Thursday, October 12, 2017

A jeans and t-shirt kind of girl

I was home for Pujo this year, after six long years. Leaving the pandal after Anandamela, I saw a young girl entering with her family. She must have been 6 or 7 years old, and was wearing one of those really shiny frocks that continue to popular with girls that age. And I couldn't help but exclaim at her:
Such a lovely dress! I always wanted one of those, but was never given one.
She grinned shyly, and the mother just rolled her eyes.

It's true, I did always want one of those dresses. I don't know why I did - they're nothing like me, or what I usually like (or liked!) to wear. As an adult, I didn't start wearing skirts and dresses regularly till just a couple of years ago. I've always been a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl - except for when I was in a salwar kameez and a fabulous dupatta.

A large part of it was I very much dislike the idea of giving up comfort for looking good, but some of it was I think because of how the mother dressed me. She tended to dress me in jeans most of the time when I was a kid, because she thought I looked smart, and I had no problem with this state of affairs because it meant I could run around and play Crystal Maze and G.I. Joe to my heart's content.

This article came my way this afternoon, and broke my heart a little. A nine-year-old girl was denied Communion by her school because her fashion-loving sense said she should wear a snazzy suit for the occasion, and the powers that be at the school wanted her to wear a skirt or a dress.

There are two incidents from my childhood that are seared into my memory. The first, from when I was 7 or 8 years old, was a little more innocent, I think. I was playing with a friend, and I think it was Ghar-Ghar, and we were deciding who would be the wife and who would be the husband. She insisted I should be the husband, because "you always dress in pants anyway." I remember feeling startled and wondering why that mattered.

The other occasion has bothered me for far longer. I was four or five years old, and it was our school's annual Song Day, or whatever it was called, where we all lined up in rows and made to sing some song. My mother had bought me this lovely woolen jumpsuit for the occasion, which was white with a colourful pattern, and was the most comfortable thing ever. I reached school, and went to the area where my classmates were collecting. The teacher's help for our class looked at me and exclaimed irritatedly, "Uff, why are you wearing this? Couldn't you have worn a dress like a normal girl?"

I don't think I had even noticed till that moment that I was the only girl who wasn't wearing a dress that day. I do know I hate every single photo of myself in that outfit.

It's possible that incident is why I always wanted a nice and pretty flowery dress to wear. I do know I hated wearing frocks, so it's entirely possible that if I had been given one of those, I would have worn it exactly once. Kind of like what I do with saris today.

That incident didn't change how I dressed. It didn't make me care more about clothes, or worry about whether I'm dressed up enough. I continue to be the person who dresses a lot more simply than most people around me - to the point where my outfits for weddings and other social events are almost always criticized for being too simple.

But that incident did stay with me for far longer than it should have. And I hope that doesn't happen to this girl.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017


A few weeks ago, I was browsing through old chat histories - I think it started off as looking for something specific, and then dissolved into sheer nostalgia - and came across this old gem between the BFF and me, from a few years ago. It made me giggle endlessly, and I texted her to tell her I might be blogging about it. And then a few days later, FB reminded me that I had in fact also posted on there about being called a dhakkan.

And so here, for your reading pleasure, on a day when the news has been even worse than what it's been for the past several months, is that conversation.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 10:16 AM

Me: Can I tell you about my dream

Her: OK

Me: I come home (not really my home, but in dream my home) to find front door wide open
So I go, dammit I need to get my life together
And I walk in and the place is a mess
So again I go, I need to get my life together
But then I realize I've been robbed

Her: U say that IRL too

Me: Because laptop is missing

Her: Dream you is a dhakkan

Me: So I walk into bedroom and it's also been ransacked
So I am freaking out
And then I see that bathroom door is closed

Her: Erkkkk
I scared

Me: And bathroom for some reason is just outside the apartment front door, which is weird
But anyway, I poke it open
And the thief is there
Taking a shower

Her: Um

Me: And for some reason he has only one arm

Her: Um...

Me: And he sees me and smirks and next thing I know he's at the end of the corridor (like he apparated there)
And I’m trying to scream and call for help
But my voice is gone
Then it's later, and some guys are there helping me or whatever, and I think one of them was A, not sure who the other guy was
And the one-armed man reappears in my living room
And then I woke up

Her: Who is A
I'm not Freud
It's just a dream
Dream you is a dodo

Me: A is colleague-friend who lives down the corridor from me
So makes sense he would be there

Her: OK that's reasonable
Good dream well done

Me: Thank you

Her: :D


I have to confess, I think I'm a lot braver in my dreams than in IRL. Real me would have run far, far away, not gone looking for the thief. Dream me is is truly a dhakkan.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Where I get a bit cranky

Someone once told me "I don't have a problem with where I am with my career when I just look at my job, and how I feel about it. It's when I start looking around at my peers or people I started with that I get angsty."

I am realising the truth of this more and more everyday.

