Among other things...

Today was one of those days where I stared and stared at my computer screen at work with nothing seeping into my brain. Finally it was time to eat lunch where I always allow myself the luxury of internet browsing without guilt. I may or may not be browsing during the non-lunch working hours but this is not a confessional! Post lunch I happened to sit back and glance around my world, more to aid my eyes in sending a steady live telecast to the brain so it doesnt shut down over an imaginary pillow. What I saw left me askance. I have been working in my current cubicle for 2 years now and today is the first time I notice the unorganised mess that it is. I have a large monitor which my boss thought I would need for all the complicated math I would be doing to arrive at the conclusion that it was time to sweet talk the users into believing we were taking time to drive to the moon, when we were really stuck on earth with traffic jams and delays. Attached to the monitor is a keyboard which looks like its from outer space. It is one of those ergonomic completely befuddling pieces which would profit people whose right hand does not need to monitor the left to ensure no spelling mistakes. Certainly not for me that piece. My productivity, measured as the rate at which I can google current topics,is greatly reduced. Then there is a mess of wires stretching across a complete leg of the L-shaped table. Atleast they are all not the same colour and lend some aesthetic to the chaos. Immediately above the wires are random sheets of paper pegged into the cubicle wall. I now realise that I will need some reference to context to understand any of those 'important' notes. Another sheet of paper which occupies the pride of place above this litter is where my dotzy has drawn what looks likes a binary code with the 1s replaced by hearts. What makes it special for me is the fact that she wrote "I love Mom" contrary possibly to her real feelings. We will find out when she enters her teens. There is also a gigantic phone of yore on my desk and I wouldnt have been convinced its not a show-piece, had my boss not connected it by himself on my first day here and rang his own desk to make sure it works. It has 50 buttons spread neatly across it and this is apart from the standard issue of 0-9, * and #. Around 10 of them are labelled. I have not had the inclination to experiment with this masterpiece till a moment ago when I hit a button to see what happens and it switched on the Speaker. At this juncture I should note that there is a labelled button for Speaker. There is also a neat contraption to attend calls handsfree except that no one can hear me when I am speaking through it. My colleague next door complained once that she couldnt hear me over the wall as well. Beside these are the standard issue stapler and tape dispenser and a plastic fork thrown between them to dislodge the monotony. On the other leg of table I have a tissue dispenser which refused to dispense tissue from the word go. It prefers to give me shreds of paper as consolation. The rest of the table is strewn with brown paper towels which come in handy when i bring out my leaky curd box. I do have a huge poster of LTE displayed fashionably on my desk. What I like most about it, apart from the complicated names which lend a french charm, is the riot of colours. I like to decorate my cubicle well. Then there is a pegged paper sheet folded in half which tells me what holidays the company would have given me last year. It almost seems like I had a case of bad memory only till last year and the situation seems to have remedied itself this year. There is a lot of cabinet space, more than I can think of what to do with. I use the largest one to stick a magnet proclaiming my availability status at work. It shows a lady relaxing on the beach and mouthing "I'm in a meeting'. I use one of the drawers to keep my tea bags and assorted paper plates. I have no idea when or why I collected all the plates but I suspect it was from the snack lounge where I am a regular. I have a nice comfortable guest chair which I use to house my laptop bag. Most guests are left standing. Only the seasoned ones know they need to throw down the bag and mark their territory. There are a few cardboard boxes stacked on one side of the chair. They are all empty but I did not know that till recently since I thought one of them contained a laptop. I seem to have a naive approach to asset security. My bin is always full and is a good display of all the snacks I demolish in a couple of days. Like the proverbial ring of the bell, I pack my bags at exactly the same time most days, leave the place looking as it did the day before or the day before or the...you get the idea!


Paper speaketh

The lines on my face bear testimony,
To the endless pouring from you.
You fill me with stories untold,
Colouring me with your soul.
You entwine me between your fingers and I let you,
Always springing back to your smile of satisfaction.
You shape my very being as wont,
And I willingly become your proud creation.
It is not a few times that I act as a conduit,
To deliver your emotions unto others as though my own.
I can calm your mind like no other,
With a dialogue unspoken yet conversed.
I remind you about all that is important in life,
No matter that the evidence was an impatient scrap.
I lead you to dream through my words,
Basking in the proximity and comfort I can bring you.
You have me near you always, dear one;
I cannot imagine the white vaccum otherwise.


