Thursday, December 27, 2007


A few days back, I was bawling my vocal cords out. I had screwed up. Not my vocal cords but my exams. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise as it happens to me all the time. Not my exams not going well but my bawling out. My friend, in a desperate attempt to stop be from crying, said, “Hush. 26 year olds do not cry”.

This made me cry even louder (one of those days when you get into the mode of crying). Once I was calm after my friend convinced me that my next exam would go well and how the concepts of protein folding and unfolding we so interesting, I wondered- What did he mean 26 year olds do not cry? You can’t cry and express grief just because you are 26? So what do they do anyway, mourn in silence? And then I thought of my reply- “You insensitive men do not understand what we go through”.

26 year old girls do not cry.

You insensitive men do not understand what we go through.

Weren’t both of us stereotyping? It’s not just others who do it. I myself do it all the time. I started to think of these stereotyping comments I have heard or made at people, and boy, I came up with an unending list. Here are a few, in any random order of having said or having heard.

You Indians are so good at math (well, okay, yeah, maybe).

You Bengali women love to gossip and eat fish all day (well, eh? errr? I never ate fish till I left home).

You Southies know not the world beyond Rajni.

What do these people here understand about bonding and human relationships?

You grad students in the US have such an easy life compared to that in India.

You IIM people end up being a money churning machine.

You married women barely understand the pangs of being single.

You single women don’t know how difficult married life is.

You PhD people are like humans with two extra brains.

You Microsoft people are humans with two extra wallets.

You Oriyas are such boring people (okay I didn’t say this, but someone else did, mistaking me to be an Oriya. And I promise, I reprimanded her more for stereotyping Oriya people than for calling me an Oriya).

You ABCDs know nothing about struggle in life.

You women have an easy life- study and then get hitched to an NRI.

You Biology students are so bad at math.

You doctors are suckers for money.

You men are so romantically challenged.

You men…. You women….. You doctors…. You engineers…. You buggers….. You desis…… You fat people…. You white people…. You socialists.... You communists....... the list goes on and on…… Rarely do we realize that each of us is fighting a battle, fighting our own battles and that irrespective of what we are and what we have, no one has had an easy life so far.


Monday, December 17, 2007

The Kiss Eaters.

We Bengalis are strange. Social. Gregarious. Food lovers. Corrupt. Morally depraved. People tell me that you cannot mistake a Bengali. Why? Do we wear two extra horns? Do we talk a lot? I don’t know- says a friend. When you see a Bengali, you’ve got to know it is a Bengali. Okay, that was very intuitive. Not that it helped a lot. Often I have been told about half-cooked ideas of Bengali women being very proactive, with huge eyes and dusky complexions and luscious figures. Not that it helped a lot to boost me up. Then they said Bengali men loved to be dominated by the women folk at home and seldom had a mind or a voice of their own at home. This angered me further, because this was stereotyping. Although sometimes, interaction with the men folk in the friend circle had somewhat confirmed this. But then again, it is one thing to live with a notion, and another thing to vocalize it. 

Would you want to marry a Bengali? Asked a non-bengali friend in hush tones at a party. He was expecting a rebuff, a rebuke, like he must have been used to with every Bengali chick now. I looked around me and whispered in equally hushed tones- “No way !!! I have heard they are quite boring !”

And then we had laughed, my laughter borne out of guilt for having such an opinion about my own people. So tell me what Bengali people are like, asked my friend. The ice had been broken long back with the confession of not wanting to marry a Bengali, and the conversation had taken a somewhat humorous tone. I thought hard.

They are complete foodies.


They like to talk a lot.


They make friends everywhere. Strong networking skills, you see.


Umm……… oh yeah. They eat everything.

So you said. They are foodies.

No, not that way. They eat everything.

Everything? My friend looked somewhat amused.

Yeah, everything.

Like what?

Like, they eat food. Everything. Fish. Meat. Eggs. Rice. Dal. Vegetables. Everything.

Oh wow !!!

Yeah, and even Bengali Brahmins are meat eaters. They eat everything, unless they are into Manekaism and animal rights kinda things.

And what else do they eat?

At this point I realized that it would be unfair to carry on the whole conversation as “they”. Who was I talking about? I myself was a Bengali too. So I decided to be politically correct here.

So we eat everything. We eat water. And we eat drinks.

My friend looked confused.

The colloquial Bengali language has no concept of drinking. We eat everything.

Even water?

Even water. We say, jol khabo, which roughly translates to- “I’ll eat water”.

My friend looked amused. What else do you eat?

I thought hard. We eat cigarettes.

Cigarettes? As in crush them and chew them?

Hell no, we smoke cigarettes, but when we say that in Bengali, we again say, cigarette khabo, which means I’ll eat a cigarette.


Yeah, it goes with cigarettes, beedi, alcohol, everything.

Wow. What anything else you eat?

Umm… that’s pretty much it. I thought hard. No wait, we eat something else.


Umm… I don’t know how to say this, it is kinda embarrassing. 

What else?

Umm…. We eat a kiss..

What? Holy…. My friend started to roll on the floor laughing even before he had completed his words. What the…..

Well, yeah, I squirmed uncomfortably. You see, we say, ami chumu khabo, which roughly translated into English sounds like, “I’ll eat you a kiss”.

With this, I too started to roll on the floor laughing, so funny it sounded. You were right indeed. We Bengali people are the weirdest people. We even eat kisses. I just wonder if this is what makes us the epitomes of romanticists. Good food for thought. 


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Jab They Met

They didn’t realize how much they wanted to see each other till they actually met each other. It is strange how you spend years without seeing someone, and then the last few minutes of wait become unbearable. So she settled with her bags and baggage in the airport lounge, neatly arranging her stuff, nervously combing her hair, and waiting in anticipation. She was a little nervous at the prospect of seeing him perhaps. It had been years after all.

She restlessly tapped her feet onto the ground in rhythm with the music playing in her ears. She wondered which gate he would enter from, if he will show up from the front of the lounge or from behind her. Thus she waited impatiently, looking here and there every few minutes and then looking at the watch.

And then he appeared. He simply stood there, smiling at her. For a moment, she thought that she was transfixed. Here she was looking at the person she has flown thousands of miles for. All her resolve of a courteous hi and a civil hand shake was soon shoved away. For the moment she saw him, she dropped her bags and baggage, running head on, like a weapon all set to hit her target. Seeing her and knowing her all these years, he opened his arms wide. When she was done running more than half the way, common sense prevailed and she started to realize some basic laws of physics she had learnt back in school. If she did not start to decelerate in time, she would soon hit her target head on, and so high would be the momentum (which is a product of mass and velocity by the way) that it could cause disastrous effects which were clumsy and far from elegant.

