Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Not Floorable

J's current best buddy, Bryce calls her Dora. I had no idea who or what Dora is and had to google to find out.

Turns out she is "Dora the Explorer, a problem solver who doesn't give up when faced with obstacles, is an adventurer whose curiosity and spirit lead her to explore the world". Wonder what Bryce had in mind when he gave J that nickname.

Miss A is teaching the kids rhyming words these days. Bryce has put his lessons to good use and teases J saying "Dora on the floor-a" I take it that the other kids find this hilarious.

"I don't want to be Dora on the floor-a" J tells me one evening as we have dinner.

"He's just teasing you. Just ignore him" I suggest.

"But I don't want him to say that to me" she insists. Clearly lack of empowerment is the issue at hand. J was quite okay being Dora but not a Dora that falls on the floor.

"Then we have to find a way to make him stop saying that to you" I say wondering how.

She is waiting expectantly for me to come up with the magic answer. The stress is telling on me. I take the path of least resistance and imagination.

"The next time he says that to you, you can tell him 'Bryce go eat rice'" I tell her.

She is doubled up with laughter at this. I remind her never to strike first. "Do not say that to Bryce unless he says Dora on the floor-a first"

I guess with rhyming being in the air, J may be under attack from other poet minstrels around her. "If anyone says anything to you that upsets you, come home and tell Mommy about it. We'll figure out a way to make them stop. As you grow older, things like this will bother you less. You will see that it's fun to laugh along with everyone else."

J's face is shining bright and happy. She does not feel like a hapless victim anymore. She got her turn to rhyme the very next day. Bryce has not talked about Dora being on the floor since.

I have no idea if I have taught her the right lesson. To make up for my somewhat questionable mothering, I will take J around this lovely children's poetry site I found so she knows the difference between verse and worse.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Mind Of Winter

Read and re-read a beautiful Wallace Stevens poem today and thought how it was perfect for the time of year and my frame of mind. Serendipity could not be lovelier.

The Snow Man
Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Ignorance Was Bliss

Found an excellent best-ever list of products for the discerning freeware user I hope to become as the result of my discovery.The techie down the hall has put the fear of God in me after I described the peculiar malfunctioning of my laptop to him hoping he'd know the fix.

As he unfolded one doomsday scenario after another, it seemed my safest bet was to pitch the piece of junk into the trash compactor. There was no hope for me unless I abandoned Windows and embraced the Mac. "You actually check your bank account online on that thing ?" he asked in genuine astonishment. "I'd be very very concerned about the safety of your data" he added gravely.

I wished I had remained ignorant and blissful because I don't think I am cut out for a Mac. Anyone can do Windows but Macs are different

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Dream Making

For entirely selfish reasons, I allow J to skip her afternoon nap on Sunday. She goes down earlier in the evening and Monday is not nearly as manic. Everyone wins.

Typically, J looks forward to an afternoon of fun and games which involves pulling every last toy she owns into the living room and mixing that up with empty boxes of cereal, cans of yoghurt, discarded costume jewelry, clothes (mostly hers some mine), crayons, paper - in all a mind boggling mix of things.

The games are mostly pretend. An empty can of yoghurt surrounded by
white lei is a bird sitting in its nest. I am supposed to watch my step around the bird because she'll be scared.

Four pairs of socks stuffed into a plastic container with three chopsticks stuck in them is a birthday cake with three candles. I enjoy learning what things stand for in her imaginary world and have enough time to get work done as well.

Today, J tells me that she is tired and wants to nap instead of play. I am surprised and ask her why she is tired.

"I did not have a good dream last night. I need to dream a good dream now" she tells me. I can believe about the bad dream because she was crying in her sleep for a few minutes last night.

"How do you make up a good dream ?" I ask her all curious.

"You build a pretend castle with pretend blocks and knock it over. Then you have a good dream" she explains.

"Only a castle, nothing else ?" I ask hoping she will tell me more. This is getting to be interesting.

"If you build pretend tall buildings then you have bad dreams. You need to knock it over and build a castle" she clarifies. J gives "building castles in air" new meaning.

"So what do you see in a good dream ?" I ask.

"Manhattan, sleeping beauty, music, grandma and grandpa watching a movie, mommy driving a pretend car" she enumerates in what is clearly an incomplete and inadequate list. I had no idea that Manhattan had made such a profound impression on her.

"You know J, I did not know how to make good dreams. I'm going to try to make them too like you." I tell her

"You have to start with the pretend blocks and build a pretend castle first" she reminds me sagely.

