Monday, November 1, 2010

Too blessed to be stressed...

These were the words of the visibly tired "maintenance man" as I walked into my apartment building, exhausted, after a long day of work. He said this to someone who was enquiring after him. I could really use those words. These days work is insanely busy, which means that my head has been spinning with Monday's ToDos that are far from done on Thursday, I haven't had lunch in weeks, I've started buying clothes online, hitting the gym is a distant thought, and my blog hasn't been gettin' any lovin'. Heck, not even a worldless wednesday!
But I'm feeling the "good kind of tired" though, if there is such a thing. After a long time, I'm really enjoying what I do. And I have these words of wisdom from our always-smiling maintenance man to see me through the next few weeks as I get more organized and hopefully find time for myself again. Until then, Happy Diwali Everyone!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Shopper and the Shauppeur

These days, many of my "blogger-thoughts" seem to occur while shopping. I hope I can say this without sounding shallow or inane. Anyway, today, I accompanied the husband to a store to help him pick out a pair of jeans. Finding myself in the unusual role of the shauppeur (okay, it's not a real word, but, you know, shauppeur = shop + chauffeur = someone who drives/accompanies you to shopping), it struck me, for the first time, that stores in the US almost never have any seating. It's almost as if they don't want the many waiting spouses/friends/parents accompanying their customers to have this basic comfort.

This lead to a sudden (and emotional) flashback to stores in India where customer service is impeccable. Right from the 'aiye behenji' greeting, to seating customers comfortably as someone tirelessly unfolds and displays hundreds of sarees while the behenji-suddenly-turned-diva rejects them one after the other with a shake of her head. The behenji is then shown how the saree will look on her, the saleswoman, and the store manager so that she can get a truly accurate picture of what the saree looks like, and is convinced that there really is no catch. And this I will never understand - how is it humanly possible to smile at someone who walks away after all this without buying anything? Epitome of human endurance if you ask me.

Anyway, back to America where, except for a 30-day return policy (which I will forever be grateful for), customers aren't treated as gods. Now, the behenji-business ain't gonna fly in America, but I would imagine that at least seating shauppeurs will allow them to busy themselves with Facebook apps on their iPhones and whine less, so that the shoppers can take their time to browse the store and find something they like. This may particularly help the case of the tired/irritable/impatient/well-past-the-dating-stage-I-don't-have-to-impress-no-more shauppeurs.

But then again, having no seating may force shauppeurs to browse the store themselves and perhaps buy something (I did eye a this pair of pink jeans that I almost tried today). Two birds with one stone maybe? This may hold true mostly for female shauppeurs though. What do you guys think?

Anyway, this post isn't just an attempt to understand the complex science of shoppology, but of late, I've noticed how little time and money is spent in understanding what people want, and how much of it is spent on something that someone sitting within the confines of an office thinks is a great idea. Just trying to see if paying attention to little things can make a difference. To the perceptive eye, some of my posts have undercurrents ...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On Water - Blog Action Day 2010

(Click here for source of image)

On most mornings, as I brush my teeth, I just let the water run all the time. Then I spend a good 20 minutes in the shower before leaving for work. And not even for a moment do I stop to think that over a billion people in this world have no access to something as basic as clean water. Thing is, living a sheltered life in urban India, followed by a move to America, has, over time, made me forget this harsh reality, until I got an invite for the international blog action day on water.

Frankly, like most people out there, I have been largely ignorant of the global water crisis. As I began to google, I realized that I did not want to blog about "facts and stats" today. There is loads of research out there describing the problem at hand and it's ghastly consequences. And few people reading this blog (myself included) will remember all the numbers (although a billion is quite unforgettable!). So I thought, what can I, and those like me, do to help in their own little way?

The answer came to me from the very idea of Blog Action Day - awareness. It really is the first step. A general awareness (if not a complete understanding) of the problem at hand is what will drive each one of us to do our bit to help solve this problem. As an example, I never used a reusable grocery bag until I found out that New York City produces an insane amount of waste every day. Knowing that, made me feel like I had to do something about it, and I have refused many a plastic bag over the past year. Awareness, and a little initiative is all it took.

So, know that over a billion people in this world do not have the "luxury" of clean, drinking water. Know that hundreds of thousands of children die in India every year from water-borne diseases. Know that millions of little girls drop out of school because they have to walk miles and miles each day to fetch water. Know, that 40 billion hours are spent each year by Africans walking for water. Know, that while gallons of water are being wasted in one household, another goes thirsty. And finally, don't ignore it and be part of the solution in your own little way.

Save water. Reduce pollutants. Support NGOs that are working hard to solve this monolithic problem. Spread awareness. And this one is free, easy and fun - contribute to ideas! Think-tanks, and members of organizations like Asha for Education have been putting their minds together to come up with solutions to the water-crisis problem in places like Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, India*. Water-crisis spins a complex web of socio-economic problems and there is much you can do to contribute in the form of ideas/research/volunteering.

To end with a line that will make us all appreciate the severity of this problem - "A recent UN report confirms that more people die of contaminated and polluted water than from all forms of violence including wars." (ref) I, for my part, will not let water run waste in my sink or tub from today, and recyle. Will you?

*Special thanks to Sharad Sundararajan and Shreya Amin for leading the efforts for Jhabua from New York.

Wordless Wednesdays

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Fine Line

I love Desperate Housewives. What I love about the show is that even with a name like that, they refuse to portray their leading female characters as idiots, which is increasingly becoming a rarity on Television. These women are shown as fundamentally strong, intelligent, and witty without being Charlie's Angels or CSI Detectives, and I'm fine if they throw a cat-fight or two into the mix just to add some drama - it's a TV show after all.

Now, what I cannot stand is shows like 'The Real Housewives of...' series, Bridezillas or Paris Hilton's new BFF, whose sole purpose seems to be to slot women into one of three categories - bitchy, dumb or gold-digger. Over time, I've sort of made my peace with this portrayal - unfortunate, but someone out there gets a kick out of this stuff, and money must be made off it. But this Sunday, I was completely ticked off after seeing this ad.

Some would say this is a harmless ad. So why am I so riled, when I could look past Bridezillas? You see, once advertising misses the fine line between stupidity and comedy, and begins to think that women must be portrayed as dumb in order to potentially lure female consumers, one must take notice of the gravity of the problem.

My issues with this ad are, but obvious. Firstly, it is not funny. Yes, I mean even with grown women in Cinderella-like gowns, wearing those silly expressions. If they were going for comedy, they failed miserably. Those women could have been witty and funny - it's not entirely impossible. Even SATC could teach you a lesson or two on how to do that! Secondly, these people from advertising and marketing didn't stop to think if self-respecting women would want to buy butter-finger snacksters after seeing such an ad (and not just because they're called butter-finger snacksters)? No, just like in the ad, I think I won't! You see, I would feel stupid eating those things, now that I have the image of those two silly women stuck in my head, know what I mean?

