Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Call me crazy in Potsdam

(Again from the desk, just a couple of days ago. Disclaimer, after I wrote this, they actually took us on a very long city tour, and yes, it is rich historically, no doubt).

The German city I find myself in since yesterday is called Potsdam. Familiar to keen readers of world history as the place of the Potsdam Conference at the end of World War II, though, for some strange reason, this is not a matter that comes up in average German discussions regarding the city. Although everyone insists that it is a historical and cultural hub, at first glance it feels slightly gritty, and the large construction crew next to our hotel does not help much in changing that image.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day’s meetings, a bunch of guys and I stepped out of the hotel to a square, with a nice fountain & lots of music and filled to the brim with people in sports outfits. I was salivating thinking about a possible race when one of the guys, who speaks fluent German, asked someone, and found that indeed, there was a race on!

We wound through a bunch of people, walked into a school (called the Einstein Gymnasium!!), registered me, paid up the requisite 15 Euros, got me a t-shirt and bib, and a running chip (!), and I returned to my room to change. Back at the location again, my brown skin and pink shirt (of course I wore my usual Asics running shirt and not their cotton one), sort of conspicuous amidst all the (very tall) German people milling around. I sent the guys off to do their thing, set the watch on Chrono, and before I knew it, we were off.

The Park Sanssouci is a three minute walking distance from the Hotel. I had discovered its many pleasures – interminable steps, leafy arches, fountains, plenty of quiet (aside from chirping birds) paths – early this morning, running here and there and everywhere while two of my (sane) friends walked around wearing their sweaters.

Naturally, come evening, my legs were not particularly in the mood for a run. But the race was for 7.2 km – four rounds of 1.8 km each – 1.8km being called a Prussian Mile, for some reason that we did not understand. The announcements were all in German. I relied on my gut feel that Germans, if not anyone else in the world, would start a race on time – it was scheduled for 8 pm, and after eating a large banana, I reached there at 7:30 pm, well in time.

People would look sideways at me and then glance away. I tried to be nice. I tried to smile but it rarely worked. I soon gave up and decided to concentrate on running, after all, that was my primary purpose of being there, not to fraternise. The first round was not very comfortable, I ran it in 9:15. The next three rounds felt a bit better, I suppose not really knowing the running route can be a bit of a psyching factor in a race. I finished finally in 39:34; which is about 3+ mins less than I anticipated, so I was pretty happy. My legs were a bit off from the jet-lag, the morning run, the slight stress about my morning presentation, and I was a fair bit hungry. Besides, I never like the evening runs much. Nevertheless, an opportunity I would not have missed out on!

Everyone at the conference is now thoroughly convinced of my craziness. My German-speaking friend was sweet enough to wait for me at the finish, walk back to the hotel with me, convince them to give me a bit of pasta (the buffet was removed by the time I showed up), and hang out while I ate. This race, not that it was spectacular in terms of my performance or anything (I think I did the 8 km in campus last semester in 40mins), I dedicate to him, denizen of beautiful campus in South Mumbai.

Back in the room, washed the clothes, switched on the football, and spent a few minutes thinking and missing my little girl immensely. In a way it is a good thing this, that love is sort of immutable and unchangeable and is unaffected by external forces. Or maybe it is not love but just stupidity. Anyhow, I am counting the hours....

Father’s Day, THE Wedding, Libraries, and the Elusive Pint of Guinness

(From the desk of Kenny, about a week ago)

It has been just over four days since I left the homestead. The monster had gone off to her neighbourhood after-school class while I packed my bag. I did a whirlwind round of packing, went back into office to get an official letter, came back, changed, piled my feet into shoes, and we went off to pick her up and then to drop me at the airport. She gave me an extra hug and hung on to me when I got off and said goodbye. She was super sweaty from whatever it is they had played at the class (basketball perhaps, it is really never clear what exactly goes on there), and I was like ‘eww girl’

Pink striped tights (knee length) and a pink tee-shirt, she had chosen for herself that day.

Since that moment about a thousand things have happened. The interminable flight. The delayed arrival in Mumbai. The breezing through the duty free desperately, phone in my ear. The Air India uncles and aunties insisting that there was no gin on board (WTF?). Movies. Wake Up Sid, Ajab Prem Ki, even the really horrid De Dana Dan in which the highlight is a flood.


Gotta Have Bagels and Starbucks.

