Monday, October 22, 2012

The Trip of a Lifetime

So all that day dreaming about exotic locations has finally paid off. I'm writing this post from Paris! The first stop in a ten week long adventure.

You can read all about it here. It's a travel blog I started many years ago, and completely forgot about. I am planning to use that space now as a journal for this trip.

I'm also going to cheat a bit, and reproduce the same post here (just in case you don't feel like clicking the link above!)

So Nike and I have just set out on what we think is going to be the trip of a life time – 10 weeks traveling across Europe and Asia. We started from home on 14th October 2012 and we will be back again on 3rd January 2013.
Nike quit his job in May and has been working virtually as an independent consultant since then. I quit my job in September to study further. However, my further study plans didn’t quite work out due to certain unexpected circumstances that came up in the last minute.  That was a massive disappointment, but suddenly we found ourselves with the time and the money to do a crazy trip like this before plunging back into the corporate world.
There were some initial reservations about doing a trip like this – the time, the effort, and the money involved in a ten week trip are rather intimidating. I think what really helped us was that we were both mentally prepared to be broke, maybe even in debt, by the time I finished my course by the end of next year. Now we weren’t going to be broke or in debt because of exorbitant tuition fees – so we thought “Okay, let’s spend this tuition fee fund on travel instead. We learn more by travelling than than by sitting in a classroom”. That’s cheesy, I know, but hey, we just needed an excuse!
We don’t really have a fixed itinerary. For now, we have spent a week in Paris. We are then flying into Romania, where we will spend about five days. Its an open itinerary after that – we are thinking of doing a loop around the Balkans – Bulgaria, Turkey, Croatia –  and then one of the Eastern European capitals, before making our way to Italy, where we will spend another week or ten days.
I’ve been to most of Western Europe as well as to the major cities of Eastern Europe so I wanted to do something very different this time, and yet I wanted to go to Europe again. This tentative itinerary seems perfect for us. We want to keep it open: we will stay back longer if we like a place, and we will leave quicker if we don’t. We may even completely change our itinerary midway if we come across something more interesting.
Travelling independently around the Balkan region is also quite challenging for us. We don’t personally know anyone else who’s travelled around this region before, so we find this part of the trip intimidating. But I think that’s actually great because it will make us step out of our comfort zone, and rediscover the challenges of travel.
After seven weeks in Europe, we will fly from Rome to Kuala Lumpur. My cousin, who lives in Malaysia, is getting married in December so we are going there for the wedding. My family will also be joining us there. We will be spending a week in Klang, Malaysia for the wedding festivities. Everyone, including Amma, is leaving after that; but Dad, Samee, Nike and I are staying back and visiting the Borneo Islands for a week.
Once we are back in KL from Borneo, my father and sister will leave for India; Nike and I fly to Koh Samui, Thailand. We will be there for a week – we intend to snorkel, get massages and chill on the beach at the end of a long trip. We will be spending New Years Eve there, and will be joined by Nike’s brother and his wife. We will then spend about 2 days in Bangkok, and finally back home.
Phew! I know! It’s a long, long trip. For me, the biggest challenge has been packing – winter wear for Europe, wedding wear for Malaysia, beach wear for Thailand. I’m lugging around a 20kg suitcase that looks like it will explode any minute. I’m not proud. I’ve however convinced Nike to put all his stuff into a 7kg backpack. Of that, I’m proud.
I hope to blog about this trip as regularly as possible. I’d like to post here at least twice a week; but I’m not making any promises. Like with everything else, let’s see how it goes ;-)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Down, but not Out

So remember the exciting new phase that I was looking forward to? Well, it didn’t happen. I don’t want to get into details, but let’s just say that this Big Change that was supposed occur in September, which would put me in a very exciting place in terms of career and location, didn’t quite work out for reasons that were beyond my control. I’d been looking forward to it from January, and couldn’t wait for the year to go by and for September to come soon enough. But when September did finally come, it brought with it the news that the Big Change wasn’t meant to be.

Of course, I’m very upset and extremely disappointed. I’d been dreaming about this for the whole year. I quit my job end of last month in anticipation of this. I shopped, I went to Bangalore to bid farewell to my friends there, I bought flights tickets, I spoke to movers, I made a to-do-list. I went on holiday, and then went home to Vizag to spend time with the parents before I was off. And then I found out I wasn’t going after all, that it wasn’t happening. 

I could even now probably go and join back my old job, but I think it’s time for me to move on. This job has been quite an experience, but I think I’m ready to move on another role now. But I need a break before I can plunge back into work again - I had imagined the Big Change for a whole year, I can’t just go back to work now as if nothing has happened.

I’m in Vizag still, and keeping myself very, very busy. Nike and I are planning a long holiday somewhere. The end of the holiday will coincide with a two week family trip to Malaysia for Cousin K’s wedding. I also need this time to think through what I should do next that will best suit my long term career goals – I have a number of interesting options ahead of me, but I want to make a careful choice in terms of what fits in with my career plans.

