Monday, July 21, 2014

The deal with my life


Every night, before going to bed, I look around my apartment, and think: I need to get my act together. Well, truth be told, I phrase it in a slightly more colourful manner, but my mother reads this blog.
Every morning, before leaving for work, I glance around again, and think: wow, I really need to get my act together.
Every evening, I get back home, go for a swim (okay, this may not happen *every* evening), come back, take a shower, and then watch TV for the next few hours.
Rinse. Repeat.

I turn 30 in some months, y'know? And much like a few years ago, when I was hitting another milestone-y age, I'm getting into panic mode. 30 just seems so... old.

When I bring up my anxiety around turning 30, people rush to assure me now it's not that bad, how I'm not that old, how plenty of people meet their life partners well into their 30s, how I can have kids all the way upto 40.

Pfffffffft.

Who cares about all that? Getting married and having kids have nothing to do with my panic around the big 3-O. My bigger concern is why I don't have my act together. Shouldn't I be more... capable at taking care of myself by now? Shouldn't my apartment look less hurricane-struck, and the food I cook taste less bland? I'm never going to have one of those straight-out-of-a-coffee-book homes, but shouldn't I at least not have piles of documents and envelopes and bills on every uncovered surface in the place?

So what is the deal with my life? Because, really, I need to get my act together.



Friday, July 11, 2014

Where I try not to judge you, but do anyway

I have a feeling this post is going to come out as utterly obnoxious and condescending and judgmental and all sorts of things, and I'm going try to articulate my thoughts in a way that isn't, but you have been warned anyway. And now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, let's try to articulate those thoughts.

I'm not - I'd like to believe - one of those people who put up posts or photos of everything that's happening to me on Facebook; that's what Twitter and Instagram are for, for me. My posts, more often than not, are about things that irritate me, or articles I find and read and think are interesting, or, as someone pointed out recently, when it rains. What can I say, I love baarish.

It's not that I don't post photos either on Facebook - I posted photos from a friend's wedding less than a month ago. And I do take a lot of photos with the intention of posting them, especially when I travel, but the whole process of uploading them into an album is so tedious that I usually end up not doing it.

But. I got a haircut yesterday. And I posted "before" and "after" photos on Facebook. And in the twelve-ish hours between posting them and starting to write this post, they've become one of my most "liked" posts on FB. Possibly only after my graduation photo from last year, and I think it has now beaten the post about my parents' 30th anniversary.

And it makes me wonder, is this what people want to see? What I look like before and after I chop off ten inches of hair to send to Locks of Love? So all the articles about women and politics and puppies that I post, which get a couple of "likes" (if any) - people just roll their eyes and scroll past them? Even the puppies?

Don't get me wrong, I'm as compulsive a liker as anyone. I like posts - all the time. But I feel (hope) I do balance out the cute baby photos and the articles, because hello, they mean something.

And it's not like I need validation or a gazillion likes to continue posting. I see it on others' posts too - the obnoxious ones whining about the whims of vegan friends, or the ones humble-bragging about how blessed they are to have a free weekend after working SO hard all week that their client gushed with praise will get a lot more response than some of the really brilliant articles that get shared by others.

And at the risk of sounding utterly judgmental, as you were warned, it makes me feel like Louis CK has a point when he calls us the crappiest generation ever.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Parental conversations

Conversations with and about my parents over the past few months.

The mother: Why are you coming now if I can visit you in a few months?
Me: Umm, you do realize you're not the only reason I like to come to India?
*offended silence*
Me: There are other people and places in my life, you know...
The mother: I got it after the first line, you know.

************

Me: So I renewed my lease for a year.
The mother: But... what if you finally meet someone?
The father: One of them can always sublease or something.

************

Me: It's really sad how awful my Hindi and Bengali is. Even the brother speaks better Hindi than me now.
The father: All of that may be true, but you have the best understanding of lyrics to Bollywood songs out of anyone in this family.

I felt so proud and validated.

