Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I hope...

Crawling through traffic in an auto, and it’s rush hour. But when is it not? The lane is narrow and the traffic is compounded by several cows chomping on discarded vegetable leaves on the side. My auto driver, in a spirit of fun, has decided to play his music. The design of these wondrous vehicles ensures that the passenger’s ear is so close to the speaker that I’m sure it violates all rules of ergonomics, or whatever science rules the placement of speakers in Bangalore autos.
We crawl as far as a few feet, then stop again. We are near a church with closed doors that bears a sign promising Mass the next morning. There is a huge, overflowing, concrete garbage repository right next to the church and then a small stand behind which is a bright-eyed teenage girl selling jasmines.
The flowers are arranged in neat, creamy heaps and smell like heaven in such a stark contrast to the garbage and chaos around her that it strikes me immediately. She seems completely oblivious to it all, and is an image of freshness and purity to match her flowers. She has chosen a string of purple blossoms in her hair to go with the color of her dress, maybe in an exchange with a fellow flower-seller.
She spots me admiring her and the jasmines and gives me an easy, glowing smile. Her eyes are luminous and lined with kajal, and crinkle when she smiles. “Take madam” she trills, picking up a small bunch of the jasmines. I unzip my purse to dig out some change and ask her how much. She shrugs and shakes her head to indicate no charge.
“No, no!” I insist. “No, no!” she insists back. She’s already trying to reach across and give me the flowers as I feel my auto starting to inch forward. I root around in my purse to find something to exchange the flowers with. Lip balm, old ticket stubs, keys, and a pen crop up obligingly. I scrabble some more and come up with a pack of peppermint gum.
I toss it to her. Meanwhile, she has missed giving me the flowers owing to the motion of my auto. She catches the gum and smiles at me, then shrugs. We wave at each other.
My auto driver, is meanwhile, yelling at someone on the road after having nearly run them over. He then spits churlishly. I sigh; not everyone is naturally gifted with grace, like my jasmine girl. I hope she still smiles at passersby when she gets to be the auto driver’s age, and never catches the spitting habit.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Bart and others...

A good name for him would be Bart. For whom, you ask? This big, shaggy, sweet-faced dog that we pass everyday on our way to work. Bart, after the celebrity grizzly bear who appeared in many movies and commercials and whose favorite thing was to take rides, standing up, in the back of a pick up truck. My Bart lies in the sun with his head between his paws, conversing intelligently with his fellows, or, on one occasion, licking his chops after a refreshing cup of tea. (It’s true, I tell you.)
Anyhow, in light of the fondness I’ve developed for him over the past few weeks, maybe one day I should just grab him and haul him into the car, then proceed to spend the day doing whatever he would like to do. (This would be quite a feat, considering he looks about as heavy as I am. However, I have been known to be quite grabby. Just ask my roommate about the Case of the Green Earrings.)
Many are the dogs to whom I have thus lost my heart. My neighbor in Florida had this enchanting Husky named Dermott, who had one brown eye and one blue. Then there was the seeing-eye Golden Retriever called Presley. When I was growing up our neighbors had a whole bunch of dogs: a pair of Dalmatians called Honey and Harley, a Great Dane, Henry, and a Doberman named Pogo. The first three were angels in canine form; Pogo was contrary and obstinate. We can’t recall the number of times we heard his master trying to get him to do this or that. “Sit, Pogo, SIT” would echo hollowly and ceaselessly from across the wall, while Pogo carried on doing exactly as he pleased.
Kaiser was the name of a Doberman of another friend. Kaiser had lost his heart to a girl Doberman (Doberwoman???) named Cindy and would take off racing around the room if you so much as said the name of his beloved. Once he jumped off the third floor chasing a dog, who, alas, turned out not to be Cindy, after all. Kaiser, being Kaiser, had landed on sand and wasn’t hurt in the least. I’ll never forget the sight of his master, in black and white striped pajamas, kitchen-cloth over shoulder (he’d been cooking up a hearty meal of rajma-chawal) chasing after Kaiser down the street.
The first dog I can recall our family having was called, sadly for him, Doggy. After Doggy met an untimely end, we didn’t have another pet for a long time. Presumably, having three strong-willed kids was about all my folks were ready to deal with. Then came pretty little Howdy, who ran away from her canine care center when we went out of town, and was never heard from again.
Uh, this could go on for a while. Suffice it to say that I am waiting to see Bart again on Monday morning.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A long day

