Tuesday, December 14, 2010

South Asian Challenge 2011

I came across this challenge while randomly browsing some blogs that I read... and some that I don't. The creator of the challenge wants people to read books about South Asia, or from South Asian authors and then review them. She also has a ranking in place for the number of books read and reviewed over the course of the year. This seems like a challenge right up my alley- since I mostly read Indian/ South Asian authors. Now my only challenge is to find more authors, since I have read half of her suggested list already. But then, I still have the other half to go through :)

This will give me something to read and write, and maybe even glean life-altering mind-boggling insights from some of these books. Who knows!
Overall sounds like fun, since reading is the one thing I am constant about. Which means that I will (maybe) write more often. Sounds like a win-win situation.
Thanks to S.Krishna for this! I'm in :)

(all images from S. Krishna's post about the challenge)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Peaceful Co-existence

My parents were visiting me in the US for the last couple of months. It was really interesting- and different- to see the US from their point-of-view. There were things that they really appreciated, and stuff that they totally disliked (like all of us).

So when they were here, my father would scour the local Indian magazines and newspapers, for interesting Indian social, cultural and religious events. He methodically made a list of events, dates, locations and addresses- that he wanted to attend/visit.

When it came to religious events and places, he went to all of them. He visited the Sai Baba temple, the Hindu temple, the Balaji temple, the San Jose Gurudwara, the BAPS temple, our own Guru's temple, Chinmaya Mission events, random satsangs... any and everything. He went to every place with equal shraddha and devotion. For him, it wasn't a South Indian temple or a North Indian god or a Sikh Guru- they were all paths of devotion and he loved each of them equally.

And when it came to cultural events, we attended two major ones. One was a Punjabi "Miss India" USA held quite close to home. Most (99.5%) of the audience, the participants, the presenters- everybody was a Sikh. Everything was in Punjabi. It was one of the most enjoyable lively and fun events I have ever attended. All the dancing, the fun, the poetry, the people added up to a wonderful day. It did not matter that nobody spoke Hindi.

The second one was a Mushaira held by the Alumni Association of the Aligarh Muslim University. My dad graduated as an engineer from that school. So he actually found out the existence of the AMU Alumni Association and got in touch with quite a few of the members. Then we got to know about their annual celebration, held in honor of the school's founder, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. This was to be a Mushaira, hosting some of India, Pakistan and the USA's most famous shayars.

This was an event well worth the wait. I have time and again written here about how my Mom inculcated a love of ghazals in me. And my Dad, with an AMU background, speaks fluent Urdu (and can read brokenly). So we all went, and had the time of our lives in this amazing event. The shayari was incredible. The beauty of the evening was in the poetry, the people, the place, the tehzeeb. And we all sat together, not caring for boundaries of religion or language, immersed in the sheer love and appreciation of fine poetry. The entire evening was conducted in fine Urdu, the language of ghazals and Ghalib and Rumi and Kabir. The language did not matter. The camaraderie, the love, the sheer oneness of the room, did matter.

It was when they left and I was remembering all the stuff that we did that I started pondering over this. My parents have never cared for community or language or religious barriers when it came to friends. Obviously, being from Aligarh, some of my Dad's best friends are Muslims. His longest lasting friendships are with his roommates from his engineering days- A Bengali, a Jaat and a Sikh. Spending most of his life in the army reinforced this as he met and made friends with people of every state, creed and community.

Yes, they did not adapt to a lot of non-Indian food (though some of it, they loved -especially falafel and garlic bread. Yes, they fell insanely and instantly in love with garlic bread :) Yes, they might still have some problems about accepting people from every country and race in the world, as is common in the US. Given time, I am sure they would do that too. But you know what, when it comes to India, they get it. They know that both worship and friendship are not restricted to the same caste or community or even religion. The only thing this allows for is loss of a good person. And nobody taught them that, it just comes naturally to them. This coexistence, be it religious, cultural or social.

I felt incredibly proud of them. And hopefully, I can do the same in my life. But I have lofty footsteps to follow!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bread & Cheese

That is a match made in heaven. It is the perfect meal for me, satisfying and fulfilling. I have always loved the combination of bread and cheese. Easy to make (after all, there's nothing to make), and delicious to eat.

I started living on this combo when I was a new graduate, living alone and working in a new city. This was a standard dinner for me, since at that time I did not even have the rudiments of a kitchen. And this was back in India, so it was plain white sliced bread (un-toasted) and Britannia Cheese cubes. Ohh, how I loved those cubes! I remember I used to buy two cubes from the neighborhood kiryana store, walking back from office. Then have them with bread for dinner. Simple, plain and easy.
My occasional indulgence was the newly introduced Amul cheese spread. One could get it in three (yes, Three!) different flavors; plain, black pepper and spicy garlic.

Then I came to the US of A and discovered cheese. Make that CHEESE. There are zillions and trillions of varieties of cheese available here. AND zillions and trillions of varieties of bread. Of course, I cook a lot more now and have a perfectly nice functional kitchen at my disposal. But even now, when I'm alone and feeling lazy, I still atavistically eat my bread and cheese.

Yes, now its not plain white sliced bread, but some fancy-shmancy artisan bread or baguette with an even fancier name, and some fancy-shmancy cheese from Switzerland/Turkey/France/ Netherlands. I am completely in love with bread. The different types, shapes, forms, smells, tastes... especially the smells. Every bread has such distinctive form smell shape, a truly beautiful piece of baked perfection.

So my plain bread and cheese is no longer plain. But yet, the taste transports me back to some earlier time!

(Image source: http://beearl.blogspot.com/2010/01/bread-and-cheese-anyone.html)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Not Another Social Network!

