Tuesday, December 04, 2012

LOL All the Way

One of the easiest ways to tell if a person is funny vs a person who is being funny is that the former is usually much more in his/her skin and humor is a part of their DNA. The person who is being funny, the so-called class clown, the life of the party, who needs the entire attention of a room to sell their jokes... now, that is a sign of something a little deeper. This is nothing new, of course. Clowns have some of the most saddest eyes. Comedians have been known to be some of the more morbid, depressed people- you need to just look through a history of the SNL cast to know who overdosed, drank, and killed themselves while making a living out of making others laugh. But take a look at those around you, perhaps even close to you. And maybe yourself. Do you use humor as the safest, the most predictable form of a defense mechanism?

This question came to me through a random conversation with someone who had just been to one of those spiritual weekend retreats and had reached a number of epiphanies. One of these epiphanies included the discovery that this person often uses humor as a primary form of defense... startling, but not entirely surprising, since i knew this person well enough. I guess we all have different fears and insecurities and usually it (fears, etc.) manifests in forms of blocking people out, making up for lost competencies, turning to substance abuse, projecting those fears onto others, and yes, being The Funny One. In short, we overcompensate by something we know will work in pretty much any given situation. Shy and nervous? Passive aggressive? Bitchy and insecure? Overwhelmed and can't think? Dealing with any number of issues from your job, family, or past? Avoiding an intervention? Walking away from taking responsibility? Running from a confrontation? All these are neatly dealt with and can be put away for the time being - by just being funny, cracking a joke, breaking the ice, and hey, did you see there's even an app for all that right now! Sure enough we're defending ourselves. I'm pretty sure I've used humor for all of these situations I described above. But if you know me well enough, you also know there is something crazy funny in my gene pool:)

I think what stirred me about the conversation was that I realized how many times I had laughed at someone's jokes or puns at a particular moment only to comprehend later what that person was actually hiding, avoiding, running away from. We conveniently forget the icky, serious, rational, grown up stuff we have to deal with - whenever we hear a good chuckle. And we all condone this behavior, it's practically de reguer.

So they say don't take life too seriously- and that humor is the perfect antidiote when you're dealing with any major crises; and we can't imagine the expression "a good time was had by all" without picturing peals of laughter; and what would any healthy relationship be without this most precious, and vital ingredient? hint: a not healthy one. but human behavior is funny... and for those of us who try too hard to be funny sometimes, well, maybe it's time to wind down the clown act. just a little bit.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Making New Friends is a Busy Trap

A couple of recent articles in the New York Times have prompted a lot of discussion and general introspection. The Busy Trap is an excellent piece on how people like to inflate their images by saying how damn busy they are... when they are not exactly saving lives or finding the Higgs Boson particle. But society deems "busy" as "good" because if you were the opposite you must be a total loser. Or why in the world would you want to be doing absolutely "nothing?" In my case, i am a strong proponent of doing "nothing." My idea of a lazy Sunday is not just stay at home, it's to stay at home and do "nothing." If I'm being productive for 6 days of the week, how about not contributing to squat for at least one day? It's just a thought, of course, and I usually end up doing something- even if it is 6 hours of watching Law & Order re-runs.

I think half the reason people ask you what you're doing this weekend is to make sure you know what they are up to! And, of course, they are frightfully busy attending some social event or the other. The workaholics are also sooo crazy busy because their work is tantamount to saving the world from disaster. And probably their job of color coding an excel spreadsheet might just do that. Just like happy hour, it's always the busy season in some part of the world! I think the saddest is when I hear someone give a complete itinerary of what they have planned for the next 3 months... then it's just obvious they don't want to be alone (if single) or they want to be a 100 percent sure they are not bored out of their minds (if not single). My point is that we all like to be productive at our work, and have fun with our friends, and spend time with our amazing families but what's the point in beating your chest with the "i'm so busy" refrain? You think the rest of us are just twiddling our fingers?

So the busy trap very neatly tied in to this piece called Finding Friends of a Certain Age It definitely struck a chord with a lot of folks since major life events and changes can make you lose touch with so many of your friends. As the article points out, it gets harder when you're married and you're "matchmaking for two." When you have kids, you're often hanging out with other folks because they have kids who play with your kids. No other reason. This brilliant stand-up routine by Louis C.K. could not have explained it better.

