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,