The Internet Personified: Wintertime, and the livin' is easy
This newsletter is coming to you on Monday instead of Sunday, because it's Birthday Week, and I had a party at home in Goa on Saturday night that lasted into Sunday morning, which means yesterday was spent lying in bed drinking ginger tea and talking about life, philosophy and various matters with my beloved. Also a great way to be hungover, but not exactly conducive with actually putting fingers to keyboard. Birthday Week may not seem like something any mature adult does, but hey, when did I claim to be a mature adult? Hence: dinner and midnight celebrations at my friends' restaurant, Verandah, in Mandrem, and tomorrow, the Day Itself, my only plan is to check out a second hand bookshop called Broadway that someone told me was BETTER THAN BLOSSOM'S. With a claim like that, this I've gotta see. (I'll let you all know in next week's newsletter!)
Anyway, onwards! We have a whole Goa week to catch up on.
This week in old houses: When we left our palatial, but run down home in Assagao, it hadn't been lived in for four years, and was all shabby with the unloved expression of a forgotten furniture godown. All that has changed thanks to our housemate Isha (hi!) who has transformed the place by putting all the furniture in the right places, adding feature lights, and curtains and whipping the kitchen into shape. Now, the place is beautiful and charming with a gravelly "lawn" we played badminton on one time (and totally intend to do again.) However, I was also curious about this home: whose was it? Who are all these people on the walls? Who collected all this pretty vintage china? The landlords we deal with are younger and distantly related, and this home is about 200 years old. So, when Isha told me she found a box of letters in the clean up, I was all over that.
Turns out it was a box of papers kept by Martha, the woman of the house, who married John, whose ancestral house this is. I went through them like an archaeologist, putting them in chronological order. The first was a school diary/prayerbook, for Martha, age 9 in 1942 in Fort, Bombay. There's not much of note there, except for an inexplicable subject called "Blackies." No explanation followed. Then, there's letters of condolences for about a decade later, on the death of her father. I also found a little chapbook memento from the service they did for him "survived by wife and daughter." "So sad," says one of the letters, "At his sudden death." He was 53. Nothing for ten years, not even a wedding invitation, though we know she got married, and then black bordered letters arrive condoling the loss of her mother. I know the mother already from an old cupboard with her name marked in what looks like ivory on the top. Martha must have taken it from her parents home. After that, she doesn't seem to have kept any more letters, not even when her husband died in the '90s. But I did find his old driving license, valid from the 50s to the 90s. It was a heavy vehicle one, and later, I found photos of some people touring a bus factory, so I surmised that he worked there. Not much else about her except an old ad offering masses said for dead people's souls, Rs 20 for eternity. And a letter from a co-operative that wanted to start a building society in Bandra East, my old neighbourhood, so I felt that Martha and I went way back. I felt so melancholy by the end, melancholy but also closer to her, so I looked through a mouldy photo album and found a photo of hers: she's smiling, her hair reflecting the sun and sitting in front of a fountain. This house has history and I'm glad I know what it is, because across the years, there was Martha, perhaps sitting on this same desk I am now, writing her letters, just as I'm writing this letter to you. What builder's flat ever gives you that feeling? (Martha and John had no children, and we don't know if she's alive or dead, because no one saved her obituary to tell us.)
This week in demonetisation: Goa is perhaps MORE affected than Delhi because almost no places take cards. (We've been purposefully searching out the places that do.) However, because it's Goa, everyone's very chill about it. A friend told me she found a paan wallah who took cheques, so she bought enough cigarette supplies to last months. There's one ATM near us that always has cash, no matter what time it is (Indus Ind, you surprise me!) so we make it a point to stop whenever we're near. No super long queues either. But, the season is super slow, most shacks and restaurants are empty, but that could also be the upcoming elections. (The tourists might be slightly more fucked than the rest of us though.)
This week in birthday cakes: You may have already seen this if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook or whatever. But here's a link. It blew my socks off. Gayatri, the baker, has been based in Goa for the last few months and is also a friend, so I told her to go crazy. And she totally did. We have like two slices left, which I totally plan to eat for a snack today.
This week in beaches: Isha is learning how to swim and she told me that Morjim is the best place for this where the sea is shallow for miles and miles and gentle as a swimming pool. She was totally right. I floated on my back and let the waves rock me back and forth. I love beaches. Also! We saw a flamingo on the beach, which some of my friends say is a lost fledgling, but others say has plenty of company. I got right up close to it too, and it didn't even move from feeding on all the small crabs on the shore.
I sort of wish I was better with identifying birds, but I did download an app called Indian Birds. It's useful if you know what bird you're looking up, less so if you're just like, "Um.. brown and small?" However, I did find out that the bird desperately trying to get its reflection to come out and play with him every morning at our kitchen window is an Indian tit. Heh.
Links!: Speaking of birds, Florence Nightingale had an owl she loved called Athena. ** Samit's doing a whole series on everything you always wanted to know about writing and publishing in India but were too afraid to ask. Part one here and part two (featuring my question!) here. ** Obligatory Gilmore Girls links: great story on the Ladies Finger and a funny one featuring spoilers. ** Sidin talks about our privilege when we talk about demonetisation. **
Have a great week!