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A Good Home

Henri Matisse - Vase, Bottle and Fruit (1906)Spread across the centre page sat

a good home, its marble face shone

against the streaming light, falling

on a desk standing still, by the window sill

with pictures hanging all around.

 

Bright blue candles neatly climbing

the pyramid of books in glossy garb

and Chrysanthemums peeking

at straight lined cigars,

astride atop a China vase.

 

No feet roaming wild within walls,

pearly white and standing tall

covered in framed brushstrokes

containing the lives of other folks.

 

In this good house so perfect

and true, no stories spill

and spread unchecked,

colouring sleeping rugs that lay

lost in secrets of Mandalay.

0

10 Ways to Decorate with Wine Bottles in 30 Minutes or Less

10 Ways to Decorate with Wine Bottles in 30 Minutes or Less_EggfacemomheadWhat must a mother (and others) do when they’re done downing their favorite wine? Well, slurry speech monologues and then, some decorating. With their slender neck and bulbous bottom, wine bottles are beautiful. Why would anyone want to throw them away anyway? I’ve never thrown one till date. So what I’m always looking to do is decorating with wine bottles in interesting ways around the house. If, like me, you went about searching for design hacks on the web you’d likely hit upon many gems but most of these are very elaborate craft projects. The latter are definitely unsuitable for people who have had to perfect teeth brushing under two seconds.

Instead what I wanted to begin working with were easy on design (and time) ways to use old wine bottles, without having to chop, cut, drill. Here are ten ways to decorate with wine bottles in 30 minutes or less.

#1_Use String LightsThis one does require a visit to the electrical shop to get string lights (which may be more than 30 minutes), but if you can pick it up on your weekly/fortnightly market visit, then just dip it inside, turn it on and watch the magic.

#2_Wrap A Twine AroundFor a rustic vibe in a corner or your centre table, just wind a twine or a jute rope around the wine bottle. Then throw in some real flowers or colorful dry decoration inside or even an interesting tag around the neck.

#3_Paint the BottleThis one the whole family can have fun with. Bring out your paintbox, choose your colors and go crazy. Okay, stay sane because honey you’ll be the one cleaning up afterwards.

#4_Wrap in FabricEver so often we have odd bits of fabric lying around that is too small to do anything with. Just wrap your wine bottle in it, tie a contrasting ribbon around the neck and voilà, you’ve put two ol’ things to good new use.

#5_Make a hanging vaseSounds too darn simple and that is why it’s here. As a bonus, it can also look very garden-y if you’re stuck on the 14th floor far far away from any garden. Put a twine around the neck, tie it to a balcony railing or any pole resembling surface, fill water and put your favorite flower in it.

#6_Bring the beach inFill the wine bottle with different shades of sand, small pebbles, shells and set it on the window sill or your writing desk. Dreamy days will be made of these.

#7_Candle Light ItMany tall candles fit in to a standard wine bottle mouth. If not, use sand to fill the base, drop your candle in and light it up.

#8_Glam & GlitteratiSome boys and girls love glitter. Even if you don’t, a little shimmer and shine never hurt a soul. Spread some glitter on a paper, roll your bottle in it and watch it turn the groove on. When you decide to try this one out, I suggest declaring it Glitter Day and putting the leftovers on old boring tee shirts, white canvas shoes, your faded denims and just about anywhere that cannot protest. (Your cat will.)

#9_Go VintageEveryone has old, yellowed, frayed pages of books or even newspapers lying around. Cut these out (keep interesting headlines in to make them pop) and give the bottles an old world makeover.

#10_Bottle of MemoriesMy absolute favorite. Feel like a pirate as you roll up an old photograph or a love note from a beloved and preserve a message in a bottle, maybe even for posterity. The odd maneuvers to make it straight once it’s inside might take a bit of practice and loads of patience, but hang in there because the result will be delightfully sweet. (P.S.: If like me you’re wondering what if I want to pull that picture out at a later date, you could also put the picture on the outside. Otherwise the bottle will have to break. But if you are ready to commit to letting go of a bottle bottom, then there’s a whole lot of other decorating ideas to try out!)

Why don’t you give these a go and tell me how easy or difficult you found them. And which one was your favorite?

