Thursday, December 14, 2006

Cool quote

Someone quoted someone called David Oxley at the party tonight, "Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people can't tell the difference." Nice.

Heart Versus Head

Went to a fun girly party tonight, complete with girly talk of boyfriends and upcoming marriages. That most of that talk was coming from two gals in their late 30s-early 40s was kind of interesting. Both were divorced, had kids.

One was getting married New Year's Eve after a whirlwind courtship of just 3 months. She was starry-eyed, which seems to be typical of everyone during the first months of romance, regardless of age or previous marital status. Trying to explain the fast pace of the relationship, she said it just felt right. Her boys had taken to him; he'd become part of the family. And when she cuddled against him at night, their breathing was in rhythm. They just were in sync.

The other lady had been dating this guy on and off for about 2 1/2 years. In September, they became "exclusive." But something was off. This lady talked and analyzed and brooded out loud to us, and it seemed like she'd been thinking about this relationship for a long time. She really liked him, she said, and they were trying to make it work. "We'll wait and see," she ended.

Her story seemed to me a stark contrast from the starry-eyed one. Who's taking a smarter approach to their relationship? Both have been burned more than once. What makes one relationship feel right, and another relationship so much work? How important is instinct versus reason? And most importantly, in the end, who's going to live happily ever after?

Will either? I just read some research that said in the next couple of decades, the U.S. will have more stepfamilies than "normal" ones. And that 60 percent of remarriages end in divorce.

I'm a romantic at heart, so I'm hoping both of my friends have happy endings to their stories. But I'm putting my money on the starry-eyed one.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

"Bikram Bloodbath"

Came across this really fun article on Bikram Yoga:

We were watching "The Biggest Loser" last night and chuckling that instead of running triathlons, the competitors should go to Bikram's three times a week. Weight loss guaranteed, with added bonuses of firm muscle tone and good health. Lots of people think that yoga's only for youthful fitness freaks, but you see all ages and body types there. And if heat and sweat doesn't put you off, it's soooooooo fun!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Blow Blue! OSU-Michigan Show(down) Time!

Our house is under siege this weekend. The word on the street is that on D-Day, a battalion of Go Blue troopers are planning to storm the Buckeye Bastion to psyche out a certain green-eyed Hidden Weapon wielded to ensure a scarlet-and-gray Fiesta.

If you're not a college football aficionado, the above probably makes no sense to you. If I were you, I'd skip this post. But if you're looking forward to this Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan pre-national championship game like everyone else in our home breathlessly is, then read on.

The husband has informed me that certain Wolverine fans at his workplace, including his boss, are planning to drop in uninvited. The goal: to cower our cat Pikey, so the Buckeyes will lose, paving the way for Michigan participation in the Fiesta Bowl. Yep, you read that right. You're about to discover the world's best kept secret. The reason why the Buckeyes win, often against seemingly unsurmountable odds, is not because of Luck or Talent (though the Buckeye Team is brimming with both) but because of a certain purring black cat.

Remember how the road to the 2002 National Championship was littered with unexplainable last-second victories? Remember Cincinnati? And the Fiesta Bowl double OT victory against Miami which became an instant ESPN classic?

During that entire season, Pikey was being appeased and coddled and fed treats. If Pikey wasn't in the TV room, the Buckeyes would show every sign of losing. When Pikey was purring in a warm lap, the Buckeyes would make a miraculous turnaround and get a truly amazing win. It's worked almost every single game every fall every year.

It's reached the point where Pikey has attained legendary status at my husband's workplace. And this year with the National Championship at stake, it's no wonder she makes the Wolverines bluer than blue.

Ergo Operation Go Blue is in the works. But word has leaked, and we shall be prepared to engage the enemy toting our scarlet-and-gray sweats. Go Buckeyes! Blow Blue!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Newzed Out

As the situation in Iraq deteriorates, I find myself heading straight for the "Entertainment" section of any news site or news mag. It's terrible, I know, but I've had it. I am done with bungling Bush and his blundering buddies. I have no interest in al-Sadr and al-Maliki, and I have absolutely no opinion on the theoretical partitioning of Iraq and the ensuing fallout.

