Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Random things

It's been so long that I think I may have forgotten how to write. A selection of random things to get me going:

1. It's been 12 years since I left India. Indian adverts still make me cry and feel homesick. As do 'diaspora' books - Indian authors abroad who write about life outside India. And I know this is an unpopular sentiment, if you love it you could come back/ why did you leave it/ blah blah blah. Whatever. I live abroad, I have my reasons and I have every right to be as nostalgic as I want, thanks very much. 

2. My friend once told me that with everything she tries to take the moderate view. When I was younger (read 20's) I took very strong views about everything. I sort of told it like it was, misguidedly believing that hearing the truth, no matter how painful, was better. With age, the 30's, I still have strong views and I'd rather have the unpalatable truth told to me than not. The change however is that I now get that other people aren't me and don't necessarily always want extreme views/ my truth/ any opinions. That each person has a different threshold/ view/ moderation to their beliefs. That my truth isn't necessarily someone else's. It's been the greatest change in my personality.

3. All this thinking has been a bit of an out of body experience. Recently some of our very dearest friends had a baby boy. A little bundle of hanging cheeks and big eyes. I've only seen him on Skype/ FaceTime but I think about him a lot. I can't wait to see him. When we were younger we hung out with this couple a Lot. You always imagine/ picture / lean towards the future but in that moment you don't realistically see yourself leading this grown up life. I could always see V and I together (we were both young, wistful and real people) but I never once saw how amazing my Kid would be or what a wild ride parenthood promises. It's quite the reverse now. So some days I look back at pictures of us back then and to me they seem like someone else's life. And yet here we are, done with those young years, tempering our extreme views (just me) and living out these lives as best we can.

4. I did the stupidest thing by trying to rectify my very bad haircut by going elsewhere and cutting it yet shorter. Of course on the day it looked great but my god it's now the very worst it has ever looked (bar one particular instance in high school). Now I can't even tie it back a bit. Less bird nest, more electric shock. Picture it. Or shut your eyes and change the topic to avoid thinking about it.

5. It would seem I cry more, keep my opinions to myself more and my fading memories are turning sepia and belong to an entirely different person. Add the terrible haircut to the mix and I am turning into a little (ok ok, fat yet little) middle aged lady. All that's missing is a serious mid-life crisis activity. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Jazz

A late night Saturday (by my standards alone - I'd go to bed when my Kid does if I could) and we are enjoying the soulful and jazz tunes of Dylan Foster at the Sultan Jazz club. 


V is becoming an expert at organising lovely evenings in the past few months. This was unexpected and we are having a lovely time. 


Dylan Foster's voice is more than nice although the accoustics aren't the absolute best. It's been an age though since I've been to listen to hear live music and for that alone this evening is lovely. We have just had a disappointing dinner down the road at Piedra Negra (over mushed guacamole, patatas bravas swimming in a sweet tomato sauce and over cooked burritos and quesadillas to finish) and this is more than making up for it. 

'Lovely Day' indeed. Dad, you would've loved this. When you coming to Singers again? 


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Housekeeping details

Of late I'm often amazed that I'm a grown up with my own home. Yesterday I was WhatsApp-ing with my closest pals from college and the son of one of them one just got elected to be head boy of his school. We were all congratulating her and I'm was like weren't we just in school ourselves?! Seems hardly possible that one of us has a child old enough to be a head boy. I totally get what my mom means now when she says she feels 21.

Anyway I've been having many such moments lately. Of looking around my house and being surprised at myself for having a house and wanting it to look a certain way. It all came to a head recently when the dining table that we chose over a year ago went bad for the second time. It's an old Indian wood and brass door balanced on some legs and with glass floating over the top. We both loved this door the second we saw it and this 10 seater has been the pride and joy of our home for a year. It was made by a store called Originals, where a lot of our furniture is from and a store I buy something from EVERYTIME I visit! So when it started to develop mould patches last year we called them and they took it away to have a look. Turned out it hadn't been sealed properly. Anyway, months later it had been dried out and sealed properly and was back looking as amazing as when it first arrived.

Without the glass that floats on top

Forward to three months ago and the mouldy patches were back. The store agreed that the mould was inside the old door and seemed intent on escaping. It's a health hazard and they have kindly agreed to take back this bespoke table and refund us. The table went this week and is unlikely to be able to be 'fixed' enough for use again. Instead of a refund though we have chosen to borrow a table from them while we wait for their containers to arrive and choose a new door. V loves the idea enough to wait for this exact style of table - we've been back a few times to look at shipments and haven't found anything that even comes close. I suspect it's going to be a long wait. 

In the meanwhile I was attempting to sort through cupboards which I don't open for months. I found a beautiful oversized glass bowl (similar to a large fish bowl but slightly shaped rather than completely round) which was a wedding present from a good friend of V's. She bought it in Germany and carried it to London in early 2002, shortly after our wedding. It's been used a handful of times to hold bundles of tulips but has mostly languished in the cupboard. Its quite large and ungainly on its own and you need an awful lot of flowers to make it look halfway decent. It's moved home three times and continents once. 

On a whim I decided to look up companies that make terrariums (which all this time I have been mistakenly calling terraniums) and found one right here in Singapore. Found this guy called Daniel who runs a small store and online portal called 'Love in a bottle'. Called and explained I had a vase and would he please turn it into a piece of live art? He said 'Yes' and I took him the bowl three weeks ago. His little shop in Joo Chiat road had lots of lovely little pieces. I bought a seashell shaped terrarium for my sis-in-law as part of her birthday present and dropped off my vase. We exchanged a few design ideas by email and finally yesterday the terrarium has arrived. I LOVE IT! 