I opened my iTunes today to see "Ping" prominently displayed on an entire panel to the right. And my first thought was...not another social network.
Yes, it is getting to be too much. It is now quite irritating. I really do not need a social network for every single hobby, passion, like or dislike I have. Maybe I do not want to talk or share it with the world. Maybe I do. But whatever, I think that the technology people are going overboard with the social network craze/malaise!!

I think there are both technological, social and cultural reasons for this sudden craze. Of course, the first is obvious: technology "affords" this (Donald Norman, DOET) so we can now make this happen. And the underlying techno-social reason (I do not know if that is yet a word, if not, it needs to be) is the new technological race for more product ideas, coupled with the current craze for start-ups. If somebody has a reasonably decent but half-baked idea, they will either make it a new product or launch a new start-up. I really don't know if the so-called technology geeks even think of things from the non-technological point-of-view. The masses, so to speak, that they are designing for. These are the people who are surrounded by similar thinking "geeks" all the time, so when discussing ideas with each other, the idea becomes a self- perpetuating wish-fulfilling prophecy which will make them the quick millions they are hoping for. And they tell me high-tech start-up failure rates are high. Oh Well!

Social networks as an idea are pretty much done to death. Since the tech-geek obviously wants to do a start-up and despite being (or maybe because of) a geek, still thinks that social networks are cool and how about a new one for music/ poetry/ Jane Austen (that's an idea! maybe I should make my own Jane Austen social network). On second thoughts, do the geeks know Jane Austen exists?

Yes, I do think technology has its uses- after all, I am here writing my personal rant on social networks which I will then link to Facebook ;) - but I think that sometimes a good thing can be taken too far. There are aspects of my life that I may not want to make public. There is only so much technology can do to make life easier. And there is life outside of the aura of the computer screen.

Another thing that I feel strongly about- especially in this country- is that this proliferation of technology further contributes to the high rate of depression and loneliness here. We all know that nothing can replace human contact, words, touch, a hug. Or to put it more blatantly, computer ke saath so nahi sakte. Doesn't this incessant ubiquitous technology take us a further step apart from actual human contact? So now I have a social network online to discuss my esoteric (or not) music tastes rather than sit around with a bunch of friends actually listening to the music?

Again, here I think Meetup does a great job, using technology as a tool to create social settings, bring like-minded people together in person. So does Facebook, connecting people across the world. And that should be the purpose of technology. It is a means to an end, not an end in itself, something that we tend to forget. Lets get together in person, and hug and kiss and love and cry and rant and rage! Or lets form a new Meetup group about it ;)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Anger Again

Yes, it is back. I've written about it, here. My nemesis- anger. I have been working hard to overcome it and thought I had, quite successfully. My anger was swift as a spark, and came and went just as quickly. A flash and it was over, leaving me calmer than before. But I managed to control- and overcome it. Have not been really angry in the last six-odd months.
But it is back. And this time in a more devious form. Slow, burning resentment. A constant feeling that life is unfair to me. A gentle simmering festering pain. Small explosions that do nothing to release the pressure. Constant never-ending simmering brewing soft stealthy... scary.

So I was thinking. Why did it come back? Who was it aimed at?
And I realized that all the anger, the pain, the resentment is against myself. It is me I am angry against. For doing some things. For not doing others. For wanting things I can never have.
For not being nicer to myself. For not treating myself better.

Because, I just realize, nobody else is going to do so. Nobody else can validate me. In vain do I seek approval. It is a constant striving ache that can never be fulfilled. For those that I seek validation from can never give it to me. I am looking in the wrong places. And yet, I can't stop. Can't stop seeking it, and can't stop wanting it.

This leads to anger. A constant resentment that comes from knowing that I can never match up. That the people I love most want me to be somebody else. Somebody that I can not be. Somebody that I do not want to be. Yet, somebody that makes them happy.

So who is this person and why am I not her? The 'her' that people love, respect and accept?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tag: Top Ten Fictional Heroes

I've been doing any number of tags lately, so I decided to create one after my own heart (quite literally). As I have mentioned any number of times on this blog, I'm a voracious reader. With no pretensions to high-brow stuff, I read mostly fiction- mystery and thriller and romance and drama. I've been reading since I was old enough to string sentences together and make sense out of them. Reading has been associated with every phase of my growing up.

So I decided to list my top ten fictional crushes of all time. Guys that I have had major crushes on as I read my way through life. Who I really wanted, admired and "crushed" on in all my adolescent glory. And even beyond :) These aren't people I merely liked, these are the guys my heart ached for and wanted. I've tried to maintain the chronological order here, but it’s not very accurate. So here goes:

1. Fatty: Frederick Algernon Trotteville (F.A.T.) of the Five Find-Outers. Super-brainy and intelligent, master of crazy disguises, and solver of mysteries. I liked him even before I knew what a crush was! He was a geek before geeks were invented. Sometime in Grade 3 or 4.

2. Jupiter Jones: Again, slightly plump and super-brainy. Of the Three Investigators. Jupiter enthralled me with his amazing brains, reasoning capabilities and solving unfathomable mysteries. He invented totally awesome stuff and did all kinds of things with his super brain power. Again, an uber-geek before geekdom was created. Sometime in Grade 5-7.

3. Perry Mason: the hottest lawyer in town. Very hot and very intelligent. Loved his cool and collected calm in the most bizarre of situations. His courtroom manner was also quite fascinating. Also his badinage (bordering on flirtation) with Della Street. Grades 8-10.

4. Ralph De Bricassart: The priest from heaven ;) Or maybe a Greek God! The pain and anguish in this book were unbearable, especially to a teenager like me. How he had to make the most difficult choice ever. And how he sold his love for thirteen pieces of silver. The pain, the heartache, the sorrow- this is a book that has forever been a favorite since I read it in high school. I still read bits and pieces of this book. Grade 9.

