Monday, October 31, 2005


My company is organizing a Halloween pumpkin-carving contest today. I am putting in an entry. This my very first attempt at pumpkin-carving :-). Can you figure out what it is?

I did the carving late on Saturday night after some eight back-breaking hours of packing, cleaning and moving. If not anything, I think I should be given some award for the most enthusiasm :-). Hehe, not really! I had already bought the pumpkin on Friday evening (when I was still in good shape) and did not feel like throwing it away. So I was forced to carve it. But once I started, I found it very good fun!

I won the second prize for my pumpkin and got a Target gift card :-)!

Now you know why!

I cribbed about moving in a previous post. Well, here are the pics from my move yesterday (btw, while I am at it, my friends were a GREAT help with the moving). The first one is the scene at my old house when I was almost done with all packing. The second one is the current state of my new house. Now I have to unpack, arrange everything and settle down. Its going to be a looooong week. Sigh! But yeah, at least I like my new place :-)!


And now:

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Class Movie

I was just watching "Showbiz India" - one of the two (I think) desi programs that come free on USA cable. They played the song "dil se re" from the movie Dil Se. And I remembered: Dil Se or rather Uyire was the very first "class movie" that my computer science students batch went to during my undergrad days.

In engineering college, during the first semester, students from various disciplines were divided into batches as all of us were required to take the same core engineering courses. From the second semester onwards though, we were grouped according to the discipline we were specializing in - so all computer science majors were put in one class, ECE majors into another and so on. Somehow, I found my first semester class with its mix of majors, a lot more sociable than my later semester classes which comprised entirely of Computer Science students. Apparently other students in my class felt similarly. For in the third semester it was decided that the whole class should to the theatre to watch a movie together as a kind of bonding exercise. Preparation and name collection went on in full swing and eventually about half of our class of 81 students decided to go to watch the recently released Uyire.

Those were the days when we were still poor students and most of us had to take the bus to get to the theatre. Being the evening time of a week-day, the buses were pretty crowded. We girls (A, V, M, S, P and me) gave the miss to a couple of buses to the theatre as they were too crowded until we realized that each subsequent bus was turning out to be more crowded than the last. So we squeezed ourselves into the next bus which showed up. S and P got into the front and A, V, M and me into the back. The bus was so crowded that we could barely breath. M, being the shortest of the lot was the most discomfited as she had the highest probability of being elbowed in the face. To pass time on the almost 30-minute journey we started telling each other "kadi" jokes. I remember one of them:

A to V: Ask me if I am a rabbit.
V, obediently: Are you a rabbit?
A: Yes, I am a rabbit. Ask me if I am a deer.
V: Are you a deer?
A: I just told you I am a rabbit! How can I be a deer?
A and me: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

Poor M was caught beneath a network of elbows and did not hear a word of the "joke". Now V wanted to have her share of the fun too and pulled M out from beneath her elbow-canopy and told her that she had a joke for her. The conversation went like this:

V to M: Ask me if I am a rabbit.
M, avoiding another elbow: Are you a rabbit?
V: Yes, I am a rabbit. Now ask me if I am a deer?
M: Po dee! (translated loosely as "get lost")
A and me: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

Thus went by our time on the bus. When our stop came, we managed to extricate ourselves from the bus. All of us, especially M, looked like we had been caught in a hurricane. Nevertheless we proceeded to the theatre and regrouped with the rest of our class. Someone had already bought the tickets and we just had to sail into the theatre. A, S and me were sitting together. The movie started. When the name of the hero, Shah Rukh Khan, flashed on the screen, A, an ardent fan, clapped excitedly. Next, when the name of the lyricist, Vairamuthu, came up, all of us hooted - the lyricist is the father of one of my classmates. We all had great expectations from the movie as it was directed by Mani Ratnam, one of the sensible movie-makers that India has.

The songs were pretty good and entertaining. Manisha Koirala looked extremely beautiful. SRK was okay. Priety Zinta looked all fresh and bubbly (this was back when her bubbly self had not yet become annoying). And how was the movie itself? I don't know! The first 20 minutes of the movie seemed like a documentary with songs. As the movie proceeded, it showed more and more documentary-like traits and A, S and me lost interest. We were conversing in low whispers amongst ourselves and after a certain point forgot that we were in a theatre watching a movie. Suddenly we heard a collective gasp from the audience and turned towards the screen - SRK and Manisha were engulfed in a huge ball of flames! It seemed like Manisha, who plays a suicide bomber, had been prevented by SRK from making a lethal attack on a political leader. Gosh, we had just missed the climax of the movie! After that, I think the ending-credits rolled.

