Saturday, April 28, 2007


(An edited version of this appeared here.)

With so many ‘Weddings of the year’ being celebrated (it’s only April and I can already count two headline grabbing nuptials) I thought it would be a good idea to ponder over what it takes to have your shub muhurth splashed about in all the dailies.

For starters, being famous helps. Let’s face it, no one wants to know about Sarala Mami’s grand-daughter’s third cousin getting married unless that cousin happens to be Paris Hilton’s ex-boyfriend’s lovechild with Tina Turner (remember, a Paris Hilton connection always helps and there are plenty of those going around). Now for those who aren’t well endowed in the rich and famous department it is acceptable to use the six degrees of separation trick. Just imagine this headline:

‘Abdul Kalam’s secretary’s sister’s third daughter’s grandson’s best friend’s boss marries Pop Idol loser’

Has a nice ring to it doesn’t it?

So now that you have media interest it’s time to give you and your better half a marketable brand name - think Bennifer, TomKat, Branjelina, Abhiwarya – names you can envisage on coffee mugs, commemorative plaques and pre-nups. Now some names don’t really lend themselves to such co-joining. Take for example Liz Hurley and Arun Nayar (who you’ll be reading about more and more as this article progresses). Perfectly nice names on their own but put them together and you end up with Lizrun (sounds like an expectorant) or Hurnay (reminiscent of the reallocation of various internal organs). In such cases it’s best to change one’s name. After all, haven’t we all felt at some point of time or the other that our names are what are holding us back from greater success?

The next thing one needs to arrange for is a wedding venue. Think international. Think exotic. The chathram at III cross street just won’t cut it I’m afraid. And don’t even think of Italian castles and boring Bali beaches – they’re so passĂ©. If you really want something special then head to a developing country. Somewhere with poor infrastructure and enough orphans for you to adopt and kick-start that rainbow family you’ve always wanted.

Once location, future children and other pesky details have been taken care of it’s time to focus on the most important thing. You. Well actually your clothes. They’re what will really set you apart. Make sure there’s something unique about your outfits and how they’ve been made. Perhaps your choli was embroidered by visually impaired Belgian Nuns. Or maybe your shoes were stitched by super intelligent dolphins off the coast of Australia. Abu and Sandeep just won’t cut it anymore. Once you know what you’re wearing turn your attention to your guests. You don’t think they should be allowed to wear what they like do you? Of course not! Hessian sacks for all your best friends (very eco friendly) or maybe they’d prefer to wear blue boiler suits – utilitarian chic rarely goes out of style. Since it’s your special day you can be as demanding and Bridezilla as you like. And since the big day is being touted as the wedding of the year thanks to that instantly recognisable brand name and distant familial ties to Elvis Prestley (rumoured to be attending the wedding) everyone invited will be willing to put up with even the most humiliating of things (just ask all the British women forced into wearing ghagra cholis and jhatkaing for Liz’s sangeet).

Speaking of those who are coming to the wedding it’s important to get your guest list down right. Screw the best friend you’ve known since nursery and your aunties and cousins – you can always send them a commemorative plaque or mug. Your wedding list has to show the world just how well connected, cool, cultured, cash flushed and contemporary you are. Politicians, business tycoons, writers, dancers and an assortment of models and actors (who of course will be conveniently forgotten when it comes to taking photographs) that you’ve never met before are the people you want to share your special day with. You don’t really need to know any of your wedding guests. You just need their addresses. Or their PR agents’. Have your people call their people. Most people will be too polite to call up and ask who the hell you are or so desperate to squeeze in to the OK! Magazine photo-op they won’t really care that they couldn’t even pick you out of a line up. Worst case scenario is they won’t show up but will feel obliged to send over a gift which would have hopefully come from the wedding registry you signed up with. Why settle for one more crystal Ganesha or ornamental grape bunch when you can get something you actually want? Or something that Wallpaper magazine tells you you really want.

