Friday, February 24, 2017

Avoidance mode

I've gone into avoidance mode on the internet. I'm on twitter these days mainly for the puppy photos (and the Twitter app is very nice about always showing those to me at the top of the "In case you missed it" section), or to complain about the nonstop work travel I've been doing since the beginning of the year, or just whine about life in general.

In real life, however, the debates and the discussions continue. When you live in Texas, you really can't get away from them. It helps that my immediate work team has views similar to me - at least overtly. But there are some who clam up when some of these topics come up, and you know they quite possibly disagree with you.

Then there are those - some coworkers, some former classmates - who are more inclined to share their views, and you listen to them, and you try to see their point of view, and you do your best to not roll your eyes in front of them, or jump in with explanations on how they're wrong to feel the way they do.

Because a, who are you to say you're right and they're wrong (even though you are and they kinda, sorta are), and b, you didn't have a vote in this election, and they did. Sure, they wasted their vote by writing in names, instead of taking a stand, but they had a vote.

I think the people who infuriate me the most are those who tell me they take the stand they do because they believe in conservative fiscal policies, and "don't really care about the social stuff". Which is the exact opposite of the way I see things. I mean, sure, part of that is because most things related to the economy go over my head, but GAH. Because these are also the people telling me they agree with "one or two things" Trump has said/done, but of course he's crazy/scary.

It also annoys me that I'm usually so flabbergasted by this last line that I always, always forget to ask what they actually agree with.

So yeah, I'm avoiding the online world for the most part. I'm listening to podcasts instead, and watching a lot of late night TV, because at least there, I'm shown some way to laugh at all the craziness.

Gah.




Thursday, January 05, 2017

The year in recap: 2016

If the theme for 2015 was primarily the brother’s wedding, 2016 was simply about travel. And a whole lot of investment in the US elections. That’s really it.
The professional life was good, but the question of what’s next is beginning to rear its ugly head. The personal life was pretty even-keeled. Time was spent with family, some time was spent with friends back home. Some friends who I hadn’t met in absolutely ages were caught up with. Friends here became parents, which changes the tone of your social life quite dramatically. Two friends informed me within a month of each other that they were getting divorces. Did I say even-keeled?
Oh, well.

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
Went on a vacation that was longer than a weekend, and wasn’t with or to family. And only when I was packing for this trip did it occur to me that in three decades, I had never actually done this.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Some, yes. Some, partially. Some, no.
I haven’t actually put into words any intentions for 2017, but I probably should at some point.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Hah. Yes. We went 3 for 3 on this one. My social circle these days consists almost entirely of new mothers.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No.

5. What places did you visit?
Ooh. My favourite question every year.
SF (twice), LA, Las Vegas, Boston (thrice), Missisipi, San Antonio (twice, thrice if you count 20 miutes of transit time at the airport), Asheville, Portland (OR), Alabama, WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER (Orlando), Austin.
Colombia, Japan, England.
Delhi and Kolkata.
This was a fantastic year, travel-wise.

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
Career progression.

7. What date from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
July 30 – visiting WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER.
But the most depressing day of the year? November 8.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Meh. The amount of travel I managed to pack in?

9. What was your biggest failure?
I gained back all the weight I had lost in 2015. Seriously. Someone throw a rock at me.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I had a really bad attack of the viral in July, and knicked myself on old rusted metal in October (which also meant I had to get a tetanus booster). Otherwise, no.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Bought some furniture this year that I had been thinking about for a while… that, I guess?

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Meh.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and/or depressed?
Umm, did you track any of the US election cycle?

14. Where did most of your money go?
Travel. Apartment stuff – only half of which was needed, really.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I had goosebumps the day Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination.

16. What song will always remind you of 2016?
Uh… Fight song?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?
A bit of both, I think. It’s been a pretty even-keeled year.

18. Thinner or fatter?
Fatter. See #9.

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

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

21. How will you be spending Christmas?
I had a very nice introverted weekend of not doing anything, and catching up on Shonda Rhimes’ shows, thank you very much.

22. Did you fall in love in 2016?
Does Seth Meyers count?

23. How many one-night stands?
My mother reads this blog, people.

24. What was your favourite TV programme?
The Good Place and This is Us. I keep watching Designated Survivor because of the twists, but it’s trying too hard.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Surprisingly, no.

