Saturday, December 29, 2012


I'm annoyed.

I'm annoyed with politicians, across the board, whether in power or in the Opposition, for being insensitive, incompetent, ignorant, for being worried about nothing more than their own hides. For thinking shutting down metro stations, banning protests, passing the buck are acceptable responses to the anger on the streets.

I'm annoyed with the media houses, barring one or two, for turning this into a circus, for thinking it's a good idea to chase an ambulance to the airport, for thinking they're so clever with the names they came up with for her, for being the way the media always is.

I'm annoyed with people putting up FB status updates with conspiracy theories about how she must have already died and they must have moved her to Singapore to avoid the furore. I'm annoyed with people who think these assumptions are more important than the stupidity and insensitivity we know the government has displayed.

I'm annoyed with people demanding the death penalty or chemical castration. Without first asking for a country where I can actually walk into a police station and report a molestation or rape and be taken seriously and be treated with respect.

I'm annoyed with people who are turning this into a Delhi vs. other cities debate. With people who think Delhi's not that bad. With people who think it's only a Delhi problem.

I'm annoyed that there are people who think changing school uniforms from skirts to trousers or salwar kameezes is the answer. Who think a prostitute can't be raped. Who think women shouldn't travel alone at night or wear short skirts.

I'm annoyed with people who think a city is safe if women can travel alone at night and wear short skirts.

I'm annoyed with myself. For getting upset again. For wanting to bash my head against the wall. For not getting annoyed enough. For not doing anything beyond ranting and retweeting others and adding to the noise with yet another pointless blog post. For not coming up with a better word than annoyed for this post.

I'm annoyed with myself for that second of worry I had while entering the metro station at 10.30 PM a week ago.

This is my city. This is my country. I shouldn't have had to have felt that second of worry.

I'm annoyed.

Yes, yes, we should have known that once I publicly said I was done about a topic, I would obviously get worked up about it again. Moving on.

More here:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I'm done

I don't even remember what brought it on. All I remember is suddenly feeling that that was it, I couldn't deal with this anymore.

So five months ago, amidst all the tweets of sharing and outraging, I sent out a series of tweets, which led to some interesting responses and conversations. Someone encouraged me to put them all together and I did, here.

But that was the moment for me, when I was done. I was done tweeting and blogging and sharing FB posts about how women are treated in this country. I was done outraging every time the feminist in me saw a line or a tweet or a scene that shouldn't have happened. I was done asking for safer roads, for equality, for some humanity, dammit.

But most of all, I was also done reading. I can't do it anymore. Every time I have visited NDTV's homepage in the last one year, it feels like there has been at least one headline about a girl getting raped in some part of the country. More often than not, it's been a gangrape. Almost as often, the girl's age has been posted and she's been a minor. And I'm done. It's the worst form of escapism, yes, but I can't do it anymore.

So this latest one, the one that's got Delhi all riled up? I know the basic outline of what happened, more by osmosis because everyone's talking about it. My heart goes out to the girl and her friends and family. But beyond that, I can't make myself read about it, or get all worked up about it.

I've been dutifully retweeting the more sensible posts, of course. And I could get into how all this getting riled up a, isn't going to have any effect, and b, isn't going to last. But I don't have it in me to even do that.

I've been veering between wanting to and not wanting to publish this post for two days now, but in the end, what the heck. If I never post about this again, this might as well be the last one.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Where I want to scream and yell, but blog instead

Summer 2006, family trip to Europe. This happens.

March 2009, office holiday to Spain. Got robbed twice in Barcelona.

March 2010, office holiday to Italy. This happens, colleagues speculate I was a thief in Europe in a previous lifetime, and this is karma.

May 2011, family trip to Boston, London and Edinburgh. Nothing worse than a huge goof-up over train tickets courtesy yours truly, and the fact that a very expensive set of jewelry bought specially for this trip goes missing. Unsure whether it went missing in Boston or Edinburgh, but Europe jinx seems to continue.

And now, December 2012. I'm supposed to leave for India on Monday, but my passport is stuck with the UK consulate in New York, because I'm headed to London on exchange in the spring and need a visa. There is no way of tracking progress, it's too late to cancel or switch to priority service, and it seems highly unlikely that I will receive anything back in time for my flight. The cost of changing tickets this time of the year is giving me a heart attack, and all I want to know is - just why does Europe hate me so much?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Food strike

I was informed, sometime yesterday morning, that the princess has gone off her food. By evening, things hadn't improved, so as I was driving back from a dinner, I was asked to get onto Skype as soon as possible. The connection was terrible as usual, so video didn't work out, but I was able to talk to Kyra and tell her to be a good doggy and eat. Five minutes later, biscuits had been consumed.

This morning I woke up to hear the brother had spoken to her on the phone, and she had subsequently eaten some stew and even eggs. Rolling on the floor like a madcap has also commenced I believe.

She keeps doing this, my princess. A more emotionally fragile dog would be hard to find. Whenever the brother and I leave home - which has been happening all too often over the past 6-7 years - she spends the first few nights sleeping right next to the front door. She doesn't look at us once she realises suitcases are being packed (or if she suspects a scolding is coming her way, take your pick). If the father travels, she either stops eating and/or starts throwing up at regular intervals.

After years of looking disdainfully at my room, and never entering it if she could help it (why, I have no idea), she slept there with me the first three nights of my visit home this March. But stopped entering it once the suitcase started getting filled again.

I'm not sure what brought on this latest going off the food. The brother spent a week at home recently, but left a few days ago, so it seems a bit of a delayed reaction. Given that she's turning 11 in less than a week, I'm just glad it's over.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Learning and passing

The big news of the week was - no, not Bal Thackeray's death or the inexplicable fact that he got full state honours - that on my fifth attempt, I finally passed the driving road test and graduated from a learner's permit to a full-blown driving license.

Yep, you read that right. Fifth attempt. See, here's what happened. The first two attempts were within a space of two weeks, way back in January, with the same grumpy old man. And it really wasn't my fault that when I thought I was stopping at Stop signs, he thought I was only pausing, and then these strange garbage trucks would appear out of nowhere and stop in front of me giving me no time to react and then he would freak out. Really not my fault.

