Thursday, January 28, 2010

Love The One You're With

Love The One You're With by Emily Giffin is the story of a married woman who runs into her most serious ex-boyfriend on the street and revisits her feelings for him. He sends a wonderful professional opportunity her way, and it leads to the two of them spending time together and keeping in touch over the phone and e-mail.

Set primarily in New York City and Atlanta, this is a story filled with incidents, which, if looked at independently, would lead you to think that the heroine was selfish and disloyal. But the character development in the book is so well done that you connect to her, you relate to her, you know why she's doing what she's doing. Not like Love Aaj Kal, where the character development is so pathetic that the heroine looking for her first love after she marries someone else comes across as selfish and a little ridiculous.

When I shut the book closed at the end, I felt good about it all. There's a certain feel-good factor to it all. It's a story that tells you that everyone is human, everyone makes mistakes, but if you want to, if you really want to, it's never too late to make amends.

I really like the last sentence of the novel where she says that love is about the sum of our choices, the strength of our commitments, the ties that bind us together.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Do You Know How Much You Eat?

I recently began tracking my food intake throughout the day in an attempt to analyze my diet. I've only been doing it for about a week, and there are some surprising things I came across. Even with my diet consciousness and efforts towards healthy eating, my total calorie intake in a day was just above the recommended daily allowance of 2000 for the average adult female. How come? It's pretty simple, actually. Unless you actually write down everything you eat, you're more than likely to miss out adding up the calories in some of it. I generally worry about the calories in things I eat for pleasure, like chocolate. I don't count the calories in the milk I drink every morning. They are still there, of course.

Then there are the little snacks at various points of time in the day. There are hundreds of options for healthy (and otherwise) snacks which come packaged in 100 calorie snack bags. Even the healthiest of these will add calories. Normally, the average person would overlook counting those. But they do add up.

Have you ever tried to see if you're getting enough of every kind of nutrient in your diet? Enough protein, enough fat, enough carbohydrates? Or, for that matter, enough water? Most of us don't get enough water during the day. I realised that I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, but I don't eat enough protein on most days, except the days when I eat chicken or fish, which is only about twice a week.

I think everyone should do this for at least a week. Write down everything you eat. Absolutely everything. And then see how much of what you're eating. You may be surprised at the result. You may see something very evident that you need to change about your eating habits.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Google it!

Last night, there was this documentary on one of the news channels about Google. We didn't watch the full one-hour feature because it was late and we were sleepy, but in the middle of it, I asked my husband, "How did we live before Google?"

Google has become as everyday as food and water for most of us. Stuck with a coding issue? Google it. Want to find a fancy restaurant for a special dinner? Google it. Want to know where to learn to play the guitar? Google it.

Well, of course, Google has become synonymous with searching the Internet, but there are so many other things I probably can't live without. Gmail. Google reader. Google news. Google maps. Picasa. YouTube. And, of course, not to forget, Blogger. And this is true for a large percentage of educated people, ranging in age from school children to those in their sixties. Barring those like a certain friend of mine who use Windows Live for blogging and react in strange ways when enquired about the existence of a Gmail account in their name.

Google is what we turn to when we need information for something we're doing at work. It's what we turn to when we need entertainment. It's what we go to when we need to express ourselves. It's also where we go and Google our own name when we have absolutely nothing better to do with our time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Friends, Marriage and Other Such Things

A few of my friends from college (and I) keep in touch with each other through a regular exchange of e-mail messages. That's been a significant mode of communication for a while now. It helps get things across to everyone at the same time.

When we started out, none of us were formally engaged or married. In the last twelve months, five out of the six of us have taken the pheras and the sixth is now about to exchange rings. What struck me as interesting is that everyone now signs their e-mails with a "Avantika & Mrinal" (both fictitious names) type of sign-off, rather than just their own name. The thing is, it's not just about the signature, is it? It's about just about everything under the sun. What you do, what you eat, when you sleep, when you get up, where you go, where you don't go, what you buy, what you don't buy... just about every decision is now made together. Sometimes that makes the decision easier, sometimes that makes it more difficult. Sometimes it makes life more interesting, sometimes it makes it duller. Either way, it is what constitutes the essence of marriage. Togetherness. Doing things together. Having dinner together. Going out together on weekends. Being together. That's what it's all about.

