Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Our "Unmentionables"

Have you ever bought a bra in a small town in India while you were a teenager? If not, you might not be interested in reading on. I realize of course that the segment of my handful of readers that have not bought a bra ever at all will most likely be the ones who will read on. But that's okay.

So it was always a male salesperson at the store. He would be in this little shower stall kind of cube with everything hidden away in little cardboard boxes either over his head or below in some secret compartments. Only a couple of bras would be on display. These would usually be in locked glass cases and they almost always had little pink roses placed at strategic positions. The matching undies would be there too; hoisted at all sorts of angles. "Feelings", “New Look”, "Peter Pan" and names like that would be splattered all over the walls with close-up shots of women's faces and eyes. Well, the general set-up would be such that you could not try out anything you wanted, you could not walk up and pick up something you wanted, and no, you could not even point it out. So you had to tell this cheesy looking guy what you wanted and horror-of-horrors in what size you wanted it!!!! Luckily you almost always went with your Mom and she would start off the conversation with "Andar ka dekhao bhayya" (Loosely translates to - Show us the inside stuff brother) and then move on to make and size. So you almost always were spared the agony of topping your existing adolescent pains by size specifications. There was always the chance that the guy disagreed with what you said. Yes, you read that right - they have suggestions for you too. My friend (we'll call her Arima) was built small in general. She stood 4'9" in her stockinged feet and was always considered the kid, which meant she could get away with a whole lot of things by acting the baby. The disadvantage was, as she was petite and almost always in a loose tee and jeans; people thought she was err...small; while in reality, she wasn't. So imagine her plight when cheesy-guy-behind-counter refused to give her the chosen size. He giggled while telling her so too; which just got her even angrier. He should have just given her what she asked for...I will consent to the fact that as a salesman he might be allowed to give advise and maybe he had built some expertise in this area with years of disappearing behind counters fishing out hundreds of samples for women of all sizes and shapes.... but he couldn't really have passed a sound judgment here, the counter was just not the right height to allow for such a sound judgment. O well, Arima took to getting her Mom to buy her stuff for her too. Cheesy guy thought the Mom was shopping for her own needs and never argued the case again.

So welcome to the United States and its wonderful mall culture. Stroll around, figure it all out, take your time...nobody is watching or waiting. Try it out, try it all out, buy it and you still have some time to change your mind. Relief, joy and sheer thankfulness....I remember muttering “I love you America” the first time I strolled around between those rows of hundreds of hangers. Of course, things have changed dramatically in India now and even the small town malls are pretty nice, while the bigger cities have amazing places to shop at - as I find out with each visit back home. The situation has it’s own set of problems though as most salespeople work on commission at these shopping centers, so once the escalator hits the bra-floor there will be 6 women walking as fast as possible towards you and you still have some announcements to make and some watching and waiting you are subjected to; but hey, we have come a long way so I reckon we’ll end up in a good place, it'll just take some time. I love doing my shopping in India for most things but you have to understand why the unmentionables are still bought only here in the US; the small-town girl hasn’t quite recovered from the pre-feminist-bra-salesman-burning-revolution times when buying a bra wasn’t an eagerly awaited experience...unlike trying on the new Ipex now (2 years of research and development, 10 designers and 1 patent pending!!! LOL!).

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Getting there

You will learn to make your peace
You will learn to go on
You will learn to tell the happy stories
Without choking on memories
of the recent ones.

I am learning to make my peace
I have learnt to go on
And I am getting to the stories.

But I have failed
To deal with the big wide hole
And the crushing pain
That may never well go
and that never
seems to pale.

Monday, March 28, 2005

A point of view..slightly altered by a birds-eye view...

“And there’s a camera on the right wing, to which I have a switch here, see? So I’ll call out and then let’s wave to the camera and get some great shots OK?” That was the last instruction from my Hang Gliding instructor, a cheerful, grinny, I-will-not-stop-talking-even-if-the-glider-fails-and-the-parachute-fails-and-we-come-
crashing-down-from-2000-ft typa guy. As it happens I thank my luck that he was the talkative type as once we left ground, I needed to hear a human being speak continuously, ask me questions so I would have to answer them and that in turn would force me to breathe. As we rose up I saw the cars getting smaller and smaller and then the planes in the nearby county airport got smaller and the Atlantic Ocean began to look like the biggest, vastest blue bed I’ve ever seen. It’s very different from what you see from a regular airplane; firstly because you can get a 360 degree view and most importantly you don’t have anything covering you. So that means you hear the wind all the time and it’s loud and howling and you have to shout to be heard by your instructor. It’s cold up there and the gloves and sweatshirt the guy recommended came in very handy, especially as I was holding the rope handles in a death grip and if it weren’t for the gloves, my hands would have well been bleeding. I asked him to point out the island we were staying on as we had driven to another island for this class. He pointed it out and gestured in the other direction to tell me where my home was. “And that way is Boston, your home, Ann” (he took to calling me Ann. I did not think of correcting him as I had bigger things in mind at that time and height!).

