Soft Spot

April 25, 2011

Everyone who has ever worked in India will tell you : never assume some things needn’t be explained. Say it. And say it again. And again.

If there is one place where I never forget this, it’s at the dry cleaner.

I’ve had a few bad experiences with dry cleaners in Jaipur. One burnt a motherfucking Prada very precious dress. The other one turned a white sari pink.

The one I use now, appropriately called Snowhite, is ok. But that’s because I’m not taking any chance.

I always, always tell Mr Snowhite how delicate and fragile my clothes are and can they please be extra careful. I always, always tell them not to use any starch and to never put any sort of red-hot iron in contact with the fabric. Steam – that’s what they are allowed to use on my clothes, and nothing else.

Oh, don’t worry, it’s all done in great spirit. They think I am nutcase but then, so do a whole lot of people.

Everytime I go to Snowhite Dry Cleaners, I dutifully repeat the same serenade, over and over again.  I am convinced that the day I don’t, something awful is going to happen. And so I go on, begging them to look after my clothes as if it was their grandmother’s heirloom petticoat.

As I said, they are ok dry cleaners, but it also helps that I never bring into Snowhite Dry Cleaners any really, really dirty clothes.

Indeed the only time I did – a silk chiffon blouse with a huge BBQ sauce stain courtesy a Castiburger   (= best burger in Paris), the blouse came back with a slightly faded but nonetheless visible version of the original stain.

I blamed it on the Castiglione’s delicious nasty orange sauce but then the other day, while handing over my clothes, I watched them check for stains. And I had an epiphany.

In Europe, the dry cleaner checks your clothes for stains so that he knows what stuff to use, and so that you both agree beforehand whether there is, or not, a stain on your blouse.

But as I watched them I realized :  these guys are not checking for stains to establish their existence with me, or to figure out which product to use. What they are thinking, and I can hear it loud and clear, is this :

…” Do we really need to clean that one ?”

Let’s start with Why is It That People Call it a Big Flu.

Like flu, dengue fever is a virus. And like flu, it comes with bouts of high fever.

That’s it.

Now if you don’t mind, let’s go over the differences.

1) Transmission : you don’t catch dengue from someone. You catch it from something. Namely, a mosquito.

2) Time : a solid flu lasts 4 to 5 days. Dengue can last up to 3 weeks.

3) Element of Cosiness : flu means winter in Europe, too much snowballing, central heating and mummy making hot soup for you. Dengue, on the other hand, is a dirty country disease spread by stagnant water mosquitoes.

4) Blood : Unlike flu, dengue requires that you monitor your platelet count on a daily basis – they do fall dramatically.

5) Organs : Unlike flu, dengue also requires that you undergo a full abdomen sonography to check that your vital organs have not been affected by the disease and the eventual internal bleeding a very low platelet count can cause.

6) Rash : Unlike flu, dengue fever comes with a delightful, itchy rash.

7) Bone-ache : Ok, the flu sometimes makes your bones ache. A little. Not constant splitting bone-ache for 4 days. Nope. That’s dengue.

8 ) Pukish fever : the fever that comes with dengue is so intense, it makes you feel nauseous.

9) Pukish fluids : because you have to ingest tons of fluids, dengue makes you feel like throwing up. 7+8 = you do end up throwing up at some point.

10) Retro-orbital pain : unlike flu, dengue gives you excruciating retro-orbital pain, ie: it hurts to move your eyes. So no books and no dvd for you. Not surprisingly then, dengue is tough on the troops morale.

11) Oh, and before I forget : dengue is a bi-phasic disease. Meaning that when you start feeling better and your platelet count rises again, the fever comes back.

Now, the next person who tells me I just have a big flu, I cry.

CWG Candy

October 14, 2010

Today is the last day of the Commonwealth Games. The fact that it’s a bank holiday (in Delhi) isn’t really surprising.

Why not. Adults deserve their CWG candy too. After all, weren’t all the schools in Delhi shut for two weeks ?

India put on a damn fabulous show for these Games. We all remember the horror pictures of the Athletes Village a couple of days before the opening ceremony. The collapsing bridge, etc. The whole world was laughing, Indians were mortified. But then the opening ceremony turned out to be lovely and everyone here clapped and gasped and blamed the mean, mean firang journalists badmouthing their country. All you need, in the country of the thousand lives, is is a few fireworks.

Nevermind that the stadiums were empty, that 50 swimmers got water-poisoning, and that the Athletes Village toilets overflowed ( due to thousands of condoms blocking the pipes, may I add ). Nevermind, nevermind.

Oh but I had this exact conversation a few days ago with an Indian. He blamed the foreign press for all the bad things.

“Well, the bridge did collapse” I ventured.

“It happens, you know, it happens” he commented.

“I guess you’re right, I’m sure a lot of bridges collapsed in the 1860’s”.

“But the thing is, ok, so we didn’t foresee the monsoon rains, the river was high, you know, it happens.”

What I wanted to say then was : yes, the monsoon has only been happening for the last 2,000 years, how could anyone foresee it?

But I didn’t say anything, I said the Games were damn good, and I thought : for all their candour, these guys do have tremendous pride in their country, who am I to question it ?

And if not working is their way to show their appreciation, so be it, so be it.

