Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Coloured Reflections

There is a character to sadness that I occasionally enjoy. I suppose enjoy is too strong a word. Its not enjoy, its something else. I revel in it? I like to wrap the sadness around me like a cloak and, well, revel in it for a bit. I don't cry. I used to cry. I still get teary at weddings and movies and such. But I have not sat down and bawled my eyes out in a while now. Wait. I did bawl a teeny bit in Srilanka on my vacation a day or two after the monster's collarbone fracture thing, sort of a mixture of guilt and love and relief and all such things mothers carry like a millstone. Nevertheless, I have been crying a lot less as I grow older. I am glad for it. But it does not mean I don't get sad of course.

But I am also thinking of a more well-settled sadness - not the fresh kind of sadness which evokes emotions and feelings that you have not yet been resolved in your mind. That old sadness, I don't know what you would call that. That old sadness, for want of a better word, that is sort of a pin I like to poke myself with. Sometimes I can bend a few of my toes in a weird way and it gives me a sharp pain. I like to do that anyhow. Not like a billion times or for ever and ever, but I like bending my toes like that sometimes and feeling that pain, somehow that makes me feel better. However strange that might sound.. And some of these memories, yes, thats what they are of course, these sad memories, they have that character.

It feels like this month has been full of such memories. Something happens in real, current life. Not necessarily bad things, although for some reason, many crazy things have happened in 2010, already. But living the current life sets me thinking about these things from my past life. And somehow, there is a tinge of sadness to them. It has been a really full thirty five years, no doubt. It has had its share of wonderful things. And I do remember the wonderful times I have had and wonderful friends and people I have found in my 3.5 decades of living. But I also like to think of those not so wonderful times, and the timing of these feelings and memories is somewhat apt, because from next week on, I am going to be checking that box that says >35 years old. That is a lot of years to reflect upon, a lot of living, for sure.

So in some sense this is a justification for all the talk of death and people that have managed to escape from me (takes some doing, that!) and long ago events in my life that has been going on in my head and therefore on this page here. And yes, current events that have triggered these memories have been plentiful, not all of them bad. I suppose I should talk about them twenty years later! Which seems to be the time it takes for things to settle in my head, so that you get a fully-Kenny-coloured overview of life!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Of Cane Chairs and Milky Tea

Its grandfather time in kbpm land. Welcome one, welcome all. Jump on board now. Go on, come alone, come in pairs, come on come on, hop on.

My paternal grandfather, in his time he was a respected academician. My fact base has diminished strongly. I always figured there was lots of time. I was in school, I was fighting with mom about going to Teresian College for an athletics tournament (went, did not win anything), I was enjoying trigonometry (for JEE), I was falling in love, I was flying off to the US (wearing a pink shirt). But dad was there. He was at the other end of the line every week on my phone calls. Thats wonderful he would say. I am so proud of you, he would say. The time did not seem right to ask about grandfather. Nowadays I realize that these things have to emerge 'organically' - even a raconteur of the sort dad was requires the mood and everything to say things. You cannot sit down with an open laptop in front of people and say 'Okay now, go. Tell me all about him.'

When thatha died, in the 80s, I knew I was supposed to be very sad. After all, I was the grandchild who spent the most time with him in the years that walked us up to his death. I was the grandchild who often had to be told that the coins, the gold(en) buttons for his silk kurta, and a bunch of other things in the table drawer were out of bounds. I was the grandchild though who was allowed to climb into the single bed in that little cubby like room adjoining the one my parents that no one else was allowed to touch. I was the one who insisted he help me out with my dictation test the next day (not that I needed help, was a certifiable geek and nerd at all points). The one who always got a sip of tea (milky, sugary), at three in the afternoon, which was when, everyday, he partook of the beverage, whatever else might be happening in the world at that time.

All of us rubbed his head. He was balding and would get his hair shorn every three days or so, making a big production of it with the rules regarding not touching anything when you come back from the barber (how absurd is that rule, I hate it). It had that bristly feel to it. We loved it. He did not seem to mind. In the summer holidays a bunch of us would hang around him. His favourites were, my American cousin (back then they were the North Indians), and, well, me. The other favourite, my big bad elder brother (cousin) was too old by then for such silliness. Oh. I had the edge though because of living with him, not that I would EVER point that to my American cousin, especially since I did my best to ape everything he did, and one time, he built a stove from mud for me, and we melted crayons using it.

Anyway the day he died, I remember distinctly a few of the events that led up to it. There were two weddings in the family. My maama (mother's bro), and my eldest cousin (in other words, grandfather's eldest grand child). How my mom managed that situation I don't know. I bet she skipped her own brother's wedding (minus five points for feminism, plus five for practicality). Grandfather was all atwitter about this wedding. What the big deal was I don't know, but he was. Though he was looking forward to hiding from everyone and eating all nature of banned things, such as sweets and vadas and so on. He woke up a billion times in the night to use the loo, and then proceeded to collapse. My aunt immediately started crying. Mum was strong as always. Dad was sent to make the arrangements for ambulance and hospital room and all those things that never go smoothly, ever.

