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Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Buffalo Bulletin

"So how are you liking Buffalo ? "

I have lost count of how many times I have been asked this question (by strangers too !). They ask me with such eagerness and hope that I do not have the heart to say " how much can you like a place that's called Buffalo ??? " I still have'nt decided a diplomatically correct answer to it . So I just respond in a grand gesture that conveys little: a mix of the Indian head roll, a half grin and nonchalant shrug of my shoulders. Truth is I really have'nt made up my mind about how much I looove this place. The 8.75 % sales tax is not helping me much either !

The city is really not that bad. It is a small and decent upgrade for someone who stayed 5 years in a 'city' with one block constituting downtown and one mall (but the best mall among the 10 counties of Iowa). The downtown here has buildings with more than 8 floors. Besides here they have metro trains too...ok I mean one line that has trains running up and down from the University to downtown all day long. In fact this place is a lot like India and quite unlike USA ...all the roads are dug open everywhere with no indication of them closing anytime soon. Buffalo can probably be seen from space thanks to all the bright orange construction cones the city is littered with. I overheard someone at work remark casually, "Oh the same road work has been going on ever since I first moved here ...12 years back !!!. People honk for no reason. The roads are haphazard running in all possible directions.... a road on the left side of a intersection will have a totally different name from the right side. You will be driving along Winspear Ave ...singing along with Himesh Reshammiya (who I happen to enjoy...so kill me !), when BAM !!! Winspear has dissappeared into thin air at the signal . You are staring down Treehaven Rd not knowing where to go with cars angrily honking at you from all sides. Maybe I should have pulled down my windows and given them a dose of Himesh...that would have shut them up . I find it odd that Niagara Falls Boulevard..which is supposedly the mother of all roads here going all the way upto Niagara falls, ends abruptly in front of our campus.......just like that !

The biggest incentive for me to move here was that my husband and I finally managed to find something to do in the same continent. But I am still hesitant to blurt out that the city has kindoff started to grow on me, infinitesimally slowly though. I am slipping into a comfort zone I was pretty sure I would never find anywhere else in the world apart from Iowa city ( I had felt the same about Pune when I moved to Mumbai , and then about Mumbai , when I moved to Iowa city...you would think I should have seen this coming ... ).

But moving out of Iowa city was heartbreakingly difficult for me which is why I did not land here with dreams in my eyes, jumping with excitement about moving here ....in fact I had to drag myself out of the airport with a heavy heart and two bulging suitcases. Not to mention a knapsack with a tennis racket sticking out, courtesy of my friends. Its no fun getting stared at by people wondering which championship could I have possibly qualified for. If it was'nt for someone waiting to pick me up I probably would'nt have left the airport at all and tried to catch a flight back.

The first two weeks were the most horrible, and depressing time for me. It is still fresh in my mind like a bad hangover from cheap wine (you know... the ones you pick up from the grocery store when you are both greedy and stingy). With my husband's arrival still two weeks away, I was all alone in a new city. I went from depressed to super-depressed when I did not see any TACO BELL within 1/2 mile radius of my house or my lab. But then one day as I was returning from the lab my heart skipped a beat when lo and behold there it was in the mall near the house ....China King !!! Oh what joy to see the same menu, and the exact same way I was asked if I wanted "flied lice" with my orange chicken....they just had to be related to my china star aunty..the resemblance was too striking. And yes, the orange chicken had the same semolina instead of chicken. You can chew on it like a cow all day long ...it is not going anywhere....ah heaven !

The first day when I set foot in my apartment I told myself "hey this is not all that bad"...atleast this place has a huge square kitchen. My previous place had an alley in the name of a kitchen between the living room and bathroom. I guess they had designed it for people who needed to eat something on the go . The kitchen was so close to the bathroom, instead of DOVE, you would smell like curry after a shower. So this kitchen pleased me no end. The place also looked extremely bright with lots of sunshine streaming in from all the rooms. I also realized later that night that the place looks extremely bright with lots of streetlights streaming in from all the rooms creating ghostly shadows (for once I was glad I am blind as a bat without glasses).