I remember that many of my class mates looked bleary-eyed and zoned out as they walked out of the theatre. I don't know what the majority opinion about the movie was. In any case, all my class mates looked mighty depressed (either about the ending of the movie or about having paid money to watch a documentary). However, the movie did have one powerful effect on my class: we NEVER again went out for a class movie!

p.s. I have since heard other people praise the movie. I think I should watch it again or rather watch it completely for the first time and see if it changes my current not-so-good opinion.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Of all painful experiences that we are forced to go through in life, moving has to be right there among the top 10. It is so tiresome to pack everything into boxes, load it all into a truck, haul them all to a different place - just to unpack everything. Of course, the pain factor of the move is directly proportional to the number of belongings involved.

I am no stranger to moving. In fact, my childhood was punctuated by moving every two (or if we got lucky, three) years. My banker dad saw to that. However, back then, in spite of the logistics involved in moving the contents of an entire house, I never cared too much about the actual move other than feeling bad about leaving yet another set of friends behind. You see, I was still a kid and all I had to do was not get in the way. Of course, as I grew older, I had more duties but the main chunk of the responsibilities still fell on my parents' shoulders. It also helped that my dad's bank always provided professional packers and movers to assist us.

The first time I moved for myself was when I had to join the hostel during my first year of engineering. But then, my sister came up with the list of required items, my mother packed everything, my dad drove my stuff to the hostel and the watchman carried everything inside. All I had to do was unpack lightly. So once again, a hassle-free move.

My next chance came when I decided to come to the US to do my masters. How on earth was I going to fit everything I needed for the next 2 years into two small suitcases? My mom, the super-packer, managed to cram clothes, books, utensils, shoes, cooker....and what seemed like all my wordly possessions into the suitcases. Once again, all that yours truly had to do was unpack all the stuff once I reached Davis. Since I moving into an already occupied house, no hassles there either.

All the hitherto blissful experiences with moving came to an end when I moved from Davis to the bay area to take up an internship. I had to pack all by myself for the first time in my life. Fortunately, friends helped with the lugging and the moving part. All my stuff fit into the trunk and half of the backseat of a car.

For another 7 months, I lead a move-free existence. Then I had to move again. This time around, I had a lot more boxes - even though I did not yet own a single piece of furniture. It took 3 trips with a car, completely loaded each time, to ferry all my stuff to my new place. Seriously, HOW can a person quadruple their possessions in just 7 months? Fortunately, once again, two chivalrous guys came to my rescue and I did not have to do any heavy hauling.

I am still staying at the place I moved to. For the first few months, me and my roommate were too scared to buy furniture just out of fear of lugging it when we had to move next. But there is only so much time you can spend sitting on a mat on the carpet to watch TV. Slowly we succumbed and added to the "shoba" of our house - a futon here, an entertainment center there, that pretty coffee table - the list grew. Then, this year I invited my family over to visit me. My room-mate was getting married and she moved out (leaving behind most of the furniture). It was the first time my parents and sister were coming to see me in my "own" house and I wanted the house to put its best foot forward. I took great pride in making it just perfect and unleashed my interior decoration skills. These improvements called for further additions to my growing list of possessions.

This new arrangement was hunky-dory while my family was here. They went back to India last week :-(. And I decided to move to a smaller place. I found a cute place - I am moving there this coming weekend. But God! I have so many things now :-(. I have booked a u-haul and 3 of my friends to help me move. I have been packing in bits and pieces for more than a week now but no matter how big the pile of packed boxes get, somehow there doesn't seem to be a dent in the number of things still to be packed. I swear to God, my stuff is multiplying behind my back.

The real test is going to be on coming Sunday. Boy-o-boy! As far as moving goes, I have come a long way from being asked to stay out of the way. Now, not only do I get to pack, I also get to lug my own stuff and in fact, drive it to my new house. Is this progress or what? Nah, somehow I dont think so!!!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Bad hair day

I have always had a head full of hair. Apparently even when I was born the nurses and doctors in the hospital expressed surprise as I had a head well-endowed with thick wavy hair in spite of being born some 20 days early. Things did not change as I grew up. Everyone used to exclaim upon seeing my thick tresses. Hairdressers used to get exhausted by the time they got through the entire jungle on my head. Jungle? Yes, you read right. For though some people seemed to envy all that hair, I was sick of having a mane which made me resemble "sai baba" on the slightest provocation. I had also had enough of the "birds nest" and "medusa on a bad morning" remarks from the non-admirers. So after spending years trying to cut it into a manageable shape, I grew my hair out and thick pony tails became my all time in vogue hairstyle.