5. Rhett Butler: Inevitable, right? One of the most romantic heroes of all time. I don't know of a single girl who did/does not love Rhett Butler. To think that Scarlett was so blind. And I hated Melanie Wilkes!

6. Zaphod Beeblebrox: One of my first serious loves in life. Uber-cool, witty, arrogant, outrageous, funny, smart and weird. What more could a girl ask for! I was hopelessly in love with him for a long long time. Grades 8-10.

7. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Another of the most romantic heroes ever. Unbelievably arrogant, unbelievably handsome, unbelievably unattainable. The stereotypical rich "proud" hero.

8. Barney Livingston: One of the most empathetic and nice "doctors". Super smart as well, as seen from his SAT scores and of course, going to Harvard Medical School. His lifelong friendship with Laura. Not to mention, he becomes a psychiatrist.

9. Hank Rearden: Surprisingly, it was Hank Rearden that I fell in love with, more than the other alleged heroes of the book, John Galt and Francisco D'Anconia. Even more than Howard Roark (despite being an architect). I felt that John Galt was too mythical, too removed from everyday life. And somehow, never warmed to Francisco. But Hank Rearden was it. His relentless pursuit of perfection, supporting his ungrateful parent, living and fighting for the best in this world. Unlike John Galt who was not a part of this world, this guy was here and was fighting. He was for real!

10. Robot TN-3 (aka Tony): from the Asimov short story, "Satisfaction Guaranteed". The fact that I loved this robot is one my my deepest secrets. This story goes to the root of Asimov: why all he wrote was human emotion disguised as science-fiction. I've always loved Asimov, but most of all his Robot series. And Susan Calvin.

This is quite a comprehensive list of how my reading developed as I grew up. After this, of course, I developed an insatiable appetite for M&B's and devoured them endlessly for the next seven odd years.

Now that I have created this tag, I tag: Richa, Psych Babbler, Kiran, Sunshine, Rimi, Cee Kay, Sayesha, Sue, IHM and Akash.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kitchen Queen

I'm extremely possessive of my kitchen.
And that is a statement I never thought I would ever make in this life...

All through school and college, I used to abhor cooking. To the extent that I did not even know how to switch on and light the gas stove! I actually learnt how to light a match for the first time when I was in class 6- and that too by fluke. My parents had gone out and I was alone at home and there was a power-cut. I was scared of sitting in the dark and even more scared of lighting a match. As they say, you can do anything if you are desperate. And so I learned to strike a match and light a candle!

Being the arrogant teenager and adult that I was, I would boast that I would never enter a kitchen in my life. I would obviously have a cook/maid to do all my cooking while I was out working. It never occurred to me that we often have to eat our words- in this case, quite literally. Because then I came to the US!

And so I started cooking. And cooking and cooking. It started off as a necessity at first, since I loved food and I could not eat un-tasty food. I needed to make good food so that I could eat. Yes, loving food is a sure-fire way of learning to cook it well- I could barely swallow it otherwise. Eventually, I learnt to love cooking. I loved to create and recreate, to embellish and experiment, to refine and hone. I realized that food was more than something to eat- it is a form of creativity, expression and most of all, love. Food speaks!

This also translated into my obsession with a neat and clean kitchen. I can't cook in a dirty kitchen. Of course, I gradually became completely OCD over the state of the kitchen-everything had to be just so, the dishes had to be in the proper places, the counters had to be gleaming, the stove-top shining, etc etc. So I usually hated it when other people came into my kitchen and messed around - wait, that spoon is half-a centimeter to the left!!

With time, I did get over my obsession (or maybe just got better at hiding my neuroses). Now, I am no longer so obsessive about cleanliness as I used to be. I realize its not the most important thing if it makes me unhappy and fretful.

Yes, I still am a little obsessive and possessive. And when I look back at my stupid teenage self, I can't help but wonder at her arrogance. Never go into the kitchen?
Now, my kitchen is my kingdom!!

Image source:http://www.hgtv.com/kitchens/tour-the-top-10-amazing-kitchens/pictures/page-7.html

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Brain Addict

I've been thinking about writing this for some time now. About what I find attractive in men.
What makes me pause mentally and give them a second look... as in Ohho, this guy deserves to be looked at twice :)
The short list starts with Wit and Humor!
When somebody makes a witty remark/ comment, I lift an appreciative eyebrow and acknowledge the wit/pun/comment. Of course, it is all mental- a mental touche of sorts!

I also like it if men are well-read and know how to carry on a conversation, that does not center exclusively on their work and interests. I am deeply impressed by men who can talk about anything from Popper and Kant to Choo and Birkin :)

But of course, there is one thing that overpowers all of this and more. The one trait that can make me melt in my shoes and become a simpering puddle of mush... intelligence! Brains that gleam and glitter and shine. And believe me, it shows.

Intelligence gets me like nothing else. I'm completely awed by such men. Whose sheer brainpower shines like a seductive aura around them. Sigh! I'm actually completely floored by displays of intelligence. Considering the range of things women fall for, I guess this is one of the better ones :)

Yes, I do stop and look over the intelligent men I meet. Who I mentally review a second -- even a third -- time. Which makes me extremely thankful that my husband is the most intelligent man I know ;)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cross-it Tag

Just my idea of a lazy Sunday afternoon- a tag that allows me to do a post without actually thinking about it. Got it from PB. I thought the tag was quite interesting, the way it gives a little peep into the blogger's life.
The rule is that we just need to cross out things we have done. So here goes:

1. Graduated high school.
2. Kissed someone.
3. Smoked a cigarette.
4. Got so drunk you passed out.

5. Rode every ride at an amusement park.
6. Collected something stupid.
7. Gone to a rock concert.
8. Helped someone.

9. Gone fishing
10. Watched four movies in one night.
11. Lied to someone.

12. Snorted cocaine.
13. Smoked weed.
14. Failed a subject.
15. Been in a car accident.

16. Been in a tornado.
17. Watched someone die.
18. Been to a funeral.
19. Burned yourself.
20. Run a marathon.
21. Cried yourself to sleep.
22. Spent over 10,000 bucks in one day.
23. Flown on an aeroplane.
24. Cheated on someone.
25. Been cheated on.
26. Written a 10 page letter.

