Christmas Crazyness

Tuesday, 26 December 2006 0 comments
So this is Christmas, what have you done? I had a fun festivus of eating, drinking and general merry-making with friends. And watched a brilliant Penelope Cruz in Volver and a pretty funny Rahul Bose in Pyar ke Side Effects. But being the holidays, my family has once again provided some priceless hilarity to the occasion.
Somebody suggested putting in a matrimonial ad in the Times of India for my eligible brother who is visiting India. But apparently my parents forgot when the ad was supposed to come out and as Ma likes to pointedly say: “We’ve stopped looking at the classifieds or putting ads there… what’s the point?” So what is the likelihood that my uncle sitting in Lucknow – who already has 2 sons married/committed to someone – scanning the classifieds instead? Probably killing time checking out the grooms for his lovely niece(s)? Fair enough. But what is the probability of Lucknow Uncleji coming across the same bloody ad about my brother and not recognizing it as my brother’s? Highly unlikely. He calls up my dad and says this could be a probable match for your daughter. That's right... yours truly, y'all. Dad diligently takes down the details and tells mum – you know where this is going, right? In the meantime, charitable well-wishing uncle does not hear from dad for a few days. Hmm, wonder WHY… the family tree is still shaking in laughter.. haw haw haw!

Putting Out Kitchen Fires

Monday, 18 December 2006 0 comments
My roommate and i were looking forward to a mellow Sat. evening enjoying her boyfriend's gourmet cooking. We sipped wine and traded gossip as he diligently carved out bell peppers. M and i were on the far side of the house when he yelled at her to come. She lazily replied: "yaaa coming." he yelled again: "come NOW.. it's kind of an emergency." i didn't like the tone so i went along, too. there, in the kitchen oven was a fire burning and it wasn't about to cook our food. he had set it to 400 degrees and started smelling something weird and when he opened the oven, there were flames dancing around. As he used the fire extinguisher, smoke and the yellow powdery stuff enveloped us. I decided to call 911. It was my first 911 call and I tried to be calm but when the guy told me to "get out of there now" i was pretty freaked out. we ran out of the house and within minutes there were 3 fire trucks racing down the street. I tried calling my landlord next but got his answering machine.
The firefighters went running in with hoses and a smoke blower. A ladder went up somewhere. My roomie was nervously asking if we should tell the pros it was an electric fire. I nervously giggled in my tweety bird slippers (it was the only pair i could slip into quickly) and her friend nervously lit up a cigarette. was this an appropriate time to light another fire? Meanwhile, some neighbors had come out and i told them what happened. I looked at a couple from next door - they seemed vaguely familiar - but shook my head and thought it was a bad time to socialize. Soon, one of the firefighters called us upstairs and said the fire could have been caused due to leftover grease. I went back down and said hi to Angie and Jake, whom i had met at my former roommate's wedding last year. Surreal, but true.
Back at home, the kitchen was a mess and the oven is still out of commission. The landlord has promised to get us a new one but till then microwave meals will have to do! I also have a newfound respect for firefighters but i have to admit, there is a reason why they have so many sexual innuendos associated with them :)

Never Forget

Wednesday, 6 December 2006 0 comments
The Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was demolished today in 1992. The mosque was built by Babur in the 16th century, India's first Mughal emperor. So Hindu fascists led by the saffron singing Bharatiya Janata Party came out to destroy the mosque since it was alleged that the mosque was built over a temple to commerate the birthplace of Lord Ram.
I was only 16 but i remember feeling sad, angry and deeply secular. The newspaper pictures showed rubble and what promised to be utter chaos in the days ahead. And what followed was one of the bloodiest communal warfares in recent Indian history.
First, there was a Muslim backlash and then a Hindu backlash resulting in the Bombay Riots. Around 1,000 people killed before a commission was appointed to investigate who did what to whom when and where. It was found that the right-wing Shiv Sena party incited the riots but till date none of the commission's recommendations have been acted on or implemented.
That's secular, democratic, 21st century, call center, multiplexes, so-sexycool-yaar, dosa and tikka loving, nuke dealing, IT revolutionary India for you!

It's Fun to Stay at the Y...

Tuesday, 5 December 2006 0 comments
This year I am not waiting till Jan. 1 to make the resolutions. The most consistent one I make is not to make any. And the most consistent one I also make is to make an effort to exercise more frequently. That resolution sticks for a while – hmm, 2 months – before whimpering out like a scared puppy.
So on Dec. 1, I finally joined the YMCA. I was partly inspired by my roommate who is very disciplined about her running schedule and also because it would be good to have someone to go with. The Y in DC sits in the heart of downtown and has lots of cool facilities spread over 7 floors. I was especially excited about the Olympic-size swimming pool and the racquetball courts. However, Friday was not a good day to join because the women’s locker room was a real stink joint. The smell of sweaty socks was simply overpowering but I held my breath through it. Then there are the showers. I haven’t used a communal shower in ages and I think there is some sort of unwritten locker room rule: if you’re naked, look up and if you’re not, look down. I also thought the older naked women had to be German because they seemed to be the most uninhibited about letting it all hang out. It’s not as if there weren’t any towels available, people!
Finally as I was about to leave, one of the "happy smiley staff members" asked me to write a postcard note for a U.S. soldier in Iraq. The Y sends these notes to soldiers during the holidays and as she forced this on me, I really had to think about this one – why should I, an Indian, write a note to an American soldier in a country where a conflict seemed totally unwarranted. But I was going to reach out to another person in the end so I wrote: "Have a cheerful holiday and come back home safe."
As for the work out, that was really good. I felt great and hopefully I can break the resolution jinx for the new year this year.