Mata Hari

October 13, 2010

When you walk into my building, two very Indian things welcome you.

First, the queen-of-the-night bush at the gate. With its tiny white flowers and heavenly smell, it is, indeed, just too lovely.
The second thing, right after you pass the flowers, is Nosy Nightie.

Nosy Nightie lives on the ground floor of my building. I have never seen her dressed other than in polyester nightgowns. She must have been beautiful in her younger days but now, in her late forties, she’s kind of lost her aura. However, she still moves and speaks with utter confidence, haughty as a doll.

Nosy Nightie doesn’t work. Luckily, she has found an activity that certainly fulfills her life like no regular work would. Spying. Nosy Nightie doesn’t simply sit out watching everyone’s move. That, my friend, would be amateur spying. No. Nosy Nightie asks, questions, interrogates.

Every single time I come home and she’s sitting out, she asks me : “Where did you go?”.  And everytime I go out she barks: “Where are you going?”.

The first time, I was taken aback. Mind your own fucking nightgown, I thought. But I still mumbled “To a friend’s”.

“Who ? Where ?” she fired, looking agitated.

Whacko lady, stay away from me.

Since then, she doesn’t get a word out of me beyond hello. I just shoot huge smiles and pretend I’m deaf.

One night I came back at two and I swear she was watching out of her kitchen window.

But she hasn’t given up, firing her questions at the top of her voice, as if I was a witness escaping from her custody.

Nosy Nightie has the soul of Mata Hari. Jaipur is probably too small for her and my life, to her adventurous mind, highly disappointing.

Time Management

October 19, 2009


The Diwali madness is nearly over and I am coming out of hiding. Or rather, of my blogging exile.

Last week, I  enquired about the exact extent of the Diwali holidays. 

“Well – my workshop manager said. You see, on Friday is Choti Diwali.”

Choti Diwali, literally, “Little Diwali”, is the day before Diwali. It’s a holiday, and the craziest day of the year: people shop like mad. Clothes, sweets and firecrackers are being bought en masse. The traffic is total, loud, intense chaos.

“Then Saturday of course is Diwali. Sunday, it doesn’t matter because it’s a Sunday anyway, but it’s Govardhan Puja, very important puja.”

“Great. Does that mean we can work on Monday?” 

“Noooooooo! Monday is the brother-sister festival.”

“But that’s Rakhi, that’s in August!”

“No, not Rakhi. Rakhi is when sisters go to their brothers. On Monday, brothers go to their sisters. It’s called Bhai Duj.”

“And it’s a bank holiday.”

“But of course.”

“What about Tuesday?”

“Tuesday is a holiday too.”

“Oh, come on, I pleaded. what for?”

“Well, just to rest.”


The other day as we were having lunch at the Anokhi Cafe, Victoria and I were accosted by a woman at the next table. Although clearly Indian, she spoke with an exaggerated American accent that instanltly gripped my good mood.

“Hey girls” she ventured.

Victoria dived into her tomato-mozza pizza, completely oblivious.

The woman wanted to invite us to her healing workshops (from the corner of my eye, I saw Victoria rolling her eyes at her fork). She gave me a leaflet and said she “would love to have [us] guys”. Whatever that meant.

I very very  very politely got rid of her and when she left the restaurant, I started examining the leaflet.

It showed a person of indistinct sex sitting in lotus position, looking up, its body possessed by a succession of colored waves. The waves originate from its (protruding) belly and climax on top of its head,  from where a tube light or a laser sword, I can’t decide, is coming out.

At the back of the leaflet was a list of “Transformative Workshop Modules” to choose from. Just like at university or in a salad bar, you could put together your own little formula. For example, if you were someone rather classic, you could pick, say, “Energy Healing” and “Self Hypnosis“: smooth, established stuff that you could practice in most upmarket gyms in NY anyway.

However, adventure-lovers, high-altitude jumpers and New Labour activists could also find their happiness. Some “modules”, indeed, sounded fabulously intriguing.

Rescripting your success” was one of them. I asked Victoria, a native of England, what the verb “rescript” meant but even she couldn’t enlighten me.

Radiant relationships“, yes, is the name of another module, and yes, I personnally find it wonderful.

Art of allowing to attract success and happiness” rubs me the wrong grammatical way, but maybe that’s precisely the point: keep an open mind.

But then, in a dizzying literary U-turn, after tens of long names full of “karmas”, “catharsis” and “hypnosis” the list ends with two unexpectedly simple but nonetheless fascinating “modules”.

One of them,  “Healing through angels“, simply cramps my soul with curiosity.


August 24, 2009


Sorry sorry sorry.

I had a crazy two weeks and didn’t find time to blog. Didn’t find time to eat, breathe or think for that matters.

The madness, however, is over – or has it just started, I wonder.

For the last two weeks, I have been getting home every day at 10pm, shell shocked, soaked and speechless. After downing a large chilled Fosters, I would just collapse in bed.

It was a tough, tough time. 

But some good things happened.

I have a company, an import-export code, a PAN card and I have sent my first export.

I had a full house for three days: five girls under my roof and a staggering consumption of Diet Coke and vodka. It was a whole weekend of celebrations (I turned a year older) and it was great fun.

I am now back on the blog with a handful of stories.

And I’ll probably start with my birthday!