Sunday, 29 November, 2009

Christmas Lights

Last Friday evening Oxford celebrated an evening of Christmas lights. A huge tree was set up in the Broad Street and also some kind of musical performance was happening. Did not get to see because of huge crowd. The a procession of school children and their parents came and they went all the way to the Oxford Castle.

As it is Cornmarket Street always looks like there is a festival going on, what with big crowds and musicians playing lively music. That evening even Broad Street looked very festive and so was nearby Cornmarket Street. It seemed like a fair with balloons and lights and other toys being sold. Thankfully it was not very cold. Some photographs of the evening.


Walks...

Remember I had mentioned that I was walking around in Oxford a bit. Last to last Sunday, since my husband was away the whole day in a conference and the sun was shinning I decided to explore the walking trails. Just behind our house there is the Walton Well Road which leads to a meadow. It is used to walking, excercising dogs and grazing cows and horses.

This meadow leads to several other walking trails. That Sunday I went straight. Next Thursday, my husband and me, we went to explore the Fiddler's Island, which is on the left of the same meadow. Some photographs of my Sunday walk.




Oxford Philomusica

Last Thursday, we went to hear symphony orchestra played by Oxford Philomusica. They were playing in the Sheldonian Theater. Since we had the cheapest tickets, we sat way up at the top. Another day I regret not carrying my camera. Though I was feeling a little dizzy looking all the way down, the seats at the top were amazing. We were able to sit on a snug on the right side (the center snug was the most coveted but I loved the right snug, will tell you why in a little while). Just above us was Sheldonian Theater's  ceiling with an amazing fresco. If you want to read about about the fresco you can do it here. I must say the theater has a lot of atmosphere and sweeps you off your feet.

I am not in any way an expert on western classical music, I go along with my husband because I like listening. But in no way can I  claim to understand it. That evening first Brahms Violin Concerto in D, Op.77 was played. Alissa Margulis was the solo violonist and Marios Papadopoulos the conductor. Since we were sitting on the right, Alissa Margulis played her violin with her face towards us most of the time towards us. I must say initially I was more enthralled to see the utter concentration on her face than the music. Then the music has a way to drawing you in and taking you through its own glory.

After that Brahms Symphony No.4 in E minor, Op.98 was played. I loved the last part which is called Allegro Energico Passionato- Piu Allegro. As an amateur, as I found the music very lively and sweeping. My husband who understands music much better than I do, found it enthralling. Since our tickets were really cheap he thought that it would be students playing. He was thrilled to discover that it was the University of Oxford's residential professional symphony orchestra playing.

Then we discovered that for giving cheap tickets to the students (and their spouses) the events make an approximate loss of 10,000 pounds per concert. That made us feel all the more privileged for being able to listen to the music.

Waving girls...

I was walking down the street, lost in my own thoughts. Suddenly I look up, a double decker bus probably from London, making its way slowly through Oxford, goes  past me. As is my habit I look up on top to see what people are upto there. The upper section of a double decker bus holds immense romance for me. Anyways I see this young girl sitting right at the end. Our eyes meet and she smiles, I was a bit surprised. Then I smile back. Soon the girl starts waving. Again I was surprised. Oh what fun. I wave back too. Soon two more girls materialise and they all start waving. The bus keeps going ahead, so the girls rush to the rear and then when the bus stops and I pass it, they come to the side, waving all the time. I see that some other passers by are also waving at them. There is something infectious about waving and it makes you smile!
I wish I had taken their photograph, they looked lovely waving from up there.

Wednesday, 25 November, 2009

Pretense...

The frail heart tries its best to...

Forget people,
Surpress emotions,
Blur passions,
Smudge incidents,
Or we pretend to at least.

We pretend to live,
Pretend to love,
Pretend to smile,
To act busy,
And to be happy...

I am done with pretending,
Now is the time to live,
To love,
To face,
To fight,
To write...
And be happy!

Travel...

