Friday, November 06, 2015

Flashes and flashbacks

Like with most things I am terrified of, I can pinpoint the exact moment lightning began to scare the bejesus out of me.

I was in my early teens, and the mother used to teach in a school that ended a good hour after the brother and I got home. So as the responsible elder child, I was in charge of making sure the brother and I changed after getting home, ate our lunch, and (ideally) started on our homework by the time she got home. Which of course meant that we would get home, put on the TV, dawdle over our lunch, and then squawk and change five minutes before she would actually get home. (Oh, like you didn't know this, Ma.)

Good times.

Anyway, one afternoon, we were having our lunch while watching TV. I can't remember if a storm was already ongoing, or if it sprung up out of nowhere, but I do remember that our sofa was against the windows, and the TV screen faced the balcony door. And that it got darker as the afternoon progressed. And suddenly, out of the blue, a streak of lightning flashed across our TV screen, all the way from across that long living room of ours. And I'm pretty sure I grabbed my poor younger brother and screamed.

Not so good times.

I love rain, and I'm quite fond of thunderstorms. But lightning, to put it bluntly, frightens the crap out of me.

Last night, as I left work, after hearing about tornado warnings coming and going in various parts of the city, I looked up at the sky and saw lightning continuously flashing in the sky several miles away. In the direction I was headed. A part of my brain said it looked a lot like when the particle accelerator exploded on The Flash, but the rest of my brain kept having flashbacks to that afternoon all those years ago.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Beginnings and endings

It's shaping up to be a strange, strange weekend.

I'm not a parent. I don't foresee becoming a parent anytime soon, and contrary to the beliefs of everyone around me who likes to tell me I don't really mean this, I'm totally and absolutely okay with that. Because God forbid I should know how I feel about parenthood.

Two weeks ago, I got to work, parked the car, and checked my email. I usually have my phone mounted on the dashboard, and glance at messages as they come in during my drive to work; that day, for some reason that I can't recall, I had chosen not to. So I checked my email as I was getting out of my car, and I see a note from my manager that my team mate's son had died the previous night.

Today was his memorial service. And as I sat there, surrounded by my coworkers, including my manager and VP, mothers all, hearing them weep silently as the priest spoke of the loss of a child, something I've always believed was reinforced even more - I may not be a parent, but I don't think there can be nothing tougher than having to deal with the death of your child.

Tomorrow, I'm hosting a baby shower for a friend. I'm the only unmarried woman in my current social circle, but somehow I've ended up being in charge of this shower. Organizing this shower has created a good deal of stress over the past couple of weeks, because despite having studied and worked in women-only environments for close to a decade, I've never quite got used to just how utterly bitchy women can be. And some of the women who are helping and attending the shower tomorrow have been stark reminders.

But my friend is having a son in a few months, and that needs to be celebrated, even as my team mate mourns the loss of his. And so it's shaping up to be a strange, strange weekend.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Parental conversations, Part 2

This post is a complete cop out because I realised we're almost at the end of October and I haven't posted anything this month. Having said that, these gems have been collected here over the past year or so, just waiting to shared with the world. Characters, my parents are.

The father, on whatsapp, on being sent photos of wounded hand compared to the previous week:
"Looking much healthier.
Letting the nail polish show itself now."


Conversation between me and the parents before the mother came to stay with me for two months:
Me: Can Mamma's phone be fixed so it logs into her Skype account and not Baba's?
Mother: Arre we are ek jaan since 1983.
Me: Yes but if you're here and trying to call him on Skype you'll end up calling yourself na.
Father: Now that is a good example of a closed loop as used in circuit designing and programming languages. :D
Father: And. i will not be able to call M on Skype because... :(

I don't even know what the man means half the time. And he uses way too many emoticons.


The mother, seeing me the morning of her day of departure after a two-month stay with me:
"Are you dressing up so much today because I'm leaving?"


Mother: Listen, when you land for the wedding, there'll be just a week to go. You're not going to insist on going to China Bowl for dinner, are you? There'll be a lot of work to do.
Me: Yeah, but we'll still have to eat, won't we?


Late night Skype calls on wedding outfits:
Mother: For the sangeet toh I am going to buy.
Me: Everything else you're going to rent or what?


Over whatsapp:
Me: Look at these amazingly comfortable linen pants I bought. They're perfect for summers, do you want a pair?
Mother: No, I have plenty.

Two days later, on the phone:
Mother: I have to tell you what I did. I didn't want to spend money on new pants, so I got all my pants shortened and made them into capris.
Me: Well, what are you going to do in the winter then?
Mother: ....oh.
Me: Sigh.
Mother: Achha, I hope you know that when I said no to those pants I was just being polite.


