Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sorry, not sorry.

I don't, in general, get too influenced by articles I read or videos I watch. Well, that's not true. I do, but not when the article or video is clearly intent on influencing you. "36 things successful people do" and "6 animals you must hug to be a happy person" won't do much for me. Sneaky and subtle works better on me.

In the last month or two, however, there have been two pieces that made an impact on me.

One was this article I read on how a password changed the author's life. Apparently, every time he changed his password, he chose a tiny (or no so tiny) goal, and keying in that password every day helped him internalize those goals and his life went from meh to whoa. Which, if you think about it, is a pretty simply yet profound way to achieve your goals. The biggest obstacle for me achieving my goals is that I really don't internalize them. I think, dude I should do that, and then forget all about it.

So I decided to try this trick. I have to change my password every few months at work, and as it happened, I had to change it soon after I read this article. So I chose a password that would remind me of something I wanted to do everyday.

In the six weeks since I've had this password, I haven't done this activity once. Not. once.

Here's the thing. It's my password at work. I never use it once I get home, and that's where I should be doing this activity. I could change all my personal passwords to something similar, but... meh.

So no, this hasn't worked so well for me.

The other piece that had an impact on me was this video Pantene came out with a while back on how women tend to say sorry for everything. I saw it, and shrugged, and went about my day. And then an hour later, I was sending someone an email asking them to clarify what they meant, and started it with "I'm sorry, but...". And I caught myself, and deleted that part of the email, and went about my day. A while later, I was emailing someone with a request for more data, and I started it with "I'm sorry, but..." And I had to again make myself delete that line from the email.

And I've caught myself doing it over and over again, the last time being an email I sent just 15 minutes back. I'm not sure why i do it. I don't know if it's my gender, my cultural context, my personality, or what. Saying women do this seems too easy an explanation, but maybe it's true. But I had never realized I do it so often till I saw this video. And I'm trying to stop.

So unlike a blog post I wrote a month or so back, I'm not ending this one with "sorry, you guys".

Because why should I be?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Where we live up to this blog's name

A.k.a., thoughts that meander, a.k.a., thoughts I've wanted to tweet, but didn't, because they were too long/awkward/I forgot.

The more places I go, the more people I meet (or, you know, observe/eavesdrop on), the more I agree with Miss Marple. Human nature really is the same everywhere.

If you're livetweeting how much fun you're having, I feel like you're doing it wrong.

David and Madras Cafe are both albums I will never pull up to listen to by themselves, but I will also never delete because I love their songs when they pop up on shuffle.

Do y'all ever look into the rearview mirror while driving and suddenly see no cars at all and wonder if an abyss opened up and swallowed all the cars that were there minutes ago?

I hope I never lose the thrill I always get when I look out of the window of an airplane. I hope I never get that jaded with air travel. I hope that when I'm 60, a six-year-old sits next to me and asks if she can have my window seat, and just as I did at 24, I look at her and say no. Because I love window seats.

There seems to be a very high correlation between someone moving to Amreeka (or anywhere phoren, really) and the number of photos they post on FB going up dramatically. Did I do that too?

Meeting people I went to high school with is weird. I don't know why I do it. (Except the two of you who read this thing. I heart you two.)

People watching is so much fun. It's a little more fun when it's South Asian people, because I (usually) have more context to what they're doing and saying, but honestly it's fun no matter who I'm watching (because see thought #1 above).

There are some parts of your life you can't share with anyone. Do y'all have those? Not even with your closest friends. Because sharing them accurately means sharing a whole load of context and history, all of which is not always yours to share. And not sharing them accurately means you just get a whole lot of eye rolls. And the one, maybe two, people you could share them accurately with have either heard it too many times, or are caught between a rock and a hard place, and in either case, can't really help.

There were more, but I forgot.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

On my obsession with earrings

A friend recently told me she's never seen me wear the same pair of earrings twice. This seemed strange to me at first, because I have certain favourites that I repeat all the time, but also entirely possible once I thought about it, because I do have a needlessly enormous collection of earrings.

My mother claims she's never seen me without earrings - when I was born, they took me away to bathe me etc., but before bringing me back, they brought a tray of earrings that my mother was expected to choose a pair from in her groggy state, pierced my less than an hour old ears, and so the first time I was ever put in my mother's arms, I was wearing earrings.

