NOTES ON SELF-PUBLISHING

Tuesday is carrying on with the hum of the usual weekday chores. Except, for a while, the skies grows darker with clouds heavy with unspent moisture and the wind is sharp and cold, rushing through the trees in their tender green covers. As the treetops sway under the onslaught of the winds, the ambient white noise putting me in mind of sitting by the ocean somewhere and listening to the sound of the waves, I feel relief. Not travelling anywhere for such a long time now has been a drag on the senses. But it has been a conscious decision between my husband and I. We had discussed about it at length and decided that we would take all possible care and wait out the storm. Travelling will only feel that much more pleasurable when we finally catch that first flight to some place far out or even if we simply drive down in a car to a place nearer home. We have not been anywhere since March in 2020. That for us feels like a long, long time because we are so used to being on the road. Then again, everyone is fighting a battle of their own, most on the mental front, while plenty others are involved in fighting it on the physical front. Some are cash-strapped, trying to survive somehow in a strange new world in which work has completely dried up. On the other hand, there are those who are learning to love their own body, those who are fighting on a daily basis for their unborn children, some are dealing with diseases, and many others are coping with losses of their loved ones. When life seems overwhelming, you find yourself wondering how to keep your head above water.

The struggle/s of the mind is no new phenomenon for the writer. One is used to doubting everything one puts on paper. Because sometimes every word seems out of place. Ever since I have been writing, I have been bogged down by doubts, but the magnitude of it hit me like a locust storm when I undertook the job of writing a book. If you are not a writer who has written a book or is in the process of writing one, you really cannot imagine what self-loathing and self-recrimination is and how those two devils can really do a number on you. There are many more emotions thrown into the mix, but those two were the main ones I dealt with as I worked on finishing the book and then arriving at the crucial decision that I wanted to publish the book on my own. It helped that I came across an Irish writer called David Gaughran, reading whose books on self-publishing and watching whose videos on the subject gave me hope that I could do it privately.

If you had asked me previously about this indie effort of mine, about the alternative world of publishing out there, I might have turned down the thought with alacrity. After all there is a certain snobbishness about the entire affair, a kind of stink if you will. But reading Gaughran I was convinced that it was what I thought that mattered at the end of the day, especially if I was determined to have my book out there and not be dependent on the whim of some agent. Sure traditional publishing is the well-established route to fame. But I am not hung up on fame; I would rather run in the other direction. I have an Instagram account of roughly six hundred followers. That is telling. I do not court the numbers because it is a rabbit hole of desperation and despair (if life does not deal us enough of those emotions already). All I wanted was for my book to be read by those who love reading for the sake of reading.

Now to return to the whole endeavour of privately printing the book, I was enthused by the story of Virginia Woolf and her husband, Leonard Woolf. They set up their own publishing company in 1917 and called it Hogarth Press after the cottage they lived in, in Richmond. Though they made no money off it, they continued printing books by authors such as Katherine Mansfield, Sigmund Freud and T.S.Eliot, for the passion of the business of printing. In 1901, Beatrix Potter published The Tales of Peter Rabbit on her own because she had failed with the traditional route. Using her personal savings she printed 250 copies to begin with.

There are so many examples out there that I fear this might become a thesis if I delved into the lot of them. What I want to tell you if you are an aspiring author, is that embrace those fears you had and don’t look away from self-publishing. Sure, you might not get the kind of attention you want, but at least your book will be out there for readers to read and decide if it passes muster or not. And it is okay, if some do not like it. Remember, your book cannot and will not please all.

However that said, before you decide to trip down the indie publishing path, do make sure you have a bang-up product. Get a professional book editor to shape your book, make sure the content is not plagiarised in any form, give proper attributes to other writers where you have quoted them, read the proofread copy as many times as your need to make sure there are no errors in it, format it properly, and invest in a cover designer who will reproduce your vision for the book on the outside of it. And you shall be golden. As for marketing, I am still learning the ropes of it. Honestly, I am terrible at it, having realised I do not even know how to host a giveaway. Yeah, lots for me on the learning curve yet, but hey I persevere.