Mother: Have you talked to your brother lately? Why is he losing so much weight?
Me: I *just* told you how much weight I've lost. Why do I not get asked that in such a tone of concern?

(In all fairness, the brother has always been a stick who just doesn't put on weight, the lucky schmuck. And I'm... not like that.)


Me: Next time you call me on Skype at 6.30 am on a Sunday to watch a puja the entire khandaan is present at, can I get a 5 minute heads up so I'm dressed a little more appropriately? I had to wriggle off camera before I let anyone see me.
Father: I noticed.

The master of understatement, this man is.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

On the new phone, and things that are needed

This dependence on technology is a funny thing. I didn't own a tablet till I finally gifted myself one on my birthday this year, after two years of chickening out. And barely six months later, I forgot to take it with me on one of my weekend trips, and didn't know what to do with myself on the flight.

I'm a bit of a late adopter when it comes to technology. I didn't buy my own laptop till I was two years into my first job, unlike most of my peers who had one in college. And I *refused* to get a smartphone, or even data on my phone, till four years ago. I was a Nokia loyalist (except for a brief affair with Motorola when they came out with this really cheap flip phone - *not* the Moto-Razr that everyone in college had). My last year in India, my former boss gave me her Nokia E71 when she got a smartphone, and that phone was just perfect.

Then I moved to Amreeka, and got me a BlackBerry because that's what all the gal pals back home had. And wouldn't you know it, just as I got that, everyone else moved on to iPhones and Androids. I finally moved to Android after graduation from b-school, and two months ago, upgraded from my S4 to my latest phone, an S6.

When I got the S6, I deliberately didn't download all the apps I had on my previous phone. I wanted to see what I needed and what I could live without. Turns out, I can't do without Whatsapp, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, and the Kindle app. Facebook came a day or two later. Skype, Saavn and Pocket followed soon after. Out of Milk was downloaded on my first trip to the grocery store after getting the phone; I still haven't got the Kroger app, which I should, because I'm losing out on coupons that I normally remember to load up as I'm shopping.

I resisted adding my work email to the phone initially, mainly because it wanted to encrypt things that I didn't understand and so didn't want to get into. But while I can do without my email, not having my calendar readily available was driving me crazy, so I gave in within a couple of weeks.

In the months since, I've downloaded a bunch of the travel apps I use regularly (including Uber and Lyft), Evernote, OpenTable, Cricinfo, Google News, OvuView, Mint, Amazon, and Unit Converter (I'm amazed myself at how often I need this app). And in the last couple of weeks, a bunch of fitness/health related apps because they have been needed to start tracking things. Of course, this isn't counting any of the preloaded apps like Gmail etc.

And while this seems like a fairly long list, it's actually much shorter than what I had on my previous phone. No games, for one. I've resisted getting Candy Crush Saga and seem to be getting along just fine without it for now (it’s on the tablet, so I’m still playing it, yes). I don't have all the bank or loyalty program apps I had previously. And I haven't got feedly yet - which I suspect won't last very long, but let's see.

And to think I used almost none of this a short four years ago.

So I'm curious - what are the must-have apps y'all need?

And since we're on the subject, does it drive anyone else crazy that the S6 won't let you swipe from the last screen to the home screen, but makes to swipe all the way back one by one? AND that you can't choose which screen you want to go to by just pressing the corresponding dots?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

On songs that stay with you

I listened to a lot of Asha Bhonsle's songs growing up. Her life caught my interest me too - the nuggets of gossip gleaned from overheard parental conversation and whatever I read/saw in pre-Internet days about her seemed fascinating.

One of my favourite songs by her is actually a duet - a duet with her elder sister, Lata Mangeshkar. I always preferred the younger sister to the elder, but something about this song played so beautifully every time I heard it.

And for some reason, I think of it every time I hear another song, another duet, that came out (relatively) a few years ago. A duet between Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghoshal. I don't what it is about this song that reminds me of that one, except perhaps the fact that you'd never think these two voices would play so beautifully together. Especially since, at the time this song came out, the two singers were on such different paths as singers - one seemed to get all the "western sounding" songs, one all the more "classical" songs. But then this song came out and blew me away.

NB: It's annoying me tremendously that I can't find the complete video for Imaan ka Asar on youtube, so if anyone finds it, please direct it my way. Thank you kindly.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


One blog I follow (that's still updated) does a monthly list of everything the blogger (do we still call it that?) read that month. And every time I see those, I wish I read more - but we all know that's not gonna happen.

Then another blog I follow (which is miraculously also still updated) did this post on TV shows watched over the summer. And I thought, hey, I could totally do that, because if you weren't already aware, I watch way too much TV for my own good. And then I figured I could add movies to the list because one of my favourite things to whine about is the fact that I have to check off the books I do read, and to keep track of all the TV I watch, but nothing to keep track of the movies I watch.

