Category Archives: Share your world

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

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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.

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** From the movie – The Thomas Crown affair:

Thomas Crown: You look wonderful!

Catherine Banning: Thank you! How are you?

Thomas Crown: Popular.

 

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Sharing my world

Here is my answers to questions on Cee’s Share Your World this week

Are you a practical jokester?

Certainly not. I hate to do anything that makes another person uncomfortable in any way.  I don’t like being tricked either.  I, on the other hand, love humour, the sense of humour I dig most is the wry self-depreciating type, ala Wodehouse/Erma Bombeck.  I don’t relate to Indian humour one bit, because I feel Indian humour is largely built on teasing.  Brit humour gets me every single time. American, sometimes, yeah, sometimes not so much.

This is a bit of a dirty linen – I don’t like teasing.  I don’t like being teased. Call me stuffy, sensitive or un-fun, I simply hate the concept of teasing/ribbing/ragging whatever you call it.  My marital family, on the other hand, is big time into teasing.   There is no neutral conversation between any two people, any interaction always involves pulling the other’s leg.  When I was a newly wed, I was miserable about it.  Then I let the better-half know of my discomfort with teasing, and he stopped teasing me and around me.  Fifteen years since, I still hate to go to gatherings at one branch of the marital family because that branch is the royalty of teasing.

I like to surprise people though.  Especially my kid.  I like doing little nice things for her unexpectedly, and the look of joy on her face is priceless.  That does not count as practical joking, I am sure.

Who cuts your hair?  You, a friend, or professional.

Like I have hair to cut.  You can count the strands on the egg with a few fingers.  The rare time that the hair grows a fraction of an inch longer and tapers into an ugly rat’s tail, I get it trimmed at the local parlor.  I am not particular about which parlor – how complicated can snipping off quarter inch of seven hair strands be?

Did you have a stuffed animal when you were a kid, if so what kind?

Never.  I have never even wanted one.  When I was really young, I vaguely remember being scared of stuffed animals.  Now, stuffed animals scream “dust” to me – the place in which I live is very hot and dusty most of the time, and the idea of all the dust in the fur of the toy puts me off it.

I remember answering a similar question earlier.  Yes, there was.  I reproduce it here:

Is there a stuffed animal in your bedroom? 

My teenage daughter had a large sack full of stuffed animals (at least 30 of them) in her room until a month ago.  We live in a wooded area, and on the ground floor, which makes us targets of various creepy crawlies.  Last month, the kid saw a vicious looking centipede in her room before she ran out screaming like a banshee, and no amount of searching for it was yielding result.  I figured the creature had to be inside the bag with the stuffed toys and I unceremoniously chucked the bag out, toys and all.  As I heaved the bag, what do you know, the centipede fell out of it.    I sent it to centipede heaven with my slipper, and threw out the bag of toys because I didn’t want clutter in her room for critters to hide.

The kid was given a stuffed toy for her birthday last month, by her friend, and I have told her that this one toy is all she can have on her bed.  The moment I see it on the floor, it goes into the dustbin.  She eyes me with fear and hugs on to the toy every time I enter her room.

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 

I am not quite sure about the smile, because when deadline times overlap with PMS, there is no room for rapture.

I am not sure if you can call this inspirational, but my client is one heck of a chap.  He and I have been working together (in the immediate past) since end of November on various grueling deadlines, and while I am physically exhausted and just a tad bit brain fried, he is like that battery bunny, with nary a sign of humanness.  Yes, he loves the job, but so do I, and yet, my flesh is weaker than his; and he is 61 years old – how? just how?  Sometimes I wonder if he is a robot with an unending supply of energy.

There are also a few things I am a little on the tenterhooks about.

We booked a new car because our old one was more than a decade old, and was beginning to lose steam.  Compromising between my need for a simple, small functional vehicle to drive from point A to point B, and my family’s need for a large, fancy gas guzzler, we settled for, what is termed, an “urban SUV”, of local make, with the maximum fuel efficiency possible for that genre of vehicles.  I like the vehicle on an objective scale – it is pretty, fuel efficient, and local made (not international brand), but there is discomfort at having fallen prey to the rampant consumerism that I abhor – yes, call me a hypocrite, you are justified. Still, no point regretting compromises.  The car arrives sometime this week, and I am still not sure how I feel about it.

Another possible change – we moved into the present apartment ten years ago.  I love the apartment, but could do with a change.  We have applied for a larger apartment, we may not get it if some one more eligible than us applies, but if we do, we’ll probably move.  It is within the same wooded area, but further in, and is in two levels, with ample yard space for a garden, lovely trees around and insulated from the neighboring houses by a lot of buffer space.  We may not get it, and I may not be disappointed too much because I have nothing against where we live now, but it will be nice if we got it.  Keeping fingers crossed.

Wow, that turned out to be a long post, didn’t it?

