Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mindy Kaling: You are so wrong!

As an Indian gal of a certain age, I am conditioned to be an undying fan of certain people on American TV—Rachel in Friends, Buffy the vampire slayer (if I was trying to be weirdly different), Phoebe in Friends and of course, that girl in Remington Steele coz we still got the serious British guy hangover.

Cut to now when Mindy Kaling is rocking the scene with her insanely funny self, blonde TV girl stereotype be damned. So I am pleased, right? My kids get to see someone like effing Mindy Kaling on TV and aspire to be her? Awesome sauce! So imagine my surprise when Mindy brings up the idea that South Asian women are invisible.  Who, us? Are you kidding me? Here is why we are NOT:

1)   ‘Brown Privilege’: My first job in the U.S (coz I reboot my life at every move) was in a tiny office where an older lady gasped when she read about some female infanticide statistic in India. She ran over to me to say “you are a survivor! Kudos!!”. To which I said ‘yes, ma’m. Oh, do you think we could replace the red velvet cakes in the break room with chocolate cakes instead?”. I got my wish, and my special ‘survivor’ privilege. Which meant I always got to choose the takeout lunch first. Take that, you cold-sandwich lovers!! I felt special.
2)   “Where I come from…”:  I live in San Francsico. Which means most people have either attempted being a ‘global citizen’ or are eager for stories to share at the water cooler so they can pretend they KNOW how to behave like one. I might be the only person strongly reaffirming I have ridden on an elephant, in the streets of a city. Which basically does not compute in people’s heads. But. I. Thought. It. Was. Politically.Incorrect. Now.You. Tell. Me. NO??
3)   My crappy cooking skills are exotic: My mom can stop laughing. Like right now.

The real challenge of being a south Asian woman isn’t anonymity or invisibility. It’s that there are too many of us. I feel like the first child who asks the mom “but I thought I was going to be the only one. Like forever!”. So Mindy Kaling, much as I love you, you are so.wrong. Nationwide is NOT on my side. I am hoping not.


Friday, June 17, 2011

The Sounds of Music

Funny, its not until I stepped out of India when I realized two things:

1) The music repository that we have, on average, is huge.

2) Our music classification, if we include the likes of 'movie' music, is rather odd.

Let me elaborate on the first, first. The overarching circle here is the Hindi Movie Industry music (seriously, I am starting to find the 'wood' affiliation a bit annoying. Bolly, Tolly, Molly? What are they? Bimbos in the villains lair? I insist on Hindi film industry). Mom was and is an avid listener and makes bashful claims that my name was inspired by one such song. With a name that translates to 'dream' thats pretty much any song between 1977 and 1986. Then comes the state-based affiliation (Tamil, as it would be for us). For the longest time the songs were only melodious to me, the real meaning of the lyrics outside the grasp of my colloquial language skills (seriously, the lyricists sounded like they belonged to royal courts based on the songs alone). However, it was still music. Then came the influence of "English" songs which usually started with the safe 'Sound of Music' and then progressively and now embarrassingly graduated to the likes of Samantha Fox (there, i said it) and Madonna. And then comes the Tambram influence (oh yah mom. you are gonna see me use the word Tambram quite a lot here. So stop reading already). Tambram basically meant you were born with an innate affiliation to carnatic music. While the sibling wisely pointed out that most songs involved vigorous nodding and sounds but very little words, he was doomed to a summer of learning to drum the mridangam. While I can re-chant some of the songs even 20 years later, I can never tell if it came from the HMV audio tapes that we were subjected to every morning or because I liked it. So, on an average at age 5, the cross-bred AMC is exposed to 5 different types of music. Thats huge--simply because the differences are not only in language but structure and form too. Now, a quick cumulative analysis to late 1990s indicates a staggeringly large number of musical influences. (backdating it, the musical influences span decades because the Hindi movie songs of the 60s are just as relevant to my music collection as is the Elvis and the Beatles. I was not born during any of these times!).

As for my second point, the classification of the music I listen to (As 'movie' music goes) was something I definitely dwelled upon when trying to fix a Pandora station. We classify these types of music based on emotion, did you ever think about that?. A cursory look at my audio tapes of the 80s would render this:

-Old Hindi sad songs
-New Hindi sad songs
-Old Tamil happy songs
-Optimistic songs
-Romantic sad songs
-Tragedy songs
-fast songs (now its based on tempo, I presume)
-new romance
-old romance
-crazy songs (??)
-Songs about kids
-kids songs (whats the difference?)
-dad sad songs
-Relaxing songs (huh??)
-mom puja songs (This is the one me and my brother taped over with an audio version of one of our fights. Complete with sound effects of slapping and screaming. The audio footage also includes mom walking in on us and whacking our butts. No sound effects this time)

This is exactly why a Pandora won't get my music affiliations (I now have hip-hop added to the mix just incase I missed 'anger' in my emotional music repository). And my playlists will always be titled based on emotions, not music types (So Lady Gaga is going to sit next to remixed Dum Maro Dum).

