An Eulogy to Canary

The Brazil team this last semi-final was a tattered version of it’s earlier self, and I had no great hopes of it. Earlier, despite it’s shaky performance, I had hoped the final might be Brazil vs. Argentina, with Neymar on one end and Messi on the other, but once Neymar went down, I lost all hope for Brazil.

Still, the twenty minutes of pummelling they received from the far better coordinated German team took my breath away. There’s losing, and there’s utter destruction and humiliation. For those vital minute (and also later in the game), Brazil seemed to have become detached, barely-animated zombies, more intent on ball-watching than ball-playing.

This is a brief summary of my Twitter feed during the match, published as I watch Argentina vs. Netherlands from the edge of my sofa.

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Nosy Neighbour Tales

I found this lovely little anecdote on Reddit, to which I have recently become rather addicted (anything text-based usually has my obsessive adoration).

India is a land of nosy neighbours, but alas, they can seldom be manipulated like this:

This is a story which my father loves to tell about his grandfather, Ted, a man who “didn’t suffer fools gladly”. This took place some time around the 1960s.

Ted had an absolutely insufferable neighbour, Maureen, a woman who liked to peer out of her window, over the garden fence and into his kitchen. She did not do this secretly; she would often address Ted if they met in the street and make comments about what she had seen.

“Oh, Ted, you really should mend those pyjamas you were wearing yesterday evening. There’s a rip in the shirt and I saw right down it.”

“Oh, Ted, you weren’t depodding those beans correctly yesterday. I can teach you a much better method if you like.”

Tired of Maureen’s meddling and the lack of privacy he was suffering, Ted formed a plan. A few weeks later, he went hunting with his friend and came back with a brace of pheasants. Leaving his curtains wide open he began to pluck one, very tediously, very slowly, making a complete hash of it. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Maureen watching him. He could also see her frustration building.

The worse he plucked, the more frustrated she became, until she could take it no more. She stormed from her house and knocked on his kitchen door. When he let her in, she grabbed the pheasant and declared “THIS is how you do it properly!”. She plucked all of his pheasants for him and left with her nose in the air. He did this a few times over the coming weeks with different kitchen chores until she realised what he was doing and stopped altogether, never to meddle again.

“And that is how your Great Grandad turned obnoxiousness into free labour.”

If only, eh?

Tangerine Floor and Lemonade Tiles

Hello hello, hope you’re well, long time no read… and zap!, I am back.

It’s 5:30 in the morning in India, dawn hasn’t broken over Bombay yet, but the first promising drops of the monsoon falls outside as I sit cuddling the dogs.

The dogs, now. Well. They’ve have had their second round of vaccines and boosters, the little brats, and we’re under strict orders not to let them go outdoors. Especially since monsoon is tick, flea, snake and poisonous-plant season, and especially since last time, one of them went through three weeks of near-disability after because of a little post-vaccine playtime in the garden. The poor thing was so weak it would lie in its own excreta, filthy and parched, unable to move or reach the water bowl two feet away.

The homestay, however, means that despite toys and extended playtime with us, both pups are terribly restive and barky. It also means their potty-training is shot to hell. Over the last week, our floor had become a chequer of pee and poop, and no amount of repeat-training could make both dogs use the bathroom. If one could be coaxed there, the other would ‘go’ all over the drawing room floor.

I suppose it’s a territory thing, but wet patches and brown pellets all over the place was driving even lax folk like us up the wall. So this afternoon, the partner and I went to war, reclaiming the flat. You want territorial, puppiekins? We’ll give you territorial!

Finding out from the ever-helpful internet that residual smell leads dogs to believe it’s OK to keep peeing and pooping in places humans consider a damned nuisance, we first wiped all traces of puppy-refuse from the floor, and cleaned it with a disinfectant. Then we went all over it a third time, perfuming it with a solution of water, bottled lemon juice, and essence of orange. Hopefully, now, the doggies will think our floor-space has been claimed by the Citrus United, and point their anuses elsewhere.

And now, in the bargain, we have a home that smells like a tropical dream. A light fragrance of tangerine mixes with the sharp scent of lemon. There’s probably a moral lesson about labour and its fruits in this tale, but the smells and weather has put me in a distinctly immoral mood. I want to step inside a fancy bath filled with sandalwood-water, and not come out till the monsoons are well and truly here.

Mythical Beasts: Lalochezia

Thank goodness for words!

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Verse(atile)

A tiny handful of posts on social media reminded me yesterday that it was Satyajit Ray’s birthday. Satyajit Ray, for those that don’t know, was a gifted creative with a fine eye for the technical. He revived and ran the iconic Bengali children’s magazine Sandesh, wrote three very successful series of fiction for young-adults, created slightly unearthly music, sketched and painted professionally, and of course, taught himself film-making and made some wonderful films in Bengali.

