Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"You have smartphone, no?"

I was at the doctor's office a few weeks ago, sitting in the waiting area, and watching in fascination whatever home improvement related reality show they had on that day.

The gentleman next to me, who was at least 60, if not older, suddenly turned to me and said, "you're not very good at this waiting thing, are you? Don't you know you're supposed to be on your phone?"

I went for an Indian play this past weekend. The gentleman next to me, not that much older perhaps, but least a decade older than me, struck up a conversation with the opening words, so did you grow up around here? No? What visa are you on?

And having established that I was in fact on a visa, he told me all about the immigration reform advocacy group he is a part of. "You have smartphone, no? Open Facebook - I will tell you what to type and you can find our page."

I always rue the fact that too many of my relatives from the older generation know a little too much technology for my liking - not enough to be completely self-sufficient, but just enough to be dangerous. But what is with random strangers telling me how to use technology, yaar?

Thursday, April 07, 2016

On making wishes

Once upon a time, I was told that if you're passing under a bridge while a train is going over it, you could make a wish and it would come true. So on my way to college, when I would pass through Chanakyapuri and go through this underpass that occasionally had trains going over it, I would make a wish.

A decade later, I can't remember if any of those wishes actually ever came true. But what is there in trying?

I now live and work near an airport. And sometimes, I pass through the airport on my evening commutes (well, the service road of the airport - I'm too stingy to pay $2 every time I want to take a faster route). When you take this route, it also means you're driving under the runways of the airport, and every so often, driving under them while a Boeing 737 is taxiing on the runway.

So when I'm not wondering what would happen if the runway just collapsed with me under it and the airplane over it, I make a quick wish. Because why should planes not be given the same wish-granting opportunities as trains?


Thursday, March 31, 2016

March musings

The parents left to go back home yesterday, after visiting me for a month.

That first evening alone, walking into an empty apartment, always feels the weirdest. And the hardest, even though you've spent a month rolling your eyes, complaining you can't find anything in your kitchen, and generally wanting just 30 seconds of me-time.

I'm never going to be able to live with anyone again, ever.

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

Does it feel, after a point, that your parents kind of turn into your kids?

I mean, don't get me wrong, I was pampered for a month, being woken up with a cup of tea every morning, having oil applied to my hair, etc. But when you find yourself exasperatedly glancing back while driving home in the evening, and hear yourself saying "don't eat any more chips, you won't be able to have dinner otherwise!" it kind of makes you wonder when the tables turned.

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

Just once I would like to be able to complain out loud that the mother is turning into the grandmother without the father or brother promptly pointing out, very helpfully, that I am turning into the mother.

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

A couple of years ago, I wrote about, among other things, how I love flying, and love looking out of the window of an airplane. A month ago, I sent the father a link to an article I came across linking a certain medicine given to patients of epilepsy with birth defects when those patients become parents.

I sent the article to the father because I had epilepsy, as a child. And was on medication from the age of 8 to the age of 13. And while my medication was changed several times over the years, I faintly remembered being on the aforementioned medicine for some time at least.

I received a note from the father after I sent him this article, which said, among other things, the following:
I was in an airport. Hong Kong. Returning from a PRC trip - my first. And I got the news that the doc has finally stopped the medication. Glad I had a window seat. And always love flying out of that airport..... One of those positive memories... there are some things always, to be thankful for....
**************

I was going through old posts, trying to find the one where I talked about my love of window seats, and found an older post, from four years ago. Where talk about the things I don't like about flying.

And given my current life, and the fact that I travel by myself every other weekend these days, I find that post so very ironic on so many levels.

Oh, if we knew then what we know now...


Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Thoughts on Neerja, and a gazillion other things

I've liked Sonam Kapoor since her first appearance on Koffee with Karan; that episode, incidentally, is also when I started warming up to Deepika Padukone. I've continued liking what Sonam Kapoor has been up to in the years since. Don't get me wrong - I don't think she can act. I was horrified when I heard she might be playing the lead role in the movie adaptation of one of Anuja Chauhan's books, although on further thinking about, she'll probably do justice to the sheer silliness Chauhan's heroines tend to display.

