The Importance of Sympatea

A long, long six months ago, if I had a cold like this, the following would have happened…

Sympatea is very important...

Sympatea is very important…

  • Step 1 : groaaaaan from self
  • Step 2 : look pathetic until someone made me rasam or a hot cup of tea
  • Step 3 : put the out of office reply on
  • Step 4 : head for bed, crawl under the rajai…
  • Step 5 : repeat step 1 occasionally whenever the need for TLC was felt

I would get suggestions of “why don’t you do steaming. You will feel better…” But I was not ready to feel better. I was ready to feel ill and enjoy the sympatea.

Oh. Those wonderful days!

This time, the cold is soo bad my teeth hurt. I did get one cup of tea, but with it came some brisk advice from the chief caregiver a.k.a Mommy, “You don’t see a cold felling me. ¬†I carry on with my work and routine. You should also get up and carry on. ”

So I did. The day had work, a two hour round trip to take care of tax thingies, a visit to the doctor, fussy baby pacification and now (in a last gasp of productivity) this blog post.

Let the mommy wars begin!

P.S. The supplies in the mommy wars are not so bad… The boy makes soup and provides the milk of human kindness….ūüôā

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Is Happy Over-Rated ?

Happy and content is not going to get you that promotion. Its not going to get you that 20% raise. Its not going to get you that amazing bonus. Its not even going to get you more happy. Not if the narrative of our times is to be believed.

If you have seen Will Smith’s ‘Pursuit of Happyness‘ you might recognise this line where our hero talks about the American Declaration of Independence and M. Jefferson’s choice of phrasing,”And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. No matter what. How did he know that?

At the time, like most of the watching public, I bought that premise and said to myself “How Wise. How Wise!”. But now I wonder – is this how the chronically unhappy justify their choices to themselves? And does their success breed an audience for this message?¬†

Perhaps, as I am discovering, the path to happy involves giving up some of the pursuit so you can have some of the happyness.

What do you think?

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September in Books – Never Go Back

It is now 18 books into the series and you would think Lee Child and his 50+ hero, Jack Reacher would be a little tired. Nope. No such luck. Our dear Reacher is still banging heads and breaking bones with impunity. Only thing he does not do in this book is kill someone. That is done by his lady love du jour.
Despite the lower than expected body count all the other Reacher ingredients, conspiracy, cheap motels, being on the run, beating up four men half his age and a denouement where he finds the ‘very senior army staff’ culprit are all intact.
I love Reacher.
Who would not love this description… I don’t work out. It’s genetic. Puberty had brought him height and weight and an extreme mesomorph physique, with a six pack like a cobbled city street, and a chest like a suit of NFL armour, and biceps like basketballs, and subcutaneous fat like a Kleenex tissue.
Ooooh!
And who wouldn’t love his idea of compromise. The relatives of a deceased meth dealer whose belongings Reacher made away with, want their inheritance back. Reacher will fight them for it (8 vs 1). A win is easy though if you have a clear philosophy of fighting We can kerb their enthusiasm by putting the first few down hard. The key is not to spend too much time on any one individual. The minimum, ideally. Which would be one blow, and then move on to the next. Elbows are better than hands, and kicking is better than both.
Kachaaak!
Sigh. My guilty pleasure book ended too soon and now I shall have to go back to the universe of good good writing from the much more enjoyable one of good bad writing.

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Understanding Marissa Meijer

A couple of weeks ago I escaped for a couple of hours and made it into the office. It had been more than 2 months so the routine of finding my ID card and driving myself to tiger hq felt a little unfamiliar and very familiar all at the same time. Sort of like first day back at school after the dog days of a summer holiday.
Radio on. Stopped at the traffic signal, I felt buoyant. Finally back on surer ground after skating on thin ice for 2 months. I love the girl and all but the unusual level of dependence on other people and the complete lack of control over myself and my time are not pleasant side effects. It felt good to be headed some place where I would have some measure of control. Some place where I would meet other adults and converse with them.

I met the other adults. It was good. But some of it left me thinking…

One of the said adults, a colleague who has a young daughter as well, said, “I can hardly wait to get home and spend time with her.”

I beamed at him, thinking in my head “now here is a gentleman for the new age”

“If it is like that for me I can’t imagine how it must be for you to be separated from her for 2 hours”

Pffffft. My bubble burst. No gentleman of the new age this.

I really wish I had told him how wonderful it felt to be out and about. I would, just like him, rather look forward to meeting my girl at the end of the day rather than have the whole darn day where we would be bored together.

Basically, I would rather be the father. It is unfortunate that biology, but more importantly, society does not give me that chance. Marissa Meijer – I take back my criticisms. I now understand why you were back at work so soon.

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June in Books – 3

I’m skipping past a few of the June reads (The Naked Sun, Christmas Carol) because they are too famous and re-reads, some (like Night Circus) because I’m still processing and some (like Joe Pike novels, Peter Wimsey mysteries) because I don’t want to.

That brings us to book du jour – Laura Hillenbrand’s¬†Unbroken – A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.¬†

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A book with as much depth as a 9 minute video…

Our hero is Louis Zamperini¬†who competed in the Olympics, shot down the Japs in WWII, survived on a tiny rubber dinghy with 3 of his crew when their plane went down, survived a further 2 years of torture as a Jap POW, made it back home to the arms of his family and much alchohol and then went from the embrace of alcohol to that of Billy Graham and being a born again christian with his wife and this guy is still alive. Quite an eventful life where even one of the events if explored in depth would yield a tonne of good material on the state of the human condition. What do we get though – Ms Hillenbrand’s meticulously researched minutiae in place of a biography.