The third attempt, a good nine months later (because y'know, I spent four months away from this town in the interim), I got the same grumpy old man, and I will admit, it may have been a bit of my fault because I may have pulled out of a lane a bit too soon given that there was a car coming from the other direction. So yes, okay, a little bit of my fault.

The fourth time was two weeks ago, when I finally got a break, and got a different instructor, who for some reason decided to pretty much coach me through the whole test, and then decided I don't reverse well enough. He then told me to practice reversing, and come back in one week (not one month or six months later), and I would get my license. So one week later, I showed up again, got yet another instructor this time, who didn't speak at all during the test beyond telling me where to turn. And for the first time, while walking back into the DMV office, I didn't know whether I had passed or failed. So then I sat back at the counter and falteringly asked, "so... did I get it this time?", the instructor chuckled (I swear, chuckled is the word) and said "of course you got it." HALLELUJAH.

Technically, I learned to drive in India when I was 18. I went through the usual driving lessons, any my instructors were reasonably impressed with me. But then when it came to practising, my mother got into the car with me, and screamed bloody murder as soon as I put the car into gear and went forward two inches. So then like any reasonable person, I refused to drive with  her in the car. Then the father got his driver to practise with me, and this dude, who was a moron anyway, would keep leaning over and turning the wheel himself instead of telling me what to do, and how am I supposed to learn this way I ask. By the time the father decided to take over, I was too freaked out to drive at all, and just refused to learn.

So when we discovered that the town I was going to move to business school had little to no public transport, and you  need a car to get around here, there was simultaneous amusement and consternation among friends and family. All ye of little faith, I say. So anyway I got here, bought a car, and then... pretty much let it sit there while I hitched rides with all and sundry for about three months. Then decided enough was enough, and started driving. And I have to say, it felt good to be able to get around by myself instead of having to depend on others. Who knew?

See, the thing is, despite what certain readers of this blog claim, I'm really not that bad a driver. Yes, things like parallel parking (actually, parking at all) and changing lanes on busy freeways are still a bit nerve-wracking for me, and I may or may not have a tendency to not pay full attention to everything around me. And I may be a prime example of why female drivers have such a bad rep. But if you let me get into a lane, and just stay in that lane, I'm really not such a bad driver.

So there.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


To summarize a conversation I had with a professor last week, and have been having with friends over the past couple of months, is this point: growing up is basically accepting the fact that you don't have a clue what life is about, and being okay with that.

I spent the summer hanging out with a lot of undergrad college kids thanks to my internship, all of whom were convinced they have life figured out. They knew exactly what they wanted to do or be in life, had very firm likes and dislikes, and seemed so certain about everything. Was I that sure of anything at 18? Or even 21, which is the age most of these kids were? Perhaps.

I remember doing a workshop on counseling skills a few months after I started college. On the first day, the workshop moderator made us all line on one side of the room, and told us he was going to read out certain statements and we would have to go stand on one side of the room or stay where we were, depending on whether we agreed or disagreed with those statements, or go to the center of the room if we weren't sure. The statements he read out dealt with topics like abortion, infidelity, divorce... you get the drift. With each statement, once three groups would be formed, the agreeing and disagreeing groups presented their arguments and tried to convince people from the other groups to come over to their side. I was one of the youngest participants in the workshop, so of course I knew it all. I remember being the only person who refused to budge from my taken position on at least two of those statements. On one of them, I think it was everyone else on the other side, me on my side. And I was so convinced I was right.

Today, nine years later? I know I was wrong about at least one of those statements. The other, I'm still on the same side, but less certain about. I'm a bigger believer in the power of the context, rather than having one opinion to fit all situations.

Coming back to business school a month ago, I knew I was going to go through the recruiting process again, be equally stressed about it, and have all the drama carry on. But it was different this time. There are no SYs to provide guidance, look over my resume, to listen to me vent about my panic. I'm the SY this time round, and there are all these FYs coming to me with questions, asking for advice, showing me their resume, and as one actually put it the other day, "I need to come to you and vent."

The one SY I had vented to the most last year came to campus a couple of weeks back and I asked him if he had been as clueless as I am right now when I would ask him stuff last year. He asked me what I thought. Our conclusion was that the trick is to pretend like you have all the answers.

So I have interviews starting tomorrow, a lingering cough which won't go away, and mild levels of panic. But I think I've managed to come to the point where I can fake enough confidence to make a very close friend tell me this afternoon that I look happy.

Because I don't think it ever goes away - this feeling of having no clue what you're doing, that everyone else is miles ahead and way smarter, the wondering what life holds for you next.

But I feel a lot more grown up since I had the realization that it's okay to have that cluelessness.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Chat conversations

My Gtalk status yesterday morning was whining about how the Indian Embassy won't pick up the phone. So of course, the mother had to ask.

: Why do you need the embassy?
12:37 PM The princess is asking  me: for my passport to become machine readable   can't apply for schengen visa otherwise  Mother: The princess says OK, Didi 12:38 PM She sighs too at my constant absurdities  me: :D 12:39 PM Mother: Somehow these sighs of hers makes me feel rather immature at times, don't know about you though 12:41 PM me: why would I feel immature?   I'm not the one being sighed atMother: That's a very good point, girl!

One hour later:

Mother: Was just thinking it's a REAL good point!   You think I'm mad too! 1:19 PM me: huh?  Mother: Mad along with being immature?  me: what are you talking about? 1:20 PM Mother: nah, just thinking  me: you're definitely sounding like you've gone mad

I love the mother, I do. Who else would be such a constant source for entertainment?

Happy Teacher's day, Mommy!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


A long, very long time ago, I used to say that if I'm not married by 30, I'll adopt a daughter. And people would laugh and say, "oh, you want to be like Sushmita Sen." And I would roll my eyes and say, "no, you moron, there are other women in the world who've done this, I didn't even know she was planning to when I decided this."

Well, maybe I wasn't quite as rude, but you get the gist.

Anyway. Then I grew up a little and realised this wasn't a very good plan because see, kids annoy me. They do. They annoy and terrify me. Especially babies. They terrify me, and they're like dogs because they sense my fear and therefore start crying when I come anywhere near them. Which terrifies me even more.

