Thursday, 25 September 2008

Here we go again!

Well yeah. I am off. Again. Burning aircraft fuel. So sue me. Should be fun. At least the streets will be (hopefully) clean. Though that cannot always be said of NYC. I know parts of Gotham's that are downright naa-asty. Oh well. I have several versions of my presentations in various storage devices and repositories on the internet. I think I have checked off everything on my list of things to take. My bags don't look too huge so I am happy. This despite the jackets I need to perforce take since my body has forgotten how to handle the cold (not that it ever could, really).

Anyway don't miss me or anything. Will be back anon.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Dads & daughters

Of course everyone knows Randy Pausch. Right. Go look if you don't. The best place to start might not be this page, but his book The Last Lecture or the Youtube video. It might just be that it is inspiring to me especially because of varied reasons. I do vaguely recall seeing something about him over at csm's. That was last year. I said 'uh huh' and moved on. Then I read his book last week and somehow I had to write something real quick or else I felt I would burst.

When my father was battling his demons for those long years, was I there enough for him, this is a question that bugs the heck out of me ever so often. Of course the easy answer is that I was NOT there. I was in college, then I was in graduate school, I got married and shuttled between my in-laws and parent's homes when I was visiting India, I was working on my papers, I was going to conferences. I was working hard, I was having fun, I was making friends, I was growing up. Meanwhile, through it all, he was here, with my mum and our few close relatives and his friends.

We spoke on the phone, we wrote letters, after a point he dictated his letters to mum (and cribbed about how it came out after all), and I typed my letters and printed them out (because writing is really a lost art). He was never satisfied. I was waiting all day for your phone he would say on Saturday. She wrote such a short letter he would say to mum. She is visiting us but only for four days he would complain to his friends. Overall though, I had the sense that he would have hated it otherwise. If I spent all my money on phone calls, if I wrote more letters and submitted fewer articles to journals, if I quit school and hung out at home. I don't know if it was what I wanted to sense, but it was there, sort of said but unsaid. You have such good news for me every time you call, he would exclaim (something silly like an award, a conference acceptance, a triumphant Malai Kofta made & enjoyed), which I interpreted as - He wants me to be in grad school, do well, make a good marriage, build a life for myself.

Perhaps it was his training as a scientist, perhaps it was just his style, he was good at crystallising what exactly was the most bothersome part of it all. Initially, as his sight underwent ups and downs, and we were unable to figure out if the side-effects of the medicines were worse than his neurological condition, he would say to anyone who would listen, Imagine not being able to read! My mum would gamely, heroically, offer to read to him. But then he would crib too much about her pauses and so on and they would have a mini-fight and he would go back to making jokes about how he was in-visible. Later, as more things began to be wrong, he would focus on one thing, that he was terribly inconveniencing his wife, my mother. No amount of telling him that she NEVER complained (she truly never did then, not even now) mattered. Such a young girl, how dare I go and marry her, knowing back then about my heart condition, he would say. But you were fine till 1993, we would all insist, the same dialogue from my sis, my mum, and myself. Of course I cannot imagine mum thinking herself as young, although he was right, she is ten years younger than him, and has spent the best part of her forties and fifties shuttling between home and hospital (and managing to do some teaching).

These jokes of his, like the in-visible, where we purposely mis-interpreted stuff, were the glue that held us together. I am a Visionary! he would wake up and exclaim, and we would all rejoice, yes, dad, truly you are one. I miss that a lot.

He managed to teach his classes through it all. The year he retired, we breathed a huge sigh of relief, a job well done, we told him. His students always adored him, though I am not sure if they saw much of what he was going through in his final years. It is when I think of this phase of his life and career that I feel the most bad. I don't know, if I had encouraged him to think more positively of his career, or perhaps if I had gotten him to retire from his job several years earlier, write a book, relax some more, perhaps he would have been happier? I could sense that he was quite upset at his own inability to do the things he could do when younger and healthier - spending hours in the lab squeezing answers out of his students and dripping knowledge into them; lecturing in his slow pace and ensuring that every one of them 'got it'; ignoring all pulls of hunger, tiredness, children, and family once he was deep in research discussions with his colleagues; singing; riding his scooter into the wind...

For a few years towards the end, we both dreamed this dream of writing a book together. I have all these stories to tell, he would say. Tell them to me, I will write them up, I can type real fast on a computer, and look, I have this laptop computer, I would say. It never went anywhere. I have vague pictures of the things that were supposed to be in the book - mental pictures. The stream in which he bathed, back in his village, back, way back in his boyhood. The big tree he used to hang out in, and fall out of often. The sound of cow-bells. Go ask my sister, he would say sometimes, she has many stories too. I would excitedly go off to her house, anyway I was due to visit them, an old couple hanging out alone in this thatch-roofed home. Tell me something about my dad, and you, I would say. And now, she is herself so pre-occupied with her husband's health, which bares an eerie similarity to my father's, so I am left with just what is inside my head.

