Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More on Writing

Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, and finally you do it for the money.
- Moliere

So, I was happily surprised yesterday to receive a $10 check in the mail as payment for a poem. It was accepted into Thema Literary Society's issue "A Perfect Cup of Coffee" for 2007. This is my first literary journal acceptance. I'm also excited because this brings my total literary earnings LTD (Life to Date) to $30.00.

It's even more ironic because two blogs ago I was wishing for a poetry acceptance (remember the ego boost I needed?). Now, I am wondering if making public wishes mean they will be granted. Were we all misled by believing wishes must be secrets?

Anyway, what I wish for now is help at work. An assistant. A smart person to help me with my workload. I have too much going on and not enough help and it's affecting my work-life balance. If only I could get my literary earnings up so I could quit my day job!

By the way, I also got a rejection today from a South Asian anthology, which is a downer. However, now that I've been keeping track of my submissions, I see there might be problems with the specific piece that I'm peddling. I need to work on that.

However, I'm taking work home these days so it's cutting into my writing time. I need to write so I don't have to work, but I can't write because I have to work.

The quote that drives me the most in my writing endeavors is this one:

There's nobody out there waiting for it, and nobody's going to scold you if you don't do it. - Lynne Sharon Schwartz

I know I am the only one waiting for it and I am the only one to scold myself.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Love and Marriage in Movies & Life

So, I divert from my usual banter about motherhood, and talk about the other M word that occupies our lives – Marriage.

I finally watched the rest of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” last week, though I had watched the first part a few months ago. It was an interesting movie and I liked the irony of their relationship.

There’s a shootout scene at end. (Disclaimer: I’m a Gandhian and believe in nonviolence, so please don’t think I’m endorsing gun or violence here! I looked away during 40% of this movie) With their guns and ammunition, the shootout is well-choreographed. At one point, Angelina and Brad face each other and slide their arms through each other and fire away. They’re protecting each other’s backs. It is a visual that illustrates what marriage is. There are times you may want to kill your partner with your own hands, but in the end, you’ll take a bullet for them. Brad and Angelina's physical stance shows the integrated team work involved in order to survive. It should be the two against the outside world.

Unfortunately, I know a few marriages disintegrating right now. I have seen others vanish, leaving just the chalk outline, a drawing, a semblance of a “marriage” that was there and stopped existing at some point. The complexities and dynamics between two people are hidden to the outsiders. We can all speculate, but it needs to come from within them. I'll badly paraphrase a quote I once heard - one would never expect success in career to come immediately or without hard work. How come we expect a instant success in a marriage?

Two unique individuals come together with all their separate experiences and attitudes. Now they have to figure out how to make everything work. It won't be champagne and strawberries all the time, but the good moments should outweight the bad ones.

One of my favorite movies is “The Notebook.” I haven’t read the book, and I’m fine with it (yes, really I am). I adore this movie so much. First, it’s a total Hindi movie! Rich girl loves poor boy, but rich girl must marry rich boy out of familial duty and security. Yet, in the end, love conquers all. To further validate the Bollywoodesque qualities, the Hindi movie “Black” used the vehicle of a notebook to tell a story to someone who was incapacitated. Interesting.

Anyway, this movie makes me cry. Yes, I’m admitting to my readers sitting in Sri Lanka, Chile, Singapore and New York that this movie makes me bawl hysterically. To further demonstrate my sentimentality about this movie, I do not even need to be watching this movie to start crying. (Reminder: I am a moody Cancerian, so maybe this is not such a great feat).

What moves me is not the young romantic story, but the relationship between James Garner and Gena Rowland. In case you haven’t seen it, James reads “the notebook” story to his wife (Gena) who has Alzheimer’s. As he reads the story to her, she comes back to him. What I find touching is his dedication to her and how close their lives are tied. Because of the young Noah and Allie characters, you can recognize the older characters. When James Garner cries, he's crying for the young Allison he keeps in his heart, not the fragile old woman. Above all, it shows what the security of a good marriage means - having someone to hold you at your weakest moments.