Ask me about Tom and Katie's pending nuptials, and I might show a glimmer of interest. Talk to me about Angelina Jolie frolicking on a jam-packed Mumbai train, and I might read that story (and go back in time to days of sweat-stained armpits under my nose, commuting to college by the grasp of a couple of fingers, pushed by elbows and prodded by soaky umbrellas, ah, the good old days).

Occasionally, I might take a peek at a serious story ("What, salmonella in Hershey bars?" or "Will the loser of next week's showdown between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan fall below No. 2 in the final BCS standings?").

But for now, TomKat and Brangelina supply all the mind fodder I need.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dancing With Daffodils

Was reading an excerpt from Barack Obama's memoir "The Audacity of Hope" published in the latest Time. Obama makes the argument that the nation's divided not by gender or by party-affiliation, but "between those who attend church regularly and those who don't." I don't agree with him that Christianity's grown, but putting that aside for now, I found this part interesting:

"There are various explanations for this trend [growth of Christianity], from the skill of evangelicals in marketing religion to the charisma of their leaders. But their success also points to a hunger for the product they are selling, a hunger that goes beyond any particular issue or cause. Each day, it seems, thousands of Americans are going about their daily rounds--dropping off the kids at school, driving to the office...--and coming to the realization that something is missing. They are deciding that their work, their possessions, their diversions, their sheer busyness are not enough. They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives, something that will relieve a chronic loneliness or lift them above the exhausting, relentless toll of daily life. They need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them--that they are not just destined to travel down a long highway toward nothingness."

The husband and I were discussing religion just yesterday, and this is exactly what I was trying to say, though hardly so well. Religion fills a void in people's lives, a need for spirituality. Like Obama's mother told him, it's "an expression of human culture... just one of the many ways--and not necessarily the best way--that man attempted to control the unknowable."

To me, in the best sense, religion helps us feel our immortality. We are all immortal because the only life we'll ever know is this one. Religion helps some of us reach beyond ourselves to touch, be for a few wondrously transcendent moments at one, at peace with humans, the earth, moon and stars, the skies above, the whole world.

Me, I find religion in nature, the touch of the wind, the rustling of leaves, the magic of a snowflake, the crash of the waves. Then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils...

A Cat for Halloween

It's been one of those mornings when I wish I hadn't a cat. We send that excuse for a feline out to the backyard on a leash whenever we can so she can chew on some grass. (Seguing here: who knew cats enjoyed grazing like cows? Until five years ago, when we got that fussy needy four-legged meow, I didn't. But it could be just my cat who actually likes the cowlike variety instead of the "legal grass" aka catnip. It would be. She's the contrariest cat in all catkind.)

Anyhoo, we send The Black Monster out so she can bask in the sun and chew cud in peace. We have to use a leash because we have coyotes in the area who'd really savor a nice chunk of her. Plus, she's such a 'fraidy cat, she's sure to get lost and sit shivering under a bush meowing piteously for Mommy and Daddy to come get her. Now usually, post the cud-chewing, the cat throws up. It's a ritual, and she's usually good about throwing up outside on the grass who the heck cares where.

But it was one of those mornings. The cat came in, made some alarming meows that had me rushing to her side to grab her and dunk her on the kitchen floor -- far far away from my new carpet. Then while I held her, she puked a lot of greenish liquid and a few shards of grass. Then she moved away and puked again. (Like I always sneeze twice, she always pukes twice.)

That's not the end of this so-not-amusing story. A few minutes later, I happened to be showing Raina a statue of Ganpati that we have on our mantelpiece. Raina's rather fond of Ganpatis and Lord Krishnas and insisted on seeing that one upclose before heading for a nap. So I stand on my tippy-toes balancing Raina and myself so we can check out the Ganpati, when I see a lot of dried yucky green pap next to the statue with a few damning pieces of grass stuck on the goo. Gross! It was clean up time again.

Anyone want a dratted black green-eyed monster in time for Halloween?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Desis Debut on The Amazing Race!

And they're eliminated at the end of the first episode. Sigh, how predictable. Literally, as soon as I saw them, I predicted their quick elimination. I don't know how it's among other ethnic groups, but desis are the first to put down other desis. The husband and I critically watched as Vipul and Arti put on their game face, hustling to catch a flight to Beijing, all-aflutter.

