Occupying 2012

Update: The post below has been in making for several weeks now. I never realized how big it was getting, till today when I’m sick and at home, and decided that I didn’t feel inclined to edit it. Apologies for the self-indulgence. The vacation pictures, I’m happy to report, are finally on my hard disk and while  the travelogue is going to take some time, those on my FB can see the pics at least.

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Well alright, since I’m now done sulking over issues I was sulking over, I thought “Hey, now that all this sulking time has been freed up, what ELSE can I do?” (Wow! I can say so much in every sentence even while using one word thrice in it and my posts are so informative – NOT.) And then the blog came to the mind. You should all be glad you’re the ones I chose over the million possibilities that arose in the aforementioned event (Collective rolling of three sets of eyes being steadfastly ignored now).

Since that blasted travelogue is taking way too long to get written, because of the photographs not getting transferred and me not being able to go “Oh yeah! That was the picture taken on that mountain on that day.. I forgot about writing anything about that day in the travelogue” (I’m forgetting stuff, man, and names of places in Spain were not easy. My brain, it hurts!), I decided to return with something even more self-obsessed than a travelogue of epic micro-detailing. Correcto – my resolutions for the year 2012! Please don’t go all “resolutions? That shit is so 1990s” on me now, because I never made resolutions in the 90s and such statements make me feel like I’ve always been behind the curve, not just now.

One thing I did realize while thinking through my resolutions was this: It’s addictive. You start with one good thing you want to do, one bad habit you want to change and suddenly, you’re hit with this truckload of all the angelic things one can do to become the next incarnation of one’s favourite deity (never mind, none of it is original) and you take on too much. Not that this realization stopped me from promising myself sainthood, but I did try to filter out those that didn’t have very sound logic for me as a person/ me at this stage of my life/ had other practical limitations I could not control. For example: As a person, I cannot go on an Atkins diet. At this stage of my life, I would not want to quit my job and be the vagabond I was a year ago. World domination has practical limitations I can’t control. 😀

Without much ado (too late for that though), here goes:

Cut the guilt: If there’s anybody in the world who could make Feeling Guilty the passion and enterprise of their lives, I dare them to better me at this! But don’t jump to conclusions just yet. All of this guilt is not unfounded or resulting from things beyond my control – some of it is a very complicated mix of regret and procrastination and/or attitude. It’s the latter that sends me spiralling down the rabbit-hole, for all the “if only I had”s I think up. I’ve only recently begun realizing (headway!) that little solves itself after I’m done wallowing in my guilt. But the worst part? I underplay the things that I did do right because I’m so busy beating myself over things I didn’t. The resolution for the year is to remind myself: What is the worst that could happen?, even if it takes asking myself that ten times a day. I also think these things help me balance my guilt:

    1. Praying:  I don’t do this often enough. In fact, I pray only when something bad happens. Or when I am truly scared because of something I see or imagine. In those 15 seconds of prayer, I feel like I’ve placed my fear aside and it won’t come back. Maybe it’s conditioning, but it really doesn’t come back. It’s hard to explain but in times of crisis, I feel like my left brain kicks in only when my right brain is done praying. God knows I could do with some more such magic in my life. If I can ship out my worries in advance and pay my thanks before I’m reminded to, why hoard them right?
    2. Giving:  I have been horrible at this. Which means, I may want to sound or feel like a compassionate person, but I’ve wasted a long time not doing anything concrete for the less fortunate around me. In time, money, material, help – something.  I have tried to fix this earlier, but sadly never made the right effort to do my research and make up my mind. I’ve taken the first small step to correct this, in 2012, and am keeping my ears and eyes open for other opportunities. And can I say it already makes me feel lighter!
    3. Forgiving:  I know I’ve written before how I’ve learnt to get bothered less and less by things that previously annoyed me. Guess what? I may have learnt to stay shut when annoyed, but that doesn’t teach me to either snap at someone totally uninvolved later or nurse a grudge for months. If it’s something hurtful someone has said or done, more often than not, they can kiss my friendship a very permanent goodbye. Here’s a small problem. No matter who you are, and no matter who your friends/ acquaintances/ relatives are, you’re bound to have someone do something that’s hurtful to you but completely normal (EVEN “CARING”) to them. In such cases, my policy falls flat on its face and cries for its mommy. It really doesn’t help that I never forget something that happened between us – not just the words, but how they said it, when, where, how I reacted – everything. While I can’t help with the trying-to-forget part, I think it’s only the adult thing to do to forgive and move on. Not that I don’t move on any which way, but I never genuinely forgive, and when I meet other unforgiving people like me, I notice how rigid and petulant it makes them come across as. Also, there’s the tiny bit of finally understanding how *surprise surprise* despite my treading very carefully with many people, I could also be hurting someone unknowingly and I would hate it if they decided to throw me out of their lives unceremoniously.

