Because I am a material girl..kind-of sort-of

Pretty things make me happy. They really do. Whether it’s sparkly shoes or LBDs or LWDs or a great pair of skinny jeans or accessories or beautiful Little Mermaid duvet or a perfectly drawn sketch. Or a Norman Rockwell painting. Or Harper Seven Beckham. Seriously, that child is so pretty!!

Which is why, when I laid out a bunch of delightfully delicate little souvenirs that I bought from my recent trip to Malaysia and Hong Kong, I wasn’t surprised to find that my bed filled up with them as quickly as my heart filled with happiness.

Take the Snoopy nail clippers I picked up at a small store in Langkawi..

Red and white Snoopy nail clippers. I love me my Peanuts merchandise!!

Red and white Snoopy nail clippers. I love me my Peanuts merchandise!!

Aren’t they precious!! Now, anything to do with Peanuts is going to make a happy child anyway..but these clippers, with their functionality and actual usefulness, seem as fabulous as I’m sure Snoopy believes he is, as a WW I Flying Ace battling his arch enemy The Red Baron. “Curse you, Red Baron”.

Taking on the Red Baron..fabulously

Taking on the Red Baron..fabulously

Next to Snoopy, on my bed, was a lot of Disney stuff. My beautiful Disney necklace, which I like to proclaim truly may be the key to happiness (as corny as it sounds)..

The key to Happiness

The key to Happiness

Minnie Mouse came in two different avatars: yellow, bookish and polka-dotted (as a bookmark) and outright nerdy with glasses (as a pin)..

Minnie's two avatars

Minnie’s two avatars

..and she keeps great company to my other bookmarks (like the yellow ladybug, pictured above) and these ladies)..

They're not ladybugs..but they sure look pretty

They’re not ladybugs..but they sure look pretty

There were luggage tags that featured the lovely Ariel. There was also a stern-looking Lisa Simpson USB drive. And the sunlight hit my new pink gym watch and my what-others-called-Cinderella-slippers-but-I-won’t-because-Cinderella-is-pretty-much-my-least-favourite-Disney-princess-and-so-rather-irreverently-I-might-just-call-them-Lucy (shoes), just perfectly. Like it does all pretty things..

Pink by Domo

Pink by Domo

Lucy

Lucy

All pretty things make me happy. Take pretty food for instance. How is one supposed to not feel deliriously wonderful when there’s a plateful of this in front of you? Photograph courtesy Vikram Viswanath

Yum. Full stop.

Yum. Full stop.

All of this makes it seem like I’m a materialistic little nugget (or does food not qualify?). Well, I am..but only because. Because. Because. I don’t know. Pretty things make me happy. Period.

Sure, I could write about the overwhelming beauty of nature and post a picture of a double rainbow or a frozen lake or some beautiful autumn foliage. All things that’re extremely pretty and make me quite happy..sure. But sometimes, just sometimes, I feel it’s alright to sit back and gaze with wonder at something more tangible. Something you can touch and feel against your skin. Something that cost you money, perhaps. But was worth it. Like your shoe collection. Or a box of Miss Dior perfumes. Or those skinny jeans I was talking about. It’s alright to feel happy because of pretty, material things. You’ve earned them.

To be enamoured by a tattooed bisexual hacker

I need Lisbeth Salander. I’m on Book 2 of the Millenium trilogy (most people know it as the ‘Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ book series). It’s taken a while (partly because I was on my self-bestowed exile from all things literary); but as expected, I’ve reached the stage when I start to believe a fictional character could materialize into reality and take on a very important role in my life.

Growing up, I did that with many different characters: I wanted Huck Finn for a friend, I wanted TO BE Nancy Drew..

The first Nancy Drew mystery I ever read

The first Nancy Drew mystery I ever read

And I so wanted to hang out with any of the Famous Five (but I was always partial to Julian) and have stories read out to me by the dad from ‘When Daddy Was a Little Boy’..