7

The Thing About Grey

It pulls me in from the crowd, makes me go weak in the knees, colors my dreams. Out of a thousand things in rainbow shades, I am extremely likely to pull out the grey. It’s hot stuff, if you ask me.

Let’s suffice it to say, I have ‘a thing’ for grey, referred to (quite unfairly I feel) as the color “without color”.

The crowds may chant bleak, boring, old and sad to its face, but I find there’s much beauty and fun to be had in it. Of course if this were the 18th century, and Paris, I would have been quite the ravishing enchantress about town in my swishing grey gown.

Charlotte_Walsingham,_Lady_Fitzgerald_by_John_Hoppner

Or a happy fly on the grey wall buzzing over Whistler’s Mother as she sat in perfect composure for this portrait.

James_Abbott_McNeill_Whistler_-_Portrait_of_the_Artist's_Mother_-_Google_Art_Project

Wikipedia offers a grim reflection on one of my favorite hues by (horribly) stating:

In Europe and the United States, surveys show that grey is the color most commonly associated with conformity, boredom, uncertainty, old age, indifference, and modesty. Only one percent of respondents chose it as their favorite color.

And goes on to make matters grey-er by quoting color historian Eva Heller.

“Grey is too weak to be considered masculine, but too menacing to be considered a feminine color. It is neither warm nor cold, neither material or spiritual. With grey, nothing seems to be decided.

Bah, Humbug I say!

Let a girl salivate o’er grey

Ogle at the grey sweater-chest,

slip on a plain grey dress,

jump off the steel-grey train,

dance under the glowing grey rain.

Images via https://www.pinterest.com/manikadhama/

4

The Shy Blue Sky and Painted Earth

You could blame it on the Shibori pants I slipped into this morning and the brown boots of yore waiting for true winter chill, but my head is all royal and earthy now. For a fix I lost myself in all sorts of brown and blue and now that I’ve resurfaced there seemed to be much good in sharing some treats.

There’s something about a hint of blue peeking in from behind an old cupboard or on an iron fence.

This is the color the walls have been missing. And I dare say stories read better in a cozy blue corner.

Of course you would get the first peek into my boudoir if it ever went royal

You could stay for tea…

…And partake in adventures that began, when brown boots walked out into the winter sun.

4

In Memoriam

Twelve years ago, my brother and I walked out into the sun with a shoe box for company. We were on a mission, to fulfill my brother’s wish, which he had etched in blue pen on the wall in our room.

“I want doggy with big ears.”

I had never quite understood his fascination with canines. He had had his flesh torn out twice over but his desire for a furry pet was relentless.

We had kept pet dogs ever since I can remember.  First there was Salma, the Indian breed lady with whom we played ring-a-ring-a-roses. She wasn’t exactly our pet, but since we fed her she hung around in our garden in that remote place in Himachal. She had pups, among whom I can only recall the black brute who answered to the everyman dog-name Tommy. And the only thing I remember about him was how he licked my feet all through a fancy dress rehearsal in the kitchen. When we left town Salma followed the truck for a long time after. I don’t remember that part. It is from the parent-to-child folklore about the times you were too young to remember.

The new town was where my brother’s adventure streak really found wings. He was the ring-leader and roamed the streets with his humble followers in tow. This bunch of five year olds had an exciting life building thatched structures in the jungle and parading dead crows about town. Huckleberry Finn would have been proud.

In keeping with his interest areas at the time, my brother brought home a raggedy, stinky dog that looked every bit the part of his potential sidekick. This canine ragamuffin was christened Jacky, for no fault of his. He stayed with us for a few months, just enough time to find himself in festival pictures and be forever named among the beloved four-legged family members. You could say it was in his eyes the day he was brought in, but I guess we (everyone except my brother) knew this dog was no house pet. So Jacky left his two-legged companion one day without notice and continued on in search of possibly adventurous pursuits.

