Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Decisions! Decisions!

Things are splendid in Kenny land. The weather promises to be good. Had some exciting moments at work, recently. Am sleeping well. I am not thinking much about the fact that the little Fabia got hit again (a motorcycle came and chose to break the brake lights). My hair is very dry, but at least its long (by my standards). We have managed to solve our nasty shoes outside the main door situation reasonably now. Lessons have been learned. Lessons.

1. Cotton is king. I am super proud of the fact that I wore all those saris. It was fun. I came to a few realisations, sari-wise. I always thought people were crazy to worry about the material of the sari because, you know, its all about the blouse and the petticoat, the things that touch your body. Not so! Its virtually impossible to walk or breathe in a non-cotton sari, in these parts. So, must keep that in mind. Also, because it was for work, I sort of pulled everything up and down to show minimum of my tummy. That exposed tummy part is helpful for getting some air, I guess, but modesty, above all! Modesty, and that roll of tummy fat to hide.

2. Sentamizh Something. I tried long ago to learn the Tamil alphabet. It was in Fluid Mechanics class in college. Very boring lectures. Well, thats generically true. I find it hard to listen to lectures... Even my own lectures are boring, which is why I do problem sheets and tutorials and dances and fold my shirt sleeves up mid-way through class. But I digress. The monster gave up on tamil last month and her weekly evaluations (I really don't know what that implies, its some mysterious thing teachers do to kids) were going downhill. We decided to get this stuff back on track. The MIL, who is, of course, quite awesome in Tamil, got into the act, and while at it, I did what I do best. Ergo, started slowly and laboriously reading her text books and the gadzillion Tulika books she owns. Its been fun, this past month. And we have both gotten much better at the language.

3. To each her own. Somewhat peripherally, I was wondering why the kid who eats any book I lay in front of her, was resisting all those Tulikas. She has had them for a while now. She has avoided them. All the mommies and babies are lapping them up and here is my geek refusing a whole set of colourful, superbly illustrated books. I could not figure it out. So I tried to push her to it (which is clearly so stupid, but hey). No way! Even now, while I read it aloud, she just listens periodically while reading one of her other books - although she can read more fluently than I, and lifts her head up to correct me if I say something ridiculous. I think its because she has moved on from that type of story, to a more 'novel-like' form. Of course she is not yet at a skill level that will enable reading a novel in tamil. Anyway I should have done this last year, when she was a year younger, might have been more successful. Who knows.

3. Gym Ahoy! The campus has sprouted a new gym. We are very happy, ecstatic even. Especially on discovering that our Rs.600 per semester gym cards work here too (eat your hearts out, boys). I went one day. I cycled all the way over (20+ mins). Sauntered upstairs. Got stared at balefully by all the men and boys there. I did my thing. Meaning, some bicep & tricep curls, a couple of the leg machines, and push-ups and suryanamaskar. They kept looking daggers at me all the while. Plus I had to walk around everywhere to find small enough sized free weights. But today I went again with the husband, and it was all cool. We had fun. Although on a given machine, I throw the pin out and use it and he maxes out the weight and uses it. I checked myself out though in the conveniently placed mirrors and said 'Not bad Kenny' to myself though the husband reserved comments on my fitness level (appearance-wise) despite my asking. Anyhow, I hope to get back on a once-a-week gym track now. Its super convenient and it has whatever little I seek in a gym.... (no treadmills, but thats cool, I don't like them anyhow).

4. Diwali anyone? I suddenly realised that this is upon us. The monster asked me 'You hate Diwali no Amma?' This is true. The noise, the smoke, the trash. And I always feel bad for denying the kid pleasures of crackers etc. but feel reluctant to give up on my oath (taken in 1993 or '94?) about crackers. Plus I also have duties. Ergo buying clothes, and sweets (for my maid etc.). I am wondering where to go, and when. The likelihood of the husband being willing to enter a Nalli or Chennai Silks being slim. I am sure I can take care of it this weekend. And I might not hate it so much this year. Perhaps goonj will have a special drive and we can go hang out with them and donate some clothes, while at it.

5. Race into your hearts I miss having a race to look forward to. The next 'real' one is Mumbai in Jan 2011 - way too far away. I missed the Kaveri (Sep) and ECR (Oct) already this year, so am reluctant to sign up for one lest I have to miss it. Though I really want to run something. Chennai was my 7th HM and I don't mind closing the year out with #8, if possible. Options are Delhi (Nov 21) and Hyd (Nov 28). Both will be good training for Mumbai (which is always a bit tough for me, frankly, that uphill at Pedder Road still kills me). Don't know. The knees are occasionally a bit painful but like this Saturday, my long run made my knees feel better in fact. I think I can safely blame the basketball for the knee. Or maybe I just need new shoes (I can feel the ground a little bit when I run or play; in all my shoes, without exception).

