Friday, June 26, 2009

Heal The World

I don't want to write an obituary for Michael Jackson now, because I've never really been a huge fan, but I'd like to share this video of one his really amazing songs - Heal The World. This is a wonderful song with a social message. A friend of mine tried to sing it at the farewell we hosted at school for our immediate seniors, but ended up being rather off-key, because it is a slightly difficult song to sing, though it may not seem like it. Click on the song title and watch the video, it's beautiful and evokes emotion.

Goodbye, Dr. Wilson

Yesterday, Dr. Anil Wilson, who used to be my college Principal when I was doing my undergraduate studies, succumbed to pancreatic cancer.

This is the first time I am writing an obituary on my blog. Dr. Wilson was a significant influence in the lives of all those who walked the halls of St. Stephen's College during his tenure. In first year of College, it was mandatory for us to attend morning assembly and listen to him address us four mornings a week. When he was there, morning assembly was never boring. He educated us on a variety of subjects, ranging from the dignity and decorum of the College to caring for your parents and family. He gave us that sense of belonging, the feeling that we'd inherited a now 128-year-old heritage from all those who'd been part of that educational institution and given it the position and prestige that it now holds. He made us feel at home. He may not have known all of us by name, but he could recognize all the students of College even after five years of their graduation. He would tell us little anecdotes about how he kept running into Stephanians everywhere he went and how nice it felt when they recognized him. He would tell us little stories from the Bible which gave us values to live by. Since I was not an English student, I was never fortunate enough to sit in his class. But the morning assemblies constituted a far more important class, with far more valuable lessons.

Even while going, he donated his body for medical research. I think that's just one more little thing that he gave the world.

As I pray for his soul to rest in peace, I am sure thousands of Stephanians across the globe are with me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Musings For Today

I just heard Mohit Chauhan's Tune Jo Na Kaha from New York. This is the first time in the last two months that I've heard a song worth writing about. True, I've been out of touch with Hindi music a little, but even so. I really liked this song, with its soulful, touching words.

It's funny, how Delhi is drying up, how the monsoon refuses to arrive back home, and here it's been raining almost all week, with the rain not stopping even for long enough for me to take a short walk outside. I've been spending more time in the gym all week.

I never before saw a man go out of his way to hold a door open for a woman. A couple of days back, as I was walking to the gym, which is in a different building in the same apartment complex, I was just outside the building and fishing for the keys to the building in my pocket. And this guy who happened to be in the corridor, walked all the way to the door and held it open. I thought he's opened it because he wanted to come out. Then he told me he didn't, he was just opening it for me. He said that no gentleman wants to see a lady fishing for her keys in the rain. I was slightly dazed. I think that kind of chivalry is fast dissolving into nothingness these days. It's great, however, to see a glimpse of it every now and then.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Of Remakes And Inspirations

I watched French Kiss today and once again saw how shamelessly and distastefully some Bollywood directors just rip off from Hollywood and other foreign movies. (Foreign movies. Now I'm in the States. When I look up a Hindi movie on Netflix, it's classified as a foreign movie.)

I remember watching movies like While You Were Sleeping and The Wedding Singer and seeing how they've been copied, down to the silly gags. Remember that scene from Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega... where Salman Khan was talking to Paresh Rawal and the elevator doors kept closing and opening behind them? It's a really silly gag, and it's copied. So may movies tend to be remakes, or, to use a cliche, 'inspired' from other movies. And if you've seen the original before you see the remake, chances are you'll hate the remake, like I hated Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai or Salaam-E-Ishq (or whatever fraction of that movie I had the patience to sit through).

Do these filmmakers think that Indian audiences don't watch or understand or like Hollywood movies? Or do they think that we'd like them translated out for us? Or maybe, we'd just enjoy watching the way the director makes a fool of himself and his actors by ripping off a story and making his own modifications to it which just don't fit in.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I recently watched Never Been Kissed on TV. It got me thinking about a few things.

