Friday, July 31, 2009

Randomly Generated...

What exactly is random? I have had a few encounters with random number generation in my software engineering career and I've seen that it's generally not exactly random. You can make it as close to random as your imagination lets you. But the thing is, your imagination also has its limitations. Here's something to try out. Think of a two digit number, both digits odd, both digits different from each other. This is something I picked up from a TV show called David Blaine: Street Magic years ago. Eight out of ten people will pick thirty seven here.

I had a music player in my car in India which had a randomisation feature. If I asked it to play stuff randomly from my pen drive, it would do so. It had a very strong affinity for Indian Ocean's music. Now I carry an iPod to the gym with me. It seems to really love Shania Twain's You've Got A Way With Me and Mera Jahaan from Taare Zameen Par. I want it to like Mar Jaawan or Khudaya Ve (I really like the remixed version) but it has a mind of its own.

I have another thought for you to chew on. We meet lots of people in life. Is it just a set of random coincidences, or is it all pre-planned for us by a supernatural power?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Raining Cats And Dogs

Every year, I read about how the rain messes up the traffic and disrupts life in Delhi. I see it happen to myself. I see myself sometimes taking twice as long to get to work, or to get home from work.

But this year, I am only reading about it. I read about some wall collapsing in Noida after the downpour a couple of days ago. It is a huge contrast to this place, where people go about their lives normally when it rains, save for minor slow downs in traffic speeds due to low visibility. I am told that people here go about work almost normally even when it snows. Everyone clears their own driveway (and their own mailbox. You can be fined if you don't clear the mailbox.) and brushes the snow off their own cars. The roads are really slippery, with a very thin layer of ice, but everybody still drives to work. Well, except a few people who do have the option of working from home, but even those people do not work from home all winter. They do go to their workplace a couple of times a week. The city administration knows that they have to clear the roads, and they do it. Everybody knows they have to clear their driveway, and they do that too.

It felt slightly odd when my friends and family in Delhi were waiting for the long overdue monsoon and complaining about the scorching heat, and we were hoping, every morning, that we would see just a bit of sunshine that day. For two weeks we saw only grey skies and it rained so much that I was drenched, just walking to the next building in my apartment complex, with an umbrella. But life went on normally. Even the landscaping guys, who maintain the trees and the grass in the apartment complex, went about work as usual.

In Delhi, I did not like it when it rained for days on end because the traffic would go into a state of total chaos. Here, I like it. As long as the rainy spell is broken every two or three days by a sunny day. I am enjoying the rains again, just like I did when I was a little kid.

Warding Off Temptation

Back when I was in Delhi and living with my parents, I made my own diet rules that allowed me to give in to temptation on weekends, provided I ate mostly fresh fruit and vegetables for lunch the other five days, and avoided anything sweet during the week. When I was at home or out with friends on the weekend, it was very difficult to ward off temptation because there were so many triggers - cookies, cakes, chocolates, and any other kind of dessert you could come across. But in our cafeteria, the food was not much to trigger any temptation whatsoever, except perhaps the infrequently served fruit custard.

But now I am at home most of the time, and I have full access to everything I would ever want to eat. Now I have to make other rules. Here's what I do. I don't keep anything chocolaty, or with a high fat content, in the house. It takes only a mild, momentary form of self control to walk away from the cookies and the puddings at the grocery store. But it saves me a lot of trouble, trying to control temptation when I know that there is a box of chocolates in the refrigerator. If I feel like eating something of the sort, I eat it when we eat out. Which is mostly on weekends. I do have some amount of dark chocolate lying around in the house, but that's only about three hundred grams that we bought around the time I came here and there's still some left. I do eat it sometimes, but I try to keep a bowl of easy to eat fresh fruit (raspberries, strawberries or grapes) on the table, so that I see it before I get to the kitchen, before I open the refrigerator or any of the kitchen cabinets which may hold something else that may be edible. Raspberries, grapes and watermelons work really well for me for this kind of thing. Cutting the watermelons is sometimes too much work, so I tend to store it cut into bite sized pieces. I try to store the berries and grapes washed and stored in a bowl in plain sight, so I can see them as soon as I open the refrigerator.

All said and done, I do have my moments of weakness. That's why I buy dark chocolate, because it's better for health than milk chocolate, and whole grain cinnamon bars. Now those are yummy and they are good for you!

