Monday, June 30, 2008

Today I did something I dont normally do.
For the first time after moving to the new place, I managed to reach my favourite coffee shop by myself! In an hour and a half(instead of the breezy 5 minutes bus ride from the old doorsteps). A half mile walk in the blazing afternoon sun, 3 bus rides and an unsettled tiff(with the bus driver) later. In one ragged piece. With drooping shoulders and a soaring spirit.
Why am I making this such a big deal? Because it is, to me.
Not knowing how to drive and never having ventured out alone into the city(5 minutes bus rides daily for the last 4 months dont count at all!), I found myself physically trapped in the Iona House. It hit me pretty bad. I could not stand it. I was feeling gagged. And today, I decided I had to try. And I did.
I acknowledge that this mental block about venturing out alone, is not a legitimate trap that I had set for myself. And that I had to reason it out with myself long and hard - that the reasons for moving out of the trap definitely outweighed staying in and how!
It took a while to come to terms. Well, better late than never I suppose!
The trip was mostly uneventful. But a strange thing happened when I boarded the 3 rd bus, which was the campus connector to the university. I hurriedly sat down on an empty seat by the window, adjusted my back-pack and looked out towards the door for the driver to start the bus, still slightly ruffled by the tiff with the previous driver. And then,there amongst the strange white and coloured faces of students, I saw this one Indian boy sitting quietly by the door, his ipod plugged into his ears and smiling at me across the aisle. And as our eyes met, I suddenly felt warm. Some kind of a reassurance that all was not amiss with the world. Here in another country, amongst a million strange faces, here was another fellow Indian, who had come many miles across the oceans, to live his life here - just like me. There was this momentary truth of a connection. And then he looked away - thoroughly amused by my very antiquated response to his smile - a wild and enthusiastic 2-minute wave of my umbrella , over the heads of fellow commuters! The reasons for doing so? Beats me! But then again, ask people who really know me - I am known to do really absurd things like these,once in a small while!

* Piper turns red with embarrassment! *

I reached the campus in another 10 minutes. But I couldnt help wondering. I have come across millions of fellow Indians during my stay here. Why did I feel(and act!) the way I did today? Could it be that I was feeling rather unsettled by the tiff with this driver who had refused to halt at my bus stop? Could it be that I was a little shaken up by this, it being my first trip out alone and all? Or could it be that I hadnt come across any *really* good-looking Indian guy like him in a long time?! :-)) (Amen!)

Details on the Frisco trip in a later..

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Memorial Church through the arch of the Main Quad

Palm Drive

Hoover Tower and view from the tower`s Observatory


Main Quad


The Main Quad at Stanford U.

Palo Alto

Hey People,
The minute I stepped into San Francisco, contrary to my belief, I didnt get smothered by gays and Indians! Although I did come across a proud parade of desi families- interestingly smug mothers and fathers with a disinterested(and at times embarrassed) off-spring in tow -all travelling to Palo Alto, for admissions to Stanford! Shall write about all the different encounters I had at the Stanford campus. Should make an interesting read, I`m sure! But thats for laters,when I get back home on Monday. For now, I shall just post a few pictures of the Campus, just for fun. Keep reading for some fun 'desi' tales! :-))

P.S- The wireless connection at the hotel sucks big time! I`m not able to upload the pictures. Shall keep trying though.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Summer Plans

Hello All!

My Summer travel begins tomorrow. Early morning flight to San Francisco, and from there to our destination - Palo Alto, California for the weekend! :-))
Returning back home for a fortnight(with a 2-days trip to Chicago in between) and then to New Jersey to visit my devil of a nephew Lil Ishaan ( yup, NC - I have a lil nephew too! He`s just a year old now :-) ) and my folks who will be visiting from India. Back home from New Jersey for a week. And then to Europe! Yup - sometimes dreams do come true :-))
But the Europe tour will not be a regular 'sight-seeing' trip. We shall visit The G`s family there and then move onto Germany for work (The G`s work ofcourse!). But we`ll be there for 3 weeks. And I`m hoping I`ll get to visit near-by places in that time. I`m hoping it`ll be an interesting trip.
So, I may be a lil erractic with my posts. Hopefully I`ll stand forgiven, considering my nomadic schedule for the next couple of mnths :-))
I promise to give some interesting updates as soon as I settle down in Palo Alto.
So keep reading! And God Bless!

Excerpts from the Diary of an Ordinary Woman..

Another day goes by and I continue to drift – without a purpose,without a reason,without an aim. Adding on layers of disgust with every passing moment, as I accomplish nothing, as I strive for nothing.

What a pity! I have ceased to live. And I am responsible for it.

I feel bound to my own created obligations, the rationale of which gets into doubt once in a while.

What is my purpose,I ask myself and seldom find an answer. I guess I ask too big a question. I am an ordinary human being who was born and will die just like scores of others,doing my bit in this 2-dimensional world. Struggling with questions that have no answers.

