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.

Maybe?

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?

Yes.
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?

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?

Travel.


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.

Monday, December 17, 2018

On the way I speak

When the brother moved to Boston for college, now more than a decade ago, it took us a while to realise that he had developed an American accent, because for some reason, his accent appeared only when he spoke with Americans. I think the first time we all collectively realised it was when some of his college friends came to stay with us one summer, and we suddenly realised he sounded very different while speaking to them than when he spoke with us.

Some months after that, I was on the phone with him after he was back in Boston. A friend asked him something, so he turned to them to respond, and I could hear the accent creep back in. I teased him when he came back on the phone, and I remember him exclaiming, "dammit, I thought I was talking in my Indian voice tonight!"

When I moved to the US, I would periodically ask folks back at home if I had an accent yet, and was always assured I did not. I knew that even before I moved here I had a more anglicized way of speaking than perhaps the average Indian, so I always hoped that I wouldn't develop much of an accent and just continue to speak the same way.

My hopes were dashed the week before my graduation. My parents and brother had come to attend my graduation, and a couple of days after they arrived, I was on the phone with a friend. Midway through the call, she suddenly laughed and said, "you sound so much more Indian now that your family's here." When I ended the call, my father suddenly commented, "well, you had a definite twang while talking to her."

Needless to say, I was very confused.

I moved to Texas after graduation, and despite my ex-boss's warning to not develop a Texan accent, the word y'all entered my vocabulary very quickly. About a year after I moved here, I was talking about a former coworker, and found myself saying "bless her heart, but..." completely unironically, and knew it was too late.

My American coworkers now all laugh at how my voice organically becomes "more Indian" when talking to South Asian coworkers (there really are several). One particular coworker, who I do not like at all, has always been very blatant about eavesdropping on all conversations that go on around him, and once had the actual audacity to complain that he couldn't understand what me and another coworker were saying whenever we were talking, regardless of whether we spoke in English and Hindi, because our accents became "too Indian" for him to follow from his cube. I of course made sure all subsequent conversations were always in Hindi.

But just like my brother didn't all those years ago, I don't usually realise whether I'm sounding "more Indian" or "more American". Recently though, that changed.

I am currently the product owner for the business teams for a large IT project. I've only been trying to get this project funded and kicked off since I joined this team four years ago, and now that it finally seems to be happening, it is consuming all my hours at work. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, a lot of the folks from IT working on this project happen to be Indian. I'm very often in a meeting room full of Indians, with only one or two non-Indians, and sometimes have to pause the conversation to remind people that just because I look like this does not mean I understand any of what they're saying and can they please break it down for me in layman's terms for the love of God.

Last week, one particular meeting had me, two architects from two different teams, and my lead developer - all of us Indian - in the room with our IT Program Manager, and my teammate from the business, neither of whom are Indian. The latter two were not really speaking much during the discussion, and given the topics of discussion, I was being... animate.

And suddenly, I could hear myself clearly. During a lull in the conversation, I IM'd my teammate: "I can feel my accent being extra Indian in this meeting."

I promptly got two IMs in rapid succession:
HAHAHAHHA
yea girl i can hear it
In fairness, the girl is 25.

But yes, my accent now flips between being Indian and American, and occasionally, depending on how emotional I am about a topic, Southern as well apparently.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Movie watching thoughts: Crazy Rich Asians

I'm trying to figure out if I'm just being small-minded and inward looking with my mixed feelings about Crazy Rich Asians, or if the fact that I went to see it with some very "woke" people who loved the movie meant I couldn't really articulate my feelings about it at the time.


I liked the movie. It was fun, the performances were brilliant, and Nick's single minded approach to trying all the food possible on his first night back in Singapore was completely understandable. Also, it was very Bollywood. The basic difference between Crazy Rich Asians and every ridiculous rich people movie I saw growing up in the 90s and early 2000s, was that, unlike Karan Johan and Sooraj Barjatya, Jon Chu made a really good movie. Also the prospective bahu stood up to her prospective mother-in-law a lot more than anyone in K3G ever did.


