Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Chennai Girls- Trendy versus Traditional Outfits

Was reading the front page today article "Cell Phone ban comes into force" from Hindu this afternoon during lunch. The article mentioned the new restriction posed by Anna University and on other engineering colleges where a ban on the use of camera phones comes along with a dress code for all its engg students.

Although, the TADA on cell phones seems to be accepted without much hungama, the policy against dress code restriction has been met with strong resistance from the student forces, especially the girls. The dress code states that students should not wear jeans, t-shirts, skirts or sleeveless and tight-fitting outfits and enjoined them to dress conservatively.

I pulled this out of the St.Joseph's engineering college's website:

Boys : All students in the campus should be neatly dressed. All boy students are expected to wear self - coloured pants with their shirts neatly tucked in and wear tie. They should wear shoes only. Jeans and T-shirts are strictly not allowed. Slippers will not be permitted. Students should not have long hair and beard.

Girls : All girl students should wear saree or churidhar with dhupata. Slippers will not be permitted. Slit in the Churidhar should not be more than 10 inches above the knee level. Students should not bleach their hair.

Although, this is not new info for many of us who have gone to similar institutions back home, i can't help wondering about the cultural "shift" that Chennaites are going through. What with the new Globus, LifeStyles and several other trendy fashion shops in malls coming up, the women, especially the younger generation of Chennai have been exposed to boot-cut jeans, suspender tops and so on. Every brand name available here in the US is now found there. The happy medium is the existing "short kurtha aka parallels" that come as a mix of the pant and salwar. Sarees have become a classified wear meant to be worn only for college farewells and weddings. The poor churidhars and salwars are like struggling middle class that keep wanting to be categorized as modern outfits, but sadly, still remain as traditional attire.

In essence, is this protest on dress code for the younger generation justified???

Would be interested in hearing a variety of comments.........

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Kite Runner- A Good Fiction Read for all!!!

I recently finished this book "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini and would like to share some of my thoughts. I hope this would enable those of you who haven't had a chance to read this, to do so and for those who have read it, to add your comments and expressions.

The book is primarily set in Afghanistan and illustrates beautifully in a poignant manner the budding friendship between an upper class rich boy Amir and his lower class Hazara servant boy Hassan. The author does a through job of testing the waters of true friendship, loyalty, brotherhood and father-son affection in a profound and personal manner. The description of Afghanistan's monarchy to the present day atrocities and situation of the country in current times is a nice timeline.

The later half of the book deals with Amir's life in California, US and also brings out the differences that can be felt in every man's transforming lifestyle. The best thing that i liked about this book is that it brings a very personal tale to your heart that you can empathisize with.

The book is immensely enjoyable that makes it a fast read. I would like to go on more and more about the book, but a google search on the book's reviews would probably do that for you.

Lastly, after reading this book- i had to go back and look at the author Khaled Hosseini's background and am not surprised with the personal link between Amir, the main character and the author himself. (

A wonderful read for everyone!!!

Monday, August 29, 2005

A Hectic Weekend and Humari Mathru Bhasha

Raamji Londonwaala
Nala Damayanthi

After a long week at work, the weekend was yet another whirl wind of social activities for me and my significant other. It just seems that a relaxing weekend means meeting single friends and couple friends whom we hadn't had a chance to meet during the weekday, running around doing grocery and errands, rushing off to a movie, paying bills, making those dutiful India calls and so on.

On Friday night, we visited the "GL" couple for a nice south indian krishna jayanthi dinner-boy, wasn't i glad that we have such good friends :) L hasn't started working yet as she is on a H4 visa and had taken the time to prepare sweets and a great dinner that i enjoyed after a tiring week at work. Since, i hadn't made anything on Friday and we were debating as to where we should go for dinner, when GL called us at 7.30 pm on Friday night, i was so happy. After dinner and the usual catching up on stuff, we went to the nearby "ColdStone" for some ice cream and a stroll in the nearby park and came home by 11.30.

On Saturday, i slept through the morning, a rare treat for me, and in the afternoon we hit "Chaat Cafe" for some hot parathas and palak with the same "GL" couple. After washing it down with some mango lassi, I had to take care of some shopping and then went home to do some dishes and a short nap. In the evening, had to get dressed and go to a "baby shower" for one of my husband's undergrad classmates.

