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Or is it?

As the rest of the world freezes, it’s summer here in old upside down New Zealand. But just when ya thought the sun would stay for more than two days at a stretch, they go and forecast rain for the next week.

I hate the rain. Makes me depressed and saps what little energy I have. Which is why I hate winter in Auckland too. I mean 6 months of almost non stop rain, how can I not?

I wonder though, would I like winter better if it snowed? Snow brings to mind hot chocolate, warm fluffy sweaters, heaters and maybe even a fire place!

So they’re blaming global warming for all the crazy weather everywhere. Maybe if we keep up the good work, it might snow in Auckland!

In the days of being single, hip and in the big smoke…

Ok lots of things wrong with that start. One, I never thought of myself as ‘single’ or ‘in a relationship’ or the weird ‘it’s complicated’. How is it complicated? Either it’s on or it’s off, what’s to be complicated? But that’s fodder for a different post.

Back to One: I was employed, bored, not broke and other things but nothing to do with my status.

Two, I was never hip. Never was and never will be. It just ain’t my thing.

And Three: The big smoke? I’ve seen bigger and better cities, so it’s looking pretty tame about now.

So anyway, back in the day, when one passed semi decent looking young men in the street, which was not often, one would remark to oneself or the friend (female of course!) by one’s side ” Cute guy!”

The other day I was in the university quad waiting to get to an appointment and as I watched young men passing, I wondered to myself “Is that what my son is going to look like? If he does decide to dye his hair, I hope he picks a different color.”

Things seem to have changed.

Oh right.

The whole being a mum thing? Still getting used to it.

Right, a fresh start on a fresh blog.

Note to self: Must be regular on this one, at least.

Slightly more interesting posts to follow.

It’s the same old question.

Coffee? Or tea?

Notice the carefully capitalized Coffee and the placement second of the wannabe.

As a coffee drinker myself, I am inclined to look down disparagingly upon the lesser cousin, tea. The old English fixture of a ‘nice cup’o tea’ is to my mind drunk because they couldn’t get their hands on anything else.

I suppose coming from a South Indian family has something to do with my obsession with coffee. I have heard stories at the maternal ancestral home of weddings being called off because of bad coffee. Of daughters-in-law being measured by the coffee they brewed. Of the prestige of a household resting on the small coffee filter. And in a way I can understand. After all, the first encounter a guest has with a household’s culinary repertoire is the ubiquitous cup of coffee.

In every South Indian household, no matter the time of arrival or the temperature at the time of arrival, a guest is always offered a cup of coffee first. Except maybe if you turn up after midnight. Even then, if it’s close enough to dawn, chances are you’ll score a cup of coffee.

I remember how my love affair with coffee started. I grew up in Dubai and I remember Anchor yogurt and powdered milk. But when we came to Thanjavur for holidays with my paatti, it was good old Aavin (the milk co-operative like Fonterra, only much smaller) paal. And boy did it smell. And I remember my grandmother adding a few drops of decoction to the milk to distract me from the smell. Voila! It was love at first taste. And ever since then I have been faithful.

And it’s not just me. This might seem horribly wasteful, but my mother loves her coffee so much she had a coffee filter made entirely in silver. And I loved the idea so much that I decided I wanted the same thing as a wedding present. Which I got. After four failed attempts by the silversmith. Which I have carried 12,000 kms away to my new home in New Zealand.

For a perfect cup of coffee everything matters. The temperature of the boiling water. The filter you’re using. And above all the powder. Fresh ground beans with just a touch of chicory for strength.

On my way here I was worried about the powder part of it. What did Kiwis know about coffee, I thought to myself. So I carried over a kilo of coffee powder from my shop back in India. A year in and the original powder is all gone and I have sourced some coffee closer to home. Sub par, you understand, but drinkable.

