Friday, 27 April 2012

Exploring new lands

(Footprint in the sand in the Andamans last year in my most loved vibrams)

Same old boring running. Whats the big deal about running. One foot in front of the other. Why does this one go on and on about this running? Not as if she is some super elite Usain Bolt types. You are thinking, right?

Well it is true. This post is also about super boring running. So there is a chance that this one is not going to connect with you at all. But hey. Has that ever stopped me? How many books have I dismissed, with snide remarks about 'playing too much to the gallery?' I obviously indulge in the opposite of that. Meaning, doing my best *not* to keep my audience in mind...

In the past several months my relationship with running has taken on a new and more wonderful flavour. And the time seems ripe to share that here. To the (possibly disinterested) gallery of Party People. There are stories and incidents to share from my 2012 life!

  • On April 7th, my dear friend Bala ran this phenomenal run of 46 kms. One for each year of his birth, and an appealing new way of celebrating a birthday! Prior to that, he had run 21 kms each on 21 consecutive days. Yes, you read it right. 21 half marathons in as many days. The mind is still boggling at the thought of that. The thing about Bala is that he is so humble, and so very unassuming. The 46 years lie lightly on him, for sure! He did this to raise awareness about cancer and to test the limits of his (super) human body. And boy. I swear the city changed.
  • Coincidentally, I call him my birthday brother because a long time ago when Bala was celebrating his 8th birthday (and possibly doing something equally awesomely crazy), in another part of the country and completely unknown to him, I was born. I joined him on his quest this year but ran only 26 kms - joking that I would run my 'apparent age' rather than 'real age' I cannot think of a better way to celebrate birthdays. 
  • On the other end of the spectrum (in terms of age), are these two 'crazies' as I call them lovingly - running buddies of mine. They are training for a 10k race in the near future. And goodness me. Super disciplined training. They feed off each others enthusiasm and drive, and are constantly pushing themselves. When I saw how much they seem to enjoy their training, I decided to jump in with them too (although I am not running the short race). 
  • I am scared of things that go by the names tempo, interval, short tempo, goal pace, Yassos, mile repeats etc. I have done them a few times early on in my running career and it always seems to result in some weird pain that dogs me for days and makes everything uncomfortable. Yeah well, not any more. I have run two crazy tempo runs with these friends of mine, and it has been a spectacularly awesome experience! Oh yes, I really enjoy these and will go for it again.
  • I was lying around all pissy mooded after the Mumbai Marathon when I read emails about the Republic day half marathon. I had managed to twist my ankle walking - but went anyway to the race. I am glad I did because that was a race that I am going to remember for a while. And not just for the Personal Best HM time but generally, for how great I felt. This was a huge party.
  • I did pay the price for ignoring my ankle though, in fact, I am still paying the price. I was on a long run in early March (maybe Feb), singing and feeling genuinely happy. It was early morning I was sweating buckets and had run about 8 km. I tripped on the uneven pavement, and, didn't fall. But my ankle went. I walked for a long while hoping it would fix itself. I swam, I compressed, I iced, I ignored for the next several weeks. Its still not fully happy. 
  • The vibrams experiment started in summer 2011 after my Boston trip. I eased myself into it. It felt like my form was neutral enough that there was no marked difference between asics and vibrams for me. I neither felt less or more pain, was neither faster nor slower. Given my unhappy ankle, I am trying a new experiment. And that is a more vibram dependent training. At least I don't need socks. 
  • Another running friend runs what he calls the 'Walmart' adventure. Meaning, he runs less. Does more. Strength and mobility and core and stuff like that. He steadfastly refuses invitations to crazy runs involving logging indeterminate number of miles. Has this spreadsheet. And a terrace where he works out. I joined him on what we have termed the 'motta maadi' workout (Tamil word for terrace). My thighs cried for days but it was wonderful. Bear crawls are my favourite exercise now! 
  • A close friend for years, and a self-proclaimed 'anti-runner' and when he does run, an 'anti-social runner' this giant who is my husband is running these days. Equilibrium has been achieved wherein he runs and I run, completely separately, and we high five when we meet going in opposite directions. He sets his own targets, I set my own, and we compare and since both of us are disciplined like that, we usually meet them and we feel happy for ourselves and each other. Decoupling rocks!
So many different things have happened to me already in 2012! I am loving it! New friends, old friends, new ideas, old ideas, inspirational stories, all mixed up in the bag. The weather, my injuries, the busy schedules at work & at home, these are only incidental to my running life now. There. I am done. 