It was meeting a bunch of Hindi speaking people whom i had never met before and polite talks. Before moving on, i have to share some background that my siginificant other has been to school for his undergrad in the holiest town in North India and is quite comfortable in talking Hindi and still is in touch with some of his Hindi speaking undergrad pals. To me, Hindi was a second language in high school till Sanskrit took over and i took private lessons till Visharadh level. Although, i like to watch hindi movies and can manage to speak a few broken sentences, my husband's fluency and flair far exceeds mine. I am an avid tamil lover and stick to English when i am around those who don't follow my dialect.

No offense to those hindi speaking folks- but, i have to mention the fact that almost everyone in that hindi crowd, even the guys who work here, seem to talk only in Hindi. It was as though speaking English was something weird and with me having to decipher each and every word of what they were saying and my husband doing the translation in whispers, it was just annoying. All this on top of the fact, that we had mentioned to the group that i don't speak Hindi.
I had to go through this for 4 hours that evening and was glad to be out of the door that night.

Afterwards, i can't help but wonder, why the so-called "Hindi" speaking folks-both men and women, don't bother to converse in English even when they are in the midst of people who don't speak their language. I know Hindi is the National Language of India, but India is so rich in its cultural heritage and so diverse in its dialects that even when you step out of the country you do need a common language English that takes you across the continent.

Contrary to this, it is interesting to note that when a group of Tamilians get together, they start off talking in English, especially the gals nowadays, my husband likes to call those gals "Peter Ammas", even though they develop an affinity knowing that they are from TamilNadu or Chennai.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Today is Gokulashtami aka Krishna Jayanthi!

(pic extracted from chennai online article Krishna would love to be here:
Today is Gokulashtami aka Krishna Jayanthi day throughout India. In the North, this day is referred to as Janmashtami. Most Hindus know about this festival-this day marks the birth of Lord Krishna who was born at mid-nightto King Vasudeva and Queen Devaki. Back in India, this used to be another festival that used to be celebrated in my house with lot of enthusiasm from the women folk.

Last night, as i sat thinking about the whole occasion, i started leafing thro' the famous authentic south indian cookbook byMeenakshi Ammal to pull out some recipes. After another long week at work, i have some enthu to go home and try appam, seedai(haven't done both of these) before. My mom recommends pal payasam, butter and aval as "naivedhiyam" (offering to Lord Krishna) as his favourites.

Vishnu Sahasranamam or Narayaneeyam is recited and the house is decorated with kolams and tiny feet of "Baby Krishna".

Today, as i sit in another part of the world and try to ponder the significance of adhering to these traditions here in US, i have lots of questions that come off the top of my head- Is following all these traditions going to bring me anything? Is it worth the strain on me? Does the thought of the appraoching "Halloween" and pumpkim carving, giving candy to neighbourhood kids etc seem more sensible to follow than going through all the hardships for doing goodies for family and friends here on Janmashtami?

Gokulashtami-Raises a big question mark?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Poor Food creates Bad Mood!

Last night, i went out to dinner with a couple of friends. After voicing each one of our thoughts, the final consensus was Italian Food- one of our friend's recommended a less expensive Italian place that he said made good calzones. Being a big food connoisure, especially Italian being my favourite, we decided to hit the place located in the small and nice downtown near our neighbourhood.

Before i describe the evening, i have to mention a few sticklers about myself- I am quite picky when it comes to food, the taste, ambience, table setting, how hot the food is served, service provided at the restaurant are some of the long list of things that i use to evaluate the quality of food. There are a few really favourite eat-outs where at the end of a good sumptuous meal i feel really happy from within. I am at my element's best after those kind of meals and if the dessert happens to be something chocolatey, then my day is made. Also, i usually judge the food when the appetizer and soup comes- if those taste good, then i will tune my expectations for a good main course.

Now, that i have written about what good food does to me, i need to also touch upon what poor food does to me. When the service, ambience, food etc aren't good and i end up paying $20 or so without any satisfaction, i become upset. I feel like one precious vacation day has been stolen from me and i get unpaid for a week's labor of tasty home cooking. Afterwards, no amount of anything will cheer up my evening- it was one of those evenings that marked my dinner last night.