26. What was the best book you read?
Considering I read just 7 books that I could actually admit to on Goodreads, I really don’t feel qualified to answer that question.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Nothing, really. I did however remember how much I love Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy because the Mirzya soundtrack has been played on loop for the last couple of months.

28. What did you want and get?
Both the Japan trip and the Orlando trip were something I’d been wanting to do for ages, and they finally happened.

29. What did you want and not get?
See #6.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
Kapoor & Sons. Jungle Book.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
31. my parents were visiting, and we flew to Boston to spend the weekend with the brother. ‘twas nice :)

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A different result on November 8.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
Comfort.

34. What kept you sane?
I’m not sure I stayed sane this year, to be honest…

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
See #22

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
See #13

37. Who did you miss?
The gal pals, this year.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
I honestly can’t think of a single person I met in 2016 who could qualify for this.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
I’m me. I’m an introvert who finds it incredibly hard to be with people, and that’s an issue for some people. But that’s who I am.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Ik nadi thi, dono kinaare thaam ke behti thi, ik nadi thi…



Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Not just me, 'kay?

The day after I posted my little story about business ventures I used to think would be an excellent idea, I woke up to an email from S saying "Ermm I love you but you know you're weird no?" So obviously I need to share more things that continue to validate this sentiment.

One of the more embarrassing things I don't like to admit to people is that in the five years I've lived in Amreeka, I can't always tell, at first glance, if a person is South Asian or Hispanic. I'll see someone, think they're one of the two, and then when they start speaking realise they're the other.

THEY LOOK SIMILAR, 'KAY?

I was once at a restaurant, with a friend who also happens to be from Delhi. There was a family at a nearby table, and when they left, I asked my friend where he thought they were from. He couldn't tell either. So it's not just me.

AnyWAY. So last week, I was on a flight for a quick overnight work trip. I had the window seat, and an elderly Indian couple came and took the seats next to me. I knew they were Indian, because, well, they were speaking to each other in Hindi. I didn't converse with them through the first three-fourths of the flight - the lady next to me slept through most of it, and the only interaction I had with her husband who in the aisle seat was showing him wordlessly how to open the tray table when I noticed he was struggling with it.

Then, as we began to approach the descent to New York, the lady - who had woken up by this point - said something, and I thought she was talking to me, so I took off my earphones and turned to her. Turns out she wasn't actually talking to me but just commenting on how pretty the view of NYC from the window was, but in all of this confusion, she decided to start chatting with me.

And there went the rest of my flight.
Where are you from?
Dallas.
But originally?
Delhi.
Wait, you are Indian?!?
Haanji.
Arre, we thought you are Spanish! We would have chatted with you throughout the flight if we had known!
Erm, okay then.

So anyway, it's not just me, 'kay?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Where we share a few anecdotes about this whole demonetization thing

I was rushing to an offsite meeting, when a news alert popped up on my phone, saying Modiji was about to give a live news conference. I texted the family, in case they wanted to watch. I walked into the meeting room, put my stuff down, and since we were still waiting for one or two people, figured I'll go get myself a cup of tea. As I was walking out of the room, another news alert popped up on my phone, making me gasp out loud, and making everyone in the room to turn and stare at me questioningly. Turned out, Modiji had just announced all 500 and 1000 rupee notes were illegal tender, effective in three hours.

The parents were staying with me in Amreeka at the time. They landed back in Delhi a week after the sky fell on all our heads, and decided they should try and exchange some money at the airport, because who knew what the situation outside would be. When I called them, some 4-5 hours later, thinking they'd be home by then, they were still waiting in queues, because of the four currency exchange counters at Delhi's International Arrivals area, one was open. But what infuriated the father the most? This counter, that was operated by a public sector bank, was giving an exchange rate 10% worse than what the exchange rate actually was.