My little dream maker, may you always remember to make beauty out of chaos and teach me how when I forget.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Uncomfortable Silence

A few days ago, someone told me a joke that involved two golfers, a professional hit-man, a cheating spouse and a best buddy. The punch line had a reference to oral sex that completely eluded me. There was that pregnant pause after which the listener is supposed to burst out laughing.

I was as embarrassed by the silence as was the person telling the joke. We chatted about other things while I tried to decipher the joke in my mind. Back home a couple of hours later, I finally got it and laughed sheepishly.

The incident reminded me of a time when I wasn't given any credit for my understanding of adult humor. In a sense I have come full circle.

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One of the amusing side-effects of being divorced that I have noticed is being presumed juvenile. For instance married people think I will be shocked and embarrassed by risque humor. Worse, if the reference is oblique I would not even understand.

One gracious hostess desirous of sparing me needless agony volunteered to "translate" for my benefit or asked if I would rather hang out with the visiting-from-India-Mummies-and-Papas clustered in the formal living room. Thank goodness for the visiting parents or she would have to scrounge for a pair of sturdy ear-plugs.

The end of a relationship can cause various things to be lost - friendship, love and companionship come to mind first. That I would cease to be treated as an adult is not something I would have even anticipated. When my ability to understand an adult joke was questioned for the first time I had remarked with some indignation "I am adult and a mother. I think that makes me reasonably well acquainted with the human reproductive function and all references to it"

The would-be "joke-translator" was at loss for words. Someone in the room laughed just in time to diffuse the tension. The degree of "adultness" in subsequent jokes went up several notches accompanied by graphic asides on personal preferences and gratuitous displays of affection. Certainly an awkward situation to be in but I stayed on to build my resistance for future onslaughts.

I don't try to prove my point anymore. I excuse myself well before bacchanal bantering gathers momentum. The rate of depletion of alcohol in the bar is a fairly good gauge. I hang out with the kids or watch TV until I have done my time and can leave without offending the hosts.

The visiting Mummies-et-Papas can be terribly curious about my status and are prone to offering advice like "You should try to marry again while you are still young. Your child needs a father." Then there is the mother of all questions "So what went wrong ?" While I am very happy to provide them something to talk about other than comparing ad-infinitum their children's accomplishments (house, car/s, vacation destinations and job typically), I hate to have to participate in it as well.

Presumed juvenility is not restricted to comprehension of adult humor alone. Along with my social graces, my house-keeping and culinary skills are assumed non-existent. My "career" is of course a figment of my imagination. One woman never got over the shock of my saving her biriyani from the brink of disaster on the evening on her son’s first birthday party. Needless to say the incident marked the end of our friendship.

Visiting mother-in-laws have walked uninvited all over my apartment including my bed-room while on their reconnaissance missions. I have apparently lost my right to privacy now that I do not possess a husband. Juveniles obviously have no need for it.

The end of a marriage seems to be viewed as a proof of an individual's overall incompetence as an adult. That I could be a better mother than a married woman with a husband seems a far-fetched notion. J (my daughter) surprises therefore by being a normal, friendly, sweet-tempered child without an aching void for a father. One juvenile raising another is a joke and they expect to be able to laugh at it. My circumstances may have fed a lot of different appetites but my child has never been fodder. I consider that a measure of my success.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Language Pangs

Almost cueing from my nostalgic mood that the start of the holiday season has sparked, J pulled out my dog-eared copy of Sukumar Ray's Abol Tabol from it's forgotten place in the closet this morning. "Mommy read Abol Ta to me" she said. My language amnesia became evident as I started to read the childhood favorites pausing and halting many times.

A flood of memories followed. Grandma and I sitting in our balcony on a winter afternoon. She reading, me doubling up with laughter. Asking my mother to recite a favorite, joining along with her. Much later R (my ex) reading Ray's Pagla Dashu
to me. Remembered how beautifully he read - gifted raconteur that he was. He introduced me to the amazing poetry of Jibananda Das, Shonkho Ghosh and Joy Goswami.

Felt fleeting sad that J was never going to know the pleasures of literature that I had been introduced to. R had fulfilled my longing for the language I loved but did not know too well. I am merely passing on my amnesia to J hoping she will pick something subconsciously from Bengali music that she listens to - that it will know to reach her heart like primal things do.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Things Remembered

It must be providence that I should run into a gizmo called the stress eraser while thinking about a friend who is stressed and stretched to the point of bursting. Her Thanksgiving would have been quite unlike mine. She is visiting her father who is nearing death in a hospital. This may well be the last holiday they spend together.

