Love and other things!

 

I’m on Delta flight to Detroit, first time traveling to Michigan. I’ll be driving to Ann Arbor to meet my sis who is coming all the way to meet me (I’m meeting her second time this month! yay!) and then there’s some work stuff on Monday. 

The song, to be precise “the lyrics” going on in my mind are “my boyfriends’ pretty cool, but he’s not as cool as me, I’m a Brooklyn baby, I’m a Brooklyn baby”. All hail Lana, she puts words into my trance.

I just had peanuts on the flight. Everytime I have peanuts it reminds me of my pet dog Tashi. God! I miss her.

The person sitting right next to me is reading “The Great Gatsby”. There’s an American couple right across the aisle from me who can’t keep their hands off each other, making the Korean guy sitting next to them really really uncomfortable. Just to think I was happy in the morning that I forgot to bring “Love in the time of cholera”, the book I’ve been reading for months now and can’t finish because I’m just so sick of love.

I guess love never leaves your side – love for travelling, love for sibling, love for pets, love for music, love for food, love for reading, love stories, love in general…

So here’s a cheers to love from seat 25D of flight DL1371.

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Pain

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‘Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird’ 1940 (oil on canvas)

It was the first year of undergraduate studies and I remember Slam Books were very popular at that time. I had mine since the end of school days and only a couple of pages were left to be filled. There was a long list of boys who wanted to fill my Slam Book, but I wanted to learn only from two of them. To answer one of the questions, when asked to describe me, one of them wrote, “a beautiful girl who does not smile as much as she should…” I probably did not know then that it was true.

I first came to know about Frida Kahlo‘s self-portrait in the Bengali movie Antaheen (2009). I did not watch the movie when it was released but I watched it much later. When they showed the painting in the movie, it looked surrealistic. Her face had a somber expression, she was surrounded by a monkey, a cat, and a hummingbird and wore a necklace of thorns. with blood dripping from it. I was very intrigued. Being a huge movie buff since childhood, I remembered that the movie Frida (2002) was nominated for a number of Academy Awards – I have a special place for Salma Hayek and maybe that is why I remembered it. I immediately researched about Frida Kahlo and found her other paintings.

When I looked at them, I was taken aback and frankly, very shocked. Her portrayal of herself seemed violent and sometimes, just looking at the paintings was painful. Since childhood I have been very intrigued by the human condition. I remember when I went to Belur Math, as a child, instead of being mesmerized by the beauty and calmness of the place, I was fascinated with the young monks who lived there. For months I could not stop thinking what led young adults to leave their homes, every contact with their family and choose a life like that. But over the years, often the inquisitiveness would turn into sadness and since I knew I would be sad I tried to push these thoughts to the black corner of my mind and forget about it. That is what I did in case of Frida. I closed the images, and suppressed my inquisitiveness. Maybe I was scared that if I went digging in I will discover something that I did not want to know about.

Many years passed and in 2013 I visited MoMA in New York city. MoMA was fascinating to me, I will write a whole another post about how much I felt inspired after I visited MoMA if I ever get that much time. There, once again, I came across works by Frida which were not as violent as the ones I had seen on the internet before. I was curious and wanted to watch the movie Frida, but when I watched the trailer I decided to watch it later and then I kept postponing it, because I was not sure I will like it.

In 2014 December my friend visited La Casa Azul in Mexico City. When he came back he brought with him tons of photos of the place, specially the kitchen and he told me that I would have loved that place. I kept looking at the photos and kept wondering why would I have loved the place and if really I would. In architecture I prefer very modern clean lines, simplistic furniture, light colors and bright open spaces. This place looked quite the opposite. It was loud and rustic and the kitchen tools looked like art, not really useful. But it was fascinating. Every corner of the house looked like the person who lived there had paid special attention to it. I have not been to the museum myself so I am not sure if the Mexican authorities kept it as Frida (or may be Diego) had left it. But I like to think it is.

