Friday, November 30, 2007

That weird tag

Kiran, I'm obedient, though rather late with my assignment. The tag, twenty two questions that will apparently let men figure out women. I have my doubts. But anyway, here goes:

1. How do you feel after a one-night stand?
No idea.
2.Do you ever get used to wearing a thong?
No idea.
3. Does it hurt?
What's it?
4. Do you know when you are acting crazy?
I guess so- I'm answering these dumb questions so I must be nuts.
5. Does size really matter?
When I'm buying clothes and shoes it certainly does.
6. When the bill comes are you still a feminist?
7. Why do you take so long to get ready?
Speedy is my middle name, didn't you know?
8. Do you watch porn, too?
What do you mean by 'too'?
9. Will something from Tiffany's solve everything?
What's everything?
10. Are guys as big a mystery to you as you are to us?
No way.
11. Why do you sometimes think you look fat?
Because I am.
12. Why are you always late?
Never am.
13. Does it bother you when we scratch?
14. Do you wish you could pee standing up?
Better things to wish for.
15. Why do so many women cut their hair short as soon as they get married?
No idea. Do they?
16. How often do you think about sex?
Never collated data on this.
17. What do you think about women who sleep with guys on their first date?
Their business, not mine.
18. Would you?
Would I what?
19. Do you realise every guy wants a girl just like his mom?
20. Why does every woman think she can change him?
She can, mostly.
21. Does it matter what car I drive?
To you or to me? Drive what you like.
22. Do you ever fart?
Do you really want to know?

Everyone seems to have done this already. If anyone feels like doing it, you're tagged!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The rather weird traveller

The Statue of Liberty in the background.

At last I've put a picture on the blog- the dinosaur is learning, but still has a very long way to go. With the Sometimes Resident Engineer,
aka Vinod.

The famous trip was over on the 28th of October, when we got back home to Kolkata. When I think I thoroughly disgruntled the Sometimes Resident Engineer by expressing my ecstacy at seeing the vibrant green of the rain trees on the road down from the airport. He'd taken me half way across the world and we'd seen amazingly beautiful fall colours in various parts of the United States, and here I was, going gaga over the rain trees in Kolkata.

There was a song I used to love as a child-

The Scottish Soldier:

There was a soldier, a Scottish soldier
Who wandered far away and soldiered far away
There was none bolder, with good broad shoulder
He's fought in many a fray, and fought and won.
He'd seen the glory and told the story
Of battles glorious and deeds neforious
But now he's sighing, his heart is crying
To leave these green hills of Tyrol.

'Because these green hills are not highland hills
Or the island hills, they're not my land's hills
And fair as these green foreign hills may be
They are not the hills of home.

Substitute 'trees' for hills, and you will know what I mean. What I really missed in all my travels was knowing which trees were which. There were leaves which I thought were maple leaves. Some of them were apparently oaks. I wasn't able to check what was what, and that left me feeling rather lost. I need to know the names of the trees around me, which then makes them 'mine'. (I have never claimed that I am not weird. This is part of my weirdness, which I'm glad to know that my elder son shares- he's been in New York for over a year now, and also misses having familiar trees around). I don't even know the names of all the trees where I live, but at least I know some of them.

It's such a pleasure to see trees that are fresh and green and alive. We are just into the best part of the year in Kolkata, when the weather is mostly pleasant, and drowning in perspiration isn't part of the daily kitchen routine!

Since I mentioned the weather, let me tell you that we had amazingly good weather for most of our trip. One rainy day in New York, and two cold, soggy days in England.The third day, when we went to London, was better. We were probably somewhat acclimatised by then.
But now I know why the British love to travel all over the globe- to get away from their awful weather.

