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.



Monday, June 29, 2015

Where we ramble about Anuja Chauhan's books

Much as I have loved Anuja Chauhan's books ever since I first read The Zoya Factor seven years ago, I have always hated them a little bit too.

There, I said it. At least two readers of this blog can now gasp in outrage. The rest of you probably couldn't care less.

This post has been festering for a while now, to be honest. I started and deleted versions of it every time a new book of hers released, and after the last one, the festering began again. And then of course, procrastination happened. But then this morning, I read this summary/discussion/critique/what-d'you-call-it, which prompted this post.

Here's the thing - my favourite thing about all of her books have always been just how Delhi they are. The conversations - full of Hinglish, the descriptions, the throwaway lines that make you giggle endlessly, like this one from Battle for Bittora (possibly my least favourite of all her books):
I knew my face was wearing the smug expression you see on the face of a Sarojini Nagar market  t-shirt seller when you don't buy a tee, claiming its too expensive and then come back, red-faced and perspiring, after two hours of rootling through a gazillion stalls and say sheepishly, 'woh t-shirt phir se dikhana, bhaiya.' 
When you've gone to a Delhi college, and spent hours rolling your eyes at friends who insist on shopping in Sarojini Nagar, that line is everything. And it's lines like that make me go back to her books, and make me have the parents buy them as soon as they release and send through whatever relatives are visiting whatever city I'm in.

But because her books are so rooted in Delhi, and in a certain part of Delhi, a lot of what the Ladies Finger post says is true. There's classism, and racism, and social boundaries are very clearly drawn, never to be crossed, except when absolutely necessary, and in the most ridiculous ways.

From what I can tell from the acknowledgements in each book, all of Anuja Chauhan's books have been from worlds she knows. The Zoya Factor was from her time in advertising, Battle for Bittora was from her mother-in-law's life in politics, and Those Pricey Thakur Girls, I suppose, was from growing up in Delhi in the 80s. She writes about worlds she knows. She writes about the Delhi she knows. And the Delhi she knows is a little like the Delhi I know, and a lot like the Delhi in her books - classist, racist, and very, very conscious of status.

I'm not good at parsing books and movies for every piece of social injustice, though. Also I'm frivolous. So I ignore those pieces of her books. Also, I mean, it's chick lit. Why read chick lit - even by an author whose best pages definitely come from interactions with friends and family rather the lead romantic couple in her books - if you're going to complain about the "find a guy and all will be well" theme in them?

But. There is something about Anuja Chauhan's books that annoy me tremendously. And it is the fact that she writes her lead female characters as utter twits and ninnies. Zoya wasn't a complete idiot, but was remarkably naive and susceptible to the Great Misunderstanding that is a compulsory part of every romance novel. Jinni, while showing the occasional flashes of brilliance like when she was offered money to drop out of the race, was completely clueless most of the time and definitely written as someone who would always need Zain's wise counsel to see the right way forward. And then there was Debjani Thakur, who made me want to tear my hair out. Yes, you're a molly coddled pricey Thakur girl from Hailey Road, but for Pete's sake, apply yourself a little, wouldja? And read the news a bit if you're trying to be a newsreader?

And that's why I liked The House that BJ Built. Because Bonu Singh may be doing things out of misplaced loyalty to not-so-nice parents, etc., but she wasn't a complete twit, y'know? Okay, yes, a lot of how ballsy she is may have been more told to us rather than actually shown, but she's probably the only Chauhan lead girl who wasn't written like a complete pushover who's easily manipulated. I mean, alright, Ashok Chacha tried and all, but she said no in the end, didn't she? There were logical explanations for every action she took, even if some of those explanations were rooted in Great Misunderstandings.

There's a lot to roll your eyes at in this book. The time gap, for example, did not add up. And the Trings were not living in the Annexe thirty years ago, because Chacha and Chachi moved in there while Hailey Court was being built. The Asharfi storyline made me want to rub my eyes, reread certain pages because I wasn't sure if what I thought had just happened had actually happened, and then made me want to punch someone. Also what is with Bonu not having any friends other than the Trings? Zoya had Monita, Jinni had Rumi, but all the Thakur girls, come to think of it, seem to be largely friendless.

But if you're picking your battles, and ranking her books simply by the intelligence levels demonstrated by the lead female character, this book does well. Now please excuse me while I go text a friend and ask her to return my copy of The Zoya Factor so I can reread it and decide if Nikhil Khoda still trumps a more intelligent female lead, and therefore if that book still trumps The House that BJ Built. Although first-book nostalgia tends to play a strong factor for me - it's why Arabella is still one of my favourite Heyers. Okbye.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Where by we, we mean I

Let us get announcements out of the way first. There is a wedding in the family this winter. It is not ours, so shoo. We are tremendously excited about it, and so we are willing to indulge people who talk about nothing else on the phone and therefore don't even ask people about what might be happening in their lives. Not that we are complaining or anything.

We might be talking like this a bit because we have been reading Anuja Chauhan's latest book recently.

So anyway, we were in Delhi last week. Mainly for wedding related gatherings, and of course wedding shopping, but also extremely important things like mangoes and bhutta and hair spas. Now six days in Delhi is never ever enough, and when those six days are spent shopping for wedding outfits during the day and working during the night because we have no vacation days and have to beg for time off, it is all very exhausting. Nonetheless, Delhi is Delhi after all. It is... home. Y'know?

