13 August 2016

Picking Up From Where I Left Off

I had plans for July and August. Drafts waiting to be edited, linked to, and uploaded. A whole host of posts to celebrate one of my favourite actresses. But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men.

First, it was that I was busy travelling; then, it was the discovery that my father had cut the Internet connection at home. If my cup of woe was not already overflowing, it did so once I discovered that my laptop had decided to give up its ghost. Or, to be more accurate, my keyboard did. First, it was the letter 'A' that decided to commit suicide. Which led to a frantic phone call to my in-house computer fixer. Who suggested I remove the offending tile and clean underneath. So I did, easing the tile out with a thin file handed to me by my father, who looked on curiously as I cleaned, and offered profound bits of wisdom on how exactly I should do it. All went well, until I realised that 'A' wasn't working at all. It had nothing to do with the tile. Which, by the way, wouldn't go back on either. Oops!

Then, I discovered that the revolt had barely begun: 'Z', 'N', 'Y' and sundry other letters struck work in sympathy, so I resigned myself to a laptop-less existence for the duration of my stay. I had no idea how freeing it would be to not be tied to checking my email or answering them. While I did, initially, miss browsing the various websites I used to frequent, or the blogs I liked to read, it was but a passing regret. This was forced detoxification, and it worked. 

I felt totally and completely free of all restraint. Free to enjoy the monsoons, catch up with fellow-blogger Cinematters on phone, watch Jacobinte Swargarajyam with Tonks, a fellow commenter on a blog I frequent, and visit Delite Sweet Palour in town for the best samosas and fruit salad ever. I watched Sultan and Kabali -  starring two superstars, but oh, so different from each other. Enjoyed both films, freeing myself from analysing either too deeply.

Onwards to Goa for a family vacation. My first train journey in nearly two decades. Loved every minute of it, except that the Rajdhani Express needs to improve its catering. The bread was dry, the vegetable 'cutlets' looked like stubby cigars and tasted almost as vile, and the less said about their coffee, the better. To add insult to injury, the attendants came along in the morning, and demanded tips.

The first day at Goa was great. We wandered off to the beach, within walking distance from the resort we stayed in. The beach was clean, the sands white, the waves rougher than they looked.
Fun! If you haven't felt the waves pull the sand from beneath your feet as you dig your toes in to get a better hold, you haven't lived. As I stood there, the sun warming me as an odd wave caught me unawares, I felt happier than I had in a long time.

The next two days were washouts, thanks to my niece who had cursed us with bad weather because she couldn't join us. The monsoons poured out their fury, and the wind and rain made it impossible to venture anywhere, though we'd had plans to walk around the old town and go to Fort Aguada, etc. Deciding that we couldn't let the rain spoil our fun, we descended on the resort's swimming pool en masse. Where, despite the rain and the winds, we stayed put for hours, swimming in the rain. What can I say? I have a weird family.

We also braved the rains to walk down to Sam's Space, a little shack on the way to the beach. An attentive manager, a pony-tailed cook, great service and excellent food made getting drenched worthwhile. On the way back, we ran into a herd of buffaloes, some of whom had their own decided ideas where they should go. 
I turned to the herdsman, expecting to hear him speak in either Hindi or Konkani, and had to smile when I heard his Goan-accented English. It was so unexpected, though why I should have expected him to speak Hindi, I don't know.

Onwards to Bombay - sorry, Mumbai - again by train, this one the quaintly named Konkan Kanya. Young A wanted to know if that referred to Mother Mary, a query that was shot down unanimously by all of us who decided that it had to refer to some local goddess. Since we couldn't answer the query to his satisfaction, Young A did what he does best. Research. And informed us with a self-satisfied air that said 'kanya' was indeed Mary. Score one for the lad.

Konkan Kanya was everything the Rajdhani was not. Spacious, clean, and the food! Oh, my god, the food! We boarded at 4.30; the train left at 4.45 on the dot. Starting at 6, they began bringing in food - tea, coffee, masala mik, samosas, methi pakoras, gulab jamun, puri sabzi, vadas, bread omelette, chicken lollipop, meals... of course, Young A wanted a samosa long after the samosawallah had disappeared down the train. While every other vendor made his way back, this one stayed missing. S's brilliant notion was that he had been kidnapped by people further down the bogie. So, as good parents, S and I made our way in the opposite direction - to the pantry car. Where, at 10 p.m., the chef kindly talo-fied a plate of samosas for us. We returned to our bogie bearing the spoils of war, and was greeted rapturously by son, sister and brother-in-law. The samosas were worthy of that rapture. So were the gulab jamuns we ordered for dessert (yes, samosas and gulab jamuns for dinner - very healthy!) - they came in little plastic containers, soft, and hot, and very, very good. (And no one asked us for tips, either.)
The day we reached Bombay, the rain gods decided to bless the city with their largesse, and tired as we were, we sat home, cherishing the hot coffee/tea that my sister made, and feeling extremely lazy. But we couldn't remain lilies of the field. We had work to do. So we reluctantly set off the next day, braving the deluge, holding our umbrellas almost horizontally across so as to remain relatively dry.