Who you end up working for matters a great deal. I wish I had realised how much it mattered when I was looking at roles. There are managers you get along great with, there are managers you learn a great deal from, and there are managers who genuinely care about your career and your growth. That last factor is something I never gave any consideration to, and that's where I'm feeling increasing resentment these days.

But it's unfair to blame everything on external factors too. Because I suck at networking, at schmoozing, and keeping up with people because they might be useful to me some day. Heck, I suck at keeping in touch with people I do like and love, so clearly people I don't know or like far lower on the totem pole.

If I didn't love my job so much, I would really hate the fact that I seem to be in a bit of dead end in terms of my career, mostly of my own making.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

On podcasts and a year of listening to them

A year ago, I had no idea how to listen to a podcast. I knew they were a thing, and that I should probably figure out how to listen to them on my Android devices, but since my Googling skills suck, I never quite got around to it.

Then, The West Wing Weekly started. And I had to listen to that. So exactly one year ago yesterday (as FB reminded me) I sent out a plaintive request for help out on social media, and friend of the blog* @tantanoo figured it out for me. So I downloaded PocketCast (the only app I've ever paid for in my life) and started listening to TWWW. And I really, really enjoyed it. It also helped me actually stop rewatching The West Wing nonstop. Instead, I would watch only one episode a week - after listening to the podcast episode, so that I could also make sure to notice the little things they'd mention.

At some point the folks on TWWW recommended The Bugle, and that got added to my queue. Then the Pod Save America folks came on some late night show I was watching - I think it was Seth Meyers - to plug the podcast they were about to start, I decided to check out, and that got added to the queue. They started more podcasts, and some of those added to the queue too.

Then, having dinner with friends some months ago, podcasts came up, and my friend's husband suggested the Slate Political Gabfest, saying I'd enjoy it given my "political inclinations." When I mentioned them on Twitter, someone else suggested Slate's Trumpcast podcast, and that got added to the queue as well.

After a while, I felt my podcast queue was just too full of US politics, so I again turned to social media to ask for recommendations for some Indian podcasts. After trying out multiple ones, I have eventually settled on the ones from Newslaundry, and the Mint podcast.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped watching The West Wing, and listening to TWWW completely. Life in the real world got so damn depressing, that it got harder and harder to watch this idealist dream, and then come back to reality. But even with that, suddenly I found myself with a queue of three hours' worth of podcast on any given day.

I learned very quickly that I can't focus on podcasts if I'm doing anything else. So the only times I really have when listening is a possibility is on my daily commute - which is just twenty minutes long. In weeks when I'm travelling, the flights are an excellent time to listen. Sometimes when I'm cleaning up around the apartment, or cooking, I'll try and do some listening then too, but somehow it doesn't seem to sit right. On the very rare occasion I go to the gym or for a walk, I get some listening in then too.

But all of this has meant I had to prioritize what I will listen to. And since I very clearly like/pay attention to more the podcasts that are discussing the news, and as a friend put it, have "banter" in them, the sequence became this:

  • Pod Save America - yes, they're three white dudes, but they acknowledge that, which I guess is something. I usually agree with their opinions, except when they don't push back on something their guest says.
  • Slate Political Gabfest - I think of this as a grownup version of Pod Save America, frankly. But my favourite thing about this podcast is Emily Bazelon, her passion and her articulateness, and the very clear way in which the men on this podcast defer to her as the legal expert. That is refreshing simply because no other podcast I listen to does that.
  • The Bugle - no, John Oliver is no longer a co-host, but Andy Zaltzman is fantastic even so. And his choice of getting a rotating panel of co-hosts from around the world works very well I think. Anuvab Pal, who I had never really heard before this, and Nish Kumar, are the ones I enjoy the most, for perhaps obvious reasons. And I really, really like Alice Fraser too.
  • Lovett or Leave it - purely for the laughs. There's really nothing else to say on it.
  • The Mint Editor's podcast - a weekly, 15 minute podcast that recaps and pontificates on business, and occasionally other, news of the past week. I like it because it's a good way to keep up with things back home, and it's short enough for a one-way commute. Also I like R Sukumar, the editor of Livemint. What I really don't like about this one though is the format - it usually has one other person, who is there to purely bring up a topic and then say "hmm" in varying tones and lengths as R Sukumar speaks. Also their ads are weird.
  • Newslaundry Hafta - the one I have the most mixed feelings about. First of all, it's a pain to listen to. Even though I did end up subscribing to NL, their app is terrible, so I don't like using that. I did figure out a way to download their episodes and add them to PocketCast, so that helped. Each episode is also close to two hours long, which gets painful. Having said that, this podcast is also my way of keeping up with what's going on in India, which is something I've struggled with for the past few years. Their panels, deliberately so, have a range of views, and so there are some I agree with almost all the time, and there are some I disagree with almost all the time. Manisha Pande very often sounds like the only person who knows what she's talking about, while the rest are expressing views, but sadly she seems to get talked over more often than not. There is one particular person on the panel who has been increasingly irritating me over the past several weeks, but the other panelists have for the most part yelled back at him, so I still haven't sent in that rant-filled email I mentally compose every time he speaks.
  • Newslaundry Awesome and Awful Entertainment Wrap - my main source for what Hindi movies I should or should not watch. Unfortunately, one of their co-hosts left a few months after I started listening. I did like the banter between the remaining co-host and the replacement co-host, but then both of them decided to not continue, so it seems to have gone on an indefinite hiatus.
Those are the ones I listen to every week. Then come Pod Save the World, Trumpcast, NL's sport podcast (which I listen to only if they're discussing cricket), the Late Night with Seth Meyers podcast, Pod Save the People, NY Times' The Daily, and With Friends like These - all of these are listened to if I have any time and if the topic they're discussing is still relevant by the time I get to it. Because that's how crazy the news is these days. I have two Pod Save the World episodes half listened to from last week, when North Korea was being talked about** by everyone, and then Charlottesville happened, and I simply haven't gone back.

