Friday, June 30, 2006

Mid-Year Resolutions

Now that it's mid-year and it's also my birthday, I think it's a good time to make resolutions. I started a few things in the past week or two that should be incorporated all the time. The collision of my birthday just creates the sense of urgency (i.e., not getting younger, etc.). Also, writing these "resolutions" will make them more tangible for me.

- Pamper my body and skin better. I don't have a skin care "regimen" except for my morning cleansing and moisturizing, and occasional face mask. However, my sister and friends are proponents of proper skin care and my sister used an analogy that hit home. If you have osteoporosis, you don't start drinking milk. You drink milk to prevent it in the first place. So, with skin care, don't start with the wrinkle creams when you see a wrinkle. Take care early on so you don't need it. So, I'm promising to add a nightly skincare ritual.

- Use the "nice" things . I have so many "nice" pieces of jewelry, perfume and lingerie that sits in boxes and drawers. I pulled out a beautiful diamond ring the other day for a party - white gold with diamonds in the shape of a flower. This was a gift from my husband from his trip to India, where he chose and designed it. I decided I'm going to wear this ring more often, enjoy its beauty and elegance. I cleaned out my lingerie drawer and found so many beautiful purchases that I pushed in the back. I vowed to either use it or throw it out. I also treated myself to new ones and cut all the tags before I change my mind.

- Keep up my writing efforts. I've created a strategy and a process in April and I want to make sure I don't lose the momentum. I have to keep firing at my targets and something will hit; all this time I was firing randomly and not hitting.

-Recognize each moment with my daughter. I think I am doing this already, but I want to make sure I recognize each moment with her. She's growing up so fast and changing in many ways - physically, verbally, emotionally. I've never had anyone like this in my life, definitely growing into a funny and unpredictable person. Not to sound cliche, she is like a flower. She blossoms into one type of flower and then you see the petals changing and she becomes another type of flower. I want to hold onto each of the petals because they are special pieces of her.

On another note, having had my birthday yesterday I felt touched my many people. Emails, phone calls and personal greetings and expressions from all over the world. Last week I was terribly down and overwhelmed by work and personal responsibilities that have been accruing for the past two months. There was one day that I felt I was slipping into a state of invisibility, especially at work (only my client could clearly see me and keep bothering me!) I felt like I was carrying everyone's weight and had to put mine behind me.

So, having the support and recognition of 'my day' was great -- like a refreshing splash of water on your face.

(Hope I wasn't too Oprah-ish!)

On Being Five: Giving Back to Mommy

Last week I was really overwhelmed. I have a lot of stress at work and there are some personal issues going on. I was really sad, and sat on the deck for some quiet space.

Annika noticed. She came up and asked me "Why are you sad?"
I just shook my head.

She said, "Where's that smile?" in that tone that teachers must use.

I had to smile.


Today is my birthday and I told her that. I guess birthdays are important in general, but Mommy's Birthday is the best. Earlier in the week, she was jumping and hugging me because my birthday was coming.

Today she asked me if I could take her to Starbucks for hot chocolate after school. Normally, she goes with her daddy, but today she wanted to me. This would be our special treat.

I gave her a hug this morning. And, the only way I could think to describe it is the scene in "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas." At the end, the mean old Grinch's heart starts to pump and grow. It grows and becomes overwhelming that it pushes out of his chest. That's what I felt like hugging her this morning. My heart was expanding more than I knew it could.

Verdi Cries

Verdi Cries

-10,000 Maniacs "Blind Man's Zoo"

The man in 119 takes his tea all alone.
Mornings we all rise to wireless Verdi cries.
I'm hearing opera through the door.
The souls of men and women, impassioned all.
Their voices climb and fall; battle trumpets call.
I fill the bath and climb inside, singing.

He will not touch their pastry
but every day they bring him more.
Gold from the breakfast tray, I steal them all away
and then go and eat them on the shore.

I draw a jackal-headed woman in the sand,
sing of a lover's fate sealed by jealous hate
then wash my hand in the sea.
With just three days more I'd have just about learned the entire score to Aida.

Holidays must end as you know.
All is memory taken home with me:
the opera, the stolen tea, the sand drawing, the verging sea, all years ago.


I loved the 10,000 Maniacs like anything back in the day, and this song is absolutely beautiful. I loved the simplicity of the music and the story in the lyrics. It's a short song, but it says so so much. There's a viola at the end of it, which is exquisite. I was writing earlier this morning, and this song just popped in my head. So, I wanted to share this.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Cinematic Potpourri for $200

We've seen a bunch of movies recently and I don't have enough comments to dedicate a whole post to each one.

The Producers: Great movie, lots of fun. Just wish we had seen this on Broadway. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are so talented and funny, that I can imagine live would have been wonderful experience. However, they pointed out in the Behind-The-Scenes interviews that they took advantage of the cinematic aspects versus the limitations on stage. Therefore, they were able to create the feel of those old Hollywood dance numbers. I liked Uma Thurman too ("Ulla dance now.")

