Suffocated

Things I’ve had to tell myself in the past 8 years….

Don’t go out at night.

Don’t talk to any stranger.

Don’t make eye contact with any stranger.

Don’t go anywhere alone.

Don’t walk on the streets.

Don’t take an Uber without making sure someone else is tracking your ride through the Safety feature.

Don’t dream of taking a rick without haggling.

Don’t wear anything that is remotely tight fitting or sleeveless (unless travelling by own car).

Don’t use buses (particularly terrible when it comes to sexual harassment) (even in full uniform-esque attire).

Don’t look for friendliness from people you don’t know personally already.

Don’t get annoyed when people cut the line.

Don’t be upset because someone is rude.

Don’t be nice by default, act “stern & rude” otherwise you will get ripped off.

Don’t trust people.

Don’t wish for clean streets.

Don’t think of dust free homes.

Don’t dream of friendly neighbours.

Don’t wish to feel safe in your own home – gated communities with proper security, what’s that?

Don’t wish for elevators.

Don’t wish to see the stars at night.

Don’t wish to see beautiful sunsets (or sunrises).

Don’t wish for cool evening breeze to get lost in. It’s either hot loo or dust storms.

Don’t think of not switching on the AC 24*7 during summers (April – October).

Don’t think of not running the air purifiers and heaters during winter (November – March).

Don’t go out to parks (pollution and/or monkeys and/or dogs).

Don’t ride your bicycle. Ever. (The AQI is never good enough to ride outdoors).

Don’t go out at all during the months that constitute “Airpocalypse” (October – February).

What’s next? Don’t breathe??!!

Welcome to Life in Delhi – life in a dusty little cage.

Books of 2019 – Circe, Tears of the Giraffe, Morality for Beautiful Girls and a note on Audiobooks

4. Circe by Madeline Miller – 2.5/5

I really wanted to like this book.

It did not help that this book has been hyped quite a bit, and I read many a “Don’t overthink this. Just buy this book NOW.” kind of reviews, which meant I had a certain level of expectation from it.

For me, a 3 means “It’s okay, I liked it”. A 4 is “I loved it and I recommend it.” A 5 means “I loved it and would recommend it to errrrrbody”.

I cannot honestly say I liked this book. I simply did not.

First of all, although the story “moves” it was not gripping at all. I am not one who needs major twists and turns to keep things interesting (my favourite books are the Anne books and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where nothing much really happens plot wise, but it’s all the other wonderful-ness that the author spins around mundane everyday things of life).

But this book just didn’t grab my attention. I kept struggling. I even chucked my 100 page rule (I will abandon a book if it does not interest me even 100 pages into it – life is too short to read things you don’t like). I persevered. But it only got slightly interesting in the last 80 pages or so. I thought that since the author had excellent source material to work with, she might have been able to add more flair and thought to it, but I found that severely lacking. It was a re-telling, yes, and the author was successful in demonstrating a different perspective, but it hasn’t been executed with depth.

The writing felt disjointed at many places. I struggled to gauge why it’s such a bestseller.

This has happened to me in the past with hyped books and it has happened with this book.

5. Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith – 4/5

6. Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith – 4/5

These are the second and third books in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series – and I admit I’m a bit addicted to them.

The best thing about these books is the interesting observations on the human condition with a sense of (dry but gentle) humour. Nothing too disturbing or shocking happens (there are some dark themes which are explored, but they have been explored with a mature, optimistic hand).

I love the notes on moral dilemmas and the liberty that the author takes with philosophising (and also knowing when to drop it and get on with the plot).

Again, the sub-plots were not anything out of the world, they were very predictable in fact. However, it’s such a pleasure to read these books, and lose yourself in this world.

I have already ordered the next two books in this series and have also got my hands on the first book in the Isabel Dalhousie series by the same author.

I tried to start The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford (I have a giant omnibus with all of her major works), but couldn’t get into it. Now thinking of starting Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal which is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan – sounds fun and interesting.