And I'm not overreacting either. This ad is only one in a string of such insulting ads that I saw this weekend. And even if some women don't consciously feel offended by this (it's almost impossible to mentally register ads these days given all the info overload), I'm not sure if the overall impression of such ads appeals to the average woman's subconscious at least. So, to all the ad agencies/TV shows out there, please, take a leaf out of Desperate Housewives. And if you absolutely must show us as "girly girls", you could learn from 'The Closer' where Kyra Sedgwick has such a weakness for chocolate that she steals donuts from a crime scene while superbly solving a homicide mystery. I can live with that. Just not stupidity.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A different kind of drama

The other day, I "reconnected" with someone from my school who was known to be brilliant but was always pushed hard by her parents for that one extra mark she couldn't get. I imagine there was a showdown every time she took home the report card. That reminded me of the comically different situation in my family.

Just for some background, when I was growing up, I took my exams way too seriously. To be precise, I was your perfect Debbie Downer meets the evening-before-the-big-exam-drama-queen. For years, my family patiently put up with my obsession to ace every single exam, made worse by strong pessimism about how I was actually going to do in them.

Inevitably, national engineering entrance exams happened. I enrolled in this soul-crushing course called Brilliant Tutorials. True to their name, they are only meant for out-of-this-world brilliant people who shouldn't even need to take their course. Now most people I knew, myself included, never got past 20/100 in their tests. (Although, there was always some brilliant rascal from Chennai who managed to score a 90/100 and made you feel like an insect.) In those days, people wrote on paper, and results were sent in snail-mail. On one occasion, things played out like this (10 years ago):

Me: Mom, did the Brilliant guy send my exam papers home? Everyone in school go theirs 3 days ago. Are you sure the watchman/postman/you didn't miss them?
Mom: (avoiding eye contact) No, I didn't see any.
Me: How come everyone else got them? Do you think they lost my papers? Oh my God! They lost my papers! (looking close to tears).
Mom: (Looks helplessly at my brother who's the worst liar on earth.)
Me: What is it? Are you hiding something from me?
Mom: (Reaches for papers under the sofa cushion.) They came in the other day just before you walked in from school. There wasn't enough time so I hid them beneath the cushion.. (voice trails off)
Me: I got only 14?!! What the hell! I can't believe you did this to me!
Mom: I'm so sorry, nanna. I didn't want you to get upset.. (sheepishly)

Now that's a scene you don't find in most Indian households - parents hiding their child's results! Whether it was done out of love or out of fear of the drama queen is debatable ;) but I will say this - I couldn't have asked for a cooler family who never believed that my grades defined me, or that bad grades are a good reason to get upset.

P.S.: "Shortened" and republished for brevity's sake.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Yellowstone National Park in Pictures

Last week we visited Yellowstone National Park. Having already told everyone we know how cool our vacation was on Facebook, I have moved on to my blog (No, I am not above flaunting. And yes, Facebook takes precedence as I get more comments there). Now, my knowledge of Geology is almost zero, and I still know very little about Yellowstone - both good reasons to let the lovely pictures clicked by the husband do the talking. Here are a few.

Scenic drive - just kept getting better and better.

Some very interesting terrain - roaring mountain, mammoth springs... Almost felt like a different planet.

Hot springs and some interesting life forms that survive these high temperatures. The one on the left is called emerald pool.

Some hot stuff this! Was quite the thrill to stand a few feet from these geysers and mud volcanoes at Old Faithful, Norris Basin, Dragon's mouth...

Spotted some wildlife too. A friendly bison even stopped by our van.

Water bodies. So pure and untouched. Yellowstone Lake, West Thumb, Lamar Valley.

Yellowstone by dusk. That dashing man in the picture is my husband...

On our way back we stopped at Grand Teton National Park and enjoyed some huckleberry margaritas at the Blue Heron at Jackson Lake Lodge. There couldn't possibly be a place with better views.

That was a great trip!

General advise on itineraries and how to plan your Yellowstone trip can be found in abundance on the net. Only thing I'll add is don't believe anyone who says 4 days is too little to explore Yellowstone. Sure more the vacation days, the merrier, but if you can't take more than a day or two off work, you can still very much enjoy Yellowstone, so don't let that deter you.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On inception and recursion

I have often noticed how engineers think very analytically, even about the most mundane/unexpected things. The other day I was having lunch with a bunch of fellow computer science "enthusiasts". One of them declared that he hadn't seen the movie, and here's a snippet of the conversation that followed (spoiler alert...oh, and geek alert too):

C: Inception is like a dream within a dream within a dream...There are multiple levels, sort of like recursion.
AK: Every time you die, you get popped off the stack and go back to your previous dream.
P: But under some circumstances the dream could just hang for a long time, no?
AK: Yes, if you're highly sedated...
C: Sometimes you can't tell if you're dreaming or awake. Leonardo's wife dies because she thinks she's killing herself in a dream, but it's actually real life.
NR: Bad design.
P: Pch. No error handling.
AM: That is why they had the totem. It's like a global variable.

Ah, what would the world be without us engineers...

P.S.: If you're not one of "us", then sorry about the computer jargon. I promise not to do this often.

EDIT: Oh, and what a coincidence - Happy Engineer's Day my brethren!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A tribute to Maggi Noodles

Thank you, Maggi Noodles, for always being there. On late Sunday afternoons as a stand-in for lunch. At 2 am, when hunger pangs are at their worst. When recipes go terribly wrong. When I was still learning that buying milk, tomatoes and Hershey's kisses is not what one calls "doing your groceries". And when I finally accepted that, contrary to my mother's belief, age and experience won't necessarily improve my cooking skills.

Whether I'm feeling like sambar, curry or Chinese, all I need is two minutes and you can make my wishes come true. Pray when will they make chocolate fudge Maggi? Never disappointing, always satisfying, a beacon of hope for those of us who cannot cook - thank you, Maggi Noodles.

P.S. I thought of writing a corny poem using the line "You're not just a Noodle, you're the Dude-le", but better sense prevailed and I decided to spare my readers the agony. M surely remembers the poem I once wrote for her birthday. Never quite heard the end of it until I left college...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I'm a vegetarian and I love my leather boots

My recent trip to the land that knows nothing of the existence of vegetarians (a.k.a New Orleans) made me reflect on why I was still vegetarian. I mean, it's not very easy being vegetarian. While NYC is as vegetarian friendly as an American city can possibly be, I did spend two long years in Pennsylvania, mostly ordering pancakes and fries at restaurants for dinner because I had nothing else to choose from. But I was never the least bit tempted to sway. So, I developed some grandiose notions about why I had stuck with vegetarianism while many "had strayed from the path". Clearly, they were "too weak".

Of course, the fundamental reason why I'm vegetarian is because I was raised vegetarian. But then I was raised to be a lot of (good) things that I am not today. For instance, I come from a household that set a store by keeping one's place very clean and organized, whereas I dread unannounced guests for a reason (never, ever show up unannounced at my place). So upbringing couldn't have been the only reason.

Then I thought that I was vegetarian because "it was the right thing to do". After I moved to the US, I quickly lost that notion. I stopped thinking that eating meat was some sort of sin. So I decided that I must be vegetarian because I was non-violent - I didn't want to see some innocent creature get hurt. But one day I realized, much to my horror, that I had fallen in love with a pair of lovely leather boots and had no compunction whatsoever in buying them. They're my favorite, most comfortable pair of boots I've ever owned and if I ever had to replace them, I'd do so with (gasp) the exact same pair if I can (Do you know hard it is to find a good pair of boots?). This was an eye-opener and I quickly checked off love of animals as a possible candidate.