For quite sometime there was nothing else in the house except for my suitcases and boxes. So my suitcases became my low chairs and my boxes doubled up as nightstand and clothestand. Rephrasing someone's (Jay Leno ???) words , it is said, we only understand the value of something when we don't have it with us anymore. I will never take my tea strainer for granted ever again. I had forgotten to pack mine, and so everymorning after I made the tea, I had to take a leisurely stroll around the house while the tea leaves settled to the bottom of the cup before I could gingerly sip the tea. A stroll too quick would mean eating tea than drinking it.

Boy ....was I glad to see my husband arrive two weeks later ....now the curtains could go up, the boxes could be opened and I could finally have my clean cup of hot tea thanks to the strainer I kept reminding him a zillion times.

And so after 2 months, ...the house is almost furnished, we have figured out the closest public library and Taco bell, made garage sale hopping our saturday morning ritual........life is getting back on track.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

From God's Own Sauna Land

I am writing this from malluland or as I would call it presently: Gods own sauna land !! I came here greedy for a long deserved vacation, phinally PhinisheD as I was.

Yes I would most humbly like to request you to call me Dr. M as of now. I simbly will not listen to you if you don't :-). I caught the first flight out of the country as soon as the graduate college deadline passed. The graduate college employs people to make sure every one of the 150 paged thesis is spaced at a 2:1 ratio, among the thousand other rules (don't ask...they should give us all a second degree just to figure out all the formatting mumbo jumbo in the thesis manual). Only after successfully completing every comma, space and font requirement are you worthy of the ‘Dr’ title. And now, I cannot even stop myself from formatting this crude write-up in note-pad….it becomes an obsession.

So, with dreams of a perfect vacation, I landed in the surprisingly neat and tidy airport in Cochin. I do not joke, when I say Kerala feels like a giant sauna without an off switch. It’s hot and humid all day long and the men walk around with hiked up lungis, barely covering themselves. My in-laws stay in a quaint village south of Allepey. The most ideal place for a vacation, I tell you. But I have sworn off a May vacation to this part of the world. I don't do well in hot weather. I literally run around like a guillotined chicken. You don't want to be near me when the mercury is risen so high. Just ask my husband! I genuinely fear I might catch fire (I also speculate on spontaneously combusting, but I don't remember how that works). But can I walk around in shorts and t-shirts? Even the thought of that makes me laugh uncontrollably. On the contrary, I am fully clothed and bejeweled at all times, just in case the ever curious neighbors stroll by the house in the hope of getting some of the chocolates from Aameriga. God forbid if they catch me without my gold necklaces, bangles, bindi, oiled and tied hair (i.e. whatever is left of it after washing it every day). I do not possess the trademark long black curly head of hair that every female here struts around in, which makes it really difficult to fit in. My mom-in-law is pretty sure I am balding. I try to tell her my hair type is ‘fine’ and requires all the chemicals in the shampoo and conditioners to get some body into them. She tells me (in mallu of course. On a good day I can decode only 20% of whatever is spoken in the house ).“Put oil nicely and just rinse with water …all this shampoo is what is stripping out all the hair” . Have you seen anyone with fine hair that is dipped in oil? Come on over.

So, my vacation till now has been cribbing about how hot it is, overeating on all the fish, chicken, duck, every imaginable (unrecognizable) seafood available here, and then cribbing and cursing some more. And oh yes, watching out for ants. Yes, ants. Not mosquitoes, or roaches, or lizards, but ants of all the pests in the world. The nasty little red ants can bite off an entire chunk of flesh if you let them. They are all over the house, but their favorite place is our bed. You can clean, dust and spray all the poison in the world, but they are right there sprawled on the bed by bedtime waiting for us. My surface area is covered equally with boils and bites. I layer myself with DermiCool all day and walk around looking like a panda…a bejeweled panda with oily strands of hair. But I don’t care how I look like as long as I am comfortable. I guess getting married for 2 years contributes significantly in developing this kind of attitude.

