Diary of the Ordinary Happenings of a Kolkatan Lady (1/12/19-8/12/19)

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This is a diary and account of the extremely ordinary happenings that occur in my life in Kolkata. We (Me, my husband and 7 year old daughter) live in a quiet, leafy neighbourhood in Kolkata. We moved back to India after spending ten years in the US. Be prepared for some moaning and groaning because as you will see – life in Kolkata has its fair share of ups and downs.

Find November 2019 diary entries here.


Sunday, 1st December 2019

Lo and behold, the last month of the year is upon us. This year, I haven’t been able to devote as much time to reading and writing. It’s been a year of house buying, renovations, moving and settling in – all valuable new life lessons for certain but I’m glad that the episode is behind us.

Look forward to a new year and a fresh beginning.

Mum visited us late on Saturday and we spent the evening putting up the Christmas tree, lights, christmas cards on a string and decorations. I put Christmas carols on and we drink hot tea (note to self: must make hot mulled apple juice – Meli would like it). Am able to fully appreciate last year’s crop of beautiful Christmas cards, simply hung on a piece of string and illuminated with twinkly fair lights. This is something our Mother would do for us during past Christmases in England. The part of Christmas I find the most enjoyable is the observance of family traditions – vestiges of the past that come back to comfort, year after year.

Feel disheartened on Sunday evening at the prospect of full and very busy week ahead. As usual feel that Time has conspired to constrict the weekends and elongate the work week.

Monday, 2nd December 2019

Seems that new life lessons still present themselves. This time in the form of trying to sell our old flat that belongs to my parents. The escapist in me would much rather not have to deal with it, and instead disappear from time to time, into a vintage novel set in the English countryside. This is why am dipping into ‘Milton Place’ by Elisabeth de Waal from time to time. Most excellent book with developing and unexpected drama that I feel better equipped to handle. 

Meli has an extra singing class in the evening and spend the time she is at class in walking about the neighbourhood. Clock in 10,000 steps at the end of day and feel most pleased with myself. Receive lovely advent card from Beth Bonini and Meli and I take turns opening two windows. Impatiently awaiting arrival of Christmas puzzle.

Tuesday, 3rd December 2019

Almighty informs me of the unfortunate incident of his lost cellphone. We have a new upstairs neighbour, a neighbour whom none of us has yet met and who lives for the better part of the year in Singapore. ‘Madam’ as Almighty calls her was leaving for the airport on one such flying visit. Almighty in assisting her with loading her luggage into the car had his cellphone unwittingly slip out of his pocket into depths of car boot. By the time Almighty discovers disappearance of phone, phone is already at Dum Dum Airport, en route to Singapore. Plans are currently being hatched for its safe recovery. 

Wednesday, 4th December 2019

Went to the Post Office to post dear Brother’s Christmas parcel to frosty, far-off Berlin only to be informed – no stamps at local Post Office. Have a silent tirade against country’s deplorable shortage of postage stamps and gird my loins to travel to nearest one at Jadavpur University. Pick up Meli from school bus stop, trundle her into nearest available auto-rickshaw, armed with Christmas parcel and savoury snack for Meli (to tide over the lunch time hunger pangs). Arrive at destination and take out parcel only to find it besmirched with oily residue of Meli’s snack – a savoury paneer puff. Refuse to go home and change wrapping. Thankfully receive requisite postage stamps and proceed to cover up oily spots with numerous stamps. Take comfort in the thought that dear Brother may (or may not) derive satisfaction from lingering remnants of paneer puff from the Homeland.

Almighty’s cell phone in Singapore. Very sad for him.

Thursday, 5th December 2019

We are four books into #BookishAdvent this year. A book a day in the month of December till Christmas Day. Only this year I don’t have a book for every day, so I imagine we will skip a few days. We don’t really buy Meli many toys or things but I do spoil her outrageously with childen’s books. I imagine not too many 7 year olds have such an extensive collections of children’s books. And by books I’m taking about the gems of literature that are nearly obsolete. Enid Blyton, Arthur Ransome, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Noel Streatfeild, Malcolm Saville, Edith Nesbit, Ruby Ferguson and all the wonderful children’s classics. 

I don’t think it can spoil anyone to be spoilt by a wealth of books.

Learn how to make paper snowflakes from the Internet for Meli’s art project. There’s a first time for everything. Now want to dress all the windows in house with them.

Friday, 6th December 2019

Dad’s 78th birthday, although he will insist on calling himself 79. Go to Mum and Dad’s after Meli’s school, laden with mostly edible gifts. Mishti doi, roshogolla (men at sweet shop know me well now), fenugreek paratha and more. Also have a vintage facsimile edition of Hercule Poirot’s ‘Peril at End House’ for him. You can’t really go wrong with Agatha Christie with my Dad. Have planned to visit Alipore Zoo tomorrow as part of the birthday celebrations. 