What a year of listening to podcasts has done most for me though is two things. One, my interest in watching TV and staying caught up on shows has somehow gone down dramatically. I am now far more interested in staying caught up on podcasts. Even if I'm not really listening to podcasts when I'm home, the TV isn't always on like it used to be. I think part of why this has happened is that I also watch late night shows regularly (my friend's offhand comment about banter was a lot truer than he or I realised at the time, I think), and so all other shows have taken a backseat.

Two, the biggest sufferers in my yearlong obsession with podcasts are very clearly the parents. My drive to work used to be my time to call them, every few days. Now, with my podcast queue constantly growing longer, my calls to them have become more and more infrequent. And that is something I definitely need to fix.

* Yes, I stole that phrase from one of the podcasts I listen to. Shoo now.

** I was about to write North Korea was blowing up, and decided to rephrase because I realised that may have been a bit too much on the nose.

Monday, August 07, 2017

On hating to love a show

Some five odd years ago, I asked Twitter, that fount of all wisdom, whether I should read the Game of Thrones books, or start watching the show. The show was in its first or second season, and the general consensus at the time was that I should read the books, and so I did.

I often say I have a love-hate relationship with the books. There is SO MUCH that annoys me tremendously about them. There is a ridiculous amount of seemingly unnecessary violence, which is not something I tend to enjoy in literature. There is misogyny and mistreatment of women on practically every page, and anyone who tries to bring up the old argument about how "that's how medieval times were" can just stop now - if the kind of language and curses expressed by people can be updated to reflect the 21st century, so can other things.

And yet, I plodded through all five books, even if the cast of characters had grown so much that I was constantly flipping to the glossary at the end to try and remember who's who. But I plodded through them, whimpering at various stages thanks to GRRM's insistence on killing off practically any character I started growing even slightly fond off. I plodded through, mainly because, dammit, you want to know what happens.

When I finished the fifth book, the next book was expected to release that fall. But it kept getting pushed, and pushed, and pushed, till I'm very sure it's never coming out at all. And meanwhile the show kept going.

I never wanted to watch the show, even though everyone said it was SO GREAT. I can barely read violent stuff in books, why on earth would I want to watch them depicted on the screen? And since this is a show that is talked about pretty constantly, I've pretty much known what the show is doing even without watching. And reading about things the show changed from the books, which more often than not sounded like they had just made things more unnecessarily cruel, did not make me want to watch the show.

But then in the last couple of years, the show has clearly overtaken the books. And while I still held out, thinking maybe the next to books would come out eventually, that just seems stupid at this point. So in the last few weeks, I've been talking to friends who do watch the show, and asking which season I should start from.

Almost without fail, the answer has been, well, why wouldn't you start from the beginning? Because, well, I don't want to. I'm already going to be doing this very grudgingly, my interest in watching TV has gone down dramatically in recent months (which is a topic for another day), there is already SO MUCH TV that one must apparently watch, and I only really wanted to start watching from where the show really starts diverging from the books, and then keep going. And based on that, the consensus seemed to be that Season 4 would be a good starting point, and I figured I'll plan on that.

But then.

I was travelling for work last week, and needed to go through a gazillion decks to prepare for a call the next morning. I was flipping through channels on the television to have something play in the background, and the most recent episode was playing as I came to HBO. And for some reason, I let it stay on that channel.

By the end of that hour, I knew I was going to have to start my binge watch sooner rather than later.

And then.

Last night, I happened to go online soon after the latest episode must have played. And twitter had clearly watched, and gone berserk. So I decided to watch the episode.


I spent the next hour gasping practically every five minutes. And now I can't decide if I just start my binge watch tonight and keep going till I'm up to date, or if I just watch this season as it happens and then do my binge watch, or do a combination of both, or WHAT.


Monday, July 31, 2017

It's food, you moron. Just food.

