Saturday, August 28, 2004

Container Gardening

I absolutely love container gardening. I have been collecting books for years about how to have an interesting container garden with the kind of pots and plants one chooses.....Now, I finally have a teeny, tiny one and the high point of my morning is to go see if any new buds are appearing in the mini-garden on my balcony.
What is it that makes me smile each time I investigate for new buds and flowers in my plants? A sense of accomplishment, maybe? That I managed to make them flower? Not that I really did anything except water them, besides I almost killed them by putting tea leaves that were too hot.
One of the really interesting books about container gardening is the Ultimate Container Gardener by Stephanie Donaldson. It has a nice format, lots of pictures and tons of interesting combinations of flowers and situations/placings. Another good book is the Reader's Digest-Container Gardening for all Seasons, which has all the basic know-how as well as some very inventive displays.
The Vinca flowers continuously and it is a delight to see new buds almost everyday. My bougainvillea was reluctant to flower at first but now every third day new buds are appearing. The most prolific of all is my little pot of May flowers.....lovely deep blue flowers that open only on bright sunny days.
My favourite type of plant is a flowering shrub, especially the mediterranean ones. Some of my favourites are Hibiscus, Cistus or Rock Rose as its usually known, Bougainvillea, Geranium, Plumbago (Cape Leadwort), Oleander (Nerium), Zinnia, Passiflora, Jasmine, Champa, Motia, Raat ki Rani, Ixora, Pentas, Vinca, Clematis and Tuberose.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Books, books and more books

Some of the best books I have read have been picked out randomly while browsing in a bookstore. Growing up I read all the right books for each age, progressing from Ladybird Books to Enid Blyton (Mallory Towers, St Clares and Famous Five) to Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys to Agatha Christie, Mills and Boons, Danielle Steel and PG Wodehouse to Sidney Sheldon, Jeffery Archer, Irving Stone, Howard Fast and John Grisham. Somewhere along the line I added historical romances to the list (curtsey my sister) especially those set in medieval times in England and Scotland.
Now, my favorite types of books are a combination of travel, history and biographical facts. I discovered this type of book when I had to select books to sell at an art gallery where I worked. I had to select books that not only I would be interested in reading and that opened up a whole new world of books to me.
I found that I loved reading about places, people and history in a story form with characters who have interesting lives and thoughts rather than a dry listing of facts about a place.
Some of the interesting books in this genre that I have read are:

City of Djinns-William Dalrymple
Delhi, its buildings, its Sufi mystics, its history and its eccentricities. Absolutely superb.

Chasing the Mountain of Light-Kevin Rushby
This book traces the history of the Koh-i-noor diamond from the mines at Golconda to the Mughal Palaces of Agra and Delhi to Maharaja Duleep Singh in Amritsar.

Under the Tuscan Sun-Frances Mayes
About the history, people and life of Tuscany full of interesting facts about the region. Made into a movie of the same name but nowhere close to what the book is actually about.

Taj-The story of Mughal India-Timeri Murari
I loved reading this book. It tells the story of Arjumand Begum from when she first meets Prince Khurram at the Meena Bazaar and simultaneously also about how the Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan as he grieved for her.

Jahanara-Lyane Guillaume
The story of Shah Jahan and Arjumand Begum's first child Jahanara.

Kulu, The End of the Habitable World-Penelope Chetwode
Covers the 140km trek from Simla to Kulu done by Penelope and her mother in 1931 when her father, Phillip Chetwode was the Commander-in-Chief of India and then again in 1963 on her own in a less grand way. An amazing book, it really goes into the history of Himachali architecture especially the temples.

Grandmother's Footsteps-Imogen Lycett Green
Penelope's granddaughter Imogen retraces the trip over the Jalori Pass from Simla to Kulu.

The Bookseller of Kabul-Asne Seierstad
The daily life of an Afgani family after the liberation of Kabul from a western journalist's perspective.

On Foot-Guided Walks in England, France and the United States-Adam Nicholson
I have a long was to go to catch up on the 26 listed walks in this book. Most of the walks are in country settings and a few energetic ones in New York, Los Angeles and London.

