Monday, March 23, 2009

Mahabharata's hidden cast

So the other day I was getting my monthly Hollywood entertainment news fix. As a rule, this is done when getting my monthly indulgence pedicure (mmmmmhhhh). However, this time round, I found myself in a waiting lounge with more than an hour to kill and a fairly recent issue of People magazine nestling in the waiting room literature.

I have heard (and seen) that some westerners feel that any vague information they know related to India makes them a minor authority on exotic/spiritual a.k.a Indian stuff. With such folks, it usually becomes fairly obvious that this exotic knowledge extends to hearing of the name Gandhi or attending yoga classes or seeing *one* made-for-an-international-audience Indian movie. Usually I just smile indulgently when I come across such examples.

But this comment from Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (no, I don't know him from Adam and frankly, I don't care either - I just memorized his name so I could make fun of him *evil grin*) I read in the magazine made me giggle uncontrollably. Basically various celebrities were asked about books they had liked. Our hero had to be different and make this thoroughly enlightened remark:

"The Mahabharata. It's pretty extraordinary. It includes the ultimate symbols of romance, like Emperor Shah Jahan building the Taj Mahal for his wife."
Dude, while I do agree that the Mahabharata is filled with countless main characters, side characters and sides for the side characters, to the best of my belief and knowledge, Emperor Shah Jahan, his wife and the Taj Mahal very definitely do not feature in the cast. Thank you.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Status update

I know there are at least two people who *will* read this blog irrespective of what I write in it: 1. Mommy dearest 2. SK. At least they have promised so. So I shall assume they do and keep up my word of trying to post at least once a week.

So, what have I been upto?

- I have officially gotten green tea mania. All efforts by parents/friends to make me drink green tea the past few years have resulted in me going, "Yuck, this so tastes like boiled green leaves" except when I am downing it with Chinese or Japanese food. But a few weeks ago I got sudden inspiration (I read plenty of great things about green tea, which I have read before too - but the stars aligned that day) to inculcate green tea into my daily diet. The first few days were torture - I had to mask the taste of the tea with other condiments and had to force myself to gulp it down while scrunching up my face in a very unladylike manner. But soon the tasted started to grow on me. Believe it or not folks, I have now given up on my morning and noon-time coffee and replaced it with green tea and drink at least three cups a day - yaay! Now whether this change is actually having any effect on my health is completely debatable. At any rate, I feel highly virtuous when I thumb my nose at the coffee pot while passing it in the kitchen!

- This crazy California weather is driving me crazy. Some nights start out warm only to turn extremely cold by day break. Other nights start out cold and become all warm and cozy by day break. Since I am too intent upon sleeping to either pull on another comforter or take one off the huge pile on top of me, I wind either shivering or sweating on most mornings. Aaaaaargh!

- Adjusting to the day light savings time change this year was a breeze. I had a class to go to on the morning of the DST change and hence could not sleep in and had to get up per the adjusted time. Thus I did not have to experience the shock of finding the time ahead of what I had expected it to be all day. After 7 years of going through DST change, I finally realize that all I had needed to not feel grumpy when DST began was to get up by the adjusted DST clock as soon as it changed. Oh well, better late than never!

- Never buy that big bag of spinach from Costco unless you have to feed a family of 10 adults. Seriously, that bag is like an akshaya-patram - never ending. I have eaten enough spinach in the past one week to turn me into a green-hued human being. Yet I still have more than one third of the bag left to finish. I think I am going to take the advice of my colleagues and boil and freeze the rest of it for future use to avoid automatic gag-reflex at the sight of spinach.

- Everyone should invest some money in the stock-market and/or join some kind of fitness program just so they have something to talk about at the office lunch hour. These topics provide an inexhaustible source of conversation and also help tremendously in redirecting conversation when it starts heading towards details of how little Munna/Chutki/Poppins celebrated their birthday or starts a "my kid is smarter/is naugtier/eats worse than yours" contest.

- I really ought to come up with better topics for a blog post. I think I have caught a particularly virulent strain of writer's block. Get well soon to me!