A sentimental shopping session at Barnes and Nobles, that fine bookstore. It was not as cool as I expected as I could not find the books the monster wanted. Anyway she is going to be happy with whatever I have gotten for her, and also the little brown tights with the pink flowers I stopped at Gap for, will also be a hit. Miss her #1.

NBA Basketball finals (actually not that bothered that the Lakers – whom I tradionally hate ; won over the Celtics – whom our entire gang traditionally thinks are god’s gift to basketballkind).

Berakka Pacchadi (YUMMMM). Breadsticks with Avakka.

The groomboy and I were supposed to go out for a pint around the corner. I know, how cool does that sound. This in Queens though. His buddies had other ideas and, as the middle-aged aunty types I got cut out of the Manhattan binge. Oh well. There is always tomorrow, I said.

The morrow brought work, laundry, a jet-lagged nap, the Berakka Pacchadi lunch, and BEGGING, literally, for some coffee. Groomboy seems to have quit coffee along with the puffstick. Me, I need my coffee like I need my ankle brace and toothpaste.

The flight to Kansas City was good and groomboy kept trying to wake me up and look at the storm clouds we were flying through. They were cool, I admit. I said, ‘Don’t know if monster realises that clouds have three-dimensional structure.’ ‘Dude, she is not a dummass like you, she does.’ Miss her #2.

Hey the family is all out at dinner, lets go around the corner and join them in a pint. I know, this was in Kansas city though. And the Italian place they were at brought me a local brewed wheat something. We did go to an Irish pub after but I was too tired by then.

Saturday brought a sunglass hunt for the husband. Unsuccessful, though the responses were encouraging. I noted a toystore nearby and told myself to resist the temptation. After all, we had discussed it and the monster had agreed with me that there was no point wasting time with toys and the like this time. Miss her # 3 though.

I went over the house later in the afternoon, despite the best attempts of a sleepy cab driver to put me on the wrong track, I dug deep and read the map and got there. The yellow house dudes! The house filled up soon enough and I found myself talking nineteen to a dozen with everyone, the Indians, the Irish, and American academics alike.

The little girl seemed real friendly, finally I caught up with her brother and her in the other living room. ‘Its my birthday tomorrow, sixth year’ she said, all cute and lispy and giggly when I said OompaLoompa. We had a wonderful conversation about Darth Vader and sharks, and how to train them (both) so that they don’t bite, and she gave me one of her elastic bracelet things (and a sweet). I don’t even want to think about how much I missed mine looking at this tiny little girl and saying ‘Do you like the girl that went Daddy I want a Pony Daddy I want a trained squirrel’

And of course you don’t insult the brew by serving it from bottles, and they did not, so I stuck to the local pale ale that was in the icebox. We can always go out for one later, I said.

With the wedding next day, and my feet literally tapping thinking of the jogging routes around the city, getting a cab back and getting a good night’s rest seemed logically the right thing to do, especially when one of the girls had already called one and the guy was there outside and all. I let my pint go again...

I heard the church bells going as I ran, literally drooling, to the park down the hill. Its a small synthetic track – just under a mile in length. But soft on the feet, and with music in the ear, and the weather all super nice (read, warm), and birds chirping, it was just fantastic. I sweated buckets though, and everyone thought I was crazy because hello, I had to go around many times to get to my running goal for the day. But what the heck.

I walked over to the local coffee place and realised it was Father’s day. Ugh. Now I miss all of them. Including my own father, ten years it might be, but still. He would have loved to hear of my adventures, and if life has been different, would surely have walked with me for a pint of the world’s best (don’t think he ever had a taste of it, all he managed was some fine vodka in the erstwhile USSR where he spent time for work back in the early 70’s, aside of course from whatever it was they used to drink in India back in those days). And yeah, my two homies, its nice that the father-daughter bonding is going well, and surely it cannot happen when I am around ‘cause I am so in your face around the house.. but.... Soldier on, Kenny, soldier on.

I did quick work on the eggs, the potatoes, and the coffee (keep it coming, please), while reading a running book for inspiration, and keeping my mind away from things and people I was missing, and also partly focussing on the fact that it was wedding day! Wedding Day!

Groomboy and I tried again later in the afternoon (actually I went over to see if he wanted help getting his hair done, as Bridegirl and her friends were doing that!!), but the local Irish pub was securely locked. Sunday afternoon, 1 pm, or thereabouts. So off to the pizza place for the local wheat again! (and some very nice pizza).

