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.



Sitting in front of the comp,
Yawns coming on with utmost show and pomp.
Struggling to think of writing good,
Feel Inspirational, wish I could.
Switch on TV, a Kannada movie pours light into the hall,
I am told the hero is my favourite but I have no recall.
Look at T "give me a topic " pleading in eyes,
But he is busy chatting with the Watch India IPTV guys.
The little one lying beside me with legs strewn around,
Tightly closed eyes but not a wink of sleep bound.
Words not pouring but running out of time,
Why does my poetry end up with a rhyme?


Alarming truth

Alarm clocks are supposed to be a man's best friend. They are supposed to enable a person to be at the right place at the right time. For me however none of this is true. Alarm clocks dont help me. I am from the school of thought (like my father advocated) that everyday should be started early. Being a staunch follower for the past so many years my alarm is always set to 6 AM. The kind of alarms have changed from being a yellow colour steel one which goes 'rrrrrrrrrrrrring' to the plastic 'keek keek' to the digital 'kook kook' and the ultra modern cellphone with a choice of numerous tunes. But the time has remained the same - 6 AM. Every night I plan my mornings elaborately with a lot of micro management. 6-6:10 brush teeth, 6:10-6:30 yoga, 6:30-7 gym and so on and so forth. I sleep, the alarm rings, I continue to sleep, a howl is heard (a very desperate one), i am shoved, i get yelled at, T sits fully awake and switches off the alarm. I continue to sleep for another couple of hours. The routine is unfailing.
On the off-chance that I indeed have to do something really important (routine like above is just normal, not important and all), like an exam, I set the alarm to ring earlier. Now I have a problem that my brain just ignores the alarm bells that are set off by my ear. This has happened around 365*n times till now and I learnt somewhere that the brain just needs 25 times to form a habit. So what do I do? How do I wake up at the right time? I dont sleep. No, seriously. I dont sleep in the night. And if I do doze off I wake up every once in a while and note with satisfaction that I still have time. My brain doesnt shut down the activity or the adrenaline. So I sleep, dont sleep, continue to not sleep, wake up before the alarm rings, switch off and get to work. This is also an established pattern.
And then there is a third dimension, an internal clock. This one wakes me up everyday at 8 AM. And there is no reset button!



Have you experienced a pain of the kind where you cant pinpoint to one spot and say thats where its paining? Today I was afflicted with such a pain where in I was not sure if it was at the top, middle or lower part of my back. Its been a rest and relax day with no thoughts going through my head. T was a sweet heart enough to do all the cooking and taking care of V. I feel blessed.
Tomorrow will be another day, filled with sunshine, love and dreams. Till then...take care :)


And in other news

The Anna Hazare show now has "slap"-stick comedy routines in a bid to increase TRPs.

Rahul Gandhi is preceded by a gunny sack at election rallies. The produce will be recycled at the opposition party rallies especially those of his "bua".

Salman Rushdie attended Jaipur Lit Fest on proxy. Every invitee talked about him more than their own works.

Indian kids around the world lose weight as their mothers refuse to hand feed them. The kids are also no longer the top performers in schools abroad given the lack of sleep stemming from nightmares of sleeping by themselves.

Barkha Dutt is doing wartime reporting again. The war is on her. 

IIPM like Shahrukh Khan never goes out of news even though there is nothing new. 

Bollywood takes Oprah Winfrey by storm. "The "Taj Mahal" was even wedged into fifth of the backseat of a Rolls Royce to demonstrate bonding. 

Priyanka Chopra knows there wont be "maafi" for her eighth murder and therefore adopts Gandhigiri and thanks Katrina for performing the song of the year.

Ajay Devgan might win the best supporting actor for the movie Tezz. The event organisers would have been forewarned by the Mohanlal fan association.

Chethan Bhagat sets a new trend by signing book contracts with Bollywood production houses rather than publishing houses.

Cricket was played better on Twitter than on the field. The Indian team will play the next virtual world cup on home ground.

About Blogs, Egos and 1000 worders...