Make that call: I’ve read countless cheesy things about how it takes little to stay in touch with friends, and making that one call can give you real happiness and I agree. But this is not about that. This is about the calls I never make to my mother. Here’s the hard truth: I cannot think of any one person besides my mother who waits eagerly to talk to me over the phone. Sure there are many people who will be happy to hear from me, and many whom I can effortlessly chat for hours with, but none of them – I know – tap their fingers impatiently if I don’t call back. And the evil in me skimps with time on only her calls. My most hurried “I’ll just call you back”s are reserved for her. The most phone fights I have had that end with hanging up without warning have been with her. The only phone calls on which I leave the phone ringing and make a half-hearted note to call later are hers, even if I’m just out somewhere doing nothing earth-shattering. Recent events around me, however, have shaken me out of this sense of entitlement or eternity or whatever, and I have been re-acquainted with not just the need to communicate with her (both listen and confess, understand and convince) but also to learn from her and be like her (I never thought I’d say this :D). In fact, let me put it this way: Nobody I know has had a life made up of as many quirks and unimaginable courage as my mother’s, and I’ll just be a fool to not learn from it. Even if she can seldom never word her advice politely. (One day, when I can do better with words, I should try and explain our relationship on this blog.)

 Be fearless: To say this in slightly less a roundabout way, it means that I’d like to say what I want to, once again. I’m sick of being politically correct. I’m sick of trying to protect feelings, more so in cases where the favour is not returned. I’ll be very selfish and say that it only serves my purpose of feeling lesser guilt if I don’t impose on myself the need to be “proper” and “loved by everyone”. Not that anybody thinks I’m very proper anyway :D. Sometimes, because of my choice to remain non-confrontational, I later feel like a tragic hero whose glory is behind him now (how filmy!) and the rage takes over, but I really want to stop feeling that. But please stay with me, because I’m not done yet. In saying this, while I do want to fight with all my might for what I think is right, I really need to choose my battles better.Being fearless will also mean that I am no longer obliged to align with anybody else’s opinion or pop culture. So here goes: When I work out, I don’t listen to any kind of meaningful or soulful or even respectable music. My favourite number to work out to is – brace yourselves – Party Rock Anthem (LMFAO). Judge me all you want, but everyday I’m shufflin’ 😀

Live the beautiful past: I think this blog is the perfect embodiment of what I will be saying now. I neither write enough, nor look at old photographs enough (though many are clicked on every occasion and vacation). I have hardly bothered to hang or frame our pictures around the house. I reckon it’s time to correct all of this.

Give me back some of my 2011: Though the latter part of 2011 saw me feeling like a TV junkie and a zombie, there were a few days in the earlier half of the year when I was completely without a purpose and any commitments (for anyone who’s forgotten/ not read this blog back then, I was unemployed for 10 months of 2011). Going to a deserted coffee shop on a weekday afternoon and reading? I could do it. Hauling my ass to three different stores over the space of a week to collect ingredients for one recipe I decided to try? I had all the time for it. Now? I’m constantly running to keep up with what I just have to do. I’ll probably never get that glorious phase back, but I learnt that how sometimes pretending or committing to live a day or a week without any purpose whatsoever can be profoundly liberating. I want to learn languages or skills I never plan to use or just bum around on a weekend without being the responsible adult who has to “put the house together” for another whirlwind week. In fact, I can’t even put my kind of purposelessness into words right now J

The obligatory resolutions: Now of course, for the customary resolution. Yes, I do want to read more, travel more, watch more movies, and lose weight. I just didn’t want to leave anything out.