So anyway, here's my list of stuff I watched over the last couple of months:

Movies, in the theater:
  • Inside Out - talked about briefly here. The red man is still popping up in my head when I'm driving.
  • Ant Man - It was actually a lot more fun than I expected it to be, mainly because for some reason I went in with minimal expectations.
  • Mr Holmes -  Friends were debating between Southpaw and Trainwreck, the latter of which I really wanted to see. And then suddenly this was suggested. Not bad, but I'm not sure I see Sherlock Holmes retiring to the country because of a case gone bad. More research is warranted on the book this movie was based on. Also not sure if I came out of the theater yawning because of the movie or just because of the way life has been in general.
Movies, on Netflix/Hulu/Amazon, and so mainly repeats:
  • Jab We Met - because I hadn't seen it in a while, and felt the need to.
  • The Boxtrolls - if ever you wondered, is there an animated movie you didn't love? Till I saw this movie, the answer would have been no. This one - I don't even know what they were doing.
  • American Sweethearts - Seen right after The Boxtrolls, because I needed a random chick flick to get over it.
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2 - I was in the mood one day. I still maintain it was fun, but not as fun as the first.
 TV shows:
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - obvs. Piled up the last week to watch at one go, and there may or may not have been sniffles. There's a Jon Stewart shaped hole in my heart right now.
  • White Collar - Caught up on the final season on a couple flights over the past two weeks. This show is one of those shows that I loved when it started, and then my love for it reduced but never went away. So I let it pile up and watch seasons at one go, rather than as every episode comes out. But man, the series finale gave me major feels. I mean, I knew what happens. I read all the reviews and spoilers. Even so, the last 15 minutes or so had me gasping and sniffling. And the shipper in me really, really wishes they'd brought back Sara somehow.
  • Catastrophe - HILARIOUS. If you have Amazon Instant Video (or even you don't, because Lord knows there are ways to watch it), you should watch this show. I know people are describing it as a rom-com, and it probably is, but it's also not, but it's just so good.
  • The Mindy Project - The thing about this show is that everyone who knows me and knows the kind (and number) of shows watch assured me I would love it. So about a year ago, I caught up on the first two seasons. And I liked it, but I didn't love it. Definitely not enough to watch it regularly when the third season started. I watched the first half of Season 3 a few weekends ago, but the rest is still waiting in my Hulu queue. I'll get to it - eventually.
  • The West Wing - Lord, I don't even know what number rewatch this is. But anytime there's nothing current to watch on my list, and I have to choose between starting a new show from my never-ending to-watch list, and rewatching this show, this show wins. I finished Season 5 last night. I don't know if I want to see the last two seasons again yet, because they're the most painful ones to watch, Donna's and CJ's increased awesomeness in those seasons notwithstanding. Because I will NEVER forgive the show for what they did to Toby. NEVER.
 On the to-watch-eventually list right now:
  • The current season of Suits, but I'll probably wait for it to end and then watch the whole thing at one go.
  • Gilmore Girls - I'm halfway through the last season, and it's hurting. I'll get through it - eventually.
  • True Detective and Fargo - because everyone tells me I must. At least the first season, that is.
  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver - I haven't watch the last dozen episodes or so, and need to catch up at some point. But that means I need to give in and get HBO Now, and I'm not ready for that commitment till it becomes available on the Roku (also because you know as soon as I get it, marathon watches of all kinds of shows will get started). So, eventually.
  • Second seasons of Broadchurch and The Blacklist - when they come to Netflix
  • Parks & Recreation -
There are also a gazillion movies between my Netflix, Amazon and Hulu queues, but I'm not good at watching movies by myself at home, so who knows if those will ever happen.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

On things that don't change

Ten years ago, a friend's father came to pick us up from campus after the two of us were done with classes for the day. As we got into the car, he told us since we both refused to learn how to drive, we should marry guys who would be able to afford drivers to drive us around. To which I had responded, "or you know, I could get a job and pay a driver's salary myself."

Today, a friend and I went shopping, and then to her place, where she showed her husband her purchases, and explained to him exactly why she had bought she had, and why it all made perfect sense. And after he rolled his eyes and approved of everything, she turned to me to explain this is why you marry a guy who lets you buy whatever. To which I responded, "or you know, stay single and not have to justify anything at all." To which her husband grinned and nodded.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Where I write about something random because the thing I actually want to write about is just beating a dead horse

It's hard to explain to some folks what I mean when I say I'm an introvert.