The Coffee: Dark. Aromatic. Mysterious. Bursting with flavour. Drunk hot, an elixir to rejuvenate the mind and the body. Drunk cold, an ambrosia to wash away the fatigue from the limbs and the consciousness. With milk, elegant: sophisticated and worldly. Without milk: raw, in your face and with an attitude.

It demands attention. Commands respect.And when you come to worship at the altar that is the flavor of coffee, it is gone. An ephemeral, elusive wisp. To be a connoisseur of coffee, is to be someone.

And I am definitely someone.

Because it’s that time of year again! 🙂

My baby turns three today. And what a long way we’ve come.

Yes, I feel the urge to introspect today. How my writing has changed and how I have changed.

And more importantly, where we are headed from here.

Me and my baby, we started out as overly punctuated, in coherent, strongly opinionated ramblings of a nineteen year old in college. I was clueless about love and had no idea of how to be tactful. My fuse was practically non existent and the slightest thing could set me off. I was not very perceptive of my surroundings and the feelings of people around me. Plus I was rude to boot.

This blog was a pain. It was filled with the hopes and fears of a teenager about to step out into the world. Very silly sounding fear and hopes. Things that now sound very juvenile. Very unimportant.

And the punctuation! I can’t believe I wrote like that. What would Mrs.Rabi (eighth grade English teacher) think?! Too many ‘…….’. Reflects incoherence and lack of organization of thought, don’t you think?

And now? What has happened in three years you ask? Well the ‘…’ are gone for starters. The sentence construction is much better and my thoughts are organized much more neatly. I still ramble. And rant. And rave. But every now and then, a glimmer of intelligence shows through, I hope. And a glint of humor, maybe?

Oh and the best part for you as readers! I’ve stopped posting everyday! 😉

Yesterday and today are exceptions of course. After all, it’s our birthday and we are allowed to spoil ourselves.

Me the person has changed too. From times when the only weighty decision I had to make was whether to eat in the mess or outside, I have come a long way. I find myself making decisions about my happiness.

Making decisions that are life changing.

That are scary.

I have become more sensitive to people and their feelings. And I have become more confident.

Sure, the future scares me. I’m not sure everything will work out. But I’m willing to take a chance. And I have the confidence that if I fall I can pick myself up.

Likewise this blog. Maybe my baby will die a quiet death, with no one the wiser. Maybe she will go out in a blaze of glory mourned by many. Or maybe she will live on.

But why get morbid?

Happy birthday. Here’s to happiness. Yours and mine 🙂

I’ve come down to earth after a prolonged spell of deep introspection and unnecessarily deep thinking.

And so an outlining of rather mundane news of books, movies and music, that someone in some corner of the universe might find useful at some point in time, follows:

I read Amartya Sen’s Identity and Violence : The Illusion of Destiny. Fundoo read I shay. I recommend it if you are into that kind of slightly-verging-on-textbook kind of book.

I am now struggling with Bertrand Russell’s The History of Western Philosophy which I’ve been reading on and off for four months now. I think it’s one of Those books. The one’s that you are destined never to be able to finish. But I haven’t given up hope yet.
When Russell gets too tough, I’m flicking through Ludlum’s The Apocalypse Watch. Same story that’s been done to death in a thousand books. But hey! It’s fun and who’s keeping track, right?

I’ve also got A Thousand Splendid Suns lined up. You remember Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner guy? Well he’s back with another one. I’m hearing it described in superlative terms. We’ll see.

It’s raining movies! Even though I have a mere 128 kbps line at home, the Airtel people were kind enough to give me unlimited downloads 24×7. The torrents are unbelievable! I remember way back when I was in college, the failed wizard tried time and again to teach me about the joys of torrents. Dim bulb that I was, I failed to realize the power of peer-to-peer. But necessity truly is the mother of invention/discovery. Without a TV, I was forced to look elsewhere for entertainment and the torrents saved my life.

I average about one a day.

Movies,I mean.

