Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Dog Years

D and I met for lunch yesterday after a long time. Hearing about my most recent dating misadventure she commented "You seem to have the knack for meeting the psychoest guys out there. I don't know how you do it".

This is not the first time that someone has observed and commented on my weird magnetism. Unfortunately, no one seems to know the fix for it. My friends tell me that its not me - its them. While they theorize the density of weirdoes is abnormally high online so sooner or later meeting one or more of them is inevitable, everyone acknowledges that my encounters have been one too many for comfort and causes concern .

D has accosted harmless looking desi guys minding their own business and asked if they were "logically and logistically" single and interested in a getting to know yours faithfully. The first time this happened, her husband had watched the drama unfold with growing concern, now he just looks the other way as D goes about trying to set me up on a date with a "normal" desi. She has given up on my ability to find anyone without serious mental health issues.

N, who has generously offered to be my relationship coach a la Hitch and Dr Phil only with the desi touch had suggested the following regimen.

"In medical terms, this is condition is refered to as wackomolitis or creepotitis. I am going to have to suggest that you behenji-fy your wardrobe and start talking with a strong ghati accent to guys you fish on the net. No smart-ass repartees while conversating. And finally and most importantly absolutely no flirting for one week. Practice total abstinence. Report back in a couple of weeks"

He thinks that I cause weirdness to gravitate towards me. The topic of my discussion with D, strictly speaking is not weird, creepy or wacky. He is just a little bit strange, maybe confused. He is on the market, presumably interested in finding someone but has a little impediment in the form of a German Shepherd. He is not able to get on a plane unless the trip is planned a month or two in advance so he has had opportunity to interview a few dog sitters for the job.

Wherever he goes, the dog goes with him. I almost started to hum "Mary had a little lamb" when I heard this. For seven years he has had this dog and that's how long he has been single and looking as well - strange when you read the two facts in the same sentence. He has accepted his situation with a certain dogged determination. At one point , I was close to asking "So what have you decided, will it be the dog or a woman in your life ?" but thought the better of it given how that could be interpreted.

Besides the dog there is another minor issue - college football. He simply has to watch every college football game with no exceptions because he "has this thing for football". I wondered if this overzealous desi who is still working on localizing his accent had not taken cultural assimilation and emulating the American way of life a tad too seriously.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Memory Pill

The story about the memory pill for forgetting painful, traumatic memories generated some very interesting discussion. My first thought was that it would be a blessing for those who are dragged down by the past to the point that they can no longer enjoy the bounties of the present moment or look forward to those of the future. This drug could be an enormous help for them because getting over the past is sometimes truly impossible.

However the idea of losing control over one's memories by having an external agent erase them by force is scary. Often there are overlaps between bad and good memories - surely the drug would not know to act selectively enough to leave every last good memory intact. Maybe the perception of good and bad could change over time.

One comment about how the drug could be misused and how criminals would no longer have to suffer guilt and remorse had not crossed my mind but is a great point. There is also the possibility of this being used as weapon to change and control minds.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Woman On Top

I could not help thinking of a parallel between domineering wives and the success of companies headed by women CEOs

Apparently, these CEOs experience longer tenures and faster growth. Likewise, in marriages where the wife wears the pants, the chances of the union surviving are seem higher. This not to say it is a healthy or even desirable state of affairs - unlike the women CEOs who are "
outstanding role models for business success"

Long suffering henpecked husbands are the staple of light-hearted sitcoms and movies but they are not usually shown getting up and out on their wives - they need help to get that far. They might not even think of calling the cops on her believing that her story would win over his.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Up until age sixteen, I was a hundred percent sure where I wanted to spend the rest of my life and in a directional sense of what I wanted to do for a living. I surely wanted to leave the protected confines of my little town which had given me a great schooling, a bunch of friends from all over India and some very positive role models. I had opportunity to meet some uncommonly smart people from around the world who came in as consultants to the major companies in town. They came home for dinner and they indulged my wide eyed curiosity.

I learnt a little about the executive lifestyle in Tokyo, about being a management guru lecturing at the best business schools around the world, about being Indian and starting up a consulting company in the mid-western US in the 80s or closer home about trying to using the Bhagwad Gita as a manual for success without stress in the corporate world. Sitting in my living room, I was an enraptured observer soaking in conversations that had very little bearing on my high school existence but I grew aware of the multitude and diversity of possibilities in the real world.

I knew I wanted to stay in India and do something meaningful for a living. I would not have a drone job - each of these people had started out with regular education and had been able to use the flawed and often dysfunctional system to do something path breaking. I was convinced that anything was possible if I had the talent and passion for it.

My idyll was broken for the first time in the eleventh grade when I started at a new school. My class was comprised of the best students from around town and our collective lives depended on success in the competitive exams to elite engineering and medical schools. The pace of life was furious. I was summarily written off as a top tier engineering school prospect because I had refused to get myself coached by a professional tutor and lacked the stamina to put in the 12-16 hour day that all serious contenders did.

It was no longer important to understand concepts, have an unconventional approach to problem solving , love the subjects that were being taught, find pleasure in the process of learning without any end in view - all the things that were true about my education up to tenth grade. Education was reduced to a set of sharply honed skills that would be put to test for tactical readiness. Having a passion for theoretical physics was akin to being given a philosopher where a battle ready foot soldier was required.

I realized that I had no interest in an engineering degree but was putting myself through this terrible ordeal simply because there was no viable alternative for guaranteed employment by twenty two. I thought that I would be able to pursue my "real" dreams only after gaining financial independence. I was too risk averse to consider following my heart which would have been a liberal arts degree and no line of sight into a "career". Back in my day, the options for those who wished to play safe and certain were woefully limited.

My growing disenchantment with the education system peaked when I started engineering school. As predicted, I made it to tier two instead of one and most people told me I should count my blessings given how disorganized and unprofessional my strategy for the competitive exams had been. Most of my friends had made to the tier one schools like they very much deserved to - they were the kind of people who could crack any exam, they were the pros who had both the intelligence and the test-savvy it took to be successful. In later life, they would breeze through the top ranking b-schools with consummate ease.

The four years of engineering was everything I needed to hate the Indian education system with a passion. My schools years had been an artificial cocoon that did not prepare me for the reality of the Indian situation. The fascinating dinner guests at my childhood home had demonstrated that living your dreams was possible but had not shown me the path to get there. It was not as point A to point B thing like I had imagined. During the holidays I met with my high school friends who had used the system to better advantage than I had been able to. Some had followed their heart to a pursue a degree in literature others to the coveted engineering and medical schools. We compared notes about our experiences and realized we all felt seriously underwhelmed.

