Sunday, December 25, 2005

Num(b) Bengaluru

Seeing that my brother was indeed treated very well by the Mallus, I decided to leave him in Kerala and move on with my life. His in-laws took him around temple to temple doing ‘Thulabharam’. Practice of giving offerings that equal your weight.

My brother being a staggering 110 kgs, had forced the in-laws to rethink their strategy. They put him on a diet and went from offering sugar in one temple to bananas in the next to cow dung in the end.

Pi and I went to Madras to my in-law’s place. I was looking forward to Madras- sleeping, meeting my friends, sleeping, shopping, sleeping, getting pampered my mom-in-law and getting a nice breather from my parents and of course sleeping.

My parents surely believed in-‘Spare the bahu and torture the child’

Let me explain. I just reached Madras and I got a call from daddykins, ‘Come to Bangalore ASAP.’ Fearing the worst, I was ready to cry. My dad continues, ‘Bride and groom are arriving and you have to be here to take their Arthi.’

What the heck?! What do they do in households without a sister? What about the million aunties in Bangalore? Do you even know I will have to come back to Madras tomorrow for my visa appointment?

Hmpf! I took the next flight to Bangalore all the time thinking if this flight met with an accident, my dad will repent. It was the costliest Arthi ever and my brother gave a measly 100 rupees for this. He doesn’t get a penny from my will. Also I was thinking of suing him for the post wedding trauma (not to be confused with the mental troubles that I already had before going to his wedding).

Some background about the festivities in Bangalore and how I got tortured so far- I passed up on a weekend of fun in London with Pi and friends to be home early helping out with wedding preparations.

When I landed in Bangalore in the wee hours of the day, my mom had decided to have a ‘Sumangali Puja’ in preparation for the wedding. It’s a puja where we commemorate the women who conked off before their husbands. That’s kinda auspicious in our culture. (Pi is so encouraging that he wants to see me in that honorable list soon)

So in this Sumagali Puja, a bunch of women whose hubbies are still alive are made to do certain things… like not have breakfast till the puja is done. I was dying! Jetlagged and hungry, I wasn’t the happiest Sumangali around. To think some moms pamper their home-bound kids with yummy food when they arrive! bah! I must have snuck into my room and had a dozen of those yucky Sugar-free chocolates I bought for my dad.

The house was swarming with people, mostly related to me in some way only the holy family-tree knows. The lunch was really late to arrive. “Saar, Banerghatta traffic saar,’ was the excuse from the catering service. Some of my relatives had already fainted and were wondering how I managed to survive. I smiled a sugar-free smile.

Then they asked me to go sleep seeing my blood red eyes and droopy (but sugar-free) smile . It was 3 pm then. I walked into the obvious place to sleep, the bedroom…it was invaded by 10 random aunts discussing something animatedly. ‘Come dear, sleep here’ they said..shifting their butts a little so that I had a 2X3 area to squeeze in. I tried sleeping, but was bombarded with questions like, ‘When are you taking me to the US?’ ‘What did you get for me?’ I think it would have been ultra rude to let her know that I seriously didn’t recognize who she was.

I decided to try the other bedroom. By Jolly Jove, this place was far more noisy. All the kids were jumping around fighting and video games were being played without ‘mute’ and my other cousin was fast asleep oblivious to the sounds. Some talent, that! Even though she lives in Bangalore, she is in the same time zone as I am (at least till now). She works for a call center in Dell and whenever I get to see her, she is sleeping. At least she doesn't feel the need to screw her sleep patterns because of certain cousins who land up from far away lands. We can catch up on MSN when I get to the US.

Maybe I should try the terrace. I took the mat and a few pillows and marched upto the terrace. Found a shady location under the huge mango tree and tried to sleep. It was blissful till I realized(a few droppings later) that I was sleeping under the neighborhood crow’s bathroom.

It was 11 pm and I still hadn't found a place to lie down after having tried the storage room, bathroom, broom closet and verandah. I longed for my seat in the economy class of British Airways.

Next day at 5 am was the Nandi function when I was ready to trade my life for some sleep. THIS WASN'T EVEN MY WEDDING!!!!

‘Yaaaawwn…(might as well sleep now and compensate for my next India trip.)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Snippets & Snappets

At Mannapara, someone came up to my brother and asked, 'Sir, when do you prefer lens?'

A little confused and convinced that his inlaws were testing his power of sight, he said, 'hah! I rarely depend on lens.'

'Not good for you. You must have lens.'


Luckily for my bro, his bride walked by and told the guy, 'We will join you all for lunch now.'

Monday, December 19, 2005


Bride is all ours now to torment. *wringing hands with glee* We’ll take her home and make her cook at 5 am in the morning in kerosene stove and grab all that gold and stove it away in our lockers. Then my mom will ask her to sweep and swab the house and I will ride my Kinetic on the floors and she will have to start all over again. Of course, all this while she will have to be in her saree. *hehehe* Note to self: Buy kerosene stove and hide servant maid.

My lovely thoughts were interrupted by my brother’s panic attack, “Guess what, I will have to go to the Mallu people’s family home in the village and spend the first night there!!! They being matriarchal and all. Could you and Pi stay with me and see to it that they treat me well?”

‘What?! Do you have to get pregnant too?’


‘What about dowry? Shall I bring my check book just in case they push you in a kerosene stove?’ I was worried.

My dad obviously wasn’t concerned about my brother’s safety. All he could brood about was his family name getting wiped out completely. Any assurance that my brother wasn’t going change his maiden name didn’t seem to comfort him.

Pi was kicking himself for not marrying a Mallu. ‘I could have been inheriting property from both sides! And all that gold too.’

Pi and I stayed over with the brother’s Mallu in-laws in a pretty village called Mannapara. Rolling rice fields, huge ancestral house, lovely temple, great food (couldn’t recognize any of it), sweetest people, great hospitality… time went by quickly and gaps were bridged as if they didn’t even exist.

My mom talking in Tamil with a Mallu accent thinking they understood, was amusing. The weird part was they did understand.

