Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Agonizing Symbol

I just finished reading Dan Brown's excessively L-O-N-G book called The Lost Symbol. While his two other books--The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons--featuring the cool history-symbolism professor Robert Langdon were quick, interesting and entertaining reads, TLS is anything but quick. It's easily 200-pages excessive as a result it never seems to end. It has sentences such as "He felt his inner compass spin out of control." It has way too many twists and turns than are necessary. And finally, the ending is a huge cop-out. It's convenient, easy and a big yawn.

Spare yourself the trouble. Stay away from this Dan Brown.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Perfect Word

I have just learned that the word ABRACADABRA used by magicians of all ages all over the world, comes from the Aramaic word ABRAHADABRA, which literally translates into "I will create as I speak."
So clearly this reiterates once again, that the human ability to share words is the most powerful creative force in the world. Just one word can create, destroy, wreck havoc, soothe, console, and uplift.
Is this the right place to admit that my favorite word is "imagination?"

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Today, a conversation over breakfast led me to answer an essential question. If there was one key tool or habit that Indians could learn from Americans, which one would I point towards? And vice versa?

Having now worked in both the US as well as India, I would say, without an iota of hesitation, the willingness to work. Or work ethic. Or just a sincere attitude towards honest, hard work. However we might choose to define. Whatever words might do justice to this concept. Here in America, very rarely have I walked in to an office, any office for that matter, and not been greeted with a smile. (Airlines offices at New York's JFK Airport might be the only exception to the rule.) Otherwise, I have visibly felt the willingness to work in the other person's body language. I have been greeted with eye contact and a smile, and either the matter has been attended to immediately or someone has called me back with details later. In comparison, I have remembered several offices back home and my nightmarish trips to them either to request for interlibrary loan, or to sort out my taxes, or point out an error in the phone bill. And been greeted with disinterested grunts or lackluster attitude.

Do I sound as if I am generalizing? Perhaps, although I will hasten to add that I myself have been fortunate to work with mostly excellent professionals back home. They have been exemplary bosses who have been generous enough to teach me everything I know today about the ideal workplace.

And what can America learn from India? Warmth, hospitality, respect for the older generation. I have never been to a friend's house in India, where the mother has said, "If you are hungry, you can make yourself a sandwich from the fridge." Having lived here for four years, I can see the justification from her point of view. She is being polite and friendly and opening her house to me. But my Indian upbringing wants to jump to the conclusion that she isn't friendly enough, or warm enough or hospitable enough. What kind of casual nonchalance is this, especially towards your guests? Now if it were my own mother greeting any of my friends, she would cook a feast. She would serve the food herself, she would shower questions about the guest's well-being and spare neither money nor effort to ensure their comfort.

On the same note, every time I see exceedingly flippant or disrespectful student attitudes towards teachers, I cringe and think to myself, "This may not have been possible in most Indian universities." Which is not to say that I am naive or foolish enough to assume that Indians never misbehave with authority figures. They do so, I have done so, but our cultural accouterments are such that most of us would think twice before telling a teacher something as banal as, "I missed only three classes this semester. I think it's unfair that I did not get an A!" Where on earth does this sense of entitlement come from?

Nevertheless, I will continue negotiating my twin worlds and although I have been told not to compare, I will allow myself to do so. I think, for me, that will be the easiest way to continue to let my mind grow.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


I am currently reading, among other things, an essay on Draupadi by Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik and The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. While the first one is about one of my favorite ficitional characters of all time and it's extremely interesting, the second one is a big fat tome that is bound to go the same route as two other works of Brown in the recent past. Yes, I am sure the movie version is not too far off. But can we please have a different Robert Langdon than Tom Hanks? He seems too ill at ease to be Langdon, in my humble opinion.

On other entertainment related news, I have just finished watching two seasons of True Blood, the very graphic, very American tv series based in the fictitious town of Bon Temps where everyone knows everyone, everyone is not what they seem to be, everyone has secrets, and everyone has an opinion regarding vampires, shape-shifters, and other such creatures. Because guess what? All of them live, not peacefully, in Bon Temps. It's a blood-drenched, often gory, often tongue-in-cheek look at human failings more than anything else. And I love it. Can't wait for Season 3.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Most Saturdays, at about 7:30 am, I can be found in one of Moscow's wonderful bakeries. I usually get myself a sausage croissant or an everything bagel with cream cheese and read for a while before heading over to one of the cafes or to the public library.The next few hours I spent either reading or writing. Of course, a mug of coffee is never too far away from me.

There are few things I look forward to more than this ritual--all by myself--that I try to undertake at least once every week. At the end of those few hours, I feel rejuvenated, as if I have physically removed cobwebs of exhaustion, unnecessary conversations and arguments and the clutter of every life.

When I am at Wheatberries, every Saturday morning, a group of about eight septuagenarians comes in and they join two table together to sit down for some food, coffee and conversation. I overhear their stray sentences every now and then. One of them will reminisce about an event that took place forty years ago, another will chime in to remind him that something similar happened just yesterday with someone else. I always listen to them and think how wonderful it must be to grow old with friends you have had and known for so many years. What an accomplishment, what a true gift!

Now please tell me your rituals.


A new blog. A fresh start. My second stint in the realm of blogging. Why am I doing this? I am not sure.

My earlier blog titled Because I Said So stayed with me from 2006 to 2009. I wrote a total of 141 posts. And had a good time. But lately, even though I felt the urge to scribble every now and then, somehow the old blog felt limiting. And when something begins to feel that way, you know it's time to move on, to try something new, to breathe a fresh life into the old.

And so, this is my second blog. Will this help me vent more, vent regularly? Not sure. But I will make an honest attempt. That's a promise for sure.