Let’s talk about Love.

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I meant to write this post for Valentine’s Day. But life, like love, is unpredictable. So on the last day of February, I tell myself it is still Valentine’s Month and therefore this post is still highly topical, suitably timely and massively interesting. My blog, my rules, my denial. Especially as it’s now the 1st of March.

Psychologist Robert Johnson thinks we don’t have enough words to describe our feelings of love. He wrote about the lack of ‘awareness and emphasis that we give to the realm of feeling’, and says the English language is partly to blame. His analysis is intriguing – “Sanskrit has ninety-six words for love; ancient Persian has eighty, Greek three and English only one.”

Johnson draws a clever comparison between our “poverty-stricken vocabulary” and the fact that Eskimos have 30 words for snow because it is so important to them. Each ‘snow’ word has a different nuance, a precision of description. I researched (Googled) this fact and it seems there are actually over 50 words for snow in the various Eskimo languages (including Inuit and Yupik dialects). They have different words for the snow that is safe to walk across, the snow that is like powder, wet snow, softly falling snow, the snow that is good for driving a sled over.

This is important because snow is all around them, is intrinsically linked to everything they do, and is fundamental to their existence. And we have only one word for love.

We use the same word (love) in all situations: for family, a lover, a hobby, a coffee. I love you. I love that idea! I love dancing. I’d love a coffee. Yet, we have so many different words for coffee: cappuccino, latte, flat white, piccolo, espresso. So many words for getting drunk: wasted, bladdered, sozzled, plastered, sloshed, legless. So many words for being angry: pissed off, livid, mad, raging, fuming. But just one word for love.

So. What is love? I suppose it depends on who you ask. Since the internet was somewhat disappointing, I asked a few young and innocent (and non-jaded) children what they thought about love. Here’s what they told me:

How can you tell that two people are married?
♥ “You could see their ring if you were close-up. They would probably be talking about their kids.” (C, aged 7)
♥ “If you’ve been to their wedding.” (N, aged 10)

How would you choose a boyfriend or girlfriend?
♥ “I would write down some cateristiks that I want and then see if they have those cateristiks. If they don’t then I would move on to the next person.” (C, aged 7)
♥ “Someone who is smart and doesn’t eat that much candy.” (R, aged 6)
♥ “I’d want him to be honest and not act differently to me than he normally would. I’d want him to be like daddy.” (M, aged 10)
♥ “I already have one. She tells me funny jokes.” (D, aged 5, I repeat, aged 5)

How would you show love?
By going to a movie with them even if you’ve already seen it.” (M, aged 10)
♥ “Don’t take anything out of her lunchbox. And definitely don’t wrestle her.” (D, aged 5)
♥ “When my brother is scared at night, I tell him there are no monsters, even if I’m a bit scared too.” (J, aged 8)
♥ “Not go to a football match on their birthday.” (J, aged 8)
♥ “Make sacrifices to show the other person they are more important than what you really, really want.” (N, aged 10)

And just when I thought I would finish on that deep and profound note, I received a message from my sister that couldn’t not be included in a post about Love:

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©2019 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

Three Sighs

My favourite photo of us is over 30 years old. Something about this watercolour edit reminds me of timelessness – with colours, people, feelings blending into each other.

And in the end, we find there was, there is, always love.

For you, Papa, on what would have been your 77th birthday. 

papa and i watercolour

A bed on wheels is set up in the living room
because he hates hospitals, loves sports on television and there is nothing more we can do.

A saline drip trickles into his veins (Cancer must be thirsty work)
but I know he would much prefer a nice cold one.

An owl comes to visit in the middle of the night.
My father exhales three times as life leaves his body.

One –
A sigh of exhaustion, I imagine,
from hosting the unwanted guest who stole his strength, his freedom, his laugh.

Two –
A sigh of sadness, I know,
for all that is left behind: conversations with grandchildren, my mother navigating life without him, an unopened single malt from overseas.

Three –
A sigh of relief, I hope,
for the end of holding on to a rope that frays a little more every day,
for the end of suffering, the end of sympathy.

We move the bed out of the living room, now The Room Where My Father Died.
At least he’s not in pain anymore, they say.
We nod with heavy hearts because it is selfish to say But we are.

