Fishy business (but good for the sole)

It’s not easy, being a girl. Especially a great, big, pink, sweaty, foreign girl, who has to live every day amongst thousands of beautiful (and petite) Indian women. The kinds of women who do that irritating ‘effortless chic’ thing with their glossy black hair, never-smudged eyeliner, glowing skin and expertly shaped eyebrows. The kinds of women who wear jeans in 40 degree heat without expelling a single drop of perspiration. I’m sure you’ll understand when I say this really doesn’t do much for my self-esteem.

But I think I’ve finally come to terms with being comically tall and constantly sweaty, and have faced the fact that wearing eye makeup (or any kind of makeup, for that matter) just isn’t an option in Delhi post-February.

What I can’t deal with, though, is having disgusting feet.

Living in a big, polluted city with a climate that makes wearing any footwear other than flip flops out of the question, it’s not surprising to get home after a long day and realise your feet are coated in a thick layer of dust, dirt and god-knows-what-else.

The thing is, I’m so lazy that during all these months of trudging along Delhi’s streets, and thus making my poor tootsies increasingly worn and disgusting, I haven’t been for a single pedicure treatment. And I’ve now reached the stage where I just can’t cope with the idea of expecting another human being to restore my feet to their former – softer and cleaner – condition. No person should ever have to perform a task that horrific.

A fish, on the other hand…

Well, that was my logic. Although I have been told by several reliable sources (including Maegan’s boyfriend) that most of these ‘fish pedicure’ places have been closed down because of hygiene reasons or, possibly, because animal rights activists thought it was cruel to make poor, defenseless creatures nibble the dead skin off the general public’s feet. Which, I suppose, is fair enough.

So it made perfect sense, then, to give this fishy foot fiesta a try before it was made illegal in Delhi too. And since it was Maegan’s birthday last month (and I hadn’t got her anything…), I thought it would be nice to drag her along with me and treat her to her very own aquatic ordeal.

We went to ‘Happy Feet’, a stall with a slightly misleading name in Select Citywalk, and plunged our feet into a glass tank full of small, innocent-looking brown fish, which quickly swarmed around our toes in exactly the same way that groups of students flocked round the aloo tikki stand after classes at DU.

It tickled. A lot. And then it started to hurt, which was unexpected. Nobody had told me there would be pain involved!

The small, innocent-looking fish were frantically chewing at my living flesh. They were basically mini pirhanas; the presence of my big, pink, foreign feet sending them into an ecstatic feeding frenzy. The whole concept, I suddenly realised, was horrible. Why was I doing this?

Ezgi, our Turkish friend from college, and who I’d also lured into this pirhana preschool, was watching her feet with great interest. ‘In Turkey they have spas where you sit up to your neck in water like this. With fish.’

Maegan and I grimaced.

But, fifteen minutes later, our feet emerged from the tank and – if you ignored the bite marks – did look a bit nicer. We were then treated to a bit of industrial foot-scraping, followed by some nice moisturiser and a relaxing massage. And, until I went outside and walked about in the dust, my feet did look incredibly well looked-after. It’s just a shame that the effects only lasted a few minutes.

I suppose these fish pedicures are more of a gimmick than anything. I don’t imagine I’ll be going back for another one, so I’m sure I’ll be able to cope if (or when) they get banned everywhere. As an experience, though, it was probably one of the only things that’s been ticklish, hilarious, painful, ethically-questionable and nausea-inducing at the same time, so it’s got to get some points for that. But I do feel a bit sorry for the fish.



Those that have been regular readers of this blog have known my disappointment about finding Majnu ka Tilla closed the first time I went to visit. We’ve been planning another visit ever since and this time, the Cheesecake trio was bang on target! We were very ambitious, as the plan was to have breakfast, head towards Sarojini Nagar market, and then go all the way northwards to have me visit MkT.

So, after a lovely brunch of M-made Poha, we auto-ed down to Sarojini. Sunday winter afternoon frenzy had begun by the time we got there. In between trying to fix a toaster that didn’t need fixing and shopping for ridiculously cheap clothes, I managed to find myself a beautiful set of teacups from this crockery shop.

We reached MkT in the late afternoon. For those still unacquainted with the place, it is a Tibetan colony/market near the north campus of DU. There are narrow alleyways lined with “Free Tibet” posters and crammed with shops that sell incense to silver jewellery and silk fabrics to Yakmina! S and I got shawls made out of 100% Yak’s wool, making them heavier and bigger than the Pashminas we’re used to. How exciting, we thought! Cake and coffee followed, as we made ourselves cozy in a cafe in one corner of the market. The ambience of the place is very similar to North-eastern India, it’s not like being in the heart of Delhi at all. Even the kind of music that played in the eateries here is different. Another cafe that we stopped at had pictures of ‘Tintin in Tibet’ framed on their walls! We (over)stuffed ourselves with delicious chowmein/flat noodles/thukpa. It is indeed, as I had been told, a charming place…

A very satisfying day, I mused, on my metro ride back, laden with teacups and a massive shawl, and a present for V. Never a dull moment with my Cheesecake girlies…

Late Lies the Wintry Sun A-bed…

The cheesecake girls met up for the last time this year. The initial plan of having me visit the ‘inexpensive-but-awesome’ Majnu ka Tila was thwarted because the market was closed. Both M & S claimed vehemently that they’d never heard of the entire place shut down, but it seemed it was so because of some Dalai Lama event or another. Disappointed! Not completely though, for we did manage to catch a good look of Susanna’s favorite ‘Big Black Boar (Pig)’ from the rickshaw!