The wedding was just awesome. The ceremony very sweet, and dinner real nice. I was so very glad I came! I mean, I would have missed out big time if I had stayed back home and pretended as if I really wanted to come but could not for various practical reasons. Anyway, I don’t do practical very well. Sentimental, that I am good at. That and attending weddings. I am great at that! Everyone danced up a storm though but I tried very hard to do the usual, i.e., hide in the back. I spoke to everyone there, at least almost everyone, which is something I like to do (as opposed to dancing, which is something I like not to do!) It was all very poignant and I managed to not cry! Which sort of counts as the achievement of the year, I must say!

The whole plan of after-wedding drinks was ill-conceived to begin with, at least for me. I mean, when a guy says, ‘I am sort of the local party organiser person’ and it turns out that he is a twenty something kid who frequently pretends to forget your name, and routinely says inappropriate things to people around. I could not go through with the plan and just avoided the whole after-party and did the middle-aged and crashed till 9 am (when I rolled out of bed and went to the gym to watch Federer do the Federer on that guy).

As Sunday rolls into Monday and I sit here at the hotel and watch the comings and goings (mostly goings) of all the guests, it turns out that I am still chasing that elusive pint of stout! And I am counting on my fingers now and am resigned to the fact that I have to wait at least a week to see my little girl...

Monday, 14 June 2010

Midnight Mirage

It is surely a very strange time for me to be awake. And even more strange that I am awake because I was working. Oh well, these things happen. Even to the best of us. Even to those that have cracked the code on 'doing the next best thing to nothing' as a friend of ours was fond of saying, referring to my job.

I watched Kites. I know, what am I crazy? I have not seen a movie in ages. I cannot even remember the last one I saw. I just don't do that any more. Its too much pain. Tatasky offered to sell it to us, in fact, I think they give some n free movies and we had not used even 1 of the n. Well, no more. Now we only have (n-1) left. And dude, in terms of my life I have only (N-2) hours left, and the 2 that I spent watching this movie are never, ever, in my whole entire life, coming back to me. It was so ridiculous, it was not even funny. See Dhoom2 is ridiculous, right, from the get go. But I watch it, meaning I have seen it once and sometimes I can bear to see it again (in parts), and check out Hrithik Roshan. I was downright irritated that HR would wear a mustache and AB would fail to recognise him, but that is nothing compared to Kites. The most objectionable thing was HR's hat(s). Ugh. Please save me.

In other news I have created the Mother of all Lists. This is because I am going away, and Mr.Kenny is going to hold the fort while I am gone. The fort needs some holding, you can say that again. Uniform. Socks. Lunch Bag. Water Cans. Gas Cylinders. Veggies. Idli Batter. Ironing. All that and more baby. "There is no doubt that I am eminently capable" the man has said, in that irritating manner men have of dismissing domestic responsibilities and pretending as if they are trivial compared to the world-shattering work they do at the office. Hey. Not my problem. I am so gone and so like focussed on getting the max. benefit out of my break, to go to the gym, attend the wedding, make my presentation, schmooze, drink Guinness, read, blog, and so on.

Till Then!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

'Cause I feel Like It

Today? Came and is almost gone now. I am bone tired. I am dog tired. My eyes are closing. I wanted to say literally closing. Then got scared of sue. I don't know any more. Is it virtually closing or literally closing. Its one of those, I would know if said event were not happening to me as we speak. Or write. Or read. Or type.

I played the (internet) radio on my computer all morning while I read papers. The papers were real boring for the most part. It took me all the morning to find something interesting enough to be willing to cut a tree over. Don't cry dogmatix, its all for a good cause. Or not. The second I printed it (10 pages, used left over paper from last semester of course. All those tutorials belonging to kids that overslept in their rooms after a night of avid viewing of illegal movies), I lost interest in it.

Which reminds me that I read, over the course of my vacation, Catch 22 (again) and followed it up with Closing Time. Now, much like Show Business, which is a book I love to hate, Closing Time is, to put it mildly, PutDownAble (Yo Suester, Thats my peeve, the inventifying or massacrage of words. The verbing of nouns. Irregardless. Things like that). I mean, its such a sorry ass excuse of a second book, especially after the lyrical quality of Catch22. And besides, it makes only a passing glancing mention of Orr, by far my favourite character in C22.

