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.

Sigh.

 

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."

Ufff.

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.

Anyway.

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?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Where we react to that episode of that TV show

I just watched that episode of Grey's Anatomy. The one from a few weeks ago, the one that everyone who knows the show exists knew about within minutes of it happening, because this is not a fandom that is able to contain its spoilers.

I've been catching up on this season of the show over the past ten days or so, and have had a lot of thoughts that I wanted to blog about once I was done with the season. But now that I've gotten through this episode, I need to react to this episode in isolation, separate from the rest of it.

There's always that one episode of Grey's Anatomy that gets to me every season, and makes me beak down and bawl like an idiot. In its 11th season, this one was it. The last ten minutes of the episode were it.

The episode reminded me of this conversation.

The episode reminded me of a moment that took place in college. I was presenting in class. What I was presenting on, I can't remember. But I remember the room we were in, and where I was standing. I remember my professor telling us about her father, and how she had to take the decision to end his suffering, because her mother couldn't. I remember standing, facing my classmates, and watching each and everyone of them sobbing at my professor's matter of fact narration. I remember wondering why I wasn't sobbing. I remember my professor rolling her eyes and turning to me, saying "chalo, at least you're still the sensible one. Let's carry on now." I remember beginning my presentation, and having to stop because my voice broke. I remember taking a deep breath and starting again, only to break down completely. I remember turning around to face the wall, taking long and deep breaths and trying to get it together. I remember turning back, mouthing sorry to my professor as she looked at me exasperatedly, and continuing with my presentation.

I remember thinking if just the thought of having to take such a decision could shatter me like this, how had my professor survived it. And I remember thinking I wanted to be like her when I grew up.

The episode reminded me of a decision my family took two summers ago. I remember us spending weeks, trying to put off the inevitable. I remember us looking at each other, knowing we had to, but looking for reasons not to. I remember each of us, one by one, finally saying yes. I remember my brother asking for three days. I remember spending those three days, trying to pile in every moment we possibly could. I remember wondering once or twice why we were were prolonging the agony. I remember taking her for a walk with my brother. I remember coming back from the walk and seeing her refuse to enter the house. I remember her lying down in our driveway, and refusing to move from there, as if she knew what was about to happen. I remember the vet arriving, and all of us sitting around her while he did what he had to do. I remember the scream I let out when it happened.

And anyone who tells me I can't, or shouldn't, compare that memory with the loss of losing a parent, a spouse, or a child, can go fly a kite.

This damn show. It just gets to you, man.

That is all.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Pieces of me

I have these nights, occasionally, when I don't get sleep all night. They used to happen only when I went home to India and was jetlagged - I always had that one night of staying up. But over the last year or so, they've happened a few times for no discernible reason.

It happened again last Sunday. I'd been lazy all weekend, and done close to nothing productive. I needed to get up early on Monday because I had folks coming to look at something in the apartment before I left for work, and I had an event to go to Monday evening that I knew I'd be coming back from fairly late. And there I was Sunday night, trying to sleep, but more alert and awake than I had been all weekend.

Someone asked me, when I told them about this, if it was because I was stressed about something. I don't think so, was my response. There's nothing I can think of that's stressing me out at the moment, and if there was something in my subconscious, chances are my should would have informed me by beginning to ache. So, I don't think so.

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

I don't know when I turned into this movies-based-on-comic books fangirl. I've never read a comic book in my life, but I now watch every single Marvel or DC based TV show that is currently on air (except Gotham, because that show bored the heck out of me). And I just read the first review of the Avengers movie that is releasing next week, and it's got me so ridiculously excited that I need to tell the world about it. When did this happen to me?

(On thinking about it a little more, I think we can all agree to blame the brother for this. Pretty sure it all started when he dragged to watch The Dark Knight.)

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

I have a Bangladeshi coworker who sits one cube over. A mutual friend introduced us soon after we both moved into our current department, with the words "just wanted to you both to know of each other, in case you were planning to say things in Bengali hoping no one else would understand." Very kind of him, I have to say.