Why is it that desis fluster so easily, I mutter to the h, watching Arti wringing her hands while Vipul tried to lay down some bricks. They get so darned self-conscious, they self-destruct, I scowl. But even critical moi had to hand out points when Vipul gamely downed some slimy fish eyes (while Arti made appropriate gagging noises), and when the couple made climbing the Great Wall of China look easy (though the cynical side says the producers just wanted to end their misery asap by not dwelling on their groans).

Then when they were eliminated, they made kissy faces on international TV (dunno about elsewhere, but TAR is simulcast in India at least), proving once and for all to skeptical folks the world over that INDIANS DO KISS!

At least they weren't the first duo to go. That dubious honor went to Bilal and Saeed, a couple of rather stereotypical-looking Muslims.

All in all, Vipul and Arti weren't bad debutants -- and it takes guts to be the first desis on the show. Maybe it'll inspire some more athletic ones to take on the challenge, instead of being La-Z-Boy potatoes and critiquing desis who do.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Good Wife ('50s ishtyle)

Just got a forward from a friend that gave me a few moments of mirth and made my husband's day. The email contained a 1955 article from Good Housekeeping titled "A Good Wife's Guide." The story had 18 tips, and I am going to share some gems below:

* Greet your husband with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.

*You may have a dozen important things to tell him but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first, remember: his topics of conversation are more important than yours.

*Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner or other places of entertainment without you. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.

*Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

*Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

And the final gem:

*A good wife always knows her place.

Of course, the husband thought I should start implementing the above guide forthwith. I told him not to hold his breath.

Monday, September 11, 2006

An Invitation to a Post Mortem

Oooh, I got to play "grown up" today! After months of begging and coaxing and persuading my boss that the magazine really, really needed to include me in the post-mortem of our last issue so I could contribute my superior and unique criticisms, I got invited today! I am a stay-at-home mommy, so this is a Big Deal! It means I get to wear lipstick, short skirt, high heels and port my not-oft-used power briefcase to Office in my homey minivan. I get to be with other Grown-Ups (all much skinnier than me, alas!) and scarf down bagels and swill coffee like any other productive adult of society.

OK, I know I am already a Productive Adult by choosing to be a stay-at-home working mom and all that feminist jazz. I wouldn't bring up my kid any other way. But boy, sometimes working from home just doesn't cut it. I was telling the husband yesterday that my interaction with adults has never been as limited as it's been since I had Raina.

I know other stay-at-home moms who don't work have it even worse. You just got to see the park near our home -- it's filled with SAH moms who feel useless, unproductive or bored senseless. I haven't come across any (though I am sure they exist) who don't wish they were doing for a few hours a week something, anything, that doesn't involve diapering.

Speaking for moi, without those few Grown Up hours of coffee-drinking and conferencing, I'd go stark, raving nuts.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Preschool Hunt

This morning, I set myself the sorry task of informing the current daycare provider of my daughter that I was jumping ship. I'd been prepping her for a week or so, so it didn't come as a huge surprise to her. And she was a sweetie about it--even though I was leaving her for another home daycare.

Switching to another daycare wasn't the original plan. Zee original plan was to put Raina in a preschool, the babe being 2 years old. But as usual, the SoCal Sunshine Tax stood in the way. We in Southern California affectionately call the prohibitively high prices for gasoline, milk, produce, eating out, clothes, generally breathing in the rarefied SoCal air "the Sunshine Tax." You pay to live here--usually through your nose. Yeah, the same nose that breathes in the r. air has to breathe out mucho dollars.

Check out this San Diego suburban preschool I really liked, supposedly for above average kiddos. Cute hippie old lady showed me some very nice facilities, very artsy-craftsy, lots of emphasis on problem solving and enhancing self-esteem and making knowledge fun. Of course, the funniest knowledge for the parents at least was the price for all this: over $40/day for the hours of 8:30-11:30 three days a week. That's excluding a $225 annual registration fee, $300 a year for materials and, if your kid is unfortunately still in diapers, $5/day diapering fee. If I wanted her to learn Japanese, Spanish or music, what they call the enrichment classes, that would cost extra. And oh yeah, you have to give a non-refundable $45 screening fee--they really want to make sure your kid is above average before they let her inside their screamingly expensive environs. (One of their indicators for an above average kid was fascinating: a tendency to allergies.)