J made a ginger bread house and cookies with my friend C yesterday. She is the mother of a feisty teen and loves J for being "the perfect age to spoil". We had an amazing Jamaican dinner at R and L's later in the evening. I missed home, friends who were away, friends I spent Thanksgiving with last year, the marriage of a favorite cousin, all of the Indian festivals I have missed this year and not even noticed and the year that has flitted by too soon.

Days like this are random spikes of exuberance in monotone of everyday. They add to the sum total of my happiness long after their memories have faded.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Not Afraid Of Flying

Erica Jong's Fear of Flying, which I read as teenager was my first introduction to a taste of freedom far removed from my cultural zeitgeist. Reading that book left me with feelings akin to those of a child seeing a strange but beautiful animal in the zoo. While I could not relate, I definitely remembered Isadora Wing. Heights make me dizzy but with my eyes closed flying can be exhilarating. Yet I am far from fearless.

Watching Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was a mesmeric experience just for the fluid flying sequences. If Isadora Wing overcame her fear she could be Li Mu Bai - in the figurative sense.

Fact possibly meets fiction in this story about a new sport called le parkour that involves flying through urban spaces.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Geek Cookery

Cook books and recipes were few and far between when I was growing up giving a certain novelty to both. Each family had its own blend of spices that gave their food a signature and almost impossible to replicate flavor.

Most learning came from watching mothers, aunts and grandmothers cook in their kitchens. They could not tell you how they worked the magic they did. You watched, immersed, absorbed and hopefully remembered what you had seen.

A modern day kitchen with it's mind boggling range of gizmos is likely to be full of cookbooks for food from around the world and yet the cook may be found googling
eggplant recipes. Of the 2,030,000 possibilities that it throws up, not one will equal the taste of grandma's eggplant specialty because memories and nostalgia give food it's soul and not the most perfect recipe.

As much as I enjoy cooking the plethora of recipes out there tires me out. However this geek spin on cooking is interesting - it makes me want to look at familiar recipes in new light.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Flying Spaghetti Scare

J doodles all the time and is partial towards bright colors like many kids. Many masterpieces adorn the fridge door, some have been scanned and posted online for the edification of the grandparents.

Lately my little Claude Monet has been scribbling on something that looks ominously close to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

At first I did not pay too much attention but the frequency of its appearance on scraps of paper around our household made me take a second look and ask a few questions.

I was very close to accosting Miss A at her daycare to see if she was on a covert proselytizing mission for the FSM church. I figured being in full possession of the facts would be in order before any such step.

"J, what is it you are drawing ?" I asked her casually one morning as she was churning out yet another of those FSMs on construction paper.

"It is a dump truck" she claimed.

"Really ? It does not look like a dump truck at all." I protested. Now, J is not the one to call a spade a spade when it comes to art. The abstract can be interpreted variously. A kitty cat can become a tree with a rainbow on top very quickly. But to see a dump truck in this noodly thing was clearly pushing the envelope.

"Now it does" she said with some determination as she drew four hasty circles at the end of the appendages of the FSM.

"I never saw a dump truck like that in my life" I insisted with some indignation.

"I'm pretending it's a dump truck" J said admiring her art work from what seemed like an aesthetic distance.

"What are these things ?" I pointed to the many tentacles that emanated from the central figure

"Those are hands reaching for the sun" she says solemnly.

I know by now that it will be futile to enquire how a dump truck came upon hands and why they should be reaching for the sun (interesting turn of phrase in the context of my earlier suspicions)

I don't believe I have the skinny of the FSM look-alike that J is doodling these days. Whatever it is, I hope she is on to something new soon. I don't have a good feeling about this one at all.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Two Musicals

My friend E calls herself our Activity Director. She looks around to find out low cost activities that J would enjoy. We have done a number of fun things together. The latest has been musicals. We attended two of them within a week of each other. Sweet Charity and The Music Man.

I was concerned that neither had a theme appropriate for a four year old. Since I am not interested in J's Disney-culture immersion, the activity director's choices were sharply narrowed.

Luckily it turned out to be a feast for J who is big on music and bigger on dance. She loved both performances. She hummed some tunes after we got home getting the lyrics all charmingly wrong.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

How The Other Side Lives

Since I've been there and done that as an IT professional in India, I totally endorse the views of Harshad Oak on surviving the software job in India.

