Monday, November 24, 2008

Homesick


Earlier this evening, a strange realization hit me. It has been more than 2 years and 2 months ever since I have come here, and not once have I visited home. It's not that this was news to me, but as it started to sink in, I was engulfed in a train of thoughts. Before I came here, I had never left home, not even to live in hostels or visit relatives in other cities, and once I left home, I never went back. During the end of the first year, as I was planning a trip in the summer, I ran out of funding and had to spend the entire quarter running around and knocking doors of professors trying to help me earn and sustain myself. Soon, a visit to India became a distant dream. During the end of the second year, I contemplated another visit during summer. This time, my greatly venerable academic advisor threatened to not sign my thesis unless I finished certain chunks of the project. These chunks happened to be bigger than the iceberg that hit Titanic, and soon all my plans of visiting home had sunk. Eventually she did sign my thesis, and I am all free now, but I got into this thing called OPT where people tell you horror stories about how other people they know tried leaving the country and were never let in again. No one of course knows who these people are, but everyone knows another person with a sad story like this. Needless to say, visiting home is not an option anymore. not at least for the next one year till my OPT ends.

My passport looks pristine and spotless, with not a single stamp every since the last one was put at the LA airport. Every year, I see people excitedly pack and leave to visit homes, taking pounds of American chocolates and expensive perfumes back for people home. I see these same people come back after weeks carrying pounds of Indian goodies like puffed rice, jaggery, and sweets. They animatedly discuss the latest developments they witnessed in India. People are attending weddings, convocations, and anniversaries. I on the other hand am celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving.

I wonder if my parents will look older and grayer when I see them next. I wonder how much has the price of goods increased ever since I left India. I wonder if the walls adjoining our building have the same graffiti of vote for CPM scribbled all over as they always were. I wonder if the maid tells the same old stories about the same old people she works for to my mom. The kids from our community must be in high school now. Suddenly, everything is vivid and clear to me, the font of the letters painted on the letterbox with the name of my dad, the different music it played every time someone hit the doorbell, and the familiar sounds of the vendors selling stuff outside the apartment. I wonder how much of it has changed.

Sorry for the extremely sentimental post. As usual, I am just thinking aloud.

sunshine

Sunday, November 09, 2008

What I like about job life

Is the fact that I put in 8 hours of hard work everyday and I am done for the day. I can listen to my favorite songs on my way without thinking of the assignments that need to be completed. I can plan anything after office, be it coming home and settling for a quiet evening cooking and watching TV, or choosing to go shopping or partying with friends. I need not feel guilty about study hours or early bed times. As long as I plan my work hours well, I don’t have to bring home work.

I have lived both the lives, the life of a student and that of a professional. I cannot comment on which is better, as each comes with their own set of freedom and limitations. True, it feels great to solve a research problem after months of brain work, but it also feels great to leave your brains in office at the end of the day and take out more time to pursue your interests. Both these situations of course stand true as long as there is no third commitment that takes up your time, like kids, marriage, or even a demanding relationship.

And the other thing I like about job life is that I can actually go to office empty handed. No longer do I need to carry the burden of a laptop, heavy books to be returned to the library, or tons of notes you printed but are never going to read.

Plus it does boost your confidence, adjusting to a new work culture and earning more money.

Solvency, no huge backpacks to carry and no more backaches, getting rid of those tattered jeans and dressing up in formals every day, and coming home to watch movies and read books, or just choosing to do nothing, that’s work life for me.

sunshine.

PS: I have been gently reprimanded for not replying to blog comments. I am guilty as charged, and henceforth, I’ll make an honest effort to correct it. It’s just that … anyway, never mind…

Alarming

I am the lowest form of my species. No matter how much I want it, it is futile for me to dream of rubbing shoulders with the successful. Self-discipline is a concept I can conjure up in my mind, and that’s about it. Neither do I give enough attention to how I start my day, nor do I have the time to care about what I eat and drink. Every time I tell myself I am doing that 30 minute workout and I don’t, I feel myself a couple of pounds heavier. Will I ever be able to take care of an entire family some day? I need to do things in a hurry, and screw them. She is gone, and I know she left on time. I read somewhere that if you did not complete one half of the day’s work by 10 am, you were at a risk of leaving the other half undone. Here it is almost that time and I have barely started. My promises are all false, especially the ones I make to myself, because no matter what, I will never be able to keep them. The alarm clock will do its job, but without any use. Perhaps I should be embarrassed of keeping an alarm clock at all. Tomorrow, I say tomorrow would be different, that tomorrow will be full of hopes and bright promises, of changes and improvements, but that tomorrow never comes. Why do I do this to myself, I know not. I know not if I deserve to do this to myself. But I can only hope that tomorrow is different. O God, give me a chance more. I promise, tomorrow would be different.

