Sunday, September 21, 2014

Almost a Workaholic

I am sure that caught your attention. I never write about work. Atleast I try not to. Completed a month here and work has managed to take every little ounce of my free time. In India, work was not easy, but it was not all consuming. I could call up a few people, take an easy coffee break and sometimes even watch a FRIENDS episode. If my ex boss is reading, that was only sometimes. Rest was all solid sincere work. But, this, right here, is an altogether different ball game. My boss says the office functions like a mini White House. A month down and I almost agree with him. There's politics, a zillion meetings and some very important looking people. Meetings where I can't snooze for even a second. Anyhoo, I slept for 12 hours straight for two nights and feel so very fresh. Not even thinking about Monday right now.

Starting with big updates, I have moved to Simi Valley. It is the retirement home of CA. For those of you who are thinking I am living it up in the night clubs of LA, well here's a mental image. Deserted roads. Malls with all of ten people. And dinner by 6.30 pm (7 pm is almost late). Top it with tons of work and now tell me, if anyone wants to switch places with me. :)

So, let me think. Last four weeks were not just work. I managed a trip to San Francisco through the Pacific Highway. Pretty as a picture. It's a long winding road, perfect for folks who like to drive and those who like to sit by the side and sip on wine. No prizes for guessing which side I was on. The route reminded me of the Turkey bay side. I missed the small villages that Turkey boasts of though. Camping grounds are available by the dozen. Most people here head out with their cycles, tents and surf boards on long weekends. On the cards, once the licence and car are done with. Met some old friends in Fremont and San Francisco. It was a warm weekend. Kaddu is all grown up now. Ties his daughter's shoe laces. :) Still makes no bones about cracking mean jokes. And still dishes out brotherly advice. Thankfully, some things don't change. Payal has strictly said that San Francisco cannot be called SFO (because that is the airport) or San Fran (I don't remember why though). So you see how I have been sticking to San Francisco every time I have to talk about San Francisco. :) The city has an amazing vibe and definitely deserves a separate post on the travel blog. For the time being, it should suffice that I had the best Thai massage in downtown somewhere and beer and conversation was the order of the day.
Kaddu and his adorable daughter :)
Bixby Bridge - Pacific Highway
Also, made a two day trip to San Diego. For the last eight years, all that I have heard from Shubha is when am I visiting or moving to US. It was high time that we met up and put this to rest once and for all. Not that you can put anything to rest when it comes to Shubha. Her lists never end. Visit to Boston. Wedding day plans. Patna Plans. Not that am complaining. After 25 years, eccentricities feel like the norm. It was a family weekend. There was litti (if you are a Bihari or you have known one, you know why this is special), mutton, early morning coffee and just so much of laughter. :)
Family time :)

Catching up on lost time

Tidepools - San Diego
I have become a frequent traveler on the Amtrak train. Ironically, trains here take twice the time you would take by road. Yet, I use it because the station is a mile away from the hotel. Things that are walking distance have new found respect nowadays. The cafe is the most popular hangout in the train and obviously, beer and wine are the most popular items on sale. A wise old guy sitting with me in the cafe suggested (after his fourth beer), that I should not be such an introvert and should share my life's stories with him. Reminded me of this one time in school, when my class teacher gave me a similar talk. Needless to say, I smiled and walked away.

Bought a cycle. A white and blue hybrid Diamondback. Sounds bad ass, but it's just a pretty little thing. Somehow the Walmart cycles do not inspire any confidence, as cheap as they are. So I bought one from the local bike shop. Nick and Brandon did a stellar sales pitch. And I am convinced easy. It is nice to have a set of wheels here. Was almost sick and tired of asking someone or the other for a ride for simple things like a box of milk! I park my cycle in my hotel room. Weird as that sounds, apparently it is the norm here. Cycles get stolen at an alarming frequency here.
My Ride :)
Oh I am not homeless anymore. :) I saw two apartments and I liked one. Shopping has always been that simple for me. It is a studio; so small that if you take a big leap from the door, you'd probably fall out of the balcony. Cozy little place with a Murphy bed, kitchen and a tub. Think I should be alright. Cannot wait to get out of this hotel! 9th October is moving day. I think the apartment guys get a lot of Indians. I have been warned not to dry my clothes in the balcony. :D Ofcourse, Ma has frowned at this ruling. No vitamin D for the clothes is an Indian mother's nightmare.

