A Year in Rajasthan

November 4, 2009


Yes, it its true, I have been deserting my much-loved blog. I am so sorry!

The reason is, I simply don’t have time. I am overworked, and although being busy with work is an exhilarating feeling, I do miss my daily blogging break. 

But today is a special day: exactly a year ago I wrote my first post.

I remember it so well.

I had just been kicked out of my flat, lost my job and was going through a bitter and painful breakup. My ex-boss was refusing to pay my severance fee, I was broke, and sleeping on a mattress on the floor of my new flat, I went paler and paler wondering what I was going to do with my life, my heart and the 35 cardboard boxes scattered around the flat. I remember it so well.

That’s when I started this blog. 

It gave my days a structure – I would write first thing in the morning. And it made me happy. The amazing feedback I got was unexpected and wonderful.

Now it’s been a year and how things have changed. After months of fighting, I finally got my severance fee. I designed, sold, produced and exported my first line of jewellery. I have my own company in India, complete with hundreds of codes, numbers, certificates and bill books. I don’t date Indian men anymore. And my flat might not be spectacular, but it’s pretty, cosy and colorful. And it has beds.

Dear reader, my apologies for this display of self-satisfaction, believe me I am not fishing for compliments here. I am just truly, genuinely, completely amazed. It is incredible what can happen, in only a year, if you fight for it. 

Oh, and since November 4th 2008, this blog has registered 32,854 hits. That’s 1,314 times more than what I would have ever dreamt of.

Thank you!

Smiling in the Rain

September 9, 2009


This morning when I opened the windows of my office, it was raining outside. It was not really a monsoon rain. It wasn’t hot, it wasn’t mad, it wasn’t diluvian. It wasn’t opaque. It was a bitter, cold, patient rain. The sort of rain I grew up with in Lorraine, grey and nasty. I used to hate it. I couldn’t bear the cold, I couldn’t bear the sadness of the sky. 

Indians love it – they think the weather of Lorraine is idyllic. I had never understood that. How could one delight in shivering? How could one enjoy being blue, frozen alive by a five-minute walk?

I used to loathe the rajasthani winter, its ruthless nights and painful mornings. 

But today when I opened the window and felt the oh so familiar chill of a bitter rain, I thought:


I think I have been in India for too long.


We have had a little door issue lately. Slowly but surely, for the last months, my front door was disintegrating.The painters, when they painted it, forgot to grate the side so it kept getting stuck and we’d have to force it open.

One day the clench gave way. We still got by, relying on luck and the lock. Then we couldn’t open it at all. 

Shashir, bless his caring soul, fixed the door. 

But the next day my sister and I got locked out. The damn lock was jammed and after calling Papa-ji to ascertain the situation, it quickly became clear that we’d have to break the door open.

Papa-ji called the “building manager”, a snooty Bengali who just had twins with Papaji’s maid and thinks the double baby thing is a testimony to his virility. The lock was somehow coming forward and we thought that might be the problem. Superman tried to hammer it back in but to no avail: we were going to have to break it open.

“This is no problem, Papa-ji said, you will come to my home and stay with me.”

“Oh but Sir no, we wouldn’t…..”

Papa-ji insisted: we were like family to him.

He sent Superman away to fetch some door-breaker and called the lift.

My sister and I looked at each other in plain, utter panic. We looked at the lock. I asked Papa-ji:

“Sir, would you let me try with the hammer?”

“Ha ha, Papa-ji laughed, but it is impossible, you saw it, he tried very hard!”. 


I took the hammer and gave the lock a piece of my mind. Bloody hard I hit.

And pop the lock went, back in place. 

“OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH! MY! GOD!” Papa-ji screamed.

“Well done!!!!!” shouted my sister, hysterical with relief. She opened the door.

Superman reappeared, his big Bengali eyes wide opened.

“You see, Morgane told him, my sister is stronger than you!.”

Papa-ji laughed, Morgane laughed, the maid laughed – hiding beneath her pallu.

Superman did not.


I don’t particularly like birthdays. I have even come to dread mine since a fairly traumatazing party two years ago.

However, this year, I had decided to shake the ghosts off and celebrate in style. 

So I filled my flat with a great bunch of girls and threw a pretty pretty pretty dinner party in a magical garden. Everyone played along, starting with my wonderful entourage of male protectors.