Here's what bothered me. Before the movie started, they were doing clips showcasing the actors for the movie, and then did a slidereel of the history of Asian actors in Hollywood. And somewhere in the mix Indian American actors like Kal Penn were shown, as well as clips from The Namesake. And then, at the end of the slide reel, they put up a caption remind us that this is the first movie since 1993 to have movie with a majority Asian cast in a contemporary setting. To which I say, then what was The Namesake?


And I get it. I get how important this movie is to the Asian American community, and why this matters. But I've always struggled with the fact that India, and the South Asian subcontinent, gets called Asian when it's convenient, and gets tossed to the side when it's not. If we're making the point that this is the first movie in 25 years with an Asian cast, and we're excluding The Namesake from that narrative, then don't toss it into the slide reel either, right?


And granted, I have only visited Singapore for three days, almost 15 years ago, but I'm very sure there were more South Asians there at the time then movie showed. Which, again, is fine, because maybe they weren't part of the setting this movie showcased. But. BUT. How is it that every guard of a fancy hotel or mansion that the movie showed somehow managed to be a Sardar?


Look, I loved the movie. There's so much even I could identify with. The guilt tripping laid on kids by their parents. The love for family and food back home. How good it is to go back home every time you do, the catching up with old friends and families. The little throwaway lines that showed that people really are the same, everywhere.


And a lot of the movie brought back the feelings I've also always had, of being a probashi Bangali, growing up in Delhi, only visiting Kolkata occasionally for a few days during school vacations. My cousins made fun of how terrible my Bengali is, how my accent is "so Delhi". I felt out of place with my Delhi friends at times, but even more out of place with most Bengalis I knew. Those feelings span cultures - anyone who has grown up in a place that is different from the place their parents belong to struggle with that a bit, I think. And watching Rachel's character navigate Singapore, and reading the reactions of Asian Americans to watching that, brought a lot of those feelings back.


But, let's just decide if Indians count as Asians or not, 'kay?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Can we just not

You guys, I would just like to say, enough is enough. I have had periods of nonstop injury and/or illness in the past, documented here and here. But these last few months have really taken it to a whole new level. Because it's really never been so prolonged.

It started with the allergies. Which eventually got so bad that two days after irritatedly telling my mother she shouldn't fuss and there was no need to come to me, I called her and tearfully asked if she could come. Except she hadn't bothered telling me that she was unwell, and as a result, by the time she eventually did come, I was much better, and close to finding out the cause of my allergies.

Which, as it turned out, were two things. Shellfish. And nickel. SHELLFISH AND NICKEL. Shellfish, which includes every kind of seafood I like. And nickel, which apparently is present in most costume jewelry. SHELLFISH AND NICKEL. What is even the point of life anymore I don't know.

Look at her earrings, you guys.



But. Moving on.

Then, on one of my weekend trips soon after my mother left, I managed to sprain my back, which knocked the wind out of me for almost a week. During said week I was also travelling for work, so of course that was fun.

The weekend after that, I was at a friend's place and scraped my shin against the steps to her pool, and then ended up with a cold and cough, that persisted all week till I left for vacation.

Said vacation, thank the lords, was relatively uneventful. If you discount the teensy weensy car accident we had where we jerked our necks a bit but were fine by the next day. The poor car, of course, wasn't, but we were, so we're ignoring this incident.

Amidst all of this of course is the fact that it is summer and all the insects in the world are heading straight to me, and so I have bites and scabs popping up all over my feet and arms.

And then, yesterday, in a truly spectacular fashion, I managed to top my entire summer's worth of illness and injury.