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


People mill around me, I see them not

They jostle me and make me turn around

But I feel them not

Onward I proceed, intent on my task

The babble of voices that reach me,

From but a few feet away,

Are faint, and without meaning.

Cause my mission is vital

And timing in this case is key.

Finally I reach my destination

I stand strong and silent

At the end of the line

And patiently await my turn

The mirrors on the wall reflect

The anxiousness all around

And the relief when at last its your turn.

Determination and perseverance are but

A few qualities you must possess

To use the ladies room in a bar./

(Did I really write that? I am not so sure anymore. It was in a CD from ten years ago or so. Bars! Ha! What are they?)

Thursday, 14 October 2010

By The Water Cooler

Peoples, good friend and funny gal Parul Sharma has another book to offer us! Its called By The Water Cooler and promises to be a total hoot, even more than her first one, Bringing Up Vasu. Here is a post from her giving you the details.

While at it, she is also holding a contest at Radio Parul for anecdotes and stories related to your (or his, hers, or their) office. With prizes to be won! Yippee!! Here now is one of my office stories, reminiscing, of course, about my graduate school days.

I have always had something against having refrigerators in offices. I mean, whats the need, I say. Its not as if anyone would dare to store beer or white wine in it. And in those days, I never drank cold water so I really felt no need for something small and white in the corner, occupying precious real estate. But then, they convinced me. And as always, I got convinced. We even purchased a coffee maker, and mugs and so on.

I was sharing the office with some three guys, and just easily got brow-beaten by them. They came up with some new craziness every week. One time they brought in a soccer ball and declared the afternoon as 'dribbling practice afternoon.' Many were the days in which they played Warcraft on the LAN, making that 'zup' noise every few minutes, forcing me to invest in a pair of headphones for the sake of my sanity. And one memorable afternoon they played a game involving chasing each other around while sitting on the chairs, having invited this super crazy dude friend of theirs as a special guest. Seriously, I could not wait for the day when I would have my own office. Though now that I have it, its quite boring, I never hang out there. I even schedule meetings in other people's offices, because mine is so boring.

So anyway we were generous, we in Room 239. We invited guests to chair-wars. We routinely made coffee for lots of folks and fed it to them. We even offered them a choice of powdered creamer, milk , or hazelnut flavoured creamer. We always had tons of sugar, too (this was back in the days when I used to drink coffee with sugar, so I needed that for my own personal consumption as well). We also allowed people to use our fridge, if they so desired...

One day this girl from the next door office walked in and asked us in a sweet voice if she could store her dinner left-overs in our fridge. Of course, we said, sure. I was in my corner cubicle, and though I did stand up to see her, I did not see what she put in there (because of my, well, vertical-challenged-ness). It was a bit late in the night anyhow so we locked up soon after and took off for home. Next morning, as the first people in, P.B. and I started asking each other "Dude, did you like not shower this morning?"

P.B., in his usual style, started going on about Indians and curry and so on, while I stepped in to remind him that the French are famous not only for not showering, but also for trying to nastily mask that by using stinky perfume. But I actually bent down and smelled my boots (cheap-ass $10 stuff must have picked up some cowdung, I thought. Though where one could come across cowdung over there?). We went around sniffing the whole room till we reached the fridge in the corner.

Chinese Food. Oil. Cardboard Take-Out Containers. Leaks. Old Fridge. Not exactly air-tight.

"Damn that girl!" we screamed. We fished out the containers and threw them out unceremoniously. We tried desperately to open out the windows, but couldn't. We left the door open the whole morning. But still when the Bear-Man sauntered into office at noon (just in time for lunch, eh?), even he could still smell it. Ugh. And then some time later the girl came back to the office, we had gone to lunch, unable to stand it any longer. It was a number lock so she let herself in and obviously could not find the offensive food of hers. When we came back she started haranguing us, actually having the gall to assume that we had eaten that stuff! The little fridge never really recovered from that, and no amount of baking soda that I put in there, could help....