Meanwhile, here is what has been keeping me busy in Vizag for the last couple of weeks:

  • I’m taking a course “History of the World since 1300” on Coursera. For a huge history buff like me, this course is absolutely fascinating. It’s the second week into the course, and I’ve learnt about Genghis Khan, the Black Death, the Ming Dynasty, Christendom and Islam, Discovery of America, the Columbian Exchange, Colonialism and the Baroque Era. The course is offered by a fantastic professor from Princeton University. I CANNOT wait for the next couple of classes. The best part? It’s completely free! Do check out – they have close to 200 courses across a wide range of subjects, offered by professors from some of the world’s best universities; and all this absolutely free. Do, do, do check it out – I cannot recommend it enough! 
  • I’m finally brushing up on my very rusty driving skills (I use the word very loosely here). I go driving for an hour every day. Of course, considering I am driving in Vizag, I’m rather sceptical about this practice being of any use if I have to drive in a bigger city with more traffic. Still; I had been developing a massive mental block against driving, and this driving practice has been very helpful in removing that mental block to some extent.
  • I have also taken up a home improvement project of sorts. If you know the condition of my house, you will realise how physically demanding this project is, and also, how impossible it is. The maid and I spent three days just to clear up the guest bedroom and convert it into a room for Nike and me. One day was spent cleaning up and re-arranging the dining room. Other little projects – removing an AC from one room and replacing it in another, clearing up and re-arranging the open shelves in the parents room, dusting and re-arranging the books on the library shelves, getting a new side table, getting the dining chairs repaired, getting new bath curtains etc. – take up a few hours in a day. I belong to a family of hoarders; Amma leads admirably on this front, storing every little thing that strays into the house, even if it’s just a pamphlet from a few years ago. Samee is not far behind, refusing to throw away toiletries even if they are beyond the expiry date. And Dad just keeps piling up his old papers; convinced that they will be of some use in the distant future (he is probably dreaming of a time when paper will replace money or something). I’ve mercifully been spared this vice, and in fact, am quite ruthless about disposing things that I feel are of no use, and have almost no attachment to material things. But clearing the home of a family of hoarders is still quite an uphill impossible task. Our maid is quite wonderful – very enthusiastic about all these projects and extremely efficient. But for all that, I’m sure she’s counting the days to when I would leave.  
  • I'm reading quite voraciously too. I’m right now in the middle of a five part series on Genghis Khan by Conn Iggulden. I keep breaking the series up with lighter reads like Wodehouse or Georgette Heyer, and it feels good to go back to my old reading habit after what seems like ages. 
  • I have signed up for an online volunteering project. I am yet to receive a final confirmation of whether or not I have been assigned to the project, so I don’t want to talk too much about it before that happens. But I hope it works out, and it works out soon, because I am excited to be working on it. 
  • I'm also spending quite a bit of time thinking about what I want to do next, researching possible options, talking to people in the sector. I have a tendency to just go along with the flow, but I have over six years of work experience now, and feel that my next move will be very critical in terms of the direction my career will take. I don’t want to do anything hasty at this stage, and want to think through this very carefully before deciding on what to do next. 
  • Some amount of my day goes into day dreaming about the long trip we intend to take next month. We are so far considering the US, New Zealand, Europe (which will mostly be the Balkans), and Asia (Bhutan, Thailand and Myanmar). Sometimes, all our talk of these distant and exotic lands convinces me that we aren’t actually doing this trip, but just discussing this to pass the time, and cheer ourselves up – the exchange rates aren’t helping either! 
  • I'm also FINALLY getting the time/energy to finish off a lot of little errands that I have been neglecting for many months now – getting new lens/glasses, submitting documents to the bank, redeeming credit card points, settling outstanding bill – little things like that which I tend to neglect in the daily business of living.

Phew! I think that’s about it. I had actually added a few more on my wish-list (specifically, swimming classes, and a community project) but I don’t have time to do this much. I’m trying to wake up early so I have enough time through the day to do all that I want to do. It helps to make to-do lists for the next day before I go to sleep, and I get a huge kick from ticking them off the next day. 

I can’t say I’m happy. I’m just not unhappy. I think I’m over the disappointment, but something happens to remind me of it, and I feel blue for a little while after that. But nothing can keep me down for too long. For now, I’m fairly content with my busy schedule, in fact, rather pleased with myself because I’m doing so much in my break, and I’m looking forward to my holiday and to whatever will happen next.

P.S: Does blogger have the world's worst formatting or what? It took me so much longer to format this post that to write it! (It shows, you say?) I've been thinking of moving to wordpress for a long time now, and this stupid formatting is really convincing me I should just do it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"The Behaviour of Moths" by Poppy Adams

I've been reading a lot this year. In fact, this has been the year I've managed to read the most since passing out of b-school. I decided I'm going to try and put down my thoughts on some of the stuff I've been reading, sort of as a practice run for some book review programs I am interested in.

"The Behaviour of Moths" is the story of two sisters - what I thought would be a family drama (and it's one of my favourite genres) slowly reveals itself to be a delicious Gothic suspense. The story is told through the voice of Ginny, the painfully shy and socially inept older sibling who become a lepidopterist (a moth specialist!).