I started reading about Frida and what her work represented. Why did she portray herself in such violent details? What did they signify? I came to know about her accident, her chronic pain, her political activism and her tormented relationship with Diego Rivera. A few months later I watched the movie Frida, which depicts the professional and private life of Frida Kahlo. It stars Salma Hayek in her Academy Award-nominated portrayal as Kahlo and Alfred Molina as her husband, Diego Rivera. If you have not watched it yet, I highly recommend it. Salma Hayek‘s portrayal of Frida Kahlo is poignant. I loved the cinematography – throughout the film, a scene starts as a painting, then slowly dissolves into a live-action scene with actors. I was moved when I watched the movie. When I watched the movie I had already read so much about her, so I was not expecting to be overwhelmed like that.

There are many good movies that you watch and forget. There are good movies that you watch and remember. And there are good movies that influence you. Frankly it was not the movie itself, but watching this movies was like the amalgamation of all the information I had collected about Kahlo. This movie stayed with me. Even though many good things happened in 2015, it was the saddest year of my life. In my experience when you are sad for a long long time, that sadness becomes something physical, like a pain. Like a pain through your spine, like a lump in your throat, like a migraine that no medicine can cure. In no capacity I am comparing my pain with that of Frida’s but as the year progressed, I started to identify with her more and more. I have wanted to write a blog about the movie or Frida Kahlo for a long time. But it seemed a daunting topic. But in the past few months I found myself going back to her work, specially her self-portraits again and again. I have never been that girl who uses others’ pictures as her profile photo or borrows fancy quotes to describe her feelings- because I always felt that was very pretentious. But somehow, I feel that I can identify with Frida.

In case of Frida, the more I learned about her life, the more I started to appreciate her work. Initially I thought her work was grotesque and violent. But now I feel that there was a lot of passion and depth in her paintings. In her works, some people notice only her uni-brow and moustache, some people see only pain, but I see irony and humor along with the pain that she felt. I think what draws me to her is that she was a fighter. Many incidents in her life could have diminished her spirit, like the crippling accident, the health issues, or Diego’s infidelities. But she was not crushed by anything. She reminds me that: Pain… is strength.

All photos are sourced from Google.

My life is an open book with a sexy cover!

So this happened…

On Sunday, I woke up around 5:30 pm from a very satisfying afternoon nap. Immediately, I realized I was supposed to go shopping for a fancy dress to wear to the fancy annual office party the next day. At the same time I realized I was probably too late for that – because this was Sunday – the day the mall closes at 5:00pm in USA! Hoping that a few other stores would still be open by the time I got ready and got out, I staggered up from my bed. As soon as I reached the fish tank (which is about 3 steps from the bed) I noticed that the water seemed a little cloudy. In the morning, I had changed the water first time since I first got the tank. Worried about the health of my fishies, I decided to get that tested at Petco on the way. As soon as I stepped out of my room (still dizzy from that powerful nap) I realized I was supposed to do the dishes in the afternoon. But priorities! and dishes are never one, so.. eh! that can wait… thank goodness for understanding roomies 😀

I got hurriedly dressed up and rushed to my car – the first stop would be at Petco so that I could get the tank water tested by a fish expert. I also wanted to try and get some aquarium decor, especially a hiding place for my darling Cory Catfishes. The word try is the key – it seems that the aquarium decors does not get sold out frequently at the pet stores and, consequently, they are the slowest to move from the shelves. In fact, I have seen the same decor pieces st the Petco, PetSmart and Pet World stores near my home, for at least the last four months. Frankly, I don’t like any of them that much and so I have not got them yet, but now it looks like I have to select the best of the worst for my tank.

Mike, the fish expert at Petco is very knowledgeable and very nerdy about all things fishes (and may be other non-mammals, not sure) He will generally ask you a lot of questions and explain a lot of stuff in very great detail. Every time I talk with him, I always feel like I can do so much more for my tank… but then I remember all the things I studied about aquarium care on the internet and remind myself that everywhere it says “If you have too much stuff in your shelf for fish and water care, then that means you are doing something wrong with your tank.”

