Monday, 29 December 2008

Another Year; Another Conference

I have conferences coming out of my ears now. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, another one the past week. Thankfully I managed to slime out after the first half day. I was happy I was there for the introductory exercise though, since it was at a University (and not some random hotel or an institute of higher learning - read- engineering geeks galore), they had the music department folk sing the invocation song, which rocked. They also had Vande Mataram and the National Anthem. In the first, the expectation was that the computer would play the song and we would hang out. But of course I could not stop myself and sang it loudly and others in the auditorium did as well (though many of the gentlemen did not know the lyrics, of course).

It was too cold for me. I have a scratchy throat as a consequence. I had to forego my initial urge to wear a sari - I would have frozen in it - and wear western, along with my fat Boston coat and shoes and socks. I still froze in the room after the first two very boring lectures by various people. Thankfully I was happy to hear someone say 'Its time to make some changes and stop treating this as an old boys network' I am sure he meant it in the sense of concentrating on impact and quality and so on, but I took it as a thing to do with the overwhelming gender bias in these places. Yeah, I was pretty much the only female (of my age), thankfully the younger, student generation had a reasonable number of girls.

One middle aged lady came up to me at lunch and started talking as if I (and pretty much everyone else in the world) should know her. I did not. But was trying hard to be polite. Then I finally connected the dots and figured out that she is the wife of this big shot type guy who spoke long and incoherently hard. I said, Oh you are Mrs. So and So. What a pleasure to meet you. And under my breath, "I should have seen the resemblance" It is true what they say. You marry someone and keep at it for a bit and you start to look like each other. Scary thought. Discussed it with the husband later that night, and though we laughed at my under the breath comment, both of us were worried about that possibility. In our case though, we will always have our one-foot-height difference so you can tell us apart. Plus he wears a lot more jewelery than I ever do. I have hope. And no, my friends and family reading this please do NOT comment on this matter now, it is too scary an idea.

We returned home very tired last night. Thankfully I recovered my energy by indulging in my lost pastime of cooking. I started with my usual recipe of a ton of veggies and ended in something I would like to call Veggie Blitz, which we polished off in the night. The monster insisted on steamed baby corn (yeah! finally she eats baby corn! my most-unimaginative, un-adventurous girl) and baby potatoes. I stuffed some of my Veggie Blitz with rice in as she read a book. And we had a special Matka Curd which was nice though a bit sour for me.

The Punjab experience in all was pretty nice. I liked the robust looking men, although a bit on the fair side for me (like its all up to me!!). The nip in the air was mostly nice, despite throat issues. We walked around and very FOB-ly commented that the 17th Sector Market looked like the Boston Common thingie. Minus the fire throwers and kids on skate boards, of course. A begging child I strongly felt the urge to take home and bathe (thankfully resisted such temptations). Punished the monster for bad behaviour by denying her some books she insisted she 'needs.' Annoyed a salesboy by buying men's running shorts for myself (why ever not? the women's things are all too pansy and pink for me).

And we are leaving in about an hour to Sunnier climes, hopefully I will run and not live to complain about the foot after that.

Happy New Year 2009 meanwhile to my gentle readers.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Cancellations Galore

If I had some amount of money for every time I cancel a train ticket I would be super rich (not that I am not now, as I was saying recently, in my heart I am rich, because of my heart that overflows. My friend the Khan girl laughed. I was serious. She is an investment banker. Dark dark people they are). I painstakingly found seats on the trains, narrowed it down to one or two choices of train to optimise other factors, clicked through the irctc site (nice, no complaints), and even printed out my e-ticket (bad move). Then our plans changed dramatically and I went back and cancelled one of the two tickets (wasted print out). Then our plans changed some more and I went back and cancelled the other one too (double wasteful). Just like I had booked a nice set of tickets for Bangalore-Mysore several months ago and the husband insisted on driving the Indigo. This time it is the Delhi-Chandigarh train. All these cancelled tickets are there in my history of bookings in the web-page. Maybe I should put these into the time capsule, here, this is my history of cancelled train tickets since 2006, I think it might be worth something for posterity.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Oh! There was an agenda!

Apparently, the annual alumni meet is supposed to shake the world. Yes, such are the delusions prevalent in my alma matter to date. At least, knowing it as I do, the alma matter could care a rat's ass but the well-placed alumni feel this is an occasion to pontificate at length and have panel discussions and other such jazz, and, at the end, breathe a collective sigh of contentment and exclaim on how effective and wonderful and wondrous and so on the whole thing was. 3000 people attended! Nine parallel tracks of discussions! Unbelievable number of ideas were generated! Such like. ludwig of course has it absolutely right when he calls it the wtf of the century.

I strolled in, monster in hand, and found this bloody ten foot board of small print indicating the various activities one could indulge in. The only relevant one was conveniently kept off the board of course (i.e. could not proclaim to the world that among our other important traits, as a unit, we are alcoholics). My eyes promptly glazed over. The monster took this opportunity to start scratching in the mud. Really. I mean you could have knocked me down with a feather. Never known her to do such things. Mind you, I had books in my back-pack, which I of course was not going to release as yet. She scratched in various colours of mud, and since thankfully her father was away some where, I just let her, only having palpitations when she got too close to the main road as she was playing.