Thus I've concluded that it is neither strength of character nor principle nor love for all things living that is keeping me vegetarian. Clearly I'm somewhat hypocritical, and I think I must generally be disgusted by meat, the same way I'm disgusted by beets and spinach and raw plantain (ugh!). Nothing great about that, but in the grand scheme of things if a chicken or two is saved, then all the better.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Shopping, these days...

Over the years, I've found that my patience with shopping has significantly waned. If I see a longish line outside a fitting room or cash register (a rather common sight in New York), I more often than not overcome my desire to own new clothes and escape almost instantly.

So today I went shopping again. I know, I know, I bought a lot lately but the weather's turning rather grey in New York which means that fall is here and somehow, yet again, I have nothing to wear! (Digressing a bit here, but how is it that one can own so many clothes and still have nothing to wear? It's a baffling phenomenon that seems to afflict only women...)Anyway, as I stood in a line outside the fitting room contemplating whether I should try a sweater on to confirm if the extra small size in GAP is really a medium or not (Have you seen what GAP calls small ?!!), I saw a visibly exhausted mother sit down to rest her tired feet after spending probably several hours shopping with her teenage daughter for back-to-school clothes. While the daughter enthusiastically tried on clothes and showed no signs of relenting, her tired, but patient mother looked on. And suddenly I was reminded of all the times when I went shopping with my mother. I would insist we survey every store in town before going back to the first store to buy the first outfit I had tried, while my mother shook her head in disbelief and indulged a daughter who never seemed to tire of shopping. It was so much fun. Mothers and daughters just have this thing, you know? I miss you mummy! :(

Friday, August 20, 2010

Off to New Orleans!

So we're going away this weekend to New Orleans! We decided around two weeks ago to make the trip and ever since then, two things have become apparent to me: (a) The anticipation of an impending vacation is one of the best payoffs of taking a vacation, (b) A woman's approach to a vacation is vastly different from that of a man.

I think (a) is self-explanatory, but let me dwell on (b) for a bit. If you're a man, your approach most likely will be - "Tickets are booked. Great. We leave at 7 for the airport". But, if you're a woman, it all begins with the quintessential pre-vacation question - "What am I going to wear?". And one thing will lead to another and before you know it, your "incidental expenses" will outweigh expenses of your trip itself. So, a new top, a new skirt, new clothes for the husband, a bag of goodies from Sephora, a new perfume, and a hair styling appointment later, we're all set to leave this evening. Will blog about New Orleans once we're back!

PS: This is for my fellow makeup junkies. My haul from Sephora consisted of a smudge-proof eye pencil from Urban Decay, liquid eye liner from Tattoo, Eye shadow in Galapagos from Nars, and a soft-pencil lip color in Walkyrie from Nars as well. Haven't tried all of them yet, so right now, I can only vouch for the lip color which I also used at my wedding two years ago. So hard to find a good shade for lip color for brown women around here somehow. If anyone knows of any, please help out :).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day to all my fellow Indians out there! Missing the unbridled celebration that is so characteristic of India. In fact, I miss it on all festivals too - the loud speakers, the pandals, the decorations, the singing and dancing on the streets - that vibrant, unrestrained celebration that we Indians are so fond of. Nothing holds us back when we're happy or sad, and I think it takes a certain amount of unity and love and pureness of heart to be able to express oneself so freely.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

For all the Steven Slater admirers out there..

Slater's got style. The man is now famous for calling it quits. An overnight celebrity of sorts for not being able to take it any more. So, while I've given Susan Boyle and Octomom a miss, Slater gets a place in my blog. Why? Because, you see, Slater hasn't really done anything that remarkable. He neither wowed millions with a dramatic singing performance, nor did he push 8 babies out of his uterus and live to tell the story. He simply had a meltdown at work. Anyone thinking so what's the big deal? Well, it's just that thousands, perhaps even millions, of people gazing out the office window on a Wednesday afternoon wondering how much longer for the weekend to arrive, will now have the comfort of drawing a mental picture of escaping to freedom via an emergency chute, beers in hand, no less. That sort of thing can change lives. If that's not a big deal, then what is?

Now, I'm no legal expert, nor do I know anything about airline safety, but all I have to say is this. Give the guy a reality show already! Move over, Fly Girls (yes, someone actually thought of a show on flight attendants even before this exciting event) The most famous flight attendant in history is here!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Anniversary Present

Every year, for our parents' wedding anniversary, my brother and I rack our brains trying to come up with an idea for something nice to surprise them with, and almost every year we end up sending them flowers from one website or another - flower arrangements that look nothing like the picture online. Having done this year after year, my brother came up with a new idea this year. Rather than squander money on roses or jewelery (I know, no self-respecting South-Indian woman speaks of jewelery so condescendingly), we decided to donate to charity in our parents' name this year.

Since we're from India and supporting a cause in India is closer to our hearts, we picked the following charities to donate to:
*Sankara Netralaya - A philanthropic eye hospital in Chennai, India that performs thousands of eye surgeries, free of cost every year, for those who cannot afford it. We donated to have a free cataract operation performed the date of our parents' anniversary. What could be a better present than to prevent blindness?
*Akshaya Patra - An NGO in Karnataka, India, that provides free, nutritious mid-day meals for over a million schoolchildren in India so that they don't drop out of school because of hunger.
*Sphoorti - An NGO in Hyderabad, India that helps support basic needs such as education and healthcare for poor, orphaned children.

Our parents greatly approve of our choice of 'anniversary presents' this year. What better feeling than to help a fellow human being, knowing that you could make a difference with even as little as it takes to send flowers or a box of Swiss chocolates? If anyone reading this post is looking for ideas for a good present, well here's one, that's not only a great value for the money, but good for your soul too.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

On Nutritious Cooking

So, the girl who spent the first two decades of her life eating pretty much rice, rasam and fried potatoes and absolutely, stubbornly refusing anything else at the dinner table, has finally started to pay attention to what she eats. And, she is amazed at how much she never knew and never bothered to find out until now. She first had her epiphany when she realized one day that she was no longer 20 and eating tubs of ice cream in bed would have it's consequences. But soon enough, she also understood that looking good was just a visible confirmation of the fact that eating right == being healthy.

However, much to her chagrin, she also learned that epiphanies do not have a ripple effect. Spouses, families, roommates will resist changing their eating habits, and while one can have a positive influence, it is a hard sell to get people to suddenly switch to soy and whole wheat. And she felt the frustration that her loving mother must have once felt when her daughter refused to eat her greens. So, she thought, what is one to do to help everyone at home eat healthy? And then it struck her. Sneak in the good, nutritious stuff, so that nobody notices! So here are a few tricks she found useful in making carb-loaded Indian food, or perhaps any cuisine for that matter, a little healthier.

Oatmeal Rava Dosa

Inspired from this blog, but adapted to my mother's recipe and tried and tested successfully on the experimental subject (a.k.a. unsuspecting husband).
For breakfast for two, you'll need:
1/2 cup sooji
2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup rice flour
Green chillis (around 4, finely chopped should be good)
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp red chilli powder

Dry roast the rolled oats for a 3-4 minutes. Then grind to a fine powder. Mix all the above ingredients together along with 3 cups of water and let sit for 15-30 minutes. After that make dosas using olive oil pam cooking spray (my new best friend). These turned out perfect - crisp, virtually oil-free, and with all the goodness of heart-healthy, soluble oat fiber no less.

