Category Archives: Musings

City thoughts

I am a third generation city-native on my mother’s side and a fourth generation city-native on my dad’s.  All around me are people (including the better half) who are recent immigrants to this city.  It bothers me when these new entrants diss my city, and when I was younger, I’d scorn (in my mind, that is, the skies would fall if I could put it into audible words !) at them (including the better half, there, private linen public wash) and tell them (in my mind) to go back to the rural outback they call home.  These days I don’t mind.  Note that I don’t say I don’t care, but I don’t mind.  It still cuts me to the quick when my dirty, big, crowded, polluted city is bad-mouthed by these new comers –  I am the only one allowed to diss my city because this polluted city runs in my veins.

I hear all kinds of reasons for people to denigrate my city – that it has no character (people have character, not inanimate places, for god’s sakes), that it is dirty (India is dirty, my friend, my city is no exception), that it is deprave (seriously?  Depravity does not exist in your rural home?  Wake up and smell the sewer, folks), that people are selfish (please show me a generous non-city dweller), crowded (you immigrated to here, as have countless others, for a reason – a better livelihood) and this is my favourite – city dwellers are emotionless.    The last one, in particular, used to get me hopping mad (anger is an emotion too) in the past, now I am more zen about it.  I had one particular gentleman tell me that the urban folk lack in finer feelings, heaven knows what that means.  I gently asked him to name a single place in the south of India that patronises art the way my city does. He said that by “finer feelings”, he meant romanticism.  Just yesterday, I cried at the last scene of “The Englishman who went up the hill and came down a mountain”, weep when I read a well-written sentence, and sob at music-  I gave up arguing because it was not worth it.

But this is not what I had wanted to write, although, I obviously get carried away when I talk about my city and my nativeness of it.  What I set off writing is that after a really long time, even years, I got to ride our city metro today.  My city was the first in the south of the country to get a metro train (“Electric train” it used to be called) that ran between the northern and southern suburbs through what used to be the centre of the city.  Although the electric train was widely used by the native city dwellers when I was a kid, I never got to using it too often. My mother’s cousin lived in a place that used to be “suburbs”, but is now part of the main sprawling city, and every summer, we’d make a one day trip to their house. We’d walk up to the railway station, which was a fifteen-minute walk away from my parents’ house, take the train to our destination, and take a public bus from the station to the relative’s house.  I didn’t quite like the relatives – I was a bit scared of them because they seemed to fight a lot, but I would look forward to the trip just for the electric train ride.

In the past two decades, more metro trains have been added to my city, to connect other parts of it.  There is one particular route that goes past where I live now to the place that I was born and spent my early childhood.  Our ancestral house was sold years ago, and I have found not many reasons to visit there, except for my favourite temple there.  My father, however, is honorary director of a local small bank because the directorship has run in the family – my grandfather and his father were honorary directors before him.  So, I have a largely passive account in the bank, which needs activation at least once a year.  Today was the day I chose to activate my account and this took me on the metro. The entire trip took three hours, but it was three hours of complete zen.  Time slowed down, as I took in the sights of my city, feeling it in my bones as the crowded city passed me by in its various shades and hues, and in my childhood favourite temple, which always brings me a sense of calm.  To top it off, the bank people treated me like royalty because I am the daughter of their venerable director and all that, to the point of me wanting to sink into the floor, but truth be told, I did feel happy.

Every time I take the metro, I come back feeling tranquil (finer feelings there, my friend) and decide that this must become at least a monthly routine, to take the metro around my city.  As I did today.  But I suspect I would take the metro again next year, to activate my account and decide again to make this a habit.

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When we returned to India from the US fourteen years ago (wow, 14 years?!), we had a few regrets.  For me, one regret was the absence of honey nut cheerios at a cost that didn’t require me to sell my kidneys. There is one thing, however, that I do not regret – the periodic vacation that I would have had to take to India, had I continued to live in the US.  Just seeing my in-house guest and her need to take in as much of India into her within 3 weeks, is exhausting.  I would have been just that and the thought makes me want to curl up.  Of course, my guest has the energy of a nuclear reactor, and enthusiasm of a puppy dog with a toy, and is enjoying every bit of it, not letting one wakeful moment go waste.  I need a vacation just seeing her.

