December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Saw The Phantom of the Opera. Hands still hurting from the clapping.
Midnight mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Now I don’t care if they throw me out of this country tomorrow, or if the Millennium Bridge collapses under my weight.

December 18, 2005

First Trimester

Completing three months in the UK today. Not the least bit homesick, thanks to Yahoo Messenger and Google Talk, which ensure I know on a day-to-day basis what the latest topic of war between my parents is. And thanks to Neha, I even know where to find vegetarian Indian food now.

Neha expressly asked for a post with a link to her blog as a cheap publicity stunt, so here it is. By the way, being with her is like being in the same kitchen as a microwave that has ten popcorn bags put into it at the same time. There is a lot of popping, you are pretty confident the bags will burst, almost sure the microwave will burst, and very afraid that you will sustain permanent injuries like death. (Now she’s got her moment of fame on this obscure blog, and much more than what she bargained for.)

It’s amazing that I’m able to type this, since I am pretty sure all my fingers froze and dropped off my hands on Hungerford Bridge last night when I pulled my hand out of the glove to receive a call. If it’s going to get any colder, I’m getting my fingers plated in titanium bakelite (concerned readers inform me that this works better. Wonder if they've tried).

Spending the three-month anniversary in sweatpants and sweatshirt reading for my essay. Having completed my first trimester means that aborting the MSc mission is no longer a possibility, and the good part is that the morning sickness is disappearing and I am seeing some teeny weeny sense in what I am doing. Next month, I’ll do some proper stuff to mark the momentous occasion.

December 16, 2005

Told You

Productions of Shaw’s plays are rarely staged in London these days, so if one comes along, it is not to be missed. A newspaper I had read on the tube informed me as much.

The Garrick Theatre books discount tickets (students, senior citizens, unemployed) in advance for the Thursday matinee show of You Never Can Tell, and one of these was duly procured.

When I reached yesterday, I was the only member of the audience:
  • With brown skin
  • Under 50 years of age
  • Without an expensive plastic cup of mulled wine
  • Without a Regent Street shopping bag
  • Without a 200-pounds coat

For the first time in London, I felt completely out of place (not counting the feeling I get in the classroom). The production was fantastic, and since most of Shaw’s plays are similar in that they have the same upper class family with estranged parents and undecided lovers, my craving for seeing Shaw performed was reasonably well satisfied. It’s fun to have to wait for three minutes when the curtain goes down between acts, and to imagine the poor stage hands hurriedly trying to dismantle one set carefully detailed by Shaw, and put up another. I’m really grateful they went the whole way to make my experience authentic.

As I had suspected, Shaw improves on being seen performed rather than read. When one can enjoy without having to “Write a critical note on the Salvation Army-Academia-Capitalism alliance in Major Barbara,” it is a wonderful experience! Shaw is for lesser mortals according to my professors back home, but guess what, I AM a lesser mortal.

Aside: There were no signs and no announcements in the theatre about switching off mobile phones. One minute before the performance began, they played the Nokia tune full volume over the speakers. The rest is silence. :-)

December 12, 2005


Caught the Royal Shakespeare Company’s first play of the London Season: Twelfth Night. My being over 25, and Shakespeare’s being an illiterate bloke who left behind no instructions for cheap student tickets led me to pay 10 pounds to be suspended from the vault of Novello Theatre. I sat right behind a theatre-buff family that made me miss mine terribly. The mother sat between the teenaged son and daughter, handed out chocolates, water, and tissues, and kept swaying like a windshield wiper throughout the play, explaining what was going on to her adorable darlings. Add to that her Jamie Lee Curtis-type architecture, and you get the picture.

The play was fantabulous! I like my Shakespeare interpreted, but not too much. Putting in a black actor who is praised for his fairness is brilliant. Putting in a dim lights smoooooooooooooch between Olivia and Viola is over-the-top. Mercifully, it was the former kind of production. Amazing acting, and music, innovative stage design. I guess nobody does it better than the Bard’s lads and ladettes! The Fool sang beautifully, and the ovation lasted forever.

Viola/Cezario played her part to the hilt. In Shakespeare’s time, it would have been a boy pretending to be a girl pretending to be a boy. She did an excellent job of parodying a masculine swagger and look. The Globe had recently put up Measure For Measure, where all the female parts were taken up by men. They pulled it off rather well too. Stereotypes abound in such scenarios, and judging purely by audience reaction, they work perfectly well. You get what you want, you clap, you go home. Nobody gets hurt. Nobody gets evolved.