Little Miss Sunshine

Wednesday, 29 November 2006 0 comments



Here she is - my cutie pie Candy!! Missing her tons these days because so many people are going to India except me... sniff sniff... but she does woof on the phone when i call on weekends :)
She is a pom and lhasa apso mix but has more of the apso temperament ie. fiesty and friendly. We used to have another dog, Wendy, and she had a litter and we gave away all the dogs except Candy... she was an adorable pup and really naughty, so we had to keep her!! Candy likes to eat good old home cooked meals, but she has a thing for Nizam's mutton biryani.. because whenever there's a party with biryani on the menu, Candy doesn't leave my mum's side.
We try not to give her sweets because of the fur shedding issue but birthdays are an exception and usually my parents bring her a pastry of some sort. I think my grandma also surreptiously feeds her chocolate sometimes. She sounds awfully spoilt and she is. But she is the building sweetheart and nemesis (the postman is petrified of her) and the best thing i love about Candy is when someone is sick or feeling sad, she somehow knows it and and will come and cuddle up next to you. I could go on and on and ON about her but i'll stop.
About the pics: She's out on a mid-winter morning stroll with my dad. Above, she suffers silently in booties i got from Petco. She promptly took them off after i took the pic.

Back in Beantown

Monday, 27 November 2006 0 comments

As I packed my bags for the annual glutton fest that is the Thanksgiving holidays, i thought about any impending family strife: around 16 family members were coming under my uncle and aunt's roof in North Andover, which is 30 mins. outside of Boston, and the possibilities of a clash happening between any 2 headstrong Banerjis was very likely. But first we indulged in the East-West fusion of turkey and stuffing/malai chicken and kofta, cranberry sauce/achaar, corn and mashed potatoes/biryani and dahi vada. We were stuffed. Then we split up into 3 groups of movie watchers who went to see Dhoom 2 (3 aunties, one Abhishek-crazy sister), The Departed (2 uncles, 4 brothers and 1 Jack Nicholson-crazy aunt) and Casino Royale (3 James Bond-crazy sisters). Watching Danny Craig in speedos was definitely one of the highlights of the holidays.

The weather was such a tease but it really lifted spirits by Sunday when i headed into Cambridge to see some old friends. I was seeing one of them after at least 3 years and she is now a brand new mommy of little munchkin of 4 months. It was so admirable to see how she's put her dissertation on hold for the kid and really putting in so much time to actually be with him.

Before i met her, i was trying to find a decent present for the baby and ventured into a "Curious George" toy shop. So it's not the first time I've bought a present for my friends' offsprings, but they have lazily been bought through online registries or the Baby Gap or Baby H&M collection... all fabulous, btw... but I was really having a tough time figuring out what to get a new-born (esp. since her in-law visits just got over and she must've got a ton of stuff from them) in this toy store. I was filled with amazement about what a kid actually sees for the first time... everything from colors to letters to animals is new for him... i eventually ended up getting a Curious George monkey and the book "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (i love singing that song).

The other hard thing was finding a decent coffee shop in Harvard Square (no Starbucks, please) so we eventually ended up at Dado Tea, a specialty tea house on Church St. which has a nice variety of Asian teas, and was apparently started by a couple of Harvard Ph.d. students who complained about the lack of chai in the vicinity. Needless to say, they have chucked their academic careers and are doing booming business.

Later, I met up with some high school friends in Davis Square at a Tibetan place and of course, I had momos :) Chhavi put me up for the night and i had to make friends with her new housemates - two cats with two different temperaments - and even though i was told they would be all nice and friendly, Mini jumped me like a dog in the morning. i think she just wanted my chai. or so i tell myself...