Looking back at past times I had carelessly labeled as ‘bad’, I`m stunned by the revelation. That I was happy living in the superficial world I had created. It was gratifying. Now when I think back, the best times were those when I was alone and focused. Studying in my store house of a room.And listening to my own voice for inspiration. The world began and ended there. Beautiful,when I come to think of it. Just pushing my limits and discovering I could go a little further with each passing day.

Inspiration is what I`m lacking and comparison with distant possibilities, is what is killing me sad.

But I cant be sympathizing with myself at 31. No Way! So many limitations compounded with the futility of the state of affairs. Not able to decide the course of my life. Am lacking conviction and clarity. Not able to let go. Perhaps due to fear. Or perhaps due to an abnormal denial of reality. Still trying to be someone better. Trying to fit into the mold that the world has cast for m

So many ripples..

I have to somehow let go..

It`s getting too depressing for god-forsaken reasons. Absolute anhedonia bordering on the periphery of depression. And guess who is responsible for it?!!

Tomorrow will be another day, different from today. And I shall strive to make something of it. I have to. I am not going down like this. Like a loser. I will go back to the drawing board, redesign my life. Change it. Push myself. Set goals. Learn to live my life. By Jove! I have wasted half of it making mistakes. Let me now spend the rest, rectifying those.

I get knocked down. But I get up again. And again, as always..

A Momentary Lapse of Reason.. Part 2

The teapot boils over.. and over.. and over again. The water splashes onto her soul, burning and insistently corroding like acid.
She holds the teapot close, for fear of it shattering into a zillion irreparable pieces.
The scalds dont hurt anymore. She, who forever feared the pain, has learnt to survive through it all..
Or has She?

A Momentary Lapse of Reason.. Part 1

Sunday, June 22, 2008

To Be or Not to Be..

The time-worn debate about whether to work or stay at home is a minefield. Just as changing one`s field of study or ‘expertise’ is. For reasons best known to them, people can be very touchy about the subject. It’s an emotional topic, and feelings of guilt, defensiveness, and stress make it tricky to discuss, even on the most superficial level. Based on the reactions that I get from other people as well as my own to such queries, I haven’t yet found the best way to politely inquire about a new acquaintance’s situation .For two reasons. Firstly because for most parts, I don’t feel the need to. Unlike most others who make it their business to advise or guide me about living my life. And how! And secondly because I am not exactly an epitome of tact!

Well-meaning people often ask “so are you working , or staying at home?” This is often followed by a self-conscious pause, and then a quick addendum: “I mean, staying at home is the hardest job in the world! I don’t know how you do it!” It’s a nice thing to say, though the implication can sometimes be terribly annoying. And I for one,just cannot fathom what an appropriate response to that could be.

In general, I’m not that sensitive about this, but I have my moments.

The other day a ‘well-meaning’ acquaintance from college asked me what my plans were. She seemed genuinely concerned about how off-track my life seemed to be, as compared to the rest of my batchmates (Some in post-grad courses back home, while some having completed residency,are now well into fellowships in the various U.S med schools. But ALL - I repeat ALL are practising some form of medicine or atleast claim to!).

“ You should start preparing for the Steps* right away. I mean,if you don’t, you`ll never be able to join residency by 2009.Which means that you`ll not be able to finish by 2012. By which time,you`ll have to hurry with the family plans .I mean really hurry, huh? We aren’t getting any younger!”

*(USMLE Steps are the qualifying exams for admission to medical residency courses in the U.S med schools.)

“I know, I know. But I`m still unsure about the residency. I`m considering a master`s in Psychology instead.”

“ Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaattttttttt????” She shrieks, “ And waste 5 years of Med School?? Why did you study medicine in the first place??”

“Boy! If Only I knew the answer to that one!” thought I.

“ Well, Psychology is what I`ve always wanted to do. In any case, I haven’t yet decided. So there,there,” I said by way of consoling her. Amazing how people think they care about my life when actually it wouldn’t make a speck of a difference whether I exist or not.

Anyway, the episode left me wondering.

So what’s the best way to ask, IF at all? We are ,after all, Indians. Our culture places a strong link between what we do and who we are. In most social interactions, it’s one of the first three questions we ask: What’s your name? Where do you live? What do you do?

I don’t mean to overthink this (obviously, I’m failing miserably here), but there are three thoughts that come to mind right away.

First that, for those who are dying of curiosity, the query could be posed a little less provocatively. Therefore,“So are you working or sitting around eating bonbons” would be a bad choice.

A better choice would be “So are you home during the day?.” To me, the old standard, “So what do you do” is also just fine.

The other thought is that we, who are asked this question, should really get over it. It’s not that deep, and carrying a chip on our shoulder isn’t helping any.

But how we feel about being asked such a question is also very important. And so, even though “What I normally do” is kick ass on a daily basis, and I’ll probably be happy to tell you about it, however you pose the question. Still, just don’t push it! :-))

And lastly, the reason I`m reacting to it all is simply this. That I`m a lost soul, scuttling across the universe in Brownian motion. Without the faintest inkling of what I`m going to do in life.

