Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pregnancy Announcement

When V and I announced our pregnancy, response from family and friends was overwhelming and emotional, and it still continues to be. The news itself garners a lot of momentum and that too pretty quickly. While we are excited, the thought of being responsible adults is nerve racking.

I was never the kind to pick up a crying baby or even make a feeble attempt to pacify one; my first instinct was always to run. Yes, call me heartless, but I never considered myself maternal. I was always annoyed when babies cried on long haul flights, rolled my eyes at over fussy parents and even cringed when invited to go to birthday parties thrown for one year olds (surprisingly there have been many of those recently).

Luckily for me, V always felt the same way, although in a much less obvious way. So naturally when we got married, we always had an excuse for why we did not want to start a family. Most of my conversation with my mum would end in an argument and she would say –“We had you Dhivya, despite how you turned out!”

Conversations with the in-laws were a lot less confrontational. Every time we face time or Skype, which is usually once a week, they would tell us about some of their friends having grandchildren and how they look forward to a similar time in their near future. At this point, V and I usually squirm on our couch or simply pretend like we do not comprehend. After a period of subtle hints (although Indians are never subtle about these things), they resorted to more aggressive methods. Mysterious children started appearing on our calls, they would either be holding them or baby talking to them, it was also revealed to us that they were indeed grandchildren of their friends. Rest of the call would then be spent in trying to get the baby or toddler to smile or talk to this bored looking uncle and aunty in Canada. In the end we would get a grunt or have an irritated child in another corner of the globe.

Unfortunately for us, social noise surrounding babies and toddlers was also inundating our lives. It became hard to get away from the increasing number of Facebook posts of friends having children, or the volume of invites we got to baby related events – shower, naming, birthdays. It was similar to the deluge of wedding related events and activities that was unavoidable a few years back, there was always some random auntie’s daughter getting married (a constant news every time I spoke to my mum)or your Facebook page engulfed by the wedding frenzy. There was always a friend who would post an album, or several albums of over 300 pictures each, covering every detail of their wedding. It had cheesy names like - ‘being swept off my feet’, ‘happily ever after’, ‘our first week married’ or ‘man and wife’. Sometimes if your friends didn’t post them they would like them! Ugh, the world almost ridiculed you for being single or still worse felt sorry for you. 

This year, with both of us turning 30, our parents turned the heat on us, losing all sense of tact and diplomacy. They started groping around at issues that I would rather not elaborate on this blog. In our effort to tackle the changing tactics of our parents, V and I went with “we are trying”. Our naivety obviously warranted more trouble. We got everything from sympathetic glances to intruding questions ‘Any problem?’ from family and strangers. The sordid details of all the advice we got calls for another post.

It is not like we have not been thinking about it, but we wanted to take our time with it. I am glad we waited for this long and that it happened when it feels appropriate for us. So you may wonder, are we ready to deal with a wailing baby, sleepless nights and dirty diapers? Frankly, no, but we are at least looking forward to the ride.

PS: I don’t intend to be a cheesy mom (cringe), but if I do become one I would blame the damn hormones!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Growing Pains of an Immigrant Life

An Immigrant life is often challenging albeit amusing. Though I immigrated to another country I can’t speak on this topic with authority, let’s just say I am one of the worst immigrants one has ever come across. This blog post is not to scrutinize my total inability to cozy up to a new place but to cheer all those funny and bizarre experiences that made me smile through my toughest phase yet. I must warn you though; I may need to resort to twisted ways to extrapolate my theory.

Knowing your phone etiquette is half the battle won: No one told me this and it is one of those dark mysterious secrets of an immigrant life. As an Indian, I knew where to get Indian groceries the day I arrived. I also got lectured by my fellow Indian friends (who had just arrived a few days earlier) on all sorts of odds and ends like where milk is cheap or where I can buy my winter clothes. Mobiles phone etiquette in North America however, remained in the oblivion.

I learnt, very brusquely, not to get excited and call all my jobless friends during the day to willfully endure myself to any pearls of wisdom they may have about coping in a new country. When you call during the day you’ll notice that your polite Canadian friends will answer the phone and stick to a succinct conversation. Your new found Indian friends (the same those who freely and eagerly gave you long sermons on every way to make your dollar last) on the other hand, will be out right rude and not answer your phone. And while you scratch your head and wonder what you did just within days of landing in a new country to rub someone the wrong way, you will discover, after 5.00PM, that incoming calls are charged during the day. Yes it was only after my husband found the phone bill, and had a minor heart attack, did he explain to me the wacky concept of being charged for incoming calls. It was totally unheard of in India and I didn’t even know you could be charged for it. Clearly, I was a cell phone abuser back home and the rest of the country was no better. I only wish these mysterious charges could be applied in India I could have avoided half my calls under this pretext.