The biggest joy at the end of the tunnel has been this that Ramblers in Cornwall is finally out there and enjoying its moment in the sun and for that I am so very grateful. All those times of being sat at the desk, worrying if all of it would come to naught, has finally been soothed away by the hands of time and I can finally bring myself to quote Kerouac without faltering. “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

Leaving you with a groovy song from Hurrah for the Riff Raff for your listening pleasure. Peace out.

SPRING RUNNING

When I run, everything feels better. It truly does. I write thoughts in my head when I am running, if that makes sense. I make lists. I think of a thousand things I want to paint. I watch the angler stand for hours by the bay, patient in his endeavour of a good catch. I stare at the ducks and wading birds that glide by in the bay and I wipe away dark thoughts if and when they prey upon the mind. When I feel troubled, for the mind is such a cauldron of thoughts bubbling away, I run longer and harder. Let’s put it this way: I literally pound away all my frustrations. Running has been a great tool to keep my mind engaged all of last year, except for that awful period right about this time in 2020 when I took a tumble and skinned my knees. But the sorer my body feels, strangely enough the more alive it feels. This does not however mean that I recommend running one’s knees out. As in everything, I believe in listening to the body. I do not believe in weighing myself on the scales and feeling awful. Instead, I simply let my clothes speak. And these days my clothes are being mouthy, so I am trying to curb my insatiable appetite for all things baked.

Anyhoo, as I was out today morning, trotting in the cool loveliness of this hump day, I saw that the boughs were thick with blooms. The magnolias have blossomed though some buds are yet to unfurl, and this promise of tightly curled-up beauty makes my heart thrill even more. The heart’s eyes (because I believe that the heart can be persuaded to see) are filled with the sight of pear tree blossoms thickening away in clusters of white, daffodils winking prettily in patches of gardens alongside carpets of sweet droopy bluebells, and I am filled with wonder all over again. How the seasons march on relentlessly and how the beauty of each goes down a treat in the face of life’s challenges! And because every feeling of joy is almost always balanced out, it seems, with a tinge of pensiveness/ wistfulness/solemnity, I am irked by the thought that my running locale shall change by this time next Spring. What will I do without the bay, the vast sparkling swathe of water by which I run and watch the migration of the birds from the sidelines? The heart stumbles. It feels as it did a few years ago when I had to leave behind the mighty Racecourse. But then I had this beautiful park in Bayonne to soothe away the heartache of leaving those beloved trails behind. Who knows where I shall be running next Spring. But maybe it will not be all too bad. Maybe I will be quite alright. After all, it is the one constant in life. Change.

P.S.: The books have arrived and I am excited to announce a few giveaways soon for my readers.

If you would like to participate, do pop by later this weekend, and it should be up.

Happy Hump Day! ❤️

Spooked

Towards the beginning of the year, Adi and I were house hunting. While it is a most enticing prospect to find a house that you will want to live in and call yours, the search is exhausting. But this post not being about the house hunt, I will take you right away to Lambertville, a small town filled with antique stores by the Delaware river. It was one of those chilly February days when the wind pierced your bones and thoughts. It made you ache for home, to be wrapped up in a cosy throw with a book. But we were out. Following an early morning of property viewings, we took leave of the estate agent and I suggested to Adi that we step into Lambertville for a spot of browsing. We could do with some distraction.

Reaching town we grabbed cups of coffee, and cowering in the face of the cold, scurried into one of our favourite antique places in town. It is a big store with three levels filled with old junk, mostly European antiques sourced by the owner from his travels through Europe. Every time we enter the store, I feel like I am in a curiosity shop. I am filled with wonder at the kind of objects that existed once, and have now in this age been delegated to the status of mere curiosities. We were browsing, me rifling through pages of old books that begged to be taken home, when I overheard a woman comment to her companion as they were on their way out. “Where did the time go? I never realised it was so late,” she said. I smiled. Whoever enters the store falls through a rabbit hole.

