Friday, December 29, 2006

Miracle on Flight 160

Last week early noon on Friday, I set off to the airport from work. This time, the destination was Miami, Florida. My colleague N dropped me off at the airport. As a part of my usual preparation for long flights, I bought food at the airport - a nice plain bagel sandwich filled with sun-dried tomato spread and veggies. I decided to eat it on the flight (to while away an extra fifteen minutes on my pretty long flight to Houston where the layover was).

Reading my book and observing other passengers helped me easily while away time till boarding. Soon after taking off and reaching cruising altitude, I pulled out my sandwich and smugly ate it even as they announced something about the complimentary beverage service on the flight. All satiated, I settled back into my economy-class seat while the beverage cart trundled past my row.

Then, up ahead, I could hear the stewardess say to a passenger "Would you like pizza?". Huh? Pizza? Oh, maybe we had to pay for it. But then, before my disbelieving eyes, the airhostess handed out hot pizza, a box of salad and a chocolate bar to all passengers!

Yes, they were serving actual food on the plane. My jaws dropped open. This is the first time this event is happening to me on a US-domestic flight since the meal I got on a flight in the summer of 2002. Miracles will never cease. In a daze, I took the pizza and salad my neighbor passed to me.

Of course at that point, I was already stuffed with my bagel sandwich. But then, you don't say no to miracles. So I dutifully finished half of the mini-pizza and most of the salad.

In case you are wondering which airlines performed this miracle, it is Continental Airlines. A word of caution though, it is quite possible that this miraculous event happens around Christmas time only. So don't blame me if your next Continental flight kindly offers you "a beverage of your choice" (and only a beverage of your choice) for your 4+ hour flight!

Anyways, my stop-over was in Houston. I continued my reading/observing activities at the Houston airport while waiting for D to turn up. D was flying in from Seattle and by happy coincidence we had got the same connecting flight from Houston to Fort Lauderdale (FLL).

D arrived and within the first few minutes of our meeting excitedly told me about how she had got an actual "meal" on her flight (she had flown on Continental too) - LOL - so I wasn't the only heathen disbeliever :-))! Anyways, we then had dinner (just to clarify, I might be a glutton but in this case, a significant amount of time had elapsed since the lunch miracle) and boarded our flight to FLL.

We had, of course, been chattering non-stop all the while till then. Boarding the flight changed nothing and we kept up a constant flow of conversation without wasting a single minute on the 2 hour flight :-)) - it was super fun catching up!

Our arrival at FLL happened past midnight. The first thing which struck me when we got off the flight was the blast of warm air which hit us. Warm air at midnight in winter? Uh-huh, maybe I should not have packed quite as many full-hand shirts as I had. Oh well, it was too late to start having those reflections.

We picked up D's checked-in baggage and then proceeded to pick up our rental car. From there to the hotel in Miami was a not bad 25 minute trip. Our hotel was bang in the middle of downtown Miami and we got a room right on the 22nd floor where the view of the downtown was super awesome :-D!

The beautifully lit up Bank of America (BoA) building. Note the golden snow flakes - the flakes alone were no longer lit-up after Christmas!
Another view of nighttime downtown Miami.

The same view in day time.

And, two of the three travelling musketeers had arrived :-).

Monday, December 18, 2006

Hair today gone tomorrow

This weekend, at long last I went to the salon to get a long pending haircut. The hair stylist was mercifully not one of those chattering kinds (I am pretty poor at doing polite conversation) and I had all the time in the world to think and observe as the stylist went about her job. This stylist was different from the other stylists I have been too - after cutting each side, she would not look at my hair to compare if it was even, instead she would hold the ends with her fingers, stare at the ceiling and feel if it was even or not! Wow, how much experience she must have to achieve that (needless to say, she did a good job and I am happy with my haircut).

As with all my other sudden career aspirations, I suddenly started wondering how it would be to work in a beauty salon. But it was not as if this was so totally out of the blue.

You see, since childhood, me and my sister have found tons of outlets for our creativity in the make-up area - mainly because, on both dad's and mom's sides of the family, we are either the eldest or near to the eldest among all the cousins. So we always had an entire brood of younger cousins at our disposal on whom we could try our "talents".

Since childhood, we have polished lots of nails, applied lipstick to lots of lips, lined a lot of eyes, dressed up lots of "kings" and "queens" - either because the younger cousins asked us to do so or more often, because we felt like experimenting (of course, us being the honorable akkas (big sisters), our younger cousins were only too delighted to be the models - unfortunately, now they are all grown up and don't have quite the same adoration for us any more :-(). Anyways, dressing the cousins up was a good pasttime for us. We were reasonably okay at doing it and as we grew older, we sometimes even helped the "elders" with their make-up and clothes.

However, it was only after reaching the hostel that I discovered my flair with hair (ah, that rhymes :-)). I don't quite remember how it happened but it was during the first semester of my first year in hostel. AD, one of my first year hostel mates, whom I hardly knew, somehow decided that I should cut her hair for her. I was thrilled to get a volunteer for my experiments with hair and agreed immediately.

AD wanted it shorter than her present just-above-the-waist length hair but did not specify just how short. I started off with great enthusiasm. There were five other girls in the room as audience. They all sat on the cots to watch while AD sat on the floor in the center on a bunch of spread out newspapers. I knelt behind her with the scissors.

Initially, the process went off pretty smoothly. But then I realized that one side of AD's hair was slightly shorter than the other. So I chopped off some more hair from the longer side. And, you guessed it, now that side was shorter than the other side. So snip, snip, snip I went on the other side. Oh no, now the other side was shorter than the previously shorter side.

At this point, word had gotten around the hostel first year students that someone was getting their hair cut and that it looked as if it was going to be lots of fun. The number of girls in the audience had now swelled to a dozen. More wanted to come in but there was no space and I was getting distracted with all the attention.

Finally, the doors to the room were closed but people continued to peer in through the windows - I guess everyone was betting about whether AD will have all her hair shorn off or not with my monkey and the pie act or not :-(.

Anyways, the bright spot was, since AD could not see her hair herself, she cheerfully asked me to continue doing what I thought was right. Eventually, when her hair had reached shoulder length, both sides had finally equalled out and I was done. AD marched to the mirror - everyone held their breath to see what her reaction would be to her considerably shortened hair.

AD took one look at herself and went "Oooooooooh, thank you so much - this looks so nice". And actually, it was true - AD has really fine hair and the free flowing shoulder length hair instead of her usual single thin pigtail made her look cute. Ta da - success by accident :-D!

After that, requests poured (okay, a few of them came) in for the miracle hair-stylist ;-) - I once even cut someone's hair using a pair of ultra tiny foldable scissors as we could not find the regular sized ones (ah, the things we did in hostel). After that word got around that I could help with other "make-up stuff" too. So during the final year of undergrad, during college functions, I helped with eye-liners, drawing elaborate free hand bindi patterns etc. - it was fun to experiment on different people :-)!

Sitting at the salon that day brought back all these memories.That's when it struck me - being a beautician would give me a lot of subjects to experiment on and what's more, actually get paid for it - cooool :-)! Is it too late to start learning to be a beauty specialist?

Acknowledgement: Thank you Saranya for acting as the initial catalyst in bringing up the memories :-)!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Winter mornings

...can look like this at 7.30a.

Like waking up on week-day mornings when it was sunny and warm was not tough enough.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

'Tis the season

... to stuff yourself.

I went to the office kitchen after lunch to fetch a cup of coffee. There was a small crowd around the table in the kitchen-center. The reason was soon evident - the table was sagging under the weight of delicious looking cookies, candies, chocolates, crackers, cheese and nuts - someone's gesture of appreciation.

Within a space of a few seconds, without even consciously stopping to think about it, I had joined the crowd and had stuffed myself with a yummy mint chocolate rock, a very sticky but super yummy English candied toffee and a butter cookie stuffed with fudge.

Self-control, where art thou? Apparently it is with all the people who religiously stick to salads and always daintly refuse anything which remotely resembles real food.

But ah, really happy people eat real food* :-D - and I am a really happy girl 0:-). That's why I am especially glad that this is just the beginning of the goodie deluge.

