I recently caught a TV screening of the new(ish) version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and it reminded me forcefully of the power of the word. It also drove home a point that I make constantly as a historian, namely that the context in which a book is read and the state of mind of a reader goes a long way toward what one will take out of a reading, or remember. For instance, There was a description in Gatsby toward the end, which I had missed or rather not noticed when I read the book, but given all that I’ve been through in the past couple of years almost jumped out immediately. It was a description of Tom and Daisy Buchanan and it went like this:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy— they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made….

Replace careless with callous and to me that passage sums up  a couple of former colleagues (or for that matter the entire institution) as nothing else can. For I know first hand what it is to be subject to the “smashing up” described by F. S. F. Nearly two years later, I’m still picking up, or attempting to pick up, the pieces while those callous Tom and Daisy equivalents go on blithely with their lives, no doubt, wrecking still others. I could go on, I suppose and wallow further in dregs of bitterness (to pick up the words of another American “I am big, I contain multitudes”) but I think I’ve already given them more rent-free space in my blog and brain than I should have.

I just mailed in my absentee ballot yesterday. I hope it gets to its destination on time. It’s important because as I said in an application yesterday, this year has to be the most tension-fraught election of my lifetime.

2016 is the third time I’m voting in absentia, though from a different state this time because I have a mailing address there. Who did I vote for? I will confess, that for a while there I did think about abstaining because of my disenchantment with the candidates and the process,  but decided that voting was not simply a right but a duty. As is within my constitutional rights, however, I will keep my choice secret. But seriously, are there really any prizes for guessing my choice? I am after all, a thinking brown individual, with mostly liberal and granted, somewhat chaotic, political leanings. I will out myself and say that I have until now always voted democratic because while I believe in and wish that we in American had a genuine multi-party system, that desire may be something I won’t get to see realized in my future during my––Oh! there’s that word again––lifetime.

Anyway.. this mini-diatribe was a reminder (to myself and to anyone who may care) that the Chronicles still live. I remain as peregrine as ever: in the past ten months I’ve wandered the world  in pursuit of information, employment and family affairs but am rather discouraged and disheartened (much as I am about the political situation really) but will elaborate on this (maybe) in a different post. For now I’ll sign off with a reminder to all Americans that regardless of your leanings.. get out there and VOTE come election day, which is on Tuesday, November 8 this year.


A long time ago by blogosphere standards (8 years), I posted a fantasy about rendering Naguib Mahfouz’s story of the ancient Egyptian Rhadopis of Nubia into a Bollywood film. A recent viewing of the spectacle of Bhajirao Mastani immediately brought back memories of that post because it gave me ideas for those roles – the main characters as it happens – whom I had not fantasy-cast earlier. So …  I stand by my earlier line-up for Amitabh, Amir and Tabu as Sofkhatep, Tahu & the queen, Nitocris (I really do need to re-read those books again, if only I could find them), but with Irfan as a fine almost preferable alternative to Amir.  After watching Bajirao Mastani I want Priyanka Chopra as Rhadobis.. no contest. She’d be playing the opposite character from her BM role come to think of it. I also think that Ranvir Singh would fly as the Pharoah, although if one gives in to Egyptian preferences then the other Khan (Shah Rukh) would work as the Pharoah too as would Kajol as the queen because she really looks exquisite but at the same time older than Priyanka. The innocent Benamun and his physician father? Still uncast in my head though now I’m thinking a shaven Sunkrish (currently  Vikram Singh on Castle who also happens to be my cousin) might fit the bill, since he’s too young to be a Pharaoh to the queens that I’ve chosen. Another alternative is the kid from the Life of Pi. Om Puri would be a super cameo as the father  but the role isn’t meaty enough and any of the others might do (even the venerable ‘mitabachan in a double role).

Any takers-on for this project?


A recent reference to my post alluding to Terry Pratchett’s marvellous creation, Luggage (that wondrous trunk of sapient pearwood) led me to look it up, especially because I now have ones that looks like it could have filled the role! Mine is some 3.5 ft long and a little over a foot wide and high, and is quite beautiful with metal buckles and strap-like ornamentation that is not brassy but mottled and burnished. How I love that word, burnished. It’s so evocative of its meaning. And my trunk is even made of mango wood, which was one of my choices in my original post.

Only thing, alas, is that my beautiful trunk is not sapient. I keep hoping it will become so, and follow me around the world (rather than me cart it) but wishes don’t translate to reality. If they did, I might have had it go do something truly nasty like bite  chunk out of a certain slimy hypocritical somebody’s callous leg, since one of the truly original and funky things about luggage is that it would deal with those who intend harm to its owner. I know I said in my original post that I didn’t have anyone in that category, but things have changed since … But intentions in either direction can only pave the way to hell, where I am not, at least not yet. Despite efforts to send me there. I am, as Elton John sings, still standing.

