20 Questions

Posted October 24th, 2004 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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This conversation took place when Seejo and I were driving back home from a birthday party. The party was hosted by one of my cousins on the occasion of his daughter’s second birthday. There were around 50 guests, including the kids in the apartment. The weird thing about such parties is that men and women sit separately, in different rooms. (in one case, where the party was held in a three floored house, men and women actually sat on different floors!!!). Seejo sat with the men in the living room and got confused trying to understand “namboodiri bhasha” (which is colloquial Mallu which my cousins speak at home) and I sat with the women in the bedroom trying to understand relations and family connections and passed time deciphering which kid belonged to which mother. There was a brief spark of hope for me when I was introduced to a new-comer to America with the words “She is also newly married….just arrived in US 4 months ago”. I was so relieved to find somebody who did not speak only about their kids or punctuated conversations with commands to their kids..Only to have that hope unmercifully crushed… She was 4 months pregnant…..

Anyway, Seejo and I had the following conversation on the way back.

Me : so were you very bored?

He : Ah! Well…I talked to a few people this time though.

Me : oh good, whom did you talk to ?

He : Well, I spoke to this guy called P….Very quiet fellow.

Me : Hmmm I wonder whether that is Lekha’s husband, Suja’s husband or other female’s husband . I think the third female was called Nimi ( later figured out that it was Nima ) or may be the he is the husband of the new comer.

He : how would I know ?

Me : Yeah true…Wait let us try to figure this out logically.

He : Why??? Let us forget about them.

Me : just for kicks….like a game of 20 questions.

He : oh all right! perhaps you won’t go to sleep in the car that way….

Me : First question, did they have a kid?

He : yeah a girl…atleast there was a girl scrambling all over him!!

Me : Gender doesn’t help. All three have girls. But atleast we eliminated the new comer.

Me : ok how old do you think the kid was ?

He : I don’t know. She was a kid, a small girl. Ok?

Me : Tell me this, less than five, greater than five.

He : Less than five. I am pretty sure!

Me : That rules out Lekha. Her daughter is a little older. Tell me what was the kid wearing?

He : How the hell would I remember…some kind of dress I am pretty sure.

Me : Dress or salwar kameez ?

He : I think a dress….I don’t remember clearly.

Me : It doesn’t help anyway. As far as I remember both were in a dress. Tell me the color of the dress.

He : (gives me an Are you crazy look?) I don’t remember that.

Me : one was in blue and pink, the other in red and black.

He : I vote for red and black!

Me : I think then that is Nima’s kid. Yay!! Parameshwaran should be Nima’s husband.

Me : Do you know who Nima is?

He : I don’t know. I don’t care.

He : Enough!!!!!!!! Stop this right now! Before I throw you out of the car.

We left the rest of the couple matching to the next party. Vaidehi ‘s birthday is in December. Seejo is trying hard to get a transfer to Alaska before that.

More conversations…but it is war time

Posted March 24th, 2003 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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Its more than a week since war began. And unlike Iraqis, the life of most Americans goes on almost untouched by miseries of the war. Except for the families of the troops that are stationed in the Middle East, the daily lives of most people here have hardly been disrupted. In fact from here it almost seems like a war between two totally unrelated countries. CNN got an interesting event to cover, protesters got a chance to protest…for the war, against the war…and the good Samaritans started making collections for “our boys out there”. And yes there was a fresh topic to discuss at the lunch break.

There have been some interesting conversations I have had with some of my colleagues here….most of which seem like statements culled out of watching too much CNN.

Some people actually believe that the war is being fought for altruistic reasons. I talked to a lady about the then impending war against Iraq, she said that she was against the war …As she put it “Why should our boys go there and fight to make someone else’s life happy? The Iraqis should learn to take care of themselves”. Till then I didn’t believe that it was possible not to mention Iraq, America and OIL in the same breath.

Some view it as completing unfinished business….Saddam should have been “finished off” in 1991. Its 12 years late now…. but better late than never. And of course most of them believe that Saddam was responsible for the 9/11 blasts. When it was pointed out that America had actually helped Iraq during the initial phases of Saddam’s “career”, the response was “I don’t believe that maaaan.,…I heard something like that too but of course the government could not be that stupid…what could they have been thinking of”
Touching , I tell you this faith in the American government.

Just one person admitted that oil “could” be one of the reasons that the war is being fought but then “We have got to have oil right….I mean oil is almost as important as food…and after all that’s been the way of the world…might is always right”

Some want to find those weapons of mass destructions fast. It took a Canadian research scientist to explain to this American guy that Iraq with all the sanctions and difficulty could hardly make any major WMD’s . So it’s going to take some time to discover what is not there in the first place. …Because you see if there is nothing the Americans will have to plant something there wouldn’t they?

