Saturday, November 07, 2009

Photographic Friday - UN Day


Global Indians!

Chloe, Joo Eun and Nikhil
Friends Forever!

Sheriden, Nikh and Holli
Flying the Flag!

HRH Queen Juliet offers cucumber sandwiches and shortbread
happy pic-Nikh!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

United Nations Day Reunited!

I have felt for quite a while that my life here in chennai seems to be an endless round of committee meetings, event planning and execution and lunches and morning coffees.  Many a trailing spouse living here would probably feel the same!  I haven't written for a while for that very reason - my days were too 'boring' to be of interest to anyone else!  So I simply didn't write!  Today - I have much to talk about....

Yesterday we celebrated the birthday of the United Nations at AISC.  This celebration started a long standing tradition in what used to be a small school with under 300 children.  A few parents thought it would be nice for the kids to taste the food of the various countries represented in the school.  So we used the PTA as the vehicle to transport our ideas into a stunning samples buffet.  The first year that I witnessed this - Nikh was in KG and the little babes were brought into the cafeteria and served their pizzas alongside a few bits and pieces.  This is usually after a fantastic UN Day Assembly with a Parade of Nations (kids come through carrying their the flag of their home country) and a guest speaker as well as performances from several groups in school.  The Choir and Band shine at this event - I am so proud of our kids and their teachers - so much effort, so much talent!!  We parents are also pretty excited to see our kids come through - maybe carrying the flag for our country.  The kids are chosen randomly and this is as it should be! 

The next year - this grew into a few countries showing off their talents  and their tastes!  the year I was PTA President - the school had 600+ kids and we asked each individual country (groups of parents) to provide enough food to feed 85 people - this was very manageable -but the kids complained!  They felt that they wanted to try a bit of everything - but once the food was finished in one section - they were lelft with few choices.  I agreed - I got to taste a tiny bit from most countries as I walked around checking on stuff and cheering people on - but most people were not as lucky as I!  I guess the kids wanted to try a little bit of everything ... as you do!

Last year was a break from this tradition - but this year we all decided to go back to a winning system.  Where parents and teachers club together into country or region groups and cook/serve enough food for the entire school.

AISC has 29 nationalities represented - bear in mind that some children may be listed as one nationality, but their mum or dad may be something else, and they are the ones doing the work!  This may mean that although there are a certain number of people listed for a country, the actual available man-power may be a lot less!  However, long story shorter - we decided to make sure that every child had the option to taste every thing.  AISC has over 700 kids, plus teachers, custodial, admin staff and the parents who also want to try some of this yummy grub!!  To cook for a thousand in relatively small groups was pretty daunting.  So - we became united nations - Britain joined hands with Australia and New Zealand.  France, Germany and Spain joined hands with Finland, Sweden and Denmark.  The South East Asian countries all became a united group.  How incredible is that?  

We had coordinators heading up the regions and the PTA President (Usha), Secretary (Radha), A French mum (Lena), an American mum (Jill) and myself headed up the whole event.  We planned, discussed, debated, passed resolutions, re-thought, changed the ideas and looked for the logistical pitfalls etc.  Upshot - we commandeered the school gymnasium and decorated the walls with facts, flags and banner and bunting!  We laid out table cloths, serving dishes and passed out disposable gloves!  Then the parade of the food of nations began - Kimbab made by the mountain, crepes, meatballs, cucumber sandwiches and cottage pie, chocolate truffle balls (roly poly balls)  and shortbread.  The Americans ran a cookie bar - deliberately situated at the end of the line!    Once the table and food were ready we flung open the doors and the entire school trooped through.  Children looked bemused, amazed, excited and hungry!  Talk aobut spoilt for choice!  WOW!!  The older children were sizing up the portions to see if there would be enough for a second helping!!  Some parents simply couldn't wait and jumped the line to eat even before the kids had got through.  Our Head of School and the Principals were incredible.  Even when coaxed to take a plate - knowing we had plenty of food, they declined and decided to wait until all the children and faculty had been through and as a result - I don't think they got a single bite to eat!

Kids also come to school dressed in their national dress, or in our case (Britain does not really have one!) in their home country colours.  Nikh has always had a bit of a split personality about UN Day - he wears half UK and half India colours to be a bit of both.  This year, though - he was pretty sure of himself!!  The school becomes this radiant colour spectrum which stuns and delights the senses.  Korean kids in their flowing brightly coloured clothes, Indians wearing simply beautiful outfits and children and adults moving around the school proudly showing who and what they are.  Clear on where they come from and revelling in the value placed on this by their friends.  Every child - no matter race, religion or nationality - BELONGS.  simply outstanding!  How often can every child (and adult) in a school with over 700 kids say that they were not left out?  No cliques, no clubs, no groups - just global citizens sharing themselves.  How often do we feel such a total sense of self worth?  I think that this alone should make the UN Day celebrations that exist at AISC a forever tradition.  If parents don't want to make the effort at some point in the future (though I REALLY cannot see that happening!!!) I think the School should take it on and run with it!! 

I can truly say that apart from the chronic fatigue, pain in my legs from having stood up and walked around for so many hours, tummy ache from too much Kimbab, meatballs, noodles and satay and the sugar headache from eating too many cookies and shortbread, it was a  really spectacular day. 
The best part is having kids and adults walk right up and tell me how wonderful the day was and how very very much they appreciated it!!  Roll on next year!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

What on Earth?

What on Earth was the Great Creator (or Creators) thinking??

I ask you ....

What earthly purpose do ants serve?  They swarm, they trample, they bite, they itch, they step in all kinds of yuck before walking all over my food and kitchen surfaces - likewise for lizards/geckos.

Cockroaches are even worse - they not only do all of the above, but they look hideous too.  They have far too many legs and bits hanging off their heads, they are  the colour of excrement and they wait until the kitchen has been cleaned (or the bathroom) before they make their grand entrance.  They also won't lie down and die when you spray the living daylights out of them.  They roll over, squirm, wriggle, bicycle their umpteen legs until you empty half a can of spray on one little bugger!  Then they have to decency to drop dead!