We travel...
Distances, emotions, spaces,
Sometimes we talk,
Sometimes we walk,
Most times we cry,
Sometimes we sit,
Sometimes we run.

But travel we do...
Sometimes to forget,
Sometimes to discover,
Sometimes to heal,
Sometimes to contemplate,
And sometimes to save...


Travel has its fun,
Travel has its weariness,
Travel has its satisfaction,
Travel has its rewards,
Travel has its loss...

But travel we must,
Along life's roads...

Life...

Found this in one of the books I was reading.

We fill the craters left by the bombs
And once again we sing
And once again we sow
Because life never surrenders.

Anonymous Vietnamese poem, picked from Gioconda Belli's 'The Country Under My Skin'.

Tuesday, 24 November, 2009

Oxford Diaries: Oxford Botanical Garden


We have reached the fag end of autumn here but still the colours are awesome. I have been out walking a bit. Discovered a walking meadow behind our house which is beautiful. Also last Sunday went to Oxford Botanical Garden. It is a lovely garden, not very big but just beautiful. Right now still filled with gorgeous autumn leaves.
 
Last weekend was pretty hectic. A friend had come visiting, so we did all touristy things with her like a tour of all the Oxford colleges, visiting some of the old pubs and cafes etc. I haven't posted for quiet sometime so I wanted to just say hi.Enjoy some of the photographs from the botanical garden.





Saturday, 14 November, 2009

sEttLinG dOwN

Almost everyone I talk to now a days ask me whether I have settled down here in the UK. It made me think, what actually is settling down? How do you know that you are settled?
Here is what I did with myself to aid my settling down, week by week...

1st week: Still jet lagged, a little euphoric....it is actually a wonder that we have at all landed up in the UK, considering the visa problems we had. Settle the house, unpack, start filling up cupboards, closets...remember the stuff that was forgotten or could not be bought due to insufficient luggage allowance...cruse the airlines company five times a day..get international calling card....call home....get connected to internet....eat out and plastic spoons, paper plates and ketchup from the take aways start piling up...digest that fact that reaching civilization from our home involves a 20 minute trudge...

2nd week: Stop eating burgers and chips.....cannot have them anymore....yeh Bangali wants bhaat...so go grocery....google maps is the new best friend...go round and round the city center to realize through aching feet that the city center is actually pretty small...it was just that we kept going round in circles....

3rd week: Go laundry adventure...phew dont have the necessary coins...man last time i.e. my first laundry  time in Canada I faced the same problem (then I was smarter, landed up to do laundry without soap, that is another story for another day)...berate myself for not learning from previous experience...excursions to city center continues...internet usage drastically increases...

4th week: New hobby....getting cheap deals in everything...haunt Sainsbury, Primark, M&S and every other store offering 10% student discount...got myself membership in the public library....now have stacks of MBs to read...

5th week: Diwali knocking....homesickness sets in....just want my mummy and my daddy....and want to go home.....nowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.... missing India big, big, big time....

6th week: Bored to my skull....left alone to my own devices...encouraged by husband started tentative job search...

7th week: Start applications, browse job sites....fill up endless forms in these sites...get depressed....eat  eat ice cream...spend inordinately long time on Facebook...get depressed agsin...sulk...get pampered by husband...Halloween comes...do not like dressing up like dracula or whatever...

8th week: Couple of applications I made, came back with rejections...down in dumps...ah my job back home, where are you? my heart bleeds for you...cheer up cousels a mashi who has lived here for 7/8 years...you have to make 50 to 70 applications to get a job...you made how many....gulp two...gulp three...oh ok....so 67 more....straight back to depression...on my way pick up a large bowl of ice cream...

This is what life is...do'nt know whether I am settled...but yes I know it is cheaper to buy vegetables in Covered Market than in Sainsbury...M&S makes great croissant....know the shops on the High Street...going to watch fireworks in November is a badddddd idea...I would do diwali any day...mail comes in cute little Royal Mail trucks...finally discovered a convenient bus to the city center...how to apply for NI no...where the nearest surgery is (doctor's chambers)........