Surely such super-human efforts should have yielded much more, we talked about those lucky kids in the US who could get into an Ivy-league school with half as much talent and one fourth the effort. In our group we had a few "all-India toppers" the holy cows of the system that are looked upon by lesser mortals with almost religious reverence. Almost everyone was talking GRE, letters of recommendation, admission essays and what have you -it was about waiting out the four years till being able to get a chance at an education that would be worth all the struggle and strife. It felt unfair that despite being among the best and the brightest it would take so long to gain affirmation and recognition of one's true worth.

Reading about the school system in present day India caused deja vu. I remember the shiver of excitement finding about home schooling for the first time when I was pregnant with J. It felt so liberating to know that I could teach my child what I liked, how I liked and the system would consider it acceptable. For days, I made notes on ideas for projects J and I could work on, the endless possibilities of using my imagination to make learning immensely joyful to my child - it was like being set free from a cage and told that the sky was the limit. If there was a single incident that steeled my resolve to raise my child in this country it was this. I wanted J to find joy in learning every day of her life, for her to make choices in education that were not guided by viability in the job market. She could participate in the school system and yet not be held hostage by it and that could be extremely liberating.

I did not want her to become an ace professional test taker like so many of my phenomenally talented peers (including my ex) were. Above all, I did not want her to feel like the system had extracted disproportionately more from her than it had given back to her. I did not want her to churn through a process that had to eliminate deserving candidates simply because there was not room enough in elite schools for all of them.

Even today, the Indian system forces a prescriptive rigor that may be completely unsuitable for the temperament of the child. Even today, to be successful a child must become a willing and compliant ally of the system and may not question is percepts or even applicability to their personal goals in life. In my grandfather's time when the country was not bursting at the seams from overpopulation, the education system did not eliminate childhood from a child's life in the process of providing him with an education.

Learning was pleasurable and proceeded at a relaxed pace. A man with a matriculation certficate was qualified enough for a job that could support a family. We don't have the same luxury today and in as such the old education system is no longer supportable. We have no use for philosophers in a time of war.

I wanted for J to have a real childhood, a time when it was okay to spend a entire holiday playing with imaginary friends and not have to worry about school admissions at age three. I realize that nothing significant in life comes free. For everything that J stands to gain from the American system, I have to be prepared to pay a price as well. Yet for all that, I am not covinced that India is a better deal for J.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


I drive through the streets
still dark from the night
lights shining like
jewels on a strand for
endless miles. The radio
whelps a number too
plaintive to hear. Today
I have ears for nothing.
I walk the downtown streets
like a visitor in the city
I have lived in for a year,
Unfamiliar, disoriented but
oddly alert like a sleepwalker
in a caffeine haze.
The regulars stare at me
as I grab a quick McDonald
bite. Across from my park
bench, the sleeping
tramp gets a trooper's prod.
I sit waiting, watch the sun
gently rising upon the
courthouse building.
Today some names link
theirs to mine in a dense
karmic tangle. Craig,
Steve Dana and Pallavi.
On the eighteenth day of
October they together
set me golden
word is spoken

Friday, November 24, 2006


Work was deserted by the lunch hour on Wednesday. Black Friday sales and deals was a topic of conversation among the few of us stragglers that stayed longer. We were talking about a business that could earn down and out students and homeless people some quick cash for squatting in those serpentine queues in pre-dawn vigils for Xboxes and more.

Lazy shoppers could sleep in and still get what they wanted maybe for some extra money. Turns out that there are such services even if not in a very organized way. It usually takes a pretty major crisis to make me go shopping and it would be a cold day in hell before I went near a store the day after Thanksgiving. I prefer to vegetate in the Tryptophan induced stupor from the turkey dinner.

My mother first came to the US the year J was born. I took her shopping a few weeks after Christmas after the frenzy of shopping for deals had died down. I bought her some interesting trinkets and a coat. That was her first time in a mall in the US. She had seen the flyers in the mail in the weeks preceding and knew what was on sale. She has been in the US a few times since then and tells me how it amazes her that nothing changes.

From her predominantly suburban experience in this country, everything everywhere is shiny and new, the style of clothes and the design of jewelry is fairly static as well. Needless to say she finds the jewelry on the flyers too boring to look at. To her all American perfumes smell the same - you could have smelt a hundred different ones and not recalled a single one that stood out. French perfumes to her are the real thing - you remember because it piques your interest with subtle yet significant variation - the sameness about America is pervasive she thinks.
If she had a Macy's flyer from five years ago she would have found very little in it that was different from the one in the mailbox this afternoon.

I'd be curious to see the effects of inflation of the price of a cashmere sweater. To my mother, America is like a shop window mannequin prettied up to attract passers by. Unlike human beings who are buffeted by the forces of circumstances, a mannequin can remain eternally youthful, happy, plastic and perfect . Time does not touch it.

I think each time she comes back, she looks forward to seeing something change - the sameness is at once perplexing and soothing to her. She calls it her escape to a simulated paradise – maybe a Walt Disney version of the real thing but where else would you find a replica of such grand proportions. She find it hard to answer the question that her friends and relatives here ask so often “How do you like it in America ?” Saying I like it just fine is trite, to explain the feeling of having escaped to a world of manufactured serenity that seems to remain unfazed and untouched by a multi-year, nearing trillion dollar war is too complicated.

Back home, the crowds oppress, the dust and the grime gets more out of control, the traffic is noisier and more chaotic, new houses are mushrooming around her home, a stretch of empty sky she used to watch from the window is increasingly harder to come by, the patch of green which is the park has more and more morning walkers stomping on it, the kids are becoming westernized, the sari is going out, jeans and kurtis are taking over, premarital sex and living in is going mainstream, call centers are spawning a new way of living where day and night have traded place and significance. It is like living inside a boiling , seething cauldron of relentless change and churn.

You want for it to pause sometimes so you can catch your breath. She wonders why change is not as perceptible in the US - surely people, places and everything that they interact with change here too - so how does a visitor not feel it when they return after a year. The pace of life is apparently faster in the US with people are constantly on the move, businesses trying to stay nimble so they can adapt to changing market conditions, uncertainties are rife – it could take merely some unexpected medical emergencies and the loss of a job to go from living in a McMansion to filing bankruptcy.

Yet to an outsider looking in, all seems tranquil and at infinite status quo. The grass is trimmed close, the dogwoods bloom on schedule, the smiling girl at the neighborhood coffee shop takes your order just like someone else like her had done a few years ago. They are identical down to their blond highlights and nose rings.