Enjoy the season folks :-)!

* I concede - I so totally made that aphorism up. But it sounds true, doesn't it :-P?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Girls and boxes

This evening, I was busy putting away clothes from the laundry. I was folding a particular top when I suddenly wondered whether I had an accessorizing chain for it. So I immediately abandoned my laundry and went off to check (yeah, I come up with innovative ways of putting off tiresome chores).

While rummaging through my accessories collection, I came across a pendant-chain and suddenly remembered - this chain was a part of a gift-set given by my friend M after her return from her first trip to the USA when we were in undergrad.

That time, seven of us in the hostel used to be very good friends. So M had brought us all back similar gift-sets consisting of a chain and matching ear-studs in elegant paper boxes. She handed it out to us and gave the last box to R, apologizing at the same time "Sorry, they did not have any more matching sets, so yours only has a chain and no ear-studs - please don't take offense". The rest of us were silent for a moment and then all the gift-recepients (other than R) burst out at the same time "R, can I please, please exchange my gift-set with yours?"

You see, R's chain came in a small, cute metal box. And all of us wanted the cute box more than any of the other contents! M was taken aback - she had been under the impression that R was getting the raw deal! Obviously, we other girls did not think so.

I have noticed that most girls have a strange attraction towards boxes of any shape and size. The boxes in question just need to be made of somewhat durable material and be at least half-way decent looking. When I see such a box, I get busy mentally allocating a space for it in my apartment. Never mind that I already own dozens of such boxes. Just the thought of adding another "nice" box to my collection somehow makes me happy. I always rationalize that I can store something or the other in it and of course, I could always use it for gifting.

I still haven't explained to myself as to how a person can find a use for every single of her gazillion boxes (some boxes being so small that a pepper-corn would have difficulty fitting inside it) but there it is!

I know I am not alone. I remember my friend S had gone perfume shopping last year. I recommended one of my favorite fragrances, J'adore, to her. But I also added a warning, "Don't buy too much of it though, you will never be able to finish it." S sagely accepted my advice and went off shopping.

When she returned, she called me and sheepishly told me "Archu, I bought the biggest J'adore bottle they sell!" My jaw dropped and I started laughing, "What? Adi paavi, after all my advice! You are going to be smelling like J'adore for the rest of your life - hehehehehe....". S interrupted me, "I couldn't help it you know - they had this really, really, really cute box for free if I bought the biggest bottle and I simply had to have the box."

And suddenly, enlightment dawned - the perfume marketers had it right! Throw in an ultra-cute box with something and most women would never be able to resist and would simply go rushing to buy it. S never settled on any particular use for the cute box and now it has been stashed away somewhere out of sight but she is still happy when she talks about it. I know that feeling :-D!

This year, a friend C and I had decided to make handmade gifts for each other for fun. I chose an unfinished wooden-box from the arts store Michaels and also bought a bunch of decorating materials. I had a great time decorating the box. On the day of the meeting with C, I filled it with chocolate truffles.

So pleased I was with my "finished" box that I showed it off to my friend V at work - he looked at it and declared it to be very nice. Then he thoughtfully added, "But what will C do with the box once the chocolates are eaten?" I confidently said, "Oh, C will store something else in it or will simply keep it." V doubtfully agreed, "Ooooookaaaaaay - if you say so." Then I started having doubts myself about how well C would like the gift.

I needn't have worried. After all, C is a girl. She took one look at the box and went "Ooooooh, how cute! So nice, now I can store knick-knacks in it. Ohhh, the box is a wonderful idea - I think I am going to get boxes for my other girl friends and decorate them and give them as gifts" - LOL :-D!

I have never noticed this box-hoarding or box-loving tendencies in guys. Is this something which only afflicts girls?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Wisdom for the day

LOL :-D - I knew there had to be a reason! Thank you Jim Davis and thank you A for forwarding it to me!

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Last Sunday night, after a long time, I was feeling extremely non-thrilled about returning to work on Monday. I guess four days of major chilling out where the maximum exertion at any point involved getting out of the house to meet friends or go shopping can do that to you. Anyways, I was chatting with my mom on Yahoo voice chat (it is pretty good, btw) on Sunday night and I whined "I SO don't want to work tomorrow. I want some more vacation. Sob!" "Tomorrow is Monday and I have to work. Not fair." and on and on I went. Mom tried putting in some cheering up words. But I drowned it all out with my incessant whining. Finally, mom said "Go to work like a good girl and I will ping you over chat tomorrow morning after you reach work".

All at once I burst into laughter. It threw me back to my childhood, when I first started going to school. I was one of those clingy last-born kids and back then, going to school was the ultimate tragedy for me every morning. So when leaving in the morning, through my tearful farewell, mom would sometimes say "Go to school like a good girl and I will come and meet you during lunch time."

Some things never change, do they?


After the ultrashort pre-thanksgiving work-week which went past, this work-week has been insufferably long. And for some strange reason, I have been extremely lacking in sleep too.

So last night, I decided to force myself to go to bed early. I think I finally went to sleep at 11.40p (my original plan had been for me to go to sleep at 9.00p sharp). I was happy in slumberland and was having a dream involving an argument with my sister. Suddenly an annoying sound got added as background music to the scene.

Even in my sleep, I was wondering how come such horrible music had been added. Then, it struck me that the the "music" was kind of familiar to me. I woke up with a start as I realized that it was the fire alarm of my apartment. I checked my cell phone clock - what the heck, it was 4.34a in the morning :-(!

Mechanically I pulled on my shoes, jacket, thrust cellphone into my handbag and went outside the apt. A neighbor outside kindly said that it was probably just a false alarm and I should just wait inside. But even my groggy head though of self-preservation. What if I went back inside and fell asleep and by some chance this alarm actually turned out to be real - the scenario did not sound good.

Apparently, only seven other ppl in the entire apt had thoughts similar to mine. Everybody else stayed put in their apts (or did not wake up to the sound, don't know). The bunch of the seven of us stood outside the building, watching the fire-truck arrive. After spending another ten minutes in the chilly November air, we were given the all-clear to go back home.

Of course, nothing works as good as bracing 33 degree Farenheit (close to 0 degree centigrade) air in clearing your head off sleep. As I reset my alarm to make up for the lost time, the last vestiges of sleep were deserting me.

Needless to say, I had horrible trouble getting back to sleep. First, my fingers felt cold, then my toes followed suit and finally my head felt cold too. This scenario repeated itself for a long time. Then my fingers started feeling too warm, followed by too warm toes and then by too warm head. Ugh, ugh, ugh! I don't know when I fell asleep but when my reset alarm rang at 7.45a, I felt like I hadn't slept the whole night.

If it is possible, I am even sleepier today than I was in the past two days. Best laid plans - hmph! I don't think I can really be blamed for being irritable, grumpy, moody and cross today. I have been trying my best to needle anyone unfortunate enough to communicate with me :-(.

This week has gone on forever. I want my weekend right now!

When I whine, I whine in style.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Breaking glass

CRASH! The harsh sound of glass breaking into a million pieces stunned the chattering holiday shoppers into shocked silence for a moment. Even the annoying holiday music piped through the store seemed to have lost its edge for that split second.

In the midst of the broken pieces sparkling like tiny diamonds, stood a little girl, fear, guilt and horror written all over her face. Her mother stood beside her, a glow of disbelief and then anger, slowly suffusing her face. All the nearby shoppers stood staring at this tableau. The ones with kids no doubt silently shooting up thankful prayers that it wasn't theirs. The ones without kids glad at that particular moment to have had the good sense to not have any.

Then, the scene unfroze. The chattering of the shoppers started again, slowly but surely. The holiday music began to grate once more. One of the store assistants approached the mother- daughter pair. The sound of broken glass being swept away mingled with the general din. Everything was back to normal.

And I realized all over again how difficult it is to be a kid at times. Anyone could have broken the decorative glass piece. But only kids get the, "How can you be so careless?", "How many times have I told you not to touch anything?", "Do you realize how expensive this is?", "That’s it, no more TV for you for a week". When adults do it, mostly it is just, "That was an accident - it could have happened to anyone."