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Cup of Coffee

In India, I'd never really experienced the idea of coffee waking me up. It was always mostly psychological. I would think that a cup of coffee would wake me up, and it would. For about half an hour.

I don't know what it is, if the coffee here is that much stronger, or if my body is no longer quite as accustomed to the caffeine, but a single cup of coffee early in the morning keeps me wide awake until about ten in the night. A cup after noon leads to restless sleep.

I remember how we would sometimes make cold coffee on summer evenings at home and sleep peacefully after that. I would drink cold coffee as often as I could, as opposed to hot, except at work where we didn't have cold coffee. There was the time when Abhinav conjured up a cup for me with water from the water cooler, milk powder, coffee powder and sugar.

The reason why I'm rambling on about this is that I like coffee. The aroma, the flavour, the feel of it. I like the variations we get at Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. The peppermint mocha, the caramel latte, the hazelnut flavour, the cinnamon... I have a strong urge for a cup right now but it's half past five in the evening. It feels like much later than that because the sun set an hour ago and I'm not yet used to that kind of variation in the length of the day - it goes from fifteen to sixteen hours in the summer to nine hours these days.

Anyway, the point is, I feel like drinking coffee but it already feels like nighttime and I know I won't be able to sleep if I get some right now. Maybe just a sniff at the jar of coffee powder. Or maybe a hint of it in a hot chocolate drink. Hmmm...

Song of The Week

After I saw the promo of Veer with the sight of Salman Khan putting me off more than ever before, I had no inclination to listen to the music of the film. But I happened to listen to a few tracks, and it is one of the most soothing albums I've heard in a while. There is a song or two that does not sound like it belongs in a period film, but all of them are good in their own right.

So I really liked Surili Akhiyon Waale. I haven't heard anything new by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in a few months (The last time was probably Main Aur Mrs Khanna or Dekh Bhai Dekh), and this is a good track to break the spell with. As long as it's just the audio. I haven't seen the video, don't want to see it. Don't want to imagine that this song is in praise of Salman Khan's eyes!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Random Little Things That I Miss...

...about my single life in India:
  • Having someone to cook for me. I mean, it's good to be able to cook for yourself and make exactly what you want to eat, but at least once in a while you want to eat something cooked by someone else who does not cook for a living, and you want to not know what's for dinner.
  • Sometimes, when I'm feeling sleepy towards the evening and I debate whether or not to get some coffee, I miss having friends and colleagues around me who would get it for me without even asking me.
  • This doesn't get said enough. I miss the Hindi radio channels that make you listen to all sorts of useless bantering about movies and movie stars, and songs that you love and songs that you hate.
  • Easily available chaat and other things savoury that you don't have to put together yourself.

And the stuff I think I will miss when I go back to India:

  • Low fat versions of just about every food item. Low fat salad dressing, reduced fat Oreo's, reduced fat muffins and doughnuts and what not. And the milk that comes with exactly as much fat as you want - skim, 1% fat, 2% fat, or whole.
  • Easy access to Mexican food.
  • Snow outside my window.
  • Easy access to original DVD rentals from Netflix.
  • The huge bookstores.

Monday, January 11, 2010

3 Idiots

I read somewhere that 3 Idiots has made more money in the US than any other Bollywood movie. It sure looks like it. In our neighbourhood cinema complex, where Hindi movies rarely last more than a week, and where I saw Wake Up Sid in an auditorium with about twenty people on a Saturday night, this movie is still running with packed audiences in its third week.

Totally worth it. In spite of Kareena Kapoor, who had suddenly turned into a tolerable, almost good actress with Jab We Met and then began to go downhill again. She's done a good job here. Though, of course, not half as good as Sharman Joshi and not a quarter as good as Aamir Khan. I love the way he works on just one film every year and then delivers a wonderful film towards the last few weeks of each year. Last year, I went out to watch Ghajini in theatres twice. The year before that, I went to watch Taare Zameen Par twice.