Climbing the store’s creaky wooden stairs, we found that the store had curated a small museum-style experience. However, the difference was that one could buy items from the collection. My eyes were immediately drawn to a Victorian hallstand, dark mahogany and heavy of make, as most furniture from the yesteryears are. The hallstand had the patina of age. I spent time examining it, then proceeded to check the paraphernalia around. “Come on over,” I said, whispering and beckoning Adi to join me in checking out a small table that belonged to Arthur Conan Doyle. No ordinary piece this. We beheld a ouija table. Adi took a peek and grew pale. Having been exposed to a barrage of horror films over the years, he has been conditioned to my (bizarre, according to the man) fascination with eerie stories. For the sake of honesty, let’s say almost conditioned.

The table came with a note along (with a price tag of $7,500). It was bound to have a story given that it belonged to Dr. Doyle. He was a founding member of a research society in Hampshire and known for his fascination with spiritualism. Doyle collaborated with a fellow mystic in a research on poltergeists in Devon. When his son died of pneumonia in the mid 1900s, the bereaved author was even keener to believe in another realm of existence. He embarked on a collection of talking boards in an attempt to reconnect with his son. His daughter Jean, a British military officer, sold the talking boards to an English antique dealer, who in turn donated it to the Lambertville store for its museum.

“This is too creepy for words,” said Adi.

“But I am getting the hatstand, just so you know,” I told him seriously. One’s gotta rise to the occasion when one needs to needle the husband. And it almost always elicits a reaction most precious from my beloved.

Around the corner, Gothic memorabilia awaited us. For the most part, it was vampire-themed stuff. A plethora of long wooden trunks, beautifully made and kitted up with hinged lids, which opened to reveal wooden stakes and mallets, pistols and crucifixes, vials of garlic powder. Vampire hunting trunks. I wondered about it. Whoever might invest in them? Maybe ones off their rocker? But the truth is that travellers did purchase these trunks that were made in the 1800s for wealthy people on a voyage to Eastern Europe, specifically Transylvania, enthused by the myth of blood-sucking creatures after Bram Stoker published Dracula. One of the travelling vampire kits from the 1870s that we saw, belonged to the Spanish actor Carlos Villaria who played the role of vampire in Dracula, the 1931 version.

If that was not enough, we found more ouija boards, hand-carved, religious wooden sculptures of angels, stakes, holy water bottles, French vampire-hunting oak cabinets circa 1837, an alcove full of puppets with chains barring the way, even a chair that was used to perform exorcisms in Germany in the 1800s. Now all this was way too much for the husband to handle. At one point, he just gave up. He sat himself on a bench and refused to indulge me by looking at anything else in this small museum of strange objets d’art. For my part though I found it highly engaging, and am thinking I shall convince him to give it another go, another day. Wish me luck!

The Victorian hall stand that Did Not have my husband’s attention.
Vampire hunting cabinets
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ouija table
A French vampire hunting trunk, circa 1880s.
More ouija tables
The vampire hunter’s preferred weaponry
Alcoves stuffed with puppets and dire warnings. Stay away.

Book AVAILABLE

Hello hello hello,

How’s your Friday going?

The geese are outside gaggling and giggling as I write. Ramblers in Cornwall is live and both ebook and paperback versions are now available on Amazon world-wide (yoohoo!). The links are up on my website under the ‘Book’ section in the menu. It should be available on Barnes & Nobles soon and is in the works.

There seems to be a glitch however which I was happily unaware of earlier. It seems Amazon does not publish paperbacks for the Indian market. And that I cannot bear. To my Indian friends and family, I am working on it even as I take a little time off to jot this down here. So I shall not sit and ramble on as I am wont to do every time I pop into the blog. Instead, I shall swan off to do some research and get this gig underway.

If you grab a copy of the book, I shall look forward to reading your reviews on Amazon/Goodreads.

Springy vibes and smiles,

Arundhati

I am back!

With news of my book release. Would you save the date for the upcoming Friday, the 12th of March, dear readers? The book is privately printed and due to be released on the portal that is every man’s friend, Amazon. First up is the e-book version, but I cannot hold back on a paperback, can I? There is hardly any sensory pleasure to be had when you do not have a book to hold, a cute bookmark to mark where you left off the book, or maybe dog ear pages. The paperback should be released shortly after the e-book.