To really prolong your minute of fame, instigate as many wedding day dramas as you can. The more people you piss off the more post wedding press conferences your guests will hold to publicly air their grievances. Then you can host a retaliatory press conference refuting everything they said. Just look at how long Liz Hurley and Papa Nayar have managed to stay in the news. It’s not all that difficult pissing people off. In fact it’s the one thing that all weddings – infamous and otherwise- have in common. Haven’t all our periamma’s complained that they only got one jangiri or that the second helping of sambar never made it their way? Hasn’t every Ramu Mama complained that no one bothered to enquire about his gout?

At the end of the day all weddings have some basic things in common. A bride and groom (or any other permutation and combination that tickles your fancy), irate wedding guests, ugly gifts and endless speculation are what form the foundation of every wedding. Everything else I’ve mentioned is what turns a Vanitha weds Vineet in to an Abhiwarya. (Ash, Abhi if you’re reading this, I’m still waiting for my invitation.)

Friday, April 27, 2007

New York New York

Grand Central's food market was amazing. Walking up and down the aisle my eyes were flitting from one side to the other.

Artisan cheeses, gourmet pickles, cinammon infused oils and these sea urchins.

Seeing double at the MOMA.

Central Park must be beautiful in full bloom, but I quite liked it like this too.

more to follow

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Falling Water

I love beautifully designed homes. The stacks of design and interior magazines leaning against various walls in our own dwelling is testament to this. There’s nothing I like more than gazing at ingenious storage, Zen gardens in the heart of Hackney and kitchen islands that I’d gladly be marooned on. So on our recent sojourn to Pittsburgh, where the Sherpa and I stayed with very dear friends I was overjoyed that we were going to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural marvel Falling Water. Designed in 1935 for Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr., a wealthy businessman this house in southwestern Pennsylvania was intended as a place for the family to escape to on weekends.

The 50 mile drive southeast of Pittsburgh took us far away from the industrial browns and grays of the city to rural landscapes dotted with farms, open fields, towering grain bins and run down houses. The snow that initially fell with a soft waltz like rhythm soon took on a more aggressive tango-esque stance. After living in London where snowfall is often a one day affair that leaves everything grey and slushy rather than pristine and white I loved the otherwise inclement weather conditions.

We reached Falling Water after two and a half hours on the road close to lunch time. One can only access the house through a guided tour and ours wasn’t scheduled to start for another 45 minutes. So we sat down for a meal at The Falling Water CafĂ© and then moseyed off to the gift shop and browsed through overpriced tie pins and wind chimes all inspired by the man’s work.

Our tour guide was a somewhat theatrical woman. I say somewhat because she seemed to be in the process of finding her thespian voice. Throughout the tour she paused at the most inopportune of places, would look at the group with wide eyes and then suddenly burst out with a torrent of information at a distinctly higher pitch. The theatrics were futile for the house is where all the drama lies.
Built partly over a waterfall (hence the name) Wright’s organically designed private residence is modern without being stark and cold. The house is connected in many ways to the land it’s built on from the water falls that run beneath it to the fireplace and hearth made of boulders found on site. The wavy patterned stone floors are waxed giving the impression of rocks protruding from a rippling brook. Cantilevered terraces (some larger than the rooms they adjoin) bring the outside within giving the illusion of great space and flooding the house with natural light and sound.
Not only has this habitat been designed with a great eye for detail (the distance between the natural vertical stains of the white oak cupboards are the same as that between the vertical lines of the grilled terrace doors) but each and every piece of furniture and art that fills the rooms of the house have been chosen carefully. Except for the kitchen (chosen by Mrs. Kauffman), an homage to the plastic and melamine mania of the time nothing else in the house has aged. There is nothing that is gimmicky or faddish, something we can thank Wright for, for he culled most of the furnishings and accessories himself. From the gorgeous Tiffany lamps to the original Picasso’s to the jewel like cushions that scatter the seating areas each piece has been lovingly chosen. There’s a global feel to the house which doesn’t leave one feeling like they’re walking through a museum exhibit entitled ‘Me and my travels through the world. Everything fits beautifully and quietly in to its chosen space and nothing shouts out.
On the hillside above the main house the garage, servants' quarters, and guest bedroom maintain the same look and feel of the main house. I loved the dark, quiet passage to the extension where a Japanese armoire and Diego Riviera painting shared space with a 17th century bust from an Indian temple.
As we left the house to take pictures outside (no photography allowed within) I couldn’t help but wonder how I would have felt, having someone else design and decorate my home. Falling Water is without a doubt beautiful and welcoming. But how much of it felt like home to Mrs. Kauffman? How much of it felt like hers?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Family tree