I tried to meet up with the lovely Banno, hoping for another visit to Prithvi Theatres, but she was down with viral fever. S meanly pointed out that she probably fell ill at the thought of meeting me. 

S and I spent that day in town, chasing down a clerk at the LIC office about a policy, and catching up with old friends. On the way to lunch, we spotted a little art gallery, Moksh, that was tucked away in one of the little streets in Kala Ghoda. A print in the window caught our eye, and after lunch, we dropped in. The gallery owner was more than happy to show us the original canvas that was part of his private collection. Drawn with colour pencils on a black matte canvas, the painting was beautiful. So were some of the artist's other paintings that were stacked against the walls.
The artist, self-taught, is an amazingly talented young man, Shashikant Dhotre, whose subjects are all rural women going about their daily lives.

That was a hurried trip to South Bombay, so we felt we had to repair the lapse. How could a visit to Bombay be complete without a trip to Strand Book Stall, for old times' sake? So off we went, browsing through the shelves and shelves of books, and came back with a few, just not as many as we would have liked. 

From Strand, we walked back to Kala Ghoda to take another look at the paintings, stopping by Yazdani Bakery to have Bun Muska and chai, and to stock up on their 'fiery ginger biscuits'. S felt the biscuits were sweeter than they used to be, though the man serving us didn't agree. 'We don't add any sugar,' he said, quite put out by what seemed to him to be unjust criticism. Yazdani hasn't changed one bit: the tables and benches are still the same ones that were there when I used to visit in the 90s, and I doubt they have ever given it a fresh coat of paint since it first opened. However, what also remains the same is the quality of their bread, buns, biscuits and pastries.

As we paid our bill, the owner asked us if we had noticed the golden brown pao that had just come out of the oven. (Of course, we had!) He insisted we tried one. We promptly did. They were as delicious as they looked to be.
We stepped out again, passing St. Thomas' Cathedral, the oldest Anglican church in Bombay, and S stopped to take some photographs while I grabbed the chance to get a tender coconut. 

One can never really experience a city unless one is on foot, and S and I both like to walk. Instead of taking the main road to Kala Ghoda, we decided to walk through the back-roads instead. The little by-lanes were as crowded as the main roads, but there were far less vehicles to manoeuvre around. Sometimes, it is on roads such as these that one comes across the unexpected.
We chortled in appreciation. It seemed so very Indian. Especially the sign above that said in small print: 'Formerly Prakash Chambers'.

At the gallery, we settled for a couple of prints of the artist's work though both S and I would have loved to pick up at least one original. Ah, well, perhaps some other time. While the attendants packed the prints so we could carry them with us, we decided to take one last walk around 'town', stopping en route to appreciate a wall mural.
It was going to be goodbye now. Until next year. 

Before that however, I managed to squeeze in a sugarcane juice at our local market, and our friend, Sangita, made us the most awesome pani puri ever. (She was preempting my move to feed my chaat addiction at my local panipuriwallah.) I also managed to persuade my husband to watch two Hindi films with us - Dhishoom and Budhia Singh. The former is an entertainer right through; don't look for logic, and you will thoroughly enjoy the experience. The latter, however, is one of the best films I've watched recently. Tightly directed, with excellent acting all around, and a very unexpected - and very sad - biopic. (If you haven't caught it yet, please do watch.)  

I'm back now to what seems the hottest summer I've ever experienced here in the North East. I never thought I would come back here and say, 'India was cooler!' We appear to have brought the rains back with us, however; we've had a couple of thunder showers since we landed, and the heat wave seems to have broken. (One lives in hope.) 

I've resumed work, clearing my backlog and gearing up to take on new responsibilities, still typing away on a keyboard attached to my laptop... Annoying though it is, it does mean that I'm back at last after a long break, and that film reviews and essays and song lists will all make their appearance in due course. 

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