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)

“Perfect Happiness” and Imperfect Peace

A couple of hours ago I had finished reading Liz Rosenberg’s biography of the beloved L.M. Montgomery, titled “House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery. I finished it in pretty much a single sitting. Monday saw me deep dive into all things Prince Edward Island. Tuesday, I read (and re-read) numerous articles on Maud, and ordered this book on Amazon. Wednesday the book arrives. It’s Thursday afternoon now.

The last line in the book is a poignant sentence from her once private (now widely published and read (with her consent)) journals:

Perfect happiness I have never had – never will have… yet there have been, after all, many wonderful and exquisite hours in my life.”

Through out the biography, I kept wondering what it was that made Maud the way she was. The way she lived in two extremes – in her own mind. Why couldn’t she focus more on the splendid things in her life? Why did she find herself fixating on things that were beyond her control? Why did she never grow out of the anxiety caused by the pressure of living under a constant doom of “what will people think?” which was ingrained in her early childhood? Why did she not have much emotional growth personally?

Maud had faced early loss and abandonment in her life. She felt socially and emotionally stunted in her early years (until the age of 15 or so). However, she still had all of the material comforts any child of that time could have needed. She also went on to have a lovely sprint as a student, and then a teacher. She kept meeting with stiff resistance from her patriarchal grandfather, but she had some silent support from her grandmother. A lot of her decisions have baffled me, though. And I was also surprised to find so much focus on things she lacked – even when she did not really lack much. Through out each stage of her life, she had at least one close confidante and supporter, and often more. She was surrounded by friends and cousins. She had an active social life. She was fairly rewarded for her early short story writing career. She received instant success with her novels. When her grandmother died, she was a financially independent woman – something which was rare and unheard of in rural Canada of that time. She had many, MANY good things going for her.

It is also possible that just like her heroines, she romanticised pain and suffering. That could be one potential explanation for her fixation on melancholy. She also romanticised the idea of loss. Even though she promised to be a “messenger of optimism and sunshine” (which most certainly has been) to her audience, it seems she was not able to converse to her own self in that same vein. She also found the most depressing things to manically obsesses about – like the two World Wars. Of course, through all of this, she managed to escape into her literary worlds and spun tales of effortless joy and hope for her audience. But, dear Maud, why didn’t you create such worlds in your own daily life? Why didn’t you use your imagination create a sense of loveliness in your own actual life?

This biography has left me with more questions than answers. I must read her actual journals, and try to see if I can make any sense of it. Of course, I am fully prepared to not receive answers to my questions even then.

Just as I thought it was a good time to take a break from Maud (now that this book had come to an end), I watched a bit of Masterchef Australia over lunch. Then, I indulged in 10 minutes of Instagram scrolling, where I came across this news headline:

Saravana Bhawan founder Rajagopal, facing life term for murder, dies.” – 18th July 2019

Really? I know nothing about this person. But, I imagined the founder of a wildly successful food chain to have some peace in his life. And peaceful people don’t kill other people.

It seems like the Universe is sending a definite messages across.

Fame & fortune and happiness & peace are two different things. They are not mutually exclusive, but the former does not guarantee the latter.

Wholesome, Eternal Quotes

I was doing a little Facebook “clean up” involving tweaking privacy settings on a few things.*

The “quotes” sections on my profile caught my eye:

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”– Albert Einstein


“If you bake a bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.”– Kahlil Gibran (in The Prophet) (On ‘Labour with love”) 


“The wisdom which a wise man tries to communicate always sounds foolish.”– Hermann Hesse (in Siddhartha)

Carefully selected and reproduced years ago (at least 12 years back, when I joined Facebook) I am very happy to report that these are words that I continue to abide by.

There are many new dimensions to my beliefs, which have slowly crystallized over the the past decade. I might update this quotes section with some of those. In fact, I just went ahead and updated it with the quote which appears in the header of this blog:

I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” – Lucy Maud Montgomery

* – Last year I had changed my date of birth settings to be completely private. The bittersweet consequences of this little act of rebellion will need a post by itself. With my learnings from last year, and with the knowledge of the surprising (to me) fragility of my heart, this year I have changed the setting so as to hide the year of birth, but still show the date and month to Facebook “friends”.