I suddenly thought of India, my real home I thought. I thought of what the birds can see, what angels and celestial beings can see, I thought of family and the dear, dear departed. I thought of love and death and God; which was all very, very weird because I do not consider myself to be a believer in the first place. I thought of my hubby standing by a golf cart waiting his turn and hoping for my safe return. It was like my heart was overflowing with love and happiness. “Come on Ann; give the camera a smile and a wave”. I said no, no, I’ll just smile, please do I have to let go??? Come on, you can do it, don’t you wanna show friends how brave you were? He had somehow tapped my inner recesses and figured out my weaknesses and strengths in the first 10 minutes of flight already! I waved and he called that the shortest wave in history and laughed. The glider bumped a bit, I shrieked and he laughed some more and assured me for the hundredth time that he will not let anything happen to me. I almost fell in love with him at that point. “Look, Drew is waving to us.”

Drew was the pilot of a little Ultralite that had chugged us up the 2000 feet. Gliders can only come down you see. So you either jump off hills or dunes like the Wright brothers did or you use a plane when you have one, which is what we did. Wilbur and Orville Wright succeeded in getting the first ever glider to lift off the ground on this very island. We had stopped at their memorial built on the very same hill they had used - “Kill Devil Hill”, on our way. The 60-foot monument constructed of gray granite honors the Wright brothers and marks the site of the hundreds of glider flights that preceded the first powered flight. The isolation, strong winds, high dunes and soft sand (and hence forgiving landings) of the Outer Banks islands were what brought the Wright brothers there. As we trudged up that hill I thought of all that they had had made possible for us. As we embark on commercial airplanes breaking the sound barrier and talk of even faster ones; as we haggle and scour the internet for the most affordable plane tickets we very often forget what made it all possible. A simple glider aided by the natural elements and skill and knowledge; aeronautics at its most simple and elegant form. In Wilbur’s words, “It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill”. So true, so true…as I was going to find out for myself now.

That's me! Posted by Hello

So Drew was waving. “He’s telling us he’ll be on his way now”...” What..?” was all that my mind was telling me. “PPPPHHHAT” The rope that connected us to him snapped off and my instructor knew a fresh load of assurances were in order here. Drew took off with one final wave. With the comforting presence of Drew’s head and the noise of an engine gone, it was suddenly just wind, glider, instructor and me; all alone, no engine, no nothing. My heart was in my mouth and my knees were shaking. “Ann your knees are shaking sweetheart!” Yes they are. I’m at 2000 feet, I’m scared and my knees shake like wooden spoons when I’m scared. “Be still, sweetheart, it’ll be fine”. An instruction that was given to us on the ground flashed threw my brain “We control these gliders with just our body weights. We move to the right by shifting our weight to the right. So everything is controlled by the movement of our bodies. That is all” That was enough to stop the knee shaking right there. I din’t want any surprises. I din’t want my instructor sounding surprised. But to my relief he had already proceeded to ask me about Tampa and whether I loved the Busch Gardens there. I started to tell him that though I was considered the chicken of the crowd (mostly by my hubby and the Alpha kind) I do manage a fair bit, when I suddenly realized this wasn’t a part of the talk-therapy. “You will love it Ann. It’ll be like a roller coaster in the air!” I shrieked and shrieked. I told him my childhood flashes in front of my eyes even on a roller coaster on firm ground, tested and engineered by experts. Please, please, no, no. He was thrown off by my plaintive cries and went right back to assurances. “Not even a small hot-dog roll?” Fresh shrieks. More talk-therapy. It was better after that. I even played pilot and controlled the glider for a bit. As we were drifting down (apparently at 100 ft/hr; but you can hardly feel it); I could see cars and the airfield and my husband slowly coming back into sight. The instructor made me do a hundred more waves and at one point even made me pretend to be a bird! Yes I let go off both handles. ‘Look Mom no hands’ took on a whole new meaning.

