Sunday, June 29, 2008

Stuff I Love

  • People complimenting me on all the weight I've lost
  • People complimenting me on the stuff I write here
  • Writing random stuff that nobody else cares about and making people read it
  • The way my brother's face lights up when I shop for him and he likes the stuff I get for him (which he usually does, by the way :) )
  • Meeting up with old friends
  • Going shopping all by myself
  • Having someone do something thoughtful for me unexpectedly
  • My mom's Rajma Chawal
  • Watermelons
  • Anything sinfully chocolaty
  • Seeing something sinfully chocolaty right in front of my eyes and restricting myself from eating it
  • Seeing something sinfully chocolaty right in front of my eyes and not restricting myself from eating it
  • A R Rahman's music
  • Sukhwinder Singh's voice
  • Ajay Devgan's expressive eyes
  • Aamir Khan's acting
  • A song that's going about in my head being played on the radio
  • The Shrek movies and the songs featured in the soundtracks
  • Strolling about in the drizzle and singing to myself when it's raining a little and there's a breeze
  • Driving with the windows rolled down when it's raining a little and there's a breeze
  • Nice, cool baths in the summer
  • Nice, warm baths in the winter
  • And, sleeping to my heart's content!!!

Sleepless Sunday Nights

For some strange reason, I've been having a lot of difficulty falling asleep on Sunday nights. This extended weekend, I've slept to my heart's content on Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning. There have been weekends when I've woken up really early in the mornings, and been up and about all day. There have been ones when I've overslept like anything and napped in the afternoon as well. No matter what I do, I can't fall asleep at a decent hour on Sunday night. I've been reading, listening to all kinds of music, trying to think of something interesting to write about, trying to think of something I might find boring... and here I am, guzzling chocolate chip cookies and rambling on for no rhyme or reason at 2:30 in the morning. Today all my tried and tested methods that usually help me fall asleep have failed. I am feeling so jealous of my brother who's been fast asleep in the next room since something like 9:30 PM. He just came back from a trip to Mussorie with a bunch of friends. Apparently he's tired from the trip. It's interesting to note, however, that he didn't do anything over there that would tire him out or that he wouldn't do here. These guys ordered pizza from Domino's and watched Volcano. I wonder why they needed to go three hundred kilometres away for that. But, as we know, guys are weird. They like things that we don't understand. I think I'm quoting Rachel from an episode of Friends here. Season 9, The One with the Sharks. Okay, I know I've seen that series too many times. The Ross and Rachel story is probably, of all love stories I've ever seen on television or in the movies, the single most memorable and interesting one. The one that's left a deep impression in my mind. Other than the Julianne-Michael story in My Best Friend's Wedding, of course. Interestingly, I've seen that movie any number of times. There was this time when Dermot Mulroney, who plays Michael, the male lead in the movie, made a guest appearance on Friends. When I watched that episode, I kept wondering where I'd seen that guy before. And I couldn't place him. And when I did, I had a good laugh out of it.

So I guess people can judge my state of mind from the way I'm changing the subject of this post every now and then. My mind is so totally restless here. It needs some calming down. Who knows how that's going to happen tonight...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Rendezvous With My American Sister

I have this cousin who's nineteen years old and I'd never met her until Friday. She and her two brothers are half Indian and half American by lineage. But they've been born in brought up entirely in the States. This is her first visit to India. She's my first cousin whom I'd seen only in pictures, communicated with only via email, and spoken to on the phone only once in all these years. In effect, I didn't really know her all this while.

The first meeting was really pleasant. Better than I'd thought. Kiran is this really happy person. Always laughing or smiling. Showing excitement at the slightest incentive to do so. Not once did she crib about the weather, the traffic conditions, the beggars, anything that I'd expect someone with her upbringing to crib about. Incidentally, I think the weather in Delhi has been relatively well behaved this summer but Thursday was really hot and humid. And she landed in Delhi that evening.

We looked around a bit at the Cottage Industries Emporium and Janpath before a completely Indian lunch at CP. She seemed to relish all of it. My mamaji tells me she's been brought up on daal roti. Probably worth mentioning here that my mamiji is an American and my mamaji is the one who cooks the daal roti at their place. We took them to see the Akshardham Temple. None of us had seen it ourselves, living in Delhi all this while. And me, passing it on my way to work every day for the last two years and two months. It's a masterpiece. An awesome work of art. And the way Kiran showed her awe for every part of it was simply fantastic. I wish I was a little more like her. I wish I was a little better at appreciating the little things and the big things in life.

So anyway, Kiran and her friend left for Dharamshala early on Saturday morning where they will be spending almost a month in an ashram working with special needs children. I hear she's done that kind of thing earlier as well, back home. She'll be back at the end of next month to spend five days with us in Delhi. I'm really looking forward to that. Those five days are all weekdays and I want to take all five days off work. But I know that neither my manager nor my workload will permit me to do so. But I'll spend as much time with her as I can. And we'll have a good time.

My Experiments In The Kitchen

I am lousy with household tasks that girls are generally supposed to be good at. I'm primarily talking about cooking here. Totally unlike a lot of my female friends, I don't even feel the inclination to go into the kitchen and try my hand at it.

There is this incident that my brother and I enjoy relating to people. It was some time in January 2000. We'd just moved into the house where we currently live. My grandparents, who'd just moved back into our ancestral home in our native village, wanted to send some stuff over. My grandmother called in the morning to tell me that she was sending some distant cousin of mine with the stuff. This was a time when Delhi was going through a bit of a cold wave. My grandma instructed me to make some tea for the guy when he came over. Obviously I had to do that, because it was that cold and he was doing us a favour. My mom was at work and only my brother and I were home. So, well, I had my grandma give me step-by-step instructions over the phone. I just served the tea and disappeared from the living room after that. My brother claims that the poor guy's expression seemed to show that he was drinking some sort of bitter medicine. Never again did I try my hand at tea. There was never any real need, actually. In our house, most of us do not like tea. Only my Dad does. And my mom is usually there to make it for him.

Then there is the pulao struggle. The first time I made pulao, it was a little undercooked. A little may be an understatement here. I actually do not remember all that clearly, because this was twelve or thirteen years ago. The second time I burnt it just a little bit. No understatements here. And then there was the time when my vegetable pulao was cooked just right, but I clean forgot to put in the vegetables which had been washed, peeled, cut, ready to cook.

