Tuesday, 31 December 2013

A change of pace

Right, here we are again. Only, that's not strictly accurate this time around. :) It has been a year like no other. But then again, changing your life over a decision made overnight staring at the silhouette of the Table Mountain couldn't really be expected to have gone any other way.

For one thing, I couldn't have possibly asked for a better adiós to the boat life than that phenomenal and spectacular two week adventure in South Africa! And since then it's been a different sort of adventure.

This must have been the longest summer here for years :). I am so glad I can look back and not think of a single way I could have made any more of it than I did!! In between the cycling hiking and the few trips here and there, not to mention the occasional night out on town, it was a blast!

Then by autumn I found myself more or less settled here, not feeling quite as weird having my own place. I'm glad I managed to get the car when I did, although I still feel I need to put more miles on it. I guess that'll come.

I haven't travelled nearly as much as I used to. No more accidental trips to places I wouldn't get within a thousand miles of, were it not for the matter of having to get on a boat :). Which can be good or bad thing, of course.

I have to say, things sort of slowed down on the fun and awesome front and speeded up on the crazy busy front towards the end here, but the vacations helped with that no end. I guess there are still a lot of things to get used to. It seems hardly believable that I have been in this country for nine months already!

This time last year I'd been hoping for something new, something I didn't even know I wanted. It's really amazing, the ways in which that has come to pass! In the end, I'd say I'm really looking forward to the first new year's sparklers and fireworks in years.

But more than that, I'm looking forward to the new year, with all the surprises, all the hopes and dreams, some that might come to be, others that will fade out of memory, but each one hopefully making up another truly amazing year :). And some snow.

Felling: festive!
Listening to: Travie McCoy - Rough water (ft. Jason Mraz)

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

The unexpected stillness of midwinter

It was a really good vacation, all in all! Of course the timing could have been better, but then again, this is pretty awesome too! I've come back smack in the middle of the most vacation filled part of the year. I was hoping for a chance to hit the slopes, but as it's all rather inexplicably wet rather than white, I'm mostly just having some quality time recovering from my vacation :).

There was a moment as we took off from Copenhagen. It had been cloudy, miserable, and after Dubai, rather shockingly cold on the ground. But then the aircraft sort of punched through the clouds. I've long since given up on window seats, so I was caught off guard by the ray of sunlight poking me in the eye. When I did look, the bed of clouds seemed magically transformed beneath us. I keep reminding myself, looking at the overcast sky, that this is just one side of it, the other side is bright and cheerful.

The recent switch to young adult fantasy has had rather mixed results. On the one hand, it really is fairly light, and mostly quite entertainingly so. On the other hand, the hopelessly adolescent relationship drama is driving my slightly nuts. Maybe this would be a good time to start with The Colour of Magic.

I shouldn't finish without mentioning the best film I've seen in a long time. A Very Long Engagement. I can't for the life of me figure out what kept me from watching it sooner. The story, poignant and set in the backdrop of war, is told with such tenderness! The plot has more surprises than most thrillers, and better ones too! But mostly it was Audrey Tautou's stunning eyes.


Currently: hoping for some snow
Listening to: Jessie J - Alive

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Mile markers

As it turns out, doing the same thing over and over again, but at somewhat longish intervals can be quite enlightening. Well, maybe not enlightening, but definitely entertaining :). On what used to be the regular trips to visit family in Asansol and Shantiniketan, this turned out to be particularly true on a few occasions.

One was while catching up with some friends on a terrace, down the street from the apartment where I grew up, where we'd spent hours playing cricket a bit over a decade ago. The view had changed. Not imperceptibly, but almost completely! It's not like the old landmarks had disappeared, but all the newer buildings and apartment blocks seemed to have outgrown the old respectable height of three or four floors and loomed above the rest. It was interesting trying to pick out the bits that were still familiar and wondering what it would all end up looking like in maybe another decade.

