Thursday, March 30, 2006

Feels like home

Late night chats.
Strolling through the sunshine.
Shopping for things necessary and not.
Godiva dark chocolate squares.
High drama television, curled on two ends of the couch.
The smell of spices wafting, comfort food.
High chai.
And news from home.

A mother makes such a difference to a living space...

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Bollywood Hollywood

Have you ever sat down in a theater and then the movie starts and you're wondering if you're in the right place? Went to see Inside Man today. It's about a bank heist in NYC. Clive Owen, Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster. So, I was certainly not expecting the opening scene -- clips of NYC -- to be accompanied by 'chaiya chaiya.' Yup, the SRK-Malaika train-top song from Dil Se.

Very very weird. Though, it was amusing to be able to pick out all the desis in the audience in the dark. They were the ones bobbing up and down in time to the music and giggling and whispering in surprised undertones (not unlike us. I tell you, the beat's infectious!)

Anyway, then the movie continues and two hours, ten minutes later, the credits roll with... chaiya chaiya remixed by Punjabi MC. The whole thing was such an anomaly. There was nothing remotely desi about the movie. There was one Sikh guy in a minor role. That's it. There was a huge song-movie disconnect.

So, I've been searching the internet trying to find an explanation. Grady Hendrix (Asian Film blog writer for seems to think it's because Spike Lee loves Dil Se.

Ok, well still, it was a strange choice. And now I can't get the tune out of my head.

Talk dirty and get lucky

You know how I said I just need to get better at poker? I think I just did (ok, it was probably luck, but I need a little room to brag here). I made it to the final three, won back more than I put in and it was only the second time I've played. Yeah, I'm kinda getting the hang of it.

Even aside from the game, tonight was destined to be a good time. The conversation began in the gutter and stayed there all night. I don't think I've laughed that hard in a while. All I know is I'm bringing plenty of one dollar bills with me the next time because clearly some people won't take dollar chips as a substitute.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

City girl

I've become much too much of a Manhattan princess. More specifically, I'm an Eastside princess -- put me in Chelsea or the Upper Westside and I'm a little disoriented. So, today I ventured out to the 'burbs, lured by the promise of adventure and good food.

I've lived in NYC for about 1/2 a year now and I'm sorry to admit I've never taken the N or R south of 8th Street. So, it was the strangest sensation to suddenly emerge from the bowels of Manhattan's underground into the sunshine, speeding along, suspended above the river. Even stranger was to look behind me out the windows and watch the Manhattan skyline recede (I'd say, "into the the distance," but that seems a tad melodramatic. It takes all of 3 minutes to cross the water). For some reason, I felt like I was leaving home. Which confirmed the idea that I really need to get out of Manhattan more. I'm getting a wee bit too Sex and the City (remember when Miranda and Steve decide to move to Brooklyn?)

Anyway, turns out, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn is charming. They have *gasp* space! No 8x8 sq ft rooms. And they have one of the best places for Greek food that I've ever been to. In fact, I don't think I've had better in Manhattan (shocking!). I was altogether pleasantly surprised. The only hitch, really, is that lunch takes 4 hours because of the commute. Which was fine today cos I had sacrificed Saturday night to work, but on more loaded weekends, would be tough.

Now, just can't wait for the weather to cooperate so I feel like exploring beyond my side of the island more. More Brooklyn, more Westside, more Queens, perhaps...perhaps even Bed-Stuy. Umm..ok, maybe I'm a little too "princess" for that.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Momentary flashes of insight

You know those moments in your life when what you're doing suddenly makes sense? I think I had one of them yesterday. It wasn't an I'm-bringing-people-a-better-understanding-of-world-hunger-as-a-journalist-eureka moment (honestly, I'm not sure I understand it myself). No. My moment was at a coffee shop, while talking to a young man (YM), who I'd met for the first time yesterday. Two hours and one vanilla latte later, YM says to me: "I don't really know you. But... I think I'm going to ask you something anyway." The question was about a girl. 20 minutes later, I'm vehemently insisting that she likes him, "take it from an older woman who knows how women think." And that's when it hit me. YM and I are on opposite ends of every kind of spectrum there is. And yet, in two hours, we'd built a trust. I understood where he was coming from (which is totally separate from agreeing, I still don't) and he felt comfortable enough to confide in me. And it occured to me that this is it. This is what being a good journalist is about -- being able to see things, standing in another person's sneakers, whether you agree or not, and having the person realize you won't judge him. Because that's when he really lets you into his life.

