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Whisky Lady – September 2017

September’s Whisky Lady tastings was a mixed month as one club didn’t meet and another did but it was a rare session I missed due to travel! Naturally I augmented with other experiences and shared the final set of tasting notes from our remarkable July which had seven different sessions!

The gents from the Bombay Malt & Cigar club met late August with an unusual selection of three Single Grains and two Indian whiskies:

Our whisky ladies had a lovely Sunday sundowner with this quartet:

Whereas our original club enjoyed the following (alas without me as I was off gallivanting in the North America!):

  • Writers Tears Cask Strength (2016 Release) 53%
  • Springbank 12 year Burgundy (June 2016 Release) Cask Strength 53.5%
  • Springbank 12 year (January 2017 Release) Cask Strength 54.2%

I also held a bottle polishing-off session with experiments in barley, wheats and more:

Plus a sample session with Duty-Free No Age Statement (NAS) drams:

I shared July’s tasting notes from our “Dream Drams” evening with an exceptional set enjoyed with India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula featuring:

Plus revived the Whisky Tips with:

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

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

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What to do if you NEED to “go!” Public toilets in India

There are simply things not done in polite society… and yet when there are no easy ways to do what most consider rather private activities, it becomes a very public matter.

My favourite walking spot is the promenade with a view of the Bandra Sea Link. I’ll never forget one time I watched a mother patiently help her young daughter learn how to squat and defecate over a drainage hole. If you live on the streets, it is certainly a better alternative than many other options.

So the other day, I was delighted to see colourfully painted public toilets for men and women… set up to service the labour community that has sprung up next to the Sea Link promenade to build the new metro station. How fabulous!

Except, despite appearances and it being a terrific initiative, they don’t work. At all.

Instead, they stand locked, testament to a great idea with infuriatingly poor execution. Clearly money was spent to set them up, but not to actually keep them functioning.

It is hard not to be cynical. Until GST, on every transaction an additional 0.5% cess was paid to raise funds for “Clean India” i.e. Swachh Bharat… which is best seen in propaganda paintings supporting the government agenda of the day rather than real change.

As a woman, I dare you to find a decent public toilet outside of fancy malls…. that works.

However I remain optimistic. I take hope in the efforts of individuals who work to improve things… despite the odds.

PS – Interestingly this post prompted racist hate mail, naturally by a man, offended that I was concerned that time, money, effort went into something which could serve public good but doesn’t. Because after all “Foreigners like you have only to say shit things about India like any typical Westerners.” Hmm… I suppose having a life linked directly with India since 1990, nearly 20 years calling India home means nothing and I’m not entitled to have an opinion as my origins are outside India. I wonder if that same individual, if living in say Canada, would believe he has no right to be concerned about something he finds potentially positive but frustratingly not fulfilling its mandate?

Related posts:

Whisky Lady – August 2017

August was a bit of a catch-up month for Whisky Lady tastings… chock full of notes from July’s excesses with even more from those sessions to come next month.

August sessions were held with each Mumbai based whisky clubs – yet two were of a decidedly social bent!

The Original’s session featured an Islay Trio:

The Whisky Ladies turned two! With a celebration of whisky women fellowship…

And finally on 31st August 2017, we had our Bombay Malt & Cigar partners night where we explored a trio of single grains:

  • Girvan 8 years (2006) Cask 532398 46% (Berrys’)
  • Strathclyde 25 year (1990/2016) DL11335 51.5% (Douglas Laing’s Old Particular)
  • Invergordon 28 year (1987/2015) DL 11004 56.5% (Douglas Laing’s Old Particular)

Followed by two Indian whiskies:

  • Sula’s Eclipse Blended Whisky 42.8%
  • Rampur 43%

I  shared tasting notes from our July 2017 American Westland trio of:

Our July Monsoon Malts & More evening covered an eclectic range with:

Check out what can be squeezed into just a couple of minutes “Speed Tasting” impressions with:

I also published tasting notes from July’s Krishna’s Collection with:

Naturally with a few odds and ends… including:

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

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

Everyday Asia – 17th Quarter Summary

Who counts 17 quarters? Seriously?!

Quarterly updates was a tradition I began years ago – once a quarter share a bit on what is happening both in real life and a blog recap. So four and a quarter years later, I may not be regular but Everyday Asia is still around!

So what’s up?

I already shared the biggest news of all – getting married in Manitoba! Which sparked a bit of travel to London, Winnipeg (Canada), back to London, Mumbai, on to Singapore and finally back home. Not much has changed, with a few minor exceptions!

I also shared work has been busy… keeping me exceedingly pre-occupied pre and post wedding, surfacing only 2nd week of August. Reflections on one aspect of such projects led to my sharing The numbers game aka “When 1 + 2 doesn’t = 3” (or elephants have 2 trunks!). I’ve since shifted gears back to the regular activities and efforts, much neglected with the project pressures.

