The beginning of any new year always brings with it the renewed excitement that with every month that I countdown, I am inching closer to another birthday. So February 1st saw me do a happy dance. Also because the sister came to visit that week. She has been my most ardent and oft-returning houseguest yet. In all the years we have lived in Goa, she has visited a minimum of three times every year, if not more, and usually stayed for leisurely, long periods of time. Having family over is wonderfully different from entertaining guests and having a sibling (if your siblings are anything like mine is) over takes that to another level. Ask VC – he bears the brunt of it.
This time though, she visited after an unbelievable (and shameful, if you ask me!) gap of a whole year, thanks to being employed, which also meant she was on a tighter schedule a had a return date that was too close for comfort. So in that sense, this trip was different from most others, where we relax and go about our days without much planning. Instead, this time around we had the trip chockfull of things to do, places to go and things to eat, almost every day. We visited our favourites – The Black Sheep Bistro, Ritz Classic, Bodega and Thai n Wok. But we also visited Ruta’s Roadhouse, following the trail all the way to Assagaon where the newest outlet is now housed. I’m a diehard fan of not just Ruta’s idea of bistro-style food with the chunky, filling portions, exciting and unexpected combinations of local produce cleverly used in a continental/bistro style, but just the palpable passion that goes into each of her eateries. I love a cafe that has feel, and for me walking into one that encourages you to sit a while longer, stay and chat, drink cup after cup of brilliantly brewed black coffee, is a serious deal-breaker.
So we had a lovely day of food and drink, which extended into lounging around while I got some writing done and Niyu worked on some drawing. It was interspersed with some chitter chatter with Ruta, over black coffee, which is always such a pleasure.
We experienced the Carnival in all its colourful splendour with music, dance, cocktails and Goan grub. Ever since the opening of MOG (Museum Of Goa), I was keen to take Niyu there, so we made a day trip of it, topping it off with some wandering up north – checking out the People Tree store too. And then we took off for the last weekend before she went back to Bombay to hit the beach. Headed Mandrem-wards, we stayed at Vaayu Ocean Adventures but spent the day at Pink Orange a beach-shack/restaurant in Morjim. Delicious vegetarian menu for a change, but it did not disappoint. I had a veggie thali (!) and it was loaded with a hearty dal, rice, salad, palak paneer and a semi-saucy, spicy brinjal and potato sabji. After lounging in the sun drinking as much beer as we did, it hit the spot. Dinner was at the newly opened cafe/restaurant at Vaayu, called Prana – and the meal deserves a post of its own.
Unbelievably exciting flavours, creative combinations and just delicious food that really looks and tastes like its been put together with utmost thought and care. I love meals that come together like that. They also made me the most insane Gin-based cocktail with freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, lemon juice and lots of ice. It. Hit. The. Spot.
Actually the deets about Vaayu require a post, or a full-length feature too if someone will let me write it for them. We stayed in a rustic, but very clean stilted hit that overlooked the river as it meets the sea. Vaayu is a fabulous surf-school that offers a seriously formidably large bouquet of water-sport options including surfing, kayaking, and so many things I didn’t even know were possible in Goa. Lessons from professionals, equipment, super funky inviting vibe it also doubles up as a space for artists in residence, and has a gorgeous, expansive gallery area where they have regular events like movie screenings, art shows and music/theatre events. I loved the sense of community – super cheerful and helpful staff with a deliberate effort to go out of their way to make your stay not just comfortable, but memorable. If you’re the adventurous water-sport types, definitely check them out. And even if you’re not, like me, it’s a great place to camp out for the weekend with an agenda to do nothing. Like I did. We did nothing adventurous or oceanic, apart from lie on the beach, watch the sea, feel the sand and chill.
I read my book, watched a lot of incredibly cute babies, made some observations about the crowd that now hits the beaches of the far North, drank a lot of Bira and ate some spectacular food.
I hit a serious funk when Niyu left and it took me a good few days to crawl out of it. Clearly the highlight of the month, and thankfully I had no work and commitments to distract me from all the bonding and fun time. Apart from that, here’s what I did:
Watched: Niyu and I watched some Chef’s Table, and while I can never tire of it, I think it can be a little intense and in-part academic for others who might not be as inclined. I also finished watching Orange Is The New Black, which had its ups and downs. I raced through seasons 1 and 2 wondering why I hadn’t watched the show earlier. Just when I was hooked good and proper, season 3 began with a serious slump. Why do all good shoes have that inevitable, almost predictable dip? Till about episode 6 I plodded along and wondered where it was going and if it will ever pick up. At episode 7 I was about to throw in the towel, when suddenly things looked up again. And how. I loved the way the season shaped up and the finale was wonderfully hopeful, making me smile.
