Monday, April 30, 2007


A few words of advice for those the first time here from personal experiences of (or watching other people) goofing up. Forgive me if you already know these. Just that the subtle changes were so obvious to me.
-1. Most of the profs are okay being addressed by their first names. Terrance becomes Terry, Thomas becomes Tom, and David becomes Dave. Imagine calling a 60 year old Prof. Jagnavalkya Sengupta “Jaggu”.
2. There is no need to ask for permission when you enter a class, even when you are late. They do not ask you to hold your ears and stand facing the black board, even if you enter 10 minutes before the class ends.
3. It is okay to eat and drink in class. People actually use this time for listening to class as well as having lunch, so that they save up on time. But it is recommended not to eat Indian food in class. The smell is distracting for people not familiar to this cuisine. And every time you are thirsty, there is no need to ask the professor if you can have water. Have water, lemonade, coffee, juice, wine whisky, nobody cares.
4. It is okay to work on your laptop in class. No teacher would scream- “All students who had laptops hidden in your bag, make a line to the principal’s room”. As long as you do not make noise, nobody cares.
5. It is okay to sleep in class. No one will ask you sarcastic questions like- “And what were you doing staying awake last night?”
6. When you give some reason for not being able to complete an assignment on time, people trust you and understand your problem. Never be untruthful or take advantage of this. In fact if you cannot attend a particular class, it always makes sense to email the prof/TA beforehand.
7. Every email you send is documented, and taken as a final word from you. Never ever write anything that can be used against you and get you in trouble. As a precautionary measure, it makes a lot of sense to save important emails where some kind of confirmation/decision has been reported
8. Some professors dress formally for class, wearing a tie, while some professors come to class in denims, sports shoes, and anything you’d rather wear at home. As for you, it is okay to wear chappals, shorts, track pants, or whatever you wanna in class (as long as it doesn’t look indecent). As long as you get good grades and do you work on time, no one really cares about what you wear.
9. Stop bowing to a prof “Good morning sir” every time you meet him in the alley. Just smile and say hi. If asked-“Hi, how are you doing?”, let it suffice to reply in a one word GREAT and smile courteously.
10. Plagiarism or cheating is a serious offense here. So if you cite someone, give proper references and links. And just because the TA or the prof works on his laptop in the examination hall doesn’t mean you are allowed to turn your head this way and that way, or go to the restroom looking for paper chits. No one, I repeat, no one cheats here. Don’t you ask me the punishment for being caught cheating or plagiarizing stuff. No one would even dare to do such a thing.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Childhood Memories-1 (The Gutter Baby).

It was a cold, wintry night back in the early 80s when I had just started school. Naturally, most details of the event are from my mom’s recounting them over and over again at every family get together.

It was a wedding we were attending and I must have been 3-ish. I was dressed in a white wedding gown my grandma had spent a fortune buying, the types bridesmaids wear in English weddings. Looking all cute and chubby and adorable, I went there with mom and dad.

Now I wasn’t a kid who used to jump on sofas or break stuff. I was a well-behaved kid, outside home. So while all the other kids were running around like crazy, I sat dutifully beside my mom, happily clinging to her and basking in the nice smells of her makeup and expensive silk saree. I am sure sitting on a chair my legs wouldn’t have reached the ground then.

After a volley of compliments from the other aunties, something on the lines of “Wow, what a cute little daughter you have, and she is so calm and well behaved”, my mom insisted that I go and play with the other kids. Not that I wanted to, I was more comfortable sitting with my mom. But then, since my mom insisted so much, I must have reluctantly gone to make friends with those monkeys running around and pulling at each other’s hair. Even there, not comfortable with befriending anyone, I marched towards a vacant chair at some quiet corner.

Now there was this huge drain/gutter in this rented wedding place which, instead of these morons securing with wooden planks, decided to cover up with thick cloth. And then they placed a few chairs close to it.

And of all chairs, I had to choose a broken one to sit on (Refer: Murphy’s Law). The moment I sat, the chair toppled, and the next moment I was neck deep in the drain, along with the cloth and chair.

Word traveled fast and someone yelled to the aunties- “Someone’s kid has fallen in the drain”. Now, almost all the moms ran to the spot, fearing if their child was the one. My mom however sat in peace, convinced that I wouldn’t have been the one running around and thus falling into the drain. Soon the other moms returned partially relieved and yelling at my mom- “Go, it’s you daughter in the gutter”.

