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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Simplicity is a virtue


We are about to enter 2008. The eight year of the 21st century. Of what use is it to talk about the advancements we have made when we still have advertisements that talk about saving for your son's education and your daughter's wedding. Fortunately, we are beginning to see advertisements that talk about saving for your daughter's education as well. A step in the right direction.

But let's get back to the weddings. It is an unwritten rule that dictates that the girl's family will spend on the wedding. I don't know who started this trend. I'd like to give him or her a piece of my mind. (I can write pages about dowry, but it is a topic that has been beaten to death and then some more.) These days, when someone doesn't want to "ask" for dowry, they ask for a "grand wedding". Of course, the girl's family is expected to bear every expense. And then on the other hand we talk about why female foeticide or infanticide is high in India.

I have been reading about the Big Fat Indian Wedding. Any magazine I pick up has some article or the other about how this industry is growing and how wedding planners have taken weddings to the next level. Excuse me? Industry? As far as I know and remember, a wedding ceremony is meant to celebrate the union of two individuals. When did it become a money spinner? Why did it become a money spinner? And why are parents' of the girl expected to fuel this "industry"?

I've been to 7 weddings in the last month and am shocked to see kind of money that has gone into each of them. I am not going to suggest that one use this money for charity or something like that, but could this not be put away as a nest egg for the couple? From being a celebration with family and friends, the wedding today has become an avenue for vulgar display of wealth. Conversations are not as much around how nice a person the groom or bride is as they are about how much was spent on their trousseaux.

I am appalled at the state of affairs. Shocked that this goes on. Sorry that while some of us take a step forward, many continue to take many steps backwards. Simplicity is a virtue. It may not be long before we say it was one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Freedom

Every time I am inside an aeroplane and it is about to land, there is an announcement that asks people to remain seated until the seat belt sign is switched off. Yet, people start moving when the plane is still taxiing. The announcement also asks people to keep their mobile phones switched off until they leave the aircraft. Yet, people start talking on their phones even before the seat belt sign is turned off. Why?

I fail to understand why we are unable to follow commands. Is it that we don't like to be ruled? That we don't like to be told what to do?

On the streets of Delhi, when the signal turns red, unless a policeman actually stands in front of the traffic, it continues to move ahead. At times I feel we truly behave like we don't deserve the freedom we are blessed with. At others, I feel we may be well on our way to having someone else take advantage of the entire situation and come rule over us again.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

There is such a thing as a free lunch


One of the many standard interview questions that's almost always asked is, "How would you deal with a free loader?". I have never asked that question nor have I been asked that. But, every so often, life presents me with a situation that forces me to think about this.

I love cooking. My foodblog stands testimony to this. But I didn't undertake to do it all the time and for just about anybody. When I first moved here, we had guests very often. There were a couple of bachelor friends of my husband's and a couple of my friends from my childhood. Every once in a while, we also had some colleagues come over. We enjoyed entertaining and continue to do so.

But there was this one friend of S's and he would land up almost every Saturday. Worse still, he'd end up staying until the wee hours of the morning. He'd pick any time to land up at our place. I began to resent it. It became the norm. If we were in town during the weekend, he'd arrive. He'd gladly empty our booze stock. I'd be dying to spend some time with S after a hectic week or even just wrap up things and sleep, but he'd be there. He'd even specify the stuff he'd want to eat and I obliged quite often. I must admit, I never once got a compliment. Did it irk me? I'd be lying if I said it didn't. At some point, I lost interest. I offered him leftovers. If we could eat the stuff, so could he.

What irked me more was the fact that none of this was ever reciprocated. We didn't get invited for lunch or dinner. One day, I told him to take us out as I didn't want to cook. And he did. But a couple of weeks later, he told us we owed him for that dinner.

Excuse me, please! Owe? What about the countless dinners, lunches and breakfasts? What about my time and effort that went into making them? What about my stock of booze that was depleted? Just because things are inside a house, are they free? Since then, I have not been able to bring myself to entertain him at home or outside. Why should I? He's not a child. In fact, now that he's married, I'd like to intrude on his personal time on Saturdays with his new bride. But then, that would equate the two of us and I can't allow that.

All those meals for him were free. So, there is such a thing as a free lunch. Literally. Maybe someone will become a free loader and he'll have to bear the brunt. Maybe I was a free loader at some point. But I am sure I wasn't.
Am I wrong to keep score of such stuff?

This article tells me that I'm not alone. http://www.rd.com/content/my-planet--repaying-the-dinner-party-debt-/. We subscribe to the Reader's Digest and I read this article. It struck a chord, rang a bell and did many other such things. Everybody keeps score and what goes around will come around. No one's getting away without clearing dinner debts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

On the road from Madras to South India

“Are you a Madrasi?”

That’s a question I heard more often than I’d have liked to. Now I don’t take offense to a classification like that. I am a Madrasi. Because I belong to Madras. But if you were to go by the generally accepted meaning of Madrasi, then you’d be talking about at least 4 states in India that are comfortably nestled south of the Vindhyas, not to mention parts of Maharashtra and Goa. What I find most amusing is that a Bambaiya, who may be a Madrasi for a Dilliwala, would call a Madrasi a Madrasi. My own maternal family would make a solid case in point. Originally from the Konkan belt that extends from Goa to South Canara, they have settled in Bombay and consider themselves to be West Indians and not South Indians. As though the people in the south are somewhat inferior to the folks in the rest of the country and they can’t associate themselves with that lot.

I’ve wasted my life until now explaining to people that every south Indian is not a Madrasi. This conversation with my colleague at GE stands out:

P: Where are you originally from?

Me: Don’t know. I have mixed parentage. But I’d call Madras my home.

P: Even I have mixed parentage.

Me: Oh, that’s nice. Where are your parents from?

P: My mom’s from Amritsar and my dad is from Bhatinda.

Me: Oh, but they’re both from Punjab.

P: Yeah, but culturally, the two places are very different. Your parents?

Me: My mother is a Mangalorean Konkani and my father is a Tamilian.

P: Arrey, to yeh mixed parentage kaise ban gaya? Dono Madrasi hi to thehre na! (How is this mixed parentage then? Both of them are Madrasis!)


Well, now after a lot of gyan sessions, I am back in the capital city. The last one year has been amazing. I've noticed that people use the term Madrasi a lot less and use "South Indian" a lot more. Some progress. But I've had some folks ask me, "Do you speak South Indian?" People!! Last heard South India was a large region. It comprised at least the 4 states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamilnadu. There is no one language that is common to these states. Just as Oriya, Bengali, and Assamese are not one and the same, the languages spoken in the different regions of this state are not one and the same. I have a South Indian father and a South Indian mother. I also have a South Indian husband. Yet, each of them has a different mother tongue. I speak all 3. Now, which of these were you asking about?