Sharing my world

Cee’s questions this week :

List 2 things you have to be happy about?

  • The kid’s performance in extra curricular activities in school this year.  At the beginning of the school year, she was dejected that she was unknown in school, partly by her own introversion (the distance between the apple and the tree is small), and partly because she didn’t know where her strengths lay, despite my attempts to convince her of the strength of her communication skills .  Over the year, she has proven me right, and now, she is the go-to kid at school if there is anything that requires written or oral forms of communication – as I type this, she is representing her school in an inter-school oratorical competition, one of many she has attended this year.  So, happy that she finally recognized her skill.
  • My first research proposal for the next deadline came out well.  I struggled with it because the idea was difficult to frame into a convincing argument for funding.  The proposal took me longer than usual to complete, but the final document turned out, in my opinion (the agency may not share my view depending upon the funding politics at the time of doling out the dough), organized and convincing.

Obviously, I am not even mentioning the life-blessings that make me content in life, because I am terrified of jinxing them.

Have you ever owned a rock, pet rock, or gem that is not jewelry?

I am glad you asked.  This is a story that’s close to my heart.

I am not a sentimental person.  I never hold on to anything from the past.  I never have as a child, and the fanaticism to shun material connections to memories has only grown over the years.

There was one exception.

I was in the final year of my bachelor’s programme in a popular college in my city. It was January, and we had to start planning for the immediate future.  I knew I wanted to do a master’s but wasn’t quite sure of anything else.

January was the time for Mardi Gras (now renamed), the inter-collegiate cultural event of a leading academic institution (ranked first in the country) in my city and the Indian music choir to which I belonged in the UG college, was set to compete with fifty other teams in it.  I knew of this leading institution because my cousin studied there many years ago, but didn’t know much else about it.  The moment I stepped into the campus of this institution as a participant of the cultural event, I heard the calling loud and clear.  I knew this would be my next stop in life.

As I was returning after the event (we got as far as the final round, but lost in the finals – we sang “anthi mazai”, which needed a male voice to complement the female, which we didn’t have , being a girls’ college and all), in a moment’s rare sentimentality, I picked up a large pebble, put it in my pocket and vowed to myself that I would restore the pebble to its source when I returned as a student here.

For the next three months, I diligently prepared for the entrance exam.  A few more months later, I returned the pebble from whence I picked it, as a newly recruited master’s student.

My first and last dash at sentimentality in life.

Are you a hugger or a non-hugger?

I hug only two people in my life on a daily basis – my family.  As for others, I would rather not, but if the situation requires of it – usually as a gesture of comfort – I would.  Even in such cases, I’d more readily hug women than men.  A hand-shake is all I can muster with men.

Sharing my world

Cee’s questions:

Do you prefer a bath or shower? 

I was born and brought up, and live in a south Indian metropolitan city that faces acute water scarcity almost every year.  I can count the years during which we did not worry about water in summer, with one hand.   I am stingy with water.  And when I say stingy, I mean I’ll-gouge-your-eyes-out-if-you-don’t-close-that-tap-right-this-second stingy.  I remember a year in which I would walk half a kilometer to the water lorry, and bring back six large pots of water perched on my hip (six times up and down, not in one go – just to clarify), and the family of three (dad, grandmom and I) would have to survive on the six pots for two days.  It was summer, you couldn’t go without showering, and each of us would use three fourth pot of water every day for bathing and washing our own clothes.

The first time I went to the US, I was intrigued by the bath tub.  My roommate (also from the same city of origin, but desensitized having lived in US for a couple years longer), taught me how to fill the tub with water, add bath salts,light scented candles and soak in it while reading Calvin and Hobbes without getting water on it –  I later learned that people drank alcohol as well while soaking.  In my excitement, I did as instructed (minus the alcohol of course) and as I steeped in the water, I had a panic attack – this much water could wash three bucket loads of clothes, in addition to giving me a luxurious oil-bath – what was I doing soaking in it?  That, and the fact that the potty was right next to the tub (in the ancestral house in which I grew, the toilet and bathroom were separate rooms), totally put me against tub-soak kind of bath.

I am back in my home city, and yes, we had water scarcity last year as well.  The better half is from a different small town, which has not experienced the kind of water problems we have had.  In the early years of our marriage, he would be disturbed at the tantrum I would throw when he had the tap running while shaving.  He still does that, but I get the hell out of the area, lest I get a stroke.

I have instilled in my daughter the importance of not wasting water.  If any, she is stingier than I am.  Thank God for that.

To cut a long story short, I neither use the bath tub nor the shower.  I fill half a bucket with water and use a mug to pour it on myself – two mugs before soap, soap, four or five mugs to wash the soap away.  During my weekly oil baths, I use one whole bucket of water, and I consider that my personal weekly luxury.

