Monday, May 22, 2006


Speaking of star-struck, did I mention that I had breakfast with Susan Sarandon last week?

When I feel like I haven't slept enough and joining the morning rush on the subway seems uninviting, I think about the perks of the job. Like that breakfast. And the fact that part of an assignment I was on today involved getting a massage. Suddenly, waking up early doesn't seem so bad.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Cosmo Pseudo Feminists

Amitav Ghosh is just brilliant. I don't know what else to say, really. Went to a reading-discussion thing on the Upper Eastside tonight, primarily because he was going to be reading from his new book, Incendiary Circumstances, along with another writer. I am always star-struck around Amitav Ghosh (in Bangalore once, I chatted with him a little at some event about how I went to Brown and his son wanted to go there -- and couldn't stop thinking about that for a while!), so of course I thought it was all really interesting. Until the Q & A time.

I really think that if people don't have anything particularly intelligent to ask/say, they should just desist from talking. The first girl who asked a question had clearly never been to India (though she was of Indian origin) and her question was about whether the situation of women in India is better now than before. Which would have been an okay if unanswerable question (how do you lump all the women in India in one category??) on its own. But then she goes on to make a really ignorant comment. She says, "Oh, all urban women in India now are watching soap operas on Sony TV and reading Cosmopolitan magazine with the result that they've turned into 'Cosmo Pseudo Feminists'."

Ummm... excuse me? I was sitting with a couple of people I had just met, one of whom was a woman who lives in the Bay Area but is from India. She and I just looked at each other and she whispers to me.. "Wow, didn't know we were Cosmo pseudo feminists, did you?" I could swear Amitav Ghosh raised an eyebrow, though he and the other panelists tried to be polite.

Anyway, apart from that, the event was pretty good. Amitav Ghosh (yes, I do have to keep writing his full name. I can't do "Dr. Ghosh" and definitely not just "Ghosh") was so refreshingly honest and funny. He talked about how India is much better off in certain ways than post- 9/11 America, in terms of freedom of speech, etc these days. He told a facinating story about how he wrote a piece prior to the Iraq war about empires and why they ultimately fail. And the editor of the New Yorker -- you know who he is -- wanted to add a paragraph in the beginning with a disclaimer saying that America is not like the colonial empires of yore because it doesn't do things for its own self-interest. Yeah. I nearly fell off my chair, too. This from the New Yorker, a publication I hold in great esteem, it's so excrutiatingly disappointing.

He said a whole lot of other interesting things. Wish I had had a tape recorder or something. It is good to know that he hasn't lost his deep attachment to India, despite living over here for 13 years. I guess that is reflective in the fact that his writing is set primarily in and around India. He did also say "being in America is like being in an empty room" -- what he means is that America doesn't interest him as a subject, so he uses it as neutral ground from which to write about the places and people that do interest him. Quite fascinating.

Anyway, amazing what you can learn in one evening on the Upper Eastside. Most un-Cosmo pseudo feminist of me to be engaging in intellectual exchange on a Friday night. I should have been, mai tai in hand, practising the "10 Ways to a Fulfilling One-Night Stand."

Monday, May 15, 2006


I am recommending Deepa Mehta's film, Water, wholesale. Went to see it this weekend and, although I wasn't sure at the time if I was going to enjoy anything so intense, I am really glad I saw it. Yes, it's intense. Yes, it's hauntingly sad. There's an undercurrent of despair running through the whole film. But it's so eminently watchable.

The reviews way over in this part of the world have been overwhelmingly positive. I was somewhat skeptical before I went to see it, in part because I find that the media here is impressed by displays of "third world intolerance." So, just the fact that Water stirred up so much trouble (with the sets being set on fire by religious fundamentalists, etc) and the fact that Mehta had to move the production to another country and the whole process took 4 years, is enough for many newspapers/magazines here to kowtow before her courage in pursuing the project. Also, let's face it, have never expected a whole lot from either Lisa Ray or John Abraham, acting-wise.

But, it turns out, my doubts were unneccessary. The reviews were spot on. The art direction is beautiful. The whole film is done in wonderful hues with carefully crafted scenes. That much I expected and was not disappointed. I also trusted Mehta to avoid sensationalism (because I thought she did a fairly delicate job with Fire) and she managed that pretty well, too -- while still getting across an important message.

And the characters. They really were the best part. The little girl (Sarala) who played Chuyia, an 8-year-old widow, was just so charming and endearing. And she had never acted before; she's from a little village in Sri Lanka. Lisa Ray, who played Kalyani, the beautiful widow (of course!), was surprisingly good in her part. And, drum roll, so was John! I had a really hard time taking him totally seriously for the first 1/3 of the film. Because, well, he's John Abraham. And he still looks like John Abraham, even with the Gandhian glasses and with his sculpted body hidden under loose clothes. But for the rest of the film, when his character (Narayan) came to the forefront more, he did the part justice. It's definitely the best thing he's done so far. But by far, the best actor in the film was Seema Biswas. Her character, Shakuntala, was also the most fully and intricately developed one (apart from Chuyia) and her performance was just powerful.

The movie seemed occassionally didactic, but we have to remember it's exploring a topic that most viewers -- in India and abroad -- are not particularly familiar with. I mean, I grew up in India and, while I was aware that widows had it bad in parts of the north especially, I never fully realized what that meant. And although she is trying to create awareness of a social issue, I think Mehta allowed the story -- and the message -- to evolve out of the relationships between the widows, which is a really good way to do it. Because the strength of the film lies in the individual personalities of those women and how they interact -- either fluidly or explosively -- with each other in the situation that society had put them in.