I don’t support the war. I think the America’s “We can do it but you can’t” attitude is pathetic and I am disgusted at the total one-sided description of the war by the American media. And I am amazed at how the media can manipulate the thoughts of the American citizens and essentially brainwash them into believing that Osama=Saddam =evil=must be killed.

But on the other hand I did have a colleague here who was an Iraqi citizen. He was an Armenian by birth and was brought up in Iraq, did his medical school there and later was stuck there unable to get out of the country. He told me the tale of how he managed to escape from Iraq in the middle of the night along with his two sisters. He had to pay 1000 $ per person to reach Jordan where he worked for 2 years for an American visa. He said that on account of his last name, which was a prominent non-Iraqi name, he was routinely harassed by “Saddam’s people”. His house was searched constantly, he could not go out of the country, there was really no Internet access and even the e-mail sites were government controlled. When I asked him “Is Saddam really that cruel?”, this was his response “ If that man can turn off the air that you are breathing, he would do it”.

Hoping for peace.


Posted March 3rd, 2003 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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It is a busy Thursday afternoon at the Fox Chase Cafeteria. People are queuing at the cash register, eager to fill their hungry stomachs and a little irritated at the long line in front of them. The African American woman at the register is working briskly ringing the purchases of each customer. It is the turn of an old man, who is trying to clutch and his walking stick and also pull out the required change. The people behind are getting impatient with the old man’s clumsiness. Finally he manages to get the money out and pay the cashier who bids him good bye with her customary “Thanks baby!  Have a nice day”. The old man smiles wistfully and mutters “Wish I really was a baby”.  The woman at the registrar doesn’t miss a beat, “We are all babies in the eyes of God”.
All the people in the line smile spontaneously, their minor irritation vanishing abruptly at that interaction. Sometimes that’s all that takes to get a smile on one’s lips!!

I am walking to office, head down trying to stop the wind from whipping around my ears. I take each step cautiously, testing the sidewalk for ice. Last week, in my haste to catch the bus I slipped on an icy patch and went sprawling down. I did not want to repeat that experience again.. Cars are whizzing past on the road beside me. I pay no attention except to cringe at the torrent of air that whooshes past me. A gray van pulls up next to me and I hear somebody shouting. I don’t look up. I did not want to raise my head and miss my stride. I keep walking. The voice gets louder and I start making out the words. Somebody is speaking Malayalam. I look up quickly. There is a lady in the car who asks me in Malayalam “Are you going to the hospital, Do you want a lift?”. I goggle at her. She has to repeat the question thrice before I comprehend what she is telling me. I juggle the offer in my mind…Childhood lessons have instilled the fact that “You Shalt Not Accept Lift From Strangers”. But then again how often do you meet a fellow Malayalee in a new town”. I accept the offer …she asks her driver to move the pile of magazines in the passenger seat next to the driver. Before I get in and compose myself …she fires a volley of questions. Siddharth Basu couldn’t have done better in the final round. Where am I from, where do I stay here, when did I join, which department am I in, where are my parents, what do they do, why am I here…..
I try to reply to that quick fire round. But the buzzer goes off before I complete. We are already at the hospital entrance. The driver, who turns out to be her husband (the only information she revealed about herself), leaves us at the hospital entrance. I turn to thank her for the lift. She brushes my thanks off and rushes off to her office. I go off towards mine….I stop and turn around to ask my benefactress her name and some questions that suddenly occurred to me :How on earth did she know I am a Malayali and a FCCC employee but she has already vanished.

It has been a week since that incident. I have not seen her again.
Radio Bakwas , a Princeton based radio station , is airing the live commentary of any cricket match that India features in. I figured that out while we were driving back from office during the India-Pakistan match and I let out such a cry of delight that David (my colleague from PEM Technologies) thought he ran over a doctor (or worse a lawyer, in his words) . After I explained to him the significance of the match and the fact that India was winning THE match, he tried to enter into the spirit of the things. But in vain!!David was totally amused at my exclamations and reactions on hearing the commentary. The commentators were biased, kept talking about the “tenacity” of the batsman, virtually appointed Rahul Dravid as the next Indian captain and applauded each shot with the classic American “There you go!!..it’s a four” . Add to that my own excitement as the winning runs were scored, it is not surprising that David was totally amused.
The pièce de résistance came fittingly at the end of the presentation ceremony. After the man of the match awards had been presented, the Hindi commentator decided to add his own thank you speech…through a song. In true Indian spirit, he reworks the famous bhajan “Sabarmati ke sant, tune kar diya kamaal” to something like this

John wright tera ehsaan hi ehsaan
Saurav ko hataakar tune Sehwaag ko khilaya
Sachin tere balle ka kamaal hai niraala.

