Friday, June 30, 2006

Toy Library

This must have been the second or the third time since she was born that I have gone toy shopping for J. Given the wide assortment she has access to at daycare, the challenge of finding something that piques her interest is considerable. She was excited about buying a toy and turned into a very confused consumer once in the store. Toys start to collect in the shopping cart at an alarming rate even when she knows that we will be getting only one.

Even after all the effort that goes into making the final choice, chances are she will have no interest in it once we get home. This despite the fact that J has about one percent of the toys a kid her age typically has. I wonder how kids who already have plenty fare at toy shopping and how long their new acquisition sustains their interest.

Having a toy library would be a great way to bring the magnificent variety without breaking the bank. Too bad there is not one anywhere near me.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Creative Thinking

Fascinating article in The Atlantic about how the old cliche, make love, not war was put to test and reformed a dreaded group of terrorists.

The lesson here is not that the United States should host a series of mixers in the Arab world in hopes of encouraging the young men of al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations to forsake violence and embrace family life. Rather, the lesson is that clever, creative thinking can sometimes achieve unimaginable ends. Indeed, rather than concentrating on eliminating organizations, as we mostly do in our approach to countering terrorism, we should perhaps focus at least some of our attention on weaning individuals from violence. It could hardly be any less effective than many of the countermeasures that have long been applied to terrorism—with ephemeral, if not often nugatory, results.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Klondike Power

Having been a consultant for many years now, I am only too familiar with employee-only benefits. In my experience it has ranged from a bigger cubicle, better phone equipment, VPN access, fun team events to free Tampax in the ladies' room. I've huddled with two other consultants in a third of a cubicle even as the employee luxuriated in her space three times as large. I am sure the folks over in HR have good reason for treating hired help the way they do but sometimes things get taken to ludicrous lengths or at least that's what I used to think. I stand corrected.

At a client's site recently a batch of cards were handed out to employees entitling them one free ice-cream every week. Come Monday afternoon, the employees among us would troop out to the ice-cream truck and return to the war room to join the consultants. At a buck a pop how hard could it be to extend the courtesy to everyone I wondered. There is possibly nothing quite as uncomfortable and embarrassing to have a room full of adults in a meeting with a select few tucking into their Klondike bars as the rest struggle to maintain studied indifference. I surmised that HR was carrying out an experiment on Pavlovian response.

On Monday, I had unwittingly wandered over to where the ice-cream truck was at the appointed hour and my co-worker asked me pointing to his card "Did you filch one of these ? Ice-cream is not for everyone" I was too dumb-founded to articulate any response - I had no idea he felt so passionately about his privilege. If HR needed any proof of correlation between improved employee morale and free ice-cream on Mondays, they would have to look no further.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Cloudy With A Chance Of Rain

For days the clouds have hovered
mutinous and petulant threatening
to rain but barely managing a drizzle.
The sun would sneak up in the end.
It’s been cloudy with a chance of rain
for so long that its not even funny.
Yet today, it did rain until the last
smirk of sunlight was wiped off the
sky. Every forgotten umbrella was
remembered and rued. Confused
blades of grass that did not know
if to stay green or turn brown drank
their fill. In a few hours the memories
of
cheery cerulean have lapsed to gray.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Immature Adults

I was reading Generation Me by Jean Twenge recently where she talks about how this generation is taking longer than ever to take charge of their lives as responsible adults. The twenties are now for "finding oneself" and a career that one feels truly passionate about. The decade of self-discovery is often bankrolled by parents. The mantra is do what makes you happy and of course "You can be anything you want to be". Is it unacceptable to not live up to your dreams. I have already seen that Gen Me tagline on some stuff J has brought back home from her daycare.Until reading this book, I did not realize the full import of the message and how it brainwashed children into actually believing there are no limits in the real world, that talent and ambition have no need to be commensurate.