...thus, provoking another rant, be so warned! I embarked on this year with a promise to myself that I would keep in touch with my inner writer self more ardently than before. 
I started blogging as a conduit for my thoughts and somewhere along the way I got caught up with the hype around it. My blog moved on from self expression to playing to the gallery which mainly constituted at that time of cousins, best friends, the loyal hubby and the odd stranger. I made a few cyber friends, very few I must say, and got blown into a balloon of false pride. "I had to be super good when I write". "It has to be the best or not at all" were the kind of excuses I was giving myself for not being able to do any readable pieces. While I went on to write a few posts in those early heady days, the writing did not, in my eyes, look mature. It did not reflect my uber-cool opinions and hey I did speak about a lo..oot of subjects even then. The blog slowly spiraled down to an ego game. Write a post. Constantly refresh blog page. No comments yet. Continue refreshing. 1 comment. The acclaim is mentioned to my parents gleefully to entice some pats. This strategy I soon realized was not sustainable. I could not take the depression of having mountains of work and paltry or no comments on my blogs at the same time. The all important writer's block is conjured up and the writing is halted. Then a lot of travel happened post which motherhood dawned and action was back on the blog for some time. Only now every other post seemed to have a connection to the antics of the little one. (It somehow continues, see there is already a mention in this post.) I did get a lot of feedback during this phase but what irked me is the manner in which I was getting it. Most of it was verbal, some of it over chat and many over phone conversations. No comments on the blog itself. If one thought I wrote a certain piece well, that person ideally should have left a comment on the blog. What I wanted to explain to them (and I never have) is that comments beget comments. I think, in general blog readers find it easier to say something if they see that they are not the first.  By then the rigors of life overwhelmed me into another hiatus. I knew I had the time if I wanted but all I wanted to do in it was sleep. I wasn’t sleep-deprived or anything,, just plain lazy. Then a habit breaker of sorts happened last year. I suddenly had too much free time on my hands yet I was looking for various alibis to cover up my non-performance as a writer. 
Flash forward to the present. 2012 presented me with a new place, new ideas and a new eagerness. I channeled all of this into motivating myself to write. I have a few ideas including a collection of short stories. All quarter baked and typed in my brain for the exclusive use of my non-existent memory. I am gifted with fore thought. Too much of it. So much that if I dole out a bucket each then I can easily cater to a couple of hundred people. There is a slight problem however, I forget the present. It’s as if my mind has gone beyond today and concluded on what’s going to happen in my life next month and is already tackling the issues arising from future situations. That means I am thinking about the economies of publication, even before I have shortlisted the mode of publishing, long before even writing the stories and leaps before I even think through them. Now I have successfully confused you into wondering what this is all about. To tell you in short, read till the end. At the turn of the year, a lot of apprehensions of 2011 vanished from my mind and in place was a clean slate. 2012 would be what I decide for it. I decided to pick up the pen, stick it in my knot and start typing one post a day. I would write what I want to without bothering to see whether anyone posted comments. Since the social dynamics have changed from the last time I blogged incessantly, I found it meaningful to provide access to what I wrote on Facebook. There is no harm in baring your soul and not getting an echo. I am just happy to note that I have done whatever I could do to get it out there. I have so far deluded myself from going into an "I am not good at it" hole. I have been there done that. It was not difficult to jump into it given my craving for fame. But it has taken a long while to grapple out of it. I now look forward to the everyday challenge of thinking what to write about. The writing itself does not take too long but the thought behind it does. Sometimes it takes me the whole day and I am able to submit the post just in time before the 12 gong. At times I feel like asking for topics that I could write on, much like the essay writing competitions in school. That was simple. If you know what to write about you can fire your imagination faster. (I guess it’s the same lack of creativity which ensured I could never paint even though I used to be a very good "inspired" artist as I was growing up). I am not one for exhibitionism and I think I love to write because it gives me the anonymity and an alley to hide behind my topics and story characters. I hope to continue this tradition well into the second month. I definitely want to extrapolate this into something bigger. 
You may see my blog as narcissistic but that is by intention. I however try to do the occasional story which might be entertaining (But I dont know why they all turn out dark). 
In case you are still on this page by the time you reach here and are wondering what my topic for today was, it was a challenge to write a post which had a thousand words :)


Origin of "Balaji"

Right now our television choices are more Indian than when we were in India. So our days start with all the tear-jerker ETV Kannada serials and end with watching live Godly programs on various channels. On one such evening the sound of the TV, exhaust and microwave were driving my sound system crazy. My repeated requests to turn down the volume were turned down by T who was reading an e-paper. I finally lost my cool and shouted at him for not watching TV but keeping it on. He said he was listening. In a bid to catch his lie I asked him what the purohit on TV was talking about. The story he re-told for me is what the post is about.

The only female avatara of Vishnu, Mohini, appears during the Samudra Manthana, manages to successfully secure the Amritha and hand it over to the Devas to clinch them immortality. It is believed that Ramanujacharya, the patron Acharya of the Srivaishnavas, had a very strong influence on Tirupati's routines in worshipping Lord Venkateshwara. Keeping in mind the Mohini avatara of Vishnu, Ramanujacharya laid down a dictat that the Lord of the hills should be dressed as a lady (Mohini alankara) 3 days a week starting every Monday. This practice was continuing without hitches for a long time. By the 18th century, the temple had attained popularity in the far reaches of the Indian sub-continent and worshippers from the North of the Vindhyas started to visit for darshana. It is said that they referred to the Lord in female attire as "Bala" which was intending to mean "girl". As is customary, the "ji" was added to show respect.
And thus was coined the word Balaji.


