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Showing posts from August, 2006

Cover Story

From experience, most men will claim they have been online looking for a wife only the last couple of weeks at most a few months and yet be hard pressed to explain how the age on their profile is lagging behind them by five years. Asking that "delicate" question could deal a fatal blow to the "relationship".They also generally profess to hate "this process" and will regale you with stories from the days of gut and glory when picking up women "offline" was easy. But as luck would have it, just when they turned "ready" for marriage, their jobs got so busy that they no longer had time to date the good old fashioned way. It's amazing to what lengths they go to prove they are not some borderline lunatic or pervert lurking online to prey on unsuspecting women as they do turn out to be five times out of ten.To have to resort to online dating seems to be viewed as a sign of being a socially inept loser, specially if they have been at it fo…

Watery Waste

Perhaps the only positive thing I can say about Deepa Mehta's Water is that it provoked me to list in painful detail all of the reasons I did not like it - that is possibly a better reaction to a movie than to have walked away to get dinner started and not been able to recall the name an hour later. Since the negatives are abundant, I will start with the few saving graces. The opening scene with an adorable girl wearing a nose ring and anklets chewing on a stick of sugar cane. She has not even had the time to register that she is married when her father tells her she is now a widow. She asks him "For how long ?". That was a beautiful and promising opening - except for the disproportionately strong sitar background music. Mehta as is evident throughout the movie does believe that less is more at least in editing. Chuhiya, the child widow turning hysterical as she refuses to accept the status-quo of widowhood is portrayed very well. The only other plus that comes to mind i…

Newfoundland

Hilarious article in The Observer on the acceptable use of the female erogenous zones for public display on newsstands.

But I do find it surprising that there is a region of the female body called the underboob - I had previously thought I had a complete mental map of all the female erogenous zones. Until the discovery of underboob, I believe I had worked out the perfect formula for identifying them. It was simple, and it was accurate. It goes thus: everything on a suitable female body is an erogenous zone, apart from the following: ears, armpits (esp. unshaven), nostrils, palms. But to return to the underboob and its implications. The sudden emergence of this hitherto unidentified region of skin has introduced a whole new dimension to the study and categorisation of the erogenous zone.

Maybe Lott will take upon himself the task of revising the antiquated map of the female body to include such recent discoveries as the trout pout, the tramp stamp and toe-cleavage. Indeed, there is awhol…

Familiar Number

The number in her caller-id stirred something in memory hard to grasp or recall but there was no mistaking the voice."Did you miss me ?" he asked like they had not spoken in the past few days instead of a whole year.
"I didn't know I was supposed to or I'd have tried to be dead on a vine pining for you" Sheila replied. Only MJ would have the nerve to irrupt into her life and lay claim on everything like nothing had changed.
It was his chutzpah that she had found so attractive - a man who reveled in the effect he had on women. "We had such great chemistry and I really did like you. Why did you have us drift apart ?" he asked.
"Because I was overwhelmed by the chemistry and did not think there was any potential for a serious relationship" she replied.
"Why do they have to be exclusive ? You want to spend your life with someone your body does not crave for ?" MJ asked sounding perplexed at her reasoning.
"I don't have to be wi…

Social Reading

I ran into the music of Boban Markovic Orkestar completely by chance on the same day that I found J likes the sound of classic rock well enough to dance along. Lastfm has been around a while and anyone who enjoys discovering new music would love it.

There is some help for readers looking for books similar in theme or content to something else they have read. While these lists are useful, they are not exactly the "social reading revolution" on the scale of Lastfm. Largely maintained by public libraries and what appear to be a non-profits judging by their .org websites, they lack the snazzy technology that it takes to make a decent social networking site.

Amazon has had the "Customers who bought this item also bought" feature forever, but its not quite the same thing. As a reader I would like a site that has other readers posting favorites, memorable excerpts, reviews, analysis and commentary. For people like me who are avid readers but rarely buy new books, it would b…

Eating Well

I have been reading French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano. Not quite sure what genre this book would fit. Cookbook, chicken soup for something, diet book, memoir or something in between. The blurb describes it as Proustian and that I have to say is a stretch. The blatant francophilia is as excessive as it is cloying but on the plus side no extreme dieting measures are advocated.