My poor mom must have run for her life. Soon, I was lifted off the gutter by the armpits, my pretty white gown all brown and muddy, my little frame stinking like horse shit (or may be something worse). In that cold December night was I taken to the tube well and gallons of ice cold water was poured on me to wash me clean. Dinner be darned, mom had to carry my shivering self back home, which was quite far away. From dressing like a bridesmaid, I had returned home like a beggar, draped in nothing more but my mom’s shawl. And then my poor mom had to put up with a stinking baby the next few weeks.
So that is the story of a quiet baby falling into a gutter. Later, we heard that a few days earlier, a poor old woman, all dressed for the wedding had similarly fallen into the gutter. Even now, mom recounts this episode to others, or tells my granny-“Remember how she had fallen into the gutter……”. 

Anyway, a word of advice. Just watch your kids the next time you are in a gathering. Washing clothes from the gutter might not be a very pleasant thing to do. You can of course get rid of those, but you cannot get rid of the baby, can you?

Ever since, my mom calls me gutter-baby in jest.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Trin Tr-Information.

This is a purely informative post. Of late, I have received emails from some of you who have made it to a grad school in the US. First, congratulations to all of you !!!! Second, as you all requested, I have decided to write a few posts on life here. Feedback from students who are already here and would like to add more in the comments section are most welcome. This post is based on the way the telephone system works here. Of course things may vary from place to place, and many of you might already know whatever I have written here. Nevertheless, I hope this information is useful to some of you.  

In the first few days that you come here, you will be looking for good plans. There are a few providers here like Verizon, T-Mobile, Cingular, etc. and each have their own plans to choose from. Applying for a credit card may take a while, so if you have a good friend who is willing to help, you can get a phone in his/her name and keep paying the bills every month.

I was not aware of the many options by providers, and I was more confused than ever. However, G helped me out in all this. Now, I have a mobile connection that allows me 600 minutes of free talk time a month. Weekends are free. Let me explain to you what this means.

The US is a huge country. Naturally, the states fall here under 5 time zones. The eastern coast is ahead of the western coast by 3 hours. That means while your friend in the eastern coast would be eating lunch, you would still wonder what to make for breakfast.

According to my plan (that is, the option I have chosen for my cell phone), no matter which time zone I am in, 9pm to 7am and weekends are free for me. That means during this time, I can call up anyone in the US in any time zone and that would be free for me. Of course I pay an amount for this at the end of every month. Unlike in India where we buy cards worth money, here we buy plans worth time. So I get 600 minutes of talk time free. This means that anytime on weekdays 7am to 9pm I call someone, minutes will be deducted. The pulse is per minute. Once your 600 minutes are exhausted, you pay extra. If you pay more while choosing your plan, you can choose from more number of talk times. I especially like the system here because the free timings ensure that you usually keep all your phone calls for the night after you are done with work, and whatever calls you make during work time are short, important conversations.

Most universities have student rooms or computer labs with their own phones. So if you want to make local calls, it is best to use the university phone. Anywhere you need to call within the campus, you just need to punch in the last 5 digits of the phone number.

Most phone numbers are a 10 digit number where the first 3 digits are the area code. Some states might have more than one area code.

Usually, the cell phone comes free with the plan. And these are cool sets with camera and other stuff.

Sending and receiving texts both cost you.

Calling and receiving calls both use up your minutes. So even receiving calls (except from 9pm to 7am and in the weekends) is not free.

There is something called a family plan where you can include a number when you choose your plan. So you might live in Oregon while your husband/boyfriend lives in New Jersey. Including him in the family plan will ensure that all calls made at any time of the day are free.

Calling India-

I have been using the Reliance calling card (where you can but cards worth $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, or $200) and get talking minutes accordingly. However there are other calling cards too, and you must make some market research before you choose a particular card. You keep on recharging on the net once your talk time gets over.

There is another option called the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone. You need to install a phone in India, pay some $40 for having it installed, have broadband net connection back in India, and then make unlimited calls at home @ approximately $10 a month. Your folks pay nothing. If there are more than one phone numbers you regularly call in India, you must install more than one phone.

That in general is how the telephone system works here. However, it is always better to do your own research before you choose a plan. Any feedback or further information on whatever I might have missed out is most welcome.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My “Wonder”ful World.

I wonder-

Why no matter which side of the street I am on waiting for the bus, there always seems to be more buses running on the opposite side.

Why every time I hit the “up” button on the elevator, the one going down arrives first.

