December 31, 2009

Bye bye 2009. Hello 2010.

When I read these numbers, 2009-2010, it almost seems like we are living in an era different from what we actually are. I remember celebrating the Millennium new year, 2000, back at home in Adyar with a huge party for friends. And we were ushering in the new era, the new millennium, being among the gifted bunch to be old enough to appreciate the turn of the decade and what not. A decade has gone by since then and life has changed almost beyond recognition. We’ve grown up. And I can sparsely believe that 2009 has flown by at the pace that it has. Sure it differs for everyone with perspective and just like everything else, time is a relative quantity. But the popular vote this time seems that everyone agrees that 2009 was in quite a hurry to get done. And like everything else, it’s easier to reflect upon now that it’s over.

But instead of listing out the goods and the not-so-goods, I am going to swing right ahead and welcome 2010 with outspread arms. Here’s hoping that this new year brings better luck, better fortune, only the best news and the best results, a lot of fun, loads of cheer, good health to all near and dear, great spirits and great contentment to all!

Happy New Year 2010!

Happy_2010

December 29, 2009

The generation gap

Ok so the time has finally come when we can actually speak about the generation gap, not in terms of the elder generation that preceded us alone but rather with reference to the “kids” that are following us now. And as you witness each generation, you can see the distinction between them quite clearly. For instance, it’s cute to see our parents get all tech-savvy and fire away emails, sometimes with the “Safe” on top. All that perfect vocabulary and official grammar n stuff. On the other hand, the texting from the next generation drives you nuts wid dis kinda typin. WTH is that? But that’s the way it is. And sure the generation after them will probably be used to memory mapping or something. Just the way, personal written journals are now almost obsolete, so will online blogging someday. Other than that, I guess the kids these days are way more mature than we ever were. Where we played out on the street with street cricket, went cycling with buddies through the neighbourhood, shot hoops in the school basketball court and such for entertainment, the kids these days have their Wiis, PS3s and X-Boxes. And with the Wii-Fit, there is now no feeling guilty about sitting on their asses all day and playing games either. Everything finally owes it’s roots to the technological advancement. With the internet becoming the major source of all information, I would imagine that most kids these days “googled” their texts and wrote stuff in their exams off Wikipedia. I think I wrote a post about this on a not-so-educational viewpoint a while back. You can read it here. And that means that the older generation is having to adapt too. Actually I think I will visit my school the next time I am in Chennai and see how they’re trying to keep abreast with the technological advancement. Coming back to the next generation though, sometimes I wonder if all this technological exposure is robbing away some of the old-world pleasure off of their lives. For instance, I read that Amazon sold more Kindles than they did actual books. But can the e-book hold the same feel that an actual book can? When you fold out the fresh spine of the brand-new book, the smell of the pages, the big black ink on crisp new pages, the feeling is classic and something that every book-lover has enjoyed. Sure the Kindle emulates the text and the overall package, but the “feel” isn’t going to be replicated any time soon. i guess I am just old-worldly in this. But I’d love to hear from the new generation, Do they think they are missing out on anything at all? Or do they just think we are sentimental fools who are dragging them back on the whole techy run? Something similar to our parents trying to convince us about gramophones as opposed to our uber-cool ipods. And then suddenly I understand. It’s all about the perspective. What you grew up with will always remain dear to you, no matter how everything else evolves technologically around you.

December 18, 2009

Merry Christmas n Happy Holidays!

Ok, so I am a week early in wishing you all a Merry Christmas. But then it is the holiday season after all. And Paris has had bout after bout of snow. A white Christmas is after all traditional and many many people hope it. And just in case the snow melted away, I went into our backyard garden which is pristine from the non-intrusiveness… took away the urge to make a snowman by dressing up one of my teddy bears (er.. squirrel?) in my garb. See -

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That apart, I tried to try and set it at good places to get a nice shot of the snow and the surrounding, trying to battle the cold and keep my hands steady (I was still in PJs, I couldn’t bother to throw on anything warm to wade out into the backyard garden).

But here’s one and I hope it captures enough spirit to depict Christmas or at least the winter holidays -

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Happy Holidays everybody!

December 17, 2009

That first snow of the season

 

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Ah how we hate it… the biting cold, the numb fingers n toes, the reddened nose, the dry mouth and stretchy skin. We all hate the side effects of winter. Yet there’s something magical when the ground is covered with that first snow of the season. Suddenly all that cold doesn’t bother us for those few instants that we marvel at the beauty of nature, that pristine white cover that makes everything seem better almost immediately. Snow has a way of lifting spirits, maybe because it makes everything look brighter from reflecting the light off of it. Up above is a picture of the first snow outside my window (I apologize for the quality of the image – I took a hasty picture on my cell camera just to make it count). Time for some hot chai now to make up for the icy cold outside. Happy Winter!!

December 16, 2009

Behind the veil of anonymity..

What would you do if you could do something and you could get away with it? Something like an invisibility cloak where you could glide along doing good/bad undetected? Unfortunately such powers mostly always invoke that tiny part in us that wants to do something "bad" and get away with it. They don't say for nothing that with "great power comes great responsibility". However with the invisibility cloak being a not-too-distant reality, what I am really talking about is the whole wide world of web anonymity. Where it's all too easy to create fake email IDs, fake logins to most things, where there is no real verification, where it's so easy to word your thoughts in someone else's lingo and pass it off for the real thing... where hate mail is sort of second nature and what not. I will be honest and say that I did create a fake email ID but to my credit, I haven't sent any emails to anyone from that. I sort of use it on movie websites or other random newsletter subscriptions which require email verification and where I don't want spam on my primary ID. But I would assume that almost everyone has multiple IDs which they use for work/fun or whatever else. I am unaware of anyone who has used a fake ID to actually get some message across to someone they knew but who wouldn't have a clue of who they were from the ID. That would be fun though and potentially gossip-generating in this dried out era of time, but dishonest, nonetheless. This is sort of one of those things I am on the fence on. While expressing your thoughts as your own is probably best, anonymity sure helps when you want to avoid any long-drawn repercussions. Of course the whole "hurt" factor is killed as well... which explains why even on MindBlogging when people want to leave comments that are not concurrent with my thoughts, they are usually anonymous while they take the effort to sign in when it's all praise. What do you guys think? This time, anonymous comments are welcome. There is some comfort behind the veil after all...

December 15, 2009

Guilty pleasures

One of the biggest negative forces of motivation is guilt. Of course almost all negative forces are very powerful in their motivation. But mostly they don't lead to good actions. Like anger, jealousy or revenge never really resulted in something that you could look back upon fondly. They result in impulsive actions, more often regretted than not. However, guilt has the special distinction of being a negative emotion but resulting in something usually positive. Like eating too much can invoke guilt leading to an effective workout session or diet plan, however short, as penance. Guilt also has the side-effect of extremely heightened senses. For instance, if you lied to someone about being occupied with some other engagement but ended up going shopping, roughly 40% of the random people you encounter begin to resemble the one you are avoiding. And the darting eyes and jumpy demeanor are enough for you to hope you didn't have to lie. Of course if you're lucky, you managed to get past it without any fall from grace. Work situations are some places where guilt reigns supreme. Having indulged in plenty days with little work done, the guilt finally catches up to you and makes you work hard at least for that last week before the vacation (no such luck in my case considering I am writing this at work). But on the other hand, it is the guilt of having written very little over the last 3 months that is making me come up with excuses to write. And another rule of multiple guilts? One outweighs the other. Apparently the blog trumped the cleanroom. Not for long though.. I am headed out there right now. Everyone wins.