On this day, he informed me that the water in my tank was fine, only it had a comparatively low level of PH and a comparatively high level of ammonia. He suggested that I buy three different things to turn my fine water into ‘more’ fine (finer, anyone :P).  I knew that the ammonia level in my tank was high because I had myself added some bacteria starter to the tank when I changed the water to help in healthy bacteria growth. Plus, even if I bought all the stuff he suggested, I wouldn’t really know for sure if the water was finer because I had no means to test the water myself. The store would close in a few minutes, so there was also no way I could add all the stuff and bring the water back into the store for testing before tomorrow night (I had a party, so maybe the next day). But alas, I couldn’t say any of that to Mike. Instead, I took the stuff to the counter, paid the bill and came back quietly to my car.

By the time I got done at Petco, it was already around 6:30 pm. The next stop was to purchase that fancy dress I wanted to wear the next day. As soon as I entered Nordstromand looked at the rows of the petite dresses, I became conscious of the fact that less than 30 mins were not enough for me to choose, trial, decide and buy a dress. I decided to look for shoes instead, and once again reached the same conclusion. I came out of Nordstrom looking visibly dejected, but to my delight, I could see the lights of T.J.Maxx just across from there. I L-O-V-E T.J.Maxx. I love it because for me it is like a thrift store for new items, and every time you go there, things are very different, so never monotonous. I didn’t need anything but I had nothing else to do. So I decided to just go to T.J.Maxx and while away my time. Now the parking lot between Nordstrom and T.J.Maxx was huge, but it wasn’t that cold and I thought I could pump up the step count by walking that distance.

I went into T.J.Maxx without needing to get anything, and I came out holding two big bags containing several fancy coffee mugs. I was happy that I had bought something fancy after all. But I was even more happy to find big snowflakes falling from the sky covering up everything in a velvety white blanket.  Even though I have grown-up very close to the Tropic of Cancer, I have loved snow since I first saw a snowfall. I especially love the dry dusty snowfall in Nebraska which makes a crunchy sound when you walk over it. Massachusetts snow is often disappointing as it is more like slush with rain mixed in. However, this day it was big chunky snowflakes that made everything sparkle. As I walked to my car, got in and drove back home, I literally felt I was transported to the magical fairy tale world of Cinderella – everything was glittering like it was sprinkled with the fairy godmother’s magical star dust.  I am a big fan of all the fairytales, including the Shrek movies 😀 So much so that I have almost watched all the episodes of Once on Netflix. I think for me it is more about childhood nostalgia than believing in magical things. However, as Roald Dahl once famously said “those who don’t believe in magic will never find it”.

The drive back home was magical. The traffic was almost zilch. I guess everyone knew it was going to snow and they decided to stay in. I didn’t want the magical evening to end. I decided to stay out longer in the snow – I would clean my car. The left side of my brain kept telling me, it is going to snow tonight, there’s no point. But the right hand side was hardly listening to her. I had recently went overboard buying snow cleaning supplies for my car (I matched the color of each and every time with that of my car) and I was so excited to use them. Some of the supplies, like the snow brush and scraper were still in packaging. So I went back home to get my scissors. When I came back down, the scenery looked even prettier. Everything was sparkly, as it was not that cold. I spent a good thirty minutes cleaning and re-cleaning the car to my heart’s content. It was now time to go back.

As soon as I wanted to open the trunk to store my supplies, I realized that the car keys were not in my hand. I looked for them in my pockets, on the ground, searched in the snow, but it was found nowhere. It was then that I realized that I must have put my car keys in the trunk and locked them in while closing the trunk. The car was already locked from when I went to get the scissors. So my car was securely locked with the car keys inside it. I know I had my spare keys somewhere, but I had a pretty good hunch that they were inside the glove compartment of my car. What was a very nice evening was quickly spiraling into a anxious scary nightmare. My car was safe, I was not worried about that. I have so many friends in the same building that it was not an issue hitching a ride and then there’s of course Uber, making our lives easier. But since I was a child I had very selective memory. During my friends’ reunion, I would sit quietly at one corner, listening to them talking about things that happened in school that I didn’t remember.

