Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays

Pic: Courtesy of Google Image

I feel like I am out of school, yes, in some ways it is true. Our office closed for the holidays on Dec. 19th and we don't head back to work until Jan. 5th. Spent the last week organizing an XMas party, exchanged gifts and cookies and wrapped up stuff at work.

It is definitely a nice feeling to be at home- sleeping in without any alarm to wake up to, taking the day at leisure, watching Sun Tv, cooking and eating home made hot food, the afternoon naps etc. Guess, it does make a nice change in routine to be at home. Just realizing that there are so many home projects to do- cleaning out the closets, getting rid of old stuff, emptying out the pantry, reading old journals and going through albums from the past, there is enough to do at home to keep one occupied.

And, am I not glad to be away from the snow storms and blizzards of the mid-west and north east. I wish I could be in Hawaii, ideally, but, given where I am I should not complain too much. I wish a flight to Chennai could be less than 8 hours and cheap, so that a quick trip to enjoy the December/markazhi kutcheri/concert season can be made, but, those are all just wish lists for the time being.

Wishing all bloggers a great holiday season, have a safe journey if you are flying or a bash with your family and friends or simply soak in the festive lights and spirit of the holiday season at your home.

Seasons Greetings!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

An Award to make your day

Krishnan of Musings and Miscellany has graciously bestowed the Proximity award to me. This award couldn't have arrived at a better time to boost my spirits and motivate me to write more regularly. At a time, when you are trying to get out of blogger lethargy and get out of being caught up in the mundane routines of work and home life, an award like this, definitely makes you sit up and think about living upto to it.

What is this Proximity award about?
"This award is given to a blog that invests and believes in PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

So, without further ado, here are my 8 selections to whom I would like to pass on this award, you have all indeed been truly proximate through your writings, be it a cooking recipe or a family blog or a space where you write about your ideas and thoughts .

1. Sachita
2. Sundar
3. Laksh
4. Cham
5. Sasa
6. Priya from Canada
7. A-kay
8. Aparna

Enjoy the rest of the week!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Break in Service and Other Things

It's official that I've been out of commission for a while now, didn't have much enthu to write about stuff nor had the motivation to read all my fellow bloggers posts, though, I've occasionally glimpsed through some of them. I guess blogger lethargy sweeps in once in a while and am hopefully attempting to break the spell and start writing again.

A lot has happened in the past few days and we aren't even done with the first half of December yet and I am already wishing for this year to end.

The Mumbai attacks have indeed caused immeasurable losses, pain and more than any other emotion, anger to a lot of Indians world wide. While, almost every blogger has expressed their hurt and concern over the brutality, I have no additional thoughts to chip in. A Caucasian colleague of mine who read every Indian and Pakistani paper there was to read online on the attacks, sent me this one liner titled humor out of tragedy- "Forgiving the Terrorists is GOD's responsibility. But fixing their appointment with God is entirely OUR responsibility."

A year that is steadily seeing the US unemployment rise at a frenzy that only seems to make layoffs the norm in several work places. Come every Thursday and Friday, irrespective of whether the company's earnings report comes out or not, there appears to be announcements of job cuts. With this rapid cut in our workforce, even top economic analysts are unable to predict when the job market will hit the bottom. And, the bad news doesn't stop with this intensifying recession that is still seen going well into the first half of 2009 and when a recovery comes, if it does, will it bring more jobs or sustain an already suffering middle class. Will Obama's stimulus package bring in some sort of relief? Will the US auto industry ever be able to rise from its worst ever? Will national security and terrorism continue to be a significant factor on the new president elect's agenda? Lastly, will most employers be able to find some budget saving relief by mandating forced shutdown for atleast 2 weeks for their staff?

Well, with so much clout hanging over our heads, I sure don't see us heading into a cheerful holiday season. This year's Xmas and New Year are going to be low key gatherings for many families where gifts are probably not going to be exchanged.

Not to end on a negative tone, but, atleast let's try and think of the good things and blessings that life has bestowed upon each and every one of us and use that as a tonic to get us through some tough times.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Getting Caught Up and Happy Thanksgiving

I can't believe its been more than 10 days since my last post and I have to admit that I've not caught up with all my other blog readings, either. It has been a full blown cold/flu season for me. I took my flu shot as soon as they offered it at work, thinking that I will be healthy through the cold season this year, but alas, how mistaken could I have been- For I have been falling sick since the week after. A combination of nasal allergies that turned out to be a cold and a horrible sore throat to the point of losing my voice to a croak, it has been a miserable time the past few weeks. The Tylenol Colds, warm water gargling and nasal puffs can take you only so far. But, I am thankful for feeling better this week, though haven't got rid of the symptoms completely.

Only now, do I realise how much important it is to be hale and healthy. A healthy body does wonders to maintain a normal temperament and keeps life going smoothly. Another awakening moment came when I felt that I could not afford to get sick here in US, with being allowed to take only so many sick days off at work and having to manage at the homefront too. In India, falling sick was not a big deal at all, cutting classes at college and staying home to be fussed by mom's cooking and dad's care and a visit to the family doctor nearby who loaded me with antibiotics and injection, I would feel better in 4 days and not fall sick for a while, unless I did something out of the ordinary like getting drenched in the rain and eating ice cream etc. Here, I take extra care to dress warm, cover myself with layers from head to toe when I go out and also when I am at home, inspite of which the cold bug gets to me. And I think it really is attached to me, for it lingers for a while and even when it feels like its gone, it is only coming back to me.

Anyways, enough already about my health, but, with thanksgiving break coming up, it is a good time to relax, enjoy the break, eat pumpkin pies, squash, cranberries, stuffing and mashed poatoes with gravy (yes, that is going to be my vegetarian thanksgiving meal tomorrow, if I feel much better). And of course, shop till you drop down on Black Friday to make the most out of the top deals.

Happy Thanksgiving and more blogging to follow next week.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bicultural Children- India and California

Video: Courtesy of San Jose Mercury News

Earlier this month, San Jose Mercury News had an article exclusively based on the kids who had returned from the Bay Area to Bangalore, India. Reading the article, gave me a better insight into the lives of children who are now, more than ever, exposed to and are living in two different cultures.