Munich: I'm mixed about this movie. While the setting is 1970's, the theme is current. The idea of eliminating the terrorist masterminds to seek avengence for a horrible event, a task which is unending as there will always be successors. More deaths are incurred and the battle continues without an end in sight. Sadly 30 years later, the Israel and Palestinian arguments are still relevant. There's a lot of suspense, explosions and gun violence. Being the wimp that I am, I had my laptop and was doing some other things at those moments. It was actually quite long, which surprised us and then the ending is just there in its ambivalence.

By the way, I was reading other reviews about this, and most are giving this movie a positive rating; it was nominated for Best Picture. However, I found this succinct quote: You cannot make a convincing case against terrorism by showing one graphic scene after another of cold-blooded murder. (Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat)

Maybe that's the real hesitation on my part to warm up to this movie. Violence breeds more violence.

and Melinda, Melinda: We've always snatched up every Woody Allen movie we can find. With his new movies, I guess we think like a lot of people do - we are trying to look for the old Woody Allen in an updated overcoat. The only reason I'm putting these two movies together is because they have the same director and they both have a one-line thesis.

The thesis for "Matchpoint" is one must be lucky in life, everything else will fall into place. It's a serious movie, much like "Crimes & Misdemeanors." However, it turns eerie and unbelievable, yet very believable. The acting is excellent, and there are two pairs of the most sensual lips in the world - Scarlett Johannson & Jonathan Rhys Meyers. When Jonathon is on screen, he owns it. Not so much his character, but him. (Remember him as the coach in "Bend It Like Beckham"?)

The thesis for "Melinda, Melinda" is that one incident in life can be interpreted as a tragedy or a comedy. Allen took this concept and ran with it. A group of intellectual artists discuss this at a restaurant. They throw out a scenario of a woman appearing at the door and interrupting a dinner party. So, the story plays out simultaneously with brief introductions from the artists/chorus. (Actually - it just hit me they were like the Chorus! Remember the Chorus "Mighty Aphrodite"? Nice tool to have in films). So, there are back-to-back scenes of the stories and it is pretty consistent. I liked how certain elements would show up in each depiction (i.e., a certain dark French restaurant, a rusty genie lamp).

Anyway, who would have thought Will Farrell would be in a Woody Allen movie? We were shocked. However, his character was in the comedic interpretation of the scenario and he becomes the neurotic, quick-witted Woody Allen archetype that's always present. He follows the steps of Jason Biggs and Kenneth Branagh who had similar roles in Allen's movies. I saw Amanda Peet as more of the Diane Keaton type of his movies - sexy, charming and slightly insecure.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Apologies on Formatting

Sorry about the lopsided format of this site. I've been playing with the template provided by Blogger and wanted my content to be wider and reduce the dark margins. Got it perfect the other day! That was in Firefox.

Go to work and open IE and it's way off! So, tweak tweak the pixel counts.. looks good.

Come home to Firefox and it's messed up.

C'est la vie. You're not here to check my formatting anyway, right? (I hope!)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Poetry: Margaret Atwood

Variation on the Word Sleep

I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descent,
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center. I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.

I liked this poem because of the playfulness of the words in the first paragraph, where the narrator moves from just being a spectator to being the participant, the Dreamer. There is an intimacy, but there's also a request for permission to dream. And the dream becomes an active process between the two (walking, leading).

The sentence is so powerful. It is as if the narrator had requested permission and now just wants to be there in any form - a necessary form.

I'm a fan of Margaret Atwood's and love her stories, novels and poetry. I don't know how she does it, but every word is carefully placed. I had listened to "Alias Grace" on audiotape and while it was so pleasant to the ear, I kept wishing I had the book in front of me because she's so poetic. (I was listening to her while driving to work, so book wasn't a logical option).

When I read "The Handmaid's Tale" years ago, I couldn't sleep at night because I felt the character's anxieties. I think fiction and dreams blended.

And, if that's not enough Atwood for you, here's more: Gertrude Talks Back giving a voice to Hamlet's mother.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

On the Job Training: Motherhood Part 14 - Neighbors

We live in an untraditional neighborhood. Our development has 8 houses. There are two long driveways from the main road that lead to our houses - 3 on one side, 5 on the other. It's great because our development is so multicultural - Black, White, Indians (2), Chinese (2), and Russian.

We don't have sidewalks so you have to cross yards or go to the main road. I'm on the side with 3 houses and my immediate neighbors' kids are in middle/high school. The girls used to come over when Annika was a baby to play with her, but then they got busier. The other side has at least 8 kids in Annika's age group.

When she was younger, I used to take her to see the other kids, dragging a tricycle across the yards. It was kinda painful because I ended up having to hang out, chat a bit with the parents. They're all nice, but you run out of things to talk about.

Two weeks ago we saw the kids playing outside and Annika wanted to go play with them. I took her over and introduced her to them (they had met at least 2 yrs ago, so they don't remember each other). The kids jumped on the swingsets and were off. I was really happy because I could walk away now. They're old enough to play with minimal supervision.

Initially, when I walked away, Annika came running home. She thought she had to come back because I left. I told her she could play and we were still outside so we could see her. She was hesitant to go, but we made her go back by herself. She stopped to pick weeds and found excuses, but she went slowly on her own.