Dancing in the Dark

Monday, 13 November 2006 0 comments
What is it about some desi men that makes them hover on the peripheries of a dance floor at a nightclub and then try to make a grab for any random woman? Apparently, a strategy they invented called “Identify Target and Impress With Mithun Moves” from I am a Disco Dancer days.
On Sat. night my friends and I noticed this trilogy hovering around trying to do just that. They seemed like regular, nice geeks at first. One was in a suit and all; the other in a studly black and red leather jacket; and the third was in cargos. You couldn’t miss them because they were everywhere and trying extremely hard for any action.
First, the Suit Guy danced with a bachelorette party and got his hands all over the bride-to-be posing for various pictures. Next, he zoomed in on the frat girls trying to be a kabab mein haddi. Meanwhile, Leather Jacket saw his Holy Vision: the modern Bhartiya Nari with long tresses and shy dance moves, albeit accessorizing perfectly with her cosmopolitan and cigarette. She spurred him immediately – but only to provoke him further, since he figured a ‘no’ means ‘yes’ – and as he tried to whisper sweet nothings, he just grabbed her arm. I swear I could hear her say eww! Cargo Pants was just dancing around, minding his own business, until he saw this unfold and did his bit by telling his friend to chill out.
The Suit Guy later discovered our Brown Crowd and thought hmm, 6 women, 3 men, surely I have a chance here. He slowly started to infiltrate – dancing with one of the guys and then coming on to a couple of us girls. At some point when Suit Guy and Leather Jacket were suitably drunk, they were almost coming to blows about some random thing. Again, the tension was diffused in classic Bollywood fashion by Cargo Pants who came between them and told them to stuff it. I don’t know how long they stayed or if they got lucky, but the last thing I saw before I left the place, was Suit Guy desperately trying to make conversation with one of my friends. She looked pretty bored herself, but even she wasn’t that desperate.
On another note: I saw “Babel” and was pretty moved and confused. But it was still a very good movie.

Booker Sightings

Monday, 6 November 2006 0 comments
The South Asian Literary and Theater Arts Festival was held on Saturday at the Museum of Natural History. At the Booker Winner's book signing, i was sorely reminded of the Vikram Seth signing last year where i self-consciously stumbled my way through, blinded by his 500-watt smile. Kiran Desai was sweet, too so i gushed something like, "it was really good, just finished and still recovering." She smiled sweetly and said thanks. When i mentioned my father was also one of those people in "Inheritance of Loss" who suffered from a colonial hangover, she laughed and said, "oh i have plenty of those in my family, too." [Maa, who has digested all of Anita Desai's novels, gave me the entire spiel on Desai family and which relatives were in the IAS and who had a house in Mussouri]. But when she was reading passages from her book at the literary panel, she wasn't the best reader. Later, i discovered she had signed my book with the wrong date. Ah well, could've been a lot worse.

Uhaul and me dead

Sunday, 29 October 2006 1 comments
This was the final move from my old apt. to my new one and it has finally led me to realize that it's not worth doing it by yourself. From the very onset, it seemed the day was just going to get from bad to worse. The line at the Uhaul center was not too long but the wait was. When my cousin brother finally got the keys to the truck and we made our way to the apt. for loading, it was a little well past noon. And we had a little over 4 hrs left to return the truck!
Once there, we were joined by a friend - who had agreed very nicely to come at the last minute in spite of his hangover - and the poor thing did not hold the sofa properly and hurt his back. both the sofa and the friend had to be abandoned.. he was in pain. but no love lost for the sofa. but by the time I huffed and puffed my way to help out, someone had lost control of the dresser and as it went rolling down the loading dock, i had become completely hysterical. i was in splits actually. then my cousin and i got in to a spat. so the two of us moved stuff silently for the next half hour. when it came time to go to my new apt., the truck refused to start. sputter sputter sputter for 15-20 mins. Uhaul hotline to the rescue - mechanic would be on the way in 45 mins., oh but after 45 mins., they said they might as well send a tow truck. great!
So while i went to grab a sandwich, I conferred with some friends and decided on movers to unload the stuff at my new place next day. there was no question about it. Finally, the tow truck (which was stuck in traffic as usual) arrived around 8 pm. did i mention we called the hotline around 4ish?? it was a big-ass thing and stalled traffic on Connecticut Ave. for a while to get the truck on the truck basically. while i was watching this unfold, one of my friend's parents were in one of the minivans stuck behind the tow truck and waved to me. they were like hey, Shilpa is that your Uhaul? you look fabulous with it. haha.
Anyway, the next plan was to drive to Capitol Hill with the tow truck driver as my cousin followed behind in his car. As you know, in life there's a first time for everything. I can say this was the second time I got a ride inside a tow truck but as far as tow drivers hitting on me, this was a first. Rodney was his name. When he said i looked 25, I was happy as a fiddle. Of course, questions about India and could he come "knockin' on my crib for Indian food" followed. "Where do you hang out with the girls?" U St. sometimes, I said. "You go to U St.?? Girl, you like to drop it like it's hot!" Then a rather strange qs: "Do you go to male strip clubs?" Umm, no i must confess. I've never been to one. Considering the kind of crrrazy day I had, this line of questioning was pretty hilarious!! But everything is fine now.. the movers came the next day and Rodney went back to his next gig. Maybe moonlighting at one of those strip clubs?

