Monday, March 31, 2008

In appreciation of Jane Austen

As I have said before in this blog, Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. Pride and Prejudice is among my all time favorite classics. In fact, reading P & P is a yearly ritual for me. Each time I read it, I never fail to find more things to appreciate about the book as well as Austen's writing.

Initially I used to be biased towards P & P as the pinnacle of Jane Austen's writing skills. I had read and enjoyed her other books too - but did not think them to be quite in the same league as P & P. In fact, at first read, I thought Emma was downright annoying - what a pesky, self-satisfied, meddler heroine!

So, when I got Emma as a gift a couple of years ago from a fellow Austen-loving friend, I was disappointed. Why Emma of all the possible books? The book got relegated to one of my book cases, to enliven the learned look of the room, but for nothing much else. Then, on one of those lazy days when I had nothing better to read, I pulled out the book.

What a revelation! I could not believe that I had ever despised the book. I don't remember the specifics of my attraction now but I do remember being completely drawn to the book. At the end of that mesmerizing session, Emma was slotted into the category of books I will definitely read again.

This year, during one of the meetings with the Austen-loving friend, our conversation veered towards books and more specifically, Jane Austen. The friend described a period at grad school when she got so hooked onto Jane Austen that for about a week she completely abandoned her research work while she devoured all the books one after the other - only stopping when she had exhausted the entire Austen supply her library had to offer. I was amused at this story but not surprised. I knew exactly what she meant when she concluded, "That's how it is with Jane Austen's books. Each time you read them, you discover something new."

Last weekend, when I was in the library, I recalled the conversation. I walked over to the section with Jane Austen novels and picked out Persuasion - its been a while since I read it last. And once I got back home, I started the process of enjoying the book. It is uncanny as to just how many of the observations that Austen makes are still so relevant to today's world. And just how does she manage to say everything so well? I dwelt on the conversations and the characterisations, savoring it all slowly.

Last night, I still had a few more chapters to go and it was already past my bedtime. Disregarding a) I have read this book before b) It would most certainly be the wee hours of the morning by the time I am done if I wanted to finish reading it and c) I had to go to work the next day, I happily read on till I reached the last page. And contented, I fell asleep.

Today has been on the bleary-eyed side consequently. Nevertheless, in the evening, I returned Persuasion to the library and picked up my next Austen fix: Sense and Sensibility.

To my sorrow, Jane Austen is not around to write new books to delight her fans. But in a way, she has left an inexhaustible supply of reading material by giving so many layers to her books. Each time you read it again, a brand new dimension is revealed. That kind of reading is fun too!

Friday, March 28, 2008

United 93

I have spotted United 93 in the DVD shelves of my local library several times. But I had always been hesitant to pick it up - I knew the ending, it was sad - what was the point?

Nevertheless, two weeks ago, I persuaded myself to borrow it. I am glad I did. This movie is one of the most hard-hitting movies I have ever seen. The director has shown the sequence of events on 9/11/2001 which throws ordinary people into an extraordinary situation. Which is partly why it makes such a powerful impact - it is a true story about normal people.

Nowhere in the movie is there any superhuman act. After all a man with a red cape, saving the world, does not fly around in real life. Instead, the Air Traffic Control people on the ground, when first put in an unfamiliar hostage situation, flounder as they try to come to terms with the crisis. You can feel their terror and vulnerability as they view the horrible events unfolding in front of their eyes.

In the United 93 flight, as the door closed for the last time, the term "flying coffin" popped into my head unbidden. I don't know how I would react if I was told the plane I was flying on was hijacked. Maybe I would have hoped that everything will work out fine and I would get out of it alive. The passengers in the movie do too.

Until they realize that it is a suicide mission. The passengers call their loved ones to bid adieu. And then get ready to not give up. The passengers fight as long as they can. How would it feel to know that, though you impossibly keep hoping it would not be true, you are going to die soon?

I knew the ending - still, in the last frames of the movie I was fervently praying that the passengers will regain control of the plane and everything will be hunky dory again. If only real life could always have happy endings.

