Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sartorial Irony

I was going through my old picture album where though astoundingly out of fashion, I still manage to look much thinner and younger. Truth be told, I would give anything to get back to that figure I had in India though mom used to make me eat right and work out even then. American food just ruined my system, and this lifestyle got me all out of shape and out of discipline. And herein lies the irony. In India, I had almost no money, lived in a conservative society, and lived with family with no access to the so called fashionable clothes. Now that I have the money and access to fashionable clothes and live in a society where I don’t have to answer to anyone about what I wear, I no longer have the figure to carry it.

This is one of the many things I have been procrastinating (along with buying that suitcase), but it’s high time I did something about the way I look now and the way I feel about myself. Am scared to call it a new year resolution because they usually remain till the first week after new year, but something needs to be done.


A Suitcase In Time Saves –

Long long post with no promised anticlimactic end-

I am almost done with my packing for my trip to California tomorrow, though the weather predicts snow for the next many many hours, and the websites tell me dismal stories of flights getting cancelled and the airport being a pile of people and luggage going amuck. My friend predicts that I might not be able to make the trip at all, which though heartbreaking will not kill me. This week I took a lesson out of a small chapter and finally went shopping and got myself a nice red carry on suitcase. Given that the process was neither expensive not a time consuming ordeal, I wondered why I waited 2 years to do this.

Bringing those huge 2 suitcases from India like everyone does, I did not end up buying extra luggage for myself here. For the first few months, it was the conversion bug in my head, converting from USD to INR and deciding to get the suitcase on my next trip to India. The next few months, there was not much travelling to do, and then I got myself a big-hearted roommate to beg and borrow from and never had to look back to buy one again. I mean, it’s not every month that one travels, and it makes more sense to borrow than buy. Or that’s what I told myself.

My roommate became my ex-roommate, but old habits didn’t die. I planned a trip to Philadelphia, and asked her to come over for dinner. Dinner invitation would have stood anyway, suitcase or no suitcase, but I nevertheless asked her to get hers, and she willingly obliged. But there was a glitch. The suitcase had seen years of travel and was beginning to demand some servicing. One zip doesn’t function, but the other one works perfect- or so she said. The suitcase looked healthy and sturdy otherwise, I had 20 more hours before my flight took off, and what’s this not wanting to travel with a one-zip functioning suitcase? I should be fine.

And I was fine, during the entire course of my trip. The suitcase happily served me, carried the dozens of clothes I never ended up wearing, the bottles of perfumes I carried as gifts, and more. Happy, I started to shop there, now that all the gifts were given and there was so much space. I ended up going for a wine tasting tour, and ended up buying bottles of wine for the dinners I occasionally throw. This was after I located a store that sold women’s clothes for cheap, and had accumulated a loot of winter coats and jackets and what not. Wallet wise I wasn’t loaded anymore, but suitcase-wise, I was. Happy and satisfied with my loot, I started to pack on my way back.

Things were fine during the packing as well. The next morning, just before setting for the airport, I remembered that I had not packed my stockings, and unzipped the one-zip suitcase one final time to put in my stockings and make sure all was fine. And Mr. Murphy lurking in the corner like he always does, I watched with horror the only functional zip ripping itself apart, leaving my jaws as open with shock as the suitcase was.

I had 20 minutes to leave home, which was not enough time to buy myself another suitcase. This reduced my decision making and acting time to about 10 minutes, where I either had the option of trying to fix the zip, or unpack everything, take what I need the most in the small spare bag I was carrying, and catch that flight I knew was not going to be late today, of all the days when I needed that extra time. No prizes for guessing, wine bottles were discarded along with the other things I thought I could never part with. Every little thing I hated to part with that came out of that suitcase, I asked myself if I would carry it with me if my plane burst into pieces in the sky and I was falling downward into the ocean.

Finally, a lot of my stuff was discarded, and I carried whatever I could carry in that extra bag I had the sense to bring with me. I landed safe and sound, sans the one-zipped suitcase. My initial feeling of sorry changed to benign irritation when I called up my ex-roommate to apologize for her loss (of her suitcase), to be told that it was an old suitcase anyway and it would have collapsed any day. Perhaps she was trying to make me feel better and less guilty by sounding casual, but then, hey, the collapse happened while it was with me, and I had to leave more than half my loot behind me.

With time, I realized that my anger was well found, but was being hurled at the wrong person. I was the one guilty, procrastinating to take charge and buy myself a suitcase. It wasn’t the money, if I had the money to make cross country trips I also had the money to but myself a little bag. It wasn’t even about time, I waste my time enough everyday, the time I could spend organizing my life. It was just plain, unreasonable, baseless procrastination.

And it was just not about the suitcase. I soon made a list of all the things I had been procrastinating doing in life, not because of the lack of money or power or time or resources, but because sometime in life, I just decided to be plain lazy and procrastinate without reason. I am trying to work on those. But no, I am not showing you the list.

Tomorrow if snowing stops and my flight takes off, I’ll be eating my dinner in California. And now, I am the proud owner of a lovely looking gorgeous red suitcase that took me 2 years to buy, but still hasn’t made even the minutest of the dents in my pocket. It wasn’t the suitcase or the time or the money that was the problem. It was just me.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

White Winter

This year my winter is out of a Christmas greeting card. It has been snowing here non-stop, and I haven’t seen even one-tenth of this much snow the last 2 winters. In India, snow used to look very romantic in movies, with skinny women wearing flimsy clothes and jumping around. It looked so much fun making snowballs and hurling them at each other. But reality as always is far from the surreal. In reality, I haven’t seen myself wearing nice clothes and jumping around throwing snowballs at people and listening to Christmas carols while sipping coffee and eating chicken pakora in the evenings. Thanks to the snowstorm prediction before hand, I have brought tons of office work home, and am almost on the verge of having boils and sores in you-know-where, sitting on the couch all day and working on the laptop.

