Saturday, September 24, 2011

The best medicine

So I have an aching wisdom tooth. Again. Because the last time it hurt, I went to the dentist and he, like most American doctors, gave me the "choice" whether to keep the tooth and get a root canal or to have it extracted, and refused to make the choice for me! And of course, I chose to keep it. I'm kicking myself for that decision now, but at the time, I have a feeling I subconsciously wanted to avoid a tooth extraction. 

That's the thing about American medical care. I haven't been able to decide whether it's great that they leave all decisions to you or not. I mean, in theory, I should be making decisions that affect my body. But in practice, am I really qualified to do so? I don't think so. I sometimes prefer the Indian doctor's way. They make decisions, give you their honest opinions based on their experience, and you give them your full trust. (Of course, there are some other aspects of American medical care that are just great, but neither is perfect.)

As I was thinking about this difference in approach, I was reminded of this dermatologist who I had once consulted in my teens in India. I have this "birthmark" on my right hand that tends to show up when I get tanned but lightens up otherwise. After a particularly bad summer, it kind of stood out and I wouldn't stop obsessing about it. Perhaps I was going through a period of typical teen identity crisis, but whatever it was, I promptly consulted a dermatologist about it. Not surprisingly, he said that plastic surgery was the only permanent solution, but since I was too young, he wasn't recommending it. Adamant, I kept asking him if there was any medicine that could help. Anything at all. After saying 'no' a couple of times, he simply looked me in the eye and said, do you know how many patients I have seen who have a mark just like that on their face? You're lucky it's on your hand where probably no one notices it. Some might consider this brash or belittling a patient's problem, and I'm fairly certain that the average American doctor would never say anything like this, but it proved to be the best medicine for my problem. It made me reflect on how trivial the whole thing was when there were people out there who were dealing with more serious issues. I've never once complained about the birthmark since. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ads and blues

So it's 12 in the night, I'm experiencing the home/family/country blues which I get once in a while. One gets so caught up in life that sometimes you don't notice how quickly time has gone by and that you haven't been "home" in over 1.5 years. There was a time when I used to be surprised when people said, "I haven't been to India in 5 years". But perhaps, I'm slowly inching towards that myself now.

I must admit that these days I don't think of home as often as I used to, when I first moved here. I don't feel the void as consciously; now it's hidden somewhere deep within and surfaces every now and then.

Earlier, birthdays and festivals and weddings used to trigger memories. But now, oddly, it's no longer the big and obvious stuff. I think of home when I hear a fan whirring. I think of home when I read news about interest rates in India. I think of home when I hear a loud horn on the road (a rarity even in New York). I think of home when I spot things, long forgotten, in the local Indian store from my childhood days (like picnic chocolate!).

And when I really miss home, I've resorted to doing odd things, like going on an Indian ad-watching marathon on Youtube. Yes, I watch ad after ad, both childhood "favorites" like Nirma and Liril and Perk, as well as new ones. This is almost impossible to explain, but maybe it has something to do with the elderly (and somewhat inconsiderate) neighbor who would wake up at 5 am and switch on the radio with ads blasting on full-volume until we left for school, and perhaps these ads help me relive those moments? Maybe it has to do with the fact that some of these ads are rather upbeat and could lift anyone's spirits? Or maybe, they're just plain entertaining. Whatever it is, it seems to help. Just throwing it out there as the odd "home remedy" in case anyone else experiences these blues.

Anyway, one of my recent favorites is . Those who've read one of my previous posts (with somewhat extreme views on portrayal of women in advertisements) might wonder how I don't think that this ad stereotypes women, but it's so adorable in it's own way, and the mother's character is so endearing that I could not help but like it.

Yawn! I think I'm sleepy now...

Monday, August 1, 2011

This one says "Don't worry, be happy"

Well, I'm home, sick, today so as I browsed through some Facebook updates, I stumbled upon this recommended article. The title of the article (which, in my honest opinion, could've used some serious editing and better authorship) is "Don't worry, be happy" and it tries to explain why a whopping 87% of Indian women are stressed compared to say, an average of 53% of American women (according to a survey). It covers a number of issues by way of explanation, ranging from female infanticide to female jealousy. It's not a terrible attempt, but I'd like to offer an explanation or two of my own to explain these numbers, which I think, could very well be close to the truth.

Also, I'd like to focus on a narrower section of the Indian society, one that I can relate to - the middle class. Rather than seek complicated theories, I think I'll start with the more obvious things that we've all seen our mothers deal with.