Amidst all the incessant work, I have lost track of important things. Long conversations with Ma. That pending skype call with Thakuma. The letter I should have sent to S on her birthday. The call I had promised Sam. I have a long G-task list, and these are the ones which haven't been ticked off for a while now. Maybe next week I will do better. Maybe next week, the blog post title would not have the word work in it.

It was S' birthday and something special had to be done. The celebrations are pending till she lands here. This was a stopgap.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

One Week Down

Exactly one week since I came here. Feels much much longer. There was this one entire day in the middle of the week when all I had was Indian food. Thank god that happened, because sandwiches were getting a bit much. For lunch, good old office folks shared their home cooked lunch and for dinner, we went to some place called Bombay Palace. The amount of food people order here is scary. In fact, the portions itself are huge. Back home, if you order one portion, it almost looks like a side order sometimes. Here, a side order is as good as main course! Okay back to Bombay Palace. Ordinary food, good ambience and excellent music. By excellent, I mean Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar and Jagjit Singh. I had to refrain from singing along because I was sitting with client folks. One of the Americans at our table put us to shame by ordering the spiciest dish on the menu. And to top it, he happily cut a few green chillies and added it to his plate. Didn't even break a sweat!

Jet lag is definitely better now. Or maybe its not even there. Sleep cycle has become sane. Checking things off the to-do list everyday. Reads like this -
  • Bank account - Done
  • Money in the account - Questionable
  • Credit card - ahem...won't happen for a while I think
  • Acco - Sort of homeless
  • Food - Need a kitchen. Must fix the point above
  • SSN - TBD
  • Phone - Done (Nexus clan..yay!)
  • License - Nope
  • Car - Can drive on Indian license. Potentially suicidal. Avoiding.
  • Plans for coming weekends - you bet! :)
The calling list has become much much longer here. Realized that one too many people have moved to US. No wonder my call list in India used to have all of four or five people. I know they say that everything and everyone is now just a phone call away, but it helps to be in the same time zone. So, now instead of talking to Divs and Shubha once in a month, there are daily conversations. :) Sounds more like a daily update to mom nowadays, what with my image of an unruly child who should be kept in control. But it is extremely comforting. :) 

Saw a bit of the city in the weekend. It was high time. Have had enough of walking up and down Wilshire Boulevard. Also helps that Naren is here. Wheels look like a necessity here. Friday evening was spent at LACMA. There was an open air jazz concert. No, I don't really follow jazz but it was a pleasant experience nonetheless. Plus, we also got introduced to 2 buck chuck from Trader Joe's. In simpler terms, two dollar wine bottles. Pretty good stuff. S is already excited by the sound of it all. :) That was followed by quite a few rounds of pool at this place called Frank n Hanks accompanied by good classic rock. Met quite a few locals. Farhad spoke in broken hindi and said if we face any problem, we should come to him. Very Godfather-esque. He bordered on scary. Then there was Nico who was waiting for his date for the evening, Yami. The evening was spent with these guys, at the pool table and then at some place called The Brass Monkey. That was a decent amount of fun for a first weekend in a new city. 

Yesterday went to Venice beach. Took the Nikon out finally. Sunset was pretty as a picture! Though the multiple rounds of search for cheap parking was not very fun. Happy hour margaritas were stronger than Chennai Long Islands! We gave up halfway. One too many Mexican food places everywhere. Should get started with that. Now that I have recommendations. Oh Sri would be happy to know this one. I found cake batter ice cream from Cold Stone here. :) The houses look weak here. Almost looks like they will get uprooted with the first gust of strong wind. 

