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.