I am also listening to an audiobook version of Pride and Prejudice and find it to be perfectly acceptable background noise while working. Audiobook versions of books I’ve already read would only work for this purpose though, because I don’t pay 100% attention while working (obviously). Since I’d already read it, I knew not to panic when I found Jane going from dancing with Mr. Bingley at one moment to being sick and bed-ridden, while Eliza is “taking turns about the room” with Bingley’s sister a couple of hours later.

Separately, I’m also not counting audiobooks in my “books READ” list. Although they are simply different ways of consuming the same content, they are fundamentally different when it comes to experience. Reading is an active pursuit, i.e. your brain needs to be fully engaged. You can’t really “zone out” and “keep reading” at the same time. Your brain is actively creating images for you. When I’m reading, I can vividly “see” what’s happening in the story. I have a full set developed in my head, and I really see the characters going through their stories, and feel with them. It’s an active form of engagement. Listening to audiobooks is akin to watching television. A lot of the imagining is done for you. Audiobook narrators often bring in a lot of “character” with them. It’s a passive form of engagement.

Both have their own place for me.

EAB and EAB Adjace Updates

It seems whatever workout streaming website I join ends up with a “platform update hiatus” and the minute I leave it (after months of waiting for said update to come to its conclusion), it’s all up and running. *insert WTH face*

I have been a Physique57 devotee for a long time (think years), but in 2018 – mid 2019, there were too many promises of regular new classes, and subsequent lack of the same. So I got fed up, and left. I had a special monthly price which I’d snagged during 2018 Black Friday Sale. But I hadn’t used the platform in weeks because (a) the workouts got my IT Bands tight that needed regular foam rolling and LOTS of stretch time (I still loved them because they are very effective, sigh!) and (b) lack of new content.

I cancelled my Physique57 subscription during August 2019 by which time I’d signed up for Dancebody Online (dance cardio based workout) (which also I LOVE and is something I can see myself becoming a devotee of). HOWEVER, now in October 2019, we learn that Dancebody Online platform is undergoing some updates and will be back to regular updates sometime later in “the winter”. Separately, Physique57’s online platform has been getting regular new content every week!!! Arrrghhh. Talk about frustrating.

Separately, EAB (Exercise Accountability Buddy program) has gone for a toss. In that, we are still EABs, but have both been rather slack about our exercise which (along with consumption of copious quantities of buttery baked goods & creme brulee in France followed by “Diwali Diet”) has led to the regain of the weight that had been lost in July & August – the peak of our EAB success.

TCG and I are hoping to be back in top gear, exercise wise, by November.

Diwali

It was Diwali yesterday.

Since 2016, we have been escaping Delhi and running off to Goa for the 4-5 days around Diwali when Delhi is particularly enveloped in smog. It’s not a pretty (or comfortable) sight at all. Every year we’ve gone to Goa, and we’ve gone to Pousada by the Beach in Candolim.

Y and I LOVE being at Pousada. The food of course is lovely, but what is truly the reason that keeps pulling us back there is the atmosphere and the lovely owners who run the restaurant themselves. They are very chilled out people, they even have a few sunbeds laid out (under shade, because hello this is India and the sun is harsh here). I have memories of having taken blissful afternoon naps there, ha! At this point, Pousada genuinely feels like a home away from home.

But this year, I didn’t want to go on a vacation so soon after our return from France. It was a 2 week break after all, and I have some important projects to get on with at work!! It takes me at least a week to get back into the swing of work things after a long holiday, so I didn’t want to go off just when I had my momentum back (sadly this time it’s taken TWO weeks, and I’m just now getting back in to the thick of things) (my fellow self employed creative type people will understand).

Deep inside, I was also a little enthusiastic about lighting up diyas at home, and doing a #GharWaliDiwali after a long time. I love traditions (fun, non-imposing, and voluntary ones only please which I CHOOSE to do – just clarifying) and I have happy memories of Diwali day from our childhood* and also from my early years in Delhi. The first couple of years here when I was living in Safdarjung Enclave, I’d go to BA’s house for Diwali. We’d do rangoli at her place, light diyas, take photos (very important), eat a ton of yummy food and watch TV. It was fab.