He spent a day in that nice beautiful airy corner room - I could not pass by that hospital for many months after that. He is reputed to have demanded that someone bring him a mango to eat. He loved mangoes, American Cousin, Thatha, and I would hang out in the garden eating mangoes - I suppose my mum would have sent us outside appalled at the dribbling of the mango juice inside the house. Did he get to eat mango? I don't know. I hope he did. He was eighty years old. I think he had lived his life. I missed him intensely, as did my dad, but we managed to move on with our lives. He loved mangoes, really. I hid under a bed and cried. Shh Shh sundry aunts would hoot at me. Don't let your father see you crying they would admonish (by then dad's heart valve thing was diagnosed and it was only time before he would have to, well, go under the knife for it). I don't know if I ever spoke to anyone about how sad I felt about it. But its okay. Whats that Murakami? Death is as much a part of life as living? Something like that.

There was a photo of him as a young man. In those days (1920s?), the dress in Mysore was this nice big turban on the head. A crisp dhoti. A cream-coloured silk kurta. He looked handsome. He could do this amazing trick of entwining his legs in a spiral - everyone else crosses their legs, he would entwine them (I can do it too). So that's the picture of him I have. An old man with a balding, bristly head, his young turban placed on his head, as if for a fancy dress competition. Legs entwined. Leaning back in this cane armchair. And a small little chit of a girl hanging on the arms of the chair. The chit would grow up to be this selfish person who makes no effort to compile a fact-based history, or even, to find the twenty odd books that have emerged from his old fashioned ink pen, and which, as with all good things, have gone out of print with great promptness.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Pen Pencils Problem

There is a reflective quality to writing, which is why I appreciate having the possibility of writing, as an outlet, as a means of thinking things through, and a hundred other things besides. Much like the previous generation, I am fond of writing, as in the putting of pen (or rather, pencil) to paper, a bit more than typing. Though I am quite married of late to the convenience (mostly, of later access) of a computer. My notebooks stash has diminished quite a bit. And although I do love to buy notebooks, especially those that claim to be made from bagasse (and NOT trees!), I am quite able to resist the temptation, and usually walk away after just a few delicate touches, and a quick flip to judge the quality of the paper.

Lying in my bed, I often think I should equip myself with a writing pad. Last night for example was this thought in my head, which I followed for a while, about my grandfather. My thoughts, when I am paying attention to them thus, and following them and so on, appear in full formed sentences (I don't know if yours do any different, just that sometimes it feels a bit odd that a thought has to be that full a sentence, when there is no pressure on it, so to say, to even make widespread sense). Anyway, my (paternal) grandfather was the theme of the thought. And now looking back at that hour of the night, it feels like pages could have been filled. Pages! Of course, if I honestly look at it, its no big loss, I mean, life goes on, the earth does its thing, and I have anyway thought that thought so from an internal and external view point, the fact that I did not jot down anything is, really, not something to moan about. But still, I wonder if that was inspiration and I should have held its coat tails and sailed away somewhere far beyond, merely by being disciplined enough to have something to write things down when they start going through, ticker tape fashion, in my head.

I bought this set of four mechanical pencils at CVS pharmacy in October (or was it the May before the October? Anyhow). Zebra the pencils said. 0.7 mm lead, they take. Of course, I like 0.7 mm lead the best of all, and it has been years since I even touched anything else. And, in my youth, I would have called these pencils 'pen pencils' because of obvious sort of reasons. I saved the set carefully from the marauding hands of the monster. She insists that Akshay or Akash or Alok or whoever, one of the boys in her class, brings such pencils. Till about a month ago, I would carefully sharpen three regular pencils and send them with her, and though I have stopped that now - one day in a fit of anger I asked her to take care of her business re: the pencil box herself, and we have not yet had occasion to go back on it - I have managed to save my stuff from her. Usually once these things find their way to her classroom, they never come back. And the teacher is quite cool about it - just buy more erasers, buy a box of them, she tells us in those awful parent-teacher meetings we have. Zebra pencil, 0.7 mm lead, a bit smaller than usual, these have been very useful to me this semester. I have reams of notes (for class), and tons of problems solved (not tons, maybe, but a good number anyhow) with the soft lead of said pencil, and I usually stick the pencil in my hair when I step out of my office, for ease of access. Yellow in colour, they are quite the fashion statement, even if I have to say so myself!