I must stop writing now. Its time to wipe the sweat of my eyelids, crush all the ants on the bed, layer some DermiCool all over again, taste mom’s shrimp curry, and guzzle down another liter of ice water. Who said vacation means no work? Now if only the heat could also melt away my fat, then I wouldn’t mind the may vacation to my sauna land after all.

Monday, December 12, 2005

7/18/2005

No....no ...this date is not going down in history or anything...just realized that was the last time I had posted here. I was kind of going through a self imposed 'blog depravation' thinking if I had so much to say I might as well put it into my thesis writing then spend precious keyboard minutes writing about mundane stuff like how we started a fire and smoked everyone out of the building (which was quite fun actually), or gave my first ever public presentation at the conference..oh well !

After four years of crawling through, now that I am nearing the end of the PhD tunnel, I think I can make out a teeny weeny hint of light ...but even if I haven’t learnt anything during my years here , one thing is burnt into my brains forever : there is a huge....HUGE difference between "almost there" and "there". So never ever ever ever assume you are "there" ...when you are only "almost there". If you did'nt understand a word of that profound statement I made....then you, my friend, are probably not a PhD student ....congratulations !

I have never been one of those people who takes every decision in their life after thinking and rethinking and then thinking some more. Maybe thats why I sucked at chess!!! .

So when I decided (which took like 2 seconds) to give PhD a shot, I was totally clueless about what I was in for. Up until last year I was still clueless!!! Oh boy do I know now why we are called Doctors of Philosophy...thats all there is to it at the end of it all.
After this you realize how precious is
- your bank account thats not only malnourished but also suffers from diarrhoea...money is out even before it comes in !!!
- clearance shelf at Walmart...you can't imagine the treasures you can get there,
- your Russian car mechanic who yells at me like my mom, but charges me $2 to fix my overheated car. I love him.
- and of course Taco Bell...words cannot express my gratitude to this place.

What else do you need to survive other than a burrito, kapda aur kiraya ka makaan?

The “almost there” phase of my life has been going on for over 6 months and everyday I am that much closer to giving it all up. I come home every evening all morose and then something happens that will have me cracking up and happy again: a full hour of “Friends”. This is one serial that never lets me down …even after its 100th rerun I am still in splits .

Things have come to this stage now that I will do anything to run away from my work ...and that includes watching a movie like "Dus" ...what is worse ...I even enjoyed it :-( . I have realised that people get very upset / angry after watching movies like this . But I just shrug my shoulders and say "Ehh it was not so bad ...the girl wore some nice eyeshadow in that last scene , when the plane was going to jump into the lake and explode". What ? that was Zayed Khan ???
I do have an extremely low threshold for bollywood !!!

I just talked to my parents, who are vacationing in Singapore. My brother went back to India, and thought it was a good idea to give them an experience of flying ...since they had never got on a plane. So he took them to Singapore. Apparently according to my dad (who lives only to tease my mom over every goof up she does) my mom was so excited, she started "practising" how to climb into a plane. Every weekend when I call home, he is ready with his list of 'mom jokes'. Mom is a great sport though, and all she manages is a "thats enough now". Dad loves to entertain, and he does seem to have his own fan club in the khandaan. He keeps repeating his jokes ...but everytime there is some new masala in it...and exaggeration is his middle name ...nobody seems to mind as long as they have a good laugh. I do miss all those family get togethers , where everyone would gather in the living room after dinner and the tales and gossips would begin and go on till the wee hours of the morning.

Meanwhile, the other day my friend forwarded me a link that actually turned out to be one of my juniors from IITB. Its amazing how we bump into old friends and learn about their new hobbies

Anyways, this was fun ...although this is probably as random as I can get when it comes to blogging...but this is exactly how my mind works too ...its all over the place ...maybe that could be another reason I sucked at chess !!!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Happy Buddays

While I was thinking about ‘blog worthy’ topics to post, something that was funny and memorable, I realized nothing beats the gal palz birthday party escapades. Btw "Gal Palz" is what we have officially labeled ourselves, complete with branded merchandise ranging from T-shirts, collages declaring everlasting friendships to the customary yahoogroups. "Bindaas Babes" was also strongly rallied for, but then we wanted to keep it real.

