Monday, December 26, 2016

The Traditional Goodbye To This Spectacularly Horrific Year

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?

Visited the UK (England, Scotland, Ireland). Watched a play in Shakespeare's Globe. Strolled down narrow London roads. Did touristy things in double-decker buses. Sang aloud in Irish pubs -- slightly tipsy on endless glasses of cider. Walked around deserted Edinburgh streets and grey Scottish villages. Cradled a cup of steaming soup in a quaint eatery next to Loch Ness. It was the dream of a lifetime -- a country I had read about all my life, stories I had studied for five years in college. Walking back to our central London hostel after many a random adventure, pleasantly tired and eating salted caramel ice cream was the closest thing to contentment I felt all of this year.


Mourning my grandmother. She was, quite simply, my most favourite person on earth. And 2016 took her away. This year, I grieved like I've never grieved before. I'm still not fully normal -- and every few days, I'm hit with a wave of longing so intense that it takes my breath away. 2016, you were such a fucker.


2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Kind of. Yes.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes.

5. What countries did you visit?
England, Ireland, Scotland
Also, the following places within India: Gushaini (Himachal), Kashipur, Benares, Calcutta.


Apart from the UK trip, this was not a travelling year. I didn't even go home for Pujo OR Christmas.


6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
Money. Happiness. Motivation. Rest.

7. What date from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory?
17th July. Made sure that I won't be forgetting 2016 in a hurry.


(Also, the first two weeks of December, when a plethora of friends got married and Calcutta was magical. But mostly, 17th July.)


8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

  • Making the UK happen
  • Not breaking down in public every other day

9. What was your biggest failure?
  Money. Work. Contentment.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing worth remembering anyway. Does heartache count? 

11. What was the best thing you bought?
 Tickets for the UK. Books on Kindle. Wacom tablet for S.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Mine. S'.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
2016's

14. Where did most of your money go?
Travel. Food. Books.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The UK trip. The December weddings. 

16. What song/album will always remind you of 2016?
"Hosanna..." from Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa

"Ophelia..." by the Lumineers
The entire soundtrack of Hamilton (Young, scrappy, and hungry!)
"Aguner poroshmoni..."

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
1. Happier or sadder? Sadder.
2. Thinner or fatter? Fatter.
3. Richer or poorer? Poorer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Spending time with my grandmother. Oh God, the regret is like a metallic taste in my tongue. It lurks in corners, never too far to give me a nudge, a poke, a swat.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Working. Good fucking lord, the American bosses took over my life this year. I worked 12/13 hour days for weeks at a time. 2016, you were spectacularly bad for my hobbies, my posture, my sanity, and my ability to keep my house clean and spend time with S.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
Christmas was spent with good friends and wine at an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet, followed by arguably the best Bollywood movie I've seen this year. It was all good. :) 

21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?
The mother. The mother-in-law. The boss. (Google Hangouts count, right?)

22. Did you fall in love in 2015?
Nope.

23. How many one night stands in this last year?
None.


24. What was your favourite TV programme?

  • Jessica Jones
  • Stranger Things
  • Game of Thrones
  • Relationship Goals (on Buzzfeed Violet)

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Yes.

26. What was the best book(s) you read? 

Books were the one thing that did not suck this year. I read a ton of whodunits (that were mostly good) and a bunch of "in the news, hyped" books (that were mostly bad). I also completed the GoodReads reading challenge of 32 books in a year. So there's that.

However, the best book, by far, was Siddhartha Mukherjee's "The Emperor of All Maladies". This is the kind of book that changes lives. If I had read this in high school, I would surely have been more interested in biology than I was. Weirdly enough, I was reading this right around the time my grandmum passed away. This book, and its story of man's essential mortality, helped soothe me in those days when little else could. 


Since then, I've listened to a number of Mukherjee's talks on YouTube, and developed a full blown crush on this bearded, bespectacled Bengali boy with a Pulitzer prize under his belt. I'm saving his latest book on genes for next year, savouring the delicious anticipation.


27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The Lumineers. 

