Thursday, June 28, 2007

Why and why not.

It was first a status message on Google talk. Gtalk status messages according to me are very significant. I would never put something there unless I was sure that I am okay with everyone I know reading it. My recent lines include

- Usually I am a nice person. Today I am just being Deepika.
- American friendships are different from Indian ones - Why and why not?
- Blackford is the place where CSHL serves "food". Today there was nothing vegetarian but for a soup that I risked to taste. And it was by far the most edible thing Blackford has made. But it was very unfortunate that it was called Split Pea soup.

I admit that I haven't known as many people in the States as I did in India. That is a direct result of having spent the larger chunk of my life in the latter country (oh what a crappy line!). So using statistics isn't fair and neither is it going to be valid. I am going to try and stick to facts and logic here. But I may digress from that and venture into a very emotionally sensitive arena. In which case I will get both into trouble and distress.

Friendship in India was a subconscious and tacit commitment. There were different levels of it. Broadly,
- The classmate to who you say hi in the corridors (sometimes).
- The outer fringe of your hangout gang who you might invite to a birthday party.
- The inner core of your hangout gang who you ALWAYS go with.
- The couple of people in that inner core who know your life like they know theirs.

When you are visibly depressed in life, the above people will react in the following ways.
- Whisper to one another in the same corridor as to what could have happened. But try to smile normally.
- Have a faint idea as to what happened but don't bother prying further.
- Know exactly what is wrong and are trying to fix it.
- Is either the obvious cause or solution to it.

When there is a mild disagreement,
- Bah! I am never smiling at her again ~ grrr.
- Either try using the inner core as a mediator to resolve things or just smile at you in the corridors from then onwards.
- A brief argument is followed by the rest laughing their asses off at you.
- Hits you on your head till you agree to what they say.

When there is a severe disagreement,
- This person's hangout group starts collectively disliking you.
- Begins to pretend that you never existed.
- A 2 day silence followed by forcible and successful patching up executed by the others.
- Will go tell your mom what a donkey you are and then hits on your head till you say sorry.

Depending on how much you talk and how many friends you have, these groups may collapse into lesser numbers. As far as college was concerned, I think being popular was slightly different from having a lot of friends but there were overlaps.

Now for the American bit - I don't know enough Americans to make bold statements as to how they are with one another. But I know enough Indians in America to make bold statements as to how we are with one another. The interesting feature is that while it was easy to make distinctions in India, it is dodgy here. Very very dodgy.
When you are on the streets in NY and you see an Indian, there are two things that can happen - either they will recognize you as someone from India and smile, else they will pretend you are from another planet and walk by with a determinedly bored look.
When you are in a work place, there is the extremely helpful Indian colleague or the determinedly avoiding Indian. It is normal desi tendency to try and make desi friends. Its not that we refuse to socialize with the others, but its just that the "wavelengths" never match. And in the definite event that we make friends with our countrymen, then there are just two simple kinds - the ones who know your life like they know theirs and the ones who are as superficial as dead skin.
(This is the emotionally sensitive arena that I was talking about, and its best I don't step in here).
As for why and why not - I think why we sometimes ignore other Indians is because the reason some of us got here was to get away from "them" and "they" followed us here. And why we sometimes don't is because no matter how hard some of us try to shed off the desipanti in us, it creeps back right on and nudges us to civilize with our ilk. But in all this ruckus there are some paaavam jantus that try to recreate the exact Indian friendship thing - smiles at Indians and is the epitome of friendly Indian colleague - but eventually just end up writing blog notes about their understanding of it.

COLOR: Butterscotch
SONG: New York nagaram (ARR)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Replacement therapy.

It is a very bad idea to be replaceable or have irreplaceable things in life.
It is a crappy, lousy, foolish and extremely dumb deepikaish idea.

And thats all I have to say about that.

COLOR: Black
SONG: Sheeshe ke gharon mein

Monday, June 18, 2007

Taxi driver in Calcutta!

Living on a farmhouse sounds so cool - and it is to a large extent. Huge fields, amazing sunrises and sunsets, being able to see the sky and stars its NY, sky can be only seen when next to scraper), crickets putting you to sleep, trees yawning out at you in the backyard, barbecues - whoa! Its a long list.
(If you sensed a 'but' at the end of that sentence, you are soooo right).

I have been at Uplands farm for about 3 weeks now. And I still am not tired of the quiet or the comparative desolation of the place. I like walking through the woods and since its bright almost until 9 in the night, with a maize-flavored breeze advertising the goodness of it, I am turning down ride offers from friends (and foes). But when I have to travel for longer distances, I call a taxi and when I do this, I am as excited about it as a kid is about a new bike.