At any rate it reads easy, the recipes are for the most part quite undaunting and it has succeeded in putting thoughts of food on my mind. The how-to for éclade de moules in the NYT article reminds me of a Bengali Hilsa recipe that calls for mustard paste, green chilies, turmeric, banana leaves and embers of coal. The result is soft, smoky, spicy and utterly delightful when served with steaming Govinda Bhog rice.

One key message in Guilino's book is about savoring and enjoying every morsel of a meal. To serve food in small portions, artistically arranged - something that comes to my mother nat…

Device Melange

A laptop in the marital bed is supposedly the third in an unhappy ménage à trois. Worse offenders are Blackberries and Treos because they can be slipped under the covers and be really intrusive. When both partners are guilty of being teethered to their devices and decide to bring one each to bed we have a ménage à quatre - a rather formidable mélange.

Each can be jealous of the other's device but not be willing to give up their own, thus make intimacy four times as difficult to achieve. A situation involving his device (a Blackberry), her device (an iPod) and their device (the TV in the bedroom) is fraught with even more complication - it is tantamount to putting the relationship on autopilot to be able to check e-mail, watch a podcast and maybe a movie.

Like any other kind of addiction, an electronic device addiction is bound to be a strain on the relationship. Maybe in time there will be a Crackberries Anonymous for people who need help getting decoupled from their Bluetooth head…

Divided Yous

Interesting WSJ article on what the state of your Inbox says about you. Unless the volumes are comparable, there would be significant differences in how people handle personal and work e-mail.

If you are indeed your inbox there are possibly two or more yous depending on how many mailboxes you maintain and what purpose they serve. The social you may be quite a different animal than the workplace you and the blogger you and so forth.

Would a mailbox consolidation exercise then bring some harmony into these several schizoid existences or would the differences be too stark to reconcile amicably ? Its not for nothing that online personas are called Avatars. Maybe to be just a little schizophrenic is a sign of our times and lives.

That Look

As a teen, presuming to know everything about the human condition I would say "It is a wrong idea to get married to your true love. I would never do it. I would rather be in an ordinary marriage and be in extraordinary love all my life ". Only a teen can be so fatally romantic.

As it turned out my true love A, and I were passionate about keeping the friendship component of our relationship alive and terrified of doing anything that might undermine it. We both thought it wiser marry people it was logical and reasonable to marry and easy to love. He made a wiser choice than I did and for that I feel grateful. We have never been unfaithful to our significant others unless that profound, unspoken connection we have with each other is construed to be infidelity.

When he became a father for the first time a few days ago, he called me almost breathless with excitement. The baby was less than an old. Uncharacteristically in the middle of a meeting, I took the call and talked at some…

Ads In Textbooks

Textbooks and I have had nothing to do with each other for many years. While it is revelation to me that an algebra textbook could cost $100 and must go through revisions each year (who knew that the subject was evolving so rapidly), it does not hit my budget yet. The idea of using ads in textbooks to make them free for students is certainly novel though do I wonder about the distraction it may cause.

The epithet "dry" that is often ascribed to textbooks may not ring true for future generations who will get to read a couple of lines of witty copy between theorems. Maybe our fears about loss of concentration are unfounded. That colorful ad for a pre-paid cellular phone just before the solution to a problem could end up serving as a perfect mnemonic device.

Packed Close

Reading this article in the Natural History Magazine about the design of homes in a Neolithic town reminded me of the few days I had spent at Varanasi and the awed claustrophobia of walking down Vishwanath Gali. Back in my home town, trash was emptied through a hole in the courtyard wall into a 'gali'. Once every week, day laborers carted it all away. It was more efficient a system than most towns could boast of.

