Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Arranged Vs Love Marriage - II

Re-birth is interesting.

Anjana was very nervous. This process of arranged marriage was turning out to be painful for her. It had been 2 years since her parents started searching for an alliance for her. It was always a case of so-near-yet-so-far. Initially she wasn't concerned when the first few alliances fizzled away. Over time the constant process of talking to boy's mom, then his father, exchanging photos, talking-to-the boy began to erode her confidence. Every time she'd go through the process and in the end something would not work out. She'd start all over again. This was turning out to be an extremely painful process. She began to wonder about her 'luck'. She discussed if she was a 'lucky' person or not. She had never done this before in her life. It was probably a sign of her weakening mental strength. She was extremely beautiful, well qualified and smart girl. It was a surprise to everybody that it wasn't working out for her.

She was supposed to meet this boy called Arun. He was a telecommunications guy in the US. His parents had called and spoke to her, she had 'chatted' with him in MSN, he called up and spoke to her. He was coming to Bombay (His parents lived there) for 15 days on a vacation. So she had to make trip to Mumbai from Madras to meet face-to-face with the boy. The boy and his parents came to visit her in her uncle's house in Mumbai. In the 90 minutes that she spoke to him, she found him slightly aggressive. He was less interested in learning about her than talking about himself. Since that was not a good reason to reject a boy - After all he was a good alliance - her father said "yes" (because she had said "yes") when he called the boy's house later in the evening. The boy wanted more time. Apparently he was meeting other girls too. A week of agonizing wait later, the boy communicated that he was not proceeding with the alliance.

When the family was plunged into this 'depression' came the alliance of Karthik. Karthik was also educated and working in the US. Given the pessimistic state of Anjana's family, they were surprised by the rate at which the proposal progressed. They couldn't believe if this could be true. In 4 days time the horoscope was matched, the boy's parents spoke over the phone to Anjana. She also had exchanged 3 mails with Karthik. With this alliance, Anjana somehow felt magic. Everything she expected in a boy was present in Karthik. Among the alliances that had come her way, Karthik's was the best. She had spoken to him a couple of times over the phone and couldn't believe they connected so well. He explained how he had come up in life the hard way and as to how he had supported himself and his family while studying. She was totally impressed. Was this too good to be true? He said "yes" over the phone itself. He wasn't particular on meeting her directly. She was even ready to say "yes" without meeting him. Something that was completely against her principles. Karthik's parents were in Coimbatore. Her father requested, her aunt to go and meet the parents. As a courtesy call.

Anjana picked up the phone. It was her aunt on the line from Coimbatore. She must have met Karthik's parents. Her aunt said something which left Anjana confused. "Karthiks father has this skin disease. He has it all over his body. I feel this could be hereditary disease. I have told you what I saw. It is upto to you to make the decision"

It was too good to be true.

Anjana couldn't believe this. She didn't say a word. Who would have thought? What a weird situation to face? Was there light at the end of the tunnel? Ever? Why were such strange things happening to her? After communicating with Karthik and making sure what the disease was, she talked to doctors to verify if this was hereditary. Hereditary/Inherited reasons was the cause of such a disease some of the times but not 100% of the time. Nobody could say if it will/will not pass on to the next generation with certainty. Basically it was going to be Anjana's decision. A decision nobody could help her with. What would she decide?

Her mother asked Anjana " He is your father-in-law, you must mentally be prepared to look at him and not feel wierd. He is your husband's father. When you have kids, he will touch them and carry them. You should not feel weird. You should not feel it could be contagious. What if the boy develops the same 10 years later? Are you prepared for all this?".

Anjana somehow felt right about this. She believed that this was for the good. Besides she hadn't connected with anybody like the way she connected with Karthik. She knew he was the one. She knew this was it. She asked for time to think. Karthik's parents were precious gems of people. They waited patiently. They promised that they would take care of Anjana like their own daughter (And in the long-run they did). Anjana wanted to marry karthik. Her parents were against the decision. Finally, Anjana's parents relented and the marriage happened. Karthik & Anjana walked into the sunset like the way John Wayne does in his movies. To her delight she found that Karthik was a genuinely good person. His parents were such wonderful people. It was so perfect. Her relatives and the society criticized her decision. They couldn't look at Karthik's father. How could the society shun them? She wasn't superficial. The society was superficial.

The Bloody society.

(To Be continued)

Monday, February 27, 2006

Arranged Vs Love Marriage - I

( This is the first installment of my short story series. People who aren't Indians may not get the full import of this series.)