Since then I've made reasonably good pulao a bunch of times. I could survive on vegetable pulao if my mom goes away for a couple of days. But I've never had to.

I've always enjoyed baking sponge cake with my mom constantly supervising me. I've done that a number of times. But of course, without supervision, I'll mess it up. It'll either be hard enough for me to knock somebody on the head with, or soft enough to require a spoon to eat.

This morning I made something decent for my breakfast. There's this sweet variation of French Toast that my mom makes sometimes and I totally love. I made a couple of slices for myself today. It needed just another pinch of sugar, but it was not bad at all.

I just need a bit of determination here. I'll learn the ways of the kitchen someday.

I Wish...

Like I started this blog by saying, I don't usually follow my dreams. Writing was a huge passion with me. These days it's rapidly becoming one again. I'd completely forgotten how happy it makes me to put my thoughts into words. This is actually an awesome way to express myself. When I have something to express, but I'm not sure who I want to disucss it with. This has helped me rediscover myself. I've also loved the appreciation I've got from my friends.

I wish more people would follow their dreams instead of just going with the flow, doing what seems acceptable, convenient. I wish people would express their affection for other people without worrying about whether it's going to be reciprocated or not. I wish people would be less inhibited at expressing appreciation for other people. I wish we'd all let our family and friends know what a difference they make in our lives. Without waiting for Mother's Day or Friendship Day. I sometimes feel like giving my mom a nice bear hug for no apparent reason. She finds it odd. I think it's perfectly natural. I'd like to be like that more often. I'd want all of us to be like that more often. I'd like to be more expressive with the other people around me as well. I don't know what inhibits me from being so. I find it so easy to express if I dislike something about somebody, but so difficult to do so when I like something or somebody. That's not so with just me, I guess. There are lots of others like me in this world. We do tend to think that it will be awkward, uncomfortable, weird, if we express ourselves. I do, sometimes. Quite often, actually. But well, as a matter of fact, whenever somebody has said anything nice about me, it's always made me feel good. Even when a guy I completely detested confessed to having a crush on me, it felt weird, I did not feel like talking to him, but, at some level, it felt good. I think it's always a good thing to tell the people who matter to you that they matter. That they make a difference to who you are. That they make you happy and aid your well-being.

My Favourite Fat Cat

I totally adore this fat, orange, striped feline comic strip character called Garfield. There was a time when Cartoon Network used to air Garfield and Friends thrice a day. 10:00 AM, 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM. It used to be the same episode all three times. Quite often I'd watch it thrice over. At least twice, at any rate. I wish I could be like Garfield. Carefree. Not hassled by how much I eat. How much I sleep. How these two things affect my health. Last week this adorable fat cat turned 30. That's a ripe old age for a cat :P

Garfield actually seems to be completely devoid of a guilty conscience, whether it comes to eating and sleeping, or kicking Odie, or saying mean things about Jon. Sometimes I think it might be a lot of fun to let go of that conscience completely. Although the world would not be a very pleasant place to live in if we all did that. But sometimes, just sometimes, like this lazy Saturday afternoon, I'd love to be able to gorge on chocolate chip cookies and doze away to glory!

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Confused Thought

Jo khayaalon mein samaaya hai
Wo dil mein samaa nahin paa rahaa
Jisne neendein udaa di hain
Wo mujhe khwaab nahin dikhaa rahaa
Dil ke darwaaze par dastak ho rahi hai
Aur ye dil use sun nahin pa rahaa
Jaane ye kaisi chaahat hai
Jise mera hi dil samajh nahin pa rahaa

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My First Brush With Being A Published Writer

Not too many people know that the first time I ever made money on my own, it was from my original passion - creative writing. Flashback to November 1997. (Yes, it was that long back!) There was a magazine called Teens Today that I used to read regularly back then. They had a regular feature for which they invited readers to contribute full length articles, of which they'd pick one every month for publication. I made my attempt in, like I said, November 1997. And it was actually published in their January 1998 issue. It earned me my first pay cheque worth five hundred bucks, and a lot of recognition, appreciation, and criticism from my schoolmates. I wrote any number of pieces for my school magazine before and after that one, but this was what gave me an opportunity to bask in the limelight for a little while. I did this while we were all busy preparing for our pre-board exams and attending extra classes left, right, and centre in order to finish off the syllabus. So I'd actually been forced by my teachers to temporarily give up my almost full time job as the Editor-In-Chief of the school magazine. My desire to write was feeling suppressed, restless. And this was the outlet I found.

I was actually looking for my original, handwritten transcript (Because this dates back to a time when I didn't have very convenient access to a computer, except in the Computer Lab in school. And in class ten we did not even visit the Lab, because Computer Science was not a subject then, and supposedly that was a year to study seriously.) which I did not find, so I'll settle for the very slightly edited version that was actually published.

What follows is to be read in the light of the fact that I wrote it a little over ten and a half years ago.

Original Title: She's a Teenager, She's Pregnant, Whose Fault is it?

Teenage pregnancy is not very common in India, but in the US a large number of girls have such experiences. However, even in India, unmarried women do get pregnant while in, or after, college. Whatever may be the number of cases, the fact remains - teenage pregnancies are something that should not happen but do happen.

What I would like to discuss is, who is to blame and why. Is it the poor girl who has never seriously been told about contraception? Or is it the boy who is hardly any better informed than her, and even if he is, has developed the attitude that it's not his problem if she gets pregnant?

What I feel is, it is our society that is to blame. For, it is our social stigmas that prevent us from talking frankly about subjects like sex. But, why on earth do we have this bias against sex education or even against talking parent-to-teens on the subject? And then parents feel bad if their daughter gets pregnant before marriage! They feel worse if she doesn't tell them about it. In my view, every girl will tell her parents about such things if they do not hesitate to tell her the facts of life in the first place. If they don't even tell her that much, why should they expect her to take the initiative of talking about a subject like the birds and bees? Parents should make the first move towards bridging the generation gap and moving towards frankness.

Anyway, my main question is, why don't we talk about sex and contraception openly enough? Sex is what makes life continue - it is the major contributor to our very existence. It's something life cannot be sustained without. And above all, it's absolutely illogical to hide these facts from your kids because, even if you don't tell them, they'll get to know from somewhere else after a while. But they ought to hear it from you, even if not in complete detail, the very first time they ask you - it's your duty to tell them.