A song that has always moved me is Natalie Merchant’s “My Beloved Wife.” Read the words, listen to her sing. When she sings, she chokes up at one point, feeling the pain of the husband. Between this song and the "Notebook" it seems so profound when two souls are so tied together they can step into death at the same time.

A few years ago, a colleague's elderly mother-in-law had cancer for a long time and was in a hospice. Her husband was always there to take care of her, although he was elderly himself. It was a struggle since she was a bit of a cranky old broad, and would only eat if he fed her. Obviously, it was taxing on everyone. Then the father-in-law had kidney problems and was admitted to the hospital on Friday. Meanwhile, at the hospice, the doctors were waiting for the wife to die, giving her a week to live. On Tuesday morning, the father-in-law suddenly passed away. Everyone was surprised and afraid to tell the mother. They did not have to tell her. Within 7 hours, the wife died. In a way, it seemed like a beautiful end to their marriage and their life. He left first, as if to welcome her and take care of her again.

Stories like this one or even Christopher and Dana Reeves story, it seems like marriages are conducted by powers beyond us. We can't understand why some are so harmonious while others are cacophonous and are destructive. So, we look to the movies, books and art to help us understand and maybe dwell upon the intricacies of relationships.

DesiLit,Writers, Writing

So now that I've organized my writing efforts and put my project management skills to work, I'm getting my work published online. I've gotten rejections, but the acceptances outweight the effects of the rejections. Though I could use an acceptance of my poetry somewhere (just for an ego boost!)

Anyway, check out DesiLit's first online magazine for my review of Shashi Tharoor's Bookless in Baghdad. The DesiLit editors did an impressive job in selecting quality work for their magazine and I enjoyed reading the bios of the contributors, since each seem as fascinating as their work.

As for Tharoor, I had the opportunity to meet him last year and saw him speak on two different occasions, just months apart. I wanted to see him at another event, but feared he'd call me a stalker. Here's a picture from the SAJA writers conference last year. I had asked him to sign my "Mirrorwork" book while my cousin and friends took the pictures. (We turned from smart, confident women into giggling author groupies at this event, dribbling phrases like "I loved your book.") He had read a chapter from "Bookless in Baghdad" and it would not be released in the US for a few months. Fortunately, someone brought this book for us from India.

That was a great event with speakers like Anita Desai, Suketu Mehta and Jhumpa Lahiri. For me it was most powerful to see Jhumpa on stage. I admit - as an aspiring and passionate writer - I've been jealous of Jhumpa's success. Usually I think, what does she have that I don't? From what I know, our lives and upbringing are quite similar, except that she continued with her MFA and has a Pulitzer, while I took detours and ended up with an MS in Information Science. (Damn proud of that I am!)

That day, she had come to the event with her husband and children. Her husband was taking care of the little ones and while on stage, she would nervously glance at them. Her husband was taking the crying kids out of the auditorium. As soon as she was able to get off the stage, she raced out of the auditorium and they all left. That made me realize that at the end of the day, when you're done with your Pulitzer and author presentations, you are a mom with a crying baby. This is what is always on the forefront of who you are. In that light, everything looked so different about being a literary success.

I also got over my feelings of frustration, too. I always felt, she's taking my stories. That day she read an excerpt of an upcoming novel. I listened and realized these are her stories and mine are totally different. There's not just one queue for literary success. There are many and we're in parallel queues (and mine just happens to wrap around the block!)

By the way, I blogged about this event for DesiLit.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Step into Wonderland

She drank from a bottle called "DRINK ME"
and up she grew so tall.
She ate from a plate called "TASTE ME"
and down she shrank so small.
And, so she changed while other folks
never tried nothin' at all.

