Thursday, December 13, 2012

Turkey With a Married Couple!

When my friend Ashi called excitedly about a Friendly Planet deal to Turkey, I said I'm in! I had always wanted to go there. “Who else is going?” I asked.

“Oh, well definitely me and Krish. And you. And probably a couple of others. I’ll send an email out to everybody soon.”

“Awesome,” I said.

Later, I spoke to my friend Shilpa and she also thought it was an awesome idea so with this abundance of optimism and enthusiasm, I bought my ticket to Turkey. Soon after, everybody who had shown an interest backed out and I was left to travel Turkey with a married couple. Ashi kept repeatedly assuring me that it was okay that I tag along with them and even sleep in between them in the same bed (kidding). So I embarked on this journey and got my first taste of what married life would be like.

Here we go:

As we boarded the flight, I was already getting nervous about lifting my fairly heavy suitcase into the overhead. And then I realized Ashi’s husband, Krish was there – all six foot, four inches of him! I told Ashi that I’m glad he’s there so I wouldn’t have to worry about my bags and Ashi demurely replied that she lifts her own bags as a matter of principle. She then proceeded to lift her bag, which contained everything from a miniature straightener to a giant strainer, above her head, wobbled around with it for a minute or so, and then tossed it somewhere into the overhead. Screw feminism, I thought; that bitch can break her back but Krish is lifting my suitcase. Krish proceeded to lift my suitcase and slide it into the overhead bin as easily as an average person would insert a DVD into a DVD player.  I high-fived him and then asked him to describe to me in great detail what the inside of an overhead bin looked like because they were usually two feet above me and prevented me from looking (I mean reaaallly looking ) inside.

When we arrived in Istanbul, customs was a little more complicated than predicted. There was a ‘Passport Control’ line and a ‘Visa line’ and it wasn’t at all clear which one visitors would have to go to. Turns out whichever line you went to, you had to go to the other line. The sole purpose of standing in one line was to actually let you know that the other line is the right line to be standing in. We did this for an hour or so until we got a janitor to stamp our passports and enter Kusadasi.

The first day in Kusadasi, we just relaxed for the most part and took the local bus (which was a minivan) into town. While walking near the sea port, a local came up to us and offered to take a picture. Ashi, always skeptical of strangers, politely declined. Krish, however, is the exact opposite: he would give the shirt of his back if a person where to come up to him and be like “Yo dude, can I have the shirt off your back?”

In any case, as we were taking pictures, the man, who turned out to be a carpet exporter, offered to give us a ride to the Temple of Something-Something (I’m really bad with names), which was an hour’s drive away. He said we could borrow his friend’s car and carpool it all the way there. We said we would let him know later and headed off to lunch.

“Well, that was strange,” Ashi said. “He randomly offered us a drive? I don’t know how I feel about that.”

“I don’t know,” Krish replied, “Maybe we should do it.”

I walked around them like their ignored child.

“I don’t know,” Ashi said, “I’m skeptical. I didn’t like the way he touched my shoulder…I don’t like people touching me.”

At this point, I removed my arm from Ashi’s shoulder.

“He touched you too?” Krish replied surprised. “He pinched my butt!”

“He did not!”

“Just kidding. Okay fine, we don’t need to go.”

“Well, we can go if you want to.”

“No, we don’t need to. I’m okay with whatever.”

“I’m also okay with whatever…unless, we’re going with him. Then I’m not okay with whatever.”

At this point, I tried to drown myself hoping the water would kill me faster than this conversation was.

We ended up just chilling by the seaport until it was time to get back to the hotel for dinner. Dinner at this hotel was incredible. There were 15 different kinds of entrees, supplemented with a hundred different kinds of salads and then there was a separate room full of dessert. As Krish and I took our empty plates, we saw Ashi take off her clothes, run and dive headfirst into a five foot cake. Okay, so Ashi really likes her desserts.

The next day, we went to see the city of Ephesus. One aspect of traveling that I love is to see various types of architecture. Houses are usually built out of what’s in abundant supply at that location: in America, houses are made of wood because we have a lot of it; in some parts of Turkey, we saw houses made of stone because they had an abundance of stone. In Ephesus, they had a surplus of marble, so everything from the buildings to the roads (it was insane) were built out of marble. It was an incredible site and I think we ended up taking a thousand pictures in those few hours.
Ephesus in all its glory
 Later that evening, Ashi and I decided to go to a Turkish bath. It was only until we were in the locker room that we found out we had to get butt naked. The woman attendant asked us to remove our clothes and waited in front of us with a towel. Surprisingly, Ashi, the ever-conservative girl, shrugged her shoulders and started peeling her clothes off. Meanwhile, I kept asking for a bathroom. I wasn’t going to strip while that woman was staring at me in that creepy way. When I tried to run out to find a bathroom for the fifth time, the woman dragged me back and said she’ll step out so I can take my clothes off. The Turkish bath was inside a marble room with a marble platform in the middle where you lied down and the women poured millions of soap bubbles on you and massaged you. It hurt like a bitch.

Ashi and I walked out a few hours later bruised and battered. After a few minutes of silence, Ashi said: “Well…our friendship just went to a whole another level. I can’t say I’ve gotten naked and taken a bath with any of my other girlfriends.”

The next day, we went into a warehouse that sold various silk, woolen and cotton carpets. I must have looked like a real sucker because two salesmen cornered me and I quickly agreed to buy a carpet. I actually really like the carpet – it’s a beautiful blue carpet with intricate designs woven into it. We stayed there for about two hours and when it was time to leave, when there was literally five minutes left, Ashi asked Krish if she should buy a carpet. Scenting indecision, a swarm of salesmen surrounded them like sharks.

“Should I buy a carpet, Krish?”

“Sure, if you want Ashi.”

“I’m okay if you don’t want to buy.”

