Sunday, February 27, 2005

Personal Pigeon Problem

Gentle Readers, patience please while i ruminate on my personal pigeon problems. In December we moved into a lovely little condo. It was perfect in every way, but especially because it has a fairly decent sized patio. I could see all of my urban garden dreams coming true. What i didn't anticipate was pigeons. Yuck. Our perfect little patio fills up with bird guano almost instantly, while birds cross the sky overhead.
I need a solution to this problem. Yesterday i bought a decoy owl, but it doesn't seem to work as the decoy is on our patio in a tree and the birds perch two stories up on the roof og the building. My mom has suggested a sling shot, but the difference between her and i is aim. She has it, i don't. There are already spiky things where they like to perch. So, my kind audience, if you have any suggestions, please send them my way. My preference is for not harming the birds, but day by day i am getting closer to buying a bee bee gun.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

How's your Karma?

It is no secret to anyone who knows me that i am addicted toCBC Overnight, public radio of the highest quality from around the world. The things an insomniac can learn in a sleepless stupor is truly amazing!

Last night i heard about Karma Kabs(you must go to their website) for the first time. This London based cab company has taken old Ambassadors and refurbished them in funky style. Their fleet includes the "Ab Fab Kab", "Monsoon Wedding" and my personal fav the "Bollywood car". Now if i knew how to post pictures on my blog, i would, but instead i will just refer you here. Pretty funky stuff from a company that believes the journey is more important than the destination - something we should all keep in mind!

But it seems that Karma Kabs is running into a little bit of hot water with the London Public Carriage Office. According to Indian Express (i know i should have found a London source!)
The London Public Carriage Office is sitting to decide if these vehicles should be steered off course for a dozen reasons from inflammable inner material to mosaic ceilings.

‘‘They’re trying to wrap bureaucratic tape around true art,’’ complains [owner and kabbie] Tobias Moss, ‘‘they don’t have a heart, these people, so they don’t really understand what we are about.’’


I would love to ride in one of these bad boys, but London isn't in my playing cards at the moment, and i am sure that Mom and the ant won't be up for the 50 quid/hr rate the next time they are in London.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The love affair continues...

Currently i am reading Maximum City by Suketu Mehta. Half way through the book i give it a provisional thumbs up. The first essay in the collection on Bombay tells us about his early memories of the city and the ecstasy and pitfalls of returning after years in America. In it he has some wonderful turns of phrases - 'traveling back on music, the cheapest airline' or 'Home is not a consumable entity. But the phrasing turns lacklustre as Mehta's fascination with the underworld increases, giving a slightly too long digression into mafia dons and police brutality. But the book is picking up again as he taps into some of Bombay's hidden gems, such as Borkar the vadawalla and the Irani restaurants of Malabar hill.
A sample of Mehta's writing can be found in this month's National Geographic. It would appear that the issue is mostly about Bollywood rather than Bombay per se. But who better to write it than the man who brought us the likes of Mission Kashmir. Also on the National Geographic website is a pretty cool photo essay. All of this comes via sepia mutiny.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Desi Weddings part 3

The last two posts were really just preamble to what i originally meant to write about - what i've been reading lately. As serendipity would have it, in the days leading up to the big wedding in Toronto i was reading a book that was also centered around a south Indian muslim wedding, Madras on Rainy Days by Samina Ali. It was kind of like reading a refresher course on muslim weddings, arranged marriages, growing up caught between two clutures before actually meeting my friend who was going thrugh exactly that. The book itself is a little on the light side (good airplane reading), but definately entertaining. The one disappointment was that it was set mostly in Hydrabad, rather than Madras as the title leads you to believe.

The second thing i have been reading is BridalBeer, and i cannot recommend this blog highly enough! I am captivated by the writing style and the story - yes it is a blog that is more than just self gratiating mindless reflection! It is written by a twenty something, America returned woman living in Calcutta, awaiting her immanent marriage. It is truly wonderful, even the mavens at Sepia Mutiny give her two thumbs up.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Desi Wedding Part 2

So i left you begging for more just as the post-marriage games were to begin. Ah what fun. In more traditional arranged marriages these games are meant to give the happy couple a first chance at flirtation. A bucket filled with coloured water used as a battle ground to find each other's wedding rings. And oh my god, the chills sent up your spine as he brushes your hand for the first time!! I can hardly contain myself. Then on to a game of feeding one another. The sensual closeness of the mouth... It was great fun, 40 of us crammed into the living room, screaming and cheering on as the couple go through their rights of initiation. NO more dignified courtly behaviour as everyone cheers for the bride and groom.

