It’s 10:30 am and after making a gigantic cup (yellow! Cup that is…) of coffee, I am back under the covers, coffee on the bedside table. This is me trying to tell myself that I got coffee in bed. And this is me telling myself that if it’s chilly and you can hear thunder roll and the sky is grey and there is that distinct sound of a light drizzle it is ok to have a lazy Sunday. It’s ok to wake up at 8 am but stay in bed till 10 and its ok to be writing first thing in the morning. In fact I quite like this. Writing first thing in the morning. Its seems my head had been making sentences and slotting them in an order while I slept and now all I am doing is tapping along on my keyboard, sipping coffee and soon I will be saying, viola.
I can see my garden (for some reason it is scary for me only in the dark!) and I am glad I won’t have to water it. It might not look huge but when you get down to watering it, takes an hour at least. Trust me. For some reason I am looking forward to ironing my clothes. I have realized that like applying nail polish, ironing clothes has a strange effect on me. I need to concentrate almost a 100 per cent and that somehow makes me less stressed. Not that I am stressed right now. Just saying.
And now that I have spent one month in this city, I have started doing what residents do. Discovering great places for the regular stuff you need to get by. Not just the best pizza or the nicest gelato or the best pasta etc etc. You get the drift right? So on Friday, my one month anniversary (using one of the most incorrect phrases we all use all the time!) in Firenze, I happened to go for dinner with two of my colleagues to this Chinese restaurant and I am so so so happy I did. I was craving something that was not a pasta, or salad, or meat with veggies or risotto and there it was. Chicken friend rice, noodles, prawns, pork with green peppers, steamed rice, vermicelli, and tofu. I also chanced upon a place that sells incense (really expensive agarbattis if you ask me) and some really funky travel stuff and toys. And it is right next to the only shop that stocks English books here (and yes, predictably, you find Vikram Seth, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Arvind Adiga and Amitav Ghosh in abundance here. But not Ghosh’s latest book yet.). And both the shops are down the shop that from now on I will call the best gelato shop in Florence. I do like three other family owned ones a lot, but this one tops them. Owned by two young Italians who have taken their business global (shops in NYC, Paris etc) their gelato is more expensive than other places but one lick and you know why. I read about them when I was trying to google just how many calories and how much fat am I subjecting myself to through my gelato indulgence. So my new frequent haunts are all on the same street. Nice.
I think the key to living in different cities is to go beyond discovering food and things that are typical to the place. You cannot be a tourist if you live someplace for a long time right. So I think this is a good thing. I now have my own favourite gelato shop (ok! That’s a typical thing) my own favourite Chinese place, my book shop (I am sure every English speaking person in Florence calls it the same way!) and my tiny nook to buy incense. So yesterday madam bought an agarbatti stand, a total of 30 agarbattis and the total cost was as much as I spend on agarbattis every six months. And I always by the more expensive ones, even back home. Made me laugh. But I like incense and it makes me feel at home. Those of you who have been to my place will remember that I always create an incense corner. And those of you who plan on visiting remember to call before you take that flight because I will at every point in time have a small list of things I might need. And yes, I might just include some really mundane chemist shop items, or even books. They are frightfully expensive overseas. I spent 20 euros on two books that would have cost me less than 10 euros back home. Well I know its books and they last forever and no one can contest my love for books but sometimes I would not mind seeing a few new ones on my shelves with Indian price tags.
Oh! And I went shopping too. Yes I did. So I bought myself skinny black work trousers and a pair of off-white skinny jeans. I was thinking I will wait till next month but everyone at work advised me not to. Apparently things here get ‘sold out’ real fast. And from whatever little I gave seen so far, they really do! I liked a long string of white porcelain beads and golden coloured wooden squares, and I thought I will sleep over it before I spend 12 euros on junk jewellery and I did and I still wanted it so I went back to the shop the next evening and it was gone. Every single piece of it. And the new stock had come in just the day I saw that chain. I know that because the friendly girl at the shop told me that. Wow! So I decided I will get my pants before they vanish off the shelves. And while I have been at it, I also bought a cute pair of mocha coloured ballerinas. I have bought more things than I planned to in the last two weeks. Shoes for Capoeira, two dresses (of which only one is work worthy!), two pants, three shrugs, incense, books, ballerinas, and before I forget, those, now awesomely comfortable (no blisters from them anymore), Birkenstock sandals. Hummm…. Mummy does not approve. But I have my eyes still set on that Swatch I had seen at Phoenix mills in Bombay and I think I will get that for my birthday. I also think I need a camera and a pair of red ballerinas too.