The place had a bar cum grill and being vegetarian, the aroma, as some would call it, from the grill hit me like a blast as soon as i entered the place. Since, it was a sports place, there were baseball photos everywhere and the air inside was musty and made me feel congested. I excused myself from the group and went outside for a whiff of fresh air. After a few minutes, when i thought, i could handle it, i went in again, only to find the nausea rising to my throat and rushed to the restroom for my first disappearing act. By the time, i came out, my friends had already ordered and i was the last one to add a Vege Calzone to the list and some lemonade to soothe my stomach.

The 10 minutes of waiting time passed with everyone talking about work and stuff and me just adding in with hmm, hmm and saying that i was ok when an alternative place was suggested for dinner. It was 9.30 pm and i was famished. When the calzones came, and i took my first bite of the outer shell, i knew that this wasn't for me. I tried to be polite and pushed the calzone pieces around my plate until everyone knew that i wasn't happy with the calzone and the place. I couldn't wait to pay the bill and walk out into the cool night air.

Moral: No more Calzones for me!!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Efficiency for me!!! (Wednesday Special)

Its Wednesday- that middle day of the week where i stand and count to myself 2 more days to go for the weekend, when my inner voice "manasakshi" says only 2 days of the week are over.

I seem to wear my thinking hat on Wednesdays, and am going to blog my first thoughts of the morning- Efficiency.

What is Efficiency?

Webster meaning: The quality or property of being efficient.- ie the power or capacity to produce a desired result.

Mechanical Engineering:Ratio of the effective or useful output to the total input in any system.

Electronics: The amount of power delivered to the load of an amplifier as a percentage of the power required from the power supply.

Medical:The production of the desired effects or results with minimum waste of time, effort or skill.

Mitr's definition: To me efficiency is when a playful girl of 23-24 gets married, grows to become responsible as a woman by getting a job here in the US that matches her academic qualifications and cooks, maintains the household, while being competant in her career, stays in a relationship with a husband, and handles all the other daily hassles that come up both at work and home. It also means that the girl-turned-woman not only gets into the cycle of working + domestic duties, but also finds the time to pursue hobbies, take classes/courses, goes to the gym to workout and also find time to do something for the community around her.

I feel proud of all those Desi women who have come to this country, put themselves through graduate school, found a job, got married and still continued to work, raise good kids and maintain the family.

Reminds me of a few lines off the title song from the tamil film "Manathil Uruthi Vendum"......
"Samaikinra Karangalum Sarithiram Padaithida Bhoomi Parka Vendum.."
"Thoorathu Desathil Bharatha Penmaiyin Paadal Ketkavendum....."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Afternoon/Evening "Chai"

After a long day at work, i decided to go home and make some garam masala tea which would give me the needed energy to start my evening chores:
I prefer to drink tea that is thick and also a bit sweet.

I added some cardamom, a pinch of cloves, a drop of cinnamon and some slightly crushed ginger to hot water and allow it to nicely dissolve and change color. When the water boils, i added some tea and let that also dissolve. A few minutes later, i added milk(2% fat or whole milk- no skim milk) and some sugar and after it stands for 1 minute i turn off the stove.

I sit before my stereo and turn on some nice tamil song and sip my tea and my mind wanders away to the good old high school and college days back in Chennai when we used to walk to the cafteria or outside the college campus to the local Nair Tea Stall for some "garam masala tea." We used to go in a group of 6-10 and sit there on those benches and eat samosas and drink our chai before going home every day.

In memory of that, i added this picture to my blog ........(Picture Excerpted from Tea Stall Pressure Cooker.) ......................for all those of you who don't drink tea, go home after a rough day at work and treat yourself to this masala tea and see how refreshed it makes you...............

A Foggy Morning to Work!!!

Got up at 6 am this morning to drag myself to work- this is the time i wake up daily in order to show up at work by 7.30 am. Usually, i am quick to pull myself out of bed and get done with the morning chores before i plunge into the shower and am out of the door with my cup of coffee.

