Inspired by Life

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Morning Masala.

* Young girl at the train station reading a pamphlet listing all State and Local Propositions to vote for and whether to vote YES or NO on them. Leading the list - Proposition 8 - restores the definition of traditional marriage (only in their definition of the Prop it said: Unfair and Unjust) - Vote NO.

* Lady on the train making a large sign on fluorescent green poster board with the words: KQED : Urge Pelosi to debate Cindy Sheehan. Don't waste free air time. (Apparently KQED, a TV station, just gave Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Congresswoman 60 mins of free Air Time to give her schpiel)

* Two women sitting behind me on the train were in deep conversation, punctuated by some foul language once or twice, expressing their lack of understanding why the Mormons were discrminating gay people (false). Vote Yes on Prop 8 to preserve the definition of traditional marriage that 61 % of Californians voted for and was overturned by 4 judges. One of them went on to say that her niece was getting married in the Mormon temple and she was informed of the protestors in front of the temple. She wondered how the heterosexual couples would feel if they were not allowed to be married; and then expressed her regret at missing a friends party, especially the Oktoberfest keg.

* Rode my bike to work from the train station - 1.5 miles in 10 mins!!! Cut my time down by 5 mins..getting better everyday and healthier!

Hope you have a fabulous day!

Midnight Munchies...

Yesterday was one of my usual long days at work, but I felt unusually tired when I got home. So I stayed right where I had sat down when I walked into my apartment and did not move a muscle. For background music, we listened to the dueling growlers - my stomach and Aaron's stomach.

Realizing that nothing but food could calm these two monsters down, we did a mental checklist of everything we had to eat in the house. Rice - too long to cook; chicken - too long to thaw and then to cook; etc...finally we decided on something that was quick and easy: AREPAS...

I know some of you are like "A-what-As?" Arepas are the most typical food in Venezuela. It is easy to make in just a few minutes. Arepas are made out of corn flour and water..that's it. And you can fill it with anything you want or just eat it plain with some butter drizzled over the top. They are soooo yummy!!!

Aaron served his mission in the Barcelona, Venezuela mission and this was part of his staple diet there. He made us some yummy arepas late at night and we devoured them once we filled them in with goat cheese. I had lots of Venezuelan friends and had eaten a fair share of arepas in my day. So it worked out beautifully...although we should eat earlier in the evening, one arepa filled with cheese just hit the spot.

We were full and happy ; the dueling ogres went to bed and so did we! Mission accomplished!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Eye-Gor!! Froderick!!!

On Saturday, I was in the middle of a systematic swing of doing chores. Part of this included doing laundry (which is very expensive to do if you live where I live). So I put a load of wash in and continued on my chore completion. Much to my dismay, when I tried to dry my clothes, the dryer decided to conk out ( die). Both my roommate and I had planned on doing laundry that day the dryer threw a wet blanket on our plans, quite literally.

With Aaron to the rescue by letting us do the rest of it at his house, we had a few hours to kill. So my roommate brought along this movie to watch - it was suggested to her by one of her students who was aghast that she had never watched it. Well, neither did I - it shows that we are behind the times in movie watching ;) This was also the same day as the Cal Berkeley - UCLA game, so we had the house to ourselves and wide screen TV! Sweet deal!!!

So the suggested movie was Young Frankenstein. I am not a huge fan of horror movies but in the spirit of roommate bonding, I decided to watch it. A decision I will never regret!!! It was a satire and you had to pay close attention to the dialogue to actually get some of the jokes. The first link is the introduction of Igor to Frederick. Watch it to understand the second link and the reason for the title:

The following link is to the scene that is one that my roommate and I have come to quote quite frequently since then and included it in a text message:

I love this movie and want to own it now - my one contribution to Halloween, a selfish one at that. It was hilarious and brings instant fits of laughter to us whenever we try to quote it!!!

A classic indeed!

Monday, October 27, 2008

An Ideal Husband

No - it is not my list for things I look for in an ideal husband...although that would be kind of fun...