Another topic I thought about that came a close second, was documenting how almost each one of us has been called someone’s mom at some point in time (and no, none of us are even remotely lurking around motherhood) …but since that issue is still a little raw I decided it was wise to stay out of it atleast for the time being. I am still recovering from that accusation from our 60 yr old neighbour. Considering she could'nt speak hindi or english to save her life, she butchered me with that one word. I console myself everyday- its not me ...its her !!.

Like every girlie groups (or boyie (?)- girlie groups...I would'nt know as I was always in girlie groups) surprise birthday celebrations have always been a conventional way to show we care. That or just the fact that 'ab ek ke liye party kiya tho sab ke liye party karna hi padega'. We usually stuck with the same protocol ...sometimes even the same wrapping paper- one of the advantageous of not having girls that ransack the whole box to open their gifts. Firstly there would be the spate of emails flying into the inbox at 50 mails/hour. This phase would typically range from a thanda Code Green to a catastrophic Code Red that would be directly proportional to number of days remaining to execute the surprise 'happy budday ritual'. The plan would be to barge into the victims’ room the minute the clock struck 12 and break into the traditional and offkey "happy birthday". This was never really a surprise because each of us knew the gang was standing right outside the door thanks to the loud whispers and the light from the tiny bonfire caused by the 20 something candles. The only time this turned out as a true surprise was when one of the girls playfully warned us not to bother wishing her at 12 and destroy her beauty sleep. Boy...was she surprised, when we obediently did'nt show up !!!

Over the years we have had countless parties. From plain-jane to wild-two-day-hangover kinds. We have had our disagreements over perfumes and photo frames, gift cards and gift receipts. But the memories of each and every person's birthday is still fresh in our minds. Ok maybe not every one of them ...but there are some that stick out:

There was the surprise, for which we drove 4 hours to Chicago, to wish the birthday girl. She had spent the entire day sulking. The drama queen, that she is, quite predictably wouldn’t stop talking about how 'surprised she was' when we all showed up with cakes, candles and confetti. We didn’t have the heart to tell her, we were more interested in her sis’s ghar ka khana and Sony TV not to mention her adorable niece.

Then there was the poolside grill party with bucketloads of chicken and paneer. It was memorable because this probably was our first attempt at doing a la-american pool party. After hours of unsuccessful attempts to light up the grill and seeing that junta had started munching on the raw paneer, entire crew moved back home. To cut a long story short, 3 hrs and a tornado-struck-smoke filled kitchen later, we had enough pav, paneer and chicken kababs to feed a village . The party was for a girl who would rather have sugar in her veins instead of blood. So there were 7 different sweet dishes (one for each day of her birthday week) and three cakes with one baked for the sole purpose of smearing on her face. We not only smother our love, we kill too with our cakes .

I know after reading all this you will sigh and remark “oh such loving and caring friends they are”!!!. Ahem ….I do beg to differ …we are as loving and as caring as a bunch of cannibals can be to a fat meaty human.

We had a treasure hunt party for a girl whose hair was almost set on fire on her birthday the year before …thanks to one very excited female with a candle and matches in her hand. This time we decided to make it fun for her as well. So we hid her gift and the clues to it were also hidden in all kinds of places from the toilet seat to the cereal box. So while she scurried about the house scratching her head for answers, we all busied ourselves with food and drinks.

Then there was the party for which we used the same food, which the birthday girl had made thinking she would surprise us instead. So she creates this elaborate spread and invites us over. Instead we ask her to stop by at our place and while she is on her way, two of us sneak into her place pick up everything she has cooked and bring it over for ‘our party’. Initially she was surprised at how familiar the aloo tasted. But then eventually her Prestige cooker gave it away.