Saturday, 7th December 2019

At around midday after an early lunch we take an Uber to Alipore Zoo. The outside of the Zoo is buzzing as usual and we buy our tickets. Inside of the Zoo is bursting at the seams too although not the heaving crowds that are to be seen closer to Christmas Day. Strange fact : many people, particularly from the suburbs and villages like to celebrate Christmas with a visit to the Zoo. Don’t ask me why?). Visits to the Zoo are annual affairs, usually led by the enthusiasm of Mum and Dad and Meli. This time around Meli had brought a notebook and pencil and proceeded to painstakingly write down the names of each animal she saw. We started with the primates first, proceeded to giraffe, kangaroo, zebra and elephant, several types of deer, crocodiles, panthers and lions etc. we were actually able to step into the Reptile House this time around and saw a number of alarming specimens. Is it just me, or does everyone, when seeing a scary species imagine head on encounters between self and animal, to the detriment of self? 

Lots of people having picnics and lie downs in the picnic areas- more so than the people viewing the animals. Spy lots of steel tiffin boxes with egg curry, puffy luchi and lots more. We peel oranges and indulge in sweetmeats in the gazebo.

Sunday, 8th December 2019

Haven’t had a relaxed weekend in a long time and although there were many odd jobs to do around the house and errands to run, I was able to devote some time to the things I like best- one of them being reading and losing oneself immersively in a book. Being allowed two or three hours of uninterrupted reading time is something of a treat, particularly with modern day distractions and our obsession of glorifying the state of being perpetually busy.

After finishing ‘Milton Place’ late on Friday I decided that it was time to launch myself into festive reading. Here are a few books I have pulled together for that purpose:

  1. Christmas Mouse by Miss Read
  2. Stories for Christmas by Alison Uttley
  3. Noel Streatfeild’s Christmas Stories
  4. A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer (previously published as Envious Casca)
  5. Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith
  6. Village Christmas by Miss Read (a re-read)

Spent stray bits of Sunday listening to Classic FM and reading the Christmas Mouse. Miss Read manages to write such cozy, meaningful Christmas stories with all the delicious details of Christmas food, preparations and presents. Despite the lack of plenty there is a focus on the feeling of goodwill, sharing and thinking beyond the immediate family circle.

Awaiting arrival of highly anticipated 1000 piece Christmas puzzle.



Diary of the Ordinary Happenings of a Kolkatan Lady (23/11/19 – 30/11/19)

This is a diary and account of the extremely ordinary happenings that occur in my life in Kolkata. We (Me, my husband and 7 year old daughter) live in a quiet, leafy neighbourhood in Kolkata. We moved back to India after spending ten years in the US. Be prepared for some moaning and groaning because as you will see – life in Kolkata has its fair share of ups and downs.

Find the previous entry here

Saturday, 23rd November 2019

Spend most of the day tidying our flat in preparation for Sunday’s large party. About 90 of our closest family and friends (mostly from Raja’s side because our family/work colleague numbers seem to be dwindling?) will visit us for the first time in our new home. We are planning food and seating arrangements downstairs in the garage and surrounding ground floor area – because obviously home too small! Today the decorators arrived with long bamboo poles, lengths of fabric and other paraphernalia to create a covered tent to house the caterers and the food. Fingers crossed that everything goes according to plan. Not having too many squabbles with Raja about issues related to party as most have things have been taken care of. Feeling less stressed about life than the time of the house move. Nevertheless…

Sunday, 24th November 2019

The day starts bright and early with a ring on the door from our building’s caretaker – Mr Maiti-pronounced as in “My- T” only with a soft ‘T’. Raja secretly calls him Almighty, perhaps due to his air of grand deportment. On this particular morning Almighty announces with an apologetic smile that the building’s water pump has run amok. Visualize 100 people descending upon us without a drop of water for the caterers, not to mention the impossibility of performing ablutions and using the facilities. In a fit of frenzy I start obsessively filling every bucket, container, vessel at hand and phone my mum in a panic. Dad arrives on a rickshaw within ten minutes bearing large 100 gallon plastic water drum with tap, which we place downstairs near the food stations. Decorators have arrived and are arranging the chairs and tables. Request extra water drum from them which they supply and proceed to fill it but am told off by Raja because am not acting normally it seems.

At 10.30 am first of family arrives and am still in nightie. Sister-in-law helps me to wear green-gold saree, worn for only the second time in last fifteen years. Everyone arrives and we have a wonderful time. House much admired particularly the library. Food is delicious. After the flurry of guests subsides at 4pm, find out pump had been mended at midday!

