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Monday, November 26, 2012

Stumbling in the canine world – Part II

A day after Diwali, the roads were uncharacteristically empty and the buses were running free. That of course did not mean a respite from office with its share of deadlines. By the time I had clocked in close to 11 hours, it was almost 7 pm, and I was ravenous. After quickly getting a take-away (a very spicy Frankie), I was walking towards my bus stand, when the title of the post happened.

A stray dog was greeting almost everyone coming to the bus stand enthusiastically. Tail wagging, eyes shining and tongue hanging, he came and welcomed me by trying  to lick my hand. For once (in my life), I wasn’t scared, and sat down to pat him. He was wagging furiously and looking hopeful. It then struck me that he might be hungry. I thought about the packed Frankie, wondered if all the extra chillies would benefit him, and told him sorrowfully, “Unnum ille da enn kitte”*. He immediately ran to the next guy and started giving him the look.
Well, that was mortifying. There were two practical things I could do: Give him the Frankie, which was sure to cause him some harm, or ignore and catch a bus. So, I did neither, walked about half a kilometre to a local paav waala and got a pav.  I had worn my only dressy-pointy heels that day, and my feet were killing me. I drudged on, waiting to see his look of happiness (Ya, I am very selfless like that).

When I finally reached the bus stop, it was close to 8 pm, and he was nowhere to be seen. I waited for about 15 minutes, and then walked around to see if I could spot him (at one point, even trying to closely inspect an overturned garbage can). By 8.30 pm, I was ready to accept that I had made a fool of myself and caught the next bus home.
At home, of course, I told my mom that I had a lot of work in office.

PS: Do dogs like Paav? It is the second time a dog has rejected my humble offerings

*I have nothing to give.

Monday, November 19, 2012


It was one of those days where everything was going wrong. It was getting dark, the autos weren’t coming and I had promised to be home by 8.

By the time I reached home, it was already 9. I had had an absent-minded conversation with the auto-guy who was very curious about computers and where he can do courses on basic skills. I smiled while I got out, said a hasty “Thank you”, had time to notice a couple sitting on a bike having a conversation in a low voice, and bounded up the stairs…

..when my phone rang suddenly. It was my friend’s friend – a guy I knew barely through a farewell gift I was doing for my friend.

I: “Hi, how are you?”
He: “Tell me, do you stay at.."(followed by my street name)?

I (Surprised – he did not seem like the stalker kind): “Um, yeah”.

He:”I am standing right outside your building with my sister. I just saw you get down from the auto”.

Aah. The couple in the corner.

I: “Oh?”

He (Uncomfortable now) : “I just got a call, so decided to stop my bike and take it.”

I: “Wait, I will come down”.

I have to admit I was very reluctant about this. Not only was my mom sounding pretty furious, I had no enthusiasm to meet a guy outside my building (with its share of nosy neighbours) at 9 pm.

As it turned out, the sister talked more than the guy and I talked more than both of them put together. After some hasty plans to meet the next day to exchange books, we bid goodbye.

I (thinking): “What a bad timing!”

He (thinking): “What a snob! Couldn’t she talk in tamil?”

A little more than a year later, we were engaged. I wonder about the person who said that the first impressions were the last impressions.  In fact, in my case, the best impressions are the last impressions.

A Cupboard full of coats - Yvette Edwards

A Cupboard full of coats
First Published in: 2011
A first-person narrative of a 30-year old woman who revisits her mother’s murder fourteen years ago through flashbacks and confessions.




Not exactly profane, but does involve some graphic descriptions.

Favorite Quote:
Before delving into the review, I have to admit I was very taken with the title of the book, and more importantly, the relevance of it with the plot. Seldom does one see an appropriately named book. (One flew over the cuckoo’s nest is the other one that immediately comes to mind).

This book tells the story of the murder of a woman about fourteen years back. It is seen through the eyes of her daughter, Jinx, in a series of flashbacks evoked through her conversations with Lemon, one of the three involved in the murder. Living alone, hardened and bitter, these conversations between her and Lemon help bring perspective and eventually a closure to her traumatised past.

First and foremost, this book can make you hungry. Lemon, part-lover and part-father figure, in an effort to unwind Jinx, ends up in the kitchen creating one amazing dish after another. I could taste the pumpkin soup, the millet, the sorrel and the Guinness punch. I could feel myself loosening, and could only nod my head as Jinx articulated what I was thinking:
For a moment, my longing for the breakfast Lemon was cooking so intense, I actually felt afraid.
This book can make you angry - at Jinx for her attitude towards her son; at Lemon for the part he played in the murder; at Barris, the jealous lover of her mother, for his violence and disregard for everyone else; and most of all, at Jinx’s mother, for being so gullible and blind to her daughter’s feelings.

However, the ruling emotion for me after reading this book was an overwhelming sadness. In what I am sure was just meant to be a passing narrative, I found the interaction between Jinx and her son, Ben as the most arresting. It may have something to do with my being a (relatively) new mother; I could strangely empathise with Jinx. But that did not prevent me from getting teary-eyed imagining what Ben must have been going through. All through the narration, I struggled to keep the rejected boy out of my mind.

I am sure that this book will evoke different emotions in different readers. A mother with a healthy relationship with her son will be shocked at Jinx for her damaging attitude towards her son. A daughter who loves her mother could only nod her way through Jinx’s confessions about feeling left out and being angry at the latter’s apparent callousness. But I am sure that everyone would, at least once while reading, want to stop-midway, go to the kitchen and make something delicious.

If the book falls short (and it does, though slightly), it is because of its writing style. I think the author wanted to strike a balance between a simple narration and some dramatic revelations. Yvette Edwards is brilliant as a simple narrator. However, the dramatic revelations, like the names of the protagonist and her mother (which is revealed only in the last chapter and there wasn’t enough punch to warrant that) seemed a tad unnecessary to me.  Then there is the description of emotions, which followed a standard template almost throughout (and sometimes, annoyingly, multiple times in a page):
Cause: Description of the event in one paragraph.
Effect: Description of the resulting emotion in one line.

For instance:
It had been the first time since he’d moved in that she’d spent any time with me on my own, two or three hours on one occasion in nearly two months, that’s all.
 And he was jealous.

Somehow, these one-apparently-loaded line-endings to a paragraph seemed forced, and broke the simple, almost clinical narrative of the book.

The only drawback of the book is so minor that I feel guilty mentioning it here. Indeed, considering the narrative style, the power-packed plot and the delicious cooking, this flaw seems negligible. Though not exactly a fast read, it is a very engrossing one, and can be finished in a couple of sittings. Very strongly recommended for everyone.