27. Gone skiing.
28. Been sailing.
29. Cut yourself.
30. Had a best friend.
31. Lost someone you loved.
32. Got into trouble for something you didn't do.
33. Stolen a book from the library.
34. Gone to a different country.
35. Watched the Harry Potter movies.
36. Had an online diary.

37. Fired a gun.
38. Gambled in a casino.
39. Been in a school play.

40. Been fired from a job.
41. Taken a lie detector test.
42. Swam with dolphins.
43. Voted for someone on a reality TV show.
44. Written poetry.
45. Read more than 20 books a year.
46. Gone to Europe.
47. Loved someone you shouldn't have.
48. Used a colouring book over age 12.
49. Had a surgery.

50. Had stitches.
51. Taken a Taxi.
52. Had more than 5 IM conversations going on at once.

53. Been in a fist fight.
54. Suffered any form of abuse.
55. Had a pet.
56. Petted a wild animal.
57. Had your own credit card & bought something with it.
58. Dyed your hair.
59. Got a tattoo.
60. Had something pierced.
61. Got straight As.

62. Known someone personally with HIV or AIDS.
63. Taken pictures with a webcam.
64. Lost something expensive.
65. Gone to sleep with music on.

This was fun! I tag Akash, Arnab, Sunshine and Chamaree :)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

When Ugly Duckling meets Bollywood

I still remember really liking the movie Khoon Bhari Maang when I saw it long ago. I was quite a young kid then, but now that I think back, even then I had my priorities straight :)
After all, what was not to like in a vengeful murder story where the woman triumphs over evil?

I remember that I was really happy when Rekha transforms into this super-hot confident woman from a mousy male-dependant housewife. And then goes on to kill the guy (technically still her husband) for good measure.

Of course there was lots of filmi drama, but what's a good bollywood movie without it? And without all the masala and the hot songs and dances and swimsuit sequences and heroines prancing about on horses, wielding whips as they whip the bad guy- yup, that's what Rekha did in the last scenes of the movie. If one started analysing the movie from a socio-psychological viewpoint, I am wondering what the latter would be a trope for?

Yet, for the late 80's the movie was extremely progressive and feminist. No wronged 'bharatiya naari' stuff where she still forgives her husband and takes him back lovingly (aka Biwi no. 1). No godfather in the wings waiting to give monetary help- she sold her own diamond earrings to finance her plastic surgery, no finding another male saviour to avenge her, but taking her own revenge. I wonder why they no longer make such movies, so entertaining and yet with some semblance of a moral and a story!

Of course, the movie does have this theme that women's empowerment comes from a beautiful face and body. Which is not something that I am very comfortable with. But I feel that at some level its true (unfortunate, but true!). The movie also argues for financial independence, which we can all agree is extremely important, irrespective of gender.

Here's one of my favorite songs from the movie. Because the song talks about exploring ways to live life fully. To be more than what you are. And of course, for the suave Kabir Bedi ;)

Monday, June 07, 2010

Running after Time

So I've been really irritated lately (yes, I know you're thinking, what's new about that!) with one particular behavior exhibited by fellow-human beings- that of having some sort of remote claim on my time.
Maybe this is a by-product of living in the US, but I have become extremely possessive of my time. Since life is so fast paced here, I prefer to spend the little time I have the way I want to. Even if the way I want is to stare at the ceiling vacantly!

I resent people demanding that I call them regularly, and here regularly is once every 2-3 days. I really don't have a problem talking occasionally- I mean, once a week is enough- and that is all I can take of their conversation anyway! And I hate even more that I have to listen to things like "Oh, You're so busy.. you never have time to call".
Well, guess what? I'm having second thoughts about this call too!

The second kind are the people who want me to go somewhere, visit something etc. which I have not the least inclination to do, but they want me to. And if they call me and ask me to come/go somewhere, it is guaranteed that I won't.
In fact, there was this one place that I really wanted to go, for one particular occasion. And of course, a well-meaning person had to call and tell me not to forget to do so. I got so unreasonably irritated that despite the fact that I really really wanted to go, I did not!
Yes, I'm completely capable of cutting my nose off to spite my face (I really get angry!).

Its not that I am super-productive with the time I have. Or that I waste all of it away either. But somehow, I feel that apart from my close family, nobody else has the right to my time.
It is my most precious resource. And if I choose to spend it sleeping, reading or staring at the ceiling, that's my choice.

Image Source: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/chicago/green-ideas/thrifty-ideas-from-danny-seos-new-place-046145

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Ends don't Justify the Medium

What puts me off most when I read people's blogs?
Strange as it seems, not the opinions. I do think that each of us has the right to have- and air-their own opinions. What really irritates me- and often, leads me to stop reading mid-sentence- are things that I find inexcusable in any form of writing. Grammatical errors/ typos, and the use of sms-ese. Rite?

As I said above, I respect your opinions. But the means used to express the opinion also needs to to be respected. The language is often mutilated beyond recognition. Sms-ese is not English, by any stretch of the imagination. Even more so when you are using it in a public forum. We already know that you don't know English, you really do not have to prove it to the world as well!

Even more cringe worthy is bad grammar. And the worst of the lot are spelling mistakes. I mean, if you are using sms-ese and you know it, fine, but if you are using proper English and then making horrendous errors, it is a lot worse. If you don't know English, please use grammar check in MS Word. And then Spell-Check in MS Word. That will make life easier for all of us.

