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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.

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 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:

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