One can substitute (at least partially) processed or wheat flour with oat flour in many recipes. Check out recipes for rolled oats rotis or oatmeal muffins. Tried these too. Tasted great.

Flaxseed ... in almost anything

Omega-3 rich flax seeds must be the easiest-to-hide healthy ingredient you can ever find. They really don't have any detectable flavor or taste (when ground; always grind for maximum absorption in your body) and you could sprinkle flaxseed meal in just about anything, curries, raita, roti dough, etc. without an iota of difference in taste. They are also a substitute for eggs in eggless baking. Here's a tried and tested recipe for flaxseed dosa podi (who would've thought?!)

The net is abound with many, many such healthy recipes, and the girl discovered that trying to adapt what she and her family enjoys eating into healthier versions will ensure that eating right does not feel like a punishment.

Note: Flaxseed must be consumed in moderation, not more than a teaspoon or two per day.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Those early friendships

Sue's post on her son and his little friend has inspired me to write a post of my own. I am blessed with decent memory so I have fairly vivid memories of some of my kindergarten friendships. For some reason, in those days, I mostly hung out with the boys at school. So here's remembering Abhishek, Arvind and Shammi.

So first there was Abhishek. Having both just moved to Delhi from Tamil Nadu at five, we were practically inseparable and happily chatted away in Tamil all day long while our teacher unsuccessfully tried to get us to interact with the other kids who mostly spoke Hindi/English. This continued until our teacher and parents conspired to tear us apart and put us in different sections lest we turn into some kind of social rejects. Heartbreaking, really.

Then came Arvind. Arvind was the sweetest guy and we got along really well. Until he lost bladder control in class one day, that is. After that incident, he was constantly the butt of everybody's jokes and I was too embarrassed to hang out with him. So that's how poor Arvind got dumped. Some of us have to learn the harsh ways of the world sooner than others, I guess.

Then came Shammi Kapoor. No his name wasn't really Shammi Kapoor (Bollywood star), but I remember him as such because he was Shammi's most ardent fan if there ever was one. Now Shammi, for some unfathomable reason, imagined that he had found a most captivated audience in me for his Chitrahaar song-and-dance performances. So each morning, Shammi and his devoted mother would hunt the school grounds and would not rest until they had found me. Mommy dear would then leave contented for the day. Shammi was like krazy-glue. Once spotted, it was impossible to get rid of him, or to make him stop "electric-shock dancing" (Shammi Kapoor's signature dancing style). I can still recall his chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe moves.

There were others too, but these are are the most memorable and perhaps also the quirkiest.

On journeys and destinations

These past few days, I have been trying to re-evaluate my priorities in life. The recent death of a very dear relative, well before his time, has got me thinking about my life in general. There seem to be so many things that my husband and I are constantly putting on the back burner because work and other seemingly mundane things occupy our time and our minds. That much needed visit to the dentist, our annual health check up, a much-desired vacation to Rome and Paris, making a "5-year plan", taking that photography class, investments ... the list just simply goes on. And time seems to be flying. Only the other day I was telling a wide-eyed recruit that I have been working for four years. He even said 'Wow!'.

Another thing I have realized about myself, is that sometimes I work so very hard towards something, but only after I have invested an immense amount of time and energy in it, do I realize that it does not mean as much to me as I thought it did. Perhaps it's the challenge of the journey but not the destination that interests me? Or maybe, I get so engrossed in the journey that I never stop to think if the destination is even worth it? For instance, I remember having worked truly, insanely hard to get into a top college during my teen years. And when I didn't, oddly the thing that rankled in my brain the most was not the fact that I spent all those hours slogging away, but that I had missed a basketball game at school that everyone couldn't stop talking about, to attend a tuition class. Sure, wanting to get into a top school is not a bad goal to have. But how close was it really to my heart? I honestly don't know. Yet, I spent the better part of my teen years working towards it, and in the process, missed many a birthday and hanging out with friends like a normal teenager should.

Anyway, here's an interesting story - . It's nothing new, many may have read it, but it conveys a simple yet interesting thought. Sometimes, I suppose we don't really analyze what we're working towards or why, and if, in the process we are missing out on the things that truly matter to us.

And on that note, I encourage everyone to take an hour out of your year to get your annual health check-up done. It's never too early or too late to start paying attention to your health. You owe it to yourself.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Annnnd back to reality

It is so ironic that this post should come on the heels of one that speaks of escapism and how perfect the Harry Potter world is.

So we just finished watching a new Telugu movie vedam. The movie was a breath of fresh air with superb performances. However, it was also a tad depressing. It highlights the many social injustices that happen in India and it has filled me with a lot of anger. I will admit (and again I run the risk of sounding like a stuck-up NRI), that had I never left India, perhaps I wouldn't have had such an angry reaction. I mean, social injustice is so rampant in India that you almost fail to notice it. But having lived in the US where discrimination and harassment are taken so very seriously and one couldn't even remotely imagine cheating someone out of their kidney or bonded labor, the contrast makes me that much angrier. I mean, a woman who got fired for dressing sexy is on the news like every hour for God's sake! Compare that with the things you see on NDTV everyday.

I had a similar reaction when I read The White Tiger about an year ago. The book highlights things that are not new to most people who've lived in India. I mean how many of us haven't had our driver or watchman or maid run errands for us that were out of their job description and weren't paid for? How many people treat their domestic help with respect and dignity? There wasn't one thing in the book that was news to me but it felt like someone had just dunked me in cold water. And Arvind Adiga's matter-of-factly narration of most of those things really drives home the point. Having lived in the US where one's social status does not dictate how they are treated, made the reality of it all that much sadder.

This post is not meant to criticize India at all, and I hope it is not misconstrued that way. It is what it is, and God knows we Indians stand by our country no matter what and will defend it to the hilt. But I cannot help but envy the freedom and justice in the American society (it may not be perfect, but it has come a long way), and wonder when we will get there.

P.S. - This post has been composed in a fit of emotion, but then, that's when I'm most eloquent so there.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The perfect retreat

Ever so often work and other pressures catch up with me and I find myself wanting to just shut everything out and be able to, well, just not care. Short-term remedies such as retail therapy or a relaxing mani-pedi work only as long as they truly takes your mind off things.  And we no longer live in a world where taking a vacation is simple any more. It involves getting time-off approved, reservations, visas, to name a few. So, what is the simplest way to decompress, at least for a little bit, before you are rudely reminded of whatever it is that is stressing you out? I kind of found a neat solution to the problem around the time when I was going through the stressful experience of trying to find my first job.

