Sunday, January 24, 2010

Joy

I sat in the sun today, after dreary weeks of blinding fog. It was behind the haze that forever shields the skies over this city of 12 million, but it was bright and warm and happy, and I basked in its bridled brilliance.

My feet rested on the balustrade surrounding my balcony, my seat was an old cane stool, and the Killers were singing into my ears. Blonde beer in my left hand, and the incredibly dense Gore Vidal in my right. It was beautiful, and I baked to a cheery apple red. I went in to find the glorious shades I had bought on my last spur-of-the-moment shopping spree with Prarthana, almost 2 years ago, and raided my roommate's closet for sunscreen.

Sunscreen and shades in Delhi in January. In spite of the stickiness of the year old paste and the flatness of my hour old beer, I felt great. Happy, confident independence oozing out of every pore. I'm broke and unsatisfied with my job, but I have my books and my beer and my weekends.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Overworked and underpaid, with stress lines appearing all over my forehead, my less-than-beauteous face has taken quite a beating. My boss is cold, my colleagues are all shorter than me and don't like to talk, we sit in a room with no natural light, and I drink one cup of bad coffee after the other. I cannot tell you how much I crave the sun and fresh air by the end of the day. This being Delhi, sunlight and fresh air are mythical, and the native looks puzzled when these essentials are even mentioned.

And then there're the people. The annoying Bengali admin woman from Goa (don't ask me how) who thinks I am stupid because I am young, and sends me forms to fill every day for no reason at all. The love she has for paperwork, though? Quadruple it, and you have the love that our Director of Operations feels for the same.

Speaking of which, that is a very lofty title for such a small man. He thinks that since he is 30 years older, and spend 6 years working for the largest environmental advocacy NGO (in an administrative capacity!), and used his Navy career to pay for his education, he is the shit. Every conversation starts with, "When I was at XYZ...". And when he isn't talking about XYZ, it is, "When I was in the Navy...". And, he winks.

Incessantly, he winks. He says, "Definitely, yes, right away", and then winks at you. He says, "In a little bit, in a little bit," and then winks at you. He also repeats almost everything he says twice. It is tiring, really. Getting used to his facial tics, and then ignoring them to get through to the actual meat of the conversation is a long process, and I am not willing to repeat it every time I want my expenses reimbursed.

I want to move back home. I'm sure the people will be as annoying, but at least I'll have the comfort of friends, and the absence of annoying Delhiites.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I got my first paycheck! It is an actual check as opposed to going directly to my bank account, so there's they added bonus of feeling it and smelling it and shedding tears of joy over it (not really, but you get the point).

In more good news, I will be finally meeting my boss next week, in person! I have never met her before, so this is both exciting (in that I get to put a face to the endless emails) and scary (what if neither of us like each other?). Like family, I didn't get to choose my boss, and the 3 phone conversations I have had with her suggests that I will like her, but who can tell. She sounds a lot like a cousin on the phone, and I am sure that is a good thing, I don't know why.

 I like my job. Have I mentioned that before? The demanding nature of it, the scale of ambition, the likelihood that I will mess up the world if I mess up my analysis – it's liable to make me have nightmares (and I have already had very lucid dreams about my job), and yet, I'm enjoying myself. I haven't made excellent friends at work, but there is hope. And where there is hope, there is, I don't know, probability?

A friend of mine has had the most awful accident, and we have all been on tenderhooks. And let me be the first to say - I perform very badly when on tenderhooks. Apart from being just terrible at my job (in spite of the excitement at having a job, and a good one at that), I have been hanging up on my parents, been generally touchy, and have been acting like I had the accident. Anyway, all this means is that I have been milking sympathy. I'm shameless, really. Come, commiserate - I have had a terrible thing happen to me.

I'm moving to Delhi in 2 months. So now, you really do have something to feel sorry about for me.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

"Then all the words will be sprightly, & every sentence a surprise"

Emerson wrote that in his journal entry on Good Writing.

A piece of writing in which all the sentences evoke surprise in you. That sounds joyous to me.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

I miss my friends, and my community. Almost all of them have moved away from New Haven, and as a result, my circle now consists of me and some imaginary people I converse with on a daily basis about life and the quality of happiness.

If you could hear these conversations, you would think I was mad. Well, obviously you would, for the imaginary people exist only in my imagination and you would only be able to hear my side, and not their replies. If you could hear both sides of the conversation, though, you would still think I was insane - we're talking about the quality of happiness. Nothing sounds loopier than me discussing the quality of happiness - it is like reading a Milan Kundera novel with all the third person narrative blacked out. (I am not as intelligent as that sounds - the Milan Kundera reference was obviously just name dropping. I find his works inscrutable - I don't understand them even the third person narrative isn't blacked out. So.)