I particularly liked Twenge's analysis on the effect irrational exuberance was having on a generation that has had high doses of self-esteem (ungrounded by any special accomplishment) pumped into their system from early childhood. This article from Discovery News that says levels of immaturity in adults is rising, is almost a corollary to Twenge's theory about Generation Me. Maturity as it turns out is postponed with good reason :

modern cultures now favor cognitive flexibility, “immature” people tend to thrive and succeed, and have set the tone not only for contemporary life, but also for the future, when it is possible our genes may even change as a result of the psychological shift.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Frida

I watched the movie Frida yesterday and particularly loved they way the director recreates the events in Kahlo's life that culminate in a painting. The language of surrealistic painting is not something I understand easily. The movie was a wonderful lesson in art appreciation for me.

The portrayal of her lesbianism in life and her paintings leaves the viewer wondering if she was acting out of anger and disenchantment with the men she loved. It reminded me of a poem I had read years ago in which three unsatisfied women leave their men and earth to live as lovers on another planet.

This is a movie I will remember - just like her paintings, Frida Kahlo is too unusual and fascinating a subject to forget.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Mutual Attraction

Gordon is the uber-nerd who sits down the hall from me at work. He can be funny when he's not being condescending or limiting eye contact to a woman's chest when he's talking to her. I never thought I could come to tolerate him but we have come to have a decent working relationship.

This afternoon he swung by where I was sitting " Have you seen A ?" he asked me. "No, not in the past half hour" I replied. "He spent the whole afternoon with you. His wife is going to be jealous " There was some snickering around the room, I laughed too.

A and I were in a working session for a couple of hours earlier. To be fair to Gordon, there is mutual attraction between A and I but he is very mindful not to cross the line, not to flirt, to keep it strictly professional. But he clearly enjoys my company and given the nature of work we are thrown together quite a bit. I had not realized that the chemistry between us had been obvious to even one such as Gordon given A's over-zealous efforts at preserving propriety at all times.

Sometimes, I have had to wonder what might have come to pass if he had been attracted to a woman who dared him to cross the line or worse met him half the way. He is basically decent but has more charm and magnetism than is healthy or safe for a married man.

Friday, June 23, 2006

No More Tears

When I was a child, I tried very hard not to cry in public. It embarrassed me too much - specially after I was done and everyone seemed to look at me differently. Despite the occasional aberration my life before marriage did not give me much reason for tears, but I knew I had the capacity and tenderness - it did not take a lot to bring them on. Life with R was often about lying curled up on the living room carpet crying through the night hoping the pain would be washed away by when the tears were done.

He neither noticed nor cared. Later I would be told that I had no real problems like most people did and could afford to luxuriate in imaginary sorrow and shed tears. I must have cried more in the two years we were married than I had in my entire life preceding - it was like the floodgates had been opened and could not be shut again. I was ashamed of my weakness, irked at my inability to control those tears. It seemed that true empowerment and emancipation would come only when I could stop them and I craved for that to happen.

I believe there is only a finite pool of tears that a person has. Mine has long since been depleted. Today when something hurts, the only thing I feel is a dry, rasping kind of anger followed by a blunt pain. Try as I might, the tears refuse to come on. Every pore of me aches to sob the pain away but I just cannot do it any more. My heart's once deepest desire to stop crying has come now true. It is one of those ill conceived desires which once fulfilled cannot be undone. How I long to replenish my pool of tears, so I would be whole again.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Thrilling Chase

Scary article about a subculture where the AIDs virus is pursued by some men as the highest form of erotic gratification. Naturally, everything about their perspective on the disease turns conventional wisdom about AIDs on its head. I wonder if this could have to do with overcoming fear of unprotected and therefore unlimited and unrestricted sex - quite possibly what defines Nirvana to some. Once HIV is contracted, all doors are open.