I realised Y & I hadn’t really started our own homey home Diwali tradition, and I wanted to do it! Goa & Pousada were our Diwali traditions – I knew this intellectually but not emotionally – until yesterday.

We were going about our day doing regular things at home, when I really felt like we should be sitting at Pousada at this very instant! Well, that’s how traditions are formed, and you only realise something is truly an emotionally linked tradition when you don’t do it.

Not to say I wasn’t glad to be home – I was. We lit up the fairy lights on the bookshelf and created a cosy atmosphere. I’ve always wanted to string up fairy lights on bookshelves and have a cosy couch around where I’d curl up and read a book while sipping on a hot drink – and I did exactly this yesterday. It was everything I’d made it up to be in my head 🙂

I even got some genda phool from a local vendor (mainly because I wanted to give some business to said local vendor) and made a small – calling it an “arrangement” would be a stretch, so lets call it a – floral border for the diya, and of course we lit that diya up on the exterior. We didn’t have too many diyas at hand (I thought we did, but turns out I had given them all away at some point in the past), so we didn’t put diyas in the balcony – but no stress. It was still nice & cosy and perfectly Diwali-esque. We watched** SRK on David Letterman followed by IIFA awards. Classic.

Another touch was that I was bothered to make a little Diwali card of our own this year!

I was also relieved to note that people didn’t burst as many crackers as the previous year. This was confirmed by my help who said the same thing this morning.

AQI in our area is only in the “Very Unhealthy” range this morning, and not “Hazardous” as it had been the past few years. Now, lets pray to the rain gods for a nice wash down to clean up this mess and we’re sorted!

* This is how we’ve always celebrated festivals at home. Growing up, my mom was a full time working mom with a very busy job and didn’t have time to adhere to crazy levels of traditions. I’m very glad about that. But she always made time to facilitate small but wonderful things around festivals – like eating chandua up on the terrace while hiding from the moon on Kumar Purnima, lighting diyas on our balcony on Diwali (my sister and I did this, with me doing the grubbiest of jobs being the, ahem, younger sibling), worshipping our pens & writing Om with them on Saraswati Puja (and then not studying the whole day, ha! All my fellow odias will remember this as the best festival ever), and so on.

** “Watched” is a bit of a stretch because Y was mostly on his phone and I was reading. We did look up every once in a while when Ayushman & his brother cracked a good zoke.

Diwali 2019

A Normal Member of Society…

…would follow the normal calendar of the society they’re living in.

But this rarely happens if you have an online business which does not cater to your “immediate real life society”. And also when you work for yourself, and by yourself.

Diwali office party? What’s that?

4 day break for Diwali? “Diwali holidays are coming up!” *insert blank face*

I can, however, find myself getting excited for Christmas, and I also feel like taking a general break in August because everything slows down during those times of the year. Yes, yes, my business cycle is synced with the western world, and I’m starting to feel the effects of it in a very real way. This is my fourth year in this line of work and finally I can see a pattern emerging.

But, here in Delhi, people don’t really take breaks in August – its monsoon!

And Diwali is a time when things slow down in Delhi, but for me, this is pretty much go go go time because it’s right before Black Friday Sale & Christmas!

I’ve been caught in this conflict of go-go-go and naah-it’s-Diwali! all of this week, and now I’m just waiting for everyone to go back to their workplace once “Diwali break” is over so we can all focus on our work in peace!

Books of 2019 – The Zoya Factor, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, The Parisian

Continuing with my Books for 2019 list which I only started in the last week of September, I’m here to make a couple of additions.

I’ve been reading instead of streaming shows in the evening. It’s more relaxing and helps me fall asleep easier. Also, just as entertaining (provided it’s the right book!!).

2. The Zoya factor by Anuja Chauhan – 2/5

I could not get into this book. But I finished reading it.

Why did I pick it up in the first place?

Well, I enjoyed the movie. It was cute and I love happy & sappy romances, and this movie had all of that going on! The kindle version of the book was available for free, so I downloaded it.