There are organised people in the world, I know. They have their work desks with in and out trays and stuff all neatly stacked in book shelves. They have their home study equipped with the requisite furniture and they carry exactly one bag to and back from office. Their laptop does not have files on the desktop, at least not an infinity of them. I know they exist, and are not just theoretical constructs. I want to be them. But I am too far removed. My sari box thing has, since we last talked about it, acquired a blue backpack and the orange stuff is still there. I have myself to blame. Else, I have to find a means of thriving in this atmosphere, and if that wonderful set if thoughts I had last night is any indication, its a possibility. Oh heck. Minimally let me go and clear away the dryer sheets (that is the orange stuff) and put it away in the pantry. "A place for everything and everything in its place" - I think my dad used to say that, now my husband has made this saying his own, and often hurls it at me, like an accusation with its sharp points pointing at me. Let it not be said later that Kenny let a Sunday unfold without taking active steps towards solving a problem that was troubling her for a week. Let it not be said.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Genes Jeans Gins & So On

(in which I deplore the insidious effect of genes, sort of, think longingly of gin, and so on).

I was merrily chopping ladiesfingers into inch long pieces and then slicing them through the middle one second, and the next, I had this realisation. I have become my mom. There, I said it. I have become my mom. I know most girls get to this point sometime in middle age and all one needs to do is accept the inevitability of ones genetic make-up and move on. But seriously, people, I have become mom.

Its the small things:

-> The irritation when my milk boiling vessel is used to make rice
-> The tendency to call a random milk boiling vessel as 'my' milk boiling vessel
-> The zen-like peace that descends on me when I enter my Sunday morning cooking task
-> The over-zealous-ness in creating one after the other thing in the kitchen
-> Wiping the counter one billion times
-> Seeking out Rin Bar to wash the wash cloth with
-> Lining the fridge with table mats
(in summary, a kitchen/cooking craze and possessiveness about things involved therein; and an obsessive urge to wipe counters and wash wiping cloths)

I wake up many days with a start at 5:00 am and run pell mell into the kitchen and can, in that half asleep state, make coffee and boil milk and set a pressure cooker (in preparation for the cook, which makes no sense unless, of course you recognise that you are up against some real strong genes that make you do these things). I run out to run. I run back and go up and down the stairs one billion times waking people up, and so on. I am full of energy at 5:03 am. I argue that anything in the nature of work is exercise and therefore good for me. Obviously, I have become my mom.
What a depressing thought - I know! I just have to close my eyes and think of her yelling at me every single day of my growing up years for cutting up paper, to really be depressed that I am turning into her. I used to love cutting up paper (still do, come to think of it, and no, mom does not, she loves to read though, she can read cut paper). I had a big blue drum in which I stored my 'creations' - things such as a clock I had made using ice-cream sticks, innumerable doll houses and chairs made out of toothpaste cartons, and my most favourite thing - a small mirror using the aluminium thing from the top of the Nutramul tin. Anyway, I was totally depressed thinking that I have become her, you know, I used to always get in trouble with her. She wouldn't yell much (not as much as I do, for e.g.) but seriously, dad was the good cop and mom was the bad cop always. And I don't want to be the bad cop, I suck at bad cop, I lose my temper and gain it back and am a total mess.
But then I entered the bedroom. Currently this is what is happening in here:
1. Bunk bed - unused as far as the bed is concerned (I get nightmares amma); shelves and study desk FILLED to the brim with a globe, several stuffed toys, bits and pieces of a kitchen set in plastic, and books in piles. I read Murakami lying up in the bunk bed on Sunday, its nice.
2. Chest of drawers - filled with undies and such. On top: two small wooden cases with cufflinks and generic jewelery(junk) belonging to husband; water bottles, coffee cup; mobile charger
3. Big wooden chest - saris. On top: Unidentified garbage coloured orange and green and books.
4. Study desk - oh forget it.
Every surface in this place is filled with stuff. I don't even know what everything is. The husband will waltz in on Saturday and accuse me of giving birth to this stuff. I personally think they belong to him. And also that they are spontaneously fissioning and making more of themselves. Its out of control! Ack! Something just got me! Gurg! Ack! Save me!
(at least this means I have not become mom. She would not hear of such a life. In her house, the top surfaces are so awesome, I feel like putting my cheek on them just to feel how nice it is. Though she would scold me for getting moisturiser on her wooden surfaces...)

Friday, 19 March 2010

Laugh your woes away?

Raised on a heady, steady diet of Reader's Digest, that pint-sized magazine ripe with platitudes, I have always believed that Laughter is the best medicine. Medicine for what, this I don't know. But its salve for something, frazzled nerves, frayed tempers, aching bodies, whatever. For sure, I loved that page of jokes in RD, and read and re-read them many times over.

