Friday, August 21, 2015

4G, for me

The mobile is an integral part of my life now. When I take a walk, I have to adjust my eyes, that are used to looking at a screen. Walking in the greenery feels strange- I keep feeling like I’m walking in a screen!

I promptly plonk myself down on a bench after my walk to surf online or sometimes during my walk if I am bored. Then if my network lets me down I get furious. My needs are few- all I want is Runkeeper to work properly, so that I know how many kilometres I walked at what speed. Facebook should open, so should Twitter.

I can read so much more if these apps open faster! There’s Digg and Flipboard too. When I watch the latest trailer on YouTube, I forget the storyline if it takes too long to load.

I could download and watch the latest hottest serial, wherever I am. When I go home, I don’t need to depend on the slow wi-fi. I can even quickly order an Uber or Ola and get moving. If the connection is slow, sometimes the location is inaccurate and I end up waiting, calling the poor cabbie who is rushing around from the wrong GPS location to pick me up from where I am actually waiting.

I can download the latest app or game. My patience has reduced ever since Internet instant gratification came along. I’m sure it will disappear with 4G. Instead of counting One thousand and one for a second, I will have to figure out a way to count the milliseconds taken to download an app. Maybe I just have to think One th...rather than say it in my head, and by that time the download will be done.

I can Skype with my mom with ease too then. That way, I can give her classes so that she can use her phone better. Now, she gets stuck sometimes if she’s even trying to buy a Groupon or book a cab. Or I can gossip with my friend in Australia. Right now her network is so good and mine so poor, the line hangs after a while. Her voice comes as hoarse and with a lag, so after a while we give up and get back to chatting, which isn’t so much fun.

Sometimes, when the network is slow, I have trouble making payments. I then start having nightmares about late fees. With 4G, I won’t have to worry about all that.

It’s a brave new world out there as far as apps are concerned. Now that 4G is here to give us wings, there’s nothing to hold us back. We can boldly go forth, where no person has gone before, and explore new games and movies!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review- The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair

This was a thrilling book. Since it dealt with writers, I found it all the more interesting. It did tend to get a bit melodramatic though. That's when the author would insert Malcolm's deranged mother, for comic relief.

I also found the resolution extremely improbable. SPOILER ALERT- It seemed like everyone conceivable could have committed the crime. Sure, surprise the reader, but then you risk an unwilling collapse of disbelief.

That's my two bits.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Go set a watchman- Review

Reading Harper Lee's sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird only led me to compare it the one I had first read. Go Set a Watchman came off unfavourably. Yet, it has its moments.
The ones that shine are still the childhood snippets. Harper Lee's unique, deft style, still kept me reading. The story was too thin for my taste.
It is sure to take you on a nostalgia trip. Why can't we ever resist sequels? We just can't bear to let go of old friends, even if means settling for crumbs of their former selves.
I had first read To Kill a Mockingbird as a child, and perhaps as the protagonist was a child, I loved the book.

As an adult now, reading about the adult Scout, I processed the novel differently. The philosophical parts, the autobiographical parts jumped out at me.
The book is a little too Southern. To Kill a Mockingbird dealt with more universal issues. Think this book would have benefited from better editing. The rambling parts could have been cut out. The plot could have been made stronger.
Guess the publisher didn't want to rock the boat. Lee would have been quite capable of telling them to stuff it. And then they would've had to kiss millions goodbye...which they were obviously never going to do.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Deadly dieting

I didn't diet till 2011. I relied on gymming. Once I got engaged, my coach put me on a diet. He asked me to start having honey in warm water in the morning.  That's a practice I still follow- the honey diet. Then I would do aerobics.
I would have unbuttered brown bread for breakfast. Then an apple at 11 am. Lunch would be normal phulka, dal, sabzi with salad and buttermilk. Muri at 4:30 pm and sprouts at 6:30 pm and normal dinner- phulka, dal, sabzi. The idea was to keep my metabolism active the whole day.
I felt light, lost weight and my body started rejecting junk food like lasagna.
After marriage,  I was only able to stick to the honey diet. I still have toast for breakfast and normal lunch and dinner,  but snack time is troublesome.
Growing sprouts is a chore. So I have switched to bhuna chana. I tried having salad for lunch a couple of days in the week, but I would feel hungry in an hour. My workouts have become erratic so I try to focus on eating right.
It is said that 80 percent of weight loss happens through dieting and just 20 percent through workouts.
It takes willpower to say no to that ice cream. Already in the day our willpower gets quite a workout,  even if we don't.
We all do things we don't like. Errands, house work,  assignments,  drain our willpower so we treat ourselves to that chocolate.
Fitness coach Taylor Simon said that a treat should be monthly.  For most of us it is daily.  We need to say no to the junk food drug.
Even if we can't hit the gym, we can work out at home.  I enjoy trying out different workout videos on Pop Sugar. I often feel lighter than the days I go to the gym.
With age, our metabolism slows down. So it is important we defy social conventions and try to stick to our diets even while dining out.
Only then will that jiggling arm pipe down. Only then will we pass a stranger's Manhattan once over. Sticking to my diet burnishes my halo. There is seriously nothing that tastes as good as thin feels.
Even if your family does not follow a diet, you can make modifications like fill up on salad as a starter so that you eat less of a fatty main course.
I would search for calorie counts of the food I ate and keep an Excel, so that I was more aware of what I was eating.
It's easy to do this now, thanks to apps. I weigh myself regularly too, so that I know if I am putting on weight and can cut back.
Good luck to us all in this W.A.R- Women and Reduction ;-)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