Ammuma (the solid granny who controls everyone and everything in that house..every Mallu family has an Ammuma who is equally strong) wanted to know why I don’t have kids yet.

Bride’s mom asked me if I light the lamps for God everyday. I said ‘No’. Audible gasp from the audience, but she was quick to add,’ But you have a good heart. You did the Katrina relief thing and all. That is great.’

‘Easy for you to say, aunty. You are not my mom or mom-in-law.’

‘You are just like my daughter and I will bug you to light lamps everyday.’
Yikes! This bridging gap thing was uncalled for, seriously!

Pi was treated like God had himself descended in Mannapara. ‘I leve benana jibs.’

And lo, one fella was dispatched in a jiffy and there was 6 kgs of banana chips for him to nibble through the afternoon.

‘Pi cheta, there are a dozen more packets in your room for you to take home.’

‘Wow, Scooty!’ Pi crooned looking a normal Scooty which has become a novelty to us NRIs. The Scooty was handed over to Pi to whiz around in the fields till his heart burst. He was thrilled.

So was I, as we entered the ancestral home. A 400 year old ettukattu tharavaad, complete with furniture of the yore. Ammuma’s cradle, a dresser with tilting mirrors and ornate carvings. Teakwood doors that were 10 inches thick. Dark wooden pillars that could probably fetch thousands. Ladles, brass vessels, lamps, grandpa chair… this house was very grandiose with its 40 rooms. I was glad I got to see something like this so intimately.
I loved this system where they protected and cared for their women. *sigh*

Wait till you come to our house, girly!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Wedding Itself

Everyone’s heard about Nair weddings that last for five minutes only as opposed to Brahmin weddings that could go on till the couple is in their fifth month of pregnancy.

My parents were shell shocked at this prospect. ‘What?! Just five minutes? What about Mapilai alapu, Kasi-Yatra, Oonjal, Nalangu and the works? Why even have a wedding? You guys go and get yourselves registered in some place in the US and let us know if you feel like. It is so stressful that there is nothing going on.’

I was happy that the time I spend in my sari would be less than the time spent draping it. Being ‘paiyenda chechi’ (groom’s sister), I had not much of a role other than hanging out and smiling at the camera man. Pi felt like he got a real good deal in proving his worthiness as a son-in-law. Taking care of arrangements and running around had been cut ten-fold in this case.

My relatives were hanging around to have some fun and talk about the wedding that they almost missed while they were busy blinking.

On the D-hour, the groom’s side paraded from the hotel to the temple courtyard area where there is a mandap (stage) At the muhurtham (auspicious time previously set for wedding) the groom and his family (consisting of me) is ushered on the stage by a priest. The girl’s party is late to arrive by 10 minutes. So we wait as smoke started wafting out of my dad's ears. We see a huge glittering article moving towards the stage and are later to find that it is the bride (after we put on our sun glasses). If I went around asking my forty relatives to donate their gold for me to wear, the bride would have beaten me hollow. All those necklaces weighing down on you could have made Dara Singh neck less. Conclusion: Mallu women have strong neck.

So she arrives looking radiant, beautiful and all the mandatory bride adjectives. Just as she is being ushered on to the stage…some conch noise gets the priest all excited. He prohibits her from coming up and asks us all (except the groom) to get off the stage. Pandemonium ensues and it is gathered that the Lord’s doors have been closed for some offering and will open in 45 minutes. Only after that, can the wedding take place.

‘See ma, the Mallu wedding is lasting for more than 5 minutes. You were unnecessarily worried,” I tried. My mom couldn't see the humor.

My dad's ears were lit by a full blown fire now. Relatives reminded my raging dad every minute about the impending Rahu-Kalam. The time when nothing good should happen. Most of the good that is not happening in South India is because of this Rahu Kalam. People don’t embark on journeys, babies don’t get fed, children don’t write exams, shopkeepers don’t open their shops, films don’t get released during Rahu Kalam. To add to this, there is a whole month where nothing good happens. At least we have an excuse for the sad state of affairs.

Aah, I was talking about the wedding. Since everyone was suddenly jobless, they start looking for things to complain about. My granny tells me to go tell the bride to wear a bindi. I see a huge humungous bindi on bride's forehead from a distance of 50 feet and relay my findings to granny. Granny nods; but this is just the beginning of the bindi harassments to come. Note to self: Take her to eye clinic.

My mama complains it's too hot and I helpfully suggest removal of sweater. My kid cousins are bored and they don't hide the feeling. We play a game. Who ever guesses the correct number of gold bangles the bride is wearing will get an extra apalam during lunch. Ok fine, icecream.

So as Rahu was approaching, my brother was standing alone on the stage with his love-handles exposed to public during the whole time. He had managed to cover the unsightly protrutions in the front with his angavastram (cloth worn on top for purposes such as these- the priest needed to be reminded of that. In my brother's case, it could be used to wipe the drool too.). Pi's concern was that if the groom is jilted now, does he have to stand there forever?

Overheard my cousin having this conversation with the groom.

‘Gosh, you’ll have a tough time taking off all that jewelry in the night.’ *wink wink*

My brother is quick to reply, ‘Why bother taking them off?’

Aiyyo Bhagawane! What all I am hearing… that too in the temple premises.

Finally, Lord’s door opens and He is ready to bless the couple. Girl climbs on stage, we follow, tulasi garlands are exchanged, mangalsutra is tied, a lamp is circled three times and it’s done.

Next couple moves up. Before the camera guy could wind up, he managed to cover footage of the next three weddings performed in the same mandap by the same priest.

‘Great! Now can we eat?’ asks Pi.

A wedding to remember

I didn’t think I would live to claim that any other undertaking would be more challenging and hectic than the New Orleans trip. Just in a matter of months, I can certainly ascertain that my trip to India was far more taxing.

My baby brother got married to his Mallu mehbooba with all the fireworks leftover from Diwali. Being the first inter-caste marriage in my family, my brother had the pleasure of seeing a side of my parents that was cleverly hidden for so long.