It was the smoothest landing. I found out that my eyes and (horror-of-horrors!) my nose was watering. How embarrassing. And how quickly priorities shift; I was back to wondering how to fix this, when I saw people running towards me and helping me get out of my harness. I saw hubby all excited asking me a hundred questions. But so quickly, before I could tell him about angels and love and God; he was on his way and I was now the photographer and I was clicking away with his manual and my digital (which I trust way more by the way). I saw them do a hot-dog roll after 10 minutes and I braced myself for the stories and teasing ahead. They landed and as I ran to meet him; the instructor called “Your husband thinks too much!!! He din’t want to do the roller coaster thing either!” Imagine my surprise when I saw my man QUITE rattled. He was worried that they did not do some kind of quality check between sessions and that the instructor just unloaded me and took off with him. He had been worried that the back-pack kind of thing we are on is after all just a back pack kind of thing. He pictured the handles tearing. A small tear that had gone unnoticed would break apart with a ripping noise. He thought of how there was only one parachute and how the instructor had it and though he was connected to the instructor; there are only 5 points of connection and the instructor could free himself of the student at any point. When the instructor twisted out of his line of sight so my husband could get an unobstructed view; he apparently did some shrieking too. He thought of how much more was still left to do on planet earth. He thought of what would happen if the winds played down. While I had been imagining angels watching over us; he had been picturing himself ripping through air and “I would just be a splattered road-kill on I-158 which cars would just swerve to avoid” –in his own words. He thought of ropes and tensions and stresses and strains. He thought of me too he said and he had chided himself for this whole hang-gliding idea. He had been treated to the hot-dog roll; it had not been approved by him at all! I could not help smiling; for the first time, I had emerged as the “cooler” one; scared though I had been I had actually ended up enjoying this much more than he had! My lack of practicality which I have been accused of by many had finally played off! My heart went out to him and his worries but I filed away all this info for the next time I’m subjected to all the teasing and for this blog too of course.

So do we all need to go through some high-risk activity to figure out who we are? Does this mean that that a skeptic like me is actually a trusting believer? While my husband who himself (though he is not a practicing believer in the traditional sense) does not deny the existence of God or a supernatural force; is actually the practical, questioning pessimist himself? Or does this just mean that I am a romantic at heart and this activity just reinforced that fact while it brought out the Mechanical Engineer in my husband? He can after all imagine the forces acting on a body in a state of unstable equilibrium - after devoting some 9 year of his life after high school to just that field - better than I can! For I remember clearly that Mechanics I/II was a nightmare to me in my first year of college where somehow all the forces seemed to balance each other out in whatever problem I was trying in that book by Shames. The pulleys and bridges and blocks of wedges on inclined planes would just remain where they were according to my diagrams; it left me nothing to do but think of angels and beauty and love. I guess that’s it.

P.S: The Kitty Hawk Gliding school is the World's largest Hang Gliding school. Since 1974 they have taught over 300,000 people. The instructor is of course a USHGA certified one and gliders are three times safer than most small airplanes. In fact the glider I was on was way safer than the tow plane that was used. And think of it this way, if that plane caught fire or something, that very towline I was so sorry to see go would be snapped and I and my instructor would glide down slowly in absolute safety. So if you ever get a chance to try this sport, please please do; chances are you will never regret it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting "...holy f*...what a ride!"

Amen to that.

Friday, March 11, 2005

I can stop whenever I want, really.

Last year I underwent surgery. It was a really small procedure and some of my friends even had the audacity of calling it plastic surgery. I have problems with that statement as firstly, it was not even cosmetic surgery and secondly it makes me out to be one of those Nip-Tuck wannabes...maybe I will be one someday but I like to think that that day is still very, very far away and I'll like to think that when the time comes I will have the good sense to steer away from that option...Well anyway, it was on my arm and I was sent home with a month's supply of Oxycodine. I was told to take two a day and more if it hurt. Now I'm known to pop a Tylenol in when I have a headache and a looming deadline or I need to play gracious hostess at dinner and I'm actually feeling my brain will split open and a Hannibal-style dinner could follow, but the pill-love ends there. So being told to take something as strong as Oxycodine twice a day was a bit rattling. I decided to taper off the usage as soon as possible. The plan was to stop after three days or maybe even two if things went well. Ten days after my surgery I was sad when I found out that I needed at least one pill a day to help me feel a hundred-percent. I was even sadder when I found myself using phrases like 'feeling a hundred percent'. When even the 1.5 inch scar began to fade and I still felt a need to dull the pain, my husband woke me up and stuck my head in the beans till I smelt the coffee. I'm proud to say I did not need him to lock away my meds or check me into Oxycodine-Anonymous. I just went cold turkey and a few days later went right back to hating the pill-popping types.