Earrings were a source of great trauma during my childhood, because I had an allergy where if I wore certain kind of metals, my ears would get ghaav - and I have no idea how to say that in English - and start bleeding, etc. A lot of Betnovate and Soframycin has been applied to my ears over the years. My ears have also been pierced several times over the ears, because the ghaav would cause the holes to close and we would have to get them repierced. This is probably why when, during the high school and college years, all my friends were getting their second and third piercings, I was shaking my head and saying "never again".

My fascination for earrings began just before high school ended, though. My mother and I were going through her saris and jewelry to decide what I would wear to my school farewell, when she suddenly pulled out a box full of old dangling earrings (including Exhibit A - to the right here) that I had never seen before, and asked if I'd like to wear any of them.

Umm, yes? Hell yes.

I learned that this was her collection from her college days - bought from a certain shop in New Market Kolkata with whatever money she had left over from the tuitions she used to give. But finding those earrings meant I started my college years with a gorgeous collection, one that would only grow over the years. Dilli Haat, Silofer in GK-I, sundry trips to Jaipur, gifts from friends once my penchant was noticed - all these became sources of earrings.

My collection's rather eclectic too - I have the danglers with stones, in almost every colour so I can be matching-matching with whatever clothes I wear, the silver balis that go with everything else, and the smaller, supposedly more professional ones that I wear maybe once a month. I have short danglers, long danglers, medium danglers. The medium ones, in case you were wondering, are the most fun to wear because of the way they, well, dangle when you're shaking your head to music - and certain songs make this more fun than others (Beera from Raavan, for example).

Five years after my fascination for earrings started, Mamma and I went to Kolkata to celebrate my being done with grad school. On that trip, finally, she was able to locate the shop she used to buy her earrings from all those years ago. I walked out of that first visit to that shop flat broke - all my savings from the tuitions I gave during college were gone. And ever since, I've never gone to Kolkata without a visit to New Market and at least two new pairs of earrings.

Then, last year, when I was in London, my aunt, who used to be my mother's chief shopping partner, saw the earrings I wear and decided to give me her entire collection. She doesn't wear them anymore and was trying to downsize her house, my cousin has no interest in them, and they were too damn gorgeous for me to even pretend to be polite and say no. So my collection exploded again. And since I've found certain stores in Amreeka where the earrings are usually both gorgeous and somewhat affordable and extremely hard to resist, it only keeps growing.

Over the years, my earrings collection was distributed between chocolate boxes and pouches, categorized by colour, size, type, and how much I liked them (or didn't). When I left for Amreeka, the one packing exercise I took most seriously was deciding which earrings to bring with me and which to leave behind (I think I left 4-5 pairs, none of which I'd ever actually worn), and how to organize them.

Then, earlier this year, I finally caved and bought a earring organizing thingummy (Exhibit B - to the left here), only to realize when it arrived that it would accommodate only about half my collection. A second one was subsequently bought and put to use,and so now not only is my entire collection sorted beautifully, but I also have space for more.

Except that my friend's comments were followed by my new boss telling me this morning how I wear such different and lovely earrings. Which makes me think maybe I should cut down the buying any more part.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Of women, outrage, and the news

There is nothing wrong with creating ads that show empowered women. The problem is the people making these ads aren't capable of thinking an issue all the way through, and therefore you end up with a hash that shows how far women have come professionally, and at the same time manage to do an excellent job of showing how far they still have to go personally.

If I had any faith in Airtel's (a brand whose ads I have often loved in the past, incidentally) ability to be ironical and/or sarcastic, I'd actually be impressed with the ad in question.

There is nothing wrong with outrage. Outrage is good, and often deserved. Ads like the one in question do deserve to be called out, because unless you do, the fact that women still have a long way to go won't drummed into the heads of people who, quite simply, don't get it. The problem is when you have people on a website having the freedom to outrage about anything and everything, the value of their outrage gets diluted. And becomes something to mock rather than take seriously.

There is, in my view, something wrong with the world when "news" sites seem to think it is mandatory to write articles based on what's trending on Twitter. Having said that, if you are going to do it, do it properly. If you're going to write an article about how Twitter outraged about an ad, and collate tweets about said outrage, let those tweets be actual outrage. Don't just pull together the "top tweets" on the topic, which is usually just the comic writers on twitter being funny and therefore getting the most retweets.