I might have liked it if I didn’t already know the major plot points, because the story is quite novel. Apart from that, this book does not do well in my books (hahahha). The language is atrocious and I want to gently shake the editor’s shoulders for missing even basic line editing points (there are many spelling errors, grammatical errors, words that are used incorrectly, etc.); there are numerous “facts” about Cricket which are atrociously wrong (one would expect the author to undertake a basic fact check while she’s spinning her yarn! And at the very least for the publisher to do it if the author hasn’t!); and I really don’t like slang Hinglish in books (which brings us back to language).

It gets 2 (and not 1) only because it’s gripping and for the novel plot, but not much else, really! It is light hearted and entertaining in many ways, so there’s that. Well, I did finish it, and didn’t abandon as I usually do with books I don’t like.

3. The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith – 4/5

This was a nice, soothing, comforting read. It’s quite gripping and entertaining even though there aren’t too many major or unexpected twists and turns.

It introduces the main characters in the series, and there are some simple (and cute) (and very predictable) mysteries that are solved. But I enjoyed it, and plan to keep reading this series because I love this author’s style and his little observations and nuggets of wisdom peppered through out the book.

I docked one point for how simple the mysteries were; and how everyone conveniently did what Mma Ramotswe would want them to – needs some amount of suspension of disbelief.

I have procured the next two books in this series, and the first one in the Isabel Dalhousie series by the same author. Excited about those!

The Parisian by Isabella Hamad 

I started this book and really wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t get into it! It has not been engaging at all. Since I’ve abandoned this book, I haven’t numbered it. May be I’ll get back to it at a later point in life.

Currently reading Circe by Madeline Miller , and finding it quite dull really. Hope it picks up soon!!

Turning 30, Coworking Spaces & Coffee Shop Working, Chai Tea Latte & Diwali Vibes

Hello dear blog (and non existent Blog Readers, except me from the future), Hi!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update here.

Well, for starters, we had a lovely trip to France in the first two weeks of October. I turned 30 in Paris! It sounds very old when I put it down in writing, but I assure you that in my head, I am still 15. Yes, may be I feel I’m a bit wiser now, may be I know better how to read people, may be I feel that age is just a social construct, and AGEING IS A PRIVILEGE, but my way of thinking hasn’t really changed much. And I’m very glad about that.

I have been meaning to do a proper France recap post(s) with photos etc. for memory keeping, but just haven’t gotten around to it, because, well, life and laziness (mostly laziness).

It will happen soon though.

In other news, I have been consumed by coworking space hunting in Delhi for the last few weeks. I have been madly researching (online), and also visiting a few of the well known coworking spaces which are close-ish to Vasant Kunj. However, this process has been most frustrating. Nothing ticks all my boxes (literally – have got a checklist on Evernote), and leaves out some basic needs. For example, Wework’s Hotdesking area did not have ergonomic seating, and their Dedicated Desk room was dead silent, and I mean DEAD silent. Pin drop silent. I could hear my laptop going down with a loud thud when I simply (and very, very carefully) placed it on the table. That is NOT the vibe I’m looking for! Another place (Goworkin in Green Park) had a good vibe, but the toilet was horrendous. Read public loo levels of horrendous. Innov8 Saket was quite poorly designed, in that the space was very linear, and felt quite cramped.

Basically, nothing has worked out in the Coworking department. After a couple of weeks of this rubbish, I got fed up and went to a cafe to get some actual work done – and I did. I love working out of coffee shops! So I have decided that for now I will stick to coffee shop working.

You might ask, why did I simply not continue to do that? Well, the reason is that coffee shops don’t have mail & package handling so it has been quite stressful being at cafes while also expecting couriers. But from now on, I might have some of my mail delivered at Y’s office. The other thing is that coffee shops don’t have internet, or even if they do, it’s quite abysmal for my needs (I regularly upload and download 300 – 400 mb large files for work). But, I can continue with my workaround for that, that is, I just do the uploading & downloading of things from my home office. Requires me to be more organised but this is not really a pain. And I love the vibe at coffee shops.

SO, coffee shops it is for now.