She slowed down just in time to hit right on to his chest, and the moment she did so, he engulfed her into his huge frame. They knew not how long they stood that way, hugging each other and breathing in each other’s scent while time stood still and nothing really mattered anymore. She stood on tiptoe to reach somewhat up to his height, and stood there with her eyes closed.

How have you been?

Good good.

I’ve missed you.

So have I.

How was the flight?

Tiring, as usual.

I’m glad you made it.

So am I.

So what are you listening to?

Some random music playing in my ears.


So are you gonna release me or are we gonna stand this way all day?

It is then that they both realized what a scene they made……

And they thought such events happened only in movies and in romantic novels…..


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Visit To The Haunted Ground.

The man on the street was playing a heart-wrenchingly sad music on the flute. It was a cold chilly night and the dry wind blew wisps of hair all over my face. It was one of those cold nights that made you cling tightly to whatever dear you have, which wasn’t a lot more than a few winter clothes that didn’t really help much. I didn’t know if the misty eyes were due to the harsh chilly winds or a response to the sad flute music playing beyond. The music reminded you of pain, of loss, of letting go of everything you have dear.

There was quite a crowd of tourists like me all over the place. It was my first visit to New York City, and all day, I had been excitedly taking pictures. These were the places I had seen in movies, on television, in albums of other people, and now I was seeing everything anew. Even after a hundred pics or so, I thought that I could not have enough of the mightiness of the Empire State Building, the majesty of the Statue of Liberty, the liveliness of the Times Square, the serenity of the Staten Island. If there was a model city I wanted to live in, this was probably it. I walked on the streets and thought-“Wow, is this the Wall Street, the hub of so much going on in the world?” I was like a kid finding my way through wonderland, never knowing what fascinated me more.

NYC gave me neck aches in no time. I was craning my neck every time I wanted to see the sky above the buildings. There was very little sky to see anyway. The place wasn’t called one of the most happening places for nothing. The Manhattan skyline was a complex mesh of the tall sky scrapers straight out of a Matrix movie, and one just had to see them to gape in astonishment. The buildings were so tall and there was so little sky to see beyond them that I was actually beginning to wonder if people didn’t feel claustrophobic walking down the streets.

On one hand there were these tall buildings that made viewing the sky almost impossible. And then there was the broad, clear sky dotted with stars. Though one would expect such a thing, it was a different thing altogether to see it. I am talking about the ground zero- the remnants of the place after the 9/11 tragedy. All these years I saw the videos of people jumping out of the WTC in desperation. I read stuff and saw pictures. I watched documentaries and movies. I replayed and watched them again. But nothing, I repeat, nothing compares to what I saw standing right on ground zero. The place was almost fenced with thick material and there were people at a distance who peeped through a tiny orifice in the fencing material. When I crouched to take a look myself, I could not believe that I was witnessing from that 4” by 4” window one of the worst acts of nefariousness mankind has witnessed in recent times. It was different to read about world wars and disasters and movements in history books and to watch movies and documentaries about them. But here I was peeping out of a window in the NY cold watching the area that had witnessed the loss of everything one could value, and withstood it. There were no signs of wreckage, no mangled metal and trapped bodies, no blood or stench of death. The area looked akin to a large construction site with neat cement and concrete and construction workers wearing helmets and safety gear. I tried to imagine what the site must have looked like 6 years back, but my imagination failed me. 

The man was still playing his flute and there were people walking past the spot to catch the train. There were visitors like me, tourists who were taking pictures and were reading the stuff there. There was a list of the people who had lost their lives and given the amount of space the list took, I estimated it to be around 3,000. There were about 3,000 names in front of me, names who meant nothing to me, but names who were people once, who had lives and families, and who had lost their lives on the very spot that I was standing. There was nothing placed deliberately there to attract your sympathy, in fact it was mentioned clearly that no materials were supposed to be distributed or no public speeches were to be made around 25 feet near the place. Yet I saw the names and wondered who they were and what fate had caused them to be there at that particular point that day. My friend later debated that more people died elsewhere, in wars and suffering, and we pay no heed. That is not the point. Here I was standing in that spot, and that is all that mattered to me. I did not care about quantifying how big or how small the loss was. I was standing there like a visitor, like people visit museums and Disneyland, yet it was none. I looked up and saw the biggest stretch of skyline I had seen in New York. They claimed that in the next few years they are going to erect structures and buildings, but that was not the point. I wondered staring at the mangled pieces of construction if the memories of the dead were to reside there forever and to come back and haunt whoever cared to think of them. Life went on, people were busy catching trains and celebrating the holiday and getting on with their life and work. It was good in a way, since life is all about moving on, no matter what. Yet I stood there speechless, transfixed, my vision crystal clear after the tears had wiped the debris off my eyes. I wasn’t really crying, I found out much later on my way back to the train station that my eyes had gone misty. And in that strange moment of realization, I discovered that after spending a holiday taking hundreds of pictures, not once did I remember to take out my camera standing at ground zero. And why would I? It wasn’t a memory I would have loved to take back with me. I could have sent the pictures home, but did it really matter? If you felt the pain and the sadness as much as I did, you would not even remember walking away from there, let alone taking pictures of the place. There were ample pictures on the internet anyway if you googled "Ground Zero" for images. The least you could do was to let the dead rest in peace.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Why Blogging Is Like Dealing With A Relationship?

It is because no matter how much you guys need each other, you always reach a point where you need to get away for a while. No misunderstandings, no lovers tiff, not even an argument, but you realize that the relationship consumes so much of your time and energy, it consumes so much of you that you need to get away for a while. You need your own space. You need to do other things. You get into a mode where you no longer want to answer phone calls or reply to love messages. You realize that you are capable of being nouns other than a WRITER and a BLOGGER, a LOVER and a SIGNIFICANT ONE. You need to let go of the obsession. You need to be on your own and not talk, not share, not even look at each other. You just want to live in a home not acknowledging the presence of the other person. You come home, you cook, you eat, you crash, you wake up, and you leave home.

There is nothing to feel guilty about it. I guess it happens to all of us at some point of time. We give so much into something, we are so consumed with each other that sometime we have to just leave things the way they are and let go. Not apologize. Not feel guilty about. As they say, don’t see something so closely that you lose focus.

