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Some Random Person (henceforth known as SRP): Are you from India?

Me: Yes I am actually.

SRP: Wow! You actually speak English!

Me: Yes! And we have running water and electricity and paved roads too! (Only in my head though)

 

SRP: Are you from India?

Me: Yes I am actually.

SRP: You know when I was in Rajasthan in 1986…

Me: Yes India is short for Rajasthan. The other states are all not part of the country at all you know. (Again only in my head)

 

And more recently

SRP: Are you from India?

Me: Yes I am actually.

SRP: Damn shame about those toilets in the Commonwealth Games Village.

Me: …….

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If you live in New Zealand, there’s not much to do other than walk. When people here say walk, they usually mean a 4 kilometre hike. You can walk in the bush, in the forest, across hills and on beaches. Then for a change you can get up on Monday morning and walk to work. And people do this in sunshine and in the face of gale force winds. If it’s raining, they’ll make a concession and wear a jacket.

I’ve been here two years and it’s never occurred to me, ‘Why don’t I go for a walk?’. It’s just not my thing, you see. But this spring, today to be precise, I found myself thinking it was a nice day to go for a walk.

My modus operandi for going places is to familiarise myself with the first half of the route to get there and then improvise on the rest. I once spent an entire morning driving in all four cardinal directions and on all the major motorways in Auckland trying to pick up a piece of mail. It was a 15 minute trip that I turned into a 45 minute adventure ride.

So this time I decided to be methodical about the whole thing. I went to a lovely website that the regional council maintains about various tracks and walks available throughout the region. After rooting through a number of options and asking for recommendations, I settled on something called Fairy Falls Walk, which the site said was a lovely walk through forests, ascending a gentle incline to end up at the top of some falls. I made sure the trail rating was ‘for people who have no experience and no stamina’.

The Department of Conservation chappies also recommended I let people know where I was going, so if I didn’t turn up a month later they could come looking for what was left of me out in the woods. This being New Zealand there would be a significant bit left, because we have no wild animals here. Nothing dangerous, nothing scary and nothing poisonous. Anyway, having taken their advice to heart and having announced my intention to leave, I then proceeded to pack for this mammoth (for me) undertaking.

My survival rations included such hiking staples as Oreo cookies and Super wine biscuits. I also packed warm essentials like gloves, scarves, jackets and even a blanket. You know, in case I got lost in the woods and had to spend the night.

Instead of my usual tour of all the freeways, I decided to be a bit more planned this time. I checked maps and even wrote down landmarks that I would see on the way.

AA Roadside Assistance is a wonderful service where if you break down and the place under the hood of your car is one giant black box to you, the nice fellows from AA come and sort it out for you. I thought that might be a useful number to have handy. Of course to avail of this service I would need a cell phone, so I made sure my phone was all gassed up and good to go.

Course charted, survival rations packed and back up arranged, I headed out the door.

I was back in front of the telly in 5 minutes.

The damn car was punctured.

So much for walking.

Mental note: Never try to be organised.

And never go walking when the telly is an option. Much less planning involved.

All that lark about life being better in foreen countries than it is at home. Everyone says it, from the uncle who couldn’t point to a foreign country on a map to the child who is sure she is headed ‘there’ one day.

Where, you ask? I’m not sure yet, they say, but I’m going. Appa, who will stay here in this country, where the system is broken?

True, the system works better here. I’m not saying it is perfect, but it works, you understand. But the price we pay, one wonders.

And one finds, one misses the strangest things. The small things.

Things like buying flowers at just that right time between afternoon and evening, when they are freshest and haggling over the price of the fragrant blossoms. Hearing the latest film songs played at the corner tea kadai. Going to the local temple. Shopping out at T Nagar or Commercial Street and eating out on the way back because of a bit too much shopping.

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One misses food too.

I miss tea made in that uniquely Indian way. The tea leaves boiled too long, the milk boiled to the consistency of condensed milk till it needs no sugar. I remember when I was in Bangalore, K took me to a typical ‘tea kadai’ said tea was tea only in roadside stalls. I also remember turning up my elite nose at that and refusing to have some because the shop looked none too clean and the customers even less so.