There are legitimate reasons one can't connect with people - busy trap being one! - and of course, if you move to a new city for a new job and know absolutely nobody it can be difficult in the first year or so. But I think it has a lot to do with your personality, too. If you're shy or stuck up, you may never be the first to strike up a conversation with a total stranger. If you are classist or any -ist you are bound to make hasty judgements and close yourself off to a potential friendship. And, finally, if you have a partner who is not as social as you are, or if you have a demanding/sick parent or child your priorities will be very different.

But I call BS on whoever whines about not finding friends or how it's so sad but such is the fact of life. First of all, you will never find friends like the ones you made in school and college so get over it. Second, make some effort to talk and get to know people. It doesn't have to be just folks from work. Take it from me- i've gone to 3 schools, 2 colleges and moved 5 different cities in 2 continents. All my friends have not been from school/college/work environments. You could say I've been lucky but I think I was just open - to learn and listen and form a connection.

I also learned a long time ago there was no such thing as a "best friend" - that term is almost infantile - and one has to be happy with 3-4 "good friends" in your life. No one is perfect and it's unreasonable to have expectations on people you call your BFFs. I also don't agree that you must make friends in your own age group- in fact, as I've grown older, I find it easier to connect with people from all different ages and backgrounds. So I have friends from their mid-20s to the mid-40s, single, gay, straight, married, divorced, single parents- variety is the spice of life, after all. I also count some of my parents' friends and some of my friends' parents as my friends- my mother was right when she said "make friends with anyone who you can learn something from."

At the end of the day, friendship, like any relationship, is a two-way street. You do "love" your friends and you sometimes have to "break up" with your friends, too. There will always be hangers-on, situational, happy hour buddies and other selfish dogs who quickly label you as a "friend" but only you know the ones who really love you - you know the ones without any sort of agenda or ulterior motive, the ones who you can call any time of the day or night, regardless of the fact they're in town or not, single or married, with or without kids. They're the ones who matter.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Athlete's Feat and more in NYC

The past month has been a wonderful Spring Break by way of reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. After a whirlwind weekend with family in Chicago, I followed it up with a culinary excursion to the Big Apple courtesy my childhood friend. We met when we were in Class 5 and bonded over reading Austen, Bronte and company; watching Hitchcock movies and drooling over Gregory Peck; making fun of our older brothers; eating street fare like gol guppas; and of course, entering puberty and discovering that mysterious species known as boys. Our environments – both family and outside – helped shaped our love for the arts as well. We both learnt, and grew to love, all kinds of musical genres, classical dance forms, as well as the theater, anything that hangs in a museum, and of course, the visual and sensory delights of everything gastronomical.

So anyway, old habits really die a painful death. Almost 25 years later, we still talk books, movies, mothers, and the men in our lives. Only the places and circumstances have changed. And we also talked theater and food. Over a leisurely brunch at the Spotted Pig, we had hot cross buns followed by the Brunch special of the day – I had the salmon with the rye toast and she had the fried eggs with spicy sausage – all this with shoestring fries and a glass of Pimm’s Cup (beer and ginger ale, I think).

I dashed off to see a couple other friends for coffee, and promised to meet her downtown again for a play called My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend. Between brunch, traffic, and catching the play, I was seriously running late. We exchanged frantic text messages which essentially told me to pick up my ticket at the box-office and if I was too late to be let inside, then I would have to wait for 1.5 hours for my friend and a couple of her friends who had come to see the play as well. As I reached the window, an usher hurriedly took me upstairs to the mezzanine section and I couldn’t see anyone remotely Indian looking. She was down below, in fact, with front row seats. All I was thinking was, “I’m so effing late, the show will start at any moment, and I need to get to my seat downstairs.” As I ran towards the door, I tripped down 2 stairs and strained my ankle with a four-letter word in tow. I was secretly howling in pain but managed to sit on a chair when the usher came dashing back upstairs to see what was going on. “Do you need to get help or do you want to see the show?” he asked. “I’ll see the show, but you need to help me downstairs to my seat.” I walked down and sat next to my friend just as the actor was coming on to the stage. In. The. Nick. Of. Time. After suffering through the introduction, the show was funny enough to make me forget my injury for the next hour or so.

