Monday, January 23, 2012


The pair had remained together for almost four years now. Then, in a series of commonplace events, they were separated. Not once, but twice in a span of twenty four hours. Unfortunately, the second time, there was no opportunity for reunion.

The first evening, they were dining at a restaurant. It was not until she reached for the car door, fastened the seatbelt, and drove off that she realized one of her gloves was missing. Black and leathered, she loved it for years because of the way it fit snugly. The woolen ones usually did not endure rain or snow, but this one did, and she held on to it for years. She told him the moment she realized the right one was missing. He had instantly swerved the car and driven back to the restaurant they had dined at not even an hour ago. She was grateful, although she kept it to herself. Once there, she went inside looking for it, and the server told her that he had found nothing. They looked in the parking lot and the nearby streets as well. He even went out of the way looking for it in the freezing wintry night. But her black glove seemed to have disappeared in the darkness. Disheartened and cold, she drove back. It was while locking the car door that he had the insight to look inside the car. It was particularly dark, and she was thrilled when he had emerged from her side of the car holding her right glove. She had dropped it in the car and never found it.

The next evening, he had taken her around New York City, showing her places he liked. She had never really cared for the city, but she liked what she saw on that cold wintry evening. The city was shrouded in white after the snowstorm, and she was surprised to see that people moved on with their life despite the chilly winds and the freezing weather. The city definitely had a personality, people dressed fashionably, and during the few hours they walked, she was amazed to see hundreds of varieties of black winter coats, jackets, and boots. They walked in the snow, enjoyed some great food, warmed up to some aromatic coffee at one of the local coffee joints, and it was soon time to say goodbye even before she was ready to leave. The subway was somewhat crowded, and she saw the train enter the station at a distance. In a hurry, she subconsciously ungloved her right hand to pull out the ticket from her handbag in haste. It was not until the train started that she realized her right hand was bare. They were about to say goodbye, but she had looked at him helplessly, and the next moment, they had gotten off the train at the next station. It was not possible to get into the other side of the platform that easily, so they climbed back the stairs, got outside the freezing streets, waited for the traffic signal, crossed the road amongst the slush of water and ice puddles, found another subway outlet, and had made their way to the station, this time in an opposite direction. The train arrived, they boarded it, got off the next station, got outside, crossed the streets, and after about twenty minutes of taking trains and crossing streets, they were back at the point where she thought she lost her glove. Only, there was no glove to be found this time. They looked everywhere, on the platform, near the ticket swiping machine, even in the trash cans. He asked the lady at the ticket counter if someone had dropped off a missing glove. Only there was no finding it this time. She was feeling guilty for getting him late, and thankful for all the effort he had taken. She got fresh tickets and boarded the next train, holding on to her lone glove now.

The incident evoked her philosophical thoughts on her journey back home. Losing something that belonged to you was always saddening, no matter how inexpensive it was. However, the pain was somewhat worse when you lost something you had in pairs. A lot of memories get embedded in the process of possessing things, and of course there is this guilt associated with losing things, voices in your head blaming you for being careless, voices of your parents, teachers, and elders reprimanding you every time you lost a pen or a penny. But more than the guilt of being careless, it was the sadness evoked out of seeing a pair separated. She held on to the other glove, which was now useless to her. She would soon replace it with a new pair, and knowing her, she would not have the heart to throw the old one away. It would probably sit in her cupboard for the next few years, not having a use. She often misplaced her eye liners and eye pencils, but she never felt guilty about them. However, every time she misplaced an earring, she felt horrible about it. It was the pain that came with the separation of a pair. She wondered where her other pair was now, perhaps brazening the ice and being stomped over by people somewhere on the streets.

Sometimes, it is easier to get over the loss of something just by being single, compared to the pain and distress of losing something as a pair. No matter how well you move on to do great things in life on your own, make new bonds, see new places, and attain new heights, your other half always takes with them a little bit of you, of your memories, and of your life, leaving you a little empty inside, and forever reminding you that life would perhaps been a little different, maybe in a good way or in a bad way, if fate had not connived in a series of events to separate you. Your losses as a pair always outweigh your individual losses. Looking back, she could have perhaps been more careful with her glove. She could perhaps have not removed it. She could perhaps have not cared about missing the train, taking her own sweet time to ensure she was holding on to everything she possessed. In retrospective theory, you can replay the events as many ways as you want to. In practice, you just move on with your losses, your pains, and nothing more but a handful of perspectives.


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Not eve(red)dy

Driving after a while becomes second nature. You do it subconsciously, just like walking to the department every morning, multitasking while talking on the phone, or giving directions to your home. When you are new to driving, you are always alert, looking for the faint signs, every change in traffic light even from a distance, of pedestrians crossing, or changing speed limits, or slowing down signs, even birds flying or cars passing you. With time, you learn to relax while driving, your seat starts to recline more, you begin to brake and accelerate without remembering it, and you sometimes drive to the nearby grocery store, not even remembering what you saw on the road. You brake to a red light instinctively, slow down sub-consciously, without even aware of doing it. Perhaps that is when one needs to be worried.