Anyone in their right minds would agree that traffic in Bangalore is horrendous. You have to possess nerves of steel, an iron will, and the patience of an angel. On occasion you have to be telepathic, telekinetic, and a contortionist.
Many times, the traffic policeman is the one I feel for. Imagine making your living in physical surroundings like that. Just this morning I saw a cop who was at a very, very busy intersection at rush hour. He waved our section of traffic to come to a stop. An auto (aargh) ignored him and carried on regardless. The cop couldn’t do anything. He attempted to stop this breaker of rules, but failed. Then he just went back to his other traffic.
I noticed that his shoes were scuffed, unbalanced. Now maybe he was, personally, just a sloppy man. But maybe not. Maybe they simply aren’t well stocked with supplies at any given time. Don’t we hear how the police force in this country is short changed when it comes to working hours and conditions, benefits and supplies?
Theories of economics may be used to explain, in light of these shortages, the propensity of our cops for corruption. For brutality, slacking off and discourteousness. But what about those cops who do really put in an honest day’s work? Is the much-accursed police force not surviving because of them?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Hands in the rain

This city seems to fill up like a teacup when it rains. The water is certainly tea-colored in most places; slow moving and black in others. The cars inch along like it was a form of torture. It’s easy to feel a bit defeated after a long day of trying to earn a living, to be wading through this way, being held hostage in rain that looks poetic only as long as it doesn’t fall from the sky.
So there I was, another grumpy adult in the back of another car, one in a thousand grumpy adults desperately holding on to fraying tempers, listening to the radio, maybe entertaining themselves with their cell phones.
Another car pulled up along side. In the back seat, two children. A boy, about six, and a girl, about four. He has a broken front tooth, and she has a dimple on each cheek. I wonder how much the tooth fairy paid him for that tooth? How much would any of us pay to get dimples like this little girl?
They smile at me through the window, in unison, like it was the most natural thing to do. I roll down my window and smile back. This makes them flash more smiles across the channel of swirling rain between our two cars, like twin beacons from a lighthouse. These dimples and that gap tooth are enough to illuminate anywhere.
I reach my hand out to them and they instantly reach back; their hands are incredibly soft, as only a child’s hands can be. The little girl then blows me a kiss and the boy just kisses the air in front of him. They look at each other and smile some more; they seem pleased.
Then their car pulled away. I sat back on my seat. I’m sure my smile was no match for those overflowing ones of innocence and joy that they’d just bestowed on me.
But it was a smile, nevertheless.

Weirdisms

Weird things that have been said to me, over the years. This is sort of like a random recollection of some gems. There have been others, trust me. But, wishing to maintain a level of credibilty in the blogging world and among those precious few who actually read my stuff, I shall desist. Note that the Other Party is not one person, but an assortment.

The Other Party:"You remind me of Melvin from "As Good as it Gets."
Me: EH?
TOP: You never let anyone into your world.

Me: What's my best physical asset?
TOP: Your brain.

TOP: I feel like I'm dealing with a two year-old!
Me: Five! You said five year-old before!

TOP: You're never fully here.
Me:
(Stoic silence. How do I prove I'm fully here? Whatever that means?)

TOP: Did you ever have a twin?
Me: Eh?
TOP: I think I would have liked her better.
Me: Oh.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Fake Rock God and good Engrish

For those of you who, like yours truly, listen ceaselessly to Yahoo! Music, (no, the headphones aren't surgically attached, thanks) perhaps you can help me out with this: the new Vonage commercial. The voice over, a British bloke, says something that sounds like this: "This is a totally fake rock God Aiden slump, and I'm here to save you a wad of cabbage with Vonage, the broadband phone company. "
Then he helpfully spells out the name: V-o-n-a-g-e.
Eh? What about the rest of it? Forgive my density
Check out http://www.engrish.com/ for some huge laughs. One I found particularly amusing was the packaging on beer flavored chocolates (a charming concept in itself, and another fine example of the Japanese flair for innvoation, much like this post is an example of my fondness for the inane)..."the delicate scent of beer will charm you.."Also, 'Engrish of the day' for today, Aug 10th. Hilarious, excuse me, hirarious!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Reasons to live...