“No, I didn’t say I didn’t want to buy. Buy if you want. I’m okay with whatever.”

“I’m also okay with whatever.”

By this time, I had returned to the bus to make sure it didn’t leave without the two of them. As they trailed in a few minutes later, I heard Ashi say “Alright, next time we start the process of agonizing indecision a little earlier.”

At the carpet warehouse
 
We then took a bus to Çanakkale. Çanakkale was a seaport that was full of young, vibrant people and we loved the atmosphere of that city. That evening, we went to a bar and ordered our first round of Raki. None of us knew it tasted like licorice, a flavor we all hated with a passion. Ashi and I each ordered a small and Krish ordered an extra-large. After a sip, we all gagged and concentrated on eating the cheese and grapes placed in front of us. The waiters looked at us with sympathetic expressions; as if they had seen innumerable idiotic tourists do this to themselves time and again. Ashi and I barely managed to dent our drinks, but Krish had some sort of internal battle between his id and ego and determined his pride would be tainted if he were to not finish the drink. We saw him chug the glass of Raki while we got blue and nauseous from just watching him do that. Then we went to a dessert place and devoured a waffle with Nutella and chocolate sauce on it.

The next day we went to Troy. That place was a pile of rubble and, other than reading about the history surrounding it, it’s really not worth visiting in my opinion. However, what added to our trip were the random cats and dogs that walked through the streets as if owned by the general public. I bent down to pet a kitten and he closed his eyes in absolute bliss, like there wasn’t anywhere in the world he’d rather be than right there. It was both funny and adorable.


Haha...love the kitten's expression
 
Finally, we reached Istanbul and we stayed there for three days. I cannot tell you how much we loved Istanbul. That city is the perfect combination of beauty and fun; the ideal woman who seduces you the minute you encounter her.

In the evening, we took the local tram to Istiklal street and walked around, enjoying the bright lights streaming from the stores and the lively music blasting from the clubs. The clubs in Istiklal street set up speakers in front of their entrance so as you pass by the club, you can hear the upbeat music playing inside. It was great because it was like having a soundtrack added to your life as you walked the cobblestone streets.

The next day, we had the freedom to plan our own trips and we were psyched. We woke up super early in the morning (at 9 am) and started walking towards the old town where the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque reside. Halfway through, I realized I had left my iPhone back in the hotel room and we needed that so we could learn about each monument as we visited it. We ran all the way back to the hotel and then took a tram back to Old Town. It was now 11 am. Damn it.

Despite the late start to the day, we actually ended up doing a lot. We visited the Basilica Cistern, Topkapi Palace, a random mosque near Sultahnamhet, and Spice Market, which was shutting down as we entered it. Over there, Ashi spotted a jar of water that contained tiny leeches, used for medicinal purposes. We realized there were several jars all around us and were impressed with the variety of things one could find at the Spice Market.
Beautiful Istanbul

On the way back, I spotted an incredibly beautiful glass teapot-vase thingy that I had to buy. From the time I had spotted it to paying for it, a whole of five minutes had passed. At that point, Ashi saw a few beautiful decorative plates and asked Krish if she should buy one. The following conversation ensued:

 “Should I buy a decorative plate, Krish?”

“Sure, if you want Ashi.”

“I’m okay if you don’t want to buy.”

“No, I didn’t say I didn’t want to buy. Buy if you want. I’m okay with whatever.”

“I’m also okay with whatever.”

This went on for a half hour and, admittedly, she ended up getting a gorgeous decorative plate that will look great in her apartment.

We spent most of our evenings and nights in Istanbul strolling through the gorgeous city. Each landmark and monument was beautifully lit. It was a magical experience to walk through the ever-changing colors of the fountain with illuminated minarets in the distance, and vibrant lamps and souvenirs displayed in the stores around us.

The next day, we saw the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque. In the late afternoon, we went on a local cruise across the Bosphorus. And when I say ‘local’, I mean local! We were the only people who spoke English on the cruise. We went on the upper deck and were served some Turkish Appletea along with an English brochure that told us which palaces and buildings to keep an eye out for. The sea captain must have been a part-time DJ because he started blasting some amazing Turkish music. However, as the sun set, the weather started getting cold enough to require some serious cuddling to keep warm. I left Ashi and Krish to do just that while I went downstairs and ordered some more Appletea. And then I think I fell asleep on some random person’s lap.

In our last evening, Krish was going through some random, delayed jet lag and decided to nap in the hotel room while Ashi and I strolled through the streets to find a place for dessert. Turns out, without a six foot-four Krish hovering near us, we got a lot more attention from the men around us. We found a quaint café and sat outside. A handsome waiter came to take our order, smiling at us like he knew all our secrets. Later, another handsome waiter came out and we all just chatted for a bit. When they had given us our food and left, I leaned over to Ashi and giggled, “Holy crap they’re cute!”

Ashi looked up from her plate and said “Hmm? What? The kittens, right? Omg, they’re adorable…I’ve really started liking cats in this trip.”

Married people, I sighed.

All in all, it was a great trip, considering that 2/3rd of us were married. I’m grateful that both Ashi and Krish tolerated me through the trip. And, through it all, we enjoyed how confused people got when they saw the three of us together.

“Are you his sister?”

“No, I’m his wife.”

“Oh, then you’re his sister?”

“No, she’s my friend’s wife.”

“Who’s your wife?”

“This one.”

“So then who is this?”

“We don’t know. Just kidding. She is my wife’s college friend.”

“But, really, we are more sisters than friends.”

“Unfortunately, that’s true.”

“So, you’re not related to these two in any way?”

“Correct, I’m the college friend.”

“So wait….are all three of you siblings?”

In front of the Wishing Wall
 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Life of Pi


Well, here I am, sleepy but sleepless. So I’m sitting on my bed, wearing my winter coat on top of my pajamas because my blanket doesn’t keep my upper body warm and allow me to type on my laptop at the same time. They really should invent arm sleeves in comforters in order to address this epidemic (Yes, it’s an epidemic).

