Monthly Archives: February 2018

Another count down

I am doing another count down for the next deadline on March 9th.  On your mark, and get set, my cheering squad out there.

I am really dumping here, aren’t I?  I am sure the moment you read this title, you said “there she goes whiny again,  and she says she loves her job, hrmph”.  You know what?  You are perfectly right.  Perhaps you must just ignore me for the next ten days….

I am tired.  My wrist finally hurts – Carpal Tunnel, I think.  I have seventeen tabs open on my browser, with seventeen different papers to read, to formulate an idea, but my mind is blank.  It’s a little worrisome because I need to come up with six new ideas and write them up in 10000 words each.   Tired..tired…tired.

There is more to life than writing proposals, isn’t there?

My garden is languishing, not that it won’t languish when I get to it, self having no inkling of a thumb in any shade of green, still…

I helped the kid with needlework for a school project, a couple of days back (taught her back-stitch, in the process, surprised myself in knowing back-stitch!) –  I am horrible with the needle and thread, but I had a yearning to chop up pieces of cloth and make embroidered handkies.

It has been a month since I baked cookies.  Since I churned butter. Since I made snacks.  Since I went to the gym.  Since I read a good book.

My neighbour returned from her parents’ house with a six month old infant.  I want to play with him.

The beach will be glorious at this time of the year.

My four daily wear garments (I am spartan that way) are faded beyond repair, and with summer already beating down, I want light cotton daily wear.  My inner wear is not even capable of shining pianos anymore, no time to go and buy a few more.

I want to sit and formulate notes for the kid’s tenth class.

I want to resume gymming.

It’s been three months since I had a decent session of meditation.

The next time I complain about how I am bored with no deadlines, can someone please point out this post to me?

Get out your pom poms please….

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Sharing my world

Share Your World from Cee

What are you reading right now?

This question, and framing an answer to it.  But I suppose that’s not what was asked.

My book reading has gone down the toilet these past months.  Work leaves my brain fried at the end of the day, and I just want to read something that does not get me to think too much.  I am re-reading Agatha Christy, the book on my bedside table now is “A murder is announced”.  I like the Poirot series, but Miss Marple makes me gouge my eyes out.  Still…

Before this, I re-read “Evil under the sun”.

I am also reading Wodehouse (my comfort read) – Right Ho Jeeves.

When I say “read”, I use the term loosely. I read about a page in bed, by the end of which, my eyes are so tired that I shut them and just lie there.

That’s ok.  I read in cycles.  There would be a high of incredible reading, followed by a low such as now.   The high will come soon, I already feel the hankering arise in me.

What was your first adult job?

“Adult job” sounds a little, umm…suggestive, huh?

I vaguely remember answering this question once before.  My first paying job was a teaching assistantship in my grad school, I mentored the freshman chemistry lab. Hated it.  I am not good with labs and practicals – and the freshmen were a rowdy bunch that I wasn’t accustomed to.  I am great with theory. I wish I had been given a theory class to teach instead, but I was an “international student” from a non-English speaking country, and while “non-discrimination” was on paper and all that, the teaching gigs always went to native English speaking grad students, which was crazy, because despite my different accent*, my spoken English was as good as (if not better than) theirs.

*One of the rowdy undergrads that I called out in lab for cheating, complained to the faculty-in-charge that I didn’t know English and no one in the lab could understand me.  The faculty-in-charge called me to a meeting, presumably to make me take English lessons and concluded the meeting with “maybe you should teach English here” !  A tad patronizing, I know, but that’s how the cookie crumbled.

 What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?

I used to love Honey Nut Cheerios – I probably still do, I haven’t had it in ages.  Yes, you get them in India, but cereal is never sufficient for me – even when I did have cereal regularly for breakfast, I would be hungry within half an hour.  I make a substantial breakfast now  for me and my family – today, for instance was adai (lentil pancakes) and aviyal (mixed vegetable gruel).

I like muesli now, but not as a breakfast cereal, but as a topping for apple pie, ice creams etc.

What made me smile?

To wind down after a grueling day, I watched a Tamil movie called “Panchathanthiram” with my family, a couple of days back. Had me in splits for two and a half hours (Tamil movies are ridiculously long).

Aesthetic

Kid and I were discussing cars.

Me: You know, of the new cars, I love XYZ best. It has this…this…this…aesthetic look.

Kid: Hallelujah.  After one year of training, you finally know how to use the word “aesthetic”.

Me:  Don’t act smart.  You call anything that existed before you were born, aesthetic.

Kid:  No, that’s not true.  You existed before me.

I forgot my kid is in the school debate team.  Touche young one, touche.

