I read two novels recently- Summertime by JM Coetzee (my favorite author, by the way) and The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.
Summertime is a 2009 Booker Prize Finalist. I chanced upon the novel while perusing through the New Arrivals section at Barnes & Noble. I sat on a plush couch for more than 2 hours and read 100 odd pages. I had a feeling that the store associates will probably kick me out for reading the book for free. Of course, nothing of that sort happens in the US. India, yes. Anyway, I went to the Saint Louis County Library the next day and got a copy of the novel and spent the next couple of hours absorbing each word. Coetzee manages to transpire me to a state of bliss every time. My first book by Coetzee was _Disgrace_- early 2000, probably. Summertime is semi biographical and the third installment of the series; the other two, Boyhood and Youth, I haven’t read. Coetzee comes across as a detached and an intellectual person in the novel. Someone who is not capable of loving anyone. Someone who is very personal. The book is set in 70s for the most part- a time in his life when he had just returned to South Africa from the States, when he was still struggling to find a foothold as a writer. He projects himself as a single man in the novel. In real life, he was married with two kids. (Got to know after doing a quick Wiki check). The book doesn’t disappoint me one bit. Again,this might be because I read a Coetzee novel after a gap of 5-6 years.
The White Tiger was an interesting read. Unfortunately, it didn’t teach me anything about India that I don’t already know- how corrupt the entire system is, how drivers employed by middle class families back home hoodwink their masters, how poor their families are etc. Adiga’s execution is brilliant though. There is a twist in the story and that is what sets this novel apart from many others. Did it deserve to win the Booker? I don’t know. In a match between Summertime and The White Tiger, Summertime wins hands down for me. Of course, Coetzee (two time Booker winner, Nobel Prize in Lit.) versus Adiga (one time Booker winner, budding author) is not a fair race. I guess I’m just mad at the Booker committee for only shortlisting Summertime. I can see why they did that- they do not want to give the general public the impression that they are biased towards one author. They probably want to give new writers a chance. But shouldn’t the slate be wiped clean every year? Shouldn’t each book be judged entirely on its own merit and not on the merit of the author? Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful to the Booker Committee for introducing me to great pieces of Literature. I do wish that the ultimate winners were a little more worthy though. I think Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things was a very well deserved Booker Prize Winner. The White Tiger is not. The book is witty and entertaining even though it is not a literary masterpiece. Something is lacking though. It leaves much to be desired. I have Adiga’s latest work, Between the Assassinations lying on my bookshelf. I will return to him after reading something else.
The past two days have taught me a lot more- I have learned that your manager’s problems are your problems and that you need to put up a false pretense of caring for them and their families, even though you might not know them personally. You should make it a point to remember the names of his/her kids but not take any offense if they don’t care about your well being. The lay offs that happen during recession time have surely taught you a lesson, dear reader? The companies proclaim to be like your family. But if they are really like a family, would they be laying you off? It’s a by product of living in a pseudo capitalist society. Use and dispose. You are as important as your work and your position. As long as you as productive and add value to the company, the company adds value to your existence. The day you stop churning out important stuff (due to any reason), you are shown the door.
I fail to understand the double standard nature of the corporate ladder. It’s difficult for me to not care about people with whom I spend 40 hours/hour. I spend more waking hours at work that I do at home. So why is it that managers find it very easy to disassociate themselves from your problems? Are they really task oriented? Or are they practicing selective perception? Maybe it’s a mixture of both. Should a manager’s people’s skills be limited to the job at hand and not go beyond that? How can a subordinate put his best foot forward if he doesn’t feel like he’s valued enough or cared for in a corporation? Maybe I’m over reacting, but I think a manager is all about making sure that everyone’s operating smoothly. Sure, I don’t expect them to listen to my sob stories, but if there is something that is preventing me from doing my job, then they need to listen to me and not turn a deaf ear! Worse, ask me for an explanation and then just ignore my explanation…I guess I’m too sensitive to how people react. The way I would handle the same situation is quite different. I wouldn’t ask anyone how he or she is doing if I don’t want to listen to his/her response.