December 8, 2009

"Bi"-lingual

For many people learning French for the first time, it may seem absurd that French words have a specific gender. Of course this is nothing new to people familiar with our very own Hindi. Like mera bag(my bag where bag's male) or meri kursi(my chair where chair is female). Interestingly, taking the very same examples to French yields the same gender. It's mon sac and ma chaise respectively male and female for the corresponding examples of bags and chairs. Most words match for the two languages as far as I checked, except some, like "telephone", which is male in French and female in Hindi. Which makes it "bi-lingual" in more than one sense, if you get my drift. The funny part's when the ignorant English speaker attempts French or vice versa. Often times the gender is messed up.. Perhaps it's not so weird when the English speaker says mon chaise for his chair even though the chair is female. But it's funnier when the French are trying to explain something to you in English. Like when the computer hangs, for example. English, being gender-neutral, we tend to say, It's not responding. When the French people translate it for you, they often say, He is not responding. Ok, I don't know why, but I thought this was funny when I started writing this post. Now it seems a little rhetoric. Ah well, it's something interesting, if not funny at least for a few lingual enthusiasts. For everyone else, Happy middle-of-the-week and hope I think up something more fun next time around! A+

December 7, 2009

The shortest route algorithm

I suppose a lot of people are like me... living their lives by the "shortest route algorithm" where possible. For instance, I know precisely where I need to stand to get into the right train compartment that'll stop directly in front of the exit I need to take. I am sure a lot others know this too which explains why that particular compartment of the train alone would be significantly more crowded than the ones away from it. This of course is a very simple example of the algorithm. But there are other places I put this theory into practice as well. Entirely sure that the shortest connection between 2 dots is indeed a straight line, I tend to tell people what's on my mind directly to them rather than to a third person which then creates a complex loop and a mesh of other things that I would rather remain untangled from. Undoubtedly, even so rather more so perhaps, I have landed in trouble because of this habit. This yields into the foot-in-your-mouth situation sometimes and that's never pleasant. But I would like to think that I have toned it down a notch and sort of taken the diplomatic in-between path over the years. Now I no longer think it is entirely necessary for me to express every opinion (except here :D) to everyone concerned, unless they are positive of course. And being fabulously in favour with everyone didn't hurt anyone. So in this case, I'd rather excuse the shortest route algorithm. And I'd recommend you do too. After all, somethings are best left to the imagination, aren't they?

December 4, 2009

New-age arranged marriages

Here's yet another post about marriages. It seems to me that I have given my unsolicited opinion about anything and everything regarding the topic over many posts in the past. That hasn't really stopped me now either. Wondering what I am talking about? You have some catching up to do!! Read these set of posts, and if you weren't bored enough, this one and this one and last but not the least, this one. And yes, they are all different posts (surprise, surprise).

Anyhow, this post is about how arranged marriages have come a long way since the days of our parents' generation. How the concept of the bride n groom sort of meeting at the wedding venue is no longer remotely true (I do know of a case where they did meet only like a day before the wedding.. but the amount of time they spent on the phone together, they might as well have been living together!) But it's how the concept has evolved. Now the arranged marriage has strictly become only a portal to meet someone. And while everything has graduated to going online, why not the marriage meeting-ground? It only makes sense. But once the people get introduced, it's as much a courtship as anything else outside of it.

No, the involved girl/guy do not take for granted that they will end up with any other person that they meet. No, it's not easy to convince someone to marry you even though they are meeting you with that end result in mind. And yes, the romance has to ring true. Yes for flowers, candy, jewelry, chivalry and whatever else that can woo the woman (ok, there are few not-so-diehard-romantics who claim that they don't need all of this, but trust me, almost everyone enjoys it). I mean, who doesn't want to be the center of someone else's universe (even if it is only for the courtship period)? As for the guys, of course they have their own criteria that the women have to fall over themselves to fulfill. And just because the parents convinced him to meet a girl, doesn't mean he wants to marry her. He'll meet her to shut his parents up, but the spark has to be a true one. Everyone wants the fairytale romance. The whisked-off-one's-feet feeling. No wonder "proposals" have become common in arranged-marriage scenarios. I first found it to be a little bizarre, but I have come to understand it now. The dates, the drinks, the visits to maybe multiple men/women were all sincere efforts (well, in most cases at least) to finally zero-in on the one "life-partner". And hence the proposal. The actual statement of the undercurrent running through the entire courtship period. The Will-you-marry-me? There's a bonus in all this. The woman definitely feels more special and that wins the guy brownie points. Go romance!!

To Priya and her beau who took the plunge. Congratulations!

December 1, 2009

The inner paradox

Sometimes I am amazed by what I want to do and what I really want to do and how much they differ. And this paradox is usually a result of fulfilling other's expectations of me, projecting a more flattering image of myself or something similarly irrelevant. Atleast that's understandable when it's something stupid. Like not eating the last bit of the shared chocolate-something-delicious at a restaurant for the want of not appearing gluttonous even though you'd really just like to have it. I am actually talking more about things that you'd normally think are more serious and hence the course of action, pretty straight-forward. Like reactions in my case. I consider myself a true Scorpion in every sense of the word (though not believing all that much these days in all that Linda Goodman astrological mess - ok, there's another paradox for you). You would then think that negative reactions like spite should come easily to me. But yet again, I am caught in the middle of being truly vengeful and just plain nice and mostly the good trumps the evil. And the part of me that believes that I am capable of true spite is truly saddened. See the paradox? Even being good can sometimes make you feel bad. As always I am going to extrapolate a simple thought to something a bit more complex. Some people for instance just deserve to be at the receiving end of spite sometimes and the “bad” that you’re feeling is being unable to mete out what you think is the right treatment to them. The really funny part is where only the bad things stand out in our heads immediately whilst obliterating everything good that might’ve been in the past. One bad experience can wipe out a multitude of good ones in a second while it takes more than just one good experience to overcome just the one bad experience. Isn’t that weird? Go on, give it a thought. Think of that restaurant you stopped going to because their service sucked one time even though they’ve given umpteen good ones before that... or that brand of milk you stopped buying because once it was bad. Ever noticed it’s similar with people too? One act of distrust for example is going to take a long time to wipe away from memory while all those good things before were not given enough credit as they were. Scientifically it means just one thing - Good and bad are neither white and black respectively nor weigh the same on any scale. Why all these inequalties? It’s just in human nature, I guess.

On that philosophical note, this post marks the 600th for MindBlogging overall and the 200th this year. Pretty momentous, I'd say... Thank you readers for keeping me motivated. Keep MindReading!

November 30, 2009

The Unpitiables..

You know how you just feel bad for some people for some reason? Like the child putting up posters back in India or those poor Sivakasi kids who are made to work their fingers off? Certainly, these are examples where everyone almost unanimously agrees that this isn't for the child's best interests. But what if you pitied someone's something (it could be a situation, a decision, a purchase or whatever else that you can think of) but they actually thought that they'd done the best for themselves? Then what? You're the fool left imagining the greener pastures that could've been for someone who is perfectly content in their situation whatsoever it maybe. In such cases, is it prudent to burst someone's bubble and show them the "reality" or should be left to the "theory of relativity" - you know.. what's good in your book may not necessarily be at the same benchmark for someone else. And there's never a good time to pull off those rose-coloured glasses from anyone's face even if it is for their good. It's like SO told me... the pity is just wasted. And people these days are smart enough to get what they want and I am probably left their pitying their content life. So what next? I should move on. Live and let live, right?

November 27, 2009

Much ado about nothing

Ah well, this is one of those posts again where I discuss nothing's going on and shockingly it's twice this month! All around me, in most blog addresses I know of, there's hardly any update. Of course for you American soil junta, it means that Thanksgiving is on and that means holidays! So Happy Thanksgiving!! But for the rest of us and apparently a lot of us, either nothing's been going on or we've not found enough things to blog about. Kind of makes me miss those days when I saw blogs in every situation. But that seems to be the problem... apparently most situations that recur have been accounted for at some point or the other on this blog... And that makes November, the hit month of last year, this year's lowest in post count. Hmph. Anyhoo, on a completely unrelated note, S n I got totally hooked to The Big Bang Theory, all by chance. I had downloaded one season having heard of it from someone and turns out, it was one of the easiest serials to get hooked to since Friends. And before we knew it, we downloaded all the episodes that there are and were seeing them at shocking rates of 20 episodes a day. Consequently, we ran out through the weekend. That apart, it's been busy work days, busier evenings with new found sports activity and gaming on the PS3. All that equates to irregular blogger. My apologies. Let's hope the year ends a bang in December, and not like this whimper. Thanks for visiting MindBlogging regularly, y'all n Happy Holidays again!