Fall Colors

Monday, 16 October 2006 0 comments
I’ve been procrastinating a bit on the blog side, no thanks to lack of DSL services at my new place. Also blame it on my current sleeping conditions: an air mattress, till my furniture comes in 2 weeks, which certainly is not as romantic as it sounds. It’s not like I’m on some suspended piece of cloth floating on air. It feels like a water bed (and those are terrible too, reminds me of cheap motels) and it’s not the best for my back. There are these weird bumps on the mattress – caused when air is pumped in – and in spite of the cosy, campy feel, I really can’t wait for my bed to arrive. Soon.
I’ve also been discovering the joys that come with living in a proper house instead of an apt. building where the management takes care of the smallest stuff. In the past couple weeks, there have been issues with a door lock, a window blind and the kitchen exhaust fan. Not to mention the weird purple stain I saw in the bathroom sink yesterday, caused by a marker on the back of some cheap tag. I had to spend a good 10 mins. getting rid of that one. Also just confirmed the lifestyle choice of our dear landlord when we were woken up to the sounds of Cher’s “Believe” blasting through the walls on Sunday morning.
But other than that, it’s been a beautiful fall weather weekend, my friends. The holy trilogy of crunchy leaves, crisp air and brilliant sunshine are definitely keeping everyone in high spirits. It feels great to look out the window every morning and just see this huge tree turning colors.
Speaking of seeing, I also saw “The Departed” which was wicked good and checked out Henri’s Rousseau’s “Jungles in Paris” at the National Gallery of Art as part of a friend’s birthday celebrations (I know, so culturally astute) and reminisced more about Boston/Cambridge with some transplants from there. Anyway, I had seen “Jungles” at the London Tate Gallery earlier this year but completely forgot about it until I saw the Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!) painting. On second — and longer — inspection, the tiger looked scared more than anything else. Rousseau was also a graphic illustrator for the newspaper Le Petit Journal. There were many satires depicting man vs. beasts and one was pretty interesting and comical – showing a man and lion in a jeep together, the man trying to control the beast with chains, but the lion sits upright with his mane blowing in full glory and pride.

O Mommy Dearest

Friday, 6 October 2006 0 comments
As we all know the Mother of All Matrimonial Sites is shaadi.com. As the name implies, the site means serious business. From the “quick partner search” to the “astro” columns and “success stories,” it’s a marketing triumph that’s brought all kinds of different people together. I know at least 3 friends who got married through the site and although it’s inspiring, I’m not exactly holding out a candle for The One in Cyberspace.
Anyway, till now I was safe in the cocoon of knowledge that my parents’ use of the Internet was confined to rediffmail.com – nothing more, nothing less – unless you count Maa’s obsession with playing spider solitaire and some game involving wolves. So imagine my surprise when I get an e-mail from Shaadi.com Customer Relations with the subject line “Profile for you.” The body of the mail went on to say “Your friend maa (her e-mail id) wants you to check out this profile.” Needless to say, I was highly amused. Two thoughts crossed my mind: How did she start surfing this site? And besides standard job, family factors, what other qualities was she looking for in a potential son-in-law?
It was time for the weekend phone call, which went something like this:
Me: How did you learn how to surf this site?
Maa: This is so much fun. Your kakima taught me (this is my aunt from Ottowa who is like a pal to me and who I thought, till now, was super cool about not putting any pressure!!!)
Me: and who are these guys you’re choosing?
Maa: I think that chap from Texas is quite handsome.
Me: I thought you said looks weren’t important.
Maa: I’m also looking at this boy in California. He says he is very close to his family.
Me: How touching. And where in California? I am not moving to Sunnyvale.
Maa: This is not funny. By the way, he also has a sense of humor.
Me: Are you going to stop playing solitaire now?

Oh, I do miss my mum :)

Tease of the Bureacratese

Friday, 29 September 2006 0 comments
Probably a good 60 percent of this week was spent in Babudom and the intricacies of Babuspeak. Yes, I am talking of the bureaucrats in DC that are absolutely no different from those of Delhi. In Delhi, whether it was the old and dilapidated Shastri Bhawan (Ministry of Coal) or the swanky new corridors of Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan (Ministry of Civil Aviation), the same type of clerks pushed files, carried chais and played teen patti on the lawns. It’s a bit different here but you can’t help noticing some similarities: the same old bored security guards to the person who issues the visitor pass.
Basically I had gone to procure some public documents at the Department of Education for a story I was co-writing with someone. On Day 1, I managed to get a pass and went to the specific room where said documents would be. Of course, there was this long corridor with the sterile cubicles on both ends. The room was there but the babu was missing. He was on vacation. A nice lady tried to help me but no luck. Totally unacceptable. On Day 2, I decided to show up but there was nobody even to issue me the damn pass. I was also told that I needed to make an “appointment” to get such information! My co-writer and I were livid and since he was up in Boston he couldn’t really help. But he was a pro and having also worked in Delhi as a Post correspondent, he knew the dealings of Babuland. In other words, he pulled some strings. Talked to the man upstairs. Whatever.
And suddenly I got a phone call from some contact who very sweetly and promptly offered to help in every possible way. So third time was a charm. On Day 3, I went there with the “appointment” and got a decent treatment… a nice quiet space to work, use of phone, computer, loo, soda machine, etc. Except when I wanted to make copies of the documents, this lazy ass babu told his boss (my contact) that it was “almost lunch time” (it was only 11:55 a.m., I swear) and he was working on “something else” (yeah, his personal e-mails/blog I bet). So after shooting looks of death at him, I made the copies myself. It's another story how i got the copy machine to work in my favor. But i finally left the confines of Babudom to return to the confines of my cubicle.