Monday, 25th November 2019

Husband and I both wake up with sore throats and the beginnings of colds. I spend the day pootering about at home, setting the rooms to rights and putting away the many gifts we have received (six sets of bedsheets!). Heat up catering leftovers – lots of yellow pilau rice, cauliflower curry and daal but not so much mutton curry, fish fry et al. Raja and I both seem to taste the food for the first time and nod appreciatively at our excellent catering choice. 

Buy Meli a children’s magazine on the way home from school today. Remember the joys of childhood magazine reading as something to look forward to every month. Meli enjoying the jokes in said magazine exceedingly and starts relating them to me umpteen times throughout the day. Have to appreciate the joke with fresh enjoyment every time.

Tuesday, 26th November 2019

Have resolved to spend some time this week at the local bank in attempts to boost dwindling financial resources (depleted especially after house-buying). Many lucrative options present themselves but as usual opt for the safe and reliable low interest method of fixed term deposits like my ancestors of yore. Look forward to meager but assured promise of some book spending money this time next month. Book buying being a major motivation in life. 

Lots of leftovers from Sunday.

Wednesday, 27th November 2019

Meli has the day off from school and we have planned a nice day of watching Frozen 2 at the cinema, followed by subway sandwiches for lunch and a visit to the bookshop. Luckily all are to be found in local Mall for which I am very grateful. 

We both enjoy Frozen 2 very much. I especially enjoy the beautiful autumnal and wintry scenes. There is an Olaf joke involving ‘Samantha’ that Meli finds hilarious and repeats frequently. Meli demands to watch the next show of Frozen which I firmly decline as I don’t love it that much and frankly cinema tickets extortionary. 

Meli assuages grief in chicken sub sandwiches with extra olives and honey mustard and we spend the evening listening to the Frozen 2 soundtrack on repeat.

Still eating leftovers.

Thursday, 28th November 2019

Spend the morning editing a few articles. The early mornings are dank and foggy and for a small window of time, one doubts whether the sun will come up at all, from behind the puffy clouds of pollution. Delhi is said to be very bad with regards to pollution but I imagine we don’t lag very far behind. The ironing man with his makeshift ironing booth on the corner of our cul-de-sac is I expect, a serious offender in that department. From around 6.30 am he lights his coal scuttle (used to warm his heavy metal iron) and sends plumes of grey smoke into the ether. Meli and I hold our breath whilst going past him on our early morning walk to the bus stop and then gasp for air, with flushed faces when we have turned the corner. Meli asks when it will be cold enough to blow clouds of smoke into the air. I tell her that it will come soon enough.

Nearing the end of last Sunday’s leftovers. Ate the baked tomato fish with a garden salad and soya bread. That was our Thanksgiving Dinner this year. Very thankful for nice, new place to stay this year.

Friday, 29th November 2019

Meli has the day off school again. Write and package off the last of the Xmas parcels. I expect there will be more to post next week though as I always seem to miss people or people unexpectedly send me things and I feel the need to reciprocate. Go to local Post Office – the one with the perennial dearth of postage stamps. Informed not enough postage stamps for the Rs 216 parcel. Ask in great indignation how this can be possible. Am informed that might be issued the requisite amount in smaller denominations of 5 rupees. Agree to this dolefully and proceed to stick 43 stamps on the envelope whilst the 7 year old reads a book in a murky corner of the Post Office. Advise her to swing her legs continuously on wooden bench as feel sure Post Office is riddled with mosquitoes.

After pasting the myriad stamps, hand over the envelope fervently hoping dear Nora, in far-off snowy Canada, will enjoy the package and contents with multiple images of esteemed Indian freedom fighter- Mr Abul Kalam Azad.

Saturday, 30th November 2019

At the midnight hour, it suddenly strikes me that today is the last day of November and that from tomorrow, December, Advent and the gloriousness of the festive season will be upon us. Traditionally we like to put up our artificial tree and decorations on the weekend following Thanksgiving, so that we have the whole of December to enjoy them (and towards the end of the month grow heartily tired of them).

Usually we have lots of plans for December and not all of them come to fruition. I host a festive readalong on Instagram (this year Miss Read’s wonderful ‘Village Christmas’), have a pile of festive books, watch Vlogmas videos on YouTube, take out the Christmas movies. This year we even have a Christmas puzzle on the way.

Mum visits us in the evening and we dress the tree and marvel at all the treasured ornaments that we have forgotten about in the span of a year. I always try to add one new decoration to the collection every year and hence, the family grows. Put up a string of Christmas cards received over the years. Most of them are from Bookstagram friends who have grown very dear to me. I love this season of putting into play, the lost art of sending snail mail.