'You're just like your Athai'

She had heard it all her life. And she had fought the statement and its implications every step of the way. She dropped her drawling Palakkad accent. Curbed her darting serpents tongue. Smiled the moment she felt a frown creep on to her forehead. Cut her long, thick curling hair in to an abominable variant of a bob. Eschewed drip dry nylons for cottons even though they took forever to dry in the perennial rains.

As time passed the similarities were less and less obvious. And one day the comparisons stopped.

She looked at herself in the mirror. The hair was still an abominable bob. Her body was still swathed in block printed cottons. But her Athai's hips. Her thighs. Her breasts. They had somehow managed to slip through her prisonguard vigilance and become firmly entrenched in her body.

'You're just like your Athai' she whispered to herself.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Still on vacation. In Dallas.

The Walmart makes our Tesco look like a newspaper stand. The squirrels are so well fed they startle my sister's dog. Even the not so nice parts of town look nice.

When I first told people I was visiting Dallas they reacted with a facial expression that was part surprise part sneer.

"Why on earth would you want to go there?" they would ask.

A valid question I suppose. Dallas is hardly on Conde Naste's annual list of holiday hotspots.

"I have a sister there and she's just had a baby" I would reply.

On hearing this some would nod as though they understood and others would still look baffled, no doubt thinking 'but who would want to live in Dallas?'

Ah well, there's no pleasing some people. The fact is, here I am in George Bush territory (there's a turnpike of all things named after Bush Senior) and I have to say I'm enjoying every moment of it.

For one thing, I'm with family. Now for some people, this probably sounds like hell. But for me it's bliss. We're one of those weird families that get along and we enjoy one another's company immensely. We're (wait for it) friends. Yes, I'm sure you'll cross the road to avoid catching our cooties should you ever run in to us.

Life is relaxed here in Dallas. Mornings are spent leisurely sipping coffee and munching on toast. Showers are languorous affairs. My sister's dog (or first son as she prefers calling him) is taken for a long walk every morning where he is allowed to smell every tree, lamp post, and dog urine soaked bushel en route. Trust me, it's a long walk. My mother's excellent lunch is wolfed down in a matter of minutes, and then the afternoon is spent in one of two ways: sitting out on the deck or choosing a mall to shop at. The latter is one of Dallas's few past times. The others being strip joints and football. My brother-in-law didn't think it appropriate to take me to the former and the latter was of little interest to me. Late afternoon coffee sessions and dinners in the fading daylight. It has been some time since I holidayed like this. And after the long high way drives in Pittsburgh's frozen Spring(another post - I can almost see the surprised looks of 'Why did you go there?') and the frenetic pace of New York (The MOMA, The Met and too many late nights wiped me out) this gentle way of life is welcome. I feel soothed. Perhaps it's being around family. Perhaps it is the limitless Texan sky. Perhaps it's all the food. I really don't care what it is.

"What, you've never been to Dallas?"

Sunday, April 15, 2007

This and that Amrika

Men in Dallas really do wear Cowboy hats and boots... New Yorkers aren't all that rude...April is the wrong time of year to visit Pittsburgh...

Thursday, April 05, 2007


'So where does your sister live?'


'Oh really! I have an Aunt who lives in Delaware.'