Aamir's character in the film is just so great. He's innocent, dreamy, inventive, innovative, and super intelligent. And he has this huge desire to actually learn. And he's also a little mischievous. He's about as close to a perfect guy as you can find. But the way the story has been handled is so crafty, nobody steals the show single handedly. Each character has their own importance in the plot, and it shows. Boman Irani with his Daffy Duck like slurred speech and his crazy scientist hair is just so funny. And the character they call "Chatur" adds a new, fun angle to the story.

When we came out of the movie hall, I heard a teenage boy humming All Izz Well as he jogged towards his car. It's been a while since I heard someone do something like that. Made me feel all the more at home.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Random Questions

What, exactly, is the whole point of decaf? I mean, people drink coffee to stay awake. They drink it for the caffeine. Why would someone want to drink decaf?

What happened to the days when I could eat all kinds of stuff without worrying about how I look or what I'm doing to my health? Those good old days of childhood and early adulthood.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Body Surfing

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve is another book I picked up based only on the pitch on the book jacket, without any feedback from anyone I know. This is the story of a woman, Sydney, who, at age twenty nine, is already once divorced and once widowed. She finds herself a job tutoring a high school student, Julie, with whom she strikes up a good friendship. She finds, with her student's family, a sense of belonging. She takes a liking to Julie's father and also develops a romantic attachment with one of her brothers. It looks like this just might be the happy ending Sydney had always wanted and deserved, but fate has other plans.

Anita Shreve has a unique storytelling style, which takes a while to get used to. In places, her narrative does not flow linearly, jumping back and forth in time. She pays close attention to the descriptions of mundane details like the flowers in the garden and the linen on the tables. She also pays a lot of attention to everything that goes on through her characters' minds, whether or not it directly contributes to the story.

Once you get the hang of it, her story flows easily, keeping the pages turning quickly. She gives you characters you may or may not be able to relate to, but ones you care about. She makes you want to find out what happens to them next.

I think this is only the second book I read that was set in places I know and have been to, the first being Five Point Someone. Well, The Sari Shop was set in Amritsar and I've been there too, but I was there only for a few hours and I never went to the bazaars that the author talks about, so I don't think that counts. This book is set mostly in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and I've seen the places mentioned in it. Helps visualize things in my head.

Anita Shreve is apparently the author of more than a dozen bestselling books. This is the first one I read. I'll say I liked it enough to want to try out some of her other work.

Friday, January 1, 2010

What I've Been Doing

I always knew I wanted to write. I always wanted to publish a book, and I still do. But I have discovered that writing fiction is very different from writing non fiction. And my talents lie in non fiction. I have exclusively been writing non fiction ever since my school days. In recent times, I spent a lot of my time doing some freelance writing. You will see some links on the sidebar on my blog. Those links are there so you can read whatever I write in various places online.

But before I started doing all that, I did spend some time trying to put together a story. I started out with one, and went on to write two. Neither one was quite as good as I had hoped. But I would still like to share both of them with my friends, who have also been loyal readers of my blog. And I would still like to continue to work towards my dream of being a published writer. I am going to keep my friends and readers updated on my latest adventures and misadventures. Until then, keep reading my blog, and read my stories at your own risk.

Love, Marriage and Other Such Oddities is a semi autobiographical account of the phase when I saw a lot of people around me get married, and was led to believe, by my family, that it was high time that I did too. There are arranged marriages and love marriages happening in today's India, and there are about as many distinct stories of, and as many distinct reasons for getting married, as there are people.

PS: Certain people I know were rather interested to know who I would or would not thank in the acknowledgements section. The thank-yous are at the end of the book.

PPS: The cover picture is from my friends' engagement, and I sincerely hope they do not mind the fact that I used their picture for the cover.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

This movie is the sequel to a movie about three chipmunk brothers who can talk, and even sing, and become international pop stars. In the squeakquel, as they call it, the three find love in the shape of three unbelievably cute and charming female chipmunks who can also sing. They also learn a thing or two about life, about the importance of teamwork, caring for others' feelings, and being there for each other.

I would have to say that I liked the first movie better, but I guess that was mostly because of the novelty factor. The second one has too many people in it, which creates a bit of a jarring distraction. Even so, it has some really cute scenes, especially the conversations between Theodore (the littlest male chipmunk) and Eleanor (the littlest female chipmunk). And the one where Alvin tries to kiss Simon. Cute family movie which has a little something for everyone.