Daddy reading bedtime stories to his little girl

Daddy reading bedtime stories to his little girl

Little Daddy..throwing his beloved ball under the car

Little Daddy..throwing his beloved ball under the car

I wondered what a quiet hand-gestures-only conversation with Chief Bromden would be like, I wanted to suffer with Kira and figure out the winter-time mystery of the ducks at Central Park for Holden Caulfield. I wished to work with Dominique Francon and Howard Roark, go traipsing through the snow with Jo March and speak cockney with Eliza Dolittle. I yearned to find and be with a man like Aragorn and conspire with Natasha Hyatt (that devilishly beautiful fiend from ‘The Basic Eight’).

The Basic Eight: Heathers, for the 21st century

The Basic Eight: Croquet & Heathers, for the 21st century

At various points in my life, each of these characters came by and played their predefined roles in a variety of interesting little skits in my head. But Lisbesth Salander is different.

Never before had I fancied a brilliant computer hacker with a photographic memory and a violent past, for a friend or a confidante. But I need someone like Salander in my life right now. There’s been too much brutality recently: on the news (what with the Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro) and in PS3 games (the Origami Killer from ‘Heavy Rain’). I need someone like Salander to kick ass and avenge everything wrong done to her. I realized I’d been rooting for her despite her maniacal ways. Maybe even because of them. I need someone like Salander (small, frail, awkward) to overcome her obstacles. Oh..and there’s also a project at work where I could use her hacking skills. Then of course, if I was in possession of her skills, I might as well hack into some fraudulent multi-billionaire’s accounts and keep a few million dollars for myself. And the work project could wait.

Until then, I’ll just turn the pages and continue reading. Go Lisbeth!!

12.40 am. Can't put the book down. Except to post this :P

12.40 am. Can’t put the book down. Except to post this :P

Getting over 2012, seven months later

I could pretend that it hasn’t been nearly 2 years since I wrote anything on my blog. I could pretend that in those 2 years, my life didn’t nearly turn upside down. And I could pretend to be exactly the same person I was on August 26 2011, the last time I wrote a post (read, Dissecting “A” at http://transiberian.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/dissecting-a/). Or well, quite simply, I could tell the truth.

After all, taking up a new job, changing fields (from criminology to travel & community management), moving to a new city (Mumbai to Bangalore), making new friends, living with people I didn’t know until I met them at the new job..is nothing to be ashamed of. There’s no reason to lie. And oh yes..I was dumped unceremoniously by someone I’d been with for 6 years. Phew. Typing that felt good. Now let’s move on.

To say that 2012 was a crazy year for me..would be as huge an understatement as saying, “Nutella tastes nice” or “Burberry makes nice clothes”..both of which are true in that they positively reaffirm the winning aspects of Nutella and Burberry, but “nice” isn’t the word you’d use to describe the flavourful chocolate-hazelnutty brilliance of Nutella or the tartan genius of Burberry..and surely, while “crazy” as an adjective is nowhere as diffidently vanilla as “nice”, I still believe my year 2012 deserves a more befitting adjective to describe it.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of any that does. To begin with, it was a year of many firsts for me: my first time snorkeling, the first grasshopper I ever chewed on (and loved the taste and crunch of). Cue picture, courtesy Richa Devi:

Me. Eating grasshoppers. Yum. The grasshoppers. Not me.

Me. Eating grasshoppers. Yum. The grasshoppers. Not me.

My first trip with just friends that wasn’t a weekend camping trip. Until then, every major trip I’d been on, within India or abroad, was with either family or my boyfriend. It was 8 1/2 days of utter joy and adventure in Thailand:

Sun and a lotta fun in Thailand

Sun and a lotta fun in Thailand

2012 was also the first year that I got a gorgeous themed birthday cake (big <3 and kisses for Vikram Viswanath, who arranged for it):

WP_000282-001

My super delicious and awesomely cool LOTR birthday cake. There was Gandalf. There was Bilbo. Even the ring was there (Bilbo’s holding it). The hobbit and the wizard sit just outside BB’s hobbit hole..it was freaking awesome!!

And also the first year I had a proper 7 course birthday dinner at a restaurant (Caperberry) known for its experimentation with molecular gastronomy:

Caperberry collage

So much yum and posh at Caperberry <3

Aaaand..it was the first complete calender year I paid rent entirely with my own money. Nothing much to hoot about, but it’ll do.