Here tea is a weak fluid colored brown, with a dash of milk old chap. No, we don’t really say old chap. But the dash of milk is true. And tea, Indian ishtyle tea, is available at Starbucks (of all places!) and is called chai latte (shudder!). Wonder who came up with that one? They serve it in clean cups and you drink it surrounded by smart young things, typing away on their iPhones. It just ain’t the same.

The chaat shop just off Commercial Street. Not for the claustrophobic, crowded and seriously underrated. I think I took T there once. Man! That was a place I was proud to take people to. Anand on Commercial Street and their kachoris sent from heaven to save us all. Lakeview Milk bar with its weird sounding name for the high-class sandwiches and burgers and things. And those lychee! Queen’s on Church Street for lunch with a book for company. Bheema’s for food so filling we couldn’t stand up at the end of it, T and I. Murugan Idly shop for those soft idlis that melted in your mouth. And their ‘sakkarai pongal’. That shop whose name I have forgotten in T Nagar. Just perfect after all that strenuous shopping. That chaat shop so close to home, where the pani puri is like no where else on earth.

It just isn’t fair. And oft-times one thinks, the price is too damned high.

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After a day filled with the sounds of hammering, sawing and hard work, it is finally silent. The workmen have packed away their tools and gone home to their kai.

And me? I am left alone to savor the sounds of the park in my backyard, the odd train passing by and the sound of bangles clinking as I type this.

And I am left to yearn for the small things.

I’m getting old.

The thought has been lurking in the shadowy recesses of my mind, the places I usually pretend don’t exist. But after spending 20 minutes on the floor today composing a single text message, I realized pretend time was over.

Upon closer inspection, the signs are quite clear and rather abundant.

On the roads I now look for speed limits and road signs even if none are apparently visible. My driving instructor says I am too cautious on the road. People I would have said are old now think I drive too slowly.

When texting, I now capitalize and punctuate quite assiduously. Darn kids and their funny shorthand!

Spending an entire afternoon baking is now acceptable and even fun.

One feels eating out is a waste of time and money. Plus it’s not healthy. A long way from eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at questionable eat outs, yes?

When eating a cookie, or a chocolate or pretty much anything, I stop mid bite to wonder if it’s good for me. If I go back to India and eat at a redi again, I will in all probability require medical attention quite soon after. Whatever happened to living on fries, pizza, samosas and chaat?

Nowadays I prefer to stay home and watch Harry Potter on TV. Yes not only am I getting old, I am also apparently regressing back to the mental state of a 12 year old, if that.

Oh well. I suppose it was inevitable. Besides, I think there might be a re-run of HP on the telly…

As any self respecting TamBram knows, the promised land is America. If you grew up with lots of maamis coming around to your house at festival times, you have heard the phrase “Theriyumo, ava pillai/ponnu/mapillai Chicaco/Caulifornia/some other city or state la irukka (Do you know, their son/daughter/son-in-law is in the States).”

Short of beating it in to you, it was made known that if you had an iota of self respect you would go to the States. If, heaven forbid, you went to some other country the Hindu reading mama next door would discreetly ask your parents “Yen states la onnum kedaikalaya? (Was nothing available in the States?)”

Having grown up with such intense indoctrination, when I arrived here it felt very much like arriving in the promised land where the streets were paved with gold and champagne (or in my non-drinking case, milk) rained from the heavens.

Surprisingly, it has been easy so far. I had been having visions of being tackled to the ground by beefy immigration officials with guns for having the wrong kind of visa. Or of my luggage ending up in Cuba and me having to go to the supermarket to buy everything from a toothbrush upwards. None of these came true and my toothbrush and I have slipped into the country without any ripples.

The apartment is nice (it’s HUGE!), the rental car is nice (it’s HUGE!) and the supermarkets are pretty much what I am used to in New Zealand (the potatoes are HUGE!). As subtly expressed above, I’m still coming to terms with the size of things. There doesn’t seem to be such a thing as small. Even the bloody onions in the store are so huge, I can use one of them for four meals.

