Monday, March 30, 2009

In My Perfect World, On My Perfect Date

Brisk Wind not Warm Breeze

Break of Dawn not Darkness of Dusk

Long Walk not Fancy Wheels

Uplifting Melody not Syrupy Love Song

Companionable Silence not Constant Chatter

Finger Food Platter not French Cuisine

Open Sky not Suffocating Spaces

Exploring Places not Candlelit Dinner

Loud Laughter not Forced Humor

Spontaneity not Calculated Moves

Quality of Time not Quantity of Time

Entwined Fingers not Groping Hands

The Kid in Him not The Macho Male

Creating Exhilarating Moments not Anticipating Sensual Moments

Genuine Words not Deceptive Promises

Shy Glances not Incessant Staring

Goofy not Grave

Genial, Never-ending Conversations not Frigid, Formal Talks

Lingering Contentment not Lingering Regrets

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Of Ethics, Morality And Virtues

Ethics, Morality, Virtues, Vices; I never really put much thought into them, and instinctively followed the values I picked while growing up. Some were deliberate conscious decisions and some were ingrained habits of my life. I have always judged what's wrong, and what's right according to my own principles, not biased by other people's views. And have earned scorn for that at times. But ethics, virtues and vices are very subjective terms. What may seem perfectly moral for me, may not seem so to another. And we should accept the fact and not jump into a tirade denouncing the views of others unless it brings about deliberate harm to someone.

My views and opinions regarding these topics have been both pliant and staunch at different times and my current set of beliefs and values have evolved through the years. I learned from various experiences, mostly by trial and error method. My ideals are distinctively mine, my own individual set of values and others can like it or lump it but I'm going to lead my life within the boundaries of those rules. I'm open to change and my ideals may get modified over time, but certain values are so deep-rooted and so influenced by one's upbringing that there's but little change in those specific ideals.

What is ethics or morality? "A code of values to guide man's choices and actions; a system of principles governing morality and acceptable conduct". But it evokes the question of what's acceptable conduct? And do we need a code of values and if yes what should they be? How does an individual decide the principles of right and wrong and should he/she strive to get them accepted by the society at large? And who should these values primarily benefit? The individual or the society? One needs to thoroughly clarify and answer these questions before deciding their life's ideals.

I faltered many a time at various ideals I believed in and each time the only reason was because I put others' interests over mine. And, the results were far from what I'd predicated and diminished my image in my own eyes. That's why I say I've learnt through trial and error method, I know what works for me and how I should lead my life; not being bothered by the socially acceptable "virtuous qualities" and not being an "sacrificial animal" yet again. The beneficiary of my ideals should primarily be me. I'm not talking of material and monetary benefits, but the joy and satisfaction that arises from achieving my goals without compromising my values.

The present social scenario leads me to question how the society views what's immoral and moral. It's based on few very irrational and archaic principles. Firstly, if an individual's actions benefits himself more than it benefits the others around him or the society, it's evil or selfish. Altruism is the keyword for being the epitome of morality! And being concerned with one's own interest is synonymous to evil! If a person sacrifices his life's ambition for the care of other people, he is considered far superior than the one who struggles all his life to fulfill his ambition. "For the greater good" is the motto. "There's no greatness in working for oneself!" Secondly, the self-custodians of morality are hell-bent on reforming the society of everything that they perceive threatens its existence. The rights of a person to live the way they deem fit is frowned upon. One has to answer to the society at large.

There are obvious flaws in this outlook towards life. Every person on this earth has the full right to pursue their goals and ambitions irrespective of whether it pleases others or not. I'm NOT talking about indulging in irrational whims, or harming others in any way on the pretext of "doing whatever pleases me", but working towards rational goals. But we tend to be bound by the expectations of others, and get motivated to do what's considered virtuous in the eyes of others and thus lose track of what we always aspired to do. Dare a girl who has the responsibility of her parents on her to pursue her dreams single-mindedly without being condemned for her actions. And dare a single girl live life on her own terms without questions being raised on her character after she passes the conventional marriageable age. We live for others! I used to do feel that's the proper thing to do too. But it suffocated me.

After a long rumination based on my previous experiences, I've decided on my code of ethics. I decided never to renounce what I have in life for the sake of another person, anyone at all, at the cost of hampering my own progress. I know by now few of you've conjured up a image of me as the 'evil' one. But I don't want to further arrest my progress in life by self-inflicted pain and sacrifice for the sake of others. I feel that's the best decision of my life so far; something I should have done a long, long time back.

I feel the following values are enough in leading a life of happiness, a life one can be proud of. I will try my best to always uphold the following set of ethics I believe in and not just preach but actually put them into practice in my life:

Responsibility: Of achieving my goals. Of making my parents proud through my actions. Of never letting my self-esteem falter. Of a constant thrive to aim high in life. Of never sacrificing for the sake of another individual, nor asking anyone else to make sacrifice for my sake. I first read this line in the oath taken in one of my favorite novels, Atlas Shrugged. I used to think that's not possible to follow; not any more. I would strive my best to live by it.

Rationality: In exercising my choice on the course of actions to be taken at every step of my life. In originating the goals of my life. In my thinking.

Pride: In leading my life on my own terms. In not being prey to the schemes of other people. In never harming any one for my benefit. In achieving what I've set out to do. In the power to think.

Independence: And knowing it's importance, cherishing it and never misusing it. Freedom doesn't equal to drinking, smoking, using abusive terms in everyday conversations, pub hopping and whatever the youth of today associate it with. It's okay for those who indulge in these for pleasure or out of habit, and I've nothing against them; it's all about the choices we make in life. But that doesn't and shouldn't pressurize me to ape them to assert my freedom.

Justice: And standing up for what I believe in. Of knowing the boundaries I've set for myself and being true to them and not letting the moral guardians of society influence my life. And not tolerate self-interest schemes masked by altruistic approach, like the power seeking politicians "working for public good" or the the 'moral duty' of supporting a leech (of the human kind!).

Selfishness: Being concerned with my own interests. Doing what makes me happy, and once again, I don't mean indulging in irrational whims.

Self-esteem: Never losing it again. For anyone at all. Absolutely no one's worth it. The loss of of self-esteem hurts and stings the deepest and the longest.

Productivity: A focused approach towards my goals. And not doing pseudo work. Of understanding the value of the opportunities I have received and utilizing them fully.

Integrity: A moral soundness that comes from living a life that I'm proud of. Of helping the ones in genuine need without making them leeches, but never at the cost of my own survival.

Knowledge: Of striving to achieve the best of it. Feeding the most precious treasure of man, the mind.

Trust and Honesty: Of valuing human emotions and understanding the hurt that comes from lies and betrayal. Of being honest in my career always, and never settle for minor neglects that I feel won't harm anyone. Of being honest to myself and my priorities in life. Its neglect might not bring any immediate harm, but its cumulative effect can cause major upheavals.

Love: Caring for and nurturing my relationships with my loved ones and standing by them through thick and thin. And being careful in judging who deserves my love. Not let just anyone stray into my heart.

Effort: Relying on hard work alone and never luck to progress in my career. And not shying away from hard work ever.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another Tag

Tagged by Cute Priya! The rules:

1) Tell everyone that you've been tagged.

2) Link the person who tagged you on your blog

3) Write the rules (like I'm doing right now)

4) Tag at least 6 other people

5) Tell those 6 people that you've tagged them

6) Mention 6 things or habits of no real importance...which would be:

-I sometimes smile at the mirror to check whether the reflection smiles back. Childhood phobia developed after watching a really scary episode of "Aahat" where people get sucked into the mirror by their reflections.

-I read 4-5 books together. Get bored after a few hours of reading one book, and pick up another.

-I terrorize my sister often by saying that I can read her thoughts if I keep my hand under her pillow.

-Once a month I shut myself from the rest of the world and spend the day in my room watching movies back to back, or sketching.

- I draw on newspapers. Especially faces of politicians. Horns or halos on the head. Mostly horns.

-When I was 12 years old, I bought a book from a mobile bookstore, "Seven on Life's adventure".  It had character called Luke, who was advised by his mentor "There's nothing half so sweet in the world as the first marital union of two virgin lovers". I can't explain why but I totally believed in that, and will always do, and even though it may seem foolish to a lot of the "cool" youths of today. But I'm glad I read that book.

I'd like to tag The Demigoddess, Corinne, Aoife, Americanising Desi, Anurag, Crowscious. And I'm sorry! (if you don't like tag posts. I'm not so particularly fond of it either. So apologizing in advance!)

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Life of 'Pee'", nervous boyfriend and hawk-eyed parent...perfect recipe for my first date!

I went after lunch to two of the few book stores in Guwahati which can boast of a good collection of books, from the latest bestsellers to the classics, covering a varied and interesting range of books. “Western Book Depot” and “Papyrus”, situated at Panbazar. If you happen to spot a fat female browsing through books at these two bookstores often, oblivious to the world around her…well, that most probably is me. I had spent many happy hours browsing at these bookstores every month, and save money all year round to splurge on visits to these shops. By the way, I bought three books today…Milan Kundera’s “Slowness” and “Ignorance”, and “Recess: A Penguin Book of Schooldays”. Reviews are due next month after I complete reading them.

Anyways, this post is not about the pleasures of endless hours of browsing at bookstores. I had already written about my fascination for book stores. Today I want to share a very memorable incident in my life that occurred at the “Western Book Depot”. My first date. Or my first date turned disaster. You must be thinking what’s wrong with me to have chosen a bookstore as the location for my first date. Read on to know why.

I fell in love for the first time four years back when I was 19. I was never interested in the guys I had grown up with, or studied together. And the whole concept of casual dating and testing the waters for a few months is something I can’t identify with at all. Add to that my introvert nature …and I would’ve remained single till I was 50 if I hadn’t met him! He was 5 years elder to me. Completely different backgrounds…he was an MBA student at IIT, Kharagpur, while I was a second year medical student in Assam. We met online. And I liked him instantly. He was witty, intelligent, caring and I absolutely loved talking to him. Friends first…and then in a year became a little more than friends. But we had never talked about meeting; and were quite happy with our conversations online. I admit I was scared that the comfort level in our relationship might change when we meet in person…scared of awkward silences in conversations, or that we might not have anything to talk about. When he got his MBA degree, and was about to leave for his new night I received a phone call from him, saying that he’s on his way to meet me and arriving in Guwahati the next day.

May 14, 2005: To say I was petrified would be a huge understatement. My father is way too protective of me and my sister, and we weren’t allowed to go anywhere alone. I had no other way but to seek permission and go. That day I told my mother about him…the most awkward conversation of my life! She was OK with it but forbid me to meet him alone. Back to square one! He called up on reaching Guwahati, and I told him of the dilemma I faced. He was quite supportive and didn’t sulk. But I so wanted to meet him, I was ready to do anything just to see him once. I told my mother I had to buy a new book and have to urgently go to “Western Book Depot”. My mother, who was already suspicious after I mentioned him to her, was adamant on accompanying me to the bookstore and worse insisted on taking my sister and aunt along too! I was on the verge of tears. But this was my only chance to see him. I frantically texted him to meet me at the bookstore and warned him that my mother would be with me. He said he didn’t know the way around Guwahati and would accompany a friend to find the store. I was in such a hurry…I forgot to even comb my hair on the way out! That too the first time he saw me! The last thing I cared was how I looked; all I wanted was to see him once. We reached the store at 6pm. My mother got down along with me, while my aunt and sister waited in the car. I pretended to search for medical books. After about fifteen minutes, my mother said she would wait for me in the car. I was so relieved. As I waited for him, I decided to gift him a book. He had mentioned a few days earlier that he wanted to read “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel. I got the last copy of the book available in the shop for him. At around 6:25pm, I heard two loud, excited voices in the shop. My back was turned towards the entrance and when I turned around; I saw him and his friend. I smiled at him. But he didn’t reciprocate. I was taken aback. Didn’t he recognize me? After a moment’s confusion, I realized he was deliberately trying to feign that he didn’t know me. The reason: there was a lady in the book store who he thought was my mother!! He came and stood beside me but carried on the little act of being strangers, and instead turned to a man behind the bookstore counter, and asked whether "Life of pi" was available. The man answered, “Life of ‘Pee’ toh nahin hain. Last copy inhone (pointing at me) purchase kar liya.” (“Life of ‘Pee’ is not available, she purchased the last copy”).We were all trying hard not to laugh at the man’s pronunciation of the book title. I then turned and gave him my gift, the same book. He smiled at me, and by now had realized that my mother wasn’t in the shop as he had earlier thought. As he took the book from me, the bookstore owner went, “How kind of you, ma’am! Giving him your book. And that too free of cost!” They hadn’t yet realized that we knew each other and I turned the kind, helpful girl in their eyes. I had already spent a lot of time in the bookstore, and was worried that my Ma would come in and find him near me. I asked him to leave, quite reluctantly though. It was hardly for ten minutes that we saw each other that day…the first time…and he had to leave. As I walked out of the shop five minutes after him, I saw that his bike was parked right next to my car!!! Of all the places available, he had to park near my car, with my mother sitting in the car! I hoped that she hadn’t realized who he was. And I drove off, without daring to even look at him a second time in my mother’s presence. After few minutes, my mother remarked, “So you met him? He seemed nice.” I nearly had a cardiac arrest, when I realized that my mother had recognized him. How on earth did she know? Turned out that when my guy had parked his bike right next to our car, she overheard him tell his friend that I had asked him to meet me in the bookstore. And after all the trouble we both went through to keep the meeting discreet!!
That relationship ended long back, and he is happily married now. But I still can’t stop smiling thinking about my funny first date-turned-disaster, the nervous look on his face that day, my hawk-eyed Ma on the lookout for a tricky Romeo out to trap her daughter and instead finding a bumbling fool, and me savoring each second of those ten minutes of my first meeting with my first love. Short and sweet, a memory so special that it would last a lifetime. And, the bookstore will always remain special too.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Battle of Muesli vs Aloo Paranthas

When I woke up at four in the morning today and went for a long drive and then stopped at a park for a quick jog, I knew it was going to be one of those days. The more energetic the start to the day, the earlier the energy recess sets in. I gave a whole new meaning to the word "sloth" today. Amplified, magnified, hyperbolized, expanded, and inflated it's meaning. Slept almost the whole day!

After the sudden burst of energy and strenuous physical activity in the morning, I decided to sustain that rare desire of doing something healthy. It was time to attack my daily diet after the attack on physical activity or rather the lack of it. Decided that breakfast will be a small bowl of muesli and a fruit instead of the usual parathas. My mother asked once again whether I was sure I didn't want Aloo paranthas for breakfast. I was so charged up about fitness by now that I vehemently refused. It was 8am when I had breakfast and went around the house feeling quite smug about my new found enthusiasm for fitness after a long hiatus. I felt so good till I heard my stomach growl at 9 am! I tried to curb the temptation to reach for the paranthas by eating some high fiber biscuits which claimed to get rid of hunger in a jiffy. Struggled for an hour. Distracted myself from the thought of food by studying, but that was a disaster. I gave up after a while and binged on paranthas much to the amusement of my family. I tried to justify by saying that I would cut down on the calorie intake gradually, today was the wrong approach. I over-ate. And that resulted in immediate drowsiness. I usually spend Sundays catching up on my reading and watching movies, the only time I can fully indulge on my hobbies without feeling guilty. So after the meal, I sat down to watch one of my favorite movies, "The Breakfast Club" (coincidence??) but felt so drowsy, I slept off within few minutes. I woke up, had a quick shower, more food at lunch, and again felt drowsy and the vicious cycle continued till dinner time now. I had hardly been sleeping more than four hours per day in the past week and my body caught up on the lost sleep. But what's distressing me is my poor resolve to stick to my fitness routine.

Lessons learnt:
1. After a long break in your fitness routine; build it up gradually, rather than doing everything at once. Adapt your body gradually.

2. Be realistic in your approach to cutting down calories. Especially when Aloo Paranthas are involved. And stick to your resolve. Don't follow my example.

I'm sleeping off now. The sloth fairy hasn't left me yet. And I've some really sore muscles tonight because of the long gap in exercising. I hope for a better start tomorrow. No Aloo Paranthas tomorrow.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The one where I travel to the past on my time machine...BOOKS!

Yesterday I stumbled across few rare books, travel journals, letters, and periodicals dating back to the 19th century. And I can’t wait to explore these treasures. Given my obsession with history, there’s an ever increasing want to know about the lives of the people in the eras long gone by; their thoughts, lifestyles, experiences and their work. Their lives intrigue me. The past intrigues me. My sister often chides me that I should have taken up archaeology or history as a profession. But I love medicine more, and my love for history has just remained something that I pursue in leisure. I remember the old skeleton passed down to me by a senior during my first year in medical college for the anatomy classes. And during the hours I spent studying its bones, I inevitably got drawn into wondering about its life, what was it like, its dreams, were they fulfilled, or was its life difficult, and I wondered about its family too. That was just the beginning. I still can’t make myself regard any object that might have sustained life before as just a clinical specimen, and often wonder about the life associated with it in the past. It can be a bother at times, because I tend to get emotionally attached not just to patients but even to anatomical specimens in the lab, wondering about the lives of the people they belonged to!

I relish each and every word in the old classics of literature and especially travelogues, as I had earlier written. The journeys undertaken before the advent of modern transport highly interests me. Invasions, seafaring journeys, Viking plundering, pilgrimages undertaken by missionaries, settlers in search of a new land, voyages undertaken to explore the world in the past, the observations of the people is something I thoroughly enjoy.

So here are the books I came across yesterday:

1. I came across few children stories, written and illustrated during the turn of the 20th century. One is called “Abroad”, which takes us on a journey to Paris and is abound with the thrills of exploring a new place. Beautifully illustrated. Another is a short story called “A day on Skates” by Hilda Van Stockum (in 1934), a story about a Dutch picnic which is again very beautifully illustrated. The others are “The Windy Hill” written by Cornelia Meigs in 1921, and “Goody Two Shoes” published in 1888. But my favorite is “The Latchkey of My Book House” written in 1922. I can’t wait to complete it. Two books are based on Christmas. One is a collection of sketches of Washington Irving called “Old Christmas”, published in 1886. Another is a book of poems for children called “Christmas Roses”, published in 1886 too. And the last one is a delight for animal lovers, a story told about the lovable antics of a laughing kitten, Tinker trying to teach a puppy, Floppy, how to play a gramophone etc wonderfully portrayed through a series of photographs. A visual delight. It’s called “Mischief Again” by Enid Blyton and Paul Kaye.

2. Among the travelogues…I found few of the books on my reading wish list this year. I found “Travel Diary of Peter Mundy in Europe and Asia (1608-1667)”, “Travels in Arabia Deserta” by C.M.Doughty, “The Mirror of the Sea” by Joseph Conrad, and “The Sea and the Jungle” by H.M. Tomlinson. I had been craving to get my hands on these books for a long time now and to say that I’m thrilled to have found them at last would be a huge understatement. The book “The Sea and the Jungle” is “the narrative of the voyage of the tramp steamer Capella from Swansea to Para in the Brazils, and thence 2000 miles along the forests of the Amazon and Madeira Rivers to the San Antonio Falls; afterwards returning to Barbados for orders, and going by way of Jamaica to Tampa in Florida, where she loaded for home. Done in the year 1909 and 1910. And the book is dedicated to THOSE WHO DID NOT GO.” These are the gems of travel literature. For more information on the other books, see my reading wish list for 2009 and if you know where I can get the rest of the books in the list, PLEASE let me know.

3. Then I found few works of English and American women residing in India in late 19th century and early 20th century. One is the “The Modern Marriage Market (1898)” by Marie Corelli (1855-1924), Flora Annie Webster Steel (1847-1929), Susan Hamilton and Susan Marie Elizabeth Stewart-Mackenzie Jeune St. Helier. Another is “The laws of higher life” by Annie Besant. And also “Between Twilights” by Cornelia Sorabji. Here’s an excerpt from her book.

“In the language of the Zenana there are two twilights, ’when the Sun drops into the sea,’ and ‘when he splashes up stars for spray,’ . . . the Union, that is, of Earth and Sun, and, again, of Light and Darkness. And the space between is the time of times in these sun-wearied plains in which I dwell. One sees the world in a gentle haze of reminiscence…reminiscence of the best. There, across the horizon, flames the Sun's ‘goodbye’”

4. And a dance manual…”Dancing” by Mrs. Lilly Grove first published in 1895. The chapters chronicles the dances of the eras long gone by, ritual dances, English dances, dances from rest of UK, Bohemian, Gypsy, Hungarian and polish dances; and dances from France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Scandinavia, Lapland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, India, Persia, China, Japan. It also has chapters on Ballet, Practical use of dancing, time and rhythm of dancing…and even one called DANCES OF THE SAVAGES!!

5. I don’t know Urdu and Sanskrit and the Indian verses of the past were heavily influenced and generously peppered with Urdu and Sanskrit words. So I was very happy to find the book “India’s Love Lyrics” by Laurence Hope (1865-1904). She had translated many Indian love verses to English, and succeeds in retaining the meaning and melody of the original verses.

6. But the most treasured and highly valued objects are two letters and a book about women doctors that I stumbled upon while surfing the net. They are scans of the original handwritten letters written by Dr. Anandibai Joshee (M.D, 1886) to the Principal of Women’s Medical college of Pennsylvania informing him about her educational qualifications, financial status, and the reason for her interest in pursuing medicine as a career. I read the letter thrice. 1885! A married Indian woman of 18 years decided to pursue medicine as a career in America with the seventy dollars she had in hand in 1885! Think about the social scenario then, and the huge step she had undertaken and also successfully completed. I salute her! I also read another letter by Anna S. Kugler to her alma mater describing her life as a medical missionary in India, struggling to make the people adopt modern medicine and she had a tough battle to fight against the superstitions prevalent at that time. Another is a book by an American medical missionary to China, chronicling her time in the hospital there and the hardships involved. Precious treasures for me.

Friday, March 13, 2009

My best friend is an alien...And I so love her for that!


Today my best friend completed the quarter century mark. Of all the people I met while growing up, I wonder how we two ended up being best friends. Chalk and cheese. North Pole, South Pole. Complete aliens. You get the idea. Little did I realize on the first day of school in 1992 that the new kid with the curliest curls ever and bawling non stop on her first day, would end up being my best friend.

Let me tell you a bit about her:

Name: A.S (disclosing her name might end in fatal consequences once she reads the post)

Fondly called: GT, Angu, Afu

Species: Surprisingly...human, of the female species. Despite certain characteristics that seems impossible in the earth folks.

Character Description: Crazy. Wild. Wacky. Chaos personified. The mere presence of who mimics a tornado hitting the place. Nick name generator. Some of the victims have still not recovered from the humiliation of their nicknames yet. Wildest and the most baffling imagination ever! Imagines at age 20 of digging a tunnel under the ocean in between India and Australia, and ride a bike to reach Australia because she didn’t want the hassle of getting a passport and visa! Another sample. Imagines of marrying a simple peasant and him working hard in the fields, sweating in the mid-day sun, while she carries the lunch basket atop her head and did I mention wearing a fluorescent yellow saree and Gucci shades! Used to spend evenings ogling at a cut out of a wrestler in the gym window opposite her room balcony. Resembles a frog while running, all bent knees at awkward angles…a run I immensely enjoyed watching during school days. Offers sage advice on important issues like how to avoid the “Kalyug” (the movie) disaster, that is avoid spy cams in hotels during honeymoon…put up a mosquito net over the bed and drape a thick blanket over it! Has the largest database of jokes on M. Gandhi of all people! Wears the darkest pair of shades only because they are oh-so-pretty and stumbles every few steps on the road. At art school, she was the proud achiever of sculpting a man with exceptionally huge cheeks (not the *** ones). Biggest fear was the subject “Mental Mathematics” in second standard. Had her share of being stalked by some exceptionally weird characters who were smitten by her. Proud owner of the loudest and the heartiest laugh ever. Cries at the drop of a hat and recovers just as spontaneously. Suffers from water-brash (mouth fills up with saliva while talking fast and has to pause and swallow every few seconds). Talks faster than you can comprehend. Loves singing in the famous nasal tone of the 50s era. Stands up for important causes…began a crusade against rock hard brownies served in Café Coffee Day once. Is a modern day Draupadi, she’s the wife of many celebrities…but unfortunately (?) they don’t know it yet. Is competitive while comparing embarrassing episodes. Has an uncanny sense of spotting hotties within a range of few hundred meters. Champion of facebook games…usually played during office hours. Expert in landing me in awkward situations and rescuing at the last moment. Dreams of pole dancing at her best friends’ weddings wearing a golden bikini! Fellow glutton. Pigs out on rice dishes. Has the tendency of laughing for so long at times over some topic…she forgets by the end of the laughing fit what was so funny. Biggest fan of King Julian of Madagascar. Loves to buy sexy sleep wear…just for the diva feeling it brings about. Writes wonderful poems. Was angry with me once for borrowing two lines, that she came up with, to complete a poem till a settlement was arrived upon involving chocolates and toffees. Overactive sweat glands and pesters me about conducting a nerve section on her to permanently avoid sweating for life!

I could just go on and on about her quirkiness. By now, you must be wondering whether such a person really exists! Yes, she does. And she’s my best friend. Even with the apparent quirkiness bordering on craziness at times, she’s one of the loveliest human beings I’ve ever known. It’s only her close ones who get to see the wacky side of her. The impish child in her. She is a doting daughter, a caring sister, a fabulous friend…and a very, very good human being. A brilliant student, topper in her graduation despite her childhood phobia of numbers…and now working in a great job. She's an extremely talented painter too. She’s so kind, so loving, so supportive…you just can’t help smile and be glad to have just known her. She’s a prominent “feel good” factor in my life. Every time I’m feeling low, I know my pep up pill is just a phone call away. And how much we can talk!! Oblivious to everything in the world…talking, giggling, comparing notes on embarrassing incidents, and even more giggling…again becoming the two little school girls we once were. Even when it comes to the real nitty-gritty of life…I’m amazed at the sensible advice she offers each time, considering the clowning she’s up to in the rest of the time. She’s a wonderful friend, and I feel so proud and blessed to have known her. It’s so cliché but please don’t ever change,GT. I want you to influence my grandkids too with your overactive imagination. Love you loads. Happy Birthday once again! Muuuuuuuaaaaah!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I'm cutting you off my life

Calls go unanswered.

Messages not replied to.

Some urgent chore to attend whenever the possibility of meeting is brought up in the conversation.

It can't get more obvious than this...take the hint. You're being cut off from their life.

How do you cut off a person from your life without being downright rude? I've tried to cut off few people from my life without being rude, tried every trick in the book; successful with a few, failed repeatedly with the rest. There was a time when I had that uncontrollable urge to please everyone and not hurt anyone's feelings and that compelled me to wish everyone on their birthdays, or major occasions, send mails, call them up once in a while, the whole "keeping in touch" routine. I go out of my way to text every person on my phone book be it New Year, Diwali and even Republic Day! Huge phone bills notwithstanding, I go all out in making sure none of my acquaintances were left out.

But one day, in one of those rare moments when some sense goes into my head, I realized the futility of the need to lug so many people around. Sure, they are my school buddies, or college mates, or gym pals, or a friend of a friend. But I'm not obligated to carry on an acquaintance forever! Times have changed, I've changed, and I realized I don't really care about what my friend from fifth standard is doing these days. I've known these people, had spent some wonderful times with them, but there comes a time when I don't want to clutter my life with those people from my past about whom I don't really care too much. I just want to focus on the ones who I genuinely care about irrespective of whether the feeling is mutual.

I've displeased a lot of people in the recent past by cutting them off, but there are some who just can't take the hint despite calls and messages not being answered gradually, and end up hurting themselves for being ignored. But I just hope they take the hint soon enough. Just today I was discussing with my best friend how some people take so long to understand that they are being cut off. A common friend, who is a big time gossip, had been meddling in our lives for long. We cut her off. But she had been persistent too about not letting us go so easily. I got fed up of such characters; changed my number, blocked emails, and even made my Ma rehearse the "She's out-of-town" excuse in case they drop in at home. So far I've been successful in warding off the few people who refuse to take the hint.

It's not that I had never been at the receiving end. I too had been cut off by some friends. School, and college was a long time ago; everyone has different careers now, and their careers have taken them to different places. They've met new people, the earlier acquaintances have lost their value once time and distance have come in between. I took the hint early in few cases, but in the ones where I really cared a lot for the person, I persisted for quite some time before realizing the futility of my attempts. It does hurt when a person you care about, and had spent years together with suddenly fades out from your life. But it's their choice. You can't force your presence in someone's life.

I have learned the hard way that people change, so do emotions. Once distance and time creeps into any relationship, only constant care and the genuine wish to continue the relationship can sustain it. The relationships that pass the test of importance in my life, remain with me for a long time to come. And the rest I simply cut off to de-clutter my life. We meet new people everyday, and we can't lug the whole world along with us. I've realized the importance of nurturing the relationships I know are genuine and weeding off the rest. A decision I know I won't regret. I hope.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sita Sings The Blues

I watched the movie online a couple of days back. And absolutely loved it. You can catch Nina Paley's "Sita sings the blues" here. It's a brilliant animated version of the Indian epic Ramayana which runs parallel to a modern love story. It has been described as the "greatest break-up story every told"! It uses the jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw to chronicle the events of Ramayana, keeping in focus the relationship of Ram and Sita. It uses three shadow narrators (my favorite characters in the movie) to depict the tale and their hilarious narration wil surely delight you. The animation varies from frame to frame in three completely different settings of art. It's one of the best works I've ever seen. Witty and pithy narrative, fantastic animation, good songs and above all a awesome depiction of the Grand epic Ramayana and the plight of Sita is sure to delight many a movie buff.

Why did I choose to mention this movie? March 8th. Women's Day. MTV India ran a poll on whether there should  be a special day to celebrate the achievements of women. 55% said "yes", 45% said "there shouldn't be a specific day to celebrate the achievements of women, every day is Women's Day" That's all very good, but honestly do you really think women have got the respect and recognition they deserve in society? And should we even strive for acknowledgement from men for every achievement of ours? We all know the answer in our hearts. I've written earlier about the significance of being a girl. In the movie, issues such as Ram asking Sita to prove her purity, despite her unwavering devotion and love for him and the sorrows she suffers silently because of his decision to abandon her when she was pregnant. Through all the turmoils in her life, she unquestioningly obeyed him, loved him, worshiped him. But she didn't get the respect and love she deserved in the end. Sounds familiar? The film-maker draws parallel to her own love story in the movie. And think about it, don't you know someone with a similar predicament? The story of Sita is still relevant in today's world and many women can relate to her at some point or the other. Watch the movie. Highly recommended.

The tagline of the Cosmopolitan female is "fun, fearless female". May I just add "Fantabulous" to it! If I wait and think about the wonderful women I've known in my entire life, I feel so proud to be a woman. Words won't be enough to describe their full importance in my life, and I won't even attempt to do so. I just want to tell these fabulous females that I feel blessed to have known them.

1.Ma- for being the epitome of selfless love, for bringing me to this world, for every tear you shed when I was hurt, for being my biggest fan in everything I do, for always making me feel so secure and loved, for bearing my stupid tantrums and never judging me, for loving me just the way I am, for giving a wonderful childhood...for everything. For my existence in this world. I'm eternally indebted to you. And not just a wonderful mother, but the most wonderful woman I've ever known.

2.My sister- Few words to describe you; "You're my life"

3.My wacky aunt "Kuni" and even wackier cousins- Priyanka, Sangeeta, Ankita, Bonani, Pompee, Dimpee, Manali, Juku ba, Bu ba, Piya and my baby, Pooja. Juku Ba, I'm so so proud of you the way you've battled with the unexpected setback in your life. I pray that you get well soon.

4.The other females in our family- my aunts, my grandmother, my bhabhis. Each one, an uniquely extraordinary great woman. Especially you Pepe!

5.My daily dose of vitamins, my soul sisters- Angana and Aparoopa, my best friends. Two amazing women- the perfect examples of fun, fearless and freaking fabulous females!I love you.

6.Other close friends, with whom I have at some point or the other in my life have shared some wonderful times together. I cherish your friendship. Devi, Bandana, Jyotilekha, Kaveri, Chandamita, Pallabi T, Pallabi P, Supanta, Mousumi, Ruma, Amrita, Daisy Ba.

7. My teachers- Anita Ma'am, Deepti Ma'am, Srivastava Ma'am, Gayatri Ma'am, Manjula Ma'am. Thanks for guiding me at each step.

8. And how can I forget my fellow bloggers. Each one of you so awesomely talented, so wonderfully witty...I eagerly wait every day to read your blogs; I've smiled with you, cried with you, laughed till it hurt with you, and even fretted over your work problems with you. I could relate to your experiences. I'm inspired by your thoughts, your lives. I think you are oh-so-amazing! And even though most of the bloggers haven't met each other, I can surely say each one of us are bound together by shared emotions, shared experiences and it is such an wonderful feeling. Keep writing those brilliant blogs, you've one big fan here. I would specially like to mention my favorite blogs: Anita, Lost on the street, Crowscious, Prerna, ShahanaIndi, Anuja, Aoife, E, Ashley and Corinne.

Happy Women's Day!Cartloads of love and hugs.

Heavy Petting

First the updates:

1.We’ve new additions to the family…six new goldfishes, named after the entire cast of F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

2.My little "dramebaaz"(her histrionics has earned her the nickname) cousin, Pooja, feels her social life is ruined. She lost her front teeth! It makes me sad that she's growing up so fast. Just the other day she was born...

Pooja, a few days back:

Pooja now: (The kid has every reason to get scared!)

3.A trip to my hometown, Jorhat (in Assam) is due next week. Superrrrrrrr excited. The best-est place in the whole world.

Now back to the original blog post. At the risk of earning the wrath of all the people who read this blog (there are few, right??), I want to confess that I am not overly fond of animals. I don't hate animals but not an enthusiastic animal lover even. I love dogs. And I absolutely detest birds. I'm terrified of birds and my allergies start acting up even if I see a stray feather. The goldfishes are the first pets we have after ten long years.

My father had brought home a pup in 1980, five years before I was born. His name was Tipu (after The Tipu Sultan); don’t ask what made my father name it so. After I was born, Tipu had been my constant companion for eleven years. He used to follow me around everywhere and was very protective of me. Once when I was around five years old, I was playing in the neighborhood park and accidentally fell down and bruised my knee. A man sitting nearby came rushing to help me get up from the ground, but he was in for a shock! He had to be rushed to the doctor for anti-rabies shots in the next few minutes. Tipu didn’t let anyone apart from family to even come near me. He used to sense my arrival even before I reached home after school. I never took special care of him. Apart from the regular baths and half-yearly visits to the vet, there were no fancy pet treatments, no regular walks and no special dog food in our pet care routine back then. He used to accompany us on walks, play with us in the evenings after school, ate whatever was cooked at home; complete fuss free pet. And he lived for sixteen years and was healthy till the last couple of months of his life. He died when I was 11 years old. It was the first time I saw my father cry. Their bond was the most special. My father had brought him home and took care of him for 16 years. The loss of a pet can be very distressing. It took me a long time to get used to the fact that Tipu won’t come running to greet me each time I came home. I lost the first friend I had, my constant companion. I sulked for days. My parents began to worry. They got another dog, named him Tipu too; but I was even more hurt and angry that they were trying to replace our first pet. I avoided the new pet for few days but he was way too cute to be ignored. But he was killed two years later by some miscreants, when he had wandered out of home one night. No one in the family could bear the loss of another pet and resolved not to bring in anymore.

Our house back then was full of birds and cows and goats at the farm in our backyard that was run by my grandmother. And still is. But bringing home a proper pet, like a dog or a cat was out of question. And now our family has shifted to a new city, new apartment, which lacks the adequate space to rear a pet; and the lack of dog lovers in the neighborhood doesn’t help either. But as of now, I’m happily watching the antics of Phoebe, Rachael, Monica, Joey, Ross, and Chandler (our new goldfishes)!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Recent Reads

Among various genres of literature, short stories had always been my favorite. A novel maybe interesting but tends to get superfluous at times, but a perfectly constructed short story can’t afford the luxury of extraneous content and characters. Every word, every sentence is essential to convey the story. I had always been more fascinated by the works of the masters of short story genre than the rest of the literary world. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to get to read the works of Anton Chekov, Nikolay Gogol, D. H. Lawrence, Edgar Allen Poe, Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Conan Doyle, O. Henry and Ivan Turgenev – the jewels among short story writers. I remember having bought my first collection of short stories…”The complete collection of short stories by Guy de Maupassant”, a really fat volume, after reading his short story “Love” in my sixth standard English textbook; and it still hasn’t left my bedside bookshelf. And thus began a wonderful journey of exploring the best of the short stories ever written.
I’ve also chanced upon the short stories written by authors who are primarily known for their novels. Virginia Woolf, Daniel Defoe, Rabindranath Tagore, Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Mark Twain, Maxim Gorky…the list goes on and on.

I’ve the habit of reading many books in rotation, and currently I’m reading a mixed compilation of short stories and the novel “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” by Carson McCullers. The latter I’ve just started reading, so it’s too early to comment on it. As for the short stories, I came upon a few highly captivating ones that made an interesting read. Among the ones that I’ve recently read, these are the ones I highly recommend:

1) “The Idiot” by Arnold Bennett- It’s about a man who when faced with rejection from his fiancée sets upon the task of hanging himself to death, and while attempting it he is intruded by the village idiot, who not only doesn’t realize the gravity of the situation but actually helps the man tie the noose, adjust the length of the rope. The village idiot has no clue that he helped the man commit suicide and happily sets about the task of going to town to buy a pair of new shoes!

2)“The Honour of Israel Gow” by G.K. Chesterton- This is an eerie tale about a castle inhabited by two eccentric characters, the owner of the castle and his solitary manservant, Israel Gow. The story sets about tracing strange clues by a priest and a detective to investigate the mysterious death of the castle’s owner.

3)“The legend of St. Julian the Hospitaller” by Gustave Flaubert- I found it very disturbing. The author writes about the legend of St. Julian that he read about in a note stuck to the church window. It describes the life of St. Julian, born as the heir to a wealthy Count and Countess, and his childhood and youth spent in a frightening and wild desire to hunt animals and birds for pleasure that is very disturbingly portrayed in detail in the story. He’s cursed by an animal later that one day he would accidentally kill his parents. This torments him and he leaves home and wanders away to get involved in other conquests, but returns to his hunting after a few years and one day accidentally murders his parents. Later as repentance, he helps nurse sick people and one day goes out of his way to comfort a leper. The leper was Lord Jesus in disguise and thus goes the legend of St. Julian.

4)Nikolay Gogol’s “The Overcoat/The Cloak” (for the 5th time) - I love this classic about a man whose life revolves round copying documents at work, and lives the life of a recluse unaware of the going ons in the world around him. And one day the cold weather makes him realize the need of a new overcoat, and it’s this very garment that brings about in his routine and uneventful life an unexpected twist. A delightful read.

5)Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Mrs. Bullfrog”- An extremely witty tale about the search for the perfect wife by a certain Mr. Bullfrog, and on finding her he feels blessed to have married such a woman. The hilarious events that ensues following shocking revelations about his wife’s appearance and past, makes him realize that he couldn’t have been more wrong in the choice of a wife. These revelations coupled with the pitying glances people threw him scares him but the feeling is replaced by a gush of tenderness for his wife when she tells him the amount of dowry she brings with her to aid him in his

6)O. Henry’s “the Master Of Arts”- It’s about two men, an artist and his friend, who plots to con a vain ruler who is ready to part with any sum of money for a work of art glorifying him. They manage to do so, but face conflict with their own principles about the craft they excel in.

7)James Joyce’s “A painful case”- A middle-aged man who leads a solitary, unobtrusive life has a chance meeting with a married woman that leads to an affair, but he abandons her and leaves her heartbroken. Four years later he reads a newspaper article about her death and goes through a range of emotions from anger to remorse.

8)H. G. Wells “The Truth about Pyecraft”- It’s a uproarious story about an unusually fat man, Pyecraft, who persuades the narrator of the tale to help him lose “weight” by asking for his grandmother’s recipe about a certain concoction. The results were too literal…and he lost “weight” instead of “fat”. He lost the pull o gravity and began to float around the house. This leads to an amazing transformation in his home décor to fit his new weightless state. But later on the narrator comes up with the idea of lead undergarments to keep Pyecraft rooted to the ground!

9)Edith Wharton’s “The Other Two”- It describes the plight of the third husband of a rather charming lady. The plight doesn’t arise from something amiss in the marriage, but due to his frequent encounters with her ex-husbands and through these uncomfortable, awkward encounters he realizes that his wife’s horrid description of her past husbands aren’t quite true. It also portrays an unusual character in the form of the wife who neither makes an attempt to approach nor avoid her ex-husbands much to the discomfort of her present husband. But he later laughs this off and takes it in his stride.

10)Virginia Woolf’s “Lappin and Lappinova”- This is not one of her best works. But nevertheless, I liked it. It’s about a newly married couple; the wife who is scared of leading a suffocating, routine married life. So she weaves a tale of imagination around themselves…a world where her husband is Lappin (French word for rabbit) and she’s a Lappinova (a female hare)…who rule the kingdom of rabbits and the people they encounter in their daily life are part of that imaginary forest too. They slip into this secret, imaginary world and role play when they are alone and even amidst a busy gathering. The husband plays along to keep his wife happy. And one day he grows weary of this role playing and that ends his wife’s imaginary, happy world. And that’s the end of their love and marriage too!

11)Tagore’s “My Lord, the baby”- This is the story of a devoted servant who cares for his master‘s son from his childhood till the boy grows up, gets married and has a son of his own. The servant then takes care of the new baby in the family. But in an unfortunate accident, he loses his master’s baby, who gets drowned in the river. This leads to him being thrown away from his master’s place and he returns to his village. He has his own son shortly thereafter and raises him just like a rich man’s son by enduring hardships himself. He later gives away the boy to his master’s family saying he is their son whom he had stolen earlier and convinces them that it’s the truth. Thus he pays off for the loss he had caused them earlier and walks away from their lives forever.

12)Dorothy Parker’s “You Were Perfectly Fine”- It’s a delightful, funny tale about the revelations a man learns about his drunken antics of the previous night and it turns out to be a nightmarish hangover!

13)Hemingway’s “The Three Day Blow”- This is a classic. It’s all about a conversation between two friends over drinks as they talk about fishing, sports, books and love. Must read.

14)Voltaire’s “Jeannot and Colin”- It’s a simple tale about two friends; one gets instant wealth and fame and attracts fair-weather friends, becomes proud and arrogant, shuns education in the delusion that wealth is permanent, gets duped in love by a gold-digger, and the other has a rags to riches life by dint of hard work and never loses touch with reality and also valued his relationships with others.

15)Tolstoy’s “God sees the truth but waits”- It’s about a trader who is falsely accused of murder and lives his entire adult life in prison. But one day as an old man he meets a new prisoner, and in the course of conversation realizes that the actual perpetrator of the crime that he had been accused of is the new prisoner. He feels anger and resentment but leaves to God to do justice. By the time the prisoner confesses his crime and the trader awaits his release from prison, a long time passes and he dies before the arrival of the release order.

Few other stories that I read and would like to recommend are- “True relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal” by Daniel Defoe, “The Christmas tree and the Wedding” by Feodor Dostoyevsky, , E. M. Forster’s “The other side of the hedge”, and Mark Twain’s “Luck”.
Do tell me about your favorite short stories. I’d love to hear about them. I’d keep sharing more interesting short stories in the future.