Tuesday, August 31, 2010

W O M M

I am avoiding making dinner because it entails doing the dishes first because currently all the dishes I own are in the sink. Except coffee mugs and wine glasses. Hmm...says a lot.

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I am in awe of doctors for all the obvious reasons.. [the work they do, the skills they have, how hard they work along the way - something I have seen at close quarters thanks to being embedded in a medical school - and can never stop being impressed by- and, yes, the fact that some male doctors are just drop-dead gorgeous]. Perhaps some of this awe also stems from the fact that at some point I did give Med school a shot, as much as many Indian kids are made to. My mom really badly wanted me to be a doctor- she thought very practically- that having a doctor in the house was useful- and I agree with her on that. But I don't think I ever had any kind of strong affinity towards becoming a doctor, and in any case, didn't make it through all those gazillion entrance exams I took.

I had a very nice conversation with a doctor today. And again I was awed by the sheer spectrum of people they meet in a days work- the feelings they process- the inevitably emotion-laden jobs they bring themselves to do with sheer detachment- and yet with all their compassion intact. I have full respect for them. I also realized how I had a lot of respect for them, but could seldom translate this respect to the doctors I have seen and met with the intention of getting treated by them. I blame it on the convoluted health insurance system, the long waits to be able to first see a doctor and then in the waiting rooms, the brusque manner of the doctors, the paper-work hell and the constant feeling of not being able to trust them but still entirely helpless. This dichotomy is mostly unresolved, in spite of hearing the other side of the story often.

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The girl at the subway sandwich place down the street now knows exactly what I get- and I don't have to point to every selection like the rest of the sandwich-waiting-hungry folks on line. As soon as she sees me, she pulls out a footlong of my favourite bread, cuts it into half, toasts it just the way I like it, and makes my sandwich in a display of sheer efficiency, quickness and confidence. I LOVE it! I love how the other people stare at me as I stand wordlessly, while they are still agonizing over their choices. Although, it does make me wonder- what if I want to mix and match things around one day? Admittedly, being vegetarian, there's very little I can do to bring variety into my subway sandwich. I also realised that most days, my interaction with her is the most interpersonal interaction I have in the day. So she definitely makes my day in many ways, and now I find myself going there more often than ever. That, I don't think is such a good thing, but oh well. Small pleasures.

I think I am going to have to get off this couch and make myself some dinner after all, because the dinner aint making itself around here. Pah. Or may be I can eat cereal out of a wine glass. How about that?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday AM cacophony

I think all the violinists who have made it for themselves, at any scale, need to appreciate their neighbours who put up with their practice sessions in their early days. My neighbour's daughter practises her violin religiously, everyday evening after 8 PM and on weekends in the morning at 10 AM. It is godawful. But I silently support her, hope she keeps on and gets better. And when she becomes a good violinist, I hope she sends me concert tickets or at least some cookies.

I guess I'm more supportive because I quit learning to play the violin very soon after I started, mostly because I felt demotivated and didn't feel like I had the knack for Carnatic music. I joined mostly out of the typical pressure that prevails in a South Indian household to take some music lessons, and I chose the violin because it was my favourite instrument. My violin teacher didn't pay much attention to me, this other kid Sai Ganesh - stupid Sai Ganesh- was her favourite, and it put me off and I stopped going. Being left-handed, I think I had an added disadvantage at it- but may be that was just me making excuses. I still own a violin. My ever-indulgent grandfather had one specially made for me, with the guidance of a famous violin teacher in my native place. I feel like I let them down, but I have gotten over all of that. I just don't want to part with the violin- and a tiny part of me hopes that may be I will pick it up again, or , pass it on to my kid...or something. Every now and then I open the box, tighten the strings and run the bow across it. Then I loosen up all the strings and put it away, back in its box with the mothballs for company. And its out of sight out of mind, until the neighbour kid's ear-grating practice sessions remind me of its presence.

Next door kid has finished her violin practice, and now I can hear some blaring music from another window- loud gospel music. Gosh. Then I hear faint strains of opera. From another direction I can hear some nice tappy upbeat mexican music playing. From closer home, I can hear someone's pressure cooker whistle going off. And someone else's vacuum cleaner.

Every now and then this cacophony is interrupted by a wailing siren of a police car or an ambulance. Or an odd motorcycle whizz past. I don't feel like playing any music of my own in the house because all these noises have put me off. I struggle to hear myself think. I have an unfinished movie from last night left in the dvd player, may be I'll turn it on and drown out all these noises with some bollywood dialogue-baazi.

Just yesterday I was at a friend's place- they have a lovely apartment just by the river- so close you can hear the sound of the waves while sitting in their apartment. Its peaceful and tranquil. And a beautiful view of the city's skyline and saiboats sailing in the river. It was like being in a different world.