Why the more I study for the exams, the better gets my chances of screwing them up.

Why every time the professor in class asks a student some question, I always know the answer to it, but when it is my turn to answer questions, I am clueless.

Why every guy I have a crush on has a crush on somebody else, and guys who have a crush on me do not get crushed back at.

Why every girl from college who was better in academics has a better job, and every girl academically inferior to me has a husband, while I have neither.

Why every time I try to guess the correct answer to a true/false question in the exams, I end up choosing the wrong option.

Why every time I check the prices for avocados before buying them, they are $1 each, but every time I forget to check their price, they are $1.80 each.

Why every time I wake up late, I have all the unfinished jobs in the world to do before I leave for class.

Why my fellow passengers have always been uninteresting couples with badly behaved kids throwing a tantrum every now and then whenever I travel.

Why every time I get late for class and do not bring lunch, the girl in front of me always munches on a chicken burrito.

Why every time I tell myself that I do not have the time to cook, and my body should understand and cooperate and use up all the fat reserves, I end up feeling hungrier than ever. Perhaps my stomach has no brains.

Why the probability of me meeting my dad on my way back home always increases a hundred fold whenever I am with some guy friend.

Why when we lived in an era with no call waiting on the phone, every important call for dad came whenever I used to be on the phone.

Why mirrors in shopping malls are strategically placed everywhere so that every time you pick up a sexy dress, the fat girl in the mirror sarcastically laughs back at you.

Why every time I am done buying something (say a camera, a laptop, a webcam, whatever), its price either goes down or I see a better deal elsewhere.

Why every time I am the least prepared for class, the professor seeks my opinion on topics the most.

Why every time some girl in the group starts going out with some guy, I am always the last one to know.

Why every time a handsome guy on the plane is looking lost trying to find his seat and I pray that the empty seat beside me be his, he seats himself at the remotest corner in the plane.

Why lip sticks look great on every woman, but it makes me look like a blood-sucking vampire.

Why whenever I absentmindedly scratch my hair or dig my nose in an empty room, someone walks in without preamble.

Why of all the 30 odd 5 year old kids who were by themselves at that wedding, I was the only kid who sat on a broken chair and fell in the gutter on that cold, wintry night.

Why every time I make a resolution of working the most on a particular weekend, I end up sleeping the most.

Why every time G comes over to my place, my room is in a mess, while it looks fine the rest of the days (or maybe whenever my room is in a mess, G decides to come over).

Why every guy who looks interesting is engaged, married, or has migrated to Antarctica.

Why every time Y would call me up back at home, I would be in the loo.

Why every time I study lead, arsenic, and cadmium, a question on mercury comes for the exams.

If the hypothesis of a good looking person always marrying a bad looking spouse is true, should I prefer considering myself good looking or should I prefer having a good looking husband instead?

Why every time I forget the phone and imagine every Tom, Dick, and Harry trying to call me up, I rush home at the end of the day only to find that no Tom, Dick, or Harry called me.

Why any sari that looks good on me always looks better on my friends.

Why just when I reach the crossing does the light turn red.

Why every time I stood on the left in a crowded metro, the lady on the right always got a seat first.
Why every time someone clicked the camera without telling me, either my eyes were shut or my paunch was showing.

Why every time I had an important appointment to attend to, the alarm clock would ditch me.

Why every time I sat down to watch India playing, Ganguly got out.

Why every time I would need my sun glasses, I would forget to put them in my purse.

Why every time I would go on for a photo-clicking spree, the batteries would run low.

Why every time there would be a huge queue to get a platform ticket, there would be a paunchy ticket inspector right at the gate.

Why I can never determine what spices to put in what curry and always end up cooking horrible food with all the wrong spices.

Why every time I am in a huge family gathering, some aunt of mine always has to recount inappropriate stories from my childhood.

Why every time I have a nightmare of getting onto a weighing machine and the pointer crazily deflecting to the right, it is actually never a nightmare, but stark, harsh reality.

Why every time I decided to wear something adventurous to college, dad would go to office late or come home early.

Why every time I am on the phone and am required to note down something, maybe a number or an address, I can never find a pen in the radius of some 10 feet.

Why I can usually remember any persons’ month of birth, but usually never the date of birth.

Why every time I miss the bus despite running to get it is the bus I needed to take, and why whenever I reach the bus stop on time, it is never the bus I needed to take that arrives first.

