I was at a bar in Dupont Circle with some friends and like the rest of junta, we were glued to Wolf & Gang on CNN. Every time the dramatic music came on to reveal “Projections” we cheered. Then those Star Trekky holograms which was just so random and ineffective. But oh, every time John King came on to point at the electoral map, I swear my heart skipped a beat. By 10 pm I knew history was in the making. The 2 African Americans sitting behind our group were already in tears. By the time, Obama came to make his acceptance speech, the rest of the bar became overwhelmed too. One guy standing next to me kept saying “Yay! David F-ing Plouffe!” or “Oprah, we love you, too!” and towards the end it was: “Work it, Michelle. Lookin’ hot!”
Then we spilled out in to the streets where everyone was marching towards the White House. It felt like a revolution and there was true mass euphoria. I must have hugged at least 4 random people and shouted “Bush, pack your shit!” and then “This is Obama’s house, get out!” and a sign which said: “Why Wait Evict Bush Now.” Besides the smell of pot, cigars, champagne and beer around us, there was the sense of a nation finally breaking from its past.
We finally headed home sometime in the early hours, honking our cars in joy and settling in to watch NBC’s Brian Williams and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos give their final accounts of the day. It was bliss to be alive, and we were all Americans that night.
However, as things stand, I am doing fine. I have a part-time job and thanks to a dear friend, I’m living in an amazing apartment in the heart of the city. There’s an oddly liberating feeling not knowing what’s going to happen next and I like it. Relationships have been invariably tested and perhaps a few may have fallen by the wayside. Some passing acquaintances have evolved into meaningful bonds and, conversely, some past meaningful bonds have devolved into passing acquaintances. And some bonds just grow richer and sweeter with the passage of time.
Perhaps the best lesson in all of this has been to irrevocably give up all expectations. How many times have I been advised, or counseled others, not to have any expectations? Whether it’s a promotion, a vacation, or a stupid date – so much easier said than done. It’s not a technique you can master over time, it truly is a life lesson. And for that, I am glad. Never a dull moment!
OK, I just had another 30-something birthday last week. Time for another life inventory:
No job? Check.
No home? Check.
No significant other/pet/fish tank/visiting mice? Check.
For some godforsaken reason, the universe is giving me the biggest bitch-slap ever and I am supposed to get The Lesson from it. What it is, I am still figuring it out. It's been more than two months since I've been unemployed and a little more than two weeks when I received two job offers which did not work out for whatever reason. On top of that, I will not be able to commit to signing a year's lease on my apt. so I have to sell off my furniture, donate the rest, pack up the essentials and shuffle between charitable friends and relatitves. It will be a soulful purge of excess baggage, to say the least.
So I have had the wind knocked out of me. But I've also literally gotten back on my feet again. I know I'm doing much better than a lot of other people might under these circumstances. And perhaps I will look back on these days with wonder and pride at how I managed to pull through it. But for now, I have to keep my head above water and keep swimming to the shore. And make sure to remember another life inventory:
Loving, supportive family? Check.
Amazing friends? Check.
Great resources for my general well-being? Check.
If there is more crap on the way (and there will be), I can take it. And then some.
Initially, as I contemplated my future and what it held for me, it was interesting – and exasperating – to see how others reacted to this piece of news. My family has been largely supportive in spite of the occasional hypothetical plea of “if only you were married.” That argument, in hindsight, was a momentary cry of frustration but unfortunately does no good under these circumstances. But I would not have been able to hit the ground running with my job search without the positive reinforcement from my parents. I could always go home, yes, but first I had to give it my best shot.
As for friends and acquaintances, while some had already gone through a similar situation or knew of someone who had, they gave me a pragmatic insight of the days to come and the decisions I had to make, while helping me land my next gig. There were others who empathized well enough without being too patronizing. But I think many people projected their own fears and insecurities on to me – as if it were truly the end of the world. I agree that your job, your work, your passion, defines who you are to a very large extent. But it should not be the only thing that defines you. However, it is true that most people relate to you depending on what you do and not who you are as a person. How many times have you been a little more friendly to someone you just met because you thought his/her work was interesting or glamorous? It all adds up to the rigmarole of the social hierarchy we choose to live in.