Ditto for other things like food, weddings, mangalsutras and the like. "Oh, you had a South Indian wedding?" Now, will someone please explain to me what a "South Indian" wedding is? People look at any one of the many mangalsutras I have (thanks to mixed parentage and my having married someone from a different background) and say, "So, this is what a South Indian mangalsutra looks like." And to me, not one of them even remotely resembles the other. So what generalizations they draw, only they can tell.


The same goes for food. "Can you teach me how to cook South Indian food?" Dudes, there is no such thing as South Indian food. Just as they do in the rest of India, food and cuisine change every 50 km across the southern states too.



But how do I explain any of this to anyone? I am surprised I even try. Although people have undertaken the arduous journey from Madras to South India, after all these years, I find they haven't budged an inch. They remain exactly where they were when they began this journey. Blissfully unaware of anything. I feel sorry for them at times, I feel sorry for myself at others. But as always, this will be one more of those things that will remain beyond my comprehension.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sky is the limit

I love the colours of the sky. I can gaze endlessly at a pretty sky and I think this autumn was simply beautiful. Most of these pictures were taken from our bedroom window. I am rarely home at sunset, but when I am, I am in awe. Of nature, of creation.


The monsoon sky in Gurgaon.




The summer sky in the Garhwal Himalayas.





The monsoon sky in Manali.



Sunset at the Taj.









Sunset at home.



The twilight zone.



The waves belong in the sky as well.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Riding a New High

A dear friend, J, was visiting Delhi and I went with a colleague, D, to meet her. Then J and I decided to drop D at the Metro Station. The station that we entered at Connaught Place was so beautiful. I forgot for a moment that we were in India. I was, in a flash, transported to Singapore and Paris. On an impulse, we decided to take a ride in the Delhi Metro. It was a ride that I will never forget.


The Delhi Metro has it all. Huge, sparkling clean stations, courteous staff, beautiful trains, clean compartments and something I only thought possible abroad: disciplined Indians.


more I thought about it, the more I compared it with the Singapore Metro. The Paris Metro, at least 7 years ago, reminded me of Bombay locals. The stations there being quite filthy. Filth is something I didn't find on my ride yesterday.


It was fun listening to the announcements, watching the people, and watching the city zoom past with all its glitter. (Yes, Rajouri Garden at night is a lovely sight!) All in all, it left me in awe of the system. We can be disciplined if we want to. We can have global standards and maintain them if we want to. We can be whatever we choose to be. We can choose to be the best that we can be, but the sad part is we don't take that choice seriously most of the time.


This is the India of the future.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

On being single

I have been married for 51 weeks now. It is a great feeling, no doubt. We've had our share of ups and downs and have been through a lot together. I did reflect sometime ago about why I got married. The more I think of it, the more I realize that it was a matter of choice. Not a matter of need. I didn't HAVE to, I CHOSE to. And I'm enjoying every minute of it.


I'd blogged earlier about The Single Life. About how people looked at me, how they judged me. How they made it their business to poke their noses into my affairs (no pun intended!). I was a threat, a liability, a burden. Things have not changed much in India. All the education on being discreet and civil, on drawing lines, on personal space, either isn't there, or is just a waste.


When I decided to get married, I was almost 30. I broke the news to friends and family only to hear, "Oh, your parents must be so relieved!" Why relieved? Why not happy? What a dumb choice of words! If you can't use the right words in a foreign language, don't use it at all. I was never a burden to my parents. They were not relieved to note that I'd finally found my match. They were thrilled to bits.


Through all the years that I was an eligible single woman (eligible does not necessarily mean available), I had a few arguments with my parents about marriage, but they never put any pressure on me. I did have loads of random strangers and distant relatives telling me I was a fool. OK. I could live with that. But it always amused me. That they were so "genuinely" concerned about my well being. As though I was living off of them!


One of the movies that touched a chord somewhere, and very deeply at that, was Hum Tum. It is based on When Harry Met Sally, but it is a very different movie. I loved it for several reasons and can watch it any number of times. In the movie, there is a scene where Rani Mukherjee realizes that Saif Ali Khan has been trying to fix her up with Jimmy Shergill. And she asks him why a girl can't be left alone. Why the world is restless when they see single women and cannot rest until a girl is married. I could relate to that.


Last heard, single women were humans too. They had lives, they enjoyed their lives and were happy to be just that: single. Single didn't always mean ready to mingle or available or itching to be double or any of those gazillion things that people seem to take for granted. A single woman's life is her own. Her own to make her decisions, her own to live. Her life is not some open book that the random public can read. She is not an object of ridicule.


If only people were sensitive to the feelings of others, I'd not have such a topic to blog about. I wish I could pick from among the 10000 other random thoughts that cross my head, but the world is changing at such a slow pace with regard to the way the world perceives what I was until a year ago: a single woman!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

To Sir, With Love

I was raised by two teachers. My father was a professor of metallurgical engineering and my mother taught every subject to every class before settling down as a kindergarten teacher. A job she loved.


I taught part time at a Montessori school during the 3 years of my undergraduate program.


I can claim to know a lot about teaching and about why people get into it. But I know that a lifetime of teaching wouldn't make me an expert on that.


My life has been shaped by a lot of people. I would give the maximum credit to my parents for making me the person that I am today. Some friends, bosses, and co-workers have had a role to play as well. But there is one man who has been more to me than a teacher. And he has played a vital role in transforming an eager student into a career professional.


I wanted to blog on July 1st. About this great man. It was ten years since I first met him. I still remember the 1st of July 1997. I walked into the orientation program for my master's degree with my parents. His words, his expertise, his demeanour: everything touched me in a way that I didn't even realize at the point. We were burgled just a couple of days before this and my mind was elsewhere.


Prof S V Narayanan, Dean, School of Management, Pondicherry University: The man that people loved and people hated, but the man who none could ever ignore. He was loved by his students for his radical thinking, and was hated by others for the very same reason.


The world lost a great human being last year. To me the loss is something I haven't come to terms with. I had not until then met another like him and I doubt I ever will.