Wonder why rosy nostalgia about childhood often conveniently forgets these glitches!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dhoom 2 - the review

Whenever I see movies like Dil ka Rishta, Sillunu Oru Kadhal etc. I feel an inexplicable urge to write "reviews". I guess it's my subconscious mind telling me that such masterpieces should not go unnoticed. Or more truthfully, I wish to spread the pain ('A burden shared is a burden reduced' goes the old jungle saying). And thus, I present to you: Dhoom-2.

I have not seen Dhoom-1 and the friends who invited me to watch Dhoom-2 assured me that Dhoom-1 had been total timepass and had had good entertainment value. Hence, they reasoned, the sequel couldn't be too bad. The first warning sign should have been the good review from Rediff, yeah, the very same website which gave a oh-so-good review for the oh-so-terrible Jaan-e-mann. However I ignored the warning sign.

Dhoom 2 should have been more appropriately titled as "A Series of Unrelated and Unbelievable Stunt Sequences". The movie kicks off with a train in the Namibian desert. A queen (who suspiciously looks like what Hrithik Roshan(HR) would look if he is made up as a grandma) is travelling on the train with a precious crown. Our man of the moment, HR, is an internationally wanted thief who steals precious things from various parts of the world but manages to never get caught.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, HR lands on the train with a parachute. Then he gets into the train, disguises himself as the queen (easy, since the queen looks like HR as I said earlier) and steals the crown. Then jumps back onto the roof. At this point, the bumbling (but of course) security guards accost him. HR easily dodges the bullets with a foldable snowboard (I kid you not) and evades them . Anyways, then he mysteriously disappears with the crown.

Tada - the beginning credits began to roll to the background of HR dancing to the remixed "dhoom machale" song. My jaw which had hit the ground and rested there for the entire beginning sequence began to get back to my face. The train sequence had been one of the most logicless, brainless and unbelievable heist sequences I have seen in a long time. But as I watched HR gracefully doing his dance moves (boy, he CAN dance) I thought maybe the movie would get back to planet earth after that "spectacular" opening sequence. Hahaha, nice hopes!

Abhishek Bachchan (AB) and Uday Chopra (UC) as the cops get introduced into the scene next. Rimi Sen (RS) plays AB's pregnant wife. She has exactly 2 minutes in the entire movie - all of which are spent sitting on a rocking chair and shrieking. Bipasha Basu (BB) gets introduced as the hot cop who is on HR's case. Aishwarya Rai (AR) is an erstwhile thief who is assigned to befriend HR to help nab him - her freedom in case of HR's successful capture being the carrot. I guess that covers the main cast of characters - phew!

Anyways, the whole story is about how AB/UC/AR try to capture HR. BB gets a double role - she plays her own twin when the scene shifts to Brazil. Since both roles just require her to show off her well toned arms and body, I could not spot the difference.

There, I am not going to tell you the story scene by scene as I usually do in my "reviews". Actually, that is because there is no story to tell. This movie relies very heavily on star power and this shows in every scene where the actors are more intent on striking a pose which is most flattering to them in the frame instead of emoting. Of the guys, HR and AB look good (what about UC you ask? Hahahahaha - you got to be kidding me). Both BB and AR seem to have worked out a lot for this movie and show off their "hard work" with the aid of skimpy costumes (really, instead of being called actors, they can be called Fashion TV mannequins).

We all actually thought AR looked nice - until she opened her mouth. Even normally, AR has got an extremely annoying voice. In this movie, as if adding the cherry to the cake, she speaks in a weird way which involves using the word "like" in every other sentence and referring to herself in third person. Her character, named Sunehri, says things like "Sunehri is very good. Sunehri like trusts you." etc. A couple of scenes of AR and her whiny voice is enough to drive anyone up the wall - I was surprised when HR did not murder her due to extreme aggravation!

Anyways, the movie jumps from one unbelievable stunt sequence to the next. My eyes, which had popped out sometime in the first 30 minutes remained hanging out till the movie ended. As the movie wound towards its end, I wouldn't have been surprised if a "stunt" sequence had involved HR sprouting wings and flying.

But then came the classic scene: AB is chasing HR and HR jumps into an abyss. I was like "there, HR is going to start flying now". But no, instead, a parachute balloons open over him - our man obviously carries parachutes, ropes, snowboards and the like with him when on the run for exactly such emergencies. But what about AB? As the cop, would he also be running around with an in-case-of-emergency parachute? As we watched, AB too jumped right into the abyss - but no parachute ballooned open over him.

Ah - so maybe AB would sprout wings and start to fly I thought. But no - instead, AB expertly steers himself mid-air to where HR is falling and then catches hold of him. Then, in a spirit of neighborliness which was touching to watch, AB and HR share the same parachute and land safely on the ground and resume fighting. Wah, wah, wah!

I have just described two of the wonderful "stunt" scenes. The movie has many more such gems. But please don't take this as a recommendation to go watch the movie in the theatre. The only reason the seven of us who went to watch Dhoom-2 sat in the theatre for the whole movie was because each of us had paid $9.50 of our hard-earned money to suffer through it.

One thing I have to say for the movie - the cinematography is excellent. The places are shot beautifully. The stunt scenes look quite professional. Too bad that the director spent so much time on the movie's looks and the stars' looks that he did not find time to actually write a story. The supposed twists are ultra lame and can be guessed from light years away. Whole sets of characters disappear from the narration to never appear again. As I said before, logic is something which is totally left behind.

Leaving your brains at home or coming to the theatre with sackloads of credulity will help you sit through the movie. Unfortunately, we did neither - and we paid for it :-(!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The day before thanksgiving

Thanksgiving and Christmas in the USA is like Diwali in India. I realized that all over again last week when, at the end of my fitness class, the instructor wished us all a very happy thanksgiving, a wonderful appetite and lots of nice food.

All at once, out of the blue, I was hit by a huge wave of homesickness. No matter how much I enjoy the holiday season here, it will never be the same as celebrating festivals at home in India. For the simple reason, I have not celebrated thanksgiving or x'mas since childhood and for me they do not hold any major significance other than getting a few days off from work! That day, I sorely missed celebrating a Indian festival in the traditional (read, celebrating in India) way for five whole years (is it really that long?). I just wanted to exchange thanksgiving for Diwali with my family in India.

Don't get me wrong here - I am not one of those morose party-poopers. As I said, I love the festive spirit anywhere. Add the cheerful crowds, the lovely lights, the decorations and you can't help but feel happy. I also try to take part in the celebrations as much as I can. Just that it never affects me quite the same way as seeing twinkling lamps and hearing the loud crackers and stuffing my face with lot-more-than-good-for-me sweets and snacks.

*Excuse me while I contemplate a bit.*

Okay, that's done. And I realize all over again that most of what happens to me is a direct result of conscious choices I have made and so I should not whine too much.

Actually, though the post does not sound that way, I am currently in a wonderful mood :-). I think the thought of four days off from a recently kinda hectic work schedule has a lot to do with it :-D!

To add to it, everyone around me is in a cheerful mood today and smiling. My manager treated me to a wonderful lunch and then encouraged me to go home early. "Don't work too hard today - you can just sit and surf the net after lunch if you want to"!

Me being very duty-conscious and everything decided to take him right at his word :-P! And then, to take it to the next level, I decided to sit and write a blog-post at work (not that I have not done that before, I have - but this post is written with a super clear, surf-excel-clean kind of conscience) :-D!

Ah, don't I love the holiday season!

Happy thanksgiving, folks :-D!

Update: Okay, doesn't look like I am going to spend the rest of my afternoon surfing :-(. There are 'issues' to be resolved. Oh well, you don't get paid to surf the net or to write blog posts :-)!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Interview tips

I know this is too heavy a post for a Friday. But whimsical me writes about whimsical topics at whimsical times :-).

During my job search process, a couple of years ago, I came to know definitely that I was pretty bad at attending interviews. Extreme shyness and lack of confidence is not a good combination when speaking to strangers who don't know you at all and have to get to know you based on what you tell them.

Anyways, I managed to screw up quite frequently - acceptable when I knew I had tried my best but totally painful when I knew I was capable of much better and yet had messed it up.