So no more imaginary friends. I will now talk to my imaginary readers. Have you ever had one of those days when it is so hot, you sit in your thinnest cottons, minimize contact between your body and any other surface, and try to keep the sweat from dripping on your work? I'm having one of those days right now, and this is one thing I have not missed about summer. I love the sun, I love the green trees, I even love the fact that people wear close to no clothes, but I do not like the sweating that comes with summer.

I am currently between jobs, between schools, between lives. There's a definite miasma in the air. Not the kind that causes disease, but the kind that makes me lethargic and bored. So I've been doing a lot of thinking, and quite a bit of writing. I have also been reading through my writing of the past 3 or 4 years, and I've come to realize that it has progressively become stale and uninspired. And it sounds like I have lost my sense of humour about things.

So this is a new start. I will start trying to think more about what I'm writing. I will also try to bring a little more lightness into it - for the past year, at least, I have been incredibly staid and boring. If I become even more boring in the process of trying not to - you, imaginary reader, need to let me know.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Today's happiness is attributed to Justice Ajit Prakash Shah. Man's got some powerful human rights language up his sleeve.

Check out the full text of the decision here. And then go out and celebrate.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I am a huge fan of Leonard Cohen. I came upon his work when I was 20, unhappy in college. The first time I heard him, the first song I heard (The Future), I was hooked - it was like dark spicy chocolate and a single malt. His voice still makes my insides quiver and his music is at times heart-wrenching, at times energizing, and at all times, profound.

Most people I know don't know much about him beyond that he was the original genius behind "Hallelujah", which was later immortalized by Jeff Buckley and kd lang. I personally prefer Cohen's version(s). There is more pathos to it, and much more intensity. And of course, Leonard Cohen's incredible,lump-in-throat-inducing voice. Listen to him sing, "Love is not a victory march, it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah", and if you don't have to swallow the lump, there is no hope for you. The idea that a word with a definite religious connotation can be so much more that just that, that it is something that resonates with the soul in the most human of moments, is pure beauty.

There is so much more to Leonard Cohen than Hallelujah. The man makes me want to cry more than should be legal - Hallelujah is one of the most upbeat of his songs I have listened to, in tone, if not tempo. The sheer anger of "First We Take Manhattan", the incredible horror and beauty behind "Dance Me To The End Of Love" (Madeleine Peyroux has a wonderful cover), the snark and criticism of "Democracy", the humour in "Everybody Knows", the darkness of "the Future", indeed, the darkness inherent in all of his songs - he makes the unattractive and sad seem beautiful.

Some of Cohen's poetry leaves a lot to be desired - the rhythm and rhyme often seem contrived and there is an inherent sense of gratification to the ones about sex, almost collegiate in many ways, like we should be standing around a keg. But I have not read anything that tugged at the heartstrings as much as "Waiting for Marianne".

Waiting for Marianne from "Flowers for Hitler"

I have lost a telephone
with your smell in it

I am living beside the radio
all the stations at once
but I pick out a Polish lullaby
I pick it out of the static
it fades I wait I keep the beat
it comes back almost asleep

Did you take the telephone
knowing I'd sniff it immoderately
maybe heat up the plastic
to get all the crumbs of your breath

and if you won't come back
how will you phone to say
you won't come back
so that I could at least argue

Saturday, June 06, 2009

I have good teeth. I should know - they're probably the only parts of me that do not need camouflaging. I have great teeth - they're straight, even, relatively white, and cavity-free. I don't spend much time on my teeth - I brush once a day ritualistically, and twice if I remember and have my toothbrush. I am not one of those people who spend half a day brushing their teeth either - I go once around the front and once around the back, and then rinse. No brushing of each tooth up and down on each side - I'm just a little too lazy for that. No flossing.

I tell you about my teeth because I truly believe they're my best characteristic. The rest of me is a mess. I have great thick hair growing everywhere, my eyes (and vision) are myopic to the point of being blind without glasses, my lips are crooked, my forehead is the size of a cricket field, and my nose is blunt and flat. And that's just my face.

In spite of my obvious shortcomings in the whole looks department, I make friends easily, which leads me to believe my friends are not shallow. Well, to be truthful, some of them are shallow - I prefer to ignore it when I recognise it.

Some of them also lie to me. They tell me I'm pretty, or they tell me I'm a happy person, or they tell me I'm nice. I don't mean to sound like I'm wallowing in self pity - I look nice at times, I am happy at times, and I'm nice to people I like. However, I am never all of these at the same time, and I am never all of these continuously. White lies, for sure, but white lies lull you into complacency.