The "also sang"

Indian Classical Music is a chore.
You got it right and it is my opinion. I have not yet understood the nuances of Carnatic or Hindustani music and to say I have been around for quite a bit.
While I can for a small amount of time get involved with Carnatic music mainly because I can sing along a few, Hindustani falls flat on my ears. I dont for the life of me garner more than four words in a rendition. I think a part of my refusal to connect to Hindustani is because of death. Let me explain. Growing up with Doordarshan ensured that I would listen, to four days of uncomprehensive singing and unreasonable amounts of Shehnai, in the unfortunate event of a state head passing away. Pressure like this takes away from pleasure and pushes in dread.
In my own defence I did try with Carnatic music. I wouldnt call it entirely my doing because honestly how many tamil brahmin families does one know where the girls in the house are liberated from the ardous task of being good singers? I was introduced to classical singing only by the age of 9. Late bloomers and such dreams. That turned out to be a classical saga which warrants itself another story. By the following year I as well as my well wishers had realised a deep disconnect between the raagas and what strangled out of my mouth and I was granted absolution.
Many of my friends and relatives are accomplished singers. One of my closest friends is the best singer I have ever heard but she knows my aberration. In college, she was one of the most popular stage singer as well as gap filler. Without fail everytime she was asked to belt out another hit number from Thyagaraja's Kirthanas she would catch me rolling my eyes and would laugh heartily at my plight. I implored her to learn a few hindi movie songs, for variety I said, but my intentions were not all white.
I do like the set of songs that I know by heart including Baghyada Lakshmi Baramma and Lambodara. One of my all-time favourites is Suprabhatam by MS. I also like her rendition of "Endaro Mahanubhavulu". I have written before about a song from Shankarabharanam. I like some of the songs from the telugu movie "Sree Ramadasu". I like the Yesudas rendition of "Tulasi Dala Mulaje" and my grandmom's presentation of "Krishna nee begane baro". Since these songs are not foremost in my mind and are tucked away in some crevice of my brain which is holding on to musical heritage, I do not recall all of them.
I do have an ear for Carnatic music to a certain extent. This extent is for the songs I already am familiar with. I do not have the patience to dissect them for their raagas, taalas and such. I like them for their friendly tune and sing-along nature of lyrics. I do not possess the forbearing for songs new to me. This should explain my first statement.



(To be sung to the tune of Jingle bells)
Appraisal time appraisal time appraisal time all this month 
Oh what fun it is to ride
On a wave of no worry...hey!

Ah! It feels stupendous to not go through the rigmarole this year. A luxury which I am being afforded for the first time in my life. No judgement on any front. We are so steeped in the culture of answerability that guilt conscience comes before self awareness for many of us. It is only very late in life that we learn that grammatically good, better and best are all relative terms. By then we are already conditioned like bulls in the San Fermin fiesta. We don't know why we are running but mostly because the others are. Maybe the bulls also like us are scared to be the only one not running and having to face an unknown consequence. Its amazing how we submit to judgement by people who are relative strangers in our lives. Its even more stupefying how we let this judgement influence our existence. Our ears jar when it hears the now famous "but you did not do anything innovative this year". Our minds race to creatively sell our work also known as self appraisal. At the end of the day we need to know our boundaries, limits and operate within our self esteem.
Honestly, I sometimes feel the lack of deadliness and pressures to perform, especially when I don't vacuum the house or when the sink is steeped with vessels for more than ten hours. Its almost a relief to realise I am the boss! I do wait for feedback on whether or not what I cooked is edible. I also feel that I will get a 1 rating every time V is brushed, bathed, schooled, lunched by 2 PM.
Appraisals are like the matrix. You can get in but never get out!

I am feeling cooooold

The winter has finally set in, in its full glory here. The temperatures vary between -1 and -13 these days (and nights) and the winds make it even more miserable if thats possible. I am perpetually in the state of chill. As I write this post am wearing a full sleeve shirt with 2 jackets. And 2 pyjamas to top it off! By the time I reach the gym by walk, my face is numb and the only thing I feel is my runny nose. I think butterflies are very smart with the cocoon and all that. I wish I could learn to make my own warm cocoon right now. I dont feel like watching a late night movie anymore. Its an ardous task to sit in the hall and type out this post. (I should start blogging during the day!)