I thought writing was as much a part of me as I was of writing. I was wrong. It has been a record 10 days that I have not blogged. I HAVE NOT blogged and not I HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE to blog. The reason? Work is partly responsible. The intense pressure of getting through the semester and meeting deadlines consumed me. It took away my creativity, my thinking, and my ability to do anything not related to complex equations and data interpretation and assessments. I have been writing tons of academic papers of late, and I realized that it is not possible to write a paper with the “blog mode” of thinking. For days, I saw my creativity seep out of me, coming home hallucinated in the wee hours and wanting to do nothing but slump and sleep. But all this is a part of the reason.

I have wanted to do things other than writing. I have danced for four hours non-stop on the dance floor. I have almost spit out my lungs in the process of blowing balloons at a party. I have put myself through the torture of watching Om Shanti Om. I have read 2 books and watched 3 movies. I have visited friends. The only thing I did not feel like doing was blog. And it suits me fine. For I realized that a relationship, a bonding can survive as long as we are able to give space to each other, and be able to let go. The moment you know that you HAVE TO be in something, the moment the dimension of compulsion sets in, it is no longer a relationship, a bonding. It becomes an obligation. It becomes slavery. You are there in it because you are obliged to be in it, because you had made promises at some point of time and you are stuck. That gets you claustrophobic, makes you want to run away and start afresh. That isn’t a bonding no more. It becomes a chore. I have done good by not writing these last few days. I did not want to ruin my creativity and frustrate myself in the process.

I hope I’ll get back to the writing mode soon.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Made/Maid To Steal.

Someone from here was visiting India, and asked me if I wanted to send something home. After much thought and deliberation, I finally bought an mp3 player online to be sent home. It looked cool, all white, with better features than the one I have. I beamed at it with pride, not concerned about the price. It was a gift I was sending home. It had better be a nice one. My mom had insisted that I keep the new one and send them the one I use. I refused. Gifts are supposed to be new, unused, and not second hand. The day I went to hand it over to the person who was going home, I lightly touched the player once. I touched it because I knew that very soon the people dear to me were going to touch it. I could imagine sis jumping in excitement while dad tried to read through the instructions provided with the product and mom holding it in her hand, beaming with pride. I finally handed it over to the person.

On reaching India, the person sent me an apologetic email, saying that the mp3 player had been stolen by their maid. I was shocked. I asked if he was sure that the maid had done so. I mean I couldn’t imagine a maid listening to songs from an mp3 player, especially because one had to install stuff on the computer first. I was told that they suspected the maid had done it. 

Needless to say, I was upset. Here I had imagined my family rejoicing while they uploaded songs and listened to them using it. The next moment, I was imagining a maid selling the stuff to some guy and getting money out of it. The maid probably did not even know how much it was worth, not just in terms of money, but in terms of sentiments too. It was the first gift I was sending home. I wondered if the maid had ever touched the player the way I did, trying to realize that there was love and sentiment associated with the stuff she was holding, and certain people in the world were waiting eagerly for it. She must have probably thought that these stinking rich people who come from the US eat, sleep, and bathe in money. She had probably sold it to someone at a price much lower than what it was worth. But I wondered if she ever felt a pang of guilt, especially at taking possession of something which was not hers, and was sent with a lot of love. I was imagining my parents using it while in reality the player was destined to go to someone else’s hands. So much for all the money and the sentiments attached and the numerous attempts to create an account from the website it was bought from.

I wonder where my player is now. I wonder if the money (as they say) wasn’t hard earned because then, it would not have gone into unworthy hands. I wonder if the maid had the same sentiments attached to the player that I had while sending it back home. For all I care, the maid’s kid might be using the player as a prop vehicle and driving it noisily across the floor. I wonder why we develop an attachment for something, and then it breaks your heart to let go of it. Most importantly, I wonder if the maid even realized that it was not about money, but about the feelings attached, and the fact that someone is waiting for the gift. All of you must have had your prized possessions stolen some time, maybe the sari your mom gave you, the expensive pen your best friend gave you on your graduation, the watch your husband gave you for your anniversary. How did you cope, knowing that the thing of such immense value to you is in someone else's hands?

I wonder. This is because that is all that I can do right now. But then again, I wonder if it is better to move on and accept the situation, and go get something new. Is it wise to forget about the old player, since it was not meant to be with me from the very beginning?

It seems I am wondering about a lot about things these days.


Sunday, November 04, 2007


Two Decembers ago:

I see sister hanging her socks on the Christmas eve, and suddenly have this irresistible urge to mock her.

I: Some people don’t grow up even when they are grown up.
Sister ignores me and continues to decorate the room.

I: Some people do not believe in science, rationale, and logic.
Sister ignores me further and continues to make her bed.

I: (YAWNS !!!) Some people still believe in Santa Claus at 18.
Sister ignores me.
I: Muhahahaha.
We drift off to sleep. And there in my sleep, I sense a scuffling of feet early morning. Must be dad watering the plants. I grab my blanket tighter and drift off to a deeper sleep. Suddenly, I am woken up by a shaking and deafening laughter.

Sister: Muhahahahahahaha………..
And there she takes out a 100 rupee bill from her socks.

Confused I: But !!!! (Scratching my head).

Sister: Some people believe in rationale and logic. They know that even when there is no Santa Claus, there are parents.

The expression on my face:


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Missing Link.

Remembering a few random things about birthday celebrations:

1. We grew up seeing dad travel all over the country. There were times when he was gone for 2-3 weeks in a row. When my sis was little, she would sometimes not even recognize my dad and would scream her lungs out every time he came home. I myself have been so used to mom going solely to my parent teacher meets, the annual functions, and taking me anywhere my heart desired. In fact, I never cry when someone leaves. I didn’t even cry when I left home. Yet no matter where dad was or how busy he was, he always made it a point to come home on our birthdays. I don’t remember a single birthday of ours he has missed. On the day I turned 9, it had been impossible for dad to get the train tickets back home, and I had prepared myself for a birthday without him. Yet the calling bell rang at 11 pm, still an hour before my birthday ended, and there he was. He had miraculously managed to get the tickets paying a few times more. I was soon woken up from my sleepy self, was dressed up again and made to cut the cake that dad had brought for me. The pics of that particular birthday shows me all sleepy eyed and grumpy.