So, this coworker. Conversations with her are quite straightforward and fun, and she has a fairly matter of fact way of talking. So it entertains me no end that occasionally, I'll hear her on the phone, talking in Bengali, either to her husband or parents or some other relatives, and the sheer whininess that creeps into her tone is simply amazing. It's in our blood, you guys.

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

Along with priority and my own name at the end of an email, I think we can add occasionally to the list of words I can never spell correctly on the first go. I've spelt it incorrectly every single time in this post (which also tells me I use it fairly often).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Halka Aunty style

One of the nicest things about the company I work for is that, for the most part, they really don't care how you dress. We moved to a casual dress code a while back, and so as long as you're not meeting customers or external partners (or y'know, working in Finance), it's jeans and a sweatshirt every single day if you want.

And since it's a company with a very internationally diverse employee base, which includes a large number of Indians - especially, and this is fact, on the floors IT sits on - I could honestly wear a salwar kameez every day if I wanted to. I've done it occasionally over the past year or so, especially on festivals and such, and it's nice to be able to do that.

So this morning, after getting dressed and ready to leave for work fairly early for a change, I started running over the things I need to do, and realized I need to call the grandmother for nobo borsho - the Bengali New Year - as well as the parents, and probably send the brother a text that he should call them as well (which, now that I think of it, I didn't end up doing). And in all that mental processing, I decided what the heck, let's wear Indian today. And so I pulled out the new white kurta and orange dupatta I had bought a few weeks ago (along with green leggings, in the hope of wearing this outfit for one of the World Cup matches), and wore them with my black jeans. And it struck me, all over again, how much I miss wearing salwar kameezes and dupattas. My fabulous dupattas, mostly.

And since this blog seems to be big on random memories and anecdotes lately, here's one that came to me today. The dupatta I chose to wear today is one of those silky ones that keep slipping off. However, the kurta has embroidery similar to Lucknow-i chikankari, so I decided to wear the dupatta long, over just one shoulder, because that was keeping it in place. And it reminded me of a friend my mother had, back when I was a kid. This lady - Alka Aunty - always wore her dupattas over one shoulder. She was the only lady I knew who wore them that way, and it fascinated me, probably because she was the only one who wore them that way in Chandigarh as far as I could tell. And so when I pretended to dress up, I would wear them the same way, and say I was wearing them "Halka Aunty style" - because apparently at the age of 5, I couldn't say her name properly.

She moved away years ago, and I have no idea where she is today. But it was fun today, wearing a dupatta "Halka Aunty style".

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The odd flashback

A gazillion or so years ago, when I was still in college, I was walking from home to the neighbourhood market - in all likelihood, to visit the lending library run by the sweetest old man ever, who lent all books for 5 rupees for the first day, and 1 rupee for every subsequent day. Unless you were borrowing a Mills & Boon, in which case it was a flat 2 rupees per day.

Anyway, so I was walking. I got a lot of walking done during the years I visited his shops. But this particular walk has always stayed with me because I was walking past the park (which just proves how long ago this is, because that park was taken away from the kids who used to play there to be turned into a hospital or something because it was a legal mandate but then they abandoned the construction halfway through, so now this half-built hospital just sits there, empty, and someday they're going to make a movie where someone comes to visit their past and this hospital will be where they go first because they used to play cricket there or something and I really should stop digressing so much back to the walk), and suddenly I could hear rain falling. Which was weird, because it was bright and sunny and slightly humid and I definitely didn't have an umbrella but I wasn't wet either. But I could hear the rain fall. And then I walked two steps forward and found myself feeling the drizzle. I took one step back and it was dry. I walked forward again, and could feel the rain again.

I was reminded of this moment earlier today, on my drive to work. It's been windy and cloudy for the last few days, with stormclouds threatening to burst but never quite getting there. And this morning was no different as I drove. But then I turned right, and then got on the expressway a minute later, and suddenly my car was bathed in sunlight.

It was a nice moment.