Times are changing. Just because your parents told you nothing till you were, say, twenty, doesn't meant you won't tell your kids till that age.Today's teenagers need to know everything there is to know by the time they are about fourteen to fifteen years old. Because, if kids don't know the facts, they tend to adopt wrong ways. And then the kids are blamed. What I feel is that teenagers indulge in sex because they are curious and are not given adequate or proper information. They have to satisfy their curiosity somehow. And if the theoretical way is not made accessible to them, they adopt the practical way - which is not considered acceptable by our society.

I feel that if we wish to make our society a liberal one, our first move should be to encourage sex education and awareness about sex and contraception. And it is not to be forgotten that though journals and books do have a contribution to make in this direction, the role of the parents can be played only by them. Parents have to tell their kids quite a few things that they alone can talk about.

When parents expect their kids to adopt good morals and ethics, they tell them about moral principles. They tell them about discipline. So why don't they tell them about sex? Is sex a crime, or is it something only social outcasts indulge in? Why is it that despite the fact that parents and kids need to talk it over, we feel embarrassed when we talk about it or even think about it or hint that we want to talk about it? If people can toilet-train their kids, why can't they sex-educate them?

Liberalisation is not just modernisation and being able to think about something from someone else's point of view. It's about removing the ills of society by talking openly and frankly and bridging all kinds of communication gaps, whether created by society or by personal opinions. And sex education and being open and frank about the subject is about the most important step towards a liberal, and better society.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Twelve Days Of Self Imposed Restraint

My twelve days off from blogging went rather badly... I never realised until now that I'd been deriving such a huge amount of pleasure from this activity! I'm not too sure why I imposed this on myself, or what I was trying to prove here, but, like just about everything else that goes on in my mind, this was a random thought that occured to me and I felt the need to do this. It made me feel pretty restless, really. Restless enough to make me write eight posts in one go over a weekend when I was feeling particularly sleep deprived. I noticed that a lot of these posts were much longer than my usual ones. I also wrote three testimonials for my friends on orkut this weekend. I never knew I still had such a compelling desire to write. To express myself, even when there wasn't too much to express. And to make people read the random expressions. It gives me any amount of joy to see my friends commenting on my blog. There are a few friends of mine who never or hardly ever post comments, but they've told me that they follow my posts regularly. They notice when I don't write anything for four or five days. That makes me feel good. A certain friend of mine told me that he and two other friends of ours were talking about how they no longer understand my morning quotes or my blog posts. These three supposedly went through some of my blog posts without any amount of seriousness, just having fun. Hearing this, interestingly, also made me feel good in a strange sort of way. Because I actually never expected any of these three guys to appreciate any of the stuff I write. I was just happy to know that they tried to read it, and even discuss it :D

Keep the comments and the criticism coming folks. Whether you like it or hate it, I love doing this!!!

Long Distance Friendships

I have always been closest to the friends who've been with me since school. These are the friends I've always valued the most. Until the time we finished our graduation, most of us were still in Delhi and we used to meet up often. Now almost everybody is in a different city. One is in a different continent. I'm the only one who's stuck around in Delhi all through. Everybody else has either worked or studied (or both) in at least one other city at some point of time during the eight years since we all finished school. I guess Pavitra was the first one... she went to Pune for her engineering. The rest of us all did our undergraduate studies in Delhi. Of all the friends I am still in touch with, Pavitra is the one I've known the longest. Eighteen or nineteen years, I think. This was in a day and age when cellphones were not all that popular with us. So you know, it wasn't all that easy to make long distance calls whenever one felt like it. We managed to keep in touch mainly over mail and IM. A little over three years later, Aditi went to Hyderabad to take up a job. This was a time when I'd started to feel rather weird about it all... Aditi was already a design graduate and about to take up a job. Everybody else would be a fully qualified engineer in another year's time. I was already a graduate, and had almost lost all sense of direction about what to do next with my life. Because my life was not taking me where I'd originally intended for it to. So I was all confused. Even more so owing to the fact that everybody else seemed to have a clear direction of where they were going, and seemed to be going exactly where they'd originally intended to. Adi always wanted to be a designer, as far back as I could remember. And our own Laurel (a.k.a. Sumit) and Hardy (a.k.a. Gullu, or sometimes Nikhil) had always apparently been very serious about being engineers. Ditto for Doodlee (a.k.a. Shashank) and Jayant, who were among the biggest geeks known to mankind.

Coming back from the digression, it was a short while after Sumit finished his engineering and left for Mysore that I finally got myself a cellphone and got into the habit of calling him, Adi and Pav fairly frequently. I'd actually been quite apprehensive about how well we'd be able to keep in touch at the time when Sumit was leaving Delhi. Because he'd been the friend I'd usually go to when there was something bothering me and I needed a guy's perspective on it. Quite often, he still is. My apprehensions were put to rest the day after he landed in Mysore and we had a nice chat over Yahoo which made me feel that I'd manage. I'd cope with the miles separating me from my three closest friends.

Since then, Doodlee left for Hyderabad. Jayant for Bangalore. Gullu shuttled between Mumbai and Pune and Delhi. Pav moved to Chennai, and back to Pune. Adi came back to Delhi and then went to Jaipur and is now in Delhi again. Sumit went to Bangalore and then to Perth and then again to Bangalore and then to Melbourne. And I'm still here. Never worked outside the National Capital Region.

I had two amazing trips visiting my friends in different cities. In April 2006 I visited Doodlee in Hyderabad, where Sumit also joined us. I had the loveliest time over there. This was just after I finished my internship, so I had a little money from the stipend I got during the internship. And it was just before I took up my first job, so I had a little time on my hands. It was a good feeling, financing my own flight tickets and going that far from home all by myself for the first time. Doodlee was a wonderful host and showed us around really nicely. I saw a whole bunch of places, ranging from the Microsoft campus to Ramoji Film City, which hosts a bunch of sets used in various Bollywood movies. We had an amazing weekend, with the three of us staying up till 5 AM and chatting and still managing to get up at 7 AM and spend the entire day sightseeing without falling asleep at the Charminar :D.