The Other Boleyn Girl-Phillipa Gregory
About Anne Boleyn's little known sister Mary who had an affair (and 2 children) with Henry VIII before he married Anne and made her Queen of England.

Anne Boleyn-Anthony Crowell
All the details about King Henry VIII's second wife Anne Boleyn. An old movie "Anne of a thousand days" is a worthwile to see to get a complete picture (no pun intended!!).

There are just so many, many more interesting books that I have read and hundreds more waiting to be read. Each new book brings with it a fresh perspective, new ideas and deeper thought besides, of course, basic knowledge.

Lonestar-Norah Jones

Lonestar where are you out tonight?
This feeling I'm trying to fight
It's dark and I think that I would
give anything
For you to shine down on me

How far you are I just don't know
The distance I'm willing to go
I pick up a stone that I cast to the sky
Hoping for some kind of sign

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Colours of the Heart performance in Bangalore

A few weeks ago I saw a musical performance by Mallika Sarabhai and her troupe of "international dancers" in a production called Colours of the Heart at Chowdiah Hall in Bangalore. It was the first time I was going to see a Mallika Sarabhai production. Sad to say that it was the most disappointing of shows. Instead of performing at a hall like Chowdiah, she should have made it into a street performance because that was the caliber of it. Fifteen or twenty minutes into the show, I realized that the entire thing was going to be makeshift and haphazard with no costume changes, no sets (just a black backdrop) no orchestra, terrible lighting and most disappointing of all no dances to speak of. For the Pakistani singer Samia Malik's last song, Mallika just stood at the edge of the stage and clapped her hands as she encouraged the audience to join in. Quite ridiculous, I thought. I didn't much care to join in as there was nothing to applaud at all.
The show was sponsored by the Bangalore School of Music, who should be embarrassed by the level of the performance and must have got taken in just with Mallika Sarabhai's name. It was in bad taste of Sarabhai to bring up what happened to her in Gujarat, her going underground to avoid being arrested and the candlestine rehearsals, email conferences etc. The show was bad enough for it end on an even worse note. The "international dancers" were 5 girls from Italy, America, Pakistan, Malaysia (maybe!) etc who related their own instances of discrimination and prejudice.
Instead of ending on an uplifting and triumphant note, it continued to be depressing and negative. Mallika Sarabhai has been very short-sighted. In her vendetta to get back to the people who were gunning for her, she has damaged her image and performance value as an artiste for the long term.

Monday, August 09, 2004


Setting up house in a new city and country is a pretty tough job, exciting but still a tough job. Before moving to Bangalore we had heard great stories about the city, about how its not like all the other cities in India, that things actually work out here....but its really not the case. Considering how much is going on here in the high-tech industries, the basic amenities of the city are dismal. After living abroad one comes to expect that the basics should not be a problem.....water, electricity, trash collection, roads, sidewalks etc but Bangalore has lots of problems on these fronts. Like everything else in India, they are controlled by politics. Central, State or way or another they are going to get you.
Why is it that when things don't work here and people make their own arrangements that it becomes the norm? Is there never going to be an improvement in the mindset of the people that ok is just not good enough? Just because one finds solutions to these problems on a individual basis, that doesn't mean that they don't exist for the government to find a long term solution for.

Friday, August 06, 2004


On an offshoot, John Kerry, US Presidential candidate said a while ago that if Bangalore in India can be wired then why not all of America? If only that were true! The internet scene in Bangalore is pathetically sad. All the residential plans are either time-based or download based, where download can be pretty much defined as usage, as in each and every page you open is counted in bytes and megabytes. Is this the same Bangalore that John Kerry was speaking of? Why is it that the ISPs in Bangalore feel that they must control how much people want to use their internet? Its sad to see such a state of affairs in a place known for its IT companies and advances in technology.


Why is it that when one thinks all is well and moving along quite nicely that life throws you a curve? It is way of balancing the good and the bad or is it just chance? Something from the Celestine Prophecy maybe.........that nothing happens without a reason, that there is no such thing as coincidence, that we are meant to notice all that is around us for signs that will affect us in the future.