Seeing houses packed like sardines in old neighborhoods is a common sight in India. Sunlight never reaches the some rooms, leaving behind a pervasive mustiness that gets into your bones. The road between rows of houses is a narrow serpentine maze. You desperately wait for it to end and lead to something wide, opener and brighter - like a baby pushing itself out of its mother's womb.

It seemed paradoxical that new neighborhoods that came into existence to meet the needs of a burgeoning population had more open space than these places that had been around for hundreds…

Blandly Adult

Children without the benefit of a college education and real life experience say the smartest, wackiest things, come up with clever ideas for projects and create beautiful works of art.Yet with their first introduction into the "real" adult world, most of their faculties seem to suffer.
Teenspeak is hard to decipher, rarely does one see progression in levels of emotional intelligence that may be expected from their promising first grade levels. Overhearing a group of average teens in conversation is depressing for the appalling lack of substance - the personality of individuals seem to have gone through a blender to result in a collective bland pulp accoutered uniformly in Gap and Abercrombie. Not only do adults not reward non-conformance, they don't emphasize the great disservice teens do themselves by "fitting-in". It is mostly a combination of happenstance and individual strength of character that saves a young person from being swallowed by the tide of popul…

Gaming For Good

For the last several weeks it had been impossible to tune in to the news and not hear updates on the Israel-Lebanon conflict. As an uneducated listener who has no real understanding of the issues involved, inundated by factoids and analysis by media spin doctors, you wonder why and how it helps for you to stay informed.

Most 24/7 news channels seem to revel in making the common person feel that they should be grateful for having some semblance of a "normal" life in a world that had been overtaken by warring terrorists, natural calamities of epic proportions and HIV pandemics in a burgeoning catalog of gloom of doom. Watching a well-heeled news reader, straining every botoxed nerve on her face, to read her litany of death and despair on a HDTV plasma TV perched high up on a wall in a public place has something sinister and Orwellian about it.

That gamers should take a serious turn and try to save the world "one game at a time" sure feels like the only piece of empower…

Male Plume

Most women are attracted to men who are good conversationlists and have a sense of humor. Musical ability is a definite plus. Turns out that all of those attributes are a function of a good brain and as such good genes - the human equivalent of a flashy plume or tail.Brains are like the Dow Jones index, which is an accessible and generally trustworthy gauge of a complex system because its rooted in a number of important stocks.So males strut their stuff by crooning, being witty, and speaking well, while the females use these clues to sort out the best one to take home to mom and dad.Unfortuntaley the absence of a "real" plume may work to the disadvantage of the human female because the male of her heart's desire may have atended charm school to learn his bag of tricks. Those perfect bon mots could breathe their last on the walk down the aisle.

Mobile Doctors

I must be coming down with a bout of doctor related deja vu - second post in a row on related topics. Anyone who has had to battle rush hour traffic to make a doctor's appointment only to have to wait a whole hour in the lobby and come back the next day for some test that can take place only on Tuesday afternoons will appreciate the mobile dental services. Younger people who are in good health and have better things to do with their time neglect preventative care simply because the system makes things so difficult.

Back in the day the family physicians made house-calls. They should do that more and come to office parking lots, shopping malls or any other place where large numbers of people can be found, hawk their wares and see how many takers there are for annual physicals on the buy one, get one free special.

If they digitized their prehistoric offices a little and carried WiFi enabled tablet notebooks fitted with USB credit card readers we could collectively dispense with the ser…

Sleeping Well

A few years ago, I mentioned having difficulty sleeping to my doctor. She asked a few questions and before I knew she had prescribed me a "mild" anti-depressant and a sleep medicine. Seeing my reaction she said I could take Tylenol PM instead of the sleep med - everyday if required.

My need for good sleep turned out to be lesser than my fear of mind altering drugs - I "lost" the prescription after I read up about the medicines in question on WebMd. In time, my sleep pattern returned to normal on its own. Until that happened, I did worry if I was doing myself irreparable harm by ignoring medical advise and letting things run their natural course.

