My grandmother asked me what I thought of London on my first day back in Bombay. I'd walked over from our house to hers to visit her after five months away- knowing my visit could involve two potential conversations- one about my academic career, and then, if I played my cards right, a family gossip session that would steer the conversation far away from me, and deep into the darker affairs of my distant cousins, aunts and uncles. I didn't play my cards right. I blew them right away by trying to explain my life plans and dropping the words sustainability and anti-capitalism one too many times, and before I knew it, her eyes were flickering and my grandmother was about to either write me off completely as a hippie or ask me to shut up and go get a business degree.
So I panicked and mentioned that I'd just been in London. Knowing that for my grandmother, London remained the magical land of face creams and chocolate biscuits and lace shawls and company balls. My grandmother is not a whimsical woman by any means- she is tough as nails, and stubborn, and has never wasted her time doting extravagantly on her grand children. She preferred to teach us to read, and chastise us for using the telephone too much and forever remind us that restaurants were not worth the money or the outing, and that anything we wanted- she could probably make or find at home. But the London of her youth seems to be something of a weakness. She describes the annual trips they would make to London whilst my grandfather was still alive with about the closest my steely grandmother will ever get to gushing. I vaguely remember hearing that my grandparents met at a ballroom dance class and so when I imagine my grandparents in London, I like imagine them swirling through decadent ballrooms and bulk buying chocolate biscuits that come in nice tins to bring back to India whilst huddled in delicate lace shawls. This is probably not entirely true, though she does have one helluva collection of British biscuit tins and English lace.
Quickly enough, that conversation too derailed. I starting by trying to explain how I found the Tate Modern to be drab and badly curated and how the galleries smelt like kombucha- never a good sign for an art gallery, obviously. My grandmother looked at me with a face so disappointed I wanted to laugh. I went on to talk about how impressed I was by the quality of healthy takeout food in London, and how much I loved my visit to Ottolenghi in Notting Hill and just how vibrantly this man had redefined take-out, and how each dish was the perfect explosion of flavors, cuisines and cultures . At this point- desperate for common ground she hopefully interjected, "Did you go to Marks & Spencers?'. I shook my head and she sighed, blinking her big grey eyes disappointedly. This was really not going very well.
In a final bid to converse in an equal fashion she changed tack and asked a little desperately- "Do you remember how we used to make biscuit cake?". Home run! I grinned, thinking to myself how easy these things really are- this edible connection across generations and bloodlines. How easy it is to retreat to food, the basics of nostalgia and nourishment. And so I nodded. Yes, yes of course I remembered biscuit cake. Bricks of crisp, sugar sprinkled coconut biscuits layered between melted chocolate, frozen and then eaten in large crunchy chunks of crispy buttery sugary coconut and dark chocolate. The simplest thing in the world, that involved generous licking of fingers and bowls, and didn't require the fuss of baking, measuring or chemistry.
We both smile, basking in our shared memory. The doorbell rings, the rest of my family has arrived to drown out our conversation with their dramatic entrance, endless chatter and a barking, tail wagging friendly black dog.
It was as easy as biscuit cake.
A few photos from my 2.8 short, sweet, precious, chaotic, exhausting, sad, giggly weeks in Bombay. Shot mostly film this trip but haven't had the time to develop anything so these are just some off my digital and lots more film photos to come!