My dad played the role of disgruntled hero’s dad to the tee. ‘Rahu-kalam is approaching…obviously we can’t make them (Mallu people) understand the nuances of our Brahmin culture, but at least they can be aware of time! What excuse do they have to be late to the ceremony when their women don’t even plait their hair? See, these are the problems that we will continue to face. Such grave times these are.’ *stomping and pacing*

My mom went from bouts of motherly love to a feeling of being betrayed. If she heard some Iyer in a far away temple reciting hymns, it would send a new set of tears streaming down her cheeks, ‘I was not gifted enough to see my son getting married in the Iyer style’. A girl draped in pure Kanchivaram silk would get my mom screaming in agony, ‘God only knows what these Malayalis are thinking when they wear a widow’s sari for their wedding. Mundu it seems’. *more tears*

One day, I went to the bathroom for a second and I heard some major screaming and shouting. When I came out, my brother was packing his bags to leave to God-knows-where. My granny was begging for him to stay back belting out movie dialogues, ‘What will everyone say if you are not present for your own wedding?’

I couldn’t help, but applaud at my granny's clear thought process and profound conclusion. I think my brother saw logic too and decided to stay back. Thank God he did coz he had packed up some of my clothes and perfumes too in a frenzy.

So my valiant brother fought all odds (including a terrible cold) to secure the bride of his choice. ‘You fall in love; you will be made to repent’- is the motto my family takes very seriously.

Somehow in spite of the somber atmosphere at home (there was more merry making among the Katrina victims, I tell you), all the relatives (I mean all of them) got together to attend my brother’s wedding in God’s own country, Kerala. Forty of them came in all shapes and sizes from all parts of the country to see what a Mallu wedding looks like. My brother still maintains that they came to see the temples, since the wedding was held at Guruvayur (home of the famous Krishna temple).

He’s probably got a point especially since my mom woke me up at an ungodly hour of 3 am. “Mom! The wedding is at least 6 hours from now. I am still jet lagged (excuse one can use for a month after the said flight). Good night!’

She dragged me out of bed, with no consideration, ‘We are going for the Lord’s darshan.’

‘What?! Do you think even He has woken up yet? Let Him sleep na. Didn’t you just go to the temple last night? You must be tired. Come mommy, let’s sleep.’ I tried hugging her.

‘Shee, don’t touch me, unpure creature. Go have a bath and here is your sari. You can’t wear salwars or pants inside this temple. We have to get as many darshans as we can. Why else did we come here from so far away?’

‘Er... brother’s wedding could be taken as one reason no?’ I asked, slightly awake at this point.

‘Stop arguing and get ready.’

So I was whisked, sari and all, to this ‘demble’ that never slept. An hour and a half of waiting in a queue to get a glimpse of the Lord for a second and a half. This even beat the Thirupati record by a whole second. If the forty relatives of mine had slept decently instead of standing in the line in front of me, I would have been done faster. After being dragged and shoved, pushed and prodded, I asked the Lord for one thing, ‘O Krishna, O exalted Guruvayur appen, please allow the donning of pants/salwars in this temple as we don’t want another Draupadi’s episode repeating itself. With the crazy sari prices, you'll find it hard to replenish saris.’

Friday, October 28, 2005

Not Part 4. Stop going Phew!

Ok people, it looks like something I started is going to end up as an epic that wont even make it to the Hall of Fame as the judges would sleep midway. This was not what I intended. I thought I would be done telling the story in one post (yeah rite!). But it goes on and on and on much to your dismay and my surprise. I seem to remember a lot for a person who doesn’t take notes. You must realize that each day was rich with memories that would normally fit in a month’s duration. Imagine I spent 30 days and I am just done with Day 3! I can’t seem to stop spilling all this clutter in my head. It’s good in a way; by writing this down in detail, I’ll stop torturing the people around me. I have to literally bite my tongue to stop relating episodes that happened in the past one month. Like when my colleague talks of Halloween, I have to bring up this story of this woman who bought pumpkins and decorated the office trailer so that we take care of her and her family by providing them housing soon. When my husband mentions something about brushing his teeth, I have already began telling him on how I found out that Americans I worked with brush their teeth after breakfast and not before.

I’m sure they are rolling their eyes and so are you. It was a big deal for me and I feel like sharing, but I cant expect everyone to be as excited. So I’ll continue with what I started (for my sake) in another blog (for your sake) before people start avoiding me and my blog (oh, not that Katrina stuff again!). Some of you could come by whenever you feel like and skim through the pictures and trust me I have got some astounding pictures. I was known as the tourist of the group. See, there I go again!

Visit Katrina logs whenever you have loads of time and nothing better to do and like getting depressed. I hope meanwhile Alpha continues her regular ranting here. I have to talk about this hairdresser who killed my hair last weekend!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Earthquake Relief Day

Desipundit says it's on the 26th of October. I don't know why there should be a day singled out for this, I think it should be on our minds every freaking day. But whatever works, I say. Spread the word in your blogs and help our friends in Pakistan and India recover in whatever way you can. Desipundit had a consolidated list of agencies that will use your donation for the cause.

Together we can outrun this sequence of natural diasters and get help to the victims at the right time without sinking into a backlog. Help now.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I'm back home... but what about them?

As I give one last look with my forehead pressed to the Plexiglas of the United Airlines window, I see the grayish waters below that claimed possession to land that was never meant to be in the first place. I also see bits and pieces of green land that was altered by humans just to get re-altered by nature. We cannot blame nature when we have been just as unpredictable and intervening. Building a home where there ought to be water by building a levee system, pumping water out of your man-made bathtub, adding a feet of dirt and hoping you are safe is not a great idea. Katrina thought us that.

I close the shutter, but can’t seem to shut my mind. I was standing in that green land just a few hours ago feeling happy that I’m finally going back home. Now that I am actually on my way home, I can’t help but feel a strange void. The fact that I am going to the privacy and comfort of my home while there are tens and thousands who are hoping to get back to theirs at least before Christmas. The fact that I spoke to so many of them and made promises that I could not keep makes me sick in the stomach. I will miss those hugs that say –‘Thank you for hearing me out.’ The folks I worked/interacted with were such awesome people that I got attached to in such a short period of time. I will miss them. This is not an experience I can forget in a long time to come, nor do I want to.