It seemed to me that importance of eight hours of sleep was enough to warrant rather extreme measures when it may turn out that "the eight-hour mantra may have no more scientific basis than the tooth-fairy"

Two Firsts

These are milestones that J may not remember when she is all grown up. The first song that brings back memories entirely her own and unrelated to mine.

Skidamarinkadinkadink, skidamarinkadoo, I Love You
Skidamarinkadinkadink, skidamarinkadoo, I Love You
I love you in the morning and in the afternoon
I love you in the evening and underneath the moon
Oh, Skidamarinkadinkadink, skidamarinkadinkadoo,
I Love You, I Love You.

It lights up her face up, makes her sing and dance along. "This is Nick's and my favorite song" she tells me and shows me how he used to dance. They go to different daycares now and may never meet again.

The first book J recommended to me - Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. Ever since Miss C read it to the class, J has not stopping talking about it. Thanks to her contagious enthusiasm, I borrowed it from the library. It is a delightful story and quite unputdownable. I look forward to many more recommendations from J.

Performance Plan

Most parents have the best intentions that sometimes turn out to be very bad ideas. Paying children to improve their grades is wrongheaded for so many reasons that its not even worth counting the ways. A very aggressive and abrasive manager I once had gave me some parenting tips that left me quite speechless. She was taking her high-powered boss-woman image - power-suits, Gucci satchel, Blackberry and all way too seriously.

Her method involved giving children "privileges" for their As - the usual suspects i.e. iPods, Nintendos, Gameboys, personal DVD players were all on the list. If they "acted up" in any way or managed only a B, a privilege would be taken away. Her youngest one at the time of this conversation had just been stripped off every last privilege he had formerly enjoyed. Apparently he was depressed because the oldest one still had all of hers intact.

"But he will work very hard to earn it all back" my boss declared confidently. This was the dome…

Learning To Paint

Every evening when I go to pick J up from daycare she shows me all her artwork in a state of feverish excitement. There is profusion of hearts and flowers around stick figures with smiley faces. Sometimes greenery, sky, sun and clouds make an appearance.

Almost all of them have the words "I Love Mommy" on them. My heart brims with gratitude to be remembered and missed all day. It takes superhuman effort to put any of these little love notes in the trash but as their pile grows mountain high, I realize that we also need room to live. I tell myself I don't take for granted that I am well loved.

I notice a lot of the other children are avid painters as well. Though their work is similar in level of sophistication as J's, I find it hard to understand the underpinnings of their art. Kids art is almost always surreal -a lot can be represented by very little, things have layers of meaning. I love to hear J explain her drawings and choice of colors to me. If I knew anything a…

Backwaters Living

How I wish Google - The Musical was playing in my town. I totally love the site design and what I read in the review. Everything comes rather late to my neck of the woods so I may be able to see it (if at all) in a few years. Hopefully I would have moved to some place more happening by then.

My friend E, who lives in Boston sent me a newspaper clipping about the Body Worlds exhibition. Her post-it note says "I can't decide whether I would find this fascinating or horrifying but sounds worth checking out. I hope you and J are able to squeeze in a trip up here before the end of this month".

I miss living in a big city. Not that I have ever lived in one. Growing up in India, my metropolitan cousins had easy access to concerts, theatre, exhibitions, film festivals and the like. In my little town, a good concert was remembered for ten years. People would talk of "that year when Bismillah Khan had performed at the auditorium".

My memories were few and savored dearly.…

Repressed Desi

Desis are known to have rather curious notions about sex and sexuality. The pati-vrata Sita stereotype is very much in currency but the male of the species neglects to emulate the ideal husband role-model that was Ram. We were not always sexually repressed and there is ancient Sanskrit erotica, sculptures in Khajuraho and Konark - not to mention the Kamasutra that bear testimony to our once uninhibited past. The physical expression of love was considered a natural progression in a relationship between two people - an expression celebrated in joyous variation. It was also the path to attaining higher spritual consciousness.

