Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Things I learnt this Thanksgiving

* on Thanksgiving day, you can park your car right in front of an airport terminal for more than 20 minutes without anyone chasing you away.

* it is possible to have fun with your classmates whom you have never spoken with before when you meet them 4 years after leaving your undergrad college.

* you can bump into someone you really did not want to meet and can do nothing about it other than laugh.

* you can get stuck with carrying an umbrella around for the entire day just because it rained briefly for the few minutes you did not have the said umbrella.

* it is possible for girls to embark on a day of sightseeing and manage to squeeze in an hour of clothes-shopping on the way.

* taking a bus to see the view from Coit tower is a nice way to look smug as the bus whizzes past harried drivers of cars waiting for a parking space.

* the above said Coit tower has a view, no doubt. But no other country would have charged $3.75 a person to see that view.

* Ocean Beach in San Francisco must be a beautiful place in daylight. However during the night of a cold late November evening, it has the potential to freeze off the tip of your nose.

* Some un-informed decisions can force you to travel the entire breadth of San Francisco by bus - only to buy stale bagels at Safeway and return back to the starting point.

* Flights which arrive in San Jose can depart from San Francisco. It is possible to buy your tickets without realizing this.

* During winter, it is a good idea to stay in the sunlit spot of the lake while pedal-boating.

* It is possible to get lost while driving in a place where you have spent 2 years of your life.

* Playing mini golf in the winter season can have similar effects like visiting Ocean Beach. Only difference is that your fingers freeze off instead.

* It is possible for a low amount traffic to go at only 70mph (speed-limit 65mph) on US-101. Apparently cops handing out tickets like Santa Clauses with early christmas presents puts a dent on the speeding instincts of the driving public!

* Learning all of the above with friends is a WHOLE lot of fun!!

My thanksgiving holiday was just great :-D!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Left or Right?

When I first came to the US in 2001, I adjusted surprisingly fast to living in an "alien" land. This could be attributed to the fact that Davis is the very definition of a university town - a population majorly consisting of students from various corners of the world, a safe environment, a small but self-contained city. It also helped a lot that Davis is located in the liberal state of California - the demographic diversity made sure that I never felt like a "foreigner" from day one.

However, one thing which took a lot of getting used to was driving on the right side of the road as opposed to the left side of the road as is practised in India. Normally this shouldn't have mattered a lot - I was just a student then and driving a car was a distant dream. And no one cares really where you walk.

However Davis, besides being an university town, was a city of bicycles - meaning that almost everyone relied upon bicycles as the primary means of transport. I had to get a bike too if I did not want to wear out my feet due to constant walking. So I bought a bike. In spite of not having rode a bike for some time, I did manage to get around okay. Other than one problem. When I rode a bike, for some reason, I always rode it on the sidewalk. On the left side of the road. I think it created some illusion of being in India! Anyways, I kept this up for almost 2 weeks after which an old guy standing on the sidewalk treated me to such a delightful collection of choice expletives that I got shocked into riding on the road again. So I was forced to constantly remind myself to keep to the right side of the road.

One day, about a month after my arrival in Davis, I was riding to the my department from my apartment. The route was fairly straightforward. To turn into the lane leading to my department, I had to go around a small triangular island and turn left. I usually used to do this correctly. However, that particular day, I was feeling lazy and decided to take a "short-cut". Instead of going around the divider, I just biked over to the left side of the road and continued on the left side for the short distance before I had to turn left. Suddenly I heard a ear-piercing whistle behind me and turned around to see a bike-cop (yes, Davis had cops specially for monitoring bicycle users). Gulp! The cop asked me if I was an international student. I dumbly nodded. Then he asked me if I knew that I was on the wrong side of the road. I tried to look as innocent as possible and said that I thought I was on the wrong side and would he please forgive me.

The cop then continued to state that I could be fined $93 (aaaarghhh) for the violation that I had just committed and he was letting me go since I was a new international student but I better watch out or he would definitely fine me the next time. Then he let me go. I promptly got on my bike and continued to pedal on the left side of the road. The bike cop blew his whistle again and I told him smartly that since it was just a matter of a couple of feet, I would just continue on the left side. I think this was when the bike cop would have really loved to give me the biggest ticket possible. Instead he managed to only grit his teeth and tell me that I had to go around the island if I did not want a ticket! This time I did go on the right side!