In any case, unemployment certainly has its benefits. You can wake up late, have your pick of a coffee shop with free wi-fi, and garner sympathy drinks from your friends. But as I walked around the city during the day, I was also envious of the people walking about with such a sense of purpose - going to and from their work place - until I realized that I did have a purpose: finding a job, exercising, believing in myself. It is the only thing I have and yes, at the moment, it defines me.
I was merrily walking one morning towards the metro on my way to work. It was a lovely spring day, not much sun, just a hint of breeze. In short, a perfect day for a long walk without your shirt getting soiled. As I passed one of the houses, I noticed a raven. Of course, I had seen all the horror movies related to that bird species: “The Birds,” “The Omen” and “The Crow.” So that’s what I thought of, as I passed it by. The bird must have known something about my thoughts, because the next thing I knew I felt a swoosh above my head as the bird flew to a tree in front of me. Then, again, I just thought the raven must have a low flight trajectory like many birds [have you noticed that lately, it must be something to do with climate change or something]. But the blackbird was clearly after me, and me only. There was noone else on the street! Once again it flew right over my head and I let out a small “Aaaaak! Scheisse” for some reason, I thought German profanity would have an impact on the bird. No, because it came after me a third time and made sure I was out of that street. I ducked my head and ran across the street towards a nanny or mom walking her 2-year-old. It may have been the anti-Christ (there was even a church nearby), but I am officially going to state my preference for birds in cages, thank you very much.
Here’s my gunshot review of Sex and the City: Great clothes and shoes, one amazing bridal montage, four aging but still gorgeous friends whining about their men, bodies and babies and of course, doing anything and everything with an unlimited expense account. Ah, the good life. SATC has struck a chord with so many women, it’s a wonder how so many so-called independent, urbane and progressive women relate to this overly antiquated notion of feeling inadequate and incomplete without a man, a marriage (or a divorce) and children. But you would think when a bunch of women sit and watch The Ultimate Chick Flick in sheer voyeuristic fashion it would instill some sense of congenial sisterhood. So it was rather amusing to see two groups of women fighting over seats — of all things — at the theater where SATC was showing. I had gone for the midnight show and expected a pretty big crowd. There were women in all kinds of clothes (shoes and gay friends were legitimate accessories) and came in sizeable packs. One group of 10 girls had sent one girl to stand in front of the line so she could reserve seats for all of them. She went and reserved nearly an entire row and kept shooing away the hijackers. Until finally, another group of women proceeded to ignore her and sat in the seats anyway. It would seem like hell broke loose. The manager was called, so was the security guard, and accusations of someone hitting someone flew around. My group of girls and the gang of gay men sitting near us took bets about which team would prevail. They finally resolved the situation outside and the girls who took over the seats continued to sit there. Amen, Sistah. Now, can we watch the movie, please?
But have you ever googled anyone and smiled in sadistic pleasure? A very informal and unscientific poll among some friends has revealed that more guys than girls like to do the web trolling for the “looking up old flame” thing. They say they just want to see how she’s doing. Yeah, right. They just want to make sure she really has gained 20 pounds post-school and post-kids so they can go, “Phew. Thank God.” The girls say they just want to see if the guy is doing well and happy and stuff. Yeah, right. They just want to make sure he really has gained 20 pounds and is still secretly kicking himself for losing The One That Got Away.
Anyhoo – have you ever got one of those emails from a random classmate or school acquaintance where they attempted to catch up with EVERYTHING in your life with ONE sentence about theirs? I just did. It went something like this:
“hi i am in Bangalore, did my b.com from LSR and then masters from uk fell in love got married and have 2 kids what about u what u guys upto?"
Talk about a shot-gun fairy tale ending. I had to read it several times because a) could this person’s life be more predictable? and b) she led a fairly straight-and-narrow path and couldn’t have sounded more happier capturing it all in one sentence. I thought about an appropriate reply and I couldn’t come up with much because a) it really is more complicated than a sentence could deserve and b) although I want the fairy tale (once I start believing in it!) as well, it’s comforting to know I have my own, unique way of getting there.
Why Fierce is the New Fabulous
Imagine being feted and dined by one gorgeous man with the best fake Indian accent this side of the Atlantic. Then imagine his four other gorgeous men friends surrounding you and discussing everything from sharp cheese to bad mortgages in a wonderful ritual that surely every girl must go through – intellectual stimulation by your gay friends while watching Top Chef. Don’t get me wrong: Although I am quite used to “being one of the guys” on occasion but to be a double minority – the only straight girl in a room full of gay men – that was definitely a first. But post 2 bottles of wine, the conversation gently, and naturally steered towards sex. It was inevitable. Just when I started feeling so special, I felt kind of left out. But I enjoyed listening... after all, sex, religion and politics are the only three things that everyone has an opinion on. Oh, and did you know Key West is the latest vacation spot after Providence, Rhode Island?