I watched the movie Life of Pi the other day and I scoured the interwebs for a review that does justice to the movie. I ended up disappointed; most of the reviews just gave a summary of the movie and the remaining handful gave a rating of ‘Great visual effects; but not too impressive.’

I disagreed: I found the movie poignant and the messages embedded within it powerful. Yes, there were times when the movie felt a little preachy, but you soon got over that and got lost in the story, itself. And as you found yourself stranded with a boy and a tiger in a boat with nothing but endless sea around you, you started to question your own morals, and your own strengths and weaknesses.

I had read the book earlier this year and it didn’t have the same impact – possibly because I have the attention span of a moth. I began reading the book with great enthusiasm for the first hundred pages, and then I started to fall asleep repeatedly after that. Finally, when I found out it was a fiction novel (the prologue misleads you into thinking it’s one of those based-on-a-true-story novels), I was pissed. I threw the book out the window hoping it hit someone on the head. When I saw the movie trailer, I was torn between paying money to watch a bad story and seeing pretty blue whales in 3d.

I succumbed and ending up watching the movie. At this point, if you haven’t seen the movie, you should stop reading because I’m going to over-analyze every aspect of the story. You should also stop reading this if you have a short attention span or if you are my mom. Excellent, now that I have no readers left, let us begin.

I loved Pi’s dad. He and I shared similar sentiments. As my favorite scene in the movie unfolded, when the family stood in front of the Ganges and set afloat diyas along with hundreds of other people, I felt a twinge of homesickness. I remembered my childhood when I had visited my great grandma in Allahabad and how the entire family had gone boating where the Ganga and Jamuna met in tumultuous conflict. Times were simpler back then and those childhood memories are replete with the kind of nostalgia an Instagram filter can only dream of.  And just as I was lulled into the old-world charm of comforting rituals and religion, Pi’s father snapped me out of it by saying “Don’t be fooled by the pretty lights.” It reminded me of how my own dad would declare “Religion is the opiate of the masses”, even as we walked through a crowded temple.

 Intermittently through the movie, the audience was reminded that they were going to find God. You can imagine my dry amusement at that line; I remember thinking: bring it on. Of course, none of the religious experiences that Pi went through made sense to me. Take for instance, when Pi went into that church and asked why God would choose to send his son into our imperfect world, and the answer given was: “Because He loves you.” That answer made me want to throw my seat at the theatre screen.

As the movie progressed, Pi experienced fantastical events that left you wondering if they were real or if he had found some shrooms in the survival kit and was now flying high. At the end of the movie, Pi offers a different explanation of the events that occurred – instead of boy and tiger, there were humans on the boat that ended up killing one another. The story is much darker, but the pessimists and realists of this world will hungrily grab onto the tassels of this sordid tale. On both accounts: be it the boy with the tiger or the boy with the humans, neither story can be proven. And either way, the end result of both stories is the same: a boy survives being stranded out at sea for 200 plus days.

And that’s when Pi poses us a question: if we had to choose, which story would we choose? Most of us would choose the story with the tiger because it is so magical. So it is with God, replies Pi – people choose to believe in God because it is the better story to tell.

I had to admit the analogy was pretty cool. And though it didn’t alter my own beliefs (fortunately, science can prove and disprove many things), it made me wonder if I were to be pushed to the limits that Pi was, would I have started believing in God?

Stephen Kelley, a film reviewer, puts it succinctly:

In time, as our hero’s life dwindles, his body and mind ravaged by starvation, the validity of his extraordinary account comes into question. The doubt jars – even if it has been whirring uncomfortably in the back of your mind. Why? Because this wouldn’t be a lie you watched; this would be a lie you lived.

Finally, let me end with the most poignant part of the movie for me: when Pi and Richard Parker, the tiger, finally reached shore. At this point, Pi and Richard Parker had been through hell and back together. Pi had saved Richard Parker and Richard Parker had also saved Pi. If this was a true Hindi movie, Pi and Richard Parker would have gotten married and an extravagant Bollywood dance number would ensue.

However, this was real life. And here’s where I truly appreciated the director’s commitment to staying true to the predatory nature of the tiger. Pi watches as Richard Parker strolls away, and he waits for the tiger to look back, just once, before he leaves for good. The tiger never does, and disappears forever. Pi is shattered – he can’t conceive how after being through so much together, the tiger could leave him with such indifference.

I was a mess at this point in the movie. As someone who doesn’t believe in God, I struggle often with the indifference of nature. Every major life event, be it good or bad, leaves this universe mostly unaffected: the sun still continues to rise in the east, unaware of our antics; and the oceans still churn out waves, oblivious to our pleasures and pain. With no God and the world so apathetic to your own life, who do you turn to for peace? I understood Pi’s pain: Richard Parker’s departure was quiet and unassuming, but he took with him Pi’s own peace and purpose.

But human beings, if anything, can adapt. If circumstances change, so does our purpose in life. We must adapt and we must continue, no matter what. For those who believe in God, may they find peace through Him. For those who don’t, may they find peace in themselves. And if you are ever left wondering whether your story has a happy ending or a sad one, just remember Pi’s last words in the movie:

That’s up to you to decide; it’s your story.
 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Growing Up in India


Do you know where's a great place to grow up? India. Not because that's where my roots are and all that crap, but because India allows you to grow up with a childlike wonder and appreciation that you don’t usually have growing up in a developed nation. Of course, with that argument, Somalia would be a kickass place to grow up in too, but let’s not get stuck in semantics.