But that’s how a lot of people operate- they’ll ask you “How you doing?”. But by that, they don’t want to know how you are really doing. Just give them back the usual “Oh I’m doing good. Thanks for asking” and they’ll be glad. Who wants to deal with unpleasantness at work? At work, everybody acts normal. The fact that everyone is acting normal is what makes them abnormal. I think it is normal to shout and show emotions. It is abnormal to put a smiley face when someone actually just shot you down. No wonder we behave horribly when we get back home. How difficult it is for us to behave like zombies for 40+ hours every week!
This reminds me- I haven’t seen too many males responding very well to my orders. Indians are probably worse when it comes to taking orders from an Indian woman who is in her in 20s. Just imagine telling them that they are doing their job wrong! Haha. Guys usually try to get the women to re-think their responses or actions. Women seem to be more vulnerable. I’m not sure why. Oh, and then there is this other problem of women not being able to take orders from women bosses and slim women not behaving appropriately with other women who are heavier or women who don’t dress that well. There are so many biases to deal with.
Who says that your success only depends upon the work you do? It’s a sad game that we’ve gotten ourselves into. I think most of it depends upon how you sell yourself and how you dupe others. Being funny earns you a lot of brownie points too. Who wants someone who is always serious and glued to the computer screen? Coworkers prefer the office clown who jumps around. The office clown provides the perfect safety net for other incompetent workers. Who gets the promotion and the best annual review? Why, the office clown!
Be funny and be abnormal at work.
P.S- Co-incidentally, this post comes exactly a year after I started working full time. Congratulate me.
There’s something extremely disturbing about this article I came across:
“I was a normal, active kid who used to run and play outdoors in the tropical climate,” he recalls. “When we moved into a small apartment where it was cold, I stayed inside and didn’t get any exercise.
I can associate with this to quite an extent. I never had weight issues while I was in India. I’ve been fighting a losing battle ever since I came to the US, 3.5 years ago. The food here is way too “rich” and has a way of showing up around your waistline. I’ve been shamelessly loading up pounds. There is only one way of going about losing all this flab: Eat responsibly. Count your calories. Remain active.
People say things like “Oh it’s all that chicken!”. Well Hello! I don’t eat meat. Yet I’ve managed to put on weight because of pizza, pasta, ice cream, “salad”, Mexican food, french fries, beer (yes!) and god knows what else.
I usually never ever make New Year Resolutions because I don’t let the calendar dictate my activities. If I want to do something, I do it anyway! If I don’t want to do it, I won’t. The addition of another year is no reason to bring about a change in my way of living. Most of the times, we take up resolutions which are not only un-Godly but also “not doable” if we were to look at our past records. So, why let yourself down a couple of months down the lane?
However, it becomes very important for me to promise myself to make a life style change now:
1. Get off my lazy ass and start cooking everyday.
2. Because of #1, it should be easier to avoid take-outs/retaurant food/extra calories.
3. Stick to #1 and #2 and make use of the gym membership that I’ve been religiously paying for.
4. As a result of 1,2 and 3, lose 2 pounds a month.
5. Not take festivals as a reason to splurge.
6. Eat out only ONCE a week.
7. Remind my co-workers of #6 and not give into any whinings and turning down invitations to visit a restaurant for lunch during office hours. Oh well, this is very difficult. Most of the times, when I say “No!” (believe me, I’ve tried so many times), they’ll say things like “OK, don’t be a kanjoos” or “Eat a salad!” or “Oh come on! Just one day. Skip your dinner.” or “Burn it off in the gym”.
8. Drink not more than 1-2 Bud Light in a pub. No oily side dishes, please.
9. Print this list and stick it up everywhere- on the fridge, near my bedstand and in my office cube.
That’s all. No snarky comments please.