Gifts

During the infancy of globalization, in the nineteen eighty’s,  there were few “fortunate” people who went abroad, either to study or on their job.  When I say “abroad”, I mean America.  Whenever they visited India on vacation, they were expected to bring truckloads of gifts, otherwise all hell would break loose. In the ninety’s,  every alternate person and their cousin went abroad, either to study or on their job.  The globalization was just about growing, and well, gifts were welcome and brought a smile on faces, because you still couldn’t get pringles and “American” soaps at affordable prices in India.   I had my first Pringles chips when my cousin who was back home on his first grad school vacation, had got me the cylindrical holder of this chips, and I loved it – when I myself went to America years later, one of the first things I bought was Pringles.  Now of course, Pringles is sold in our corner shack shop, equalizing all the nations of the world in the obesity index.

This is 2018.  Borders are merely for visas.  Otherwise we are all one large happy global village.   I returned from abroad to India nearly 15 years ago, so I may be out of touch.  Are gifts still expected when NRIs visit India?  I ask because of the following reason.

The past two months I have largely ignored the kitchen, other than to cook and it was filthy to the point where it was a weapon of mass destruction.  One deadline having just been over and the next and final one a couple of weeks away,  I figured I’d take a day off to handle the kitchen.

Now, my kitchen has a no-man’s cupboard rack behind the door, where I shove things that I don’t know what to do with.  These are stuff that have been gifted to us by people visiting from abroad. I decided to start from there.

These are the things I found there, in their original packing:

  1. Two 2017 calendars, one with each month having some flowers and stuff, and the other, having cute animals.   Both of these are the type that are pinned to the wooden walls of the American house, using tack pins.  We, in India, live in brick and mortar houses.  Just to clarify.  We cannot pin anything to the walls, if we wanted to, which we don’t.  And this gift was received in September 2017.
  2. Four bottles of Scotch.  We are a tee-totaling  household, except for the occasional wine (and that too, only from authentic sources and at its place of origin, e.g. Chianti in Tuscany), a fact that is generally known to our visitors.   I may occasionally get  starry eyed about Baileys, especially when spiked into coffee, but Scotch is way beyond our capabilities of ingestion.
  3. A large bottle of Absolut Vodka.  See point (2).
  4. Make-up kits of dubious quality.  It is well-known to my near and far circle that I do not wear make up.  My daughter does not as yet, but I believe it is to be expected that if she chooses to wear make up, I would rather buy her good brands than dicey supermarket brands of goo that goes on her skin.
  5. 3M Lint roll brush, which is used to brush off lint from suits and woolen clothes.  We live in a tropical belt, and are in jobs that don’t require us to wear suits.  We don’t own suits.   But now we own a lint roll brush.
  6. A set of Gillette disposable razors.  A single Gillette disposable razor in the shack around the corner, costs Rs. 10 (15 US cents). We can afford to buy razors in India, thank you.  Yes, some of our men are unshaven but that is a choice, and not due to lack of razors.
  7. A pack of waxing strips. For the uninitiated, a waxing strip is a sticky strip that women stick to their skin and pull off very painfully to remove body hair.  Am I the only one who finds a pack of waxing strips an offensive gift?
  8. A bottle of something called a “Body Spritzer”.  I am thinking this is something that you spray on yourself, but if I sprayed this on myself, I would smell like a chemical lab – the liquid smells very strongly of alcohol.  Aren’t perfumes and “spritzers” personal products that one must choose herself, if required?
  9. A pack of almonds that smell of Dove soap, because it was packed along with a supermaket aisle full of Dove soap.  I didn’t know what to do with almonds that reeked of soap and had shoved them into that cupboard. Now it smells of dove soap with a dash of benzaldehyde.
  10. A ten-pack of Dove soap, that was gifted along with the almonds and gave the almonds the offensive smell.  I suspect the soap was on sale at CVS or K-Mart or something (do CVS and K-Mart still exist? It’s been 15 years, I am out of touch).
  11. Dental floss in a fancy holder.  I know America is obsessed with flossing. The rest of the world isn’t.  We brush our teeth in the morning as soon as we wake up, and at night before we go to bed.  We don’t floss.  Most people in the world do not.  The person who gifted this to us, as far as I remember, never flossed as long as she was in India.
  12.  Two coffee cups that say “I heart NY”.   I don’t, really.  I have lived in NY, I liked it, but have never hearted it.
  13. A pack of ball pens that leaked inside its cover during its transit from USA.  A ten pen pack of Reynolds costs Rs. 60 (92 cents), in India.  We can afford it, thank you.  I don’t know why I didn’t throw it out right then.  Some stupid lapse of judgment.