Piper, the protagonist, continues to piss the daylights out of me with her obnoxious, selfish, and utterly dimwitted personality. I find her character so dull and uninteresting and can almost feel how much effort goes into keeping her alive and active at the centre of things. She is so easily overshadowed though, not just by more powerful characters with far more compelling sub-plots than her own, but by some brilliant performances by some of the other actors that just gobble her insipid, pale acting.
The excessive white-ness of the overall plot-line still doesn’t sit well with me, and I find myself getting worked up at the blatant racism at several points, but I realise that is the point of those specific developments. Perhaps if Piper wasn’t such a cliched blonde, White American yuppie, I would be able to get over it faster.
Now I have to wait until June to see season 4. Ugh.
I was all set to watch Parks and Recreation and Arrested Development next, based on reccos from friends who know whatkind of show I enjoy. But Netflix in India is controlled, and only showcases about 1/4th the entire library. So yeah, us desis have to wait. On the upside, Michael Pollan’s Cooked began here too, so I’m watching that.
I watched Neerja, which quite unexpectedly reduced me to a puddle of tears. I cannot stomach Sonam Kapoor’s acting on a good day, but she was pleasantly surprising – not her usual, nasal and annoying avatar, with a compelling performance. I went because I have always been curious about the events of the Pan Am crash, and I’m a sucker for people stories, especially those centred around strong women characters. I liked the way it was filmed, the plot was measured and not over-done on any account. It had the deadly combination of a woman playing a brave heart, national pride, motherly love and a love lost – that should explain the tears. A post coming up on this, perhaps because some rumination made me realise I’d rank Neerja along with Queen and NH10.
Read: I picked up A Handbook For My Lover, by Rosalyn D’Mello at the start of the month. The book has enough going for it – it’s raw, honest, seduces you with the language and some beautifully crafted lines that instantly evoke images in your mind – but I was a little bored with the format. Either there wasn’t enough meat in it to hold my attention or the pattern it uses to unwrap the memoir didn’t work for me, I’m not quite sure. It started off very engaging, and petered into a lull about 70 pages in, only to pick up in the last 3-4 chapters again. In between, it falls into a predictable loop and I guess for an erotic memoir – I was expecting a build up, a plot that very definitely leads somewhere, progressively growing for one of the characters – chronicling their time together from point a to b. But that movement was missing and the content just felt repetitive. I put it away briefly, almost giving up on it, but eventually picked it up one slow afternoon, spent in bed listening to my Grandpa’s music. About 3/4ths of the way in there is a mention of the protagonist and her lover being together for 6 years, and that’s when it hit me. The patterns in the writing are so repetitive that I hadn’t even got a sense of progression of time, let alone anything else. At the end D’Mello also says she herself had withdrawn from the book while writing it and came back to write the last few chapters after a short break of sorts. I think the energy dipping and picking up at the end again, reflects that.
Eventually, I finished it. While it didn’t leave me wowed or amazed, I think it is a commendable debut, for it’s choice of genre, and it is undeniably erotic and raw, with more than a few parts that will linger on in your mind. For that, I’d recommend it. It is a breezy read, so if you do pick it up, I’d be keen to know what you think of it.
I struggled with fitness this month. I thought I’d finally found my rhythm but I realise I’m still looking for that good fit of activities that will break my plateau. I tried to be as regular as I could and felt deflated when I realised I’ve reached a point where I give in to the temptation to skip a workout so easily. This has been a sign for a need for change and so I’m switching things around again. Fingers crossed.
I didn’t draw too much this month, because it was a busy time with very little time spent at my desk or at leisure. I did however manage to stick to blogging every single weekday, and I am frankly a little amazed at myself for sticking it out to day 60! I also wrote a lot of haikus, found myself suddenly feeling very inspired and unable to keep up with the lines that blossomed in my mind. I took to noting them down in my phone, and slowly putting them down here.
February was a lot more settled compared to the upheaval that January brought. Emotionally, I’m still a bit knackered and I have my off days, but overall I feel a lot more in control. I’ve started picking up work again and I’m going to work the pace up from here. Like I said earlier this year, onwards and upwards, it is.