I have other apartment buildings in my face from every window in my house. I hate that. But I have stopped caring. I keep my curtains open because I want the little light and sunshine that makes its way in. I hate being able to hear every move of my upstairs neighbours.

All that said and cribbed, I like noise. I like the noise of life. With a few adjustments that would make it less intrusive and afford me some more privacy, I'd pick the bustle of city life over the tranquil of suburbia any day.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The ice cream truck

Of all the cities/neighbourhoods I've been in the U.S., I've never found the ice cream truck to be as ubiquitous as it is here. Complete with that typical ice cream truck music too. In fact, when I first moved here, I always wondered what that lilting tune was that I'd hear at the same time every day. it's almost Pied-piper-esque. I don't keep ice cream at home- well- I'm incapable of "keeping" ice cream at home because I inhale it all within no time, so I don't keep any. But I think its great to be able to give in to that odd 9:30 pm ice-cream craving and run down the stairs following the chiming sound. I just got myself a yummy chocolate softee that I am thoroughly enjoying as I am typing this.

I was trawling the net to find out what that tune is that the ice cream truck plays and found out that there is not a single ice cream truck tune, in fact there are several. Makes me wonder if I missed the truck in other cities because they played a different tune? But I also don't remember seeing one in other cities..

I don't think I'm going to miss too many things about this neighbourhood- but this I will.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Checking in"

I'm checking into the blog since it's been a while; and to reiterate that I am really glad for this blog- for bringing to me friendships I'd never had made otherwise- people that will treat me to a yummy lunch to celebrate my newly married status- and people who will teach me what the real meaning of "Checking in" means. I have so much to learn and catch up. :)

How is married life treating me? For most its the same, but the one thing that is clearly different is that it has made this long-distance a lot tougher than earlier. And I don't know if its the marriage per se or just the prolonged duration that I find myself more and more desperate and helpless in this LDR. Counting down the hours in the day so I can talk to B. Waking up grumpy. Living alone was never new to me- but now it has suddenly adopted sad tunes. It takes me a lot more to remind myself of why I chose to do this. I think it has also got to do with the fact that work hasn't yielded much encouragement. And at the end of it all, I find myself hating what I have become- whiny and sad and wishing things were different.

But enough whining. The weekend was nice because I got some work done, did a lot of phone-catch-up with close friends / family and the aforementioned yummy lunch and nice conversation. I have also come up with a strategy of sorts to help me through this slump. I will focus on being happy, reaching out to friends, and keeping up the cheer because I do not want to become this whiny person, begin resenting our decisions, my position and transfer all this negativity to our relationship and my work. I owe it to me to be happy and stay aboard the negativity.

The bottom line is, I spent a lot of time in search of so called Mr right, and am happy to have this person in my life. Thankful for the fact that between us, we share a level of maturity and understanding that will see us through all of this and more. Happy that I'm with a guy who's extremely perceptive to my needs and feelings and gives me little to complain about. Happy that, minus the LDR part, this relationship is just the way I'd have it.

I also have precious little time left if I keep the big picture in mind, and so much to accomplish, that there really shouldn't be time for sulking. I need to MAKE the damned experiments work, find a job in India, finish my USA-to-do list and make it all worth it at the end of the day.

My latest hobby is watching bollywood movies. Thanks to pirated DVDS that cost $2.00. Apologies to all my film-making friends out there- you probably won't approve. But please to forgive in the name of poor-post-doc-life. But I saw Rajneeti, which I liked, City of Gold which was also really good. I love Sachin Khedekar, have always loved him since his teleserial days. City of Gold taught me a lot about my city that I had very cursory knowledge of. The movie was pretty dark but very well made and educative for me. And I saw Hangman, which was alright-well made in parts-over done in parts- and very sad. Thankfully I saw a version in which hindi dialogues were dubbed over the english soundtrack. At many points in the movie I found myself wondering if that was actually English I saw the actors mouthing, and later, upon reading reviews online found out that the movie was actually shot in English. Weird! Next on the list are Rann, Apartment and Red Alert.

Currently I am O.D-ing on Tum Jo Aaye and Pee Loon soundtracks from Once Upon A Time in Mumbai playing on the loop..

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To-DON'T list

Don't

be unreasonably hard on yourself all the time.

and that is all.

Friday, August 13, 2010

W O M M

"It is what it is".

Whoever came up with that most redundant, annoying phrase that grates my ears every time I hear it.....Of course it is what it is. Otherwise, it wouldn't be, right?

The point is, what it is, is, either wrong or bothersome in some way, and that is why it is being brought up. I.I.W.I.I. is NOT a response. It is a useless bunch of words strung together and spouted.

