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 www.sunayanaroy.blogspot.com 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, dictionary.com 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.