Thursday, May 28, 2020

What do you say? - Part 2

Several years ago, I had written about how uncomfortable I get with having offer condolences to people who have lost someone. My point back then was that me telling someone how sorry I am for their loss is invariably about me, not them.

My grandmother died four days ago. We had known this was coming, we're all so relieved her suffering is at an end, and we're all grieving. And in the midst of Lockdown 4.0, we're grieving from a distance, since we can't travel to Kolkata to participate in the rituals that come with the death of a loved one.

All week, my mother has been on the phone - informing relatives, talking to her brother and sister-in-law about what rituals we have to carry out, and receiving condolences from sundry friends and family. And invariably, as I hear her have these conversations, it seems to me like she ends up consoling the other person more than the other way around.

It's easier for me - my friends all know me well enough not to call. I texted some friends about the news, and they all texted back, asking me to call or tell them if I feel like talking. I haven't, because I don't know what to say, and they get that. But my mother, who is much nicer than me, picks up the phone, or returns calls that she hasn't been able to pick up, and talks to each and every person who wants to tell her how sorry they are for her loss. 

And I don't know how she does it.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Where I wonder about symbols

It's been a very difficult few months, with everything going on in India. Of the nine years since I've moved away, the distance has never felt greater than it has since December. I've started and stopped writing a number of rambling posts since then, and even the ones I've completed are still sitting in my drafts, because it hasn't felt right to publish them. But I overheard a conversation yesterday that intrigued me, and prompted this set of ramblings.

The first anti-CAA protest I went to was on a freezing morning last December, in front of the Indian Embassy. It had been organized pretty much overnight, in response to the early violence that had taken place in Jamia Milia. Maybe 20-30 people had shown up, heard a few speeches, chanted a few chants, and rolled our eyes at the embassy officials peering at us through the curtains. One of the moments that has stayed with me from that cold (very cold, and I'd forgotten my gloves) was a gentleman who was wearing a black overcoat and a saffron scarf, who spoke of reclaiming the saffron - why should this colour become associated with a movement so filled with hate and bigotry? It's a colour with beauty, with meaning far more than what it has become now, and so he was reclaiming it.

I was back at the same spot yesterday evening for another protest; fifty or so people had shown up this time. This time, as it happened, I was wearing a saffron-ish scarf, which I realised much later. But there was a conversation that took place that I overheard, and wanted to think through.

The protest was pretty much over, but most people were still there, and the crowd was trying* to sing Hum kaagaz nahi dikayenge and Hum honge kamyaab. Then someone suggested singing the national anthem. And there was immediate push back - if you sing the national anthem in front of the embassy, it'll seem like we're singing in praise of the government. And the same gentleman from last time asked why that should matter. Why should we, as Indians, give up singing a song that means something to us, because it's been turned into a symbol by those who stand for hate?

One of the most traumatic videos from the past week - and there have been so many - is the one of a group of boys, beaten, bleeding, being forced to sing the national anthem. By cops. One of them has now died I believe. Unsurprisingly, there has been no action taken against the cops who did this.

I still stand for the Indian national anthem when I hear it. I stand if I'm in a crowd, in a movie theater**, or if I'm alone in my living room watching a cricket match or the Republic Day parade. One of the most beautiful sounds in the world is 52 seconds*** of listening to a full stadium sing the anthem.

And just because the notions of what counts for nationalism and anti-nationalism no longer has anything to do with patriotism or actual love for your country shouldn't mean we give up singing this song that still means a lot to many of us.

A lot of us who have spent the last several months alternating between rage and despair are in those states because of our love for India, and because of what people are doing to India in the name of nationalism. And it's a pity when we have to stop and think about whether singing the national anthem, or showing any symbol of love or pride for our country, our religion, our culture, feels wrong because of what they've been turned into by those we're opposed to.

I don't know how the conversation yesterday ended, because I left soon after. But I hope they ended up singing the national anthem.

*I say trying because tbh you guys, these weren't the best renditions I've heard. Points to us for trying though?

**I stand, but I do absolutely think forcing people to stand for the anthem before a movie, especially when they're navigating holding popcorn and drinks is one of the stupidest ideas in the world.

***I also just remembered that I ranted 13 years ago about how they created a much longer version of the anthem and I did not like it at all. I stand by my position.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

On the fear of loss

If I think about my favourite Bollywood movies from the last several years, there are two that stand out - Piku and Kapoor & Sons.