Very often, I chance on some random blog and start reading, only to find that the language is stilted, not flowing correctly, or just plain wrong! I can not begin to describe my irritation when I think of the multitude of blogs that manage to attain the above distinction. Then I wonder, if something is truly better than nothing? A little knowledge (in this case, of the English Language) is truly a dangerous thing.

What makes it worse? That these semi-literate people go on happily writing, leaving the rest of us utterly frustrated. For two reasons: one, we have to read such stuff and feel sorry for the English language, its users and its readers. Secondly, the sheer blindness of fools.

Just because it is a blog does not mean that the medium of expression can be compromised. It does not make the rules any less stringent. I use Hindi all the time in my writing, but that does not mean I make any grammar errors in my English.

Language is a tool to be used- used for crafting paragraphs, poetry and prose. Language is a medium of communication. Language is a means of expression. Please, use this medium with the respect it deserves. Just because you know it does not allow you to use it incautiously (or even because you do not know it, as can be seen). The end- in this case, self-expression- does not justify misusing the means.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Tag

Since I want to write and don't know what to write, am doing a tag by my friend.

The tag goes.. "If I were..."

  • If I were a month: I would be August. Because it is unpredictable, sometimes hot and sultry, sometimes pouring with rain, thunder and lightning, carrying both the lingering heat of summer and the promise of a coming winter.
  • If I were a day of the week: I would be Saturday. When half the weekend and its joys are gone, and when responsibilty comes knocking back. Yet, knowing that Sunday is yet to come. Tinged with sadness, yet full of happiness of the present.
  • If I were a time of day: I would be night. Calm, quiet, contained. Contented in itself.
  • If I were a season: I'd be the monsoons in India. Waited for desperately to take away the heat, they come all noise and flashing light, awe-inspiring, flamboyant, loud.
  • If I were a planet: I would be Venus. Woman all through!
  • If I were a direction: I would be North.
  • If I were a piece of furniture: I would be a cosy one-seater sofa. On which one can curl up and read a book.
  • If I were a liquid: I would be Tea. My elixir of life. My caffeine fix. Aromatic. Deep.
  • If I were a tree: Eucalyptus. Because there were a lot of these where I was growing up. And I love the smell.
  • If I were a tool: I would be a hammer. Blunt, driving the point home without finesse. No diplomacy- that's me!
  • If I were a flower: Chrysanthemum. Showy, decorative, big and pretty :)
  • If I were an element: I'd be Mercury. Sometimes liquid, sometimes solid. Quicksilver!
  • If I were a gemstone: I would be Pearls. Born of oysters. In all colors from black to pink to white. Artificial or real. Round and pretty.
  • If I were a kind of weather: Rainy and/or cloudy. Sometimes wistful and tremulous, sometimes dark and threatening.
  • If I were a musical instrument: I would be the flute. Because that is how I want to be: tall and thin and beautiful.
  • If I were a color: Red. Rich, flamboyant, vibrant, alive, sultry.
  • If I were an emotion: Anger. Can never control it and it takes me over. I only wish I had better control over my anger!
  • If I were a fruit: Red Grapes- round, plump and ripe. Asking to be bit into to release their juices ;)
  • If I were a sound: I'd be a car horn: impatient, irritated and a little angry.
  • If I were a car: I would be the red Prius Hybrid. Environmentally conscious, innovative shape and form, sleek and beautiful.
  • If I were a material: I'd be a woven shawl. Warm and comfortable.
  • If I were a food: I would be coffee ice-cream. The perfect blend of bitter and sweet. And melting in warmth.
  • If I were a taste: I'd be sweet. I am sweet.
  • If I were a scent: I'd be citrus. Lemony, tangy and fresh!
  • If I were an object: I would be a mink blanket- warm, supersoft and luxurious, but sometimes smothering and suffocating.
  • If I were a song: I'd be "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara". I have friends from all communities, regions, states and religions of India. And I strongly believe that real people and real friendships transcend petty boundaries of divisiveness.
  • If I were a body part: I'd be the eyes- wherein you can see the depths of your soul.
  • If I were a place: I would be India. Torn, conflictiong, ravaged, and yet rising despite all odds.
  • If I were a facial expression: I would be the look that goes with "Paying attention". Listening. Because that is what I am for all my friends. A person to talk to.
  • If I were a pair of shoes: I'd be Mary Janes. Demure and young, budding with promise. And then add some heels- they become hot and attractive.

Friday, April 16, 2010

And mine is...

A few days ago, I thought I would right a short piece on all the five sins: Kaama, Krodh, Lobh, Moha, Ahankaar. In that order. But being the capricious person that I am, I decided that I only wanted to write about mine. Yes, the one in the above list over which I have very little (make that minuscule) control: Krodh.
That's true: Anger is my greatest enemy. My downfall.

It has been said that of all the sins, anger is the only one that hurts the doer more than the receiver. Its true. Anger can burn you make you unhappy keep you smoldering resentful fuming-and exploding, but still- you are the epicenter of the explosion. You are the one who holds all that negativity and pain inside you which is regurgitated as anger.

