Saturday, September 29, 2012

Life Goes On

The San Jose Flea Market off Berryessa Road is one place I would not miss visiting every time I landed in the Silicon Valley. To me, the market is a perfect place to buy knick-knacks, cheap stuffs and a place to kill your weekend. Yeah, I have heard people say that second hands are sold there; who minds? To me, its a cultural hot pot. Where else would I find Mexicans alongside Chinese and Peruvians and Pakis; selling their wares.

I have loved shopping there; never mind if it really were used stuffs.My first camo print trousers; or the I Love San Francisco T shirts to give it to my friends back home, the $5 Shades, the $5 cotton socks or the $5 fedora. The last time I visited was with Gautam and he freaked out :) I have found genuine Mexican leather belts and Peruvian Lama wool knitted bag there. And many more; ballet shoes, tiny Machu Picchu traditional dolls, Chinese purses......

Anyway, the flea market has always been a mystery to me. Where do all these people come from? Are they legal migrants? Why do they have to sell their wares cheap? Who buys them? Old and broken, used stuffs. Crowds are mostly Mexicans, Indians, African Americans; maybe looking for cheap stuffs.

Anyway, what got reminded me of San Jose Flea market was the novel The Kite Runner. The flea market gets mentioned there. After migrating to US, Amir and his Baba live in Fremont and make some money selling off old wares in the flea market they accumulate as garage sale.

Now I was thinking; those Mexicans, Peruvians, Pakis; did they all migrate to the land of opportunity in search of a better life? Now living in welfare and using food stamps distributed by welfare offices? Living in a part of town allocated for immigrants? May be, was I haggling for a $5 T shirt from such folks? Those withered look on their faces; haggling and bargaining, jarring and loud clothing women and men; selling whatever they could sell away to have a life better than the land they left?

Once when I decided to visit the market alone, I called up Harpal to drop me there. Harpal is a Sikh cabbie in the San Jose area; he deserves a separate post. I instructed him to pick me up exactly 3 hours later. I was not carrying a cell phone. 3 hours later; when I walked out; I realized it would be difficult for Harpal since the section of road was blocked for reason I dont remember. I was not sure if I should wait or not. Public transport is not good in the bay area as NYC or LA. Now I don't know which bus to take back.

It was 6 pm; the sellers were packing and pushing off for the day. Well, I was stranded; not something new I somehow find a thrill in such situations. I noticed a man packing off his things and loading it in his truck. I just requested him if he could drop me back at my hotel; my cabbie has not arrived since the road was blocked. He agreed to my surprise. We got talking on the way; he was from Pakistan. Living for 11 years now; no green card, not a legal settler I guess. He makes his money by selling wares in the flea market. He was so happy after learning I was from India. The talks were about how close and yet how far we are; the bloody K issue, how people are separated and all that emotional talk. There was no bit of animosity in him. He was sweet to drop me at my hotel; why should anyone do that?

Maybe their struggle in life is too huge to hold on to simple grudges and petty issues.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Review and Edit

I remember when I was in middle school my uncle bringing in documents for me to take a look at or asking me to draft a letter for him or review the business documents he had prepared. Deep down, I would wonder why does this man trust me in producing eloquent letters. How could he trust me in reviewing the letters he has drafted for correctness?

I would give in to his requests and draft and review letters with much care and sincerely putting my limited vocabulary to use. Grammar classes were always boot camps to me. Miss Vimala; with all due respect to her believed in using negativity to correct kids. Her sarcastic and insulting remarks were a nightmare. I would wish I could just vanish into thin air a.l.a the genie of Aladdin. Why not? I still remember how she made fun of me when I uttered the antonym of noble as unnoble :(

I would do my best in her class and in tests/exams so as not to invite her wrath. Thus began my role as editor and drafter. It would mean calls from folks asking me for spelling, meaning and such others. I  remember a funny incident when my uncle's secretary prepared a quotation for him and the quote was Thirty thousand and seventy tree. She was not fired. Anyway, my husband seeks my review help, few of my friends do it. At work, when my colleagues prepared their SOPs for applying to foreign universities, I doubled up as their reviewer.

It is not easy without knowing what the content is about. It isn't just correcting grammatical mistakes.  Feels a sense of responsibility and at the same time, feels funny. How do they trust me? :-P

Last week, I had to review another SOP and just finished reviewing and correcting a presentation material a friend will be presenting to Brunei Commerce Ministry. Now to think of how Miss Vimala treated me; I can forgive her :-)

Do I see a job in the pipeline?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Perceptions or My Identity

Couple of off-guard comments and questions last week and I have been thinking who am I? Its not a brain raking thought; just on a lighter side.

Two questions; just two. Those made me realize the perceptions people carry around. Oh! is that the way they've been thinking all the while? And on the serious side, maybe that's how I portray myself!

Is your home town really Bangalore? You've lived all your life here? 

My trainer at the gym asked me with shock one day when we talking casually. I nodded, yeah and added, in fact my mom's parents and grand parents are from Bangalore too. My husband's parents both were employed at Indian Air Force. Knowing this, he kinda chuckled and followed with a comment that went something like - I thought you were from some village in Tamil Nadu. Ungala patha pattikaadu matiri irukku. Its a slang to refer a naive and foolish person who has just arrived from village. Tamil folks, correct me if not. Actually, its a more derogatory remark.