Anjana was surprised by Karthik's offer to help her with a homework assignment. She remembered her brother mentioning that offering-to-help-with-homework was the standard operating procedure to woo girls during M.S. Anjana was going through a tough first semester in the U.S (she had just started M.S in Electrical Engineering) and she was finding it hard to adjust to Teaching Assistantship work, homework, quizes, grocery, cooking turns and roommate politics. She hated half the Indians, found them superficial and extremely immature. Her brother specifically told her that she would fight with her roommate some day because according to him (a) room mates always fight and (b) 2 desi women as room mates will always fight. She wanted to prove him wrong. But her room mate was a horrible person who talked behind her back (incidentally her roommate thought the same about her).

So in the middle of all this tension, she found Karthik's straight forward and uncomplicated approach pleasing. He rarely talked. When he talked he talked sense. He never tried to do anything 'extra' to impress anybody. He was just himself. She found that refreshing. Anjana was an extremely beautiful, voluptuous and a stunningly beautiful girl. Heads turned when she walked. She had received several i-love-you letters and proposals in the last 5-6 years. From teachers to classmate-turned-rakhi-brother-turned-psychopaths to road-side-romeos to but-i-thought-you-were-my-friend - everybody had proposed to her. She had seen it all. She now knew that anybody whom she talked to (even married men) would/could propose to her. But Karthik was a surprise. When her presence made boys behave wierdly, Karthik was different. He treated her like a normal person. In a funny way she did not like it (being treated like anybody else) but she also liked it because she was challenged for the first time. Given this context she was surprised when he offered to do her homework. If it were anybody else she would have thought "hmm..step1 in a 10 step process where step10 was proposal" (with step2 being get-RA-funding, step 3 being help-with-grocery-shopping and step 6 being lets-see-a-movie-together). Her brother had told her all this.

Something told her Karthik was different. That something persuaded her to work with him on the homework. She would later recall it as magic. But slowly they began to take the same courses. He spoke to his professor and got her a research assistantship. He helped her do groceries and in 3 months they saw their first movie together. She quite enjoyed it all. She never felt so lost in such a magical world. Karthik was so different from the rest of them. Their love was so different. It was a dream come true. One evening while walking back from a movie, Karthik began to talk. He told the story of his life. His story was touching. It separated him from the rest. In Anjana's eyes, Karthik stood distinguished from the rest. she had seen no other boy like him. Karthik's father was a Public Relations officer of a prestigious firm. His father developed a skin disease which caused his appearance to change. Over time, the disease became the reason for his father's job loss. The family struggled when the father failed to get a job because of the disease. Karthik worked part-time to fund his high school and later his B.E. Now he sends $400 every month to support his parents. He said "I have seen the ups and lows in life. I know how people turn mean when you are down and how they crave for you when you are doing well. In the end they are all superficial. I have seen the dark side of life. I know how to support a family. I have told you my life's story. Now that you know everything about me, I would like to ask - Will you marry me?". Somehow she wasn't surprised. It appeared she always knew this would happen.

She said yes.

He talked to his parents and they were delighted. Anjana's parents wanted to match horoscopes, they weren't happy with Karthik's family status, especially his father. They tried reasoning with her. Anjana wouldn't budge. She knew he was the one. She knew this was it. Karthik's parents were precious gems of people. They waited patiently. They promised that they would take care of Anjana like their own daughter (And in the long-run they did). Finally, Anjana's parents relented and the marriage happened. Karthik & Anjana walked into the sunset like the way John Wayne does in his movies. To her delight she found that Karthik was a genuinely good person. His parents were such wonderful people. It was so perfect. How could the society shun them. She wasn't superficial. The society was superficial.

The Bloody society.


( To Be Continued )

Sunday, February 26, 2006

7 X 7 Tags

I usually am very reluctant to respond to tags. But This one was irresistable.

7 things I wish to do before I die

1 Watch a Michael jackson Concert
2 Read all 4 vedas
3 Write a Book
4 Become a Politician (Chief Minister of TN to be precise)
5 Do Something to improve/market/improve-tourism Temples of South India.
6 Live over 100 years. (I try to login-messenger/walk-in when people talk about me)
7 Make a mainstream commercial Tamil movie (With item dance et all)

7 things I do not enjoy doing:

1 Listening to some parents talking about acheivements of their kids. (No matter what it is I dont think too much of it. And Some parents have even praised the smooth way in which their kids soiled the diaper)
2 Do my stuff myself (Like wash my own coffee cup, plate)
3 Hard Work
4 Worrying about uncertainities (It doesnt stop me from being paranoid)
5 Being Politically correct - Make small talk just for the sake of it - Adjust to Society.
6 Play any form of Antakshari
7 Search for a job