Global careers and economic opportunities lure several NRI folks back to India to settle down and as a result the children are also forced to tug along to a place that seems as foreign as it was to their parents when they first arrived in this country as graduate school students. The number of Indians going back, especially from Bay Area, given its Indian population is still on the rise with every passing year. As a result of this, several young Silicon valley children are trying to adjust themselves to the school environment, community and plain simple, just living in India.

Statistics show that per the National Association of Software Service Companies, atleast 22,000 NRI's have returned to India and more than half of it is from Bay area. Companies like Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Oracle are some of the major corporations that the parents are employed in and when they go back to posh, expat style, gated-community living in Bangalore where their neighbours are colleagues and friends from US, life is much more secure. Little do they realize, that just outside the walls of those posh residences, there exists profound poverty, which is the first glimpse of reality that their US returned children get to see.

While, attending International Schools may not be that much of a shift in cultures, nevertheless, the differences are still striking. The article has excerpts from what a few of the kids who were unhappy with their Indian classroom experiences said-

1. Students at school must stand up any time an adult enters the classroom
2. Students are required to address instructors as "Sir" or "Miss" and of course wear uniforms, somtimes with ties.
3. More than that, they have to wear a name tag/badge. One of the girls asks,"How many California schools make you wear a dog tag?"
4. Have to endure teasing from Indian classmates about their American accent.
5. Girls are not allowed to wear make up to school or even let their hair down, which is very much an active ingredient of teen school life in US
6. Last, but the most important difference is that the kids find that their teachers don't encourage creativity in the schools. Neither do the teachers encourage asking questions (in fact, many times the teacher tells you to shut up and listen to her talking), sometimes the teacher's response is "You don't need to know that." In the US, school and education is more about helping you grow as an individual and being creative and applying your learnings to real life examples.

A few other students who had adapted more easily to their new surroundings and environment had the following to say-

1. Coming to India breaks your mental block of America being everything in the world to you.
2. There is a lot more to the Indian community and you experience something very different and enriching.
3. Mingling with other religious students and learning about India's ways makes us more flexible with adjusting our ways and hence we have no fear of the unknown.
4. While there are no high school proms and dating activities, we do lot of things within our community as a group of friends.
5. Life here is much more slower and relaxing than being in US.
6. We have different people to cater to our needs, like a driver to take us out, a maid to clean and a cook for our meals and of course access to cousins and grandparents is always there.

While the census is that some kids are more adaptable than others, it is still a safe haven of living in a posh neighbourhood inside a world that is cut off from the poverty and other aspects of day to day Indian living, though a drive in the car and while waiting at the signal, you'll never miss begging children rapping on your air conditioned glass windows.

But, some of these kids still keep in touch with their Bay area friends, especially the ones who miss their silicon valley lives the most. They are up at night chatting with their friends who live here and look forward to the summer when they can be back in the Bay Area to attend summer school and do other activities that aren't there in India. And of course, like most other expat kids, they will be back in the US for their undergraduate education.

While, both returning parents and children come to terms with living in a global culture, sometimes, it just feels down right confusing for the kids, while the parents keep telling them that your old silicon valley life has not gone away, you've just grown an extra one and will go back to your old one once you are in college.

Link to the original article: http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_10898080?IADID=Search-www.mercurynews.com-www.mercurynews.com

Happy Children's Day and Thank God its Friday!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Prop 8 in California: YES or NO

Pictures: Courtesy of Google Images

If you live in the Bay Area and tune into your radio while driving your car or listen to the local news or see slogans propped outside homes, the term Prop 8 is perhaps the most spoken word around here. While, the Yes and No for support or not in favor of Prop 8 keeps shifting and to me is down right confusing, I thought that writing a post about it might help get some clarity.

Proposition 8 is one of the electoral ballot propositions that was entirely devoted to the State of California. The ballot title of Prop 8 was "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry". Before, it was passed, same-sex marriage was a constitutionally protected right in California. In other words, Prop 8 would amend the state of California to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman.

VOTING YES ON PROP 8 means- you will define MARRIAGE in California to mean only the union between one man and one woman.

VOTING NO ON PROP 8 means- you will define MARRIAGE in California to mean the union between any two people regardless of gender, which includes same-sex couples.
(No change to the original state constitution right).

The electoral campaigns both For and Against Prop 8 raised several millions of dollars. While Democrats are the liberals who would argue that treating one group of people differently is unfair and wrong, conservative republicans might dig into their stance that failure to change the constitution for heteresexual marriage would require changing school curriculum etc. Of course, just like Obama, many liberals may not be that clear in their stance or vote Yes for Prop 8.

Nevertheless, just thinking about this topic that has been debated at all levels at nauseum, it makes one ponder about what their core beliefs, values etc. are. For the immigrant folks like me, where we hail from a culture that still has a higher percent of arranged marriages happening, it is indeed a shift in paradigm to think about same-sex couples getting married.

While, I've often felt that it is okay to accept a person if he/she is attracted to the same sex and try not to treat them differently, and also come to terms with them living together as a couple, calling their union as a Marriage is what bothers me somehow. Can't it just be named as a Union or something along those lines, instead of calling it Marriage. Because, the union between a man and a woman is a marriage, since they can give birth to kids etc. Yes, agreed that two women living as a couple can adopt a child, but, how would that child be raised. Who would it look up to as Mother and Father roles, would its thinking get impaired are all questions that I ponder, but have no answers to.

Anyways, this is a topic that is indeed controversial at its core and is still debated about widely here in Bay Area and had to make a post about this one.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama: A Force to Reckon With

Pictures: Courtesy of Yahoo Photos

November 4th, 2008 was election day in America, a day that is awaited by millions across the country and world, in anticipation and eagerness. The day did not disappoint America, for indeed, history has been made with the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president and the first ever African American president of the United States. The victory was a landslide with Obama claiming 349 of the electoral votes (required 270) defeating his opponent John McCain who got 142 electoral votes, though the popularity votes were close enough.

Chicago celebrated, New York and California rejoiced as did Kenya and other nations across the worlds who watched America elevate its stance in the international arena by proving that democracy is the still the strongest power in today's global world.

