Have you ever tasted a food and it just immediately whisks you away to a long forgotten memory. I am going to share an anecdote from today to explain this.
Today was my first outing of 2023, which was not to a hospital or for a doctors appointment. Yeah !! Yeah !!I am whining!! I have tried to embrace the chaotic side of life,without necessarily putting a positive spin on it. Fracturing my toe just before Christmas was not perfect, and in fact is annoying. I was listening to a Philosophy podcast yesterday, which reminded me nothing is good or bad, it just is. So yes I am whining, but it is not necessarily bad, and it is not good either. So where am I going with this ? Not entirely sure. I was definitely looking forward to going out of the house.
The outing was for grocery shopping, nothing exciting. The groceries were specific Indian Groceries, so required the visit to an Indian store.And along with the shopping we decided we could have a pit stop over at Saravana Bhavan for lunch. Saravana Bhavan is an Indian food chain which specialises in South Indian food. I have visited it many times in India while growing up. It s sort of an ritual for us at London, whenever we go for Indian grocery shopping,we stop over at Indian restaurant for a bite.
A wonderful friend meanwhile called to catch up. Having been unable to move around for a while and most interactions being over phone, the idea of meeting her in person sounded an exciting proposition. I invited her to join me for some exciting grocery shopping, so we could have a tête-à-tête while shopping. Walking around the aisles of the shop , while searching Tur Daal, tamarind or Pudina, and sharing some interesting insights over our daily life, made the mundane less boring. So off we drove for some grocery shopping.
On the journey to grocery store I remembered this Icecream parlour which I have been meaning to go to for a while. I would hear the advertisement of the place on the radio ever so often , 📻 while listening to the Bollywood songs. The unique flavour being mentioned often would pique my interest.
After tucking in the meal, and having chatted about our compelling work lives, and exchanging our views on the shows we were watching on Netflix. We walked in to this icecream parlour, determined to The place looked like your regular icecream parlour with variety of ice creams and colourful cubicles to sit and enjoy the treat. Yet for us the place sounded extremely exhilarating, with flavours of the ice creams are unique and inspired by Indian desserts or fruits which we were used to eating while growing up in India. There was Chikkoo,Sitaphal, Tender Coconut , Guava flavoured ice cream. Then there was Raj Bhog, Pan and Shahi Gulkand ones.
There is something about of Ice cream which awakens the childlike enthusiasm in me and makes the world a colourful and a place full of wonders. We chatted animatedly about which flavour we should try , we seemed to be squealing in joy just looking at the names of flavours.
The lovely persons at the counter looking at our indecisiveness offered a taster on a small little spoon 🥄 with Guava ice cream served with a sprinkle of salt and chilli powder, just like how a Guava is eaten back in India.
The spoonful of icecream transported me to streets of South Mumbai, years ago , to a sunny afternoon of a workday, outside my workplace, where I would buy Guava from the hawker on the street at lunchtime, and the hawker would Cut the fruit in to four .
I would nod my head absentmindedly thinking of some mundane task waiting for me at the desk
He would sprinkle some masala between the cut fruit , rub the cut fruit gently to spread it evenly.
I would bite in to the fruit ,the spicy chilly with the fleshy sweet fruit creating this delicious blend, bursting with flavours in my mouth. It would just make me stop to enjoy it’s deliciousness. I would be standing amidst the the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, with the traffic flying by, office goers rushing in and out of the buildings, the flavours making me forget the rush, and bringing about a moment of calm in the busy streets, like there was a rhythm in this mad rush around.
I would head back up to my desk slowly savouring the moment, biting and chewing the delicious fruit . I would place the rest of the fruit on my desk and get ready for the next part of my work day.
And my colleague would peak at my desk from her cubicle , watching my happy face biting in to the fruit.
“ I am going to get some Peru. Where is the hawker standing ? “
Guava in Marathi is called Peru.
Such is the power of nostalgia!! A small bite of ice cream brought such immense joy and brought flooding back beautiful memories. What seemed so mundane to me then years back, is not so mundane after all. All the mundane of today perhaps has some not so mundane moments of tomorrow.
“Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving and identity.” – Jonathan Safran Foer
I do like a Literary jaunt and often I try to infuse our travel plans with a bit of literary trail.
A decade and a half back when I moved to UK, I found out about the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. Being a Jane Austen Fan, I was immediately curious to see and experience the festival. When I visited the festival back in 2008 I had hand written on a little note pad my first impressions, with an intention to include it in a letter to a friend back in India, who is also a Jane Austen fan.
Interestingly when I read it now, I can see my child like enthusiasm of knowing more about my favourite writer. I find it strange to read my own words a decade and a half later and find my naivety and my wide-eyed observations very amusing.
“She lived in Bath for five years, after her father retired. She knew Bath from childhood since her grandparents were from Bath and though she was not wealthy, but she had wealthy relative. In fact, she disliked Bath and had written to her sister mentioning it being very unpleasant to stay in Bath. And even in her books the characters from Bath are described as silly overly pompous or slimy.
It was very interesting to know about Jane Austen as a person. She did not marry because she did not believe in marriage without affection. She in fact has supposed to have got a proposal at the age of 27 from a rich man, when it is considered very late in those times. She is supposed to have accepted and within twelve hours withdrawn it. She was told by many that it was wise to do so, and it will secure her a comfortable life. She was driven to poverty and had to live in slums, when she became unwell her brother helped her out and moved out to coun. In those days even in England, not being married was looked down upon. I can relate to this woman, she may not have been very brave and powerful, yet she had some conviction.
I bought a book at Jane Austen Centre, which is compilation of her letters to her sister Cassandra and her niece. It is said, in those days the girls were taught good letter writing skills, it was the way ladies made their mark on social world, exchanged views about fashion and gossiped. A good writing skill was must for all girls. Jane Austen’s letters are mere exchange of thoughts, views, and communication with her sister. Her sister was her confidante, her support and good friend. I read the first letter, she wrote it when she was 20, and she mentions flirting with a guy named Tom Lefroy(the person with whom she falls in love as per the movie Becoming Jane), and how she has spent her money on pink petticoats and laces for the ball, which man is eyeing which woman, etc. Her letter is very much like a letter I would write to you!!“
I still find it a bit quizzical as to why the Jane Austen festival is held in a place which the author disliked very much, yet it sits in my memory very closely associated with Jane Austen and I have very fond memories of my visit.
I have always enjoyed reading her books. I loved her story telling, the description of the English countryside in her books, the regency era picnics, and her writing style,which in beginning I struggled with. As a young girl in India reading her books, I had to get used to her language, her style of writing and narration. English language has evolved since her writing the books, words do not have the same meaning as they did in when she wrote the book. Her way of describing things ,choice of words, the old way of describing age, what does ‘coming out of a girl’ refer to, words like insipid and unattached fascinated and puzzled me at the same time. It gave me the love for English countrysides, an understanding of the era and it also improved my vocabulary immensely.
I admire her courage and strength, for staying true to her heart, in spite of the difficulties in her way. I find it an extraordinary feat that a woman who never travelled out of England has managed to capture the hearts of many around the world with her words. They have an audience even two centuries later. Her books have been translated in many languages and have been adapted to movies and series across the world. I find her tales are timeless and are relevant across cultures.
I personally prefer reading books to screen adaptions. I am always a bit sceptical whether they capture the essence of the book, and sometimes I find reading a book more engaging and it is more soul satisfying. But I do watch the screen adaptations too, and not averse to them.
I have a few favourites from Jane Austen s book adaptions on screen. I love the BBC Mini Series 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice and a movie in Tamil called Kandukondain Kandukondain, which is the adaption of Sense and Sensibilities. And how can I forget the modern rendition of Emma ; Clueless. And I also loved the reference to the book Pride and Prejudice, in the movie You’ve got mail
“Confession: I have read Pride and Prejudice two hundred times. I get lost in the language; words like: Thither. Mischance. Felicity”.
Kathleen and Joe s exchange on Pride and Prejudice throughout the movie is very interesting. I have read Pride and Prejudice many times; unlike Kathleen I have not kept count of it, and I personally prefer Sense and Sensibilities over Pride and Prejudice.