He addresses troubling questions about the lack of technology innovation in India and answers them with brutal honesty. His analaysis of the state of affairs is particularly trenchant.

- How many Indians in India are thought leaders in their software segment? - Very few
- How much software innovation happens in India? - Minimal
- Considering that thousands of Indians in India use Open Source software, how many actually contribute? - Very few

    Friday, November 18, 2005

    Impersonation

    Quite recently I was talking to someone who is back in Bangalore after spending a couple of decades in the US. He is happy with the quality of life specially because domestic help is so afforable. It is a luxury he had forgotten all about. "Given your line of work, India is the place to be in right now. You should consider returning" he tells me.

    I tell him my decision to leave had nothing to do with quality of life or the lack of it. It was all about freedom and independence. While my situation is far from perfect but I don't lack for freedom and that makes up for everything else that is missing. I no longer have fictionalize or
    impersonate to survive like I once had to.

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    J was going to turn a year in a month, I was apartment hunting in Bangalore, getting into the rhythm of being back in the workforce after a longish hiatus. The hunt came to a happy conclusion with me finding one that was spacious, airy and sunlit. Being sparsely furnished, J had the run of two thousand square feet of space. I thought that was perfect as she was learning to walk and could not practice her new skill enough.

    My first challenge was fending off inquisitive neighbors and co-workers on the state of my domesticity. I had figured fiction would pass easier than truth, and told everyone who asked that my husband was in the US working and studying; it was difficult for us to sustain a family on one income.

    In a time when lay-offs were rife in the US, it was not hard to convince anyone that I was a re-orged, down-sized IT worker returned home to look for work. There was pity and condescension as in what a perfect loser I had married in the way this was received. I preferred that to shock and awe followed by being told I had acted in haste and jeopardized J's future. The few people who knew had satiated my appetite for truth.

    The landlord atypically was a young, well-traveled BPO exec. He lived out of town. The thin veneer of sophistication wore off as soon as he asked about my spouse and I gave him my regular schpeil. Though the deal was struck, lease agreement signed and monies paid, he treated me a little different knowing that I would be living man-less with a child in his property. Where before the disclosure, an e-mail to fix a broken fan would elicit a prompt response and action, now I would be ignored until a few days before rent was due. We were falling into a pattern that I was wearying of.

    It was the peak of summer when the ailing water pump finally broke down. I called the landlord beseeching help. Water was in short supply every where in the city, the annual Cauvery water disputes and skirmishes were gathering momentum. My parents were staying with me at the time. They foraged for water like slum dwellers while I slaved away at my twelve hour shifts at work.

    No one had a lot of time for J after making sure she was bathed, clean and had enough to eat. My sense of inadequacy as a daughter and a mother had peaked at that point in my life. The landlord e-mailed me that he was getting rate quotes from pump-fixers and would keep me posted. One evening, I decided to move out - and within a week I did.

    As is typical in Bangalore I had made a hefty deposit before moving in and the lease-breaking terms were wholly unfavorable to the tenant. My landlord was now telling me that I would have to compensate him for his loss and also write off the deposit. I was stunned. After numerous acrimonious exchanges, with my company's legal department throwing in some free advice, I came up with a cruder idea. Sometimes the obviously asinine works surprisingly well. I thought I may have found a way out of the impasse.

    I decided to impersonate R and write the landlord an e-mail that appealed to his male ego. It was a challenging exercise to think like R would in the circumstances and introduce a male tone into my writing. A few revisions later, I hit pay dirt.

    R was directing his wife to apologize to the landlord for her bad behavior and was asking that the landlord forgive her considering she had acted out of stress without a husband around to make life easier. I promptly apologized as dictated by "my husband" like an obedient wife should making sure to copy husband on the communication.

    I was on tenterhooks after that. I did not have a Plan B should this one misfire and I was leaving India in a few weeks. I had underestimated the power of male ego-stoking. It worked like a charm. The man simmered down immediately and the week before I left for the US my bank account was credited with an amount not wholly unsatisfactory.

    Where my company was advocating the use of legal help and my co-workers the use of local political muscle, all it took in the end was an impersonated e-mail from R from a fake e-mail address. There was something comically surreal about my e-Ex bailing me out of a mess that the my real Ex had been responsible for getting me into.

    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    Publicly Truthful

    Miss Manners' column on cellphone etiquette or the lack of it makes an interesting observation. When people report out on their whereabouts and activities from a public place they don't lie. I wonder if the presence of strangers who can hear what is being said makes it difficult to do so.

