It is admittedly a bit tricky to think of a gift for a man, especially an older man, let’s say your father…

With women you can get away with totally unimaginative stuff like personal hygiene products, tea, candle holders and mugs. If you are a woman, just think about it,  how many non-matching mugs do you have in your cupboard? Enough of them  to host a huge tea-party with candles burning in every single corner of your apartment?

So, what do you get a man who does not smoke, shuns ties and is not , at this point in life, into literature? Cigars, ties and books were thus excluded from the outset when trying to figure out a present for my father’s birthday.

In the end, we decided to get him an allotment. It was a very well received present. At a mere seven minute walk from home, my father is now embarking on an adventure of urbiculture.

wateringRemoving the carpet of weeds and preparing the soil for the coming spring is highest on the agenda.

alotments

Then he’ll have a try at sowing some winter vegetable varieties…

blueboots

herbs

Imagine eating ‘home-grown’ vegetables and herbs…It’s definitively worth the wait.

A present for the future…

Having a good book to fall back on is something I really appreciate, so what can be a better place to go to than the local library?  Can you think of better symbols of democracy and peace than public libraries where books of all kinds can be borrowed at no cost other than taxpayers’ contributions?

I let myself be seduced by the cover. Then I take a look at the abstract, discarding what I perceive as boring after the first couple of lines. I go by feeling and I prefer paperbacks. I  tend to fall for books with an exotic touch; the Middle east and Asia are recurrent themes – the law of attraction?

These past days I have been reading two quite different, yet complementary books.

The story of the very real  Malala Yousafzai, the young girl who was shot by the Taliban in her home country Pakistan for being an outspoken ambassador of girls’ and children’s right to education, on the one hand….

img_5320…and on the other, the fictitious story of Little Bee, a young Nigerian girl whose life and future are thwarted by the oil conflict at the Niger Delta. img_5329That’s the power of literature. Not only does it take you to places where you have never set your foot; it also opens your eyes to things you would otherwise ignore. Thanks to the process of story-telling it does so in an enticing and non prescriptive manner.  After all, innumerable generations of people have been nurtured with stories; in fact, what would identity be without stories?

What is great with literature though, is that it makes space for other people’s stories as well. By doing so it predisposes the mind and heart to facts and different realities, and not only to those facts and realities that have made their way into textbooks and the mainstream media.

That is why I firmly believe that literature should be very present in the school curricula;  it is such a powerful tool for cultivating critical thinking at the same time as appealing to a large spectrum of emotions; the amount of literature we were exposed to at school was by no means sufficient.

Literature is subjective, that is what it is; and that’s, I guess, yet another thing you have to love about it. Unless you restrict yourself to a genre, you have the world laid out for you at an arm’s length.

It is no wonder that banning and burning books has been a popular pastime among fanatics, intolerant and lunatics ever since the invention of the written press.

Reading is so much more than just a source of recreation. It is a gateway into a better world where more people can live in dignity.  When I read a really, really good book, I wish it could be taught in school. But don’t get me wrong, I think that less good literature, or  even bad literature, also deserve a place in school. A good pedagogue can work miracles with both, exploiting their educational potential to the fullest.

Now I would like to know, what is your personal list of must-read books?

Books referred to in this post:

I am Malala, Malala Yousafzai with Christine Lamb, 2013

The other hand, Chris Cleave, 2008

 

I have installed run-keeper on my phone and joined a workout program. I like how the workout days are followed by days of rest. Days of rest are symbolised by an icon representing a tiny little person lying in bed.

Hm, yes, try making the half-Lutheran girl rest…The thing is that activity here starts early in the morning. I wake up between 05.30-06.00 and get up as I am too alert to go back to sleep. By some weird coincidence I always run into my father in the corridor; we look at each-other in tacit  acknowledgement before we take over the kitchen.

bakingofpie1

Spending the summer with my parents while being a ‘poor student’ has been interesting. Apart from the moments of irritation and occasional bickering, what is true is that you never cease discovering new things about people who you think you know very well. Having been able to help out in practical ways is another thing I am very happy about.

As for resting, that’s another tough thing. When your time is consumed by something you think of as an obligation, everything orbits around it. It’s difficult to do something else without guilt taking over. When that thing is over, suddenly you have time to do other things, but don’t know where to start; you kind of stand there looking into the void wondering, ‘and now what?’

gemstoneprunes

So, that’s where I am stuck: between Luther and the Muse. All those creative things I think I ought to be doing on my ‘free’ time make me wish that I  had several pairs of hands as in a westernised adhd version of the goddess Kali.

pesepita

Of course, that is not the way to do it. The attitude is all wrong, I admit. Finally, on my day of rest  I washed an enormous load of dishes, watched my father make a state of the art spinach pie, went for a long walk, did some grocery shopping, baked a cake, cooked a quick dinner, ironed and started packing my suitcase. Yes, the good-old gnawing process of sorting, folding and reconfiguring is on again as I am getting ready for pastures old.

akerstig

March 2014. I am waiting at the Kempegowda airport arrival hall. It is early morning and I am biding my time because I don’t want to wake her up at this ungodly hour.

Her as in she, as in N., my friend from the time spent in Ahmedabad two years ago, picked up the receiver when I finally decided to call. With a sleepy voice she instructed me on how to get to her abode.

