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Showing posts from June, 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.

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.

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…

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.

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) …

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.

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 give…

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 st…

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.

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 a…

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 curiou…

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 ma…

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 beca…

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…

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. …

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.

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.

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.

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 afte…

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 ar…

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 …

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 gett…

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…

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 s…

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.

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.

Adhocracy

Adhocracyis 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 …

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.…

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 intrig…

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 th…