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.