It took the taxi driver some erratic circling around and a couple of phone calls to N. who gave directions in what I later discovered was her own, faked version of kannada, the  local language of Karnataka. We had breakfast together and off she went to work.

I don’t know if N. believed me when I told her that I am usually not a clumsy person; my first day in Dollars colony took quite a dramatic turn when I decided to wash some dirty laundry. Somehow, during rinsing, the sink blatantly fell off the cantilever it was standing on, yielding under the weight of a pair of freshly washed knickers. Then it landed on the floor, breaking into two big pieces.

(For the records, if you ever decide to break a sink, India is a good place: sinks are affordable and so are plumbers.)

The rest is history.

Over the next ten weeks we spent lots of time talking at the kitchen table. We would kick off the day chatting during breakfast and then pick up where we had left at dinnertime. We talked about food, politics, our families and friends. We had both recently lost a grandparent that had meant a lot to us so naturally we talked about them too; I am sure that they would recognise each other in heaven…

rainbow

Being a stay at home student, I would put the coffee machine on first thing in the morning, prepare dinner and freeze copious amounts of fruit to cool our evenings. If the universe ever sends me an Indian cooking flatmate while I am a busy working woman, I will consider it as karmic payback and laugh out loud with life’s sense of humour.

You see, food connected us from the very beginning. We are both avid vegetable eaters and very curious about the culture that surrounds food. Naturally, paying after-work visits to restaurants selected on zomato  became a big hit. We tasted, commented and rated. More importantly, we enjoyed the whole process from looking up restaurants on our smart phones to bargaining for the rickshaw drive back home. We did not limit ourselves to dinners however. One of my fondest memories is biting into a divine breakfast vada dumpling standing outside the renown Veena stores at Malleshwaram.

As I gradually learned how to navigate the city on my own, Bangalore became smaller. I roamed around the neighbourhood discovering this and that and reported my findings to N. You must understand that work is extremely consuming for a passionate urban designer. Hours spent at the office are long, things to do are endless and commuting in a congested Indian city is nerve-wrecking.

Yet N. was not deterred by tough deadlines and nights spent at the office with take-away food and Tamil movie soundtracks playing. In India competition is hard and nine to five jobs are a rare luxury. I do admire her zeal and dedication. I hope and believe that her integrity, creativity and focus will lead her to many a challenging and rewarding projects.

N does not only enjoy working though. There are so many things that she would like to do had she the time: cooking out of new recipes, painting on papier-maché, and traveling near and far; drinking morning coffee while solving ‘The Hindu’ crossword; eating pop-corn and candy-bars while watching Tamil Rajini movies and Coffee with Karan (TV that is so bad it becomes good); playing board games where, surprise-surprise, she gets to build settlements; going on long bike rides with a certain other wearing a pink helmet, and of course, writing insightful blog posts.

Before leaving Bangalore, N. asked me what I would miss. Yes, of course, obviously all the available succulent food, but more than that, I would say the context: all those moments shared, from the breakfasts, dinners and photographic city walks, to the weekends away traveling by train and picking fights with fellow passengers.

Who knows when or where we’ll meet again… What I know is that it should be sooner rather than later. I also know that I would like this friendship to last long, because a) I am really curious to see where life takes N., and b) I have just only started my culinary journey  through Indian food and I need a guide.

Maybe, when I am sixty-four and she is a few years younger we’ll have a great deal of interesting things to look back at, and ever so curious taste-buds poking us to discover new tastes and enjoy life.

I am so extremely appreciative of the fact that a five minute walk takes me to paths through fields, over coiling creeks, into thick woods and shady paths.

minskuggakolonilottekebyI am amazed at these enclaves of green at a  mere three km distance from the centre.

snailtrailhjort3I am enjoying it as much as I can and for as long as it lasts.

forestpathcivilisationUrban is the new rural.

 

I am a Zoroaster

I am a Buddhist

I am a Muslim

I am perfect

I am an atheist

I am a Christian

I am agnostic

I am a woman

I am a Hindu

I am a minority

I am a free thinker

I am a man

I am a skeptic

I am the majority

I am a believer

I am a child

I am humanly imperfect.

And as I am writing this list, a genocide is taking place. Can you believe this world?

 

I am a tea drinker, raised by convinced coffee-lovers.

I went astray for some time, lured by the proximity of the coffee machine at my first working place and seduced by the great smell of this magic bean from afar.

Although I hold nothing against coffee, I have come to realise that we may not be suited for each other. Otherwise, the rule says that if you are Swedish, coffee is good at any given time of the day: at breakfast, during breaks, after lunch and dinner, when meeting friends… In brief, fika is the word of the town.

kaffeMy grandmother used to call coffee ‘the elixir of life’ and indeed she looked as if she was imbibing a piece of heaven when sipping on a cup of fragrant brew after dinner.

theburkNevertheless, for lunch she would almost always make tea. When we were out on a pick-nick, or traveling by car and taking a break somewhere along the road she would bring out a thermos of black tea and cucumber sandwiches prepared with grandmotherly providence…

Yes, coffee rules this northern country, but tea has its own distinguished place in the modern culture – a refined and slightly romantically connotated alternative.  After all, I am happy on my niche.

 

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