28. What did you want and get?
The UK trip

29. What did you want and not get?
My grandmother. Job satisfaction. Success. Money.

30. What were your favourite films of this year?
Howl's Moving Castle. Dangal. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. 

(Much like travelling, this was not a year for serious movie watching. I spent all my time working or grieving or mindlessly watching Buzzfeed videos.)

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
28. A full on lunch party the day before. Basking in the sunshine with my cats and eating sushi and tiramisu on the actual day.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
 More money. A better job. My grandmother.  

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
Trying hard.

34. What kept you sane?
S. Books. Cats. Sleep.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Siddhartha Mukherjee. Riz Ahmed. Lin Manuel Miranda. (And of course, the usuals of Gaiman, Tennant, Adichie and Ranveer Singh)

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
JNU. Brexit. Trump. Demonetization. 2016 was a year of shitty SHITTY politics. Every issue I cared about went the opposite way. Every person I hated ascended the throne. 

37. Who did you miss?
My grandmother.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
N, maybe?

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
Keep calm and carry on. (And maybe sometimes cry a little.) 

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?

Catch a boat to England, baby, 
Maybe to Spain 
Wherever I have gone, 
Wherever I've been and gone 
Wherever I have gone 
The blues are all the same.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Five Unpopular Opinions

I just had a deeply satisfactory weekend. This involved hectic socialising and chores on Saturday, and drinking coffee under the blanket on Sunday. Therefore, for the first time in days, I feel rested enough to be restless. Ergo, random tags on this defunct blog.

1. I think all kinds of beer and whiskey taste terrible. Doesn't matter how rare and expensive your single malt is, it'll always be wasted on me.

2. I think Harry Potter is a superior piece of literature than Lord Of The Rings.

3. I'm an avid meat eater. I also have two cats that I love to bits, and have not met a dog I haven't adored. However, I find myself curiously indifferent to the Yulin dog meat festival (that seems to have taken over my Facebook feed). Since I eat pig and cow and goat with gusto, I find it a little hypocritical to decry the custom of eating another kind of four legged animal. Isn't it all conditioning, at the end of the day?

4. I hate fudge. It's overtly sweet, tastes like nothing, and turns into glue inside one's mouth.

5. I think Seinfeld is overrated.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Randomly took the day off from work. Watched 8 episodes of Modern Family back to back. Ate a laddu for lunch. Took a long luxurious shower. Drank a good cup of coffee. Finished a long-pending magazine.

Haven't been this happy in ages. It was as if I was almost... content?!

Are coffee and solitude really the answers to my life's problems?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I didn't realize Pujo in Delhi would be *this* underwhelming.

More than Pujo, it's just...home that I miss. I haven't been home in months. Haven't slept on my own bed, haven't lounged around on the hideous red sofa, haven't taken the auto to the Golpark CCD. I miss Kolkata and my grandparents and my half-boiled eggs for breakfast. I miss my mother and my brother and Champa mashi and my whole extended, annoying family. I miss life as it was before 2014.

I think I need to take a week off just to go home and lick my wounds. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Didimoni

In 1947, when didimoni abandoned her ancestral house in Mymensingha to make that fateful journey to the west, she left behind a lot of things. Most of her sarees, the certainty of her life as a district topper, and, more importantly, almost all her prize books. They had her names inscribed on them, she would recall wistfully. Leather harbound books, with golden letters. Certificates praising her for her memorizing things. But that was okay, she said. She was going to a new country, and memories could always be remade. Besides, she could always memorize new things.

My earliest memories of didimoni involve her memorizing things. She would put me to sleep, reciting all of "Abol Tabol" from memory. "You're just making this up", I would insist. "That's really not how it goes." "Yes, that's exactly how it goes", she would smugly assert. And that really, was, exactly how it went. To this day, the genius of Sukumar Ray and the brilliance of my grandmother are inseparable in my mind.

I remember two kinds of people from my childhood - the talkers, who would discuss things endlessly, and the do-ers, who would skip the discussions to get things done. Didimoni was, very firmly, in the latter group. She would cook, knit, sew, advise, mend, create, and comfort - mostly simultaneously, almost everyday, without breaking a sweat. When I remember my grandmother, I remember a flurry of movements, with just a few, brief flashes of pause. The soft, cotton saree anchal, the turmeric-stained fingers, the paan-bata with the supuris, the best mutton curry and patisaptas in the world, the wavy hair that I inherited, the sharp intellect that I didn't quite come into.