Turning up the sound on 'Johhny Johhny Joker' under my 'peppy numbers' playlist.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Chronicling Surviving the Great Indian Middle Class Childhood

and missing it!

I always envy those who were born in one city and lived their entire lives there. Case in point, Sunder the spousal unit. His entire life revolved around a few streets each was punctuated by a well-known or notorious panipuriwala. He has what is commonly referred to as langotiya yaars, which somewhat translates into 'underwear friends'. Its a common term to refer to teh fact that he knew his friends since they were running around in underpants. Now why this term is never used for the female population confounds me. Presumably females do not refer to anything underpantlike lest they be considered unladylike.

Anycase, I envy these purebreds. Let a chance stranger standing in line at Starbucks ask me 'where i am originally from' [possibly after I have complained the 100th time of the complexity to placing orders when all i had to say was 'coffee' where I came from]. My typical response is 'India..near Bombay to be precise'. Which worked wonderfully if the damn globalization of everything had'nt happened. Chances are 10 years back I would say Bombay and all I had to hear was how the listener's friends uncle was from Bombay and was inviting him often but said listener was worried about the heat. It made for a quick end to the conversation where I would nod head, move it sideways to indicate the foggy SF weather was no match for what mumbai heat would be like and would proceed to pick my 'coffee' and leave.

Not so now, the listener most likely has made a trip to 'Bayangalooor' twice as the head of whatever it may be in his company so wants more precision to my response. 'Pune' I would say, absolutely not expecting him to know of it [and he wouldnt]. But if he be an Indian, he would now say 'oh you must have seen how much Pune has changed now right?'. To which I politely respond that I only studied in college and worked a bit in Pune. 'So where do your parents live?'. The now famous 'Bangalore'. "oh you speak Kannada?". Well, no. See my parents are originally from Chennai and they wanted to settle there but eventually moved to Bangalore because they were wrong about re-liking Chennai and son was in Bangalore. "oh. so you are a Chennaiite?' the person now asks confused. "I was born there!" i say brightly. But I basically schooled in Ooty and another town near it [Coimbatore--which you will know of only if your dad was a cotton vendor]. See why I envy those who were born and dwelled in the same city for years?

However, wherever I am supposed to be from in India, what has not changed is the uniformity to being brought up in the Great Indian Middle Class. The languages change, the cuisines change but there is a startling sameness to this sandwiched group and what it meant to me as a child. So here is my attempt to chronicle being brought up both in diversity and uniformity in the 80s, 90s in India.

Reflexing my digits to get accustomed to writing more than bullet point lists

Monday, August 16, 2010

Making the case for mediocre experiences

I am going through my photos from a recent summer trip to Florida and London [I know, odd combo. But we were going for muggy as the common theme for this trip]. There are 455 photos and the way it works is that I sit at my computer, filter the 455 photos to a more manageable 250 based on the variety of events and destinations and ensure it has the eye-catchability that is required of album sharing these days. And then I share a more selected few on Facebook while hosting the larger set on Picasa [which, if i am stupid enough to set on a public setting will notify everyone who is 'following' me, flattering as that may feel]. And i realize I am exhausted of superiorizing everything. And if I look at our experiences these days, it strikes me as unnaturally odd that all we seek are superlative experiences. A few samples:

-restaurant reviews are a must for dinners out.
-movie reviews are imperative and needs to impress to suck 2-3 hours of our precious time
-photos must be edited upon clicking, each pose is evaluated right after the shutter clicks to ensure it looks appealing [and if not, another go at it so that we can ensure brilliant poses and smiles].
-childrens products come with motherly seal of approval [my moms club LOVED these toys for their 22 month olds]

whatever happened to good ole mediocre experiences? you know, when you walk into a random hole in the wall and either get a surprise or a shock worth remembering? when you walk into a movie hall and watch a bad movie that you giggled all the way through in your seat coz it was SOO bad? there is a relative measure that is required to help us gauge what is truly a good experience thats memorable. Coz all we are doing is normalizing experiences otherwise, making them all labor-intensive projects even before we embark upon them [reading, comparing reviews].

I vote to make September my mediocre experience month--no reviews for any products purchased, no reviews for any restos visited and watch movies based entirely on randomly chosen traits such as 'he looks cute in the promos'.