Now I realize that it wasn't very smart of me to ride on the left side in the first place. And even less smart to be cheeky to a cop! In any case, I found out from the seniors later that if a bike cop accosted you at the beginning of any quarter, you could always feign ignorance due to being a new "international" student and get away with it most of the time! Sometimes being a "foreigner" helps ;-)!

From the days of mistaking left and right, nowadays I have the exact reverse problem. Whenever I go to India, for the first few days, anticipating an accident, I always close my eyes when people drive me on the left side!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Black Tickets

Unlike the US where you have to just go back home disappointed when the seats are sold out for the movie you *so* wanted to watch, Indian theatres always give you a back up. If you are willing to cough up a premium over the price of a regular ticket, there are people who will be able to get you the tickets even though the movie is officially "sold out". Essentially these people sell illegal "black" tickets. Movie theatres claim that they dont encourage black ticket hawkers - but sometimes, the way the tickets are suspiciously sold out even if you arrive 2 hours before a big-name movie, you wonder (this has been happening long before the days of online booking).

When I was doing my undergrad, for me, black-tickets were a big no-no. Shelling out extra money to watch a movie was a bit too extravagant for me. Till the year 2000 rolled around. That was the year the movie Alaipayuthey got released. I have always been a big Maniratnam fan and I have to watch any movie of his in the theatre. My friend V and I decided to go to the theatre a few days after the movie's release. My cousins, K and S were visiting me at that time and my mom decided to send them as escorts (hahaha, my cousins were around 10 years old that time) for the both of us to watch the movie.

So, keeping in mind the popularity of the movie, the four of us arrived a good 2 hours before the movie started - only to see a big "SOLD OUT" sign. But of all the people who must have bought all those tickets, there was no sign. However, there were a whole bunch of characters who looked suspiciously like black ticket hawkers who were eyeing us greedily. As soon as we turned away from the ticket booth, with disappointed looks on our faces, all these characters made a beeline us. The current going rate for first class tickets was 50 rupees per ticket instead of the usual 40 rupees. V and me were scandalized. Black tickets??? Never!! Hmph, did they think we were fools?

And then we looked at each other again. Maniratnam movie. With a hero who apparently looked very cute. And we had come all the way to the theatre with so much excitement. After all what is an extra 10 rupees per ticket. We can always make up for it later. So gulping back our guilt, we asked for 4 tickets and paid the extra 10 rupees/ticket premium. I also gave my cousins a little lecture about how silence was golden and how they were not supposed to breath a word about black tickets once we got back home.

As the movie started, V and I hoped that the movie would justify the extra cost.Oh, it did and how! For starters, Madhavan looked extreeeemely cute (hehe, I have been waiting to put up this picture of Maddy somewhere ;-)). The story was lighthearted and told in an interesting manner. The music was wonderful and the picturization of some of the songs was breathtaking. When the movie ended both of us had difficulty taking our eyes from the screen. My cousins werent as impressed but they enjoyed the movie too. As we walked out of the theatre and V and I were discussing about what a total paisa-vasool movie Alaipayuthey was. And we reminded my cousins once again about the mouth-shut policy as far as the black tickets were concerned.

So, of course, as soon as I got home, K and S ran inside the house, loudly proclaiming, "Archu akka bought black tickets. We saw a movie with black tickets!" Grr! So much for silence is golden.

Alaipayuthey was the first movie I saw with black tickets. After that, I saw a few more high-demand movies with black tickets before I came to the US. Its been quite some time since I last bought black tickets though...

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

So on Friday last week, my friend V and I decided on the spur of the moment to watch Harry Potter on the day of its release itself (yesterday, November 18). Emails were sent out and finally 4 of us booked tickets online to go to the 10.30p show on the day of release. After that, the week went by slowly but yesterday went by fast in anticipation of watching the movie. I really like the books and though the movies always disappointment me, I always watch them (at least to complain about them ;-))!