Ginny, who's now in her seventies, has lived in the family Gothic mansion all her life. The return of her vivacious younger sister Vivi to the family home after 47 years brings back many memories of their childhood and younger years. And through these memories, we realise it's not the happy family we think they were - jealousies, alcoholism, surrogacies, rifts emerge in the family - but all this is hinted, not clearly laid out, building up the suspense.

Adams is very successful in creating a very atmospheric novel. The large, rambling mansion they live in and the surrounding countryside form an almost perfect backdrop to this story. Adams gets off to a great start; the sisters’ childhood is depicted with care - their wildly different personalities, their closeness, and their feelings towards their parents. And the young women these little girls grow into are also very believable. And through Ginny’s reminiscences, we realise all is not well, and the happenings in the house and within the family, though they have happened long ago, take on a new meaning when Vivi returns home and it emerges that both the sisters have very different views on their childhood and their parents.

We gear up for the big reveal - whose version is the truth? Why did some of the characters behave the way they did? Why did some events happen? Does Vivi know something that Ginny doesn't? We gear up for the big reveal - but Adam subverts this with an ending that has you completely taken aback.

Unfortunately, I think this is also the books biggest weakness. While it totally works for it's shock value, it also means that a lot of the events and incidents are left unexplained.'s great to leave something to the readers imagination, it's good to have an open ending where the reader is left wondering about various interpretations; but in this case, Adams doesnt quite manage to achieve that and leaves the reader a little annoyed because of all the loose ends.

That said, it was still a very well written book, and I couldn't stop reading it. I finished it in one sitting on the overnight train journey from Kasargod to Bangalore. And despite my annoyance at the loose ends, it made for an enjoyable read.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

When the shit hits the fan

So I came here to put up a long whiny post about how everything seemed to be going wrong with my life right now. I feel like I can see a bit of my life and plans unraveling in front of my eyes - and even as I frantically try and stop it from unraveling thus, I have a feeling that I am fighting the inevitable, that there is only so much that I can do, but things have to play out the way they are meant to. I'm rarely so fatalistic but they way things have been going for the last couple of weeks, I see little to be positive about, especially in my current frame of mind.

To cheer myself up, I planned a four day trip to Kerala with Nike for the next week. I booked us into a very fancy Taj resort in a hidden corner of Kerala. And since our usual budget for a hotel room is in the INR 1000 - 2000 range, this is serious luxury for us. And I thought we deserved it, considering how we've had a couple of major setbacks the last month or so. 

I was really looking forward to this trip. Even joking that this was the only bright spot in an otherwise bleak looking horizon. But right now, I don't like my husband so much. He is easily irritated, quick to take offence, snaps for no reason, is as sarcastic as hell, and loses his temper without so much as a by your leave. And it's all directed at me. And today, I didn't want anymore of this. I'm normally big on sitting and thrashing it out, even if I have to plead/bulldoze/beg/blackmail the husband into sitting down for the conversation. But today, I didn't want to talk about it, I didn't want to discuss it; I just wanted a break from it all.

I realise now that it's possible to love someone, and yet not like them at times. Which is what I feel towards the husband right now. Strangely enough, it's what I feel about my sister too a lot of times.

Anyway. Now this Kerala getaway has begun to nag at me. I don't want Nike to come. I don't see the point of paying so much money to have someone be rude and awful to me in gorgeous surroundings. So I'm pondering if I should go alone or ask a friend to join me. I normally enjoy the occasional solo travel, but I'm not sure if this is an appropriate place for that. I like solo travel in cities, in places with museums and galleries, not in scenic places wher you just sit around and soak in the landscape. Though they do have a massive spa so I could make like one of the heroines in a chick-lit and pretend I'm getting over heartbreak and use the excuse to get all sorts of spa treatments!

I could ask a friend to come along but it's really short notice so flights will be expensive and trains will be filled up. Moreover, I'm going for four days in the middle of the week so it will be difficult for any of my friends to get leave at such short notice. Sigh! 

Making up with the husband is an option, I suppose. The longest we've ever fought in our seven years together is about 24 hours. But for too long, we've been fighting about this, we've been making up within hours, and then the issue comes up again in a couple of days or in a couple of weeks. And this time, I don't want to quickly resolve this, and then have to deal with this shit again when I come back from Kerala. 