But I like her because, among other things, she refuses to let her inability to act well limit her options. She continues to do the kind of movies I want to go and see. It's a different matter that I don't see most of them, because I'm very lame when it comes to movie watching, but that's not the point. She does movies that, on the whole, have female characters and story lines I feel I can approve of. Most of the time. Prem Ratan Dhan Payo notwithstanding.

I read an article a year or so ago comparing her with Sonakshi Sinha. The latter did Lootera early in her career, and was lauded for her acting ability, but seems to be quite content being the eye candy in Akshay Kumar or Ajay Devgan movies ever since. And then there's Sonam, who insists on playing characters with agency, even if she can't play them that well. And even if she has to produce them herself to get them made.

What's not to admire about that?

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

Which brings me to her latest movie - Neerja. As is happening with most Hindi movies and me these days, I had no clue this movie had released, what it was about, or who was in it, till a friend asked if I wanted to go. I couldn't, that day, but I looked up the music, and fell in love with two songs. Then I looked up reviews, and decided I wanted to see it, even though I usually avoid movies with dismal endings or really anything requiring thought.

But I wound up going to see it anyway. And sat on the edge of my seat throughout. For someone who usually covers her eyes at the slightest scary or gory scene (yes, shoo), I don't think I blinked even once while watching the movie. And of course, towards the end, when Neerja's mother places the birthday gift, I started crying and didn't stop till the end credits started rolling.

The movie was extraordinarily well made, and Sonam Kapoor was surprisingly good in it. As were every other actor and actress in the movie.

On a more personal note, the movie was also utterly terrifying for someone who travels as much as I do, and for the reasons I do. And I'm not at all surprised the mother didn't like the movie - her imagination must be going crazy ever since she saw it.

It also struck me as interesting that having watched the movie in Amreeka, I got subtitles. So when the hijackers spoke among themselves in Arabic (at least, I assume it was Arabic, since they were supposed to be Palestinian?), I knew what they were saying. Folks I've spoken to who watched the movie back in India did not get subtitles, and so had no clue what those conversations were about.

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

Since I mentioned Deepika Padukone, I have to say, her movie choices are no less approval worthy - at least the ones I've watched. I've watched Piku and Finding Fanny in the past year or two, and not only were those movies excellent, but she was excellent in them.

Also in both movies she says "mad or what?!" exactly how I say it and it makes me very sad I can't find a gif of her saying this phrase.

The day we went to watch Piku, my friends and I had an intense discussion just before the movie on why she was playing a Bengali woman, and not an actual Bengali woman. (I will point out I did not have a problem with this; my non-Bengali friends were the ones questioning this.) And it struck us that the current generation of actresses in Bollywood has no Bengali women left. I mean, yes, Rani Mukherjee and Konona Sen Sharma are kinda still around, but you know what I mean.

This makes me a bit sad.

I will however say Deepika Padukone made an excellent Bengali woman.

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

This post was supposed to be about just Neerja, but as usual, it got me thinking about other things.

Who are the other actresses in Bollywood doing relatively sensible movies? Kangana Ranaut, obvs. Anushka Sharma and Parineeti Chopra to a large extent I think. Alia Bhatt manages to do fairly decent roles too, and is a really good actress. Huma Qureshi, I think, is a name I keep hearing, but I haven't seen enough of her movies. Is that it? Priyanka Chopra seems to have been appearing in fewer movies, and in any case is being lauded by NRIs on Whatsapp for Quantico.

I feel like I don't even know who else are in the current crop of actresses in Bollywood. When did this happen to me?

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

When I say characters with agency, I don't necessarily mean serious movies, y'know. One of Sonam's other movies that I quite enjoyed was Khoobsurat. Not as much as the original Khoobsurat, because obviously no one compares to Hrishikesh Mukherjee, but enjoyable nonetheless. But how unabashedly unapologetic was Sonam's character in the movie? Right till the end. I totes approve.