To top it all, it would've taken me about half-hour to drop her off.

So I checked out one closer to home, which was nice and everything. The price? Over $50 a full day for three days a week. Though, their annual registration fee was like $75 or something, they didn't have too many extraneous fees. But if you wanted those enrichment classes, you have to pay more.

So it' s hardly surprising I'm switching to another daycare, one with more "activities"--at least until Raina's 3. Then the hunt for a preschool shall recommence.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Friendship and all that jazz

It's been a while since I last blogged and it makes me feel guilty, like I've been putting off a chore. I could make up some excuse to feel better about it, but really, who's to care? Fact is, some days I just live without thinking that oh, this may be blogworthy.

Recently, my closest friend from India came to visit me, along with her spouse and two-year-old girl. They stayed for over two weeks. It was hard at first, just getting used to having people in the house with so many differing wants and needs. And they were needy--they could hardly help it. They were totally dependent on me to get them from Place A to Place B. The problem for Indian visitors to the U.S.--and I am sure this is hardly unique to desis--is always the problem of transportation. Unless one lives in New York or some other East Coast city, visitors are housebound until you set aside time from your no doubt full schedule to play tourist with them. Or, as was in my friend's case, to play shopper.

My friend's an indefatigable shopper, one who has to browse every single item in a store, before narrowing her search to one item over which she would further spend several minutes perusing from every angle. Until, another item catches her eye. I almost heard time passing by. Felt the earth complete another rotation. Friendship, sometimes, can try your patience too far.

Once, I snapped. But, thankfully, friendship can also be stretched really thin without breaking. By the time she and her family left my home, we parted as great friends as ever, maybe even greater.

During that time, I found myself wondering what I shared in common with her anymore. True, we were confidantes in college; now we were wives and mothers of toddlers. But we now live in different countries, have completely disparate lifestyles and points of view and habits. In fact, we are as different as two human beings can possibly be.

Getting to the bottom of our friendship could probably lead to a thesis on what makes a friendship--and who wants to go into all that anyway. I just know that the incongruity of our bond adds a colorful skein to the texture and richness of the fabric of my life. It's something else to wonder at.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Navtej Sarna's We Weren't Lovers Like That

A couple of words can pretty much sum up this book: pathetically boring. Got this book at the Crossword bookstore in the famous InOrbit mall in Malad (W), Mumbai. I am a big fan of fiction from the Indian subcontinent, so I make it a point to pick up some dude I haven't heard of before. Sarna disappoints in his debut novel.

The book's about Aftab, a 40-year-old Delhiite, whose wife left him for his friend, taking with him their 10-year-old son. So Aftab slowly descends into an abyss of self-pity, taking us with him every agonizing step of the way. He drinks, of course, and bitches about everybody: his boss, his secretary, his friends and their wives, and of course, his wife and friend. Thrown in are insights he gains about himself, his weaknesses. We come to know what makes Aftab tick. Then, he begins his just as agonizing rise to redemption.

The problem is that the reader just doesn't care. Sarna fails to engage the reader's sympathy for Aftab, making his sorry plight, his self-analysis and epiphanies, his attempt to start over with his first love, just one terrible exercise in futility. And, oh, the ending is so Hindi movie, Sarna must have been inspired. But at least the reader is glad the tragedy is over.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Diamond In My Sky

Raina turned 2 on May 9, and to mark this occasion, I'd like to talk a little bit about my daughter (I shall strive not to gush). If there were one word I had to use to describe Raina, I would say she's radiant. She radiates positivity and good will. She talks pretty nonstop--she's been talking in sentences since she was 18 months--and I think one big reason for that is her love of song. She loves to sing and be sung to. The first phrase of song she learned to say at about 15 months is "like a diamond in the sky."