Sitting pretty on my coffee table

I have been gazing at it the whole afternoon. Kid has taken over the careful job of spraying it with water every three days. I shall have to watch for over-enthusiasm but it's a great little project for him. I'm so so pleased with it. I wish we had done it before. 

It turns out that I'm such a middle aged Aunty, loving my house with all my might, so exactly the opposite of what I imagined a grown up life would be . 

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Expectations from life

Forgive me while I ramble and make a pigs ear out of this. 

In my worst, most self pitying moments last year I asked for advice from a few close friends and family. Almost all of them had advice on how to get out of my pity party unscathed:
1. I should count my blessings - I do have a material life that lacks for nothing.
2. Lower my very high expectations of everything (and that this would make me so very happy)
3. Stop depending on other people, you can't change them so don't waste any effort.
4. Get a job. You will have no time to sit and think about your expectations! 

Well, aside from the fact that I do have materially whatever I wish for (and I never wished for much to start with so it's all been a Very Pleasant Surprise) and I count all my blessings, most of my expectations are about behaviour, about feelings, about caring. 

And I do understand at the base level that it is impossible to change a persons true nature, that people are essentially self centred and selfish. And yet I expect better. More kindliness towards someone that has been kind. Love and respect for parents who have spent their entire lives in teaching you right from wrong and the value of things. Thinking less of ones own happiness (in already happy and rich lives) and more of what you could do to make others happy. Loving another's child with almost as much zeal as ones own. Not taking for granted that everyone will rock up when you need them but that you in no way need to do the same. Expect them to keep in regular touch with you but not reciprocate. Not to feel invisible. Life, I tell you, has been full of disappointments.

I tried for a few months to lower my expectations but man, that just hurt. I felt an almost physical pain when I realised I could rely on exactly 4 people in the whole entire world. And then too it would be a bit like pulling teeth. And I get I can't rely on Everyone for my emotional well being but I find that I can't even rely on people for anything. Not to be kind, not to be thoughful, not to be gentle, not to be present.

And I get that people have busy lives, their own priorities. But I think each person is surrounded by people, in varying of degrees of closeness, like radiating circles and that most people, after they get to circle 2 (still close family) just do not give a sh*t. Some people don't even get past circle 1 (themselves and a spouse) so self centred is their existence. And I'm sorry but much as I tried that lowering my expectations cape I just found it too made for an empty existence. I want others to have expectations of me (to be a good kind person in whatever way they need) and to have expectations of others (to be loved, thought about, cherished in my many roles as a person on this planet) and I know that I fulfil many expectations others have of me (to care, to connect, to do, to love, to cherish). I don't think it's that hard, you just have to want it. And sadly I seem to have filled my life with people who don't. 

If I were to write an epitaph for myself I should like to say 'she tried her hardest to be kind and gentle'. And I know that try as I might many people think I am miles from this. And while I may well be far away from my goal of 'kind person' I try, very consciously, to think about my family and friends every single day. Whether it's a phone call or a text or a WhatsApp or a present or a laugh or a coffee or a meal or taking children on days out or taking parents on vacation or visiting relatives or posting postcards & surprises to people on the otherside of the world, nearly every one of these thoughts is begun with kindness and love and wanting as much to show my love for them and in some small way to know they love me back.

I recently received a lovely long hand letter from one of my dearest friends in the world. She and I have had many experiences in common and now that we live in different continents this writing has bound us into firmer friends. As I have sat here for a few nights cobbling together a reply I've been thinking more and more about this, these small wonders that just link people and that people are so very careless with. I'm trying to be mindful but after many months of that near physical pain I found I could not accept the whole 'have no expectations and you will be happier'. I may not be much happier if I expect but am continually disappointed. But I will certainly be fuller than if I empty myself of all feeling. 

I'm rambling, I know. And I'm not seeking answers for any of this. I've let go of a lot of this in 2013 (undoubtedly one of the years of greatest self doubt for me) but I still live in hope that someone somewhere will surprise me by keeping up their end of the relationship bargain. 

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The hack job

You would think that a lifetime (ok that's what the unending teen years felt like) of hideous haircuts would teach me not to chop my hair off. That my hair is curly, unmanageable, frizzy and oh so Mallu. But no, clearly not one lesson has been learnt. 

I decided on a whim to ask the hairdresser dude to cut my hair a bit shorter than I normally go for and instead of layering or LISTENING really he just hacked it all off into one awful bob/ blob. 

So instead of the back being a bit longer and the hair framing my face I look like someone put an oversize bowl on my head and just cut off whatever was the overhang. I cannot emphasise how awful it is. Ok, so today it doesn't look terrible but that is only because he added about 6litres of product to it and dried it straight into some semblance of 'done'. 

But even as I left this evening for a movie with a friend the hair had begun its ruthless ascent into a birds nest of frizz. And no amount of yanking will make it stay put in a mini pigtail. Disaster I tellya.

My son said 'oh mama, I don't like it. Make it long again ok?!' (4 year olds have innocence and logic pat down)

My mum said 'I love you'. (And I think she meant inspite of that haircut!)

V just said 'You had a haircut'. (Because that is all that is left to say)

Let me also tell you that it doesn't grow out as fast as it used to. Or as fast as I imagined it grew out. And I don't look younger, just more insane. There seems to be no solution save getting a wig and I'm too lazy for that. I could invest in vats of hair product but I don't think I have the time or patience for it. Either way, I think severe headbands and my glasses balanced on my head at all times seems to be the only way to not look like I have a family of birds residing on my head. See you in a few months.....