I cannot even begin to mention how wicked we can get towards those who return our hard searched gifts. There are some who have suffered our wrath and all attempts at explaining are just lame. You may hate the color of the dress; the silver chain might get all seriously twisted up; the perfume may make you smell like a skunk. Just because we also gave you a gift receipt doesn’t mean you use it…we just wanted to be nice, we don’t really mean it. Some of them have learned to outwit the gang ...or so they think. Every time we ask her about the jacket we gifted last year, she casually remarks, “Actually na, I have been thinking of wearing it …just waiting for the right occasion”. Hmmm...we need to raid her closet soon.

I may sit and mourn about my increasing age for the rest of the year, but for that one-day I couldn’t be happier celebrating it in the company of these lady goondas ...hey thats a nice name to put on the next group T-shirt.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Precious Nothings

They say english is a funny language where noses run and socks smell . But when it comes to the GalPalz mouthing off what remotely resembles english with hindi thrown in liberally (not just the shudh common Hinglish , but one thats peppered with banarasi, marathi, baangali, and madrasi) , the end product is as comprehensible to the common man as Swahili. This is inspite of the fact that we do have a Grammar Police in our midst forever correcting our P's and R's . We even had our own month long G8 summit to debate the pronounciation of the word 'Cabin' . Yeah ordinarily cabin is not a debatable word you would think...but then we aren't exactly ordinary girls either :-).

So over the years, all this verbal goobledygook has transformed into a whole new language with sentences and phrases which the group understands perfectly and sometimes even uses it to communicate with other mortals. Needless to say all we get back in response is baffled looks, wide open mouths and unblinking stares. So if any of you guys happen to overhear conversations that go like this...you can confidently go up to them and say "hi, wait let me guess ....you are doing your PhD in Univ of Iowa and you are part of a group called GalPalz" and if she happens to be this short, chatty and loud girl ...then boldly throw in a "and your name is S ?" .

So how bizarre do we really sound ? Here's a trailer ...

"music khel na" (literal translation of "play the music")

"photo nikal na" ....(no it does not mean remove photos from the album...you dufus ...she is asking you to click her photo !!! )

"hey wo log chale gaye kya " ? "Haan wo log chal basse ."
(Geez, stop wailing and join them if you miss them so much !!)

"I am having a 'take out' moment" ....(that irresistable desire to order take out ...usually hits around 5-7 pm when we are at our hungriest and laziest. We are trying to get the owners at China Star and Taco Bell to start a special order line for us called "express lane 5-7 pm" )

"no, not yut"....(our efforts at fixing this are still ongoing ..."yet as in bet ...not but"...uffff !!!)

"I am wearing punjabi dress to the potluck" (thats the 80's mumbaiyya version of Salwar Kameez and we must be the only group alive that still uses this ancient word).

And then there are adopted sentences like "Kaa Jaani , Zindagi life ban gayi , Galti se Mistake ho gaya" , which are gaining popularity in other circles too. Phew ! that's one less clueless person we will have to explain our selves to.

I think I will keep updating this post to include all the (un)quotable quotes , and then just publish it as "The Dummies Guide to Understanding GalPalz" !!!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Back to the Nature

After almost 2 weeks of hot and muggy weather this friday was perfect, and the weekend according to KCRG TV-9 was going to be fabulous. Friday evening ...actually more like midafternoon (can’t say why, but past 3 pm on a friday the lab starts feeling like an overcrowded perspiring mumbai local in summer… I just need to get out !!) ...the gang settles down at the house after a successful raid of the local Indian grocery store procurring everything edible from kachoris to kadhai paneer.

Being with these folks for four years I have come to realize that the situation on a friday evening is highly unstable and unpredictable. There is no telling who comes up with what to do over the weekend. And this being the July 4th weekend, which meant another day to procrastinate the work deadlines to, ... one can only imagine!!! And so we decided to go Camping. You know head back to the woods, rough it out, be one with nature...yada yada yada.

I must admit I have never been too much of a nature freak. Don’t get me wrong …I am all for the trees, the greenery and giving them their space and all that …but when it comes down to actually doing all that camping and heavy duty hiking and trekking through the mosquito infested trails …thanks but no thanks. I enjoy my bug-free, air-conditioned house on a hot summer day a little too much. But you see the other thing I didn’t tell you about me was that I can be quite a pushover. Besides, the convincing power of the girls can put even those telemarketers to shame (thanks to whom, I am now in a ‘credit protection plan’ which charges me more than my monthly credit card charges).