I am not a vacations person.  Rather, I am not a traveler.  A lot of people don’t get that. I have a friend who thinks I am a loser because I would rather sit at home than take a trip someplace – he stopped asking me what I did during summer vacation because it bothers him when I reply “nothing”.  Part of the reason for my reluctance to travel is my travel sickness.  I cannot take a road trip without heavy duty anti-emetics, which in turn, give me migraines, but that is only a physical excuse.  Mentally, I am happier staying at home; my dream vacation is when I have a whole week at home, with all domestic chores taken care of, work chores suspended, and meals magically materialising on the table, while I spend days reading, writing, meditating and gymming.    I don’t mind having my family around, as long as I get an ample dosage of alone-time.

This is unfortunate for my better half, who, if not a travel-bug, is less home-bound than I am.  His restless spirit requires periodic change of scene, and we do take occasional vacations, but we compromise – we go to a place where we are not jumping around in frenzy like there is no tomorrow, and we relax and take in the place and the moods – I don’t like the actual travel bit, but I don’t mind it as much if it results in a relaxing period. Last year’s one-week trip to Florence was one such – we stayed in one place for a week, took in the town at our own pace, and returned fresh.  Truth be told, I needed a week off after that at home.

These are thoughts I had been meaning to write over the past many days, but I have been busy just watching my in-house guest and her energy levels.  Today’s post by superwifeandmummy triggered my need to write this one.  I am not sure being an immovable traveller, I am a happy, content and enlightened person, as Maria describes, but she hits the nail with “My true Essence of Self is on a journey of discovery.”  Just sitting here in a corner of my living room, in a comfortable chair, in total silence, writing this post feels like a vacation.

 

 

Black Cat Blue Sea Award

I have been awarded the Black Cat and Blue Sea Award by Maria, a super wife and momma.  Maria is an engaging blogger and is funny in just the way a super wife and momma can be.  Thanks for the award, Maria.  Honored.

Without further ado, a description of the award:

This award is for bloggers who strive to write for everybody, and no matter how many viewers they get, make an impact on a reader. This award is an expression of gratitude to the nominee. It should be awarded to anybody that you choose deserves it, and it doesn’t mean that they must have hundreds of followers and likes.

RULES 

  • anybody nominated can nominate up to eight other bloggers

I have 84 bloggers in my reader who are amazing.  I am sure there are more, but given human time constraints, these 84 bloggers are my life line.  They make me laugh, they make me all fuzzy inside, and occasionally make me think profound thoughts, but then I lie down and it goes away.  I would rather not pick eight from the eighty four.  I would love it if people who followed this blog left their answers either in the comment section or in their own blog.

  • the nominee answers questions posed by the nominator

See below

  • the questions you ask while nominating can be any three questions

See below.

Maria’s questions to me:

  • What would you like bloggers to do more of that they aren’t doing right now?

Nothing more.  I love the bloggers I read just as they are.  They are, as I mentioned before, funny and thought-provoking, and just what I need when I am down, or up or everywhere in between.

On a global scale…what can I say? Perhaps we can all work towards a global camaraderie that obsoletes war and all those ugly things in the real world.

  • Tell us 4 things about yourself, one of which is not true… and see if we can guess.

1. I am the niece-by-marriage of superstar Rajinikant (the Tamil equivalent of Sylvester Stallone-Arnold Schwarzenegger combined).

2. I am second cousin twice removed of erstwhile super cricket player Srikkanth.

3. I have never failed a single exam all my life.

4. I love running.

Can you guess which of these is not true?

