Now, what shall I do with today?

“I began to appreciate time. There is nothing more wonderful to have in one’s life, than time. I don’t believe people get enough of it nowadays. I was excessively fortunate in my childhood and youth, just because I had so much time. You wake up in the morning, and even before you are properly awake you are saying to yourself: ‘Now, what shall I do with today?’

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You have the choice, it is there, in front of you, and you can plan as you please. I don’t mean that there were not a lot of things (duties, we called them) I had to do–of course there were. There were jobs to be done in the house: days when you cleaned silver photograph frames, days when you darned your stockings, days when you learnt a chapter of Great Events in History, a day when you had to go down the town and pay all the tradesmen’s bills. Letters and notes to write, scales and exercises, embroidery–but they were all things that lay in my choice, to arrange as I pleased. I could plan my day, I could say, ‘I think I’ll leave my stockings until this afternoon; I will go down town in the morning and I will come back by the other road and see whether that tree had come into blossom yet.’ Always when I woke up, I had the feeling which I am sure must be natural to all of us, a joy in being alive. I don’t say you feel it consciously–you don’t–but there you are, you are alive, and you open your eyes, and here is another day; another step, as it were, on your journey to an unknown place. ”

~ from Agatha Christie ‘Autobiography’

The Naming of Cats

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The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey--
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter--
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover--
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

~ T. S. Eliot

Faced with the dodo’s conundrum

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There are good ideas like violets, dark chocolate beers and gummy bears with a drop of acid. And then there are particularly bad ideas. Like turning up unannounced at someone's door.

What if you find them standing at their doorstep still in their boxers buying milk. Or brushing their teeth in a bathrobe unwashed for weeks. What if you hear the furniture squeaking with the television on loud and the cat yawning outside.  Would you rub the cat's belly, leave a post-it on the door? Would you wander around the neighbourhood, stopping by red green and blue doors to listen to the sounds and silences left behind in the haste that are early mornings? What if you find flowers left behind by someone who came before you or a book lying face down? What if you found shoes of someone with too big a foot size? Or baby shoes. Or a single red stiletto. What if you found a beer bottle unfinished or someone's dinner, regurgitated. What if you found a sign that read "Do not Disturb" or spiders spinning cobwebs or an unloved dog pawing at the paint. What if you found a blanket frayed at the edges or a little girl's Love in Tokyo's. What if you found a stack of newspapers bleeding ink into the sidewalk or forgotten shopping with oranges gathering furry fuzz.

What if you didn't find what you were looking for. 
Told you, there are particularly bad ideas: Turning up at someone's door unannounced is just one of them.
~
 I'd written this after I'd turned up at someone's door having flown halfway across the country sometime in 2012. Ghosting wasn't a term then. 

Tea Leaves

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I wake up every morning with the sunrise, and the first thought that springs to mind is, ‘What tea am I drinking today?’ When I’m in a mood to indulge myself there are the myriad thoughts of a possible breakfast drizzled with enough butter to keep Siberia warm. When I can make myself scrambled eggs with dollops of cheese, I’m the happiest. If I can manage ham, bacon or even Heinz' baked beans, then it’s a Sunday. But the tea?

Tea could be anything from the seemingly ordinary cup of Tata Life to the exotic sounding Blackcurrant with Ginseng and Vanilla, Darjeeling or even Jasmine tea. A mug filled to the brim with milky, sweet chai and I'm impy-dimpy-do with happiness. Then there are the days when it’s just Coffee or Hot Chocolate that I want but we shall not talk about those days today. The first stop for the day has to be at the tea cabinet.

Even as I toddle my way around the house trying to keep the sunlight from poking like needles in my eyes, I can smell the tea brewing. There is quite nothing like sitting with the newspaper in hand mulling over the cryptic crossword but we can’t always have what we want.

Ginger tea is always very invigorating, masala chai brings back fond memories of sitting in the balcony with friends as the cups of tea made their way from the kitchen. The everyday chai reminds me of Dad making that awesome cuppa during the weekends. Heady Jasmine is meant for those days when I want to wipe away memories in a moment of madness. Darjeeling is, of course, for those times when I want to be Holly Golightly in my own version of Noo Yawk- suave, sophisticated and unbearably charming. Then there is Numi Tea, Organic and beautiful. Numi Tea remains an expensive pleasure only indulged in when I have nothing but time at hand. Of late, Numi Tea has become a photographic memory. Who wouldn’t be fascinated when a flower blooms in the water only to infuse it with hints of chocolate and spices and other alchemical ingredients? 

These days tea is my morning indulgence and the occasional post-midnight cup of elixir. Gone are the days when I would drink cupfuls of tea by the hour and would reserve the coffee as my cup of nostalgia and all things dramatic. There was a time when the overcast skies and a light breeze blowing meant I would make myself a cup of coffee and sit back. These days it’s the tea that adds the drama and coffee that is quotidian.

Behind the ritual,
There is the spiritual

Find yourself a cup of tea; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things.

Simplicity, Work and Enjoyment

“My secret for long life is simplicity, work and enjoyment.” – Maia Helles

I’m loving every bit of this video of Maia Helles by Julia Warr. Julia met Maia Helles a ballet dancer, who’s just turned 95, on a plane on 4 years ago.