Several frantic messages later I was joined by our girl gang and their paraphernalia. I vetoed all suggestions of attending sessions, made all of them hang out in the coffee area, encouraged the children to follow my daughter as she jumped up and down some yellow bean bags in the exhibition area, and happily drank some juice that one of the kindly husbands bought for all of us. Then was lunch. Which was a nasty combination of unpalatable things. I sat next to a three year old budding IPS officer from Kadapa, and marvelled at his adventurousness in sampling all the shady things that were included in our box of food. We then loped slowly over to our hostel to hang out. It was really beautiful. We all felt really nostalgic, but in a happy sort of way. We talked schools and kids, and of course, all the vague things that we remembered from those long ago days when we queued up there to brush our teeth.

The kids were awesome. I could not play much with them because really, Chennai was too hot for human consumption (even for a semi-Mumbaiite). It was a pleasant surprise to find the husbands so cool and accomodating of our madness. Of course I also met a lot of my husband's friends many of whose names I promptly forgot. Plus I had a long-ish run (the idea was to run 20 k but I chickened out after 8 k thanks to foot); an excellent game of basketball (which improved my foot's condition somehow :-)), both on campus, and another short but fast run of about 6 k outside the campus. Met with our Californian friends (who have returned home to roost in Chennai), visited the most beautiful campus of The School (just too awesome), had an official meeting (where I got immensely pained because, get this, some one slimed into the office as I was having my meeting and refused to leave, plus he kept talking, idiot, I wish sometimes that I was blunter than I am), drank some poison called Kalyani Black Label (and regretted it immensely; give me my Kingfisher any day), showed off my hostel room (from the outside) to the monster, and of course, mom-daughter used the hostel loos (and lived to tell the tale).

One afternoon, while everyone was busy networking and whatever the shit they were doing, a bunch of us sat our asses down on some chairs in our usual coffee shop place. Nothing has changed there. He was even using the same nasty paper plates - the super flimsy ones that make Maggi Noodles spill out ignominously. People came and went. We just could not get up. Several suggestions were made. Lets do this. That. Or the other. But inertia ruled. The monster, thankfully, found full occupation in an emaciated kitten and its mother (who seemed to be playing hide and seek with each other). I gossiped a bit with my girl friend. Mainly things like who we are fatter than and who we are not fatter than. You know, the usual. Another of the girls came over. She tried to compare her beer belly with one of the guys. Yeah, while being dressed very primly in a major salwar suit. Totally crazy.

Finally since we were staying with friends and they had to go back to get their child, we forced ourselves to leave. But slowly. And having planned to meet a few more people over dinner that night. I got a lot of rest the next day, and although I did not even attend anything at all the entire time, it was all very awesome and completely jam packed. It was really nice to see all the familiar faces and compare notes about children. And the children themselves were all so absolutely darling. Unlike this whiny boy who was on the flight with me just now and who kept going 'DADDY DADDY' in the world's most irritating voice. Grr.

Back at the helm, as it were, damn tired and eyes bugging out though. Its too damn hot ya. Meanwhile the husband has come up with three important points to consider regarding Chennai:
1. Booze is not to be had by ringing up at Two-Five-Seven-Zero-One-One-One-Nine. No sir.
2. The weather. Seriously. Should borrow some Bangalore into the city (minus the LPG fumes).
3. Gas Cylinders (As if the man cares about this, really, but he objects. They offend his sensitive eye).
And has dismissed my points such as (a) Salwar Kameezes (help!) (b) People waking up and talking loudly at 5 am (c) Unnecessary traffic and fly-over type situations.

Friday, 19 December 2008

I do struggle to wake up sometimes

I am off today to Chennai. I am yet to pack the bags. The child and I are, of course travelling by ourselves - which is kind of fun; simply because we reach so much in advance (and go to the bookstore and coffee shop in turn) and sometimes there are incidents involving (a)spilling of her lunch on airport floor or (b)having to go potty soon after the boarding announcement is made, and so on.

I tried and tried to wake up early so I could do the packing and clean up the house a bit but to no avail. The thing is I suppose I am a bit of a freak that way and if it involves exercise I am happy to spring up. But for other things I am not so fond of waking up early, it appears.

The foot it still hurts. I can feel myself gaining weight. Ugh. Trying to not think about how close to Jan 18th we are right now. And definitely not telling my mum about this as she will start messing with me about how 21 kms is too much considering the other components of my life (and no slur on your abilities, she will add). Just to clarify I am not bothered about the weight gain except that the bigger you are the more difficult it is to run. Goddamit. I feel like cutting my foot off. Quite irritated about the whole set-back. My shoulder is still painful in certain angles. Recovery times are becoming very long of late. Age!

I am still not rested, despite having woken up recently today. The brain is buzzing. At least I indulged myself in a nice new desktop at work so my laptop vows should reduce. And the VAIO is really super light so when I carry it I will be glad its not my old Toshiba (which weighed a lot). At any rate I have about two hours of work I can do in the office today and then it is time to move on. The child has its Christmas party in school.