Next month I would be more Oxford wise I guess. Hopefully will get a job and hopefully before long...then one day can counsel whoever comes to UK fresh from desh about the ways and rules...life sure goes on settling and unsettling us :)

Wednesday, 11 November, 2009

Spooky November...

I look outside the window...
The world is shrouded in mist...
All grey and sombre...
A gull flies past,
A flash of brilliant white...
The trees, shillouetted, looks eerie,
The bridge, a little distance away, looks swathed in mystery...
An occasional passerby, huddled in coat, muffler and cap...
Quickly walks by, eager to be home...
No wonder they celebrate spooky Halloween around this time...
Following the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain...

My imagination takes a flying leap...
This is the ideal time...
For Count Dracula to come out of his castle...
Or the Wicked Witch of the West to cast her spell...
Or the Devil to land on earth...
I am sure they are taking advantage of the mist and the grey...
To do their evil deeds...
I shudder from my own thoughts...
I shake my head to clear my silly thoughts...

Nah I tell myself, this  is just how the weather is,
In this Island...
With smaller days,
Less light...
Chilly wind and cold rain...
This is November...
With promises of December...
Of colder days...
Chillier winds...
But December has its own story...
Of Christmas and joy...
It is November which is spooky...
And which I enjoy...

Thursday, 5 November, 2009

I walked in the rain...

Yesterday I walked in the rain...
I walked and walked...
Just when people ran inside shops, hurried back home, stood under shades..
Side walks were filled with people waiting out the rain...
With hoods down, caps and hats on, snuggling a little closer inside their coats...
A couple of umbrellas were bobbing up and down ahead of me...
I walked along...hair flapping in the wind...the rain on my face...
People sitting inside cosy cafes, sipping hot drinks gave me curious looks...
But I loved the walking...
I changed directions, discarded the short cut and walked along a long winding street...
It was so refreshing to be out in the rain with the wind in my face...
To look up and see the dull grey sky....
Birds were huddled against roofs...feathers all ruffled...
The spires looked slippery and rusty...
The brownstone houses looked drenched...
Stone buildings looked unmoved...
Trees were swaying in the wind...
Nodding their heads in a secret rhyme...
A chruch bell tolled far away...
Flags, wet from the rain, looked half mast as if in mourning...
Little puddles of water were everywhere...
Faint wiff of cigarette drifted in...
I tried to find the warmth of my tropical rain in this chilly English afternoon...

The rain stopped...
Clouds cleared and as if by magic the sun came out...
Hoods fell back, caps and hats were removed...
Umbrellas were folded and carried in hand...
People poured into the streets from all corners...
Briskly they resumed their walking...
Streets filled up...shops got a little empty...
I looked ridiculous all wet in the sunshine...
Birds shrugged off the excess water and got back into the business of flying...
Trees looked relieved and sucked in the faint sunshine...
Brownstone houses dried up...
Stone buildings still looked impassive...
Puddles turned into mud...
Spires glittered catching the sunrays...
This sunshine is a weak cousin of my tropical sunshine...
But it is sunshine no less....
And it made me smile....

Tuesday, 3 November, 2009

Mornings....

Spring is in the air,
I wake up in excitement,
Today is Val Day...
Will I get a card or not???
A cuckoo is singing somewhere...
Getting ready for school...
No mean feat for a teenager,
That too on such a special day...
Spring is in the step...
Excitement in the heart...
In search of eternal love, Archies card and heart shaped chocolates...
Ah to be fourteen again!

I remember waking up in the crisp winter morning to see sunshine streaming through the window....
I would snuggle into my blanket and refuse to open my eyes...
Ma would come and hurry me up...
She would throw me a sweater and say 'wear this or you will catch the cold'...
My toes would tingle the moment it would touch with the cold floor...
My slippers would be found and thrust under my feet...
Ushered to the bathroom...blue bloob of toothpaste...I still remember the smell and the minty taste...
Breakfast would have something orangey-- either the fruit or marmalade...
And then of you are lucky and in the middle of winter vacation, you could play...
There would be promises of circus or a trip to the zoo with Amit and Rima...
Ah those lovely winter mornings of the my childhood....

