Because I want to ramble…and grumble

11224617_513787005445425_2971034710463927703_nSo I came back earlier than usual from work today because I wasn’t feeling too great…and then I made the mistake of looking at Facebook. It’s such a weird place. I tried leaving a few days ago, I really did…but got pulled right back in. I mostly use it to share funny things other people create, and then I leave because there is usually nothing very interesting to look at. Barring some posts, of course. (Mine, mine! Look at my posts! :D)

Facebook has become the land of narcissists and egomaniacs. My horse is bigger than yours. My selfie is cuter than yours. My status is wittier than yours….you get the drift. And I totally get that there might be underlying narcissism hidden in this post I am writing…I don’t know, I should ask my sister. She is majoring in Psychology. See what I just did? The humble brag? That’s become such a huge part of all of us now. Where is the humility? The human connection? Plain sanity?

Apart from the undeniable urge to brag, Facebook has also turned us into major peeping Toms. No matter how stringent your privacy settings are, there will be people, known and unknown, who will creep into your profile and intrude. Which classes are you taking? What airlines are you flying? What toilet paper brand are you using? Everything is fair game.

And I haven’t even started on the pugnacious pseudo-intellectuals yet. They are worse than the trolls, I tell you. You didn’t like Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead? You found Kafka’s Metamorphosis a slow read? You haven’t read Proust? You haven’t rainbow coloured your DP to support gay marriage in a country that is on the other side of the world? You don’t know the difference between Impressionism and Pointillism? You pronounced Chianti as CHee-anti? You haven’t quoted some famous author you have never actually read? You are so stupid. I am totally judging you right now.

Of course all this could totally be in my twisted little mind… maybe grad school is making me crazy. It is known to have happened before to stronger minds. But honestly, I wish I could stay away from the pull of this addictive little creation. The free wi-fi doesn’t help. So I have decided this one thing I will try to do… I will try not to be the things I just made fun of, because Facebook has enough personality disorders without my contribution of hypocrisy. If my page looks boring; if my photos don’t have 4000 likes (they never do, promise); if I don’t post about every meal I eat, the world will be a little better. Too much information is a bad thing.

So here goes. I am going to be the Facebook saint. (*cue: drop mic and walk away feeling very full of myself for my wit….)

Sheet (Wrap) Music

This post was mostly written about a year ago when I worked in another lab in a faraway land….I couldn’t post it then because, let’s face it, not everyone has a sense of humour!

So, this post is about the land of Gloves-abishkar….  Everything in this lab is covered in multiple sheets of plastic. Floral patterns, hearts and stars, geometrical patterns, any pattern will do… I was thoroughly amused to see that even the fridges are laminated in these sheets. Such is the level of wrapping that a noob in this lab (like I was then) would easily get disoriented…how do you place landmarks when everything looks the same?

This has got to be the highest order of OCD. I remember a particular incident about a line of desks along a wall. Now, apparently, these desks would “scratch the walls”. So the PIs took it into their heads to attach planks of wood to the wall. But then, the wood had to be polished…so what will happen when the desks start scratching the wood planks? I know. More floral plastic sheets will be rolled out, and they will be used to wrap the planks…

It has been a year now, maybe I should try to discover the fate of those planks….

The Domestication of Diya

little rock

I have a peculiar tendency. I am a total slob when I stay at home with my family, I hardly ever put away the laundry…but make me stay alone and I am the epitome of domestic perfection. In the past several weeks since I moved into my own apartment, I find myself drawing odd comfort from cooking and cleaning. (I still hate doing the dishes.) I have invited friends over for meals, and I now know why my mother takes such pains at every dinner party- when you feed someone well, it just makes you feel good inside.

Like most Indians, I believe in cooking by intuition. If I feel like adding Greek yoghurt to my chicken curry, I’ll do it. If I think adding a little milk to chingrir dalna will add a fine mellowness, I’ll do that. Of course, I have miles to go before I can say I can cook anything…but I think I’m on the right track. The day I cook the perfect shukto, I’ll rejoice.

Every weekend, shopping for produce, planning meals, and ultimately creating something nutritious (and delicious)…there’s happiness in that. I had never known finding paanch phoron in a grocery store in Arkansas could make me so ecstatic! So while I still hate how difficult it is to chop potatoes with a small knife, I love the warmth of the ginger and kalo jeere flavoured alur tarkari that I can make in 20 minutes. While, it took me four hours to cook the mutton biriyani, the soft meat melting off the bones more than made up for the patience required…. I think cooking is teaching me that…patience; at least with food, in any case. Slowly braising the meat, waiting for the water to evaporate from the mushrooms….I am finally learning that Sabr ka phal meetha hota hai… or in this case, definitely tasty hota hai!