United 93 brought back thoughts about how innocent people tend to be the target of hatred. Who gets benefited? Does the violence make any sense at all? Are lost civilian lives supposed to be collateral damage in the wars between nations? How can that be justified?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Going green*

Gosh, tags are piling up. I better spit on my hands and get down to them. This tag was passed on by both Rads and Altoid.

The Rules :
Post 5 links to 5 of your previously written posts. The posts have to relate to the 5 key words given : family, friend, yourself, your love, anything you like. Tag 5 other friends to do this meme. Try to tag at least 2 new acquaintances (if not, your current blog buddies will do) so that you get to know them each a little bit better.

Family - This is a post about mommy dearest. This is a post about daddy dearest. The family features in quite a few of my other posts too. I just realized that considering how close I am to my sister, there aren't any entirely sister-focused posts. But you can be sure that any fun activity with family that I have written about automatically includes my sister as one of the principal participants.

Love- Here's what i have to say about my eternal loves (not necessarily in that order) in life: books, sleep, food.

Friends - Regular readers among you will by now be used to reading various letters of the English alphabet in my various posts, denoting my various friends. If I linked to all of the posts featuring friends, you would probably be staring at the unenviable task of re-reading about 80% of my blog. So, here is what I said about my friends during the early days of this blog (and obviously, those sentiments still hold).

Myself - Ahem, it would have been easier to link to posts which do *not* revolve around me. Wait a minute though, I doubt there is any such post in my blog. If you want to read one of the posts which is 100%, unvarnished narcissism, you can read the very first tag about 20 random things about myself I did on this blog. It might give you some inkling of the bundle of oddities you are dealing with.

Link to any post I like: The entire Half Dome series. Not because it is a particularly illuminating example of my literary talents (if there is indeed such a thing in existence). But because it was a one-of-a-kind experience in my life. I did not realize how firm the "one-of-a-kind" bit was till when narrating the whole story to a friend recently, I found that my hands turned cold and my heart involuntarily lurched when describing the bit about standing petrified on the Half Dome slope. I am sure you must be dying to read about an experience which I will never voluntarily repeat again (unless a) they build an escalator to the top of Half Dome or b) they offer helicopter rides from the Half Dome base). For the brave readers, start here.

Five people I tag:

Binaryfootprints - Since you kindly tagged me :-P.
Joy - I would like to read your posts on these topics.
SK - It's been a while since I bugged you :-P.

Okay, only three.

recycling posts, no? Ya, sometimes I kill myself with my wit.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Coffee and tea

- Bru instant coffee tastes *much* better than Nescafe instant coffee.

- A dash of cinnamon powder added while making chai gives it a nutty and really nice flavor.

- Ikea sells killer Swedish coffee.

- Marie biscuits from Brittania do not break that easily when dipped in chai. With Sunfeast marie biscuits you need to move really fast from mug to mouth. Unless you like soggy bits of biscuit in your chai (and/or the surface bearing the mug).

- Green Label is not instant coffee. It is the kind you need a coffee filter or coffee maker to use. Anyone wants a jar full of unused Green Label coffee powder?

- When I am not in the mood to drink it, chamomile tea reminds me of the straw mats so commonly seen in India. I am quite positive that the water in which such mats are boiled (don't ask me why anyone would do that) would taste exactly like chamomile tea.

- I usually find the regular Starbucks coffee much better tasting than their overpriced lattes.

- Sweet and spicy flavored bag tea from any brand makes me want to throw up the instant I sip it. Apparently this gag reflex is a not-so-uncommon reaction among many folks to the tea.

- I wish I can keep a small stove at work so that I can make fresh chai whenever I want to have some.

- Actually, a just-made steaming cup of coffee is a not-so-bad substitute for the above!

- I am *always* up for drinking coffee or tea. Any actual effect it has on helping keep me awake/perky/alert is still under debate though.

Friday, March 21, 2008


I am subscribed to receive CNN Breaking News emails (I don't remember since when or how). Here is a sequence of emails I received:

CNN Breaking News [March 20, 2008, Evening]
-- The State Department says security on Barack Obama's passport file has been breached, campaign officials tell CNN.

