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.
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...
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.