As a permanent resident in this country, who has another couple of years towards getting citizenship, I couldn't vote in this historic election. But, as an immigrant and just like any other minority group, the moment of seeing Obama deliver his victory speech, makes me emotional. I saw thousands of African American people, both men and women, crying, for many would not have dreamt that they could be alive to see the day when a black man would get elected to the white house in this country, indeed, CHANGE is here, big time. It gives hope for millions of colored people, be it from an Asian, Hispanic, Latino or any other community the hope to dream big and the belief that anything is possible in this land of opportunities.

Now, that I've raved about how one can hope in this country etc. I want to delve more into how Obama made this happen. Just being an African American senator from Illinois, didn't give Obama an edge over the others, but he had to work ten times harder than your average politician over the years to get to this point. And, of course, he has all the right elements in perfect combination to make him who he is.

A few reasons why I think Obama won, based on my readings, observations and of course getting the facts right from the internet and news-

1. A member of the democratic minority, representing a swath of Chicago's south side, he had done what he could so as one of the most liberal senators in a Republican goverment and was ready for a change.
2. His community organizer background gave him the ablity to appeal to people, listen to their concerns and deliver speeches that enthralled his audience.
3. Obama has the right educational background, a law degree from Harvard and the mantle of first black president of the Harvard Law Review.
4. His personality that has been subjected to close scrutiny throughout this race, depicting him as a cool headed, intelligent politician. His rare talent is to mask his hard inner core and unyielding ambition to make something extraordinatry of himself and promote his ideals.
5. Lastly, his campaign, I've heard is run so methodically and strategically that the organization functioned like clock-work and paved the way for his victory. Obama's steady, corporate campaign management is another depiction of how timing, planning and action are all crucial to attaining a high goal, such as this.

At his victory speech in Chicago's Grant Park in front of more than 100,000 people, Obama after thanking his supporters (he didn't mention Hillary and Bill Clinton, was a bit surprised at this and wondered if the omission was intentional or otherwise)went on to say how the challenges of tomorrow, one of them being the worst financial crisis of the century and the other being planet in peril will be faced.

While, change comes with this election, let us wait and watch to see what Obama does in his first term after taking oath into the Oval office in January. But, for now, Obama's success story is that of a young man, whose search for the identity of his own roots and his quest for change makes him a unique and a prominent president in the global arena.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

IT'S HALLOWEEN by Jack Prelutsky~

It's Halloween! It's Halloween!
The moon is full and bright
And we shall see what can't be seen
On any other night.

Skeletons and ghosts and ghouls,
Grinning goblins fighting duels,
Werewolves rising from their tombs,
Witches on their magic brooms.

In masks and gowns
we haunt the street
And knock on doors
for trick or treat.

Tonight we are
the king and queen,
For oh tonight
it's Halloween!

Its Halloween day and I have no costume to wear, simply because I didn't have the enthu to go and get one and dress up to come to work in a costume. Almost everyone at work is dressed up and I feel like a kid who is left out in a colorful fancy-dress competition. I tell myself that maybe next year, I will sum up the courage and venture out to try out some costume that will suit me. My colleagues are knocking on my door and showing off their costumes, we have a costume contest at lunch and as HR I again feel so left out and a little out of place. It is becoming harder for me to respond to their queries on Why I haven't dressed up, because it looks like it is part of my HR duties to not only coordinate the events, but also dress up and soak in the spirit of the day.

But, I did make it a point to go and decorate our front lawn a few weeks ago with some skeleton heads, cobwebs and halloween stuff (picture will follow soon) and I am fully equipped with variety candy to treat the kids when they come around for trick or treating tonight- I so look forward to that every Halloween and am hoping that there is no rain to stop the kids from coming around the neighbourhood tonight.

Happy Halloween and enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Married and Happy at 25 or 65?

One of my favorite shows on Sun Tv during festival days is to watch the "Pattimandram" which is the tamilian version of a debate with Solomon Pappaiya as the moderator. His snide remarks and sattirical humor always make watching the pattimandram more enjoyable. Usually, he starts out by giving a prelude to the topic of debate and there are 2 teams with 3 speakers who take turns and speak one after the other opposing their opponent's views and strengthening their own arguement. After everyone has spoken, the moderator finally gives his verdict on the winning side using his rationale from the debate. This year's pattimandram topic on Deepavali day was, "Does happiness in life come out of marriage when you are 25 years or does it come when you are at 65 years."

I am just trying to sum up the arguments made by the speakers and of course, add my two cents to it, too. Life at 25 is definitely lots of fun, a road to new beginnings, fulfilment of dreams and desires etc. Being engaged, falling in love and getting married (either the arranged way or other way), the first job, the first date, first anniversary, first gift, first baby, so many firsts make it all so much worth living for. The first fight with your spouse, followed by several others in due course etc. are also part of the works. Of course, making up after such tiffs and the lessons learnt about your partner are all part of the marriage game at 25. Also, life at 25 is filled with changes and rushes past by without the extra time to savor and enjoy the niceties.

Life at 65 is laid back and comes with a sense of contentment. A pension and secure savings provide the financial stability, while dependecy on a son/daughter may also rock this age. There are times when the son/daughter may not always be that patient or accomodative with your old age quirks, but, if your significant other is around, it makes living more bearable. While sparks don't fly off at a glance into each other's eyes and you don't even have to touch the other person, there is a comfortable silence and mute understanding of what your spouse is thinking at this wise old age. Listening to your wife cough through the night, may not be that pleasant and happy, but, getting up in your tottering steps to fetch her a glass of water and gently holding her hand, may bring happiness and comfort. If your grandfather is out on a hot sunny day to the near by post-office and isn't back at his usual time, the concern on your grandmother's face and the way she walks to the door and peeps out, is probably the best depiction of what love is at that age.

Finally, the verdict was given to Marriage and happiness being enjoyed the most at 65 and not at 25 years. At 25, a lot of the feelings are passionate and associated with physical needs and superficial, but, is like bright spring season, with the blossoming of flowers and color. At 65, life in a marriage is about sharing concerns of who might die first and what will happen to the other spouse and is shared from the heart and soul and is like the changing colors and falling leaves of fall season. Enjoy and savor the thrills of married life at 25, for those are probably the best times in one's life and welcome old age with grace.

