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Ms Zoe has a gentleman caller…

Some of you may know we were adopted by an amusing little feline – Ms Zoe Moonlit Zappa

Did you want this box?

She pranced into our home nearly two years ago, stole our hearts and wound her way into the fabric of our lives.

Yet Zoe is very much a solo cat… aside from her very early days on the streets of Bandra, she’s had no acquaintance with others of her kind.

In came Mr Quantum or “Q” as he’s affectionately called.

“I think I’ve had enough…”

He’s another Bandra street urchin… rescued by a Dutch friend in a lane near our home when he was being used as a cricket bat. Seriously.

Just a few weeks ago, his rescuer, initial mom (who then discovered she is allergic to cats) and I were caught exchanging Q pictures and stories at a party. All that was missing was his current keeper!

Who naturally adores him to bits as he’s a most amiable lovable guy. Which is why he’s with us… she’s traveling at the moment and we decided experiment bringing our two solos cats together.

“I’ll take my belly rub + massage now please”

We’re on our 2nd round of Q coming to the “Smith-Hickling cat spa & resort.”

Let me be honest, Zoe isn’t thrilled about this interloper in her home. However the guest room has been allocated as ‘his’ territory… which she respects.

1st contact…

From the initial “Who the heck are you!” to wary curiosity, to some bravado of hissing and growls, they’ve again settled into scampering about the flat and even being the occasional fridge buddies.

“Who are you looking at?”

Yes – he really is more than double her size but she more than holds her own!

And at night, they call a truce… as snuggling is an important part of keeping humans. And both Ms Zoe and her gentleman caller Q wouldn’t want to be caught being derelict in their duties!

Other adventures of Ms Zoe:

Ode to the Indian subcontinent…

Yesterday marked 70 years of independence for the Indian subcontinent. For many, the memories of the partition which followed – a tragic moment in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh’s history which gave birth to at first two then three nations – have become faded over the years.

Earlier this month, we joined a remarkable Remembering Partition project  organized by Godrej India Cultural Lab  with:

  • A pop-up museum of precious items brought with families
  • Stories captured through the India Memory Project
  • Recordings of families recounting of their journey from the Pakistan side of the border to India…
  • Art installation
  • Panel discussions
  • Imagining partition through fashion
  • The poetry of Kabir set to music by Kabir Cafe
  • 1st viewing of Gurinder Chadha’s film – Viceroy’s House (English) / Partition: 1947 (Hindi)… in which my husband can be seen as Jinnah

While acknowledging the blood, sweat and tears that was part of history, I’d also like to extend a personal thanks to India for giving many the opportunity to be ‘adopted’… this marvellous, maddening and at times mystifying country India has been kind enough to let me – and many others – call it ‘home’.

Here are a few images from the Remembering Partition events…

Related posts:

Whisky Lady – July 2017

July was supposed to be a slow month… During monsoon, things can grind nearly to a halt in Mumbai under a deluge of rain. And with only two whisky clubs scheduled to meet, it seemed not much would be happening.

So a few friends and I decided to invite Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac to Mumbai. Which triggered going from a light month to become chock full of Whisky Lady tastings in Mumbai! Easily my busiest month this year – possibly ever…

It also just so happened to be the month, I celebrated Whisky Lady in India’s 500th post!! Woo hoo!!!

So join me in a synopsis of July 2017’s whisky adventures…

The Whisky Ladies Compass Box Quintet featured:

The gents from the Bombay Malt & Cigar club met twice to make up for missing the previous month’s session…

The 1st was the Scotch Malt Whisky Society Quartet:

The 2nd set was the American Westland with a trio of:

An impromptu excuse to share a few interesting open bottles and samples lead to an evening of Monsoon Malts & More – including a cocktail too!

  • Eddu Silver 40% – Buckwheat whisky from Bretagne, France 
  • R & B Distillers – New entrant bottling interesting whiskies
    • Borders Single Grain 51.7%
    • Raasay “While We Wait” 46%
  • The Exceptional – Craft Distillers Sutcliffe and Ex Macallan’s Willie Phillips new baby
    • Blended Grain Scotch Whisky 43%
    • Blend Small Batch Scotch Whisky 43%
  • Highland Park 12 year 40% – An echo of the old 18 year favourite
  • Finlaggan Cask Strength 58% – A most enjoyable mystery Islay

Just for fun, we held a “Speed Tasting” session by Keshav Prakash of The Vault Fine Spirits featuring:

We then had a “Dream Drams” evening with an exceptional set enjoyed with India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula featuring:

  • Mortlach 37 year (1976/2013) 43% G&MP
  • Lochside (1981/2005) 43% G&MP
  • Mosstowie 35 year (1979/2015) 48.1% Signatory
  • Aultmore 5 year (2007/2012) 66.8% Master of Malt

From Krishna’s Collection we packed into under an hour a few drops of:

I finally shared posts about the February Glenmorangie Bacalta Launch where we sampled:

  • The Original 40% – Foundation of all Glenmorangie “with 140 flavours” — Bill Lumsden
  • Lasanta 12 year 46% – Classic yet enhanced …Creamy, caramel custard, sweet spices 
  • Bacalta 46% – Shows how marvellous a malt an ex-Malmsey Madeira finish can be!