My current set of friends flat out refuse to believe it. And from their point of view, it might be understandable. I do end up being the one making a lot of our plans to meet up. A bunch of us were at dinner recently, and somehow started talking about how we had all met, and as it turned out, I was the lynch pin who had introduced everyone. My response to that was if my friends from previous lifetimes heard this, they wouldn't be able to stop laughing.

It's taken me a very long time to get where I am today, to be social at all. My first year in the US, I spent my entire Thanksgiving break holed up in my apartment, not meeting anyone, not talking to anyone, not going out at all other than running errands. And it was perfect. Now, four years* later, I can't remember the last weekend I did that.

In the last ten days alone, I've gone out to meet people every day on the weekends, and I had plans three out of five weeknights last week (one of which, thankfully, got cancelled). And I'm not even counting the work lunches last week.  And while I know this was a little out the ordinary - things aren't usually this packed - for someone who has never had a social life, this is, frankly, bewildering.

And exhausting.

I'm not a people person. I never have been. When I used to do executive coaching in a previous lifetime, I would get off the phone after a 30-minute coaching session and need to sit in silence away from everyone for a while. I remember having a sleepover at my home with the gal pals some years after we were out of college, and when the sleepover spilled into a lazy Saturday at the home of one of them, I found myself getting away from them halfway through the afternoon and going to the other room to sit by myself for at least 15 minutes to decompress. And these are the girls I love more than almost anyone else.

Going into my second year at B-school, I had set two goals for myself: be more social, and to be more proactive about reaching out to people if I need help. Three years later, I can say I've made myself be better at both those things, but they're still an effort. Half the plans I make with people wouldn't be if it weren't for my obsession with animated and superhero movies. A lot of my socializing wouldn't happen if I was better at saying no to people (that should be my next goal, honestly).

And invariably, when I come back from most of these get togethers, I feel just so very tired. Interacting with others just plain exhausts me, and there's nothing that can change that.

Which is why when folks from back home suggest things like joining a book club or some other group activity because they're worried living alone means I'm turning into more of a loner than I was, I don't know how to explain to them that I need less people, not more.

*It was realized this morning that yesterday marked four years of living in the US. Hence the multiple references to previous lifetimes.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

200 pages

A conversation at lunch today:
Look, I read the first three Harry Potter books. I even started the fourth. But then I got to page 200 and they were still playing Quidditch. I mean, that's 200 pages and nothing's really happened. So I got bored and never read the rest of the books.

But it was the Quidditch World Cup! That takes time! And stuff happened!

Oh please. Nothing happened at all, and it was 200 pages, so I just stopped.

I have nothing to say to you.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Of dreams, conversations, and voices in the head

So I had this dream, right. I dreamed I was going somewhere with a friend, and I was driving, and all of a sudden she looks at my dashboard and says, "you need to get gas, the gas light is on." And I respond, "what rubbish, I got just got gas the other day, the tank's full."

And then I woke up, realized I was incredibly late, and practically ran out of the door to get to work. And halfway to work, the gas light does indeed go on, and I think to myself, "but I just picked up gas the other day." And then realised that was in the dream.


So I called the father this morning, and for once it wasn't handed over to the mother without so much as a hello, not that we are complaining or anything, and I chatted with him after more than a week, not that we are complaining or anything.

Anyway. I asked how the monsoon in Delhi was going, and got the following rant:
Listen, all I know is as soon as the Power Minister visited Gurgaon, and announced Gurgaon will never have power cuts again, we started having power cuts after weeks of none of them. And then as soon as the IMD announced the monsoons had arrived all over India, the rains in Delhi stopped completely. And now our Prime Minister has gone and announced India's going completely digital, so...

One needs to learn the art of whining without sounding like one is whining from the man.


I saw Inside Out last night. Nothing is cuter than the short movies Disney/Pixar has started playing before their movies. I was practically holding my breath thinking Lava was going to end in tragedy and I would start crying less than ten minutes into the movie (oh, like you don't do that every time you watch Up), but thankfully it all ended quite happily.

The movie itself, btw, was totes adorbs. I now know what was happening inside my head when the parents made me move from Chandigarh to Delhi at the age of 9. And I could see the little red man with Lewis Black's voice driving inside my head when I was driving home last night and again to work this morning.

And it might be soon to tell, but this movie might just end up messing with my thought processes the same way Everybody Says I'm Fine did. Because the voices in my head still go from 0 to completely panicked and crazy every time I go for a haircut or even just a head massage.


I was telling the father about a coworker who gets... excited over everything. And after giving him a few examples of what had agitated her over the past couple of weeks, I made the mistake of saying I could see myself turning into her in a few years. To which I got the response:
Can we just be clear that I wasn't the one to say that? I may have been thinking it, but I didn't say it.