I had an offsite meeting in the morning, and had just about managed to find a parking spot. I was walking into the building with a coworker, carrying, as is usual with me, one bulging purse weighing twenty pounds (or so my coworker later claimed), one tiny suitcase, and a ceramic carry mug with tea in it. And somehow, as we were crossing the street leading to the building, my right foot twisted, I teetered for about 10 seconds trying to regain balance, and eventually just went down FLAT on my face, sprawled in the middle of the road. And of course it was the one day when I had actually checked the weather, seen it was going to be 107F/42C, and decided to wear a dress. So there I was, doing sashtang pranam in the middle of the road, with tea that had splashed all over my face and hair, and two scraped and bloody knees.

Are scraped knees really supposed to be this painful? Because here I am, 36 hours later, still not being able to sit comfortably, or take the stairs easily, and texting my local friend circle to see who has salwars they can lend me for the next week, because I definitely need the loosest clothing possible till this blessed scab goes away.

So, all in all, 2018 is not going very well so far (if you discount the fantastic vacations, that is). And if I could just go at least the rest of the month, if not year, without any further ridiculous or traumatic incident, that would be great. Because I'm really tired of walking into places and have people go, "oh yeah, I heard that happened to you... how you doing?"

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Where we realise what a makeup addict we have become

"Is something... going on with your eyes?"

"Yes. Yes there is."

This was a conversation I had yesterday with a coworker while heating up my rajma chawal for lunch. And then later in the afternoon, I met a friend who hadn't seen me in a while, who shrieked  and said: "What happened to you?!"

Because, clearly, the people who do see me every day are too nice to tell me how bad I really look. But yes, the area around my eyes currently looks like what the internet tells me is called a sharpei dog.


Which, let's be honest, is a lot better than I did two weeks ago, which was basically exactly how Harry looked after they were captured by the Snatchers and Hermione jinxed him.


Except I couldn't open either eye at the time.

We can get into what exactly happened to cause all of this at another time, but right now, can I just say, for someone who used to put no makeup other than eyeliner till about two years ago, when exactly did makeup become so important to me?

This entire allergy nonsense started over a weekend. The first Monday after it started, I took photos of what I was looking like before and after I put makeup, and man, have I become really good at applying makeup. Of course, by the next day, my face was so swollen that no amount of makeup was going to do any good, but that one day, I was so freakin' proud of my skills.

For two weeks now, I've been banned from makeup. I get the need to avoid it for now, but when you look the way I currently do, and you're not allowed to put anything that would hide it, it really does do something to your self-esteem.

I've been rebelling a little - I'm still using mascara and perfume (I'd put eyeliner too, but that's kinda hard to do when you can't find your eyeline). Neither of those things is making me look any better, but they make me feel better.

The good news is, we seem to be getting closer to figuring out what may have caused this (and I am not happy about the findings, but that's yet another rant for another day). And so when I cautiously asked this afternoon if I can start applying makeup again, I was told I can "start testing it out and see what happens".

So hopefully, tomorrow when I walk into work, I'll be looking less zombie-like, and see fewer people stop in their tracks when they see me, and then quickly glance away politely.

Gah.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Of solo trips and chocolate nostalgia

At this point, if you're still a reader of this blog, chances are you know me from real life somehow, and therefore have a sense of the amount I travel, as well as a vague sense of the how/why behind it. From 2014 to 2017, according to the site I use to track these things, I have apparently averaged nearly 83,000 miles of flying every year. And have already crossed 25,000 miles in 2018.

A lot of that flying was for work (I could tell you exactly how much, because that site tracks everything about your flights), but a significant chunk was for personal trips as well. The personal trips probably make up most of those miles, to be honest - work trips might have been more frequent, but the personal trips have been to more distant places.

I've done all kinds of personal travel in the last four years - solo trips, random day trips, trips with friends, trips with family, 24 hour trips, 48 hours trips. The one thing I hadn't done so far was a solo trip to a place where I don't speak the language.

Well, that changed this weekend.

I finally got around to applying for and getting my Schengen visa at the end of last year. They gave it to me for six months, and I knew I had to use it at least twice to make it worthwhile. A longer trip is being planned for this summer, but I wanted to use it over a long weekend as well. We get Good Friday off, and I figured... why not Germany?

