EMERGING FROM THE MISTS OF TIME

Once in a while, I disappear from the world of socials. I don’t know what prompts the urge to burrow myself in a vat of my own thoughts, but this involuntary exercise makes me feel whole again. The mind is purged of a thousand distractions, as you can well imagine if you too know that feeling of disappearing down a rabbit hole every time that you open up your social media feed and emerge from it an hour later, knackered from the effort of updating yourself on the lives of others. While I get a whole load of inspiration from seeing people’s posts, it does takes me away from things I should be doing, and want to do, in real life. From time to time therefore, I switch myself off the socials for extended periods of time. I can then write with complete abandon, or as is the case nowadays, paint with my entire being focussed on say, getting the whiskers of a lioness in place, experimenting with ink and pen, playing around with values, studying the great masters. There is a whole lot to be achieved and not enough time in a day to get anything done in. More so, if you are tempted to spend hours staring at the spread of the green woods in front of your eyes and watch people sat at a beer barn, devouring hot dogs and crisps every afternoon without fail.

When I last blogged, I had emerged from the mists with my book, Ramblers in Cornwall. It was an overwhelming time because I had privately printed my book and was rather anxious about its performance. Being an author is not an easy job by half. You inhabit a world filled with words and it is a lovely head space to be caught in, but that said, it also tends to siphon off your peace of mind. There’s that thought nagging and poking you — are you doing enough to promote the book? But then, what is Enough? I suspect I would be terrible at Enough.

As a result the fact that we have made a move could not have come at a better time.

If there is a time for everything, this must be ours to set up our very own nest. Both Adi and I have craved it for a while now. Since we got married, we have moved across continents and apartments, and the time is nigh that we should have a bit of permanence till we decide to move somewhere else. As it would happen, we had been to Saratoga Springs during the first year that we had moved to the States. We were wooed by it. Imagine my thrill then at the fact that the dream has come to fruition. As it turns out, the universe does conspire to bring your ardent wishes to life. We are to be Saratogians after all. There is a curious sense of fulfilment and along with my lovely husband I am embracing it, for if this be the affair of life, to move on and make new starts, I am all in.

Alongside, as always, is wistfulness for what we have left behind. A quote I read recently reflects this well, so I shall leave you with it. The words are by an Italian writer called Aron Hector Schmitz, better known by his nom de guerre, Italo Svevo.

“Every time my surroundings change I feel enormous sadness. It’s not greater when I leave a place tied to memories, grief, or happiness. It’s the change itself that unsettles me, just as liquid in a jar turns cloudy when you shake it.”

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! ❤️

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.

These Truly Hairy Days

Yesterday, I played the barber. Yesterday, I also arrived at the rapid conclusion that for all my sins, I am not cut out to be one.

For some time now, Adi has been whingeing about the mountain of hair that has been steadily foaming above his head. I have been ignoring it for the most part because hoovering up hair, getting rid of those tiny stubborn bits that stick to the nooks — however fond of cleaning I might be — is not my jam. And really, as much as I do adore the thought of my hair being snipped and whipped into shape at a salon, I cannot bring myself to take on any level of salon activities at home. When I want to get rid of the pesky grey hairs that pop up at the temples, I go to the salon. When I want a fringe, I head to the salon. When I want a hair spa, I make an appointment at the salon. I think by now, you have it figured. The gist of my feelings about what came my way next.

We had spent a lazy Sunday afternoon watching a nice film, concluded with double shots of espresso and slices of raspberry pecan coffee cake, when Adi got up and declared that we were going to tackle his hair. “Wha..?” I wanted to faint, which my husband would not allow. He meant business.

Man on a mission, he set up the bathroom. A chair plonked in the middle of it. Fetched the worst pair of scissors one can use to snip hair. Kitchen scissors. But next to it lay an impressive caboodle of hair clippers.

Now, imagine handing a pair of clippers to an individual who has not given a single hair cut in her whole blooming life. The only time I played with giving myself a fringe was an experiment gone wrong. I can tell you about the drawbacks of a too-short fringe till the cows come home. But I think I shall stick to this particular event.