Happy Diwali to anyone who’s reading/staring-gazing at this post/blog! Look around you and you’ll see how privileged you are to be surrounded by the people who love you. If you are reading this post, chances are that you have a computer or that you can at least afford to pay some money in a cyber cafe. So many in India don’t even have enough money for two square meals. Make sure you share some of those sweets with a kid who is less privileged. Maybe even buy a new dress for that lady who cleans your dirty dishes/house everyday. Spread the love and the joy! Not just today, but everyday. And don’t burst those crackers and pollute the environment and indirectly contribute to child labor. It’s disheartening to see pet dogs, cats etc. suffer because of the selfish interest of some others. Use that money to buy a book for someone. Or just donate it to charity. Sorry if I sound preachy!
Oh, by the way, it’s getting really cold here and this is what I saw on the windshield of my car after I turned on the de-frost:
The ice started melting in the form of a hat! Didn’t really have time for this because I was running late for work. Freebies of life, if you will.
The best way to make a come back is to write about movies! And I happened to watch Sarkar Raj in the theater today. Before I write about my thoughts regarding the movie, let me thank you all for emailing and leaving me lovely comments. I really missed blogging- reading your blogs, writing and reading comments. And a lot seems to have happened while I was away- Nita‘s blog pictures got stolen by Hindustan Times, Nova’s blog got a face lift, Ish’s results came out and he passed with flying colors- these are the changes that I can remember for now. But it’s good to see that things are otherwise just the way I left them! So, I’ll try and play catch up with your posts and comment. Thank you all for sticking with me.
Surprisingly, I liked this movie quite a bit. And I haven’t seen the prequel- Sarkar. This being the first movie post Ash-Abhi’s historical wedding, I decided to give it a try. Plus, I’ve always liked Ram Gopal Verma as a director (even though he has made some very embarrassing movies like RGV ki Aag etc.). The plot of the movie is quite simple- Amitabh and Co. are people’s Gods and they do what’s best for the people of Maharashtra, even though it might mean killing his own son, who stands on his way of achieving his aim.
Aishwarya Rai plays the role of a CEO of an international energy firm and wants to construct a power plant in Maharashtra. She seeks the help of Sarkar (Amitabh Bachchan) and Shankar (Abhishek Bachchan). What follows is a lot of blood shed and power politics. Tanisha Mukherjee also has a small role, as Shankar’s wife. But she’s conveniently killed off a little before the interval, to make way for Aishwarya’s and Shankar’s love story.
Let’s talk about the positives first. Thankfully, no songs. The direction was quite tight in almost every scene. Abhishek Bachchan delivers yet another power packed performance. Tanisha looked really pretty, even prettier than Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Please don’t hate me for saying that. The dialogues are long and windy, but they go well with most of the scenes. Amitabh Bachchan is his usual self- neither too good, nor too bad. He delivers his typical straight-face-better-than-thou type of performance.
The negatives now- I know that Ramu probably tried to get creative with the lighting and his camera angles. But he’s not Wong Kar Wai or Krzystof Kieslowski. He spoiled some really good frames because of this. Most of the times, I was trying to move my head in different directions, trying to see the actors’ faces. But of course, I couldn’t do it because you see, that is what the director doesn’t want you to do. Probably the actors had a bad bout of acne and told Ramu to hide half of their faces?
Aishwarya Rai failed to impress me, despite her designer suits. She looked less like a CEO and more like a model. Even role wise, she doesn’t really have much to do in the movie, except for serve as a dummy in almost all the scenes. She’s just there…to listen to the men rant. And try to look pretty, with tons of lip gloss and kajal to go with it.
The background score could have been much better. There is this particular number called “Govinda Govinda” that keeps playing during every serious scene. The speed at which the chanting of the word “Govinda” increases can only be compared to the speed of your treadmill ramp.
Despite these idiosyncrasies, the movie kind of works and is definitely worth a watch. I’m quite choosy when it comes to Hindi movies and I would say that this is one of the better ones out there.
Errmm…do I need to answer this one? I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s Tashan. But in my defense, I walked out of the theater during the interval.
2. What book are you reading?
Age of Iron by JM Coetzee. Also reading the CFAI Text books- thanks to my exam in the first week of June.
3. Favorite board game?
I like Monopoly, Pictionary and Scrabble. Haven’t played Monopoly and Pictionary since a long long time. Last played Scrabble on New Year’s Eve.