November 18, 2009

The waiting etiquette

For once I am not out here to brag about my punctuality going by the title of this post. This time for a change I am talking about the etiquette that a good waiter should have in a good restaurant towards his/her customers. Of course this post stemmed from a blog on the NY Times. You can find the blog here -
If you did have the patience to go through all 100 of the things on the list, and if you are anything like me, you will agree that a lot of the list was highly obnoxious. It sort of took the humanity out of the waiter and sort of reduced to them to a robot with no feelings and slave-like chores to do. Some made a point but a vast majority simply assumed that the customers were snooty enough not to respect their waiters as other people.
I had my first opportunity to judge the waiting experience for it's merit since reading the article. Normally I am pretty pre-occupied by the conversation at the table and tend to give the waiting experience a break (unless it's exceptionally bad like I remember once in Bali Satay House in Ames). Our group meeting, a quarterly affair, had it's typical 5-6 course luncheon at our college's exclusive restaurant which can compare to a decent 3-star experience anywhere in the world. And I made it a point to notice what the waiter did/did not do over the entire lunching experience. Here are the salient features -
1. He did serve the women first - no matter where they were seated around the 10 seater table (we were 4 out of 10 just for the numbers)
2. No, he didn't introduce himself or encourage us to call him a nickname to call his attention. But this is probably because ours was the only table that he was tending to through the entire lunch.
3. Yes, he did refill the wine/water and replenish the bread on each n every glass/plate as and when they ran out. But he did this in such discrete fashion that it was hardly discernable.
4. He did wait for everyone at the table to finish before clearing out the plates of all. And yes, there was fresh cutlery with evey course and nothing had to be reued or reserved for usage after being used once. And that was certainly refreshing.
5. On being informed that I was vegetarian at the last moment, I was wholesomely still served a full meal keeping with the theme of everyone else's meal and not a measly salad. Of course this had more to do with the chef than the waiter but I mention it here because this was one of the points that the author of those blogs above happened to mention in one of his zillion requirements.
Well, that was all that I distinctly noticed. It was an excellent meal overall and after reading those articles, I can confidently say that I won't have a 100 things for the waiting staff to do. I'd be just as happy with these 5. I am curious - does anyone ook forward to anything from their waiters apart from the basic decency and clean service? Voice up!

November 17, 2009

Uncharted..

Nope, not the new PS3 game that S n I are dying to get... This is about how in our lives for everything we feel the need to have a "plan". I was talking to SP about this the other day on Gtalk. We reminisced those times back at UC - when our evenings consisted of crashing at someone's door with a bottle of Coke and a bag of chips and just improvising as the night wore on. Some movie... maybe some ice cream later in the night.. just sitting and browsing together, or maybe even doing individual assignments whilst yapping, cooking together for a whole bunch of people. Life was simple but very self-contained. No one missed going to the cinema to watch movies, not seeing the outside of the 1km radius we lived and went to school in.Yet we were happy and content. Of course a lot of it had to do with the company. Everyone we knew lived close to us or in that radius. We didn't know of people or places outside this circle of life that saw the need for us to get out at all. And now, all of a sudden when you are thrown into a big city... with the limited friends strewn all over the place, you always need a "plan". Where to meet.. what to do.. where to eat.. what... when.. how.. which route of travel, exact place of meeting, inside the station or outside, blah - just some of the random questions that need to be answered in a whole web of options involving everyone's coordinates for the simple act of "hanging out". Who knew things could get so complicated? Which begs the question of living before the era of cell phones. Now everyone's calling one another for minutely updates on their current coordinates. Back then, people trusted the word that was agreed upon before leaving one's doorstep. Sometimes, just sometimes, don't you wish some things just remained simple? As with everything, much easier said, than done.

November 15, 2009

Girly me

Well well well.. who saw this coming? The girl in me fully evolved and suddenly emerging, completely unbeknownst to the part of me that considers myself the biggest tomboy ever? I for one, didn't. Whenever I saw the stereotypical girl that loved shoes and bags, I always thought that that wasn't me. It took my husband to point out the million pairs of shoes and handbags that I had amassed for me to realize that it was a stereotype for a reason. And this birthday, he took me shopping... which really was the best gift for me. No sooner were we in the mall, 5 things jumped out at me, each which I would have loved to have. And before the end of the afternoon, I had them all. I don't have expensive tastes. I have realized that I am more of a quantity trumps quality person. For the 500€ that an original Louis Vuitton handbag would cost, I'd rather own a million less expensive yet trendy and good quality stuff. Variety is the spice of life for a reason. And that's one thing that guys don't get with us girls. Why do we need so many shoes/bags? I don't know either. But it's like the dude says in The Devil wears Prada - "Accessories are not meant to be utilary... they're a piece of iconography. Plus they're pretty." Amen.

November 11, 2009

Behind cloudy eyes...

For those fortunate many who don't use glasses or contact lenses to correct vision in their eyes, this post may be weird or just come across as silly or funny. But for the rest of us who count on these visual aids, they most certainly form an integral part of our lives. Recently I took to swimming once more and once while doing a dip, I forgot to pull down my swim goggles over my eyes and my eyes remained open. It's pretty easy to guess what happened next. Of course water went in. But I was wearing my contacts. So that meant that the chlorine started irritating my eyes a bit and even worse, water got into the place between my eyeball and my contact lens. Urgh, how I hate that! It forms a misty cloud of spots and sometimes you can even see spots. And in all reality, it sucks. Indeed there is lesser relief for the contacts-wearing person than removing once this cloud forms. It's literally like a mist lifting off before your eyes and the world is clearer again. Not to mention that the 'cloud' tends to dry out your eyes. And your eyes produce tears to try to compensate the irritation. And intensifies the mist... there, you get the idea. Gosh...
On a different note, fortunately I don't have too much of a problem with my contacts otherwise.. I can wear as much eye makeup as I like and indeed I am no dainty darling when I am handling them either and now it's almost second nature to me. And did you know that if you cut onions when you are wearing contacts, you don't cry at all? My theory is that the chemical that triggers the 'crying' doesn't reach the eye because of the lens sitting on it. Pretty cool, huh? On the other hand, it's like the onion is out to get you if you ever start cutting on one fine morning when you haven't worn your lens till then. The onion has it's revenge I tell you. Even if it is as infrequent as one day a year..

November 9, 2009

Gossip girl here...

Ever feel sometimes like you know a little too much? Often times, this is just something someone confided in you and swore you to "never ever tell anyone". Don't you just hate it then when one fine day not too much later, the same information (with added spice) is shared with you once more by someone else with the same tag line to "never ever tell anyone". On a comic note, if everyone kept everyone else's secrets, life would be a big big bore. But come on, sometimes you just wish that the information passed on to you was different each time. Lol. I have played "agony aunt" to more people than I can count. And most of the time, I tend to forget what the original problem was after dealing with it. This doesn't bide too well with my confiders when they come back with a version update of everything . And half the time I am left pretending to understand exactly where we stand while in reality I am figuring it out from the ongoing conversation. Obviously this has it's funny repercussions, random accusals of forgetfulness and what not. But it's all part of a healthy gossip life.. And indeed in the past few days, gossip has run dry. Like I lamented once before, everyone's leading textbook virtuous lives, good old jobs, same old partners and limited freakouts, ergo limited things to talk about. I guess that's what happens when you reach that beyond-college stage. Everyone settles down. Gone are the days of non-stop partying, flirting and whatever it is that got us talking. We are back to leading lives of sincerety, savings plan, kids, blue n blah. Don't you just miss those days when pieces of juicy gossip just kept throwing themselves at you? I know I do. You know you love me. Xo xo.

November 8, 2009

Wakeup MindBlogging!

Holy crap! This has been my slackiest period ever as far as MindBlogging is concerned (except for the lull after the first post ever). But it's unimagineable that I haven't blogged in weeks nor checked updates on anyone else's blog. Of course this could mean one of two things - I've been terribly busy or that I've lost interest in blogging. Mercifully, it's the first one. Either ways, it seems inexcuseable at the moment. So what've I been upto ever since I last blogged?