Aarrgghh! Oh well, at least ranting on this blog has helped me feel better and breathe easier.  So hopefully, see you soon, in a sunnier mood.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Quick Update

I looked at my blog after ages and realised with a pang that it’s been two whole months since I posted. June was a crazy month: my friend G’s wedding in Chennai, Nike’s birthday, endless work related travel across Karnataka, and preparation for the upcoming Ladakh trip. I spent exactly five full days in Hyderabad in June.
But June ended on a very exciting note, with nine of us setting off to Ladakh for the trip of a lifetime. We flew to Delhi, took an overnight train to Kalka and then by road to Manali. In Manali, we rented bikes and a car and set off to Ladakh. We were on the road for three days: Manali – Rohtang Pass – Darcha – Keylong – Jispa – Baralacha La – Sarchu – Gata Loops – Moore Plains – Tanglang La – Leh. We spent a fair amount of time exploring Leh and the surrounding region. We did overnight trips to Pangong Tso, Nubra Valley and Tso Moriri and day trips to Hemis and Sangam. We then headed out to Srinagar from Leh, passing by Alchi, Lamayuru, Kargil and Drass and Zoji La. After a day in Srinagar, flew to Delhi, spent some time with friends in Delhi, and finally flew back to Hyderabad.
This was the trip of a lifetime for us. Now I view the whole year from the prism of Ladakh. And suddenly, after the trip, all seems alright with the world. That’s how much the trip rejuvenated me and changed my world view.
I am in Bangalore on work and currently don’t have the time for a longer post. Hopefully, a more detailed trip report will follow, along with photographs. But for now, I will leave you with a few photographs.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Weekend Reading

Thanks for all the sympathy! I'm feeling much better now. And I'm home in Vizag for the weekend so the month is at least ending on a great note. :-) 
Meanwhile, I’ve never done this link posts before, but there’s just so much great reading material on my FB newsfeed right now, that I absolutely HAVE to put it all up in one place.
This fabulous piece, titled ’25 Things I’ve Learned in My Twenties’ – how the hell does this guy know the story of my life? I was nodding so much throughout the article that my head was in danger of detaching itself from my neck. About dating jerks until you finally realise they will never become better people, about metabolism slowing down so you start feeling unattractive, about losing touch with friends and how it hurts or doesn’t, about questioning every decision you make, about watching your parents grow old in front of your eyes, about cruel bosses, about betraying your convictions, about first love, about our own cruelty, even about puking in public. This really resonated with me. If you’re in your twenties, go read. NOW!
I found this article very disturbing. What was worse was that even after reading it, an acquaintance wrote about what a wonderful place it was, without even acknowledging all the issues that the place has.
This was fun! Especially if you’ve seen the movie and know the context. My favourites: "Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything" from The Karate Kid. And "Truth hurts. Maybe not as much as jumping on a bicycle with the seat missing, but it hurts" from Naked Gun 2 ½. Who would have thought action movies had such profound wisdom in them?
The story of the sting operation performed by Shripal Shaktawat and Meena Sharma on doctors performing sex selective abortions in Rajasthan. Because these two very brave people deserve to have their story told. Many times over.
On the topic of sex selective abortions, Nivedita Menon writes a brilliant piece that reflects many of my own reservations about how my pro-choice stance aligns itself with my stance against sex selective abortions.
This anti-MBA sounds like something I would enjoy. Even if I don’t learn anything, I will get to travel around the world, meet some fascinating people, and come across some very interesting perspectives.
This hard hitting article from P Sainath raises some uncomfortable questions. Even as the Planning Commission, in all its wisdom, brings down the BPL, our governments continue to blow up money while poverty, health and education remain neglected.
Happy reading!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Battered, Bruised and Hungry