I've realised that I can't write a linear account, city by city, of my travels. I will probably hop and skip around various places, and give you mostly general impressions, and some specifics. If you want details and facts about different cities, Googleji and Wikiji should be just right for you

People in America ( apart from New York, which is a different story altogether) seem to live in their cars. When they aren't driving from city to city, they seem to be driving around all over the place from their 'sub-division' into town and back. (We used to jump with joy whenever we spotted a pedestrian- rare creatures indeed. Joggers inside parks were another matter). No parking fees in most places, and humungous parking lots and stores. "Stores" is right- they seemed more like warehouses to me. Neat and shiny clean rest rooms. Horribly soft, springy mattresses and beds. (No wonder they have so many chiropractors). No dust. Their 'desh-ki-maati' seems positively well behaved. (We were thrilled to see some loose dirt on the edge of the road in a park Washington DC). Huge back yards. Dishwashers. Supposed to be a life-saver in the American kitchen, but- first you rinse the dishes, then you load the machine, then you unload it- it still seemed like a lot of work. The ubiquitous washing machines and dryers were very convenient for us - we managed with a mid-sized suitcase each, doing a load of laundry every two or three days. Practically every house we visited was covered with beige wall to wall carpeting. We tried to get used to the floors thumping when we walked on them. I tried not to feel guilty when our hosts and hostesses worked so hard at keeping us well-fed and comfortable, especially if they didn't let me help. Some days of course we'd be exhausted from sight-seeing, when I would gratefully collapse onto the nearest available sofa, and gratefully accept cups of hot tea from kind, ministering souls. (I do not think that the Sometimes Resident Engineer suffered from any such qualms or guilt. Lucky chap!) Almost all the men were very very 'hands-on' in their homes, in their kitchens and with their children. This was really such a pleasure to see- whether their wives were employed outside the home or not, they were really competent in their homes. These were all men who had had a fairly traditional upbringing in India. I think their wives can definitely take some of the credit for this. Our niece's husband made some wonderful Mexican food one evening, and excellent soup and pizza the next.
Since we were staying with either family or friends, we were very much at home in terms of language and good desi food. There is now a great variety of international cuisine available in India so we were familiar with Italian, Mexican and Lebanese food, among others.
I really enjoyed my first encounters with Greek and Ethiopian food. Being a vegetarian wasn't a problem at all. (The US has really progressed on this front in the last couple of decades). The staple grain in Ethiopian food is called 'teff', a tiny, millet like grain. It is fermented and ground and made into 'engera' (in-jeera) . The nearest approximation to it in Indian cuisine is the Malayalee appam. It is eaten with the hand, (cutlery is not recommended) along with good vegetable, chick pea and lentil preparations . Meat preparations are also available. Deliciously light and not at all oily or greasy. Mother and son enjoyed this, father did not, sad to say. Ah well, to each his own.

I've just discovered a tiny little mouse in our bedroom. I wonder how it reached the second floor. I've decided not to scream and shout and chase it about since the Sometimes Resident Engineer is snoring away and it would be unkind to disturb him. I just hope it leaves without bloodshed.
Will update!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Insanity can spring up anywhere

Yesterday was strangely disturbing. There was a lot of noise downstairs, far more than the usual chit-chat of the drivers and security guards. It sounded like one person shouting, really loudly. And that person was really angry. And/or really mad. The voice was familiar. I looked over the balcony railing- it was our building's resident electrician. A soft-spoken, gentle, hard working soul who lives in the compound and goes home maybe once a month. I hadn't heard him raise his voice in the year and a quarter I've been here. Here he was charging around the place in a rage, shouting something incomprehensible to me, as if possessed by some alien being.
He's gone home now. According to his assistant he has these bouts occasionally. When he's in these states he shouts in English, not in Bengali or Hindi. After he'd left my flat the other day, he came back to ask me the name of the President of India.

What really triggers off these episodes of insanity? If it is a malfunction of the brain's biochemistry, which is oftentimes triggered off by stress, I guess the really amazing thing is that despite all the stressors in the world, a vast majority of people do remain more or less sane.

Why is the world so unbearable for some people?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Diwali cleaning and all that.........

