Monday, January 28, 2008

To The New House

**** Gee!! This is the 101th post! :) I can't believe I made a century!! ****

We moved into our new house over this weekend. I must confess that this new house thing did give me a temporary high of being married. Like they say that crack or pot is a vulgar shortcut to the feeling of being enlightened and removed from the world, this house gave me the fake happiness of being a wife, at least a housewife.
My flatmate Shruti works as a receptionist at a clinic in the city and everyone including her boss gave something for “our” house. As University students, persecuted by lack of space in a small two bedroom unit in the middle of the city, we were even willing to sleep on floor if we had to ( that is how traditionally “students” are expected to survive in Indian culture). However the God of Abode or whatever is the Heavenly word for house was pleased with us. So we received a few big boxes of goodies. There was one where I found a deluge of cold and grey steel cutlery that nearly brought tears of joy in my eyes.
So as Shruti, her friend Kym and my friend Sergio drove around the city to all our “donor’s” houses, I took charge of putting everything that they brought in into order. When left by myself in the house I went through a series of contrasting emotions. The frenzy of using the brand new vacuum cleaner (that came out of our student budget and happens to be my favourite cleaning accessory), the peace of mind after having done it, the happiness bordering euphoria when all the shelves were lined with blue “non-slip-easy-grip-shelf-liner”, the nostalgia of watching my granny “do up” kitchens as a little girl, the crinkle of worry when I saw a string of black ants with some serious agenda going somewhere around the sink!
I have been diagnosed with a compulsive urge of inviting people over to dinner since we got this pretty house. Shruti has already had issues with my being “too cheerful” first thing in the morning but now she has something new to deal with. She rolls her eyes every time I take a sneak peak into the recipe book or every time I become a little “too friendly” for my personality just so that I can invite the other side over for an “Indian dinner”.
One particular evening as both of us were walking back after signing the lease, Shruti was thinking of getting the money together for the furniture while I was lost in oblivion with my fantasies of inviting people over. She does not let me order coffee at coffee shops or talk to mailmen because she is worried that I might end up inviting coffee-shop girls and mailmen over to dinner.
It is funny how every girl eventually turns into her mom. We used to tell aai not to invite someone over every weekend because she hardly got time off for herself but now I know what it feels like to be her. :)
Cooking is something that I would gladly do all the time if I have nothing to do. I have promised myself that if ever I reach a point in life where I get sick of my job ( which is a sickeningly negative thought I agree) I would start a restaurant or turn into a chef. :)

I tell myself that it is just a house. It means a lot however when you are far away from home. When people from different ethnic backgrounds and nationalities help you move and also make sure you have all the things you need. When a living room emerges out of two hours of vacuuming, democratic rearrangements and a lot of borrowed muscle power. When it is seasoned with flavours of humor, like the fully loaded pick-up truck going neutral on the steep slope or cracking the mystery of assembling the patio chairs!
It all makes you feel at home suddenly and you forget that you are originally from X land doing your PhD in Y land currently talking to a Zian. It is just you and as you unwrap that very last big wine glass, you say to yourself, “Yey!! I am Home!!”.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Quirky??? ME!!!??

Ms. Insain tagged blame her!!!

The rules of this game are:

Link to the person that tagged you.

Post the rules on your blog.

Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.

Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.

Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.

1. I am a glib talker..I tell you everything I did in the lab the whole day WHILE I SLEEP! Talk about multitasking!

2. I take near compulsive showers before I go to bed. I cannot sleep peacefully if I don't take a shower.

3. I am a cornflakes junkie. I can substitute any meal of the day with cornflakes and be happy about it. According to Shruti, I also create new meals with cornflakes having a bowl of Uncle Toby's at 4 in the afternoon.

4. I speak in an English accent when I am drunk and I speak better English under the effect of alcohol. ( Baba please don't read this and even if you do, don't tell aai)

5. I tend to skip and forget words or end up in funny spoonerisms when I have something very important to say!

6. To my flatmates' dismay, I am a complete morning person. I blossom at around 5 AM and wither by 9:30 PM. I have almost had frying pans thrown at me for being "too cheerful" first thing in the morning and I have been heavily sympathized with for fading into my sleep talks as early as 9 PM. :)

I am sorry I cannot tag people because it was an effort trying to remember all these things about myself and I lost a big chunk of the Federer-Blake match doing it. So I set the six random people free. If any of my readers want to tag themselves and do it, go ahead! :D