Monday, July 27, 2009


This morning, I was telling my brother that I made pasta over the weekend. He refuses to believe that I've been cooking independently, without any help from my husband. He says that he finds it very hard to believe that the girl who would forget to put the whistle on the pressure cooker (that happened only once, a couple of years ago) and let the boiling milk boil all over the kitchen (that happened multiple times. The most recent occurrence was a few years ago.) can cook an entire meal for two people by herself. Well, I can, and all disbelievers are welcome to visit me and verify it for themselves.

Life changes. And life changes people. Just a few months, I was living my life for myself. Not any more. I like doing things for my husband, down to the little things like folding his laundry. It gives me a nice feeling. And it's wonderful, the way he vocally appreciates every little thing I do for him. That's what being married is all about, isn't it?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Interesting People

I've noticed some people around me who seem to have an amazing amount of willpower and set a brilliant example for the rest of us. For example, there's this Chinese lady whom I see in the gym every couple of days. She is old and cannot walk without a walking stick. And yet she spends twenty minutes or so on the treadmill, and also spends some time lifting weights. I admire her courage and her persistence. There are other people who are really old, and often living by themselves, having lost their spouses to death or divorce, and do everything for themselves, from grocery shopping to maintaining their houses. Of course, nobody lives with their kids here, but there are places where old people can live under special care. There is this balding gentleman whose hair has completely turned white and who is significantly overweight. He spends a lot of time jogging every day.

There are things that are wrong with the culture in this country, like the fact that kids hardly ever do anything for their parents in their old age. But I like looking at and thinking about the good things - how strong willed and independent these people are, even at seventy five or so. It's wonderful to see such people.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Things That Have Changed, And Ones That Haven't

A lot has changed since I got married and moved, but a lot is still the same. Here's some of that stuff.

Stuff that has changed:

  • I now believe in the institution of marriage. I believe in arranged marriage, and in falling in love after getting married.
  • I am much happier now. Probably this is in part because I am not under work-related stress and am getting enough sleep.
  • I cook!
  • I no longer wash my clothes myself. I toss everything in the washer, and then into the dryer.
  • I have switched to brown rice.
  • I am more open to trying new things to eat. But I am more cautious about the nutritional content of stuff that I eat.
  • My favourite flavour for dessert and other sweet things (mildly sweet things that do not necessarily qualify as dessert - like oatmeal and breakfast cereal) has changed from chocolate to cinnamon. Chocolate is still a close second, though. Mint chocolate has established itself as a much-loved variation. I eat chocolate and cookies and such things a lot less frequently.

Things that are pretty much the same:

  • I can still not complete three sentences of spoken English without switching over to Hindi in between, or pausing noticeably to think and prevent myself from doing so.
  • I still love rajma. And watermelons.
  • I still love writing. And reading.
  • I still love Hindi music and try to keep up with whatever is the latest in Bollywood. I try to catch as many of the movies as I can as well.
  • My favourite post on my blog is still this one.
  • My favourite movie is still, yes, you know it!
  • My favourite TV show is still Friends. The Big Bang Theory comes a close second, followed by Beverly Hills, 90210.
  • I still go to the gym five days a week and take weekends off.
  • I still eat Indian food at least six days a week, on average. Only now, I cook most of it myself.

Being a Foodie!

Of late, there have been some variations in my eating habits. Ever since I found myself in a country where manufacturers are required to print nutritional information on all packaged foods, I've begun to study that information carefully before buying anything new. Anything different from the regular bread and peanut butter. The low fat peanut butter, that is to say.

But some things don't come with that information. Food served in restaurants or fresh produce falls into that category. And there are times I forget about nutritional content, although my husband tries his best not to let me do that.

I've discovered a taste for cinnamon. Apparently that is quite popular here. Cinnamon rolls, cinnamon flavoured breakfast cereal (the first thing I ate in the States that I had never had in India - and liked), cinnamon swirl bread, cinnamon and apple flavoured oatmeal or rice cakes, cinnamon melts (that's the newest thing on McDonald's menu), the works. It's sweet, but not too sweet. It's just heavenly.