The movie is about this reporter, Josie, who gets an undercover assignment which involves going to high school and writing about what the kids that age are like, what their dreams, aspirations, fears and hopes are. She ends up travelling on a path of self discovery and finding out that kids are still the same. High school is still the same as it was when she was there the first time. There are the ones who care about being the most popular kids in school. Josie rediscovers just how shallow popularity actually is. Then there are the kids whom the others know as the nerds or the 'brains.' She now knows, and explains to the kids, that when you go out into the real world, it won't matter how popular you were or whether or not you were captain of the baseball team. What matters is that you know who you are, and believe in yourself.

My mother teaches senior secondary school students. She would often give me the test papers that she had marked to total up. When she started doing that, I was in middle school. At that time, whenever somebody's total added up to less than the passing cut off, I would feel sorry for the person and dwell on the thought for a while before returning the paper to the pile. But later on, when I finished school and went to college, I realised that it didn't matter if you failed in your half yearly examination in school. I mean, obviously a kid should not cultivate that attitude while still in school, because if kids start thinking that it doesn't matter, they will stop trying. But what I mean is, if you flunk one exam, it's okay, as long as you make up for it in the other exams and don't lose a school year. When you go out and look for means for building a career for yourself, who's going to ask you what kind of score you had on your pre-board exams? And, I've seen, even the really bright students goof up once in a while. Or maybe some teachers expect too much out of their students. I've come across that sort of teacher in school and also in college. I've seen brilliant students who occasionally flunked an exam or two. In my school, going to the next higher class depended on a weighted mean of your scores on all the little and big tests throughout the year, not just the final exam. So you could actually fail the final exam and still be promoted. I always liked that system.

Life does teach us not to sweat the small stuff, doesn't it?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Finding Your Calling

What is education coming to these days? I just happened to look at the cut offs for admissions to my Alma mater this year, and I realised that I would not have been admitted to any of the honours courses other than Sanskrit and Philosophy, with the percentage that I had in my class twelve board exams. And this is just the qualifying cut off for the interview. There is an ever-growing number of students vying for a relatively constant number of seats in the better known educational institutions. Life is becoming tougher and tougher for an average student. There is no time and opportunity to stop and think that not all of us are meant to secure high percentages and walk the halls of an academic institution. Some of us are supposed to find our calling elsewhere, maybe in painting, dance, music, or doing something for the environment. Parents tend to discourage their children from entering certain fields because of social stigmas associated with them, or the fact that one has to struggle a lot to find their footing as, say, a photographer. It takes longer to establish yourself in an off beat career. But you know, there comes a time, when you have seen the world that you tried to fit into, when you realise that the road oft taken was not for you. Sometimes it happens at a slightly later stage in life, when you have family commitments and are hence afraid to venture into a less stable career. I think we all need to introspect deeply into our souls, discover our own desires, and figure out where we really want to take our lives before life takes us in a direction we don't really know we don't want to travel in. Once you know your calling, once you really know what you really want to do, it's relatively easy to find some time on the side to pursue it on a smaller scale, and gradually work your way up. I think that life should be about living the way you are happy, the way your family is happy, and the way you are able to spend more time with them. I think the world can do with fewer software engineers and fewer software products (or less fancy features, which a lot of people other than the ones who make them can't really understand anyway), but we need more art, more focus on the environment, more work on roads and flyovers, more things that make life more peaceful and beautiful.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I Finally Have The Time To...

  • Sleep all I want.
  • Try my hand at cooking, without anyone trying to crowd me or give me their tips and tricks.
  • Catch up on all the movies I had missed earlier, for lack of time or lack of like-minded company. Yes, I missed some movies for lack of like-minded company before I started going out for movies by myself. Very recently, I had the chance to catch up with Juno (Really sweet movie. A simply plot, presented quite beautifully.), The Devil Wears Prada (Reasonably good movie), The Holiday (Pretty good too), and a few others.
  • Go to the gym, and go for a walk in the courtyard, and take as long as I like, without worrying about all the code on my computer upstairs that won't write itself (or debug itself).
  • Read all I want.