Aaron and I went to the Cal Shakes Outdoor Theatre a while ago to watch this play titled "An Ideal Husband" by Oscar Wilde. Both of us LOVE theatres, plays and the like and we love Shakespeare. So Aaron surprised me and took me to this play. It was one of the best plays I have seen in a long time and the cast was fantastic!!

Oscar Wilde, of course, is a very colorful writer and this play was thoroughly enjoyable. So weeks after we watched this play, I found the entire script online and sent it to Aaron. We enjoyed reading it and reliving moments of the play.

Yesterday evening, we were sharing a quiet evening and decided that it would be fun to read the play together and enact it to the best of our abilities - accent included, costumes excluded. We had a blast!!!! So I read most of the roles in the beginning and Aaron was Lord Goring and also the high pitched voices of Lady Markby and other women actors...This was an impromptu date and a fun time to be shared together.

I would strongly suggest it as a no $$ involved date idea! You should try it..nothing is funnier than making fools of yourselves with fake accents and to add to the drama, throw in some costumes..


Saturday, October 25, 2008


"Open what?", you ask. After turning on the TV the other day for about 45 minutes, it felt like it was "Open my brain and shove some rotten, smelly garbage in it". Most of us can agree that these days there is hardly anything worthwhile to watch on TV, including cable (which is why I don't have cable and I don't miss it.)

So the title for the blog came from the title of a book that was being showcased on Tyra Banks' talk show. Yes, I know...sometimes I wonder too who allowed her to have a talk show in the first place or be the winner of the most outstanding informative talk show Emmy. But there are other times when I do believe she addresses some serious issues in the American society and this happened to be one of them.

So, Open...the book and the interesting guests on this show, openly (pardon the pun) discussed open relationships and open marriages. The show I am guessing started off with a simple, married couple and by the time I turned on the TV had accumulated a couple of other partners, a couple who had tried an open relationship and decided not to do it and a couple who were contemplating it and brought a friend on national TV to ask her to be part of their open relationship...


This is how Wikipedia defines it:

An open relationship denotes a relationship (often between two people) in which the participants are free to have sexual intercourse with other partners. If the couple making this agreement are married, it is an open marriage.

What was really strange about this was that they had children and seemed to think that this was not going to affect them at all. They seemed very jaded as to what the kids would and would not find as strange. What is happening to this world? What is happening to America? Does having freedom of speech and press and expression and worship cross any cultural and societal and fundamental rules as human beings?

I watched in disbelief, although I should know by now that America really does not protect their children mentally because this is so accessible (Daytime TV - remember I do not have cable) and so in-your-face and that in turn causes all the confusion of gender, identity and eventually, the waters get really murky as to what is marriage, what is sexual identity, what is life. If I were put myself in the place of a child, what would I think of this turn of events in life, where I have one father and one mother who love each other, but they also have other "friends" whom they love sexually and emotionally and they are one big happy family?

Choice is such a delicate thing.. we respect and tolerate each individual's choice. Then tell me this: why is it that we prosecute and put in prison someone who has exercised their choice to kill another human being? Because it goes against the rules - because it is an obvious violation of a life and we have no right to do that?

How then does it not occur to us that sometimes the choices that we make that may not be so blatant or severe in its outcome, devastates our children, our lives, our community, our country and our world? Why are we not being prosecuted for those choices that allow us to confuse, mislead or justify our actions where the effects are long term? Is it ok then for us to tell our children and each other that we are in effect "Killing" the institution of traditional marriage in order to create something new that accommodates our desires - whether they be emotional or sexual? Is that kind of killing punishable by law and does it not violate any rules?

How OPEN are you to a life that blurs the definitions of marriage and how OPEN would you like your children to be in the future?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

You would want to live in India..

...just to see this!!!

Elephants destroy sugarcane crop

METTUR: A herd of elephants entered into the fields in Sullikkadu village in Kolathur block and damaged sugarcane crop recently. Villagers also saw another herd of elephants in the periphery of the village on Wednesday.

Sources said villagers burst firecrackers to drive the elephants back into the forests.

Obama makes Front Page News in India!!

I was certainly surprised to open up the website for an Indian newspaper and find this:

Obama says India will be top priority
Ashok Easwaran
“I believe India is a strategic partner of the U.S. in 21st century”

Barack Obama

Chicago: A stronger relationship and a close strategic partnership with India will be a “top priority” of a Barack Obama administration, the Democratic presidential candidate has said.