And then there was New Year's 2007 which I celebrated in Jaipur when Adi was there. I'd spent all my life in Delhi and had never once visited Jaipur before that. I'd never seen the Hawa Mahal, or the Johari Bazaar (it's a very different experience, shopping for jewellery with a jewellery designer by your side :-) ), or the Nahargarh and Amer forts. I'd never before (or afterwards, for that matter) watched a Hollywood movie dubbed in Hindi. We spent some part of New Year's Eve watching Night At The Museum in Hindi. We had a ridiculously good time watching Ben Stiller hum a Himesh Reshammiya number. On that trip I injured both my feet in multiple places, including a pretty serious injury on one of my toes which was quite horrific. Since then history has repeated itself multiple times and I have developed a strong tendency to injure/sprain/fracture my feet. Thankfully they all healed pretty quickly and I was left with the happy memories.

There's a Pune trip and a Bangalore trip still on my to do list. Possibly one of them will materialize during this year's shutdown. Sumit wanted me to add Melbourne to this list. But I guess I'm waiting for him to return to India and visit him in whichever city he sets up camp :P

It's actually been really, really long since I saw all these friends together in one place. Keeping in touch has been a little intermittent at times, very regular at others, but we have managed to keep each other updated on the important stuff. We have managed to be there for each other in our hour of need. We have managed to feel close, in spite of being far apart.

The Boss's Time Off

Somehow I have never been able to connect to the sentiment when people bitch about their bosses. Apparently it's a pretty universal school of thought. Managers are supposed to be not nice people. A lot of people I know abide by this. I have worked with only two different bosses. The first one was my manager for four months of internship in Flextronics (That's what it was called then.). The other one has been my boss for a little over two years here in Adobe. I never felt a real need to bitch about either of them.

My boss is on a three-week vacation these days. We've spent a week in office without him. And I am actually missing him. Just like I'd miss any of my teammates with whom I was working closely and interacting on a daily basis. Someone who was not just a colleague, but also a friend to me. Because my manager never makes me feel like I am his subordinate. There were days when he used to sit with us at our desks and debug stuff with us. These days, that kind of thing rarely happens, because he has a much larger number of people and a much larger number of projects to manage. But he still finds ways to make us feel totally at ease and completely comfortable discussing any sort of professional or personal issues with him. That's what I like about him. He fits in pretty well with his subordinates.

I'm really missing his weird, bad jokes, his constant "chal gaya sab kuch?" and similar questions, his never ending chain of meetings, especially the excruciatingly long weekly status meeting, which spawns any number of meetings. Really looking forward to his return and the restoration of normalcy.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Whether You Know It Or Not

I was just looking at the plot synopsis of Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na. This is an excerpt from what I read:

"Jai and Aditi are perfect for each other (in some odd, distorted way, impossible to understand). Friends know this. Parents know this. Everybody knows this. But do Jai and Aditi know?

"Can two people ever, truly, know the secrets of their hearts? And how do you know it's the real thing? Will they find love in each other? When do you know it's love?"

Somehow this sort of theme feels very close to my heart. We go through life so fast that we miss all the signs. We don't always realize that a certain person is the one we're meant to be with, until one fine day when it's a little too late. We don't know we love that person until we realize that we can't have them.

There's a song from this movie called Jaane Tu Meri Kya Hai which I totally loved. Not just because it's composed by Rahman and sung by Sukhwinder Singh. The words touched me deeply.

Hai dosti humko yakeen tha, dosti aur kuch bhi nahi tha
Par kaise tujh ko baante, kyu chubhte hai pairon mein kaante
Janaa dil jaana, kaise maine naa jaana
Ke pyaar yahi hai, yeh jaane tu ya jaane naa

Quite a random thought, this one. My last three or four posts, I noticed, have been a lot longer than my usual posts. This one is being kept short in an attempt to restore normalcy.

A Perfect Wedding

I have a strong desire to write about a lot of stuff that's going on in my mind... but it seems to be a little too personal to share with society at large. So I'm choosing instead, to do something exactly the opposite, in some sense. For the first time I'm putting up something on this blog that does not draw from any personal experience that I have had.

In Father of The Bride, Steve Martin says, "I used to think a wedding was a simple affair. Boy and girl meet, they fall in love, he buys a ring, she buys a dress, they say I do. I was wrong. That's getting married. A wedding is an entirely different proposition."

I do not think he could have been more right. All over the world, weddings are a complicated deal. Planning a wedding is when one realizes that it's not just a girl marrying a guy, it's her entire family marrying his entire family. There are any number of customs, any number of social obligations, any number of relatives (including some really distant ones that you may actually see only on your wedding day) to be taken care of.

I would actually love to have a small, simple wedding for myself, with just close relatives and close friends. (Disclaimer: this does not mean that I do not want to dress up and look more beautiful than I've ever looked! But I want to look beautiful, not made-up and overloaded with precious metals.) I do not see the point of inviting a million people whom I do not know, have never met before, and will possibly never meet again in my life. I would like to share my special day with all those people with whom I've shared a lot else in my life. Those I've grown up with. Those I've partied with. Gone shopping with. Lent listening ears to. Received advice from. Given and received shoulders to cry on. I simply do not understand the concept of sharing this special joy with people you barely know. When I am invited to a wedding where I don't really know either the bride or the groom or a really close relative like a sibling of either of them, I never feel inclined to go.

I've also come to think that planning a large scale wedding, complete with a zillion pre-wedding and post-wedding ceremonies, is actually quite taxing on the two families involved. It actually takes the focus away from the most important thing - that there are two people here who want to spend the rest of their lives together and that's what actually matters. That gets overshadowed by arguments on auspicious dates and venues and what not. People end up spending obscene amounts of money on their weddings which could be put to better use by being spent on things the newlyweds would need, or being saved up for their children's education.

Oh well, this is just a random string of thoughts that cropped up in my mind. I guess these things will really matter to me only after I find my Prince Charming. Right now, the important thing for me is the search.


This is probably one of the most random things I've ever written. It's about how I'm all confused about what I want from life, what I need in life. I think quite a few people will be able to relate to the sentiment.

Jaane kis talaash mein hai ye dil
Jo mujhse bhi na keh paaya
Jaane kaunsi aawaaz sunna chahta hai
Jise sune bina bhi na reh paaya

Jis raah pe chalna chahta hai
Wo raah dikhti nahin hai
Jis manzil tak pahunchna chahta hai
Wo manzil milti nahin hai

Koi chaahat hai jise samajh nahin paata
Ek roshni ki kiran jise dekh nahin paata
Talaash hai phir bhi ek aasre ki
Jis aasre ko dekh kar bhi pehchaan nahin pata

What They Taught Me In College

The Profs in the Mathematics Department back at St. Stephen's were an interesting set of people... each leaving an indelible mark in my memory for her or his own specific reason. These are the people who led me to be fascinated with Mathematics. They were also the people who taught me some important values. And, of course, my friends and I did have quite a lot of fun at their expense behind their backs - as is quite usual in any teacher - student setup in urban India. But in spite of all that, I have a huge amount of respect for all of them. And I want to write about all of them here. And about the stuff they taught me.