When you’re happy and you know it...

I used to sing this when I was little. Clap along with gusto too, when the line called for it. When I was a little older, I read that happiness is when you get what you need.

Need. Not want. As economics tells us, they are two different things. But two people can have different degrees of desire for the same thing. I might need to watch a play to slake my soul, while another may merely want to watch one.

Too often, happiness becomes a shifting goalpost. I’ll be happy when I land that job. Or get married. And so on…we rush to a goal, only to find that there’s another that we have just thought of, that we think will make us happier.

Desire is premised on lack. Still, we need to remind ourselves to live in the moment. I love watching the sunset while I’m going back home.  Or writing a poem on it.

Humour is a great source of happiness. People too. Since I work from home a lot, I look forward to going to office and interacting with my colleagues.

Working out is another pleasure. The adrenalin rush I get after running, albeit brief, keeps me going back for more. I get a sense of achievement after pushing myself, and seeing that I’ve lost a hundred grams on my scale. 

A phone-a-thon with my BFF is another way to perk up my day. It feels such a relief to dump my mind rubbish on her broad shoulder’s. Likewise, listening to someone else’s life helps me escape mine for a while.

I’m learning driving, for the nth time, but finally getting the hang of it, so that’s another thrill. Checking Facebook and Twitter out, being part of a global conversation, also makes me feel connected with humanity.

Cooking a fancy meal can also creatively satisfy me sometimes, although definitely not in summer! An impromptu trip, seeing new places and people is a sure mood lifter.

Raindrops on roses…raindrops period- that’s great to soak in sometimes and otherwise watch from my dry balcony. Looking at the leaves get washed, smelling the air then, aah…I’m already feeling nostalgic.

Some people are banks of positivity, so even talking to them over the phone makes me happy. The occasional Starbucks coffee is another reward. How do they get those subtle flavours? Sweet, but not too much?

Unwinding after a long day, watching my favourite TV show with my husband- that’s another must on my To Chill list. Somehow it doesn’t feel so good on the weekend. We need the valleys to give meaning to our hills.

Happiness is in the simple things of life, definitely. No harm in taking the complex ones for a whirl too, once in a while. The trick, as the Gita says, is in non attachment.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

My last day in London

We had gone to London for an extended honeymoon, as my husband had to be there for work for a few months. I had to come back earlier than him for a ritual. Naturally, I was sad to be going back home without him.

Still, we decided to make my last day in London, memorable. Although there wasn’t much left to do in the city, since everyday I would venture out exploring, we still found some things to do.

We’d wanted to go to the aquarium, so we ticked that off. The marine animals, specially the shark, were scary. It was fun to relive one’s childhood. I remembered visiting the Alipore aquarium when I was a child.

Felt like we were in Finding Nemo. The large rays, incandescent jellyfish and mean looking piranhas stared back at us through the glass. The penguins looked cute in their suits, the clownfish looked funny.

The seahorses were magical. Couldn’t take decent photos, as the light would shine off the glass. Made up for it outside, with the river Thames nearby.

We thought we’d go on the London Eye, but we heard that it was underwhelming, so we skipped it. London being small, it’s possible to walk around a great deal, and that’s what we would do.

I clutched my husband’s hand tightly as I remembered all the fun we’d had in this new city. I tried to imprint the memories in my mind, so that I would get fresh whenever I needed to, by remembering that day.

We went to Fortnum and Mason, a yummy food shop in Piccadilly (doesn't that remind you of Monopoly!), that dated back to 1707. The displays there were stunning. We just feasted with our eyes at first. The two restaurants looked scrumptious too.

No city can do the old world charm as well as London. Although they say Calcutta is similar, there is a world of difference. The quaintness with modernity is a tightrope that London walks particularly well.