Yesterday it was Transformers. The movie is a hoot. Great for a family flick, if your family is into action figures occupying the entire screen. But no matter how old you are, you’ve got to admit – Optimus Prime is Cool! 🙂

Another good one I saw – Elektra. Warning! The movie has absolutely NO STORY at all. But Jennifer Garner has some cool moves. Speaking of cool moves, the coolest moves can be found here, in Jet Li’s Hero and Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Hero has some of the most amazing visuals I have ever seen. Kind of reminds me of The Last Samurai and Brokeback Mountain both of which are very visually powerful flicks.

Speaking of Brokeback Mountain, jokes and innuendos aside, it’s a beautiful movie. I would recommend it very highly. In fact burn a copy on a DVD. Or buy the damn DVD. It’s worth every penny.

The incomparable Al Pacino in Scent Of A Woman. Just go watch it. You won’t regret it.

Spielberg works his magic in Schindler’s List. Brilliant.

Gangs of New York, The Aviator and The Departed. One knows now why Martin Scorcese is a living legend. He’s so good, it’s scary. And DiCaprio has come long way after Jack in Titanic.

So there you have it. Just Me’s dose of Must Watch and Must Read.

More will follw. Just let them torrents finish downloading 🙂

Listening To: Augustana – Boston

I was down with a bout of malaria. Hence the respite for you folks from pesky posts.

But I’m back now. Yes you can be afraid, very afraid.

Anyway, in the midst of my little tussle with them micro organisms, I wandered round to Shastri Bhavan. For the uninitiated and the non-Chennaiites, that’s where the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India issues travel documents required for visiting foreign countries.

Yes, it’s the passport office.

In life there are simple things. Like having open heart surgery.

And then there are the difficult things. Like getting your passport renewed.

Initially there are forms to be filled. And more forms. And more. In fact there’s enough paper to drown in. Remember, the forms have to be filled with the blue ball pen that Nair sells in his tea shop in some obscure corner of Alwarpet for Rs3.25.

Then there are photos to be affixed. 3.561450mm by 3.569863mm. Anything else will be rejected.

So I do all this and roll around to Shastri Bhvan. You must understand, there is an aura of inscrutability and fear and mystery associated with such place. Also more than quite a few rumors. According to one of these rumors, one needs to perform the Surya Namaskar after a bath at 5:30 in the morning and head to passport office by 7am.

I wasn’t going to let a little malaria stand in the way of such a joyful prospect. So I performed the requisite rites and was at Shastri Bhavan by 7:30. Of course by 7:32 I knew that the regulations had been changed and that the forms I held were no longer valid.

Ah! Murphy my old friend.

So I ask around what it is I need to do and a tout there out of the goodness of his heart tells me that I need to register myself online, download the new form, fill it, and come submit at the time mentioned on the form. He very sweetly offers to do the registration for me.

Of course the sixty bucks I paid him was in no way responsible for this act of kindness.

So I fill out, yes you got it right, another form and give it to him. I go home and come back at 11 am again by auto. This makes it the third time I am contributing seventy rupees to the welfare of auto drivers in Chennai. He gives me a form that says I have to come back on the 16th at 11:30am to submit the new form.

I go home, place orders for more photos of the right size, ball pens of the right color ink, and fortify myself with nutritious food and settle down to the task of filling the tortuous forms again. Of course the malaria is happily running amuck in me all this while. After filling in addresses and stapling proofs of residence and sticking on the photos I am finally done and ready for the 16th.

The day dawns bright and sunny and I’m off to Shastri Bhavan which by now feels like home. When I get there the crowds stop me in my tracks for a second. The Armageddon is here, I think to myself. The noise, the crush of unwilling people crammed in an insufficient space and above everything the stench caused by improper ventilation: what else can one think.

I walk up two floors, find out I’m on the wrong floor and walk back down. I ask a security which queue I need to join. He asks me very politely in dulcet tones to ask my questions somewhere else and not make his life any more miserable. For good measure he wonders what kind of idiot I am and how people can be so stupid.