That was a few years back. Now I sometimes get to be on the other side i.e. be the interviewer. And guess what, I realized that I am equally nervous about being an interviewer too! I guess the word "interview" is enough to start off cold feet, cold hands and butterflies in my stomach :-(.

Anyways, what I realized from being on the other side is this:

1. I couldn't care less if the resume is printed on ivory colored bond paper or has an amazing font or an awesome format. I am only interested in knowing whether the necessary qualifications are present or not. Even if they are well-hidden, I take the time to find it. So the key is having the right words and phrases in the resume and not having the best looking resume. BTW, this does not mean that typos and other shodiness is okay - it is not.

2. When I interview a person, I always start with an open mind. In fact, start positively with the hope that the person will be "the one". As I said, I am not fond of interviewing people and my ideal scenario would be one where I can find someone meeting the requirements with the minimum number of interviews.

3. I don't ask "trap" questions. Usually I ask questions which test how well the person will meet the requirements. The objective is to find reasons to hire the person rather than find reasons to show them the door.

4. Besides the above, I rely heavily upon what was said in the resume. When a resume says "expert in C++" and the person does not know what an abstract class is, I begin to doubt everything else the person has said in the resume too. Lying on the resume gets a person in may be but then gets them out even faster if it is found out.

5. It helps if an interviewee has a good personality. It leaves a good impression and plays a big role in the final decision when there is another candidate with similar qualifications.

6. Appearance - in my job line, formal clothes are not necessary. All I care about appearance is that the person is neatly groomed and dressed and not whether the blazers and black socks are in attendance. Of course, this factor is something that is highly dependant on the position.

7. Most of the times, when someone is rejected, it is not because their personality was bad or their qualifications were awful or they are useless. It is just that their profile does not suit what we are looking for and they probably won't be able to contribute their best to that particular role (I think knowing this for sure would have helped me when I used to take rejections rather personally - stupid, I know).

8. Even when an interviewee is only 60-70% qualified for a position, if s/he shows enthusiasm to learn, it makes a favorable impression. In fact, enthusiasm and passion are qualities which can make up to some extent for technical shortcomings.

I am by no means an interviewing expert (in fact the very opposite, I would say) and interviewing is not even a part of my basic job description (I am a software engineer, in case you are wondering). So I really couldn't say how much of the above applies to other interviewers or interviews. Or maybe all this is blindingly obvious. At any rate, hopefully it will help someone else.

Most importantly, I do think it will do me good to dig up and remember this the next time I have to sit on the interviewee hot seat :-D.

Update: Read the comments section to get some more tips.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


1. (Diwali sweets from family + Diwali sweets from friends + Indian sweets from India-returned colleague + Scrumptious snacks from TJ's + Delicious homemade food made by others) = Jeans which are getting harder by the day to get into.

Evidently, bi-weekly fitness classes and after-dinner walks can combat gluttony only to a certain extent :-(! Is there anyway to make people love eating less?

2. (A cup of strong coffee + A willing listener) = A very garrulous me.

Can people get talkative on coffee :-(?

3. (Need to find a "good" nature photograph + Going through my collection of digital pictures) = Stumbling upon some long-forgotten but very interesting pictures.

Really, some pictures were so funny, I *had* to forward them or send comments about them to the concerned people. Below is an excellent picture of some of the attendees at my birthday party from last year. I have a whole series of them by my brilliant photographer friend, all (unintentionally) covering people's feet from various angles :-D! However, S was pretty thrilled that her cute footwear had gotten way more attention than she had bargained for :-)!

4. (Obsession with hair + Determination to make it soft and smooth and silky (just like the models on TV))= Applying almond oil and honey to hair following a wikihow article which appeared on my google homepage.

I kid you not - I did that this morning. After that, I had nightmares about the honey never coming out of my hair ever and me being stuck with shocked spikes for the rest of my life. Surprise, surprise, the honey did wash right out and my hair actually feels softer (heheheheh, when you sit for an hour with sticky honey on your head, you are wont to believe almost *anything* afterwards).

5. (Screwed up body clock due to DST change + Nightly tossing and turning) = A very-sleepy-during-most-times me.


Enjoy the rest of the weekend folks!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Pricey P

This story is fresh off the press and I found it so funny that I wanted to spread the joy. Fortunately, I got P's consent to do so and hence I am posting this with a clear conscience O:-)!

Anyways, my dear friend P was feeling rather blue over the weekend. In order to cheer herself up, she decided to go to a posh book store in her city and spend sometime there. Dressed up well and everything, P set off. Once she reached the store, she started walking briskly towards the elevator.

All of a sudden, she heard someone behind her calling "Madam, madam...". A quick glance behind her revealed that it was the watchman. Why ever on earth would he want to stop her? P decided that he must be calling someone else. And, acting all pricey, she ignored him and continued to stride forward confidently.

Which was when one of her legs sank into the ground with a splash sound! Basically, she had just walked into a pool of water on the ground meant for decoration purposes. P turned around sheepishly and just managed to catch the watchman slapping his forehead with his palm and saying,"That's what I wanted to warn you about!"

At this point, P burst out laughing, all her blues chased right away. Apparently she decided to continue her day at the posh bookstore with one side of her jeans completely soaked :-)).

P told me all this over chat. I imagined the whole scene and was literally rolling on the floor with laughter :-D. My great regret is that I wasn't around to witness the entire episode live. Oh well, one can't always have everything that they want - I shall be content with this!

BTW, this is post number 150 :-D! And yet again, I bring out my non-dancing "dancing" numbers.

In case you are wondering, yes, I do plan to have markers for every fifty posts :-D! For the curious, post number 50 is here and post number 100 is here.

p.s. this post is titled Pricey P because P specifically asked me to not use the word 'pricey' with regard to her. However, what are friends for if you cannot not grant even such simple requests :-P! That said, P, thank you girl and you rock as always :-D!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Rants and raves

Disclaimer: I have not become a misanthrope (yet :-P) - I still love my fellow humans :-D.
* How many of you find cars sporting white headlights instead of yellow headlights painful at night? While I totally appreciate floodlights as a tool for illuminating games played at night, night-time concerts and the like, I totally object to it being fitted to the front of cars. When such cars follow me, all I can see is a blinding flash in my car's rearview and sideview mirrors. When they are on cars in the opposite direction, I can barely see the road in front of me. I would like to strangle the idiot who first came up with the idea.

* How do you politely tell people you have known for little more than a month "Thank you very much for choosing me as your confidante but I am really not interested in your personal life?" Some people are genuinely interested when being told such stories or can at least gracefully handle such situations. I fall into neither category and I am scared that someday I might go from painfully smiling and nodding to actually shouting "Shut up, shut up, shut UP" a la Chandler in Friends (see this clip to refresh your memory) :-(. I need to have some level of comfort and familiarity with a person before listening to (or telling) personal stories and feel very uncomfortable otherwise *sigh*!

Er..actually, I just have two rants for now - not that much of a misanthrope, huh!?! Cool :-D!

On a totally unrelated note, I recently rediscovered the joys of the famous Dil Se (or Uyire) song all over again. The beats, obviously, are great! However, I have never closely followed the lyrics before and recently did so. They are beautiful (btw, the Hindi lyrics are way better than the Tamil ones) .

Hehehe - and thus I created the opportunity to try out embedding a youtube clip on my blog :-D!

And in case you did not know about it, this song was used as a background for the opening credits in the movie Inside Man. Go ARR :-D

Monday, October 30, 2006


It's that time of the year again - Halloween :-)! Again, we have a pumpkin-carving contest at my company. Again, I am ultra-tired today - you will understand why when I tell you that my day started at morning 1.00am PST today (early morning flight and all - which, by the way, reminds me - be prepared to be bugged by posts about Chicago soon :-P) and has still not ended at 10.20pm PST :-(.

However, keeping up with my self-awarded Most Enthusiastic Pumpkin Carver of the Year title, I decided to try my hand at it again and bought a pumpkin on the way home. So far, so good! Then came home and rummaged through the shelf where I was pretty sure I had put the carving book and carving tools last year. And rummaged, and rummaged. Zip, zilch, nada - no tools or book :-(! Oh no.