Why every time I sneaked into the kitchen at night, I’d get caught by mom. Even now I have this habit of looking here and there to make sure that no one is around when I am stealing food from the fridge, though I very well know that no one is around.

So what are you wondering about today?


Monday, April 23, 2007

I Miss-

  1. Going to sleep with a leg over my sister.
  2. The smell of fried onions on Sundays when dad cooked meat.
  3. The tanginess of paani puri and the mouth watering pakode on rainy days.
  4. Saying “dada, jaben na ki?” to the cab driver.
  5. Singing the national anthem in school everyday.
  6. Hushed conversations, sweating inside telephone booths on sweltering days.
  7. Sweating in general (unless I am at the gym).
  8. Bargaining prices and the unnecessary, yet customary, “Achhe dekhke subzi dena” to the shopkeeper, and the equally feigned “Haan haan, bilkul fresh hai”.
  9. My kids at school wishing me, and then a few girls coming up to me after class and smiling shyly, “You look very nice in a sari ma'am”.
  10. Ma asking me- “And who was that you were whispering to over the phone to for so long?”
  11. My best friend and I making plans of running away to Africa someday. 
  12. The irritating tunes of those K-serial songs I knew so well, since every TV in the neighborhood would be switched on in the evenings.
  13. The librarian telling me- 5 baj gaye hain (it's 5pm now), the library is gonna close now, and me saying- 5 minutes more please (libraries are open 24 hours on weekdays here).
  14. Rushing to catch the last metro and fretting over the fact that dad would be mad at me for getting back home at 10 pm (most of our parties start at 10 pm here).
  15. Staying abreast of every new Bollywood movie, thanks to my trailer-watching addiction. 
  16. Bengali graffiti on the walls.
  17. Double checking if the hand-written “bill” the local shopkeeper gave me was added correctly.
  18. Home made raw mango sherbet during the summer.
  19. Raiding sis's or mom's wardrobe to wear something interesting at parties.
  20. Whining to my friend that I have never been to Goa and she has been to. Now, she whines that she has never been to the US.
  21. The hang of having exams once a year. I now take them almost once a week.
  22. Looking at the US flag at the USEFI and telling myself- someday I'd be there.
  23. Eating in plates and leaving them in the sink for the domestic help.
  24. Making a fuss whenever mom cooked spinach or raw banana curry.
  25. Asking dad in office what is he gonna get for me on his way back, and dad calling mom on his way from office and telling her, “Don't cook dinner tonight. I am getting Biryani for the kids”.
  26. Giving missed calls at home while they called me back. Now, they give me missed calls and I call them back.
  27. Sending texts and missed calls to friends. Here, you pay for texts too. 
  28. Threatening mom I'd go to sleep on an empty stomach if she didn't make goat meat in the next 2 days, and she actually telling me that I was welcome to do so, for this way I could lose some weight.
  29. The prasad from neighbors after the Puja, and the sound of conch shells.
  30. Asking mom to wake me up at a certain time the next day, and going to sleep in peace. It is my shrill alarm clock that does the job now. And in case I have exams, I make sure that I keep the lights on so that I sleep light.
  31. Not having to worry where my next meal is gonna come from.
  32. Waking up in the mornings and demanding dad to come and sit by the bed so that I would hold his hand before I decided to leave bed.
  33. Going to class only to be told by the prof that he has decided not to teach that day for some unknown reason.
  34. Gandhiji smiling on Indian currency. They are different heroes now.
  35. Calling up Munnu on a random day and demanding- BUNK CLASSES, I WANNA HAVE PIZZAS !!!!!
  36. Dad screaming suddenly while watching the Discovery Channel- “Come here quick, see how rockets fly!” while I'd escape at the first signs of commercial ads.
  37. Those ritualistic fights with dad and arguments with mom.
  38. Watching every second movie in cinema halls. 
  39. The unannounced (or announced) arrival of guests at home. I don't get to entertain guests here.
  40. Going over to the terrace and looking up at the moon and the stars.
  41. Wedding invitations, those cards that somehow looked all the same to me, and me pleading with dad- But please I do not wanna go, I don't even know anybody there.
  42. Locking myself up in the bathroom every time the train left the platform, in fear of the eunuchs. I used to be so scared of them.
  43. The painful site of little children and old people begging on the streets.
  44. Railway stations, and their all familiar sights and sounds and smells.
  45. The fear while crossing the streets in India, and the joy every time I would make it.
  46. Grandma, and her aloo parathe. She telling me about how thin and pale I looked every time she saw me, and her defending me in front of mom all the time.
  47. Kali Puja, Holi, and Durga Puja. It isn't the same here.
  48. Getting welcome holidays on these frequent Bandhs.
  49. Talking to friends while not having to calculate the time difference.
  50. Locking myself up in the bathroom while I cried so that nobody would see me. Now I cry in my own room out in the open and nobody knows. 