The Diary of the Ordinary Happenings of a Kolkatan Lady (17/11/19 – 22/11/19)

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This is a diary and account of the extremely ordinary happenings that occur in my life in Kolkata. We (Me, my husband and 7 year old daughter) live in a quiet, leafy neighbourhood in Kolkata. We moved back to India after spending ten years in the US. Be prepared for some moaning and groaning because as you will see – life in Kolkata has its fair share of ups and downs.


Sunday, 17th November 2019

I write this on a pleasant Sunday, as pools of afternoon sunshine, like liquid amber, make patterns on the soft brown of old wooden furniture. 

We’ve lived in our new flat for a month and a half now and it seems like we’ve been here forever. 

The crows are cawing in a staccato beat and a soft breeze undulates the leaves on the trees. Kolkata is at peace after another very hot summer and steamy monsoon. The anticipation of cooler winter months ahead brings such delight, like an intangible gift-wrapped present.

I decided to set up this daily diary amidst great fervour late last night, in the hope that it will help me to put pen to paper more often. One needs to start somewhere…

Monday, 18th November 2019

Before we leave home for our walk to the school bus stop in the morning, Meli announces that it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Don’t you just love the excitement and build up to Christmas. Especially feels wonderful when you are a child with the anticipation of gifts, food and good times with family. I have Mr Buble trilling in good voice on my iPhone speaker at the bus stop. Receive a few curious glances from Kolkatan passers by who might not get it. Such is the weird juxtaposition of having lived a very full, international life and then settling down to provinciality. 

There’s a nip in the air quite early in the morning now, that dulls to a hazy heat at midday. The evenings draw in at 5 pm and it feels comforting to close the curtains and shut out the darkness. There’s something so melancholy about winter evenings out of doors. Lighting soft lamps inside helps to bring cheer along with warming cups of aromatic milk tea.

Tuesday, 19th November 2019

I went to the local Post Office yesterday with the intent of getting a decent head start on my Christmas gift sending this year.Every year, just about this time, the Post Office man sees me quite frequently. I ask for my packages to be weighed, he counts out a hundred or so stamps (all small denominations) whileI then affix the multitude on large manila envelopes. 

I think about all the places the package will see before it arrives at its final destination. There are so many miles between Kolkata and Honolulu. Is it possible to be jealous of an envelope’s adventure’s? 

In the meantime, with the ambient temperature dropping there’s been a mad scramble to find the rogue, red school cardigan, which despite my best intentions always manages to hide itself in the unlikeliest corners.

We find it at last in a murky corner of the old steel trunk, reeking of a yearlong tryst with the naphthalene balls.

Wednesday, 20th November 2019

Wednesday heralds the arrival of a new blue sofa-cum-bed for our third bedroom, gloriously called the library. One of the hazards of ordering online is the rude shock one can receive at the total divergence in appearance of said product from that imagined. The larger and more expensive the product – the greater the risk – as you are ‘lumped with it for life’. Thankfully blue sofa met most expectations except for a slender ribbon of grey trim that Meli pronounced as appearing ‘dirty white’. Sofa is wonderfully comfortable and can foresee many hours of no steps being tracked on the pedometer due to inactivity. Currently reading Milton Place by Elisabeth de Waal – a wonderful ode to the English country house. There’s something unsettling about the book. I keep waiting for the unsettling event to happen.

Thursday, 21st November 2019

The day of our housewarming party draws near – Sunday 24th November . The days go by in trying to wash dirty laundry that have snuck inadvertently into corners, tidying cupboards and skillfully trying to disguise little messes. 

Take comfort in telling myself that it will all be over soon and I can go back to my slovenly ways. The food should be good – fish fry, mutton curry among others and hopefully the weather co-operates. Must remember to take Meli to singing class tonight.

Friday, 22nd November 2019

Have successfully washed all bedsheets for the big day, although only I know why it is important to have linen cupboard in apple pie order for Sunday (just in case someone wants to have a peek in there…). Will spend today and tomorrow phoning people up to issue reminders about the housewarming. The introvert in me much prefers texting to calling but it is nice to hear voices and exchange pleasantries. 

Order 100 small earthenware pots of ‘mishti doi’ (thick set, sweet caramel yoghurt – simply divine) with a Bengali sweet meat called ‘sandesh’ from the local sweet shop and the promise to deliver them to house on Sunday. Am greatly relieved because their management would have been beyond me.

Feeling stressed and excited about the housewarming in equal measure and enlist the help of Raja to clean odd corners in the rest of the house.