There were also sage prescriptions for creating and keeping a happy home. Somewhere between the emasculation of women and veiling them behind the "purdah" to preserve their virtue from the pillaging hordes that came with each wave of foreign invasion and the Victorian notions of romantic love that eschewed physical intimacy as coarse and vulgar expression o…

Singed Book

The Caged Virgin by Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the most amazing book I have read in a long time. It was incredibly painful to read the graphic descriptions of female genital mutilations and the lifelong suffering it brought in its wake. Interestingly (but maybe not surprising given the theme and content) enough a few pages of the copy I read had burn marks on it .
J happened to see the marks and enquired about them. I told her what they were. Her comment was "Whoever did that must have been mad at the book. They must have put it in a toaster. But they did not have to. They could have just returned it" I did not know what to say to this and kept quiet. But J was intrigued and the questions came thick and fast.
"Why would anyone be so mad at a book ?" I wondered if it may be time for a history lesson - I could tell her about the many ancient libraries that had been burnt in the past. Maybe a lesson in current affairs would not hurt either - I could tell her about the Google…

Literary Spam

Spammers have lately managed to some positive attention with their intriguing subject lines and excerpts from classic literature in the body. It is easy to ignore the distraction posed by a couple of Viagra and Xanax references and still enjoy the prose. We may owe this new spam genre to effective spam filters a la Paul Graham and Project Gutenberg. Sometimes, there is nothing else besides the piece of literary text in the body. For instance, I got this in my mailbox today.

I did not regard it so much as a clock, as something to look at. And yet when I first saw him I didn’t like him .I asked, waving my hand at the same time to Steak. Men and women surged about the stands hurling money away with both hands. Don’t be foolish, she said, pressing it into my hand. Two shillings, I continued, and a concession which will very likely prove valueless. I like Stan, murmured Eggs, but I don’t value his friendship half as much as Jacks. Do you think I'd run away from that ignorant slob! He …

Radiantly Gray

Reading this article on Slate about being chic and prematurely gray reminds me of a Mrs. Surti I once used to know. Possibly the most elegant woman I have come across, she was in her late 40s when I first saw her. Just a little overweight, with radiant skin and unshaped eyebrows she left her almost entirely gray hair undyed. When she walked into a room, people noticed. Maybe it was her understated style - subtle make-up, classic jewelry, beautiful but unpretentious saris.

The only thing that drew obvious attention were her lustrous silver curls. I have never seen a woman make age look more gorgeous and desirable - she stripped youth of its cachet. I wondered if it were possible that she had grown more attractive with age. Though I have never seen her in her younger years, I can't imagine that she created the same impression with dark hair and an hour glass figure - she would just be another beautiful young woman, most of whom would have faded away with age.

Hapless Customer

I am a long suffering Sony Vaio Notebook user. A while back, spyware and adware had rendered my machine almost inoperable. A well meaning sysadmin at my then client's site had taken pity and "healed" my notebook for me. I was most grateful.

Unbeknownst to me, he had also over-written all factory settings without making a recovery CD first. One would imagine that a sysadmin would have more sense than that. Sony no longer supports the model I own and their customer service reps apologize profusely for not being any help to me - fat lot of good that does. They suggested that I look up third party vendors of Sony parts and buy a recovery CD from them. Its easier said than done but I have been trying without any luck so far. I would hate to throw away a perfectly usable computer for not being able to round up a recovery CD - that would be a shame.

It's a pity that ISPs don't to more to protect computers on their network and that hackers haven't found more exciting…

Checking In

I have partaken of the guilty pleasure myself and thought nothing of it. What's wrong in looking up an old flame or rash break-up from long ago ? There is definite satisfaction (and vindication) in finding out that they are still single as I have discovered a few times.

Likewise, I have been sought out too. Many years too late, a once-prospect's father pretended to have e-mailed me in error and when I did not respond "really" e-mailed me. Back when his son and I were really interested in each other and were both too young to stand up for ourselves, he had decided to go shopping for a "bigger, better deal" and broken us up. So to have him come back around looking for me was rather edifying for the ego.