We had a physical education teacher in school. A nice big robust man, who looked like he knew what he was talking about when he said to pitch your body forward when you run. I was very young (and much smaller than I ought to have been), so much of what I know about him is hear-say - from my sister and others. His wife taught us math - a rotund, cross-looking, tiny person. For some reason (my school was always up to some incomprehensible tricks like that), this P.E. teacher led us on a singing mission once. I remember standing in a circle and singing 'Sing everyone sing, all of your troubles will vanish like bubbles, if you sing, everyone sing! Laugh everyone laugh, all of your troubles will ... '

I thought that song was just incredible. I used to get into these strange moods in those days. It was some perceived wrong against me. It feels like it must have been something very silly, thinking back now. I used to sit on the couch and have myself a good cry. My parents learnt soon enough to just leave me alone then. And no, this was not teenage adolescent stuff, it was well before that. One time, I had one of those moods and managed to lift myself out of it by singing that song to myself, as taught to me by the P.E. teacher, who was also in-charge of flag hoisting.

And then one day, hushed silence in school. Apparently, this large man brimming with life, laughter, and energy, had died in the night. Heart Attack! they said. He was drinking of course! they said. What will she do now, the three little children to raise! they said. Emotions surged through us all, some of us, more sensitive than the rest, more foolish than the rest, had ourselves a little cry over the unfairness of it all. 'Laugh everyone laugh, indeed' I thought to myself.

The memory grows a bit dim at this stage. The math teacher I became somewhat close to in later years, though I did trouble her sufficiently, with that typical attitude children have - as if its their birth right to play tricks and make noise in class. I cannot recall her husband's face clearly. What I know in my head is that one day, he was so full of everything, and the next, well, he was just gone. No more. But then he lives on, in my memory, in the memory of so many others whom he touched in his short life. Unlike his immediate family who, I imagine, cannot think of him without pain, we, the rest of the world, can think of him and remember him standing there with a smile on his young face, 'Dance everyone dance, all of your worries will vanish like bubbles, if you dance everyone dance' he sang, twirling his hands....

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Shortest Person Award

In a basketball tournament in a long ago era, I was convinced that this award was due to me. I mean, no one I know can come up quickly with the name of a person shorter than me, in the whole wide world. Children are known to walk up to me and say 'Kenny Maami, how come you are so short?' Some days I wake up thinking that I just look that short, because you know, the husband is so very tall. But then other days, I peep down and see my toes being just a few inches lower than the monsters (assuming that she has condescended to sleep parallel to the rest of the population and not in her usual orthogonal manner). To cut a long story short (and to avoid my usual pastime of going on and on about things that happened twenty years ago), I did not win said award. For what reasons, I will never know. It should rankle more I suppose, but I feel sort of jubilant too. Like I could tell the children 'Hey what do you mean? I am not that short. This guy I went to college with, he is shorter, he even won an award that proves it'

Growing up my parents would gladly have handed me the Shortest Fuse Award. I used to lose my temper fairly frequently - I still do but have managed to work on myself a lot so I really hope that I lose it a lot less now than then. A while ago my husband would say that I let people get away with too much, that I let them all walk all over me and should potentially lose it a bit more. Of course, the exception to the rule is the husband, and now the child. I blow my top at them fairly quickly and it takes immense patience (I don't think its just patience, it requires some sort of superhuman strength, I think) to keep it all in check.

Yesterday was an exercise in such self control. In sequence the things that happened are:
Gas Cylinder ran out.
Replacement Cylinder Leaked.
Monster had to be dropped at Soccer.
Power was cut at home.
I had an email deadline to meet.
I had a meeting to attend.
Gas Cylinder fellow didn't show.
Monster had to be picked back up.
Veggies to be bought.
Gas Cylinder fellow called incessantly on the landline.

Here is where we take a slight walk. The gas company fellow kept asking for my husband. Who is of course in a different continent altogether, hopefully busy shopping for various things such as dryer sheets to satisfy my craving for nice smelling laundry. I kept telling him I am his wife so tell me whats going on. Finally it turned out that Guna, that eloquent fellow at the other end of my irritating land line phone, wanted to suggest that I switch the O-ring from cylinder (old) to cylinder (new) and check the situation out. Which I am quite capable of, despite my being a very short, female person of squeaky voice. I should have lost it. I could have easily, I was sweating profusely, my nice Marks&Spencerspant got muddy from the cylinder, I could have thrown my back out lifting the cylinder in and out of its little cupboard, but I am glad to say, that I did not. "What did you say your name was? Guna? Oh well, Guna, guess what. This is not a big deal but the fact that you would sell a cylinder that has a faulty O-ring is an outrageously bad thing okay?" I said, and slunk back into my corner to play mild-mannered professor-who-cant-reach-the-top-of-the-blackboard.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Keep on walking

When the monster was that tiny baby, we used to walk and walk to get her to sleep. She was always a fairly excitable kid, however tired, she would not crash into sleep, and we had to calm her down, keep the room dark, calm ourselves down, sing, chant (times tables or something crazy like that), and, when all else failed, walk. Up and down, up and down. My mum would pat (whack) her to sleep on her lap and that seemed to work for her, but the husband and I *had* to walk.