“The U.S. should be working with India on a range of critical issues from preventing terrorism to promoting peace and stability in Asia,” Senator Obama said in an exclusive interview to IANS on Wednesday. “Joe Biden and I will make building a stronger relationship, including a close strategic partnership, with India a top priority.”

On his agenda for working with New Delhi, he said: “I also believe India is a natural strategic partner for America in the 21st century and that the U.S. should be working with India on a range of critical issues from preventing terrorism to promoting peace and stability in Asia.”

In the interview, Mr. Obama elaborated on a range of issues, from comprehensive immigration reforms and making globalisation and trade work for American workers, to seeking the active participation of the Indian American community in the process of change that he has advocated.

He said he would support “comprehensive immigration reform,” including the H-1B visa programme “to attract some of the world’s most talented people to America.”

Mr. Obama explained that he wanted to end abuses of the H1-B visas that are used by highly qualified specialists to work in the U.S. He added that he would make “immigrant workers less dependent on their employers for their right to stay in the country, and would hold accountable employers who abuse the system and their workers.”

The administration, he said, would seek to strengthen ties with the “vibrant” Indian American community and encourage their “active engagement... in making the change we seek.” He asserted that the Democratic nomination was running on the manifesto of “inclusiveness, optimism and hope” that would translate into a “progressive presidency.”

On the contentious topics of outsourcing and globalisation, he said: “We know that we cannot and should not put up walls around our economy.” Acknowledging that global competition “is a fact that cannot be reversed,” Mr. Obama added: “But we must find a way to make globalisation and trade work for American workers.”

From his days as an Illinois Senator, he has had strong links with the city’s growing Indian American community.

Here is the link to the newspaper article and other news from India:

My response:

I think it is smart of Obama to realize the strategic partnerships that the US has with India should be cultivated more. But I think it is highly ambitious of him to want a "comprehensive immigration reform" including the H1-B visa program. I believe that he is really in the dark about these issues and fails to remember the proposal that Bush put forward with the whole Amnesty idea a few years ago. The INS or the USCIS is a beast not to be reckoned with - ask those who work in those departments, they will tell you how crazy their days are at work. They do their best to serve and are always playing catch-up.

It often seems that Obama tells the public what they want to hear. Apparently this habit of his does not end in America but is now far-reaching around the globe. He knows that the US is struggling to keeps its nose above the water. One of the most effective ways is to build and maintain allies around the globe. He knows that India can provide the Human Resource at a much lower rate than America and it can also provide the Brain Power to help Americans keep America functioning. I am not saying that India is the only country that can do that..I am merely saying that India is one of the countries that Obama will want to have as a friend. So he gives them what they want to hear.

It would be really nice if, for once, politicians had their feet planted on the ground and not floating in the air. Their fantasies don't always coincide with reality.

Political Ticker...

...the countdown begins...the world holds its breath while America is running out of breath voicing their opinions on one of the most globally publicized Presidential Elections. We are weeks away from choosing the next President of the United States of America and America is in a state of confusion.

There has been more mud-slinging and name-calling that seem to linger longer in the American public's memory than the real issues. The undecided group of voters is increasing everyday due to the sometimes undecided nature of both candidates. Fact check gurus have never been more popular than now; President George Bush (who?) is all but forgotten and emerges here and there to address the nation - a nation that no longer cares to listen to him and are only reminded of him by the candidates themselves and never in a pleasant manner.

Observing the madness surrounding this heralded event, it is hard to imagine that the American people ended up with these two candidates - the selection pool must have been pretty slim...neither of these candidates instill the 100% trust in the average American - and funnily this is the group that both candidates keep trying to appeal to.

Anything but Bush!!! Literally, anything is what most Americans feel and they vote based on humans we always want something different after a little while but does that mean we are willing to close our eyes and ears and just pick that which is different without first weighing the outcome? I think that Americans are generally visionary people, but in this case, I am starting to doubt the choices they had made and are now faced with.