We've been to Parc Asterix for Halloween
We've been to many restaurants in Paris celebrating everything from birthdays to Wednesdays....
We've met all our friends here more regularly than ever before...

I've become terribly serious about my PhD. It's not a joke anymore.
The weather in Paris has deteriorated as quickly as the light has faded from our days..

I've fallen back on tried and tested recipes. Time to break the mould again.

We've had more people at the new house than ever before at the old one..

And last but not least, we went to the beautiful wine region of Chablis here in France. The white wine from here is world famous. And from everything I saw and tasted, it well deserves the reputation. I leave yo
u with a taste of Chablis right here...


Here's welcoming my month of the year! And where are my loyal commentors? I miss you guys!

October 25, 2009

All eyes on you…

Sure you’ve had this experience sometime or the other. For reasons unbeknownst to you, people are staring. And if you noticed, you’re wondering if there’s something absurd about you – something on your hair or teeth or your face or a rip on your clothes or what is it? I had that day on Friday. I was dressed pretty unremarkably in my usual jeans n top with a fall jacket thrown over me. Nothing that could distinguish me from the 3 million others travelling alongside me. It started the second I left home which ended up in my assuming that either my lipgloss had smudged or my compact was irregular. Something was wrong. But what? I gave the people a chance and unable to check my reflection, boarded the train anyways. More staring. By the time I alighted, I wanted a mirror. The age of technology helped of course. Having no access to a mirror, I snapped a self-portrait on my mobile in an empty hallway and scrutinized eagerly to catch the culprit of disarray on my face. Not to be. I looked spectacularly normal. But then, more staring. I looked behind me a few times to see if there was someone behind me who was being stared at. No luck there either. And then, I just knew that I had to let it go. I wasn’t going to be finding any reason for what I thought I perceived.  And once I stopped looking for people looking back at me, I stopped finding more people that fit the pattern. And it made me far less self-conscious, allowing me to be lost in the music of my ipod as always, undeterred by others. Back to enjoying the sanctity of being alone in a crowd. Conspicuously yours….

On a different note, Happy birthday S( for tomorrow) :D

The sleep factor

If you're a semi-insomniac like me, sleep suddenly becomes invaluable to you. Indeed most nights the last thing I remember is how I am tossing and turning to try and sleep ASAP. Other than the dreams of course. But it's unbelievable how someone who has so much trouble sleeping can sleep so immediately at a lecture/meeting that's thoroughly boring. I think it's more than just a chemical reaction. It has to be... There is no explanation otherwise as to how I can literally 'fall' asleep in a large room of sparsely filled with strangers while I have trouble in my familiar bed at a time I have exclusively allotted to sleeping. I thought that it maybe due to some amount of sleep depravation in the night… but I have eventually come to realize that that’s not the case at all. Indeed, even after a night where I’ve gotten my fair share of sleep, a boring lecture can have me snoozing in under 5 minutes flat; And yes, it is of that jerky variety where I am extremely conscious that I shouldn’t be nodding off and the second my neck rolls into a slumberous lull, I jerk awake and look around guiltily. Worse, I’ve had experiences where I’ve finally given up trying and figured that the worst thing that can happen is that I am kicked out of the class or lecture for which I can make up a plausible excuse later. I was discussing with a friend and he seemed to think that unless one had some inherent interest in the topic or if it was spectacularly interesting, all lectures were designed to be sleep-worthy. And this is a guy who’s shaken me awake many a time even in my advisor’s classes. And I’ve never caught sight of him snoozing the way I invariably do. Some people tend to occupy their minds with something else that interests them – playing games works almost all of the time, though it’s virtually impossible in smaller gatherings. Some other times, people just tune out and are on a parallel universe with parallel thoughts. As for me, I’ve tried chewing gum, which sort of works some times. Not always though. What’s the connection? Am I just prone to easy boredom? Do I lack enough sleep? Both? Something else? Anyone on my page who can share their experiences? It’s very interesting. Especially when it comes to plan your own talks. Everyone can agree that it’s the least flattering thing to catch sight of a snooze-drooping face in your talk/class. Which is why we strive to make our presentations as pictorial as possible perhaps, leaving all the words that we utter to fly over everyone’s head while the graphic sticks around trying to be self-explanatory.

 

On a lighter note, if there is an actual scientific explanation behind sleeping in drone-worthy lectures, then it should probably be tapped into some device that can naturally put people with sleep disorders to a good, deep slumber. Much better than pills and medication, I reckon. And should anyone succeed, I expect some royalty for saying the idea out loud. Sweet dreams!

 

On a different note, Happy birthday hubby darling (for tomorrow) :D

October 23, 2009

J3N

Note: This post is in jest and has nothing to do with what the projects might actually be about.

So I was in Toulouse (which you probably know from previous posts) for the J3N conference where I was presenting a poster about my project. As part of their making things memorable, the organizers of the conference came up with the suggestion that every group make up acronyms to remember their projects. Incidentally my project has been called COFISIS even before I came on board. So I had nothing to ponder or pour my creative juices into. But that didn’t mean that the rest of the 141 posters had nothing to do. Everyone came up with very creative, very memorable and very funny acronyms. Most of them in fact had titles fashioned upon a predetermined acronym (you’ll see what I mean in a minute). I took long, hard looks and here are the top 5! Sorry about the quality of the photos (this is what you get when you whip out the cell phone camera and are finding it hard to keep still from laughing!)

No. 5, MYOSOTIS – Incidentally, this is the flower we call “forget-me-not'” (not-so-subtle when it comes to the acronym indeed). And I love how they chose random letters to fit the acronym from the title…

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And No. 4 – NOMAD (at least their title really fit the acronym)

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No. 3 goes to DEMON (hopefully the project doesn’t live up to it’s name) -

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And on No.2 – NanoGAGS (I mean, seriously?) Hopefully the project has nothing to do with it’s own poor name..

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The winner: It wasn’t close.. it wasn’t hard to decide. This one beat every other acronym hands down. And for sure no one’s forgetting it’s name any time soon. Lo behold – BIQUINIS!

22-10-09_1515 - Copie

I rest my case.

PS: Here's my lunch update. Though not vastly improved, yesterday they did have a tomato tart for veggie appetizer (they gave me the same thing for main course too) along with salad and garlic bread. And I did pounce on the opportunity to inform him that I could have the dessert indeed. So, on the whole, they didn't completely try nor did they entirely fail. Comme çi comme ça...

October 21, 2009

C(h)ow!

It's uncanny how being a vegetarian can suddenly make you feel like a cow. Rewind to the scene in the banquet lunch for the conference. I have just made the shocking announcement to the waiter that I am vegetarian and yes, that means, no fish either. He looks at me accusingly for a second before offering that I should probably have a salad for the appetizer. This was a better suggestion than I had expected and I nodded encouragingly to him. So while the other 9 people at our table chowed on some colourful fish dish, I cowed on fresh iceberg lettuce garnished with some dressing. No complaints there. Then came the main course for everyone else - some beef/duck delicacy, with a side of my poor lettuce salad and a couple of slices of garlic toast. The waiter bends close to me to whisper that they haven't got anything else for me. Will salad be okay for me again? What other option did I have to quell the raging groans from my tummy but to say yes? I must've appeared extra grateful for what was to come. The same starter salad, but a little more in quantity, a couple of slices of toast and half a zesty lemon to complete the dish. You would think that they could use their imagination a bit here. A few sliced salad (roma) tomatoes would have done wonders to the perception of the dish. Oh well, this would have to do. Then it was time for dessert. The one course I knew that couldn't go wrong. The waiter, who no doubt thought he was doing me a favour, deftly avoided placing the yummy looking chocolate mousse in front of me. Instead, he placed a plate of fruits (one each of apple, banana, kiwi, orange and pear) in front of me with a flourish, a knowing smile and the words - But of course madame doesn't eat eggs? It was more an assumption than a question at this point. And I didn't have the heart to oppose his knowledge of vegetarianism. The fruits vanished into my bag and here I am left wondering why semi-starvation is the alternate meaning of vegetarianism, even in this day and age.