Although I probably get even more terrified by those strange babies who don't start crying when they see me. Who just stare at me or chuckle at me as if I'm supposed to say something very intelligent or noteworthy and I have no idea whether I'm supposed to stare back or look away, or how long I need to stare back before I can politely look away, because dammit, there are no rules for this sort of thing.

And then these babies grow into kids, who range from being cute to little monsters who think they're SO much smarter than you. My aunt, whose three kids are all at least a decade younger to me, thinks I'm very good with kids. Statements like this are designed to make me simultaneously burst out laughing and have palpitations. And more than an hour in the presence of any kids makes me supremely uncomfortable.

So anyway, while marriage doesn't seem to be anywhere on the cards in the next few years, it is fairly certain that neither is that adoption, because I'm not stupid and I wouldn't to me or that poor kid.

But. Some time ago I suddenly started following all these blogs and people on twitter who talked about their kids all the time. Very beautifully, at that. So beautifully that the occasional "what-if" thoughts started creeping into my head. And then a few months ago, I was at a professor's home for dinner, and I don't know who would do such a stupid thing, but his two-month old daughter was put in my arms. And I froze and stayed absolutely still till someone took pity on both of us and called the kid's mother to take her away from me.

See, here's the thing. The only time any maternal feelings arise in me is when I think of my princess. People whip out their phones to show off photos of their tiny tots' antics, I whip mine out to show off the gorgeous creature that Kyra is. I am somewhat known for having ticked off a lot of people who have been telling me about their kids or nieces or nephews by exclaiming, "oh, how cute, my dog does that too!" Because she does, dammit, and I don't see why people have to get so offended by the comparison.

I also may or may not have cried a teeny-weeny bit a week ago when the mother showed me on Skype to the princess, who yawned, got up and walked off.

I've also learned over time, the hard way, that you really never should say never. So maybe kids will happen someday. If for no other reason but that I have these really awesome names I want to give them even if everyone else says those names are stupid.

But for now, I'm going to read those blog posts, sigh wistfully for just a second, and then move on to the next outrage-provoking piece of news that makes me wonder why anyone would want to bring kids into this utterly stupid world.

After all, that, if nothing else, is definitely a good reason to ignore any biological clock that tries to start ticking.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Of squirrels and their stripes

The story goes that when Rama and his Vanara sena were building a bride to get to Lanka, a squirrel appeared out of nowhere and decided to help them, by taking one tiny pebble at a time and adding it to the bridge. The monkeys and bears of the Vanara sena saw this and started mocking and laughing at the squirrel, because y'know, how can that tiny thing help?

Rama, on the other hand, in his infinite wisdom and kindness and all of that, picked up the squirrel to thank it and and stroked it, which led to stripes appearing on the squirrel's back.

I had read this story years and years ago, but it came back to me last year when I came to the US and was startled to see these non-stripy squirrels all over the place. And now, every time I see a squirrel, I remember this legend.

Squirrel. It's a fun word. And a fun animal to watch.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Stressful ramblings

The phone rang on Friday evening, but stopped after one ring. I realised it was from the father, and promptly called him back, thinking something must have happened for him to call me so early. Only when he picked up did I realise it was actually past 8 PM, and therefore a fairly reasonable time for him to call me.

I don't know if it was the stress of the week, or just my subconscious catching up with me, but I ended up startling my father by bursting into tears out of relief.

Aurora, Colorado, two weeks ago. Pune, five days ago. And then Oak Creek, Wisconsin, this morning.

None of them impacted me at a personal level. Not even in a minuscule way like Delhi and Mumbai in 2008 might have. But they all make you wonder, what is wrong with people and the world?

Close to a year ago, there was a bomb blast in the Delhi High Court. This was less than two months after I had moved to the US, so even though very few people I know were likely to have been close to the site, it freaked me out no end. And then I had a conversation with the BFF, which helped put things in context. A bit.

me: how do you deal with it?
everytime something happens back home?
BFF: I remember a line from a "poem" we read in class 6 or 7
do you remember the atomic bomb shelter announcement one?
there's a line in it that goes something like 'there will be casualties... statistically it is not likely to be you'
and so I use stats, and work out how much I need to worry based on distance
so GK, CP, Sarojini, Saket etc. means worry
saket would mean xtra worry cos mum's there
MG road means worry
malls means, unlikely you need to worry but check just in case
me: I love you
I am going to save this conversation
and keep coming back to it
and someday
when I've internalized it
BFF: :)
me: I will blog it
BFF: ok :)
I am happy I helped yay :)
I wish I could remember that poem, it was eerie.
but that line was so reassuring it stayed
me: happens that way
I try to apply that these days. Pune meant some worry because the godfather's family and sundry other family and friends live there. Wisconsin and Aurora were scary at entirely different levels, but more for the mother than me. Other events, across India and elsewhere, have been worrying and frustrating because it's just so hard to get information that isn't juvenile and completely screwed up in the way it's relayed by the media. I had to email the brother a few weeks back, because I couldn't find a single report, article or blog that helped me understand what exactly was happening in Assam.

I've mentioned earlier, I think, that some years ago, after another blast in Delhi, a friend called from Mumbai to find out if I'm fine and mentioned that he had actually made groups in his phone's contact list - one for each metro city of the country. Made it easier for him to react and find out about family and friends every time a blast happened.

The way the world's been over the past few weeks, and longer, it seems to have become increasingly important to be able to do that - reach out to people.

Oh and because the BFF is awesome, if you recognize that poem, tell us, yeah?

Thursday, August 02, 2012


A long, long time ago, he used to be scared of snakes. 

One morning, the four of us went out for brunch. It was a holiday, and just an hour back, I had tied a Rakhi on his wrist, despite the mother's annual grumbling that it wasn't really a Bengali festival. We were crossing the road to the restaurant when a snake charmer approached us. My kid brother, who was already itching to take the rakhi off, grabbed my arm and whispered, "Didi, can you just protect me today from that snake? I'll take care of you after this."

He's the complete opposite of me, the brother. He's reserved, practical, and inexpressive. I'm... none of the above. But then out of the blue, there'll be an email or a gift that will make me all emoshunal, just like that.