As I grew older it became even worse. My friends and relatives would talk about incidents that have been totally erased from my mind. And sometimes, when someone would accuse me of something, I couldn’t go back and explain because frankly I didn’t remember that stuff. I think may be I read too much and keep only things I want to remember in my mind – may be some kind of coping mechanism that by mind has prepared to protect itself. So I never paid much heed until I watched the movie Still Alice. I was convinced that I will get Alzheimer’s. I spoke about my real concerns to someone I held very highly, but they disregarded my fear as paranoia.  So I consciously erased that thought off my mind. However, this incident brought all those fears back in a whirlpool.

I searched for my spare car keys, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I knew I have kept it somewhere very safe. I just didn’t remember where. The next day, when the AAA folks came to rescue my car keys, I found them lying in the trunk exactly where I thought they would be. However, I couldn’t find my spare keys in the glove compartment. This was strange because I had looked for them everywhere and didn’t find them; My explanation, since I had already made up my mind that both the keys were in the car, may be I did not put in as much effort in searching as I should have. I also realized that through this agonizing process of anxiety, search and rescue of my car keys, talking to dealers for extra pair of keys, paranoia about getting Alzheimer’s etc. I never once regretted my decision to be in the snow to clean my car. I guess if something gives you immense joy, then it becomes hard to be disappointed about it. In fact, I remember that night as a nice evening I spent with myself, being lost in my own world.

 

P.S. 1 I should probably clarify the title… The first thing I do when I wake up is I check my phone, and this was the first message I read today. I do have some hilarious friends 🙂

P.S. 2 I am reading about Alzheimer’s and if there are ways to delay getting it. My life deserves my best effort 🙂

 

I watched “O Kadhal Kanmani”

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!! my most favorite scene and shot from the movie !!

Yes! I watched a Tamil movie, myself, without anyone forcing me to watch it. Thinking about it, it’s not that strange so as to make a headline. Being a huge movie buff, I like to watch all movies, irrespective of their language. I just don’t prefer watching movies in foreign languages that much because I often find myself paying more attention to reading the subtitles than feeling the emotions. I have watched more western foreign language movies than foreign language Indian regional cinema by myself, so I thought I can make it a big deal.

I my opinion, one of the best feelings in life is when you realize that the one you love completely, loves you back the exact same way. This movie is about that. It was a simple story: Adi, a happy-go-lucky game-designer, bumps into Tara, a bubbly architect at their friend’s wedding. They started talking in sign language during the wedding (which was annoying, but I guess Mani) and find out that they have a lot of things in common, the most striking one being they both hate marriage. Adi being a boy needs no explanation to Indian movie goers for his beliefs. But Tara being a girl needs one, and it is because her father left them when she was young.

Now Adi wants to go to USA for advancing his career and Tara is moving to Paris for higher studies. So they both know there is no future to their relationship. So they casually flirt for a while, and then very soon they move in together for a live-in relationship. The movie was sometimes too simple – the main protagonists convince an elderly couple to let them live as paying guests for a live-in relationship in Mumbai, by singing some Classical Tamil song.

The most romantic part of the movie was perhaps the relationship between the old couple. I have always had very bad memory, so much so that I would sit blankly when my friends would discuss any incident in school or college that was not related to me. I even forget things and incident that did not involve me in any way.  always used to tell all my friends that I have a “memory like a sieve”. And when I watched Still Alice, I was convinced that I am going to get Alzheimer’s disease when I grow old and I am pretty sure I will no have someone to take of me. Anyways, through the slit on the open doors the young couple observe the old couple and learn that love is not only about the fun and frolic but it is more than that. Love is about genuine affection and commitment to each other. What I like most about the movie is that how the couple’s ask each other clarifying questions and then they answer those questions “truthfully” in the context of the movie. In my experience, it is hard to ask difficult questions, especially in a relationship. It is easier to assume and reach a conclusion, sometimes a decision; or to put things in the back of your mind, and ignore it completely.