Heart to heart

I will remember today as the day when V's first ever best friend moved away as her family relocated to another part of the country.  The event moved me to write a post about it although V firmly believes her best friend is going to be back in 45 days. They had apparently discussed the whole situation at length at school and had come to conclusions about many things including the fact that the best friend had to walk all the way to the new city (4 hours away by air) and V had to give her company. I dint know how to react to this apart from giving both of them warm hugs. Such a deep friendship at such an impressionable age! The teachers at school were all concerned about how they would cope with being away from each other but I think its the very memory of each other that will sustain them till they make new friends and possibly the next best ones.
It took me back to the time in my life when my first best friend Shadgunya moved away. I still have snatches of memory of her face and our play together. We were all of 6 years old. My school day descriptions would not be complete with atleast fifty mentions of her name and everything associated with her. We were last benchers and had a great time together. I even used to protect her long plaited, looped and ribbon held hair from getting pulled by some boys in our class! Her house used to be in the same compound as our family doctor's clinic in Hyderabad. So I would look forward to doctor visits in the fond hope that I would get to sit in the cane chair swing that hung in their living room. There was one particular incident which strengthened our bond. The nature of the incident makes me not want to reveal it in on this blog but it would suffice to know that it was an embarrassing one for her in front many in the school. I got wind of it and ran down to see her and I will never forget the look of appeal in her eyes to not be judgemental. Being a kid helped us put it behind us and move ahead with daily business. In the recent past I have tried a lot to find her on social networking sites but in vain. I wont give up yet. Every friend has a hand in sculpting one's attitude towards life and because of her I learnt fortitude.

Life just happened to V and her best friend as they pranced around the playground and slid down the slide two together. The artwork that V will bring home will not have her best friend's mark on it like before. They both have a lot of love for each other and for everyone else which shone through in their art work which was dominated by hearts and rainbows. I am pretty sure they will both spread sunshine and love wherever they are and as a parent I can only try to show V ways to keep in touch.


Never say never

I am one of those people who have their feet firmly planted on the ground. I am so profoundly rooted that it does need a certain caliber of galvanizing to uproot me. I am very focussed and use the most minimal of my resources to reach my goal. As candid as that confession can be, it can be devious. Yes I am pretty grounded but not in the way you are being led to believe. Every human being has a failing and mine is mobility. Dont get me wrong here, I do thank God for my two legs and the power to move them. I love to walk and find opportunities for that. I have exacted a mechanism where not much of me moves apart from the legs and the head tilting towards the direction before the body moves as though my mind is trying to show off its control. I have been called a robot by most people I know but I continue to love walking. Everything else is a challenge that my mind finds insurmountable. I was one of the few kids in school who never ran. Nothing could get me to run. Not the school assembly bell which I would hear while still on my way. Not a soaking rain. Not a traffic jam behind me on a narrow lane. Not Kabaddi. Not running and catching in games period. Not an urgent bathroom break. Not a bus driving off. Not the treadmill (till very very recently). Nothing. But I definitely know how to run. Then came cycling with all its agony. I learnt to cycle after I got scared that my brother might just throw in the towel and leave me to my mechanics (or robotics). I never managed to cycle even to the grocery store in the next lane. Learning to ride a two wheeler was not a necessity and was more fun. For me. Not for the people who taught me. Yes please note the use of "people". From then on it was always going to be a collaborative effort. It started with my dad getting me to learn to ride his Bajaj Chetak scooter behind the old library. It was a tree lined road so am confident that not many would have seen my dad's frustrated efforts and my antics. On to my cousins both of whom tried their best to get me to balance on the Luna without my legs acting as stabilizers. Then it was Rag. All I remember of that is hearing screams reminding me to use the brakes on her Kinetic Honda. Life rolled on without me having to worry too much abt two wheelers aside from the occasional jealousy factor. At about this time my dad bought a car. And there I was, getting to learn how to drive it on empty roads at 6:30 in the morning. I did such a great job of it that one day the coach decided to bring a car whose brakes wouldnt work. After a near miss of a head-on on the busy DVG Road traffic I was ready for my licence. That went off smoothly with me doing the exact opposite of what the examiner asked me to do. It was a miracle I heard anything at all with my heart pounding in my ears. With a brand new licence to show off, the routine trips to relatives' houses happened with me at the helm. And then one day that stopped. Abruptly. I still dont remember why. From then on, many lessons and attempts later I still dont drive very well. In the dozen odd years I have not been able to take the car for a confident spin even once. Everyday begins with a resolve and by the time we are ready to leave to work I start avoiding T's eyes lest he dangle the keys in front of me. From yesterday I have officially started swimming lessons. And that for a person who has been very scared to get into more than shin deep water. I have never played with the bigger waves on a beach. I have been wanting to learn how to swim from the time I was 15. I cant fathom why I did not despite the fact that my home was a stone's throw away from one of the best pools in Bangalore, the Basavanagudi one. I dont know how many more years I will need, to be able to kick my legs, splay my arms and move 10 feet in water. I was a nervous wreck for a week before the class and nearly toppled over from the side of the pool trying to enter it. My knees were knocking together when they told us to take a soak and needed a floater for help. I start kicking like a fish trapped in a net from the word go. It was only the floater tied around my waist that was making me look like I am in control. I am going to need all the resolve to get my feet from under me to kick out upright. What I liked yesterday was the fact that I like being in water like that. So I guess there will be many more lessons to come. And we will not cow down. We will only chew on all the learning and flick away all the usage.