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sunday Lunch - 8: Dempsey

I'm picking our lunch places off a list of names I've cobbled together from many sources. Recommendations from friends, Singapore's Time out, recommendations on an FB page I follow, and a bunch of serious Singaporean food blogs.

This Sunday I got us a booking at Chopsuey in Dempsey Hill. It's relatively new and had mixed reviews but the menu looked intriguing enough to try. It was all 6 of us (my sis in law is vegetarian and my nephew tends to be as well) this hot Sunday. And the trains of course (that's two Bill's and two Toby's). 


Am I glad we tried it or what?! It was OUTSTANDING. We ordered a variety of dim sum including some pork buns, vegetable noodles, chicken with tofu satay, stir fried vegetables, chicken in schezuan sauce and some rice with spinach. Each of the dim sum dishes appeared in a cute little basket. 


The bulk of the menu is seafood based with prawn and various meats. But there are vegetarian gems to be found and asked for. The vegetarian dumplings were outstanding as were the lovely dry vegetable noodles which were utterly fresh and delicious and covered in delectable vegetables.


The decor is simple. Black and white dominates the space but blended beautifully so it does not look stark. The big framed windows look out into a covered outdoor area and to banana trees and lush greenery. And although the restaurant is not very big it's all very pleasing to the eye. 

The food is served on white plates which sit within heavy silver ware. The quantities are generous and the staff understood what we meant when we said vegetarian/ shellfish allergies and made helpful suggestions. It was fairly full but we didn't feel rushed or intruded upon. It was not an inexpensive meal but really we do this once a week and Singapore is expensive so now we know what to expect. 

What I didn't know till the very end was that this is a venture by the already famous P.S.Cafe. Once I knew I could see the odd touch that is common. I rarely leave a comment card unless it's to complain about something (one of the things I am trying to do this year is find something good in everything rather than complain a lot - and I thought writing a little nice something in comment cards would be a good start) and so I wrote them a little compliment on their card. All in all it was a lovely leisurely lunch and I for one have a new Dempsey favourite. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I bow to thee my A.M.A.Z.I.N.G friend

It's Sunday and I'm sat the movie hall waiting for my weekly movie fix to be sorted by Jack Ryan. I don't have high hopes which is good. At least I have M&M's.

I've been thinking of my amazing friend all day today, from the second I woke up till I just read this post.

I have only awe - for her 42.195 in 4:43mins, her falling nails, her water filled blisters, her endurance, HER. And I know thousands of people run it but this is the person I know so I'm allowed to have awe for just her. 

Take a bow, Ms. Raman, for you and what you did are amazing and I can't wait to donate to the many many marathons I see in your future! 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Will the real BlogReaders please stand up?

I often get the odd comment that people read but don't comment on a regular basis. Today I'm asking you not to comment but to go to this link and donate whatever you can to support my friend Menaka (also known as Shoefiend) in her attempt to run a marathon this Sunday in aid of Educo. You can read all about them in the link.


What you can't read about however is this:
1. M and I 'clicked' in the first 5 minutes we met in London many many years ago.
2. We met because our husbands were friends and they had moved to London (therefore regulation group dinner happened).
3. Almost from the start it was apparent that we would be friends even though our respective husbands are nonsense at keeping in touch (lethargy is something they are both prone to) and could not be counted on to organise anything sociable on their own.
4. We both began blogging within a few days/ weeks of each other. And explored London with its eccentric eclectic nature together (museums that no husband would set foot in, mainly) and our lives in that mirror reflection on our blogs.
5. She is one of those people with an undiscovered book in her. If only she would get to it. Maybe after the marathon?
6. Her writing is usually quite humorous. And when not funny, thoughtful. We often think of the same things but while I rotate the thoughts endlessly in the hamster wheel that is my brain she just goes ahead and writes them down beautifully. I  usually just nod knowingly while I read.
7. She was part of the gaggle of girls that made London so very fun. Memorable indeed was her farewell dinner which involved a lot of alcohol, food, aimless wandering down Marylebone High Street and giggling. Oh so much giggling.
8. She began this running lark (with another WonderWoman who does not write enough). And she stuck with it. I went from 'why would she do that' to 'seriously in awe' in no time at all. 
9. Knowing that the way she relates an anecdote is sure to make me smile/ laugh/ nod in aquiecense I often check to see what she has written or call for a dose of funny. FaceTime and Skype make it all so easy.
10. She is a stand up person. In 48 hours this woman would have run a marathon to support a cause she believes in. I donated because I believe in her. I'm asking you to donate just a little/ lot in sheer admiration of someone who is going to run ALL. THAT. WAY for someone else. 

From your desk/ couch, that is far more precious than any comment you could leave me. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Sunday night movies

Have I told you about my Sunday night movie? 

It's started innocently enough, the by product of no babysitter, V's long work hours/ travel and the absolute lack of close friends leading to me needing desperately this time to be on my own. I'm no great critic or lover of movies. In fact in all the time after Kid was born and I lived in London I went for 3 movies (that's in 3.4 years). And although I missed going for movies like we did when we didn't have a child (twice or so a month) I wasn't desperate by any means. 

About a month or so into this Singapore stint I decided that I would go out on Sunday evenings. V, an entirely exemplary father was happy to have that uninterrupted time with Kid, playing and doing the bath and bed routine. So I'd set off after 6, once kid was fed and then wander the malls, window shopping and browsing the too expensive bookshops. I would buy dinner around 8.30 and head home and we would have a lovely meal together before the next hectic week began. It was a plan that worked, gave me the break and headspace I desperately needed.  

By week three I had made a few acquaintances and been rebuffed by almost all the people I had been introduced to. I was bored of the window shopping and page turning and decided that instead I would go and watch a movie. In that one evening I re-discovered popcorn and a small drink making for a wonderful combination in front of the big screen. And so my Sunday night movie ritual was born. 