I had never noticed or thought about this. Maybe there is the economies of scale factor playing here. Maybe change happens but it is dispersed so widely that its effects are not felt. Nothing dramatic has happened in the world of fashion - ethnic is getting to be more mainstream and affordable and the color palette more earthy. There are four distinct seasons, the holidays bring in their wake an increasing amount of commercialization, in defiance of rising gas prices and elaborate security rigmarole at airports people continue to travel .

Christmas trees are being set up sooner and staying on longer, there are more choices for Halloween costumes. However, the larger themes do appear not change. It is more confusing when you view India as the much older civilization. You would expect cataclysmic change to characterize the one which is still nascent. Maybe I am missing something obvious and fundamental here - or it could be as some people say, India is real and America is an artificially put together country and culture. In as such, no parallels can be expected to exist.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Realism In December

I met J's kindergarten teacher for a fifteen minute conference a few weeks ago. Mrs. H is in her late forties, has two teenagers and is a recent British immigrant to the US. Other than J, she is the only trace of diversity in J's lily-white all American class room. Mrs. H is everything a parent could ask of a kindergarten teacher and much more. She exudes a maternal warmth along with oodles of confidence.

She clearly loves her job and the kids, is interested in them, in understanding their personalities, strengths and weaknesses and will push them very subtly in the right direction. J's buddy Bryce from daycare days epitomized the problem child that experts pontificate about - or at least his caregivers at daycare depicted him as such. Under Mrs. H's able supervision, the kid is thriving.

Her assessment of J at the time of our meeting was based on her knowing my child for a little over a month. I was amazed at how well she had her figured out and knew exactly where she needed a little help. "There is a gap between J's independent reading level and her ability to understand. You need to read more to her and at levels of complexity she is capable of absorbing". I would realize later, that my enthusiasm about Mrs. H would be a case of too much too soon.

While it was not her intent, it reflected on my mothering. From as early on as I could, I've tried to get J to read on her own, so I would have time freed up for myself. I left the conference feeling vaguely guilty and resolved to remedy the problem.

Mrs. H has been sending home books that she thinks I should read aloud to J. I have been supplementing that with books from the public library. In all, I have a busy read aloud schedule. J craves for more and more. Had I not got the wake-up call, she would have missed out on much. I am learning about children's books and popular themes. Recently we read one called December Secrets

I usually enjoy the books I read to J but this one had me feeling bored, distracted and even irritated. Aimed at the kids of grades 1-4, and being realistic it is perhaps ok for the protagonist to obsess about a green stain on her sweat suit and feel like her chubby classmate would benefit from going on a diet. I would like to believe that children at that age have a vivid imagination. Their world is not all about stark reality - there is a touch of magical realism perhaps. There is not one character in the book that is able to view the world around them with a child's dreaminess and innocence. If this really is a testament of the state of childhood in the modern world, I feel sorry for J and the zeitgeist of her times.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Book In Common

I knew S for almost a year. We started as friends, made a half hearted attempt to be more but could not and finally parted as friends. We decided it was best not to stay in touch and maybe it is just as well. Early into our acquaintance we once talked about our reading habits. He was fascinated by criminal psychology and forensic pathology - I wondered if it had to do with his father being a psychiatrist and his two long term relationships with highly unusual women. It was almost like his fascination with aberrations in human nature caused him to gravitate towards them - they both had an abundance. I had to wonder if the same was true about me given his interest.

He could make jokes about things like necrophilia without batting an eye. I would find myself laughing and then feeling strangely queasy that I did. I often teased him that he should try his hand at crime fiction - maybe he was destined to become the next Thomas Harris

His reading was confined to his subjects of interest and we could never come up with one book we had both read and enjoyed as adults. Everything diverged after Three Men In a Boat which we both had by the strangest coincidence read in third grade.

I wondered if our paths could
ever converge again. I have never read Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett or James Ellroy and he had no use for Derek Walcott, A.S Byatt or John Updike. So, I started to seek the happy medium believing that discovery would help us understand each other better. Perfume by Patrick Suskind turned out be just what we were looking for - we read the same collection of words to entirely disparate effect and meanings. Finding a book in common with S brought home the realization that the perception of what two people have in common, its outward signs and reality itself are very different things.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ice Storm


You are a crucible of ice
Unfeeling receptacle of life’s
elixir as I pour on in vain.
May fire char your rigor mortis,
wind disperse its ashes,
icy water trickle back to earth.
When your elements
return to balance,
your heart may beat again.


I wish upon you many things
most from a love cast away
like a warm but threadbare sweater
after winter’s bite was gone.
I wish that you pray for peace
to be upon me and mine each
night before you fall asleep.
That you dream of making love
to me wondering who does instead.
That you seek my laughter
among other voices in life's passing by.
That you try to catch a glimpse
of legs sculpted in stone as women
mill in and out of the subway.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Agile Joke

Steve Yegge's epic rant against Agile is entertaining for more reasons than one. The follow up post even more so. Having being an unwilling participant for the most part and sometimes hostage in Agile projects, Yegge had me laughing until my sides ached. I can't claim to have read all the literature on Agile that is out there, so maybe someone has figured the way around to some problems I see with the methodology.

Metrics stands out as the biggest one. In the old fashioned, traditional way there used to be Earned Value Analysis to tell us how we were doing on the triple constraints and burn rate. The ratios meant the same thing to everyone and the project sponsor could monitor health at all times. I think that was a good thing.

In the Agile world, those measurements are hard to come by. Everything is relative. The complexity of a user story can be measured in gummy bear units and the team could have enough velocity to take on two hundred gummy bears worth of work in a sprint. The hapless customer has no freaking idea how that translates to the time, effort and money or easily digestible EVA numbers.

Scope and acceptance criteria of work is highly fluid as necessitated by the operating definition of Agile. Used to be the baselined project plan and its supporting artifacts were sacrosanct. There was predefined and mostly static success criteria as there was accountability at individual and team level.