I'd been wondering for a while, before this, whether the comfort level I reach so quickly with strangers is normal. I mean, a couple weeks ago, I was meeting with a senior journalist for an assignment and out of nowhere we were talking about my relationship with my father. Then, a few days later, my career services counselor and I veered off "magazine journalism" and ended up discussing long distance relationships and whether 30 and single is ok. And last Thanksgiving, I visited some people for the first time, went to a huge family dinner with them where I knew nobody, and yet, by the end of the night, everyone assumed I was the younger son's long term girlfriend -- a guy I had just met that evening.

I'm not sure what all this says about me. But I know what it says about how I see other people. I know this is going to sound cheesy, but I think most people are interesting. Ok, I'll amend that. People who live with intention, whatever the intent is, are interesting. And I think that's what leads me to form an intimate writer-interviewee bond with them. Because I want to know what's going on inside. I guess this could have made me a decent psychologist too. But the thing is, I also think I'm interesting (hey, I'm an Aquarian, we're vain, can't be helped) and am tempted to share my life. Which wouldn't do for a shrink. Writers, on the other hand, have enough room in their professional lives for an ego. Yeah, I think I'm in the right place.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Behind the velvet rope

You know it's been a good Saturday night when you start out catching up with old friends in the Village and end up partying like a rock star in the Meatpacking District with people you don't really know.

Somehow I envisioned myself falling into bed before 1 AM. The night started out innocently enough. A friend from college was in town with his wife (who I'd never met) and there was a little reunion with "the boys." Good food, good drinks, great company, good times.

Later, I was en route to my apartment when I got a call. Redirected the poor cabbie (he had to swerve to switch lanes!), made a pitstop at Union Square and went on to Lotus. Inside, we end up in the VIP section, behind the velvet rope. Didn't know anybody except the friend of a friend who invited us. The table, one grand just to reserve it, was laden with mixers and glasses and Grey Goose and ice. Every time the bottles reached the 1/4 mark, a waiter swooped in and replaced them. I'm not sure what they're paying bankers these days, but clearly it's enough for them to drop several grand a night at a club. But, as a guest, who's complaining? The music was good, we were out of reach of the crowd of sweaty bodies, and we found ourselves dancing on the couches. It's a wonder the heels of my pink mules didn't rip holes in the upholstery.

[Random sociological observation (no claims to universal applicability): it seems the more money people spend, the less sophisticated they need to behave..]

And I've decided the only cure to the morning after a rock star night is lots of fluffy french toast, eggs, and a dose of the most intense movie available -- one that stretches your nerves taut and gets rid of that hazy feeling in about 5 seconds. Go see "Crash" if you haven't already. It's totally worth it.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Happy endings

So I was having this conversation earlier today and it got me thinking. I used to keep a diary religiously when I was younger... almost til I left for college. And when I go back now and read through it (I should say 'them' since there are multiple volumes), I'm struck by a) how there was always so much drama in my life and b) despite the drama, I was an incorrigible romantic, always optimistic. And I can't help comparing that to now, which makes me realize I've become a lot more cynical about love. I guess bittersweet experience is responsible for that, but it makes me kinda sad.

Last week, in the midst of all the mad work I had, I took a break at 11 to watch 'Sex and the City' reruns as usual. I'd been watching all of last semester and then again since I've been back and we were at the series finale. You know, the one where Big shows up in Paris and rescues Carrie from the bad (tho hot) Russian, saying "Carrie, you're the one." Now, I have inexplicably always loved Big, eventhough he treated her like crap for years, and always wanted them to end up together. But last week, watching that episode again, I was like, that's such bullshit. How often does that really happen? And it annoyed me that SATC had turned mushy at the end.

But, although she gets buried under the rubble of cynicism sometimes, I think that romantic little girl is still alive in here somewhere. Because, deep down, I do still want to believe in happy endings. So, I've convinced myself that it was just general grouchiness over work that made me react like I did. And that it is possible for things to work themselves out before it's too late. At least, sometimes..