It makes things really difficult for them to pick their next President when all the candidates do is nitpick the others' words and go after their jugular in the media. Forget the issues that they are proposing to change...they are worried about attacking each other instead of giving the American people hope that we will not go through a major recession...we are already starting to feel the pinch of it.

You can go to hundreds of websites to look up the facts on both parties. But it really concerns me that neither of them really reassure the people that they have a plan that actually makes sense and that something will be make life better, to ease the burdens of the public, to create jobs, to cut taxes, to reform Health care, to take on Wall Street...all these are issues we have heard being mentioned in the news lately and yet, it has been difficult for both candidates to stand by what they say 100% of the time.

I am amazed anyone can make up their minds about whom they would vote for...but if you are one of those people who have made up your mind - McCain or Obama...GET OUT AND VOTE!!!
You have the power to change the world with just one vote. If you are undecided, then GET OUT AND EDUCATE YOURSELF. Read up on your choices and have conversations with your friends, family etc to gain a better understanding of your pick for president. Don't be an IGNORANT voter!!! That is when the politicians win..when they can sway the minds of the undecided - those who are not decided don't know enough about the person they could choose. So, don't waste your time - educate yourself and vote!!!

November 4th 2008. The BIG day!!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

No Smoking in India???

On October 2nd, India celebrated Mahatma Gandhi's 139 birthday by imposing the world's largest "smoking ban". Yes, you read it right - a smoking ban in India!!!! Now for those of us who have lived there or were born and raised there, the news literally knocked the (non-carbon monoxide) breath out of us. Well, at least it did for me.

This ban prohibits people from smoking in all public places, including bars, offices and bus stands. As I read the article, I thought how typical of India to allow smoking in offices :) Also according to this article, the Union "Heath" (Health) minister said he was speaking out on behalf of the non-smokers who have to endure the second-hand smoke every time they step out of their homes. He appealed to movie stars to quit doing smoking scenes in movies as life imitates art and this influences the young generation directly. And some big screen actors have actually quit doing scenes with smoking in it.

They seem to be taking this thing pretty seriously, according to the article and ignoring the complaints of the tobacco companies and bar owners. The statement was that they are determined to educate the illiterate and the young population about the dangers of smoking and drinking.

40% of India's health problems are linked to tobacco. There is also an increasing rate of smoking among women and this is raising some serious health concerns for the country as a whole. My favorite part of the article was this last paragraph :

"However, everyone agrees that much will depend on compliance rather than enforcement. Past attempts to ban spitting and urinating in public drew little success"

Here is the link to the actual Prohibition Document for the Smoking and Spitting Act established in 2002:

So, honestly, if I landed in any airport in India and was not instantly hit with the faint urine smell or the splatters of tobacco on the walls, I could be seriously geographically disoriented and believe I was lost!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fleet Week in San Francisco!

When this idea was proposed to me by Aaron, I was so excited for several reasons...I love airplanes and ships, and I was also wondering what the Embarcadero would look like flooded with - yes, sailors!!! A trip into the city of San Francisco is always a treat even if you live here. And Aaron and I were just thrilled to have some fun in the sun.

Well, we thought the sun might actually be deceiving and we would freeze in the city, which is not unusual for me :) so we decided to drive instead of taking BART...terrible idea...mostly mine really. But we get there and drive along the Embarcadero ( port ) for what seemed like an eternity, enjoying/envying the throngs of people walking past us with bags of stuff and ready to fill their day with activities. As hard as I looked, I could not see one single sailor uniform in the midst of all those people...I didn't give up hope though and told Aaron they better be around somewhere or Fleet Week should just change it's name to "Weak" instead.

Finding parking in the city can ruin almost any date that is about to happen and then you are just two embittered people who want it all to be over with. So finding parking became a frustrating ordeal and the roads seemed to be playing cat and mouse with us. Let me explain - we would bravely deviate from the Embarcadero and veer left in the hopes of finding a side street that would somehow manufacture a parking spot that was perfect, only to find out that it is a one- way street and we are spit back up on the Embarcadero after a minute detour that took us 15 mins off course - and no parking spot. Parking in the city costs you your first born child, so we drive around for a while, ok, a long while and manage to find a great spot - 1 hour parking. Which means, one of us had to always find the car again and refill the meter...Aaron assumed this responsibility without me asking him to - what a gentleman!