7 things that Attracted Me to Blogging

1. Ekta Mehra was the first blog I read.
2. Voyeurism
3. I like Writing
4. I am a rabble rouser. This is a good way to rouse... rabble
5. Keep in Touch with other people
6. This ventilates my frustrations in life.
7. Good Timepass

7 things I say most often

1. Enna Nakkala (are u kidding)
2. Podalanga (Its a vegetable - but i use it when i want to say 'bull shit')
3. Narayana
4. Elai
5. Pullai ( i call my wife/mom/girl-cousins this way)
6. Ammmmmmmaaaaaaaaaaaa ( The movie Anjali's lifelong impact on me - I say this the way Anjali says it when she comes back home and calls Revathi from her bed). - It freaks out a lot of people when i suddenly say it. My wife took a long time to adjust to this.
7. Dude ... Okie Dok..wokaaay

7 Books I like

1. The Vulture is a Patient bird - J.H. Chase
2. LOTR - Tolkien
3. Tintin - Herge
4. Vaishnavism - Srinivasa Char
5. Superman - D.C Comics
6. Treasure Island - R.L. Stevenson
7. Bachelor of Arts - R.K.Narayan
( PGW, Crichton, Catch-22, MASH and Ian Fleming are already in my user profile)

7 Movies I want to watch again:

1. Anjali ( I celeberate September 18 even today :-) )
2. Fight Club
3. Pulp Fiction
4. Any Sivaji Movie - Big Fan - Karnan - specifically
5 Michael Madana Kamarajan
6 Thillu Mullu
7 Any K.Balachandar Movie - Moondru Mudichu - specifically
(Memento is already in my user profile)

7 pieces of Music I enjoy

1 William Tell Symphony
2 Somewhere in The World - BoneyM ( Daddy Cool or Sunny would do too)
3 Thirupaavai - MLV.
4 Who is It? Michael jackson
5 Andhi Mazhai Pozhigirathu - Raaja Parvai ( The way the song starts.. oooh!)
6 Ilarayaraja Songs from the 70s/80s
7 Aap Jaisa Koi - Qurbani (The Julie Dil Kya Kare Instant Karma Remix was like a close second)
("money for nothing" "cats in the cradle" kind of stuff were left out because I didnt have time to pick 7 properly)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Idiosyncrasies

Back in the B.E days.

My friend Shammu scratched his lower jaw. He did this whenever he was about to say something profound. So he scratched his jaw, looked thoughtful, paused for a moment and said something I'll never forget " machi! dont you think the horny'ness increases during exams". I considered what he said, thought for a moment, paused and said "wha...et". He said "seriously machi! I feel an increase in sexual desire during exam season, study holidays. I am more horny". I wanted to say it was impossible for him to be more horny than what he already was, but the topic in hand was more interesting. I asked him "tell me more". He said "I picture myself doing xyz, abc, mnop (all classmates/batchmates/actresses). I cant help it. I do it again and again. But dont tell this to anybody". Ofcourse I told it to everybody. He was right next to me when I repeated him verbatim (with more masala).

Exams make people behave funnily. And it is true, I have heard it from more than 2 people that the erotic fantasies increased multi-fold during exam season. Right now some readers are smiling and thinking "yea it does". Do people have idiosyncrasies during exams, which they dont have otherwise? This got me thinking of how I personally mutated during exam season. Back in the good old days of undergrad engineering, do you remember how crazy you were the day before the University exams? Remember the syllabus book next to you? You have the list of topics on the syllabus, photocopies of different colleges' "notes" next to you, the Rs.25 Question Bank, a sorry excuse for a text book. These are your tools. The objective: ALL PASS. Somehow you have to transfer the stuff in front of you into some temorary storage area in your brain and go and vomit everything in the answer paper.

1.5 days between one exam and the next. Never in the history of my life has 1.5 days been used till the last darn second. If the chapter was 30 pages long in the notes, I'd calculate 1 hour for 15 pages and hope I'll finish it in 2 hours. But thats never the case, is it? You spend 4 hours on 25 pages and postpone the next 5 pages for the morning. Things never go according to plan the 1.5 days before the exam. I never knew why? But it just never did.

Its the other things apart from studying that makes the study *holiday* a symphony by itself. I used to say "I'll start studying at 5:30". See its never 5:32 (like Wonder Baloon) or 5:40 or something like that. Its gotta be a round number like 5:00, 5:30, 6:00. This is when I want to start studying. Its always "let me watch 5 minutes of the program and then start studying". then there are the breaks that I take. A break after 1 hour. sometimes between chapters, sub-chapters. Even pages. The break is a cup of water, a quick surf through the TV remote or a visit to the loo. Sometimes all three - when I am rewarding myself for completing a chapter.

