Saturday, October 30, 2010

“The clouds I can handle, but I can’t fight an Eclipse”

Eclipse has been on my must watch list for a long long time but I guess I am just destined not to see the Twilight series movies on the big screen. Today I managed to get the DVD from a local library and that sure did make my Saturday afternoon.

If you are wondering what a grown-up (supposedly) like me gets out of watching these teenage romances, or as someone mentioned at work, extended Hannah Montana series, I have nothing to say. My defense rests here – a post that I did a while back.

Coming to Eclipse, I thoroughly enjoyed the battle that brought together the indomitable spirit of the Cullens and the unyielding grit of the werewolves, against the new-born vampire army!

The menacingly dark weather of Forks, Washington seems to provide an ideal case of pathetic fallacy – the clouds that could rain any time, the skies that could darken without warning, the coastal forests - all provide the perfect set-up that is pregnant with possibilities – a sense of foreboding lurks just like the omnipresent overcast sky…

And finally what I absolutely adore about these Twilight movies - the incredibly cute dialogues. So, instead of going ga-ga over the lovable Cullens, I thought I’ll reproduce a few of the dialogues here for your reading pleasure ;).

Edward (proposing to Bella): I think you'll find the vampire human divorce rate a little lower. Just marry me.

Edward (referring to Jacob): Doesn't he own a shirt?

Edward (to Bella): Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night. Very dark, but there were stars – point of light and reason. And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliancy, there was beauty...

Charlie (Bella’s dad): (to Bella) There's... things that you need to think about if-you if you're going to be... physically intimate...
Bella: Okay, Don't, don't have ‘the talk...’ please!...
Charlie: ... Alright, so, you guys are taking precautions?...
Bella: Okay, Dad, please just don't worry about... that... Edward is...Old School…I am still a virgin!...
Charlie (to himself): Virgin... I'm liking Edward a little more now...

Bella’s mom: There’s something…strange about the way you two are together… The way he watches you—it’s so…protective. Like he’s about to throw himself in front of a bullet to save you or something.

Edward: I’m from a different era. Things were a lot less complicated. And if I met you back then, I would have courted you. Would’ve taken chaperoned strolls, and iced tea on the porch. I may have stolen a kiss or two but only after asking your father’s permission, I would've got down on one knee and I would’ve presented you with a ring. This is my mother’s. Isabella Swan, I promise to love you every moment forever. Would you do me the extraordinary honor of marrying me? who can resist the gentlemanly immortals!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Inside The Kingdom

Inside The Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia is the true story of a woman born in the western world to mixed parenthood and married to a Saudi Arabian hailing from none other than the much known Bin Laden family – this is a tale of the innocence of childhood, the defining moments of youth and love, the saga that is marriage, the pain that motherhood brings, the bitterness of dreams that go sour when faced with the recklessness of reality.

However, this is not simply one of the many hapless stories of broken marriages and international divorces that are tough on women – this is a narrative convoluted by the clash of religions, beliefs, and faiths – this is the life of Carmen Bin Ladin, sister-in-law of the world’s most dreaded terrorist.

Carmen is a Swiss national now residing in Geneva post her divorce with Yeslam Bin Ladin. Inside The Kingdom chronicles snapshots from Carmen’s life, in her words. She talks about her growing up years in Europe – her strained relationship with her Swiss father and her exotic vacations to her mom’s Persian home in Iran. She lovingly recalls how she fell in love with Yeslam - his commanding presence, his alluring roots, his belief in equality of partners in a relationship, his intelligence. Her fond memories of their time together in California, US and the big fat wedding in Saudi Arabia convince the readers of her assurance of a life of fulfilling love and empowering freedom.

Life is a bubble balanced on swords – and unfortunately, Carmen’s bubble broke. The oil boom in the Middle East in the mid 1970s compelled Yeslam to move back to Saudi Arabia in order to take advantage of all the money that was waiting to be made. And thus, started the long and arduous journey of Carmen – the black cloak or burqa, the thick veil, the walls within homes, the eyes that never meet, the suffocating shadows, the deafening silences, the blatant disregard for individualism, and finally the fervent and fanatic reverence of Islam that threatened to annihilate Carmen and her beautiful daughters.

The final straw to her 11-year marriage was the disintegration of her only pillar of strength – her husband, Yeslam. As his personal traits and attitude collided with the radical Islamism and complicated family politics, his weakness to stand by his wife and daughters against the established system came to the fore.