I've only watched Kapoor & Sons once, in the theatre, with friends. And I'm fairly certain I sobbed through a good chunk of the second half. I've never gone back to watch it a second time, for some reason, despite loving it so much. I've watched clips a few times, and it's on my watchlist on Amazon, but I've never gone back to it.

Piku, on the other hand, I watch at least twice a year, if not more. Once, when I need something playing on Netflix as I potter around the apartment, at least once when my parents come to visit and we can't agree on anything else to watch together, and potentially again, a day or two later so my mother can see the second half because she fell asleep halfway through the previous time.

There's a scene in Kapoor and Sons where one of the protagonists sulkily tells his brother that their parents have always loved him more, seen him as perfect, while he himself can do ever do anything right in their eyes. His brother tells him not to be silly, all parents love their children equally. This line is followed by a beat of silence where the two look at each other, and both burst out laughing, because you know that's just not true.

There's a scene in Piku where a get together of family and friends is taking place, to honour a woman who dies before the movie begins. The protagonist places a bottle of ghee on the table, Jharna ghee to be precise. The first time I saw this movie, the week after it released, in a theatre full of Bengalis who had all flocked to take advantage of the 50% discount offered by that theatre for Indian movies on Wednesdays, the lady in front of me and I simultaneously exclaimed out loud during this scene, "Jharna ghee!"

There's another scene in Kapoor & Sons that is described far more eloquently by Raja Sen in his review of the movie - the family drama that goes on while in the backdrop a plumber works diligently to try and fix the pipes. [UPDATE: Shakun Batra, the director of the movie, did this delightful video that was shared with me after I published this post, on how this scene was constructed.]

Years ago, when my parents were building their first home, they would... disagree on how certain things should look. It took them a while to realize that when the contractor would excuse himself for a cigarette break every few minutes he would time it just when he could sense a storm brewing, and would step out so my parents could come to a decision before he returned.

The protagonist of Piku spends half the movie yelling at her father, out of sheer concern and exasperation at his behaviour. But minutes after squabbling with him, she laughs and starts singing a Bengali song with him.

A while ago, when my parents were visiting, we were driving home one evening, and my mother was munching on the snacks I keep in the car for my evening commute. I found myself turning to her at one point, and saying exasperatedly, "Will you stop eating so much? You won't be able to eat dinner if you snack so much now."

After watching Piku, as we walked out of the theatre, I was commenting that almost every character in the movie reminded me of someone I know. There are pieces of people I know and love in almost every character in the movie. A friend, who at the time was months away from his wedding, to a Bengali girl, sheepishly admitted his future father-in-law was quite similar to the father in the movie.

Both Kapoor & Sons and Piku struck chords with me, more than any other movies in recent years that I can think of. There are daily lives and tiny anecdotes that shine through these movies and remind me of episodes from my family in the past. There are moments that make you smile, then sniffle, and then potentially start sobbing your heart out, but only because you know someone who's gone through something similar.

And both movies showcase the fear, and the reality, of losing a parent.

This is one of those posts that has been sitting in my Drafts for a few years now. Every few months, I pull it open, reread it, tweak it a bit, save it, and then close it again.

When I first started writing this, a couple of articles had gone viral on my timeline. Rohit Brijnath had written a heart wrenching piece on parents' mortality, and the constant fear those of us who live a world away from our parents learn to live with. And then Jai Arjun Singh had responded with a piece that reminded me it's not that much easier to watch it happen in front of you, either.

A few weeks ago, someone shared a website called See Your Folks, that asks you to enter your parents' ages, and how often you see them a year. It then throws up a stark number on just how many times you have left in this lifetime to see them. I may or may not reacted somewhat... emotionally to this site, and ended up doing a bit of a twitter rant about it.

The last tweet in that rant was posted almost four hours later, after a two hour marathon call with the parents. They weren't told about this site, but given at least one of them stalks me on Twitter and follows this blog, it's possible she knew, or will know when she wakes up in a few hours.

(Chill, Ma, I'm not stressing. I'm just rambling. And trying to distract myself from these impeachment hearings I've been watching for the past week (and mayyyybe from some of the daughterly stress I've felt after the last couple of This is Us episodes).)