Excitement wakes me up early...
Examinations over and holidays have started....
Infinitely long days, with not a single homework...
I cannot help but smile...
Days of playing with Rima and Amit to heart's content...
Lazy afternoons of chinese checker games with Ma....
Mangoes in great abundance...
Eat as much as you can...
When you dont want the fruit, have the puddings, milkshakes, ice creams...

Go to sleep lulled by the sound of rain...
Wake up to the incessant sound of rain...
Feel snug and warm...
Realise dad has at some point put the fan's regulator down...
Smile at this gesture of love...
Kakoli comes with the tea, sets it down...
Sip the tea, while staring out of the window...
Not many people around...
A few children braving it to school...
The lone office goer trying to balance the bag, the umbrella and failing miserably...
Some cars and bikes dash by...
Stare at the fat angry rain drops...
Look upto the sky...
It looks dark grey, omniuos and threatening...
Occassional thunder streaks the sky...
Blinding me momentarily...
The city seems to be in a standstill, waiting for the rain to cease...
The houses look washed and forlon...
The trees look like they have had enough...
They seem to be telling the rain, 'oh stop we have had enough, now we are feeling cold...'
But who cares, Rain God has decreed rain that day...
So the little army of rain drops march on, bravely pours over the city and rushes into the drains...
I watch on, secure in the knowledge that I am not going out that day...

Wake up to the distant sound of music....
It is floating by from somewhere...
Ah it is Mahalaya today...
So the 4 a.m. programme has started on the radio...
Yahooooo pujo is just seven days away...
Much, much later, warm smell wakes me up...
Special breakfast for Mahalaya...
Come on hurry up if you do not want the kochuri and the jilipi to get cold...
Laughter and plans for pujo,
Everyone in good spirits...
Some last minute shopping,
Ma suggests,
Baba cringes...,
The sky outside is blue with fluffy white clouds floating by,
I fee safe and warm and excited..

Super Lasy....

8.30 a.m. husband dashes off to work. I am barely up, somehow mumble a bye bye to him. Sleep hazy, go and sit in front of the computer. Long habits die hard i Suppose. Click around, nothing interesting, not a single email of interest...just some recruitment agency telling me that I might consider taking home economics course. Dude what do you think being homemaker is all about?????? Hhhhmmmmmppppphhhhh....nothing in Orkut or Facebook  either....no one wrote a scrap, nor did anyone float a spicy status update, just some photographs of people dressed like Dracula for Halloween.....

Yawn....waking up  is a real waste....so back to bed...yesterday night started a book called 'Sunday at Tiffany's'. Start reading it as a prelude to sleep. Oh I love this going to bed soon after waking up ritual. Not many people in this earth are entitled to such luxuries. Only the super lazy (like me) or the super sick or the super old and frail or the super unemployed (again like me) can get to do it.

The book is interesting, easy to read,  incredibly romantic, written by a man to boot and talks way too much about chocolate sundaes. Not fair, not fair at all....the greedy me had to feel greedy. So I had to get up and start eating the lone chocolate and mint lolly which I had left for husband once upon a time, out of deep love. This husband of mine never eats his portion of the goodies and then days later when I finish those, he suddenly has to remember and make a hue and cry about it. Anyways grumbling husband ceases to be of interest, the story is interesting. Aw so the lonely heroine who ate (just like me) to forget her woes and always had a secret stash of ores met her man long last. But.....now that she has met her man, she gets off food.....Hold on a minute...I sit up, I have met my man, married him and currently have a yummy husband (who occasionally snores and complains and grumbles, but never mind)...how come I have never got off food??? These romantic writers I tell you...fibbing to hook readers. Ah but you cant fib to me anymore. Once upon a time, the single pudgy me used to believe the moment I would meet my prince charming I would get off all unhealthy food. But truth to be told I never did. So the married pudgy me dont belive it anymore. Somehow after that the story lost its charm and anyways I had finished it.