The book published in 2004 is Carmen’s attempt to distance herself form the “Bin Laden” name that had become a curse for her and her daughters in light of the 9/11 attacks in the US. She was compelled to come out in the open to state her severed ties with the family of 22 wives, 29 daughters and 25 sons – of which Osama Bin Laden was one.

Sadly, her struggle is not over. Though legally divorced in 2006 after a bitter long battle, Carmen still worries about her daughters’ well-being given Yeslam’s constant threats of abduction. Unfortunately, Yeslam holds a Swiss passport in order to keep in touch with his children.

This book is a must read for all of us who are so smug in the cobwebs of our everyday living, so entangled in our small worlds that we forget to thank god for our blessed lives, forget to cherish what we have, and forget to pray for others...

(The lives of women in Saudi Arabia remain deplorable even in today’s times – While modern amenities are making their way to the region, the people continue to steep deeper into the harshest form of Islam – that derived from the Bedouin practices. The power nexus that oil, money, dependence of the western world on Saudia Arabia, and the failure of milder forms of Islam as, for example, preached by the Shah of Iran is blood curdling. Jean Sasson has written a trilogy on the life of a Saudi princess – This is also a true account. You can read about it in my post here.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Conversations around Cooking

I think till I was 16-17 or something, the only activity I knew with respect to food was eating. Cooking never figured in my vocabulary – All that I knew was that food was “produced” in the kitchen :D.

But alas, life is cruel, isn’t it? While I am a connoisseur of good food – quick to pass my judgment on what I like and what I don’t when it comes to gastronomic delights, I had been quite oblivious to the plight of those caught on the other side of the deal.

Now that I sometimes dabble in the kitchen with weapons such as knives, mixies, equipments such as cookers and pans, and the dangerous spices, trying my best to survive the ordeal (successfully), my heart goes out to all the people on whose food I have ever passed negative comments, starting from Mom!
Dear mom, your pathetic lauki (gourd), hospital-like yellow daal (gram - pulse) and pukey spinach (did I ever tell you I was a difficult child?) tastes so much better than what I can barely manage even now.

Here are some hilarious conversations I have been “involved” in over the years…

Age: 17 or 18
Some random aunt invited home for dinner: So Prabha (that’s my mom), you must be so lucky to have a young daughter who can help you with the kitchen. I have only two sons and all that they can do is cut salad and lay the table!
Mom: Faintly smiles (Poor thing, she must be wondering how to start training her son, having given up on me)
Aunt (to me now): So what all do you cook?
Me: umm, well, umm, I cut salad once in a while, I also help laying the table, umm, I attended some cooking classes in school and learnt umm well, forget it. I reheat food pretty well though!
(You don’t want to know the aunt’s reaction!)

Age: 19
(We were moving houses during my college break. I was super enthusiastic to take over “adult” responsibilities. I still remember most of the last minute paint touch up and varnish happening under my supervision.)
The chief painter (to my mom): Aunty, didi (that’s me) zyaada acchi chai banaati hai (Meaning, I make better tea than my mom)
Mom (Shocked!): So Yuvi how is your tea more special?
Me: I dunno!
Mom: Okay, let’s see you make tea
I start making the tea.
Mom: Hang on, what are these boiled tea leaves doing here?
Me: The ones that I made tea with earlier!
Mom: So you are using the same tea leaves over and over again
Me: Yeah!
Mom: Hell!

Age: 20-21
A pesky relative visiting us (to my mom): Chachi (aunt), you better start teaching Yuvika how to handle the kitchen else marriage will become a huge problem. Everybody wants a wife/DIL who can cook!
Mom: Let her be. When the time comes, she will manage.
(That’s why I love you mom!)

Age: 23
(After, my wedding date was fixed.)
Dad: Yuvi now you are marrying a south Indian, you better learn how to cook! Don’t you know South Indian women spend a lot of time in the kitchen!
Me: I don’t understand the logic dad!
Dad: If you are expected to make sambhar, rasam, what will you do?
Me: I will tell them I never grew up on sambhar-rasam.
Dad: But what if they asked you to make some north Indian specialties?
Me: I will say I never learnt cos I was marrying a South Indian!
Dad gives up!