There was a fair of women’s eyes painted in the background. The eyes were looking directly at the audience. I wondered throughout what they were doing there? Were they the eyes of Elizabeth I for whom the play was originally produced? Were they a token representation of the “female gaze” that is believed to be missing in most art productions? Was it a device to keep the audience aware that they were under scrutiny? Were they viewing me playing the part of an unsuccessful student hiding in the theater from her classmates because she doesn’t want to party with them?

Up Next: Shaw’s “You Never Can Tell”. He, being educated, left behind instructions that students should get a discount when they see his plays. However, being of a much later century than Billy, he upped the student price too. Well, as some wise people have noted, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Umrao Jaan

Jab bhi milti hai mujhe ajnabi lagti kyun hai?
Zindagi roz naye rang badalti kyun hai?

Tum se bichhdey hain to ab kisse milaati hai humein…
Zindagi dekhiye kya rang dikhaati hai humein…

December 10, 2005



This person stole my M&S chocolate pudding with rich chocolate sauce, microwaved it, ate it, and left the empty cup there to mock me.

December 08, 2005

Out of Joint

In the small kitchen of the Gender Institute today, I saw a magenta-stained sheet of paper with a recipe for mulled wine, and a pot of boiling fruit on the hob. When I came out of the kitchen, I saw mulled wine in containers of all shapes and sizes lined up on the ledge. There’s an end-of-term party tomorrow!
One thing to be said about my City of Angels library: though I despise studying (remind me again what I’m doing here), I love looking for books. I love the way the labeling and shelving system actually works!
Nagging dull headache. Probably just an excuse for not wanting to study for the assignments.
There are far too many people on the roads these days. I haven’t had time to visit my favourite spots, but I hope they’re lonelier than the rest of the city. I don’t want to share them with drunken revelers.
Bought chocolate pudding at Marks and Spencer today. Why don’t they just put all the chocolatey stuff together and label that section PM&S ??
Ok. Enough blabbering.

SOS: Need a VCD/DVD of “Fire” immediately. If anyone can tell me how to procure it, I’ll be very grateful. My email ID is on the profile. God Bless.

December 07, 2005


On Wednesdays, I am not a student. I am a destructional insigner. It’s like being an instructional designer, but I tear apart things other people have written.

The day begins with waking late. Wednesdays are always about waking up late for some reason. That means I can’t spend time scrambling an egg for breakfast, a sandwich has to do.

When I begin running with my laptop in my bag, I have to remember not to cross the road on the bridge like I do everyday, because the tube station is on my side of the bridge. At the tube station, I have to walk against the crowd, because everyone from all over the London wants to work where I live.

Each tube line has its own character. The Northern Line (when going south) is about almost-yellow lighting and a few serious looking people sitting and reading books, resigning themselves to the slow moving train taking them to their destination far away from the heart of London. Few Aryan specimens on this route.

The District Line to Wimbledon etc. has a train with boring gray rails and a seating pattern that makes you sit uncomfortably close to another person and forces you to stare uncomfortably at the person opposite you. The trains are jam packed, and there are no newspapers to read, unless you bring your own. The cheerful upholstery highlights the miserable looks on people’s faces.

The Central Line is my favorite, perhaps a Mudrika hangover for the dilli-walli (hajjaar times better than the Mudrika, though) It has bright yellow rails, sensible seating along the walls, lots of copies of trashy tabloids to read, and cheerful I-Pod toting, singing, chatting people. They seem to be going to work, or shopping, or god knows where. But they’re cool. Not least because I am one of them.

The tube station at which I alight has beautiful Christmas decorations, and being a major shopping area, is a dazzling spectacle these days. People queue up outside H&M before it opens, and the sale hasn’t even begun yet! A smiling old lady tries to hand me a pamphlet (always a different color) each Wednesday as I pass her by. The florist has all flowers except the ones I want: Narcissi.

I have to step out for lunch. This is a strange area of the city, in that there is actually a two-kilometre stretch without a single Subway outlet! Usually, if you cannot spot a Subway for one kilometer, it means you are not in a shopping place. If you cannot spot a Subway for two kilometers, you are definitely not in Central London, you’re probably in some two-digit zone. (Corollary: If you cannot spot twenty-three Starbucks outlets from the chink in the bathroom window, you are no longer in London).

In the evening, I window-shop in M&S before I take the tube back, though by week nine, most disgruntled sales assistants have been holding scarves/kettles/caps that I promised to come back and pick up but never did.
Then it’s time to take the tube back… (Westbound while coming and westbound while going…I have given up trying to figure that one out) and re-reading the tabloids as children hang from the bright yellow rails around me.