Thanks to the moderator Solomon Pappaiya for a thought provoking topic and a befitting verdict.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Deepavali Wishes and a different tale

Monday, 10/27 is Deepavali day in South India. What that means is for folks like us living in US, we get to celebrate it on the weekend. A get-together with a bunch of friends, a potluck dinner and maybe lighting some lamps and wearing new clothes sums up the make-do version of this widely popular Indian festival.

For those who don't have parents or in-laws visiting, Komala Vilas in Sunnyvale sells Deepavali legiyam or marunthu, a medicinal mix that takes care of indigestion problem that may tend to occur while devoring on sweets and snacks during this festival.

It has been 8 years since I was there in India for Deepavali and frankly, I don't regret it. My fears with Deepavali go back to my childhood days when I was scared stiff of loud bursting crackers and while growing up in India, every year I would dread the arrival of Deepavali day, as it means I would be huddled under the bed with my ears stuffed with cotton scared of cracker noises. It would be a struggle for my parents to drag me to visit my grandparents place, as I would not step out of the house. My folks would compare me with the small child holding the 1000 walla in his hand and bursting it, while I couldn't even bear the noise. I would cry and howl in fear and my heart would beat so rapidly at those firework sounds, that nothing was worth the trouble for me. Over the years, the fear just wouldn't go away and I used to tell my folks that I can't wait to get out of India and come to US, so that I didn't have to endure this day.

Of course, wearing new clothes and enjoying the different sweets and savories and watching all the new movie release shows, new songs, Solomon Papaiyah's pattimandram and movies were the day's highlights. My poor mother would be in the kitchen all day cooking while I would be sitting on the couch watching TV without even an ounce of guilt. Those days, when my dad would tell me to go help her in the kitchen, I would never oblige him. But, sitting in a far away country and after years of growing up, I finally feel some remorse for not helping my mother and selfishly watching TV, while she never got to see any of the TV programs.

Also, growing up as an only child in a very nuclear family, the lack of cousins etc. only made the festival seem even less appealing to me.

I am happy to be here in US for this year's Deepavali too and wishing you and your families a very Happy and Joyous Deepavali, no matter where you are, soak in the spirit of the festival that lights up the hearts of many all over the world.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Puppy meets his match- cute video

I am a huge lover of dogs and especially cute puppies. This was too cute to resist posting- Enjoy!

Happy Monday!

Friday, October 17, 2008

What is your "Word" ?

Just started reading the much acclaimed book "Eat,Pray,Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. A detailed analysis and review of the book will be a separate post later. Basically, the book is about an American woman's search for everything in her life across Italy, India and Indonesia. But, even as I've completed exactly 100 pages in this 330paged book, the author whose narrative of the story is in first person, throws out so many ideas, thoughts and topics for discussion that I can think of writing so many posts out of the readings. It will be appropriate to say that atleast one post can come out of one page's reading in this book, such is the content material.

This will be the first out of many posts to follow from several anectodes in this book.

During the author's stay in Rome, Italy, a snippet of coversation between the author Liz and a friend result in the friend saying that the secret to understanding a city and its people is to learn- what the word on the street is? The friend explains that in any place if you could read a passer by's thoughts, you will find that most of them are thinking the same thought. Whatever that majority thought is,will be the word of that city. And as an individual living or visiting that city, there will be one word used to describe your current personality and if that personal word matches the word of the city, then you totally belong in that place. Makes sense?

A few examples given by the friend and the author are-

What is Rome's word?
Answer: SEX (Since that is what is there on the mind of most of the people all the time)

What is Vatican's word?
Answer: POWER, though you'd think FAITH is more like it.

What is Stockholm's word?
Answer: CONFORM (depressing one)

What is the word in Naples?
Answer: FIGHT

What is the word in New York city?
Answer: ACHIEVE (yes, it is a verb of course)

What is the word in Los Angeles?
Answer: SUCCEED (a subtle but significant difference)

The coversation then moves to more specific questions that the friend poses to the author, which might be worth answering in our own lives.

What was the word in your family when you were growing up?
My answer to this would be Abundant and Religious (yes, I used 2 words).

Lastly, What's your word?
If I had to use this in my current state of affairs, I would come up with Restless.

It will be interesting to hear what your answers to these last 2 questions will be, if you want to share them. What I really liked about this message/exercise is that by coming up with that one word that best describes you at present, it brings about a clear realization of who you are or your current state of mind.

Happy Thinking and enjoy your weekend..

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pissed off

I guess this blog is turning out to be a venue for my rants and vents with life's happenings. So, without further ado, a narration of something that happened towards the close of work day yesterday that still has me pissed off.

Being the sort of sole HR person in my office, one of my job duties is to put together events, parties etc. With Halloween coming up at the end of the month, every year, we have a grand costume party, lunch etc. at work that is organized by me and our Operations Coordinator. So, usually the emails on such upcoming events etc. are sent to the group from me or sometimes by our Ops Coordinator.

C is our Finance person who not only keeps track of our budget, but also thinks that she controls the money that we spend. In some ways, it is good that she has a tight control over our spending so that we are well within approved funds etc. According to me, C is a control freak who always keeps saying that she wished she had more power around the work place to do more things. C, Ops Coordinator and myself all report to the same manager.

Yesterday, right before the end of the day, I see an email that comes from C to the group about the upcoming Halloween party etc. My first reaction was maybe our manager had asked her to send it, for some reason, though I knew that wasn't the case. I was so pissed to see C step on my forte by sending out the email to the group, more so, since it was I who had brought up the topic of Halloween at our last team meeting. She should have atleast checked with me before sending it out, so typical of her want to have power over things. I never interfere in her area, Finance and have no clue as to what gives her the right to poke her nose in my domain. Granted, we are a team and we all come together to do things, but, we do have separate portfolios and it is so annoying when someone steps on your toes.

