Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Party girl

My friend Shilpa had invited me to her kid's first birthday party. This party was happening on the 26th of December in Bangalore, the same day that a milestone occasion of close relatives was being celebrated in Chennai as well.

Thankfully, while the family party was in the afternoon, Shilpa's party was going to be held in the evening. The total party girl that I am (or more truthfully, wanting to attend both parties), I decided I would attend the family party, then hop onto a flight to Bangalore, attend the other party and return to Chennai the next day (sounds so jet-setting, right?).

Thus, tickets were booked and I was all set.

December 25th night, I decided to check in for my flight to Bangalore for the next day, at 3.25pm. To my delight, I found no one else had checked in for the flight and I checked into seat 1F, right behind the pilot, as I told my family proudly later. Which was when my dad pricked my delight bubble and told me that if no one else had checked in, it was quite possible that my flight would be canceled. Oh? Ouch.

The next morning, the day of the parties, saw me feverishly packing stuff to take to Bangalore. I would be leaving for the airport straight from Party #1. That was when the SMS alert came on my phone. Ta da! The flight to Bangalore was canceled. Ugh.

The next 45 minutes saw me on the phone to Jet Airways while they confirmed that I had now been moved to the 5.35pm flight to Bangalore. Um, I would be landing right when the Party #2 started, but as long as I went dressed in my party dress, I would still be able to make it to most of the party. Okay, all set again.

Party #1 turned out to be a total blast and everyone had a wonderful time. After the party, some guests came back home with us. While S entertained the guests, I dressed up for Party #2, again at a feverish pace, wishing that I could have spent more time with the guests.

After bidding good-bye to our guests, S and I rushed to the airport. I was dropped off and I went off to check-in, all the while feeling utterly conscious about my blingy party dress (maybe from now on I wont be so judgmental about people in airports who look like they ran away from a party). At the counter fell the first blow. My 5.35pm flight was now delayed to 6.25pm. What!!!!

Shilpa's party would be starting at 6.30pm and I would now only be landing at 7.15pm. But the brave little soldier that I am, I figured that since this was an Indian party, the guests would show up according to IST only and thus I would not miss too much of the party (I can be a little too optimistic sometimes). When told about the delay, S asked if I was planning to go all the way to Bangalore just so that I could wish Shilpa good night and come back. Har har.

So 4.10pm to 5.40pm saw me seated at the gates in the airport, shivering slightly. In my rush I had forgotten to grab a jacket and a book. The latter was remedied by buying a magazine.

At 5.45 pm, I was all ready to be called for boarding. Which was when a voice over the intercom announced that the flight to Bangalore was now delayed to 7.00pm due to unavoidable reasons and "we are extremely sorry about the delay". I had a great idea about where exactly they could shove their sorry but being of the polite type, decided not to tell them.

At this point, even optimistic me had to concede defeat. There was no point traveling all the way to Bangalore for a party if I couldn't attend the said party. I lugged my suitcase back to the jet airways counter to ask for a refund. The funny part here was I had more difficulty in getting out of the security check area than getting into it (I was not asked for ID at any point while getting in). However, my thundercloud-like, irritated, disappointed and annoyed face got me out quickly enough.

Thus, 2 hours after entering the airport, I was outside again, waiting to be picked up by S, without ever stepping onto an aircraft.

The best laid plans of mice and women...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thanksgiving

I know its almost a month past thanksgiving but hey, it is always the season to give thanks! Never mind that most of these thanks are for inconsequential teensy things.

1. I am thankful
... that we can now afford to employ a house-help to do daily household work. No more washing dishes or folding clothes. Hallelujah!

Not so thankful though
... that I can't sleep in on weekends because I have to be up to let the maid in.

2. I am thankful
... that we have a circulating library which delivers weekly/fortnightly/monthly magazines right to our doorstep to be read and returned in 2 days.

Not so thankful though
... that when I am busy, I get so guilty about returning the magazines unread that I actually read through them at a feverish pace like I was cramming for an exam.

3. I am thankful
... that festivals are such a joy to celebrate in India.

Not so thankful though
... that all the happy stuffing of yummy festival food always results in post-postprandial remorse after looking at the newly added bodily inches.

4. I am thankful
... for the abundant rain Chennai has been blessed with this rainy season. The weather is lovely and Chennai rains are a joy to get drenched in.

Not so thankful though
... about the crater-sized potholes roads are spotting these days. Seriously, do they construct roads here using mud or what?

5. I am thankful
... about our new washing machine which has an absolutely cool delay feature which lets me set up the wash before going to bed to be ready just in time for the maid to hang up to dry the next morning.

Not so thankful though
... well, this one is all good. I ain't complaining.

6. I am thankful
... that curd sets without any molly-coddling here. Seriously, you just add some yogurt to a bowl of warm milk and five hours later, the curd is brilliantly set. Only people who have tried making curd in cold climes will understand the joy of watching this happen!

Not so thankful though
... that set curd goes sour at a very rapid speed too. Ouch.

7. I am thankful for
... having both our families so close by that we can visit and get visited whenever we want.

Not so thankful though
... this one is all good too!

Overall I am more thankful than not-thankful.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Great

I met again with my friend Shilpa after more than a year and a half. Since we first met (19 year ago now, man, time flies), this is probably the longest we have gone without meeting up. But of course, the moment we met, it was like we had been chatting together forever. That is the best part about close friends, time apart never affects anything.

Shilpa had traveled by herself to Chennai to attend to some official work. Though she was here for exactly a day, it was a great one day. We shunted S out to the hall and chatted late into the night till we couldn't keep our eyes open any more. We talked about everything under the sun - it was just like the good old times when we were in school. The chatting continued at all the times when we weren't asleep and time just flew.


Since we have known each other for so long, there are hardly any sides, good or bad, of one, that are unknown to the other. And since we like each other the way we are, we can simply be ourselves when we meet and get right down to the business of having a good time.

I totally had a jolly good time!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cosmopolitan

I am not a regular reader of Cosmopolitan magazine nor I do I personally know any other regular readers. But I have read about other people either swearing by the magazine or making fun of its articles. I am currently reading a Cosmo and I think I will fit snugly into the latter category.

Sample one of the tips from a Cosmo article about "50 ways to become a legendary flirt" (no, I have no idea why anyone would want to become a legendary flirt):

Take a sip of your mocha latte, stare into the eyes of the barista who made it and moan "Oh, yeah...that is sooo good." Next time, watch your drink appear before everyone else's.

Just visualizing the above scenario made me dissolve into laughter. If I moaned in the coffee shop at a barista, I am sure the barista will back away slowly while simultaneously reaching out for some heavy object.

Seriously, who comes up with these tips and ideas? More importantly, who are the poor sods who implement them??

p.s. I did not read the rest of the tips. After laughing through the first 9 tips, I decided that I do not have it in me to become a flirt, much less a legendary one.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Woman's era

When I was a kid, I remember two English magazines for women used to be popular. One was Femina and the other was Woman's Era. Of the two, Women's Era was my favorite since each issue used to feature at least 5-6 fictional stories and I used to be a story junkie those days. See, I even used to read up all the stories in my English textbooks as soon as we picked up new books for the school year. Thus, Woman's Era (WE) was my favorite since it featured far more stories than the non-fictional-article-rich Femina.

However, it did not take me much growing up to realize that though the stories in WE were plentiful, plentiful in quality they were not. Most of the stories featured English which sounded like it had been written by someone with a Standard 8 education (with English as a second language) - for all I know, it *had* been written by such authors. Many sentences and phrases sounded like they had been literally translated from some other language. The pictures accompanying the stories mostly matched the stories' written quality.

Soon, I started reading the stories more for the unintentional  humor the English usage sometimes provided and also to hone my English grammar police skills. In my immediate family, all the lady folks have this tendency towards grammar-policing. I tell you, we can get pretty annoying when we "gently" remind someone that it is whether not weather and it's and its are not interchangeable.

Once I moved to the US, my WE reading came to an abrupt halt. We used to get WE back home from the circulating library and obviously, the US did not feature circulating libraries which included WE in its collections. Soon, WE and its stories got relegated to some distant corner of my brain.

Then, during one of my India vacations, amidst all the eating, relative-visiting and function-attending, I glimpsed a WE on the coffee table at home. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it now featured a glossy cover with a decent layout and the pages were also of better quality. I had a slight twinge of nostalgia though, as I thought of the WE of yore and how so many things change as life goes on.

Then I browsed to one of the stories. Photographs had now replaced the amateurish drawings which used to accompany the stories earlier. I started to read the story. And slowly a smile spread itself across my face. In spite of the all the fancy-shancy packaging, WE was still the same. All the Standard 8, English-as-a-second-language authors were still very much on board.