But to end this post on a sufficiently emotional note, here are two songs I had on loop after I spiraled about that stoopid site, for your listening pleasure.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

On getting emotionally invested in the job

I started a new job just over six months ago. And it's a great job - it's still in the space I'm passionate about, adjacent to what I used to do and loved doing, but different enough that I'm learning and getting to do entirely new things, in a new but adjacent industry.

But when you change jobs after five years, turns out it's a lot weirder than I had expected. By the time I left my previous job, I was pretty much the historian of the team. I knew how everything worked, I knew why things worked the way they did, I knew why certain decisions had been taken, and I knew my products inside out - especially since I launched some of them during my time there. In this job, I had to learn everything from scratch - the products, the company, the industry, the history and context, and even the mundane, like how the blessed printers work*.

My new coworkers have been incredibly patient though, and I suppose it helped that my boss and my boss's boss both joined within the last year too. I was told early on to be patient with myself, and to expect it to take six months to ramp up. And I had known coming into this role that it was going to be a somewhat ambiguous role, given that it didn't exist before I came in. But even though I was getting positive feedback, I still found myself getting antsy by the three-month mark - that I wasn't doing enough, or that I didn't know enough.

The other thing that was bothering me was that I didn't feel emotionally invested enough in the job, which is something I've always needed in a job, or even project, to be any good at it. I was still paying more attention to news from my old industry. I was still smiling at call outs to my old products, not my new team's products. And I was having major FOMO when I heard my team mates talk about their projects - because they do what I used to do, and I miss those specific types of projects sometimes.

But most of all, I was not getting worked up about anything to do with the job. I wasn't rolling my eyes at anything. I wasn't having to grin sheepishly because people could look at my face and know what I was thinking, because I wasn't thinking anything mean about anyone.

In short, I was stressing about not stressing about my job.

I whined about this to a couple of people - my father just laughed, and my friend D politely asked if this could be a sign of maturity. I laughed at her question, because really, have you met me?

And then, about a month ago, I realised I was feeling more confident about what I was doing. I was speaking up more. I was responding to questions more easily. And then came the flipping of the switch - I was on a conference call with someone I have most definitely formed opinions about, and I realised I was rolling my eyes as this person was speaking.

And let's just say the eye rolling has not stopped since. And I was in a meeting earlier this week, where someone said something, I nodded and said "you bet", and they looked at my face and burst out laughing. So I think the facial expressions have started as well.

And so, while I'm not entirely sure I'm still fully ramped up or emotionally invested, I know I'm getting there. And I think I'm going to continue to live up to my reputation of being a champion eye roller**.

*Why I can't get my default setting to be two-sided printing is beyond me, and it is also driving me crazy that I'm the only person here who uses that setting. Stop killing more trees than you have to, people.

** It continues to both baffle and amuse me that friends from different walks of life, who have never met and possibly don't even know of each other's existence, send me whatever eye-rolling related memes they come across, because apparently anyone who loves associates these memes with me. This is not unwarranted, sure, but it is strange.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

On a view of India that seems a little stuck in the past

I read a lot of Bollywood magazines growing up. Stardust and Filmfare were staples as a teenager, and then there was the magazine that I think Zee came out with for a while? Their whole "stand out from the crowd" feature was they didn't do gossip I think? Which was why Aamir Khan was on the cover of their first issue, and why I decided to "support" them by actually buying their monthly edition when I was in high school. Well, I didn't buy it as much as convinced the parents to subscribe to it via the newspaper-wala.

This really wasn't the point of this post.

So anyway, I read a lot of these magazines. And a moment that has always stuck with me is reading Filmfare while waiting for a waxing session in the salon I went to pretty much from when I started these things till when I moved away. And in the Readers' letters section, there was a letter from a woman who did not live in India (she may have been based in Singapore) who had written in about her biggest complaint about the movie Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna - that the characters played by Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta did not wear sindoor or mangal sutras in the movie, and what kind of world was this that married Indian women did not wear these things.

That was her biggest issue about the movie, you guys. That in a movie about two loveless marriages and infidelity, the married women did not wear signs of being maried. So what if even 13 years ago, a lot of women in India did not wear these on a daily basis. And having not actually seen the movie, I don't remember what part of India their characters were supposed to be from, but a mangal sutra isn't something every Indian, or even Hindu woman wears.