Settling In

It’s been more than three weeks since I have been in this Little city and I think I am finally beginning to feel at home. After classes today, I told my classmates I was going back “home”…then I corrected myself- “Apartment, I mean.” Home is still on the other hemisphere, but this tiny studio of mine is, well, my home for now.

So what do I mean when I say I am settling in? Well, for one, I have finally started figuring out the way around my neighbourhood and within the university. And that is quite an achievement when you enter the first floor of a building, walk across a (completely flat) connecting bridge to the neighbouring building and realise you are on the fourth floor! I also recognise places by name now, yay! Park Plaza is almost as familiar as Park Street back home.

What else? I get mail that is addressed to me at my new apartment, I have a swipe card that allows me access to places where not many others can go…I’d say I am beginning to settle down, fit into the system. So what if I have to say my name a hundred times before anyone finally gives up and just calls me Aru?

That’s not to say there aren’t things I find odd. I was woken up this morning before it was light by an urgent code call on the PA system. Code Pink. That’s the emergency code for infant abduction. (Red is fire, Grey is tornado, Black is an active shooter on campus, and so on…) So, at 6 a.m., I woke up to hear that a baby is missing. A baby girl in pink. A white baby girl in pink. As the code kept being called, the details came trickling in… It was unnerving, sitting up on my bed, wondering what I was supposed to do to help find the baby. (Answer: Stay put. Unnecessary movement hampers the search, and makes me a suspect.) After 30 minutes of this…”Calling all personnel, code pink all clear.” Whew! So they found the baby! And then came the denouement: “Code pink drill all clear. Code pink drill all clear. Code pink drill all clear.” WHAT!?! Who does an abduction drill at 6a.m.??? But then, I guess it’s fair practice. If there is a real abduction, then we know what to do.

Another odd thing about this place are the fire alarms. I was in a drill a few weeks ago (they don’t tell you it’s a drill unless it’s given an all clear)…and then, the very next day, the fire alarm in my building went off. The heat detectors in the room are insanely sensitive, we are advised to keep the bathroom door open if we are taking hot showers or the steam would set off alarms. So that night, I was just getting my stuff ready for the next day when the alarm went off. And it’s so loud it will literally drive you out of the room. All of us trooped out dutifully, me carrying my passport, wallet and keys…hoping it wasn’t a real fire. Turned out it wasn’t, false alarm set off in some room…the firemen were in and out within minutes… but honestly, standing out in the parking lot in your pyjamas? Not nice.

So here I am in a funny little place that will be home for the next few years…settling down, blending in. Will I become Americanised? I doubt it…My accent sounds more Indian to me than it ever did back home, my skin is darker here than it ever was back home…so even while I settle down here for now, Home will still be in Calcutta, where my Heart is.


A whole new world…

It’s been ages since I posted anything, mainly because I was in the process of moving halfway around the globe. Yup, I find myself in U.S.A…and it is a strange place. 

The Little city where I now stay (The city has the word Little in it’s name) is pretty. Quaint bungalows, plenty of trees, hilly roads…and very friendly people. I mean people in the bank will ask you about your love life, that friendly.

But in the ten odd days I have been here, my emotions have veered from wonder to homesickness and back. It isn’t easy to appreciate anything but the internet when everyone you love is halfway across the world and several timezones away. So you are grateful for the little wonders- whatsapp, cheap calling cards, free wifi…basically anything that helps you connect with people you love. But sometimes, in spite of missing them, and thinking of them…you don’t feel sad. Because the thought of them is so strong, it’s like they are right with you. I had just begun to take comfort in this thought as it came to me, when someone I love shared a beautiful nazm with me. I think my readers will understand what I mean when they read what was put forth much more eloquently by Faiz when he wrote:

Iss qadar pyaar se hai jaan-e jahaan rakkhaa hai 

dil ke rukhsaar pe 

is vaqt teri yaad ne haath

yun guman hota hai 

garche hai abhi subah-e-firaaq 

dhal gaya hijr ka din 

aa bhi gaye vasl ki raat 

Those of you who want to hear the full song, click on the following link:


Gloves Abishkar

A few days ago, much to my mother’s delight, I sat down with the Sanchaita (in the original Bangla, yes) and looked up a drama that had been popping up in my mind a lot lately. Juta Abishkar (the invention of shoes for those of you who don’t follow Bangla) is a delicious story about this country that is ruled by a king who is increasingly disturbed about getting his feet dirty. There’s just so much dust everywhere!