I went through my mound of ironing last night (mostly). I had to put my knees up on a chair and stand like that and iron. Sort of sad and pathetic I felt about it. But the girl co-operated at least by finishing the LARGE amount of home work they have assigned her (mostly). You know sometimes you get a report card and everything is sort of opposite of what you expect? Well it was like that with my UKG report card (it really feels as if it is MINE!). My mum says congratulations, let no one accuse you of neglecting your child for the sake of your career or other things, because you really really do NOT do that. It does occasionally feel like a pain, this school business, but overall it has been good. While I disliked the Hindi homework initially, now I feel it was good as it has helped her learn the new alphabet pretty well. I am trying to get her to read Hindi now, you know signs on the autos and stuff, but she resists it immensely (its a matter of perseverence, she always resists my suggestions initially, I know, I know).

Anyway I am off now, and looking forward to meeting choxbox and ludwig and hopefully sloch as well. When I return to these climes, I will be again gearing up for another trip to the Northern parts of the country. But more on that later. My aim in this trip is to get the foot back in fighting shape, and, not gain any more weight.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

How strange this concept of time

I have been sitting around on my backside the whole week. I have not had a bit of real exercise. Somehow the need to go to the gym or run or kick box are the only reasons I will get out of the house early in the morning. Not for me the stepping out and smelling the dew and hob-nobbing with the morning birds and so on. I used to do such things as soon as my exams finished back in my school days but not any more. These days I finish my morning kitchen related tasks and sit my ever-growing backside down at the computer. Dwelling only briefly on the thought that there is ironing to do (there ALWAYS is).

In essence, I have this time on my hands now. I am awake. I have always been an alarmingly bright morning person. I used to wake up at 5:30 (well before the rest of the household) even back when I was a slip of a girl in pig-tails and a green uniform. It was fine, I never felt grouchy or angry or irritated at having to wake up early. I enjoyed it all. College broke a bit of the habit though the first class being at 8 am consistently ensured I was out of bed at 6:45 except on weekends when I made it just in time for the Dosa breakfast usually. In grad school I always prided myself on taking the first bus in to work. It has only been recently that I have switched back to my exercise in the morning routine. Circumstances and the culture of the place prevented me from indulging in it up to now, about four years ago. One day I hit myself on the head and realised that this was what was missing. Strangely, it happened around the time my mum made me read some Robin Sharma book (The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari - Ugh! - I glanced through only parts of it frankly). So mum thinks that meditating on the rose is the reason I wake up early. Oh well.

So I have a good chunk of alert time in the mornings now. I KNOW I must utilise it fruitfully. Some days I do. I do some tasks around the house. Or I study a little bit if there is a class to teach. But I rarely do anything more serious than that. Although I stress about how much I have to read in the next couple of days (and, more importantly, write, in the next couple of weeks), I cannot get myself to do much about it. That is for the office, when I am sitting down marvelling at the dust that has accumulated on my delicate electronic items (and cursing my fucking irritating VAIO. Seriously. I feel I might break it one of these days).

On Sundays I usually make a list of things that I like to do. I mean really like, not just tolerate. So if my entire time was filled with liked activities what would it be like. Mostly it involves my two homies, hanging out without fighting with them, at least two sessions of exercise, one by myself (really they both make me reduce my intensity) and one more with them (I allot them the evening slot in my mind), beer (not too much, just a bit, to build up my heart health), puzzles (once my semester ended and my irritation levels with younger people reduced, I find myself increasingly attracted by the Rubik's Cube, Kaleidoscope, Sudoku, and what not), reading, computering, so on.

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save everyday till eternity passes
Just to spend them with you

(not my own of course).

something like that. Though I don't want to save anything. Get it all over with. The year 2008 has almost wound down now. It has been a leap year. I like leap years generally (no real reason). Nice things have happened. Horrendous things have happened. Births and deaths and love and hate in equal measure. And personally, I have ridden the usual sinusoidal curve thats life with much better attitude I do think. There have been times of absolute highs (and not necessarily induced by spirits; those don't count especially since the hang overs are worse than ever as I age), and somewhat rock bottom lows. And out of the highs I have emerged with confidence that yes, I can do this. Out of the lows I have extracted some pieces of that elusive purpose of life puzzle. But mostly, I have calmly and collectedly allowed the sands of time to pour down.

I am ready for 2009. Bring it on.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

I knew December 14th was something

I could not tab it. There was something about that date. It was bound to come back to me a few days later and I would be all 'DOH! Cannot believe I forgot THAT' and so on. Naturally I assumed it was something v.v. important such as:
(a) Birthday of close family person who is prickly on such matters
(b) Something in the kid's school
(c) Something at work (in which case it would be fine, it would not matter, all work that I postpone seems to just go away Yeah!)
and so on.

Racked my brains all day. Racked them some more the next day. And some more today. Till it finally occurred to me.

I have been thinking meanwhile, assuming my foot gets better and all that, that I will wear my IPOD to the Mumbai Marathon this year. Every year I suffer after my running partners break away from me at the 10 or 14 k mark. Pedder road happens after that. And then its all crappy. I suppose if I had music at that time it would be helpful. At any rate there is no traffic and all. And I tested it out, despite the immense sweat it seems to work fine. It was this completely un-related thought that finally reminded me of it. DOH! How could I forget that!

This blog is two years old now. It was started one relaxed December day back in 2006. The date was the 14th. The post was on running (of course I was trying to be all hippy about it and urging you to try it without gizmos but seriously..).