So that’s the story so far of yet another Tam Bram in Caulifornia. I haven’t done much exploring so far (the official excuse is jet lag, unofficially it’s sloth), but I plan on taking some pictures. So those will come up at an as yet unknown date.

Till then, I’ll be seein’ ya’ll around.

Baby I’m addicted, I’m out of control…

Deprivation is driving the system haywire. Mucho withdrawal symptoms are being felt. It’s an effort to resist the impulse to head out and hit up. Hard to resist the craving.

It’s not like I’ve always stuck to my resolutions. In fact, in my family, I am famous for making resolutions and breaking them with astonishing speed. I’ve always managed the back lash from that scenario with a grin and ‘What is one to do’ kind of smile.

I have a feeling I’m a mild hypochondriac. The smallest symptoms scare me and my vivid imagination runs away with me. One time, my head felt like it was going to explode and I was alternately too hot and then too cold, running a temperature. I convinced V I had had these symptoms previously and they had been diagnosed as malaria that time and that this was a relapse. A painful couple of hours and a hundred dollars later, I learnt to recognize the symptoms of sinusitis and that the only treatment was steam. Lots of it.

But this is different. This is a serious question of health. I don’t have to imagine the havoc in me, I know what can happen. And so having taken the decision to kick the habit, I intend to stick to it. But man, is it hard!

And the nasty little thoughts in my head don’t make it any better. Well, it isn’t like a real addiction, is it?

Classic lines of denial from a confirmed addict.

I think I will make myself that cuppa coffee.

I love the way the formal trousers I am wearing right now that fall in perfect pleats around my legs. It just makes me feel all corporate and powerful.

I love the knitted green sweater I’m wearing, that I bought in Colorado. I know if I can get my butt to the gym three times a week like V says I can look even better. But it’s just so hard!

I love the basic black heels I’m wearing. I love the little clickety click they make on the marble floor of the lobby in my building.

I love the weather in New Zealand right now. It’s bright and sunny and cool. Perfect fall weather. All the trees have shed their leaves and my feet make a swish swish noise as I walk through the leaves. Who said only New York was beautiful in the fall?!

I’m wondering if I should buy V flowers. No reason, I just feel like it. I wonder if he’ll like the idea?

I do not like people who skip their vowels in emails. In texts. On Facebook. Where ever. Stop murdering the English language! And mind your goddamn punctuation too!

The sun was trying to break out through the clouds, but it has failed miserably. Oh well. It was a beautiful day while it lasted.

I wish I had the courage to change things about me and my life that I really don’t like. Sometimes it’s just comfortable to sit in the groove, in denial about the fact that it’s now a rut, and not change anything. Simply because it is easier to go on as it is. It could be anything: changing your look, going to the gym, changing your job. Anything.

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I typed this up earlier in the day, during a boring moment at work.

I finally did get him flowers. ‘A’ flower, a large sunflower.

And yes, he liked the idea. Very much 🙂

Post that I typed up when I got back. Blogger was down for maintenance and then I was down recovering, so slightly older post.
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Back and totally feeling the jet lag.

My brain says it’s 3:20 PM, Aotearoa but my body is rebelling and says it is 8:52 AM, India. I’m sitting here at my desk, trying my hardest to work and be busy as hell, because dammit I’m just back from a month long holiday and I’ve got work backed up to Kalamazoo.

But sadly the reality is I’m trying my damnedest to stay awake (because I didn’t get any sleep, because of the jet lag, because.. you get the general idea.) and pretending to be busy because there is no work even after a month long absence and the jet lag is kicking in.

I actually typed up this big rant about how I hate my job, in this space. But then I took it out because I realized I’ve probably already ranted about it before.

Mental Note: Have already proclaimed to the world total dislike of job. DO NOT do it again.

Downtime was good. It gave me a chance to recharge my batteries. Went home and my mother pampered me thoroughly. In fact my total abstinence from household activities while in India has prompted a generally benevolent feeling towards housework here in Auckland. I’m not too sure how long it’s going to last though.

Clothes in India really score compared to the stuff here in Aotearoa. The colors!

And even better: The prices!

And even more better: The deals!