So I was just saying that the best way to lose interest in a paper is to print it. But the only reason to print it is because it is interesting.

The Yossarian way would, of course, be to print every single document that passes through the veil, pile it all up till the room is fit to burst, go to admin and tell them I cannot enter my office, and go out and sleep with a few (or many or none) Italian whores. Sitting on my haunches and grinning wickedly, I could stuff horse chestnuts in my mouth (because crab apples are not in season, or rather, I wouldn't know what the fuck a crab apple is, even if you brought it on a platter with horse chestnuts around it, I would not recognise it), and not print anything, but pretend as if reading it on the screen is the most natural thing in the world. Then suddenly one day, poof! Sail away! Orr, middle path. In life also, of course, but here too.

Ok so, based on middle path treading over the past fifteen years in the biz, I have 11 boxes - splitting at the seams - of the white stuff (not the kind you are thinking of!) in my office. Not a bookshelf in sight either. It fills about 13% of the room currently. Long way to go Yo-Yo. Keep in mind that much of the mass is from early days, when PDF still referred only to Post Doctoral Fellow and one had to wear a down jacket, gloves, hat, and scarf, walk into library, take off down jacket, gloves and scarf, pull down the dusty bound volume (s), hotfoot to the basement with the machines, use gym-developed muscles to turn the bound volume upside down on the glass and press down with vengeance on the cover, sweat, find the hat still on your head, take it off, do it again and again and hope you never run out of paper (which is what you had hoped, earlier in the morning, as you read Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni sitting in the loo you shared with that weird white chick called White in the connected room), and wonder briefly if the associated basement-sweating counts as aerobic exercise at all, and oh well, you get the picture. Now you just click on a few things, right mouse up a few more things and within seconds you have the offending document all ready to be printed (or read, choose one), and no sweating even, how boring. To fill a room requires a lot of dedication. Or Rumplestiltskin (there are moments of course when this queen would gladly give away the first born to him to do as he pleases, this is not one such moment however. She has eaten her dinner, Oliver Twisted even, much to my incredible surprise. Has now proceeded up to her bed and is shooting questions at me about Tornados and Earthquakes and advising me against going to Kansas City because of).

Dinner ladies and, well, men. Dinner. In which we have featured today, Keerai - market bought, tomorrow we harvest our own, don't worry, and snake gourd - store bought and therefore nah-ha-sty in texture, taste, and colour. The paper meanwhile remains unread. I feel I should roll it up and put a rubber band around it. There.

Take the left fork

Life, everyday, is about choices.

Press on left to shut the alarm and right to snooze for five minutes.

Place the water for the coffee on the left burner and the milk on the right one (or switch it up, for effect).

Wake the posse up and go swimming all together or kiss the posse - one cheek all poky and stubbly, the other baby soft, and go running instead.

Climb down the stairs fully intending to step out but sit down at the computer and read Perakath instead.

Play Jim Croce into your ears for an early morning introduction to the Roller Derby Queen; or find your latest fav. Prem Ki Naiyya, on the ubiquitous internet.

Watch the sky slowly lighten from the french windows, feel overwhelmed with an undescribe-able feeling of happiness and lightness and satisfaction; or focus on the darkness and the rumbling and think of all the sad stuff like how you are inching closer to losingyourmind.com everyday.

Its 6:15 am, and I chose the left fork. What about you?

Monday, 7 June 2010

First Day!

I was tossing and turning all night. Would I miss it? Is it morning yet? Is that rumble thunder or my hungry stomach (Maggi for dinner, Of all the people in the world, Amma is the best, though she is not sparky, though she is not fun, who else would let me eat chocolate pudding for dinner? .. already a bundle of contradictions, thats my girl, yes)? New phone! What if it forgets to ring? Why is it so cold to touch? Where is my pillow? Who is my bedsheet? When is my hair clasp? Whither...

Hark! Theres the door bell.

Apparently, my friend Veej, my cook and comrade-in-arms, also spent a restless night worrying about first day of school. What if I get late? What if akka (that's me, though we are the same age, if you split hairs) has to leave?

