Sunday, August 22, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love: The Book

As some of you may be aware, I often read a good book after I watch and like or am intrigued by the movie based on it. I think it started with Sense and Sensibility when I was about thirteen years old. I'd tried to read that book two or three times but never managed more than six pages. Then I watched the movie, basically for Hugh Grant, and liked it and then made it all through the book soon afterwards.

So anyway, I'd decided that I'd finish reading Eat, Pray, Love before they released the movie, but I overshot by about a week. On the other hand, I didn't watch the movie in the meantime.

The book contains the memoirs of a woman, Elizabeth Gilbert, who goes through a divorce that leaves her with very little money (A divorce is generally a very expensive deal for whoever makes more money of the two people involved. In this case, Elizabeth was already a celebrity writer and making a lot more money than her husband.) and little or no mental balance. She decides to visit three places she's always wanted to visit. She wants to go to Italy and learn to speak Italian (not to mention eat all the pasta and gelato she can find), to India and practise meditation, and to Indonesia to learn from a medicine man. She could afford to travel for a whole year because her publishers gave her an advance on the book she would write about her travels.

The book is beautifully written, with a great amount of spiritual and emotional depth to it. The writer is candid and fearless in expressing her innermost thoughts, but never in a gross way. She touches the reader's hearts in a very unique way - she's doing all this stuff that her average reader couldn't possibly do for a whole year, but, even so, her average reader can relate to her because she's very human with the same kind of flaws and mental confusion like the rest of us.

She does have the kind of ideas about India that Americans often have - that we are a nation of extremely poor people for whom it is a big feat to be able to speak good English. That was the only part of the book that was a turn-off for me. But it certainly helps that she just mentions it in passing and doesn't dwell on it. She focuses, in all three parts of her journey, on the good things about her travels and the things she gains and learns from them. She demonstrates an extremely positive attitude and a willingness to improve her self and her life, especially for someone who has so recently been through so much pain in her life. Definitely recommended.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


When I was coming from India to the States with my then new husband, some of my friends from my workplace came to the airport to see me off. It was there that Aman gave me a CD of videos and pictures of my farewell from that job, which had happened a few weeks earlier.

That day, at the airport, they had a bunch of technical difficulties and their X-ray scanners were replaced by staff members manually checking every passenger's carry-on baggage. After I got home and unpacked over the course of the next few days while recovering from jet lag (Actually, I don't think I was ever really jet lagged. But I was kind of in a trance from weeks of sleep deprivation during the wedding planning, the actual wedding, and everything that needed to be done in the meagre, and now extremely blurry, ten days between the wedding and the flight to the States.) and adjusting to a whole new environment, I never saw that CD and thought I had lost it in all the commotion at the airport.

Then, a few days ago, I was cleaning out some stuff and I found it. I'm not sure where it was for the last fifteen months or so, but it was obviously somewhere in the house.

So, on Sunday, my husband and I watched the videos which showed me laughing and talking with my friends and then colleagues, accepting gifts from them, singing and laughing with them and threatening to beat them up at the slightest provocation.

My husband tells me that I was very lucky to find a group of friends like that in my workplace. The work culture here is drastically different, of course, but he never experienced that sort of thing in India either. It's a different industry, and perhaps that makes things different.

I had some really beautiful times at my old job. The team I worked with has since undergone a whole lot of changes, including reorganizations, new hires, and people leaving the company for bigger and better things. And, luckily for me, I left at a time when they were just reorganizing things in a big way. So I remember things for the way they always were - totally fabulous. I would never have wanted to work for a different boss or with a different set of coworkers after being in that setting. I would not trade the teammates who routinely made fun of me and passed all sorts of comments about me for anything else. Because they made the job worth doing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Of Food, Travel and TV

There is this thing called a lunchtime poll on the CNN news website which is a poll about people's eating habits and preferences. They'll ask you questions on things like how often you like to experiment by ordering something new and different at a restaurant.

So the other day, they had this poll on where you would like to travel to try out the local cuisine. They had a long list of options that covered almost every country whose cuisine I've ever heard anything interesting about. Except, perhaps Peru. So the leading choice of the users was, quite predictably, Italy, which I voted for. Next in line was France, and not too far behind, the second runner-up, was India.