As we are walking over to the area around Ghiradelli square where hundreds of people are milling around, looking into the sky and pointing to things, guess what I stumble upon???

SAILORS!!! HOW Cool...WAITAMINIT!!!! These are not sailors, they are as old as our 12-year old cousins and the one who is about to dislodge his wedgie is the leader of the pack!!!! Most depressing I must say!!! I guess I should have been specific when I said I wish I saw some sailors today..who knew??

Aaron and I found a spot on the beach and settled down to be beaten by the noonday sun and occasionally flying sand, to watch the show that was more really like spurts of action since they were flying all around the city, and what with the boats, ships and masts in the air, it was a miracle they did not get entangled and crash into the sailboats...before the Blue Angels came on the show, we just see an airplane zoom into the horizon and pretend like it was about to dive to its death and then pull up and fly away, accompanied by the excited shouts of people all around us. Aaron at this point had eaten the yummy sandwiches we had brought along, was sprawled out on the sand and would raise himself on one elbow, open one eye, look at the plane and go right back to the original position. He was enjoying himself, I could tell.

I, on the other hand, being the one excited about airplanes, especially the F16 and the F18, stayed sitting up and ready with the camera, being the designated picture taker. The Blue Angels were fun and you could hear them miles away since their engines thundered by you, doing their daredevil tricks. Here are some pics...some are fuzzy but its what I could get while trying not to have my mouth open or be tanned on one side of my face:

It was so great to spend a day in the life of the city of San Francisco and be a part of the hustle and bustle. Since we were already in the city, Aaron and I decided to stay and play for a while. Right across the street from where we had parked our car, on a patch of green grass, an Art Show was in progress. We walked around and admired some pieces and just shook our heads in puzzlement at others. We then sauntered around, alright...we ducked and dodged the crowds and melted into them, as we walked along the sidewalks taking in the throbbing, pulsing life around us.

Aaron, knowing my fondness for galleries and museums, happened upon one called the Lahaina Galleries and ushered me in there and I was so glad he did and so was he. We happened to come face to face with some amazing sculpture done by Frederick Hart and were fascinated with the pieces that were on display:

This is a working clay model, one of many of the Ex Nihilo, representing the Creation.

After spending about an hour there and having to refill the parking meter one more time, we decide to chart our course for Ghiradelli Square. On the way, we detour to a small shopping area/restaurant with a one-man band rocking out some tunes on his electric guitar/keyboard; we pass some overweight cops of the SFPD on their custom Harley motorcycles; we walk around some very long lines to take the Muni - SFO transportation; we pass one of the many little sidewalk shops filled with accessories and trinkets, where I had Aaron try on a ring that he then could not get off for a few minutes; past another gallery called the Franklin Bowles Gallery boasting original works by Dali and Picasso - unimpressive art and so were the staff; and finally made it to Ghiradelli Square!!!

This was like a mad house and I had not seen lines like these since Disneyland and India! So we got in line too and were given free peanut butter chocolate block while we walked around and checked out the confectionary store. It was filled with goodies and people...I was ecstatic and must have really enjoyed the can tell from the look on my face...

And even though we battled traffic, hunger and thirst on the way back home, we had a fantastic day in the city - Thanks to Aaron!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

"WE THE PEOPLE...",0,5628051.story

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Train Tableau

Upon my return to America and having lived in India without driving a car (escaped a death wish), I realized that I had some select options by which to travel here, without the immediate purchase of a car. Given the way the economy is soaring (NOT), this is a wiser choice by far!

So the one mode of public transportation that I availed of quite frequently was AMTRAK. I used this often to make the 2 hour trip to see Aaron on the weekends from Sacramento to San Francisco. My experience on Amtrak can only be called Heaven on Wheels when compared to the memories of traveling by train in India.

