A dry spell, more updates and a forgotten post

It’s been a long time since my last real post. I am talking about a nice long post here, not the short updates I have been posting off late. Back during our India vacation in November, I was constantly making up long posts, yes – entire sentences and paragraphs, in my mind only to forget all about them later. Each time something interesting happened, I’d file away a mental note to myself – must blog about this as soon as possible. But I had also promised myself not to waste my precious vacation time online, so I held back in the mistaken belief that I could always write about it once I got back home. Turns out I over-estimated my memory as usual. Now here I am, back to my normal routine, with some if not lots of time for blogging, but there’s nothing I can think of to write about!

I am now of the firm opinion that it is much easier to find blogging material in India than in the US. (I am curious to know if any of the US-based desi readers of my blog have noticed this?) My guess is that it’s because of the multitude of people we interact with everyday in India. After all, most of us blog about the interesting experiences we have had during our day and the thoughts and reactions those experiences triggered in us. Naturally, it follows that the more people you interact with during the day, the more the chances that you will have at least one interesting bloggable experience coming out of all those interactions.

On any normal day in India I would meet and speak with at least half a dozen relatives, a couple of friends, neighbors, our household helpers and driver, two or three vegetables vendors, bus/taxi/rickshaw drivers, restaurant waiters and of course more than a dozen shopkeepers and salespersons. In the US, on the other hand, I end up speaking 90% of the time with the husband and the remaining 10% is spent chatting with my office friends. That’s it! No relatives to trade family gossip and banter with, no household help to crib about, no bus/taxi/rickshaw drivers to argue with and no vegetable vendors and shopkeepers to haggle with! Now where am I supposed to get fodder for my blog in such a situation? Disclaimer – I do NOT think interacting with the computer, television, car, laundry machine, vacuum machine and dishwasher counts! Things might be very different once we have kids. But I don’t see myself planning a kid just to have something to write about, so that’s not much help for now.

I am going off on a tangent here, but I really envy Indians who have lots of family in the US. Some of our friends have their entire clan settled here, and I always enter a wistful ‘what-if’ land when I hear them talk of family get-togethers in New Jersey and having their sister’s kids coming down to spend vacations with them during Christmas. I enjoy my life in the US and love the fun times we have together, just the two of us and I cherish the independence we enjoy and the abundance of personal time and the variety of fun activities we can indulge in during our free time. But life here would be truly wonderful if only we had some of our family close by.

The next best thing to having family here is to make good friends who can act as a surrogate family and that’s something we’ve been trying to do ever since we came here. I am not a very social person by nature and going out and getting to know strangers is not something that comes naturally to me. When I was young, I would prefer staying at home with a good book rather than accompanying my parents when they visited friends and family. If the book was good enough, I would even opt to stay home rather than go out and meet my own friends sometimes! Now that should give you a good idea of how difficult it must have been for me to actively reach out and make friends here.

The strange part, though, is that this did not require an extraordinary effort on my part. I stayed in my shell for the first couple of months and then got so lonely that I started reaching out on my own without noticing any difference in my behavior. Suddenly I wanted to attend each and every party we were invited to and wanted to invite people home even though I did not really look forward to the extra cooking and cleaning effort it entailed. We spent our Christmas vacation in Florida with another couple, and though I was reluctant at first, I now feel sure we would never have had the kind of fun we had if it had been just the two of us there. For New Year’s eve, the husband suggested we team up with another couple for dinner and dancing and I jumped at the idea immediately! This is not to say that I do not enjoy spending time alone with the husband, but too much of a good thing can get boring too, right?

Last weekend I called to wish a friend who was leaving for India on her annual vacation and was stunned when I realized this was something my parents had been urging me to do for ages – keep in touch with people and call them up from time to time, to wish them on important occasions or just casually chat. I would stubbornly refuse, not out of malice or arrogance but simply because I was too shy to initiate a conversation. And here I was, doing exactly the same thing on my own initiative! (Pat on the back for me here!) Is this the first sign of my budding maturity or a simple case of necessity being the harshest and best of teachers? I know I have a long way to go on this path yet, but I now feel confident I will get there someday.

Coming back to the point I was talking about – my search for blogging ideas – most of the stimulation and ideas I get these days come from the blog posts that I read. The problem is most of them are so comprehensive and well written that’s there very little one can add to them except say, I completely agree with you! In the rare cases where there is some room for elaboration or dissent, I feel guilty of constantly ‘borrowing’ my blogging ideas from other people and end up not writing a word on that topic! To sum up, I am not sure if this is a case of ‘Naach na jaane aangan teda’, but yes, I am going through something like a dry blogging spell right now.

Which is why I will end this post with some mundane updates from my life as usual. Thankfully, there are some exciting things happening right now, so this shouldn’t get too boring. The most exciting update I have is – I am finally learning to drive! And I now have my own car too! Lest it should strike somebody as funny that I own a car without knowing how to drive it, let me explain. (By the way, the husband finds this very funny too and never fails to remind me so whenever I taunt him with a ‘My car is better than yours’ refrain!) Our first car was a full-size manual one, and we felt it would be better for me to learn on a smaller automatic car. So the car is here, now I’m learning to drive it!