For over a year now, each Sunday evening I leave after getting Kid's dinner organised and go to watch a movie. I tried to involve various people in this scheme but it turns out people are either uninterested or unreliable or just plain have a life. It's also probably my curmudgeonly-ness. And while I balked initially at going to do this on my own week after week, I stuck to it and within a matter of weeks I loved the calm of the ritual, the not needing anyone to do it with me. People look at me like I'm crazy for going on my own but hey people think I'm crazy anyway. On occasion people offer to join in and that's fine but I find I like the Sundays on my own best of all. I love that at 38 I've discovered I am really and truly my own best company. Curmudgeonly and all. 

Cinemas are plentiful, clean, have fantastic audio and video, cost about $10 for a show and have an array of snacks (very important). There is a plethora of movies on all the time (thank you Hollywood and Bollywood) and I am not picky. I'm watching for the art of big screen productions and the experience rather than deep and meaningful stories and that is the key to my success. Not having to think too much about it. As a result I have seen some brilliant and unexpected movies and some really terrible productions. 

Sunday is my day. It's the day we go out for lunch as a family (sometimes 3 of us, sometimes all 6) and buy in dinner for the two of us. It's the day I get to be silent from answering all the 'why mama' questions, from deciding what puzzles arts and crafts and games we will play after school, from cooking up something for dinner. It's the day I don't eat in front of the TV and watch a re-run of a re-run while V slogs away at work or on a call from home. Instead it's the day I choose what new restaurant on this small island will be worth trying. It's the day I worry about whether Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Shwarznegger will be friends again. Or if Ryan Gosling could get any handsomer. It's the day I decide if I want to replace my popcorn with an ice cream. Or if I want dumplings for dinner even though I had them for lunch.  

It's my much needed day. And although a lot is due to change in the working of our household over the next few weeks I am determined to hold on to these Sundays. I really am my own best company. Curmudgeonly and all. 

I'm off for The Wolf of Wall Street. Good night. 

Sunday Lunch - 7: Rubato

This first Sunday of the year was a quiet one. We played with train tracks all morning and as I sat on the knit ball that is my seat in Kid's room I browsed the net looking for lunch inspiration.

It turned out my first choice does not open on Sundays so I had to go back to the beginning and look at my lists. But my second choice was such a close second that I was very pleased when I called and they said they could fit us in. 

We went to Rubato in Greenwood Avenue. I've been to that bit of town a few times for playdatea but never knew that behind the lovely Watten Estate with its houses and parks was this little market. It's packed with restaurants and shops and looks like a place I need a few hours to explore. 


Rubato was bright and airy and full of light. The table tops were a lovely brown wood that looked new. They had a weekend menu but on request we ordered a charcoal grilled Squid starter from their weekday a la carte menu whose rave reviews were what drew me to them. It was all the reviews said, perfectly done with the smokiness of the charcoal melding with olive oil and just big enough for us to share. 


I had a chicken saltimbocca which was tender and tasty (unlike Singapore chicken which always tastes stale to me) and V had a spaghetti with tiger prawn dish. 


But the winner was the Margherita pizza that Kid had. Absolutely delicious and he finished most of it in no time, leaving just a piece for us to taste. 


It was quiet when we arrived - we are always early for lunch, arriving by noon so that kid can eat at the time he is most used to. It filled up as we were sitting there and by the time we left there was not a free seat to be found. 

It was raining when we left, sated. We shared a taxi and dropped off V to his errands before heading for the National Library to borrow some books. I'm encouraging him to choose books on his own now (while steering him away from his favourite) and this is much harder than one imagines. He chooses the first book he sees and while I guess there is logic in that this week it turned out to be a book beyond his years, one about an orphan boy living in a work camp with his camel. It's been hard to explain the story to him as we read it. It's an interesting age, 4.5, full of questions and opinions and feelings, many confusing and all valid. Needless to say we have a new plan to book borrowing next weekend. 

Home and an early dinner of tofu and noodles before I headed off for my Sunday night movie. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This last day of 2013


If anything I'd say this has been a mixed year. I've had a lot more on the mind than is healthy I think and the continued silence on this blog from commenters has meant that I haven't used it as much of an outlet. As much as this full year in Singapore has been lovely what with the hot weather and all it's been a difficult year for me. V and Kid have had an easier time of it I think - or they are better at hiding or processing how they feel - and maybe that is a gender thing. Either way I'm the only one that is feeling this angst so very loudly. 

I have spent a lot of the year feeling misplaced (and no not from London but from Life) and caught up in self pity and what-if cycles. I suspect a lot of it comes from finding my feet in a new place, inching my way steadily towards 40 and a completely different way of life that I wasn't quite expecting. I find myself often having a mini pity party - I guess the luxury of not having to work or think about basics means that I have the mind space to wallow and think about a variety of non essential things like feelings/ responsibilities etc. and that is a problem. 2014 promises to be busier and take care of some of this Time. 

I find it hard to talk about what's on my mind. This inspite of a plethora of close and wonderful family and friends. What can I say, it's not them, it's me. I can't see that that will change in 2014 but it's lovely knowing that there is a world of people who have my back. 

I wish I could say I've resolved a lot of this but the truth is that I have dealt with some and the rest is with me probably simmering in my mind just waiting to jump out one evening. In truth I have more to be thankful for than I ever give credit for. And beside my eternal resolution of de-cluttering I want to note here that my resolution for 2014 is to be more thankful and count my blessings instead of merely counting my grouses. 

