Thursday, August 27, 2009

Evening Walks And Other Such Stuff

The apartment complex where we live has a lovely courtyard for people to walk, jog, or ride their bicycles. I go down there some evenings for a walk and some fresh air. I see lots of kids riding their bikes or scooters (the kind with wheels and no engine, that kids ride for fun) or running after each other or doing other random stuff. A lot of these kids are Indian, whose parents grew up in India but the kids are growing up here. The parents have South Indian or Bengali accents, but for these little ones, an American accent comes completely naturally. Some of them cannot speak the language that their parents speak to each other in.

When I was about that age, I would take walks on the street or in the park with my grandparents. They would tell me anecdotes, some of which would be in Punjabi or Haryanvi. I cannot speak either language too fluently, but I can do just fine and I can understand both of them pretty well.

A few weeks back, there was a small poster that somebody had put up downstairs in our apartment building, advertising a Hindi workshop for Indian kids. That was when I realised that if, when we have kids, we are still living here, then we cannot take a lot of things for granted. The kids learning to speak Hindi is one. Them knowing about our culture and tradition is another.

Well, anyway, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, I'm happy with just the way things are.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Birthday 2005

I was just watching Bunty Aur Babli on DVD today and it reminded me of the time I first watched it - on my birthday in 2005. It was the time when my classmates and I were readying ourselves for our campus placements and I was hassled with the task of balancing my duties as placement coordinator with my own study time. In the middle of all that, I had a birthday and I told everyone that I would take the whole day off. I would not study, I would not check the e-mail accounts where we got mail from recruiters and potential recruiters. I went out for a movie with my friend Aditi, who was the only one in town among all the friends from school I am still in touch with.

So we decided to go to PVR Vikaspuri (our then favourite hangout) for a movie. Now when I was at the ticket counter, I told the guy that I wanted two tickets for the current show. Now I thought that he'd understand I wanted tickets for the show that was to begin in an hour and a half. But he gave me tickets for a show that had already begun half an hour ago. Now I didn't check the tickets. And I didn't give them to Aditi. (Those who know her don't do that. Long story. Separate post.)

We thought we had an hour and a half, and we could grab a bite at McDonald's. We took our own sweet time doing just that, and it was only after we'd finished that I checked the tickets and realised what had happened. We went back to the box office to receive a standard "I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do." They suggested that we go in and catch whatever was left of the movie. We asked to speak to the manager but they wouldn't let us. Now keep in mind that this came at a time when I had not yet started working and Aditi was between jobs, so a couple of hundred bucks were a big deal. We persisted, and eventually they gave in and let us speak to the manager. My friend, I learnt that day, has a way with people. She convinced the manager that what was going on was unjust and we should be allowed to see the next show. He did. Thankfully, it was a weekday afternoon and the hall was not too full. The guy changed our tickets by hand and signed them. By then, we had been around the entire complex, asking the entire staff if they knew where we could find the manager. So the guards and ushers all knew the story.

But do you know what we gained in all this? The early morning shows were fifty bucks cheaper than the others. The one we originally bought tickets for fell into that category, and the other one didn't. I wished I had chosen to treat more people that day, as did some others.

I was receiving calls from friends all day long. In between, I also got a call or two from people who did not know that it was my birthday and insisted that I should act like their placement coordinator. But the best one was a call I got at about half past eight in the evening. This is an old friend of mine who has known me for, like, forever. He was in another city, and we talked about once in a couple of months. The conversation went something like this:

"So, what are you doing?"
"Nothing much. Went out with Aditi in the afternoon for a movie. Been relaxing since I got back home."
"Oh. I thought you were really busy preparing for your placement."
"I am."
"So how come you decided to take the day off?"
"Excuse me, do you know what the date is?"
"The date? Oh, oh no, I forgot!"

I still burst out laughing each time I think about it.

I've had a bunch of very special birthdays. Maybe I can do a series of posts on them.

Stuff I Like About Having My Mother-in-law Around

  • I don't have to eat my own cooking all the time. (No, it's not bad at all. But it does get boring.)
  • On days when I don't feel like going to the gym and just want to go downstairs for a walk, I have company.
  • I get to hear all kinds of stories about my husband's childhood.
  • I get to learn new tips and tricks to use in the kitchen.
  • I have someone to talk to in the daytime.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Quacking Away!

So the city of Boston has a little tourist attraction called a Duck Tour. This is a little city tour that takes you on the roads for an hour or so, and then on a ride on the Charles river for another half an hour. They use an amphibious vehicle which was originally designed during the second World War. You can click on the link and read more on the history in case you are interested.

Now the person who conducts the tour is called a ConDUCKtor. Ours was this really jovial guy who called himself Major Scoop. He said he wanted to be a news reporter but people who hire you for those jobs care for things like college degrees, and this one was different.

