Friday, February 24, 2006


As you can see here, I did ask for it. So no complaints, here I go. The usual stuff about 'ask me another day, I will give you another list' applies to this tag.

Total number of books I own

Around 400 here in Chicago - quite a few of them in boxes that shall be unpacked as soon as I move into an apartment with a little more space, a fast diminishing 300 back home that my mom keeps donating away, another 20 - 30 in other people's bookshelves. I guess I should be including Bill's too but what if he counts mine when he does a similar exercise? Na, we will leave it at that.

Last book(s) I bought

Arun Kolatkar - Jejuri. How can I not own this one?

Rucha Humnabadkar - Dance of the Fireflies [Public service announcement / supporting a friend. This also qualifies as my good deed of the day.]

The Complete Poems of Walt Whitman

No, No, I am not into poetry. Pure coincidence.

Last books(s) I read

Malcolm Gladwell - Blink. I have to explain this one, I know. I read this one yesternight so that I can get a free lunch at today's book club at work. I swear.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Crime and Punishment. Re-read it this week. At 18, I thought it was funny; at 21, I found it too depressing; now, I find it too optimistic. What should one do with moi?

Illango Atikal - The Cilappatikaram. Translation by R Parthasarathy. Can't help thinking that its slightly lost in translation.

Books I am currently reading

Amartya Sen - The Argumentative Indian. Two more essays to go.

Haruki Murakami - Kafka on the Shore

Roald Dahl - The Collected Stories. Picked this one up for a mere 100 rupees in College Street, Cal. Can you believe that?

Five books that I have really enjoyed or influenced me

Five? Who are we kidding? Let me do this - since I am all into 'Blink'ing now that I have read the book, I will try a little experiment. I will write down the first ten books that come to my mind.

William Golding - Lord of the Flies

Oscar Wilde - The Complete Plays

William Shakespeare - The Complete Plays

Gabriel Garcia Marquez - One Hundred Years of Solitude

Salman Rushdie - Midnight's Children

Kurt Vonnegut - Slaughterhouse-Five

P G Wodehouse - The Jeeves Omnibus

Richmal Crompton - The William series[At least I know where this one came from. Might not have happened if I hadn't read Falstaff's list this morning.]

Charles Dickens - A Tale of Two Cities

Howard Zinn - A People's History of the United States

Oh no, I forgot Tolkien. And Dostoyevsky. And Jane Austen. What am I going to do now?

Books I plan to buy next

No plan. I will just know when I want to buy what I want to buy.

Books that caught my attention but I have never read

Virginia Woolf - Mrs Dalloway

James Joyce - Ulysses

Books I own but have never got around to reading

Leo Tolstoy - War and Peace

Philip Roth - American Pastoral

Romila Thapar - Early India

Teach Yourself Bengali!

Well, this list is sort of long, so I think I will stop here!

People I am passing this on to

"Yaam petra inbam perugai vaiyagam" - Let the happiness that I have experienced spread to the whole wide world.

JAP-da - Have you done one of these? If so, post link please.

- How about you?

Ludwig - C'mon, you love lists. You can do this.

Black Mamba - You knew this was coming, didn't you?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Past-Life Regression / What the $%^#?

Do you ever think that you have lived before? Do you feel that some of your current relationships began in an earlier life? Do you have an illness or problem that you attribute to a past life? Do you believe your present job is related to what you did in a previous life? Past-life regression provides answers and relief that no other method can.
In this class you will learn about life between lives, your current life's lessons and why you chose to reincarnate. This is an experiantial class; each student will have at least one opportunity to privately recall a past life. BYOC (bring your own candle). This course offers a quick, inexpensive way to get in touch with your past lives!

Sec Y Thur Mar 23 @ 7 PM
Class Fee - $49
2940 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL

Monday, February 20, 2006

My mean deed of the day

I once put my ATM card into the receipt slot of the darned machine. So I was drunk. Another time, I went to the airport a week early. My flight was for the following Friday. NY beckoned and I couldn't wait. More recently, I made an U-turn at a STOP sign while this cop car was right behind me. I still maintain that its legal and I have to go to court next month to get my license back. The excuse is that I actually found a parking spot in the city, it just happened to be on the wrong side of the road.

But here's what I have never done - I have never, I repeat, never filled my black Beetle with 2 gallons of diesel. Wait a sec, I don't own a black Beetle. So here's it again - I have never filled the fuel tank of my beat-up, cheap, Japanese car with 2 gallons of diesel.

BM, I am sorry but I really cannot stop laughing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Have a safe Valentine's day!