I made a little song to go with the walk, so that we would be singing the walking song, and, well, walking. I remember one time being in Chennai at my in-laws place in the other bedroom, boiling hot of course as Chennai, and especially T Nagar always is, and everyone else doing something to do with gift bags for guests in the other room. And me? Carrying her and walking. And singing the walking song: Monster walky-walk, Amma Walky-walk, Appa Walky-walk, Fan Walky-walk, Watch Walky-walk, Diaper Walky-Walk (what will it take for this child to fall asleep dammit?).

I don't much like blended scotch but everytime I saw the Johnnie Walker ad (what is it now? Keep walking?) I would think, yeah, like I have any other choice! Gotto keep on walking, else this child will never sleep and then I will never sleep and everything will crash and burn and the world will cease to spin. Some days, it surely felt like she would *never* sleep, and I would have to spend my entire life carrying her and walking her. She used to wake up at least a couple of times every night for the longest time (two years? something like that). And it was not like normal human beings who drink water or pee or whatever and go back to sleep, this one would start rolling around in the bed and knocking into me, and most times it made better sense to somehow get her to sleep deeply so I could sleep without bruises on my body caused by her fat head.

Philosophy-wise, its sort of like life. Shit happens, right. People get married. Children are born. People die. Some die young, some die old (you mourn a little, feel a bit weird for a few days, wake up in the morning and hope it was just a bad dream). Jobs. Grocery. Lisol Floor Cleaner. Deadlines. Gotto go see mum. Been so long. Everything is ahead of you, everything is alongside you. At the end though, all you can do is Keep on Walking (except when you are running, or sitting down and drinking Jim, John or Jack... )

Monday, 15 March 2010

making sense of oneself

i used to take a class - a writing class, just for fun, a long time ago in cambridge. if i tell you who taught the class, you would know why i had to take the class, despite the fact that i was doing research in chemical engineering and also trying to sit in a bunch of other classes for various reasons (such as good looking professors). Anita Desai! i could not resist it. i know lots of people are not that fond of her writing, but i like it. i like it a fair bit. some of it makes limited sense, i suppose because i don't have context, but she represents to me the old guard, alongside R.K.Narayan, and in fact, i like her more than i like RKN, more gentle, more deep, more feeling than him, in my opinion. i like her daughter as well. they are don't know..unspoilt, somehow..

anyway, we used to get these writing assignments to do as part of the class. it was an interesting mix in the class. i used to write on the linux part of my computer, in text, and sometimes forget to take it to the windows part (i was using this windows simulator called vmware, my main achievement in that time frame was to set everything up so that vmware could run in linux. something awful to do with kernels and so on). so it would be all unformatted in running text. and as always my thoughts would run together and it would be chaos. the undergrads (mostly, pimply kids who i guess were forced to take the class as part of some credit something), would be totally funny and i would look forward to hearing them read their stuff out. Prof. Desai would sit, much like a quiet contemplative sparrow and listen with infinite patience, with not a twitch of muscle, not a movement of grey strand of hair.

why do you want to write, she asked me once. after i had explained about my various degrees and the upcoming job here in india (which i had by then, but had requested a six month extension on), none of which had anything to do with writing, per se.

don't write if you have nothing to say, dad had told me once, after i painfully extracted a poem from the depths of my..well.. ass? soul? whatever. i don't think dad realised how much his words would influence me. it was years before i put pen to paper again.

sometimes i want to shout to him - not in anger, but just by way of information, no dad, you were wrong. i should write if and when i feel like it. even if it sounds to you like i am saying nothing. it is something to me. just in case he is listening, and this time really wants to hear me, considering i am saying it in words and not the jumbled thoughts of a confused adolescent, i want to also add this, today, i have something to say, and it is this:

i am a memory collector. i zealously add to my collection everyday. some memories are happy, like the strawberry ice cream i used to eat at 'my flavourite parlour' at dasaprakash on occasion. some are smelly, like the stench in the back alley. some are sounds, like the anklets i used to hear whenever i went alone near the 'big drain' on fourth main road, which i was convinced was some ghost-like creature out to get me. some are pictures, like dad in his immaculate white outfit in the cane chair, his favourite in the world. or mum, in her spinach-green sari waving at me from the platform and bursting to tell me she had made okra for me. some are sad, very sad, like all the people that are gone, all the tears i have shed, all the time i have wasted, all the life i have not lived though it has passed me. but they are mine. i will jealously guard them. and at times, i will let others peek into them, have a look. and thats why i write...