Big bang cookery

Today has been one of those days where something as simple as rice refused to cook to completion, inspite of of the pressure cooker letting go atleast 10 whistles, much to my exasperation. 
I dont know if I have blogged about it before (too lazy to check) but am petrified of pressure cookers. Inspite of, now, using it everyday I panic at the first sign of errant steam. This is a phobia and has stemmed from a past misadventure. I retract into history once again with this post. But its modern history. An incident which happened to me 9 years back. My loyal readers would have guessed the importance of that timeline (pat on your backs, muaah). It was my first visit to the US. It was my first visit anywhere. Given the fact thay I was a naive young adult I fared rather well on that trip. One night I came home earlier than my roommates and started the process of makong dinner. At that time I couldnt call this process cooking. I had not much idea about what I had to do. I took realtime online coaching from *drum roll* T! The rasam was always tasty aftet my roomie re-engineered it. So coming back to that fateful night, following T's instructions to a T, I kept rice in the cooker. I was hanging around prepping for rasam. The cooker started to make unusual noises but I failed to recognise it because of my ignorance. I moved closer to the stove and BLAM the cooker lid burst open and sprung into the air. It narrowly missed hitting my face thanks to my reflexes (it only freezes when i drive). Only when my roomies came back did I come to know that I had been using a cooker with a faulty safety valve. I did not even know such a thing existed! Anyway that started me on my phobia of cookers. For the rest of that trip I made rice only by boiling. Back in India I stayed away from the blasted thing till I had to prove my mettle in my in-laws house. For the first few times I secretly called T to check that everything was in order mechanically and mathematically. I have also sms-ed him from kitchen to hall to keep my shortcoming discrete! I finally got used to the blasted thing as long as it was normal use. The first sign of trouble I still run to T. I refuse to understand the science behind pressure cookers but more than that I refuse to stand close to it when the stove is on. I dont think I will ever get over the fear.
Yesterday I asked V what she wants to be when she grows up. Imagine my horror when she said she wants to be a cooker! Thankfully she added that she wants to be a cooker and cook cookies.


First day at school....again

Tomorrow is the first day of school for lil V. New city new school. She is so excited its contagious!
Am I the only one when I say I used to not like the first day of school so much? Infact I used to dread summer holidays coming to an end. My school had a pracitce of shuffling us to different sections each year and this only made it more painful for me. Although for all of high school I stuck to "F" section, my classmates kept changing. Once school started however, I would get comfortable under the cloak of routine. I have had some hilarious entrances. Every year of high school I fell ill during the last days of summer holidays extending into school start. (No, I did not invent the excuse) One such year my classmates purportedly expected a Sardarji boy called "C.D. Roop" whose name they heard everyday at attendance and did not hear any "Present Sister" response. Another year I walked in ten days later and I was deported to the last but one bench. As I walked up and sat down the guy behind me asked "Why do you walk like a robot?" (Does this guy know am talking about him? I have him on FB). I was so flabbergasted that I instantly became friends with him. I changed schools only once and on the first day of my new school I made friends with another newcomer. By the time our queue proceeded to the splitter (the teacher who was randomly assigning us to sections) we had become best friends. It was a very painful separation but the amazing aspect of it is that we never talked to each other again! Only cordial smiles everytime we passed each other for the remainder years. Lunch on the first day (sometimes a couple of weeks) of school was a beehive of activity. Finding out which sections your friends went into. The most important question was with whom should lunch be had! Some of us were lucky enough to get into a cozy group shielded by shuffling although I must admit I know a lot more people because of shuffling than otherwise.
V is going to attend her 3rd school in 1.5 years and I am proud of her confidence. She goes into the classroom and is instantly at home. There will be occasional clamour for attention and crying for Amma but that is imperative at this age I guess. One thing she has not reconciled to is to call teachers by their names. While she had many "aunties" in the Bangalore school, here she simply addresses them as "teacher".
All the best my kutty. May you grow like a "Yele mare kayi" and achieve great heights. 


Do(aw)n of online movies

"Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin (pause) namumkin hai...phooo" blowing smoke through mouth (or is it nose?)

Don will be smoking six packs nervously if he finds out amazing prints are available all over the internet for free!

The first time I came to the US was exactly 9 years ago. Though the stint dint last too long (thanks to various people I worked with, who assumed roles of king makers) it left a lasting impression on me. The main one being that unless you have a car and can drive around, weekends are very boring. Internet was the mainstay but there was not much content to watch. Cyber life was more about the written word. Subsequently I made many trips to Europe with no marked difference in the boredom levels (especially since internet was free only in the lobby, and who wants to watch a movie in the lobby of a hotel anyway?). Except that I became savvier with each trip and ensured I would get away over weekends. The first time I travelled was with a huge collection of songs to while away my time. It was then that I realised I am not armchair romantic material and would easily get bored of inactivity. The subsequent trips made me graduate from carrying VCDs to DVDs to downloads to drives. All of them movies ofcourse. Lot of hard work went into preparing for such trips. It was my previous trip to the US, 4 years back, when I truly discovered the potential of content. In my 3-month stay I quickly became an expert at searching for movies online. Like a jeweller I became adept at picking out the gems from the pool of bad prints. This skill has stood me in good stead on this trip. Sometimes I think we enjoy movies more now because of the economics involved. In the world of non-originals deflation is the key. But mostly we dont have a choice, being stuck with the only kid in the world who hates stepping into theaters. (It took us 5 minutes and Rs.800 to discover this 2 years back). We are well endowed with odd genes.