I remember during the first tough 6 weeks after she was born, she would cry and cry and the only way I could get her to stop was by singing pretty continuously from about 10 p.m. till about midnight. If I'd make the mistake of clearing my by-then hoarse throat, the wailing would start. I sang to her every song I knew--nursery rhymes in English, Hindi film songs, even a couple of Marathi ones I'd learned in school and -- wonder of wonders! -- still remembered. The language didn't seem to matter to her, it was all Greek to her anyway, as long as I sung away.

As she grew to 6 months, I'd play CDs of Sanskrit shlokas and nursery rhymes while she was in her high chair. I ended up learning a few shlokas myself. Now, she can say the Gayatri mantra out loud -- an attribute that earned her quite a few encores in India. She thrives on the attention and has realized pretty quick that her singing, her toothy smile and her big brown eyes get her loads of that.

Out of all things that I love about her, I love best the way she laughs. She has a very infectious laugh that seems to come from the core of her being. She doesn't like being tickled, though, unless the doer of the deed is her daddy. She kisses with her mouth wide open, saliva dripping, but it's only a blessed few that get that privilege (the rest can count their blessings). But she blows kisses with abandon to all and sundry.

Like her mommy, she's crazy about books. There was a time when she would do nothing but sit in my lap and get me to read book after book after book until I was begging for mercy. If that isn't enough to convince you that she's a bookworm, the fact that she gets excited about a trip to the library should. Her current favorite toy is her tea set.

She loves the swings at the park. Every park visit starts with half-hour at the swings. It's the only time she's quiet, blessedly, blessedly quiet. Other than naptime and bedtime, of course. And oh yes, she'll go to bed only if Brownie The Dog, Teddy The Bear and most important of all, Simba The Lion, accompany her. She seems to love the color blue. She dances in circles.

I could probably go on and on about her, but I did promise not to gush. Happy 2, Raina!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Straddling worlds

I haven't written for a while because I am in India. And when I am in India, things go kinda crazy. Some of the craziness is just vacation related: schedules are upset, work is forgotten, you're meeting several people (here, you are never alone, and I mean never). But some of the craziness is literally in your head. India can mess up your head. You see, I am a dhobi ka kutta, na ghar ka, na ghat ka. Which translates to, I am an NRI, a non-resident Indian.

Being a dhobi ka kutta (literal translation: the laundryman's dog) means that you are always mentally straddling at least two worlds in your head. In my case, it's three: my American world, my Bandra world and my Borivali world. The first world is self-explanatory -- I live in the U.S. and have been doing so since 1995 (legally, I may add). The second world -- my Bandra world -- is where I grew up. Bandra is a suburb in Mumbai, my hometown. And I was a true suburban kid: shopping at Linking Road, eating chaat at Elco, strolling in Jogger's Park in Carter Road, cycling in Bandstand, stuffing my face at Khar Gymkhana. That was the world I left behind when I left for the U.S. to pursue a degree in journalism. And that's the world of my parents.

The third world -- my Borivali world -- is the world I visit most often when I am in Mumbai. Borivali is where my in-laws now live, having moved here from Khar (which is a suburb right next to Bandra). On a good day, it takes 45 minutes to drive to Bandra from Borivali; on a bad day, it can take hours. Mentally, it takes me several leaps to function in either world.

Both places are home to me, I am loved in both, but I am a different person in either place. For example, let's take alcohol and meat consumption: none in Borivali, oui oui in Bandra. Language: Hindi in Borivali, English in Bandra. Clothes: salwar kameezes and jeans in Borivali, shorts and skirts in Bandra. In an attempt to occasionally bridge both worlds, I can get quite daring: This time, I actually wore capris in Borivali and spoke Hindi in Bandra.

Maybe one day, my Mumbai worlds will conjoin -- or collide -- leaving just one world, just one me behind. Until then, it's chaos as usual.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Life's a Journey

I was at our local Jamba Juice post-yoga today, browsing a book called "Be Happy" that the store had on display, while waiting for my favorite Passion Berry Breeze. The book had a bunch of quotations by famous people, or famous quotations by people, you know the type. But as those books go, this one wasn't half bad.

One quotation in particular caught my eye and had me mulling over it the rest of the day. I don't remember who said it, but it went something like this: The greatest epiphany you reach in life is realizing that your life is your own; don't depend on anyone, don't blame anyone or anything, no excuses. You are responsible for the quality of your life.