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

That Parenting Gig

The child turned eight earlier this month. For days I went around my eyes all saucer-like, at the wonder of it. Eight years old. Gosh. I have nearly forgotten those initial days when she was that tiny lump. She is this strapping girl, in her yellow glasses, and full of opinions now. I look at her though and feel that same familiar lurch I used to feel when she was that lump of a baby.

I was not in the frame of mind to have our 'usual' birthday party. Which, frankly, is not a particularly relevant child's birthday party. We have a large number of friends over and hang out. The friends have a large number of kids who are the child's friends. The kids hang out, watch some videos, the boys invariably get on the child's nerves because they do things like throw lego pieces around.

Last year, I had a 'painting party' which was a bit more relevant. Bunch of kids came over and made some drawings and spilled some paint over the floor upstairs while we parents hung out and drank and ate and laughed downstairs. It was fun, and she did have tons of memories about that, but this year, I was not ready for the 'commitment' of having so many people around.

"I would like to go to the planetarium" she said. That sounded like an awesome idea to me! Especially since the place is like a five minute drive from our house, is open 365 days a year (+1 for leap years), and the ticket costs some 10 Rs. a head. We had been recently, the chairs are a bit broken, the 3-D show sucks big time, the exhibits are all giant posters like we would make for research meetings, and well, the dome show is not spectacular either.

But what the hell! She doesn't know any better. And there is a play area there with swings and slides that she loves despite the oppressive heat and sun. And I knew just the right set of kids who would appreciate this local neighborhood experience and not act all hoity-toity about things or complain about the heat...

So we had 5 kids. Two of them are her absolute 'best friends' They are the main reason she has settled in so well in Chennai. We also love the parents who are the coolest people on earth, and definitely ready for something insane. Then I invited the two kids associated with my home. Kids of my cook and gardener. These girls are the same age as my girl but they rarely hang out with us, I figured this is a good time!

The only thing was, there were 4 girls and 1 boy. RRJ is also a 'manly man' type of boy. At least he tells me he is. But he bore it all bravely. They seemed to enjoy the show (although it was really bad. It was about the telescope and so very very badly made that my husband & I were really squirming in our seats and making mental notes about how to make a movie about telescopes ourselves). They played in the park. I gave them the juice which they consumed in double time.

At home, the girls gravitated towards the kitchen set which annoyed RRJ. Actually my minx is also not a big fan so soon they found the balloon game to play. Its the simplest birthday game ever but something they always seem to enjoy in all the parties. So they did that. And then we cut the cake and the parents (the mommies blog over here and here) came over and we chatted downstairs. It was all awesome and relaxing though the child had tons of tons of fun and was super excited for days...

Which brings me to language. The two prof kids-best friends speak almost exclusively in English. Though one of them speaks Bengali as well, her parents were saying, thanks to her grandmum. The other two girls know English a little bit through school, but converse in Tamil. So my minx of a child was the 'go between' so to speak. Since she can at least make sentences in Tamil, and translate between the languages. To the extent of saying 'lets play with bubbles' or 'lets go downstairs' or 'here is your return gift' (which was a simple set of crayons, sketchpens, and colour pencils for some summer fun.)

Especially since I was thinking about this whole conscious effort of raising multilingual kids (and sort of lamenting the fact that I had failed in that): see my post at SimplyBike: Raising Multilingual Kids; I was particularly happy to see that at 8 years of age, it doesn't really matter. When it comes to playing and having that brand of fun that kids specialise in, language is really no barrier for children...

Monday, 23 April 2012

Going Under

The reason I hesitate to make friends is that on some levels its unsustainable. Acquaintances are all fine. You meet you talk you part. But when you start sharing your thoughts and feelings and vice versa there is this dependency that gets built. I sort of hate that after a point. I try very hard but I guess by nature I am sort of needy, and need to be needed, rather connectedly.