But I remember being amazed that this woman had been so bothered by this fact that she actually sent a letter to Filmfare magazine. And I remember thinking that NRIs probably think of India as just being stuck in the time period that they left, and that nothing could have possibly changed. And it's something I occasionally worry about doing myself, so kindly send a virtual kick if you ever see me saying something about India that may have been true eight years ago, but no longer is.

And I thought about this woman again today, when I listened to a podcast interview Seth Meyers did with Lilly Singh. Excited as I am to see a brown woman have a late night show of her own, I've never really watched her stuff on YouTube, and haven't particularly enjoyed whatever snippets or interviews I have seen. But I listened to the interview, and was utterly baffled when she started talking about moving from Canada to LA. Baffled because she talked about how this was unheard of in her family, because Indian women usually leave their parents' home only when they get married, and so for her to move countries for her career was a very big deal.


Look. I'm not saying it wasn't a big deal. As someone who moved out my parents' home and moved countries to go to grad school, I think it definitely is. And I'm not saying there isn't a huge number of Indian women who don't move out of their parent's home till they get married. I have friends who did that. I also have friends who moved out, either to study or for work. I have friends who moved away for college, and then moved back in when they returned to Delhi for a job. If I hadn't decided to go to grad school, and was still working in the same city, there's a good chance I would have still been living in the same house.

But to just categorically say Indian women don't do this seems so absurd and outdated to me that I really am utterly baffled by her world view. Especially since it's not like she grew up in India where she would have seen it happen all the time. She grew up in Canada, and presumably knows other Canadian Indians, and/or has family and friends back in India and/or around the world. To make a sweeping statement like that is to make a generalization that is at least a few decades old, and it bothers me that someone who is being held up as the symbol of brown women* to the US would spout views like this.

*Do NOT get me started on that other symbol, Priyanka Chopra. Pfft.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

On my ongoing binge watch of Suits

I restarted watching Suits. I had seen the first 5.5 seasons (or should that be 4.5 seasons? I had stopped after the Season 5 mid-season finale), but stopped for some reason after that. It was a show I used to love, and I had added it to my Amazon watchlist quite a while back. So a few weeks ago, with nothing else to do (well, with lots to do, but I may have been trying to procrastinate), I dove back into the show. I've been doing a couple of episodes a day, and I did take a break to binge watch the new season of Veronica Mars (#stillbitter), so I'm almost done with season 7 at this point - just three episodes left. And the same thoughts keep running through my head as I watch.

In the years since I last watched the show, Meghan Markle got married to Prince Harry. And it is just weird to watch her on that show now. I don't know why it is, but it is. I know she leaves at the end of this season, but for now, there's just constantly a sense of "huh" as I watch her.

Also, how do the female characters on the show get through their day dressed the way they dress? I mean, they all look gorgeous, and professional at the same time. But having now worked for several years in workplaces that have gone the "dress for your day" way, I would want to punch someone if I had to wear pencil skirts and heels every single day, for what seem to be twelve hour days. The only woman on that show who seems even remotely comfortably dressed is Paula, Harvey's therapist-turned-girlfriend, although I suspect she's about to disappear from the show (and I am not upset about that. We all know what the endgame of this show is, right? RIGHT?). Anyway, my world view of professional wardrobes is already very skewed thanks to the last several years, but I should note that I dressed relatively formally today due to annoying 9 am meeting so I'm not in my usual uniform of jeans, a Ann Taylor or Loft sleeveless top, and a cardigan. But I'm in the most comfortable formal dress I could find at Ann Taylor, and I will not end today by wanting to kill anyone. Well, I might, but it won't be because I was physically uncomfortable all day.

(I should also note that I am currently watching the live stream of Robert Mueller's testimony to Congress, and how sad is it that even the photographers there have to be in a suit and tie. I would not survive in the world of politics. Or consulting. Or law, apparently.)

And lastly, I don't know if I just forgot this about Suits, or the show has evolved in seasons 5 to 7, but man, are these characters flakes or what?!

"I quit!" "Okay I don't!"
"I need you to leave this firm!" "No, please stay!"
"I want to work at a clinic!" "No I want to work at the firm!"
"Let's get married tomorrow!" "Let's wait to plan the wedding we've dreamed of!" "We don't have time to get married!"