Maybe there is a loose connection between the part of my brain controlling my motor skills and the one controlling my perceptions. My thoughts and dreams soar and dive, run and fly and they know no boundaries.


Laughter, where art thou?

A quiet giggle behind the hand clamped over mouth. A full throaty laugh when there were no reprimands. Easy laughter, easy. My earliest memories in this domain are from the time we moved to Bangalore when I was nearly 10. Back in those days my brother and I were camped out at our uncle's house. Dinner time brought the whole family together and with it brought a great deal of entertainment and physics. The latter deserves a post unto itself. Our cousins were younger to us and being boys were as boisterous as they could be. I remember that a pout on my easily offended youngest cousin's (all of 6 years old then) face was enough to extricate a guffaw from me. I was constantly being inducted to the little ladies club by my uncle's constant harangue against my giggles. My laughter was easy and infectious. There were many occasions when my grandma or my mother, induced by my laughs, would let slip a smile in a stern situation. I could be made to laugh with the slightest provocation and my brother mostly showed this off to the world, as would a magician his tricks. All he had to do was say "heeee" and I would start uncontrollably laughing. As I ploughed through school and college I have frustrated innumerable friends with my inscrutable smile and yet I never stopped smiling. When I started working, a colleague had once set me apart as the one who is always smiling behind her computer screen. Made me sound like a lunatic in that forum but I knew it was true. I couldn’t get myself to stop laughing at the hilarious forwards. I have even intimidated with my smiles, a prowess, unintentional as it were, I have not been proud of. Recently, my parents came to stay with us for a couple of months and a few days ago my dad made an observation that shook the ground from under my feet. He said he doesn’t see me smiling or laughing any more. I realize now that my secret feelings about V and her dad enjoying life in spite of me were true. I no longer am able to smile easily let alone laugh. I don’t find a 4 year old's pranks or petty cranks funny enough to laugh. I can’t defuse a tense situation with laughter anymore. Oh I can fake a smile and bring out extremely good variations in photographs. But where is the original giggle gone? Did I lose it as I trudged through shallow goals? I have seen people all around me become kids around my darling daughter and I am the only grown up. I have lost the only power I ever had, growing up, as a superhero.
Today traversing through Twitter I found a cure for my troubles - face yoga. It gave me a ray of hope and filled me with optimism. I don’t think my non-smiling behavior is because of an attitudinal change. I think its because of my cramped muscles. Use-disuse theory in full effect right now. Just like how my leg muscles cramp up from just sitting my face muscles have cramped up from just staring at computer screens for 16 hours a day. I have reached the Web 4.0 equivalent of feelings where my mind produces a virtual smile in its recesses which ripples through to the computer screen directly without ever touching my face. HCI is at the core of this breakthrough innovation. Anyhow, I am relieved that this ailment has a cure too and will now promptly download the android app which will help me do face yoga every day.
This too shall pass.
I hope I don’t get into the Web 4.0 equivalent of doing face yoga (computer relaying direct to brain, and only my thoughts performing yoga and never reaching face) like I have with the rest of me.


Things I Wouldn't Change about Bangalore

My friend Mercy wrote a post about it and now I am turning it into a meme with a twist. Yeah, you have to add your own onion to every dish. I will talk about "dinosaured" situations that I did not want changed.

The corner OTC store where you could shop for a month's groceries in 10 minutes and within countable Rs.