On movie night (yesterday), V and me decided to go in one car to save car-parking space and at 8.15p set out for having dinner first and then going to the theatre. The plan was to be at the theatre at 9.30p itself in order to stand in line for a good seat (WHY on earth do American theatres not issue seat numbers in tickets like in India is totally beyond me).

We reached the theatre complex at 8.30p itself and were gloating about finding super seats due to our early arrival when we noticed that there were about a dozen cars ahead of us all trying to find parking. V confidently said that there were always parking spaces at the back of the theatre and drove there. And guess what, there were no spaces there either and in fact some cars were parked in spaces which looked suspiciously illegal. At 8.45p we were still in the car trying to find a space. At 8.50p I was fast losing hope of finding a parking space before the movie started. Finally at 9.00p we found a spot - eeeeehaaaaw :-)! Quicky we parked the car, grabbed burgers and gobbled them and then ran to stand in the line.

And what a serpentine line it turned out to be. It was only 9.20p and there were already a million people (I am not kidding) ahead of us in the line for the 10.30p show. The other friends watching the movie had also arrived and we stood in the line commenting about the pointlessness of having arrived early for finding a good seat.

However, thankfully, the queue behind us grew and grew too. The whole area had a carnival-like atmosphere. Some people were wearing black robes similar to the Hogwarts uniform and a couple of them were wearing witch hats. All of them seemed to be discussing Harry Potter and time flew by. Around 10.00p we were somewhere just beyond the half way point in the line and I jokingly predicted that we would find 4 seats together but we would be sitting either in the 2nd or the 3rd row from the screen. Around 10.10p they started letting us in and the whole crowd moved into the theatre. From the way the people thronged, I had the feeling that I was going for darshan in Tirupathi or entering the 'Swarga vaasal'!!

And we entered the theatre. Lo and behold, for all our efforts at having stood in line an hour and 10 minutes early, we found places which were four rows away from the screen. Hmph! But at least they were together and in the middle (and as a bonus I could feel smug at having made an almost correct prediction) and the location actually wasnt too bad. Anyways people still kept pouring in and eventually there were people who couldn't find seats. The theatre management came in and asked people to squeeze in and not leave free seats in between. After they did this some four times, everyone found seats!

Everyone was chattering excitedly and even the trailers received enthusiastic applause. I enjoyed the atmosphere tremendously and felt that regardless of how the movie turned out to be, being a part of this crowd would still make up for the long search for parking and the long wait in the queue!

When the movie started, there were whistles and hoots all around. The only thing missing were the paper- rockets! It was almost equivalent to watching a major-star movie in Chennai! The movie, as expected, was nowhere as good as the book. However, it was fast-paced. Non HP-fans would not have been able to follow the plot too well though. And a lot of liberties were taken with the flow of the story to allow for screen adaptation. But it did make decent entertainment and I liked it better than HP-1 and HP-2 (which were sooooo slow that I thought I would fall asleep half-way).

Final verdict? Trying watching it before the excitement dies down - I think most of the charm of the movie came from watching it with fellow HP fans!

Some other "interesting" events that happened yesterday:

We witnessed a fight between two car owners about a parking spot and it almost resulted in one guy hitting the other guy. After our not so nice experience with finding parking I totally sympathised with the would-be hitter!

To confirm that we were going to stand in the correct line, I asked a person standing in the line if it was the line for the 10.30p show. The person replied that he had no clue and he was standing there just waiting for us. My puzzlement at this strange statement turned to embarassment when I realized that the person was actually one of the friends we were meeting up and whom I hadnt recognized due to his new hair style!!!

There were a lot of cops around - presumably to control the crowd if it got unruly. But as far as I know, all they had to do was walk around looking serious...

And this isnt an event. But what was up with those ugly Yule-ball costumes that the Patil twins wore in the movie?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Childhood Stories - #1

Yeah, usually I don't number my post-titles but I think I might come up with more stories as I remember them.

Though my immediate family is small, I have a pretty crowded extended family consisting of aunts, uncles and cousins. We often have family get-togethers and since childhood, these get-togethers were always the highlights of any holiday season. When all the families could make it, there were almost a dozen of us children (note, all the offspring of the uncles and aunts are termed 'children' irrespective of the age while all the uncles and aunts are termed 'adults'). My sister and I hover somewhere among the oldest kids in the list and so, from the time we were around 5 and 7, we got the younger kids pressed into our charge.