My brother was hurt, as all five year olds whose dogs run away, will be. My parents decided to fill that void by searching high and low for the perfect pet for my brother. We found him hiding under a chair in Gwalior. Blacky (for that was his mane and his name) was a beautiful hybrid with uncertain genealogy but a wild streak that only masked my brother’s ever so slightly. They were perfect for each other. If you came by the house you could catch them lying arm in arm on the porch. Blacky also saved my mother twice from deadly snakes. On both occasions it was a dark rainy night and as my mother bent forward in the porch to place the food bowl before him, Blacky barked away and forced her back in. In a little while my mother knew why, as she saw a snake wriggle past near the bowl. When we found ourselves back to packing and moving, it was time to decide whether taking Blacky along to what was going to be a small apartment in the city was a good idea. Finally he came along, the fox-sized giant in the car with his little companion.

Soon enough it became clear that keeping him locked up in a small space was a bad idea so he was sent to live on a farm, which in this case was not a euphemism for ‘he passed away’. He did go to a farm and lived happily (I presume) till it was time to say goodbye, several years later.

You would think this was it, but you’re oh so wrong. What followed next was the opposite of Blacky, in colour and size. My father went back to where we had moved from and came back with a little white ball inside his coat pocket. This was Rusty. Why a pearly white dog was called Rusty is beyond me. But that was his name when my father got him and we didn’t bother to make him unlearn it. Rusty was a spitz with remarkable self-confidence. This dog would stand in front of a bull, measuring just about the size of the bull’s face, and the bark like there was no tomorrow. Perhaps he was a reincarnation of Napolean.

I distinctly remember this one night when he swallowed a chicken leg piece whole. We weren’t sure if his stomach was that big and my parents said he might die because he couldn’t possibly digest that big a thing. My brother and I cried and cried all night and when morning came Rusty just pranced around the house wondering what all the fuss was about.

I can’t remember why that happened, but after a few years it was decided that Rusty must be taken back to where he came from. I think it was because we had all become tied up in a lot of things and couldn’t care too well for him. Or perhaps it was the usual scenario where kids demand pets saying they’ll do all the related work and when the pet comes he’ll all toy and no work for them, while mummy darling has an additional family member to care for. Once again our four-legged friend left us just as we were getting used to him. This time my brother went with dad, probably to check whether these farms in parent folklore were indeed that. My father told us later that brother darling was crying on his way back. Little boys and their dreams.

For a few years nothing happened. But soon enough the writing was on the wall. Literally.

That is how we found ourselves standing before a golden retriever mother who probably knew we were going to take one of her kids away. We brought Mischief home on the day before my brother was leaving for boarding school. It was probably not the best timing, especially since he was technically being brought home for my brother. I love dogs too but I’m not the sibling who wrote that on the wall.

On the first night we placed newspapers all over our room for him to pee on. When the lights were off we could hear him trying to find his way around. The next day my brother said goodbye with a heavy heart and Mischief had found his caretaker in mommy. During that time whenever we went to meet my brother, we took Mischief with us. All our dogs till then had been wild ones so we considered getting Mischief trained. For about a month Mischief spent time with a trainer and he learnt to sit, stand and roll over. It was all very cute but soon he lost interest and we let him be.

All our pets before Mischief had been more one person’s pet than everyone’s. But that changed with Mischief. All of us cleaned the poo, took him for walks, tick-picked and fed him. He became the true family pet.

As with any pet, the funny moments abound, whether it was the time he sat in the middle of the road in front of the vet’s clinic, as my brother and I struggled to pull him to the side. Or the time he ate one kilogram freshly prepared gajar-ka-halwa right out of the kadai. Coming home meant preparing to be thrown back by the force that was Mischief in his heyday. There were rules to be followed around the house – keep your slippers out of reach, keep fancy food at high places, close your bedroom door if you don’t want it to resemble a tornado hit space.

These rules have become second nature to all of us and it was extremely difficult to imagine that this fiery furry one could ever be sober. But your body plays these tricks on you. Four years ago he contracted tick fever, which was followed by a significant drop in platelet count. This was followed by a bout of nose bleeding that refused to end and signalled the end. I was miles away at the time and the description of his troubles set me crying for what might happen. The vet took one look at him and said, “this dog is not going anywhere. His body language shows he’s too high on life to give up just yet.” He was right. Circumstances that would have spelt the end for many left Mischief weak in limb but fiery in spirit as always.