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

Switching gears just a little, if the Marvel Cinematic Universe could just get it into its head that we don't need to constantly see a story arc where a woman finds out she can never have babies, I would be totally approving of Agent Carter's second season.  Because it gave me the almost all the things I've been wanting from a show - it had kickass women, it had men who didn't have a problem with kickass women, it even had one man who starts out being a chauvinistic idiot, and then grows as a character. It had women being friends, and it had one of the most beautiful platonic friendships between a man and a woman I can remember seeing portrayed. Also it helps that the pair I was shipping seems to have ended up together. Bring it back for a third season, I say to TPTB.


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

This post has been in the works for a week or so, so it really wasn't planned as a Women's Day thing - especially since the construct of Women's Day does nothing more than infuriate me these days, because all it does is remind me how things just don't change. So the timing of this post finally being ready is purely coincidental. But as I glanced through other posts in the labels applied to this one, apparently I have been prone to writing in a similar vein around this time of year. What is there.

Monday, February 29, 2016

On Fuller House

I used to be a huge Full House fan when the show ran on Zee in the 90s, so when they announced a revival last I was tremendously excited. The new season dropped on Netflix, so obviously I've spent the weekend watching all of it. And I have thoughts. Tiny little thoughts, which needed venting.

*insert mandatory spoiler alert here, for those who haven't watched it yet, and plan to*


  • The show is bad. There is no other way to say it. I really, really wanted to like it, and it's not terrible. It's just... not great.
  • It's like they had ideas for a number of scenes, and wanted to insert them in somehow, and wrote scripts that made sure these scenes were inserted in somehow. But the thread running through a lot of those scenes don't always make sense. 
  • I was not a fan of the acting. The kids were cute, and the former kids were stilted (except Kimmy Gibbler who was pretty amazing, as always), and the former grown ups who flitted in and out were trying too hard.
  • I don't know how much of the show would click with people who didn't watch the original show. There were so many inside jokes, not just about the characters in the past, but also about the cast, that I had to keep looking up to check if they were talking about what I thought they were talking about.
  • I am so sick of the trope where a woman who is single and living the good life has to find out she can't have children. 
  • I kinda saw DJ's choice in the finale coming a mile away. 
  • Having said that, #teamsteve, always.
For nostalgia's sake, if they come out with subsequent seasons, I will probably continue to watch this show. But maybe, just maybe, they shouldn't?

And this makes me very, very nervous about the Gilmore Girls revival.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

On sports I know nothing about, and employee morale

I'm the first to admit I know nothing about any sport that is not cricket - and there too, interest has dwindled over time. If it wasn't for Google Now's helpful alerts that we're losing another match to Australia or Sri Lanka, I wouldn't even know we're playing any more.


So usually, when I see any headlines or tweets that appear to be related to sports, I ignore them, apart from the occasional wondering which sport they're talking about. But there's one type of sports-related headline/tweet that tends to make me think a little more.


I saw a tweet just now that some team is open to trading one or more of its players - and I think the players were named, but I'm not sure. I also think the sport in question was basketball, but again, I'm not sure. Let's just say there a lot of words that I did not recognize in that tweet.


AnyWAY. The thing I always wonder is, what do announcements like this do for player morale? To have the world know the team you play for is willing to let you go so that it can find someone who might do better than you? I mean, I'm sure very often the players are willing to be traded as well, and I'm sure there's plenty of money involved to make them happy-ish about the trade, but... still. Doesn't it create some kind of awkwardness and/or tension among players?


Can you imagine this happening in any other type of job? To come into work and see a company-wide or department-wide email from your manager saying they're perfectly happy to be rid of you if another manager offers them someone better from their team in exchange? (This may or may not be something I have occasional nightmares about.) As someone who worked in HR in a previous lifetime, I'm not sure I would recommend this.


It just... makes me wonder. Y'know?

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Of a slightly haphazard timeline

I pulled out a pair of trousers to wear to work this morning, and couldn't, because it's two sizes too big for me, and I don't have the right kind of belt to wear with it.