Moving - Again!

Monday, 25 September 2006 0 comments
This is my last week living by myself in nice little cubby hole in Cleveland Park. I found a roommate and after putting in major walking hours exploring the city for a suitable apt. to suit our needs, we finally got a place on Capitol Hill that we really liked. This is the first time i actually put in some physical effort to find a place and i may have lost a few pounds in the process... called the Apt. Hunting Diet :) will be shifting with some bags and baggage this weekend and the furniture will go end of Oct.
So i lived by myself for 2 out of my 5 yrs in the U.S. and both times i got harsh lessons in independence and self-sufficiency. but most imp. lessons have been in the "how-to" department: how to use a can opener (by holding can steady), how to hook up the dvd player (by reading the manual), how to react when a stranger walks in to your apt. by mistake when you leave your door unlocked for the first time (that scream that never comes out of your mouth), and of course how to enjoy my lovely company :) going back to living with someone won't be easy but Malini is highly amusing... just as normal women carry lipsticks or chapsticks, she carries around a Tide marker pen to remove food spills on her clothes!!

Steve Irwin R.I.P.

Thursday, 21 September 2006 0 comments

I thought i didn't care about Steve Irwin's death too much, until i saw his memorial service yesterday. In case you were in a cave Irwin is the crocodile hunter who used to do programs on the Animal Planet. I saw him a lot on The Tonight Show. He was totally fearless and loved all sorts of creatures. His little daughter Bindi - yup that's the Indian connection - gave an amazing eulogy in front of millions of viewers without any waterworks. "He was working to change the world so that everyone would love wildlife the way he did. Daddy, I miss you and whenever I look at crocs I will always think of you." Perhaps the most touching tribute i saw since Harry left his "I miss you mum" note on Princess Diana's hearst. And yes, i do watch mass televised memorial services at every given chance.

Metro Musings

Tuesday, 19 September 2006 0 comments
Metro riders continue to surprise... a GWU professor asked my views on Camus (yes, existential angst is written all over my face), another chap offered me a piece of chewing gum (great, i smell bad too) and yet another chap hungrily took my mint breakers when i offered him one (my very own version of a soup kitchen). but the best strangers on the train are still in the metros of Paris and Moscow. so a trip down nostalgia lane...
it was circa 1983 in former Soviet Union and i was waiting for a terribly irresponsible parent to pick me up from swimming practice... tired of waiting till pretty late in the evening, i went down to the metro and headed home. this nice old lady in the train must've seen the tears coming on this 8-yr-old and offered me the best piece of chocolate ever.
in Paris, i simply lost the whole family in the crowded subway (the question of who let go of whose hand is still debatable) but had the good sense to get off at the next station to wait for them. again, this college kid just wanted to stand with this 10-yr-old until my parents came to fetch me. in hindsight, he could've been a totally shady guy but i was reassured by his company. maybe these were all just elaborate plots by my parents to get rid of me... but i think their wish finally came true a few years ago!!! :)

The Day After

Tuesday, 12 September 2006 0 comments
Yes, I remembered. Saw “Path to 9/11” on ABC and Frontline on PBS… both intense and interesting. In spite of the big, bold messages warning viewers it was a dramatization and not a documentary, I fail to see why the network tied up with Scholastic to distribute the movie as a “learning tool” for school kids… will kids even know the difference between the two? PBS had too many shots of people falling from the towers… It felt kind of sadistic to even watch.
Anyway, today morning I had this weird dream about Jon Stewart telling some joke about how washing machines affect marriages. The two musketeers were snickering on the sidelines. Dream over. Then as I was stepping out to work, some woman literally accosted (that’s the only word to describe it) me on the street and said, “good morning.” She scared the crap out of me… I don’t know why… she looked mean and sinister, could’ve been a ghost. Who knows? or maybe she was just a nice, old lady who wanted my earrings. I might have been dreaming again. But I managed to stutter "morning, gggg-gotta go."