    Some questions come to mind reading this. Would the same truthfulness apply to remarks that the public would have no way of verifying - for instance what someone did for a living, where they were last night, why they did not call back when they were supposed and so forth ? Would privacy make it tempting to lie ?

    Wednesday, November 16, 2005

    Incompetent Design

    Not being much of a structural or mechanical engineer, I can't comprehend the supposed incompetence in the design of our bodies. I figure since humans don't collapse in a heap as a matter of routine from fatal mechanical flaws in their skeletal system, it is pretty decent design.

    First there was evolution then intelligent design now there is talk of incompetence. Sometimes it is worthwhile to look at the sky on a clear starry night and contemplate one's insignificance in the grand scheme of things. To have so much to theorize about in the nano-blip of human existence would then seem
    laughable.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    Birthing Languages

    The last paragraph in an article on simulating the birth of a new language is familiar from daily life. There is a sense of comforting closure when science validates common experience.

    "..people only need to convey a small amount of information to communicate effectively, and they can do so while holding fundamentally different ideas about how their language describes the world."

    Monday, November 14, 2005

    Love In Spanish

    I have met many wonderful people through my blog. Today I made another new friend. She is a poet in a language that sounds like music to my ears but I don't understand. I dearly wish I did. Thanks Patricia, for giving me two beautiful poems to read and post.

    Two Spanish Poems by Patricia Boneo (Translated by: John Shepherd)

    LOVE

    I feel your virile chest,
    Take me to the stars,
    And let the rootless tree
    Now penetrate me,
    Your arms embracing me.
    And you change the bird
    Posing in my womb to a man
    Flying over me.
    Your sweet mouth like honey
    Sunk into mine
    As if we were two
    And one at the same time.

    I love you at nights
    When you give me the breath of life,
    I love you in the mornings
    When I am prisoner in your arms
    Bringing me down to earth by gravity.

    And how much more I love you!, Thus
    Loving you in the firmament
    That is now mine
    You bring me the sun, the moon
    And the lost planet
    That sustains me on this earth.

    Your love keeps me captive
    In the skin
    that covers me
    With your skin.

    Darling, your love gives me the honey
    That lets the butterfly in flight
    To rest for the last day

    Love each day will be eternity
    For that I'll love you,
    It will be a beautiful flower
    It will be the sweetest wine
    Whatever it may be !
    For that I'll love you.



    Amor


    Siento tu pecho viril
    tomarme hacia una estrella.
    Y sin aliento el árbol
    con sus raíces
    penetra en mis entrañas.

    Allí estas con tus brazos
    rodeando mi cuerpo.
    Y te conviertes en pájaro
    posándote en mi vientre
    en un hombre que me
    sobrevuela.
    Tu boca dulce como la miel
    en la mía,
    mi ser hundiéndose en
    tu costado
    como si fuéramos uno
    y dos a la vez.

    Te amo cuando anochece y
    me sostienes.
    Te amo cuando amanece y
    me aprisionas
    en tu cuerpo como sí
    tu fueses la gravedad que me aferra a la tierra.

    ¡Y cuanto más te amo! Así ....
    al amarnos en tu firmamento
    que es el mío...
    Y me regalas el sol, la luna, y
    aquel planeta perdido para que
    me sostenga en esta tierra.

    Tu amor me cautiva,
    la piel que me cubre
    con la tuya.

    Amor, si Amor me das el néctar
    que lleva la mariposa en su vuelo
    para posarse en su último día....

    Amor cada día será la eternidad
    de lo que te amo,
    Será la flor más bella
    Será el vino más dulce...
    ¡Será que se que te amo!


    I have stopped loving you

    I want to stop loving you,
    And thus forget
    what once we were.

    You kissed me in timid flying kisses,
    You held me to your chest sighing
    As if you wanted me no more.

    You get up in the morning
    And leave me alone,
    I am defenseless
    I can fly no more.

    Now I do not love you
    I am in another’s arms,
    Loving and being loved.

    I have stopped loving you
    I don't care where you go.

    Your looks, your walk
    Your lack of manliness,
    Matters to me no more.


    He dejado de quererte

    Quiero dejarte de quererte
    y así olvidarme de lo que
    fuimos.

    Me besaste allí por antaño
    beso furtivo como vos,
    Huidizo.


    Me tomaste en tu pecho
    y en un suspiro no me
    quisiste.