Armed with the clippers, I started at the nape. First, I raised the bottom hairline. Safe to say, it now rests above his lower ear lobes.

“Way too short!” pronounced the subject in tones that would not and could not hide heavy notes of dismay. After I made an allowance for the customary moaning and frowning, I got back to the task. I had not even begun properly, and I was yet ready to be done with it. Sheared the back of the head. For all the world, I could have been shearing sheep. That thought made me howl with laughter. Convulsions that alarmed the subject so that he could not keep turning his head at the mirror from time to time, to keep a check on this very odd barber. Psst: The best part is, he could not see the back of his head. We do not have one of those big rectangular vanity mirrors they use at the salon to show you the effect of the hairdresser’s artistry on the rear portion of the head. What a fortunate thing.

When you use kitchen scissors that ain’t all that sharp to handle thick hair, you end up with hair flying all over yourself. Which you promptly dump on the subject. Because well, it is his hair. He might as well get the brunt of it. He did try to interject the proceedings with, “I am not your dumping ground”. But did he stand a chance?

I will not bore you further with the nitty-gritties of executing a hair cut, the way the scissors flew, the hacking around with no particular aim, or the hot mess in the bathroom after. But I will leave you with this that there are enough bald spots on the unsuspecting husband’s head, a bizarre semi-buzz cut at the wings, not by design, but all happenstance. Today, during a video call, his dad pronounced it to be a punk cut.

But the good news folks is that I am done with it.

Now, there’s only rest for the wicked.

In the City of Hearts

The birthday month has been kicked off by dinner and dessert at Denny’s. We stopped at the diner last night on the way home from Worcester when Adi observed: ‘You have the heart of a trucker. You want to drive a RAM And you have taken a shine to Denny’s. Now all we need to do is set you up with a farm.’ I do not think I need to quibble on that, cuz really, I will take all of that. The RAM, the farm with a menagerie that shall comprise an elephant, a horse, a pair of Cotswold sheep, a donkey, a hippo (highly smelly, so what) and a couple of big dogs, please.

The RAM, if you are not familiar with all things American, is a breed of pick-up truck that appropriately enough has a logo of a ram with massive curved horns jutting out from its bonnet. Its maws tower over you – it seems taller than Adi who stands at 6’2″ – so that it made me gawp the first time I laid my eyes on it. Is there any doubt that one should want to sit at the wheel of a RAM – to look down its substantial nose upon others? The fact remains however that before daydreaming about pick-up trucks, I have to polish up my antiquated driving skills. Soon. In the meantime, a woman can and will dream.

I spent my a brand new November day roaming around the city of Worcester in Massachusetts. Now this was the central part of Worcester which was several degrees pleasurable to the eyes than Downtown Worcester which had looked threadbare when I explored it a few weeks ago. I found a local bakery where I gagged upon a cup of maple cappuccino (I never learn not to experiment with flavours), redeemed only by a flaky multi-grain croissant stuffed with eggs and cheese. Then I walked its streets which were not cramped by the practicality of boring numbers but sported signages with names like Fruit Street and hearts adjoining them. The logo is a nod to Worcester’s status as the Heart of the Commonwealth. Also Valentines’ Day business in America took off in the city where a local stationer’s daughter, Esther Howland, started selling Valentines’ tokens.

On Sunday, a couple of days before, a magnificent storm had ripped through Massachusetts. On that evening we had chosen to drive through it because Adi had to reach work early the next morning in Worcester. Torrents of rain came fast at the windscreen buoyed up by furious gales, and the poor wipers were hard pressed to handle the onslaught of the night. I was imagining uprooted trees, cows and pigs flying through the air because the ranting and raving of the wind was overwhelming. It was not as dramatic as that however. No cows or pigs or even trees flew but trees were veritably uprooted and leaves stripped mercilessly off trees as you can well picture on that night of extremities.