On the brighter side, I know they'll be better prepared tomorrow. Watch this space for updates.

BTW, Happy Birthday KG :)

Instant Karma

There's something about meeting new people... something fascinating.. something exciting, something that holds new possibilities. Of course all of this is true of only the 'nice' people you meet.. not the creeps. Yet a lot of them are those you know you are unlikely to ever meet in your life again... one time wonders. And they enrich those few moments that they're present in your life. And it happens all the time.. those train journeys, that person in front of you in the queue. And only a few make it as far as name exchanging... some others remain that veil of memory that touched you at some point of time.

I especially love traveling to new places... They offer umpteen opportunities to meet new people of all kinds.. And considering I was going to a conference where I didn't know a single soul meant that opportunities would present themselves. And they did. Granted it started a little slowly, thanks to all the French talk... but then came lunch and I was seated with 9 strangers. Some soul-searching, a lot of salad later, I had 3 interesting people that I'd met.. But dinner was my favourite time today. It beat all the experiences hands-down. I wandered to the Toulouse centre all by myself in the hopes of finding some nice little restaurant where I could make up for the measly lunch or the total lack of it. And so I found La Piazza Papa, an Italian trattoria amidst the bold french cafés. Having seated myself comfortably in a corner glass-paned 2 seater table, I was pondering over the menu when the chuckling chatter of the nearby table caught my ear and when I looked up, my eye. Two couples at the next table were as eager to strike conversation as anyone I've known and so my rudimentary French flowed. The waitress pushed our tables together seeing as we got along as well as we did. It was as much fun as I could've hoped for in an evening I'd looked forward to spending with Vikram Seth (the book in my bag). In the end, we ended up having a broken conversation where they told me all they could about Toulouse... what I shouldn't miss seeing and importantly a gelato they said I shouldn't miss. Here's the kicker.. they took me there and I am glad I went, for it was honestly divine. For every passing conversation in trains, there come opportunities like these, which end up being one for the blogs. And traveling down memory lane is the best trip ever, isn't it? So shouldn't we be making the most memories possible? That's a simple one to answer. Yes, we should. Signing off from Toulouse...

October 17, 2009

Happy Diwali!

Hello hello fellow virtualites... Happy Diwali!!! Once again, Diwali has crept up on us and who knew time could go so fast?? It's fall.. the leaves have started giving in to gravity.. The weather has changed (for the worse), the time is going to change next week... all of this signs of impending winter. But nothing can dampen the spirit of Diwali. Indeed, there's not been one year that I have wished I was not in India during Diwali. Here are my posts from previous years (be sure to read the long 2006 post - unsurprisingly my sentiments still remain unchanged).

For this year, we've moved to a different apartment in the same locality.. so we're having a housewarming get-together here. The goodies we make will be posted here soon, so watch this space.

Meanwhile, here's wishing you all a very happy and very safe Diwali all over again! Have a blast - literally, if possible ;)

October 15, 2009

Chai.. like never before

This post is dedicated to my fairy godmother of chai - my Paati. Happy Birthday Paati!!

This has lesser to do with chai than to do with the mechanism of making chai. Try agonizing over a blasted hotplate that takes 10-15 minutes to make one cup of tea. And maybe 8 minutes once you have boiled the water and the milk separately in the microwave oven. And then try using a gas. Oh that wondrous thing called gas... which has flames. That which can make tea from the coldest of waters and most refrigerated of milk in under 2 minutes. Good bless the gas!

Now of course I have to get used to doing things one at a time... Previously I used to get along with my morning ablusions while the chai sat on the stove. I could afford a nap while the food cooked leisurely for hours together. Those days are gone. And I welcome them with outstretched arms. Enter the era of the gas oven... more food blogs will follow soon of course. Cheers to gas!

October 13, 2009

Moved..

Thanks Ratna n Sudarshan for all the help. :)

Argh.. Having moved 3 states in the US and 3 continents across the world, you would think that moving isn't new to me. But it's a whole new experience when you are moving within the same locality. The thing about moving nearby is that you tend to miscalculate things - the amount of stuff you have, the number of trips you'll have to make between the homes and instead of erring on the side of caution, you are always left feeling cheated. Take us for instance. We don't have a car. And when we packed up everything, we knew that we had a sizable amount of stuff. But between a mini-uhaul and professional movers, we didn't anticipate the amount of effort we'd be putting into the move. That was the first mistake. And so we lugged the stuff into the tiny moving van and made 2 trips into which we'd fit most of our personal effects. Not bad, we congratulated ourselves as the furniture was anyways going to be taken care of by the movers. And then we'd be left with stuff that could be carried in 1 trip by foot, we imagined. Another mistake. I counted it and we'd made 5 more trips than 1 and some heavy enough for me to ponder premature back replacement or something. Oh and did I mention that we have to clean the house if we had any hopes of recovering our deposit? We slaved over it for the better part of 4 hours. Indeed S did such a thorough job that I considered asking the owners us to pay us extra over the deposit for the "cleaning" service as I had serious doubts as to whether it was given to us in such a pristine state. The other big bad thing in the moving equation is when you have a sizable overlap between the 2 homes. Take us for instance again. We had 15 days time between which both houses were with us and that meant we had 15 days to empty one house into the other. Great right? Wrong. The extra time gives us an illusion of having more time than we think. And we tend to take it easy before it all avalanches into exactly what it would have been had you just had a weekend to move. Oh and then there is the small but very insistent matter of the food. With both houses in total disarray, it was unlikely to make more than a pot of tea at any given time at either place. A pizza here, a couscous there and chole or pulisadam mix at home, and we managed somehow to have proper food all through this jazz.

And now we've moved. Though we have to roughly battle a maze to get from anywhere to anywhere else within the house amidst the boxes and the suitcases and the dismantled furniture; we've moved. Though the heat and the hot water are yet-to-be-functional, we've moved. Though the gas connection isn't for another day or two, we've moved. Though I may have permanent damage to my back and my wrist, we've moved. And guess what? The internet got here before we did. Though it isn't ideal to relax within a maze, I am going to take that chance. The time to arrange stuff will always loom by. So, it's goodnight for now...

The w(h)ine culture

We had one of our pleasant soirées out last weekend at AI’s place. As is the culture here, everyone supplied the drinks and the host graciously provided the merry accompaniments. Not that we are a bunch of drunks, but we do enjoy the occasional evening out where all we do is wine and dine. It’s a French thing, I guess… only the French do it on a daily basis whilst we are reduced to the occasional wine here and beer there. As the drink flowed, so did the conversation. And suddenly it struck us how we, the culturally sound were now very convinced that social drinking did nothing to upset our cultural roots. And just because we enjoyed the wine didn’t make us any less conventional in many other things.

But we realized how our perceptions have changed ever since we left home in India. For instance, there wasn’t so much a concept of social drinking in India as there was of a drunken brawl. Add to that the liquor is sold in stores that resemble jail entrances, what with their grills and their plain appearances. Practically everyone standing in queue there belongs to the hard labor, blue-collar category unfortunately associated with the wife-beating, cacophony causing variety. Plus I highly doubt if the ‘good stuff’ is sold there in the first place. And then there is that whole taboo associated with the drinking of course. Even the decent crowd who enjoy the occasional drink are treated with cold stares and disapproving glances by people around, fully expecting something ‘bad’ is about to happen. And that’s taken out the ‘joy’ of drinking. And I can’t imagine the setting back home in India either unless one is in a huge metropolis like Mumbai or Bangalore and specifically living away from the ultra-traditional parents. The biggest misconception that most people seem to have is that one single drink, be it wine or whiskey is capable of addling one’s brains and resulting in embarrassing behavior. But nothing in moderation has been bad yet. In fact red wine has been touted for it’s heart-friendly properties and research has gone on far enough to indicate that a glass a day keeps the heart strong because of the antioxidants in it and blah.

