Wednesday, January 20, 2010

the one about restrooms

It makes me uncomfortable when people talk across cubicles in restrooms. I don't know if men do this as well. I know some women at my office who are "restroom buddies". They enter the restrooms chatting away about something and continue their conversations from the stalls as they do their business. No matter that they might not even be in adjacent stalls! For someone caught in the crossfire of this talk, it is totally awkward. Can't they wait until after they've left the restrooms to talk?


Indian restaurants in the US continue the glorious Indian tradition of having dirty restrooms. The restaurant will be all posh looking with low lights, soft music and tasteful wall decor. But the restrooms will be stinky, dirty and out of supplies. Why this neglect?!?!?! What in our culture promotes this restroom abuse? I really can't imagine. If anyone has any answers, I'd love to hear them..

Friday, January 15, 2010

Personal space..

Any married woman living in India can tell you there are innumerable little nits to be borne in daily social life. It could be a nosy relative who sidles over to your mother-in-law to point out that you never wear your diamond earrings as befits a married woman. Or it could be annoying neighbors that drop in at all odd hours borrowing anything from a couple of onions to your new hot water bag. Or it could be the gossipy maid servant who snoops on all your shopping and reports them dutifully to the entire flat complex. Or it could be office colleagues who keep offering unsolicited, unwanted advice.

Yes, the concept of "personal space" is literally non-existent in a country like India. I learnt this word only after coming to the US 6 years ago!  It is a place where strangers can ask the most personal, intrusive questions most casually without flinching and they expect you to answer it. But its also the place where people respond unexpectedly to mundane questions like "How are you?". Some questions/responses have startled me in their brutal honesty!

"When are you having your first child? Isn't it late enough?"
"When are you getting married? You're 29 and you've not found a guy yet?!!"
" What's your salary?"
"I had a big fight with my wife today about our daily budget"
"My wife and I have fertility problems."

Here in the US, some of these questions would border on the outrageous/impertinent and no one would dream of talking about their marital life in public with a relative stranger. Hell, even desis here think twice about discussing anything personal even with their close friends. I can't imagine going and telling my co-worker about my personal problems but this happens regularly in India.

But then, sometimes, I feel that despite the general irksomeness of being forced to open up to someone when you least want it, its a good vent. You don't have to schedule an appointment with your best friend to find time to cry on her shoulder. You get a sense of relief when you've unburdened yourself and it takes pressure off other relationships -- spouses, friends etc.. -- to supply one's emotional needs. And in all the unsolicited advice that one gets, there are some nuggets of real wisdom if we're wiling to look deep enough. Sometimes, when we're facing a major life crisis or event, its good to get all the support you can whether it be from a grocery vendor or from the milkman or from a distant relative.

I am not justifying being nosy. After US life for nearly 6 years, I have trouble adjusting to the lack of privacy in India. But I think that we could all do with a bit of opening up here in the US and maybe even a bit more honesty in our relationships.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Flying In The Age Of Obama

I've been flying for over 15 years now. But the way the flying industry has changed, it seems more like a century ago that flights were easy to board, flight personnel were friendly and people looked forward to flying as an enjoyable experience. Our recent trip to San Francisco only served to reinforce how hard it has become to fly domestic within the US.

There are the baggage fees you have to contend with on top of $500 tickets. Delta charges $25 for the first bag and $32 for the second. Lots of people have stopped checking in bags and instead take one carry-on bag which is stuffed to its maximum capacity and looks ready to split at any time. Most airlines allow one personal item such as a handbag or a laptop bag in addition to carry-on. But people are stretching the concept of a "personal item" as well. One young girl in front of us had a very pregnant backpack which seemed to contain rations for one entire town under a siege! And that was her "personal item" in addition to another suitcase.

Now that everyone has bloated carry-ons and personal items, nasty cabin fights break out between passengers looking for cabin storage space. Our flight attendant announced that "passengers please be accomodative of others' needs and store just one item in the overhead cabins". Okay, so I stored my rather heavy winter jacket, gloves and scarf on my lap only for it to slide off when I fell asleep and get trampled upon by the service carts. Awesome.

Flight attendants too have become a lot short-tempered than before.  The ones on our flight slammed down the overhead cabin doors closed with unnecessary force. S asked for orange juice and water. Our flight attendant snapped, "I only have two hands". And its just not us that got this treatment. A couple of years ago on a Lufthansa flight to India, I rang the attendant bell 10 times before I got one sour lady to come to my seat. I asked for water and she waspishly asked me to go get my own water from the service area at the back. On the same flight, another attendant told a young mother to do something about her incessantly crying baby because it was disturbing other passengers' peace!

Since you have to pay for crappy on-board meals, everyone gets their own food. Some, like us, pack stuff from home. And everyone has to get their own earphones because otherwise, its a $5 rental! I wouldn't be surprised if traders start hawking food and other wares on the flight before take-off.

"Chai, chai.." or "Anju pathu rooba, sir..arumaiyana sapota"

If only the US had an efficient train system like our Indian Railways, it will be infinitely more comfortable. Ah, the joys of train travel in India! Will the US govt. act on it?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

V.S.V should stop critiquing Carnatic music...

கடந்த இரண்டு மூன்று வருடங்களாக, ஆனந்த விகடனில் வி.எஸ்.வி 'ஸரி க ம ப த நி டயரி' எழுதி வருகிறார். இவருடைய எழுது மகா அபத்தம். ராகங்கள் பெயர்களை தப்பும் தவறுமாக எழுதுகிறார். கீர்த்தனைகளின் வார்த்தைகளும் தவறு. இந்த வார ஆனந்த விகடனில், பாம்பே ஜெயஸ்ரீயின் கச்சேரியை விமரிசனம் செய்திருக்கிறார். அதில் தீட்சிதரின் "மீனாட்சி மேமுதம்.." பாடல் வரிகளை, "மதுராபுரி நிலவே.." என்று எழுதியிருக்கிறார். உண்மையில் அது "மதுராபுரி நிலையே..". ஒரு எழுத்தை மாற்றி தீட்சிதரை ஏதோ வைரமுத்து ரேஞ்சுக்கு ஆக்கி விட்டார்! ஒரு பெரிய பரிசுரத்துக்கு எழுதும் ஒரு எழுத்தாளர் இம்மாதிரி தவறு செய்யலாமா ?!
சென்ற வருடம் "மியூசிக் அகாடமி" கான்டீனில் என்ன ஸ்பெஷல் என்று ஒரு வாரம் எழுதியிருந்தார். சாப்பிட சென்றாரா, கச்சேரி கேட்க போனாரா? அதே போல் T.M.கிருஷ்ணா, சென்ற வருடம், பைரவி ராகத்தில் அமைந்த 'விரிபோனி.. ' வர்ணத்தை கச்சேரியில் மெயின் piece-ஆக பாடியதால் அவரை கன்னா பின்னா என்று விமரிசனம் செய்திருந்தார். ராகங்கள் பெயரையே செரியாக தெரிந்து கொள்ளாதவர், கீர்த்தனைகளின் வார்த்தைகளை தவறாக எழுதுபவர், இவர்களெல்லாம் வித்வான்களை விமரிசனம் செய்வது மிக அபத்தம்! வி.எஸ்.வி கர்நாடக சங்கீதத்தைப் பற்றி எழுதுவதை நிறுத்தி விடுவது நல்லது.