There is nothing left to fear because there is nothing left to loose, nowhere to stop. It must be exhilarating to know that caution can be forever thrown to the winds. More than the moment itself which is clearly fetishised, the aftermath must be very tempting to those who seek the bug. It could also be a slow and bizarre kind of suicide. Reading the Rolling Stone article left a strange taste in the mouth. Indeed, truth is much stranger than fiction.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Desi Male View

Things I would have never known if I had not spoken with Lord Einstein "Freud" Krishnamurthy - even by the high standards of delusional desi dudes, a formidable combination to be sure. Thus quoth Lord EFK:

1. There are two kinds of desi males on online matrimonial sites. Type A are the kind who have been there done that (i.e. dated blonds, lived in with non-desis) and are at the end of all fun and games. They are now "seriously" looking for the real McCoy (read low maintenance, no drama, high wage earning, single, beautiful desi female with superior home making genes). Type B are the kind that don't have the balls to play the "real" game like the As. It riddles them with insecurity to approach any firang. Instead they prey on more accessible and vulnerable desi women who are looking real hard to find their prospective husbands online.

2. Type A speak on day two "If I just wanted fun and games why would I pick a desi girl when the blond bombshells are to be had for the asking ?" Wonder how it came to be that Aishwarya Rai was pronounced the most beautiful woman in the world by Julia Roberts. I guess Ms Roberts lacks the discernment of our desi brethren and she's not even blond so what does she know about being beautiful.

3. Type B speak on day two "I feel so close to you already. I don't want to freak you out but I checked the requirements for getting a marriage certificate in NJ. We're almost there anyways." The conversation ends with B offering to buy the girl a plane ticket to join him in Chicago where he will be on a business trip. He emphasizes that they can share the hotel room - what better way to "get to know each other"

4. Desi girls have no respect for the desi male. They write in their profiles "If you speak English with a broad desi accent, have children, are less than six feet tall, do not possess six pack abs, are not an US citizen, don't make more than $120,000 a year please do not bother to respond. I am not interested in you even if you were the last man standing on the planet" Despite injunctions thusly imposed they are contacted exactly by the low life riff raff they so heartily disdain. They are understandably frustrated and ask "Are these guys delusional ?" Turns out that the boys have a healthy self esteem and believe they could make the grade even after failing to match the specifications on all counts. For crying out loud, they have a penis - what more could she ask for ?

5. If a desi woman had been formerly been married to an alpha desi male (i.e. pedigreed education, highly successful professionally, well connected family, made shit load of money under 40) she deserves her fate for throwing away her amazing good fortune. That she is clinically retarded is a foregone conclusion. Both alpha and beta (i.e. less than pedigreed education, mediocre career, nondescript antecedents, home owner with an aging Lexus on the driveway) desi males root for her Ex and tell her how incredibly stupid she has been. Lesser males (gamma, delta and more) get penis envy from the sheer size of her Ex's shadow.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Keeping An Eye

J's new daycare has an atmosphere that feels like a cross between a hospital and a noisy marketplace. They keep things antiseptically clean, the classrooms are lined on both sides of a long corridor that this reminiscent of a hospital ward. There are several hundred kids and their parents rushing in and out - so there is much noise and chaos.

One neat thing they have that I haven't seen before is a closed circuit TV. It allows parents to watch their kids in their rooms while still in the lobby. I am usually rushing in and out at the speed of a tornado with no leisure to stand and stare at the screen. If instead they had a web camera that I allowed me to check on J while at work that would be immensely useful.

It would be the next best thing to being there. I am sure there are risks involved in empowering parents to keep a remote eye on their wards at all times. Some disgruntled mother could potentially record footage and use it to sue the centre for negligence. I would be curious to know if that is the why they stop at the TV at J's center.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Starting On High Notes

Interesting article in NYT on the lifetime expected earnings of those who graduate during recession. Apparently they never quite catch up with the pay gap they have with those who got their first jobs in a booming economy. I wonder what they say the score is for those who graduated in that extended period of lull before the dot com storm. The economy was possibly middling at the time as was the job market. Maybe that generation of graduates is fated to remain in the 50th percentile for life.

Dr. Oyer's advice to the class of 2006 is not lofty: "Try to get lucky. And also, think carefully about that first job because it can matter for the rest of your career."