In his communique and interactions, Ray was known for his dry – but gracious – wit. It sounds a bit of an oxymoron, for surely dry wit relies on irony and slight contempt, but the instance below will illustrate my assertion:

Ray’s Alien with Columbia Pictures (later flicked by Spielberg as E.T.) was grounded by legal troubles, after Ray’s go-between, Mike Wilson, sneaked his own name in as the co-scriptwriter. The grounding was further facilitated by Peter Sellers opting out, saying he wanted ‘a bigger role’. [A fuller version of events is available here.]

This is the parting letter Ray wrote Sellers, before formally washing his hands of the project. Notice the humour and lack of rancour, despite having lost his biggest-ever project.

Dear Peter,
If you had wanted a bigger part,
Why, you should have told me right at the start!
By disclosing it at this juncture
You have surely punctured
The Alien balloon.
Which, I daresay,
Will now be grounded soon
Causing a great deal of dismay
To Satyajit Ray.

Meet the New Pup: Burfi

Burfi is a quadragonal sweet that is, in essence, marzipan. In India, it is usually made from cashews, and is therefore called kaju (cashew)-burfi. Given that my partner and I are compulsive face-stuffers, it was almost inevitable that any pup we adopted after our first – whom we whimsically named Kaju – would be called Burfi.This is Burfi. He doesn’t look as sweet as marzipan should, but he’s still quite the adorable little muffin, especially since he is the runt of the litter, and about the size of a chihuahua.

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burfi2Burfi meets Kaju. It wasn’t exactly a neighbourly meeting.

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Puppy Learns the Stairs

The elections were held yesterday at Bombay, and people flooded social media with pictures of their inked fingers, proudly showing that they voted.

Which is all very well, but getting off our sedentary bums and voting isn’t exactly an achievement, you know? It’s what we’re supposed to do, the social contract we made with the state and with our own collective destiny. There shouldn’t be a badge of honour for doing what you’re supposed to do… for your own continuing civil existence. That’s setting the bar far too low.

We however, have some legit pride. Our puppy Kaju has finally mastered the stairs… on his first attempt! Go Kaju! And he stopped after both the going-up and coming-down milestones so we could capture his moment of glory. A most biddable pup, I must say, except when it comes to sinking his needle-sharp teeth playfully into our extremities. Then he’s a right little bastard!

stairs1Damn. That looks far.

stairs2There! I has conquered one!

stairs3Going up…

stairs4    Stre-e-e-e-tch!

stairs5I is done! Take memorial pic!

Thank God for Good Friday

Today is a Friday, and it is a very good Friday indeed.

It has gone ten in the morning, and I’m lying lazily on the floor, playing with our new puppy. There’s no morning rush, no teeming trains, no pleading with cabbies and swallowing lungfuls of dust and grime.

I approve of this Friday. The other Fridays of the year should follow its example.

Tiger on the Blackboard

I’m rather envious of the fact that my husband has an entire blackboard to himself at work, and a replenishable box of coloured chalk. He tries to spin me the tale that these are his work accessories, but of course I drop in every now and then to check on his truth, and I find all he does with his lovely coloured chalks is draw squiggles, curves, and designs with numbers. In an effort to inspire him – and do justice to all the lovely chalks – I have begun to hide little secret marvellousnesses all over his scribbly blackboard.

In one corner, I have drawn a little flower in blue chalk, and carefully labelled it “bloo fwowurr”. In another corner, I have drawn a green leaf, and hidden beneath it is yellow letters, I have written “haloom!” (that’s “woaaarrrr!” in Bengali.)

I thought I’d cleverly slipped my scratchings by him, but last night when I went to pick him up, I saw that while the formulae and graphs on the board had changed, my little gems have been carefully preserved.

Sleeping-Tiger

Mummy, Quoth She Firmly

After some gentle cajoling, I lent pieces of my cherished young adult fiction collection to a young person in his early twenties. I like this person well enough, but he has the unfortunate desire to appear all-knowing, without the discipline of fact-checking. So often, he ends up correcting people with unverified, second-hand knowledge, and gets into egotistical fights when someone disputes him. Mostly this is amusing, but sometimes – especially when he uses his habit to denigrate people – it becomes very irksome.

Anyway, I lent him these books – most of which are by British authors – and when he stopped by to return them, I happened to be speaking to my mother on the phone. After I finished the conversation, I saw Young Person smirking at me.

“You still call your mother Mumma!” he mocked. “Don’t you know only little children do that? Once you grow up, you’re supposed to call you mother *mum*. ‘Mummy’ sounds so babyish”.

This was, of course, not an opinion he’d ever trotted out before – indeed, he refers to his own mother as “mummy”, with an emphasis on the middle “m” – but Jacqueline Wilson appeared to have changed his opinion overnight.

“Darling,” I responded gently, “she is my mother, and I shall call her whatever I bloody well please. Buh-buy now”.

There is a moral to this story, and it is this: a little learning is a dangerous thing… and don’t lend your books to snotty young people who think they’re too smart for their little-boy pants.

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