Glimpses of Venice beach

Monday is almost here. Thanks to teams back in India as well, work shall begin Sunday night. I am one of those who looks forward to a full week. :) So, not very blue about it. Time for lunch now. Plans of seeing Hollywood Boulevard and Griffith Observatory today. If we manage to budge. More later!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Jetlagging Through the Afternoons

Thanks to jet lag, I am sleeping for 12 hours every day! I will explain why. By the time, it is 4 pm, jet lag sets in. By 6, I am literally the walking dead. And you know, how I give in easily. So, I sleep by 7. Then, I wake up at an ungodly hour to eat. My stomach clock is better than all this time zone body clock nonsense. Simply put, irrespective of the situation, I wake up when I am hungry. So, I fix myself a quick bite and then remind myself, that I should be asleep when it is night time here. So, I (force myself to) sleep again and happily wake up next morning at 7. See, 12 hours! I figured you would say that some things never change. 12 hours here and 12 hours there. I just have a better excuse now. :)

Yesterday, went on a business lunch to a Korean place. Went to this place called Genwa in Koreatown. Oh not to forget, I am living in Koreatown. Sounds cooler if I say Wilshire Boulevard, right? :D Going back to the business lunch. So, they serve about 20 kinds of appetizers (sea weed, squid, fish cakes, braised beef, more fishy things and a whole lot of veggie things). But ofcourse, chopsticks were the order of the day. My one week in Japan and two dinners at home were not ample practice. But I am a brave soul. So I picked up the chopsticks and the bowl of fish cake, snapped those two sticks around the fish cake and almost ate it. Inches away from my mouth, it obviously fell off. So close! I did manage some food before I ordered for a fork. :) Ordered chicken bibimbap for main course. Though Korean, a fellow brethren from the Bong land might have had a hand in creating this dish. So much rice! So, its rice, veggies, chicken and a very spicy sauce - all mixed together in a hot plate. Portions here are huge. Shubha says people eat half and takeaway half. Maybe that's what I should have done instead of eating all of it. Imagine jet lag and a plate full of rice and meetings all afternoon. By the time I reached the hotel, I almost passed out. 

I finally have a number. A prepaid one. I have the Rupee syndrome and I guess it will stay for a while. The moment anyone tells me the dollar amount for anything, I mentally convert it to INR. And then feel very uneasy about the price! Anyway, Ma's missing you mail had to be addressed. First call was to mommy dearest. :) 

I have been warned to not venture out alone once it is dark. Last I heard this warning, it was good old Delhi. And before that, the dark ages in Patna. Who would have thought that LA and Patna will strike a note on such levels. :-/ Not very pleased about it. 

It is almost 9 and I am not out cold. Maybe the jet lag is on its way out. 

American ads don't even come close to Indian ads, when it comes to creativity. And warmth.

Work has started already. Quite the lost lamb here. At 5 feet and nothing, it is a little difficult to be taken seriously. Trying nonetheless. People are kind. Will take a little time to smile at strangers and throw in a how are you doing. We don't do that in India.

I miss Savdhaan India. 

Must stop writing now. Too much information alert!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Starting from Scratch

Dear S,

Writing from Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles. As cool as it might sound, the room feels cold and unfriendly and I am fighting jetlag. Does not add up well. Miss the warmth of home.

The flight was surprisingly bearable. Amidst all the sleeping, eating and the Good Wife, there was barely any time to fret over the length of the journey. These zillion time zones are confusing the life out of me. You know, in the middle of the Pacific, there is something called as the International Date Line. My ride to the hotel had a super helpful chauffeur who fed me a ton of information about everything under the sun. How to rent a place, where to go for the weekend and why 99 cents is my best bet to save money. :)

Went to this supermarket called Ralphs. Roamed around in the meat section for quite a while. You know how Bongs get soothed by the sight of all things non vegetarian. :P You would love the fruits and vegetable section. Bought a bag full of fruits. You'd be proud. ;) Not many people seem to walk here. Pavements are quite empty. Looks odd. Crowded streets and all the honking has a sense of familiarity, while silence might take a while to get used to.