Since then, I have come a long way. I make curd rice, chhola (chick peas), most of the pulses, potatoes, cottage cheese, pav bhaji, veggie rice, rotis, paranthas, puris, noodles, pasta, and cakes, kheer and badam payasam with considerable ease. I have tried my hands on rasam (a reasonable first attempt), sambhar (a disaster – Vish couldn’t even decipher the dish after having the courage to eat it) – Rajma (kidney beans) and some veggies are hits and misses with a ratio of 3:1 maybe!
Wow, I think that’s quite a lot- wonder why I still hesitate answering the heavily loaded question “Can you cook?”

And here’s the latest conversation I had with my FIL one recent evening!

Me: Appa, is pav-bhaji okay for dinner?
FIL: Yes, perfect
Me: Okay I will start now.
FIL: But it is only 6 PM, we’ll eat at 8?
Me: Yes, but I need to start now, so that I have time for last minute work-arounds and fire fighting – this is called risk mitigation planning (IT and Management guys, back me up here)
FIL (visibly amused): Oh okay, but don’t strain too much!

Aww, I was instantly reminded of the pride in my dad’s heart, the beaming glow in my hubby’s eyes and the mischievous smile on my bro’s lips when I make the slightest of efforts to what can barely pass off as “cooking”.

Apparently the way to the hearts of the men in my life is not through their stomachs. Phew! Thank god!

Leaving you with a pic of one of the better cakes I have baked - just to add some credit to my claims :p...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

All’s well that ends well!!!

Prayers do work, don’t they? I had sincerely hoped and wished for Delhi to pull through the Commonwealth Games when the Queen’s baton relay happened in October last year. You can read the post here.

And yayay, we did it! Yes, there were a lot of hiccups and major roadblocks; the corruption was deplorable (and is unforgivable); the apathy of the government officials involved was disappointing … but we managed to put up our India shining face – bright and vibrant – when it mattered the most.

In the last couple of months, along with national and international media, everybody was bashing the preparations. As I watched the images of dishonesty and blatant money games flashed on TV, I kept my fingers crossed. While the media reports were not really exaggerated, I was a little miffed that they spoke about nothing positive at all.
However, in retrospect I guess it paid well. Indians round the world cursed and kicked and came out in the open showing their anger and shame at the Kalmadis of CWG who tried their best to barter national integrity and pride for the green bucks – a coffer filling exercise was the CWG for them!

Last minute fire fighting did a lot of damage control – we Indians thrive on jugaad, don't we? ;) (jugaad is a colloquial hindi word – loosely translated as getting things done by hook or by crook – I found a wiki link too for it here – wow Internet rocks!)

While I am thrilled at the spectacular show that Delhi organized, I feel that after the back patting is done, we need to book the culprits who caused so much confusion and delay. They need to be punished in order to set an example for other such events to come – nobody puts national pride at stake, and then gets away with it!

Also, we now need to maintain all the infrastructure we have managed to assemble thanks to the CWG budget - yes, it overshot ten times the initial amount, but we cannot undo that – what we can do is ensure that we preserve the progress we have made – preserve the spirit that is India, the spirit that is Delhi – the spirit that sometimes becomes an obscure flame thanks to selfish politicians, but still emboldens and illuminates the world when the time beseeches.

Go Delhi go!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Not now!

(A Facebook addict like me should have posted this much earlier, but oh well!)

Ok guys, FB adds a new step to the friend request denial procedure – Not Now.

A simple Yes and No, or in FB terms, Confirm and Ignore has now become:

Step 1: Confirm and Not Now

Step 2: Confirm and Delete Request

My initial reaction to this feature was WTF! Either I want the requestor to be on my friend’s list or I don’t; what’s with the unnecessary grey area in the middle?

But then, social networking could easily be as complicated as rocket science itself!
If you thought managing relationships was a difficult task; it becomes even more formidable on cyber space.

Here are the broad categories most friend requests I receive fall in:

I The genuine friends...
...Those who make FB well worth the time I spend on it: lost and found childhood companions, friends from school and college, neighborhood peers, colleagues from work!

II Relatives...
...Those I am very close to and those that I have seldom met. I don’t really mind family on FB and so long have been able to manage pretty well :D!

III The one-time met/seen/heard of acquaintances...
These are people I could easily qualify as weirdoes, if not stalkers. Your friend’s cousin’s friend you got introduced to at a mall; a colleague at work you attended a meeting with or saw at the coffee vending machine, and have never spoken to before or after that – forget spoken to – have never acknowledged his/her presence before or after that; the guy who helped you with your hand baggage in the plane (yes, I got one such friend request – we never even exchanged our names, so I am guessing he peeped into my boarding pass – how nightmarish!)