CNN Breaking News [March 21, 2008, Early Morning]
-- Hillary Clinton's passport file was breached in 2007, Secretary of State Rice told Clinton, according to the senator's office.

CNN Breaking News [March 21, 2008, Morning]
-- The State Department confirms John McCain's passport file was breached as well as Obama and Clinton's files.

I have no clue at all as to what "passport file breaching" means or why it is significant. But going by the mad rush from all the presidential candidates to jump in and say that their passport files got breached too, I am convinced it is some important achievement which anyone vying for president-ship should definitely have to be considered viable.

I am looking at president-ship circa 2028. Now, how do I go about getting my passport file breached?

p.s. Just in case you were wondering, pliss to note, I am just kidding about the passport breaching bit. So pliss to not offer services for breaching passport.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The story teller

It was a dark night. The clock was nudging its way to midnight. As they sat in the balcony of the sixth floor apartment, the children did not notice the passage of time. Periamma* had been way too entertaining for that. First, it had been stories from her childhood. About the fairs which happened every weekend. About how young girls and boys there discreetly cast sheep-eyes at each other while the younger kids played "match the lover-pairs". About how she and her sister shopped around for the best possible thing to buy with the meagre money they had. It was all just so interesting.

But after a while, the children begged, "Please tell us a ghost story Periamma. Please, please." Periamma refused saying, "You will get scared." But she could not resist the appealing looks on the eager young faces around her for long. She launched into another story from her childhood.

In periamma's village, long ago, there had lived a beautiful young girl, the pride of her family, the light of her home. She was murdered one day as a result of a dispute with another family. Since then, every new moon day, at midnight, the villagers could hear the sound of anklets. It was said that it was the young girl's restless ghost roaming in the village, seeking revenge and hoping to regain its former happiness.

Periamma concluded, "That's why we never stayed out past midnight on new moon days."

Looking around, periamma glanced at the sky and exclaimed, "Oh, what a coincidence! Look, today is a new moon day ." The pleasant breeze which had been blowing all along instantly seemed to get colder. The children huddled closer together. Just then, the clock struck midnight. The chimes had barely died away when another sound became audible. "Chan, chan, chan" - the sound of anklets.

The children gave one whoop of terror and jumped up. They ran pell-mell inside the house, jumped into a bed and lay in a shivering heap under the blankets.

Periamma came after them and turned on the lights, "Come on kids! It is not a ghost. It is just the maid-servants from the nearby apartment complexes returning home after a long day at work. You can look outside to check if you want."

The children cautiously peered out of the window. Sure enough, there were two women (with perfect human forms and, more importantly, visible feet) walking down the dark road. Chan, chan - the women's anklets tinkled with every step. The children relaxed. Still, there was very little talking as they quietly got ready to go to bed.

They never pestered periamma for ghost stories again. At least not at night.

*periamma can either refer to mother's older sister or wife of father's elder brother.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Dear Diary,

You will never believe what I discovered at Kohl's today. I have dropped a jean size :-D! Really. I first tried a pair of capris in the smaller size. It fit perfectly. Just to be sure I tried on a pair of jeans in the smaller size. And it fitted again. Yaaaaaaaay :-D!

I don't know how long this has been the case. It never even struck me that I should try a smaller size while shopping in spite of all the "you are looking thin" comments I have been getting. Till I went shopping last Saturday with my visiting friend and she looked doubtfully at the jeans I was holding and said, "Hmm, you should maybe try a smaller size." I totally disregarded this advice and bought my regular size.

On Monday morning I sadly pinged her, "I am wearing my new jeans and they are loose around the waist. I need to buy a belt now." Turns out getting a smaller size would have been a better solution :-D.

So after eons of wearing the same sized clothes, I am going down a size now. Nah-nah, I am not going to revamp my wardrobe or anything. You should know better than anyone, diary, about how sometimes even breathing the kitchen air adds pounds onto me.