Buses Trains and Ferries

I am sometimes a bit ashamed to accept that I never really traveled in a bus in Pune.
I was always driven around by my mother's infamous driver called Gopi. He was a brat and so was I. We got along really well amongst accusations from other people in the office that Gopi was pampered beyond measure by the "management" because he was responsible for carrying me around.
On a typical weekday morning, he used to come to pick us up exactly at the stroke of half past eight in the morning. While we were having the royal "Keskar" breakfast ( with things like boiled beans, colorful salads, masala chai and rotis made by the "morning maid"), he used to read all the available newspapers in the house. Then when I came out into the living room, wearing about 2 inches of fake height, he picked up my purse and laptop and took it to the car! I just got in and sat next to him while my mum occupied the backseat. We would play RadioMirchi and Gopi used to update me on all the new movies lined up for release that week. In the matter of local politics he was the most well read man I have ever met. He used to know the names of the corporators in each area by heart. I think driving was just his means of earning money so that he could read the newspapers and I would not be surprised in the least if ten years down the line we have to go and meet him in a busy Municipal Corporation office to "get things done".
If I ever had an urge to splurge, all it took was a call to him and he would take me to the far off destinations in Pune, cutting his way through the traffic and waiting for me for hours to finish up.
On Sundays, he used to drive us to the biggest vegetable market in the city and carry our bags back.
He also drove me to the beauty parlor once in a while and read the notorious extreme Hindu newspaper. ;)

So when I came to Brisbane, I ended up losing a chunk of my affluence just by walking to the University.
Now, every time we have to go anywhere we start off with Google maps. Then using the online timetables, we figure out the train, the bus or the ferry that takes us there. As a student I get a concession on my travel fare so I have to carry my concession card with me. :)
I was really bad with the buses in the beginning but now that I have done more than my share of traveling looking for a house, I think I actually enjoy it!
Trains are the most dynamic way of traveling. I really like the train rides. If you live far enough, you can catch up on your reading on your way in and way out. Unlike the ones in Mumbai, these trains are sparsely crowded and you can actually sit down and read. The take you to even the farthest points in the city in less than ten minutes and you can grab a cup of cappuccino from the coffee shop at the station!
That is what my flatmate Shruti and I did. The moment we landed on Central Station, we used to grab a cup of coffee to pep us up!
I don't wear high heels anymore and I am always found in sneakers. I don't splurge, essentially because I don't have the money and the enthusiasm to waste whatever I have after a long walk that ends an even longer day. If you ask about beauty, I have confirmed that it IS but skin deep! :)

We looked at some thirteen odd houses before we finally got the one that we are moving into. So every time some agent shot down our application, we used to say, "Never mind! At least we got to know where Cooperoo is!".
In my early days at Bus and Ferry rides, Shruti was like a Guru to me. When I used to travel with her, I never payed attention to what she did. So when on some occasions I had to travel without her, I got down at the wrong stops and had to sprint to make it on time to the estate agent's office.
Some of these times, we "assembled" our journey using a train, a bus , a ferry and a healthy walk just to feel good about ourselves and sometimes we took detours so that we could stop by at our favorite cafe for a lemon pie and Earl Grey.
Traveling with Gopi was one of the happy experiences of my life, but I think traveling using so much public transport is happier in comparison. :D

I like this city more because it has such a flexible network of public transport and I like myself more here because I am glad I was introduced to "moving around" with bus route numbers in my head and my favorite music in my ears!! :)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Come On!!! :D

It is really hot in Melbourne and it is not just the summer! :)
After a very long time, I took time out to watch back to back tennis matches today.
I always wondered what keeps guys hooked on to sports until I realized it myself when, unknowingly due to the presence of some people in my life, I took up watching tennis. 
I think a good match is THE best way to unwind. 
I am really lucky in that respect. Whenever I get a tad too emotional about life and start getting as irrational as a girl can get, they have a Grand Slam. :) I guess it has got more to do with the fact that we have one every two months. :P
Just to make it all the more pleasant, when you are in Australia and you follow sports you make a LOT of friends. 
Sports is Australian Culture!

I like Hewitt with his "Come On!s" and Djokovic going all over the court like a ping-pong ball. 
I was especially happy to see that Ms.Miroslava has put on weight ( I can't help that she is Federer's girlfriend, but at least I am fitter than her! :P)
All my respect to Ms. Mirza though, for putting up  a great fight against Venus. 

I have heard of people making "Things-to-do-before-I-die" lists. If I ever have one, being at the Wimbledon would be one of them. All complete with strawberries with cream, a hat and sunglasses! :)
Well as long as we are making wishes I think making it to Melbourne next year seems like a plausible option!! 
Go Federer!! :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dream Talk