The thing I love about India is it allows you to be a kid for as long as you want, but it also forces you to grow up for all the wrong reasons. For example, the first time you realize you need to buy a sports bra isn’t because you went running or played tennis; it's because you rode an auto. The ride is so rough and bumpy, your pelvis is just about powdered five minutes into it. The auto drivers invariably dye their hair in the same style as Rajni Kanth’s. To those who don’t know who he is: if you combined Chuck Norris, Obama, God, and Justin Beiber all into one, that’s who Rajni Kanth is to all of South India. Every time I travel back to India, the first thing I look forward to is getting a ride in an auto!

Here are a few other favorite childhood memories that make me forever grateful of growing up in a place like India:

Train Rides

Except for going to the bathroom (which makes me shudder to this day), I loved every aspect of getting on a train in India. Usually we were going cross-country and the journey would last a few days. I’d spend most of the journey looking out the window, waiting for a curve in the tracks so I could see the train in its entire length. I can’t explain why this was so fascinating, but I was always thrilled to see the huge length of the train extending out in front of me.

Then there was the food. The vendors would drop off trays of food wrapped in foil and I loved to peel the foil off and smell the idli and sambar. At night, when everybody grew silent and the train would make its quiet approach into a station, I would sit by the window and wait for the tea vendors to come. I loved how they would drone the word “Chaaaaaaaaaaaai” repeatedly, as if we didn’t quite hear it the first fifty times.

Diwali

When it comes to kids, Diwali puts Christmas to shame. Who wants presents when you can set things on fire? Every year, I would be asked if I remembered the story of Lord Ram and I would reply “Yeah, yeah mom. Forget Ram. Please go to the store and get me the following: crackers, rocket bombs, flower pots, chakras, and bottle bombs.”

I would pretty much get my hands on the kind of explosives that would make Al-Qaeda jealous. I even carried fake guns that had a trigger which slammed on a tiny strip of gun powder to make a loud bang and send out a wisp of smoke.
As a kid, Diwali is fun. As an adult, Diwali is a bunch of smoke and noise
that goes on all night long and is mad annoying. Fortunately, I was a kid.
 
Playing on the streets

With the advent of iphones and ipads, I think this phase has passed in India too. But I was fortunate enough to have a childhood where I could play out on the streets. We didn’t have playgrounds or parks that were close by, so we played cricket, biked, climbed trees and played tag at the same place that cars, trucks, buses and motorbikes drove across. It was chaos. You would run after a ball while almost getting run over by a car. The car driver would be yelling at you and shaking his fist only to almost run into a cow sleeping on the middle of the road.

Bathtubs

Bathtubs were a thing of luxury. As a kid, I had never seen an actual one, except for in movies with pretty white women soaking in a ridiculous amount of foam. We had a bucket that was big enough to fit about half my body. Mom would often walk into the bathroom and find me stuck in the bucket, with my arms and legs dangling out in an awkward tangle.

Movie Theatres

Watching movies in India is a whole different experience. The audience hoots and cheers at every scene where the hero is romancing the heroine, which in Indian movies is generally every ten seconds. People also throw coins, flowers, hats, and many other ridiculous things when the protagonist first comes on screen. When I watched Lagaan in India, which tells the story of how a little town won its freedom against the British by playing a game of Cricket, it was like watching a live game in a stadium. When Amir Khan hit the last ball out the field, the entire theatre stood up cheering and waving signs that said “Love you Amir!”

My first Casio

I was just about to turn ten when I saw it. A Casio keyboard that was barely a foot long. I knew I couldn’t live a minute without it and insisted on my mom buying it. Mom refused because it was too expensive. It makes us laugh today to think of the cost of that thing: at the time, it was twenty dollars. But a thousand rupees back then was a lot of money and not to be wasted on frivolous things such as musical instruments.

I tried to accept my fate as maturely as I could; I began by raging, crying and yelling for the first hour. When that didn’t work, I begged and pleaded. After another unsuccessful hour, I bribed. “I’ll make my own breakfast for the next year, mom.”

A few days later, I woke up to find that casio sitting on my bed. I can’t tell you how happy I was. That entire day was perfect: I played “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” repeatedly on my casio for hours until mom threatened to throw that thing out the window.
I still have this piece of shit...I love it!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Becoming An Adult

Consulting life can get old fast. You start living between airports and hotels; you start smiling at strangers hoping to make a friend; you start living for the weekends. It is in this limbo that I’ve come to appreciate and almost idolize the friendships that I made in college and in DC, where I lived for a brief stint. These are the friendships that will define my life, my happiness and will motivate me to keep working maddening hours during the week.
My dad once told me that after a certain age, we just make ‘Friendships of Convenience’. As unapologetic and jaded as that sounds, I think we’ve all been there. We’ve all dealt with people that front friendship and then talk behind our backs. How many people do we fall back on for emotional support? An embarrassing few. And how many of those genuinely care about helping you? Even less. But to learn to accept that and be okay with it is part of growing up.  After all, we were born alone and we are going to die alone. Cue existential meltdown.
One of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes strip addresses the bleakness that comes with becoming an adult.

Funny how the term ‘adult’ can have different connotations: you are an adult if you are a responsible, Samaritan citizen who pays her bills on time…unless you’re going to the movies, in which case you’re an adult if you like gory violence and copious amounts of sex.  
All in all though, being an adult is no fun. I was much better at being a baby. Babies have to live up to such incredibly low standards that it makes for a great life. You yell for an entire day, poop in your pants, eat dirt, puke on everyone and, somehow, people are okay with it.
But now that you’re an adult, you may have a great family, a great job, good friends and all the basic necessities, but are you successful? And if so, by whose standards? Life will repeatedly put a fork in the road and ask you if you’re lacking in some intrinsic way. You can either make peace with yourself or you can let your insecurities destroy the very things that have made a positive impact on your life. It’s surprising how many people opt for the latter.
And on that note, I’ll end with the thought that I never thought I’d become a blogger. I wondered who had enough time and ego to maintain a regular blog. But, often, it comes down to simply being able to share my thoughts with others.
Blogging is a simple solution to telling everybody I care about something and I want to talk about it. And as alienating as life can be, the internet is a great tool to connect with people. From the initial reluctant click on somebody’s blog to the ugly realization that you’ve just wasted four hours surfing the net and it’s 3 am and you have work tomorrow, know that you’re not alone. We’ve all been disgruntled because the world has held up certain standards of being an adult, and we’ve all failed to live up to it in more ways than one. But it’s okay: because as you yell and cry at the world, poop in your pants, eat shit and puke on everybody, if you find even one person who is willing to stay with you through this, you’ve made it.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