Baby-sitting your younger cousins is not exactly an easy task. However, creative as we were, we came up with different ways of entertaining the younger kids and ourselves also. One of the popular ways of entertainment was to host "programmes" entirely written, directed, produced and acted by us. These programmes could be anything from dramas and dances to fashion shows and interviews. The cast always exclusively featured all the cousins with the props, costumes and accessories being borrowed from whichever house we were staying in at the time. The audience was made up of the very appreciative adults (not surprising, considering that the performers featured their own children). Of course, putting up programmes meant rehearsals and many a happy afternoon went by with all of us enthusiastically practising our various parts.

I can still remember the very first "programme" we put up. We were just starting out with the concept of hosting programmes and it had still not burgeoned into our later day repertoire consisting of plays, dances and games. The only item on the first programme was a skit. It featured four of us - all between the ages of 2-9. We wouldn't have featured the 2-year-old but for the fact that the script called for a child and we were rather shorthanded then.

Anyways, I do not remember the actual plot of the play. But among its cast, it featured a mom, a child and a Goddess. Now, the bulk of the dialogues were handled by the the more senior kids. All that the two-year-old had to do was: state in a sad voice "Mummy, I feel hungry". Our rehearsals on- the morning of the performance went off well. The actual performance was to be held in the noon, after lunch.

So after lunch, all the adults assembled in the drawing room to watch the play while we kids got into our respective costumes and trooped to the make-shift stage. The play had a few minor glitches but was pretty much proceeding along the expected lines. Then came the time for my 2-year-old-cousin, K, to say his line. And we waited. And waited. But K was as silent as a tombstone. Finally, I (who was playing K's stage-mom) hissed in a low voice to K, "Mummy, I feel hungry." Then K looked up at me and said in a voice loud enough for the whole room to hear,"But I am not hungry. I just had lunch!" and ran off to his real mom!! Upon this declaration, the whole audience was in splits and it was sometime before order could be restored.

Needless to say our first programme was a super-duper hit ;-)! We hosted a lot more performances after that. Each of it had its own share of bloopers but this first one was *the* most memorable one!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Of the 1,685,188 people who stay in my city...

...the one person who becomes my upstairs neighbor is the person

* who thinks talking loudly on his phone at 1.00a in the night is entertainment.
* who thinks jumping up and down on his bed as he talks so that his bed squeaks is fun.
* who does not think that the above two activities will wake up his poor neighbor (me :-( ) sleeping in the room below in the apartment downstairs.

Aaaaaargh! I really wanted to stand on my bed and and poke a hole in the ceiling just so I could hit this moron on the head with something. Fortunately I moved to the futon in the hall before my baser instincts prevailed. If I fall asleep at work today, I know who to blame! Some people...grr X-(!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Fall Colors

I took these pictures of fall colors standing on my patio. People from the East Coast will probably ask what fall colors and then point at their computer screens and start laughing. But hey, this is California and I did not even have to step out of my house to see these lovely colors!

This tree is located right across my patio. I can see it from the drawing room.

These trees line one side of the road when I look out northwest from my house:

When I was small, I read in my geography text books that there are four seasons in a year: spring, summer, autumn and winter. However, in Chennai, all I got to see was summer and what may be loosely referred to as winter. Of course, flowers bloomed and leaves fell in Chennai too - but there was never a very obvious distinction between the seasons. So I always used to wonder when this mysterious spring and autumn happened - till I came to the US.

Finally I understand that the a year is divided into different seasons because there are distinctions between them and not simply because some geographer thought that it would be good fun to name every group of three months differently! And I also understand that sometimes my Geography text books taught me stuff which was not really relevant to the place I was living in!

Of course, California has a short spring/fall as compared to other places. Still, I like seeing the transition between seasons (as I like doing the clothes-shopping which I feel is necessary to welcome each season ;-)).