I tell you, it is such a great comfort to know that no matter how much the rest of the world marches on by, some things will never change!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Weather forecast

How does it never fail?

Two days from Diwali, so that the last of the crackers could be burst too (isn't that perfect timing?), it started raining in Chennai. Not just ordinary rainy season rains but rains due to Cyclone Jal. I woke up on Sunday morning to heavily clouded and darkened skies, gusty winds and the sound of incessant, water-fall strength showers. Cyclone it was.

Cyclone Jal was off the north Tamilnadu coast and was expected to cross into the land on Sunday night, bringing heavier showers and winds with it. Sunday noon was spent in talking about the impending cyclone and how it would affect nephew's upcoming wedding reception on Monday evening.

Then it happened. The TV news came on and the newscaster announced that all schools and colleges would be closed on Monday on account of the impending cyclone. Immediately, cheers went up.

Because this announcement meant two things: 1. All my school/college going relatives would get an unexpected reprieve from school/college. 2. The cyclone would most definitely circumvent Chennai and Monday would be a rain-free and quite possibly, a sunny day too. Hassle-free wedding reception, here we come!

For, you see, it is one of the unwritten laws of cyloning. Whenever a day is given off for educational institutions on account of an impending cyclone, the cyclone shalt not come by and normal weather shalt prevail*. This law has *always* been followed  for as long as I can remember.

Thus, today, Monday, is a cloudy, albeit rain-free day. And this is the news I read this morning.

I told you right? It never fails.

* corollary to this law is, whenever educational institutes are not closed for impending cyclones, heavy rains shalt hit with great fury and causing much discomfort and inconvenience to the full-time learning public. Basically, you can't win.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Ten steps to write a chick-lit novel

1. Start with a heroine. She has to be thin and have other characters tell her from time to time that she is pretty. So that readers know that inspite of her modesty, she *is* attractive.
1a) Heroine could have been fatter/uglier before current time - this opens possibilities for adding dimensions to heroine's character.
1b) Heroine has to be a sweet little innocent thing. But most importantly, she is also "endearingly" stupid. Foolish women look a lot more convincing as damsels in distress.
1c) Heroine is grown-up physically only (can be anywhere in her 20s). Mental age is about 3.5 years with generous doses of selfishness, self-centeredness and neediness thrown in. All of which only adds to her endearingness.
2. Introduce heroine's female (or gay male) friend/sister who is way more interesting than the heroine and also functions as a responsible adult acting her (his) age. This person is great friends with the heroine. Opposites evidently attract.

3. Put heroine in a situation from which anyone with an IQ greater than -30 could have got themselves out of satisfactorily. Heroine though, should wait with enormous bambi eyes to be rescued.

4. Enter the tall, dark and handsome (or blond, blue-eyed and gorgeous) hero to the rescue. Note: hero should not look like he is rescuing out of a general sense of pity for stupid people. He should be rescuing because he is charmed by the heroine's endearingness (see point 1c above).

5. Heroine starts mooning about hero. Exhibits innocenter and innocenter(read: stupid) behavior. Hero gets more and more charmed.

6. Ominous music - introduce hero's current girlfriend. Current GF is a totally hot, confident, independent and smart woman. Making her the total b*tch.

7. Add episodes showing how hero and current-GF are totally unsuited for each other. Hero obviously did not realize he digs only innocent and helpless (read: stupid) women.

8. Make hero and current-GF break up over some trifle. Note: don't make current-GF look jubilant like she got the luckiest break of her life.

9. Let hero make a move and proclaim undying love for heroine. Let heroine accept endearingly.

10. Hero and heroine should continue proclaiming undying love for each other and sail off into the sunset together.

THE END.

Optional
- ex-boyfriend for heroine. This BF can be used to create the next optional situation.
- in between, allow the hero and heroine to have misunderstandings and then understandings and then make up and continue down the path of true love.
- if the story warrants, pick unbearably smug over endearingly stupid as the heroine. The pretty and thin requirements stay the same.
- throw in conflicts with parents/siblings etc to show why heroine/hero is to be pitied for being such a brave little soldier.

******
Ugh, ugh, ugh - do most easy-breezy rom-com type novels have to be this annoying and formulaic? Ever since Bridget Jones' Diary came out, most chick-flick novel writers seem to be laboring under the impression that dumb, wishy-washy, immature women constitute the most attractive female species on the planet. Just because it worked once (I loved reading Bridget Jones' diary), it does not mean that the reading public does not want to bean the next self-absorbed twit of a heroine on the head as hard as possible (case in point, Rebecca Bloomwood of the Shopaholic series - ugh ugh ugh).

Serves me right for reading such books, I guess.

p.s. These are NOT M&B books - I have not read M&Bs and never will. These are the supposedly easy-reads written by authors like Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot etc. Not that these are superior to M&Bs or something.

Friday, October 29, 2010

You know you have been working too hard on new technology...

... when you google for a recipe for Vegetable Pulao and are surprised to not be flooded with the usual results featuring a cornucopia of foodie blogs and instead seeing generic food sites.

Then realize your search term was not "Vegetable Pulao recipe" like you thought you had typed but "Vegetable Pulao example"

Sigh. And they say working remotely is so much more relaxing.

Right.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I'm waiting

Now I know what I have been missing for the past nine years:
(in no particular order)
  • Deciding what fireworks to order.
  • Planning for the arrival of guests.
  • Happily braving the crowds to get new clothes shopping done.
  • Visiting sweet shops buzzing with activity, busy handling advance orders.
  • Seeing offers on sugar, ghee and other such groceries so that the ladies of the house can get a head-start on the sweets and snacks prepartion.
  • Reading newspapers filled with pages and pages of special offers.
  • Navigating through temporary platform shops selling mud lamps.
  • Watching TV inundated with ads hawking everything from sarees and veshtis to discounts for refrigerators and TVs.
  • Feeling the festive spirit all around, Indian style!
Yes, Deepavali is fast approaching! I can barely wait! So much so, I am even eagerly waiting to get up at 4.00am to have the traditional oil bath. Really.

Yes, it feels great to be home for Deepavali!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mummee

With the number of reality shows broadcast on Tamil television growing by the minute, the number of judges required for judging such shows is also going up exponentially. Thus, any person who is even slightly famous (read: acted in one movie) can be spotted "judging" one or the other of these reality shows.

S and I were watching one of these shows today while playing cards. The show featured participants who had some special talent to showcase. The best of these participants then got to go to the next round.

The judges were JM (male) and JF (female) both of whom have in all probability acted in 3 movies(combined total) so far. Which explains why I have absolutely no clue who these folks were. But I can tell for sure that both these judges were definitely over 20 years of age, quite possibly older. Definitely not 2 years old. This point is relevant later in the post.

On the show, one of the participants let hot candle wax drip all over himself (!!!!) and finished the act by dripping wax over his tongue (!!!!!!). Not surprisingly, JM and JF ooohed and aahed over his ability to endure pain. JM then jokingly told JF that she should try to drip wax onto her tongue too. JF refused pronto - obviously. Then JF volunteered that she would let a bit of candle wax drip over her hand instead.

The compere promptly brought over some lit candles to the judges table. JF was about to drip wax over her hand when she suddenly stopped and said in a childish voice, "Wait a minute. I need to ask mummee". I thought this was her way of releasing tension before doing some thing.

Nopes - JF was serious and her mother was in the audience. JF turned her head to mummy to wait for the response. A second later she said, "Mummee said no, so I am not going to drip wax."

I was gobsmacked. Which adult person asks their mother to give them permission to do something so trivial? On TV? Especially when they are judging some show? Unless of course, said person is 2 years old which JF was most definitely not.

I have heard that many adult actress's mothers come along for shoots. Never realized that this could be because darling daughter might die otherwise because she could not ask Mummee permission to breath.

p.s. In case either the channel or JF thought it was "Awww - so cute!", unfortunately, it was much more like "Ugh - so retarded!".

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ayutha Pooja

Happy Ayutha Pooja!

Remember the part about being in India to celebrate festivals that I had written about in my moving to India post? Here's one of the whys:



That's the absolutely delicious home-cooked Ayutha Pooja special lunch at parents' place today. Shown in pic: Medu vada, sundal, beans usili, arbi fry, sankegourd kootu, potato pal-curry, poori and appalam. Not shown dal, sambhar, rasam, rice, curds and payasam.

Burp!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Strangers and magnets

Yesterday noon we were at home. Being the good bharatiya nari that I am 0:-), I was busy making lunch. The door bell rang. We usually don't have visitors showing up without calling first. Thiking it was the service-person asking if we had clothes for ironing, I peered through the peep-hole. Only to find a complete stranger-lady outside. I cautiously opened the door.