Exactly my guilt laden thoughts every time I oversleep, wake up late, and miss the 7am bus. There is something heavenly about shutting up the alarm and going back to sleep, promising yourself that it’s just five more minutes.

Just that five minutes are never five minutes.

sunshine

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Supper With Sunshine

Monday mornings are lazy mornings, with the weekend lethargy still suffused into you and the mind not being able to clear up despite consuming galloons of coffee. On a dreary such Monday morning, I switched on my office computer, not expecting a lot of fun during the week ahead. As I punched in my password, I looked far out of the window, hoping for a rainbow, a snowfall, or something remarkable to happen. Talking about remarkableness, the password clicked, and I told myself like I always do – “You’ve got mail”.

Skimming through the email subject lines brought my attention to a certain email that forms the basis of this post. A few lines of introduction about the person, and I was wondering does this guy need feedback about his GRE preparation, or is writing about the list of schools he has selected, and seeks my opinion even though his specialization is something totally different like robotics (I often get such emails)? A few more lines and I was wondering does this guy need a favor from someone big shot I know? An extremely respectful but lengthy email got me thinking while skimming through- “What does this guy want after all?”

Well, it seems that he is a regular reader of my blog, is visiting town for some official work, and wanted to meet up. Meet up fine, but to ensure credibility so that I do not misunderstand his honest efforts as that of someone wanting to make franship, he had the foresight to send me his resume, website, his research interests, picture galleries, and a couple more details. The only things missing were names of references I could call up and verify the existence of the reader. Phew ! So much for a meeting.

My readers know that I have never met a blog reader except that one time when we ended up becoming inseparable buddies, and we proudly continue to do so. Otherwise, I have never met any of my readers in person, not as a rule, but more because no one has asked me to. So influenced by Koffee with Karan, will there be supper with sunshine? Will sunshine agree to meet this reader who is visiting her city? Will the reader treat her as a blog writer, or will be able to see beyond her writings as a human in flesh and blood? Will he come with preconceived notions and half formed expectations, wanting to find such and such thing in the person whose writings he is familiar with? Or can they meet as two individuals, and not as a blogger and a reader?

Time will say.

sunshine

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Halloween Weekend

In here, people spend one day a year indulging themselves and their other like-minded friends fancy dressing on the streets, in office, at homes. You walk down the streets on Halloween and you would see people of all age and shape dressed up. I have seen people dressed as trash cans, fruits and vegetables, science fiction characters, and what not. The lady at the front door in office sat in her witch costume, mink coat, and the black magic wand the whole day. Ever imagined our parents going to offices dressed as Hanuman and Gadaadhaari Bhim? This country is crazy.

I have done two unique things this Halloween. Three in fact. One, much to the disappointment of my friends, I did not indulge my time and money picking up a Halloween costume. My friends reiterated again and again how un-cool and un-sporty I am, but I refused to give in to the temptation and spend $50 going to a party dressed up like a spider pig. Two, I carved a pumpkin for the first time. Again, I resisted and did not want to. But people around me sat on floors with pumpkins and dozen knives all around them, unleashing their creative self and carving out figures on pumpkins. It did feel weird at first, carving out the hard cover and then putting your hand inside to scoop out the gooey mass from within. But once the insides of the pumpkin was clean, I was free to carve designs the way I wanted to. Since it was Diwali weekend as well, I carved diyas all over the pumpkin before placing a lit candle inside. My hands smelled like pumpkins for days despite all the soaping, reminding me of this term in Bengali "kumro-potash" with God knows what meaning. During this time of the year when pumpkin is harvested, people use pumpkins in all kinds of food, even in desserts and in Starbucks coffee ! Been years since I have had 2 very tasty Bengali dishes made of pumpkins- kumror chokka (curry made with cubed pumpkin) and kumro fool bhaja (pumpkin flowers fried in besan).

Third, I spent an entire 12 hours with friends watching horror movies. I am not at all into horror movies. But my friends wanted to spend Halloween watching horror movies, and there it goes. The descent wasn’t liked much by my friends for all the blood and gore. However, I found it interesting that they should make a film about 5 women trapped inside a cave with no way to get out. I would seriously feel claustrophobic watching them crawl inside the caves. The concept was very interesting. I don’t care about the other two movies, but the last movie Shutter was just amazing. Every moment of it chilled me to the core. It’s about a photographer who takes pictures of his girlfriend during her graduation, only to find a pattern of shadow in every snapshot, and therein the story unfolds. I have been traumatized for days now, thinking of every scene of the movie. It’s worse when you don’t have another living soul in the house. Truth be told, my mind has been playing tricks, and I have been shit scared even going to the bathroom. Anyway, the movie Shutter is a must watch, really. The Thai version, and not the American version.

So there goes the story of my Halloween weekend.

sunshine