I yawn and stretch myself. Clock shows quarter past noon...oh shit...I had promised Indranil that I would apply for jobs today.  Sit down to write apps...

God I hate writing these apps. How I wish I could just write my blog...but no duty calls. So half heartedly I start writing...oooppppps no....dressing  myself up for the ball (read the grind please)....After some uninspired and demotivated efforts, enlightment strikes.... a chore is a chore and what needs to be done, needs to be done. So I square my shoulders and get into the spirit of the thing.

I dress myself up in a stunning gown of efficiency silk, trimmed with multitasking lace, do my hair with little pearls of wisdom (hopefully some would ooze into my brain too).I take out my  crown of glittering dedication to flaunt. I twist and twirl....mmmmm no I still look too bare, need some more touches. Ah I just know the thing.... add a taira of responsibility, it looks pretty but just a moment.... the head looks triffle over done and the neck looks empty...I rummage through my storage of precious skills, looking for a choke of vast expereince. Damn it has not yet been passed to me. Not one to give up easily, I quickly retrive a necklace of positive attitude. I marvel at myself, this necklace is going very well with the earrings of honesty. Now for a little make-up. I lightly apply some friendly lipstick, add a dash of approachable rouge, some focused mascara and line my eyes with passionate kohl and spray a special perfume of graduate degrees and good communication skills ......I take my special decision making purse, throw the matching trouble shooting stole over my shoulder and wear the event management shoes. Ah now I think I am ready for the show. Come on ladies and gentlemen, give me a hand and send me some interviews please. Ms Sushi is ready to grace you with her excellence, brilliance and charm.

I take several small breaks...day dreams breaks...FB and Orkut checking breaks and Mafia War playing breaks....finally manage to finish the app by 5 ish. Before I could cringe in embarassment over my superlative talents and multiple skills and delete the entire thing, I quickly send off  the app.

Ah now I can blog. The photographs of Covered Market take a damnably long time to upload....time to wash yesterday's dishes and cook. I realise with a start except for that ice cream, a cup o noodle and some chocolate I have not had anything else. Oh poor me....But do not feel like cooking, so call up husband who is going to get the food. Husband comes laden with Chinese takeaway...entertains with stories of whole day and then washes all the piled up dishes.

Now is'nt this a super lazy day in the super lazy life of the super lazy Sushi????

Oxford Diary: Saturday at the Covered Market


Ever since we have come to Oxford, we have heard about the Covered Market. This Saturday we ventured there. Kolkatans would find covered market very similar to our dear old New Market. There are several entrances of this market in the High Street, while a back entrance opening to the Market Street. Indranil and my, our condition was like that of two kids taken to a fair. We just loved about everything....we went around with eyes round and popping in excitmenet. I wanted to buy the flowers, the pretty dresses, adorable dolls, silver earrings, aromatic candles, perfumed soaps, the fancy shoes, the tea set, the handbags....eat all those chocolates, demolish the cakes.....the list went on and on. Indranil wanted the sweaters, the shirts, the expensive suits, the exhorbitant silk tie,  the tee shirts with slogans (Jesus loves you, but not like a gay), the boots, running shoes (though he never runs), the miniature army sets, silver cufflinks and last but not the least guns etc etc etc. Sadly we are kids no longer and did not go with our parents. If we did, I am sure I would not have come back at least without one small gift. We two mature, poor, unemployed people on tight budget, just oohhhed and ahhhhed and window shopped. Bought some food and that was it. At one point wanted to buy a house plant (more long lasting and economical than flowers, also every window has a plant in this town, so I also want one, never mind that no one can see our window sill), but could not come to decision as to which one to buy. Decided to postpone the purchase, go home do google homework and come back.  Inspite of all the heartbreak we loved our time there, so would you when you see these photographs. Enjoy.