If anyone is still reading this blog – I am so very sorry that I haven’t updated (not that anyone was holding their breath) or even bothered to respond to all your lovely comments. I’ve just been going through a blue funk for the last month. Punctuated by bouts of whirlwind social activity. Or extreme lethargy.
So it’s not been the best month so far. A lot of things that I don’t want to happen are going to happen very soon, and I keep thinking about it, and it makes me very cranky, annoyed and hard done by. A lot of things I want to happen are also hopefully going to happen, but that’s not happening for much longer so I get frustrated thinking about it, and then realising that its really far off, and getting cranky all over again. I feel like this year, I’m just waiting for September to come, so I can start this exciting new phase of my life then, and I HATE the fact that I’m not really living in the now, but just waiting for the future to come.
Now that I’ve sounded suitably vague and mysterious and angsty, you’d think I’d leave it when the going is good and spare you further details. But alas, innocent reader, that is not to be. I shall now entertain you (not!) with the gory details of the especially awful week that has just gone by. To start with, I slipped and fell down and hurt myself pretty badly – bruised knees, aching back, scratches on my feet, the works. After a few days of this pain, I was recovering and beginning to feel better, but then I did something to my neck, and it hurt so bad that for two nights I couldn't sleep because of the pain that kept shooting through my neck and right shoulder every time I turned in my sleep. Of course, I kept moaning and screaming loudly enough to keep waking up poor Nike who kept rubbing balm through the night*.
The crowning glory (pun unintended) was the visit to the dentist on Sunday for dental flap surgery. *GORY DETAILS AHEAD* It basically involved separating my gums from my teeth, after which they are folded back like a flap so the dentist has direct access to the roots and bone. The dentist then removes infected tissue, plaque and tartar from this area, and then stitches the gums back in place. *END OF GORY DETAILS*
I have a very low (read non-existent) threshold for pain and communicated my discomfort very clearly to my dentist so he suggested we do it in two sittings. This weekend, he did the procedure for the upper set of teeth. I was given anaesthesia so it was totally pain-free but I could feel that he was putting pressure on my teeth/gums/root and I could hear all the scraping and I could see all the blood so that really freaked me out; to distract myself, I focused on how fat I would become if I put on a kilo every year. How would I look at 40? At 60? What would be the ideal age to die if I wanted to die before I got too fat?
Anyway, after such delightful ruminations on the dental chair, I came back home with a blood soaked mouth and swollen cheeks. As I examined myself in the mirror, I was horrified to discover that my gums has become completely misshapen – until Nike pointed out that I was looking at blood soaked cotton! I took painkillers and antibiotics and slept through the day.
I also mumbled my way through a lot of phone calls from all the friends and family with whom I had discussed it like what I had undergone was the world’s most revolutionary surgery. My dad, very touchingly, called me half a dozen times through the day to see how I was doing. My mother, who had gone through the same procedure a couple of years ago, was regretfully very cavalier about it – I’m still thinking of ways to guilt trip her over this.
It was also Cousin M’s birthday so we all went to dinner to Serengeti. It was an unfortunate choice of restaurant because the food smelled absolutely divine and made me very hungry. While my entire meal consisted of two pieces of paneer tikka. I am still drooling at the thought of the chilli olive naan. Though I suppose I could live much longer before I reached my fat threshold if I ate so little every day.
The whole post-procedure experience has been pain-free, though there’s mild discomfort before sleeping and after getting up, I guess when the effect of the painkillers has worn off. I worked from home on Monday because the process of dental care was too messy to subject my colleagues to. And I had curd rice with the yummiest, most delicious and juicy mangoes.
I wanted to watch Ishaqzaade today but decided to postpone it till I am in a condition where I can eat popcorn during the movie (or fries. I’m not a big fan of fries but the INOX snack counter at GVK One serves wonderfully fresh fries, even though in incredulously tiny quantities). So  Nike bought me ice apples so I’d have something soft to eat through my television marathon today evening (Junior Master Chef, Big Bang Theory, Raising Hope, Scrubs, Amazing Race – I've seen more television in one day that in the whole of last month!). He also made me cold coffee because I felt like it. The next time I whine about him, someone please remind me of what a wonderful, caring, considerate, indulgent person he is, and then knock me on the head with a club.
I’m off to a painkiller induced sleep right now. You all have a Happy Tuesday!

*I am not including minor injuries such as when my friend stomped on my feet in her heels when we were dancing, leaving it bruised. Or when I accidentally jabbed a sharp pencil on my leg, so hard that it created a deep scratch through my jeans. That would make it look like I'm trying to get sympathy (which is absolutely not what this post is about, no sir!)

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

All Alone

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Patna as I type this, with a television sitcom providing an incongruous background sound. My room is comfortable enough but old; the furnishings and upholstery are heavy and faded, giving this room a dated feel. I know by now that this is how most mid-range hotel rooms in the smaller cities are and with my curtains closed, I could be anywhere – Bhopal, Srinagar, Bhubaneswar, Patna.
Usually, I love being where I am right now. In an unknown city, in an anonymous hotel room, all by myself. It’s the only time when I really get ‘me’ time. When I’m home, even if I am home alone, I rarely get ‘me’ time – I’m talking on the phone, I’m chatting on the internet, I’m reading blogs and commenting on them, I’m faffing on Facebook, I’m sending and receiving emails - basically living a busy social life, even if much of it is virtual. But in these old-fashioned hotel rooms, internet is at a premium and I don’t use a data card, so I finally get ‘me’ time; I watch more TV in a day than I would in a whole month at home, I read, I sleep.
But this time around, I’m not enjoying the alone time. I’ve been travelling almost continuously the last two weeks – Tirupati, Vizag, Delhi, Agra – and throughout these weeks I have been spending a lot of time with family and friends, so maybe I’m just disoriented to find myself alone all of a sudden, after hanging out with not less than six people on any given day in the last two weeks. Or maybe I’m just tired and disoriented from all the travel and movement, and it’s finally gotten to me and I’m beginning to feel low. Or maybe there’s nothing fun to watch on television – and as uninteresting as that sounds, that’s most probably the reason.
This is my first visit to Bihar. Since I am travelling alone here, I’ve been advised by all and sundry to be careful. And all these ‘be careful’ suggestions have led to a slight sense of discomfort about being here by myself, especially because I will be paying a visit to some rural villages as part of this trip. And as much as I try to shake off that discomfort, it doesn’t completely go away.
But the people here have so far been incredibly friendly and helpful. Whether it is my driver, or senior government officials, or local NGO workers. And Patna was a surprise to me – it’s a fairly clean city with good roads (atleast the parts I have been to). Tomorrow though, I will get a taste of rural Bihar. Which reminds me that I need to go to sleep now – I have a long day tomorrow, and I need to get an early start.
That's all for now!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tales from a Marriage

