Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Tax-ing Promise

Dear self,

Promises are sure meant to be broken, especially after deadlines are over and the pressure is lifted. Nevertheless, I’ll try to promise myself, just to keep up to the ritual of making and breaking promises. I promise that henceforth I will keep my important documents in order. Medical bills, electricity bills, tax documents, everything barring those letters trying to sell me free credit cards or car insurance (though I don’t have a car) and sentimental letters asking me to make a donation to the cause of victims will go in a separate box bought especially from Ikea and will be attended to immediately. Tax return filings will not be procrastinated till the deadline henceforth, especially since I have figured out that it can take months of procrastination (3 months in my case) but just one hour of focused effort to get my taxes done. However, big words, you know why? You see, there is this W2 form, an important piece of document that has all the figures related to your income and expenditure except how much you pay for buying clothes every month. Sometime during shifting apartments a few months back, I misplaced my W2 form. To make matters worse, I was supposed to fill in 2 W2 forms this year, the penalty for remaining in school half of the year and then working the other half of the year. I did get dirty looks on informing the office that I would need a duplicate copy of my W2 form, and that too 1 day before the deadline of the tax filing. The second W2 form would need some special pulling strings to achieve, since I didn’t go to school anymore. But all this would mean I would miss the deadline for filing tax returns. Needless to say, I decided to pillage my home to find the two original W2 forms.

Pillage I did everywhere. Cushions were upturned. Drawers were emptied. Cupboards, clothes, drawers, everything was ransacked. The good thing about bathrooms and kitchens and balconies are that I am not really known to keep papers there. But that still leaves the bedroom and the living room to plunder. Shelves, racks, chests, cupboards, no stone was left unturned to find the two W2 forms. Funny, I found ten other documents I was looking for in the process, unpaid electricity bills, receipts from the Kabab place I had dined at 6 months ago, free credit cards from companies I have never heard of, receipts for the Walmart shopping I did 2 years ago, little hand written grocery lists, and so on. I even found the Macy’s receipt for the dress I bought last summer and couldn’t return (because I couldn’t find the receipt then), receipts for unpaid electric bills, and the envelope of my graduation pictures I have been looking for ever now. But the W2 forms were still missing.

To cut a long story short, the W2 forms were finally found, after a couple of hours of ransacking the house, missing out on the evening dinner party, after endless hours of squatting and searching on my knees in the remotest of places (like under the bed), cursing under my breath every time my bones creaked, making a resolution in the process to hit the gym for the endless time now after re-discovering my unsurprising loss of body fitness. Careful me had nicely stored the forms in a big file got from India to especially hold my important documents. The file was again carefully stored in the suitcase, beneath layers of junk like speakers, unused electrical wires, and various little paraphernalia (like band aids, of all things). And why may I ask the thought of checking the suitcase never occurred to me?

Because 2 weeks back, while rehearsing for the play, I had kept the suitcase on one of my dining table chairs, using it as a prop to hold my script at eye level for me to read and perform.

And this post is dedicated to all the hours lost, not just looking for documents, but for procrastinating, fretting, panicking, making my life miserable, and early-ing my process of ageing and getting white hair and sleepless nights for nothing. Age should bring wisdom. Not forgetfulness and procrastination.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Degree of Freedom

In profound hilarity, I am reminded of a scene from DDLJ. SRK is surrounded by the huge life size pictures on the wall, pictures of his forefathers who in their various stages of academic life, had failed in school, which in itself was an achievement. I don’t know why I am reminded of the scene though.

And then for the umpteenth number of time again, I open the envelope and look at the contents inside. I walked the graduation ceremony almost a year ago, but without a degree. Earlier this evening, I received my degree, after waiting almost a year. I read my name printed boldly on the degree. My second masters degree and my first US degree. I am reminded of those number of people I should be thanking otherwise – an advisor who gave me a hard time and literally made me choose between going to school or jumping off the building, parents who were dead against me leaving the city (and not just the country), a set of horrible people I met these last two years who added to the difficulties in life, and so on. And then there were friends, well wishers, motivators, who in their own way inspired and encouraged me. This is a special day indeed.