Thursday, 11 March 2010

tip top

a restaurant in bangalore, top something, was super famous. it was supposed to be sky high up in the sky. and an ice cream there cost Rs.100. it was in those days, you know, long ago, jurassic type time frame. i think i went there once. my uncle took us (sis and me) there. i think. i am not sure. i must have been completely, totally, inhibited. what to wear? how to speak? in whispers? what if i have to pee? what if? what if?

the first time i went with ma-main-man to a work gathering (again, long time ago, in the US of A, when we were not yet married, i think), it was a barbecue. his boss in those days was this short indian person. i was totally intimidated. i remember that i wore jeans, a shirt, and insisted on wearing a blazer. it was blazing as of course it was summer and hello it was a barbecue (had no idea what that implied. and now that i know, all i can hear is 'beer' the rest is all noise to me). so of course i had to work hard to remember to bring that damn blazer that spent all the time hanging on the back of a chair back and it stares at me all these years later and says 'hey you were that girl'

my parents used to have friends home often. mum would cook up a storm. the friends would gather in the 'verandah' and smoke and laugh and drink. we would be brought in at some point of time for the hellos and so on. if they had kids our age, it would be semi-fun, except when it was these unruly boys whom i disliked. if they had kids younger than us, we had to baby-sit them, and sometimes that was fun, sometimes not. but the meeting with the adults was always a big worry for me. what if i spit while saying hello? what if i say something stupid? what if they all start laughing?

temples! i never know what to do in them. generally in religious settings i am sort of weirded out. i closely watch someone - like my mother in law - and follow carefully. you will often find me murmuring something like: three times in anti-clockwise direction, left hand on pallu, etc. - but still i end up looking like a total klutz many times. i am excused usually because, after all, i am the geek/dork person who is not expected to have any type of social (or otherwise) skills.

of late though, i find i have this, i dont know what to call it, a sheath? a veneer? i manage to exhibit a comfort level in most places. hip cafe? no problem. pub? too easy. temple? no sweat. class? where is the table, here, let me go through my routine of sunglasses off mobiles on silent etc. meeting? thats my bread and butter, yo. basketball court? ha ha. race? ho ho. monster's school classroom? ouch how does even a small adult fit in this desk? but always, inside me, is that little girl in the pink 'frock' and brown bata sandals at that top-whatever restaurant on the 10th floor in bangalore in the early 80s wondering what she will do if she has to pee....

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

pippi pippi

wordjunkie, whatdoyouthink? you like? i tried to capture the incriminating bunk bed too in the second photo - can you believe i am clicking these using my vaio camera - but it did not work.

Mother's Day

I know, it was INTERNATIONAL women's day yesterday (cue: drum rolls).
I don't know what it means. I don't know what it means to me, not just in a global sense. Its something. Its supposed to indicate something. Who came up with it anyway? I don't know. Should I do something different because its, you know, there? (such as, dress less like a man). But whatever I do different from my usual because its women's day is unnatural, a put on, like saying that I am less of a woman than I ought to be, so on this day, I do a tad bit more and be more of a woman. That makes limited sense now doesn't it? After all, I am me first. Then a woman.

Long ago, growing up, when we first heard of Mother's Day, we were very excited. So my sis and I, aided by dad, would try to figure out something to do for M.D. for mum. We recognised that she was over-worked, and that she loved us (and we loved her back though only dad ever said that out loud and made all the three of us blush pink because we are middle class south indian family who do not say love and romance and of course there is no falling in love as a concept. so much so that when it happens to you you wonder what on earth this break from reality is, blink, and what the fuck, how do i handle it?). anyway, it was the biggest joke. we would clumsily try to help her out saying 'its mother's day it means we treat you like a queen' dad would spill something or break the pressure cooker. sis would promptly have one of her legions of fans call on her for gupshup. i would have homework or the incredible urge to spill some gum and cut some papers and generally create a mess. mum would go about her business, ignoring us, and only briefly thanking us for the pen we would buy for her as a gift (mostly with the idea of stealing it later). over the years 'mother's day' became a family joke. we would use the term to talk about how even the best(est) of intentions are just not enough.

what would i do to celebrate women's day? what would i like people to do for women's day? do i feel any gender bias, on a regular basis? (yes, of course). does that debilitate me, make me hold myself back, change me, make a different person out of me? (luckily, no). am i convinced that women should take over the world and men just suck? (no, come on, they have their uses. :-)). whatever.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Discipline out the window

sometimes you just have to write when you are better occupied proofing that thing you are supposed to proof. but hey! whats life without a morning dose of indiscipline?