Now, there is a reason why this particular play was stirring in my cerebrum. I have been associated with two people, let us call them D and J, who bear an uncanny similarity to the king and his minister in the land described by Tagore. While D is the uncrowned King of the domain, J is the eager minister/manager always standing on one leg (the Bangla “ek pay-e khada” sounds more interesting, no?) to please King D. King D sees dust everywhere, and all the subjects must remain barefoot in the kingdom because their shoes are DIRTY! Never mind the fact that King D wears shoes at all times, even to places where shoes aren’t allowed by royal decree.

Anyway, I digress from my story. Like in Tagore’s work, the original idea of getting rid of dust by sweeping and mopping is religiously followed in D’s domain. Of course, we must overlook the fact that the constant “cleaning” makes it mandatory for the subjects to go about their work in a fashion that resembles children playing an energetic game of hopscotch.

The second great idea in Tagore’s work was to cover the earth with leather to prevent the feet from getting dirty. That idea is also diligently followed in Kingdom D. In the absence of an adequate supply of leather, every surface in D’s domain is covered in sheets of plastic and cloth. Tables, refrigerators, even walls, are covered in acres of plastic. What collects under those sheets of polymer is, of course, to be swept under the rug.

The saviour in Tagore’s work had suggested that instead of covering the earth, covering the feet would be a more intelligent option. And the minister had promptly claimed ownership of the idea; the chamar saviour had “stolen” the idea from his head! In D’s kingdom too, J always seems to recall an idea after some poor subject suggests it. Unfortunately, the subjects in the domain know by now that suggesting an alternative to the plastic sheets would be useless. So they have made their peace with sneaking in gloves when they can. Bravo to the subjects, really. Not only have they learnt the ways of the kingdom perfectly, they also know how to manage DJ who, now that I think about it, are also uncannily similar to Upendrakishore Roychowdhury’s Hirak Raja. But that’s another story for another post. Watch this space!!

On a lighter note, here’s an old limerick to go with this story.



There was a young lady of Crete,
Who was so exceedingly neat,
When she got out of bed
She stood on her head,
To make sure of not soiling her feet.





All Indians are NOT my brothers and sisters

An annoying habit (or custom) we Indians have is the practice of making every Tom, Dick, Harry and Sally a part of the family. Our national pledge starts with “All Indians are my brothers and sisters…” Ummm, no. I do not have 1.2 billion siblings. And some of those Indians are my parents, uncles, friends, and potential spouse… (unless of course I decide to scandalize my extended family and marry a firangi.)

Anyone we meet is either didi, dada/bhaiya, uncle or aunty. Or ben, bhai, anna, chetan, aka, chechi, mashi, pishi, kaku, mama…the list is endless and multilingual. Worse, even colleagues are supposed to be dada/didi. Why? I have enough sisters and brothers of my own. Why should I increase the size of my sibling circle by making my boss and her cousins my didi‘s, too?

I suppose the fault lies in our psyche. If we call anyone older by name, it is considered an immediate form of disrespect. It’s silly, really. I mean I would feel more insulted if people forgot my name and called me random generic names like- didi, bon, etc. I have a name. I like it. I would like you to use it when you are talking to me! Not to mention the fact that it makes me feel incredibly old when random women point at me and tell their kids to say hello to AUNTY. I am not your kid’s aunty, ok? I don’t know you.

My parents have been called uncle/aunty by folks who have kids old enough to be my parents. And this was when my mum was 35, not even the official aunty-making age! In some weird way, I suppose it is a sign of respect to make someone a part of your family. But, really, it is plain silly. And so silly is the brother-sister business that my name in Gujarat had become Arundhatiben! Why, I have seen couples refer to each other as this-bhai and that-ben! Trying to promote incest, are we?

 (image courtesy

Coming back to the pledge that all Indian kids have to recite on Republic Day…I really don’t get why all Indians should be my brothers and sisters. Why can’t they just be my friends? Acquaintances? Fellow countrymen?

So, I have decided to make a pledge of my own:

India is my country but all Indians are not my brothers and sisters.

They are just Indians, like I am, and I love them for that.

I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage.

But I will not tolerate crap like homophobia in the name of my culture.

I shall always strive to be worthy of my country, but I will not put other countries down.

I shall give my parents, teachers and all elders respect and treat everyone with courtesy.

But I will retaliate if you treat me badly.

To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion. 

My happiness lies wherever it lies, and I will try my best to find it.