    Te levantas cada mañana y
    me dejas.

    Y yo indefensa sin poder huir.

    Ahora me despido amor de antaño
    ya estoy en otros brazos y;
    Amada y amando.

    He dejado de quererte
    Ya no me importa donde van
    Tus pasos

    Tu mirar, tu andar, tu falta de
    Hombría.
    Ya no importan.

    Sunday, November 13, 2005

    Inscrutably Male

    K, my big brother figure offered some words of advice recently "Men will say anything, commit to anything to get a woman to have sex with them. You have to trust your gut about whether he will follow through on any or all of it post coitus. There really are no rules."

    When I shared this with A, my girl friend, she was in whole hearted agreement and added to that "Men are like hunters on the prowl, they will lure their prey with the appropriate bait. They figure out what the woman wants to hear and will tell her exactly that. Somehow it is not the same thing as an outright deception - at least men don't view it that way. They just feel very different the morning after which to them is a perfectly legitimate reason to bail out"

    I'm seeing potential for K and A to co-host a relationship radio talk show.

    Saturday, November 12, 2005

    Watered Plants

    My friend E is leaving town soon with her new job. J and I will miss her dearly. She will be giving me all her plants as a Christmas gift for J. Some tinsel and ornaments and I would be all set E tells me. As much as I love greenery around me, keeping those plants alive in my apartment will be a challenge with winter around the corner. I will have to fit watering them into my routine or invest in these self-watering things that seems to be targeted towards amnesic people like me.

    Friday, November 11, 2005

    Fashion Statement

    I have a pair of yolk yellow bell bottoms a couple of years younger than I am. My mother saved it for her grandchild among many other things. That getting J to wear them to daycare would be a monumental struggle is not something grandma had counted on.

    While the outfit was the fashion statement of it's time, it's importance to us is wholly sentimental. J's friends sport Ralph Lauren and Hilfiger labels of the season and to them this relic from the past is laughable simply because it does not look like anything they are familiar with. That four year olds could discern between in and out of style clothes has been an educative experience for me. I guess I have their parents to thank for that.

    J will kick a royal fuss each time I want her to put on the infamous yellow pants. In submitting to me she has to prepare for the barbs of her friends - hardly a choice to be excited about. We had a conversation about the yellow pants one morning. I knew it was about time.

    "Why don't you want to wear these, J ? You know grandma saved these for you. These were Mommy's when she was as old as you are" I ask.

    "My friends say my pants are funny" she says with a forlorn look hoping I will relent and let her wear something else.

    "The thing to remember J for all your life is that what your friends think about what you wear or what you do does not count for anything. Mommy does not care whether her friends like or don't like what she wears." I say.

    She does not have anything to say. She is too young to defy convention or authority, to understand that distinction is about not running with the herd. I know she does not get it.

    "Do you think Mom looks bad in what she wears ?" I ask her.

    "No. You look pretty" she says.

    "I think I look just fine in my clothes so it does not matter if someone thinks they are funny. You look really cute in the yellow pants and if your friends say it's funny too bad for them. They just don't get it. " I tell her hoping I can get a subliminal message across.

    She puts on her pants. She reminds me of me from another life. She is so much me and yet so different. I know I have many more lessons to teach her on self worth, confidence and most importantly distinction and why that is so special.

    I make a note to myself for when it is time to battle designer labels versus generic brands. I have to explain to J how she would be endorsing a brand for free by wearing clothes with visible labels and not getting paid for it.

    It's one thing for Agassi to wear the Nike logo or Zeta-Jones to wear Chanel to the Oscars and quite another for a regular person to waste their money to feed a designer's revenue stream.

    I have to explain to J why that is complete stupidity and how her money is much better spent. Designer labels are fine as long as there are no visible tags or labels and it is on the mother of all sales. That could be a hard sell but I am hopeful - J is the is kind of kid who who buys into a good, logical argument.

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    Holiday Party

    I wrote this a while ago. It's almost the holiday season again and I am amazed and grateful that life is so much different today.
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    My cell phone announced a new voice mail though I had never heard it ring. It was Jay, the headhunter I had worked with for a year. We had never met before since we lived in different cities. "Now that you're here, I would like to invite you to a friend; holiday party. You will get to meet a lot of Indian families. Sheetal and I will pick you up at about eight. Let me know if that will work."