And then of course, time to eat more food. Heavenly, all of it. Two helpings left me feeling a little full. And finally after two days of wedding fun, i left the party early (at midnight) to go to my downtown headquarters to get some much needed sleep.

Then Saturday afternoon back at the bridal house to get ready for the reception. When we arrived the house was amazingly quiet. Spooky almost. But things livened up as the girls castigated my mom for not wearing a sari to the big event. Henna was applied, pictures were shown and the house slowly got louder and louder, until it was time to go to the parlour! Here of course, there was not time to do everything to everyone, so i went back to the house and was wrapped up tight in my new black and turquoise sari. Bangles on, i was ready to set the night on fire, and good thing because someone had to get to the hall to greet the guests! So here i am the one all white bread guest spread with chutney (the sari) greeting the guests! Well stranger things have happened... Of course all of the thorough bred Canadians showed up exactly on time, and later the Indian guests arrived.

The rest of the night is really just a blur of bhangra dancers (professionals!), great food, even better company and hindi dance tunes. Yes hindi music. I think the girls were hoping for more Tamil fare, but at least i got to demonstrate how 8 years of PhD study has made me more than proficient with the lyrics to your standard hindi film song selections. After reams of photos, we were among the last to leave.

Now over a week after this whole affair began, I am back in Van, my henna has turned orange and i can't wait for daughter number three to get married. Unfortunately, she assures me that is still years away.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Weddings - desi style

This past weekend i was at a south Indian Muslim wedding in TO. What a blast. Now i know that the multi-day affair paled in comparison to colossal celebration that would have taken place in Pannaikullam, but for a plain white bread girl like me it was pretty amazing.

I arrived Wednesday evening and went straight to the bridal home for the mehendi. A couple of things went on here. First, the bride was getting henna-ed. Meanwhile, all the guests gave the groom a spoon full of sugar to make him sweet and put some henna on a paan leaf in his hand. Then we did the same thing for the bride. That doesn't sound like so much fun, but you have to remember the house was full of people and kids running around, the music was going, and the biryani was just about done. And then, of course, we ate! As usual, the food was awesome.

Once all of the guests left, we (the girls) continued henna-ing, talking, laughing etc. We finally retired to bed around 2-2:30, where the bride and i continued to talk until god knows when!

Thursday morning - wake up and take the henna off our hands so we can cook. I mostly just chopped and grated. But there was enough of that to keep us busy for hours. Then slowly we started to get ready for the wedding/ nikkah. I came down from getting ready and daughter number one said 'aren't you going to do your hair?' To me my hair was done (i blow dried it after all), besides our heads were going to be covered at the mosque... So daughter number one had to be satisfied with giving me some bling bling and lipstick.

Lots of women came over to help the bride get ready and tie her sari. As a consequence there were lots of children, who daughter number three and i looked after. And before i knew it we were off to the mosque.

I asked the bride if she was going to be the traditional, shy, fully covered indian bride. Pragmatist that she is, she replied -'when you're paying this much for a photographer, my face is going to be in every shot'. Touche.

For me the wedding itself was rather interesting, since the bride and the groom we separate throughout. All the women sat around the bride and all the men around the groom. Kids were running around everywhere. We were all talking and snapping pictures, so i didn't really notice when the imam stopped talking and taa-daa they were married. More photos before going back to the house for some games and food. And as the narrator on Hammy Hamster would say, that is another story.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Oh Canada

The Canadian flag has got to be one of the most recognizable flags in the world. I am saying this just because i am Canadian? Perhaps. But the fact remains that proud Canadians and ashamed Americans wear our flag on their backpacks as they travel the world. Yes, i too am guilty of this one act of patriotic excess. And it is nice when someone sees your flag and comments on something nice about Canada. However, the amazing part is that the Canadian flag is only 40 years old. Or should i say young. Yes, forty years ago yesterday, February 15 1965, the Canadian flag as we know it was first raised in Kingston by the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson himself.