I couldn’t really finish hearing the whole thing before I was clutching my stomach and trying not to roll off the car seat. We reached my apartment before the guy reached Srinath ke karnaame ,where David gladly deposited me before zooming off to sanity

An Interesting Flight

Posted January 4th, 2001 by Deepa and filed in Uncategorized
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This is to describe my return journey fron San Francisco to be more specific the second leg of the return journey…by now I have become a veteran of intra US airplane trips …so the moment I got my seat number I knew I was going to be in a middle seat..My seat mates were the perfect Laurel and Hardy! The one on the right was so FAT she filled up the seat and more ..In fact the snack tray rested on her tummy,,,..the other female on the left was painfully thin..a sure competition to Scarlet O’Hara’s 17 ” waist was the first thought that popped into my head.

It is the thin female who is the reason for writing this …Before I could “sit back,relax and enjoy” this female decided that I must be the recipient of her lovelife tales..I have DECIDED there must be something that attracts lovelorn ppl to me…I mean desi to desi ab to videsi bhi..and that too a person on a flight!! Firstly she whispers to me that she is here with a “guyfriend”: “oh he is so young ,only 26, doesn’t really know what to do ( she is 24 by the way) He is so nice ..he is working ..you see… has lots of money ..paid for my entire trip and food and stuff’ he is really nice but I am not in love with him y’know…..I know him over ( her voice drops down to a whisper) 6and a half years…he is sweet but really young ..I don’t like young guys they are so kiddish”.

I learn that she is studying business at Maryland, lives alone has two brothers ,elder one is married and has two kids , mom and dad are still together and have a business and that she intends standing on her feet and working and she loves to travel and the guy who is behind is 26 years old ( very young!!!!) and she is not “really really “in love with him!!

Oof! I tell her I am from India …wonder of wonders she knows a bit about India..She knows about Sonia Gandhi losing the last Prime Ministerial elections And interested in the Aids figures in India ,asks me about the state of economy and whether the impact of the 93 bomb blasts still are there….I try to explain …anyway she soon leaves the topic and returns back to her favorite topic..”GUYZ..She asks me whether I have a boyfriend ” I sort of mumble .. She informs me that she likes DC because there are a lot of rich men and she like to date only rich men because ..well because they have money ( its not an original reason but ..) and that is why Dc is the place to be…Rich men abound there ( hmm me thinking of going to Dc as well!!)

And yes she likes her men older ..She was seeing a guy who was 46 and is really nice and only he is mentally depressed and takes 6 pills at night but is very sweet and takes her to Canada for Halloween night but he is still single and don’t you think there is something unnatural with a man who is still single at 46…may be that’s the reason he has a lot of problems …But she really likes her men old because they are successful ( another word for rich!!) but her mother tells her that older men will die early which is the biggest problem with older men ..what can a girl do ???

There was another man friend of hers whom she was dating ( she never really was in love with him) she just dated him with a lot of others ..he was a dentist and 41 years old and had his own plane ..He is considering buying a jet and he took her to Brazil in his plane and he is really nice but wht to do I am not in love with him you know …but he is really nice

But the guy behind he really loves her and (whisper again) wants to marry her but she knows him for 61/2 years, loves him a lot but she is not in love with him so what to do?

By this time I decide its my turn so I launch into how marriages are conducted in India , arranged marriages , the rituals and the customs ,believe me I was glad for the first time that Indian marriage process is so long…by the time I was half way thru she decided she wants to listen to music ” I speak Portuguese Spanish and Italian so I listen too songs in all,,,”I said I listen to Hindi songs plugged my walkman and pretended to sleep…only waking up long enough to wolf down the food and back to sleep!!

But soon its time for the descent and I have to shut my walkman…

By this time she feels I am her confidante..so she whispers again…I am seeing a Congress man now (Whew now I was confused what of the guy behind..what happened to the dentist and the 46 year old pill popping bachelor??!!) I have been seeing him for 2 years …(oh that’s long time I state..the only thing I could say confidently!) Yeah he is sweet spoils me rotten ..I don’t really need to work you know gives me 3000 bucks a month to shop and I am going to ask him for a car this new year ,,he has a car dealership you see…(AH!! I SEE!!) he comes on CNN and he is powerful and that’s why she likes DC because the men are rich and powerful …He is married though that’s the only problem ( I DIDN’T REALLY FIGURE OUT WHETHER HE WAS DIVORCED!!)..He is really nice and she loves him but she is not sure and she needs a guy and she feels its time to settle and ………………………………

Wasn’t that fun….Believe me I was never so glad that a flight ended!!!