Prof: As if the fact that you are remembered everyday is not enough, they had to have a Teacher's Day. Not one day goes by without my thinking of you. I will forever be grateful for the 9 years that you were an integral part of my life. Even today I catch myself thinking how you may have solved a certain problem of mine. What your answer might have been to a question I am faced with. What my dear Prof would have done, had he been in my shoes. When I heard the news, I thought "The light has gone out of our lives". Now I know that wherever you may be, you will remain my guiding light. You always introduced me to your colleagues as your best student. I do hope that I will be able to live up to that reputation. I am glad to have had the chance to be your student. Because of you, I will always strive to be the best that I can ever be.


Happy Teacher's Day dearest Prof. May your tribe increase. The world sure needs more souls like you.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Many Happy Returns

Today is a special day. The first of September always has been and forever will be special. I once read somewhere:



There is nothing that we place above

The happiness of the ones we love.


Once upon a time (1959), there lived a young man. He decided to go to the U.S. from Bombay and pursue his dream of picking up a master's degree from an Ivy League institution: The University of Pennsylvania. Just about the same time, another young man from Madras had decided to do the same after spending two years in Bangalore. They ended up as neighbours in the U.S.



The young man from Bombay went to the U.S. and started missing home food. All the Indians (the handful of them that was there) would spend time together and were like family. But this young man still missed home. Still missed home food. And being the first son after 7 daughters and just before the 8th meant that he didn't get a chance to learn any cooking. So, he decided to invite one of his sisters to the U.S. But it is not like the family was rolling in money. The young man lost his father soon after his two younger siblings came into the world. So his mother had single handedly raised all ten children and educated them. That meant that whoever came to the U.S. had to be employed there. Our friend was not going to be able to support anyone else. Among his 8 sisters, it was the youngest who was able to come to the US and work in the same University.

This little girl was all of 20. She was still waiting her turn to enter the kitchen when all of a sudden she had to pack her bags and fly. The last month that she spent at home was a pampered one. She reached the U.S. and her brother took her out for a pizza. The next morning they had toast for breakfast and the brother went off to the University telling her that he'd be back at 12.

Legend has it that he returned at 12 to find the house empty. No one was around. Then he heard some noise in the bedroom. He went in to find his little sister crying. She never had a chance to enter the kitchen and she has no clue how to cook anything. The young man was shocked. After all, he made her move to the U.S. possible so that she could cook for him. And she didn't know how to cook.

But she learnt. Through letters from her mother. Through friends. Through a lot of trial and error. And with time she became the best cook there ever was. And since all the Indians always hung out together all the time, the other young man from Madras also got to sample her cooking. They became friends.

About 4 years later, they got married. And this day comes 44 years after that event.

My last post was about my acquired family, this one is about the one I was born into. This couple is the one I have as parents. The ones I wouldn't trade for anyone else. There is truly nothing that I would place above the happiness of the ones I love.

Amma and Appa: Wishing you the very best of everything.

P.S. The date system is messed up in my blog software and the date shows as the 31st instead of the 1st.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Family Ties

I've learned -

that your family won't always
be there for you. It may seem funny,
but people you aren't related to
can take care of you and love you
and teach you to trust people again.

Families aren't biological.

I read this somewhere many years ago. I have lived away from home for so many years that I have lived this truth. I have had my share of ups and downs, of tears and laughter, of friends and foes, of wonderful love and tearful heartbreaks.

What do you call this family that you acquire over the years? Do you have to give it a name? VJ: My dearest friend, my next door neighbour at one time, and I were thick as thieves. Still are. Born exactly 364 days after I came into this world, it seemed so special to have found a friend in him. That our birthdays had to be so close... right next door... just like us made the friendship even more special.

I moved out of Hyderabad 2 years ago and among the people I missed, he was the one I missed the most. There's something about having a great friend as a neighbour. Making friends with your neighbour is very different from having your friend become your neighbour.

We'd visited each other several times and my trip to Singapore was thanks to him and him alone. We would talk late into the night about life, work, love and everything else in between. There was no way I could give this relationship a name. I still cannot. I tell people "we're family" and people ask, "is he like your brother?" No, he's not like my brother. But he's family. How do I explain that?

He's the guy whose shoulder I cried on when I had the worst nightmares of my life. When I had repeated visions of the one night in which I lost my handbag and the love of my life, he gave me the strength to carry on. When I left Hyderabad, we'd spent months debating that decision. We could rely on each other to look at something in a very objective fashion. And as recent events proved, we still can.

I am just back from his wedding. He tied the knot 346 days after I did. And just as he came to my wedding and was part of my big day, I was happy I could be a part of his. I'd not have missed this for anything but the recent incidents made me a little unsure of being able to make it. I tried and I was there. I had a lovely time. I was family. Not a friend, not a sister... but family.

VJ: I wish you and Sangeetha the very best that life has to offer. I can never be too thankful to have you in my life.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Triumph of Mind Over Matter



I got back on Monday from a 3 day camping trip at Mukteshwar, Kumaon Himalayas. I had a lovely time and got better acquainted with my colleagues (and every muscle and bone in my body).
I had three days of trekking in the mountains, blindfolded at times, in the dark at others, chatting away with colleagues, sharing tidbits about my life, learning about theirs.



It's funny how you have perceptions about the people you interact with and how they fade away to give away to new ones. Somewhat like the layers of an onion. I never really understood that term until this trip.

I'm a complete beach bum. I attribute this to the fact that I was born on the coast (Bombay), spent 20 years on another coast (Madras) and went on to spend 2 years, under the pretext of completing a post graduate degree, at a wonderful beach resort called the Pondicherry University. I was also allergic to the beach sand as a child and so the beach was out of bounds. So, my connection only grew deeper.


But I've also always loved the hills. There's something magical about being in the mountains. The fresh air, the breathtaking views, the colours, just everything is magical. This trip, however, was about all that and more. It was about me. It was about pushing myself beyond what I thought possible.
At first glance, the view from this cliff was intimidating to say the very least. I had wanted to climb rock faces and all that when I was in college. And this trip was a dream come true in a sense. But it has been quite a while since I finished college and so quite sometime since I had the dream as well.


There I was, with a bunch of folks right out of college, most of them a gentle reminder of what I was 8-10 years ago. The world is your oyster kind of attitude. It was fun being with them. When the time for rock climbing came, I encouraged them to go on and they encouraged me in return. But when I started to climb the rock face, I slipped and fell. Not once, but twice. I was dejected to say the least and went off to eat my breakfast. The timing was off and I hadn't done anything remotely as strenuous in the last few years. That's when a colleague of mine, more a friend actually, said to me, "Arundhati, have you heard the term 'third time lucky'? Maybe that's what it takes. Why don't you try? We're all here."