I always knew that I do not snore in my sleep. :)
That was one certainty that gave me a sense of self-knowledge. I mean, women never accept that they snore even when they know they do. My mom never did until the time when my dad recorded her snoring one Sunday afternoon and gave her a tea-time present. Even then she denied it by saying that it was bad recording and what she heard was "the air" around the tape recorder.
We must have lived in a torpedo prone area back then!
However I was blissfully unaware of a latent talent that I possess - Sleeptalking.
I do not know what is the Greek-Latin name for that disorder but I positively have it. It explains all the times when I used to wake up suddenly in the middle of the night thinking I heard someone laugh. My flatmate Shruti brought it to my kind attention a few days back. I did not believe her the first time but then one day she told me that I was talking about inverting some NMR tubes and wobbing up again. Then it seems I went on to consider frying the NMR tubes before using cherry tomatoes. All of this reminded me of a vaguely similar situation that I was in not long ago before I woke up. I had to accept that she could not have invented such a geeky situation all by herself ( although she is no short of a finance geek).
I think she should have just had a silent laugh and not told me about it for since then, I have not slept peacefully even a single day and what is even worse, when I actually did even for half an hour I ended up talking! It seems I talk to the entire post-grad room in my sleep. I have detailed conversations about weather and politics mixed with a lot of cooking!
Sometimes I laugh in my sleep and when she tells me that I did in the morning, I spend an awful amount of time wondering what was the joke that I heard in my dream.
It has changed my attitude towards wakefulness dramatically. While I am awake, I am so conscious of my thoughts now for the fear of talking about them at night that I have almost turned into a saint. I do not think evil thoughts for the fear of sounding evil in my sleep.
When I am in the middle of a dream soap sequence where I am the vamp who is about to send a stinger across the room, I shake myself awake to avoid talking about it.
We all have a really mean person inside. Someone who is good company when you know that your association is clandestine. Like when someone gets married and sends you their pictures and as you are admiring the colorful ladies all lined up beside the bride in their finery, the mean woman in you goes " Hmmph! The bride looks awfully fat!". You and the mean woman inside have your own wicked laugh!
Or when in your empty moments at your desk ( which are not essentially empty but are specially "vacated" because you are lazy) you dream about making it really big as a Chef or a Talk Show Host, which is completely out of sync from the job that your are currently busy procrastinating.
What if all of that is made public? What if everyone gets to know about the mean woman, the aspiring chef ( and dry cleaner) and the Grammy,the Oscar and the Pulitzer all in the same year?
So this sudden realization has turned off the day-dream mode that my mind used to run on. Now it is just real life, that too de-caffeinated , without the judgments.
Needless to say that I am under the influence of a perpetual jet-lag now. I take long coffee breaks and doze off at my desk when they leave me alone. At night I try and keep myself aware and try and wake up even at the hint of a dream sequence specially designed my the happy side of my Ego.
It is stressful. I hope we get a new house soon. Something that lets me babble without having to face it the next morning!! :D

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ah! You are from IndiAh!!

We had to install a reactor at work today.
As a Geek ( who is trying to come out of the closet) I must accept that I enjoy such installations. Mostly because
1. They give you a chance to play with machines under the guidance of people who can fix them if something goes wrong
2. You can unwrap a lot of new things and unpack a lot of boxes which gives you an "imitation high" of having done a lot of shopping!
3. It brings you together with people from different backgrounds

We were four at work today. My Greek PhD mate Sergios, A Swiss technician specializing in reactor vessels and an Egyptian lady who specialized in the Infra Red probes. :)
It was an intensive session but these kind of sessions are always seasoned with coffees and lunch that call for a break from the "delta T mumbo-jumbo".
Having an Indian in the group is always useful. The discussion always turns to India and most of the times it begins with, "Ah! So you are from Indiaaah!" :D
The Swiss gentleman who I worked with today had been to almost all the places you can go to in India. So he let all his thoughts loose. It just struck me how much there is to talk about India. So I thought I would enlist the "usual" discussions that I repeatedly have with people who meet me for the first time.

1. Can you make curries?
When I say that I can they instantly want to be best friends with me. So I usually say that I can even though I have never really even remotely tried to design the kind of curry they make in the Indian restaurants here.

2. What spices do you use in Masala Chai?
These people are used to an atrocious packaged tea that includes all the spices that are grown in and around the Indian subcontinent. It is something that has cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon,cardamom and I guess even pepper! So when I tell them that my masala chai is made just around 60 degrees C with cardamom and cinammon they begin to question my nationality!

3. Do you "practice" Yoga?
I really don't know what to say when they do that. These people have profound faith in Yoga. I have met people who religiously do some of the most arduous Yogasanas and also Pranayam. As a fitness freak, I have done all the preliminary Yoga lessons and I am glad my grandfather and mom taught me the basics of breathing and meditation. Even though I prefer "running" all over the city to the good old Yogasanas, I thank aai and ajoba for giving me a half yes to that question. :)

4. Where is Bollywood?
The Swiss technician who I worked with today had been to Ramoji Film city and he is a great fan of Amitabh Bacchan. He listed out some of his favorite Indian movies and Rang Dey Basanti and Black were on the list. He praised A.R Rehman and confessed that Planet M is one of the funkiest music shops he has ever gone to!
Most of them know Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai and they think that like Beverly Hills, there is a place in India where we can actually go and say "This is Bollywood" :)