Back to my un-sapient luggage though. It’s my prized possession  at present, from my evergreen favourite shop, Cottage Emporium,  along with its more conventionally proportioned mate from Rajastasthali (still in storage). One of these days I will upload a pic. Until then… happy travels all, and if I don’t make it here before, I wish everyone a safe and wonderful 2016.


In some ways Ravenna is the perfect metaphor for my approach to blogging about my Italian travels over Easter break 2008, because rather than approach it with any sort of plan or chronology, I’ve been filling in chips providing a mosaic of my experiences rather than a single canvas. Actually, to take that metaphor even further, I’ve been filling in these chips in a the larger mosaic of my pergrinations in general but… I’ll stop with the analogy. And the reason for this perfect match is that Ravenna (as many might know already though I didn’t until my visit there) is certainly full of mosaics. It’s a real shame that I haven’t written about this place earlier actually, because of all the places that Shraddha and visited over our Italian week together, this was certainly the treasure chest of sights previously unseen. And after a long day of visual feasts we had yet another of those edible experiences that had us both swooning in rhapsodies of delight…

7 years later…

After so much time, the memory of those mosaics still delight, not only of the the bit above from one of the churches, but that of a small baptistry which brought to mind a Van Gogh starry night, with brilliant blues and purples and teals. It also recalls that line from the oft-quoted, never tired Yeats, of the blue and gold etc etc in the “Tread softly” poem. Same trip a week or so later took me to Trieste where more mosaics delighted as well. The memories haven’t gone anywhere though the impulse to write more has. ’tis best this were published. Or else I’ll have to trash it.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 8.16.49 AM … H.P. Lovecraft apparently, or so said an online statistical writing analysis piece of software, on three occasions. Two pieces of writing were recent academic book reviews, one about Darwin and the other about scientific styles. The third was a peer-reviewed paper. An excerpt from my food blog, however, has me likened to Cory Doctorow, whom I’ve never read! And my trip down memory lane to my childhood bedroom seems to recall David Foster Wallace, who to my delight is described as having “a mercurial mind that lights on many subjects.” Like a changing accent then, apparently my style, language etc changes depending on the forum I’m writing for, I adapt.

I wonder how to feel about the fact that my academic writing is consistently likened to a writer of pulp horror fiction. Does the software simply regard all academic material as horrific? Or should I take this analysis as a compliment, that my writing, even about technical subject stuff has a wider reach and appeal? That would be nice…

Most of all I think the food I cook reflects my sense of adventure, my willingness to try (almost) anything, my love for novelty and variety, and I fondly hope, creativity and innovation, although those last two might be derived from my cooking. Over the years it – my cooking – has also come to reflect my peregrine nature, as I’ve picked up knowledge about ingredients, cooking techniques and tastes from different parts of world. A recent example that comes to mind is the use of shiso (shisu?) aka sesame leaves – which I’ve only really seen used in Korean and Japanese food – as an ingredient in tadka (finishing a dish with a couple of teaspoons of oil heated with spiced and herbs) for daal.

It’s strange that I can’t think of more to write here.. at least about the main topic at hand. After all, the subject matter of the prompt (from a later chapter in Deutsch’s book) touches on the two things I write about the most: myself and food. So why then have I drawn a blank after that first paragraph, which flowed quite naturally from my finger-tips? Maybe because at some level my cooking is an expression in and of itself. It just is, the way I just am. Writing about the relationship between the two feels like the way I’d imagine cooking for a restaurant would feel like. It takes the joy out of the act, imposing rules and forcing into boxes, what is for me a flight of fancy – whatever I fancy – using the ingredients I can find in the fridge, freezer or pantry cupboard. A long-ago creation I was reminded of last weekend when I visited New Haven and the kitchen I created it in, was a low-&-slow baked Swedish meatballs (from IKEA) in a Kashmiri-inspired gravy of yogurt, ginger, fennel powder spiked with red chilli (cayenne) powder… And another memory that just sparked was of a salad  I conceted while visiting my friends Shomik and Renu during their stint in China, in response to their request for something that was not Chinese: Norwegian pickled herring dressed with Indian mustard oil and fresh cucumbers.

I suppose these reminisces also bring to light another way in which my cooking reflects who I am.. my being a people’s person, for so often the food I have cooked has been for more than just myself. I like to cook for others, an audience if you will, though not always as a demo. but then don’t most people?

Okay.. the verdict is in.. bored enough to get distracted to look at other things, I better put this post to bed and potential readers out of their misery.