I wasn't too sure. I decided to try rappelling. I loved it. Absolutely! There's something to learn from this activity, about trusting a man and a rope so much that you're sure they won't let any harm come to you. I did this twice (yeah, kind of like to make up for falling off the rock face twice!). That's me getting ready to jump off the cliff.



After meeting with success here, I decided to try climbing the rock one last time. I was off to a better start and made it half way up the cliff. And then it began to rain. I kept losing my hand and foot grips every few seconds. But there were about 30 people standing all around, coaxing me to not give up. Stuck to the cliff like Spider man, I cried for about ten minutes. Then I figured that I crying was going to get me nowhere. I saw a bunch of complete strangers encouraging me to get to the top. At that point, I thought to myself, "If all these people believe in me and feel that I can do it, what on earth is stopping me from believing that?" I cried some more, caught my breath and set out to reach the top. And I did it.

I cried again after I was done. Some people thought they were tears of happiness. I think I was just plain relieved. Boy was I glad to be back with these people! Happy that my age old belief:

  • if I want something badly enough and have the right reasons for wanting it, I will get it.
  • I will get what I want provided I work hard for it.
  • As long as I believe that I can do it.

still holds good. I am happy to be back, exhilarated that I achieved what I set out to, and thrilled to have lived a dream.

Monday, August 13, 2007

India



I once talked about some of the things that Indians do that make me not so proud of them. Here's an example. I took this picture at the Taj when we visited 2 weeks ago. The sign says in English and Hindi, "Please do not take off your shoes here" and that is exactly what everyone had done.

Where is it that we have a problem in taking orders? In following rules? I wonder. 60 years of independence and some of us behave like we didn't deserve that freedom.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Occupational Hazards


I think about the hazards that people put up with, day in and day out, just because of their professions. It's not like I'm writing an HR paper or attending a conference. This thought is a recurring one.

In school, we were taught about how asbestos factory workers ran the risk of exposure to silica dust. And for a long time, I always thought of occupational hazards much the same way. Exposure to this, lack of that, inhalation of something else: always a physical hazard. As I grew up, I also realized that being in the defence forces was a hazardous job. In its own way. But then again, not just physically, also mentally and psychologically hazardous.

I somehow never thought about my own job as being hazardous in any way. Until a few years ago. And several incidents over the years have thrown light on what those hazards might be.

I was waiting for my mother at the airport about 6 years ago. I met a guy who went to school with me. A few years my senior. We talked for a bit and exchanged cards. Then he said, "We should keep in touch." I thought, "Yeah, we should." I was looking at it from the perspective of rebuilding my friends' circle in Madras as most of my friends had moved out in the time that I was away. A few days later, I got a call out of the blue. From this guy. We got talking about this and that and at the end he told me he knew someone who is very enterprising and smart. Could I find her a job? There. It was out. Out there for me to see that the title of "Head - Human Resources, India Operations" of a multinational consulting company had worked its magic.

Since then, I have always wondered about why people befriend me. Earlier, I used to believe that it was because of who I am, not because of what I am. Now, somehow, I am not so certain. I am a little wary of people. And let's face it. I am not averse to helping someone. If I can be of use, why not? After all, I have been helped too. But I hate the fact that this "help" can be the be all and end all of the supposed relationship.

My teachers at school always thought I was a spoilt brat. I didn't want to go to IIT and my parents said OK. I wanted to study Biology and my folks were supportive of that. While I was a popular student at school for most part, towards the end of my school days, I wasn't much loved by my teachers. Why? Because I wasn't too good at Math and Physics. Because I didn't have high ambition. I didn't aim for the IITs, JIPMERs and AIIMSs of the world. It's a different story altogether that the same students with high ambitions landed up beside me in B.Sc. I got what I wanted, and they got what they deserved. Yet, somehow, in the overall scheme of things, I was the lowly one. The star who could have gone anywhere she wanted, but the star who went astray. The top ranker who chose Biology over all else. The one that started out great but turned out just about average.

Accused of lying, cheating and just about everything else (because I needed time off for my cousin's wedding), warned of stuff such as, "My God is watching you." To which the every-cocky I responded with a, "Just as mine is watching you." Fast forward to about 3 years ago. I run into the same teacher who told me I was a good for nothing liar because NOBODY gets married in the December 15th-January 15th time frame. And I was accused of printing my cousin's wedding invitation. We're talking about the early 90s. I didn't even know where one went to get such stuff done, let alone actually go do it. Time is a healer like no other. We talked. I was civil and nice. She asked what I did after school. I told her about everything, including the fact that I was a University topper. And she asked for my card. Immediately, I had a sense of deja-vu. I didn't say or do anything, but I knew what would happen next.

A few days later, when I was back in Hyderabad, I got a call. The same teacher had an enterprising, smart (hmmm!) nephew who needed a job. I asked for the resume and called him for an interview. He made it through the written test, but the technical team rejected him after 2 rounds. I happened to be in Madras again at the time. I got back and sent the candidate a reject mail. My ordeal started from that point on. The teacher called me said, "I'm banking on you. You're the HR Director, how can they reject anyone if you say not to. Is there actually someone above you?" I told her that it didn't matter whether or not there was someone above me. I would do the right thing even if no one was watching. After that, I never heard from her. How did she start banking on someone who barely 10 years ago was a cheat and a liar?

There was also the case, slightly before this one, of the librarian whose daughter was doing her MBA. I met him at an alumni meet and later, he called. Could I get his daughter an internship? No, I couldn't, because we had a space constraint at the time. A few months later, I moved to another company and he probably tried to reach me at the old workplace. And he probably couldn't. Sometime later, he passed away. I sent a condolence message and his son lashed out at me. Saying things like, "When he was alive, you avoided him and now you're sorry he's no more." I was shocked. I don't try and "avoid" anyone. But when I am helpless and the hound me, maybe it does seem that way.

Why am I writing about this today? Because I'm upset. Irritated. I heard from someone I'd barely worked with. She was leaving the company just as I joined. And I had to complete her exit formalities. I was done with everything and there was something pending from her side. I had to attend a family function at my cousin's place and told this lady that I'd leave at 8. She delayed and then pleaded with me to come back and finish her paperwork. For a host of reasons, I decided I had to finish her work. Then she started hounding me for her relieving letter. She'd call everyday, even at 9 p.m., to ask for the status. People in HR have no life, you see. When that was settled, I never heard from her. I didn't expect to. Then I realized all the lies she told me about studying further and moving abroad. She moved to GS, another job. Why lie about it? But suddenly, yesterday, the woman has added me as a friend on Orkut. The usual, "Do you remember me? You looked very cute in a sari." and all that rubbish. I sarcastically told her that I never forget people who make me miss family functions.