If you had told me as a teenager that I would write a book someday, I would’ve said, you were hopped up on spliffs. The latter ref. connects up with our current living conditions in the apartment building, we moved into last year. The odour of marijuana hangs in thick veils around the corners of the corridors and has even started seeping into our apartment. The entire affair odious. So yes, we live in Weed Central, and nothing can be done about it except for us waiting on our own house that should be ready to move into, in a few months from now.

Are you reassured now that I have not lost my rambling ways during my long absence from the world of blogging?

What a strange time it still is though. My mind seems like it has been stretched beyond its call, to fit in the memories of last year and the beginning of this. It is all too much for the brains to handle. As for all the years preceding the last one, they seem to have faded into a Before Covid compartment.

I want Before Covid life back. More than anything, now that spring is here. Isn’t there a feeling of hope and joy in the air? The birdsong, the sun without its hat, the flawlessly blue skies, the children in the park, the starlings with their iridescent colours that have started arriving in flocks. I want to put on a flowery dress and go dance in a meadow filled with long grass and wildflowers. I have been struggling with fits of low phases — as I imagine have many of you — and bursts of happiness. But then I suppose it is okay to be low, for without it could I appreciate the highs?

In all of this, getting the book ready to be out has probably kept me sane. That and my art. Without the twain, I might as well have pulled all my hair out. Which reminds me, in an aside, about my husband yanking almost all my hair out (but with great love) of late. What happened is this. Adi wanted to oil my hair. He took out a massive Costco jar of coconut oil from the pantry, extracted fistfuls and steeped my hair in it. Then I was rewarded with a solid “massage” that by the end of the session had resulted in clumps of my hair all over the floor, in my hand, and all over Adi’s tee.

It was a revelation. It made me realise two important things in my life. One, that I have much less hair on my head today than I did before. And two, my husband is not going to be allowed anywhere near my hair in the future.

Anyway, before I send you scurrying for cover, for fear of having to read a sinfully long post, I will keep coming back with more. About the book, the entire process of privately printing books, the people one needs to make it happen, and more about my life. In particular, I have to tell you stories of a snowy owl who came visiting us in Bayonne.

Now tell me your news, dear friend. And I shall find my way to your blog to update myself with accounts of your life. I have missed you all way too much. My conversations with you have been the water to my soul.

Merry Christmas!

Enthused by the need to cheer up my husband who has been moping around the apartment of late, looking sinfully bored, I thought we should swing into a little town nearby for some Christmas cheer. It is a town of antique shops and art galleries and artists. Lambertville (https://thetravellingdiaryofadippydottygirl.com/2019/06/11/the-lambertville-photo-roster/), which I have introduced you to a while ago. The way was paved with swathes of snow, then patches, where the snow has melted but with degrees of reluctance. Charming, quiet hamlets, acres and acres of farmland, silos and barns – the mainstay of the American farming story. I have a yen for those silos and barns. Have had it since my first trip Stateside in 2016. I could not take my eyes off them then, when we were visiting my sister-in-law in Seattle. Thereafter, I have fantasised of living in a barn. Adi is suspicious of the concept, but I tell him, “You would never look back with regret.” He still needs convincing.

So we roll on and listen to country music and carols and reach Lambertville within the span of an hour. The streets are remarkably empty. A couple of people roam the pavements, armed with coffee cups. The shops are open, the restaurants look shut, and generally the whole town looks like it has gone to sleep. It is cold, but not terribly so. We have not been keeping up with news. I am tired of keeping track of the numbers. But this makes us think, maybe it would have been better to just stay home. Covid’s token. Certainty is a thing of the past.

This must be the year of the grinch.

I enquire at some galleries for my art pieces. They mostly display oils. I make a mental note that I should continue with my objective of experimenting with oil painting starting next year. I am looking forward to it. After all, it is going to be a fresh challenge. A promise of growth.