I find it hard to buy that based on my own experience and what I have seen within my peer group. I think it has more to do with individual ability to steer the course of their career, being able to anticipate market trends and demands for certain types of skills, knowledge and expertise. Taking calculated risks and making the right investments in oneself can influence the shape of a career graph much more than landing that dream job straight out of school.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Waterfall of Wisdom

I spent most afternoon and evening sitting by the window reading I Don't Know How She Does It. This book has been recommended to me by a number of mothers - single and otherwise. It's been a while since I've laughed so much reading. The main story line is about a successful career woman, mother of two with a precarious work life balance (or should we say imbalance).

Allison Pearson's eye for detail is remarkable and her prose as scintillating as her sense of humor. How could you go wrong with that kind of combination ? Being a single mother juggling work, child and tentative relationships within a twenty four hour day, I should have related most to the protagonist Kathy. Instead I found myself quite fascinated by the wit and wisdom of the Ravel playing, philosophy major minicab driver who famously offers Kathy a joint (which she accepts against her better judgment) so she can chill for a bit.

He has this fascinating theory that men are growing erectile dysfunctional because the women in their lives make more money than they do. He also has this charming story about a waterfall and the Roman general Scipio. He is trying to tell Kathy that there is a roaring background noise in her life that she is so used to that she does not even hear it. If she were to move far away enough from this metaphorical waterfall she would be able to hear it again. To me that was the most poignant moment in the book. He seemed to speak of my circumstances too.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Two Worlds

A few days ago, J had her pre-kindergarten graduation. I did not know the existence of such a thing until then. Watching the ceremony brought home how little the teachers who spent eight hours a day with my child understood her. I wondered if it was for their want of trying or if J had remained emotionally inaccessible to them.

When it was her turn to say what she wanted to be when she grew up, J said "When I grow up, I want to be an engineer". Later when we were home she told me "I said I want to be an engineer just for the graduation but I really want to be a doctor. I want to be able to fix people". She had no good answer for why her stated goal in life was different from the "real" one. Based on everything she offered by way of explanation it seems like she wants to keep her real dreams private.

I don't know whether to feel gratified that she shares what is closest to her heart with me or be concerned that she is already developing different private and public personas. To deny her the right to have dreams and thoughts that she does not want to share with the world would be quite unfair. I am almost sure none of her friends know that she loves jazz and detests Disney
animation movies.

I hope I can tend her secret garden well so she always finds one place to unwind and be her real, natural self without needing to pretend, please or conform.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Gravid Memories

It must be the time of year when the most children are born. That would explain why I see in women in their third trimester wherever I go. They remind me of my own time. I had started a journal to record my experiences that ended up becoming a letter for J.

Today it reads like a testament of emotional upheaval – there were ominous signs that my marriage was coming undone and I was in denial. I painted myself a perfect family and home where J would come to live and grow. I was hoping to defer if not deny the inevitable. In the midst of all the turmoil, I found solace in listening to old Bengali songs I had grown up hearing my father sing. When I listened to certain songs, J would seem to grow very still in my womb like she were listening too - most often they were my favorites numbers.

Our first bonding came through a shared love of music and that more than anything else makes us the most happy together even today. We were listening to some of those songs this evening after a long time. J was delighted and did some of her ballet moves to go along. She made east meet west as she must unconsciously do all the time. What a long way J and I have come from that first moment of purest ecstasy when I tested positive on the stick test.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bonfire Of Rejections

There are many like my friend Estelle who swear by the power of positive affirmation. Part of their system is about negating all things negative and depressing. Turning rejection letters into custom toilet paper is an example of just such a thing. A great concept but the price tag has very high ouch quotient.

A better (and much cheaper) idea of equal and greater efficacy maybe to make a bonfire of the rejection letters. Thinking of letters and bonfires reminds me of my classmate Aparna who in our final year of college had made a bonfire of all the Valentines' Day and birthday cards she had received from lovelorn suitors in four years. Being the heartbreaker she was, it made for a merry fire and we enjoyed reading the mushy purple prose aloud before she consigned it to the flames. Never have I seen "love" so theatrically rejected.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Smart Labels

Pasta sauce and mango puree are the two things I most often find mildewing in my fridge. I like to keep some around but just don't use it often enough. Then there is that odd left-over from a week ago that I end up throwing because I did not get to it on time.

A label that monitors how long the food has been lying around is a great idea. I wonder if the capillary action technology on which this is based would work for fresh produce as well. That would take care of all the forgotten cucumbers, squashes and bell peppers as well.


If we could go ahead and RFID the label and have it beep me on my cellular life would be just picture perfect - sometimes there is no such thing as too much of a good thing.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Big Brother Watching

Saw a rather neat feature on the BBC website. They have a way to rank order their most popular stories near real time based who is reading them around the world. It was interesting to see how stories stacked up in popularity in different parts of the world.

The same idea implemented on something like Google Earth could allow one to zoom in on a street, maybe home and know what an individual was reading at any given time - a distinctly and discomfortingly Orwellian thought. The notion of empowering everyone to play Big Brother does seem to be in currency these days.

It would be nice though to have a net nanny keep an eye on your children while they were online or warn you if someone was trying to hack into your bank account. That would hark back to older times when we lived in close-knit communities and the whole village was family - except our friendly cyber-neighbor would be two continents removed from us.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Singled Out

Whatever a single person may have to do on their personal time, in the workplace it scores significantly lower than anything a parent does prefaced with "My kid" as the author of this CSM article describes.

"Family friendly" connotes policies that are "friendly" towards a family unit comprised of working parents with young children. All others are outliers in this scheme and may rightfully feel discriminated against. Maybe the workforce is predominated by those who fit the typical family configuration and it makes sense for the organization to cater to their needs.

From my experience, I have seen singles often stay late and come in early when they don't
even need to. In doing so, they inadvertently set expectations of being available to pitch in when someone needs to take time off to nurse their sick child.

For a lot of singles the work place extends into their social life. On a Friday evening it is common for a group of singles to hang out together after work - I know I have done it in my time. Office romances are very much in bloom and for those involved, being at the workplace is about spending time together and as such desirable. Maybe sometimes singles contrinute by their actions to the views held about them.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Percentile Question

When J was born she was at the 90th percentile of both height and weight. Now at close to five years old she is at the 10th. When I voice my concern about this rather dramatic shift to pediatricians they dismiss me saying there is nothing to worry about because J is perfectly normal and healthy. Recently, one doctor told me with a condescending smile "Well, someone has to be in the 10th percentile and there is nothing wrong with being there"

I wondered if he was implying I was being a pushy mom - the kind that in later life will not cringe at putting her child on a "smart pill" so she can get ahead of the competition. I wondered if he thought I was the type of parent that will do anything to get their child in the 90th percentile of everything and remain there. I may have imagined the insinuation.

Having grown up in a very competitive environment, I try to remain alert to any signs of me turning into the type of parent I have always held in much disdain. But there are things about one's culture and times that one picks up and acts on subconsciously. Unless an outsiders calls attention to it, we would remain blissfully unaware of what we are doing .

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Dawn Rendezvous

If Sheila had not met MJ , the phrase "earth-shattering chemistry" would have continued to be as meaningful to her as "Intra-Universe wormhole" is. It was just 5:30 a.m. when she called him from the intersection of 42nd Street and 7th Avenue. Small town girl that she was, she had lost her bearings in Manhattan as always.

"Where are you ?" he asked her. She told him. "Stay right there. I'll meet you in about 10". He sounded pretty wide awake even at such an early hour. When she turned around to his "Hey, you" there was MJ in person even more attractive than he was in his pictures. The smile was as devastating as it was inscrutable - he seemed to be amused at some inside joke that she did not get. What it lacked in openness it made up for in high-octane charm.

For the couple of hours they spent together, she seemed to have lost control over her body. With every fleeting touch or caress she wanted him with a feral intensity that scared her.
He could not keep his hands off her and she did not resist.

They had both meant to have a "conversation" upon meeting first but had not counted on physical chemistry rendering it quite impossible.
They could not find anything meaningful to talk about. The charge between them was snuffing out words sooner than they could come up with but the abrupt silences did not feel awkward.

In the past few weeks they had great phone conversations that lasted hours. They had been excited about the spontaneous connection and at the chance to meet even if at this very odd hour. At 7:30 they both had to leave. She had a breakfast meeting with a client before her flight back home, he had to get to work.

MJ gave her a hug and whispered into her ear "Miss me" before saying goodbye - his body arrogantly probing hers in an embrace so close that it could be coital. As she got into her cab, she wondered how the morning might have turned out if they had met at his place in Brooklyn or somewhere a little more private than the middle of Times Square.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Conversations With J

The last three days, when I come to get J in the evening from her new daycare I find her crying. Yesterday Ms A told me "I notice she cries when the daddies come in. She seems just fine when the mommies do" I told her "I think I know why" Ms A was acutely embarrassed and said promptly "I don't want to know. Its not any of my business".

Once we got home, I asked J "Is Ms A right that you cry when the daddies come to pick their children ?"

J says "Yes."

I ask her "Why does that make you cry, baby ?"

She says "Because they all think they are my Daddy when they are not. I really don't have one. I don't want any of them to be my Daddy. I want to have a real Daddy of my own"

I was puzzled by that explanation. She was not saying that seeing the daddies of other kids made her miss not having one of her own. The word "real" was repeated several times. She was trying to say something that I was not quite getting.

I asked "What makes you think that the other Daddies think they are your Daddy ?"

She replies "Because they think they are my Daddy" and she bursts into tears again.

"Do they say or do something to you ?" I ask more confused than ever

"No" she says still sobbing

"Do they smile at you ?" I ask

"Yes. But I don't want any of them to be my Daddy. They are not my real Daddy" she declares empathically starting to cry again.

I wonder what about a smile could convey the message that J is getting. I was quite amazed at the complicated thought process that was churning in J's little head.

" So the other mommies don't think that they are your Mommy ?" I ask

"No they don't" she says promptly

I have no idea of what to make of all this. J is the kind of kid that most adults spontaneously adore. I have seen her smiling and greeting random people (men and women) at the parking lots, parks, stores - wherever. They happily reciprocate and some of them are "daddies" and are smiling at her but that does not make her cry. I am not sure how this all adds up.

There is nothing quite as frustrating as having a child tell you where and how it hurts their little hears and not being able to make any sense of it. I have parsed through what she told me a hundred times since yesterday without being able to come any closer to comprehension.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Eye For Detail

They are the last two to leave the meeting. Rajesh holds the door open gallantly for Sheila. When she thanks him, he says "Its my pleasure" with such seriousness that she is taken aback. He watches her svelte form as she walks away. He always had the ability to view a woman aesthetically. Even back in the day when the hormones were furiously raging, and his best friend Kaustav rated women by their cup size, Rajesh was struck by their charm and grace more than their vital statistics.

When he first started seeing Anjana, Kaustav had said "You're can't be serious about her. What in fuck's name are you going to do with that dry stick in bed ?" The stick used to wear her hair in a severe looking bun and Fabindia kurtas two sizes too large. Rajesh noticed her well groomed feet with toenails painted a frosty shade of pink, the delicate Kholapuri sandals and the lavender smell of her talcum powder. The sound of her laughter had the freshness of rain on dry earth. She wore surma instead of eye liner unlike most other girls and unlike most guys he noticed the difference . To him, she was the stuff that dreams were made of. He had proposed to her at their favorite chai stall just outside the university campus. She had said "Of course " in acceptance. It was also the day he had first kissed her and was pleasantly surprised by the passion of her response.