This morning, I opened my mailbox to find an email from her. Her brother-in-law is moving to India from the US. Could I help him find a job? I politely declined because I have no contacts in Bangalore anymore in any case. But the point is, if I did, would I still have? I doubt it. I want to have nothing to do with people whose every move is a calculated one. Every phone call, every meeting, doesn't have to have an outcome, doesn't have to have a hidden agenda.

Talk to me, spend time with me, I'd love it. As long as you're doing it because you want to, because you like to, not because you need to. Take me for who I am, and not for what I am.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

This past week


I have had an eventful week.

We've done loads of stuff in the last 7 days and to a great extent, it has been great fun.

We started celebrating S's birthday the previous day and were at a posh restaurant at midnight. This was a futuristic modern European restaurant. But I'm fairly certain I'm never going back. Why? Because the duds didn't know how to serve us nicely despite the fact that we were the ONLY guests. And I told the DJ that it was my husband's birthday at midnight, so could he please play "Happy Birthday"? "Sorry Ma'm. We only play House and Lounge music."

I thought that was fine. But when the clock struck 12, I wished S and hugged him. Not one of the restaurant's staff even bothered to wish him. What does it cost to say, "Many happy Returns"? Maybe in "Modern" Europe they don't wish people. That's a little too futuristic for me. I am a little old fashioned in these matters.

Now coming to the nice part. I got the day off. Why? Because my company has a policy that allows employees a day off on the birthdays of their spouse and children. Isn't that fun? I spent the day making a nice cake for the birthday boy. You can read all about it here.

After cutting the cake, we went shopping. I got him a gift and he got me one. (I'm liking it even more.) Then we bought a whole lot of stuff for the house and to aid my food blogging efforts. And then we went to our favourite restaurant in the whole world, oops on the whole earth: EARTH.

There, the manager, chef, waiters... just about everyone came and wished S. We got such royal treatment despite the fact that restaurant was overcrowded. We had some nice wine with mushroom starters, pizza, pasta and the chef brought us a special cheesecake (with his compliments) with a candle on it and "Happy Birthday Sachin" written on the plate with syrup.

THIS is the stuff birthdays are made of. I'm not saying that on other days people can be rude. All I'm saying is that be nice, but be extra nice on someone's birthday.

I had a few cooking firsts. The cake and the icing were a definite first (in 20 years). I also baked my first successful batch of masala buns and then, my very first bread.

My office has been sealed by the MCD and until the matter is resolved, we are working from home. So, that gives me about 2-3 hours extra to myself in a day.

I was interviewed by CNN IBN on Monday and S and I came on two of their live TV reports as well. After our earlier India Today feature, we're suddenly very very media friendly. After the burglaries, we featured on Aaj Tak and an auto driver in Delhi recognized me the next day and was very sympathetic.

I have also completed 8 years of being part of a workforce. A very rewarding 8 years this has been. I walked into the office of a TTK subsidiary on the 8th of August 1999 and there has been no looking back. I think about giving this all up, I think about it a lot. But will I get around to it, I don't know. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Happenings

So much has happened, yet it feels like nothing is happening. Apologies for ignoring this blog for such a long time. My food blog does get a lot more attention these days and with time, I am fairly certain that this problem will be fixed.

I was in the news almost all of yesterday and for a good part of Monday. CNN IBN was covering the crime rate in Gurgaon. Despite the shocking numbers, the ACP said that there was no need for panic. The situation, according to him, is under control. I'd like him to have 6 weeks of sleepless nights. Or 6 weeks of leaving for work each morning not knowing if all will be OK when we get back. 6 weeks of being suspicious about every activity outside his door. 6 weeks with no peace of mind. 6 weeks of the trauma I've been faced with, before he says, "I don't see any need for panic."

I've had advice pouring in from every corner.

  • "Why don't you leave your jewellery in a bank locker?"
  • "Why do you wait for a Saturday to go meet the authorities, why can't you go tomorrow?"
  • "Did you not lock your house properly?"
  • "Get a better lock."
  • "Get a maid to stay full time or ask your parents to come and stay with you."

Hindsight is always 20:20, right? I can think of a thousand things I could have done. But nothing can change the fact that my privacy was invaded. Someome broke into my house while I was away. Someone went through my personal belongings and took away something so dear to me.

People asked me, "If that mangalsutra is so sentimental, why were you not wearing it?" I really want to slap some people so hard. I don't need to explain to them that I got 5 mangalsutras at my wedding and can only wear one at a time. And isn't wearing it my choice? Even my mother didn't ask me why it was in the locker.

What amused me the most, however, was this guy from the Crime Branch.

Inspector: Aap gehne ghar mein kyon rakhte hain? (Why do you keep jewellery at home?)

Me: Sir, thoda sa to ghar mein rakha hi jaata hai. (Sir, some of it has to be kept at home.)

Inspector: Theek hai madam. Aap ka to gaadi se aana jaana hota hai, apne bag mein rakha keejiye." (That's fine Madam. You must be traveling in a car, carry the jewellery in your bag."

Me: Kyon? Taaki mera handbag chori ho jaaye aur aap poochhen ki akal nahin thi jo itna saraa bag mein liye phir rahi thi?" (Why? So my handbag could be stolen and then you can ask if I didn't have the common sense to not carry expensive stuff around?)

Having had your house burgled is one thing. Having your life open to question by just about anyone is quite another.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Everything happens for a reason

I firmly believe this. Everything really does happen for a reason. I also believe that something good happens out of everything.

We got burgled. Our privacy had been invaded. Our wealth had been taken away. But we got something in return. We got to meet our neighbours. And become friends with them. Leftover dinners are more fun because of the people we can share them with.

We went out for a picnic with some friends and friends of friends. S slipped and hurt his ankle. I thought, "What next? How much are we being tested? And for what?" But I've been a reluctant driver for most part. I love zooming on 2 wheelers, but I've never had a connection of any kind with four wheelers. And I had to drive S back from the hospital. And take him there again and bring him back. And I figured I can do it.

There is a reason why something happens. That reason may not be apparent to us. Maybe it will be after a while, maybe it won't. But that doesn't take away from the fact that there is a reason.