The Indian mother revels in a life-long of worrying. It's almost a duty. And it begins when your kid first steps into school. Emphasis on education and grades is so high in India that the average mother (or more so, the Indian mother of the "average student") is constantly worried about her son or daughter not doing well in school. Then, as they get older, there are the 10th board exams, followed by the 12th exams, followed by myriad "entrance exams" to gain admission into a decent University, followed by admissions into post graduate programs, all of which give Indian parents sleepless nights for financial and other reasons. Because, even today, a good education is the only path to a comfortable life in India, and Indian parents cannot see their kids making the cardinal mistake of not paying attention in school. By the time this long saga of education is over (consider multiple iterations for multiple children), it's time to worry about getting your daughter and/or son married. Indian parents, unlike parents in the West, are rather involved in finding a their children's life partners for them. This is no joke and I can only imagine the pressure this puts on a parent. This can take years, and the wedding itself is typically 6 months or so of pure, unadulterated stress. After this, it's time to help the kids raise their young ones (if you have 2 kids, you can assume 4 grand children).

So, honestly, when does this end? Also, I'm not saying that Indian fathers are not worried. They are, but like all other men, they can fall back on cricket/beer to distract themselves every now and then (not being critical, just envious). Women on the other hand can seriously obsess. Anyway, that was my two cents. Can I offer solutions? Actually, no. A large part of this stress is cultural - the need to solve all your children's problems. And that gets handed down from generation to generation. Until that changes, the stress will remain.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

If Spidey were a sitar player

Would Mary Jane be a Bharatanatyam dancer? OK, silly, I know. But when we saw Key West's local Spidey playing the sitar, I had to stop and watch.

This Spidey's message: Peace, love and music

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hey stranger!!

So is this what meeting a childhood sweetheart feels like? A rush of memories from the past, an initial awkwardness, followed by something clumsy being said? Nope, that just sounds like a case of blogging after 6 months of silence.

I mean, I haven't written for 6 months, especially after having made a promise like that. And then I forgot my second blog anniversary! (Now I'm thinking that perhaps a comparison to marriage is more apt? :)). Anyway, I did stare at my screen for a full 30 minutes before I even started to write. And when I did, I didn't really have anything interesting to say. I mean, I could chronicle the past 6 months of my life in excruciating detail if you want, but I've never been that kind of blogger. Perhaps for the same reason that I rarely have Facebook status updates. I just don't think that the events in my life are so riveting as to warrant updating everyone who cares to listen or not. (Obviously, I presume my rambling blog posts are more tolerable...)

Although, I must say that after I recently saw a Facebook status about a "growth" on a somewhat objectionable part of someone's body, I realized that maybe I'm being too hard on myself and might have more interesting things to say than some. (Until I noticed that the aforementioned status got a couple of 'likes', and that undermined my new-found confidence a little...) And so, as a quick summary, the last 6 months have been fairly event-less. Just a lot of work, some introspection as I inch closer to the big 3O, a couple of brief vacations. And the death of a dear aunt. I've known her since I was a baby and she lived near us for a good part of my childhood and teenage years. A most loving and generous person. As always, a regret, too late, about not having stayed in touch or called often or spent time with her.

There were other things that I would've loved to write about, but I usually like writing about stuff as it happens. For instance, yesterday I watched a new Hindi movie. Is it just me or are there way too many incongruous/forced references to Hollywood cliches in Bollywood these days? I mean, whatever happened to the time when Bollywood was unapologetically Bollywood? Sure we've copied Hollywood in the past but we at least had the decency to put our very own Bolly-spin on it. But now these movies are trying too hard to pretend that this is what India really is today. Is it? I mean, I wouldn't know, someone tell me. I haven't visited in over an year, but something tells me that we don't stand under a canopy and exchange rings at weddings etc. But then, maybe I'm just being an old-school Bollywood fanatic and everyone else has moved on?

Anyway, this is a clumsy post, as you were cautioned earlier. Now that we have it out of the way, I hope to write more (and better), although given my record with promises, I'm not sure when that will be. Hopefully really soon. It's good to be back :)

Monday, January 3, 2011


Hello, anybody there? I know I haven't blogged in a while, because, well, I got a promoted at work, got significantly busier, and stopped following most of the advice I give on my blog. I know, I know, such is life or, rather, such am I... Anyway, I was recently whining to T about how I was beginning to lose touch with my friends, not blogging as much as I'd like, not working out, etc. as I'm so busy these days, to which she relayed Butterfly's words "For things that matter, you make time". So there, I found my resolution for 2011 - I'll make time :). For all those still reading this blog, thanks for sticking around and happy new year!