No, I am not going to rant about how commercial this whole V-day thing is. Because everyone knows how crass it is and I am going to add nothing new. In fact, I'd argue that it is as commercial and as crass as any other day and anyone who picks on V-day has a severe case of the fox and the grapes syndrome. Instead, I am going to appeal to the people who celebrate V-day to observe some basic social niceties next time around. I believe that these people are not beyond reason - someone just needs to sit down and explain to them how they may inadvertently cause injury to themselves and the society at large. So if you have big plans for V-day(well, next year, I guess) and if you happen to live in the city that I live in, here are some pointers for a safe Valentine's day:

1. Ask yourself whether your Valentine really loves chocolate. When you keep a box of dark chocolate in front of her, does she gobble it all up with a single-minded determination? Or does she say 'How nice of you!' and then neatly put the box back on the coffee table? If your Valentine does the latter, please do NOT buy her a box of chocolates for V-day. Because you might not realise this, but the box of chocolates that you so lovingly gave her will miraculously find itself on the reception desk of her office the next day and guess who gets to eat it? Guess who puts on 5 pounds over the next week? Losers like ME.

2. V-day, in case you forget, happens in February. In the northern hemisphere, it is the middle of winter. In Chicago for example, the coldest month of the year is February. February is great for cuddling up in bed and having gory sex but here's what February is not good for - promenading by the lake. Did I say it gets really cold in Chicago? And it gets windy too. If you are near a water body, it is colder and more windy. Especially when this water body happens to be Lake Michigan which is usually frozen in February, it is even more colder. So the last thing your Valentine wants to do in her off-shoulders little, black dress is to have a walk by the lake. She might not tell you how much she hates it then but later, two years down the line when you are blissfully married, she might stab you with a kitchen knife. [This whole walk by the lake, stabbed by a kitchen knife is a true story btw. Ask anyone who went to Urbana Champaign or Michigan State five years ago and they will corroborate. The dead man used to teach at Michigan State while the lady studied at UC. She is currently serving time in a Fed prison, I believe.]

3. Decide what is it exactly that you want from V-day. Are you aiming to get laid or are you aiming to watch a Steppenwolf production? If all you want is to get laid, taking your Valentine to the Steppenwolf is NOT a good idea. A number of things could go wrong - she might hate the play and hence refuse to sleep with you, she might want to watch the play but with you distracting her the whole time she might just walk out on you or more dangerous, a peaceful spectator like me who for some Godforsaken reason happened to go to Steppenwolf on V-day might just step out, buy an assualt rifle from a nearby convenience store, come back into the theater and shoot you in the head. So if you have to go somewhere and make out, there are hundreds of movie theaters which are screening excretable chick flicks [which I agree is repetitive]. Please go to one of them.

4. Romantic restaurants are overrated. If Metromix tells you that the most romantic restaurant in the city is Geja's, don't take your Valentine there. It is quite a dingy place and there will be 130 other couples at your elbows every time you turn around. You will both come out of the restaurant smelling of chicken broth which is not what to want to smell of considering your plans for the rest of the night. And I am telling you this because I care and NOT because I happen to live a block from Geja's and could do without all the traffic jams that I had to encounter yesternight. In fact, I have been hearing good things about some romantic restuarants in the suburbs - apparently they are much better than the ones in the city. Maybe try one of them next time?

5. Trust me on this one, your Valentine loves SUVs. Next Valentine's day, take her out to the romantic restuarant in the suburbs on a SUV and your night will be made. Horse-drawn carriages are so passe. They were quite the rage in the 1890s but not anymore. Nowadays, all they do is hold up traffic on Michigan Ave and people like me who usually get home in 20 minutes now take an hour and 20 minutes to get home. Think about this - what if one of us peaceful people in the bus get the same idea as the peaceful spectator at the Steppenwolf?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Spreading democracy


This Day That Age

As I walked out of my building this morning, I couldn't resist walking past the bus stop to 2122 N Clark. Its a landscaped parking lot for a senior care nursing home. It's quite cold today though it hasn't been snowing. I remember reading somewhere that it was quite snowy this day in 1929. The building I live in was built in 1905. Someone must have lived or worked here in 1929. Maybe that day she walked past the bus stop to the warehouse to see what was going on. Maybe not. If she was spotted, she might have been shot too. Maybe she was just at home, sleeping in what is now my bedroom when she heard the sound of machine gun fire. Wonder what was going through her head.

If you have taken one of the Untouchables tours in Chicago, you couldn't have missed this parking lot. This is the location of one of the most colorful gangland hits in Chicago's mob history. "Scarface" Capone vs. "Bugs" Moran. Capone's men dressed as cops, entered the warehouse and shot Moran's men. This hit supposedly led to a huge public outcry against Capone though he was never indicted. Capone was actually booked under tax evasion(in 1931) if I am not mistaken!