4. Favorite magazine?
Business Week and Fortune Magazine.
5. Favorite smells?
Elizabeth Arden’s Splendor, Davidoff’s Echo and Hugo Boss’s Deep Red.
6. Favorite sounds?
My heart beating. I don’t know how it will feel when I’ll realize that it’s going to leave me. I also like the background noise of the AC fan whirring.
7. Worst feeling in the world?
When you know that things have changed for the worse, even though you don’t want them do.
8. What is the first thing you think of when you wake up?
9. Favorite fast food place?
10. Future child’s name?
Babloo and Pinky! As if! Dumb question.
11. Finish this statement. “If I had lot of money I’d….?
Donate some to some charities, take some long vacations, buy big houses…have lots of dogs…and lie at home all day, reading books and watching movies.
12. Do you sleep with a stuffed animal?
I want to type something else here, but I’ll refrain myself. Don’t want to be labeled as a pervert. For the record, I don’t sleep with stuffed animals.
13. Storms – cool or scary?
Cool if it’s at night and I’m sleeping. Scary if I’m wide awake.
14. Favorite drink?
Banana shake and Orange Juice.
15. Finish this statement, “If I had the time I would….”?
Actually, I have time for everything I like doing. We’ll live only once…why not spend time doing things you enjoy doing? So I don’t believe in “If I had the time I would…” Make time if you don’t have any time.
16. Do you eat the stems on broccoli?
Oh yes! I love Broccoli.
17. If you could dye your hair any color, what would be your choice?
I wouldn’t dye my hair again. I have abused them enough. Thankfully, they’re still very soft and healthy. I had some brownish and dirty blonde streaks when I was in college.
18. Name all the different cities/towns you’ve lived in?
Quite a boring list actually- Calcutta, Pune, Bombay, Bangalore, Springfield, MO and currently, St. Louis, MO.
19. Favorite sports to watch?
I hardly watch TV.
20. One nice thing about the person who sent this to you?
Nova-She sees pretty things through her eyes!
Suda- He’s a very soft spoken and jovial fellow. Besides, I’m his favorite blogger. So he can’t be bad at all.
21. What’s under your bed?
Nothing! I don’t have a bed now. Still in the process of buying a mattress. I don’t enjoy shopping for such stuff. So I don’t make any time for it.
22. Would you like to be born as yourself again?
Sure…why not? I’m very smart and intelligent. Heh.
23. Morning person, or night owl?
Night owl. But I’ll have to change that in the next couple of days.
24. Over easy, or sunny side up?
Both…depends really. I’m a very serious and cranky type of person.
25. Favorite place to relax?
26. Favorite pie?
I hate pies. But if I were to pick one, then it would have to be banana pie.
28. Of all the people you tagged this to, who’s most likely to respond first?
I don’t know…really. Maybe Ashish? Maybe Dinsan?
I’ve realized that majority of the Indians are the same everywhere, be it India or the US. In fact, US brings out the worst in Indians. My first experience with an Indian couple, in fact, was on the very first day I came to the US. It so happened that I was getting late for my connecting flight and being new to this country (just stepped out from the plane that brought me to the US from India) and the system, I was in need of some desperate help. I made the mistake of talking to the Indian couple behind me. This is how the conversation went:
Me: (Really worried and tensed) Hi! I have a connecting flight in less than 30 minutes and this waiting line for the security clearance is very long. Do you have any idea what I should do?
The husband (typical Indian) replied: No.
Yes, that’s it. That’s all that he told me and that too in a very rude tone. His condescending tone was too much for me to take. I really got pissed off. Spoke to an American Airlines employee and then got ahead in the line and managed to catch the connecting flight.
Lesson Learned: Ignore all Indians in the US henceforth. Don’t even look in their direction.