And from the extravagant use of exclamation points, you gentle reader have rightly deduced that the stores were like an oasis in the desert that is my shopping.

Muchos gracias T for patiently putting up with my demands to go here and there and everywhere, driving me around here and there and everywhere, giving up a Saturday for me and generally being the sweetheart I know and love :). I wish I could have stayed longer but it was not meant to be. Maybe next year.

I’ve come from a tropical summer to a temperate fall. And I’ve promptly fallen in love with New Zealand in the fall. The dark skies and incessant rain that are the signs of winter are not here yet. Instead the sun is out, mellowed by fluffy white clouds. A breeze, not cold but cool, is gently but emphatically making its presence felt and necessitating the use of a jacket.

Good weather, good times. It’s good to be home.

I feel old. Not old like in tired. But old like in ‘I-am-out-of-touch-and-feel-like-the-previous-generation’ old.

For some strange reason, I sense the presence of a generation gap between me and people who are 5 years younger. I mean for chrissake, wasn’t a generation gap supposed to be, well a generation wide?!

I blame it all on the Internet of course. And in particular, this blog.

What was I doing at that tender young age of 15? The worst I can remember doing is standing on street corners and talking with my friends, hours after school let out. That, I’ll have you know, was the epitome of cool in small town India. And I was the only one with a scooter among that lot! So that made me uber cool.

Hidden, guilty pleasure was deciding to go to a movie after gathering at a friend’s house for a ‘combined study’ session.

Getting into trouble happened if parents were not informed that I was going to be late.

That’s all passe, apparently. From the looks of the posts on that young lady’s blog, that lot would consider me a dinosaur. Who was a curmudgeon. And one that didn’t know how to have fun, to top it off.

I’m sure if they knew of me and heard my idea of rebellious fun in my age of teen angst, they’d see visions of an old lady with blue hair in a flower print dress, primly holding a cup of tea and saying “Children these days…’ with a delicate shudder.

And I suppose the fact that I never had to worry about addiction to acid and coke when I was 15 is a moot point.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what acid is. And I don’t know if you can even get addicted to acid. But I digress.

The fact that I never lived in constant worry of my parents ‘finding out’ anything is not really that important. The fact that my parents say they are proud of me and even today say, unnecessarily, that they are grateful that I didn’t get into trouble as a kid – that probably doesn’t count for much either.

I know what happens now. The hip young peoples of the world throw up their hands and say, in indignation, ‘Who says our parents aren’t proud of us? Who says we are good for nothing? We get good grades, we also know have to fun. If you couldn’t figure it out when you a kid, tough luck old timer!’

And I just shrug and say, well all I says is I feels old. And maybe you young’uns are right and maybe you’re not. All I says is I feels out o’touch with you lot.

And that’s what I says.

I did a read back of yesterday’s story and decided I did not like it. I mean, why the fuck am I so gloomy? And why am I writing stuff that’s all rant, rant, rave, rave, gripe, gripe about the injustice of the world? The world is an unfair place. So suck it up and live with it. Is what I should be telling myself. Not that I bother about the fairness or unfairness of the world in general on a daily basis. Just in the writing department. Anyway, point is I’m going to try to be more upbeat in the writing.

Having said that, I can’t think of a single idea for an upbeat, merry story. All the ideas I’m thinking of are a little noir. So I figure I’ll do an observational post.

* People who speak English as a second language acquire a funny habit once they’ve lived abroad for a few years. When they speak English, they speak entirely in idioms and catch phrases. They also have an accent for certain words but not others. Is that what I’m going to do in three years time?

* Why is it that boys always talk about toys and girls always raise their eyebrows and make exasperated noises at boys who are talking about their toys?

* Why does ‘smart set’ seem to mean stick thin girls and guys, dressed to the nines mostly in black and sipping fat free skimmed soy milk latte? If I’m not thin, don’t always wear black and like regular milk in my coffee, does it mean I can’t play in that sand box?

* Why do I always think of the smart lines when it’s too late?

* Why is the weather nice Monday to Friday, then turn nasty on Saturday?

* Why do we all try to be different?

* If we all try the same thing, to be different, doesn’t that mean we are the same?

Over and out. For now.

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