I've developed a strong liking for Mexican food. When we go out to eat, I used to vouch for Italian, but after a while I realised that most Italian dishes are heavy, and even the pasta that isn't, comes in such huge servings that it appears heavy. Now, of course, any restaurant here will willingly wrap up your leftovers for you, but it's hard to stop eating when you are eating something that delicious. So it seemed to me that Mexican food made more sense. I have come to love chips and salsa, burritos, and beans and rice. That's Mexican rajma-chawal. Deliciously different from, and yet very similar to, its Indian cousin.

And then there is Chicken Tikka Masala. This is something I hardly ever ate in India. Out here, almost every Indian restaurant has a buffet lunch and more often than not, they do feature this dish, and more often than not, I do manage to at least taste it. And it is good. Almost all Indian restaurants I've been to over here mess up some dish or the other, but they all make great Chicken Tikka Masala and great Chana Masala. Oh, and kheer. And the gajar ka halwa. What is different about these two dishes here is that I have yet to come across a restaurant where they garnish it with dry fruit. That's why I like it. In India, everybody puts dry fruit into these and it simply spoils the flavour and the texture for me. Plus, the gajar ka halwa is made with a lot less ghee and khoya, and it's exactly as sweet as I want it to be. None of them make really good rajma or dal makhani, though. Oh well, I settle for my own rajma and, of course, the Mexican rajma.

And yes, of course, the lettuce and grilled chicken sandwiches and salads. This is again something I used to eat almost equally often at Subway in India, and I like it more than ever now. Especially the variants in which they add sweet corn, or beans, or Tortilla chips. You don't necessarily have to go to a Mexican place for that.

And there is Strawberry Shortcake. It is the most wonderful cake I've ever tasted. It beats chocolate truffle for its wonderfully light, melt-in-your-mouth feel and it's flavour, which, by the way, was the reason why I was very reluctant to try it. But I am glad I did. It is at the opposite end of the spectrum when compared to chocolate flavoured cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory, which is extremely heavy and not much to write home about.

This is a place where you can find cuisines from all over the world. I've seen Afghan restaurants and African restaurants. Chinese, Japanese (still cannot muster the courage to try sushi), Indian, Italian, Mexican, Thai, and of course, burger joints every two hundred feet or so. Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration. But it's not too much of an exaggeration. You can find just about anything you want to eat, and if you can't, well, you can definitely find the ingredients and cook it yourself, if you are willing to do that. I have easy access to MDH rajma masala and imli ki chutney. But I miss litchis and chikoos. Those are just about the only things I have not seen in any of those sprawling grocery stores. But other than that, I am in foodie heaven.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Driving On The Other Side Of The Road

These days I am familiarising myself with the rules of the road in the States and polishing my skills so that I am ready to take a road test and get a full license so that I can drive around on my own. There are some things I've learnt in the three hours I spent with my instructor and approximately the same amount of time that I spent practising with my husband in his car, and also when I was reading the manual and preparing for the written test for my learner's permit. The first thing that struck me was that these guys have such a well planned training programme developed for kids who want to get their first license. There's a certain amount of class room teaching and a fixed number of hours on the road that you have to go through. And then, you have to spend a certain number of hours practising with your parent or guardian. Now you don't have to do all that if you have previously held a license in another state or in another country, but if you're sixteen and want to drive yourself around, then you certainly do.

Then, of course, like everybody knows even if they've never been to the States, traffic is a lot more organised and follows the rules a lot more strictly than it would do in Delhi. Now I knew this beforehand, but it's a different thing to experience it from behind the wheel. I still tend to stop briefly or slow down at green lights to make sure nobody's jumping the red light in the other direction. In India, that was a useful and practical thing to do. Here, people will tend to think that I'm a little crazy, stopping at a green light. People over here use their horns only when they're really bugged, not to tell the driver in front of them to wake up and see that the traffic light has turned green. They have very clear right-of-way rules for for crossings with no red lights, and almost everybody obeys them. There are right-of-way rules for pedestrians. You have to let pedestrians and bicyclists pass. Your car touches a pedestrian, and you're in trouble. People stop in the middle of the road to let pedestrians pass. It takes some getting used to. Whether you're on foot or inside the car. For the first few weeks, when I was waiting to cross a road and a car stopped for me, I would wonder what I did wrong and why the person was stopping. This morning, I was coming out of a parking lot on to a main road with heavy traffic and a woman stopped so I could enter traffic. People do that often. And then you're supposed to wave a thank-you. People do that too.