The hotel room has me befuddled. I couldn't turn on the tap or the light! Driving housekeeping folks (esp. Francis who is the reception guy) insane over the simplest of things.Quit a blot on intelligent Asians.  :D Within a day, I realized that mothers have the best foresight! After fighting tooth and nail about how I don't want to carry a plate or a spoon, I figured it would have been darned handy to have them around. Thank god she packed in scissors any which way. I would have taken a very long time to open that pack of turkey cold cuts otherwise.

Moving cities and continents, like you said, is herculean. But, right now it seems alright. That is, if I don't think about the house hunting and the driving license and all the other knick knack work that comes with a new place. So right now, while I munch on a cold turkey sandwich (with the divine kasundi dad bought) and watch Captain Phillips, it seems manageable.

Must try sleeping now. Failing the how to beat jet lag lesson.

Oh I have found a Starbucks two blocks away (yes I have started using blocks and miles :)). They make good white chocolate mocha.

More tomorrow. :)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Musical Sundays

It is a retro day. One of those days when I have spent a little too much time on Youtube. You know how it goes. First you listen to the original. Then you think someone must have sung a cover. Then you listen to five other versions of the same song. And then finally zero down on one of them and download it for later reference. Or for obsessive repetitive listening till S hides the Bose. Yes, I have a lot of free time nowadays and no, I am not doing anything constructive. Although the song below is not a recent find, I absolutely love it. Did you know even Katy Perry has done a cover for Hey Jude? If I were you, I'd avoid it though.

The other song that is on repeat, and this one is not retro, is the Karen O song from the movie Her. I found the movie really really odd. For a woman to understand how a guy falls in love with an operating system is a bit of a stretch. On the other hand, the guys I know loved the movie and associated with it. Probably it is a good deal you know. Switch the darned thing off when it says 'we need to talk'. Anyway, so this song. Karen O performed it in the Oscars and that's when I heard it the first time. Love the lyrics and the song.

I also have Baby Doll on my playlist, which has a sort of inappropriate usage of Jhandu balm. Poor makers of the Zandu balm. If this was the US of A, there was a good case for a multi million dollar lawsuit. I must also admit that that 'Saani Saani' is also there on the playlist somewhere. That song has the best lyrics. The best. Ever. Water is blue. Sun is up. Get drunk on Malibu shots. Like I said, the best. But the thing is, that at home, S and I tend to dance to such songs only. Really difficult to get your groove on with Elvis crooning can't help falling in love with you.

Oh while talking to a friend today, realized I have become too old to receive drunk calls in the night. I mean Saturday night. You got to be partying somewhere (sipping on wine in front of the TV) and then you look at your watch and it is scary late (10 pm). So, you scurry to the bed and count sheep till you sleep. And your friends tend to call you early in the morning (00:05 am) to say 'Suuuuuuuuuu!'. Alas, the phone just doesn't ring a bell anymore! Not at that time atleast. :)

Okay one last song for the day. This one's my absolute favourite from the school days. Our music lessons were spent singing this and many other Dylan and other equally awesome songs. Yes, we were cool like that. I do remember that one of our music teachers had a dimple fetish. No, not in a creepy way. But, kids with dimples got more marks in music class. On hindsight, actually that was quite weird. All you had to was smile and sing and have a dimple. No surprises that I did not do very well. Singing and smiling at the same time? Really! Good old school days. :)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

French Songs and Happy Days!

French songs. I don't know why, but the moment I listen to them, in my head, I am sipping wine in a picturesque old house in Tuscany (yes Tuscany, and not Paris). With a book ofcourse. Does it happen to you too? And this is not limited to the happy songs. I mean, really, I wouldn't have a clue what the song is about. I did take French classes in my MBA and my last class viva was seriously not funny. Friends cried because they couldn't laugh anymore and the teacher cried out of despair. Anyway, what I was saying is that even the sad ones sound perfectly happy or at the least, romantic. Try listening to 'Chanson pour l'auvergnat'. Such a happy vibe, while all the time Georges Brassens is paying tribute to those who stood by him in his greatest humiliation. These songs also remind me of the train journey from Amsterdam to Paris. The train had the nicest radio channels and we were finally sober enough to recognize sounds and visuals. Those special cakes in Amsterdam should come with five levels of warnings! For people like us, who take nothing seriously. Before I digress, that's when I heard a whole lot of French music and realized its a pretty cool way to get your happy on. :) The playlist I am listening to right now - 