The summer before moving to the US, I was trying to find a classmate I could share an apartment with. I had set up time to chat with an American girl who was also looking for a flatmate at the time, and when we spoke, one of her first comments to me was "OMG I have to tell you, I love Indian food. And I make amazing chicken tikka masala!"

At the time, I laughed politely, but I remember thinking in my head - what on earth is chicken tikka masala?

When I moved to the US, I had several people tell me how amazing chicken tikka masala was. And it turned out to be served in the cafeteria whenever they had Indian food, in every Indian restaurant I went to, and by friends who said they cooked great Indian food. It looked like butter chicken, but tasted... blah. And for the life of me I couldn't figure out what this oh-so-popular dish was that I'd never managed to ever even hear of in Delhi.

Then of course, I read up on it, learned it was invented in the UK, and proceeded to roll my eyes and avoid having it as much as possible.

I have nothing against chicken tikka masala, I am just against people who have never lived in India telling me that Indian food is amazing when that is the only "Indian food" they've ever had.

This tweet popped up on my timeline yesterday:

This tweet made me hungry, but also made me think of another pet peeve that's been bubbling up recently.

I'm offsite tomorrow, at a location that is five minutes away from my favourite Indian restaurant in the city - their gulab jamun is to DIE for. And then I'm in NYC later this week, and have as usual already checked how far my hotel is to the closest location for The Kati Roll Co. The same coworker is going to be with me at both the offsite and in NY, and her reaction when I told her was "you want to have Indian food twice in a week?"

This isn't the first time I've got this question. When I came back from India last year, someone suggested an Indian place for lunch, and then paused and asked me if I was okay with that since I'd just come back.

First of all, can we be clear about something. For you, it's Indian food. For me, it's food. I grew up eating it. I live to eat it. Sure, pasta is great, as is Chipotle. And yes, I will admit, when I go home to India, I actually never eat Indian Indian food there, because I want my Indian versions of pasta and fried rice. But Indian food is just... food.

Second of all*, do you have any idea how many types of cuisine exist in India? I grew up there, and I don't know. Just because YOU have never bothered to eat anything other than chicken tikka masala, does not mean that's all there is to the subcontinent. In fact, show me one restaurant in Delhi that actually serves the blessed dish, and I... well, I'll promise to never visit that restaurant, that's what I'll do.

I mean, I could literally have "Indian food" every day for the next fortnight, and not have the same thing two days in a row. Less than a 5 minutes drive from my apartment is a chaat place, a dosa place, a chettinad place, a desi Chinese place, a Punjabi khana place, 3-4 biryani places, and half a dozen of those places that do buffets and serve a bit of everything. (Yes, I do live in the Little India area of this city). Literally the only thing missing from my life is Bengali food, although if I'm really craving it, I force my self to go to the Bangladeshi restaurant that makes mughlai parathas. And on occasion, I even manage to cook stuff that is somewhat edible.

So if I say I want to go have chaat even though I came back from India last week, or if I want to have a Maharaja thali on Tuesday and an Achari Paneer kathi roll on Thursday**, save the disbelief and pity a little. Because one of those is not like the others, and you're a moron to think otherwise.

End rant.

* I will confess, I was going to say secondly, but then I remembered this:

** Yes, you're right. There is a very good chance I have kathi rolls on Wednesday too if my flight gets in on time, but I'll probably do the Chana Masala roll that day. Although I just checked, and they have a Kosha Mangsho roll too that I've never tried, so it's 50-50 at this point.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Movie watching thoughts: Jagga Jasoos

I think it's fair to say I'm a  very fussy movie goer. I'm also a very lazy movie goer. Which means that unless it's a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, or an animated Disney or Pixar movie, I only go for movies that meet at least two or three of the following criteria:
  • Has a storyline I think I'll enjoy - which also means not too gruesome or grim
  • Has a cast I like and for the most part approve of, and/or a director or writer I'm familiar with or like
  • Has good reviews by people I trust - both in terms of film critics and people I know
  • Has trailers and/or music I enjoyed
So then, Jagga Jasoos. I was not impressed by the trailer, and I hadn't heard any of the music. But I think Ranbir Kapoor is a decent actor; even if I'm not a huge fan, I've enjoyed some of his movies. Katrina Kaif is never going to be a great actress, but I liked her in New York and Rajneeti, so she's not a dealbreaker. Of the movies by Anurag Basu I've actually seen, I loved Life in a Metro and Barfi, and hated Kites, so there was a 50-50 chance on this movie.

The thing is, of the film critics I follow, everyone seemed to love it. My only pause for caution was when Rajyasree Sen on Newslaundry's podcast said she didn't like it, but then I got very irritated by things she said later in the podcast, and I think I just forgot what she said about this movie. And you know, I saw comparisons to Tintin, and heard there were references to Feluda and Sherlock, and figured why not.

But pretty much two minutes into the movie, I knew I had made a terrible, terrible mistake. And I would caution you about spoilers, but you guys, you should NOT see this movie, so feel free to just read on.