We bought the car from an American Army officer, and it was quite an experience meeting this guy. Tall, well-built, very courteous and friendly and not in the least bit intimidating, he was a great car owner too! He had been meticulous in maintaining the car and it was in superb condition. In fact we liked the guy almost as much as we liked his car! I was in awe of him the moment I heard he had just returned from Iraq. Not that I am in support of this war (or any war as a matter of fact), but it’s so seldom that we get to meet soldiers who are literally in the eye of the storms we just hear about on news channels and right or wrong, I am sure it must take a lot of guts and sacrifices to fight any war that I feel I must applaud that effort and courage whenever I can.

Moving on, the other big news is that I have started taking Hindustani classical music lessons in our town. I used to learn when I was in school and college and although I am not an accomplished singer and perhaps never will be, I enjoy the serenity and complete peace of mind that music gives me. I can completely lose myself while I sing, surrendering to the moment and enjoying each and every note and beat. I have heard people talk similarly about meditation, and singing or listening to music is probably the closest to meditation that I’ll ever get. Basically, music is the best stress-buster I have come across and singing works slightly better than listening for me.

The music lessons are not as great as I would want them to be – our teacher is wonderful but the group I am learning with is large and most of my peers are learning music for the first time. With my childhood training, I am a little ahead of them and hearing some of their off-key renditions while I am trying to stay on-key is slightly distracting, to put it very mildly. I don’t blame anyone of course. (If anything I blame myself for giving up midway and having to start all over again now.) I might have been worse myself when I was starting off. And I truly admire our teacher who teaches these lessons for free out of the goodness of her heart and her obvious love for music. But I do wish I could have learnt in a smaller or more advanced group instead. I know I am nitpicking now – isn’t it enough of a wonder that we have Hindustani classical music lessons right here in my little rural town?

Finally, here’s a post I had written last week just before the Sydney test match was tainted by the racism controversy. I somehow forgot to post it, no idea why. (I have been very busy lately with the car and music lessons, my cousin’s visit and the extra pressure at work since our manager is on vacation.) Posting it now, just as a reminder of some wonderful moments that ideally should have been the reason this test is remembered for.

A heartwarming and heart-stopping moment

My cousin and I were keen to watch a new Marathi movie last night. The husband is usually enthusiastic too, which is why I was surprised when his response yesterday was a lukewarm – Udya baghuya? (Can we watch it tomorrow?) ‘Why, what’s wrong with today?’, I asked suspiciously. ‘Aaj match ahe na!’, he explained sheepishly. The cousin was quick to change sides too – Match ahe tar, maybe udya?

Hmmm! I seemed to be in a minority of one, so there was nothing I could do except mumble and grumble alone in the kitchen. Our kitchen being an open plan one and my voice being rather… err… powerful in anger, the grumbles must have reached them hunched around the television. The husband of course, being an experienced married man of two plus years, is an expert at ignoring such stray noises that bounce off his ear-drums from time to time.

The cousin, however, seemed slightly perturbed and might have been debating whether or not to give in and switch on the movie instead. He isn’t married, nor to my knowledge does he have a girlfriend yet, so the poor thing must have been very confused, but he probably decided the wisest course would be to follow his older and more experienced brother-in-law’s example in this matter.

My first tactic having failed miserably, I tried the second one. ‘Who’s batting right now?’, I directed my question to the wall in front of me. Miraculously, my half-hearted whisper succeeded in penetrating the secret cave behind the husband’s ear-drums. (Could it have something to do with the magical word – batting? Yes – that must be the password to the secret chamber!)

‘Sachin and Saurav’, came the quick reply. ‘Oh, Sachin is still there? I think he’ll get out in this over!’, I found my wicked and temporarily-gripped-by-cricket-hatred self pronouncing. On the very next ball, Saurav got out. The husband and the cousin both pounced on me immediately. I thanked my stars it was Saurav and not Sachin who got out, or I may not have been here to write this blog today!

The pattern continued for the next couple of wickets – every few minutes I would voice my opinion that a wicket seemed imminent right now and Yuvraj and Dhoni obediently followed Saurav to the pavilion. Sachin, however, continued to play his calm and unhurried game, striking some lovely fours and even a six in the meanwhile.

By now, my attention was hooked. Lest someone get the wrong impression, let me clarify – I am not usually such a cricketophobe. Under ordinary circumstances, I would have been right alongside the husband and cousin cheering for our team and hoping against hope that we win. It was just the husband’s obstinacy that got my goat last night.

But Sachin’s batting, when he is having a good day, has the potential to melt the stoniest of hearts and my heart had only developed a temporary cover of frost! I glanced at the score-board out of the corner of my eye. The master batsman was on 98! Omigod! Bitter memories from the last few matches came to my mind. Sachin getting out in the nineties, match after match, shaking his head in disappointment and walking back to the pavilion with a sad downcast face. Once, horrors of horrors, he was out on 99! ‘It’s not fair! Why can’t they give him a bonus run?’, I had sobbed then.