I guess almost all the Indians who come here have similar experiences with other fellow Indians. The end result is that we prefer to stare at our shoes instead of looking at an Indian’s face. Even if you come across a desi by mistake, you need to act as if you didn’t see him/her. And never ever smile or say “Hi!”. Greetings are reserved only for Americans here. You can continue to be your usual rude self in front of other desis. And you have the full freedom of being a kanjoos too. Tip a little less in Indian restaurants. Who cares what other desis think? Correct?
What made me write such a sarcastic post? That’s incident no. 2! I was going through some classifieds because I really need to buy some household items. A desi was selling a very nice vacuum cleaner for a good price. So, I called her up and ask her for a picture and some specifications. She took roughly 50 minutes to email me a picture- something that should have taken only 15 minutes, at the max. I can hear you saying that maybe she couldn’t find her digital camera or maybe she is not very comfortable with the camera! Okay, her being late can be discounted. What happened next can’t be discounted! I called her back and told her that I’ll be there at her place in an hour to pick up the vacuum cleaner and that I’ll pay her in cash.
I got ready and was about to sit in the car when my cell phone rang. Usually, I don’t answer my cell phone, unless it’s a professional call. Thank God I answered it. This is how the conversation went:
She: Hi! My name is XYZ and you spoke to me sometime back regarding the vacuum cleaner.
Me: Of course, I remember. How are you?
She: Fine, thank you. I just wanted to let you know that the vacuum cleaner has been sold.
Me: Sold? Yes, to me right? In fact, I’ll be there at your place in 15-20 mins. I’m about to leave.
She: No no…I mean…someone else came now and they liked the vacuum cleaner and took it.
Me: Took it? What do you mean took it? I thought I told you that I’ll be there at your place in an hour’s time?
She: I thought that you’re not too sure…so I gave it to them.
Me: (Temper rising)- That’s very unfair of you. I was just about to leave for your place. You could have at least called me up once before giving it to someone else.
She: I’m sorry…I really thought that you don’t want it.
Me: Don’t want it? Then why would I tell you that I’ll be coming to get it? I don’t have all the time in the world to do window shopping at your place.
She: I’m sorry…
Me: Thanks a lot. No problem.
(Literally slammed the cell phone).
Lesson learned: Nothing ever changes Indians. They are all the same. Just put them in charge of the US and see what’ll happen to the professionalism level and the corporate structure of this country.
Maybe I’m being very general in my observation, but that’s me. Dealing with a desi here makes me feel as if I’m back in India. It’s only when I enter an Indian restaurant and eat a really horrible plate of pav bhaji for $5.99 that I realize that maybe…I’m not in India. The Indian food here just doesn’t taste the same. It tastes too “home made”. Instead of pav bhaji buns, I was given hot dog buns. WTF?! If only the Indian food level here would improve…
There was no system to soothe the unfairness of things; justice was without scope; it might snag the stealer of chickens, but great evasive crimes would have to be dismissed because, if identified and netted, they would bring down the entire structure of so-called civilization. For crimes that took place in the monstrous dealings between nations, for crimes that took place in those intimate spaces between two people without a witness, for these crimes the guilty would never pay. There was no religion and no government that would relieve the hell.
I would like to apologize to everyone for disappearing and for not responding to your lovely comments. It’s very uncharacteristic of me for sure. I have good reason for it though- I have been a little caught up with the relocation work. And unfortunately, on my way to St. Louis, I met with a deadly accident…and almost got killed. I’m still recuperating from the after effects and have had absolutely no time to engage in blogging or to reply to your comments. Please forgive me for that. I will respond to your comments as I get time.
It’s surprising that some of the first people whom I told anything about the accident are my friends from WordPress- Ish and Shefaly. I thank everyone else who inquired about my well being too. I’m writing this post to answer everyone’s emails and questions at one go- it’s much easier for me to do this. I’m physically fit (except for some bruises), but I’ll take a long time to be fine mentally. I’ve only witnessed accidents as a observer. Being there, experiencing it, and not knowing where you’ll remain alive, is something that I wouldn’t want anyone to ever find out. Not even my worst enemy.