But, today was one of those rare mornings when i couldn't rouse myself out of bed. The first buzz of the alarm is often enough to jolt me right out of bed, but today, i had to turn it off and snuggle back into my comforter and enjoy those precious 5 minutes of sleep.

On the way to work, i stop at my traditional Starbucks and grab my coffee and its another regular work day...................................

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Knowledge Worker

The Knowledge Worker- Definition, Quotes from other reads and some thoughts

Recently, i have been hearing statements made by colleagues and friends that "You need to be a knowledge worker to thrive in today's competitive job market." When i talk to some folks who work in the IT sector in India, they also quote that "Knowledge Management" is catching up big time in the Indian corporate world. So, there goes my topic for this blog.......

Definition of Knowledge Worker:

Peter Drucker, one of the gurus in People Management coined the term 30 years ago. A knowledge worker (KW) is an employee who adds value and brings in more talent to the company by processing existing information to create new information that could be used to solve problems. The primary role of a knowledge worker is to analyze the information that will help him or her make decisions that will benefit the group. The KW is someone who works well in a team by sharing information, is always interested in learning new stuff and willing to experiment with by taking risks and expects to learn from their mistakes instead of being criticized for them.

Examples and Types of Knowledge Workers:

Lawyers, Engineers, Doctors, Bankers..etc everyone who is in a profession where they make use of their intelligence to convert their ideas into services, products and processes for their organization are called knowledge workers.

Drucker, Peter. Management’s new paradigms. Forbes, 1998, 5 October. (reference)

There can be 2 distinct types of knowledge workers for practical purposes:

1. Core Knowledge workers- Those in specific knowledge management roles with those job titles such as Chief Information Officer, Librarians, Knowledge Analyst, Content Managers etc.

2. "Everyone Else" -Constitutes all other knowledge workers such as engineers, doctors, managers, administrators etc, ie everyone engaged in some form of Knowledge work.

Thoughts and short story:

Employee A and Employee B started their career with company STARS in the same year. Both of them had similar masters degrees from good schools and had the same kind of hopes, dreams and aspirations as any other youngster. Today, five years after their career with STARS, A was still hoping for his long-waited promotion and pay raise, while B had already barged into higher circles with better projects, more pay and title change on his way. Feeling remorseful and bitter about his lack of growth and envious of B's success, A blamed STARS for being partial. A also started feeling that B was "sucking up" to senior management by seeing B's constant luncheons and meetings with the higher-ups.

Finally, one fine day, A decided to knock at his manager's office and asked him the reason behind his lack of progress and B's growth. "We have the same qualifications, we put in the same hours and have similar experience. But, why is that B is treated differently from the rest and is lucky?"The manager replied saying "This is so because B is a knowledge worker".

The differences being that while A was a hard-worker who worked quietly in his cube. B was motivated, out-going and independent enough to put forth his ideas in group meetings. More than talking, B ventured out to take risks and find solutions. He established processes and even though he was not successful all the time, he learnt from his errors. B made an effort not to repeat past mistakes and also to share ideas across the board.

Moral: In today's economy and competitive work environment, companies want to retain employees who are knowledge workers. The knowledge worker is self-motivated to acquire knowledge and deliver his best for his team!!!Comments and suggestions on this topic are welcome...........................

Friday, August 05, 2005

Alan Dershowtiz's Advocate's Devil

Another book review that i would like to write about - I read "Advocate's Devil" by Alan Dershowitz a few years ago and became interested in law and specifically criminal law after that.

Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School has been widely acknowledged for being the nation's most peripatetic civil-liberties lawyer and one of the country's most distinguished defenders of individual rights. The novel examines the moral dilemma facing defense attorneys and the story is entertaining, fast paced and the treatment of ethics question is great. An excellent read for Legal Ethics as it portrays the division of a defense attorney between that of a person and that of an attorney. Another feature of this book is that Alan's female characters are both cerebral and independent women which is so apt of the present world.

A common man can get a reasonably good insight into the perverse and immoral lifestyles of many NBA players and the groupies that are too available for their pleasure and subsequent debauchery.

Alan is a well known figure both in Harvard's classrooms and courtrooms. He has defended some noteworthy clients such as OJ Simpson and Mike Tyson. A good read for all those criminal law lovers like me!!!