The mobile concept in the west is far more complicated than meets the eye. As if this restricted calling was not bad enough, I had to learn a whole new chapter in my life - voice messages. Since I was never in the habit of leaving or receiving voice messages, I found this to be very strange and left a lot of weird and abrupt messages or simply didn’t leave one at all. Well again most of my immigrant friends were in the same boat. Not only did I have to do it for my mobile phone but also my work phone!

As Indians we jumped when mobile phones were introduced, we took to them like fish to water. However, in all the mobile frenzy, one habit never died - we still yell on the phone like during the painful days of trunk dialing. I have seen my grandmother do it, then my mother. I come from a family of yellers and I speak with a lot of gusto. Talk softly, the line is perfectly clear whether you are calling your next door neighbor or your distant relative on the other coast. When you conquer the art of talking softly on the phone don’t shove your new found habit down your mother’s throat, it will have severe consequences (remember, she is a yeller)!

Immigration will teach you what bankruptcy feels like: I felt very confident that we had shown sufficient funds to earn us a Canadian visa. It is only when I got here did the reality of it all sink in. The healthy balance that I saw in my bank account in Bangalore, which could have easily paid for nice vacation and several pairs of shoes, was an illusion. For it diminished to less than quarter when I came here. It is when I learnt the most crucial lesson of all; do not count your chickens before they hatch.

A typical Indian is very indiscreet about his finances and also loves to pry into his neighbours’ as well. I have lost track of the times a rather annoying mama (uncle) has asked me how much I make. And when I state my abysmal media salary his expression would show absolute contempt. He would then flaunt his Techi grandson’s astronomical salary, and lecture me on what I can do to better my poor career choices. Now, I will probably never meet this fictitious grandson, neither does the poor boy in question know his bank balances are doing rounds in the Mylapore kacheri circle.  The point being, this indiscretion shows its ugly head in many weird ways in a new country. Your Indian friends will always ask you how much you spend on your grocery, phone bill, clothes to just about anything and they will be happy to share all these details with you. Initially, it drove me crazy and then I would state the price before stating what I bought! Don’t take this annoying habit with you to work; you’ll be surprised what a different perspective your Canadian friends have on spending.

Housing, and more so rent, was another hot topic amongst us – the new immigrants. It was very competitive and the lower rent you pay the greater heights you will scale in the immigrant circle echelon. I pay 800$ in rent, which is a real bargain for a downtown apartment, however, for the first few months I nearly died every time I had to write out the cheque. That brings me to my next point, when it comes to money do not convert, it will only give you an ulcer! Everyone around will convert for you. For instance I spent a decent chunk of money to get myself a really warm cozy winter jacket, although the jacket kept me warm and will continue to do so for several winters, (provided it does not go out of fashion) I lost all my sanity over it! Every Indian friend of mine would promptly convert and rebuke my choices. Some would be more tactful than others but being diplomatic is certainly not one our best strengths. Your fellow immigrants will convert and will consider it a blasphemy if you spend 150$ for a pair of boots (but I love it). Yes! That was another one of my brave indulgent purchases for which I was never spared!  My defaming decisions have evicted my husband, who could no longer be in the running for ‘poster boy’ of the new immigrant community.

Even though I poke fun at my Indian friends, I am truly grateful for having them around. I clung on to them for my dear life in a new country and found some solace in knowing that they really understood what I was going through. It’s amazing how this opportunity pushed me to meet people from my own country, who otherwise would have been misfits in my delusional world that I built for myself.

Immigration teaches you a lot of things and I prescribe it to everyone. Every day in a new country is a challenge but I have learnt, in a very painful and agonizing way, to make the best of both worlds. Embrace the new values and make it your own by immersing it in what you already know. Above all my friend, be proud of who you are and stop faking your accent within days of getting here!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Last Laugh: Book Review

I love short stories. They are always an easy read, written to accommodate interruptions of daily life and yet leave you fulfilled. Sometime ago, a friend of mine sent me ‘The Last Laugh’, a collection of stories penned by a debutante author Ramya Sethuraman. I quickly read it, cover to cover, over two train journeys to work.