She has only 2 modes of writing

a) Obit style praise of a character in a book – even the so-not-dead Mr. Zamperini comes in for this treatment. Need we say anything about the guys who actually died !

b) Facts quoted from other people’s history theses and research (how many planes went down, relative fatality rates for Air Force vs Army vs Navy…. etc).

Combine this and you come up with no depth but LOTS of detail. ¬†What I would like, is for someone to actually write about Mr Zamperini in a more balanced way instead of making him a caricature of ‘survival and the power of christian forgiveness’. And I would like someone to write about his wife – Cynthia. This extremely good looking woman from a well to do family, married a good-looking, relatively famous guy within 2 weeks of meeting him. Realised he was a raging alcoholic, struggled along through 2 years of abuse, ¬†left him after he tried to strangle her and JUST before her divorce is final she gets Jesus and therefore decides not to leave her marriage? And then stays married to this dude for 60+ years. What the heck was going on in her head?!

Alas, though – Ms. Hillenbrand doesn’t even begin to get into the interesting stuff. She sticks to her brief and delivers a well-researched, robotic story of survival, resilience and redemption just as the blurb on the book jacket says.¬†Fortunately for Ms. Hillenbrand even her writing can’t take away from the drama of experiences that her protagonists went through, leaving this a pretty readable book.

If however, you don’t have as much time on your hands as I do, would recommend you watch this 10 minute video and be done with it!

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June in Books – 2

Amusing enough if you can ignore the egregious levels of unnecessary capitalisation

Amusing enough if you can ignore the egregious levels of unnecessary capitalisation

When I started reading this book I had no idea that I was reading the ‘feminist heroine of our times’. It actually got onto the kindle somehow and the title sounded intriguing at 3 AM, so I started reading it.

I think I was less disappointed than most because I didn’t have any expectations, so Caitlin Moran’s, part biography, part blog, part (draft) newspaper column, part feminist rant – worked okay for me. ¬†

Ms. Moran is a columnist with a far from normal set of life experiences (if that is normal for a majority of folks I’m really worried about ye olde england!). She grew up the eldest of 8 siblings in a sooper poor home where she had to live on underwear hand-me-downs from her mom. Moved on very logically to getting a loser, druggie boyfriend along with her first job and ‘cool music magazine’ life in London before wisdom prevailed and she married a ‘nice ¬†boy’, had a couple of kids and did a steady job as news paper columnist. Definitely someone who has found success against the odds.¬†

But is she qualified to tell you ‘How to Be a Woman’ ? Erm. I’m not sure anyone is! But her level of snark was fun to read. Sample this…

“So here is a quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. Put your hands in your pants.

a) Do you have a Va*!na? and

b) Do you want to be in charge of it?”

Not too many women out there who are going to say ‘No’ to those two questions. However, some of her concerns are truly over the top. Brazilians – do real women worry about that? Same for make up. Same for naming your ladyparts. Same for the stripper vs. burlesque dancer thing. Which covers 90% of the book.

The only sensible bit is where she talks about getting an abortion. I will admit that as a teenager when I heard my grand-mom say rather cynically – “If there had been birth control and choice in my time you think there would have been so many kids”, I was shocked. These were all my aunts and uncles we were talking about and I can’t imagine this world without one of them!

Now that I’m a little older (and maybe wiser) I understand and have a heck of a lot more sympathy.¬†All the drama (esp. in western media) on how the choice is difficult and traumatic for women is stupid. Women like my grand-mom and mom and me have the right to make our choices and we’re not idiots. And its not murder.

Its good to finally hear / read a narrative which takes that view and doesn’t apologise.

So read this book if (like me) you have lots of spare time and tolerance for silliness – else just skip straight to Chapter 15.

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June in Books – 1

Its been a productive month as far as the reading goes, thanks to some serious ‘awake’ time at 1:00 AM and hopefully I’ll also get to post some reviews… Here goes with the first of them.

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The Namesake… a book to tohtally avoid.

The Namesake – It started inauspiciously enough with Jhumpa Lahiri’s Namesake. I generally avoid Indian writing in English (especially of the diaspora variety) and this book showed me I have good reason to! There isn’t one single cheerful character in the entire book and the only ones who get a kinda sorta happy ending are the ones that avoid the author’s attention.

Our main protagonist Gogol Ganguly is named so by his parents purely by accident. Pun on the word there because his dad feels he escaped alive from a serious train accident because he was reading Nikolai Gogol and because that is the name he picks outta thin air when the letter the boy’s grandmom is to send with his ‘bhaalonaam’ doesn’t reach them in time. Gogol corrects the problem of his rather too alliterative name when he is 16 and becomes a ‘Nikhil’ , goes to college, becomes an architect, has a couple of love affairs with white chicks (to prove his American chops) and marries a fellow ABCD in a bengali ceremony in Massachussets (to prove his confused desi chops). In the interim his dad dies of a sudden heart attack, his mom subsequently learns to pay bills, drive car and hold down a job in Amreeka and our boy gets a divorce from his fellow ABCD after she self-destructs the marriage by having an affair.

The only action in the book is our boy Gogol guilting himself on how he doesn’t want to spend time with his parents and their oh so Bengali friends and whining and whining about the grim effort it takes to lead a completely Indian existence in a not so Indian landscape. And a similar female version of whingeing from his adulterous wife Moushumi who goes from being ‘good indian girl’ to ‘the wannabe slut of Paree’ in order to find herself.

It probably touches emotional chords in people out there who have a similar experience but in the end I could only be impatient with all that existential angst. My only thought for both Jhumpa Lahiri and the characters in the book… “Grow Up!”

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