Amtrak = Clean, usually with enough seats for everyone to be seated, comfortable seats, electric circuits to charge your phone or plug in your laptop, large tables to dine or to entertain little children with paper and crayons, overhead storage for luggage and also at the entrances to the train cars (that's an odd name to call them since they are two different modes of transportation), pleasant, well-dressed, helpful Amtrak employees and train conductors, usually great scenery passing you by, a dining car, a place for you to store your bikes on the train, plenty of restrooms, mostly clean, ability to walk through to other cars with ease, and cheaper to take loads of luggage with you.

My mother along with millions, about 14M really, take the train everyday in India. She has taken the train to work her entire life and spends about 2 hours a day on it. It is an experience that can have a whole book dedicated to it, but then, everything in India can have its own book. Today I want to share with you The Train Tableau.

There are two types of train travel: Commuter trains and long-distance travel. The commuter trains usually look like long sardine tins with a live, throbbing, moving mosh pit of arms, legs, and saris. Some of the distinct characteristics of these train stations and trains are that the walls and pretty much many surfaces are abstractly painted with streaks of red made by spitting "paan", a chewing tobacco and it smells like overripe fruit and flouride. Now mix this with the pungent smell of urine, sweat, flatulence and you will start to get an idea of what they smell like. You almost literally could smell them a mile away, except that a mile away, your nostrils might be assailed by a whole other set of smells that leave your insides waging war against you permanently!

Any time you travel in India, no matter where, it always feels like it is the last day of my life and cause of death would be stampede. There are compartments (individual cars on the train) that are allocated specifically to women and others are general and a couple are first class (indian first class, that is). Getting on a train in India, or doing anything in India, really is like Hotel California - you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!

Most of the time, lines to get train tickets are horizontal than vertical, and the men will ALWAYS get in front of women to get their ticket first. This applies to all Indians, including the highly educated ones who have just returned from the US or any other country abroad - when in India, or more rightly, you can take an Indian out of India but never India out of the Indian. Once you have traversed this dangerous course of ticket purchase, you manage to figure out where the ladies compartment are and wait around for the train to show up. It arrives with a grand honk and the race begins: you sometimes don't feel your feet ever touch the floor and could be guided into the wrong compartment, if you don't pay attention or don't grab on to something. This is a full-out battle call and you assume combat position: elbows out and feet ready to kick anything in your way!

Since they are still on the brink of learning social etiquette, NO ONE waits for people to first get off the train, before others can get on. The highly-pitched cacaphony of Indian voices creates a permanent buzz in your ear. And you find yourself torn in one direction and your clothes literally being torn in another. You also find that you are alongside an overweight, sweaty, gold-laden, belly bulging out, loud -mouthed woman, screaming at you for stepping on her feet! How in the world she could know that of the 1 million people stuck in the doorway of the train, I would be the one that was stepping on her feet, is beyond me!!!! Even the flies would decide to wait and catch the next ride!

I hope you realize that I have not yet successfully made it into the train...keep reading...

The Train Tableau...continued we left off with the sweaty woman yelling at me to get off her foot. I could not do as she "requested" since I did not know where my feet were, in the first place. Of course they are on the lower half of my body but assuming that I had any muscular control over them, while being slighlty suspended in a human wall, is just asking for too much.

Somehow, I get into the train. A shrill whistle is blown and the train takes off, while there are people still getting on the train as it is moving. Upon entrance to the train, I immediately make a beeline, well, sort of, directly to the opposite door. The doors on Indian trains do not close and thank goodness!!! With the cocktail of toxic substances, smoke from burning piles of leaves outside, swirling dust, terrifying body odor, spicy sweat and a symphony of burps, coughs and farts, you might as well write your last will and testament, if the doors ever closed.

People sit and stand anywhere they can find room. Understanding that you just paid not only for a train ticket but also to enter and be an unwilling participant at a FREAKING CIRCUS, will help you endure the train ride. Any time you step into this wild world, you have just left earth and are thrown into your worst nightmare. This furious knot of human flesh could easily represent your entire state of California or any other state all in one place at the same time.