I used to bully him when we were kids. We played our own version of the Crystal Maze, he was my unwilling student in countless sessions of Teacher-Teacher, half his birthday gifts were automatically declared to be mine, and numerous other things I would rather not tell you. Then one day, he grew up, and wisened up. And now I go to him for advice, and he acts all wisdomous and all.

He left for the US for his undergrad studies on 24th August 2007. Rakhi that year was on 28th August. I broke down that day, because I had never spent Rakhi away from my kid brother. I sent him a rakhi and a card that year. Five months later, he came home for winter break. Suddenly, in the midst of all the animated catching up, he looked at me and said, "oh, wait." He pulled out his wallet, handed me the rakhi I had sent him, and asked me to put it for him. By the time we woke up the next morning, of course, it was hanging from his cassette rack on the wall, where most of his rakhis over the years landed up.

Last year, we exchanged countries. He went back to India after graduation, and I came to the US. I spoke to him an hour back. I told him we were discussing siblings at dinner tonight, and I had told them about Rakhi, and of this incident. He responded, "oh? I did that?"

*eye roll*

He thinks my blog is quite silly, so it's unlikely he'll read this post. But I just wanted to say, again, I love you kiddo. Despite the fact that you save my number under Duddo rather than Didi on your phone.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On what counts as humour, being disappointed in strangers, and remembering my own advice

After a disastrous morning at work, I logged onto Facebook this afternoon to read this post by @daddy_san, which was the first I heard of the Daniel Tosh episode. Having duly tweeted it, I then looked at my Twitter timeline, and spent the next half hour or so in increasing levels of bafflement, disappointment, and fury.

I've said before, and I'll say it again, to me, "rape jokes" are not funny. I have never been sexually abused. I've been eve teased, and on one or two occasions, been very, very frightened about what might happen next. But no, I haven't been raped. Yet it's a topic I feel strongly about, and I'm known to get on my soapbox about it and the way it's discussed. And cracking "jokes" about it is something I have never understood.

So when I read those tweets this afternoon, I was upset - I suppose that's the best way to put it. I follow several Indian stand-up comedians on twitter, a large number of whom were going on and on about how Tosh's joke was a "stupid joke", or a "shitty comeback". But almost all of them insisted that there's nothing wrong with making "better" jokes about rape.

And then others, mainly women but some men too, started expressing their anger and disgust over what these comedians were saying. And then folks defending "rape jokes" got upset over the reactions they were getting. And the whole timeline turned into a battlefield for a while. I didn't say much beyond one or two generic tweets, which as someone said in an equally generic manner, was no more than tut-tutting, really. But I wasn't sure how to articulate what I wanted to say, so I didn't. At the time.

Now, some hours later, I don't know why I was disappointed. I don't know any of these men personally. I've followed them on twitter for some time now, and exchanged a few tweets with one or two of them. But by and large, I'm pretty sure they don't know I exist, and I don't think of them beyond the moments when I see their tweets appear on my timeline. But I think at that moment, seeing them, in one voice, defend "rape jokes", and insist that it was simply the quality of that joke that was poor, made me feel like there really is no hope for changing the mentality of how women are perceived and how rape victims are treated.

And then I went out for dinner with some colleagues, got thoroughly annoyed by one of them, sat through the evening with a migraine pounding my head, and eventually blocked out their voices and started thinking. And remembered something I had written on @tantanoo's blog more than a year ago:
I tend to get outraged if jokes are cracked over rape, or violence against women, or issues like that – because these are issues I feel fairly strongly about. It’s a completely personal sentiment.
But I don’t think my outrage has ever led to an unfollow or even debate – because there would have been other occasions, where similar jokes by the same people on a different issue may have been equally “inappropriate” but I have still giggled. Would be rather hypocritical of me to object now, simply because one is an issue close to my heart and the other isn’t.
Everyone has issues they get outraged over. Everyone has jokes which they will stretch till every bit of funny-ness in it vanishes. People need to chill, is all.
My two cents. :)

I didn't unfollow anyone today. I didn't engage in a debate with anyone either. I sat there, infuriated, and decided to go off Twitter till I calmed down. And then remembered that I need to chill a bit.

I came back to my room, logged back onto Twitter, and saw this post. I see her point about using humor to cope with a situation, and points to her for being able to do so. It's not something I think I would be capable of. 

So maybe jokes about rape are funny to some people. I still don't see it, but maybe they are. I also don't think the comedians defending the "sub-category of humour" that rape is part of were using it in the sense of being a coping mechanism, but maybe that isn't as important.

I tweeted a few days ago that either I'm not following people who perpetually outrage, or people now see outrage in everything. Every other day, I seem to see people cribbing about how other people are outraging over something that doesn't deserve the outrage. Well, today, I was part of the outrage. And I'm still not convinced that outrage wasn't deserved. But I do think we could have all done without it. I know I could have.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

A dash of self-analysis

The last few weeks have been somewhat... stressful. A variety of things has happened, most of which I can't get into the details of**, that pushed me to the point of completely shutting down and going into a funk last weekend, till finally a few conversations with two or three dear souls got me out of it.

What I realised over this period, however, is just how much my upbringing, for lack of a better word, has influenced the person I am, for better or for worse.

Both the parents, especially the father, are incredibly private people. They've never liked the world knowing what's going on in our lives. It's our problem, we deal with it. And some of that has rubbed off on me. I have never been able to call a friend and say, this is going on, I need your help or even just talk about it. It takes me ages to reach out to anyone for even the smallest bit of help. And the problem is, being this way completely conflicts with the person I am, who, well, talks a lot, quite frankly. And who needs to tell people what's going on.

So there's always this urge to tell friends back home what I'm stressed about, but at the same time there's also this hesitation because, well, I can't. Or shouldn't. Sometimes I rationalize it by telling myself they're busy anyway. Or stressed about things themselves. Or don't want to hear me keep whining about things. But all makes for a fair amount of misery. And loneliness.

And then sometimes it all gets too much and I send frantic, misery-filled emails to people. Or furiously and/or tearfully type out a huge rant on Gtalk. Or just call and pour it all out. And always feel so much better. And wonder why I didn't earlier.