Ramya‘s stories deftly illustrate the intricate human emotions of love, friendship, deceit, guilt and sometimes of its shortcomings. Her writing is simple yet eloquent. Her words evoke sensations, of smell, sight and flavor. Her characters are well established and her attention to detail is remarkable.

In ‘The day I became Krishnaa’, my personal favourite - An aspiring writer, Krishnaa, pens the story of the two women she adores the most. Her grandmother, Lakshmi a strong-willed, compelling woman steeped in her traditional way of life. And her mother, Nalini, a soft-spoken, bashful but intelligent daughter-in-law. In her quest of self discovery Krishnaa understands the tumultuous dynamics of caste system and the unspoken bond of love that links her mother to her grandmother.

Her title story, ‘The Last Laugh’ however, lacks the finesse observed in some others. For me the emotions felt contrived and the story failed to build up characters that are quintessential to the book. Having said that, I enjoyed Ramya’s portrayal of the fiery, passionate Raji in ‘Silambattam’, the delicate, faithful Radha in ‘Radha and I ‘and the apprehensive, chatterbox Radhika in ‘The prophecy’.

While most of the stories employ an exotic south Indian backdrop and bring to life ordinary plots, some stories reveal the author’s confusion in the landscape. For instance, in ‘Letting go of Anand Nivas’, the setting is ambiguous with its reference to Urdu ghazals and turbans that is predominantly popular in the north and the unfitting filter coffee which is radically south.

With its predictably happy and tear jerker endings, ‘The Last Laugh’ has all the awkwardness of a debutante author. And while the book may stop short of becoming one of your go to books, there are moments that make you believe that the striking story teller Ramya Sethuraman is someone to watch out for.

On the whole, this book makes for a quick read and I would give it a rating of 3.5/5

You can also visit Ramya’s blog and read about her upcoming projects and her other works of fiction. ‘The last Laugh’ is available on all the websites listed on Ramya’s blog.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

3 is a Crowd

When they say 3 is a crowd, it really is a crowd! Especially when it is you, your mother and mother-in-law. Today, I am a victim of mamtha (motherly love), endowed generously, doused with extra toppings of paternal advice by 2 of the most highly opinionated, and influential women in my life.

In the last 8 years of my life I have done the moving, packing, shifting, settling and even finding my feet in a new city, on my own. But since the time I have been married my survival credibility has been questioned at every step.

Moving to Toronto has probably been the most harrowing experience of my life. Not because I had any trouble with my Visa or immigration, but because my mom and mom-in-law had taken it upon themselves to help me move and settle. And as the saying goes, there is going to be fire when you see the smoke.

I had to pack a suitcase full of everything my mother felt I would need for the kitchen and home.

Me - ‘Mom this is too much, I have enough vessels to cook for an army’

Mom - ‘What would you know? Tomorrow I don’t want your mother-in-law to complain that I didn’t teach you anything. Dhivya, you are going to need these. Like this size vessel is perfect to heat milk in for 2 people. And please keep one vessel to make your masala food that reeks of garlic and a separate one for our Tamil Brahmin kind of food. Make sure you don’t mix the two.’

During my bachelorette days I only had the utensils my mom never wanted, and I would use them as I pleased.

Me - ‘AAAAaaaaarrrrggggghhhhh what is this?’

Mom - ‘That’s a coconut scraper. You need it to make avial.’

Me - ‘I hate avial.’

Mom - ‘So you’ll starve poor Vivek?’

Me - ‘Like avial was the only food he would ever eat’

My mom and I had a million arguments about my way of life, cooking and house keeping before I got to Toronto. She wasn’t sure if I would pass my mother-in-law’s (who on her part set up the kitchen with another set of pots and pans that she thought I would need to feed her son) scrutiny.

By no stretch of my imagination did I ever see this coming. My mom and mom-in-law helping me settle into my newly wedded life with someone I have known for nearly a decade.

From day 1, I was given a crash course on everything - stocking masalas, making rajma, quantity and proportion, types of rice, laundry, ironing, doing dishes, seasoning, cooking for more than 2 people, tips on what to pack for lunch when I start working, what does Vivek like, preparing grocery lists, oils and their use and how to plan my day. Every other advice that they could find from their own experiences of good house keeping was doled out to me for free.

And if this weren’t bad enough they marched me to various grocery stores from Walmart, Value mart, No Frills, Fair Price, Dollorama, and to every Indian store we could find in Little India, like Ambal grocery and Padma Stores, where prices were painstakingly compared and lists were made on where to buy what for cheap. Now I truly know why Indian advertisers are so desperate to woo the Indian house wife, she knows her deals at the back of her hand.