The train ride in India has its own culture and nothing can upset that balance it brings to those devoted riders. They get in, shoving their way through, around, over you if they need to and squeeze their sweaty bodies onto a seat that is meant to seat 3 but already has 4 people sitting. If you happen to sit, you are expected to either squeeze yourself to the wall, or hold someone's belongings on your lap, or put a stranger's child on your lap, have someone's rear end so close to your face that there is no escape and you feel violated versus them feeling that way, or look up to breathe in an instant chloroform version of BO - it can seriously knock you out or have you regurgitate your breakfast right there, and to add to this already mad scene, you will have to endure the smells of various breakfasts being eaten in the midst of all this.

Women have no time to eat at home in the morning, so they bring their food to eat on the train and eat this with their fingers nonetheless and wash their hands in the same vessel they ate from and the whole affair is over. So jam-packed with people, constantly moving, writhing, sometimes, more often than not, getting into fist fights just to get on and off at their respective stations, we have the Indian bazaar on wheels. Again since most Indian women have no time to eat or shop during the day since traveling takes it out of you, their shopping is brought to them on their daily commute.

You can buy anything from safety pins to saris, fruits to friendship bracelets, jewelery to jangris (indian sweet) - you name it and you can find it on the train. They also announce their arrival and presence in the compartment by screaming out the wares they sell. Sometimes, their goods move faster than they do and all this is paid for in cash. Here, once again, the Indian etiquette or lack thereof is displayed. They will reach over you and take what they want; they will pull something out of your hands if they want to see it; they will want to buy what you picked out; they will fight and argue and bargain with the vendor whose prices are already cheap to begin with.

Not only is the Indian train a marathon, an aerobic challenge, a restaurant on wheels, a supermarket, it is also a melting pot of religions!! You have women who will get on and immediately start saying their prayers and chant, sometimes so loud that if there others on the train of the same faith, they all join in. The Hindus are usually these loud-voiced chanters, the Christians silently pray while they periodically move the beads on the Rosary held tightly between their fingers or read from their prayer books and Bibles. You have no idea what the Muslims are doing because they are covered up most of the time.

A story about the trains in India would not be complete if I did not make mention of PBS - not the Public Broadcasting System but the Professional Beggars Society. They are filthy, smell of dried sweat and urine, sometimes with body parts missing, blind, sometimes accompanied by children, other times the children themselves being the smallest recruits in this society. I jump back as if they are lepers only to realize they really are lepers. India is the only country I have seen that has lepers everywhere. We knew one who used to sit outside the Church and beg everyday. Everyone in the community knew him and named him John and he was always given food and clothing and money. He had a big smile and was very grateful for the help. Well, not everyone was like him...the PBS was downright demanding and never take NO for an answer. If you ignore them, they hurl insults at you and sometimes spit at your feet too.

One time, my sister was on the train and a beggar got on. She felt bad for her and gave her the little change she had in her purse. The beggar takes one look at it and with contempt says, "Is this all that you can give me?", to which my sister promptly took back the money and told her to have a great day. It was hilarious and the beggar was so mad. Serves her right!

The Indian train is also like a corporation where riders get seniority and have benefits like saved seats, first pick at passing merchandise, etc. My mother has personally funded the schooling of many vendors children just from buying something small from them everyday. They smile and hug her with tears in their eyes - the grateful ones that is. There are others who sell on the train, loaded with more gold than they can carry and you wonder why they still earn a living selling on a train.

As recent as last year, the train has become a technology hub as well. All the girls who cannot talk to their secret lovers (since you are not allowed to fall in love in India) now send them text messages and talk to them freely for the few minutes of bone-crushing ride they have on the train; others plug in some headphones and listen to the radio on their phones, even the vendors have phones and are on them while they are selling - doing international business I would assume!

Finally, it is your turn to get off the train and if you are smart, you would start making your way towards the door a few stops ahead. You get as close as you can to the door and as soon as the train pulls into the station, you assume combat position once again and eject yourself onto the platform. It is a miracle if you look the same way you did when you got on the train - the usual look that accompanies you is one where you are disheveled, smell funny, hair unkempt, your belongings trashed, and one of your shoes is destroyed.