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Dil Ka Rishta

One of the songs that cropped up on the Raaga non-stop channels was from the movie Dil ka Rishta and it stirred up memories. Its been a long time since I wrote a detailed movie review and Dil Ka Rishta really deserves one. In case you are searching your memory to remember when in the recent past such a movie get released, don't! It got released some three years ago and I had the "good" fortune of seeing this movie with a bunch of friends. Actually this is not a review per se. For all the people who missed this gem, I am chronicling some of the more brilliant sequences of the movie. Here goes!

Dil Ka Rishta is a total family enterprise from the Ash Rai family. Mom Vrinda has penned the script, bro Aditya produced the movie and obviously, it stars Ash. You are never allowed to forgot the last piece of info throughout the movie.

Ash is a teacher at a deaf and dumb school for children. The school organizes a charity program to raise money and Arjun Rampal is one of the invitees. Normally, when a school for deaf and dumb children holds a charity program, you would expect the children to feature in it. Right? Wrong! Instead we have "teacher" Ash Rai dancing on a stage surrounded by a whole bunch of hunky guys. Anyways, this performance results in Arjun promptly falling in love with Ash.

Then comes the twist - Ash is already happily married to Priyanshu Forgot-the-last-name and they also have a baby. On discovering this, poor Arjun does exactly what rejected Bollywood heroes do - he starts drinking. One night he drowns his sorrows in a little too much drink before driving and accidentally rams into a car. This particular car unfortunately carries Ash and Priyanshu returning from a party and bam! Priyanshu dies in the accident while Ash loses her memory. In case you had missed all the umpteen closeups of Ash so far and thought that this movie was not produced by her family, in the overturned car, they show the "dead" Priyanshu behind a close-up of Ash. Come on guys, be fair! Usually even extras get shown in solo-close-ups when they "die".

Anyways, the scene shifts to the hospital. Ash has just woken up and everyone (Ash's mother (the screen one, not the real one), Ash's baby, Arjun and his dad (Paresh Rawal)) is there. Now the doctor makes the great pronouncement: Ash cannot be subjected to more shock and hence nothing shocking should be told her. So only the fact that she has a mom is revealed to her (I swear, the scene had a solemn looking doctor telling Ash's mom "We have told your daughter with great difficulty that you are her mom. We cannot tell her anything else.") while the fact that she has a kid and that she is a widow is conveniently not told to her.

In the mean time, Arjun and Paresh Rawal are suffering big-time guilt pangs.You would think that Arjun would be doing his suffering in jail for man-slaughter. But apparently this accident took place in a world without cops and Arjun suffers only conscience pangs. Well, the father-son duo come up with the idea that Ash requires a change of scene to recover (hmm, did I not say earlier that she had loss of memory? So even the place she is in currently shd be a change of scene for her right? Oh well!) and so, since all other locations have become too commonplace in Bollywood, off to South Africa they fly.

Now the presence of the kid is explained to Ash by stating that it is Arjun's kid! And that Arjun's wife died in some accident. So Ash starts looking after the kid. Then she also starts slowly falling in love with Arjun. In between all these hapenings, Ash, her mom and Arjun go to a fair. There they meet one of those future-reading gypsies. In a scene which is apparently supposed to rend your heart, Ash tells the gypsy "Everyone comes to ask you about their futures. But poor sad me has come to ask you about my past" and utters a sob. Dear Ash, when I want to know about my past, I usually ask my mother. Why don't you also try asking your mom, who incidentally is with you all the time? Maybe losing her memory also took away her common sense.

So, well, Ash falls more and more in love with Arjun and Arjun cannot accept her as he feels guilty. Ash's mom also does not approve of her daughter marrying a murderer (smart mom). Then comes the next heart-rending moment. Paresh Rawal sends two boxes to Ash's mom stating that she must choose one future for her daughter. One contains a red bridal saree and the other *thunder-claps in the background* a white widow's saree. The mom looks at them and thinks that it is better for Ash to marry murderer Arjun than remain a widow. Ahem, did all unmarried men in the world other than Arjun die? Well, apparently in this movie's world they died and so Ash's mom accepts the idea of Ash marrying Arjun.