You can read about the St. Valentine's day massacre here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bring out the brownie

Rich chocolate brownie slightly heated, hot fudge on top and French vanilla icecream on the side. The Whole Foods brownie is bloody expensive btw, try the Trader Joe's one, its awesome and affordable and it comes in packets of four.

Low fat food does not cut health risks, says the front page of the Times.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Those bastards would never give it to me!

Moi and MR went to a Julian Barnes reading at the Newbury Library yester evening. Yes, yes, he is quite good-looking but a good 20 years too old if you know what I mean. The reading went so-so. He picked a safe passage to read - where Arthur means Jean. Not surprising, as I thought that the book itself took a very safe route while it could have been much more.

Mean Moi couldn't resist asking him as he was signing my copy whether he expected to win the Booker. I was waiting for some modest reply like "yes, it was a strong year" or something like that to which I would make some remark about how McEwan was the one who should have won it etc etc. but he happened to be as mean as moi!

"No", he answered "I did not expect to win it at all. Because I knew who the judges were. I knew they would never have given it to me."

Hmm. Sour grapes, you think?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

More on Betty Friedan

Yester evening, as I entered the apartment loaded with groceries, Bill, who was supposedly “working” looked up from his laptop and laughed.


“The irony of it. That you should go get groceries while I am sitting at home reading this.”

“Reading what?”

“Betty Friedan passed away, the Times reports.”


Books change lives. Remember that Ayn Rand-quoting misanthrope you used to know in school? Or that Sartre-reading existentialist who kept raving about how meaningless life was? But how many books can you think of that changed not just a few lives but the whole world? Books that questioned an entire generation’s attitude to life and their place in society, books that transformed the world as we knew it to be.

Rousseau’s The Social Contract heavily influenced the protagonists of the French Revolution and the American War of Independence, two events which changed the course of history. Marx’s Das Kapital reverberates in various parts of the world even today. Einstein’s essays on Relativity changed the way we looked at the physical universe. And more recently, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (along with Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex) changed the fabric of Western society and inspired women’s movements on the other side of the globe. I read The Feminine Mystique when I was 19 and I was completely captivated by what she called “the problem with no name”. She wrote:

"The problem that has no name — which is simply the fact that American women are kept from growing to their full human capacities — is taking a far greater toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease."

Her emphasis might have been on middle-class, suburban American women but there was no doubt in my mind that it applied to women everywhere. I grew up in a place where gender inequality is very much institutionalized and rarely questioned. In classrooms and playgrounds, when you are not “allowed” to do certain things or play certain games, when you need to be more “protected” from the world, when you are “pushed” towards certain professions, when you learn to carry safety pins and chilli powder in your purses, in movies where the women are a “commodity”, at work when you have to work twice as hard and still don’t make the cut, and most of all, at home where your worth is measured by your ability to cook and clean, to bear and bring up children. That I was brought up in a “liberated” household is hardly the point; the biases of the society always wield an unconscious influence in every home, admit it or not. And every single time that happened to me or to anyone I know, I would remember Friedan:

“Experts told them how to catch a man and keep him, how to breastfeed children and handle their toilet training, how to cope with sibling rivalry and adolescent rebellion; how to buy a dishwasher, bake bread, cook gourmet snails, and build a swimming pool with their own hands; how to dress, look, and act more feminine and make marriage more exciting; how to keep their husbands from dying young and their sons from growing into delinquents. They were taught to pity the neurotic, unfeminine, unhappy women who wanted to be poets or physicists or presidents. They learned that truly feminine women do not want careers, higher education, political rights -- the independence and the opportunities that the old-fashioned feminists fought for.”

And today, as I read the news of Friedan’s death, its very humbling to remember that the many things that I take for granted here in the country that has been my home for the past five years – equal rights, equal pay, legal abortion, maternity leave to name a few – were the fruits of the feminist movement that this woman kick-started in the 1960s. To those who argue that Friedan’s feminism is not inclusive (as she does not seem to include the poor, the blacks or the lesbians), I would say that lets not take the woman or her ideas out of her time and place.

So has the battle been won? At least in this part of the world? Can we all go back home victorious and wait for the food to appear on the table? Not so fast. Just switch on the television set, or read one of those “lifestyle” pieces (remember Maureen Dowd’s book?) that seem to appear with astonishing regularity in the NY Times? Or just look around you. How many of your co-workers slipped into suburban obscurity over the past few years? Can we really deny that in this country, we are still “taught to pity the neurotic, unfeminine, unhappy women who wanted to be poets or physicists or presidents?” Can we really claim that we as a society don’t measure a woman’s worth by the man she ends up with? And until a day arrives when we can make that claim, here or in any other part of the world, Betty Friedan’s work is not finished. The torch just passes on to you and me.

