“Oh, is THAT the GUY who died last week?” asked the bespectacled young man who worked at the library, “we moved some of his books to that table there”. I stared at him, nonplussed that he was unfamiliar with the great man who dominated literary world for half a century. The reminiscences of leaders and celebrities across the world, waxing eloquent about One Hundred Years of Solitude and what it meant to them and to an era, had somehow escaped him. And yet, he worked in this county library, among all HIS books, while the spring shower played on the tin roof. May be I live in Macondo.
You see, I was on this quest for Leaf Storm, the first Garcia Marquez book that I read, while a teenager, with the monsoon keeping the rhythm of the rain that Isabel watched. My goal was to read the stories with explicit reference to Macondo, and to find where simple humor and generous laughter were hidden entangled in the brooding unbounded love, in the elaborate exploitation of the naive, and under the river of melancholy running through the tales. I mean, look at the man, universally described as jovial and kind, pictured below visiting his home town, Aracataca, which inspired Macondo – Isn’t it obvious that he has happy memories of the place – with pranks that went well and girls teased good heartedly? But, where is this same joy and laughter in Macondo? I‘d forgotten where it was, even if I ever knew, and I needed to find it, since he laughs no more. Continue reading Searching for Laughter in Macondo
Between Mindy Kaling and Brooke Birmingham, they really ruined it for me. I was working towards this grand finale, when I would announce to y’all “Look at ME, I am a Size Right”. I wanted to lose the last two vanity pounds, reach my goal, and then post the before and after pictures. Alas, looks like I left it too late.
All those discussions around Shape magazine’s refusal to publish Brooke’s photograph without airbrushing, despite her remarkable success story, (She lost 170 pounds, in case you’re wondering) led the media pundits to discover ( Eureka!) that women should be proud of their body image regardless of shape and size. And suddenly, almost overnight, “before and after pictures” became politically incorrect. “Who’s the Biggest Loser” was declared a poor way to motivate weight loss. The super talented Mindy, in her inimitable style revealed that she is a perfectly normal size 8, and called out journalists for giving her backhanded compliments about “being successful despite her size”. Even Monica Lewinsky jumped in to fight fat shaming. Yeah, the last two months were not good for the weight loss industry, and their slightly frightening advertisements featuring Barbie look-alikes. Continue reading Before and After Pictures
My earliest memory of my mother’s hometown is of waiting.
Braving the heat of the noon, my brother, sister and I would wait impatiently at the gate for our grandfather to bring us the “pal-payasam” that gave the town its fame – straight from the cauldron, right after it was offered at the temple, before tourists clamored for their share. The payasam was a rich chocolate brown in those days, not rose tinted as it is now, perhaps because of the slow cooking wood fire and the unpasteurized milk from the grass-fed cows that roamed freely. We would squabble for extra helpings, making grandfather laugh… he knew that it was too heady for us to drink in large quantities. And sure enough, soon after a heavy lunch, and the payasam, we would all sink into exhausted sleep. Nothing much happened in the afternoons anyway, except the elderly folk chewing betel nut.
Continue reading In My Mother’s Hometown
The digital signboard at the strip mall showed Saturday, 8.00 PM. The camera panned to a young man who had his laptop propped open on the hood of his parked car, and was reading out from the screen into his cell phone. There were a few bags of grocery strewn around him and a toddler balanced on his shoulder. Continue reading Work-Life Balance
As luck would have it, I was not aware of this phenomenon till early this week. The term actually conjured up visions of green cathode ray terminals on the face of high rises , and jet pack refilling stations atop the skyscrapers. ( I admit jet packs are a weakness for me. I envision them at the slightest pretext. 🙂 )
But infact, this is something more insidious. For the uninitiated, like me- High Rising Terminals ( HRT) or “uptalk” as it is called, alludes to a manner of speaking where the sentences endings have higher frequency, or a rising intonation, like a question does. Here’s an exaggerated illustration I saw on You Tube.
Apparently, uptalk is on the rise (pun intended), among both men and women, who are now bringing it to the workplace. Sociologists call it an epidemic. An article I read quoted recent research by Pearson that shows that 85% employers dislike upspeak and associated it with insecurity. They would not promote employees who spoke with that accent. The only people who were excused were the Aussies, who apparently had a obtained a license to do so long time ago. And sure enough, one can see plenty new websites and coaches that train employees to change their career limiting inflection with assertions like “HRT is not allowed in the C Suite”.
The problem with these confident pronouncements is that, Continue reading High Rising Terminals
Today was a long work day.. from the foggy morning flight to the dinner meeting that went on till 9.00 PM.
But then, I had decided that I’d be good and strong and go the gym, anyway.
I told myself that this was the test of my mettle as a person etc. etc.as I whizzed proudly past the last left turn that would have taken me home.
Wasn’t it clever that I had some workout clothes in the car?
As I parked at the gym, the mayor of West Windsor pulled over beside me. Fancy that! I even had exalted company. If only I knew networking.
So, I walked in feeling really good about myself, but fate intervened. <insert ominous music>
I looked down ,
and saw my
The white spaces
that’s where the monsters lie
in the omissions,
beside the misdirection,
under the manipulation,
hidden by the bulrushes of reassurance,
mocking silently at naive kindness.
The guy ahead of me has stopped his car in the middle of the single lane road for no apparent reason.
The guy, actually gal, behind me is venting her frustration on the horn.
A long line of cars has already formed
What could be wrong?
I look on one side of the road and then the other.
-A family of Canada geese,
peacefully crossing the road.
There’s this elderly Indian gentleman who works the cash register at the Shoprite near our house. Looks very dignified and proper among his young co workers. He is quick and courteous but doesn’t smile or make small talk the way others do.
Then I noticed that his name tag was ” Kem Cho”.
He must be smiling to himself at his little joke behind that serious face.
Perhaps next time I will softly say “‘badhu maja ma” and walk away.
Laundromats featured often, and prominently, in the American detective stories I devoured in my childhood. Open late into the night, and operated by surly attendants who handed out tickets, they seemed to be quite exciting places. There, women talked indiscreetly about rich old grandmothers or cheating husbands, men washed bloodied clothes after dark deeds. Perry Mason would, by some sleight of hand, get hold of a time stamped ticket and prove that the crime could not have been committed before 11.30 PM; Nancy Drew would call the cops to capture the man taking home the suspect washing.
Compared to all this, washing clothes seemed quite a mundane task at home. Forget laundromats, even washing machines were rare in my neighborhood. Wet soapy clothes were slapped on the washing stone in the backyard by our maid, Nirmala while she chatted with the neighbor’s maid Shantha across the fence. The road side Romeo’s appreciative whistle, “chechi’s” unreasonable demand to work next Sunday, the faint burning smell of fish curry on the stove – Continue reading Snow White and Spotless