Onwards and forward with mediocre experiences!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Here we go, a-job hunting oh!

Allrighty, there is nothing that screams "I am a Bay Area native!!" better than being laid-off in a recession. Well, that and getting an iPhone within the first year of its launch. I qualify with both i guess.

After killing myself with overloaded course-work, the MBA is finally out of the way and am looking at the job market with renewed vigor [well that, and the unemployment insurance guys keep self on my toes job-applying-wise].

Recently stepped out of the warm comfort of linkedin, craigstlist and pretty-boring-hotjobs to and omg!! the spam is incredible!! I got 3 interview reuqest emails from aflac [they dont have a duck logo on their emails. strange] and a couple of pharma companies. Jeez, now clearing job-mail spam is a daily activity.

I think the key is to dedicate a couple-hours everyday for job applications and cover letters. And quality oughta win over quantity of jobs applied for. How effective are networking/mixer events for job-seekers? Not very, I hope. I mean, honestly, its a breeding ground for competitive jostling. Everyone knows everyone else is there for the job that you want. And how likely is it that a well-written resume will always lose to chirpy introductions within 30 seconds? [save me the 'two minute elevator speech' advice. I would just as easily hand over the prospective employer my twitter id].

Tweaking my resume as I type!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

City-livin and India-cravin

Both of the above would probably go hand-in-hand in NY, or perhaps San Jose. But SF is a strange beast. Its diverse as hell, and then not. Admittedly, the people diversity exists in grand abundance—I have pretty much gone most of my working life here without creating many American or Indian pals. I believe my lunch gang at one point was called the United Nations team, and rightfully so. Most people know ‘Monsoon wedding’ and ‘sarees’, so that’s something I guess. But the blurring of lines between Indian and Pakistani food gets my south Indian tummy quite disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I can eat Shalimar food oh-about-once-in-a-blue-moon and appreciate the value of the tandoori chicken in the essential food chain. But I did miss the occasional dosa or thali joint that served a few of them chaats. I mean, honestly, kulfi we have in SF but not delicious chaat?

Anyways, my preggo state must’ve trigged some serious desi strings up there. Two restaurants open this weekend [oooh and Netflix seems to be expanding its desi selection. Found out that Aamir is actually releasing in its unpirated glory on july 1st]. Amber India, long known for its afternoon buffets of repetitive but sumptuous dishes in unlimited burp-friendly glory opens in its swanky Market st. location this week. Don’t be fooled by the reviews—this resto kicks some major ass when it comes to the food and buffet. Atleast in its other locations.
Udupi Palace, lord be praised, opened its shiny temple doors this week as well. I also wonder if yelp should list ‘indian’ as a separate category—putting it in Indian/Pakistani food cat might have patrons expecting their tandoori chicken and shami kababs.

I state that life is getting better for the ‘foodwise indiverse’ desi in San Francisco, namely self. Thanks for your Middle-eastern fare and the Chinese dim-sums, I promise to try that on weekends and Friday nights but for my mid-week fix may I please have that bowl of bisibela and bagala baths?

Planning an evening of bisibela baths and kulfi on Mission

140 pounds and feeling it

Updates nearing end of week 30!
  • I officially waddle. Even in heels, and that, my friend, is no mean achievement. I envision see-saws being designed for the first time when the inventor observes a preggo woman walking in her 7th month. ‘Why, that should be a fun sport for kids’ the inventor thinks and hey presto, out comes the see-saw device which wasn’t technically patented [of course, the US wants to call it ‘teeter totter’ which is likely a better word to describe self’s gait].
    In anycase, my underweight self rapidly put on the pounds in the last few months rounding it off to a perfect 140 pounds today. Yep, I count self in pounds now. That way it seems more impressive to freak over going from 138 to 140 than from 62.7 to 63.6 kilos. The tummy of course, can be moody these days, has a mind of its own and all that. I believe I sit in a chair and then my tummy sits.

  • The relief is immense in how preggo books refer to said ‘fetus’. There was a phase of tiny fruits and vegetables that had my diet severely restricted—honestly, how could you eat strawberries covered in chocolate if you have only read that your ‘fetus’ is the size of a ripe strawberry [after having graduated from raspberries no less]. Tadpoles and shrimps, I was quite disassociated from—I could living without eating either. More recently descriptions went beyond the food chain into grocery supplies—‘at week x, your fetus is the size of a bag of sugar’, the book happily stated. Well, I am happy to note that after spending a week existing in the size of a bag of flour, the fetus has finally transitioned to the size of a laptop screen [honestly, have they SEEN the sizes of laptop screens all over? PDAs are called laptops these days. Wouldn’t I alarm self by wondering how the growth curve is headed downwards?]. Never wished there were numbers more than when I read these weekly bulletins.