©2019 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

A Wilde Weekend – Act III

The Wilde Weekend was 72 hours long. If you thought I had forgotten about Sunday, the final 24 hours of debauchery well-earned indulgence, I don’t blame you. This weekend took place in June 2018 and we are already at the end of January, with no sign of Act III until now. There is a limit on how long one can draw out a single weekend as blog fodder. But one will do one’s best.

(If you missed it, or need a refresher, this was Friday and this was Saturday)

Sunday
After all that delicious dancing, we have an even more delicious lie-in which is necessary to replenish depleted energy and aid muscle recovery. It was not just dancing, after all. It was a full-blown workout of cardio+strength+style. So we sleep.

“In England people actually try to be brilliant at breakfast. That is so dreadful of them! Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.”
Upon waking, we whip up and devour scrambled eggs and avocado. As we are now well-fed and more likely to partake in brilliant conversation, we head to the Putney Tavern to watch the football, the sport that launches many a brilliant conversation.

“Football is all very well as a game for rough girls, but it is hardly suitable for delicate boys.”
It is England vs Panama in the Group stages of the World Cup. Some interesting manoeuvres to get a G&T safely from the bar to our prime vantage point, some rowdy fans, and thank God for an English win. It is a 6-1 thrashing and (most) people cheer Panama’s lone goal with the generosity of those who know they are still comfortably superior.

Time for refuelling at Wagamama, then a spot of shopping in Putney. We head home and make a decision to end this weekend in the manner to which we have become accustomed: in style. My sister has found the perfect activity to close this weekend – Gatsby Immersive Theatre.

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.”
We dress to theme and step into the 1920s. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s world of decadence, champagne and sparkle is brought to life by a cast of talented actors who take us through The Great Gatsby in a unique and fun production. The characters mingle with the audience (my sister and I are welcomed by the Nick Carraway character loudly proclaiming that he is ‘SO pleased we could make it!’), have impromptu conversations that become part of the show, and we even get a dance lesson – the quirky Charleston. It is the perfect way to end our weekend.

My sister tells me I am ‘fun in London’ and I have been striving ever since to channel some of that London vibe and make it a part of everyday life. Full immersion. Sequins and feathers optional.

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©2019 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

 

A Helicopter View of Jargon

Confused-Baby

When they tell me we should ‘touch base offline
perhaps just before close of play,’
I wonder.
Which base do they want to touch?
When is anyone ever offline?
What game is it we are playing?

When they suggest we think outside the box
one day, then another day ask for blue-sky thinking
and mean the same thing,
I wonder.
If everything outside the box is blue sky
then perhaps inside the box is sweet-smelling earth,
grains of soil you can gather, rub between your fingers
and inhale
just to feel something real.

I feel like crawling into that box
where I am safe from low-hanging fruit,
where there are no thought showers,
just simple, meaningful words
(and room for lateral thinking)
with other like-minded folk
who are tired of getting the ball rolling
then moving the goalposts.

Sometimes I find myself thinking about
deep diving, or drilling down, or closing the loop
and I don’t always catch the words before they escape.
But if I ever diarise a meeting for ideation or solutioning,
please promptly throw me out of the nearest
window of opportunity
where there will be plenty of blue sky.


©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

Weather with you

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Tourism Australia’s 2006 campaign was memorable, controversial, and criticised for its clichéd portrayal of Australia and for its cheeky tagline. Despite the attractive prospects of a cold beer, a spot on the beach saved for you by a bikini-clad Lara Bingle, shark-free swimming, kangaroo-free golf courses and Sydney nightlife, the success of the campaign was never quantified. The ad was temporarily banned in the UK for the use of the word ‘bloody’ (wait, what???), edited in Singapore to simply say, “So where are you?” and didn’t go down as well as that cold beer with Japanese, Korean, Thai or German tourists. The campaign cost $180 million and was pulled after 2 years. 

So, Australia. Here we are at the end of December, 2018. It is too cold to be on the beach, let alone to save a spot for anyone while wearing a bikini. Your drink of choice may well be warm, mulled wine rather than a cold beer. And the legendary Bondi surfers are taking shelter under their surfboards. Because two days ago, Sydney was subjected to a hailstorm with hailstones THE SIZE OF TENNIS BALLS that pelted the seas, the streets and Instagram. Never before have there been so many Insta-photos of palms. Palms holding “insane” hailstones in various shapes and sizes. 