Quite possibly, it is simplest to describe Dr Geeta Venkataraman. She was this really sweet, calm, confident person. I never once saw her lose her cool. I also do not remember anyone being annoying enough in her class to cause her to lose her cool. GV, as she was referred to, commanded that kind of respect. And at the same time, she made you comfortable enough to talk to her like you would to a friend. She was a great motivator. At least I found her to be so.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, as I see it, sits Dr Sanjeev Aggarwal. Aggy, as he was fondly referred to, was probably the most complicated character in our department. Extremely outspoken. Totally encouraging and extremely discouraging at the same time. Notorious for hardly ever awarding marks in double digits in the January Tests, which were marked out of fifty. One of my classmates once commented that, in our immediately senior batch, if you added up what the entire class got in Aggy's Jan Test, you would still not add up to fifty! Immodestly speaking, what I got on his Jan Test constitutes Douglas Adams's answer to the question of Life, The Universe and Everything.

During his tutes he would completely insult anybody and everybody, but in a way in which we never really took it to heart. When I was applying to Oxford, I went to him for a recommendation. He was known to be a little brutal in writing recos, but I was feeling adventurous enough to take the risk. Aggy and GV had both themselves graduated from St. Stephen's and post-graduated from the University of Oxford. When I went to Aggy for a reco, he told me: "One needs two things to pursue a career in Mathematics. One is talent. The other is passion. I have absolutely no doubt that you have the talent you need. About the passion I'm not so sure." He also said that the interest you feel for Mathematics is much like romance. You feel it quite passionately, but it dies out, much like real life romance. I never really agreed with his views on anything, but I always found them interesting. By the way, in spite of the lack of passion and the fact that I did ask him to write me a reco anyway, I did make it through to my first preference college at Oxford. The reason why I did not go there probably demands a separate post which I may or may not write at another time.

Aggy had this remarkable passion for his subject. He used to tell anecdotes of his college days when, you know, if he figured out the solution to a problem he'd been working on for a while, he'd start dancing around in his balcony with his neighbours staring at him. He encouraged all of us to be that passionate. He firmly believed that we all needed to be passionate about something in life, if not Mathematics.

Then there was Dr Mathur. Completely opposite to GV in a different respect. Remarkably quick at flying off the handle. He'd lose his temper about once during every lecture. Possibly because he was one of the most senior people in the department (he retired a little before we got our farewell). At that age, people tend to be quite set in their ways and not too open to change. Changing culture, changing attitudes. He had his own ideas on how ladies should behave and on just about everything else. He was really good at remembering people. After perhaps three or four days of college, he never once called out names while marking attendance. He'd just look at everyone during the lecture and mark it all on his own. So no scope for proxies there!

The thing about him that I remember most distinctly was that, no matter how angry he got with you in class, he'd be back to his sweet self the instant you were talking to him outside of class. If you apologised to him, he'd accept it most gracefully.

Okay, so my classmates from St. Stephen's who are reading must be eagerly awaiting this. Dr Amber Habib. I think he was the only one in the department who did not graduate or post graduate from St. Stephen's himself. He'd done an integrated MTech from IIT Kanpur and spent a few years teaching at the University of Berkley. He was this really sweet, simple and humble person. Most of my close friends did not like him or his teaching style too much. I never quite understood why. Because I did. I liked him a lot. And I found his teaching style interesting. Inevitably, when all my friends were engrossed in making fun of him, I'd stick up for him. So I came to be accused of having a crush on him.

He was a man of varied interests. Mathematics, Computers, painting, butterflies... there's a long list. My friends who did not like him did find him and his antics interesting in a strange kind of way. There was this white kurta that he used to wear sometimes which used to provoke them into poking any amount of fun at him. Aarti has immortalised that kurta in the yearbook write-up she wrote for me.

Then there was Dr Ranjit Bhatia. He is a former Olympic athlete. By the time we were in our first year, which was his last year of service to the College where he'd studied too, he'd developed a pretty serious case of Parkinsosn's. But he was still very independent, financially and otherwise.

And of course, I cannot possibly miss out Nandita Naraian. Ms Naraian is actually enough to require a separate post, but this one would be grossly incomplete without her mention. She was a lot more than a teacher. Ordinarily, the Profs at St. Stephen's stay away from the Delhi University Teacher's Association (DUTA) (as do the students from DUSU), but Nandy, as we called her, was one active member. She always took the lead in any protest that DUTA or the public at large was making against anything that she considered worth protesting against. Be it a candlelight vigil or a hunger strike or just a procession, she'd be there. But she had her own ideas about the methods of protesting. She did not believe in conventional strikes. Because they'd put the students at a loss for no fault of theirs. There was this strike that happened in 1983 that she loved to talk about over and over again. I do not remember what they were protesting against then. But I do remember the way they did it. Nandy used to take portable blackboards and all her students to the India Gate grounds and teach them there, where she could get all the media attention she wanted and needed. She described how she and the entire class of students used to hop around from one bus to another from College to India Gate. She made it sound like we'd missed an adventure of a lifetime by not being part of it. She once asked us how old we were in 1983. She was noticeably disappointed to find out that the vast majority of the people in our batch were only a year old back then.

Anyway, we were actually lucky enough to experience a slightly toned-down version of that adventure. When we were final year students, there was some talk of increasing the working hours of lecturers in the University without increasing their compensation. DUTA was obviously protesting against that. Nandy and GV participated in that protest by teaching us in the grounds right outside the Vice-Chancellor's Office. These grounds were actually almost adjacent to one of the College gates, so we did not get to hop around between buses. But it was still an experience of a lifetime.

When I asked Nandy for a reco for applying to Oxford and Cambridge, she was totally thrilled. To know that I wanted to pursue higher Mathematics. Immodestly speaking, I was one of her favourite students. I do sometimes feel I let her down by giving up all that.