Shot in Fire Island, New York, this film (4min. 23 sec) captures the secrets of eternal youth as Maia Helles, a Russian ballet dancer turns 95 but still remains resolutely independent, healthy and as fit as a forty year old. Made by Julia Warr, artist and film maker who met Maia on a plane 4 years ago and became utterly convinced by the benefits of her daily exercise routine, which Maia perfected together with her Mother, over 60 years ago, long before exercise classes were ever invented. Set to the music of Lola Perrin.(2011) Film by Julia Warr Music by Lola Perrin visit juliawarr.org visit lolaperrin.com

There is a beautiful cadence to the routine and the ritual: Maia watering her garden, Maia exercising (she’s been doing these exercises for over 60 years!), Maia preparing a meal. I love the bits of splashes of orange - the little flower printed orange pillow on her exercise mat, the bright orange pan hanging on the wall, the movement of the bluish curtain fluttering in the breeze; little things of joy, suspended staccatos in this opus. There’s tenderness in the moments between the rituals - as she gingerly ties her apron, as she fusses in front of the kitchen fluffing her hair, as she sips tea at her simply set dining table and as she smiles the wrinkles and lines carefully aligning themselves.

I’m thinking I should focus a little more on Maia’s philosophy of simplicity, work and enjoyment. I’m always multi-tasking: answering emails, biting into an apple, reading a cooking blog, planning dinner. I need to slow down, breathe and focus. Bite into the apple, answer an email, bookmark the cooking blog, postpone thinking about dinner. Make this a habit till it becomes second nature and then just who I am.

It’s nearing dinner time. I peel a couple of potatoes, dice and toss them into the pressure cooker with the lentils. While this cooks, I slice the onions, mince the garlic, julienne the ginger, slice the green chillies, count the curry leaves. I saute these sliced and diced veggies in some ghee with sizzling cumin seeds, throw in the powdered spices and roast till it smells like my mother’s kitchen. The tempering is ready, the lentils and potatoes are waiting. A bowl of rice with a heaping of dal, a glass of wine - simplicity, work and enjoyment have come together as dinner.  

Maybe this is where I start building the rituals and routines I’ll grow old with. Taking a moment to fluff my hair when I pass a mirror, putting away the laptop after 10 pm and picking up a book to read, meeting friends more often- living fully, staying engaged in the moment and being beautiful

Completion + Cafe Mocha

I have to compulsively finish and complete things. I find deleting emails, reading WhatsApp messages gratifying - the unread count drives me nuts, makes my hands itch. I don’t experience the full pleasure of a task until I’ve checked it off my list. I have to use up the last bits of shampoo so I can quickly toss out the bottle. Saturdays are my favourite, everything draws to a close and I can put a bow on it - the dry waste is collected, laundry is done, the stack for ironing is picked up and I can plan to finish off jars of bits and pieces to create something new. Like this mocha base.

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Three jars were a quarter full with cashews, hazelnuts and almonds. Tossed in some sweetener, unsweetened chocolate, instant coffee and I had a cold coffee base, ice-cream topping and nutella replacement. I don’t know what I’m reveling in right now- the giddiness that comes with creating something delicious from leftovers or the joy of just completing, using up, not having to dispose half-empty jars in my quest for completion.

Bits & Pieces that went into the Cafe Mocha Base

  • 1 cup of nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, cashews) 
  • 1-2 tbsp instant coffee
  • 2-3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa 
  • Sweetener as per pref (3-4 tbsp sugar/stevia etc to taste) 

How I made it

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  • Soak the nuts in water for a couple of hours, drain completely. 
  • Blend everything with some warm water, shouldn’t be grainy. 
  • Tada, it’s ready!  
    You can store in the fridge for up to a week.

How I use it

My favorite keto dessert is a simple chia seed pudding. The chia seeds pack in quite a punch on the C/F/P ratios: 28g of chia seeds will set me up with 9g of fat, 5g of fat, 2g of net carbs (yeah, can you beat that?). 

  • 2 tbsps of chia
  • 200 ml of coconut mylk
  • 1 tbsp of coconut butter/coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp Cafe mocha base 

Stir all ingredients together in a jar. Refrigerate overnight. 

My Favourite Short Story

I was introduced to Richard Brautigan years ago by way of this evocative piece on a man visiting his ex. I return to the sadness, the loneliness and the stubbornness in that piece quite often but in happier moments, I have another favourite. This one from Richard Brautigan’s Revenge of the Lawn

I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone

I was trying to describe you to someone a few days ago. You don’t look like any girl I’ve ever seen before. I couldn’t say “Well she looks just like Jane Fonda, except that she’s got red hair, and her mouth is different and of course, she’s not a movie star…”

I couldn’t say that because you don’t look like Jane Fonda at all.

I finally ended up describing you as a movie I saw when I was a child in Tacoma Washington. I guess I saw it in 1941 or 42, somewhere in there. I think I was seven, or eight, or six.

It was a movie about rural electrification, a perfect 1930’s New Deal morality kind of movie to show kids. The movie was about farmers living in the country without electricity. They had to use lanterns to see by at night, for sewing and reading, and they didn’t have any appliances like toasters or washing machines, and they couldn’t listen to the radio. They built a dam with big electric generators and they put poles across the countryside and strung wire over fields and pastures.

There was an incredible heroic dimension that came from the simple putting up of poles for the wires to travel along. They looked ancient and modern at the same time.

Then the movie showed electricity like a young Greek god, coming to the farmer to take away forever the dark ways of his life. Suddenly, religiously, with the throwing of a switch, the farmer had electric lights to see by when he milked his cows in the early black winter mornings. The farmer’s family got to listen to the radio and have a toaster and lots of bright lights to sew dresses and read the newspaper by.

It was really a fantastic movie and excited me like listening to the Star Spangled Banner, or seeing photographs of President Roosevelt, or hearing him on the radio “… the President of the United States… “

I wanted electricity to go everywhere in the world. I wanted all the farmers in the world to be able to listen to President Roosevelt on the radio….

And that’s how you look to me.