While drinking daily might indicate a problem likely to bloom, the occasional party drink isn’t doing anything to one’s health or reputation. And that’s the way we do it. And it’s very interesting how we imbibe the culture of the country we live in slowly but steadily into ourselves. And it’s more than just being a Roman in Rome. It’s not for being inconspicuous or to appear to know what one is doing. It is because we are actually embracing a new culture within our own, all within acceptable limits. No whines about wine, now then, shall we? Cheers!

October 6, 2009

Of speeds n memory..

Ah.. so many memories and all at an avalanche.. Ok before any of you runs through a torrent of imagination, I think I should clarify. I took out my ancient HP laptop (this one) to copy some ebooks off it's treasure trove to read during possible lonely lunches. And I was hooked. Sure it took 23 minutes to entirely start up (yes I noticed). But there was something gushingly nostalgic about it. I was reminded of the times I sat in UC's Starbucks or the sandwicherie on Calhoun/Ludlow Streets frustratingly praying for the screen to come up so I could finish my thesis... And then the resigned state when I turned it on an hour before I needed it to save me the frustration. All that. And of course in this laptop, there are a million pictures, most of it, the US memories, specifically UC times. Such a big pool of stuff.. and it brought smile after smile to my face.The funny part though was that it got faster every time I started it after that, almost like some mechanical thing that required constant oiling. In effect, it's something like our own memories. We stash away a whole lot of memories in some corner of our brains and don't ever think of it often. But we use albums and videos to jog our memories every now n then when we want to revisit the good times that we've had. Only with the advancement in the digital era, the memories are electronic too. And just for those fleeting moments it feels so good all over again as if you just relived them. If only.

PS: I apologize for the lack of posts over the past week. We're busy moving and so you probably won't see much of me over the next week either. Thanks for hanging in there. :)

September 27, 2009

e- Saraswati poojai

Happy Saraswati Poojai to all of you. For the uninitiated, this is the second-last day of Navarathri (Dussera) on which the Goddess of knowledge, Saraswati is honoured by a festive celebratory prayer/poojai. It is typical for people to place their study books, work-related material, musical instruments, bank documents and anything else that they need prosperity in, in front of a picture/idol of the Goddess and pray for prosperity. Other than that, pooja is performed for all vehicles and utility devices to pray for their running smoothly. This is part of the ‘Ayudha Pooja’. That apart, this is a very important day for kids too. Guess why? It’s the official break from study! Yes indeed… one is not ‘supposed’ to study on this day while giving the Goddess a break for one day a year while otherwise constantly seeking Her blessings to study well and perform well at school/work. As kids, this was a great day to celebrate. The parents gave us a voluntary break from the whole – ‘Go to your room and study for the semester exams’ sermon. In fact we were encouraged to see TV, catch up on the phone, play games and what not, while being served yummy feast including payasam, vadai, sundal and what not. Ah bliss… of course everyone knew that the break was for exactly one day. because the day after Saraswati Poojai is Vijayadasami; And that’s the most auspicious day of the year to start something anew. It is traditional to do a bit of everything you want to/have to do on this day because there is a traditional belief that you will continue doing whatever it is that you do on Vijayadasami for the rest of the year. Typically in south India, classes (music/dance/cultural) are begun on this day for it’s auspicious nature. And hence, we had to study, paint/sing/dance/blah etc on this day and it was just as full as activity as Saraswati poojai was void.

While back home in Chennai the celebrations remain traditional, living in Paris means having to improvise. So that means that the shlokas are crooning off Youtube. The only photo of Saraswati we have is the current desktop wallpaper (only just downloaded from the Internet). So the velakku (diya) is lit in front of the laptop which currently serves as a photo frame, the incense sticks shown to it (and also thus performing the poojai for the laptop as an ayudham (utility) – orey kallula rendu maanga (multipurpose single move), hehe). The prasadams (Pal payasam and vadai) are placed in front of this, so are the books, cheque books, housing lease and whatever other papers that could be found along with contraptions such as the cell phone, PS3, etc. This is the age of the e-poojai.

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Happy Saraswati Poojai and Vijayadasami everyone!

September 26, 2009

Wordsworth..

Nope, I am not talking about the renowned poet here. I am talking about how the wordplay happens, sometimes unintentionally and how then it becomes the brunt of comedy or blog posts such as these. I was going through the Masters/PhD theses of many friends over the past few days. Before you decide that I am a complete geek, I was only going through the acknowledgment section of each one (by the way this is my best opportunity to brag that I made about 5 of those :D). And maybe because this is the one section that the advisors don’t correct and the one section that you have free reign, people often end up not reading what they’ve written. And that leads to some comedy of errors. Here are a few-

1. This thesis is dedicated to my late grandfather. May his sole rest in peace. This one had to have been checked. I mean, come on!

2. Last but not least I would like to thank my parents. There blessings have helped me get here. Here, there, everywhere.

3. Life would have been difficult  at Cincinnati if not for my fiends (friends). Really? You’d think it would’ve been easier.

4. If not for my friends who were my family here, I am not sure I would have been able to beer living here alone. Of course friends are responsible for beers. Cheers!

Well, there are more of course. Any bloopers you’ve come across that you’d want to share?

September 25, 2009

Say cheese

Just yesterday one of my colleagues was looking over some pictures of mine and happened to comment that I have a very natural smile. And this wasn't the first time I was hearing this. In fact many of my friends tease me that I can give a "Colgate" smile at the drop of a hat. But then they haven't all met SM. Some people are just naturals at the art of posing and at any given time can give you a totally authentic smile like it's the most fascinating thing looking at the camera in front of them. Some others are not so comfortable... and it shows. So this results in either a smile-free, serious-looking face which makes them look sad to be next to the person they are or a fake smile (lips smiling but their eyes giving them away). Both are equally unconvincing. At this point I have to mention the Friends episode where Chandler just can't smile when posing with Monica for their engagement picture.
Hahaha...

So here are my tried n tested tips (not that you asked) -

1. Work on it - This is the hard part - sometimes it requires work. Yes it's geeky, but if you want to look great in pictures, you have to give it 2 minutes in front of the mirror to get it right. Preferably this should've been done in your adolescent years when you anyways spent hours admiring/correcting yourself in front of the mirror. Mirrors don't lie. So give it a try (sorta like how SRK teaches Preity to smile in Kal Ho Na Ho - ok, maybe less creepier).

2. To bare or not to bare? - Of course this is with reference to your pearly whites. For some people, it suits them to show their teeth especially if they can frame their lips perfectly around it - think the world-famous Madhuri Dixit smile. It just works. For some others, the subtle closed-lip smile works just fine.

3. Smile with your eyes - This is the clincher really. Your lips could be pursed but if your eyes are smiling, you're smiling. Period. The clearest insight to our emotions lies in our eyes and it's fooling no one. So, for an authentic smile, it is completely imperative for your eyes to smile. How do you do that? This may take time or skill... But feeling interested about something brings that depth into your eyes... maybe you really are fascinated about something, maybe something's funny... be that as it may, you have to bring it to your eyes. And what emotion you bring is what distinguishes you from looking plain happy to sexy to brooding to angry to sad. So if you are just posing for pictures, it helps to widen your eyes a fraction and quickly imagine how you want to look in the photo the second it is being snapped. That helps your posture, your pose and most importantly your smile.

And that's your 2 minute guide to the art of smiling. Say cheese!