    I was at the time brand new in the city, staying in a seedy motel calling dealerships frantically to strike a deal on a car that I needed to buy within a week. In a world full of shiny, happy people with grand plans for the holiday weekend, I felt a perverse solidarity with the car salesmen who were obviously not having as much fun as everyone else, and as of now not even getting my business. I had resigned myself to three days of uninterrupted channel surfing until hunger or sleep overcame me.

    It was well past eight when a black Infiniti SUV pulled up outside my room. I was greeted by a man dressed in black whose effusive "Hello" was accompanied by a bone crushing embrace. His wife and two kids remained seated in the car. I was the sole spot of color in a sea of black made of Sheetal's black halter neck gown, the black leather interior of the car, two deathly quiet children and the darkness of the night. Sheetal exuded a cloying sweetness and kept up a lively yet completely inane conversation all the way to our destination.

    Jay's friend and his friends were uniformly young and rich. Their wives were Sheetal-clones. Sweet, with blond highlights in their hair and dressed to reveal oodles of skin. In an all Desi crowd, I was the sole anachronism dressed in a silk sari and Pashmina shawl. Jay took me over to the assorted wives who had no idea what they should do with a museum exhibit such as myself.

    Pleasantries veered quickly to "Where is your hubby ?" I gave them my standard issue response about being separated with a two year old in India who would be joining me soon. I figured with so much peroxide, midriff, navel and cleavage to be seen around the room it would be no big deal. I was wrong. The twin revelations rendered them speechless. Upon recovering they said "That must be very hard for you" like I was in bereavement, and made haste to mingle elsewhere in the party.

    It did not take too long for the state of my marriage to turn common knowledge and to find myself on the fringes of the gathering. While the women treated me like a viral strain that would blight their happy marriages, some of the men eyed me with an interest that I found difficult to find flattering. The night was still young and I could see myself waiting an eternity to get back to my motel.

    Picking up a glass of wine, I settled on the couch to watch people. Jay noticed I was alone and came over. His arm around me was wholly unnecessary but it stayed there in full view of Sheetal. I figured my archaic value system did not fit with the kind of people I was dealing with. When R (my Ex) was still my husband I don't recall being faced with anything remotely similar. While I was not in a marriage anymore, I did not feel single at all. I wondered if I was in the wrong kind of crowd or if my marital status was wrong.

    As the evening progressed, an assortment of men offered to refill my drink and asked me for a dance. Some of those gyrating wives minus their love handles could have given Bollywood starlets a run for their money. Jay's buddies were actually teasing him about his tendency to gravitate towards me once too often. To Sheetal's credit, her high wattage smile did not miss a beat through all of this.

    That party was a indicator of my life as it would be after my divorce finally came through. I was a now officially the pariah. Since I had left my husband, a lot of men think I will sow seeds of discontent - if not rebellion in their wives' heads. Then there are those who salivate over me assuming I am sexually starved.

    In either case the chances of my striking a friendship with the couple are negligible. Either she has him on a tight leash fearing I will cause him to stray or he has her thinking the very same thing. While J (my litle girl) is missing out on a normal, healthy social life, I do all I

    Wednesday, November 09, 2005

    Mad Rush

    Nice article on Wired bemoaning the surfeit of technology and how it diminishes the quality of our lives. Exhausted as I am from running around like a headless chicken almost all the time, I completely agree with the author when he says

    "Just because technology makes it possible for us to work 10 times faster than we used to doesn't mean we should do it. The body may be able to withstand the strain -- for a while -- but the spirit isn't meant to flail away uselessly on the commercial gerbil wheel."

    Nothing beats the thrill of waiting for the postman to arrive with mail and see if you have received the letter that will make your heart pound even as you open it and leave you floating upon a cloud for weeks. I am grateful to belong to the last generation to have known that pleasure.

    Tuesday, November 08, 2005

    Sourcing Realities

    Had a chance chat with the sourcing leader at work today and made interesting discoveries. Found out for instance that an onsite resource on an outsourced project with any specialized skills and four plus years of experience is more expensive than a comparable local resource. The cost benefit is realized only if the resources work and remain offshore through the duration of the engagement. All hell breaks loose unless there is an onsite liaison resource.

    However, project managers are not convinced that a remote resource is dedicated to their project and would rather have someone sitting down the hall from them so they can be closely monitored. The only time they (sourcing) did a customer satisfaction survey on the outsourcing engagements the results were too controversial to publish. It sounds like the point of stable equilibrium is nearing on some kinds of engagements and it will not make any sense to outsource those.

