Shades Of Words


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Is it too late..

….to make up for the dismal blogging year that this was for me. For all my ambition at the beginning of 2015 ( scroll down the page to see), I have written exactly 2 posts. It’s not that I did not have things to share – I did. I read a lot of good books, saw many interesting movies and TV shows – but writing hasn’t come easily to me.

Blogging is hard. It requires discipline, will power and most importantly – ideas. To blog daily would need absolute determination and endless supply of content. To blog a few times a month you need some few hours of quite and peace every week.

I have managed to do neither. What I am now attempting to do is to close this year respectfully with a few intelligent entries. And of course, my brain is in a funk and I find myself looking at a blank screen.

Writing after a break of six  months is hard. Physically hard. I struggle with putting words together in a meaningful way. I have to rack my brain and look deep inside to find the right phrases.

I find myself asking questions – why should I do this? There are millions of blogs out there with better content and more readers than me. Why continue? Should I just shut this down?

Every time I ask myself – does it matter? My inner voice comes back with a resounding yes.

For me blogging has been extremely personal – a way to put my thoughts on paper and to make notes on passing time. A memorycatcher of sorts. The lesser I blog the more memories I lose. That’s why its important to keep trying.

Do you know why you want to blog?


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It’s Here – 2015

Yet another year. Yet another fresh start. Yet another chance to make and break resolutions.

People often tell me that there is no point to new year resolutions as one rarely ever keep them.

True.

I went back and looked at all the things that I wanted to do in 2014 and I have not completed any of them. But I made good progress – which is better than nothing. It’s good to have goals for a better, more fulfilling life. It’s perfectly okay if you don’t fulfill them. At least, you tried. Then there is always next year.

So these are my top 5 resolution for 2015

1. Buy a house – yup, that’s a biggie. Its scary too. All my energies and time are currently focused on that.Fingerscrossed
2. Year of the Classics – I intend to plough through Greek Classics and more this year. It seemed daunting at first, but      halfway thru the Iliad and I am totally digging the bloody war.
3. Open a travel site – What?Another one? Why? All good questions and I don’t have the answers. I just want to do this for myself – a memory capsule of my travels shared in an (hopefully) intelligent way with the rest of the world
4. Blog more
5. Bake more

So, what is it that you want to do this year?


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Just around the Corner

I step out from under the dirty brown awning of my three story apartment building. The grey cracked concrete walkway to the street is littered with a soggy, muddy old copy of LA Times, pages falling out of the flimsy string holding it together. An empty Starbucks plastic cup (tall) rolls over brightly printed car wash coupons, charred cigarette butts sneak from under the sun baked yellow grass, dead bougainvillea flowers sit degenerating into pulp in the crevices on the sidewalk where the rain water has collected and a faint odor of dog poop hangs in the air. A steel sprinkler half-heartedly sprays intermittent jets of water over the small yet lush green garden next door. The low lying jasmine hedges that line the street are in full bloom creating an illusion of white and green lace. Yellow and purple wild flowers spring out of gaps in the tiled sidewalk.

I turn right on to Keystone Avenue and walk north.  A battered IKEA loveseat, once navy blue, but now an unknown color, lies abandoned on the pavement. A dark spot stains the seat covers, the arms are worn out to the frame and the foam filling has sprung out from the bottom is falling out to the pavement.

Up ahead, a young Asian couple walks out of the Keystone University Apartment building. The girl’s dark hair is streaked with neon blue, further accented by the matching pashmina scarf she has thrown around her neck. She wears no make-up and Aviator sun glasses hide her eyes.  Her mauve paisley print dress flutters in the slight breeze blowing through the street. The boy’s tumbled dry hair and unshaven beard hints that he may have just fallen out of bed. His blue and yellow UCLA t-shirt is paired with khaki shorts. His loafers are untied and the strap drags behind his heels as he walks down the street.

I pause to let two teenage boys on skateboards rush past me on the sidewalk.  Headphones in ears, caps pulled low over the ears – both are dressed alike with front open shirts and shorts sitting low on the waist. An old balding man hunched over the steering wheel, turns his shiny red and white Volkswagen Beetle into a covered driveway.

On the intersection of Keystone Ave and Venice Boulevard, small wooden cargo boxes are stacked up to four feet and placed on the payment. “On Sale” sign is stenciled on alternating sides in charcoal black paint.  On top of the stack is a white cardboard placard with a hand drawn arrow pointing to the auto repair shop at the corner of Keystone Avenue.

Outside the shop is a public payphone that hasn’t seen much use in a while. A tattered LA directory hangs from a metal chain scraping the ground. The phone is off the hook and the receiver dangles in mid-air. The booth itself is covered in fluorescent graffiti with no hint of the original paint. “You suck!”, “peace y’all” and other important messages are scratched on the metal frame.