For the first time in a month, I am actually sitting down with nothing to do. I don’t think I can stand it any longer. Everything else around me trivializes its cause by just being there. Like my friends who desperately seek to buy a house and have criteria like ‘black granite counter tops in the kitchen and off-white carpet in the bedrooms and nothing less.’ I am in a trance and I will surely get back to being my old selfish self and everything in the world will have a purpose…even black granite counter tops.

Right now it’s odd not to see damaged buildings, fallen electric poles, sign boards ripped off, stores looted or people flocking at a Walmart at 4 am so that they can get supplies before they run out of it by noon. I keep holding myself back from calling up my team and finding out what’s going on down there. Did Debra get her trailer? Did Don Craft sign the lease? I can’t seem to get these people off my head.

Meanwhile, I must insist that I am OK, as Ok as I can be under circumstances. It’s indeed strange for a person like me to be bogged down, and I can fully understand people’s concern. As I was relating the things I saw and felt in New Orleans, one of my colleagues just happened to relay my thoughts to the upper management in a dinner meeting few days ago. And unknowingly he set me up with a corporate counselor!! Yikes!

‘Do you want to talk?’ said the guy.

‘Only if I can bring up my marital issues.’

No seriously, Pi has been enjoying himself for a whole month and it’s my fault. As soon as I landed in Chicago, he performed some mandatory husband duties. Got me a gift, hugged and kissed me… took me to dinner to friend’s house (strange, I know) and then asked me if I was planning on going back again.

Secondly, he has completely forgotten the nagging protocol, my different eye gestures and that I can get things done by crying and making a scene. We go to a friend’s place for dinner and when it’s time to leave I would normally look at his direction and raise my eyebrows. That means, ‘I am ready to go. Get your ass out of here NOW.’ It doesn’t mean, ‘Whatsup?’ like he thought it meant the other day. He mumbled something like, “ I am doing great sweets’ and continued to sit in the couch watching baseball with the beer, not even showing signs of I-might-get-up-in-the-next-ten-minutes. Aggggrrrh! I have to start the training from scratch.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Not back yet

I am not back.
I can’t stop thinking about it.
One day I will try and put it down in words.
But not today, coz I’m still not back.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Voyeur

The windows occupy a large part of our bedroom wall. I usually don’t keep the blinds of this particular window open, as it faces the neighboring building. One night, while talking to a friend on the phone, I absentmindedly started to play with the blinds of the window in my bedroom. I twisted them open. Instinctively, I started scanning other people’s homes through their open windows. I peeked through the windows to catch a glimpse of their lives. It aroused me to realize that they weren’t aware of this unwelcome spectator.

That’s when I saw a young woman walking around in her apartment. Quite a shabby pad for a pretty thing like her, I thought. Before I could move on to the next window, she started peeling her clothes off, I mean, actually stripping! In no time, her skimpy top and everything else was on the floor. At this point, I had to pinch myself. I thought to myself, these things only happen to other people.

I hastily hung up on my friend, after explaining the grave scenario. If it were up to him, he would have caught the next flight home. I rushed and switched off all the lights, and watched this amazing live performance by Nudie from partially open blinds. She was blonde and tall. She was probably in her late twenties and looked good naked. She walked around naked, read her book naked, manicured naked without even bothering to give a look sideways. Now, one would think Nudie might realize that her blinds were open and that there could be onlookers trying to get to know her. I was sure that any minute now she would retreat into the dark abyss never to return. But, she didn’t disappoint me. She regaled me for the whole evening. I was quite amazed. Maybe Nudie was an exhibitionist who loved to show off her assets. Maybe she was trying to woo someone in our building. Maybe she had psoriasis and couldn’t wear clothes. Did I care?

Then there was this other woman, Creepy. She lives in the apartment above Nudie and thought I was peeking into her house. She kept eyeing my window suspiciously, peering from above the book she was reading. Here I thought I was operating discreetly. At one point, Creepy stormed up to her window and shut her blinds seemingly angry. Huh? Some issues you must have, missy! If only you knew what was going on under your snooty nose
Suddenly, after an hour or so, Nudie disappeared. I couldn’t tell where. To another room, maybe. She surely couldn’t have felt my eyes on her. I waited patiently by the window. I ran to the kitchen and brought out a bar stool and orange juice and made myself more comfortable. But she refused to make her appearance. I was getting restless and a little frustrated.

After some ten long minutes of waiting near the window to no avail, I was giving up the hope of seeing her again that night. That’s when I heard a loud knock on my door. A little startled, I ambled towards the door. My eyes popped out of their sockets and my heart leapt out of the rib cage to see her at my door. For a minute I didn’t recognize Nudie with her clothes on. She was really beautiful up close. She wore jeans and a plaid shirt and looked much younger than I thought she was. Maybe she was in her early twenties, I corrected my previous estimate. She had an enviable aura of confidence surrounding her.

“May I come in? My name is Heather, by the way. I live in the next building.”

It suddenly struck me that I had been gawking at her all along. Collecting myself and checking my heart rate, I managed to mutter “Yeah.. Hi. I am Monica. Uh… What can I can do for you?” I ushered her in the most akward way.

“Hi Monica, pleased to meet you. Sorry to barge in like this. I have come to collect my fees. That would be 63 dollars with tax.” She replied in the most business-like tone I have ever heard.

“I don’t understand. I owe you money?” I stuttered. Wow! I thought. This woman had the gall to approach me and ask me to pay her for something I didn’t really seek out. Why would I, in my right mind, want to watch a naked woman do her nails? I nervously noticed that she had lavender color painted on her nails. From the window I couldn’t really tell.

“Yes, for my services. You spent an hour watching my performance and it is only fair that you pay me now.” She replied shrugging her shoulders with an admonishing look as if she were talking to a child.

“I think you are mistaken. I don’t know you at all.” I managed to blurt out much to my own astonishment.

She rolled her big blue eyes.