The Curse of Kramer's

Thursday, 7 September 2006 0 comments

Once again i found myself at the mercy of a "DC institution" which has consistently wreaked havoc on my so-called dating life. Yup, all the dates i have had here have been consistently bad, if not disasterous. Since it is a nice, well-populated place with the option of coffee/drinks/dinner, the first date can go on as long as you want to. Anyway, none of the men (?) i've met there have matured into anything resembling fruitful.
So tonight i met - on a very last minute invitation - this chap at Kramer's. At first, i thought we weren't going there, but since he suggested it, i rolled my eyes and said, "why the hell not?" I met Mr B online only 2 days ago (maa and married friends told me to be more proactive!!) and he was so insistent on meeting me i thought OK, i've handled other freaks, i can do this, too. I talked to him briefly on the phone and immediately dismissed him... did not sound confident at ALL, had a very saaad desi accent (and i have one, too but i'm a snob about the *type* of desi accent... something more coherent then what he was saying for sure) and just seemed too pushy for my liking.
so we ended up getting dinner there and it occured to me during the course of the conversation, he was getting a soft corner for me. this was due to 3 reasons (i think):
  • he was very new to the city and i was being nice and friendly to him. wanted to meet more people, asked me about what to do, etc.
  • i talked about his hometown in Bhopal which i had visited back in 1992 and he got this glazed look in his eyes. later he mentioned nobody in his 7 yrs in the US of A had talked about Bhopal like i did. what can i say?? i just have a damn good memory!
  • he offered to show me his apt. (i mentioned my woes). "you should move into my apt.," he said. "err, that won't be necessary or even possible," i said. "nono, i meant my apt. complex. it's super nice," he said. hmm. don't think so.

But before all of you rush to his defence and yell, "what's wrong with him? he sounds sooo nice!" let me make it totally clear i'm really not attracted to him. it's not looks, though it is def a factor. it's not his accent, either. though that really bothers me, too. he has zero personality!!! also very full of himself coz he works for the govt - pshaw! so? - and has no inclination to visit India in near future. plus he's got no interest to travel or do anything fun that i like to do. so let me sum up my quandry: nice chap, but i can't date him. i also don't want to pull the "let's just be friends" crap on him. i have lots of friends already :) right now, i have a legit excuse... my cellphone charger is lost... seriously... but is it better to tell the truth?? or should i just ignore the whole thing? he did pay for my meal.

Breezy Weekend

Wednesday, 6 September 2006 0 comments
So i was in Chicago this labor day weekend and for a change it wasn't too windy. i met my lovely cousin sisters and my crazy ol' brother. one of my sisters has just invested in real estate and it looks like she will stay in that city for a long time. i looove the city - lake shore drive, the beautiful buildings always take my breath away - but i might get tired of living there forever. probably the thought of being surrounded by land and nutty Cubs fans :)
anyway, i also visited Evanston, which is home to Northwestern Univ. and where Joyee is slogging away for her ph.d. in math. she was also doing something crazy like car-sitting for a classmate and managed to lose the keys! in the midst of this drama, we grabbed desi lunch at mt.everest. this is the 3rd place i've been to which is called everest. at least the other two had something to do with Nepal... in DC and one in Davis, Calif.
On Sunday, we headed towards Peoria which is about 3 hrs west of Chicago. my uncle and aunt have a massive home there and my cousins and i are always reminded that it's the best place to have some shaadi party! but we had a pretty good party ourselves... watching Maria Sharapova's black dress (and game, i suppose) at the U.S. Open; bbq in the garage (it started raining) and shopping at Steve&Barry's (everything $6.98). but no family reunion is incomplete without someone getting on someone's nerves... ah well, what matters is that we all said our goodbyes in a civilized fashion!

The Demise of a Celestial Body

Thursday, 31 August 2006 0 comments
Thanks to Kanika who found this on the BBC comments section. Hilarious!!

Some observations:
1. An American discovered Pluto. This proves most of the world is anti-American.
2. Dwarf is insensitive. We must refer to Pluto as Planetoidally Challenged.
3. Could this mean Mickey Mouse's dog is really a chihuahua?
4. What if folks on Jupiter do not regard Earth as a planet?
5. Do astrologers have to erase the parts that refer to Pluto's influence on our behaviour?
6. Pluto is the Roman god of the underworld amd judge of the dead. It's not a good idea to annoy him.
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How many other planets will leave the federation in sympathy now that we've pushed out Pluto?And if they all join the Romulan empire then where will we be? I'll tell you. Working as slave labour in the acid mines of Rygel 7 while Darth Vader and Sadam Hussein are lying on sun loungers on Venus sipping Pinocoladas laughing at our sorry acid burn't asses. Probably.
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Holy Astro-Bodies, Batman! Now they're discriminating against planets! What's next? Will Jupiter be an "Obese Planet"?
Planet, once was I, Laughing in the dark.
Uttered it was, I am too small,
Together they sealed my fate.
Orbit in the darkness now, my status is no more.
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Pluto you are the weakest link, Goodbye!
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News just in ... Plutonians have just reclassified Earth ... official report describes the Planet Earth as nothing more that a large blue cauliflower covered in creatures that think they're important.
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This planet is no more! He has ceased to be! 'e's demoted and gone to meet 'is maker!'e's a stiff! Bereft of gravitational pull, 'e 'angs 'is 'ead in shame! 'is planetary processes are now 'istory! 'e's off the twig!'e's lost 'is title, 'e's shuffled off 'is planetariness, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir comets and icy objects!!
THIS IS AN EX-PLANET!!
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To Move or Not to Move

Monday, 28 August 2006 0 comments
A friend who is shifting cross-country to LA to start a new job was waiting for her moving truck to arrive only to discover in horror that the truck was soooo huge it could not turn into her street!! so another truck had to be booked, etc. while she guarded parking spaces with her dear life. i was woken up at 10 am on a Saturday to come over and give her company... and take on any jacks who wanted to evict us from the sidewalk. we hung out there for nearly 3.5 hrs on the sidewalk till the replacement truck arrived!! thank god it wasn't too hot. we munched on cereal, walnuts and figs. spent some good ol' quality time chatting about everything under the sun. it was just as well before she left and stuff... sniff sniff!!!
also met up with alpana and her family later in the evening and did the whole national mall walk.. another exhausting trek but it was fun hanging out with them, of course.
in other depressing moving news, i may have to start looking for a new place because my landlord just hiked up my rent. bah! and i may have to get a roommate this time. again. double bah!!