This lady said that she was coming from the Indane (gas company) office and she had come by to check the safety of the gas connection. Now, considering that we have not even received our long-ago ordered gas connection yet (we are cooking on a borrowed gas cylinder currently), I thought sending someone to check the non-existent connection was a bit rich. However gas-lady was not to be put off. She was running checks on all houses and would check borrowed connections too - for free! Thinking it over, I realized, a) S was at home too b) gas-lady was female. So risk of letting stranger into home was kinda minimimal. Thus I took her to the kitchen.

Gas-lady started checking connections. That was when my brain engaged into paranoia mode. What if this lady belonged to a gang of thieves who were surveying potential houses to rob? Or what if she was a solo-robber? I stood a little away from gas-lady (to avoid being chloroformed - I told you I have an active imagination) and watched her like a hawk so I could scream at the slightest odd behavior.

Gas-lady made some motions of checking the connections. Then she revealed the real reason for her visit. She was selling some magnetic gas saving gadget. Instead of being annoyed at being conned like this along with being interrupted in the lunch-making process, relief flooded through me. Yaay - she was not a potential burglar!

By this time, S came by to see what gas-lady was upto as well. We both listened open-mouthed as gas-lady gave some ultra-vague theory about how affixing magnets near the cylinder source would miraculously allow gas in a cylinder to last for 60 days as opposed to 40 days. Umm - right. We asked if she had proof of some study conducted to validate that claim. Oh no, said gas-lady, people have been using the device only for 6 months or so now. That there are plenty of 40 day chunks in a 6-month period did not strike her.

At this point, gas-lady realized that S and me were of too scientific a bent of mind to buy into her magent-attracts-steel-in-gas-tube-leading-to-fuel-efficiency theory. Disappointed, she packed her magnets and left.

When I later narrated my thought-sequences to S, he told me that it was good idea to listen to misgivings *before* letting strangers into the house rather than after. Good point, that.

p.s. I did google search and apparently there is some credence to magnetic fuel saving contraptions. Who would have thunk! Though the reason is most definitely not what gas-lady told us.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Conversations with friends - II

So this morning sis sent a forward. I found it funny and forwarded it further to a few friends. This was the subsequent email conversation between friend V and me:

On Sun, Oct 10, 2010 at 11:46 AM, V wrote:
BLASPHEMY!!!!!!!

On Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 12:15 PM, Archana wrote:
Oh no - does this mean I am going to be smote by lightning anytime soon :-P??

On Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 12:32 PM, V wrote:
God is very angry with you right now .
You know which God, dont you... dont you, infidel?

On Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 1:10 PM, Archana wrote:
Um - are you talking about Jesus? One likes to be clear about such things so that when one is about to be smote by lightning one knows which name to ask for mercy.

On Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 1:30 PM, V wrote:
no, idiot - Jesus is the son of God, not God! - duh!
just God - English God!

On Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 1:46 PM, Archana wrote:
Why English God? Huh, huh? Why this racism? That too, for a forward forwarded in India. Hmph. Racist Gods!

On Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 1:49 AM, V wrote:
Ufff - it is the official language!

On Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 2:26 PM, Archana wrote:
No dummy I was referring to English as in the race. Not English as in the language. Doh!

On Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 2:52 PM, V wrote:
English is not a race.. Doher!!

On Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 3:37 PM, Archana wrote:
Um - so explain the term Englishman.... Dohest!!!

Much later:

On Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 7:07 PM, V wrote:
Yea.. there was no comeback for dohest. So I slept and took a shower instead.

On Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 7:40 PM, Archana wrote:
Eeeehaw .....
*Archana does a victory lap around her Gmail Inbox*

*****

And they say you get more mature as you get older. Right!

In case you are wondering, this is the forward which started it all:
There were 3 good arguments that Jesus was
Black:

1. He called everyone brother
2. He liked Gospel
3. He didn't get a fair trial

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was
Jewish:

1. He went into His Father's business
2. He lived at home until he was 33
3. He was sure his Mother was a virgin and his Mother was sure He was God

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was
Italian:

1. He talked with His hands
2. He had wine with His meals
3. He used olive oil

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was a
Californian:

1. He never cut His hair
2. He walked around barefoot all the time
3. He started a new religion

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was an
American Indian:

1. He was at peace with nature
2. He ate a lot of fish
3. He talked about the Great Spirit

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was
Irish:

1. He never got married..
2. He was always telling stories.
3. He loved green pastures.

But the most compelling evidence of all -

3 proofs that Jesus was a woman:

1. He fed a crowd at a moment's notice when there was virtually no food
2. He kept trying to get a message across to a bunch of men who just didn't get it
3. And even when He was dead, He had to get up because there was still work to do

AMEN!!

p.s. All of this is in fun. So please to not come after me wielding pitch-forks.
p.s.1 First installment of conversations here.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Archives

I doubt anyone remembers the days of yore when 25MB of email account space was a great big deal. I love holding onto paper letters, greeting cards and any other form of personal communication. Ask my long-suffering mom about the big bags of memorabilia hogging space at home which has every single card and letter I have ever personally received in my life. No big wonder then that, when the Internet age arrived, I hated deleting any of my emails as well.

Unfortunately, due to email space limitations (25MB), I got constant nagging reminders from all my free email accounts to please make space. Though I did try making backups before deletion, many of my electronic communications from this transition period - when people were writing paper letters less and less and at the same time, email accounts though free, came with space limitations - were lost forever.

Soon I realized that I really wanted to save emails and hit upon the idea of e-groups. I diligently created one for my immediate family and one each for each of my close circle of friends. Then it would not matter if I had to delete emails from my account - the e-groups archives still would hold all the communications.

I did not realize then that I was creating a very awesome source of timepass. Several years later, though some of the e-groups had become mostly inactive, I still loved going back to the e-group archives occasionally and reading about how my life had been back then. Some of the emails are utterly hilarious and I laugh out loud (as I did the very first time I read them and as I did upon the subsequent n readings) and some of them make me wonder why on earth some particular thing mattered so much back then. And then there are those emails reading which I am filled with relief that I have put some things behind me. Irrespective of the feeling reading an individual email evokes, ultimately, reading pld emails delights me no end.

How could I not talk about Google here? The great company which first allowed my own email account inbox to be used as an archive instead of having to create groups.

I can be loyal to a fault. But when my first-ever email account, Hotmail, refused to follow suit even after a couple of months of Google's 1GB storage space arrival, I switched to GMail and never looked back. So now I have every personal email anyone ever sent me since late 2004 (I told you I am a hoarder). Not that every email is worth storing but hey, haven't each one of them contributed in some way, big or small, to who I am today?

Google then upped the ante with GChat. Now I could also archive every conversation I had online. I was officially in Hoarder Heaven.

Now I have a dual source of timepass when I am so inclined - the e-group archives and my gmail inbox. It is fun to read. I never realized I was such a emoticon junkie back then. I still am, to a certain extent, but my emoticon usage then was really excessive! Reading the conversations I have had with various people at various points in time is even better entertainment. Some of those people I no longer even keep in touch with it either by choice or because life happened. But some conversations bring back big twinges of nostalgia. It was great fun when they happened and I miss having such conversations now. But like Somerset Maughman said:
Nothing in the world is permanent, and we're foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we're still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it. ... We can none of us step into the same river twice, but the river flows on and the other river we step into is cool and refreshing too.
So true, no?

Another great joy of digging into old emails is rediscovering old forwards and youtube videos (I mean the interesting kind. Even hoarder me deletes the unbearable ones pronto). Some gems never get old.

Moral of this post is: iI you have time to kill and are an avid emailer, discover the entertainment your inbox has to offer if you have not already done so! And rejoice that the 25MB space limitation firmly belongs to the ancient ages now.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Let there be light

With moving to a new place comes a new set of things to learn. Which switch turns on which light or fan. Which direction the taps need to be turned to make the water flow (my sense of direction in this regard is totally screwed now). Which keys to use for the front door locks. Thus, I am currently getting used to our new home.

The first time we stayed overnight at our new place, I was in bed before S. Reading at least a few sentences, lying on my side on the bed, book or magazine in hand, before going to sleep is my long established and cherished routine. Sometimes, when the book is too darn interesting, this has lead to almost night-outs as I devour page after page, helplessly unable to put the book down. I later pay for this enthusiasm in the form of bleary eyes and zombie mode the next day. The last time this happened was with book two of the Millenium series. I really liked the series, especially the heroine. I think Zooey Deschanel would make an excellent Lisbeth Salander for the movie version. Okay, I have totally digressed. Back to the story now.

Where was I? Yes, so, I was in bed and reading some book away to glory when S walked in. S is one of those weird people (seriously, how do you do that?) who has to have the lights off as soon as his head hits the pillow so he can go off to zzzz-land. Now you know why I try to go to bed earlier: to get my nightly reading fix.

So, S marched in, settled down in the bed and asked me to turn off the lights. I told him that he would have to get out of bed and walk to the the switch-board across to do the honors.