I love people, I love new people, and it makes me very happy to hang out with them. Even if they are sometimes obnoxious, I collect something to think about whenever I meet someone. Sometimes, actually most times, what comes naturally to me is to invest a lot of time in people I really like. This is a slippery slope though.

I think I get (mildly) psycho about this. Then I feel bad for being psycho like that. I feel super duper angry when they don’t respond in equal measure. Take the simple matter of correspondence. My husband for example will ignore all emails I write to him. It makes me furious because I would never do that to him. One day he told me that he doesn’t reply to my emails because I write too long ones, and he feels obliged to write back an equally long email, and he cannot so he doesn’t.

It sounded like hogwash to me in general, but I took something away about myself from that interaction: That my emails are too long. And something about my place in the world: No one cares for honest outpourings of feelings and thoughts and ideas and goals that are personal to me. This one is a hard pill to swallow, to say the least!

Nowadays I don’t bother to write long emails anymore, unless extenuating circumstances occur. I hate nothing more than writing something like that, putting my feelings and thoughts out there, so speak. I don’t know why I do it. And the addressee, such as my husband, doesn’t even acknowledge it? Oh I even hate talking about this. When I hate something its time to change it. So that’s a new resolution. It doesn’t affect way too many people at any rate but I hope it will make me hate myself less.

This reminds me of that phase of my childhood. I was in college, and it was all such a wonderful and new experience for me. When I returned home, I would tend to talk for two days straight. My sentences all garbled and jumping over one another, such would be my urgency and enthusiasm that it took me years to figure out that my family didn’t really care about this stuff.

When I really needed to talk to someone, because of the confusing business of having fallen in love, of course there was no one.  It felt like everyone disapproved and it was only my young age, and that rosy cloud you ride when you are initially in love that helped me carry on with my life back then. I did what I could and resolved my feelings through some analysis and so on, as best as I could.

Even though I am online a lot, it takes effort to pour my feelings out in black and white. Effort and time. Which are better spent elsewhere. Thankfully I don’t talk on the phone too much so that wastage of time is fairly minimal.  At any rate, it is time I channeled better and stopped wasting time on un-reciprocated thought-sharing exercises. It’s a hard realization because periodically people come into my life and it seems for a bit that I have an ear for my outpourings. And it feels great and I forget my past experiences in this regard for a little while.

But at the end of time it is just a false sense, a big fat lie. The truth is that I am forty (nearly) and its high time I curbed down my enthusiasm for life and the everyday living of it. And definitely high time I shut down the noise and drone of other people that runs in my head and tuned it to different, more peaceful, internal frequencies.

So you’ll find me over there in the corner, doing what I do best, marginally fictionalizing my day-to-day life. Playing to my strengths. One of which is an innate ability of fingers to fly on the key-board. And also, possibly going a little insane as a considerable amount of talking to oneself will likely be involved. If you try me online and don’t find me responsive, its not because I am too busy. Its because I don’t want to deal.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Through the heat haze

We parked the car for an hour outside the store. While we grappled with door locks and stoppers and this insane amount of stuff that goes into the actual making of the House That Jack Built. (For what, after all? For the Rat to Eat the Malt and so on. The futility of it all, I tell you). Major Supremo aka my husband banged the car a little by running into a manhole. He blames me for it.

The temperature thingie in the hyundai read 45 C. I kid you not. The seat was boiling. The steering wheel was so hot to touch its a miracle we could drive at all. The little god photo that someone (who was it? Father in law, I bet) put in the car had come unglued, the velcro all melty and slimy. The child insisted that her elbows got burnt, and blames me for it.

That was yesterday. Today we were driving around feeling all happy that we could take two U-turns to try to find something called Yafa Towers (couldn't) without much difficulty. No one is on the roads, we said happily. Then we saw the temperature and laughed at us. Though we were happy to hear the guy drone on and on about sofas. [like, they come in 200 colours. Which matters not to us as we will pick one of two: black, or off-white, depending on].

At the beginning of Madras Avenue, ludwig said early Saturday morning "Just look at that" It was like the end of the road was looming in the distant haze and was winking at us, making faces, and laughing, for the utter foolishness of us. For being on the road. For running. For setting stupid goals related to running. For training for nothing, in this heat.  I blame me. As does ludwig.

