Thursday, November 14, 2013

When I grow up...





Much has been said about the latest Clooney-Bullock space-drama, Gravity. Mostly good things.  No one doubts that it will be a big name at the 86th Academy Awards, in almost every category. I have nothing more to say than what has already been said. Except that it left me feeling inadequate and like a total loser.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVED the movie. Loved it so much that I wanted to be “in” it.  And although no one asks a 30-something old “What do you want to become when you grow up?” (assuming that all the “growing up” would have been done by then….or in some cases,  there is no more “growing up” possible or advisable after you reach a certain kilogram in weight), I think I finally have the answer. I would love to be an astronaut. 

I mean, hey, if your profession is not worth making a movie about, or at least a documentary, what’s it worth? Whoever made (or even thought of making) a movie on a technical writer (like me)? Actually, there is a movie called “The Technical Writer”, but one of its reviews say “The Technical Writer is a numbingly bad movie and a glorious inspiration to every wannabe filmmaker with a 'deeply personal' script wasting away in the bottom drawer of his or her desk.”. So am not vouching for it.

Astronaut, on the other hand, …..smells of glory. These people are so smart that even the whole earth couldn’t hold their interest! They had to venture out….for bigger, better, brighter things. Things that don’t walk or crawl or swim or fly….but revolve and rotate. Things that don’t breathe….but spit fire. Things that glow and sparkle in the night sky…stuff that dreams are made of. 

And so, the more I watched the movie…the more I couldn’t focus on it. My mind kept drifting to my numbingly ordinary life. While I sit at my desk writing about software (scintillating, isn’t it?), somebody from NASA makes a round trip from the Earth to Mars! While I research the latest authoring tool, somebody has found traces of life in some other planet! While I struggle to assemble Ikea furniture, somebody has built an entire spaceship! 

Bottom line….if the answer to the question “Honey, how was your day at work today”, is anything less than the plot of a movie or a book, you could do better. If you think you need at least two coffees to survive a day at work, you could do better. Because there are professions out there where there is no time/need for coffee…the adrenaline is enough to keep one going (apart from the fact that there is no office- kitchen in space where you could make yourself a cuppa).

At least I know what I want to be in my next life. Mars, here I come….


Thursday, May 9, 2013

The weed with the yellow flowers....

Our first rental home in Perth was a small blue cottage on a busy road. While most people here would find the noise from the street annoying, I quite enjoyed it. It reminded me of India. Of course there was no pile of foul-smelling garbage, rickshaws in all their bright-coloured glory, cows crossing the road in snail pace, the all-too-familiar cycle honk, roadside vendors selling tea and deep fried pakodas, kids (who should be in school) running around shirt-less to sell flower garlands, street dogs happily mating in the middle of the street and finally, grey smoke from the cars to cast its spell over all the hustle bustle. None of that. So, I settled for the noise and decided that I loved it.
 
At home for a month without internet or a phone connection was like solitary confinement. Worse, actually....because at least they serve food in the prisons. Here, I had to cook it myself. At one point, I decided to send back all the hired furniture.....because buying them would cost us less. But we could only go out and buy new furniture over a weekend, as A would be away at work on week days. Unfortunately, the hire-furniture company picked everything up on a Thursday. So, I spent two days at home with no furniture. I had one pillow, one bed sheet set (probably a wedding gift), some basic utensils and plastic cutlery, my clothes and The Namesake. I sat on the floor with the pillow behind me for hours, gazing out of the window at the busy road. When the backache was too much to bear, I walked up to the street and sat on a bench at the bus stop. At least these benches had back rests and I could sit there undisturbed for hours. But the bus drivers would pull over, thinking I had somewhere to go. I smiled and waved, to indicate that I wasn't going anywhere. I had had no human interaction for days, except with A when he got back from work or the phone calls I made to India, every alternate day. So waving at bus drivers was turning out to be quite exciting! But when the same bus drivers came back on their next trip, they would give me weird looks...like "What are you doing sitting here all day? Get a job and get a life". So I decided to stay at home, on the floor with my pillow and read The Namesake for the third time.
 