But are we thinking something else apart from studying. What running in the background? I don't remember being extra-horny during exams (b4 the smart-ass comment comes - yes! it is possible for me to be more horny). But I remember lost in my own world of xerox, pee, stare at TV, walk around the imaginary square in the drawing room mosaic and then go back to studying. I had this nasty habit of studying in bed. "paduthuttu padicha padippu paduthidum" (poor translation: if you lie in bed and study, your education will start to sleep) kind of proverbs from my dad did not deter me. He wanted me to read aloud and study. I am not sure if such crazy things were still in vogue in the 20th/21st century Sometimes I remember the afternoons the day b4 exams, I am seriously cramming, there is not a sound on the entire apartment building. My grandma'/mom is cutting vegetables in the 'aruvamanai', and gentle flute sound from my neighbor seeps through the walls. That would crack me up. Boy! did I want to throw away the books, go out play cricket or watch a movie then. The impulse at that time to play cricket was more than any other time. So I know how Shammu must've felt.

When you talk about exam habits you have to talk about phone calls. There are ofcourse the phone calls. Who can forget the phone calls? 1 billion phone calls are made during those 25 days. Phone calls during exams is part of the syllabus. Phone calls are done to clarify doubts, for psychological counselling, peace of mind, checking status. Logic Ramani was my counsellor/mentor/navigational-north star. I'd call him up every hour just to stop getting freaked out. He'd always answer in a calm voice and drive away my parnoia. He had this incredible patience, which never ceased to amaze me. Sometimes I'd go and commit a crime which he'd disapprove. Like when I'd talk to this guy from salem, whom I used to call just to talk to a person who is worse than me. I'd see new lows in standards and feel good :-). Consequently I'll drop a few chapters from my agenda. Logic ramani would then scold me and set new targets, which I obviously hated. And this happened more times than anyone can imagine.

I am a morning person. I don't know about you guys, but I can't read after 9:00 PM. Not that I am like Goundamani from Chinna Thambi (there are many who'd agree with this description) but the desire to sleep far exceeds the reluctance to get up early. So when L.Ramani studies till 2:00 AM, I'd get up at 2:00 AM and typically will have to contend with 20% of unit 4 and full of unit 5 (typically there are 5 units for every course). There is always that relief when you enter unit 5 isn't there? You know you are almost there. You know that if you finish before you get on the suburban Broad Guage train to Tambaram, you can always revise stuff before you get to the 'zoo'.

I never crammed till exam start time. I was glad to get rid of the books/the subject and get into the hall 20-30 minutes before start time. I'd be thinking "I am getting rid of this subject in 3 hours". Idea mini (another bossom buddy) had his own weird habits. He would be reading unit 4 on the train. His face would look constipated. He'd respond to all questions in mono syllables. He'd say 'wha' 'ha' and 'dei'. Thats pretty much it. He'd start unit 5 sitting on the 'bodhi' tree in college 30 minutes before the exam. I am sure if somebody talked to him then he'd probably start making funny noises instead of the monosyllables. Colorking/Nadhiya-Lover (college first, class first, school first) finished off his exam preparation the previous evening and never touched the book afterwards. People like him aren't being made anymore. Brahma lost the prototype. JB would come in his kinetic honda 9PM the night before the exam and ask "machi syllabus enna? notes xerox adikalama". He'd ask this like he was asking what the time was. You tell a N.Bomb was on the verge of being dropped in Madras and he'd say "dei..free'ya vidraa.. ok tell me..what dress was she wearing today?". He'd sit through the night reading and come to the exam without sleeping. Shammu on the other hand finished 5th unit 20 minutes *after* the exam started. He'd walk-in late and prepare to catch-up in 2.5 hrs. Talk about the opportunity cost of being horny.

Oh! and another habit - I never looked at the question paper till I finished drawing the margins on the answer sheet. During XIIth board exams, as soon as the Q.Papers were distributed, people in my class opened it with a collective swoosh, while I was still rapidly drawing margins. Speaking of horny, I have this other idiosyncrasy of pushing the shirt up my shoulder every one-billionth of a second. So much so that my shirt would resemble a sleveless shirt in 2 hours. Once I was tapped on the shoulders by a professor who shared a name with "ithu thaanda police" director/hero. "Shirt kizha podappa. ladies irukaanga'la".
Why? Are they horny too?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Valentine's Day Irony

I am not a big fan of Valentine's day. On the years (which are few and far), which I care to remember this day, I made sarcastic remarks about the serious faced people who rehearsed their proposal/I-love-you speeches. I made fun of the friend who listened to songs from Bon Jovi to Jeans' "anbe anbe" for four years thinking about this 1 girl. Every year he planned to propose on this very day to her (I have no idea why this day of all days would make her say 'yes') and never did propose for 4 years. Among the days I didn't care for, Valentine's day was the day I didn't care for the most. It beats father's day and mother's day by 2X times. "Friendship day" is another abnoxious day that comes close to V.Day but the sheer volume of idiots, I got to see on Feb 14, in college, beats every other "day".

