help! I'm a global misfit...

When I tell my college and school friends that I have grown apart , that I can't associate with them anymore, they tell me it's just in _my_ head, that I'm the one who has changed and that everyone else has remained just as I had last known them. I don't understand how that could have happened. At least in the case of my college friends (some), I find it difficult to fathom; we went to the same college, lived in the hostel and complained about the same absurd rules, we hung out together, we were all outcasts (being non-locals), we were all equally discriminated against and above all we were friends. I used to hang out with these people, had a lot of fun and good times with them, got into trouble with authorities for them. I bet if I were to meet them again, I'd have an equally good time again. But I've been thinking about this mental drift that I feel... and today I found solid evidence of this drift (and also the reason why I can't seem to associate with half the Indians I meet here or anywhere). I met a friend of mine from school today.

She is not any odd friend. She was my best friend in school (from 5th to 10th grades). She is married now and lives in Houston. We've been in touch over the years. In fact she is the only one among my school friends I'm still in touch with and even that only because she makes an attempt to keep me posted about things and takes an interest in my life ( at least in the parts I actually share with her). She came down to Galveston with family and friends and I went down to the beach to meet them. (If you're wondering why I didn't invite her over and be more hospitable and stuff, I have an answer. I basically drove a 100 miles in the heat, spent the entire morning getting my car fixed, had a huge lunch with a friend and then drove some more. By the time I got home, all I wanted to do was die. So pardon me if I wasn't a good host, but I was in no mood.) Somehow I managed to haul my ass out of bed and be nice enough to meet them for a few minutes at the beach. It was after sunset, so the weather was mild and the ocean looked lovely in the moonlight.

Anyway, back to the actual post. What is it about Indians, or at least with the ones considered 'socially normal' that makes them mock, doubt and sneer at everyone who is not like them? In a span of 5 mins, they made a racist comment, cracked a homophobic joke and disapproved of the drunken revelry going on around them. I didn't say a word.

There were times even in college when I thought some joke or comment was inappropriate but I would just smile and play along. I would end up mentally spanking myself for the rest of the day for my inaction. I would go over the whole scene in my head. Only, in my mind I confronted the person and a huge discussion ensued. In my mind, I had the best responses and witty remarks for everything the person had to say. But the truth is, even on those rare occasions when I did confront someone, the moment I said something to them, I'd instantly realize how pointless it all was, how I would never be able to influence a change in the person. I could never keep up an argument. I'd give up out of sheer disappointment in myself.

OK this post is confusing. I think I'm angry, no, frustrated that I'm so passive.

books are beautiful...

There is a sort of busy worm,
That will the fairest book deform.
Their tasteless tooth will tear and taint
The poet, patriot, sage or saint,
Nor sparing wit nor learning.
Now, if you'd know the reason why,
The best of reasons I'll supply:
'Tis bread to the poor vermin.

– J. Doraston, quoted by W. Blades

From Inkheart.

my perfect day.

Oh, boy! What a day!

Yes, this post is going to be a 'diary entry'. I need to write it all down before I forget any of it. I had the most awesomest (Shakespeare must be proud!) day ever. It started at 6 am. Actually come to think of it, it started last night. I had my second violin recital last night. I played 'The King's March' by Clarke (don't remember his first name). It was a duet. My teacher and I played together. I was nervous as hell but I did fairly well. There was this part I kept messing up during practice cause I would forget the change in tune (from the previous line); I remembered it right during the recital. So I'm happy.

Then, I went to the lab for a few minutes, started an overnight reaction, came home, fixed dinner and finally settled down to eat along with a glass of Vodka (mixed with Bailey's) on the rocks. I watched half of 'Into the Wild'. The Vodka made me sleepy half way into the movie, so I went to bed soon after dinner. After some great sleep and weird dreams (yet again!) my alarm woke me up at 6 am. But I woke up at 6.30 am to get ready for my very first Birding (Birdwatching) field trip.

Every year, the Galveston Birding Society organizes this 4-day birding event called Featherfest in Spring. Galveston being on the path of circum and trans-gulf migrating birds is a resting stop for more than 200 different bird species. In the 5 years that I've been on the island, I've never once attended the featherfest. I didn't even bother to actually find out what it was all about. I recently got interested in birds and birdwatching and after some research discovered that I don't have to go too far for lessons and practicals. So I signed up for one of the many trips organized during the fest, called 'West Isle Marsh and Shore Birds trip'. (This, I later found out, was a very wise decision. Had I picked any of the other field trips which were mostly for song birds I would've ended up spotting none. Being shore birds, the ones we saw today actually sat in one place long enough for a newbie like me to spot them. Also I didn't have very good binoculars. And finally, we had an excellent guide)