Clinton and I

Tuesday, 22 August 2006 0 comments
As i heard Bill Clinton's soft, reassuring words on the world AIDS crisis on the Charlie Rose Show - he was on speaker phone from Vegas (err, ever wonder why they never had a world AIDS conference there??) but he still sounded great - i couldn't help feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. we had both celebrated our birthdays this weekend. he made it to 60 and i made it to 31. He had battled with weight, fought an impeachment and survived a marriage. Now he is helping the helpless. I am battling with weight, fighting a low-paying job, and surviving pleas to get married. I'm helpless, too but Clinton is too busy on the lecture circuit to see me. Plus we don't go to the same parties. But it's OK... i'm also working on that book - tentatively called Match.Mom

Pluck of Wisdom

Friday, 18 August 2006 0 comments
Ok so it is officially hip to have thick eyebrows. The catwalks of Milan and Paris are dancing to the tunes of designers who say a little amazon jungle arching over your eyes is good. Seriously, did we need a fashion trend to tell us this stuff?? Me and my band of bushy-eyebrowed friends are arching ourselves over proudly to say: Hah! We always knew that.

Lady in Pink

Friday, 11 August 2006 0 comments

I'm walking along as i normally do (yeah coz i hate running unless it's for a bus or i've been mugged, but i digress) and right in front of me is this crossdresser who is like the spitting image of Ricky Gervais except this chap was a bit taller, hair darker, no beard and wearing a pink dress and a lovely string of pearls to match. so i saw him for the second time and he was wearing the same outfit. maybe he just likes to put it on every thurs. or something. but the resemblence to Gervais was hilarious. why am i bringing up a crossdresser when there are loonies wanting to blow up planes with drinking bottles?? because this guy is just so sane in comparison. plus you gotta love pearls on a guy!!

Cacophonic Mistake

Wednesday, 9 August 2006 0 comments
So I am one of those people who owns a lot of those “Best of…” or “#1 Hits” CDs. And yup, I still listen to my good ol' CD player. Prince, Fleetwood Mac, Beatles, Madonna, even Def Leppard have found shelf space in the “best of” category just because a) I can’t be bothered buying all the albums with my favorite songs and b) itunes wasn’t around back then.
A couple years ago in my zeal to acquire some classical stuff I got a hold of this 2-CD compilation called The No. 1 Opera Album. The name is pretty tacky but it really has all the hits of the opera world – Carmen, Figaro, Hebrews Chorus, Madame Butterfly – you name it, and it’s there. It takes me a while to actually get in to the music (since I’m multi-tasking as usual) but when I do, my falsetto, baritone and soprano come out together in such a way that anyone will be forced to say, "STOP." I've been doing this ritual since I was around 7 (Russian opera singers apparently fascinated me), my mom has threatened to disown me more than a couple times.
Yesterday I did one of those cacophonic performances for my ears only, but methinx a neighbor might have knocked gently to give me a not-so-subtle hint. I know my singing is half-baked, but what I truly believe is that I was supposed to be an orchestra conductor. The control, the drama, the crazy hair – it’s all me. Can’t you see it?? Also, does someone have a copy of Smetana's "Ma Vlast"??

Fearless

Monday, 7 August 2006 0 comments
That's the operating word, my friends. You see there is a girl - with short, blonde hair and a cool, conservative skirt. She doesn't wear dark glasses or high heeled boots but she makes traffic stop. Literally. I've seen her before but this morning i saw her navigate the crossing - just by herself and her walking stick. No help asked and none given. I was a few yards behind her and watched the traffic lights change, the drivers patiently waiting for her to go across. I just saw her and said "Salut!"

Restaurant Week

Friday, 4 August 2006 0 comments
Not even a week actually and i have hopped across three restaurants in my teeny tiny little neighborhood. Indique, as everyone knows, is the place which advertises "unique Indian flavors" and both the ambiance and food is pretty good. I stuck to veggie dishes for a change and even though the paneer was a bit rubbery, the kali daal is always a sure bet. They also have an excellent gosht and but i can't remember the name.
Next was Palena, the cute little French bistro where the bartender makes the best sidecars. The prix fixe menu with a 3-course meal is damn pricey so stick to the $10-12 cafe menu. French cuisine is always a nice break from American standard fare because of its portions (small) and although they use cheese liberally in salads, quiches, crepes, etc., there is a method to the madness. For more on French cheese, go here.
Last night was another cosy place called Yanni's, and yup, if you're familiar with the musician, this place was Greek, too. No snotty maitre'd trying to intimidate you here. Mediterrenean food is healthy and yummy... the spinakopita (grape leaves), spinach pie with feta cheese, mousaka (eggplant with meat and potatoes) were some things we ordered. a friend even tried a liver cutlet with a side of onions and gobi, which was not bad!