I was already regretting my deed the minute I saw her at the door. She had caught me unawares and all this was unbelievable. I knew she was wronging me, but I was at a loss of words. “ don’t think I was aware of a fee. In that case, I wouldn’t have...”

“That’s what they all say dear. I gather you really enjoyed the ride. So why are we hesitating here? Just write me a check or pay by cash and I shall leave amicably.”

At this point, I had resigned to paying her. I didn’t want to be embarrassed anymore. I became bolder and began to haggle. “Aren’t you a little pricey? 60 dollars is a bit too much. Moreover, if I were given a choice, I would have preferred a man instead of you.”

She sighed and leaned forward. “If you had gone to a strip bar, everything would be predictable. So I charge extra for that element of surprise and the whole illicit experience. And sweetheart, naked men are ugly.”

She did have a point. I seemed to have a lot of fun being a voyeur. So I paid her 63 dollars in cash. Didn’t really tip her, as I wasn’t too sure. I knew my husband would not be pleased with this unwarranted expenditure. But she seemed pleased and walked away after shaking my hand, hoping to meet me again.

When Harish got home later that night, I explained this bizarre situation to him. ‘Honey, you won’t believe what happened to me today…’ I rambled on about Heather. At first he seemed disinterested in having this discourse with me. But when I reached the Nudie part, he sat up with interest and didn’t get back to the newspaper till Heather said bye. He looked at me nonchalantly and said, ‘I have to admit, this has got to be the most innovative story behind those new shoes I see on the rack today.’

Recently Parmanu reminded me about Nudie while he was having fun with Pinky. Trying my hand at short stories, I had written this inspired by a true incident I had blogged about long ago. I remember Gabby running to the other room and yelling, "Alpha, come here quick... this is a better view."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The dilemma of being a man

God forbid you are a guy born in this day and age. Oh, so you are. My heartfelt sympathies. I know society is very hard on you and I figured I'd compile a list for easy reference when in doubt. If you are gay, you have enough problems as it is, so you are exempt from this study. But if you claim to be as straight as an arrow, here are ze commandments you need to follow to be a man.

1. Thou shalt unconditionally love sports… the rougher the better. Affiliation to a certain team is must… be it the Mylapore cricket team or the Northwestern Wildcats football team. No rooting for the local Hubbard Hags knitting league. Woe be you if you are caught watching the food channel.

2. You need be on top of Bush (that one too, but this time I am talking of bad things), latest happenings in Chechnya, dips in the Wall Street and Natalie Holloway’s case (hoever dragging) at the same time. When asked about your company’s sustainability report, thou shalt blurt it out.

3. Thou shalt be the ultimate handyman and use parts of the body as a tool kit. Feign ignorance about opening up the vacuum cleaner and not able to locate the scrubber drier, and thou shalt be doomed.

4. Thou shalt not take the easy way and listen to all-knowing astute wife for the fear of being labeled hen-pecked.

5. Manliness doesn’t permit you to talk about clothes with other buddies. You like his Just don’t express your feelings on how you were looking for one just like that. Clothes excitement should be limited only to ugly shiny sport jerseys with the number of your brain cells typed boldly at the back.

6. Your face could be a pimple fest and resemble mice-eaten cheese, but thou shalt not be seen with a face mask or any such alleviation techniques.

7. Thou shalt come out stinking from the bath, but will never use the Raspberry Burst body wash sitting in front of your eyes when the normal soap is over. Aromatherapy should be confined to spraying air freshner after the normally stinky crap session. Candles are for kinky stuff only.

8. Thou shalt strive hard and worry endlessly about a bright future ahead with a career that says- Wife, you can relax and cater to your hobbies; my salary will provide for your shopping sprees, your dream holidays and support your extended family too.

9. Thou shalt be able to tackle big bad guys, the way Rajni Kanth does but without the cigarette-juggling. Trying to avoid dark alleys and rolling car windows can be safely construed unmanly.

10. Sense of humor is a must. When your woman cajoles you to crack her up with a tantalizing joke because she says she is having a depressing day, thou shalt not hand over “Vivek’s Comedy” DVD (like Pi did once. He is doomed to be less of a man now.) When asked to be taken out to an expensive place, a gas station is not the right destination. Sucky sense of humor will not be appreciated.

11. If not getting any, thou shalt show extreme frustration by spending time obsessively on X-Box, strumming on guitar or watching porn...whichever you can afford. Eve teasing is also an option in some parts though not recommended because it is a sure shot give-away.

12. Thou shalt fear the word 'cute' for no apparent reason.

13. Thou shalt not fear roller coasters, horror movies, cockroaches, snakes…….

….the list goes on. Basically, tsk tsk.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Stay still, my heart!

This whole thing sucks. When you haven’t written a darn exam for years, I’m telling you it’s not advisable to start writing one now (at least not as a hobby). I am a bag of nerves thinking that I will flunk for the first time in my life (please note that it will be my FIRST time). If the exam was tomorrow, you think I would fret so much? At that time, I could leave it to fate..but now the onus is on me! Not even two months to go, I haven’t even mastered two chapters of the 85 (doubters like Zoheb can contact me for official site proving that there are indeed 85 chapters). All I am doing is turning down party invites and pacing up and down my apartment, trying to avoid furniture in my path. Shucks! There is no space to even pace around here! This is so frustrating!!!!

People tell me it’s OK to flunk. There is always the option of taking it again. So many people do take this exam at least four times till they pass (please note this also). Four times? Equating to 12 months of preparing and having no life! Also, can you imagine what kind of standards I will be setting for my grandchildren? I can never tell my children to go inside and study. My husband will be first to take them aside and let them know that their mom wasn’t all that smart as she makes it out to be. Ah, the woes of future parenthood!

I am told to look at the Somalian refugees and the homeless in Chicago. I could also compare my position with the women in Iraq. Let me tell you a freaky thing- I am willing to bet on my befuddled brain that these women in Iraq must be looking at me for solace. They must be going- ‘At least we don’t have to write an exam like that girl in Chicago!’