So at 12:00 PM Mid Night on Feb 13th, My wife surprised me with a present that jolted me out of my wits. She bought a jar, wrote 365 quotes from the internet, put it in a word doc, printed it out, cut them into 365 separate fortune cookie kind of separate papers, folded them and put them in a jar, attached a balloon to the jar and gave it to me. For a moment - I thought my wedding day had come and I forgot & goofed up. Then the whole Valentine's day extravaganza was brought to my attention. I have to admit the gift was sweet and it is really a work of genuine love. But I couldn't help looking at the irony of it all. Here was I being a recepient of Valentine day gift. This made me think of a possible future where I might be given "fathers day" kind of gifts. This scared me like crazy. I have already been abused with 'friendship day' cards. I was kind enough not to tell those friends "what the hell is this crap for", which btw was exactly the question my dear friend logic ramani asked my brother, when my bro sent him a 'friendship day' mail.

But I forsee a future where even cynisism specialists like 'logic ramani' will be stuck down by a Valentine's Day present. And he'll not know what to say. Genuine love and affection is so infectious. Watching a person pour so much time and effort for a dork like me would break any cynical person. Maybe thats why these 'days' are so popular in India nowadays. It makes me guilty while thinking back of all those years, I spent making fun of the hopeless romantics. Time is a great leveller. I think this is God's way of cutting me down to size. Maybe I am being told not to make fun of others. Of course in those days, I did not respect their feelings, it was very hard to. I remember the friend I mentioned above (lets call him JB) trying to talk to a girl on this day. So JB starts talking to her in complicated English (peter englipish). There is a big 'bodhi tree' in our college under which this guy caught this girl (who was 1 year our junior) and was talking to her. A bunch of friends and I were some distance away and 1 guy called Krishna shouted "dei JB! hurry up da! Its time for our English tuition". JB was so embarassed that he must've wished for earth to open up and eat him. JB does not know that today, Krishna is also a romantic Valentine dude accepting and giving zillion V.Day gifts. So all the smart ass, cynical sarcastic people out there - watch out!

Note: A couple of people told me that in the recent past, I was 'losing it'. This shamelessly sentimental blog could be a reflection of that.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Chicago

HOG Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders
- Carl Sandburg



Somehow I love this place. I dont know why this place appeals to me so much. I had an afternoon free and instead of being cooped up in a Hotel Room, I decided to go outside and roam around downtown. Although, I was here for New Years eve, I only spent a few brief moments in Downtown, took a peek at Sears Tower for sometime (never visited Sears in my last 6 trips) and left. Never walked around. I always wanted to walk around downtown.

The "W Hotel" is located in W. Adams street bang in the middle of downtown. Once you walk out of it an try and make your way to Madison, you'll find that its an awesome walk. Only if you paused to look up. [Side Note: I saw "State Bank of India" Chicago branch and was totally thrilled ] . I have always been amazed by the skyscrapers. Made me wonder who the hell designed all these babies. There was one building, which sort of curved up like the alphabet 'C'. Except that the top-half straightened up instead of curving back out. Instead of hurrying past it like the way I used to in the past. I stood and gave it a good up-down look like the way Nagesh gives LIC building a look in 'anubavi raja anubavi'. On the whole it was interesting to watch other people sort of scuttle their way through the road, intersections and restaurants when you are just lounging around.

Had dinner in a place called "India Garden". They told me it was Indian food but I guess I'll need a second opinion on that. I seriously think they need to change names of Indian restaurants. I am sick and tired of *.Gardens, the Taj Palace, Bombay.xyz. Its completely boring. Just put in regular names like Muniyandi Vilas, Sher-E-Punjabi, Murugan Idli Shop. But thats like wishing for an apartment complex in the US, which does not have 'Wood', 'creek' or 'villa' in its name.

The Elevator inside 'W Hotel' had glass mirror on its doors. So when the door closes you can see your reflection. I was so unsure of my suit/tie that once the elevator started going down I began to adjust my tie, my collar and then went on to comb my hair and then adjust it for minor touches. The door suddenly opened, the mirror went away and 5 people stood outside gawking at my posture with two hands balancing my hair and face bent forward towards them. While they walked in stifling laughter, I walked out embarassed.