Author Archives: Gobblefunkist

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?

 

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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?

 

 

 

Sharing my world

In a very chatty (written chatty, i.e., not vocal chatty) frame of mind.  So, rambling replies to Cee’s Share Your World – February 19, 2018

***

How do you like your eggs?

When I was about 10 years old, I had jaundice and became very weak and emaciated.  Once I recovered from the illness, my mother took it upon herself to boost my health and weight.  I was fed a lot of healthy vegetarian food, but that wasn’t doing much to my energy, at least not at the rate my mom wanted, she wasn’t a very patient woman. Her domestic maid recommended eggs.  Now, I belonged to a very strictly vegetarian family that even shunned onions and garlic. Egg?  But torn between the need to fatten me, and not bringing egg into the house, my mother earmarked a glass for egg, kept it in the back yard, and the maid was required to break an egg into it, add milk and sugar to it, beat it well and give it to me.  I was required to drink that concoction at the backyard, take a bath and then come back into the house.  Contrary to what I had expected, I liked the eggy milk.  But that regimen was stopped once my mom thought I was fattened enough.

When I was about 15, I was hungry at a friend’s house, and she made me the only snack she knew how to make – scrambled eggs.  I loved it.  My family didn’t know about it.

When I went to grad school in the US, my friend was an eggophile.  He’d make the most awesome cinnamony French toast every morning, and I had piles of it every day.  He also introduced me to egg nog, and pancakes and what not, and converted me into a complete and total eggophile.    I continue to make some egg dish at least once a week for my new (husband and kid, i.e.) family – my birth family continues to not know that I am a traitor to the tradition !  Unfortunately,   my family and I have different tastes in egg dishes.  While I prefer sweet egg stuff, like French toast, pancake etc. or even bland (boiled egg), my husband and kid prefer omelette (I hate it). Still, egg is easy to cook, so I make both.

Strangely, I seem to be losing my fondness for eggs.  In fact, last week, I almost gagged at the smell of eggs.  Perhaps age rewires the brain now and then.

Have you ever met anyone famous?

Every day, in the mirror**.

What was the first thing you bought with your own money?

I am not even sure what my “own money” is.  I got scholarships through most of my post-school education – undergrad, grad 1 and grad 2.  The money went straight tomy education – the undergrad and grad 1 scholarships went into paying my college fee.  The grad 2 teaching assistantship went into supporting my living in the US.  Perhaps I must consider the TAship as my first “own money”.  I am not sure it was the first thing I bought, but I remember buying a pot of indoor rubber plant for my drab grad housing apartment, with one of my early salaries, and feeling terribly guilty about wasting money.

Ok, back to work.

—–

** From the movie – The Thomas Crown affair:

Thomas Crown: You look wonderful!

Catherine Banning: Thank you! How are you?

Thomas Crown: Popular.

 

2..

Two days, 15000 words.  I may get an extension by a day or two.  Thank God for small mercies.

And then there will be another big deadline on 8th March, which will involve an astronomical number of words I don’t want to put down here.  Seeing that number would render me catatonic.

People doing well, I hope?!  I haven’t really read my reader that well recently…

Last straw

Just when I thought the end was in sight, I learn that I have ANOTHER deadline on March 8th.  It’s 10 PM on a Saturday night, and I am at the end of my tether.

I have no energy to even get hysteric.

This year has been the toughest yet.  Never in the past 17 years of my career have I been so overworked.

End of tantrum.