Nandy had a huge amount of passionate concern for the environment, the country, society, her students, world peace... there's a long list here. She was a fiercely independent woman. And she was a brilliant teacher. She used to say that teaching was like oxygen for her. She could not live without it.

So, you know, I learnt a lot from all these people other than Analysis and Algebra and all that stuff. I learnt that you need to be passionate about whatever you do in life. I learnt that as long as you think you can, you can be completely independent. I learnt that we all need to learn to care about others and about society, and we all need to make our own contribution, small or large, towards making it a better place to live in.

Random Desires

When I went out with my friends on my birthday this year, I had two random desires in mind. One was to buy a piece of clothing or jewellery that I would normally never buy, that was drastically different from my regular taste. And the other was to go to Costa Coffee and eat a chocolate chip muffin. Not any other chocolaty sin, this was the only one I wanted to commit.

So there was no Costa near our destination for that day. There was a Barista and a Cafe Coffee Day, but no Costa. So I dropped that idea. The other one we all tried our best to materialize, but I didn't really find anything of the sort.

So that's what happened on Sunday. On Monday, my friends in the office gifted me a nice, big bunch of litchis for my birthday. All of us had a good time picking off those litchis and eating them, with Namrata intermittently voicing concern over the presence of worms in the fruit, and the rest of carrying on eating, not bothered by worms. At one point of time I actually tried to convince everybody that even if you did eat the worms, they would do you good. They are rich in proteins and low in cholesterol.

Then there was the "pushp vitaran" as Gauri called it. On our birthdays, we get a bouquet on behalf of the entire team and there is some amount of fun involved, like asking the birthday girl or boy to share some memorable incidents or sing or something of that sort. I was asked to sing. I sang a snippet from Beete Lamhein, after which people decided that it was a really sad song and they wanted to hear a happier number as well. To that end, Bhavna asked me to sing "that bhajan of yours". There's this song that I really like, which, Bhavna claims, sounds like a bhajan. I could barely finish one line of that song before Ashish and Hemant started out with the requisite sound effects to make it sound completely like a bhajan and broke out in hysterical laughter. I was actually looking around for something to throw at those two, but I missed my aim because Ashish actually fell on to the floor laughing!

Coming back from the digression, the litchis were good, and we had fun eating them, but they were not the real gift. There was a kurti that Akash picked out for me from Fabindia which totally fit the template I had in mind... something that I liked but I'd never buy normally. The same goes for the two neckpieces that Akash and Chaya picked out for me from Stupid Cupid. For some reason, Akash doesn't want me to tell people that he picked out that kurti. I'm still curious about why that is, but he refuses to explain himself. But of course, I'm a little stubborn and a little rebellious, so I'm telling everyone. I actually wanted to put up a picture of Akash and me (me dressed in the kurti in question) here. I'm not too sure why I'm not doing that, but I'm not.

But anyway, interesting birthday. And interesting gifts from Akash, Chaya, Bhavna, Abhinav (who disapproves of all of them, by the way), Sandy and Namrata. Thank you folks for making it memorable.

By the way, in case you are wondering why I'm writing this so late, I'd actually planned on writing this last weekend, but I'd told my dear friend Ashish that I would not write any more blog posts until he finished reading all of the existing ones. That's the reason why I did not write anything for twelve days, which, you'll notice, is a long gap by my usual standards. Since then Ashish has read quite a few posts, but still not all of them. But I have so many ideas floating around in my head that I'm finding it difficult to not write. So I'm planning to write all the overdue posts this weekend anyway. But I'll point out, Ashish, that this does not mean that I no longer care about whether or not you read them!

Friday, June 20, 2008

In The Lap of The Ganges

I know this is a little overdue, but I have to write about my most memorable trip ever. Possibly among the happiest three days I ever experienced. It was not my first white water experience, nor was it my first trip with my teammates. I'd actually been rafting over a subset of the same stretch of rapids with my team the previous year. Although, as a matter of fact, there were only four people other than myself who were part of both the trips.

So most of the people going rafting that weekend were from my team, except for a couple of Ashish's (Random observation: I think this is the first time I'm actually referring to one of my friends by name in my blog. So far I've only referred to people by description) childhood friends, and my friend Aarti, whom Ashish and Hemant also knew and asked me to invite along. Come along with us she did, as did another friend of hers.

The day we were supposed to leave for our camp from Noida started out with an almost torrential and completely unseasonal downpour. And that gave us some amazing weather. Aarti, her friend Deepa and I spent a large portion of that evening enjoying the lovely breeze out in the open, walking around and, well, since I'd seen Aarti after quite some time, so we were catching up with the latest in each other's lives. Oh, and that was the evening Ashish tried to ram his car into the three of us :P

So anyway, after a bit of delay, as is usual for a trip involving around twenty five people, we set out for Devprayag (I think that was the name of the place from where we started our rafting) amidst good weather and good cheer. After all, we were taking an extended weekend off from our drab routines to wash away our sins in the Ganges and have a lot of fun doing it! On the bus ride, there was a lot of singing, chattering, leg pulling. (Especially with Aman teasing Anuranjan and me endlessly. But I'm not really complaining here. Because I know I provoked all that!) There were only two or three people in the group whom I did not know prior to this trip, but there were, apparently, quite a few I was not well acquainted with. Who'd known me only from a distance or on a strictly professional, developer-quality engineer interaction level. So a bunch of people got to see the real me during that bus ride. Another thing about that bus ride. I normally cannot sleep while travelling. On our Dalhousie trip, we were travelling all night and everyone was asleep but I was awake for the most part of the night. Only after Rachita gave me a nice, relaxing forehead massage was I able to sleep for just under half an hour. But on this journey I had a little over a couple of hours of deep sleep. Apparently Ashish's singing was a lot more soothing than Rachita's massage.

So, anyway, after some digression from our route and a stopover for breakfast, we finally made it to our starting point for the day's rafting. On the banks, some of us helped pump up the air into the rafts. After they did a bit of pumping with all their might, we were told that those rafts were not ours and ours were already ready down at the riverbank. By the way, the unseasonal showers continued all the way and at the time of which I speak, it was drizzling. When we started our journey down the river, it was raining considerably and the shower continued all through the way that day. The first day's rapids were relatively mild, and not too exciting for those of us who had experienced rapids before, so the rain added the component of novelty that we needed there. Even so, we were quite thankful when the skies cleared up that evening and the next day came up all bright and sunshiny.