December 06, 2005


In a fit of non-alcoholic drunkenness yesterday, I described the smile as the “else” of all “ifs” in the crazy code of life. If the statement above doesn’t make any sense at all, don’t blame yourself. That’s what we’re all doing this year. Not blaming ourselves for not understanding complex sentences written by non-alcoholic drunkards. It’s less of a theory, and more of a survival mechanism, really.
Coming back to the particular smile I am talking about. It’s a smile I’ve been witnessing for about three months now. Imagine this:

A tilted, bowed head with the eyes raised boldly making contact with yours, and a smile that emerges in a flash and takes over this entire face. It says “Aren’t I the wisest and the nicest person you are likely to meet in your revolutions around the sun?” When it sees the “Ummm.. NO!” blank expression on your face, it vanishes as quickly as it had appeared, and the head turns to smile at other people.

This smile belongs to my classmate, whose voice cuts glass in India even while she’s in London. It’s the smile that belongs on the evil face of some superhero’s adversary, and should definitely not be unleashed upon mere mortals, who in any case are rapidly converting to the belief that they are moulding pieces of sponge.

In other news, I am in love with Jack. He of the hair and the pan obviously is one of the 20 regular readers of this blog, for yesterday, he cleaned all his utensils in hot water and soap. Also, he let me use his glass to measure rice, and was polite enough not to cough when I burned my dinner under his nose. His Jill was also in the kitchen last night, and he was cooking for her. He was expertly cutting vegetables, while she was toying around with a knife wondering what size to cut the courgette in. Dump her, Jack my boy. I know exactly how to chop the veggies to match the ones you’re chopping! I’ll be really nice, except the time I’m dunking your head in the basin to tame your hair.

I witnessed a police boat chase on the Thames this morning. Ok, it was one police boat chasing another, but are you going to deny a smile-terrorised, Jill-hating, moulded sponge its only chance at happiness? You savage brutes!

December 03, 2005


This guy, let’s call him Jack, shares my kitchen in the residence hall. He, and eighteen others, but they’re irrelevant here except that they steal my cooking oil and pepper, and sometimes yogurt. This one is solely about Jack.

Jack has a permanent three-day beard and has hair about four inches long on his head. This hair seems to have been taking a hike the day they discovered gravity, so it pays no attention to that minor detail, and does its own thing. Jack, being kind hearted, does not want to force his hair to do anything it does not want to, so Jack’s head looks like a nuclear disaster just out of bed at all given times, even on campus.

Living in a free country means you can let your hair do what it wants, and it also means that you can buy any sized frying pan that you want. These two things are not related, but these are the two USPs of my friend Jack. Accident or a temporary loss of all sense of proportion has landed Jack with a frying pan that is big enough for him to have a bubble bath in. Of course I concede that in case of someone stealing all the utensils of all the kitchen members, we could one day need to make slop for twenty people’s supper in one gigantic utensil, but I am amazed that Jack actually planned for it. Until such a situation arises, we just have to bear with the Teflon coated bathtub occupying ninety percent of the hob, while we wait with our puny blue saucepans for Jack to finish frying his animals for brunch.

If that was it, it would still be ok. But Jack of the nuked hair complicates the situation further. He forgets that after use, the pan needs to be washed. The oil that was used for frying cannot be wished away. Unless the thieving cleaning lady has mercy on him and rinses out that frying pan once a month, it just keeps getting archaeological layers of oil accumulated on it. It would not be a surprised if granny pig’s remains are still in the pan when junior pig is being fried.

Now this leads to the smell problem, which is a big problem in a building without air circulation. It is a bigger problem if you want to cook at the same time as Jack. It is an even bigger problem when you run out of the kitchen with your food as soon as it is cooked and try to eat it in your room, and realize that your sweater has absorbed fumes from Jack’s pan. The problem blows out of all reasonable proportion when you take off your sweater and realize that the smell has seeped into your shirt!

Basically, I had lunch in my vest today because of crazy-haired, bathtub-panned Jack!

December 02, 2005


On the grey tombstone of a girl recently found dead
of the cold ‘cos her cap would not stay on her head:
“Here lies Inky who was mostly good; she only sinned
in that she was always seen walking against the wind.”

Having said that, it strikes me that everyone is outside of the convention these days, so much so that the “outside” seems to be the new “inside”. Is there anyone out there who’s still walking with the wind and won’t mind letting me know?

“Wind” jokes are prohibited. They shall be deleted and the commenter shall be flogged.

Brevity Isn't Always The Soul Of Wit

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

………………………To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;

Jeetendra: Bachchan:
Mit jayenge, mar jayenge
Kaam koi kar jayenge
Mar ke bhi, chaain na mila
To jaayenge yaaron kahaan?