A Place Under the Sun for Everyone

Would it not be utopia realised if we accepted each other just a little more? For the most part, scouring the newspapers every day has become an act of trampling through a swamp of wretchedness. But yesterday, June 24, there was hope on the roads of NYC.

At some point in the afternoon, which was slowly turning oppressive with the forecast of a thunderstorm later on, we found ourselves in the middle of the LGBT parade in the city. We had stepped out for a bite at Wagamama.

There were cops everywhere. Barricades transformed the avenues. People pranced down them, instead of cars. The mood was carnivalesque, an explosion of colour everywhere we looked. People milled all around us in tees, dresses and flags in rainbow hues. Bare torsos. Toned abs. Impressive pecs. Nipples pierced. Nipples covered with star laces. Leotards. Head cages. Headgears of neon feathers fanning out over heads. It was a riot of street fashion and personalities. It was difficult not to whip around every second and click. Click. Click. Click. It was one of those days when you wanted to be everywhere at once.

Floats followed each other in quick succession as spectators cheered on, and well it was most uplifting, especially, the sight of the NYPD cops marching shoulder to shoulder with the LGBT community. The message largely was of inclusion. And you know what added a dash of goodness to the day? The fact that it was bloody well-organised. I was constantly comparing it in my mind to the Notting Hill Parade when the streets of London heave with people, when restaurants and eateries in the city ban revellers from using the loos, when the lack of transportation is pitiful. Even the tube runs so full that you are forced to miss train after train, in the effort of not returning home a squashed pea. Of course when you reach home late into the night, you vow never to get caught in the parade again.

Below are a handful of scenes from the Pride Parade 2018 where the emphasis was on being Defiantly Different. This in a city where no two days are the same. And so I leave you to indulge the senses in a whirligig of colours, while I go and catch the World Cup.




























The Bridges of Delaware County

In Upstate New York, there is a town called Delhi. This we did not know about and this I can tell you with not enough emphasis that a Delhi we did not expect in the middle of Delaware County. But it is in the unfolding nature of a drive in the countryside that it shall throw your way places that are unforgettable, sometimes by virtue of their outlandish names. There is the congested city of Delhi in India with countless pockets of heritage left behind by the Rajputs, the Tughluks, the Mughals and the British, tucked in within its urban sprawl, and then there is this, its little doppelgänger in the quiet reaches of the Delaware River.

A Delhi in another continent, to be found where the hills roll into each other in a chain of thickening foliage, where the blue of the skies deepen before they touch upon the vibrant green of the hills as barns and silos turn up from time to time to relieve the monotony, where beauteous horses and calves roam the pastures in quiet bonhomie. That is till you step into the picture. Then the calves stare at you, the startle showing through their great big eyes of bovine beauty. And they hold still for a few minutes, before they scuttle behind the horses for shelter.

Pronounced Del-high, as opposed to the original Del-ee, the outré Delhi of Delaware County came to be around the late 1700s. It was named for the man who founded it, a judge called Ebenezer Foote. He must have lived a lavish lifestyle, for he was referred to as The Great Mogul. Thus the name of the town, which includes the hamlets of East Delhi and West Delhi.

Now Judge Foote had a rival, General Erastus Root. He who rooted for the name ‘Mapleton’ and reacted to the announcement of the town’s new title with the words: ‘Del-hi-hel-high! Better call if Foote-high!’

In Foote and Root’s day, Delhi would have been different. Just over a hundred residents lived around the valley of the River Delaware with its pine and hemlock woods. Eighteenth-century accounts say that Indians traversed through it with prisoners and their scalps at the time. If one of those Indians arrive in present-day Delhi through a wormhole, imagine his face. From the hundreds, the numbers of residents have swelled to a few thousands. Delhi is a vision of small-town utopia, with its line-up of diners, cafes, and the village square, where I can see in the mind’s eye, locals gathering at fairs and harvest fest.

It is just fitting in the scheme of things that Delhi should be home to a covered bridge. You know, those structures of sublime architectural beauty that span rivers, simple and yet commanding, evoking in the onlooker the twin feelings of thrill and romance, because well that book of Robert James Waller did spoil us all with its sentimental talk of the ‘songs that come free from the blue-eyed grass, from the dust of a thousand country roads’.