Our little play group of four then decided to get an early dinner and so we trotted off to L’Artusi, an Italian joint in the vicinity that would not make me hobble too far. We arrived there close to 5:30ish and there were maybe 2 tables occupied on the first floor. The hostess still made us wait for a few minutes to check if we could be seated before leading us to our table – under which reservations had been made for a party coming around 7:15 or so. We thought we would be done with dinner by then. And it was a splendid meal – we shared the roasted mushrooms (fried egg, pancetta, ricotta salata); bucatini (tomato, pancetta, pecorino); and the cavatelli (butternut squash, pancetta pecorino). Our entrees included the roasted chicken with hen of the woods mushrooms plating the bottom, and we shared the Brussels sprouts. We topped it off with a dessert of bittersweet chocolate budino (vanilla cream, chocolate honey crisp) and panettone bread pudding (orange gelato, phyllo crisp). The latter was so decadent that we wanted to order another round, but were told by the hostess that “I’m afraid we are out of it.” Yeah, right. At 7:30 pm. They could have just told us the other party had arrived.

But happily satiated, we trudged off and went to a nearby watering hole called Employees Only. The mixologist concocted us a few Lazy Lovers (Leblon Cachaça & Jalapeño Infused Green Chartreuse shaken with Benedictine, Fresh Lime Juice & Agave Nectar) and a Quiet Storm (Bulleit Bourbon & Red Bush Tea-Infused Vermouth served tall with Fresh Lemon Juice & Ginger Beer). A different sort of concoction was happening right outside the lounge area. A “resident psychic” was sitting outside and I couldn’t resist giving up 20 bucks from my wallet. I was told I would be getting rich from various business ventures, attracting younger men, and getting married and having twin boys and a girl when I turn 40. Watch this space.

The final pit stop of the night was Casellula – a heavenly wine and cheese café tucked away in Hell’s Kitchen. I thoroughly enjoyed the unpretentious ambience and the roller-coaster conversation topics – hopes and dreams, natural disasters and charity work, Marxism, free market theories, and the general ramblings of any drunken soiree. There are lazy vacations by the beach or pack-in-all-the-sights in 3days or endless buffets on a cruise or see-the-pyramids kind of holiday. Then there are those days which are just as invigorating because of the company you keep.. It was around 2 in the morning when my ankle finally felt the comfort of an ice pack and I could put my feet up again...

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Yes, it rained men - just not the right kind

Badgered into updating my blog again, I am back to regale my fiercest and loyal readers. Thank you again for making me realize that life can get shitty but unless you blog about it, you don’t appreciate how ridiculously insane or hilarious it can get. And last year was pretty high up on the ridiculously insane-o-meter. Contrary to popular belief, I did date outside my race. I was never opposed to it but I made a more pointed effort to going out and exploring the non-brown side. There was the Filipino American who I trudged to meet after a blizzard hit the city. I was more excited about the Italian coffee shop I had heard so much about. Needless to say, the hazelnut cappuccino did not disappoint. As for the date.. sigh. Then there was the WASPy defense contractor who was on a liquid diet. Not a good start to any relationship. There was the Irish Catholic linguist who spoke eight languages but could not communicate in real life. And finally, the African American lawyer who I shall never forget for being so terribly, errm, compliant? My happily married friends cheered me on. “If you don’t have an affair when you’re single, when will you?!” Indeed. I could be detached and think like a man. But I listened to the feeling at the pit of my stomach: Get the Hell Out of Dodge.

And there I was like proverbial driftwood. Until someone conned me into thinking I didn’t have to be alone. I could be with him and I could be happy. Aren’t we all suckers for emotional BS? So there was some happiness, and it was somewhat due to him. But the euphoria didn’t last long. This chap, let’s just call him, The Jerk, was dishonest about something so incredibly precious in his life, it was a wonder he sustained any of his previous relationships. After a solo and liberating Euro vacation, I came back with the heavy burden of making my first grown-up relationship decision. It was time to say goodbye.