Later that day four of us school-mates, rather fortuitously at the same place at the same time, decided to drive out to what used to be one of our favourite high school haunts, a not too easily accessible and to be honest rather unglamorous spot on the bank of the Damodar River :). We made it in good time for sunset. This being a winter following a particularly rainy monsoon, the river had overrun all the little sandbars we used to love lazing on. There was even a ferry, where usually, or at drier times of the year, people would simply wade across, from sandbar to sandbar, from one bank of the river to the other.

The thing that was probably the most innocuous but left the greatest impression, was the drive back to Kolkata. It's something I used to do maybe once every couple of months, and for years, I never really paid too much attention. To the patterns of the fields punctuated by villages. To the occasional sets of power lines marching off into the distance, apparently aimlessly, going from nowhere to nowhere. To the village kids, fairly used to the vehicular traffic, but still quite entertained by anything not a local bike-trailer, truck or lorry.

In the gaps between the knots of populated areas I decided to roll down the window and drop off the speed. I wasn't in a hurry, it was mid afternoon and I had hours in which to get back to Dumdum. The mid-winter weather was perfect, the air refreshingly cool as it shuddered past the open space. I noticed that the fields had been harvested, leaving them a bit colourless, I guess I missed the verdant green of the unharvested crops. The fields stretched out, flat, all the way to a distant horizon, which faded off into the haze like a question.

There was something immensely peaceful about it all. Was it the passage of the better part of a year since the last time? Or was it the weather? Or was it just that for a change, I felt I didn't have to go as fast as the road would let me? :) Either way, it's been a good vacation. And as I had predicted, all too soon, it's over. I do have another couple of days or so till the flight back to Oslo, but some of that will be spent packing. Sad thing is, I had just about gotten used to the sleep cycle here...

Currently: wondering when the snow will come
Listening to: A$AP Rocky - Fashion killa

Friday, 13 December 2013

Oh Michael/Mike/Ernest!

I guess muscle memory is a real thing. Not to be harping on about the same thing, but I continue to surprise myself how easily I've gotten back to negotiating traffic here, from behind the wheel that is :). I suppose a decade is long enough to pick up a few things that will be hard to forget.

I've been a bit occupied these last few days. But in between, I've managed to find time to finish with All Clear. Some books are just hard to read. And I don't mean bad, but just plain difficult. Of course it didn't help that for the most part I kept wondering what on earth happened to the author that wrote To Say Nothing of the Dog!

Okay, so let's back it up a bit. There is an ending, thankfully. Happy or not is open for debate, but it's not all doom and gloom. But the ending doesn't make up for the deary and painful progression of chapters whose sole purpose seemed to be to be a constant propagation of fear, pain, hurt and suffering. And the rare, oh so rare spot of light hearted irony.

I mean, I get it, the war was a terrible time. And there were those who made the best of a really bad situation, in different ways. But you kinda got that within the first third of the first book. Did there really have to be two whole books full of the same?! The reading had to be done though. I was way too invested in the characters to just leave them floundering, possibly dead, amidst all that chaos.

Now that it's over, I think I'll start on something a little more, well, fun. Cassandra Clare seems interesting. I guess I shall find out soon. In the mean time, weather's been absolutely beautiful! Barely a cloud in the sky the entire week! And on top of that, temperatures around the high teens except for the middle of the day. I should really make the most of this before getting back to the deep freeze of a proper winter :). I should also take some photos. Of something.

Currently: still a little out of sync on the sleep
Listening to: Zedd ft. Foxes - Clarity

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Of lost marbles and perfect winter weather

It's taken a while, but I'm back in Kolkata. Now, though, it doesn't quite qualify as home, so in theory I'm not back, just visiting. The clearest proof is sleep :). Every night, just before I fall asleep, I miss my bed. Damn! Only took eight months!

The trip over went by in a rush. Connections that were just long enough to not be uncomfortable, but not long enough to relax. Flights where I couldn't find sleep. So it wasn't at all surprising that when I showed up here at eight in the morning, I was barely awake. Having spent eighteen of the next twenty eight hours shrugging off my lack of sleep, at least part of which had nothing to do with jet-lag, I was finally, properly in vacation land :).