Anyway, coming back to the actual day. So the trip was from 7.30 am to 11.30 am and oh man, I was so thrilled to see all those birds. To the naked eye, they all look the same; but when you see them up close, it's a whole different story. We spotted 35 different species. I can't say I followed every marker on those birds but I can now confidently spot White Ibis, White-faced Ibis (yes, they are different), Roseatte Spoonbill, Green-winged Teals, Snowy Egret, Greater Yellow legs, Lesser Yellow legs, Kill dear, American Avocet, Common Tern, Royal Tern, Skimmer, Laughing Gull and a few other common birds. Oh a barn swallow, a yellow warbler and a palm warbler too. I must confess it was difficult to keep up with the Sand-Piper classifications. We saw so many different kinds of them. It was truly a wealth out there. Incredibly beautiful birds. I wish I had more time to carefully observe each and every one of them. By the time we returned from the trip I was ecstatic. My brain was trying to make permanent copies of all the different images of the birds. The trip was totally worth the ridiculously high price. This would be a good time to thank my sister for lending me her binoculars. Next time, I'm taking my own ;)

So after that awesome trip, I had to check on that reaction I started last night. I don't know the result yet but I'm kinda hopeful that it actually worked. I will know tomorrow. This is something I started working on on the side. As with all my projects it started off bad and I've been troubleshooting it for a few months. So let's hope something good comes out of it this time. I worked from about 12.00 to 5.40 ish in the evening. Did I forget to mention, it was a gorgeous day today. It rained for a while in the morning but later the clouds gave way to the sun. Mild sun, lightly chilly air, and blue skies to accompany blossoming trees and migrating birds. It was a perfect spring day!

I got out of work at about 6 and started driving back home, but instead of taking the exit to my street, I decided to just keep driving straight. I figured why waste the day at home, I'll at least go to the book store and buy a book (It's a good 15 mile drive one way). I wanted to get the 'Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'. Anyway, on the way I noticed the whole freeway was lined on either side by these purple and white wild flowers. The mix of spring green, white and purple was enough to make me slow my car down to less than posted speeds and cruise along in the slow lane. I was smiling to myself throughout the drive.

Finally managed to get to the store (inside a small Mall) after a few wrong turns followed by quick U-turns but the store was closed. I think the store closed down for good. But all hope was not lost. The mall also has a movie hall. I've been pining to watch 'How to Train Your Dragon' in 3D but all my pleas fell on deaf ears last week and we ended up watching the lousy 'Clash of the Titans', instead. Now that I was alone, I took full advantage of it, bought tickets for the 3D '... Dragon', bought pop-corn and diet-coke and seated myself in the middle seat of the third to last row with my stuff spread out all around me. In short, I occupied three 'best seats'. :D The movie was great. Absolutely enjoyable. It was not cheesy or boring even for a second. I loved it. And it was totally worth the over-priced 3D glasses and the popcorn.

I'm finally home now and so content. I drove back in a haze of satisfaction. This has been a perfect day, really!

muse: a break from research

The thing about being a researcher is that one never really can take a break even when on holiday unless one does something so intense that it knocks out all thoughts concerning the subject from the mind. Sports and sex do just that. In the event that the person is not particularly active, an equally effective alternative is to deliberately knock oneself out with alcohol .

Gin Soaked Boy

Every morning between 5 am and 6 am was 'Juke Box' time on Channel V (or was it MTV? Don't remember now). A whole hour of DJ(anchor)-free music, and great music too. This was 6 years ago. That was also the time when I had the hostel common room television all to myself. Imagine how powerful and invincible I felt holding that remote control in my hand and playing Western music with high volume amidst those four walls which never saw or heard anything but Tamil soaps and movies. There was no one yelling for a channel change, no one accusing me of being a pretentious, culture-less, outer-state poser. It was my moment of personal bliss. Anyone who, by mistake, walked into that room during that time would be treated to dirty looks and an 'if you want to stay, sit quietly and keep off the remote' attitude. I was the absolute queen! There are very few worthwhile memories of my hostel life. This is one I will cherish forever. Although it doesn't seem like a big victory when you are really just sneaking under the 'regional radar'(as opposed to fighting it), the freedom, the joy and the pride I experienced during those early hours is as yet unmatchable.

One song, that I was listening to earlier today, that reminds me of those days is Divine Comedy's 'Gin Soaked Boy'. Oh how loudly I sang 'ba-pa ba-pa-ra-la-raa' and no one knew :-)

watching the rain

Ever since I was a kid I have been a 'starer' (if there is a word like that). I would stand in one position and stare at things for a really long time, sometimes for hours. No, I'm pretty sure it's not observer. I do observe but mostly I just stare. I didn't realize I was doing this until one Sunday I was found missing for the entire afternoon. When I finally returned home I had a throbbing headache which soon turned into fever and was diagnosed as a sunstroke. I was on the terrace of our apartment, watching the construction work going on in the adjacent building. I don't remember how long I was there. I went there soon after lunch and by the time I came down, the sun was low in the sky and the day was getting cooler (ETA: I must've been 8 or 9 yrs old at the time).