Now wedding shopping in Delhi is... interesting. I mean, first of all, let us be clear. Delhi fashions were, are, and always will be way too jhataak for us. So the first line uttered in every shop we entered was invariably:
"bhaiyya shaadi ke suit dikha do, par zara kam jhataak ho toh."

Now the other problem is current fashions. We have been made to understand that Pakistani serials have become very popular in India. Which we are okay with because we gather they are a little less insane than the Indian ones. But as a result, Pakistani styles are the current fashion in India. Which is all well and good, because they're really gorgeous, but can we please agree that anarkalis and shararas and whatnots do not suit every body type? Therefore, the most common conversation we had in this entire shopping process was this:
"Bhaiyya salwar ya churidar ke saath nahi hain?"
"Aaj kal yahi fashion mein hain."
"Aaj kal jo fashion mein hain woh nahi pasand na."


However. The mother and I are extremely efficient, with the result that between Karol Bagh and CP and GK-I, we are done with the wedding shopping, barring one outfit. We did not have the time or energy to go to Chandni Chowk, and Shahpur Jat was wayyyyyyy too jhataak for us - except for one shop that was wayyyyyyy out of our budget. We are a little sad we didn't end up making it to South Extension, because it has been too long since we had the juice and bhel puri there, but the friend who has said she could meet us in South Ex came home the next day, so what is there.

The one outfit that is left is also not completely worrisome, because we know what we want, and the mother will have it done by the time we land back this winter. Accessories need to be picked up locally, and we need to try and find someone who can do some tailoring for us locally, because there was no time to get blouses made for the saris one has chosen, but that and all can be figured out I think.

So, productive week. Even though we didn't get to eat enough foods or meet enough people.

And now we will run to our next meeting.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Where I ramble about TV shows and movies

I've come to realise that the second I publicly say I'm going to blog about something, the chances of actually doing so go straight to zero. Case in point - this month. I told @moronmoron I would write about why The Avengers infuriated me even though I loved most of the movie, and I didn't. I wrote in my last post I wanted to write about season 11 of Grey's Anatomy, and I didn't.

Oh, well.

I think it's fair to say that I watch a lot of TV. The fact that it took me two weeks between watching that episode and finishing the last the three episodes of Grey's Anatomy this past week is only partially due to the fact that I seem to have developed a social life that gets in the way of my TV watching, and mainly due to the fact that all the shows I watch on a weekly basis were having their season finales.


I was infuriated by the latest Avengers movie because I couldn't believe they had reduced a kickass character like Natasha Romanoff into a lovesick, baby-wanting woman who used lines like "still think you're the only monster?" after narrating the story of how she came to be sterile. I had conversations with two guys after seeing the movie, and although one of them argued that that line could have been interpreted to refer to her history as an assassin/spy/whatever-it-is-that-she-was, they agreed her arc in the movie was jarring.

I looked up online reviews of the movie to see if others had felt the same way, and surprise, surprise - I wasn't. There were plenty of articles and reviews that expressed my fury far more articulately than I ever could. But here's the thing - a lot of them talked about how Marvel doesn't know how to treat women. Now, I'm not qualified to talk about what Marvel has done outside of their cinematic universe, but I sure as heck disagree with this statement, because just look at their TV show. That show has had major ups and downs in its two-year run, and I have no idea what its season finale was all about, but them women on that show - they're awesome. They're smart, and strong, and amazing to watch.

And if you think about it, a lot of the shows I watch, despite being fairly "soap-y", write women really well. Shows like Once Upon a Time and Grey's Anatomy get astoundingly ridiculous at times (I mean, why anyone would ever want to move to Seattle is beyond me), but both these shows - even Castle as a matter of fact - have female protagonists who are kickass in all sorts of wonderful ways. Grey's Anatomy, especially, shows women balancing their careers and their families/kids in a way that no other show that I can think of does.

Sidebar: Since I seem to be stuffing everything into this post, I'll be honest. My biggest gripe with Grey's Anatomy in particular has always been its lead male protagonist - Derek Shepherd. Ever since the second season, where a, he turned out to be married, b, he chose his marriage over Meredith because it was the "right" thing to do, and c, basically came out and called her a slut because she chose to deal with the break up in a certain way, I've hated him. And then there was his complete arrogance regarding his professional brilliance, whether it was sidelining Meredith over the trials they did, or trying to oust Amelia from the Head of Neuro job because he decided he wanted it back - that guy was an ass. And had no character growth whatsoever in 11 years, unlike Alex Karev, who started out an ass, but is now the best I'll-do-it-grudgingly-but-I'll-do-whatever-you-need-me-to friend a girl could ask for. End sidebar.

What do I want from a movie or a TV show when it comes to women? I don't necessarily need the Bechdel test, because Lord knows it's flawed. I mean, depending on who you talk to, Age of Ultron technically passed it. I want women who are smart and kick ass. I want women who have female friends, and I want women who have male friends. I want women who have/want a relationship and kids, and I want women who don't want that (Christina Yang, you are missed). I want women who can say cheesy lines like "the only one who saves me is me" to the man she's in love with when he comes to save her.

Is that so much to ask for?