At the antique shops, I pick up old bound editions of William Faulkner and Stendhal, when Adi beckons to me. I follow him. Massive installations of Tyrannosaurus and Komodo Dragons, a massive head of the Tyrannosaurus, its cruel eyes glinting at me, so life-like and uncanny. I shudder and run away, back to the comfort of books, porcelain figurines, faded cigar boxes. Within the matter of an hour, we take off from Lambertville for home. With dusk, the temperatures have dipped remarkably. Home seems the only place to be.

On the way back, we drive back again through hamlets and farms lit up with fairy lights and candles glinting at the windows. The pièce de résistance is a magnificent old spruce tree that we sight, on the grounds of a church. It is so tall. And threaded with warm twinkly lights, a yellow star crowning it, almost casting a mellow pool of light (or it maybe a figment of my imagination). I wish I could have stopped for a photo. But could I have done it justice? It is one of those things where words will have to suffice and you will have to take my word for it that it was a thing of rare beauty. A tree not uprooted, a tree left to grow unchecked, a tree done up in the simplest of manners, but one that was possibly the best Christmas tree that I have clapped eyes on. It belonged where it stood.

This year, we are not doing the traditional bird roast. It turns out, both of us were thinking of it, and were amazed when we said it aloud and realised that we were both on the same page. We will however bring it in with loads of veg, cheese and pies and cakes. I would love to hear how you are celebrating.

Here’s to a fuzzy Christmas, wherever you are, dear reader. Big love from us and Jack Phat from my art journal.

December

I have been gone long. But at the back of my mind has been this constant hum, “don’t be a numpty, get back to the blog already!” So the days have passed while I have been thinking of making a return, but words seem strangely sparse nowadays. Do you know what I mean? I think you do. I might meet you and talk endlessly, as is my wont, but when it comes to blogging, I feel like a dried-up well.

An endless litany of days just merge into the other, though I do not imply that I am discontented. Sure I have my wobbles (like any of us), but I have never looked more inward than now, to keep my soul invigorated. In all of this nature has made the biggest difference. I have found great comfort in watching the machinations of the birds that haunt the bay here. The season has brought about its customary visitors – flocks of Canada geese that honk in the evenings as they fly home, wherever that is, in perfect formations; the ring-billed gulls who perch themselves on the walls unafraid, even as one jogs by; the Snow Goose that looks picture perfect; the male mallards with their glistening green heads and the females with their speckled brown plumage; the cutesy Buffleheads that bob in couples on the waters. I have learnt to tell the young ring-billed gulls from the mature ones, by virtue of their plumage. Maybe because I have poring over Audubon’s wonderfully detailed field guide.

Meanwhile a snow storm in the last two days has coated my world pristine white. It has brought such a spark of joy. So what if I find myself slipping on the ice that has formed in the tracks on the park or sinking deep into the snow as I try to get to the many snowmen that have cropped up around us. Everyone is out there, sledding down the gentle slopes in the park, making the most of the landscape bathed in snow. We all need what we can get to tide us over this odd year, isn’t it?

I have been recharging myself through art. Watercolours and charcoal drawings. I have also started an etsy store: www.etsy.com/shop/Artbybasu?ref=seller-platform-mcnav. I hawk my wares on it. That apart I have been working on going the self-publishing route with my book. It is daunting and involves loads of research, but at least I have some control over the process. One needs control where one can find it, don’t you think? Anyway, I hope to get back to blogging more regularly, now that I have gingerly made my way back here, and catch up with my feed. Needless to say, but I shall put it out nonetheless, I have missed you all.

To you my lovelies, I send the brilliance of snow and oodles of love from Bayonne. Off I go to demolish some quiches and making December count.

September Sundays

There are days when you wake up with eagerness, then do nothing with it. You sink into the cushy bean bag in the balcony, settle back with your mug of coffee frappe, throw your head up and stare at the freshly washed blue of the skies, sight a single silken thread woven by a decidedly unconventional spider who must have laid aside all notions of the customary splayed cobweb.

Nothingness is delicious. Il dolce far niente.