Okay and then my personal dis-favourite - Mosquitoes.  Why are they here?  They bite us, irritate us,  make us itch, bleed, put their yucky saliva under our skin, buzz in our ears, and they are the silent marauders.  Just as you slip into the deepest sleep - the little buggers strike!  SWAT Commando teams and Navy Seals have a lot to learn!  They are in, bite, suck and out before you have come up through seven layers of dreams!  I know that I then spend the rest of the night (unless by some stroke of luck I manage to splat the little bugger first attempt) looking out for them, checking on My darling, Nikh and The Ray to make sure they are not attacking them and generally getting more and more irritable and aggravated by the second!  The best ones are when they manage to suck all the blood out of your eyelid - you wake up unable to open your eye and you look like an evil alien just landed from the worst sort of sci-fi flick!  You scare young children, and even fully grown adults can be seen running screaming when they catch sight of you!  Try scratching your eyelid - not easy!!

Okay - you may think I am exaggerating slightly - but at 3am (I know I am usually awake, but last night I was deeply asleep!! - Double Whammy!!) when you can barely focus beyond a squint, the last thing you want to be doing is stalking flying commanado blood suckers who are better at camouflage than most of the world's trained armies!  Thank goodness for teh elctric swat bat - but try killing a mosquito sitting on My Darling's leg, he is snoring and I am armed!!  Not good for a happy marriage!!

I need to know that they serve a purpose, then maybe I won't hate them so much!  I realised why I like being away from Chennai on holiday so much - no mozzies!  No constant scanning from side to side when we are in the car, on the street, in the shops, at the cinema, in a restaurant, by the pool, in the garden ... in fact pretty much everywhere!  Also - no Mozzie spray on our skin - allllllll the time!  I feel a little demented sometimes!

We don't usually have any of these infestations - I think they are here to welcome us back, with a vengeance!  I noticed that all the A/C's in the house have been serviced etc - well, they have not fitted them backinto their holes properly - easy access for the entire zoo listed above!  I am trying to buy duct tape here - if not, I am going to have to get inventive with masking tape!!

Well, rant and rave over - I am off to smoke out the entire house with anti mosquito incense cones - they work a treat. 

Global Adjustments - Global events!

I have been meaning to jot down my thoughts on a few events from the past couple of weeks.  I keep forgetting so now that I have remembered while I am on line, time to get them thoughts in the open!

My Darling and I are often invited to events in Chennai as his company is pretty large and well known around here and I get involved in so many things, it is hard for people to NOT know me!

Many of you know my connection with Global Adjustments, a relocation company started in Chennai about 15 years ago by a brave but smart woman, Ranjini Manian.  I collided with GA on my first morning here nearly 9 years ago.  Ranjini is the sole reason that I am still in Chennai and was not winging my way back to Blightly on the first awailable plane with a seat for Nikh and one for me.  At that point, I would not have minded being strapped to the tail of a plane as long as Nikh was safely inside!  No drama then!

My Darling had scooted off to his new job, bright and early on that fateful morning; leaving Nikh and me to fend for ourselves.  We awoke to find some strange woman (Savitri) buzzing about the kitchen (no food or drink suitable for a 3yrs old and his mother fresh off the plane!) and a man who was sitting in our living room as though he owned the place (company driver!).  Niether spoke recognisable English and sadly, having had 2 weeks notice of our impending move, niether of us spoke an inkling of Tamil!
I have to say here that I speak Gujerati, a smattering of Hindi, a bit of Swahili, French, a bit of Spanish, a tad bit of italian and I can guess words from their latin or Sanskrit roots.  So I thought I was in a good place.  NOT SO!!  No communication possible.

Finally I did what any woman who was on a strange continent on the other side of the planet without even the knowledge of her husband's work phone number, or even how many digits to dial!  I sat down and wept.  Lucky for me, the phone I was looking at with such contempt began to ring.  I picked it up thinking that it could not possibly be for me - I didn't know a soul!  It was Ranjini - my saviour, my hero and my ray of hope in the quamire of my instant depressive hatred for this strange city with an even stranger language!

She asked my name and after hearing the sheer manic panic in my voice sent her driver over to collect Nikh and me.  The best way to put her next actions is SHE TOOK ME IN HAND...good and proper!  she organised a city oreintation (priceless!) and found a school for Nikh.  She asked me what would make living in Chennai for 3 months (yes, folks - I truly came for THREE months!) short of calling my Mum and Dad to get me out of here!  I made a list of questions and she answered every single one of them.  Incredible!

Anyway - back to this post - we have kept up a relationship over the years, partly because I could never thank her enough, but also because I think we like and respect one another.  IF she needs anything - she calls and I answer.  When I need anything, I do the same.

So GA often invites us to events and functions.  Sometimes together, sometimes just me or the kids.  The last few events have been 'together' ones, but My Darling has a mega meeting coming up, so has been working even more than usual (yes, it is possible!!), so I have been flying solo.  One was an event with a carnatic singer, (I can hear you yawning from here, and it is not pleasant!!).  I thought this would be a good one to miss, so I called to make our apologies and started cleaning my make-up off and undressing whilst on the phone.  Dashes, foiled again!  Ranjini must have a second sight where I am concerned as she brushed off my apologies and insisted I attend anyway!  So back on with the slap and the bling and out the door!  I am sooooo glad she forced me (Private Practice was recorded for another evening!) as Aruna Sairam was the most fascinating, humble and gifted artiste I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.  The audience was small and appreciative - simply perfect  She made carnatic music (usually sounds like wailing cats on a vibrating plate exercise machine) come alive and have meaning, soul and depth.  I could not be more grateful to GA for letting her open my eyes and spirit to this kind of music.