Yes, I get angry very easily. And when I get angry, I get really angry. I scream and shout and cry- all at the same time. I hurt. And most of all, I hurt myself.
For as soon as it comes, it goes away. After a bout of screaming and shouting, I'm fine. And then I really regret my words. But as some wise person said "Words are like arrows shot from a bow. Once they leave, they can never be recalled"

Anger is really the most destructive emotion. Not because it hurts the person you are angry at; it destroys you.
I was reading CBD a few days ago. And in her book, she talks about how Draupadi held on to her anger for thirteen long years. How this single woman's anger brought about the Mahabharata. How she never let go of her anger, how she used it as a weapon. CBD then narrates the following scenario between Krishna and Draupadi :

"Krishna visits the Pandavas at their forest dwelling. Draupadi is cooking for him, when he suddenly pulls out a smoldering wooden log from the choolha and thrusts it at Draupadi. She lunges back, and then asks him, what is this?
He replies- this is what anger is. The fire smoldering inside this log. It smolders inside you and reduces you to nothing. "
(The Palace of Illusions, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Five Sins

Remember class 8th? When we had to ratto a lot of Hindi grammar. One integral part of this was learning Hindi muhawaras, or sayings. Then we also had things which came in sets of three, four or five, stuff that came out of our ancient literature. I don't remember much, though there were the Three Doshas (Kafa, Vaata, Pitta); the five senses; the triumvirate of Gods, and, the set I want to talk about, the Five Sins. These were Kaama, Krodh, Lobh, Moha, Ahankaar. And at that time in my life, I did not understand, I did not know how these were THE five sins.

Now, I know. I get how these are the definitive sins not because these are just evil or bad, but because these are the most difficult to overcome. These come from within, self-generated thoughts and feelings and emotions. Which consume you.
Yes, these are the sins because to overcome these you have to control the self. These are not committed against you- these are you. Manifestations of your darker side. That erupt and explode and devour you, leave no place for rational thought and burn, burn you through!

So, in a way, I am starting a mini-series on this blog. Where each post will talk about one of these sins. I know which one of these is my besetting sin, the one that I can never control. That takes me over and turns me in to my Mr. Hyde.

What's yours?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chahida Chahida Chahida Mainu!

For those who don't know Punjabi, the title is translated as "I want, want, WANT!!!"
That is what I have been thinking these days- how our wants are usually endless. First its one thing, then the next and the next. I want all the time!
Of course, one can argue that this is a good thing, wanting keeps us on our toes and makes us competitive. Yet, I don't like it if this perpetual wanting takes away my sense of peace and inner contentment. The latter is what is most important to me- though of course, I want and want :)

What I really do not like is when we do not differentiate "want" from "need". Of course, we all want. We never have everything we want "..har kisi ko mukammal jahaan nahin milta..kabhi zameen to kabhi aasmaan nahin milta..."
But some people obsess so much about their wants that it overshadows the good in their lives. And keep cribbing incessnatly (I've been guilty of this a LOT!). Though lately, I have tried to stop cribbing and be happy for my blessings. So this makes me even more irritated with people who are always whining or cribbing about something or the other.

On a separate but related note, I also think that the more materialustic (the spelling is intentional) a society, the more we have no internal system of balances to keep wanting in check. Though "thou shall not covet" and be envious, it is almost impossible not to. Even in India, consumption is the new rage. More, better, faster, bigger, smaller, blingier. Mine!

Here's this awesome song that captures this so well:

A B C D Chaida Mainu
wo DVD Chaida Mainu
CTV bhi Chaida Mainu
LCD Bhi Chaida Mainu

Laal Mercedes Chaidi Mainu
Laal Kila Bhi Chaida Mainu
Haa Haa Chaida Ho Ho Chaida

Mainu Chaida Chaida Chaida
Chaida Chaida Chaida
Chaida Chaida Chaida
Chaida Chaida Chaida

Friday, March 26, 2010

Self-Help Junkie

I discovered Self-Help books after coming to the US, since I did not know much about them back home. And now I am a dedicated follower. Of course, there are self-help books on/for everything: how to find a date/man; how to give a great blow-job; how to save your marriage; how to raise great kids; how to get a job; how to be a writer; how to be happy; how to be positive; how to cook; how to lose weight; how to learn karate; how to live... you name it, and there is a self-help book for it!

And I am a sucker for them all! Self-help books are my go-to for all my problems. You'll find them everywhere around me- on my bedstand, my bookshelf, my Kindle! Because I like to think that there is a solution that I can find in these pages. And then once I apply it, everything will be a happily ever after. These books give me hope- that I can make myself and my life better. Even though I barely apply much of the advice. Yet, I still love reading them!

Image source:

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Perennial Grocery List

I am an anal Grocery lister. I make grocery lists ALL the time.
And then make their back-ups. I used to get so upset if/when I lost my first list, that now I make sure every list I make has a back-up copy as well (Yeah, I know I'm anal!).

In fact, sometimes I feel I'm always making some sort of grocery/ to-do/ to buy list. And I usually am, in my head. In class, if I'm getting bored, my mind goes... tomato, pyaaz, aalu, dahi, milk, eggs and bread! Or If I'm giving a party, I plan my actions in the minutest detail... boil chickpeas, cut gobhi, make sabzi, then curry, then lay the table, take out the glasses.... I plan out the order like a major king would make a battle plan.

So I can never shop without a list. I feel rudderless, as if my moorings are lost. I feel handicapped without my lists. Sometimes I get tired of this incessant list making in my mind, and I want it to stop. But the only way I can stop my mind's list is to write it down... and on and on it goes. I have to go to school early tomorrow- and my mind is already laying out the steps, right up to catching the 8:33 AM train!