What’s ironic is, in all this, Vivek seems to be getting all the sympathy votes. The general thought at home being, “poor Vivek has so much to study, what would Dhivya lose if she made one more dish?”

My fingers are sore scribbling recipes and preparing lists and my head throbs every time I am faced with a mind-numbing pop up quiz at a grocery store about the types of rice available, but I know I am settled and these two women are to be credited for it. I may bitch, complain, whine and vent about my predicament, but the truth is they have worked extremely hard to make my transition into Toronto and my new life extremely easy.

Even though I do not know what to do with half the stuff in my kitchen I know I’ll figure it out. And about the recipe book, I hope to add a few pages of my own. Because when my day comes to play the harrowing part, I want to be just as good as these 2 wonderful women.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

After a Hiatus

I am back from my hibernation. The world feels changed (it even smells different, Oh wait! Someone here farted), I feel changed. About the world – Everyday we are losing parts of MG Road to the Metro, India coffee house shut down after a lifetime of existence, General elections were held, there was the IPL and then the T20, Michael Jackson died, and Delhi high court in a landmark judgement legalised homosexuality.

On the personal front – I moved from advertising to brand and communication research (I am loving it), I got married, I am moving to Canada, I quit a job I love, I am a wannabe long distance runner - I ran at the Auroville quarter marathon and then at the Sunfeast world 10K, my new favourite brand of beer is Hoeggarden.

Having said this, Some things haven’t changed – I still love the smell of freshly baked bread, I am still a foodie, I still think my first boss was the best boss ever, I love my current job and am traumatised at the thought of quitting it, I still get excited by social media trends, I still suffer from shoe fetish, above all I still love blogging and this is my revival post.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rains in Mumbai floods Twitter

Twitter saw a flurry of tweets as the rains lashed out in Mumbai for 30 hours. The response was almost overwhelming, as people all over Mumbai and even outside reached out and helped one another by posting tweets (tagged #mumbairains) on water logged areas.

The Mumbai Rain tweets were peppered with news reports and personal accounts. It covered the geographic lanscape of Mumbai and was the trending topic of the day

Twitter Tends

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Amrutanjan makes funniest home Video

Aches and pains are hardly funny but Amrutanjan begs to differ. The 100 year old pain reliever brand, with its candid camera style ad, has brought in a wave a of slapstick humor into the category.

Imitating the candid camera genre of unscripted humor, the film opens with a man on the diving board. He accidentally slips and has a nasty, undeniably OUCH’ fall. Cut to a woman at a pool side restaurant. She pulls up a chair for herself, and to her horror the chair slips at the proverbial moment. What follows is a comical picturisation of her struggle to stay heads up. Alas! She goes into the pool, with a table for companionship. The 30 second depicts multiple comic bloopers to emphasize the fact that accidents can happen anytime and one ought to be ready. Ready, in this case means, keeping a pack of Amurtanjan Balm handy.

The comic mishap of the lady falling into the pool really looks like a candid moment while the one with the construction worker, who while passing bricks accidently gets thwacked in the head with one, looks contrived.

The raw feel of a home video convincingly conveys the simple brand proposition - be ready. What’s even more wonderfull, each individual blooper can lend to a small 10 second edit.

Interestingly the ad crafted on a low budget by Mudra Communications, was shot on hand held camera by Footcandles Film to lend it the right amateurish feel.

This ad definitely takes me back in time when old funny home videos of people, falling off slides or landing in funny postures, would make me laugh till my sides hurt. Surprisingly they do manage to garner a decent TRP even today, otherwise one wouldn’t find old reruns and hindi edits of these videos on air eve today. Well, just to give you an idea of what exactly I am referring to here, let me give you an example. A really, and I mean really, old imported comedy show that used to run on DD. Didi’s, or was it Dee Dee’s, comedy show.

Although I have outgrown home videos and may not necessarily find the ad funny, I have to admit that this particular treatment may actually pull off a stunt that could succeed in turning a fuddy duddy brand like Amrutanjan into a far younger brand.

The ad would probably make competition go right back to their drawing boards and figure out something new to replace the run off the mill strategy of ‘we relieve you of your pain faster than others’.

Over all production value: Excellent
Creative strategy: Excellent
Viral capabilities: Too early to tell
Ease of understanding: Average
Final Verdict: Although not ourageously funny, the ad might just work for an otherwise depressing category