There's a difference between "top tweets" and actual outrage, Scroll.

For those still wondering (and/or living under a rock), this is the article in question. And this is the ad in question.

I seem to be on a blogging roll this month. Sorry, you guys.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The deal with my life

Every night, before going to bed, I look around my apartment, and think: I need to get my act together. Well, truth be told, I phrase it in a slightly more colourful manner, but my mother reads this blog.
Every morning, before leaving for work, I glance around again, and think: wow, I really need to get my act together.
Every evening, I get back home, go for a swim (okay, this may not happen *every* evening), come back, take a shower, and then watch TV for the next few hours.
Rinse. Repeat.

I turn 30 in some months, y'know? And much like a few years ago, when I was hitting another milestone-y age, I'm getting into panic mode. 30 just seems so... old.

When I bring up my anxiety around turning 30, people rush to assure me now it's not that bad, how I'm not that old, how plenty of people meet their life partners well into their 30s, how I can have kids all the way upto 40.


Who cares about all that? Getting married and having kids have nothing to do with my panic around the big 3-O. My bigger concern is why I don't have my act together. Shouldn't I be more... capable at taking care of myself by now? Shouldn't my apartment look less hurricane-struck, and the food I cook taste less bland? I'm never going to have one of those straight-out-of-a-coffee-book homes, but shouldn't I at least not have piles of documents and envelopes and bills on every uncovered surface in the place?

So what is the deal with my life? Because, really, I need to get my act together.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Where I try not to judge you, but do anyway

I have a feeling this post is going to come out as utterly obnoxious and condescending and judgmental and all sorts of things, and I'm going try to articulate my thoughts in a way that isn't, but you have been warned anyway. And now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, let's try to articulate those thoughts.

I'm not - I'd like to believe - one of those people who put up posts or photos of everything that's happening to me on Facebook; that's what Twitter and Instagram are for, for me. My posts, more often than not, are about things that irritate me, or articles I find and read and think are interesting, or, as someone pointed out recently, when it rains. What can I say, I love baarish.

It's not that I don't post photos either on Facebook - I posted photos from a friend's wedding less than a month ago. And I do take a lot of photos with the intention of posting them, especially when I travel, but the whole process of uploading them into an album is so tedious that I usually end up not doing it.

But. I got a haircut yesterday. And I posted "before" and "after" photos on Facebook. And in the twelve-ish hours between posting them and starting to write this post, they've become one of my most "liked" posts on FB. Possibly only after my graduation photo from last year, and I think it has now beaten the post about my parents' 30th anniversary.

And it makes me wonder, is this what people want to see? What I look like before and after I chop off ten inches of hair to send to Locks of Love? So all the articles about women and politics and puppies that I post, which get a couple of "likes" (if any) - people just roll their eyes and scroll past them? Even the puppies?

Don't get me wrong, I'm as compulsive a liker as anyone. I like posts - all the time. But I feel (hope) I do balance out the cute baby photos and the articles, because hello, they mean something.

And it's not like I need validation or a gazillion likes to continue posting. I see it on others' posts too - the obnoxious ones whining about the whims of vegan friends, or the ones humble-bragging about how blessed they are to have a free weekend after working SO hard all week that their client gushed with praise will get a lot more response than some of the really brilliant articles that get shared by others.

And at the risk of sounding utterly judgmental, as you were warned, it makes me feel like Louis CK has a point when he calls us the crappiest generation ever.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Parental conversations

Conversations with and about my parents over the past few months.

The mother: Why are you coming now if I can visit you in a few months?
Me: Umm, you do realize you're not the only reason I like to come to India?
*offended silence*
Me: There are other people and places in my life, you know...
The mother: I got it after the first line, you know.


Me: So I renewed my lease for a year.
The mother: But... what if you finally meet someone?
The father: One of them can always sublease or something.


Me: It's really sad how awful my Hindi and Bengali is. Even the brother speaks better Hindi than me now.
The father: All of that may be true, but you have the best understanding of lyrics to Bollywood songs out of anyone in this family.

I felt so proud and validated.