Papaji, my landlord extraordinaire, bowled us over. He rang my bell at midnight, decked up in his finery and flanked by his minuscule wife, to deliver a cake. I was in the shower. My sister opened the door in her leopard printed sleeping mask and hot pink pyjamas. The others watched in awe. They told Papaji I was unwell and asleep. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the cake and they had to show me its box, written in hindi, from a bakery in the old town, for me to believe that indeed, it was from Papaji. We went to sleep quite late, quite imbibed, and swore not to move until 12.

The next day at 8 freaking am, the bell rang again. It was a delivery boy with flowers. Four mingy little fluorescent roses stuck in fake mud. From Papaji. 8am. On a Sunday morning. My first slept in morning in weeks. I threw the flowers and went back to sleep. The girls were horrified when I told them and made me retrieve the funeral bouquet. I refused to have it in my esthetic perimeter but, in a spirit of compromise, put it on the balcony.

They all said it was maybe a little strange but altogether extremely sweet of Papaji and that I ought to pay him a visit. I swore I would.

Then I was taken to Rambagh for what has to be called, although I find the name ghastly, a boozy lunch. We sat under the verandah and drank a lot. The weather was amazing: grey, windy, dramatic. 

Abdul the old barman at Rambagh’s Polo Bar came to know it was my birthday and sent a fabulous hot melting chocolate cake and gave me the loveliest present, wrapped and all. I was very touched. And no, it doesn’t mean that I spend too much time at the Polo Bar. 

Back at home, it was my rickshaw driver’s turn. Although I had forbidden them to, the girls had told Shashir it was my birthday and he showed up ten minutes later with a framed picture of Radha and Krishna. Shashir is trying to convert me to hinduism and we had, yesterday, a fascinating metaphysical conversation on the subject – I shall share it with you in due time.

So yes, all in all, I was very spoilt and completely amazed by all these incredible presents and gestures. I was made to feel very special, and for the first time in years I enjoyed every second of my birthday.

That is, except the age thing that goes with it.

The Fugitive

August 7, 2009



The most enchanting sky – Varanasi, where my sister is off to.

She is abandoning me.

Who is going to watch The Ten Commandments with me now?

Life with Nigella

August 5, 2009


My sister is staying with me for a couple of weeks. Since she has arrived, there has been a notable change in my diet.

Domino’s is no longer a daily fixture, neither is Colonel-Kebab-Best-Hygienic-Food-From-The-Punjab. In fact, I haven’t had Indian food for a whole week.

Yesterday for lunch we had lasagna, avocado and mozzarella salad, and homemade bread. Warm, crisp, tender.


Today we had eggplant and bacon rolls followed by risotto.


Sadly, Morgane is off soon on a backpacking trip. A very very very silly idea if you ask me.

The formidable Chuck Bass. A wonderful picture and a token for his contribution - courtesy www.boubouteatime.com

The formidable Chuck Bass. A wonderful picture and a token for his contribution - courtesy http://www.boubouteatime.com

Yesterday, this blog recorded its 20,000th hit. I took 6 months to reach 10,000 hits but only 3 (months) to get another 10,000. I find it extraordinary!

As I told you 3 months ago, being the administrator of this blog I have access to a fancy little dashboard. It shows me how many posts I have written, how many drafts I have saved, how many of you have been kind enough to comment. However, my favorite tool in the WordPress dashboard is the Search Engine Terms stats. It shows me what terms people googled when they reached my blog.

You’d expect India-related searches: lotus flowers, Ganesh, sadhus, and all the bazaar fauna. And they sure appear. But I also get a hell of a lot of totally random, unexpected, exhilarating searches.