Randy Pausch says often in his book that he is most concerned about what his children will seek about him, their dad, in later years. Perhaps my father thought that too. But then I was a big girl, all of twenty-six, when my father passed away. And so, I was thinking that too. What memories of me, his big grown-up daughter, will my father take with him? I do hope that they were good ones. Things that made him proud and happy and excited and most of all contented.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Dream with me now

Last night was full of dreams. The real kind that appear when you are asleep. Of course I do dream all the time but somehow I remembered them this time. Maybe because I wanted to.

We had a dog. Don't know what kind. I was taking a bath with my usual pink mug and smelled a strange smell. I sniffed and started to blame the child for monkeying around, or the husband for using it for shaving, but then I realised it! It was the smell of dog. I still blamed the husband though for using my pink mug to bathe the dog. Where was the dog bathed? Did the husband person take care of all the shed dog-hair? If so, how? How did he dry the dog? Did he (shudder) use my towel?

I moved locations and went trans-atlantic to Cambridge, MA. I had a meeting. My boss of old had lost oodles of weight and was looking kind of snappy in his black pants. I was to have a meeting of about fifteen minutes. Then I was to take my child to the wonderful MIT museum with its splendid inventions and what not. And then we were to go to the Bengali place next door for lunch, with my sister. My sister was in Boston, being corporate. Perhaps it was a close friend and not my sister though. The child was suddenly beamed over to me and was with me as we navigated the Infinite Corridor in search of my meeting room. We had to go in the basement and I was dragging her along since I did not want to be late (to the museum, not the meeting). And then when we reached the meeting room I left her with the surly assistants at the door and went in. There was a projector and slides and I counted 37 slides. YIKES! We could be here all afternoon! I want to go to the museum NOW!

And back in Mumbai, I have avoided reading newspapers, watching the television, or in any way being in touch with reality for the past three days. I am reading Randy Pausch's book now which is giving me delicious memories and lines and posts in my head. Not to mention dreams.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Idiot Magnet

Ever get the feeling that you have stepped out of the wrong side of the bed? An aunt had told me that as long as I got down on the east (or was it west?) side, the day would go fine. For a two week period after that I religiously slid my feet down in the narrow space between my bed & window. I don't think anything went majorly bad (or good) in that time so slowly I reached the state I am in now viz.. not believing in goblins, gnomes, superstitions, and the like, but really desperately wanting to...

Without much ado. I was traveling. Yeah. Aviation fuels. Petrol. Diesel. Flights. Cars. Taxis. Airports in remote locations. Early mornings. Honking. Irony of it was that one was to a meeting to discuss mitigation of bad things and the other was to consider burning things better than petrol and diesel and JP10.

We might like to call this guy Don Quixote. He arrived about half an hour after I landed and went su-su in swank new loo in the airport and drank a coffee and proudly chatted in Kannada to half the waiting people. "I was right here in the parking lot madam." Right. "I have not been told where to take you madam." Sure. "But here is the address that might be what was given to me madam." Kayo then. He went chasing after one word of one part of the address given. Let me clarify. I had to go to a place on Whitefield Road. He kept asking people directions to Whitefield. Which might have been fine. But. After honking through nearly two hours of nasty traffic, I realised that he had achieved the impossible. Think of it as driving past the Washington Memorial, and missing it. Not knowing that that was what it was. Brilliant as I am, I had my nose down and was working and only realised we were chasing windmills when I found us in Varthur or some such.

This person was so smart and posh and spoke in English and was short. I liked him instantly. Little realising that I was being driven home by the ace magician PCSorcar himself! He magically navigated through another bout of insane honking traffic and brought me to my destination. But. We opened out the trunk and discovered that he had managed to disappear my bag. Thankfully, not my laptop thingammy. But the other one in which I had piled in gifts for my nephews and niece. Sorcar went away with the promise that he would bring me the bag back, come hell or high water. The high water nearly did, raining rather heavily at the very moment the guy called me asking me for the flat number and so on. Loathe to reveal such things I decided to go down and find him. Thus getting soaked. Oh hell.

The next one in the list is mosquito. A male mosquito. A bit annoying but generally harmless. I asked for a pick-up from one of these call taxis that have come up like mushrooms in our metros. I was impressed with the promptness of everything and them having our information on file and what not. 4:45 am was when he was supposed to come for me. I was planning of course to wake up at 4:30, despite my father-in-law having assured me that he intended to make tea for me. Mosquito called me at 3:15 am to tell me that he was all over the situation. He was just outside on the main road and would, at the stroke of 4:45, be downstairs near the building. And I could sashay out of lift and into car and bells would ring. So like a mosquito that used to drunkenly hop around in and out or my ear at such times of the morning in my idyllic home town long years ago.