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In the days before and after this catastrophe (that sent tourists and locals rushing outdoors to obtain evidence), it rained, and rained and rained.

So the question remains:

Summer, where the bloody hell are you?

 ©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

A Wilde Weekend – Act II

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In an earlier post, Oscar and I illustrated the first 24 hours of the Wilde Weekend in London. If you thought my sister and I may have used up all our energy on eating, drinking, shopping and comedy-ing, you would be right. We went to bed exhausted. But nothing that a 7-hour sleep didn’t cure.

Saturday
If laughter is the best medicine, a cooked English breakfast comes a close second. Better yet when cooked at home and washed down with copious mugs of hot tea.

Later, we take a walk along Putney High Street, but this is not a stroll without purpose. It includes a stop at Putney Market where a delightful Malaysian bakery sets up a stall every other Saturday.

“With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?”
Agreed, Oscar. But you have not tried these pineapple tarts. Or these peanut cookies. This is not just happiness. This is bliss. The cookies are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The pineapple tart is love at first bite. When the buttery exterior gives way to the generous filling,  I am transported to my Malaysian childhood where jars of these tarts are abundant at Chinese New Year. Oh, Pandan Bakery, there was not enough time or belly space for all your deliciousness, and don’t get me started on those spicy sardine curry puffs which are a true triumph of pastry over perception. [Photos from Pandan Bakery’s website]

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Are you drooling yet?

The sardine-pineapple snack will tide us over till dinner. It is now time for the man himself. We head to the Vaudeville Theatre for a masterclass in quick-witted dialogue. The play is ‘An Ideal Husband’ – a study of moral flexibility, forgiveness and class hypocrisy, all wrapped up in a fun, theatrical package. Wilde’s genius lies in, among other things, his use of paradox to comic effect. His humour is unexpected: “I like looking at geniuses, and listening to beautiful people.” He combines ideas that shouldn’t go together, but somehow, do: “When the Gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.” A bit like sardines and pineapple. The play was a real treat.

“I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them.”
Not wanting to be shallow, we have already planned our next gastronomical adventure. My sister has an immensely talented friend who has set up a Malaysian Supper Club (hosted at different venues around London) called Wild Serai. The menu is clever, the ingredients are authentic, the labour is clearly one of love, and the result is pure pleasure on a plate. Nasi lemak with chilli crab. Never have 5 words held so much history, mystery and delight. And just when I thought it could not get any better, we sample the best ikan bakar (literal translation: burned fish) I have ever tasted outside of Malaysia. This is stingray, barbecued to perfection and served with a tamarind-chilli dip. We are in the middle of Soho but my taste buds are in a hawker stall in Petaling Jaya, and my appetite is suddenly teenage. Yolanda, terima kasih!

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Fish with attitude. 

While the appetite is teenage, the metabolism is not. There is now an undeniable need to burn some calories. We head home, and for a brief moment, contemplate pyjamas and channel-surfing. But this weekend is a rare one, and not meant for sitting on the sofa. So we get changed and head to a local Putney bar.

“She wore far too much rouge last night, and not quite enough clothes.”
Oscar wrote this in 1895. In many ways, still relevant today but certainly a matter of opinion. And anyway, in the words of Taylor Swift, haters gonna hate (hate*4). May as well wear whatever you like. We have opted for flat shoes so we dance till closing time. This bar is cool, friendly and unpretentious, and they play Blackstreet’s No Diggity, which is my yardstick for a good time on the dance floor.

Putney, I like the way you work it.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

How to write haiku

Carve into your soul
then scoop out the feelings that
suggest poetry.

Bleed from the heart, use
just seventeen syllables
to contain your wounds.

Write five-seven-five
for traditional haiku
or be a rebel and disregard the rules.

Fuse three phrases like
setting gold leaf in glass, the
result will sparkle.

To be authentic
plant your haiku in nature
and include surprise!

If you get it wrong
first drafts of haiku make great
origami cranes.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd