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Showing posts from November, 2005

Not Floorable

J's current best buddy, Bryce calls her Dora. I had no idea who or what Dora is and had to google to find out.
Turns out she is "Dora the Explorer, a problem solver who doesn't give up when faced with obstacles, is an adventurer whose curiosity and spirit lead her to explore the world". Wonder what Bryce had in mind when he gave J that nickname.

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

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

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

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

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

Mind Of Winter

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

The Snow Man
Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow; And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves, Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Ignorance Was Bliss

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

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

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

Dream Making

For entirely selfish reasons, I allow J to skip her afternoon nap on Sunday. She goes down earlier in the evening and Monday is not nearly as manic. Everyone wins.
Typically, J looks forward to an afternoon of fun and games which involves pulling every last toy she owns into the living room and mixing that up with empty boxes of cereal, cans of yoghurt, discarded costume jewelry, clothes (mostly hers some mine), crayons, paper - in all a mind boggling mix of things.

The games are mostly pretend. An empty can of yoghurt surrounded by white lei is a bird sitting in its nest. I am supposed to watch my step around the bird because she'll be scared.
Four pairs of socks stuffed into a plastic container with three chopsticks stuck in them is a birthday cake with three candles. I enjoy learning what things stand for in her imaginary world and have enough time to get work done as well.

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

Uncomfortable Silence

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

I was as embarrassed by the silence as was the person telling the joke. We chatted about other things while I tried to decipher the joke in my mind. Back home a couple of hours later, I finally got it and laughed sheepishly.
The incident reminded me of a time when I wasn't given any credit for my understanding of adult humor. In a sense I have come full circle.

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

Language Pangs

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

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

Felt fleeting sad that J was never going to know the pleasures of literature that I had been introduced to. R had fulfilled my longing for the language I loved but did not know too well. I am merely passing on my amnesia to J h…

Things Remembered

It must be providence that I should run into a gizmo called the stress eraser while thinking about a friend who is stressed and stretched to the point of bursting. Her Thanksgiving would have been quite unlike mine. She is visiting her father who is nearing death in a hospital. This may well be the last holiday they spend together. J made a ginger bread house and cookies with my friend C yesterday. She is the mother of a feisty teen and loves J for being "the perfect age to spoil". We had an amazing Jamaican dinner at R and L's later in the evening. I missed home, friends who were away, friends I spent Thanksgiving with last year, the marriage of a favorite cousin, all of the Indian festivals I have missed this year and not even noticed and the year that has flitted by too soon.

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

Not Afraid Of Flying

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

Watching Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was a mesmeric experience just for the fluid flying sequences. If Isadora Wing overcame her fear she could be Li Mu Bai - in the figurative sense.
Fact possibly meets fiction in this story about a new sport called le parkour that involves flying through urban spaces.

Geek Cookery

Cook books and recipes were few and far between when I was growing up giving a certain novelty to both. Each family had its own blend of spices that gave their food a signature and almost impossible to replicate flavor. Most learning came from watching mothers, aunts and grandmothers cook in their kitchens. They could not tell you how they worked the magic they did. You watched, immersed, absorbed and hopefully remembered what you had seen.

A modern day kitchen with it's mind boggling range of gizmos is likely to be full of cookbooks for food from around the world and yet the cook may be found googling eggplant recipes. Of the 2,030,000 possibilities that it throws up, not one will equal the taste of grandma's eggplant specialty because memories and nostalgia give food it's soul and not the most perfect recipe.As much as I enjoy cooking the plethora of recipes out there tires me out. However this geek spin on cooking is interesting - it makes me want to look at familiar rec…

Flying Spaghetti Scare

J doodles all the time and is partial towards bright colors like many kids. Many masterpieces adorn the fridge door, some have been scanned and posted online for the edification of the grandparents.
Lately my little Claude Monet has been scribbling on something that looks ominously close to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

At first I did not pay too much attention but the frequency of its appearance on scraps of paper around our household made me take a second look and ask a few questions. I was very close to accosting Miss A at her daycare to see if she was on a covert proselytizing mission for the FSM church. I figured being in full possession of the facts would be in order before any such step.

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

"It is a dump truck" she claimed.

"Really ? It does not look like a dump truck at all." I protested. Now, J is not the one to call…

Two Musicals

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

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

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

How The Other Side Lives

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

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

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

Impersonation

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

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

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J was going to turn a year in a month, I was apartment hunting in Bangalore, getting into the rhythm of being back in the workforce after a longish hiatus. The hunt came to a happy conclusion with me finding one that was spaciou…

Publicly Truthful

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

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

Incompetent Design

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

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

Birthing Languages

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

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

Love In Spanish

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

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

LOVE

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

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

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

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

Darling, your love gives me the hon…

Inscrutably Male

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

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

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

Watered Plants

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

Fashion Statement

I have a pair of yolk yellow bell bottoms a couple of years younger than I am. My mother saved it for her grandchild among many other things. That getting J to wear them to daycare would be a monumental struggle is not something grandma had counted on.
While the outfit was the fashion statement of it's time, it's importance to us is wholly sentimental. J's friends sport Ralph Lauren and Hilfiger labels of the season and to them this relic from the past is laughable simply because it does not look like anything they are familiar with. That four year olds could discern between in and out of style clothes has been an educative experience for me. I guess I have their parents to thank for that.

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

"Why don'…

Holiday Party

I wrote this a while ago. It's almost the holiday season again and I am amazed and grateful that life is so much different today.
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My cell phone announced a new voice mail though I had never heard it ring. It was Jay, the headhunter I had worked with for a year. We had never met before since we lived in different cities. "Now that you're here, I would like to invite you to a friend; holiday party. You will get to meet a lot of Indian families. Sheetal and I will pick you up at about eight. Let me know if that will work."I was at the time brand new in the city, staying in a seedy motel calling dealerships frantically to strike a deal on a car that I needed to buy within a week. In a world full of shiny, happy people with grand plans for the holiday weekend, I felt a perverse solidarity with the car salesmen who were obviously not having as much fun as everyone else, and as of now not ev…

Mad Rush

Nice article on Wired bemoaning the surfeit of technology and how it diminishes the quality of our lives. Exhausted as I am from running around like a headless chicken almost all the time, I completely agree with the author when he says"Just because technology makes it possible for us to work 10 times faster than we used to doesn't mean we should do it. The body may be able to withstand the strain -- for a while -- but the spirit isn't meant to flail away uselessly on the commercial gerbil wheel."Nothing beats the thrill of waiting for the postman to arrive with mail and see if you have received the letter that will make your heart pound even as you open it and leave you floating upon a cloud for weeks. I am grateful to belong to the last generation to have known that pleasure.

Sourcing Realities

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

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

Death Is Green

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

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

Cluttered Empty Nest

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

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

Story Tellers

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

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

Bil Lepp's stories were side-splittingly funny and had nothing in common with the histrionics of Ravana from the Ram Lilas of my childhood. Worlds apart and yet there is a tie that binds. The nip in the air, the stars in the s…

Books In Motion

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

Modern Times

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

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

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

Armchair Activist

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

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

Ravi Shankar Concert

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

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