A room of my own

When I began freelance writing 9 years ago, I did so, at an ugly plywood computer table, sunk into a papassaan, with the Brat ensconced behind me. As he grew a little bigger he began to hold his head up and sit up and play with my hair, my clothes, as I typed. I’d lift him around to the front to nurse and then prop him back behind me. It was attachment parenting of a kind because he was an absolutely good baby, happy to lie close to his mother and smell her as she worked. I’m convinced it’s one of the reasons he’s grown up very secure and sure of himself, of my presence in his life and absolutely unclingy. I could be wrong, but I’m sticking with this story.

What it did to me as a professional though, is ensure that I never allowed myself to come first. I’ve always let the kids play in the room as I’ve worked and it’s worked out fine. At one point the Brat’s favourite thing to do was crawl up to my UPS and switch it off. I solved that problem by putting the UPS on top of my table.

We moved to Delhi, the Bean was born and soon she crawled around as I worked, too. Never once getting her fingers smashed under the rocking chair that I upgraded to as a work chair. I lost my back to the poor office furniture I had but they doubled up as great places to nurse and rock colicky babies back to sleep.

As the years went by and the babies went to school I got a swivel chair and an escritoire from my parents (remember, I blogged about it here?) and that became the final office set up that I’ve used for years now. For the last five years I’ve been attached to one institution or another on a work from home basis and I spend practically my entire day with my butt glued to the chair.

The OA often says he envies me. I have a dull but well paying day job for the money, freelance work for the joy of creativity, the comfort of working in my tracks, time with the kids when they come home and the flexibility of working while we travel too. I guess when you put it that way it sounds great.

However, my resume is patchy and my biggest grouse is that I don’t get out of the my bedroom. My work table has been there since the kids were born because I’d often lie them down in my bed to sleep, I’d nurse them while I worked, I’d keep an eye out for disturbed sleep and pat them back if I needed to. It was just more convenient.

Even good friends don’t realise I work because I rarely sound stressed about it. And they always see me in my pajamas! I have my inlaws come in and watch TV while I’m trying to work. When I pay for big ticket items people stare in slack jawed surprise because they don’t really imagine I’m earning anything! The worst though, is my own fault. Since the table is in my bedroom I end up taking on more and more work and working late into the night while the OA reads or watches some telly.

But  – it drove me nuts because all I saw were the four walls of my bedroom. I slept there. I worked there. I lay in bed and read at night. The kids, like all kids, insisted on hanging out in our room when they had nothing else to do. I had cabin fever.

And so a couple of weeks ago I told the OA I wanted to convert our formal living room into my office. And turn our house dining cum family room into a dining cum living room. The truth is, no one ever bothered to sit in our formal living room and for some reason it didn’t have any personality. Perhaps because it wasn’t lived in. And being east-facing it’s a comfortable, cool room and ties in with my desire to not use air conditioning unless absolutely necessary. I just needed a room of my own where I could get away from our personal life and bedroom and TV and chaos, and work.

The OA groaned, but agreed readily that it was the need of the hour. And then we shocked ourselves by carrying most of our furniture ourselves. My mum was mad when she heard I’d done that with my bad knee, but I was too eager to get it done right then and I like doing stuff around the house with the OA instead of calling in help.

My new office is fantastic. It looks out into my lush, east facing garden and is quiet, peaceful and cool. I might not win a Booker while working here, but it makes me less cranky. The kids know that when Mama is in her office, she’s really working and they rarely walk in there. It just doesn’t have the informality of my bedroom.

I have a reading corner, a work corner, a put-the-babies-to-sleep-if-they’re-sick corner, an awesome iPod dock, a refrigerator and kettle. I walk out into my little garden if I want a breath of fresh air and it’s great for smoking friends too! All I need is a swing now but the OA will probably put up a fight before he lets me get one.

And to quote Ms Woolf, I finally have a room of my own.

Office 2

My work station

 

Office 1

My rest station

The light of the world

Here’s wishing all of you a warm and happy Diwali. It was particularly touching that kids around us all swore off firecrackers for a variety of reasons – pollution, the noise and disturbance to old folks, babies and animals, and finally, child labour in Sivakasi. And with all that effort we woke up to a fairly clear and clean day. Impressive.

We met some people who were surprised that kids were aware of such things. Lets not burden them with issues they have no understanding of, let them enjoy themselves, they said.