Mangoes: The Measure of a Summer Well Spent

Since May, BO has come across numerous lists on fast internet publications titled “Summer Bucketlist”, “Things to do this Summer”, “Summer To Do List”, “Plan Fun Activities for this Summer” and the like. They were mostly written by and geared towards people living in cooler countries where Summers are the only time when the sun shines down, and it’s warm enough to go out to the park. BO lives in a hot, sticky, tropical country. People here wait for the winters (well, not BO on account of feeling grossly inadequate in body heat generation capabilities and being constantly cold in the winters). Summers are for being indoors, doors shut, air conditioning on. And for one more very special thing. MANGOES.

BO measures the success of any summer by the metric of how many types of mangoes she got to enjoy. Listing here are the current favourites (and ones that have been well enjoyed this season).

Alphonso Mango – The perfect mango for Milkshakes & Aam Ras

Alphonso mango is the mango that first comes to the shops in Delhi. You can find it at fancy places like Foodhall and this year BO’s online vegetable vendor (Everything Organik) carried lots of lovely fresh and organic Alphonso mangoes.

BO LOVES alphonso mangoes in the form of aam ras (with a bit of milk), and in milkshakes. To say an alphonso mango milkshake is DIVINE is an understatement. Thick, creamy, fragrant, and refreshing at the same time. PERFECT.

Unfortunately Alphonso mangoes cost quite the bomb, and there’s only so much milkshake one can have before it starts showing on the, ahem, weighing scale.

During early May, many Alphonso milkshakes were had, and thoroughly enjoyed. Total success.

Safeda Mango – The Perfectly Delicious Filler Mango

BO considers the Safeda as the “filler mango”. It’s nothing great by itself, but it’s a great mango to stay your mango-hungry stomach while awaiting the arrival of Dussheri. Safeda mango comes in pretty much with Alphonso, but once you’re done with your Alphonso phase, you can swiftly fly by a couple of weeks with Safeda. BO enjoys these cut up into pieces. They don’t have quite carry that oomph that a milkshake mango needs (like the Alphonso), and milkshakes with Safeda don’t quite turn out as thick, creamy or fragrant. Cut up, perfectly acceptable & yummy. And hey, they’re still lightyears better than cut up apples (yurgh).

Amrapali Mango – A sweet little gem of a Mango

One of the little known mangoes, but a lovely, fragrant and unique variety. BO loves the perfect size of Amrapali mangoes – big enough to fill you up when eaten as a snack, but also perfectly small enough to be had as a dessert post lunch. The yummy fragrance of Amrapali mangoes, and their non-fibrous juciness makes them perfect for enjoyment as is. You do have to be careful while picking out Amrapali mangoes, and make sure they are ripe enough. They seem underripe for ages and quickly go bad after ripening to perfection. Amrapali mangoes feel a bit like avocados in that they are perfectly perfect for a short window of time. You do have to wait patiently until end of May and June to find fresh & ripe Amrapali mangoes (if at all!). They are quite common in Bhubaneswar, but not to be found easily in Delhi. Y’s late grandmother’s house has a lovely Amrapali mango tree from which bucket loads of Amrapali mangoes were enjoyed a few summers back. Blissful!

Dussheri Mango – The safest & sweetest of them all

The safest mango of them all! Sweet, super juicy, not fibrous, lots of fragrance and flavour. These are probably most Indians’ favourite mangoes. They also stay in a perfect state of ripeness for quite a while, making them easy to store and enjoy. The quintessential June mango.

Langda Mango – Delicate balance of tartness, fragrance and sweetness

Langda mango is Y’s favourite. Of course, anything that has the potential to be tart is Y’s favourite. BO also likes Langda mangoes but only when they are properly ripe and sweet. In that state, they achieve that perfect delicate balance of mango-ey fragrance, sweetness and just a hint of tartness. The tartness ends up lending more strength of the sweet notes in the mango. The only downside of Langda mangoes is that they are a bit fibrous which can get annoying when those strands of fibre get stuck in your teeth. Langdas hit the market in July and are perfect to stay your stomach while you await the delightful….

Chausa Mango – The one which makes it hard to say goodbye to Mangoes

Chausa mangoes are pretty much BO’s favourite mangoes to eat as is, and is totally up there with Alphonso mangoes when it comes to Overall Mango Rankings. They start coming in mid-July, so you have to eagerly anticipate their arrival. Many a trip to the super market is loaded with excitement, in quiet excitement over the arrival of Chausa mangoes. Repeated questions are asked of the fruit-wala, much to his annoyance, about when would Chausa mangoes make landfall in Delhi. Quiet, eager eyes glance through heaps of Safeda, Langda and Dussheri, in search of the elusive Chausa. When they finally arrive, it’s time to stock up!!!! And enjoy them!!! Because these are pretty much the last (and the BEST!!) mangoes each summer. High levels of mango picking skills are not necessary for picking out good Chausa mangoes. 99% of chausas will be lovely, ripe, sweet, fragrant and delicious. Guaranteed.