As you may have guessed by now, water is very precious to me.

What do you do to make a living or during the day? If you are retired what mostly occupies your day? 

I am a science writer by profession.  I write research proposals for a couple of R&D clients in the US.  These proposals are in the fields of materials science and chemistry, and the clients send these proposals to agencies for funding.  I love the job in that it keeps me abreast of the latest science trends, makes me think analytically, and hones my writing skills. I have been doing this for 18 years now.

When I am not writing proposals, I edit research papers, thesis etc. for students.  I do this at throw away charges because education is very important to me, and if I can be of some help to students, why not.    These papers are in various fields of science, engineering and management.  While I enjoy editing science and engineering documents, management documents cause a lot of pain, but I still do it because I am a masochist that way.

Apart from this, I am a full-time home keeper and cook zillions of meals every day.  I also chauffeur the kid up and down through her various activities.  I write this blog, do a bit of (I cringe to say it) voluntary service (no details, I cringe even mentioning it), and am the official medical consultant to all the oldies in the family.

Pretty full day.

Is there a stuffed animal in your bedroom? 

My teenage daughter had a large sack full of stuffed animals (at least 30 of them) in her room until a month ago.  We live in a wooded area, and on the ground floor, which makes us targets of various creepy crawlies.  Last month, the kid saw a vicious looking centipede in her room before she ran out screaming like a banshee, and no amount of searching for it was yielding result.  I figured the creature had to be inside the bag with the stuffed toys and I unceremoniously chucked the bag out, toys and all.  As I heaved the bag, what do you know, the centipede fell out of it.    I sent it to centipede heaven with my slipper, and threw out the bag of toys because I didn’t want clutter in her room for critters to hide.

The kid was given a stuffed toy for her birthday last month, by her friend, and I have told her that this one toy is all she can have on her bed.  The moment I see it on the floor, it goes into the dustbin.  She eyes me with fear and hugs on to the toy every time I enter her room.

My inspiration from last week

I have been slowly transitioning towards traditional Indian cooking practices.  I finally have a good set of vessels (all vintage) in which I cook lunch these days.

cook2.jpg

That’s rice in the bronze pot (back left), vatha kuzambu in stone vessel (front left), koottu in clay pot (front right) and what’s on far right is immaterial !

My better half does not get why I am so thrilled about this.  I am thrilled because I have grown up in a home, which was run by a very modern grandmother.  She phased out all traditional implements very early.  While I admired her immensely for her openness in embracing change and adopting new concepts and technologies, I had always regretted not being exposed to traditional cooking.

So that’s that.

 

Sharing my world

The first of the series for the year, from Cee.

What one word describes you best?

Instinct/empathy – I use both words because the empathy I feel towards others is instinctive, I don’t even try.  It’s my boon and my bane. Instinct/Empathy is good because I am the best friend you can have, the strongest shoulder to lean on, and the biggest sink for your sorrows, and joys.  Sometimes people don’t even have to tell me what and how they feel, I would feel it in me instinctively and react accordingly.  I can cite specific examples.  When a friend called me to tell me the news of his wife’s pregnancy, the moment I heard his “Hi”, I said “congratulations”, because I just knew – he freaked out.  When my mother vomited in the train on our return from Tirupathi, when I was 13, I knew she was going to die, although it was generally believed that she had indigestion.  She died six months later from cancer. These are not isolated incidents.  I scare myself at times by this.  The up-side is that I am terrific at fire fighting, even before the fire has started because I just know.

The bane is in the fact that I don’t know who I am.  My emotions largely mirror those of people around me, and sometimes the real me is buried deep inside and there is considerable digging involved.  Writing is perhaps the only time that I am me.

Another bane is that sometimes I don’t want to know what goes on in another person’s head.  But there is no shutting out.

What is set as the background on your computer?

This:

comp

However, I’d never see this background because there three or four windows open at all times  The windows I have open now are: Chrome, Adobe Reader, and Mendeley reference manager and I had word open until now, I just closed it for the day.

If you have been to a foreign country name those you have been to?

USA – did my graduate program and worked for a couple of years before returning to India.  A couple years later, I went back to live a few months with my husband before returning to India for good again.

Italy – visited Florence a couple of summers ago.  Lovely place. Just lovely.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 

My deadlines.  I have quite a few large deadlines at work this month, and that’s the only thing that kept pushing me last week, and will keep pushing me until mid Feb.

Have I mentioned that I love my job?

 

Sharing my world

I haven’t been sharing my world through Cee lately, although a lot of my world is being shared otherwise.  Resuming…

If you could hire someone to help you, would it be with cleaning, cooking, or yard work?

I have help with cleaning. My maid comes every day and washes the dishes and clothes and sweeps the house.  Today, perhaps attributed to the hormonal seesaw that is just starting, I am a little pee’ed about her.  She doesn’t clean corners, no matter how many times I nag her.  Do maids ever clean corners?  I wonder.

