Tuesday, 19 March 2013

a godsend.

The past 10 days or so have been miserable. I've been plagued by a terrible toothache and had a depressing experience looking for a dentist on a Friday afternoon. I finally got it sorted with my dentist in India, who came through with a simple and effective remedy (apply Sensodyne!). A few days later (again, right before the weekend) I was hit by another toothache of a totally different kind, and emailed my dentist in India. He thought it might be my bite that had to adjusted and advised me to go to a dentist here to get it looked at. I booked an appointment with my dentist in a private clinic (having had more than enough of government clinics) for Sunday morning. It turned out to be a root canal that would cost 200 KD, which incidentally is the cost of ALL my dental work in India. The timing really sucks considering I was in India just two weeks ago…

It’s been a while since I've been so upset. I've had five root canals so far (including this one) and an implant. Almost all my teeth have fillings despite the pains I take to maintain them. Will it ever end?

And then, in the midst of all this misery, something truly unbelievable happened.

Yesterday, a friend texted me out of the blue saying he had something that had to be given to me that same day and that it couldn't wait, refusing to divulge any more. Mystified with the cryptic texts, I suggested he stop by P2BK (Proud to be Kuwaiti exhibition) since that's where I've been living the past week or so.
Between watching the Harlem Shake performance, getting snacks, handing out brochures and talking to booth visitors, I whiled away the hours until the designated time.

He showed up with a huge package.

"What the heck is this?" I asked, even more mystified.
"It isn’t from me."

I ripped open the pretty packaging,

and read the card.

*bobs up and down in delight*

Sheikha is a reader who discovered my blog via Botamba. She leaves me immensely supportive and encouraging comments on every post, and only recently revealed her name.

I pulled the ribbon on one of the boxes (there were two) and discovered a cake inside. We exchanged a wide-eyed glance of amazement. Try as I might I couldn't tie the ribbon half as neatly as it was to take a picture—in my excitement, I forgot to click a pic of the original package.

I went home taking great care of my precious cargo and was bombarded with questions from my flabbergasted family:

"Where did you get this from?"
"Sheikha sent it to me!"
"It wasn't sent home! We have a mutual friend who delivered it to me."
"How do you have a mutual friend with an anonymous person?!"
"We live in Kuwait. It's hardly surprising."
"Are you sure it's a woman? Maybe it's a guy who changed his name?"

I opened the boxes, thus ending the ridiculous interrogation.

a godsend!

We devoured the cake and the cake pops (from The November Bakery). Delicious!

Sheikha, thank you so much for the lovely package! The flowers are especially gorgeous, I can't stop smelling them! I am deeply touched, honoured and overcome with joy with your heartfelt gesture and appreciation for my writing. It couldn't have come at a better time, especially since I've been feeling so low all week. I feel so, so blessed and I hope we meet someday. I wish you all the very best; may God bless you with every happiness!

Nikhil, thanks a bunch for delivering the package and keeping the surprise!

Sighhhh. I'm sooo happy.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

the conspiracy.

I need atleast a couple of days to recuperate when I get back from India.

It's not that I get jet-lagged. India is just 2.5 hours ahead of Kuwait for Heaven's sake. But the Kuwait Airways flight departs from Chatrapati Shivaji Airport at 6:10 am, and the entire night prior is spent trying to stuff forgotten bits and bobs in the suitcases and then at the tedious check-in and immigration at the airport, in a lousy mood throughout.

But besides that, I don't get much sleep in Bombay. Unless I'm on an adrenaline rush, I'm in a constant state of exhaustion.

I stay at my aunt's house wherein every single inhabitant is a raging insomniac. We spend half the night talking, convulsed with laughter, and then sleep by 3 or 4 am. I settle into bed, setting the alarm for 11 am on my iPhone, forgetting in my naivety that I was in India.

My cousin begins his morning karaoke session at about 8 or 9 am, i.e. he cranks up the volume on his speakers and sings along in his room, shattering my sweet slumber. I wake up groggy and tousle-headed to him blasting LMFAO's Shots while playing Guild Wars 2, and close the door to the room I'm sharing with his sister (who continues sleeping peacefully). The door is mysteriously ajar despite my having shut it before turning in. I then settle back to sleep, my eyes wincing in the sunlight peeking through the curtains.