I could see S's brain whirring. He was comfortably settled in bed and definitely did not want to get up again to go turn off the lights. On the other hand, I would most certainly not get up to go turn off the lights till I had read to my heart's content - which might wind up taking a very long time. I watched as he made his decision and reluctantly got up, switched off the light and then came and settled himself back into bed.

At the exact instant he let out a contented "I am comfortable" sigh, I lifted my arm and  flicked on the dual-control light switch above my head. As light flooded the room again, the look on S's face was priceless. Obviously, I had known all along that the light had dual-controls and no walking across the room was needed.

I can be evil like that sometimes :-D.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Follow up

When I made the move to India, a friend told me that the most important tool to I would need to settle down would be the ability to follow up. Though S was doing quite some running around even then, I was still in vacation mode and did not quite grasp the importance of that bit of advice. Now that I am in active settle down mode as well, I cannot believe just how much following up every single activity requires.

Example scenario: Placing an order for something.

Me: This is what I want. Can you please note down the order and deliver it within two days?
Salesperson: Sure, I will note it down as soon as I hang up.

Two days later.
 Me: What happened to my order?
Salesperson: Oh, when did you order?
Me: Two days ago.
Salesperson: Oopz, it wasnt registered. No problem madam, now I have noted it down.

Two  more days later.
Me: I hope you are sending my order today.
Salesperson: Madam, sorry, somehow we missed it.
Me:  !@#$%^*(!*
Salesperson: I really apologize. I will definitely send it to you in two days.

Yet another two days later.
Finally it arrives. Turnaround time for a 2-day thing is usually a minimum of 6 days.

-----
Now imagine doing this for every single thing - be it a gas connection or an internet connection or a plumber visit or a product demo or anything which involves depending on someone other than yourself. Do you wonder why I have lost half my hair due to sheer frustration?

Being out of India for close to 10 years has made me forget that this is how it happens in India. But seriously, who enjoys doing this? How come things which are taken for granted in most of the rest of the civilized world become Herculean tasks in India?

And to think my biggest worry when I moved to India was thinking about the weather and the traffic. How laughable.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mahabharata revisited

The Mahabharata is one of my favorite works of fiction (part fact?). It is a humongous work with countless interesting stories and sub-stories woven into it. To add even more variety, though the basic story remains the same, there are several different interpretations of it - which is total paisa vasool in terms of the number of reading experiences you can get for reading the what boils down to essentially one story.

The best part though, which makes the epic so engrossing, is that none of the characters are larger than life. Be it a mere human or a saint or even a God, none of the characters are flawless. Of course, their not-so-virtuous actions may sometimes be considered reasonable if the reasons behind them are examined. Still, the actions by themselves are not what the ideal, perfect character would have done. Which, according to me, is super-cool, since that is how the real world usually operates.

Not surprisingly, I have been waiting to read Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Palace of Illusions. It is the story of the Mahabharatha told from Draupadi's view point. A female perspective, how could I miss it?

I laid my hands on the book a couple of weeks ago. Finally, I got to read about how Draupadi felt about being married off to five men just because an old lady made some thoughtless comment or how she was stupefied about being made a stake in a game of dice. For the record, I still feel outraged whenever I think about how Yudishthir happily staked his wife as though she was a cow or about how his brothers were so bound-by-loyalty-to-the-elder-brother that they sat watching as their wife was humiliated. Evidently, women did not count for much those days (how glad I am that I was not born in that era).

As for the book, some of the turn of phrases were pretty neat. Some of the passages detailing Draupadi's thoughts as she juggled the various men in her life were downright hilarious. Draupadi herself is not portrayed to be a Mother India or a self-sacrificing ideal queen. She is a normal human being with normal human emotions and weaknesses. But in spite of her faults or maybe because of it, she emerges as a likeable character. After all, who cannot identify with a woman who is human enough to know that something is bad for her and yet persist to do it because, you know, it made her feel good at that instant?

I thought Draupadi's transformation from shy girl to stunning queen was a bit Bollywoodish (one song and hey, we have gone from beggars to zillionaires). Also, I thought her attraction towards Karna was a bit unconvincing and at times, it felt as though this attraction was being shoved down my throat. But I guess the author needed a new fulcrum around which the story could revolve. However, considering Draupadi has interesting takes about the various characters she meets, I wish more space had been devoted to those insights rather than harping upon her (non) relationship with Karna.

Overall though, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and would certainly recommend it. Women readers would probably enjoy it more. Palace of Illusions has now whetted my appetite for the Mahabharata and I am looking forward to picking up a different interpretation soon. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Chennai weather and its effects

I had forgotten that Chennai air is very humid. So much so, moisturizer-girl a.k.a me (see point 8 here), does not even need to moisturize quite so much any more. I maintained my long-perfected moisturizer routine (quite simple, moisturizer any time, all the time) for three whole days after my arrival in Chennai. After which, a number of hitherto unseen break-outs happened over my face. Ardent moisturizing then came to a screeching halt. Now I have dumped all my heavy creams, lotions and washes for lighter and much lesser stuff and no longer stock every room with ample moisturizer. Sigh. What a sad loss for the moisturizer industry.

But, one industry's loss is another industry's gain. Within a few hours of arrival in Chennai, my hair texture started giving major competition to coconut-fibres across the country. No matter how smoothly I combed my hair, within an hour, tendrils of hair would start creeping all around my head. Not to mention the rough look my whole head would take on. Remember Monica from friends? Aaaaaargh. After seeing for myself that this battle would not be won easily, if at all, I gave in and straightened my hair at the parlour after parting with $$$. Still, considering that, skin-wise, I have never been more happy, that too with so little effort, I think I am still coming out tops. Hurrah!

That said, Chennai does get really hot at times. And it is not even summer! I am still training myself to turn on the fan in any room even if I plan to be in it only for some time. I have figured that it takes a very, very short time to feel very, very hot. Hopefully, by the time summer rolls around, I will be acclimatized enought to not completely evaporate. Amen to that.

Finally, did you folks hear about the unseasonal heavy rains in Chennai this August/September? You must have also heard this saying about how it rains where-ever good people go? And of course, you know that I relocated to Chennai this August. Have you connected the dots yet :-P?

That wraps up the weather update from here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

1 dalmatian

The first time I entered S's family's house, friendly faces greeted me from all around. Only one face growled at me. It belonged to Figo, the dalmatian of the house. He took one look at me and barked sharply. Then, he pointedly turned his tail to me and ran back into the house. S's family consoled me saying that this was Figo's normal reaction to strangers, especially females (I later saw for myself that this was not true).

Things did not improve as time went by. The second time I visited, Figo repeated the growl and turn-tail act. To mollify him and bribe him into being friends with me, I fed him bones and other canine delicacies. Figo being the smart dog that he is, ate all of it and then signed his disapproval of me with a bark before sauntering off. Same thing happened when I stroked his fur and belly. He would enjoy all the attention and the moment I stopped stroking him, would get up, growl and walk away!

According to me, this was the problem: S was the first person in his family who got acquainted with Figo. Figo, though a very mild-mannered dog, is jealous and possessive by nature. He loves his family with a passion and at the same time hates sharing them with anyone else. So my theory was, his doggy instincts somehow told him that I was someone who was going to be competing (!?! - en owner-thaan, enakku mattum thaan*) for S's attentions. Hence the extra animosity.

I know - this seems like too much thinking for a dog but seriously, the way Figo refused to enter S's room (Figo's erstwhile domain) while I was there and the way he took an extra effort to growl at me before turning his back whenever he saw me told its own the story.

This remained the status quo for all my past India visits. This time too, I entered S's family's house with some trepidation. I could not decide whether to feel sad for Figo or feel amused that he would finally have to start learning to put up with me considering that the my visits would be far more frequent now.

Imagine my pleasant surprise then, when upon seeing me, Figo jumped up and tried to put his paws on my shoulder and lick my face. This was a gesture he usually reserved to welcome people he liked a lot! Then he nuzzled my hand - which was his way to indicate that that he wanted me to pet him.

Either all my feeding and petting of the previous times had finally worked or Figo had resigned himself to acceptance. Either way, I was finally his friend!

The rest, as they say, is history. Figo now trusts me enough to routinely come and lay his head on my lap or contentedly lie down and sigh while I rub his tummy. He still responds to my calls only when he feels like it and plants his feet firmly on the ground if I try to move him when he does not feel like it. But hey, now I am his family too!


* my owner, only for me. A famous Tamil song of long ago had similar lyrics

Monday, August 23, 2010

Onam

One of the best things about marrying a person from a different regional background is that you get to celebrate more than the usual number of festivals to honor traditions from both regions. Other than learning about different customs you also get to eat more than the usual amount of yummy festival food.

