Category Archives: Summer

Reading Recovery

Published in the year of his death from cancer, Henning Mankell’s After the Fire is a slow examination of a seventy-year-old’s confrontation with solitude and loss.  The protagonist, a retired doctor,  lives in a archipelago being visited by an arsonist, and we begin at the site of the first fire. Finding the arsonist is relegated to the background, as what it means to live in a community where trust is replaced by wariness is explored, even as death and old age is the larger specter in the forefront.  Yet this is an optimistic novel, where friendship and family, however distant, is embraced, sometimes gingerly, sometimes with affection.

This was the one of the last books I read before I broke my wrist, but not the last book I’ve read since.  There was a fatalistic stoicism in the narrative that strikes me deeper as  I now try to fill my days with no-impact activity.  Thus constrained to cat care, lackluster weeding, a great deal of sighing, a fascination of one-handed bottle opening techniques, elevating my arm on pillows, watching repeats of mysteries, instagram, I am reading with an awareness that my situation could have been worse.  The Great Believers by the quite brilliant Rebecca Makkai, a Claire Messud novel, Elif Safak‘s Forty Rules of Love,and a wonderful novel by Caitlin Macy called Mrs. Now, biding my time, easing insomnia, I am romping through Kevin Kwan‘s Crazy Rich Asians, which will become a film*. it has an all-Asian cast, for it is story about Asians.  Apparently, one filmperson wanted the heroine to be re-cast white, but no.  She will be a wary non-rich, non-crazy Asian woman portrayed by an Asian.

Sometimes  the fates shift the balance.

*the book is different than what the film preview shows, from dialogue to fashion, alas.

Drinking Chocolate, Verb & Noun

Indira Ganesan, Drinking Chocolate, 2018

 

Let me try to describe it.  You open your mouth to take a taste, but it is like swallowing a thick river.  Then you remember to sip, and the maneuver works.  It is chocolate, but more so, in a cafe crowded for the weather, customers lined up for “hugs in mugs” ( TM) and hot mocha.  I order two thin chocolate lemon peels, thinking of espresso.  The taste complements, tart sweet.  Actually, that is almost the name of a smoothie here, made with beets, cukes, and more good things.  An eleven-year-old in this sweet shop orders it ; bless him.

Another circle, another fan

This time in my aunt’s house, in Chennai.  Can time be measured in circling ceiling fans, beating back the heat?  In the afternoons, perhaps, but mornings, papers rustle, the breeze cool.  It’s been almost ten years since I’ve been here last.  The family has gotten smaller, and grief leaks.  My father; my uncle.  Meals are served, the rustling papers read.  Outrage over the news.  Could not a million be spent than in the personal acquisition of Princess Diana’s private letters?  Imagine if that money was given to produce a play based on the letters instead.  The best line I’ve recently read is in Interred with Their Bones, a novel by Jennifer Lee Carrell:  “If you must choose a church, go to the theater.”

Yes, in India, musing about the royals, reading about Shakespeare, under a circling ceiling fan.  Outside, the air is thick with the noise of traffic, worship, capitalism. The indifferent cows only come out at night.

Indira Ganesan, Light in the clouds

Indira Ganesa, Light in the Clouds2016

There is an essay by Natalia Ginzberg in which she writes about disliking summer: the heat, the crowds.  I felt a kinship immediately.  Summer for me is the cool shade, sipping cold drinks, and reading.  It is seeing the sea in the mist, the sharp clarity of mountain air.  And it is vacation to other places, something which is rare for me in most of summers.  I am two weeks back from a  family trip to London and Paris.  I traveled on Wow Air, packed a new Tom Bihn bag, realized I liked the journey to much more than the journey back, despite very good seatmates.  On the way to, I had the window, and much to anticipate.

Indira Ganesan, O Wow, 2016

Indira Ganesan, Wow View, 2016

 

In London, we saw the Chelsea Physic Garden, full of herbal lore and a nice tea.