GA lives up to it's name - the next event was the launch of a coffee table book called 'In Search of P.James'.  From the moment your boots hit the ground in Chennai, you are exposed to the most prolific (free) marketing campaign the World has ever known.  P. James Magic Show is written in balck paint on almost every single piece of wall in Chennai.  it is written over and over and over again.  Four words and a phone number  - that is all, but the number of people who call the number and book the magic show is astounding!!  Anyway - a British guy from Oxford has taken hundreds of photos around Chennai and GA launched their book publishing career with this tome!  I think it will be a super success judging by the photos that had been put up for us to see.  I think every expat will want one to take home and remind them of their time here, and those of us with friends who have left us behind can send copies home for Christmas and birthdays.

Well to recap the rest of the last couple of weeks - we were also invited to the opening of a new bar called 9 Feet High, the re-opening of the bar at the Taj - called Chipstead,  which is really well done.  Compared to how the place used to look this is a million light years away from there!  Good luck to them too! And also to a Chanpagne filled sale of Jimmy Choos.  Great times!!  Keep them rolling on!!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

4.30 Technology!

Why is it that whenever I can't sleep I feel the urge to try new things - usually things that require my full brain capacity and let's face it ... 4am is not the time for THAT!!

I have been feeling that my blog needs an update. Those who know me well, know that I want to be more computer savvy, but am not logical enough for all that! I wrote a year of weekly newsletters, getting more confident with each new trick I learnt eg text boxes! Who knew!!??
With my blog - the most I have done is manage to moderate comments! So - I was very proud to have added the weather box, a counter to see how few people actually pop onto the blog and read 'me' and a link to another website. But I wanted more ....
I was regretting not having taken advantage of my cool ultra techie Danie, while she was living down the road, and thinking about how I could possibly persuade my equally cool ultra techie Jill, with her 3 month old baby, to take time out of her non-stop day to teach me some stuff ... when it struck me - change your template!
So I did!
And I lost all the stuff I had already added, but found easy ways to add other bits.
Now I have to find a way to add in the stuff that has vanished, and then go to bed a happy woman!!
Sweet Dreams - and let me know what you think of the all new, hopefully improved me!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Game, Set and Match, Mr Amritraj!

What a charming man! Six foot four, towering over most, no ALL, of the women at the IWA meeting arranged a few days ago for Vijay Amritraj, ex-tennis champ, to talk openly about anything that he fancied!

He started off with saying that it was any man's dream come true to be the only man in a room with so many many women! after the snickering died away, he went on to say how difficult the 'open' chatting would be as most of the older ladies in the audience knew his parents before he and his brother were born, many of the rest have known him since childhood! His Aunt was also in the audience and he sounded pleasantly surprised that she took time to come and listen.

I have to say - I was not expecting such a lucid, sometimes funny, humble man to talk so genuinely about his struggles, about the way Indian fans treated him when he lost a really important match (and made him cry!), about travelling abroad for the first time and encountering racial prejudice, about his charitable foundation and work, and finally about his mother and his family.

He answered questions patiently and then I asked him for an autograph for Nikh - he signed with a flourish and some polite questions about him. As I turned to go, I saw him bend almost in half to hug an old, old lady who had approached him. As he hugged her tight, I heard him say in the most humble and respectful manner, "wow, Auntie, you still look fantastic!" He made her day.
He made me think what an incredibly nice guy!

Game, set and match to him!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

backwards and forwards!

It has once again been an age since I sat down to compose myself! I guess I get out of the habit and then the bits of news start piling up and I don't know where to start! So I will start somewhere and work backwards and forwards - I leave it to you to figure it out!

The run up to the count down to the end of the school year was even more hectic than usual - a number of very good friends HAD to leave and several teacher friends moved on too. Sad, for me, because I have to say another set of 'goodbyes' which is always heartbreaking for me, but happy for them (in most cases) as they get the excitement of a new posting, a new job, a new country and all that this entails.

After several very liver and diet damaging farewell lunches, dinners, a day at the beach, coffee mornings, etc etc I was almost glad for the last day of school simply to stop eating and drinking myself into an early grave! We did not leave for our holidays immediately as My Darling needed to be in Chennai for a meeting and we were all going to his parents' 50th anniversary party in Bangalore. Besides he had only just come back after missing the traumas of the end of school!

When we eventually took off, we stopped in Dubai for some much needed decompression and a quick bit of retail therapy in the world's largest mall - walking from one end to the other is miles of trekking! It has an aquarium, an ice rink, cinemas, several food courts and restaurants, ice cream joints and then there are the shops - high end, mid range and sales offering bargains galore! My idea of a truly good time!

We hit London running and spent an inordinate amount of time at the Riverside Club, playing tennis, swimming, badminton, the kids had sports and activities camps etc. We spent time with good friends who include us in their lives whenever we drop out of the sky!

We had one holiday with My Darling's family on a windy, drizzly lump of rock called Guernsey, which is an Island in the English Channel! Suffice it to say that the journey out there, on a catamaran, was so rough almost every person on board was sick, sick, sick. The Ray fell asleep shortly after we set sail, but woke up vomiting violently, I cleaned her up and then she would repeat the process - over and over and over again. By the end of the nearly 3 hour journey; (the longest 3 hours of my life ... including my labour with Nikh which was 3 and a half hours and not nearly as bad as this - in fact it was a walk in the park!!!) the bins were overflowing with sick bags and the crew were on constant clean up manoeuvres. Dis-flipping-gusting!!

We had a couple of short stay breaks on our own around England which were short and sweet. The Ray and Nikh were indulging themselves by spending as much time in every 24 hour stretch with My Darling as possible! I worried about the time we returned to his normal routine and the Daddy Drought that was to come!