I take a deep breath and smell the familiar salty tang of the evening sea breeze that has just begun to flow inwards from Venice beach, which is three miles down the road. The sky darkens and stretches of pink, violet and orange paint the horizon. It’s time for sunset and the crimson red sun, barely visible behind towering city buildings, disappears slowly from the view.


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It’s almost been 2 months now…

….and I am starting to hear my own thoughts again. Which is a relief.

Around the same time last year, Kapil and I finally decided that we have had enough of peace, quiet and enjoying our life. It was time to shake things up a little and throw ourselves a little challenge. So we decided to have a baby.

Following a bumpy 2013 which involved changing cities, jobs and several apartments, we ended the year with the final hump as we welcomed our son into the family in December.

Now a lot of my friends have had babies over the years and I have heard so many varied reactions that it has been hard to predict where in that spectrum my feelings will fall. Over the last 6-8 weeks there have more lows than highs, and several moments where I have questioned my sanity.

So here is the lowdown on what it means being a parent:

It’s overrated! – I know it’s too early to tell, but I don’t see any immense sense of satisfaction, reward or sense of achievement come my way soon. A friend of mine joked that we might have to wait for the day our child graduates to feel that! It’s nice being a parent, but I don’t think it’s the best thing to have happened to me. I love my kid to death but this is definitely not on my list of top experiences yet. Eventually it may be, but if you have just had a baby and don’t feel elevated to another level of happiness in the first few months, it’s okay.

Loss of “Me” time – For a person like me, who has always been fairly independent and enjoyed a daily dozen of ‘me’ time, this sudden yanking away of my personal space, is the hardest thing to adjust to. The first week after the baby was born, I was too busy recovering and trying to make head or heels of the situation. By the second week however, the loss of normalcy and the my old routine started to get on my nerves.  I was starting to resent my situation and several people told me that it’s perfectly normal to hate your life in the first few weeks.  I know having a baby changes some things but for me it’s important to remain in control, and this loss of self was not acceptable, so hubby and I worked out an arrangement, where I will get an hour or so for myself daily.  I used that time to take a walk, or read a book or just take a long hot shower – those few moments for myself went a long way in helping me deal with this new sensation of being a mother.

Change of LifestyleFor years and years I have been hearing, that having a baby will change your life forever. And I have been arguing that any major life event – getting into college, leaving your parent’s home for the first time, getting married, falling in love, falling out of love  – all of these events are life changing. And it’s a relief to be right. I do realize that my life has changed, but I so it has several times in the past and this is not any more difficult or easy than the last time.  It comes with its usual set of adjustments and ‘getting-used-to’ things.  It is a lifestyle change but even this change is not permanent. The best way to cope is to not over think it and just go with the flow.

The Drudgery– Having a baby is not the toughest things to do. If I look back at my life I have faced tougher mental and emotional challenges, but it is definitely the most draining thing I have done. Baby means work – lots and lots of work. No matter how you much love your baby, nothing makes endless cycles of changing diapers, feeding, washing and calming a crying child fun.  People will keep telling you that this too shall pass, but you won’t believe them.  You will feel like Sisyphus, rolling the god damn boulder up the hill for the rest of eternity.

I know this seems like a rant, it isn’t. Life as a new parent is not all that bad, the fact that I can take time to write about it is proof enough that things get better. And there are things that I enjoy….

My baby’s smileYes, I know this sounds terribly clichéd but it’s so true. While I won’t go as far as to say that my son’s smile makes my day, but it does make the work easier to deal with. It’s fun to watch his expressions as he looks around his new world and starts recognizing voices and faces. These are the moments when my love for him becomes a reality and the experience of being a parent takes actual meaning. Also, his smile lets me know that I am doing something right.

Slowing DownWhen we did not have a kid there was this frenzy to fill our spare time with stuff to do – go to the movies, concerts, travel, meet friends, shop, eat out etc . Now there is very little spare time to fill and very hard to predict when that spare time will show up. So you automatically slow down and savor the moments and life. Simple things in life have become fun again. K and I find ourselves enjoy a walk around the neighbourhood and sipping a cup of coffee in the café around the corner. Eating take-out food is cool again, and I am able to catch up on my reading.

Watching loads of TVIn the first three months, babies have very simple needs. They want to be fed, changed and put to sleep. Now books tell you that feeding should be a time to connect with the baby and you should not multi-task. To be honest, I don’t think my son cares. I know he cares only for the bottle. When he is hungry, he just wants his milk and he is not interested if we are talking to him or dancing the hula hoop. K & I have discovered that watching TV while feeding him or just holding him, is a great way to unwind for the day.

