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


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…


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

22-10-09_1525 - Copie

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

22-10-09_1530 - Copie

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


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


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


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. :)