I guess I've believed that for a long time -- it's a great theory--and simple, you would think. But accepting your responsibility for your own happiness when it comes to practice is a lot harder.

Right from the time I was a teenager and people would ask me what I wanted to do in life, I'd always think (but not say) I want to be happy. And somehow, in my naivete, I assumed that meant I wasn't terribly ambitious or that just meant I was lazy. Now, older and hopefully wiser, I realize that I have great ambition. Happiness takes some work. It involves mental strength and making smart choices and doing what's right for you and your loved ones.

And then, working for happiness just gets harder when you realize that what makes you happy is always changing. Happiness isn't about meeting needs. It's about creating new ones. So you're always learning, always growing, always working towards an always-changing goal. And if you're lucky, Happiness will travel alongside you as you journey through life.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

On Christianity and Bowling Alone

Boy, was this deadline a doozy. I work for a bimonthly Christian magazine (no, I am not Christian) as a copy editor. It's great fun and you get to read a lot of interesting stuff that you would never have otherwise. I've been working for this magazine on and off for about 3-4 years, and with every issue, I learn something new. The magazine has an evangelical take, which I've come to learn, means that the main mission is to reach the unchurched to save their souls from burning in everlasting hell.

In this issue, I learned that not all Christians think that way: the Orthodox Christian Church is divided into mainline, evangelical and Catholic denominations. Don't ask me which are the Lutherans, the Episcopalians and the Southern Baptists, I haven't the faintest clue. But what I do know is that Mormons aren't included. Neither are Jehovah's Witnesses. Those are cults, apparently. All this info may not be fascinating to the average American, but I come from a land where Hindus form 80 percent of the population. I didn't even know that all Christians weren't Catholics until I came to the United States. Well, there was this one Protestant in my convent school (yeah, I went to convent school, that's another story -- a fairly common one in India), but I hadn't any idea what that meant.

Another thing I've learned while working at the magazine is that Mormonism is the fastest-growing religion in the United States. And that attendance in Orthodox Christian churches is declining steadily. As one pastor mentions in the upcoming issue, there was a time not so long ago when someone referred to the Lord, and everyone knew who that was. Now, Christianity is in a competitive situation.

And guess what, the competition isn't another religion. It's TV. It's the malls. It's the Internet. Crazy, huh? Another church leader referred to a book called Bowling Alone by Harvard sociologist Robert D. Putnam. Apparently (now I am quoting a quote, so I don't know how far this is true), Putnam says that Americans are increasingly disengaging from their friends and family and engaging in solitary activities. The social fabric seems to be not only stretching -- the Internet is tearing big holes into it, as virtual reality seems so much friendlier than the world outside your computer.

It makes you really think, doesn't it, how's it all going to end? Maybe I should read Putnam to find out.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Untitled 1

Am on deadline this week, so I am just going to post a poem that I originally wrote years ago, but modified fairly recently. Questions and comments are welcome.

what shall we make of you
little i
fouror fiveor six years old
watching the sun set
with dream-glazed eyes
and thinking
that if day must turn into night
this is a beautiful way

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Patrick Suskind's Perfume Book Club Discussion

I've read a lot of books most people cannot get through. So it's rare for me to come across a book that I just cannot read. Suskind's Perfume is one of them. It's not the gross-gore factor, though that's high. I've read a lot of David Lindsey, which is way gorier. In fact, Perfume's very well-written and I'd love to check out another Suskind work. It's this guy, the protagonist Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. He's this terribly ugly unfortunate kind of soul born in direst poverty to a woman who walked away from him soon after birth, hoping he'd rot in a pile of fish carcasses. Fun start, that. Sets the tone right away. So he's moved around from orphanage to orphanage--most people can't stand him because, apparently, he doesn't smell. Not "he doesn't smell like anything human," he just doesn't smell of anything. Whoopdedoo. So that's supposed to be this huge tragedy which lays the foundation for all the terrible things that follow.

Oh wait, forgot to mention, he doesn't smell, but he can smell. He has a Nose. So he becomes a parfumier of note. This is all set in not-so-gay Paree, by the way. Eventually, he starts killing virgins, hoping to distill their scent and become zee greatest parfumier of all. I didn't get that far. I was soooooo bored.