But the smaller-sized capri I have bought to commemorate this occassion looks super fab. Besides, it goes really well with the big grin I have on my face right now.


p.s. I know I said no diaryish posts for a month. But if this news does not qualify for a dear diary post, I don't know what does.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


As I have mentioned elsewhere in my blog, I used to have a good memory for remembering birthdays and wishing people. As I grew older, my memory turned out to be not so reliable. Which was when I became a member of birthdayalarm so that it could send me reminders. Cheating, I agree. But it helps me remember birthdays which was my goal anyways. Who does not like to be remembered on their birthday, no matter how the remembrance actually happened?

Till the time I totally relied upon my memory to aid me in remembering birthdays, I used to get quite annoyed with my friends when they did not remember mine. After all, I took the effort to remember, right? So why couldn't they?

With my own memory lapses came empathy. My friends were not forgetting my birthday because they wanted to or because they couldn't care less. It just so happened that their memory, for whatever reason, was not at its sharpest that day. So nowadays, I am a lot more tolerant.

However, try as I might, I still have a tough time not getting cross with the really close friends/family for lapses. Maybe it is natural to expect much more from people who are close to you.

Recently, when I was talking to someone about birthdays and wishing, they jokingly asked me if I had a people-list against which I placed check-marks if the people wished me on time. I burst out laughing and told them how ridiculous I thought the idea was.

After a while it struck me - I do seem to have some kind of mental list of people I definitely expect to hear from. While I am thrilled and very happy about getting wishes from everyone else, if anyone on the list forgets, I feel a twinge of disappointment.

Nothing wrong with wanting it all, eh :-)?

How many of you care about people wishing you on your birthday? And to what extent?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ten year plan

At long last I am doing the tag Joy (do you even remember it?) passed to me ages ago. I am supposed to jot down my plans for the next ten years. Given my exemplary planning abilities, I decided to modify the tag a little so that I can instead list ten things I hope to do in the next ten years. I thought for a bit and here is my list:

1. Learn swimming well enough to be allowed to go on a class 4/class 5 whitewater rafting trip.
2. Bungee jump.
3. Learn to play the keyboard properly.
4. Visit Europe.
5. Visit Africa. (Don't worry, though I want to go everywhere, the next five points are not in the for (Continent c in continentList) { print "Visit " + c} list).
6. Switch careers.
7. Run at least a half-marathon.
8. Finish reading Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (people who have been observing my reading list on the right pane for a while now will understand).
9. Go on a round-the-world cruise with my family (one life - so many places to see).
10. Still be blogging.

Check back on March 12th, 2018 to see how I fared :-)!

This time I am going to bug (does anyone even care?) these folks to continue this tag:

- Shilpa (ah, you should have never told me you are relatively "free" this week)
- J (I don't remember seeing any tag on your blog)
- Saumya (hey, I have never tagged you)
- Vishesh (even after you add ten years to your current age, you will still be younger than what I am right now and I want to see whether I have done any of the things you want to do)

p.s. I just did a quick Google check on the world cruise thingie. The cheapest ticket for a single person for a 106 day trip is $54,000. Erm, I better get back to working.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Month of non-day-to-day happenings posts

I realized that of late my blog is beginning to read more and more like a day-to-day diary of my life. So starting today I am going to go an entire month without writing about things which happened in the recent past. Of course, it is quite possible that this might result in this blog taking a hiatus for a month - but hey, that's like a double bonus for you nice readers!

p.s. I do know my blog has always been about me and my life. But it seems to me that its become way too much about me and my current life nowadays. This fact hit home hard when I recently charged a good friend with going AWOL and she responded that she catches up on my life by reading my blog and hence feels like she is in regular touch without actually keeping in touch! Ouch.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


- Eating at four different restaurants, each with the lip-smacking end result of "I am so stuffed I can't eat a bite more"

- Five and a half hours of non-stop walking around with window-shopping. And stopping to browse at "just one more shop" before heading restaurant-wards though legs were in killing mode.

- Meeting a big group consisting of about fourteen unknown people and giggling silly over it. Insiduously trying to get more info about one of those members and winding up with, "Gosh, I think we blew it."