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Time Capsule

If I was to summarize the past few days, it’d be a very long post. So I thought I’d just collage it all up here for posterity but not delve into the details, and hope that when I do turn senile, the collage will help me recollect the memories. Here goes:

Shopping. Dry cleaning. Email wars. Gifts. One important presentation. Staying up all night after a really long time. Laziness. Last minute packing. Saris. Missed flight. Long airport wait. Books. Bangalore. Durga Puja. Food. Family. Festivities. Dancing. Music. Glorious food. Sleeping in. Holiday extension. Vacation planning. Early morning flights. Exhaustion.

Meanwhile, there’s been no update on the work scene. I’m just twiddling my thumbs till I hear more.

In the midst of all this though, I managed to squeeze in my answers to a tag i.e. The Book Tag. Wanted to post this on FB as that’s where I was tagged, but I prefer the blog. Read and take it up, if it catches your fancy… it’s kinda long, but much more fun than the what-are-you-wearing-right-now type tags 🙂

Warning: My take on the tag is going to involve a great deal of modern Indian fiction. I’ve been in an experimental phase reading new Indian authors, and have loved it for the most part

  1. Favorite childhood book? The Five Find-Outers series and The Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton
  2. What are you reading right now? Aftertaste by Namita Devidayal and Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry
  3. Bad book habit? – Reading in inadequate light, and mercilessly destroying the spines of paperbacks
  4. Do you have an e-reader? – Nope, but I’m accepting donations for a Kindle
  5. Do you prefer to read one book at a time or several at once? One book at a time. At most, I read two at the same time. I think of it as cheating on the book I picked up first.
  6. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? Yes, because I’ve gotten to know a whole bunch of like-minded people and that helps with reviews
  7. Least favorite book you read this year (so far)? Not one for chick lit, so I disliked Almost Single by Advaita Kala
  8. Favorite book you’ve read this year? A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. A monolithic multi-tonner, but so worth it. I can’t believe I let the length of the book dissuade me for so long.
  9. How often do you read out of your comfort zone? Not very often. Definitely never without a recommendation.
  10. What is your reading comfort zone? Indian fiction, Comedies, History
  11. Can you read on the bus? Any place
  12. Favorite place to read? In the car
  13. What is your policy on book lending? No dog-earing and at some point in time, returning them.
  14. Do you ever dog-ear books? Never. Pet peeve.
  15. Do you ever write in the margins of your books? No.
  16. Not even with text books? Only in pencil.
  17. What is your favorite language to read in? English is the only language I read in. Originals translated to English too. Can read Punjabi but the speed and vocabulary is abysmal.
  18. What makes you love a book? Story/ Concept, Humour, Detailing, Quirky analogies
  19. What will inspire you to recommend a book? A compelling story
  20. Favorite genre? If it’s a genre, Indian fiction lately.
  21. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?) – Fantasy Fiction.
  22. Favorite biography? Two Lives by Vikram Seth. Heart-warming and beautiful. Also going to read Out of My Comfort Zone by Steve Waugh soon (autobiography, but still)
  23. Have you ever read a self-help book? What do you know, I have! Some of them can be good fun if they don’t take themselves too seriously. If Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert) can be classified as one, it’s the best example of how they should be done.
  24. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)? One Amazing Thing by Chitra Devakaruni Banerjee. The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar and Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri were good reads too, though not necessarily inspirational.
  25. Favorite reading snack? Never thought about this, but mostly potato chips. Obesity explained?
  26. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience – Got some serious hard-sell for Shantaram. I liked it, but it did seem contrived in parts.
  27. How often do you agree with critics about a book? I don’t read critic book reviews. I don’t trust Shelfari reviews either. Go by the blurb or by recommendations from friends/bloggers I know.
  28. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews? There are very few I have negative reviews to share for, and I think those are well-deserved.
  29. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose? I’d love to read in French, Punjabi (I can, but not fluently) and Bangla (in that order).
  30. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read? Paperweight by Stephen Fry. It’s supposed to be funny, but the many unrecognizable cultural references and incredibly long sentences kept me from enjoying it.
  31. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin? LOTR. Yes, I haven’t read it. Yes, you may shoot me now.
  32. Favorite Poet? Not a poetry fan at all, but from whatever little I’ve read, WB Yeats, Robert Frost, Ogden Nash and Vikram Seth for Golden Gate.
  33. Favorite fictional character? Holden Caulfield of Catcher in the Rye, any given day
  34. Favorite fictional villain? None
  35. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation? Funny ones or short story collections  
  36. The longest I’ve gone without reading – A year and a half
  37. Name a book that you could/would not finish– The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi. Loved his first (The Last Song of Dusk) but this one convinced me that some authors have just one book in them.
  38. What distracts you easily when you’re reading? Real life
  39. Favorite film adaptation of a novel? Godfather, The Kite Runner
  40. Most disappointing film adaptation? In recent times, Aisha as an adaptation of Emma. Oh, the agony!
  41. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time? Approximately 2K
  42. How often do you skim a book before reading it? Almost always. Read a random paragraph somewhere.
  43. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through? A wavering storyline and sweeping clichés
  44. Do you like to keep your books organized? Yes
  45. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them? Always keep them but do lend
  46. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding? LOTR and Harry Potter. I just can’t bring myself to read them.
  47. Name a book that made you angry – A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  48. A book you didn’t expect to like but did? The Zoya Factor by Anuja Chauhan. Like I said, I’m not into chick-lit but this was unexpectedly witty.
  49. A book that you expected to like but didn’t? My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk, apart from The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay
  50. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading? Calvin and Hobbes, Dilbert, Anything Vikram Seth, Anything Wodehouse