But Arjun still feels guilty. After a series of events, which finally culminates in the entire cast standing at the top of a mountain, Arjun reveals to Ash that she was married, that his kid is actually her kid and that he killed her former husband. What does Ash do? Scream? Slap Arjun? Swear to never see him again? Kill him? No! Instead she utters the best dialogue to ever make it to the movie-dialogues Hall of Fame "Oh, my husband was meant to die at that time. If you hadnt killed him, he would have anyway died some other way. Its not your fault." and accepts him!!!! Duh!! And thus ended the movie.

To say we were speechless at this last pearl of wisdom would be an understatement. Actually we were too busy rolling on the floor with laughter to say anything. Finally one of my friends gasped, "Next they will throw the child over the mountain and tell 'oh, the child was meant to die at this time anyway. So does'nt matter that we threw it over the mountain.'" For a long time after seeing this movie we used this dialogue to justify any action which was questionable!

The one good thing about the movie was Arjun Rampal. He looked real good. So the girl-viewers at least got some value for money. However Ash was very annoying with a horrible fake smile. Towards the end of the movie, even our staunch-Ash-fan male friends were asking her to shut up whenever she smiled. I wonder how Vrinda Rai could have kept a straight face while penning those imbecilic dialogues. Or maybe they really sounded like great stuff to her. We will never know.

Final verdict? Watch *only* in the company of commenting friends!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Smell for thought

Here is something to mull over. I recently read that in order for us to smell something, actual molecules of the thing we are smelling need to enter our nose. I did not know that! I mean, I knew that our nose interacted with the source of the smell in some way - but I did not imagine the connection would be quite so close as this. Interesting, huh?

Now, try to not remember this the next time you smell the spoilt milk or the stinky socks or the garbage or the ...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Je ne parle pas le Francais*

I have always been fascinated by the French language and it was a long-standing desire of mine to learn it. When I was a kid I used to read umpteen Enid Blyton school stories taking place in English boarding schools. All of them invariably featured a French mistress often lapsing into French dialogues, which I really wanted to understand but could not. Little bits of French in some of the classics and in Agatha Christie novels made my resolution to learn French and understand what exactly the characters were talking about only stronger.

The first chance to turn my dream into reality came when I began my 11th grade. I had the option of choosing French as my second language. I almost did, but at the last minute decided that during the so-called "life-deciding" years of 11th and 12th, it was better to stick to the known devil, Hindi. And so the opportunity slipped through my fingers and my dreams of learning French were put into cold storage.

Fast forward seven years. I was now doing my masters and was about to begin my second year. I had already finished taking all the required courses and so, in the Fall quarter I had to just handle my TA and my thesis. When the Fall quarter registration began, I went through the schedule of classes to find out if there were any interesting extracurricular courses I could take. And my eyes fell upon "Elementary French - Level 1". Here, finally, was the opportunity I had been waiting for all my life! I immediately enrolled in it and awaited the first class with a mixture of excitement and apprehension.

The classes were to be held five days a week, just after lunch. For my very first class, in spite of my best efforts, I landed up a little late in class (my sense of direction is pretty pathetic and I used to get lost *every time* I had to go to a new building on campus). I quietly entered the class and slunk into a seat at the back of the class. The instructor, who looked very French, had written something in French on the board and was handing out the course syllabus, also completely in French. And to top it all, she chattered constantly in French. The unfairness of it all struck me. Here I was, attending a course ostensibly called "Elementary French" - and level one at that and there the instructor was, thinking, at least from the way she refused to use any English, that we were all French pundits. Whats more, while I gazed dumbly at the instructor, unable to comprehend anything of what she was saying, the rest of the class intelligently responded to her questions with either a "oui" (which, even with my almost non-existent French knowledge I knew meant "yes") or a "non" ("no").

Feeling more and more foolish as the minutes ticked by, I perked up when I finally heard English. The instructor, in broken English, asked "How many of you took French Level 1 here?". And I thought, "Level 1? Isnt this class level 1?" and closely examined my copy of the syllabus. And there it was, among all the French, two glimmering words: "Level 2". I had mistakenly come to the Level 2 French class instead of the Level 1 class which was why I couldn't understand anything! Relief flooded over me - I was'nt that dumb after all! Of course, after that, gathering all my belongings and getting out of the class ASAP was with me the work of an instant. I went back to my lab and re-checked my registration. Sure enough, I had registered for Elementary French - Level 2 by mistake.