I love to get into the heads of most characters--good, bad, downright evil, whatever. But boring, nah, that's unforgivable. Can't be a boring character and expect people to spend tres valuable time trying to figure out what you're going to do next.

Heard they're making a movie on this book. Avoid like the plague.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Growing Up

This is the second day Raina said "stroller" instead of "tua." I had grown rather fond of "tua" and saw it go with regret. At almost 2, my baby is growing into a little girl. And her language definitely reflects that.

Yesterday, we watched a Labrador retrieve tennis balls from the lake by our home. I don't know whose jaw was dropping more, who was exclaiming more excitedly, Raina or I. But my little girl is way more verbose than I, that's for sure. The sentences were stumbling out one after the other, tripping over each other. "Ooooh, mama, look at that! The doggie's in the water, the doggie's swimming, the doggie has a ball in its mouth, he has a green ball, where did the doggie go, oh where, oh where can the doggie be? (The last sentence said in a sing-song fashion.) Oh, there she is! (Pronouns obviously all over the place.) Doggie's coming here, he's coming to Raina, doggie's wet, doggie's dirty. Look at that! Doggie's swimming like the duckies! Raina likes to swim too." And so on and so forth.

I guess it's just a matter of time before "doggie" become "dog" and "duckies" become "ducks" and sentences don't break for song. And soon all days will be like yesterday, when "Raina's pushing a tua" became "Raina's pushing a stroller."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Temecula wineries trip

Took some friends to the Temecula Wine Country over the weekend. In our experience, the wines there are good, but we've been to Santa Barbara and Napa, so our palettes are a little distinguished, I think. Temecula has some pretty good whites, though.

On this trip, we just sampled three wineries: Callaway, South Coast and, on conclusion, Ponte. We always end at Ponte for lunch--it has this al fresco restaurant with pretty rose gardens that drop down to acres of green vineland. The mountains stretch up in the distance. Whenever we lunch there, the sky is always incredibly blue, the air fresh and invigorating. And the food is to die for. This time, I had an incredible bouillabaisse. For appetizers, we had bread with artichoke and spinach dip and a mushroom risotto that just melted in Raina's mouth--who ate a good deal of it. And dessert was an absolutely delectable flourless chocolate cake--all for me. (OK, I permitted my husband and friends a spoonful or two, and fed Raina all the creme anglaise.)

I don't think I've mentioned it before, so for the record, I'm a big foodie. Much more than an oenophile, as is obvious from the level of detail I gave about the wines we tasted. The thing is, I used to be into wines quite a bit. Now I'm just bored. I swivel them around my mouth and they just get a thumbs up or down--no fancy musings on fruitiness and dryness, a touch of fennel and a glimmer of aniseed, a lingering flavor of apple or an aftertaste of blackberries or what-have-you. Just yummy or not yummy. C'est tout.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Mrs. Yogi

A wonderful thing happened post-yoga yesterday. I go yogic twice or three times a week at Bikram Yoga College of India ( It's really cool. Actually, it's really hot--the room where you do your 26 asanas in 90 minutes is kept at a constant temperature of 105 degrees F, with 40 percent humidity. Your first time there, you just try to survive. You sweat like the proverbial pig. There are times you feel ready to pass out. And yes, you have to work out on an empty stomach otherwise chances are, your stomach will be emptying pretty soon during class. But if you survive--you are hooked. It not only rejuvenates your body and soul, it focuses you and infuses a sense of "god's in his heaven, all's right with the world." A certain joie de vivre, you know? Not to forget all the nice energy you generate. OK, your muscles ache quite a bit too, but no gain without pain, wot? Plus you lose weight.

Anyhoo, this isn't intended to be a Bikram yoga advertisement. I was going to relate what happened after class yesterday. So, there I was, trying to cool down while staring at a poster of good ole Bikram (I think) engaged in some truly impossible poses. I guess I was tsk, tsking and shaking my head in combined horror and disbelief when the yoga instructor came upto me and said, "One day, huh?" At which I laughed a hollow laugh. "But you have time on your side," she insisted. "You keep doing this, you will get there."