On the pretext of checking something with C, I emailed her and added a line mentioning that I was surprised to see this email come from her. Thought, she would respond to it, but nope. Spent a significant time venting to K about this last evening. I also emailed my manager venting off about this. Finally, decided to go directly to C and ask her about this in the morning. I had to take several deep breaths and calm myself before going to her, since I didn't want to lose my temper and say something regretable (which is so typical of me). But, at work, I am a whole different self, so when I asked C as to why she sent the email, she had some story about how she was thinking about our big boss (whose favorite event is Halloween and recently how she had a death in her family and was still recovering), so, in order to cheer her up, she sent the email on a whim without checking with me. C had absolutely no remose, even when I told her that I was feeling bad about it etc. She said that I could maybe do a follow-up email/evite for the event if I wanted to, since I was going to be doing the logistics of planning etc. The cheek and nerve she has to say that to me, I just put on my professional smile and said, No, that is fine, you can do it, if you want to and came back to my office.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Change is part of life

The last few days have been a whirlwind of activities and happenings. Amidst all that, the daily routine goes on. A weekday is a typical weekday with the usual waking up, packing lunch, gobbling through the morning's breakfast and beverage and the commute to work. In the office, its going through the same old emails, solving new issues that arise, surfing through new blog posts etc. Depending on the kind of day you've had, the time seems to have flown by or the day drags itself. Come evening, the commute back home, plans for dinner, a quick workout, watching the never ending polls and debates on CNN, the news and its time to hit the sack for the day.

Routine is like my anchor to day to day life. More than the routine, a sense of familiarity makes life secure for me. A familiar place called home to come to, sleeping in the same bed, going to the same office day after day, watching the same show over and over again make the world a safe haven for me.

A slight change in status quo or events doesn't board well with me at all. Forget even accepting the change, even being open to changes in living is not my cup of tea. I know some of my friends who are also wary of changes in life, but, still, I guess they accept it as part of life and go with the flow. There are others who thrive on change, meaning a routine way of doing things, repeating the same activities etc. becomes mundane and makes life dull and boring. New activities, new ventures, or a mere change in the order/way of doing things keeps them going.

My lack of willingness to embrace change and fear of the unknown and unplanned is something that needs to be overcome. Sure, it is not going to happen overnight, but adding a touch of spontanity will sure make life better, it seems. While, even opportunities for taking risks and trying out new things don't come our way often in life, I think being a little optimistic on the whole concept of change will atleast make me look at those as opportunities and not as threats. Writing this post, makes me think that every situation in life needs to go through a SWOT analysis (something from my management classes)- look at the Strengths, analyze the Weaknesses, seize the Opportunities and know the Threats to make a successful management decision.

While, I am may not end up turning a new leaf and embracing change right away, atleast I can watch it from the sidelines and try not to be overly critical of the changes in other people's lives.

By Aldo Kraas

I need to have more patience with others
I can’t fight with people anymore
Because fighting is no good for me and others
What can I change?
The way I think I must change
What can I change?
Get the negative thoughts out of my life
What can I change?
My feelings towards myself and others

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Book Review: The Unknown Errors of Our Lives

I just completed this Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's book, thoroughly enjoyed reading this collection of stories of Indian immigrants who have migrated to the US and the adjustments that their lives undergo- be it connecting with their familial roots back home or making accomodations to the life here or bridging the generational differences that transit beyond seas. Every story resonates with a moving pulse on how human emotions thrive in individuals, families that have a cultural connection embedded in them.

The book has 9 stories and each story is unique in its own way. While every story portrays the dynamics between a parent and child or between siblings or in-laws, each one is poignant with a sense of reality that leaves behind a mark in our hearts.

Most of the Indian families that Chitra refers to hail from North India, especially West Bengal, but, the stories are very applicable to any woman or man from India living abroad. Without giving away the contents, each story has a direct message that ties into the title, the unknown mistakes that we make in our lives. There is a tale of an Indian woman settled in the US who is forced to make amendments with her estranged father when he wants to see his grandchild in his older days. Another story that rings with reality is that of a widowed mother who comes to US to live with her son and daughter-in-law only to discover that her ways are considered old-fashioned, embarassment to her daughter-in-law. A story about an Indian girl who visits India and goes on a pilgrimage tour, only to discover herself and the purpose of her life. There is also a tale about a lesbian woman who meets someone from India in this country and how their relationship blossoms into one of comfort. A story with the book's title is also written to express how a young woman paints about Indian mythology and the comforts that she draws from those paintings to deal with an unexpected twist about her fiance are all woven beautifully into this collection.

While I did not enjoy reading Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's "Mistress of Spices", this book, more than made up for it. A good read that knocks some lessons into our heads and makes us think about the unknown errors that we ourselves may have done in our lives.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Our Golu for this year

A glimpse of our golu this year for all those who couldn't come in person. Thank you to all the friends and bloggers (some) who made it to our place last evening for viewing the golu and taking vethala-paaku-sundal.

This year's golu was a lot similar to last year's in the arrangement, still using moving boxes for the steps (padis), but got some good information from friends on the assembly of proper wooden racks from Home Depot, Ikea etc. Hopefully, next year, we'll have a much better set-up, assuming that this is a project for K to complete within the next year.

The new additions to this year's golu were the Dasavatharam set (heard that after the movie, this set is now a popular in most golus) and the Ashtalakshmis (8 Lakshmi's). The 8 Lakshmi goddess being Adi Lakshmi, Dhana Lakshmi, Dhanya Lakshmi, Gaja Lakshmi, Santana Lakshmi, Veera Lakshmi, Vijaya Lakshmi and Vidya Lakshmi.

My personal favorite is the musical Ganesha set that comprises of several forms of Ganesha either singing, playing an instrument or dancing.

A visit to the temple to see their golu display, eating lots of different types of sundal over the weekend (tasted pattani, chick peas, black-eyed peas and peanut sundals), receiving and giving small gifts as part of the vethala-paaku thamboolam, getting dressed and meeting beautifully dressed women in traditional attire, hearing some folks sing at the golus, the weekend was filled with activities and cultural fiesta.

With just a few week days of the golu left, and with Saraswathi puja and Vijayadasami, both falling on Wednesday and Thursday respectively, marking the end of this navarathri, this year's golu was another pleasant occasion.

Happy Monday....