Sure, scope crept, business requirements were found to be crap once UAT got under way, budgets were over-run by 200%. All of that happens in the Agile world as well. Only instead of being reported as a failure it gets misrepresented and misinterpreted as success because stories invariably get closed out at the end of every sprint and gummy bears are about as useful a measure for software development effort as cowrie shells are for making the down payment on a house.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Perfect Ten

Earlier today we were having a conversation about the air-brushed perfection of models and actresses and how that puts the pressure on regular women to spend more time and money towards acquiring that absolute flawlessness. While it may no longer be impossible to get the magazine cover look with new technology it is not without danger

And it is not enough to just look perfect with make-up delivered on the skin in a nano particle spray - modern women are expected to be perfect as well. They must be highly desirable, accomplished and independent. She must find love, a meaningful and remunerative career, be able to keep it together against the most terrific odds and still look like a million bucks. If she happens to be a mother, then nothing short of being super-mom cuts it. There is now a word to describe these women and their state of affairs - Stressettes

With women constantly upping the ante on perfection, men are catching up on body image anxieties - it is only fair that the Wonderbra finally meet its match

Saturday, November 18, 2006

State Of Victimness

This Metafilter post seeking help for a woman in an abusive relationship has some very thought provoking comments from readers. Anyone who has either seen a bad relationship at close quarters or been in one themselves will be able to relate to the themes that come across. In the final analysis there is no silver bullet in the form of a combo involving getting a restraining order, packing her bags and leaving, calling the women's shelter and such like.

Like Leo Tolstoy said "All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Similarly each abusive relationship is abusive in its own way. There is a fine balance of power between the abuser and abusee that lends many shades of gray to their relationship. To reduce all of that to black and white is over simplistic and does not help anyone. It takes perspective to see an abusive relationship for what it truly is - something that friends or family privy to only one side of the story most often lack.

There are a lot of generous and principled people out there who will root for the victim and do their utmost to rescue them from a toxic relationship. While they may be successful in extricating them from it, they can't do much to change the relationship copybook that the abusee creates for herself - it is fairly common to see the very same abuser-abusee pattern repeat itself in future relationships.

The medevacing of the victim by concerned and well meaning outsiders is akin to treating a slightly gangrenous wound by amputation. A more holistic approach would be to seek and remedy the root cause of the condition. Not many victims get the support they need to reach an honest assessment of how they contributed to and fomented their own victimness. Until they are able to do so, their self esteem will continue to be depleted causing them to gravitate to their comfort zone where being abused is a natural state of being.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Trying Blind

When in love, I have found conversation to flow effortlessly in the dark without the distractions of facial expression or body language. Darkness makes it easier to cry, confide, confess or get drunk - apparently dining with a roomful of strangers in the dark can be pleasurable as well. It heightens their enjoyment of the meal

Patrons never see the food because the three-course meal is served in complete darkness – so diners must rely on other senses to discern the meal.

Not surprising therefore that blind dating agencies have found a natural habitat in the blind restaurant. Other than the obvious advantage of being able to talk to a stranger without the awkwardness that a blind date is fraught with, you can also leave mysteriously in the dark without revealing yourself to your date should you never want to meet again.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Taking Life

Reading Alison Townsend's What I Never Told You About the Abortion was incredibly hard. As a woman and a mother, I try to reach out to the pain of a mother who is forced to take away life rather than create it - yet I can't . This is not the kind of suffering that can be simulated or emulated - you cannot claim empathy without having experienced what that mother has.

When you have known it and have the words to tell of it, you will write like Townsend - you will make the reader want to cry along with you - for you, hug you to soften the bristling edges of pain. For a moment you imagine that you understand the dense pattern of grief that produced these words.

That the table I lay on was cold. That there was a poster
of a kitten dangling from a tree limb, with the words "Hang in there, baby"

on the ceiling above me. That I turned names
over and over in my head like bright stones:

Caitlin, Phoebe, Rebecca, Siobhan
That the nurse wept with me, like some twentieth-century

Southern Californian fate, midwife to death
in her uniform printed with flowers.

That she wrapped my hands in her navy blue sweater.
That I described the thumb-size embryo inside me in all the obvious ways -

shrimp, peanut, little bud-wanting to open.
But not baby, never baby.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Low Standards

The author of The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler writes in the introduction of her book Insecure At Last :

"My dreams were limited, simple. All I wanted was to grow up not be hit or molested. I lived as a survivor. Happy every day not to be screamed at, ridiculed, beaten, terrorized, or thrown out. I did not care about a career. I did not think what kind of person might be right for me. It was all about what was not happening, all about the pain stopping, all about safety, security. I wanted a man or woman who would not hit me. This, as you can imagine, is not the greatest prerequisite for a relationship. Not a very high standard. And, it's broad. And, to be honest, until you have gone back and purged and transformed that initial violation, it is impossible not to keep being attracted to what you were trying to escape"

While she says this in context of her affluent childhood and a physically violent father, it translates fairly easily to any abusive relationship that leaves deep scars in its wake. When men I date ask me what I am looking for in a relationship my most immediate and heartfelt response is "A decent, honest and normal man".

The best compliment I can pay a man is "I like you as much as I do because you are decent and normal" The response I get to that most often is "And that is all ?" I understand their incredulity and disappointment in that I could not recognize anything else they may have had to offer, that I was reducing their multifaceted entity to such basics. This parallels Ensler's idea that for a man or woman to not hit her once defined relationship nirvana - it is all about context.

Some have argued those are very broad categories and highly subjective qualities. To me there is nothing ambiguous about the three key things I seek - they are as fundamental as the air I need to breathe. It also reflects what I missed most in my marriage and the abortive pseudo-relationships since. When what most people would take for granted has been impossible to come by in your own life, you set yourself to an abnormally and alarmingly low standard, expect too little from a relationship.

It is so much sadder if you once hoped and desired for more and if you are still capable of offering to your partner a million times more than you want from them. If you do indeed get into an unequal relationship because the scars from the past had not healed to where you were able to articulate your real needs, somewhere down the road the inequity will start to hurt - maybe even more than the wounds that drove you there.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Long Email

Vibha and Sheila went to school together but had been only in episodic touch the last ten years. Not in the least because Vibha never had an e-mail address. So when a few weeks ago, Sheila saw a mail from her in her inbox, she was beyond elated. They had been very good friends once. She hoped time and distance had not impaired their connection too much, that it would be easy to pick up from where they had left off. In response to her very brief note that said:

"Hope you still remember me. More when you reply - Vibs"

Shiela wrote :

"Heaven be praised ! Vibs has an e-mail id like the rest of us ordinary mortals ! Where have you been, girl ? And what have you been up to ? Tell me all - of course I remember you - what did you imagine ? "

Sometimes utter innocuity - like her message to Vibha - has a way to hitting a raw nerve but even knowing that would not have prepared Shiela for her response. Which was:

"I am writing this to you from the public library which is an hour away from my house if you walk. My husband Gaurav, is away on a business trip for a week, so I have little to do. Oh ! you wouldn't know about the marriage would you ? It happened two years ago and I have been in the US since then. We have so much to catch up on. I completed my MBA a couple of years after we lost touch and was working in Mumbai. Gaurav has been the States for fifteen years.