Then again, it was also my first time being dumped. Yikes. THAT was not pleasant. On hindsight, though, that’s not what bugs me most about last year. Being broken up with sucks, sure, especially that first time. And especially after 6 years of being together. But what sucked even more for me, was realizing that 2012 was the first year I did not do things that I really cared about. The first in over-25 years, that I didn’t sketch a thing. Sure, I doodled lots of my usual cross-legged-well-dressed-wide-eyed-and-pretty-looking-down-at-the-world-and-everyone-in-it girls, on practically everything from notepads to tissues to post-its, but that’s not the same.

I drew something like this one:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Or this one:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Or like any one of these:

Collage

That’s also not saying that I’m any good at sketching..but I’ve managed to churn out some not-too-shabby drawings since I was a toddler (with my most recent non-doodles on display here: http://transiberian.wordpress.com/my-artwork/). Note: I realize I’m pimping, but it’s MY blog after all and since I haven’t been here for long, I may also have forgotten blog-writer etiquette..so bear with me.

What made 2012 worse, though, was that it was the first year (since 1988, when I first started reading independently as a 3 year old) that I did not finish reading a single book. Cue gasp. 

For anyone who knows me, it’s easy to understand why not managing to complete reading even one book the entire year would constitute a much greater inadequacy on my part than failing to hang on to the man my parents were already envisioning as their future son-in-law: the good looking PhD/post doctoral research fellow at one of the world’s top 10 universities, that I’d been dating for over 6 years. For the uninitiated, the book thing is sacrilege. My books are, quite literally, my most prized material possessions. From the numerous paperbacks I bought over the years (some for under 30 rupees) to the illustrated, nearly-75-year old paperback copy of the ‘Pygmalion’ to the hard-bound-in-24 carat-gold copy of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ to of course, the 50th anniversary edition of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ that I bought on a sun-drenched English afternoon for what cost half my monthly rent in pounds (!!), these books represent everything I love and admire in life. Buying books, collecting them, reading and re-reading them to the point that the line between reality and fiction does sometimes appear blurred and yet you continue reading because after all, THIS is what it’s all about. This is where you differ from those who do not read. Those who do not enjoy reading. Your books will come to your rescue, so that just when you think that your own life is strangely similar to that of Sonya from Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, you will snap back to reality and realize that no, in fact, it is not. That there is a marked difference between a girl living in 19th century czarist Russia (tied to a man who believes he has committed the perfect murder) and a small, slight girl living in 21st century India, seems laughably obvious to others. But it’s normal to get sucked into an alternate reality while you’re reading a particularly gripping book, and believe that fictional, meticulously created world to be yours. And you revel in the fact that you can tiptoe so dangerously close to another world and yet not teeter over. For that, is what your books give you. Knowledge (of the difference between the 2 worlds), imagination (to picture yourself in that world or transform your reality to match the fictional one) and the choice (to not go unraveling into a make-believe world). You juxtapose the 2 worlds perfectly. And you remain sane. Waiting to take up the next book on your list.

There. My love affair with books has been long. And thoroughly splendid. To not have read any book for all of 2012 is something that makes me cringe, while saying out loud. Or while writing it. Or even thinking in my own head. Compared to that, being dumped by a so-called “catch” doesn’t seem all that disappointing. And in a clear case of no-sour-grapes-at-all, I say to the widely acknowledged eligible bachelor I was seeing for so long, “Sir, my angst over losing you was true. And it lasted for a few good months (no point denying that). But like the typical has-been starlet that captures the audience’s attention for approximately the time it takes for a new sensation to spring up in her place, only for both of them to slowly fade away from public memory to be replaced by still newer, fresher, even-more-easily-replaceable-by-other starlets, your presence in my life slowly but surely faded away until now, a year later, you are (in the words made famous by Gotye) just ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ {for those who, for unimaginable reasons, have never heard of the song, (OR FOR MY PARENTS) here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UVNT4wvIGY}. And no, there won’t be a sad, broken-hearted rendition of it, sung by me”. 