I have had a hard time keeping up deadlines. I am already a week late on one. And I am not even referring to the thing I should be doing right now instead of writing this blog post. "Its the heat" I argue with myself. My fingers are flying now, sitting, as I am, right underneath the air-conditioner. But in my office - they just slide off the beautiful black mac keys thanks to the sweating. Clearly, its the heat.

I spent the thursday & friday usefully arguing with my students - partly trying to enthuse them, partly trying to scold them, mostly amusing myself. Some of them had a hard deadline of a poster presentation scheduled friday. A poster they pretended to care nothing about. A deadline they assured me was my problem, not theirs (considering I unceremoniously volunteered their names for said session).

Back and forth we parried. "I'll buy you lunch" I said at 3 pm on Friday. They consumed vast amounts of food while I drank a coffee and tried not to watch. Its so hot that I am amazed at how kids can eat. Also, jealous, a little bit. "Off you go now and spruce up" I said. I could have asked them to go kill someone, the way they looked at me. They had to take a bus and go to Adyar and fight with the Xerox fellow there. But the posters looked good. Delicious. So there.

They switched the ac on at some point in the poster room, but not before they all attacked me with requests for water. "We've been talking for so long and there is no damn water in this place to drink" they whined. I smiled and tried to make them drink tea (that, they wouldn't). Even after one of them won the FIRST PRIZE in the poster session, they are still pretending like they did me a big favour.

The week, the weekend, both nearly done at this point. The heat and humidity have been awful. I want to hit someone for the fact that I have to spend all of April and May in Chennai this year. Then I recall all the statements I make to the various people in my life when they complain about everything under the sun (and blame me for it all):

This is excellent training weather for hot races (like apparently Boston was this year) [About Running and Sweating Buckets]

If it doesn't kill you, it will make you stronger; or at least you might lose it and hallucinate about lizards playing the guitar which is always fun [About Just Hanging Out In The Heat]

So what if there are no points for it? You learn a lot from the exercise [About Poster Sessions]

Yeah so clearly, its all my fault. I have brought this on myself. Oh who am I kidding? I am having the time of my life. My mom is coming over next week. This time around, husband & I have a good rhythm going and understand furniture better. And don't have to talk in Hindi. There is swimming. There is always good food at home. I am totally enjoying logging longer runs in my vibrams. The homies actually miss me when I return home late. I can totally convince myself that the heat is ignorable.... like totally... 

Thursday, 12 April 2012

If its April, it must be Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month!

I suppose many have you have been following the awesome effort on CSAA. If not go there right now:
Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month. The team has spared no effort in making this month count. There are a number of chats, discussions, articles, suggestions, survivor stories, and much much more.

For the most part, I have been passively looking at the tweets and reading the articles and nodding sagely at the various suggestions that have come up. I have thumbed through the resources and hopefully filed away information in the head. As a mother of a vivacious eight-year old this stuff is at the same time undeniably scary and amazingly useful.

Raising awareness about this very real issue seems to be finally possible. This is what is really heartening to me. We are, despite all our hoo-hah and attempts at modernity, a very conservative country overall. We love nothing more than sweeping the very real issue of Child Sexual Abuse under the rug and pretending we are all saints and this is something that is a 'Western Concept' and as long as we raise our children in India, with the right 'value system', they (we) are safe. Personally this type of dialogue is what I hate the most about my country people, and so it has been really great for me to see this initiative take off like it has. Especially today, as I glance away from the newspaper which prominently features the death of that innocent little baby girl Afreen...

Growing up, we were two girls in a household filled with adults. I am really happy that my childhood was great and I have no survivor/victim stories to report. I totally have my mother to thank for that. With a lot of difficulty, she dealt gamely with the various accusations - "obsessive mother" "over-protective" "draconian" "too much discipline" "too proud" "spoiling her children" etc. - and ensured that situations of potential abuse were avoided.

I don't remember my father being overtly involved. Mum was working. She was doing all that stuff we do. The juggle. Family. Old people in the house. Kids. School. Cooking. Cleaning (that she is definitely obsessive about!!). I am still amazed how she managed to give us a childhood filled with happy memories. You guys see how I go back in time so often and talk about my growing up years on this blog...Hopefully you see that I really loved it! And felt safe and secure and confident...