Fifteen more minutes of hunting various locations finally yielded the tools. Yaaay :-D! One down, one to go. Then I proceeded to turn my house upside down in my effort to locate the book. But no luck :-(! I officially gave up thirty minutes later. The book had apparently vaporized on its own (though I have sickening confidence that within a week that book will laugh at my face when I am looking for something else).

Now what? I was almost ready togive up and just go to bed when my mom came online. Immediately, I started whining about my idiotic missing carving-pattern book. She then told me that I should draw my own stencil instead and use it. Hehehehehehe - my drawing skills are so excellent that they haven't seen any recognition since third grade!

Anyways, I finally got persuaded and came up with my own ultra simple stencil involving mostly straight lines.

Can you guess what my pumpkin is carved as?

Does this help?
Again, pumpkin-carving is fun :-D! And writing a post about it is fun too :-D!

In case you are still wondering, answer for the guess is here - my pumpkin guy's ears are pulled all the way back - so you can't see it :-P!

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Till the time I was in India, I had always considered myself as very warm-blooded. As in, I never used to feel cold easily. My dad is like this and I guessed that I must have taken after him. Dad and me used to watch with smug faces while mum and sis piled on layer after layer of clothing in cold places. These opportunities for piling on clothes, however, were few and far in between. For most of my life before the US, we stayed in places where the weather was considered "cold" was when the temperature fell to around 22 degrees Celsius ( 72 degreees Farenheit). The only exceptions were when we lived Pune (which I don't remember due to being a baby then) and Calcutta (my visit to Darjeeling marks the first time my teeth chattered on their own due to the cold temparature).

Still, when it came to choosing colleges in the US for grad school, I tried to avoid will-snow-in-winter places as much as possible. Davis seemed like a good choice - after all California is supposed to ahve awesome weather, right? I landed here in the second week of September, 2001 - just the beginning of Fall season.

The very first night of stay in Davis, I needed a comforter to cover myself in order to keep warm. The next day, I wore a sweater to school. Yes, a sweater in September, when the sun was shining pretty merrily. I just couldn't stop feeling cold! As you can imagine, as the days went by, it only got worse. Where on earth had all my previous tolerance for cold disappeared to?

In the end of October 2001, another first in my life happened. I could not sleep due to the cold. For some reason, the heater in the apartment was not working for a few days and by sheer bad luck, those few days turned out to be unseasonally cold. To keep warm, when I went to bed, I wore two sweaters, two pants, socks, muffler, woollen cap, gloves and covered myself with a thick blanket and a comforter. I still shivered. That was when it hit me, I had been living under a major delusion all my life. My tolerance for cold temperatures had obviously never existed. I had no business saying I was very warm-blooded if couldnt stop shivering under multiple layers in snowless Davis.

At the end of my first quarter in Davis I went to Mt. Shasta with a bunch of friends. That was a very memorable trip - I touched snow for the first time in my life :-). I fell in love with the snow at first sight and had a slight twinge of regret that I had not chosen to study in a place which had more easy access to snow. That is, until I realized that snow made me feet feel damp *always*, made me feel cold *always* and made me feel like an astronaut with all the layers I wore *always*. I was one happy ducky when we bid adieu to the snow and returned to Davis.

Of my subsequent encounters with snow, the one in Yellowstone National Park was the worst. We camped in the snow (brilliant me was the great soul who had been the staunchest proponent of the camping idea) in sleeping bags and tents not equipped for cold weather. Needless to say, in a couple of hours, all of us had shifted from the tent to the mini-van and turned on the heater in an effort to not freeze and die.

With all these experiences under my belt, I try to stay away from really cold weather as much as I can. Northerners and Mid-westerners can call me wimpy but California is plenty cold enough for me, thank you!

Which is why, I am still wondering how on earth I booked tickets to visit my friend V in Chicago in the end of October. My brain which sometimes comes up with stunning pieces of logic had apparently reasoned that since it was fine weather when I booked tickets a month ago, it still should be fine when I actually travelled - smart!

Anyways, the net result is, I am heading out to Chicago this weekend. I am very excited about meeting V after ages. I will also get to meet his wife M finally :-). As an added bonus, M is apparently a great cook (yaaay :-D). On the flip side, even V, who has very good cold tolerance has warned me about the current cold spell in Chicago :-(!

I have dug out my thickest clothes and have packed multipe layers of everything. So, in the news, if you hear about a person closely resembling an Eskimo being spotted in the Chicago region, it is probably me. If you hear about someone who froze into an ice statue in Chicago, that is also probably me.

Adios for now! I shall give you cold weather survival tips when I get back to more human-habitable regions (i.e. bay area).

That picture shows the snow in the Bay Area mountains which I could see on my way to work at the beginning of this year. This extremely rare occurence of snow in this region was sufficiently far away from me - so I thoroughly enjoyed looking at it every morning while it lasted :-))!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Jaan-e-mann - the review

Note: Like most of my movie "reviews", this one too has plenty of spoilers.

All the reviews I read for the remake of the movie Don had panned it. This was not at all a surprise to me - the promos had looked pretty silly. The reviews only reconfirmed my original opinion and I had zero intention of catching the movie in the theatre. Then, surprise, surprise, another Diwali release, Jaan-e-mann (JEM), a movie which I had not even considered as theatre-watchable, had gotten decent reviews on most web-sites. So I thought, why not go for it.

I persuaded a friend to go with me and we went to the theatre - there was a much bigger crowd for Don than for JEM - but then, Shah Rukh Khan movies always manages to pull in big crowds anyway - so I was not not disheartened. Still, I had pretty low expectations from JEM.
The movie began. Within ten minutes, I was panicking - what the heck had I gotten myself into? Because, in that short while, we had been treated to a space ship (yes, in reality, not a dream sequence), a filmfare awards ceremony and a dwarfish Anupam Kher trying really hard to be funny but failing miserably. At that point, I arranged a suitably apologetic expression on my face for the benefit of my friend and mentally cursed all those conscience-less reviewers who give such glowing reviews for undeserving movies.

The story is like this - Salman Khan is divorced from his wife Preity Zinta and is unable to pay the alimony. So his uncle Anupam Kher comes up with the brilliant idea that they should get Preity married to someone else so that Salman is freed of his obligations. Enter Akshay Kumar, who used to have a big crush on Preity during his geeky college days (all three had studied in the same college). Salman and Anupam convince Akshay that he should try to woo Preity and Akshay agrees.

So Salman and Akshay fly to New York (what is it with New York and desi movies these days?), where Preity lives . Salman stays in the background and teaches the socially inept Akshay tricks to patofy Preity. And Preity slowly begins to fall for Akshay.

All of a sudden, a baby is introduced into the picture - really, if a baby can conveniently disappear when you want to chill out after coming back from work, or want to party or go shopping or do any of the other things people without babies easily do, I am sure people would be a lot less scared of having kids. Anyways, the baby is apparently Salman and Preity's baby from their broken marriage. BTW, the baby is totally adorable and a complete scene-stealer.

Then comes the twist - surprise, surprise - Salman realizes he loves both Preity and the baby after all. Just when he decides to come clean to Akshay, Preity and Akshay get engaged after a completely irritating mandatory-for-Hindi-movies marriage-type song. So Salman decides to play martyr and leave the scene.

Then, before the wedding, Akshay discovers that the spat leading to the divorce between Salman and Preity was actually engineered by Preity's brother who did not like Salman. So Akshay decides to play martyr now (yeah, martyrdom is done on a time-sharing basis in Bollywood) and brings Salman and Preity back together. And they both (Salman and Preity) live happily everafter (along with the disappearing baby).

What about Akshay? Why, he gets together with a Russian astronaut who is a Preity lookalike and is called Preity Zintaveska!!!! And they (Akshay and Russian astronaut) live happily ever after too! The end.

I still can't pinpoint what exactly was really bad about the movie. After all, the three main characters are major eye-candies. The New York locales were very pleasing to the eye (really, NYC up and close is so dirty - but these movies make it look so drool-worthy!). A couple of scenes evoked genuine laughter.