On that note, today I went back to my favourite cafe working spot – Starbucks Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj. I loveee this place. The chairs are super ergonomic for my body (I actually find the setup there more comfy than that at my office), the vibe & atmosphere is just right, the AC level is perfect. Today I tried my first ever Chai Tea Latte. LOL. It reminded me of the pre-mixed tea that you get on Indigo flights and at movie halls. A lighter & sweeter version of that really.

Diwali is on 27th October (just 3 days away!), and the festive vibe is in the air! For starters, Starbucks did not have nearly as many “working” type people as usual.

Also, we have been attending fun diwali parties at friends’ houses. Delhi people celebrate Diwali by hosting and attending Taash Parties. You mostly play a betting game called Teen Patti, which is mostly a game of luck & bluffing skills. It’s quite fun once you get the hang of it. I still don’t remember the order of hands (I have a handy guide on my phone), but I have figured out which type of hand is likely to get you how far in which variation. For example, in a variation like 1947 Love Story (where all 1’s, 9’s, 4’s, 7’s and hearts are jokers) it’s a waste to keep playing unless you have an Ace Trail). I’m getting better at things like this. But of course, this also depends on the kind of people you play with, and you have to mark how they play.

I had been wanting to do a Diwali Party at home this year but we aren’t going to because of an annoying case of seepage attack in the bathroom and kitchen!!! It’s the same outer wall which gets seepage-ed out every alternate year. Quite a pain to deal with!

Any way, we have another Diwali Party tomorrow and then nothing until Diwali day itself. I’m thinking of making a small but cute Rangoli this year, since we are actually here!

I love simple family traditions and want to do our own! For example, when I was living in Safdarjung Enclave Extension, I used to visit BA (my aunt) for Diwali and we’d make rangoli at her house, light diyas and of course stuff our faces with food & sweets! Back at home, my sister and I always placed and lit diyas on our balcony railings and at our entrance of course. I want to do similar things here! Y is most unenthusiastic about things like this so it’s going to be a challenge to get him to participate.

I am also getting super excited about Christmas. Already. It’s just October!!! I LOVE all things Christmas. I keep saving recipes of Hot Chocolate. I have stocked up on two Christmas books this year and keep eyeing all the new holiday reads coming out! But I really must not buy any more books until I finish the ones in my TBR pile. I’m currently on Circe, and it’s strictly OK so far. I’ve contemplated ditching it once or twice, but I keep hoping that it’ll get better! Let’s hope it does, otherwise it’s getting a 2.5/5 from me (yes I’ve started rating books, next post will clarify)!

Books of 2019 – Man at The Helm

Should I keep a count and rating of all books read?

May be I will start now for 2019, and keep updating this list as I go.

I thought about actually using my Goodreads account, but that felt too “social” and also may be a bit competitive. It would sure feel great to have a visual representation of all the books read in a particular year – what with the lovely pictures they assemble of all the book covers. It’s also a good resource for digging out reviews and making a decision on whether I want to read something or not (though I’ve realised my opinions are most aligned with British readers, so I read reviews over at amazon.co.uk before making book purchase decisions).

The cons of Goodreads, apart from the social aspect is that I don’t know how long Goodreads will last as a platform. My blog is here to stay and it’s much easier to access, search and find what I thought about something if it’s documented here.

And honestly I can’t be bothered to write my thoughts down on multiple platforms. Mainly because I’m doing this for my own record (of my thoughts) and not as a way to keep any kind of score.

Also, have you noticed how Kindle books are pretty much the same price as paperbacks  – and sometimes more expensive than paperbacks – these days? I read it’s due to the Agency model, where the publisher determines the price of e-books. With paperbacks, the publisher sells them to the retailer at wholesale prices, and then the retailer determines the final price. Due to this, the retailer is able to offer steep discounts on paperbacks, whereas Kindle books remain at their usual pricing (which is not cut throat, as publishers do not wish to push kindle books over paperbacks).

Now, my dilemma is whether to purchase kindle books or paperbacks for books that I’m not likely to re-read (which is 99% of books). I was all for kindle books for such reads because they were much cheaper (and that also offsets the cost of the Kindle device). But, when prices are the same (or similar, within Rs.100 of each other), I instinctively feel like purchasing the paperback, because I can keep the book in my shelf, share it, and generally the book becomes a collectible. Separately, I quite like the tactical aspect of holding a paperback, it’s smell, and the ability to flip through it quickly.