It takes some getting used to when you've always been driving a car with a stick shift and suddenly graduate to an automatic. Not that you have to do anything extra that you didn't do with your previous car, but these automatics are so light, they fly to fifty miles an hour the instant you step on the accelerator. Or gas pedal, as my instructor calls it. The first couple of times she used the term, I didn't really understand what she was telling me to do. What do you mean, give it gas? Fifty miles per hour doesn't really feel like eighty kilometres per hour. It feels like fifty kilometres per hour. Because the roads are so much smoother, and the cars are lighter.

You know what I really like? Teaching people to drive is a perfectly respectable occupation that you can make a decent living from. And women do it too. That's one thing that India definitely lacks. It's a blue collar occupation. And people assume that women are just not as good at driving as men. Maybe I know why that happens in India, other than the fact that Indians are still very strongly of the opinion that men are much better than women at everything. Some people here are of that opinion too, but they don't show it that much. But the other reason that comes to my mind is that, based on my observations, girls tend to learn to drive at a much later age than guys in India, for various reasons. Even if guys don't drive cars, they ride bikes and scooters at a young age and get a decent amount of road sense. This is something that you acquire much better earlier in life. I've seen that girls who were two years younger than me and driving around for two years were better at it than I was, as I was better than girls two years older with the same amount of experience. Now over here, everybody learns to drive at sixteen. Boys and girls. Asians and Brazilians. In India, I saw a woman driving an SUV maybe three or four times in my life. Here, they drive everything. Not just SUVs. Cargo trucks, school buses, the works.

Oh well, I hope I am good enough to take my road test soon. Because this is a place where driving is actually fun.

Monday, July 20, 2009

In My Element

I love going to the gym when there's nobody else there. This afternoon was one such afternoon. I was all alone, listening to Ajj Din Chadeya (from Love Aaj Kal) and singing along in bits, whenever I was able to catch my breath enough to do so. I managed to dance around a little to the foot tapping tune of Chor Bazaari (same movie) as well. I know, I can do all that at home too, why do I need to go to the gym if I won't do that kind of thing if there were any people around? Well, it puts me into a better frame of mind for exercising. I feel good, and then I exercise better. I've seen my cycling speed vary directly with the beats of the song that I'm listening to. I think that happens to just about everyone. If you're listening to an item number, you'll work out with more energy. If you're listening to something soft, you'll do it in a more leisurely way. I wanted to transfer only the foot tapping stuff to my iPod, but some songs are just so beautiful that they have to go with me wherever I go. These are the ones I used to listen to at night when I couldn't fall asleep, and also in my car when I was driving alone and was on the verge of falling asleep and needed to prevent that somehow. These are the ones that still give me a high when the randomising algorithm on the player chooses to play them, even if it means giving in to a more relaxed workout.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fantasies And The Reality Of Marriage

When I was about ten years old, I was fascinated by the whole idea of getting married. It seemed so magical, so exciting, to get all dressed up, wear intricately embroidered clothes, lots of jewellery, and look your best. Look your best for that one day. That would be your day. Each time we attended a wedding, if the bride wasn't already on the stage, I would pester my mother to take me to her. So that I could take a good look at the bride. I loved doing that. It looked like a lot of fun. I was into sketching at the time, and brides decked up in all their finery were one of my favourite subjects for my artwork.

Real life is so different from a little girl's fantasy land.

Getting married is not just about dressing up. As a matter of fact, for myself and for a few close friends I know, the dressing up was actually a bit of a hassle that we had to do because our families expected us to do it. If I had the choice, I would wear something a lot simpler, something which did not weigh close to a ton.

When you get married, you have to figure out if you're actually marrying the right person. Now, depending on how adaptable or how flexible you are, there may be more than one right person for you. Even so, it is not easy to pick him out of a line-up. You have to know what areas you absolutely have to agree on, and what you can compromise on. Deciding whom to marry is tough, but it's not the only tough thing you have to do. It is, however, probably the single most important decision that you'll take in your life.

Then there are all the ceremonies to plan. This is tricky as well. You have a large number of family members on either side, and everyone has their own ideas. You can't please everyone, but you also cannot afford to offend anyone. And you also want to do things your way.