Wait, something good did come out of this. Pi has decided to work on his Phd and try finishing it! I guess a person can take sleeping, watching TV and loitering around aimlessly only for so long. This is of course a ploy to avert me from his real intentions. He doesn’t want to be told to cook, clean and give me any sympathy. We both spend enough energy looking at each other from the corner of our eyes for any movement from our respective study material. When he gets up for peeing, I suddenly sit up and exclaim, “Aha! There you go fooling around again. If you have nothing to do, go make some dinner or brush your teeth.”

As a result, we’ve been living off of bread crumbs the crows deposit at our window sill. Fungi have bought out real estate in our bathroom. Instead of table cloth, we have layers of dirt. To give it some pattern, we just have to run our fingers in a zigzag way or write formulae.

He had better not know I wrote this post or I have a grocery list coming!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Return of the Ex

We Civil Engineers have it real hard, I say. In spite of being the real engineers, we are made to slog (work 8 hour days with an hour lunch) for four days a week, sometimes five! Now they want me to take the Professional Engineering Exam to get certified and here’s the ridiculous part- they want me to pass it too. So I applied for it grudgingly. State of Illinois rejected my application saying my foreign degree (Indian degree) was falling short of 27 credits of Humanities (I have 85 extra credits in Engineering subjects which obviously is not a concern here). Yay! At least I have a valid excuse not to write the horrid exam. I could even stop harassing my parents for lying to me that the exams would stop after I graduated from college.

But the corporate folks said- no promotion, no pay hikes, exam passing must! Talent doesn’t count… touching my nose with my tongue was getting stale anyway.

So I applied to Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and 50 other states. I’m telling you, they added a few more states out of the blue while I was applying. When I was about to file for bankruptcy, Ohio accepted. I have mixed emotions about this.

In two months, I need to cram up everything I had paid no heed to in college and some more. This is precisely what I mean. All you other engineers got away with omitting most of the portions, just going through old question papers, making sure you studied for just the 36% passing mark and visiting the temple before you ran off to the examination hall. I did that, and now I am in deep trouble.

Today, being a Saturday, I woke up to an ALARM!!!! I lugged my books ( 20 kilograms without the weight of the calculator) to the LIBRARY! A bed or a couch within a mile radius is bad news for me. Sitting at home and studying is surely not an option if I want to pass the legal way. I spent the better part of Friday thinking of illegal ways that would keep me out of a death sentence.

So the Library (a good walk from my apartment) was CLOSED! Of all the years I have been here, one day I choose to visit the library and the same day it decides to close. Not deterred, I make up my mind not to go back home defeated. I walk into Barnes and Nobel and find a desk that is as secluded as it can get in a swarming bookstore. It's near the 'Religion' section and shouldn't prove to be distracting. After and hour of scanning through a book called 'Judaism for Lesbians' (both Judaism and Lesbianism are suddenly my favorite topics), I settle down pretty quick, pull out my faithful calculator, see my name embossed in huge letters with my roll number and ‘V semester’. It also says ‘resides in the Ladies Hostel’. I smile and start to press some random digits. BLANK! It has been in coma from I don’t know when. Maybe even before V semester and I just didn’t realize it. Arrrg! I run to the nearest store and buy a swanky new Casio. Back in Barnes and Nobel I notice that some homeless person has taken my desk to have a nap. I look around and find one close to Starbucks.

Even before an hour had passed, I had consumed a glass of Green Tea Frappuccino, one coffee cake, a biscotti and Chai Tea (yeah, translated it would go- Tea Tea). I had made a lot of progress in increasing my weight, but none in my knowledge of Reverse Curves. After surveying, I moved my bearings to another location next to the window. Aha! Nice and bright away from Starbucks… great place to tackle the hardest of problems. I see one right now! There was the dilemma, outside the window, across the street, in big bold letters- EXCRUTIATING SALE! 40% markdowns on every single shoe!

By the end of the day, I was 5 pounds heavier (with all the eating and drinking) and 20 pounds lighter (with the shoe purchases, i.e if you convert to pounds from dollars). Using the calculator, 5-20= -15 pounds. Phew, too much engineering for the day!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Good Samaritan under Trial

Happened some years ago.

The Ashoka bus sped off just as my second foot left the ground. Tightly clutching the handle bar, I had to swing around a couple of times to finally feel like I wasn’t going to die after all. I found my balance on the footboard and tried to make it to the interior without letting cetrifugal force take over. The driver was accelerating so much that I wondered if he was conducting a particle projectile research for NASA. I felt privileged to be a part of this exciting breakthrough of a project. Soon we saw a bus similar to this one in an accident, overturned on the highway (a common occurrence in Mangalore). Our driver slowed down for a bit as if to pay homage and then the tragedy was all forgotten. I was again hurled to the other side of the bus and found myself sitting on a goat, right under someone’s underarms; coz it was stinking real bad. Was to later find that it wasn't a goat, but a basket of fish. Conductor shrugged apologetically and walked over for tickets. I sighed and looked for my purse amidst the pushing and shoving. No purse! Either it was my absentmindedness or someone stole it this time.

Talks of the next stop being a great place to get off had started. Also mention of freeloaders and ancestors came up. Mr. Conductor didn’t care less if I was a regular customer on this roller coaster. Even if he was willing to cut me the slack, people sneered and predicted that the conductor would succumb to my charms (I used to have some spare). He ought to throw me off the bus, if he was to preserve his manliness- they bickered. Bloody hypocrites! Freak shows!

I panicked. I knew the driver wouldn't take too kindly to any rude interruption to his experiments. Getting out of the bus was one thing I had no practice of. Usually when I did get off near my work place, it was the final destination. I could be assured that the bus wouldn’t take off with half of me dangling. Secondly, walking back home would take me half a day from the middle of a freaking forested highway.

