Friday, June 22, 2007

'Allo, Are You There?

In the pre-Internet days I didn’t think twice whether I would actually keep in touch with certain people. [In the case of my Class 2 crush, Thomas Hulings, who made solemn promises to meet me “one day.” Do you see me holding my breath?] I did my best to keep in touch and if it worked out, it was great. If it didn’t, it didn't. But now, like it or not, you’re all of a sudden confronted with people from your past thanks to the web. For the most part, it’s fun to see how people have grown and changed. Sometimes there are a few who serve as ugly reminders of the person you used to be (terribly na├»ve) and you wonder, “Could I possibly connect with this person beyond catching up with our lives?” But good or bad, it’s always a surprise.
And so once again, I was gobsmacked with some bizarre moments that say how incredibly small the world can be. I reconnected with at least 4 people from my wasteland of youth.
First, S got in touch with me over IM. She was visiting DC and would I be around? We were in that Group of Eight or the cheesy “Glo Friends,” as we liked to call ourselves, and outside the group dynamic, we bonded over some of our greatest fears and heartaches. Now, I was going to see her in her latest avatar — working on a brand new degree and a brand new marriage. How long has it been? More than 5 years.
Then, I needed to ask a random favor so I got in touch with A. He used to live in my colony in Delhi and studied in the same section as me for about 2 years. We would wait for the school bus and strategize over the latest debate topic. Now, A is still debating in his law offices and a doting dad. How long has it been? Around 14 years or so.
And then Orkut connected me with A who asked not only if I lived in a certain colony, but also if I stood in that Mother Dairy line! As it turns out, when my family first moved to Delhi from Cal in circa 1989, we were living in a temporary housing colony before moving to our home. And yes, there was a Mother Dairy where I would often go to fetch milk. Standing in line and keeping me company was A, who also went to school with me, but was in a different section. Now, A lives near DC and is thinking of doing research on the social implications of networking websites (kidding)! How long has it been? More than 15 years at least.
Finally, on a whim I decided to join a friend for dinner the other day. From there, I tagged along for a drink. S introduced me to her friend visiting from out of town. I stared and asked him if he ever lived in Ironside Road? He did. It was surreal – R was in the same colony in Calcutta in the 3 years I lived there. He hadn’t changed much and good grief! even remembered my nickname. My friends and I, who were then aged 10-12, practically looked up to him (he was soo tall, right), and now here he was, digesting the fact that I was over 30 and chatting with me in a pub in DC. And how long has it been? Close to 20 years. Geez, we’re almost fossils.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Diplomatic Relations

This past Saturday I found myself in one of the most scenic places (kidding) of the U.S. called New Jersey to attend a friend’s wedding reception. As my cousin sister and I played “spot the desi” from the car and passed road signs which screamed Princeton, I did my own version of the Munch painting. Oh, yes, memories of yet another strange meeting with another marriage/Ph.D. candidate from the Ivy League school. Apart from a long trek to the lake and an insipid snow fight, I didn’t take much from there. That was January 06. Was I going to meet another charmer at this said wedding? Err, no. I was perfectly happy to go for the food, drinks and the bhangra. In fact, I was more than eager to see my cousin network her way through the Bongdom of East Coast.
The couple – who just got back from a honeymoon in Disneyland (yes, better believe it) – had seated us at a table with a couple of other couples. But seated on my right was a guy who used to live in DC and moved to Manhattan. We chatted amicably for a while about people, places, work and the weather. He was interesting but in a boring sort of way. My cousin nudged me, “he’s cute.” I nudged her back, “so what?” Besides, he was too busy trolling his BlackBerry. Finally I had to tell him what was nagging me since I saw him: he looked oddly like someone I knew.
Me: “Have you ever seen a picture of the Indian ambassador?”
Him: “Who?”
Me: “The Indian ambassador to the United States. His name is Ronen Sen.”
Him: “Oh, and does he live around here?”
Me (trying not to sound impatient for my first Diplomacy 101 lesson): “He lives in DC and basically he’s like the official representative of India. Every country has one of them... unless it’s Iraq or Cuba, I suppose. So anyway, you look like you’re related to him, almost like a younger version of him.”
Him (finally getting it and smiling): “Oh, is that so. Thanks.”
Now, I don’t know if that did it or if he was generally taking precautionary measures but all of a sudden he strategically places his left hand on his face to show his wedding band. Like, whoa! don’t hit on me, woman! I’m good married boy and my wife is not here doesn’t mean I can’t take care of myself, ok! I don’t know what he was thinking. But seriously, he should have chilled out. If defining the role of the Indian ambassador was his definition of flirting, it was a good one. Maybe I should try it next time with someone else. And hello – why didn’t he bring up his (missing in action) wife in like, the first 10 minutes of our conversation? There were numerous ways he could’ve done it and I don’t want to get into that. But clearly he thought showing his wedding band was going to banish off any evil designs I was apparently making on him. Relax dude, even if you knew how to spell "diplomat" backwards, I couldn't be sure about you!
So a word of advice to married men: please don’t think every other woman is making a move on you. We understand that your hotness/coolness/cuteness makes you totally desirable and totally unavailable. And although there are some women out there who don’t care if you’re married or not, for the most part we usually comply with respectful resistance.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Third time's a charm! The Fed is depressed again (remember Ivan Lendl and his Wimbledon trauma?) but what do we make of Rafa's capris?? An informal/totally unscientific survey:
1. He can wear what he wants as long as he's playing tennis.
2. Finally, a male tennis player who's not afraid of being a Nike design team guinea pig.
3. Eww... so terribly... gay.
4. Who cares?
Vote now!
pic courtesy: AP