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Spring break ain't what it used to be

Bliss. Spring break has officially started for me. And I'm looking forward to an evening of nothing but trashy TV and chocolate!

Of course, spring break doesn't mean the same thing in graduate school as it did when I was an undergrad. Back then, I could actually take off for a week and fly to Reykjavik to soak in hot springs, to see my friend nearly tumble into a dormant volcano, to party til 4 in the morning, to admire chiseled Icelandic men (though, the women were hotter).

Now, spring break means time to do in-depth research for stories that are due the second classes resume. The professors seem to think we got partying out of our systems back when we were irresponsible little undergrads. Hah!

But still...even if it's only a technicality, spring break does mean 9 hours of sleep and yes, time for some fun, even if it's in NYC. I can hardly complain too much, this is a great city to be stuck in.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Blank noise project post

Danger lurks in the shadows around me. At least, that's how I've felt for the last few days. The sexual assault and murder of a grad student in the City last week shattered the illusion of safety I've depended on since moving to New York. I suppose what's most shocking about it, in a city with a pretty high crime rate on any given day, is that this one could have been someone I know. It could have been me.

The safety bubble will return. I know that. It does, every time it's been blown to bits. The time we walked from the bus stop back to the house and a bunch of guys, several years older, came up and touched us, using the excuse of Holi and the "friendly smearing" of color. The time I was nearly knocked off my bicycle because someone reached his hand out toward my chest and made me swerve into traffic. The time some balding, paunchy old man pinched my rear and winked. The time I was propositioned near the DMV by someone at least 45 years old, eventhough I had mentioned I was barely out of my teens. The time a well-dressed but creepy old man followed me for half an hour and two train changes before I met a friend and finally lost him. The time someone I knew left bruises, some of which were invisible. Each time, the bubble popped. And a few weeks later, back it came. For the preservation of sanity?

For now, though, there is an uneasiness that pervades the air. I am scared by the guy who hisses a sexually suggestive term at me as he passes by on the subway platform. It's broad daylight. There are people on the platform. Nothing will happen and nothing does. But my heart races for a minute.

[I completely forgot about the Blank Noise Project blogathon date. And now it's not the 7th in Bombay, Delhi or Bangalore...but I thought I'd put my two cents worth down anyway]

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Girlie girls

It's been a long, rough week. And it won't let up for at least another five days. But there are the moments that keep me sane...

Taking a mid-week afternoon chai-coffee break and sitting up in an NYU studio apartment being girlie girls. Shaadi clothes ("I want mine to be a deep red and weigh like 15 kilos!"), gay Pakistani designers ("Bride ko badam khilao!"), people with no taste, people with fabulous taste...

Having a leisurely Friday night dinner, talking more than we eat. Rolling eyes at Pajama Girl ("What is she wearing?? I used to sleep in those!") and Scarlett O'Hara Girl ("It's not supposed to be a corset, honey.") and laughing over high school politics...

Yes, girlie girl moments are fun. Though, of course, the boys are now going to think this totally justifies the times when we're sitting around, talking football and one of them looks up at me and goes, "Oh sorry... Guys, let's talk about Lakme's new shade of lipstick."

Hmph. I happen to like football. It's the best-looking sport.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Today's the second day of March, but nobody's sent the memo up to the weather Gods. The forecast is 'wintry mix.' Whatever that means. According to James (poker pal and fellow future journalist): "It sounds like a cocktail." Which it does.

Speaking of drinks, I ignored the lure of Starbucks and, instead, had bubble tea today for the first time in a long, long while. I remember when it was really big a few years ago. I think my first one was in Beijing with Jo and then I scouted out all the Taiwanese food stalls in Hong Kong. Food fads are funny, how they come and go. Weren't Pop Tarts popular sometime in the... early '90s? Anyway, I was handed a cup of sea green, opaque liquid, which alone should have set off some warning bells. But I was distracted by the "bubbles" at the bottom and warmed by happy memories of sunny days at outdoor Taiwanese cafes. Yeah. Never again. Let's just say I'm now acutely aware why some things are just fading fads. My taste buds will recover at some point and when they do, I'm sticking with my tall-non-fat-sugar-free-vanilla-soy-lattes, thank you very much!