Paperbacks also means more space for books, but also that your books are safe from an event where the kindle become obsolete.

Decisions, decisions!

For now, let’s start with the book that I just finished (numbering and will continue to number in future posts).

1. Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe – 3.5/5

 It’s marketed as a comedy, but for the most part, I don’t understand why.

What kind of a person would consider the plight of three little children stuck with their toxic narcissistic mother, desperately trying to find ways to make her happy and get a “new man at the helm” (after their parents’ divorce), because British society of the 1970s tended to ostracise divorcee (women) FUNNY? The book is written from the perspective of young Lizzie Vogel (Nina Stibbe is said to have channeled her own childhood in this autobiographical novel).

I sincerely have more to say about the people who have reviewed this book and said they laughed out loud multiple times, than I do about the book.

My explanation for this misrepresentation is that Nina’s first book (Love, Nina) was actually very funny and humorous, and Nina was hailed as a comic writer. Her publisher might have wanted to continue pitching her work as being in the humour category, and hence put together a bunch of quotes from other eminent authors saying things like this book is “comedy gold”.

This book deals with a heartbreaking subject in a light and airy way. Light and airy not in an insulting way, but because it’s written from the perspective of a child who did not really fully understand why things were the way they were, what she deserves as a child, and how she’s been robbed of that. I loved that Nina maintained her voice and did not “enter” as an adult in the narrative.

While reading this book, I felt very fortunate to have had a fairly normal upbringing. It also threw light on the utterly unfair and bigoted treatment of divorcees (women only) in 1970’s rural England.

What warms your heart up in the book is the resourcefulness and solution oriented-ness of the children. And of course the story itself is warm and uplifting.

I liked that this book dealt with a serious and depressing subject in a way that was not gloomy or bleak. It was full of optimism, something that only a child’s perspective can lend.

This is why I like Nina Stibbe’s work. She deals with everyday things with a light hand, but without losing its depth, but also not be preying on the vulnerabilities of the reader with the intention of producing a tear jerker (which sadly many bestselling books are).

I finished this book in about 4 days (I only read in the evenings after work) which means it was quite addictive once it got going. I’d recommend it to others but please don’t expect a to laugh out loud too much (and if you do, don’t tell me), the way your would in Love, Nina. Overall, it’s a lovely book which eventually warms your soul in a comforting way, and leaving you wanting to laugh a little and cry at the same time.

Next in this line of books is Paradise Lodge, but I think I’ll read some other things before that (considering how many unread books are lying in my shelves!).

Updates on EAB Program, Dancebody, Shoe Peace (?!), and Vacay

A few weeks back (a month and 5 days back to be precise), I had announced a lovely little plan that TCG and I had undertaken. We have voluntarily become each other’s Exercise Accountability Buddy, which means we each exercise and motivate the other to do the same by checking in with each other every time we complete a workout.

It’s been 6 full weeks of this EAB program, and I’m happy to report that it is going rather well (and hope I haven’t jinxed it with this declaration). We have managed to work out 4 times per week on average, and we consider it a big step forward considering we hadn’t been consistently this active in the past few months (YEARS). I’ve had spates of a few weeks, usually about 3-4, when I get super active, and the enthusiasm fizzles down. It’s no show for 3-4 months, and then a month of intensity. I wanted to stick to a change which becomes a much sought after “lifestyle change”. So far so good!

6 weeks back I signed up for this AMAZING dance cardio workout program called Dancebody (online streaming). 2 Signature classes in, I felt that this is basically what I’ve been looking for for AGES. It’s got variety, great music, is actually challenging and not repetitive (unlike most dance cardio videos out there), and gets fresh content every month. I have been a pretty long time subscriber of Les Mills on Demand and Physique57 but they were just not cutting it for me. They weren’t “the perfect fit”. I’ve had spates of being obsessed with both, but I guess I just tired of their format after a while.

Coming back to Dancebody, I love it! If you love dancing and high energy cardio, you have to try it. It’s FUN and challenging. The perfect combo, right?!

