Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore Riots

Earlier, in the day as I zipped along the I -95 flyovers into downtown Baltimore, the radio cautioned me about the possibilty of riots. I was headed to Baltimore for a meeting in the Mount Vernon area, far from the craziness that had engulfed the City. And then the announcement came through, as it usually does these days, with the familiar ping of a new message on someone's Blackberry. Liberal leave had been declared for all State employees in the Baltimore area.

Rioters were clashing with police in Mondawmin Mall and were expected to eventually make their way to the Downtown area. Our meeting quickly dissolved and I made my way to the parking lot. Outside, there was heavy traffic on the road. But the usually stop and go lurch of misbehaved traffic was now replaced with an orderly flow of vehicles. We all needed to get out of the burning city and somehow all of us realised that rushing to the exits would just cause a stampede. And then there was the silence. No one honked.

I remember the silence. I had heard it before, when they destroyed a Masjid in India and riots broke out across the country between Hindus and Muslims. A curfew was announced in our small city, schools closed and parents scrambled to pick up children from school. On the way back from school with my mother and sister, huddled in an autorickshaw with some other  kids and their mother, I remember noticing how quiet everything was. We were suddenly respectful of the policemen and even thankful for their presence, for once.

Today I woke up to pictures of burning cars on the front page of the newspaper. Nothing prepares you for the sight of an armored vehicle or the images of people destroying storefronts on familiar streets. Wars happen in distant lands, not next door.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

To London and Back

We just got back from what can only be described as a whirlwind trip to UK. The Boy had a conference and the Gherkin and I decided to tag along. The visas ( for the non US citizens of the party) arrived on a Friday and we were off the following Wednesday.

The St. Albans Cathedral
Roman Ruins in Verulam Park
The first two days were spent in the lovely town of St. Albans in Hertfordshire. St. Albans is famous for its Cathedral and the roman ruins of Verulamium. The Gherkin was not impressed by the Cathedral, it might have something to do with the being dragged there by Mommy dearest while still recovering from jet lag.The Roman ruins on the other hand were a big success...go figure! We picked up a stone near the ruins for the Gherkin's class project on rocks and minerals and fed the ducks, geese and coots in the lake at Verulam Park, while the Boy was busy discussing infectious diseases with his colleagues.

Gherkin and Mom at the main door of the Cathedral
 We ventured out to the City on our second evening. The evening started off with the Gherkin getting squished (her words, not mine) at the Covent Garden Station where only one lift was functional during the evening rush hour! Not fun. The Gherkin lost our favorite hair clip and was besides herself until a similar clip was hastily purchased at a H&M store. We wandered around, bought a souvenir or two, crossed the Thames on foot and finally had dinner at Wagamama before heading back to the hotel.

With Vishnu Uncle at Reading Station
Posting a Letter
Family Shot in Oxford
On Day three, we checked out of our hotel and went over to Reading to visit my childhood friend Vishnu and his cousin Mayookh. We were treated to a homey lunch of rice, musur daal and macher jhol.  It was love at first sight or something like that for the Gherkin as far as Vishnu uncle and his macher jhol were concerned. After lunch, tea and some adda, off we went to explore Oxford. The sights were taken in, touristy pictures clicked and more souvenirs purchased. For dinner, we went to the House of Flavors in Reading. Apparently when in the U.K., one must check out Indian food or so we were told. The food was great when it finally appeared after an hour or so. Would love to go back there on a less hectic night...perhaps next time!


On the London Eye
Hello Paddington, Old Friend!
Day four  was reserved for sightseeing in the City and the London Eye...the latter was what the Gherkin wanted to do. And guess what?..two minutes into the ride we were told that it was too slow. Apparently she was looking for a thrill ride.  Lunch was Wagamama ...again! I fell in love with this place and cannot wait for them to open more stores stateside. After lunch we took a ride on the Thames Clipper to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Since we did not have much time, we had decided to forego the queues at the more touristy places like the Tower Bridge. The boat ride would allow the Gherkin to take a nap, while we took in the sights. Unfortunately, by the time we reached Greenwich the place was closing down and we could not hike up to the see the Meridian line. We wandered around the old buildings for a bit before heading back.

Another Family Protrait at the London Tower
With Vishnu Uncle
This time around, we stopped at the Tower Bridge for re-fueling at a Starbucks and what else -some more pictures.  Our final stop was the Buckingham Palace but once again by the time we reached the Palace gates it was dark and we could barely make out the "men in funny hats" and the Queen "had gone to bed".  The Gherkin too had had enough adventures and all she wanted was her macher jhol.

So we went back to Reading and Vishnu Uncle and macher jhol...followed by scotch and adda for the adults.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

This year Thanksgiving would  be different. Very different. For starters, we would have a plan, a Google doc file to collaborate and elaborate on said plan and then three different kitchens in the same geographical area to execute our extremely well laid out plan. The Boy called me a dictator while the Professor accused me of subversion and trying to turn everything pish posh.

However, we stuck to the plan....as much as possible. And then this happened. Those three separate kitchens turned out the catering equivalent of three Thanksgiving meals. There was two kinds of brussels sprouts for crying out loud. And we decided to buck tradition and cook a lamb instead of the traditional goose.

And then Singh and the Proffesor noticed pan drippings in the roasting pan and hit a bottle of red wine pretty hard!


Folks new to the bedlam that is the Singh-Saha-Mookherjee-Mukherjee-Pierce-Pal Thanksgiving were left dumbfounded and awestruck as usual. So much so that the Proffesor lost his plate of food which in turn led to some rather energetic sweeping.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, Pihu managed to put up a play with a Thanksgiving theme.