There were other instances too.. In another apartment we lived in,I stood in our balcony for a long time once again staring at people on the ground; there was some heavy machinery and a lot of noise (I think they were digging a borewell). I must've stood motionless for a really long time cause a little sparrow mistook me for a statue and landed on my hand on the parapet wall. I reared with a start and the bird flew away completely shocked that the statue moved!

Another time, in summer, at my grandparents' place I went out for a walk in the yard when my grandparents were watching the daily news in Telugu at 7 pm. The yard is separated into two halves by a low wall with a small gate for passage across. The purpose of the wall was to separate the animals (my grandparents had livestock. They sold them the year I was born) from the vegetable plants. Anyway, so I stood at the gate with my hands on either wall. I was doing these little push ups on the wall. After a while I just stood there staring in to space. The evening breeze and the sound of coconut tree branches swaying in that breeze is heavenly in summer and I was treating myself to that breeze. I don't remember how long I was there but I got jolted back to reality when a tree lizard totally mistook me for a bridge between the ends of the wall (or maybe the gate between the walls) and it leaped from the right wall on to my chest and then on to the left wall. I gave a little squeal and rushed back in to the house. I kept rubbing my chest for the rest of the evening where the lizard's feet had been. :)

A video I came across today triggered this post. It's 10.30 am and I should be working but I just had to make this post. It's by this animation-movie-maker/painter Jeff Scher. The video isn't about anything phenomenal neither is the video itself earth-shattering. It's about watching the rain, something I love doing. I love getting lost in the sound of rain; I love how it drowns every other noise when it comes down hard; how when I'm watching it the world around me seems to have stopped turning. I just fell in love with the video. Hope you all like it too. It reminds me of home; Of my childhood. :)

preserving a memory...

I just returned from my 3-week trip to India. I never imagined I'd enjoy it so much or that I'd miss the place so much when I return. I've gotten over the initial hopelessness that comes from being homesick. Now it's a happy memory.

I began this post to document a fragment of that happy memory. It involves a bit of gore and lots of love :).

During my stay, I took care of all my medical necessities since nothing gets done in the US without health insurance and endless waiting and pointless screening. One of these necessities was a little surgery on my scalp. You see, I havehad these godforsaken cysts (tiny ones...I can't think of anything to compare their size with :)). I had the procedure done once before when I had a single cyst removed from my scalp. It was virtually painless the first time. This time, however, I had three of them.

Even with the local anaesthetic, this time, I could feel the blade on all three of them. I didn't anticipate the pain and was taken by surprise. I panicked, blood started trickling down my hair to the side, I couldn't breathe with the hair all over my face and started feeling light-headed. The surgeon asked the nurse to hold my hand, clear the hair from my face, turn on the fan so I could feel the air on my face and went on with his work in spite of me complaining that it was painful. The whole thing (incision on the scalp, prying the cysts free and finally stitching up the wound) must've taken about 15 mins.

After the surgery, I was sent to the adjoining recovery room to rest for a while before heading home. I could feel the pain but it wasn't unbearable. I could smell the blood that the nurse couldn't get off. It stuck to my hair and matted it together, it made me a bit woozy (blood always makes me dizzy). But the worst feeling was the fear. I don't really know why I was so scared (considering the surgery was over), maybe it was because I was so unprepared for the pain, maybe cause I almost lost consciousness and control in the operating room or maybe it was just plain irrational fear. I lay on the bed, my head turned to a side and resting on the pillow, my eyes filled to the brim and my lips quivering to hold back the tears. Then my mom entered the room.

She sat next to me, cocked her head to a side, looked at me, smiled her beautiful, soothing, angelic smile and said, 'Hey, what's the matter with you? you'll be fine. why the tears?' and lay her hand on my face. Something happened at that instant. I couldn't hold my tears back anymore, they just poured out; gushed out is more like it. Mom's touch has always had that effect on me. Whenever I fall sick, even to this day, the one thing I long most for is her touch. She has the softest hands I've ever felt, yes softer than a baby's; When she touches it's like she pours all her love into that one moment, into that touch. It's therapeutic. I don't know if it was the feel of her hand or just the fact that they were her hands that released all that bottled up fear inside me. She couldn't understand why I was crying when I said the pain wasn't as bad; neither could I. I held her hand there on my face and she just sat helplessly staring at me. I cried. That was all I could do, nothing made sense to me but I couldn't stop the tears.

living with depression- NYtimes magazine article

DEPRESSION — THE THICK BLACK paste of it, the muck of bleakness — was nothing new to me. I had done battle with it in some way or other since childhood. It is an affliction that often starts young and goes unheeded — younger than would seem possible, as if in exiting the womb I was enveloped in a gray and itchy wool blanket instead of a soft, pastel-colored bunting.
- A Journey Through Darkness

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Writer's Block: Celebrating Friendships

Over the past ten years, many friendships have started and/or been renewed on LiveJournal. Of your current LJ friends, who have you known the longest?

:-) I've known metafizzics the longest among my friends here on LJ. Well, she's the one who introduced me to LJ. The rest, this is where it all began -> Thanks cyberabadies for sticking with me through the years...