I am amused and honored to be the one who is giving out so many answers for I certainly did not have that kind of luck back in school. :D
I like the intrigue and charisma that surrounds India.
Even though I am this ordinary brown girl who is trying to get a PhD in some difficult-to-digest-over-a-cup-of-coffee process, my country makes me special! So the ordinary brown skin turns into a " Oh! you have a lovely complexion".
Somehow I represent the "Indian Woman" ( and I have to remind them that they should expect more if they are basing any of their imaginary sketches on me!).
I love being an Indian! :)

Monday, January 07, 2008


Why is it so difficult to get the right cornflakes:milk ratio first thing in the morning?
When you add cornflakes, it is too dry!
When you add milk, you need more cornflakes!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Rebirth and Salvation

I am a big fan of the "Speaking Tree" column in The Times of India.
Over a period of time I have realized that people around me ( that sometimes includes me too) are regularly confused about faith.
I still remember the first day I went to see my supervisor. I was lost and jet-lagged and the third question he asked me was, " Are you a Hindu?" and when I said "yes" he asked me if I was a "practicing Hindu".
I have never really thought myself as a "Hindu" all my life so it took me a while to say yes and it has taken me a long, serious contemplation to find out if I practice any religion!
I think, we take religion too literally. The Geeta talks about reincarnations and rebirths and it is written in succinct Sanskrit that needs repeated reading over a lifetime.
I believe in God but I have my own custom-made personal God. I think He is the ability within us, that helps us move ahead and evolve as better human beings ( if we intend to do that). He is the ability to bounce back after failure and the belief that we are going to be alright, when we are actually not alright at all.
I read a very funny story about an atheist a few years ago. This atheist was so much against the existence of God that on one of the walls in his house, he wrote repeatedly, like a scripture a sentence that read "God is nowhere". Eventually he got married and had a baby son. His son started reading and spelling out words and he went into the room and read " God is Now, Here".
I do not know about life after death but in our everyday life we do go through a lot of places that are like rebirths. For example ( to make this a little lighter), think about a habitual chocolate eater. She decides to give up chocolate and drop some baggage around her waistline. Everything is fine for the first few weeks but then she begins to crave it and ends up breaking her resolve! That is a reincarnation. :)
Then she decides that she will take the vow again ( after she has successfully added even more baggage) and this time, she goes without it for three months and manages to drop a staggering five kilos! Then one day three days after a first date with no sign of the guy calling back and a pressure-filled week at work, she comes home and dips a big spoon into the chocolate ice cream tub! That again is reincarnation!
Then some day, she meets a Fitness Guru ( whose name has an S an A and a couple of Es in it) and takes tips from her. :)
She does not deprive herself of chocolate and starts going for regular walks and jogs. She includes a whole lot of health food in her diet and gradually loses all her extra kilos without having to stay away from chocolate. She realizes that a regular work out not only makes her look good but also keeps her fresh and alive. She begins to get appreciated for her energy and good looks and she likes herself more as a person.
Twenty years down the line, she is still the same size and you can see her dipping spoons in tubs of chocolate ice cream every now and then. That is Moksha!
That is what the Geeta says about desire. You attach yourself to it and hanker for it, you will keep going back to it and making the same mistakes that make you feel miserable. If you accept it as a part of your life and think beyond it, it will never turn into this attention-seeking-tantrum-throwing-ill-behaved-child and make you commit the same mistakes again and again.
Just as they talk about Death and Salvation in a cosmic sense, there are a million little deaths and salvations we attain in our lifetimes without realizing their importance.
Life is a big bunch of little moments that take us towards Death but Death is not as static as it seems to be. We have to live through many tiny deaths and make sure that we don't live the same loops that we have left behind all over again!
Religion is a balanced way of life and as long as you live happily it doesn't matter what book you follow. After all they all arrive at the same truth! :)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

This year I have three New Year Resolutions
1. I am not going to wear pointy bright yellow shoes to work
2. I am going to stay away from experimenting with firecrackers
3. I am not going to smoke even a single day

Now before Aai calls up my supervisor to get me kicked out of the school and Ajji rushes for her prayer beads, let me tell you why I made those kind of resolutions. :)
It is so easy to resolve to stay away from something you never do!
I love such loop holes. :D

If I really have to make a resolution, I should probably resolve to learn to take it a little easier.
As a school girl I remember one voice ringing in my ears making me get up on time, get good grades and attend my dance classes three days a week. That voice belongs to my mom.
I still hear it ringing in my ears for various reasons but now it comes from inside and it is my own voice.
There is nothing as dangerous as knowing how it feels to be able to finish a good job. It can sometimes turn you into a machine that does nothing but good jobs. :)

I would like to wish everyone a very happy resolution free new year!!