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The summer of 2010- is slipping by me- and it just dawned on me that this is my last summer in the U.S. My list of cities to visit stays untouched- after Chicago I never went back to it. Where do I find the time, and money, to travel both within the US and to India?

Sometimes, I have grand, over-reaching to-do lists for the day, and by mid day, I am striking off items or pushing them to the next day because I know I won't get to them...and end up with doing the bare minimum. Thats how I feel about my cities to visit/ things to do before I leave the US list. In between working on my post-doc, sustaining the long distance relationship, and making the most of my proximity to my niece, there's very little time/resources for other stuff. So if I have to revise that list, as far as places to visit go, the bare minimum would have to be the Grand Canyon, and California. That's it. I really want to pull these off and call it a day- or ten years.

Then I have a smaller easier local list- which includes going to a Broadway show, going for a boat ride in the river, and exploring a couple museums. That, I should be able to do.

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These days I am feeling positive about work. Nothing is near done, but I feel like I am making a difference. And it may be worth it, after all. Hope this feeling stays. But things are still slow. I have been time and again been accused of being a perfectionist at work with my experiments. Unnecessarily sweating the small stuff. But how can you not? This is science- and every big conclusion we are going to make from these experiments is supposed to be meaningful in the bigger picture- and not just in the limited confines of convenient sampling, yes? Especially when you talk about cancer research. So I can't help but sweat the small stuff. I do not want my work to add the amount of junk thats already out there, along with all its caveats and disclaimers. What is the point in that?

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Its close to 3 AM and I cannot sleep. And I have to be in the lab early morning. :(

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I don't get why some people lie through their teeth. Even if just white lies - I refuse to believe that they are naive enough to think that their lies are being believed- which makes me think they really don't care. Its selfish and inconsiderate. Why don't you have the balls to be honest?

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I had a wonderful weekend. Friends, company and warmth. I dreaded coming home to an empty apartment on Sunday evening, and couldn't wait for the work-week to begin.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Monday Morning Blues

The weekend was awesome - lovely weather..visited a friend - it was fun to catch up, show off my most recent india shopping..indulge in girl talk.. N had just moved here so together we explored her city- an unplanned day that was full of pleasant surprises- it seemed like almost every on-the-spot decision we took turned out to be a good one..we even threw in two movies in the same day..

1. Dinner with Shmucks: was horribly slapstick and we had to leave before it ended- based on the same book that Bheja Fry was based on, and I liked Bheja Fry..

2. Once upon a time in Mumbai: We just made the last show, about 15 mins late as my friend drove like a maniac from one end of the town to another....another impulsive decision that paid off well- ..I was unaware of all this history behind the mumbai underworld...so enjoyed the movie for most- although both those women couldn't act to save their lives...Ajay Devgan was good in his brooding serious role....and I really liked the guy who played DCP Agnel Wilson ..

Came back home, five hour bus ride later, had some yummy pongal at Chennai Garden...made my way home..with big plans to clean up and get ready for the week but did nothing except waste time at the laptop and sleep off.

Today I am most disinclined to work...not sure why? I think its often a result of me setting high-reaching goals for the weekend and never getting close. I need to cut back and make achievable lists...

Several times over the weekend, in the midst of all the fun I was having I wished I could just get on a flight and go see B in Mumbai...it seems like the more fun my weekends are the more miserable I am about us being apart. I found myself almost looking forward to Monday so we would get back to our routine of phone chats uninterrupted. While we are both traveling and having our respective weekend plans it becomes harder to sync times and opportunities to talk and catch up with each other, and I guess that makes it harder.

I knew someone who, because her boyfriend was once stuck in India for an extended period of time, was so miserable that she refused to come out and do any fun things..saying that she didn't want to go without her boyfriend - I remember being aghast at such a stand-but I am almost beginning to see her point. Well- almost. :) I don't see myself doing that ever- I am already planning the next few weekends and hope that I can enjoy myself and have a good time, in spite of the missing and all that jazz.

The one task I achieved over this weekend was whittling down the wedding photos- I brought them down from 300-odd photos to 100 - odd photos. My goal is to make it 50 and then send them to all our friends who have been nagging me for the photos...its been a month already- yeah!

Lab life: I realise again, how challenging my project is. I have a minor role in a separate project, so I see myself getting "something" out of this post-doc, after all. But the more challenging one is the one that inspires me ..I hope that I can get somewhere with it in my time here...and make this all worth it.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

What to expect when you are expecting..in India?