- Shel Silverstein, "Where the Sidewalk Ends"


Today was a great day where I took a vacation day and called it Family Fun Day. We took off from work and preschool camp. First, we stopped at a park that we've passed hundreds of times and always said, "We should go there." We walked along a beautiful walking trail, past the Wissahickon River and collected sparkly stones. The sunshine through the trees and walking in the woods reminded us that we've been so out of touch with nature. This summer has been busy with social events and home renovations; we haven't gone to the beach or the mountains or even local parks.

We had lunch in Chinatown, followed by a visit to the Please Touch Museum. I had never been there, but always though "we should go there. " She went to the Franklin Institute two weeks ago on a field trip and has been talking incessently about it. She wasn't keen on any other museum until I told her that this was the Alice in Wonderland museum. Then she was unbelievably excited, jumping around as soon as she entered the museum. she raced up to an employee and asked, "Where's Alice in Wonderland?" She raced up the ramp. She was shouting, "My wish has come true! I've always wanted to go there!" Everyone laughed.

In our eyes, it looked more like a playground than a museum; Ikea has a lot of these little tunnels and play areas in their store that is just as cool. The Alice section was nice -- beautifully painted, but not much there. The gaps obviously needed to be filled by imagination. To a 5-year-old, this was Wonderland. She had the chance to open tiny doors, run through tunnel (a.k.a. the Rabbit Hole) and sit at a table with the Mad Hatter and pour tea. We went through the Alice circuit 3x. I cracked up because she wanted to do it in order of the story -- we can't play croquet with flamingos until we have the tea party. I think there was more to the story that should've been there, though.

We followed up with coffee at Starbucks in Chestnut Hill. We were excited to check out some of the small shops, especially the cheese shop. We've always said, "we should go there," but it closed. So, we headed home, taking the long route for a change. Earlier, we were at a stoplight and looking at one of the older homes. Philadelphia has the most amazing stone homes. These are 100+ years old, so the architecture is beautiful. Maintenance and upkeep vary from house to house. There was one house and the landscaping caught both of our attention. We were awakened from our reverie by a horn from two cars behind (apparently the car directly behind us was also looking).

To continue our fun day, Annika took the rocks that we collected today and painted them. She wanted to do a project, and after a couple of other attempts (including snipping Barbie's hair), she came upon this idea. So, it's kinda cool that she has a rock collection - sparkly rocks with mica and "one of a kind" purple and light blue rocks.

Today was a day in Wonderland for me. I know tomorrow I will wake up to a day of meetings and a testy client (already checked email and see how much "fun" lies ahead). I've been so swamped and backlogged at work that I've been taking work home for the last 3 months (the first time in 5 years that I'm doing this). Aside from my birthday in June, I haven't taken days off this whole year. I realized the top managers are taking days off (when they should be on site!) and my clients are skipping out for weeks at a time. I can certainly take one day for myself and my family. This was totally worth it!!!

Friday, August 11, 2006

On Being Five - Belief in the World

In the morning, I usually watch "Good Morning America" or "Today" while rushing through breakfast and getting ready for work. Annika was looking at some books and magazines and wandering around for her things.

Annika: Mommy, do you want a beautiful home?

Me: Yes.

Annika: Then come to Oscar Huber for a beautiful home.

*Pause. Didn't I just hear a commercial for Oscar Huber furniture. I laughed and hugged her.

Me: It's a commercial. You can't believe everything they say.

Annika: Why?

Me: Because they want you to come to their store. That's all. You don't have to do everything you hear.

Annika: Oh.

This actually reminded me of an incident when she was 3 years old. She was watching "Caillou" or something on PBS. It was interrupted by a fundraising break, which usually begins "We have a message for the parents and grandparents."

She called me to the room, "Mommy! they have a message for you!"

It was incredibly cute, but it's an innocent example of the impact of television messages and the trust they have in the adults.

By the way, my article on children and the media was published online this week for ABCDLady.com.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

You Gotta Have Friends!

Oprah's magazine this month deals with friendship, and since she forgot to ask me to write something, I decided I'd go ahead now.