Nope, not without the idea of what I want in life. Oh no! Not that! Because I know what I want to do. But not what I should.

So for people who are curious about my life or ask me what I`m doing, how about this?

I`m trying to decide. To Be or Not to Be..

Friday, June 20, 2008

Suburbia..Pic of the Day!

Keep a watch for tomorrow`s cartoon :-))

Suburban Bliss..


The G and I are very pleased to announce the arrival of Baby LM into our family!! Finally!!

The LM I must say, totally takes after his Mommy (yours truly!). He’s short in stature but tall in spirits. Very ‘cute’ to look at.Mostly self-propelling, though sometimes needing a push when the road steeps uphill. He`s dependable and safe. Mostly. Untill you purposely man-handle. And then, he will lose no time to bare his blades and cut sharp. Like good ol` Mommy! :-))

He`s also very vocal(beginning day 1) and entertaining. Amazing company on lonely summer afternoons!

The G and I are really looking forward to creating special memories with Baby LM. After all, it`s about Living In Suburbia… :-))

-Proud Parents

(To the new deluxe push rotary Lawn Mower!)


More updates on Life in Suburbia coming up..

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Relationships

MM`s blog set me thinking. About people in decaying relationships, who don’t allow themselves the freedom to be free.

I know of a collegue who was in this state.

It was the summer of 2005. The ceasefire was functional,which meant that we had the freedom to sit outside our bunkers in the daytime,without the fear of becoming an easy target to the enemies across the border. It meant that we were free to breathe the same air,to see the same sky and feel the same breeze against our faces as the rest of the world. As I sat outside reading,one such summer day, this colleague of mine – for all practical purposes lets call her D – came and sat beside me on the steps. She looked happier than she had in months. Much at peace with her self. I asked her if T was returning back today.

She had been in a volatile relationship with T for the past 6 months now, ever since she landed up here in this wilderness. T gave her a reason to exist. And even though,through the days I have seen her been trampled upon, yet she clung possessively to T. He had made it amply clear to her that she should never expect anything from him – not trust, not fidelity, not commitment. Just as he would not expect it back in return. That both of them should have the option to walk, at any time. It seemed like the ideal thing to D.She loved the fact that he was so open, so honest about it. No hidden agendas, no breach of trust.What she wasn’t counting on,is to fall in love. But she did. T kept warning her off and on. But she was happy to have someone around, in the middle of nowhere. Especially after the last traumatic break-up.

All so often I could see D,sitting quietly and shedding lonely tears. Over some rough words from the T,when she had expressed her dislike at the plentiful telephone calls from various women all over the nation. He was supposedly in multiple relationships – 2 were married women. One widowed. And the latest one was D. He spoke of them all, triumphantly – as if they were conquests to be proud of. He said that each one gave him a different kind of joy. While one was bold and interesting to talk to, the other was timid and let him talk. However he said that he had never spent as much time and as interesting a time as he did with D. The thought made her happy.She thought he might start loving her back.

(An after thought : discussing issues of mental/physical infidelity with a group of friends, G was surprised to hear that things like this happen back home. Even in good ol` laid-back Kolkata. Yes, it does. That`ll be another blog.)

Time and again I kept warning D not to play with fire. That she would end up burnt and broken beyond repair. But the relationship continued.And I hoped, for her sake, that she would be happy.

And now as D came and sat beside me, I asked her if T was returning back from his leave. She said that she just spoke to him. He will be here the day after. And that he is really looking forward to meeting her after 2 months. D seemed really happy. For days she had been waiting for him to get back. And finally the month long wait was coming to an end.

But what she had obviously not anticipated was, that along with the wait, the relationship was coming to an end as well.

T returned back from leave, with another woman in tow. It was beyond anyone`s imagination, the nerve of this man! For one moment, when D saw her, she was numb. Maybe things didnt quite register. The next wild moment, she was hysterical. Then neurotic. But she still didnt quite understand. Or maybe didnt want to. He called her up and asked her to join them for dinner. She did. And then she was back in my room, screamimg away into the wild night. She was angry. As angry as I had never seen anyone before. Anger at letting him treat her this way. Anger at the weakness of allowing this 'thing' to mean this much to her. She wanted to walk away. Desperately wanted to. But I knew she couldnt. That she wont.
She continued to visit the two of them off and on, whenever invited. Whenever not, she spent the time gulping down bottles of Old Monk. And then one fine day, she woke up and decided that she has had enough. She called up the higher formation head quarters and asked for a transfer to a sub-unit at another location. And within 2 days, she was gone. Just a few days back, she was content. Not overtly happy. But reasonably content.And at peace with herself. All of that had changed now. But I`m glad she had the strength to walk out when she did.