We also went off to Disneyland Paris with my family - we were booked first class on the Disney Express. How exciting for a 4 year old to be on the DISNEY Express!! I think she expected it to leave the tracks, rise through the clouds, swing round a few stars and then deliver her into Mickey Mouse's lap for a hug! As it was, we arrived at Disney to find that we were to leave the train and go straight to the parks as our luggage would fall under the magical spell of Disney and be whisked to our hotel rooms on Tinkerbell's fairy dust! I now believe in magic! We set off, had a quick french version of a fast food meal (good meat, good bread, good cheese and a beer!) and then The Ray flew on Dumbo the flying elephant and Nikh took my sister off to drive a car in Autopia! a couple of rides, good coffees, a long walk later we headed back to the Disneyland Hotel to rest before dinner. My parents had already had enough Disney for several lifetimes, but were determined to see this thing through with a big smile!!

I need to say a bit about the hotel - it is a huge pink building that spans the width of the parks. In fact the entry and exits to the parks is on it's ground floor!! It is decorated like a Disney movie with ornate tables and chairs, curving, flowing double staircases and huge ornately handled doors etc. You get the picture! We settled into spacious rooms with enormous beds and lots of space in the sitting room part etc. The Mini-bar was above the Ray's reach, thank goodness and the bathrooms were lovely!

Then came the meals - you have to understand that we have been to Disney World in Orlando more times than I care to count - it started with our honeymoon!! We are used to characters in the parks, queueing for hours to get a 10 second photo opp with them and then starting the system again! A resort hotel is a whole other world. You sit down to eat and suddenly Donald Duck is leaning over your shoulder to see what is on your plate! He was followed in quick succession by Pluto, Goofy, the chipmunks - Chip and Dale, Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Minnie Mouse. We were visited by Aladdin's Genie, Friar Tuck, and then the previous list again, and again, and again! In fact I took over 100 photos at the first dinner - don't think I ate a thing, but I got the pics!! Every time I went to put a bite of food in my mouth, a squeal of delight from The Ray meant I had to grab my camera and wait for the optimum pose! Brilliant for a munchkin, novel for a pre-teen (for the first two characters) and exhausting for every adult in the room who simply wants one good photo and then a quiet meal!

On one of the nights we made The Ray's wildest dreams come true by booking a table at Cinderella's Castle (Auberge de something or other!) and we were visited by every Disney Princess from Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Jasmine onwards to present times! Nikh was not to sure about these over dressed, hour glass figured, over made up, hand wringing women leaning in just a touch too close! My Darling, on the other hand, told the kids that Belle is to be their new mother and that I am free to leave anytime!! She only leaned over and smiled at him once while looking deep into his eyes!! Such is the power of Disney magic! I have to say I was not impressed as she even had her prince charming aka The Beast with her!! Shameless hussy!!

We whooped and hollered at a Buffalo Bill show and suffered through the smells and sawdust upchuck from the hooves! Have to say the ribs and other meat was excellent - even served on a cast iron skillet as though straight off the camp fire! The shooting shows by the characters were a little forced - but the little ones thought it was real - that is all that counts!

We caught the Disney express home again, swinging past the North star and straight on till morning! Then came the count down to departure date!

I finished all the jobs I had set myself except for clearing out my garage (full of my teaching materials .... just in case I ever need them again!! Yeah, right!) and then started the BIG SHOP to bring things back for another year! We were hugely over on our luggage allowance, but somehow got away with it both in London and in Dubai! I swore that we will not travel like camels on a trek in the desert any more! (at least till next summer!!)

It is good to be home, unpacking has stalled after 9 bags - three to go but going nowhere! I have already seen many old friends and made a couple of new ones too. The Ray excitedly went back to her school but is exhausted every afternoon. Nikh is a grown up in Middle School now and showed a promising start by organising and preparing everything he might need himself. HE made his own lunch, packed all his snacks, water, hat, sunscreen etc and it was all by the front door ready for the first day back. This current attitude is still flowing ... long may it last!! My Darling is back to working all the hours that God sends, and I am back to shopping, ordering, double checking, re-organising and dropping off and picking up! Same ol' same ol'!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Saucy Chef Carluccio!!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to cook, I love to collect recipes and cookbooks and I love good food!! It is easy to tell, isn't it!!

On Tuesday - I got to do both, but in the presence of greatness. Chef Antonio Carluccio is charming, chatty, chivalrous and cheeky! Yup. He started off (I was the first one there - damned British time-keeping) by telling me he was for hire. He said that he has been married three times and divorced three times, so now he is only for hire! As my eyebrows shot to my hairline and all the blood pumped straight to my cheeks! I suggested he tell all the lovely ladies who were due any minute!
Okay - let's back up a bit! Last week I got a call from gorgeous Chef Rajesh at the Park Hotel, an elegant 5* establishment that prides itself on cooking good food and presenting it really well. You may have read about the place in my previous blogs. We spend rather too much time in that place! He called to ask if I had heard of Antonio Carluccio. I double checked that he meant the world class chef and not some fisherman from Kerala with coincidentally the same name! (call me cynical but I have lived here for 8 years ... I KNOW what to expect!) After all tests were passed, he went on to say that the man himself would be in Chennai for a couple of days, and would I be interested in meeting him. We went on to talk about a cooking demo and I got to work sending out one simple text message and one email. Within a few minutes - the 'yes' screams that flew back into my phone and inbox could probably have been heard in New York!
I realised this was going to be bigger than either of us had expected and wehad to put an immediate limit on the numbers and I even turned away several people ...boooo!
My Darling and I met Chef Antonio on Sunday whilst having brunch at the Park (where else!!?) and he turned out to be humble, charming and witty. He even spent quite some time with Nikh giving him some good advice about cooking, restaurants, following dreams and becoming a chef. Nikh listened diligently and then shot off to play (highly irritating, pointless game) Dak Chi. We talked for a few more minutes, I begged him to make Tiramisu at the demo and feeling hyper from talking with a great, famous celeb (those who know me also know what a corny groupie I am!!), I went off to have a green tea and calm down. Even My Darling was in awe!
I was on tenterhooks waiting for Tuesday - it was like waiting for Christmas morning! All the ladies came trooping in, with big grins and high expectations and I started to get a little nervous - what if it all went pear shaped!? Uh oh!
Worrying for nothing! The man immediately flirted and charmed every woman in the room by saying how much he loves ladies - not men (emphasised!) only ladies! He insisted that he is not a CHEF but a COOK. He said that chefs do a job and make money. Cooks cook because they love to cook. They have passion, he said ( I don't think he was entirely talking about in the kitchen - if you get my drift...nudge, nudge, wink, wink ...say no more!!) that chefs simply don't.
Once he started to get his hands dirty, the crowd was silently awestruck! He made sauteed marinated sardines, he made a chicken dish where the chicken had been cut like an octopus's tentacles. The main course was an aubergine parmigiana and a raviolo (one big round version of a ravioli) filled with spinach, ricotta cheese and finished with one egg yolk dolloped in the middle of the well before sealing the pasta and cooking for a few minutes. It was a bit like ravioli with poached egg inside. And finally the piece de resistance (sorry don't know the Italian for that, only the French!!) his world famous Tiramisu. Aaaaagh! Ooooooh!
He added the liqueur to the coffee, added the cream and sugar to the mascarpone cheese and started dipping the sponge into the liquid before layering with the cream. Refusing to 'gild the lilies' with the beautiful chocolate shapes Chef Santosh had so lovingly crafted, he offered up the sweet concoction to be savoured, mouth wateringly from a distance!
Lots of smiling ladies applauded, took umpteen photos and dashed into the next room to taste the cooking! The ensuing silence spoke volumes!
In among the excitement and enjoyment of the morning, my heart was heavy. Nikh, my budding chef, was really very upset and disappointed that I MADE him go to school instead of allowing him to come with me to this once in a lifetime opportunity. I have to say that listening to Chef Carluccio segue his jokes from 'tits in soup' to 'child of a Mafia don writing to Baby Jesus' and blackmailing him with Mother Mary's abduction to a 'pair of fleas sunning themselves on the Cote d'Azur' having travelled there on various unmentionable parts of the male and female anatomy, I was bone-meltingly grateful that my parenting instinct, that school is all important, had come to the fore!
I was forgiven as the next evening, Nikh was having dinner with friends (guess where!!) and who should still be training chefs? Who allowed Nikh and his friends to participate? Who offered them a taste of Tiramisu and Sicilian tomato and stale bread salad? Who became a hero and a demi-god in one fell swoop for allowing these children to help him roll out his handmade pasta? Who gave them autographs and photo opportunities until they were satisfied?
Saucy, Sweet Chef Antonio Carluccio!!
These couple of days will go down in my all time memory of special, special moments in our lives!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Yes! OH Yes!!

I wonder who came up with the idea of having a spa and showers in an airline lounge? When I first heard about this, I thought that it was useless. After all, who would want to get undressed and shower and get back in to the same yucky, smelly clothes when in the middle of a 10 or more hour journey?
I have to say that carrying as much stuff, in my hand luggage, as I already do (stuff for Nikh, stuff for The Ray and stuff that I have managed to grab along the way - newspapers etc) I do not have any inclination to carry a change of clothes for myself.
Also - getting into a shower that umpteen hundreds of people have already been in - and I am sure they all have questionable foot hygiene - just does not turn me on! I would need my flip flops, a spare towel to stand on etc etc. Call me finicky!
But, aside from the shower thing - what about the spa side of things?
Again - the sceptic in me was not too impressed at the thought of shelling out hundreds of pounds on a massage in a strange place with strange people, when I could be in the Duty Free shops stocking up on booze and chocs!
We usually fly emirates or BA, but this last trip to London, we tried Etihad. They have won awards for service etc (fully deserved, I might add). We landed in Abu Dhabi late at night, My Darling was already in London, so just the kids and me. We made it to the lounge. Rhea was very ill and I just couldn't leave her, but I was curious about the rush of people trying to get into the spa. One guy (ultra gorgeous) came out of the shower (fully dressed, I might sadly add!) and looked totally relaxed and ready for the next 14 hour leg of their journey. His wife looked harassed and knackered as she had watched their 3 kids all under 4yrs old! Others were arguing and squabbling about the availability of appointments! Go Figure!
Anyway, I digress! On the return journey, with My Darling accompanying us, we landed and the Lounge was pretty deserted, so I suggested we both book in for a treatment. His immediate response was not to waste money - let's go to the shops! I went to look at the list and the prices. To my eternal amazement the price for every treatment was FREE!!! Yep I will repeat - FREE!
I booked both of us in for a facial, timed one after the other and raced back to tell My Darling to go and relax first. I fed the kids and settled them into the family room (another fantastic idea!) and then read a couple of English papers (bliss!) until My Darling returned looking a little like a ruffled penguin! His hair stuck out at angles, but his face was glowing! He looked great! Off I ran. I emerged after my treatment from a guy named "Oh"! He had magic fingers that eased the tension from my head and neck. Cleansed, toned and a quick face pack later, I was all set!
I immediately booked us in for a foot and leg massage and I went first! Amazingly incredible!
I have to say that this is the first time in all my life that I have landed not feeling like I have been in several train wrecks simultaneously or pushed through a wringer face first - twice!!
I was energised, recharged and raring to go. My jet lag was almost non existent and the body aches from carting so much crap around dust did not make their regular appearance! I also unpacked almost everything on the same day that we landed due to a total lack of lethargy!
I think these massages and treatments should be available ON the aircraft! The up side of that is the kids are strapped into their seats, they are given an endless stream of food, drink and movies. I know they will not go missing, walk away or some of our belongings stolen so I can relax and have endless treatments from here to eternity! Go Etihad!!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Simple Pleasures

I was driving along a lovely English lane, listening to Michael Buble on Smooth FM, thinking about how much I love my home town! I know I wasn't born here, but having lived in London (or rather just outside London) for all but 3 years of my life, I think I am entitled to think of this place as my home!