I reached apna capital city on time at 9:30 in the morning. I lugged in the interminable pre-paid taxi line cursing myself for not figuring out a better plan for pick-up. The guy glanced cursorily at the address I thrust at him and made me pay Rs.175 and threw a receipt back at me. Saala always takes less money my alotted driver swore. Maa ka behen ka stuff also was hurled. I was totally intending to give him some fifty bucks but then the guy turned out to be an absolute mule. At one point he parked the car in the middle of a busy intersection, gave a finger or two to passing honking cars and insisted that I figure out the direction then and there and tell him where to turn. I frantically looked around and yelled RIGHT. He turned right. Cursed some more as it was the wrong one. Insisted he had to take a long detour and two U-turns and what not. I was like Uh-huh Uh-huh you son-of-a-bi-atch I feel like whopping you. Under my breath of course. Finally found myself inside a ministry building which looked for all the world like it would have paan stains in the stairwell (but did not; was quite posh and all inside).

The final straw that nearly broke the camel's back was this. I returned home triumphantly in one piece and not butt-freezing cold or sweating buckets or anything. Only had my period, which was par for the course. Two back to back days of waking up at 4 am (or thereabouts). Two long sessions of meetings which yielded a billion points of action. Three flights and innumerably immeasureably painful rides to airports and so on. One piece was not assured, believe me.

Of course rain in Mumbai. Visarjan also all over the place. Oh heck. I chose an auto and found one and got in. As I unfurled my back-pack and purse and settled in, my glasses flew off my nose. How? Why? Who? I don't even know. Pa-chak they fell on the road. Wet road. I made my friend the driver stop. What shall we call him? Columbus perhaps. Although, at least that guy found something after all, in his quest. But, like old Chris, this one was all over it, enthusiastically offerring to go find the country, err, my glasses from the road for me. I agreed in a moment of weakness. He came back with "Its not there madam" What the heck? I left Sorcar behind in Bengaluru, who else could have disappeared my glasses? So I got down, all indignant, all five foot of me in my shoes and all. And IT WAS RIGHT THERE. I said arrey its here. I almost got to it. But things became slow motion suddenly, like in the movies. I took one step. Then another. Then as my foot was in the air, slowly descending for my third step, so very close to my dear glasses, a cab made a sharp right turn and CRRRUNCH that was the end of that. Oh well. Chris was all considerate. Can you see and what not. I can, I have very little power, its fine.

I think like attracts like. It takes an idiot to not pay attention to directions, to not realise when her bag gets handed in the hotel with the American guy's bags, to take a pre-paid Delhi cab with no idea of how to get to a place, or, for that matter to allow glasses to fly off the nose and land on the wet road. But seriously, despite the fact that I am so not-brilliant and all, I wish I did not have to find myself thrown with so many of my brethren all together on one trip.

I am mighty kicked

that I have been magnanimously handed this award:
I am super grateful to the two people who have given this to me. First of all, kindred soul, albeit with 4x as many children as myself, driving a van, and living half a world away from me : sraikh - the one with boundless energy. Second, a most articulate, level-headed, sensitive, intelligent person, one who I am so thankful to unidentifiable forces for having the privilege of e-knowing: dipali - go read her right now.

The rules say -
This award is for blogs whose content and/or design are brilliant as well as creative.
The purpose of the prize is to promote as many blogs as possible in the blogosphere.
1. When you receive the prize you must write a post showing it, together with the name of who has given it to you, and link them back
2. Choose a minimum of 7 blogs (or even more) that you find brilliant in their content or design.
3. Show their names and links and leave them a comment informing they were prized with ‘Brilliant Weblog’
4. Show a picture of those who awarded you and those you give the prize to (optional).
5. And then we pass it on!

Now, I normally love to follow rules - who does not? But see, here is the rub. One, I have no pictures to offer you all. I don't do that that much. Second, I read too little, I am ashamed to say. My excuses are irrelevant here. So, although I feel like I am breaking a chain and the forces of te universe will therefore converge on me and destroy me, I will go out on a limb and interpret the rules a little bit.

I will give you three people who I think are cool. They are friends of mine (for which I am glad) & will surely entertain you.

csm - he is our conscience keeper.
airspy - she is great to take on drives and muses.
choxbox - she is a treasure trove of mommy-fundas.

If you think carefully, three is the same as seven - since they add up to ten. I mean if you saw 70% of something, you missed 30% of it. See. same thing. This is the point at which kindly souls take away my award. But please, just hold on till my next post, which shows you how brilliant kenny is in reality.

thank you again ladies.