The evening was completely awesome. There is something that I did not find out about Anuranjan on any of the earlier trips. After he's had a couple of drinks, his sense of humour becomes absolutely legendary! He'll poke fun at anyone and everyone in that state, and everyone will have a good time. And the frequency with which he uses his favourite word - bhangi - will go up exponentially. There was a lot of interesting conversation centered around the origin and the meanings of this word, and what it takes to be a bhangi or to marry a bhangi. Then one of the guys at the camp did a little song in the local dialect for us, which set off a bit of discussion on love and heartbreak.

There was talk of going for a night trek after the campfire and dinner, but that was dropped in favour of going down to the beach (the riverside beach, that is) and counting shooting stars. Aman, Anuranjan and Gauri built a futuristic sand house for themselves, complete with a helipad and bean bags. And then there was the part where Aman made a mental map of our floor back in the office, iterated over every cubicle and cabin, and asked me for my opinion on every guy I knew. He claimed he was trying to judge my taste in guys so he could help me find one for myself. Meanwhile Mr Gaurishankar Kshirsagar was spotting shooting stars and counting away to glory. He wished a dozen wishes that evening and I doubt if any of them have come true so far. Alok tried really hard to match up to the number of stars that Gauri had spotted, but not to much avail. Oh, and those who were there on the beach that night will always remember that once Alok starts laughing, there's no stopping him!

On our second day there, there was a little trek to a waterfall, actually a series of three waterfalls. We had to climb up the lowest and smallest one of the three to go and shower under the second one. I don't think there were too many people in the group who could have done that without Aman and Sunny pulling us up, and Dahuja pushing from below. Now that was a lot of fun, an experience to remember.

That evening we did some miscellaneous activities in the camp. There was a bit of beach volleyball, a bit of rappelling (I think everyone remembers Meenal's experience there!!!) and throwing stones at an empty soft drink bottle (a plastic one). And we buried Ashish and Alok in the sand, turn by turn. Later in the evening it was back to the campfire, and Anuranjan and his alcohol. That night we decided to go down to the beach with our blankets and sleeping bags, and sleep on the sand. There were six of us who finally executed this plan, and I'm glad I was one of them. On the beach, we were back to wishing upon stars (Gauri saw another dozen that night), revealing secrets, and laughing at each other. And I think we all slept really peacefully that night.

The next day's rafting involved some interesting rapids, albeit a couple of overrated ones too (perhaps it was just that we passed over them when the water was a little low), but the ones we traversed after our lunch stopover were a lot of fun. And then there was the cliff jumping which I did not do, and which Aman did around half a dozen times, over and over again, until the guides started pointing out that we had to finish our stretch on the river before dark.

Even so, our departure for Noida was delayed by two or three hours. But well, every moment of this trip was worth it. But hang on, I have some memories from the return journey too. I'm sure neither Ashish nor I will ever forget the time when he asked me who, out of himself and Hemant, was a better singer. I will certainly not forget how jealous Ashish pretended to be at my answer! And I have been taunted about that little incident any number of times since then. But, all said and done, Ashish actually does sing really well. His singing is even better than Anuranjan's sense of humour (comparing apples and oranges, are we? But I guess people will get the drift.).

Those three days were legendary. But I'd been away from home for three days and I really wanted to go home and take a nice, warm bath, eat something my mom had cooked and sleep in my own bed. I called my mom when we stopped for tea that evening. Actually, Alok made me call her. I told her we'd reach Noida around one in the morning. She put her foot down at the idea of me driving home all by myself at that hour. I knew she was right, Delhi is not a very safe city. But I still wanted to go home. And quite possibly, I would have, if Ashish hadn't told me not to do so. In a slightly scolding manner. So I stayed over at Meenal's place that night. When we reached her place, we did not have the energy to do anything more than fall into bed and go to sleep immediately.

Does that conclude all I want to say about this trip? By no means. I could go on forever. Well, for a really long time at least. But while writing I try to stay concise and I have already gone way past my regular standards of being concise, so I'll just conclude here. Ashish, Alok and Hemant did a fantastic job organizing this trip. And Aman and Anuranjan did an equally fantastic job adding flavour to it.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Taking Stock

Turning a year older always terrifies me. I always tend to act overly emotional and do something stupid around my birthday. Never really figured out a logical reason for that. But there isn't supposed to be a logical reason for acting illogical, now, is there?

This year, thankfully, nothing particularly stupid. Felt more in control of my senses than ever before. Or so it seems to me, at least. Seems like I am gradually learning to rejoice the present for what it is, and to let go of my worries about the past or the future. To let go of the feeling that time is running out on me and I haven't done a lot of the stuff I really wanted to do. Like write a novel. Or take a few weeks off, go to a quiet place in the hills, and paint. Or find the perfect guy. There's a lot I could add to this list. And I know I will do most of this stuff some day. But the more important thing is, well, even if I don't, what's the point of panicking about it every so often?

I've changed a lot in the last one year. Not sure if it's for the better or the worse, but I see an apparent change. I feel more confident of myself and my actions, both on the professional and personal front. I feel less inhibited about talking to new people, people I hardly know or just met. This is actually a change that has come about over the last six or seven years, but it has become more apparent to me over the last year. And then there are the odd changes. I feel less inclined to talk to the people I know well. The people I've been with for years. That's something I find really odd and I really don't know why that is so. But I'm really happy to say that a whole bunch of my friends have been really understanding about this odd behaviour. That's the kind of people everyone needs to have in their lives. People who know you need them, even if or when you do not show it, or portray the exact opposite of it. People who make you feel special, wanted, needed. Like my college pals who tried their best to make me shop today when I seemed to show very little inclination towards doing so. Like one of my dearest friends who got up at 5:30 AM his time so he could wish me on my birthday at midnight according to Indian time. Like the other of my two dearest friends who's always encouraging me to pursue my creative interests... being a creative professional herself, she keeps reminding me of my creative streak and my need to exploit it. And then there are the people with whom I've been acquainted more recently, like the gals at work who encouraged me to start working out with them, although eventually they gave it up themselves and I held on. Like my cubicle neighbour who encouraged me to start blogging. Brilliant idea. It's worked wonders for my self-esteem. And my friend who gave me a discourse on relishing the present instead of moping about the past or the future. I want to say a genuine, heartfelt thank you to all these people and to everyone else who has touched my life in whatever way, small or big, for making me a better, stronger, happier person.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Aaj Jo Khushi Mili Hai...