I thank my readers and lurkers (I don't know that you are lurking unless you tell me, yeah I am a bit challenged in such ways). I am glad to have this little space to vent and rant and I just LOVE hearing your comments all of you.

Just a couple of clarifications:
1. I KNOW the kid hardly seems like a monster, if you don't like that species of animal. But I like monsters. I think they are cute and likely to eat Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches. Like the gnomes, brownies, elves, pixies and so on that were my standard diet (to READ for heaven's sake) till I found out about Hobbits. Small, cute, and cuddly, with just a bit of bite, thats how I look at them. And at any rate although she is all cool and smug now its airspy who came up with this term for children.
2. The Kenny blah blah has no particularly relevant significance, though the husb. does call me Kenny to date. Its based on a nasty cartoon character in "South Park" - a little tiny kid with an orange jacket who is famous for looking very innocent but saying really nasty things including things about body parts and so on. And of course Kennebunkport is a place (I have never been there though I have lived close by for several years).
3. I barely ever lie; exaggerate in an obvious manner perhaps, but I do never lie.
4. I really should go away now. Gak. Its 11:22.

Different Strokes

The past few days have been full of revelations and the like. Posting it all here helps clarify and crystallise things in my mind. So here goes.

* Had a meeting with a whole of mommy bloggers (and some very interesting non-bloggers as well). It was most fun and I was really reluctant to leave, as if I had gotten clay feet. Hope it happens again soon, there are lots of things to talk about, and really, I would love to meet the little ones.

* From a young person I heard this pearl of wisdom regarding schools. He says, it is a nice thing to go to a good well established school at least in 8th Standard + so you have a good peer group and a start building your network early. It makes sense of course. Very wise and all. But it is such an annoying premise.. I think.. though I am a geek, what do I know

* In any random work-type meeting these days, I find instant connect with at least one person being a serious runner (not that I am that serious a runner or anything, but I like to talk as if I were). We compare stats and so on (I usually pale in comparison to these people in terms of timing but I have my handy list of excuses so it is all good). Mostly, these are our good friends the Americans, from various parts of that great country.

* December has been way too busy; it is supposed to be my chilled out month. I have to break out right away lest it become like last year. We spent all of December here in Mumbai. Did nothing constructive; barely took time off; and when the New Year 2008 rolled around, no one in the household was in shape to receive it and welcome it warmly. I have fifteen days to ensure this is not repeated.

* I cannot not go to Chandigarh after all. I feel too guilty about not going. And come to think of it, this is a city I have always wanted to visit. In a true demonstration of love, the husband has offerred to come along so here I come good old C'Garh. Again I have to act fast since train (which is the best sounding option to get there) tickets are miraculously still to be had.

* I really love basketball. Although I has proved to be a most injurious sport to the family as a whole. Every year in December, the basketball bug bites (hey! nice alli), and every year, I succumb to it and have these war wounds to show for it. Last year it was the mysterious toe thing. This year so far has yielded one ankle sprain (which I cured with some good old icing and a masterful tying of the crepe bandage) and an aggravation of another mysterious sprain on the outside of the foot. I got it in my Sunday run; and it became horrid after the evening basketball; but Rs.1000 later the doc has been encouraging. But this Saturday is another game which I know I cannot resist playing; I just hope luck favours me better (and I have time to buy new shoes).

* When training, the most important body part to train is of course the mind. The most difficult too. I think my years of losing games has been most demoralising. And my years of being the fastest runner amongst mediocre runners has not given me much towards longer distance running. My Phd has also not contributed much. The most valuable experience has been motherhood, in these terms. One just has to learn to be smart and positive and perseverent as a mother. Good. I knew this had to be worth something!

* I have to find a way to avoid classic self-interruption. I typically need lots of things going on simultaneously. In graduate school there would be music and scheduled games in the afteroon, weather permitting. In college there was always a crossword or college culturals or what not. Now I have this blogging going on. In addition to a variety of work things and the child. But I have to focus on winding up some loose pieces of work without distraction. I know part of it is that I am just too tired from it all, not had a real break and vacation in a while, but excuses are annoying.

* I am sick of dust. I am sick of construction activity. But I am in the thick of it (is that not a song. oh yes, it is. I am sick of love, but I am in the thick of it. Dylan Saab). This is one thing I really miss. Although my flat in Cambridge was on the bus route and had its fair share of dust, it is nothing compared to what I get in my office and the home.

* It has been ages since I did something about my Iron tablets. Thankfully the vaguely swirly feeling in the head is gone now and I am not un-energetic or anything, and, the hair fall seems somewhat under control, but other vague things are happening,

Over and out.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Why I Need To Have A Day Job

There are several reasons why close family members and friends are better off when I have a day job. The list could run to several pages. Leading contenders are - I am domestically challenged (despite frequent claims to the contrary); I have wheels in my feet (which is household metaphor for a person who likes to be out of the house a lot at slightest excuse); There are not enough books in the world (actually there are plenty of books but one is bound to run out of money at some point); and so on.

Well just to irritate and annoy, I will now proceed to make a list of really random Bollywood and related gossip that is stored in my head.