2. This is the second year that I have missed the birthday of everyone in the family. Everyone in the family celebrates their birthday in a span of 10 days. Isn’t it amazing that everyone except me should have birthdays a few days away from each other? We call it the birthday fortnight. One after the other, there is never a time during this fortnight when there isn’t cake or sweets or good food at home.

3. I have always managed to drag my sister out of sleep sharp at 12. Apart from the big general cake, I would always buy cake for the two of us, and she would groggily blow off the candles, give a big yawn with her eyes drooping, and mutter, “My gift?”. She would take the gift and go back to sleep without even having opened it. It had always been that way between us.

4. Mom always got gifts from us that we could use. A pair of fancy earrings that would totally be a mismatch with her face structure, some makeup things mom would never use, her gifts were always customized to be used by us.

5. I have always stayed awake on the birthday eves, too excited to sleep. Now I feel sad about having turned a year older. Seriously.

6. And yeah, I miss the birthdays of my family terribly. I miss the bonding we had, the link and the whole feeling of being there. I imagine them celebrating like it used to be when I was home, and take vicarious pleasure by getting updates from them over the phone. But it is not the same thing. I miss the link. The post had nothing to do with missing links.

Happy birth day. Whoever’s it is today.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Phuchka Waala.

Thought For The Day- Money can buy you everything. Dollars cannot.

I imagined this scene between me and my sis in the process of convincing her to shift to the US (an imaginary one of course).

I: Aaj mere paas Chipotle ka Mexican burrito hai. I have Alladin’s gyro. I have the Vietnamese pho. I have the Pad Thai noodles with the Thai red curry. I have the best of shrimps and scallops and salmon. Tumhare paas kya hai?

Sis: Mere paas phuchka waala hai.

Believe what you want to, but I have often woken up in the middle of the night craving for phuchkas. I have often fantasized about the large, round, crispy phuchkas in my biochemistry class, drawing patterns of them on my lecture slides. Naah, I have never had an affair with any of the phuchka waalas. Tell me, do you even need a condition to love phuchka?

Phuchka. Paani puri. Gol gappa. They are all the same things I am talking about. A very familiar scene outside most colleges (especially if they are girls’ colleges) would be hordes of girls and boys flocking near the phuchka waala. Koto korey? (how much?) Asking this is just a formality, for you know that you’ll have them in dozens no matter what the price is. Bhalo kore baniyo (make it tasty)…. Another unnecessary thing to say, as if he will put a little more filling of the potato, or give you a few extra helpings.

A lungi-clad man, the lungi itself dating back to the times of Akbar, and looked as if the last time it was washed was after Taj Mahal was built. You will often see him scratching his lungi (you know where) or scratching his unshaven cheeks when there are no customers around. Dad has told me many such stories to deter me from having roadside phuchkas due to hygiene issues. Hygiene be darned, it is funny how you know the basic tenets and commandments of hygiene, but the moment you see a phuchka waala, even the deadliest of diseases cannot deter you. He puts his hand inside the mountain of phuchkas covered with a plastic wrapper with a candle burning inside in the middle, stuffs some potato filling from God knows when, dips the phuchka into a pot filled with tamarind water with millions of germs of jaundice, cholera, and typhoid swimming in backstrokes and free style, and man, what I feel is best described as having a visual orgasm. Eating phuchkas is like…. err…. you know what. Once it starts, you just don’t want to stop.

Phuchkas are an essential ingredient for courtship. Like Rani Mukhherjee in Hum Tum, I am sure every woman dreams of a husband, chote chote bachche (little kids), Tommy (the dog), and all of them making a happy family sight eating roadside phuchka. “Phuchka khete jabe?” (Wanna go out and have some?)- a proposal like this would be enough to make anyone turn into Pavlov’s dogs. Even the sight, thought, or the smell of the phuchkas is enough to get you drooling. Ma had often tried to dissuade us, by buying the ready made mix and trying to make it at home. But there is something about standing by the roadside holding a dozen books, your legs being subject to constant mosquito bites, with not a drop of water to drink while your tongue hangs out due to the excess green chilly added (no matter how much you insist, jhaal kom deben- less spice please) and gulping puchkas one after another. 

I used to especially cherish the last phuchka (called the phau), given for free, which would have extra lemon juice squeezed into it and without the khatta paani (tamarind water). If your taste buds have ever experienced heaven, this would be it. No matter how appealing home cooked food is, home made phuchka is nowhere close to the roadside phuchka from the lungi-baniyaan clad man. There is something amiss in the Haldiram’s paani puris. The moment you know that it is made under hygienic conditions with mineral water and people wearing hand gloves, the whole thing loses its taste. Who wants to sit properly and eat phuchka in a civil way when you are used to standing by the roadside, dropping half the tamarind water on your dress in the process of holding your books, your mouth stuffed with the phuchkas while you pop out your eyes when he asks you, “Aaro debo?” (You want more?). The worst wait is when friends stand in a huge circle around him, and he takes indefinite time to get back to you again. But then, most quit after some 8-10, and it is then that the excitement of eating uncountable phuchka starts. These days, we Bengalis have taken a leaf out of the north Indian books and have started to introduce phuchka stalls at the weddings as well. A clever strategy I think, ‘coz once you are stuffed with phucka, you can’t really gorge on the bhetki maach fries and the chicken biryani later. 

Often there are rags-to-riches stories about some phuchka waala going to London or Paris and making it big. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case, for the prospects of the Indian fast food segment in foreign countries is vastly underutilized. Look at Seattle. The only place I have seen them serving phuchka is at the Indian stores. But then again, they serve you 5 tiny phuchkas the size of goat testicles with a little stale potato filling for $4 that tastes a week old. There, you have killed your desire to eat even before you had your chance. For me, I’d rather wait till I go back to India than have it here. You don’t want to have them in single digits. You want to have them as many as you want.

I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t like to eat, or even talk about phuchka. We Bengalis are famous in discussing food even more than we eat (which is also quite a lot). We often have this phuchka discussion of how many varieties of phuchka we have had. There are these huge cricket ball sized ones in Esplanade that would eventually cut your lips at the sides and your upper palate when you try to stuff them in your mouth. There was this place where they mashed small pieces of coconut, which in itself was a master stroke. At places, they gave you the option of having both tangy water and sweet water depending on what you liked. There was this place where they smashed alur chop (potato bonda) and used it as a filling. Personally, I am not in favor of huge phuchkas. They only kill the taste in this whole complexity of gulping them down your throat. Small, crispy, tangy, less jhaal, that is the way I like it. And man, I can gorge on them forever.