My Worst Date Ever

Recently, my girlfriends and I exchanged our worst date stories. I couldn’t stop laughing through each of them. I picked out my favorites to feature on this blog. There are 3 categories: Worst Dates, Creepy Stalkers and Worst Break-Up Lines.

Worst Date
This guy took me to dinner and as the waiter was bringing our food, he asked me if I was a virgin.  When I said it’s none of his business, he was like, "It is my business! Look at this food; it wouldn't look nearly as appetizing if the waiter took a bite, the chef took a bite, or the busboy took a bite. Now, are you?"
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
The blind date who met me at a restaurant, talked about Star Wars and The Simpsons the WHOLE time. I ended up counting ceiling tiles for fun. We were at a tapas place and then the bill arrived. We ordered maybe six or seven little plates. Well, the first plate was Shrimp. He said I had four of the shrimp and he only had two of the shrimp so I owed $5.69 for that plate and he owed $2.74. He did that for each plate. Oh yes he did.
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
I recall vividly when I was a freshman in college and suddenly found myself with a ton of freedom. Enough that I got a secret boyfriend.  Sure enough, my twin had the same idea.  The guy who I started to see ( and by see, I mean, we were only dating a week) turned out to be dating my sister at the exact same time.  I confronted him later.
His excuse was, he had a hard time choosing which one to date because we each had some nice qualities and he wanted to just combine them.  Apparently, he wanted to date conjoined twins.

Famous Worst Dates
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
Scary Stalkers
I was volunteering for some breast cancer cause. There was a meet-up and only I and two others show up: a girl my age and this weirdly tall guy from Vietnam (like 6'5") who was like 40 years old (I was 23-24). He asked for my number and I'm not good in those heat-of-the-moment requests when I should give out Shilpi's number instead of mine. So, I gave him my number. He called me EVERY SINGLE DAY for a month to ask me out. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and said I would go on a date with him. He bought us tickets to go to this black tie event at the French Embassy. He shows up an hour late and is driving a fucking VW Beetle. A guy. Driving a beetle. And his car was freaking filthy inside. I instantly knew this was a bad, fucking idea. He drives and keeps turning, looking over at me and just staring at me. I know I'm hot, but really? And he's still staring and not saying a word.
Umm...I start to panic and think about all the ways he's thinking about killing me. Then we arrive at the French Embassy. Phew. We go inside and he immediately disappears. How does someone that tall disappear? I don't know. I was busy shoving appetizers down my throat. I walk around by myself for 30+ minutes and he shows up again. Uh...what the hell? We sit down to talk and he excuses himself again. I sit there literally twiddling my thumbs like an idiot and he appears ten minutes later. With white powder on his nose. Oh hell to the no. Trust me. It wasn't from powdered donuts because a) I would have already found those and eaten my fair share 2) we are at the French Embassy and everyone knows the French are food snobs.
Anyway, back to my story. He gets up and leaves AGAIN so I go all commando on his ass and sneak out of the French embassy with the help of an intern working at the event. Helloooo cute French intern who thinks I'm crazy for asking to sneak out without my date seeing me. I bolt across the street and duck down in the parking garage and call my friend in a panic to pick me up. I then go home and tell my roommate about my ordeal when someone starts banging on the door. We peek outside and IT'S HIM!! Oh fuck. He won't stop banging on the door, so I send my roommate to answer it hoping he'll take his time killing her and giving me a chance to run. She tells him I'm not home. He leaves and goes and sits in his car. We watch him and are totally petrified. Twenty minutes later, he is banging again demanding to see me. Shit. I pissed off the circus freak BAD. She doesn't answer and he goes back to his car. He finally leaves. The next day, my roommate sees him outside our place again in his car. Holy fuck I have a stalker. We call the police and tell the story. I never see him again, but if I ever disappear, you know who it was....
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
This guy from my high school calls my home number one day (not sure how he got it, maybe a classmate) and says that he was going to throw away all his notebooks and textbooks, but figured I might want them. So I was like, oh ok sure. Soon he starts texting, on the context of how school is, etc.
Somehow, every time I went to visit my family, he'd be there too, and he'd know I was there. I would randomly get a text msg saying "hey stranger! Let’s meet for coffee?". One day, I replied with: 'Hey.. to be honest, I neither have the time, nor the inclination to meet you. Sorry!'.
He writes back in 5 seconds with "Oh thank God. I’m relieved. Just out of courtesy I asked you if you want to meet, but I also don’t have the time so that’s fine".
A couple years pass and I don’t reply to his emails. I get married. One day, my husband comes home and says "One of my playschool buddies from when I was like 5 years old friended me on Facebook and started asking me about life, who I married etc.". WHO is it?? THE CREEPY STALKER!!!! Turns out they went to nursery school or some shit together, but now he uses my husband to ask about me! Course, once I told my husband the story, he de-friended him.