I had been packing round the clock since the past one week and was quite relieved when I finally drove on the highway, towards my new home. Nothing could go wrong. I made the mistake of getting my tires checked and inflated before driving on the highway and this might be a possible reason why my car tires blew up. All of a sudden, I lost control, and my car started swinging like a pendulum in the two lane highway. Before I could even think, I could see and smell fumes, the car skidded and hit the metal road barriers to my left, ripped through it and landed on the opposite side of the highway, where the traffic was flowing in the opposite direction. There were three 16 wheeler trucks, and I found myself praying to God, wishing that I come alive through this entire ordeal. I don’t know how the trucks managed to stop. But it’s a miracle that they did. What is even more surprising is that none of the cars on the highway hit my car, else I would have surely died. Everything possible (except for the boot of the car) broke. The door wouldn’t open. Somehow, I pulled myself out of the car with some guidance from my friend. Both of us were relieved that we were alive.
Those couple of seconds stretched for an eternity. I could feel as if everything was happening in slow motion and that I was living the final moments of my life. Perhaps my inner strength guided me to go on. Dying in a road accident is definitely not the kind of death that I wanted.
The Highway Patrol arrived within a minute or two. He wrote an accident report and pretty much told me on my face “It’s your problem”. I couldn’t care less about his rudeness. I was too worried about all my electronics. Yes, my electronics. The minute I found that me and my friend are safe, I made sure that we got our laptops, GPS navigator, cell phones, iPods, Cameras etc. out of the car.
A very kind lady called Christina stopped for us and literally baby sat us. She was driving on her way back home from work. Later, in the car, she told us that she never leaves this early from work (it was 8:30 pm at the time of the accident) and it was a co-incidence/miracle that she’d left so early. She was behind those 16 wheeler trucks when our car was skidding and was shocked when she saw the condition of our car. She told me, “I don’t know how you people are alive. Seeing your car…I never thought that the people inside would have survived. What is a miracle is the fact that you don’t even have a single scratch on your body! Perhaps God wanted me to take you back to your home safely…and that’s the reason he made me leave my office 30 minutes early”.
There was another thing that she said- “The only way to repay me is to pass on this deed of kindness to someone else during his/her time of need”. And I hope to do that for sure. I hope God gives me a chance to help someone.
It’s been more than 72 hours since I had that accident, but I still feel traumatized. The trauma has reduced for sure…yes. I get panic attacks when I start sweating, my stomach starts churning and my throat becomes dry. I guess everything will get better with time.
I’m in a new town…hardly know anyone…no car either. I have rented a car for now and hope to buy another one ASAP. I feel too scared to drive, even though it was not my fault.
I went to the junk yard yesterday to take out stuff from my wrecked car. I got everything back, and I’m happy about that. The car mechanic told me that only “one in twenty cars manage to break the metal barrier and land on the opposite side of the highway…and hardly anyone ever survives it”.
Having been there and seeing death so closely, I feel that this is my second life. I feel very fortunate and very happy that I’m still alive and am surrounded by people who love me.
I have so much to do in the next couple of days and I’m really fretting. I never ever rant on my blog, but I’m just about to do that. At least, my ranting will get a decent audience. Let’s get started then!
First off, I need to relocate to a new city. Find an apartment. Buy new furniture. Get the internet working there (if it already doesn’t have one pre-installed). Study for an upcoming exam. Oh, and my job search. Let’s not forget that. And mother of all tensions, I’m breaking my current lease and I need to find someone to stay in my house for the remaining couple of months. Fast. Else I’ll have to pay the remaining rent and treat it like a (costly) sunk cost. I’ll have to travel to the new city this week to find a new place and then shift sometime this weekend. I don’t know what to do and where and how to start.
I also need to sell off all my stuff here. There is no way that I’ll be able to carry all this crap. And shit loads of clothes. So, children, never buy so many clothes.
In between all this, I’m not being able to concentrate on any one thing. When I sit to study, I keep staring at my books. When I open my laptop…same thing…I keep on staring at the screen. I’m highly confused and scared. I really want to go back to being a student and forget about the “real” world. I guess I’m still not mentally ready for the transition.
Please wish me luck. I really need it.