Do you have days when you think you can do anything? When your head is full of plans and you actually sit with a pen and a paper and stitch a plan out of those plans? I vacillate between such days and the exact opposite ones. Days when I can't count one good thing I can smile about. And then, there are days like today. When the blinding sun seems alright. I think I should be able to do a few laps in the pool today, without drowning somewhere mid way. Also, today would be a very good day to firm up July travel plans. Air around me feels optimistic enough for me to go ahead and book tickets. While the bank account is bordering on pessimism. I probably am the banker's daughter of the worst kind. While the entire family would ace personal accounting without batting an eyelid, I struggle to figure where the last 100 in my wallet was spent. Its just never there! Friends console that maybe if I earn in a different currency, things might start looking up. While I think, if I am clueless about spending 100 dollars instead of 100 rupees, that should spell serious trouble! 

Oh right, did I say that I learned swimming this year? While it has had a constant number one rating on my resolutions list, 2014 would be the year when I can probably check it off the list. Probably, because at 30 something, you generally tend to become a slow learner. So, now I can breathe outside water while doing a breast stroke (or something like it), but I still look like a dog splashing in the pool. I am only a shade better off than the guy who thinks he is doing freestyle, but he is not. No one really knows what he is doing, but it sure is blinding, thanks to the amount of water he splashes on everyone. So, let's see how that goes for the next few months. That I can float and not sink in water is still a big achievement. Really big! By the way, S learned swimming in 4 days. No wait, I think 2. I don't have words to express how I feel about that. Really. 

I like to end with a good footnote. Rather, a wise one. Like pay your credit card bills. Or do yoga. This time like the video says, the words of wisdom are 'look up'. In five minutes, this guy just summarized everything that is wrong in today's world. A world where no one looks up. A world where you know your days are numbered; yet you have no qualms over wasting minutes and hours and days fretting over things not worth fretting over. A world of a thousand friends; yet you struggle to think of five names who would stand by you day or night. So, stop stalking. Start talking. :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Stand By Me

Probably one of the most heart warming videos I have seen in a while. This song has lit up my days and evenings ever since I can remember. Well yes, I am kinda old now and I can say things like ever since I can remember. :)

So, stand by me. In the thick and thin of things. Through my silence and conversations. As life keeps you busy in small things and big. You say its tough. I say its not. Maybe my jokes are bad. Even when you are kinda sad. Stand by me, in your country and mine. In hazy tomorrows and sunny todays. And when the moon is the only light you can see. Because it is always easier to walk that mile knowing you stand by me. :)

Big year this one. Change is a good thing, but it is also a very tough thing. So many things to check off the list. So many that I sit idle with a sense of inertia. :) Because you know how that goes in your head. Tomorrow I will do everything. Today let me just take it all in.

Anyhoo, that's just mumbo-jumbo you can ignore. If you need to feel happy right now, just listen to this song. That's all I had to say. :)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

On a cold rainy day..

It is absolutely grey and hazy outside. Been raining for quite a few hours now. The month is January and I sit basking in the love and warmth of ma baba in Patna. Bengali parents' love almost always translates into a lot of food. So, over the past few days I have obliged by eating an impressive amount of fish, chicken and all things sweet. One's got to do what one's got to do! What is it about the rain that makes a hot cup of coffee so endearing? My third steaming cup of the day and I don't think I am done yet.

Well, that was yesterday and its still grey. I switched from the laptop to a book. Reading Simplicity by Edward De Bono. He says, that in small and big things in life, we get used to complexity. So much so that we don't even notice it anymore. And then we keep piling things on it. There might not always be a simpler way of doing things, but there is always a possibility. Which we rarely explore. Bono says simplicity is a choice. Always ends up as a tough choice, but the choice is yours nonetheless. Its food for thought, especially when trivial things in life have started taking up so much time that we have forgotten to focus on the more important things.