Monday, 11 October 2010

Vulnerability, or, the Damsel in Distress Mode

I am usually not. The Damsel in Distress types, I mean. We used to make a lot of jokes about that in college. Of course, we all never wanted to be that (I think!). Some of the girls wanted to be Tall Dignified Ladies. And EVERYONE thought there was NO WAY on earth, I could be a TDL, like EVER. So that was a big joke too. We all signed a petition doing away with these medals they had at graduation. The medals were meant especially for girls. We argued that:
1. We wrote the same entrance exam as the guys to get in
2. We were ranked with the guys on the entrance exam, not separately
3. We took classes together; and the same exams
So it made no sense to have a separate medal for women. This is regarding the medal that was given for being the student with the best-est grades of all at the end of the 4 years. But while at it, we argued that the other medal, which was for the student with good grades and good performance in non-academic stuff (sports, lit events, other creative pursuits), ought to also not be separated out. We don't need that condescension, we said.
'But you will never get the medal then' they said.
'Be that as it may' we said.
'We don't care for fake medals, we care for R.E.S.P.E.C.T.' we said.
'Idiots' they muttered, but did away with the medals.
So thats why since the early 90s there is only one set of medals, and your gender is largely ignored - I do say it as a good thing! I give credit to the girls who were three years senior to us, they came up with the idea.

One time back in that time frame, I took the Shatabdi from home, It was a rare treat. I usually took the Rs.200 second class overnight sleeper train. The Rs.800 Shatabdi was something that we always talked about but mum always convinced me was too expensive, convenient or not. So it was that the tall husband was allotted the task of picking me up from the station at 9:30 pm. Much against my mum's wishes, of course. Don't remember how I managed to convince her it was okay and no big deal. So anyway he was there and super easy to identify because of towering over the rest of the populace. I think he was surprised when I refused to let him carry my suitcase. I just wouldn't, in those days. I packed it, its my stuff, I will carry it. If its too heavy, I should have been sensible enough to realise it before I left home, I would argue (in my head). (You know I am the bag lady now. I carry umpteen bags, usually stuffed with books, around. The husband, if around, carries about 90% of the bags though, does bicep curls with them and pretends its his exercise for the day. I let him, because, you know, he needs the exercise more than I do!)

I have changed a bit but not too much. Like last year when I was traveling some place with the B-Boy, he said something which of course I took as a compliment. "With you its just like traveling with a guy" he said. I think he meant good things like not fussing, not whining, not insisting on him carrying my bag, and stuff like that. I assume he did not mean my physical appearance (which is fairly androgynous, as are my clothes, my sari episodes of last week notwithstanding). We waited out in the sun for a while for a bus, and walked around rather aimlessly for a fair bit, and I did not wilt. I am definitely hardy, so that helps. I can hold back hunger. I can do without a lot of things. I am not too particular about many things. I am not sure this makes me be more 'like a guy' though as I know plenty of guys who are whiny and fussy. But I would like to believe that he meant that I don't need any special handling or treatment just because I am a woman. I think this works for me, life would be very frustrating if I was not like this, thats the sense I get.

There is a friend of a friend who always ribs about how I am game for anything that is 'not feminine' as she puts it. Beer, sports, shorts, she cites as examples for and jewelery, chick flicks, and pink things she cites as examples against. She is kidding of course, these are all just broad gender generalisations and anyhow I love chick flicks. Really love chick flicks. Don't get to watch enough of them because the husb. hates them. And I really hate a few things that many guys seem to love. Car racing, for one, cannot stand it. Not a sport in my book. Action movies. Video games. Bleah.

So what have we concluded so far? As Guns would put it 'I notice some deep-rooted superciliousness and unreasonable biases in your head' - or words to that effect. Well, if thats what you got, thats cool, I am not trying to be particularly balanced or anything, just stringing words. If that makes me a bitch in your head, well, thats okay, 'cause at least you got the gender right, yo!

But the thing is, right, sometimes I feel vulnerable. Its not a gender thing perhaps, I don't know. The person I see the most inside of is my husband (despite the traveling and so on), and he is quite different than I am, and he a guy. So I sort of believe that its because, despite all the external bravado and clothes and swigging beer, I have this feminine core. I feel all self-pitying and sad for myself and just wish someone would put an arm around me and say 'There Kenny its going to be okay.' Of course no one thinks of doing that to me. I think pretty much no one feels protective towards me, which works out well most times, it would be stifling to have people be like that, annoying, even. I can wonder about this stuff calmly now because I am not feeling like that right now. When I am feeling like that I just feel (unreasonably of course) its because everyone hates me and I should eat worms or jump off the fly-over. So, upon analysis, I think its my fault. I act like that 99% of the time, like I am all cool and not dying inside. Obviously that 1% misses people's notice quite easily. Its hard to believe that anyone loves me during those times.