    Monday, November 07, 2005

    Death Is Green

    Biopresence aims to create "Transgenic Tombstones" though "transcoding and entwinement of human and tree DNAs". A fascinating idea that the physical essence of a loved one could live forever in a flowering tree in your yard. Some lines from Neruda's "Nothing But Death" come to mind reading this where he says of Death:

    I'm not sure, I understand only a little, I can hardly see,
    but it seems to me that its singing has the color of damp violets,
    of violets that are at home in the earth,
    because the face of death is green,
    and the look death gives is green,
    with the penetrating dampness of a violet leaf
    and the somber color of embittered winter.

    Sunday, November 06, 2005

    Cluttered Empty Nest

    I am almost tempted to forward this article on managing the empty nest clutter to K. She would endorse the views expressed in it whole heartedly. Her son is a successful real-estate agent who owns a home upon a fifteen acre piece of land. Her daughter likewise has a McMansion. Yet in K's home, there is no room for her car in her two car garage.

    The basement is overrun over by her children's things that they have no plans of moving any time soon. Yet the nest is truly empty. She is old and alone, depending on the kindness of strangers and housemates to meet her emotional needs. I lived with her for a year as a paying guest and knew more about her life than the kids did. It was an arrangement that worked well for both of us. She mothered me as I came to roost for a while in her empty nest.

    Saturday, November 05, 2005

    Story Tellers

    Opposite my grandmother's house is an old Kali temple and a municipality park. The proximity of the two made her balcony the perfect vantage point to watch the festivities that happened during Navratri - specially the small time theatre troupes that enacted scenes from the Ramayan. There was nothing sophisticated about the performances but as a child I absolutely loved the over the top storytelling.

    Listening to
    Bil Lepp perform this evening as we sat under a tent sipping hot apple cider reminded me unaccountably of my grandma's house. It's about the same time of year. I am much older and a mother myself. Instead of many flickering earthen lamps dotting the neighborhood there were a few merry bonfires in the field where people roasted marshmallows.

    Bil Lepp's stories were side-splittingly funny and had nothing in common with the histrionics of Ravana from the
    Ram Lilas of my childhood. Worlds apart and yet there is a tie that binds. The nip in the air, the stars in the sky, listening to a story teller with a whole bunch of people and the flickering flames - that was enough to take me back home and to my childhood. J has seen one world and I eager for her to see the other.

    Friday, November 04, 2005

    Books In Motion

    With my nomadic lifestyle the last few years, my books have not followed me. They have stayed behind in my mother's house gathering dust, being no use to anyone. I love the concept of book crossing and wish my books could be part of it - travel around the world with unknown readers, see places I never will, maybe find a new home somewhere. The best part is I would always know where my book is.

    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    Modern Times

    Loved reading Maureen Dowd on the woes of being a modern girl

    Being a modern boy is not easy either. There are too few ways left for them to prove their manhood to an independent woman. If only God would put both modern boys and girls in time-out until they behaved more reasonably with each other - since
    kemmering is not an option we have to find out how the other sex feels and thinks.

    There is also the Regina Lynn
    counterpoint (on Wired), on this article that is interesting and well argued.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    Armchair Activist

    Bemoaning the state of public affairs combined with extreme political apathy is the true mark of Bengali bourgeois with elitist pretensions. Having several of this stripe within my own family, I could not help thinking how much the ability to turn into armchair activists would appeal to them.

    Instead of waiting to see their verbose letters to the editors published in local dailies they could now SMS their rants to be spoken out loud in public. I already have visions of some of my older, superannuated relatives messaging up a verbal storm fuelled only by strong Cha. Nirvana seems at hand for my malcontent Bengali brethren.

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005

    Ravi Shankar Concert

    J was at a Ravi Shankar and Anoushka Shankar concert with me and a friend tonight. She sat through most of it mesmerized, falling asleep only in the end. My friend who knows close to nothing about Indian classical music said at the end of the performance "After Ravi Shankar had played for a while, I seemed to have forgotten where I was, what time it was, what I was doing. It felt like I had been transported to some magical place" When music is truly divine it does not take a connoisseur to enjoy or appreciate it. This will be an evening to remember. It occured to me that despite little hiccups of our daily life J is a lucky little girl to have had such a special Diwali.

    Another friend asked me how I, as a lay person, thought Anoushka compared with he father. I felt "Rajasik" is to Anoushka is as "Saatvik" is to Ravi Shankar. If her music is baroque his is not at all. There is a whole world of difference.