IV The complete strangers...
...The “do you want to do friendship with me”-“your profile pic looks great, so let’s be friends” category.

Till September, I was confidently using the Ignore option for the last category.
It was the third category of requests that left me in a fix to decide among the following options:
  • Should I be politically correct and go ahead and add the person and later tweak my privacy settings?
  • Do I care about social proprietary? FB is my personal space and I decide whom to share it with.
  • Defer the decision.
Though the last option was quite convenient, FB would regularly pop the reminder, making me feel a tad bit guilty (gosh, I take FB way too seriously, don’t I?).

So now, the Not Now option comes to my rescue. It aids me in my indecisiveness – I can conveniently brush your request under the carpet – hide it, as per FB terminology, and never have to deal with my conscience because there are no reminders – yayay – how convenient!

Did I hear you smirk? Yes, I belong to the easy-way-out generation – why not? I have no qualms about it!

Therefore, my initial WTF reaction to Not Now has been now transformed to “not bad”.
Though I have always detested people who fall in the maybe-maybe not category when it comes to answering questions – be it in surveys or interviews or etc, I really don’t seem to mind it on social networking sites.

What FB could have done to make things easier is that they could have added a third button in Step 1 itself – Delete request.
So, at one go I can decide whether to hide the request for Category 3 or simple delete and report spam/block for Category 4. A simple usability enhancement!

What say? Not now?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The centennial post!

So Blogger tells me this is my 100th post, and I am super kicked. What makes the milestone even more special is the fact that it coincides with my entry into the third year of blogging!
Yes, My Musings completes two years today!

What started as an impromptu expression of thoughts has become a medium that has grown on me - has become a very defining aspect of who I am.
Though quite a diary person from my kiddie days, when I used to write long pages on events, experiences that touched me – blogging has been a different adventure. While I would be more than content to just put down on paper (e-paper ;)) my feelings, thoughts and musings, being read brought in a whole new exciting dimension to the act of writing itself.

If blogging has been cathartic, having readers – known and unknown - from different spaces – physical and philosophical – has been exhilarating. I want to thank all the ardent “followers” on the blog, RSS feeds, Twitter, and the family and friends on FB and Buzz who have been patient enough to read through my posts, share their valuable insights, and always been so appreciative of my efforts.

The journey so far…
In 2006-07, with constant traveling and moving, personal journals were getting difficult to maintain – so much so that I had almost lot touch with the “pen”. I had been trying to get a foothold on the blogging space but more than anything else, it was sheer laziness that kept me at bay.
Finally, in October 2008, though having registered on Blogspot more than a year ago, I did my first blog post. Usually, most bloggers do a Welcome or a Hello World post to mark their entry into the blogosphere – I was abrupt.
The death of Sowmya Viswanathan was shocking, and more tragic was the reaction of the politicos – You can read the post here.
On hindsight, I don’t know what made me a regular blogger after that post. Maybe I needed that impetus, that push to break the writer’s block.

Since then, this blog has been an expression of most things in life that hold meaning for me.
I have done a range of posts from seemingly frivolous ones to more introspective ones. What’s kept me going is that I have been able to be true to myself. Though I love the reactions of people to my writing I don’t write to please anyone in particular. What I write is essentially me and that is a satisfying emotion.

There was a time when I felt that an anonymous profile might suit me better. Anonymity might enable me to write more honestly and openly.
I argued that against integrity. If I feel strongly about something, why should I be scared to associate my identity with it? However, there are still times that I am not enable to share an experience that involves others for fear of compromising their privacy – but I guess trade-offs would always be there.

The making of My Musings…
Though I started with quite a simple template from, I am in love with my current template from
The daisy is your everyday flower – yet it is beautiful and exquisite in its simplicity. The green is for life and the sunshine peeping through the clouded sky is the hope we all live on!

Indiblogger and BlogAdda memberships have had their advantages – apart from being ranked, I got to interact with fellow bloggers, each gifted and uniquely talented!

Not a tech savy person, I have been able to get some widgets going. My favorite ones include the visitor counter (I love to see the so many flags of countries from where people access my blog – Oh how on top of the world I feel :)), and the Link Within gadget that adds associated posts below the latest post.

As for my favorite posts, I cannot choose among my creations, can I?

So here’s raising a toast to the blogosphere! Cheers!


Over to you now…


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