Thursday, May 23, 2013

The heights by great men reached and kept
were not attained by sudden flight,
but they, while their companions slept,
were toiling upward in the night.*

If the midnight oil does testament bear
And if my days are anything to go by
Then, by Longfellow's words I swear
give me my wings and let me fly!


I wrote this some time ago and in what has been the norm of late, it was just another draft on this space. The sister visited for 3 weeks and in true Indian tourist fashion we worked her to the bone, dragging her from pillar to post. She did complain about how a holiday should be relaxing the like but we didn't listen. 
At the end though, she left well travelled and even better fed. So all's well.
She's one person who just gets me. No words needed. Just a glance followed by a giggle. I guess it is the nature of the relationship.

Life has been nothing short of crazy with a double dose of crazy on the side. The much awaited mystery birthday trip is in the offing and I can't hardly wait!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

It's a good day to try hard...

.....and fail miserably!
Have you ever watched a movie where it seems like the only thing the actors on screen succeed in doing is insulting your intelligence. I'm not saying that the Die Hard movies are meant to be mentally challenging in any way but when you do away with virtually every premise that made them an institution, it's a good day to bid them goodbye.
Any die hard fan will agree that the first two movies was where all the appeal lay and the rest we just watched, mostly out of loyalty with a tad bit of curiosity. This last one however has turned me into a disbeliever. For me the biggest appeal of Die Hard was that John Mcclane did indeed 'die hard' and not a 'try hard'.  One could see Bruce Willis making an effort to look like he was thinking about his next, foolhardy move, seeing it all turn to shite and then, bruised and battered, he picked up the pieces and went on to do it all over again - all the while not losing his sense of humour and at the end of it all when he staggered out wasted but victorious we all chanted  - yippeekayay with him!  But to me an even bigger draw of the movies were the bad guys - they weren't idiots (and here again I must refer to several John Travolta movies post his dancing days) and wouldn't just keel over and die, after all it wouldn't be 'die hard' then would it? One can argue that given Bruce's age, would it be realistic for him to fist fight the goons? No it wouldn't so why not let good enough be and not inflict this sorry mess of a movie on the public? Why sully the good name of John Mcclane? 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

There isn't much to say really but I remember reading somewhere that it is more important to write when you have nothing to say than when you have something to say. Ok, so maybe I made that up but it sounds plausible enough!
This morning I feel ok. Dare I say g o o d even. The last few days have had a strange sense of melancholy about them. Unrest, unsettled. Today feels more like me. I'm still looking forward to the rest of the day post 4 pm without a coffee yet and that in itself speaks volumes for motivation!
Tasks keep switching burners but I often find myself in an odd spot - having made a career out of what I 'really wanted to do', I now need to find something else I really want to do. So when someone asks the question - what do you do? -  I can tell them what I do for a living without having to add that this is also what I've always wanted to do, paycheck or no pay check, but actually yes pay check.

Friday, February 08, 2013

The one where we ponder life's questions... and find answers!

It has been an arduous task finding a template, font and layout that I'm happy with. I don't like dark backgrounds. I prefer black on white. In that sense I guess I'm a 'simplist'. For a long time I believed that appearances don't matter but I'm learning otherwise now.
But that is a discussion for another day. Today is about Thai food and enlightenment. The two are independent although one might argue that the East is so often associated with enlightenment. Sadly this is far from the truth. Although one might realise that one is enlightened after one visits the 'East'. Old joke, new ways.

For the longest time, all of six months, I was hard pressed to find a restaurant in Leuven that served a good Pad Thai. One where the noodles are cooked just right, the tamarind doesn't overpower and the sweet and sour just bursts in your mouth. And one garnished with peanuts and one that comes together so beautifully when the lime is squeezed onto it.
Such blissful Pad Thai, my friends, can indeed be found in multiple places in Brussels but sadly not so in Leuven. So when the Pad Thai cravings began last week, I hot footed it to the 'new place' that I had my eye on and, what do you know, it didn't disappoint!
Let's just say I will be a regular, pocket permitting.