A little time with my family will obviously cure me of that complacency, and bring me back to the self-loathing person I have always been. But a little time with my family also turns me into an antisocial beast who hides in her room for days to just recalibrate. This often turns my friends away.

Which brings me to the point I want to make, and this may be self-evident, so bear with me - I make friends easily. Keeping them is a whole different scenario.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

my grandmother will not stop talking about marriage. i laughed it off the first couple of times, but it's getting irritating. every minute i'm alone with her, it's marriage, and a family of my own.

i already have a family of my own. don't i? when does my family stop being my family?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I'm going to India for the second time in less than 3 months.

It irks my conscience a little, especially when i think about all the pollution I'm contributing to the atmosphere.

I'm also not very into the project that we're going to India to work on. I don't think it means much, to the farmers we're studying, or to the industries they sell to.

So. Not much happiness here.

Though I am very very excited about warmth. New England has been so cold, the tip of my nose is a constant blue.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

La Vie Boheme

Someone's asleep in my living room.

Who is this someone, you ask?

He is my roommate's friend. And he's asleep on my couch, in my living room. Why? I have no idea. Maybe he got kicked out of his apartment. Maybe he was just here late and didn't want to walk back home. Maybe he and my roommate got stoned and he didn't remember that he doesn't live here. I only know that I woke up about half an hour ago and went to the bathroom, and on my way, walked in on N sleeping on the couch in a state of dishabille.

He also talks in his sleep. I believe he said something about massaman curry and maid service.

And yesterday, I found a bra strap in the bathroom that wasn't mine. I live with two men, and neither of them are seeing any women at the time, so it begs the question - whose was it?

I feel like I've walked out of my life and walked into a picaresque farce extolling the virtues of a bohemian life.

Tomorrow, I think I'll find the vegetables in the vegetable drawer and the fruits in the fruit drawer.

If that really does happen, I think I will be very very scared.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Can I Cry?

To continue on my line of posts about double standards and gender equality, here's something that made me mad. (Click on the title to take you to the article)

Bucking tradition has always been a no-no in India, but apparently it's not as bad when men do it. Men in a place that serves alcohol? Oh, but it is men, so society's moral fibre is still intact. Women drinking? By god, we like-minded entitled men should form a mob and stop them by beating them up. And while we're at it, make them dress "decently". We're losing our upper ground on morality when our womenfolk do things that Indian women just shouldn't do. Let us conveniently ignore issues that matter, like female infanticide, mental and sexual abuse and the disenfranchisement of women, but concentrate instead on women who dare ignore centuries of patriarchy and feel secure in the rights they are privilege to by law and by virtue of their humanity.

Renuka Chowdhury calls it Talibanisation. It isn’t, really. It isn’t because of an external culture taking root in India. It is because of Indian men feeling threatened by women who have been raised to think that the sexes are equal. It is because of Indian women who are threatened by and scared of other women who challenge their own perceptions of roles in society. It is the same oppression that we have faced all through history. We are half a billion women oppressed by a seemingly modernizing patriarchal state that still refers to us as chattel. And that's the truth of it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I've heard so many stories in the past few weeks about almost-date rapes and encounters of the molesting kind that I've lost all trust in men.

It is sad, and yet, this recent loss of trust only reiterates my belief that you need to constantly be on the lookout for yourself. I don't want to tar all men with the same brush, but when friends of friends, and "friends" themselves act like they have no respect for women, I can't but help but do it.

I remember my grandmother telling me when I was younger that I should "keep my distance" with men. I brushed her off, but it might be necessary for my own sanity to do so. This depresses me no end.

How much more difficult will I be making it for myself on the making friends front? I don't know.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

When I came to grad school, I came thinking we could definitely change the way things were. We'd bring the concentration of carbon dioxide to 350 ppm by 2050, we'd have consensus on the way the developing world should tackle adaptation and development, and all the world would agree to emissions reductions targets, because we all see the urgency of the situation. Complexities would dissolve under the combined efforts of the world's leaders, and we would all drive electric cars.

Now, the only thing I can think is that we're all doomed. My generation will probably not have too many climate change related issues, beyond some percentage points loss in agricultural produce, large scale migration and death, and a few natural disasters. But by 2100, civilization would either be in the last throes of death with civil war and strife the norm, or we would have left the planet looking for greener pastures, a la Star Trek and Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles.

No, I have no hope left in me. We've built so many irreversibilities into the system, and have to work with so much disbelief and corruption that any acceptable solution looks impossible.