Then I joined the hostel. And for the first time in my life I understood what others meant when they complained about falling hair. Every time I got anything anywhere near my head, my hair fell. I felt close to tears whenever I had to have a hair wash. All my previous curses unfortunately worked and within a year, my hair volume had decreased by half :-(. Hairdressers no longer sighed in despair when I landed at their parlours. Other than that, I was still stuck with wavy, frizzy and now thin :-( (by my hitherto lofty standards) hair. I just decided it was my lot in life and finally accepted it.

Then I got to come abroad for my graduate studies. For the first time in my life, I saw that for most part, all women had nice frizz-free, well-styled hair. It then struck me that not all these women could have been born that way. My eyes were then opened to a whole new world of hair care products. Gels, mouse, hairspray, shine serum, smoothing milk - you name it! My purse had found a new outlet! A believer of miracles, each time I went to the store I would come back with a new hair care product to try out. For the first time in my life I actually got some say in what my hair looked like. But since it was mostly trial and error I had to leave the results to luck more than anything else.

Then the straightening rage hit. I had gone to India for vacation and even ppl with super straight hair were getting chemical straightening done. My sis urged me to try it too and I was like "why not?". I spent a good 4 hours of my life at the parlor while the hair-dresser patiently straightened every unruly hair on my head. When she was done, boy, was I pleased! For the first time in my life I could safely let my hair free and I had got a whole new look. Compliments poured in. And, most importantly, for the first time in my life I could not see any frizz!! Hallelujah!

That was over a year ago. I had done the semi-permanent straightening and the effects have begun wearing off. I am once again fighting a losing battle with frizz. My cosmetics cupboard has dozens of half-used bottles of sprays, serums, lotions and creams all of which promise to reduce frizz. I wish I could tell you that I have found a miracle cure - but not yet. I really think I should ask one of those well-groomed women how they do it. In the mean time, if you are selling any anti-frizz solution, let me know. I will buy a bottle.

And a last sign off thought:

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

This post continues from where the last one left off. Once again about nights-out. So I came to Davis to do my masters. I stayed with a couple of seniors - let me call them A and B. Now A and B were really nice girls and helped me get settled down much faster than I otherwise would have. A and B were also good friends with a bunch of desi guys living upstairs. Being the most recent entrant to the gang, I was the youngest of the lot and A and B used to baby me at times. A, B, me and the guys upstairs used to cook and eat together to minimize individual cooking turns.

Computer architecture was one of the required courses for that quarter. As a part of the course, we were required to submit a project at the end of quarter - a software implementation of an architectural feature plus a presentation of the same. Since one of the guys upstairs, R, had also taken the same course, R and I decided to team up together to do the project. As per the normal life-cycle of any project it started off as per schedule. But as days went by, we started lagging behind mainly due to me having to spend time on other projects, this being my first quarter in school and all. I dodged R's killer looks as much as possible at school though it was impossible to avoid them during dinner-time. Finally, it started looking like our project and consequently our grades were going to die a slow death. And we HAD to buck up.

So one night, after dinner, R and me set off to the lab to do some serious work. So far, in Davis, the latest my hard work had extended to was till 3.00a in the morning and we expected it to be the same that night too. The only other person in the lab that night was my batch-mate, V, who also was struggling to make progress with his architecture project. All of us were pretty involved with our projects and did not notice the passage of time. Around 5.00a, we were still in the lab and V went out to get a snack. Suddenly I heard knocking on the lab door (we need electronic access to open the door). Thinking it was V knocking, I went to open the door. I was taken aback to see a male and a female cop standing outside! I assumed that they were just doing some security round or something and waited for them to say something.

And their question was "Is Archana here?". For a moment my heart leapt into my mouth and threatened to jump out. Questions raced through my head "How did they know my name? What did I do? Is INS deporting me? But why?" and I nodded "yes" dumbly. Then the female cop said, "You should call your room-mates and tell them that you are okay. They are very concerned about your not coming home." A and B had called the cops because I had not come home by my general 3.00a deadline!! The cops then left.