I've felt pain in the past when a relationship fell apart. But the guy did something that showed me it wasn't worth it in the first place. That was my reason. That took a part of the pain away.

Maybe I'm a die hard optimist or maybe I'm just a realist. But seeing the good that comes out of any bad just helps me deal with life better. The good incidents do help me enjoy life, the good that I see in the bad, helps me cope.

With all the ups and downs that life threw our way, S and I complete 10 months of being husband and wife. All I can say is that it has been loads of fun.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sense and Sensibility

I've not been a great dresser. Not ever. And this post isn't about the great novel. It is about the dress sense of people and how it affects my sensibilities. My clothes have always been what I'd call comfortable. My friends at one point had threatened to disown me if I ever bought another piece of vegetable dyed Gujarat block printed material. I still do. I find them very pretty and, most of all, comfortable. And I can't ever coordinate my ear-rings and shoes and handbag to the clothes I am wearing. So, I tend to carry the same handbag everywhere. I wear the same set of ear-rings and almost always am wearing the same comfy footwear.

A proper down to her little toe Delhiite once asked me in typical Delhi English, "Don't mind, I want to ask you something. I've noticed that you wear the same footwear with jeans, trousers, suits and sarees. Don't you have any others?" I said, "I said, 'I have another pair at home for when this wears out. The look on her face was saying, "Oh you poor thing. I didn't think you were that hard up for money." But what she said to me was, "Here, whenever we buy a dress, we buy all matching accessories for that."

Thanks to my never ending skin allergies, I can only wear cotton, silk, or a combination of the two. In Hyderabad, I was once told by a colleague, "You don't wear synthetics, you don't know what you're missing!" And I thought "Fine! I live a sorry sad life."

I've always traveled comfy. Track pants instead of jeans for long train journeys or overnight bus journeys. Casual and comfortable. The same goes for flights. I find it amusing when people dress up in their finest clothes for a flight. My husband and I were once aboard a flight at Delhi, and I felt like a beggar. I'd just woken up, had a bath, put on a pair of jeans and a kurta over it. People were dressed in chiffons, or silks... had loads of jewellery, make up... the works. Even some men were so overdressed that I can't find words to describe what I felt. It was evident from their conversations that they'd spent the day sightseeing. It was like they became sights for others to see.

Somewhere else, maybe! But in Delhi, I've found that dressing up like that isn't exactly unusual. Most of the places that I go to, I see people dressed in totally "dhinchak" colours. There's a special pink. And on any given day, you're bound to see that pink paired with orange, yellow and the brightest blue you can see. A colleague once joked to me that people dress this way so that they can be spotted from a distance. But if every one's dressed in these colours, then how does one tell the difference?

During a college trip to Kodaikanal, that involved endless walking during field trips to study plants, I noticed that some classmates had come in flowing chiffons and high heels. And I thought, "How are they going to climb the mountains with these?" Three weeks ago, S and I went to Mussoorie. And half of Delhi was there. And believe me, it was a sight. Pinks and blues with loads of zari and stone work everywhere. High heels that were stone studded. All this for a day picnic!! And there I was... in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt.

But I can't help but think: is it them? Or is it them? One more of those things that remain beyond me and my comprehension.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The male of the species

I always commented to my mother about guys peeping into autos. Just look around you. If you're a woman and you're on the road, you may look all around you, but you wouldn't necessarily peep inside another vehicle. Men do that. All the time.

I am tired of men ogling and worse still leching. Earlier this week, I took a bus back home. It was not exactly empty, but I managed to find a seat after 5-10 minutes. There was this guy. The typical Delhi local. Kind of like Salman Khan in Tere Naam... but only the variety that identifies more with Leonardo than Salman. Anyway, the tight T-shirt that shows off non existent muscles, coloured hair that needs vigourous head shaking in order to allow for normal sight, skin tight jeans... and a handkerchief stuffed inside the pocket, half outside. This guy kept staring at my chest. It must be true that most men think with their 'you-know-whats'. And then he kept repositioning himself to peer more. The thing is, one way or another they're not getting any views. But they don't know that. I come from supposedly 'conservative' Chennai and hence know nothing about being fashionable (read fashionable as showing various parts of my anatomy to the ogling public). Then this guy tried the cheapest trick in the book. He crossed his legs and stood in such a way that if the driver were to brake all of a sudden, he'd fall directly on me. Too bad for him that the driver did no such thing.

When I travel in a cycle rickshaw in Gurgaon, random guys whistle at me. This morning there was this guy in the bus. He turned his face to look at me. Then when I did the same back, he started looking away and was totally uncomfortable. Guys lech even when I am in the car with S. It's almost like it's their birthright. Once, I was traveling with my mom and a guy kept leching at her and she said to me, "Even when I am almost 60, if these looks don't stop, they probably never will". I agree. I am not exactly Demi Moore. Far from that!!

Has any of you seen women do such things? I'd really like to hear from you if I'm biased. I've seen girls teasing a supposedly innocent guy in the movies, but in real life, not to date.

Music

Music sure isn't what it used to be. Many a time, people tell me I've not moved with the times. OK, so I still listen to film music from the 50s and can sing along to most of Lata's and Asha's songs, not to forget Geeta Dutt.

In the early 90s, I remember my parents commenting on some music I was listening to. And they said, 'Is this music?" If they are, today, subjected to Himesh Reshamiyya's numbers, they wouldn't be talking about Jatin-Lalit, Nadeem-Shravan and Anand-Milind that way.

I think it's quite the same all over. Give me Abba any day. But give me Brothers Four or Joan Baez or Ralph MacTell and I won't complain.

About 2 days ago, I was traveling back home and was subjected to some song which went "Aa bhi jaa". That's all I could catch in that song... wait... that's all there was. In a lousy monotone, the guy went on like a stuck record. He must have sung "Aa bhi jaa" about 100 times in that song. I wanted to scream and jump out of the cab. What rubbish plays under the umbrella of "Super Hit Hour".

We watched Cheeni Kum and it was a pleasure to listen to Ilayaraja's old numbers reinvented. Such hummable numbers. I know I will incur the wrath of several people on blogosphere when I say this. But I will anyway. I don't think very highly of ARR's music. I find it highly repetitive. And the guy copied music left, right and centre from Western Classical music. Sorry, in my book, geniuses don't resort to plagiarism.

My Tamil music is limited to Ilayaraja's works and I hope to, someday, own all the music that the man created. I do own ARR's works as well: Roja and Bombay. Someone gifted me the cassette of Rangeela and so I own that too. But that's it. Deva is another story altogether. He will need a book, not just a mention in a blog post.