Two weeks ago, I wore a pair of green trousers I had bought on a whim three years ago, and not worn in two years, because it now fits.


Two weeks before that, I checked my weight in the morning, and saw that for the first time in more than almost three years, my weight was finally - finally - in the normal BMI range.


Over the past six months, I've lost more than twenty pounds - or ten kgs. I'm still at the edge of what would be a normal BMI range for me though, especially since I'm a short, short person. I have to lose another ten pounds, or just under 5 kgs, to be what is the ideal weight for me.


I wish I could tell you this is a story of great determination that they can make an Oscar-winning movie about. It's really not.


For years, the family's been trying to nudge me towards a more healthy lifestyle - be it in terms of what I eat, how active I am, or anything. I resisted all efforts, because pooh, your family will always think you're fat, especially since they're the kind of people who never put on weight no matter how much they eat, and think anyone who weighs more than them (which is 75% of the world) is overweight. And since most of my friends are the super supportive kind of people who always tell me I'm fine, obviously I chose to believe the folks who were saying what I wanted to hear.


Didn't really matter what my weighing scales, my clothes, or blood tests were saying.


A year ago, when the brother announced (formally) he was getting married, I vaguely promised myself I'd lose weight by the wedding. Ten months ago, when the wedding timeline moved up by a year or so, I thought of the promise and told myself I should do something about it. Seven months ago, when I went home and bought most of my outfits for the wedding in two days, I told our utterly unreliable darzi that he'd hopefully have to alter everything in two days when I came back for the wedding.


So when I came back to the US, I talked to a couple of friends, and we kinda sorta got going on getting me to lose weight. I started going for walks at lunch a couple of times a week. I didn't really change anything else in my life, but told myself this was a good first step.


Then, six months ago, I finally found a doctor to go to in the area, and get a routine checkup done. She asked me to get blood tests done, and when the results came back, I was told have diabetes. Borderline, but there it is.


The family reacted in fairly predictable ways: the father started looking up links and sending them to me as reading material, the mother wanted to know what she could do, and started forwarding whatsapp forwards on how to deal with diabetes that I would delete without reading (anything that comes via Whatsapp and is longer than my screen, I'm not reading), and the brother said, and I quote, "Oh? Well, maybe this will make you take your health more seriously." I could feel the love, you guys.


And it kinda, sorta did. A friend and I joined the gym at work. And when I say we joined a gym, I mean we'd go twice a week, I'd put on a show on Hulu on my tablet, and I'd walk on the treadmill for the 45 minutes it would take me to watch the show.


So between the walking at lunch, the walking on the treadmill, and the medication I was put on, I began to lose weight. A lot of it. And even when all this walking pretty much came to a stop three months ago because things got a little crazy all round, I still continued to lose something like half a pound a week because that medicine I'm on is a magical medicine.


As a result, when I showed up for the wedding six weeks ago, I was looking pretty awesome. And I did have to run around getting half my outfits altered. So I suppose you could say that I kept my promise to lose weight by the wedding.


Since coming back, I haven't gone for any walks, and I've been to the gym twice. My diet never really changed, and it continues to be the same. But I've still lost another two pounds, although it seems to be holding steady there. So if I want to lose those last ten pounds, effort will be required. And the diet definitely needs to be brought under control (Sidebar: Parents, I am eating fine, I just need to start measuring, don't start commenting or whatsapping me as soon as you read this. Shuye poro. End sidebar.).


I'm to see my doctor again next month, and get a blood test done too, so we'll see where we actually are healthwise. And weightwise, well, I guess I'll see where we are there as well.


(I just re-read this entire post, and this is the worst constructed timeline possible. Uff.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

To be fair - or not

One of the many, many pieces of drama that made my brother's wedding last month SO MUCH FUN was the fact that the airline I flew home on forgot to put my suitcase on the plane. Which meant my outfit for the sangeet and a large chunk of my makeup was not in the same continent as me for a good 48 hours after I landed.