Was history about to repeat itself? Surely not! No one could be that unlucky several times in a row. There was a hushed silence in the room for the next few minutes. I am not sure if the husband noticed my grumblings had stopped – I don’t think I noticed it myself. We watched with bated breath a couple of misses and false alarms before the final triumphant run was taken. The room erupted with roars of joy!

What followed was an unusual sight for Indian cricket fans – Sachin removing his helmet, his eyes shining with pride and joy and an ecstatic smile on his face and raising his bat in triumph. It’s hard to remember when he was this animated for a personal triumph, he seemed to be almost jumping with joy yesterday. It was a moment as special and exciting as Ganguly’s t-shirt stunt in the England series, although this gesture was a tad more dignified and mature perhaps, dare I say?

Most of us cricket fans in India, love Sachin, worship him and treat him like a demi-God. Naturally we tend to expect too much from him. If he can make 99 runs, what stops him from making just one more, we ask? It’s just his carelessness, we explain dismissively. He needs to apply himself, we pontificate. In the process we forget that he is as human and as vulnerable as any of us, with his fears and demons as real to him as ours are to us. This moment at the SGC was a welcome reminder of something we tend to forget all too often. A truly heartwarming and heart-stopping moment for all!

India or Australia, who are the real world champions?

The India versus Australia one-day series starts this Saturday and the mind games have begun already. While India’s triumph in the twenty-twenty World Cup is fresh in all our minds, the Australians haven’t shied away from reminding everyone of their past triumphs, haughtily dismissing the twenty-twenty championship while claiming that they are the real world champions. So, who is the better team here?  

I have very little knowledge of cricket to comment on the technical aspects of the game. I am just a typical passionate fan of the Indian cricket team rather than of cricket per se, following only those matches in which India plays and watching cricket solely to see India win. All this talk about silly points and such strikes me as, well, quite silly actually. 

But as a proud Indian fan, I have a right to voice my opinion, haven’t I? And my honest and instinctive opinion is that despite our recent victory, Australia is still the far better team of the two. Simply because they have an amazingly consistent record that speaks for itself and consistency is the one area where we have been sorely lacking so far.

I am glad India won the twenty-twenty cricket World Cup on Monday. Sadly, sitting here in a remote part of the US, we missed out on a lot of the excitement back home in India. I wasn’t even aware a World Cup was going on till the husband went crazy after Yuvraj’s legendary sixer spree in the match against England. We did watch all the subsequent match highlights on the internet though. 

Perhaps being away from the homeland explains why I don’t feel part of the mass hysteria sweeping the nation for the past few days. But I was all set to go crazy and scream myself hoarse cheering for India in the one-day World Cup earlier this year. The husband and I even paid precious dollars for the privilege of watching the World Cup matches live in the US then. So my lack of enthusiasm for this so-called momentous Indian win is baffling, really.  

Yes, I am happy we won, but there are so many things I find odd about our win that I don’t feel ready to celebrate yet. How do you explain this same team not even qualifying in the early rounds of the one-day World Cup? No wait, it wasn’t even the same team. That team had stalwarts like Sachin, Ganguly and Dravid, didn’t it? So is this win a triumph of the youthful spirit of the new team? Then perhaps it is time for the seniors to retire, is it?  

Or is the Indian temperament more suited to the twenty-twenty format? I am willing to buy that theory only if we continue to do well in that format in the future. Was it the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni that clinched it for India? Again, I’ll agree with that only if his amazing run continues. Or did we win because the other major teams did not participate as earnestly in this World Cup as in the one-day one?  

I hate being the lone skeptic here, but could it have something to do with luring one billion Indians (and as a happy coincidence, millions of advertising dollars) towards twenty-twenty cricket? Isn’t that thought eerily reminiscent of the post-liberalization era when Indian beauty queens won one international beauty paegant after another in quick succession? Almost as if the world had suddenly discovered the Indian concept of beauty. Conveniently, our triumphant run stopped around the same time the cosmetics and fashion industry made its mark in the Indian market. 

Yes, I know it sounds awfully cynical. I’ll probably be crucified for this post if enough cricket-lovers visit this page. But this is my opinion folks. Take it or leave it, please. And I’ll be more than happy to eat my words when India wins the series against Australia in the next few days! 

Update: Just watched the news with chief ministers of every state announcing cash prizes to their state’s cricketers. Is it their own personal money they are gifting away? If yes, I applaud their generosity and passion for the game.  

Unfortunately, we know enough of our politicians to know that will never happen. So its public funds that are being gifted. Isn’t that money supposed to be used for boring things like buildings roads and schools and hospitals? Aren’t the cricketers more than adequately compensated by the BCCI and their advertising income already? 

The Indian hockey players (who incidentally won the Asia cup earlier this year) are protesting the step-motherly treatment meted out to hockey vis-à-vis cricket. Aren’t their protests justified?