So guess who is mighty thrilled that it is Onam today? Me, me, me! My very first Onam celebration - yaay! In the morning I prised my eyes open earlier than usual so I could go and asist my niece in drawing the "Poo-kolam". We had a great time decorating the floor with flowers - finally, lamps were also lit.



Looks gorgeous or what?

Besides dosas/chutney/kurma, these are the Onam special dishes I had for breakfast. Unniappams (those small puffed ovals) are something I have never had before - they are very tasty.


I had a super yummy lunch as well. Burp. And oh, I am dressed in the traditional Kerala cream-colored saree. Yup, my cup of joy overfloweth :-D!

Happy Onam to all :-)!

p.s. Though S is technically a Malayali, he was born and brought up in Tamilnadu. So he is more Tam than Mallu. But happily for me, all the principal cooking members are true-blue Mallus - hehehhe.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

August 15

For the past few weeks, the newspapers, TVs and radios are filled with special Independence day offers. I have also spotted Independence day decorations at various commercial establishments. Of course, special Independence day TV programs are lined up on the various TV channels with a much longer line-up of sponsors for those various programs.

What a far cry from the days when Independence day meant dragging yourself out of bed on a holiday just so that you could have the pleasure of seeing a "Chief-guest" hoisting the national flag at school followed by the highlight of the day: a single piece of candy doled out to each of the captive students once the flag hoisting and the national-anthem singing was done.

It has been thundering and raining out here in Chennai since morning today. Ain't I glad those going to school days are behind me! Instead, I can wrap my hands around a warm mug of chai and cozily settle down to watch the Independence day advertisements and their attendant programs on TV.


Happy Independence Day :-)!

Friday, August 13, 2010

On the dark side

After the hugs and the cries of welcome, the first words my mom uttered upon seeing me and S were, "Why are you both so tanned?" Don't get me wrong. I have always belonged to the "curly hair, not so fair" species. I never been bothered about it either - perhaps I have been bothered about the curly hair part of it, as mentioned here. I used to get pretty pained when I saw the ads for fairness creams for women - who on earth mandated that being "fair" was the beauty ideal which Indian women should strive to attain? However, nowadays, I guffaw heartily when I see ads for fairness creams for *men*. Hahahah!

Anyway, I digress. Coming back to my story, I ruefully looked at mom and said, "I know. We got the first tan-coat at San Diego. Just when it was wearing off, we got a second, more-durable coat at New York city. This was followed by a third coat finish at Washington DC. By the time we reached Hong Kong, we were prepped and set for the final sealing coat."

July 2010 had been a month involving a lot of travel and sightseeing for us. While it was a lot of fun, it was also a lot of heat. I tell you, being in the Bay Area has spoiled me so much weather-wise. I imagined a similarly comfortable and pleasant summer in NYC and DC and was shocked to find that both the cities were giant ovens set at broil heat. Needless to say, we both were roasted and well-done by the time the trip was over. On the bright side, it prepped us well for the two days of Hong Kong sightseeing and for the current Chennai heat.

Now, some people, when they get tanned, get tanned evenly. So their entire skin takes on a nice, even, darker-hue. Not me, no siree. Instead, my skin gets tanned in splotches. So at the end of it all, I tend to look more like a human-cheetah or maybe a human-zebra than like a tanned-human. Sigh! Is it any wonder then that I tend to slather on copious quantities of sunscreen, at least on my face, before I go out into the sun?

Clearly, the sunscreen hadn't worked as well as I had hoped it would. So now, Mom has taken on "Operation De-tan Archu" with great alacrity. Every morning, she enthusiastically gives me a concoction of turmeric and cream (skimmed fresh off that morning's milk) - "to be applied right before showering". Then a cube of crushed papaya "to be applied to the face".

I strongly suspect that the only effect these rituals are having on me is to make me smell like day-old milk and old fruit-salad. Still, who can say no to such pampering?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chennai - the ugly

For the longest time now, I have wondered why it is so hard to provide clean toilets/wash rooms in Chennai. When you enter the Chennai International Airport, the first thing that greets you is the unpleasant smell wafting in from the toilets. Woe betide any person who actually wants to use these toilets. One look at the toilets and you will decide that a bladder burst is probably preferable to going through the horror of using them.

Now, if this phenomenon was universal in India, I might have chalked it to some unique Indian characteristic. However, toilets in the Bangalore, Mumbai and Hyderabad airports seem to be well-maintained and in good condition. Why then, is it so hard to maintain similar standards in Chennai?

This phenomenon is not restricted to the Chennai airport. The other day, we went to Mayajaal, advertised as one of the "hang-out" places. The toilets there were again cringe-worthy. I am sure the story repeats itself in most commercial establishments in Chennai, that is, if they provide toilets in the first place.

In the US, I have been spoiled by the abundance of clean restrooms (most of the time), no matter where I go. Thus, I did not use to think twice before gulping down humongous quantities of water or coffee or chai before setting out somewhere. I need to curb this habit now.

I do not think that Chennai-ites have a sloppy standard of hygiene and thus are okay with the anything goes attitude. Then, why? I am unable to solve the mystery of the near unusable toilets.

Forget flyovers, the green-Chennai initiative and widespread use of cellphones. As far as I am concerned, Chennai's first step towards shining would be to provide something as basic as toilets in a decent state.

Update (August 14, 2010): I went to the Sathyam cinema complex today. I am thrilled to report that the bathrooms there were spotless and extremely well-maintained. Like my sister said, maybe I just had the bad fortune to visit the most ill-maintained wash-rooms in Chennai first!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Food in Chennai

Kellogg mango flavored cereal
I spotted this in the local grocery store and was thrilled. I expected something along the lines of Kellogg Special K strawberry cereal, only with real mango pieces instead of strawberry. Unfortunately, this cereal has a suspiciously bright dark- yellow color and tastes like regular corn-flakes soaked in mango Rasna. Sigh.

Guava
I *love* the guava fruit. Back in the bay area, I found guavas only in a bruised state and priced exorbitantly. Here, it is not only unblemished and delicious but is also priced sweetly. Is there any harm in scarfing down 5 guavas a day?

Groceries
To my pleasant surprise, things like tofu and mozzarella cheese are very readily available in all stores. Also, the number of ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat items available is staggering. Ready-made chappathi, idli-batter, idiappam? Yes, yes and yes. A great number of food delivery options are available as well. One thing is for sure. As long as you have the money, you can eat your fill without ever putting a toe outside the home.

Mom's cooking, Dad's feeding

It is taking a great amount of effort to not wolf down mounds of food at every meal time (and every in-between snack-time). I have now banned my parents from buying snacks from outside. That is not stopping them from plying my plate with home-made stuff like vadas and fried fish. Parents, I tell you!! I love them :-).

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Bidding adieu to my noble steed

One of the hardest things for me to leave behind during our move was my beloved car, my trusty steed of the past six years. True to the Honda brand, the car was very low maintenance, highly reliable and ran like a charm. Considering that I tend to view cars primarily as a means to transport me from place A to place B without any hassle, this car had been my almost perfect dream car. So ya, having to sell it was a major downer.

Our ad on Craigslist evoked several responses. As luck would have it, we zeroed in on a Tamil buyer. This acted as a palliative in several ways: a) Somehow, the buyer being Tamilian assured us that the car would be taken care of well (this is regionalism - but delusions are comforting). b) My car is already familiar with Tamil being spoken in it (I can be weird that way). c) I had a slightly higher chance of visiting the car if I made a visit to the US.

Soon we found that the buyer, K, was a first time car-buyer in the US. He was also younger than us by a few years. Both these facts put S and me in the the position of advisers. K, a nice chap, was only too eager to lap up any and all the advice thrown his way. So we gave him gyan on maintenance, tires and insurance. I had deja-vu as K asked many of the same questions that I had had when buying my car. In turn, K let us have the car right until the day before we left.

The last time I drove the car was a couple of hours before K arrived to pick it up.
As I turned off the engine for the last time, I literally kissed the car good bye and patted it for its faithful service of all these years.

When K showed up, we handed all the car-keys and the maintenance records to him. Both S and me assured him that he would have a ton of fun with the car. We then threw a barrage of information at him: how to adjust the mirrors, how to get to the expressway, how to drive safe and so on. K dutifully nodded his head.

Finally, he reversed the car, made a right turn and the car disappeared from view. As we walked back to our apartment, I told S that perhaps we had thrown a wee too much advice at K. I was beginning to feel like we were K's surrogate parents. S laughed and protested.

After 20 minutes, the phone rang. It was K. S and I anxiously looked at each other and exclaimed "Oh no, I hope K did not get into any trouble.". S answered the phone. He spoke to K and after he hung up, S looked at me and burst out laughing.