************

The brother: What are you getting Baba for his birthday?
Me: He sent me his usual email of what he wants.
The brother: I didn't get this. What was on it? Was it for everyone?
Me: No, I get one every time I visit home. Things to work on - my health, my temperament, my ambition, the way I talk to people...
The brother: Oh. Are you doing any of that yet?

************

The father: You've been silent these past few days.
Me: Umm no, I Skyped with your wife almost every night.
The father: Oh. I wasn't informed.
[less than an hour later]
The mother: You can call your father, but not reply to my whatsapp message?

Competition nahi hain, bhai.

************

The father: So my eye surgery's on the 14th...
Me: Oh good, you finally got around to scheduling it.
The father: Yeah... but I need to talk to the doctor if it makes sense.
Me: If what makes sense?
The father: If I should have eye surgery after I've been up all night watching the World Cup final.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Triggers

An overheard conversation.

A conversation that made you smile. A conversation that made you furious. A conversation that made you wonder.

Something you saw on the drive to work. A movie you saw. An article you read.

A tweet. A Facebook post. A song on the radio.

Memories. Hopes. Questions you want to ask. Questions you want to answer.

Things you want to say. Things you have to say.

What makes you think? What makes you write?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Somewhere along the way

I'm "working from home" today, because my car needed to go to the shop, and the shop I like to take it to opens on the weekends only if the owner feels like it. I respect that level of whimsy in a business owner, even if it makes things a little inconvenient for me.

In reality, I'm sitting in a coffee shop which has free wifi and will refill my mug with hot water for free if I'm willing to reuse the tea bag they gave me - in fact he suggested I do that when I went to buy another cup of tea. I'm being surprisingly productive too - I'm usually utterly unproductive when I work from home, but I've churned out a pretty decent amount of work in the last couple of hours.

The coffee shop's keeping fairly busy. There are the college students sitting and reading, working, looking up Google Maps et al., the business meetings between serious and worried looking folks, and a couple of people who look like they're replying to very important emails. And amidst all of us, there's a table at the other end of the shop with three women and a baby. The baby's been passed from woman to woman since I've been here, and so I'm not entirely sure who the mother is - nuggets of conversations overheard seem to suggest one of them definitely is. Their conversation has flowed almost incessantly, and ranged from excited squeals to sympathetic murmurs, from advice based on recent holiday experiences to complaints about a boss and a tricky job situation. I'm not sure how old the three of them are - I would have assumed older than me, at one point, but I'm beginning to realize I'm growing older, so maybe not.

And it's making me miss my girls more than usual. My gal pals, as I call them, and which they objected to when they found this out some months back - they claimed they're more the "saheli" type. Which in all fairness, is probably true.

I've known them for more than a decade at this point, my girls. We went to college together, and spent three years giggling and snacking and pretending to study together. And there was drama - of course there was drama. And most of that drama was put aside, eventually. Because not getting over it wasn't worth what we would lose if we didn't. Some were closer to me then, some are closer now. Some didn't seem that close but were the ones who reached out when I needed someone to reach out. There were others who were part of us too, but disappeared along the way, for reasons that were delved into way more often that we should have. I had different equations with each of them, and each of those equations have changed over the years. But the four of them will always top any list I make of loved ones.

I hardly speak to them anymore, my girls. The occasional whatsapp message, sure. But I never talk to them. I've never been good at just picking up the phone and calling up someone because I felt like it; I suppose it goes back to the kind of person I am. And somewhere along the way, they stopped calling too. I used to send them articles I came across and found interesting; I never got too many responses, so somewhere along the way, I stopped.

We used to have the most hilarious email chains going on once upon a time; I spent hours trying to muffle my laughter at work once upon a time. The replies used to be fast and furious, till you didn't know who was replying to what. One girl would never respond for days, then appear with a one-liner once in a while, and vanish again. Those stopped too, somewhere along the way.

Three of them are in the same city, all four of them in the same continent. Some of them were on a different continent for a while when I was still home, and came back around the time I was getting ready to leave. Three of them got married in the past, what, 18 months? I missed all three weddings, and it broke my heart not to be there to see these girls, these girls I've loved for so long now, marry the men they've chosen to love. It made me question those life choices all over again, every single time.