Its tiring and irritating, and yet I'm not alone. There are other people like me!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Of shoes and shawls

Is there this one thing that you can never have enough of? That is your one weakness every time you go into some shop/mall? Clothes? Skirts? Jewellery? Handbags? Shoes???
Yes, that's mine. SHOES!! I love shoes..and no matter how many I have, I never have enough. Or never have the right ones for the right occasion. I have to go and look at shoes whichever mall I go to, whichever shop I go to. Though I am so finicky about the kind of shoes I like/want, that I end of not buying most of the time. Something is always wrong- too high, too low, too narrow, too pointed, too tight, too loose, too ugly...
It takes a lot to find the perfect shoe. And believe me, I'm always looking. I often spend hours and hours on department store websites, just looking and looking. Of course, most (like Neiman Marcus) are ones I can not afford. But can always look :)

My Mom has this simialr obsession with shawls..she can never have enough. She's always buying shawls...so she has this amazing collection, encompassing all colors of the world. Like autumn colors woven with sunlight. Like mustard and white flowers. Like tapestries. She buys most of her shawls from Bhuttico, which makes some of the best shawls in the world.
She has some of the most wondrous weaves, so soft they feel like a gentle sun on your shoulders... yes, I have also inherited her love of shawls. And even better, have inherited some of the shawls too :)
Whenever she buys some shawls for herself, she usually gets an odd one for me too! And so I too have fallen under this spell of shawls. I love wearing them, warm and gentle and comfortingly wrapped around. Trailing softly and gracefully.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

My latest addiction

I don't know if I have ever mentioned it before on this blog, but books are my lifeline. I just cannot live without reading. If I go too long without books, I feel as if something is missing in my life. My whole being craves books. And yes, its almost always fiction. I started reading when I was in grade 2- with the usual Enid Blytons, and Archie's comics.
Nowadays, I devour anything- from trashy romances to self-help to Booker winners- its all irresistible to me. I have often spent all night continuously reading and not being able to put down the book, only to miss school, college, work the next day. Its my greatest addiction.

I starkly remember the first time that I spent all night reading- it was Midnight's Children. I read the whole book non-stop, in a single reading. It took me about 16 straight hours. And of course, I missed school the next day. The next book that I could not stop in between was Lord of the Rings (the entire series). The book is simply amazing. Then came Harry Potter! And quite recently, the complete Princess Diaries series (as the pattern clearly shows, I've been regressing :)

These days, I am hooked onto Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I have read some of her books earlier, and quite liked them. But I recently found almost all of her works in the local library, and got them all to read. And got hooked. She has to be one of the best writers I have come across in a long time (and given my reading history, that is saying something).

The was she describes emotions, pain, life.... with her words, its as if she puts her hand deep into your guts and wrenches them out. It is raw, visceral pain. She makes my soul ache. Her books are mesmerizing, incredible in the way they capture everyday human pain, and desire and complex emotions.

She leaves me with a profound sense of sorrow, of pain... of unhappiness. And yet, some strange sense of fulfillment. Reading her books is like going through an emotional roller coaster. Still, I wouldn't miss the ride for anything!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Some Morning Thoughts

Just read
1. http://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/dheeyaan-dee-maa-rani-bhudhaapey-bharey-paani/
2. http://doctorofphilosphy.blogspot.com/2010/01/indian-women.html

Now I'm going to be depressed the whole day!

What makes it worse is that this attitude pervades and permeates the pores of our country. It is like talking and breathing, it is everywhere, is is normal. It is all right to think like this. Its perfectly legitimate to want sons. People don't even stop to consider that this is something that could possibly ever be questioned.

This happened to me yesterday night. I was talking to Mom, and she was, as usual, bemoaning the fact that I don't have kids (read son). The latest in a series of ideas about how to have children is to keep a mannat. That is basically saying to God that I would do such-and-such if you give me so-and-so.

Like a true negotiator, she gave me a real world example (real people I know)
"There was this woman in our colony, who had three daughters. She kept this mannat that she would go to the temple every day for 40 days, and do jhadu-poccha there. For 40 days non-stop... ab to uska beta jawaan ho gaya hai"

Do you want me to list everything that is wrong in the above statement? It might take another 2-3 hours. I felt immensely sorry for this poor woman, who must have been hounded to death by our society for producing 3 daughters. And the only way she could get respect and any worth whatsoever was to beget a son.
But my Mom only saw her as a winner- a winner who worked hard to get that most coveted of prizes, a son.
Anyway, the point is that when narrating this story, my Mom did not even think that this was offensive, wrong or anything. For her, this only demonstrated that God can fulfill all wishes, and give you a son.

My Dad (who's the most enlightened person in the whole world) actually gave me a real world reason to have a son. When I was arguing with my parents, why son?, he said something prosaic, practical and a Parthian shot:

"Sasuraal mein reputation ban jaati hai"

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cultural Stereotyping: Tale of 2 States

I just finished 2 States, Chetan Bhagat's latest. He tells the 'love' story of a Punjabi guy and a Tamil girl, who want to get married but have to bridge the North-South divide. Though I am a cultural snob and think that his writing is pedestrian at best, I still could not put the book down. No matter how cliched everything is, it still touches you. And makes you laugh. I was laughing out loud ALL THE TIME- and you know why? Because he gets it. He takes all the possible cultural stereotypes, which you already know, and hate (or like) and still makes it sound interesting. He makes fun of everything, be it the Punjus or the Tambis.

Secondly, I could truly relate to the story. I married a 'Madrasi' too- a Telugu guy, not exactly Madrasi, but you know, they're all the same ;)
But yes, there were distinct correlations between my story and the book. It's never easy to bridge the North-South divide. It took time and patience- and I have to admit, my husband did everything. He took the time and patience, I just stood around screaming and making things worse.

I loved all the stereotypes in the book. He puts it all so well and in such a funny way. From eating, talking, dancing, living... oh everything! Its actually almost incomprehensible that these vastly different cultures belong to one country. One line of his captured the complete essential difference in the cultures:

"Marble floors are to Punjabis what U.S. degrees are to Tamilians".
(as in, both can induce mini-orgasms in the respective cultural psyche).