Here is a florilege of the latest SET gems:

Chuck Bass, to my utter delight, is still number one. I have mentioned him in only 3 posts, but he managed to attract, 4,353 hits. I know. One fifth. Humbling experience. But I don’t mind. Not at all. Chuck is my hero. I worship at his altar. Chuck Bass fans, be my guests.

wet holi girls and jaipur boobs are the odd kinky searches. It only reinforces my dislike of Holi, with its latent violence and riotous male excitation. Now, is there something known as jaipur boobs? Do enlighten me. Oddly enough these last 3 months there were no searches for naughty massage parlours – how sad. Has Paharganj’s gentrification already reached this blog? I hope not.

love sucks: oh well, poor little soul, yes it does, but doesn’t it keep you alive too?

maharani gayatri devi cigarettes and its variations: gayatri devi + smokes, rajmata gayatri devi smoked, gayatri devi smoking cigarette: yes, yes, she did, for God’s sake. What is wrong about it? Is this all there is to search about Rajmata? Have we reached such a boring phase of civilization that smoking has become a fascinating act of transgression?

– to finish with, I would like to apologize to Michael Jackson’s Russian fans, who have been leaving comments by the dozen on my unimpressed post about his “hobby”. Sadly I do not read Russian. WordPress sent your comments straight into the Spam box and I deleted them, unable to make sense of your – I am certain – wonderful words. I do find it extraordinary that Russians are the only community who commented en masse on this post. How very very strange. What happened in Russia? Is it where Jacko packed off the boys who knew too much?

Bruised Sky

July 31, 2009



Calcutta, where I am going next month – never been before, very excited!

Cricket Virgin

July 28, 2009


After 10 years without a TV at all, and 9 months with a TV but without a connection, I have finally got back on the cable. The Tata Sky people spent a sweet 7 hours in my house, drilling holes, hanging cables and trying to persuade me to subscribe to the Super Cartoon Extravaganza Package.

I declined.

The only thing I wanted was a sports channel that would broadcast the Ashes with English commentaries – and by English I did not mean Hinglish.

An English friend, you see, had said he would visit me in Jaipur on the condition that he could watch the Ashes Test Series. Whatever that was. That it had to do with cricket was all I knew.

The Tata Sky guys were slightly dumbfounded as to why I would want such a thing – wasn’t Cartoon Extravaganza more likely to fit my needs?

“Listen. All I want is  to watch the Ashes, in English. Ok? Can you make it happen ?”

“Ma’am, but of course! May I just be asking, who are you cheering for?”

“I don’t know, cheering for what?”

“Which team, Ma’am, in the Ashes?”

“Well….Hmmm. Dunno. Well, India I guess!”

The two guys looked at me with, rather offendinlgy, a mix of horror and pity. They looked at each other.

They handed me the Tata Sky brochure again, an imploring, tearful look in their eyes.

“Ma’am, are you sure you want to subscribe to the Cricket Deluxe Platinum Package? What about the Zee Studio Teen Movies Club?”

I refused, once again, and begged them to just finish the damn installation.

And then I googled the Ashes.


July 21, 2009


The fort at Agra, much grander, but not unlike where I lived


For a few months at the very beginning of my stint in India, I lived in a dilapidated fort. It was 45 minutes outside Jaipur and well worth the commute.

Had it not been for the cars in the courtyard, it could have been the 14th century. There wasn’t a noise, except chanting from the nearby temple, once in a while, late into the night. There wasn’t much electricity either, so evenings meant candles and early nights. Hot water was scarce too, and had to be brought in. But is there anything more pleasurable than a candlelit hot bath in a vast, old, cold, shabby house?

The fort, it is true, was in dire need of maintenance. But I did not mind its shabbiness. It meant I was left alone there, as no tourist, somehow, was willing to share with me the simple pleasures of rural life.

My bedroom was immense, with pillars and walls painted in delightful colors: pista green, banana yellow, poppy red. There were ottoman chairs and intricately carved sofas, all very much over the top, but certainly playing their part in the Indian fairytale.

I used to wake up at dawn and go horseriding. The cold bit through my bones, but soon I’d be panting under the effort. Sometimes I rode with the owner’s son, five-year old and cantering like there was no tomorrow, his feet not even reaching the stirrups. Or with his cousins, who’d make me cross the highway and push their strong Marwari horses to the brink of collapse. Crazy Rajput kids.

I had dogs there, two Bhutanese mastiffs who arrived from the Himalayas one morning, the tiniest balls of fur. Within a year they were as big as ponies. One is still there, too big for city life, and I wish I visited him more often but it simply breaks my heart.

It was a good, simple, enchanted life. I often miss it. But now the property has been done up.

And really, it will never be the same. Not with running hot water and satellite TV.