Abhi baat khatam kya. Yeh saala Don ko pakadnaich mangta kya. *Rubs hands in glee on finding DVD quality print for free*

My Pongal pot overfloweth - part deux

Legs ache,back breaks but who cares! I had my first successful stint as a hostess in Overland Park! Had guests over for lunch and in the evening. Fun times, great conversation, delicious food if I may say so myself. I am amazed that I could cook up a meal and snacks without ruining even a single dish. Well, almost. While everything that I made has been polished off....my pongal pot still overflows :)
My yawns are making it impossible for me to see the screen for more than half a second at a time. So with a well deserved pat on my back, I can only say "Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost"


My Pongal pot overfloweth

Early morning sun glancing through the covers
Waking up to the fragrance of jasmine flowers
A day when there in no warrant for discipline
Free to do as free as will can be
Climbing up the stairs to the terrace
To fly kites, in the sky, through the colourful maze
Wearing western dresses with much admonished glee
As youngsters fashion does not advocate"langa-angi"
Having a ready snack for the next fifteen days
Sneaking Yellu bella out of the kitchen in umpteen ways
Uttering the word "beer" a thousand times as easily as water
To see what novelty pakkad-mane aunty would barter
Any moment I expected a shout-out for lunch from my mother dearie
"Siri Where is my coffeeee" breaks through my reverie

For the child in us, there is an adult in our spouse to wake us up to reality. But nothing diminishes the joy the festival of Sankranthi brings.
Happy Sankranthi / Pongal to you all.


Smells of childhood

Today morning started with me trying a new recipe for Kichdi (yeah rt!). I dint know it then but by the time I was done cooking I had inadvertently cooked up the smell from my childhood. My mom makes a dish called "Uppu Pongal" which is the first cousin of the Kichdi. This was a smell that I used to abhor growing up. More so because I did not relish this dish. I never understood the combination and found it distasteful to eat yellow rice laden with pepper and jaggery pieces on the side. Many a fight between my mom and me were over the edge of the plate. There were many more "thindis" that I did not like to eat including, shock de resistance, dosas! Amma couldnt tolerate my whining after some years and she discovered her brahmastra against such unreasonable behaviour. Shavige Payasa. Yes, the humble payasa was and continues to be my favourite dish. On occasions where she had to thwart tantrums, she would make this in the simplest of manner. No glitz of ghee or dried fruits. And that is the version that I still love and only my mom can make it best!
Imagine my joy when I returned from school, got the "yuck" smell of pongal, dosa, uppit etc and my mom would hand me a huge cup of shavige payasa!
Happiness was so simple then....


Exercise or else....

She was walking to the Gym as usual when the first gust of wind wound its way through. By the time she reached the next block, the wind was ripping her cap off. There was the sound of howling all around her and she never heard the footsteps behind her. She reached the gym and it was dark inside. The blinds were drawn. As she entered the lights switched on and the camera installed on the wall reassured her that someone would be watching. She had always been anxious of being alone behind closed doors and the feeling had only been accentuated in the past few years. Now she had reached the edge of paranoia. As she hung her coat, instinct told her to keep the keys and phone in the pocket of her track pants. The first thing she needed was some noise, she hated quiet. She hunted down the TV remote , found it in one of the treadmill pockets and switched on the TV, tuned to TBS. She decided to try out the elliptical first and punched the buttons and nothing happened. While she was wondering if the display was a mock-up and it was manual mode, she saw a shadow across the window in front of her. That particular window was on the walk path to the door of the gym and anyone entering would be seen through it first. She was a little relieved at the prospect of having company. In the meantime she had churned the elliptical and now the display had come alive. She hit the glutes max program and started to move. It was a few minutes later that it struck her that nobody had come in through the gym door. She dismissed the shadow as the evening sun playing tricks. After a few minutes she moved on to the exer-cycle and started on the fat burn program. As she was working her way through it she heard a dull thud of something heavy crashing to the ground. She stopped and waited. All was quiet. There were only two doors to the gym and both led to the hall which was visible from inside the gym. She hadn't seen anyone come through them but then the noise. She became a little afraid but mustered up enough courage to go into the hallway and look around. No one. Where had the noise come from she wondered. She went back inside the gym but had second thoughts of continuing. Since she did not want to be a laughing stock for her cowardice again she steeled herself and walked over to the treadmill. Soon the adrenaline rush took over and she went over to do the Lats. She sat down with her back towards the door and started heaving. Suddenly through the laboured breathing she sensed another rhythm. With her spine tingling she turned around. Standing there in a grey long coat was a guy. She could only see his eyes through his scarf and headgear. She was chilled to the bone. He dint look like he belonged there. One of his hands were muddy and the other in his pocket holding something tight. As she started to get up he took a step towards her. She screamed and ran towards the door. He darted behind her. In the nick of time she managed to open the doors and run outside. The wind sent her spiraling backwards. She had had no time to take her jacket. She hit the brakes on her fall and saw from the corner of her eyes that the guy was also outside now. Whatever he was carrying in his hand was out of the pocket. It gleamed in the light of the street light. She could not believe this was happening to her. She sprinted towards the housing office. and climbed up the stairs only to meet a locked door. It was already past the office time she realised. She started running towards her home two blocks away. Atleast she could go to her neighbour’s. She could hear the guy pounding behind her and judging by the sounds she knew he was closing in on her very fast. By the time she ran half a block, her stamina was diminishing rapidly. Her breath had turned into a wheeze and her body was giving up. As she fell forwards she saw the guy's shadow looming above her. She turned her face up and as he brought down the gleaming object she tried to cover her face. What you cant see hurts you lesser. An agonizing second later she realised she was still alive and opened her eyes. Thrust in front of her eyes was a credit card. Upon peering some more she realised it was hers. It must have fallen out of her coat pocket. Tears welled into her eyes as she stood up and took the card. She waited till she caught her breath back. The guy was still waiting by her side. As she looked into his eyes and thanked him, he smiled. It was the scariest smile she had ever seen. Tears rolled down her cheeks, resigned, and the last thing she knew was a dull metallic thud. Surreal.
The next day's paper held reports of yet another murder in the area of a woman. The police was clueless since, even in this case, it looked like the woman knew the murderer. There was a calm smile on her dead face.