So I flew to Frankfurt Thursday evening, landing Friday morning. I chose a hotel using my usual criteria whenever I travel alone - look at the chain I usually stick to, and pick whatever hotel they have closest to the main area of the city. In this case, Frankfurt's Central Station, because the plan was to to do a day trip to Heidelberg on Saturday, which was today and then fly back Sunday, i.e., tomorrow.

There is a reason I wanted to go to Heidelberg, and I'll come to that towards the end of this post. But first, a few musings on this trip overall:

  • The kind of a traveler I am makes it easy for me to travel alone. I like seeing historical things, and I like seeing cliched touristy stuff. So it's easy for me to pick up a travel guide, and just hit the road. Every single guide book I own has every place I've seen or visited meticulously ticked off, a fact that makes friends who then borrow said guide books from me roll their eyes.
  • The kind of introvert I am also makes it easy for me to travel alone, but also has issues. I invariably realise either halfway through a trip, or after the fact, that I know someone in the city I've visited, and it's too late to reach out.
  • Selfies are hard to take. Thankfully, the world is full of tourists who offer to and/or agree to take a photo of you (and your group, if you're not alone), and then gratefully accept your offer to take a photo of their group. I met a very sweet German couple today who agreed to take a photo of me, and then very shyly agreed to let me take a photo of them. The gentleman asked me very grimly if I was from India, which initially made me wonder if we had done something to offend him. He and his wife respectfully minded the gap and stood three inches apart for their photo, and then he coaxed her to take out her own camera to get me to click some photos on that as well, which she blushingly did. He then proceeded to ask me where in India I was from, and when I asked him in return if he had been, he said no. He's only been to Karachi in Pakistan. Which left me even more confused.
  • The one thing I am not good at doing is dining alone in restaurants. I invariably grab something to go, or get something back to the hotel room to eat. I need to get better at exploring restaurants and cuisines when I do my solo trips. This trip was relatively easier though: a touristy curry sausage place in the square in Frankfurt yesterday, a crepes stall in the MarktPlatz, and of course, a McDonald's at the train station - none of these needed me to walk into a restaurant and ask for a table for one.
  • Yes, McDonald's. I have now been to this chain and had their McChicken burger in at least half a dozen countries (except Japan, where I ended up with a Chicken Teriyaki burger). And every single country I've been to does it better than Amreeka. But no one does it better than India. 
  • This trip is my first time to Europe since moving to Amreeka. I've done the UK several times, including a two month "study" abroad stint, but never mainland Europe. Which also means this was the first trip to Europe since this wonderful trip. And I am pleased to report that I have neither lost anything nor been robbed so far. Of course, we have another twelve hours or so till my flight takes off tomorrow, so who knows what'll happen in the interim.
  • The big thing I was worried about was the language barrier, because like I said, I've never travelled alone to a place where I don't know the local language. I've always had at least a friend with me who knows the local language enough to get us by. I mean, okay, Chennai a decade ago when I used to go for work might be the exception, and I might still have nightmares about my trips there, but other than that I mean. Surprisingly, it wasn't as much of an issue. Most people knew enough English to understand me, which was great since all I know is Danke, which I realised I'd been saying wrong all along only this evening. What was actually trickier was navigating, because the road signs are all in German, and the walking tour maps I had was using English names for a lot of places.
  • And lastly, I may need to revise my hotel picking strategy. Years ago, when I would plan trips, tripadvisor was my first stop. In the past five years, my interest in  loyalty programs has grown into a full-fledged obsession, so for the most part, I simply use my chain plus location plus price method of choosing where to stay. And so I've stopped looking at reviews as much. Which is why I didn't realise, till I was looking at the Yelp reviews of a very highly rated curry sausage literally right next door to my hotel, that the two streets on either side of my hotel are red light areas. The street in front of my hotel is fine, and two streets over is the main street of the city (complete with Indian restaurants, including a Saravanaa Bhavan, obvs), but those two streets are to be avoided apparently. Which was reiterated by the hotel receptionist when I was asking what to go see in Frankfurt. She point out points of interest, and then drew big crosses on the two streets on either side, telling me to avoid them completely. Oh, well. ¯\(ツ)/¯
So. The reason I wanted to visit Heidelberg. Years ago, when I was still in high school I think (so literally, 15-20 years ago at this point, because I'm old), the father had visited Heidelberg for work a few times, and had always come back with gorgeous photos of the castle. And this one time, he attended some sort of conference, where they gave him a box of chocolates to bring back. Called Heidelstones. They were cubes of chocolate, and inside were layers of jam, nuts, cake, and more chocolate. And they were amazing. And for years I've tried to find them, without success. I once found a website about them, but it was all in German, and it didn't seem like they shipped anyway. That site seems to have now shut down. 