A degree is nothing more than a piece of paper, with as much credibility as a marriage or birth certificate. But this is the piece of paper that everyone is struggling for. I cannot remember a single chapter from the signal transduction pathway, but I have a degree to show that I know it all. There is finally some light at the end of the tunnel.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Death and its Manifestations

All this while, I was under the impression that Charlie had died a natural death. That one fine morning, he was discovered breathing no longer. Today I came to know that Charlie was euthanized. He had an abnormally enlarged liver, water retention in the belly, had stopped eating or moving, and it was suggested that he be euthanized than suffer. And that got me thinking about a lot of related things about death.

I know this debate of death versus euthanasia is an old one. In fact the various manifestations of death- natural, accidental, suicide, euthanasia, abortion, come with their own set of ethical issues. Of course there is nothing to do for a person who dies naturally, or has an accident. But does a person have as much right to not live as he has the right to live? Is it ethical to end someone’s life who is already in a vegetative state and cannot make decisions of his own? Is it okay to give birth to a baby if one is not ready for it? I do not know the answers to these questions.

What I know is that it must have been really tough for G to decide to euthanize Charlie, making a decision to end someone’s life who you have loved dearly, who has been with you for years, even knowing that this would lessen the suffering. It must have been hard to hold him for the last time before giving him away, knowing that he will never be seen again. It is a depressing thought. I am sure it was a good decision to end Charlie’s pain. But if I was her, would I have the courage to do it? I do not know.

Death in all its manifestations is a concept that still remains fascinating to me. After all, it is more I do not know about than I know about.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Classrooms and Beyond

Sometime in March this year, my kids wrote their ICSE board exams. If you’ve followed my blogs for years, these are my kids who I taught in school back in India a long lifetime ago. Office commute gives me approximately an hour to sit back and think of things, a luxury for me of course, and of late, I have been thinking of my life in India a lot. I was younger, and saw the world differently. I did want to come to the US, yes, but for as long as I worked in India, I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the kids. I wish I was the one who gave them physics and chemistry lessons before they appeared for their boards.

Now, it is a different workplace I have. I do consulting in public health, which is a very simple way to put it. All I need to function is a computer, of course with the internet and MS office, and a phone. I do not interact with kids anymore, do not teach, and have no fun stories to tell people at the end of the day. I do like my job, especially in this economy, I better like my job. But it is a lot more brainwork and a lot less human interaction.

I’ve completed 5 months of my work here, and in this season of salary slashes and layoffs, I got a hike. I wasn’t really expecting it. For people who have been through the grilling process of applying for a work visa, you will know why today’s date is so important to me. Starting today, my application will be scrutinized by someone to decide if I should stay back to work. It is a disconcerting feeling.

From classrooms to consulting rooms, I have come a long way work-wise. I have learnt new skills and have been put through newer circumstances. My resume looks more voluminous now, with big words thrown here and there. I compare my resume from 4 years back and my resume now, and the stark contrast between the two is so apparent, not in terms of contents, but in terms of the format. No one here cares about father’s name and one’s sex in a resume.

Anyway, I hope that my children do well in their boards and pursue things of their own interest. I still remember the good teachers from my school days (and the bad ones as well) and hope that my children remember me fondly.


In Memory Of Charlie

I am personally not a fan of pets. Seeing them in TV shows is fine, and I acknowledge that they need love and care, but I would personally never take care of a pet. It puts me in a dilemma when someone close I visit has a pet. My host and close friend had a fat black cat, and though my host had opened her arms and house to welcome me, I could not embrace the cat. Yes I’ve fed him, but I’ve shivered in shockprize, a combination of shock and surprise, every time the cat had accidentally brushed its fur on my legs. I heard stories about he losing his collar, and put up with sounds of he scratching surfaces whenever he was hungry. With time, we learnt to acknowledge each others presence in the house, but never really cared much about each other.

However, this post is written out of sadness. After a prolonged suffering due to liver illness, the cat passed away. He was an old cat and I have seen him from my Day 1 of stay here. In fact I saw him 3 days back when I was there at her place. But never did I think that its life had started to be counted in hours, and I would no longer see him.

This is just to say that black cat, fat cat, mad cat, ignoring cat, whatever you were, I will miss you. The house will definitely seem empty and different without you.

I am sorry for your loss, dear host.