Apparently K had called to say that he had reached home safe and sound. Ha - so K had felt our surrogate-parenty concern enough to let us know of his safe arrival! I *knew* it!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Arrived

The check-in bags had finally been packed and fastened shut. The hand baggages weighed a ton. The last of the trash had been thrown away. Our apartment, my home of the past five years looked empty, save for the five boxes of stuff to be donated. We were set.

Our friend arrived with his SUV. Soon, every last piece of luggage was loaded onto the vehicle. S and me returned upstairs to bade one last farewell to our home. Our eyes met. Though we had barely had had time to even think about missing anything till then, for a brief instant, all the memories built up in the home flashed before us. I felt a lurch in my stomach. Then, it was time for goodbye.

The ride to the airport was smooth. At the airport, our cosiderably weighty luggage got through without any penalties. S and I grinned in relief though the grins drooped a bit when we had to lug our hand baggage to the gate. Oh well, in case we ever had to backpack a house, we were getting good training.

Once we sat in the flight, I waited for take off. When the aircraft's wheels left the ground, we would have officially left the USA. That would be a poignant moment.

I woke up with a start - I had dozed off. Boy, had the last stretch of winding up been tiring! The plane was still. I turned to S and asked why the plane was taking so long to take off. S replied that we had taken off a while ago. I had slept right through the take off!! So much for poignancy!

***

Chennai is great. It is just more than a day since we landed. We are being pampered and are being treated like royalty. For the first time since I moved to the US, I don't have to count the days till I had to leave India again. It is a curiously heady feeling.

I know I will miss the US in a lot of little and a few big ways. I know I will probably be frustrated, annoyed and will have some regrets once the honeymoon period gets over and real life starts happening.

Still, here feels like home and I am lovin' it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Moving to India

Moving between houses is a pain by itself. But moving across countries takes the definition of pain to a whole new level. The number of tasks that need to be taken care of range from closing myriad gas, electricity, internet, bank, telephone.... accounts and selling every last stick of furniture you have to figuring out how to handle any leftover things once you have actually moved out of the country. Not fun at all, I tell ya.

My stress levels have held steady at the red-danger zone for over a month now. We started executing our move in right earnest from the middle of June. While it seemed a bit early at the time, looking back, it gave us time to take things a wee bit easier than we would otherwise have been able to.

Since then, everyday has brought along its own set of tasks: posting furniture listings on Craigslist , setting up account closing dates , sorting out stuff that needs to be tossed/donated or packed and so on. The last activity is the one which has taken the lion's share of our time. I am now ready to run at the sight of any box. Besides, nowadays, everytime I need to pack something, my brain slows down so much in protest that I can actually see things happening in slow-motion. Only two more days, Archu, only two more days.

My biggest consolation is, once we get back to India, our support system is so well-entrenched that many of the settling in tasks can be delegated or at least be moved along with generous doses of help.

On the work front, things have worked out awesomely well. I can't believe the number of hoops my manager and my company has jumped through to make sure that I can continue working for them from India as well. I must tell ya, I feel all warm and fuzzy inside to know that I am valuable enough to be worth making all that effort for. My ego has gotten boosted by several hundred points.

Curiously enough, in spite of all the moving work that we are doing, I still feel like we are going on vacation rather than moving back permanently. I guess three months in Chennai would cure me of that notion.

I will keep you folks posted as we go through the process.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Home sweet home

The first reaction I got from most fellow Indians when I told them that I was moving back to India was the last one I expected: envy. Most of them sighed and said they wished they could go back home as well.

Thinking back, I guess it is a predictable reaction from most first generation Indians who arrived in the US thinking that they would go back to India in a couple of years. In reality, two years became three, three became five, five became ten and suddenly, the roots had grown so deep that acceptance slowly started to creep in that perhaps US was home now. Still, that does not stop residual guilt from popping up when someone else is implementing their original plan. There, that is my Freudian analysis for today.

Coming back to me, next week this time, S and me will be on a flight back to India, going back to home sweet home: Chennai, India. It took me time to get used to the idea that I will be leaving the country I have lived in for almost 9 years now for good. The bay area, especially, boasts the privilege of hosting me for 7 years continually, a privilege which no other city has had in all my years of existence. I will miss the city, its weather, its parks, its community recreation center, its roads and most of all, the lovely city library.

Still, the idea of being among family and friends, celebrating all the major festivals with pomp, not missing out on the various functions, eating delicious food, having a very well-entrenched support system and finally going HOME is very intoxicating. Both of us are very much looking forward to it.

India, here we come :-D!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The aim game

I have written about my not-so-happy bowling experiences before. Little wonder then, when we had to choose an activity for a team-outing at work, I steered clear of Bowling and Bocche ball (which sounded like it involved plenty of aiming as well) and voted for Laser-tag and Go-karting instead.

Most of the rest of the team voted for Go-karting as well. We picked a location which offered Go-karting as well as mini-golf. Now, while mini-golf involves aiming as well, during my previous mini-golf outings, while nowhere near the best, I had at least fared average, on par with most of the other participants. So I was not unduly worried about winding up as the mini-golf idiot.

Last Friday, after a hearty lunch at a Thai place, we decided to begin our outing with a round of mini-golf. Two teams were formed. We began playing. Plenty of good-natured laughter ensued when for some people, the ball merrily went over, around, beside, across but not into the hole. Oh goodie, if I was going to make a fool of myself, I at least had company. Hurrah!

Then my turn came, I hit the ball and to my pleasant surprise, it went right into the hole in a decent number of strokes, without much detouring. Nice!

We continued playing. Lady Luck, who had favored me for the first hole, continued to sit on my shoulder. At every hole, my ball went precisely where I wanted it to go, stopped at convenient places and never once overshot its intended position. Of course, there were other good players as well - but I could not believe that I could actually count myself among them.

Finally, it was time to tally up the scores. My team had won - yaaay!

And *drum rolls*: I was the one with the best individual score! Among 10 other people. Wonders will never ever cease. I had actually managed to play an aiming game well. Woohoo!

I acted totally cool like I was a born mini-golf pro around my colleagues. However, once I got home, I crowed to S about my "achievement" only about two dozen times over the past weekend. Now, he is just about ready to swing a mini-golf club at me the next time I go, "Guess who had the best score at mini-golf".

Funny how little things can bring big cheap thrills.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Movies watched

Are we there yet? This movie is reason# 1926 as to why one should not pick up random movies from the library simply based on the positive jacket blurbs. Seriously, any person who thinks that kids acting like selfish, insane, sadistic demons are cute need to have their head examined. Even more unbelievable, at the end of the movie, the hero actually decides that he wants these kids kids in his life. As Obelix says, "Tap, tap, tap". In the same situation, I would have probably taken a vow of celibacy for the rest of my life just to eliminate any possibility that I would ever be responsible for bringing such horrible kids into the world.
******

Raavanan
Oh God, I hate Aishwarya Rai. She of the open-mouthed, wide-eyed, "Look, I am so paavum" plastic face. I marvel at how the world conspires to make a bad actress worse:
A. dress her up in weirdo deeeeeep necked costumes.
B. Make her mouth dialogs which will never come naturally out of any person's mouth (congratulations Suhasini Maniratnam - your husband must really love you if he voluntarily agreed to let you pen dialogs for this movie)
C. Find a dubbing artiste who has a voice even more annoying than her original voice.

Some things even Maniratnam cannot save. I take back all the positive Ash-Rai comments I made post Guru-watching. I did not like the movie as a whole much either. The locales were stunning but the story jumped around randomly. Mainly, the whole movie was just sooooo boring (this, from a person who ardently watched all the episodes of Ramayan on TV).
******

I rummaged my head hard. I cannot think of any good movies I watched recently just so that I can round out this post. So unfortunately, yet another whine post this is.

Monday, June 21, 2010

For want of a mango...

Last weekend, I spotted an awesome sale on Manila mangoes at the Indian grocery store. Deciding to buy them was a no-brainer. S and me are die-hard mango-lovers. To our pleasant surprise, while nowhere close in taste to the divine banganapalli (sorry Alphonso lovers, banganapalli is the king of mangoes according to me), the mangoes were still pretty tasty. Needless to say, within a week, the substantial collection of mangoes we had brought home dwindled rapidly to zero.

This weekend, we went to the Indian store again, hoping to buy another box of mangoes. To our dismay, the store was out of Manila mangoes. Sigh! We did the rest of our shopping and were ready to go home when S said, "Hey, let's check out the other Indian grocery store nearby. Maybe they have Manila mangoes". We drove the short distance to the other store. I was too lazy to get out of the car, so S volunteered to go check by himself.