One more in this series, a sharp contrast to the usual "rantings." This list is much shorter than that one. Don't hold it against me, please. I was never Miss Sunshine. :-)
  • Liqueur-filled chocolates
  • Listening to Sarah McLachlan, especially on a cloudy day
  • Legionnaire Beau Peep
  • E-mail from a long-lost friend

Monday, August 08, 2005

Home

There has to be a word for that feeling you get when you are living in a foreign country and you feel disconnected from everything. Loneliness is a part of it, homesickness too. But to attempt to define it in these terms would mean restricting it, somehow, and not getting to the heart of the matter.
This feeling is known well to many Indians in the US of A, in particular. It manifests itself in many, many ways. The craving for Indian food strikes, but the only recourse is to go to a restaurant where the price, of course, is listed in dollars. Indian movies? Well, either rent one or if you’re living in a hi-density Indian area like New Jersey, you could catch it at the multiplex, whereupon you can then boast that you saw Yuva on the same day it released in India! The list can go on.
But this is only a superficial discussion of the matter. It is a lot more than just the food or movies you are used to. It is a sense of place, a sense of being rooted, I guess. There are no memories associated, for instance, with New York when the average Indian software professional moves there. What there is, is a realization that you are two days away from the place you call home.
Ultimately, it comes down to the question: Where is home? After even a couple of years of rootless living, of living out of suitcases, of cheap pizza meals, too many flights, too few meaningful conversations and too many loads of laundry, it does strike you somewhere in your brain as you swipe your credit card at yet another retail outlet: where is home?
Unfortunately, for some of us, the answer to that question is still in the process of being reached. For others, it is quite all right to call your new place (with the mortgage and the swanky SUV out front) home. For others, it’s a little more complex than that. For some of us, even if we make enough money, even if we are inducted into the hallowed zone of US citizenship, the answer still lingers somewhere just beyond our reach.
This is particularly true of those that come to the US not solely to stack up the dollars, but also because they are curious about living in a foreign country, seeing the world, traveling and experiencing the different things that wonderful country has to offer (however absurd this may be to the more ‘practical’ of our Indian friends in the USA). As you sign the lease on your new apartment with the wonderful view, you wonder: is this really what I wanted? Where am I?
I would say, let’s look at the flip side. Because, if you don’t belong anywhere, then maybe the answer is that you belong everywhere.

Dedicated to a friend of mine, somewhere in the US. You know who you are…

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Still ranting...

"In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."
~Douglas Adams
I can't help seeing the sort of mad, but incisive clarity of this quote. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Adams. So what should I rant about today, hmm?
a. Ever wonder what the male equivalent of a 'tomboy' is? By extension, it's quite all right and indeed, quite desirable for a girl to go around proclaiming she's a tomboy (a term I always loathed.) The way it works is, women are somehow "better" if they are good at supposedly "male" skills; could be anything from climbing trees to knowing volumes about spark plugs.
Eh?
b. The 2-page spreads selling fairness creams. The product promises to whiten and brighten your skin, thus presumably making you more beautiful. In one campaign, the model is an internationally renowned star: her picture in the spread has been worked on to such an extent that even the piercings in her ears are obliterated. What's up with that? In spite of the wondrous fairness cream which will bleach her into perfection, she still needs the airbrushing?I mean, come on. Besides, realistically speaking, just how much air-brushing can we ordinary mortals squeeze into our daily lives, assuming we even use your blessed brightening cream?
Fairness creams are pathetic, especially so when they're sold by 'women's magazines' who devote pages to breathlessly advising you on 'self-esteem' and 'inner beauty.'
c. Your single status if you're young and in India. Your parents are directly or indirectly blamed for not 'finding' you anyone to marry. And people actually pray for your singlehood to change into marital er..bliss. Thanks, y'all, but it's not a disease! Besides, don't I just love the way people describe marriage as COMPROMISE (their emphasis). Gee, that sounds like so much fun! I just can't wait to start COMPROMISING!
d. The thing that mystifies me: At a few places in Bangalore I've seen these little structures with the helpful legend "Cobbler Kiosk" painted on them. Er, but where are the cobblers? I've yet to see a single one sitting dutifully in his designated kiosk. Reminds me of that fairy tale where the elves helped out an old shoemaker couple, but the elves only came out at night, so no one actually saw them. Maybe our desi cobblers are in the same mold.
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