Why this random post about Music? Just like that. Because I was tortured... because I've loved the songs of Life in a Metro... because I can't get Jaane Do Na (the remake of Vizhiyile) out of my head.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Compromised

We live in DLF City Phase V, Gurgaon and because this is a DLF zone, we pay through our noses for things such as maintenance and SECURITY. On Friday, at around 3 p.m., we were informed that our house had been burgled. As we reached the apartment, we came to know that 6 other apartments in the complex had also been burgled. The burglars struck between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. and camped away with as much jewellery, cash and forex that they could stuff their pockets with. More than the fact that I lost my jewellery, including the mangalsutra, what is shocking is that someone broke into my house, that our security has been compromised.

All the doors had been forced open using a crowbar and one of the apartments even had a grill door, which had been broken. The police claim that DLF City Phase V is such a secure zone that they never felt the need to make this a part of their beat and was never under their radar. But they are investigating this case. The agency to which DLF has outsourced security of Phase V, LE Security, has not done anything since the incident occured and when questioned by the residents, the representative walked away from the meeting saying that he is not answerable to any of us.

All the while, we have found that the security situation in DLF properites has left a lot to be desired. Over the last few years, there have been several burglaries in these properties, but nothing ever happens and everything gets brushed under the carpet. The head of LE Securities, however, gets to take his family on vacations abroad, all sponsored by DLF, for exemplary security services provided.

It is very clear that the security guards have a hand in this. It is next to impossible for someone to break open 7 doors in broad daylight without anyone smelling a rat. Moreover, it seems too much of a coincidence that the security incharge for DLF V was on leave on Friday. Quite the same way that he had been when the earlier burglaries took place.

DLF mints money at our expense. And so does LE security. We pay them month on month, and we also pay them through our losses. Because at the end of the day, they also get a cut from the loot.

I want to be able to spread awareness about this incident, about the indifference of DLF staff and LE Security. We would like to get compensated for our loss. We would like to ensure that DLF, as big an empire as it may be, doesn't get away with this. Any suggestions and help would definitely be welcome.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Baby Names

Why do some names become popular all of a sudden? I wonder. Especially in India, when we have so many names to choose from, I find it really odd that people seem to pick names from a really limited pool.

Between December 2005 and March 2007, 6 of my friends had baby boys and they ALL named their sons Siddharth. I begged my close friend to name her child something else if it were to turn out to be a boy, but no! Her husband was hell bent on naming the boy Siddharth and that was that. Imagination and research seem to have gone for a rather long walk.

A few years ago, when Pandit Ravi Shankar's daughter became a popular figure, the name Anoushka was everywhere. I had 3 managers in my team, all 3 had daughters with the same name. And now, the names Shriya/Shreya/Shreeya have become overly popular. Even my own niece, born to Sachin and Priya, is called Shreeya. And some 4-5 friends who have daughters between the ages of 0 and 5 are called Shreya or some variation of the same. Fortunately, I do have 2 close friends who've named their daughters Meghana and Dhwani.

This takes me back to a time before even my brother was born. When my mother was pregnant with my brother, my parents had to decide on names. My father is, among other things, a Sanskrit scholar. He extensively researched the scriptures to find a name each for a boy and a girl. He read the Silappadikaram and was impressed with the character of Kannagi. Further research revealed to him that the character of Kannagi was based on Arundhati.

Arundhati: the wife of sage Vashishtha, one of the Saptarishis. Arundhati had come to be known as the epitome of fidelity. The wife, who remained true to her marriage vows and followed her husband everywhere, because her job was to be by her husband's side. And to this day, the little star next to the 6th star of the Saptarishi constellation, is a reminder that she took her vows more seriously than other women in her time, or today.

As a child, I always wondered why my parents had to give us such complicated names. Today, when I think about it, I find that the names are well thought through. Not a grandparent's name to please the family, not a name that's easy for foreigners to pronounce, not a name that was popular at the time, not a name that an astrologer suggested based on my horoscope, not any of those things.

And with this post, I announce my real name to my readers (there are still those people who didn't know who I was until I told them): Arundhati.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Random Facts Replace Random Thoughts

I have been tagged! No, it isn't the Orkut kind of website I'm talking about. Wooster, my dear friend decided to take revenge on me for not spending an evening with him last weekend. But if this is punishment, I'd misbehave everyday. At least that way, I'll get my blog updated.

8 random facts about myself:

  • I have been playing Scrabble since I was 3.
  • I sing almost all the time when I am awake, either aloud or silently.
  • I love cooking and baking and could do it all the time.
  • I am extremely talkative and love learning new languages. The two do go well together!
  • I have a beautiful handwriting, if I may say so myself.
  • I hosted a TV show on Vijay TV almost 10 years ago.
  • I make a living on the side by writing and do a lot of embroidery, but still consider myself "creatively challenged".
  • My 3 personal all time highs: getting the President's Award from R. Venkataraman in 1991, receiving the Gold medals for topping the University from Prof B. Ramamurthi in 2000, having S propose to me in front of a 150 people at the Beach, Bangalore in 2006.

and here's the list of the chosen 8 who shall continue the chain:

Janani - Pretty Woman, Random ramblings.

Sunanda - Blogosphere's most wanted - missing in action.

Lipstick - more than just a cosmetic!

Geeman - loves Physics, music, and marathons

Whizkid - Life and times in Bangalore

Aaroo - Writer, trainer, HR person - all rolled into one.

Arundathi - namma Chennai ponnu

Trupti - a celebrity blogger. Love her food blog and her spirit.

There are rules too

  • Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
  • People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
  • At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
  • If you fail to do this within eight hours, you will not reach Third Series or attain your most precious goals for at least two more lifetimes.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Home!

Home Sweet Home

That's where I am headed today. This is probably the longest that I have stayed away from my beloved Madras. Six and a half months. And I am so eager to visit.

I want to

Sit and talk to Amma and Appa.
Go to the beach.
Meet friends.
Meet my friend VJ and his fiancee.
Attend the wedding of two friends who were almost family.
Shop at Nilgiris.
Eat paruppu urundai.
Savour Amma's lemon cheesecake and date bars.
Get my hair done at the best beauty parlour in the country: Kanya.

I wish S would come along. I am going to miss him. But it's Madras I'm going to. And just for 3 days. So I'm going to make the most of it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Changing Trends

I had 3 vouchers of Pantaloons and I decided to share it with my family. I kept one for myself, gave one each to my brother and husband. On my own, I bought some things for my parents there, but the vouchers I divided among the people I knew would definitely use them.