(1) Shah Rukh Khan loves to play soccer with his son (but strangely, not his daughter)
(2) Saif's kids names are Sarah and Ibrahim (of course with Amrita Singh)
(3) Akshay Kumar's original name is Rajiv Bhatia
(4) Arshad Warsi is an excellent dancer; and married to Maria Goretti; and father of Zeke Zidaan; who can be identified as he is attached to hip of his mother usually
(5) Akshaye Khanna is borlerline alcoholic (which is like the pot calling the kettle ..; at any rate don't tell him I said so he loses his temper easily)
(6) Ash Chandler has a passion for bikes (and if you don't know funny man and occasional musician Ash; well that is not my problem buddy. He sings Tamizh songs too BTW)
(7) Cyrus Broacha is a big time lover and protector of dogs
(8) Priyanka Chopra had a big time falling out with her secretary Prakash Jaju
(9) Harman Baweja (while we are on the topic) may or may not have had plastic surgery done to make him look like that
(10) Priyanka Chopra can be referred to as Piggy Chops without loss of generality
(11) Govinda has a last name, he really does, it is Ahuja (I knew this well before OSO so take that Farah)
(12) Farah Khan and Sajid Khan are siblings as one can easily tell from the resemblance; although one sincerely hopes that in his time Sajid does not pop triplets
(13) Shiney Ahuja is a man (apparently)
(14) It IS Yana Gupta on the Kingfisher flight with you
(15) Tanaaz Lal was Currim and is now Irani (maybe not exactly Bollywood although she was there in some Hrithik Roshan flick if memory serves)
(16) Bebo and Lolo are actually the names of, not dogs that Cyrus rescued, but Kapoor sisters Kareena and Karishma, respectively

Enough! I have to stop!

I am not googling any of this stuff up. I am not even thinking too hard as I type, which can be cited as another reason why I need to have continuous meetings and the like. As a good friend asks me when I go into serious Bollywood mode, Do your remember the title of your thesis? (Well, I do of course, sort of... Sometimes I even know that one of my favourite articles occurs on Page 1331)

I really would like to watch Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi but can picture how the husband will wince at the thought. So I have to patiently wait for the next time I take an international flight; make sure it is on Air India; and pray fervently that they play that movie.

I have to go elevate the damn foot so am off. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

Friday, 12 December 2008


I was at a two-day conference (all done now, uff). Thankfully it was here in Mumbai so at least I don't have to tear my hair out thinking about how to manage it all. These things are generally in Delhi or some such; I absolutely hate going to Northern parts in December as its so awfully cold there . I invariably look absurd as I end up needing to wear my thick American winter coat, Plus there is the whole deal with what to do with my girl and her school and her lunch and what not. Anyway December is the time for all such situations and I go to at least one every year. This year, I am glad that it happened here in Mumbai.

I am also reading, for some strange reason unknown to me, the book called 'never eat alone' (amazon's page). I strongly recommend you DON'T read it, its most ridiculous, but somehow I am unable to stop reading it (imagine having in your hands a very badly written murder mystery, its like that). I picked the book up (no idea by the way how it comes to be here in our house, I surely did not buy it) thinking that it has sound advice for new-age couples (Wow! in my heart I think I am young I guess!), and talks about work-life balance and so on. But it is not that at all! It is about this really scary concept called networking! Ugh!

He has a section called Conference Commando where he talks about how to make the best of a conference. I don't think he is completely wrong. I used to struggle with how to talk to people at these gatherings, most especially when I was looking for jobs and so on. I also generally like to do what needs to be done when at a conference. So this section was somewhat relevant I thought. The rest was all garbage because I thankfully don't seem to need to do the things he refers to (I would have quit my job in a heart beat if so!).

Anyway I was going to be at this soiree this week, and the topic came up in his book, so I read more and more of the book. He talks intensely and for reams of pages about how to build your network and how to fill your calendar, and the most important art of 'following up' after you first meet a person. Mostly he emphasises that rather than looking at the meeting as an opportunity to further your lot, you should try to make friends with the person and find mutual interests. Which is a good point, makes sense.

But somewhat mid-way in the book he reveals that his marriage broke up and that he was very upset about it. That is when I went, hmm, perhaps it happened because you were too focussed on filling your rolodex and paid less attention than you should have to a more important relationship. But whatever, marriages break up for a number of reasons and it is presumptuousness to think that it is because the person was too busy working. The thought does have a pleasing simplicity to it, though!

I go to this conference and am just sort of looking around. First tea break comes. I hang out by myself, soaking things in. Wondering what my agenda should be (and when I should break out so that I can make it back to my office for a meeting I don't want to miss). And this guy whom I know from another context has the gall to come up to me and say "shouldn't you be networking? talking to all these people?" Okay, deep breath here. I quickly retort "i am here, they are welcome to come and network with ME" which is all just bluster of course, I don't even know, just irritated with unsolicited advice.

In the end I cut away from him, sat separately, and talked to the two people I thought would have interesting things to say (one of them did, but then it also resulted in him almost convincing me to go to Chandigarh later this month blaaag it will be so cold there; and the other was a complete idiot and a waste of skin it turned out). And many people must have heard me say my cocky dialogue because I was collared by several people. So Ha! But I was still a bit irritated all of yesterday as I convinced myself that all the men together were collaborating in exuding a male smell. Just to make me feel alienated.