The other thing the parents have always drilled into me is that you really can't ever take anything for granted. We were always fortunate, growing up, that we never really lacked for anything we wanted. If the parents had to figure out ways to give us all of that, they never let on. But they always reminded us that a lot of what we had was thanks to the father's job, and you never knew what could happen when.

So when I started working, while there was no doubt in anyone's mind (particularly my mother's) that I could be extremely extravagant and impulsive with how I used my money, I also saved a fair amount. And frequently went into panic mode if I found my bank balance going below the magic number in my head that was the minimum I should always have. There was no rationale behind this number, and no amount of arguments presented by dad along the lines of how my investments also counted could make a difference. If the cash in my bank account was not a certain amount, I would be constantly palpitating.

And that continued when I came to the US. Despite living on student loans, I have by no means been the most frugal person around. But I make sure that there's always that minimum balance in the account. If not, I hit the panic button. Which usually involves calling the father and asking what I should do.

Among the various stressors of the past few weeks was the fact that there was a problem with my paperwork for the internship. And as a result, I hadn't been paid for nearly a month, despite the contract stating that I was to be paid every two weeks. And while this was troubling, it was a minor ripple compared to the tidal wave of everything else going on, because truth be told, I have enough savings at the moment to last me a while, if necessary.

At dinner with the other interns some days ago, it came up in the conversation that I hadn't been paid. And almost everyone's first reaction was to ask me if I was fine financially, or if I needed money. And I found it interesting that almost everyone at the table was completely startled when I assured them I was fine. I seemed to be the only one there who wasn't living from paycheck to paycheck.

When I would hear this from friends and colleagues back in India, I always assumed I was at an advantage because I lived with the parents and didn't have much in the way of household and living expenses. But here, as students - most of us international students, at that - I would have assumed we're all in a similar position. And it struck me, for possibly the first time, just how glad I was that I had been brought up the way I had.

**UPDATE: Two years later, I went into the details. Here.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bein' home

In the last 26 days, I have...

  • The Mine, by Arnab Ray
  • The Hunger Games trilogy
  • The Godfather by Mario Puzo
For someone who has read practically nothing in the last two-three years, this is quite impressive.

  • All four seasons of Coupling
  • Both seasons of Sherlock
  • Both seasons of Downton Abbey, though some episodes seem to be missing from what I have procured, and also I only realised halfway through the show that it is Downton and not Downtown.
  • The season finales of Community, Castle and Once Upon a Time
  • Ishaqzaade
  • The Avengers
  • The IPL final

  • Gol gappas and samosas at the neighborhood shop
  • Genuine Indian Chinese food at a dingy street stall
  • Calamari at HRC, Delhi
  • Mughlai paratha at Kingdom of Dreams - could've been better, could've been worse.
  • Aloo ke parathas at Jhilmil Dhaba, Karnal - with dollops of Amul butter and dahi
  • Mushroom achaar and apple juice from the NAFED (now called HPMC, I think) stall at Jabli 
  • Butter Chicken at Giani da Dhaba, en route to Kasauli
  • Thukpa and momos in a dingy little shop in Lower Mall, Kasauli
  • Chai at Ross Common, Kasauli - a charming little hotel where we've stayed when I was a kid
  • Chicken rolls at Badshaah, New Market
  • Breakfast at Flury's
  • Pretty awesome vegetarian sizzlers in Patna's only mall
  • My favorite dishes at The Monk, Gurgaon
  • The mother's aloo posto, luchi-mangsho, shepherd's pie, and dosas
  • The father's salami sandwiches

  • Jabli, Kasauli, and Chandigarh. With the princess in tow, because the hotel we were staying in let us bring her along, and gave us a lovely little "studio cottage" which came with a tiny kitchen where we could make her khana too
  • Kolkata, to meet the grandmother
  • Patna, to visit the brother

I did NOT get to:

  • have Bhutta
  • visit the Inayat Khan dargah in Nizammuddin for Friday evening qawwalis, followed by a meal at Karim's
  • go to Kake da Hotel
  • have Shorshe-bata or any of mum's fish dishes
  • eat at Big Chill
  • go into Delhi as much as I would've liked, or visited CP, or Khan Market, or Dilli Haat
  • go swimming

It's been a good month. Short, though.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Conversations on the phone

The father and I just had a chat on the phone, while he was waiting to board a flight back from Bombay to come home, during which I tried to articulate a lot of what's been bothering me for a while now. We both rambled, and jumped from topic to topic, so I can't quite present the whole thing. Snippets that I can recall, in no very clear order are presented below. Oh and if you haven't seen Ishaqzaade but plan to and don't want spoilers, avoid the third snippet, which pretty much gives away the main "twist" of the movie.

Baba: What did you think of the Satyamev Jayate episode yesterday?
Me: Wasn't bad. I broke down while watching it, of course. Thrilled they're finally talking about CSA, and SO awed by how brave and incredible the survivors were to come and talk the way they did. But I wish Aamir Khan wouldn't lead the conversations so much. Let the people articulate things their own way na, instead of saying "so what you mean is this...?".
Baba: Hmmm. Some of the folks I met here saw the show. People don't seem to have liked the show much. 
Me: Yes well, from what I see on twitter these days, people like to be cynical because they seem think that's what's expected.
Baba: People seem to be worried "intelligent actors will now be determining government policy."
Me: But... he's not going into policy. He's stopping at spreading awareness. Which, yes, could be a complaint, but at least he's spreading awareness. Who said this?
Baba: Oh, the educated folks of Bombay. And fool editors who print such letters to the editor.
Me: Yes well, your reform is never going to come from the educated folks. They're too busy try to convince themselves and everyone else that everything happens in other homes and classes, not in their own.
Baba: Come on, that's not entirely true.
Me: Oh come on, not to take anything away from the tragedy, but one hit-and-run happened in Gurgaon, and people are organizing silent marches to protest because they knew the persons involved. How many such incidents happen with people the "educated people" don't know, and who organizes marches for them?
Baba: But then the question is, which one will hit? And make the point?