I hope you have a wonderful New Year whatever you choose to do. More than anything I hope that the celebration of this night carries on into your lives and mine. 

P.S: The birds are from the end of the buffet bar at the Taj Samudra Colombo coffee shop from the holiday we are just back from. Simple and so elegant. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A 2.18am Christmas wish

May my wish to beat (creeping up in old age) insomnia come true. And of course spreading good cheer and joy to the world. 


The NORAD tracker is keeping me company as I lie here in darkness waiting for sleep to return and Santa to drop off our presents. 

Merry Christmas one and all.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Journey unending

Ok, some disclaimers before my one reader pounces with their refuting statements. This is our experience. Lots of people do far longer journeys (across continents, to the Poles etc), even more walk barefoot across lands in search for clean water and food, people choose to not take small children anywhere because it's more pain than gain, it can be argued that there is nothing cultural to be imbibed with small wailing children who refuse to eat any of the unknown things on the menu on offer. Phew. Still, this is our journey, one where we travel when we can with our small child in tow. From his first trip to be 'shown off' in India at age 3.5 months till as recently as this week we have taken the view that even if we see or do nothing cultural travel is important to us and that we want to try and make our child see / experience what is within our possibilities. It has also meant that at the end of particularly arduous journeys where he has wailed while his suitcase went into the black hole that is the hold of an airplane I have said 'never again' only to eat my words as I've seen him interact with family and friends and amazing places he would not see if we just stayed home. 

From a few awful journeys (Rome to Venice by train, Kolkata airport at midnight and Bangkok to London flight stand out) to a seasoned traveler my nearly four and a half year old has processed the sequence of affairs that travel involve and now it's nearly a doddle. He is adventurous in his food tastes and willing to try new things even if his default setting in pizza and WHITE rice. And more than anything he loves hanging with various family members. This trip to India was a bit complex with so many changes and modes of transport but here we are enjoying Bentota in Sri Lanka with V's parents, his brother and wife and their son (whom he sees in Singapore all the time and is his absolute hero).

The journey was long but the only person complaining was me. Here it is in all it's gory detail.
1. Thursday 3am: wake up and get ready while checking if flight will take off in Delhis fog. The last three days have seen this very flight be delayed such that we wouldn't have made our connection.
2. 3.50am: wake up Kid who has been so eagerly awaiting this day of seeing his cousin (whom he saw just a week ago mind you) that he leaps out of bed and is ready in a record 15 minutes.
3. 4.15am: Meru Cab is efficiently waiting although giant suitcase has to be tied to the top as the boot has the cyclinder that powers the engine. 
4. 6.50am: Smooth check in, security and wander around shops later our flight leaves 5 minutes early. V says he turned the dial down on the fog hahaha! Only mishap was Pepsi machine where our crisps got stuck after paying Rs.50 and after which we spent another Rs.20 on a bottle on water hoping it would knock the crisps sideways. It didn't happen so some lucky attendant got both! 
5. 9.35am: Arrive Chennai where we are seeing my Aunt and uncle. By the time they arrive and we are on our way to Breakfast it is 10.35am. Chatting all the way and at Brekka we go into Saravana Bhavan in T-nagar and stuff our faces with hot crisp dosas, uttapams, idlis, ke sari and filter coffee. Then we head back to the airport.
6. 12pm: We bid them Goodbye and race into the airport where my son and his cousin (brother, twin and best friend) hug and whoop like they have been separate since birth and are from a Hindi movie.
7. 2.40pm: We check-in and our flight is half an hour late to take off. The gate information is haphazard and they keep calling us to stand in line to board and then sending is back to sit down. I entertained the boys with a jumping game. Then we boarded and V entertained the boys while I dozed and caught up with my sis-in-law. 
8. 4pm: Arrived at Colombo airport but the long immigration lines and faintly chaotic airport means that we pile into our van for 6 adults and 2 kids only by 5.25pm. 
9. Varying reports of distance and roads to take to Bentota from Colombo lead to great discussion. Our driver tells us at least 3 hours while we had all been expecting a 2 hour run. He just laughs at our questions as he meanders through the heavy traffic with great skill.
10. Thursday 9pm: Arrive at our hotel, we've managed to avoid the major car sickness by convincing the kids to sleep. We are too tired to contemplate going straight to our rooms. We settle in at the coffee shop, chatting and eating a hot meal before heading to shower and lovely hotel beds. The anticipation of a lovely holiday will give us sweet dreams.

We are here. The morning of swimming, tender coconut sipping, big meals and the evening of skipping along the lovely soft sandy beaches outside our rooms has made this all worth it.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Many many hours

Bhopal was brilliant. I love how green it is - social forestry is at work I am assured. I will let the pictures tell you about our day out on Monday. 








Then on Tuesday we spent the morning with my grandmother, ate hot mattar kachoris (delicious!) and drove through Van (pronounced 'vun' not vaaan) Vihar on our way to the airport. Van Vihar is a semi open zoo by the giant 300sq km lake - a forested area with a smith driving road through it. Neat, clean and polythene bag free, policed by a large contingent and with a range of big and small animals, it's one of the loveliest Indian zoos I have seen. Saw a giant beautiful tiger - the best fed beast I have ever seen - and bison, deer, crocodiles, leopard, monkeys, lion. 

Home that night. The next day (Wednesday) was one of lazing, an Indian Chinese lunch (yum) followed by the obligatory trip to the rail museum in the cold afternoon to ride the toy train and wander around in despair at its disrepair. 


An evening with my college room mate and family sitting around my parents living room and reminiscing about the many nights we slept in a pull out sofa bed when we were trainees for a summer and a winter. 