monday morning.

up with the larks.

what on earth are larks, anyhow? must check with the monster. who, lately, claims to be the world's leading expert on all matters related to fauna (not so much flora, however, she is still in a world where the big orange coloured leaves are innumerable setting suns arraying themselves around the tree trunk and branches).

my list brimmeth over today.

my new year's un-resolution to not procrastinate is lying by the way-side.

i can argue that i am behind on those (ten) tasks because i am way too busy. because i have too much on my plate. but who really verifies the authenticity of these statements?

i have a perfect one for you. i used to attend to some of my tasks while driving around in the car (i have a driver, 'my driver does not irritate me like this. if i tell him to go to a place, he does. without asking me a billion times if its this turn or that or that other one out there. my driver...' i told the husband yesterday. i reined in my bad mood at his tendency to put on a pedestal and get pigeon shit on my distinct lack of sense of direction). i would pop open the trusted (ha!) vaio and di-da-daa in the car, in sundry parts of the city. but now i don't dare do that. not after that noise it emitted (and subsequent death of OS).

so obviously, i have to sit in the car and stare and ruminate and watch the world pass by and wonder how crazy i am that my favourite way of sight-seeing is by running past sights. i would run past the taj mahal - wordjunkie rocked that wonder of the world, recently, i remembered that i have only a vague memory of a nasty paan ridden city and a greying marble edifice in the middle of it - so yes, now i want to go to Agra and run past, and hope to not get paan spit on my shoes.

--> inspired by her, i sketched one of the house favourites, Pippi Longstocking. "Hi Monster" she said, waving her skinny hands and wearing her leaf skirt. "Bunk bed with study table below, huh?" she said hanging upside down from a beam. it was so fun. though the monster threw those papers back at me (i had pretended that they landed up somehow in my hand and that it was some sort of note for her) and said 'stop it amma, i know its you who drew these things'

heres to a wonderful week ahead! to colourful days! to striking things off lists! to friends! you know i love you all my wonderful friends, i love your quirks too and hope you will tolerate mine!!

Friday, 5 March 2010

Familiar Friday Feeling

My roommate in grad school used to say that, every week, I acquired a 'Friday' look on my face. I would deny it hotly. You are happy, she would say. Baloney, I would retort. Friday nights found me, mostly semi-comatose on my couch. The one with the flower print on it that still gives me nightmares. If said roommate was free of her regular troubles at work, we would drive out and pick up some form of alcohol to sustain us on a Friday night. I would use my last reserves of energy to cook up a meal. She would smile at me and give expert advice and then just give up and throw me out of the kitchen and cook it herself. So, mostly, I cut vegetables and did the dishes and did vaguely value-add activities such as wash the rice and set up the rice cooker. And then, it was the TV on Friends or Seinfeld or some such, semi- as I was saying, comatose, on the flower print couch.


Counting down.

Heart leaping at news of snow storms in various parts of country.

Friday was the day my main man drove up from parts south to mine. Thence the cooking (else I would have happily had a sumptuous meal of local brewed beer and curd rice with a whole lot of mango pickle, thank you very much). Somehow if someone was braving Friday night traffic, and snow, and the tiredness of an entire week, for my sake, I felt like some effort ought to be made to feed said person. My roommate, on the other hand, just liked cooking. A lot. It relaxes me, she would say.

Anyway this arrangement, strange as it was, lasted a year. Or was it two. Then she graduated. I moved to my own place. A spectacular little studio apartment. I took the couch. I had a two-burner electric stove and the world's smallest refrigerator (with built-in freezer). I really don't know how I managed to whip up dinner for the extra large person that the main man is on that baby-sized set-up in my uber-cramped digs. But I think, for the most part I did. Then passed out on couch.


Watching news reports of snow storms.

Wondering whether I should try to go down and buy some chips.

I have tried many times to analyse my Friday state. Many a week it is a nice kind of tiredness. Like, look, the week is done. I have squeezed what I can out of it. I deserve the weekend, somewhat. Its been very rare that I work significantly over the weekend. If you want tips on How To Survive Life Without Working Weekends, I can tell you, truly. But on many a friday, its a bad kind of tiredness, of late. Like, oh! Where did the week go? How can I manage to break my own rule and get some work done over the next couple of days? Can I cancel my travel plans and just sit here and finish this thing that I really want to? No? Oh but why am I so very very tired?

Of late, there are additional legs and arms to my Fridays. I do lie in wait once in a while for the husband. Even when he is in the same city. Obviously, he works much longer hours than I do (I can argue till I am blue in the face that that means he is less efficient, but hey, the truth's out there) so this makes sense. I wait to open the (nasty, evil tasmac derived) beer so that its cold enough for him. In Mumbai I would call my trusted guy to home deliver some cold 'uns (yumm). If he (husband, not the alc. delivery guy) is travelling and not going to be back till much later, I suck it up and deal with it. I don't get that woebegone look like I would have a few years ago (many years ago, I guess). Grow up Kenny. Go surf the web, for Pete's sake. Or Paul's.