I landed in Delhi a few days later. Now, I have been a huge fan of credit cards since I started my first job, and realised that using a credit card meant I could a, earn some interest by leaving money in my bank account till it was time to pay my card bill (because Indian banks actually give you some interest), and b, I could earn reward points for all card purchases. So for me, using my credit card wherever I possibly could was a no-brainer for the one week I spent in India. And my parents are also in the incredibly privileged position of being able to decide whether they want to go to Mother Dairy and pay cash, or to the grocery store in the market and pay a little more for milk and vegetables, but be able to pay by card. But that doesn't work everywhere. You still need cash to deal with the autowallas, or the electrician repairing your iron, or the sweets shop you've been having pani puri at for decades.

And there was, quite simply, no cash.

Our neighbourhood market has branches of three different banks, and ATMs of at least another half dozen. On any given day, only one bank would have cash available in their branch and/or ATM. And you knew which one had by cash by seeing the mile long queue that would be outside. We went everyday to check, and only one day did the father manage to withdraw some cash - and only because on that particular day, the bank that had cash had opened a separate senior citizens' line, and he now qualifies for those.

If a bank didn't have cash, they also had no clue when they would have cash. They didn't know when they would receive any.

My parents and I were fortunate enough to be able to choose to use other forms of payment to a large extent. My grandmother? Not so much. She lives alone in Kolkata, and I was able to go see her for a day this time. She hasn't used a bank account in decades, and is almost entirely dependent on the cash her children give her. And so her entire savings suddenly turned worthless, till one of her children could come and swap it out for her. The woman who takes care of her is in an even worse position - she has no bank account, no ID proof to open a bank account, and therefore she has no clue what to do now.

Look, I think it's fairly obvious to anyone who knows me at all, or y'know, reads any of my rants, that I am not, have never been, and never will be a fan of Modiji or the party he belongs to. I was devastated in 2014 when he became PM, but there was also a part of me that wanted to be proven wrong about him, that he would be good for India. Simply because being right wouldn't help anyone, would it now?

When this demonetization thingummy was first announced, I thought it might be a good thing. Black money and corruption is a serious issue in India, and if this was the best way to tackle things, I was all for it. But in the weeks since, talking to people, reading various viewpoints, and quite simply, seeing how this has been implemented is leaving me completely disinclined to believe this will do any long-term good.

I can understand trying to keep this policy shift a secret till you're ready to go, so the people you're after could genuinely be taken unaware. And I'm not going to get into whether certain business houses were kept in the loop in the weeks leading up to this, because meh. But how do you not realise just how cash you would need to replace for the the average person trying to lead their lives? And plan for it accordingly? And when you realise you haven't planned things out correctly, is it really that hard to come out and admit you messed up? Instead, we have a PM who refuses to come to Parliament to listen to the Opposition, a Finance Minister who keeps repeating this is how we'll go after black money, and an RBI governor who basically came out and said something to the effect that only dishonest people were facing trouble in this new world. Yes, because every single person in Gurgaon who had no cash because the damn banks have no cash is dishonest. Thanks, you guys.

What's been equally exasperating is the way things keep shifting on you. First they said they'd accept old notes at government run hospitals and petrol pumps till December 15, then they said this only applied to the 500-rupee notes, not the 1000-rupee notes. Then on December 1, they announced this would be only till December 2, not the 15th.

What a complete shit show.

I am told things are marginally better in the week since I came back from India, but not completely. I honestly don't know how long this shortage of cash is going to continue; I do think anyone who thinks it's a matter of weeks, rather than months, is being overly optimistic.

But I would be happy to be wrong about this.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

On audio cassettes and lipsticks

I'm going to say something that I've never admitted to anyone, and I need you to not laugh at this. Seriously.

So when I was a kid, I used to listen to most of my music through audio cassettes, like most Indian kids did in the 90s did. Only, I'd keep dropping them - much like I do with my phone these days - and breaking the cassette covers. SO I used to think that it would be an excellent idea to grow up and start a company that made spare covers for audio cassettes.*

I said don't laugh.

AnyWAY. Can someone do something like this for lipsticks? Various brands, but Revlon in particular? My lipstick covers keep breaking (I can't figure out how), and then I can't carry them in my jeans pockets.

Okthxbye.

*I also considered jute bags at one point. No idea why. Probably the more lasting idea though.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Sadness

I would like to focus my energies today to talk about the one thing that has made utterly sad in the past few week or so - my makeup.