After much aimless wandering around, I finally find the right queue. I spend another five minutes looking for the end of the queue. 45 minutes later an official swims into view. Home stretch? Think again. This man exists for one purpose only. To scream at the people who have the misfortune to come to him for some reason. His occupation on the side is to check people’s applications to make sure all the required papers are present and to staple them.

Another 45 minutes of standing first on one leg and then on another. Finally a room. Three official looking people inhabit this fortress guarded by none other than my security with the dulcet voice. One can enter this room only if permitted by the guardian. Already the man hates me for disrupting the peace of his day. Now he looks at me like he is going to make sure I never see those officials inside.

After putting much fight and doing the “Sir-I’m-so-sorry-I-bugged-you” routine, he lets me in. I promptly get thrown out on my ear because I do not have one of the necessary papers. Run to the photocopy shop and come back with papers. I get thrown out again because I have not pinned the bundle. Back to the screaming man with the stapler. I ask him if I can skip the queue as I only need his stapler. He comes back with the immortal line “kadavuley vanthalum seri, queue la than varanum”. So I must have hallucinated those 23 people who skipped the queue. Or maybe they were not of this world.

I go back to my only friend in the place, the official who is checking my bundle. Near tears, I tell her the man with the stapler is being mean. She says she is off for lunch and will come back and staple my papers herself.

And hour and half of kicking my heels. Then they open the doors again and my friendly official is back. She beckons me in and takes a look at my formidable bundle of papers. She looks at the stapler. No contest there. She sends me out again, for a tag this time. I come back and poke the pointy end of the tag through the 372 papers that are there in my bundle. She finally looks through, slams a seal on the whole caboodle and signs it off.

Whee! I am now free to join the next queue. I could jump for joy at this point.

I run up two flights of stairs and walk into a scene from queue hell. Queues all over the place. I ask 13 people which is the right queue and am finally directed to a counter that everyone is ignoring. Could this be it? With my luck I should technically be in the longest queue in the building. But for once I am spared. I submit my papers; pay my 1000 rupee fee to the Government of India, represented by the fat man behind the glass and run out.

At this point, I feel I should mention the nameless people who touched my life for the very short duration I was there.

Fat aunty in sweaty nylon saree, you were wrong. According to you the counter to pay would be open only till 2:30 and I would have to come back the next day. Sorry to disappoint, but it was open till 4:oo and I made it.

Young man who tried to flirt with me, sorry man. I was not impressed.

Middle aged lady who looked at me enviously, get over it. Youth passes and age happens. Not my fault.

Shoot! Now I have to wait another 10 years to have all this fun again.

There is nothing quite like driving in the rain, with the water stinging your face and the clean air rushing past.

There is nothing quite like driving in the rain, hearing John Rzeznik croon he doesn’t want the world to see him, coz he doesn’t think they’d understand, and agreeing with him. That the world wouldn’t understand me.

There’s nothing like driving in the rain and coming home, not sopping wet, but just slightly and settling down with Tolkien and a cuppa steaming coffee.

I could almost believe: This is heaven.

Wheee!

Why? First post after shifting OS.

I decided Windows was getting boring and shifted to Ubuntu. Plus I had heard so much from junta about Linux this and Linux that, so I wanted to try it out for myself.

After a wobbly few hours trying to configure stuff, I am now up and running. Well not completely. There is still something wrong with the sound preferences that I’ve set, resulting in my not being able to hear anything when I play a sound file. But other than that things are going just fine.

Having said that, on with the post

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There’s this store near my house that sells fruits, vegetables and dairy products.
It’s Reliance’s latest attempt at trying to fit the world into a fist. Their fist.

Anyway, I like this shop and usually do my weekly shopping there. I’ve been noticing the patrons there for the past few weeks and there is a pattern emerging.

Mental Note: Find out if this noticing patterns everywhere has something to do with use of J2EE patterns at work.

* The Shopper: This is me. This kind goes to the store, picks up a basket and walks down the aisles looking for stuff that’s on the shopping list either in their hand or in their head. Pretty tame: your average, organized shopper.