Let's start with the fact that they decided to make this a musical. And not a musical as in a Bollywood musical where a song plays every ten minutes. No, no, here the dialogue is in song approximately 85% of the time. And there is a reason for it, you guys. Ranbir's character - Jagga - stutters. And can only speak without stuttering if he speaks in song. So he sings. Constantly.

To be fair, when Katrina's character - Shruti Sengupta - responds in song, she does pause and ask herself why she's singing. And when the villain responds in song, he does so very sarcastically. BUT. It does NOT explain why Jagga randomly breaks into song and dance at his stoopid school.

Speaking of which:
  1. Did they ever study at this school? I only saw them listening to him explain his solutions for sundry mysteries, or dance, or be in the bathroom. Seriously.
  2. What has happened to Amitabh Bhattacharyya and Shaiamak Davar?!? I have absolutely no words to explain the torture felt due to absurd lyrics and ridiculous choreography.
I don't even have any memory of most of the thoughts that were mandraoing through my head during the movie, that is how bad it was. It's a very good thing the theater had less than ten people watching, because my two friends and I, as well as the three people sitting right in front of us, spent most of our time exclaiming loudly about the utterly absurd things that were happening.

I can't even begin to talk about how this movie was all over the place, honestly. It starts with something about an arms drop, that is apparently a true story, but clearly not one I had ever heard of. It then turned into a kids reading group at the Mumbai Book Fair, which, sidebar:
  • My friend from Mumbai promptly piped up to say there is no Mumbai Book Fair
  • That book fair looked less like a book fair and more like a shiny playhouse
  • 30 minutes of the movie is based in Kolkata. One of the lead characters is based on Kolkata. HAVE YOU NOT HEARD OF THE KOLKATA BOOK FAIR, YOU UTTER GENIUSES?
But I digress. That kid's reading group is weird on multiple levels, because a, these seem ridiculously dark stories for kids, b, there are people singing and dancing to the narration of the comic books being read out, which is just too complicated for me to understand, and c, the narration keeps jumping between Katrina Kaif's voice when the camera is on her, and someone else's voice when the camera is off her. The unknown narrator can actually narrate, so that was a relief, but Katrina Kaif cannot. I said this about Aamir Khan, who I have loved since the age of three, when I watched Rang De Basanti, which I also loved, and I will say this about Katrina Kaif after watching this movie, which has left me with many, many complicated feelings: If someone does not have a good or strong voice, DO NOT GET THEM TO NARRATE THINGS. And more importantly, but in lower case this time, do not randomly switch between voices in the narration.

The comics being read out (and sung, and danced to) to the kids start out as friendly Famous Five style mysteries (although I don't remember Enid Blyton ever dealing with murders), and then suddenly turns into very serious arms smuggling cases. The first arms smuggling case is introduced by Shruti as "not a very big case, but one of my favourites, for obvious reasons." The obvious reason is that she comes into the picture with this case, but how it's not a big case when they LITERALLY CATCH ARMS SMUGGLERS is beyond me.

The movie really wasn't coherent enough for me to talk about it coherently, but I will say this. I think the storyline had promise. The humour, based largely on how clumsy (described as "bad lucky") two people are, and how identical their clumsiness is, was largely funny, but went overboard too often, and was entirely predictable by the last hour. What I think made it all completely intolerable was the fact that they made it a damn musical. If they hadn't made already somewhat annoying characters sing practically nonstop, it may not have been that bad. And frankly, if you're making a musical, the music needs to be enjoyable. The only song I liked in the three hours was a sweet little song that could have played as a background song, and didn't have any choreography. Everything else was just annoying.

I also want to talk about the pieces of the movie set in Africa. I don't know much about African culture or languages, but part of me suspects a large part of that section must have had somewhat racist stereotypes, simply because its Bollywood. I also thought it was hilarious that Jagga saw the code 254 and immediately knew it was from a city called Moombaka, because I just know that code as the country I get spam texts that I ignore from. Then they came up with a place called Shundi, which immediately made me think of Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, and as it turns out, when I googled it, it is from Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. Also, those dances by Ranbir and Katrina keep doing to earn money? Who pays for such bad dances?!? Also, how is it that Katrina had a dozen outfits in her backpack along with the diary and her boyfriend's photo, but their passports and ALL their money were in the bags that they left behind in the hotel room or wherever?