I remember waiting for my first phone interview call. I had scheduled it around mid-afternoon and finding myself getting restless and anxious a couple of hours before the call, I tried a lot of things to relax but nothing really worked, until I thought why not watch some TV. I really didn't have much luck there - either it was some gloomy movie with a vamp and a distraught wife on Lifetime or Spongebob Squarepants. I thought a cartoon show was infinitely more preferable to a bunch of bickering women,  so I gave it a shot.  Almost instantly I began to relax as I escaped into a make-believe world with talking sponges and underwater squirrels and harmless villians who cared for nothing more than stealing the crabby patty recipe. Granted it sounds exceedingly juvenile but it did take my mind off the very real problem of a job interview. After that, I scheduled all my phone interviews (and believe me I had plenty) right after Nickeloden aired Spongebob, because it always put me in such a good mood.

Ever since I've resorted to somewhat more mature escapism techniques like books. Everytime I start feeling overwhelmed or overstressed I pick up a book that allows me to escape into a different place - like the Harry Potter series, for example. The harry potter series has great potential for escapism. I mean who wouldn't like to be lead into a world of magic with such a different approach to solving problems - like making objects fly by uttering spells or transforming into someone else using polyjuice potion or simply apparating into thin air? (I'm sorry, but I think it's pretty damn neat!) Of course there's the question of the evil Voldemort, but hey, we all kinda knew that Harry would win in the end, didn't we?

Another favorite is Jane Austen. I find the romanticism of the Jane Austen world irresistible. Where magnificent balls and charming gentlemen and romantic, old-fashioned courtships are what take center stage, and the biggest problem one must face is that of finding one's true love, and almost certainly in the end pretty much everyone ends up happy.  

But my all time fav. though is Gone with the wind. I must've read this book a million times and if I had to pick just one item before being marooned on an island, it would be this book. While the book is riddled with real-world problems, I just love the schemes of Scarlett O'Hara. She makes you believe that you don't always have to accept the situation and that you can find a solution to the problem, with or without others' approval. Her I-give-a-damn attitude is simply inspiring.

So, my dear friends, in escapism lies the perfect retreat. It is often inexpensive, highly effective and lasts longer than a shopping spree. So find a way of letting your mind free and help it escape to a happier place every now and then. Try it. It works.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

On rafting and priorities

So just yesterday, the husband and I, along with a couple of friends went white water rafting. If I had any idea what I was getting into, I would've fought to get out of the whole thing. (And the husband wisely did not mention that he had signed us up for Level three rafting, either). Anyone who knows me has never accused me of being the least bit adventurous. And water has always scared me a little. But being busy at work made it impossible to google and see what was actually in store for me. So ignorant little me, put a brave foot forward and went rafting, thinking how hard can it be really? And off we went, just four of us in a raft, on our own, on a 4 hour expedition down Leighton river in Pocono, PA. If you are afraid of water, at the end of such an expedition you'll feel that nothing can really frighten you anymore. It was an absolute blast! And took four hours of concerted effort to hang on to dear life and raft.

There was this one time when I fell off the raft and for what seemed an eternity was under water. Anyone who's gone under water and thrashed around knows how long that can feel. I distinctly remember thinking that there is no way I will be found and rescued, and damn it would be embarrassing if I were the first person to die rafting! But quickly I was found and pulled back into the boat. As I sat trying to catch my breath and make sense of what had just happened, everyone was anxiously peering at me to see if I was OK. And without missing a beat, I gasped 'Hand me my sunscreen'. C looked relieved but very amused. Seriously, has no one read the instructions that say reapply if you get wet? Well mine wasn't water proof, guys (a big omission!). A girl's gotta take her sunscreen seriously!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The buck stops here

This post is for Sue of the fame. Sue is organizing the Red Marker Blogathon. The idea behind it is to blog about amusing or annoying misuse of the English Language (hence the name Red Marker).

Now I'm far from perfect in my use of the English language (And italicizing. Why this compulsive need to italicize? Why?). So this post is not to criticize those who are not perfect. In fact, this post is not even about a proper English word, but slang.

Around the time when I was entering my teens, I started noticing that things no longer cost 10 Rupees in India. Inflation? Wrong guess. They were 10 bucks instead. Remember the days when 'sup and buck and hanging out were just starting to catch on in India (or at least in the much happening town of Vishakhapatnam)? Well, anyone who watched someone cool in a Hollywood movie say "buck", just assumed that it was a unit of currency; that it didn't matter if it was Rupee or Dollar or whatever. Well, in any case, it was fashionable to say buck and not wanting to be left behind, I started talking bucks as well.

It wasn't until recently, that I discovered that the slang for buck was originally intended for a dollar bill. Specifically a dollar. (See wiki, urban dictionary, for sources). Kinda like 'quid' for the British Pound. Some sites say that it doesn't have to be US dollar, but any dollar, like say an Australian dollar (who made these rules anyway?).

Well, that means, to confirm with the rules of the English slang, one shouldn't be using buck in India. Maybe we should popularize our own term like ... Rupiya or Rupayya?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wisdom from my twenties...

Seeing all those young, bright-eyed summer-interns and fresh graduates at work has been making me feel a tad old. You know that feeling when you see a younger, less jaded, version of yourself and go 'I remember when I used to be like that...' ? That feeling is usually followed by two things. First, you experience a slight attack of nostalgia for those less cynical times. And right after that, you recover and smile inwardly, a half-smile of wisdom and experience and think - kids!

Well, in my opinion, anyone who has felt that way immediately gains the right to dispense some I-know-what's-best-for-you life advice to those who ... well, are young enough to have never felt that way. So here it is. My first blog post on life advice, for all those young people venturing out into the "real" world, based on some of the "lessons" I learnt in my post-college life or my twenties. Just a heads up.

Friendships. It's not as easy to make friends once you're out of school/college. And it will be a lot less likely that chatting with someone you just met in a party will spark off a life-long friendship. So treasure the close friends you've got and make all the effort you can to stay in touch. That is not to say you won't make any new friends. But it will be harder.

Career. You will not be made the CEO or Managing Director at your firm after your brilliant performance in your first successful project. Or the next. Or the one after that. When in college, many of us think that moving up the corporate chain will be a breeze. Surely, everyone will notice how smart you are? Sorry to burst your bubble honey, but get real. You will have to work your way up slowly and you will have to be patient. The sooner you develop realistic expectations, the less you will be disappointed.

Money. Money will matter a little less to you with time. For someone with a small allowance, a high paying job will almost seem like a life goal. But you'll find that once you have enough to pay your bills and live comfortably, what you make over and above that will matter less than really loving what you do.

You will need a hobby or an interest. I honestly believe that developing a hobby early in life pays off most in your twenties. Because, before your twenties, you most likely are surrounded by family, friends and siblings and have tons of other things to do. And after you start a family of your own, you'll be busy as well. But in-between is when you will really need something to be passionate about and to meaningfully fill in your free time.

Well, my gyaan (knowledge) ends here. I don't think there is anything up there that nobody else has figured out for themselves, but hey, uncle S, who simply delights in giving young people advice, will be proud his niece is doing it now (broadcasting it on the internet no less!). Now lets give it another decade before I collect enough wisdom to fill another blog post.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On simpler times

This past Friday, as C and I sat down to eat at our second restaurant for the evening, we started to talk about simpler times when we were children and small things used to be special. We were spoiling ourselves by grabbing dinner at different places - falafel for me and dosas for him - and I couldn't help remembering how, when I was growing up, eating out was a luxury, reserved for special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries or if your cousins were visiting for the Summer. You dressed up. And told your friends about it. It wasn't just getting dinner, you know?

