In which I bitch about the improper drinking of tea

5 Apr

For a person who doesn’t have a daily tea (or coffee) habit, I sure do have strong feelings on the subject!

I just read a beautifully designed blog post on the tradition of drinking tea, illustrated with famous pieces of art depicting tea or tea drinking. There was also a section on the hour long formal tea ceremonies of China. This led me to think the author was a tea connoisseur. The post, however, ends with her talking about her favourite cup of tea. This involves.

A teabag.

A heaping spoonful of sugar.

And milk.

It’s the quantity of sugar that upsets me the most. Anybody who puts a heaping spoonful of sugar in a cup of tea isn’t drinking tea, they are drinking sharbat, and should say so.

 

 

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Batti Jal Gayi moment

28 Mar

TIL that Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon are different people. I had registered the ‘Jimmy’ and ‘talk show host’ bits and wondered why Jimmy looked so different sometimes.

This is in stark contrast to the time in senior school when I knew one of my batchmates (in a different section, not mine) played competitive football but wondered why his friends sometimes called him A and sometimes H. A year later I realised they were two different people. In my defense- they were identical twins.

How to not evaluate your life through the sole lens of your PhD attempt

12 Mar

Or, How to Not Miss the Forest for the Trees.

One of the biggest temptations during a long, full-time PhD where your only commitment is to the PhD (and not, say, also simultaneously providing economically and emotionally for dependents) is to answer yae or nay to the question ‘Am I making progress?’ based on your progress with the PhD. Or maybe on whatever else you are prioritising with the PhD, which in my case is my spiritual practice. This might not be a very good way to do things because hey, those are just parts of your life, not the sum total of.

So, fellow yumans, take note of all the the little wins that will come in handy in doing life. You can’t put ’em on a CV, but you can put ’em on social media with saccharine filtered photos and flowery new-age prose-poetry.

To my list I’ll add: earning mum’s approval for single-handed maintenance of domestic premises, including the newly gained ability to jhadoo-pochha whenever needed.

 

26 Feb

It is 2 AM, and I am reading through a World Bank report on urbanisation while drinking lightly brewed (in deference to the hour) Earl Grey tea from my favourite mug.

I am on a deadline to submit whatever is ready of a rough draft of my first chapter, and it has been a while since I’ve done the night owl thing for work.

Feels good.

The night is the best time for work, and everything else \m/.  Too bad I’ll go back to attempting healthy normal hours from tomorrow :-/

Some gratuitous Park Street Photos

21 Feb

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Street Art acknowledging Arathoon Stephen: rich Armenian dude and builder of things. And flute man.

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Park Mansions: Home of Alliance Francaise, Goethe Bhavan, miscellaneous offices and 36 residential units

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Also, the doors and windows are painted red, yellow, blue, violet

Touristing

18 Feb

Got started on that list today with the Sunday auction at The Russel Exchange, on Russel Street. As a life-long devotee of take-your-time-with-things, today’s experience ended up being more of a taster, especially as I was with friends who were hungry and less fascinated than I was. We stayed for just under two hours, and the auctioneer had reached lot number sixty something, out of 300?400? plus lots to be auctioned. There was a neat little booklet listing all the items, and a page of rules, that was handed out to participants and watchers on.

 

We reached at 11, the scheduled time for the auction to begin, but were told that it is closer to 11.30 usually, before the whole thing begins.

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Calcutta, Sunday, fair enough. Even the metro has a leisurely start on Sundays-at 9.50AM. So do I, come to think of it!

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So yes. One is supposed to inspect the goods for auction the day before, on Saturday, but you’re allowed to touch them and examine them on Sunday as well, before the auction begins. Everything is crammed into a facility that resembles a massive two-story garage or small warehouse; there is nothing ‘curated’ about the display that’s fo’sho! That adds to its charm, if you ask me, because you carry the expectation of a hidden gem popping up in a corner, or in that showcase there, which makes it special. I’m a fan of beauty and chaos co-existing in everyday life and hidden gems in general, so its aesthetic appealed very strongly to me. Much like finding a fragrant, flowering plant in a corner lot piled high with construction debris and detritus, and/or a secret garden.