You got to do what you got to do

You got to do what you got to do. These pearls of wisdom tumbled out of hubby dearest's repertoire and has kept me going today. The impact was so huge that I even laid out a grand three course meal, cleaned the whole house to a ting, worked out for one hour without breaking sweat (I attribute that to watching Friends while) and watched a movie! Super busy day and am super duper tired.

I see overhyped white flakes outside my window gently falling and submerging the known. Challenges one to make own path tomorrow. Looking forward to it....


Killer Repitition

Yawn! Today has been a busy day what with getting yellu ingredients ready. This is the first time am making it and would have happily bought it ready-made if it was available in the Indian stores.
But this post is not about that. Its about the best entertainment in my life - dotzy. So as usual I was trying a million ways to get her away from TV and YouTube and in one of my attempts I asked her to read the alphabets.
"But I already know that mamma" she said
Not to be outdone "Then bring a pen and book and write the alphabets" I said.
"But I know that too mamma" she said frustrated.
"If you dont write it every day you will forget" I said.
That was enough to send her diligently to get a book and pencil. She had patience enough to write A, B and C with great aplomb and self appreciation. She writes C like U and I had to show her how to write it correctly. She wrote it again upon my insistence. But when I implored her to right for the third time, she threw the pencil down and refused to budge. Whatever I said after that wouldnt make her write.
Sigh! How did our parents and teachers manage to make us write each letter around 25 times on a page.
How come we did not have the street smartness of the kids now?


The job-hunt sitcom

This is one thing I never thought would happen!
I am itching to get back into the corporate rat race over the past few days and as a first step have posted my skill sets on many job sites. As a consequence I have been getting some very interesting calls. While some of them are genuinely helpful others provide me with genuine entertainment. Most (read 95%) of the recruiter calls that I get have an Indian on the other side of the line too. Some of them are thoroughbred professionals who know to separate the rice from chaff. But some of them are so hopeless that I am left wondering whether they are selling me soap powder. Many of such conversations are hilarious to say the least. With all due respect to their intent, I am a little apprehensive about working with people that I absolutely dont understand and those who have an atrocious understanding of information technology.
The job calls that I get have a set protocol. The first call is always from the scout who is like a look-out on the ship's mast and has to report each and every spotting to the deck hand below. After he collates my details which is mostly my mail id and compensation, I am informed that the "boss" will give me a call. Now, this boss is the person who decides that my resume is not well written and proposes a 1000 changes to it. After numerous to-and-fro's and me sticking by my resume the boss reluctantly gives in and says that my case will now be taken up by the marketing team. This marketing team is the ghostly 3rd character. You never get to meet them or talk to them but everyone from their company talks of them with great reverence. "There will be a team of THREE (emphasis on this like their life depends on it) marketing your resume all over the US" is supposed to garner awe and gratitude amongst us job hunters. Whatever!
Well, its been an experience so far with its ups, downs and laughs.

Here is an excerpt of one gem I got today:
Hi Siriroop
Hope you are doing good please go throw our company profile .
Blah blah. And amidst that they purportedly are going to provide training in a Reporting tool called "Congo's"
Awaiting response from you……
Thank you.


Get Real on HD

T and me watch some reality shows in the sense of "that thing we do together" apart from movies, chatting, travel, outwitting V and having fun. We have been hooked to the big reality show Bigg Boss for the past few years. (I think we derive some perverse pleasure in seeing contestants squirm with embarassment, seethe with anger and reek of unnaturality.) This year we had to champion the cause of desi support in the videshi land by searching for the best unofficial HD recorded videos of this show. I would wait till evening with mounting enthusiasm and as soon as T would be home I would hurriedly shove a coffee cup in his hand and click on the play button. For the next one hour we would be lost in the world of the bawling contestants seeing them put on make-up, letting down their guard, shouting, screaming and eating! (Like one contestant pointed out they made 70 rotis a day!!). This everyday for 3 months. Last Saturday all the drama folded up with the finale. It left me high and dry with a lot of excitement still suspended in my system just like after a raucous wedding. "What to inject from next week?" screamed my mind. There is a possibility that the sound may have emanated and T might have heard the scream. He has shown me inspiration for the weeks ahead by searching for the HD online videos of MTV Roadies. Yes, that reality show which evokes the "I hate you like I love you" emotion has started! Should I even mention that I am hooked? Life is good again. There is light at the end of the tunnel.