I didn't react. I thought for few seconds, I don't look like a freshly immigrated pattikaadu from any village, I do wear well fitted sports wear to the gym, I look in place perfectly, not out of place! I just asked why; the trainer said that my body language does not show any pride of a Bangalorean. Now folks, I don't know how to show the "I am a Bangalorean" pride. I have spent all my life here; I don't go around wearing a Bangalorean badge on my sleeve the way people who arrived a couple of years ago do. Anyway, as the chat continued; his next question was "Weekend plans ma'am? Party?" I said that I don't attend parties or any such activities since I don't like crowd. He was baffled; a Bangalore local not liking parties...Ummm...Perception!

The second incident occurred yesterday when a friend and his wife and her sister came home. This girl is chatty, comments on everything and anything and talks on topics that I would generally blush to talk! Kids nowadays! Sigh! Enough said. We went out and I was thinking to exchange all my read books. I took her with me to the book store while others went to a nearby mall. Now me, I get lost in books; she waited for me to pick up the books and leave, it took me 30 minutes or so (which is quick! I was aware I was not alone and hence cant take forever)

She kept prodding me about how I read all these, when do I get time, don't I find it boring? She picked a couple of books and asked me "From where will you start reading?" That was weird, of course I wont be reading First printed at...., acknowledgements and all that. She found a couple of words and wanted to know its meaning. "Splendid" and 'frigid". OK! I am not a master in English but this girl is doing her Journalism. Pity her employers and pity her readers.

I was finding it unusual really, I hope my feelings were not exaggerated. I also had to explain why some words in a book were italicized while others were not and later to make her understand what I was meaning by explaining what is italicization. Finally, the big question came

Were you a nerd from the beginning?

Well, I didn't know what to say. Why am I branded a nerd? Just because I read books? I don't wear any spectacles. I don't dress like one; I mean the way they show nerds in movies. I am chic, smart and savvy. Does that warrant for a nerd? Ummmphh! Perceptions!

Or are these my identities? :-|

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


One of my favorites from my mom's kitchen is Ennai Kathrikai. For the uninitiated, it is a simple and tasty Tamil vegetarian curry. It literally translates to "Oliy Brinjal/Eggplant". This brinjal curry is made with extra oil than that is normally used in a sambhar.
A whole brinjal smeared with the masala dripping oil - wow! its a heavenly taste.

I would stay hungry all matter how tough it would be to stay without eating, just to eat mom's preparation.

But as luck would have it, each time, yes each time out of the innumerable times I have tasted this preparation at home; I have ended up being unlucky in savoring the curry. Let me tell why.
Ennai kathrikai at home is always eaten with hot steamy rice. I would scoop out a spoon of ennai kathrikai and also some gravy, mix it well and start feeling the heaven, I mean relish it with a sense of gratitude to my mom for preparing it.

I am a fuzzy eater, if that's what it is. The habit of segregating curry leaves, onions to the side of the plate always make my eyes rove around for "non-eatable" particles. Well, no offense here.
Don't know for what reason, mustard, curry leaves have always been in the list of "non-eatable" for me. Also Holy Lord, the onions..they are the UNTOUCHABLES; so in this process, I always end up finding....guess what??

A WORM :-(.

Oh yes! I always find a worm somehow having escaped the cleaning process in brinjal(They remain unnoticed as the brinjal are just slit into 4 in this preparation). I have found them in varying sizes, to fully grown 1 and 1/2 inch ones(yuck!!!! I can still visualize that in my plate) to tiny ones. I am a strict Lacto-ovo-vegetarian. so worms are a big NO-NO for me :-D.

But why me? Why do I get a wormy ennai kathrikai always? The next thing I would do is to throw away the entire heap of rice and remain hungry. My dream of savoring Ennai Kathrikai and finishing off the entire plateful of rice still remains a dream. Hopefully I would be able to live my dream.

This was a post I wrote sometime in 2008. I have still not lived my dream. I found a worm in the Ennai Kathrikkai preparation by me yesterday. Saga continues......

Monday, September 3, 2012

Geometry Box

Yeah, remember those bright orange and yellow colored Camlin heavy boxes which carried utilities that had special place in your school bag?

Every school kid's birthday gift wish. Neighbor's envy and owner's pride. Some kids were lucky enough to own them much earlier than others. And then what a show-off it was. Get the whole group's attention, get the box out of the special zone in the bag, take off the plastic cover that it came with; no not your dirty hands but your teeth that would open the box. Place it near your lips, feel it, caress it and then bite it open. Each of the instrument were neatly put pack in their plastic cover, tucked into the plastic molded holder and shut tight only to bring the box back to school the next time there was a geometry class.

The world inside was all like Calculus and Trigonometry for a high school kid. Compass, double compass(didn't know it was called a divider then), Protractor and what were those 2 other 'scales' doing in the box? For all I knew, the double compass was used to carve out names on the desk. Co-ed folks would have used it for carving out hearts also I believe.

I remember nagging my parents to get me once the moment I stepped into class 5. Some of my class mates already had them . It was also the battle of mass v/s class. Mass being the "ok-ok" Nataraj Geometry box. They had mini versions too. Class being the Camlin ones. The look and feel of the two would give you an idea why Camlin was expensive and tougher to possess than Nataraj.

Only when I shifted to a prestigious convent in high school that we were taught it was not Geometry Box but Geometrical Instruments Box. Aaah! see, sophistication. Rubber was to be addressed as Eraser, Mender was to be called as Sharpener and Scale as Ruler :-D

Of course, got to know that Double Compass was Divider and it did have a noble use than carving out names. For all I knew, Geometry box was an expensive object to possess. Only few kids were privileged to  get them. And once you own it, you need to preserve it so much that you ended up borrowing set squares and compass from friends in the class so that yours remain new. Such care :)

Miss those days? Aah certainly!