Which was fine, because I never panic over such things, and I did have a week to scream at the airline before the day of the sangeet. What I needed urgently, however, was makeup. Because even though the sangeet was almost a week away, I had another friend getting married the day after I landed, and a gazillion mini-events that every Indian wedding seems to require.


Now the thing with makeup is that I started using a lot of it only last year.


I tried foundation years ago, when I was much younger. But a, I'm terrible with liquid foundation because I end up spilling it all over, and b, I always felt like a clown whenever I tried putting it, so I stopped very soon. For years, my only make up was eyeliner, mayyybe blush on the rare occasion I was feeling brave, and on even rarer occasions, some lipstick.


Then last year, a friend introduced me to Maybelline's roll on version of foundation, which was relatively easy to apply, and their darkest shade didn't make me feel like such a clown. So I started using this, and felt very proud of myself.


So when I found myself without makeup in India, I headed NewU to see if they had anything similar. And this brings us to why I am writing this post*.


So the roll on type of foundations don't seem to have reached India yet, so I thought, fine, I will be brave and try regular liquid foundation, and hope none of the clothes I do have with me get ruined. But then, when I asked for their darkest shade, I discovered Maybelline has exactly three shades available in India, the darkest of which won't work for me or, to be quite honest, half the women I know in India. And this was true of every brand I asked to see. And when I came close to losing it and asking how they expect me to use these shades because, hello, look at me, a very helpful sales assistant had the bright idea of offering me - wait for it - fairness serum by Garnier. Apparently if you apply fairness serum before a lighter shade of foundation, it works just fine.


To which I said:




Seriously? Seriously? Introduce three ridiculous shades in a market, which won't work for half the women in said market, and then promote "fairness freakin' serum"?!


How have the people outraging over the continuing existence of Fair & Lovely and similar products not started outraging about this yet?!


Screw you, make up companies.

* Oh, like we all didn’t know it takes me ages to get to the point. My thoughts meander, people.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

The year that was: 2015

2015 was an... interesting year. That's the only word I can think of to describe it.

But to start with, y'know the thing(s) I wasn't allowed to talk about last year? Well, it was pretty much the dominating thing this year, and will get referenced several times in this post, so let's get it out of the way - MY BABY BROTHER GOT MARRIED.


1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
Among several other things... Get a speeding ticket. Watch India play a World Cup match. Oh, and watch my baby brother get married.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I had some intentions, and listed them out on the sicrit blog that only three people have access to. I did a progress check in July, and was at 50% or so. I think it may have gone up to 55% by the end of the year.
For 2016, there are more intentions, yes. Why intentions, you ask? Because of the very wisdomous Jennifer Crusie, who said on her blog:
Another year’s end, another year beginning, another refusal to make resolutions because I can’t plan for the weekend, let alone a whole year. Instead, I have intentions. I intend to do this stuff. If I don’t do it, hey, I changed my mind.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No, but ask me in another month, and that answer will have changed.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
We hadn't stayed as close as I would have liked, but two days before my brother's wedding, I found out someone I went to grad school with had succumbed to her battle with breast cancer.

5. What places did you visit?
SJD. SYD/MEL. RAP. RIC/PHF. SFO. DEL. ABQ/SAF. BNA. MIA. LHR. RDU. LAX. FSD. NYC. DEL again. At least four of those trips were for work, but still, not bad, wot?

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
Gumption. Patience.

7. What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
February 22. December 25.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Paid off my student loan. Lost 20 pounds.

9. What was your biggest failure?
My lack of patience.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Kinda, sorta. More on this later.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Years ago, I promised myself I would buy this one really extravagant thing once I paid off my student loan. That. Also, after years of dithering, I finally gifted myself a tablet for my birthday. That, too.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
I really don't know how to answer this.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and/or depressed?
Oh, where to start...

14. Where did most of your money go?
The aforementioned student loan, the aforementioned extravagant thing, the aforementioned tablet, and a gazillion things I could tell you were bought for the wedding, but probably would have been bought anyway.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The World Cup trip. The brother's wedding.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
Galla goodiyan.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?
A bit of both.