Although the items in the shop were expensive, we used purchasing power parity to convince ourselves that they were affordable. Besides, this was our honeymoon. Bought biscuits to take back home and more. Vanilla flavoured, those biscuits were subtle and unique.

Once we were back home, we ordered in and enjoyed simply being with each other. Next day, was my flight back. Sigh. Oh well. Those memories are going to last me a lifetime for sure.

It was a perfect day #together. Even the weather didn’t play spoilsport, as it is wont to do in London. It was a sunny day with a blue sky, just like my sunny memories of those hours.

Many days are memorable, often because of the time we spend with our loved ones. This one, though, was charged with the intensity of my having carte blanche to plan the day, so that felt good. Although naturally, the husband had veto power J

Started a new life

I’ve done that multiple number of times. When I moved from home to College, I stayed in a PG. And of course, now that I’m married, that was a big life change too.

One of my most precious memories though, is setting up my own flat. I shared a room with two others, who were night owls while I was a lark. After sleeping with the light on, muffled giggles etc I finally threw in the towel. After all, I’d signed up for the gym and needed to get up early to get my money’s worth there.

Plus, my company had shifted to Gurgaon, but I didn’t want to go to that backward place. Since Saket was the furthest point in Delhi that was closest to Gurgaon, it was the obvious choice.

I had a couple of friends there, so it was a good potential support system. A colleague lived there too, so he could be my ride to work. I scouted for flats. Some were dingy, on the ground floor or mezzanine ones- sevant’s quarters.

I finally found the flat of my dreams. Airy- did I mention my PG room was windowless? It was a 1 BHK which had an additional room with a built in cupboard!

It was on the third floor, so I would get in some exercise too. I paid up, scared that it would vanish, urged by the broker. I bought utensils, curtains and sundries from a friend who had been in India for a year and was now going back to Australia, so I got them for a song.

It was fun playing house house for real. The peace, the sun, dragging my mattress to follow the sunlight so that I could bask in it during winter- good times. When I finally got lonely, a colleauge offered a TV.

When that didn’t suffice, I got a flatmate. The parties were fun. Stayed up all night talking. Even had an acronym for my bachelorette pad- OMO- On My Own. Even learnt to cook and shop for vegetables.

Had a cook, but had to Google when she wanted heeng to see what it looked like so that I could buy it. The freedom of having a room, sheesh, more than that, a flat- of one’s own was indescribable.

Finally understood what Virginia Woolf was talking about in her essay of the same name. My writing output improved too. Sure, there were cons. My gym was jinxed- had to hurry back to meet the maid when I lived alone.

Still, those were minor blips. It was a peaceful neighborhood, with a small balcony where I could stand and look at the world go by. I had a sofa in my living room, which came with the house.

I would flop there and get a change of scene. Miss you, my first flat. #StartANewLife

Thursday, March 05, 2015


Children are full of optimism. They exude a positive vibe. For them, the world is full of wonder. Their enthusiasm is infectious. They don't hesitate to say Hi! to strangers.

But what of those children who are not privileged? Who feel self conscious because they don't go to an English medium school and still have to struggle with reading a foreign language?

I met such children when I was teaching in an NGO in Delhi- Manzil. Shy, with downcast eyes, the little squirts straggled in class, in a house. Although they were the majority in the class, still they read in a low voice.

In defeated tones they laboured on, stopping at nearly every word. “Break the words up,” I told them. So la-bour would be two words. “What does L.A. Sound like?” I asked quietly. “La,” they shot back.

It was like a ray of light piercing a thick cloud of darkness. They picked up speed quickly, stumbling in their eagerness to break up those words that had tortured them. Soon they broke words up in chunks that they could manage, without my telling them.

They became more regular too. And confident. Also cheerful. They had found a way to haul themselves up from the maze they had been thrown into.

I don't know whether they still retain that confidence. But I hope they have kept the larger lesson of breaking up a problem in manageable bits, in mind.

That's a lesson we can all do with. Sometimes, it slips away from us, and we find ourselves sinking helpless, against our will, in quicksand.

Teaching someone what is second nature to me helped me to remind myself of this trick. It taught me to be more compassionate, be thankful for my benefits. My problems, previously so large to me, seemed to dwarf in comparison to theirs.

We are all children in some field or the other. How do we approach our nemesis? Is it with a sword, ready to cut her to pieces? Do we cower, wondering when is her next jab?

That moment, when I watched those boys faces brighten, when they realized there was a method in the madness of the English language, is one that my subconscious draws on, when I need to. I hope they too recall that lesson, and implement it in all aspects of their lives.

Education is a great enabler, and we learn most when we teach. In this case, I didn't even know what I would be learning, but I did end up learning something useful, that isn't on a syllabus. In fact, I didn't even know I would teach like that, but I'm glad I could make a small difference.