Monday, November 28, 2005

Of moonshine and fog

I returned to work today and the expected enquiries about "How was your weekend?" This otherwise routine question actually demanded a justifiably substantive reply this time, but I must admit, I had to disappoint my eager audience. I mumbled an incoherent "Good" or "Fabulous" thinking how hypocritical I was being, because my weekend was rather tame. All I did apart from go out couple of times, and chat with my long lost friends, was eat and sleep and read and watch High Fidelity. Again.
And cry over "House of Sand and Fog". I saw the movie sometime last year, and it was one of those movies that made me want to read the book. And a sadist I must be, because I knew the incredibly painful story, remember the feeling I had at the end of the movie though I'd forgotten the details, and yet I sought out this book, placed a hold in the library and traveled over an hour to go get it.
And it was worth the wait, and the trouble.
It's not the greatest literary work, but it's gripping and morbid and depressive to the extent that it made me feel happy to not be in that mess! The book is written from the alternating perspectives of the two protagonists, a woman who's losing her house, and a proud ex-colonel of the Shah of Iran, who bought the house in a county auction. Neither of them wants to let go of it, and the way the story is told, you don't know whose side to take. There is no good and evil in this book. Throw into the mix a cop who falls in love with this woman and that acts as a catalyst for the break up of his marriage, and you've got a real mix of emotional forces. It's a remarkable portrayal of motives, passions, principles and pride.
And speaking about passions and pride, I did myself proud by doing some painting and redecoration of my room yesterday. I had bought these cute sun and moon wooden motifs from Michaels (the best store in the world!!) and finally I painted them yesterday. They turned out great and are now hanging on my wall next to my favorite pictures. And on the opposite wall hangs a beautiful set of four mirrors with candle holders, conceived and executed by my awesome cousin who really ought to be an interior decorator not a software developer.
So, on hindsight, my weekend wasn't all that tame. It had its share of sand, fog, candlelight, sun, moon, and of course, rain. Next time someone asks me how my weekend was, I'll have a better answer!

Friday, November 25, 2005

What a difference a day made

24th November, 2005. First Thanksgiving in the years I've been here that I didn't have any real plans. So I accepted a Thanksgiving dinner invite to a colleague's place. I was touched that I was the only non-family member invited to the affair, and before I knew it seven hours had passed, I had enjoyed a lovely traditional Thanksgiving meal and answered every question about India the father had, made my first feline friend, spoken about topics as diverse as corruption in Mexico, a car called "The Brahmin", whether Einstein qualified as a sociable person or not, the origin of the word "OK" and the kind of wedding my hosts were planning to have. All in all, a very enjoyable evening.
Cut to today, "Black Friday". To save myself from myself, I decided to go to the mall in the afternoon when I hoped the crowds would have thinned down, and maybe spend an hour or two checking out the shopping...Boy, was I in for a surprise! It was 1:00 by the time I reached (having waited 20 minutes for the bus, unheard of in normal times...but the bus-driver apologized for the delay and blamed it on the traffic and advised us to get back by hook or crook because no buses would be on time today!!) The mall was as crowded as Crawford market! I was pushed and jostled around by enthusiastic (read 'desperate') shoppers. I was nauseated in about 15 minutes and I was back in my cozy apartment with a book by 2:45, probably the only person who actually went to a mall today and didn't buy a single thing!!
Some lessons learned from the last two days:
1. I know what they mean by lonely now...The holidays can be pretty depressing here if you're alone.
2. On the other hand, even a phone call, a dinner, a conversation with someone on the bus can relieve you of the feeling of being lonely, if only temporarily.
3. I was the only passenger on this one bus I took yesterday, and the bus-driver told me I was the only one all day (this was at 3:30 p.m.!) and we rode for about 20 minutes without sighting a single soul...not a car on the road, not a single person on the roads! Americans sure take their holdiay seriously!!
4. I passed by the mall yesterday on my way to dinner, and there was NOT A SINGLE CAR parked was then that I realized how large the parking lots were.
5. Today, there was NOT A SINGLE PARKING SPOT available in the same mall!!! People were honking and stalling, fighting and cussing at each other with their windows rolled down...If I saw a millionth of this energy yesterday, I would have felt less like a lonely loser yesterday on my bus ride.
As you can probably deduce, I have had nothing substantial to say or do, no bright sparks of inspiration striking in the recent past, so this post was just a way for me to note a few firsts for posterity - my first Thanksgiving dinner with an American family, my first (sort of) Black Friday shopping (well, sort of!) experience, my first holiday I've spent completely on my own, my first experience of contrasts so drastic and so shocking from one day to the next that I'm at once amazed and reassured. What a difference twenty four little hours indeed makes.
FYI...the title comes from a very sweet song by a very sweet Jamie Cullum who combines jazz and folk and a little angst in his album "Twenty-something". Jem and Jamie Cullum are my recommendations for some mellow wind-down music on a cold evening.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Today I discovered a few things
About myself and how things have come to be.
When realization dawned this afternoon
It shocked, saddened and amazed me.