Within a couple of minutes, I got a call from S. He excitedly said, "Hey, they have Manila mangoes here. Come on to the store." So I grabbed my hand-bag, got out of the car, locked my door and was about to walk to the store when I spotted that the car-door was unlocked on S's side. How careless, I thought and very responsibly, opened the door, pushed down the lock and slammed it shut. In the split second before the car-door locked, I thought, "Oh, does S have the keys". SLAM. Oh well, too late.

I ran to the store and breathlessly asked S if he had the car keys. He stared at me and said that he had dropped the car-keys onto his car-seat right in front of me. Had he? Ooopz! Ladies and gentlemen, applause please: we were locked out of our car.

But - S in the presence of mangoes is a S engergized. He thrust a box of carefully selected mangoes into my hands and said, "Pay for them and wait near the car - I will go home and get the spare set of keys". Uh S, I don't want to stand in front of the car with a case of mangoes while it took you God-knows-how-long time to cover the 1.5 miles distance to our house and back. I would rather do the trip home with you. S brushed aside my arguments and I dutifully paid for the mangoes while S set off home.

I then settled myself down on the side-walk in front of our car with the box of mangoes beside me. All I needed was to coo a bit and I would have looked like a street mango-hawker. The next step obviously was to pull out my cell-phone to catch up with a friend. After a bit, I lost my awkwardness at my care-of-platform status and was yacking away busily when I saw someone running towards me. I looked up and saw in amazement that it was S! Hey, it had hardly been 10 minutes since he had left. I know he is super-fit and everything but covering 3 miles in 10 minutes seemed to be a sprint worthy of the Olympics!

He opened the car with the spare-key and we set off home. On the way, the secret of his speed came out. He had asked and gotten a ride from a Tamil couple who had been sweet enough to drive in the direction opposite to their home so that S could drop by our apartment and pick up the keys! Ah, okay, so I was not married to a sprinter after all :-D.

We reached home without any further incident. But the icing on the cake came when we parked and were unloading the groceries. S suddenly looked at me and said, "Don't you have a spare key for the car on the key-chain with the apartment keys?". And it all came rushing back to me. Anticipating this exact scenario, about a month or so ago, S had threaded one of the spare car keys onto my apartment-keys key-chain. So, all along, I had had a spare car-key right inside the hand-bag I was carrying. Too bad neither of us remembered that. Brilliant or what?

Picture from here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Smart phone

I am not much of a gadget-geek. As long as a gadget does what it is primarily meant to do, I do not care for bells and whistles that come attached to it. Thus, for the longest time, my cell-phone did exactly one thing and did it well: it was an excellent mobile phone. It had a great signal, clear un-garbled voice and good battery life. It had neither a camera nor a mp3 player. In other words, it belonged in a cell-phone museum. But I was extremely pleased with it.

AT&T finally got fed up and sent me an ultimatum asking me to upgrade my phone - they were no longer going to even support the technology my phone was on. Sigh! Oh well - I upgraded to another phone with good reviews for voice-quality and battery life. The camera and mp3 player on it were basically a joke though. No problem, I use my canon and my ipod for those purposes anyhow!

Last year, I bought an iPhone for S as a gift. S is not much of an Apple fan though and re-gifted the phone to me after a couple of months of use. I was annoyed at having to give up my beloved no bells and whistles phone. But hey, you don't keep an iPhone lying around with no one using it.

Thus, I started using the iPhone. Initially, what I loved about it was the in-built GPS. It worked so well when we concocted plans on-the-go to visit a previously non-visited destination - just google the address and feed it to the map application - nice! The next draw was the availability of so many good apps for free. I went into app-overload mode for a couple of weeks. Then I began loving the ability to check weather/stocks/email anytime, anywhere.

iPhone, how do I use thee? Let me count the ways:

  1. I set the alarm for the morning wake up call and also use the snooze function extensively.
  2. I set up appointments and reminders on the calendar.
  3. As soon as I wake up, still lying down, I check personal email on it - reading email from family is a nice way to begin the day.
  4. Checking and replying to work emails when I am supposed to be on-call off-hours is such a cinch.
  5. I love,love,love the maps and GPS functionality.
  6. I make shopping lists on it.
  7. LoseIt is an awesome app for tracking calories.
  8. I carry it to work-meetings and fiddle with it when things go too off-topic (no one knows that you are not using the phone to check work emails >B-))
  9. I use it to listen to music.
  10. Occasionally it has served as a stand-in camera when I miss bringing along the real camera.
  11. Locating restaurants in a new area is so easy.
  12. So is browsing for vetti things like what the "Congress-created dust bowl" sign you spotted on the highway means.

Oh, I could go on and on and on. I realize now: A smart-phone is one of those things that you do not miss having in your life till you have owned one.

However, I do have a gripe - the iPhone mostly does not have a strong enough signal and the voice quality sucks. Really, would that be too much of a requirement to ask of an i-PHONE?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Oranges

Last week, for two consecutive days, whenever I walked in home after work, I smelt a strong orange smell at home. Wow - the mandarin oranges that I bought at Costco really do have a very strong smell, I thought. I asked S about it and he shrugged, "Maybe!".

On day three, I once again entered into a house smelling of oranges. I told S, "I bet the oranges are going bad - the whole house is smelling of them!"

I rummaged through the sack of oranges. Though I really couldn't smell the oranges any stronger at this close range and I couldn't find any spoilt oranges, I finally managed to find one misshapen, squished orange. I triumphantly pulled it out and said to S, "Aha, this is the culprit!". S asked, "Are you sure? This orange does not have any smell at all!" I stubbornly said, "This has to be it, there is no other source for the orange smell."

This was when I noticed that S was having an undefinable look on his face and was shaking silently. I demanded, "What?".

S burst out laughing, "Hahahahah - I found this orange-scented room-spray in one of the cupboards the other day and I have been spraying it every evening since then. I have to appreciate you though! You are one mighty talented detective - you so smartly deduced that the strong orange smell was coming from one squished orange with no smell in it whatsover - hahahahahah!"

Grrr!

How that orange-scented room spray came to be at home is a mystery still unresolved.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Dance

Call me racist but I always used to think that highly flexible body movements were out of reach of Indian women. As graceful as many female Indian dancers are, I never thought flexibility was one of the strong points as far as the women were concerned.

I have eaten my words (and my prejudices) since I saw this video. Start watching from minute 3.00 if you want to cut the chatter.

http://www.tamilrain.com/jodi-no-1-season-4-17-04-2010/black-and-white-round-day-2-part-1-video_dc429fbb4.html

Isn't that such a magical performance? The girl, Sai Pramoditha, has done her puppet act so well. So bendy, springy and flexible - wow!

As an aside, the show itself, called Jodi No. 1 Season 4, features several ultra-talented, creative and gifted dancers and choreographers competing (pretty civilly, I must say) with each other to get the top spot for the best dancer couple.

What a pleasure it is to watch a reality show that showcases such deserving talent!

I like the sound of that!

My friend V once told me that he read somewhere that salsa (both dance and the food) could be so popular because people love to say "salsa". I am not sure I love saying salsa quite so much though I love the food as well as the dance. But there are other words I like the sound of. I also like the way they roll off my tongue.

Here are some words I like listening to or pronouncing:

Sugar, shoes, chalk, meal (it is always a disappointment when I realize for the n-th time that the boring chapathis and dal I had for lunch is a "meal" too), juice.

Off the top of my head, that's all I can think of.

But if you kind reader folks will post some words you like in the comments section, I would love to read about them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Grumble-grumble

Anyone know how to uninstall that newly added annoying, annoying, annoying, annoying --> infinity left bar on the google search results? Google had such a clean look - why did they have to go and tweak it? At the very least, shouldn't they have made these bells and whistles optional? Sigh.

***

What do you do when someone asks totally inapproprite questions? I just overheard two colleagues talking. One of them, say A, was enquiring about the other's (say B's) baby. B made the usual blah-blah comments. Then A goes, "Are you done?". B looked confused and A helpfully clarified "I mean, are you done having babies or are you having one more?" The expression on B's face was priceless and she spluttered some response. Seriously, since when did someone's reproductive habits become topics of casual conversation? I have noticed that people of Asian descent are more likely to be the perpetrators - probably owing to the Asian culture of "everyone's business is my business as well".

***

I uninstalled the Facebook app for iPhone. I realized that my tolerance for reading daily status updates like "Yaay - my kids finished eating their bowls of cereal completely" and "Watzisname is twiddling her thumbs" is pretty low. Must say, my quality of life seems to have improved.

***

Phew - I sure sound grumpy! On the bright side, the weather today is gorgeous. A perfect California day - cloudless, sunny and pleasantly warm. Niccccceee!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The cook in me

When I was younger, thanks to being a shy little kid, I used to take refuge in the kitchen under the pretext of helping Mom whenever guests came over to our house. My sister, the social butterfly, preferred to take on the task of entertaining the guests. As a result, I picked up quite a few kitchen tips like how to cut vegetables, how dishes looked in the intermediate stage of preparation etc. To this day, I am the official taster in my house and in relatives' houses. I can always tell when "something" is missing in a dish and adjustments can be suitably made.