The brother: What are you getting Baba for his birthday?
Me: He sent me his usual email of what he wants.
The brother: I didn't get this. What was on it? Was it for everyone?
Me: No, I get one every time I visit home. Things to work on - my health, my temperament, my ambition, the way I talk to people...
The brother: Oh. Are you doing any of that yet?


The father: You've been silent these past few days.
Me: Umm no, I Skyped with your wife almost every night.
The father: Oh. I wasn't informed.
[less than an hour later]
The mother: You can call your father, but not reply to my whatsapp message?

Competition nahi hain, bhai.


The father: So my eye surgery's on the 14th...
Me: Oh good, you finally got around to scheduling it.
The father: Yeah... but I need to talk to the doctor if it makes sense.
Me: If what makes sense?
The father: If I should have eye surgery after I've been up all night watching the World Cup final.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


An overheard conversation.

A conversation that made you smile. A conversation that made you furious. A conversation that made you wonder.

Something you saw on the drive to work. A movie you saw. An article you read.

A tweet. A Facebook post. A song on the radio.

Memories. Hopes. Questions you want to ask. Questions you want to answer.

Things you want to say. Things you have to say.

What makes you think? What makes you write?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Somewhere along the way

I'm "working from home" today, because my car needed to go to the shop, and the shop I like to take it to opens on the weekends only if the owner feels like it. I respect that level of whimsy in a business owner, even if it makes things a little inconvenient for me.

In reality, I'm sitting in a coffee shop which has free wifi and will refill my mug with hot water for free if I'm willing to reuse the tea bag they gave me - in fact he suggested I do that when I went to buy another cup of tea. I'm being surprisingly productive too - I'm usually utterly unproductive when I work from home, but I've churned out a pretty decent amount of work in the last couple of hours.

The coffee shop's keeping fairly busy. There are the college students sitting and reading, working, looking up Google Maps et al., the business meetings between serious and worried looking folks, and a couple of people who look like they're replying to very important emails. And amidst all of us, there's a table at the other end of the shop with three women and a baby. The baby's been passed from woman to woman since I've been here, and so I'm not entirely sure who the mother is - nuggets of conversations overheard seem to suggest one of them definitely is. Their conversation has flowed almost incessantly, and ranged from excited squeals to sympathetic murmurs, from advice based on recent holiday experiences to complaints about a boss and a tricky job situation. I'm not sure how old the three of them are - I would have assumed older than me, at one point, but I'm beginning to realize I'm growing older, so maybe not.

And it's making me miss my girls more than usual. My gal pals, as I call them, and which they objected to when they found this out some months back - they claimed they're more the "saheli" type. Which in all fairness, is probably true.

I've known them for more than a decade at this point, my girls. We went to college together, and spent three years giggling and snacking and pretending to study together. And there was drama - of course there was drama. And most of that drama was put aside, eventually. Because not getting over it wasn't worth what we would lose if we didn't. Some were closer to me then, some are closer now. Some didn't seem that close but were the ones who reached out when I needed someone to reach out. There were others who were part of us too, but disappeared along the way, for reasons that were delved into way more often that we should have. I had different equations with each of them, and each of those equations have changed over the years. But the four of them will always top any list I make of loved ones.

I hardly speak to them anymore, my girls. The occasional whatsapp message, sure. But I never talk to them. I've never been good at just picking up the phone and calling up someone because I felt like it; I suppose it goes back to the kind of person I am. And somewhere along the way, they stopped calling too. I used to send them articles I came across and found interesting; I never got too many responses, so somewhere along the way, I stopped.

We used to have the most hilarious email chains going on once upon a time; I spent hours trying to muffle my laughter at work once upon a time. The replies used to be fast and furious, till you didn't know who was replying to what. One girl would never respond for days, then appear with a one-liner once in a while, and vanish again. Those stopped too, somewhere along the way.

Three of them are in the same city, all four of them in the same continent. Some of them were on a different continent for a while when I was still home, and came back around the time I was getting ready to leave. Three of them got married in the past, what, 18 months? I missed all three weddings, and it broke my heart not to be there to see these girls, these girls I've loved for so long now, marry the men they've chosen to love. It made me question those life choices all over again, every single time.

Just before I left home, three years ago, I came across this article and sent it to them. And every time I miss them more than usual, I pull it up and read it again. Today's one of those days.