Have they ever taken a decision that they didn't change their minds about five minutes later? I get whiplash from every single episode I watch on much back and forth they do. They really are the flakiest characters I have ever seen. Makes me feel much better about my constant waffling over things.

Good show, though. I need to figure out how to watch the new season once I'm done with my catching up.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

On the little things

The last few months have seen big changes - a new job, a new city, a trip home. It sometimes all still feels a little unreal. And while I could, and should, write an entire post on those changes, it's a little easier to, right now, write about the little things** - because, let's face it, the little things is what I spend most of my time choosing to obsess about anyway.

I broke my nail last week, while moving cubes. On the thumb of my right hand, which, as it turns out, I use a lot more than I had realised. More than anything else, I use it a gazillion times a day to do a fingerprint unlock of my phone. So on top of being utterly painful, when I bandaged it for a day to stop the nail from straight up peeling off, I had to keep remembering to use my left hand to unlock my phone - always fun when you're carrying half a dozen things and walking and trying to do everything at the same time.

Can I tell you the best thing about the new laptop they gave me at work? It has this functionality where, if I have it set to mute, it automatically turns the volume back on if I plug in earphones, or connect a bluetooth headset. And then when I disconnect or unplug those, it automatically goes back on mute. As someone who usually has Coke Studio playing on YouTube, this is amazing. Also as someone who previously had a work laptop that was possessed by ghosts, and would on any given day throw a temper tantrum and decide whether or not it wanted to connect to the Internet while either docked or undocked (but never both), this is a level of technology at work that is blowing my mind.

The new workplace also has a furniture surplus room - you can go look at what they have, select whatever is unclaimed, and they'll bring it to your cube. When I was finally given a new cube two weeks ago, I went to see if they had the same kind of tall cabinet a coworker had, because it has plenty of drawers, and even a coat hanging cupboard. They did not have it at the time, so I just picked something else. I went back there yesterday, accompanying a coworker who needed to go, and as we walked in, they were unloading a cabinet exactly like the one I wanted. I claimed it immediately, and they came and swapped out cabinets for me this morning.

I'm telling y'all, it's the little things.

**NOT the web series that has become a Netflix show, even though I'm told I should watch it because it's cute, so at some point I probably should, especially since I am a huge fan of What the Folks, that was made by the same people.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Locked out, Part 2

Okay, yes, I would like to preface this by saying this time it was absolutely my fault.

I could try and explain it away by saying I hadn't been feeling very well all day - a general sluggisness and tiredness had been bothering me. But the truth is, it was just sheer... stupidity.

Having decided to stay in town this weekend, the highlight of my weekend was going to be attending the birthday party of the three-year old son of a close friend. I had been charged with picking up the samosas for said party, arriving at 4 pm at their home (as opposed to party start time of 4.30 pm), and potentially carting both people and decorations/food from their home to the party venue. Due to aforementioned sluggishness, I was running late, and eventually left home without even remembering to wear any jewelry.

I had to pick up a gift bag for the kid's gift on my way as well, and since there's a Walgreens right across the street from the samosa place, I decided to do that first. I came back to my car, opened the boot where I had kept the kid's gifts, packed it into the gift bag, and shut the boot. Only to realise I had left my car keys inside the boot, and the car was locked.

I told my friends what was going on, called AAA, who said someone would arrive in 70 minutes, and fielded calls from the samosa place who wanted to know why I wasn't there yet. I also fielded off some supposedly helpful suggestions about trying to open the car door with a tennis ball - a, how, and b, in what universe does anyone think I just randomly carry tennis balls around with me? I also had to deal with a completely fair, but highly exasperated "Oh God!" from the newest reader of this blog, since she was the only one who knew about the last incident of being locked out, given that I went to stay with her that night.

In any event, AAA showed up within half an hour, proving for the second time in a month that the previous five years of membership with zero usage was completely worth it. My car was unlocked within two minutes, and with a lot less eye rolling than the last time I had to call them in (to be clear, for something completely different, but equally my fault).

And I was still the first person to arrive at the party. And the first comment I got was nothing to do with what had happened, but rather: "where are your earrings?!?"

So anyway, you guys, 2019 continues to be an excellent year.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Locked out

I think it is time to just accept the fact that I am the sort of person things just... happen to. And while very, very often, it is partially, if not completely, my fault, this time it really wasn't.

I think.