Speaking of Mango Picking Skills, that is for another post, another time. BO feels that MPS is no less than Wine Tasting Skills. You need to use your senses of sight, smell and touch to properly pick the right mangoes, and once it’s yours, TASTE TASTE TASTE 😀

Update 18th July 2019: Last Sunday (a couple of days after writing this post), I received a little batch of Amrapali mangoes from Y’s mum! Talk about serendipity! Here’s how they look:

Amrapali mango
Amrapali mango

Workout Buddies, Warm Ice Bath, Petrichor

Hello, the non-existent readers of this blog. If you exist, make yourselves known (by leaving a comment).

For some time now, BO has been wanting to get back into the swing of regular workouts. You might remember she had also joined her neighbourhood Zumba classes. That didn’t work out too well because those were in the evening, and evening workouts might have led to some acidity issues. Any way, since then she has done a few morning workouts here and there. But you know how it is? You do something one day, and then that’s about it.

Hopefully, not any more! Beloved TCG (formerly TC (sidenote: we have grown up so much, but internal world still feels the same)), messaged saying she plans to join a gym. BO jumped at the opportunity and proposed being “Exercise Accountability Buddies“. Meaning, the two girls, fine, LADIES, will do their respective workouts and let each other know. They will encourage and prod each other on in the hopes of accomplishing their fitness goals.

BO casually mentioned this EAB plan to Y, who then proceeded to laugh at said plans, and ALSO MESSAGED TCG a scathing review of BO’s former performance as Y’s EAB (when basically neither of them went to the gym, and each convinced the other to promptly go back to sleep instead of the other way round).

With such lack of faith in display, BO got extra pumped to prove Y wrong. As a result, BO and TCG have managed 2 days of back to back morning workouts. Today was a break (unintentional).

Dear reader, also be reminded that this is the Peak of Summer, and as such, the heat is rather painful. Cold water (or NOT HOT water) is impossible to get (except from the refrigerator), and “room temperature” is a HOT 45 degrees celcius. BO found post-workout bathing particularly torturous. What kind of a place is Delhi where you get scalding hot water at 8 am in the summers??? Enter, giant block of ice. B (BO & Y’s domestic help) has been freezing giant blocks of ice in the fridge for cooling things quickly when needed for cooking purposes (mainly for setting dahi). Yesterday morning, BO remembered said ice, and dunked it in the bucket of 8am-hot-as-hell water. Tada! No longer hot water, but acceptable temperature (still not COOL or COLD, but we’ll take it).

As BO writes this post, heavens choose to contradict her and have showered Delhi with a lovely little rainshower. BO happened to be dreaming about petrichor yesterday and how she longs to smell it, and now, here it is!

As for the actual workouts being followed, TCG has been doing zumba until she joins a gym. Turns out, in a classic case of Google Maps Treachery, the gym she had her eyes on is 850m away from her place, and not the Maps version of 250m. Speaking of GMT, it is apt to remind self of the time delightful Google Maps led BO and Y into an actual forest in the middle of Delhi (Rajokri Forest, Google it).

BO, the video exercise enthusiast (she’s been exercising to videos since 2005 and has done it ALL) has recently signed up for Deanne Berry’s new online workout platform – Deanne Berry Bodies. She is one of the thousands who did and loved the original Pump It Up DVD (and erm, also lost a good amount of weight with it). Considering Deanne Berry Bodies Online is a super new platform, there is a good amount of variety already. There are full on dance workouts, aerobics, kickboxing, strength training, stretch. The only slightly strange thing is that the glammed up costumes in the videos is not really necessary. Sure, on the Pump It Up video, the marketing was all flowing from the original Call On Me video’s success, but well, on DBB Online it’s not really needed. BO surely does not want any one walking in while she’s doing these workout, not because of her own super embarrassing moves, but because of what’s on the screen!! BUT the workouts themselves work up quite the sweat, are not super high impact but high intensity, and should be effective if stuck to. BO hopes to update with success story.

And with this, it is now legitimate to create a “Fitness and Workoutlabel and congratulate self on said achievement.