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By the way, ask for permission before you take photographs, especially if you have a hobby camera, like an SLR. They don’t refuse, but ask you to not take a photograph of every item for sale.

Today’s auction was conducted by one of the three siblings who own The Russel Exchange. She sat on a platform with a gavel and a mike, reading out from the list as employees held up the item of the moment for buyers to see.

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There was everything from junk that only held value as recyclable garbage (half a helmet!), to items that could be repaired and used (telephone instruments, mixer-grinders), to items that could be used as is (Samsonite suitcases and strolleys), to decorative (carved wooden boats, paintings, china figures, glassware) and more valuable pieces of pottery (that I did not stay back to see). Many of the items were bags full of random things that sold as a collective lot: purses, light fixtures, scissors etc. Some of those went without any bids, some went as low as Rs. 30, and one bag of door locks started at Rs. 20-ish and finally sold for close to Rs. 1000! If you’re the highest bidder for an item, your name is written down and you’re expected to pay 50% of the amount upfront, and the rest can be paid when you collect your purchase (you have till Wednesday 5PM to do so).

You can pick out the pros from the first timers by the seriousness with which they stare at their booklets, marking off the items they intend to bid on, and the casualness with which they make their bids. At the time of bidding, they almost disinterestedly raised half a hand or waved a finger in a half-raised hand to indicate interest, and the auctioneer hiked up the bid by Rs. 5/-10/- or 50/-; I couldn’t figure out the logic or system by which the price was increased. Other than the bag of locks, a Samsonite suitcase attracted multiple bids, ending at Rs.2650. And a carved leather ladies handbag.

I was only present while everyday goods (and junk!) got auctioned off, but that place holds antique-ey items too. Some pieces can be purchased as is, including most of the big furniture, chandeliers, sculptures, carpets etc. You can identify them by the price tags stickered on to them. One old chair with a wooden frame and cane mesh sitting and leaning surface, the kind of chair common to my grandparents’ time, was priced at Rs.11000. I’ve seen them being sold online for upwards of Rs.20,000 by companies that refurbish and resell antique furniture. Other exciting pieces are antique-ey bookshelves with the former owner’s book collection included (often dusty encyclopedias). I say antique-ey as opposed to antique, because I was reading online that there is a problem that gets in the way of selling antiques in India. Anything older than 100 years has to be registered with a government department before it can be sold, and most owners, naturally, can’t be bothered with all that. So it is highly possible to come across antiques that are not certifiably antiques, which makes these auctions even more exciting.

Someone, while writing about this, spoke of how addictive the whole experience is, and I agree. The mystery of the items-who were the previous owners? what’s its story?-the mystery of the appeal of older goods and who bids on what, the collection of spectators and buyers, and the rush of the bids and the gavel falling down to seal a deal warrant a second visit, and a third, and a fourth. And then one should stop, before it becomes pathological 😉

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A PhD student’s guide to health and nutrition

17 Feb

P.S.-This also works if you’re stupid lazy. Or on a budget. Or all three.

Need to eat? Concerned that your idea of a balanced diet now includes Uncle Chips and dahi? Be not concerned. Buy yo’self some beans. Chop said beans and toss them in a pan with butter or ghee. Done.

When the mood strikes for something more elaborate, find a vegetable seller who will give you coriander for free. Then buy from him carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, more beans. Chop them all (yes, cauliflower stems too, what are you, like Richie Rich or something?) and simmer in a pot of water with all the coriander. Fry leftover cauliflower pieces, if any, in leftover ghee, if any. Eat as soup or, this part is not for those on a budget, in a bowl with melted cheese and chilli flakes on top.

Need to have clean floors? Get a broom and a long-handled twist mop, in orange if you can.

Need to work out? Put aside orange long-handled twist mop, and bring out the normal mop and get to it, Indian style. As you move crab-like from tile to tile, you’ll discover muscle groups you never knew existed.

You’re welcome.