Covered wooden bridges were built all over the country during the early 1800s to allow horses a semblance of quiet as they crossed gushing rivers, with carriages and caravans in their wake. The cool dark of these bridges are a great respite from the heat of summers and they naturally inspire romance. Kissing Bridges, they call them too. The landscape around each of them is of extraordinary pastoral beauty. The sight makes you want to be an artist, whip out a canvas, start splashing it with brilliant colours and introduce a note of balance through the muted shades of wood.

The trail of covered bridges took us from Fitch’s Bridge in Delhi to Hamden, a canvas of small-town living, where the bridge spanned the West Branch of the Delaware River. The drives were filled with the freshness of colour that nature is suffused with at the onset of summer. We watched fawns leap across the roads with the grace of lithe ballerinas, whooped with delight, and came upon a turkey buzzard of the bald red heads and disproportionately large bodies feeding upon a dead animal. There was no whooping then, but scenes of inimitable pastoral beauty washed over us.

When we arrived upon the last in the trail for us, the Downsville Covered Bridge, we were overwhelmed by the tranquility of its location. The entire length of this bridge designed by a Scottish immigrant was reflected in the still waters. As we walked around the greens with its pergola, suggestive of happy unions, it fit in smoothly, the thought that this was the kind of place where you get married.

A bucolic romance fest cobbled together with bridges and hamlets and barns and silos later, we crossed the last of our covered bridges, Adi gliding the car through its timbered darkness, for what do they say?

‘Five dollars fee for driving faster than a WALK on the bridge.’

Scenes from Delhi

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Fitch’s Covered Bridge. Built originally in 1870 in the village of Delhi for the sum of $1,900. Fifteen years later, it was moved a mile away to its present location.
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The West Branch of the Delaware River past which runs State Route 10
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On a November day from 1977, the introductory lines of an NYT piece on Delhi read: ‘The big issue in the election here tomorrow is whether to go dry.’ We know which way the people leant.
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Gutted by a fire, the shire pub that is back in business
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Craftsman-style houses and Victorian-style farmhouses showed up

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Barns and silos, chock-full of character
A letter of Ebenezer Foote’s. Sourced from oneonta.edu. Note how he talks about the pure air of Arbor Hill, where he built his house in Delhi. The list of goods he sent to the receiver of the letter, including the cigar meant for a ‘social puff’, is engaging.  

Scenes from around the rolling hills 

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Oh hello!
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‘Now now, why is she yammering?’
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Bales of hay in the Catskills
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Mendicant in the Catskills
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Working barns


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Who said you should not pit yourself against the sun? Chuck rules.
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Cross-section of a rustic barn. The fingers itch to transform one of these into a cosy nest.


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The Hamden Covered Bridge, built in the mid-1800s, for a sum of $1000 by Robert Murray. It straddles the West Branch of the Delaware River. 

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Adi’s favourite bridge was this, Downsville Covered Bridge. Built by Robert Murray in the mid-1800s at a cost of $1,700. 
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‘Analysis destroys wholes. Some things, magic things, are meant to stay whole. If you look at their pieces, they go away.’ Robert James Waller. 
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‘The reality is not exactly what the song started out to be, but it’s not a bad song.’ Robert James Waller. 


Heavenly Bodies of The Met

We finally ended up at The Met. It had been on my mind for some time and it being a bank holiday when the sky was swollen for the most part with clouds, Adi gave in. And will you get this, for not one, but two consecutive days. That is the power of love (or, a rainy weekend). A fine museum can be a salve to the soul that seeks more. Up the classic steps of The Metropolitan Museum and we were inside its august portals and soon the senses were buzzing with the wealth of art inside the maze of chambers. We were swept up by burial masks and the art of the Incas wrought in gold, smooth and veined busts of Greek gods and goddesses in marble, ancient Mayan figurines and the works. Time sped by. It was a lesson loaded with geography and history, which I appreciated way more than I would have as a teenager. For then the purpose of life was to guzzle Mills & Boon romances in the back benches and yak endlessly on the landline.