I then had the embarassing task of calling up home and apologizing to A and B for not informing them about my night-out. It turned out that B had gotten up for a drink of water around 4.30a and was surprised to find my bed empty. Since I had never been away for so long before, she woke up A to ask if I had told her anything. On getting a negative, A and B called up the guys upstairs to ask if R was back home yet since I had gone with R to the lab the previous night. Those guys, being guys, sleepily told them that they did not give a damn as to where R was and would A and B please let them go back to sleep. Then A and B, being girls, began to think up various scenarios of where I could be - all of which involved picturing me lying cold and lost on the road. Finally, unable to get back to sleep, they had called the campus police to look for me and gave them a list of possible places where I could be. And thats how the cops found me! And thats how my first close encounter with an arm of the law happened.

I remember that I was initially annoyed that A and B thought that I couldnt take care of myself in spite of being a solid 21 years of age. But then several people including R pointed out that I should be thankful to know that I have people looking out for me in spite of being away from home. And I knew they were right. I was also pretty impressed by the sense of duty of the campus police who came searching early in the morning just because some girls complained that their roommate had not come home for the night.

Once again, after this night out, we HAD to put in several more nights-out to complete the darned project. And for each of those nights, I always told A and B that I was probably not going to be home till morning!

Thursday, October 20, 2005


night-out. n : keeping awake the whole night. In the context of this blog, I use night-out as a term to denote staying awake the whole night for a non-fun purpose like studying or working. To ppl out there who might argue that work or studying is fun, I am too stunned to react ;-)!

My very first night-out happened when I was in my second year of engineering. We had to do a project in digital design where we had to design and implement our own hardware with PCBs and IC chips. This was the first time that most of my class had the opportunity to do a hands-on engineering project and there was excitement all around. But it did not last long. Each professor in our department seemed to think that his or her own subject merited the most attention and we were all so busy putting out day-to-day fires that inspite of being given a 3 month head-start, 3 days before the deadline for our hardware project, most of us found out that we were nowhere near the start line, let alone the finish line. So, there was a mad scramble for components. Those few days, the best place to meet members of my class was to get to Ritchi street - hordes of my classmates could be seen buzzing around the famed electronic-goods stores in that area, frantically hunting for components.

After getting the components, the actual assembly had to be done. Me, of the "are you trying to drawing rangolis with the welder" fame (in my workshop classes), had much difficulty with the soldering iron too. Short circuits were common and I spent more time removing accidental connections than soldering new ones. My project mate fared no better. But we had to push ourselves - the project was due in three days and we had no choice! My uncle, who has a masters degree in electrical engineering and who had performed feats like heating water with the help of a blade and two copper wires during his engineering days had helped us a lot with the design. But we still had to do the assembly ourselves. The first night (I briefly shifted to the hostel - my parents saw me back home only 3 days later), saw all my batch mates very relaxed. People listened to music, worked and cracked jokes. After that, I did not see any of my classmates smile again till D-day was over.

As the hours ticked by, we became more and more bleary-eyed, snappish, stressed out and irritable. My nerves gave way the second night when we figured that only half the components were soldered onto the PCB and we still had to finish assembly and then do the testing. It did not help that it was more than 36 hours since we had last slept. So while I threw a temper tantrum, my project-mate ignored me and decided to sleep. That infuriated me further and both of us got into a riproaring fight which was finally settled by the decision that we should both sleep for a couple of hours. Three hours later, it was back to work. The never-ending hours continued to crawl by. After the brief three hours, we could not afford any to spend any more time in slumber. By the evening of the third day, zombies would have been more active than either of us. But our higgedly-piggedly assembly of components was finally done. As expected, when we plugged it in, nothing happened. We valiantly tried removing the more obvious short circuits. Though, with only half our eyes open it was difficult to see anything much.

Finally, we shifted base to my uncle's house for the last stretch. That was when my mind finally gave up. As I sat with my head against the wall, my eyes closed automatically. All questions from my uncle sounded as if they came from deep inside a well. Whats more, I found myself getting angry with him for shaking me from sleep. My project mate looked terrible too. She seemed to have been struck dumb by lack of sleep. My mind firmly told me to take the project to hell. And if we got a failing grade for it, that was too bad, but please dont expect me to work further. After several attempts at questioning us, all of which elicited little or no response, my uncle asked us to just go home and sleep. Me and my project mate couldn't have been happier if we had been saved from the death sentence!