In a while, after I have had my fill of a botanical book that smells and looks wonderful — apart from filling my head with stories of the lives of plants, of dicotelydons and monocotelydons, of gametophytes, of sporophytes, during the course of which I quietly slip back in time to the early years in school — I start rifling through my cache of freshly gathered leaves.

You see, autumn has tiptoed in.

The air has softened, the sunbeam ripened to golden loveliness that feathers its way through the canopy of trees, the sky a freshly washed shade of blue, and as daylight fades, the sinking of the sun into a riot of flaming oranges and reds above the waters of the bay. The fallen leaves are curling with pleasure and anticipation of the days to come, it seems. Some are green. Others have begun the march towards death. In their brilliant shades of yellows, reds, purple and pinks, mottled with green and brown, they do not look like they belong in the world of the hollow men. They belong in my world of dappled sunshine, of reading books in the park, of swaying lilac weeds and clovers, of clever squirrels who hasten to stow away their booties of nuts before the advent of winter, of the wetlands where the silent evening visitors are the night heron and the blue heron who spend the hours stalking fish.

So to September, with the early bite in the air, I raise my glass of cider.

Scrambled August

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Just like scrambled eggs, yes. Clouds of disintegrated thoughts and distended grump.

August was to be the year of our Spanish road trip. An epic journey lasting nearly three weeks to mark the year of my fortieth birthday. This would be the time we would have been sat making endless lists, marking places on the map, totting up a rough budget for the trip, looking up our hotel stays all over again and thrilling at the thought of basking in the view of the Andalucian mountains, desolate sierras dotted with pueblos blancos, the roll call of limestone villages that turn up perched upon the high mountain roads and clifftops like whitewashed visions.

We would have found seats in a small corner cafe in some town of exquisite medieval beauty and breakfasted like kings on plates of crisp churros and dark chocolate, and I would have shut my eyes to savour the pure pleasure that jets through the body when you have fried dough at your disposal, and a meal you have paid a measly four euros for.

A litany of would-haves.

A litany of memories from the winter of 2016 when we had an apartment in Barcelona, a hotel in Malaga, and later in Madrid, because Adi had an ongoing project in Spain. An entire February spent taking trains by myself at dawn, of roaming the atmospheric alleys of cities and towns that made me feel like I was walking the pages of a book not yet written, seeing cities with strangers, and returning bone-tired to Adi, who along with his colleagues would meet me at night for dinner — the Spanish eat so terribly late.

Sticking to my customary dinner-by-seven routine, I used to meet my husband and co. for post-prandial drinks. They meanwhile ordered up meat-heavy dinners that made my stomach churn, especially at the sight of rare-done meat, blood oozing from thick slabs of steak. Our Spanish friend was in charge of picking dishes for the night from menus everywhere, and I marvelled at his ability to put away all that meat. Loved seeing the passion with which he fell upon his plate of food, for no matter what our likes and dislikes, when it comes to our gustatory preferences, what matters is the singular passion for good food. Be it vegetarian, non-vegetarian, vegan or fruitarian, raw food or paleo. What matters to me ultimately is the way your eyes light up when you see a plate of food, see the world in a grain of food, to riff bravely on Blake.

Adventuring and misadventuring, I swooned over the moorish beauty of Malaga, walking all over town under the hot midday sun till the legs screamed in protest and I almost missed the train to Madrid because I had been ambitious enough to slog up its hills to the castle called Gibralfaro. There was Granada, the old lanes and bylanes of which I sighed over with a German woman, Sonja.

In Girona, I thought I was in another time and place, stood upon Emperor Charlemagne’s walls and staring at rows of cypresses guarding cathedrals and monasteries. I must have been.

The molten silver waves lapping up the deserted beach near the castle of Altafulla in ancient Tarragona. The haunting Islamic-Gothic loveliness of Zaragoza, the magnificent standalone Benedictine monastery at Montserrat, utterly charming Madrid where I walked in the footsteps of Hemingway, and then Barcelona naturally. With a start I realise, I have not written posts on some of these wonderful places and I intend to remedy this oversight in the next few posts.