However, to counter all that, given the latest trend of movie directors wanting to enter their movies in the longer-than-the-Mahabharatha contest, this movie goes on forever. For a story which is so cliched, that is waaay too long. The movie is also so goofy and senseless in some places that you need to do frequent reality checks to make sure that you haven't lost all your nuts! Add to it a bunch of discontinuous scenes and you have got a recipe for a headache.

Most importantly, at no point in the movie are you particularly interested in knowing what happens next - any person who has seen Bollywood movies can tell you that. How many of you really thought Akshay would get Preity in the end?

This is a movie which you could watch at home when you have absolutely no other DVD or book. It definitely is not a movie on which you would want to spend $8.50 to watch on Diwali night. I learnt that too late :-(!

p.s. If anyone has the house addresses of the Rediff reviewers who gave Jaan-e-man good reviews, please to let me know. I have surprise "gifts" for them.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Festival Time!

Happy Deepavali, Folks!

Yup, this is my own effort at rendering a lamp in MS-Paint. It already looked juvenile enough, so decided to not add the "glow" around the flame (which made it look like the flame was shedding fur :-().

Do eat lots of sweets and wear new clothes! I am already doing the former thanks to my wonderful parents who sent me sweets :-D. I am definitely going to try to do the latter too. People in India will have the additional joy of bursting fire crackers. And yes, don't forget to light lamps!

Wishing you all a colorful, sparkling and joyous Deepavali :-D!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cup of Joe

Did you see the Dilbert comic-strip today?

It's pretty funny :-)! I think I should also get one of those coffee backpacks. One cup of coffee no longer seems to have any effect on me keeping awake in the afternoons at the work!

I don't even remember exactly when I learnt to drink strong coffee. When I was small, like all kids, me and my sis had to drink two (sometimes three) glasses of milk a day. No coffee or tea though - only Horlicks, Boost, Bournvita and the like. Coffee/tea were apparently not good for health. My sister had no issues with this - she simply detested coffee and tea and was quite content with the other beverage mixes - or at least as content as you can be when being forced to drink a tall glass of milk. Me, on the other hand, always had a strange attraction towards the smell of coffee.

So usually, mostly on weekends, my mom used to add a couple of drops of coffee to my milk with sugar. It gave a coffee-ish smell to the milk and I simply loved it! I still can remember me sitting, knees pulled up to my chest on a high stool (yeah, those were the days when I could comfortably fit into such a small area) in a corner of the room as I drank it. I don't know why clambering onto the stool was important but it was a ritual for me!

Then, as I grew older, I started discovering the joys of tea. I still could tolerate only a very, very milky version of coffee. But tea - ah, that was something else! My dad is a tea lover too. During the weekends, mid-morning, dad would ask for a cup of chai. While giving dad his cup, mom would give me about two gulps of the tea in a tumbler. Dad and me would then drink our respective teas. Bliss!

As I grew older, my love for tea grew along with me. I still had to drink milk everyday but I could drink tea in the evenings. Tea was the first "dish" I learnt to make by myself. Given my addiction, it was easier to make tea myself than keep bugging mom for tea! However, during the "important" board-exam years, mom would make it for me if she found me studying late at night. But then, at some point, I was downing so many glasses of tea a day that my stomach started to hurt. Thus came the end of the endless-cups-of-tea era. Sigh!

Then, it was onto college. There, in the hostel, in the mornings, we used to get milk. Initially, I used to buy Horlicks, Boost or Bournvita to add to the milk and drink. But I noticed that the contents of the bottles got over pretty quick as every visitor to the room happily helped themselves to it. Really, the Horlicks "kudikka vendaam, appadiyey chaapuduvein" (no need to drink, I will eat it just like that) slogan never had better proof :-)!

In case you have never been in a typical hostel, hostel milk looks like white-colored water and is impossible to drink without some masking agent. Clearly, I needed something else to mix with the milk.

So, I decided to switch over to the instant coffee powder that was provided by the hostel mess. I realized that more coffee powder made me feel more awake (ah, caffeine) and the strength of my coffees started increasing! I guess undergrad was where I learnt to drink the non-milky version of coffee. I was surprised at myself - I was actually enjoying drinking something which I always used to claim was too bitter!

That was until I came to the US. For the first time in my life, I drank black coffee. Basically my lab had run out of sugar and creamer and I was desperate for something warm to keep me awake through the night. Black coffee served the purpose well though rather bitterly.

However, as compensation, my apartment had a tea-loving roommate. So we used to take turns making tea every morning and evening (if we were home). And then another cool thing happened. We got J as our roommate. If I thought I was a tea-addict, J must have probably been having tea running through her veins! She loved to not only drink tea but also to MAKE tea! I tell you, its bliss when you can look up from the book you are reading and tell "J, lets have chai" and have a steaming mug of tea placed in your hand soon afterwards :-)!

But soon, it was time to get to the real world and work. For the first one year of my work-life, for some reason, I never drank coffee at work. It was just tea. I remember my colleague saying "Oh, you don't drink coffee? Then probably you don't smoke or drink either." - LOL :-)!

Then at some point, I can't remember why, I started drinking coffee at work in the mornings. And then added a cup in the afternoons too! Sigh! Nowadays, I proactively make fresh coffee to drink if I can't find some! Naturally, now I am finding that the normal dosage is not enough to keep me awake (even if it is mostly psychological for me anyways).

That's why I am starting to hunt for one of those coffee back-packs!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Progress Report

First, my plants! This is how my pots looked this morning. As you can see, each of the plants has new flowers. I am one proud gardener :-D!
Second. I had written in an earlier post as to how shy I was with people I don't know well. I had also added that I was trying to work on improving myself in that aspect. Well, this evening, I went for a barbeque where I knew no one but the host. And guess what, I actually had fun with the nine other invitees too :-)! Of course, that the rest of the people were super nice to me played a big role in this but I am claiming some credit too (hey, I went) :-)!

Third. Tomorrow is a working Monday and I am not sulking that much. This is a temporary phenomenon and will probably not be repeated for several more months. Nevertheless, I am marking it up on this week's progress!

Fourth. I could not come up with any blog topics but wanted to pay attention to my blog. So came up with this pointless post. The pointlessness of my pointless posts is rapidly progressing by the post! It is not a good thing I know. But regression is still progress in a different direction!

And finally, the post is concluded. All of you who read till the end just added one more golden brick to your golden house in heaven :-P! Good night, folks!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Cursive writer

This evening, just before calling it a day and heading home, me and one of my colleagues, N, started comparing our handwritings (don't even ask how we managed to land up there from a very work-related discussion). I joined my letters in a cursive hand while N used a combination of cursive and discrete letters.

N glanced at my writing and exclaimed, "Oh, that's so pretty!". Even though I know that my handwriting is just about average when compared to some very beautiful handwritings I have seen, I couldn't help but feel good.

For most of my school life, I studied in Chennai and Calcutta. The schools there were big and had lots of students. Thus, as long as the students were able to string words together correctly and put them on paper, the teachers did not really care too much about how pretty those words looked. So, other than occasionally admiring a friend or classmate's nice handwriting, I never gave much thought to how mine looked. The only concession I remember making in deference to "nice" handwriting was to use an ink pen as I noticed that it made my writing look better than when I wrote with a ball-point pen.

Then, in ninth standard, my dad got transferred to K which was not a city but rather a town. The convent school I joined was fairly new and my class had only 22 students. Ours would only be the second batch to write the tenth standard board exams from that school. The teachers were determined that everyone should do well. Hence each of us got individual attention.

One fine day, one of the teachers, Sister P, called me and told that while the teachers thought that the contents of my test papers were quite okay, they thought that my handwriting was quite bad. They were worried that my board-exam marks would suffer as a result. In short, she was politely telling that my handwriting looked like "kozhi-kirukkal" (kozhi-kirukkal refers to handwriting that looks as though a hen had dipped its feet into a pot of ink and then run across the paper - kozhi=hen, kirukkal=scribbles). What!?! No one had had any objections as to how I wrote for the first ten years of my school life - how on earth did it matter now!?!