  • Describe a perfect day that balances all the things you love

Wake at 5 AM without feeling like a crap, go for a walk at the beach when the sun just rises, have a breakfast NOT MADE BY ME, write up a scientific proposal for four hours, eat a healthy lunch NOT MADE BY ME, play volley ball with my kid, go for a walk in the wooded neighbourhood with the better half, feed dad good food (NOT MADE BY ME, goes without saying) and read myself to sleep.  Some day.

My questions:

  1. What is one thing about you that you wish everyone else had? (Mine is empathy)
  2. Describe your perfect day.(I already did)
  3. What is your vision of a perfect world (peaceful)

Let’s go !

 

Not counting

I recently got an iPhone.  A gift from the other half who was impressed at my friendship with a woman called Siri on his iPhone, through the air pod which he had temporarily reassigned to me,  when I was navigating a tricky intersection during peak traffic.  This was an anomaly because I am as tech savvy as a newt and my latent air-podability appealed to the geek in him.  So, now I have my own iPhone with air pods, and my new best friend, according to my kid is Siri.  Siri and I have meaningful conversations such as "Siri, what is life?" "I Kant* answer that, Ha Ha".  Most of all, Siri reads out audio books to me at a mere command, and saves me from having to listen to k-pop talk in the car.  I tried talking to the male Siri, but it seemed immoral, given that he had a Brit accent and a deep voice that squished my insides.

Gingerly stepping into the complex digital world, I began exploring the colorful mosaic on my screen.  There was something called "Health", which would apparently quantify my existence- the number of kilometers I walked, the number of steps I took, the number of hours I slept, the minutes of mindfulness I practiced and the calories I consumed.  I was intrigued. I claim to walk 10 kilometers every day.  How true was that? I decided to monitor.  I diligently carried the iPhone with me every wakeful moment.

Turns out, I sometimes walk more than 10 kilometers per day, but not always.  My average was around 7 kilometers per day, which while a personal disappointment, is ok, on an objective scale, I believe, given that I also throw in 40 minute work out at the gym every other day.

But that is not the part that pissed me.  I decided to calorie count just out of curiosity. The day before yesterday, I added to the app (which was cute enough to have a drop down list of a variety of dishes), my breakfast (2 idlys with sambar and coffee), lunch (one cup rice with vegetables, rasam and curd), snack (tea with puffed rice/cucumber) and dinner (2 rotis with dal).   The app said I was eating 400 extra kcals.  for my weight, factoring in the 6.5 km that I walked on that day.  I was amused.

The next day, I did a bad thing.  I skipped breakfast** because I had an unexpected visitor in the morning ("I never eat breakfast", he said, and the "guest is God" attitude embedded in me since childhood precluded me from eating without offering food to my guest).  Instead, I had two cups of coffee (with milk and sugar) and two of those digestive biscuits that look like dried dung and taste like cardboard (or vice versa). I continued the day with a meal plan similar to the previous day.  At the end of the day, I input the data into the app.  It said I was still eating extra.  I was intrigued and checked the break up.  I was told that my breakfast was 100 kCals more than I should be eating.  Seriously?  Two cups of coffee and cardboard is 100 kCals more?  I used the eff word multiple times at the app and uninstalled it because it is apps like this that lead people down the bulimia hole.  I want to be fit, not insane.

I am back to having deep conversations with my new best friend.  This morning I asked her if she was married, and she said "My end user licence agreement is commitment enough for me."  I am happy with this much iPhone, thank you.

**Never again.  Not worth the migraine hell.

 

 

Of dreams and thoughts

The dreams are back, but with a variation. Usually, I would go unprepared for an exam, usually Tamil exam, in high school, and naked, to boot.  Or I would be lost in a colossal multi-storeyed white empty building with large stairs and run up and down these stairs in abject panic.  These days, I am in a large college campus, trying to find the classroom, and being completely unprepared for college.  Half the time I don’t even know which course I have taken, or if I do know which course I need to take, I have no clue what is going on.  There is no panic, but a dull sense of hopelessness.  My brain is a garbage dump, and really stinks once the lid of consciousness is opened in slumber.  My daughter gets weird dreams too, but my better half says that he does not remember any of his dreams and feels no aftertaste when he awakes.  I, on the other hand, need a couple of extra strong doses of coffee to break free of the gloom that lingers after I have awoken from my dreams.