Too much food was inhaled, not much was imbibed (all grown up and responsible citizens and designated driver etc.) and not enough catching up was done. And just when we thought we could not have any more fun, we went to Founding Farmers and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves while waiting. First we waited for the table, then some of us waited while the others started eating. Then we waited for parts of the meal...that never came. But with company like this, one can keep waiting and waiting and waiting.


I cannot believe how much our little group of five has grown and how it continues to grow. Here's to the next time we meet again and further bedlam.





Friday, September 12, 2014

The Gherkin Goes to India - Part II

The last time I visited Delhi, I was still a college student, McDonald's was cool and hip and a trip to Wimpy's in CP meant something, especially given the fact that we never had more than two hundred rupees on us at any given time. Now we spend more than the twice that amount on coffee at a joint where the waitress figures we must have spent the last decade under a rock and proceeds to charge us for the whipped cream and chocolate topping on the coffee.

Dwarka is a nice, planned community with wide roads and rickshaw/bike lanes. But what is it with the elevated sidewalks which are two feet from the roadway surface? One needs the skills of a mountain goat to mount and dismount from them comfortably, lacking which it feels safer to walk in the roadway. Over coffee  my friend Ritu explains the mystery of the elevated sidewalks....they are meant to keep pesky two wheelers away. Ritu knows, she is an urban planner.

The Gherkin is in love with auto rickshaws and pedal rickshaws. She loves mangoes and fish too. Other than that the heat and humidity literally make her wilt. After a run in with the heat (which happens every time we step outside) only the ac makes her happy, as in bounce of the walls happy. Oh! my first world child.

We visit the Birla Temple, the Boy's old school and the Lotus Temple...yes, I know it is a random assortment of places. But then this trip was about family and friends. Besides as far as the Gherkin is concerned one building is just the same as another, who cares if it is 400 years old or 40 years old....as long as he interior is air conditioned. The Birla Temple was wet (it had rained), the Boy's school was closed and the Lotus Temple was a colossal mistake....

I shop, the Boy watches.  We have more coffee at Starbucks where we confuse yet another waiter by asking for a tall house..ummm...plain coffee. Dang, we can't even order coffee in our own country anymore. How useless are we? The Malls are cool, airy and surprisingly full of people on a weekday.

And then off we fly to Kolkata to meet the Boy's grandmother. The New Delhi airport is nice (and surprisingly full of booze)...the Kolkatta airport seems sleepy in comparison. We meet the Boy's Grandma and after some more fish and mishti, we are off to Jamshedpur by train.





Friday, August 08, 2014

The Gherkin Goes to India - Part I

After months of pondering, a week spent buying tickets, hardly any planning and just enough packing we have arrived in India. All four suitcases, two backpacks, two traveling adults and one pint sized wandering four year old have been deposited at the Grandparents for unloading, feeding and pampering.

The Gherkin spent the weeks leading upto THE FLIGHT planning out her sleep routine.
"Daddy, do they have bedrooms on the plane"
"Mama, will I wear my jammies"
"Mama, will I drink milk"
"Daddy, will they have TV on the plane"

As the parent of any four year old will attest, it was sheer joy when it all paid off and she slept for the first ten hours of the 12.5 hour long haul flight to Abu Dhabi. The fact that her kicking kept me awake was on no consequence. Abu Dhabi to New Delhi was uneventful. We reached home at around six in the morning. After a nice shower, followed by a warm breakfast we settled in for a snooze. We woke up to Grandma's cooking and promptly went back to snooze some more. At some point, we woke up and somehow found ourselves in a Mall and with a whole lot of stuff that we had miraculously managed to purchase in our jet lagged state.

And now, father and daughter are sound asleep while I type this. From North America to Asia + shopping in Asia done in less than 40 hours...not bad. 

Friday, August 01, 2014

On Making a House a Home

Our friends bought a house. The ink on the final papers is probably still drying on some underwriter's table, but there we were last evening basking in the new joy of the new homeowners. The house is in a good school district with room enough for a young family of four and visiting relatives and mature trees in the backyard to provide a gentle shade. When we arrived, our friend was deep in discussion with a landscaper about some of the trees that need to be chopped down. The home inspector had so decreed.

The adults did the mandatory house tour, checked out the systems and dissected the finer points of what needed to be fixed and what not.  Meanwhile, the children and the lone dog (who also came to visit)  ran amok through the empty living rooms, their loud giggles and the occasional bark ricocheting off the walls, with very little furniture to dampen the mirth or their spirit.  I sat by the bay window and took in this lovely scene of unruly domseticity.

And then I rembered our friends mentioning that this lovely, old house had been in the same family for all this time. All those years ago, perhaps this family had bought this very house for the same reasons that our friends did today. A room for each child and a yard for the potential family dog. More space to invite friends over for many a party to be thrown in the expansive living area and share many a drink at the marble bar. With time, one assumes the children grew up and moved away and the house suddenly grew too large for its now older owners and needed to be passed on to another family. So that it may feel alive again. So that once again it may transition from being a house to a home.


We shape clay into a pot, but the place where it is empty is what makes it useful.
We hammer wood for a house, but it is the inner space that makes it livable.
— Tao Te Ching



Monday, March 31, 2014

Searching

The  search continues for a plane in distant waters, while closer home the search for a little girl who has been missing is still on. It is hard to contemplate dissapearance in an ever connected 24/7 world.