September 23, 2009

Stuffed tomato subji

I’ve always wanted to try this dish ever since I first had it at ML’s house and subsequently at some restaurant. It’s certainly not hard but I just hadn’t gotten around to doing it. Here goes – a recipe for stuffed tomatoes.. so this dish can be had just as an appetizer/snack by itself or as a side-dish with gravy. It doesn’t matter.. the procedure is pretty much the same.
What you need -
Tomatoes 4-6, reasonably firm
For the stuffing -
Paneer/Mozzarella or some cheese 100g
Garlic 3-4 cloves, finely chopped
Pepper Freshly ground to sprinkle
Salt to taste
For the gravy-
Onions 2 large, coarsely chopped
Green chillies 2, slit
Capsicum 1 medium, coarsely chopped
Milk 2 tablespoons
Dhaniya-Jeera powder 1/2 tsp
Turmeric a pinch
Oil 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Curry and coriander leaves to garnish

As always, for stuffing the tomatoes, use your imagination. I actually used 2 spoons of leftover fried rice along with the paneer and the spices to give it some body.
Method -
1. Wash the tomatoes well and prepare them for slitting. What you want to do is to make the tomatoes into cups which you can then stuff and bake. So using a sharp knife, make a slit at the crown of the tomato and keep slitting clockwise (or anti) till you’ve made a full circle. Now you should be able to remove the top of the tomato. You may wonder why you should do this instead of just slicing away the top. The reason is that this gives it more of a cup structure and is less likely to crumble while baking than if just cut across. Reserve the tops as they assist in quick baking.
2. Using a spoon, scoop out the pulp from the tomato leaving behind the empty tomato cup. Do not throw the pulp away. Collect the pulp from all the tomatoes you plan to use.
3. For the filling: Just mix all the ingredients you plan to stuff your tomato with in a bowl, divide them evenly and stuff each tomato cup with it till 3/4th full. I like to leave some cheese on top of all the filling because it looks pretty when it’s baked. So this is what you should have -
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4. Now before you prepare the gravy (if you are going to), shove the tomatoes into the oven with their ‘tops’ on at 180°C for 20 minutes to bake. Voilà – Notice how the tomato is cooked well enough to crack it’s sides. You could stop right here if you’re just serving this as a snack.
tomato
4. For the gravy: Shallow fry the green chillies, onions, the capsicum and the tomato pulp you used in oil for a few minutes till everything’s cooked. Season with salt, dhaniya-jeera powder and turmeric. Set aside till it has cooled down.
5. Grind the mixture into a coarse paste adding milk to it to give it a creamy texture. Add water if required till you get the desired consistency.
6. Heat it to a boil once again the saucepan and set aside. The tomatoes that have baked can now go in.
7. Garnish with coriander/curry leaves and serve with fresh white rice or chapathis/parathas.
Bon Appétit!
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September 22, 2009

Moving

Out come the boxes
With crackle of duct tape
And so much stuff in excess
Is there no escape?

Stacking and packing
There is no respite
Cleaning and dismantling...
Will last many a night.

Ooh, it's just the beginning
For we have to do it all again
I mean the unpacking
To be done God-knows-when!

One thing's evident
I hate to move
Oh what do I tell ya
It's just not my groove.

PS: Happy 10th "anniversary" fellow F-Batchmates of HCE! Can't believe it's been 10 years since we all met each other. Cheers!!

September 21, 2009

Comments anyone?

Well well... here's where we get to the heart of the blogger's world. Comments. Without the comments, it seems almost unacknowledged that your blog gets read at all, but for the Statcounter that sits there proclaiming that 150 people have visited your blog in a single day. That sounds great... but with no comments, it's hard to tell if people enjoyed or cussed your blog for it's contents. Well, the bigger person may say that they don't care and that they use it as an outlet for their emotions, blah.. but we know that in every bigger person, there hides a tiny little part that wishes that people would just comment! And it's not a big ask, considering that we're the ones who sit n dole out every aspect of our lives for dissection while the rest of you only have to put in some words of encouragement, support, acknowledgement or in pertinent cases, make relevant contributions to the discussions in question.

Of course I realize that not everyone will enjoy everything you write about. But does that authorize them to leave anonymous one-liners that neither relate to the content of the post nor do justice to the rest of the stuff you've written about? I don't think so. Like my friend Gandalf pointed out in the comments section of the previous post, if you have nothing good to say, you should probably say nothing at all. And this is strictly in relevance to unrelated comments that contribute nothing to the content of the post. On the other hand, a healthy debate about some discussion is more than welcome and we've seen it happen in quite a few topics in the past. So does it make me vain if I delete these anonymous comments that are plain derogatory? Probably. But it's in keeping with the fact that these comments are left anonymous for a reason. Does that sound reasonable? No anonymous comments on this one please.

September 18, 2009

Being Jaya

I saw this movie called Julie and Julia yesterday. To make short of the story, it's about how one woman makes a life out of challenging herself into trying all the recipes written by a famous chef within 1 year and keeping it up by creating a blog. It charts her triumphs, her meltdowns and how she thinks that she is the center of the universe and how she is more worried about disappointing her readers than herself. It set me thinking. It is so true of almost everyone who blogs, I guess. Not always for the disappointment factor, but also for the treading-the-fine-line factor, especially on sensitive issues.

The weird thing about having a personal blog is that it's not really a personal space. But it is something I've chosen to share with everyone, not something I've been forced to. Over the course of MindBlogging, I realize that I have expressed my views over a variety of things/incidents/experiences, blah. And of course there are 2 sides to every coin. While some people agree with my view point, others don't. And that's perfectly alright. There's a reason this is my blog. It's about my thoughts (sorry about center-of-the-universe vibe). And unless you're me, we can agree to disagree.

September 17, 2009

The ripple effect

Loose definition: Sorta like a Mexican wave that spreads around from the place it started.

Ah, have you noticed something? Many bloggers aren't writing all of a sudden. Confused? Scroll down to the 'I spy' section on MindBlogging (find it on the column on the right) and look under each blog to see when it was last updated. These are the blogs I "follow". Apart from a couple of updates (after more than a few weeks), the rest of the bloggers and inadvertantly the blogs, have reached stagnation. Now scroll up to the part of MindBlogging's archives. See the dwindling number of blogs from hale n hearty June to now? It's begun crawling.. And I assure you that apart from me actually having been busy and out of the country and on vacation and stuff, a part of it is certainly attributed to the ripple effect. Everyone else has given up writing and my own motivation to keep the wheels moving is winding down. Earlier I used to find bloggables on all sorts of situations... now I am having to hunt.

Come on fellow bloggers... let's rise again!

For the people who came here hoping to read something fabulously interesting, I am sorry. But here's a peace offering. I promise you won't regret reading this one - 20 weirdest craigslist ads of all time. Enjoy!

September 16, 2009

That elusive balcony

Forever it's been my desire
To watch life go by from some place higher
And how it skipped me is a mystery
That elusive balcony.

To sip my chai undeterred
Even as my mind wandered
How I wish that could be
But for that elusive balcony.

To always live on the ground floor
Oh no, what a bore..
Through apartments aplenty across many a city
I haven't yet had that elusive balcony.

Surely next time I hope n pray
That finally fate will give way
And so it will come to me
That elusive balcony.

September 11, 2009

Of flattery and tomfoolery..

Surely you've gone for a haircut sometime or the other. Let's be honest. At least 50% of the people I know of aren't satisfied with their hair. Be it length, texture, colour, style... If it's straight, you think its drab, if it's curls, you think it's messy. There is a greener side to most arguments. But what happens when you sit on the hairdresser's cutting throne? The hairdresser runs his/her expert fingers through your not-so-satisfactory hair and mumbles under his/her breath - you've got such nice hair. Those golden words. They vary with every customer. For me, it's always been - You've got such beautiful natural curls. So many girls would kill for them. At that instant, you want to believe them. You want to be vain enough to think that maybe to someone else's non-critical eye, your hair looks good. Now substitute hair for just about anything else - eyes, clothes, shoes, blah. It is true that somethings start to feel better once it is appreciated by someone else. Take the birthday present you don't like but everyone else is gushing over... take the movie you hated but everyone's all praises for - you start to wonder if your mood wasn't right to appreciate it. That figment of doubt is what makes everything seem brighter the second you have someone else's approval. That which is desired by someone else makes something entirely desirable. Ofcourse the purist would argue that this is mere insecurity and that one should be able to tell the difference between what's good and what's not for themselves without being influenced by other people's opinions. But let's face it... who is that secure of their judgement? A very few. The rest of us just rely on our basic instincts and the reflections of those close to us. And there's no need to be a realist at all times. Indeed, what's so wrong in getting a boost of confidence from some harmless flattery? Nothing at all.

September 10, 2009

Not single, hence not ready to mingle?