The soundtrack of the movie was beautiful, even though I don’t understand the language! It was so beautiful that even the translation seemed nice. I am also a big fan of the cinematography. Overall, it was a nice movie to watch curled up in covers, sitting at home, bonus it was on Netflix. It was a feel good movie so if you are asking for in depth character analysis or something deep and thoughtful, then this movie may not make you happy.  Overall, I enjoyed watching this movie.

The Dementors

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I was having a particularly bad day today. I was really sad and heartbroken and I was about to jump into bed and wail away with grief until I fell asleep. So I made myself some hot tea and broke off a huge chunk of some bitter-sweet dark chocolate and was about to curl up in my bed with a book.

And then, I thought …

No wonder the cure for the dementors is a piece of chocolate. No wonder the patronus charm that you need to perform to ward off the dementors is to think about your happiest memory and say ‘Expecto Patronum’.

Yes, I am reading the Harry Potter series now. And you guessed it. 🙂

When I was a kid I resisted reading this series thinking to myself that it is a bunch of books written for children. But when I saw the movies I really enjoyed them. Specially, the scene in the third movie – The Prisoner of Akaban – where Harry himself wards of the dementors that were trying to kill him by performing a patronus charm. Last year when I was going through a particularly difficult phase, I realized that I needed some magic in my life.So on a whim I got the entire series for myself. I also gifted my sister the same so that we both could read it together.

I have been reading the books for sometime, really enjoying them  and I just finished reading the third book. However, until today the analogy for the dementors and the patronus did not occur to me. I realized that what we achieve inwardly will change our outer reality. J.K. Rowling must have realized this before she wrote the book. She was writing this book when she was going through a difficult time herself – her mother’s death, balancing the joy of a newborn and the remorse of a failing marriage, and poverty. She chose to shape her experiences into a charming series of books to enlighten generations of children; she gave us magic to lighten up when down for the rest of our lives.

When I was burdened with the pressure of completing my thesis last year, I remember my old wise friend ask me if I had chocolate. And when I answered in affirmative, he had said “Then what is stopping you?!”

Sometimes as grownups we forget that the cure for a sadness is to take a huge bite from a piece of chocolate and to remember our happiest memories. I wish I can do this more often…

P.S. I will go now and save the bars of dark chocolate for all the rainy days that are yet to come….

Happy Friendship Day

I first started blogging in the year 2009. I had completed my undergrad and was transferred to a new city for my work. It was the first time I was living so far away from my friends and family. One of my most popular initial blogs was the one written on Friendship day in 2009. I remember it was a hot August afternoon, and even though it was a Sunday, the weather of Chennai kept me indoors. I labored an entire day on making the collage (the easy online collage softwares were not available yet or I didn’t know about them) and writing the blog.  However, the worst thing about blogging at your office blog is that once you leave the job you no longer have any access to it. Thankfully I had saved mine in an email because it was so popular and because it had catapulted me into the office blogosphere (as they called it). So here you go… a glimpse of my life from 2009…

Yesterday night the first Friendship text I received was from my mother at 7:30p.m.

Later, I called her up and came to know that she received the text from one of her dearest friends, a colleague of hers, who was under the impression that 01 August is the friendship day.
She told me she sent me the text as it might come handy when I will send Friendship messages to my friends… It was then that it struck me that this is the first time that I’m away from all of my friends… first time that I’m not tying friendship bands on the wrists of anyone…
I remember, when I was in school, there would be frenzy about Friendship Day. For weeks we’d be sitting with different colored threads of wool and making friendship bands for our friends… As we grew up, the wool bands were replaced by more happening friendship bands available in shops… but the excitement surrounding friendship day never diminished. Every year, invariably, my friends and I would forget the exact date for Friendship Day (at that point of time we didn’t yet know that it was the first Sunday of August). So we’d end up celebrating either on 2nd or 6th August. As I write, I wonder why at that point of time it was so difficult for us to remember a date… 

Slowly, the ‘After-School Ice-cream Parties’ were replaced by ‘Get Together’s at CCD, Barista or some happening shopping mall with a decent food court. But the excitement surrounding friendship day never diminished… 

Even in college we had the hell of a time celebrating friendship day… 

Just as I was sinking in this realization, I received an SMS from Airtel. “Any messages you send on 2 Aug, Friendship Day, is going to be charged at Re 0.50/msg”. So the flurry of ‘text activity’ started from yesterday night only! 