Today, the second day, started well. I was in a better mood and less worried about the smell (therefore, it was not there). And the annoying advice guy was late so I went off to the front of the room and was hanging out and listening to the talks and chatting up with a couple of people. Break time again, the guy walks up to me and goes 'Good Morning' Innocently I say Good Morning Are you doing okay Enjoying the talks etc. He says 'Did you just come?' Well, I could have just arrived. No big deal. I have bigger fish to fry. Perhaps. But you know, sometimes, there is a look, there is a tone. I was so done with this guy.

Other than that the day went real well, I learned a lot, I met some very nice people, which I did not expect. Many of the presentations were made well and everyone had interesting things to say. Again unexpectedly, I got a lot of questions on my presentation which meant that people were listening (despite the tough 3 pm post lunch slot I had). I have even wound up my notes from the conference - just blurbs on what various people want from us to pass on to my colleagues who could not attend- and made it back in decent time to pick up the girl from the creche.

Most importantly, I wore a sari and bindi and was all very comfortable although I had to spend the whole entire day in it. I wore a grey Mysore silk one which was a good choice all told...

Monday, 8 December 2008

How it might be worse than you think.

Okay so there are those of us that don't vote, right. For whatever reason. Out of the country. Don't have a voter ID. Hate politics and politicians. Busy at work. I guess we rationalise it somehow. We know it is bad, and that this 'apathy' will come back to bite us in our back-sides at some point. But the whole process seems so painful that it is easy to put it out of our mind.

The thing is that while a person who is qualified to vote not casting their vote is a bad thing, I have recently discovered that there is a worse thing that can happen (and I am judging no one here, heck, when one finger points out..). Let me explain. In the last election, which was for the corporator, I found that two small cards were delivered to me at home. They had our names on them, along with our correct postal address. It was in Marathi (which thankfully shares the script with Hindi mostly), and I could figure out what it was, somehow.

I have a Voter ID from my home state, which I got made eons ago. The photo is un-recognisable. Most of the details are wrong. But it was a Voter ID. The procedure to transfer it to Maharastra, to the here and now, was (and still is) completely unclear. My mum said that those cards are now invalid, and she was asked to make new ones for herself, and of course by then I was not resident there any more so I could not get one for myself. She assures me that it is fair to assume that that one is useless and go about making a new one (she could be wrong, don't know. But most likely this is true as I cannot find my name online anywhere in my home town electoral rolls). Okay I said. When I was preggers and right after that pre-occupied with everything under the sun, an election came and went. It nicely passed me by. I lay awake for a bit with guilt and soon forgot about it (which is very easy; less easy to digest the ridiculous road construction on the main road outside the home).

Now this time, for the past month, I have been trying to get sorted out on this matter. There was a notice in chaste Marathi in the monster's school. The gist was that you could go figure something out there between the hours of 11 to 11:45 am. I came back to do some figuring out as to what I should ask for. The thing is that you don't want to get stuck in such situations without a clear definition of the problem. Anything can happen then. I have voted in the most recent corporator election thing (found some good information online that helped me choose who to vote for, but she lost) right, so I am on some list somewhere. But I don't have a card with my photo on it, so what does it mean? I called some numbers that were listed and no one picked up. I was ready to give up. But then I found two sites:

First One: Here you can figure out if your name is on the voter list, and presumably, also find the forms for things like inclusion of name etc. (Maharashtra only)

Second One: This is a campaign seemingly aimed at first time (read: young college students) voters, to get them to register to vote. Wish I had something like this in my youth. It is really cute.

Somehow between these two sites and several searches and switching between Firefox and Internet Explorer later, I have these surmises:
1. I am on the voter list for Mumbai (Suburban), although my name is wrong (they have given me my husband's last name, though my first name is correct. They got part of my address - i.e. the flat no. - correct).
2. I can print out a page which contains some serial number ascribed to me, and this will let me cast my vote - show Pan card for identity (who reads your last name anyway?).
3. I don't have a valid Voter ID card (with my photo on it), and should really make it soon
4. If I use lack of Voter ID card as excuse to not vote, SOMEONE else will cast my vote.
5. I can visit the local Electoral Registration Office (ERO) for which I now have the address and phone number (which works) and try to pull teeth out (or get my Voter ID card made), in January 2009, after the 10th. I should.

So yeah, it WOULD have been worse than ever. I am on a list based on what past crime I don't really know (most likely because of being a home owner), and not exercising my vote means allowing some dork to vote in my place. So when voter turn out is 34%, one could be counted in the 64% of those that did NOT show up (which would be bad); or in the 34% of those who showed up but were not you (which would be horrendous).

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Long Legs

I grew up in a joint family. My paternal grandfather lived till his last day with two of his three sons - my father being one of them. My uncle (father's elder brother), his wife, and us lived together pretty much till they passed on. They had no children however, so the only children in the household were sister and myself. Apart, of course, from the zillions of relatives that passed through our house through the year, and especially in the summer. The relatives were generally people related to my father (mom's relatives routinely went to my other grandparent's place, who lived close).