Just before I left home, three years ago, I came across this article and sent it to them. And every time I miss them more than usual, I pull it up and read it again. Today's one of those days.

Because I hardly talk to them anymore, my girls. It shouldn't be so hard, you know. In this day and age, between gtalk and whatsapp and Skype and Google Voice and whatnot, it shouldn't be this hard. Even when I'm in town, meeting them seems harder than it should be. Everyone's busy, everyone has lives, everyone has things to do, whether it's getting on with life, planning for a wedding, or trying to cram every possible thing on the list into two weeks of vacation. But it sometimes feels like it's harder than it should be.

But there are priorities, and there are egos, I suppose, and there are histories, some of which are easier to get past than others. I suppose. So I hardly talk to my girls anymore. And I miss them. And I never tell them that I miss them.


Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Thoughts I had while watching Maleficent

This is by no means meant to become a thing I do every time I watch a movie, but the thoughts are there, and begging to come out, so what else am I supposed to do I ask?

Again, this may or may not be spoiler-y, so tread with caution if you intend to watch the movie and haven't yet.

  • Can we just begin by stating outright how utterly distracting Angelina Jolie's cheekbones were? I've read about them, and seen the trailers, but I didn't realize just how prominent they had been made till the movie started in 3D.
  • Can we also talk about how ridiculous, horrible and incomprehensible the characters of the three fairies were? They switched sides (purportedly with the idea of keeping peace) and showed up at the christening even though they presumably knew the history between Stefan and Maleficent. They tried to stop Maleficent from coming near the baby - which, okay, was understandable in the grand scheme of things, but was just so contradictory to the way we saw them interact with young Maleficent in the beginning of the movie. They were terrible caretakers of Aurora - and not just in terms of being incompetent without magic, but just plain and simple uncaring. And how do they not catch on to the fact the very person you're trying to keep Aurora away from is hanging around in the woods near you, if not IN your cottage, almost constantly? Not to mention having absolutely no idea of where Aurora would be for what I assume were hours on end. And finally pushing a random dude you've never before seen in your life onto a sleeping girl because he said he's a prince. Excellent job, ladies, you're exactly who I'm leaving my kids with.
  • And then there are the men in the movie. One pleasant Prince Philip, who in his 2.5 scenes showed he had more brains than those three fairies ("but we've only really met once!"). One delightful sometimes-raven-sometimes-man-sometimes-whatever-creature-Maleficent-chooses whose name I couldn't quite get (Diablo? Diaval?) who also seemed to be playing the part of Maleficent's conscience in some ways. And two moronic chauvinistic kings. One who needed the magic world destroyed because that was supposed to be his "legacy" and also needed one of his knights to go do what he couldn't so he could appoint said knight as his successor and son-in-law (because y'know, he only had a daughter and God forbid she succeeds him). And one ambitious twit who broke a heart (and more) to become king, treated his wife like dirt, met his daughter after 16 years and far from even hugging her, promptly ordered for her to be locked up (and no, it wasn't out of concern as far as I could tell), and generally was batshit crazy. But then I suppose the movie needed him to be a twit for the story to exist.
  • All this aside, I actually did like the movie. The middle section, in particular, where the "fairy godmother" is playing pranks on the three twits was utterly enjoyable. 
  • Elle Fanning was fine and all, but the baby they got to play her was totes adorbs. Also, I was reading somewhere that the kid who plays Aurora as a toddler was the only one of Angelina Jolie's children who didn't get terrified seeing her mother in that get-up. Made me giggle all through that scene.
  • The twist towards the end was utterly predictable. Especially if you've seen Frozen or even Snow White and the Huntsman (which, by the way, has a producer in common with Maleficent, as I discovered from Wikipedia), you'll see it coming from a mile away.
  • The nods to the more classic Disney movie about the Sleeping Beauty were a lot of fun - the raven, the dragon, the birthday cake - all tiny, but fun common threads.
  • It occurred to me, as I was watching the movie, that I've never actually watched a movie with Angelina Jolie in it before this one. Unless... do Kung Fu Panda movies count? 
  • And finally, this: I've read reviews of the movie where what Stefan does to Maleficent is compared to rape. I don't know. What he did was despicable, and traumatic, and unspeakably terrible, but what he did was also him taking the easy way out because he couldn't make himself kill her. And rape is... not that. And I'm not saying anything more on this beyond I really don't know what I think of that comparison.
That is all, folks. Good night.