I have had a very serious and weird outbreak of acne in the past few weeks. Not the one or two pimples I get on a regular basis, but enough to practically cover my face. To the point where even my usually fairly unobservant brother made a comment about it when he saw me a few days ago. So I had to figure out what on earth was going on, and eventually realized it was because I changed the foundation I use recently.

One of my favourite brands of makeup - and one of only two or three brands I am willing to spend more than what drugstore brands would cost me - is Bobbi Brown. I was introduced to their products five years ago by my friend S, and use multiple products by them now (by which I mean two - eyeliner and hydrating cream -  because I use exactly three products every morning).

So, anyway, last year I was introduced to Maybelline's foundation stick, which was excellent because liquid foundation is not a friend to me or my clothes. And then a few months ago, I discovered Bobbi Brown has also introduced a line of foundation sticks. This was exciting, but also draining on the wallet, so I waited a while before I actually picked it up and started using it. And, as it now strikes me, promptly started getting a whole lot of pimples.

I switched back to Maybelline this weekend, and my face is already clearing up, so seemingly that was the issue. But this makes me sad, because now I have Bobbi Brown foundation sticks that I have paid good money for and can't use. And friends who have my skin tone live too far away for me to distribute.

So, yeah, this is what is making me sad currently. Nothing else. Definitely not any other events in the past 48 hours. Nope.




Thursday, October 06, 2016

Work conversations

"Finance is just raping me these days."

"Don't use that word like that."

"But that's literally how bad it is."

"No, I object to that word being used in that context."

"Huh. Okay."



Thursday, September 22, 2016

On feeding and being fed by friends

On the rare occasions I invite friends over for a meal at home, I tend to make sure it's planned in a way that I'll have time to cook before they arrive. If not, then I just order takeout, and I'm very clear that I'm ordering in. And I'm guessing I do this because growing up, having people over for a meal meant my mother would spend pretty much all day in the kitchen, cooking close to a dozen dishes - that's just how things were done, now matter how much we rolled our eyes and said we don't need so many dishes. But everything was always ready, just to be heated before serving, prior to people beginning to arrive. At the most it would be the luchis or the rotis that would need to be made, and if anything had to be baked or something.

I don't offer as many options when I host - because let's face it, my cooking capabilities are fairly limited, and why put both myself and my friends through so much unnecessary trauma? But still, I do try and have things ready before friends arrive.

Which is why I feel pretty puzzled when I'm invited to someone's place for dinner, and I arrive to find that they have every intention of cooking while I'm there. And this is usually fine if what we're doing is barbecue or something, where I guess the cookout is supposed to be part of the experience or whatever (although I will never understand people in this country who on the one hand complain about the heat, and then decide hot days are best spent outside by the pool - never in the pool, but just lying by the pool). But I feel completely lost when this is done by desi people, for Indian food, which, let's face it, typically takes quite a bit of time to prepare.

I think this is also partially because a lot of Indians tend to eat late, which again was not something that happened at home growing up - we usually ate by 7 or 8 pm latest. So if I have folks coming over at, say, 7 if it's a weeknight, I'll assume that they'll show up by 8 because Indians are annoying that way. So I'll have appetizers ready when they show up, and move to dinner by let's say 9.

Compare that with a friend I visited the other day. We got to her place at 6, on a Saturday evening. I hadn't eaten all day, because I had woken up really late, and then run around trying to get errands done before getting to her place. So when her husband heard that he brought out the samosas and namkeen pretty quickly, by 6.30ish (mainly because he knew I wouldn't drink till I had eaten something). Then around 8, he made some pizzas and served those. Which was great, and I felt pretty full, so I made them bring out the sweets I had brought from one of my recent trips. But then around 9.30 or 10, he suddenly started making pasta for us, which was apparently the main course of the evening.

And this has happened every time I've visited them, or other friends too. There's be snacks, followed by a mini-meal which feels to me like a main meal, and then suddenly there's a second main meal. And the second meal is usually made while we're there.

Which maybe is a nice and informal way to do it, but still always feels a little bizarre to me.