It's very bittersweet. But, if you've seen Fire, you'd already know that. The despair never quite goes away, but I suppose... that's reality.

Friday, May 12, 2006


The sky is turning a dark threatening grey. It's supposed to rain most of this next week. I've never been a rain-loving kinda gal. Which is interesting given that Bombay is in my blood.

But it was sunny and warm during the day, so I walked around a bit, very much in my head most of the time. Random things kept occuring to me.

For instance, I was going to be a total girl and go shoe shopping. Was meandering through Union Square considering heading toward Nine West. Then I saw Sephora and thought, why not get perfume and cement the girle girl feeling. But I got sidetracked by Barnes and Noble en route. Spent much time wandering through aisles and aisles of books, totally lost in that world. Emerged armed with some purchases -- I can't go into a bookstore without getting something -- and realized I'm happier having bought books than I would have been with shoes. Who'd have thunk it?

Passed an old man handing out flyers for a beauty salon and almost walked by without even looking at him and then felt a little bad. What a job for someone that age. It doesn't bother me to brush past young people standing in the street doing this all day. But somehow, with elderly people.. I feel obligated to take the ad because it makes me sad that they're spending these years of their lives doing something so... anonymous. People walking by all day, not even noticing they exist. Ugh.

Also feeling a bit antagonistic toward dairy products today. I know, it's really random -- and it's partly my own fault. I went to the grocery store twice yesterday and forgot, both times, to buy more milk. So, this morning, I discovered that the little bit of milk in the carton in my fridge had gone lumpy (so gross!). The sell-by date was May 11. Today is the 12th. Seriously, dairy products are so fragile. You have to be so vigilant or else they go lumpy, grow fungus or undergo some other equally distasteful transformation. Had to have black coffee instead of masala chai.

Went to the grocery store twice yesterday to buy ingredients for dinner because my brother and I were entertaining at my place. Turns out my baby bro is even more accomplished than previously thought -- the boy can cook now, too. If you looked up "all-rounder" in the dictionary, there'd be a picture of him. Pre-med, manages a bartending agency, can fly planes, plays sports, can act, and is funny and smart and charming. But most importantly, he's a good kid. Down-to-earth and caring. Growing up with an example like this of what guys can be like... must be why I still believe.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Had almost forgotten what it's like to have real weekends again. No waking up on Saturday and Sunday mornings and staring at piles of research, reading or writing. The first weekend of my four months of non-academic life (well, I am taking a class, but it's not a full course load) bodes well for the rest of summer. It's a pleasure to sit back and be part of the randomness of the City again.

Friday: Cinco de Mayo margaritas among the banker types (they're a whole breed on their own, aren't they?); the caped wonders in white tights and red masks who took pictures with us; the random tidbits of information offered by strangers; walking into ML for the first time and running into a Brown classmate I hadn't seen since graduation; a dog wearing shoes; an unexpected compliment from a married man..

Saturday: Melon martinis, foie gras, loud Southern European types, California guys with moms, blondes from Dubai, ginger margaritas, maitre d' "Miguel," Juilliard Russians who "love Raj Kapoor," learning the practical utility of the phrase "nyet, spasiba"..

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Bright lights, big city..

Yesterday was my first day at work. It was good. The work content has potential. And everyone I met at the office seemed professional and chill at the same time. Reminded me a bit of when I worked at Verve. Dynamic, yet not intimidating -- I mean, it'll take a little while to settle in, but once I do, I think it could be great.

But... and I'm going to be such a wide-eyed little girl here... the moment that struck me most was when a colleague and I went down to get lunch. The office is right by Grand Central and so the area is uberNewYork. Busy busy busy. People with things to do, places to be. Beautiful people in immaculate clothes and trendy shoes. The hot lattes, the constant cellphone conversations, the cigarettes smoked quickly as they charge down the avenue. Being in the midst of it, one among the swarming masses, it was exhilarating. I know, it seems so country-girl-in-the-big-city, which I'm not. But I'm not sure how else to explain it. It's like having your finger on the pulse of some large, exciting, dangerous animal.

I think it's a matter of being part of what makes the City tick. And as a student, you're still in a bit of a bubble, a little removed. Now... I actually feel like a New Yorker.

Monday, May 01, 2006

For a change...

Normally, when guys catcall or make suggestive comments on the street, I keep walking and ignore them. The comments -- and the guy's attitude -- are usually either sleazy, aggressive or pathetic. But today I realized that, on some rare occassions, a random street comment can make you smile. Was on my way to the hair salon and three guys were loitering on the street. As I walked by, one of them said, "You're looking really beautiful today, Miss." There was something about his tone (polite), his manner (unaggressive) and the fact that he called me "Miss" -- I paused for half a second, looked at him and said thank you. He replied, you're welcome. And that was it. No sleaze, no moves, no nothing. Just a genuine comment of appreciation. And, for once, it made me feel good. And yes, I smiled.

(Total contrast to later on in the evening when some guys kept getting in our way and trying to get us to smile at them. Was way too intrusive and there was too much inuendo)

Anyway, was on my way to the hair salon, like I said. And today, I was interested in a change of some sort. Nothing terribly drastic like cutting it all off -- I'm just not that kind of person. But I felt like change was important. And so... baby steps... I got bangs. Not all the way across, but the kind that are on one side -- he used a picture of Charlize Theron to model my hair! I like it (of course it's left to be seen how the layers and everything work once I try and blowdry it myself). I'm sure mum's first comment would be that my hair is constantly in my eye. Which it is. But I'm kinda diggin' it so far..