But this episode woke me up to how easy it all was. It is not just something that happens on TV and movies and Hollywood. It can happen to any of us, to the best of us. It can happen to people with brains and commonsense and principles. It can creep in while you're sleeping it off in a recovery room after surgery or in a slightly wilder-than-usual after-party-party or even when perfectly normal people are subjected to more than they can handle... it can happen to friends and family and even people who seem so strong.

Last month I started blogging and it's a whole new addiction now! This month I no longer check blogsites and comment boxes like a maniac...but I go down my list of favorite blogs first thing in the morning. At least it doesn't muck with any biochemical reaction going on inside me. I still need my dose, it's just a healthier high.

So now I'm the niptuck female who almost-went-to-rehab to my childhood pals on one particular email-list. According to one of them I should move to LA. I'm working on an Excel sheet that lists each of their deep-dark-deeds in descending order of the embarrassment it will cause. It will be sent out very soon. :-)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

"I love you more today than yesterday..
Yesterday you really got on my nerves!"


Monday, March 07, 2005

The Gift of Introduction

Ashi's blog on Mark Knopfler sent me spiraling down memory lane over the weekend. I was transported back to my teens when my room was the "music room" of the house. A time when people automatically talked in very loud voices when they came close to my room, assuming that the stereo was blasting in there. I'm a girl who worships her Beatles and will die worshipping her Beatles. And there will never be a Simon and Garfunkal song that will not make my heart sing in pure joy. I loved Dire Straits because their songs made me think. But most others I would play over and over again because they got my imagination working overtime, whether it was Billy Joel telling us about his lousy luck with the Uptown Girls or afternoons lounging around picturing a day when my prince would sing "Lady in Red" to me or nights brushing my hair imagining Eric Clapton was singing to nobody other than me, cooing to me that I looked Wonderful Tonight. So come saturday I happily zipped up all my old CDs on the hubby's I-Pod and carried it religiously around the whole weekend.

But things weren't that easy back then in the early 90s and late 80s. One had only heard of CDs and no way would such expensive hobbies be encouraged at home! But I was one of the early sporters of the "Brother in the US" tag. And shipments of cassettes covered with the neatest handwriting (a man of thoroughness - artists, albums, song names and all the basic stuff were always covered) along with printouts of the lyrics arrived at a regular basis, much to my parents chagrin (a long letter describing his thesis topic and his eating/sleeping habits would have sufficed in their opinion! ) and my utter glee. And that is how I got hooked to "Western" music. My sister was the one who helped me find my way around the world of ghazals and the Jagjits and the Latas and Mukeshs but I will leave that for another day. Today is about my brother and the world of music he opened up for me. May the music never end in your world Big Bro!!!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Last Night

Me: "Do you think I should look for a new job?"
Hubby: "Are you unhappy with the current one?"
Me: " No, but do you think maybe there's something great out there?"
Hubby: "Look out if you want"
Me: "But that's a lot of work you know...Do you think I should look for one?"

See this is a conversation that has been repeated with slight variations several times. I'm one of those people who likes her current job alright but I don't feel that "connection" with it. I never dreamt of doing modelling/programming/whatever-it-is-that-I-do, I did not as a 10 yr-old dream that I would one day be the greatest OR person on the planet (I would not have known of the existence of OR of course but you get the general idea), I do not when I wake up in the morning go "Yippee, can't wait to code that cool idea!!!”'s just a job to me. And THAT is the problem. I am a firm believer that I MUST have some true calling. I just don't know what it is yet. In this very pursuit of a true calling I have wandered into painting classes, interior design classes, pottery classes, salsa classes, jewelry-making classes...and I should say that most of these have transformed into wonderful hobbies and the painting has stuck somewhat.. but that dream of walking around in a brand new gallery with a glass of wine in hand going "I was inspired to paint that when I was passing through a small village Eretria in the outskirts of Greece..." still seems far, far, far out. So I can safely say that I have not yet bumped into that calling that will have my heart racing, that will give me sleepless nights and the most satisfying slumber at the same time.

So every once in a while I worry that I'm wasting away my most productive years being moderately good in a moderately okay profession in a moderate company. We're taught to reach for the stars and I'll have no problem doing that when I find my elusive true calling. Or maybe it's time I realized that as far as careers go, I am a moderate achiever and moderate is not so bad...

We're in bed now, and
Me: "...So this project is not so bad but tell me how you feel.. Do you think I'm just being lazy, do you think I should start looking out?"
Hubby: "Maybe it'll not be a bad idea if"
I turn around to see the half-opened 'Iliad' on his chest, mouth slightly open. Gentle snoring. Mid-sentence!!! How can men do that??? I cannot fathom how they do that. Or don't they? I'll like to think this problem my man has is not a rare disease....but you can't be too sure in these matters.