A Holi Mess
Another year. Another potluck. It was even more chaotic than last year – more people, more food, more booze, even more non-Indians! And definitely more singing. Some memorable quotes from the day (as far as I remember):
“I made at least 60 balls last night.”
“What’s South Indian lassi?” “Anything below Bombay is South Indian. Lassi is North Indian though.”
“You’re asking me too many questions. Please mingle.”
“What’s that stuff in your teeth?”
“I want my chai before it runs out of steam.”
“I work in consulting. That’s code word for pimping.”
“I can’t understand what you’re singing but less volume, more harmony, people.”
“Is it 8 pm already? That was a long brunch!”
Operation Beagle Rescue
I was coming home when I saw a little beagle wandering around my street intersection. I thought it was from one of the houses nearby so I said hi and went on my way... and then he started coming down my street and followed me, right into my gate! He sniffed around the yard, and when I shooed him off, he looked a bit scared. I noticed a collar but without any name. I decided to go after him in case he wandered into the street… when I finally caught the little fellow in my arms, he happily started licking my face :)
So I carried him back towards the intersection and asked a friendly face if she knew anything about a missing dog. Luckily, another lady popped her head through her door and asked what was going on. While beagle boy stared at us with his adoring eyes, we talked about whether to call the animal shelter or report him elsewhere. Finally, it was decided she would keep him – since my landlord doesn’t allow pets – and she eventually had to take him to the shelter. I miss my pooch and hope he finds a good home soon :(
Going to Disney
Orlando was literally a trip: kids, old people and swaying palm trees everywhere. I just didn’t get to see Disneyland since I had gone on work. The highlight was meeting these two precious girls, who were 2 and 6, respectively. They decided to befriend me and barrage me with a bunch of questions. From the demanding “Do you like chips or pretzels?” and “What is your favorite color?” to the fairly insightful “Do you still talk to your childhood friends?” and “What color are they – brown or peach?” Sydnee and Avery were a treat to talk to. I gave them conference goodies like chocolates – which they enjoyed – and a stuffed white tiger – which they were not willing to share or part with. At the airport they fought over who would hold my hand, while my other hand held on tightly to my bags. Finally they agreed to take turns. The younger one asked my name again and repeated it to herself a dozen times. “So I will never forget you.” And the older one decided to ask me what I thought of her mommy and daddy (who I work with). “They are both very, very nice,” I said. She thought for a minute. “Yeah, daddy is a bit weird but he can be nice, too,” she said. Amen to that :)
I’m surviving my own version of a brutal season. It’s called Post-Traumatic Dating Syndrome or when you think you might be on a god-forbid perfect date with a good heavens! an almost perfect guy (because we know the perfect guy doesn’t exist) and then reality hits you with a ton of bricks – it was all an illusion.
I met Mr X at one of those suburban jungles — homes with mini vans and a lawn sprinkler lurking somewhere — with barely any intention of getting to know him. We were introduced by a common friend and ended up exchanging info. A few days later I found myself agreeing to meet him for a coffee somewhere in my hood. [Damn, I should’ve met him at the Lincoln Memorial. At least we could have discussed history and the lights wouldn’t be as harsh.] We chatted amicably for a bit before he plunged headlong into an intense treatise on relationships, men, women, exes, and everything that came with it. Couldn’t we share a few laughs and talk about how Cheney and Obama became related? We traded accusations instead.
“You need to be more spontaneous,” he said.
“You just want to kill time before going clubbing with your friends,” I said.
Like a Woody Allen movie gone wrong, this rather testy conversation went on for a while, after which I got tired and wanted to go home. I offered to walk him to his car. He offered to give me a ride home. There were, umm, a few minor distractions on the way. Not terrible. Not great. I reached home and gave him The Side Hug and “I’ll call you soon” line.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to come up?” he asked.