True to recent form, I improved greatly on my recent reading record in transit. Norwegian by Night by Derek Miller had been last month's book, and having acquired a hard copy at the beginning of said month, I was quite thrilled to be reading one of those after a while. For all of about ten pages. Somehow reading just hadn't happened those last few weeks.

I ended up finishing the whole book over the course of the trip from Oslo to Kolkata. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, I mean, it's well written. I like the guy's style, mixing up introspective musings with fairly fast action. I sympathise with the characters. But then again, the central character, or at least one of the two, (definitely the only one that survives till the end) never actually speaks for the duration of the book!

I wish we at least found out Paul's real name. Well, I suppose he did smile, and laugh. Once. And cried hysterically. So you can't say he doesn't make a sound throughout the book. I was also sad that the thug least guilty got shot first. But I guess that's irony for you.

Now I'm back to Connie Willis and All-clear. Believe it or not, having read three books in between and despite the passage of a couple of months, I didn't really have to bother reading the end of Blackout to get into it. It's all exactly as muddy and confusing as the better part of the first book. I'm just hoping there's actually some sort of an ending to this one. 

In the mean time, it's going to be catching up with family and friends and getting comfortable driving Indian style :). I was a little worried about that on the way here. I needn't have bothered, half an hour or the right side of the car, and it was like I'd never left. I only hope this doesn't bode ill for when I get back to Norwegian roads :P.

Currently: on vacation! yay :D
Listening to: Poli
ça - So leave

Saturday, 7 December 2013

At what cost freedom?

I have been looking forward to this more than I want to admit to myself. It will be all too short. Too little, hopefully not too late. It will be over before I know it and I will hate it when it's over. But. Right now, this vacation is the best thing in the world :).

Feeling: liberated, albeit temporarily :P
Listening to: Zendaya - Replay

Monday, 2 December 2013

St. Swithin's day

This last weekend was the first in a while when I made a conscious decision and stuck with it 100%. I did nothing even remotely active, spending almost every waking moment surveying my living room and backyard from my pillow fortress atop the couch :D. It was glorious!

It's been a long few weeks. And when frustration and more than a touch of overbearing stress join forces with illness, things begin to look quite a bit bleaker than they actually are :). Thankfully, it wasn't anything a couple of days of oversleeping couldn't cure!

And while I was at it, I ended up catching up on some movie watching I'd been meaning to do. There were quite a few of the recent action/sci-fi non-classics that I'd missed in the theatres. Oblivion, I have to admit, wasn't half bad, despite Cruise. I only half saw that twist coming, that too, pretty late :). But the one that really did capture my attention was One Day.

Thing is, I was actually planning on watching Once. But as fate would have it, the cursor passed over to the next one and by the time I'd noticed the switch, I was already hooked. As far as concepts go, it was nothing particularly out of this world. 

In fact, I would much rather like to read Ethan Hawke's book from Before Sunset. You know, the concept he talks about in the Paris bookshop, where the entire story happens within the span of a single pop song. Okay, so the soundtrack might turn out to be a bit boring but so what? Anyhow, I digress.

I've never particularly liked whatshisname, chap who plays Dex. Which was a pretty good thing, 'cos for the most part, I suppose he isn't really someone you'd like. I mean I get it, but I sort of kept wondering what Em saw in him. Things were going rather well, I barely noticed the time, the briefly sunny afternoon disappeared into dusk and then of course she had to go get hit by that truck.

The only thing I could think of was (oddly enough, another movie made from a book I haven't read) Pat's reaction to that Hemingway book from Nikki's school syllabus :). I mean, it's apt! Why?! Really, why? You know why I love Stranger Than Fiction? Because Emma Thompson gives up that phenomenally poignant ending of killing Harold, leaving things a little less superlative, and a whole lot happier. Hoffman's judgemental criticisms be damned.

I'm a sucker for happy endings, what can I say :).

Feeling: better :)
Listening to: Zedd ft. Hayley Williams - Stay the night