Not having to analyse it all from the lens of a woman, a feminist, etc., I think I had a very enjoyable childhood. I loved my grandfather and was very very inconsolable when he passed on one fine day in the early 80s - I must have been 9 years old. I loved my uncle, who was a quiet, unassuming railway clerk much dominated by his wife. Both these men lacked any skill in dealing with young children and soon got exasperated with my questions and sent me off to my mum, but I knew they loved and cared for me, so their lack of skill rarely annoyed anyone. I did love my aunt as well - arguably a tough task. She was given to 'moods' and quite full of all sorts of rules and regulations and issues and generally a person who thought highly non-linearly. But presented with a situation, she handled it with remarkable composure, efficiency, and sheer dogged hard work. I got along remarkably well with her, not the least because of her ability to weave magic with the home-made milk-based sweets...

Once the three older ones of our family passed on (all in the 80s), we were left by circumstance, a nuclear family. Again this was not a situation that was deeply analysed I don't think. At any rate thinking back, our 'go to' person was always mom. When we were still small, father used to bathe us. When he has the time, he used to iron our school uniforms for us. Till that special day in VII standard when I got my own red bicycle, I rode on his scooter to my school (my sister, to my memory, although in the same school, always went separately). When my school finished, I would walk over to his office generally. He would acknowledge my presence by extinguishing his cigarette and putting on a guilty look about it (not that it mattered much to me by the time I was in school, but till I was about four, I rarely talked to him because I used to get very scared of his smoking). He took me to his library every year when my exams ended so I could check out books about paper craft or some such to occupy me in the holidays.

He was generally patient with us, though he always deferred to mum's opinions on everything to do with our upbringing. Beyond sort of a peripheral participation, I don't think he did much. At least, he could not be counted upon to take any sort of 'responsibility' of us. And he spent lots and lots of time in his office. Mum worked too, or she was studying. She did her M.Ed when I was four, and then when I was in high school, she signed for her PhD, and worked in between the two. She was always doing something outside the home, but still was all over the home situation, and, us. I got in much fewer arguments and alteractions with my parents than my sister (who is older - perhaps she fought all my battles for me?). Though I still recall one time I wanted to go to this college for an athletics competition, it was a bit far from our home and school so she was not happy with it, though I do think it had more to do with the fact that it was sports (something she did not particularly care back then for). I remember the silent crying, the maid had disappeared that day (the day before the competition), even as I was swabbing the floor, I was crying at the injustice of it all. Anyway finally much cajoling all around later, I did go the next day, but the memory of it is still so green. As is the feeling that my dad washed his hands off the matter in about five seconds, with his standard line- 'ask your mum.'

Mum's great of course, she is a remarkably brave woman (and extremely fit, with her walking and yoga - as mad about them as the daughters are). She has done incredible things with her life, given the circumstances she was operating under. And, when I had my child, she came running to my help, dropping everything. She has remarkable rapport with my cook and driver and everyone else around here, well, hundred other things too. I do love her and she is possibly the person I talk the most philosophy with right now. But what I find is remarkable is, how much I loved my dad. And how much I love even the memory of him. How much I think of him, and his words (generally few, thanks to a combination of factors - innate selfishness, pre-occupation with his research and teaching, health, etc.). I have inherited many of his features though my nature and habits are almost entirely mum.

It gives me hope that, apart from the long legs the monster has got from her dad, and despite the disproportionately larger amount of time I spend with her, she will always have such an equation with her dad. There is so much she can get from him which I have no hope of offering her - simple things such as common sense, practicality, and an ability to always appreciate the efforts of other people - which I do hope she is absorbing from him even when they spend so little time together...

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Strange Kenny Behavior Log

Yes. I went to the Mumbai Gathering at the Gateway last night. I don't know why exactly. But when a friend suggested this a few days ago, I decided to give it a try. Ideally, I would have parked the child with her father and gone there myself. Or the three of us would have gone together, the child riding on his shoulders as she does when we go to Tirupati. Or something else. Ideal situations do not my current life constitute. Therefore it came to pass that the child (in Purple and Pink) and myself went bravely into the crowd. Thankfully srgntpepper, chivalrous as he is, insisted that we go with him and his wife and not entirely by ourselves.

After some serious browsing since Monday, and thanks to Kiran, I decided to go to JJ Hospital on my way to Gateway. Anyway it is like visiting another city from where I am located (a fact I was thankfuly for last week!).

I took some material to the hospital. Srgntpepper and I tried to chat with the particularly harried looking ladies there to get a sense for how else we could help. Got some leads. Went back and then were truly on our way to the Gateway.

First of all, all the good stuff.
People were not emotional and crying. Thankfully. There were tons and tons of young and old around. It was bigger than anything I have been in in a while now. I am sure we will get some numbers from media people today. But we are talking thousands, of course. Although there was no particular 'agenda' for the gathering (as far as I could tell), and there was no one 'organising' the whole thing, there was a serious semblance of purpose in people, and none of the attendant chaos you associate with us hot-blooded desis. People were full of enthusiasm, anger of course, at various things, but mainly enthusiasm and energy. And a feeling of togetherness and oneness. The crowd walked to the Gateway, stared at the Taj Hotel, and looped back, shouting slogans and holding up placards. Interesting things for sure. And OOH. Several renditions of National Anthem. Child and I LOVE to sing it. And everyone did stand (if not in Attention, somewhat still).