Planning a wedding and then actually living with the person you married is not always smooth sailing. You have to make a serious effort to make things work. But you know what? It is also a lot of fun. It is also what gives you a good reason to live, a reason you never could have imagined before.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Movies I Liked And Would Recommend

I've been watching a lot of movies lately and haven't been writing full length reviews for all of them, except a few. Here are some that I really liked.

Barah Aana: This is a very well-made movie about the everyday struggle that a lower-middle class Indian has to go through, just to take care of the basics of living, like food and medical care. It is this very struggle that sometimes pushes them into crossing over the line between what is morally justified and what is not. It has some really terrific performances by Naseeruddin Shah and the always endearing Vijay Raaz.

Gran Torino: The protagonist, played by Clint Eastwood, is a recently widowed war veteran whose first impression is that of a grumpy old loner. The movie explores his personality, and eventually shows how much he cares for the people around him, and how strong his principles are. This one is a class apart. By the way, this was the first movie I watched on Blu-Ray. These discs sometimes take a while to load, but they are worth the wait and the money.

He's Just Not That Into You: A light-hearted comedy about relationships and the essential differences between the way men think and the way women do, and how they often have trouble understanding each other's points of view.

Horton Hears a Who!: A kids' movie, based on a Dr Seuss story, but an endearing story with a moral in it for all of us. This one takes you for a fun-filled ride through fantasy land with a little learning thrown in.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Little Things I Miss

I haven't really felt homesick or anything since I left India, but there are some little things I miss from time to time, like:
  • Roadside golgappe and bhelpuri. I mean, I do have easy access to these things over here, but you have to buy them packaged in a box and make them yourselves, or eat them at a restaurant where they taste the way they do at Haldiram's, which is not quite the same as the street chaat taste. Of course it is cleaner and more hygienic, but, you know, Indians develop such strong immune systems from eating all that roadside chaat! There was a Punjabi Dhaba we went to in Cambridge where the bhelpuri tasted just the way it should, but that's a little too far for us to go to too often.
  • Being able to drive independently. This is temporary, of course, I should be able to get my full license soon and then I can do it again. But I used to just pick up my car keys and run off to any place I felt like running off to, all the time. I miss that a little.
  • Hindi radio stations. I still have convenient access to Hindi music and do try to keep myself updated on whatever is new in Bollywood, but, well, it's not quite the same. If the radio is playing, it will play songs that you like, and ones you don't like, ones that you didn't know you liked, ones you absolutely love and haven't heard in a while, and get to hear again unexpectedly - now that always gave me a rush. Plus, when I listened to the radio in the car with my friends, I could hear their opinions on the music as well. That made a difference to me. I'm listening to Khudaya Ve from Luck right now, and I must say that it's an absolutely lovely song. I have been listening to this one song for about three hours now. I used to do that in India too, but then I grew tired of it and allowed the RJs to pick another song for me at random.
  • Going out to watch Hindi movies. I still watch a lot of them, but there aren't too many places nearby where I can watch them on the big screen. I watched Barah Aana this weekend. It was a terrific, well made movie with some amazing performances. A DVD player does not do enough justice to the likes of Nasseruddin Shah and Vijay Raaz, does it?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Reminiscent of English Class in School

Somehow I am thinking back to my English classes in class eleven in school. Our teacher was called Alan Lewis and he was a retired teacher from Great Britain. He had his own ways of doing things. He would never follow the textbook or the syllabus. He would ask us to read novels and come to the front of the class and speak extempore on an assigned topic. If he saw somebody stammering, he would ask that student to continue in Hindi, so that he could tell if the person was afraid of public speaking, or just not confident in English. For our middle school, he actually compiled his own textbooks, with extracts from Shakespeare's plays, Rudyard Kipling's novels, articles from newspapers, Arthur Conan Doyle's stories and other diverse things. My batch mates and I got to study that book only in class eight, but our juniors got to do it in class six through eight. I still remember random things from that book, like, "The evil men do lives after them while the good is oft interred with their bones." (from Julius Caesar) I still remember reading Animal Farm and The Guide for his class. My mother, who also taught class eleven at the time, would sometimes ask me how I liked a certain story in the standard textbook. She would be disappointed to know that we hadn't read it. I would sometimes read them on my own, but I never found them too interesting. In class twelve, our teacher would sometimes make references to stories we were supposed to have read the previous year and then end up asking, "Did you people read anything last year?"