Phuchka is an element of bonding. It makes friendship strong. Like the tuition friends and the school friends and the college friends, I used to have this bunch of phuchka friends who would be available anytime I craved for some. You would see these couples bunking class and meeting surreptitiously, having phuchka near Science City or Victoria Memorial. Little joys of life, I would smile to myself. I am sure you have been gulping all this while because I myself have been salivating like one of those crazy Pavlovian dogs. So stop reading, go out, and gulp in a few dozen phuchkas. Forget about dirty hands and dirty water and typhoid and jaundice. Like my sister said when she was 3, “They are poor people, if all of us worried about hygiene, how would the poor man earn?” Valid point. Eat a few on behalf of me too. I shall derive the vicarious pleasure of having phuchkas from you. Trust me, every moan you make while you close your eyes and gorge on them is worth every rupee you spend.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Over a cuppa coffee (not with KJo though), I thought-
What chemistry had biochemistry brought into my life? Mugging up the equations and formulae, being able to recognize and draw the structure of every amino acid, as if it would help me make better shrimps. The prof expected me to eat biochemistry, sleep biochemistry, dream biochemistry, and to permanently sleep with the text book as a pillow. Even if I did that, I would never bring myself to like biochemistry. I felt no bonding with it.

Wait, what did I say? Bonding? B-O-N-D-I-N-G? Carbon bonding? Nitrogen bonding? Oxygen bonding? Valence states? Bonding? Bonding? Thinking of bonding over a cup of coffee?


Paper and pen. Here I go. Scribble scribble. Scratch scratch head. God, I felt like a scientist at work.



Here I go-


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

One-Two-Three-Start !!!

This weekend, I went to my FIRST dandiya night in life. Many of my friends did not believe that it was my first time. They were as surprised as they were when I went to watch Bourne Ultimatum with them and dozed off midway. 

"What’s the big deal?”, I asked. You guys aren’t from Gujarat, are you?

“Gujarat or not, dandiya dancing is the cool thing to do”, came the reply.

Which made sense. Thanks to the K-serials and the KJo genre of entertainment, being a Gujarati or a Punjabi was definitely the cool thing.

So I went to the dandiya, more out of curiosity than the desire to shake a leg. Given how and where I was brought up, asking permission for staying out late and shaking a leg to the dandiya was not eve an option. That dandiya stick would have broken on my back, given the perception of late-night dandiyas. 

But this isn't Kolkata, and I did not need permission anymore. So donning my best clothes, here I was on my first dandiya dance floor.

If you asked me to describe the scene in one word, the word would be COLORFUL ! In a huge room, men and women with colorful, ethnic clothes were dancing their way around. Little children looked even more cute in their mini ghagras and cholis, jumping to the beats of music. People were dancing in concentric circles, the two inner ones for garba and the two outer ones with the sticks. 

I grew up watching Chitrahaar, where occasionally, Amitabh Bachchan would dance to the tune of “Hey naam re, sabse badaa tera naam, o sherawali” donning a piece of cloth on his forehead. Bollywood glamorized dandiya even more with time. And I thought, it's easy. Just clap your hands or clap the sticks to the beat.

So the first time I saw these people on the dance floor, I was like, "Look, I'm on the sets of Hum dil de chuke sanam!" Picking those steps were harder than I thought.  So I stuck to the simpler 6 beat and 8 beat movements of the garba. Still, I injured fingers, stepped on toes, bumped into people behind me, and confused the rights from the lefts. It was fun, but it was chaotic! I even saw a few White people who had donned their ethnic clothes perfectly and danced away without a care in the world. Wonder what took me 25 years to get here.

We kept dancing in circles till by head spun and reeled and all the faces floated above me. The floor was wooden, and it hurt. The same steps, 1-2-3-1-2-3 and the same dance became monotonous. The DJ played some awfully slow number after heightening the mood. So we formed a group and the moment the beats picked up speed, we started to dance Bhangra amid a room full of dandiya people. It was so much fun! Sticks in hand and our legs alternatively floating mid air, we were jumping to the beats of hayo rabba.

Three hours of dancing and I was done for the day. Even after 3 days, I am still limping, thanks to the wooden floors. “Coming the next time?”- someone asked me. Sure. But this time, I’d like to sit and watch people dance, and revel in the festivity. Unless of course I pick up the steps of Dholi Taro in the meantime.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Heart Is Where The Home Is.

A few weeks back, a friend had thrown a grand party at his place to get us introduced to his fiancée who was visiting him. When I say grand, I do mean “Grand”. There was the most delectable food to choose from, free flow of wine, and rounds of poker and video games to play later. There was every kind of great food you could stuff your stomach with, and even more. After food and drinks, everyone settled to their choice of games or simply chatted and idled lazily. I was all sleepy and groggy eyed, and no matter how good the evening had been, I realized that all I wanted to do was go home and sleep. Yet none of the people were in the mood to leave, and I needed a ride back home. Not wanting to be a party pooper, I kept staring wide-eyed, unable to sleep, yet not quite active to participate. The hostess must have noticed this, for she soon started to stuff cushions under my head. Yet no matter how comfortable she tried to make me, all I wanted to do was to GO HOME. And I had never been more glad to be home.

Yeah, I am one of those people who have to get home by the end of the day. It’s not that I return to a house full of kids playing around, laughter, noise, or a significant one. Most of the times I talk to the bare walls. But no matter where I am, I want to get home at the end of the day.

There have been times when we were shopping all day and after that, G would insist me to have food with them and stay back. Yet no matter how much I wanted to, I would always find myself catching the last bus home. Another friend of mine has this posh condo on the 26th floor that overlooks the Elliott Bay on one side and the panoramic view of the city on the other side. Yet no matter how I swoon over my friend's place, I want to get back home.

I was staying at G’s place when my new home was not quite done, and I had merely dropped by my new place to keep some stuff. And suddenly something occurred to me and I knew that I was home. The place was unfurnished then, there was this one dim light and carpets on the floor. Yet the moment I was there, I decided to call G and let her know that I wouldn’t be home. Because I WAS HOME. I had cooked Maggi out of the one packet I could dig out, and had slept on the carpet. Yet the comfort in the knowledge of being home was unparalleled.