So now what I could not endorse and did not like.
Litterbugs. It was warm. Child and I were dripping with sweat. I agree. The body cells need life giving water. But dont throw the empty plastic glasses and bottles on the road. The road does *not* need that. I am going to buy that long spear like stick next time and walk around collecting rubbish into a trash bag.
College kids. I know. You are young. Severely self absorbed. You have come in a large group and want to stick together. You have a very clever idea of making that human chain and herding everyone inside it. Chivalrous boys of course on the outside. Wonderful. But keep in mind that we older ones dont need you to stampede us while keeping yourselves together and safe. Of course I am glad they were there in such numbers, hope for the country lies in their hands. But still it was annoying to have ones feet unnecessarily stamped upon.
Pakistan is just another country. I am not one to claim anything right now about who sent these guys here. But shouting Pakistan Murdabad is to me, not helping. I would much rather go after our corrupt politicians (which several people were, good). Another slogan "Itna Bada Hindustan, Kya Karega Pakistan" Funny! While I am being un-Kenny like let me go ahead and make this statement. WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER (even if precedence points towards it). Of course over there among the many-headed, I kept my opinions to myself, who would have heard a short dorky lady carrying a child?
Paper Fliers. Yes, we have to make a point and circulate it to the masses. But in the end it is as much part of the rubbish as the paper you buy shengdana in. And litterbugs will throw it on the road because, of course, the World Is Their Own Personal Trash Can.

Thirdly, personal stuff.
I am eternally grateful to srgntpepper and wife (she is too sweet; and is remarkable in her ability to not sweat) for going with me. While it is generally foolish to go into a crowd of that magnitude (with further complications of generic threats of further attacks and so on) with a small-ish child, it would have been too crazy to do it alone. Of course I would have hung out in the fringes and not walked too far if they weren't there, but what would have been the whole point then? I hope I did not cramp their style too much and mess up their agenda infernally.
My body has changed. It has nothing to do of course with the terror attacks. Perhaps the Suryanamaskars. I carried the pink girl for a LONG time. On my hip. I could do it. It was not a long walk (by my standards, and with race day 1.5 months away) but with the crowd and the slow pace and the shouting all around, it took a while. And I could do it, sit in the car for nearly two hours in the commute back home, and still go for the run at 5:45 am today. Its hard to fit into Sari blouses now and I am becoming more of a Tomboy than ever, but my low Fe count notwithstanding, things are looking up. Go knock on some wood for me.
The child. My little monster. Heavy and legs too long. Complained incessantly before we were to go over. But woke up from her nap in a good mood. Got ready in five minutes. Read her Enid Blyton in the car when we went in to JJ (She did not want to come in and I figured it is better she is with the driver in the car than inside a hospital). Shouted Jai whenever they said Bharat Mata Ki. And Mataram when they said Vande. Most importantly remained enthusiastic throughout. Now if I can only figure out how to answer her questions regarding 'terrorists' and capture her on video saying 'protest march' we will be all set.

All in all, it was a good experience. In terms of tangibles I suppose I got little out of it. But I did feel inspired to see so many people care enough to come there and shout slogans and endure everything. And I definitely felt that a 'oneness' that cuts across class, religion, age, and what not, is at least a theoretical possibility.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Confusing the Improbable for the Impossible

Everyday life seems to be just that. One foot in front of the other. Believe. Believe that that is important. To just go on. That it is critical, to eat healthy, to not have the water tap on while brushing, to fill that bucket for your bath, to brush, to exercise, to wear cotton clothes, to eat fiber. To go our separate ways every morning, rushing through the routine. Believe that, at the end of the day, when we sit down and take stock and feel good about the day and look forward to the next, believe that it is these details that matter.

It is of course highly improbable that there are more terrorists among us. More young people with guns and grenades and whatever else ammunition. That they have a highly organised plan in place for the next round of this. That they have already established local links, developed spreadsheets of data on the target location and populace. Of course, it is not impossible. And that, unfortunately is the 'big picture' now. The opposite of the details.

It used to be the questions. What am I here on this earth for? What is my role as a mother, a producer of life, about? Is my life a happy one? In a spreading outward and inward sense, is it a good life? Am I compromising my morals, my ideals, my core beliefs? Are my relationships in order? Not very big questions, probably not questions a spiritual guru or acclaimed philosopher would spend any time on. But I am neither of those. Just an average person who wants to be good and happy, thinking about her very average life and compulsions.

I was in a reality show of a movie of sorts on a large ship, in my dream. I saw with my own eyes overly familiar buildings come crashing down, our neighborhood. I saw the grand canyon shift under me and change. That made really very limited sense, my dreams are usually very easy to understand, I have a simple mind I guess. Have not been to the G.C. in ages now, and when I did go it was not as if I fell in love with it or anything. Water levels were rising and rising some more. I woke up. Put both my hands out. For once glad of the sandwich of long limbs I sleep in.

Last night, I had a pile of clothes to iron. My homies were driving me nuts. One was on my case about paint and cartoons and water and cake. The other was watching a particularly appalling tamizh movie called Chatrapati (Satrapadi apparently). It was loud and involved particularly wanton violence. To get them out of my hair I tried to shoo them out of the house to crossword. They were almost out of the door (uff. finally) when suddenly I yelled at them to stop. What if something happens when they are out? Why separate the family unit when there is a choice? I switched the iron box off and went with them. It was tiring and loud in the store. We did not talk to each other (of course; we were busy with our books). But we were there within touching distance. It mattered.