I live in a townhome format apartment complex, and each apartment has an attached garage. So I can either enter my home through the front door, or, as I am more likely to do, through the door connecting the garage to the apartment.

About a month ago, the fob that opens and closes both the garage door and the gate to the apartment complex started acting up - it would open the garage door, but not close it. Initally, I thought it may be a battery issue, so I replaced that, but the issue persisted. So finally, this past Saturday, I went to my leasing office to talk to them about it, and they told me to leave it with them and they'd have it looked at on Monday when the maintenance folks came in. Since I'm never home during their working hours during the week, I told them to just leave it in my garage when they were done, and in the meantime, I'd use the switch on the wall to close my garage door, and enter and exit through the front door.

When I got home on Monday, there was no sign of the fob. Unsurprised, partially because I have lived here for four years, and partially because it was MLK Day, I figured I'll give them another day before I try to plan my calendar so I can get home early enough to go talk to them.

Tuesday morning, however, was my cleaning ladies' monthly visit. They usually arrive around 8.30 am, and I leave soon after, and when they're done, they lock the front door, and leave through the garage. I have never given them a spare key, and so far this arrangement has worked.

Tuesday evening, I went to get my nails done after work. Then, on the way home, I stopped at a Mediterranean restaurant that I have passed several times and been meaning to try, to pick up dinner. So by the time I pulled up outside my apartment, it was 7.39 pm. I remember the time, because I remember seeing it and thinking, great, I have twenty minutes before This is Us begins.

Except I couldn't get in. In their infinite wisdom, the cleaning ladies had double locked my front door. And I didn't have my fob.

I tried calling the 24x7 maintenance helpline, who, again unsurprisingly, were of no help whatsoever. First they couldn't figure out why I couldn't get in. Finally, after being transferred to a supervisor, who understood my issue after the thirs explanation, they tried to figure out if they had an emergency key that could open the garage door. Shocker - they didn't. Their bright suggestion was to call a locksmith, and when I asked what a locksmith could do when my door was double locked, they said, "oh yeah, I guess he'll have to break the door down." Which is just a fantastic idea when you live alone, and it's already 8 pm.

So I called a friend and asked if could crash at her place for the night - something that caused her two year old son to be extremely surprised this morning when he saw me appear out of nowhere at breakfast. I was at my leasing office when they opened at 9 am this morning, and explained the problem. They rummaged through their table, and found my fob - which had been fixed and then dropped back in the leasing office after I had explained I'm never home when they're open.

I got into my apartment, texted confirmation to my friend, showered and changed, and got to work at 10.30 am. Which was a good thing, because I had back to back meetings today from 11 am till 5 pm.

And then I came home, watched This is Us on Hulu while having chocolate mousse that I had bought on the weekend, and wrote about the last 24 hours of my life.

So anyway, you guys, 2019 is off to a rocking start.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

On 2018: the year in review

I woke up on January 2 to a text from Friend of the Blog**, @mayavie, asking if we are doing, and I quote, "the 2018 round up blog post or what?" It's taken me a week, but it looks like we are.

Let me just begin by saying 2018 was a very strange year, even by strange year standards. It oscillated between being fantastic and awful in ways that truly did make my head spin at times. The highs were among the best times of my life, some of the lows came close to being among the worst.

I was complaining about the oscillation to my father one day, some months ago, and he laughingly said maybe I needed the lows to balance out the highs. Maybe I did, but not to this extent.

I didn't write last year. I tried, at least for the first 2-3 months of the year, but after that, just stopped. My drafts section is currently half a dozen barely started ramblings, and for some of them, I can't even remember what the point was supposed to be. And that to me, feels stranger than a lot of other things, because in the past, being upset has usually been a trigger to write. I still think some of my best posts have been when I have been completely worked up and hammered out a furious tirade. But this year, barring one or two occasions, I couldn't find the energy to vent on this blog. Partially because, I think, I wasn't angry as much as just... upset. But still.

But this annual round up is warranted, I think. If nothing else, it gives me the chance to reflect. So, here we go.

1. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?

Visited three new countries.

Developed allergies to things I have been fine with all my life.

Oh, and I got my Green Card.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I did not keep either of the goals I listed in last year's round up. Ideally, this year, I would like to double down on both of them. I'd also like to start eating healthier, and cook more.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

I feel like someone did, but for the life of me I can't remember who.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No one close to me, no.

