Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Forever Love

Yesterday was my first wedding anniversary... hard to believe, but it has been one year :)
Here's my husband's anniversary card to me-

Just a reaffirmation of why I love this guy so much ;)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hum bhi Modern hain

I think I want to write, to write about the new India, as seen through the eyes of an architect. I will not go into Indian politics, religion, caste, history, (post)-coloniality, sociology or historiography- any of the myriad things that people associate with India (I won’t even talk about the snake-charmers and elephants!). This is a biased, subjective and prejudiced perspective, of an Indian (though what that means is also not sure) architect (again, what does that mean).

Let’s call it the viewpoint of an onlooker, observing changes in the Indian urban landscape. Interestingly, I have reviewed three different types of building typologies, emerging in the globalized modern India, and have found that each is but a manifestation of the same process, a new avatar, a new face, a new body, but the same thing. What do we call this multi-headed hydra? Globalization? Americanization? Consumption? Liberalization? Greed?

The first was the shopping mall- yes; I’ve reviewed them so thoroughly that I can recite facts about Indian shopping malls in my sleep. I’ve written papers (okay, just one) on them. And I see the grasp of consumerism slowly expand its tentacles to get a hold inside the minds of the population. How consumerism has become the mark of status and existence. How where you shop is more important than what you buy and how you use it. How being in the mall makes you modern. The mall stocks western goods and commodities, which are bought by the new breed of Indian ‘transnationals’. The class that is transnational because they have been to that mysterious place that makes one more than human: abroad. The glitz, glass and chrome all shimmer invitingly. Yet, am I being too cynical? Is the mall really a sign of modernity?

Let’s talk about the second type of modern building- the ‘commercial’ office complexes. The glass palaces of the software czars. The modern edifices dedicated to outsourcing. The huge information technology parks. Which are redefining modern for the people who work there. Indeed, this is where the ‘transnational’ class is created and this ‘transnational’ place is where it works. So, does being a software engineer working in one of these enormously attractive buildings make you modern? It is a bit of the West supplanted in the Indian city. It is an offshoot of a western company. By extension, the westernity rubs off on the inhabitants?

Talking of inhabitants, I want to come to the final resting place: the home. A home in one of the most exclusive, entry-by-invitation, community of ‘like-minded’ people. The new gated community. That promises round-the-clock electricity, water, cleanliness, air-conditioning, clubs, roads and gymnasiums. It promises isolation- from the filth and squalor that is India. . Most importantly, it promises ‘abroad’- a piece of the world in India? Something that can be bought at ‘world-class’ prices by ‘world-class’ people. Yes, indeed, the home for transnationals. For it is only by living in such a community that one can preserve being an Indian in India: I am home, but who wants to see its ugly face?

Isn’t this what being modern in India means? What relation does modernity have to a way of thinking, mature self-growth, enlightenment or education? As long as I wear a pair of jeans and shop at the mall, I am modern. This makes me wonder. So one does not stand a chance if one does not live in a gated community, work in a MNC and shop at the mall.

After all, hum bhi ‘modern’ hain!!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mud Pie Mojo Moods

Soft, sweet, melting and with the texture of silk..aahhh... ice-cream...
How I love it as it gradually melts on my tongue, soaking in the taste and texture,
chewing on the bits and pieces... sucking on as its tastes linger elusively on my palate...

And yet, not any ice-cream. I can only ever have chocolate ice-cream-
I have had ONLY the chocolate flavor for the last fifteen or so years (ever since I realized the pleasures of chocolate and the angst of teenage :)

However, this has rendered me completely incapable of eating any other flavor- I mean, anything else tastes sweet!!!!
For heaven's sake... sweet ice-cream..Ugghh. I just hate the taste of sweet ice-cream- unless it is tinged with the slight bitterness of chocolate, its not ice-cream.

The love affair started with Hot Chocolate Fudge (HCF) from Nirula's, Delhi. I just had to have it every time I visited Delhi. And continued, with HCF from Hot Millions, Chandigarh-here,
I usually had the standard Butterscotch replaced with Chocolate- and extra fudge.
It culminated with the Death by Chocolate- the ultimate chocolate fantasy, but available only at Corner House, Bangalore. Unfortunately, I've visited the city only once in my life.
(only five days of the world's best ice-cream, alas!)

Then I came to the US- and discovered the million or so flavors of chocolate ice-cream.
And also discovered Coldstone.
After a few experiments and trials- I have settled on Mud Pie Mojo.
Its just THE best (and this is coming from a connoisseur of chocolate ice-cream- its even better than the German ChocolateCake, and that is saying something).
It is not chocolate ice-cream, but coffee (obviously not sweet, thank god!).
With swirls of peanut butter and roasted almonds and Oreos and (lots of extra) fudge......

I think I am going into an orgiastic frenzy here.
(after all, they do say chocolate is a substitute for sex).

With my husband going out of town for a few months,
I think I'm going to have a lot of Mud Pie Mojo.
After all, that's the only Mojo of any kind I'll be getting ;)

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Wizarding Point of View

When asked why she wanted to do Muggle Studies (as her parents were Muggles), Hermione had answered, "... but it would be fascinating to study them from the wizarding point of view."

That is exactly how I feel in my South Asia courses and classes. I have been taking a lot of South Asia (read India) related courses for the last year. Most of my classmates are either Americans (fascinated by India) or second generation Indians wanting to "study and learn" about India ( I am the only Indian- born and brought up in India in these classes). My reason, of course, was the same as Hermione's- to see India from the outside (so to speak).

There is tremendous amount of research/work done on India, right from the colonial times- both by Indians and non-Indians. And I have realized that the way of looking in from the outside is very different from being inside and experiencing it, growing up in it. I am NOT disassociated with these events. I am attached, and all this is part and parcel of my being Indian. Even of me being me. These are events that have shaped my thoughts, feelings and ideas.

It is often difficult for me to clinically analyze the issues being discussed, simply because I am not a bipartisan bystander. I am involved, things are not like this, you can't be so dispassionate- I feel like screaming.
But I am learning that there is a different point of view. For the people who have done such excellent research and work, have looked at both points of view. At the inside and outside.

Despite my attachment, my ideological motivations and even my inherent prejudices, I am glad that I got to study all this. That I can now see India from the outside.

That I have now seen the wizarding point of view!!