I smiled and said nothing. Yes, apparently I am growing old. *ugh*

We burden our kids by informing them early about their caste, community and the notion of an omniscient God (and I really haven’t met too many adults with an understanding of God), but we don’t believe they have the capacity to understand that little children like themselves are sitting in a dirty factory making crackers that are harmful to their health? Why is it hard to tell our children that animals are terrified of the loud sounds, when we don’t think twice about telling them that it’s wrong to pull a dog’s tail? Why is it hard to point out that we’re just burning up money instead of doing some good with it? Why can’t they have memories of drawing rangolis, making sweets, lighting diyas and stringing up garlands of marigold? Who decreed that fire crackers are de rigueur? We had a lovely time last night with friends, family, good food, laughter and light. I hope you did too.

A few glimpses of our home done up for the festival of lights

I love this malevolent frog!

Laying the table for a traditional Diwali dinner cooked by the OA

You came singing through my soul

“And now, Carlos Santana coming to you live from Galgotia University grounds”  (Seriously?!)… is not a sentence I ever expected to hear. But I did. And it was music to my ears.

After the Metallica disaster I’d given up hope of any big act making it to Delhi/NCR. But Korn and Enrique (neither of whom I was interested in) played to packed audiences, and went off super-smoothly. I did want to go for Megadeth and headbang (so what if my knees wouldn’t last beyond the first 3 minutes of shaking like a maniac?) to A tout le monde but that was the weekend Tambi was in town with Baby Button (yes!!). By town I mean at my parents’ place so we all trooped back there. I kept telling him it was a testimony of my love for him that I picked him over the chance to see Megadeth live. The OA on the other hand was all – “Eh? Megadeth? Who?” I think I should have had these on a checklist before I married him. He also caught Iron Maiden in the US and even Alice in Chains. And he doesn’t even like their music. :( I missed that night because I had made plans to meet a friend who I never thought I’d get to meet in this lifetime. But seriously, where is the justice I ask you. And how did I marry a man who isn’t a fan of any of these bands? Oh well.

And when I heard that Santana would be playing after the F1 in Noida I jumped at the chance. I don’t know how other cities do it but the idiots here (DNA again, of course!) had not arranged for parking. The F1 parking and signage was brilliant and we followed the arrows naturally assuming that we’d park in the same place, only to be told that the parking lot would shut at 7pm once the F1 audience had departed. We asked the traffic cops milling around on duty, where we should park –  We don’t know, they shrugged, just don’t park here, because we’ll tow you away. Gee, thanks, that is helpful. Finally we just parked down the road in broad view of two tow trucks. Entry was to have opened at 3pm but it only opened at 5pm. After two hours of mucking around in the dust I was this close to collapsing. Why is it harder to stand than it is to walk?

We finally got in and my bladder was about to burst (does this fall into the realm of TMI?) and the port-a-loos that had barely opened up to junta were filthy and already wet and out of water too! WTF?!

After all that misery (can you tell how old I am?) I collapsed in the grass and then Soulmate began to play. The OA and I always try to catch them when they’re in town. Something about them makes my toes curl. I love Tips’ vocals and attitude and Rudy has a voice that sounds like smoke over whiskey. Yes, okay, it is clear we love them.

They were the perfect band to open for Santana because they set the mood and it was almost a spiritual experience to just lie in the grass, dusk falling, staring at the sunset- tamed and hazy through the settling smog and then watch a sliver of silvery moon peek out. To be invited to open for an act like Santana is huge and I think they picked the right band for it.

That said, I feel bad for opening acts. The audience has paid a solid price for the main act and many of them may not have even heard of you. And so it was for Soulmate, with most people getting impatient, the anticipation for Santana getting unbearable. Frankly I’d have driven from Gurgaon to Greater Noida just to hear Soulmate anyway.

And then a ripple ran through the crowd. We weren’t quite sure what it was about, but we sat up anyway. And there, standing behind Tips, his trademark hat on, was Santana, playing for her!!! I can’t tell you how excited I was. My first big gig, the great man Santana himself, and such humility, yet such confidence. He came in with a blast of smoke and when it cleared, not too many people lying back in the grass and semi-dark noticed the extra person. Until someone saw the brightly-patterned jacket and hat and froze.

It was overwhelming, and I felt like a college kid, tears of excitement springing to my eyes. He didn’t try to steal her thunder, playing a tiny bit and floating off the stage after his little joke. Soulmate finished the act as the audience courteously stayed mum but impatiently shuffled around, waiting for them to wrap up.

And when Santana finally came on, the crowd went wild. You will understand this was not easy because half the crowd was over 50! It was cute to see all these older people, some bald, some fully white, wrinkled, all eyes ablaze. Nothing like my shabby jeans and nondescript shawl. These were all in expensive jeans with nary a frayed hem, discreet logos on their neatly ironed pockets and suede driving shoes. Oh yeah, this was another generation coming back to see their idol and this was definitely a far cry from their Peace Brother times.