Aaj jo khushi mili hai use jee bhar ke jee le
Kal jaane zindagi kya gham de jaaye
Aaj jo hai usme hi har khushi hai
Kal kya maloom, kismat tujhe kuch kam de jaaye

Koi Fariyaad...

Koi fariyaad is dil se nikalti hai
Us dil tak nahin pahunchti
Is dil ke toot jaane ke darr se
Ye zubaan bhi nahin khulti

Paas reh kar bhi

Ehsaas hai door hone ka
Jo ab tak apna hua hi nahin
Jaane kyon darr hai uske khone ka

Hot Chocolate Fudge For The Soul

I have a huge thing for chocolate truffle cake. And chocolate chip muffins. And chocolate chip cookies. Hot chocolate fudge. Chocolate ice-cream. And, well, for chocolate. When I'm feeling low, and all else fails, I splurge on something that contains cocoa. When I'm feeling good, I celebrate by splurging on cocoa again. Although I've kept these tendencies considerably under control over the last year and a half or so, they're still there.

Chocolate is actually good for you to a large extent. Dark chocolate, that is. It has significant antioxidant properties. And its consumption comes with a nice, pleasurable feeling for most people. It may also be good for the throat, helping prevent persistent coughing. Some people also suggest that it may have antidiarrhoeal effects.

But it's not all good, as we know. It comes loaded with calories, to varying degrees, depending on exactly what form you consume it in. It's also known to cause acne.

But to me, chocolate is just the greatest guilty pleasure. The greatest anti-depressant. The greatest companion when I feel all alone. Even if it means that I'll need to sweat it out in the gym all the more. Because sometimes I just need to indulge myself a little to forget about my worries for a while. To soothe heartache. Or sometimes, just because I feel like it. Eating too much of the sinful stuff may make me obese and give me blocked arteries, but, well, what an awesome way to live and what an awesome way to die that would be!

More on The Idiosyncrasies of Romance

Does there exist a "perfect person" for each of us? There was a sitcom I used to watch as a teenager in which two friends had a conversation about there being a perfect person for each of us. So this guy asked his friend, "There's one perfect girl for me? What if she lives in Helsinki? Then I'll never meet her."

And so it continues. What, really, is perfect? And how do you find that one person? Or rather, when you do find that person, how do you know that he or she is the one? Our hearts are unreasonable, whimsical. Our minds are logical, practical. The two of them hardly ever agree on anything. I mean, there might be someone I know well, get along with beautifully, and totally love spending time with. What's missing? That tingling feeling in my heart. When I think about it, that might actually be a good thing. Because that tingle actually gives me cold feet. Inhibits me from being as open with that person as I would like to be. So, when I think about it, such a person may actually be my soul mate. But then again, this is a matter of the heart. You can't actually think about it and decide what to do here.

So what do you do? More often than not, you go after the person who gives you that tingling sensation. Without realizing that this sensation is one of the most evanescent sensations one can experience. It's there today, gone tomorrow. What you will then be left with, is the stuff that your brain always knew about... how well the two of you get along, how much you enjoy each other's company, how much you understand each other, how much you like talking to each other. That's what really counts. That's what makes all the difference between couples who break up after a few months and those who grow old with each other.

But here's the problem. In these matters, most of us tend to silence our brain and go with the fleeting, momentary musings arising in our hearts. Even after realizing that the fleeting moment has passed, we try to ignore that realization. To not admit that whatever we had has disappeared.

There's another big problem here. A new person you meet only briefly will usually not stir up your grey cells. If that person is attractive in ways in which you deem people to be attractive, they may just set your heart aflutter.

Finding soul mates is a tough job. Most of us have to make a bunch of mistakes, learn from them, move on, and start looking again. There are, of course, some lucky people who get it right the first time. But for most of us it's a lot of trial and error, disappointment and heartbreak. But you know, the mistakes might actually be a good thing. They'll help us appreciate it more when we finally get it right.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Beautiful Inside

I'm strange
And you're strange
Don't want you to change
o way

This comes from a song called You're So True from the Shrek 2 soundtrack. I find these words really interesting. They somehow remind me of the message that the movie series carries. The message being that a person's (or ogre's, for that matter!!!) inner beauty is way more important than what appears on the surface. The external appearance is evanescent, it doesn't last. But what is inside is what really matters, what really decides how good a friendship or romantic relationship you can have with that person. A really idealistic message, I'd have to say. Because, you know, we do tend to form a basic impression about a new person we meet based on their appearance. It's only human. It would take a hypnosis of the Shallow Hal kind to make an average guy go out with a remarkably unattractive girl. And there are no feminist views being aired here, this is also true for girls going out with unattractive guys. I mean, I know that what I really want is a guy who's understanding and wants the same things in life as I do. Just needs to be reasonably okay looking so I can see his face everyday without being turned off. But I'll still tend to run after the attractive ones. (For my dear friends from my undergraduate days: I know that the guys I find attractive are also the ones you gals generally find weird; and vice-versa. Referring to the ones I find good-looking.) It takes a while to figure out that I was running after the wrong guy. That's a separate story really. I'll do another post some time about how I always run after the wrong guys.

So, coming back to the point of this post, why do appearances matter so much to us? Well, it's a bit of basic animal instinct. You know how a pea-hen will always want to mate with the most beautiful peacock she can lay her hands (claws, should that be?) on? Because she wants a good, beautiful, strong brood of tiny peacocks breaking out of the eggs that she lays. And that's the right thing for her to do, because a large part of the reason for her existence is, basically, procreation. That's what all animals do. They mate. They mate like bunnies (!!!). But that's not what we do, you know. We're humans. We're supposedly more intelligent than all the peacocks and rabbits and chimps and dolphins out there. We need a lot more than just the offspring from our mates. We need companionship, support, understanding, love, affection, and well... lots more probably. So our priorities are different. Shrek loved Fiona just as much when she looked like an ogre as he did when she was a beautiful princess. Because he knew that, inside, she was the same person. And that person was his soul mate. Someone who could tolerate all his idiosyncrasies and still get up early in the morning to find eggs for his breakfast. That's what we all need. Someone who knows how crazy we can be at times, but always remembers that at heart, we're nice. And knows just when and how to do something nice for us. Because, you know, just like Shrek and Fiona, we're all a little strange. And we need someone strange to appreciate us in all our strangeness.