Sheila had little in common with the Anjana of those days yet every time their eyes met, Rajesh had to catch himself from stumbling into a reverie. How odd that he should recall the feel of Anjana's tongue in his mouth and the smell of elaichi on her breath from twenty years ago when he could not remember the last time in the past year that they had kissed with any real passion.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Blushing Lamp

Reading about the blushing lamp I tried to remember any phone conversation that had made me blush –only one came to mind and it was in the mid 80s. What a long time ago ! I guess I am past the age of “blush” and can’t relate to it anymore.

I am familiar with a myriad of other emotions that a phone conversation can evoke – pain, longing, desire, anger, happiness and laughter are some I can readily think of. Hours after I get off the phone with my best friend I feel like I am floating on a million effervescent bubbles of delight. I have no idea how he does it. The blushing lamp would need to glow like a neon sign to approximate my mood.

When R returned to my life after a one year hiatus, my heart throbbed with a dull pain whenever we talked on the phone. In time that changed to longing and even happiness but a tiny kernel of pain remained - that was at the core of all other feelings – a metaphor for our short-lived marriage. A blushing lamp whose glow waxed, waned around a central black spot and sometimes turned completely dark would certainly reflect that state of being.

Humanizing technology to observe and record human emotions is certainly useful. It is like having someone to hold up a mirror to us when we would have no way knowing what we are undergoing emotionally - visual cues could serve as warnings to save us from destructive relationships.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Blog Plus

I love the idea of OurStory.com - seems like Flickr meets Livejournal to me. Specially the timeline idea where you can zoom in and zoom out of your life to view the years that have been in appropriate perspective. Then there is collaboration with those who make up your life's story. Having one place to hoard all of your memories is nothing short of perfect.

Like a life well lived a well crafted life-story would be a work of art - the kind that can be put on display to be admired. There are times when every minute, hour and day is replete with event and significance. Ten years later these moments remain memorable but not at that level of detail. Yet sometimes we long to revisit and relive one particular hour from many years ago as an entity unique from its surroundings - that would now be possible.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Masterpiece Face

A couple of weekends ago I watched Girl with a Pearl Earrings. Yesterday I finally got my affordable but decent digital camera and have taken about twenty close-up shots of J's face already. Stumbling upon myDaVinci today and seeing a little girl's face on the famous Vermeer painting is certainly a strange coincidence.

The selection is very small right now. Hopefully in time that will change and there will be more photo transformation service providers to choose from. It certainly is the Me generation why else would a "My Monalisa" be a saleable concept. Or perhaps we have always desired to see our face on a masterpiece but only now gathered the technical wherewithal to have our wish.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Adhocracy

Adhocracy is common most corporations - it is necessitated by the pace of change they need to keep up with to be successful. Market conditions that triggered a project could have altered completely if it takes too long to complete rendering the expected deliverable unnecessary or worse counter-productive.

The pressure to keep up the forces of change disseminates throughout the organization. By when the worker bees react to it, there is no longer any line of sight to the drivers for change. Rationale for senior level management decisions, do not get explained to those who are in and around the trenches – it is safely assumed that they have no need to know. They are instead given orders which when followed without any appreciation or understanding of context leads to untold chaos.

A corporation would be able react swiftly to change, if all of its parts acted in synchronicity and were trying to survive a hostile ecosystem as a single organism. How it helps to have the head go off somewhere in its own and have the rest of the body play catch-up has never made sense to me.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Comfort Zones

Reading a query in an agony aunt column got me thinking about work, hobbies, marriage and infidelity and some parallels. The woman in question has been married ten years, has two kids and a hectic life. That this is a desi first generation immigrant family is an interesting side note. Her problem is she was in an affair and was quite ok with her situation until her husband found out. Now she realizes her transgression is reprehensible and is repentant. The husband is naturally upset and does not trust her any more. She wants to know how she can remedemiate things so they can go back to being the couple they were before her affair.

The quandary is fairly universal but being desi throws the fear of having earned bad karma into the boiling cauldron of guilt, shame, helplessness, regret and anger. Her marriage like many marriages had become a chore quite a bit like many jobs become after a while. When you are younger, you are driven by ambition to make a "career" out of your job. Your efforts pay off and you find yourself in a position of comfort.