I've always loved the song "Desh ki maati, desh ka jal , hawa desh ki, desh ke phal...."
But there's always a proviso- when the desh-ki-maati takes up residence inside my house I have no love for it at all. Which is what it keeps doing. In Kolkata, thanks to the air pollution, there's also a blackish grime which adheres stickily to curtains, ceiling fans and the inside of your throat and lungs.
I've finally decided that the safety of my bones is more important to me than the cleanliness of my ceiling fans, so I no longer hop on and off high stools with the cleaning materials. However, a stationary ceiling fan shows the grime, and even I will not keep all the fans in the house running just so that I don't see the dirt! So the boy who cleans the bathrooms also cleans the fans- extra income for him, clean fans and no broken bones for me.
Despite the house being cleaned everyday, it still gets filthy, and special cleaning is required sometimes. Diwali happens to be one of them. I can understand the spirit behind Diwali cleaning. It's a festival, after all. So cobwebs are removed, curtains are laundered, interior decoration changes happen. Somehow, though, me being me, I have some strange notions in my head about all this 'safai' business. Maybe it's my mother to blame, maybe some kind neighbour, who said that Lakshmiji will not come to a dirty house. And if Lakshmiji doesn't visit you, buddy, you are really in the soup. Lakshmi, being the goddess of wealth and prosperity, is the one goddess who is always welcome. I'm not really sure what she's busy with most of the year, but Diwali is the time of the year she visits most North Indian homes. Presumably only if they are clean. (Bengalis have a separate Lakshmi Puja a few days after Durga Puja, for them Diwali is the time for Kali Puja). Today, while removing cobwebs from the ceilings and sundry other places, and wondering why on earth the things I put on my sofa cushions are called loose covers (more about that later), I had a strangely dissonant, perhaps blasphemous vision. The goddess Lakshmi in her usual dressy attire, with the addition of a pair of spectacles. I could see her peering over them and telling me, sternly but kindly, that I'd get grace marks this year and pass, but only just. Knowing that I'd been really jet-lagged, and hadn't a great deal of time to do a proper, industrial strength, Diwali cleaning. I heaved a sigh of relief, and prayed that she wouldn't peep into my glass-fronted sideboard, where, despite the glass, huge cobwebs have taken up residence. (Or the guest room, which is still a dumping ground, but which will reach an acceptable state of 'reasonably tidy' by tomorrow morning). A good friend of mine is also a very good girl who takes all this ritual cleaning business very seriously, and has actually taken out all the good china in her house and washed it, besides changing almost all the curtains and cleaning loads of other stuff. I clean the good china before and after a party, period. If any object in my house has a proper place to stay in and it is there, it is assumed to be clean. Innocent till proven guilty. Clean till proven dirty. The Sometimes Resident Engineer will occasionally decide that all our telephones and remote controls are filthy and attacks them with Colin cleaning spray and paper napkins- (he never knows where to find a duster), and in my wise old age I no longer feel guilty. If he thinks they are dirty, he can jolly well clean them.
Although I don't think there are any medals awarded for a clean house, and I don't think any goddess in her right mind would do a house-to-house Dust Inspection ( maybe, with some special cosmic vision, she does it all at once, and gives everybody good marks because she loves the Diwali season), I do respond to the season. It's a good time to indulge in one of my favourite activities: changing colour schemes. Sounds simple enough. Change the allegedly loose covers, top cushion covers, coasters and assorted bric-a-brac, durries, and voila, the room is transformed. Easier said than done. Especially when the moronic person who made the first set of covers puts the opening of the long sofa seat at the narrow end. Try pulling several feet of a fitted cover over several feet of foam rubber mattress- it is most definitely a struggle. (The one I took off was easy- it had a Velcro fitted opening all along the width- made by a different, less challenged tailor). The polyurethane back cushions are hard, and so quite hard to dress and undress as well. But the end result is worth it. Especially with lovely new covers for the throw cushions. And the muted old blue-green durrie. And the new divan cover in the dining room, and a new table cloth to match. My uncle and aunt had brought me a Bastar metal-work cow, which is positively voluptuous. ( I need to un-dinosaur myself and not only use the camera but also learn to : a) upload and b) post photographs. Shall do so, in the fullness of time. The living room curtains have been washed and will be put up tomorrow. Of course the Sometimes Resident Engineer is away again, and will be back tomorrow evening. I sincerely hope that he is pleasantly surprised.

Wishing you all a very very happy Diwali.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Choxbox's tag.