Needless to say I decided to give camping a try, mainly because it would be just one night and above all there were toilets in the campground. There was no way I was going all ‘natural’ to answer nature’s call! The excitement was so high that everyone wanted to head out friday evening itself, problem was that it was already 9pm, and we still hadn’t figured out which state park to crash into... and oh yes, we would be needing at least a tent. In ten minutes we were picking out camping supplies at Wal-Mart. We selected a pretty yellow and blue tent to fit 4 people (that diagrammatically showed the best sleeping arrangement to fit all four ...three vertical-one horizontal). The sales chap gave us all one look and not so subtly hinted that the tent probably would be too small for us. …Baaah humbug …what did he know? We filled up the shopping cart with sleeping bags, charcoal, lighter fluids, skewers, ice packs, veggies, drinks, chips, corn and what not. That’s the thing about girls…our idea of roughing it out is Maggie and sandwiches instead of a nine course meal. By the time we were leaving, we had bags that occupied 1/4th of my huge living room…that too because it was just for a night.

And we headed off to the Wapsipinicon State Park, which was supposed to be a 45 min drive on the interstate…that is if we had taken the right interstate. We passed through the Wapsi camp, the Pinicon campgrounds, but no Wapsipinicon in sight!!! Finally we were at the park, thanks to a map and numerous calls (yeah we are girls …we do ask for directions) to a very puzzled campground caretaker – puzzled considering it was only about 50 miles and there were only two ways from Iowa City to the park. We didn’t tell him that we also had driving directions from mapquest and google. The park was like most American State Parks …quite generic. But once you get inside, nothing beats that cool crisp air, thick green foliage of the tall trees and the freshly mowed grass that smells divine. All that coupled to the jasmine smelling freshener in the car and I was promptly transported to Kerala with momentary flashes of homesickness.

Pitching up the tent was a cakewalk…partly because I know squat about raising a tent, so I helped out by staying out and occasionally made myself useful by hammering here and there and holding on to whatever I was told to. Sometimes its better to have only one girl who knows what she’s doing...too many smart ass cooks can indeed spoil the broth. Then came the gargantuan task of starting the fire, which we got down to after we ambled down a trail collecting half dry sticks for the fire. By the end of the trail I had more cobwebs on me than firewood. Starting the fire was no biggie either …problem came when we had to keep it on long enough to boil the water, grill the veggies and the fish. Suddenly I have a newfound respect for the Neanderthal. After a grueling session of keeping the fires lit and smoking our eyeballs out, we reached the stage of the smoldering white charcoal, which I was told is the final goal every Neanderthal aspired for. Finally we sat down to a feast that tasted like ambrosia…grilled veggies with nimbu and chat masala sprinkled on them, hot spicy Maggie, grilled fish. …Yummm good food!!

Topped the night off lying in the open grass, chomping down sweet bhutta, gazing at the spectacular display of stars and showing off our half-baked knowledge of astronomy to each other. Then came the stories…I usually don’t believe in ghosts and spirits, but when you are in the middle of all that nature at night, trust me, even a raccoon will freak you out (no serious, I went nuts on seeing one). Even though we slept fitfully that night, we got up feeling as fresh as the morning dew. After the usual tug of war between man, err …women and fire …we had garam chai and toasted egg sandwiches. I told ya …we live/camp to eat…and then go on a guilt trip about weight issues. But this time we decided we should instead do one short trail before we headed back home. The trail lead us through dense conifers which opened into a wide open green prairie on a hilltop (yes, contrary to popular notion, Iowa is not as flat as a pancake). It’s true when people say that nature brings out the animal in you …there were some among us who turned into monkeys munching on suspicious looking berries, while others plucked every wild flower in site. Thankfully they were still alive the last time I checked. I was on high alert for poison ivy the entire trail…and since I didn’t recognize one, my friends spent half their time assuring me “that is not poison ivy, its just fern”. After photo sessions of tree stumps and ‘bleeding mushrooms’ (I christened one pretty looking thing in red…will upload the pic soon), it was time to head back to civilization. As much as we were sad about leaving the park, we were really glad too...we still had monday off.