In an age when women weren't, really, out and about, my slip of a grandmother - a refugee in a strange country - managed to quietly thumb her nose at the world. She enrolled in a college, got incredible marks, got married, raised two children, ran a household, got herself a job with the RBI, gave it up, and then finally settled on an auditing position with the state government. My mother tells me how she would leave every morning, in her starched sarees and ironed blouses, hair in a bun, spring in her steps - *after* cooking a full meal for the family, packing off children to school, and dealing with a cantankerous mother-in-law. Me? I can barely manage to get my solitary self to work on most days. And most of my t-shirts are rumpled.


Didimoni taught me to memorize. She taught me to love Pujabarshikis, Russian literature, and Darjeeling tea. She taught me to admire Sukumar Ray and afternoon soaps and piping hot jilipis for breakfast. She taught me to cook, to count,to observe the world. To juggle responsibilites and to love Charles Dickens and to always keep a clean handkerchief handy. She kept a cold glass of lebur jol ready for me in summer, and made mowas on misty Saraswati pujo mornings - the smell of warm jaggery seeping into her pores. She taught me to not slow down. She taught me to survive.

Didimoni used to read after lunch. Every day, after the table was wiped down and the food was put away and the extended family hunkered down for the afternoon siesta, she would lean back with her favourite "Desh". We spoke about the world on those magical afternoons. My five-year old self frantically trying to keep up with her observations about world affairs. Never stop looking outwards, she would say. Kupomonduks are the worst.

My grandmother - Sati Sen - Partition surviver and household runner and starched saree-wearer and life tip-giver, passed away yesterday. She was 85. The nature of grief is that it comes in waves. Losing dadumoni and didimoni in quick succession means that, every few minutes, I'm being hit by waves of finality so overwhelming, that it takes my breath away.

I spent my childhood in a rundown house in south Calcutta, being mostly brought up by my two eccentric, lovable, efficient, exasperating grandparents. These two, like millions of others, immigrated across the border during tumultous times, and then set about building a life in a strange country with characteristic aplomb.

And that's what I keep telling myself. That they've just moved across the border somewhere. And it's okay, because they've done this before. And they're out there somewhere, setting up house and cooking mutton and watching cricket matches after lunch. And maybe, sometime, they're looking down at me too.

They're just somewhere else. That's all that it is.



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My list currently includes:


  • Neil Gaiman
  • David Tennant
  • Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Lin Manual Miranda
I obviously have a major thing for pale, thin (mostly) British men.

How is it, then, that I ended up marrying a decidedly non-thin, non-British person? Ah, the mysteries of life.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Jonmodin!

Things I did on my birthday:

1. One full-on-all-out lunch party the day before, with about 15 guests, in my tiny apartment. This actually included getting up at the crack of dawn to score nihari and bheja curry from Old Delhi, cleaning house like a maniac, and preventing the cats from destroying the rugs. I was very proud of myself, but old, creaky bones meant that I passed out before the last guest had left. (which was, admittedly, at 11 pm. And I had been up from 5:30. But still.).

2. A day off from work on the actual birthday.

3. Afternoon nap under the blanket, warming my toes in the buttery winter sun.

4. Cuddling with the cats.

5. Finishing one whole Neil Gaiman book.

6. Ordering and eating one whole pizza by myself. (It was a small pizza, but I think that still counts.)

7. Walking around CP and stuffing my face with sushi and nasi goreng and tiramisu ice cream for dinner.

In short, a pretty awesome time was had, even if I say so myself.

The rest of the week has meetings and office dinners till 10 every day, and, to put it mildly, looks bleak. I am so glad I have this stuff to think about when shit hits the fan, as it is often wont to do in this corporate jungle.

[I wonder if I should change this blog to a confessional style page, where I write about such mundane happenings in my decidedly average life. Would that help me write here more often? Hmmm, I wonder.]