I called my dad when they played Black Magic Woman. It was the closest he’d ever come to hearing his idol playing live. He’d badly wanted to come but things hadn’t worked out and I was feeling miserable and guilty. Apparently guilt trips come easy to me and I’m thinking of becoming a travel agent for them. It was lovely. Dad singing in my ear on the phone and Santana live in front of me. And then he said, “People below 50 shouldn’t have been allowed in. You don’t know Santana like we did.” True, Dada.

At some point my knees gave out entirely and I sat down in the midst of a thousand stamping, dancing feet. I’d probably be trampled to death, but I didn’t care and couldn’t have done much if I had cared. I was in awe of their energy. Performing, dancing and singing for 2 hours at that age can’t be easy. His wife Cindy drummed for a couple of numbers and was mindblowing. Reminds you that often one half of a famous couple gets overshadowed. My other thought was – damn, but she must have fine biceps!

He spoke a little through the show, talked about peace and the inner light. I don’t know about others, but if my life had Santana playing the background score I’d be at peace and nursing my inner light! I tried hard to live in the moment, closing my eyes, letting the music take over and feeling the energy of the crowd.

Soon the evening was over. Much anticipated and over too soon. But a dream come true and one I would close my eyes and relive for years to come.

And because some of you may have missed Santana, I’m going to share with you, the house pictures of a friend of mine. I love her place. It’s not one of those new modern minimalist characterless places and I love it. I’m always finding something new in a new corner and it always has a fun story. If homes reflect character then hers says warm, inviting, nuanced, interesting, fun, quirky, doesn’t take herself seriously, has taste, eclectic and above all, absolutely original. I’m tired of people seeing someone’s home and lifting an entire idea or wall design. It’s heart breaking for those who spent time coming up with the idea. Enough talk now – go enjoy.

The much awaited house tour

I’ve been promising you this since I moved here a year and a half ago. Apologies for delivering so late, but I guess I was just never happy with the way the place turned out. The house was too big with empty corners, a too small living room, large rooms with awkward walls and too many windows. The paintings were never up where I wanted them, the balconies were nothing on my Delhi terrace garden and the stairs were killing my knees.

So we’re moving house. Yet again. Apparently we’re just nomadic by kismat.  The furniture has been turned round and around and shifted and given away and borrowed and lent and we’ve not had a moment of peace. When we moved out of our last house the old landlord left us with, “Sometimes houses don’t suit people – if that happens, I’d love to have you back here.” Err… thanks old man for blighting the place before we even set foot in it. The last year has been miserable for us in more ways than one. No decent househelp, crazy distances that forced me to quit my job, loneliness everytime I looked out of the high rise even though we were surrounded by friends, and a general sense of not being home yet.

Inspite of that we soldiered on and then one day I snapped and told the OA we had to move out of here. This was still not feeling like home. And I am a huge believer in places feeling like home. In creating a home. So we’re moving. I figured if I don’t give you the royal tour now, I’d never get around to it. So here goes. Enjoy.

There is a strong cross breeze at the front door and I've lost a lot of my decorative stuff. So I decided to use unbreakable things such as books. This is a pile of only red covered books set on a green runner with accents of yellow and green. Take that, strong wind.

The first living room arrangement a la Indian railways. I changed it pretty soon.

This was the second option. Lovely for lounging on the couch in the winter afternoon sun. But it blocked the window AC.

Christmas brought inspiration and we finally found the best arrangement while making space for the tree.

And with the arrangement came new cream sofa covers. Clearly people with two kids never learn.

So whaddya think? I also added a new rug that according to the OA only looks older than everything else. The man has no taste. No, I'm the one exception in his life, thank you very much!

Dining room in summer. The chik is made of pretty white chikan counterpanes that I gave up all hope of using after two kids. Sadly you can't tell in this picture.

The staircase leading up to the bedrooms and away from the public areas. The spot you're looking down at is the reading nook.

Corridor between dining and drawing. We were lucky to find a little daru nook again! I don't know why builders keep putting these in.

In the winter this corner of the dining room gets the most delicious sun and I drag the rocking chair here to work while I oversee the kids' homework/craft or meals.

The reading and music nook. This is before we put up the pictures so it looks half-dressed.

Better and aerial view of the nook. Taken while hanging off the stairs and risking my neck for you.

The colour coordinated book shelf that you may also smirk at :). Can't help being anal!

One of the table settings during Christmas season. The Bean laid this.