Baba: I hear all the "young MPs" were absent from the 60th anniversary celebrations in Parliament yesterday.
Me: I'm impressed the old folks showed up.
Baba: Who's being cynical now?
Me: But that's the thing no? Where do you see hope? Our politicians are useless, social reform is not happening, so what do you have that you shouldn't be cynical about? But I'd like to think my cynicism is not because I feel I need to be, but because I can't help it!

Baba: Mindsets need to change.
Me: But where do you start? We just came back from seeing Ishaqzaade, and yes, the crowd was horrible. You know what I hated the most? There's this scene where the lead pair has just slept together, and he's walking away from her after informing her that he only pretended to fall in love with her because he wanted "revenge" for the slap she gave him. There's a woman crying on the screen, Baba, and the men in the audience are hooting with glee. What do you do with such mentality? How do you begin to change that?
Baba: I think we should completely avoid the PVR in Sahara Mall. The price difference isn't worth it.
Me: Well, yes, but again, how does that change things?

Me: Did I tell you about the FirstPost article where the writer wondered why the women who'd been forced to have abortions continued to agree to have "conjugal relations" with their husbands?
Baba: Does this writer have any idea about what India's like?
Me: Uh huh. So there seems to have been such uproar that the editors took down the article and apologised, saying they are aware all women don't have that option.
Baba: Well, at least they have some sense.

Baba: Well, I have to switch off now. So you're going to Delhi in the evening? By metro?
Me: Yep.
Baba: *silence*
Me: Chill na, if I get late coming back, I'll take a cab.
Baba: Oh, okay.

There was more, a lot of which I can't put together coherently. Heck, I'm not sure this was coherent. I went to the mother to chat after I ended the call, and her first words, as happens rather frequently, were: You're worked up again. Now what?
I told her a bit about the conversation and she wanted to know if I was upset because there are problems, or because I don't know what to do about the problems. 
There's a good question to ask myself.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A tourist at home

I spent two weeks in Hyderabad in March, with 30-odd classmates of various nationalities. I had written, before going, that I wasn't sure how to answer their questions about India. What I hadn't anticipated was the discomfort I would feel visiting India with a group like this. Not during the project part of the trip so much, but more during the sightseeing portion.

I didn't like being a tourist in my own country. And I don't mean visiting Hyderabad, where I had never been before. I mean being part of a group of foreigners, for lack of a better word, that was visiting India, and by default, therefore, being treated like one.

I didn't like being bought a "high-value" ticket at the Taj Mahal so that I could escape the long queues to get in. I definitely didn't like being told to hold my ticket unlike everyone else, because y'know, I look Indian. I didn't like that my classmates could get away with doing head stands, but I had to keep waving my high-value ticket to prove I could go peer over the railing in the courtyard.

I didn't like how we were taken to tourist traps for shopping where 100 grams of spices or tea cost exorbitant prices. I didn't like that we were taken to a highway shop where chips and soft drinks were ten times their MRP - although I am quite proud of the fact that I found a roadside stall just outside that stupid shop, and bought stuff there.

I didn't like the whining about the crowds and the queues that began among my classmates halfway through the trip, particularly when people started getting close to exhaustion and stress on their projects. I didn't like the constant defensiveness I felt, and the way I had bite back the urge to retort.

It wasn't all bad, no. Most of the folks, especially my team, were extremely comfortable trying out new food stuffs, exploring random shops and areas, getting off the buss and walking through Agra to find a place to eat. I loved how curious they were about the tiny things, things I probably haven't given a second thought in years. I loved being able to explain things to them, introduce my country to them.

But there was a lot that made me uncomfortable. And part of me wonders if I'm overreacting. I've taken a step back, waited more than a month, to when I'm finally back home in India, to publish this post. And the feelings are still there. So maybe I'm not. I just wish I could explain it better.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


For years, I've watched Shabani Azmi give interviews, and in every single one of them, she's got on her soapbox about how she's not an actress, she's an actor. Because y'know, you don't call a female doctor a doctress, so why should acting be any different. 

Which, okay, is her point of view, and she's entitled to it. But it never really resounded with me despite all my rants on gender equality.

Then, this season of Castle brought in a new Captain for the precinct. Captain Victoria Gates. Who, in her very first episode on the show demanded to be addressed as either "Captain" or "Sir". Never Ma'am.

As as the season has progressed, with every episode that the rest of the characters on the show persist in calling her Sir rather than Captain, my discomfort with the idea has increased. 

There's so much else in the whole fight for gender equality, that to me, focusing on something as silly as nomenclature seems... pointless. More than that, I don't see why women feel the need to downplay the fact that they're women in the effort to be treated as equal. And that's what this feels like.

There's enough to fight for. Picking your battles is a great concept, but those battles should have some meaning. And ensuring that you're addressed the same way men are holds no meaning for me. Because, at the end of the day, how you're addressed has nothing to do with how you're treated. And that should be the focus. Period.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Chai and tea

This is a PSA for everyone who is confused about the difference between chai and tea, as well as for those who think they know the difference. Particularly the latter group, actually.

Because there is no difference. Chai is the Hindi word for tea. Tea is Chai. Chai is Tea. C'est tout.

The world is coming to an end when Indian hotels now look at you and ask if you want tea or chai.

Calling it chai tea is stupid and redundant. Calling tea-bag tea, tea and masala chai, chai is confusing and ridiculous.

Call it regular tea and spice tea if you want. Or regular chai and masala chai. BUT STOP MAKING IT SOUND LIKE TEA AND CHAI ARE DIFFERENT.

Okay bye.

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's not travel anxiety, It's 'Things I Hate About Travelling'

I have a friend who tends to get, shall we say, anxious when she has to travel. I'm not sure why she gets this way, but weeks before a trip is due, her tweets will be full of everything that could possibly go wrong. And a few more disasters besides.

And, to add insult to injury, she once told me how easy I make travel seem. I mean, I am the one who meets disaster every time I travel. Who hates travelling alone, because I always worry I'll either forget something or lose something (although, to be fair, most of my travel disasters have happened when I've been in a group).

But then I thought about it, and I realised that in all fairness to her, I've never really talked about my travel stress. My tweets when I'm travelling are more along the lines of people watching and annoying airline people. So here, just for her, I put forward to you, all the things that stress me out when I travel. 