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Picture Tag/Colorful Meme

Apar of Random Ruminations has tagged me, so here goes-

a) Answer the questions below, do a Google Image search with your answer, take a picture from the first page of results, and do it with minimal words of explanation.

b) Tag 5 other people to do the same once you’ve finished answering every question.

1. The age you’ll be on your next birthday-

2. A place you'd like to travel to-

3. Your favourite place

4. Your favorite food

5. Your favorite pet

6. Your favorite color combination

7. Your favorite piece of clothing

8. Your favorite TV show

9. First name of your significant other

10. The town in which you live

11. Your first job

12. A bad habit you have

13. Your dream job- DIRECTOR OF

14. Your worst fear

15. What you'd like to do before you die

Though, I would like to choose 5 bloggers to tag, not sure if they would be willing to take it up, so please feel free to pursue this picture tag to share more about yourself and your interests, if you feel so.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Through the eyes of a visitor

Last weekend, we had a second cousin of my husband's come visit us. C is related to my husband distantly, and since my understanding of the family tree and relations is very limited, settled upon calling her the second cousin, seems simpler. C who is a few years younger to me is from India and is here in the US on a B-1 business visa to work on a project for her company's client for a few weeks. She arrived last weekend and is put up close to her client's site in San Ramon valley. My husband has met her only twice or so in his lifetime during weddings etc. in India and I've never seen her. C arrived in SFO last Saturday and called us several times during the week to ask if she could come over and meet us. Since she stays about 3 hours away from where we live, we told her to use public transportation to come to the station closest to our place from where we could pick her up.

C arrived on Saturday morning after taking a cab, changing 2 trains at a station 30 minutes away from our place and my husband picked her up. After they got home, we took off to attend a company picnic lunch hosted by my husband's company. C filled us in on her background and her routine since landing in US about a week ago. Apparently, her client office here has only 5 folks who all work from home. She is the only one coming from India to work on this project and hence works from her hotel room. She visited another distant family member's place during her first weekend and since then has not seen anybody else. She had spent the last week 24 hours a day locked up in her hotel room and was longing to interact with people.

Anyways, I spent the weekend taking her out for shopping, took her to the Indian grocery store and we went out to eat etc. C couldn't take her eyes off the Sun TV channel while at home and chatted away to us all the time. It was interesting to hear about some of her remarks and observations about the lifestyle in US.

1. During the one night she was in our place she couldn't go to sleep at all. She told us that it was too quiet here, no sounds of traffic from the roads, no noises etc. and it felt scary for her to fall asleep. So, she pretty much spent Saturday night watching TV till morning and fell asleep on the couch at dawn.

2. She loved the highways and the orderly lane traffic that whizzed past by, but still said that she preferred to ride her Scooty on Mount Road anyday, chuckle);-

3. Someone from her client office took her out to lunch on her first and only day in the office to a Greek restaurant and she had panini which she hated and said would never eat for the rest of her life. So, on the day she came over to our place and before we headed out to K's office picnic, she ate thayir satham and vadu mangai.

4. So, we took her out to dinner at a South Indian restaurant and after one bite of the sambar vada, she remarked that the vada tasted bad and we shouldn't eat it. K and I have been eating at this place for years, now.

5. We were watching CNN on and off, since she wanted to see mostly Sun TV and after a while, I was watching The Cosby Show on one of the family channels (a comedy show based on an African American family) and her expression was a dead giveaway that she would rather watch the crassy Vadivelu on Sun TV than enjoy the humor on this show.

Those were some of the distinct observations from the eyes of a visitor to this place. The views that parents have when they come here is quite different from that of a younger generation that comes from India. Made me go back to my initial days of coming to the US years ago as a student, was I this opinionated (I still am in many ways), but, most of everything about US fascinated me and I didn't know if the lack of noise, people crowding, huge family gatherings etc. bothered me as much as it did to her. In fact, the silence, the loneliness of this place in some ways all charmed me- that will be another post sometime.

On another note, today is the first day of the Navarathri festival, waiting to go home this evening and keep the golu.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Quirks of Relationships

Parvathi is a now a 35 year old woman. She hails from a small town in South India and has a diploma and a certificate in bedside nursing. Her parents are moderately incomed people who got her married to Kumar about ten years ago. Kumar came from a middle class family and was a chronic diabetic from his teens. Parvathi's parents thought that given their economic status and the difficulties they faced in finding a suitable match for their daughter, that this was something they and their daughter could accept and live with. Parvathi moved to Chennai to start her married life with Kumar. Kumar lived and worked in a government job in Chennai. His family comprised of 3 sisters who were all married and settled in various places, a widowed mother and his younger brother Raja. Parvathi settled into a routine in her new life. She even started to work in a doctor's clinic and time passed. Kumar and Parvathi had their first baby boy Shakthi 3 years later after their third anniversary.

Soon after, Kumar's brother Raja got married to a girl named Vani who was also a working woman. Kumar and Raja's mother was quite happy that she had settled off all her children and spent time staying with her daughters and sons. The two brothers and their wives lived together in the same household. After a couple of years, Kumar's health started acting up. His diabetes medicines were not helping much and he slowly developed kidney disorders. Parvathi quit her job in the doctor's clinic and spent her time accompanying her husband to his doctor and hospital visits. Eventually, Kumar underwent a kidney transplant and started post-operative treatment. Meanwhile, Vani was pregnant and she and Raja had their first baby. Soon after her maternity leave, Vani had to go back to work and Parvathi and her mother-in-law ended up taking care of the kids and Kumar. Kumar was on a extended leave of absence from his job. After his surgery, he seemed to respond to the treatment for a while and then there was a setback. Due to his diabetes condition, he was not responding positively to the transplants and was surviving with one kidney. His ailments continued for about a year, while Parvathi struggled to care for her husband and Raja spent all his earnings in getting the best treatment possible for his elder brother. The doctor's had given up hope of Kumar's survival by then and his days were numbered.

Knowing that his end was nearing, Kumar gave his wife lots of advice on keeping up her mental strength and spent time with his son who was now enrolled in kinder garden. He transferred all his savings to his wife's name and also spoke to the higher ups in his office to get her his job after his demise. Kumar passed away at the beginning of his ninth year of marriage when his son was 5 years old.