Ms Zoe has had a gentleman caller – Mr Q. While these two felines may not be best friends, they did become fridge buddies and could be found scampering around the flat. Q has since gone back to his home, and Zoe has repeatedly demonstrated her happiness at having her home back!

On that front… we were given notice… Our beloved rental home was up for sale. Which prompted us to consider finding our own place. After  an initial check on the market, decided though prices have come down, what you get for what you pay still isn’t justified. So redirected our efforts to a rental flat. Found one… were about to sign… only to have our landlord announce he’d changed his mind!!?

As it made more sense to stay, we backed out (with much chagrin). What a weird, short but fascinating glimpse into the absurd Mumbai housing market. Sheesh!

We are taking advantage of a bit of a lull to continue to tackle reducing our clutter – move or no move – and catching up with friends. All in all a good quarter.

As for Everyday Asia? The top posts for the quarter are:

Given my other blog Whisky Lady has been prodigiously producing content, my last three monthly round up made it into the top 10 with Whisky Lady’s May 2017, June 2017 and July 2017 summaries. That blog has been blasting through all expectations with the range of whiskies sampled, now surpassing Everyday Asia with over 500 posts and over 3,000 followers – yowza!

While my Everyday Asia posting may be sporadic – little when busy with projects and a sudden burst when between gigs – it continues to fun sharing a few insights into the amusing, mad and sometimes remarkable life of a Canadian transplant in India!

Thank you as always for joining the journey…

Earlier updates:

The numbers game aka “When 1 + 2 doesn’t = 3!” (or elephants have 2 trunks)

I can’t help but observe that folks love their data in India… lots of lovely numbers, preferably in pretty charts or graphs. Which are generally accepted as ‘truth’ and ‘correct’.

When I contrast the work I do in India vs say Indonesia or Malaysia, there is generally a wealth of data tracked and reported by companies here compared to sometimes quite limited data points in other markets.

But here is the thing, it can be absolutely maddening if you have to DO something with those lovely numbers.

Because, you see, 1 doesn’t necessary mean 1 and 2 doesn’t necessarily mean the 2 you think it does so as a result when you try to put them together you don’t get 3 but instead 4 or 5… and that result definitely does not match that other figure from another report or source that is supposed to be the same thing!! Arrrghh!!

During a recent project, I was reminded of this – full force! With much angst, long hours and considerable effort required for things that should have been simple to provide, understand and then use effectively.

Why? It seemed no one had ever probed deeper into the numbers. They were simply accepted. At the board level.

Yet as soon as I attempted to compare those lovely statistics across different reports and distribution channels, then attempted to validate with my own calculations, sense checking what I found during a diagnostic, nothing added up.

So I had to go back – asking what may have seemed like extremely obvious things but revealed quite different assumptions and completely different methodologies which meant those pretty numbers presented for years were actually not correct… or more precisely were correct only if the different definitions, assumptions and calculation methodology were disclosed.

Without such disclosures, one side looked really healthy whereas the other side looked like complete laggards… which when using the same definitions, assumptions and calculation methodology provided a slightly different picture. Hmm…

In another case, it was a classic ‘elephant’ scenario… each was busy describing the tail, trunk, leg and other body parts in isolation. So while the elephant trunk is a trunk and correct exactly as described on its own, when asked to show the elephant as a whole (i.e. put the pieces together), two trunks were added, making for a rather strange looking elephant.

Except just as this potentially misleading elephant photo proved, when the image is questioned and examined further rather than simply accepted as a freak of nature, another story (or in this case another elephant!) is revealed.

Had I simply accepted that elephants can have two trunks and reported this marvel at the shareholders meeting, we would have missed completely the 2nd elephant and continued to perpetuate the myth of the exceptional two-trunked pachyderm!

In a land where creative accounting is an art form and there is an army of experts to help dodge taxes, it is no wonder that blindly accepting numbers as fact without checking and making the effort to understand in context is a dicey thing.

This is not just in a corporate context but political too. Just take Scroll’s recent ‘fact check’ articles on the Prime Minister’s Independence Day address… or assertions on the effectiveness of demonetisation. If you probe a little deeper, do not accept ‘facts’ and ‘data’ at face value, an alternate perspective emerges.

In fairness, the complexity and range of variables found in India means simple measures may not be sufficient. That is a large part of why trying to neatly fit things together isn’t so easy.

I have a great deal of respect for the calibre and quality of the people at the companies I work with and an appreciation that the reality may be (and often is!) different than someone externally expects.

A standard global report or approach may simply not account for all the factors. Sometimes what it takes is creating a bridge between the two that helps provide the context or story so that everyone can see there really are two elephants.