It started when I decided that
My beautification tools were lying ignored
The face mask and wax strips and bleach
Were begging to be used... (Actually, I was bored!)

With some trepidation and uncertainty
I put on an organic face peel
And immediately my eyes started to burn...
(Oh, anything to enhance that sex appeal!)

I suppose 'organic' meant 'filled with ammonia'
So I closed my teary eyes and put on a CD
"Ah!" I thought, "Some good old feminine pampering..."
The thought of relaxing making me giddy.

"See, I can be lady-like if I decide to!" I thought
As I sat on my new IKEA chair
That I'd assembled this morning (how manly of me!)
With a pink face and an expectant air.

I sat and rocked back and forth
As the music played on quietly
Three minutes went by and I relaxed
But soon I could no longer let it be.

By the time the second song came on
I was almost crazy with guilt
I jumped up and put on the dishwasher
So much for the ambience I'd built.

How could I sit and not do anything?
Not even watch TV or read a book?
The silence in my head was deafening
All that inactivity, oh, the toll it took!

I had forgotten how to do nothing
How to relax and be still.
As the face mask dried and the CD played
All I could think of was my phone bill!

It dawned on me then
That I am indeed my mother's child
For all my lofty plans of being lazy
The act of doing so makes me wild!

That doesn't mean I'm a workaholic
In fact, I'm quite the opposite!
It's just that I've lost the ability
To be quiet and rested and...just sit.

I suppose growing up does that to you
With its countless worries and distractions
Before I knew it I've become one of 'them'
An adult, a bore, a woman of action!

I ran the dishwasher, paid my bill,
Washed my face and wryly told my reflection,
"Well, the organic peel bottle was right,
I can really feel the transformation!"

P.S. True story. Happened to me today. Wahhhh! I'm a grown-up!!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Dancing Nancies

Could I have been
A parking lot attendant
Could I have been
A millionaire in Bel-air
Could I have been
Lost somewhere in Paris
Could I have been
Your little brother
Could I have been anyone other than me
Could I have been oh, anyone other than me
Could I have been anyone?

Another day, another Dave Mathews Band song inspiration...The name of the song is "Dancing Nancies" (don't ask me why, I don't know!)...but it's a song that makes you think about all the 'coulds' and 'woulds' and 'if onlys'.
This alternate reality stuff is something that I am really intrigued by. A sleight of hand, a twist of fate (apologies to U2!), and voila! I could have been anyone other than me!

Could I have been
A junkie;
Bill Gates;
Bill Watterson;
My grandmother;
A boy (*shudder* !!);
An inmate on death row;
A talented but struggling artist;
The lead singer in a punk rock band;
The writer of closed captioning captions;
The bored magician in a children's birthday party;
The girl who topped the class instead of always being second;
The girl who always failed the class instead of always being second;
The person who ended up being with the person I wish I'd ended up with;
The person who does the cartoons on the sides of the pages of MAD magazine;
A pen-pushing oily-haired desk clerk in a government building in Madhya Pradesh;
An industrial/organizational psychologist who grew up in Bombay and liked Dave Mathews(!!);

Anyone other than me?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Poetry in Motion

I travel by bus everyday to and from work, and I've noticed something I've not seen in any other city's public transport - poetry! There's a program called "Poetry in motion" whereby select poems from (I think) local poets are displayed in the Trimet buses. Not only are they a good way to spend an otherwise uneventful journey, sometimes the pieces are surprisingly good. Today I read this on my way home, and because I don't want to forget it, here it is:

I Confess

I stalked her
in the grocery store: her crown
of snowy braids held in place by a great silver clip,
her erect bearing, radiating tenderness,
the way she placed yogurt and avocados in her basket,
beaming peace like the North Star.
I wanted to ask, "what aisle did you find
your serenity in, do you know how
to be married for 50 years, or how to live alone,
excuse me for interrupting, but you seem to possess
some knowledge that makes the earth burn and turn on its axis"
but we don't request such things from strangers
nowadays. So I said, "I love your hair."

--Alison Luterman

Friday, November 04, 2005

Addicted to love... that you're reading curiously, hoping for some juicy tidbits about my love life, let me disappoint you. This is another crazy idiosyncratic post about a list. To be more precise, a list of songs from movies. English movies, because I have neither the expertise nor the slightest idea of where to start if I had to choose from the thousands of Hindi movies, with the average 8 songs in each :)
This list may not contain great songs or great movies, but they are special in my book because they fit the theme/mood/moment/scene exactly right, and make each other just a little more magical. Read on and if you recognize any songs or movies you'll know what I'm talking about. And feel free to add on.