It was already 11:30, and I was running against time!! Sending texts to the countless number of friends whose numbers I had saved on my mobile was itself a daunting task… add to that replies, replying back, replies to replying back, and replying back to replies to replying back … and so on 

Over time,

money became trivial to friendship…
sleep was sacrificed for friendship…

But my cell is only a Nokia 1100. It couldn’t understand all these philosophy
It started flashing “No space for new messages” warning. 

I don’t remember when I got back to sleep… but I woke up at 11:45 a.m. with 8 unread messages in my Inbox. (must have deleted some messages before going to sleep) The first thing I did was to call up my dearest friends and then send friendship messages to all the other friends, whose phone numbers I didn’t have, through social networking websites.. Everyone was asking me how will I spend the day… I had a plan… though I can’t meet my friends today, I can cherish the memories of all times spent together… and what better way to do that than watching some old snaps… 

As I was going through the photos an idea struck me! What if I collage all these snaps and send it over to my friends… that way even they would know that I’ve been thinking about them and missing them… So here you get a glimpse of my memories, of my friends.

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Lots of pictures of my mother and my sister, the two pillars, who have taught me the meaning of friendship. The cute dog you see in the picture is my ‘bundle of joy’, my Tashi. Today her soul rests in heavenly abode, but she’ll always be there with me. But my favorite cats and countless other animals I had growing up are missing in these snaps. These lovely creatures have made my world of friendship so colorful.

Lastly, as I miss my old friends, I must admit that I’ve also made loads of new ones in Chennai. I may not tie friendship bands on their wrists, or I may not have loads of snaps to make a collage with… but their picture in etched with care on the Friendship Album inside my heart. Through this blog I wish everyone a very Happy Friendship Day!! Enjoy to the fullest and make loads of memories. All the best!!

P.S. I’m yet to receive the feedback from my friends on this collage… will surely let you know once they come in.. In the mean time I’m banking on your feedback.

Coming back to 2014: I have lived away from my family ever since I moved out in 2009, returning back only for short durations for vacations. I have lost many friendships and at the same time, come across countless new friends. Now I have a whole new theory of friendship than the one I had as a child in school or even as a new adult in 2009 which can be summed up in a singular quote by Jim Morrison, “A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself“.

So when since Saturday afternoon I started getting a flurry of Friendship day messages from my mother, sister and dearest school friends (the beautiful girls in the snap above), I was reminded of this writeup. As I read through it I decided that I am posting this one here because I realized that no matter how much we grow up the feelings remain the same… Even after so many years we still feel nostalgic about the friendship bands… every August for one day we complain that we are so far away. With the internet and the online text and video chatting facilities the world has become a very connected place, but, at the same time, days like today remind us that these are not enough!

 

Should we lie?

I brag that I never lie – it is true. I don’t lie. But it’s not that I have never lied. I have lied before. White lies. We tell white lies to not hurt the person more than she/he can bear at that point. But then who are we to judge the strength of any person?!

I have been guilty of judging strength of people and I have found myself completely wrong. So I regret my white lies as much as I regret trusting people blindly.

You might say that the two are contradictory. But it’s not. If we trust a person blindly that often means that we care about that person deeply. And then sometimes we care for them enough to try to protect them from anything, even the truth. If we don’t trust someone, we don’t care about them that much. And then it doesn’t matter to us how that person will react to a piece of truth. If that person is sad or heartbroken, we can always explain ourselves saying ‘But it was the truth!’ and that is still the truth.

But if the same happens to us, it hurts. We feel that the person lied to us to escape further complications.  That they were selfish and just wanted to avoid the situation, may be they didn’t want you to react and lose control of the situation. May be they don’t want to be responsible for you losing your calm.

So, in my opinion, just be safe. Always say the truth. As Mark Twain famously said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” One big advantage.

 

#preach