Parvathi and the rest of his family were heart broken and with time slowly recovered. Meanwhile, Kumar's mother who was living with one of her daughters in US was shuttling back and forth in her old age to hold the family together. Vani and Raja had their second baby in the following year and moved to a house in the next street where Vani's parents came and stayed to help out with the kids. By then, Parvathi had started working in her husband's office and another couple of years rolled by. She also got some money from the insurance from her husband's death and was able to manage for herself and her son. Raja and Vani often looked upon Parvathi and her son, since they lived in the next street and life went on, until the next lightning struck this family.

Vani was diagnosed of breast cancer a year later and she was deteriorating rapidly. Her parents were getting old to fend for themselves and tried their best to help out. Raja was now doing his best to try all kinds of survival treatments to save his wife. Parvathi pitched in to help take care of the kids after school etc. Within six months of her diagnosis, Vani passed away too.

Raja's mother was grief stricken at the second blow of fate to her family and stayed back in India to help her son with the kids. Time passed, very slowly and Raja developed leucoderma, a condition that leaves white patches on the skin. Another year passed and Raja's mother had to return to her daughter in US to keep her green card status.

Parvathi was now doing all the cooking for Raja and his children and continued to care for them as she and her son lived in the next street.

This is a true story from a family in our neighbourhood back in India. Recently, I heard that Parvathi and Raja had got married, per the wishes of Raja's mother. I was truly shocked for an instant hearing this, but soon came to terms with this. There has been a lot of gossip about this- The brother-in-law marrying his older brother's wife who in Hindu culture is reffered to as "Manni" and is considered to be like a second mother. But, apparently Raja's mother made the decision from a practical modern perspective, given the nature of the calamities that has happened and that her 3 grand children are pretty much raised together and that it would be extremely hard for an outsider to come into this and marry either of them without having an ulterior motive of either cheating Parvathi out of her money or Raja by being a cruel mother to his children. It must have taken the old lady a lot of courage to come up with this solution and even harder to convince the two people Parvathi and Raja to agree to this, since both of them had strongly refused to abide by their mother's thought. After a long struggle, looks like she made this happen.

Even so, my heart goes out to Parvathi who even in her second marriage is destined to marry someone with a skin disease. Hope that the society they live in lets them and their children have a smooth life.

* The names of these people from true life have been changed for this post."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Care for a Trendy hairdo?

As I was walking out of the gym last evening, I noticed a chic looking girl walk past me through the doors. Being sort of a regular at my workout place I am familiar with most faces and was wondering if another new desi member has signed up. As I was staring at her while thinking this to myself, she turned around and said hi. It was not a new member, but someone whom I knew who had gotten a new hairdo.

Having a new hairdo is like having a complete make-over, it is remarkable how someone'e looks change so drastically just with a pair of scissors. Especially, if you've had shoulder length hair that has now been reduced to a sleek close layered cut, the difference is startling. I have come to admire the courageous streak in most women who are bold enough to experiment with their hair.

I come from a traditional family where it was normal to want to have long, braided hair. Seeing my mom who had hair long enough to go past her waist, it was natural for me to want to have long hair. And, over the school and college years, it was painstankingly maintained by using the right oils, herbal and henna treatments, the same shampoo etc. After coming to US, like many others, the change in the water etc. gradually resulted in hair loss, but still, there is enough left over for a braid. A habit that started in the teens, I can hardly let my hair loose or even do a pony tail, it has to be a braid. On my last India trip, a cousin of my husband's remarked that it is nice that being in the US for a few years now, I continue to have reasonably lengthy hair and still braid it, unlike in India where its hard to see folks having long hair these days. She said most people want to go to the parlor or a stylist and then experiment with their tresses- Curling naturally straight hair, using highlights and coloring the hair, gelling them etc. have become the norm of the day. Even my mom, whom I least expected to say, wants me to do away with the tresses and go in for a shorter hairdo. It is the in-thing these days and helps you fit right in at work in a western workplace.

But, I am not ready yet. Seeing how others around me are so bold and free to experiment with their looks, I am so skeptical about this whole concept of getting a shorter haircut. What if I don't like what I see and want all my hair back? What about those efforts and the time it has taken me over the years to maintain the length, is all that a waste if I decide to do away with shorter hair. So, many doubts and fears of having a new hairdo. I indeed applaud the wannabes who have embraced the new styles and made the transition. Maybe, someday, some other time I will be able to take a leap into the shortcut, but until then, the tresses are here to keep and grow.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Musical Personality?

Recently, I read an article about how people's musical preferences bring out their personalities. Apparently, a study has been conducted by a professor of Herion-Watt University in Scotland to correlate the link between a person and his or her choice of music. There is also an ongoing survey that people can take anonymously on their website http://peopleintomusic.com to know more about how their music interests determine their personality. Some of the questions in this survey are pretty interesting to respond to.

So far, the results based on the responses from people all over the world indicate the following-

Jazz and blues listeners are people with high self-esteem, creative, outgoing, gentle and at ease.

Classical music listeners (includes Indian classical too) are people who also have high self-esteem, creative, but are more shy in nature, not outgoing.

Country and western music listeners are considered hard-working and outgoing.

Reggae listeners are creative but not hardworking, while rap lovers are outgoing.

The research also pointed out an astonishing similarity between classical music listeners and heavy metal fans that they are both creative, but not the outgoing types. Also, the professor has found through his research that those who drive sports cars and have blaring music through their radios, are the ones who are mostly high income folks while the folks who listen to softer, relaxing music are lower down on the income scale.

Now, that the research results are out, it would be good to pause for a moment and think about what type of music each and every one of us listen to and try to understand more about our natures. I think that for most youngsters who get exposed to western music in their teens, a lot of it comes with the crowd that they hang out with. If your friends are talking about a cool band group that does rap or hip-hop, then there is the tendency to get hooked onto that. At college and later years as one matures, one learns to listen to more genres and appreciate the various types of music.