Back home, I used to hear about the H4 wives and how they settled down to domesticity and making curds in the oven by the heat of the pilot light. Some of my own friends had ended up that way. After a while their e-mails became a pain to read. You know you expect better from a one time fund manager than have her recount in school-essayish detail their trip from Boston to New York. I used to tell myself I would never ever become that woman.

I met Gaurav online, we dated long distance via phone and e-mail. This went on for a year until he was able to take the time off to come see me. We spent a wonderful month together, met the parents got engaged and the rest. It was a foregone conclusion by the time we actually met that we would be married. The marriage proper happened six months later and I came here on the fiancé visa.

I had wanted to take a sabbatical from work for the longest time and a new marriage seemed to be the perfect opportunity. We were on an extended honeymoon with me tagging along with him on most of his business trips. About six months later it dawned on me that I still did not have a driver's license, never did anything for or by myself and that my e-mails to family and friends were becoming dangerously school-essayish.

Every rest area stop, airport and mall was recounted in excruciating detail. I had not listened to my favorite Led Zeppelin album since arriving in America. And yes, I was acquiring the reputation of being able to turn ricotta cheese into the meanest ras malai in town. In essence I was becoming the dread H4 hausfrau that I so did not want to be.

Gaurav has been wanting to start family for a while now. I had no excuse or reason to put it off. Wanting to go back to work at this late date seemed silly almost. My experience is dated, rusty and dusty - maybe completely useless. He thinks I should go back to school before trying to find work - I don't know that I want to do that.

So, I am four months pregnant now and am starting to show. I am excited about motherhood but feel clueless about where my life is headed. I still don't drive - I mean I do have a drivers license but somehow prefer him to drive. Talking of which, it has started to rain outside and I don't have my umbrella. If you were to ask me why I walked so far in such weather, I would have no answer. I can't bring myself to admit I am too scared to drive. I hope there is another reason that I just cannot articulate.

Recently, I stumbled upon an online forum for emotionally abused women and have been going back there frequently. I hate myself just for that. I can't claim Gaurav has ever abused me - not in any way that these women say their husbands have at least. Something has killed my joie de vivre, my desire to live a full and meaningful life.

I seem to have been sucked into this huge whirlpool of inertia where I am willing to let the days slip by without accomplishing anything. Its like if someone were to shake me up real hard and force me to get a grip on my life, I still could. I wish Gaurav would do that for me. What scares me is that I could get past even that point in a few more years. The few times I've tried to talk about it he is all confused - he'll say "Tell me what I can do to help, Vibs and I'll do it". If I had known wouldn't I have helped myself already ?

I sense that Gaurav is getting bored and restless. I used to be a size two gym rat until I got pregnant - it didn't feel important any longer. I wasn't trying to stay in shape for me - I was driven by insecurity maybe. I realize that I am no longer the woman he was once attracted to, I try to keep up with business, technology and politics. The internet is my best friend second only to the local Barnes and Noble. I think I can still hold my own in a conversation but its not the same thing as being able to buy him an expensive gift on his birthday with my own money. Each time I swipe his credit card, it feels like a little more of my self- esteem is draining away. I don't know if he even notices.

He travels a lot more these days. Sex is not what it used to be but then I am pregnant as well so that could have something to do with it. I am vaguely suspicious and uneasy about what he does when he is out of town for days. I panic everytime I get his voicemail instead of him - expecting the very worst until he calls back. And when he does, I try to read hidden meanings in his words, undercurrents and undertones - you know how they say the wife is always the last to know.

I have tried to sneak into his e-mails and cell phone bills - there really are no red flags. It's probably all in my mind, from my own feelings of inadequacy. I am terrified that I will go into depression - you know have the post-partum blues stay on for good. I feel nervous and anxious a lot wondering what may happen next - almost sure that something will happen to challenge the status quo of the past two years. I have disturbing dreams sometimes.

We have this beautiful home that we both spent a lot of effort in decorating. The vegetable garden is thriving like I am not. Sometimes, I wonder if all this will come crumbling down like a house of cards. What if one evening, Gaurav tells me that he has been seeing someone else for a while and wants a divorce. Imagine that happening after I have our child.

Just because I used to have a career does not mean that I should continue having one forever. Why can't I accept gracefully that I was cut out to be a house wife (home maker to be politically correct) and that it is my natural state. Why can't I be content to just be Guarav's wife and not have to be his courtesan - the woman who can compel his interest in her forever. Why can't I just be ? I think marriage takes more work than I had thought it would and I am overwhelmed.

Anyways, I did not mean to drown you in my litany of woes after all these years. I felt like you would understand the internal conflicts that I am trying to resolve with such little success. Please don't feel like you have to rescue me - I will tell you when I need that. How have you been, what are you doing outside of work ? I look forward to your mail.




Monday, November 13, 2006

Returning Natives

The present day desi in the US returning to India is completely unlike the NRIs of the 80s vintage and earlier on their biennial pilgrimages. The whole purpose of their visits was to impress upon the less fortunate natives the true state of their material and physical well being. Gifts would be given liberally, drawing rooms would be chock full of relatives listening enraptured to the stories their fantastic lifestyles abroad.

Their teen-aged children could at best understand their mother tongue and lisp charmingly when pushed to speak it. Grandmothers and aunts cooed and fawned at how precious they sounded and made sure that they were stocked up on toilet paper even if the nearest store that carried it was at the other end of town. These were cyclically returning natives who reinforced to themselves and those that they deigned to visit with that they were glad to be out of the rat hole known as desh. A mini army came together from in and around town to see these oh-so-fortunate prodigals off at the airport.

Times have changed. More importantly perhaps India has and along with that the attitudes of desis home and abroad. Now it would be the ultimate social faux pas for an US desi to come home and throw a fit about the dust, grime, government office red tape and open man holes. They know better than to do that. Instead they will tell their relatives in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune that India as good as if not better than the US in most ways. They love indeed lust for street food, don't need to tote Evian around and their kids speak their language almost flawlesslessy.

Thanks to rampant piracy in software and electronic goods, desis in India own cooler, hipper gizmos for a whole lot cheaper. Their cellphones are to die for and the posh schools that their kids attend are better than the best private schools in the US. In summary, the country mouse is getting a better bang for the buck than the town mouse and the town mouse would come to nest in the country in a heartbeat.