Update: Do read R~’s tribute to Friedan at Locana.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Black Horse

Apparently, there's some flash fiction contest happening that junta is all enthu about, so I thought I'd attempt it too. The only issue being, you know, I can't really write fiction and so I figured I will rewrite it. Might as well choose a masterpiece then, don't you think?

With apologies to all Kafka fans, here's my Metamorphosis:

One morning, when Gautam Sen woke from troubled dreams, he found himself standing next to his bed, transformed into a black horse. He stood upright, and if he turned his head, he could see a black, bushy tail. He supposed that his bedding had slid off him, as he could see it lying by his right hoof. His long mane, pitifully thin when compared to the rest of his body, waved about helplessly as he turned his head.

“What’s happened to me?” he thought. “How about if I sleep a little bit longer and forget all this nonsense?” But that was something he was unable to do as he was used to sleeping on his bed, and in his present state, he couldn’t do that. However hard he tried, he could not fit into his bed at all. He must have tried it a hundred times.

“Oh God”, he thought, “what a strenuous career it is that I have chosen? Meetings day in and day out, monotonous hotel rooms Monday to Thursday, bad and irregular food, missed flight connections, contact with different people all the time so that you can never get to know them or become friendly with them. It can all go to hell!” He trotted to the far end of the room so that he could look at himself in the mirror. He saw his reflection and thought, “Oh God! How am I going to drive that SUV to the airport now? Maybe I should call a cab, I mean, a horse van. But wait a minute, no, I don’t need to anymore. It can all really go to hell.” So he trotted towards the door and knocked his head against it; the door slid open soundlessly and he galloped out into the sunlight.

PS: Falstaff, MR, will you ever forgive me now?

Farewell Betty Friedan

The woman who changed the face of womanhood in the last half-century died today. The torch has been passed on.

PS: Can it be true that God is actually with the right-wingers? Rosa Parks, Coretta King and Betty Friedan within months of each other? There must be something wrong up there.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Go Steelers!

Okay, I know that I am not exactly a football fan. Until four months ago, when my manager literally tied me to a chair and made me watch the World Series, I didn't know the difference between the World Series and the Super Bowl. But I love Diplodocus! We have spent many a fall evening together staring across the street at the Heinz chapel and the Cathedral of Learning while cars zoomed past us on Forbes Avenue. I would get a brownie and cup of coffee from Kiva Han, walk to CLP, pick up some books and DVDs and then I would go sit by Diplodocus and we would keep each other company. I would read out Wilde to him and he loved Earnest; he always kept asking me to read it. That's when he told me that he hates being called Dippy and that he prefers Diplodocus. He also hates kids, he said the brats don't realize that he is a real person and that they treat him like he is some museum piece or something. I never had the heart to tell him that he is indeed a museum piece.

So if Diplodocus roots for Steelers whoever they are, so will I!

[PS: Bill, now you know what I used to do when you didn't turn up on time. I was having imaginary conversations with that stupid dinosaur.]

Thursday, February 02, 2006

There's still hope...

for some of us. Here.


I have realised that the key in any relationship is to figure out how often you want to see the other person. [Please see Falstaff's post on sabbathals for some related reading.]

For the past 3 years, it has worked out pretty well for Bill and moi - once in every 3 weeks we would meet up, have hazaar fun and go back to our own lives. And then one day, out of the blue, Southwest happened, so we started meeting every 2 weeks which I think, is still okay. Over the last month however, mostly due to some tickets being paid for by big, evil companies, we have been seeing each other every weekend which is proving to be a bit too much. I have no time anymore for my reading, cooking, writing, movies, music, friends, well, basically my life. Its like my life's on hold and it ain't fun. And before some of you get on my case and start calling me an ungrateful wretch (BM, are you listening?), let me inform you all that this claustrophobia is being felt on both sides, well, of the Lake.

Tangents before I even begin! What am I to do?! Getting to the subject at hand here, moi's been wondering about names again. Nope, not train names this time. Discussions happening elsewhere about opening lines makes moi think of book titles. So there are titles and there are titles. Here are some favorites:

1. One Hundred Years of Solitude
2. Catch - 22
3. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
4. Great Expectations
5. Remembrance of Things Past
6. Chronicles of a Death Foretold
7. To Kill a Mockingbird
8. A Catcher in the Rye
9. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
10. Midnight's Children

[Before you start crying foul, yes, these include some of my favorite books but not all of them are favorites. For example, I like Kundera but I am not a huge fan. Same goes for Proust.]

What I find interesting about this list(or any top titles list for that matter) is this: just by looking at the list one can easily separate the ones originally written in English from the ones that were originally written in other languages. Certain languages like Spanish (or my native tongue) lend themselves to phrases that the English language would never be able to think of by itself. Quite a few of these lines tend to get lost in translation but the ones that don't are the ones that will always remain in your memory.

Enough said. So what are your favorites?