I don’t mean to demean my friends’ hospitality and warmth. They have great houses and the best hospitality to provide me, and I am immensely thankful for that. Yet no matter what, home is where I want to be at the end of the day. Familiar bed, familiar rooms, things familiar to touch and smell and see. Most of the times my room looks like Hurricane Katrina has struck it. And then when I can’t take the mess anymore, I spend hours cleaning up the place spic and span. Yet my familiar pillow, familiar blanket, familiar stuff has an extraordinary appeal to it. There have been times when I have hated to be the party pooper when everyone else wanted to stay back. I was once in the middle of an amazing party where an astronaut had brought his powerful telescope and everyone was having a great time watching the Jupiter and the craters on the moon. Yet the first opportunity, I slipped out and was given a ride home.

The point is, no matter where I am throughout the day, my home is where I want to get back at the end of the day. The familiarity, the joy of having one’s place surpasses any feeling of alienation or loneliness. They say the home is where the heart is. For me, my heart is where my home is.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Thought For The Day.

“The more complex our lives get, the more the simpler things make sense.”


Back in school (classes 3-4 to perhaps 8), we had the concept of a “Thought for the day”. During the morning/post-lunch assemblies, a student from an assigned class would come up on the stage and say a “Thought for the day” (TFTD), with a hurried thank you. Most of the times, the TFTD would be said with such hurry that the crowd standing at the end wouldn’t even understand. The TFTD thing was not just restricted to the mass congregations. The monitor/class leader of the class had the duty to assign specific people to write out on the blackboard the date, the subject to be taught (in that particular period), the total number of students, the number of absentees, along with a beautifully written TFTD in different colors of chalk. While no one but the teacher or the class monitor writing out the names of the miscreants who talked or made mischief in class were allowed to touch the chalk and the duster, it was an honor to have the right to use a part of the board (a little part though) to decorate and write things.

Apart from that, the class was divided into 4 houses of four colors and each house took turns to make charts out of white paper that would be hung on the walls. While most of them were the diagrams of the plant and animal cells, the pulleys, the map of India, the solar system, or the pictures of historical figures cut and pasted, some of these charts had different proverbs and saying written on them. It was during the chart making sessions that the artistic boy/girl of the class was in great demand, and like many people who “outsourced” talents, I would make my dad spend sleepless nights making charts of plant cells and trees and scenic beauties to get that extra bit of credit apart from the amount I got for being a diligent, non-troublesome student.

However, I must admit that most of these TFTDs never made much sense to me. Even if I understood what it meant, I would often fail to see the meaning in the broader picture of things. I once saw a board hanging with “Time is Money” carved artistically into it. I kept wondering how time could be money till after many years when I started to realize the value of time, not just while making it to an appointment or submitting a deadline, but in the broader context of things. “Honesty is the best policy” was another very common TFTD. Then there were the ones like “Talk less, work more”, “Speech is silver, silence is golden”, “God helps those who helps themselves”, etc. I once got hold of a new TFTD from some magazine which was far different from the usual ones, and while I understood nothing of the meaning, I had proudly scribbled the TFTD on the blackboard while struggling with the correct spellings of “possessor” in “Ambition destroys its possessor”. I was in the 4th class then, and even pronouncing the last word has been a pain, let alone spell it right or even understand it. The teacher had looked at the board impressed and had asked me if I had written that. I had beamed in pride. Its just that I never really understood the meaning of it.

Thoughts… thoughts for the days. Thoughts for life. It is after years that the meanings of those TFTDs scribbled on the board or on large white chart papers began to make sense. And it was amazing how the simpler the thought was, the more profound it had its impact on life. “Talk less work more”. There was a time I never realized why were the teachers in class hell bent on making us talk less, or work more. It is now, in the age of telephones and freedom that I realize how important those lines are. I am not belittling the importance of speech, but if you calculated the number of hours you spent on the phone, or even talked about inconsequential stuff, you’d be surprised how much more time you could have spent working. For once, I consciously started keeping a tab on the number of hours I spend on the phone talking about inconsequential stuff, and consciously made an effort to talk to people only when it was absolutely necessary. I was amazed how I breezed through the whole day almost without the need to talk. That day when I accidentally left the phone in the lab, I was so relieved in a way because I didn't have to answer phone calls or itch to call people. I'm sure I could do with a 60% reduction of words I spoke everyday.

Another TFTD that had a powerful impact on me was, “God helps those who help themselves”. Let me not get into the conflict of the debatable issue of the existence of God, but assuming that there was God, I strongly agree that you can see through any situation simply by being proactive in what you do, and by not letting yourself be carried away with the confusions and options of life. Why is it that I can’t study and remember one whole chapter for a month, but come exams, and I can easily finish off 10 chapters in 5 days? This is what I call “helping myself”.

“Live and let live”, “Respect your elders”, “Greenery is the best scenery”, “Make hay while the sun shines”, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”, “Time is money”, “Silence is golden”, “Work hard”, there are hundreds of these simple sentences popping up in my mind now, simple words that didn’t make sense then, but that will determine what I become (or do not become) in life. And as I reiterate the importance of time and the necessity to talk less and work more, I hope I would live up to the resolutions of spending fewer hours on the phone, stalking people on Orkut, sleeping a little less, being less bothered about inconsequential stuff like who married whom and who broke up with whom, and being more focused towards the things I am good at. Like I said-

“The more complex our lives get, the more the simpler things make sense.”

Oh, the joy of coming up with a self-created TFTD. 


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Leave That System Alone.

Last week, I heard someone mutter a certain expletive. It’s not that I had heard it for the first time, but it was one of those whose meanings I never understood. After much coaxing and cajoling and telling him how laidback I was, he finally told me the meaning. And that got me thinking. Most of the expletives have two meanings to it, an inherent meaning, and a more often meant or "prachalit" meaning. Like, “screw you” didn’t really mean I wanted to screw you, it could rather mean you are the last person on planet Earth I would want to screw. 

And this got me thinking about the number of expletives in any language. I wondered why 99% of the swear words I knew either alluded to either the whole or parts of the reproductive system, or to the act of having sex?

Fuck, screw, klpd, the different sub-families of swear words ending with ch**, b***, jh*****, the list is inexhaustible.

I would think the power of the reproductive system has been historically acknowledged and worshiped. Then why don’t we say “I care eyes/liver/throat about you” instead of “I care balls about you”? Why can’t brains rot instead of testicles rotting? How is the reproductive system any different from say, the olfactory system? Or is it because the lower we want to get (in terms of words), the lower in the anatomy we have to go? 