Anyway, so the other day when I read a post on women in gagging relationships on MM`s blog, I have been thinking about D and wondering why she fell in love with such an eternal bastard in the first place. And I realize that at that particular phase in life and in the seclusion of the hills around, D was desperately lonely.

(I`m amazed at the varied ways of coping with loneliness and stress by varied people. G doesnt know what feeling lonely is like.But I do. G says when he`s alone or used to be, he would read books, listen to music all night long or work at our favourite coffee shop. But that`ll be in another blog).

Her previous relationship of 6 years was coming to an end. The loneliness was painful and she yearned to escape from behind the walls of her individual identity. Escape and be more unified with the world outside of her being. Falling in 'love'
(and thts why its called falling I guess!) with this man was a sudden collapse of her own ego boundaries,permitting her to merge her identity with that of his.The sudden release of D from herself. The explosive outpouring of herself into him. And more so because he was very receptive. The dramatic surcease of loneliness experienced by D as ecstatic. She and T were one! Loneliness and heartache was no more! She thought that the strength of their feelings or the times they spent together would conquer all obstacles. Would make T bow down in submission.That the future will be bright.
The unreality of these feelings never surfaced at that point.. Because falling in 'love' is not an act of will. It is not a conscious choice.

More later..

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I know, I know..All the mommy bloggers must think – better safe than sorry. That they would rather have an over-cautious baby-sitter than a callous,frivolous one. But it isn’t just about baby-sitting. Don’t we all go a little overboard in our interactions with strangers, especially in unknown lands? Or am I the odd one out here?

Here`s the incident I was talking about.

My annual leave (in the Indian armed forces,you get 60 days of annual leave and you can take all of that at once or in two installments) was to begin. And my sadist C.O had sanctioned the leave just 4 days before it was to begin. Which meant that, as always, I would have to go to the Jammu railway station directly, to purchase a ticket for the 2-days journey home, on the day of the move. And as always, there was no assurance that I would get a confirmed ticket.

After a 5 hours trip from the L.O.C to Jammu city,in a wobbly old bus, on circuiting mountain roads, I was dead tired when I finally managed to reach the station. And there in front of me, was a line at the ticket counter that extended as far as the eye could see. There are 2 counters for army personnel at the Jammu Railway station, where we had to exchange our travel warrants for tickets – meaning thereby that I couldn’t stand in the general reservation counters. I frantically ran around the place,trying to figure out some other way. The train I wanted to catch, was to leave in less than an 2 hours. Finally, after having asked someone to reserve my place in the line, I ventured inside a dark corridor behind closed doors that read ‘RESTRICTED ENTRY’ for the railways personnel only. In a completely dishevelled
state I ran along the corridor,trying to find some senior railways officer to request for a ticket. It was a dark, damp and dingy corridor. And I was quite scared by the people around. Tall, well-built men with narrowed eyes and long beard,clad in pathan suits and black turbans.No Women. My military mind instantly jumping to weird conclusions at their appearance!

And then through a glass door marked 'ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT', I saw this old man-must have been around 50 or so – sitting behind a huge stack of dusty files, chewing his pen. I took a few tentative steps towards the door, trying to decide whether to go in or not. The man didn’t look quite civil. But it was too late to back off. The man had seen me and was motioning for me to enter the room. I did, hesitantly. My mind playing dirty tricks on me. I fidgeted. I was extremely uncomfortable. I didn’t like being in the same room as this old man, who could’ve been a rogue,for all I knew. Or a rapist. Or a murderer. Things like this weren’t uncommon at all. Especially in Jammu.

Anyway, I extended the army reservation warrant towards him and told him what I wanted. That my train leaves in exactly 1 ½ hours and I needed a confirmed ticket. Because it’s a 2-days journey. And because I was traveling alone.Without saying a word, he went over the warrant. Then rang a bell. An office runner appeared. He handed over the warrant to him and asked him to get it signed by “Sharma Saab” and get the ticket back. I blinked. Then I blinked some more. Finally I mustered up the courage to ask him. He said he`ll get me the reservation in some reserved quota they have for VIPs! It was as simple as that.

My heart skipped a beat. I should`ve been thrilled. I was going home on a reserved ticket. But wait a minute,not so fast. My fears took over. Why on earth would this person do something like this for me? He doesn’t know me. What does he want in return? I kept wringing my fingers together. The old man looked at my tired face and said,

“Chai piogi?” (Will you have tea?)

I gave him the dirts, “ No thank you. How long will it take Sir?”

“ Aa jayega. Train to 7 baje hai na?” Tthe ticket will be here. The train is at 7 right?)

I took a deep breath. Fished inside my bag, till I could lay my hands on the pepper spray,ready to use if need be. Thank God I had the good sense to buy it from Delhi on my last trip home.!

The old man, sat there trying to make small talk. Finally he gave up after 10 minutes of rude,mono-slyllablic replies.