Apparently, it mattered a lot. For, the next day, Sister P wanted me to go to the school bookstore to buy a four-ruled notebook. For those of you who don't know what a four-ruled notebook is: it is a notebook in which each page has sets of four lines grouped together. Kindergardeners use such notebooks to practise cursive handwriting. Sister P wanted me to practise cursive writing everyday in such a notebook.

I have never felt more embarassed and tried to talk my way out of it. But Sister P was determined. That evening, after school, Sister P wrote down the English alphabets for me in the notebook. I was supposed to copy them exactly many times. The irony of it all :-(! I don't remember doing such homework in kindergarden - I used to spend so much time playing then that mom had to literally hold my hand and scribble down my homework for me. And now God was having a very good laugh :-(!

Anyways, a couple of weeks later, I had graduated to a two-ruled notebook. And some more weeks later to a single rule notebook. At that point, the Sisters decided that my handwriting had reached passable - barely so, but it was okay. I was happy to finally get rid of the source of lots of leg-pulling at school. And even though I did not notice anything different myself, I decided that if the nuns said so, my handwriting must be looking better now (most of the nuns had such lovely handwritings - even their writings on the blackboard looked like calligraphy).

So board exams came and went. I scored pretty decently - I really could not say how my new and improved handwriting had contributed to it. But the nuns at my school felt good about making me give my best shot and I was guilt-free at not messing up (literally).

I thought that was that. But then something which had never happened to me before started happening: I started getting compliments about my handwriting. Not often or anything but regularly enough. Wow :-)! So my efforts did come with extra benefits!

Practise does lead to being at least decently okay at the practised thing, even if you were not born with it! N's compliment reminded me of this yet again :-)!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sepia toned nostalgia

Two days ago, my parents sent me something which I have been trying to get hold of for a long (five years to be precise) time and had lost hope of ever getting. They sent me a collection of emails I had sent to them soon after landing in the USA for the first time to do my Master's.

At that time (2001), our family e-groups had not yet been created and the stingy mailbox quota set by the free email providers meant that emails could not be archived in the email account itself. I reluctantly deleted the emails I had received whenever the mail quota got exceeded.

However, my parents had saved quite a few of my emails from that time onto files before deleting them from their email accounts. But, of the emails I sent immediately after reaching the USA, there was no sign. I had wanted to see what my views had been back then. Oh well, you keep some, you lose some!

Then, a couple of days ago, when cleaning out old floppies, my dad stumbled upon those emails from me which they had saved. So they immediately sent them to me. Yaaaay :-D!

With great eagerness, I began to go through them. And immediately one thing struck me. My emails were littered with words like wud instead of 'would', mite instead of 'might', i instead of 'I' wat instead of 'what' etc. These mispellings kind of grate on my nerves these days and I wonder how I managed to use them so ardently back them. I absolutely do not remember myself being such a big proponent of these supposedly "cool" words!

Then the next thing struck me. In the emails sent in the first few months, every single email contained a reference to how much I missed home or how scared I was or how lonely I felt or how I was trying my best to cope up.

Really? Of course I remember being lonely and scared initially but certainly not to this extent! Without those emails, all I remembered now from those days were the facts that I had made new friends quickly enough and that my seniors had included me in all their activities - so I had plenty of company and that I had visited one new place or the other (outside Davis) almost every weekend - in short, I remembered having fun!

That set me thinking. As evidenced from the emails, my life had definitely been a mixed bag back then - but, I could only remember the positive things now. Apparently, all those initial difficulties no longer had a major impact on how I felt now. Only the good things mattered and these gave my memories a warm, lovely sepia-toned hue.

If that is indeed the case, instead of cribbing about every little thing now (a seasoned worrier like me can worry and crib about *anything*), I think I should spend more time creating happy memories - because that is what I am going to recall five years hence. And I bet it will be wonderful having LOTS of happy memories to think back on :-D.

So, more happy memories from now on - point noted and underlined with fluorescent sketch.

And finally, while reading the emails, I also realized that somethings will never change. Here is an almost exact reproduction of the mail I wrote about an evening of "doing homework":

"Actually the story goes like this - today we have a networks assignment due - queuing theory is the topic - which is the bane of my existence. So last evening V (one of my classmates) and me came back to my house in the fond hope of discussing the problems. But me being from AU and he being a lazier pig than me, both of us drank hot chocolate, ate chips, chocolates and talked for one hour abt our undergrad life. Then realised it was too much on our part and we shd start studying.

We spent 45 minutes exactly on reading the questions and then i had to go to the grocery shop to meet R (my roomie) - V told he would accompany me and we both went - R aalu adayalam kaanum - so we both shopped for my house.

Tired by this exercise, we came home and ate ice-cream. Then spent some more time breaking our heads. Queuing theory is one of the most horrible topics researched by man-kind - any amt of reading got us no where - so guess what we did - yep, we sat and ate dinner (R was back by then and had cooked).

We had spent a total of some 2.5 hrs so far and not a single problem was solved. i took a phone break and then i got back to queing theory - A was back by then - so once more brainstorming and we finally got sth done.

Then i had to faircopy the thing - ultimately 2:00am when i slept - i still have sth left to do in it..:( and i am feeling TERRIBLY SLEEPY.,,now! Thats how my whole day yesterday was spent on queuing hteory and more queing theory and of course eating! "

LOL :-D! I totally identify with it even now and I am glad (!?!) to note that my procrastinating capabilities haven't diminished one tiny bit after five years.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Ayutha Pooja

When I was small, Ayutha Pooja was a festival which I looked forward to with great eagerness along with Diwali and Pongal. One of the reasons of course, was the holiday from school which we got. But besides that, the more appealing reason to me was that Ayutha Pooja was the one day when we could, thanks to tradition, with a very clear conscience, desist from studying :-D!

The festival of Navaratri (literally translated to "nine nights") preceded Ayutha Pooja. My family did not have the tradition of keeping "Golu", which is the most prominent feature of Navaratri in Tamilnadu. Nevertheless, it was fun to get invited to houses of various friends and neighbors who did keep golu. Back then, we mostly used to live in bank-provided apartment complexes where we knew a lot of our neighbors (all the houses had at least one person working in one of the various branches of the same bank as dad).

So almost every evening, invitation to one house or the other was guaranteed. Sometimes we were invited to visit multiple houses on the same evening. At each house, we got to see the beautiful golu setup of idols. We invariably got delicious sundal to eat. Additionaly, we got flowers, kumkum and an small item like a kutti mirror or kumkum container (traditional items - I don't know the reasoning behind giving these) to take away.

Most of the times, one or the other of the invited ladies (usually only the lady folks were present - I don't know if only women were invited or the guys just stayed away) would sing religious songs. Sis and me were also asked to chime in with the devotional songs. But in interest of the physical and mental well-being of the others, we used to politely decline!

The most interesting Navaratri celebrations happened when we lived in Calcutta. Durga Pooja, as navaratri is commonly referred to there, is a very big festival in West Bengal. You could see pandals housing statues of Durga and other Gods in every locality. Some of these pandals were so beautifully and artistically decorated. Each of the durga pooja evenings in Calcutta was spent outside the house, visiting the various pandals spread across the city. The whole city was lit up with the festivities and it was a joy to be among the happy crowds.

The last day of navaratri, Ayutha Pooja (ayutham = weapon in Tamil but in this context, it more implies "tools") was a full fledged celebration at home. The cleaning up of the house and the implements in it started earlier in anticipation of the festival. Sis and I used to pitch in - we split all the electronics between us (TV/VCR/Washing machine/refrigerator etc.) between us for cleaning. Mom would supervise the cleaning of the doors and windows of the house by the maid. Dad would supervise the watchman/driver in the cleaning of the car.

On Ayutha pooja day, we used to go around the house keeping dots of sandal paste and kumkum on all the doors as well as on the implements in the house.This was considered auspicious. A string of fresh mango leaves would be strung across the main entrance to the house. We also kept all our books, writing implements and other tools of trade before the pictures of God.