The thing I hate more than anything else, truth be told, is travelling alone. Which is how most of my travels have been for the past year, and I'll tell you why exactly it sucks. Because you have to lug your luggage with you everywhere. You want to go the restroom, or get something to eat (which in the case of O'hare is half a freaking mile away), or just check the latest flight status. You have to leave that precious seat next to the only functioning plug point, pick up all your luggage (because y'know, travelling light never does happen), and take it all with you. And then worry that you've left something behind, but don't know what it is, but you're sure you left something behind. Plus there's no one to really share all the little annoyances and quirks that you see in people around you that never really come out right when you relate them to people later.

And then there's security checks at airports. Which I loathe because they bring out all the clumsiness in me. Is it just me who thinks everyone else going through the process of taking off shoes and pulling out their laptops looks so damn self-assured and graceful while doing it? I seem to go all thumbs when it's my turn, and I always feel like everyone behind me is cursing how slow and stupid I am.

Which brings me to my biggest pet peeve: Perfectly groomed women. You've seen them. Heck, you probably are them. Colour-coordinated wardrobe, walking confidently in their five-inch heels, hair perfectly straightened, pulling their very stylish strolleys behind them. No matter what time of day or place it is.
My approach to catching early morning flights, especially when I was working, was usually getting into the most comfortable outfit I have, landing at my destination, and using the airport's washroom to do my minimal amount of make up etc. But there are all these women who surround me at the check-in counter even at 5 AM in the morning who look so put together that it is thoroughly intimidating. Not to mention those women who look as fresh at the end of an exhausting, crisis-filled day as they did in the morning. Me? My kaajal smudges within minutes of being put, no matter which brand (except Bobbi Brown, my latest discovery. Ladies, doesn't smudge. Truly.) or which season it is. How do they do it?!?

I enjoy travelling, I do. I like seeing places, visiting new cities and towns, trying local food. I like watching people as they travel, I love watching the skyline of a city as a flight takes off or lands, or fields and towns go by from the window of a train or bus. I do enjoy all that. 

It's just that the process of getting to those moments is so very draining and stressful, that you very often forget what lies beyond what's happening. Which I suppose could be said of life in general.

So there you are, R. Everything that stresses me when I travel. Now if only I haven't given you new things to stress about.

NB: The title of this post is totally stolen.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

where I go into outrage mode again

Exams always did make the blogger in me come out. Allow me to outrage for a while.

  • Rape jokes are not funny. Calling a cricketer a "rapist" who "raped" the opposing team with his match-winning performance is not witty. Creating and sharing a picture of the vastraharan showing Malinga as Draupadi and Kohli as Dushasana is not amusing. It is lame and pathetic and disgusting, and tells me you're an asshole.
  • Why is sharing stories from Gujarat 2002 being labelled as "spreading hate"? You hold your candle marches and "never forget" campaigns every year for those who dies in 26/11; why are you so resistant to remember those who were killed ten years ago in Gujarat? I'm appalled by some of the reactions Dilip D'Souza got when he shared some experiences for his visit to Gujarat in 2002 (Which, if you haven't read, you should. It's horrific, you will not want to, but you should. here:!/search/%23DDGujDiary)
  • Why do Indians have this "kisi ko nahi batana" attitude all the time? I've always seen it at exam time, right from my college days. It took me a long time to realize that unlike me, who never studied and therefore meant it when I said "maine kuch nahi kiya", everyone else had finished the course twice over and were "revising" when they said the same thing. And it's hilarious how the Indian folks here in B-school do the same thing. And not just about studies. I asked a classmate if he's running for club president for the Indian student club, for Pete's sake. He said no. And when the platforms came out, there it was, his name, right up at the top. Why do people have to be so devious?
  • Also, while I'm at it, Indian dudes in Amreeka trying to hit on women when they're drunk is both hilarious and embarrassing to watch.
There. I'm done outraging for now. I suppose I should get back to Corporate Finance. Sigh.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


I'll be in India in a week. Never have I been so glad that February is the shortest month of the year.

I'm coming to India on "work", technically. I'll be based in Hyderabad for a project, with the mandatory weekend trip to Agra, and a few days snatched at home in Delhi at the end of the trip. I'll be with 30-odd classmates, some of whom are Indian (well, of Indian origin), but many of whom aren't.

I don't know how to describe India to non-Indians. They keep asking me what it'll be like in Hyderabad. I don't know, I've never been there. I keep trying to explain that India is like Europe in some ways - 20 different countries crammed into one land mass. What I know of people in Delhi, Gurgaon, or even Kolkata, will not be true of people in Hyderabad.

I shared the odd YouTube video with my team, and one of my team mates discovered and sent us videos of Russell Peters. Our client sent us a guide to travelling in India, and a checklist of what we should or should not carry, which I have to say, is pretty comprehensive and accurate.

Different classmates seem to have varied beliefs and expectations about India. One guy wanted to know if he can wear shorts in Hyderabad. One girl wanted to know if we can fit in a tour of Delhi in the half day that we get there in transit. Someone else wanted to know what we should be eating and shopping for in Hyderabad. And then there was someone who asked  how we're supposed to handle communications, or if people in India have phones. And followed that up with asking if we'd get a chance to ride an elephant while we were there.

I don't know how to answer most of these questions. I'm going to be a visitor in my own country; how do I tell them what to expect?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Baby steps

I slept with the lights off last night. I realise that in the grand scheme of things, this is not a very big achievement, but bear with me a bit. I slept with the lights off last night, for the first time since my apartment was broken into and ransacked a week ago.

So fine. Clearly there is something about me that makes me an easy target for robbers and thieves. Yes, I have a history of getting robbed whenever I travel to Europe. And I was devastated after the incident in Italy, and it took me a couple of months to get to a point where I stopped breaking down over every other thing.

But  there is something particularly violating about your apartment being broken into, as opposed to being robbed on the street. To have someone enter your home, go through everything you own, turn every handbag they find inside out - it is, as someone said to me on twitter, like someone forced their way into coming and looking inside your life.

I've got on with life. You don't have much of an option, after all. And I've recovered much faster than I did two years ago. I've started sleeping with the lights off.