I looked around through the glass door to see if I could spot anyone outside. No joy! By that time(and it was almost 20 minutes that I had been sitting there!) I had worked myself up into a total frenzy. I was convinced that the man was a psychopathic killer, who rapes his victims mercilessly before killing them. I kicked myself mentally for being such a fool. This was Jammu,dammit. How could I walk in here without a moment`s thought? What am I to do?

With a thousand thoughts volleying back and forth, I stood up,ready to flee. But the old man stopped me.

“ Rukh jao bachche. Abhi aa jayega ticket.” (Wait a while,kid. The ticket will be here.)

Almost in tears, I asked him to return my reservation warrant. He could sense my agitation. However without another word, he walked towards me. The hair at the back of my neck rose. This is it, I thought. I fastened the grip on the pepper spray and waited with bated breath for him to make a move towards me.

But the old man didn’t even look at me. He walked to the door, flung it open and called out to the office runner. The lad came running. He said that “Sharma Saab” had just arrived and that he was issuing the ticket now. The old man asked him to hurry up. Then turning back, he returned to his seat.

I was so stunned by the whole thing, I didn’t know what to do. I did so want to trust this stranger, here in the middle of an unknown land, who didn’t have any reason to help me out, but for the sake of humanity. But there was this nagging fear,still.

Finally, the office runner appeared with my ticket. The old man handed it to me. A reserved ticket in 3rd a.c , in my name!

As I started to thank him, he stopped me.

“ Mere bachche bhi door rehte hain. Unke liye bhi yahin karta!”

(My kids stay away from home too. I would’ve done the same thing for them as well”)

As I walked away,ticket in hand, I couldn’t help but wonder. What has the world come to? In a world where crime in all its forms, takes a front seat, is it ok to look at humanity with an eye of suspicion at all times? Or should we allow ourselves to let our hair down,once in a while? And if we do, what kind of price will we have to pay? Would it all be worth it then??

Monday, June 9, 2008

It`s bright and sunny today.. The sky,bluer than a robin`s egg. The grass so green. The breeze pulling my hair back into a frizzled mess. Just like how a perfect summer day should be.

And I was walking back home from the bus stop (Yeah,Yeah the old empty home. I just cant seem to let go,can I?)

On the way, there`s a children`s day care center. You can hear the colourful voices calling out to each other,even before you spot the play pen around the corner. And as I walked by, smiling at the dirty little faces peering curiously from over the fence, one lil girl called out to me.

“ Are you Indian?”

She must`ve been around 5 or so. And I was stunned.

“Yes, how did you know?” I smiled back.

"Parents mustve had a racist conversation over dinner", I thought.(Shall dwell on the racism thing in another blog.)

“ You`re wearing red paint on your hair,like Sid`s mom does,” she said matter-of-factly!

(Referring to the ‘sindoor’ I use. )

My sister doesn’t use sindoor anymore. Lotta people don’t. Some use a red paint,like a nail paint or a lipstick – supposed to be convenient and less messy. Others use designer ones,like the ones you see in the Ekta Kapoor serials on zee tv! I stick to the regular form,along with the traditional bong style ‘shakha pola’ –Weird as it may seem to people who know me (or hardly!)- this bold,outgoing persona that I project – I`m basically timid at heart(??!!) and scared of experimenting on this one!

And as I stood there chatting up bull with the lil kid, there loomed in front of me, a huge,wobbly apparition clad in a worn-out, ill-fitting garment straight out of Salvation Army`s thrift store(I usually don’t comment on people`s clothes or looks but this one really got on my nerves. You`ll know why).

With one hand on her oh so generous hip and the other dangling menacingly in front of my face, she asked me what I was trying to do with the kid! As I stood there,trying in vain to explain that it was the lil girl who stopped me and not the other way around, she refused to take any explanations whatsoever. She continued to bare a crooked, yellow set of teeth and snarl at me.When I saw her turning purplish-blue in the face(pbly hypoxia due to continuous shrieking and forgotten gasps of breath, thought my medically trained brain!), I decided I needed to back-off before she fell to the ground,dying.Death caused by sudden rupture of a cerebral vessel in a fit of rage!! And suddenly I was glad I`m still not allowed to practice medicine in this country!The idea of doing a mouth-to-mouth nauseated me! And so, off I went. And it was only once I turned around the corner,about a mile from the play pen,that her booming voice faded into the distant air. And I allowed myself a breath.

Of all the things I have been misunderstood to be, a psychopathic child-picker wasn’t ever one!!

The incident shook me up pretty bad. I can understand a person being protective of children, especially in a country like this where we get to hear crimes of the sort,everyday on tv or through the newspaper. But some level of discretion should be exercised, some judgement should be made about whom to suspect and whom not to. And if we are to go by looks or body language or whatever it is she went by, I`m sure that by any standards, I would have to try really hard(and still never succeed) to look more "suspicious" than her!!

I kept thinking about it,getting more and more angry by the minute. Until I remembered an incident that occurred when I was posted to J&K in the Year of the Lord 2003.

I shall continue in another blog. Until then, feel free to comment ;)

Hey People!

And here I am again, roaming around the quiet streets alone. Like a lost soul. And for all I know, I may just be turning into one.

Officially it`s Summer. The semester is over and the students have all gone away. That’s why the quiet streets, the deserted coffee shops and a grey gym. It comes as a surprise to me – this uneasy feeling inside.I`m not able to grasp it completely but there`s something I don’t quite like about this. Probably because I`m still so not over the chaos back home. Perhaps I wander around,looking for familiar sights, smell or sounds. Or atleast the familiar chaos that wrecks havoc on Kolkata streets, esp under the sweaty summer sun.

But today,I feel happy. ‘Raising T’ has left a warm comment on my blog and believe this or not, she made my day :)

It may sound a lil weird. But then again,it may not. Because I`m sure all of you who write,will understand the kick one gets when one knows that there are people out there in the world, who are probably going through the same phases in life. And who consider my musings interesting enough, to devote 5 minutes of their time,to read what my mind writes!

For as long as I can remember, I have forever wanted to write. I have spent many a happy afternoons, imagining myself to be a well-acclaimed author! The “ I wanna be Jhumpa Lahiri” phase! :)

But like they say – Life is what happens when you`re busy making other plans! And so here I am.. going about doing what I am supposed to do. Playing many roles,but the one I`ve always longed to. And all the while, tenaciously clinging onto my dreams. Like a lil girl,clutching her favourite doll. And up until now,I never realized how much I valued it. Until ‘Raising T’ left a comment on my blog.

It thrills me no end, to open my blog page and see the comments( I wont be running out of fingers,counting them!!) and the profile visits. It gives me a kind of a kick, that even a double shot espresso does not!

While some might find this unnatural and say that they write for themselves, as an outlet vent to their innermost selves. I completely agree. So do I. But after all, I`m only human. I love to be appreciated! :) So, to all of my readers(I`m hoping there are a few atleast!) – I may not be your idea of Jhumpa Lahiri, but hey! I`m trying..(!!!) I`ll try and write some interesting stuff from now on

More later..

Friday, June 6, 2008

Coming Back Home..

Well, for starters, I managed to stay at ‘home’ today. Which means that I got some unpacking done!

* Piper pats herself and does a jig around the room! * J

The living room is looking more presentable than I had thought ( Thank God for small mercies!). Its probably the huge hand-painted wall-hanging that one of G`s students got from China. More updates on the full d├ęcor later.

There`s something else on my mind today. Mom Dad are going to be here in a month`s time. I`m so thrilled! I`m sure they`ll love it here. Like I did. I remember how I would roam around, wide-eyed and awestruck! Everything looked so new,so different, so clean.. I remember doing a recce of the grocery store in stunned silence. What first caught my eyes are the huge white onions,of the size of half a water melon back home! :)

The milk came in handy cans,instead of the plastic packets. The potatoes were huge,red and clean!! The passer-by`s were warm and friendly and always greeted you. The men would hold open the doors.There were no car horns honking away,as we whizzed along the roads at 60 mph. There weren’t any annoying pedestrians,trying to get themselves killed by the cars,as they cruised a busy lane.You get the drift…little things like that. Life comes to you,easy and clean here. America`s not ceased to amaze me..even now!

So what is it about good ol` Kolkata that I still miss so much?

Crazy as it sounds, the noise ,the chaos, the din, the pushy people. And bicycles,cars,buses,people,dogs,cats and cows – all in one crowded lane. Traffic jams,sultry weather, the smell of sweat, the kids playing with paper boats on muddy,standing waters of Central Avenue streets on a rainy day in summer.The municipality hand-pumps. The swish-swash of chappals in the sloshy fish markets.The putrid,choking smell in therel. The loud voices,bargaining with the vendors on Gariahat. The sea of people surging along the busy Sealdah station. The cat fights and the gossips in the women`s compartment of the 6 o`clock Barrackpore local. The sneering comments of the ‘muhallah’ guys. The roadside tea stalls serving tea in earthen cups. The crowd at Dakhinapan. The khadi salwar suits and ‘jhola’ bags. The jostling, the pushing and the rush to reserve seats at the metro stations. The fact that Park Street is the only metro station where the doors to the platform open on the left! The taste of fresh Ilish Mach (Hilsa fish). Biryani at Shiraz. And come September ,there will be stacks of bamboos lying by the road side,waiting to be fortressed into a magnificent puja pandal. Thousands of incomplete clay idols lined along side lanes.Some with a half painted face. While others still in the process of being sculpted into a scared figure.

Colourful faces and interesting hair-dos at Durga Puja pandals.The smell of incense,the sound of “dhak”(drums) and the ‘dhunuchi nach”(a traditional dance form in Bengal).The songs of Malalaya floating through the air at 4 in the morning,laced with some unknown,unacknowledged sadness. And ‘jilipi’ from the local sweet shops at break-fast on the day of Mahalaya(officially the first day of durga puja).

The smell of Ma`s cooking. Fresh, homemade yogurt.The family meals and the evening tea.

All of that. But most importantly,I miss the feeling of belonging. I miss the ease of mind that comes from knowing that this is my land. My nation. My country.This is the only place in the world I can roam around, without the worry of having forgotten my passport or a photo id. This is the only place I will be treated as a rightful occupant and not a “resident / non resident alien” with a number!

Would I then,trade places with anyone back home?? I guess not…

* Piper backs off sheepishly and tries to disappear! *

So much for Big Talk!

So seriously if you ask me, I do miss home. A whole lot and more. But I`m happy being where I am and dreaming about returning home some day.

Its like the story of this lil girl who is feverishly excited about returning back home from a holiday. So her mother asks her,

“ Which do you like better? Going away on a trip or coming back home?”

To which,the lil girl replies, “ Coming back home,ofcourse!”

So the mother says to her, “ Well honey, if you like coming back home so much, we wont take you along, on our next trip.”

Puzzled, the lil girl says,

“ But Mommy, if you wont take me out on the road, How will I ever come back home?”

That sums it up, I guess… :)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The House at Iona Lane - edited to add

Hi Readers,

How sanctimonious of me to assume that people across the globe would actually spend time reading my blog!! :)
I hope you all do..
Anyway, for those of you who read the previous blog - I`m sorry I had to remove the pics I posted. The Goltin is paranoid about posting pics and revealing identities over the internet. He nearly asphyxiated when he saw the Iona home pics flashing all over my webpage. I know because I could hear the loud gasping amidst his frantic attempts to convince me to remove the pics forthwith! I actually felt sorry for him. Poor guy has too much on his mind already,what with a hectic work schedule and a neurotic wife. He probably doesnt deserve to worry about some psycho getting an access to the home or whatever it is he is scared of!
Anyway, so considering how sorry I felt when I heard him hyperventilating and trying to rant away about security and stuff, I removed the pics forthwith. Needless to say, there wont be any more of them, no matter how much I`d love to share.
I dont necessarily fancy the idea of trying to resusciate an asphyxiated Goltin all by myself! :)

Unpacking

There`s so much work at home. We haven’t yet unpacked. And it’s a little uneasy to be living out of suitcases and packed cardboard boxes. The Goltin as always has been terrific about this too. He`s patiently waiting for me to finally settle back in here,so we can pick up the threads of life from where we left.

The reason we haven’t unpacked as yet is because The Goltin has to attend the U – has a paper deadline on Friday. And I am too scared to stay at home alone. In broad daylight! If that seems a little peculiar, that’s because it is I guess!

So,the only time we have for unpacking are late evenings, by which time I`m dead tired –just by roaming around deserted university avenues and coffee shops and surfing the internet in an empty ,forsaken home for 9 hours at a stretch,waiting for The Goltin to finish work! And The Goltin,dead tired by the never-ending juggle between an over-committed work schedule and a nagging wife!

Anyway.

So, last night,The Goltin and me started talking and he asked me a question that set me thinking.

“ Since when did you start feeling scared of being alone? Was it since any particular phase in childhood? Or was it forever?”

He was probably trying to play Freud!

Well, I really cant seem to remember. Maybe since forever now. I have always been scared – really scared of being alone,on my own. And that ,coming from a doctor! Who served the Indian Army for the last 6 ½ years and who`s seen it all!! Believe me,I`ve really seen it all – from the underground bunkers at the Line of Control between Pak-occupied Kashmir and India. To cross-border firing between the two estranged nations before cease-fired kicked in. From inhuman living conditions without running water or electricity. To handling tons of battle casualties, regular as well as the fatal open gun-shot wounds in ambush encounters .And I`ve been alone. By myself. Without the luxury of cell phones or landlines. Without the luxury of a television to keep me company. Without the luxury of the internet. Without a home to go back to,at the end of another gruesome day.

Looking back, I wonder how I survived that phase.

Was I scared back then? Oh Yes! Ofcourse I was. But there in the wilderness, all of us, officers and troops alike, would huddle close - as if our togetherness could build a fortress of strength within each one of us out there. A fortress of strength and an unflinching will to go on existing and the hope that someday we will be living our lives and not just struggling to exist.

Those were amazing times. I`ll be eternally grateful for having had the priviledge to see this aspect of life and to know what 'living on the edge' really means. Not everyone gets that chance. But do I want to return back? Do I ever want to repeat the experience,just to remind myself that life has dealt me a great set of cards?

Well, lets see...uummm....NO?!!!!!!! NEVER AGAIN!