Unlike the desis of yore who landed in JFK feeling schadenfreude and got together with other desi friends over the weekend to recount vignettes from the trip to India to disperese that feeling more widely, the present day desi wonders if he is better served by not getting into the plane to America.

There is little left to be given to the well heeled friends and relatives in India whose business trips take them around the world all the time. There are no tall tales to tell of the dishy blondes that are so easy to pick up at bars, of the money to be made in day trading or the cross country road trips. The all desi weekend "parties" in burbs are a joke to those who have far more eclectic social lives. Everyone's been there and done that. The captive audiences cheer led by the dowager grand-aunt are a relic of the past - that aunt is now likely vacationing in Madrid with her youngest daughter.

The draw of America to the mainstream desi used to be the lifestyle they could neither afford nor replicate in India. They basked in the envy of the hoards that came to see them off at Santa Cruz, snickering at the thought of their socialite aunt primping for her kitty parties with Yardley cologne from Wal-Mart they just gave her. It was a good place to be in. Today gift shopping is painful and expensive business - a Navajo Indian sun-catcher from that Alaskan cruise may be slightly interesting but Ralph Lauren shirt picked up from Marshall's will be met with much disdain and derision.

It is not surprising therefore that the desis in US want to come home to roost the minute they get their US passport. No one who is anyone back home cares about their miserable suburban town home, $130k a year job and the fully paid off Acura 2.5TL. For all that they are not riding the wave of irrational exuberance that is India today- the technology is edgier, more patents are being filed than ever, they get to feel good about themselves by volunteering for the causes of the disenfranchised. India's unique selling proposition today is the ability to combine a high-rolling lifestyle with abundant opportunities to stack up on good karma. It strikes a deeply resonant chord with the expat desi.

There is a heart and soul about India that expats are finding easier to sense in the context of an easy to replicate NRI lifestyle complete with obscene compensation packages and a white hot club scene. Its never been easier to claim their longing for family and homeland is more than they can bear - if only the date for the all important citizenship interview came around sooner to plug their bleeding hearts.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dead Not Gone

Living a good, honorable life and being able to die in peace without regrets was always challenging, now with online obituary service providers the later part may become impossible. Reading this article reminded me of a line from Julius Caesar "The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones."

Most people grow up learning that it is uncouth to speak ill of the dead often there is no religious sanction for this as well. Yet online anonymity brings out the worst in people. It is as if the acceptable norms of social interaction cease to apply once you dissociate your name from your opinion.

While this behavior is commonly accepted on all online forums and dismissed as trolling or flaming, "dissing the dead" is fortunately still being viewed with the seriousness it deserves.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


My girlfriends who can't agree even on where to grab a bite for lunch are unanimous in their verdict on my social life - I don't have one. I have been in full-steam Mommy mode for so long that I no longer know what I would like to do for R&R for myself.Saturday afternoon momtinis sound only a little bit more fun than going grocery shopping.

Single parenting is overwhelmingly about planning up to the minute,balancing conflicting demands on your time, making decisions about a child without the benefit of an adult counterpoint and finally feeling like a twenty four day is not nearly long enough. On most days I do get the job done but the tiredness keeps growing like the US trade deficit.

N was traveling through town recently and asked me out on a "non-date date". He is still recovering from his break up with the woman he really loved. Being back in the dating scene has taken a heavy toll and he wanted to spend an evening with a friend and a kindred spirit. We had dinner by the beach and drove back into town looking for a club with a live band. He loved the music and I hated it but we had a wonderful time. He was able to let go and talk about heartbreak into the wee hours like he never could with a real date. He made me see the humor of my own misadventures maybe with a little help from the mudslides.

I got the well deserved break from being constantly in the Mommy state of mind and in N not being a parent himself, I was actually one up on the momtinis on the R&R scale for the single mother.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Chick Lit Readership

Nice essay by Anita Nair on why chick lit is good for a woman's soul. Its so true that some women have to grow up to enjoy chick lit. Whereas at sixteen she wouldn't be caught dead with a Mills and Boon number, it is okay to convalesce from flu with gallons of soup and a pile of chick lit on the bedside table at fifty.

I remember checking out five to ten random Harlequin romances from the library for my neighbor Ms R when she was feeling under the weather and needed to stay home and rest. Her bookshelf was busy with serious literature and Ms R was no chick. I used to wonder about the Harlequin fix particularly the fact that she could go through those many in a day or two. She didn't even care what I got as long it was a whole bagful. I must be coming of age myself because I skim through chick lit in bulk when I'm in the mood for something light. To me it is not in any way different from a few hours mindless channel surfing.

Laksmi Chaudhry is of the opinion that all literature including Hemingway is chick lit today - most fiction does not cater to the tastes of men.

According to Brooks, we have burdened little boys with “new-wave” novels about “introspectively morose young women,” when they would be better served by suitably masculine writers like Ernest Hemingway. “It could be, in short, that biological factors influence reading tastes, even after accounting for culture,” Brooks claims. “The problem is that even after the recent flurry of attention about why boys are falling behind, there is still intense social pressure not to talk about biological differences between boys and girls (ask Larry Summers).”

The case against chick lit or at least against their writers is that it undermines the credibility of serious women writers. While the readership of the two genres vary a good deal there are points of intersection and in that a possibility of combining the best of both worlds.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bridal Tour

I can't believe us desis are lagging behind the world in the bridal tourism business. For crying out loud we have a Miss Universe and Miss World from India - just that should suffice for marketing the desi woman's eye candy quoitent. It only helps that Bollywood musicals feature oomphy starlets by the dozen.

Something along the lines of A Foreign Affair should find a natural habitat in India. I can picture a bus load of western men traveling from Ludhiana to Cochin to select an aspirant bride to take home to wife. That our girls should fall behind their Ukranian sisters is an anomaly that needs correcting. Done right, this could be a remunerative cottage industry

A full-service outfit like AFA can take a man from mouse-click to matrimony for less than $10,000, orchestrating everything from travel and hotel arrangements to legal services to home delivery of flowers and chocolate—complete with digital photos of the woman's ecstatic reaction—while she waits for her paperwork to go through.

Safety measures like chaperoning the would be bride, an iron-clad pre-nup and ensuring that the man's credit and credentials are fully verified before he steps on the bride tour bus would differentiate industry leaders from fly by night operators. Providing the couple extended warranty in the form of discounted legal aid, marriage counseling, spa and massage services would make good business sense as well.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Friendly Banks

I've stayed with my current bank as long as I have mainly from laziness. Now, if their customer service totally sucked I would have overcome my inertia and taken my business elsewhere. I could not complain of anything except of drowning in their syrupy sea of saccharine sweetness. The tellers in my bank give a new meaning and dimension to service with a smile. If it takes bunny rabbit ears stuck on them to amuse a jaded customer they will gladly do it.

