Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Mr. T was in Eritrea last week on a work-related trip. When people asked about his whereabouts, I would say, Ethiopia. Not that I was geographically challenged, but for some reason most people looked blank when I said, Eritrea.
Truth be told, I hadn’t given Eritrea a second thought until this trip came up. I only knew it was somewhere near Ethiopia. I did some cursory reading, mostly to figure out how safe it was, and discovered that it was a deemed a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’ and was under ‘UN sanctions’. Of course, I found this out this while Mr. T was in Eritrea, and could do nothing more than ask him to ‘lock the doors and windows at night’.
What’s it like, I asked, the moment he got back. Cold, he said. Eritrea is about 7000 ft. above sea level and temperatures reached a maximum of 24 degrees even in summer.
What’s the place like, I wanted to know. It’s quite like Goa, he replied. That was a huge compliment as far as Eritrea was concerned. Mr. T, an eternal Goaphile, ranked most places he visited based on their semblance to Goa.
It had an easy charm, apparently. An Italian colony until the last century, it still featured graceful, Art Deco buildings, especially in the capital, Asmara. Like any place unused to tourists or travelers, credit cards were rarely accepted, and currency exchanges frequently ‘ran out of dollars’. The ritziest hotel in town was no more than a well-maintained lodge. And that’s where Mr. T and his colleague happened to be staying.
The rooms were squeaky clean but tiny. One could enter the room and fall into bed in the same motion, apparently. Mr. T also ended up sharing the room with scores of mosquitoes. And in the bathroom, apart from a single bar of soap, there were no other toiletries.
One morning, Mr. T and his colleague stopped at the Reception to check if they could get some moisturizer. Because of the cold weather, their skin had turned dry and cracked. The receptionist replied that the hotel had run out toiletries. However, before they could turn around, she opened a drawer and pulled out her handbag. She rummaged through it and came up with a tube of scented body butter. Before they could object, she squeezed out a big dollop on both their palms.
“Have a good day, sir,” she said, waving them off when they tried to thank her.
What Eritrea lacked as a country, it more than made up by its people.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
The Resident Chef (also known as the Husband, or Mr. T, for short) couldn’t understand my insistence on a writing desk.
“Can’t you use the new work desk we’ve just bought?” he asked, referring to the functional black table with grey legs. Just a few days old and yet every inch of it was covered with an assortment of papers, visiting cards, post-its, laptop wires, extension cords and more. If that was a work desk, there wasn’t space to get any work done.
But it wasn’t just the clutter that was the issue. I’d set my heart on owning a writing desk for a long time. And not just any old table, but a nice solid wood, antique desk, with little shelves and cubbyholes, and maybe an inkwell or two. The kind that would be at home in an English study, replete with a fireplace, a cozy armchair and tall shelves filled with leather bound books.
In anticipation of the desk, I’d christened the smaller bedroom in our new home, the Study. I’d even picked the spot where the desk would be placed – at a corner in the room with a window on the left, a window in front, and an almost uninterrupted view of the gorgeous sky. If you lived in a city teeming with high-rises, you’d know how priceless a view that can be.
It took a lot of cajoling on the part of Mr. T to convince me that a solid wood desk wouldn’t quite fit into our modern minimalist décor. Also he pointed that the ‘study’ would be doubling up as the guest bedroom, and so the ‘chintz armchair with footstool’ would have to make way for a more practical sofa-cum-bed.
Many sulks later, I found myself staring at a somewhat workable solution to our marital conflict. It was an unbelievably compact, tidy white desk from IKEA. It had one shelf under the desk, presumably to tuck away the laptop when one wanted to indulge in good, old-fashioned, long-hand writing. It also featured a tiny little drawer to squirrel away pens, bookmarks and other essential stationery. But its best feature was further below. A thoughtfully provided broad footrest, something that’s absolutely vital when you’re blessed with a petite frame and your lower limbs can’t find the floor. At work, I would thrust my feet over the CPU, and in some cases, the dustbin even, in an attempt to be comfortable.
Mr. T, the indulgent husband that he is, sighed deeply and wrestled the flat packed desk onto the trolley. He even assembled it when I wasn’t home, no mean feat when you see the impossible illustrations in the IKEA assembly manual.
“I hope you’re going to write after all this,” he mumbled, as I gushed about his handiwork.
“Of course, I will,” I declared. “It’s just the inspiration I’ve needed.”