It is hard to feed your online addiction when you have a lot of power cuts. Even harder when your beloved laptop goes belly-up on you, after a sudden, but probably severe illness. It is hardest when you can hear your old and wizened PC snigger as you type.
So, things will be quiet chez Desiknitter for a bit, while we wait to see if the folks at Apple, with their much vaunted global warranty, work a miracle on my Macbook and bring it back to life.
When I was a little girl, my aunt took me to get my nose pierced. Cool, I thought then, and came back attached to a little gold ring. I had it till I was a teenager, when much of my annoyance against the world in general, and my parents in particular came to be expressed through this ring. I thought it to be the worst kind of rural hicky tradition and unfashionable piece of jewellery they could have foisted on me. Diamond and gold studs were bad enough, but noserings? Come on, Hindi film heroines in milkmaid-damsel get-up wore those. The first chance I got, I took it off and basked in my non-pierced urbanity. (Ears were a different matter, earrings have *always* been cool) My mother tried to tell me about ways to keep the piercing even without the ring, saying, "what if they become fashionable again?" but with strict linearity and progress, I pronounced myself and the modern world done with them and looked down my gold-free nose at all those recommendations.
It is always painful when you have to redo what you needn’t have. It is always more painful to try and heal a piercing as an adult, especially when the memory of the nice one you had adds to the stab. It is the most painful when your mother tries not to look reproachful, and manages to say "I told you so" without uttering the words even once. My sister and I determined sometime back to get the damn things back because they didn’t look so bad after all, but The Ring, it would appear has not yet forgiven us for rejecting it back then. Both of us have bonded this summer over allopathic, homeopathic, ayurvedic, yunani and last-resort-internet remedies. I felt a warm and fuzzy feeling when she confessed that she too was now angrily, but surreptitiously staring at other women’s noses, resenting their happily ensconced studs and rings.
Do-gooders and well-wishers (I am trying not to use the nose-pokers descriptor here) abound here, and over the last few weeks I have gathered several such remedies and advice about How to Deal With Your Recalcitrant And Angry Piercing. Friends call to ask about it. Strangers peer at it in the market and offer the surefire solution that their neighbour’s sister’s daughter used. These range from possibly effective to positively hazardous (I’m not going to say which is which, or which ones I’ve tried): sea salt soaks, hydrogen peroxide dabs, aspirin crushes, neem leaves paste, honey daubs, tea tree oil rinses, boroline, soframycin, neosporin, fomentation, betadine… the list is endless. Others shake their heads and say, yeh to kabhi theek nahi hoga ji (this ain’t ever gonna work). But I live in hope, as I try desperately to remember other things that I threw out the window, which might come back to bite me in the ass become fashionable again.
To cheer myself up, I went to look for some wool at the Punjab Woollen Co in Munirka Market in south Delhi.
I was happy that they were open, and that they did not laugh me out of the store for asking for pure wool in the first week of August. The shop is typical Indian wool store – reasonably priced and dyed acrylic-wool blends that wear like iron, with a few brands of pure wool
that are more expensive, and are neatly stocked away in boxes. The price differential means that most people prefer the acrylic for its durability and price. Some Merino is available, but as Mrs. Arora explained to me at great length, for a number of reasons only a few companies manufacture it locally. Knitting and the heavy consumption of yarn is not a hip hobby here as it has suddenly become in the US and elsewhere, so I imagine the high prices of imported wool would put it out of reach for those who could use it, and useless for those who could afford it but prefer to buy readymade
cashmere instead. Mrs. Arora oohed over my Kiri shawl, she showed me some of her sample swatches, and we spent some happy minutes exchanging tips and notes. Bliss. She was too shy to be photographed directly, but you can spot her behind the counter:
I almost bought a gorgeous fingering acrylic blend in a moss green shade, but then I found a few skeins of fingering yarn in a lovely light coffee shade for a pair of basic socks instead and stocked up on some metal needles.
As soon as I cast on for a sock, I’ll be ready to deal with any damn piercing.
If you’ve moved house/job/city even once, you know how painfully long it takes for things to start feeling familiar and comfortable. There are of course the big things: new colleagues and neighbours, fresh bureaucratic nightmares, DMV lines, the deeply depressing yellow strips of paper that are stuck on all your incoming mail for months, reminding you of the unfamiliarity of your new place. Having lived in five states since 2001, I have some idea of this unsettled feeling.
All that eventually, if painfully, sorts itself out, even though you are greyer, more prone to drink, and beside yourself with anxiety at the very sight of a moving truck. However, it’s not until some other small things fall into place that you really begin to settle in: finding a hairdresser you don’t want to stab with the nearest shears handy after looking in the mirror, a yarn store that you actually want to browse in and isn’t a pain to get to, and a cafe in your neighbourhood that you can make your own familiar hangout.
Can you imagine the smile on my face? The coffee isn’t great, but I’m not much of a coffee drinker. The salads are excellent, the sofas inviting and the music unobtrusive and the artwork unpretentious. One of the guys who works there (not the one you can see in the picture) is a bit dyspeptic, but I’ll take dyspeptic anyday over excessively chirpy.
Then there’s the yarn store that is technically in another town, but a short bus ride or brisk walk away. So far at least, the folks there have not set my teeth on edge, and I’ve bought stuff from them several times. As you can see, even my socks like hanging out there!
Miraculously, after two initial disasters, I also found someone who can cut my hair without my having to wear my cabled hat for the next few weeks while it grows back. Right around the block from where I live, too!
So I kicked back today, knit and read a bit in the cafe on a bright sunny day, wandered by the store in my flipflops and bought some needles, and came back and finished my Tiger socks (Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock toe up in stockinette on size 0s, shortrow heels and toes, 60 stitches). A sunday well spent.