Chelsea Physic Garden

Indira Ganesan, Chelsea Physic Garden, 2016

C.P. G: fruit

Indira Ganesan, C. P. G: fruit, 2016

C.P.G.: rose and lily

Indira Ganesan, C. P.G.: rose and lily, 2016

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Indira Ganesan, C.P.G: roses in trees, 2016

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Indira Ganesan, C.P.G: Bench with trellis, 2016

The reason for the trip started last October when my brother, sister-in-law, and niece logged in for theater tickets.

And after the play, there was more: to Stonehenge on a bus tour with an archeologist; Paris, where the croissants were drenched in butter,  and the gardens in bloom; and back to England to see my cousin & family. Discovering a mall underneath the Louvre  In between, I snuck a trip out to the country to see an old friend; met more old friends,and later floated floor by floor one afternoon in Waterstones.

 

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Indira Ganesan, Stonehenge, 2016

Indira Ganesan,Stonehenge II, 2016

Indira Ganesan,Stonehenge II, 2016

Waterstones mailed me a package covered in brown paper, filled with books.  It was already waiting for me when I got back. I might have used the same method to bring presents for friends, I realized too late. Reason enough to go back.

 

Packing for a Vacation

Globetrotter  Centenery Suitcase,

Globetrotter Centenary Suitcase

I am a nerd (read obsessive, detailed, committed) when it comes to packing light.  I am motivated by no need to live to live the simple life, but from the desire to have low-weight baggage to pull, push, heave, and carry.  My shoulders are shot from carrying overloaded shoulder bags, my neck crying out in pain, and lately I have discovered bunions.

So I began to investigate packing lists and lightweight suitcases in anticipation of a trip abroad.  If traveling for two weeks, one only needs a week’s worth of clothes.  Bring more money, and don’t forget socks.  All toiletries can be purchases at an airport, or local marts (What better excuse to try that expensive anise-flavored toothpaste your friends rave about?) so you need not lug the bathroom cabinet on board.

So, I selected a bag online, and received the wrong one, and miraculously, the company quickly shipped me the right one practically overnight and threw in a free pouch.

So much better than the hotel switchboard that told me no I could not upgrade to a better room since I purchased one so cheap in advance.  (What does that mean?  Even if I pay the difference?)

And the airline is Wow from Iceland, which seems cheap until you begin adding up the cost of an assigned seat, to start.  What does this mean as well?  If I do not pick a seat, am I seatless though I have a ticket?  I have made terrible literal mistakes in the past before.  My first trip to England, I took a Hovercraft to France, but unknowingly traveled on a Single-Entry Visa.  I was still an Indian citizen then.    My logic was that I was single, not a family, so Single Entry ought to do.  Incredibly, I was not stopped on my way back from France, but by the British.  It worked out fine, and made for a great story which included delicious chips and a hilarious agent who swore the French would pay a fine for neglecting to detain me.   Now I know that when one leaves and re-enters countries, a multiple Visa is necessary.

So I am packing light, keeping copies of various passes and my passport.  The world is upside down now, with the unimaginable happening all the time.  Traveling light seems about the only thing to do.

 

 

Iris Iris

I travel quite a distant to go to my bank branch.  I could go to the one in town, but then I would not get to see this:


The bank is built on the site of a farmstead, and hosts these irises every season.

The view from my local post office parking lot is also pretty good; Edward Hopper painted it and the postal service put it on a stamp.

Edward Hopper, The Long Leg, 1935
Then there is the beach with its passing ships:

Red Sails at Herring Cove, 2016

All in all, the days are good.

Yes, cars still pass me to take immediate right turns, and a mad neighbor stalks the place like a Hollywood prophet, pulling out my plants and leaving them on my doorstep like a cat might with a mouse, and soon, I won’t be able to walk in town for the crowds.  At Stanford, a judge practically pardons a rapist by inferring boys will be boys, defying the jury’s verdict of guilty and The Onion publishes a biting satire. The republican ridicule mobile continues, and really, all is not well in the world.

Nature, that ceaseless worker, provides us beauty, as if to say, humans, pay attention. A fine wind rustles the leaves and the air has that late afternoon chill of early June.  The sun will set, the sun will rise.