In conclusion the trip was a lot of fun, all that food was hot and smokin’, and the memories. …simply priceless.

And oh yeah …nature rocks !!!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Double Battery Single Power: The Blurry Reality of my Life

I am almost as blind as a bat in daylight. Without my glasses or contact lenses , the whole world is just blurry blurry dim. If I were to be stranded on an island, my glasses would be the only life support I would need. Inspite of that, I hate them with every bone in my body. I have worn glasses for as long as I can recollect. I started going down 'fuzzyland' around 7th class, when at school I found myself doing all kinds of visual acrobatics as I struggled to jot down from the blackboard. But I did'nt realise I might be going myopic... not even when I very confidently read out random crap from the blackboard while the teacher stared at me nonplussed, and the entire class was in splits. Things only got worse from then on. I winked, squinted and went cross eyed trying to read and go about my life . Catching the right bus home without landing up on the other side of town had become a daily grind. Eventually I gave up and told my parents, who predictably and immediately went into denial. They thought I was faking it, their reasoning being, because neither of them wore glasses, it was genetically impossible for me to be afflicted with myopia ...fact that they never read, or watched TV as much as I did, did'nt seem to be much of a contributing factor. Oh they had tons of similar very questionable illusions in life including the "you are not overweight at all..you simply look like you are from a nice khaate peete ghar ki" Meanwhile, my mom started hyperventilating when she had visions of me ending up as 60 yr old spectacled spinster. And then my doctor went into shock, when he checked my eyes and saw that I was actually going to school and functioning just ok without glasses (if only he knew !! ). My myopia started off with a -2, and I was told if I wore them reguarly I would'nt need them one day(I am still waiting for that day !).

And thus I entered the visually handicapped category for life . As much I was relieved that I could see and read clearly again (so ecstatic I read everything from billboards, shopsigns, license plates ...sab kuch ), I never liked the glasses, or how I looked with them. So any comment as casual as 'Hey, you look different with those glasses' used to open up my floodgates. No amount of but-you-look-nice-with-them would stop my bawling. I had begun to think the glasses had transformed my whole pschyche into behanji mode and I was never going to be the cool chick who wore sunglasses or flirtingly flutterred her eyelashes at guys (oh my priorities in life at 12 !!) . I was stuck pushing the specs up my nose, wiping the rainwater off them or steaming them up while cooking....for ever.

One day I was cycling back home from school. At an intersection I had to cross the road and as usual I looked back and put out my right hand to signal. As I was about to cross, out of nowhere two guys on a bike landed up right behind me and started yelling "Eh double battery single power, dikhta nahi hein kya ??" More than the shock of a possible collision (which was btw entirely their fault , whizzing past like that at an intersection), I was furious for being called that. So angry that almost for a month after that I used to curse that they and their whole khandaan would wear 'soda glasses' for the rest of their lives...you know those hideously thick glasses that made the person look like a Martian with eyes the size of golf balls.

And so "Dhapne","Chashmish" , "Double battery single power" were terms of endearment I had to make peace with. As much as I hated my glasses, I figured it was better to look like a nerd/martian than to make a complete fool of myself like a friend once did. We were out on a walk one night after dinner when she exclaimed what a beautiful full moon it was. The rest of all looked all around to see the moon, only to realise this chashmish, who would'nt be caught dead wearing her glasses, was in fact gushing over a white halogen street lamp !!

Eventually, I changed to contact lenses and things were not so bad anymore. Except, once you decide to go glass-free, contact lens wearers sign up for a whole new set of issues. The everyday morning fight to get them in, the silent prayers that you don't get caught in a duststorm or a stray eyelash decides to commit suicide by jumping into your eyes and make you go ballistic in between a lecture, or a meeting.

But now atleast I can strut around in sunglasses :-D ...ah , the small pleasures of life