Auto drivers of the 1990s. I need say no more.
Walking a kilometer to school everyday through traffic ridden roads with no footpath and no fear.
The ambience which attracted multi coloured birds that perched on trees every morning.
One family per neighbourhood with the ability to burn money like crackers during Diwali. No competition.
The Sunday morning repertoire of Kannada serials - fun concentration in one channel
Satisfaction with butter sponge khara bread sweet bread combo for after school evening snack.
Feeling the pain of the beggars
National College circle as a land mark
Respect for the elderly people

Do you have any such "dont-want-to" changes?


Return of the old habit - part 112

It was a challenge that I unleashed upon the world in general and my FB friends in particular. For a month I wreaked havoc on the rss readers of those who care to follow my blog and on the FB news feed. But finally my natural sedate self has prevailed and this facetious phase is coming to an end. Today. A lot of lessons learnt from this endeavour
1) Discipline cannot be a habit. Its like a dog's tail. Goes off line as soon as the hold is off.
2) Freeing up time is mainly an exercise in denying oneself an hour of sleep.
3) Perseverance is the last minute dash before the deadline.
4) Topics are essential to blogging. Cant sustain for too long with writing a lot and saying nothing.
5) Writing itself is an art. Knowing how to conclude a post is a craft....few people have.
6) Niche writing is not for the faint hearted.
7) I think the bigger challenge is to maintain a non personal blog.
8) Happiness comes from the completion of the challenge.

I am not sounding the death knell for this blog with this post. The past month has pumped up my adrenaline and  got my mind fixated on writing. But I do want to take a break from the everyday pressure and write when I have something to say (refer to point 1 for more details). I am hoping that I will be able to free up time and persevere towards writing on topics that matter to me. I want to also explore starting a non-personal focussed track and for that suggestions are most welcome.

Umbrella is home

Once upon a time, I ended up in Germany during the rainy season...without an umbrella. It was during one downpour that I went to a super market in Waldorf and bought one. There was as many choices as can be possible with black umbrellas. I picked one which could fit into my rucksack. For a number of years after that whether I had money in my wallet or not this umbrella was a definite occupant of my office bag. And then one fine day last year I lost it. I searched far and wide in the reaches of my memory but could not find any instant in which I had used it in the past few months. (There had been one occasion of blinding rain in which I got drenched holding the unopened umbrella in my hand only because the rest of the people waiting at the bus stop were also getting wet.) Thus, I had to switch to an uncle-type umbrella that T had with him. This umbrella grew on me and became a mainstay of my office bag. While coming to the US, T met with a peculiar stubbornness in me with regards to packing this umbrella. I definitely had to bring it even if it meant leaving behind some things instead. Now this umbrella occupied the pride of place in our NJ home, hung on the bannister at the entry way. Handy and easily available on the way out. Then came my brother. He visited us for the best 3 days of our NJ stay. I should mention here that my brother and me are trained clean-uppers as soon as the word "visitor" is dropped near our ears. As long as he was visiting us, I did not have to worry about straightening up the house. Consequently a few things turned up in odd places. He left for India and we noticed the umbrella was no longer swinging from the railing. I completely suspected my brother of chucking it in some crevice but had not found it despite two thorough searches. As luck would have it my brother did not even remember seeing it and our dear chatri was lost in oblivion. It was during this time that we had to move to KS. We were warned by a few friends of huge thunderstorms that can erupt in the mid-west and a brand new umbrella showed up in our luggage once again. The thing with umbrellas is that when you carry them it never rains...ever! So it was that this umbrella paid dearly for (I mean, comeon, I get a good one for Rs.100 in Bangalore and here it costs $20) lay in our cupboard, discarded unused. Today a couple of our friends arrived from NJ and dropped in for dinner. They brought the customary chocolates (poor guy had brought a champagne-bottle-type of bottle of apple cider on an earlier occasion and we ignored the bottle and evaded opening it thinking it to be alcohol, he learnt his lesson fast) and then handed us a second cover. It was something we had "forgotten" in NJ he said. T opened the cover and his jaw fell when he saw that it was our dear old umbrella! It was all he could do to stop the emotions from flowing out and propelling him to jump in the air. We were so excited about this reunion that we waxed eloquent for the next 15 minutes atleast about the adventures of "umby and we". I am sure the friends thought us to be a chatri lot. Once again it finds a pride of place on a nail inside the cupboard, easily available on the way out.
This story would seem as disjointed as a leg in an arm socket if I do not mention here the background of this umbrella. It has a very strong connection with the US this rain shield. It was procured by T on one of the earlier visa stamp visits to Chennai when a sudden downpour threatened to wipe out all the identification and important documents he was carrying while awaiting his turn in the queue outside the Consulate. So you see, now the dots are all connected and the dear umbrella is home. 