Priorities or Lack Thereof
One night last week, Nike and I had a long discussion about finances. Rather, I launched into a long monologue about finances while Nike pretended to listen. We expect some big changes in our life in the second half of the year - a possible shift of jobs and cities – and I am worried that we will be in a tight spot financially for the next one year after that. Which led to the monologue where I spoke about how I was worried about finances and how we need to manage finances better; at the end of it all Nike said I worry unnecessarily and promptly went off to sleep!
The next day, he noticed a single strand of grey hair. And fell headlong into depression. I told him a single strand did not a whole head of hair make. I told him that he would look very sexy with grey hair - an Indian George Clooney, if you will (I don't actually think he will look anything like that but you're allowed to lie in extenuating circumstances). That day, he poured half a bottle of oil on his hair and then made his mother put some sort of hair pack on his head. When I came back home from work that evening, he had a long talk with me about how worried he was about his grey hair, and what steps he would take to prevent more grey hairs! 
If ever there was a case of messed up priorities, it is this!
Of Course, it’s a Competition!
Last week, Nike made banana walnut muffins. I was not happy about this at all. I made a banana cake just a few weeks ago and was still basking in the glory of all the praise I received for that. Now Nike was making banana walnut muffins. And since he is a much better cook, I was sure his muffins would taste better than my cake. I couldn’t let this happen. So I bombarded him with recipes for vanilla muffins, apple cinnamon muffins, red velvet cupcakes and anything else that did not have banana in it. But he was adamant that it would be banana walnut muffins only and rejected all the other recipes I sent him.
I then tried to sabotage the muffins by hovering around him while he was baking and giving him all sorts of incorrect advice. However, he banished me from the kitchen so I went and sulked instead. He called me to come and taste once the muffins were done, and I was forced to admit that they tasted better than my cake. Even though the walnuts were burnt. But, but, but, but, but… banana cake looked WAY better than his muffins. So we’re even now, no?
Great Expectations
My birthday is this Sunday. I am so excited and hyper about it that one would be forgiven for thinking I’m going to be eight, instead of twenty-eight (As an aside, I am rather anal about spelling out numbers, instead of simply writing them down in number format. They look so much more beautiful when spelt out fully. Twenty-eight. 28. You tell me, which looks better? End of aside.) And so for my birthday, I thought long and hard and discussed with friends and colleagues and finally decided I would ask Nike for a diamond pendant for my birthday gift.
Instead, Nike gave me vouchers worth Rs.7000 at Landmark. This is much worse than it sounds because (a) These were vouchers left over from the gift he bought me for our anniversary, not vouchers he specifically purchased for my birthday (b)We (though Nike says I) managed to lose half the vouchers so in reality, I have vouchers worth only Rs.3500 (c) Despite my insistence on going and shopping alone for books, Nike accompanied me and then ruined the entire experience by being in a bad mood, snapping at me, and hurrying me through the shopping so that I ended up buying books that I am not sure I want.
Consequently, I feel cheated and gift-less. I am telling Nike that he needs to buy me another gift. Something that I can show off on Facebook, on my blog, and to my family and friends is thoughtful and considerate.
And so the countdown starts to Sunday. Happy weekend, you guys!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Story of My Life

Photo Credits: Ahmed El Mezeny (from Facebook)

I found this image on Facebook and it was SO bloody true of my life! I showed this to my colleagues yesterday, and they all had a hearty laugh. After which we bitched in great detail about how we never get enough money, how nobody understands what we do, and how, sometimes, we ourselves aren't sure of what we're doing!

Happy weekend, y'all!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Of Sex Tapes and Banana Cakes

So our esteemed ministers in Karnataka have been caught watching porn during an assembly session. I’m not surprised; rather, I’m much more surprised at the outrage that has followed. I mean, what more did you expect from our ministers? That they would actually participate sincerely in an assembly session that is paid for by the taxpayer? Don’t be ridiculous!
On a serious note, I have three major issues with the whole controversy.
1.       I have no moral objections against pornography as long as the acts were performed by mutual consent. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with anyone, minister or not, watching porn. However, I do take issue with their watching porn while the assembly is in session. My firm isn’t going to be happy if they find out I am watching porn during office hours; for all I know, they may even be well within their legal rights to fire me if I am watching porn in office. Similarly, as a taxpayer, I am not happy to find out that my representative in assembly is watching porn instead of doing his job.
2.       More worrying is the fact that the minister is now trying to prevent all news from reaching his constituency – the cable lines have been blocked in the village; newspapers aren’t distributed there. Firstly, I am fairly sure this is unconstitutional because an MLA does not have the right to censor/filter the news that reaches his constituency. Secondly, this sets a very dangerous precedent – I can imagine other MLAs and MPs deciding to follow this tactic the next time they are in the limelight for all the wrong reasons.
3.       The hypocrisy of the ruling party (and its allies and associates), and of the ministers involved, infuriates me. They are all up in arms about the attack on our great Indian culture if couples want to celebrate Valentine’s Day. If women dare go to pubs, our lofty traditions are under threat. One of the ministers of the ruling party went ballistic when the topic of introducing sex education in schools was brought up, saying that it was ‘against Indian culture’ (of course!). But these arbitrary moral standards are only for the rest of the population apparently, while these gentlemen engage in behavior which would be considered amoral by their own standards.
That said and done, I’m more amused than angry by the whole rigmarole. I think it’s because I have reached a point where nothing our politicians do angers/shocks/upsets me anymore. I just shrug and move on with my life. I am now officially a cynic who believes there is no point in caring about what happens in the world around.
Meanwhile, it looks like the media is milking this for all its worth. And I am thoroughly sick of the media sensationalism these days – so much so that I never watch the news on television and barely read the paper anymore. It either makes me depressed, or it annoys the hell out of me or it makes me furious, and being aware and up-to-date isn’t compensation enough for all the anger, frustration and sorrow it causes (enough to shorten my life by a few years, I am sure!).
And so, as this news slowly gathers dust, and the media waits for the next grand controversy to come up, I have said my piece, and I too shall move on to better things. And so, I leave you with this, a banana cake I baked last week. Remember, one of my resolutions this year was to learn to cook? Well, last month I made coffee cake, and now this. Both of them came out alright, though they could have been much better (I am also apparently my sternest critic when it comes to cooking!) – nevertheless, I am very chuffed! What do you think?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Because Karma is a B!*&#