As for as Indian classical carnatic music goes, a great deal of it comes from growing up in a traditional family where music is very much a part of the household. It is only natural for folks who were raised in that environment by hearing their grandmothers and mothers sing become more attuned to that. Also, children growing up in those kinds of households are sent to learn the basics of the swaras etc. from a music teacher at a young age. There are sections of those youngsters who become interested in pursuing the interest as they navigate through school and college, while there are others who drop out after a while.

Whatever be the music you listen to, it is always good to know more about why that particular genre interests you and also help understand yourself better. After all, at the end of a tiring long day, listening to good music is one of the few things that can be soothing and relaxing.

Have a great weekend...

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Weight Loss Paradigm

As women, our lives tend to get occupied with work, home life etc. leaving us little or sometimes no time to focus on ourselves. What with the fast-paced lifestyle we lead and having to deal with all the daily stresses that come our way, our well being takes the last priority on a to-do list. By well-being, I am referring to one's physical health. This has been a topic on my mind for a while now.

While some Indian women are born lucky with the "slim gene" embedded in their system, most aren't. So, working out to stay in shape or to shed the accumulated pounds becomes a priority. The weight loss battle seems like a long drawn battle with results that don't show up for a long time. Unlike, doing something that fetches immediate gratification, this is one experiment or process where the outcome does not manifest itself right away. Hence, the motivation to continue on a regimen of exercise and diet is short-lived.

Has any one heard of the term yo-yo dieting?
It is when one starts on a quick weight loss diet and then doesn’t exercise, which results in a lowered metabolic rate (your body now burns less calories each day than it did before). You quit your diet. Now, you return to eating as much food (or more—because of a sense of deprivation) as you did before your diet. As a result, you gain weight gain beyond what you previously weighed and the cycle continues....

No, I am not a diet plan, since I enjoy good food and have a weakness for sweets and pastries. So, it is doubly harder for me to fight this battle of trying to lose weight. As my fitness center instructor says, "You didn't gain this weight over night, so you won't lose it over night too."

I am not this huge weight loss advertisement woman trying to come down from a size 20to a size 10, but, I do want to lose the inches. I had a workout routine, but, consistency is what I lack. I thrive on it for some months, then come a cold or a flu and a couple of days to the gym are lost. Slowly, the couple of days becomes a week and I end up feeling like I have lost out on whatever little progress I had made earlier.

Today is Monday, a new week, hoping to get back to the routine again.......

Monday, September 08, 2008

Women=Chores, Men=?

It has been 10 days since my last post, the lack of a post can simply be attributed to just being caught up in the mundane routine of life. Someone once told me that "Work expands to fill available time" and that is just what has been happening to me. There is the usual routine of waking up every day, the commute to work, getting caught up with the emails and projects in the office, plouging through lunch and then back home in the evening. Plans for cooking dinner, grocery shopping, a quick workout (if time permits), catching up on the latest on CNN news from the gustav and hanna hurricanes to the Sarah Palin controversies etc. there seems to be enough things to make the day fly by.

A weekend arrives and with it comes all the other household chores of laundy, ironing, trying out a new recipe, a car wash, more cleaning around the house etc. It just seems that there is always something to do around the house. A friend of mine who has a 1 year old kid was telling me the other day that these days she hardly has time to wash and comb her hair. She is a stay-home mom whose routine is 10 times worse than mine.

The life of a woman seems to be a 24x7 fill of chores and activities. Here in US, it becomes one routine, thankless job of doing everything by yourself. Yes, while we have the husbands and fathers who are more willing to help around the house these days than sitting in front of a TV with a remote forgetting the external world. It seems like many times, we women prefer to do all chores by ourseleves. This is because we strongly feel that a certain job has to be done in a certain way and since we are the ones who can do it perfectly, we prefer to tackle most of the chores by ourselves, but then, end up complaining that "there is no help from the other person."

I guess if most women realized that if they let go of some of their perfectionist way of doing things or didn't end up strightening the things that their spouses or children did, most chores around the house will get done and who knows, we may even have time for a pedicure, a bubble bath and to catch up on reading some novels.

Happy Monday to all............

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What kind of person is this?

I am an email person- which means just like anybody else I thrive a lot on email for my daily interaction with colleagues at work and with friends and family too. With the latter two now being spread across the globe, this is the only way, besides phone calls, to keep in touch. It is economically not feasible to talk often to every friend you've had from school or college to keep in regular touch. So, email fulfills that need. While several of my friends who live both in the US and outside too, are prompt with responding to emails, some are not.

Life brings about changes, a new job,a hectic job, marriage, kids etc. and I have to keep reminding myself that there are people outside the US who don't check email for several times every single day. One friend of mine who lives in Chettinad, Karaikudi has internet in her chettinad home, but, with two young kids and a busy routine in a joint family household, her emails are restricted to about 4-5 every year. Initially, it was difficult for me to comprehend her life, but, with the passing years, I got used to it. I guess this is because I knew her from college, still meet her when I visit India and am able to sort of come to terms with her email tendencies.

But, what is hard for me to understand is a family member, like a cousin type, who is in the same age group, in fact younger to me, who has no great family commitments, has email access at home and work and lives in another part of the globe who hardly responds to email. When you send her an email, there will be no response from her at all for a week or more. The first few times this happened, being the persuasive type, I even sent her an email asking her if she got my earlier ones. A response with some excuse will come in her own sweet time. After venting about it to K for several times, I still couldn't get this out of my mind. A month or so passes by and I swear to myself that enough is enough, from now on, I will not be the first one to send her an email and then feel this way about it. Exactly a month and a half later, she sends me an email just to catch-up, am definitely plesantly surprised here and reply right away. It has been a few days and again there has been no response from her.

I don't know her as well as I know my friend, and have no idea as to what to make out of her behavior which according to me is definitely odd. Even a blogger from Chennai, whom I know only through the comments on my blog, responds quickly. She is even less communicative if I happen to see her on chat online and over the phone answers to the point, so you kind of get the feeling that she doesn't want to talk much to you. So, what do I assume about this family member from her delayed responses, lack of initiative to converse over the phone etc. No, she can't be that busy to not respond to an email for a week or longer, what kind of a person is she, hmmm..makes me come to all sorts of conclusions.

One more day to go before the long weekend................