There are many such things that I can think of. Like the only one hour in the week when you could watch cartoons on TV was Sundays, from 11 am to noon. My brother and I would wake up early, and wait with bated breath for the cartoons to begin. And we weren't the only ones. All of our friends would come over to our place and we would gather around the TV, riveted as He-man battled Skeletor, and Donald and Mickey did their tricks. On all other days, we would laugh and play in the park after school because there really wasn't much else to do. No internet. No cartoon network. You could only dream of a world where you could lie on a couch and watch cartoons all day.

Movies and songs were another luxury. Friday nights were reserved for Chitrahar on Doordarshan (Bollywood songs). My mom and aunt would rush us through dinner and clean up at what can only be described as lightning speed so that all of us could sit down and watch the only programme on TV that was entertainment for the whole family. In winters, I would bundle up in my mother's green shawl and snuggle next to her or my grandmother, as we collectively immersed ourselves in Bollywood numbers. My brother would invariably fall asleep and my dad would carry him to his bed. It is strange how some of the most lucid memories of my time with my family come from such seemingly banal occasions. But what seems ordinary now, used to be special then.

Thing is, it's amazing how far the world has come in terms of making what-used-to-be-luxuries, so easily available. Doubtlessly, my generation has seen the biggest leap. But I cannot help but wonder, if without moderation, things have a way of slowly losing their charm. Do we now have more things that we enjoy less? I don't know..

P.S.:I'm really sleepy, so please excuse any typos.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

19th May, 2010

Dear Blog,

If you thought that I had forgotten our anniversary and only happened to recall it at this late hour and scrambled to put together this last-minute post as some sort of a cover-up, you are very much mistaken. That was the plan all along. I just like to play it cool.
Also, I trust you're not given to materialistic expectations like the perfect anniversary post that I agonized over for weeks. In any case, you got 33 of them last year, so you can't really complain. Of course, I understand your disappointment that I did not update my Facebook status touting this monumental milestone in my life to all my FB buddies, because you can't imagine why they wouldn't be interested. That is perfectly reasonable, and I will make it up to you by opening a twitter account and tweeting about us.
Now that that's settled, lets raise our glasses to an year and 33 posts! Happy Anniversary!
Oh, and I wish all those readers of ours, who like to quietly lurk and not talk to us, take this opportunity to break the ice and say hello. It would be really nice to connect, you know? :)


Thursday, May 6, 2010

With due consideration

I'm happy to note that I may have (perhaps only temporarily) reached a stage in my life where I actually think carefully before acting on an angry impulse. In the past few days many an email that was composed, sometimes in anger and sometimes in frustration, was not actually sent because I decided to give myself some cool down time before sending it, lest I should feel differently later. I'm sure everyone has sent at least one email in their lives that they have regretted. Well, I have sent many; and having sent that many, I must admit that it is somewhat gratifying to put all that emotion into words. It's hard not to resort to it every now and then, just because of its therapeutic qualities, but I've just learnt to be content with typing furiously away to let it all out and then silently hitting cancel (or saving a draft if I have a real winner, just in case). 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On boring ponytails

When I was a child, I was impatient to grow up, like many others, because that would give me the freedom to do certain things. For many of my friends, it represented freedom from school and adults who are constantly telling them what to do. My ideas on the subject were neither profound nor grandiose. I only had a modest desire - the freedom to wear my hair loose.

Throughout my childhood, my mom (and school teachers) always insisted that my hair be either neatly braided or tied into ponytails. School wanted kids to focus less on "fashion" and more on education, while mothers wisely avoided tangled hair. My mother and I would argue every day as she tried to get my hair into a ponytail for school, while I fretted and acted like a total diva, because, well, ponytails weren't good enough for me. I would watch Bollywood heroines toss around their luscious locks on TV and yearn for the day when I could break the shackles of boring ponytails and walk around with the wind in my hair. Of course, the thought never once occurred to me that my hair itself could be a far cry from Bollywood glamor.

Just yesterday, as I shook my hair out from a ponytail before going to bed, I realized that I haven't worn my hair loose in a long time. My hair texture and unimaginative hair dressers have both made it somewhat hard for me to let my hair loose often and still look presentable. But more importantly, I cannot be bothered to spend an extra 20 minutes styling my hair every morning before barely making it in time to work. Now if only I could have my mom lovingly comb my hair everyday and make it into a neat ponytail...

Friday, April 23, 2010

This one is for the girls

Butterfly, T, M and I

Meeting M in California this past weekend has made me very nostalgic. This June, it will be 10 years since M, T, Butterfly and I first met. Anyone who knows us well would never say that we are much alike. We have very different personalities, ideas and points-of-view. However, something did draw us together from the moment we met. I can't quite put my finger on what it was, but it may have been our mutual acceptance and admiration of the strong and opinionated individuals that we are, and the fact that we somehow always "get" each other. Well, it's either that, or nobody else wanted to be friends with us!

I was just thinking the other day that I never really shared my first impressions with them. So here they are, for my own benefit as much as theirs. I want to hold on to these memories, and what better way to preserve them than in my blog?

I first met M during our college admissions/counseling. She was so at ease in her new surroundings and seemed so very independent, that I couldn't help but admire her self-confidence. In sharp contrast, I was demure and quiet and thought I had just entered prison and not college. She was the first person that I spoke to.

I was introduced to Butterfly by M. Two things I instantly noticed about her - I had never met a girl with such pretty dimples, or who spoke her mind as openly. Within minutes she had me scandalized. I clearly remember thinking that this girl is trouble!

T and I first met when I had managed to sneak away from college seniors during ragging/hazing, and she was sent into the girls' hostel to call me out. I remember thinking what a beauty! And how come she's not frazzled by all this ragging business? In return, she tells me that I was a real wuss for hiding in my room! T, always the honest and practical one.