A friend started looking into them a few weeks ago, when I started planning this trip, and didn't have much luck either. The closest thing she could find was dominosteines, which seem to be close, but I'm not entirely sure. You get them only at Christmas though, apparently, so I didn't see any to try either. I went into a couple of chocolate shops today to ask about them; only one person knew what I was talking about (so they do exist!), but had no idea where you actually get them.

So, while this trip has been fantastic, the main purpose remains unfulfilled. And I'm now sending an appeal into the universe at large - if you know what Heidelstones are, and/or where to get them, let me know please?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

If

This is not the post I was expecting or planning to write tonight.

A coworker discovered a new Indian restaurant near work, so after multiple rescheduling, we finally made it there for lunch today. As tends to happen after Indian buffets, I was absolutely stuffed. Having zero plans this Valentine's Day, I was very much looking forward to a quiet evening at home, with a corn and bean salad recipe I've been meaning to try for dinner.

Till a friend texted "see you at 7", and confused me completely, because I thought we were meeting tomorrow. I scrolled up and realised I was the one who had suggested meeting today, except I know I meant Thursday, but whatevs, not like I had competing plans on either day.

Normally, when I have plans after work, I just stay at work till it's time to go, because going home and then leaving again just seems like too much effort. Today, however, I really had nothing to do by about 5.30, and didn't feel like sticking around for another hour, so I figured I will go home after all, and chill for about 45 minutes before having to head out, since the restaurant was close to home.

I was walking to my car in the garage, and realised I'd left my glasses and sunglasses at my desk. My purse was heavy, and I was almost at my car, so I figured I'll drop my bag off and then go back in. And as I got to my car, I happened to glance up at the ramp that goes to the floor above where my car was parked, and noticed a man lying on the ground. I called out tentatively to ask if he was okay, and got no response. I ran up to him, to see what had happened, and realised that he was bleeding profusely from his nose, and not responding at all.

I'm embarrassed, ashamed, and just plain heartbroken to admit that I have no first aid or CPR knowledge, had no clue what to do, and so did nothing other than dump all my belongings on the floor, and frantically wave down cars of other people who were leaving work. Thankfully, two people stopped, and one of them did know CPR, which she started doing, while we called 911. Others stopped too, and for the next horrible, horrible 15 minutes, a group of four or five people just kept doing CPR on this man, one person kept trying to see if he could find a pulse, and I, along with a growing crowd, just stood there an watched. By the time the police and medics arrived, it was increasingly obvious it was too late to do anything, but they tried too, till even they stopped.

As the half dozen of us who had been there throughout stood around, waiting for the cops to speak to us as needed, some of them told me I shouldn't feel so bad about knowing what to do, because I saw him and I came to him, and I stopped others who tried to help. My manager later echoed the same thing. But what if someone else had found him? Someone who knew what to do? Maybe those two minutes between me finding him and the CPR starting would have made the difference?

It was such a weird confluence of events, today. If I hadn't mixed up days for dinner. If I hadn't finished up work early and decided to go home first. If I had turned back to get my glasses instead of wanting to drop off my bag first.  If any of those things hadn't happened, I wouldn't have seen him when I did.

But if I had known what to do, maybe the evening would have ended differently as well.