I barely had time to recover when I was cajoled into a set up through some mutual friends. The sales pitch was to the point: “If you are looking for a wonderful husband and father, this is the guy for you. If you want the most amazing lover, then not so much.” [PS: Next time any of your friends say this to describe you, just kill them.] After hemming and hawing for a bit, I shrugged and said why not. It’s not like I was busy knitting cardigans. He seemed a bit too eager to please and indeed, was a complete gentleman. In fact, so much so, we never even held hands during our brief interlude together. But I appreciated his honesty and sincerity, traits that are surely in short measure these days. I was rolling up my sleeves to work on the other not-so-appealing aspects of this potential partnership. But before I got to that, The Disappearing Act, shall we say, went missing for 2 weeks. No calls, no emails, no nothing. I finally found out through his friend he was occupied with a severe case of the winter blues. Not that I drove him to it. But it was time to say adieu, yet again.

So there you have it, my personal life up to speed: Whereas, The Jerk, in spite of his negative traits, was still a great communicator, The Disappearing Act made communication an uphill struggle in spite of his positive traits. Oh yes, and they were both Indian, in case it mattered... And now I shall take a hiatus from dating, but I promise to post more non-dating adventures soon!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Post-Romanticism with a dash of Modern Surrealism

My parents were visiting for about a month but that didn’t mean I could take a complete hiatus from dating (now it really sounds like work!). I just made sure I met the guys in between their other travels or in the second case, the evening of their departure.

The first chap was very nice in a wholesome American apple pie kind of way. An only child from Midwestern Americana, he combined his father’s scientific genius with his mother’s artistic talents. But we were interested in one another on other levels, too and when he brought me chocolate from his recent business trip in Europe, I had to say, “Aww.” So we ate at a Spanish tapas place and he paid (and no, he still hasn’t asked for my portion of the bill). We walked around the charming neighborhood, browsed the Apple store and then had gelatos (“a girl after my own heart,” he remarked after I agreed to that one). On the way to the Metro, we sat on a bench and continued to talk for quite a while before a slight drizzle interrupted us. “It’s one of those things we’ll end up remembering for a while,” he said as we ran towards cover. He even waited for my train to come – even as he missed his own – so we could spend more time together. We promised to keep in touch and texted our thank you messages within the hour. Sounds pretty romantic, doesn’t it? Well, that’s all it was, folks. It was a really nice treat and after that not another peep or squeak from the guy. Do I have time to sit and hold my breath – ermm, I don’t think so. Who’s next?

I was running about 10 minutes late for this one. But he was easy to find in the near-empty Starbucks, skulking behind his Aviators. It turns out he used to be in the Indian Armed Forces, so wearing those sunglasses were absolutely mandatory inside a dark coffee shop. After preliminary introductions, he laid down The No. 1 Army Rule for me i.e. always be on time. Aye, aye, sir. Then he proceeded to inform me that he had flown a plane, jumped out of a plane, scuba dived, parasailed and god-knows-what-else. In other words, he really wanted to make it clear he was really, really cool. Honestly, I would have been impressed if this was an Army dude who had fought in the foothills of the Siachen glacier or had flown a MIG-29. Turns out he had done neither – he was an engineer who was posted in random places before he quit to go to B-school – and I know I’m supposed to say they all make sacrifices, no matter what kind of work they do. He was nice, gracious and seemed to have an edgy sense of humor. He certainly took my barbs well. But, but, but. I could recognize that cloud of desperation hanging over him (been there, done that)… as if he needed someone to fill that void, it could be anybody. There is also the little fact of the matter that as he walked me home, he decided to cop a feel by saying, “Hey! Let me show you a cool self-defense tactic in case someone grabs your arm,” while grabbing my arm. Then proceeds to do some Heimlich Maneuver for the arm. Needless to say, that did not impress me the least bit. Can I go to Court Martial for that?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Myself Bhavra, You Phool? - Part 2

I swear I did not have the slightest clue what I was getting myself into when I agreed to meet this guy. Let me warn you, that when you hear the phrase "coffee at 7 pm," there is a strong likelihood of things going a bit off kilter. So first off, this guy calls to say he is stuck in traffic from hell. It was fine since the coffeeshop was literally a hop, skip and jump from where I live so I told him to just call me as he was parking in the vicinity. In the meantime, I hung out at home. Sorted my holiday pictures. No call yet. Then I made a new itunes playlist. Still no call. Now he was running over an hour late and I was more pissed than a grizzly got her salmon picked up by some damn tourist. Finally, 80 minutes later than proposed time, the call comes. “Parking was a bitch, man,” he says. You don’t say. But I take a deep breath, walk over, and think perhaps all could be forgiven if he was Just. A. Nice. Lad.