Since then several close encounters followed and a couple of times the vet stated “you might lose him”. Mischief’s resolve was far too strong for all that was going wrong inside his system. His special food for kidneys and blood continued alongside several doses of medicines. Frequent visits to the vet, more nose bleeding episodes and countless other problems alternated with glimpses of the erstwhile naughty behaviour. But everything had slowed down.

Till September 2012, we were keeping the bedroom doors closed as per the usual rule. Soon it became unnecessary. Mischief had to be carried to the vet in hand and would lie for hours at the exact spot we left him, getting up only for water and food. Then came the first weekend in October. The vet pronounced his judgement. The kidneys had failed and the end was near. He suggested we put Mischief to sleep. We debated and decided to let nature take its course.

Today, two years ago, when I got back from work, I could hear Mischief moaning. His breathing was hurried and he was visibly discomfited. My mother said he was probably going to be with us for two days or so. He had stopped eating for a few days and the only water he had was whatever little we were able to put in through a dropper. In humans this sort of condition usually marks the beginning of the end. Watching him troubled, my mother said we should all pray for his smooth passing. She had been sitting beside him for the most part of the day for almost a week and she decided to sit beside him and pray.

At 9:45pm on 9th October 2012, Mischief the Magnificent passed away right after my mother had sounded the bell three times and begun to pray. She continued her prayers and informed the rest of us when those were over.

As my brother and I drove to the burial ground two years ago, I travelled back to the day we had walked home with Mischief in our arms. The three of us were travelling together again and just like that day twelve years ago, I will never forget this one.

0

’tis Nobody’s Business

Alone time, whether self-imposed or induced by circumstance, can often be fairly refreshing, as opposed to depressing as some people will tell you. One must hail alone time as the elixir for embattled souls and for those who’re as self-obsessed as certain people I know (yours truly included).

Whether you spend these glorious alone-hours indulging in tomfoolery or otherwise is merely a matter of personal choice (as ‘personal’ as choices can possibly be).

There are countless activities to choose from:

Making burnt egg-toast to satiate evening hunger, while dancing not-so-gracefully around the pan.

Wearing clothes with a colour combination that has the potential to cause blindness.

Watching movies rich in nonsensical content in entirety, and preparing to criticise them later.

Sending countless emails to friends who’re definitely busy at the time.

Telling yourself that you need to get back to work and not doing so at all.

Continuing to prance around the room.

Identifying the source of strange sounds emanating from certain corners of the house, just to make sure one is indeed alone.

Indulging in time travel (of the imaginary sort of course).

Sleeping and waking with particular disregard for dawn and dusk.

Not being busy at all but grumbling at the sound of the doorbell.

Losing oneself in the pages of a book and resurfacing only when the world comes searching for you.

…I’m sure there are those who use their time (whether alone or otherwise), rather judiciously (a term stubbornly closed to interpretation).

However, it is of no concern to me and neither should it be to you.

Suffice it to say that ‘tis surely a treat and luxury to be unnoticed and unheard, though only for a while.

And imagine what great potential something must hold when it is best described thus:
What you do on your own time is nobody’s business.

5

A Candid Chat with a Cultured (C)at

Ahead of the week-long celebrations for her upcoming birthday on April 10th, we caught up with Delhi’s Culture Cat, Ms. Snooty in her favorite hangout, The Chair.

Ms. Snooty

In a candid chat over cheese and fish treats, we spoke about her work as a professional Chair-Clawer, her picks for the upcoming elections and recent rumors regarding a new relationship.

Q Team: “If you can’t find her anywhere, just check in The Chair.” That’s a common phrase surrounding your love for this place. Do you think it’s true?

Ms. Snooty: The Chair gives me a sense of ownership. It also allows me to have quick naps when conversations drag on. And then there is the comfort of clawing. What’s not to love?

Q Team: Cats are often not very forthcoming about their age and here you are celebrating your fifth birthday in style.

Ms. Snooty: For one, there is the business of nine lives. Give that to anyone and they’d be dead before they are sorry. As for the celebrations, these are being planned by my special friends. I cannot refuse them the joy of celebrating my presence in their lives.