"The language of friendship is not words but meanings."
Henry David Thoreau

I've been thinking about friends because there have been changes in our friend circles in the last 5 years. We had a fairly large group of close friends. We met regularly to hang out, we all climbed on a bus to midwest for someone's wedding, another had a premature baby and we rushed to the hospital. Since everyone had left home behind, friends now become family. Unfortunately, due to pettiness, immaturity and pretentious behavior, the friendship dissolved. It was hard and hurtful. We always felt it was their loss for having misappropriated priorities.

We bumped around with some other friends in the area, but we missed the momentum. Fortunately, we've found a new group of energetic friends. This group has more promise for longevity as we are at similar stages in our lives with careers, homes, children and have common interests. Since we're all over 35, we are comfortable with ourselves and relationships with others. There's no room for jealousy or pretentious behavior.

I've seen my parents weave in and out of friend circles throughout their lives. However, there are some faces that are always there. I'm hoping the same for us.

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. "
C. S. Lewis
Work has been very stressful for me lately. It's not supposed to be like this and is physically and emotionally absorbing (it is a blog unto itself!) I've found keeping in touch with my friends throughout the day is keeping me motivated and grounded.

Last week my friend called to catch up and after I hung up, I ran into my colleague. He asked me why I was smiling. I said I didn't know I was smiling. He said, "Yeah you've got such a big smile going on." (as opposed to my new found perpetual frown!) I told him I was just talking to a friend. He knows me so he had to ask, "Oh, so you're meeting for drinks?" I told him, "No, but it was a good idea!"

And, it's wonderful because the connection came at a time when I felt disconnected and submerged under pressure. It reminded me of my life outside of work and I felt energized.

I have some other girlfriends and we email regularly -- just to vent, talk about new purchases, etc. It's crazy type of relationship because we're in 3 different states and the other girls have never met each other! I'm the only connection they have; I introduced them all because I was getting tired of telling each of them that she reminded me of the other.

Again, it's connection that reminds me of my place in the world. I'm not confined to my desk or the physical building.

Ah, how good it feels! The hand of an old friend.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I'm thrilled that communication between myself and some old friends has jump-started, either through phone calls or emails. It's so amazing that we may not have spoken in months or years, but we definitely can pick up the conversation where we left it. That is the beauty of old friendships. Trying to coordinate a meeting is another story!!

"True friends stab you in the front. "
- Oscar Wilde
This is a topic my friend and I discussed the other day. I suppose as like-minded women, we have to analyze things until it's raw. Yes, couldn't we just enjoy the mango without digging for the pit? Of course, but if we didn't do this we wouldn't know the pit was there and get hurt later when we bit into it. Therefore we analyse and dissect.

Annika and T have been best friends since the baby room at daycare. They were practically joined at the hips since they could toddle. When they were 3, the teacher told me they were mad at each other one day, yet they refused to be apart from one another. So, still mad, they had to sit together. Around that time, Annika started doing her own hair. She put a pin or something in her hair and T said, "Annika, that looks dumb." T's mom was there and apologized for the comments she's picking up from her big brother.

However, that's actually what friends do. She should tell you, "Girl, you should not wear your hair like that." And if she's older than 3, she could show you how you can look your best.

When I was in college, I remember I confided everything in Jim and Luis. When I talked to Jim, he would tell me what I wanted to hear, which was comforting - "I can't believe that! That's unbelievable. You don't deserve that." Luis, on the other hand, would be straight with me and tell me what I needed to hear -- "Look, you gotta do it. It's not easy, but you just have to. "

The challenge to this level of honesty in friendships is knowing if the person is ready to handle this. I know someone else who ended one relationship and has settled into another for the wrong reasons. It's hard for her friends to see her with the new partner.

So, being the honest, upfront, let-me-tell-ya-the-truth kinda friend is only effective when the other person is ready. You can throw the ball into her court, but she's gotta be ready to accept the ball. It's all about timing.

There was another quote that I can't find.. the friends we have are reflections of ourselves.