There used to be flourishing literary genre around chance encounters with a long lost lovers when reconnecting to past loves lost, spurned or unrequitted was not as easy as Googling their name. A beautiful story like Maupassant's A Meeting would not be quite…

Thinking Of J At Work

I often think about the way
we once were - me
the new mother wonderstruck
by your perfectness.
The arch of your brows,
curve of your lashes,
delicate rosebud toes,
the sweet roundness of
your arms
encircled in gold bracelets.
Your toothless smile,
the touch of your fingers,
smell of your skin
freshly bathed and powdered.
How I fretted the passing
of each magic moment,
knowing there would never be
room enough for memories.
That your smiles would fold
upon one other,the years would
confluence to points in time,
the first word would be swallowed
in the deluge of thousand others.
I would try to save every precious
fragment, gather them around
as they spilled over.
I would mourn my losses,
mourn memory's fickleness.
I braid your hair, dress you
for summer sunscreen and all,
watch you walk down the stairs
sure-footed as only four going on
five can be. You look back and ask
"Aren't you coming, Mommy ?"
You and I are twined in the
soul, J. A step behind
or a continent apart, I will
feel tugged at th…

Loving Math

I have never heard a whale sing - as a matter of fact not even know that they do. While that is amazing in itself, that the songs could be transformed into these beautiful Mandala like images is even more so. My grandfather swore by mental math making my cousins work on their arithmetic at the crack of dawn, their eyes still heavy with sleep. When I visited, I would be corralled in with them as well.

Even in his late eighties he could help my oldest cousin with solid geometry and calculus without pen or paper - not that they would be any use to him with his nearly blind eyes. We were naturally in awe of his prodigious abilities and felt woefully inadequate. When we asked him how he did what he did he said "You have to learn to love math and see how beautiful a subject it is. As long as you approach math with fear you will not see the beauty and definitely not be able to forge a lasting friendship"

I did not quite understand what he meant by that until I first saw fractal image…

Benign Addiction

I have a serious reading problem. It is an "addiction" with every negative connotation that exists to that word. I can never have enough, I don't enjoy anything quite as much, it makes me a recluse - it takes strenuous effort to take time away from reading to socialize, while I am at it which can be the better part of a day (time permitting) I am lost to the world and my child, I get irritable and experience withdrawal symptoms when I don't get my fix or something comes in the way to interrupt it, phone calls go unanswered.
I tend to binge, reading several books in parallel. I mean to swing by the library to drop off something and spend a whole Saturday afternoon browsing - God help me if I wander into a bookstore. I have finished reading entire books at Barnes and Noble on what was supposed to have been a fly by to pick up a birthday present for some kid. Needless to say, J is left to her own devices while I am wolfing down whatever it is that I am.
I stopped reading …

Gold

"Nobody could ever have conceived of a more absurd waste of human resources than to dig gold in the distant corners of the earth for the sole purpose of transporting it and reburying it in other deep holes" - Robert Triffin.

My friend A sent us me this quote by an economist a day after we had a discussion about gold jewelry he could get for his kid sister who is getting married next month. While that remark does makes sense now, the first sight of a jewelry shop window will render it meaningless if not absurd.

Jewelry is about artistic expression and feeling beautiful. A necklace made entirely of sea shells can do both.Gold beads is to sea shells what musk is to vanilla - similar only if you stretch your imagination infinitely but definitely not interchangeable.

Unable To Hook

Unhooked Generation by Jillian Straus is a must-read for singles in their 30s who wonder why they are finding it nearly impossible to get (and stay) married and have a family like humans have done for time immemorial. Her analysis of all that ails Gen-X is spot on. I particularly liked what she has to say on the subject of casual sex.

Many women used the phrase : "I failed at it" - meaning that they had felt they failed at casual sex because they felt attachment afterward. To become attached after sex is to be human - but both men and women of this generation considered this a human failing. I thought to myself, if fucking a stranger and enjoying it is now a sign of success, things have certainly changed: beating yourself up because you can't use your body without involving your soul is quite the twenty first century dilemma.

It became obvious that beneath all the erotic aerobic activity, for many people, casual sex served as a substitution for real emotional intimacy. Hav…