So I am going to list how I feel about the simple pleasures of my life -
- the sight of magnolia blossoms blooming, the creamy whiteness contrasting with the magenta centres
- blooming daffodils, golden and standing erect with their trumpets blaring a bright farewell to the winter (regardless of the frost on the ground, the hail, sleet and even snow flurries blustering around them!)
- the bright potent palate of other spring flowers bordering our gardens (gosh our gardeners do a damn good job!!)
- spiky bare branches of trees still slumbering
- knotty stubbed twigs on trees trying their hardest to push leaves out through their hard winter bark.
- clean streets - no rubbish, no faeces (animal or human), no spit marks, no stray animals laying any old place
- orderliness - on the pavements, on the roads, in the shops, in the car parks - and all with out 90 year old 'guards' directing people and the cars into almost un-doable positions!!
- sleeping in my own bed, on my own pillow with my quilt up to my ears!
- wearing socks in bed (sexy, huh??!)
- driving along a lane with a wood running on one side of the road and a farm with horses grazing on the other.
- reading The Daily Mail and The Times and a couple of other papers every single day!
- eating any cereal I fancy - having a choice of 9 in the cupboard (no fear of rats, cockroaches, ants, termites, moths and other tiny, brown insects that feast and flourish in your food stores and bite humans - but I don't know what they are called!)
- having a full size oven!
- driving in London - (not Chennai) - where upon approaching a traffic light that is on green it is safe to put your foot down and feel fairly sure that cars, autos, bikes and bullock carts will not come hurtling at you from every direction.
- not seeing autos swerving, driving sideways and backwards
- driving myself!
- shopping without being touched, pushed, queue jumped and pestered!
- buying food that is pre-packed, pre-washed and organic!
- not scanning back and forth, manically, for mosquitoes!
- seeing a pale blue morning sky with only the jet streams slicing the sky with great big white cloudy lines
- playing tennis
- going to The Riverside - our health and leisure club (yup we maintained our membership!)
-watching Nikh and The Ray play tennis with My Darling, in blissful abandonment.
- swimming and sitting in the jacuzzi, knowing that most people are not going in fully dressed and then using the structures as public bathrooms (I hope!)
- stopping in a Starbucks for a frothy hot choc and a luscious melting chocolate cookie
- using bathrooms that are mostly NOT flooded with all kinds of toxic, unhygienic fluids - bodily or otherwise! Even using bathrooms in shops and restaurants, not looking for a 5 star hotel or having to 'hold on' until we get home!
- letting The Ray go to the loo, anywhere - no fear of disease and lack of disinfectant!
- not having some woman in a sari staring at you while you do your best not to let the afore-mentioned fluids come over the top of your open toed sandals and actually make contact with skin!!
- having lunches, dinners and snacks in all kinds of different restaurants, coffee shops, bistros, gastro-pubs and being able to have a choice of beverages - alcoholic or otherwise!
- walking in the park
-walking on the pavements
- going to the post office
- ordering on line and having the stuff arrive almost the next morning!
- wearing my boots - ankle, knee high, - any kind!
- wearing cashmere!
- blowing out freezing fog as we walk along the street!
- watching The Ray;s face go bright red and glowy from the chilly wind!
- watching Sky TV - choosing from 800 channels and watching Oprah an hour, or even two, later just in case I was out shopping when she was on!
- listening to the radio - Magic, Radio 2, Smooth, Heart, Absolute, Capital and more!
- listening to conversations that stimulate and music that simply rejuvenates!
- cooking in MY kitchen
- not purifying anything and everything that I bring into the house!
- spending time with My Darling, Nikh and The Ray without having upwards of three observers moving back and forth around us!
- having private conversations!
- getting a good deal on my mobile phone contract!
- spending time with good old friends
- laughing, laughing and more laughing!!

Finally, in a couple of days I will add how much I enjoy spending time with my parents and my sister, once they come back from their hols.
Meantime - I still miss friends who happen to be all over the World, USA, Canada, India, Europe, South America, Rabat, Cairo, Australia, Africa etc etc etc!

But you know, my simplest pleasure is just coming home.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Unlucky for Some!!

Thirteen years! Wow! Thirteen years! I still can't believe it!
Yup, today is our wedding anniversary and when you add in our five year mammoth engagement, it is actually more like EIGHTEEN years that Biren and I have been together.
My romantic (then!) boyfriend 'married' me with a ring pull from a coke can when we were in a tiny little temple up in Nandi Hills (or someplace near Bangalore - I was completely jet lagged!) and it was just the two of us, he pledged his undying love, fidelity and forever happily ever after in a stone room which was so small we had to bend over to go inside or risk losing the tops of our heads!
That was 1991 when we were announcing our engagement to the world, here in India. What a long way we have come since then. We had our registry wedding in October 1995, the full on Indian wedding, minus a video, in March 1996, moved houses three times in London less than 100 metres from each other! We have had Nikhil, our miracle! Then moved to India, had an ectopic pregnancy and a few miscarriages. Found out we were expecting another baby, but no heartbeat. Flew to London to find a heartbeat, thank goodness! Had Rhea, here in Chennai, our second miracle baby! Moved houses twice in Chennai. Nikhil has moved several schools. We have made loads of friends and acquaintances. We have bought and sold cars and various household appliances! Travelled to places in Europe, America and Asia. Had parties - surprise and not!

We have had humongous, massive, enormous fights ... I am happy to say that I have realised that our fights are almost always about things and people outside of the two of us! The spats are not about him and me!
It really doesn't help that I am not the meek and mild traditional Indian wife who touches her husband's feet each day, idolises him and worships the ground he walks upon! I do however think the fights are quite healthy for a relationship! The making up is pretty good, too!

I must say though, that even now, when he turns on the charm, gets a certain glint in his eye and turns the full power of his tiger brown eyes on me - well, puddle of mush is the result!

Long may it last!!

btw - I do have one picture of our wedding day but it is in adobe format so if anyone knows how to make it into a regular attachment I can upload it to my blog!! just call me technologically challenged!!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Red Card, Ref!!