Over time even comfort turns boring - you realize your career has plateaued, that you have gone about as far as you have potential to go. So you look forward to any time you find to indulge in that one hobby that you feel passionate about. Infact keeping this passion alive helps you endure the daily grind. It would not be fair to ask that you abandon the hobby that gave you so much pleasure so you concentrated on your "real" job.

Similarly in the first few years of marriage,many couples invest a lot of their energy to build the foundation of their relationship. Ten years and a couple of kids later they are in the same comfort zone as a career plateau. There is always room for growth for those who try but it is also common to slack off when you get comfortable.

An extra marital relationship could provide the same value to an old marriage as a weekend of white water rafting could give someone to face a week of cubicle bound drone work. No wonder the woman in question did not think much of her affair until her husband found out. Very likely her marriage felt like it was in better health because of her relationship. This is not to say that infidelity is no worse than having a hobby and as such perfectly legitimate and acceptable.

While being in a career plateau forever maybe quite ok, a marriage needs to be treated differently. Growing too comfortable should probably treated as a warning sign, a time to shake things up until both spouses take each other as seriously as they first did.

Friday, June 02, 2006

First Meeting

Sheila used to be Sheela once - Sheela of the bland and vanilla fame. So innocuous that she could blend with the background soundlessly. Then in her teens a little knowledge of numerology prompted the dangerous desire for change - namely Sheila. The clothes grew bolder, the hairstyle chic and red usurped pink as her favorite color. She became aware of the primal attraction she felt for tall, athletic men with big lips. Her basal metabolic rate seemed to spike when she was around them - on a cold day she could be sweating. Yet such a man without the spark of wit could not start a fire despite all the electric charge.

When she enters the conference room, Rajesh recognizes her as the woman with the strappy red sandals. He smiles at her. She smiles back in vague recognition. She notices
his beer belly, dimples, flabby face and thin lips - the very antithesis of what constitutes attractive to her. Yet during the course of the two hour meeting, she glances at him at few times somewhat intrigued by the air of brooding sadness about him. Sheila's first instinct about him (and she has these about most people) is that he is a romantic soul trapped in the body of a drudge. She feels sorry for him like a mother may feel for her sick child.


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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Forty Something And Slowing

In his forties he prefers to go by Rajesh rather than the diminutive Raj. His wife Anjana calls him Raju the kids switch between Papa and Dad as frequently they do between Hindi and English - one man, many names. The elevator is out of order this morning and he feels wasted by the time he reaches his cubicle on the third floor.He feels vauguely envious of the slender woman in strappy red sandals as she races past him - she is probably in her late twenties and looks like youth is here to stay with her. At 5’10” and 200 lbs there is nothing diminutive about him anymore. Being on the road four days a week, living cheaply in motels and eating convenient have taken their combined toll.

Anjana complains about his beery breath as much as she does about his weight when they try the missionary position. She is the kind of woman who has lain prone all her conjugal existence and prefers it that way. Raju rolls over to his side of the bed, she heaves a sigh of relief. So much has changed since the heady days of courtship in college. The woman he is married to is nothing like the girl he fell in love with but he is not Raj anymore either. His hair is thinning and graying as if they were forces in contest with each other.

Everything about him has turned softer and slower over time – his speech, gait, smile and laughter. Sometimes he dreams in slow motion – each frame of his life moving a tenth of its normal pace forcing him to pay attention to minutiae that would have otherwise gone unnoticed and ignored. When he wakes up the world seems to be whirling around furiously. He tries to catch up with work, with friends from long ago, the tax documents, the investment portfolio, the boys’ karate lessons among a host of other things.

He trails behind dragged down by the weight of his existence. Anjana got him a membership to Gold’s Gym on their anniversary. Rajesh eyes it longingly each time he opens his wallet to pay for his sandwich to go with fries on the side. If only Anjana had more imagination.

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