Feels good to be completely in charge of your own time.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Lazy Sunday

It's a little weird if you call your family in India and they tell you that they just ordered pizza for dinner and you are eating pav bhaji and masala nimbu paani for lunch in the United States. But that is what actually happened. We spent a lazy afternoon eating and watching our wedding videos at home. I think this was the first day in the States when Jatin did not step outside the house at all for the whole day. Watching all those videos was like reliving those three days of back to back ceremonies, and also the one day of the roka ceremony. It felt good.

And well, guess what? I finally cooked my favourite dish! I made some rajma chawal for us. We had dinner in front of our TV with Aloo Chaat playing on the DVD player. This is the first Hindi movie Jatin has seen in a long while. It's also the first movie we watched together. It was a light movie with a cheerful, happy feel. Both of us liked it.

On Friday, Jatin was looking around for litchis in a bunch of grocery stores because
some friends wanted me to have some. Apparently those are not too easily available in the States. My mamaji, who has lived in about seven or eight different states over twenty six years also says that they are pretty rare. But we did find some litchi juice at an Indian store. This is a new Indian store we explored, and it's larger than our regular one and offers better prices. By now, Jatin is familiar with that fact that, like most Delhi girls, I have random urges for chaat paapdi and golgappe and stuff like that, and we brought back chutneys and other such things as well. You do get bhel puri and paapdi and golgappe at these stores, so there's not much to miss about India.

It feels like home here. It feels like my own place. It feels great when I do something in my own kitchen. When I watch TV in my own living room. When I go to bed in my own bedroom. Feels just right.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Musings For Today

Some of my friends would recall how, a little over a year ago, when I started my blog, I used to write only on weekends. Gradually I moved on to writing a post a day, seven days a week. And now the tide has turned in the other direction. I write only on weekdays. Because weekends are for spending time with my husband. This blog has become more of an account of whatever has been going on in my life, rather than a record of thoughts. But I don't think anybody minds. I think most of my friends are quite happy that I keep them updated on the latest happenings in my life. Those who have the patience to read all those long-winded posts, that is!

There are very few things I am missing about my life in India. Being able to drive around on my own is one. There are still a few small issues that should be resolved in a week or so and I should be able to get my learner's permit, for starters. Regular access to things like bhelpuri is another. We went to a small carnival last evening, and that's when I discovered that street food in this country comprises of candied apples (which are really yummy, by the way), popcorn and nacho chips. I mean, you do get all the ingredients for bhelpuri or golgappe at Indian stores, but it's not the same as eating that stuff standing out on the street, now, is it?

In spite of the miles, I feel pretty well-connected to my family and friends. It's pretty easy and economical to talk to them all the time, you know. And there's always e-mail, orkut, facebook, and, of course, blogs.

On the other hand, there will certainly be some adjustment problems when I go back to India. For one, I have always been pretty intolerant to heat. I have become even more so now. And who knows what will happen after one snowy winter here. I have become used to organised traffic that almost always obeys the rules. This will be all the more so after I start driving. Where we live, it rains about once every three days. Life and traffic continues smoothly, as it also does when it snows, I have been made to understand. In Delhi and Noida, I have experienced insane traffic jams almost every time it rains slightly heavily, as, I'm sure, have most of us.

Well, you know, life in every part of the world has its own good side and its own flip side. One thing's for sure - you have to experience it for yourself in order to fully understand both sides. Every such experience leaves you enriched, wiser, more mature, and hopefully, more adaptable and open minded.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My First Birthday After My Wedding

My husband planned an extended birthday celebration for me over the weekend immediately preceding my actual birthday. We started out on Saturday afternoon with lunch at an Indian restaurant called Bombay Club in Cambridge where we had golgappas, papri chaat, and suji ka halwa, interspersed with some regular lunchtime dishes. Cambridge is basically a really lovely place, but I hadn't seen it come alive the way it did on that Saturday afternoon. It is full of places to shop, eat, or just hang out. Live music in parks, people basking in the sun, everybody relaxing - it was a good feeling.

