Smiling in the Rain

September 9, 2009

pluie

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:

“NICE!”

I think I have been in India for too long.

Superman

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!”. 

“Please…”

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.

Cow

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.

Autorickshaw Metaphysics

August 27, 2009

Ganesh

My rickshaw driver, Shashir, is trying to convert me to hinduism. Almost every day, he tries to take me to some temple or the other.

Years ago, he managed to drag Victoria and Bertie to his village temple to meet his guru. I shall never forget the story of the 2-hour drive on the highway, in the rickshaw shared with the whole family; how they waited another 2 hours in the village, being forcefed tons of food and liters of chai, and how they made a U-turn, one hour into the journey back, because they had just passed the Gurumobile, complete with megaphones and sirens. I will never forget Victoria’s face when she got back – that’s when I swore never to fall into the temple trap.

At first, I used to decline apologetically. I felt bad.

But to be honest, I am not remotely attracted to hinduism. There are too many gods, too many animals, too many stories, too many colors, smells, representations and contradictions to appeal to me. I can’t deal with the wars and betrayals and transformations. I can’t pray to idols. I need minimalism. I am, I have realized, monotheist to the core.

Now, I do feel bad. I probably sound awful and arrogant and snooty – after all, who am I to judge a religion?

I was thinking exactly this the other day when Shashir decided to take me, of all days: on Ganesh Chaturthi, of all places: to the Ganesh Temple. There would be a rough 100,000 devotees there.

I thought I’d elaborate my 8-billionth refusal:

“Sorry Shashir but no. I am a Catholic, I go to church.”

He turned to me he and, dead-serious, declared in hindi:

“But Madam, God is one.”

Grab the Deal

August 26, 2009

beer

 

When you have an Indian prepaid mobile phone card you receive thousands of daily promotional text messages and calls. Drove me mad.

Now that I have a postpaid deal, I don’t get such a constant flow of beeps. But I get the odd one. Some, I don’t mind. Restaurants, nightlclubs, boutiques in Delhi and Bombay: they remind me that I used to live it up.

Some, on the other hand, depress me. Domino’s, for example. What it tells me, as if I wasn’t aware of it already, is that my diet now consists of peperoni pizza and beer.

I also receive daily invitations to “pool parties”, something I personally would consider when I was, say, 14, but nonetheless Jaipur’s hot new brazen concept which, in its ideal unfolding, consists in bikini clad foreign girls chatting with much married but wifeless local men gulping blended whisky. But I might be wrong as, to be honest, I never went.

We keep receiving such text messages and we keep deleting them. Luckily, last week Victoria read one before she deleted it. And I am glad she did, because here is what it said:

New Extravag. Formula @ Sheesh Mahal MI Rd – Get Bonanza Meal Order 1 Get 2 (Non Veg. 50% discount) on Food + New Offer Buy 3 Get 7 (Beer & Wine) – Enjoy Summer Discount Menu!!!!

Buy 3 get 7.

Buy 3 get freaking 7.

Now that’s a deal.

roses

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.

Madness

August 24, 2009

35

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!