The winds are in a hurry to get somewhere today. Their whooshing sounds permeate the insulation of these glass windows and there is this suggestion that they are feeling rather spunky. That’s all there is to it. Just the suggestion. No nannies and tots floating around. But there is this romantic feeling that sets in upon the senses when the wind whistles outside and the skies are smothered with clouds.
Now, the last time I last wrote here, I was in Calcutta, on a spontaneous visit to my parents. My father had just had an angioplasty then and I thought it was imperative to have a look in on them, if not for anything else, for the mind to stop concocting grim scenarios.
On the way to Calcutta, I flew Cathay Pacific for the first time. I was won over on two counts. The service was simply splendid and the food so healthy and flavourful that by the time I reached Hong Kong airport for a few hours’ layover, even after a 15-hour long flight, I was brimming with contentment.
I headed to The Wing, Cathay Pacific’s flagship lounge in Hong Kong, where I bathed in the shower suites. Minimalistic and neat inside, each suite was sheathed in beautiful dark stone and the fixtures carved from bamboo wood. Kitted up as it was with the fresh-smelling lux cleansers and shampoos, I came out feeling spiffy and ready to take on the world which as it turned out was not too tough. It was but a pillowy world of fluffy baos, you know, those big Chinese buns filled with vegetables and meat. The Chinese woman at the counter barely smiled and she understood no English, something that is rather common in the city of Hong Kong if you saunter into its flea markets and street food stalls, but all that mattered was that she doled out a platter of baos. Now these were proper bad boys. You could fashion them into pillows and sink into them, really. Except that the teeth would rather sink into them and make quick work of the matter at hand. This took place in the Noodle Bar which was one of the three sections in the lounge.
There was the Long Bar too where you could sit and catch a drink apart from making a beeline for the buffet, but this was kind of boring, it being early morning in Hong Kong, so I wandered into the third section, a Coffee Loft. Ooh now there was the real deal following a heartwarming breakfast. Shots of espresso and traditional pastries. My pick was the Chinese Wife Winter Melon Cake. Names get me. Just like books with smashing covers and titles. Who says I am not superficial? To get to the heart of the pastry, it was flaky, and if I were a bard, there would be sonnets on Chinese melon cakes. This beauty was rich (you cannot go wrong with pork lard shortening) and it dissolved in the mouth in a beautiful symphony of melon and spices. As usual, there are enough stories behind the name, but I will tell you of two of them.
One goes back to a man’s love for his wife who sold herself as a slave to get money for her father-in-law’s treatment. The man conjured up the idea of this cake as a street snack. His plan was to get his wife back once he had enough money. The other is about a Guangzhou chef who worked at a teahouse. He initially took some round pastries home as a treat for his wife. Her feedback: They made it better in her hometown, with winter melon paste. The chef reworked the pastry with melon paste and gave it a flat shape.
Dear men, it is thus easy to draw the conclusion that good things come to those who listen to their women.
When I landed in Calcutta late at night, the wind was knocked out of me. It was sultry. The real feel was often 49°C during the day and I was dissolved in the heat every morning I headed out for a run. Summer had blustered its way into the city. But in a few days swept in Kalbaisakhi. The season of thunderstorms when the skies grow dark, so suddenly that you do not have the time to even cuss. Smoky blue clouds mushroom in armies and hang ominously above your head, like dark devils with a mission. They then proceed to let loose upon you with all their might. These are accompanied by dust storms, which are not kind on you if you happen to be walking on the roads like a daft creature out to court trouble. Naturally, I had the thrill of being caught in one. I had forgotten how it all was since in the last few years I have been going back to Calcutta during winters when the weather turns all mellow and lovely.
After two weeks, I returned home to Bayonne, having spent time in Calcutta schooling and scolding my dad — also feeling relieved that all was fine with my folks for now. When I got back, I found to my delight tiny leaves upon the trees and cherry blossoms about to bloom. It was still nippy and the days were starting to warm up. On days, when it rains, it all looks like a beautiful painting. And with the change of seasons, there are children now in the park, yellow dandelions matting the grass in the parks, waiting to turn into those airy fairy balls of seeds, flowers everywhere you look. It is so happy and joyous that I can feel my heart bloom along with them. So that it is also time for me to stop prattling, leave you with some random photographs, and pop out for a wind-in-my-hair-and-a-song-in-my-heart kinda walk.