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
1) I am on the metro heading home from work. I accidentally make eye contact with some random guy. He comes over and starts making casual conversation, and admittedly he's not totally bad looking, and my mom had just finished sending me another round of creepy shaadi.com profiles to look at, so when he asks for my number I give it to him.
2) A few days later, random metro guy texts me. By now I have come to my senses and realized he may or may not be a serial killer, so I decide to just ignore him.
3) I start seeing the guy EVERYWHERE. Not because he's stalking me, but because it turns out we have the exact same commute to and from work. So, I do the mature thing and start hiding in other train cars whenever I see him.
4) A few months go by and I am happily continuing to hide, but then one day as the train pulls away from the metro stop, I hear my phone buzz. It is a text from random metro guy. It reads something along the lines of "I saw you just now walking right past me. Why did you ignore me? I know you saw me. That was incredibly rude and immature."
5) ..................??????? Random metro guy has now progressed to random, creepy, cocky, asshole metro guy who is most likely a serial killer.
6) Another few months go by and I continue to avoid him and debate changing my commute and/ or moving.
7) Few months pass by. By now, I have forgotten about this particular awkwardness. On the day of the Superbowl, I head to Shilpi's apartment, bracing myself for some mind-numbing boredom (football). Shilpi texts me saying her hot coworker is joining us too. I think, cool, this superbowl thing just got a little more interesting!
8) I knock on Shilpi's door.
9) She opens the door.
10) Random creepy delusional serial killer metro guy is sitting on Shilpi's couch.
11) ..................................
12) WTF???? I contemplate running back out the door but decide he would probably show up again somewhere anyway, so might as well just deal with it (a.k.a. pretend nothing out of the ordinary is happening). Creepy metro guy and I spend the next hour pretending we don't know each other, but then eventually I guess his ego gets to him, so he informs a confused Shilpi that we have a "history" (?????) and essentially forces me to tell her the story (at least parts of it) with him there. He whines a lot about how no one has ever rejected him before and how now he is too scared to ask a girl out on a train again. Um, so I guess I did a good thing for girls everywhere??? Shilpi is highly entertained by the entire thing.
13) As soon as I finish the story and Shilpi stops laughing, I say I have to go do some work and blindly rush for the door.
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
Worst Break-Up Lines:
"I can’t see you anymore because I am depressed and have to meet my psychologist every week."
It makes you wonder whether it was you that had sent him to the psychologist.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

String Theory: WTF it is and Why you should not care

My friend, Ashi, and I were discussing the movie Cloud Atlas and before we knew it, we started talking about parallel dimensions and time and space. After a brief discussion, we agreed that Tom Hanks is looking mad old, but we disagreed that parallel dimensions are a reality. “All that stuff is just science fiction.” Ashi said.
“No, it’s not. It’s called String Theory!” I replied.
“What exactly is String Theory?” she asked.
I realized I didn’t know, myself, so I just replied “Actually, I’m not sure. I think it’s a kind of pasta.”

String Theory in Action
I decided to do some research and knew exactly who to ask: a senior theoretical particle physicist at the California Institute of Technology, a.k.a Sheldon Cooper. I found a YouTube video titled “Sheldon and Raj String Theory Montage” and knew without a doubt this would answer all my questions:

After watching the video, the only thing I learnt was that String Theory is a lot similar to computer science classes in CMU. I then spent the next 2 hours watching episodes of Big Bang Theory. I spent another hour watching youtube videos of babies and puppies and soldiers coming home from war. I laughed. I cried. YouTube is a great way to take a bi-polar journey of yourself!
Finally, I remembered I had Brian Greene’s book “The Elegant Universe” gathering dust on my bookshelf. I went straight to the chapter “String Theory: the Basic Idea”. Here is what it said:
According to String Theory, if we could examine particles with a precision many orders of magnitude beyond our present technological capacity, we would find that each is not pointlike, but instead consists of a tiny one-dimensional loop. Like an infinitely thin rubber band, each particle contains a vibrating, oscillating, dancing filament that physicists have named a string. This is a tremendous achievement, but it is only part of the reason string theory has generated such excitement.
If by “excitement” they mean “confusion”, then yes – this theory has certainly generated a lot of it. I spent an entire afternoon trying to imagine what an ‘infinitely thin rubber band’ would look like. The truth is, the origin of String Theory is something that a bunch of stoned Physicists came up with.
“Oh dude, we smashed a shoe and an inhaler in the particle accelerator today and we found another particle!”
“OMG, what should we name it? Let’s see…so far we got: Muon, Up, Down, Top, Bottom, Charm, Strange and Blue-Ivy.”
“Hmm…we’re running out of Celebrity Kid names. Why do we keep discovering new particles? Does it ever end? What is the meaning of life? Why is the pizza taking so fucking long?”
“Yo, let’s just say all these particles are made up of vibrating strings. The unique vibration of the string will determine the particle it makes up.”
“Yeah! And each vibrating string is made up of tiny, itty bitty, jiggling Jell-O shots. The way it jiggles determines the vibration of the string!”
“Whoaa….”

String Theory - Simplified.

In conclusion, both celebrities and scientists are birthing new shit that they cannot explain, so they just settle in giving them ridiculous names.  What’s interesting though, is that because String Theory, affectionately known as the “Theory of Everything or T.O.E”, explains everything about the universe, it's also a major bummer.
Reductionists (aka KillJoys, Prophets of Doom, etc.) love this T.O.E because all the wonders of life can now be explained through vibrating rubber bands.
Are feelings of joy, sorrow, boredom nothing but chemical reactions in the brain—reactions between molecules and atoms that, even more microscopically, are reactions between some particles which are really just vibrating strings?
In response to this, Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg replies:
At the other end of the spectrum are the opponents of reductionism who are appalled by what they feel to be the bleakness of modern science. To whatever extent they and their world can be reduced to a matter of particles and their interactions, they feel diminished by that knowledge. I would not try to answer these critics with a pep talk about the beauties of modern science. The reductionist worldview is chilling and impersonal. It has to be accepted as it is, not because we like it, but because that is the way the world works.
If you didn’t have the patience to read the above ramble, the answer to the question was: “Yes.”
So there you have it: String Theory. If you’re depressed, just remember: for now at least, it’s just theory.
What is Darth Vader doing in Hawaii? String Theory can explain this.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cinderella Revised