  • Mr.Sandman has no GPS system—sleep is officially lost. After having successfully pinched the dude awake [and then pretended that I didn’t do it] about 5 times the first night, I was desperate for new entertainment. Chatting on laptop didn’t seem fun [although a certain pal got some help on how to figure taking a stroller on Kingfisher airlines. This site provided the answer, she is on her way to Delhi now].

  • I am a control freak. There is actual proof of this. Number of spreadsheets in existence:
    -Existing daycare list
    -pediatrician recommendations from GGMG
    -GGMG’s daycare list
    -Baby care stuff to be bought
    -Baby-shower invite list
    -Home projects TBD
    All I need is my GAP kids card and my SUV.

Zealously planning me-time with the help of Google calendar,


Friday, June 13, 2008

Preggo Chronicles--"Its all about being equal"

Joining the mom’s groups online was more of a social experiment during my third trimester [not in manner of 'how clueless am I' but more along the lines of 'what are these groups all about?']. We managed to answer both questions though. To be fair, these groups have been helpful in making me move my butt on daycare research and such. But it also piqued my curiosity on SAHMs, WFH and FTW moms. [go figure, am not gonna provide a glossary. as yet]. The equality dynamics among newbie parents is fascinating--perception, reality and what exactly is equal and what isnt. I honestly feel that as long as there are no continuous complaints OR regrets, any model that works is good enough. There isnt really a 'right' approach [daycare versus nanny versus at-home care--they are all doable and fine depending on financial, attitudinal and environmental conditions]

In anycase, this article on NYTimes was interesting enough to make me wade through 10 pages enough to send a hurried 'you MUST read this' message to the spousal unit. Never ye mind that my 'reading material' for classes didn’t get this kinda interest, but i liked the takeaways from the article. or atleast mine. namely a) standards of home maintanance can differ widely and cause friction. b) recaliberating hours spent on tasks isnt as OCDish as it seems. and c)you can live by spreadsheets. allright, the third is my own discovery. but it fits in nicely.

S saunters in after a biz dinner in a suspiciously named restaurant in palo alto ['illusions'? Honestly? Did David Copperfield launch it?]. Plopping on the couch next to me, he glances at my laptop monitor [secretly hoping I made my next move at scrabble am sure].
Self: "did you get that mail with the nytimes article?"
Him: "when did you send it?"
Why that matters, I never did understand. Though in our 7 years together, I will come to understand that asking such a pointless question is his way of just asking for time while the slow churn of the search algorithm starts off in his head.

me: "its damn interesting" and I proceed to sell the article to the reading-averse spouse. This is tricky business, given that a) I insisted he not boot up his own laptop and (b) its late at night. I spout words like 'perfectly logical' and 'even-handed' and 'objective' till he moves a lazy eyeball towards said article.
him: "how long is it?"
"10 pages" I confess. But I quickly point out that I can read over the improtant parts so he doesn’t have to read it.

I do a marathon job of reading the article, skipping over the mushy 'how the couple met' sections with the yadda yaddas. "So!" I say. S seems to kinda like the point on different standards of home maintainance--probably hoping to point out that I was too finickly for his scavenging ways of wardrobe management.
so looks like the best way is to negotiate beforehand', I say. "negowwsheeate?" S smirks. "I think the best way is for you not to get soo finicky about tidying up" he says lazily. "but you are just appalling with your clothes' I say, already resenting his implication that my high standards will cause a hypothetical conflict in a hypothetical scenario in a few months from now when our baby shall actually be born. Yeah, i think ahead.
"well not so with the kitchen..i make sure its tidy after I cook everytime ..even before eating the meal I make" S says. I gotta agree, I am terrible in the kitchen. I chop, puree, make a mess of the counter, eat the food, blanch, make him salvage it and the rue the mess i made in the kitchen. While he chops everything into perfect pieces and takes out the trash and loads the dishwasher even before he switches off the stove. I call mine the 'chaos theory'. He calls it cluelessness. whatever.
"well maybe the trick is to divvy it up. You take care of the kitchen and I take care of tidying up" I say. It’s a long shot, I know. But he seems to like it. "yeah that makes sense". I probably got away with it for now.
I don’t know if that passes the 'equality' test--I am probably gonna be hopping around the kitchen about his oil usage and such in anycase. And hez probably gonna be mad I still havent gotten his 'pile philosophy'. But hey, we are making progress. The delivery-folllowed-by-getting-back-to-work-and-school looms ahead, and anything to make me feel more prepared is worth it.

pondering deeply while tidying up the living room,