1. Addicted to love. Sung by a throaty sexy-voiced Robert Palmer; "Cocktail". Every time I listen to this song, all I see is (a very cute!) Tom Cruise turning down the music while the patrons in the bar yell "Might as well face it, you're addicted to love!!!"

2. Pretty Woman. Roy Orbison...perhaps his biggest hit (unfortunately) thanks to the movie. Julia Roberts' walk down Rodeo Drive, the modern day fairy tale of a movie. Need I say more?!

3. (I've had the) Time of my life. Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes sing in the climax of "Dirty Dancing", a movie with all great songs and fantastic dancing, especially in this song. Oh Patrick Swayze, come give me the time of my life!

4. My Sharona. The Knack. Featured in "Reality Bites". It's a fantastic scene; This group of angst ridden youngsters enter a store and the song is playing in the background. Janeane Garofalo (I can't spell it ok?!Sue me!) asks the irritated manager to turn it up and she and Wynona Ryder start this crazy dance as Ethan Hawke tries to embarassedly ignore them. Fabulous scene!

5. Raindrops keep falling on my head. B.J. Thomas sings this, one of my favorite cheer-me-up songs. Featured in the ultra-fabulous "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". Paul Newman tries out his new cycle, with Katherine Ross on it at first and then as she looks on, tries all kinds of stunts culminating in being chased by a bull, as the song plays on. Charming...

6. In your eyes. Peter Gabriel. In what is probably the best instance of a movie making a song popular, and vice-versa, and probably one of the most famous scenes in movie history, John Cusack holds up a boom-box playing this song as a serenade in "Say Anything".

7. Unchained melody. Despite sounding decidedly cheesy, let me say I still think the scene in "Ghost" with the pottery and Demi's sexy shirt and the ultra sexy Patrick Swayze and The Righteous Brothers crooning in the background is one of the sexiest scenes. Ever.

8.Tiny Dancer. As featured in "Almost Famous" which is amongst my top five all-time favorite movies for sure. The song plays as the rock band is on a bus, having had a major 'incident' and being close to breaking up. But Elton John reminds them why they love rock and music as they all pick it up one by one and end up singing the song together.

9. Say a little prayer. Speaking of singing a song together, this is the only song on my list that is not by the original singer/band. In the movie "My Best Friend's Wedding", a dashing Rupert Everett starts this song at dinner and ends up having the entire table singing with him and being charmed by him. What makes this song even more special to me is that my best friends and I sang it at our best friend's wedding :)

10. Lose yourself. Eminem's passionate and poetic outburst which transformed millions' ideas about rap and Detroit's "8 mile". I'll stop here, with some lyrics from this song...

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance, to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Of Earth, Rain, Wind and Fire

Nope, not a lecture about the balance of elements or of the ancient arts of healing naturally (although I once did give that talk! In another lifetime, it seems like!!) This one's about my last few days...

I watched the movie 1947, Earth. Finally. And came away very impressed and more than a little depressed. It's a beautifully shot and directed film, with good acting (except for Rahul Khanna, but he's cute and it was his debut, so he's forgiven!) and very very interesting characters. It made me wonder about the beast within each of us that Aamir Khan's character talks about...What would release the one within me? What would it feel like? Would I recognize it?

It has been raining for the last couple of days almost incessantly, and the weather channel promises more of the same. I complained yesterday about how it's depressing me no end, when I was offered a different perspective: Rain should make you think of life, of growth, of freshness and beauty. Hmmm...I do love the rain, but when it's warm and I'm not running late for work without an umbrella, feeling like a failure. Again.

As in I'm going to blow my own trumpet. I got a much better offer than I'd expected for the job, and I'm going to take it, obviously! At least I know I'll be here for a while, now. It's an opportunity that pretty much fell into my lap, and I feel lucky.

As in firecrackers and diyas and Yellow Dots in a Black Sky* - in short, Diwali. I gave up the fireworks as soon as I learned about the concept of pollution and child labor, but nevertheless, I used to enjoy Diwali because it always meant family and good food and sweets and neighbors being neighborly and new clothes and forced temple visits and singing and visiting grandparents and the happiness of Diwali vacation.
*Rare and priceless piece of art ;)

So there you have it, four basic elements of life...if only this meant there's some balance in my life...It doesn't feel like it! Maybe I need some, wood, is it? The missing element? For now I'll be content with listening for the fifth time today to "Guncha", a song from "Main, meri patni aur woh" that has captured me, especially Mohit 'Dooba Dooba' Chauhan's hesitant but heartfelt unplugged version. After all, as I found out, "Guncha" means flower-bud and that has some wood, right?!

Hosh bekhabar se huye unke bagair
Woh jo humse keh na sake, dil ne keh diya

Saaki ne phir se mera jaam bhar diya... (Maybe that's what I need!!)

Guncha koi mere naam kar diya...