Sundry other thoughts:
  • I like that a lot of the movie was set in Manipur, because not enough movies are. I like that they had people speak in the local language (at least, I assume it was accurately placed). Kolkata was shown too briefly to make much of an impact (again, they actually HAVE a book fair), but Manipur was beautifully shown. 
  • There is a cop in the "cases" who seemed like a mix of the annoying policeman who hated the Five Find Outers and the nice Inspector who always showed up at the end of the Secret Seven adventures to thank them.
  • Every time Katrina would fall I would wonder out loud how her glasses didn't break, and my friend would respond, "that's what you find strange in this whole mess?"
  • There is a girl in the Manipur adventures, who doesn't go to the boys' school Jagga attends (naturally), but he seems to be friends with. She is never named, I think she speaks only once - to explain what she discovered when doing research she was asked to do, saves their lives by calling the cops (which I predicted as soon as Jagga picks up a stone and everyone drops their guns, because seriously, this is that kind of movie). But not once is it explained who on earth she is. Hey, maybe she's the mysterious second narrator.
The movie had some genuinely sweet moments. And like I said, the humour wasn't all bad. But when you take the premise of a kid's adventure style case solving, mix it with a case like global arms smuggling, make a 34 year old play an 18 year old, and turn it into a goddamn musical, you just torture me for three hours straight. Thank the heavens AMC doesn't actually give an intermission just because the movie has an intermission.

But if you think I'm going to watch that sequel that was very blatantly hinted at, you're hoping for way too much.

I'm so exhausted.


I posted this last night, but then woke up this morning remembering more things I was ranting about during the movie, so you have the pleasure of seeing them too:

  • How did Shruti go from being a journalist looking into arms smuggling to a writer of comic books about Jagga?
  • If Bagchi was such a beloved Chemistry professor, how is it that all the former students who loved him so much ended up as journalists who wouldn't print things he wanted them to?
  • If the whole premise for being a musical was that Jagga stuttered and needed to sing to be understood, why is that the entire hospital staff did nothing but sing from the very beginning, even before Jagga realised he should sing nonstop?
  • When we were walking out from the theater, I was expounding on my theory that the movie would have been somewhat tolerable if it hadn't been a musical, and my friend argued that then what would have been the appeal of this Jagga character. My counterpoint: aren't literature and movies just FULL of gangly and awkward teenage boys, all without a stutter, who manage to appeal JUST FINE? Who DON'T SING?
  • I also realised this morning - I'm not sure I understood how the final case even got solved. Because there was the guy chasing them, who seemingly just disappeared, but they obviously managed to get away from him and get back to India. And of course there was the mysterious Big Bad, who they show in the last scene to oh-so cleverly set up a sequel. But if the Big Bad was behind all the arms smuggling, what was the stray line during one of the interminable songs about faking the arms drop to force innocent people int working for you? Either I completely missed something, or the ending made no sense. Or maybe I was just holding my head in my hands and groaning nonstop by that point, to pay any attention.
I was also so traumatised last night that I didn't remember to mention the Bengali pieces that I did enjoy:
  • Excellent uses of the phrases ghoda ka dim and gondogol
  • There is a Bengali poem read out at the prayer meeting that sounded beautiful, but also just made me feel sad and guilty all over again that I have never bothered to learn to read and write in my own language, and have therefore never bothered to read any of the literature that Bengali is so full of


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Pet peeves

I've been both lazy and incapable of writing for the last 6-8 weeks, which means June is almost over, and I've written nothing. And because there are too many things going in this world that are annoying and/or worrying me, I'm choosing for today to focus my energies on things in my world that annoy me. Pet peeves, so to speak. Or as the kids call it these days, #firstworldproblems.
  • People who won't press "Off" on the office microwave when they're done with it, so when I come to use it, it'll be at 00:03. This is hell on my OCD tendencies, people.
  • The fact that UPS and FedEx are nice enough to deliver on Saturdays, but won't bother coming to my apartment to check if I'm home (I am. Every. single. time. (Mostly.)), but will go straight to the leasing office and drop it off with them.
  • The fact that my leasing office works from 9 am to 6 pm on weekdays, which is half an hour after I leave home in the mornings and anywhere between half an hour to two hours before I get home in the evenings. Which means I can only pick up packages (or express general annoyance) on the weekends, when I'm travelling more often than not. (Hence the 'mostly' tacked on up above.)
  • Pimples or zits that appear on my cheek at just the right spot that they're in my line of vision as I glance downward to type or write. I usually ignore my monthly bout of pimples for the most part, but the ones that like to appear at just that spot annoy me tremendously.
  • The fact that after surviving my teenage years without too many zits or pimples, I now have a nonstop outbreak of them more than a decade later.
  • Hotels that give soap bars instead of soap wash, because it just seems like such a waste - especially when you're there just for one or two nights, which is how most of my trips are. Also, hotels that ask you to reuse your towels, but then they fold up your towels and put them back with the clean ones, and if you're sharing the room with someone, you have no idea which one you used, and which one your companion did.
  • Banks that won't let you set travel alerts on your credit card through their mobile app or mobile website, and won't let you open their full site from your phone or tablet. What if I didn't bring my laptop with me, you geniuses?
  • The fact that every pair of black jeans I've ever bought fades to the point of turning white in a matter of months. What am I doing wrong here, people? (Apparently what I'm doing wrong is not turning them inside out before throwing them into the washing machine. Tch.)
  • The conference call I'm currently on, and conference calls in general.
  • Speaking of which, what is with ads or people in general saying they don't have a meeting till later, so don't have to go into work till then? Are there people who go to work only when they have meetings? When does everything else that meetings get in the way of get done?
Now excuse me while I go off mute and yell at someone for a while.