Come to think of it, this really has nothing to do with gender. All human beings are like that...I guess...We are all a little shaky at times, and in imagined and real distress at times. I guess the important thing to do as a friend, a mother, a wife, and so on is to try and detect the signs and do the thing I am good at, meaning, moral support. And the next time I get like that myself, well, maybe I should just call someone, plenty people I can take such liberties with, for sure. Yeah. Got it.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Diet Coke, Green Books, etc.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist has been on my book shelf for a while now. I know it well. I have been known to say, 'Oh! the green book!' The husband read it last week when we were in Mysore. He said, 'Kenny, do this, read this.' So I did. I did not expect to like it, really. I know, its supposed to be good and 'in your face' or whatever. I am sure you all thought its fantastic. Well, I did not like it. Not much, at least. I did not like it like I do not like Madhur Bhandarkar movies. I think it lacks subtle-ness. Not that anyone should care, but, just saying.

I read (in translation, I am afraid), a book called The House of Kanooru. Its by Kuvempu, who is an acclaimed Kannada author who featured in our school text books extensively. Girish Karnad wrote the foreword, and I think there is a movie called Kanooru Heggadithi Subbamma or some such, by Karnad. I loved the book. It took me back to my growing up days (its set a little while prior to the 70s, which was when I was born, incidentally, but..). It speaks of this community of landowners, and how they changed and evolved. There were parts which were repetitive and sort of not chronologically sequenced, I thought, but overall the translation seemed to have worked well. Not that I can ever know, being incapable of reading a novel through in Kannada (believe me, I have tried many times).

Yes, Anita Nair. I like her writing, generally. Lessons in Forgetting, this one was called. A nice read for middle aged aunties like myself, if I may say so. What did I get out of it? Well, we rock. We middle aged aunties can be, all at the same time, independent, sexy, excellent parents, daughters, and lovers. Good stuff. I know, that sounds totally like a negative criticism of the book, perhaps it is, I don't know. You know I don't do book reviews. I just say some of the things I think about when I read a book. So, that.

Somehow it has been a fortnight of not liking anything I read, too much. Kafka on the shore. Murakami is definitely a favourite. I would buy up all his books in one fell swoop if I did not think they are too expensive - I mean for the paperback versions in that tiny, ant-like print on that gray paper. There are good moments in the book, for sure. But, overall, a bit too much about cats, for my liking. Perhaps its aimed at cat lovers. I don't know.

Somehow, yesterday at Landmark, despite the fantabulously insane sale thats going on, I was quite restrained. I don't know, perhaps its the irritation with the sheer number of things that are lying around the house. Small things. Things with no specific location for storage. I did not feel like adding several books to that pile (books are anyhow the worst of the lot, most especially the monkey's). But, luckily, the husband chose to have himself an orgy. Which included a good number of things that I would read. Do you know that we both have separate book shelves? He has his books, I have mine. I totally avoid all his, and for the most part, its vice versa as well. For e.g., he does not do LOTR (Oh! The blasphemy!), thinks Rushdie is an idiot, hates Naipaul for his comments about India, etc. We intersect somewhat at Amitav Ghosh, he likes him. We have a bunch of titles that work fine with the both of us (English, August comes to mind), but mostly we are complementary sets. Oh! The best example is that he likes Tintin better, and I, Asterix, any day! So anyway, it was nice of him to pick up a bunch of 'My' books. While I did the same for the child (and hid everything away, for a rainy day).

(And, for some strange reason I cannot fathom, I am drinking a Diet Coke now. My teeth are going to hate me for this, but I occasionally drink a sprite, a coke, a 7-up, of late. The fact that I can do this without breaking into hiccups is a big achievement, really).

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Seriously, this is how its going to be

So, here I am.

This morning, I was the boat club. Now, the boat club is not some hep thing. At least not in this context, it is not. Its a bunch of roads that we run on. A full complete circumnavigation of these roads gives you a distance of 2.5 kilometers. I am not too fond of this route for running because it makes my head spin - too many turns in and out and back and forth. But I go there occasionally, when I have less time on my hands (no, i dont stop at 2.5 kms, I run at least 5 k) and am just plain bored of the other places. I cycle over to a specific road there, park, and run.