Although driving has transformed from an uncomfortable to a comfortable and now to a relaxing task for me, I have never taken it lightly. I still indicate while changing lanes, slow down while taking a U-turn, or look for cars in the blind sight while changing lanes. It so happened that my friend pinged me one night when I was about to go to bed. It was almost midnight, and he asked if he could get a ride back home. He had missed the last bus. Although sleepy, I left to pick him up and drop him home. I knew the roads, hence did not take my GPS. I took the right turns, picked him up, chatted with him while driving, and dropped him home. And on my way back, I did the most horrible thing I have done in my driving history. I jumped a red light.

I knew it instantly I did it. I was tired, sleepy, and I still wonder how I did it. I have never jumped a red light, and never hope to do it again. The consequences could be disastrous if it was not for a cold wintry December night when the streets were deserted. I had never experienced this, but the moment I realized I had jumped the red light, my first instinct was to brake and drive back to the signal in reverse motion. Horrible and fatal mistake. Never try to go back if you have accidentally jumped a red light.

I came home feeling sick and dizzy. Every time I replayed the situation in my head, I felt nauseous. I could have been hit sideways by an oncoming vehicle. I could have had other people in my car. I could have been dead. Not only had I endangered myself, I had also endangered oncoming traffic. I have never considered myself as a traffic hazard, and although it was a lucky escape, I felt horrible.

Driving is as much a privilege as a responsibility. Whenever I hear horror stories about cars hitting and slamming into each other, or pass by cars in an accident with the blinking blue light of the police and the ambulance, I always thank myself that I was not one of them. I could have been one of them, with or without my fault. Jumping a red light was scary, and I hope it never happens again.


Monday, January 02, 2012

Staying Hungry, Staying Wise

New year is the time when the world goes high on making resolutions. I read somewhere that “A new year’s resolution lasts as long as the first week of January”. Truer words were never spoken. While Facebook is replete with updates from people who resolve to lose weight, be tolerant to fellow-desis from the Bay Area, spend less time Facebooking (ironically announcing it on Facebook), strive to find a higher truth (whatever that means), cut down on spending in shopping, or waste less time listening to Kolaveri di, I wonder how many of these resolutions actually attain fruition. This gives an interesting glimpse into human behavior, where some invisible force throughout the world not only makes us guilty for our actions (or the lack of it), but also makes us announce publicly a list of all the things we will probably never do.

I do not make new year resolutions. I make resolutions, not just during the new year though. Last summer, I made a resolution to cut down on eating outside. I had to make a sudden trip to India because my father was ill, and I had to save for the trip. Not eating out was my only serious resolution, and it was hard. It was hard not because I am a big fan of eating out, but because these days, eating out is a major form of socialization. We have all the time to stalk people and stay abreast of gossip, but we do not have the time to invest into cutting, chopping, and cooking. I did not stop eating out altogether, I just reduced it to once a week, then once in two weeks, until I reached a stage where I rarely wanted to eat out. I started with saying no to outside meets, but yes to potlucks at home. I continued it with making less frequent visits to Chipotle and Starbucks (I used to frequent them every alternate day). I started skipping get-togethers, and with each dinner meet missed, the peer pressure of making it to the next one got worse. I would order a glass of water at the coffee shop if that was my only option. It was about saving money. It was about taking a little step toward a healthy lifestyle. But most importantly, it was taking a major step toward self-disciplining yourself, and sticking to that. I feel I cared more about money when I did not earn it. I started to hang out with people in smaller groups. I would call them up, asking if I can come over for dinner, and always bring a dish or two to share. Every time I went out, I made sure I had some yoghurt or bananas with me. I started rewarding myself by buying things I am passionate about (for example, office supplies and photography gear). I have eaten out once at Chipotle, and have been to Starbucks once since summer. That is more than six months. We went for a little trip on new year, and I had packed some bananas and yoghurt in case we got hungry after the hike. I mentally congratulated myself when I could convince my friend to not eat out, and we came home to enjoy two courses of chicken curry, shrimp curry, and some lentils, all prepared at home. This morning, I put some time into chopping vegetables and making an omelet and some coffee for my friend, rather than head to ihop.

I am not going to start telling you the advantages of not eating out. It works great for me, but that might not be your calling. It works for me because I save money, plan my food supplies better, restrict my socializing (if socializing is equivalent to eating outside), feel less guilty about eating unhealthy, and afford the best quality stuff (the best quality of organic food is still cheaper than eating outside). Most importantly, I feel I have a say in deciding my life, about which get-togethers I want to go to, and which I want to avoid. I like the power of being able to say no. I spend more time cooking for friends at home, and hang out with people who spend time cooking for me. When I was in Calcutta, I ate at home every day. I might not know what food in Oh Calcutta or Mainland China tastes like, but I sure know how good it feels when my mother, grandmother, father, and even my neighbor aunt put in the time and effort to cook something I enjoy.

Since this was not a new year resolution, it did not die by the end of the first week of January. I still have to work on disciplining myself in sleeping earlier, working out everyday, reading and writing more regularly, or keeping myself motivated through the rest of my doctoral study. However, minimizing eating out is a resolution I am going to observe for life. I am going to eat out only when either the food or the company is compelling enough for me, or when I know I am going to die for the lack of food.