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Gay Assortment of Things

It’s one thing if my roomie and I are acting like a couple but it’s another thing if friends start treating us like one. Last week the two of us were invited to meals by common friends. I couldn’t make it to one of them and M opted not to go, either. Then both of us wrote individual sorry-can’t-make-it notes to the invitee with the word "we" jumping out of the message. This is too much. I feel so.. so stifled.
As it happened, Gay Pride Day was on in full swing at Dupont Circle this Saturday and it was great fun to see the different kinds of floats in the parade. With the number of jolly same-sex couples carousing the streets, we (see, just can’t help it!) could pass off another pair. Just the holding hands part was missing. In India, there are plenty of straight men holding hands or putting their arm around each other in affection. Somehow, if two straight people of the same sex dare to touch each other here, people start raising eyebrows. But I digress.
So our friend A had just topped her French cooking class and in that honor, she had cooked... an assortment of things. But I knew we were in for a treat anyway. Her boyfriend J had gifted her a pasta-making machine and she made ravioli from scratch. It’s a really tedious process and no wonder people get the readymade stuff. J and A’s friend S from Boston acted as her sous chefs and did the chopping and frying. There were shrimp pot stickers with a tangy ginger and soy sauce; spinach salad with balsamic vinegar dressing; beef ravioli with tomatoes and olives; and finally, blueberry tarts with light cream. Really good flavors. We stuffed ourselves silly and talked about everything related to food... and recounted how our families have the habit of sitting down for a meal and discussing the menu for the next meal while eating!
J also has this very cool fish tank, but I wondered how can a Bengali girl live in the same place with a shrimp floating around without wanting to eat it? "It has long tentacles, so no point," she explained. Both M and I also stared in quiet wonder at J’s super efficient cleaning abilities, which explains the German in him. What else did I learn? Not to underestimate the collaboration of 3 MIT grads in the kitchen. It definitely produces amazing results!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Can 4 cooks spoil the broth? There is potential for a lot of tension but you can still manage to put together a decent meal.
It was supposed to be a relaxed Monday night dinner where A would show off his desi cooking talent to me and M. The menu was discussed and the ingredients were debated. We were told to show up anytime after work. When I turned up, I was informed that chilli powder – that essential ingredient for desi cooking – was missing from the pantry. I trudged to the store and sneaked a peek at the “list of stuff” A had made. It included ginger! garlic! cilantro! More do-or-die ingredients. Grrr. Would there be enough time for all the chopping and cooking? A is totally unperturbed - so what to make? Aargh. Did I get conned? Again?? This time M was coming to help, but she mentioned work delays – smart move. Oh, but K was visiting – he would definitely kick ass in the kitchen.
When K came, he let out a diatribe of four-letter words (in a good way) to describe his third honeymoon since his Dec. marriage.. but this was only an adventure trip to the Amazon. “I haven’t slept in 4 days man,” he says. “And it was because of the snakes and bugs.” We told him to chill out... help out in the kitchen... another spew of four-letter words (not in a good way) followed. Oh, the poor thing is missing his wife.
The menu was finally decided: okra, chhole, daal, chicken. Some leftover peas and mushroom and baingan ka bharta (spiced eggplant) which M claimed – “Don’t touch it! It’s ALL mine!!” Then the tamasha began. A’s chopped okras became a joke, I burnt the onions, K started swearing about chicken not being marinated properly. We finally simmered down over wine and Yanni. When it was time to chop chop, the boys did a good job. K marinated and cut the chicken in such loving fashion we didn’t know what to do with it next. M made noises about the lack of whole masalas (which were eventually found at the back of the cupboard) but salvaged the okra and chicken. I made my standard chhole (slightly low on salt) and A made the daal (slightly high on salt) but when we finally ate… at some 10:30 p.m. … and listened to the soundtrack from Fanaa, it was quite good, subhan’allah!

Friday, June 01, 2007

A Hearty Breakfast

9:15 a.m. I am just getting my daily fix of coffee and croissant. I catch an old lady talking to a young girl from the corner of my eye but turn to pay for my stuff. Suddenly, a voice behinds me says: “Do you mind getting these things for me?” It was the old lady. She didn’t look homeless and was holding a glass of orange juice and a bowl of hard boiled eggs. “I’ve stopped receiving my disability checks,” she explains. I couldn’t see any form of disability on her. “It would be so kind of you,” gently – no, liberally – spooning out the sucker in me. Obviously, the young girl she had spoken to earlier had not been so kind. I offer to get the juice. “I have a weak heart, I need the eggs,” she whines. “Eggs are not good for your heart,” I reply and fish out a little more than 3 bucks for the juice. For that much money, she could’ve got a gallon of juice at the supermarket. Anyway, I request the nice lady at the counter to give her the eggs for free and she agrees. A brief thanks from the old lady and I dashed off. It’s probably better to get food/drink for someone than randomly shelling out cash, but I wonder if the word “sucker” is written all over my face? I really didn’t mind helping her, but someone who needs a good meal and a disability check is the homeless man with elephantiasis near 17th and K. He can barely walk to the nearest coffee shop.