What is this big deal about the reproductive system anyway? You are born, you breathe, eat, live, sleep, and just as normally you reproduce. Just like your heart pumps blood and aids in circulation, your sex organs help you in reproduction. Why then do matters of intelligence lie embedded in the brain, matters of emotion and affection stem from the heart, while all the filthy swear words you hear are concentrated in the reproductive system? Our fucked up imaginations needn’t really be fucked up all the time. For there are better ways to describe filth than alluding to the act of procreation and to the system where from we have sprung. 


Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Neither the fever, nor the sneezing ceased the last few days. Nose blocked, taste buds redundant, appetite missing, the last thing I wanted to do was to scratch my head over what to feed my empty stomach that would be fast to cook as well as good to eat. And I knew exactly what I wanted to eat. 

My association with Maggi dates back to early childhood. Eating Maggi was never really a tradition in the family, unless you had fever and did not want the usual rice and lentils and curry. The day after my 5th birthday, I was diagnosed with jaundice. I was thrilled to bits when dad had bought me 40 packs of Maggi from the wholesaler. Those were the days when you bought 10 packs and got one of those cars free, the ones akin to Hotwheels that you’d push backwards and watch it zoom with speed. I still have those cars back at home.

Maggi costed four rupees back then. When I left India, I think it was somewhere close to rupees 12. Over the last few decades, prices jumped multiple times, new flavors were introduced (we had only Chicken and Masala back then), and so were multiple packs of twos, fours, and sixes. The taste and the quantity went down a bit too, but who cares? It is Maggi after all. One look at the yellow packet with the pic of the yummy noodles, and fever be darned. Whoever had this concept of instant noodles, it defied the concept that tasty food was time consuming and difficult to make. Boil some water, throw some vegetables, throw the noodles, put 90% of the taste maker (you keep the 10% to later dip your fingers into and lick from), boil it, and here it goes. With time, I devised newer concepts to make it yummier. I realized that adding a few drops of oil to the water prevents the noodles from sticking. Throw in some vegetables, salt, and pepper to prevent drowning in guilt. Add some extra water if you have a sore throat and want some extra soup. Put a little garam masala powder for an added flavor. I am sure there are people like me who never cease to experiment with Maggi.

At school, mom always packed me proper food for lunch. Roti. Parathe. Curry. Vegetable fried rice. Yet I envied those friends whose moms packed them Maggi, which by then would have gone cold and gooey. I would look greedily at those friends whose moms had no time to cook proper food, and just boiled a pack of instant noodles for them.

Maggi is to instant noodles what Cadburys is to chocolates. There have been competitors, other brands, better deals. Top Ramen, cup noodles. Yet nothing has ever tasted quite like Maggi. Occasional Maggi dinners were like treats for me and my sister. And while I finished off my meal within minutes, I would constantly eye my sister's dinner and tell her, “I think you are full. I think you are done”. She used to be a slow eater, and after an hour when she could eat no more, I would still hungrily finish off leftovers from her plate, all licked clean and dry. Since Maggi dinners were only occasional, I dreamt of earning a lot someday and buying all the packets of Maggi that I could afford, eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

The craziness left me, but the effect remained to such an extent that every time I visit the Indian stores here (which is quite far and I need a ride to get there), I sniff and hoard on Maggi. No tomato, I love only the chicken and the masala flavors. Have fever? Boil a maggi. Have exams the next day and no time to cook? Boil a maggi. Craving for some Chinese food but you neither have the usual noodles nor meat? Put lots of vinegar and soy sauce and make a psedu-Chinese dinner with Maggi. Not feeling like eating rice or roti? Eat a maggi. Such is the extent to which Maggi is used in my kitchen.

The water has boiled and my dinner is ready. Fever is not that bad a thing after all, provided you get to have Maggi.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Kitchen Legacies.

A legacy is anything handed down to us from the past. No, I don’t yet have anything substantially materialistic enough handed down by my ancestors, but for extremely large feet for a woman and spectacled eyes. But as I look at my kitchen, I can see all those habits of the women-cestors of the family that were handed down to me as legacies and never really left me. And legacies though they are, they did more harm than good, making sure that they lived with me like bad habits and cluttered my space. But not anymore.

Take for example the advent of the polythene age in India. You go get some vegetables from the market and that would be handed over to you in a polythene bag. Go to a saree shop and you’ll be given stuff in a “plastic packet”. Be it eatables or wear-ables or any and many of those umpteenth number of “ables”, the practice of buying stuff ensures that you soon accumulate mounds of these bags, packets, thongas (not thongs), wrappers, and what not. I have seen my granny neatly fold them very geometrically and store them in all those places of the house where you didn’t even know there were places. It could be lying dormant between the mattress and the frame of the bed, and the more people used the bed, the more the creases got ironed out. It could be in those storerooms, a luxury which was found in houses from the days of yore. It could be stored just about in any place, over the storage space near the kitchen’s ceilings, or hiding in the corner between the kitchen jars. And just when you needed to carry something, gift something, or even throw something, the women-cestors in our house always had the perfect packet to give you, of the right shape, the right size, and sometimes also the color of your choice. Your mom had made you tiffin in school (a luxury I no longer have) and she realized that it was some curry that, if not sealed properly, would soon stamp its presence on the entire contents of school bag. And there like an engineer at work, she will wrap my entire tiffin box, once horizontally and then vertically, once clockwise and then anticlockwise, and secure it with half a dozen rubber bands so that even if you were planning to bring the daal water you feed kids, it would not spill. Isn’t it amazing?

Well, that was the way it worked. If you wanted your share of amusement on a lazy afternoon, you could just skim through the contents of the thonga, which could contain anything from answer scripts to love letters. We were always taught to unwrap birthday gifts carefully, not as a mark of respect but to ensure that the wrapping paper could be reused for another occasion. Just turn the mattress for an occasional cleaning and you could see these valuable neatly packed and poring their heads out- polythene bags, birthday wrappers, and sheets of all sizes.

Then the kitchen underwent a transformation and got its more sophisticated look. The storage spaces got covered with wooden planks, looking more graceful with a sheet of sunmica. The concept of kitchen cabinets started to emerge. You no longer had to keep your pots and pans and spices open to the scrutiny of everyone’s eyes. You could step into any kitchen and just see the cooking oven and a few other electrical gadgets, other things being hidden in tastefully built cabinets. And like every other thing that found its place into the kitchen cabinet, the packets and the thongas did too. One entire drawer allocated to these plastic and polythene bags. If you were a guest who was carrying back something from our home and needed a packet for that, granny would proudly open the hugest drawer for storing these bags, put her hand into the so called accumulated treasures, and dig out one bag that would be just the right size to carry your stuff. 