So,coming back to the point I was trying to make - Its strange that I should feel scared of being alone - scared to pathological proportions. Strange because I left home after high school and have been out there in the world, living on my own for the past 12 years now!! And yet, the thought of staying at home alone in the day time,when The Goltin goes to work, really scares me! Its not the fear of ghosts or lizards or any of the normal fears that normal people have. The fact that the backyard is lined with trees, so I really cant see beyond our own fence line, bothers me. The fact that the home is in a very quiet neighbourhood,with hardly any people walking by,bothers me.The Goltin says that here in the U.S, the sign of a safe and good neighbourhood is that there are no strangers loitering around. That is something I will have to learn to accept. Because, isnt that exactly the opposite of what I have always been trained to be aware of ,back home? Never to venture into quiet places alone. To always try and be near a crowd or a public place to avoid unnecessary hiccups? Well, whoever taught me that,obviously forgot to mention that it was only when I`m on the road. And not about residential neigbourhoods!

Amongst all the lessons driven home to me through kind words,yells and sometimes even brick-bats - this was obviously a lesson I never forgot! Its safe to be in a crowd - (even at home though???!!!)



Gotta run.. more tomorrow.

Blogs

For quite some time now,I have been thinking about blogging on a more regular note and not just write a prose or a short story once in a couple of months. But it has just not been possible. Not because I have been insanely busy or anything. I mean,that too. But everyday as I religiously sit with the laptop, facing a blank page - I wait for some grand idea to pop in my head,so I can jump up,shout “Eureka!” and start writing! It never happens. So today I decided to just start writing about my life. Just how I spend my days. My thoughts. The events that occur through the day. The troubles I get into. The tears I shed and the laughter I share.You know,little things like that. And see,if I can manage to make an interesting blog,for people to read.

Some of the blogs I read,are those of new mothers and old ones.Working Moms and full-time ones. They all write about their lil ones. How exasperating it can get at times and how they sometimes want to fling their lil wildcats out of the window.The guilt they feel about not being able to spend enough time with the kids. But how,at the end of the day, a lil goodnight hug or a funny word or two from them, can so totally make the whole exercise of parenting oh so worth their while. I love reading these Mommy blogs. They almost tame me into wanting to experience these lil joys of motherhood myself!

Sometimes I read blogs of 20-something single women, waltzing their way through life. It reminds me of my own time in the past and the wild and free bird that I was. Some of them are vocal to the point of rudeness while some more timid. But all like to speak their minds out to the world. And why not? Its their own space in the blogosphere and no one else has a right to that. I love reading these blogs. Sometimes I even post a comment, only to have them deleted(??!!). And I wonder to myself. Are the youngsters of today a lil less tolerant than how we were? Cannot really generalize – because its not that I`m a generation gap older or something! Hey, I`m a youngster as well J

Then what can the reason be? For someone to erase my comments, when I take meticulous care to phrase every line to sound just right and polite? It bothers me, but then that’s my problem. It puzzles me because I would love people to read what I`m writing and comment on that. Not rude,insensitive or anonymous ones. But yeah, comments in a more civilized format and NOT necessarily agreeing with what I`m saying.

So anyway, I spend a large chunk of the day,reading a lot of interesting blogs. It amazes me and makes me think. I love getting to know all these bloggers,through their posts. I love knowing their opinions on various aspects of life. And it makes me want to blog some more…

But sometimes it’s a lil distressing because I don’t really have a happening life like any of these fellow bloggers. I don’t have kids. I don’t work. I`m at home all day,reading other people`s blogs! So what can I possibly write about. Well, we`ll see…

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The House at Iona Lane

We moved into our dream home yesterday. Moved our stuff along with all the memories. And I`m back to the old,now empty house today to finish up the cleaning before we hand over the property back to the university guys. As I sit here on the floor by the glass door typing away my thoughts, I feel a tinge of sadness laced with nostalgia about the life I had here and the knowledge that it wont ever be the same again. This is a small 2 rooms townhome where we always had to struggle to fit in all our things. We had to put on hold so many plans like buying the kind of furniture we liked, just because the house was too small to accomodate. But it was the first home I had after marriage. Here is where I spent happy afternoons,sprawled out on the couch reading. Or watching the rain beat down the glass door. Or learnt to cook a full meal. Here is where I spent time with The Goltin, honeymooning!
The new house at Iona is splendid in every way I can imagine. Its huge.It has 3 bedrooms, other than a big family room and a glass covered all seasons porch. And it is in a splendid "high-demand" neighbourhood. It is everything that The Goltin and me had ever imagined our first home to be like. And yet it isnt home, as yet..
Last evening as we were standing on the lawn outside and admiring the most expensive investment of our lives, the neighbours all walked over to where we stood. And we stood there,The Goltin and me, under the Big Tree on our lawn,chatting up with them. The light summer breeze was straddling the afterglow of the setting sun.And it felt just right.It felt warm and nice to be welcomed this way to the neighbourhood. They are all pleasant and caring old couples,some of whom have been living here for the last 40 years! I`m sure we will too - The Goltin and me. This house may not seem like home as yet.This house may not be the first home we stayed in after marriage.But it is definitely the very first home we own. And most definitely,the home we will grow old together in..
I`ll sign off here on a hopeful note. Shall definitely come back with more updates on settling down.