* The Random Shopper: This category can be compared to the clients in software development. They know they want to buy something. So they just drift aimlessly along the aisles toting the biggest size shopping basket the store offers. Suddenly they’ll stop in front of the onions and stare at them for a minute. For that minute nothing else exists: not the irate shopper behind who can’t maneuver past in the narrow aisle, not the store clerk asking them if they need anything, not the other irate shopper trying to pick up some onions. It’s just them and the onions. Then it’s over and they move on, leaving very puzzled clerks in their wake. The random shopper can usually be spotted exiting the store having bought nothing.

* The Neurotic Shopper: “Don’t touch that dear!” “How about this?!” “Don’t run in the aisle!” “I can’t decide!” The child with them touches something, blood pressure spike. The kid walks towards something, another spike. Their spouse suggests an exotic cabbage for dinner, yet another spike. Their entire shopping experience is a series of blood pressure spikes.

* The Unsure Shopper: They’ll park themselves in front of the fruits. They’ll pick up an apple. Put it back, scratch their head, look longingly at the apple, wonder if their life savings will be decimated in any way if they buy that apple, consider the planetary positions and then decide not to buy it. So they go the checkout line. When the person in front of them is pulling out his/her wallet to pay, they say “Just a sec!” run back and get the apple. When the clerk is about to bill the apple, they’ll say “Oh wait! Don’t bill it!” The clerk moves to remove it from the bill. “Oh its OK. Just bill it.” Store clerks usually breathe a sigh of relief when they leave.

* The Enthusiastic Shopper: Around 70. Is usually used to buying stuff in the open markets found in the smaller and not so small towns of India. Is completely overwhelmed by the new and shiny store. As a direct result of this , wants to buy everything in the store. Is usually followed by a middle aged auntie or uncle saying “Let’s not get that.” or “Raghu really doesn’t like beetroot.”, “We have enough dish cloths at home.”, “No we don’t need a new bucket.”, “Yes I see we’re getting one for one free but we really don’t need a fourth tea strainer.” Childlike enthusiasm notwithstanding, letting this kind have their way might turn out to be a mite expensive on the pockets. And you might end up with a sixth cutting board.

If you are 70 and don’t want to buy everything in the store, then it wasn’t you I was talking about.

If you are a middle aged auntie/uncle and you indulge the enthusiastic shopper, then it must’ve been some other auntie/uncle that I saw.

It takes all kinds to make a world.

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And having typed out that entire post in OpenOffice, I’m realising how many words I don’t know the spelling of and how many punctuations and formatting I depended on Word to provide me with.

If you find any abysmally bade speling, pleas to ignore, while I figure out how to set spell check on this thing.

* My TL and I share the same ring tone. Today morning, when the alarm on my cell phone went off, I told myself my team lead’s phone was ringing and she’d pick the call.

I’m all messed up. I can’t forget the office.

Even when I’m asleep.

* It’s been two days since I did laundry, three since I did the dishes, ten since I swept the house and fourteen since I had a day off.

* Whoever said eat dinner like a beggar, obviously had a software engineer, working towards a deadline, in mind.

* Potatoes cook extremely fast. If you’re aiming at a ready-in-five-minutes type of dinner, I’d suggest potatoes any day.

* In Bangalore, I had a life, but no professional life.

Here I have all the professional life one person can handle in one lifetime.

But I have no life.

* Evam are doing a play on the 26th. I want to go watch it.

I know I have a snowball’s chance in hell of going to watch it.

* Last minute panic is supposed to inspire creativity, according to Calvin.

It’s not working.

* I’m seeing a bunch of errors on the page instead of the form I’m supposed to be seeing. Why?

And no. You can’t leave a comment saying “You’re coding it wrong.”

I know that. It’s a rhetoric question.

* Here’s the weirdest part. I actually asked to be here, right here in this jam.

Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it.

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