Newsflash. We read a lot more than we would have read if we had followed the guidelines. We learnt and explored a lot more. That was when I actually grew to like reading novels. I had sort of given up doing that after I outgrew my Enid Blytons. I still have that copy of The Guide in a bookshelf in my original bedroom in Delhi. And I know exactly which shelf.

My school administration was never too worried about the prescribed syllabus. We never had any real tests until we were in class five, and no annual or half yearly exams until class eight. We had a lot of open-book exams from time to time. Only for class ten and twelve, they had to do what the CBSE told them to do. It was okay if, say, one teacher was teaching three sections and another was teaching the other three, then they could have separate question papers on any of the tests. There was a lot of freedom for the teachers in many ways, but Mr Lewis was probably the one who made the best use of it. He taught us that doing things our own way is a good thing, that it helps us grow. He taught us to be respectful towards each other and not to interrupt when someone else was making a point. He taught us to listen. And to talk so that others would listen. I remember being in the English Faculty room one day just before his class, discussing something with my teacher-in-charge for the school magazine. I told her that I didn't want to be late for his class because he wouldn't let me in if I was. She told me that in that case I should come back to her and get some more work done. No way, I told her. I want to attend his class. I think that was the only time in school or college that I ever said such a thing.

Those were some good times. It always feels good to look back on those days.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

All People Are Equal, But Some People Are More Equal Than Others

I've recently moved from a country where, in a lot of communities, women are not allowed to step outside the house, except to go to the community well or hand pump to get water, and are expected to make it the business of their lives to raise a family and maintain the house, to another country, where women are commonly seen doing just about anything that a man would do, from driving a bus to managing her own company.

I recently found out, that, even in this country, there are certain Christian sects where the women don't work, and they bear like eighteen children, and the kids don't get much of an education. And to add to that, these people vacation only in those regions which are inhabited by their own people, so that the kids are not exposed to the outside world, until the time that they have, perhaps, six children of their own, and too many family responsibilities to think about getting themselves a real education. Apparently there's a reality show on Discovery Channel about these people, and my aunt watched it a few times, and she told me about it.

It was rather strange for me to discover that such communities still survive in this day and age, even in this country. How do they even manage to do it? I mean, you would need to keep your kids away from all kinds of mass media in order to pull off something like that. You would need to live in a neighbourhood which has only people from your sect, and send your kids to a school with the same restriction.

What is more interesting is, once you actually know that there is a more free, more open world out there, why would you still want to continue to live the way you do and keep your kids in the dark, the way your parents kept you? I mean, people spend their lives and die fighting for equal rights, and then there are those people who have equal rights and actually want to be left behind! Why they would do that, continues to puzzle me.

Monday, July 6, 2009

We Eat, They Eat

I'd read somewhere, long ago, that one of the main reasons that women gain weight after they get married is that they tend to eat the same sized portions of food as their husbands. Now, in general, men's appetites are a lot larger than women's appetites, and, somewhere along the line, if you lose track of that, you start eating a lot more than you actually need to and begin to bloat up. I had a hard time explaining this to my husband in the first couple of weeks of our marriage. My mother-in-law would serve me the same amount of food that she would serve him, and it was rather overwhelming for me. Now I've straightened things out with my husband and taken charge of the kitchen, so things are the way they should be.

This weekend, when I was visiting my uncle and his family, my aunt and I were talking about how much her elder son eats these days. He's on a 3500-calorie diet these days, because he's at an age where boys eat a lot and, on top of that, he's taken up a summer job with a landscaping company and carries rocks all day. Now I eat that much in about two days. So does his sister, who is two years older than he is.

My aunt told us this story about this woman who had seven daughters and no sons. One evening, one of her daughters brought her boyfriend home for dinner. Now the mother served everyone their regular portions of food, and the girls ate their fill and the boy, well, he ate too. Then the mother asked if people wanted to go out for a movie. The boy said, "Okay, but can we stop and get dinner on the way?"

I think my husband and his family had pretty much the same problem. He just has a brother, and no sisters. It was news to him that males and females have different appetites and that it is perfectly normal if I eat less than he does. I had to explain that men have more muscle mass, so their bodies burn more calories even when they are at rest. I had to hammer the idea into his head for a couple of weeks before it finally got across to him!