The only thing my friend had told me about Mr Y was that he was “a nice guy.” Go figure. We were to share a train adventure and meet up some other folks for dinner and a show in Baltimore. Little did I know it would really be an adventure. But he lived near my house, walked over to pick me up and we struck up a fairly cordial conversation. Then we saw the crowds and the fire trucks outside the station. Union Station was evacuated and all trains were put on hold. While I scrambled for other options to get to our destination, he was already laughing and saying, “This could be a movie script!” Then he added, “Should we grab a beer in the meantime?” We did. And that’s when I saw it. The ring. Less Frodo, more Committed Husband. He was wearing it on his right hand but who cares. It was a ring aka don’t-even-think-about-it unavailable. So once again, I had to do the whole You’re-a-Cool-Guy-in-a-Buddy-Sort-of-Way (you know what I'm talkin' about).
We had a wonderful time talking about everything under the sun (except his marriage, I wonder why) and then on the train – when we were finally on it. It was definitely one of the most pleasant journeys I’ve spent with a relative stranger. No weirdness, nothing. Just. A. Truly. Nice. Guy. Only I wish he had mentioned his wife during the oh, 6 hours I spent with him?! At one point someone else asked, “Who do you live with?” and he said, “One other person.” So he may be going through some tough times but seriously, why the shady behavior.
P.S. I just found out Mr Y is NOT married after all. However, the ring is still a mystery. Watch this space :)
I was tracked down by an intrepid reporter from a mainstream Indian newspaper to be asked that profound qs: what is a quarter-life crisis? It is apparently the "it" topic being covered in hazaar places these days to take the pulse of desi youth and all that. But coming from the same tribe, I was happy to spew, umm, some profundity and help out in her quest. Would I be willing to be quoted as a 32-year-old singleton? Would I be willing to give out the name of my blog? Would I be willing to eat cheese and crackers for an entire day? The answers to all those questions were yes. And then the article came out and I clicked on it and scanned for my name, or my blog’s name, at least – wait! Where was it all? Missing. Where was my profundity? Missing. I wasn’t too disappointed, though. For two reasons:
1. Since it was about the QLC (did this acronym exist before?), there were too many people in their 20s in the piece. The very judgmental editor pushed me to the bottom of the copy. And I don’t know who made this decision – writer/editor – but the quote they finally did use was the least interesting and had no context to the rest of the story! But of course I understand sadistic journalists. I’m one of them.
2. And since I do have a blog to air my rants, perhaps you, gentle reader, might care enough to read my Original Pearls of Wisdom for Fascinating Feature Sunday Piece:
“What is a quarter-life crisis? A quarter-life crisis is supposed to be when you hit a wall and you don't know what the future holds for you or what exactly you want from life. If you take it more literally – if the average life expectancy of a person is 75, you hit a quarter-life crisis at 25. But with life expectancies growing, so does the age of the crisis. For today's youth in India it could mean getting everything you want by 30 – job, marriage, kids, house, car, world domination – and then hitting a wall. What next? So it doesn't matter if you're single or not, I think everyone goes through this process. The crisis may be more magnified if you are single and face societal pressure to "settle down" in the more conventional sense. Will I ever get over this crisis? Unlikely. I need to sustain my blog traffic.”
Oh, and please don’t ask me the name of the newspaper or a link to the article – totally irrelevant, and if you’re that curious, I’m sure you intrepid types will find it!!
So anyway: I like DC because I see history everywhere I walk, because I see dead Christmas trees waiting to be collected in January after the fuss of being lit and surrounded by presents, because I do bump into the same people at the same 5 places and I don’t really mind, because I see at least four different skin colors on the metro who are reading books like “Freakonomics” or “Confessions of a Video Vixen,” because there are a lot of smart people who take their work and fun in equal seriousness, because you can get a very good crepe for $7, because nothing beats Bush bashing when you’re in a bar a mile away from where he lives, because I don’t have to live in a house behind a picket fence in the suburbs and spend my weekends at Home Depot, because even though people recycle relationships, there are still enough crazy singletons and crazier married friends who keep it interesting, because there are at least SIX Scottish terriers who live on my street, because I can still walk home at 12 a.m. and feel relatively safe, because even though nobody cares what you’re wearing, they will say you look nice if you do or not say anything at all if they’re indifferent, because nobody here is totally indifferent to the world around them and for the most part they do know what’s happening in sub-Saharan Africa, because for every cabbie who has conned you there are two cabbies who are pretty decent, and because this year, I might, I just might be convinced to run a marathon in this cause celebre-fitness obsessed capital.