So much Pad Thai and Mai Tai induced conversation ensued and in true Mai Tai induced fervour I proclaimed to the bearer-of-all-brunt that if he had no other redeeming quality, I would marry him ten times over for not being a male-chauvinist.
So it would be unfair to say that I've been at the receiving end of much  gender related discrimination. Brain related, and therefore valid, discrimination but not gender related. But I've seen my fair share of chauvinists, both male and female, the former far outnumbering the latter but the latter no less chauvinistic.
I've seen them in all walks of life; colleagues, friends, family, age no bar, education no bar. And in my vast experience (scoff!) I have met a handful of men who were not male chauvinists. Allow me to elaborate.
There is the kind of man who is the very definition of male chauvinism, others practice it but don't preach it, others don't preach it and don't practice it and to many this last kind is classified as non-MC. To me this is not true. This last kind too knows male chauvinism for what it is, might even agree with it with some peer pressure, but makes an active effort to go against the tide.
But I think I have been lucky in life I have met certain kind of men, few and far between, for whom the very concept of chauvinism and the resulting discrimination were alien. As ridiculous and unnatural as walking on your head or eating with your feet. This is the kind of man the husband is.
And so I gave him his due and duly lauded him for this and asked him 'Oh! wise one, why art thou thus' and he replied 'See Amrita, most people who fight for equality fight against differences and like to say that men and women are the same. But to have equality one must first accept that there are differences. And then realise that they don't matter'.
I experienced a mini Buddha moment. Enough said.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Glimpses of home

First off, thank you Mayuran for the photos! You've easily contributed to 5000 words in this post (at the rate of a picture being worth a thousand).

The hot water beach....

The waves breaking at the hot water beach...

One of many Cranium sessions with the family...

 Someone remind me why I left...

Happy New Year indeed.

The majestic Rangitoto island - special for so many reasons

Friday, February 01, 2013

I have been wishing for a good book to get me out of the rut. Books have always had a way of making me feel fulfilled and, although I never admitted it publicly, I have been seriously rueing the fact that I haven't been able to read in the last few months.
It wasn't just a matter of not finding the time but more of not being able to get past a few pages! So things came to a head and I needed a book that didn't grab me by the collar and thrust me head-first into courtroom drama but rather a book that, like an old friend, took me by the arm into a coffee shop and we proceeded to make conversation where we left off, years ago. 
Well I'm back and what better way than to 'receive' a thousand e-books and pick one with the perfect ingredients - wit, sarcasm, humour and science! If you read one book this year let it be this one - 'Surely, you're joking Mr. Feynman!". The extraordinary story of an extraordinary man. 
While the narrative might seem matter-of-fact so much that it borders on arrogance, if you have every spent time with physicists you realise that this is their only and most endearing 'social' quality.
Wikipedia describes the book as 'an edited collection of reminiscences by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Richard Feynman.' But it is so much more!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Whilst on my customary Skype call with the mother, she was expressing her sincerest hope that 2013 would be a better year than the one that passed.
2012 was a good year for me - professionally more than personally. There were terrible losses on the family front but somewhere I found the strength to cope, re-organised my life in the latter half the year, bettered my health and even accomplished the hitherto unimaginable task of sleeping early and becoming the proverbial early bird.

2013 on the other hand has not started off well. Strangely unforeseen things have happened cheating me of a well deserved break and also peace of mind at work. But one shall  persevere.
2013 promises to be a strange year and I almost get a sense that it will have massive crests and crushing troughs. It comes with a sense of foreboding for me - a strange feeling that I need to keep looking over my shoulder and around corners, cross my 'I's and dot my 'T's , yes you read that right - it will be a year for extra caution!
It will bring questions that for the life of me I will not be able to answer - like why is 'honour' associated with a women and not a man and which man decided this?
Is doping in sports wrong if you can inspire generations, pull a sport out of oblivion and into the spotlight and raise millions of dollars for a cause?
Do people that didn't 'invest' hundreds of thousands into their degrees not deserve good salaries? Ok granted the last one is not quite in the same league but it deserves an answer all the same.
I know that this year the world and large, and I, a small part of it, will face these questions. Questions that have no answers now, that only time will answer.
What this year will teach me (I sincerely hope) is to be true to my 'cause' in the face of all obstacles. To realise that a whole is always bigger than the sum of its parts, to realise once again what and who is important. I also hope that this year is 'calm' in spite of everything. That while my legs are running, my brain can walk. And that at the end of it all I can go home.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I have been willing myself not to get worked up about the Delhi rape case. Not to yell, scream, tear my hair out and repeat the cycle! Willing myself not to rant on Facebook or even on this blog. But I am not willing myself anymore. Everything I have heard and read about it boiled the blood, but something I read today just caused it to bubble forth and pour out of the cauldron. Apparently the rapists 'did not mean to murder'. As I read this absolutely disgusting and shocking statement my brain was translating the lawyer's words to Hindi - and how much worse it actually was! It is not hard to imagine the way the whole issue would have been trivialised - 'jhagde mein to kuch bhi ho sakta hai', 'woh toh wahan they hi nahin'...
While this case has got the whole country to get off their behinds and finally say and do something it is distressing that a country that, as a country, has overlooked the abundance of rapes over the years needed something so horrific to shake it out of inertia.