Guess who's coming to dinner

..Someone who deserves the best china ofcourse! Remember the last time you had guests at home and you laid out your dinnerware? Good. Now, I dont have any such memory. Not to say that we did not own fancy dinner pieces. Oh, my mother has all kinds ranging from steel to silver to glassware to unbreakable stuff.  When melmoware became the MF Hussain of tableware, my mom also became an ardent fan. She started amassing the wealth and now produly owns atleast 3 complete sets.  All of them are kept on the attic safe from prying eyes and for an occasion that befits them. From times immemorial, we have had get-togethers with friends and family at the drop of a reason. My mom always prided herself on being a considerate host. She knew the likes and dislikes of every guest and always ensured that there were enough choices to satisfy everyone's palate. Shiny steel plates, tumblers, cups and spoons used to adorn the dining table on such occasions. But the fancier ones never saw the light of day. The common refrain being "we'll use it when we have special guests". This was not to mean that the numerous people who have dined in our house are not worthy but that the occasion was not grand enough. Let me explain with an example. A son-in-law who visits his in-laws over the weekend is not a special guest but the very same person when visiting during the first Deepavali is treated like the king who just dropped by. So a special guest can be a person who has eaten umpteen number of times at one's house before that one special occasion which becomes him. The crowning jewel in our visit to North India 15 years ago was the silver Thali set my mom procured. The important bring-back  from their visit to Singapore was a beautiful 40 piece dinner set which my mom took pains to pack to the hilt that lent it unbreakable. There was one event where my mom actually brought out the silver set and laid it all out on the table while I gaped unbelievingly. But just before the dinner was announced, a change of heart happened and they were all replaced back to their shelves much to the consternation of the tableware and much to the joy of their steel cousins! When I got married my parents presented me with a beautiful table set assuming that I would be using them very often. As time can tell, we made the dining table itself redundant in my house! I like mismatched plates, cups, spoons etc and I dont pant for symmetry. This trait has never been advertised as it is now in the US. I brought along 4 dinner plates and all different. I never thought about how odd it looks while packing it and I dont feel any pangs of anxiety when I serve in them. The first guests at my place in the US hardly noticed the plates they were served in because they were concentrating on clearing it off burnt food. Subsequent guests did not notice because they were well engrossed in conversation and roaring laughter. And I plan to keep it that way. What's dinner if not food for thought?



Today we attended lunch hosted by ISKON at the temple near our home.
To state mathematically -
In US prasadam : temple visits :: In India, mid-day meal scheme :  attending school

Jokes aside, going back to my first statement, I stress on the word lunch because the rest of it dint register in my mind. I am still trying to figure out what it is about ISKON that it fails to make me a follower. I am a believer in God and I love the calm Krishna can bring in me. His ever smiling face with the hint of naughtiness or divinity, depending on the artist's interpretation, never fails to touch my heart. But there seems to be a tad too much over selling with ISKON. Like Amway, they try to do multi-level marketing to be the number one spiritual recruiters. I am not skeptical about their intentions since the only profit they look forward is to generate more followers. Yet, the repeated instructions to attend the next satsang at the temple puts me off. The gentle insinuation while partaking prasad (after attending the bhajan) that this was food for the body and tomorrow if we go the ISKON temple it would be food for the soul did not go down very well with me. Let me decide what I would like to attend. You cannot make me feel guilty about eating free food, my stove and cooker were used to make some of the prasadam.
I am not yet into community praying or bhajane. I do not say my prayers loudly. I am a little more conservative in my approach to appease God. I still believe in chanting Vishnu Sahasranama and not recursively call His name loudly. I find MS Subbalakshmi's renditions more soothing than Hare Rama Hare Krishna with a rap twist. I find Prabhupada's palace of gold ironic when I consider that he battled for a richer soul. With great power comes great responsibility and I feel none too kind when I hear about all the land and organization issues ISKON is battling in India.
I could go on about this but I want to stop because I know that there will be many contradictions and a sense of anger towards my opinions. I am sorry but this is my blog.