After exploring all of these places on my own, I was delighted when Adi and I walked the streets of Ronda and Mijas together. It felt complete.

So, this was to be our summer of seeing places that live in my memory. Old for me, new for Adi. And I was bloody keen on him looking at them through my eyes, me looking at them through his, gaining fresh perspectives. I am gutted at the falling through of our plans, but there is no self-pity, mind you. I cannot, will not stand for it.

No, I am not your dealer of self-pity, wallowing in that self-absorbing emotion which gets you nowhere. I am simply your dealer of words, looking for a way out of discontented moments through a flapping horde of moods and memories.

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Girona

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Granada

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When sat in a churreria, talk less, scoff more. Easy, when alone.

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Montserrat

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Zaragoza

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Malaga

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Slipping in a cheeky one of me from a cerveceria in Madrid. The waiter insisted on taking it, with the Hemingway poster that he took off the wall. He was, I imagine, amused by my enthusiasm at bagging this dark corner seat where the author once sat and drank beer while people watching.

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Fav hangout in Madrid

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Ronda

 

 

 

 

Oh Fish

A bird came by yesterday. I was in the kitchen cooking, when I heard a splat. Fairly distinct sound as it was, simultaneously I heard the husband’s voice, and then, I saw his face and mouth gaping with surprise. Next I looked at the glass door on our balcony and what do I see but a strange sight. A skeletal bird clinging to the net screen, its long beak open, its eyes focused on Adi, who in the meanwhile had started having visions of Tippi Hedren swamped with attention from a thousand relentless homicidal birds (The Birds). Having asked him to stop the caterwauling, I had a good look at the bird, wondering if it was unwell. Did it need water? I have very little experience of taking care of birds, you see.

The last time I had rescued a baby pigeon was as a English Lit. student in college. I had taken a cab from college with an injured pigeon perched on my shoulder and the poor mite was shivering. By the time I reached home and put it in the library room with a bowl of water and another of grains, it must have been in a state of shock. It being a fledgling thing, had not fed itself as I had expected. When I visited the room in a half hour, expecting it to feel revived, it lay dead. It left me shivering. Haunted by the death of that baby pigeon, I could not go up to my beloved library for days on end.

Naturally, I am averse to repeating such an experience. I might know a little more than my teenage self, but I do not mess with wildlife because I have limited knowhow. So we mulled about what to do, Adi more concerned with getting rid of the “creepy thing” and me mulling on who to call — for, was its claws stuck on the net door? Then I hit up the Net to identify the bird and it turned out to be a Northern Flicker. A woodpecker. Its brown colouration with the bright crescent of vermilion red on the nape made my job easy.

My food, in the meantime, had turned to cinders on the hob, so I had to give it more attention. It took a good half hour before the Flicker unhooked its claws and took flight. If you have more knowledge of bird behaviour, pray shed light on this. I am curious, for it is not everyday you see a bird paste itself to your door and stay put there.

But to come to the title of the post, quite so literally, I have been introduced by Adi to the world of river monsters. Now, I find shows on chasing gigantic tunas monstrously boring, okay? Imagine then my consternation at finding that I am hooked by a white-haired, leathery cheeked British zoologist exploring killer fishes in the far-flung rivers of the world. And he pursues it with the seriousness I accord to the hunt for serial killers in Scandi noir.

A detective of all murky dealings that transpire in the underwater world? I was open-mouthed as I watched him go about his business with single-minded passion. And, I was in splits too. Then to my horror, I realised I was enamoured of this zoologist-underwater detective’s journey as he fishes for killer underwater monsters with teeth like shards that impale intruders and traces changing behaviours of red-bellied and black piranhas in the Amazonian river waters. Maybe now I have seen everything, now that I find myself furiously drawing fish (below is an illustration of the Golden Dorado, a large predatory fish with jaws as powerful as a pitbull’s found in the fresh waters in South America), a person off the rails wondering at the wild transformation in her telly-watching choices. Could it be the singular power of passion paired with the art of good storytelling?

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