18. Thinner or fatter?
THINNER.

19. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Read books that are not by Nora Roberts. Watched TV shows that are not The West Wing.

20. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Watched TV, overall.

21. How will you be spending Christmas?
Watched the brother get married :)

22. Did you fall in love in 2015?
Nope.

23. How many one-night stands?
Zilch.

24. What was your favourite TV programme?
I loved Catastrophe.

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

26. What was the best book you read?
I really didn't read enough to answer this. It was a bad year of reading, even by my standards.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I rediscovered Indian Ocean. Also, the soundtrack for The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has been on loop in my car for several months now.

28. What did you want and get?
Paying off the student loan.

29. What did you want and not get?
Figuring out where I want to live in the long term.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
See, this is why I need a site that I can use to track movies I've watched. I use Goodreads for books, and Sidereel for TV shows, but I have no way of keeping track of the movies I watch, and so I just forget.
I think we'll go with Piku for now. It's the one movie I remember loving, at any rate. Ant-Man was a lot more fun than I expected it to be, too.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 30, my friend organized dinner, and I got drunk. And since I planned to get drunk, and I very, very rarely let myself get drunk, I think we can declare it a fairly successful evening.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Still hoping for that ability to apparate or use a portkey, y'all...

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
I got pretty good with make up. And I discovered leggings, which are the best thing ever.

34. What kept you sane?
I'm not sure anything was able to...

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I may or may not have developed a bit of a crush on the new Canadian Prime Minister...

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Oh, you do not want to get me started on this. I still hate the BJP with the very core of my being, and the Republican candidates for the 2016 election is driving me crazy.

37. Who did you miss?
All my loved ones.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
People I met before 2015 became a lot dearer in 2015. Does that count?

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
I really need to work on my facial expressions being... well, less expressive.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I'm tempted to go with the same song as last year, but that's forcing it a bit, so I'm going to say none that comes to mind for now.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Where The Flash reminds me of The West Wing

A dozen posts have been written in the past few weeks - all in my head, of course. And as expected, none of them made to the interwebs.

And before we proceed, allow me to say there are perhaps spoilers ahead, so proceed with caution.

So. I'm watching this week's episode of The Flash, and there's a scene where Joe West gives the watch his father gave him to Barry Allen, saying he always wanted to give it to his son. Now, Joe has a daughter, and as it now turns out, a son as well. But the watch his father gave him must be given to the boy he brought up as a son.

And this episode reminds me of an episode from one of my favorite shows - The West Wing. I love that show, and I watch it over and over. That show is why my list of new shows to watch keeps growing longer and longer, because I just keep going back to that show.

But just because I love The West Wing doesn't mean I'm blind to its flaws. Like just how chauvinistic it is. The brother sent me an article about the show several months ago, and my response was this:
I don't see why the word secretly is in there. Anyone who doesn't admit Aaron Sorkin is an asshole and a sexist and an utter douchebag is an idiot. 
That article is spot on about everything, by the way. Especially the fact that CJ Cregg would never have become Chief of Staff if Aaron Sorkin hadn't left the show after the fourth season.

AnyWAY. Why this episode of The Flash reminded me of The West Wing. There is an episode in the second season, I think. It's Thanksgiving, and Bartlet has Charlie running around trying to find the perfect carving knife. After several rounds of this, Charlie discovers Bartlet already has a knife and exasperatedly asks why he needs another. And Bartlet says it's because he's giving it away - to Charlie. Now, this knife - a Paul Revere knife, which apparently means something - has been handed down the generations in the Bartlet family.

Now, here's my thing. Joe West has a daughter, but in all fairness, he brought up Barry, and so calling him his son who deserves this watch his father gave him is... okay. Sorta.

But. Bartlet. The man has THREE daughters. THREE. And, at this point in the show, has known Charlie for just about one year. ONE. Compared to TWO DECADES of having three daughters.

Tell me Sorkin isn't an asshat.