(Unless I think of something I forgot to mention. Oh wait, I just did. Let me go add that above.)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Of conversations that come out of the blue

We had maybe two conversations all through business school, she and I. Our social circles were completely different, our lifestyles were completely different, and the only thing we probably had in common was that we both kept our distance from the "desi crowd" - her, a tad more than me.

We both ended up getting jobs in the same city, but since her job involves travel, and her personal life involves navigating a long-distance relationship, the first time we met after graduation was at the one-year reunion last month. Where we hugged and promised to get together if we were ever in Dallas at the same time. Because isn't that what you do?

But then she texted me earlier this week asking if I was free for dinner, and I shrugged and figured why not (even though can I just say that my food budget according to mint.com has been absolutely haywire this month, and I don't know where all this money has gone. End sidebar.) And ended up having an interesting evening, simply because it was - at least on my part - such an honest conversation.

We talked about the choices we've made - professionally, socially, personally. We talked of turning 30 - three months ago for her, a little more than a year from now for me. We talked of our families, parental expectations, what we look for in relationships, and knowing who we are. We talked of moving to the US from India - eight and three years ago, respectively. We talked of why we chose to distance ourselves from people we should have bonded with over a shared identity. And we talked of what it was like to make friends, meet people, form relationships, at this age, in a new city where you know practically no one. And by the time we parted, I felt like I understood her and her choices a little better.

Her name, when it would come up in conversations with the desi crowd, would always be met with eye rolls and sniggers, because she hung out with a very different crowd, and made no efforts to socialize with them. And I would listen and wonder if I was talked about similarly when I wasn't around (I'm pretty sure I was).

I had dinner with a couple of classmates and their wives last night. Over dosa and rasam, I mentioned meeting her earlier in the week. And listened to the same sniggering comments being made. And sighed on the inside.

She said something to me, just before we went our separate ways... something that made me smile and wonder. We had talked of meeting people and forming relationships, and I had, as I am wont to do, whined about being perennially single. And then the conversation turned to choices in life, and I mentioned something I had written about just over three years ago - about how I've never really gone after things, I've always let life happen to me. And she smiled and said, well then, maybe you need to sit back and just wait for this to happen too.

I wonder.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Where I whine about Google being... well, Google

WTF Google?

I've always liked you. Your search was cool, your products were cool, your company seemed fun. You kept coming out with new sites that seemed more exciting than they probably were because you made them so exclusive. Wave, Buzz, even Google Plus. I actually have long Gtalk chats archived somewhere with friends about how we could get invites to these sites. I ignored, and continue to ignore, all the rumblings about privacy issues and data concerns and whatnot, and just liked the stuff you had.

Case in point: despite knowing Wordpress is probably way better than Blogger, I've stuck to you all these years, haven't I?

But then you became this know-it-all that started taking away the sites and features I actually liked and kept pushing other, annoying features and sites at me.

You took away the likes and the sharing features on Google Reader, you shut down Wave (which, to be fair, I can't blame you for; not enough people saw what fun it could be), you even took away Buzz, which let me share articles with people without having to go anywhere. You started pushing Google Plus everywhere you could, linking it to Youtube (although thankfully, at least there you let me choose and switch between my blogging name and real name. DON'T CHANGE THAT.), trying to get people to share articles there rather than on GReader (fat chance, I say), and even trying to trick me into linking it to my Blogger account. You wanted me to log into Chrome - I still have no idea what that really means - but were okay with me ignoring you over this.