The effect of the storm was visible when I sauntered into Elm Park in Worcester. The park was rambling enough to create the illusion that I was in the middle of the woods. I shuffled through beds of yellow and red autumnal leaves and then beds of spruce spines strewn with nuts and pine cones. As I became aware of the presence of the others – chubby squirrels who with their shyness made me think that they really need lessons in nonchalance from their counterparts in Bayonne – I contemplated about the ways one can use those nuts to make squirrel nut butter and sell them in stores. I cannot claim originality to the idea because the night before I had watched a pair of girls on a reality show called ‘Shark Tank’ ideate about their brand that they had called Squirrel Nut Butters or something like that. (By the way, if you watch Shark Tank, have you seen how fantastically gruff that bald fellow Kevin O’Leary is? He is wonderful! He made me guffaw when he called a girl in a yellow coat a flat yellow pancake because he thought her business idea was gobshit.)

Anyway, so I picked a few nuts which I believe are macadamia, ferreted out scarlet leaves that showed promise of ageing wonderfully within the pages of my book and soaked in the blessed quiet of the canopy above my head along with that brand of fresh green fragrance that is typical to the woods. It is a delicious feeling that – to be cocooned in the solitude of nature.

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Blue Sky Tag II

Cheila has passed on the Blue Sky Tag II to me. She blogs about all things that matter to her with a touch of humour and in a candid conversational style. Let’s put it thus, when you find yourself clicking on the link to her blog, you will not be calling me a fathead.

The Rules:

  • Give 11 questions
  • Tag 11 people
  • Answer the 11 questions given to you

Cheila’s Questions:

  • Do you live an a house or an apartment?

Apartment

  • Where are you from?

I was born in Oman and lived there the first 8 years of my life, grew up in Calcutta for the next 13 years and then went to New Delhi to study further and work. I now live in Northampton, UK. I carry all of them with me.

  • What do you do for a living? Are you happy doing it?

I write articles for magazines and newspapers. It has lessened a fair bit with all the blogging and reading blogs but I am working on a book alongside. I am content with the way things are at the moment because I know a change is coming up soon and there is nothing better than living in the moment.

  • What do you do to stay fit?

I do anything that catches my fancy. Once it was hot yoga (but boy it makes you almost pass out), spinning, pilates and and working out using weights. Now I go running in the park almost everyday and do yoga a few days a week.

  • What time do you wake up and go to bed?

Some days I get up between 6-7am, other days at 8am, and am off to bed by 11.30pm.

  • What’s your favourite thing to do on a Sunday?

I like to badger the husband to go on long, long walks to a park in another part of town. The badgering itself takes time and patience but it pays off with a lot of frowns and scowls and then the walk. After which we work off all that walking by sitting with a massive tub of popcorn each and binge watch films and shows.

  • Have you ever been in love?

Everyday of my life. I am in love with something or the other. The jackpot in my life is the husband and the memory of his dog Tuktuk who is the other great love I have. Tuktuk was a handsome, kebab-loving labrador who passed onto another realm a few years ago but has not left our hearts.

  • What do you always have in your fridge or pantry?

Salted caramel yogurt, milk, dark chocolate bark, berries, sunflower seeds, popping corn, baking soda and pecans. I have a lot more of course but if I put out an inventory…

  • What TV shows do you follow right now?

There are so many. Off the top of my head, The Americans, The Wine Show, Paul Murton’s Grand Tours of Scotland, The Vikings, Mr. Selfridges, Pretty Little Liars, The Man in the High Castle, Billions, The Voice, Happy Valley, The Missing, Storyville, Black Mirror…We are your quintessential TV show addicts.

  • What was the last book you read?

The Sword of Justice by Leif G.W. Persson.

  • If you could only wear one for the rest of your life, lipstick or mascara?

I am in a bold lip colour phase right now. For now, I hold on to my lipstick.

Nominees:

Not everyone wants to be tagged so I shall quietly leave the questions below and you can answer them in the comments or not.

My Questions:

  • Has the year begun well for you?
  • What do you have on the travel list for this year?
  • What books do you have by your bedside table?
  • Are you a city or quiet town/village kinda person?
  • Are you happy with where you live or do you want to live in another part of the world?
  • Which loyalty programs (airlines/hotels), according to you, are the ones to watch out for?
  • What are your plans for the upcoming weekend?
  • Books or films?
  • Mountains or the sea?
  • Your favourite buy from the last three months?
  • What’s for dinner tonight?

Before I wind off, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! May the feast be fantastic.