- Jumping up at 2.00a in the morning with, "Oh shoot, its actually 3.00a now because of Daylight Savings - we better get to bed" to make it to brunch at one of the four places mentioned in point number one.

- Non-stop chatter about everything from books and five ways to distinguish fresh-off-the-boat-desis to why change is nice.

- Not at all noticing the passage of almost forty eight hours.

I did not do anything "special" this weekend. Yet, it has been the most relaxing and wonderful weekend I have had in a while now.

Adieu weekend. I am so charged for the week ahead that even the unceremonious loss of an hour has barely made a dent in my enthusiasm.

Did I mention? Having friends you love spending time with while being yourself must be the biggest blessing. Ever.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Summer is coming!

I love the beginning of the ride towards glorious summer (some of you may call it Spring - but I doubt the Bay makes distinct distinctions).

- For the past one week, everytime I cross a window or go outside around 5.30p in the evening, my face automatically breaks into a grin when I notice it is not dark outside yet. And what's more, everyday, the duration of daylight is getting longer. Yaay!

- Today, for the first time in God knows how many months, I walked outside without a sweatshirt or cold-weather wear of any kind and did not shiver. We also ate lunch outside in the sun afterwards.

- The trees are blooming. There are these trees on either side of the road outside my office. Right now there are pretty pink flowers on them, lining every single branch. It is all I can do to not break out into song when I walk under them.

- The jogging/walking/running crowd is out in full force. Shorts, capris and the ocassional skirt is making a comeback.

- My apartment heater has been in off mode for a while now. I am not even wearing a sweater at home today though the windows are open.

- The mustard fields near my workplace are a sunny riot of yellow. If the Aditya Chopras and the Karan Johars of the world had offices nearby, salwar-kameez clad heroines with flowing-dupattas would be running through the fields everyday now.

- The sun has been shining merrily every single morning for almost a week.

Yes, I am lovin' it.

Update (March 06 2k8): I knew fully well I was tempting fate even as I wrote this post. But I sure did not expect fate to be quite so prompt in reacting. Today is cloudy and cold. And rain is slated for the entire weekend. Talk about retribution.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Not about any particular thing

Seems like I have been away from my blog for quite a while now (~10 days of no-posting is a long time - for me). My brain simply seems to have dried up and is currently devoid of topics to write about. That being the case, I should probably quietly close the browser window about now. But then, ha - when was the last time I listened to reason?

Anyways, past couple of weeks have been fairly hectic and stressful at work. Everyone has been coping up decently well though, doing whatever it takes to remain sane.

- The other day our manager wanted to talk to my colleague T. "T", she called, as she walked towards his cubicle. Once there, she was puzzled to see his chair empty - she had just seen him entering his cube. That was when she spotted T hiding under his table. She burst out laughing and T said mock sadly as he got up, "Oh man, she found me. Now I will get more work."

- H had been doing a lot of development work and had been lagging behind on writing the unit tests. One fine day, he reported during the status meeting "Oh, I finally wrote a couple of tests today". Another colleague, K, immediately grinned and piped up, "Oh, that's why I saw pigs flying outside today." I have heard people say "that's why it started raining" to express disbelief. But using the pig phraseology in this context was new to me and completely cracked me up (I was also imagining a pig wearing a pink night-cap and flying). I think I was stifling my laughter for the entire duration of the status meeting.

- One of my colleagues recently returned from a trip to Europe. He had brought back Cadbury's chocolates for everyone. For some reason, they reminded me of India and I simply loved them. Towards the end of the day, I walked into the kitchen and found a last half piece of chocolate still left. With glee, I announced, "I am going to eat this last piece" when my colleague D swooped in behind me and grabbed the last piece. I turned around and gave him a glare which would have probably melted Mt.Everest. D meekly put back the last piece and walked away. Moral of the story: Never mess with a girl and her chocolate!

Appropos of nothing, I learnt a new descriptive phrase from Wordsmith's 'A Word a Day' mailing list (which btw, is completely awesome) last week. How many of you folks have encountered a Job's comforter at some point in time?

p.s. Whoever would have thought there would been an actual Wikipedia article titled "When pigs fly"? Wikipedia rocks!