31 March 2008

Last weeks in Chennai

A Photo Essay

Intern and the "Bosses:" (l to r) Sirish, V. Geetha, myself and Gita

Extended Family (Arun and Nina added to the mix, with Helmut as photographer)

The Fancy-Pants Collective.

I'm obsessed with my Indian nighty. Sirish loves his cheetah prints. This photo was inevitable.

Nina and Nancy on Nancy's 21st birthday.

One of my favourite photos: Gita and Sirish take a break from writing.

The mad scramble to make repping kits (dummy copies of our forthcoming releases that go to all of our North American sales reps). Could not have done this without Nancy, Ranjith, Senthil and Mr. A.

I guess technically this is Bangalore, but I still think it's a classic.

Dinner at Mr. A's, with the requisite dancing. Naya showed us how it was done.

I'm surrounded by strong women in India. It's the best part of my day-to-day.

Nina and I on our Farewell Lunch at Amethyst. Our stomachs hurt from the thought of leaving, but you can't tell.


Fresh Zone, our juice shop, and Jayalakshmi Medicals (where, as Nina noted, you can get medication without a prescription).

Rainy streets near the beach

27 March 2008


Have reverted to a diet consisting of 1.5 meals per day, 27 cups of coffee and far too many cigarettes.

This can only mean one thing: separation anxiety.

And, in case you're curious, here's what an Abel-bodied life looks like over the next two months:

April 8: Fly to London-Gatwick
April 8-11: Stay with Great Aunt Daphne (paternal side of things) and attend to Tara business/art exhibitions.
April 11-17: Visit with Doug and Li Elsey in Brighton (it's about damn time).
April 17-21: Abel family reunion on the isle of Manhattan
April 21: Drive with the Dons to Muskoka. 10 hour parental road trip - watch out!
April 25: Dawn, ever the trooper, goes in for surgery #4.
May 10-ish: Move to Seattle, WA!

20 March 2008

At times like these, I make lists.

The Top 5 Reasons Why I'm Excited to Go Back to North America:
1) Don, Dawn and David
2) (tie) My Pacific NW Gents: Kovitz, Daniel, Adam
2) (tie) My Pacific NW Gals: Mirmo, V, Hols
4) Bike rides & dog walks & camping in the mountains
5) Not being harassed by drunken auto-wallahs and crowds of teenage boys

The Top 5 Reasons Why I Can't Bear the Thought of Leaving India:
1) (tie) My Madras gals: Gita, V. Geetha, Nina, Nancy, Rajeswari, Suseela, Natalia
1) (tie) My Madras gents: Mr. A, Sirish, Ranjith, Helmut
3) Fresh foods and spices (especially fruits and juices)
4) Evening walks along Elliot's Beach & evening bike rides to Kotturpuram
5) Waving to and laughing with my autowallah friends, juice stand crew and neighbourhood aunties

(I've never felt so emotionally schizophrenic in my life)

19 March 2008

there's no taming the phoenix

Today I have not been a good feminist. I’m actually quite ashamed. It’s all well and good until you’re challenged to live your politics. And so I offer as a hymn of penance these lines from Ani Difranco, who always seems to put it best in such scenarios:

“…and god help you if you are an ugly girl
of course, too pretty is also your doom
’cause everyone harbours a secret hatred
for the prettiest girl in the room.
and god help you if you are a phoenix
and you dare to rise up from the ash.
a thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy
while you are just flying past.” from “32 Flavours”

To days of greater solidarity.

18 March 2008

A better-than-average Tuesday

The makings of a good day:

1) The prior evening spent drinking wine and eating Chinese food with a good friend.
2) 7:45am wake-up for rushed homework before 8:30am Hindi class (also taken with and taught by good friends)
3) Hour and a half spent reading old texts and eccentric treatises on yoga in the lush and aromatic courtyard of Madras' Theosophical Society Library.
4) Happy return of boss from oppressive, materialistic, misogynistic country/book-fair. Having Gita in the office makes the team complete, which in turn makes the office hum. She came back with interesting design concepts and stories that would make Margaret Atwood's hair curl.
5) Lovely co-worker makes infamous coconut rice. Lunch spent being sassed, walking to the market for diet cokes and oranges, and enjoying other habitual affairs.

Someday I'll post about Madurai and Coorg and Bangalore. Just you wait. In the meantime, check out these publishers:
MCCM Creations


14 March 2008

Damp and Happy

I absolutely love rainy days in India. There's something relieving about the low, continuous rumble of a thunderstorm cooling off the otherwise humid Chennai streets. While I will always associate downpours with our flooded house, I also cannot help but express gratitude for the cool breezes and lower temperatures that linger after an unexpected March shower.

India is making it very difficult indeed to say goodbye.

12 March 2008

"Sweetness" by Stephen Dunn

Just when it has seemed I couldn't bear
one more friend
waking with a tumor, one more maniac

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness
has come
and changed nothing in the world

except the way I stumbled through it,
for a while lost
in the ignorance of loving

someone or something, the world shrunk
to mouth-size,
hand-size, and never seeming small.

I acknowledge there is no sweetness
that doesn't leave a stain,
no sweetness that's ever sufficiently sweet. ...

Tonight a friend called to say his lover
was killed in a car
he was driving. His voice was low

and guttural, he repeated what he needed
to repeat, and I repeated
the one or two words we have for such grief

until we were speaking only in tones.
Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan, stays just long enough

to make sense of what it means to be alive,
then returns to its dark
source. As for me, I don't care

where it's been, or what bitter road
it's traveled
to come so far, to taste so good.

"Sweetness" by Stephen Dunn, from New and Selected Poems 1974-1994.

Brief News Update:

So I've got good news and I've got bad news. I'll start with the bad, as I do like to end these entries on a positive note.

Last night my cell phone was stolen as I was riding to the beach. I was on my bike, texting as I pedaled down the street (I know, I know, unsafe in its own right). It was about 8:30pm, and there were several pedestrians and fellow cyclists about. Suddenly, two bandanna-masked (no joke) guys on a scooter rammed into me on my right side, knocking me off my bike onto the road. They proceeded to prey on my state of total surprise, kicking me while I was down and nicking my cell phone. To top it off, they yelled "Sorry" as they drove off into the night. So if you get a call from my Indian number, do make sure you yell at the hooligans on the other end, because I'm right pissed at them.

The much brighter news is that my dearest, loveliest friend Tesla (who is just wrapping up a year and a half teaching and living in Japan before traveling south east asia) received early acceptance to the MA program at the University of Toronto's Department of English. She's a brilliant academic rock star, and might actually start to believe this about herself. Congrats, my love. Congrats.

Will post soon about my fantastic weekend with Nina in the Coorg region of Karnataka. My pictures are here: http://picasaweb.google.com/jennifah.abel/Coorg

04 March 2008

My family in India...

We had to take team photos for the award we just won at Bologna, and I thought I'd post some shots to show the people who have become very good, life-long friends. From left to right: Bottom row: Arumugam (Mr. A), yours truly, V.Geetha, Nina, Nancy; Top Row: Ari, Sirish, Gita and Rajeshwari.

V.Geetha and I: If I were still in academia, I would have a serious crush on this woman and take all of her classes. Instead, I just take Hindi from her mom.

The ladies.

Nancy (far right) never smiles in photos. So I told her I wouldn't smile too.
It's really an inside joke, but I love this picture.

Muji. Office Dog. Fat, Lazy and Lovable.