Most of these gifts were given by very close relatives, who live in America.

I asked the question in the first paragraph just to know why it continues to be considered necessary for people to bring gifts to people in India?   I understand that gift giving is a polite gesture, but I am not sure that gifting things that are obviously useless counts as politeness.

I hope the NRIs are not pressurized into bringing gifts because most of us don’t expect gifts.  We don’t even want gifts.  Just spending time with loved ones is gift enough.  If, however, it is customary, perhaps it is nicer to receive fruits and consumables rather than stuff that we either don’t need, or are available here.

Oh well…no point writing about it here, the NRIs who read this blog are lovely people who invite me over to their parents’ houses when they visit, and feed me yummy morkozambu and paruppusili (Laksh – in case you forgot the menu) and don’t gift me wax strips. How does one communicate to the other type of NRIs that I don’t like Dove flavored almonds?

 

Rambling Thoughts

Excuse the rambling nature of this post.  I am removing the filter between the head and the fingers, and so what you would read (if you choose to read, i.e.) are raw, possibly disjoint thoughts that rise at the moment.  I don’t intend to be judgmental…just transient expedient thoughts, but they may end up being judgmental after all.  Sorry about that, in advance.

I am hearing more and more of young people being “in depression” over issues ranging from academic failure to hormonal upheavals.  A few minutes back, I heard of a college kid being depressed because he got caught cheating in an exam – get this right – he wasn’t depressed because he cheated, he was depressed because he got caught cheating. He spoke of “dying” and the entire adult machinery had to get to work overtime, to hand hold the kid through his stupidity.

Last week, a friend called me about her college-going daughter being depressed and frequently threatening to “run away” or “die”, which leaves my friend in a constant state of hyper vigilance about the child.  As I spoke to my friend, I wondered if my friend needed help too, she was so high-wound that it was a matter of time before she snapped.

Another school  (yes, school) going child I know, in the course of a spat with a friend, attempted to cut her wrist.   I hear that two other kids I’ve known since childhood have attempted self-harm in the past couple of years for stupid reasons.

What the, excuse me, F?

We adults are doing something terribly wrong in raising youngsters with self-destructive inclinations and total lack of balance.    I know one thing we are doing wrong as parents – we are thrusting our dreams and aspirations on our children, which leads to enormous stress of performance.  One of my friends wants her 12th class son to get into one of the premium colleges in India, and has enrolled him for the past two years, in a school that trains for this college – the boy leaves home at 6 in the morning and returns at 9 at night, every moment of the interval being used to train, coach and coax the child. This regimen lasts all seven days a week, for two full years, with not a single day off.  Another friend, who put her daughter into the same program a couple of years back, is handling an emotionally unstable daughter, who couldn’t get into the premium college despite the two grueling years of training.

I confronted my friend with the son, about why she would do this to her child and she replies that two years of hard work would pay off in terms of a good future for him.  The chap who cheated in exams belongs to the premium college that the friend wants her son to get into – which means that the latter boy has probably had grueling training like my friend’s son, and see where it landed him – he not only cheated in his exams, but vilified the consequence of his action by “wanting to die”.

I have a 14 year old daughter who is in school now.  I just want to rush to school this moment, drag her out and push her back into my womb where she would be safe and possibly sane.  But that’s not an option.  I revel in her evolution in all complexity, colors and occasional capriciousness into an individual. Then I hear and see youngsters doing stupid things, and I panic.  The kid has been studying hard for her impending exams, and freaking out now and then about them, and when she freaks out, I panic because I don’t want her to lose her head, like so many kids seem to be.  My constant refrain these days to her is “it’s ok to fail…just put in the best effort possible, that’s all you can do”.  I know my child is stronger than most others, but I am a mother, worrying is my vocation.

I am torn.  On one side, I am dragged by the guilt of not pushing my child to do more, so, like my friend says, she can have a good future.  On the other, I think that it is insanity to  pawn the certain present for an uncertain future.  What if my child fails because of my lax parenting – is it irresponsible for a parent to say “it’s ok to fail”? Or, if I decide to change it all, what if she becomes the emotionally vulnerable youngster because I pushed her too hard?

Right now I am more angry than worried.  I want to slap that chap who cheated and uncharitably  say “roll over and die, you coward, if you can’t face the consequences of your own actions”.  But I think of his parents, his mother, whom I will never know, and the pain she would feel at the pit of her stomach hearing her son say that he wants to die.

When did the self-preservation instinct become optional in human beings?  And when did “dying” become a bargaining chip?