § 19 Comments

have you looked at your face in the mirror recently.

i mean seriously looked at it real good. i’m not talking about that face you make with the lower lip stuck out and that thing you do with your nose that you think makes it look smaller. i am not talking about your inner voice that is telling you in a tired voice, oo, some camera angles you look like penelope cruz. i’m asking if you’ve ever purposely pulled that stupid face with the slack jaw and the vacant, drooly stare that is your face at rest, your face completely inert.

that trainwreck on your neck, the one you’re frightening the birds with when you’re walking around, just walking around like the pleasantly ugly gawdalmighty that you are.

you know you don’t really know what you look like. you think you do but you actually don’t. what happens is, you are driving to work in the morning and then to lunch in the afternoon and then home in the evening, and you’re doing this every damn day. eventually you’re brave enough to roll down your window, sit one elbow on it and steer with one hand, and now you got nothing to do, so you look up at the billboards. so you’re looking up at all these billboards, right – one, two, three, five hundred of them,every god damn day – and they’re all pretty people man. all of them. so then you look back down at your rear-view mirror, and you see your weekly zit and your mamma’s fruity complexion.

and you’re not surprised cos you’re the transparently ugly gawdhelpus that you are and that’s that.

and so you whistle your tuneless tune and keep moving.

but The Man‘s a siren, his voice is golden, his waxen minions are convincing. these are saying you’re beautiful, and that one is saying you’re worth it, that other one is saying she bought her butt with her calvin klein jeans and so can you, and before you know it, you’re sold like a minister of parliament. you’re thinking, in the right light i got mia kirshner’s eyes, and if i stand here in the pitch dark, i have only one chin.

but you know you got the eyes of a potato and no damn chin at all, because you’re a companionably ugly gawdforgiveyou, and that’s perfectly fine by us.

but what with all the subliminal pushing, you wake up one morning and haul your malodorous self to the sink, and you look at the mirror above it – and in one quick move you stick your lower lip out and suck your cheeks in and narrow your eyes, and lose all credibility as an intelligent life form, because now you think you look like sameera reddy on an off day.

i really looked at my face this morning in that patchwork of fingerprints we call a mirror. put my face three inches from the glass and checked out my blackheads,  in full colour and loving detail. got three of the little bastards on my nose. they’ve been there long enough, i feel like we should be making friends now. i got little rivers of red running through the whites of my eyes. i got skin like bubble wrap and a nose with its own gravitational field. i got a smile like a goddamn serial killer.

because i are a curiously ugly godawful, and how surprising and funny that this isn’t remotely upsetting.

you’re ugly too.

[this might be the world’s biggest open secret.]

writing about love

April 11, 2011 § 8 Comments


i recently read the real life of sebastian knight (vladimir nabokov). nabokov also wrote the wonderful lolita. i am yet to find a book in the english language that is as consistently, funnily, unhappily lyrical as lolita… like with a suitable boy, i find that i can allow lolita to fall open at any page, and i can reread from there without feeling lost. either this involves a fantastic or a terrible narrative, you can decide for yourself.

there is not that quality in the real life… i can’t say it is as good as lolita, but i really can’t tell. i seem to have mentally elevated lolita to a position she won’t be shifted from without looking very disapprovingly at me indeed – and that image of the young dolores, all translucent freckles and transparent contempt, it is difficult to top that characterisation.

so, i was reading the real life or sebastian knight – which shall i call it? – and it has that very same gentle lyrical ebb and flow, ebb and flow  that i think i can safely associate with nabokov now. it never really builds up to a breathless crescendo like lolita, but that’s okay. that’s fine. that’s forgivable, a master on a down day. there is a letter that is written to a woman in this book; a sad, funny letter ‘breaking up’ with her. it struck a chord with me for many reasons, but for exactly that reason i can’t tell – yet again! – if it was worth mentioning objectively. still, sebastian knight is worth one read so i suppose you could extrapolate that to the letter inside it.

do you remember when i said i was reading virginia woolf’s to the lighthouse? it’s stream-of-consciousness in a very real and wonderful way, and maybe i’ll talk about this the next time i get excited about it, but for now – there is a passage – was it an entire chapter? – where a stuffy young man realises that he is falling in love with a much older woman, and while this realisation is building up in him, he is first uncomfortable because he cannot recognise what is happening, and then is overcome with the disbelief that it could be happening to him.

and that wonderfully escalating lead-up to his bodhi tree moment, that description is the most beautiful description i’ve ever read of that mental ping! that sensation of hot sugar syrup trickling slowly, uncomfortably, impossibly down the inside of your chest, that moment you realise that flying in the face of all your plans and decisions and smug opinions of yourself, you have fallen in love.

i think what was nicest about having read nabokov first and woolf next was that nabokov’s love is black and physical and inseparable from regret and addiction and self-doubt and self-hate. i mean it’s fantastically written, but you’ll need electrolytes and a cold shower at the end of a really good nabokov session.

i moved straight from nabokov to woolf, and what with never having read anything by her (and very little of her) before, i was expecting – i’m not sure what – but here was this beautiful, perfect writing. not maudlin, you understand, and not played up like some sort of epic, inaccessible love.

just a woman with eight children and a young idiot freshly in love with her.