An hour of very disturbed sleep later, the doorbell peals incessantly, penetrating into my dreams. I wake with a start. The house and everyone in it, including my sister beside me, is still, except for my lunatic brother who is now passionately singing Coldplay's The Scientist at the top of his voice, oblivious to what's unfurling outside his lair. Shaking my head in disbelief, I take in a deep breath, trying to muster the energy to walk to the hall and open the front door. It's the milkman asking for his dues. I politely ask him to come back later in the afternoon. I bring in the paper and nariyal pani* left on the doorstep and then struggle to go back to sleep.

Barely thirty minutes later, the doorbell unfailingly rings yet again. Nobody in the house has stirred. No sound of music from my brother's room; I assume he's finally turned in. Disgusted, I open the door with a ferocious scowl. It's a delivery from Flipkart, a few books I'd ordered online have arrived. Only slightly mollified, I make arrangements for the payment, dump the package on my suitcase and head back to bed, falling asleep.

The doorbell rings once more.

I swing open the door with murderous intent. It's the servant. I let her in while singing praises of the Lord, now she could open the door for the next disturber of the peace! I climb back into bed and collapse, dead to the world.

Ten minutes later, my 11 am alarm rings.

*nariyal pani: coconut water

(Bombay, Feb '13)

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

bombay, how do i love thee...

Gateway of India, lit up in all its splendour.

Bombay may fail to appeal to one for a multitude of reasons. The traffic is loud, never-ending, and stops for no one. The beggars and eunuchs that haunt certain streets leave no vehicle unmarked with their grubby hand prints, whether it's a Bajaj scooter, an auto rickshaw or a Mercedes. It's almost always terribly humid—you could wring out your clothes at the end of the day and fill two buckets to the brim with your sweat. There are slums in perhaps every area, accompanied by filth and squalor. Too many of the residents are shallow and conscious about impressing an equally shallow society. I'm not sure I could ever live there.

Worst of all, in my opinion, the locals are completely contemptuous of the gods of English grammar and scorn the staunch and unyielding faith of the grammarians, repeatedly disrespecting and ridiculing it, trying to inveigle them into joining the Dark Side, as evidenced by this ad from Sony India (October 2012):

The copywriter wasn't too...bright.

Nevertheless, I love Bombay. It's the only city that I've been to (so far) where the branches of trees on either side of the road often meet in the middle, their leaves whispering and cajoling, paying no attention to the noisy traffic that drives by below them. There isn't much sunlight allowed into the side streets; the dense foliage of the many trees stand guard to prevent too much from creeping in.


somewhere in the suburban side of the city

And then of course, the family I adore lives there.

I made a quick trip to Bombay last week, the primary reason for which was to complete my dental work (three crowns on root canals, one cap on implant). To the dimwitted (who unfailingly inquire, "don't you have dentists in Kuwait?"), the cost of getting all that done with a good dentist in Bombay, plus the airfare, was about a third of what it would cost me here. Thankfully, it wasn't humid at all.

When I wasn't getting crowned, I spent my time with friends or family, usually at home or in a restaurant. My cousins have told me only too often of the 'awesome' food in this restaurant in Bandra or that one in Juhu. I love trying new things (not necessarily food), so I decided it was time to try a variety of food in as many unexplored places possible, with relatives or friends in the short time I had (nine days). The result was that I often had to have lunch twice with different people to ensure I spent adequate time with all I cared about.

It was worth it. Mouth-watering appetizers, dumplings and sushi (the range of veg sushi included mango sushi and olive sushi. That was a bit...strange) with my aunt at Global Fusion. Mocktails and a very forgettable dessert with close friends from MBA at TGI Friday's. Pizza with cousins at Alfredo's. Churros sprinkled with icing sugar and dipped in white and milk chocolate (YUM YUM YUM!) with a friend I met online at Chocolateria San Churro. Nachos and pizza with cousins at Bombay Blue two hours later. Ginormous crabs with half the family at Gondola where I appeared to have no knowledge of table manners. Chicken rolls, tarts and eclairs with another friend I met online at Candies. Portuguese Chicken with my aunt and cousin at Gaylord.