In the mornings, these roads are FILLED with walkers. I suffer a pang of sorts when I see couples. Maybe in an alternate universe, the husband and I could have been such walkers. Invariably, he would have climbed into battle gear (complete with cuff links) and headed off to destinations unknown on smelly old airplanes half an hour before I even wake up. Not that even otherwise we are (yet) the sort to go out for morning walks. Then I remember that we have our basketball. I have redefined my Sat morning long run of late, so that I have some amount of legs to play Sat evening basketball with the husband. We don't hold hands or anything when we play Sat evening basketball, of course, but this is Chennai, I don't think its legal to hold hands. In fact, it might be illegal to wear shorts.....

If its a good morning, I see some people running. I do agree with some of my brethren and sistren that a serious runner ought not to wear music-devices-invented-by-apple-inc. in their ears while running. I would LIKE to not wear it. But sometimes it helps distract me and if there is no one to talk to while running, it helps me deal with the weird looks that people invariably give me, with equanimity. Equanimity, in my book, being to start singing loudly or doing the air-guitar mid-stride.

There is a finite possibility that one will encounter a bunch of fit-looking guys. Like army or navy type dudes. I like them. They run in formation, which is kind of fun. I don't feel too tempted to ask to join them in the formation, though. There are two reasons for this:
1. They are not fast enough, in fact, I am sorry to say that they are quite pansy. But they are young. They probably save themselves for other physical activities through the day. They look like they can kick my ass and do a thousand push-ups. I don't want to hold it against them or anything, but whatever, it won't work for me.
2. Last time, at the beach, I was watching with avid interest a boxing class. The guys were fit. It was like boot-campish amount of activity, not just standing around punching air. Dropping down and doing push-ups. Skipping. Boxing exercises. etc. I asked the instructor if I could join. "Women? Bleeaaah (Vomit Sounds)" he said. Again, I am sure he took one look at me and his brain said 'Pansy' I dont' want to blame him. I look like that, for sure.
Nevertheless, I like encountering the fit-looking guys, even though looking at them running in pants makes me sweat more (although, if I sweat any more, I swear I will end up drowning Satyanarayana Avenue, or at least the Petrol Bunk there, or maybe Park Sheraton).

Very rarely, I see some women running. They look away when I try to smile at them. Why? I look that crazy, is it? Whatever, I don't care. On some days, I just focus on my run. On others, I enjoy the music, whatever it is. On rare occasions, I look at every single person I meet on the way and wonder about them. I cannot stop wondering how people wear things like:
Fab India Kurtas
Collared T-Shirts
Pants of any form
for walking. I mean, in Chennai. In Mumbai, there are certain parts of the year when its genuinely cold in the mornings. I would need a sweatshirt at least in the initial few minutes of my run. In Chennai, at 6:30, it is already so hot and so sweaty. Yes, I am jealous of you if you don't sweat so much. I sweat like buckets, really. My dryfit running tee is soaked when I get home, I swear. Its downright annoying.

This segues nicely into my final paragraph. Which is about clothes. Colourful clothes. I don't shy away from colour too much any more. I used to dress fairly monochromatically. Now, not so much. I even have a lime yellow tshirt!! Not to mention some crazy purple stuff. And this week, I have done the unthinkable (for me, that is). To whit:
Monday: Cotton Sari (Traditional Border)
Tuesday: Churidar-Suit with Zari border and light embroidery work
Wednesday: Voil Sari
Thursday: Cotton Sari with some sort of work on it
Yes, all of these things had a common theme of maroon in them. But considering that I did NOT buy any of this, I cannot blame myself. And tomorrow I am planning to make up for it by sporting either a:
Cream and Green Cotton/ZariWork Sari -or- Mum's Old Grey and Black Silk Sari.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have nearly survived a week in colourful (fairly), traditional clothes. I have sported my usual black dot of a bindi. I have worn my traditional wedding diamond studs. My old old wedding bangles on my right hand. And I am not even cribbing about it! It has been fun.

(What was the occasion, you say? I was organising a special programme, so it was not my usual haunts, the halls were all air-conditioned, mum gave me an earful about how I should stop cribbing that people think I am a student its my own fault for wearing clothes like that and carrying myself like that, etc. I did not carry myself any better, I ran behind a colleague to chase him down and pay him his 200 bucks. I sat up on the desk next to my computer as I was making my presentation. But hey! I wore the sari! I survived in it the ENTIRE long day!)