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.


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 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.