One kind young man came up to the scene and offered to pay my fare. The proud person that I used to be, I would have normally turned it down. This would give me enough leverage to prove to all those cynical people in the bus that I was not the kind of woman to take favors. But this was not the time to prove a silly point; I gladly took the money from Mr. Nice Guy and thanked him profusely. I spent the next hour talking to this guy out of sheer obligation. He turned out to be quite interesting. I asked him for his address in order to return the ten bucks. He vehemently declined my offer to repay him, but did mention that he was a lecturer of Mathematics at St Aloysius College (a college I was familiar with) and asked me to stop by anytime for coffee. He was a decent bloke who even offered some cash for my return journey. I politely refused knowing very well that I could force some cash from my colleagues.

I reached office in one piece, with dignity intact, thanks to an archaic thing called chivalry. It wasn't like he saved my life or anything, but it was truly appreciated. I had full intentions of returning the money with a note of thanks and maybe take him out to a coffee shop.

I thought about it. My mind rewound to every Hindi movie I had watched. Same message. I feared Mr. Nice Guy must have had an interest in me and hence the effusiveness. I assumed that going out with him meant succumbing to his overtures, and maybe giving him false hopes that I might be attracted to him too. I took it for granted that I would land myself into a situation where I might have to say ‘no’ to a marriage proposal.

My mind could have been on an overdrive or maybe I was right in thinking so. But I was never to find out, which I regret. I am awfully guilty for not having returned his gracious favor even though it was a matter of a paltry sum. If I wasn’t right about him, I just hope he’d still go ahead and be as helpful to another and not feel that he made a mistake before.

If I was right...why !?
Rhyncus does it again and answers my question too. Check out the shocking thriller, the back end to my meek story.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Frozen memories freshly thawed

It’s just rained here in Chicago; the sweltering heat has been replaced by a cool sigh from mom earth, her thirst quenched. The green looks greener and the horizon mystic. The sidewalk has been washed for me to stroll on. I think of Mangalore yet again.

Mangalore, a city so romantic that it gives you a heart break even before you fall in love. A city so fresh and green and wet that every time I walk down the produce aisle of the grocery stores, I get reminded of my St.Aloysius college where I spent a staggering 3 months doing MicroBiology before I bid adieu to take up Engineering, Ideal ice-cream parlor where the mouth-watering ‘Gadbad’ and 'Parfait' fought for consideration- bigger decision than MicroBio or Engineering, Saibeen complex where good looking guys just hung out on the railings teasing the girls passing by (I hung out for the shopping experience of course), Shangri-la (my dad’s company guesthouse which reminded me of that Monastery in ‘Lost Horizon’- beautiful, pristine, secluded and a welcome retreat. The cook, Kalthappa or Padayappa or something Coorgi was an amazing old man who’d feed you till you threw up.), Hampankatta- where I spent countless hours looking and bargaining for the platform shoes that went out of fashion the minute I bought them. I used them as step ladders to reach and turn the antenna in our terrace for better TV reception. Hotel Srinivas where the masala dosa would drool at the Hotel Management guys that served us, Kasturba Medical College hostel where I spent shameless nights and days at Nerdy Neelu’s room eating off in the mess while home cooked food was a couple of miles away (something about a rancid room in the basement smelling of formaldehyde and bones did it for me), Ashoka Travels, the bus that managed to deposit me safely in college (in spite of the driver's death wish) and taught me the lyrics to ‘Tan tana tan tan tan tara’ and not to mention a conductor who wore Nikes and Swatch. Of course the place had the beaches, back waters, narrow winding roads, hills, moss, fern and lots of rain. Mangalore rains were funny. Your left hand could be soaking while your right hand would stay dry. One day, I remember outrunning the rain all the way from the bus-stop to my house. Then, I would run outside and get wet anyway.

No wonder I love the gloom before the rain.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Lord save the Queen and her English

All you guys can cry hoarse and rally for your respective causes like 'terrorists need better weapons'. My latest peeve is against British English, not the Brits mind you…not even Earl Grey Tea.

A conversation I overheard.

Desi guy laying it thick to an American in a very vague accent that is tending towards destruction, ‘Matt, wanna take the lift downstairs?’

Ignorant American shows ignorance, ‘Lift?’

‘Oh, I keep forgetting. Lift is elevator in British English.’

I roll my Indian eyes to the direction of the British Isles. Oh yeah, the British English. A sure way out of these tricky situations. I'm sure Matt ought to be sufficiently awed that Desi is Oxford material. I agree, the Dwyers and the Mountbattens imparted their language some 60-1000 years ago and we follow its nuances to date. But I don’t remember any JK Rowling teaching me in school. Ok, maybe I overreacted. Keep cool and keep overhearing...

Apna desi continues, ‘Where I was ‘borun’, the squirrels had three dark stripes on ‘dear’ back.’

Matt is not only ignorant (regarding squirrel and deer) but is completely confused, ‘Wow! You were a baron? In India?’

‘Oh no! I was not baron, I was borrrn. In India. Birthplace.’

‘Aha! Bon! I see now.’

‘heheh! You see we speak British English.’

And I am the Queen's heir. Bollocks, I say! British English, my left foot! Poor Matt didn’t bother finding out that ‘skweeril’ is actually what he calls ‘skwirl’ and ‘dear’ was not an endearment, but more like ‘their’. Why can’t we Indians take responsibility for our linguistic talents and stop associating ourselves to some higher power (esp. England) just to make some kind of a cool statement? Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) and Britney Spears have more in common than we do.

I will learn the way you Americans or you Canadians or you Telugu people pronounce certain words and make it easier for you to talk to me…but I will never give credit to the Angrez for my broken Angrezi! As I say this, I only hope ‘Wren and Martin’ weren’t British.

Oh wait, there is a bigger issue I have with this pesky little island’s English.
I was having a peaceful lunch at Subway with a friend, not British. She and I were having a rather intense discussion of calories in mayonnaise vs. mustard when all of a sudden she started spluttering and choking, emitting bread pieces in projectiles with mayo of undecided calorie content stuck to the aforementioned pieces. She almost had to be wheeled to the emergency room if I hadn’t swallowed my coke in utter fear. I was to find out that the cause of this melodrama was this man standing at the counter completely unperturbed by the happenings, buying a sandwich. ‘I louve Soobwai” he muttered. Not a hunk of any sort, but a guy possessed with more panache than Tom Cruise for turning heads around. He was a stakeholder to the British accent. In countries other than his own, he has it made. If not for his false teeth that kept slipping off or his wrinkles reaching from neck to chest, my friend might have proposed to him before her husband could arrive to the scene.