Q Team: Speaking of special friends, there are quite a few stories doing the rounds about Mr. Randy having been spotted outside your house at odd hours. Care to clear the air on that one?

Ms. Snooty: (Refuses to answer)

Q Team: And then there was the interview with your ex-boyfriend Garfield where he said he had to leave after you called him fat.

Ms. Snooty: I saw a lot of things while I was with him that I should do an expose on, the piles of rotting lasagne, the stench of laziness, (raising her voice) But I never used the F word.

Q Team: On to happier things. We heard you humming a tune when we walked in. What’s on your playlist these days?

Ms. Snooty: It’s ‘Conscious Uncoupling’ by Gwyneth Paltrow.

Q Team: What?! But, that’s not a song!

Ms. Snooty: Darling, it is. She released the single only among a close knit group of her dearest pals. I’m even talking to dear Suzanne (Roshan) to do a cover version for Indian audiences.

Q Team: From music to politics. Who’s getting your vote in the upcoming elections?

Ms. Snooty: (Sighs) I’m not a big fan of the lotus, as a flower. And we’re still getting some data on the Felicide. So not the orange brigade.Then there’s the Ordinary People Party. Sounds more like something dogs will vote for since they’re the four-legged people-pleasers. And lastly, let’s not even consider someone whose election symbol says ‘Talk to the Hand’

Q Team: That’s a wonderful insight into…

(Ms. Snooty is now napping) 

The Interview Ends Here

0

Colour me perfect

There is no end to the things that can (almost) kill you. Busy work week, negotiations gone bad, loneliness or bad food. And in quite the same way, there is no end to the things that can make you happy. Your latest song crush, tangy tomato pickle, perfect track pants or the morning hug.

The good thing is life is never black or white. It is never a question of whether you think everyone is guilty until proven innocent, or the other way around. Or which side of the morning-blanket-folding-as-redundant-activity argument you are on. It is never going to be just this way or that.

There are always going to be people who throw eggs at the windshield and try to rob you (some thugs do that I’m told). The web will continue to surprise you with what you weren’t looking for and the dog may bite when you are at your best behaviour.

While life may continue to be about the dream job, dream house or dream vacation, it will also be about fighting for the purple-sweatshirt-cause on your way to a reunion (even if the wine-red fancy top wins in the end). Exercise routines will be inversely proportional to the calorie intake (with no prizes for guessing which way the weights tilt, literally). Club memberships aren’t going to be easy either, what with ‘lonely hearts’, ‘perpetual cribbers’ and ‘internet-addicts anonymous’ gunning for the top spot.

With all the colours flying around, choices aren’t going to be black or white (or black and blue, even if you’re most men’s wardrobe).

Life’s palette will continue the confusion dance in all its multi-coloured finery.

The real joyride begins with picking the best hues to paint the portrait of your mad, chaotic, perfect life.

0

And then there was light

I’m all for natural lighting, to the extent that I would live in a glass house if I could. I’m the jump out of bed (well okay, not jump but curse the alarm and get out of bed) kind of person, who before anything else draws the curtains and says hello to sunshine/rain or whatever else is waiting.

And then there is the husband who would rather close every inch of space from where light could penetrate (“It becomes too hot if you open the curtains”). I told him to go live on the North Pole (actually I said ‘London’ because he’s more likely to make a living there). And while I call him names I also realise he’s not alone in his thinking. Thankfully my room-mate in college agreed with me but we would always be surprised how other people could switch on lights at 10am instead of sunbathing indoors.

What’s more, you save on electricity bills too. Of course that’s not what I’m thinking when I do what I do but it sure is an argument I’m going to use against curtain-closers. When you’re living in the city, curtain closing should only be for privacy, not because you’re a sunlight-hater. Sure there are times when you’re sunbaked enough outside to want any of that indoors. That is when you want to live in the air-conditioned, dim lighting cocoon. But no other time is an excuse mister.

And artificial light-wise, give me yellow over white any day. There’s something almost obtrusive about white light, which is why it is probably great to study under. But for all else, paint my room yellow please.

Rest assured my war against curtain closing isn’t over. I refuse to switch on house lights before sundown. And more importantly, my weekend afternoon tryst with 19th century classics is not going to involve a tube light.