Yesterday she was running back and forth on her own bringing the kids back with her.

I finally felt a bit of joy for Annika too. I grew up in Queens, NY and had a bunch of neighborhood friends, a nice mix of American & Keralite kids. We were out and about pretty much all the time. We ran around to each other's houses and had two swingsets among everyone.

By the way, if you look at our backyards, every house has a swingset. I really want one for her, but our ground is too sloped to accomodate it. So, I feel better that she can run across the yards to play and share a swingset with others, the way it's supposed to be.

One of the mother's pointed out to me that it's safer for them to run across the backyards than having to deal with main roads. I didn't realize that. So, I feel better about that too!

We're so used to scheduled playdates that it's refreshing to have the spontaneity of neighborhood kids. And, for parents, to be able to walk over and bring them back.


Side note: I had the most fabulous Saturday afternoon yesterday. Most of my day was hectic since I went into work for a few hours plus afternoon of running errands. Later on, my husband went to play golf with the guys. Annika was in the yard with the neighbor kids. I sat on my deck under the awning with a cup of coffee and my laptop. It was a beautiful afternoon and very peaceful. I loved it. I wrote a bit so I don't think it could've been more perfect. I really treasure quiet time, alone time, whatever you want to call it. I'm quite social, but I have always needed my private space as far as I can remember.

Friday, June 16, 2006

On Being Five - Part 3

There was a notice on the classroom wall that it was career week. During the week, she had asked what we did, and to be honest, I'm not sure how to explain what I do in simplistic terms to anyone. "We work with computers."

Amidst the morning rush, Annika was saying something about computers. I asked her to wait, and in the meantime she ran to her father. “Daddy, I need to bring your laptop to school.” He waved her off.

We pulled up in front of the school and she said, “Mommy, I need to bring something from your work. I need a computer.”

I wasn’t going to give up my laptop to a five-year-old. I rummaged through my bag and found a business card, a floppy disk and a key chain with my company logo on there. She was so excited!

She walked in feeling so important holding the three items. I was happy for once that I hadn’t cleaned out my bag and I didn’t give up my laptop.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Water and 15 Park Avenue

Deepa Mehta's Water and Aparna Sen's "15 Park Avenue" are two brilliant movies directed by Indian women that approach taboo topics. The topics are delicate and the directors handle them with love and sensitivity. These topics are glass. If handled roughly, they would shatter. When handled properly, they could be a prism, reflecting the colors and the lights that we don't see.

"Water" is Mehta's third movie in her trilogy with "Fire" and "Earth." This movie has been fraught with controversy and was ultimately filmed in Sri Lanka.

For many Indians, the treatment of widows is a hurtful and embarrassing scar from the past. Most of the anger in the Indian community is "Why do you need to show that to western audiences?" I personally think it is important to know and remember your history as you build your future. While widows may not live in the same harsh conditions depicted in the movie, widows are still regarded differently to a degree and the biases are more subtle.

In an interview, Deepa Mehta stated: "Water can flow or water can be stagnant. I set the film in the 1930s, but the people in the film live their lives as it was prescribed by a religious text more than 2,000 years old. Even today, people follow these texts, which is one reason why there continue to be millions of widows. To me, that is a kind of stagnant water. I think traditions shouldn't be that rigid. They should flow like the replenishing kind of water."

Cinema is a powerful medium transforming faceless widows into real and recognizable people. There was an elderly widow who craved laddoos and sweets. Don't we all? How would your needs for small pleasures in life disappear suddenly? The confidence and esteem of these women is beaten down. And, they beat down on each other, knowing they cannot rise.

John Abraham's role is wonderful in its symbolism. A flute-playing, Gandhian named Narayan (another name for Lord Vishnu) becomes an image of Krishna, a savior to the women. Lisa Ray is exquisite as the beautiful widow who is forced to prostitute by the ashram matriarch. I've seen Lisa and John in Bollywood movies, so it was refreshing to see them in such serious roles, which they fulfilled beautifully.

The character of Chuyia, the child widow, is so important. Mehta shows how her youthfulness is oppressed by the burden of widowhood. I just read that young Sarala, who plays Chuyia the child widow, does not speak Hindi and learnt her lines phonetically. Right there is one challenge as an actor.

The other movie that slipped in quietly was "15 Park Avenue." I enjoyed Aparna Sen's "Mr. & Mrs. Iyer" so I knew this would be as stimulating. I thought this was well-developed story, though it used some cliched story-telling techniques. Overall it was done well. The actors - Shabana Azmi & Konkana Sen - are absolutely talented. People were thrilled with Rani Mukherjee in "Black." However, Sen captures the true spirit and complexity required to play a schizophrenic girl. She wasn't afraid to 'get ugly' and work hard to play this role without resorting to stereotypes.

What I liked about the movie as a whole as that each character has a story and they reveal themselves in their own way. For example, Joydeep's wife is a peripheral character, but the audience sees she is just as complicated and brings in her own feelings as a main character.

The ending was interesting -- abrupt & dreamlike. It didn't flow with the rest of the movie, which seemed realistic. This could be a turn-off for some audiences.

I'm really happy we're able to see these movies now, either on DVD or in the theater.