‘So?’ I asked her.

‘What do you mean ‘so’?! Ohhhhh…it’s so cute... what a Godsend accent.’ She croons, her heart still pounding hard.

I rolled my eyes (actually they had never stopped rolling from that time) and bit into my sandwich and finished hers too. She could care less while straining her ears in hope that the old man would burp in his accent.

Blind people will follow any stupid fad and patronize any stupid accent just coz so many others will die for it! They made Hugh Grant a celebrity for that same reason. If he had a Texan drawl, he’d be the President of the United States. And seriously, what good is that? Whatever people, I am going to start loving Telugu accented Gult English henceforth. I will make it the latest trend. It gives me the goose bumps, makes my heart tingle…Oooh, lala! (French English, you know)

(Quick update: After being holed in the conference room for a half a day with a Telugu colleague, I completely change my mind about propagating Telugu English. I was eating my knuckles till I suddenly comprehended that ‘Jones’ is not a British surname but actually represents ‘zones’(by that time the meeting was over). Yikesu, Shudderru! I'm off to watch 'Mind Your Language.' That Mr. Brown gives me the weakest knees. On top of it, that getting-on-crutches accent! ..British? ...really?)

Saturday, August 06, 2005

My granny's nightmare

I’m not sure what’s happening to our generation, but one thing’s for sure, we’ve started eating a whole lot lesser. Everyone’s dieting or has become suddenly allergic to certain foods. Thin people are getting thinner just like Diet Coke became Zero calorie Coke. Low fat is shunned and fridges are being stocked with fat-free products. I never thought in my wildest dreams that low-fat spinach could even be marketed to people. Eggs to me are little cartons that can be opened with scissors. I need to relearn how to crack-open a shell. My poor deprived kids will never be able to make egg art (painting egg shells & dangling them on potted plants) while stinking up the whole house. How do I tell them that hen don’t lay cardboard?

When I call friends home for dinner, I feel like I’m cooking for a famine. Ms.Atkins makes sure that the rice from the neighbors plate doesn’t fall even on her skirt.

‘Do you have any protein?’

‘Here, take some beans’, I offer.

She rummages through the dustbin and pulls out the beans can, reads nutritional content and gasps audibly making sure other guests think I’ve mixed poison.

‘It has beans!’

Question marks replace black heads on my face.

'20 grams of Carbs, my dear! Just won’t do for me! I should have brought my protein shake.’

Then there is Ms. No-oil-in-any-form. ‘Oh, no oil for me in this dosa please.’

‘You might as well eat that newspaper you are reading. It will be as dry as that.’ I offer helpfully. The fact that the quality of my food will go down trying to cater to everyone’s whims and fancies is giving me the jitters. I sneak in some oil.

Trying to act nice, she doesn’t yell and scream. She takes and tissue and wraps the dosa and eats the tissue instead as they both look alike.

How can I forget Ms.Weight Watchers who carries the calorie to point converter software wherever she goes. ‘Idli is not a recognizable item in this database. I’m safer not eating it. Do you have donuts?’

Ms.Portion Control will actually use the smallest bowl in the kitchen to eat her food in so that she doesn’t over eat. I think the amount of times she walks into the kitchen to get the 7th, 8th and 20th helping is what’s keeping her sorta in the acceptable weight range.

Then there is this fella, the size of a thimble. He’s so thin that if he were the apple, he’d never fall off that tree and Newton would have never discovered gravity. He’s allergic to everything except fenugreek seeds. We went out to IHOP and he began his order.

‘A vegetable omelet please. No tomatoes, no onions, no mushrooms, no cheese please!’

The waiter scribbling frantically on his pad, looks distraught.

‘And I forgot. No eggs too.’ He meant not the real ones at least.

The waiter at this point loses it.

‘Mister, Please tell me you don’t want nothing!’

Thank God for me I have no motivation to lose weight!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Before even I could say 'good-riddance'

...I'm back. I don't like this alpha-2. I also don't like the fact that some moron called Mario has taken 'alpha' just for kicks and refuses to post anything. grrr.. Oh well, with that positive start, I'll rant on.

I knew it was time to move when I had to think and write. When I had to weigh the consequences and gauge calamities that would follow. When my mom told me that my dad was losing sleep over the fact that I was writing utter complete nonsense.

When my uncle actually sent an email asking me to go to Chinmayananda ashram in California to gain perspective in life and learn subjects like love, affection, tolerance, understanding, empathy. I don’t even know the meaning of half these words. My uncle was quite a sane person last I saw him. He cried when he saw Salman Khan sleeping on his parent’s feet in Bhagban. Going by Yogu’s latest posts, a link to his blog, claiming it’s mine, would have done the trick. My uncle would probably start sending other wayward kids to me knowing what a changed spiritual person I am. But if he chanced about marriage and women that also plagues his blog, I might get another letter telling me Chinmaya Ashram was not a good idea afterall and that I need to drown myself in my non-draining bathtub.

When I asked my dad-in-law if he found the contents of my blog offensive, he answered, ‘No, I think we must first understand that you cater to a completely different audience and I like the way you write. Please continue doing what you are doing.’ Any other fool would have been like ‘Awwwww… how understanding of him!’ But no, not fools like me. I thought- hmmmm… So he likes what I write?! Why? There is some deep underlying sinister meaning in this which I don’t want to understand.
So boom- the blog was moved!

Hah! Now they’ll never know if I have good things to say about them. Serves them right.

Until I start writing about politics like Patrix, leftover food like Lee, or even join the spiritual bandwagon like Yogu, or just link and plagiarize other people’s stuff like Zoheb, or write about being in the limelight everyday (where normal posts don’t feature anymore) like Kiruba, take photos of birds and review books like Parmanu…. I’ll have to remain undercover.

So here’s to evil senseless posts till I move again!

Yours ever annoying,