Because you see, the people in your life come and go. Friends, co-workers, teachers, bosses, maids, nannies, neighbours. For the important ones, you wish to stay in touch with them for as long as can be. But for the super-important ones, the ones that you feel you cannot do without (or you don’t want to do without), you bring to their lives something so quintessentially YOU, something so meaningful that they, in turn, want to never voluntarily vanish from your lives. They, in turn, strive to bring their best and most adorable selves to the relationship. And so the equilibrium is maintained. Everyone’s happy. These are the ones that matter. All the others, they can always be replaced by books.

My current book nook. This is 1/200th of my actual book collection (which is still back home)..but until I find a place of my own, that massive set is staying put with my parents.

My current book nook. This is 1/200th of my actual book collection (which is still back home)..but until I find a place of my own, that massive set is staying put with my parents.

Dissecting “A”

Its amusing how the 2 “A”s that’ve been bombarding us on television for the past week and more are so distinct from each other..and yet similar in their capacity to generate mass appeal. The Anna rhetoric and all the confounding media and popular scrutiny it has conjured up is wisely (and thankfully, even for me as the author of this post) NOT the protagonist of this here post. Its the “other” A, that’s been doing the rounds and obsessively developing a following that’s a tad freakish (to say the least). 

The new Airtel advertisement. I mostly always find myself completely disenchanted by popular phenomena..but I found myself unable to stop thinking about this ad in particular and what it signifies. A. I hum it quite a lot, which is great for the brand because clearly that’s the plan..to get people humming the song and talking about it etc. B. I feel so deviously sarcastic and jaded with it, that its starting to get amusing now. Not, I presume, the right attitude for a post on something that has become so sensationally popular. But well..we can’t all like the same things (thank goodness for that!!)

So we roll over to channel after channel with the same song being played out and a bunch of delightfully happy youngsters parade their youth (in all its brash un-craven glory) before us. They sing, they dance, they swear foul words at each other, they bail each other out from jail time, copy in exams and generally do things that – apparently – most youngsters do nowadays. Have always been doing (something that I realized  in a rather alarming manner, when I realized that even people in their 30s were addicted to this song and dance routine). How splendid for them all!! How even more splendid for those who conceived this idea!! To have these kids narrate experiences that’re supposedly “typical” of one’s college years. Nostalgic much?

Yeah..I don’t think so. I’m nearly 27 years old (which makes me roughly 7-10 years older than the generation being portrayed in the ad) and yet a few years younger to a large group of people who’re devouring the ad as if it has the capacity to turn back time and return them to their youth.

I don’t understand it. Was I the only one who went to college and never got arrested and had to be bailed out? Was I the only one who abhorred copying during examinations (was infact so single-minded and focused while writing my exams, that copying never even figured anywhere on the mind’s horizon)? Was I the only one who spent 5 awesome years in college learning wonderful things about Psychology and Philosophy and French and actually reveled in being a good student? It can’t have been..because I made friends for life, in college. They’re few (unlike the kids in the ad whose brains are getting fried trying to remember the names of all their “friends”..those poor kids)..but they’re my “friends”. Not acquaintances. But friends.

We spent our years in college laughing and quoting P.G. Wodehouse, studying Freud and Kant and gathering knowledge about everything from rock and roll to world history and fashion to French dinner etiquette. We learnt our wines and our French verb conjugations. We spent our time listening to the genius that are The Beatles and Oasis and Don Mclean and Simon & Garfunkel and Pink Floyd etc. We watched Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn and we tap danced to drunken glory on a terrace garden.  We watched movies and tried to come up with our own casting couches for when we’d be old and rich and turning Mario Puzo’s ‘Fools Die’ into a movie. We discussed the songs and poetry of Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas respectively. We read everything from Ayn Rand to Thomas Harris and we discussed Objectivism and psychopathy with equal madness (I say “madness” because there was frenzied life and purpose to those discussions). We didn’t ever have to be bailed from the gaol and we didn’t waste precious time trying to remember the names of people who didn’t matter to us. If we didn’t remember their names, they probably weren’t important enough..and they were NOT our friends. 

I realize we were soaked in nostalgia for an entirely different time..and things are very different for youngsters nowadays. But I can’t help but think..didn’t others (besides my few friends) from my generation not have a college experience anything like mine? Were things really so different outside of my pretty pink bubble? Was the bubble really so impenetrable..both ways? Have things really changed so much and so drastically in the 6 years that I’ve left college? Its scary in a way because it makes me seem much more weird than I like to believe I am (and I do believe I’m quite tremendously weird!!).