He told us to greet people on the road by quacking. He also introduced the concept of a "no-quacking zone" where we quacked silently, using hand actions. It was so much fun!

The tour was about three Fs - Freedom, Firsts and Fun. He showed us sites of importance during the freedom struggle, such as the place where the tea party was planned. He told us about the stuff that first happened in Boston - the first chocolate factory, the first telephone and so on. It was nothing like anything I've ever done before. If you are anywhere around Boston at any time, you should definitely try this out.

Monday, August 10, 2009


This time, when I was in New York, I met an old friend of mine from college. Kavita and I used to live at about a fifteen minute walk from each other's place. We have travelled together in DTC buses, hopping on and off the buses, waiting for indiscriminately long durations, just so we could use our bus pass, instead of taking a blue line bus where we'd need to buy a ticket.

And one fine day, I found myself taking a six lane interstate highway in a foreign land (with a very impressive highway system, by the way). It's definitely been a long journey. A journey that has seen us through different phases of life - post graduate degrees, jobs, marriage. Well, in my case. Kavita is soon to be married as well. I've gone from hopping on DTC buses to the Delhi metro to using the office bus (during my internship) to chartered buses to buying my own car to this. I've driven a Chevrolet and our Toyota Corolla, after my beloved Hyundai Santro.

Life changes so fast sometimes. So unexpectedly. Can you ever tell what's going to happen next?

Second Impressions Of New York City

New York city is definitely better by night than it is by day. The city comes alive with lights and people. At about midnight on a Saturday, it's about as crowded as Janpath on a Saturday evening. Maybe a little more crowded. The streets are full of people who want to sell you something or the other, or draw a sketch of you. The shopping places are all open at midnight. It's a huge change, if you are coming from a place where almost everything closes down at nine or so. Even Delhi witnesses low traffic and fewer people on the roads after ten or eleven.

Incidentally, I took my driving test on Saturday morning right before I went to New York. The police officer who examined me reprimanded me for stopping too close to a woman crossing the road on a bicycle. You are supposed to let cyclists and pedestrians pass, and you have to stop at a safe distance from them. Even if you have a green light, you have to stop for them. My examiner let me off with a warning and passed me anyway. But in New York, it's cars first. Of course, if there is somebody right in front of your car, you certainly need to stop for them, but it's not like here, where cars stop if someone is trying to cross a road and let them go first. Traffic is a lot more disorderly in New York city. I told my husband that if I drove in the city for a day, I'd go back to my Delhi ways, weaving in between the pedestrians, cycles, rickshaws and horse carts, and forget everything that my driving instructor taught me in all those lessons. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it's not entirely untrue.

I have still to see the Empire State building and the Statue of Liberty, but, well, the city for me is a great place to visit, go around, window shop on Fifth Avenue, but, at the end of the weekend, I want to be back to the peace and quiet of the green suburbs.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Stereotypes II

While I'm talking about the media stereotyping people and concepts, I might as well put in a few words about stereotyping actors as well.

There was this TV show way back in 1990 that I used to watch sometimes. It was called Beverly Hills 90210. I watched a couple of episodes here and there back then, but I was definitely not old enough to make complete sense of it all at the time. I've recently been watching some episodes again. There was this one episode I came across in which Matthew Perry made a guest appearance. In case you're still wondering why the name does or does not ring a bell, that's Chandler Bing from Friends. The character he played was a high school senior with an overbearing father whom he despised. His father is a big shot who wants to hand everything to him on a platter. He doesn't like that at all, and he wants to be someone on his own. It drives him crazy to the point of attempted suicide.

I found the performance very unconvincing. Maybe it was actually so, but most likely it was because I had known this guy for years as the adorable character who makes sarcastic jokes and makes everybody laugh. He didn't really fit into such a dark role. Not in my mind, at least.

What would happen if Jim Carrey suddenly took on a completely serious film with little or no humour in it? Or if Morgan Freeman decided to appear in a goofball comedy? Maybe they would do really well in their new found roles. Or maybe the audience would just have a very hard time adjusting to the new ideas.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I was talking to an old friend today and I told him that my husband's parents were coming over next week to stay with us for a while. He was excited about the fact that it would give me an opportunity to squabble with my mother-in-law.

I remember my grandmother telling me, just before my wedding, that, just because they are my in-laws and the media has given a certain image to mothers-in-law, I don't have to dislike them.

We build all these stereotypes in our minds about a lot of things. We think that things work a certain way. Well, even if that is the rule, there are always exceptions to the rule. My mother-in-law has such a calm temperament, I cannot imagine her arguing even with an aggressive person like me. Even I have mellowed down a little lately, by the way.

Life is full of random oddities. The good guys don't always win. Girls don't always like pink. And daughters-in-law don't always detest their mothers-in-law. I quite like mine.