What are you missing today?


Thursday, April 12, 2007

If Blogging Were A Profession.

Ever wondered what if blogging were a profession? What if blogging was something we did 40 hours a week to earn money, and not something we did to unwind at the end of a long day? I hear that some people are professional bloggeres and make good money out of it. And then there is Adsense too. But I don't mean all that. What if in a party, there were people introducing themselves to each other in answer to “What do you do?”, saying, I am a doctor, I am a journalist, I am an engineer, and I am a blogger? After all, there were no biotechnologists, computer scientists, epidemiologists, graphic designers, or choreographers once upon a time. And then there would be further introductions about the educational backgrounds. So perhaps when the engineer came from Delhi (just randomly), the doctor from a medical school in Bangalore, the journalist from Pune, the blogger too would identify as an alumna of the prestigious Indian Institute of Blogging Sciences, the first of its kid in South Asia. While engineers had specializations in electrical, computer, mechanical, and so on, and management students specialized in finance, marketing, or HR, bloggers could specialize in social blogs, media blogs, review blogs, literary blogs, picture blogs, blogs on politics, food blogs, blogs on activism, sports, child rearing, and so on.

What if there were blogging companies, sometimes multinational, that hired bloggers fresh out of blogging school? These freshers perhaps got a four year undergraduate degree in Blogging Sciences (BBSc) or a masters level degree (MBSc). Of course they could have an option to pursue higher studies in any of the prestigious American schools (or for that matter, anywhere in the world) that had an entire department, “Department of Blogging Sciences and Research” to it. There could be new concepts like macroblogging and microblogging. Of course there would be general GRE, TOEFL, and Subject GRE (depending on what you wanted to specialize in).

In the job sector, one had the freedom to blog about what one was good at. They would help the companies that hired them earn revenue in some way. They had a choice of working in a cubicle in the office with the computer, or going outdoors to write about things (or maybe a combination of both). They had certain rights and as employees, were entitled to certain allowances and emoluments. Their employers could get them transferred to other blogging projects, or even other cities or countries. And blogging as a profession wouldn't just be an extension of media or journalism. There would be new concepts and different dimensions to it. Blog researchers and professors could take a sabbatical and go visit other countries. Like doctors saved lives (and some looted their patients) and engineers made machines to help people save time they don't know what they are gonna do with and managers skilfully transferred their work to the lower rung and marketing professionals made people buy products they could do without and government officials spent all day drinking gallons of chai and chatting and biotech researchers fiddled around all day with genes, inserting the gene of a fish into that of a lizard to see if it could swim better, (no offense meant), bloggers too could have some kind of contribution to the society. After all, the concept behind the establishment of most professions in the society lies in creating a demand among people and then meeting the demand created with a steady supply.

And then there would be such and such ads in the matrimonial columns of the newspaper- “Alliance wanted for tall, fair, handsome Brahmin Blogger (IIBS), only son, own house, working with an MNC in Bangalore, A+, earning 10lac pa, wanted fair, slim, convent educated girl (preferably blogger)”. Mothers could work from home, since it mostly requires a computer and creativity. 

And then the Oxford English Dictionary could have new words added to it, like blogomania (madness for blogging), blogophobic (someone who is scared of blogs), blogstipation (temporary or permanent inability to relate to or write blogs), blogosophy (like philosophy), blogoholic, gynoblogger (a female blogger), a misoblogist (hater of blogs or bloggers) and an anthropoblogist (one who blogged about humankind), perhaps an ornithoblogger (blogger of birds) and a sauroblogger (blogger of reptiles). Of course omnibloggers like me could write about anything under the sun. And with the evolution of the new language, who knows, we could find some innovative swear words related to blogs or bloggers. Come to think of it, if excreta or the technical act of love making can be converted into swear words, then why not this?

And then, two gentlemen newly introduced to each other would converse something along these lines.

Hi, I am a medical student of AIIMS.

Hi, I am a blogging sciences student from IIBS.

Oh wow, that's cool. I took the entrance test for that institute four years ago, but couldn't go beyond the prelims.