We went to my house and brushing aside dinner, fell into bed. After 72 gut-wrenching hours, it was moksha for a few hours! The next day, refreshed after our naps, we went back to my uncle's house and he informed us that after he removed all the short circuits the speed indicator had begun to work!! That piece of good news urged us back to action and we managed to successfully write up our documentation and carry our project back to the university. Outside the department, my other classmates were milling around. All of them looked like they hadn't slept in ages or for that matter had baths in ages. The guys all had 3 days plus worth of stubble on their faces and some of my more well-rounded classmates had gotten a much leaner aspect to themselves. All of us looked like something the cat had dragged in. But for most of us, our nights of the living dead for the project were finally over!

After this experience, there were many more occassions when I had to forgo sleep (and sometimes food) to meet various deadlines. But I can still remember this first night-out experience as if it happened just yesterday!

p.s. in case you are curious, we managed to get a decent grade for our project :-)!


So no one told you life was gonna be this way
Your job's a joke, you're broke, your love life's D.O.A
It's like you're always stuck in second gear
When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year
But ... I'll be there for you
When the rain starts to pour
I'll be there for you
Like I've been there before
I'll be there for you
'cause you're there for me too.

This is the theme song from F.R.I.E.N.D.S. I like the lyrics a lot! Friends play a very important role in my life and I am fiercely loyal to them.

No, today is not friendship day or something. Just wanted to say a general thank you to all my friends for always being there for me :-)!

Friday, October 14, 2005


It is kindness to refuse immediately what you intend to deny. -Publius Syrus

Is it just me or does everyone feel more annoyed with someone who takes ages to tell no to a request than with someone who refuses it immediately? I for one prefer saying "no" bluntly if I have no intention of doing something. Sharp and painful it might be, at least it gives the asker the time to make alternate plans instead of waiting with false hopes. I find it embarassing to refuse - still I believe that the asker will at least appreciate my honesty.

Why am I suddenly stating all this? I asked someone for some help and specifically gave them the choice of refusing immediately. However, true to today's world's ultra polite rules, I was asked to wait on it. And I got a no a day later. So, am I supposed to feel grateful that I got an extra day's respite from the pain of having to listen to the "no"? I dont think so - I prefer honesty any day to pseudo politeness. What do you say?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Of languages and singers

One thing which annoys me a lot is this trend of getting non-Tamil-speaking singers to sing Tamil songs.Now don't get me wrong. I am all for national integration and the such. But I do draw the line at having to listen to miserable pronounciations when there are scores of singers who can do the singing with correct pronounciations. Yes, even if the non-tamil-speaking singer in question is so gifted that his/her voice sounds like honey. Every time he/she mis-pronounces a word, I can only hear the sound of fingernails scraping against a blackboard.

I have heard my parents complain about this from time to time. The first time I noticed it for myself was when I heard the "snehithiye" song from "Alaipayuthey". I thought that though the tune was nice, it sounded curiously clipped. It took a while before I realized that this sound-effect was caused due to Sadhana "lightly" pronouncing the words (to mask that she was not comfortable singing in Tamil?). Till date, I can't listen to the song without wondering how it would have sounded if someone else who was more familiar with Tamil had sung it. Apparently, not everyone shared my opinion. I am not sure if this is true or not, but I think that the popularity of this song heralded the era of getting non-Tamil-speakers to sing Tamil songs.

Most of the songs of "ayutha ezhuthu" were spoiled for me - I think the "sanda kozhi" song was the most terrible of the lot. I know there are a lot of Sadhana Sargam fans out there - in fact, I too think she sounds pretty decent in Hindi. But in Tamil, I really dont think that her voice is such great shakes that it enhances a song in any way. If ath, for me, bad-enunciation of words decreases the desirability of a song. And I am not even a tamil phonetics expert.

Oh there are other singers too. Everyone must have heard of the ruckus created over Udit Narayan's "kadhal pisasey" song in "Run". I remember Shreya Ghosal murdering some perfectly nice lyrics in the "Elangaathu" song in "Pithamagan". And they both are two of my most favorite singers when they sing in Hindi.

My contention here is not that non-Tamil-speakers should not sing Tamil songs. By all means, they should do so. After all, its a matter of pride when people whose mother tongue is not Tamil express the interest and desire to sing Tamil songs. But, is it unreasonable to request all such singers to make sure that they get their pronounciations right before standing in front of the microphone? I understand that for most people it is impossible to get every word right in an alien language (heaven knows how I have to specifically remember that Hindi differentiates between "th" and "tth" or how I struggle with the French "e") - still, should'nt at least the basic stuff be got right? Pronouncing "zha" as "la", "pani" as "panni" is really not acceptable. When you are singing in any language I do think its necessary to show respect to the sensibilities of the native speakers of the language.