Taxi drivers are about the most interesting people you can talk to. They know their way around and have seen more of the world, not only because they travel around, but because they see more new people in a day than I do in a month. They have seen every emotion there is on this planet, yet are sometimes naive and believe what their passengers tell them. Keeping in mind the universality issue, this is the same feeling I get with the few friendly auto-drivers in Bangalore. I think when you have to drive around town all day, having a grumpy personality is a sure downside. If I think really hard, I bet I can recall the name of every cab driver who has driven me in NY and the conversation I have had with them. I have never met a one 'quiet' driver. Or maybe its me. The most recent one was Greg. He is trying to finish his bachelors in Communications with a minor in American History at SUNY Westbury. He was arguably the most knowledgeable of all the ones I know. Not because of he was in college, but because he put his pending degree in communications to full use. He asked me a zillion questions about India that I am always so ready to answer and told me that he was German (BTW Jyotsy, I am still vouching for German men). He was black. I don't quite have such a problem with that word considering the fact that I am 'black' too. And he told me a something that he thought about the word when he was a child. He had a white German uncle and Greg apparently never understood what the fuss was with the skin color.
"I thought that he was just a really really light skinned black guy. Until I grew up and the differences began to enunciate themselves."
I really liked that line - something I will try to use in a conversation in future. It was a long drive, from Hempstead to Cold Spring Harbor - and arguably one of the most memorable.

COLOR: Peacock blue
SONG: Tere aankhon ke siva

Friday, June 15, 2007

An Arrow.

Why the word universe? Why?
Its not universe. Its as diverse as it can get. There isn't one language. There isn't one color. I know in saying this I am geographically limiting us to this earth, but yet, I see nothing "universal" about the universe unless I make some gross generalizations. I amn't a generalization kind of a person. In fact, I hate them. Its one thing to call two similar things similar. But pulling in a third thing and forcibly similarizing it is plain cowkakka. But I am not going to dismiss this entire thing with a 5 line glance. I am going to dedicate some space to seeing what is it that is similar in all of us and I will try making the least possible amount of generalizations. And this is sincere attempt to justify the person who called it the 'universe'.

Languages - I can go on and on and on about it. But I think I'll try symbolism for once.
The Arrow.

What a simple, elegant and yet powerful symbol. I think there isn't one place in the planet I can think of that doesn't know what it is. Maybe some remote village in India. But then, they're somehow always not a part of the regular universe (See Swades for more information) and I am going to let it be that way. An assumption in mathematics, approximating it to zero. It can be giving directions, it can be on top of a letter indicating that its a vector, it can indicated the proceedings in a chemical reaction, it can be used to denote lineage - just about every scientific and social realm uses it. Splendid.


COLOR: Off-white
SONG: Milky way (MLTR)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ulaalaalaalaa oleyo! Ulalalalala leyo!

Ad jingles and ads themselves. After all the heavy stuff that I usually write, it came to me as a relief that I can still write feather stuff.
That Kingfisher jingle evokes so many memories. The earliest one being meeting Dravid in the lounge of a restaurant when this was playing in the background. Then singing it on Laksh's bday. When we won DC. And more recently, when Anand anna went to Puerto Rico :)

Ad jingles are different from regular music. People who create jingles are usually much more creative, less redundant and moreover they can achieve a memory feat with the amnesic also. In the sense, that a good ad jingle must make you think of the product immediately. The idea behind this is that the more you think of the product, the ad jingle will coax you to buy it. It is a strategy that is cleverly based upon human shortcomings in self-control. The Kingfisher ad jingle is probably the best one created in history. Even in the most sophisticated restaurant, go to the restroom and sing ~ Ulaalaalaalaa oleyo! - and 80% of the times someone will think out loud ~ Ulalalalala layo! - almost instantly. It makes you think of a swimming pool and cold water (or beer) immediately.
The quality of Indian ads these days is so pathetic. There is rarely, if ever, a good one. American ones are worse than the Indian ones. Most American ads are only about proving that they are better than their competitor, its never about creativity or making an impact. I haven't seen Indian TV for almost a year now, but in the ones that used to be showing - I liked Coke ads better than Sprite (Pepsi is just real crappy, Fanta is okay, Mirinda is cool), Hutch was good but Airtel caught up and got better (ARR ROCKS!!!), the Anti-smoke campaign with Urmila et al was good, bike ads were total waste wonly and car ads were no better (Maruti had one with a cute Punjabi kid that was nice) and there was this one Greenply ad that I remember distinctly about a kid who starts speaking Tamil that I loved.
I had a friend, Sharu, who used to always wonder how it would be if we had a channel that only showed ads all day. She would like that. I am not sure I would, not in NY atleast.

Since all I have been doing is humming the Ulalalalala layo!, I don't have a poem. But there is a song that I recently came across. I really liked its picturization in Moulin Rouge ~ nice notes and lyrics.

Never knew I could feel like this
Like I've never seen the sky before
Want to vanish inside your kiss
Every day I love you more and more
Listen to my heart, can you hear it sings
Come back to me, and forgive everything
Seasons may change, winter to spring
But I love you until the end of time

Come what may
I will love you until my dying day

Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place
Suddenly it moves with such a perfect grace
Suddenly my life doesn't seem such a waste
It all revolves around you
And there's no mountain too high
No river too wide
Sing out this song and I'll be there by your side
Storm clouds may gather
And stars may collide
But I love you until the end of time.