I have been recently wondering whether her books are popular with Millennials and Gen Z. Will her stories and tales live on? Can her characters and stories be relatable to 21st century?
As her avid fan I hope and wish her stories to be alive and read for many more years. I also happen to know Mark Twain, disliked Jane Austen’s work and he has vehemently criticised her work. Years ago, when I read about his views, I was a bit disappointed. I do like both the authors, and admire their command over storytelling, their wit and humour. I am also not too sure, if I were to give the book to my husband and say “ Read it , you will love it “, as Kathleen says to Joe in You’ve got mail. I doubt he would be as enthusiastic as I am about Austen s work.
Charlotte Bronte did not like Jane Austen’s writing as it did not have enough poetry or passion in it for her. I loved reading Bronte s Jane Eyre. And I am certain Bronte and Austen would agree that they both had very different styles of writing.
So it is a ‘universal truth ‘that not everyone likes her books and writing style. I understand we all have our own preferences in reading, and not all books have the same fan following and not all books are written for everyone.
In her stories, I found the extreme pressure on woman of finding a man narrated well and with a bit of humour . She depicts very well the plight of women in that era , and how marriage was her ticket to a comfortable life, the whole charade involved in finding a suitor with prospects was interesting and insightful for me. I originate from India, where arranged marriages are very common and I could see the parallels of it in her books. And I believe in the present days as well there is an immense pressure on woman to find someone by certain age, which can create anxieties and stress. She has taken all the immense pressure turned it to a story and narrates it with a bit of fun and humour.
Besides that, I found her stories transported me to regency world, the social gatherings and picnics and parties. She seems to have been a keen observer, with great social skills and has narrated the stories rather very well. Perhaps the writing gave her the solace she needed and it was her form of coping mechanism with the immense stress on her of finding a man. She gave her heroines what she did not find, a love match.
In her letters, I could see a brilliant vivacious girl, with a great penmanship, who had to play by the rules the society had laid down for her and every women. She expressed and rebelled in the way she thought best. I have often pondered what if Jane Austen lived in the current days. I think she would be an influencer, would have many followers on her social media posts, she would be creating funny videos on Tik Tok and writing funny, sharp and edgy blogs.
If you are an Austen admirer and fan of Regency period, I believe the Jane Austen Festival in Bath is worth a visit. It is an immersive and fun experience.
I did enjoy the festival a lot ,it is also the best way to see the city Bath. Unlike Austen, I love the city of Bath; with its Roman Baths, the Royal Crescent, Bath Abbey, cobbled streets, pretty cafes to site by and do a bit of people watching.
I had been wanting to visit the festival again for a while.
Last year we were passing by Bath, during the Jane Austen festival. We decided to stop over and experience the festival again. The festival is usually held during September, and there are various Jane Austen themed events that are organised. There is festival Fayre, whereby there are stalls full of Regency articles, hats, and silhouette artists. There is a country dance Ball, Regency themed Tea parties.
We attended the hilarious 20-minute version of Pride and Prejudice, which also has a funny recreation of Mr Darcy with ‘wet shirt scene. I enjoyed the show and had a hearty laugh.
The Pump Room, which is mentioned in the book Persuasion, has been the social heart of the city for a long time. It now has a Regency style Ball during the festival time.
The grand event which was my favourite from both the visits is the famous costumed Regency Promenade. The promenade is a procession of people dressed in regency costumes, walking in Jane Austen’s footsteps taking in many of Bath’s famous landmarks. The parade takes an hour to finish and ends at Parade Gardens. The costumes are so colourful, and it has joyous vibe to it.
There are many places in England associated with Jane Austen some of which I have visited, perhaps I will write about them another day. But the one which remain close to my heart is the Bath Jane Austen Festival and the costume promenade.
At the beginning of 2021, WordPress very diligently reminded me that it was the 5th year anniversary of my blog. It made me wonder, what prompted me start this blog. I had no rhyme or reason to start this blog, I had no strategy and I had absolutely no planning or thought process behind organizing the blog.