After this harrowing experience, I thought of giving up the French-learning madness. However, I was still bitten enough by the French bug to feel that I ought to give a shot at attending the right class. So, once again, the next day, after lunch, it was time to go to class. This time around, my friend R, who did not find any other more interesting thing to do till his noon lab meeting, decided to sit through the French class with me. We both set off and again were late. Unfortunately for us, all the seats except the two at the very front of the class were taken. We both marched to it and sat down.

This class was slightly better - I could understand bits and pieces of what was happening. The instructor, a guy from a French-speaking part of Africa, still used a lot of French. But at least he interpsersed them with English phrases which was good. What was not good was the fact that R and me were right under his nose and hence got way too much attention. Considering that we knew almost nothing it was pretty embarassing.

The instructor made the class recite the entire French alphabet. Till date, I cannot say either the French "e" or the "u" properly. And guess which letter of the alphabet the instructor wanted me to say loudly so that the whole class could hear? Of course, "e". I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself into it. After a while, thinking we had sufficient practice with the pronounciation, the instructor called on various students and asked them to spell out their names. R was eventually picked on. With great confidence, in a clear, bell-like voice, R solemnly spelt his name,"R-S-T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z". There was stunned silence for a moment and then the whole class dissolved into laughter. What R had done was spell his name using the perfect English pronounciation while what the instructor had obviously meant was that R had to use the French prounciation. R and I looked at each other and burst into laughter too.

I dont remember too much of how the rest of the class went other than the fact that I spent most of it with my head buried into my notebook, trying desperately to stiffle my giggles. I have this habit of laughing when things go way beyond my comprehension and this really was one incomprehensible affair.

This time, when I returned from the class, I had very serious misgivings about the whole enterprise.I almost dropped the course. Then my friend M (who knows French), told me that French was not as hard as I made it out to be and strongly advised me to give a shot at learning it. I heeded her advice. The rest of the quarter turned out not be so bad after all. Initially, I went to my instructor's office hours to get extra coaching. It helped a lot, even though the instructor, for some reason, insisted on calling me "Anshara"! I also took genuine interest in learning and even picked up reference books from the library. Eventually, the whole thing went so good that I wound up taking Elementary French Level 2 the next quarter. Yes, this time I too could follow the instructor!

Maintenant, je parle le Francais! A little only - but still, yes, now I can speak French :-)!

* Je ne parle pas le Francais = I do not speak French

Monday, November 07, 2005

I got it, I got it!

Yippee, finally got DSL back at home! Wireless network is all setup too and I am now posting from the comfort of my home :-). Woo hoo, here I go!

Er...I can't think of anything worthwhile to say now. Gulp!

Oh well, good night folks!

Either this or that

Once upon a time, long long ago, when I used to have DSL ALL THE TIME at my house, I did not find the mood or the time to blog. Now, when I am full of blogging beans, I cannot find the the DSL to blog from home. SBC-Yahoo, I am going to sue you for smothering my creative instincts.

Friday, November 04, 2005


My new neighborhood has about a gazillion schools. So, on the rare mornings that I leave for work before 8.00a, I see lots of kids proceeding to school. Looking at school-going kids always brings feelings of nostalgia and longing. Sometimes, I think I would like to do what I consider "real" homework (the kind where you write down stuff in notebooks and submit it to a teacher for correction) again. Sometimes, I even miss cramming at the last minute to get through exams! But most of all, I miss wearing school uniforms.

I have always been fascinated by uniforms (which explains why I like looking at all the folks (guys especially ;-)) who belong to our Armed forces). I like the smart look it instantly imparts to the wearer. Any place with a group of people wearing similar clothes immediately acquires a new respect from the viewer. Of course, a uniform quells individuality. Obviously. Else we would be calling it un-uniform, right? But I think the charm of a uniform lies in the uniformity!