About a couple of weeks ago, S and I went to the Pantaloons store in Gurgaon. I wanted to pick up some formal wear as I am no longer with a dotcom but with a research firm, I knew my collection of jeans and kurtis would not suffice.

I went to the women's section and was shocked to see the range of clothes. There were very few nice pastels. Browns and blacks ruled and there weren't any colours that I would have liked to try. No purples, reds, greens, yellows, pinks... I managed to pick up one light lavender shirt. Disgusted, we moved to the men's section. And right there, on male mannequins and just about all the place, I saw every colour that I may have wanted to buy. The most beautiful shades of orange, purple, pink, red and blue... all in the MEN's section. Why? Oh Why???

There will, as always, be things that are beyond my comprehension.

On a side note, a year ago, to this day, was what S and I consider the turning point of our relationship. It was at a dinner with friends at a pub in Delhi, Pebble Street, that we had our moments of truth. That we were probably more than friends. That we connected at a deeper level. So much that a few weeks later, he popped the question.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Why?

I wonder…

… about many things. Some of them are:

Why do people fill their cars with stuffed toys?
Who said stuffed toys are for girls? See the countless men that I see… all middle aged, dribing to work in a big car, just them and their entourage of stuffed toys.

Why do Indians colour their hair blond?
Especially when it doesn’t suit them or makes them look old.

What’s with the clothes that girls these days wear?
In the name of formal wear, they wear fitting clothes that show parts of their anatomy that have no reason to be exposed. Then if someone (male) looks, they take offense.

Why do people wear chudas (red and white bangles) even with jeans and a T-shirt to indicate they are newly married?
And think that is OK, but feel it right to comment on my wearing a bindi with “western clothes” or comment on how weird it is that I wear my mangalsutra the “wrong” way because in my culture, newly weds wear it that way.

Separate posts on each of these topics, someday!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Simple Pleasures: Bus Travel

"You travel by bus? Why?" I keep hearing this from loads of people. I always hated bus travel because of the nasty crowds that I had to deal with. Oh, don't get me wrong. I am not some rich couple's child who had a chauffeur driven car while I was growing up. But I lived inside the IIT campus and rode a bicycle to school and back. Cool life! I could have chosen to attempt the IIT JEE and get into it and do what most campus kids in my time did... spend 21 years on campus and then go to the US. Engineering wasn't my cup of tea in any case and I've always been the "exploratory" type. I had to start trips outside the campus because I had classes outside.


I've always been fascinated by buses. When I was all of 9 years, I'd gone to a Spelling Bee contest at Good Shepherd and the teacher sent me back with 4 other kids. All by myself... from Nungambakkam to IIT. My mother is furious with the teacher to this day and I don't blame her. But the thing was that I was this confident girl. I KNEW the bus routes very well. Even when I was just 9.


When I had classes outside, I'd ride my cycle to the IIT gate, park it there and then take a bus to wherever I had to go to. But there were times when the buses would be crowded. I had a boy's cut in those days and went to my classes in jeans and a Tshirt. I was once trying to get on to a bus and after the bus started moving, a lady was trying to make me get off because she forgot it was her stop. A guy on the road lifted me and placed me on the road. I turned around and slapped him. It was only then that he realized I was a girl. So, I've had my share of bad incidents.


I decided to go everywhere on my bicycle. If it meant attending classes in Nandanam, visiting my grandmother in Mylapore, or a friend in Ashok Nagar. I loved riding my bicycle. Chennai's traffic is also the most organized among all cities I've lived in. Safe enough for a child to ride a bicycle even on Mount Road.


For the first 2 years of college, I took the '5E' ladies special. After that, I bought my first "bike". As in one with a motor. It was a TVS Super Champ and I refuse to this day to call it a "moped". There were no pedals. It had a kick start and was as good as any other "bike".


When I moved to Pondicherry, I started French lessons. I would wake up at 4.00 in the morning and then switch on my roomie's heater and place some water and an egg in a vessel on it. I would wake up again at 5, by which time the egg would have been boiled perfectly. I'd go through my morning routine and leave at 5.45. Walk down for 15 minutes and reach the gate. Catch the 6.00 a.m. bus to town. Get off at Ananda Theatre and walk for half an hour to reach Alliance Francaise. Everything was nice about this routine... except for the fisher women and their huge baskets of fish. I would almost throw up by the time I got out of the bus. So I got my Super Champ transported to Pondicherry as well. Another post will be dedicated to my bus trips between Pondicherry and Madras.

In Bangalore and Gurgaon, where I spent the next 2 years after I graduated, I had to use the bus on several occasions. Of course, I had the bike in Bangalore as well. In Chennai, whenever I had a problem with the bike, I'd happily take the bus. PTC or MTC or whatever it is called these days is by far the best bus service that I have used in India. Many people say BEST that runs in Bombay is the best, but I find those buses tough to use. The digits are in Devnagri on the front and the side. So I always know which bus I've missed! (As Appa puts it.) It's only on the back of the bus do they have the route in numbers written such that I can read and understand.

In Hyderabad, I used the bus. I asked the receptionist at the office about bus routes to Secunderabad. And she said, "You're a Director. What will people think if you go by bus?" I assured her that the driver and conductor and the passengers would never come to know! She didn't think it was funny. She said, "I never travel by bus. Always by auto." I avoid the auto whenever possible. You're sitting through a jerky ride, and at a level where the fumes of all vehicles, especially the buses, come straight at you.

In Bangalore, I started taking the bus when I signed up for Spanish classes. I had to learn the Kannada script in order to figure out where the bus was heading. But hey, I learnt another language. (Hindi numerals will probably account for a separate post.) Back in the NCR, I am back to using the buses.

You meet so many types of people. People look at me up and down, up and down... what's a girl with a laptop, sunglasses and a nice handbag, wearing trousers and a formal top, doing in a bus? I find it amusing that they find me amusing. Delhi Gurgaon buses are filled with labourers. There are times when folks get up to offer me a seat. I still steer clear of crowded buses. But the ones where I can get a seat...mmm nothing like it. I watch the sunset in the evenings. Focus on the people on the road. Chat with the conductor if he seems a nice sort. Look at other buses to see where they go, what route they take. I couldn't have done any of this had I been driving back and forth. I'm saved the trouble of watching the road and steering clear of all the cars that are there just to run into mine.

Ah, the simple pleasures of life!