Connecting the Dots

Tuesday, 1 August 2006 0 comments
It's sizzling outside but i'm feeling groovy, baby. The past few days have been an interesting story of connecting dots. I must've said "this is so f*ing bizarre" at least 10 times. Amongst the several random connections i made, it was nice to know that cliches like "the world is so small" actually work in my case!! Sorry Tom Friedman.
besides that, the small comforts of just catching up with some old - and new - friends have been oddly reassuring. so far the summer has been the inevitible mix of the good and the horrible but as the Dog Days of August rears its ugly head, i'd like to believe the rest of the year will be as cheerful - if not crazy - as the past few days.

Local War, Local Curfew

Monday, 31 July 2006 0 comments
As part of DC's crime emergency plan, kids below the age of 17 have a curfew of 10 pm to stay out in the streets. After that they have to be accompanied by a parent or guardian and if they're caught, they're shipped off to some kind of waiting shelter for a lecture and wait till someone responsible shows up to pick them up. Yeah right, and this will surely solve the spate of murders and crime in the city... why don't the cops do their job and lets parents do theirs??

Othello Revisited

Saturday, 29 July 2006 0 comments
I got a chance to see Omkara and was simply blown away. It begins with Saif Ali Khan saying "there's a thin line between a fool and a moron" and you're hooked. His depiction of Langda Tyagi (Iago) was fantastic... the foul language, the rotting teeth, the greed, jealousy and angst... he really proved how versatile he is. Ajay Devgan has played the angry young man type before but this character obviously had generous shades of grey. Kareena, Bipasha and Viveik (note new spelling) weren't too bad either. Konkona's portrayal of Emilia was expectedly powerful.
I had accompanied some friends from Afghanistan and they were a bit surprised by the sex, violence and abusive launguage shown in the film - compared to "normal Bollywood fare." But that's what interior India is... the director showed UP thug politics at its ugliest best, besides the usual colors and rustic way of life. It's interesting the plays he's chosen to adapt for desi sensibilities. After Maqbool (Macbeth) and Omkara (Othello) maybe he should complete the trilogy and take a stab at Hamlet or King Lear next. Then collect his laurels at some film fest!

Who Moved My - Laundry?

Friday, 28 July 2006 0 comments
The laundromat in my building basement has all the basic hallmarks of the most uninteresting place to be. It's hot, humid and the ventilation is not the best. There are these old-fashioned dryers that are nothing to be romanticized about. The detergent vending machine is from the 1960s perhaps. A sad couch sits under an equally sad clock on the wall to one side. A huge plastic thing (there's no other way to describe it) says "dump unwanted clothes here" or something like that. I've been tempted to let go of one of my Sarojini Nagar garments but doubt if it's going to Salvation Army or Goodwill. But there is a shoe rack stuffed with old books and magazines in case you're inspired to wait in the heat. It's kind of like a library except you can replace the book you borrowed with something else. Once I flicked Guns, Germs and Steel, among some dog-eared classic editions of Elle or Vanity Fair.
But the thing is - a laundromat is not the best place to socialize. you just go in, dump your clothes, and get out. there's no Friends or Seinfeld-type banter (although i admit i know of at least one person who had an affair with someone she met there!) or 'hey, what's that bleach you're using?' or 'gee, even i have the same shirt.' sometimes there's like a 'oh, i'm almost done here [with this machine]' or a passing smile with a familiar face.
So last night when i went to transfer the garments from ze washer to ze dryer, this couple was standing right next to my machine. So they had to move naturally. I came back about an hour and a half later to retrieve my stuff from ze dryer. And someone had ALREADY taken my stuff OUT of ze dryer, put it in ze laundry basket and basically left me this huge invisible post-it: "here's your stuff. needed to use the dryer. now go."
I have to say i felt kind of victimised! not to say that some random stranger (i think it had to be that couple) had gone through MY clothes. shudder. whatever happened to laundromat rules???

Officially Moved - Again!!

Thursday, 27 July 2006 0 comments

i have officially moved - yet again!! a lot of you have been asking about the whereabouts of www.shilpabanerji.com but that alas, my dear friends, has been put to rest for the time being due to reasons behind my own comprehension.... blame it on the mideast crisis for now. anyway at some point i will reclaim my domain name from the U.N.'s World Intellectual Property Organization ala Tom Cruise and other celebs. but i'll wait for my 15 mins. till then :)
anyway, hope you like my new look and keep writing in. i'll try to amuse you guys in the best way i can - just sheer madness.