Indian is actually a rather popular cuisine in a number of countries throughout the world, as I can tell by the number of non-Indian patrons at the good Indian restaurants here, and by the growing number of Indian cookery shows on the Food Network and the Cooking Channel. Now I've never actually seen these shows, because they air during time slots that are usually not convenient to me, but I have seen their recipes on the channels' websites and there are lots of good ideas there. They have this reality show where they hold a competition to choose "The Next Food Network Star" - someone who will have their own show on the Food Network - and this time, the winner was an Indian who is going to start another Indian cooking show soon.

Strange, then, that Indian television doesn't have an exclusive channel for food and cooking. There are so many different cuisines within the country, specific to various geographic regions, and people are increasingly open to trying out recipes from all across the country or even across the world that they haven't tried before. I've gathered a bunch of ideas from the Food Network shows and tried new ways of cooking pasta and doing new things with strawberries. If they had something like that in India, it would be something I would willingly watch. And I am someone who never really watched Indian television shows out of my own free will, I watched the Indian channels for the movies and the music videos, but I was mostly confined to Friends and The Big Bang Theory and Mr Bean as far as shows went.

Hachi: A Dog's Tale

This was actually a random movie we rented this weekend. We saw the preview on another DVD we rented earlier, and we thought we might like this one. Based on the preview, I thought it would be kind of like Marley & Me, a fun and sweet story of a dog and its owner which saw the two of them through various stages of their lives and became kind of emotional towards the end when the dog died. Well, I was wrong. This story has a different twist to it that I never expected. It took me by surprise. Even more so when I thought about the fact that it is based on a true story. I am not going to give that away for the sake of anyone who doesn't know the story and might want to watch the movie, but I do want to say that this was one of the most beautiful and emotional movies I have ever seen. I think my husband watched it thrice over in two days. It's a story that is all about loyalty, love, and always being there for those who are important to you. It's a story about all those qualities that we, humans, stand to learn from dogs. Definitely recommended.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's Been So Very Long Since...

...I had a wardrobe in which everything was just the right size for me. It's been close to four years that I've been losing weight, then sitting on a plateau (For the uninitiated, that's a widely used term for when you're trying to lose weight but your weight is more or less constant for a few weeks or longer.) for a while, and then losing again, and so on. I go shopping for a few outfits every time I drop a dress size. But there are always other things in my closet that are fairly new, too nice to throw out or donate, but a size (sometimes two sizes) too big.

There was certainly the time when I got married and didn't pack too many of my old clothes with me, but there was this thing about necessarily needing to buy 21 outfits sponsored by my parents and 11 sponsored by my in-laws. There was a point when I actually grew sick of fitting rooms and picked up a few things without trying them on. Naturally, a few of them were the wrong size. Some of those worked out well for me, though, because they were too small then and are just the right size now. But there really hasn't been a time as far back as I can remember when everything was just the right size.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's Been So Long Since...

...I danced at a wedding. Getting all dressed up for a wedding, dancing, feasting... it's all been so long. I have actually not worn Indian clothes in a really long while either. It just occurred to me that I wore a salwar-kameez exactly twice in the last fifteen months that I've been in the States - once on Karva Chauth and once on Diwali.

...I ate chikoos. We don't get them here at all. They have frozen ones at the Indian grocery store, but I'm not a big fan of frozen fruit. Frozen veggies are okay (actually they're good in some ways because they're already cut and peeled and have a longer shelf life) because you cook them and then they no longer feel like they were frozen to begin with.

...I ate burfi. We do get all kinds of sweets here, but they're not fresh like you would get from a local halwaai or a Haldiram's. They're often exported from Canada and they just don't taste like what burfi would taste like on the day you bought it fresh. We get good halwa and gulabjamuns and rasmalai and kheer at Indian restaurants, but not burfi or cham-cham or milk cake. It just occurs to me sometimes, usually I'm quite happy with my Boston Creme Pies and Chocolate crumb cakes and brownies.

The Great Thing About Window Shopping... that it's one of the few things that I know of that can help me relax and that do not involve spending any money or adding on any calories to the day's tally. Sometimes, exercise does all that too, but it's not something I would really want to do towards the end of a tiring day, which is when you really need to relax. I've discovered that, if I'm at home, listening to music or reading, and there's food that's readily accessible, I'll want to stop what I'm doing and eat. I know, I think about food a lot. But that's just who I am. But if I am in the middle of a huge store browsing through clothes or shoes or books, I feel a certain amount of laziness when I think about going to the mall's food court or the bookstore's cafe. That is the good kind of laziness. And that's why I love window shopping.