In my defense:
(1) We changed schools. Its a new school. But since we are in II std. I feel like we have been given insufficient information. Where is the web-site? Why are there no first day updates in my mail-box? Is there a snack break? There are unanswered questions. And not enough material to read up. The school diary talks about man and god and war and how teenagers should respect elders.
(2) The tailor refused to stitch the white uniform. So she has to wear the old pair. I Ranipal-ed it and ironed it (meaning, I had my posse approach the offending piece of cloth with determination), but what if it does not fit properly? How about the missing belt? Oh fuck. I just remembered that it has the old school's monogram on it.
(3) The husband, who is my go-to guy in this situation especially as its his old school (no, really), has gallivanted off to Dilli. Amidst much cribbing about Dilli, Flights, Missing keys, and sundry other things.
(4) The monster is remarkably unconcerned. She has refused to try out her skirt. Avoided lifting her bag to see if she can. Not engaged with me on the issue of the snack. Turned a deaf ear to my wailing about lunch. At 3:10 am, my hands, blindly groping for the phone (or bedsheet) found her, descending from her bed to burrow into my back and on to my plastic encased bed, where she is still sleeping.
Three hours. At 12:30 we will emerge victorious. Its silly to be worried about the II std. teacher (she looks tough! Hope she is not like Trunchbull :-(). I mean, really. Is this the reason why csm recommends this? Oh! maybe she will be like the whomping willow. Or this tree I read about in a book called The Beast With Nine Billion Feet which eats people during snack break. Its just school. Should I just wait there the whole three hours? Wait, thats so kindergarten, can't do that anymore. Not the year you learn that multiplication is, after all, repeated addition. Should I reach half an hour early? The actual school start time is 8:30 but it says 9:30 on the admit card, for the first day. Bollocks, its their stupidity if they wrote the time wrong. Should we ? Shouldn't we? Ugh. Glug. Oh well. Peace out y'all, see you on the other side.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Fly Fly Fly

Its time. It really flies. I suppose it means one is having fun. Because, you know, time flies when you are having it. Fun, I mean.

* The monster is in II standard. Wow! When did this happen? I don't mind, actually. The books are marginally more interesting than the I standard ones though I admit I cannot read the tamizh book at all. Need to go back and get cracking on the previous book so I can be all caught up.

* I am here. He is here. She is here. We're all together now. We always were, but now we are, officially, for 'the foreseeable future', in Chennai Maanagaram. And hoping against hope that the evil tasmac mends its ways.

* The car is repaired. Did I tell you it was ruined. Did I? Yes, I think I did. Its okay now. I am still a bit apprehensive about driving but, as they say, get back in the saddle Kenny, get back (to where I don't really belong).

* The monster wants to know why he doesn't like Maggie's Farm. Dude, I don't know. Its at least better than the 119th dream which makes limited sense if at all, but then I love it love it love it. Wish I had Bob Dylan's job (or talent, at the very least).

* We (as in I, but I was just talking to ludwig, you know how they, as in he, is, with the royal pronoun thing), need a new phone. Its pretty desperate a situation as situations go. And it has only been three years now. I remember one stormy cold december night when I went out to get the monster a turn at the nebuliser at the clinic. I left my blue nokia in the auto that night. The monster loves all the stuff related to doctors. She even enjoyed the dentist visit two weeks ago. So why was I stressed enough to lose the phone? Anyway, the nokia prism, which I subsequently bought, is a bad model. Be thankful you can no more purchase this phone, as it is discontinued.

* The monster's passport expires shortly. This ought to be interesting. My main employer is in Mumbai, so far. This should change in a few weeks time, time permitting, and going subsonic unlike now. One of the credit cards has the address specified as our Mumbai one (don't ask). These bits of information might not be relevant, but you never know. This is India, after all, as the Ivory Coast type Jet Airways pilot said to me just last week. We have no ration card, nor any hope of procuring one. Our passports are all unified in that they are based on our Mumbai home, in which we were not even really living when we were in Mumbai 1+ years ago now. Its too hot in Chennai to casually be able to hang out in the serpentine lines at Passport Offices like I managed to back then, five years ago, in Mumbai. Or maybe I am just older and less tolerant of my own B.O. Anyway, thats up next. And the pilot dude? Well, he got a piece of Kenny's mind, which does not happen often but will if you mess with my husband when you should not.

* Thats it folks. I am off now. To eat dinner and hope to catch Friends. Or recourse to 9XM if not. OOOh maybe Big Bang Theory is on. Yummalicious Baby.