Photo Hoyitho!

Our camera suddenly stopped focusing in auto-focus pre-programmed and programmable modes. I dint realise I was so attached to my canon till last weekend when this problem started. After a lot of barking up the wrong tree, I found a rather simple solution to the problem. The outer ring of the lens seems to be jammed and firmly moving it while focusing solves the problem. The reason for this I believe is another simple act. The act of putting away the camera after use. Our camera bag is shaped such that the camera needs to be shoved in lens first and in our hurry to capture our lives we are not too gentle with it. I dint know this but we should never store the camera in a bag lens first!
I have tried out the solution under a tungsten light and seems to be working well. I should however test this in daylight.
Crossing my fingers and hoping it will work!

Update from next morn :- It dint work :( Camera still does not focus


Increase tempo Walk faster

I made a major discovery in the past few months. The music I listen to while walking changes it from dawdling to a power walk!
Earlier I always used to listen to songs I like which mainly were soft romantic numbers. Either that or listen to FM radio in Bangalore and I would have heard about 20 advertisements in my 30 minute walk. These past 4 months I have compiled a super duper walk playlist and each of the songs makes me get a spring in my step. The zing about these songs is in the beat in the background. All you need to do is match your step to the beat and you are automatically walking faster.
One of my favourites is

Just walk to the beat!
Today's is a very small post, am beat :)


Life's lemons and Temple's Lemon-rice

Today being Vaikunta Ekadasi we felt it was appropriate to go and say hello to God in his own abode. There are not many temples in our part of the world unlike the Lil India (NJ) we moved from. Infact I think there are only 2 which are within an hour's driving distance. We went to one such God mall. There was a modest gathering and puja was in full swing. Now is the time I need to mention there is no canteen (kitchen) in this temple which means that we get to eat Prasadam in the temple if devotee has cooked and brought something. Our plan was to do a swift visit and go back home but while going through the Vaikunta Dwara I couldnt help noticing the prasadam spread in front of Sai Baba (today being Thursday and all). After we were done with our pradakshina I mentioned to T that maybe we should wait for the Maha Mangalarthi. I cannot honestly say that I did not have the delicioso at the back of my mind. Once the arathi was taken and the theertha was partaken we made a beeline to the table where the prasadam was being dispensed. But the crowd was much more seasoned and faster and we only got the fag end of the deal . A few items were already khallas! So much for the Uddin vade that I wanted to eat although I did get the lemonrice.
Well atleast it taught me a lesson - No, not the one about focussing on God but that I cannot take the temple for granted and not cook at home.


I am God with a remote

Our house is becoming an Android lair. We have 2 android phones, an android tablet and Google TV. All I need now is an Android bot to cook and clean and I would be the happiest person on earth.
We purchased Google TV after much research and a frustrating experience with Roku.
Roku did not have direct access to the YouTube app nor did it have a browser app. So we were basically stuck with all kinds of apps using which needed paid subscriptions.
Anyway this post is not about technical details but about how we use technology to fox V

So, like I said earlier we brought home the Google TV and along with it came a keyboard. Even while I was digging into box for a familiar remote-like thing, T informed me that the keyboard was the remote. It was rather ungainly to operate a TV with a keyboard on your lap but it was a small price to pay for watching internet on a 22 inches TV kept 6 feet away from our eyes.
Just to bring in perspective, my laptop has a 15 inch screen and is a foot away from my eyes which means I can "read" whats written on the monitor!
So there I was Tv-ly challenged and dabbling around like a blind person much to the chagrin of a tech-savvy dotzy. (There is no "click to choose" on the trackpad!!).

Well that was the case till today (around an hour before to be precise) when I downloaded the Google TV remote for android phones. Voila - one more way to use your android phone. But all this would have had little impact on our lives if it werent to help us in child development. Our dotzy knows a lot about phones and TV which sometimes puts me to shame (she taught me how to use the Music app) so it becomes a challenge for me to remain one step ahead of her all the time. Now its time for revenge and I found the ultimate weapon! The cutie has no clue that there is a remote app on my phone and everytime the video she watches pauses she gets very confused. More because she can see that we are nowhere near the biggie remote. We dont know how this will affect her behaviour but we are telling her that the TV has eyes and it will pause the video everytime it sees that she is not eating :). All she needs to do is eat another spoon of food and clap her hands for the video to work :)

Bottom-line - Tum sher toh ham savasher he he he (evil laugh)

I can only gloat for a few days till she figures it out


Who's the mom?

My dotzy bosses over me like no other and vice versa. We fight, we bicker, we make up and we need each other. She got all the stubbornness and rebel genes from me I guess. But what I like about her attitude is her ability to turn (or atleast try) even a bad situation to her advantage in her own kutty-putani way.