Something else interesting happened.  Yesterday, a friend and I were discussing dreams.  This friend is a talker, and usually when we are conversing, it is one way, I listen more than talk, partly because I don’t like talking too much, and partly because this person leaves no breathing time for response.  This person notwithstanding, in general, contrary to my image from this very verbose blog, I am not a big talker.  As I told this friend about my consistent dreams of being unprepared (for exams/for class) , I was told “you have no thoughts in your mind…you never think of anything, hence the singular dream”.  The tone was not indicative of “you are thought-free, you enlightened soul”, rather, “you are stupid and empty upstairs”.  I know it because more than once I have been told by this person that I have no interests in anything (e.g. I don’t like watching movies, the only movies I watch are with family – both my better-half and kid like to watch movies, as “family time” rather than any personal interest in watching them), no passion (because I don’t passionately argue about or discuss anything), uncultured (because I don’t listen to music when I am working, and I am usually working most of the time), am a hamster-in-wheel (because I am doing something all the time without staring at the ceiling and thinking thoughts) and am, in effect, intellectually dead-as-a-dodo.  These have been told to me at different times, under different circumstances, and so I believe that “you don’t have thoughts in your head” is an extension of me being of vegetative state. For a moment, I flared up in my mind as “just because I don’t overthink everything and verbally vomit every thought that crosses my head, I am not a doorknob”, but figured that such a response would only lead to me having to listen to more arguments, and thus moved on.

The thought I had then was this:  It is so easy for the world to consider silent people/introverts as being stupid.  Being an introvert myself, let me tell you – we are not stupid.  In fact, we have more thoughts in our heads because we are not wasting time communicating it to others.  We don’t communicate our thoughts because we don’t need inputs from anyone else.  My thoughts usually range from banal stuff such as “where can I get a neem sapling to plant on my backyard” to philosophical/spiritual musings on God, mindfulness, hope, faith and death, none of which needs a recipient.   We are also sensitive people, and can gauge by the talker’s tone, what he/she really means beyond the words uttered, because WE LISTEN and not just hear.

A quote I subscribe to is “It is better to stay silent and let others think you are a fool, than open your mouth and waste time talking” !

 

 

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Weighty matters

This may sound like body shamming, it isn’t.  Or at least I hope it isn’t.  It is a bit on the obsessive side, but I am sure anyone who has been through this would be able to relate.

When I was in grad school, the roommate in my second year was a thirty year old woman (I was around 24 – funny how six years seemed to matter so much then).  She was a small built woman, prone to putting on weight and so she was obsessed about fitness.  She went to the gym everyday and worked out for an hour, and blizzard or not, ran for an hour through the university township. She drank coffee with skim milk and shrank away from food with the comment “if I as much as see that goddamn pizza, I would put on a pound”. On the other end of the rainbow, I was addressed (uncharitably) as 2D-gobblefunkist by the brat Indian grads (largely boys) because I was stick thin.  I thought I was curvy, but was made to believe that the curves were in my imagination.  So in order to pad myself, I drank full-fat milk, had egg nog for breakfast every day and, although I hated cheese at that time, had subway sandwiches every alternate day with extra cheese, and macadamia nut cookies on the side.  The only allowance I gave myself was that I went to the gym every afternoon, to swim, because I was a fish in another birth and nothing makes me happier than water around me.

None of my padding efforts had any effect. At that time.  As I near 45, I can see the eggnog, vitamin D milk and cheezy sub in various parts of my body.  And they are very sociable foodgroups because they welcome other current foodgroups and give them space to live forever.  It is a wonder the body has energy to function at all, considering that all the calories I ingest choose to stay rather than burn.