For as long as I could remember, Lion King was my favorite Disney movie. The Lion King had no princess to be rescued, no knight that saved the damsel in distress and the family politics in the Lion King was as fucked up as that of any average family’s. Then, Mulan was released and I was ecstatic. I craved a female role that could stand up for herself, defeat her metaphorical and literal demons and triumph out of her own accord.
On the other side of the spectrum is Cinderella. I despise Cinderella. If I had to retell Cinderella to my kids, I’d have to revise it quite a bit. Then, curiosity got the better of me and I actually tried revising the story to something better. This was the best I could do (my edits are in red):
Cinderella
Once upon a time... there lived an unhappy young girl. Crabby Unhappy she was, for

her mother was dead, her father had married another woman, a widow with two daughters, and her stepmother didn't like her one little bit.

all the nice things, dresses, shoes, shawls, delicious food, comfy beds, as well as every home comfort was laid on for the step-daughters. But, for the poor unhappy Cinderella, there was nothing at all. True, there were women in other parts of the world who were poor and hungry, had no means to an education, and some had all their freedoms stripped from them. But all Cinderella thought about was the fact that she had: No dresses, only her stepsisters' hand-me-downs.

No lovely dishes, nothing but scraps. No nice rests and comfort. For she had to work hard all day, and only when evening came was she allowed to sit for a while by the fire, near the cinders. That is how she got her nickname, for everybody called her Cinderella.

Cinderella used to spend long hours all alone talking to the cat because she was neurotic. The cat said,
"Miaow", which really meant, "Cheer up! You have something neither of your stepsisters have and that is beauty."  “You need serious help, psycho.”
It was quite true. Cinderella, even dressed in rags with a dusty grey face from the cinders, was a lovely girl. While her stepsisters, no matter how splendid and elegant their clothes, were still clumsy, lumpy and ugly and always would be.  
PUKE!!! Who cares if she’s effing beautiful? Is that the only thing she has that her ugly stepsisters didn’t have? Omgg…Cinderella is screwed.
One day, beautiful new dresses arrived at the house. A ball was to be held at Court and the stepsisters were getting ready to go to it. Cinderella, didn't even dare ask, "What about me?" for she knew very well what the answer to that would be: "You? My dear girl, you're staying at home to wash the dishes, scrub the floors and turn down the beds for your stepsisters. They will come home tired and very sleepy."
OMGG…I can’t do this. I forgot how much this story sucked.
Cinderella sighed at the cat. "Oh dear, I'm so unhappy!" and the cat murmured "Miaow", which meant “Please…kill me. I can’t stand your middle school antics.”
Suddenly something amazing happened. In the kitchen, where Cinderella was sitting all by herself, there was a burst of light and a fairy appeared. That’s right: Cinderella’s addiction to heroin was kicking in.
"Don't be alarmed, Cinderella," said the fairy. "The wind blew me your sighs. I know you would love to go to the ball. And so you shall!"
"how can I, dressed in rags?" Cinderella replied. "The servants will turn me away!" The fairy smiled. With a flick of her magic wand... Cinderella found herself wearing the most beautiful dress, the loveliest ever seen in the realm.
"Now that we have settled the matter of the dress," said the fairy, "we'll need to get you a coach. A real lady would never go to a ball on foot!"
"Quick! Get me a pumpkin!" she ordered.
"Oh of course," said Cinderella, rushing away. Then the fairy turned to the cat.
"You, bring me seven mice!"
"Seven mice!" “Who are you talking to, Cinderella?” said the cat. “I swear, this bitch is crazy.”
"Good!" exclaimed the fairy. With a flick of her magic wand... wonder of wonders! The pumpkin turned into a sparkling coach and the mice became six white horses, while the seventh mouse turned into a coachman, in a smart uniform and carrying a whip. Cinderella could hardly believe her eyes.
"I shall present you at Court. You will soon see that the Prince, in whose honour the ball is being held, will be enchanted by your loveliness. But remember! You must leave the ball at midnight and come home. For that is when the spell ends. Your coach will turn back into a pumpkin, the horses will become mice again and the coachman will turn back into a mouse... and you will be dressed again in rags and wearing clogs instead of these dainty little slippers! Do you understand?" Cinderella smiled and said,
"Yes, I understand!"
When Cinderella entered the ballroom at the palace, a hush fell. Everyone stopped in mid-sentence to admire her elegance, her beauty and grace. question why a girl in rags just walked in barefoot with a pumpkin on her head and a trail of mice behind her.
"Who can that be?" people asked each other. The two stepsisters also wondered who the newcomer was, for never in a month of Sundays, would they ever have guessed that the beautiful high on crack girl was really poor Cinderella who talked to the cat!
When the prince set eyes on Cinderella, he was struck by her beauty pumpkin…for Cinderella had thrown the pumpkin with superhuman strength at the prince’s head.
Walking over to her, he bowed deeply and asked her to dance. And to the great disappointment of all the young ladies, he danced with Cinderella all evening. "Who are you, fair maiden?" the Prince kept asking her. But Cinderella only replied: "What does it matter who I am! You will never see me again anyway." Cinderella had a wonderful time at the ball... But, all of a sudden, she heard the sound of a clock: the first stroke of midnight! She remembered what the fairy had said, and without a word of goobye she slipped from the Prince's arms and ran down the steps. As she ran she lost one of her slippers, but not for a moment did she dream of stopping to pick it up! If the last stroke of midnight were to sound... oh... what a disaster that would be! Out she fled and vanished into the night. "Come with us, fair maiden! The Prince awaits to present you with his engagement ring!" So Cinderella joyfully went with them, and lived happily ever after with her Prince. And as for the cat, he just said "Miaow"!
Cinderella was taken to jail and held at a $1000 bail.
THE END