I know we have all heard of THOSE classic soccer mums and how manic they get at their kids' matches. Today I saw a disgusting display of soccer DAD's in action. Okay before I get totally irate, again, let me start at the beginning.
Nikh and his friends choose to play soccer (football to the rest of us!!) but only get the chance once a year for a but six or eight weeks. It is hard as each year there are new players, each year they get the same few weeks of skills training and then into matches with other local schools. As parents, we love the fact that our kids are learning another skill, they are outside running around and getting some exercise and air that as fresh as it can be in Chennai! We love that they have a dedicated Coach who is trying his best to instill sportsman-like behaviour, teaching them the rudiments of the game and we have a parent who is willing to sponsor their uniforms (something they have never had before!!). But we don't seriously expect them to win too many games. The boys don't go out on the pitch with a do or die attitude either!
The other teams arrive, and the attitude from the boys and girls is fine. They are here to play a game with other kids - quite frankly, I don't think they care who wins just as long as someone cheers for them! You should have seen the boys' faces when the spectators started a chant of "Let's go Raptors, Let's go!!". I wish I'd had my camera on then! The other team scored and just as many kids cheered for them - I did too! they loved it and I overheard a visiting parent remark upon it!
Then came the total opposite of a silver lining! One man decides that he should take over the coach's position starts yelling instructions to the visiting team. He yells, yells, yells and yells. The coach tries to wrestle control back - in vain. This man's vanity knows no bounds of courtesy, sportsmanship or just behaving himself in front of not only his own kid, but many other kids too. He was politely asked to move away. Reluctantly he stalked off, muttering. Only he was not down and out yet - he moved to the opposite side of the pitch, gathering a few supporters along the way. He set up camp and began the same bolshy coaching from over there.
My issue with this parent and his chums was not so much that they blatantly disregarded what they had been asked to do, but that they disagreed with the Ref and started heckling him and then they moved on to the kids - they taunted and sarcastically yelled at the boys - 'Good shot!' when the ball was kicked out, 'that's a goal, Ref!' when it clearly wasn't etc. You know the kind of person. At home we call them lager louts - this gang did not have the benefit of alcohol. Stone cold sober - innate character coming out. I call 'FOUL'!! Foul behaviour and foul attitude.
If they can't be muzzled, the least we can do is show them the Red Card.
The first photo is Nikh with a wound just under his lip where one of the visiting team kicked a little too high and made his mouth bleed - but get this - the kid kept coming up to Nikh to apologise repeatedly and check he was okay. I say he should be Man of the match!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Turtle Time!

Amazing - yet another February is here and another baby turtle hatching and releasing season starts!

We were invited to Fisherman's Cove, - a Taj 5* hotel along East Coast Road, to help release the first batch of baby Olive Ridley turtles into the ocean at high tide. So we arrived on the beach just in time, to find the largest crowd we have ever seen! This is The Ray's first time with baby turtles, but Nikh is an old hand. I think My Darling was a little overwhelmed by the enormity of playing such an important part in the grand scheme of Mother Nature! He stood back and just drank in the whole scene!

The kids and I got right into things, and were given a cute, slimy, black baby turtle to hold in the palm of our hands. The Ray tried valiantly to hold one, but the 'Eeeeuw, Mama it is yucky!' got the better of her! Nikh manfully strode to the edge of the surf, and followed directions - you must let the baby feel the sand and walk into the sea because they come back to the beach where they were born to nest and lay their eggs. If they don't walk into the ocean (if you throw them into the water for example) they can never find their way back.
Eventually I held The Ray's hand and together we helped the little fellow/gal settle down on the shore and wait for a touch of a wave to encourage him/her forwards. We watched with cries of delight "Swim baby turtle! Swim far away" Cried The Ray. "Watch out for the sharks and their big sharp teeth!!"
We watched many turtles struggle to swim out to sea against the waves crashing them back to shore. Fascinating that we have been a very real part of Nature's miracle - we helped an endangered species get a foothold on its journey around the world. Even though Nikh and I have done this many, many times - each time is just as exciting and emotional as the first.
The only way to describe it is - WOW!!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Glug! Glug! Chomp! Chomp! Giggles galore!

Yesterday I went to the Taj Connemara for lunch. Nothing unusual in that, you might think, except I had received an invitation addressed to ME. Not My Darling, not Mr and Mrs - just me. 'Come for lunch' it said, 'Sushi and Tequila'. I RSVP-ed that I would be there, but when I got up yesterday, I did not feel up to it. Have been feeling a little unsettled the last week or so. I told My Darling that I won't go, but he insisted. In fact The Ray spent the afternoon with her Dad just to make it easier for me to be footloose and fancy free!

I walked in feeling a little weird - not sure I would know anyone, not sure of the game plan, then being greeting by the staff there like a long lost friend and not recalling any one's names! Nightmare!
Anyway - I spotted 3 faces I knew, who were sitting at one table, in a room full of clucking women! Chennai's social elite was present, GM's of other hotels, wives of GM's etc. All women, all dressed up and all smiling!

I sat down and was presented with a margarita to smooth the way. Green apple to start. I decided I didn't care for the apple puree at the end. So they brought me a pomegranate one, an orange one, a lemon one and they kept on coming!! A small salad starter was served, and I caught up with the friends I was with.

The sushi platters were beautifully presented. Lucky for me I love sushi and know what most of the seafood is. Poor buggers who had no idea, or were sushi virgins, were all at sea with a bunch of fish!! (pardon the very obvious puns!!) The taste was fantastic.

Then came the shooters - ginger and Cinnamon, lemon, orange and plain - well how could I waste drinks that were poured already???!!! This was about the time that the tempura arrived. Yum Yum Yum! Prawn, calamari, unidentified fish and a variety of veggies. Dipping heavenly fried food in a scrummy sauce while starting to go numb around the teeth and tongue areas was a miracle of manual engineering! I can proudly say I did not spill anything! However suddenly almost anything anyone said was uproariously giggle-worthy! Great way to spend the afternoon with a whopping great big grin on your face!