I remember, when I was in 12th standard (the all-important year of school life, thanks to board exams) I got completely carried away and transferred my whole book shelf of school-books to the pooja room. My mom had to gently remind me that just keeping the books in the pooja room would not ensure telepathic transfer of knowledge :-D!

Anyways, after all this set up, dad would conduct the pooja. Then we would all settle down to an elaborate and scrumptious lunch made by mom. *Yummy*! Since, as per the demands of tradition, we were not supposed to use any of our school-books (teachers at school also usually did not give us homework - we always made sure to plead "inability to do homework" beforehand :-D) , sis and I used to either play all day or watched TV till our eyes popped out :-D. !

The next day was Vijayadashami - the most auspicious day to study. I usually used to try to read at least some of my subjects - maybe a page from each book. With that, the navaratri festivities came to an end.

Last night, I was chatting with my parents. Dad told me that it was Ayutha Pooja for them as it was October 1st in India. He then added that he and mom were not too keen on celebrating it as both sis and me were not at home. But they were still going ahead with the pooja to maintain tradition. Oh, I miss celebrating Ayutha Pooja :-(! I wish I was back home :-(.

I started cribbing to mom about missing the Ayutha Pooja festivities. So she said that I should try celebrating it over here. She asked me to clean my house, my car and cook something nice today (October 1st and Ayutha Pooja according to US time). I said I would try.

Today was one of those cloudy yet beautiful days. I opened the blinds across both the patio doors and let the diffused sunlight flood into the house. Then I vacuumed the whole apartment, dusted everything and did laundry. Basically, full-fledged cleaning. Then, in the evening, I made sundal, lit my kutti oil-lamp and said a little prayer for everyone.

Oh, this is not a patch on celebrating Ayutha Pooja at home. But I feel a little happier now. Even though I know I did not clean the car :-D!

Happy Ayutha Pooja folks :-)!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Me me me

I got tagged. Since I can't think of any great topic to write about right now, I am happily taking the easiest escape route (with good karma for being a prompt tag-doer thrown in as a fringe benefit :-P) and am doing the tag pronto :-D! Okay, to all people who spotted the error in the previous sentence: I do know the rest of the posts here do not contain great topics either. What I actually meant was that I could not think of *any* idea at all :-P. In any case, be nice and let me have my occassional delusions of grandeur :-D!

Anyways, onto the tag. The rules are as follows (copy & paste from here):

Rules of this tag:

1. Name the person who tagged you.

2. 8 things about you.
3. Tag 6 people.

Here is my entry:

1. Thanu tagged me.

2. Sometime last year I wrote 20 random things about me because of a tag. I am sure you got a whole lot more information about me in that post than you bargained for. However, it's almost a year since that post and it's time to add eight more things to your fact-file (hahahahaha) about me:
  1. I love dancing (definitely not to be confused with "I am good at dancing"). However, I can dance with abandon only when with people I am very comfortable with or when I am by myself. Otherwise I can be spotted shaking my hands and legs nervously with a "I-am-trying-to-have-fun-but-I-would-probably-be-happier-sitting-on-a-hot-stove" look on my face.
  2. I love being near water. I can sit at the beach for hours together, just listening to the waves. Perhaps it can be attributed to me being a Piscean - I don't know!
  3. I think I have a compulsive need to feel liked by *everyone*. Yes, including people who irritate/annoy me. Which is how I can spend hours obsessing over how come person XYZ does not like me even though I do not like XYZ (duh).
  4. I listen to music through headphones almost all the time at work, whenever I am at my cubicle. This is one of the reasons why I turned my computer to face the cubicle entrance. Before I did that, I have sometimes almost jumped out of my skin when somebody tapped on my chair or addressed me from behind!
  5. I have never believed in ghosts. It is a good thing because I have no issues staying by myself or going to sleep after watching a scary movie (I do have nightmares, but can usually get over them when I wake up).
  6. I am a compulsive email checker/writer. I usually reply pretty promptly to all emails I get. Of course, this applies only to personal emails. For work emails, I have a different set of rules :-P!
  7. The only way I can sleep properly is when I am lying down horizontally on any surface. This prerequisite rules out sleeping on buses/cars/aeroplanes etc. The good part is that I am always awake to give the car-driver company on overnight journeys. The bad part, the next morning, I look like something the cat dragged in while the others look daisy-fresh :-(. Note: The have-to-be-horizontal-to-sleep condition becomes null and void if I am extraordinarily tired.
  8. I know probably no one is particularly interested in knowing all these things about me. Still, I am gathering good karma for being a good tag-doer and hence am thinking about the eight thing. Ah yes, the eight thing about me is hum good karma gather karne ke liye kuch be kar sakthe hain (I can do anything for gathering good karma) :-)). Yaaay - finis :-D!
3. Six people I tag (in no particular order):
  • Floridora - I am not sure if you do tags - I don't recall seeing any in your blog. It will be really great if you take this up :-)!
  • Archana Bahuguna - I remember that Shilpa tagged you for the 20 random things about yourself tag. But I doubt you did it. So, here's your second chance *evil laughter* >B-D!
  • Prasanna - Welcome to the tag world :-D!
  • Prabhu - I just want to check that you still remember enough about yourself after your "world-changing" trip to India :-P!
  • Rads - Based on the totally random but entertaining posts on your blog, I think eight things about yourself will make an interesting read :-)!
  • Ginkgo - Let's see if the tag inspires you to post something on your blog :-)!
And all ye tagged souls, better do the tag. I have heard that not doing it will bring lots of bad luck. For e.g., Steve Medonotag of Wichita, KS did not do this tag and the next time he walked under a tree, a giant bird pooped on his head. Be warned :-P!

As for the untagged souls, you have escaped - this time. *menacing background music*

Sunday, September 24, 2006


On Friday, my friend V and me were talking about an upcoming opera performance. V and his friends were planning to go for it and he had invited me to join them.V was verbally going over the list of people who would be coming. I was simultaneously looking up something on my computer and was paying only half attention. The conversation between us went something like this:

V: And oh, I really hope J is able to make it.

Me (paying minimal attention): Um..

He's a great guy.

(automatically): Really?

He's very funny, you know! He has an awesome sense of humor!

(again, automatically): Um!

He's British right, so...

(perking my ears immediately): British?? Did you say BRITISH?


(with shining eyes): Does he speak with a British accent?

Oh yeah, he does! In fact...

(interrupting excitedly): Oh, I really, really hope J turns up! I simply love listening to guys who speak with a British accent *drool*!

Why do I find men speaking with British accents so attractive? I have no clue! All I can think of is one of the Dilbert comic strips which has a female character going something like "That guy is fat, bald and ugly. But he speaks with a British accent - I find him so attractive"! I can so totally identify with that.

In fact, I remember actually having listened to a fat, bald and old* guy speaking with a British accent and thinking blissfully about how good he sounded! Mercifully, frequent reality checks consisting of looking at him brought me back to my senses. I think I am not alone in this - I know of other females having the same affliction when listening to British-accented guys!

Anyways, V then told me that he had no idea why I was so crazy about men who speak with a British accent. Apparently, it had no effect on him whatsoever. Then he added, "But yeah, women speaking with a British accent sound so incredibly sexy. You know Liz Hurley - she sounds so super sexy *drool*".

I have never consciously observed Liz Hurley speak, so I could not comment upon that. But I thought a bit and added "You know what, guys speaking with a British accent sound good. Women with British accents simply sound snooty"! V, of course, did not concur. After some more argument, we just agreed to disagree and moved on to other topics.

Then, on Saturday, while I was hiking with another friend D, out of the blue, this topic about accents popped into my head and I decided to take a opinion poll. I asked D what he thought about British accents. D said "Ohhh, I just love it when women speak with British accents. They sound so sexy!". Then he added, "But guys with British accents simply sound obnoxious"! LOL :-D! So I guess it is all a matter of perception!

So, how many of you find British accents attractive? And does it matter whether it is a male or a female using it?

Sign off comic - this wasn't the Dilbert comic-strip I had in mind but this one is close enough :-)!

* I have nothing against fat/bald/old/ugly men. Its just that, no matter how good they are otherwise, they usually do not fall into the eye-candy/drool-at-first-sight category.