Monday, May 08, 2017

On distractions

The mother is a strong believer in the power of distraction. When the brother and I would start squabbling in the back of a car as kids, she would suddenly say excitedly:
Look at all those trees! Let's count how many we go past!
Why don't we count how many Maruti 800s we pass on the road?!
Quite a few, as it turns out, when you were driving in Delhi in the 1990s. So by the time we got bored of counting, we would have forgotten what we were fighting about, or even that we were fighting at all.

The brother and the sister-in-law visited me this past weekend, and at some point the three of us got into a heated debate over something while waiting for our desi Chinese takeout to be prepared. I can't remember what we were arguing over, but it was quite clear the three of us were not going to agree anytime soon. And suddenly my brother turns to his wife and exclaims:
Look at all those red lights! Let's count them!
His wife stared at him utterly confounded, as I burst out laughing. By the time she understood what her husband had been trying to do, an entirely different argument looked likely to erupt.

Luckily for my brother's life and marriage, our food was pronounced ready at that very opportune moment.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

We may have to prepone that

I can't remember how old I was when this happened, but at some point in my childhood, the father came home and asked me, "Did you know prepone isn't a real word?!" Shock and awe was felt.

Turns out, he was interacting with a Japanese company at the time, and in the pre-Google days, they would take to the Oxford dictionary to make sure they understand every word of English written by the Indians. The word prepone, as it happens, was not listed in the dictionary. It was a perfectly appropriate word Indians had invented, which, in the decades since that conversation with my father has in fact been added to the Oxford Dictionary. Mirriam-Webster, on the other hand, still considers it a word they're "watching." And Blogger's spellcheck clearly doesn't recognise it.


I have an American coworker who has worked in and with too many countries for his own good. He speaks Spanish fluently, and has huge German and Portuguese dictionaries sitting on his desk. He once spent several months in India on a project, and has opinions on several things about India as a result.

He sits close to my desk, and is able to hear a lot of my conversations at work, and observations about them frequently ensue (a favour I equally frequently return). He'll comment on how my voice automatically sounds more Indian if I'm talking to someone from the subcontinent, he'll chuckle at the first hint of a turn of phrase I might use that may not be native to the US (did y'all know "cribbing" is not a word Americans use?! They say grumbling, it seems), he finds it hilarious that Indian Standard Time has "that whole 30 minute thing going on" (so what if his country has half a dozen time zones, and an incomprehensible Daylight Savings thing that some states don't even follow), and he loves to talk about the words Indians have invented. Like prepone.

So this morning, I was on a conference call. I stayed on mute for the most part, but had a 30 second update to provide in the middle. As I finished my update, and went back on mute, he suddenly piped up.
You had the perfect opportunity to use the word prepone and you squandered it!
What? What did I say?
Didn't you just say you may have to move up something?
Yes, but...
Why would you not say prepone? This was the perfect time to use it and spread the use of the word!
I didn't think of...
You're becoming too American in the way you speak, that's what the problem is.
*gasp* I am not!
Maybe I am, y'all. This is very sad.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

On brooding

I have nothing to say these days.

Well, I have a lot to say, but nothing I want to put to paper - or more accurately, to the interwebs. Things are currently a bit of a shitshow personally, professionally, and in the politics I follow in two countries, and let's face it, that is pretty much the trifecta of things I tend to write about.

I suppose I could write about how I've suddenly gone from not knowing how to listen to podcasts, to listening to more than half a dozen, over the course of six months. Or I could tell you how someone I love very dearly recently told me that I "choose to build a gender bias in [my] lens," and that it's "time [I] grew out of it." Or I could finally put out that list of pet peeves that's been sitting and growing in my drafts folder for a while now.

But I'm choosing to just brood instead.

So I have nothing to say these days.

And that deserves a blog post all by itself.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Movie watching thoughts: Beauty and the Beast

I wasn't really having any thoughts while watching Beauty and the Beast last weekend. It was late, part of me couldn't believe I wanted to see this movie since the original barely made a blip on my consciousness (apart from Celine Dion's voice), and all I was really thinking was, oh hey, two movies in one month.