Despite these forays into the kitchen, I did not know any actual cooking. I learnt to make exactly two things - tea and rasam (I once made killer rasam which made my granny appreciatively sigh "Get some gold bangles for the hands which made this divine rasam" (nah I did not actually get the bangles :-()) - these dishes being two of my most favorite things to drink/eat.

Life went on this way till I was thrust into the role of head-chef at home for a few days when in college. Though I acquitted myself reasonably okay then, other than sporadically trying out some exotic recipe from some magazine (this was before the days of food-blogs) I never voluntarily cooked.

All this changed once I moved to the US for grad school. Obviously, there was no mom around to place plates filled with piping hot food in front of me. If I wanted to eat, *I* had to cook (or persuade a room-mate to cook for me).

For the first time in my life, I began to appreciate just how much effort cooking involved. I mentally cursed myself for all the times back home when I had whined, "Not idli for dinner again", "this dosa is not hot enough, can I get one off the stove", "Aaargh, do I have to have left-over sambhar" and so on. I especially hated the clean up and doing dishes that the end of every cooking session entailed. I decided that cooking was an annoying chore which I had to do.

When I moved out on my own once I started working, I cooked huge pots of food over the weekend which then served as lunch and dinner for the rest of the week. This got boring soon enough but I thought it was definitely preferable to slogging night after night in the kitchen.

But - during the weekend, I slowly started cooking different kinds of food - recipes from cookbooks, recipes from mom, cravings that had to satisfied RIGHT NOW and so on. Soon enough I realized that what was annoying to me was not the cooking. It was the cleaning part of it. Mincing, chopping, measuring spices, stirring and other essentials of cooking was something that I did not mind. Heck, I actually *liked* it.

The next time I went to India, I offered to cook a meal for my family. Though she had her doubts, mom agreed. My parents and sister were pleasantly surprised with the end result. Duh - did they really think their foodie daughter would have survived by herself for so long in the US if she was making inedible food?

In any case, these experiments with food gave me enough confidence to actually cook for relatives when they came to visit me in the US instead of whisking them straight to Saravana Bhavan or Udupi Palace which is my standard operating procedure for visitors. These relatives were amazed that I could cook. Seriously, I think once someone has seen you as a drooling baby, they assume that you will never grow up and do "adult" things like cooking, driving etc!

Last year, after S and me got hitched, I got a full time guinea-pig, er, appreciative recipient to test my cooking on.

If I am a foodie, S is a super foodie. Which works out great because S is a good cook (it is my theory that people who love food with a passion are typically good cooks as well). For the first few months of married life, we took turns outshining each other in the kitchen. This caused an unforeseen problem: within a couple of months, we had gained back all weight lost for the wedding plus some. Not good at all. So, the enthusiasm had to be curbed.

Nevertheless, with S being such an eager taster, I have become only too willing to experiment*. Not everyday - fixing daily meals still mostly bores me - but over the weekends I usually try my hand at a new recipe or two. And, I actually look forward to it**. Yup, I am discovering the cook in me.

*Of course, not every culinary end result is a spectacular success but the suspense about the final product is part of the fun.

** It helps that S is willing to do the dishes afterwards :-). I still hate that part.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spotted

New kind of herb tea at work:


Am wondering if they are trying to send some kind of message here.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Clash of the Titans

Movie-makers seem to have been bitten by the 3D bug since Avatar happened. A slew of 3D movies are coming out these days. I have always found 3D movies to be a lot of fun since the first time I watched one (remember My dear kuttichatan? My mom still recalls both sis and me reaching out eagerly to grab ice-cream in one of the scenes).

Last weekend, S said that Clash of the Titans was out. Since the movie is mythology based with scope for plenty of monsters and CGI, we shelled out an extra 10 bucks for the 3D version of the movie as we thought it would be paisa-vasool*.

We had reached the theater at 11.00am for a 11.00am show. No problem - usually the trailers run for a good 20 minutes or so before the movie starts. We put on the dorky 3D glasses and settled down. When the movie started, the titles leapt out of the screen. Cool - this was going to be good!

The movie continued on its mythological way. After a while I realized that I could not see any 3D-ish effects even in the places where 3D effects should have been obvious - like a coin being flung towards the screen, a sword being pointed towards the audience etc. Was this really 3D or what? To validate my suspicion, I took off my 3D glasses and peered at the screen. Whereas for Avatar, the entire screen was kinda blurry when I took those glasses off, for Clash of the Titans, the movie continued being crystal-clear.

Aaaaargh! Evidently the movie makers had 3D-fied about 10 minutes of Clash of the Titans for the trailers and left the rest of the movie as is. Effectively, we had paid 10 extra bucks for a few minutes of watching fancy-looking titles.

Only after we returned home did I read on the Net that the movie had had 3D effects added after it had finished being shot. Essentially the producers had decided to cash in on the 3D-mania without actually spending much on it besides adding the words 3D to the title, and providing dorky glasses to the theatre patrons.

The movie itself was not too bad - an okay masala entertainer as movies in this genre usually are. Regardless, we felt cheated.

Flash news for the producers: Dorky glasses doth not a 3D-movie make.

*value for money

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I can't think of an apt title

These days, what with women's lib and everything, the old adage, "Behind every successful man is a woman" is slowly taking on a new avatar: "Behind every successful woman is a man". Still, I found this bio-profile of the Consul General of India in San Francisco, Susmita Thomas, totally hilarious.

Slightly self-trumpety as it sounds, I have no issues whatsoever with the first three paragraphs. But what on earth are the last three paragraphs doing in the Consul-General's profile? The description about her husband Ravi's achievements is even longer than her own! This chap is in no way related to the Indian Embassy other than being the Consul General's husband. How is what he did, is doing and going to do even relevant in this context? Perhaps this is how Susmita is supposed to show her loyalty to her husband - don't know! Aaaargh!

This brings me to another question: am I the only one who finds the practice of women doctors in India identifying themselves Dr. (Mrs.) Female DoctorName on name-boards odd? How many male doctors are there who have the compulsive need to identify themselves as married by saying something like this: Dr. Male DoctorName (married) on their name-boards?

Monday, March 29, 2010

New look

Finally, I tried out the new Blogger template designer. It is so much easier to change the various elements of the blogger page. Thus, in about 15 minutes of picking and choosing, my blog has got a new look. Sweet! Though I usually avoid it in interest of speedy loading, this time round I could not resist picking a background picture.

Do hop on over and let me know what you think. For the lazy ones, here is a screenshot of "The New Look":

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Vidathu Karuppu

Last week S discovered all the episodes of the Vidathu Karuppu television series on some website online. If you recall, Vidathu Karuppu (VK) is part two of the thrilling Marma Desam stories penned by Indra Soundarajan. VK was telecast on Sun TV more than a dozen years ago. It was one of the very few TV series that I watched regularly. I still remember waiting eagerly every Thursday night 9.00pm for the next episode of VK.

So when S asked if I was interested in re-watching it, it took very little thinking on my part to say yes. Other than remembering the climax, I recalled nothing whatsover of the series. So we started watching it. And I realized all over again as to why I was so attracted towards the series.

Each episode is divided into scenes from the past and the present - both these parts are rivetingly done and more often than not, end in an event which leaves you with burning curiosity as to what happened next.

Needless to say, S and me were completely hooked. The main advantage we had was that we just had to click on the next button to see the next episode instead of having to wait a whole week to know what happened (man, it must have been excruciating back then to wait for a entire week - and even more exasperating to see a a few minutes of recap every week when that time could have been used to move the story further). The downside was that we were completely addicted.

On Sunday we finally finished watching the series (ya in one week we watched all 84 episodes of it and yup while working full time and everything). The series was as satisfying as ever. We are still discussing the nuances and we kinda miss the characters now - addiction withdrawal symptoms I guess. I wonder how come such thrilling serials no longer get made in Tamil these days. Instead we have these sob-fests called mega serials which go on for years together. Ugh.

Another thing I liked while watching VK was seeing how naturally the various characters were dressed. But I wondered at the protaganist Reena's clothes. She mostly wore extremely loose tops and jeans/skirts or tent-like salwar kameezes. She was supposed to be a modern young woman from Chennai - so why was she wearing such ill-fitting clothes? Then I realized with a pang - that's exactly how most "normal" Chennai girls used to dress back then. Including me. *blush*. Oh well, you live and you learn, no?

If you know Tamil, Vidathu Karuppu is a must watch series. It has aged well with time and is as gripping now as it was more than a dozen years ago.

p.s. do you know if DVDs of good Tamil serials are available for sale?