The biggest blow to my heart was when you shut down GReader. I've moved on, I've found another home to keep my gazillion feeds in, even though its not as perfect as GReader was. But there's a part of me that will never forgive you for breaking my heart the way you did over this.

And now, you've messed up Gtalk. Gtalk has been my window to the world for so long. I love how it archived everything within Gmail; for someone who loves to search for and read specific old email conversations, it made finding chats to reminisce over so convenient. If I occasionally had wistful thoughts about the more fun emoticons that MSN Messenger had, I ignored them to focus on how easily accessible Gtalk was and how I could stay invisible and still talk to everyone I wanted to talk to.

But then you brought in Hangouts. For a long time, I managed to ignore the existence of said hangouts. I still used Gtalk from within Gmail, and if the way archived chats looked changed a bit, I wasn't overly bothered. I bought an Android phone, and it let me download Gtalk, so I was happy. It kept asking me to update Gtalk to Hangouts, and for more than a year, I managed to ignore it. Then last week, ignoring the voice in my head advising me against it, I went ahead and did a software update on my phone. Which led to various issues on my phone, chief of which was the appearance of auto correct and the disappearance of my dictionary (both of which I managed to fix eventually, thankfully), and the switch from Gtalk to Hangout.

And today I discover that if I have Hangout on my phone, I can't go into invisible mode - not just on the phone, but even in Gmail on a browser, because I get a nonsensical message saying I'm logged in on a device that doesn't allow invisibility.

So I ask, Google, WTF?

Here's what makes me really curious about you, Google. How exactly do you come up with such bullshitty decisions? Do you do focus groups, or tests, or whatever, and pilot these ideas? Or is it just random dudes sitting in what I hear are really cool cafeterias thinking, how can we totally change things that are working just fine, and make everyone who uses this miserable.

Because most of the people I talk to or follow on social media do have similar opinions - good or bad - to the ones I've expressed here. But then most of the people I talk to or follow on social media also weren't very keen on the BJP winning the elections in India, so what do I know. I clearly don't follow very representative people.

Here's the thing. I know you won't give me back the things you've taken away from me; I once spent an entire networking event with your company complaining to a recruiter about you guys had ruined GReader, and he kept nodding and admitting he thought you guys had messed up there, but that didn't help me, did it?

But seriously, can you just stop? Stop screwing with the products I love so much, and just let me use them.

Just. Stop. Change for the sake of change is just stupid, okay?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Of the month that was

There are times when so many things happen in such a short span that when you look back you wonder what the universe was even thinking. April was one of those months. Lovely, lovely things happened, but utterly annoying things also happened. And I wouldn't normally dedicate a whole post to such happenings, but my reminder for the second post of April has been going off every time I open my home laptop and who knew if you hit snooze often enough you come to the end of the month without that post getting written?

April involved travel - I was out three weekends in a row, and while they were all for nice reasons, things kept happening while I was traveling that interfered with fully enjoying said travel. On the other hand, I've gotten pretty darn good at packing lightly for a weekend. Also ability to be impulsive is improving.

The godfather visited Amreeka, and I got to see him this time, unlike the last time when stoopid ice storms cancelled all flights to and from Dallas. A friend got married, a friend got a job, a friend got evicted. The first elections back home I wasn't able to vote in, and a part of me was kinda relieved I didn't have to make that choice.

The mother decided she wanted to come visit me in May, so I first freaked out, then started planning Mother's Day. But then the father's eyes started acting up, and we said let's wait and see. Then, when I called them from San Francisco ten days ago (which in itself is rare, because I usually don't call them when I'm travelling) I was informed that all the meds he was on led to him collapsing, he had been rushed to the ER and was in hospital, and that the brother was flying down to Delhi. Okay then. As the friend I was staying with described it, "I came out of the room and she was crying on the phone, and then when I came out again she was yelling at her mother, so I knew it couldn't be too serious."