Living India Tip #4

Moral of the story? The numbers you are given may not be ‘wrong’, however they just may not be ‘right’ as you initially interpret them!

Don’t be afraid to check there isn’t a 2nd elephant hidden behind! And help make it easier for others to quickly spot that 2nd elephant too…

Related posts:

Aspirations of becoming a ‘zamindar’… sort of…

When you have spent your entire adult life in rented homes and apartments, owning your own little slice of property is a dream.

Living in India with my current status means there are considerable hurdles to ownership, however as an Indian citizen, my husband can.

Right from when we met, he was looking at land outside Mumbai… after a few near hits, misses and – let’s face it swindles – it seemed at long last we  found our little slice of heaven on the road from Mumbai to Goa.

Our ‘blue room’ aka study/guest room

Until our landlord threw a spanner into the works!

He has regretfully given us notice… our beloved Bandra home will be sold over the next 2-3 months.

Very kindly, he’s given us the 1st opportunity to buy it… knowing that after nearly six years, the building society is happy with us and even the secretary keeps urging us “Ask your landlord to sell to you!” 

We also know what to expect… cognizant that every decade or less, there will be upheaval as infrastructural repairs take place. We’d be only too happy to remain.

Alas, his expectations are double our current capacity and yet, with his announcement, we halted our plots and plans for land outside Mumbai to shift focus completely to our backyard.

A rare remaining Bandra bungalow… naturally 100 times outta our league…

To make an interesting discovery…

What was once completely out of our reach has now become a difficult but not impossible.

Thanks to demonetization, home purchases can be made with ‘white’ money.

Thanks to GST and further slowing of the economy (no matter what may be said publicly, this is the case!), prices have come down considerably.

And biggest surprise to us both, free-lancers like ourselves may actually be eligible for a modest mortgage… as banks are crying out for ‘assets’.

So… if anyone knows of a decent 2BHK (translation 2 bedroom, hall, kitchen with 2 bathrooms) anywhere in Bandra West, East, Khar and even a bit beyond… let us know!

And don’t laugh at our budget… it is small but sincere.

PS – Turns out it was a ‘false alarm’! No sooner had we decided against buying, found a new flat, were about to sign the lease… our landlord decided NOT to sell after all. Given our overall comfort in our current abode, hassle and expense of moving, we’ve decided to accept his change of heart and renew for another three years. Our aspirations remain unquenched… just now back to our original plan to get a wee plot of land in the country.

Related posts:

Being “Mrs Smith”…. Everyday life post shadi

Thanks to the movie “Mr & Mrs Smith“, folks delight in calling us by that monikar…

Now thankfully we don’t have any assassination plans for each other, however it is amazing how many times I’m asked “How does it feel to be Mrs Smith?”

Here is the thing, I’m not actually Mrs Smith but remain Ms Hickling – firmly, confidently and happily so with the full support of my hubby.

And in terms of our everyday life, very little has changed.

Many folks assume this will help with my Indian visa… and it may in a couple of years but not anytime soon. The rules in India are one qualifies to apply for an OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) visa only after two years of marriage. So in the meantime, my work visa will hopefully remain uncomplicated.

At a recent gathering I was put on the spot to name two things that are different. Not good or bad, just different.

Bandra Gym Membership… Almost

Amusingly one of the 1st things my partner did when we received our marriage certificate was go to the Bandra Gym and start the process for my spousal associate membership. It isn’t through yet but I can’t wait as it means I will finally get to use the pool!

However there is a traditional – dare I say mildly sexist dimension – it can only be issued in the name of Mrs Smith. Now had it been me who was the member and my husband applying to be an associate member, no such name change would be imposed. However as a ‘wife’, I’m expected to take on his last name. Hmm…

Needless to say my partner was outraged on my behalf, however in the grand scheme of things, if it is that important to meet the Catholic cultural sensibilities of the gym, why should I be fussy? Provided there is no requirement to back it up with a legal name change!

Community Events

Along with privileges comes responsibilities. My partner is terrific at ‘giving back.’ One of his many activities is judging things like school elocution and debating contests. This year he expected to be off on a film shoot so had to declined one All-India Anglo-Indian inter-school debate.

When it was discovered the dates were pushed back, “Mr & Mrs Smith” were cordially invited to be chief guests. Not just Mr Smith but Mrs Smith too… not really optional.

It was my 1st venture into such ‘wifely’ activities in the Anglo-Indian community… Always up for new adventures!

Naturally I was also asked to ‘say a few inspiring words’ to the students and their teachers from the participants who came from all corners. You’d have to ask those who attended whether my comments hit the mark but it was interesting hearing the debates from the high calibre students.

Beyond this, really, not much has changed! We’re quite content with our lives and see no need for a piece of paper to make much of a difference. We knew from when we first met, we found friend, companion, lover and above all partner.

Related posts:

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 to 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:

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