Because I hardly talk to them anymore, my girls. It shouldn't be so hard, you know. In this day and age, between gtalk and whatsapp and Skype and Google Voice and whatnot, it shouldn't be this hard. Even when I'm in town, meeting them seems harder than it should be. Everyone's busy, everyone has lives, everyone has things to do, whether it's getting on with life, planning for a wedding, or trying to cram every possible thing on the list into two weeks of vacation. But it sometimes feels like it's harder than it should be.

But there are priorities, and there are egos, I suppose, and there are histories, some of which are easier to get past than others. I suppose. So I hardly talk to my girls anymore. And I miss them. And I never tell them that I miss them.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Thoughts I had while watching Maleficent

This is by no means meant to become a thing I do every time I watch a movie, but the thoughts are there, and begging to come out, so what else am I supposed to do I ask?

Again, this may or may not be spoiler-y, so tread with caution if you intend to watch the movie and haven't yet.

  • Can we just begin by stating outright how utterly distracting Angelina Jolie's cheekbones were? I've read about them, and seen the trailers, but I didn't realize just how prominent they had been made till the movie started in 3D.
  • Can we also talk about how ridiculous, horrible and incomprehensible the characters of the three fairies were? They switched sides (purportedly with the idea of keeping peace) and showed up at the christening even though they presumably knew the history between Stefan and Maleficent. They tried to stop Maleficent from coming near the baby - which, okay, was understandable in the grand scheme of things, but was just so contradictory to the way we saw them interact with young Maleficent in the beginning of the movie. They were terrible caretakers of Aurora - and not just in terms of being incompetent without magic, but just plain and simple uncaring. And how do they not catch on to the fact the very person you're trying to keep Aurora away from is hanging around in the woods near you, if not IN your cottage, almost constantly? Not to mention having absolutely no idea of where Aurora would be for what I assume were hours on end. And finally pushing a random dude you've never before seen in your life onto a sleeping girl because he said he's a prince. Excellent job, ladies, you're exactly who I'm leaving my kids with.
  • And then there are the men in the movie. One pleasant Prince Philip, who in his 2.5 scenes showed he had more brains than those three fairies ("but we've only really met once!"). One delightful sometimes-raven-sometimes-man-sometimes-whatever-creature-Maleficent-chooses whose name I couldn't quite get (Diablo? Diaval?) who also seemed to be playing the part of Maleficent's conscience in some ways. And two moronic chauvinistic kings. One who needed the magic world destroyed because that was supposed to be his "legacy" and also needed one of his knights to go do what he couldn't so he could appoint said knight as his successor and son-in-law (because y'know, he only had a daughter and God forbid she succeeds him). And one ambitious twit who broke a heart (and more) to become king, treated his wife like dirt, met his daughter after 16 years and far from even hugging her, promptly ordered for her to be locked up (and no, it wasn't out of concern as far as I could tell), and generally was batshit crazy. But then I suppose the movie needed him to be a twit for the story to exist.
  • All this aside, I actually did like the movie. The middle section, in particular, where the "fairy godmother" is playing pranks on the three twits was utterly enjoyable. 
  • Elle Fanning was fine and all, but the baby they got to play her was totes adorbs. Also, I was reading somewhere that the kid who plays Aurora as a toddler was the only one of Angelina Jolie's children who didn't get terrified seeing her mother in that get-up. Made me giggle all through that scene.
  • The twist towards the end was utterly predictable. Especially if you've seen Frozen or even Snow White and the Huntsman (which, by the way, has a producer in common with Maleficent, as I discovered from Wikipedia), you'll see it coming from a mile away.
  • The nods to the more classic Disney movie about the Sleeping Beauty were a lot of fun - the raven, the dragon, the birthday cake - all tiny, but fun common threads.
  • It occurred to me, as I was watching the movie, that I've never actually watched a movie with Angelina Jolie in it before this one. Unless... do Kung Fu Panda movies count? 
  • And finally, this: I've read reviews of the movie where what Stefan does to Maleficent is compared to rape. I don't know. What he did was despicable, and traumatic, and unspeakably terrible, but what he did was also him taking the easy way out because he couldn't make himself kill her. And rape is... not that. And I'm not saying anything more on this beyond I really don't know what I think of that comparison.
That is all, folks. Good night.

(Unless I think of something I forgot to mention. Oh wait, I just did. Let me go add that above.)