This is fine. I don’t have problems with the natural fall of metabolism that comes with age, and resultant padding – I don’t want to body sham.  But where I worry is that the padding is not all on the outside and there are protective stuffed envelopes around my essential organs, making the latter groan.  I am particularly worried because the metabolic syndrome spectrum of diseases runs in my family (in addition to psychiatric disorders, osteoporosis and name-it-you-got-it).  When I visited my gyn recently for ovarian pains, she claimed that the only ways to deal with it, short of ripping my innards and throwing the non-essential-anymore organs away, are to pop in industrial strength acetaminophens when they act up, and make sure I get enough exercise to prevent visceral fat that can add to the strain on my reproductive organs.

I resumed the gym nearly three weeks ago, in addition to reduction of portion sizes.  I don’t overworkout because I am a fusspot of sorts.  20 minutes of interval training and 10 minutes of strength.  I stayed off the scale until last week, and as I had expected, the numbers on the scale were displeasing.  Today, a week later, I checked again.  What do you know.  A full one kilo (~2 lbs) UP.  Yes, UP.  I know a lovely person told me that it’s better to go by the tape than by the scale, and I remembered it as I stood on the scale, but I did feel like screaming.

Perhaps it is muscle weight gain.  Perhaps not.  From now on, no more scales for me, for sure.  I am doing this for my internal organs, and if 20 mins of interval training doesn’t do anything to them, so be it.  At least I would be using my gym membership.

The weekend begins

So far so good.  I am consciously staying off work.  Isn’t it pathetic when someone has  to “consciously stay off work” on weekends?

The hormonal tempest ends finally.  (Relative) peace for the next 15 days before the shebang starts again.    Is it a little icky that I talk about intimate matters such as PMS and aunt Flo in this blog? Ah, but you see, I am anonymous.  At least to people who don’t associate gobblefunkist to me (nearly all the people who read this blog know me, though).  Thankfully (or is it?) I suspect most of the regular readers here are women and if any, they’d fall over my shoulder and cry in empathy.  For the few men (actually, TWO men) who read this blog, well, you guys rock (not to mention, are effing lucky).

The kid is off to a course in journalism.  I wish I could attend it too.  Too bad we never had this much exposure to different things when we grew up.  Oh well.  I can always learn from the kid can’t I?

I haven’t done any drawing or painting since I took off yesterday, but that’s ok.  I have been reading and generally relaxing in quiet solitude (in the mind i.e.).

One of my friends’ favourite nephew came out of the closet (isn’t that the phrase?) as gay a few months back.  My friend was fine with it, although the boy’s mother was hysteric.  Recently he came out of the closet as a trans-sexual.  My friend is not sure how she feels about it, but she is definitely not unduly upset – more concerned about how the nephew (niece?) would cope in a largely conservative family.  I know someone whose 5 year old daughter is convinced that she is a boy – she has been claiming that ever since she could talk and nothing would let her believe otherwise.  The kid’s mother is disturbed about it, and I can see why.  Transsexuality is still a sensitive issue here.  There are transsexuals commonly seen in India, but they are not respected at all, not even as human beings.  But then, the trans people who often beg at street signals are a bit bothersome – they are bullies and can be downright unpleasant.  I am not sure what has created what – has societal disdain created unpleasantness in the third gender, or is it the other way around?  I suspect it is the former.  But considering that even the predominant genders – male and female can’t seem to get along with mutual respect in our country (or perhaps the world), it is wishful thinking to talk of an inclusive society with no gender demarcations.  Carol once commented that the female reproductive system was not thought through before design, I think this whole gender demarcation is a less-than-optimal design too*.  Hermophroditic humans may have faced extinction through in-breeding earlier, but may have been saved from a lot of trouble on the gender issues that plague society today.

*And not just for humans.  Have you observed cats?  There is an un-neutered female cat in our neighbourhood, who becomes pregnant every six months and the whole reproductive process is so skewed. All the tom cat does is gherao the woman until she relents,  has his way with her and vamooses, while the woman is literally left holding the kittens until they grow up, and then the whole cycle repeats.