There has been so much said and done but I have noticed a few things standing out like sore thumbs and also like red flags; where there is media there must be a 'Godman'- and he must take it upon himself to hold up the 'moral compass' to the masses or in this case 'the barking dogs'. He must spout garbage and it will be written about in the front pages of newspapers (tabloid in really the more appropriate word!). What this 'Ass'aram Baba said was the very definition of nonsense. Why then did it even get a mention? Why feed his narcissism by plastering his face on the news? Why make him a somebody from the nobody that he was and deserves to be? There are hoardes of 'Babas' in India who will say or do anything for a quick mention in the news and to rub shoulders with those in power who share their low-bred thoughts.
Then there was the whole 'respected women don't get raped' talk. Who are respected women? In a country where, to quote Danny Devito in Twins 'money talks and BS walks', one can only assume that respected women are rich women. If the current top Bollywood heroine went out to a movie premiere, rest assured she would be safe - mainly because she would have the equivalent of cat-commandos and half the police force with her. Is she respected for having said bodyguards and the police to protect her? She only has them because she is rich and famous. I only have two words for all the ridiculous victim-blaming - fundamentally flawed.

Then the 'case' went to court and all the hoopla about 'fair trial' for the accused ensued. Fairness in a system that is unfair at every and all levels. Of course this cannot be a fair trial just like the rape and murder was not a 'fair' thing to happen. Of course it cannot be a 'fair trial' when there is no system. To have a fair trial you need the basic premise that everything presented to the court of law is the truth and that all systems working and all things remaining equal - a heinous crime was perpetrated and carried out by the accused. When this premise doesn't exist then what follows is a farce.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I really want to just get down to writing so I have vowed that I will hit publish and not look back. You, on the other hand have not vowed to read to feel free to move on.

I went back to Auckland for some much needed R&R. The body and nerves were both frayed beyond measure and needed the kind of rest and invigoration that can only be provided by dumping self on the couch at home and on the parents.
While the trip cannot technically be termed R&R given the various engagements to attend, socialising to do and house re-arranging (which for some reason, even unfathomable to me I took on!) - copious amounts of food was ingested and the sun and surf was taken in in very good measure.
The water has a way of soothing the eyes and since eyes are a window to the soul, it soothes the soul. There is many an occasion for contemplation whilst sitting by the water and many a reason for joy sitting in the water.
This was also a holiday with a few firsts - I went to Rotorua for the first time much to the disbelief of general junta. No it does not stink of sulphur, yes it is amazing. It is New Zealand. I even brought back a Rotorua mud face pack (which is yet to be applied) and a mud face wash, which, once one gets past the irony, is quite good!
One question that haunted me throughout this trip was why in the name of all that is Holy did I choose to leave (albeit for a 'short' time). People work their whole lives to live by the beach, swim in pristine waters and to live in a place where the food is a'wonderful and the people are a'friendly. It almost seems like people work their whole lives to live in New Zealand!
After some introspection I realised that my leaving was completely in keeping with my ways. In some twisting, self-flagellating manner, I feel I need to earn my beachside bach in New Zealand. And earn it I will, so Lord help me - by wading my way through ankle deep snow in sub-zero Belgian temperatures.
Anyway, so the holiday that I had been waiting for all of last year threatened to end much to quickly and in typical fashion I called up the airline, friends who worked for the airline and changed our tickets to return four days later than planned, at a very reasonable cost of about 100 bucks a day! Totally worth it!
Then it was back to Belgium and to a snowy welcome, which is about the only thing that makes winter worthwhile and head first into work and Dutch exams.
It is some consolation that friends and colleagues seemed to miss me, the house is clean and warm and family has promised to visit very soon.
Welcome 2013 - my mantra is head up, chin up and here's to weathering all storms!