And now comes the best part. "You are in your 20's right?" she asked. At which, I laughed some more (gee, maybe all this yoga tickles your sense of humor as well), albeit in afore-mentioned hollow fashion. "You can't be more than 25," she said.

OK, I guess I should've started with an indication of my age. I am in my early 30s--fairly early--but in my 30s nonetheless. The last time I was thought to be 25, was, like, when I was 25 maybe. There was a time when getting carded at bars was frustrating. Now I pull out my card with a flourish and a huge grin. (You know you're getting old when...)

Hey, maybe this yoga stuff works real well, after all.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


I was host of my book club last night--and it was a blast, especially for me. We were discussing "Reading Lolita in Tehran" by Azar Nafisi --my idea of a truly fun read (great writing, original insights, and best of all, the book's about discussing books).

The party -- well, a book club sounds stuffy and with all that wine consumption, it's anything but -- got off to a good start. My dear friend Virunya'd come over--making "the great escape" from her crying toddler who she'd left with her husband. And --oh joy!--she'd made cookies. My own toddler, Raina, was tucked in at 6:45 p.m. (Hey, wait a minute, isn't this blog called 'Raising Raina'? And this is how I introduce her to the world: She's in bed and her mommy's getting ready to party! But we will talk more about the angst of motherhood --that's the direction this story's heading anyway.)

I cut up some bread, put out the Brie, preheated the oven for all the frozen goodies I was going to, ah, bake, the white wine was in the fridge and the doorbell rings. There's Karen and her friend, Nicole, who I was meeting for the first time. Nicole's an instant hit as she's brought over dark chocolate brownies. (Bring me chocolate and I am your friend for life.) Karen starts mixing the salad, the wine's poured and the conversation gains animation.

Food in plates, we start discussing the book and all's going well. Then Karen makes the mistake of wondering out loud if there was a case for the U.S. to go into Iraq and "bring democracy" there. Oooooh boy! Looking back, it seemed I was like a bomb waiting to be set off, or, to use a less warlike analogy, like a burst dam. All these words were spilling out every which way with such force and passion. I began my diatribe against: 1. The revolution in Iran. 2. The War in Iraq 3. George W. I go on about the mindset of the Islamic fundamentalist, as if I've personally psychoanalysed several dozen. I elaborate and postulate and rant and rave--and I love every moment of it.

Later, I told my husband about Virunya's glazed eyes, Nicole's vigorous nods (to keep herself from falling asleep?) and Karen's silence (out of boredom?). Maybe I am exaggerating. I am sure they got to intersperse a comment or two here and possibly, there. But largely, it was moi on the podium, carrying on a wonderfully animated conversation with myself.

I notice I've been doing that a lot these days -- talking, i.e. I talk to my bikini waxer like I'm in confessional. I have lively chats with strangers in grocery stores. One of my newest friends is my daughter's daycare provider. I've become the very person I used to fear most in my school days--the chatterbox.

The chatterbox talks incessantly either because 1. She likes the sound of her voice 2. She likes her own opinion best 3. She doesn't want to listen to anyone else (why should she when her opinion is best?) She also believes she's the only person with anything truly interesting to say. And oftentimes, she's the mom of a toddler.

OK, maybe that's my copout. It's the trend these days to put on the martyred mom's robes and blame your lack of individuality, intellectuality, fashion sense --and anything else you can think of--on Motherhood. But this much is true. I wasn't a chatterbox before turning Mommy. Now, I am.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

One has to start somewhere

Sooooo, a deep breath and here goes.

I was a writer by choice, education and profession, but ever since I became a newspaper reporter back in 1997, I have found it increasingly hard to write a journal. I switched from reporting to editing a few years ago, hoping that I could rejuvenate my ability to put thoughts onto paper--or failing that, on a blank screen. The process goes something like this: I think a whole bunch of things (profound, that!), wait for an opportunity to pop open a new page on MS Word, put my fingers on the keyboard and wait some more for the words to just start flowing and the fingers to start tapping. I stare at the blinking cursor. After a few minutes of staring blankly, I notice that the cursor is blinking in quite an accusatory fashion, as in "Why are you wasting my time?"

So why do I think I can write a blog? Darn it, one has to start somewhere. It might as well be here.