Now to stop getting startled every time the flatmate uses her key to open the front door and come in.

Baby steps.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Annual ramblings

I don't know how to write this post. I'm struggling to remember events from last year that meant something to me, but I can't. It's like, and I mentioned this at the end of my last post, that the first 7.5 months of 2011 simply didn't happen. Or belong to another life.

But so much did happen. And I want to get this post out there simply because I don't want those memories to disappear.

I knew, at the beginning of 2011, that one way or another, this year would bring changes to my life like never before. And so it was.

January was a flurry of travel, interview invites, application "dings", and what not. The cousin got married. Things in the workplace deteriorated to the point that I, for the first time in my life, started having panic attacks.

The grandmother fell and broke her leg and had to have surgery. I was sent to Kolkata on work so was able to go visit her. Said visit to Kolkata also showed me how the work culture of Bengal and how Bengalis are perceived by non-Bengalis, and while I could see what they meant, it saddened me. I may never choose to live in Bengal, but it's still where I belong. And it isn't nice to see how we ourselves are responsible for a lot of what had happened to the state.

February was rather dramatic. Some more dings came in, some interviews happened, some admissions also happened. The mother went to spend a month in Kolkata to take care of Mam. I went to spend a weekend with her, and had some craziness as soon as I got back, after which the father went to stay with her. Gave me a taste of living on my own; I wasn't too sure I liked it.

Work got even worse. A massive show down happened at work, after which I tried to resign, but got talked out of it by everyone around me. But given the calm feeling that came over me once I had decided, after all the panic attacks of the last couple of months, I knew I wasn't to last very long.

I turned 26 in March. Far less stressful than turning 25, for whatever reason. Sure, I'm old now, but it didn't bother me. As much. Maybe a little. Oh well. The mother decided to throw a birthday party for me, since this would probably be my last birthday at home. And when I say birthday party, I mean crazy shoes theme (which everyone but me took extremely seriously), back presents, balloons, all my closest friends with me, a "slumber party", CDs with random birthday songs playing all evening, etc. What can I say? My family takes birthdays very seriously.

March also brought the brother home during his Spring break, a visit I had known about since November, but which was a complete surprise to the parents. The best part about his visit? He was home, sitting next to me, the day the dream came true. I had refused to go on the annual office holiday, using his visit as an excuse. SO glad I did, because the admission news that really mattered came out the day my colleagues were leaving, and anyway, I would have missed the freaking World Cup if I had gone.

Geez. The World Cup. So much excitement. My biggest regret remains not being able to go see India play. I only went for the West Indies-South Africa match in Delhi, and that was just lame. But oh, the World Cup. What can I say about it that I haven't already? And how can I express my frustration at how we've played ever since? How sad is it that less than a year after that fabulous, fabulous win, I am *this* close to giving up on Indian cricket for the foreseeable future?

If the beginning of April was about the euphoria of the World Cup, end-April saw me really leaving the job. I put in my papers as soon as I knew I'd be leaving for the US in July, and I asked to be relieved by end-April so I could have time to get things done. In all fairness, they gave me a really sweet farewell, where I may have a said a bit too much, but managed to leave on fairly good terms with the people who mattered at any rate. What surprised me? Given what an obsessed workaholic I'd been for the last three years, I'd've thought I'd have missed the place a bit more once I left. But honestly? Zilch of that.

May was a rush to get things sorted, visa applications, travel bookings et al., and fit in a quick trip to Mumbai for a family function, where I sat surrounded by Calcuttans as they watched news channels breathlessly to see what the election results in West Bengal would be like. And then we left for the US to watch the brother graduate. Visited and fell in love with Boston, and followed that up with a visit to the godfather's home in London, and a loverly family holiday in Edinburgh, before we came back home.

June and July rushed by much faster than they should have. Preparing to leave home encompassed a thousand and one things, amidst all of which I had to make sure I could fit in a visit to Calcutta, get-togethers with friends, and time with the brother who was to leave for his job at the beginning of July. The gal pals, for the second time in my life, managed to put together a surprise party for me without me cottoning on. I'd make a terrible investigator type person. The father and I booked my tickets in a way that I would get to see Deathly Hallows 2, and so on 15th July, I saw movies in one day - DH-2, and ZNMD.

And then, despite all my attempts to stretch time as much as possible, the 19th of July arrived. And I let everything I had know for 26.5 years, and came here.

What do I say about the last 5.5 months of 2011? They've been stressful, crazy, exhilarating, exciting, and maddening all together. I've learnt so much - maybe not much academically, but about the person I am. I've started driving and cooking, discovered I'm more like the mother than I had ever realized, found out that I can be quite a pushover, and realized that I'm a complete hermit. I suck at networking, am absolutely incapable of enjoying myself at a party filled with loud music and flowing alcohol, love big cities and have no idea how to get a job.

I'm far more Indian than I had realized, I'm a lot more Bengali than I had ever imagined, and I am so utterly dependent on the father for any major decisions I take. The BFF is my lifeline no matter where I go in life, time zones suck because no one is ever awake when you have news to share, I hate marketing and love strategy, numbers and HR what really excite me in life, and grades do matter.

They killed GReader somewhere along the way in 2011, and I was more devastated than I had thought possible. Twitter is less of an addiction than I had assumed, and I have struggled to put together any worthwhile blog posts. The urge to write is there, but I simply can't anymore. Which is why this blog post has taken a month to be written, started in one way, and has ended so very differently.

Having the mother visit me for a month over winter break saved me in some ways, I think. Because it made me remember who I am, truth be told. I had lost myself while trying to adapt to this new country, this new life. Having someone from my old life here for a while was like having a totem with you when you enter a dream, in some ways. And I can already see the difference in me in the past two weeks since she left. I'm me again. In the way I talk, the way I interact with others, in the way I behave. And it's helping me cope.

So, 2012. What does it hold for me? I have no freaking idea. The last month has been utterly stressful with the job search taking precedence, and I have no idea if or when this will change. I really need to start saying no to people. I need to apply myself to studies a lot more. I need to hang out with the people I like, instead of shutting myself up at home and lurking on twitter. And I need to find a freaking job.

Here's hoping all, or most, of this happens.