And the next morning (Thursday) we woke at 3am to leave for this leg of the holiday. My son has been a real trooper, taking in his stride the many many flights, car trips and embracing the love on offer from relatives and friends he does not know intimately. 

We have just finished fabulous Day 1 of this next leg of the holiday. Fabulous especially after the epic journey yesterday. Tomorrow I will tell you all about it - when I've had enough Margarita's to help recover fully from it. Meanwhile, Good Night. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Rukavat ke liye khed hai

Or translated: sorry for the interruption/ stoppage. I have a lot of Sunday lunches I owe this blog. In a while, crocodile! 

We are in Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh for 2 days to visit my Nani (mum's mum), Mama ( mum's brother), Maiji (mum's sis-in-law) and cousin on this epic holiday. I say epic because we (V, Kid and I) are packed for two different vacations in two different countries and seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time in airports. 

We had a lovely Saturday with my folks in Delhi, eating a massive and long drawn out lunch while ALL talking and laughing at the same time. Post lunch I hung out with my brother and his lively wife (who is the queen of knowing where what is!) and did a spot of shopping at our local big brand mall. I've already begun to fill up the empty spots in my suitcase. That evening I had dinner with my besties - girls who knew me as an awkward teen and love me as an awkward adult. These are girls whom I love dearly, whom I talk to often and who get where I'm coming from. Who don't judge me in any way and who love me just as I am (a rare thing as mostly I can see people's judgement in the smooth words they use). It was super super super. 

Now Bhopal. And my once travel hating child is handling this all like a pro. Multiple flights, immigration lines, security checks, seatbelts, bagging disappearing and reappearing on conveyor belts, people he has no memory of - all of whom want to hug and hold him, new houses and hotel rooms. I'm guessing it's not our constant discussion but probably just him growing up but my lord, the airports and flights we have endured in the past! Moving on.....we had a brilliant evening with my aunt and uncle and of course seeing my beautiful grandmother was lovely. We ate mounds of home cooked delicious food all made lovingly by my aunt. My mum is here with us and so we've taken some pictures of the 4 generations together. 

It was a long day and evening and now we are all waking up comfortably at the Courtyard Marriott, which is surprisingly lovely considering it is built over a mall. This morning after breakfast we head to Sanchi to see the famed Buddhist Stupa (and no doubt run into the groups of Japanese tourists who were on our flight). My cousin will have arrived home for the holidays overnight and I can't wait to see him! We have around 36 hours before we head back to Delhi for a day and then on to the next bit of the holiday. 

I know, it doesn't sound like much of a vacation with all this rushing around, but surprisingly I am loving it, these days packed with love and talk and food and the simple moments of our existence. I feel like I am surrounded at the moment by people who love me and whom I love and that is a feeling I would like to fold up in my warm shawl and keep for a lonely day when we are once again just isolated beads on this very large planet. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sunday Lunch 6: L'entrecote - a birthday steak

So you remember my birthday? The one in July that 99% of you forgot/ could not be bothered to wish me for. (I'm having a snarky day - live with it). (Thank you to the 5 people who did wish me)

I had wanted a quiet day of some contemplation about various things going on in life at that point. The honeymoon period in Singapore was over. I hadn't quite found my footing as surely as I expected. And various things were bugging me immensely. I was not in a good place and rather than have a massive celebration I wanted to be allowed to sit and stew in my own steam. 

Of course none of that happened. I turned 38 and spent the morning running errands. Then I got invited to lunch with my sis-in-law, parents in law, nephew. Then we rushed off to collect Kid and proceeded to have a noisy old afternoon at their house. Helped set up my own afternoon celebratory tea and get kids involved in it. It was lovely and thoughtful but I was shattered. By the Kids bedtime I was ready to go to bed myself. And so came to pass a day where the focus was on such busy-ness that I had no time to sit and stew. 

V kept promising me a birthday lunch and of course even though we proceeded to eat many a lunch since none of them really qualified as my birthday lunch. 

Life in Singapore settled down and all the angst and trepidation that followed the lovely 6 month honeymoon soon dissipated. I find over the last few months that my footing is more sure and I'm once again enjoying the many many comforts and interesting things this city has to offer. The 3 awful months in between deserve their own post. I promise.

This Sunday we booked a last minute table at L'Entrecote. And because Steak is one of my top favourite meals V declared that this was my birthday lunch. It's pretty amazing that in over 14 months here I have not had a steak. My last great steak was in London - and just where we lived we were spoilt for choice with 3 steak places. So I've missed a good steak, to say the very least.


Duxton Hill is in the Central Business district. A narrow walking only path, this small leafy lane could easily be mistaken for being located in a suburb and not bustling WorkTown. I suspect it bustles a bit more on weekdays. This Sunday we got there just as rain clouds were gathering overhead. 


L'entrecote is a few doors up the path. Set in an old shop house this is a fairly narrow and dark restaurant. They have a big skylight which really only brings light to one side of the restaurant. The other lighting was not helpful. While they have tried to recreate some of the ambiance I thought they left something to be desired. The numbered bench along one wall was beautifully done but they had stuffed so many tables in front of it that it looked like one table for a group of 50 rather than individually inviting tables. The dresser (on which the second half of the Steak rests) looks worn rather than shabby chic (which is what they usually tend to veer towards). Workable but not a pleasing ambiance.


It began to pour with rain as we squeezed ourselves into our table in the completely empty restaurant. The menu is much the same as London although I think they had more by way of appetizers here. We ordered a pork pate and snails as a starter. Both came quickly and beautifully presented. The pate was delicious and the Polaine bread with it a treat. The snails were hot and bubbling in their little baking dish. They were a bit overpowered by the sauce but tasted fine.