I have been asked about my day, if I was enjoying the fair weather or if I planned to do anything fun this weekend all while making my deposit and taking out a couple of tens in cash. I have to admit that I enjoy starting my Saturday mornings by stopping at the bank - it takes the sting out of the many hours of running mindless errands thereafter. Because of perma-smiles on their faces, I prefer them to the ATM machine - it also saves me the trouble of having to write my name and address on the deposit slip.

Unlike me, some folks find the friendly face of banking quite nauseous. When you are in the customer service business, you can please some people all of the time, some people some of the time but never all people all of the time - clearly amping up the sugar is not the silver bullet because it does not take diabetics into account.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Free Hand Furniture

In my childhood, I had read a folk tale possibly from China in which a young boy has the gift of bringing to life or making real anything he painted. Being able to transform free hand sketches into real furniture is almost like being that boy in the story.

When such technology goes mainstream and one is able to buy rapid prototyping kits in the store to give shape and form to their own ideas, that old folk tale will not remain quite as charming or fascinating.

As technology continues to advance, our capacity and even ability for amazement will probably suffer. Imagination will turn constrained by the ever expanding limits of what is realistically possible or will be in time - we would have almost always been there, done that.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Candy Surplus

This year, J did not notice Halloween come and go. My friends had warned me it would be a mega deal now that she was in kindergarten and there would be terrible consequences of not buying her a costume. J did not come back from school all primed up for Halloween as had been feared and no trick or treaters came knocking at our door either. One toddler dressed like a bright pink bug walking around the community with her mother was the solitary sign of the day. In sharp contrast, it was a big deal at work - there were Goths, Vikings, gypsies and witches all around.

Last year, J brought home several pounds of candy and it took her over six months to work through the loot of one evening. Came a point when she was too bored to eat any more but would not give it away either - spoils of war are not so easily given away. Remnants of Tootsie Rolls and sticky Jolly Ranchers routinely show up in the oddest places to this day and I am sure I have not seen the last of it yet. We were clearly missing a candy grabber last year.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Desi Dating And Matrimony

A veteran war horse of the dating game once gave me advice out of pity for my naiveté "Spend time just talking to them, go out for lunch, forget dinner do lunch or coffee..go dutch, disengage all the trappings of 'dating' while still dating." Anyone would agree all of that makes good sense. In an ideal world, one would graduate from friendship to relationship to love and the transitions would be natural and seamless. That is theory and then there is practice.

I can speak only to the desi condition not having dated non-desis. We seem to have taken arranged matrimony into our own hands, added to it a western sensibility that is not part of its inherent nature and thrown "dating" into it for good measure. We will get the horoscopes checked out before embarking on anything serious but also expect to feel that natural vibe that tells us we have found "the one". We do not want to get emotionally entangled with the prospect and would prefer to hide behind the shield of our match making parents yet we want to be in love before marrying. There are more contradictions that can be counted in our dating tending mating recipe.

With a formula like that, the enterprise is doomed even before it gets off the ground. It does not help that one of the two parties has a greater need and urgency for closure than the other. Many of us are guilty of introducing a "relationship" element into a nascent friendship and then strangulating it within a time-boxed denouement. The resulting stress is usually enough to sap all the vital energy that it takes to move things forward.

Most desi encounters begin with the parties agreeing at least in principle that they should start as friends and take things forward slowly and should it not work out disengage gracefully. Inevitably, somewhere along the way (and often very soon) one or other of the two will step up the pace and push to the next level even without having reached any level of comfort as "friends".

For men that might mean implying and expecting a committed and exclusive status when in truth they may emotionally not be ready even for a "commit to commit" . The strategies include but are not limited to all-night phone calls, inundating her mailbox (physical and electronic) with notes and tokens of love, meeting several times within a short period of time creating an illusion of a stronger, longer relationship than it truly is.

Finally there is talk about marriage, in-laws, future plans of returning to India and god forbid the yet to be born children - essentially dream peddling without any realistic notion of a possible future together. Once you engage each other at levels that are beyond the scope of friendship its not possible to go back. You can only dye a fabric a shade darker than its original color and not lighter - you try to bleach and you may ruin its texture for good.

Women may act of out need for emotional closeness that the previous string of pseudo relationships did not bring. Then there is the dread biological clock factor which is mostly a state of mind and has little to do with actual biology. When the prospect feels right, she may not be able to curb her enthusiasm and end up sending alarming distress signals - he is the male with the right plumage but she zeros on him with more force than he is able to withstand. She may force an early read on the relationship to assess if it is worth pursuing. Time spent in pursuing a prospect is time wasted if the prospect does not turn into husband.

To invest time, energy and emotions on a man without any line of sight towards the goal of matrimony may be more than she is willing to do. Dating becomes a commitment snare that she is as desirous of laying out as the man is of escaping. At the end of several years in the dating scene she will either suffer from attention deficit disorder in relationships never allowing time for things to run their course or just cling to the boyfriend of two years from habit and sheer exhaustion.

Men have told me that women will offer to sleep with them just to jump start into relationship mode and hope that physical intimacy will enable them to extract a commitment of marriage. Then there are the women who at the end of the second in person meeting ask if the man is ready to name a date for the marriage and will make him feel like a degenerate pile of trash for not being able to do so. Presumably men neither seek the slut nor the sati but the happy medium in between that was personified to our generation by the girl in the VIP suitcase ad - the pretty girl next door who has everything a man needs in a wife blended in perfect proportion.

Men claim that women of a certain vintage have a dating playbook and it is often impossible to know the person she really is. They will display the exact mix of spontaneity, fun, wit, charm, loving and caring for a man to feel the warm and fuzzy they need to in a potential wife. Some men get suckered in while others wonder why the vibe feels so manufactured. The former get married and turn disappointed when the woman finally shows her true colors once safely ensconced in the state of matrimony.

The later keep shopping in the ever growing pool of prospects who can be found online - there is always better accomplished, better educated and better looking women out there and each encounter sets up expectations for a bigger, better deal around the corner. Shopping for a spouse can turn addictive. When at last they do stop and get hitched, men are left to wonder why the nymphomaniacs they were dating have zero interest in sex a year into marriage or why the woman who checked on their flu twenty times and brought in chicken soup from the other end of town does not have the time to cook a single dinner in a month.