When I went on a home cleaning spree one fine morning, I discovered to my horror that there were more packets and storage bags than there were things in my house. I tried to reason with myself that perhaps I could use these bags to dispose off the garbage. But hey wait a minute, didn’t I spend a couple of dollars buying two huge boxes of garbage bags from Walmart? I realized that I had even stored the packet they gave me for carrying the box containing the garbage disposing bags, so that I could reuse it. There were paper bags, plastic bags, little used ziplock pouches, and wrapping papers peeping everywhere. I’d cluttered my home with legacies handed down to me. So I stood there for what seemed like eons, having a conversation with myself, till the proverbial glass chamber that contained me shattered into pieces and I extended my hands, breaking free of this legacy. Granny, mom, I am breaking free. I told them that I am getting rid of all the packets and the bags and the stuff that I THINK I will need someday, and then keep thinking of the day when my thoughts would be reality and I will really need to use those. I kept some 5-6 really good, sturdy, or fancy looking packets (old habits die hard, you see), and threw away the rest. You wouldn’t believe, I made some 4-5 rounds to the garbage bin, and by the end of it, my home looked as if half its contents were gone. The voices of my women-cestors kept looming over my head for this blasphemy- that one day you will realize what a mistake you made when your neighbor comes to ask you for a fistful of rice or a couple of potatoes and you will not have a single packet you could use to give it to them. But who cares, my neighbor is rich enough to afford rice and potatoes and I’d rather keep my house uncluttered than make it into a storehouse of those storage things in the hope that someday someone would need the huge plastic bag I had got while buying kitchen napkins from Costco. No. No more. Not anymore.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Love At First Sight.

A year back, I was like any other starry-eyed girl who wanted to step out of home and see the world. And like most families, we grew up knowing that education and doing well in academics is the gateway to seeing the world, meeting new people, and doing something worthwhile. “Porashuna ta bhalo kore korte hobe” was what my professors said, meaning, you have to excel in studies. Hailing from a very ordinary family, that is what I believed too. Unlike my other friends, I did not have relatives in the US I could visit during summer. In fact, the first time I boarded an airplane was during my first trip outside home, to the US. 

My first stopover was at Frankfurt, but I never got out of the airport. Just stuck my nose to the huge glass panes, trying to see what Germany and Europe is life. By the time I reached Los Angeles, it was already dark. The connecting flight was delayed for a few hours, and as I stuck my nose to the glass panes trying to catch a glimpse of the much heard about “America”, all I could see were the tiny lights far away dotting the darkness, and several planes taking off. No landscape, no picturesque places, no tall buildings, no Hollywood, nothing. Even while landing in Seattle, all I saw were the blinking lights of the city. It had been past midnight then.

I neither knew the people who would pick me up from the airport, nor my host. All I knew was that my host lived in some remote godforsaken part of the city. So while the guys drove me from the airport, I had once again buckled myself up in the seat (the concept of seat belts was new, though not totally unheard to me then), and had stuck my nose to the glass windows to catch a glimpse of “America”. But even then, all I had seen were the silhouettes of tall dark buildings, freeways, paths winding in huge half circles, and headlights from the opposite direction. Once I reached my host's home (which I thought looked more like a garden house in the darkness), I was dutifully escorted and shown my room. And while my hosts had drifted off to sleep (it was past midnight), I had lain awake, unable to fall asleep due to a mixture of jet lag and excitement. I hadn’t pranced around the house in fear of stomping on their pet's tail in the darkness. So once again, I had stuck my nose to their window panes, awaiting daylight and trying to catch a glimpse of “America”.

And that I did. In the first few minutes of the morning light, what I saw was the most beautiful and most amazing sight I could ever have envisioned. No tall buildings. No expressways. No shopping malls. This was my first glimpse of the US in daylight. 

Who would believe that it was exactly one year since today? Time flies, huh?


Tuesday, September 04, 2007


I will never know how I goofed up the way I did. I work in a lab where the guy who helps run the lab does two things-

1. He makes it a point to write down everything, leave little notes and scraps in papers tucked here, there and everywhere.

2. Whatever he writes, the verb is always, ALWAYS, in the past tense.

Now I thought it would be more of a case of amusement than concern. This is the same guy who in his own words, “Ranned away from Vietnam” about 30 years ago, found himself a job, imported a Vietnamese girlfriend, got married, and raised little kids. And all the time while I listened with fascination about his courageous story, my vision transfixed in between the upright strands of his always oiled, porcupine like hair, I imagined what a great feat it must have been to have “ranned” from Vietnam. I mean did he actually run mountains and valleys, like we often hear in movies? Or did he run for his life towards the airport while mom and dad ran after him, hoping to stop him? My second question- despite the amount of oil present on his head at any given point of time, how does his hair remain perfectly at an angle of 85 degrees with his scalp at any given point of time? These are a few things I mean to ask him someday.

However, there you would find little scraps of paper pasted neatly everywhere, with things written that read like the following-

Very expensive instrument. Handled with care.

Whoever stolen, please returned my favorite knife. No questions will asked.

Please use the knife to cutted the food.

Don’t wasted the buffers. Stored them back.

Please contacted me at this number.

I am leaving on a vacation but will returned in two weeks.

You get the point. In a way, it amused me to think of this guy who fled from his homeland to establish himself in an unknown country, and even with his screwed up tenses, managed to have a job and raise his family. Every day I went to the lab, I would look at the familiar notes stuck on the walls of instruments, refrigerators, incubators, etc. I would read them and re-read them in my mind, till I finally knew which note was stuck where.

And then one fine morning in a meeting with my advisor and the other profs, I finally declared my intent to complete deadlines-

“I will go over the rough draft this weekend and will returned them by next week”.

Shit! I knew I had heard of similar sentence constructions before, but where? And then I remembered- Oh shoot ! Will returned by next week?

I don’t think many heard it, but the few who did were looking at me in amusement, asking me silently what my TOEFL scores were. I mean I wish I could convince them that they had just misheard something. I bit my tongue and rolled up the draft papers to give myself an imaginary whack on the head. I’ll have to stop reading those notes he scribbles from now.

By the way, did you know what someone asked me when I arrived in Seattle? Your English is so good, do you have English schools back in India?

I did not know what to say.