I did however come across a small stumbling block in my indoctrination as Dancebody Fanatic.

Shoes.

Dancebody’s dance cardio sessions involve a LOT of bouncing around and plyometrics. You need highly cushioned shoes (the kind that runners wear) for it to be a comfortable workout that doesn’t wreck your knees/ leg muscles.

The instructors all swear by Asics (Gel Nimbus especially), so like a good devotee, I too tried out Asics. However, after a couple of sessions in the Asics Gel Cumulus and half a session in Gel Nimbus, I felt like my toes were being punished for a crime they committed in a past life. It did NOT feel good. No no no no no.

I returned the Gel Nimbus (they were from Amazon) (Amazon, I LOVE you and your free 30 day return policy). I was still stuck with the Gel Cumulus because I’d bought them from an actual store (rookie mistake). From then on ensued a 4 week process of obsessively researching highly cushioned running shoes, ordering them online, trying them on for a Dancebody Signature session (you really don’t know if a pair will work until you DANCE Dancebody style in them), returning them broken hearted and looking for more.

In the meanwhile, I got the Gel Cumulus to work for Sculpt sessions and also for shorter Signature classes. The problem with these was that the toebox in the left shoe was too tight, and my little toe would be hurting like CRAZY by the end of a class. To get that shoe to “open up” a bit, I followed this Youtube video by a nice teenage kid who showed how to use socks and heat from a hair dryer to achieve this result. I’m happy to report that that method worked and now my Gel Cumulus is comfortable during Sculpts and not too bad during full Signatures!

However, through all of this, my search for a GOOD shoe FOR MY FEET continued. I tried a couple of models and sizes in Asics, Saucony (two styles including the famed Triumph ISO), Puma, I even gave Power Mello Shoes a try (too unstable to do anything but walk in). I even tried a men’s shoe in Saucony for its width, but sadly it was not to be. Finally, I ordered Brooks Glycerin 16 which was available in my size on Amazon. These shoes do not stifle my toes, they have tons of cushiony cushoin (much like the Gel Nimbus), and are soft overall and are much better suited for lateral movement than the Gel Cumulus, which quite frankly feels really stiff in comparison.

So, yes, Brooks Glycerin are perfect for my Dancebody Signature classes!

Are Brooks Glycerin my holy grail Dancebody shoes?

Yes and no.

Yes because they are perfect for me! They fit my feet well, and have the cushion I need. No because I want to leave room in there for EVEN MORE CUSHION (yes, I am aware of Hoka One One, and really badly want to try the Bondi – sadly they are not available in India yet).

Will I stop trying out shoes and researching them?

Nope! Shoe research is kind of addictive, and now I really want to try Hoka One One Bondi. I also want to try out New Balance 1080v9 just for fun. I don’t actually think New Balance will be better than Brooks, but WHO KNOWS?!

Separately, I am going on vacation next week! This is a small trip to Bhubu to chill with my family back home. I’m trying to do this thing this year that I take some time off every second month. Breaks and recharging my batteries is essential for my creativity, but I never end up taking PLANNED breaks frequently enough. I read interviews by many artists who swear by taking frequent breaks away from their studio to come back refreshed.

Although, as of now, it’s also causing a bit of extra stress because as you might have experienced yourself, the week or the couple of weeks leading up to a break are quite jam packed and stressful because you’re desperately trying to meet a firm deadline. Also, I take about 2-3 days after a break to get back into the flow of things at work, so the week after a break also ends up being a bit stressful on account of lack of productivity (which makes me think, am I really benefiting from frequent breaks?). Though that’s also mostly on account of not having a firm plan on tasks to be done that first week back. Any way, we’ll see. This time I’ve prepared a firm list of tasks to be accomplished the minute I’m back in the studio/office, so that should help.

I’m also carrying another Maud Montgomery book with me for this trip – Pat of Silver Bush. Excited!!! I prevented myself from reading it in the past few weeks because I was saving it as a treat for vacay!