A busy month indeed! There was no way all the tasting notes could be published in July, so you will simply have to be patient over the coming months as all will be revealed…

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

You can also find even more Whisky bits ‘n bobs on:

Whisky Lady – June round up

June was full of so many things – work, travel to London, Winnipeg, Singapore and more!

As for the Whisky Lady side of things?

We had a wee bit of media attention… with a full page feature in the Mumbai Mirror. Be amused… be very amused….

“What next shall why try?”

I was completely humbled by meeting Sukhinder Singh, the guru of The Whisky Exchange, with an opportunity to visit his temple to whisky aka Board Room private collection, rare malts room and private bar in his head office. What a remarkable experience!!

Naturally, our tasting sessions continued…

The Whisky Ladies decided to have ‘A Night with Glen‘ featuring:

Our original group had an unusual range:

The gents from the Bombay Malt & Cigar club didn’t have a June session, but I did post our May tasting of undisclosed distilleries with:

And while I was off gallivanting around Canada, decided to share some light summery whiskey cocktail recipes, courtesy of DISCUS with American whiskies:

  • Old Fashioned – Bourbon, bitters, sugar with a twist of orange
  • Manhattan – Bourbon, vermouth + bitters
  • Mint Julep – Bourbon, simple syrup, bitters + mint
  • The Ginger Baker – Tennessee whisky, ginger, lime + pineapple juice, orgeat syrup with a slice of pineapple
  • Spiced Boulevardier – Infused bourbon, vermouth, campari with a twist of orange or almonds

With a few more posts including:

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

You can also find even more Whisky bits ‘n bobs on:

What’s really been going on…

Ever have a time in your life where so much is happening, it seems almost unreal? As I wrote my immigration form a few hours ago to re-enter India from Singapore, I declared my travels in the last 6 days – Singapore obviously, but also India for a day, before that the UK and Canada.

And why so much travel? The real reason combines the personal and the professional.

On the personal front…

Lots of different things however the real big news is… drum roll here… my partner and I finally took the plunge to sign a piece of paper in Winnipeg with a wee wedding at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. We knew from the moment we met over five years ago that we wanted to spend our lives together, however took our time to get to this stage of bringing our respective families together in celebration.

It still feels strange when folks teasingly call me “Mrs Smith” – a last name I am not adopting but respect completely. I apparently even accidentally hung up on a consulting associate who merrily greeted me that way! (in fairness, the call didn’t connect properly)

Within a week of being wedded in Winnipeg, I was on more planes and found myself in Singapore for some work related meetings. Which is only the tip of the iceberg so to speak as on the professional front as much has happened over the last few months:

  • I was delighted to be back in Jakarta working on a project from September 2016 to December then back briefly in March and April 2017. Naturally this meant a few stops in Singapore in my crisscrossing back and forth between India and Indonesia…
  • January and May were pre-occupied with India projects that enabled trips to Kolkata and Kochi – it had been years since I was in Kerela so that was a particular treat!
  • February brought me to Delhi to co-facilitate a remarkable conference
  • More is unfolding in the technology space with the India company association… plus some new developments brewing that seem particularly exciting!

Beyond the personal and professional, everyday life in India inspired a few amused cribs about:

  • Ready or not, July 1st introduces India’s Goods & Services Tax with some absurd moments and migration migraines from Service Tax to GST
  • After a couple of years of effort, I finally successfully withdrew my last Indian Provident Fund. If ever anyone has tried to do this – foreigner or Indian – you will understand this is NOT necessarily a simple process!
  • After even more effort, a weird system error was finally corrected so that the Indian government was finally convinced I actually had paid my taxes in 2009. Really… honestly… I did… it only took 8 years for them to admit it!!
  • We also learned to survive the aftermath of November 2016’s demonetization in which cash was temporarily dethroned

So from newly wedded bliss, professional developments, to the everyday follies in India, life continues to be an amazing adventure!

There you have… a bit of insight into what’s really going on…

Related posts:

Singapore East Coast Stroll

A bonus to all my trips back and forth between Mumbai and Jakarta from September 2016 to April 2017 was being able to stop in Singapore. I’m back here in Singapore today, post travels to the UK and Canada… completely jet lagged but happy to be back in Asia.

My plan this morning to stroll along the beach was curtailed by rain… so I’m content instead with reminders from past walks… including a November 2016 breakfast wander…

November’s stop was specifically timed to coincide with Whisky Live Singapore. Obviously it was no accident, and my whisky explorations can be found on Whisky Lady, however it was such a treat to spend the weekend in Singapore, staying with my friend on the East Coast.

Why such a treat? Aside from it being my home away from home… that particular day happened to be one of those rare mornings when both my friend and I had a bit of time to go together for a stroll along the coast.

We began with breakfast – kaya toast, runny eggs and kopi with spicy noodles – both familiar ‘comfort foods’ of Singapore…

2016-11-11-kaya-kopi 2016-11-11-singapore-breakfast

Enjoyed watching kids decorate their kites…

And generally witnessed the world go by.