Since I don’t have any babies, and don’t foresee having any babies in the near future either, I fully and freely exercise my right to judge all parents on their parenting. Because, of course I know much more about how to bring up kids than the parents of said kids themselves. This is what happens when people think they are well-versed in the theory, but don’t do the practicals.

But those were the good old days of yore. Not anymore for me the luxury of grinding my teeth because the kid sitting next to me on my flight/train/insert preferred mode of transport is making this a journey to hell. Not anymore for me the pleasure of munching my popcorn and sagely commenting on the inappropriateness of bringing infants and toddlers to movies not meant for infants and toddlers. Not anymore for me the joy of contorting my face into what I imagine are scary expressions, while wagging my finger at badly behaved tots, all while nervously glancing around to make sure their parents don’t see what I am doing.*

In the last couple of months, my life has seen an astounding reversal, as I leave the ranks of the judgmental, ignorant masses and join the much maligned ranks of people who are stepping out of the four walls of their home with an infant. All because my SIL had a baby six months ago! Now, I live with my ILs. The baby also lives with my ILs. Ergo, baby and I live in the same house. This isn’t really a bad thing because baby is incredibly cute and very interesting and when she screams I shut the door to my room.

But the difficult part comes when we got out of the house with baby in tow. I am terrified that this baby is going to throw a tantrum and behave badly and have everyone around cursing us – and that would just be my karma coming to bite me in the ass, for all the times I cursed other people for their badly behaving babies, little realising that babies, even 6 month old babies, seem to have a mind and will of their own which can’t be matched by the combined will of baby’s parents, grandparents and assorted aunts and uncles.

Last week, we went shopping for shower heads (yes, I live in exciting times!). Since my interest in shower heads petered out about 5 minutes into seeing what looked like the billionth shower head in that store, I offered to carry the baby around so that the rest of the family could focus on the shower heads. For over an hour the baby was happy and cheerful, though I can’t say the same for my arms; but I suppose there are only so many bath tubs and kitchen sinks that a baby can look at before she starts wailing, and for those few minutes that she wailed while I rushed to hand her over to the MIL, I was more panic stricken than I had been when I waited for the CAT results.

But today, we are upping the ante. We are taking baby along to see Agneepath. In the movie theatre. I tried suggesting to SIL that maybe the audio-visual stimulation of a three hour long masala movie on the big screen is too much for a 6 month old to handle. But she is a doctor, and she said that it wasn’t a concern at all. But because I am nothing if not persistent, I slyly googled for articles and studies which proved that it was bad for a 6 month old to be taken to a movie hall – and I came up with nothing. Nada. Zilch! When I think of the billions being poured into scientific research, and see not one such article, I despair about the current state of scientific research.

I then tried wriggling out of the movie, but to no avail, since SIL is determined that we should all go together to the movie. She even postponed dinner at the home of a family friend for this purpose. My ILs are very Hum Saath Saath Hain that way. Especially when viewed from the prism of my own dysfunctional family (I offer you the mild example of this New Years Eve where I had to call Amma, Dad and Samee separately at midnight even though they were in the same house, because they were all on different floors, doing different things!)

And so, to Agneepath we go. I have made SIL promise that if the baby gets restless or looks like she is about to cry, she will be taken out of the theatre. In fact, I’ve made it sound like such a noble thing to do that MIL and SIL are actually arguing about who should carry the baby out even as I type this post. I have also made sure we have pre-booked the movie tickets (which we almost never do) so that we get the seats closest to the exit. And now, I shall steel my nerves, gird my loins, and such like and proceed forth. Wish me luck!