He was nice enough – he held the door, he apologized profusely, and insisted why don’t we have dinner instead of coffee (it was late and besides "finding parking here made me hungry"). So on his insistance I ordered a glass of wine and salad while he settled for a beer and a steak tartare. When I came back from the rest room, he had already got the check. “Let me get the tip, at least,” I said. “No, no. It’s the least I can do for showing up so late,” he said. “Besides, we men gotta do this kind of stuff to impress the ladies.” OK then.

Cue 24 hours, several texts and a voice mail later. He had a great time, wanted to see me again, yadda, yadda, yadda. It was flattering, I admit. But I had thought a great deal about it and the whole experience – well, something did not feel right. I could not say what. I won’t say sparks because I believe you hit it off immediately with some folks and with others it takes a slow, natural course to get to a great place. I decided I didn’t want to see him again.

Since we met through a matrimonial website, and he had been honest about why he got divorced, I felt it would be fair to send him a polite, thanks but no thanks, note. "Thank you so much for the dinner. However, I don't think we're a good match for each other. I feel we have some differences in our upbringing and background. I wish you the very best." The following is his actual reply, word for word:

"I have noticed that you have no desire to be maintain a friendship. That is perfectly fine. If you were uncertain about things then why did you invite me to a restaurant for a meeting. You could have invited me to simple coffee shop. You are old enough and also smart to know that it is not wise to make other people spend money if you are not sure. Your portion of the bill was $28 including the tip. You can send me the check in the mail (address given). Let me know how you want to do or I can come by and collect it from your place."

The next day I sent him 28 one dollar bills in an unmarked envelope. There are 4 critical lessons here:

1. Rejection is always a bitch.
2. For every nice guy that you meet, there are 5 weirdos.
3. It’s a cliché, but your instinct is your best friend.
4. Always have coffee at 11 am or 3 pm i.e. whenever you actually *need* to have caffeine, so you don’t care if the guy is late/no show/boring.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Myself Bhavra, You Phool? Part 1

My premium membership was about to expire on a particular matrimonial website, and so it came to be [insert dramatic music score here]: The administrators told me I had only 2 weeks left to find my soul mate or my life would be in ruins!! So I went back and checked out all the expressions of interests – and in good measure I accepted a few, refused a few, and sent out a few. One of the benefits of said membership was instant communication over their messenger system and that’s how I got to know about DJ (yes, those are his actual initials). A quick glance at his profile and I saw he was around my age, lived in my demographic area, and for the record, was divorced. It didn’t matter to me but clearly it did to him because his first salvo was: “OK with divorced guy?” After a few pleasantries we exchanged phone numbers and he called me soon after. Here’s how just part of the conversation went:

DJ: I have never dated a Bungaalee girl. I did meet a very nice Bungaaleee girl once, but she was running after her caaareerr.
me: Isn't that nice.
DJ: Have you dated a Punjabi boy?
me: I've dated a Haryanvi. Does that count?
DJ: Why haven't you dated a Bungaalee boy? Like a Bandhopadhya, Chattopadhya, Mukhopadhya.
me: Maybe I haven’t met a nice one I liked. Also, they love their mothers too much.
DJ: So if you marry nice economist Bungaalee boy that would be too serious for you.
me: Not as serious as when you marry a nice fashion designer Punjabi girl from Bhatinda who could kick your ass.
DJ (totally ignores above comment): What about South Indians? Do you like South Indian men?
me: Is this a stress test for my male preferences? Or do you want a threesome? And for the record, I have been attracted to Mallus.
DJ: Do you like American men? or European?

I should’ve picked up on his weirdness right about now, but I found it oddly amusing instead. And that’s when I agreed to meet him for a coffee date. To be continued...