 

While we live next to the water in Mumbai too, there is a different kind of rhythm and feel to the coast of each city. This particular part of Singapore remains one of my absolute favourites and hopefully tomorrow morning the weather will cooperate and I can enjoy a nice long wander…

Related posts:

Random bull…

Street art of various forms have a habit of popping up all over Mumbai. And others appear then disappear… either with the ravages of weather of simply the ever evolving pulse of the city.

I shouldn’t be surprised… but must admit, I was by this random water buffalo that just showed up on the narrow path between a park and the small homes of the original village just outside our door.

I’m sure there is a story behind this fellow… but none of his neighbours seemed to know.

It is just one of those things…

Related posts:

Whisky Lady – May Madness

May brought adventures around India with trips to Kolkata, Kochi with a nice juicy project in Mumbai. It also brought the heat before the monsoon… shifting from mere heat to drenching humidity.

All three tasting groups also got into the action!

The Whisky Ladies and our original group enjoyed Bruichladdich Peat Progressions with:

The BMC gent’s finally had their version of the Undisclosed Distillery session with a bonus:

A return of the Miniatures sessions with:

Shared tasting notes from a 2nd Flight at The Single Cask with a lighter touch with:

With a few more tastings including:

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

You can also find even more Whisky bits ‘n bobs on:

Whisky Lady – April

April brought another trip to Jakarta and Singapore – naturally fitting in a whisky flight too!

Plus two of our whisky groups met up and I revived my “mini” session too – with notes to follow in the coming months…

Whisky Ladies explore Master Distiller Rachel Barrie’s Bowmore Travel Trilogy:

Finally got around to sharing our February Original’s Undisclosed Distillery session with the BMC lads:

Our original group had a celebration of NAS whiskies:

I also managed to swing through Singapore twice in March and April with stops at:

There were a few more notes sharing Whisky Live Singapore explorations:

Plus the last from the archives:

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

You can also find my Whisky Lady in India avatar on:

Migration migraines… Welcome to India’s GST

India has a reputation as being a place where some things take “foreeeever” to accomplish. Whereas others happen so fast, no one is prepared! Such as the sudden overnight demonetization of Rs 500 & 1,000 notes.

Or the “GST migration” taking place all over the country.

In the last two weeks I’ve been inundated by emails, pro-active phone calls begging and pleading me to migrate my Service Tax number before the “deadline” of 31st March 2017.

But guess what?

The initial “deadline” was completely impossible to achieve. To migrate one assessee took several hours of painstaking mind numbing effort online, repeatedly trying and testing to see if this photo would upload or that one… In short, the government servers and systems are so slow and archaic or so poorly designed it was simply not possible!

Welcome to digital India!!

And the real kicker to all of this?

As of close of business on Wednesday, 29th March 2017, the status of India’s “brave new tax reforms” was stuck at the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) which had raised objections regarding the GST bills which then went to the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament).

Meaning an entire country’s machinery was being activated even before it was passed by Parliament or became law!!

And the latest greatest twist to this story? An invitation to a “GST Mela”!!

Now a mela in India is a fair – something fun! A great big gathering, often community celebrations but… for taxes?? Seriously taxes??

Naturally the invite:

  • Doesn’t say where this mythical event will take
  • Only dates not timings (being government it is assumed everyone knows only between 10:00am to 2:00pm and maybe possibly again between 3:00pm – 5:00pm)
  • Sent from a hastily created Gmail ID
  • Released the email IDs and names of 382 other fellow Assessees!!!

I’m not kidding. Seriously. This is a bonafide tax office initiative.

So I wrote back asking where, when and what the heck is up with releasing my email ID to scads of other folks stuck in this hapless situation of ‘migration’?

Amazingly within less than a minute, I received an email reply providing the details, assurances this is a legitimate request to help assessees.

Even more remarkably, it was followed up seconds later with a phone call. From a young man speaking in English helping clarify and sincerely requesting I complete my migration – either in person or by sending my assistant (naturally he assumed I have one!).

And when I asked what is needed:

  • Only your mobile number and email ID…
  • Um… that doesn’t sound right. Anything else?
    • Maybe your Adhaar and PAN number…?
  • But I don’t have an Adhaar (India’s controversial universal ID card)
    • Oh ok. No problem…
  • What about the photo and address proof as required on the website?
    • Nope not needed!

Umm…. really? Somehow I don’t think this is correct.

On disclosing everyone’s email IDs, he apologized that they hadn’t thought about tax payer confidentiality and shared they are under “too much pressure!” to get 100% compliance.

Obviously he couldn’t actually say if my migration was outstanding or not.

That would be too simple.

Moral of the story?

Living in India Tip #3

Never underestimate the speed things can happen… or change… or that if you just dig a bit further they may be alternate arrangements for the back-up arrangements. It may not initially make sense but you will get there in the end!

Related posts:

Welcome!

Carissa Hickling

Carissa Hickling

Originally from Winnipeg, Canada, has called India home since 2003, working in Asia Pacific and traveling all over! She's also a bit of a 'Whisky Lady' too!

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