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Well, that’s that.. And how’ve you been? How was Pujo / Dussehra / Navratri / Kanjak?

Whaddup?

My weekend in Twitter-ese 🙂

Throwing wedding treat for the team, on Friday night #FinallySinkingIn

Lazing around reading C&H, and guffawing at Calvin’s tactics #PureBliss

Cleaning, washing, drying, dying #TheDutiesOfTheDomesticated

Drooling over Bradley Cooper in The A Team #MoveOverGerardButler

Fattening self with buttery gravies for dinner #SelfDestructionStreak

Waking up at 8 am to go to the gym on Sunday #ChineseTorture

Doing 3.5 km in 29:10 on the treadmill and making it alive #NewHigh

Cooking a slightly over-salted version of chilli chicken for lunch #TwiceTheSpice

Buying two new pair of shoes and mommy’s b’day gift #MeraWalaSunday

Tagging along with husband and friends for a game of tennis #ResolvingToLearn

Catching the Eng vs. Ger match in a bar with lots of animated people #I’dRatherGetDrunk

Insanely late show of Toy Story 3 #TotallyWorthIt

Topping it with Snickers brownies from Brownie Cottage #TheIcingOnTheCake

‘ow wuz yers?

I’m back again, and have absolutely no excuses to offer about that looooong, unannounced absence. But, without much ado and for the sake of posterity, I thought I should come back and do a year round up. Here’s what my 2009 was made up of:

January: A 4 hour commute to work everyday and a horrid boss were the highlight of the month. With that stupendous a start, I should have taken a clue and taken the next 11 months off life. But no, we continued to prod along. I’d think the hazy Delhi mornings kept me going. Oh, add to that weekend trips of extremely panicky shopping for the upcoming engagement. Learnt that you can surprise yourself at how far you can go, if you keep at taking the next little step.