I never enjoyed cooking. I still don’t. So I lived on Maggie, or dal/rice or ghee/rice or sandwiches. When A came back from work, we would cook dinner together and eat on our plastic plates, sitting on the floor. He would tell me about work, his colleagues, his trips to the city at lunch time, the food court and the car showrooms he had stopped at. I’d tell him about the bus drivers and how my backache was getting worse. Then, we would sleep on our bed sheet and share the pillow.
 
I realised I could make myself a little more useful until we got internet connection at home and I started looking for jobs. So, I focused on our backyard. It had plants …some in pots and others in the garden beds. They were nothing like the ones we have in India, except that they were green too. Some had bright yellow flowers, and these were my favourites. I watered them and trimmed them occasionally. Our landlady would be delighted to see how well I had maintained them, I thought.
 
But when the landlady did come for an inspection, she nodded her head in disapproval. “You have to keep the garden weed-free. Look at all this mess!” I was confused. Mess? I thought it was beautiful. Apparently, my favourite plant with the yellow flowers was a weed. I had been nurturing a weed with such care….for so long! Clearly, I had a lot to learn. So I decided to go back to The Namesake for the fourth time.
 
It’s been five years since then. We no longer live on a busy road. I don’t have to leave home for a comfortable seat. I have a job and 10 pillows. I don’t rely on bus drivers for human interaction. I have a few friends and acquaintances, and more stories to share than that of my backache. I still don’t enjoy cooking….but I can tell the difference between a weed and a plant.

On completing my fifth year in this country, I realise that Australia has been no less than a university to me…and it taught me the most important lesson in life..."One person's weed is another person's flower".

The weed with the yellow flowers....
 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day 2013



“And where is my gift?” I ask A.  We are both still in bed… the morning sun trying desperately to throw darts at our eyes through the gaps in the window blinds. Having snoozed the alarm clock a good four times, we know we are getting late for work. But the thought of squeezing in another 10 minutes of precious sleep, is too tempting.

Minutes before, I gave him a Valentine’s Day card and a massage voucher (a couple’s massage, actually). Knowing well that he wouldn’t worry about VDay gifts, I thought a couple’s massage would cover us both. To be honest, we don’t really celebrate VDay. We are too old for it, we say….although, we said that six years back too. But I really wanted a massage…and I knew A would enjoy one too. So I just timed it around VDay. Simple.

Surprised at my new-found love for VDay celebrations (that’s what he thought), the poor guy was a little embarrassed. He had nothing to give me, in return. In fact, the look on his face was like “now-come-on-this-is-cheating-we-never-do-VDay”. And it gave me immense pleasure to see his discomfort! Yes, I am nice, like that.

So he thanked me and finally got out of bed and went straight into the shower, while I decided to laze for another 10 minutes. Out from the shower, he looked like a man on a mission. Clearly, he had utilised the shower time to think (strategise/plan…to be more precise).

Clearing his throat…he makes an announcement.

“I’ll go out at lunch time and buy you a BIG gift”.

And what made this extremely scary was the tone. The tone was like “Wait and watch. I’ll have my revenge.”

To my ears, this sounded like a threat. I usually don’t appreciate surprises, especially if they haven’t been thought out and involve a lot of money. My theory is, if you want to give me a gift…ask me what I would like before spending a huge amount. Don’t get me wrong. I like little surprises like flowers, breakfast in bed, a dinner date, a home-cooked meal, a book, a card with a lovely note placed at my desk, a fragrant bath with scented candles lit in the bathroom. But buy me an iPad or a mobile phone or diamonds without consulting me…and I won’t like it a bit.

So, his words naturally scared me. Especially the word “BIG”, which I knew he had carefully chosen, just to irk me.

What followed next was a series of “No, please don’t” and “Oh yes, you wait and watch”! I think I even said “Sorry, I shouldn’t have bought you anything for VDay”. Imagine….apologising for buying someone a gift, which he clearly liked!

Out from my shower, I run to the breakfast table because I could smell something. And this time, it did not smell like trouble. It was the smell of “anda-bhurji-pau” (an Indian version of spicy scrambled eggs cooked with onion and tomatoes and herbs, served on a thick slice of toasted bread…a popular street food in Maharashtra). It was my favourite, and he knew it.

And while I cleaned my plate, he smiled the smile of victory. His revenge was taken.