First Impressions Of New York City

New York City is nothing like what you've seen elsewhere. It's a concrete jungle, that's what it is. You look out of your window and you're lucky if you can see the sky and the clouds. Most people there can just see the really tall buildings in front of the really tall buildings they live in. I guess it would have been different if I'd gone straight to the city from Delhi. But once you see the suburbs and get used to the wide open spaces and tall trees and green grass, it's not a nice feeling. People tell me that it's a nice place to see in the night, and we are planning to go back and do that sometime soon, but in the daytime, it's a mess. Crazy traffic, people rushing off on the streets and occasionally bumping into each other, and, well, the roads are not as badly littered as Delhi roads, but you can see litter in places. That's something I never saw in Boston or its suburbs. Or New York's suburbs, for that matter. But the good thing about the city is that it's well-planned, the streets are all numbered so you can easily find your way, even if you are new to the city, and the subway system is planned in order to take you to any part of the city conveniently, so that you don't actually need to own a car, if you live in the city and work in the city. I happened to visit the city on a relatively hot day of the season, and it's generally warmer than Boston, being a little south of here. I realised that, in just about two months, I've lost whatever little ability I had for tolerating heat!

Oh well, I need to form a second impression of the city. I need to visit it some time in the late evening.

Fourth of July

I went to visit my mamaji over the weekend, and we went to a Fourth of July picnic with some friends of his. The guest list comprised of people with varying ethnicity and professional background. This was in a neighbourhood where they had about two dozen lots, with houses built on only about half of them. The wide open spaces always make me feel good. It's also nice to see all the kids playing in the yard. There are some random things I observed about life and people.

Contrary to what a lot of people in places like India seem to think, people here are pretty family oriented and worry about where their kids go to college and how they would pay their way through. It's just that they try to make them more independent and more aware of the value of money earlier in life. That is actually a good thing. These people also nag their kids to get haircuts and thank their stars that their kids are not graduating from college this year, given the state of the economy. There was one girl who did graduate this year and could not find a full time job. She went back to live with her parents, and they had no issues with that.

Fireworks displays are a big hit with these people, but it's not like Diwali in India where everyone sets off loads of them in their houses. They only have firework displays in various places, and the crackers are set off only by people who are trained and know exactly what they are doing, not by every kid in the neighbourhood who may or may not be aware of the hazards. And they only use rockets and such things which spread out sparkling lights into the air. Explosives are illegal, and there is a time limit for the crackers and the time limit is respected by people. That way you have fun without doing too much damage to the environment or causing trouble to asthma patients. And it doesn't fill the house with smog and litter the roads with the wrapping on the crackers. One of my uncle's dogs is afraid of loud noises and she hides in the basement whenever there is thunder and on this holiday. I don't know what the poor thing would do for a whole month around Diwali if she was in Delhi!

It's a different world here, and yet so similar in some ways.


Up was the first movie I went out to watch here in the States. This is a movie about love, hope and dreams. About keeping promises and finding adventure. About it never being too late to do something you really want to do.

It's the story of an old man who sets out on a quest to visit a place his late wife always wanted to visit, ever since she was a little girl. He attaches thousands of helium balloons to his house and makes his house float. He sets up a system to steer it in the correct direction.

The movie is about finding a way to do things you really want to do. About finding out that the dream you always dreamt or the hero you always idolised may not always turn out to be as great as you thought it would be, but you might just end up with something nicer.

This is a movie which has something for everyone, irrespective of their age.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I Wonder

Why is the grass always greener on the other side? We Indians will use all kinds of creams and lotions and turmeric and what have you, to make our complexion fairer. And the Americans, they spend money on tanning salons (and beach trips, when time permits) to get a tan. Those of us with wavy hair want it straightened out, and those with straight hair will want to get it curled or permed. Why can't we just come to terms with the way we are, the way we look? How does it matter, really, if our looks are a little imperfect? How does it matter if you have a few strands of hair flying out of place, or a few crooked teeth? What matters is how comfortable you are with yourself, how confident and happy you are about yourself, and how you carry yourself. I mean, well, of course, you need to be decently well-groomed. I'm not saying you can be as sloppy as you want or let your hair look like you just stepped out of a tornado. But some things are better left the way they were meant to be. Naturally.