You are so glad to be alive that your faith instantly increases and your confidence too!!! You finally feel like you can take on the least for the next 2 minutes while you stand still. Then you are once again, lifted off your feet ( not in the romantic way), and carried towards the exiting crowd, hoping that you are not pinched or prodded like they do cattle, and that when your feet eventually touch the ground, you don't find yourself in some muddy puddle, with a mangy dog lying at your feet and a small, scrawny child who is more mangy than the dog, is naked and peeing on the garbage pile.

You hold your breath, if you have any left and walk like a girl on a mission and not to be messed with!!! YOU MADE IT!!!!

For more info on the Indian Railway System... is a great website I found. Check out the pics on the website and imagine yourselves actually having the courage to take a train ride in India. ..



I know that sounds like a Roman command but it is just my multivitamins...I took my first multivitamin in 2 years and I feel stronger and more energetic already!!! Okay, not yet but I will soon...

Aaron and I were inundated with choices for a multivitamin - the natural ones, the one-a-day, the women's, the men's and the list goes on...actually only as long as one aisle in the drugstore. With Aaron doing a crash course on the mathematical dilemma of how the daily values recommended are not all at 100% and me, doing a shorter crash course on medical math and mass indexes, I am sure the pharmacist wished she had closed up early.

Either way, we both walked out of there, thoroughly educating ourselves on the complicated process of buying the right multivitamin. I took a pill this evening and feel very supplemented..thank you very much.

It is the first step to a healthier and active lifestyle, since mine is teetering on the stagnant side. I am not really the best at remembering to take pills when I am supposed to, so it will require a new form of discipline altogether :) Wish me luck!

Hail Centrum!!!

Monday, October 6, 2008

As Time Goes By...

One of my absolute favourite British comedies starring one of my absolute favourite British actresses - Dame Judi Dench.

Aaron and I were in a bit of a "tea and crumpets" mood this weekend, so we rented some British movies. We are both fans of Charles Dickens, so we rented David Copperfield starring a young Daniel Radcliffe and Dame Maggie Smith - another one of my favourite British actresses (Prof. McGonagall in Harry Potter; Mother Superior in Sister Act, and many more). We haven't watched this movie yet but we have however watched As Time Goes By and laughed so hard every few minutes.

Jean: Any post for me?
Lionel: Yes
Jean: Oh, it's a post card. Who is it from?
Lionel: I don't know. It's addressed to you.
Jean: The message is next to the name and address!You're telling me you didn't read it?
Lionel: The card is addressed to you. It might be something private.
Jean: Who writes something private on the back of a post card???

For me, it was so wonderfully reminiscent to revisit the British side of my Anglo-Indian background and be able to laugh at the the "brit wit". This was one of my favourite TV shows to watch and Geoffrey Palmer who plays Lionel is so hilarious! If you are ever in the mood for some good, clean British comedy - this is the one to rent. We actually rented this from a little video store in Berkeley called Videots, sort of rhymes with Idiots but they hardly were. They knew where things were, very helpful. I was beside myself with joy at the discovery of a BBC section and Aaron was beside himself with joy with the discovery of Free Popcorn... basically we were both beside ourselves with Joy - hope Joy liked that...ha ha ha. (lame attempt at joke.)

As a little girl, I grew up watching British television and being Anglo-Indian, I was also raised with the same sense of humour. It is one thing to be raised as an Anglo-Indian but picture a 10 year old who could repeat limericks from memory and have no idea what they are saying sometimes...yeah, that's right. For some unknown reason, we watched all TV shows including Are You Being Served? - a pretty riske show with Mr. Humpries being a gay man on the show and in real life and of course, the Benny Hill show. So this is the humor that we knew to be our very own - dry, sarcastic, quick, innuendo wit.

At times, however, such humour can seem a bit puzzling to non-British speakers of English.

If you have watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you know that however nonsensical it may seem to be, you find yourself repeating dialogues verbatim.

Some of my other British favourites include Keeping Up Appearances, Black Adder with Rowan Atkinson, Fawlty Towers, You Rang M'Lord?, Mr. Bean, To the Manor Born, Allo Allo, Mind Your Language...

If you are bored and would love to pretend you are British, go rent these at Videots in Berkeley, CA and have some great laughs...

Humor might be the only thing to get you through some tough times

Keep Smiling!

Ta Ta.