Likewise women are disappointed in the men they date and marry for a wide variety of reasons. The man is no longer turned on by her confidence, her decision to go back to school for an MBA and her successful career when in fact those were the things that once attracted him to her. They can't agree on the right time to start family less the right time to stop. Her parents are are a little less equal than his parents, all of her money is his money but some of his money is always out of bounds - it is funneled back home through an NRI account and a credit card with an astronomical credit limit. It is the least he can do to assuage his guilt about not being there in India to take care of his parents.

The theme of interfering in-laws is a common across most desi marriages that go kaput. Despite the couple having every reason to stay happily together they are not able to because of the parents being privy to too much in their marriage. This aspect hardly manifests itself in the dating period when the couple is challenging the traditional wisdom of arranged matrimony.

The western sensibility that enabled the marriage is not extended to daily functioning of the institution itself in as such there is nothing to tell a couple that came together via dating from one that was arranged to be married. One would think there would be distinct differences contributing to the success parameters of one or the other. Marriage is probably one of the most seriously challenged desi establishments today suffering from a sub optimal mashup of the occidental and oriental world views of getting into and surviving life long relationships.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Divine Communication

In India there is a whole genre of comedy around fake swamis and other religious impostors. As long as people remain in need of a conduit to heaven their tribe will flourish. The story about unread letters written to God washed up to the New Jersey shore is reminiscent in some ways of the Indian experience with the Hindu religious establishment which derives both its strength and weakness in its lack of formal organization.

The Kaligath Temple in Calcutta (somehow the new nomenclature Kolkata does not roll off the keyboard easily) is within walking distance of my grandmother's home. My wish to go there was granted at about twelve years old. The significance of the event had not dawned on me until I realized that my father and uncle would be accompanying me. Grandmother was peeved that her other son was not going to be able to make it and it would just be two males going with me.

I was not sure why such a big entourage was needed for a visit to the temple that I had requested specially since the males in question were hardly the temple going kind. I was warned about the crowds and the how the place was crawling with men of malafide intent. The word molestation was mentioned a few times. I was no longer sure we were all talking about the Kaligath Temple, one of the most important religious destinations for a Hindu.

Even all the preparation had not prepared me for the crowds. The three of us stood in line with me in between my father and uncle forming a human shield against the rising tide of human bodies. I saw my grandmother's point about my absent uncle - he would have served as the lookout to deal with any miscreants who gained access to me where the shield fell short.

My desire for religious edification had turned out be a trial by fire for the rest of the family. As we wound our way into the sanctum sanctorum, human bodies crushed and churned together like food being pulped. Despite the best efforts to protect me, I was groped and touched. The priests and their cohorts heckled people to pay for their services as the intermediaries to God and stood guard over the shrine like Cerberus at the entrance to Hades.

For years after this experience, I thought about why it was significant for me and thousands of others to visit temples like Kalighat, deal with the atrocities of the temple priests and their many ancillaries who recycle flowers that once adorned dead bodies, prasad and tokens of consecration from the devotees.

We allow them to make a mockery of the religion and faith that they purport to uphold when we let ourselves believe that the doorway to heaven leads through a certain temple, a set of incantations that only a priest can perform or in letters written to God that a pastor has some divine way of communicating to their destination.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Web Vaastu

I hope Smita Narang has patented the web vaastu idea. It is high on both cool factor and exotica but its application, if her own website is any proof, leaves much to be desired. The overall aesthetics and design reminds you of your earliest attempts at personal web presence in the time of Geocities.

Loved this comment by one Slashdotter on her "web vaastu analysis" of Slashdot:

What if they start applying this people's faces? Will Smita Narang rearrange her face for balance? Looks like some 30 year old desperate housewife wanting some money on the side.

It would be interesting to compare the traffic stats on her site before and after the vaastu- challenged Slashdot ran her story. Maybe the theory there is the sum of all vaastu good and bad in the world is a constant.Therfore Slashdot's loss is Webvastu's gain.

At any rate, Narang gets two thumbs up for ingenuity in thinking this whole thing up and making news.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hearing Lies

Just for KishKash it may be worth converting to Skype from anything else you may have. Back in the day, the poster in my hostel room said "I must be a mushroom. Everyone keeps me in the dark and feeds me a lot of bullshit". It was as true a statement of my congenital cluelessness then as it is now. Surely, people of my stripe abound and for us there is hope.

Now KishKish SAM offers you a tool to detect the lies you hear on your Skype phone. With the use of KishKish SAM VSA you can monitor whole conversation and see the stress level of the person you talked with. Just keep a record of all your phone calls and monitor them for lies or high stress levels.

This would be my first line of defense against smooth talking HR types who try to con me into believing they are making me an offer I'd be stupid to refuse and prospective dates who as previously noted suffer from selective amnesia about wives and children languishing back home. If the demo was based on something less obvious than Clinton's denial of the Lewinsky business, I would have been convinced about the product's efficacy.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Morning Call

Reading Maureen Gibbon's description of the day she saw the picture of her rapist in the Engagements page of her hometown magazine reminded me of a Sunday morning when a woman called me and asked why I had been talking to her husband for months.

This was then a six month old relationship and in my imagination it was serious. I did not know then to recognize tell tale signs of hidden wives and children, of a real life that winded in and out of an imaginary one, of sociopaths who will stop at nothing to attain the woman they set their sights on and feel entitled to her love in return for their efforts. I had been lonely long enough to soak in the torrent of attention that he lavished on me.

Yet something always felt wrong like the one missing part of a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle. You don't know its not there until nearing the end. I spoke to the woman, heard her six month old twins bawling in the background and the helplessness of her situation that she left unarticulated. We felt sorry for each other being that we were both victims of a very sick man. Whereas my time was done, hers had not even started.

I could tell she would never leave him. We both knew he would lie low for a while, take the time to invent yet another new personality just as scintillating as the one he had used to snare me. He would probably get rid of the stylish goatee this time, trade the contacts for wireframe glasses, alter key events of his life to fit a new history, get a new cellphone number and an imaginary profession that made his business trips around the world make sense. He would do his homework, learn every last nuance of the line of work he gave himself - he would walk and talk the talk better than the best.

Some other woman would step into his lair unawares disarmed by his sense of humor and chutzpah, be treated like a queen until the spell was broken. Maybe I will see his picture some day in a trade journal and wonder who his latest victim is and if his wife had made the Sunday morning call yet. I would want to warn that woman and tell her to stop him from finding his way to the next. Instead I might like Gibbon stop reading that journal and go about my life preferring to deny that this ever happened to me because to deny pain is sometimes its best anodyne.