Of course, there was that 4.4 point earthquake some days ago that reminded me, a little aggressively, that I’m in northern California, but I am ignoring it; apparently one soon becomes blase enough to call out the numbers on the Richter scale.
I don’t know if I’m going to get that settled in, but well, we shall see.
I haven’t played with water and colours for Holi in nearly a decade. This weekend, though, it’s the spring festival again, and many of the friends I played with back then are in Delhi, getting together for a Holi party. Very kindly, they have included me in the emails discussing the preparations, and I am feeling more than a twinge of envy. Not so much for the spatter of colour, the wet mud or the sinking realization that months of brutal summer will soon descend after this saturnalia, but for the bhang, which is being procured and prepared even as I type this. Some of my best memories of JNU are, ironically, associated with this memory-tampering device. But, across the world, walking back home from school a short while ago, the full moon was shining white in the dark blue evening sky to my left with the Golden Gate bridge awash in glorious sunset hues to my right. Holi was in the air, alright. Holi hai!
To my mind, one of the best descriptions in English of Holi and its laden joys is in Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy:
On the morning of Holi, Maan woke up smiling. He drank not just one but several glasses of thandai laced with bhang and was soon as high as a kite. He felt the ceiling floating down towards him – or was it he who was floating up towards it? As if in a mist he saw his friends Firoz and Imtiaz…[and] went forward to wish them a happy Holi. But all he could manage was a continuous stream of laughter. They smeared his face with colour and he went on laughing. They sat him down in a corner and he continued laughing till the tears rolled down his cheeks. The ceiling had now floated away entirely, and it was the walls that were pulsing in and out in an immensely puzzling way.
[On their way to Pran's] "Oh, we’ll take a tonga, a tonga", said Maan, waving his arms around and embracing Firoz. "But first drink some thandai, it’s got an amazing kick." ….He was not very steady on his feet as it was, and he stumbled and fell into the bed of yellow cannas. He raised his head long enough among the flowers to sing the single line, "Oh revellers, it’s Holi in the land of Braj!" and sat down again, disappearing from view. A minute later, like a cuckoo-clock, he got up again to repeat the same line and sat down once again.
Bollywood, of course, has plenty of Holi songs, one of the most famous ones, from the film Silsila featuring Amitabh Bachchan, being the title of this post. You can view it here. One of our friends regularly got stuck on one line from this very song for hours every year and I expect he will this year, too. There’s another dance from the film Don, though, that is not about holi, but which Amitabh does after drinking some bhang, that I thought I’d share with you, even though the video quality leaves something to be desired. The catatonic limb movements, dance moves and the song were quite popular as we moved around campus looking for people to drag through the mud pit or smear with colour. I marvel as I look at it now, but there was a time when daddy long legs was my world. The song also features the gorgeous Zeenat Aman; both of them are on the run from the bad guys (after the gang found out that he was just a country bumpkin from the banks of the Ganga and working for the police), and they stop for a song break (naturally!) when they come across some of his folk and they offer him some, um, refreshment. He’s thrilled because he hasn’t had any in quite a while, and tells us how he got himself into a pickle. The song begins: When the bhang works its colourful magic pick up a paan to chew Such a jolt it gives your insides it’s like you’re born anew!
I have two left feet. All the dancing talent in our family went to my older sister, who practises and teaches Bharatanatyam, a form of classical south Indian dance. I love going to Bharatanatyam performances whenever I can (which isn’t often) but I felt really awful about missing this special one. After a very difficult struggle with her knee that prevented her from dancing for a long time, my sister performed on stage with a colleague for a full-length public performance. (She’s in green, the colleague’s in mustard, and these are lousy photos from the scanned invitation) I got up early this morning while it was on at the other end of the world, and sat by the phone alternately cursing myself and everyone I could think of and was surely more nervous than she was. When I did talk to everyone in the family after the performance it was insane.
In the past I’ve compered, and even sung occasionally for shows that she and her students put up and it’s been a lot of fun. She’s a great choreographer. My hysterically happy dad assured me on the phone, though, that this one was like nothing that came before. (Sudha: if you’re reading this, do send me a nice long report of how everything went!) They both performed their own compositions and traditional ones, and my sister also sang for the other dancer’s individual numbers (there’s a live musical orchestra of sorts). Am proud of her for her sheer grit in making this possible. I also wish I’d been there to see the show in person.
I have made several resolutions for 2007. Amidst the usual ‘eat less, exercise more, snap at people less, breathe more deeply’ type virtuous ones in my list, is the one most virtuous for knitters: finish all UFOs before beginning new ones. Considering that at least ten people have pissed me off already the first week of the year and I have snarled at seven (and the less said about the amount I consumed as I got bored to tears at a conference the last three days the better), I figured, wth, I might as well break another resolution.
So the new year begins with the excitement of choosing a new project. I don’t know what yet, maybe a pair of socks to keep it small, and wipe out the memory of those months spent doing twisted knitted stitch trying to finish the alpaca pullover, when I actually progressed only four miserable inches. As I unpack my suitcase, those Oxblood skeins are staring balefully at me, an almost violent reminder of my failure to meet my deadline. Another resolution, no doubt to be binned soon: not to take on more than I can deal with.
Of course, one can always feel better by looking at what was actually completed. There’s a certain neatness in the fact that I began and ended with gloves.
The funniest thing about this list is the number of items that accompanied me across the world this time on the trip to Shimla. Various other members of my family brought older items I’d made for them, and if I’d been better organized (resolution…), I’d have remembered to take pictures for a nice "Desiknitter’s knits go to Shimla" post. Instead, you have to imagine a freezing family swathed in handknits of variable quality, grateful for the warmth, if not the style. I saw an old vest my brother in law wore and averted my eyes when he reminded me I had made it for him. Talk about gauge improving with time!