Four years with each other have lead to a lot of fond memories. Here are a few in no particular order (except for the first; that one's my favorite!):
  • Butterfly and T fighting like wild cats over petty stuff during lunch and dinner in the cafeteria/mess, while M and I goaded them on and enjoyed the show. Don't judge. The food was awful. Entertainment was all we had!
  • Late-night meetings in Butterfly's room for yet another discussion on boys, love, relationships and gossip.
  • Butterfly's iron-clad rule - Thou must wash thy feet before sitting on my bed. T always walked in with dirty socks and refused to comply (more drama!).
  • Trying on Butterfly's unused outfits from her secret "clothes stash" before every college event, and telling each other how great we looked! (I must mention this. Those clothes remained stashed for all 4 years, since Butterfly had a pathological fear of having to wash/iron them after use. She was already spending a fair bit of her expensive college education just washing clothes...If it's not clear, Butterfly has OCD.)
  • Staying up all night to cram for end-sem exams, and eventually ending up in T's room an hour before for a crash-course. T was always prepared - a week in advance. God, we hated her!
  • Butterfly claiming that T's methods are always wrong but somehow her "output" is always correct, as soon as the crash course had been delivered. (This would lead to some trouble, but the cycle would faithfully repeat itself every semester).
  • Mustering up every ounce of self-control to avoid cracking up at Butterfly's jokes in class (Networks, in particular. I may have suffered from internal bleeding in that one.)
  • Long walks with M, and how we never ran out of things to talk about.
  • T's horoscopic troubles, ineffective crash-diets and her firm belief that what you eat off of someone else's plate doesn't count.
  • That first bottle of vodka.
  • Watching M unleash her ruthless sarcasm on people.
  • Butterfly trying all sorts of well-intended but downright obvious tricks to help set me up with a cute guy (who I later married).
  • Sharing our anxiety over grad school apps and where life was going to take us next.
  • Butterfly waking up one morning before college was coming to an end and anxiously banging on my door because she dreamt that we were all gone :(
This is one long post, and god knows it could've been longer, and perhaps better. I'm not sure I did justice to this recap of our time together. I'm just paranoid that these memories will start slipping away (Except for those of the many practical jokes we played on T, of course. Those cannot be forgotten and even her grand-kids will hear about them from me). But the comforting thing is that we continue to be be best friends and any doubts that I may have had, when we graduated almost 6 years ago, about staying in touch are long gone.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Mondays can be hard. I usually wake up wondering why the world of corporations conspired to create a 5-day work week, why offices cant be more like schools doling out summer vacations and spring breaks, and imagine a perfect world with no Mondays, before I peel myself off the bed to take a shower. Since, Mondays are here to stay, here are a few tried-and-tested tips that may help ease the Monday blues. (Note, these are only for symptom-relief, they're no cure.)

1. Start thinking on Sunday night about what to wear to work the next morning. Pick something that you bought recently and are waiting to try, or a favorite sweater that makes you look oh-so-thin, to help you get a little excited about waking up and getting ready. This will also help avoid having a 'Damn! I have nothing to wear!' moment so early in the week, if you have it all figured out on Sunday night. Remember, looking good = feeling good.
2. Use your aromatherapy body-wash. You're gonna need it.
3. Walk in to work and spend the first 5 minutes, rolling your eyes at everyone in the elevator and around your desk saying "Mondays!". Helps to get it out of your system. Chances are you'll even get a few understanding nods so you'll know you're not alone.
4. Avoid Monday-morning-sprightly-characters at all cost. They can be annoying.
5. Take a coffee (green tea recommended) break around mid-day to commend yourself for having made it that far in the day. Give yourself a pat on the back!
6. Leave a tad earlier than usual and spend that time browsing a store or taking a stroll or such.

If none of the above help, then well, wait and see if Tuesday feels any better.

P.S.:Any other suggestions, anyone?

Friday, April 9, 2010


Anyone seen the trailer for Sex And The City 2? Any guesses as to where it is shot? Nope, not New York (at least, not entirely). Try again. Abu Dhabi. That's right. I never would've guessed. The entire trailer looked like an ad for Abu Dhabi tourism, complete with plush hotels and camel rides and belly dancers. Oh, and guess who Carrie runs into there? (Spoiler alert!) Aiden! I have such low expectations from this movie already. And yet, I'm so gonna watch it...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Good Saturday!

Since the husband and I are preparing for an exam, we had to passover an opportunity to spend the first warm, sunny, long weekend (on this coast) with friends in a nice vacation rental facing a lake in scenic Pennsylvania. Instead I'm making painfully slow progress on Balance Sheet Analysis and he's trying to tear himself away from IPL Cricket matches to study. So I decided, enough is enough! Perhaps doing something nice for ourselves would make us focus more on our studies instead of wondering how much fun we could've been having instead.

So I made us a nice breakfast. Eating nice dinners and lunches happens ever so often, but a nice breakfast is a rare treat. I seldom get anything fancier than cereal and juice. So I spent the better part of this morning cooking up a big breakfast. Made some french toast, bought some fresh strawberries and pomegranate juice, baked some (part-whole-wheat, eggless, butter-less blueberry muffins) and made some fried potatoes on the side to add a savory touch.

The breakfast really helped... for a few hours, that is. Maybe I'll watch some TV now..

Monday, March 29, 2010

What next?

I think I'm having my quarter-life crisis. I first heard this term when, a few months after having moved to the US for Grad School, I had complained to my brother about a sense of a lack of direction, a want of purpose, etc. Being older than I, he had probably already been there, so he wisely remarked 'Oh thats normal. You're just having your quarter-life crisis'. I thought it was an expression he had coined until I googled for it recently, and sure enough, there does seem to exist such a phenomenon. 

So why this crisis at so young an age? I mean, I don't really have anything thats particularly lacking in my life. As far as accomplishments go, I did get the education, the job, the financial security I wanted. It is kind of where I wanted to be, right? Kinda. Sorta. But somehow that doesn't feel quite enough. There's some restlessness I can't seem to explain. And after some self-assessment, I think I can sum up this feeling in just two words - what next?

All through my childhood and teens, I've always known what I wanted next. Good grades in high school board exams, so I can pick Math and Science as my electives, which in turn would help me pass the plethora of college entrance exams that we Indians can't seem to get enough of, followed by good grades in college so that I can get into a good masters' program at a top university, which of course would result in a great job. I wish I had a more comprehensive plan that for my life, but then, who does? (Or so I like to think) And now that I seem to have executed this "plan" that only extended into my mid-twenties, I am stuck with the question, what next? 

And that makes me a little anxious, since until recently, I seemed to always know the answer to that question. Of course, I know I'm not alone. If everyone knew what they wanted to do with their life, the world would be a simpler place. But for now, I'm still figuring out how to figure it out. And while I'm on it, can everyone who's been a subject of  my recent grouchiness, please just deal? :D

P.S: My brother suggested I go to Cafe Grumpy. Another thing I mistook for an expression until I saw this - Maybe I will!
Also, T, M and Butterfly have already seen something similar in SQ, besides putting up with lot of whining of late...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

This is lasting longer than I thought...

Sometime last year, my husband pointed out something to me which at that time had infuriated me a little (I don't take advice - good or bad - very well), but as much as my pride would not allow me to admit it then, he was actually right. He had told me that I don't seem to be truly passionate about anything, except my work perhaps, and that I should find something to do that will help me feel more fulfilled beyond the workplace.  It was true; I had spent the better part of my childhood and teens immersed in books, taking my education perhaps a bit too seriously. I was busy being ambitious and while that is somewhat second nature to me and I don't really resent that, I neglected developing a hobby or an interest, a passion for something that I held really close to my heart.

So I decided, that perhaps the husband was right after all, and as I get more and more sucked into the madness and mundaneness of work, I felt that I should do something to develop myself on a personal front. Now I knew better than to start singing or dancing or painting, because I've honestly never exhibited any creative energy or skills of that sort. And thats when I started to blog. I have always loved to write but it took all these years to realize that Duh! I could blog! And more recently, I've gotten into this whole being-healthy thing. Only the other day I stood in the middle of what can only be described as sheer madness (a whole foods store on a Monday evening in New York city is mayhem!), waiting in an endless line just to buy some brown rice and quinoa. The reason why I describe it as such as ordeal is because I've reached a stage where if I see a long line at the register or a fitting room, nothing can tempt me to buy that pretty dress; I just tell myself I'll come back for it and leave knowing that I just saved myself 30 minutes in the day. 