Monday, March 02, 2009


It has been raining and pouring in California for the past few weeks. Not continuously but often enough. However news reports continue to insist that California is still not out of the drought danger red-zone. So I am stoically bearing all the rain instead of whining about it (so noble, I know!).

Surprisingly enough, the weather is no longer that cold. No need to turn on the heater or bury myself under 3 comforters at night. I can even make short trips outside with just a t-shirt and sweats on - cool or what?

One complaint about the otherwise glorious bay area weather for me is the lack of warmth when it rains. I originally come from a place (Chennai, India) where, when the monsoon rains come, it is hot too. So, there, it is perfect to go out prancing in the rain, come back indoors, dry oneself and be as good as new again. A similar scenario in the bay area would be: go out prancing in the rain, come back indoors, dry oneself and most probably land up with a severe case of cold and/or pneumonia. Sigh.

While in Chennai, along with the warmth, the rainy season brought a lot of inconvenience with it. The roads used to get routinely flooded and the usually unpredictable bus schedules became even more erratic. Plodding through ankle deep water in the rains to get to and from school was routine and wading in knee-deep water was not at all uncommon.

However, in spite of everything, with all the exuberance of youth (waah, I am actually beginning to reflect upon youth), I used to look forward to the rainy season. For one, when it rained, it was quite exciting and suspenseful to see if our schools would be closed or not. Usually, one of these two things used to happen: 1). The government would declare a holiday the day *after* a storm/cyclone had passed - so all school kids had the joy of sitting comfortably at home on a perfectly dry and sunny day 2) All kids would already have battled the rain and the floods and reached school only to be told that the school was
closed thus necessitating them to repeat the same arduous journey in the reverse direction immediately.

On the days we went to school and were surprised by an unexpectedly heavy downpour later in the day, getting back home was an adventure in itself. Only a few kids, if any, would have brought an umbrella as a precautionary measure for the rainy season. As a result, sometimes as many as four of us would try to squeeze under one small umbrella as we tried to keep dry (obviously unsuccessfully). Once we made it to the bus stop, the vigilant gaze for the arrival of the bus would begin. Our Pallavan buses were sometimes so state-of-the-art that it would rain right *inside* the bus too and we used to wonder if we should open our umbrellas inside also!

When I was small, for the longest time I used to think that wearing a rain-coat as opposed to carrying an umbrella was the uber-coolest thing ever. I begged and pleaded with my parents to buy me a rain coat and promised to diligently take care of it. Eventually my whining got on their nerves (hehe, I whine well) and they bought me a pale pink raincoat with dark pink flowers on it. I could barely wait for the next rain.

The next rain came and I proudly wore my rain-coat to school. On the way I felt hot and sweaty. When I reached school and took off my rain coat, I felt like I had just walked out of a slow cooking oven. I discovered for myself what my parents had known all along - rain coats are simply too warm for the hot and humid Indian weather! Of course, considering all the fuss I had made, there was no way I could complain and I resourcefully came up with plausible excuses to avoid wearing the rain-coat! Unlike umbrellas which used to disappear, never to be seen again, into some nether zone with metronome-like regularity, this rain-coat stuck around for the longest time and never got lost. I don't remember what eventually happened to it.

Another thing which I used to covet was colorful patterned umbrellas. The standard issue umbrellas were plain black. While they did their job just fine, my heart longed for colors. Given that my sister and I lost umbrellas like we were being given a special badge of honor to do so, my parents weren't too keen on investing in the more expensive colorful umbrellas. Finally, they succumbed and my sister got a checkered pink and patterned umbrella while I got a light blue flowered umbrella with a dark blue border. Surprise, surprise - we somehow never lost them (though we still *did* manage to lose black umbrellas occassionally) and eventually threw the colorful umbrellas away only when they broke.

In spite of the raincoats and umbrellas, sometimes the rain was so heavy that it was impossible to stay dry. At those times, I would come home to find hot water waiting for me. After a nice hot bath, mom would dry my hair as I sipped on the hot tea and munched on the hot snacks she would have made. Bliss!

Those are some vignettes from my Indian rainy reminiscences. This post has become longer than I intended it to be - so I will save rainy reminiscences in the USA for another day!