Entrance to the market with wall murals and bright lights.

One of the wall murals.

Now comes the window shopping part. Peeping into a shop's window selling china stuff...tea sets, coffee mugs et al.

Now a toy shop's window. I want this doll. Nowwwwwww.....

I never knew handknit sweaters can be this expensive.

Is'nt this flower shop lovely?

Yes you are right, those lovely violet bunches hanging are nothing less than English lavender....all fresh and smelling heavenly.

At least this is one thing I didnt want to buy. Me wearing hats....ummmm, a little difficult even to imagine, is'nt it?  But the hats sure were lovely. Now it I were richer, slimmer, taller, (in my mind's eye I am seeing Demi Moore or Julia Roberst) could carry off hats, went for horse racing/ derbies or regularly have tea with the queen or maybe even a duke or a duchess....maybe, just maybe....but with my present life style....nah I dont think so.....happy with my silk saris and chuky gold jwellery....ala Indian style.

Ah shop selling Indian handicrafts. Strangely it is named Kashmiri dragon, strange I thought dragon was a Chinese thingy....

Peeping into the shop opposite, this had a name with opium.

Now this is what I call a wise ol' postcard that needs to be sent to mom so that she stops hinting about finishing half done Ph.D.

Ok, now for some food and none less than organic meat. We picked up goat meat from one of the butchers. Almost 400 gm came for three pounds. I was a little skeptical. I used to hate eating those frozen goat meat in Canada, however well cooked it was. But this meat was surprisngly fresh and not smelly, oh well a wee lil bit. But as Indranil says I have high smell/odour detecting genes, so moi can  be excused. If you are like Indranil, maybe you will not smell any smell and just enjoy the meat.

Now for some fishy fish. We picked up for ready to eat makarel. Will eat and duly report.

Fruits....pears, peaches, grapes, apples, oranges, bananas...

Check out these curious cabbages!

These artists work for a confectionary called the Cake Shop. They prepare heavenly piece of cakes. Some are given below. I will make a seperate post on their wedding cake selection. If I had one of their cake for my wedding, I can assure you that I would just be eating the cake and not getting married.



Filled with goodies for Christmas.

The bakery had closed, but I just loved this notice stuck outside the shop.

One of the cheeky signposts for sale.

Ok, this hazy photograph is a shop called Ben's Cookies. Since we could not afford to buy any stuff, we decided to sample everything, or almost everything edible. Since there were long queues outside this shop we also joined the line. If you like me have lived in Canada for a year you are no stranger to cookies. But omg this Ben fellow or shop makes cookies completely differently. For started they are not thin, but flakey and fat, and are sold by their weight. Indranil had a white chocolate chip cookie and I have a peacan cookie. But were fat, thick, sweet, crammer with stuff inside, crisp, and oh melted right on our tongue without us making the slightest efforts. Now we got why people queue up for Ben's cookies. We sure would next time we are there.

Another shop in the market which had a long queue. This is none other than this pink shop named moo-moos. Oh well they sell milk shakes and every teenager in Oxford is their fan and had queued up that Saturday aftertoon. Indranil, belligerent after being not able to buy the two hundred pound navy sweater, queued right up behind the last teenager. Me, feeling slightly more grown up and way more mature, took position leaning against the boot shop. It was a long wait and I soon grew restless. But Indranil was not budging without a milkshake for a chilly October afternoon.  Finally after twenty minutes wait, he got his mango milkshake, took one sip, closed his eyes and floated into dreamland. Curious to see him behaving in such a juveline manner, I disdainfully took the cup and decided to take a sip. You know just to prove to him that it is milkshake and no need to over react. But man oh man, it was the best milk shake I have ever tasted. It was creamy, forthy, not too sweet and just about heavenly. Two people, deeply in love, floating in milkshake heaven, wandered into the chilly October evening too busy savouring the milkshake to talk.