*Before you jump to baseless conclusions, this is not a really round-about pregnancy announcement. Now  do scroll back up and read, do. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Year Resolutions (Alternative Title: Foolish Hopes)

As a child, and even as an adolescent, I was wise and mature. As I grow older however, I am becoming more childish and immature with each passing year, and seem to be regressing both emotionally and mentally. Nowhere is this more evident than in the fact that when I was younger, I refused to make New Year resolutions, knowing that I wouldn’t keep them anyway. But all the wisdom of my childhood and teens vanished as I entered into my twenties; and now, even though I’m well on my way to bidding farewell to my twenties, I refuse to learn from the failures of the past years, and continue to doggedly make resolutions.

After much reflection, I decided that there was a woeful lack of discipline in my life, and that it had caused a fair amount of frustration and misery in the past couple of years. Yes, it took me this long to reach that conclusion. Anyway. So I decided that the theme for 2012 was going to be DISCIPLINE. With a capital D. Oh, well, I guess you got that already.

So my resolutions this year are centred on bringing more discipline into various aspects of my life, both personal and professional. And today I’m going to list them out on this blog in the hope that making them public will pressurise me into putting more effort to stick to them.

1.      Eat healthy
I have very unhealthy eating habits and have been working to change it for the last couple of years, with limited success. I’ve decided to keep track of what I eat on a daily basis so that I have a better idea of what is going into my body. Also, I’m going to try to generally eat more of the good foods and less of the bad foods.
·         Eat more of greens, vegetables and fruits. Try to drink milk once a day. Try to drink at least two litres of water every day. Try eating something green at least once a week. Ideally, try to eat something every 2-3 hours. Snack on fruits and nuts instead of junk food.
·         Cut down on the unhealthy foods. Not more than 600ml of cola a week. Not more than two single scoops of ice-cream/one sundae a week. Not more than one visit to a coffee shop in a week. Cut down on biscuits, chocolates, pastries, puffs and other snacks. Replace regular oil with olive oil.

2.      Work out
This is a resolution that I have been struggling to keep up for the last couple of years. The goal is to work out atleast 3 times a week – I could potentially do yoga, badminton, swimming or aerobics. I don’t need to lose weight but I definitely want to be fit and toned, and look good for the beach at the end of the year.

3.      Take better personal care
Now this is the resolution that I have been most successful with in the last couple of years; and through this resolution, I have managed to incorporate a lot of small (and seemingly silly) changes in taking care of myself. For this year, I am going to try to: brush my teeth twice a day, floss every day, take my multi-vitamins daily, oil my hair once a week, moisturise thoroughly, use a face pack/scrub once a week, and visit the salon regularly.

4.      Write regularly
For the longest time, I believed that one either has a flair for writing or one doesn’t, and that’s that. But I’ve come to appreciate that just like any other skill, writing takes time, effort and practice. And that working on your writing is what makes one a better writer, not sitting at the laptop and waiting for inspiration to strike. So my resolution is to write more regularly (at least three times a week) and put more thought and effort into my writing than I currently do.

5.      Learn new things
I have realised that in the last few years I haven’t learnt anything new. Not a single damn thing. And it makes me so ashamed of myself. Especially because there are so many things I want to learn and so do! So this year I am going to make an effort to learn on new thing. So this year I am going to focus on: learning to tie a saree, learning to cook/bake, learning to swim, learning a foreign language and learning to drive on real roads (as opposed to imaginary roads without any traffic). I will be happy to achieve at learn at least two of these skills.  

6.      Function more efficiently
I am quite the Queen of Procrastination. I leave everything till the very last minute, and then scramble to finish things on time. The good part is that I work best under pressure and can always be counted on to meet tight deadlines. At my earlier job, I was the go-to person for last minute work and urgent proposals. The bad part about it is that it leads to stress, tension and general negativity that I can do very well without. Now this procrastination is not limited to my professional life but extends to my personal life as well – I am very lax about responding to calls, emails, doing favours I have promised to do etc.

So this year I am going to work on being more efficient – both professionally and personally. At the beginning of every day, I am going to make a list of things I need to finish on that particular day and I will not leave office till I finish it off – that way, I will be under pressure to finish my work for the day and not take work home. Every weekend, I will make a list of errands to be done for the weekend, and ensure I finish them off that very weekend rather than postpone it for the weekend that never comes. I am also going to make an effort to respond to all personal calls and emails before I hit the bed.

Now wish me luck for this one!

7.      De-clutter
This has been one of my resolutions for 2011 as well, and I did rather well on this front. Last year, the aim of de-cluttering my life was to not store/buy things I did not need in my life. The move to Hyderabad was very helpful because I gave away a lot of things I did not use before packing up and moving. And since then, I ask myself ‘do I need this?” before making even the simplest of purchases. Except books; they have been my only indulgence this year, and quite frankly, I don’t care to cut down on that.

This year, my resolution is to simply continue with the de-clutter mantra and question myself before making any purchase. I am also going to give away clothes, books and other things that I don’t need anymore. Most importantly, I am going to work on building a lifestyle where I simply don’t need so many things anymore.

So those are my resolutions for 2012. Wish me luck in keeping them. Oh, and what are your resolutions for this year?