Will report back soon!

p.s.: Delhi has been DELIGHTFUL. The skies are gorgeously blue with puffy white clouds, tree tops sparkly clean & green, and evenings are nice and breezy up on the terrace. Is it humid? Yes. But I LOVE this version of Delhi weather, and will take the humidity any day for the lovely temps and clear air the rains bring!! Please can it stay this way?

Clean blue Delhi skies with puffy clouds. L from an Uber, R from my office window. NO FILTER!

Books of Late – E. M. Delafield, L. M. Montgomery, Cal Newport

I’m on a bit of a blogging roll here, and I want to keep up with the momentum (while it lasts).

I’ve been meaning to document a few of my recent leisure reads but each time I’d get to the appropriate “books read” part of a round up blog post, I was already too tired of writing, and would promise a future installment.

Also, these are books that have made some impression on me, and I want to remember them, so it makes sense to blog about them. I normally abandon books if they don’t grasp my interest by page 100.

Jane of Lantern Hill, Chronicles of Avonlea, Diary of a Provincial Lady
Jane of Lantern Hill, Chronicles of Avonlea and The Diary of a Provincial Lady (the framed postcard says “Travel is cheaper than therapy” (from an indie art store in Sri Lanka)

I so badly wanted to fall in raving, mad love with The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield. It sounded like something I would be thoroughly entertained by. I highly enjoy reading books set in this Edwardian-Victorian era. Also, I stumbled upon this book while looking up books that people who liked Nina Stibbe’s Love Nina: Despatches From Family Life would like. And I LOVED Love Nina. Had to read it in a single sitting with breaks for meals and sleep.

The subject matter of Provincial Lady is intriguing, and I feel it is enlightening in many aspects, but in terms of comic value, it simply has not delivered yet (which it has promised!! otherwise I would not expect it as a matter of right). The husband seems to be too mean a character to be found funny, and the provincial lady herself seems quite petty. Also, there is some dialogue in French with no English translation footnotes, which are hard to keep track of. I am halfway through the first book. I really want to like it, if not love it; and I’ll certainly persevere. BUT, persevere is really not a world I want to use while talking about leisure reads. They are supposed to be delightful escapes (hopefully dotted with insightful thoughts and HUMOUR, lots of humour).

Provincial Lady is now my 10 minute filler read for whenever I don’t have enough time to dive in, but want to be lightly entertained for a bit.

Now, coming to the two L. M. Montgomery books. I carried these two to Maldives with me, and my my, it was the perfect reading experience. Away on a secluded island, surrounded by heart-achingly beautiful nature, it was the perfect place to experience Maud’s descriptive deep dives. I loved Jane of Lantern Hill. It was a super quick, entertaining, engrossing and thoroughly enjoyable read which uplifts and soothes your soul. You feel for the poor lead character, starved of emotional connection, an underestimated and neglected soul. As with all of Maud’s work, it paints glorious pictures of her beloved Prince Edward Island, and takes her heroine through many adventures which you wish you had as a kid. It made me want to rewind my childhood and go live on a farm somewhere. It also made me want to always have a lovely table cloth and fresh cut flowers on my dining table. You’ll want to too, when you read the book!

Chronicles of Avonlea is a collection of short stories by L. M. Montgomery. Many of the stories feature Anne as a side character. Not as unputdownable as Maud’s novels, but still highly entertaining. They are all pretty much about similar themes, but with their own little subtle nuances. I’ve never been one to read short stories, but I thoroughly enjoyed this compilation. It also felt special to read this particular copy as it was printed before I was even born (bought it second (or whatever) hand on Amazon).

I keep reading educational, interesting non-fiction and spiritual material almost always. One non-fiction book which I recently read (on my Kindle, and hence no picture) and found valuable was Deep Work by Cal Newport. If you’re finding it hard to focus, it’s a good book to get ideas on techniques for getting that focus back into your work life. The method of working prescribed by Cal is my natural way of doing things. But, it’s always interesting to read another person’s take on “how to do life” (and work!!). The most interesting parts of the book were about case studies and anecdotes about how other people use this sort of principle to order their work life. Loved it and it was a good stimulus to think about my own routines and habits (current and over the years)