We often think of ourselves as products of our generation..and then something comes along (quite naturally) and it points out (quite harshly) that you’re not!! That you’re not and cannot be typecast into this generation or that. That you as a person cannot align yourself with either this or that point of view. Its amusing yes..but not overly so. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. I really don’t.

My love affair with a genius..or two (Part 4..the end)

I’ve been in love with Roger Federer since Wimbledon 2004, a year after he won his 1st major and 2 Grand Slam finals later (both of which I didn’t support him at). Everything that I loved and admired about Steffi is inherent in Federer’s game and nature too. From their single-handed backhands to their “cool-almost-dismissive-of-their-opponents” gait on court to their enviable always-sweat-free look to their lovely families, there seems to be an uncanny similarity between them. I was happy with my Federer worshiping (although I wouldn’t lie about the heartache he sometimes causes within me). Federer is the perfect man, a real version of Ayn Rand’s “man as he ought to be” aka Howard Roark. His genius doesn’t need further explaining. I was fine with all of it until Wednesday last week. 

After winning the 1st two sets against Jo Wilfred Tsonga, Federer lost the quarterfinal match in a fashion that I wouldn’t have been able to withstand. I went off to sleep after he lost his serve in the 3rd set. It was just past 7 or 8pm Indian time..too early to call it a night. I huffed a bit, annoyed at Federer for having lost the momentum that he’d clearly gained by winning a near-perfect tiebreak in the previous set. I dozed off believing he would win. I woke up 2 hours later, crying hysterically. I didn’t know why I was crying. I hadn’t dreamed any unpleasant dreams or thought of anything particularly sad. I was alarmed and confused. I sat in front of my laptop and I saw a message my close friend had sent me a while ago, while I was asleep: “he lost”. 

Many have tried to analyze the fall of the game’s most graceful player, in the past week alone. Some even seem to think that their tennis-viewing days are numbered, if Federer retires soon or keeps losing in earlier rounds. I tried to bypass all the discussion and argument. I even watched the men’s final without even a modicum of bitter feelings towards either Djokovic or Nadal (an accomplishment for me).

Competition is the essence of all sport, but some people transcend competition. Their perfection surpasses their sporting adversaries and then vies with little 9 year old hearts and wiser 26 year old ones to allow them to be worshiped for more than their art. They ought to be worshiped for their being. They DO. But more importantly, they ARE. Perfect specimens in a flawed world.

My love affair with a genius..or two (Part 3)

Her art (she was often referred to as a ballerina on court) was tennis. I never aspired to be a tennis player. Among the many sports which I’m terrible at, tennis would rank right up there with beach volleyball as a sport where I’ve been at the venue and held the equipment, but never attempted to play (I’ve been on tennis courts and beaches and I’ve held a tennis racquet and a volleyball!!). But my love and respect and admiration for Steffi went beyond her game. I admired her as a person.

While in college, my best and I would have long discussions about how artists, their work and their personal lives, should be kept separate. How its only their art and the pleasure and satisfaction you derive from it that matters. We were very philosophical about it all. But the fact remains that some people go beyond your self-created barrier around their art and suck you into their personal world of perfection in such an astonishing way that you don’t resist. You don’t want to resist. You revel in the idea that perfection like that exists. That there are humans who’re brilliant at what they do, geniuses even, and are also good people. Call it pessimism or cynicism about the world we live in, but this perfection belongs to a rare species. They don’t come around too easy. Steffi Graf is one such specimen (I use the word with utmost reverence).

Over 17 years have passed by. I’m now in my mid-20s..no longer the blue-eyed child of my youth, inquisitive and precocious. Books and music and movies still mean the same to me as they did in 1994, in fact they mean a lot more. My guest list for the greatest celebrity after-party is still leaning heavily toward musicians and writers (albeit with a few more researchers and a much-wider variety of artists). It is their art that beckons me. It is their art that soothes me and astounds me. But 17 years after Steffi Graf changed something in my DNA, another person comes along and does the same. He tweaks it a little further.

To be continued..