I too failed to clear the AIIMS entrance test. Luckily, I made it here.

So what would you want to do next?

Oh, there were campus interviews last month. I got a job in the R&D section of Blogtor & Gamble.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

"Heights" Of Frustration.

I was looking at my school pictures, the ones that almost belonged to a different era. Once a year, we came to school prim and proper, looking our best and our shoes shining, when we would be queued up and a pot-bellied man from Sharda Studios would take our class pics. I noticed that in all these pictures, I always stood somewhere at the back, my smiling face making every effort to pop out somewhere in between other faces. Why was it that in every pic, I was either lurking at the back with my face barely visible, or crouched low on the ground in front of the others as if I did not matter?

I guess you get my drift of thoughts. I have always been among the top 3 tall girls in class. In college, I was actually in the top 2. And let me tell you that though many girls I know would gladly exchange their high-heeled shoes to get my height, being tall is not always that cool. Okay, now I don't have the gigantic height the “Susmitas” and the “Bipashas” can boast of, but I guess standing roughly 165 cm tall is not so bad in my part of the world. Or maybe it is.

In school, I never belonged to the group of elite or petite girls who acted all coy while the boys dreamed of them and wooed them. Till middle school, most boys in my class were shorter than me, barring the ones who took gymnastic lessons or older boys who failed and repeated classes. I guess most guys considered me "one of them", since they never showed any interest in me except when pairing up for science quizzes. 

Being tall ensured that I was always pushed to the hinterlands of the group because it is the privileged short girls who were allowed to stand at the center. In most pics, my head would be popping out of nowhere or I'd be sitting on my knees with a dozen hands making a V behind my head. While working in labs, I would help get the reagent bottles off the top shelves, put them back again, and climbed stools if need be. If you had a fantasy for dating tall men, almost 70% of the men you met would be eliminated off your list immediately, unless you were in Scandinavia.

I am not just tall, but large-footed too. Until puberty, and sometime even after that, I outgrew my shoes every six months. Bata soon stopped stocking my size of footwear. Even today, barring flip slops and running shoes, most shoes for girls do not fit me. Nor does all those tank tops and tube tops marked S, M, or even L. Anyone could mistake my feet for a man's feet, sans the hair. My palms are larger than most girls', and no amount of manicure or nail polish would make them look pretty.

I wore my dad's shoes and tee-shirts through most of my teens (also because those hormonal changes were making me go through some identity crises). I am the tallest woman in my family, and nothing they buy for themselves (except saris) fits me. Three more inches, and I'd be my dad's height.

Things weren't this way always. But when in my teens, my mom bought me a skipping rope, and I had to jump everyday. Jump, jump, jump, and soon, I was growing by inches every month. There is a "Wall of Fame" at home where everyone's height is marked and dates every few months. Dad would hold a scale by my head and note down my height with a pencil. 

I have heard weird questions like, “Don't you find the ground far away when you look down?” Or, “How will you find a Bengali guy?”, and “Did you ever plan to join the armed forces?” 

How can I forget my misery during dancing/cultural events when I would always have to dress and act the part of a boy? While the shorter girls would look pretty in their frilly frocks and lipstick and rouge, I was always wearing shirts and trousers and ties in dance events. While the girls wore colorful sarees as they danced to Marathi songs, I tried to look happy in my dhoti and gamcha on my head. The taller ones were always paired as men with the shorter ones, and soon, I gave up participating in dance events just because I was tired of dressing and dancing and acting like a guy. I was tired of the black painted mustaches and beards. I wanted to dance wearing flowers and garlands and lipstick.

Of course I always got the upper berth in trains. And got to lead my group in the Independence Day parades, holding the flag. I got to be the confidante of guys in school who considered me closer to them than the other girls. All said and done, I'd rather be tall than short. 

Things changed when I moved to the US. Suddenly, most people were taller than I am. No more did I stand in a class group photo as the tallest girl. There have been times when I've stared at a girl a little longer than necessary, trying to debate if she was 5'10” or more. And the last time I went to buy a pair of track pants, no more did I have to grope for the XXL, XL, or L. The M fitted me fine, and with a little bit of effort, who knows, I might even be able to go for the S. 

No matter what, frilly frocks or no frocks, high-heeled shoes or no shoes, petite looks or no looks, and tall boy friends or no boy friends, I am proud to be who I am. I am not sure I would feel the same way though if I was born as Rani Mukherjee.