Toning those arm musclesI have hardly ever been to the gym in this life and my notion of exercise is a twenty-minute stroll around the block. I now have to lug my 10 lb son around for a good portion of the day. I know I am building some serious muscle strength!  The chores at home just add up to and I am more active than I used to be. Of course, I am not going to shed that baby weight just by working around the house but after the last trimester of pregnancy where walking left one out of breath, being up and about and always on the go is such a welcome change.

More family timeThis may be a little subjective but when a baby arrives in your family everyone wants to come over, help and spend time with you and the little one. This is a great time to reconnect with siblings and parents. As the new parents are high-strung in the initial first days it is important to establish boundaries and come to an understanding on how everyone can contribute.

At the end of the day everyone experiences parenthood differently – a lot of dependent on the pre-existing expectations and the kind of person you were going in. I know I will have fun eventually even if getting used to the idea of  being a mom will take some time.


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India May 2012 – General Observations

Things have changed over the last decade or so in India. There has been development, albeit a little skewed. The situation for people like me has gotten better. Unfortunately, people like me make a very small part of this very large country.

Anyway, I saw better roads, better airports and better malls. I don’t know how important it is to have better malls for the general well-being of the population, but there seems to be a lot of them. They do prove to be a popular tourist destination in most cases. I would like to say that they contribute to the economy but they more likely seem to contribute to traffic congestion in cities. Arguments could be made that they create jobs for people who work in them, but job creation is such a slippery statistic. What about the jobs that could have been created if the money had gone in development of let’s public transport or city parks? What about the jobs taken from people whose land was taken away to create the mall?  Anyway, that’s a different discussion altogether. Malls currently have become the “hang-out” spots for school kids and the unemployed.  As the divide between the haves and have-nots increases in India, I see these as major contentment disrupters.

The countrywide GMR revamping of the airports has been quite impressive. When we landed in Delhi’s T3 at IG International Airport we were quite impressed with the general look and feel. The immigration process was smooth and we were out of the airport fairly quickly.  I really feel that tourism in India can be an inclusive growth industry that boosts the economy at the grass-roots level and making India accessible to the world abroad is a step in that direction.

The roads are better. Travelling in North India, I spent quite some time on NH1 and I was happy to see our driver average at 100 KM/H for most of the way. Also known as the Grand Trunk Road, NH1 is going through major renovation, so we did unfortunately spent some time on the side of the road rather on it, but even then we made good time. To avoid the traffic and the dust on NH1, our driver, opted us to take us through the state highways.  State highways in India typically don’t have road dividers so overtaking is quite life threatening as one always has the chance of being hit by an oncoming truck. Of course, millions of people drive and survive every day so it’s a question of practice.  Even then, when our driver took the detour, I sent up a little prayer. I was again impressed by the condition of the inner roads and the average 80-90KM/H that  our car maintained on the  roads.

Getting “Sarkari” work done is still a pain in India. Ever since I was a kid, I have had this urge to take a mop and broom and sweep the government offices clean. Allegorically and literally. I don’t know why they are so dirty.  It does not matter if it’s a post office, or a registrar’s office or the RTO, the office space is covered in dust, grime, brown files and filled with cheap but durable steel furniture that has been greased and re-greased over the years.  Kapil and I had to register our Hindu wedding and even though we are way over 18 years old (the legal age for getting married in India), the law requires that our parents be present for the registration! Seriously! The entire registration took 2 to 3 hrs in which we filled multiple forms and it got over “so soon” because we knew someone.  The whole attitude of the officers in the Government of India is as if they are doing us a favor and not their jobs. Why is it that way? Why does such little power go to their heads so soon? Don’t they want to get rid of the clutter on their desk and move work efficiently and smoothly?  Why would you want to do a job badly on purpose? Why would you want to be incompetent?  For years, people have argued that these jobs are not well paid and the motivation to do well is not inbred. I say bullshit. These jobs are more secure and better paid then some. There is no excuse for the inefficient.  I am sure if the government employees were to get double the paychecks the attitude towards work would not change. I do hate making these generalist statements but you step into a govt. office and the sense of lethargy hits you and even if there is one hard-working guy he is not going to get noticed in all the rot.

So some things change, and some remain the same. I was afraid that India was going to disappoint me. That I was going to all go “NRI” on it and hop around drinking mineral water and act shocked on how horrible everything is – as if I am seeing it for the first time. I am glad to discover that I had not forgotten anything. I was neither more or less forgiving of the situation in India. It is what it is.

I can either live with it or run from it or change it.