As a mother myself, I see now how difficult this job is. I have had the mandatory talks with my own daughter. Trying to equip her with the confidence, the words, the tools necessary to keep herself safe... I have avoided many situations that scare me - and tried to be as sensible as possible. It has involved some severe time management and jugglery, and both of us have shouldered what we consider our duty as parents, surely, but we have also been very lucky in terms of accessible and enthusiastic help from our parents.

But I know we cannot smother-protect her for ever (this is definitely more me than my husband. He is crazily protective of her in the sense that I fear for the life of her future boy-friends, but is 'brave' in new situations compared to me). She is now in the real world. She is in a swimming class - there are older kids there and many many instructors. My heart has skipped a beat thinking about that just now, as I write this. She is in school for long hours and I have no idea about anything there. Its a good school, reputation-wise, but what does that mean anyway? She is growing up too fast too fast and every day when I wake her up in the morning and look at that innocent face, I feel overwhelmed with joy and fear and love and worry.

I would totally like to pretend that abuse of any kind doesn't happen 'to us'. I would love to be that ostrich with my head in the sand. Totally. I would love to be the other kind of parent as well. The kind that doesn't let her child out of sight. Waits outside the school gates and within a meter radius of child at all times. But the harsh reality is that I can be neither. The child, the world, my own better sense, (not to mention her other parent!) won't allow for it.

From a deep personal view-point therefore, I am un-describe-ably glad for the CSAA blog, and this awareness month. I thank you all for sharing, caring, educating, opening eyes, making this a better world. 

Monday, 9 April 2012

This day... That age...

I pondered long over what to wear. At the end the decision was made based on available time. I climbed into a (too big) salwar kameez in white and purple and smudged on some eye-liner. The hair was in a mess as usual, and I just let it be.

I remember that one year when I chose a pink dress that my mum lovingly picked out for me. I was 17, weighed in at 40 kilos, and if I had any curves at all to speak of, they were in my weirdly shaped forehead (it protrudes a bit, if you must ask). All the things that mum sent with me for 'special occasions' were pink, and rather childish. Oh well.

I drove myself to the hostel, confidently. Weaving through light night traffic and listening to some ear-popping music that I stole recently from a young friend. I smiled as some of the more explicit lyrics sunk in - I still cannot believe people can say these things and not use corresponding metaphors.

In those days, I used to listen to Bob Dylan and Jim Croce and The Beatles. A lot. I had a cassette player of some sort. When it konked, I tried to inflict it upon my unsuspecting girl-friends. Music I got all the way from Godavari hostel, from that lanky person.

I parked and paused briefly to note that a mallipoo seller outside the hostel felt like a bit of aberration, or maybe not. Who knew. The colourful rangolis welcomed us into the premises. Nasty brown sofas in the 'visitor lounge' The cycle park converted into food-stalls. I promptly refused the green, nuclear-sludge-like 'welcome drink' and passed into the hostel.

Shyam & a bunch of her groupies used to create these rangolis. I used to go to sleep at night - late - wondering who would decorate and if there could be any use for those paper-cut-out mobiles I am good at making. The next morning would bring these beautiful rangolis & other decorations around the hostel, to my surprised eyes and I would just not refer to my rather-limited skills with paper and scissor. The nasty brown sofas have not been replaced, yet.

The garden looked splendid. There is a swing in there now. It reminds me of some old Vyjayanti Mala song. Can't remember the song now don't ask me. You know. My room door looks the same from down below. "My room?" who am I kidding? In the intervening years, at least 17 new people have lived in there, a few of them boys (when our beloved hostel was converted into a Boys' dwelling, briefly). The mess has been torn down and extra rooms created. I walked further and turned right and there was the stage.

The garden used to be bare. They had just created it. That walk-way, which we called 'the ramp' - I remember spending hours sitting there talking talking talking heckling anyone that passed. Ah those were the days. The mess was large and airy but I still avoided it on days they had Fried Fish. We had the hostel night in the same place, at least in our final year. We placed the stage at the other end though. Girls had insisted on playing badminton in the evening despite the need for putting up the stage, stressing us out.