5. What places did you visit?

Ah, the fun one, and honestly, what gave me the highs of this year. Let's do this by month, shall we? And let's have a little drumroll first:
January - New York, for work
February - Zilch, because I was ramping up for March
March - Chicago, for work; NEW ZEALAND, very much NOT for work; and then Ohio, but really Kentucky, for work again; and then technically I guess Germany was also in March because I went over Easter weekend
April - Milwaukee and Chicago, this time to prove my love for one of the gal pals given that it was 27 C/80 F where I live, and below freezing where she was visiting family (#notbitteratall); back to school for my five year reunion for B-school
May - Jacksonville, FL, for work; New York, again, for work; Chicago, over Memorial Day weekend, because the mother was visiting me to help with my meltdown over my allergies, and the brother got sent to Chicago for a project, and we ended up having a lovely little weekend despite everything
June - Weekend trip to Bozeman, MT, to drive to Yellowstone and Grand Teton, which means I knocked Wyoming off my list as well; Philadelphia and Wilmington, DE, for work. Which means I knocked FOUR new states in less than a week, which is something that excited me tremendously
July - Prague, Santorini, and Greece - two new countries for me, and a trip that for the second time in the year truly made me feel blessed to have the life I do, if I was the kind of person who ever felt blessed. On my return, Tucson, AZ, for work, but since this was my fifth new state of the year, I went in early and spent the weekend driving around. And then Jacksonville, FL, again, for work.
August - Charleston, SC, for work. But while this wasn't a new state, it was a new city for me, and one that had been on my list for a while, so again, I decided to stay back for the weekend this time, and explore.
September - The brother was sent to Amreeka for another project, this time to the Bay Area. So I went to visit him one weekend, and fitted in a friend's housewarming, and dinner with yet another friend. So much socializing from me - who'da thunk.
October - I had planned a day trip to Houston for a visa interview, but then headed to Charlotte where meetings had got tacked on for the day after, all while a tropical storm and/or hurricane was expected through these places, so that was a fun week. One trip back to New York for work, and then another to LA for work.
November - India, for Diwali, where I went to Kolkata after two years, and then home for the rest of the trip.
December - S came to stay with me for ten days over the holidays, and we did one weekend trip to San Antonio, and a road trip to Louisiana, which included, but is not limited to: a tour of the Tabasco factory, a couple of days in New Orleans, a speeding ticket, running out of gas and having to call AAA in the middle of nowhere, multiple hotel mishaps, and lots of fried chicken and Bloody Maries***.

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

Less oscillation.

7. What date from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

February 14
March 11 and 12 - my birthday, and the next day; See #31 below
The May trip to New York, while a patch test to detect allergies was all over my back
July 7 - the day I stood in front of the Acropolis in Athens
November 5-9 - the mother's birthday, Chhoti Diwali, Diwali, and Bhai phonta - all spent with my entire family, at home, after seven long years

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Other than the amount of travel I got in? The green card, I guess. Only time in my life I've had reason to be grateful to the mother being stubborn and refusing to go back to India to give birth to me.
Professionally, while this year sucked in many, many ways, we also had a biggish product launch in July that I had led, lived and breathed for the previous 18 months. And while I may not feel like I got the credit I deserved for the launch, I was and am incredibly proud of that product.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not finding a new job. I was tempted to say the same as last year, but that's not entirely accurate, since I did get out of my limbo somewhat, albeit not enough.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Exhibit A: May
Exhibit B: July

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My Instant Pot. Also the Ello camper's mug that I seem to have become an unpaid brand ambassador for over the past week.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

My parents, for listening to me whine about the year, rolling their eyes about my whining, but being there through it all.
All the women who have come forward this year, with stories of harassment, abuse, and trauma. The women who have named names, and just been so very brave.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and/or depressed?

Have you seen the news this year?

14. Where did most of your money go?

On travel, which is not a terrible way to spend money, but would have been nice if I had realised just how frickin' expensive New Zealand is. Also on electronics that we shall not talk about.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The three big trips.

16. What song will always remind you of 2018?

I don't think there is one, unless I should rattle off a bunch of Coke Studio songs simply by virtue of how many times I listened to them this year.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

Neither, honestly. Just... low. Which I suppose means sadder. But I don't feel that's fair, because there were good things that happened in 2018. So I don't know. I'm just going to stop rambling now, and say... neither.