The monster has her own Friday Feelings. She is usually very tired and cranky and generally impossible to deal with. Which in a way is cool because it focuses me and keeps me away from building up lonesomeness and other crap feelings in my own head. Sometimes it also serves to drive me rather quickly to alcohol, but as wise people say, whats good for the soul is good for the body, so if it works, it works. The flower couch has been long gone (Aside here: After a long and fervent search for a comfortable couch last year, I came back home one fine day, sat on ours and said, this is the most comfortable couch in this country. So, twenty points, beige couch of mine). The TV is not an option. Four words mothers across the country can relate to: "Oggy and the cockroaches." The monster and I try to keep each other sane on Fridays by listening to music and hanging out reading.

Saturday mornings are long run mornings. We have stuck to the schedule well in 2010. So that is something really positive. I totally look forward to a long therapeutic run on Saturday mornings. I think about it on Friday nights. It keeps those things at bay. Those negative crappy feelings that are part of my Friday make-up, despite the look of happiness at finally reuniting with love of my life albeit for two days that she would accuse me of, all those years ago in grad school.

Today, after a long time, I have that familiar feeling. I am remembering my roommates statements. I feel sad and miss those days, carefree ones they seem to me. Sleep late, wake up late, play basketball, eat a ton of eggs for breakfast, chores, movies, gosh, the weekend seemed so long. We lived our life together over the weekend. And I went back to my desi grad student avatar bright and early on Monday mornings. Now I can already see Monday morning up ahead, and dammit, its only Friday night. Maybe its not so familiar after all. But there is definitely a whiff of that.

Today, I am just tired. Bone tired. Although I know it has been okay work-wise, I had a fair bit of fun with green and blue and pink sheets of paper. It has been a bad running week, I have only run 5 km so far, and been in pain much of the time. Its a nagging pain, not, I don't think, a real one, although I seem to have twisted my ankles at least four countable times in the past two days (the good part of that has been the discovery of self-adhesive crepe bandages in the homestead. They are awesome).

Oh go away now. Saturday morning still beckons. All I need to do now is pull through the next hour, which involves the most fun event of all: Monster's dinner. WhupDeeDoo. The event we've all been waiting for.

Thank /supreme power of choice/ its almost the end of Friday.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Never Be Late Kenny!

NOTE TO SELF:: Never Be Late To Pick Monster Up

It was just a few minutes. I was not gallivanting. I was in a meeting. I stepped out of the meeting soon as I could. There were still other kids who were yet to be picked up (somehow that makes me feel like a million bucks. ha!). I was dog tired and stepped out of the car.

The lady burst out laughing looking at me.

I was like, What The Fuck Did I Do Now? (Fly Check/Boob Check/Hair Check: All Clear). So what?

Anyway before I tell you, a small aside re: lady who runs the thing monster goes to. She is very small. Very cute. Very hip & happening. Very loved by all the kiddos. Per monster, she is veering more towards akka than aunty because of her size (shortie like you, amma, I believe she said) and her clothes (no sari-vari amma, not even salwar kameez). Ouch. I like her a lot, especially because the kids just adore her but do listen to her a fair bit. I wish I could be like that (not the akka part, I am happy to be called aunty, thank you very much)...

Usually, the monster, who talks a lot, and who I think has not stopped chattering for many years now, is a bit shy in outside the home situations. She saves all her crap for me, mostly, and a bit for her dad, and of course, small percentages for grandparents and close friends and so on. But I think I have mentioned earlier here that she is opening up a bit of late. At first I was happy. I mean, its a bit annoying to have a super-shy creature rubbing against you in public, right? I am not so sure anymore.

Today she told the akka/aunty lady, these several things (about me!):

"My mother must be late because she must be busy running" (Oo)
"She is thirty six years old but still insists on running everywhere" (Oh)
"She can even sprint very fast" (Yeah)
"She runs to her class, she runs up the stairs, basically she runs like a mad person" (Ouch)

Dude, what the heck? I was in meetings the whole day. I was really hoping to run but circumstances are/were not conducive. But that is beside the point. Just on Sunday we were at a dance show which was late starting (of course), and a hapless individual called Thomson was called on stage to receive some flowers or something. The monster said "Oh wonderful! Thompson and Thomson are here now, whats next?" (At which point, Kenny, Kenny's husband, Guns, Guns' wife, and ludwig loudly said "she is not with us"). When this one hits teenage, I am taking sanyas. You heard it here first.