We picked up a Strawberry Shortcake at a bakery in downtown Boston, which, Jatin told me, is supposed to be a rather popular and delicious cake. (He'd originally planned for the cake to be a surprise but he's not too good at surprises.) Now I tend to stick to chocolate and coffee flavours when it comes to dessert like cakes, mousse and cookies. So I was a tad doubtful about the cake. But this cake was quite something. Delicious, melt-in-my-mouth, and not at all heavy.

We spent Saturday evening exploring the more commercial areas of Boston. Jatin showed me the office building where he did his internship. We explored marketplaces, harbours, and the streets all evening.

Sunday morning started off with the ceremonious cutting of the birthday cake. Jatin brought in a random stranger from the apartment building to click some pictures for us and share the cake. In this country, it is quite safe to invite random people into your apartment and random people are really nice to you. I mean, she was supposed to be travelling, she said she hadn't had time to have breakfast that morning, and yet she came in and clicked our pictures and sat down with us for some cake.

Then Jatin had to go out for a little while. Now I have never cooked completely independently in my life before this. I surprised him by doing just that while he was gone. People have issues estimating how much salt and spices to put. I had trouble estimating how many potatoes to put. I cut up a few potatoes more than I would have liked to. So my mixed vegetables had no room left for the carrots, they had to make do with potatoes, beans and peas. Other than that, they were just fine. Both of us liked them. And my husband made some daal too.

I was pleasantly surprised with the wishes from some people, that started coming in a day early and more so, after midnight in India. Akash told me that he and the rest of the gang wanted to send me litchis like last year. Friends and family started calling me exactly when it was midnight in India. After midnight in our time zone, the calls just started pouring in from India and I was pleasantly surprised to the point of being a little overwhelmed by the volume of the calls, since I know people are a tad reluctant to make international calls from India, as I was too, unless I was calling one of my really good friends. (Out here, calls to India hardly cost anything if you use a calling card. So I am no longer reluctant, just lazy sometimes.) It felt really good to have so many people calling in from India, the calls spread out over about a day and a half because of the time difference. I felt really special, receiving so many international calls in one day. And then there was this surprise from Aman, my friend from my erstwhile workplace, who's been like an elder brother to me. He sent me a bouquet, a teddy bear, and chocolates. Now this is the first time somebody has sent me flowers in the States, and these are the most beautiful, sweetest-smelling flowers I've ever received. Even as I write this, the fragrance wafts towards me. The chocolates I've yet to taste.

In the evening, Jatin took me out for dinner at an Italian restaurant. I hadn't had Italian food here in the States so far, so I really enjoyed it. We had a chocolate volcano cake for dessert, which was absolutely amazing and just melted in my mouth. But of course, it was loaded with calories and I will make my way to the gym in about an hour from now, once my breakfast digests. Today is a day for the gym, not the outdoors. It is raining cats and dogs outside. Thankfully, we had bright, sunny skies over the weekend and on Monday, so going out was fun.

This was a really wonderful birthday for me, full of love and warmth, and being made to feel special. Thanks everyone for making it so.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Notebook

This is one of the books which have been adapted into a movie that I've seen, and I wanted to read the book.

When I started on the book, about a quarter of the way through, it seemed like it was going to be a lot less fun than the movie. I found the writing style a little awkward and confusing, and I felt that I would not really be getting the hang of what was happening if I hadn't already seen the movie. But it was a good thing that I hung on to it.

The story focuses on three different points of time, three different phases of the lives of the protagonists. Towards the beginning of the book, the author switches between these three a little too rapidly at times, making it slightly difficult to follow. But soon enough, he develops this easy flow and the story unravels in a way that touches the reader's heart all over again. All over again, in case you have seen the movie and know the story and have already been touched by it.

The story focuses on an elderly man's everlasting love for his wife, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease and can barely recognize him any more. It talks of his struggle to make her remember him and their love, his pain as he sees her unable to do so, and his ecstasy when she is able to do so.