Then arrived the lovely fresh salad and the Steak. It looked exactly as it should - half a steak sliced and covered with the signature sauce and accompanied by a pile of thin fries. We tucked in. The steak was cooked perfectly as we asked (medium rare) and the fries were thin, hot and salted just right. The sauce however, which is what makes the meal, was disappointing. 


How do I explain it? The sauce in all the places we have eaten before has been buttery artery choking goodness. This was not smooth and looked a bit curdled, as if it had been cooked with a bit of yogurt. It looked wrong and tasted average. It made the steak good not great. Nonetheless I ploughed through my first steak in 14 months with speed. No sauce was going to stand in the way of my birthday lunch thank you very much. 


Kid had eaten lunch so chose a scoop of vanilla ice cream to ignore while he played with the trains and wrote numbers all over the paper tablecloth. We finished up and wandered through the (now) drizzle to get a taxi. It was a good meal, a fitting birthday lunch. It was symbolic in many ways of my life in Singapore - pretty perfect with a dash of the odd oddity to keep things interesting. I'm not complaining. Just saying. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A creative bone

I was creative as a child but somehow growing up I shed off a lot of that instinct. Or maybe I blocked it out in the face of needing to be practical. I don't know. Either way I've never thought of myself as very creative. Sure I'll do the odd creative thing but I usually attribute that to a spark or an idea borrowed from a blog/ Pinterest. 

I think though that a lot of my one latent creative gene has found its way back lately. I'm convinced that this is because I have learnt to let go of a lot of things and process things I don't like with speed, both of which are freeing up my mind space to do other things. Also being the mom for a small and inquisitive child helps. It starts with hand impressions and gets more complicated as they grow older. And I don't want to struggle to keep him occupied all afternoon and resort to an electronic babysitter. So I improvise. 

As a mum I'm constantly trying to drum up interest in things other than trains. Things that I can develop a smidge of interest in - lying on the floor and playing hours of pretend trains gets old to say the least. So again I borrow ideas from other blogs and come up with games from very day things like cardboard boxes and toys he already has but steadily ignores. 

This week I pulled out a book he got from a friend in London for his 3rd birthday. It's called 'A Walk in London' and it's geared for an older child I think but the illustrations are lovely and I've read a simplified interpretation of it to Kid. He seems interested even though all his memories of his time there are now slowly but surely disappearing. 

Today I had an hour to kill while waiting for someone to show up (story of my life it would seem. 'There stands 30in2005, waiting.'). And I was suddenly inspired to turn over the top of his train table and recreate a mini map of London with blocks and cars and buses and some felt cutouts. Here it is:




A quick description:
Felt Thames River. Wood boats. Many a tower. Traffic lights. Black masking tape roads (multi purposed for plane runway and train line). London taxis, both black and Olympic-ed up. Double decker red bus. Our local park with a pond and ducks. The tube station with a train sitting in the turntable. A plane for Heathrow. And Monument. 

So far I have had an hour and a bit of pretend play while I have sat here and written and edited the pictures. Maybe he does remember something of our life before this. 


Monday, November 18, 2013

Sunday lunch - 5: Omakase - burgers yum yum

Not this Sunday (because I threw another meal, lunch this time, for 8+6) but the Sunday before was a lunch worth talking about. 

I had arranged a trial swim class at a pool in Turf City in the hope that my son would finally find his inner fish. He's Cancerian and I believe in that sun sign crap. Also he like baths and isn't the pool just a giant tub?! Anyway, after a week of tears and many promised 'incentives' linked to TV watching he agreed to go to this class and try it 'only one time'. So off we went on Sunday at 11.30 to have a look and try. I won't bore you tears except to say it was an unmitigated disaster and by the middle of the class we had to dry off many a tear and a small boy and leave. V and I walked in sullen silence to The Grandstand, a small fight simmering on how these tears and fears were dealt with. 

Anyway, the pool was quickly forgotten by the time we reached The Grandstand. We had planned on eating lunch and getting our groceries there. We chose Omakase burgers, a place we've heard tons about but never ventured to this far. 

It was on a busy strip of the mall surrounded by restaurants and swarming with people. We chose seats on the fake grass outdoor area (picket fence, white tables and chairs, all indoors but outside the main resto). We ordered classic cheeseburgers for V and I and the kids version for Kid. I ordered a Mexican Coca Cola at some exhorbitant price because the sign at the counter extolled the virtues of this cult drink. The boys went for juice. 

The burgers were delicious, better than any I have had in Singapore but the portion sizes very small. Exhibit a and b below are one of our burgers and the kids one - the size difference was minimal. The sweet potato chips were a bit thicker and a few more but the actual burgers were dismally small for the price.



The size thing really bothered me with the juice where they got good sized glasses but not fully filled. They could have just halved the size of the glass and then they would have felt filled. This just made us feel shortchanged. 


It was a good meal alright and after a year of pursuing a good burger this was just what we needed. Not the best but far far away from the other sad samples that pass for burgers. The other big bug bear is that there is no vegetarian or fish version. And while this may not be a large  market surely a chunk of the huge Indian / expat population is looking for choice. I never quite get why more places don't address this. How hard is it to make a good vegetarian patty - all the other fillers / bun would be the same. Anyway. 

The cola was nothing but Thumbs Up masquerading in a lovely glass bottle, calling itself Coca Cola. Yum. So in short a good meal at Omakase and one I would revisit if I'm in the neighbourhood or craving a burger, whichever comes first.

P.S. Yes you read that right. Two home cooked meals for Guests in as many weeks. My Singapore domestic diva is waving shyly from behind the fridge.