Around 2pm, I started making leaving noises - needing to go to school and pick Nikh up. but the Thai food was whooshed onto our plates - who can resist a Thai chicken green curry and lemon rice? Not I!! the veggie curries were a little on the spicy side for me, but helped sober the lush up a little! I downed a glass of Pepsi with the vague idea of diluting the 80% proof shots that had been like bullets at a firing range repeatedly hitting the bullseye in the pit of my stomach!

I finally got up on wobbly legs, desperately needing to pee, at 3.20. Piled into the car and slept all the way to school! (poor driver - what must he have thought!)

I used to be derisive of the 'Margarita Mums' who literally rolled into school around 4pm every Friday (you know what Aussies are like - hee hee!!) and here I was doing exactly the same thing! Do you know how blisteringly bright the sun is across the AISC football pitch on a Friday afternoon?!

Some kindly, very amused and sympathetic mums bought me a large ginger tea with enough sugar to drop a bull elephant into a diabetic coma! But I have to say it almost did the trick! By the time I got home with Nikh at around 7pm, there was just a dull throb in the middle of my forehead and it's twin in the back of my head! No dinner for me! Just bed!! Hic! Hic! Snore!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I wonder what it is that makes me wake up after I have gone into the deepest sleep? I have nothing to think about, nothing to worry about and absolutely nothing to stress about - and yet I am awake at nearly 1am .... again!

Admittedly things are not going swimmingly at The Ray's main play place, and the sheer helplessness I feel about the goings on there are creating a knot in my tummy. But I know I have viable options should it all go to hell in a hand basket - and I am a believer in things being meant to be....

I miss my mum and dad and the Angel. I miss Lisa, Jen, Danie, Marcela, Ania, Asha, Patty, Aisling, Jane, and others too numerous to mention. I miss being able to go to the mall and just walk, walk, walk and then stop for a Starbucks hot choc with tonnes of whipped cream on top! I miss driving myself to the shops or to the club - I miss playing tennis everyday (or as often as!).

I feel so grateful that friends enter my life with such ease and I feel like a real Meany to still be yearning for those who have moved onwards and around the world-wards! But yearn I do! Does this needing and wanting and missing ever fade, I wonder?

I have been trying to wear myself out - I bounce! Yup literally bounce on an adult trampoline that sits just behind the sofa in the sitting room - so I can watch TV or listen to music etc with no-one turning back to look at me! OK this does not always work out when Nikh or The Ray try to join me! Chaos ensues! I have lost one one single gramme of weight - but I will continue my Tigger impression because I feel as though it is making a difference .. not that you can tell!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What's New?

I just realised that my last post was the end of November! I had better get more organised about this blogging thing - I just never seem to be at the computer with enough time to get this written in addition to everything else!

Since I last wrote - Nikh had a Chef Party and turned 11. he had about 25 friends (girls and boys) at The Park for the most incredible, well planned and well organised 4 or 5 hours! The kids came in and were given a Chef hat to wear. I had aprons made for them and they all wore these. They all looked so very cute! They all cut out cookies and made sausage rolls which were sent to the back kitchen for baking. then they helped make the pizza dough and the cheese pasta dish. I loved the shock on the kids' faces when they realised quite how hot it is in an industrial kitchen! After this, they put toppings on the pizzas and started eating the pizza and pasta as soon as they were served. They fell upon the food like a ravenous pack of wolves! Anyone would think they had never been fed!
Then came some sweet stuff. They made fruit trifles, iced cookies and cupcakes with a lot of finger-licking and slurping their tongues around their lips! Icing was squished out of the bags, slopped on tables and floor and generally ingested all over the place!
The kids got a bag with a new and updated recipe book collated by Nikh and he had mixed up a choc chip oatmeal cookie mix which the kids could cook for themselves at home. All they had to do was add butter, mix and bake.
I think this is a business I could easily go into! All credit to the chefs galore at The Park who came together to create and execute this extravaganza!!

The Ray turned four a few weeks later and we ended up having her party at home in the garden. There were about 30 kids with siblings, parents, grandparents, maids, drivers etc making the total number about 70 or 80 people in our garden. We had also invited all our neighbours to come down and have tea and cake and they were sweet enough to come!
I had prepared 5 different 'make and do' activities for the kids - they had to decorate their goody bag, make a silver shaker, make a door hanger for their bedrooms, make a mask and a hat. I had tonnes of foam shapes (Thank Goodness for Hobbycraft's and Woolworth's sales!!), I had cut all the templates out - which goes against the grain, but the thought of scissors out with this much chaos was too traumatic for me! The Ray's friends had to make and decorate all the items and make them personal. Glitter glue went splattering everywhere, stickers, bindis, tattoos and marker pens were wielded with devilish imprecision! Parents were very good and helped their kids with each activity and then laid them out to dry on the goody bags in one corner of the garden.
Foodwise - all home cooked - hummus with crudites, tomato pasta, jam sammies, raspberry jellies, cheese sarnies, cut out cookies in 'R's, hearts, planes, circles and starts (all the Ray's fave shapes!), mini cupcakes with Winnie the Pooh sugar decorations attached and all the homemade lemonade we could guzzle! Samosas with chutney added in for the adults and a picnic feast was prepared! I have to say that I made 85 jellies and I was left with 7. Not bad going kids!!
Well, I am now on a downward spiral until my birthday - but no biggie!

Biren had his in London in December - at the end of this year he hit a big milestone - so I guess we will be planning and baking and cooking again nearer that time! My Dad turns 70 this year too (in Nov) so another big one coming up!

Now I am trying to sort out an amicable resolution to issues at The Ray's school - she was blissfully happy there until the last few days - she is learning tonnes there. the teachers are fantastic and their curriculum has evolved and developed over the years since Nikh went there into something really worthwhile. I am sure it will all work out in the end!

Meanwhile - my new year's resolution is to write a monthly newsletter about my family and try and get something on the blog everyday - boring though it might be!