It's a hardcore mushy story for the romantic at heart, and a heartwarming, touching tale for those who are not so romantic. It's also a beautifully, poetically written story, with some wonderful quotes from classic poems as well. I'd recommend that everyone should give this a read.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Musings On The States

There are some things I really like about the United States, some that leave me a little confused, some that leave scope for improvement.

These people are so concerned about making the best use of natural light that they adjust their watches every summer. And yet, they don't really conserve non-renewable resources so much. They own these huge trucks and SUVs which guzzle fuel like anything, and they use those to drive to work. Alone. I don't see anyone turning off their ignition at traffic signals, which was a big deal for me and my carpool friends in Delhi. True, the waiting time at the signals is not that long here, but they could save a little fuel there.

There is such a huge contrast between the main city and the suburbs just outside of it. The city is so much more crowded, has so much more traffic, and parking is about thirty to fifty dollars a day in most parts, whereas here you could find a free parking lot within two minutes of just about anywhere. Generally the parking around shopping complexes and offices is free. They use so much land for parking lots. I haven't seen underground or multilevel parking in the suburbs. Only in the heart of the city will you find that. These parts are also a lot more green than the city.

Out here, anything that involves manual labour is really expensive. Getting a pair of pants altered costs almost as much as a new pair. Getting a suit stitched costs almost as much as buying a small, five to ten year old car. By small car, Americans mean something like a Toyota Corolla. You can't get domestic help, and even if you could, it would cost you a fortune. Most petrol pumps here are not manned. You get out of your car, you swipe your own card, you fill your own tank.

Speaking of small cars, I still can't fully absorb the fact that everything here comes in such large sizes. Cookies, sandwiches, tumblers, cars, houses, grocery stores, book stores, parking lots outside those stores. The mystery novels aisle of an average Barnes and Noble store is a little larger (that is, it houses more books) than the entire Om Book Shop I used to visit in The Great India Place in Noida. You would hardly come across a two bedroom house in this place, at least not in the suburbs. They're all three or four bedroom places, sometimes more, with a generous yard, more often than not.

People over here are a lot more friendly than what I've usually seen in India. Everyone who passes you by will greet you. Salespeople in stores will always greet you and talk to you warmly. My husband's colleagues were pretty happy and excited when I went to visit his office last week. Okay, so the natives will be a little reluctant to live in an area dominated by immigrants, but other than that, they're quite open to us and like working with us and treat us just like they treat their other colleagues.

All retail stores allow you to return any purchases within thirty days if you have the packaging and the receipt. Well, except the perishable stuff that perishes in that duration. When you buy a home, you have the right to get it inspected for all sorts of problems and ask the seller to get them fixed, or lower the price. Customers have a lot of rights in this country. I think this sort of setup would not work that well in India because people would tend to misuse their rights.

Life is really smooth and easy here in a lot of ways. The only thing one tends to miss is family and friends. Everything else begins to fall into place really well in a couple of weeks or so.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Mixed Bag

Somewhere in the middle of all the changes that came with getting married and moving to a new place, I forgot to notice that it's been one whole year of blogging for me! One year, with a little over three hundred posts, and I still find it fun.

This weekend was a relatively peaceful weekend for us. Taking care of the little things like grocery and laundry, and relaxing and spending time with each other. My husband took me out for an unplanned shopping trip and ended up buying me a huge array of clothes for a slightly insane amount of money. The lady at the check out counter told me that I was a very lucky lady and that she was jealous with every piece she was folding. That left a smile on my face for a pretty long time.

It's a little strange, and good for me, that my life has become so much more peaceful and so much easier after my wedding. Generally I see girls getting married and stepping into a phase with added responsibilities and added commitments. True, I do have more responsibility in a number of ways now, but so many things are so much easier, because we're on our own and we're in a country where you find all kinds of conveniences and comforts. I know, it will not be quite as relaxed once I start working, but I'm enjoying myself while I can.