P.S. Just to clarify, Kid loves the pool and is happy to get in and never get out (especially on holidays). His fear is the idea of a Class and removing his armbands so he can properly learn. New strategy has been employed. I'll post when I know whether that will work. 

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Dinner


Hosting a proper dinner party for the first time since we got here. Sure we've had the odd couple or two over but those meals have been thrown together rather than really planned. 

This one is ten people - the exact number that will fit around our door -turned - table. And I've thought through a dinner menu that doesn't require me to slave away in the kitchen all day. With a bit of planning it's taken me 2 hours to create: 
1. Chicken in lime and chilli marinade - took 6 minutes to marinate. I'll pop it into oven at 7 and it'll be ready for the table at 8.10.
2. Garlic ciabattas x 6. Made the butter last night. Slathered it on this morning and wrapped each of the six loaves individually to be popped in a hot oven 20 minutes before we eat.
3. Giant salad - radish, cucumber, cherry tomatos, lettuce and brocoli and alfalfa sprouts. Took about 8 minutes to wash, cut, assemble. Will dress and serve. 
4. Baby new potatoes, scrubbed, tossed in olive oil, sliced garlic and sliced lemon. Roasted them this afternoon and chopped up the dill. I'll toss this in after it's warmed and just before serving.
5. Spinach lasagna - this was the most time consuming. Popped on a pot of tomato sauce before I began on the salad and marinating. Got the ricotta - spinach - nutmeg - herb mix and grated cheese ready. Then used the ready sheets of lasagna to layer up everything. I  didn't use a white sauce, instead using the 'one cup of water around the edges' method - covering with parchment and then sealing with foil and baking for just over an hour. Moist and smelling heavenly, it's sat on my kitchen counter waiting to be lightly grilled for 5 minutes just before we eat. 
6. This final one is for my friend Broom, whom I miss dearly and think of every time I attempt a new vegetarian recipe. I made quinoa cauliflower cakes/ patties adapting a recipe from a blog. I added in a bunch of spices, fresh chillies and corriander and have just fried 30 of these babies in record time. It took about 40 minutes (without the time it needed to rest in the fridge) but so worth it! They smell and taste amazing! She is one of the few people that makes me miss my London life. 

I'm wierdly excited about this dinner, even though the friends are not really mine. It might have to do with a bunch of good things finally coming to fruition after a year and a bit of waiting watching fretting stressing. 

Anyway, tidying to do and a little person to feed and put through his evening routine before our guests arrive. I leave you with the table which has inadvertently turned into a white, green and yellow fest. Bon appetit! 

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Happy Diwali

We are in Calcutta for a quick weekend celebration with V's folks. So far it's been an eat-and-meet fest dominated by the most amazing Chitteranjan Rosogulla's. I have a misery making cold and hacking cough combo being alleviated only by the cheer and merriment of little dressed up excited kids and regular Rosogulla fixes.

We discovered Flury's delicious masala bread (reminiscent of a version from my childhood memories of Hot Breads in Chennai) and toasted slabs of this, with lashings of butter, make for decadent breakfasts. This is Diwali day brekka.


Happy Diwali, everyone. May your year be filled with food, friendship, family and fun. Harold and Stephen (Kids Diwali present from us) would send you their festive wishes too I expect, if only they could stop looking at my breakfast. 

Friday, November 01, 2013

So Halloween

In my London longer-than-a-decade I never really engaged with Guy Fawkes Day. And by that I mean I knew when it was, I went (grudgingly, I might add) for One bonfire night with some colleagues and knew the historical significance of the day. But it was just one of those things that flew under the radar in my daily life. The 5th of November came and went like any other day.

Similarly I was never called upon to celebrate Halloween, no one came a knocking for treats. Sure they had the small spooky installation replete with scary masks and pumpkins in my local High Street but it wasn't a full on assault of all things black, orange and spooky. I marvelled at my pals in America and the detail they went to in this celebration. The decorated houses and yards. The elaborate costumes. The carved pumpkins. Nothing like quiet London. 

Singapore is a whole other kettle of fish. Or shall we say basket of pumpkins. The American expat community is big and there are parades and serious trick or treaters. Last year Kid started school two days before Halloween and all his pictures of the day show a very upset little boy trying to hold back his tears and uncurl his lower lip. I could barely convince him to wear a Mickey Mouse tshirt as a costume.

What a difference a year makes! Kid loves school and has been talking about his Halloween party for weeks now. I went for a cobbled together Superman costume - tshirt, red shorts, red cape and green mask (from his cousins birthday), superman croc shoes (my sis in laws find). So all in all the credit for this goes to my sis in law - her birthday party stuff and shoe find made this costume. 


No red tights with blue undies on top for this Superman. Singers is too hot and so we had a very happy shorts-wala Superman who wore red socks instead. 

He came home from school with a loot bag of stuff that he will not eat and a bunch of entirely breakable plastic toys. But oh so happy! 

I'm guessing that Halloween is catching on in London too because friends have been posting pictures of mini ghosts and pirates trick or treating in the cold last night. Or maybe it's always been big and I never noticed because I didn't have a participating child. 


I miss the Guy Fawkes I never really celebrated. Or maybe just that very English way of celebrating - quiet and earnest. I haven't heard anyone mention it and I can't see that the 5th of November will be big. A smidge of London missing-ness happening. 

This year was fun. Halloween, something I knew little about, was an excellent little diversion from the everyday. An aspect of the expat Singaporean life I didn't know much about but I'm now fully on board with. At the bus stop we met a few batmans, an Olympic swimmer, a ghost pirate (?), a peanut, a fair few pumpkins. So many ideas for next year. Maybe I will be less lazy.