2 days back, we finally decided to get adventurous and venture to office, not just because we had work to bring home, but also because the weather seemed better. But this was 2 days back. On our way to office, we decided to stop at the nearby park and have some fun. Office was soon forgotten and we were jumping around and playing in the snow. Fresh snow being powdery, it is so much fun jumping on it, but equally painful and slippery to walk on it once it has melted and become sleet. And of course for all those people who always told me to learn to drive and buy a car, isn’t it great not having to clean up the car in the biting cold first thing in the morning?

Snow seemed fun and exciting initially, but now I am bored to death at home, working. I want to have a normal life again, be able to go out and meet people, walk around the streets, do grocery, have something other than chicken stew and hot chocolate, and finally, see something around me other than white. Yesterday I was looking out of my window, feeling low and depressed for some reason, and ironically craving for sunshine when I saw this very old couple holding hands and wading their way through the snow. I felt like an old person, sitting at home and watching the world go around me, too lazy and too cold to venture outside.

I think I have had enough of the snow. I have sent snow pictures home. I have stayed for days at home, wiling the snow to go away. I have had my share of white this year. And hence sunshine must set out, to California if nowhere else, just to get that sunshine and warmth again. I am done with my hibernation. I must set out to seek the sun.


Saturday, December 20, 2008


A little late for posting this, but better late than never. I usually spend my thanksgiving holidays out of town. I choose a place I have never been to, plan a long and elaborate holiday, usually meeting up friends in the process, and that brought me to Philadelphia this Thanksgiving.

While growing up, I have had a fascination for checking out countries in the atlas. Vicarious travelling I call it, I have often felt great looking up countries and wanting to visit them someday. Due to a protected upbringing, we were never allowed to venture out on our own. I, for one, have never visited any of the metropolitan cities, unless you want to count one single solitary 3 day trip to Delhi to write an entrance exam I never made it to. No, I have never been to the so called cool places- Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Pune, Mysore, just name it.

15 years later, the habit remains, the atlas being replaced by google maps. Now that I am on my own, I have made it a point to visit as many cities (and countries) as I can. So I looked up the map and decided on a city I had never visited before.

The trip was great, especially because I was also meeting up a couple of friends there. Also, the good thing about the east coast is the connectivity. You will be able to travel so many cities taking a train or hopping on to a greyhound bus, unlike the west coast where you must must absolutely must have a car and where I can only think of 2-3 major cities spanning the entire west coast, maybe a couple more once you reach California. So along with the Philly trip, I also made it to a couple more places nearby. Princeton was one of them.

However, I was soon to make a self-discovery. I realized that I can never live in a small town, greenery and scenery and all. A recluse by nature though I might be, I have to see people, hear noises, the hustle and bustle of daily life to stimulate me. Princeton was great with its beauty and charming little houses, but I would be bored to death if I was stranded there for life. Philly on the other hand was amazing, with tall buildings and a happening downtown and the people and the music and the bridges and museums and all. It’s a city by the water, something that gives you additional things to see like the boats and bridges. Also, this city has a rich history. I am not much into history and museums and things which are long gone, but it was fascinating nevertheless.

I also realized that every city has a flavor and a charm of its own. After living here for 2 years, I thought I would never like to live in another city. Now I change my mind. I think I would like to live in a place like Philadelphia, never mind people calling it old and dirty and chaotic. Sometimes a city grows on you, and sometimes you get certain vibes about a city. Spending 3 days is not time enough to make a judgment, I agree, but I still think I would like to live in a place like Philadelphia any day. The streets, the buildings, the people, the shops, the universities I visited like U Penn and Drexel, the oldness of it had something in it I really liked. Maybe I’d really like it if I were to live here someday. Who knows?


Friday, December 05, 2008


We Bengalis are infamous in bringing up all the potty topics at the dining table. Ask anyone how conversations at the table usually involuntarily lead to the potty habits till someone puts a conscious stop to it. So we were on the thanksgiving dining table at my friends place in Philly. She had invited a couple more people including a certain doctor. The whole chicken roast was amazingly done with salmon stuffed inside its belly, which is already reason enough for any vegetarian to gross out. I had never eaten a whole chicken before, and amidst greedily gobbling it up, the biologist in me took over while I examined the body parts of the chicken with intrigue.

I sucked on to a juicy bone while I remarked about how during our undergraduate studies, bone identification was a major portion of our practical training. Thus we were taught how to identify the different bones of the pigeon, rat, frog, and even snake. Trying to appear cool amidst a bunch of engineers and theoretical physicists, I remarked how one could identify certain bones by locating certain holes in certain regions of the bone. My engineer friends looked fascinated.

I was sucking on to another piece of flesh when my physicist friend had faint remembrances of her biology lessons she took the last time in high school, more than a decade ago. Nostalgic about smelly bio labs and indecipherable terms like troglodytes, she suddenly got very excited about an obscure term she remembered back from school a long lifetime ago.

“Foramen magnum. Wasn’t that the word we studied? Do you remember where it is located?”

To which, I cast her smug glance. Of course every biologist knew where the foramen magnum was.

My right hand and my mouth half filled with food, I gestured and patted the back of my head. I was expecting adulating glances, given my profound knowledge in biology. To stress my point, I said in a Korean accent, partly due to all the food in my mouth, “Brain”.

I thought people were impressed. They were. There was just one seemingly insignificant voice from the far corner of the table that remarked with all seriousness, “Not the brain. It is the skull”.
Of course it is a sacrilege to confuse the brain with the skull for a doctor.

Now you know why I have a thing for doctors.