February: The most terrible two weeks at work, followed by the engagement.. muchos fun! 🙂 And just before the engagement, I got proposed in the whole down-on-one-knee style which blew me away. Work remained the nemesis of my life. Learnt that it’s because of work that I’ve learnt to value vacations and family-time more.

March: The much-awaited move to Bombay finally materialized! I was almost losing hope, and I was certainly losing my mind. My brother got operated on for a sports injury, which was a real scare. Learnt that life does have terrible timing, and you just have to lump it.

April: The very first month of staying absolutely alone. Strangely cathartic and mighty expensive. Met the Landlady from Hell who was one of the few people who have shocked me more than once. Learnt that staying alone is a big part of growing up. Highly recommended.

May: Met new people and made new friends. Missed home terribly, and had a HUGE fight with the landlady. House hunting in a city that doesn’t exactly welcome single people who have friends coming over, eat non vegetarian food, drink and party. Commuting from one end of the city to the other. Learnt that thinking “how bad can it get” is just tempting Fate!

June: Completed a year at my workplace. Recessionary times = proposals for bizarre projects that would get us some business, any business. Enough and more time for gossip sessions, gtalking and late night movies. The fiance’s birthday was celebrated with me, his best friend, his mom and grand-mom. Learnt that it does pay to be patient and hang on when you really don’t like your job.

July: Moved to a new house finally!! Started working on a huge-ass PSU Tender that took up all my time, energy and sanity. Red-tapism is funny only when you don’t have to deal with it. Lost my temper very very often, and not proud of it at all. Learnt that I score in negative on corporate-ness, and can’t be diplomatic in the face of utter stupidity.

August: Some more of the madness continued at work. It was sheer bliss the day the wretched
thing got submitted, never to haunt me in my sleep again.. or so I thought. More notices threatening to “reject your bid unless you submit…” and “disqualify your submission in case you don’t…” were tendered to the firm with yours truly running around helter skelter to do the needful. Oh, also joined the gym. Learnt that it never really is over.

September: The birthday month! Got thrown into another whirlwind project. Meetings, lists and excel sheets were all I saw. Oh, this was also the month of some really impulsive shopping, totally instigated by the illusion of weight loss, what with all the religious gymming. Learnt that you owe it to yourself to have something to look forward to, at the end of the day.

October: Two months to the wedding, and I was totally unprepared. Mom, dad and aunts were suitably panicked, and in fourth gear by this time. Went home, hogged on gol-gappas, made many many trips to Chandni Chowk, splurged on wedding finery, high heels and other things I’ll probably never use. Came back to hardcore mess at work. Learnt that there’s no place like home.. Bah!

November: Raced against time to get the work done before the wedding holiday began. Late nights, extreme cribbing and Excel overdose. The day before I was to go on leave brought good news at work, which made it seem like it wasn’t all that pointless after all. Was in such an auto-pilot mode that it hit me that I was finally done only when I was on that flight to Delhi. Learnt that we owe more to caffeine than we give it credit for.

December: Got married. It is awesome, scary, exciting, frightening and confusing. I have a whole post planned out for that though. Went on a much-needed honeymoon vacation to Australia and New Zealand, which was really the stuff of dreams. Came back to an awesome-r Christmas and New Year’s Eve with family. Learnt that you can always end it in style, if you couldn’t begin it so.

.. and that’s all, folks! That was my year – much learning, eh? It would have been much worse than it sounds if it were not for my mom – who’s basically a woman of steel, and the then-fiance now-husband who I like to think is like a tea bag – you don’t know how strong he is, till tested by hot water. Super cheesy, I know dude! 😀

I shall be back soon with a few posts: Being Married, A Decade Round-Up and maybe a Travelogue. Happy New Year, my 1.5 readers!! May God bless you with a splendid 2010, with lots of happy times and loved ones. While I’m at it, wish you a very Happy Lohri / Pongal / Makar Sankranti as well 🙂