One of the most insightful cultural differences is about how to cut vegetables. I have had huge and often vituperous debates with my friends about this. This is so basic, so innate and so banal, yet so true. Punjabis cut vegetables using their thumb as a base. That's how I cut vegetables, and that's how everybody in my world has always done it. When my world expanded (came to the US, met people from different cultures) I got to know that this was not the only way to do it. Of course, I still do it as I am very used to this and so very very fast using this way- its more efficient and works for me. So this has been an issue with me- after all, I almost alienated a friend by telling him that my way was right!

So when Bhagat actually talks about this, I was beyond impressed. I mean, he knew this small cutural artefact and that this is different in different cultures. It is such perfect attention to detail. And he's a guy- men would never even notice that such a thing exists (I mean, they barely notice the food, different methods of chopping vegetables?). This fact in the book just hit me. And made me love the stereotypes even more.

I am not saying the stereotyping was good. Or bad. That is exactly how we are. We are the stereotypes that Chetan Bhagat captures so well. Yet, he says in an interview that this North-South divide does need to be lessened. As he puts it, its good for national integration. Well, I am glad I have done my bit for furthering that goal :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How to give the Perfect Party

My mother is a stickler when it comes to giving parties. She is very very particular about this: not only should the food taste perfect, it should look perfect. The way it was presented was just as important, if not more, than the way it tasted. To this day, I follow all her norms when I give a party or invite people over for dinner. It makes me more than anal, but what the heck, the results are beautiful. My dinner table looks good! Here are some tenets that I gleaned and use all the time:

1. All the subzis/dishes should be of different colors: this was one of the most essential rules. This added variety and beauty of its own. Her favorite combination was Chane (dark-brown), baked cauliflower (yellow) and paneer curry (orange) or bhindi (green). She was so insistent on this rule that its deeply ingrained in my head. I always always always follow this. My favorite color combo is rajmah (dark-red), capsicum (green), mushroom-paneer(light-orange).

2. The paper napkins were arranged in a twisting ascending spiral between the plates. The napkins were placed such that one corner peeked out, then the next plate was put on top with its napkin corner starting where the one below ended. It looked beautiful!

3. The spoons were arranged in a pattern: either inverted V or some other design. They were never just kept there.

4. The chutneys had to be 2/3 colors: these were kept in matching bowls in the center. She generally put achaar (orange), ketchup (red) and walnut-garlic chutney (green) (this was my Mom's uber specialty, the tastiest chutney in the world) in the center.

5. Use the teaspoons for dessert- and never mix the tea- and table-spoons. I remember being scolded if I ever did mix them up.

6. The glasses were to be kept upside-down (I don't know why).

7. The table linen had to be perfect too. She has a gorgeous collection of hand-embroidered table mats that we used for such occasions. And the table cloth was either net or hand emboidered applique or some such.

8. The accompaniments had to be even and just so. For example, if we had chopped onion to go with the chane, they had to be finely and evenly chopped. The carrots had to be cleanly grated. The dhaniya was to be cut in even pieces (I can't even imagine what effort that took).

9. The appetizer drink glasses were the small ones, the water glasses were the big ones etc. So make sure everything goes into the right glasses.

You know what, I have not even started talking about the food yet. Even an extra pinch of haldi was not tolerated- after all, that could drastically change the color. Giving a dinner party in my house meant planning down to the perfect last detail. Even the hand-towels in the guest bathroom were matched!

No wonder, my husband goes crazy everytime I have a party at home. Though no matter how hard I try, I can never match the perfection of my mother's parties. Can never cook that well. Or make the chutneys, or chop the onions finely.
But I do get the glasses right. And the linen. And the cutlery and crockery. And the appetizers. And the matching hand-towels!

(Image source: http://www.potterybarn.com/products/sumner-dining-table/?pkey=csquare-rectangular-tables)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Toe Rings

Do you like toe-rings?

I love wearing them. I think they are really fashionable and stylish.
I got three pairs of really pretty sparkling silver ones with colored gems a few months ago. One has a shimmering opal in the center with small colored gems around it, the second one is a checkerboard of different colored sparkling gemstones and the third is an S-shaped purple something.

It took me a while to get used to wearing them. I still have to remove them when I wear sports shoes or narrow shoes, since they keep cutting my toes. And they are always too loose or too tight! But despite all the inconveniences, I still like to wear them... after all, they look so pretty :)
Of course, toe-rings- as with every Indian ornament- have a deeper meaning. Wearing toe-rings signifies that the woman is married (it is the Indian equivalent of the wedding ring). And is mandatory in some regions of the country. Yes, that's how I started wearing them too. But then, I started liking them for their own beauty, not for their significance. They area a pretty peice of jewellery.
Shouldn't we be wearing jewellery because it makes us happy, rather than because it signifies such-and-such, or because its mandatory?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Spark of Difference

What makes a genius? Or even an above-intelligent person?
How does one recognize the SPARK? The Spark that differentiates lowly mortals from the true geniuses?
No, this discussion is not sparked (pun intended) from 3 idiots. Though of course, parallels can be drawn. But I still think that a lot of people who get into the IIT do not necessarily have the spark (having been in one, I know!)
I was actually thinking about this for the last few days, and was wondering what makes a genius. I have seen a lot of people do really well in school, but that is mostly a ton of hard work and diligence. They don't have the spark.

So what is it? How do we define it? How do we find it?

Are we born with it? Or can we grow into it?
Is it a mindset? An Attitude? A brain?

Since I had no answers, I decided to do an observational study. Divide all the people I know into two categories "Spark" and "No Spark". But this turned out to be a reflection of my thoughts, and an extremely subjective process. It was simply, and ONLY, my own perception. Which, I am the first to admit, can be and IS extremely biased.
I still don't know. Grades don't cut it for me- you can be bad in school, and still have the spark. The closest that I can get to is what Rancho says in 3 idiots- that grades ke peechhe mat bhaago, knowledge ke peechhe bhago.

Is that the answer?