Back inside The Met, we were surprised by a line-up of sumptuous and austere figures. Catholicism and fashion! Oh, why yes, images from the Met Gala earlier this spring came back in a flash. How could I forget? The eyes had goggled at the pageantry, and details like Kim Kardashian being unable to paint her face as a girl (deprived child) because she attended Catholic school, Rihanna walking into the gala in her gown of pearls and crystals, with an equally low-key mitre, and then the revelation of a mini skirt, lest you started questioning her sartorial statement…

Riveted by this unusual exhibition, the likes of which we have never seen, I did pop my head and hands through a press of bodies, to steal a handful of images. So here’s how faith and fashion colluded at The Met. And I can promise you, it ain’t the mendicant’s cuppa.

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Habit of the clergy. The soutane.
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Angelica by Dolce & Gabbana, in black wool crepe and buttons of gold.
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Thom Browne ensemble in black cashmere broadcloth, black mink and white Persian lamb (put me in mind of a ram with concave horns).
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Moschino’s black and white canvas. That headgear!
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Sheaths with Byzantine mosaic design
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Silk taffeta dress by Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino
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A Thierry Mugler ivory silk taffeta ensemble, accessorised with gold-painted feathers.
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Statuary vestment for the Virgin of El Rocio, ca. 1985, by Yves Saint Laurent. An affair in gold silk brocade, silk satin and metal Chantilly lace.
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Burred vision in gold and white. An evening look by John Galliano for Dior.
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Christian Lacroix wedding ensemble in silk brocade and tulle
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Sumptuous statuary vestment in blue silk jacquard and gold metal passementerie for the Madonna Della Grazie in Palagianello, Italy, by Riccardo Tisci.
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And Alexander McQueen’s evening look for the House of Givenchy.

Of a Life Lived in the Limelight and its Loss

I am hardly ever starstruck. I would have been as a child, but as I grew up and my career path veered into journalism, meeting actors, sportstars and politicians, interviewing them on a regular basis, I lost that thing about looking up to anybody. Do you know what I mean? You see the people behind the personalities. Well, sort of. You see through one’s carefully cultivated veneer at any rate. But there are a few exceptions and one of them has been lost to us today. Who knows if Anthony Bourdain was a tortured soul. The man was certainly an urban poet.

I have never had the fortune of meeting him, but in the year 2008, which seems like some time ago, when I was 28 years old, when I had not yet met Adi, when life was a whirl of covering fashion shows, meeting chefs, and furiously digging for stories to produce at edit meetings, I did get to interview him through e-mail. Now I know how measly that seems. An e-mail interview, hah. But for someone who has always been an icon for me, a badass one, I was in the clouds. I wrote a small piece on this modern-day philosopher who took us places the way no one else did. The man who maintained this that “Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: To know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom… is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

I always had this secret notion that I would meet him. Someday. Somewhere. The world is unbelievably small and you never know who you meet around the corner. Do you have a small list of people you would really want to meet in real life, no matter how terribly it might dash your perceptions of the individual? Leonard Cohen was on my list. That never happened and it appears this shall not too.

The news made me think of an English professor when I was studying literature in college. He analysed the works of authors and poets like no one ever had for me. He was an odd one, this professor. But he was bloody passionate about English literature. If you think about it, it is the quirky ones who make an impact upon you. The disturbed souls. They know how to rent your thoughts, make you think of new things. Anyway, we were studying Somerset Maugham’s short story, The Lotus Eaters. In it the protagonist is a British bank manager who decides to control the fag end of his life after living it to the fullest on the island of Capri. It is a distressing story.

When we had arrived at the end of the story, the professor looked at his small batch of students and said on a sombre note, ‘From the day that we are born to the day we die, we have no control over anything. Have you thought about it that death is the only control we have over our lives? That we can choose when and how we end it. It is like writing your own end.’

I thought of him today morning when I got the news about Bourdain. Am I justifying the act of taking one’s own life? Hell no. But I cannot help empathising and this sorrow that wells up at the thought of one having to snuff out one’s own existence, as if not being in this world is the only way one can be.

So I can only say this, RIP Mr. Bourdain. You shall be missed.