But then Belle tried to escape from the castle, and the thoughts started tumbling out. Usual spoiler alert disclaimer, etc.
  • Mainly, I was thinking, if the horse stayed with Belle at the castle (since she had him both when she tried to escape, and when she actually did leave to go back to the village), how did Maurice get back to the village the first time, after he was let go?
  • How is it possible that as Tale as old as time started, I suddenly remembered every word, and was able to sing along?
  • I really don't remember much of the original movie, but... was Shakespeare around in it? Or guns?
  • That little squeal of delight Belle gives when she's left alone in the library is everything.
  • Dan Stevens was kind of redundant in the movie, no? I mean, literally anyone could have played him for most of it, and the 2.5 scenes it's actually him were so... blah.
  • Although that's not completely fair. He was pretty good in the rest of the movie. The scene where he's getting ready for the dance and ranting about how he just blurted out asking her to a dance was quite cute.
  • All that brouhaha over "OMG first gay characters in Disney movies! This is sacrilege!" for... that? 
  • Oh, Belle is an inventor in this version of the movie. That's cool, I guess. Did we actually see any of that other than the laundry trick, and her knowing what tool her father needed before he asked for it?
  • I couldn't understand the passage of time in the movie. I always thought the curse was one of those that lasts centuries, and time stands still, and no one ages etc. But if the staff at the castle had family in the village, then the curse couldn't have lasted that long? So how long was it, really?
  • I definitely couldn't understand the enchantress' deal. She lived in the village, and no one liked her? She suddenly randomly shows up in two scenes, but without explanation or anything? Meh.
  • Did we really need that reaction from Cogsworth to the woman who comes and hugs him at the end, who I assume is his wife? I mean, she was mean throughout the movie, but really? The Beast gets a sad backstory for being heartless etc., but she was just mean, period? It kinda, sorta annoyed me.
  • Part of me continues to be as big a fan of Celine Dion as I was back in my teens. Which is why, even though Ariana Grande and John Legend do a perfectly competent job of reprising Tale as Old as Time, they really don't come close to the original version by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson. And I did make my cousin stay back for the credits so I could listen to How does a moment last forever.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Movie watching thoughts: Lion

I finally saw Lion last night, which brings the number of movies nominated for an Oscar this year that I have seen up to two (well, five if you count Fantastic Beasts and the two animated movies). Which is still higher than my score in most years.

The only other movies I've seen this year are Dangal and Hidden Figures, and since I never quite got around to writing the post I wanted to write about those two, here are, in no particular order, my thoughts on Lion.** There may or may not be spoilers. So y'know, proceed with caution etc.

  • The first 45 minutes of the movie are heartbreaking. There is no other word for it. I have so much more I want to say and think through about that part of the movie, but I don't know how to put any of it into words.
  • Sunny Pawar is the most adorable kid I've seen in a movie in a very long time. I wanted to just grab him up in a hug, and I don't even like kids for the most part.
  • How gorgeous were even the glimpses of the countryside from the train windows? And @dailyoverview should post practically every overhead shot of India.
  • Even the more sinister parts of Kolkata are so beautiful.
  • I miss trains. I miss trains in India. I miss India.
  • It's mark of how cynical I've become that as soon as Noor and Saroo started talking, my first thought was, why is she being so nice to him?
  • When I saw the names of Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Deepti Naval pop up in the credits at the beginning of the movie, I sorta expected them to show up for longer than a scene each.
  • Was I the only one who didn't get the logic behind Saroo's adoption? Mrs. Sood told him she wanted to ensure no child who shouldn't be in the orphanage is there. Saroo has a family somewhere, they can't find his family, so they found him a new family? Shouldn't the effort to find a new family be focused on children who have no family at all? Not that Saroo shouldn't have been considered (for lack of a better word) too, but the way that conversation played out just seemed weird.
  • Was there a heartbreaking line than "aapne sachi meri ammi ko dhoonda?"
  • All the families I know who have adopted children from a different country have travelled to that country. So it seemed a little strange that the Brierleys didn't.
  • Speaking of which, the woman who escorted first Saroo, and then Mantosh, to Australia - is that a full time job for some people?
  • What was going on with Dev Patel's hair during the second half of the movie? I was alternating between being horrified, fascinated and jealous of those curls.
  • I wish we could have seen more of Mantosh's backstory and life in general.
  • I have now seen two or three movies with Rooney Mara in them, and I still don't recognise her if I happen to see her in a photo or anything.
  • Those were not jalebis in Saroo's friend's kitchen, you guys (was she given a name?). Those were amritis (or imartis).
  • Speaking of jalebis, I fully expected Saroo to stop and buy some when he walked through that market area on his return to Khandwa.
  • This is probably my urban dweller privilege speaking, but is it really possible that Ganesh Talai had not changed at all in 25 years? 
  • The friend I was talking to at lunch today about the movie expressed amazement that I did not break down crying in the first half of the movie. Given my track record, I was actually equally amazed. I will freely admit that I did break down during the reunion scene at the end.
  • I will also admit to gasping out loud when I read about what happened to Guddu.
  • I did not see the twist about Saroo's name coming. I remember thinking it was weird that his biological mother was saying it wrong in the reunion scene, and then going "huh" when it was revealed that his name was actually... Sheru.
**Man, I write long sentences. I need a Toby Ziegler in my life.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Avoidance mode

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, January 05, 2017

The year in recap: 2016

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

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

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

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

4. Did anyone close to you die?

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

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

7. What date from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
But the most depressing day of the year? November 8.

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

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

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

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

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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