Lets see. I do have the flat expense looming over my head. If I convert to rupees the amount all those euros I need to shell out this week come to I will faint. One month rent advance, 2 months rent deposit and one month rent to the agent. Wow! No! Don’t ask me what the rent is. Makes me convert and then makes me feel guilty. Humpf!
But the shoes will come. At least another pair. Right now they are on the ‘need’ list and not ‘want’ list, given I had to discard my black work ballerinas before taking the flight to Tuscany my brand new silver ballerinas with the cute bow broke. Yes they did. And gave me massive blisters too. I still have the annoying scars.
Anyway, it has stopped raining and I feel like one more cup of coffee. And I want to read more of this week’s issue of the NewStatesman and be more angry and annoyed about it. Their cover story is on India and they have been quite predictable. Patrick French’s piece is alright. But profiling Arundhati Roy! Interviewing Arvind Adiga! A timeline of India’s history that simply reads “1947: Independence from Britain; 1947-48: First Kashmir War; 1951-52: first General Election; 1971: Indo-Pakistan War; 1974: Nuclear Power; 1984: Indira Gandhi Murdered; 2004: Manmohan Singh Elected; 2008: Mumbai terror attacks.” Yes! As it is straight from the magazine. Made me go like ‘what the fuck!’ Where is the Indo-China war? The other Indo-Pak war? Kargil? Parliament attacks? Op Parakram? Gujarat riots? Sikh riots? Opening up of the Economy? Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination? And for that matter using “assassination” and not “murder” for Indira Gandhi? The NDA coalition government? The Janta Party coming to power? Anna Hazare (and not Baba Ramdev as they feature!!) and the reservation protests both in the 1990s and then in 2006? The various serial blasts? Something about medals in Olympics etc (and not just cricket and Sachin Tendulkar)? What about the rise in social entrepreneurship that is changing lives? What about youth initiatives that have picked up in the past decade? What about a serious piece on what can be done about the education system rather than yet another commentary on the contract between India’s ‘silicon Valley’ and how it has done nothing to improve the lives of those outside of it. Yes I agree the crowd in Bombay, the sheer intensity of human proximity and human numbers can be an assault on the senses, but what about steering away from talking about just that city. What about talking about the cities that are changing the entire game of urbanization. The tier II and tier III cities that are giving people opportunities they haven’t had before? And for crying out loud, what about a proper piece on the how many “poor” kids in so called developed countries suffer quite like the poor kids in any other country. Educationally deprived. Opportunity deprived. And I can go on an on but I think I want that second cup of coffee. Also, I am rather miffed at this entire notion of “helplessness” that women keep reinforcing around their own gender. Gender stereotyping that is negative without seeming to. It stems from something I read about how flexi time helps women and how corporates should support it and governments should too. Blah blah blah. All I read there is that you are a woman, you will have babies, so you need to figure out how you will manage and we will try to put in place some systems that might make your life slightly simpler. My question is, what about policies to establish a strong caregiver role for the person whose sperm spawned the little, crying, pooping and always hungry bundle of joy? What about paternity leave? What about giving men the policy and corporate support so they can be hands on daddy and allow the woman the opportunity to ease back into her career with one parent still around the kid because of flexi time? You know… and the list continues. This is just one of my issues. And every time I hear women applaud maternity leave I feel like telling them, “Get over it. Everyone gets it now. Time to stop reiterating something that is only reinforcing a stereotype now. Move on. Your mothers fought for this and now you need to take that a step further. Ask for the next thing now. Time to pull up your socks and get out of this armchair feminist comfort zone.”
Gosh! I have written way more than I wanted to initially. Anyway, if you don’t agree with anything I have said (especially in the last three paragraphs) please feel free to correct / comment.
And now I am off. Time really to go get the second cup of coffee. And it has stopped raining too. Time to go bum about town and maybe shop some more. * mental evil laughter *