Just for kicks, sharing the Diwali table setting. The tablemats have a fine gold design that you can't see in this light. I laid the table and did the rangolis etc. The OA cooked dinner. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful family tradition :p

A little row of lamps and cacti on the way up the stairs. They got the most sun and they loved it.

Some showed their appreciation by flowering promptly.

An old masala jar stuffed with greens and guarded by an old warrior on an elephant.

This is the same bookshelf as above, and holds some of the most precious books I own.

Guest room. The collage of pictures includes sketches by my cousin and some ancient postcards that my grandaunt used to send my grandmother from around the world, including my favourites - embroidered flamenco dancers.

The only untouched book shelf in this house - this one carries my cook books :p

A corner of the bathroom. I love the white pot.

And since we're talking bathrooms, I give you the frog guarding the powder room.

The balcony on the lower floor - the guest room looks out on to it.

And this is what it looks like if you're lying in bed and looking out of the guestroom windows.

This room went from being the kids' play room to the OA's temporary office for the six months he worked from home. It is now our laundry room cum second guest room so will not be shared in its present avatar!

Another view of the lower balcony, leading out of the dining room.

Because an AC backside always looks ugly!

After I got the lovely escritoire from the parents I gave the kids my plain old table. Yes, I'm mean that way.

But I was kind enough to set it up for them, right down to lining it with pretty paper. The OA spent half the night pointing and laughing at me. Feel free to do the same.

Because nothing fills up the senses more than a fragrant night and a cool night breeze wafting into your bedroom as you sleep with the doors left wide open. I guess there are some things I'll miss about living high up among the clouds.

The Brat reading on the bed, a box of dinosaurs kept for comfort at his legs. The Bean is as always busy with art and craft at her desk. They wanted these posters and I couldn't think of a way to do it without ruining the walls. So ribbons and clothespins it was.

A corner of our bedroom. Again, I've never really been happy with the way it turned out.

And I'm sure you remember this nook under the stairs for the kids. It's now their cycle stand!

In the worst of summer I removed the rug, left the floor cool, put up an inexpensive bit of chik and hung a couple of toys from the staircase to entertain them. Oh, and added some dancing bamboos.

The other end of their room. This was the day we spent making pirate masks and putting up a show for erm.. no one.

This is part of the balcony leading out of my bedroom.

This is the balcony leading out of my bedroom. Perfect for a morning cup of tea on a still day. On a breezy day its deadly.

Oh! And this was my last bit of genius ;) Black and whites taken ONLY by friends. This way I have a wall full of art that has great value for me even if it's not a Hussain.

And this is my favourite - a Mughal miniature by none other than the talented Lavanya Karthik (http://lavanyakarthik.wordpress.com/), featuring the OA and I in a romantic setting, with the Gurgaon skyline behind us. And oh, the two babies hanging like monkeys from a tree. Now this one I'd not exchange for a Hussain.

Because nothing fills up the senses more than a fragrant night and a cool night breeze wafting into your bedroom. I guess there are some things I'll miss about living high up among the clouds.

I believe you met Ms Escritoire in an old post. She belonged to my grandmother who was a writer, poet and artist. Each time I sit down to write I worry that I'm not living up to her expectations, even as I appreciate the privilege of owning her desk now.

Because I owe you a Diwali post. This year we lit up that window and kept fire crackers etc to a minimum.

A kitchen shelf. I love the old hen and the fat ladybird with some green on her back.

And the birdbath in my living room balcony for those who missed it when I last posted about it.

For anything I might have left out, go to the decor tag. 

Around the world in 100 bookshelves

So have you all heard of the Around the World in 100 Bookshelves project? No? Go over to papertigers.org and read about it there. It’s been on for a while and as usual I promised myself I’d do it someday but procrastinated. I finally pulled up my socks and hesitantly mailed the pictures in a couple of days ago wondering if it was over, but I was in luck. They are still running the project. So here you go. The Brat and Bean’s bookshelf makes it to the papertiger bookshelf project!

And since we’re on the topic of bookshelves I thought I’d share some of mine too. We should have a bookshelf project for adults too!

 

This one is in my bedroom, under the TV with the DVD player etc on top of it.

 

The old CD rack comes back in a new avatar. Anyone remember that I used it in the bathroom in the old house?

This is the lounging corner in the living room. Music and books -what more could one want?

 

From left to right, Tambi and the OA as babies.

Just a close up so that you can see the books are all mixed up and not arranged by author, genre or alphabet. A fact I intend to remedy really soon.

The bedside table that doubles up as a bookshelf all the time.

The bookshelf that holds my *choke* cooking books. It is rarely touched but much loved.