Women of Consequence...and Cinderella

Monday, July 16, 2012

Memories I Wish I Could Forget

There is nothing like sitting down with your girlfriends, taking Jeigar bombs and sharing stories so embarrassing that it can make you cringe even after ten years have gone by. So here are a few cringe-worthy moments from my life: some that I haven’t even shared with my mom and others that are so impossible to erase from my memory that I decided I might as well make a blog post out of it.
1)      Grasshopper in the Metro
When I lived in DC, I commuted via metro (“subway” if you’re a New Yorker). As I sat down in the metro one day, a man sat across from me and laid his jacket on his lap. I noticed a huge grasshopper on the back of his jacket. That thing was the size of my face and probably had some mutated superhuman powers that I didn’t want to find out about. I told myself to remain calm and assured myself that the probability of the grasshopper coming at me was very low.
At that point, the man decided to move his jacket and all I heard was a loud buzz and flutter coming towards me. I screamed like a banshee because I knew it was on me; it was probably on my face but I couldn’t tell because my mouth was open and shrieking and my eyes were closed.
The same time that I had jumped and screamed, the woman sitting next to me did the same…simply because I had done it. While I frantically looked around to find the grasshopper, the woman kept yelling “Oh my God! What happened?! What is it?!”
“There is a grasshopper,” I yelled in anguish, like I had just encountered a pile of dead bodies. “I think it’s on me!”
A passenger spotted the grasshopper instantly and said “It’s on your ass!”
“OMG,” I yelled, “Getitoff! Getitoff! Getitoff!!”
He rolled up his newspaper and started whacking me on my ass until the grasshopper plopped onto the floor, and then rolled onto its back.
The man who had brought the grasshopper in on his jacket then proceeded to state (rather blandly, I might add): “It’s just a grasshopper.”
I had to stop myself from jump-kicking him in the face. I calmly picked up my purse and laptop, walked to the other end of the metro and imagined various ways of dismembering the man’s voodoo doll, which I’d make that weekend.
2)      Carrot squeezing in the grocery store
I hate even remembering this story because it is that embarrassing. I was about ten years old and I was beyond absent-minded. I had gone grocery-shopping with my mom and while waiting for her, I decided to day-dream. I picked up a bag of carrots and started pinching and squeezing them, while day-dreaming about how my Barbie shoes would be a smashing hit at middle school tomorrow. When I was done mutilating the carrots, I noticed a father and his 4 year old daughter stare at me like I was crazy. It was then that I realized that it was not my shopping cart that I was fucking around with, but somebody else’s.
To this day, that memory haunts me and I invariably think the following things in the following order:
- Why was I mutilating carrots?
- I wish I could apologize to the dad and her daughter and say Indians are not that crazy. I have tarnished their images of brown kids for many years to come.
- A four year old was looking at a ten year old with a “WTF” expression. There is no recovering from this.
3)      Interview Jitters
I used to be horrible with interviews; primarily because I couldn’t speak half as well as I could write. Several annoying little memories still linger in the dark corners of my mind that I wish I could scrub clean. The first time I had an in-person interview, for example, the interviewer walked into the room to shake my hand and said, “Hi Shilpi, I’m Jim.”
I immediately replied, “Hi Jim, I’m Shilpi.”
Damn you! My brain would yell. Damn you…ugh…let me handle the rest of the interview.   
4)      Aliens in the Sky
For a long time, I was convinced I had had alien encounters. Without a doubt, I can blame X-Files for this particular phenomenon. One evening after school, I finished watching an episode of X-files and wondered where my parents were. I went onto the balcony to look for them, thinking they had gone out for a walk. That’s when I saw a circular, suspiciously UFO-like, shape floating through the sky. Wouldn’t it be funny, I thought, if that was a UFO?
Right at that point, the UFO stopped mid-air and started coming towards me. My mind did two quick mental calculations:
“Do airplanes usually make sharp right-angle turns like that?” my mind asked. No, I replied out loud.
“Okay, are you on crack?” No.
“Definitely Panic.”
I whipped around and ran back into the apartment, running face-first into the screen door that was in my way. When my parents returned, they found me hiding behind the couch and the screen door lying on the floor with my face imprint on it.
5)      Balcony Ablutions

When I was five, my primary goal in life was to outsmart my mother when it was time for me to eat. To help expedite my eating (I would take 3 hours at a minimum to finish a meal), I would think of various ways to dispose of food while mom was distracted with motherly tasks.
Now, my mom is smarter and scarier than the average mom. So crap like spreading the food around the plate to make it look like I ate it didn’t work.  So I would hide piles of food in a bowl and keep it under the table, or in the tea cups displayed in the showcase. Sometimes I would even hide it in my fist and rest my head against the closed fist, announcing I was done, while my mom suspiciously wondered why I was posing like Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker”.
Mom figured out all my schemes in less than 5 minutes, except for one. She would peek into the living room every two minutes to check on my eating progress. In those two minutes, I proceeded to fist a bunch of food into my hand, run into the balcony, and throw it over the balcony wall with the skill of an Olympic shot-put champion. This lasted for an entire week, after which I was grimly betrayed by the neighbors who lived downstairs.
I remember the scene vividly. I was walking from one room to another when I overheard my mom speaking to someone at the door.
“No no,” she said, “These days my daughter eats everything. “
“Hmm,” replied a voice from behind the door, “Well, we are…pretty sure she’s been throwing food out because we hang our clothes to dry under your balcony…and we have stains of daal and rice on it…..I think this one right here is paneer makhni?”
Rats! My brain said. I knew it’d be a problem if we couldn’t actually see over the balcony!
My mom then turned her head to look at me and it was something like the woman in Exorcist, where the body doesn’t move but the head makes a 180 degree turn and makes you wish you were never born.