COLOR: Cherry Red
SONG: Come what may (Moulin Rouge)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Mazal Tov

Language. I have written and thought about this so many times before but I always feel I haven't expressed what is REALLY on my mind adequately or with real quality. This post is going to be yet another futile attempt.
Mazal Tov. That is Hebrew for good luck. A Jewish classmate taught me that expression. I really took a shine to it and have been dying to use it in some context but haven't found a suitable debut for it yet. There is such a nice ring to it when I say it to myself. Mazal Tov! And when he said that to me, there was a certain warmth in it. Maybe because he expressed it in his native tongue that it sounded so personal and heartfelt. But how can such a foreign noise evoke so much thought in me? Its the same feeling I get when listening to Turkish music- the lyrics are so powerful. I don't know what they mean but I somehow know it is about love and betrayal, and similar emotions. This amazing blend of phonetics and ISPs awes me so.

This bridge you built won't stand long
It will collapse to a heap of pain
You used your strength to make it strong
But their hate made it all in vain
This bridge has its recipe all wrong
Break it before you go insane.

It must have stood on love and trust,
But it stood on want and need
Hold it up if you must,
But they'll bring it down with greed
It will all be blown to ashes and dust
Upon which will grow no seed.

Don't you cry, weary wanderer
You just have to walk some more
For sometime, be a launder
And wash off all those sores
Learn to look not back but yonder
And your mind is no one's whore.

This is the first time I am using a slight obscenity in my writing.
And it fits as beautifully as a joey in a roo.

SONG: Aao huzoor tumko (Karunesh)

Friday, June 8, 2007


Thanks to J.K.Rowling for that word (or the contortion of the original one).
After the credits have been given, now the time is to tip over the mess on to the warm blood. I really have no clue how I came up with that. But the more I think of it, the more I think that I am indeed marinating thoughts in warm blood.
The post.
When I was in India, I used to always crib about not being offered a choice. A choice of courses. Of not having to attend huge family parties where I know no one. Of going where I want to and being who I want to be with. A choice of being who I want to be professionally. An endless list follows. I think this is what gave rise to the 'American dream'.
CHOICE is what the States is all about. You have a choice of talking to people or not, and you will not be judged for it. You have a choice of classes. A choice of places to live in. A choice of people (trust me, I have seen enough people in NY to last myself a lifetime in a jungle). EVERYTHING. Every supermarket isle has like a hundred different kind of brands for one product. Every program has a thousand different classes you can take. Everywhere. And people like having so much to pick from. Most of them do for sure.
But I personally wonder if so much choice doesn't confuse them. I know I am. Currently amidst a lot of issues that need me to pick. And its not like peace rules after picking. Then I am wondering and worrying if I made the right choice. And the worse part is, I have known by experience that if the choice is wrong, I find that out in the most painful way, that too after it becomes an irreversible decision.
I am now yearning the Indian dream. For when I was dreaming that, I was just cribbing. The American dream is driving me crazy.
That is the longest ever prologue.

If you had to paint me a color
which one would you do?
If you had to write me in a word,
would the choices be few?
Would paint me blue and free?
Would you call me fancy?

Its the rain. Thats what shrinking my thoughts.
I think I'll write a book.

COLOR: Midnight blue (just thought of someone whose favorite color this is)
SONG: Ashqolmez (Turkish pop thing, I am sure its not spelt that way)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Thick marshy silence.

And suddenly one day, no one knew why - it all became so quiet. The silence took over so suddenly and sunk in so deep, that no one could prevent it nor deny its presence. It hung about like an aura, repelling all social advances. It built around a flimsy fortress that though many could break with a little effort, no one cared or dared to.
Global freezing. Where there were icy stares, cold words exchanged, chilly howls and cool attitudes. Everything was sub-zero.

Thick as resin it pours all over
And paralyzes thought
Freezes it in disarray
Makes it look like drought.
And from the bog emanates
the stench of solitude
Silence is a temporary analgesic
that allows you to brood.

Just 8 lines again. What is with it?
Oh, Who is John Galt ?!

COLOR: Yellow
SONG: Merke merke (Kanda naal muthal)

Monday, June 4, 2007

Pay Day.

Some people get lucky. Their luck amazes them, makes them happy and eventually, if their luck is persistent, then they get proud of it. But that pride is false. When you have earned what you have by hard work, then the world and the people around you associate you with the word "deserving". That feeling right there, is pride. True pride. Justified pride.

The first rain after the summer
The first flower after the snow,
They all speak of toil
And that is all I know.
I know not how to speak of my work
I know not how to sell,
I just give it the best I have
And my work speaks for itself.

For some freaking reason (Ya Hari, I will always say that) I cannot seem to emote beyond eight lines. Maybe my next post should be titled, "Eighth line". Well, maybe.

COLOR: Peach
SONG: Poo vaasam purappadum (Anbe Sivam)