I went to 5 different schools before I finished 12th grade. Every time my dad got transferred, boom! It was a new school and, hopefully, a new uniform. For me, one of the more cheerful side-effects of joining a new school was the chance to try out a new uniform. Unfortunately, most of the schools I went to had the standard white shirt with navy blue skirt and buckled black shoes ensemble. Some of them also threw in a navy blue tie and a badge for good measure. It beats me to this day as to why we had to have that noose, oopz tie, around our necks. Of course it made us look smart. But given the choice between looking smart and not slowly choking to death on a hot summer day, I think we would have chosen not choking every time. But of course, wearing a tie was the RULE - when we did not wear one, we had to pay a fine.

The first time I had a sweater as a part of the uniform was when I got to study in Calcutta (it had not yet become Kolkata back then). Calcutta has pretty severe winters when temperatures go down to about 3 - 4C. Most of my Calcuttan friends had a good collection of winter clothes, unlike yours truly who had one sweater which was bought during the family trip to Kodaikanal. Mercifully, due to the uniform concept, all of us had to wear sweaters of the same color - a smart navy blue for the junior school and bright red for the senior school. Red colored sweaters for everyone? As you might have guessed, we looked like an army of post-boxes during winter! And to add insult to injury, the red sweater went with a peacock-blue colored skirt for the senior school. You can imagine how "dashing" I must have looked. Actor Ramarajan could have borrowed some color tips from whoever came up with the combination. I think that was the "pakki-est" uniform I ever wore.

The uniform I liked the best was for the school I studied at in Chennai. They had a very lovely shade of blue and white as the uniform colors - a white shirt with a blue pinafore over it and a belt. I like wearing pinafores - no fuss, easy to maintain and looks good on most girls. That was also the last uniform I got to wear before I entered the grown-up world of college where we all could express our own individual selves by dressing up as we pleased.

I remember that most of the schools had a uniform different from the regular one, usually all white, to be worn on one day (usually Monday) of the week. Invariably, every week, a few students would forget about this and turn up in the regular uniform on that one day and earn the wrath of the teachers and the sniggers of fellow students. Cases of students wearing the special uniform on regular days also happened, but not as frequently. Regardless, all of us went to school wearing uniform clothes only. When we were in lower grades, some of the schools allowed us to wear "color-dress" on one day of the year - on our birthdays. I used to await my birthday with great excitement every year just so I could skip wearing the uniform for a day!

I sometimes feel sorry for the school-kids I see here in the U.S. because they have never been introduced to the concept of wearing uniforms to school everyday. For me, a uniform confers school-going status on a child - there is something really endearing about watching uniformed kids on their way to school. Among the list of things I would like to do if I can ever go backwards in time is to be able to wear a uniform and go to school again. I think I might even settle for the peacock-blue uniform.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tring, tring

I moved to my new apartment on Sunday. The old phone line was supposed to have been moved to the new place on Monday. On Monday evening I found an itemized bill from SBC in my mail for the transfer and I thought, "Gosh, are these guys prompt or what?".

On Tuesday evening, I plugged in my telephone and the sound of no dialtone was deafening :-(. Then I tried my old phone number from my cell to figure out where on earth the connection went to. And was answered by a cheerful pizza order taker at Dominos. What the !@#$%^! Thinking I got the number wrong, I selected the number from my cellphone address book and tried again. And was again answered by the same cheerful pizza guy - this time stating that I still had got the wrong number. These SBC guys botch up in-style or what.

I have made my complaints to SBC today and the automated voice had the nerve to suggest that I *might* have to pay for the requested repair service. Yeah right! Anyways, net-net, I don't have a landline. And resultantly, no DSL at home :-(. SBC said it would take a couple of more days for DSL to turn up. I am hoping that this transfer wont result in a free wireless-hotspot for Domino's customers. Am keeping my fingers crossed.

Update, Nov 3, 2005
Someone from SBC did show up yesterday. Obviously, since I was at work, he found the apartment locked and so called me on my cell. I asked him to find the apartment manager to let him in. Turned out that she had already left for the day. In a rare display of enterprise, this technician then traced the telephone connections from outside the apartment till he found my phone line and then fixed it from outside! Now my phone works :-)! And finally, to add the cherry to the cake, the friendly guy also gave me his phone number in case I ran into further problems. A happy ending to a story of botch-ups!

p.s. That my DSL has still not made an appearance is a whole new story...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Happy Diwali

Wishing you a wonderful Diwali :-)!