I was too lost in my nostalgia initially to talk to anyone. I sat there in the audience with a distant look in my eyes. I am not sure why I chose to go. Actually, I do know. Two of my PhD students live in Sarayu hostel now. The girls are going to be with me for at least a few more years. They invited me, and so I went. To chat with them. Get to know them better. And to be nostalgic for a bit, I guess.

The Chief Guest had to leave early. At least, she had to leave at a decent time. The program started very late. So they asked me, and I agreed. Despite my too-big salwar kameez and the nasty hair and my distant eyes. I went up on stage. I handed out a few prizes. I threatened to make a very long speech (Fasten your seatbelts, I said).

But my heart was not in it. It had travelled in time to that age. Our triumphant rendition of 'Obladi' - Shalini on the guitar, and begging Shiuli to join us while all the while she kept up the pretense that she was stoned. Wearing a butterfly green salwar kameez suitable for 10 year olds (airspy still teases me about that). Sifting through clothes lovingly picked out by mum. Hating all of them. Not daring to tell her. Stressing out about the "Rogue's Gallery" and hoping mine would be written well (and without damaging incidents).

When I first entered Sarayu hostel, that day in 1991, I walked in, not turning back to wave at teary-eyed parents who waited expectantly in a taxi outside. When I left, in 1995, I did the same. I walked out and flew away to distant lands. Returning just once one fateful July day. But thats a story for another day...

Friday, 6 April 2012

The When, The How, The What for

I need to get my running mileage up. Thats it. No two ways about it. I have slacked off plenty since the big Mumbai marathon party, and the time has come. The list of excuses is long, and ever growing:

  • Ankle twist
  • Weird Plantar like pain
  • Child's swimming class
  • Husband's gymming sessions
  • Traveling
  • Partying
  • Weather sucks
  • Oh my period!
But these are not new. Everyone knows this stuff. I know all of this. I definitely fully expect all these things. I live in Chennai. The city is not going to get air-conditioned. My ankle ligaments are torn/strained/non-existent for the past 20 years. Plantar & ITB are a runner's best friends. The child and husband are not stay-at-home sleepy folks - they are active and crazy and I love them for it. I haven't even travelled or partied over-much. In fact, I have stuck to my resolutions on the party front very well indeed. And about the last thing? Well, I had whole posts planned but somehow not moved it past the drafts. A period is no reason to not run. In fact, I have run most of my half marathons while having a period in various stages. I would infinitely prefer to not have my period during a race, in fact, I would prefer not having the damn thing at all, but it has been a part of my life for so many years now. It can hardly be the excuse for not stepping out for an hour. 

The When:
I need to get a rhythm going. I was running Tue-Wed-Thu-Sat during Mumbai training. I cannot run Tue-Thu any more as those are swimming days. But that is good. I can totally run Wed-Fri-Sun and make up the mileage. I never do intervals/tempo/speed etc. workouts anyway. So it is real easy. Wed-Fri are peaceful 12km run days, and Sunday is the monster long run. Super easy. Sunday is a long swim session for child so she is unlikely to miss or need me, at any rate!

The How:
One foot in front of another. Thats how.

The What for:
Well, yes. I hear you, you stupid voice. I am a middle-aged (like hell. I am reaching old age already. Been middle-aged for nearly a decade now!). A has-been. Mommy-fat-hobby-jogger. I am unlikely to break into any big leagues. In fact, I am more likely to injure myself with the thought of the big league. But that doesn't matter. I need to keep my running mileage up because thats what I do. My next race might be months away now (September), but it will soon be close. I may not win any prizes. But I am sure as hell going to aim to finish strong. I do my share of core, and strength, and weight workouts these days, because its good to have all this in the mix. Also, I swim now. But at the end, what I do is run. In my long life I have been a basketball player, a long jumper, a shot-putter, a soccer player, all with varying degrees of ineptitude, but all through, I have been a runner. And thats at the center of everything now as well. 

The 136kms I have run in the past six weeks? Is just too damn depressing. No, I am not going to Pam Reid it up by running the remainder 164kms of my goal starting now and ending day after tomorrow, setting a record and having local media click pics while at it. No. I am going to do my best tomorrow, in a real long run, and then re-negotiate my goals...

This.. ain't going to cut it...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Appearances can be deceptive

I have lamented this before. I don't look like a professor. This is one of the first things people say about me when they meet me. I am supposed to graciously accept it as a compliment, I suppose. I don't know. I like professors. I liked them so much that I always wanted to be one. So its hard to think of it as complimentary, you know?