I would love someone to take over the cooking part of my life, and I had a cook for a year a few years ago.  I realised that it is a greater pain managing the cook, than actually doing the work myself. So, I let her go.

I am terrible at (wo)man-management.  I know people who are divas at managing hired help.  My mother-in-law, for example, can get the hired dance with joy at having to work ten hours nonstop, for measly wages and a cup of tepid coffee.  I have seen hired help volunteer to dust cobwebs and clean the many many lofts in her home, for no pay.  I, on the other hand, feel icky about ordering people around and concepts of human dignity, human rights, equality and such crap crowd my head so that I let my hired help relax with a cup of fresh coffee, while I get things ready for them to “work” !  A friend of mine says that if she ever needs a change of career, she’d be my hired help.

That said, despite her incompetence at work, my maid is a good friend.  She is a stress buster, as I chat with her, and can cure cricks in necks with some tricky maneuvers.

A chap comes to clean my yard once a fortnight. But heaven help anyone who potters about my garden but me.  My garden (however scanty it is) is mine and mine alone.  Hands off.

If you were to move and your home came fully furnished with everything you ever wanted, list at least three things from your old house you wish to retain?

The better half, the kid and I.

A doctor that I used to know in my grad school days once told me this, and it has stuck on for life – Never value stuff.  Value people.

What calms you down?

As counter intuitive as it may be, work.  When you see me maniacally cleaning the kitchen, handwashing clothes, tilling the yard, hand picking weeds, sweeping the floor, baking cookies and writing proposals one after the other without break, know that I am in the throngs of PMS and am calming myself.  True that by night, I’d be a physical wreck, but the Buddha would be jealous of my mind.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  

I churned my own butter from the cream I had been collecting for a few days from the fresh milk I have been buying, and made cinnamon sugar whole-wheat cookies using the butter.  The cookies were delicious, even if I say so myself, and the house smelled cinnamony for hours afterwards.  Bliss.

The kid’s exams end tomorrow.  She will be off to her grandparents’ with daddy, which leaves me home alone.  A friend is visiting and staying with me for a couple of days, but before she arrives, I’ll have the house to myself for three days.  This is perhaps the first time in fifteen years that I will be alone.  I love my family to bits and all that, but I am excited about the “me” time that’s so rare and precious.

So long…

Sharing my world and stuff you didn’t need to know

Cee’s questions

Do you ever sit on a park bench for more than ten minutes?

I wish I could say “yes”.  For a long time, I thought that’s what was missing in my life – a park bench in which to sit and be lost in the moment. Took me a while to understand that I am too restless for that.  In retrospect, everyone else around me has known it.  My class teacher in 11th called me “jumping jack” for a reason.  My college friend called me “butt spring”.  My labmate (a Japanese girl) called me “bullet train”.  I can’t sit in one place (unless I am writing) for more than two minutes.  I must move.  Even when I do sit, I am fidgety.  My feet tap, my hands flail, my eyes wander hither-thither – definitely not the Buddhaisqueness you’s associate with a park bench.  That’s why meditation is hard for me.  My brain calms down instantly, but my body can’t take stasis.

A few months ago, a bench was installed right outside our fence.  I was excited when it was being installed – now I can finally sit on a bench in the evening, listen to bird song, watch children play, and tête-à-tête with the neighbours.  Guess how many times that has happened?

When you lose electricity in a storm, do you light the candles, turn on the flashlight or use your cell phone for light?

I live in India.  We don’t lose electricity in a storm.  We lose it because we can.  The powers that be, believe that character must be built among the citizens and in their magnanimity, always cut off power just when you dump soaked rice into the mixer to grind, or you are in the middle of a work deadline and the goddang document must be mailed within the next seven minutes or it would spontaneously combust.

But that does not answer the question. I use my phone flash light to get the candles and light them all around the house.

Would you rather be given $10,000 for your own use or $100,000 to give anonymously to strangers? 

Can I have the $10000, keep half to myself and give away half to the stranger?  I could use the extra dough at the moment.  To buy innerwear.  You know the problem with rains?  Inner wear don’t dry fully (no, we don’t have a washer-drier – yes, we live a fairly spartan life) and there is nothing more annoying than having damp clothing next to your skin.  But you didn’t want to know that, did you?

While on the topic of innerwear (yeah, I am gross like that), I always call it by its Tamil name (jaddi), which drives my family nuts – “you are gross…why can’t you be decent and call it inner-wear?”, the kid and dad chorus.  “Why?  What’s wrong with jaddi?” I ask, “it is just another piece of garment that you wear”.  They roll their eyes around and give me a wide berth until I stop saying the blasted word.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?

My kid’s cheer-up book is my inspiration this week, and perhaps for a long time afterwards.