I had a rather interesting discussion with a friend yesterday. Whilst talking about something else, he pointed out that I had no real friends in Paris... as in, none that were my own. I'd just walked into S' friend's circle and sort of adopted them. Of course, that was true. And I started thinking about it a bit myself. True, I didn't have any chaddi-buddies here... add to it that I walked into a country with as less Indians as I've seen (btw none in S' close circle has taken a wife yet). So make that no girls in the hang-out gang. And my PhD isn't exactly conducive to making a tonne of friends either. With no classes, I have no purpose to hang around with everyone else after school hours - no assingments, nothing to study for, nothing. And the main thing is that all my colleagues (and me) have lives to go back to and this isn't like grad school where most people were yet unattached, all alone in the country and had time to kill in the evenings. Then of course, there's the mild language barrier and yes, so that makes it no real friends here.

Once I began thinking of it obsessively I started panicking a bit. Could it be really that because I was now married and had a husband to go home to, I was no longer new-friend material? Then I started talking to VR and SM about it. We concurred that after marriage our friend expansion had dwindled. But there was something else. Now that we were in couples, we looked forward to making new friends together. That restricted the number of interactions. But the biggest epiphany was this - I was content with the friends that I already had. It didn't matter that they were in the US or in India. I already had a certain number of absolutely tight friends with whom I shared everything no matter what their location geographically and I realized that at this stage in life I wasn't going to make any new friends who would eventually match up to the ones I already had. As VR pointed out, we were past the stage where all the life-altering changes had taken place- living alone, getting married, blah and we'd shared each of these experiences in parallel with one another and the bond that held us together was very strong. I was just happy with the chance encounters with a few and became friends with a handful whom I only met where we first met. Though probably vaguely related, marriage wasn't the real culprit. Maybe I'd just maxed out after the trillion friends' circle over the years. Or maybe the two were related. That was the epiphany.

September 7, 2009

Hit n run

Hit-on: The slang for being approached by someone at the outset with not-so-platonic intentions.

Have you ever been hit-on by someone? No, I mean, really... And this question is no longer restricted only to the female folk.. The women these days have become as brazen in their ways and do not hesitate hitting on the men either, though I must admit they probably have more class than most men. I am not here to discuss the "art of hitting on someone". I am here to discuss the repercussions. Who's more embarrassed? The person being approached or the approacher? Logically you'd assume it's the "approacher" considering they are making the first move. But after a few incidents, I am convinced that's not the case. Almost after "incident", everyone I know of is left embarrassed wondering what it is about them that they are singled out to be hit-on by random people? And I don't know if the rejection makes them squirm, but it sure doesn't make you feel any hotter (in most cases). So while discussing a recent "incident" that happened to a friend, we decided we didn't understand it entirely. So, help me out here. Have we not understood the concept of the "hitting on" game? Take this snippet of conversation for example -

Him: Hi, my name's XYZ. What's yours?
Her: Do I know you?
Him: No, but I'd like to.
Her: Sorry, I don't talk to strangers.
Him: We won't be strangers if we became friends and went for a cup of coffee.
Her:@éè(-&_"(__çé'&çà_'_@àèa'-è_é-'è_&é"(è'&é'&à'è²
Him: What's your phone number?
Her: Excuse me?

Is it this the usual way? Is it so cut and dried that people no longer have the interest in finessing things over? No chance meetings... no small talk, just a cut to the chase. In some ways this is probably better. All the chance meetings and small talk might otherwise create an illusion of "friendship" which most certainly doesn't exist (look at all our Tamil movies for examples - most plots are chance meetings ending in sappy love stories). Does it happen in real life though? Or are all these moves inspired by movies? (I used to think it was the other way around). Maybe it does or maybe that's what the "approachers" are hoping for. And hey, they'll probably never find that elusive person unless they hit-on everyone else in the vicinity. And that means that people like us become the carnage along their road to their dating destiny.

September 4, 2009

The realization...

After 18 solid hours of my ill-informed resolution, I realized the most painfully obvious thing - I wasn't addicted to the internet at all. I had nothing better to do! Today, with all the IMs logged out, FB never opened, 10+ news websites browsed past, I got it... I wasn't online because I was addicted. I was online because it was available and effortless and let's be honest, during the first week of school, I had nothing better to do! So, I go back on my resolution (the premise has collapsed) and all you people who missed me for one whole day, can see me back. Au revoir!

PS: For all the wise folk, who didn't join me in my silly "resolution", good job!

September 3, 2009

Techno-lite?

Is it possible to go lite on technology with everything that we are used to at this stage in our lives? By that I don't mean going into antediluvian realms of writing reports on actual office paper and using calculators to make scribbly calculations on the margins. I mean something far simpler.. Logging off all the IMs, the Orkuts, the FBs (sorry, Blogger isn't included) for a week... perhaps not touching the laptop at home unless a 2-time email-check break per evening (yeah yeah, I realize there are a lot of concessions on this whole thing but you can't go cold turkey!). I remember my brother surviving an entire month like that. I am only going to try this for a week from this Friday to the next, to try and purge my system from the unwanted net-addiction. I bet it'll put things in perspective for me and show me what I need to survive and what I really, really don't.

Anyone else in on this with me? Do leave a comment.
PS: If you want to reach me, GMail me (no GChat for the next one week at least)!

September 2, 2009

New-age "writers"

At the pace technology is going, I am afraid that none of our children are going to identify with the art of "writing". And by this, I don't mean the content of the text, the grammar, the puns, the insinuations or none of the finer nuances that make a good write-up. I mean, quite literally, the process of "writing" itself. Though every article/blog or anything has been made out to be a "write"-up, isn't it really just a type-up? The other day I was trying to write a letter (snail-mail) to someone and I found that after about 4 lines of my neat, semi-cursive hand, my wrist had an annoying ache which I've never had in my days of 20+ pages Madras University answer sheets. And on closer inspection, my handwriting was progressively deteriorating. After just 4 lines. It was shocking how used to typing I was now, that my hands refused to hold a pen long enough to complete a letter. If after over 20 years of actual writing, the past few have obliterated the need to, I can't imagine how our next generation is going to be... And to think I was big on ink-pens and had a collection boasting Sheaffer, Waterman, Parker and what not. Good that I gave it all back to Appa who bought them for me in the first place. At least I know that the generation before us are still used to scribbling on notepads and writing out lists and sending out postal letters. In fact my bro n I used to go stationary-shopping in Kuwait where my father was and bought all sorts of fancy notebooks (the paper variety and not the trendy laptops) and what not. And that's how I started writing a journal in the first place. And remember those 4-line books? The ones that were the practice books for cursive writing? I won't be surprised if they are out of production by the time the next generation goes to school. Somethings are best left unchanged... and writing particularly has a big, old-world charm to it, something the future isn't going to appreciate much. Sigh!

August 27, 2009

Truth or tale?

Are you one of those people who makes conversation with the person sitting next to you on the airplane/train/bus out of sheer boredom? I am. Many times I extend the first arm of conversation with the person next to me and then act off their reaction. Thankfully on long flights, no one is complaining for some chatting company and are typically content with some small talk that anyone is willing to offer... more so on the ancient Air India flights that lack a personal entertainment system, leaving the interested few craning their necks to glimpse the teensy TV sets that drop off the roof of strategic seats. Almost all of the time I am very honest about everything I tell the people about myself, mainly because it never occurred to me to fabricate anything on-the-go. But this time I was thoroughly bored on one of my shorter connecting flights and decided to give my imagination a go. More so because the person next to me went on and on about how Indians were incapable of doing "different" jobs and how we were all stereotypically only Engineers these days. And how Engineers led to IT jobs led to India's inflation and now the recession. After that, I didn't want to admit to being an Engineer. Hence, meet Jayanti Parasuram, food photographer for the Food Network in India, now travelling to Delhi for an assignment with the Taj for their annual Gujarati food festival. And so it began. Having chosen a very different tale to tell, the interest from my co-passenger was high and my prospects for spinning the tale in random directions even higher. Some questions I loved to answer - Do I get to taste the food? What happens to the food after we've photographed it? The answers? Your guess is as good as mine.