I don't know if many moms read this blog, but I am looking for book recos for my friend who's expecting a baby soon...something like "What to expect when you are expecting" etc. , but more suited to an Indian context....I haven't read that book so I don't know how universally it may apply...

thanks in advance.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

W O M M

H - a very close friend from my grad school days and her husband visited me recently. They were very keen on coming to India for my wedding, but somehow couldn't pull it off. So they decided to do the next best thing- while visiting the US for a conference, they made a special stopover in my city just to see me and spend time with me. I went out into the city and met them the day they landed. They insisted on putting up in a hotel, perhaps not realising that I had a big enough place to house them all. When I met them after their 10 hour long flight, the kids - aged 4 and 6, although tired and jet lagged were some of the most pleasant and well-behaved kids I have seen in recent times. We enjoyed a wonderful evening in the city, and it was so good to catch up with them - I was seeing them after 5 years or so- and we enjoyed reliving old memories, discussing our current lives, and even though neither of the kids spoke English, they were still such a pleasure to play with because they were so warm and open and friendly.

I thought they would prefer to spend the next day looking around the city, especially since they had brought their kids here for the first time- however, it was very clear that visiting me and spending time with me was the focus of their trip, as they made plans to get on the subway and make the trek to my place the next day, after I was done with work. It was an absolute pleasure to have them at home - we ordered in food, watched the wedding video, with their six year old girl wanting to know all the details I was narrating to her parents in English, and the four year old boy wondering why the groom doesn't have his shirt on at his wedding. :)

To me, it felt very warm and nice to see people - foreigners in the country at that, take the time to be with me and make me a priority. Having just returned from India, it felt great to hang out with people close to me and who knew me from my old days. I couldn't stop marveling at their superbly behaved very low maintenance kids- these parents didn't have a cartload of stuff lugging their kids toys/books/foodstuff wherever they went. The kids just had to make do with whatever they could find where they went and they did so without any tantrums. Although, none of this should come as a surprise- H and I, for as long as I have known them, are extremely easy going and warm people, and the same attitude is reflected in their kids.

I had been seriously contemplating moving out of my apartment to a smaller place- to save on costs- and because I felt like I was overpaying for a very big place - perhaps too big for a single person. The money I could potentially save would translate to a fairly decent sum if I thought in terms of taking it back to India. But I finally decided against it. For what its worth, I am probably not going to find a much better place - just that it will be smaller and save me a couple hundred bucks per month. I don't think I need any more surprises/inconveniences at this point, - I am not going to be here for a full year even. I have gotten used to the minor irritants in this apartment, and enjoy several comforts, including the ability to host people, even if rarely- is something I love doing. I also don't think I can go back to living with strangers in the same house. With the help of B, I have made this place home, and its the least I can have in my favour for the next several months.

I need to get back to a gymming routine and a cooking routine even if by taking baby steps....

Sunday, August 01, 2010

"Sins" against "gender stereotypes" it seems

As usual, I am late to this party too- but I really don't read very many blogs any more, so I am mostly out of the loop. Anyhow, I chanced upon this tag doing the rounds and wanted to barf. So this is my blog-barf. Please excuse.

First of all, I am not sure if anyone indulging in making a list of things they consider "against the gender stereotype" cared enough to specify the confines of that stereotype. Secondly, I am not sure what stereotype they broke, in their self-claimed gender-benders? Sample a few gems that were repeated in several different blogs

I drink beer. heh. I really don't know what to say, except, may be, this stereotype might apply specifically to Indian women, but, it is by no means a species-wide stereotype. Please to take note.

I am married but I don't wear a mangalsutra/sindoor? If you said, I tied the mangalsutra to my husband, that would be interesting.

I carry heavy stuff. LOL. I think the women that listed this need to go see women work at construction sites. They wear their mangalsutra, no make up AND lift heavy stuff, day in and out.

I do the finances/ I invest in stock market/ I enjoy photography / I enjoy gadgets / The females who put this down need to get out of the time warp they are stuck in and stop offending their species as a whole.

I love books, I love driving. WTF.

Can change fuse bulbs / replace gas cylinders. ROFL.

Traveled alone!

And then there are women that have disclaimers (dont wear make up except eyeliner ...don't like shopping but may be some window shopping..I dont wear make up but I wish I knew how to! LOL.) - reinforcing one of the biggest stereotypes that hurt our species- being self-contradictory.

I am confident/ I am outspoken/ I am brave. I head the department. And that is supposed to be a man thing or not supposed to be a woman thing? I don't get it.

I hate cooking! Yeah, all you menfolk, you are allowed to hate cooking because it is, apparently, a man thing to hate cooking. Same goes with channel-surfing/burping/farting/cussing...yeah!

I don't know if all the brave/outspoken/ make-up hating women realise that, by making such lists they are first of all reinforcing some completely misplaced and outdated stereotypes and doing their species more harm than good. Second, I cannot believe that women in this day and age are discussing how they break gender stereotypes by virtue of wearing jeans or changing bulbs or balancing their chequebooks- I mean seriously? Can you please tell me how you are accessing the interwebs in the caves that you seem to be blogging out of?