18. Thinner or fatter?


19. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Cooked. Said no to people. Looked for a job.

20. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Literally the same thing as last year - sat on the couch.

21. How will you be spending Christmas?

Spent it exchanging gifts with S, went out to have pani puri so I could inaugurate the gol gappa themed t-shirt she gifted me, and then having chicken pot pie for dinner. Chicken pot pie from a ready-to-eat meals store/restaurant here is my go-to meal for any Thanksgiving and Christmas that I am staying in, and as it now turns out, S's favourite thing for NYE as well.

22. Did you fall in love in 2018?

No. Ain't got no time for that.

23. How many one-night stands?

My answer hasn't changed from last year.

24. What was your favourite TV programme?

I actually stopped watching TV very much this year. I think there was a two month period when I didn't switch on my TV at all, which by my standards is just strange on another level altogether. But I finally watched all two seasons of The Crown, finished the last season of Broadchurch, and thoroughly enjoyed the second season of What the Folks, which is a web series on YouTube all of you should be watching.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No one new that I can think of. My hatred for a specific coworker may have intensified further, due to said coworker being a complete and utter douchebag.

26. What was the best book you read?

I read literally nothing other than Nora Roberts this year, and I have decided to stop feeling guilty about this. I don't like it, but I think it's time to stop pretending I am a reader, and accept the fact that I suffer from Tsundoku, which is a word I learned recently from the blog of someone I am very glad has started blogging more regularly off late.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I really didn't listen to anything other than Coke Studio Pakistan this year.

28. What did you want and get?


29. What did you want and not get?

A new job. An allergy that wouldn't have impacted my life the way this one did. Couldn't I have been allergic to, I dunno, alligator meat instead of shellfish?

30. What was your favourite film of this year?

I enjoyed all the MCU movies this year, although I need April 2019 to get here fast. I also thoroughly enjoyed Netflix's two romcoms - To All The Boys I've loved Before, and Set it Up.
Also, from Bollywood, Raazi, Stree and Andhadhun were all fantastic.
I had complicated thoughts about Crazy Rich Asians and Veere di Wedding, but got around to writing about only one of them.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

First of all, I declared two days of it-is-my-birthday this year, because we were in New Zealand, and let's face it, the next day was when most of my friends were wishing me anyway.
The day itself was spent winery hopping, and the next day was spent in Hobbiton. And it was FABULOUS.
I turned a year older than last year, thank you for asking.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

It's hard to name one thing this year, you guys, it really is.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?

I doubled down on the notion that if something I found is working for me, I will buy it in every colour available. This is especially true of, but not limited to, shoes and tops.

34. What kept you sane?

My family and friends. One of the best things about this year was that way more loved ones from back home came to visit Amreeka. One of the gal pals visited her family, the brother got sent on projects twice, S came to stay with me, and of course, the mother, when I needed her. And the reunion this year also gave a lot of feels.
Given how worked up I also was about politics this year, all the podcasts I listen to also helped.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

This answer has also not changed from last year. Seth Meyers is one of two men in American television I still hold out hope for, and will be crushed if this has to change.
But I will add to it by saying, I started following a lot of desi comedians who I actually enjoy and don't just follow for twitter jokes, both in India and the US - Kunal Kamra, Hari Kondabolu, Hasan Minhaj, and Kiran Deol - who admittedly I know of only via the Hysteria podcast, which is fantastic and something I did not realise I needed before it started.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

What didn't?
The Parkland shooting happened on February 14, and I heard about it after getting home from what was already a very traumatic day for me. But what gave me hope over the months that followed was the way those kids, those survivors, responded. I went to a March for Our Lives march this year, and came away thinking the kids will be alright, because they've got this.
The 2018 mid-term elections were also something that I was following closely. I didn't get involved the way I would have liked, for a variety of reasons, but I was following. And that is something I also need to introspect on at some time.

37. Who did you miss?

It's always friends and family, but one of the good things about this year was that I did get more of them than I have in recent years.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

I didn't really meet too many new people this year. It's hard enough being social with people I like; I don't expand my social circle very often.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.

Reach out.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I honestly can't think of anything.

** I am doubling down on this phrase as well, yes.
*** What is the plural of Bloody Mary? Bloody Maries? Bloody Marys? I don't like the drink, people, I don't know what the plural is.