Well, I don't have a middle name. If I had one, what would I have liked it to be? No idea.
I guess I'll inflict my favourite descriptive term for myself as my middle name- yeah, you guessed right-DINOSAUR. (Saw the skeleton in the Smithsonian in Washington DC. and felt tremendous sympathy for the poor ungainly creature)

D: Devoted to my friends and family. Which doesn't prevent me from being nasty when I have to be.
I: Inimitable. Methinks I have a unique, laid back, very very comfortable way of dressing.
N:Nitpicking. I have an eye for detail, esp. for spellings. Can irritate my husband no end by criticizing his spellings instead of appreciating his poetry. ( Yes, he does write poetry, I'll post some on the blog some day).
O: Optimistic- almost always. And Life has reinforced this optimism, even during the toughest of tough times.
S: Stupid: Can be very stupid at times. When my brain just refuses to work. Bah!
A: Adorable- in my dreams, that is.
U: Uncomplicated. I think so.
R: Ready-made clothes are what I like. I hate going to tailors, but have to go to them for sari blouses ( sadly, I hardly find myself in saris these days).

Chox, I guess that is some strange dinosaur. I'm not passing it on because I think almost everybody's done this tag. But whoever hasn't and wants to, please go ahead with Dino Dipali's blessings.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Home sweet home

It isn't, actually. It's a terrible mess, at the moment. My uncle and aunt left yesterday, the Sometimes Resident Engineer also disappeared for a few days. I think he's hoping for the magical transformation of our living space that sometimes happens when he's away. I'm aching and jet-lagged, and keep dreaming of tunnels and underground railways and conveyor belts- I guess fourteen flights and umpteen subway and tube and car rides can boggle the sub-conscious mind quite thoroughly.

The pink plastic mug was very very useful. We stayed at twelve different places for various lengths of time, and only three of them had mugs in the bathroom! (My sister-in-law had a bidet in her bathroom, but that seemed too exotic to me, so I remained loyal to my mug).

The trip was great. Meeting family in their own setting was a major part of it. Seeing young cousins and nephews as husbands and fathers and householders was marvellous. Seeing their involvement in their homes and in their children's lives was lovely. Meeting their wives in a different setting, now settled into their lives abroad. Meeting a beloved niece whom we have seen grow up, with her own lovely kids and her gentle, caring husband was great. Friends, some whom I have never met before, but with whom I immediately felt at home.
People I haven't met for decades, but with whom there has been intermittent communication over the years. Two sisters-in-law: both warm and wonderful people, in completely different settings and life situations. A very warm and loving niece and her delightfully zany husband who cooked wonderful meals for us, and their enthusiastic young son with his "welcome" sign on the front door. Another city, another toddler: the non-stop chatterbox and her dignified elder sister.
And our son, in his new city, his campus, his haunts............
We disrupted everyone's schedules, bedtimes and mealtimes, but were welcomed warmly everywhere. We are truly blessed with a wonderful family and wonderful friends.

As you must have realised by now, for me the people were what made the visit worthwhile. Sadly, we didn't have enough time to meet everyone. Hope we can do so some other time.......

Another time? Only if I can fly Business Class. I never realised how uncomfortable long flights can be. My entire being seemed to be settled upon my posterior. The seats seemed tinier than ever, and the hours infinitely long. Terra firma never seemed so inviting as it did then, when the plane seemed to be crawling across the sky..........

Our route was Kolkata to Frankfurt, and then on to Houston. The immigration queue was long, but the officer was courteous. We just walked through customs, delighted to see my cousin and his family waiting for us.
Houston was the beginning of the wide open spaces we saw everywhere in the US, except in New York. We went to a shopping centre in Sugarland that evening, and the shops seemed to be the size of warehouses. Although my cousin lived in an apartment, since it was on the ground floor and there were lots of plants in the patio, it felt like a bungalow. The next morning we were off to NASA, which is truly a great experience. We were able to see the continuous telecast from the International Space Station: it was like science fiction made real. A parallel universe peopled by men and women who have extended mankind's reach tremendously. Rockets and equipment that are part of humanity's collective history. Fun rides for my young nephew. And then a long drive to Austin......