Damn that's quite a list. A couple of days I felt I would explode. It's weird; I lost weight despite the gluttony!

When it comes to interiors, a restaurant and a cafe completely floored me—Global Fusion and quite surprisingly, Starbucks.

Global Fusion has a lovely ambiance. The plentiful lunch buffet is served all around the restaurant, so you work up a bit of an appetite walking to inspect the buffet tables. It was busy; every table was occupied. A single table stood on a wooden platform above a pool of water. There were a couple of large toads (not real ones silly), with water jutting out their mouths, between tables in another, long pool of water. I didn't look around too much as the restaurant was closing and I wanted to eat more sushi, but it was very appealing.

A glimpse of Global Fusion.
Image source: http://mumbai.burrp.com

Shockingly enough, Starbucks in Fort takes the grand prize.

My cousin was immensely excited about Starbucks finally coming to India (in October 2012) and had made me promise we'd go there together, even though she'd been before. Having lived in Kuwait most of my life, where a Starbucks branch lies on every street corner, I wasn't particularly enthusiastic. I also despise beverages. My choice of drink is water (iced tea or nariyal pani* in India). If I'm in a cafe to catch up with a friend, I order hot chocolate. My aunt however, said it was a beautiful place so off we went.

Oh Lord. It was beautiful.

This branch of Starbucks was the epitome of the 'East meets West' concept, merging the American brand with European architecture and Indian culture, as my aunt put it. The Fort branch is in the Elphinstone Building, which is built in the Neo-Gothic style of architecture courtesy of the British. The quaint interiors of the coffee shop are reminiscent of places in North India, with wooden rafters, trunks for some of the tables, old-fashioned suitcases stacked in corners, carved wooden arches, high back armchairs, some antique furniture...very unlike the Westernized outlets in Kuwait and elsewhere around the world. The rustic look worked very well. I was smitten.

Don't miss the carved wooden
partition beneath the arch
Another carved wooden arch

A closer look at the fine carving...can't seem
to get enough 

Note the milk containers and the print on the quaint
little suitcases!

Wooden rafters. I love them wooden rafters. 

A cozy corner :) I couldn't get closer for a better pic 

The drinks and cakes weren't a hit with me, but that's probably because I wasn't in the mood for hot chocolate, hate coffee and dislike cake.

It's always hard to leave Bombay. This time it was almost unbearable (in other words, I went emo). It's been a little more than a day since I got back but it seems like a distant memory now, as it usually does when I leave a country, even if it's Kuwait. I suspect I will post more to immortalize how I felt there so I don't forget. I forget too much too soon. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm developing Alzheimer's...

*nariyal pani: coconut water

(Bombay, March '13)

Monday, 4 March 2013

"death and all his friends."

Thousands of unmarked graves lie scattered. Some have a pile of bricks as tombstones. Some have sunk into the ground; others are just mounds of sand. I have yet to see a visitor. The dead lie forgotten, their abode caked in years of dust. 

Everyday this wide stretch of brown reminds me of life and its transience, death and its inevitability, and our ultimate finale. 

The winter rains transform the site, eroding the hard, dry earth into rivulets that flow across the graveyard. Green shoots emerge, fighting against the otherwise dry earth that suffocates them throughout the year, and breathe in the fresh winter air. They begin to grow innumerably, neatly covering a number of graves; enveloping them in a blanket of green. The winter also brings with it the wildflowers, which spring out amongst the verdure, giving the impression of yellowing broccoli from my vantage point.

Even in this vast expanse of death, there was so much life.

Most of the verdure grows out only atop the graves; the dead still have a purpose. The two seem to have an understanding—the remains of the dead nourish the soil, while the flora makes a prettier sight of their permanent abode.

The message remains: from the earth we have come, and to the earth we will return.

(Kuwait, December '12)