We were at the Bose speakers store over the weekend. Yes yes, we are upgrading the system. Actually its long overdue. Someone gave us 2 Bose speakers for our wedding (15 years ago). They lay in their box till we moved back to India (10 years ago). One fine day the man and head of our household unpacked them and hooked them to our music system - dvd player - mp3 player - all in one thing.

The kids who visit us watch movies on that. We bought a new TV screen thing when we moved to Chennai (3 years ago) and hooked it on, finally getting rid of that awful fat Sony TV we had in Mumbai for years. Getting rid as in, moving it to the spare room where it stands, gigantic and looming and I have started turning away from it when I go there because no one wants it. Not my parents-in-law. Not any of the people who work in my house. No one I know.

We were early. The store was still closed. I walked over to the store next door and bought myself something to tie my hair with. Usually I don't let any husband touch the hair clips I use. The big giant ones (nearly obsolete and completely unwanted these days, much like my Sony TV in the spare room). He always manages to break it - in various ways. The metal clasp. The teeth. I patch it up and wear it for a few more days till it fully crumbles. This time, I broke three of them all by myself, metal clasp. I am getting strong from all my p90x workouts I think.

Okay now back to the Bose store. I wanted to say 'I am a professor though I don't look like one' but the word 'relevance' was reverberating in my head so I just smiled my silly smile. The guy had a lisp and looked vaguely familiar. I let my husband (I suppose he looks like a consultant, I don't know. He looks like the guy who chews gum when he plays basketball, as far I can tell) do the talking. We were taken upstairs for the 'home theater' experience.

I looked around and saw this skinny person behind me. He was wearing jeans, a button down, and chose to keep his sunglasses on. I wanted to judge him immediately for wearing sunglasses in an inside situation. Then recalled that its almost-summer (almost-mango-season!) and gave him the benefit of the doubt. Conjunctivitis is  not called Madras-Eye for nothing. He walked up for the 'home theater' experience as well.

It was some vaguely oriental sounding movie track. I lost interest since it didn't involve Daniel Craig. Mr. Sunglass asked a question. The store dude said 'I will answer questions after the track finishes' OUCH. Major diss. I felt bad for him. I decided to upgrade his name to Mr. Madras-Eye. Which might be painful and sort of oozy in nature but at least it gets you R.E.S.P.E.C.T. I guess that is the reason I don't take it as a compliment when people assume I am not what I am.

Its not like we didn't have sunglasses on. There were on our head. And we were dressed terribly. In fact, we hadn't even showered and I was feeling very stinky and keeping my arms close to myself to not release armpit-sweat-pervading-smell into the 'home theater' experience. Shorts. Round neck tees. Flipflops. No scratch that. That was the next day. Bose speakers day, I had run a Half Marathon early morning. And showered after that, obviously. Still, blue flipflops. He was wearing shoes.

Surprisingly, my husband was considerate and nice to Mr.Madras Eye. I guess we had wordlessly gone through the same set of arguments in our head about Wannabe-Rock-Star/Nouveau-Rich vs. Conjunctivitis-sufferer, and reached the same conclusion. Anyway by this time I fell asleep for a bit as the movie clip still didn't have Daniel Craig in it. And no dancing. Just some car chases and one bungy-jumping type event. Boring.

"Okay I am heading down" Mr. Madras Eye said and loped off, his shoulders slumped as the store guy just nodded in his direction and continued to look adoringly up at my husband. I slinked into a corner and emerged periodically to mutter things like 'where will the kids watch movies?' 'can we continue to use our existing speakers?' 'can it work with a 10-year old ipod shuffle 'cause thats the only place I have Britney Spears at?' etc.

Oh! I know the feeling mister. I will assume that you are a shy, retiring individual visiting from another planet. Which is further from the sun than ours, so that, this amount of sunlight, and this type of bright LED indoor lighting, feels too harsh on your eye. I will assume that you bought earth-clothes-and-shoes with the expert purpose of experiencing earthling electronic goods. And that you are boarding your craft back to maybe fourth-rock-from-the-sun with a not-so-pleasant feeling in your mouth about us...