Oh I saw Sholay on the big screen and how much I loved it! The old world charm of these movies are unbeatable. There was a time when Ma used to say that in my times movies used to have a story. And I used to frown and say 'Ma! Don't be so old school!'. And now I am old enough to start sentences with 'in my times' and I could not agree more. When Gabbar said 'ये हाथ हमको दे दे ठाकुर!', everyone in the theater promptly screamed 'नहीं!!'. :D All dialogues were remembered verbatim. And the songs! Ye dosti on big screen. I was elated! I love the sing along kind of songs. These oldies used to be my only escape option when I used to be put on the spot for singing in family get togethers. Okay that's a bad memory. If you are a Bong, you probably have gone through it too. Anyway, all I am trying to say is those are the only songs I really know. 'Halkat Jawani' has never struck home as the sing along kind. So yeah, go watch it if it is still running somewhere nearby. Oh Sholay also reminds me of this one awful joke which always cracks me up. :D

Talking about ye dosti, I guess everyone saw the Google ad. Of two old men connecting after ages across borders. Beautifully done. Is it true that if you didn't talk to someone close, for decades and suddenly connected, it will be the same? Probably not. But when was being same and being loved the same thing? The years might change your behaviour, your marital status, the fat on your belly and your hairline, but what it can't touch is the way you feel about the person. That feeling is always there somewhere. And probably strongest for the ones you have known the longest. :) Its a relief that this is how it is, because most of my loved ones are incredible distances apart. Some I rarely talk to. And I know, when I meet them, its not the same but the happiness is intact and the jokes are always on me.

Grey days need to end on happy notes. For today, I am keeping it simple. A book, a cup of coffee and an hour of Math lessons for Ma (yeah she has an exam! How the tables have turned. :P). Hoping for sunshine tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Important Questions

In the time space continuum, celebrating the end of a year and beginning of another is quite silly. Actually, it is a tad daunting. Whether you like it or not, you tend to look back and take stock. And no year is ordinary. Extraordinary happiness followed by moments of despair. The most boring, unbelievably mundane days followed by days when you wish time came to a standstill. That's how 2013 was and pretty much every other year will be.

So, did you do a random act of kindness? Did you smile till your eyes shone and others couldn't help grinning along? Did you laugh till your sides ached and people frowned at you? Did you dance like no one's watching? The aapdi pode style or the kite flying stance..which one did you prefer? Did you tell someone how truly you loved, even though you knew they'd walk away? Did you forgive or did you choose to remember? Did you travel to new places and were you the one who was so overjoyed in that moment, that a tear escaped while you drank to the good times? Because you couldn't hold on to that moment. Did you sing, at the top of your voice, with no rhythm or rhyme and thought it was the best rendition ever? Were you a good friend this year? Did you listen when your friends complained with their silence or did you not understand their silence? Did you make choices where there was no going back? Then, did you regret, for one small moment? Did you run and allow the music to drown out the noise? Did you learn something new; something that made you like yourself a shade better? Did you see the sun rise and set beautifully in so many different places? Did you remember the setting sun or the company you had then? Did you hug someone in a way that chases away all things blue? Did you pray? Did parents teach you yet again what unconditional love is? Were you happy this year? Did you truly live this year?

In an age of social networking and gadgets, we have forgotten how to truly live. To feel the sand under our feet. To smell the whiff of monsoon in the air. To look into people's eyes and talk. Maybe these new year's eves are just a way of remembering the things that really matter. The letters don't come any more. The cards have been replaced by walls and posts. Smiles were long taken over by smileys. Words have become abbreviations.  And me and you, well we connected over whatsapp, facebook and google plus. We connected, but the smell of ink on paper wasn't there. Your stories weren't there; neither was my excitement.

So, here's wishing that this year is more human than the previous one. More loved. More time spent with family and friends. More of everything that you really wish for. :) Cheers to a good one!

Happy new year! :)