Some gems below:

All conversation in American accented English (V) and desi English (me)

Scene 1
V is suddenly bored of making magic wands out of her sketch pens.
V : Mamma (thats my english name acc to her) I want your phone.
Me : No V, I am expecting a call now so I cant give it to you
The above goes in loops 3 times with my voice raising with every iteration.
V : Dont shout at me
Me : Am not shouting, am talking loudly
V : (Snapping) Will you stop talking and listen to me?
Me : (Aghast) ok
V : ((As if talking to a moron) I - want - your - phone - now
Me : I told you I am going to get a call so I cant give you my phone
V : Oh alright ha ha. Put Dora on TV.

Scene 2
V starts crying suddenly after bath
Me : Why are you crying gunda?
V : waaaaaaaaaaaa
I sulk, V sulks, no one talks. 15 minutes later after the crying subsided
Me : You want some bajji (V's word for yoghurt) ?
V : No. But you need to say sorry to me (categorically).
Me : Why
V : Because you scolded me and then you dint talk to me.
Me : I dint scold you, you started crying and dint say why
V : (Not knowing how to top it) Oooh ok ha ha. Its ok.I want some grapes.

I am so glad that she is around with me. Following me, checking on me, smothering me with affection and slathering me with kisses. I love my kutty mummy :)


Tree of Hope

Three months ago I brought home a small plant which I called the tree of hope. It was my first Tulasi plant and I hinged a lot of wishful thinking on the well-being of the plant. Sadly, a 3-day trip out of town saw the demise of my little plant, a happening that left an indelible mark on me.
Today I want to write about the warmth of plants and not the lack of it!
Last year I went to Mumbai on one hectic recruitment drive from SAP. The only Mumbayya I encountered on that day were in a haze of driving past, traffic signals and our over enthusiastic cab driver. I had seen the tourist spots of the city of dreams on an earlier visit but it was around this time that I got to experience a slice of sights and sounds of the normal Bombay. Happy kids on the sidewalks getting wet cheerily in the non-stop rain (It had been raining since 7 days and continued to rain for another 5 after.). Girls confidently walking on roads in mini-skirts. People going, going and going. Roads teeming with people except at the tech park where our office was situated. The building Harshad Mehta built from the hawala money. The huge piece of real estate which was converted from slums to tech park material by buying every slum dwelling for a crore each (trivia provided by the cab driver) . The proudly candid driver from UP, who told us his life story in the 4 trips that we made in his car. The Udupi hotel we landed at for lunch on the quest to eat authentic Mumbai food (the food was super delicious and the waiters were speaking to each other in tulu/konkani).
While one does not identify Mumbai with green spread, the most ecstatic sight was that of plants. Every window in every residential building whether decrepit or exquisite had a spot of green hanging on it. Pots in every size, shape and colour hung from or balanced precariously on the window grills/sills with life coming forth. Bright flowers peeping out from behind clothes flapping in the breeze. There is nothing more soothing to the soul than an eyeful of fresh greenery and this seems to be rooted in the very heart of mumbai. The Mumbaikars are the busiest people we can see and yet they take out enough time to bring a sprig to life. They probably see glaring ups and downs in their lives given the pace of life and still they dont deny a glass of water to the little shrub outside their window. The tree of hope lights up the very depths of one's mind and heart. Plants have a meditative quality to them and help in calming frayed nerves. A dash of green helps bring positivity in one's mind.
It must have been my anguish or my self depracation at not having tended to my precious plant, whatever the reason, my buddies P & P presented me with another slender sapling complete with pot and pot-mix on the occasion of Tulasi Habba. My hope is back on track!

Mirror mirror on the wall

One wall in my bedroom is host to one of the most entertaining mirror I have ever had. It reminds me of the days when the most interesting outing of the year used to be to the Annual Arts and Crafts Exhibition.
I lived in Hyderabad as a kid and all the four of us used to ride astride a Bajaj Chetak scooter to the Nampally grounds every year to this exhibition. It was something that we used to wait for with excitement soaring. And it never failed to appease. The chilli bajji(of which I used to eat the bajji part and my dad the chilli part), the camel rides (which I only used to stand to a side and watch since I was chicken), the endless walk through the fair grounds, the smell of fresh popcorn and cotton candy, holding on to my mom's finger lest I get lost and a whole host of memories. One of the things I remember vividly is the house of mirrors. My favourite was always the one which made me look taller. But the most hilarious was the one which made you look like humpty dumpty.
The mirror we purchased seems to be a distant cousin of this risque gang. The speciality of this mirror is that it can make me happy. I have discovered that the farther I stand from it, the more elegant the size looks and the closer I get to the mirror, the bigger the proportions get. As can be concieved, I do not preen at myself in this mirror. I only use it to give me the shot of confidence whenever I need it.
My mirror has become the epitome of denial. It shows me what I want to see. I read in a fairy tale about an evil step-mother wanting the mirror to tell her what she wanted to hear. Now I have realised why she was so desperate!
My mirror reflects the state of my mind.