Tell me, it's perfectly normal for parents to take smiling photos of themselves in hospital rooms and send them to a daughter who's on the other side of the world, yes?

Anyway, he got better, and discharged within a day, but clearly the mother's trip is off. So I can put off that much-needed apartment cleaning even further.

I went back to school, for our one-year reunion, and I can't begin to describe to you how good it was to be back and see everyone. I have very mixed feelings in retrospect about my decision to go to business school, and the two years I spent there, but this weekend brought out everything I loved about those two years. So much happiness.

Unfortunately, on the Thursday of reunion weekend, I managed to sprain my back while lifting my suitcase, and the next 48 hours were excruciatingly painful. By Saturday I was better, because I had found just the right mix of ibuprofen, bengay, and heating patches that would help me get through the night, but then on Sunday I managed to slip and fall in the shower, and banged my elbow, and bruised myself in multiple spots, and basically gave myself another week of excruciating pain which is not helped in any way by the mother whatsapping every twelve hours asking "Hw nw?"

There are also multiple news items related to the brother that make me all squeee. I'm not allowed to talk about them in public but they make me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside because good things lie ahead. FINGERS ARE CROSSED OKAY?

Oh and I think I got the H1B visa lottery but I'm not entirely sure because the email and website confuses me so I'm just going to take the word of my friends and colleagues and assume I got it.

So yeah, that was April. I liked you, but I also kinda didn't. I'm glad you're over.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Of books and their readers

I don't often post comments on other blogs (which is no reason for you not to. ahem.), but a twitter friend (is that the correct term?) recently wrote this lovely piece, and I was prompted to. And I did, and while writing it I thought I wanted to come back to what I was writing and do a longer piece of my own on this topic at some point, but the comment seems to have disappeared altogether and I'm not quite sure what happened, so I suppose the longer piece about this is coming sooner than expected.

I'm not much of a reader, truth be told. I used to be. When I was 16, I had a lovely three months of nothing to do and spent them reading all the more traditional classics that my library had. Soon after, however, I discovered Mills & Boons and how they didn't require any thinking. And that was the end of that. While I have now moved on from them to a select few romance authors I like to think are better, the number of really good books in any other genre I've read in the years since is a pitifully short list. And then of course, the internetz happened, and so much of my reading is just online these days - blogs, articles, and whatnot.

However, even though I don't read that much, I love books. I always have, so even though I have the Kindle app on my phone full of a whole bunch of nonsensical no-thinking-required type of books, there are times when you really do want to just curl up with a book in your hands. But more than that, it's old books, books owned by others before me, books handed down to me by others, books that have a history behind them that I love most.

Which is probably why most of the books I own are from Daryaganj, or College Street, or lending libraries that were selling off their stock, from the second-hand bookshop in the airport I flew in and out of for the two years of business school, or now from Half-Price Books. Very often they've been books I'd already read, bought simply because they're favourites I like to go back to frequently.

And all of this brings me to the point I had in mind when I started this post, of reading old books, and the notes in them. I'm not one to make notes in books while reading them. Well, except for textbooks, and they don't count as far as I'm concerned anyway. The only times I have made a note in a book if there was a line that jumped out me, but that's been rare too - I was, in my teens, far more likely to carefully copy it down in a notebook full of quotes I used to maintain; these days, though, I'm more likely to post it on tumblr or goodreads!

But the notes I love, and my favourite part of owning or even browsing through pre-owned books, is the inscriptions in them. Who owned them, where and when they were bought, who gifted them to whom, and why - I love glancing into books and seeing those notes that give these books a history. Running my fingers over those names or notes always makes me wonder, and smile.

Whenever I buy a book - new or old - the first thing I do is scribble my name, the date, and where I bought it on the first page. When someone gifts me a book - new or old - I hound them till they scribble a little note inside. It's how I've got the best letters from my family, truth be told. And I do the same if I'm gifting a book to someone.

Who knows, twenty or fifty years down the line, someone will pick up a Chalet School or Georgette Heyer book somewhere, and see my name scribbled in there, and wonder. And maybe smile?