So am I the only person completely bewildered by all of this? I was talking to S, who feels the same way as me, and we were trying to figure out if we're just anomalies in this respect. Is this a generational thing, and we just happen to do things the same way as our mothers did, a Bengali thing (she's as probashi as I am, except maybe a little better at being bangali than I am), or just something else entirely?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

2 AM ramblings

I am having one of my periodic nights of insomnia, so bear with my ramblings, 'kay?

When I was in school (like, school school, not college school, or grad school school), exam time meant my shoulder would hurt. Without fail. And this continued through college and grad school. Pain in my shoulder then started popping up anytime I had an admissions or job interview. And once I started working, whenever the job got particularly stressful. Often times, the pain would start before I even consciously realised I was stressed.

Over the years, this pain has faithfully waited in the shadows, turning up whenever I've been stressed about something, usually job-related, and very often before I even realise I'm stressing. There will be things going on, and I will think I'm dealing with them just fine, and suddenly I'll feel a sharp stabbing pain in either my shoulder or my elbow that'll make me think, huh, maybe I'm not dealing with it so well after all.

There is a part of me that sometimes wonders if my first job has set me up for disappointment in anything I do for the rest of my life.

There were a lot of problems with my first job - learning to work with somewhat eccentric people, extremely annoying coworkers who, well, annoyed me, no career growth prospects (because where do you go in a 15 person company?). But I loved what I did. I was passionate about it. And I was bloody good at it. And my bosses put more value in the "depth" a person had, more than anything else. And they were incredibly, incredibly supportive of my plans for myself.

They pushed me to start planning to go for my MBA, rather than just dreaming about it. They gave me the time off I needed, the support and experience I needed, and resources I needed. They prodded at me till I got to the next phase of my life, irrespective of what that meant for the firm.

And I think that's what spoiled me. In future phases of my life, I've seen less and less emphasis on depth, and more on showmanship. I see less of helping each other progress, and more of how does this benefit me.

And I think that's why I've been feeling sharp jabs of pain in my elbow when starting the drive to work for the past several weeks.

I once asked them what they meant by depth. And I left that conversation feeling like I didn't understand what they meant any more than I had at the beginning of that conversation. But in the years since, I think I've come to understand what they meant.

I don't think they ever watched The West Wing, but I think they'd agree with Sam Seaborn here.
AINSLEY: [turning to look at him] Does it concern you that the smartest Presidents have been the worst?
SAM: I don't grant your premise, but...
AINSLEY: John Quincy Adams was so full of himself, he could hardly build a coalition around having eggs for breakfast. How many grand theories of international relations did Wilson come up with that were dead on the arrival in Congress?
SAM: I don't care.
AINSLEY: Why?
SAM: Because before I look for anything, I look for a mind at work. Nobody's saying the President needs to have a tenured chair in semiotics, but you have to have...
AINSLEY: What?
SAM: Gravitas.
AINSLEY: [leaning forward] And how do you measure that?
SAM: You don't, but we know it when we see it, and Republicans tend to mock it when they do. You think I'm wrong?
AINSLEY: I do not.
SAM: No you don't, and the way I know you don't is I saw you say so on television. 




Saturday, September 17, 2016

Of the week that was, #2

My week in recap:

  • Found out a very dear friend is getting a divorce.
  • Went on a work trip to New York which included having to watch a baseball game, excellent kathi rolls, and a couple of completely pointless meetings. 
  • Lost a ring, which my mother had "lent" me a few years ago and I had never returned, somewhere in New York. I still don't know how it went missing, because unlike other jewelry I own and lose from time to time, I never take this ring off unless I'm at home. And it wasn't loose for me, so I don't see how it could have just slipped off my finger. The hotel tells me they haven't found it, and I haven't seen in it the bags I took, so there we are.
  • Got back to the office on Thursday to deal with a crapfest that had been threatening to hit us for weeks and finally did. I spent the last two days dealing with nothing but said crapfest, and anticipate continuing to do so for the next several days, if not weeks.
  • And then Friday ended with an email coming in that has given me a sliver of hope for something I had completely given up hope for, but I suspect I shouldn't really raise my hopes anyway because I think this is being done just for the sake of appearances.
On that vague note, I should now go and try to see if I can figure out why my washing machine is leaking every time I run it. Because putting it off for weeks means I really have no clean clothes left.