Apart from my space colonization fantasies, I also wish we really could built a time machine. Hindsight is always 20/20.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

People don't understand how much I love The West Wing (or, in fact, why). I get a lot of flak for buying a liberal agenda, and feeding the stupidity that is "boring" television. I don't expect you to think the way I do, or enjoy the same things. If everyone liked the things I did, I expect Judies' walnut-chevre panini would be at every free lunch in New Haven, we'd all drink Looza Mango juice with some milk in it, and we'd be suffering from a serious deficit of honey mustard.

But seriously, why would you not understand my reasons for liking The West Wing? It was well cast most of the time, well acted, and for the first three seasons, brilliantly written. It went off the rails a bit in the fourth and fifth seasons, but season seven was pretty good (and, apparently, written by a prophet or soothsayer).

No, I do not "buy a liberal agenda", I support and endorse it wholeheartedly. We should all have a liberal bend in my opinion. And even if I weren't such a cold-blooded, soft-hearted, contradictory leftie, the idea of watching an intelligent show instead of the bs that runs on TV today would never be anathema to me.

Please, don't tell me it's boring. Watching imbeciles objectify women, or destroy any and all emotions we currently feel about violence isn't boring, but it sure is demoralizing. The West Wing wasn't boring, it was human, empathetic, funny, insightful and thought provoking. I'm thankful that I watched The West Wing, not only because it gave me CJ Cregg, Matt Santos and Arnie Vinick, but also because it gave me hope.

Yeah, I used the H word. It gets thrown around a lot these days, but it still packs quite a punch.

Monday, November 17, 2008

True wit is Nature to advantage dress'd,
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd.

I like Pope. He's a very accessible poet - proven time and again by the fact that he's quoted everywhere without any credit (the quote above is from his Essay on Criticism) - and he made good sense. And he made fun of everyone, so he sounds like my kind of guy.

Anyway, I like that he said what he said about wit, and then went on to be someone who's so widely quoted. Makes him seem almost clairvoyant.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The beauty of The West Wing, in my opinion, lies in the blatantly engineered moments of hilarity. In spite of the obvious nature of these moments, they make me laugh. The smugness of Jed Bartlett and Josh Lyman may drive me to insanity, but when they make me laugh, I am able to forgive them.

"There, you see how benevolent I can be, when everyone does what I tell them to do."

Speaking of great TV shows, I recently read somewhere that Charon is not really Pluto's moon - they form a binary system, and the centre of gravity is somewhere between the two bodies. This is related to TV shows in my head because I've always wanted to watch a show about an alternate universe where the laws of physics are suspended, and humans live on a binary system, with ferries going between the two planets. I don't know why, but I always thought Northanger Abbey would have been so much better if it had been set in an alternate universe. But then, anything would be an improvement on Northanger Abbey as it remains now.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I hang out with a bunch of losers. Bunch of losers. Really.

Loosu Penne.

A part of the verse of this absurd song called "Loosu Penne" is "Yen bedroom fan-num kizhai vanthu ennai ezhuputhey, unna nenaika soluthey".

That loosely translates to "My bedroom fan comes down, wakes me up, and tells me to think of you".

Tell me that's not scary. The personification of the bedroom fan, the poltergeist-ish actions of the bedroom fan, the fact that it speaks.... Brrrr.

I had the best weekend ever. Never have I had so much fun. Well, I may have had so much fun before, but never have expectations been so high and still been exceeded amply.

Fantastic, really.

I am now in love with another of those absurd tamil songs - this one from this brilliant-yet-dumb movie called Chennai 600028. Saroja, Saman Nikalo!

Actually, the only reason I'm loving this song is the first line. Saroja, Saman Nikalo indeed.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The concept of a rainbow in a sprinkler system is beautiful. You walk across a green lawn, see sprinklers spraying everything in sight, and see the rainbow in the spray. It's pretty, and it's ephemeral, and it makes you smile.

Sometimes, it also makes me see red. Literally, of course, red being one of those colours in the little rainbow, but also figuratively.

It's painful that there is so much inequity - that we can afford to use sprinklers on our lawns every day, while others cannot afford to drink that much water in a week. But does that also mean that those of us who can shouldn't do it? Should we not use sprinklers only because there's tremendous water scarcity elsewhere in the world, even though we ourselves suffer from no such problem?

Should I deprive myself of my luxuries to ease that human guilt of having more than others do? Does that help anything in this situation apart from my own guilt?

Is there a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow? Maybe the ephemeral nature of the rainbow, and happiness I feel is reflected in the fact that the gold is nothing more than a little green man's life savings that vanishes if you turn your back on it.