I have had my share of interests and hobbies that have gone as quickly as they came, but, clearly this new interest of mine has stuck around a good deal longer than I (honestly) ever thought. And, I asked myself, why is it different this time? Is it because I'm older, more mature and my attention span is a bit longer now? Hell no! :) I think it's because this time I know that it's purely, absolutely about me. I have realized eating healthy or exercising or blogging (and how can I forget skin-care!) are some of the very few things that I get to do in a day that are not about a paycheck, or responsibility or obligations or expectations, but about me. And after three years of working, I'm beginning to appreciate the importance of something like that.

This post may be a bit premature, but for now I'm happy that I've found somethings to do that make me feel good about myself. So, if you're beginning to feel that work is taking over your life, then either rekindle your passion for a hobby or find something that you do just for yourself and see how much better that makes you feel!

Friday, February 5, 2010

When you have a desk job

Sometime last year I had to move to a new group at work. While the work was tremendously exciting, it also meant being under a lot more pressure, and with a free cafeteria at work, I dealt with it in the easiest way possible. I ate. And I ate some more. And before I knew it, I had gained a lot of weight, and how did I deal with it? Thats right. I ate still more.

Luckily for me, a visit from a fitter and slimmer friend jolted me back to reality. Seeing your physically fit friend from college, who may even have dropped a few pounds since, while you're on your way to tripling your waist size? Yeah, that usually does the trick! So I decided to take charge of things. I started to read up a lot of articles on health and fitness, but mainly I paid attention to things that I could do during the day at work that would contribute to my general health and fitness. Here are few things that I have started doing: 
  • Don't ignore breakfast. Have a filling breakfast, no matter how busy you are, as it'll help you stay full (and more focused) all day long.
  • Drink lots of water. While there are several theories on the net, the only reason why I recommend it, is that often, when you are thirsty, you sub-consciously think that you're hungry and eat to compensate. Drinking water regularly keeps you hydrated and also satiates your thirst so that you don't snack unnecessarily.
  • Guzzle 'em green teas! Sitting at your desk in front of a computer all day can sometimes get monotonous and you may snack just to entertain yourself (those coffee breaks!). Having a cup of green tea at your desk that you can sip on while you work, will take the edge of your snack cravings and will fill you up with 0-calorie antioxidants and other goodies that boost your metabolism (something that you can really use in a sedentary job!). Oolong and Rooibos teas are also great for you. Take your pick!
  • Snack healthy. I know this is so much easier said than done, but you must make a conscious effort. Fruits are usually good tasting snacks. Eating apples/pears/oranges is not only healthy but provides your body with a lot of fiber and keep you full longer. Nuts are also a good choice. They are protein-rich and sources of good, heart-healthy fats. Eating a handful of peanuts will keep you full for much longer than say a bag of chips. 
  • Don't fall for the granola bar myth. I've heard from several people about how they keep a box of granola bars at work to snack on as they're supposedly healthy. However, pay careful attention to their contents. A lot of bars are loaded with sugar. I would switch them with real nuts if you're craving something crunchy. 
  • Eat frequently throughout the day. Smaller "meals" spread over the day are more effective in keeping you full. Don't rely on just breakfast and lunch to keep you full until dinner. Instead incorporate other small meals as well and munch on healthy stuff every few hours.
Lastly, work out at least once a week, if you can't more often. Not only does it help you burn some calories, but the next time you reach for that cookie, you will recall just how much sweat you would need to break on the treadmill to burn all those calories! 

*Please note that I'm not an expert in diet/fitness. Take my advice at your own risk! :)


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Out of sight, out of mind ...

Like most people living outside their country, I often struggle with the question of whether I would like to live in the US or in India in the long run. Which one is my real home? Now for some it is natural that they should feel the need to make a choice - perhaps because they're not very happy about where they're living, or are lonely and miss their home country too much. But in my case it's not. Because as the years have gone by, I have come to love this country, more so New York, and the lines have blurred a little between the country I grew up in and the country I live in now. So this need to know - where my loyalties are, or if deep down I have a favorite - is rather irrational. But, surely I must love one more than the other? Just a little?

So this time around when I visited India, I did some soul-searching. I treated my visit like a test-run of some kind, to see how I feel about the many things that those who have experienced the comforts of living in a developed nation typically complain about - like the weather, the traffic, the lack of organization, etc etc. I observed things a lot more closely and made mental notes of all the things that were good (the clothes are sooo lovely!) and those that aren't (what's with the constant honking!).

There were some strange things I noted. I did not once miss New York while I was there. Granted it was a vacation, but New York really felt like a distant planet, like it was another life, and it felt so far away and so unrelatable the moment I landed in India - what with all the noise and the chaos and the colorful boisterousness that makes India such a lively and interesting place.

I also did not complain about the things I thought I would. Often, when I'm in the US, I tend to compare the two countries, and say "Now if only India had something this good...". But what is strange is that we drove past the slums and old buildings of Mumbai ( a stark contrast to the plush and expensive New York buildings), I never once felt like saying 'Wow, New York is so much better!'. Everything, with all its flaws, seemed normal, and relatable and just fine.

So at the end of 3 weeks, I thought that maybe, I had found the answer. India had won. It was my real home, that once there I was so perfectly happy that I did not care how much "better" New York was.

That feeling did not last very long. As soon as I landed in New York, I felt oddly at comfort. You know the feeling when you return home from a vacation? No matter how wonderful your getaway was, you are just happy to be back in the security, familiarity and comfort of the place you live in? Thats exactly how I felt, driving back to our place amidst the New York bridges and the familiar buildings and the yellow cabs. And as I settle back in after my vacation, while I miss my family and such, I am perfectly at peace living in New York.

So I have concluded that it now seems like I have two homes now - both of which I am very fond of. I cannot possibly pick a favorite, but it appears, that when one's out of sight, the other immediately takes its place. To end with a cheesy line - home is where the heart is, and my heart is in two places and I have made my peace with it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hello from India!

This post is from India. Been here for the past 5 days or so. After the usual last minute harried packing and stuff, we were off to India on the 29th, in time to ring in the New Year with family.

Strange as it may sound, these days when I visit India, I almost feel like a tourist. It's not because I've been living out of India for a while, or because I want to pretend that it's alien to me now, but because India is so very dynamic and every time I'm here, I find it very, very changed.

Just the other day we went to a departmental store here. While, I'm very impressed with the new supermarkets and all the stuff you can buy here, I was somewhat alarmed to find Kellogs Special K cereal, Betty Crocker cake mix , Olay products, etc. in the store. Call me a hypocrite (who very much appreciates Special K otherwise), but I was suddenly yearning for the old India, where we had Indian brands and Indian food in every departmental or the corner-of-the-street-grocery store, complete with the familiar soothing smell of dals and soap and such. It's hard to explain the emotion, but I felt somewhat cheated - like India had suddenly changed on me while I was sleeping or something. And at the risk of sounding like a "stuck up NRI", I was suddenly worried that India would no longer be unique and that eventually everything would end up looking like a Walmart or Target.

While I was thinking these dismal thoughts standing in line for the cash register, I was told that freshly made dosa and idly batter was also being sold at the store, and suddenly I felt at ease . Somethings never change, and that's a real comfort!

Happy New Year everyone!