The three of us scratched our heads and unanimously agreed that the next best way to honor the ‘tradition’ was to head to Big Chill in Khan and have (yes, you got it!) more decadent cheesecake. Dreamy eyed damsels then couldn’t wait for a long metro ride and autorickshaw-ed instead! Having gotten ourselves to Khan, we scooted over. We write (and hence, advertize) so much about the place that we ought to be given a table right away, but sadly, that’s yet to happen. The good old 15 – 20 min wait later, we quickly ordered a salad (which had so many ‘leaves’ that it made me feel like a cow, frankly) and a pasta. We took care to not order too much because we had to do justice to desert, no?

And then, the cakes… the combination of the brown and the white (much like the three of us) that we attacked and M rightly put it when she said ‘This double chocolate thing looks manageable every time, but it defeats me in the end!’ We did finish both between the three of us and felt very beautiful indeed 🙂

The conversations were warm, the breeze crisp, and the cakes smooth… over cheesecake it began and with it, this year ended. It was a gorgeous Delhi December evening and three very full females skipped (yes, cakes do make us that happy) over to The Body Shop to do what we do every time (another post for that).

The Quest for Blue Shoes

Blue shoes. Yes. Why, you ask? Well, simply because I feel they do justice to a good pair of blue jeans. The quest, however, began a long time ago, on a very hot and sultry day in Khan Market. M and I walked into a store to find the ‘perfect’ pair of blue pumps, but Alas! They were (as M pointed out) “… almost a month’s rent, Udita!”

From then on, I’d scoured every post and non-post market; dragged everyone from parents to friend to acquaintances into this quest. It’s hard to find blue shoes. Period. Oh, lots of the spangly ones, mind; with all sorts of shiny things on them. But staid and semi-formal, pretty blue shoes… no Madam!

And so it went on for months until this last Sunday, when we ended up in Khan again, revisited all the shoe shops and ended up at the ‘perfect pair’ store again! What was beyond budget 3 months ago remained so even now. And so, my lovely girls convinced me that come Christmas time, they’d send me pictures of shoes from the UK stores, I’d choose, and they’d buy them for me (insoles and all)!

Thus placated, we metro-ed along to Lajpat Nagar. Why, you ask again? That’s enough material for another post, so we’ll skip it for now. And in the market, in an over-crowded store, teeming with people, M pulled out the loveliest pair of blue (well, turquoise really) shoes. Solemn approval from S followed, the size was quickly handed to me. D said “Pretty and quirky, suits you.” And the deal was sealed. The shoe was mine, for only Rs 500. I could fair hear thunder and lightning. I had butterflies in my stomach… oh like first love 🙂


PS: I can pout for some other Christmas present from the UK now!

The weight of the world on my shoulder

A woman is never without her handbag. That may sound like a huge generalisation (actually, it is a huge generalisation), but the point I’m trying to make is that, for many of us girls, the need to lug tons of stuff around with us wherever we go is, for some reason, incredibly strong.

Why? Maybe keeping a few belongings with us makes us feel secure. Or maybe we just don’t wear clothes with enough pockets to stash our money, bank cards, keys, phones, books, pens, make up, hairbrushes, umbrellas, emergency sachets of chilli flakes (oops, I didn’t mean to say the last one!)… And perhaps it’s not just practical things we carry around – I, for one, will admit to keeping a few sentimental knick-knacks in there somewhere.

The bag itself, as the vessel in which to store all this stuff, is pretty essential then. It must be big enough to hold everything (but not too big), with sufficient pockets for organisation. Every woman has her own specific criteria when looking for a new handbag, so it’s pretty rare for a lady to let someone else choose an article of such importance on her behalf.

But that’s exactly what I did. Maegan has a really nice bag. It’s soft and maroon-y and real leather; big enough for a netbook and a small collection of Hindi books, as well as various other random objects of varying importance. So when she phoned me the other day from a posh boutique in Lajpat Nagar, saying she’d found the ideal bag (with 20% off!) and did I want her to get it for me, I trusted her to make the choice.

It was, of course, perfect. And on the bag’s first official outing (on the Metro), Maegan grabbed it off me, unzipped it and had a good rummage to see how I’d organised its contents. I was shocked. It was such an un-British display of privacy invasion that I was absolutely convinced she’d become Indian. Because, when you think about it, a woman’s whole life – her identity – is in her handbag. Looking inside is like unzipping a person and looking at her soul.

Which is exactly why, when we do get the occasional chance to root around in another lady’s bag, we enjoy it so much. There’s nothing better than indulging in our own nosiness. My friend Miriam, a Canadian writer and part-time Scottish person, has ingeniously tapped into this concept with her ‘Handbag Series’ on her blog. Featuring a few men as well as women, it allows us to anashamedly snoop around in other people’s lives. She has, of course, already ‘Handbagged’ me.

So about that thing I said regarding women never being without their bags. That’s not always the case in India, or so I’ve noticed. Here, lots of women keep all their ‘valuables’ down the front of their kameez or sari blouse. I’ve seen ladies keep mobile phones, wads of cash, small change, hankerchiefs, house keys – the whole shebang – down their tops. Maybe that’s why my tailor always leaves a bit of extra space when she stitches my suits. I’ll have to try this desi technique sometime, I think. It would be nice to have the weight off my shoulder.

You know, (I’ll finish with a bit of random trivia) some say that’s why Gandhi-ji is smiling on our rupee notes; no other country’s women keep their money so close to their, erm, hearts.

As nice, and a bit wrong, as that is, I think I’ll stick with my handbag.